By Joel Wittnebel/The Oshawa Express
“Sometimes, an individual story can be the change that leads to legislation.”
With those words, MPP Jennifer French launched a town hall meeting at the South Oshawa Community Centre, looking to hear the issues and concerns of Oshawa residents.
According to French, the meeting was a final chance for her to connect with residents and gather their stories prior to returning to Queen’s Park this week as the legislature begins its winter session.
The concerns were aplenty, ranging from transit, “transit here sucks,” one resident exclaimed, to education, “I see that as fundamentally unfair,” one resident said of their child’s tuition fees, to tenant issues, “council doesn’t really seem to get this,” another resident said, to Ontario disability benefits, assistive devices, and affordable housing.
The group of approximately 30 people each took their turn at the mic, each sharing their own concerns, and while all of them may have been different, French says that she could hear an underlying theme to each of them, and could be shared by many more in the community.
“Everyone is dealing with the same thing,” she says. “I echo their questions about dental care and limits to support when it comes to assistive devices and lack of affordable universal pharmacare and all those pieces. So, I have the same concerns.”
For that reason, French says she was grateful to those who attended the meeting, and the information gathered will prove useful over the coming months at Queen’s Park.
“I think it was a takeaway that I can draw from and extrapolate to the rest of our neighbours, but it also gave me a sense of some issues specific to that community,” she says.
This also wouldn’t be the first time French has taken the issues of her constituents directly to Queen’s Park. Most notably, last year, French delivered a collection of hydro bills from local residents to the office of the Premier to illustrate just how much people were paying for electricity.
Moving forward, French hopes to continue to have similar meetings, with future sessions dedicated to certain demographics, like seniors, or issue-centric. Many in attendance called for a specific meeting to share concerns surrounding transit.
“I think it was a reminder about how best to engage with and access folks in our community,” French says. “It’s just a reminder that you need to reach out into the community, not just let them reach you.”