Canada Ontario legislature resumes with new tone after longest break in nearly 25 years
Ford government cuts funding to school councils
A provincial grant program intended to help get parents involved in schools is being cut considerably, leaving local school councils facing a substantial funding shortage. The Parents Reaching Out (PRO) grant is a provincial program that provides money to councils for small events designed to get parents engaged in the community. It had a cap of $1,000 per council per year. Last fall, the provincial government announced the grants were being paused and reviewed. Ministry officials recently told CBC the budget for the grants will be reduced to $1.25 million, roughly half the amount handed out in previous years.
TORONTO — Ontario's legislature returned Monday from an extended summer break, with politicians on their best behaviour in a delicate detente following a divisive federal election campaign.
Media barred from fireside chat with Premier Doug Ford
Media were not informed of the event until 8:26 a.m. on Wednesday morning just 34 minutes before the 9:00 a.m. chat was scheduled to begin .In an email Kayla Lafelice, the premier's director of media relations said, "this event is closed to media but I have managed to secure livestream capabilities for those who may be interested in watching."After subsequent calls to Lafelice and others with Ford's communications team Global News was told the event was closed to media following a request from CD Howe.
Gone were the endless standing ovations and loud heckling from both sides of the chamber that marked an overheated spring sitting, as the government hit a tonal reset after the longest recess in nearly a quarter century.
Politicians normally return for the fall session in early September, but the five-month break meant the house didn't sit during the federal election campaign.
What Justin Trudeau's win means for Doug Ford and his government
The results of the federal election can be viewed as both good news and bad news for Ontario Premier Doug Ford. First, the bad news.The way Ontarians voted suggests the Liberal brand remains rather strong in this province. Two thirds of the MPs chosen to represent Ontario ridings are Liberal. The Liberal share of the popular vote in Ontario (41.4 per cent) exceeded the share of the popular vote that Ford's Progressive Conservatives captured in the 2018 provincial election (40.6 per cent).By contrast, Andrew Scheer's Conservative Party captured the support of 33.2 per cent of Ontario voters on election day.
A subdued Premier Doug Ford called for unity across the province and across Canada.
"I've never seen the country so divided," he said.
Ford held an unannounced meeting Sunday with New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs, and spoke with Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe on the phone. He has also spoken to Quebec Premier Francois Legault and Alberta Premier Jason Kenney, he said.
"We all feel the same way," Ford said. "We need to unite this country, because what is good for Canada is good for Ontario."
Government House Leader Paul Calandra said the recent election is part of what prompted everyone to be more civil.
"I think we looked at the tone of the last federal campaign, we heard what people had to say about that and I think there is an effort on both sides to live up to what Ontarians and broadly what Canadians asked us to do — work together a bit better," he said.
Protesters Are Marching A Giant Doug Ford Around Queen's Park Right Now (VIDEOS)
It is Ford's first day back in office.Protestors have already begun assembling outside of Queen’s Park to greet Ford on Monday morning. Breakfast Television’s Tammie Sutherland reported that police began gathering at Queen's Park ahead of the planned protests, which started at 7:00 a.m. Numerous labour groups are scheduled to demonstrate as MPPs return to the legislature today.
That said, standing ovations won't be banned, Calandra said.
"I don't want to take the passion out of the place," he said. "(But) we've been here a year now on the government side...I think it's going to take a little bit more to get us up on our feet than it would have when we were all brand new."
Interim Liberal Leader John Fraser said Monday before question period that those changes would be nice, but what he wants is a change in priorities.
"Tone will not replace those things that Ontario's families depend on, the things that have been lost in the last year," he said, referring to cuts made by Ford's government, such as slashing teacher jobs.
NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said "time will tell" if the government members continue to behave.
"When people in Ontario see their hospitals funded properly, their long-term care homes funded properly, their kids getting what they need to graduate in school...that's when Ontarians will put on a happy face," she said.
Ford government attacks red tape in new bill, but environmentalists say it goes too far
The Ford government's first new legislation after a long summer break is aimed at reducing red tape and modernizing regulations, but there are worries that some of the proposed changes could weaken environmental protections.The bill, called the Better for People, Smarter for Business Act, was introduced on Monday at Queen's Park.
Horwath got in a dig about "finally" being able to ask Ford questions again, with her first question about the government's plan to cut 10,000 teacher jobs from the system due to higher class sizes.
Education Minister Stephen Lecce said a $1.6-billion attrition protection fund the government has set aside will be more than enough to ensure that no teacher involuntarily loses their job.
The resumption of the legislative session comes amid tough bargaining with the province's education sector. The unions representing high school teachers, elementary teachers, and English Catholic teachers are all holding strike votes. A strike by support staff was narrowly avoided earlier this month when the Canadian Union of Public Employees reached a deal with the province, agreeing to a one-per-cent wage increase for its 55,000 education workers.
Lecce has offered to scale back the province's push to increase class sizes — from 28 to 25 for high school — as part of bargaining with the Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation, but the union called it a "poison pill."
Labour unions and other activists organized a protest Monday to decry various cuts and changes enacted by the government, with dozens of vehicles and people encircling the legislature.
The major piece of legislation that the government left on the table before the summer break is one that would limit wage increases to an average of one per cent a year for three years for the broader public sector.
The government introduced a new piece of legislation Monday to eliminate and streamline regulations.
Ontario PCs To Spend $778 Million To Reverse Their Own Cuts .
TORONTO — The Ontario government is spending at least $778 million this year on programs it originally cut in its 2019 budget. Premier Doug Ford’s Progressive Conservative government said it would spend $163.8 billion this year in its fall economic statement introduced by Finance Minister Rod Phillips at Queen’s Park Wednesday. That’s up $400 million from the $163.4 billion the government said it would spend in its April budget. Some of this spending was covered by an already-accounted for contingency fund, according to the economic statement, which is why $1.3 billion in new spending is less than the increase in the “total expense.
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