Gates takes on new critic role
Niagara Falls NDP MPP Wayne Gates. (NIAGARA FALLS REVIEW/POSTMEDIA NETWORK FILE PHOTO)
Wayne Gates says he plans to fight for Ontarians who are taken advantage of by door-to-door salespeople in his new role as a provincial critic for government and consumer services.
The Niagara Falls NDP MPP took on the responsibility as the party’s critic while MPP Jagmeet Singh campaigns for the leadership of the federal NDP.
Government and consumer services includes auto insurance rates, Service Ontario and door-to-door sales legislation.
Gates said his constituency office has heard of a “number of cases” where residents, mostly seniors, have signed contracts with door-to-door salespeople without fully understanding the ramifications of their actions.
“Most of the ones that are coming into our office are seniors who, for a number of reasons, some could be hearing issues, some could be because of some language barriers, they’re signing on to contracts and when they find out what they signed on to and find out the overall cost of it, they’re coming to our office to see what we can do to get them out of their contracts.”
Gates described some of the cases as “really, really sad.”
He said he looks forward to heightening the awareness of the issue.
Gates said a Putting Consumers First bill intended to protect consumers was recently passed, but it’s “watered down a bit” from a private member’s bill that would have provided for more consumer protections.
“The bill doesn’t say they can’t do it, so obviously I have to do some more research,” he said.
“I’m going to do everything we can to make sure that our communities and the communities right across Ontario aren’t being taken advantage of, in particular, seniors.”
Gates has experience being a government critic for the NDP.
He was the party’s critic for transportation and was asked by Leader Andrea Horwath to be the critic for Infrastructure Ontario and for public-private partnerships.
Gates said Horwath asked him last week if he would consider being the critic for government and consumer services.
“I think the main role is to keep the elected government, particularly a majority government, held to accountability,” he said, adding as a critic he’s raised concerns about unsafe bridges and highways.
This week in the legislature, Gates questioned Liberal Premier Kathleen Wynne about Ontario’s auto insurance rates.
Gates cited a report released by auto insurance advisor David Marshall that said the province’s auto rates are almost 55 per cent higher than the Canadian average.
He said Marshall’s report also highlighted that despite Ontario having the lowest level of auto accidents and “despite residents losing coverage under this Liberal government, we are paying by far the highest auto insurance rates in Canada.
“Is the premier proud of this record and will she admit her auto insurance policies have made life harder for people trying to get by?”
The question was fielded by Minister of Finance Charles Sousa, who acknowledged the criticisms found in the report.
“Mr. Marshall was correct, and we’ve been saying it from the beginning: We are having tremendously high costs of insurance in this province, and that creates higher premiums,” said Sousa.
“You’re right. In Alberta and other jurisdictions the costs of these claims are much lower and we have to get ours lower too. I hope you will support those initiatives as well.”
Gates said he also plans to highlight the need for more Service Ontario offices.
“The reality is, in my riding, we need more. They can’t provide the service that’s needed by the residents in my riding and, quite frankly, right across the province of Ontario.”
Gates said it will be his role to raise these issues and bring forward evidence and examples to back up his claims.
“A good, effective opposition is to make sure you raise these issues with the government, make sure you bring the proper research, the proper facts and highlight some of the concerns,” he said, adding the government has “picked up” some NDP ideas.
“First you have to earn their respect. They know that you’re going to bring forward things that are important to the residents of not only your riding, but across Ontario because I’m the critic not just for my riding. I’m not always right, but certainly the Liberals aren’t always right either.”