Frank Klees

Frankly Speaking

Article written by Frank Klees, MPP
As published in The Auroran
November 20, 2012

The Next Provincial  Election: When and Whose Call Will It Be ?

In my last column, I discussed the consequences of Dalton McGuinty's decision to prorogue the legislature. Hundreds of pieces of legislation at various stages of debate were wiped out, the work of parliamentary committees was stopped in its tracks and the doors to the legislative chamber were shuttered. This, in the midst of an economic crisis and against the backdrop of a litany of political scandals that has even the most loyal Liberal supporters calling for an end to this display of disrespect for democracy and the taxpayers of this province.

We have a minority government. Why do the opposition parties not force the government to bring the legislature back ?

As the implications of Dalton McGuinty's arrogance begin to settle in, I'm often asked why the opposition parties don't force the government to get back to work. After all, the opposition parties have a majority of the votes. The fact is however, that only the government has the authority to convene the legislature. Once the legislature was prorogued, the opposition parties were left powerless to bring the legislature back into session, let alone force a vote on any issue.

Therein lies the frustration of those who respect the institution of parliament and the democratic process. It's one thing to see a government implement legislation with which we may disagree, but that has been debated and passed by a majority of duly-elected members. However, it is another matter entirely when a government stifles the democratic process by shutting that process down.

In the case at hand, the very institution on which citizens rely to protect their democratic rights has been shut down and the voices who should be representing them have been silenced. That's why every member of the PC Caucus gathered in front of the legislature this past week, to once again call on the Premier to recall the House so that we can get on with the work we were elected to do.

Why don't the opposition parties force an election ?

The question I'm asked most often is, given what's going on at Queen's Park, why don't you just force an election ? The answer is simple..... we can't. The only way that the opposition parties could force an election is through a non-confidence vote and in order for that to happen, the legislature would have to be in session. Once again, Dalton McGuinty holds all the cards.

In the meantime, the Liberal Party operatives are busy dealing their own cards in the back rooms of the six leadership candidates. Whoever becomes the next leader of the Liberal Party will be the next Premier and that's who will determine the timing of the next election.

The next Premier will determine the timing of the election

Dalton McGuinty made it clear that he will leave it to the next Premier to decide when the legislature will be recalled and that includes the timing of an election. The new Premier will have a number of options to consider that include: 1) call an election immediately without recalling the legislature, 2) recall the legislature, present a Throne Speech and call an election, 3) allow the Throne Speech to be debated and come to a vote in which case opposition parties will have an opportunity to bring down the government, 4) should one of the opposition parties decide to support the Throne Speech and allow the government to present a budget, then the budget would become the focus of debate and a confidence vote.

While I won't prejudge the outcome of any vote that may come before the legislature, I find it difficult to conceive that there is much life left in this government. There is not a leadership contender who was not at the cabinet table and party to decisions related to the multi-million dollar scandals, whether eHealth, Samsung, Ornge or the blatantly partisan billion dollar-plus gas plant cancellations.

Should it come to a confidence vote, whether Throne Speech or Budget, I could not in good conscience support this government.

In the meantime, we are facing more than two months during which the legislature should be open for business. While other jurisdictions are aggressively working towards establishing confidence in their economies and implementing measures to attract jobs and investment, Ontario has been relegated to the sidelines by a Premier whose last act of leadership was to call a time-out.

In response to those who ask, what can I do ? I would ask that you send a parting  message to the Premier asking that he recall the legislature immediately. His party can elect their leader while the legislature is working. There's far too much at stake.

As always, I welcome your comments and advice. Should you decide to write to the Premier, his contact information is

Premier Dalton McGuinty
Legislative Building Rm 281
Queen’s Park
Toronto ON M7A 1A1
416-325-1941
dmcguinty.mpp.co@liberal.ola.org

I look forward to hearing from you.