Local MPPs share top priorities as they return to Queen's Park for summer sitting
MPPs discuss the provincial budget, two-way all-day GO train service and healthcare
Members of Provincial Parliament are set to return to Queen's Park on Monday for a summer sitting and on the agenda is choosing a speaker, the throne speech and passing the budget that was tabled before the June provincial election.
That is what Kitchener-Conestoga MPP Mike Harris said will be main focus for his party in the coming weeks.
"The most important part of really what we're looking to over the next month is debating the budget we introduced back in April and hopefully seeing it through for the people of Ontario," Harris told Craig Norris on The Morning Edition.
Affordability, health care and education are three issues expected to dominate debates.
Waterloo NDP MPP and finance critic, Catherine Fife, said she'll be watching to see if the budget will "reflect what Ontarians need."
"This is an opportunity, as I see it and as we see it as New Democrats, for the government to course correct and recognize that on the health care and education system, in particular, there's a lot more that they could be doing to relieve those pressure points," she said.
GO train service to Kitchener
On the issue of all-day two-way GO train service in Kitchener, an issue that has been discussed for years, Harris said the government has made progress in making it a reality, but there's more work to be done.
That includes adding double tracks, electrifying those tracks, as well as reducing how long work will take.
Harris said the government has "rekindled a good relationship with CN", which owns a 30 km stretch between Guelph and Georgetown, and will continue their efforts to allow more GO service along that stretch.
"That was one of the big hiccups with what had happened previously and I think we've made really good progress there," he adds.
MPPs are also making their return to Queen's Park as the province grapples with a seventh wave COVID-19.
Last week, Premier Doug Ford said province's health-care system is still meeting the needs of Ontarians, even though hospital departments across Ontario are being forced to shut their doors and scale back hours in recent weeks due to staff shortages.
Harris recognized area hospitals have been dealing with "capacity issues" and why there is a need for a new hospital in the region.
"ER capacity is a problem and certainly something that needs to get addressed, not just locally but across the province and I know the premier is very keen on making some very necessary improvements for our healthcare system," he said.
Harris did not elaborate on what those improvements look like.
Fife said the government needs to listen frontline workers in the health-care sector and repeal Bill 124 to fix the problem. The bill was enacted in 2019 and caps the wage increases of provincial employees, like nurses and teachers, at just one per cent per year.
"Nurses in particular have been speaking out on what the real experience is in the hospital and we need to support the existing workforce," she said.
You can listen to the full interview below: