by Toby Barrett MPP Haldimand-Norfolk

The latter half of 2017 kicked off, last summer, with public hearings on Bill 148 — Premier Wynne’s legislation to increase the minimum wage to $15 an hour.

  • Summer also saw the transportation minister caught red-handed jacking up driver’s license fees for first-time drivers. Our office constantly hears from constituents who cannot keep pace with the increases to all of their bills, including those associated with government services.

In July, the Ontario Society of Professional Engineers did a calculation of government’s electricity statistics and discovered $1 billion worth of clean electricity was wasted in 2016 as hydroelectric dams let water spill over the top, and nuclear plants released steam instead of using it to power turbines. Further, electricity was sold at less than the cost of production.

Hydro One announced the purchase of Washington-based Avista Corp. for nearly $7 billion. It is ironic Nanticoke was being disassembled while the government was in the midst of purchasing one of the largest coal burners in the northwestern United States.

In September, I introduced the Simcoe Day Act to proclaim the first Monday in August each year as Simcoe Day — a bill that received unanimous support.

Throughout August, the Caledonia-Six Nations blockade yet again raised its ugly head, sparking my call for compensation during question period. “Many customers faced a six-mile detour, businesses lost 25 to 60 per cent, staff were let go or had hours cut. Homeowners expressed concern about property values, and compromised service from firefighters, police and ambulance.”

On the farm front, Opposition benches erupted when, in my role as Opposition agriculture critic, I asked Premier Wynne if she had “ … challenged this tax grab on farm corporations with the prime minister. Why will you not join us in fighting these tax hikes, so the coming generation of young farmers can afford to buy their parents’ farms?”

Over the fall, we were still looking for answers after questioning the minister of natural resources and forestry about natural gas well issues in Norfolk County. A gas leak in the Silver Hill area, in August, resulted in six homes being evacuated, and then another 16 put on alert.

In November, I was one of 39 MPPs who voted in legislation that ended the community college strike. The vote in favour of the legislation was 39-18, with all the opposing votes coming from the NDP caucus and one independent member.

Much of my past year, and going into 2018, involved work and meetings on the threat to NAFTA — the United States and Canada boast one of the largest trading relationships in the world. Factories and farming in both countries are linked through just-in-time supply chains that criss-cross the border. Investment, productivity and competitiveness in both countries are, by and large, supported by common rules and harmonized regulation.

In retrospect, 2017 was significant as the 100th anniversary of such First World War battles at Vimy Ridge, Hill 70, Passchendaele and Cambrai. These were the major conflicts of 1917, but there were others, including Scarpe, Arras, Arleux, Ypres, Pilckem, Langemarck, Menin Road, Polygon Wood, Broodseinde and Poelcappelle.

And, it’s important to note our Royal Canadian Legions are a constant and year-round reminder of the price so many paid for our privilege to live in a free and democratic society.

We made it through 2017. I sincerely wish one and all a happy and prosperous 2018