By Parry Sound-Muskoka MPP Graydon Smith
As we enter 2023, I thought it would be an appropriate time to reflect on the year that was and the steps we’ve taken as a government to make our communities here in Parry Sound-Muskoka stronger and more resilient.
Much progress was made over the course of 2022 on issues that have long been prevalent in our communities. From healthcare and housing to transportation and daycare, 2022 saw a great deal of new investment into our area that will improve quality of life for current and future generations.
Accessibility to high-quality and timely healthcare is something we all care about deeply. For too long, the residents of Parry Sound-Muskoka have been forced to travel long distances to access critical services. Our hospital was chronically underfunded on an annual basis by the previous government. Under these circumstances, one could not be blamed for feeling as though small-town Ontario was an afterthought to the government of the day in Toronto.
Fortunately, the funding situation was dealt with by this government and the announcement by Premier Ford last spring that both hospital sites – Bracebridge and Huntsville – will be redeveloped, ensures our local healthcare system will remain strong for the entire region, including East Parry Sound. On December 19th, I was thrilled to announce that Muskoka Algonquin Healthcare has been approved for $800,000 in yearly operational funding for an MRI machine, which will be operated out of the hospital site in Huntsville. These are game-changing investments into our communities which will pay benefits for generations.
Alongside access to healthcare, housing affordability is an issue I hear about frequently. Like Ontario and the rest of Canada, our region is growing in population. The supply of housing, however, has not kept pace resulting in a supply-demand imbalance that has driven the cost of home ownership sharply higher. The government recognized that to address the housing crunch, bold action was necessary. As a result, we introduced and passed The More Homes Built Faster Act.
I appreciate that this piece of legislation was controversial for some, and I welcome the feedback I have received from constituents – both in opposition to and in support of, the Bill. Ultimately, the Bill will allow for much-needed homes to be built in our riding and throughout Ontario. Homes for families, for students, for seniors, for newcomers to our country…for everyone.
While there are legislative and regulatory changes being made to allow for this to happen, there is still an important focus on keeping our natural environment safe and healthy. Areas with conservation authorities will see those organizations continue to play an important role in keeping people and property safe. Species at risk legislation is still in place. Wetlands will continue to be evaluated for their ecological significance. We can have both more homes and a strong environment in Ontario.
Along with an increased demand for housing, the growth we are experiencing across Parry Sound-Muskoka has meant parents are finding it difficult to find affordable childcare services. For many families, it’s crucial that both parents work. This is why I was so pleased to recently announce that the provincial government is investing $3.9 billion in provincial and federal funding into Ontario’s licensed childcare sector. This investment will create 438 new, affordable and high-quality spaces across the riding. In total, our plan will see 86,000 cumulative new spaces created across Ontario by 2026. What’s more, childcare costs will have been reduced in cost by 50% compared to 2020 by year’s end.
Lastly, I want to briefly touch on the recent announcement concerning the re-establishment of the Northlander passenger rail service. The provincial government has purchased three new passenger train sets at a cost of approximately $140 million to make this a reality. The government is keeping its promise to central and northern Ontario by bringing back an important service that was taken away a decade ago. This investment is another example of the government’s commitment to small, rural and northern Ontario.
As I conclude, I want to thank the residents of Parry Sound-Muskoka for putting their confidence in me. I know that serving as your MPP is a great privilege and I’m truly honoured to have this opportunity. I want you to know that every day I’m advocating as strongly as I can for the residents of our area and fighting to bring meaningful investment and important services to Parry Sound-Muskoka.
I wish you all a healthy and joyous New Year.
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