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Queen's Park Highlights - October 21, 2018

MPPs spent four days at the Legislature last week after returning from a week back in their constituencies. The government and the Opposition clashed on the potential roll back of labour reforms achieved through Bill 148, the decision to dissolve the Roundtable on Violence Against Women and the cost of cancelling the Cap and Trade program. This week also saw the adoption of the new law regulating the consumption of recreational cannabis.

1. NDP MPP asks about the government’s intention to roll back job employment protections under Bill 148

On October 15, NDP MPP Sarah Singh asked the following question:

“Kalpesh Parmar is a 46-year-old father of two. He has worked as a security guard for the last six years. Kalpesh says, ‘Before the new decent work laws ... when I had back pain I couldn’t afford to get treatment. We didn’t have bargaining protection. Now we do, and [the] quality of life is better.’

“Speaker, now that the Premier has said he will scrap the rules that provide these protections for workers across our province, what does the Premier have to say to workers like Kalpesh?”

In response Premier Doug Ford said:

“What I have to say to your friend there who came up to you is that they can expect to hold on to their job instead of losing their job. TD Economics came out and said there are going to be 80,000 to 90,000 people who are going to lose their jobs. I’m guessing 60,000 people have already lost their jobs…”

“…You can tell your friend he’s actually going to save $850 because he won’t be on the tax roll anymore. They’ll have zero tax…”

2. NDP MPP asks question about the cost of the cancellation of the Cap and Trade program

On October 6, NDP MPP Peter Tabuns, referencing a report by the Financial Accountability Office on the cost of cancelling the Cap and Trade program, asked the following:

“Does the Premier’s government accept the independent FAO report that cancelling cap-and-trade will cost more than $3 billion over the next four years?”

 In response, Minister of the Environment Rod Phillips stated:

“Yes, because when we say it cost $3 billion, that’s $3 billion back in the pockets of Ontario taxpayers.

“The FAO report—and I appreciate the chance to speak to it—on page 10 confirms that the elimination of cap-and-trade will save taxpayers $1.3 billion this year alone and confirms $264 per year, per family. Also on page 12, the report confirms our $5 million in terms of a compensation framework. So yes, to the member, we are putting money back in the pockets of taxpayers. That is going to be over $3 billion at the end of the day.”

NDP MPP Peter Tabuns stated in a supplementary question:

“Again, back to the minister: People are learning that the Premier’s snap decision to cancel cap-and-trade will cost Ontario families and businesses $3 billion. Did the Premier’s office do any due diligence, do any assessment of these costs or figure out what their ideological plan would actually cost the people of Ontario before they ended the cap-and-trade market?”

In response, Minister of the Environment Rod Phillips stated:

“…When we made a commitment about affordability to the people of Ontario, we made it knowing that that meant that we were going to reduce revenues for government. We were reducing revenues for a program that wasn’t working, a regressive job-killing tax.

“Some $264 per family is confirmed in this report today. Yes, that means less money for government. That’s more money for families. We’ll talk about that all day.”

3. NDP MPP asks question about Early Childhood Educators’ wages

On October 16, NDP MPP Catherine Fife asked the following question regarding wages for Early Childhood Educators:

“…Today is Early Childhood Educator Appreciation Day. They get a day. Minister, to say that ECEs across the province are undervalued and underpaid would be an understatement. Is this government still committed to increasing wages for early childhood educators, as you promised to do?”

In response, Minister of Education Lisa Thompson said:

“We feel very strongly that we have to take every step possible to ensure that the classroom environment is the best it can be for our people on the front lines. We have met with amazing ECEs across not only my riding but the province. We know the valuable work that they bring, and we look forward to working with them in the weeks and months to come, to ensure that the value they bring to the environment in our schools is respected and valued.”

NDP MPP Catherine Fife stated in a supplementary:

“…Is the government interested at all in high-quality, accountable, affordable public services, or just padding the profit margins of multinational big-box daycare corporations, as you have indicated in the past and even today by not answering this question?”

Minister of Education Lisa Thompson replied:

“Speaker, the easy answer to this question is yes. But I think there’s a little bit of concern—I’m feeling a little bit of concern—coming from the focus of the question from the member opposite in the NDP. There’s a lot of rhetoric there.

“I know a lot of ECEs who work in private daycare facilities who are doing an amazing job—and that’s in addition to the facilities that we have in our public institutions. We need to be celebrating them all, and that’s what we’re doing today.”

4. NDP Education Critic asks question regarding funding for school councils

On October 17, NDP Education Critic Marit Stiles asked the following question:

“…Can the minister tell us why her government is delaying approval of the Parents Reaching Out Grants for 2018-19?”

In response Minister of Education Lisa Thompson stated:

“…As we embark on a new path forward for the Ontario education curriculum, we’ve hit the pause button in some instances because we want to make sure we’re getting our investments right.

“To those parents who are listening today, I suggest to them—we want to hear from you, we want to hear your priorities, we want to hear your concerns—go to fortheparents.ca and participate in this very unique consultation.”

In follow-up, NDP Education Critic Marit Stiles stated:

“…From events focused on math skills to workshops on raising emotionally healthy kids, the Parents Reaching Out Grants have served to connect parents with their school communities. Some of these programs have already registered hundreds of parents, and the school councils have applied in good faith, following the ministry’s process. Now they could be left with nothing—yet another example of this government changing the rules in the middle of the game.

“Can the minister explain why this parent engagement funding is being withheld from parents wanting to be involved in their kids’ education? Or is ‘For the Parents’ just another empty slogan?”

