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Queen's Park Highlights - May 11, 2018

MPPs spent only two days at Queen’s Park this week. On Tuesday, Lieutenant Governor Elizabeth Dowdeswell signed a proclamation dissolving the current session of the Legislature and called for issuing a writ setting June 7 as the day of the provincial election. At dissolution, there were 107 seats in the Legislature; during the election, as the result of a legislated increase in the number of ridings, candidates are running in 124 ridings.

1. Budget Bill passes with Amendments to Acts governing Early Childhood Educators and Teachers

On May 8, as their final initiative, MPPs voted on Bill 31, the provincial Budget bill. The bill passed with Liberal MPPs voting in favour  and PC and NDP MPPs voting against the government bill.

In addition to the provisions of the 2018 Budget, the bill included amendments to the Early Childhood Educators Act and the Ontario College of Teachers Act with respect to how the colleges investigate and determine discipline in cases of allegations of professional misconduct. ETFO raised concerns regarding a number of the proposed amendments through its submission to the Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs. In its presentation to the committee, the Ontario College of Teachers called for the “list of sexual abuses” to be expanded. The committee reported the bill for third reading, without recommending amendments to the sections dealing with the colleges.

2. PC MPP calls on Government to end York University Strike

On May 7, PC Education Critic Lorne Coe asked why the York University strike had been going on for over two months. Advance Education and Skills Development Minister Mitzie Hunter answered by referring to a report by mediator-arbitrator Will Kaplan who found that “the parties are at an impasse and that the way forward is through consensual arbitration.” She said the government was therefore “calling on both parties to enter into consensual interest arbitration, to bring this dispute to a close and get students back into the classroom where they belong.”

Later that day, Labour Minister Kevin Flynn introduced Bill 70, York University Labour Disputes Resolution Act, 2018, which proposed to terminate the strike and require all outstanding issues between the university and CUPE Local 3903 to be referred to binding arbitration.

The bill died on the legislative order paper when the Legislature was dissolved on May 8.

3. NDP MPP raises Concern over Waitlists for Children’s Mental Health Services

On May 7, NDP MPP Monique Taylor pointed to data on child and youth mental health released by the Canadian Institute for Health Information. According to MPP Taylor, the data indicate that, between 2006 and 2017, there has been a 72% increase in the number of kids seeking help in hospital ERs, and a 79% increase in the number of kids being hospitalized.” She asked: “When will this government finally provide children with community-based mental health services when and where they need it?” Child and Youth Services Minister Michael Coteau replied:

“We’ve built a whole new system, with lead agencies in different regions across the province. There are 33 lead agencies that will exist. I think that currently, we’re at 32, and we’re going to move forward.

“In Toronto, we have East Metro Youth Services. What they’re doing is coordinating the services so that there’s a single point of entry and young people get the services that they need and that they deserve.

“…what’s shocking is the fact that when it comes to both the Conservatives and the NDP, their mental health investments would result in cuts in the system.

“What we’ve done is make a commitment to put $2.1 billion into mental health services over the next four years, in comparison to what the Progressive Conservative Party has put forward; I believe it’s $1.9 billion over 10 years. If you look at the history of funding, it would actually end up being a cut in the system. It’s unacceptable.

“We’re going to make sure that families get the resources they need when they need them.”

4. NDP MPP asks how Government will respond to Lock-out of Youth Justice Workers

On May 7, NDP MPP Cindy Forster pointed to the 60 youth justice workers locked out by their employer, Banyan Community Services. The employer, according to MPP Forster, is seeking cuts to employee benefits. She asked: “What is the government going to do to right this ship?”

In answer to a supplementary question, Labour Minister Kevin Flynn stated:

“Ontario…has got an excellent track record when it comes to labour relations. The collective bargaining process is one that we respect. It results in a settlement 98% of the time—98% of collective agreements are reached by the parties at the table. From time to time, Speaker, groups need assistance, they need arbitration and they need things like mediation in order to overcome some hurdles to reach that settlement.

“Ontario has got some of the best arbitrators and some of the best mediators in the world, and they’ve got an excellent track record too. I know that we have mediators in with the parties, speaking as I speak, and they’re involved.

“What I would urge is for both parties to get back to the table. Let’s get an agreement reached with the assistance of the MOL mediators and let’s get these people back to work.”

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

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