Premier Ford’s recent funding announcements could be more spectacle than aid
On Friday, Premier Doug Ford made his second funding announcement in two weeks in Brampton. At Sheridan College’s Davis Campus, Ford was joined by Associate Minister of Small Business and Red Tape Reduction (and Brampton South MPP) Prabmeet Singh Sarkaria, Minister of Labour, Training and Skills Development Monte McNaughton and Minister of Colleges and Universities, Ross Romano for another round of spectacle.
The four politicians joined forces to announce almost $560,000 in funding for the General Machinist and Industrial Millwright pre-apprenticeship programs, which will create placements for an additional 50 students. These programs enable students to get the skills and training required to secure apprenticeships in their chosen trades.
Minister Ross Romano, Premier Doug Ford, MPP Prabmeet Singh Sarkaria, and Minister Monte McNaughton
Funding from the provincial government will help fill jobs that are currently in high demand, according to a press release. “With 81 percent of apprenticeship training and skilled trades education being completed in our classrooms, programs like the General Machinist and Industrial Mechanic Millwright programs at Sheridan are helping to address local labour market needs while setting students up for success in their careers," Romano said. The pre-apprenticeship programs are free of charge for qualified students, funded by the province as part of Employment Ontario, a program that helps individuals build skills and find jobs.
Educational funding has been an ongoing topic of discussion in Brampton. Friday’s announcement of almost $560,000 is minor in comparison to the $90 million in funding that was pulled for Ryerson University’s satellite campus in downtown Brampton. The city’s initiative to launch its own university has strong residential support, with 83 percent of residents in favour of the proposed project, according to data from a public survey conducted by Mainstreet Research. The final decision remains in the hands of the province and will be made after the city submits a business proposal in the first quarter of 2020.
In addition to the pre-apprenticeship programs funding announcement, the province has also announced grant funding to help the Peel Regional Police (PRP) fight crime. On Jan. 24, the premier was joined by Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown, Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie, Regional Chair Nando Iannicca, Peel Police Chief Nishan Duraiappah, other provincial officials and a large group of police officers. At Peel Regional Police Headquarters, the premier announced $20.5 million in grant funding for the PRP.
As previously reported by The Pointer, $17.1 million of the announced grant funding comes from the Community Safety and Policing (CSP) grant, which will be used for Peel’s Community Mobilization program — a community policing effort that connects officers with residents — for a total of $5.7 million annually over the course of three years. A close look at grant funding previously received by Peel from the province shows the figure is actually a $2.6 million decrease in provincial support. It appears Peel police were aware of the $17.1 million figure ahead of the premier’s announcement, given the budget presentation to the Police Services Board in October 2019 cited the $5.7 million figure from the CSP for 2020. New funding streams include $1.5 million ($500,000 annually over three years) through Ontario’s new Guns, Gangs and Violence Reduction Strategy to address violent crime and $1.9 million towards the establishment of the Intensive Firearm Bail Team (IFBT), which, in 2020, will focus on firearms offences and bail hearings in the GTA. Since being announced in 2019, this is the first official funding allocation for the IFBT.
Similar inquiry into Friday’s announcement begs the question as to whether or not figures quoted are altogether new, or have absorbed previous provincial support. The press release states the investment into skilled trades training will “create placements for an additional 50 students” part of the general machinist and industrial mechanic millwright pre-apprenticeship programs. In the 2018-19 school year, Sheridan College added 25 seats to its industrial mechanic millwright program with provincial support. It remains unclear if the 50 new seats, announced Friday, will be added to the previous 25 for a total of 75 or if there will be 50 participants for the two programs altogether. If the latter is true, only 25 seats will be new, not 50. The Pointer reached out to the minister’s office but did not receive a response ahead of publication.
Questions around Ford’s recent funding announcements in Brampton continue to swirl as the city has yet to receive adequate provincial support for several of its ongoing crises. While these crises have been brewing for a long time and a single government is not at fault for not paying attention to them, Brampton desperately needs its calls for action heeded, with healthcare the most pressing. In late January, the City of Brampton declared a public health emergency, citing desperation at the city’s only hospital, Brampton Civic, which has been running far over capacity for far too long.
During Ford’s announcement at PRP Headquarters, the premier said the province will support the expansion of Peel Memorial, a project that was already committed to by the former Liberal government. Planned as a preventative wellness centre, Peel Memorial currently has no in-patient beds and its urgent care centre is only open from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. The proposed expansion would enable the wellness centre to become a fully operational hospital, but there are few details on when the plan will come to fruition. Ford’s lack of response to the issue is a far cry from the promise he made to end hallway healthcare during his election campaign. Brampton Civic is a dire example of hallway healthcare, where patients are often left waiting in hallways for long periods of time before they see a doctor or gain access to a bed.
Premier Doug Ford greets members of the Peel Regional Police
There’s a common complaint amongst Brampton residents that the city has been forgotten about, something which Ford may be trying to address with recent funding announcements. As Brampton is a key part of the 905 when it comes to elections, Ford may be trying to win people over. When previously asked about Ford’s response to the city’s healthcare crisis, Mayor Patrick Brown told The Pointer that residents should let their voices be heard in the next election because of the sway the 905 holds. “The path for re-election lies in the 905. I don't think they can afford to ignore Brampton,” he said. The region has continuously been a wildcard in determining how provincial and federal elections end.
The push for more skilled trades workers is something both levels of government have advocated for. The provincial announcements follow Ontario’s marketing campaign that positions work in skilled trades as promising career paths. The skilled trades job market is seeing a gap that will only increase with time. According to the press release, 1 in 3 skilled trade workers are aged 55 or older. As their retirements loom, a gap of skilled workers will be created. One of the ways in which the federal government plans to deal with this is through immigration. According to supplementary information from the 2018 Annual Report to Parliament on Immigration, 195,800 economic applications are projected to be accepted in 2020, partially due to Canada’s aging population.
It is unclear if the province has any more announcements in store for Brampton. The fact remains that the province must consider the city’s calls for action if it hopes to hold onto the 905 in the next election.
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