By MPP Toby Barrett
“As the old year retires and a new one is born, we commit into the hands of our Creator the happenings of the past year and ask for direction and guidance in the new one.” Peggy Toney Horton
The latter half of 2015 continued a year dominated by rising electricity costs, declining economies, and ongoing debate about government mismanagement and scandal.
New Year’s being a time for new beginnings, we only hope those in charge – which in a parliamentary democracy is supposed to be all of us – can gain knowledge and a direction from the experiences of this past year to map a better way forward.
Last July 1, regulation was put in place banning the use of neonicotinoid pesticide on 80 per cent of Ontario’s corn and soybean acreage. The July 1 regulation came from an activist government in Ontario jumping the gun, in my view, by using questionable research to blame neonics alone for bee mortality. The scientific evidence remains inconclusive and, at best, circumstantial.
My work over the summer ranged from phragmites; the pointlessness of the proposed pension tax; our local bait industry; to the flawed billing system of Hydro One; as well as some dismantling and rebuilding of barns on our property.
On Sept. 3, Patrick Brown won the by-election in Simcoe North with a wide margin of two to one. The former municipal councilor, and then federal MP for Barrie, won the Ontario PC Party leadership this past May.
In September, I was appointed Caucus Chair and reappointed as Agriculture Critic by incoming Opposition Leader Brown. I was also assigned to the Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs.
Nov. 1, saw the Ontario Energy Board announce yet another electricity increase.
During Question Period in October, I sounded the alarm about the immediate threat of pension and benefit losses facing U.S. Steel Canada pensioners. In subsequent questions, I explained to the Ontario Legislature that, “Lake Erie Works employees are vigorously pursuing new orders, rooting out waste and inefficiency. The assets are in play: land, plant, equipment in whole or in part for any available investment, for any bidders. .”
Also in October, the Financial Accountability Office of Ontario confirmed the Hydro One fire sale is a bad deal for Ontarians.
In November, the Liberal Government voted down Leader of the Official Opposition Patrick Brown’s Private Member’s Bill, the Estate Administration Tax Abolition Act, which proposed the elimination of the so-called Death Tax.
November also saw Ontario’s Official Opposition and Ontario’s realtors launch a battle against the provincial government’s plan to give municipalities the power to levy a Municipal Land Transfer Tax. Within a month, government backed down.
November gave me yet another opportunity to lambast the Caledonia ‘power line to nowhere’. I also continued to raise the issue of protestors holding up completion of the Cayuga bridge, and the potential for conflict with the Caledonia bridge rebuild.
Year 2015 went out with a bang – several bangs actually – ranging from furor over the fire sale of Hydro One, to the damning report of Ontario’s Auditor General, to the laying of criminal charges against McGuinty staffers for deleting e-mails concerning the gas plant scandal.
There will be more work to be done in 2016!