Ontario prorogation halts key hearings, bills

Opposition leaders are continuing to fume over Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty's decision to prorogue the provincial legislature on his way out the door of Queen's Park — a move that kills several key parliamentary proceedings and high-profile bills.

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Ontario Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak says prorogation will kill several important items of government business. (Nathan Denette/Canadian Press)

Opposition leaders are continuing to fume over Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty’s decision to prorogue the provincial legislature on his way out the door of Queen’s Park — a move that kills several key parliamentary proceedings and high-profile bills.

McGuinty, who told media assembled at a hastily called caucus meeting Monday evening that he would be relinquishing the premiership pending a Liberal leadership convention, also said prorogation of the legislature is necessary.

'For goodness sakes if you're going to hang up the skates, Dalton McGuinty, don't force the rest of us to take a holiday.'— Tim Hudak, PC leader

He said he had asked Lt.-Gov. David Onley to prorogue the legislature — an order that ends the current parliamentary session — in order to give his minority government the opportunity to work on reaching wage-freeze agreements with public-sector workers.

With the legislative session now ended, finance committee hearings into the costly power plant cancellations in the Greater Toronto Area are cancelled.

There won't be any committees either because the three parties have been unable to agree on their makeup under a minority government.

It's not clear exactly when the legislature will resume, although McGuinty said that's a decision that should be left to his successor. Under the Liberal constitution, the party has six months to hold a leadership convention.

But Liberal campaign co-chair Greg Sorbara told CBC News that the party will likely not wait more than three to four months before holding a leadership convention.

And Sorbara acknowledged the Liberals are well aware that their government may be short-lived once the legislature resumes.

"We don’t know how much longer the opposition parties will let this parliament last," he said Tuesday.

Hudak requests new session now

The committee probe into the Ornge air ambulance scandal is also shelved. Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak was not amused, and issued a letter to McGuinty formally asking that a new session of the legislature begin immediately.

"For goodness sakes if you're going to hang up the skates, Dalton McGuinty, don't force the rest of us to take a holiday," said Hudak Tuesday morning.

"There is no reason why the MPPs can't be at work today focusing on jobs and balancing the books."

Bills that were introduced in the house and are set to die include:

  • One that would give consumers a rebate on the provincial portion of the HST for certain home heating costs.
  • An anti-bullying bill that would include bullying prevention curricula and additional accountability measures in schools.
  • A bill that proposes the repeal of the public works protection act, which was used by police as justification for an extension of stop and search powers during the G20 summit in Toronto in the summer of 2010.

"People are pretty upset and pretty disappointed and in some places quite angry that the government has used this opportunity to once again take care of their own political interests," said NDP Leader Andrea Horwath Tuesday, who also wants the legislature back in session.

She had said earlier she doesn't believe prorogation takes the government off the hook for "the fiasco at the Oakville and Mississauga power plants."

Both Hudak and Horwath say that prorogation won’t kill the controversy over the cancelled gas plants.

The committee meetings may have been cancelled, but the Progressive Conservatives still want to get the full details on the cost of the cancellations.

"We’re not going to give up on that," Hudak said Tuesday during an interview with CBC’s Power & Politics.

With many questions still surrounding the gas plants, Horwath said the New Democrats also believe there is still information that needs to come out.

"What he’s basically killed is the process that was underway to get at the answers," she told CBC’s Power & Politics.

"But I’m not interested in letting this issue simply go by the wayside."

With files from The Canadian Press