I’ve been less than diligent in continuing this series on games I’ve played and my thinking thoughts I have about them. So here’s a short grab-bag of some recent and not-so-recent completions.
It was a while ago I played this, but what I remember about this shooter-platformer was its charm, its easy climb up the difficulty curve, how pretty it was, and how smoothly it ran. It was exactly as long as I wanted it to be, the characters were fun and empathetic, and I only had to repeat the final boss four times. (I am not the best at video games)
I vaguely remember that there was a completionist percentage mechanism for collecting coins or something that I didn’t enjoy (I went through an area several times and couldn’t find the three coins I was missing), but that didn’t detract from the experience.
Mystery video games are often like point-and-click adventures. Try everything everywhere until you progress, then repeat. Through the necessity of giving you what you need to tell the video game you’ve solved it, you can accidentally spoil the mystery for yourself. And if you’ve solved the mystery, but don’t have the one piece you need to prove it to the game, it’s frustrating. Mark Brown covers it in this excellent episode of Game Maker’s Toolkit:
Her Story gives you a database full of interview clips chopped into pieces and indexed by the words the interviewee speaks. Type “murder” and you get all the clips where the word “murder” is mentioned. Through listening for key words and repeated phrases you can dig through the database and watch these clips to piece together a complex story of who murdered whom and why.
It’s ingenious, but imperfect. How do you then prove to the game that you’ve solved it? How, other than by not ending, can the game explain to you that you missed something?
There’s a mechanism in the game I didn’t experience where, after watching enough of the clips, a chat window pops up and gives you the last piece of the story before it ends. I didn’t experience it because I already thought I had it all worked out. And then I checked a wiki and found out I was right… but the game didn’t know I had it. And I couldn’t prove my knowledge to it.
An interesting piece of art, this game. I look forward to seeing what refinements the follow-up “Telling Lies” will have when it arrives (if it arrives).
A point-and-click puzzle box game. Far shorter than I thought it’d be, and far less interesting. I’d recommend Windosill over The Room: it has a much more approachable and appropriate-to-the-mechanics tone… and most crucially its toy puzzles are far more rewarding to tease apart (it reminds me a lot of The Manhole, of all things).
So, uh, yeah. Play Windosill and The Manhole.
Ni no Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom
A worthy successor to the first game, this is a charming JRPG romp with a fiendishly-diverting kingdom-building mechanic. I do love to watch those numbers go up.
It is comfortably easy on Normal, the hardest thing about it is the grind in the postgame. I don’t mind it, though, as the atmosphere is aided by it.
On the negative side is the sadly-mandatory squad-based strategy portions. Uneven difficulty and underwhelmingly-undeveloped mechanisms made for a shallow experience. There was also the Tactic Tweaker for weighting how much money vs loot you get from battles or whether you’re stronger against fire or ice enemies… but it was introduced and then abandoned, so I mostly just forgot it was there.
All in all a lovely way to spend some dozens of hours, with visuals that maintain a Studio Ghibli style without just slapping a cell shader on the GPU and calling it a day.
I’ll probably pick up the demo to Octopath Traveller as it’s right in my wheelhouse… though its similarity to I Am Setsuna might make it a game my wife plays instead. (and its price might make it something we wait to buy in any case).
I tried to start Tacoma, but my computer refuses to play past the intro without seizing up. Come to think of it my computer had problems with The Room, too, but mostly in the performance angle, not stability. Maybe something’s up on my PC.
The Saturday session was a so-called “emergency session” inasmuch as it was called abruptly and against the stated calendar. There were a couple of points of order raised by the Opposition House Leader (on Standing Order 23 that maybe the House shouldn’t debate something currently before the courts, and on Standing Order 52 that a second Bill shouldn’t be proposed in the same Session if it is concerning the same subject matter as a previous Bill in that Session), and the Speaker said they’d take a look at it and make a decision later.
The house then adjourned until 1030 on Monday the 17th.
And at 12:01am the 17th, the House met again. Stop messing with my schedule, dagnabbit!
