NNN reporter Valerie MacDonald had an informative chat recently with Lou Rinaldi about what’s in store for the veteran MPP.

Results of recent polls, an upcoming Liberal budget, plus a provincial labour investigation into Tim Horton’s reaction to upping the minimum wage are all on MPP Lou’s radar heading into 2018.

As the veteran local riding politician enters the last year of his present term at Queen’s Park, his party is facing a drop in the polls.

The upcoming June 7 election and anticipated dropping of the writ in early May means a 28-day campaign, he said.

He will be canvassing for votes in a much different riding than what he is used to. The new riding includes the eastern part of Durham Region (part of Clarington) and the southern part of Peterborough County (south shore of Rice Lake and northward), in addition to Northumberland County. Lost from the riding is Quinte West, located just east of Rinaldi’s home base in Brighton.

A lot can happen during the six-month period leading up to an election but Lou said he is working with the MPPs in Peterborough and Durham to make connections and get up to speed on issues in this new riding area.

“I’m looking forward” to working in this “new territory,” Rinaldi said.

Somewhat of a surprise and disappointment to the local MPP has been the reaction by the well-known Tim Horton restaurant chain to the Liberal’s $14 minimum-wage increase effective on the first of this month.

Some members of the public believe franchise owners are taking the wage increase cost out on the backs of their employees at Cobourg location and others ones as well.

“I’ve been a small businessman all my life and I understand the small business plight,” Lou said.  “But Ontario is doing well and people are trying to make a living just on minimum wage….So I was disappointed” by Tim Horton treating its employees this way, the MPP said.

The minimum wage increase is “100% disposable income” and “that’s good for the economy,” he continued.

The Ontario’s labour ministry is investigating what measures the fast-food coffee chain has instituted – but so far they are “not breaking any laws,” he added.

From letters on social media stating that there will be impacts on benefits and the loss of paid breaks at Cobourg outlets of Tim Horton restaurants, to allegations at other outlets that franchise owners are confiscating employee tips, it all adds up to disappointment for the MPP. This is especially true since businesses are benefitting from reduced insurance premiums and corporate taxes due to his government’s actions, he said.

“You don’t hear about that.”

A Liberal annual general meeting is scheduled to be held from Feb. 2 to 4. It will be an opportunity for not just MPPs but delegates to help form policy heading into the election. At the same time, the Liberals are soliciting input on the upcoming budget, the MPP said. He will be attending three of the budget talks although there will be none held locally.

Those wanting to put forward ideas can email submissions@ontario.ca or fax 416-325-0969 but must do so before the end of this month according to the Ontario Finance Ministry.

Regarding the Liberals handling of charges for electrical use, Lou says the long, cold snap will eat into the electricity bill reductions people have been experiencing due to the recent “lengthy deep freeze.”

“We can not turn the sun around or adjust outside temperatures,” he said.

Lou claims he heats his home primarily with electricity and before the cold snap his regular $400 monthly bills had been cut in half due to the measures put in place by his Liberal Government.

He also noted that the return of the Home Retrofit program funded by “cap-and-trade” will help substantially with the costs people incur when they replace windows, add insulation and undertake other eligible conservation measures.

The MPP noted he will continue working through the pre-election months on several key areas including health care, especially for seniors, and with industry to create more jobs.

He promised announcements of some industry expansions in the riding by spring but provided no details at this time.