This Week In Queen’s Park
By Jim McDonell
What a difference a couple of months make. Citizens across the province rallied in a passionate and at times very heated month-long campaign. The June 7 election showed the highest voter turnout this century, and I couldn’t be prouder of our residents’ engagement in civic life.
Our team had made several clear policy commitments during the campaign and we intended to deliver on them. I am pleased to learn that our reputation for doing exactly what we promised preceded us to the halls of government even before we were sworn in. We considered the cap-and-trade program an unaffordable tax on hard-working Ontarians and a competitiveness killer. Its looming cancellation prompted ministries to urgently wind down programs funded out of the Green Ontario Fund that cap-and-trade padded, with good reason. As an example, the GreenON program was already three times over budget and it had to be stopped, with a concession to those consumers who, at the time of the cancellation, had signed a binding agreement and paid a deposit for the work under contract.
Ontario electricity ratepayers had cause for relief this week as we learned the entire Board of Directors of Hydro One, as well as its CEO either left or will do so within a month, taking with them a much more reasonable severance package than the one they approved for themselves just a few months ago. This is an opportunity for Hydro One to turn a new page and bring affordability and a focus on the customer to the heart of its operations. Ratepayers and their money deserve respect, a principle reflected in our commitments to Ontarians.
A new government was sworn in on June 29 and the Parliamentary Assistants were appointed soon after. I was honoured to be appointed PA to the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, the Honourable Steve Clark, with whom I have worked for many years both at the municipal and the provincial level. The new Legislature of 124 MPPs was sworn in on Wednesday and counts 49 additional new members of our own Caucus, including the new Premier. That day we proceeded to elect the new Speaker and I welcome the member for Wellington-Halton Hills, veteran MPP Ted Arnott to this new role. His extensive legislative experience and impeccable record of constructive work with all MPPs will serve him well.
On Thursday, the government unveiled its aims for the upcoming legislative session in the Speech from the Throne. Our key priorities include matters that need to be addressed immediately without waiting for the regular sitting of the Legislature in September. We will end the X-month strike at York University, which has been disrupting students’ education for far too long, as well as take urgent legislative action to remove the cap-and-trade scheme, stop unwanted wind turbine developments and improve governance at Hydro One to ensure episodes such as the secret approval of million-dollar compensation packages don’t happen again. I look forward to working with our team to bring Ontarians the long-awaited relief from skyrocketing hydro rates, job losses and an unaffordable cost of living that they deserve.