( The Speaker ruled that neither Standing Order 23 nor 52 apply in this case so debate about Bill 31 can proceed while Bill 5 is appealed in the courts (SO 23g), and Bill 31 isn’t out of order because it is sufficiently different from Bill 5 (SO 52). )
I’m getting a little frustrated. It is hard to be engaged in the process when they keep playing with the schedule.
Hoo, that’s a title. Let’s start with a timeline, shall we?
You’ll remember from my first post in this series a rather peculiar Bill that reached the floor of the Legislative Assembly on July 30: Bill 5, Better Local Government Act, 2018. It, amongst other things, cut the number of municipal wards in Toronto from 47 to 25 a little over two months before its municipal election.
It sustained heavy debate in August and, on the final day before recess, was carried through both its second and third readings (with division). There were immediate court challenges and Ontario Superior Court Justice Edward Belobaba was asked to examine the legality of the Bill.
In Ontario, as in the rest of Canada and in the United States, we have multiple branches of government designed to keep each other in check. The legislative branch is allowed to change the laws, yes, but only if the change is constitutional according to the judicial branch.
In this case Justice Belobaba ruled that it was not constitutional. By changing the terms of the election while it was ongoing, it interfered with the candidates’ Right to Free Expression. By increasing the number of residents per councillor it impinged on residents’ effective representation in municipal politics (which the Justice argued was a form of Expression so infringed).
The Government announced its intent to file an appeal, as is expected. If you don’t appeal, you’ve given up, and no politician I know of would dare give the impression of giving up. But as the Toronto election was a mere month and a half thence, it was unlikely that a legal argument would occur early enough to matter for the election currently under way.
What wasn’t expected (by me at least) was that the Premier announced his intention to reconvene the Legislative Assembly two weeks early from its recess and use the “Notwithstanding Clause” of the Charter to assert the Province’s right to govern itself despite the provision of the Charter.
If you’re familiar with the politics of the United States, think of it like this: If a State Government wanted to ignore certain provisions of the Bill of Rights all it had to do was vote for itself to be allowed to do so. Certain rights (term limits, voter eligibility) would be inalienable, but certain other ones (fundamental freedoms of religion, expression, press, peaceful assembly…) could be voted away five years at a time. One of its intended uses was to operate in case the judicial branch overstepped its bounds, but to my knowledge that has never actually happened. (Well, the Government party alleges it has now, of course, but only history will tell if this argument has merit.)
It’s been 18 years since the last time a Province attempted to vote on a Bill that invokes the Notwithstanding clause (Alberta tried and failed to use it to prevent the recognition of same-sex marriage. Wrong side of history, folks.). And now Ontario has one on the books:
This is identical to Bill 5, Better Local Government Act, 2018 except for a few twiddles. There’s some adjustment of related acts because there were things that were supposed to happen in August that now need to be redone with the new ward territories… but the big one is the inclusion of lines like “The amendments to this Act made by Schedule 1 to the Efficient Local Government Act, 2018 apply despite the Human Rights Code.”
You know it’s a good bill when you have to specify that it needs to happen despite Human Rights.
This is not suspending the Charter, this is using the hard-negotiated rights of the Provinces to enact a segment of the Charter to suspend parts of itself in the course of provincial business. It is legal.
But as we have seen and continue to see with people arguing that “It’s a free country, so I’m allowed to say <terrible thing to say>”, if your only argument is that it’s legal, you already know it isn’t right.
Chaos in the House:
In Ontario we have an adversarial Legislative Assembly. The Opposition is there to debate motions on their merits (or lack thereof), and generally try and cajole the Government to explain itself and maybe change its approach.
When the Premier called the Assembly back in on September 12… well, things became a little bit more than adversarial. The Premier and several MPPs (notably in the Hansard the member for Essex) broke decorum, the gallery began demonstrating and had to be cleared… and all that within the first fifteen minutes of Question Period:
After lunch, the MPPs themselves interrupted parliamentary proceeding and some “warning and naming” happened. If the Speaker determines that a member cannot maintain decorum, that member is named by their name (not by their riding, ministerial title, or title (like “Premier” or “Leader of the Opposition”)) by the Speaker and must leave. Or be escorted out.
