Queen's Park Highlights - April 22, 2016

Date posted: Tuesday, April 26, 2016 9:41 am


Queen's Park Highlights - April 22, 2016

This week Opposition MPPs continued to raise concerns about the government’s approach to amending Ontario’s election finance laws and its move to change eligibility for access to Intensive Behavioural Intervention (IBI) therapy for children with autism.

The government received a serious blow on Thursday with the release of the Ontario Superior Court decision on ETFO’s Bill 115 Charter case. The decision follows a series of instances where Education Minister Liz Sandals has had to back down on an issue. This week, on the heels of announcements that the Ministry of Education was not proceeding with regulatory changes to child care ratios and age groupings and would now allow fall registration at all provincial demonstration schools, the minister told the media that a miscommunication lead her ministry to send letters to private schools requiring them to adopt the provincial template for report cards.

1. NDP Leader asks Premier to apologize to Parents and Educators after Bill 115 Decision 

On April 21, NDP Leader Andrea Horwath referred to the Court decision on Bill 115, which found the bill had interfered with meaningful collective bargaining. She asked whether the Premier would “apologize to parents, students and education workers for trampling on collective bargaining rights and throwing our schools into chaos?” Premier Kathleen Wynne replied:

“The decision is being reviewed, obviously. It has just come down.

“When I ran for leadership in 2012-13, I was very clear that I had problems with Bill 115. Bill 115 has been repealed. We have established a new bargaining process. We are working with the education sector. I believe that the move away from Bill 115 was exactly the right thing to do.”

In answer to a supplementary, she stated:

“Well, I will say again that I was very clear when I ran to be the leader of this party—I was very clear—that I was not happy with Bill 115. I was not happy with the relationship with the education sector. My career has been built on partnerships within the education sector, on the management and the employee side. I will stand up any day for the education sector, and that is how I got to this place. That’s how I will continue.”

2. Government struggles to defend Changes to Autism Policy 

On April 19, PC Leader Patrick Brown drew attention to a child with autism who has only been receiving IBI therapy for three weeks and stands to lose access to program under the government’s new eligibility rules. Premier Kathleen Wynne responded:

“Mr. Speaker, of course what we want is for that child, and every child in Ontario who has autism, to get the service that they need. So we want that child…to get the intensive treatment that she needs, which is why the transition into the new program will include service in those intensive services.

“We understand that the $8,000 that will be for the initial transition is not enough; we understand that. That’s why we’re setting up the program that will allow her to continue with intensive services.”

In answer to a supplementary question, she stated:

“The 333 million new dollars that are going in to create the program and to provide a transition—we know that autism doesn’t end at five. We also know that sitting on a waiting list and not getting any service is wrong. I am actually quite shocked that the opposition parties—both of them—would be advocating for keeping children on a waiting list and not getting them service.”

On April 20, in response to a question from NDP MPP Monique Taylor, Children and Youth Services Minister Tracy MacCharles attempted to address parents’ concerns:

“It’s important to again remind the Legislature here that children who are being removed from wait-lists are going into immediate service. That’s very important. That’s a big part of the $333 million and the 16,000 new spaces. 

“It’s also important to note that every family with a child with ASD getting service received a two-page letter outlining what this transition is going to look like. It’s from their service provider, which can answer the questions that they may have.

“It’s important to also remember that in the new, enhanced autism program in Ontario, the services will be more intense, will be of longer duration and will focus on the individual needs of children.”

3. Opposition Parties join with Green Party to criticize Premier’s Approach to Election Finance Reforms

On April 19, PC Leader Patrick Brown and NDP Leader Andrea Horwath were joined in a news conference by Green Party of Ontario Leader Mike Schreiner to call for the government to form an independent panel to review Ontario’s election finance laws. In answer to questions from Ms. Horwath during Question Period,Premier Wynne challenged the accusations that her proposal for election finance reform through the legislative process was not the appropriate democratic route to follow:

“It’s quite remarkable that the leader of the third party is basically saying that there is no democratic process that we follow in this Legislature. It’s quite remarkable. What we have said is that we bring forward draft legislation and, in an unusual process, send the legislation out for consultation after first reading and then allow for that consultation to take place between now and the fall; then, allow the legislation and send the legislation out for consultation again after second reading.”

“…What’s also interesting is that, right now, the House leaders are having a conversation about how the opposition parties might give input into the legislation before it’s drafted. That seems to run counter to what the leader of the third party said this morning.”

4. NDP MPP presses Government to move on Pay Equity Issue

On April 19, a day recognized as Equal Pay Day, NDP MPP Peggy Sattler reminded the Legislature that, in 2008, the Equal Pay Coalition had released recommendations that aimed at eliminating the gender pay gap by 2025. Asserting that the gap remains stuck at around 30 per cent, she asked:

“How can Ontarians have confidence in the Premier’s commitment to eliminate the gender wage gap when her 2016 budget did not include any of the key strategies recognized as essential to achieve equal pay, such as investments in child care, and the Liberal government has consistently failed to enforce its own pay equity and employment standards laws?”

Minister responsible for Women’s Issues Tracy MacCharles replied:

“We appointed a steering committee last year to lead the development of that wage gap strategy, and the minister and I met with the panel just this morning. A number of consultations were held throughout the province, and a summary of what was heard is made public on the Ministry of Labour’s website.”

In answer to a supplementary question, Labour Minister Kevin Flynn explained the process, but didn’t raise expectations about imminent government action on the file:

“There’s a process that’s been put in place. I want to thank everybody that’s taken part in this process to date: 530 people came forward; almost 1,500 people sent in their ideas.

“A report was received today; the recommendations will follow very shortly; the implementation phase comes after that. I look forward to the support of all members of the House in the implementation phase.”

5. Municipal Elections Modernization Act, 2016 referred to Legislative Committee for Review

On April 19, Bill 191, the Municipal Elections Modernization Act, 2016 passed a second reading vote and referred to the Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs for review. Liberal MPPs voted in favour; PC and NDP MPPs voted against. 

The government bill proposes to introduce changes to municipal elections laws, including amending timelines for registering as a candidate, allowing municipalities to adopted a ranked-ballot elections system, and amending rules for third-party advertisers. 

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

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