This Week in Queen’s Park
By Jim McDonell
MPPs returned to Queen’s Park following a brief prorogation of the Ontario Legislature during the March Break. Although no actual sitting days will be lost, Government Bills and Private Members’ Bills will need to be re-introduced in the House and begin the legislative process anew from First Reading. Moreover, the government’s decision to prorogue before the looming June election, will delay or possibly even hinder the passage of important items of legislation including Bill 33, The Time to Care Act. It had cleared First and Second Reading and was awaiting Committee review, but it is unlikely to become law now unless the government works with all parties to ensure its speedy passage.
In the Throne Speech that opened this new, brief legislative session, the government failed to outline clear policy commitments or any future strategic direction for the Province, focusing instead on talking points and painting an unrealistic picture of their track record. The only commitment Ontarians heard in the Throne Speech was a pre-election opening of the spending taps, causing a budget deficit. This flies in the face of this very government’s rhetoric only a few months ago. The Minister of Finance had said: “the first way to address debt is to balance the budget. We’re balancing this year, next year and the year after that and we’re lowering debt to GDP over the long term.” What happened? We already pay $1 billion per month on interest to service the current debt load – we can’t afford more. This government’s spending problem and re-election ploys are financed at the expense of Ontarians’ quality of life and access to essential public services.
My caucus colleagues and I ensured the government did not succeed in resetting the media cycle and distracting Ontarians from 15 years of bad policies that have made life harder in the Province. We know their priorities aren’t aligned with Ontarians’ interests, and challenged the government on them in Question Period. For example, at a time when funding needs to be redirected to assist tens of thousands of seniors who have been waitlisted for long-term care beds, the government recently announced that it spent $650,000 designing a logo for the new Ontario Cannabis Store (OCS), which could have been created by anyone with basic computer skills in under ten minutes. This kind of waste shows that improving frontline services for vulnerable people in our region and Ontario as a whole is not a priority for the current government. This most recent misuse of public funds is in no way unique. In fact, it is part of a larger pattern of misspending and scandal.
This week we also welcomed the new Leader of the Opposition, Doug Ford, at our weekly Caucus meeting. We look forward to continuing to drive a message for positive, constructive change both in and outside of Queen’s Park. Ontarians deserve a Province where businesses can thrive, hire and expand, and where workers and families can count on a prosperous and stable future for themselves and their loved ones. Doug, our caucus and I hear this need on a daily basis and we will never stop advocating to make Ontario the best place to call home.