TORONTO – Lower car insurance rates, a new spending watchdog and tighter rules on tanning beds will be the Liberal government’s priorities for the fall session of the legislature that starts Monday, but there also will be more debate about cancelled gas plants.
“We’re going to try to come out of the gate running, and the first thing we’re going to have is the Financial Accountability Officer legislation,” said government house leader John Milloy.
Premier Kathleen Wynne made a deal with the New Democrats last spring to get the minority Liberal government’s budget passed, and agreed to mandate a 15 per cent cut in auto insurance premiums and appoint an independent Financial Accountability Officer to review government expenditures before the money is spent.
“The Liberals claimed in their budget that they were going to get auto insurance rates down, based on our pressure and our demands,” said NDP Leader Andrea Horwath.
“It’ll be up to them to deliver, and part of our job is to make sure that that actually happens, and we’ll certainly be putting the pressure on the government to follow through on their promises.”
Horwath points out that banning teens from using tanning beds, which the Liberals say is a priority for the fall, was something the NDP has requested for five years.
The Progressive Conservatives served notice they will put forth a second contempt motion Monday related to the Liberals’ decisions to cancel gas plants in Oakville and Mississauga, at a cost of at least $585 million.
Dalton McGuinty blamed last year’s bitter contempt debate over the government’s refusal to release documents on the gas plants, which ground all other business to a halt, for his decision to prorogue the legislature and resign as premier.
PC house leader Jim Wilson wants another debate on what he says were attempts by senior Liberals in McGuinty’s office to influence Speaker Dave Levac after his preliminary finding of contempt against the Liberal government over the documents.
“It doesn’t matter whether he was influenced or not influenced in his decison to find a prima facie case of contempt against the energy minister, it’s the attempt to influence,” said Wilson.
“It’s the equalivalent of calling a judge, and if you called a judge in the middle of the case you could very well be thrown in jail.”
Wilson also predicts the Liberals may try to trigger a fall election, even though Wynne has said she intends to govern and wants to work with the opposition parties.
“I think they may (force an election) against the backdrop of Wynne needs her own mandate, and she’ll go out and say ‘obviously Parliament is not working’ because the Liberals are doing everything they can to make sure it doesn’t work,” he said.
“They’re going to make sure this place is in paralysis and try and blame others.”
Milloy flatly rejected Wilson’s claims, and said it’s the Tories who have been engaging in needless debates and preventing any bills from being passed.
“The premier has been very clear she wants to govern and her priority right now is jobs and the economy, and because of the slowness of the legislature you’ll see initiatives outside of the legislature itself,” said Milloy.
“She’s not looking for an election. She’s been clear on that.”
There will also be a push to change the rules for the accommodation allowance for members of the legislature who live more than 50 kilometres away from Queen’s Park, after word Toronto-area Tory Peter Shurman billed the maximum $20,719 last year for a second residence in Niagara-on-the-Lake.
“It seems to me that Mr. Shurman is pretty much the only person that’s decided to find a way to fund a retirement home on the taxpayers’ dime,” said Horwath.