This Week in Queen’s Park
By Jim McDonell
The Legislature wrapped up its summer session on August 15 and adjourned until September 24 to give Members time to attend to their constituency business they had to put on hold due to their Queen’s Park commitments. It was an exhausting but productive first 40 days for the new government. We took clear steps to wind down the Cap-and-Trade carbon tax and all programs that were financed out of its proceeds. We passed the Better Local Government Act to get Toronto moving. We froze the salaries of top public sector executives to give Ontario taxpayers a break. The entire Board of Directors of Hydro One resigned and was replaced by a brand new Board under experienced leadership. Through the Urgent Priorities Act, the government reasserted the public interest in decision-making processes at Hydro One regarding all aspects of executive compensation, making salaries and compensation policies subject to government approval before they go into effect. When Ontarians struggle to pay their bills and have to choose between eating and heating, secret deals for golden goodbye executive packages were an affront to the people of the Province.
The government also took steps this week to bring efficiency to the new cannabis retail framework as the federally-set date for legalization approaches on October 17. The Province did not need the expensive and bureaucratic system the previous government put in place when working models exist elsewhere in Canada and even within Ontario for controlling, distributing and selling age-controlled products. Our priorities remain guaranteeing Ontarians’ safety, fighting impaired driving and keeping age-controlled products out of the hands of children. This is why when cannabis becomes legal, the Ontario Cannabis Store will follow the model currently in use for medicinal cannabis. Ontarians will be able to purchase cannabis online through the Ontario Cannabis Store and have it delivered to them, just like medicinal cannabis, with their age and identity verified on delivery, or the product is returned. We will also consult with businesses and community stakeholders on the right way to implement a private retail model by the spring of 2019. Now elected councils will have the right to opt out of the private retail framework, which would make cannabis available to residents only through online purchases.
Many more issues will demand our attention in the coming months. Our challenge to deliver a sustainable solution for social assistance within 100 days will require ample input from social assistance clients, workers, caregivers and experts. Communities’ fights against large wind projects will continue as the government takes steps to control the cost of electricity. Rest assured our government is looking into these projects to determine if cancelation is in the best economical interest of Ontarians. Our new Minister of Education will oversee a full consultation regarding our education system, where all issues, including mathematics and science strategies, age-appropriate sex education and community schools will be front and centre. Cutting the waste identified by our line-by-line audit will require decisive action. Ontarians at last have a government that cares about their money being spent well and making a difference. This principle will continue driving my efforts and those of my colleagues to make Ontario prosperous and the best place to call home.