Column by Bill Walker, May 28/18Published on May 28, 2018
Standing up for constituents is my priority. During my 6.5 years as the local representative at Queen’s Park, I have dealt first-hand with a lot of constituents who came to me for help in their great time of need. To me, representing the people means truly wanting and fighting for better outcomes for them and their families, and following through with action.
As you’re aware, our province is in dire straits after 15 years of waste and scandal. This mismanagement translates into a loss of critical services that all of us depend on. From cancelled surgeries and growing wait lists to mass school closures and Special Education cuts, life has been getting harder for many constituents in Bruce and Grey. For every $1 billion dollar this government wasted, the people were losing out on one year of long-term care for 17,000 seniors; one year of home care for 55,000 patients; 3,550 palliative care beds; 8,000 new affordable housing units; or $260 a month for one year for each ODSP recipient.
My office deals with such situations every day, and we as a team always try to do our personal best to action them appropriately and immediately as they come in.
In just the last year, we have helped find resolve for many families who were fighting back against an administration at Queen’s Park that was not receptive to their individual predicaments. These individual cases are the core of an MPP's job. And even though I may not always have the answer people will like or want to accept, my team and I will always step up in search of a solution.
Most recently, we stepped in to arrange an urgent hospital transfer for an 18-month-old baby boy suffering from multiple debilitating medical conditions. We stepped in after the family was told there were no available beds to care for their very sick son. Similarly, we helped a 12-year-old boy get into SickKids for critical tests after the family was told there were no pediatric gastroenterologists available anywhere in Ontario in the next three months. The boy had been bed-ridden for three months, out of school and lost half his body weight due to his serious and debilitating condition. Then, just around Christmas, I went to bat to help a 50-year-old Multiple Sclerosis patient keep her hospital bed after officials tried to force her out and into a nursing home despite there being a lack of available care at the nursing home. It’s these stories of personal pain and frustration that have the most impact on me as the MPP, but seldom make the headlines in the media.
In the last two-and-a-half years, I have also taken a strong stance on seniors’ care, demanding new capacity in long-term care as the provincial wait list was reaching 30,000. To me, this was a shameful record. So, in pushing for seniors’ care to be front and centre, I presented petitions, delivered Statements, asked dozens of questions in Question Period about individual cases, and kept pushing for better treatment for our seniors. Sometimes the government listens, sometimes it even responds. I like to think that my efforts in sharing these stories of personal struggles helped put wait times front and centre at Queen’s Park, similar to how we advanced the school closure moratorium fight that took a year of badgering of the Premier and her Education Minister. We were also successful in keeping the Chesley Restorative Care program open and running. As I said, sometimes they listen and sometimes they even respond.
In addition, I am very pleased our new Markdale Hospital continues to move along as planned, with construction expected in the next two to three years, and I am proud of our new $7.5-million, 13,600-square-foot facility at Georgian College’s renowned Marine Training Centre of Excellence. These two infrastructure projects are important because they will connect people to the services they need in their communities.
I cannot stress enough the importance of never forgetting the job Number One is always representing the people who elected you to serve them. To me, being their voice at Queen’s Park means being the embodiment of who we in Bruce and Grey truly are: determined, principled, and strong. Six-and-half years later, I remain humbled to join those who have served as MPPs before me, and proud to have the privilege to be the voice of Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound at Queen's Park.