The Fall legislative session at Queen's Park will resume on Monday, September 14, 2015. What are the key policy and legislative issues likely to dominate debate?
THE POLICY AND POLITICAL ISSUES:
A number of key items will likely be the centre of attention around Queen's Park this fall. The top two are the negotiations with Ontario's secondary school teachers and the looming initial public offering of Hydro One. Both are top of mind in polling surveys and are key vulnerabilities of the Wynne government. And of course, the implementation of the Ontario Pension Plan will also dominate debate and news coverage this fall. Depending on the outcome of the federal election, it could continue to be a source of friction between Ottawa and Queen's Park. Now that PC leader Patrick Brown is a member of the Legislature with his by-election win on September 3rd in Simcoe North, he will be sure to pressure the Wynne government on these issues.
The Fall Economic Statement will also be a key event in the life of Queen's Park later this fall. With budget deficits still hovering around $8 billion, a possible recession and various government expenditures on the rise, it will be a challenge for the Minister of Finance to meet stakeholder expectations.
STAKEHOLDER CONSULTATION PROCESSES:
The expert panel leading the consultation on financial advisory and financial planning policy alternatives is scheduled to conclude its comment period on its consultation document on September 21. This process was designed to facilitate discussion on possible regulatory reforms to the financial planning and advisory sectors in Ontario.
Other Ministry of Finance consultations that will be of interest to many businesses include:
- A review of the mandates of the Financial Services Commission of Ontario (FSCO), the Financial Services Tribunal (FST) and the Deposit Insurance Corporation of Ontario (DICO). The Minister of Finance has appointed a three-member Expert Advisory Panel ("Panel") to consult relevant industry representatives, licensed market participants and consumers to make workable recommendations to the government by early 2016.
- On-going discussions with northern Ontario stakeholders on the Provincial Land Tax. It is designed to address inequities in the tax systems in Northern Ontario to invest further investment in key infrastructure.
- Draft legislation and regulations that would enable the establishment of a Cooperative Capital Markets Regulatory System is open for stakeholder comments. The comment period for the revised consultation draft legislation and draft initial regulations will run until December 23, 2015.
- The consultations on the Changing Workplace Review are considering how the Labour Relations Act and the Employment Standards Act could be amended to best protect workers while supporting businesses in a changing economy. The comment period ends on September 18, 2015.
- The Ministry of Munipcal Affairs and Housing is continuing its consultation on the Planning Act.
- The Ministry of Environment and Climate Change continues consultations on its greenhouse gas emissions Cap and Trade Program. Specifically, the Ministry is consulting with electricity sector stakeholders on the design of an emissions allowances and how they are to be allocated to co-generation electricity facilities and other industries that may be impacted by the program.
THE LEGISLATIVE AGENDA: KEY GOVERNMENT BILLS
- Bill 73 – the proposed Smart Growth for Our Communities Act is in second reading and a key piece of legislative initiative of the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing. It would set out clearer rules for land use planning, and give municipalities more independence to make local decisions.
- Bill 9 – second reading debate continues on An Act to amend the Environmental Protection Act to require the cessation of coal use to generate electricity at generation facilities. One part of the Ministry of Environment's climate change strategy.
- Bill 106 – the second reading debate begins on amendments to the Condominium Act, a key piece of consumer protection legislation governing the management of condominiums.
- Bill 109 – second reading debate to start on amending the various statutes in respect of employment and labour.
- Bill 112 – second reading to begin on An Act to amend the Energy Consumer Protection Act, 2010 and the Ontario Energy Board Act. This act proposes to restrict door to door energy contract sales, among other matters.
- Bill 115 – second reading to start on An Act to enact the Representation Act and amendments to the Election Act, the Election Finances Act and the Legislative Assembly Act.
The fall will see the newly elected leader Patrick Brown devote his energies to positioning himself as the next Premier. His focus will be to attack the Premier on matters raised during the By-Election including:
- Reducing red tape and electricity prices;
- Building better roads and infrastructure; and
- Better fiscal management and deficit reduction.
Brow will also appoint a Deputy Leader and key critic roles in his "shadow cabinet". It is anticipated that former leadership candidates Lis Macleod, Monte McNaughton and Vic Fedeli will play key roles. These appointments will shape the priorities and tone of the official opposition.
Like Premier Wynne's campaigning for Justin Trudeau, Andrea Horwath, leader of the NDP, spent the last few weeks stumping for her federal counter-part Thomas Mulcair. However, when the legislature resumes on September 14, she will refocus her attention on a number of policy issues including:
- Job losses in the manufacturing sector and government support for small communities;
- Stopping the Hydro One privatization;
- Expanding child care;
- Addressing First Nations poverty and the recent deaths on remote reserves;
- Ending the health care services changes in northern Ontario;
- Confronting the labour issues and changes to school funding; and
- Residential care issues for disabled children.
In short, it will be a demanding fall session for the governing liberals with several high profile and controversial issues dominating headlines in the media. Combined with a new PC leader eager to set the agenda and show Ontarians he is ready to lead, expect heated exchanges and controversy on a daily basis.
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