This Week at Queen’s Park (May 19)
by MPP Jim McDonell
The legislative agenda kicked into top gear as the government rushes to enact its flagship items of legislation before the summer break. The Budget Bill (Bill 127) received barely a day’s worth of public consultation, and just as little time for amendments. It was reported back to the House and rammed through with only 10 minutes of debate per party. Bill 127 implements important and concerning changes, such as laying the groundwork for a foreign buyers’ tax, implementing a hotel tax, and an additional pharmacy tax. We could not support such measures, especially since this government continues to rely on unusual or additional revenue tools when it should be looking to curb its reckless spending and waste.
On Tuesday, the House voted on the budget motion. All the promises contained in the government’s 300-odd page budget remain promises, whether the budget motion passes or not. The motion itself is twelve words : “that this House approves in general the Budgetary Policy of the Government.” Ontarians don’t approve of higher debt, fire sales of public assets, waste, and service cuts. Were the budget motion to fail, the government would have to resign and call an election. We couldn’t support the budget; however, the government’s majority ensured its passage.
With less than two weeks left, the government finally introduced Bill 132 – the legislation designed to implement the hydro rate reduction plan they’ve been announcing since February. After less than a day’s debate, the government cut the debate short and forced a time-allocation vote on the Bill. It has been referred to the Justice Committee for examination during the Victoria Day constituency week, and we expect the final vote to take place in the last week of the month. We oppose the Bill for several reasons. First, it reintroduces the Debt Retirement Charge, but it will be four times more expensive than the previous one. Secondly, the Bill does nothing to reduce the high generation costs the government has created; it simply spreads those costs over 30 years. The government’s plan to pay unaffordable green energy contracts and waste in installments rather than at the time the bills are due will cost Ontarians an additional $25 billion, with most of the costs coming onto our bills after the 2018 election. The political nature and intent of Bill 132 are evident, and Ontarians should see right through it.
On Thursday, the government again voted against our proposal to protect health professionals’ conscience rights when asked to provide Medically Assisted Dying services, causing many physicians, nurses and other health workers great concern. Bill 65 received Third Reading, bringing back photo radar but lacking protections for students using school busses. We unanimously passed Bill 92 to tackle human trafficking in the Province. In the coming weeks we will debate a Seniors’ Transit Tax Credit and a foreign buyers’ tax, contained in the government’s Bill 134. I look forward to bringing our residents’ views on affordability and mobility to the Legislature.