By MPP Toby Barrett
As this column comes into print, I am finishing up at Queen’s Park and reflecting on the Spring Session.
Prior to each session, my caucus colleagues and I sit down to devise a plan – a plan that addresses Ontario’s challenges and makes sense for you, the taxpayer. The key priorities we attempted to focus on during the session included: fighting for more private sector jobs and a stronger economy; demanding more accountability from the McGuinty Government in the wake of their growing list of scandals and mismanagement; defending Ontario families currently struggling with a rising cost of living; and proposing measures to cut the size and cost of government.
Sadly these ideas were side-tracked by political gamesmanship where we heard debate on things ranging from gay-straight alliances to transgender issues. Meanwhile, Ontario’s economy degenerated to a projected $30.2 Billion deficit with nearly 600,000 people out of work.
The spring session was marked by the shelving of the Drummond Report, and a budget that was almost immediately dismissed by renowned credit rating agencies. These are independent agencies that work with financial facts, not political spin. Consequences of a credit downgrading are very real and troubling. For Ontario, it results in increased interest rates and an increased cost of servicing a projected $411.4 billion debt.
Much of the spring session focussed on the Ornge Air Ambulance scandal – a scandal the McGuinty government attempted to sweep under the carpet. This spring, my colleague Frank Klees won bi-partisan support for an all-party Select Committee to look into Ornge. Mr. McGuinty, however, refused to respect the democratic will of the Legislature and allow the Select Committee to be formed. As a result of the government’s complete disdain for the democratic process, MPPs have not been able to properly question and cross-examine witnesses. I will however have the opportunity this summer through the Public Accounts Committee to continue our investigation into Ornge.
Bill 13 — the government’s anti-bullying legislation — stirred up so much controversy this session that my email inbox came to a standstill. The bill enforces the acceptance of ‘gay-straight’ school clubs that would be largely unaccountable to school values, authorities and the parents who delegate their authority to the schools. We presented a bill that sought to prevent bullying and protect the greatest number of children. Although professionals supported our bill, at the end of the day, the government felt they knew best — parents and students were done a disservice.
As Opposition we put forth other ideas, like a public sector wage freeze and energy policy that would rein in electricity costs. While the government didn’t support these ideas, let’s hope they at least foster future discussion because at the end of the day it doesn’t matter who kick starts our economy — the job just needs to get done!
Throughout the summer, my colleagues and I will go anywhere to listen to anyone with additional ideas for turning our province around. Contact me at [email protected]. The best ideas are coming from the people who pay the bills.
As I now have the summer to work full-time in our great riding of Haldimand-Norfolk, I realize this government has no desire to fix our woes and would rather continue kicking the can down the road.