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By Brock Weir
It's been a busy, eventful Provincial Election so far – and it hasn't even officially started yet.
Nevertheless, Premier Kathleen Wynne took a break from the campaign trail on Sunday, checking into The Whistle Stop restaurant on Main Street Beeton with her family to celebrate the 92nd birthday of her father, Dr. John.
Also dining at the restaurant at the time was The Times' Annette Derraugh who asked the Premier to stop for a photo – which she did with her son-in-law, Dan Hambly, who just happens to be the Liberal Party's candidate in Simcoe-Grey.
“I was up in Angus and had to make it down for the birthday party at 1 p.m. – and I was able to make it there almost on time,” Mr. Hambly shared with The Times.
Hambly says he was born at Stevenson Memorial Hospital in 1976 which was, when first built, ready for a capacity of 7,000. Since retrofitted, it is now serving 40,000 patients. It's a facility which needs to be expanded, he says, and while Mr. Hambly says incumbent Jim Wilson “has done a lot” on this front, more needs to be done to push for expansion of services.
“I think that for most people whom I speak to in the riding, I've knocked on thousands of doors, seven thousand so far, and the hospital is, for so many people, like a lightning rod,” he says. “It is so important for our aging community and it is also a draw, moving here from the GTA. They can move to a location where they have affordable housing and also access to a hospital – that is a real draw.
“We have one of the fastest growing populations in Ontario. Alliston alone is 23 per cent. The hospital is a draw for that. The Premier is aware of that and we talk about it a lot. The Liberal Government just recently gave half a million dollars each to the hospitals that are in the process of redevelopment and that shows this is a government that is committed. [Monday's Throne Speech] anchored investment in hospitals across the Province [and that] is crucially important and for communities that are growing as fast as ours.”
Looking ahead to the campaign, which officially kicks off in May, Mr. Hambly says it “terrifies” him that the Province could elect someone like PC leader Doug Ford “who would wield a machete and take aim at our government programs like education and health care.”
“I am motivated to prevent that from happening,” he says. “This government has, for the first time in Canadian history, offered a pharmacare program to children and youth under the age of 25 and the Throne Speech has promised to expand that going forward after the budget is announced. I grew up in a household that was painfully aware of the gap in our healthcare system. My mum worked in a pharmacy for 27 years right in downtown Alliston and she would tell me all the time a quarter of her customers couldn't afford to fill their prescriptions so they would walk away from it, get sicker, and end up in emerg.
“I grew up in a household that was very aware of this gap in our healthcare system and when I heard this government was going to tackle the issue of pharmacare, I was amazed. I was really happy because I had been an advocate for it for decades.”
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