TORONTO – Premier Kathleen Wynne sent a clear message to the NDP and the Tories Monday, warning that she is not going to put up with procedural wrangling that stalls the business of the house and will call an election if push comes to shove.
“The practical reality is that if the house cannot function, and if we can’t see a way forward, then the Opposition will have to explain to the people of Ontario why they think a general election is the better option,” she said.
“I just want people to know that there’s not an indefinite option to continue to wrangle on every single piece of legislation.”
The premier has asked for meetings with Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak and NDP Leader Andrea Horwath to see what bills, if any, they can agree to pass this fall, such as the non-controversial local food act.
“I want to be clear with people that I’m going to meet with the leaders of the opposition and I’m going to suggest to them that there’s some things we can work together on,” said Wynne.
Wynne insisted she doesn’t want a fall election, but warned she doesn’t want another session like last spring where the only bill that passed was the provincial budget.
Tory house leader Jim Wilson isn’t buying it, suggesting Wynne will call an election this fall to get her own mandate from voters and blame it on the Opposition.
NDP Leader Andrea Horwath says her party will make sure the Liberals keep their promises this fall, such as cutting auto insurance rates by 15 per cent and banning young people from using tanning beds.
Contempt motion fails
Earlier Monday, Speaker Dave Levac dismissed a second Tory contempt motion filed over what they said were attempts by Liberal staff to influence the Speaker about last year’s preliminary finding of contempt against the government over cancelled gas plants in Oakville and Mississauga.
“At no time, in any discussion I might have had after delivering my September 13 ruling, was I the recipient of any inappropriate overture or suggestion,” Levac told the legislature.
“I have not been pressured, intimidated, cajoled, warned or threatened in any way. Nor was any influence exerted upon me to do so or say any particular thing or to pursue any particular course of action.”
Levac’s ruling means the legislature won’t grind to a halt again to debate the contempt motion, as it did last fall before Dalton McGuinty resigned as premier and prorogued the house for four months.
But there will still be more hearings into the cancellations of the gas plants, starting Tuesday, and an auditor general’s report on the cost of scrapping the Oakville project.
Legislation for financial accountability officer introduced
Also Monday, Finance Minister Charles Sousa introduced legislation to create a financial accountability officer, a key demand of the New Democrats in exchange for supporting the minority government’s budget last spring.
Most questions about the new watchdog centred around the Liberals’ decisions to cancel the two gas plants, which cost at least $585 million.
Sousa said the financial accountability officer wouldn’t have been involved in that situation. However, the new watchdog could review all bills that have a financial impact and outline the consequences before they become law, he added.
All three parties were also talking Monday about quickly changing the rules for the accommodation allowance for members of the legislature who live more than 50 kilometres from Queen’s Park.
PC Leader Tim Hudak said he fired Peter Shurman as the party’s finance critic after the Thornhill MPP refused to pay back $20,719 he received for his Toronto apartment last year after moving to Niagara-on-the-Lake.
Shurman may have followed the rules, but the PC finance critic must be held to a higher standard if he is to hold the government to account, added Hudak.
“I wanted to say to him face to face ‘Peter you have to pay these expenses back,”’ Hudak told reporters.
“He said no. I made my decision, and he’s no longer finance critic.”