This Week in Queen’s Park — Sept. 21, 2018
by Jim McDonell
This week at Queen’s Park saw the sudden return of the Legislature in an effort to address one of our Governments key promises, to reduce the size and cost of government. Members were recalled by our Premier last Saturday and a rare midnight to 7 a.m. Monday sitting was required to maneuver around Opposition delays, and provide certainty to the terms of the Toronto municipal election. A lower court had issued a ruling that set aside our legislation, Bill 5, The Better Local Government Act, which reduced the size of Toronto City Council from 47 to 25 councillors. Our Government appealed the ruling, but time was of the essence, and Bill 31, the Efficient Local Government Act, was introduced by our Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, Steve Clark, to give certainty to the size of Toronto’s Council in time for the October 22nd municipal election.
On Wednesday morning, in a unanimous decision, the Justice Appeals Court granted a stay to the previous judge’s decision, and I will highlight part of that decision:
“We have concluded that there is a strong likelihood that application judge erred in law and that the Attorney General’s appeal to this court will succeed.
“It is not in the public interest to permit the impending election to proceed on the basis of a dubious ruling that invalidates legislation duly passed by the Legislature.”
The decision eliminated the urgent need to move forward with Bill 31 and has allowed us to move on with our government priorities.
On Tuesday, our Caucus attended The International Plowing Match that was held in Minister Monte McNaughton’s backyard of Chatham. Over 60 of my Caucus colleagues joined myself and Premier Ford as we engaged in the time honoured tradition of plowing the furrows.
It was also a time for our Premier to make an exciting announcement not only for our agricultural community, but also for all of rural Ontario. Premier Ford, alongside my colleagues Minister Rickford and Minister McNaughton announced that our Government will be taking action to expand natural gas access to families and businesses throughout rural and Northern Ontario.
If passed, Bill 32 the Access to Natural Gas Act, will result in an innovative partnership with local communities and the private sector to provide access to reliable, cost-effective and clean natural gas for 78 communities and 33,000 households. For the average residential consumer in Ontario, the switch from electric heat, propane or oil to natural gas would result in savings of $800 to $2,500 per year. Expanding natural gas will make Ontario communities more attractive for job creation and new businesses. This will help send a clear message that Ontario is “Open for Business.”
On Friday morning, our Minister of Finance dropped a bombshell with the results of the “Line by Line Audit”. It revealed that the Liberal Government’s 2017-2018 small budget surplus was actual a $3.7 billion deficit, with our current 2018-2019 budget actually coming in with a deficit of $15 billion. It now highlights why the Auditor General was unable to sign off on the previous governments finances.
Next week, we will return to the Legislature and sort through the latest revelations.