03/04/2010

At the request of the Government, the Lieutenant Governor has acted to bring the current session of the Ontario Legislature to an end for a short period of time.
This act, called prorogation (i.e. holding back to a later time), is a suspension of the Legislature, as opposed to a dissolution which would terminate the Legislature. Unfinished business (public and private bills and related motions) dies, unless carried over to the next session. Bills which were on the Orders and Notices Paper at prorogation can be reinstated, and this normally happens at the start of a new session of the Legislature, through unanimous adoption of a motion to that effect, after notice and debate. Bills are normally reinstated at the same stage and in the same order as existed at prorogation.

In the current prorogation scenario, the Government passed a motion last summer stipulating that, in the case of prorogation, Government bills (not private members’ public bills such as Bills 198 & 237) remaining on the Orders and Notices Paper be continued and placed on the Orders and Notices Paper of the second sessional day of the Second Session of the 39th Parliament, at the same stage of business as at the time of prorogation.

Normally, at prorogation, all committees cease to sit and committee membership lapses. However, the June 3, 2009 Government motion authorized specific committees to continue to meet and release reports during specific times in the period between the First and Second session of the 39th Parliament.

After prorogation, the House does not sit until it has been called back into session by the Lieutenant Governor. The new session of the House begins with a Throne Speech, which outlines the government’s new priorities and legislative program.

AMO views this prorogation of the Provincial Legislature positively, because a Throne Speech provides an opportunity for the Government to revisit its agenda and policy objectives under current circumstances, to reassess priorities and develop new initiatives to respond to emerging issues. A Throne Speech goes a long way to informing the work  of non-profit associations such as AMO, in advocating on behalf of member interests and can provide some potential insight into the theme and sub-themes of an upcoming budget.

As an example, with all the changes to the housing side of the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing, we will be interested to see if the affordable housing strategy makes the Throne Speech as well as re-confirming the partnership with AMO and its membership on the Provincial-Municipal Fiscal and Service Delivery Review. We will also be watching on the status of Bill 236, an Act to amend the Pension Benefits Act, which was introduced on December 9, 2009, as a first phase of pension reform. Bill 236, as it currently stands, has significant financial impacts on the OMERS Plan and costs therefore to employers and employees, arising from the proposed grow-in provisions. A Throne Speech presents an opportunity for the Government, in this instance, to outline what other pension policy initiatives it will bring forward and the timing and scope of implementing legislation.

The Legislature is scheduled to be recalled on March 8th.