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Ontario election: Liberals announce funding for surgical backlog; Education Minister apologizes for “slave auction”

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Where the leaders are today:

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Conservative Leader Doug Ford: no scheduled public events

Liberal Leader Steven Del Duca: Made an announcement on surgical backlogs Wednesday morning; taking part in “McHappy Day” at noon in Vaughan; participates in a “meet and greet” with supporters in Ajax at 6 p.m.

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath: Made an announcement on auto insurance in Brampton at 10 a.m.; visiting Waterdown with the local NDP candidate at 12:30 p.m.; visiting a farm in Oxford County with the NDP candidate at 2:30 p.m.

Green party Leader Mike Schreiner: Makes an announcement on climate, jobs and affordability at 9:30 a.m.; sign wave with candidates in Barrie at 1 p.m.; meet & greet at campaign office in Guelph at 4:30 p.m.;  day-care event in Guelph at 5:30 p.m.; all-candidates event in Guelph at 7 p.m.

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LIberals promise $1 billion to tackle surgery backlog

Liberal Leader Steven Del Duca announced that his party will spend $1 billion over two years to clear the backlog of surgeries and diagnostic procedures in the province.

The Ontario Medical Association has estimated there is a backlog of one million surgeries and procedures, said Del Duca at an announcement Wednesday morning.

Families are suffering and confronting the anxiety of what comes next, he said.

If the Liberals are elected their government will set up a centralized booking and e-referral system that will be easier and more efficient, he said.

The plan includes expanding operating room, CT and MRI capabilities, according to a media release.

“We’ll work to return to pre-pandemic wait times by the end of 2022 and establish published maximum wait times for all surgeries,” said the release.

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“More than 30 per cent of people who need prostate cancer surgery are stuck in limbo, only 40 per cent of patients are getting their MRIs on time, and kids who need diagnostic imaging are waiting 161 per cent longer than they should,” said  the release.

NDP promises to lower auto insurance rates by 40 per cent

Ontario’s New Democrats say they’ll lower auto insurance rates by 40 per cent if elected next month.

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath says she’ll ban rate increases for 18 months while a commission investigates and recommends a new system.

She says she’ll also ban the practice of different auto insurance rates based on postal codes.

Horwath says the commission will explore the no-fault systems in Manitoba, Saskatchewan and British Columbia.

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The commission will also examine Quebec’s public and private hybrid system.

The former Liberal government promised to decrease car insurance rates by 15 per cent in 2015, but failed with then premier Kathleen Wynne later admitting it was a “stretch goal.”

The Progressive Conservatives, who are seeking re-election, said in their April budget that they want to tweak auto insurance rules to allow more choice, ensure fairness and crack down on fraud.

Education Minister Stephen Lecce apologizes over “slave auction” at his former fraternity

Ontario Education Minister Stephen has apologized after it was reported he was involved  in a “slave auction” held by his fraternity at Western University 15 years ago.

The Ontario NDP has called for Lecce to withdraw from the election race or failing that for the Progressive Conservative party to remove him as a candidate.

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A story alleging Lecce participated in a 2006 “slave auction” by Western’s Sigma Chi fraternity appeared in Press Progress, an outlet founded and funded by the Broadbent Institute.

“The event from 2006 was inappropriate and in no way reflects who I am as a person, which is why I unreservedly apologize,” Lecce said in the statement.

“I will continue to passionately advance the interests of all Ontarians — irrespective of faith, heritage, orientation or race.”

A statement from three NDP candidates said Lecce “must apologize for the deep pain his actions caused, educate himself, and attempt to make amends for Black communities.

“But under no circumstances should the people of this province, or even more alarmingly our children, be represented by him at this time,” said the statement from candidates Jill Andrew, Faisal Hassan and Laura Mae Lindo.

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“Slavery is not a joke,” said the statement. “Engaging in racist, dehumanizing actions cannot be allowed to be another case of ‘boys will be boys.’ Black Ontarians deserve so much better from their elected officials and their governments.”

The Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario released a statement saying Lecce’s apology is not sufficient and that Conservative Leader Doug Ford should “immediately address” the allegation.

“Anti-Black racism is deeply distressing and hurtful, and an apology (from Lecce) that neglects to even acknowledge it is not sufficient,” said the statement from the union representing 83,000 educators.

“His participation in a slave auction fundraiser raises serious concerns about the minister’s understanding of anti-Black racism, and his ability to serve and support students, education workers, and families, particularly those who identify as Black.

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“Minister Lecce willingly participated in an event that minimized slavery and trivialized its brutality and harmful impacts. It calls his judgement into question, as well as his commitment to dismantling anti-Black racism in the education sector.”

Conservatives endorsed by boilermakers union

The International Brotherhood of Boilermakers has endorsed the Ontario Conservatives, the party announced Wednesday.

“As the first endorsement for the Ontario PCs, the Boilermakers’ support is reflective of the PC government’s unprecedented support for workers in the skilled trades and investments in training and resources to address the province’s labour shortage,” the party said in a release.

Since being elected in 2018, the Conservatives have invested significantly in the skilled trades, including funding to help people enter the trades or retrain and upgrade their skills, grants for employers for apprenticeships, a tax credit for job training, efforts to counter the stigma associated with trades and expanding college degree granting, said the release.

with files from the Canadian Press

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