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Queen's Park Highlights - December 13, 2018

MPPs spent four days at the Legislature last week. The government adjourned the fall legislative session a week earlier than expected but not before voting to adopt Bill 57, Restoring Trust, Transparency and Accountability Act, and introducing Bill 66, Restoring Ontario's Competitiveness Act. Questions about the Premier’s role in the hiring process of Hydro One’s CEO and the appointment of the new OPP Commissioner dominated question period.

1. Leader of the Opposition questions Premier’s role in Hydro One’s CEO hiring process

On December 4, following media reports of political influence in the ongoing hiring process of Hydro One’s CEO, the Leader of the Opposition Andrea Horwath asked:

“The Globe and Mail reported this week that the Premier and Dean French, his chief of staff, are working—working very hard, in fact—to ensure that Toronto Hydro CEO Anthony Haines gets the CEO position at Hydro One. As a Toronto councillor, the Premier was an ally of Haines, supporting him as his salary climbed to $1.1 million a year. According to the governance agreement with Hydro One, however, the hiring of the CEO is a decision of the board and the board alone.

“Can the Premier explain why Dean French, his chief of staff, is personally intervening to land the job for Haines?”

Minister of Energy Greg Rickford responded:

“…Let’s look at the difference between OPG and Hydro One: OPG is a crown corporation; Hydro One is a private company. That’s the difference. What’s the same about them is that they make their own staffing decisions—so a crown corporation making their own staffing decisions, and a private company making their own staffing decisions.”

In follow up, the Leader of the Opposition Andrea Horwath asked:

“According to the Globe report, the only Hydro One directors supporting the Premier’s favourite candidate are the ones the Premier installed on the board. Six out of the six independent directors at Hydro One are rejecting the Premier’s personal pick and have even hired a lawyer to help them deal with the Premier and his chief of staff.

“Why is the Premier so adamant on foisting his hire upon Hydro One?”

Minister of Energy Greg Rickford responded:

“As I said before, both OPG, as a crown corporation, and Hydro One, as a private corporation, make their own staffing decisions. We’ve endeavoured to renew the leadership there and reflect a cost savings that matters to the people who pay their hydro bills each and every month…”

2. Leader of the Opposition questions Premier’s role in appointment of OPP Commissioner

On December 5, following media reports stating that the Premier had not recused himself in the process that resulted in the appointment of a close friend as OPP Commissioner, the Leader of the Opposition Andrea Horwath asked:

“Last week, cabinet appointed a close friend of the Premier’s to the role of commissioner of the Ontario Provincial Police, after the job criteria were changed in a way that allowed him to apply. The Premier led the cabinet discussion that resulted in the appointment of his friend. Why didn’t the Premier recuse himself?”

In response Premier Doug Ford stated:

“Through you, Mr. Speaker: Superintendent Ron Taverner is one of the most decorated police officers in the country—the longest-serving police officer in the country. Accolades from across the country came in supporting Superintendent Ron Taverner.

“When we talk to OPP officers and police officers around this province, the morale is low—very low. We need someone in there that connects with front-line people, that connects with communities, that has a record of going after guns and gangs. There was no better choice—a transparent choice, by the way, that I wasn’t involved in whatsoever. There were three individual people on a panel who made that decision. I didn’t know the decision until the day it was made. But I appreciate the Leader of the Opposition trying to go after a great police officer, a person who has served his country for 50 years.”

In follow up, the Leader of the Opposition Andrea Horwath stated:

“On the contrary, Speaker: It’s the Premier I’m going after, not Mr. Taverner.

“Look, the Premier has stated that he had no role at all in Taverner’s appointment, even though he led the cabinet discussion that resulted in his appointment. My question, then, is: When did the Premier learn that Ron Taverner was submitting his name?”

In response Premier Doug Ford said:

“Through you, Mr. Speaker: We understand that the opposition, every time it’s about the police—they don’t like the police. It’s very simple: They don’t like the police.

“Let me give you a couple of quotes from reputable police officers and presidents of police associations. This quote was from Mike McCormack, president of the Toronto Police Association: “I can’t think of a more qualified and dedicated leader for the job. Ron Taverner is a huge asset for the people of Ontario. He’s been a strong advocate for the community and our city. The OPP’s gain is Toronto’s loss.””

3. NDP MPP asks question about funding for the Thames Valley District School Board

On December 6, NDP MPP Teresa Armstrong asked the following question about funding for the Thames Valley District School Board:

“My question is for the Minister of Education. This week, I received a letter from the Minister of Education regarding funding for the Thames Valley District School Board. The minister said in one breath that all the money remains in place and those projects will move forward, and then in the next breath she said the boards now must submit appropriate designs that fit within the ministry’s benchmarks.

“Would the minister inform the House what the new benchmarks are that the Thames Valley District School Board has to now meet in order to move forward with long-planned upgrades and repairs?”

In response, Minister of Education Lisa Thompson stated:

“Speaker, I’m pleased to respond to the member opposite. I have to share with you, as well, that the Minister of Transportation has done a wonderful job tracking this issue for the community in the London area—great work.

“In terms of where we need to go in these repairs and the upgrades that are required in the schools, we are working with the school board, and our capital branch has been very explicit with regard to what the school board needs to be doing in terms of not only sharpening their pencil but also making sure they’re making decisions that best equip a safe and secure, supportive, learning environment.”

In follow up, NDP MPP Teresa Armstrong asked:

“Speaker, although the minister indicates there is no holdup in the funding, the money has not flowed, and the letter said that the board needs to submit several new plans.

“Minister, Thames Valley District School Board has yet to receive the funding they were promised. That is literally the definition of a delay.
“When will the minister be clear with the school boards and tell them what new hoops they need to jump through in order to get the funding that they were promised?”

Minister of Education Lisa Thompson responded:

“…The fact of the matter is, our capital branch has been very explicit about what Thames Valley needs to be doing in terms of accessing the allotted money that is waiting for them to move forward with their schools.”

4. Bill 57, Restoring Trust, Transparency and Accountability Act, is passed into law

On December 6, the last session of this fall sitting, the Bill 57, Restoring Trust, Transparency and Accountability Act, passed third reading and received royal assent. The bill implements many of the measures announced by Minister of Finance Vic Fedeli during the fall economic update including transferring the authority from the French Language Services Commissioner to the office of the Ombudsman, the elimination of the Ontario Child Advocate and the Environmental Commissioner. 

5. Bill 66, Restoring Ontario's Competitiveness Act, is introduced

On December 6, the last session of this fall sitting. Bill 66, Restoring Ontario's Competitiveness Act, was introduced in first reading. Bill 66 is an omnibus bill that, if adopted, will amend 15 different Acts. The government has touted this legislation as a way to cut unnecessary red tape and regulatory burden. Bill 66 has already received significant pushback by a number of organizations on a number of issues. These are some of the changes included in this bill:

  • Loosening regulations to open portions of the greenbelt for development.
  • Increasing the number of children allowed per provider in private daycares.
  • Deeming municipalities, schools, hospitals and universities as ‘non-construction employers’, therefore threatening existing collective agreements and weakening health and safety standards.
  • Loosening regulations related to toxic chemicals weakening source water protections.

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

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