Riding Report – The Prorogation of the Ontario Legislature

November 2, 2012

It has been just over a year since the last Ontario election and no one could have foretold the chain of events that would lead up to last month’s prorogation of the Legislature and the resignation of Dalton McGuinty and so far, two of his key cabinet ministers, Chris Bentley and Dwight Duncan. All a result of the work done by the opposition parties in uncovering the billions of dollars of waste by this government.

First, the Auditor-General exposed the economic and technical problems of the disastrous Liberal Green Energy Act, revealing that no comprehensive evaluation had ever been made on the impact of this multi-billion dollar commitment to solar and wind developments on the price of electricity and net job losses. Between 2005 and 2011, it has cost Ontario consumers over $1.8 billion to have our neighbours take our excess power, forcing us to spill water over our hydro dams to help limit the surplus, over $300 million of lost production in 2011 alone. It’s little wonder why our electricity rates are now the highest in North America and rising.

Next the Auditor-General released his report on the ORNGE Air Ambulance scandal, documenting the $100’s of millions wasted on lavish buildings, a dozen private, for-profit spin-off companies and the alleged kickbacks on the purchase of poorly designed, unneeded aircraft. Despite McGuinty’s resistance to a full inquiry, the opposition’s investigation revealed multi-million dollar salaries and ties back to the Premier’s office and Liberal party insiders, forcing an OPP investigation. A request by the Public Accounts committee for the release of insider documents has gone unanswered and is still awaiting a ruling by the Speaker, which is now blocked by the shutdown of the Legislature.

But it was the emerging truth about the cancellation of the Mississauga and Oakville Power Plants that finally brought down the McGuinty Government. Last May, the Estimates committee passed a resolution requesting the Minister of Energy to release all documents related to the cancellation. After months of delay and only under order of the Speaker, the Minister finally delivered over 36,000 heavily redacted, whited-out documents, but it was clear that important information was missing. After a week of debate and statements by the Premier and numerous ministers that all documents were released, the House approved a motion, demanding the Premier strike a Committee within 10 sessional days to call witnesses and investigate the true cost of the election seat-saver. On Friday, October 12, more than 20,000 additional documents were released with information visibly whited-out and documents clearly missing. Then within days of the deadline to strike the committee to review the power plant cancelations and the anticipated Speaker’s ruling to release all documents on the ORNGE Air Ambulance scandal pending, the Premier prorogues the legislature, to block the people of Ontario from finding out the true cost of their seat-saving decision, estimated in the National Post to be over $1.3 billion.

As we sat in the Legislature on that Monday, October 15, observing the government’s visible uneasiness to our inquiries, it made us wonder just what they were so desperately trying to conceal, what was worse than the 100’s of millions of dollars already disclosed in the incomplete documents. Was it the power plants or was it the contempt motion the Speaker was about to rule on, ordering the Minister of Health to release all documents concerning the ORNGE Air Ambulance scandal? We could see their determination to keep this information from the public and knew McGuinty was running out of options. The prorogation of the Legislature would cancel question period and stop committees from meeting, but that would only delay the inevitable embarrassing questions and the truth. His resignation will deflect attention over to the upcoming leadership race and give the new leader an excuse to call a spring election before he or she is required to reconvene the legislative committees that have the authority to get the facts. This just shows how entitled the Ontario Liberal Party feels to hide the truth from the people of Ontario.

The outright arrogance of the Ontario Liberals to cancel question period, stop debate on legislation and eliminate oversight committees is appalling. The Liberal move to prorogue the Legislature means that a year’s work, over 100 bills are now dead and the probes into the billion dollar ORNGE scandal and the multi-billion dollar power plant fiasco are both shut down. The Ontario PC’s have sent the Premier a joint letter requesting that he reopen Queen’s Park in order to get our province back on track. Our online petition is gathering many signatures. The ball is in McGuinty’s court – only he can re-open the Assembly and resume its important law-making responsibilities.

On the positive side, I will be able to spend more time in the riding, meeting and discussing issues with the people of Stormont, Dundas and South Glengarry. In the absence of the legislative finance committee for a second year in a row, I will be hosting meetings with community leaders to seek their input for the upcoming 2013 budget. Whether it is the unannounced cuts that we are seeing in our health services or social benefits, our office is open to help our residents in any way we can.