Ontario Liberals attempt to reboot with throne speech today

On Thursday the Liberals prorogued the existing legislative session, giving them a chance to re-establish their priorities in the wake of dropping poll numbers and a byelection loss.

Dropping poll numbers and a byelection loss mean the government is trying 'to change the channel'

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne, who shuffled her cabinet in June, prorogued the legislature on Thursday. (Eduardo Lima/Canadian Press)

Ontario's provincial government is kicking off the fall with a new legislative session and a speech from the throne, which will be delivered today at noon ET.

MPPs were already scheduled to return to Queen's Park after their summer break. But they won't be picking up exactly where they left off: on Thursday the Liberals prorogued the existing legislative session, giving them a chance to re-establish their priorities after a difficult summer.

"We will continue to build Ontario up in a way that is responsible and sustainable, both environmentally and financially," government house leader Yasir Naqvi said last week.

Lost longtime Liberal stronghold

Naqvi also announced that all Liberal bills remaining from the previous session will be returning, perhaps with some amendments — including a much-discussed bill to ban politicians from engaging in most fundraising activities, which will be reintroduced this week.

Observers say the move makes sense for a government that is halfway through its term and stinging from a byelection loss in Scarborough-Rouge River — a longtime Liberal stronghold — at the beginning of the month.

"It's now or never," says Ryerson University's Myer Siemiatycki. With less than two years left in her government's mandate, this is the last for the premier "to try to put in place measures that will reset public assessment."

Ontario PC Leader Patrick Brown called the decision to prorogue the legislature 'window dressing.' (Chris Young/The Canadian Press)

Few expect a major shift in direction, but a throne speech will give Wynne the opportunity "to try to recapture the ear and the agenda of the people of Ontario," Siemiatycki says. "They've been very much on the defensive."

"I guess the government is trying to some extent to change the channel," the University of Toronto's Nelson Wiseman told CBC News. "They know they're down — everybody can read the polls."

'Old, tired and self-interested'

That's typical, Wiseman says: governments "are usually the least popular two or two-and-a-half years into their terms."

Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath says Ontarians need to see 'action that makes a real difference' in the new legislative session. (CBC)

"The Wynne Liberals are an old, tired, and self-interested government that are desperately trying to frame a new narrative," Progressive Conservative Leader Patrick Brown said in statement last week, calling the throne speech "window dressing."

New Democratic Leader Andrea Horwath made similar comments on Friday, telling reporters: "For the government's reset to actually mean something we need to see action that makes a real difference in people's lives."

Energy bills an issue

Both opposition parties are expected to keep pressuring the government to lower electricity rates and halt the sale of Hydro One — issues on which they agree, and which drew attention this summer as a heat wave caused many Ontarians' bills to spike.

The Liberals will also need to try once again to reach a fee agreement with Ontario's doctors, who overwhelmingly rejected a tentative deal in August.

The Liberal government has indicated it will call the next provincial election sometime in the spring of 2018.

'They’ve been very much on the defensive,' says Ryerson University's Myer Siemiatycki. The throne speech is 'an attempt to change the topic of dialogue.' (Bruce Reeve/CBC)

With files from Philip Lee-Shanok, Lorenda Reddekopp and The Canadian Press