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No summer break at Ontario legislature

(Update)It was back to work at Queen’s Park as the 41st parliament of Ontario was sworn in — after Kathleen Wynne won her Liberal majority government last month. And while it was mostly a day for preliminaries — the opposition Progressive Conservatives indicated they’re looking for some big changes and a new direction in their party.The Conservatives here are smarting from that election defeat. An election they might have won if it hadn’t been for unpopular Conservative policies. And the Tories here are saying some of those policies were just as unpopular with Tory MPP’s as they were with voters. And they’re not doing that again.Before the legislature could get down to the business of laws and budgets, there were a couple housekeeping items to get out of the way.MPPs were sworn in by the Lieutenant-Governor.Then they chose the new speaker — with the NDP’s Paul Miller of Hamilton East Stoney Creek one of the candidates for the job: “Probably gives you a little more motivation from your community in reference to the respectability the job carries with it.”In the end, Brantford-area Liberal Dave Levac was re-elected speaker on the third ballot: “This is the beautiful place. It represents who we are as a province.”He says the new majority government will be working with the opposition: “There will be some reaching out to the opposition to provide the opportunity to have their voices heard.”But while the legislature was dealing with preliminaries, former Conservative leader Tim Hudak was a no-show, his seat left empty.He’s still an MPP, but resigned as leader after his party’s election defeat. With the party now saying things are going to change.Jim Wilson: “There’s no need to pick on particular groups and we’ve done that for no reason in the past.”Former cabinet minister Jim Wilson was chosen interim leader while the Tories select a new permanent leader — and expressed anger over Hudak’s leadership from Conservative MPP’s who’d felt pushed aside and bullied: “Policies they were asked to sell that probably weren’t ever popular in their own ridings — and they certainly didn’t believe in the policies in their hearts.”Wilson singled out Hudak’s election promise to cut 100-thousand government jobs. And he said it’s time for renewal for Ontario Pc’s: “We’ve been attacking people for a decade and in my heart and in my colleagues hearts we’re not that type of people.”That idea was echoed by possible Conservative leadership candidate Lisa MacLeod: “There is an opportunity for fresh leadership in our party that listens to the caucus but also listens to the grassroots of our party.”MacLeod says she’s thinking of running for the leadership but hasn’t decided yet. The only declared candidate so far is MPP Christine Elliott. And the party hasn’t decided when a leadership convention will be held. As for the legislature, they get down to serious business Thursday with a speech from the throne setting out the legislative agenda, then the government will reintroduce its budget later this month.So what can we expect in the throne speech tomorrow?It will be called ‘Building Ontario Up’. The Liberals say the only new thing will be the announcement of a trade mission to China in the fall. But it will have the same priorities as before the election — the economy and jobs, building transit and infrastructure and the Ontario pension plan. read more