The first to be escorted out was the MPP for my riding of Waterloo, Ms. Catherine Fife. The second was the Leader of the Opposition, Ms. Horwath. Over a dozen MPPs were escorted from the house, and then the first reading of Bill 31 carried (on division).
The next day, September 13, after a duration of further debate on Bill 4, Cap and Trade Cancellation Act, question period started back in with the NDP MPPs back in the house:
This is a level of acrimony I didn’t expect to see, and the Speaker seems pretty tired of it all. It’s getting so bad that even the MPPs aren’t willing to put up with talking past each other anymore, the member for Mushkegowuk-James Bay filed a notice of dissatisfaction under Standing Order 38(a) about the Government’s answer to their previous question about school infrastructure.
And this is all without even debating further Bill 31 and its Notwithstanding business. This is since the Leader of the Opposition and the Leader of the Green Party are working on a Reasoned Amendment to the Bill (sometimes used as a delaying tactic, mostly intended as a way for the non-Government members to suggest alternative Bill implementations), so debate on that to-be-written Amendment must happen first.
So what’s next? Well, the Legislative Assembly stands adjourned until next Wednesday the 19th. Why? Because of, and I kid you not, the International Plowing Match in Chatham-Kent.
So we won’t hear more about the Amendment until then, and we can’t hear more about Bill 31 and its use of the Notwithstanding clause until at least then…
…which means Toronto limps on in a quantum superposition. It had 45 wards, it was growing to 47, it was ordered to have 25, and the order was struck down.
I imagine voter turnout is going to be weak-to-middling when October 22 comes around, and there may even be grounds for a legal challenge of its validity given the confusion all this nonsense is causing…
I’ve been lax in preparing this update as I had to travel for work in August and I wasn’t expecting anything of substance to happen until the Legislative Assembly reconvened around September 24.
I was wrong about that, but that’ll be a subject for a subsequent update. For now let’s focus on what the Ontario Legislative Assembly did in the two weeks (7 meeting days) it pursued its business in August.
We left off with the Government in a snit about who may have said what and the Opposition trying gamely to carry on but I found no one bothering to bring it up again on August 1st so I guess the matter must have been settled out of the chamber. So let’s talk about Bills.
Bills 6, 7, 8, 10, 12, and 13 have all stalled at First Reading. The Government didn’t move forward on the post of Poet Laureate, regulating gas prices, publishing large health care salaries, making firefighter training safer, closing an employment standards loophole for the auto sector, and imposing minimum standards of daily care for Long-Term Care Homes.
Bill 9 and 11 were referred to committee, so PTSD Awareness Day and regulations requiring that movable soccer goals be firmly attached to the ground should go ahead in a timely fashion, once committees have a chance to meet.
Also of marginal note are Bills 14 through 23, 25 through 27, and 29. All of these bills are about counting the invasive Zebra Mussel populations in Ontario waterways, handfuls of waterways in each bill.
The Second Reading hasn’t completed and the debate is ongoing. The terms of the debate seem to be:
Opposition: “Climate Change is real. Cap and Trade sucks, but it’s better than the nothing the Government aims to replace it with.”
Government: “We agree that Climate Change is real. Cap and Trade is worse than nothing since it grants large polluters free passes and harms people who drive.”
Despite the Speaker asking for the debate to adjourn after 6 and a half hours (!!) across all the days of debate, the PC Minister for Education Thompson asks that the debate continue.
Which is peculiar to me. If cap-and-trade is so bad, why aren’t they just ramming it through legislature without debate? They have a majority, they can just do it. I mean, look at the omnibus Bill 2 which was proposed and passed in a little over a week.
