Saturday, April 20, 2024

Ontario legislature resuming with Bill 124 repeal, politically charged omnibus bill

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The next session at Queen’s Park is set to begin Tuesday and as the Ford government gears up to bring a new piece of omnibus legislation, many outside the government remain focused on the promised repeal of an unconstitutional salary restriction law.

Ontario’s Court of Appeal found Bill 124 unconstitutional last week, prompting a promise from the Ford government to repeal the law.

It capped salary increases for public sector workers at one per cent a year for three years.

Before the expected repeal, however, the government’s Get It Done Act will be introduced, though it contains parts that some critics are labeling as performative politics.

Premier Doug Ford is promising a law to force future governments to hold a referendum on any provincial carbon pricing plan, but the potential for a future government to repeal the law still stands.

WATCH MORE: Ontario Appeal Court rules Ford government’s Bill 124 is unconstitutional

Whether it comes into law or not, Ontarians already pay a federal carbon tax, meaning citizens in the province cannot evade all carbon taxing either way.

The impending act is coming under scrutiny from some of Ford’s political rivals.

“The whole carbon pricing performative politics, it’s like federal jurisdiction.” said Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner.

Another provincial tenant of the act is a ban on all tolls on provincial highways, however, those that already exist, such as the 407, will remain in place.

“They’re saying hey we’re not going to charge tolls anytime in the future. You know what, why don’t we fix highway 407 right now?” added Schreiner.

READ MORE: Ford says Bill 124 repeal comes amid high cost of living

The bill will additionally make license plate renewals automatic, extend the freeze on driver’s license fees and streamline the environmental assessment process for new development.

“This means that more projects such as new highways, railways and electricity transmission lines. Like the ones behind us here could see up to four years taken off their building timelines.” Andrea Khanjin, the province’s Environment Minister, said at a press conference on Friday.

It’s a plan that worries some environmental groups.

“We’re going to be seeing potential environmental degradation that’s completely unnecessary when it comes to major projects.” said Ian Borsuk of Environment Hamilton.

The repeal of Bill 124 is also expected to be on this session’s agenda.

READ MORE: Ford uses announcement of carbon tax referendum bill to take digs at Bonnie Crombie

“We respect the decision of the courts and we’re going to move forward on this.” Ford told reporters last Tuesday.

It took two courts finding the wage law unconstitutional before the Ford government agreed to do away with it, but health care advocates and experts have urged for its repeal for years, saying it contributed to the nursing shortage.

Schreiner has called the bill “devastating” to the healthcare system, while NDP leader Marit Stiles said the Premier chose to “go after these workers” as the cost of living continues to climb.

Also expected before the session wraps in June is a plan to address financial struggles facing many of Ontario’s post-secondary institutions and more housing legislation, as the Ford government tries to get on track to build 1.5 million homes by 2031.

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