Priorities not reflected in government legislation

By MPP Toby Barrett
As Ontario’s minority government pulled us closer to the precipice of an election – with a projected $30.2 billion deficit – actual work on proposed legislation had virtually ground to a halt.

While people I talk to express ardent concern about jobs, the economy, electricity hikes, horse racing and wind turbines, government has failed to acknowledge these issues in the handful of bills before the House. Save for widespread reaction to anti-bullying legislation, my office receives very few calls or emails on the hodge-podge of current government bills.

So, one may wonder just what MPPs are debating when we’re not standing our ground on budgetary decisions or digging into the Ornge air ambulance scandal.

Last December, I rose in the Legislature to critique The Healthy Home Renovation Tax Credit. Despite its promising moniker, Bill 2 only benefits a tiny segment of seniors and while proponents trumpet a possible $1,500 rebate, seniors would have to first invest $10,000.

Another piece of legislation – Bill 11 – will continue this government’s practice of picking winners and losers by creating a Southwestern Ontario Development Fund. As Economic Development Critic Monte McNaughton pointed out in the Legislature, the bill proposes to continue the approach of “blindly throwing money at problems in the hopes that some of it sticks.”

Bill 11 is the same strategy that has resulted in the situation we are now in — a government with a spending problem, bleeding red ink and an economy that has lost over 300,000 well-paying manufacturing jobs. We have heard from Ontarians that they don’t want a government that picks winners and losers, pitting rural versus urban, favouring one region or one industry over another – we in the Official Opposition don’t want that type of government either.

We also reject McGuinty’s rent control legislation – Bill 19 — that is the result of government tax and electricity hikes, making life unaffordable for tenants and landlords alike. During debate I asked, “Why would the Liberals bring in a rent control bill? Obviously…people in Ontario… can’t afford their rent. They’re subject to the largest income tax increase in the history of Ontario. They’re subject to the largest sales tax increase in the history of Ontario. We’re now continuing to see this government rolling out the largest electricity rate increases in the history of Ontario.”

Government also has us examining Bill 30 – the Family Caregiver Leave Act. And while the title and intention sounds nice, the complete lack of consultation with anyone the legislation would impact, suggests McGuinty’s spending addiction continues to drive the agenda.

Finally, debate continues on Bill 34 – the Security for Courts, Electricity Generating Facilities and Nuclear Facilities Act, 2012, aimed at addressing the secrecy and draconian powers enacted under the now-infamous G20 regulation. Clearly, while there is no room for secret laws or powers for enforcement, we must ensure our police have the tools they need to maintain the rule of law and continue to be prepared for any threats of terrorism.

As I’ve noted, while bullying and budget bills accompany the aforementioned Acts, and while opposition parties continue to bring forward legislation addressing issues of the HST energy/heating costs, wind power, and joblessness, what’s left is underwhelming for those expecting action on priorities.