Ford government trying to curb debate in legislature, NDP charges

Ford government trying to curb debate in legislature, NDP charges

The Ford government is looking at new measures that would allow it to pass bills faster — and also allow the premier to avoid questions addressed to him in the legislature.

And while the NDP plans to fight the reforms, saying they’ll lead to less public scrutiny, the changes have the support of the Liberal, Green and independent members.

“As it is, Doug Ford has done his best to prevent the people of Ontario from having any opportunity to weigh in on changes that impact them,” said NDP House Leader Gilles Bisson.

The reforms are “just about making the house work better, work smoother, (with) more opportunities for the independents to speak,” Government House Leader Paul Calandra said at Queen’s Park on Wednesday.

“We’ve put a number of proposals on the table and at this point we’re seeking feedback from the opposition members,” Calandra said. “It was never our intention to go unilaterally on these.”

New Democrat MPP Sara Singh said the government “wants to ram through legislation that they haven’t consulted on in the first place in order to pretend that they are getting their jobs done.”

Singh charged that a proposal giving the premier the option not to acknowledge questions directed at him — currently, he must stand and has the choice of referring the matter to the appropriate minister — will let Ford “pass the buck even further.”

“We haven’t seen the premier answering questions in the house unless they are put forth by one of his own backbench members,” she added,

Calandra said it’s “not the correct interpretation” when asked about the need to push bills through faster.

“We can make this place even better if we work together,” he said.

As for accusations about making it easier for Ford to avoid questions, Calandra said the premier “is answering a number of questions … the flow of the house has been very good almost the last two weeks now.”

Interim Liberal Leader John Fraser said his MPPs “agree with almost everything” that’s been proposed.

His party hopes to get in more questions and participation, given it lost official party status despite receiving 1.5 million votes in the 2018 election.

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“You’ve got to look at we need to get things done here,” said Fraser. “You need to look at your roles and change them to adapt.”

There’s nothing “particularly egregious” in the proposed changes, Fraser added. “I don’t think it’s all of a sudden going to make things so much faster for the government to get bills though.”

Kristin Rushowy
Rob Ferguson

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