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The House returned early from the winter recess and started its spring session on February 14, 2005.

John Tory, Leader of the Progressive Conservative Party in Ontario won the by-election held in the riding of Dufferin-Peel-Wellington-Grey after the resignation of the incumbent member and former Premier, Ernie Eves. Mr. Tory won his seat on March 17, 2005 and took his seat in the House on March 29, 2005.

Elizabeth Witmer, MPP for Kitchener-Waterloo is Deputy Leader and Caucus Chair for the Progressive Conservatives. Two PC members, John Baird, MPP for Nepean-Carleton and Jim Flaherty, MPP for Whitby-Ajax, have announced their intention to run in the next federal election. NDP MPP Marilyn Churley, member for Toronto-Dan forth, has also announced she will seek nomination to run federally in her neighboring riding of Beaches-East York.

The House has been busy with legislation throughout the spring sitting. Legislation to create and control a Greenbelt Plan for development around the Golden Horseshoe area of southern Ontario received Royal Assent. The legislation intends to create and preserve more than a million acres of green space to permanently protect agricultural lands and green space while targeting growth and curbing urban sprawl.

The Ontario Heritage Amendment Act received Royal Assent. The Act, among other things, gives municipalities more tools and flexibility to prevent the destruction of heritage properties and increase protection for marine heritage and archaeological resources.

The Minister of Energy has introduced several pieces of legislation and initiatives intended to address the pressing concerns around the cost, availability and delivery of reliable electricity supplies to the province. With a commitment to close all coal fired generating stations by 2007 and a need to replace 25,000 megawatts of generating capacity within 20 years which represents 80% of the current generating capacity of the province, the legislative framework is being put in place to foster a culture of conservation, allow price to reflect the true cost of generation and delivery, and encourage private investment to participate to help address current and long term needs. A Conservation Bureau with a Chief Energy Conservation Officer has been established and the coal-fired Lakeview Generating Station, which was the biggest single source of air pollution in the Greater Toronto Area was closed at the end of April.

By a voice vote, the Legislature passed legislation to amend more than 70 statutes to bring them in line with Court decisions that found same-sex marriage to be constitutional. The legislation also clarifies that religious institutions need not perform marriages that are inconsistent with their religious beliefs.

The Attorney-General introduced legislation to create a Citizens' Assembly on Electoral Reform to examine Ontario's electoral system. If recommendations are made to change the electoral system, a referendum would be held on the alternative. A Citizens' Jury on Political Finance would make recommendations on how political parties and election campaigns are financed. The legislation would also fix election dates at every four years and increase the number of ridings in the province from 103 to 107.

Committee Activity

The Standing Committee on Justice Policy elected Dr. Shafiq Qaadri as the new Chair on December 16, 2004. The Committee considered and reported on Bill 110, An Act to require the disclosure of information to police respecting persons being treated for gunshot wounds and Bill 158, An Act to replace the Theatres Act and to amend other Acts in respect of film. In April, the Committee began public consultations on Bill 128, An Act to amend various Acts with respect to enforcement powers, penalties and the management of property forfeited, or that may be forfeited, to the Crown in right of Ontario as a result of organized crime, marijuana growing and other unlawful activities.

The House referred Bill 163, An Act to amend the City of Ottawa Act, 1999 to the Standing Committee on General Government on March 1, 2005. The Committee met for clause-by-clause consideration of Bill 163 on March 2, 2005. The Bill amends the City of Ottawa Act, 1999 and "requires the city to adopt a policy respecting the use of the English and French languages in all or specified parts of the administration of the city and in the provision of all or specified municipal services by the city." Bill 163 was reported back to the House without amendment on March 2, 2005 and received Royal Assent on March 9, 2005.

In April and May of 2005, the Standing Committee on General Government held back-to-back public hearings in Toronto. Public hearings were held on Bill 136, An Act respecting the establishment of growth plan areas and growth plans, followed by public hearings on Bill 155, An Act to amend the Family Responsibility and Support Arrears Enforcement Act, 1996 and to make consequential amendments to the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act, 1997.

The Standing Committee on Social Policy met for clause-by-clause consideration of Bill 118, An Act respecting the development, implementation and enforcement of standards relating to accessibility with respect to goods, services, facilities, employment, accommodation, buildings and all other things specified in the Act for persons with disabilities for five days and reported the bill back to the House with amendments. The Committee then met for three days of public hearings including one day of hearings in Kitchener, Ontario for Bill 144, An Act to amend certain statutes relating to labour relations. Clause-by-clause consideration was completed in one day and the bill was reported to the House with amendments. Bill 183, An Act respecting the disclosure of information and records to adopted persons and birth parents has been referred for consideration.

Anne Stokes

Committee Clerk
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Title Annotation:Legislative Reports
Publication:Canadian Parliamentary Review
Geographic Code:1CONT
Date:Jun 22, 2005
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