When a premier packs it in, prorogues parliament

By MPP Toby Barrett
On the evening of Monday, October 15th Premier McGuinty announced the indefinite termination of Ontario parliamentary proceedings, committee hearings and a plethora of legislation. He then announced he was going to quit.

In and of itself, a premier resigning – especially after nine years – is to be expected at some point. At the end of this summer, I proposed to my fellow MPP’s we prepare for just such an eventuality. What I did not anticipate was the premier shutting down Ontario’s legislature in the same breath. This put already unsteady provincial affairs – just ask the provincial bond rating agencies – on an even more unsteady footing.

Ontario has been lurching from E-Health to Caledonia to Ornge to gas plant boondoggles – and now we are a jurisdiction with neither a premier, nor a parliament. And Cabinet Ministers aspiring to lead the Liberal Party – the reason Mr. McGuinty has shut down the Legislature – have been told they must also resign.

Ontario, already in crisis, now has a vacuum of leadership. As with the ongoing stalemate in Caledonia, I am reminded of the Apocalypse Now question posed by Captain Kurtz to the shell-shocked defender of the bridge, “Soldier, do you know who is in charge here?”, to which the soldier unhelpfully replied, “Yeah”.

As we saw in Caledonia, when no one is in charge, other people and other ways of doing things come to the fore. Rest assured, my office continues to operate, and, if anything, will do our utmost to accelerate discourse to problem-solve as we go into this unusual winter.

We have reason for concern. When a leaderless government shuts down its parliamentary proceedings there is no mechanism to discuss and deal with Ontario’s issues of high unemployment, the deficit, the most recent gas plant scandals in Oakville and Mississauga, let alone to get to the bottom of Ornge, E-Health, and Caledonia.

A little over an hour before the Premier pulled the pin on parliament I was part of the debate on ways to end cell phone rip-offs. This proposed law now disappears – it falls off the order paper, perhaps never to be seen again. Cell phone billing is one of many important issues before us – we were debating up until half an hour before Mr. McGuinty prorogued parliament. I now recommend anyone with information or concern to now turn to the federal government. The CRTC is conducting ongoing consultation with a November 20th deadline.

Of course, as the last bill to be debated before the Premier’s bombshell and retreat, the cell phone legislation is only one of a long list of unfinished business and aborted acts McGuinty’s announcement has left in its wake. Prorogation killed nine government bills and 94 private members bills.
Having spent seven years on the Finance Committee I am particularly disturbed that, not only did government prevent pre-budget hearings this past year, but we now face another year of no public input on the upcoming budget.
In one fell swoop, Mr. McGuinty has wiped this all – debate and consultation – off the table while preventing legislative investigation into e-health, Ornge, and of course the growing evidence of cover up to save two government MPP seats in Oakville and Mississauga gas plants at a time when we lost 400 jobs at OPG Nanticoke.
The costs of Mr. McGuinty’s scandal-evading retirement grow with each day MPP’s are prevented from dealing with the issues impacting the people of Ontario. It’s time to end these costly games and get legislators back to legislating.