Spring session to resume with twice-weekly question periods, expanded COVID-19 committee
The debate is back.
Government and political sources tell Queen’s Park Today that starting next week, there will be back-to-back question periods in the chamber every Tuesday and Wednesday at least, until June 4 — which is when the house is scheduled to rise for summer.
An announcement is expected as early as today with a rundown of Tuesday’s sitting, which will likely see the emergency declaration re-upped for another 28 days.
Pandemic-related legislation will also be on the order paper; government and opposition house leaders have been working behind the scenes on consensus so that it can be passed with unanimous consent (and without much controversy). Details are scant.
The NDP called for an all-party select committee to study recovery efforts, but the PCs think that work can be done by an expanded standing committee (likely finance and economic affairs). That way Independent, Liberal and Green MPPs sans recognized party status could get a seat at the table (those parties aren’t automatically on fiscal committee rosters).
The government’s preferred standing committee would hear testimony from expert witnesses and draft a report with recommendations for recovery. That work could be done virtually.
NDP Economic and Finance critics Catherine Fife and Sandy Shaw want to go a step further, saying in a joint statement Thursday that adding a select committee would “take partisan politics off the table” and “be more nimble, able to report quicker and cover more ground.”
Unlike Finance Minister Rod Phillips‘ Jobs and Recovery cabinet committee, legislative committee work is readily available to the public.
Liberal Leader Steven Del Duca wants to double the debate with two extra virtual question period sessions a week.
“It is vital for Question Period to be held both in person and virtually — not only so that the government can properly be held to account, but so that MPPs from all parties can participate, both safely and more easily, regardless of where their riding is,” Del Duca said in a letter to Premier Doug Ford.
(Del Duca won’t be the one asking questions in the house since he doesn’t have a seat, but he has been putting out daily “virtual question period” releases on what he would ask.)
House leader Paul Calandra previously told Queen’s Park Today he isn’t keen on taking in-chamber proceedings online and while he’s not opposed to more frequent question periods, he’s confident they can take place in a physically distanced house.
The house leaders are also working on ways to involve MPPs from beyond the GTA. Those closer to the Pink Palace tend to be the ones on emergency house duty since they don’t have to travel far.