What to Expect from the Ontario Legislature this Fall

Last week, the Ontario Legislature resumed after a news-filled summer recess. Stories regarding the Greenbelt have dominated recent provincial headlines, while numerous internationally focused federal news stories have drawn the attention of the world. During the summer recess, MPPs were back in their home ridings, doing the barbecue and festival circuit to hear directly from people about their needs and concerns. MPPs will be quick to report what they heard back to key cabinet ministers for action. The legislative session is often a critical opportunity for MPPs to push for change in their communities, given the long days and ample debate that makes up the legislative calendar. 

Against that backdrop, the Ontario Government will be seeking to drive a legislative agenda designed to focus on their 2022 election message of building Ontario and delivering results. This has already begun in the early days of this fall’s legislative session, with a new bill introduced by Minister of Infrastructure Kinga Surma that would, if passed, allow for municipalities to finance the construction of GO Transit stations, as well as enter into cross-municipal service agreements for transit routes. These changes form part of a broader government narrative about building transit, centred on the construction of a new subway stretching across downtown Toronto and significant expansions to the GO Train system in all directions.

Emerging Issues: Housing

The legislative session, which will run until early December, does not leave many sitting weeks to get through numerous anticipated legislative items. First and foremost, we have already seen legislation from newly minted Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing Paul Calandra to amend the provincial definition of affordable housing for the purposes of development charges. 

Additionally, we will expect additional legislation in response to the Premier’s decision to walk back the controversial removal of land from the Greenbelt for development. Both Premier Ford and Minister Calandra have indicated that this legislation is coming, so we anticipate seeing it appear in the legislative calendar in the coming weeks. Over the last few legislative sessions, former Housing Minister Steve Clark also introduced numerous “Housing Supply Action Plan” bills: new legislative changes to planning and zoning rules designed to help spur the construction of new homes across the province. With a new Minister in the housing portfolio, the Greenbelt changes may or may not come as part of a fall session Housing Supply Action Plan bill, depending on how far along work had come under Minister Clark’s tenure.

Legislative Mainstays: Red-Tape Reduction Package and Fall Economic Statement

Another common feature among the PC Government’s legislative sessions is a bi-annual “Red-Tape Reduction” bill. These bills usually bring together solutions to small pieces of frustrating bureaucracy across all corners of government. Each item on its own would not warrant its own bill, but when taken together the items in each session’s red-tape reduction package can add up to result in real change. The Premier routinely highlights his government’s work from these red-tape reduction bills and encourages each Minister and their ministry to contribute to the bills in order to reduce the regulatory burden on people and businesses. If this fall’s legislative session is anything like the past few, we can anticipate yet another bill introduced by Red-Tape Reduction Minister Parm Gill this fall.

No fall session of the Legislature is complete without a Fall Economic Statement—or a “mini budget” as some call it. Typically, the FES includes an update on the province’s fiscal position, along with some new funding commitments and a bill to implement those commitments. Last year, the government focused on the “economic statement” part of the FES, opting to provide a fiscal update along with progress reports on existing key infrastructure projects, without much in the way of new goodies that have historically been included in the FES. Given recent challenges the government has faced in the lead-up to this session, however, we would not be surprised if some new nuggets appear in this year’s FES, albeit likely still fewer than in years past.

Potential for Surprises: Ministry of Health

A wildcard opportunity for the government during this legislative session may come from the Ministry of Health. Earlier this year, Minister Sylvia Jones took a bold step to introduce legislative reforms to expand the options for delivery of health care services—including diagnostic imaging and low-risk surgeries. These changes proved controversial due to inaccurate claims that they would require people to pay for service, when in fact services would be paid through OHIP. Minister Jones has continued to push for reform in the system to reduce wait times for accessing health care. We would not be surprised to see new legislation from her to further the government’s plan and deliver tangible results.

With so much breaking news in Canada over the last few weeks, there may still be more to come with MPPs back at Queen’s Park this fall. The team here at JB+A is plugged into this fall’s legislative session so you don’t have to be, and we keep our clients up-to-date on every twist and turn. Don’t play catch-up; book a consultation today if you want to learn more about how to take advantage of opportunities in this fall’s legislative session.  

JB+A Senior Management Team:
Jenni Byrne

Andrew Kimber

Simon Jefferies

Davin Shinedling

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