Last Week at Queen’s Park (April 13)
by MPP Jim McDonell
The Legislature had an intense week in the run-up to the Easter break. As the April 27 date for the provincial Budget approaches, the Opposition Leader, Patrick Brown, had five requests for the upcoming budget:
- A long-term plan to get Ontario’s debt under control
- Immediate steps to address the root of Ontario’s hydro crisis. These measures include: stop signing contracts for power we don’t need, dismantle the Green Energy Act, stop the fire sale of Hydro One, and rein in exorbitant executive compensation in the energy sector
- Solutions to addressing Ontario’s housing crisis, including evidence-based measures to address both supply and demand, the establishment of a panel of industry experts, and an immediate review of the government portfolio
- Immediately making cap-and-trade revenue neutral, where any money generated is returned to hard-working Ontarians
- An immediate moratorium on school closures, and an immediate review of the flawed Pupil Accommodation Review Guideline that determines these closures
I believe these requests must be met to secure Ontario’s future prosperity. The need to address our growing provincial debt becomes more and more pressing. Every Ontarian, including children, owes $22,000 in provincial debt; the highest sub-national debt in the world. Our interest payments alone amount to almost $1 billion a month. Just imagine the public services and social support programs that could be delivered with those resources if they hadn’t been committed to debt service payments caused by 14 years of bad government policy.
On Tuesday the Leader of the Opposition, Patrick Brown, demanded the government present a credible debt reduction and repayment plan. The absence of a credible plan in this year’s budget could cause a credit downgrade for the province, and drive up the cost of servicing our debt even more. Our households can’t afford more dithering over the Province’s massive mountain of debt; we need action now. The government and the NDP disagreed and voted our motion down.
In Question Period, the government continued facing pressure on its mismanagement of the electricity system. I questioned the minister how they could be trusted to oversee Hydro One when they seemed so unaware of the almost 600% increase in executive salaries and the continued winter disconnections in our riding. As the majority shareholder, they have no excuses and the people of Ontario expect and deserve better.
Housing affordability took centre stage on Monday as Opposition Leader Patrick Brown unveiled five recommendations to the government to address the growing cost of purchasing and renting housing units in Toronto, the GTA and elsewhere in Ontario. Our plan focuses on boosting supply by targeting the red tape that hampers builders, freeing up any government or crown-owned unused property and stem property speculation that results in vacant units. Moreover, we realize that long-term housing policy must be evidence-based and rely on expert advice. We are calling for an expert commission drawn from many stakeholder groups to craft comprehensive and sound policy advice for current and future governments.
Bill 59, the Putting Consumers First Act, received Third Reading and passed on Monday. Bill 65, the Safer School Zones Act and Bill 96, the Anti-Human Trafficking Act received Second Reading and were sent to Committee. On Thursday the Legislature passed Bill 109, the Reliable Elevators Act and sent it to Committee. The Bill will ensure high-rises have enough elevator capacity before being built and increase the penalties for unreliable, late or improper maintenance of elevators in residential buildings, especially those hosting vulnerable, mobility-challenged or senior residents. I believe consumers of all mechanical services should have the same protection, including against unreliable electrical, heating oil or propane repairs. The principle of the Bill is sound; however a broader approach would be more appropriate.
Over the Easter break week, I will be attending a number of events throughout the riding and look forward to discussing any of your issues with you. I hope everyone enjoyed a terrific Easter long weekend.