What's ON: The week ahead in Ontario politics (October 18-22)

Going after grassroots groups, a four-day work week, and big spenders at OLG
By Daniel Kitts - Published on Oct 18, 2021
Ontario Liberal leader Steven Del Duca says his party is interested in exploring the idea of implementing a four-day work week. (Frank Gunn/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 – again: MPPs return to the legislature today after a one-week break.

Gag on grassroots (?): Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing Steve Clark has been accused of using Ontario’s election finance laws to silence three grassroots organizations. The Toronto Star says Clark filed complaints with Elections Ontario, alleging the groups were “conducting unregistered third-party political advertising.” Two of the groups are protesting a proposed prison in Clark’s riding. The other is the Peaceful Parks Coalition, which describes itself as a volunteer group trying to ensure Ontario’s wildlife and wild spaces are protected. A spokesperson for Clark said the minister has received complaints from constituents about third-party political activities in his riding. The Star reports that Elections Ontario did find the Peaceful Parks Coalition were violating election finance laws, while the complaint against the two groups protesting the prison was found to be without merit.

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Four-day work week: Liberal Leader Steven Del Duca has pledged that if his party wins power in the next provincial election, his government will explore the idea of implementing a four-day work week in Ontario. Under such a system, employees would work the same number of hours, but over four days instead of five. “I want us to understand if it has merit here,” Del Duca said during a speech at the party’s annual general meeting on Sunday. “We’re a party that believes in science, expertise and evidence-based decision-making and so I want us to gather the facts in an open and transparent way.” Del Duca also promised to replace Ontario’s first-past-the-post voting system with ranked ballots.

Winning the lottery: An internal government audit has found salaries and spending are out of whack at Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation. For example, from 2015 to 2018, some OLG executives received raises of between 16 to 46 per cent, compared to raises of three to 10 per cent at other government-owned corporations. Also, the audit looked at a sample of items charged to corporate credit cards. It found 29 per cent of them did not comply with OLG’s corporate credit card policy, and the purchases should have been made by other means. In a statement to the Toronto Star, OLG said the credit card charges “were found to be legitimate work-related expenses,” and that a third-party review determined the salary increases fell within market rates for the broader public sector.

Vulnerable workers: The provincial government announced this morning that they intend to introduce legislation that will introduce more stringent regulations for temporary help agencies and recruiters. If passed, the legislation would require THAs and recruiters to have a license to operate in Ontario, and officers would be empowered to levy fines and penalties against unlicensed operators and force deceitful recruiters to repay illegal fees charged to workers. "From day one, my ministry has worked to ensure any employer who abuses the rights of their workers – no matter their passport – will quickly find our officers at their front door,” said Monte McNaughton, Minister of Labour, Training and Skills Development, in a press release. 

Order of business

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

  • Monday: It is the first opposition day of the fall session, where the opposition parties get to set that day’s agenda. The NDP plans to put forward a motion calling on the government “to place an indefinite moratorium on the issuing of new licences and the renewal of licences of for-profit long-term care providers and prioritize the development of not-for-profit long-term care in Ontario.” There will also be debate on Bill 5, The York Region Wastewater Act. (TVO.org’s John Michael McGrath actually wrote an article about this bill and why it matters).
  • Tuesday: The speech from the throne, delivered on Oct. 4, will be debated in the morning. In the afternoon, debate on the throne speech will continue, and NDP MPP Suze Morrison (Toronto Centre) intends to submit a private member’s bill. What that bill will be about was still to be determined when the legislature last sat on Oct. 7.
  • Wednesday: Debate on the throne speech will continue, and Liberal MPP John Fraser (Ottawa South) will introduce a private member’s bill. “I’m not sure which one it will be,” Government House Leader Paul Calandra told the legislature on Oct. 7. “I know he might have more than one, but I’m sure he’ll give us notice.”
  • Thursday: There will be debate on government notice of motion number 3, which proposes a tweak to the legislature's debate schedule. There will also be a private member’s bill from NDP MPP Laura Mae Lindo (Kitchener Centre). “Of course, that one still is yet to be determined as well,” Calandra said.

Beyond the Pink Palace

Lower case counts: Ontario logged fewer than 500 new COVID-19 cases for the seventh straight day on Sunday. The province’s seven-day average of new daily COVID-19 cases is about 428, compared to an average of 524 a week earlier.

Pandemic supports: While several federal programs to help people and businesses through the pandemic are scheduled to end later this week, there is talk they could be temporarily extended. Federal Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland said in an interview aired on Saturday by the CBC that she is currently consulting with economists, business and labour groups, her department and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on what should become of the programs.

Upcoming coverage on TVO

This week’s episodes of The Agenda include a discussion on Monday about what tenants can expect when the temporary province-wide rent freeze designed to help renters during the pandemic ends on December 31st. And on Tuesday, the program will offer insights into how the provincial parties are gearing up for the 2022 Ontario election. The Agenda airs weeknights on TVO at 8 p.m. and 11 p.m.

Some of what you can expect on TVO.org this week includes a rebuttal column to an opinion piece we ran earlier that argued the province should consider putting on hold plans to expand Toronto’s subway system. Also watch for new articles by our regular columnists, John Michael McGrath and Matt Gurney, and of course the #onpoli podcast, which publishes Tuesday.  

With files from John Michael McGrath.

Update: The item on legislation to protect vulnerable workers was added after this article was first published. 

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