An unusual July sitting of the Ontario Legislature

By MPP Toby Barrett
I do swear that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth the Second. So help me God.”
The wording of the Oath of Allegiance has not changed since 1792, except for the name of the Monarch, and reinforces the province’s official motto: “Loyal she began, loyal she remains.”
This past July 2nd, his Honour Lieutenant Governor David Onley, presided over the swearing-in of duly-elected members of Ontario’s 41st Parliament.
This was my sixth ceremony as I commence my sixth term – in this case as a member of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition in a majority government of 58 Liberal seats, 28 Progressive Conservatives and 21 New Democrats.
The ceremony concluded with a special touch as Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield led all assembled in the singing of O’Canada.
Our first day back culminated in the re-election of Brant MPP Dave Levac as Speaker of the House during a drawn-out five-horse race. As Speaker, Levac will chair meetings in the Legislative Chamber, maintain order, and ensure the rules are followed. The Speaker may only vote to break a tie and must remain neutral at all other times.
The opening of a session of Parliament, this year held July 3, is a significant event in the parliamentary calendar — notable for its ceremony, which reflects centuries of constitutional evolution and the unique traditions of the legislature.  As a former gunner, I was disappointed a decision was made to not have a volley from the howitzers, at the ready just north of the parliament building.
Before the Assembly can transact any business, the Lieutenant Governor must, by constitutional convention, announce the reasons for this meeting of Parliament by reading the Speech from the Throne. This speech outlines the government’s legislative agenda for the upcoming session.
Following the Throne Speech, the Lieutenant Governor departs the chamber and the Assembly determines which business it will debate. It is customary for the House to first assert its independence to consider matters not mentioned in the speech with the introduction of Bill 1 – An Ancient Parliamentary Right.
The ensuing debate of the Throne Speech enables members to discuss the government’s legislative and policy plans, and provides an opportunity for the Assembly to formally reply to the speech. In addition to debating the Speech, the remainder of July will be taken up with budget debate.
This commencement of this 41st parliament also wraps up the duties of Ontario’s 28th Lieutenant Governor. David Onley’s seven-year term was especially marked by his successful initiatives on behalf of those who have disabilities.
With the advent of the new session, Ms. Elizabeth Dowdeswell, who is now properly referred to as Lieutenant Governor-designate, will take on the role. Ms. Dowdeswell is currently the president and CEO of the Council of Canadian Academies and is also a management consultant. She was the founding President and CEO of the Nuclear Waste Management Organization. She was the Under Secretary General of the United Nations, Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme, and Executive Director of UN-Habitat. As Assistant Deputy Minister at Environment Canada, she was responsible for the Atmospheric Environment Service, including negotiating the Framework Convention on Climate Change.

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