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Back at the Pink Palace
In this edition: what to expect as MPPs return to the Park, Speaker Arnott again, masks off in schools, Steini out and Horwath in, May for leader, an NDP ultimatum
Happy Tuesday. Welcome to POLICORNER. MPPs are back at Queen's Park. Did you have that “night before the first day of school sleepless thing?” What are you watching for during this summer session? Send us a note.
In this 8 minute read, MPPs return to Queen’s Park — what to expect in this upcoming summer sitting. Arnott returns to the Speaker’s chair and what’s next for Tangri. Masks will not be mandatory in September. Brown exits the Science Table. An incoming Elizabeth May bid to reclaim her old job. Plus, meet the new Grit critics.
Queen's Park watchers rejoice: MPPs returned to the Legislature for the first sitting day of the new Parliament. Here's what came down and what to expect:
MPPs elected a familiar face to the Speaker's chair. PC MPP Ted Arnott — who served in the role during the last Parliament — was voted in during a secret ballot election. Arnott — the longest serving MPP in the Legislature — was challenged by caucus mate Nina Tangri for the top job.
Tangri — who would have become the first female Speaker — was privately supported by Premier Doug Ford and had been expected to win.
Arnott was nominated by NDPer Catherine Fife and Liberal Lucille Collard. NDP captain Peter Tabuns later told reporters that he was surprised that Arnott won the Speakership race despite being nominated by Opposition parties. Tabuns declared that the Premier “doesn't have the support of his caucus on a very substantial question.” Ford congratulated Arnott on his election.
Rumor has it that Tangri will be named as a Deputy Speaker. She would be the only Tory MPP — other than Lisa MacLeod who is “temporarily taking a breather” — without additional responsibilities. We reached out to the government on an impending Tangri appointment but did not hear back.
Next on the agenda is the Throne Speech. The speech — to be delivered at 1pm — is expected to reiterate the Tories' election commitments and lay out the government's priorities in the upcoming session. Finance Minister Peter Bethlenfalvy will retable the spring budget after the Throne Speech is delivered. The budget was introduced before the election and is expected to include “a few tweaks.” That will include a promise to raise ODSP rates by 5 per cent.
Opposition parties laid out their priorities ahead of the speech:
The NDP wants the province to table a new budget “that deals with the health care crisis and with exploding inflation.” The party will introduce the Stay Home If You Are Sick Act — which would provide workers with ten paid sick days — for the third time on Wednesday.
The Grits have put labour shortages in the healthcare system top of mind. The party will also focus on “affordability” and the “uncertainty” around the return to school in September. Interim leader John Fraser said they will do “everything we can” to hold the Tories to account.
The Green Party accused the Premier of going AWOL since winning the election. “Do your job,” captain Mike Schreiner told Ford. The party has a list of priorities — including calling on the government to repeal the wage capping Bill 124 and double ODSP rates.
Expect this summer sitting to be an eventful one with two parties on the lookout for a new leader and a larger government caucus.
The Legislature is back in the midst of contract negotiations with the education unions and amid speculation that the Ford government may table legislation to declare teachers “essential” and eliminate their power to walk off the job. One union source brushed off the possibility as “all rumors” originating from the government’s push for teachers and workers to be back in the classroom in September.
The Ford government is also expected to introduce municipal reforms that would provide mayors with enhanced powers. Municipal Affairs Minister Steve Clark told reporters that more on the legislation — which is expected to be tabled within days — is coming “very soon.”
There’s a new Legislature seating plan. A number of PCers will sit on the Opposition size due to the size of the majority government. The frontbench is largely unchanged from the previous Legislature with two new faces — Infrastructure Minister Kinga Surma and Natural Resources Minister Graydon Smith — now seated at the front. Official Opposition leader Peter Tabuns will notably not sit across from Premier Doug Ford. See the floor plan here.
