The 42nd Parliament of Ontario has officially opened with Lt.-Gov. Elizabeth Dowdeswell’s speech from the throne at 2 p.m. on Thursday, Jul. 12, 2018.
The speech echoed many of the promises made during Premier Doug Ford’s campaign, and touched on the changes the Ford government intends to make – many of which have already begun to take place.
For Kingston’s new MPP Ian Arthur, the speech was a little lacklustre.
“It’s a disappointing throne speech, and I think so much of it was actually moving Ontario backwards,” Arthur said in the hours following the speech that opened up the special summer sitting of the legislature.
“Like cancelling the cap and trade with absolutely no plans to replace it at all, and no understanding of the importance of the programs that it funded played. They were incredibly important to so many people, in Kingston and all over Ontario.”
Dowdeswell referred to the government’s “plan for the people” that will “begin by trusting the taxpayer” and said the government will take action to provide “meaningful, tax relief to parents, small businesses and the working poor.”
“It also includes scrapping the cap-and-trade carbon tax here in Ontario. And opposing other carbon tax schemes in all of their forms,” she said.
“These oppressive taxes make life unaffordable for families and put thousands of Ontario jobs at risk… Your government will use every tool at its disposal to fight those who would hurt Ontario families and jobs by imposing such a tax on our province.”
Arthur also took objection to the section of the speech discussing the coming changes to sex education curriculum, which had also been announce prior to the speech.
“When you look at something like the sex ed. Curriculum: To go back to the sex ed. curriculum from 1998? There wasn’t Google then, there wasn’t sexting, there wasn’t all the things that kids have to face now, and are just realities of growing up,” Arthur said.
In the throne speech, Dowdeswell said the Ontario government’s plan includes “respecting parents by replacing the current sex-education curriculum with a new age-appropriate one that is based on real consultation with parents,” but Arthur questioned what exactly that will involve – and pointed out that the current curriculum was already designed based on consultations with parents.
“They say that they’re going to do something in conjunction with families, but I’m curious if families tell them they want the sex ed. curriculum that families already told the Liberals that they wanted,” he said with a laugh.
“The plan was done in consultation with families already. It will be interesting to see what families get consulted on that.”
Arthur said the speech was generally vague and lacking in detail. But there was a section of the address that surprised him.
“The stuff on police oversight I found a little surprising. You know, Ontarians don’t want to go back towards something like TAVIS [the Toronto Police Anti-Violence Unit] or where carding is allowed, and his throne speech alluded that was kind of the direction that he saw policing going in Ontario,” Arthur said.
“Policing should be about community safety and, you know… it’s very hard to accept moving back towards something like that which was so openly discriminatory.”
The sections of the speech where actual figures were announced – 15,000 new long term care beds over the next five years and a $3.8 billion investment in mental health and addictions – were a step in the right direction, Arthur said, but he also feels those pledges are not enough. He also mentioned that he’s already hearing complaints from constituents about the Conservatives’ scrapping of the electric car rebate program.
“That has been cancelled as well, and again, no notice, no debate, and this was debatable,” Arthur said, noting that, although the Ford government has announced the end of that program, there are still no details on what that means.
And it is those decisions the government has been making and announcing without any debate or detail – and without the legislature sitting – that Arthur seemed to take issue with the most.
“We don’t know how the deal to get rid of the CEO of Hydro One went. We don’t know the details of much of what he’s already done as Premier… this is a Premier [who] is driven by insiders, you know?” he said.
“He’s driven by his own desire for power. He knows how to operate and how he operates is favours and backroom deals. And I think a vague throne speech is a reflection of that.”
And moving forward, it’s that kind of decision making the Ontario NDP will be “fighting for Ontarians every step of the way,” Arthur expressed.
“A lot is happening very quickly, and, again, it’s all done in back rooms. This is not done through debate, it’s not done through public consultations, it’s done in the back rooms of Ontario,” he said.
“It’s Ford and his friends, and they think they have a mandate to do that, and the ONDP is here to stop that.”
To read the full transcript of the throne speech, go to https://news.ontario.ca/opo/en/2018/07/a-government-for-the-people.html.