Ontario Legislature resumes for 1st time since Doug Ford elected
Ford becomes first rookie MPP to enter chamber as premier since 1934
Premier Doug Ford and his Progressive Conservative MPPs sat in the Ontario Legislature for the first time since their decisive majority election victory last month.
The new session at Queen's Park began Wednesday, with the Ford government calling the legislature for a rare summer sitting primarily to repeal Ontario's cap and trade law and to send striking York University teaching assistants back to work.
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The new PC government also says it will cancel a wind power project in Prince Edward County that got its permit to proceed during the election campaign.
"These three priorities send a clear and serious message about what you can expect from a Doug Ford PC government," said House Leader Todd Smith in a news conference on Tuesday. "We're prepared to act, and we will always put the best interests of the people first."
Ford became the first rookie MPP to enter the chamber as premier since the 1930s, when Liberal Mitch Hepburn was elected in his first provincial campaign. Nearly all of Ontario's other premiers served as MPPs for years before landing the province's top job.
The only item on the legislative agenda on Wednesday was the election of a new speaker. Four Tory MPPs vied for the post, including Ted Arnott, Randy Hillier, Jane McKenna and Rick Nicholls.
Arnott, who represents Wellington-Halton Hills, was chosen by secret ballot.
The speaker is paid $152,913 a year, more than 30 per cent above the base salary for MPPs, which has been frozen since 2008.
Just elected as the new speaker, <a href="https://twitter.com/TedArnottMPP?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@TedArnottMPP</a> is ceremoniously dragged to the chair <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/onpoli?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#onpoli</a> <a href="https://t.co/OFLa1t8Zqb">pic.twitter.com/OFLa1t8Zqb</a>—@CBCQueensPark
The Ford government's first speech from the throne comes Thursday at 2 p.m., delivered by Lieutenant Governor Elizabeth Dowdeswell. The speech will lay out Ford's priorities, which are expected to match the themes of his successful election campaign.
The legislative work will then begin next Monday. Smith said the legislature needs to be recalled in the summer instead of its usual September sitting to deal with urgent issues that require the passage of bills.
He said Queen's Park will sit "for at least a couple of weeks." That will provide the first test of how the new premier and his ministers handle themselves in question period against the official opposition NDP, led by Andrea Horwath.
The Liberals fell one seat short of recognized party status, which means they will not be guaranteed daily participation in question period.
Ontario's first-ever Green Party MPP, Mike Schreiner, will take his seat as the member for Guelph.
Even without the legislature sitting, Ford's government has been taking action since it was sworn in June 29 by using cabinet's powers to end Ontario's participation in the cap and trade carbon market, halt reforms to police oversight, and delay part of an anti-scalping law.
New Democrat MPP Peter Tabuns slammed the moves Tuesday as "backroom deals and closed government. "
"I suspect this is not just a new government finding its feet, this is the style of this government," Tabuns told reporters at Queen's Park. "It's an indication of a government that doesn't like to do business in public, that doesn't want to be transparent, that likes backroom dealing."
The NDP has signalled it will oppose legislating an end to the York University strike, but all the NDP can do in reality is slow down the inevitable passage of the bill by the PC majority.