Masks will not be mandatory for students when schools resume in September. Deputy Education Minister Nancy Naylor made it official in a Friday memo to school boards we obtained. “Most health and safety requirements remain unchanged from the previous direction provided,” Naylor said. The province will continue to provide masks for students and staff who “choose to use them” and boards will continue to have access to rapid antigen tests. School boards are to continue to monitor absence rates and are recommended report high rates to local public health units.
Liberal MP Ruby Sahota will not run for Brampton Mayor in the upcoming municipal election. Sahota said that her “work in Ottawa is not yet complete” and that “the greatest benefit I can be to Brampton is by advocating at the federal level.” The deadline to join the race is a week from Friday. Background on the mayoral race in Brampton here.
As we first reported: Former NDP captain Andrea Horwath is officially running for the top job in Hamilton. Horwath said it would be a “really exciting time to be part of the realizing of the great opportunities that are ahead of us.” Horwath is expected to resign her seat as early as this week. We had the scoop on her planned bid.
Green MP Elizabeth May is gearing up for a bid to reclaim her old job as party captain. Details are scant but Alex Ballingall of the Toronto Star scooped the news on the former longtime captain’s plan. She is expected to propose a joint leadership model for the party. The party will officially unveil a full list of candidates at the end of the month.
Chief of the Infectious Diseases Division at SickKids Dr. Upton Allen is taking over from Dr. Steini Brown as head of the COVID-19 Science Table. Brown became the face of regular modelling updates and is stepping aside to focus on his work as Dean of the Dalla Lana School of Public Health. Brown called it “an honour and privilege to serve,” adding that “it’s time for me to focus fully on my academic work.”
Liberal leader John Fraser unveiled new critic roles for the party's eight-member caucus. Here are the new roles:
Stephen Blais — Caucus Chair and Critic for Municipal Affairs and Housing, Transportation, and Economic Development and Trade
Stephanie Bowman — Critic for Finance, Infrastructure, and Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs
Lucille Collard — House Leader and Critic for the Attorney General, Solicitor General, and Francophone Affairs
Ted Hsu — Critic for Energy, Mines, Natural Resources and Forestry, and Citizenship and Multiculturalism
Mitzie Hunter — Deputy Leader and Critic for Education, Labour, Immigration, Training and Skills Development, Treasury Board, and Women’s Social and Economic Opportunity
Mary-Margaret McMahon — Critic for Environment, Conservation and Parks, Tourism, Culture and Sport, Seniors and Accessibility, and Public and Business Service Delivery
Dr. Adil Shamji — Critic for Health, Northern Development, Indigenous Affairs, and Colleges and Universities
Susan Holt was elected as leader of the New Brunswick Liberal Party. Holt is the first woman to win the party leadership and will run against Premier Blaine Higgs in the upcoming provincial election.
WHAT WE’RE READING
TORONTO STAR: “Jagmeet Singh warns Justin Trudeau their deal is dead if no dental plan by year’s end” by Althia Raj
THE CANADIAN PRESS: “Liberals plan temporary solution to dental care program, sources say” by Laura Osman
CBC NEWS: “Charest, Baber and Aitchison keep it courteous in final Conservative leadership debate” by Guy Quenneville
GLOBE AND MAIL: “Unifor’s election a defining moment for Canada’s largest private-sector union after ethics controversy” by Vanmala Subramaniam
GLOBAL NEWS: “Sex abuse ‘code of silence’ still runs deep in Canadian sports, says former league head” by Amanda Connolly
THE NARWHAL: “Public inquiry reveals how the Ottawa LRT became the wildest ride in town” by Fatima Syed
Last edition’s answer: Fred Eisenberger, Vito Sgro and George Rusich were the three candidates who won the most votes in the last Hamilton mayoral race.
THIS WEEK’S QUESTION: Dave Levac — the longest serving Speaker of the Legislature — was first elected in a race against another MPP who was supported by former Premier Dalton McGuinty. Know the name of Levac's challenger? Send us a note with your answer.
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