On the final day before recess, and a scant two months and one week before election day in Toronto, Bill 3 carried on division and received Royal Assent. This reduced the number of Toronto City Wards down from 47 to 25.
There was an immediate court challenge that attacked the bill on a couple of fronts. The first was that the previous law said no amendments or changes were to be made without public consultation (which in this case was not done). The NDP was quick to point out that the Government was quick to bring up lack of sufficient consultation in terms of the sex-ed curriculum (we’ll get there) to which the Government rejoined that the NDP was only whining because they stood to lose some councillors in the election. The second was that it infringed the Charter of Rights and Freedoms both for the Right to Free Expression of the candidates currently trying to be elected and for the Right to Representation of the electorate, whose individual votes suddenly decreased in weight.
Didn’t realize Toronto City Councillors had party affiliation. Interesting.
I’ll devote a whole post to the snafu that came out of this, but for now it’ll suffice to note the Government position that this will save money and make Toronto city governance more efficient, and NDP position was that it was a vindictive personal attack by the Premier and would have neither of those effects.
Establish a research commission to advise the government annually about how to adjust the rates of provincial financial assistance from the Ontario Works Act and ODSP based on the cost of living in different geographical regions of Ontario.
I like that, of members in the the commission, at least one must be or must have been receiving “basic financial assistnace” under OWA, and another must be or must have been receiving ODSP. I’d have gone for two of each, making “people who know what it’s like” a smooth four out of the nine spots… but I guess we want more space for economists in there, too. Seems like standard governmental business, so long as the geographical regions end up being broad enough that this can’t be used to funnel money away from or towards specific ridings.
First reading carried on August 9. I don’t expect too much motion on this too quickly, going by the speed of other Bills.
Allow owners of agricultural land to set aside parts of their land to lie fallow and return to a natural state, or to act as a windbreak or other natural feature.
Not sure why we need legislation to allow farmers to not farm their land. Maybe this way it doesn’t exempt them from some sort of tax benefit proportional to the number of acres of agricultural land they farm?
First reading carried on August 13. I don’t expect too much motion on this too quickly, going by the speed of other Bills.
Allows municipalities to prohibit sale or delivery of handgun ammunition within municipal limits.
Not sure whether this is a good idea. Prohibition can lead to bootlegging, if the supply is easy enough to come by. If this is supposed to reduce overall ammunition purchasing I’d have thought a better mechanism would be taxing the sale as a vice (like tobacco).
First reading carried on August 14.
Without needing a bill the Government through the Ministry of Education required the teaching of the 1998 Health Curriculum (partially revised in 2010) in all public and catholic elementary and middle schools starting this September.
I’ve read some of the reissued curriculum. It isn’t bad, but it doesn’t contain the word “consent”, and the mentions of the word “Internet” are mostly using it as an informational resource (like CDs and DVDs) with one mention of the dangers of being predated upon and one mention of privacy and security concerns. The solution to the dangers of the Internet in the curriculum is to always tell an adult “when you’re on the Internet”.
Because in the early 2000s it was possible to not be on the Internet all the time.
These aspects concern me, as does the invitation from the Government for parents to snitch on teachers found to be teaching the 2015 curriculum instead. I was going to talk to my daughter’s teacher about how he was going to handle the situation but I couldn’t ask him to expose himself to the risk of other parents tattling on him to the Government.
I should remember to tell him that I would bring up any concerns I have with material with him first and with the principal second, to hopefully put his mind at ease about us… and I’ll see if I can get him to promise to teach the kids the meaning of consent. Y’know, in English class. Words have meanings.
There’s a lot of other motions and business. Mr. Piccini wants more people to elect to be organ donors, Mr. Kramp wants a monument for the CAF’s sacrifices in the war in Afghanistan, Mr. Walker wants Ontario to use the Modified International Symbol of Access for new accessible parking spaces, Miss Taylor wants the Ontario basic income pilots to be uncancelled, …
It’s really surprising how many words get output by the Assembly each day it is in session, but how little actually gets done. Committees haven’t had a chance to more than determine their organization, let alone scribe proper copies of the bills referred to them.
