From Queen’s Park – The budget bill and local services

Sarah Campbell-MPPKENORA – Last Wednesday Bill 55, better known as the budget bill, successfully passed third- and final- reading in Queen’s Park, preventing an election.

Last week’s column outlined a number of improvements the NDP had successfully pushed for in order to help the budget pass. This week I would like to update you on status of my fight to prevent the permanent closure of Travel Information Centres and cuts to the Bear Wise trapping and relocation program, following the passage of Bill 55.

The cuts made to these programs were unaffected by the passing of the budget bill.. The decision to make specific department cuts such as these are made by the government bureaucracy, in consultation with the Minister, and are therefore not spelled out in the budget bill.
Why is this fact important? Because had these decisions been contingent on the passing of the budget, Travel Information Centres would have been open May 1 and remained open until the passing of the budget, and the Ministry of Natural Resources would have been forced to continue with the full trapping and relocation program until the budget receives Royal Assent. Neither of these things happened because Bill 55, does not mention either program or service.

This is also why cuts are still being announced.

This is also why it was impossible to amend Bill 55 to prevent the government from shutting down these programs. While MPPs can make nearly any change to a regular bill, the rules regarding amendments to the budget bill are much more strict and state that we can only amend by removing clauses that already exist. Since none of these programs are mentioned in the bill, no amendments can be put forward removing them.

Some MPPs do submit amendments that they know will be ruled out of order, as I could have done, but this would have been disingenuous grandstanding and would accomplish nothing. Instead I have chosen to make meaningful and substantial attempts to work with the government to reverse these decisions.

This includes presenting petitions in the House almost daily which ask the government to reinstate the Travel Information Centres, making statements and asking questions in the Legislature, meeting with northern MPPs, discussing the decision with Ministry Officials, writing to the Minister of Tourism and his Parliamentary Assistant, and meeting one-on-one with these same officials. As a result of these efforts the Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Tourism recently asked ministry officials to review the decision and it is my understanding that this review is ongoing. A similar process has been followed while fighting cuts to the Bear Wise program, where I have written letters, asked questions in Question Period and sat down personally with Minister Gravelle

When MPPs are elected we have a choice to make. Do we want to grandstand, mislead the public and accomplish little, or make real and meaningful attempts to get results? I chose the latter, because results, not partisan interests, matter to me and I want to achieve the best results possible for the people of Kenora-Rainy River.

Sarah Campbell MPP
Kenora