PCs to tweak standing orders for the second time since taking office
The NDP released the PC’s proposed fleet of changes to the standing-order playbook, which governs parliamentary procedure and decorum.
While the Opposition says the government’s goal is to make it easier to ram legislation through due process, House Leader Paul Calandra says the changes are about making the house “work better” and will give Independent MPPs more speaking opportunities.
Some of the changes would automatically allow the government to call more than one stage of a bill in a day, so legislation could be introduced on a Monday and passed into law by Wednesday, according to NDP House Leader Gilles Bisson.
“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,” Bisson said in a statement this week. “Now the system that prevents much consultation is about to go from bad to worse.”
The NDP’s complaint about truncating debate in the legislature and during public committee hearings is nothing new. Since coming to office last June the PCs have time allocated most of their bills, something the Grits also did often — and is a breeze for majority-enjoying governments.
NDP co-deputy leader Sara Singh suggested a proposal removing the requirement for referral when ministers punt questions to their colleagues will allow Premier Ford to “pass the buck even further” and dodge accountability.
“We haven’t seen the premier answering questions in the house unless they are put forth by one of his own backbench members,” she told reporters Wednesday.
Calandra maintained Ford has been “answering a number of questions” in the two weeks since being back at the legislature.
There are some changes the NDP do like, such as limiting the time to introduce visitors to five minutes, and enshrining members’ use of cellphones and laptops in the chamber, as long as they’re on silent, not used as a prop, camera or recording device and aren’t disruptive — something that is currently only convention.
The legislative assembly committee has long studied the use of technology in the chamber, including whether to allow MPPs to read from their screens when speaking, which isn’t allowed. The PCs proposed changes don’t specify reading from digital devices.
Calandra said he still hopes to work with his fellow house leaders on the changes and that they will not be finalized for another few weeks.
Independent MPP Randy Hillier told Queen’s Park Today he didn’t consider the proposed changes to be as egregious as last year’s, which included scrapping a popular filibuster mechanism and increasing the requisite number of seats for recognized status to 8 to 12.