Your Question Period briefing: The 'new deficit party' edition

Your Question Period briefing: The ‘new deficit party’ edition

It is now time for oral questions.

Sex-ed issue promises to be as drawn out as adolescence

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath followed up on the deputy premier's remark Monday that LGBT issues, self-identity and self-expression will be featured in the fall curriculum. "Will the premier confirm that all information about sexual orientation, gender identity and LGBTQ families from the updated health curriculum will be taught in Ontario schools this coming September?" Horwath asked.

"That’s not up to us to decide in this chamber; it’s up to the people," Doug Ford replied, in a dodge that landed neatly on the key word of his campaign.

On Monday, Christine Elliott, second in the house only to Ford, confirmed Ontario's new sex-ed curriculum will include discussion of "LGBT issues" and consent — but also said the content will depend on what the government hears from parents in province-wide consultations. Her remarks added a measure of clarity to Education Minister Lisa Thompson's comment last week that students will learn about consent, cyber safety and gender identity this fall, before backtracking in a statement saying the government has “made no decisions on what the new curriculum will look like.”

'Helluva lot of wasted money'

Calling for details on the ultimate cost of the mass resignation of the Hydro One board and CEO, Horwath also warned that ratepayers could be on the hook for $100 million "to a dirty coal-burning American power plant" if the board shake-up puts Hydro One's purchase of the Washington-based utility Avista in jeopardy.

"We ran on getting rid of the CEO of Hydro One. We ran on getting rid of the entire board," Ford said. "Promises made, promises kept."

Horwath called the potential expense to Ontarians, on top of the $9-million compensation package for departing CEO Mayo Schmidt, a "helluva lot of wasted money."

Meanwhile, NDP MPP John Vanthof used the provincial financial accountability officer's newly tabled annual report to accuse the Ford government of continuing down the privatization track that the Liberals set Hydro One on in 2015.

Energy Minister Greg Rickford shot back, "I thank the member from the new deficit party — the New Democratic Party — for his question."

Retorted New Democrat Michael Mantha on the perils of privatization: "Holy moly!"

When Vanthof followed-up to ask why the government is maintaining the former Liberal government's "Fair Hydro Plan," Rickford claimed not to have paid attention to it.

"I’ll just turn to my colleagues and ask for forgiveness that I don’t pay attention to Liberal energy policy: Liberal energy policy that the NDP supported time and time again, that saw their hydro rates either go up or be subsidized for the next generation, which would be my little girls Abigail Mae and Poppy Kate," he said. "We don’t stand for that on this side of the House."

Equal access to law enforcement

Guy Bourgouin, NDP MPP from the new northern riding of Mushkegowuk—James Bay, demanded Ford give First Nations communities equal access to the law in the form of a funding commitment for First Nations police. The former union representative said Attawapiskat First Nation has faced a flood of illicit drugs and alcohol, with the Nishnawbe-Aski Police struggling to patrol a vast jurisdiction and the Mushkegowuk Council declaring an emergency. "It takes First Nations police a week to get a warrant from a justice of the peace. It's so bad that the chief and other community leaders have had to seize the contraband themselves," Bourgouin said.

Rickford, who is also Indigenous Affairs minister, said he is "sensitive" to the challenges confronting isolated First Nations communities. "We also acknowledge that the Trudeau government made it their priority to legalize marijuana without considering some of the consequences, and, in the view of many Indigenous leaders, it was brought along too fast and too hard without appropriate consultation," Rickford said.

"That’s not what this is about ... Will somebody get him the book on how this place works?" heckled NDP MPP Gilles Bisson.

Rickford added that he hopes to discuss the issue with Bourgouin.

The federal government has allocated $15 million to First Nations police in the province. New Democrats have proposed to add $30 million more.

Truth and reconciliation

NDP MPP Suze Morrison highlighted the cancellation of a planned trip to Toronto for First Nations elders and educators to participate in a writing session for the truth and reconciliation curriculum, one of the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

"Ministry staff have said that the move was taken in order to meet the directive by this government to find savings across the public service," Morrison said, asking when writing will resume. Rickford conceded that "we put this on pause to be a little cost-conscious," but said the meetings will continue "in short order."

'Ironclad'

Liberal MPP Marie-France Lalonde asked the premier to confirm whether the Progressive Conservative government would make good on a campaign pledge to fund phase two of the Ottawa light-rail transit project.

Waxing analogous, Transportation Minister John Yakabuski called the government's commitment to expand transit "as ironclad as the steel rails that move trains across this country." He said "there is no question" Queen's Park will partner with the city of Ottawa on the second phase of the LRT.

Christopher Reynolds

QP BRIEFING Reporter

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