In response, Minister of Education Lisa Thompson said:

“…We’re hitting the pause button until this consultation is finished. I would think that that member opposite would be well advised, instead of creating turmoil, to encourage her people to get involved in the consultation so that we can get involved in a thoughtful way and have a very good dialogue. Quit fearmongering.”

5. Liberal MPP asks question regarding the Education Partnership Table

On October 17, Liberal MPP Kathleen Wynne asked the following question:

“…there is a group that is called the partnership table that has been in existence for many years. It is school board representatives, parent representatives, teachers, support staff and caretaker staff, all of whom have input into the legislation and have input into budget priorities on an ongoing basis.

“I want to ask the Minister of Education whether the partnership table has met since the new government has been elected.

In response, Minister of Education Lisa Thompson stated:

“I appreciate the question. But I think we have to make sure that we understand what we inherited. When that member opposite was a trustee, she destroyed the school board …”

“…the bottom line to all of this is that we are being very thoughtful in how we move forward and work with our partners in a thoughtful way. We’re encouraging everyone, and I might say, Speaker—I’m going to use this opportunity to remind all the partners that the member referenced to participate in our consultation...”

Liberal MPP Kathleen Wynne said in a supplementary:

“I’ll take that as a no.

“…I would ask the Minister of Education: What is the plan for a broad consultation with all of those partners and whether the partnership table will be part of that in the lead-up to the fall economic statement and the budget?”

In response, Minister of Education Lisa Thompson said:

“Our number-one priority is making sure that we clean up the mess we inherited. Need I remind the member that they closed 600 schools across Ontario?

“Parents received the EQAO results last week, and the math scores of their children in the schools that this previous Liberal government was responsible for have failed dismally with EQAO. We’re going to fix that as well. That’s what we’re talking about and that’s what we want to hear from every single person in this province about through our consultation….”

6. Leader of the Official Opposition asks about the government’s intention to roll back job protections for women facing domestic violence under Bill 148

On October 18, NDP Leader Andrea Horwath, addressing labour protections that were achieved through Bill 148, asked the following question:

“I want to direct my question to the Acting Premier. Does the Acting Premier believe that a woman fleeing domestic violence should be able to take a day off to get her kids to some counselling without fear of losing her job?”

In response, Minister of Tourism Sylvia Jones replied:

“…I don’t think that there is a member in this chamber who would ever suggest that workplace violence in our schools, in our classrooms or in our homes is appropriate. We all need to work together on this issue. It is non-partisan, and we need to get past the throwing of knives back and forth and actually work together.”

Leader of the Opposition Andrea Horwath stated in a supplementary:

“We actually already have worked together to try to make a difference for women who are facing domestic violence. It’s called changes to Bill 148 that are currently in place, where a woman now is able to leave the workplace in order to deal with the domestic violence that she’s facing, to try to help her to ensure that she and her children are safe. Those protections are one of the many hard-earned rights that the Premier has pledged to tear up when he strips the protections from Ontarians’ Employment Standards Act.

“Can the Acting Premier explain how a woman taking time off work to protect her family is bad for our economy?”

In response, Minister of Labour Laurie Scott stated:

“The Leader of the Opposition is referring to Bill 148. We have said that we are reviewing Bill 148. I’ve had many, many meetings with a variety of stakeholders, including associations that represent people who are fleeing from domestic violence—women’s associations, shelters etc. We will be bringing information soon, this fall, to the Legislature on those discussions.”

7. NDP MPP asks question about the dissolution of the Roundtable on Violence Against Women

On October 17, NDP MPP Suze Morrison addressed the dissolution of the Roundtable on Violence Against Women as well as funding for sexual assault centres. She asked:

“Prior to the election, the Conservatives promised to honour the gender-based violence plan that would have provided sexual assault centres across Ontario with a 33% funding increase. This much-needed funding would have enhanced services at existing centres and expanded programs to underserviced communities.

“Instead of supporting survivors, this government has broken its promise. Funding has not flowed, and this week we learned that the government has also dissolved Ontario’s provincial Roundtable on Violence Against Women, prompting the resignation of co-chairs Farrah Khan and Pamela Cross.

“As a sexual assault survivor myself, I find this government’s actions both heartless and cruel. Why aren’t survivors of gender-based violence a priority for this government?”

In response, Minister of Tourism Sylvia Jones stated:

“I want to reassure the member opposite that we very much appreciate the work that the co-chairs have done. It is unfortunate that they chose to resign. I don’t know if that was a political decision. I’m not going to go there. What I am going to say is our minister and our government are 100% committed to make sure that the women in this province who have been abused in the workplace, in their homes, in their schools will get the help they need.” 

In a supplementary, NDP MPP Suze Morrison stated:

“Will this government honour the gender-based violence plan, release the funding that was already promised and immediately reinstate the provincial round table on ending violence against women?

In response, Minister of Tourism Sylvia Jones said:

“…The system has changed. We have people coming to shelters who have far more challenging issues than 20, 25 years ago. We cannot keep operating the same way and expect that we are going to solve this problem.

“…We are actively engaged in this file. As I want to reiterate, we will get it right, and it’s not just about doing the same old thing and expecting a different result.”

8. Bill 36, Cannabis Statute Law Amendment Act, is adopted

As the recreational use marijuana became legal across Canada, Ontario adopted its new regulations on October 17. Bill 36, Cannabis Statute Law Amendment Act sets the regulations for the use and sale of cannabis and vapour products in Ontario.

For more information, check the website of the Ontario Legislature.

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