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Sarah Campbell - From Queens Park

Budget doesn't offer any relief

Ontario is at a tipping point. It's getting more and more difficult to build a good life and get ahead here.

Costs are up, wages are flat, and the services we count on, like health care and education, are being squeezed or cut.

This is especially the case in the north, where people routinely tell me they feel like they are in a no-win situation as a result of poor government decisions. People were looking to this government to bring down costs, improve access to the services they rely on, and raise wages so they can get ahead.

Budget lacked credibility

Last Thursday, the Liberal government brought forward its 2014-15 budget.

By now I’m sure you’ve heard that I have lost confidence in this Liberal government given the many scandals, wasted money, and their inability to follow through on many promises.

Since being elected, I have heard from people who are concerned about the costs associated with making ends meet, like the price of hydro, auto insurance, gasoline, and property taxes.

Give your input on budget

As you read this, we all will be very close to hearing what’s in store for Ontarians in terms of the provincial budget.

This year’s budget will be tabled at the same time that Hydro One rates are set to climb again, and on the heels of recently-inflated prices for much of what is essential to living in Northwestern Ontario.

As I write this column, gasoline has just jumped by at least 12 cents a litre in parts of the region, the cost of home and vehicle insurance has increased by as much as 10 percent, and natural gas has risen by nearly 30 percent.

Here’s to better roads next winter

I would like to begin by wishing all of my constituents a very happy spring.

I know this past winter has been long, hard, and expensive for the majority of us, and we all are very deserving of a little sunshine, warmth, and, of course, the lower heating costs that will come along with summer.

Probably the greatest relief for people living in Northwestern Ontario, however, will be the ability to drive highways without risking life and limb to negotiate their way over treacherous levels of accumulated snow and ice.

Should minimum wage be raised?

This past week, the Ontario Liberal government announced it intends to raise the minimum wage to $11 an hour.

The raise, if passed, would see an increase in the minimum wage by 75 cents and would be the first the province has seen since 2010.

It also would ensure future increases would be tied to the rate of inflation.

In my experience, people, as well as the business community, are mixed on the subject.

Wishing everyone a Merry Christmas

I can hardly believe how quickly 2013 has come full circle and we are once again bustling around to finish our shopping in preparation for Christmas festivities.

Like most people, I feel particularly grateful for the love and support of my family and friends at this time of year, and it reminds me of just how much of a “team effort” living truly is.

Throughout the year, I speak with hundreds of individuals and families who, like all of us at different points in our lives, are facing very difficult challenges.

Help improve highway safety

Since Nov. 19, when I asked the minister of transportation to address the issue of road maintenance and safety in Northwestern Ontario, my offices have received hundreds of letters from constituents expressing their concerns.

Your message is very clear, and I ask that you continue to send letters so I can share them with the minister.

Bill passes second reading

On Nov. 19, I introduced Bill 132, an amendment to the Energy Consumer Protection Act, which would ban private, fixed-rate electricity contracts for residential customers.

This bill, which now has passed second reading, was the culmination of years of work, both as a constituency assistant and as your MPP.

We all know that regular hydro rates are out of control in Ontario. But imagine that you are one of the vulnerable consumers who are paying, on average, 35-65 percent more than the going rates—with essentially no way to cancel!

Effective bear strategy needed

Over the past few years, the problem of nuisance bears overrunning the communities of Northwestern Ontario has escalated beyond what even we are—or should be—comfortable with.

Recent cuts to the province’s “Bear Wise” program, which removed the ability of MNR officials to trap and relocate nuisance bears, has left people across the north feeling vulnerable and at risk.

Reality of Remembrance Day

Many of us have never been to battle, never seen a comrade fall, never had to make a series of life-or-death decisions–all in the blink of an eye.

In fact, to the majority of the population, the concept of fighting for our freedom, or the freedom of others, is as surreal as those battlefields in the movies.

I remember the first time I sat with a veteran as he described the beach on D-Day as vividly as if it had happened just the day before.