What's ON: The week ahead in Ontario politics (November 15-19)

MPPs return, highway politics, and debating the fall economic statement
By Daniel Kitts - Published on Nov 15, 2021
NDP Leader Andrea Horwath intends to put forward a motion in the legislature today targeting the government's record on pocketbook issues. (Jack Boland/CP)

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Every Monday, TVO.org provides a primer on what to look for in the coming week in Ontario politics, and features some stories making news now.

Here’s what we’ve got our eye on:

Queen’s Park Keywords

They’re back: After a one-week hiatus for Remembrance Day week, the Ontario legislature is back in session starting today. MPPs will meet at Queen’s Park for the next four weeks until the winter break begins the week of Dec. 13.  

Skilled trades: Ontario is currently short about 14,000 construction trades workers, and the government’s fall economic statement committed $90 million over the next three years to encourage more people to get a career in skilled trades. The Toronto Star looks at a program that is helping people do just that.

Highway politics: The Globe and Mail takes a deep dive into the politics behind the Progressive Conservatives’ drive to get Highway 413 and the Bradford Bypass built – and the debate over whether the road projects make long-term sense.

House prices: CBC News reports the polling firm contracted to the Progressive Conservative caucus is probing voters for their views on the cost of housing and what the provincial government should do about it. In a survey being conducted by Campaign Research, respondents are asked to describe the affordability of owning or renting a home, the importance of housing affordability as an issue, and to select "the main reason that housing is unaffordable" from a list. 

A man filming in The Agenda studio

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Child care: Federal Minister for Families, Children and Social Development Karina Gould says Ontario has not yet provided details on how it would spend money being offered by Ottawa for a $10-a-day childcare program. The federal government has offered $10.2 billion dollars, which it says is based on the number of children aged zero to 12 in Ontario and is in line with what other provinces have already accepted. The provincial government maintains the offer is not enough and more money is needed. 

Order of business

Here is some of what the legislature is scheduled to discuss this week:

  • Monday: It’s an opposition day, and NDP Leader Andrea Horwath is scheduled to introduce a motion calling on the government “to end its low-wage policies and develop a meaningful plan to tackle Ontario’s cost-of-living crisis by restoring the lost earnings of workers affected by the Premier’s minimum wage freeze; taking real action on unaffordable rent and soaring home prices; working with the federal government to implement $10-a-day childcare; providing financial assistance for small businesses affected by the pandemic; and keeping its promises to lower the cost of hydro, auto insurance and gasoline.” There will also be debate on Finance Minister Peter Bethlenfalvy’s fall economic statement.
  • Tuesday: Debate on the fall economic statement will continue, and there will also be discussion of Scarborough Centre PC MPP Christina Mitas’s private member’s bill, The Change of Name Amendment Act. As well, the legislature will take time to honour some former members who have passed away.
  • Wednesday: There will be debate on the fall economic statement, as well as Minister of Long-Term Care Rod Phillips’s Providing More Care, Protecting Seniors, and Building More Beds Act, and The Preventing Worker Misclassification Act, a private member’s bill by London West NDP MPP Peggy Sattler.
  • Thursday: There will be more debate on the fall economic statement. There will also be a ceremony in the legislative chamber where MPPs will be unveiling… something. I don’t know what it is, and Government House Leader Paul Calandra’s office wasn’t at liberty to tell me. But on Nov. 4, Calandra told the legislature it would be something all MPPs “will be very proud to see in the chamber.” He also gave a shout-out to former Liberal MPP and attorney general (and now federal MP) Yasir Naqvi, who Calandra said had initiated the process of what will be unveiled. Whatever it is.

Beyond the Pink Palace

COVID-19 case numbers: The province reported 666 new COVID-19 cases yesterday. The seven-day average for new cases was 563, up from 468 a week earlier.

Vaccination gap: Ministry of Health information obtained by the Toronto Star shows that 12-year-olds have the lowest rate of being fully vaccinated against COVID-19, 68 per cent, of any age group currently eligible to receive the vaccine in Ontario. That indicates getting shots into the arms of even younger children may be a challenge. The Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine is expected to be approved for kids between 5 and 11 in Canada within weeks. 

Chemical Valley: Ministry of Environment data released after inquiries by Global News shows the level of cancer-linked benzene is 44 times the ambient air quality criteria in the northern parts of Aamjiwnaang First Nation, located next to Sarnia's large collection of chemical plants and oil refineries. A study by the ministry examining links between air pollution and health outcomes in the area is expected to be completed this spring. Its conclusions could force Sarnia's industries to invest millions in refurbishing their plants, which some say could make them less competitive and put jobs at risk.  

Hog wild: The province’s Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry is keeping an eye on a group of wild boars – known as a “sounder” of boars – roaming around Pickering. The boars are an invasive species that can cause a great deal of damage to natural habitat and crops, so they are considered a concern. City of Pickering official Mark Guinto told CTV News the ministry is planning to bait and capture the boars.

Upcoming Ontario politics coverage on TVO

New provincial property assessments are set to come out sometime in the next year. After years of breakneck growth in housing prices, how will these new assessments affect the amount of property tax Ontario homeowners pay? The Agenda will explore that issue tonight on TVO at 8 p.m. and 11 p.m.

On Tuesday, listen to the latest edition of the #onpoli podcast, hosted by Steve Paikin and John Michael McGrath.

And on TVO.org, you can expect the latest from our regular political columnists, John Michael McGrath and Matt Gurney.

This article was updated at 6:45 a.m.

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