Jim McDonell: This Week in Queen’s Park

The Ontario legislature hosted several demonstrations on its grounds as the strike affecting our province’s colleges entered its third week and threatened to put students’ completion of their semesters and academic years at risk. The Official Opposition had called upon the government to bring the parties back to the negotiating table and the students back to class, where they want to be. Inside the building, the House mostly trudged through more debate on Bill 154, the Cutting Unnecessary Red Tape Act and Bill 166, the Strengthening Protections for Ontario Consumers Act. Anxious to pass Bill 166 before the end of the fall session, the government tabled a time-allocation motion to limit public hearings and amendment debate at the Committee stage, as well as reduce Third Reading debate on the amended bill to only two hours. With this schedule in place, Bill 166 will become law by the end of the year.
 
The government’s planned changes to gambling faced a public relations challenge this week, as it was revealed that the company slated to run three gaming facilities in the GTA was under investigation for alleged money laundering at its location in British Columbia.  In light of this, the Official Opposition called for the government to put the deal on ice. This government’s short-sighted abolition of the profitable and sustainable slots-at-racetracks program destroyed the racing industry and created the need for this deal in the first place – the least they can do is listen to Ontarians’ concerns and insist that all gaming agreements be above board.
 
Bill 148 continued its journey through Committee, with stakeholders from across the province presenting their view point and concerns as the government proceeds with implementing significant labour market reforms on a very short time scale. Several businesses, municipal stakeholders and community groups from Stormont-Dundas-Glengarry had registered their interest to make a formal oral presentation to Finance Committee, unfortunately none of them were granted a time slot. As your representative I will ensure the Minister of Labour and the Government are made aware of each and every concern regarding Bill 148 that you bring to my attention.  
 
On Thursday, the legislature unanimously passed the Time to Care Act at Second Reading, which demands that patients in long-term care be guaranteed a minimum of 4 hours of care by law. A legislated minimum care standard has been recommended by experts across North America and the world since the early 2000’s. In Ontario, the Long-Term Care review by Shirlee Sharkey in 2008, recommended increasing minimum daily care hours per resident and legislating a minimum benchmark. The then-Liberal Minister of Health, George Smitherman, immediately dismissed that suggestion. It is important to ensure all Ontarians can and will receive the care that they deserve and that they helped finance through a lifetime of hard work. I look forward to seeing Bill 33 examined at Committee soon.