We continue our election preview for Mushkegowuk James Bay by hearing from Liberal candidate Matthew Pronovost. Here are his responses to the questions we asked him.
- How would you improve highways in the north, especially maintenance during the winter months?
The Ontario Liberal Party will introduce the 2+1 model to highway 11 to make the highway safer and more efficient year-round. We will also re-classify highway 11 and 17 with the goal of providing the Trans-Canada highway with the best possible winter maintenance. We will also offer a $75 rebate on each winter tire and a $100 rebate off each studded tire.
I personally would like to see the current maintenance proposals of every party improved to have clear standards on the use of salt/sand mixtures during milder temperatures and have more funds for contractors to do the work. I want to see funds in place to hire inspectors to examine the work and enforce the road maintenance policies, because without enforcement these laws have no teeth.
I would also like to see the end of private driving schools for commercial vehicles and have more rigorous mandatory training for new drivers. To achieve this goal, the provincial government needs to form agreements on training standards with Manitoba and Quebec, that are similar to the agreements already in place that recognize driving offenses in other provinces. This step is very important, because many of the trucks on our roads carry Manitoba plates.
- Do you think Northlander passenger rail service should be restored before 2025, even on a gradual basis, ramping up to full service?
The Ontario Liberal Party is committed to bringing back the Ontario Northland rail service. It is a vital source of transportation and will allow the return of post pandemic tourism to the James-Bay Coast.
Based on the conversations that I have had in Cochrane and Moosonee, the best way to move this project forward more quickly is to reintroduce the former line that connected Moosonee to Cochrane and Cochrane to North Bay.
The time lost moving the terminus from Cochrane to South Porcupine and building new tracks, which will also cost millions of dollars, it is not practical, it is clearly a political move by the Ford Government. It would make more sense to run a bus from Timmins to the Highway 11 rail corridor, than to drop off passengers 10 minutes outside of a city that already has a commercial airport.
- Gas prices are high everywhere, but the north seems to get hit the most? How would you go about changing that?
The Ontario Liberal Party will support cutting the provincial gas tax to offer divers in Northern Ontario some relief from High gas prices. The people who live in communities of highway 11 don’t have public transit. Most people can’t walk or bike to work, people need to drive to get to work and school. We want to make it a little easier. We will also re-introduce subsidies for electric vehicles and build more charging stations.
For seniors, students, for those who don’t have cars or for those who simply can’t afford to pay high gas prices, we will introduce Buck a Ride for all ONR bus trips. This means that if a college student in Sudbury wants to return home to Hearst for Christmas break, it will cost $1 instead of $100 for a one-way trip. If a Senior from Kapuskasing has a medical appointment in Timmins, they will pay 1$ instead of 41$ for a one-way trip.
The Buck a Ride program is designed to increase ridership of busses and trains after it plummeted at the height of the pandemic. If the program is successful, we might be able to justify to the government that adding new bus routes and stops in smaller communities is what we need.
- Most communities in our region are chronically underserviced by doctors. How would you improve this?
In response to the shortage of healthcare professionals and healthcare services in Mushkegowuk James-Bay. The Ontario Liberal Party will increase admissions to the Northern Ontario School of Medicine, we will also cover the tuition of nurses and doctors who commit to working in Northern Communities.
We will recognize or offer bridge training to the thousands of foreign trained healthcare workers who are blocked from joining the Ontario healthcare workforce. We will also scrap bill 124, allowing nurses and other healthcare workers the ability to negotiate fair deals. This is very important, as recruitment will only take us so far if we can’t retain our healthcare workers.
We will invest in making the homes of seniors more accessible and we will recruit more PSWs to allow our seniors to grow old in the comfort of their own homes. We will raise the pay of PSWs to $25, because our population is rapidly aging and we need to keep and increase the number of workers who will care for our grandparents, our parents and one day for us as well.
Finally, we will bring back the Midwife program that was cut from Laurentian University. It had very competitive enrollment, was the only French language program in Canada outside Quebec and served Indigenous communities of Northern Ontario. It is vital that we bring back this program because there is a huge lack of Midwives in the North and in many communities, there are none at all.
- What will your party do to address rising housing costs in terms of building, ownership and rental?
In response to the housing crisis the Ontario Liberal Party will, build 1.2 million homes over the next 10 years, which will create 150 000 jobs in Ontario. 138 000 of these homes will be affordable homes and 22 000 will be affordable homes for Indigenous people who live off reserve. We will also ban foreign purchases of homes and impose a tax on vacant homes. The real estate market should serve hardworking families not rich investors who use our housing market as their own personal stock market.
We will also bring back the Liberal Rent Control, that the Conservatives took away from low-income households and seniors who are now struggling to stay in their own homes. We will end exclusive zoning, which will allow all single-family homes to possibility of being converted in two- or three-unit residences.
We will support the Forestry industry by making it easier to build tall wood buildings, who are much more ecofriendly, can be built quicker and are more esthetically pleasing than their concrete equivalents. We will also invest in the construction of prefabricated building who will also bring more sources of revenue to our much important forestry industry.