This week in Queen’s Park: MPP’s first column of 2017

TORONTO, Ontario – The Legislature returned to work on Tuesday with winter electricity disconnections at the top of the agenda. Depriving households of necessities such as heat, light, and the ability to cook food isn’t just costly; it’s inhuman.

The Government denied three attempts by my colleague MPP Todd Smith to pass immediate legislation to outlaw winter disconnections. The next day, however, the government introduced their own similar version at the morning bell, which passed with unanimous consent and put an immediate stop to winter disconnections.

The new session also saw changes in Committee assignments. I joined MPP Bill Walker on Justice Committee and we will work productively on issues such as corrections, community safety, access to justice, and others.

We began public hearings on Bill 59, which will create a licensing framework for home inspectors, reform payday lending, ban door-to-door sales of certain goods and address a variety of other consumer protection issues. I look forward to hearing further input from the many stakeholders affected by this legislation  and will prepare amendments next week.

The Government introduced Bill 89, Supporting Children, Youth and Families Act.  It is the outcome of years of consultations on child and family law reform, and a consequence of a childcare and aid system that is 32 years old and desperately needing change. Too many children and youth slipped through the cracks, and some paid the ultimate price, such as Katelynn Sampson and Jeffrey Baldwin. The bill also includes the essence of my private members bill by extending child care services up to the age of seventeen. At present, sixteen and seventeen year olds may not qualify for help from Children’s Aid and are not old enough to qualify for adult programs.  In many cases, these children are forced to drop out of school and turn to shelters and even crime just to survive.  That is not the Ontario we are so proud of.   

On Thursday, MPP Rick Nicholls’ bill on using school bus camera system evidence against drivers endangering our children and MPP Bob Bailey’s bill to ban the use of asbestos passed unanimously. The Legislature also expressed its condemnation of hate directed at our fellow residents who practice the Muslim faith. This has no place in Ontario: we are committed to peace, order, the rule of law and tolerance, regardless of our neighbour’s race, faith, language or any other trait. People just want to wake up in their bed in the morning, go to work to buy food and pay off their mortgage and have their children return home from school at night to a safe and secure home.

Next week I look forward to meeting municipal officials and stakeholders at the Ontario Good Roads Association conference. Rural Ontario is an essential partner in driving our Province’s growth and prosperity. This is a great opportunity for legislators to see how we can ensure long-term development for all Ontario communities.

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