Ontario P.C. leadership hopeful Jim Flaherty discussed his support for the medical school in Thunder Bay, and a review of the spring bear hunt, during a stop on his “Bright Ideas Budget tour” here Saturday.
Flaherty, one of five candidates seeking to succeed Premier Mike Harris next month, was at La Place Rendez-Vous to hear possible budget solutions with local councillors, economic development agencies, and businesses.
While here, he also took the opportunity to discuss local issues such as the spring bear hunt, which was axed by the province in 1999.
“I think what we need is to have an outside scientific assessment from outside Ontario by objective people who can tell us on a scientific basis whether we need to reinstate the spring bear hunt,” Flaherty said.
Flaherty also said he supported the idea of having the complete northern medical school in Thunder Bay as opposed to splitting it between the campuses of Lakehead University and Laurentian in Sudbury.
“If the economics are comparable, I am in favour of a full program in Thunder Bay,” he said.
“I certainly heard in Thunder Bay from the medical community that a two-year, two-year split, which is what some people are proposing between Sudbury and Thunder Bay, is not the way medical education is done these days around the world,” he added.
Flaherty also explained comments he made earlier in the leadership race, such as when he inferred aboriginal people were not “real people.”
At the time, he had said the province provides health care to “real people in real towns” while Ottawa is charged with delivering health care services to Canada’s First Nations.
“That was an unfortunate association of sentences. It was certainly not my intent,” Flaherty said Saturday. “I immediately apologized to the grand chiefs and met with them since.
“They have accepted my apologies largely based on the fact that as minister responsible for native affairs in Ontario, I had a very good trusting relationship with the chiefs and it has continued.”
Then just last week, Flaherty said he intended to make it illegal for people to live in public places, and that special constables should take homeless people to hospitals, shelters, and as a last resort, jail.
“The purpose of this is to be compassionate to people, truly compassionate,” he stressed. “Nobody really wants to sleep outside and freeze to death.”
While admitting more money would have to be put into mental health services to accomplish this plan, Flaherty said there were more than enough shelter spaces available to provide every homeless person with a place to sleep.
“In Toronto, for example, on the night of Feb. 11, which is I’m told one of the coldest nights of the year, there were 76 empty shelter beds and we have people living on the streets and sleeping in parks.”
Two of his fellow leadership candidates—Health and Long-Term Care minister Tony Clement and Environment minister Elizabeth Witmer—came out against the plan, citing it was inhumane and would drive homeless people into hiding.
But Flaherty stands by his idea.
“I don’t think that’s compassionate to abandon people and say we’re going to let you make very bad choices because you’re mentally ill, you’re addicted to alcohol, or you’re addicted to drugs, and we will let you risk dying,” he argued.