On June 1st, Ontario Legislature Speaker (Brant MPP) David Levac gave a tearful farewell, a week before he announced that he would not be seeking re-election in 2018. This led to speculation that Kathleen Wynne would call a snap election before the 4 year mandated election scheduled for June 7 2018, before Queen’s Park is due to come back this fall on September 11th.
All that is left on the Order Paper are mainly Private Member’s Bills and a couple Government Bills. The Liberal government has wisely had all their major legislation receive Royal Assent. Its lone major bill, Bill 148, the Fair Workplaces Better Jobs Act, is controversial in that it will bring many ‘labour negotiated work concessions’ to non-union smaller businesses around Ontario.
It is important to restate that many important Private Members Bills will die if an election will be called this summer. So that leads to my primary thought for this blog post, why did the Ontario Legislature rise for the summer break?
Legally sitting days are regulated by Standing Orders of Parliament. In Toronto, Standing Order 6 dictates when and how long Queen’s Park sits (http://ontla.on.ca/web/go2.jsp?Page=/house-proceedings/supporting-content/files/standing_orders&menuitem=dandp_proceedings&locale=en) In Ottawa, Parliament is still sitting and Ottawa City Council continues its regular bi-weekly council meetings and all committee meetings until a two-week break in August.
Having worked at Queens Park, I know how hard all MPPs work at Queens Park. They sit Monday to Thursday taking part in Question Period, regular House Duty, Committee Hearings and when needed late sittings in the House.
On Parliament Hill, the house will likely rise before the end of this week in June (week of June 12th), one week earlier than published on the Parliamentary Calendar. But I have to ask the question, is the governing of Ontario such that our Provincial legislature rises earlier than our Federal Parliament and our local City Council? My thoughts have always been the closer the level of government is the electorate, the more work there is to do and more legislation to get enacted.
At Queen’s Park there are still some important pieces of legislation in the queue, many at first reading and until second reading takes place – these bills will sit there gathering dust.
Bill 104; Tax Fairness for Realtors Act. This act is sponsored by all three parties and yet is stuck at Committee since April 6th.
Bill 94; Highway Traffic Amendment Act (School Bus Camera Systems), 2017. This act is to strengthen the use of camera for school buses and student safety. This bill was sent to committee February 23rd and will not be in effect to keep students safe when they return to school in September.
Bill 88; Asbestos Use Prohibition Act, 2017. This also passed second reading in February and was sent to the Standing Committee of the Legislative Assembly.
Bill 71; Lung Safety Act 2016. Another Bill with all party support. The Lung Safety Act was introduced November 22nd was quickly through 1st and 2nd reading by November 24th, sent to the Standing Committee on Social Policy November the same day. There has been no committee report nor has the bill come back for 3rd reading in 27 weeks.
Bill 17; Saving the Girl Next Door Act, 2016. MPP Laurie Scott’s important bill to stop the trafficking of young girls has been in the Committee on Justice Policy since October 6th, 2016!
Of 169 bills in the current session at Queen’s Park, 102 are still on the books at either first or second reading. 29 bills are at Committee stage, 13 of the 29 have been in committee since the end of 2016.
There is a case to be made that our provincial government should sit longer and not allow so much legislation to to sit for a 3rd reading vote until the fall. If Kathleen Wynne does call an election, all these bills may die. Some will be re-introduced in the new session, which would be the 42nd Session; others will not see the light of Queen’s Park ever again. Longer sitting sessions would allow the important work of our MPP’s to be done at committee stage where bills are further thought out and amended.
The summer break is important for MPPs to refresh and to spend in their ridings, it seems this summer break in 2017 might be more than that – it will be a chance for a longer ‘unofficial’ campaign through our #Canada150 summer before the writ is dropped. But all this takes place with a cost, as some good needed legislation will die and whether it returns all depends on who wins the snap election this summer.
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