News

Gates expects another busy year

By Ray Spiteri, Niagara Falls Review

Niagara Falls NDP MPP Wayne Gates. 
(NIAGARA FALLS REVIEW/POSTMEDIA NETWORK FILE PHOTO)

Niagara Falls NDP MPP Wayne Gates. (NIAGARA FALLS REVIEW/POSTMEDIA NETWORK FILE PHOTO)

Hydro rates.

It dominated the provincial discourse in 2016 and it’s likely to be the No. 1 issue at Queen’s Park in 2017, says Niagara Falls NDP MPP Wayne Gates.

“It’s a crisis. It’s got to get fixed,” he said.

“We’re the only party that came out from Day 1 and said don’t sell any of it, stop the sale of Hydro One.

(Liberal Premier Kathleen Wynne) can’t defend the incredible hardship that the government is putting on seniors, single moms, single dads, families, small business, medium-size business. Manufacturers are looking to invest or move their whole operations out of the province of Ontario because of the hydro rates.”

Despite being an opposition MPP, Gates said he was able to accomplish many positive things for his riding in 2016.

He brought a motion forward calling on the government to immediately take steps to shorten MRI wait times in Niagara.

After hearing from constituents, Gates approached Niagara Health officials to address the issue before explaining to his Queen’s Park colleagues wait times for an MRI in Niagara far exceed the provincial average.

The government subsequently provided Niagara Health with $1.6 million to, in part, begin clearing the backlog of patients waiting to receive MRIs.

Provincial funding allowed for an additional 2,000 hours to run Niagara Health’s two MRI machines.

“People have already been called and have had their wait times moved up,” said Gates, adding he’s still advocating for Niagara Health to get a third MRI machine.

He said the MRI issue is an example of how an MPP doesn’t have to be a member of the government to make a difference for his constituents.

“When I brought this motion forward, it was unanimously supported. Speaker after speaker from both parties stood up and said this is the exact type of issue that an MPP should be raising about his constituency.”

Gates said he stood up and opposed rising drug costs for seniors and went door-to-door to have residents sign a petition against increases.

“It proved that if you stand up, the government sometimes has to listen. It energized seniors right across the province and they backed down on that. That was a major win for seniors in our community who couldn’t afford it.”

Gates said he was touched by the story of Niagara couple Clarence and Jessie Terpstra, aged 93 and 92, who needed long-term care but were forced to be separated due to bed shortages.

He said after hearing about the issue, he worked with the minister of health to have the couple reunited at the same home, in time to celebrate their 70th wedding anniversary.

“The separation was taking its toll on their health but now they’ll be able to spend these years happily together,” he said. “I think every senior in Ontario has earned that.”

Gates said moving forward, he will advocate for the province to do more to promote arts and culture.

“If you take a look at what’s transpiring right across my riding with the number of festivals that we’re having, it’s so important to utilize the arts and culture in our community.

It’s good for tourism, creates jobs and gives people another reason to come to Niagara.”

Gates said he will continue to push the province to fast-track proposals for a new south Niagara hospital on the outskirts of Niagara Falls and for regular GO train service to the Honeymoon Capital.

Plans call for the hospital to be built by 2023, as for the arrival of year-round GO trains, but Gates wants to see both come to fruition sooner.

He will also advocate for “local trades people, local engineers and local businesses” to be responsible for the construction of the south Niagara hospital.

Gates said while the Fort Erie Race Track enjoyed another solid season in 2016 with increased wager figures, he wants the government to back more race dates and more gaming offerings at the site in the future.

Gates said he also wants the government to do more to support the province’s emerging craft beer and cider industry, and is working on a wine bill to get more local wines in LCBO stores.

rspiteri@postmedia.com