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Queen’s Park Highlights - September 22, 2017

The Legislature was not in session on either Monday or Tuesday this week to allow MPPs to attend the International Ploughing Match¸ Ontario’s largest rural event. The traditional ploughing contest involving the three party leaders was cancelled because of rain.  

ETFO’s Avon-Maitland locals sponsored a well-attended booth at the week-long event, distributing ETFO materials for students and their parents.

1. PCs lead in latest Voter Opinion Poll

On September 15, Campaign Research released a poll of Ontario voters conducted September 8-11, 2017. It reported the following results in terms of voter support:

Ontario PC Party – 38%
Ontario Liberal Party – 33%
Ontario NDP – 23%
Green Party of Ontario – 6%

The poll found the following in terms of voter preference for the party leaders:

PC Leader Patrick Brown – 22%
NDP Leader Andrea Horwath – 20%
Liberal Leader Kathleen Wynne – 14%
None of the three leaders – 19%
No Opinion – 25%

Campaign Research indicated the poll’s margin of error was 2.9% 19 out of 20 times.

2. NDP MPP Cheri DiNovo announces Retirement

On September 20, NDP MPP Cheri DiNovo announced she wouldn’t be running in the June 2018 provincial election. She will be returning to work as a United Church minister, the role she held prior to entering provincial politics. MPP DiNovo was first elected in a September 2006 by-election held to replace former Liberal Education Minister Gerard Kennedy, who left provincial politics to run for the leadership of the federal Liberal Party.

MPP DiNovo has been a strong advocate for issues related to poverty, housing, women’s equality, and, most significantly, LGBTQ rights. Well-respected in the Legislature, she has successfully promoted private member’s bills with all-party support and, in some cases, has introduced bills co-sponsored by MPPs from the other two parties. One example of these joint projects is the bill that recognizes April 12 as Girls’ Government Day and promotes young girls coming to Queen’s Park to learn about provincial politics and the role of elected politicians.

MPP DiNovo joins Liberal MPPs Brad Duguid (Scarborough Centre) Dave Levac (Brant) Monte Kwinter (York Centre), Mario Sergio (York West) and PC MPP Julia Munro (York-Simcoe) in the decision not to seek re-election.

Here is a YouTube video of MPP DiNovo announcing her retirement.

3. PC Leader seeks Answers regarding Student Escorted to Hospital by Police and Restrained

On September 21, PC Leader Patrick Brown pointed to a CBC report of an eight-year-old boy who acted out at Toronto school being taken to hospital in the back of a police car and then sedated and put in restraints. He asked Education Minister Mitzie Hunter how such a train of events could happen.

Minister Hunter replied:

“…I’m not in a position to comment on the actions of hospital staff. That’s not something I can do. I know that, as it relates to the student, as of September 15, the student has been reintegrated into school and that the school, the parents and the board are working together on this matter.

“That is the focus: to have schools that are accepting and welcoming of students of all abilities. We are very committed to this and to providing the supports in our school system for students with special needs, for students who have mental health needs. We are providing the assistance and the supports for all of our students. We are working together to make those necessary investments so that students can have every opportunity to succeed in our schools.”

In a supplementary question, MPP Brown reported that the boy’s family has been advised that it could take a year to access community-based mental health services. He asked what the government was doing to address the long waiting lists for these services. Child and Youth Services Minister replied:

“We take mental health, when it comes to young people in this province, quite seriously. In fact, for the last couple of years we’ve built a new strategy, a new approach to looking for ways to eliminate wait-lists because we know that the complexities that young people are going through today are very different from when we were young—in fact, very different from a decade ago. That’s why we put in place Bill 89. Bill 89 looks at reorganizing mental health delivery across this province by setting up 33 lead agencies in all of our ridings.”

4. NDP Leader calls for Government to Support Proposal to establish Separate Mental Health Ministry

Since the Legislature reconvened last week, NDP Leader Andrea Horwath has made mental health services a priority issue in Question Period. On September 20, she asked why the government was refusing to support the NDP private member’s bill on establishing a separate Ministry of Mental Health and Addiction Services after it passed the second reading vote last week. 

In responding to the question, Premier Kathleen Wynne outlined how the government was increasing funding to mental health services and working to ensure that funding got “into the hands of people on the ground who are delivering those services…” On the issue of establishing a separate ministry, the Premier stated:

“If I believed that changing the name of a ministry would solve the problem of mental health in this province that has been with us for decades, I would do it in a minute. But that’s not the case.

“It is also not the case that we have not addressed this challenge. The fact is that we have a societal issue. When I sit with Premiers from across the country, every single one of them is dealing with these challenges. That’s the reason that when the federal government put in place the new health agreement—with which I was not particularly happy, because it did not meet the needs of any of the provinces, but there was a component of mental health dollars that would flow to the province, and there was a recognition that this is a challenge across the country.

“So the fact that in February we announced additional immediate investments of $140 million over three years and that we have put an additional $100 million into treatment for youth and children—we continue to make investments and to change the system so that people can find their way through it and get the services they need.”

5. Transportation Minister announces Plans to increase Penalties for Distracted Drivers

On September 21, in answer to a Liberal backbench question, Transportation Minister Steven Del Duca indicated the government would be bringing forward legislation that will take effect July 1, 2018 to deal with distracted driving. The changes will update driver penalties to address the federal legalization of cannabis and increase penalties for distracted driving and for drivers who fail to yield to pedestrians. The announcement comes in the wake of an increasing number of fatalities related to cell phone use and failure to respect pedestrian safety.

6. NDP MPP introduces Bill to proclaim Indigenous Day

On September 21, NDP MPP Mike Mantha introduced Bill 156, the Indigenous Day Act, 2017, a private member’s bill that proposes to establish June 21 as Indigenous Day. If passed, the day would be a public holiday under the Employment Standards Act and the Retail Business Holidays Act. It would also amend the Education Act to make it a school holiday, a move that would likely mean extending the last day of school by a day.

7. Government bill that proposes to add Two Ridings in Northern Ontario debated at Second Reading

Previous legislation, to take effect for the June 2018 election, increased the number of provincial ridings from 107 to 122 and revised riding boundaries to align, with one exception, with new federal riding. Last week, the government introduced Bill 152, the Representation Statue Law Amendment Act, 2017, which proposes to increase the number of ridings in northern Ontario by two. If passed, the provincial riding of Kenora-Rainy River will be divided into two ridings as will the riding of Timmins-James Bay.
 
The bill provides a detailed description of the boundaries for all 124 provincial ridings.

MPPs participated in the second reading debate of the bill on both September 20 and 21.

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

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