The Top Line
This afternoon, Lieutenant Governor Elizabeth Dowdeswell delivered the 43rd Parliament’s Speech from the Throne, laying out the agenda of Premier Doug Ford’s re-elected Progressive Conservative Government. As expected, and following clear indication from the Premier during the election, the next term for the government will focus on the Budget originally introduced prior to the election on April 28th. The new Budget Bill was introduced by Finance Minister Peter Bethlenfalvy immediately following the reading of the Throne Speech.
The Speech from the Throne, delivered on August 9, 2022, recognizes the difficult times facing governments, including the Ontario Government, with ongoing pandemic concerns, high inflation, high fuels costs, labour shortages and supply chain challenges. These challenges cannot be ignored. The Speech identified the Ontario government as being in a good position to meet these challenges.
The Speech reinforced previous announcements of less taxes and regulation to make Ontario competitive and emphasized the government’s theme that less government drives economic growth. On the most significant issue, there were no specific references to how health care challenges would be addressed, only that more can still be done by working with health care partners.
With the introduction of the budget immediately following the Throne Speech, the government is signaling its intent to continue along the path announced in the original budget in April of 2022. This focused on five main themes that included:
- rebuilding Ontario’s economy;
- working for workers;
- building highways and key infrastructure;
- keeping costs down; and
- a plan to stay open.
The Throne Speech highlighted many specific promises, previously announced, with an emphasis on health care.
- Build 30,000 new long-term care beds by 2028, with 31,705 new and 28,648 upgraded beds now in development.
- Investing nearly $5 billion over four years to hire the more than 27,000 new staff that will be needed to provide long-term care home residents an average of four hours of direct care per day by 2025.
- Call for the federal government to increase its share of provincial-territorial health-care spending from 22 per cent to 35 per cent through the Canada Health Transfer.
- Nearly 370,000 jobs currently unfilled, Ontario is facing a generational labour shortage with the lowest rate of unemployment since 1989.
- Ontario has the tools to manage the virus and live with current variants for the long term, without returning to lockdowns.
- Investing $1 billion more to expand home and community care.
- Make Ontario the leading electric vehicle production capital of North America. “From mining to manufacturing” Ontario will offer the full range of processes designed to build the EV vehicles of the future.
- Ontario has reduced the cost of doing business by $7 billion annually.
- Government is also breaking down barriers that prevent out-of-province workers and newcomers from finding good jobs in the trades.
- Enhanced authorities for the Mayors of Toronto and Ottawa. Strong-mayor systems will empower municipal leaders to work more effectively with the province to reduce timelines for development, standardize processes and address local barriers to increasing the supply of housing.
- Increases the minimum wage to $15.50 per hour on October 1, 2022.
What to Expect at Queen’s Park during this Summer Session
Now that the Throne Speech has been introduced, time is allotted to debate on the motion for an Address in Reply to the Speech. This will begin tomorrow and Members of the Legislature will have the opportunity to debate this motion.
The opposition parties may introduce amendments to the motion on the Speech from the Throne. If the opposition is unhappy with the Speech, expect to see amendments on topics that the opposition have continually attacked, such as the growing health crisis.
Today, after the Throne Speech presentation, the Finance Minister (re)introduced the Budget Bill. Members of the House will be able to debate the Bill at Second Reading and it is likely that the government will use time allocation to guarantee its quick passage.
If second reading passes, the Bill is then referred to the Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs for consideration and public hearings allowing Ontarians to give feedback. If the Bill passes committee it will be reported to the House for third reading debate before going to the final stage of Royal Assent. This is the reason the House has been recalled for this unusual summer sitting and the reason the Premier announced that he expected the House to return for up to five weeks.
Additionally, over these next five weeks, the Government and Members of the House will be able to introduce additional Bills. Backbench MPP’s will have the opportunity to introduce and debate private members’ business, while the Government might introduce legislation on key campaign promises that were not included in the new Budget Bill.
The House should then return to its regular schedule beginning in September. Look for this second term to try and make up lost time with a rash of new initiatives and the government focusing on getting Ontario moving again.
NDP (Official Opposition)
Interim NDP Leader, Peter Tabuns (Toronto-Danforth) blasted the government’s Throne Speech and Budget Bill. Tabuns noted that the government had the opportunity to table an updated budget but chose note to, even as inflation has increased and the health care crisis grows. The NDP prescribed a specific action plan to address the crisis in hospitals and supporting people against the rapid rise of inflation.
Liberal (Unrecognized Party)
Interim Liberal leader, John Fraser (Ottawa South), noted the ongoing issues in the health care system and that the government has delivered nothing to address them and Ontarians are not getting the care they need. He also stated that the government claimed they would bring in more foreign health professionals, but still has provided no statistics or plan to implement that. Fraser also pointed out that there was no plan outlined on climate change and environment, affordability, and rent control.
What This Means for You
On Wednesday, August 10th, the House will return to regular business which will include Question Period. It will also be the first time the newly elected MPP’s will take their seats in the House.
While not much will change on the Government side (except the increase in PC MPPs), the official opposition will now be led by Peter Tabuns and will be replacing Andrea Horwath who is resigning to run for Mayor of Hamilton. The debate on the Speech from the Throne will also begin Wednesday, and continue into early next week.
The House will also sit on Thursday, August 11th and will then adjourn for two sitting days, allowing the MPP’s to attend the Annual Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO) meetings in Ottawa the following week. The House will return to regular sittings on Wednesday, August 17th.
MPP’s have been told to expect a five-week session which would mean sitting through the Labour Day weekend until September 8th. With a large majority, the government should be able to meet this goal. The House will then adjourn for at least a week before returning on regular business. It remains to be seen how much other business will be introduced and what bills the government will introduce this summer. More than likely, the focus will remain on the budget with a resumption of regular business in September.