The Green Party of Ontario hosted a virtual Town Hall meeting on health and mental health with the goal of finding out its constituents’ vision for the Province’s future.

Mike Schreiner, leader of the Green Party of Ontario and MPP for Guelph (gpo.ca)

The first of many

On May 5th, 2021 the Green Party of Ontario hosted a virtual Town Hall meeting in an attempt to engage with its constituents on what they envision regarding a multitude of issues. The party’s approach consists of hosting numerous Town Halls in May and in June to offer an inclusive space for Ontario citizens to share their concerns.

The first of many meetings was titled “A More Caring Ontario”. The discussion involved the current situation and what is needed to be done in the future to support the health and mental health of Ontario residents. Ironically, the meeting took place while Ontario was battling its latest Covid-19 wave which reached peak case levels for the province.

Moderator Sean Yo opened the Town Hall with an Indigenous land acknowledgement followed by a brief introduction from party leader Mike Schreiner welcoming all attendees. The number of participants fluctuated between 60 and 70. Attendees presented their concerns along with personal stories. Unsurprisingly, a handful of Zoom attendees were interrupted by their kids or pets as has so often been the case throughout the Covid-19 pandemic.

Accompanying Mr. Schreiner were two experts in the health fields: Camille Queenville and Adrienne Spafford. Camille is the CEO of the Ontario division of the Canadian Mental Health Association while Adrienne Spafford is the CEO of Addictions and Mental Health Ontario. Both guests answered the more technical questions that attendees had towards Ontario’s health services.

Health and mental health

The main questions and issues at hand during the meeting were “how to create a more caring Ontario?” The answers were diverse but Mike Schreiner expressed a simple but significant brief statement:

We are not investing enough for caring for people, this has been exposed by Covid.

– Mike Schreiner

The experts agreed with this diagnosis and suggested that the worst is yet to come, in terms of the pandemic affecting mental health. The experts also claimed that problems such as waiting times for mental health services were unreasonably long even prior to the pandemic not to mention the challenges posed on the health system itself over the last year.

Experts and participants agreed that the most clear problems regarding various health services were identified as navigation, capacity and timelines. Specific concerns about the difficulty for affected persons to navigate the system were discussed by all in attendance. Participants suggested implementing more accessible and efficient programs. The speakers recognized that it can take up to two years for some people to receive mental health services in Ontario.

Emphasis was placed on the situation of youth health, both mental and physical. Mr. Schreiner suggested that youth are the group that is the most affected with mental health struggles and a lack of accessibility to services. The experts agreed with the party leader on the struggles faced by youth in Ontario. However, they did end their discussion with a positive statement and suggested that today’s youth is possibly a game changer in tackling future mental health issues.

Overall, the Town Hall presented an inclusive atmosphere. It was arguably a successful attempt by the Green Party of Ontario to connect with its constituents. The various upcoming Town Halls will allow for a better evaluation on the success or failure of this inclusive strategy.

Guy Vertinsky

Guy is currently pursuing a BA Honours in Political Science at Concordia University in Montreal. His main interest areas are Canadian and Latin American politics. He enjoys studying the political setting and dynamics of various group relations, movements and intergovernmental affairs. Guy is the current President of the Canadian Political Society of Concordia University. When he is not working or studying he enjoys traveling, playing sports and the great outdoors.

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