MPPs are getting an extended Easter break until the provincial budget is unveiled April 28, but some aren’t happy about it as the June 2 provincial election approaches.
While politicians are in their ridings this week on a scheduled recess from Queen’s Park, the legislature is adjourned until next Thursday when Finance Minister Peter Bethlenfalvy presents a fiscal blueprint that will be key to Premier Doug Ford’s re-election platform.
Opposition parties are accusing the government of trying to avoid scrutiny by cancelling the daily question period and debates in the legislature next Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday — allowing more time to get out and campaign.
“It’s wrong of Ford to shut down Queen’s Park just because he wants to duck questions,” said New Democrat House Leader Peggy Sattler (London West), whose party is furious its anti-Islamophobia bill — proposed after last year’s killing of a London Muslim family — is being sidelined.
A spokesman for Government House Leader Paul Calandra said the motion to adjourn the legislature three extra days was made because the majority Progressive Conservatives have passed the legislation they wanted to before the campaign officially begins in the first week of May.
That legislation includes the Keeping Ontario Open for Business Act, intended to protect international border crossings such as the Ambassador Bridge between Windsor and Detroit from “unlawful obstructions” like a trucker convoy that shut it down in February in a protest against COVID restrictions.
“For some reason the NDP have chosen not to debate out many of the government bills on the agenda and the Liberals were rarely participating at all,” Calandra spokesman Owen Macri said Monday in a statement to the Star.
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The adjournment was passed late Thursday afternoon shortly before MPPs left for the long weekend.
Liberal Leader Steven Del Duca said Ford’s PCs are putting “campaigning ahead of governing” in the final weeks of the session.
“Let’s be clear, they aren’t releasing a budget, they are launching the Conservative platform,” he added in a statement. “The media and public should treat it accordingly.”
The budget will not be passed before the legislature rises for the start of the campaign.
Ford has missed question period frequently in recent weeks while out making announcements, which NDP Leader Andrea Horwath has also done on several days. Del Duca is not in the legislature because he does not hold a seat, but is running for his former constituency of Vaughan-Woodbridge against Conservative cabinet minister Michael Tibollo.
The lead-up to the campaign has seen a sixth wave of COVID-19 develop because of the fast-spreading BA.2 variant of Omicron, prompting chief medical officer Dr. Kieran Moore to signal he will recommend extending mandatory masking on public transit, in hospitals and nursing homes for four weeks past a scheduled expiry date of April 27.
Rob Ferguson is a Toronto-based reporter covering Ontario politics for the Star. Follow him on Twitter: @robferguson1
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