Government Appoints Parliamentary Assistants to Push Its Plans
On June 29, Premier Doug Ford announced that he had appointed 43 MPPs as parliamentary assistants to the 30 cabinet ministers he recently appointed. The Premier’s Office says parliamentary assistants will “support cabinet in delivering the government’s ambitious plan to build Ontario.” Their role is to “support ministers with legislative and committee matters, including special projects and assignments that require dedicated leadership” and “building relationships and communicating government initiatives” across the province.
Among those appointed are the three new PC MPPs in Windsor-Essex and Chatham-Kent. Andrew Dowie (Windsor-Tecumseh) is assigned to the Minister of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade Vic Fedeli (Nipissing); Anthony Leardi (Essex) is assigned to the Minister of Mines and former global mining executive George Pirie (Timmins) and Trevor Jones (Chatham-Kent—Leamington) is assigned to the Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, Lisa Thompson (Huron—Bruce).
Andrew Dowie said “All three [global tech, auto and agri-food businesses] are integral for our local economy. For Anthony and the mines, because we need those products [critical minerals from the Ring of Fire] down our way, this will help to grow our economy.” To which Leardi added that his appointment “cements the burgeoning relationship between the manufacturing sector in Essex County and the critical mines initiative in the north.” It fits with the government’s strategy, he said, because the battery plant Stellantis and LG plan to build in Windsor need critical minerals from northern Ontario’s mines. Dowie added that “Trevor Jones having agriculture and rural affairs, that is integral to his riding and Essex County. It will help to make sure the agriculture sector is working on all cylinders which is critical because we export so much all across North America.”
The appointments of the parliamentary assistants and the roles they are assigned show that the PC government sees Ontario not from the perspective of the human factor, but only for how its resources and products can benefit narrow private interests. Their “plan” treats southern and southwestern Ontario as a staging ground to receive critical minerals shipped from the north on “protected” transportation corridors where no protests will be tolerated. This region is then to be used to assemble electric or hybrid cars, armoured vehicles and make batteries for export worldwide.
In addition to being a staging ground for the critical minerals from the north, southwestern Ontario is also used as a source of food products to export to the U.S. and parts of Europe because of its access to fresh water from the Great Lakes, excess electricity and available transmission, as well as the use of migrant and impoverished local workers’ labour for low wages to supply mainly U.S. markets, with fresh vegetables and mushrooms, many for canning or making ketchup, as in the case of the region’s tomatoes. The working, and living conditions for seasonal workers, in agri-business operations, that were further exposed during the pandemic, are not a concern the Ford government has addressed. Building the infrastructure demanded by the global private interests to access Ontario’s incentives and concessions, as well as its resources, is “the plan” the 43 parliamentary assistants have been tasked to promote across the province.
Meanwhile, the working people of the north struggle constantly with food shortages, high costs for fresh food and energy, all of which are in abundance in the south. In addition to inflation, the north also struggles with a lack of health care and poisoned water from mining and pulp and paper industries. But, according to the government, those in the north are lucky to live on top of the critical minerals that companies like LG, Stellantis and others covet so they can gain access to the billions in public subsidies the government is making available.
Now is the time to “build the road to the Ring of Fire” the Premier declared following his re-election. Building reliable transportation to and from the north has always been a necessity to assist the peoples of the north, however now it seems there is more impetus because of the minerals big private interests covet and need to get shipped south and then worldwide. This makes the north valuable to “us.”
Meanwhile, the people in the south of Ontario, struggling with the out-of-reach cost of housing as well as ballooning cost of gasoline, food, and other products and unstable work situations are supposed to see getting the minerals out of the ground in the north and shipped to factories in the south in a speedy fashion as their saviour, never mind what this means for the peoples who live in the north, their reality and opinions, and what this “plan” means for the natural environment.
In reality, unlocking the potential of the province that the government says it wants to do, has been reduced to big private interests making as much money as possible. The problems people in various parts of the province face and how to develop their assets to contribute to people’s needs in other regions is not on the agenda. Selling a destructive and unsustainable “plan” demanded by a tiny elite, that has the potential of pitting workers in the south against Indigenous peoples, workers and their communities in the north, as “job creation” and “unlocking the prosperity of Ontario” appears to be the impossible job our local MPPs have been assigned.