By MPP Toby Barrett
Reflecting on the past six months, we’re reminded what a blessing our many summer festivals, parades and fall fairs contribute to our communities – small towns with big ideas.
I can’t say the same for the shenanigans in the Ontario Legislature during the second half of 2013.
As we recall, temperatures soared mid-July and the government’s Green Energy Act failed to deliver. On those hot, muggy days industrial wind turbines were supplying next to nothing — nuclear, hydro, gas and coal kept us cool. Some of the power was imported, in part, from U.S. coal plants.
In September, the C.D. Howe Institute confirmed Opposition claims that Ontario’s electricity policy is flawed. C.D. Howe reported Ontario has an oversupply, a mismatch of generator capabilities and needs, a lack of transparency in prices, volatile and contradictory policies, and rising prices for consumers.
Also in September, I was named critic for the Minister of Consumer Services – entering the world of water heater scams, phantom real estate offers, payday loans and condominium policy. I look forward to help ensure taxpayers are treated fairly and are an integral part of an informed marketplace.
In October, I tabled legislation titled Comprehensive Pay Fairness, designed to shine light on inequities between government and comparable private sector jobs. Despite wages, pensions and other forms of compensation in the public sector being out of whack, the Liberals and NDP voted against my call for pay equity.
And we’re left scratching our heads after the government’s re-announcement in November of its ban on coal generation. We also learned we’re paying $1.1 billion for the cancellation of the Oakville and Mississauga gas-fired power plants.
The price of electricity is one reason we’ve seen an accelerated and disturbing trend of companies fleeing Ontario. It’s worrisome to see big-name companies heading across the border — Heinz, Kellogg’s, John Deere, Caterpillar, Navistar, Daimler Trucks and Smuckers. Also this fall the Wall Street Journal reported the Ontario government’s fiscal situation is worse than California’s.
Fall media reports, and my questions in the Legislature helped shine the light on the illegal burger shack, and adjacent smoke shacks, in Caledonia.
Also, over the latter part of 2013, I raised questions in the House to accelerate Ontario’s working with both levels of federal government on both sides of the border to mitigate the threat of Asian Carp to our Great Lakes.
Out of the water and into the woods, I continue to support the return of the spring bear hunt and advocate non-resident hunters be allowed to help northern Ontario’s tourism.
On a positive note, I was heartened to finally see the creation of a select committee to develop a comprehensive developmental services strategy for people with an intellectual disability.
And just as we broke for Christmas, I had the opportunity to urge all members of the House to work together to put in place a province-wide school policy on peanuts, asthma, diabetes, epilepsy and whatever else may be ailing students.
There’s no shortage of issues across the province. My hope for 2014 is the Wynne government puts aside issues like coal and a smoke free Ontario to channel energy into job creation, and an economic and fiscal plan to steer Ontario back on track.
On behalf of my family and staff, I wish everyone a happy and prosperous New Year!