By Ted McMeekin, MPP Ancaster, Dundas, Flamborough, Westdale
The deadline for my last column came just as Ontario’s new cabinet was about to be announced.
In it, I said some things about the importance of transforming our system of social assistance, guided by the Frances Lankin/Munir Sheikh report, to “make the system simpler, more effective and more accountable, while removing barriers to employment and increasing opportunities to work.” Then I found myself given the responsibility to make this happen. Be careful what you wish for!
With spring around the corner, it seems appropriate to reflect on the changes of the past few months and take a look ahead.
I spent just over a year as minister of agriculture, food and rural affairs. It’s a ministry with deep impact for many areas of our riding (and, indirectly, for all of us) and I found it endlessly fascinating.
We had our challenges and we had some real successes, thanks to close collaboration with all our stakeholders.
For example, we negotiated a new Growing Forward deal with the federal government and preserved an effective suite of business risk management programs.
We re-visioned Ontario’s own risk management program to make sure that it would be sustainable for the long term, and continue to provide security for our hard-working farmers.
We got thrown a bit of a curve when the re-accreditation process failed to accredit any farm organizations last year, but we managed to make sure no farmers suffered as a result.
And with the help of the horse racing industry transition panel, we found a way forward toward a reduced but sustainable horse racing industry that will not rely on excessive funding from government.
Premier Kathleen Wynne put some of the finishing touches on this last week when she announced transitional funding for Western Fair, Clinton, Hanover and Grand River. I was also pleased to see an agreement between OLG and our own Flamborough Downs.
I’ve been enormously impressed by how quickly and effectively Premier Wynne has reached out in a few short weeks, both within our riding and across the province. She seems to have an instinct for going to the heart of an issue and doing the right thing.
There’s lots of transition work ahead and some of it won’t be easy – including the steps we need to take to ensure that people on social assistance are getting a fair deal. It’s a challenge, because all of us, even governments, have limited resources and seemingly unlimited needs.
But I’m excited for the task that lies before me. If we can work collaboratively and remember that we really are all in this together, there are great days ahead.