All the time seems spent talking past each other in a large wood-panelled room, and the Government doing what they want at the speed they want it done. Which makes me question why I’m bothering to look into this. Why am I writing these thousands of words and spending time reading and watching and becoming ever more frustrated over matters over which my last influence was exerted in June?
I should look into what step comes after “Get informed”.
At the same time, on the Extended Support Release channel, we released Firefox ESR 60.2 and stopped supporting Firefox ESR 52: the final version of Firefox with Windows XP support.
Now, we don’t publish all-channel user proportions grouped by operating system, but as part of the Firefox Public Data Reportwe do have data from the release channel back before we switched our XP users to the ESR channel. At the end of February 2016, XP users made up 12% of release Firefox. By the end of February 2017, XP users made up 8% of release Firefox.
If this trend continued without much change after we switched XP users to ESR, XP Firefox users would presently amount to about 2% of release users.
That’s millions of users we kept safe on the Internet despite running a nearly-17-year-old operating system whose last patch was over 4 years ago. That’s a year and a half of extra support for users who probably don’t feel they have much ability to protect themselves online.
It required effort, and it required devoting resources to supporting XP well after Microsoft stopped doing so. It meant we couldn’t do other things, since we were busy with XP.
I think we did a good thing for these users. I think we did the right thing for these users. And now we’re wishing these users the very best of luck.
…and that they please oh please upgrade so we can go on protecting them into the future.
Intuitively, as you look around you, you think this can’t be true. If you see a parking lot you can count the cars, right?
But do cars that have left the parking lot count? What about cars driving through it without stopping? What about cars driving through looking for a space? (And can you tell the difference between those two kinds from a distance?)
These cars all count if you’re interested in usage. It’s all well and good to know the number of cars using your parking lot right now… but is it lower on weekends? Holidays? Are you measuring on a rainy day when fewer people take bicycles, or in the Summer when more people are on vacation? Do you need better signs or more amenities to get more drivers to stop? Are you going to have expand capacity this year, or next?
Yesterday we released the Firefox Public Data Report. Go take a look! It is the culmination of months of work of many mozillians (not me, I only contributed some early bug reports). In it you can find out how many users Firefox has, the most popular addons, and how quickly Firefox users update to the latest version. And you can choose whether to look at how these plots look for the worldwide user base or for one of the top ten (by number of Firefox users) countries individually.
It’s really cool.
The first two plots are a little strange, though. They count the number of Firefox users over time… and they don’t agree. They don’t even come close!
For the week including August 17, 2018 the Yearly Active User (YAU) count is 861884770 (or about 862M)… but the Monthly Active User (MAU) count is 256092920 (or about 256M)!
That’s over 600M difference! Which one is right?
Well, they both are.
Returning to our parking lot analogy, MAU is about counting how many cars use the parking lot over a 28-day period. So, starting Feb 1, count cars. If someone you saw earlier returns the next day or after a week, don’t count them again: we only want unique cars. Then, at the end of the 28-day period, that was the MAU for Feb 28. The MAU for Mar 1 (on non-leap-years) is the same thing, but you start counting on Feb 2.
Similarly for YAU, but you count over the past 365 days.
It stands to reason that you’ll see more unique cars over the year than you will over the month: you’ll see visitors, tourists, people using the lot just once, and people who have changed jobs and haven’t been back in four months.
So how many of these 600M who are in the YAU but not in the MAU are gone forever? How many are coming back? We don’t know.
Well, we don’t know _precisely_.
We’ve been at the browser game for long enough to see patterns in the data. We’re in the Summer slump for MAU numbers, and we have a model for how much higher the numbers are likely to be come October. We have surveyed people of varied backgrounds and have some ideas of why people change browsers to or away from Firefox.
We have the no-longer users, the lapsed users, the lost-and-regained users, the tried-us-once users, the non-human users, … we have categories and rough proportions on what we think we know about our population, and how that influences how we can better make the internet better for them.
