This Week in Queen’s Park
By Jim McDonell
This week, Queen`s Park was shocked by the Auditor-General’s scathing report on the government’s pre-election financials. The opening sentence of the blistering report says that the government’s numbers are “not a reasonable presentation of Ontario’s finances.” She revealed that Ontario’s deficit this year is actually $11.7 billion, up $5 billion from the $6.7 billion the government just reported. If the current government stays in power and maintains its fiscal course, our provincial debt will rise above $400 billion by the time their next term is done, and our debt-to-GDP ratio will have reached an unsustainable 40 percent . The question we need to ask ourselves is: who will stand up for good management, and who has a plan to ensure Ontarians enjoy not just promises, but actual sustainable public services? Between 2003 and 2016 the proportion of Ontarians living on low incomes rose 26 percent while the rest of Canada lifted people out of poverty. This government hasn’t helped those it ostensibly governed for. I will continue fighting to ensure our children can count on inheriting a better, stronger Ontario than the one we took from the previous generation. As a legislator, I can commit to no less.
Queen’s Park was abuzz with activity this week as legislation ground its way through Committees and the House. Justice Committee examined amendments to Bill 6, the Correctional Services Transformation Act. The only transformation in that bill is in its title. Our corrections system needs better personal safety and a solution to chronic understaffing. Bill 6 delivers neither, despite the government’s unprecedented 113 proposed amendments. Moreover, the government is paralyzed by a lack of determination to act. For instance, the Ministry of Correctional Services had been alerted 50 times to the plight of an inmate awaiting trial, who was kept in solitary confinement for 1,560 days and was even visited by the Minister at the time. Fifty alerts and a Ministerial visit did nothing to change the inmate’s situation. On corrections, the buck rests with this government.
We also examined Bill 8 on elevator availability and credit reporting. The government admitted that stakeholders had not been consulted prior to its introduction, and the consequences were very clear. Elevator companies highlighted that the government is creating a perfect storm of higher costs and unlimited liability that could drive companies out of elevator maintenance in Ontario. The provisions for standby and on-call pay implemented in Bill 148, combined with the new stiff penalties for elevator downtime are likely to spook contractors out of servicing older equipment or those high-rises with little to no spare elevator capacity. Elevators are a complex industry relying on numerous supply chains. Specialty parts take time to arrive, and older equipment often requires time-consuming remanufacturing by third-party shops. We submitted amendments to remove contractors’ absolute liability, a concept that makes them unable to defend themselves on the grounds of due diligence.
Next week will be the last full sessional week before the writ is dropped for the 2018 general election and I look forward to delivering a strong message for accountability and good governance.