Ontario’s 42nd Parliament, 1st Session: August 2018

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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.

As for bills debated and completed in August:

Bill 4, “Cap and Trade Cancellation Act, 2018”

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.

Bill 5, Better Local Government Act, 2018

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.

Bill 24, Ministry of Community and Social Services Amendment Act (Social Assistance Research Commission), 2018

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.

Bill 28, Alternate Land Use and Services Program for Agricultural Land Act, 2018

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.

Bill 30, Fighting Back Against Handguns Act (Handgun Ammunition Sales), 2018

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.

Sex-ed Curriculum

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.

Other Stuff

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”.

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