Government finally listening to concerns of Bill 148 amendments

MPP Jim McDonell. Zandbergen photo, Nation Valley News

This Week in Queen’s Park

by MPP Jim McDonell

The government released the Fall Economic Statement this week, outlining the Province’s economic performance compared to the 2017 Budget. The data showed the government missing the mark on many, if not most of their targets. The trend to spend more than we earn continued, as we witnessed expense growth of $215 million while revenues grew by only $150 million. The interest on our out of control debt has now reached $12.2 billion annually or more than $1 billion per month! These interest payments are crowding out funding that should be creating jobs and funding hospital and long term care beds. It is time the government got serious about debt reduction, instead of increasing spending in every ministry in the run-up to a provincial election in 2018.

The planned reforms to minimum wage and labour laws received a mention in the Fall Economic Statement speech as well. Over the past months, the concerted advocacy efforts by municipalities and job creators seemed to have the government finally listening to concerns that the rapid implementation of these changes could lead to many job losses and rising costs to municipalities. A further sign of hope came when the government submitted amendments to Bill 148 to grant municipal essential services certain exemptions from on-call pay provisions that would have bankrupted many of our small and rural municipalities. Job-creators waiting for a reprieve were disappointed as announced tax cuts will only benefit those that are able to make a profit. The job losses, reduced hours, and frozen expansions that will result from rapidly implementing Bill 148, will leave those needing help worse off. It’s time this government made the tough decisions required to turn our economy around and bring back the good-paying jobs that used to be the hallmark of this province.

In the House we began discussing Bill 175, the Safer Ontario Act. It is a comprehensive reform of policing and police oversight in Ontario and the government is, again, rushing it through with little consultation. Law enforcement stakeholders highlighted their input was hardly sought during the drafting stages of the Bill, and they expressed severe concerns that the Official Opposition also shares. For instance, the vagueness of the Bill’s language leaves the door open to outsourcing many law enforcement duties to private contractors, such as security companies. This is not acceptable. Ontarians and sworn officers deserve to know the extent of the mandate that we exclusively entrust to our accountable law enforcement agencies. Moreover, rather than simplify police oversight and make it more transparent, the government just piles new bureaucracies and agencies on top of already existing ones, causing higher workloads and paperwork without a corresponding commitment to improving staffing and funding. We, as Ontarians, and officers sworn to serve our communities deserve better.

The government also recalled the House for special sittings in order to pass back-to-work legislation to end the college strike. Since the beginning of the strike, the Official Opposition has called for the government to intervene and ensure students were back in class. One day out of class is one day too many; we owe it to the students to ensure they complete their education.

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