Premier-designate Doug Ford will be calling back the Legislative Assembly of Ontario in July for a summer session to deal with a few key issues on his agenda.
Previously it was announced that the official transition date would be June 29, which will also include the announcement and swearing-in of a new Cabinet. All elected and re-elected Members of the Provincial Parliament will also need to be sworn-in prior to the Legislative Assembly sitting.
However, unlike during the period between elections, Mr. Ford cannot simply “recall” the legislature. In addition to the swearings-in, he will need a Speech from the Throne and the Legislative Assembly will have to elect a new Speaker before any business can be transacted.
Summer Legislative Session Priorities
Top priorities for a quick and early session will be lowering the provincial tax on gasoline, and legislating an end to the York University strike.
The government may also choose to make changes to the Hydro One Board, which would be the necessary precursor to removing the CEO. Two other more complex issues could see some preliminary action, beer and wine in corner stores and the Cap and Trade file, though these issues would likely require a bit more robust policy development than is reasonable to expect in a few short weeks.
If Mr. Ford plans on back-to-work legislation to end the York strike, you can expect the newly fortified and doubled-in-size NDP Caucus to be looking at ways to derail his plans. It is times like this when it’s helpful for any opposition party to have an MPP or staffer who knows the rules of the Assembly inside and out!
The expectation is that a summer session would have a brief agenda, accomplish a few quick political wins and then adjourn until fall. The new government will want, and need, to spend the coming months understanding the true fiscal position of the province, and ensuring ministers and staffs are well briefed to tackle their ambitious agenda.
What of the Liberal Party?
We may see some resolution as to the status of the Liberal Party, who are one seat short of official party status. Negotiations on that front will no doubt be ongoing after June 29 but before MPPs sit.
The Liberal Caucus also endorsed John Fraser (Ottawa South) as their recommended candidate to be Interim Leader of the Party. Under the Ontario Liberal Party’s rules, members of Caucus, riding presidents and members of the party’s executive council have 24 hours to vote.
The Ford Cabinet
Perhaps the most interest surrounding the incoming government is which MPPs will be part of a Cabinet. As previously noted, we expect that Mr. Ford will unveil a much smaller Cabinet than the previous Liberal government, which at the time of dissolution had 28 Ministers.
This presents Mr. Ford and his transition team with challenges. First, the 75 elected MPPs include high-profile names, as well as individuals with significant private sector and political backgrounds. A Cabinet around 20 members – which is the number widely being tossed around – will mean that some of these experienced MPPs-elect will be either appointed parliamentary assistants or relegated to the back benches, for the time being.
Mr. Ford will have to balance his desire to reward candidates with his promise to run an efficient and streamlined government. Despite best intentions, Cabinet sizes tend to increase as mandates go on and Mr. Ford will have to keep this in mind as he determines who is necessary to have with him on the front bench in the early days.
A smaller Cabinet will likely mean the streamlining or amalgamation of various ministries, which risks the creation of mega-ministries and could pose a communications challenge if the PCs appear to ignore or prioritize some policy and stakeholder areas over others.