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Queen's Park Highlights - October 9, 2018

MPPs spent four days at the Legislature last week. The week was largely dominated by discussions on health care and the government’s plan to stop the upcoming minimum wage increase and to roll back labour reforms achieved through Bill 148.

1. NDP MPP questions the government’s intention to halt the increase to the minimum wage to $15 per hour 

On October 1, NDP MPP Peggy Sattler asked the following question:

“..The recent census showed that one quarter of working-age Londoners have dropped out of the labour market altogether, more than any other city in Canada. Now a new documentary from the London Poverty Research Centre reveals that fully half of Londoners who are working are in non-standard, unstable jobs. This includes Frances Hinna, a father of four with two Western University degrees. Frances is doing everything possible to find work in his field, but is barely surviving on his minimum-wage job.

“An increase to $15 would have made a huge difference to Frances and his family while he struggles to find work. Why is the minister turning her back on Frances and the thousands of Ontarians like him?”

In response Minister of Labour Laurie Scott said:

“We do want to help people like Frances and his family. We made a commitment to keep the minimum wage at $14 an hour because it increased 20% this year. We want businesses to be the job creators so there are more job opportunities. We want good-paying jobs in the province of Ontario. We are creating a climate so that businesses can succeed and create jobs for Frances and his family…”

2. NDP MPP asks question regarding the privatization of public assets

On October 1, NDP MPP Catherine Fife, referencing a report by Ernst & Young (EY) commissioned by the government on public spending, asked whether the government is considering the sale of the OPG, OLG or the LCBO. In response, President of the Treasury Board Peter Bethlenfalvy stated:

“In fact, the report, in its 48 pages, does not refer to the OLG or to the OPG or the LCBO, so OMG.

“We know the Liberals left us a mess and, unlike the NDP, we are working to fix it for the people. We have fixed the public accounts. We have fixed it with the Auditor General, with the first clean opinion in three years. Our government’s priority is to ensure financial stability for future generations in this province.”

In a supplementary question, NDP MPP Catherine Fife stated:

“…as recently as four years ago, under one of their many previous leaders, the Conservatives were touting a white paper that proposed to “monetize Ontario Power Generation and Hydro One.” The paper was crystal clear that this meant sell-offs and the privatization of Ontario’s public services. The white paper was signed by the then energy critic, who is now the finance minister.

“I think it is incumbent on this minister to be very clear with the people of this province. Is OPG and the sell-off of OLG and LCBO on the table? Tell the people of this province.”

In response, President of the Treasury Board Peter Bethlenfalvy stated:

“…EY had a mandate to consider all options and present those to government. They did an excellent job and left no stone unturned.

“While the opposition has been breathlessly fearmongering, we have been looking for solutions. The line-by-line audit presented some solutions to government. Just because an option was presented to the government doesn’t mean it will happen. What I can say, Mr. Speaker, is this: We are not pro-privatization; we are pro the people. Every choice we make will be to modernize and transform government for the people so that they can continue to receive high-quality public services now and into the future.”

3. Liberal MPP questions the Premier on the government’s intentions to roll back labour law reforms

On October 2, Liberal MPP Michael Coteau asked the following question regarding labour law reforms that the government has said they will roll back:

“…We’ve heard from the Premier or we’ve heard from this government that they’re considering rolling back these changes in addition to cancelling a $15 minimum wage. Does the Premier believe that it’s fair that work can be cancelled only hours before a shift with no compensation? My question, through you, Mr. Speaker, to the Premier: Will he commit today to not rolling back this important aspect within the legislation?”

In response, Premier Doug Ford said:

“When I travelled across this province and talked to thousands and thousands of people, I found out very, very quickly the number one issue was hydro. Number two was Bill 148, that your party destroyed this province, that put us in more debt than we’ve ever had, the largest subnational debt in the entire world—the entire world, thanks to the Liberal government.

“We’re going to make sure we tell the world Ontario is open for business. We’re going to make sure we’re competitive around the world. We’re getting rid of Bill 148. We’re going to make sure we protect the front-line workers, because 60,000 people lost their jobs under Bill 148.”

Liberal MPP Michael Coteau stated in a supplementary:

“…Does the Premier believe that two sick days is too much for people in Ontario? He says he stands up for the little guy. He says he stands up for the people of Ontario. Two sick days is decency, Mr. Speaker.”

Premier Doug Ford replied:

“…The people on minimum wage—we’re actually going to give them a tax credit. Unlike the Liberals, who jacked their taxes up over $1,000, we’re going to reduce their taxes by $850, putting more money into their pocket. That’s what you call tax relief. That’s what you call supporting minimum wage workers. We’re going to create more jobs so we can hire more people, unlike the Liberals, who destroyed this province.”

4. NDP Education Critic questions the government’s commitment to open consultations

On October 2, NDP Education Critic Marit Stiles asked the following question:

“…last Friday, the government quietly released a predetermined form online that appears to be this government’s version of the “largest consultation” in Ontario’s history, and then the minister said that the government will only be promoting the consultations within their regions.

“So which is it? Will we be seeing consultations in every riding in the province, or will only the government be picking and choosing which voices they feel like hearing?”

In response Minister of Education Lisa Thompson stated:

“Our consultation is going to be very comprehensive, starting off with hearing from parents, hearing from teachers, hearing from businesses how we can better equip our students to be competitive in today’s global economy. I can tell you, the people attending, our guests today in the members’ gallery, will be applauding us for taking a look at STEM—science, technology, engineering and mathematics. That’s everything that the agri-food and the business of food in particular need to be competitive in today’s global economy.

“We are moving forward, and I invite every single member in this House to participate and read your mail”

In follow up, NDP Education Critic Marit Stiles stated:

“…Education consultations do not mean much unless those most impacted are invited to the table, Minister. Students and teachers must be consulted. Indigenous youth must be consulted. Queer and trans youth, differently abled youth: They must be consulted. The list goes on.

“It is irresponsible of this government to make decisions without listening to those who are going to be the most impacted. Mr. Speaker, why is this government trying to hand-pick who will be involved in the sex ed consultations, and what are you so very afraid of hearing?”

In response, Minister of Education Lisa Thompson said:

“I can confirm 100% that everybody received information about this consultation on Friday. We’re very proud to be embarking on an initiative that’s going to invite business, parents, teachers, boards, trustees—every single person who wants to exercise their voice about STEM, about job skills, about mental health”

5. Conservative MPP asks question about the education curriculum in relation to Science, Technology, Engineering and Math

On October 3, Conservative MPP Natalia Kusendova asked the following question:

“Can the Minister of Education tell us what our government is doing to ensure that Ontario students will continue to be global leaders in subjects like math, science and technology?

In response Minister of Education Lisa Thompson stated:

“…We’ve already started by scrapping discovery math, a failed method of teaching that only left our students behind. In Ontario, we have some of the best teachers in the world, but it’s up to the government to set the baseline for what students should be learning…”

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

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