New Democrat Michael Mantha is working on voter support to win a third term as the Algoma-Manitoulin riding’s MPP.
Mantha, campaigning on the NDP’s election slogan of ‘Change for the better’, has been crisscrossing the riding – considered to be the third largest in Ontario geographically – to meet voters and talk with them about the issues. He participated in an all candidates debate in Elliot Lake on May 24 at the Moose Lodge and was seen in the Pride weekend celebrations in the city.
The MPP supports his party’s campaign agenda which includes more funding for hospitals and long-term care facilities, a province-wide medical and dental plan for all Ontarians, creating a new funding formula for post-secondary education, a plan to cut Hydro bills by 30 per cent and put Hydro One back in public hands.
Mantha is quick to point out the agenda presented by the NDP is fully costed in the party’s overall strategy with a deficit in the first year, should the party win a majority, and dropping during a four-year mandate. The candidate maintains the Progressive Conservative and Liberal parties have yet to put out a program showing costs associated with campaign promises.
“This whole campaign has been one interesting one,” Mantha said of the late announcement by Liberal and First Nation candidate Charles Fox to run. “This is going to shape the debate a little bit differently.”
“The main issues for me have been health care, hydro, and road maintenance those have been the main issues at the forefront,” he said of issues being raised by voters across to riding. ‘Health care is a lot, access to doctors, delays in services, home care, long term care. That’s been the main issues.”
Mantha acknowledged that concerns over Hydro, both in the terms of selling off shares in the utility by the current government and increased costs on consumer electricity bills, will also be addressed should the NDP wins a majority or is in opposition.
“Within our hospital system we’re going to spend $590 million and that’s going to alleviate the crisis that is there,” he said.
The party is also promising to spend more on mental health and long-term care.
“If the homes aren’t available for long-term care they (seniors) end up in our hospitals and a bed in a hospital versus a bed in a long-term care home… the amount of dollars that could be save is significant,” he said.
Home care is also a program the party wants to deal with, steering away from privatization in the healthcare system.
“The better way of doing this is having our nurses under the provincial umbrella,” Mantha said allowing nurses and caregivers to be paid an appropriate wage rather than being underpaid and suffering from “burn out.”
“We’ve seen what privatization has done in our roads, hydro even our health care system,” he said of the party platform to have services in public hands to control how tax dollars are spent.
With home care, those individuals that are providing the services are doing it because they love the job. They love going out to community members and providing that service, but they are not being fully compensated for that. Why because 68 per cent of funding allocated to home care is going to administration and profit. Thirty-two per cent of it is reaching our PSWs (personal support workers),” Mantha said.
“We keep throwing that money away to profit and it’s just not a responsible way for being responsible with Ontario dollars and we have to make better decisions.”
“We’re looking at putting in 40,000 long-term beds,” Mantha said about a question of a lack of long-term beds from the previous evening’s all candidate debate.
At the current time, Mantha said, getting a bed in a long-term care facility has a waiting list of three to five years.
He said part of the money needed to cover the costs in the NDP plan would come from raising taxes on the most profitable corporations and those earning over $220,000. A luxury tax would also be levied against those buying luxury vehicles over $90,000 and those who speculate in the housing market.
Mantha said discussions on the future of Elliot Lake St. Joseph Hospital, that include a new hospital or further renovations, have been ongoing since he was first elected.
“Why not a new hospital here, but a hospital that will meet the needs of Elliot Lake,” he said of any plan to build a new facility. “There is a plan that is in the works already with regards to what are we’re going to do with this hospital.”
Mantha said if re-elected he would follow through on issues that have reached different stages of discussion.
“You recognize the time it takes to go through certain processes,” he said of ongoing discussions at the municipal and public level. “There’s a very lengthy process. We’re six to eight years away.”
“We have an aging population that needs different services,” he said referring to providing services that can be used by people along the North Shore and not require area residents to travel to hospitals in Sudbury or Sault Ste. Marie for care.
Mantha said, if elected, he would have the opportunity to follow up issues already in the works at different stages.
Voters will go to the polls on June 7.