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Community leaders attend luncheon at Ontario NDP’s Fall Caucus Retreat

Pradip Rodrigues

Last Friday Ontario NDP leader of the opposition Andrea Horwath and her caucus met for an all-day session at a Scarborough hotel banquet hall where she delivered a leader’s report casting her party as a bulwark against the excesses of the PC party under Premier Doug Ford.

In an adjacent banquet hall, between 11.30 am and 1.30 pm, there was a Scarborough Community Leaders Luncheon where prominent heads of NGOs sat around tables along with one of the NDP caucus members during the time they took a lunch break. Meeting with community leaders over an informal lunch was a great way to accomplish two things at the same time.

There were also several media outlets that attended the luncheon. They interviewed caucus members as well as community leaders. The event gave community leaders a great opportunity to get to know their newly elected MPPs and talk about issues concerning their ridings and vice-versa.

The theme was obviously Premier Doug Ford who was repeatedly brought up by irate MPPs and of course Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath who addressed the gathering post-lunch.

“Doug Ford has attacked the courts. He’s attacked democracy. Now, he’s attacking any person in Ontario who dares to disagree with him,” she said. “This week has been a stark reminder that the work we do together, with and for the people of Ontario, is more important than ever,” she said to the highly-appreciative crowd.

Doug Ford’s controversial move to reintroduce a bill to meddle in Toronto’s municipal election. Ford’s original bill has provided a tremendous amount of fodder to the opposition led by Horwath who vowed to defend the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and thwart Premier Ford’s attempt to use the notwithstanding clause for an issue that didn’t require it.

Besides attacking the recent use of the notwithstanding clause, Horwath touched upon campaign trail issues like long waits for health care, neglected schools in need of repair, and job losses.

“Too many families are still facing painfully long wait times for the health care that they need, only to be moved onto a gurney in a hallway rather than a hospital bed,” said Horwath. “So many of our children’s schools need critical repairs, so kids are in sweltering classrooms with no air conditioning on hot days and will be wearing their winter coats in freezing and drafty classrooms on cold days. Many even have water fountains that kids can’t drink from because of lead in the water. But rather than improving health care, fixing crumbling schools or creating jobs, Doug Ford has dragged things backwards — from bad to worse. We know it doesn’t have to be this way, and so do the people of Ontario.”

The Ontario NDP leader was introduced by the spunky young and vibrant first-time MPP Doly Begum the up-and-coming new NDP MPP is expected to gain a lot more prominence in Ontario politics in the months and years ahead.

NDP MPP for Brampton-East Gurratan Singh sauntered about introducing himself to anyone who crossed his path, it was reminiscent of his recent political campaign. He was heard explaining how he heckled for the first-time last week while they loudly protested the reintroduction of a bill halving the size of Toronto city council and refused to come to order for which they were escorted out of the Ontario legislature.

MPP for Brampton Centre Sara Singh was also seen going around tables introducing herself to as many of the guests as possible.

Ontario NDP leader, Andrea Horwath encouraged the invitees to get to know the MPPs, ask them questions and also unload their concerns.

From observing the NDP MPPs, it was obvious they’ve been energized by the events in recent weeks. They see themselves as defenders of Ontarians and sought to reassure the worried gathering that they had their backs and would ensure the interests of the poor working middle-class would be upheld amid looming funding cuts for social services and programs.

Many of the invitees told the MPPs that it was important to have these sorts of luncheons from time to time as it gave politicians as well as other stakeholders and community leaders to interact with each other and get to understand the issues involved and what is at stake. -CINEWS

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