End of the Year MPP Column

With 2012 coming to a close, it is time to reflect back on the year that has just passed. On a Legislative front many of this year’s activities focused on committees, such as those investigating both the problems at ORNGE air ambulance and the relocation of the gas plants.

In March the Auditor’s report confirmed some of the problems we had questioned at ORNGE air ambulance such as the fact that they had ordered aircraft in which paramedics could not perform CPR. In addition it was found that they ordered more helicopters than were required and the company from which they were purchased made a $5 million dollar payment to a for profit company set up by ORNGE. The Public Accounts Committee continued the investigation to determine what went wrong and how we can ensure that the services like the air ambulance are there when we need them.

In May the Legislative Committee on Estimates conducted a review of the Ministry of Energy’s expenditures. In order to access the cost of the of the McGuinty government’s decision to relocate two controversial power plants out of liberal ridings in Oakville and Mississauga the committee ordered the Minister to provide all of the documents related to the decision. In September following a reprimand from the speaker, which resulted in contempt proceedings for Minister of Energy, Chris Bentley, the government produced 36,000 documents. A few weeks later they released an additional 20,000 pages which had been missed in the first search.

Shortly after, Ontario’s acting premier Dalton McGuinty announced his decision to step down as Ontario’s leader and prorogue the legislature. Proroguing the Legislature not only ended any committee investigate of the gas plants- it killed all bills including the Hawkins Gignac Act, the Local Food Act and a bill to address the problems at ORNGE air ambulance. It also prevented MPPs from debating solutions to some of the significant challenges our province was and is still facing such as the need to address government spending and our economy. On October 19, I wrote to Dalton McGuinty and asked him to recall the Legislature. I am hopeful that in the new year the it will resume as scheduled.

It has also been a busy year outside of the Legislature. Over the last six months I have conducted surveys dealing with different parts of the agriculture industry – farmers, food processors and agribusinesses – which helped identify challenges affecting each sector and regulations that need to be reviewed. The survey showed the agriculture industry is facing a number of challenges including: hydro increases, the amount of red tape, trade barriers and a shortage of certain types of skilled labour. These surveys are helping me and the PC Caucus hold the current government to account and develop policy proposals to strengthen the province’s agriculture industry. I want to thank everyone who took the time to share their ideas and experience.

I also want to thank all the people who attended my recent cider and cookie events in Woodstock and Tillsonburg to share their concerns and their thoughts on the future of our community and province.

As we finish this busy year I hope that everyone will have time to celebrate with friends and family. I want to wish you a very Merry Christmas and all the best for the upcoming year.

This fall the Legislature came back early to pass Legislation to deal with teacher’s contracts. If the bill hadn’t been passed teachers would have received an automatic 5.5% increase – which Ontario simply can’t afford with a $14.4 billion deficit. I am disappointed that despite the fact that