Ontario government denies plans to shut down legislature by Wednesday

The Doug Ford government is denying that it had plans to shut down the Ontario legislature by Wednesday.

Government says it 'presented options to adjourn the Legislature' to keep MPPs, staff safe

Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath says the provincial government has informed the NDP of its plans to shut down the legislature as the province continues to grapple with a surge in COVID-19 cases. (Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press)

The Doug Ford government is denying that it had plans to shut down the Ontario legislature by Wednesday.

In a statement on Sunday, the office of Government House Leader Paul Calandra said the legislature will be in session this coming week. The legislature is currently scheduled to sit until June. 

"Last week Minister Calandra was very clear in the House that the Legislature would be in session this coming week, which it will be," his office said in the statement.

Earlier on Sunday, the NDP said in a news release that the government informed it of plans to shut down the legislature by Wednesday.

According to Calandra's office, however, Calandra met with opposition house leaders who had requested that the province consider instituting a virtual parliament. The office said the province decided that such a parliament would not result in a drop in the number of legislative assembly staff required when the legislature is in session.

"In the spirit of the opposition requests, the Government presented options to adjourn the Legislature to keep those who support elected officials safe," the office said. "As is typical, the NDP have used this as an opportunity to score the cheapest of political points in the midst of a pandemic."

Horwath, for her part, has said the NDP and its MPPs will refuse to co-operate with any suspension of the legislature until the provincial government has implemented public health measures that would curb the spread of the novel coronavirus.

She said the NDP has written a letter to the government saying it will not co-operate with any suspension until the province:

  • Institutes paid sick days.
  • Cancels all extraordinary police powers announced on Friday in their entirety.
  • Shuts down all non-essential workplaces.
  • Pledges a "meaningful package of supports" for businesses and workers affected by closures.

"People are laying in crowded hospital hallways, struggling to breathe, and many thousands more will join them if we don't replace Doug Ford's plan," Horwath said in the release.

"Black, Indigenous and racialized people know check stops and carding will target them, because it always has. Businesses are already on the brink and more will go under without help. People's lives are on the line."

On Saturday, the government rescinded some of the police powers it announced on Friday. Now, police will no longer have the right to stop any pedestrian or driver to ask why they are out or request their home address, Solicitor General Sylvia Jones said in a written statement on Saturday evening.

Instead, she said, police will only be able to stop people who they have reason to believe are participating in an "organized public event or social gathering."

Ontario in crisis, NDP says

Horwath said the NDP is prepared to talk about how the parties can run the legislature with a minimum number of MPPs and staff and with strict health protocols.

"We are not prepared to help Doug Ford go home, leaving a police-state in place while he allows COVID-19 to run rampant, overrun hospitals, and steal the lives of Ontarians who would otherwise make it through this," she said.

"Our province has never faced such a crisis as it is today. For the people elected to protect and support Ontarians to walk away from their duty at this time is wrong, and I won't do it."

Liberal Leader Steven Del Duca accused Ford of "hiding from the outrage he caused with his reckless actions and anti-science agenda."

With files from The Canadian Press