Sam Oosterhoff was at Queen’s Park Tuesday, but hadn’t yet been sworn in as an MPP — which allowed him to avoid a conflict with Progressive Conservative Leader Patrick Brown over the vote on Bill 28, the All Families Are Equal Act.
Oosterhoff told QP Briefing he doesn’t support the bill, even though Brown had promised his caucus would vote in favour of it.
Oosterhoff didn’t dodge the vote by delaying his swearing in, he said, but he guesses “we’ll never know” how he would have voted if he’d been able to get sworn in on time. The bill gives legal recognition as parents to both partners in same-sex couples, without making them go through the legal process to adopt their own children.
The young-MPP-to-be wouldn’t say if he has any reservations about same-sex couples being parents, but he did recount a tale about what he learned as a camp counsellor.
Oosterhoff, 19, will become the youngest MPP in Ontario's history when he's sworn-in Wednesday morning. He was elected in Niagara West - Glanbrook with a solid majority in a byelection earlier this month. He beat out Tory heavyweights, including party president Rick Dykstra, to secure the nomination. He also came under fire in the press for dodging some questions during the campaign.
A transcript of his one-on-one interview with QP Briefing follows.
Q: I’m told you’re being sworn tomorrow. Is that right?
A: That is correct.
Q: I’m sure you know Nathalie Des Rosiers did her swearing-in ceremony over the weekend and was introduced in the house Monday morning. Why did it take you longer?
A: Long story short, I actually had a niece born on Monday and her name is Rose Lynda and she’s very cute. And I wanted to make sure that my brother and my sister-in-law were able to make it out and make sure I could have as much of my family here as possible. A first swearing-in only happens once, and I wanted to make sure I could have everyone that was very important and instrumental in my race and my run to attend. It’s quite a historic event for a lot my family and some people would not have been able to attend. It’s good that they’re able to make it out.
Q: Patrick Brown said the delay was because you’re planning a celebration, is that not quite right then?
A: Yeah, I would say it was more just making sure people were able to attend the celebration.
Q: There’s been some suggestion that you were trying to avoid a vote on Bill 28. Is that right?
A: No. I do not support the legislation. I think it’s a poorly crafted piece of legislation. Although it attempts to correct and streamline certain discrepancies in current family law, I think it was clumsily crafted and I think the PC caucus made very a practical, very competent amendments proposal that was shot down by a Liberal government that I think is out of touch with people, that has become quite arrogant, that I think is attempting to use this piece of legislation to distract from very real issues that are affecting all families: soaring hydro rates, cuts to health care, and matters that issue [sic]. I’ve done my best to be very clear on this issue, but I don’t think that was part of the consideration.
Q: The amendment you’re talking about was to allow people to choose to be referred to as mother, father or parent, is that right?
A: That’s correct.
Q: Is that your only complaint about the legislation? What else was poorly crafted?
A: I have concerns because I think it opens up, it creates, a scenario where children can be the subject of litigation. What I mean is that it allows for up to four parents and I think that’s concerning for the child; if we have family reduced to a contractual agreement, the child could be the subject of litigious actions, I think. We have to be very careful with how we’re doing this. I think there are some very good components to the legislation. I think we should be making it easier for couples to adopt, for same-sex couples, but we need to make sure we’re looking at all the impact of legislation such as this. I think we could have had better legislation, and that’s a concern of mine.
Q: Since you don’t support this legislation, and your caucus was told they would vote in favour of it — what will you do if you find yourself in another situation where your views are in conflict with the instructions of your leader?
A: You know what, that’s a hypothetical situation and I’m excited to work with the team that has a vision for a better Ontario, a vision of an Ontario that respects all families, a vision of an Ontario that we will be working very hard to have a bright future — and I’m excited to be working in that caucus.
Q: If you had been sworn in on time, how would you have voted?
A: I guess we’ll never know.
Q: I think the underlying assumption here is you might be somewhat not-in-favour of same-sex marriage and same-sex parental rights. Would you like to clarify any of that?
A: I think we need to treat everyone with dignity and respect and I personally have a deep amount of respect for everyone who wants to be a parent. And I think we need to be making it easier for people to be parents, and make adoption easier. I believe that — funny story, I was actually a counsellor at a camp and I had four kids that I was taking care of with a co-counsellor. A week of that and you realize the sacrifices people make to be parents. All I can do is commend anyone who’s willing to make that sacrifice to be a parent, because it’s a very giving task. I commend everyone who wants to be a parent, and I think we should be doing everything we can to make it easier to be parents.
Q: Do you have any reservations about same-sex couples being parents?
A: You know what? I think we need to make sure that children are well taken care of, we need to make sure that parents are able to do everything within their ability to make sure their children have all that’s necessary. I’m very much in favour of adoption. I’m very much in favour of making it easier for everyone to adopt children.
Q: I didn’t quite get a straight answer on that. Is that a yes, or no? Reservations, or none?
A: I think we need to make sure that everyone is treated with dignity and respect and I have respect for all parents.
Q: What can you tell me about the swearing-in tomorrow. When will it be? Who will be there? Press invited?
A: It will be around eight o’clock in the morning and I’ll have a whole bunch of family and friends there as well. And I’m sorry, but you’re not invited.
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