Ontario legislature set to resume Wednesday

With their majority win behind them, Kathleen Wynne's Liberals get to work as the Ontario legislature resumes this week.

PCs to name interim leader and will the gas plant committee call Peter Faist and Laura Miller?

The legislature resumes its business on Wednesday, as Premier Kathleen Wynne prepares to lead the majority government. (David Donnelly/CBC)

With their majority win in the books, the Ontario Liberals begin the real work of governing as the legislature resumes this week.

The start of the legislature will include some pomp and ceremony but also some backroom manoeuvring as opposition parties, who failed to make gains in the election, seek ways to hold the Liberals to account.

Here's a quick look at what's to come:

Speaker selection

After the new MPPs are officially sworn in, they will have to elect a Speaker who will take on the prestigious — though at times thankless — job of keeping MPPs in line in the legislature.

Members rumoured to be in contention for the job include Liberals Dave Levac, who held the position before the election was called, and Shafiq Qaadri. Tory Rick Nicholls and New Democrats Paul Miller and Cheri DiNovo are also vying for the job.

The Speaker is allowed to belong to a political party, but is expected to be impartial as the referee of the legislature. Once elected, they are "dragged" — flanked by the premier and the Opposition leader — to the ornate carved chair at the front of the chamber as a symbolic gesture of their reluctance to take the job.

The dragging tradition dates back to the early days of British Parliament, when the Speaker in the House of Commons had to deliver any bad news to the monarch and sometimes lost his head in the process.

But it's become a much sought-after job in modern times, with such perks as an apartment in the legislature.

Tories to pick interim leader

The Tories will choose an interim leader Wednesday to take over for Tim Hudak, who is officially stepping down today after his party's poor showing in the election.
Tim Hudak will officially step down as party leader on Wednesday. Whitby-Oshawa MPP Christine Elliott has already announced she will enter the race to be his successor. (Chris Young/Canadian Press)

Veteran Progressive Conservatives Jim Wilson and John Yakabuski are expected to throw their hats in the ring.

So far only Whitby-Oshawa MPP Christine Elliott has announced a leadership bid though there's a handful of other names being mentioned.

Legislation

The biggest priority for the Liberals will be implementing the left-leaning budget that triggered the election. Finance Minister Charles Sousa has promised to re-introduce it on July 14 and this time, it's all but certain to pass as the Liberals have a majority of seats in the legislature.

Wynne has pledged to re-introduce other government bills that died when the election was called, such as legislation aimed at improving the province's Ornge air ambulance service, which has been embroiled in a spending scandal for more than two years.

Those bills that can't be introduced before the summer break, which still hasn't been determined, will be revived in the fall, said cabinet minister Tracy MacCharles.

"I think we're all very interested to see legislation return," she said.

Gas plant committee probe

Wynne has promised to allow an all-party committee to continue its work examining the deletion of emails related to two cancelled gas plants, which is estimated to cost up to $1.1 billion.

Police are currently conducting a criminal investigation, alleging that hard drives in the premier's office were wiped before Wynne formally took office.

The committee was supposed to hear from Peter Faist, a computer expert who was on contract with the Liberals, and his girlfriend Laura Miller — a high-ranking official in the premier's office — about allegations that he was given a special all-access password from Miller's boss to wipe the hard drives. The election call put the kibosh on their testimony.

Wynne said the committee could resume its work, but should move on to completing their report rather than hearing from more witnesses.

The Liberals will have a majority on the committee, which means the opposition parties who want to hear from Miller and Faist will have little say in the matter.

"How do you write a report without some of your key witnesses actually not having been before the committee?" said NDP house leader Gilles Bisson. "So for the premier to say, 'oh, we heard from everybody, we're fine, just write a report,' well, it's going to be a report with a great big hole in it."

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