By Mark Subryan The Aurora Banner
Progressive Conservative Newmarket-Aurora MPP Frank Klees has been a highly visible figure in provincial politics during the past several years.
2013 was no different.
“Certainly, 2013, without any question, has been my busiest year in the legislature since I was elected,” he explained.
This past year, Mr. Klees continued to put pressure on the Liberal minority government, headed by Premier Kathleen Wynne as of February, on a host of issues, including the $1.1-billion wasted on relocating a pair of power plants out of Oakville and Mississauga, the Presto transit fare card and ORNGE air ambulance service.
Mr. Klees, who serves as PC infrastructure critic, has been especially involved with the latter file as the Tories’ lead on the committee investigating the associated scandal.
His hectic schedule this year is largely because of his work on the committee that examined hundreds of documents and heard from dozens of witnesses in the course of its duties. The committee has been looking into ORNGE since 2011 and has filed three interim reports so far, with a fourth coming in the new year.
Its final report will likely be submitted in the spring, Mr. Klees said, adding the committee’s work has already yielded results in the form of changes in how the Health Ministry operates. Beyond that, he hopes the committee’s legacy will be improved openness at other provincial ministries and agencies.
“ORNGE serves as an important textbook about what can go wrong,” Mr. Klees said. “Hopefully, our work will result in much stronger oversight and more accountable and transparent operations.”
In addition to ORNGE, Mr. Klees is also proud of two private members bills he put forward in 2013. His proposed law aimed at empowering communities — the protecting existing communities act — has passed second reading and awaits a third, while his First Responders Day act recently received third reading from the legislature and royal assent from Lt.-Gov. David Onley, meaning May 1 will honour police officers, paramedics, firefighters and other first responders.
First Responders Day is a lasting legacy, he said.
Despite those highlights, Mr. Klees said he is disappointed with how the government is managing the economy, as too many Ontarians remain out of work and too many employers are closing. He blames Liberal policies that have added red tape for businesses and spiked the cost of electricity, resulting in companies moving elsewhere.
The government’s attempts to paint a rosy picture of the province’s economy does a disservice to those struggling with unemployment, he added.
In any case, Mr. Klees is already looking forward to continuing his work in 2014.
That said, he declined to predict if an election is coming in the spring. After close to 20 years in politics, he said he has learned not to prognosticate on such matters.
“Just when you think you have a handle on what’s going to happen, the political landscape can change overnight,” he said. “I can’t predict what Ms Wynne will do and I can’t predict what NDP Leader Andrea Horwath will do, but what I can do is predict what PC Leader Tim Hudak will do and I can tell you he won’t be supporting this government.”