Ultimately, to me, it doesn’t matter too much. I work on Firefox, a product that hundreds of millions of people use. How many hundreds of millions doesn’t matter: we’re above the threshold that makes me feel like I’m making the world better.
(( Well… I say that, but it is actually my job to understand the mechanisms behind these numbers and why they can’t be exact, so I do have a bit of a vested interest. And there are a myriad of technological and behavioural considerations to account for in code and in documentation and in analysis which makes it an interesting job. But, you know. Hundreds of millions is precise enough for my job satisfaction index. ))
But once again we reach the inescapable return to the central thesis. Counting is harder than you think: one of the leading candidates for the Data Team’s motto. (Others include “Well, it depends.” and “¯\_(ツ)_/¯”). And now we’re counting in the open, so you get to experience its difficulty firsthand. Go have another look.
In an effort to keep informed and politically active I’m watching the proceedings of our new provincial government here in Ontario. This is new for me. The closest I got to reading about governance was skimming a copy of Robert’s Rules of Order to help me chair meetings while I was President for three years of the anime club in University.
Yes, your nerd alert is working just fine.
Anyhoo, given my newness to all this please forgive as I belabour explanations or express confusion of long-held parliamentary weirdness. I’ll try to confine them to procedural notes so they aren’t too bothersome.
So, following the Ontario General Election in June, we ended up with the 42nd Parliament comprising a majority government of 76 Members of Provincial Parliament (MPPs) from the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario (PC), the official opposition of 40 MPPs of the New Democratic Party of Ontario (NDP), and eight independents: seven from the Liberal Party of Ontario and one from the Green Party of Ontario.
Procedural Note: How are the Liberal MPPs and the Green MPP at the same time members of political parties (and having amongst them the heads of their parties, no less) but listed as independent? Governing the Legislative Assembly of Ontario are rules and regulations including Standing Orders. Standing Orders govern Members of the House differently if they are part of a “recognized party” (defined as a caucus of eight or more members). Since neither the Liberals nor the Greens have eight members, they are not “recognized parties” and are thus independent. This means they have some restrictions placed on their participation in legislative business. For instance they don’t have a right to as many questions as they’d like to field during Question Period (current practice is to give one member one question and one supplemental question each period), and they have much less time to do things like debate the Throne Speech and make inaugural remarks and other Statements.
As the party with the most number of MPPs the PC Party formed the government. Since they have a majority and we have strong party discipline in Ontario, they will not be defeated by a lack of confidence and instead will (barring unusual events) remain in power for their full term of four years and will likely implement their party’s platform citing a strong mandate from the people.
Procedural Note: With 76 of 124 seats it would seem that the PC mandate is strong, but Ontario is a First Past the Post system of representative democracy (each district elects a member to represent that district using a plurality vote). This results in some disproportionality. The Ontario General Election in 2014 had a Gallagher Index of 12.46 (the Canadian Government’s 2016 Special Committee on Electoral Reform recommended the reform of the federal electoral system to choose a method with a typical index less than 5). The election this past June had a Gallagher Index of 17.75, so it isn’t exactly proportional, but the PC Party did receive the highest proportion of the votes.
Even before the 42nd Legislature sat on July 12, the new government took action. Controversially they hired for $1M an ex-head of the PC Party known for underfunding and then shutting down hospitals to oversee an advisory panel charged with helping improve healthcare province-wide. This has featured in many Statements of Members and Questions, which is why I bring it up.
Eventually on July 12 the new government gathered to sit in Queen’s Park in Toronto to start official business. There’s technically a first Bill read and passed by the legislature, the pro forma “Bill 1” that shows we don’t need the Crown in order to legislate, but things really start going with the Throne Speech.
