Campbell aims to make mark

Heather Latter

Kenora-Rainy River MPP Sarah Campbell believes there will be opportunities for her to make a difference this year.
And with plenty of challenges on the horizon, she has pledged to work diligently on behalf of the constituents of Rainy River District.
“A lot of the challenges I see are provincial challenges,” Campbell said last week, noting she will be responding to the issues as the government lays out its key priorities and agenda.
One particular challenge she’s anticipating is the selling off of Hydro One.
“I think what we’re going to be seeing are more hydro hikes across the province as the government continues with its plan to sell off a large part of Hydro One,” Campbell predicted.
“We’re going to see less oversight and control, not just related to the particular sell-off but also with what the government is doing at the same time with the introduction and passage of Bill 112, which will eliminate formal opposition to some of the changes they are making in the energy sector, as well as eliminate important oversight,” she stressed.
Campbell said she thinks Ontarians also are going to be seeing the government explore further privatization.
“I think we’re going to see more cuts to essential services as they keep their eye on what they need to do to balance the books in the coming years,” she warned, adding there doesn’t seem to be many positive initiatives the government is undertaking.
“There seems to be a lot of poor choices being made by the government right now,” she charged.
“I’m hopeful that we’ll be able to change the agenda a bit going forward, so that we will be able to see some of things that people are saying are priorities.”
Campbell noted some of the things she’s hearing from constituents is that they want better access to health care and for the cost of living to go down.
“People are saying they work very hard and they are feeling like they just can’t keep afloat,” she remarked.
“I’m being overwhelmed with people contacting me and saying that they’ve reached their breaking point, and they want to get out of the province,” she added.
But despite all the challenges before the province, Campbell feels there also is a lot of opportunity.
“There’s a lot of opportunity to have these serious conversations with the government and change the direction so we are going in a direction that better suits the needs of the people of the province, including the northwest,” she stressed.
This includes an opportunity to fix the crisis in Correctional Services, too.
“It’s an issue that has garnered a lot of attention,” Campbell said. “We in the northwest are also impacted by it.
“We’ve seen what happened in Thunder Bay, and this is a real opportunity for the government to make some investments and turn this around before it becomes a big issue,” she reasoned.
“Sadly, right now, the place we are at in Ontario is that through years of neglect, we have a lot issues that have become so large, they’ve turned into small fires and some of them larger fires,” Campbell remarked.
“So what I see in 2016, and what opportunities we have ahead of us, is to focus on these things, put out these fires in these various areas, get on top of that, and lay out a plan so that by the end of 2016, we can have some real progress on these files,” she asserted.
“And then in 2017, we can continue that road of building.”
In the meantime, Campbell said she plans to spend the bulk of her time making sure action is taken on these files so things don’t get any worse than the already are.
“It’s going to be a lot of hard work in 2016,” she acknowledged, adding people are feeling the pressures of the government given the province is in so much debt.
“We have had large deficits, and the government has been saying over and over again that we need to get the province’s books back in order,” she noted.
Campbell referred to deputy premier Deb Matthews’ appeal last month to encouraging Ontarians to help the province pay off its debt.
“I think people were shocked and dismayed because I know they expect better leadership from the government,” she remarked.
“We’ve had a government that has made a lot of poor spending decisions . . . now they are looking for the people to pay for that, whether it’s additional money they might have in their pockets or we’re seeing it through service cutbacks and increased user fees and taxes.
“There seems to be a lot of almost downloading onto people,” Campbell added, noting that is visible with the selling off of Hydro One and how that is going to negatively affect Ontarians for years and years to come.
“There is further discussion about [privatizing] more of our assets in Ontario and that should be cause for concern for a lot of people,” she stressed.
“Not only are we missing out on the revenues from today for those assets, but we are missing out on those revenues long-term—and that is also revenue that we’re counting on to invest in other areas of the province, like in our hospitals and our schools,” she said.
“So it’s kind of a double whammy.”
But Campbell vowed she’s going to do everything she can to keep the pressure up because she believes it is possible to turn some of these things around.
“All of these things are in various stages of progression,” she explained.
“Some are just being mused openly, some the government is signalling they are going to be talking about these things, so there is a greater opportunity to influence those things.
“Other things are going to take a lot more pressure, as with the sale of Hydro One,” Campbell reasoned.
“They’ve already sold off some shares, but I do believe there is an opportunity to stop the sale of further shares and that is something that I’m going to be very active on.”
Campbell also said she appreciates the comments she receives from constituents.
“I really rely on people reaching out to me and telling me how these government decisions impact them,” she remarked.
“Then I, in turn, can pass along that feedback to the government and that helps.”
She said people are welcome to connect with her via Facebook, e-mail, letters, fax, and phone—whichever is most comfortable for them.