Like many of you, I laid awake at night, hoping and praying that it wouldn’t happen, but it did. Yes, I’m talking about the flooding of 2019.
The level of devastation to people’s property has been nothing short of heart-breaking.
I saw the effects of it first-hand at many locations, particularly those on the Ottawa River. As anybody on that river knows, the Ottawa reached levels never before recorded. My heart goes out to all those who have suffered as a result.
Premier Doug Ford also toured areas impacted by the flooding and after viewing the devastation, he directed me to initiate an internal task force to determine what could be done to improve our province’s resilience to flooding in future years.
The initial work of the task force will be to conduct engagement sessions with municipal and operational stakeholders to examine all of the actions taken during and prior to the flooding itself. The initial sessions are being held in Huntsville, Pembroke and Ottawa.
While I recognize that nature can be difficult, if not impossible at times, to harness, it is incumbent on us to examine every aspect to ensure we are acting in an optimal fashion when it comes to water management.
Subsequent to the stakeholder engagement sessions, I will work with our local municipal partners to have public meetings once the flooding is over and water levels have returned to normal.
I would be remiss not to acknowledge the amazing work of first responders, Canadian Armed Forces, Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry firefighting crews, municipal employees, and an army of volunteers who worked tirelessly to lessen the extent of the damage and thereby the suffering as well. I extend to them my deepest appreciation.
In another vein, I appreciate that I’ve heard a certain amount of negative response to our recent budget. Without dealing with specifics, I want to respond in a general sense. I want to remind people that we were elected on a platform to get Ontario back on its fiscal feet. We inherited a deficit of $15 billion and a debt of over a third of a trillion dollars. What was crystal clear to us was that if we did not make some difficult choices today, we could not protect what matters most down the road – health care, education and other critical public services.
It should be pointed out that over 90 per cent of the provincial budget is transfer payments to other agencies. We were straight with people when we said we would be making some tough choices, and we went through ministries line by line to find 4 cents on the dollar of savings and efficiencies. We have asked the recipients of those transfer payments to do the same.
On Friday, May 17, I was pleased to join Monte McNaughton, Minister of Infrastructure, and many of my provincial colleagues in keeping a campaign promise that Premier Ford made while visiting Renfrew on May 9, 2018. And that was to support the Eastern Ontario Regional Network (EORN) to the tune of $71 million to extend broadband and cellular service across Eastern Ontario.
This is something that is absolutely vital to the people who live here and the businesses that they support. It will make a huge difference, not only for those who have no service currently, but will improve the service in areas where we already have it. While internet and cell phone service was at one time a luxury, it is no more. It is something that is essential, not only from the point of view of access but for public safety as well.
I look forward to seeing the network completed. By the way, when you read this column, we might just have another grandchild.
If you have concerns of a provincial matter, never hesitate to contact my constituency office.
Berry, N. (2019,May17) A Message from Queen’s Park – A Monthly Column by MPP John Yakabuski [Media release]