Ontario Opposition Handcuffed

Queen's Park

What were you thinking Bill?

Section 43 in The Standing Orders of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario does not allow the Opposition to introduce a motion of non-confidence.  The Standing Order states, “Opposition Day motions shall not be motions of want of confidence in the government.”   Essentially, the hands of the Opposition parties are handcuffed in that they cannot bring down a government unless the government allows them.  How does that make any sense?  This practice contradicts the federal practice in the Parliament of Canada where there are no restrictions on what the Opposition may table in the House.

The Ontario Standing Orders also provides for ten Opposition days per calendar year versus the twenty-two “allotted days” in Ottawa.  There is nothing in the federal Standing Orders that would prohibit a non-confidence motion during these Opposition days.  The federal government can change the timing of the Opposition days but not what the Opposition wishes to table.

In section 44(a) in Ontario’s Standing Orders, the Opposition parties are further handcuffed in that the Official Opposition (Progressive Conservatives) can introduce no more than three motions of non-confidence per session, and the second largest party in opposition (NDP) can introduce no more than two per session.  A parliamentary session can last up to two years.

In Section 44(b) in Ontario’s Standing Orders, the Legislative Assembly would vote on the non-confidence motion “at a time allotted by agreement of the House Leaders of the recognized Parties.” Therefore, the Liberal House Leader would need to agree to put forward a non-confidence motion that would allow the Opposition parties to defeat the government.  The process seems a bit backwards thereby taking power from the Opposition parties who collectively have the majority in the current Legislature.

Why is the Ontario Legislature different from the Parliament of Canada?  The Standing Orders were changed by former Progressive Conservative Premier Bill Davis in 1978.  So while Tim Hudak’s caucus is eager to call a motion of non-confidence, Liberal House Leader Milloy stated, “from our vantage point, the house is working, legislation is getting passed.”

So besides calling an election to sort out this power plant mess, we’d ask the Ontario Liberals to align the Ontario Standing Orders with the Parliament of Canada to improve democracy at Queen’s Park.

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