In Monarchies the Throne Speech is the Monarch handing down the priorities for their government to focus on in the coming years. In a Constitutional Monarchy like Canada, the Throne Speech is written by the Cabinet Ministers of the Government and is just read by the representative of the Crown. This was particularly interesting as Ontario’s representative of the Crown, Lieutennant Governor the Honourable Elizabeth Dowdeswell, is a staunch environmental conservationist (has been since the 80s) and she was given a speech to read that announced the end of carbon taxes and cap-and-trade without any particular replacement to keep polluting industries in check. This was commented upon by the Opposition.
The Throne Speech was just about what was expected from the Election. The priorities of the Government will be to: “reduce gas prices”, “lower your hydro bills”, “provide… tax relief to parents, small businesses and the working poor”, “scrapping the cap-and-trade carbon tax”, “make sure Ontario’s best interests are reflected in the NAFTA negotiations”, “reducing the regulatory burden”, “[call] a commission of inquiry into the financial practices of government”, “[perform] a thorough line-by-line audit of all government spending”, “return Ontario to a balanced budget”, “15,000 new long-term-care beds over the next five years and a historic new $3.8B investment in mental health and addictions”, “[replace] failed ideological experiments in the classroom with tried and true methods that work” (here meaning “discovery math” and the current sex-ed curriculum), “build a world-class transit system [in the Greater Toronto Area]”, “[cancelling] green energy contracts [imposed on rural municipalities]”, “freeing [police officers] from onerous restrictions that treat [them] as subjects of suspicion and scorn”, “expand the sale of beer and wine to convenience stores, grocery stores and big box stores”
Notable absence: Reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples.
Some of these priorities can be enacted through general Government business, but most of the big stuff will require legislation. And that’s where I expect to focus most of my time unless something from the Hansard (the parliamentary transcripts) sticks out.
1. “Hydro One Accountability Act, 2018” will require Hydro One reform and publish executive compensation amounts subject to the wills of the Treasury Board (which is now chaired by Peter Bethlenfalvy who sharp-eyed readers might remember as co-president of DBRS Ltd. when it decided to downgrade Ontario’s debt ratings in 2009). These provisions expire at the beginning of 2023 for some reason.
2. “White Pines Wind Project Termination Act, 2018” requires that the nine-turbine wind generation project in Prince Edward County be scrapped mid-construction. This’ll cost around $100M, and may result in lawsuits (despite clauses in the legislation that hope to curtail legal action).
3. “Back to Class Act (York University), 2018” appears to be standard back-to-work legislation for the teachers at York who have been striking since March.
Bill 2 received Royal Assent on July 25 (with division, meaning that not everyone was happy with this), so these things are happening. Schedule 1 is a big ol’ shrug from me… it will discourage Hydro One from being able to hire competent leadership to replace the ones that are being ousted, but I don’t really have a problem with the publication requirements. Honestly I think we’d be better served with a return to public ownership. Schedule 2 is a sad waste of money and will cost us in contractor trust (would you accept a contract knowing the last one was scrapped without consultation?) and in forwarding our green energy plans (we need something to replace the 18% of our electricity generated by burning gas/oil). Schedule 3 isn’t my circus, so I don’t have an opinion on it.
Bill 3 is titled “Compassionate Care Act, 2018” and is general government business instructing the Ministry of Health and Long-term Care to set out a framework for hospice care with reporting requirements. No members dissented the readings and it has been referred to committee for implementation.
Bill 4 is titled “Cap and Trade Cancellation Act, 2018” and is a straight-up repeal of “Climate Change Mitigation and Low-carbon Economy Act, 2016”. The only nod to environmental caution is that the government must now set new targets for greenhouse gas reduction, and must develop a plan to meet them. There are no timelines on those requirements. The outstanding cap and trade credits will be bought by the government at some cost. First reading was completed July 25 (with division).
Bill 5 is titled “Better Local Government Act, 2018” and messes with the wards of the City of Toronto and how the heads of councils of Regional Municipalities are selected: Muskoka, Niagara, Peel, and York will now be appointed. Durham, Halton, and Waterloo by general vote. This confuses me. Why mess with these things? Is Premier Ford still tied up in how he couldn’t win the Toronto City election? Why bother with this at all? First reading was completed July 30 (with division).
