What's ON: The week ahead in Ontario politics (October 25-29)

Busier restaurants, climate change, and Bill 13
By Daniel Kitts - Published on Oct 25, 2021
Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner will use a private member's bill this week to focus people's attention on climate change. (The Globe and Mail)

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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

Fewer restrictions: As of 12:01 a.m. today, restaurants, gyms, bars and several other types of businesses are able to operate without capacity limits or physical distancing. It’s the first time in more than a year that some businesses will be able to operate at full capacity, according to CTV News. Today’s change is the first step in the provincial government’s plan to hopefully have all pandemic measures lifted by the end of March.

Climate change: This morning at 9:30 a.m., Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner and Deputy Leader Diane Saxe, who was Environment Commissioner of Ontario until the Progressive Conservatives eliminated the job, will hold a press conference at Queen’s Park to “introduce a new transformative bill to address the climate emergency.”

Bill 13: As noted in the order of business section below, MPPs are scheduled to spend some of their week debating Bill 13, the Supporting People and Businesses Act. The proposed law is meant to make some pandemic era changes – such as bigger restaurant patios – permanent, and make licensing and regulations less onerous on small businesses. But environmentalists say the bill will also eliminate or weaken multiple laws protecting the environment. Effectively, “there are no measures in this bill that will benefit the environment,” Keith Brooks, Environmental Defence’s programs director, wrote in an email to iPolitics.

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"Right-to-disconnect": The Toronto Star is reporting this morning that Labour Minister Monte McNaughton will introduce legislation this week that, if passed, will require workplaces with more than 25 employees to develop internal right-to-disconnect standards, such as setting certain hours employees shouldn’t write or respond to email. The measure is intended to address the growing tendency of people to work at all hours due to the increased blurring between home and work life. 

No non-competes: As well, the Globe and Mail reports McNaughton will also put forward legislation to ban businesses putting non-compete clauses on employees. Non-compete clauses are used to prevent employees from leaving a job and joining a rival employer, in some cases for years. It's a measure that's often been applied to highly-skilled workers at technology companies, but is increasingly being used against workers in low-wage jobs. 

Order of business

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

  • Monday: This will be the second opposition day of the fall sitting, where the opposition determines the agenda instead of the government. NDP Leader Andrea Horwath will introduce a motion calling on the government “to take immediate action on a province-wide healthcare hiring and retention plan that includes the repeal of Bill 124 [which capped salary increases for public sector workers], more education and training opportunities, full-time hours, paid sick days for all health care workers, decent wages and the funding necessary to ensure sufficient staffing to prevent burnout, reduce wait times and ensure the high quality, timely care Ontarians deserve.” 
  • Tuesday: There will be debate on Bill 13, the Supporting People and Businesses Act, and Progressive Conservative MPP for Richmond Hill Daisy Wai will introduce a private member’s bill to proclaim Non-Profit Sector Appreciation Week.
  • Wednesday: Debate will resume on the Oct. 4 throne speech; Associate Minister of Children and Women's Issues Jane McKenna will make a statement regarding children’s aid societies and Dress Purple Day; there will be more debate on Bill 13; and Progressive Conservative MPP for Scarborough Centre Christina Mitas will introduce a private member’s bill.
  • Thursday: There will be additional debate on both the throne speech and Bill 13. In addition, Green Party Leader and MPP for Guelph Mike Schreiner will submit his private member’s bill dealing with climate change.  

Beyond the Pink Palace

Lower case counts: The rolling seven-day average of new COVID-19 cases in Ontario is now 379, down from 465 last Sunday.

Cabinetry: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announces his new cabinet on Tuesday. With Ontario cabinet ministers such as Maryam Monsef and Catherine McKenna now out of politics, expect to see some new faces representing the province around the federal cabinet table. Also, don't be suprised to see some existing Ontario ministers change jobs: Campbell Clark of the Globe and Mail reports it’s widely believed Patty Hajdu, MP for Thunder Bay-Superior North, will stay in cabinet but will be moved out of the high-profile health portfolio. Oakville MP Anita Anand, on the other hand, may be in for a promotion: Seen as a rising star by the Liberals for her work obtaining millions of doses of COVID-19 vaccines as procurement minister, there’s talk she may take over health from Hajdu or be asked to take on a Department of Defence reeling from multiple instances of sexual misconduct in the ranks. Some other Ontario MPs that have been mentioned as possible cabinet picks include Marci Ien of Toronto Centre, Helena Jaczek of Markham-Stouffville, and Marie-France Lalonde of the Ottawa riding of Orléans. Both Jaczek and Lalonde served in the provincial cabinet of Kathleen Wynne. 

Upcoming Ontario politics coverage on TVO

Wednesday’s episode of The Agenda will discuss Liberal Leader Steven Del Duca’s promise to introduce ranked ballots and debate whether that is a better way to conduct an election than our current system. (For more, read John Michael McGrath’s column on Del Duca’s announcement). The Agenda airs weeknights on TVO at 8 p.m. and 11 p.m.

And on TVO.org, watch for new articles by our regular columnists, John Michael McGrath and Matt Gurney. You can also listen to the latest edition of the the #onpoli podcast, which publishes on Tuesday. 

This article was updated at 8:51 a.m. 

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