In addition to the big-ticket Bills, we also have Motions. They can be of the Government, or they can be of private Members.
The Government Motions of the month are fairly boring. Most are procedural (including the creation of Standing Committees), there’s one fast-forwarding the acceptance of Bill 2 by limiting debate and division (which may give political leverage later if these things blow up, which White Pines may do), and there’s one expressing the opinion of the House that it has a clear mandate of the people (grandstanding on the Party Platform).
Strangely of more interest are the Private Members’ Motions. Many of these are filed and ignored, some of them are passed. The ignored ones fell in three camps: there were a flurry of them asking that Bill 2 be paused until the extent of financial and legal liability under the bill might be assessed, which were all ignored. Bill 4 was also asked a few times to be sent back until it can be found in compliance with the Environmental Bill of Rights, 1993 (which provides many rights to citizens to challenge bills like Bill 4). We’ll see if any of those stick before Second Reading. Similarly, Bill 5 was challenged on the grounds of needing public consultation. To me this seems a weaker argument of challenge, but maybe the Opposition is building a case that the “Government For the People” really isn’t that interested in the people as much as they claim.
Of passed motions there were two: one from Mrs. Fee (PC of Kitchener South — Hespeler) expressing the opinion of the House that the Federal Government owes $200M related to the costs of illegal border crossers. (that choice of language is atrocious both morally and grammatically). The other was Jill Dunlop (PC of Simcoe North) moving that the Government of Ontario should “expedite the creation of sufficient skilled trades people to make skilled labour a competitive advantage for Ontario”, which carried without division (and I can see why as this is the reality we face).
The most circus-like aspect of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario is the Question Period where the Opposition is given an opportunity to call the Government into account, and the Government answers the questions by speechifying, reiterating talking points, and failing to answer the question. The Government also asks itself questions as an opportunity to do the same without having to think on its feet. All this grandstanding results in several standing ovations and lots of failure to keep to temperate language, remember to address comments through the Speaker, and maintain the decorum of the House. A recent illustration of this came on July 31 when the Speaker had to call a Recess early in Question Period. Relevant portion is 25:50 to 35:28:
At 27:57 the sound mix was adjusted so we could only hear the Speaker, but what happened (as the Speaker tells us at 34:43) is that something may have been said that caused general uproar in the House including the Premier and the Leader of the Opposition. The Speaker couldn’t get the House to order by asking so called a 5-min Recess (from 29:00 to 34:43). And from then on the Government refused to answer the Opposition’s questions under Standing Order 37(h) which simply states “A minister may, in his or her discretion, decline to answer any question.”
Reading of later answers by the Government paints that they heard a comment mocking the Member for Mississauga East–Cooksville (the one asking the question) from Gilles Bisson, the Official Opposition’s House Leader. Specifically I think the comment heard was to do with diversity or the Member’s Pakistani heritage since the Government’s House Leader keeps reiterating the Member’s ethnicity and the PC’s diversity of Members.
The Opposition continue on with Question Period gamely. Mr. Bisson denies the charge and as a point of order references Standing Order 23(h) and (i) which states you can’t make “allegations against another member” and impute “false or unavowed motives to another member”.
We’ll see if this continues in August 1st’s Question Period.
And that’s the extent of government business this month. The Opposition’s current points are extremist views are behind repealing the sex-ed curriculum, short-sightedness is behind Hydro One meddling, cronyism is behind everything, and the Premier’s insecurities are behind the municipal election meddling. The Government’s current points are respecting the taxpayer, respecting the ratepayer, Toronto needs provincial meddling to break its political deadlocks, cap-and-trade costs taxpayers, smaller government at all levels, and a little bit of gloating that they have a majority and the NDP doesn’t.
Some general governing, some truly annoying failure to answer questions, some truly peculiar nonsense, and just enough bad ideas to remind you why 60% of Ontarians voted against the Progressive Conservatives.