Wynne Liberals block bill to ban pre-pay hydrometers

In December 2017, Kathleen Wynne’s Liberal government prevented an NDP bill which would have immediately banned pre-pay hydrometers in Ontario. Pre-pay meters force individuals to pay for their electricity before they can use it. Hydro One included a plan to use pre-pay meters in their application for increases for the next few years. Pre-pay meters can potentially lead to disconnections of electricity in the winter if the electricity bill has not been prepaid. Disconnecting electricity in Ontario in the winter is currently illegal.

“Today, we had an opportunity to do the right thing and put an end to the privatized Hydro One’s attempt to force families to feed the meter or face having their electricity cut off,” said Andrea Horwath, leader of the Ontario NDP. “By rejecting this bill, Kathleen Wynne and her Liberal government have sided with the privatized Hydro One and let families down once again.”

The Ontario NDP has also announced their plan to bring Hydro One back into public hands while bringing hydro bills down by about 30% for residents and businesses, and ending mandatory time of use pricing which charges people different rates depending on the time of day.

“Hydro prices are out of control thanks to years of Liberal mismanagement and their sale of Hydro One, a plan that Ontarians strongly rejected,” said Tom Rakocevic, Ontario NDP Candidate for Humber River-Black Creek. “If allowed, these new pre-pay hydro meters could leave many out in the cold.”

The Ontario Liberals sold Hydro One in 2015 which has resulted in a large increase in the hydro bills of Ontarians throughout the province. They had originally opposed selling off Hydro One during the previous Ontario PC government.

 

NDP proposes changes to Bill 148

The New Democrats attempted to make several amendments to Bill 148 (Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act) to protect temporary workers, to end exemptions to the minimum wage and to increase paid vacation to three weeks.

The NDP would like to see stronger protections than the ones which were passed by the Ontario Liberals.  During the recent debate around the minimum wage increase and other changes to the Employment Standards Act, the NDP made several proposals:

  • Three weeks paid vacation after the first year of employment – up from the current two
  • Ending exemptions that allow some worker categories to be paid less than the minimum wage
  • Five paid sick or emergency days for all workers
  • Ten days paid leave for survivors of domestic violence to access medical care, find safe housing or participate in legal proceedings
  • Making it harder for employers to label long-time workers “contractors” instead of employees
  • Requiring temp workers to become permanent employees after 90 days of work
  • Requiring employers of temp workers to bear the same responsibilities as employers of all workers when a worker is injured or killed on the job
  • Protecting injured workers’ benefits from unfair claw backs caused by deeming them eligible for jobs they never held

One of the major concerns relating to the minimum wage increase was that students and liquor servers would continue to not be guaranteed the same wage as everyone else. This two level system is considered inherently unfair by the NDP.

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said: “Ending exemptions that allow some workers to be paid less than minimum wage is the right thing to do.”

Horwath was also adamant on ensuring that those who are sick or survivors of domestic violence are able to get time off:  “Giving everyone paid sick and personal emergency leave days, and enhancing the number of vacation days so they stay healthier – physically and mentally – is right for everyone in Ontario. And giving survivors of domestic violence the time they need to get medical care or find a safe place to live is critical.” The NDP was successful in bringing in paid leave to survivors of domestic violence into the legislation.

Bill 148 was passed on November 22nd and has brought changes to the minimum wage, critical illness leave, parental leave, family medical leave, and much more.

 

Ontario Liberals on Trial

Former Ontario Liberal staff members have been on trial twice in the last month on allegations of bribery and allegations of deliberately destroying emails related to the gas plant scandal.

The bribery allegations were related to the by-election of Liberal MPP and Minister, Glenn Thibeault, in Sudbury. It was alleged that Premier Kathleen Wynne’s former Chief of Staff, Patricia Sorbara, and Liberal organizer, Gerry Lougheed, had bribed Andrew Olivier, a prospective candidate, with a position to convince him not to run for the Liberal nomination in the 2015 by-election. It was also alleged that positions were offered to Thibeault’s staff to convince him to run in the by-election. The trial led to Kathleen Wynne appearing in court as a witness where she discussed delegating broad tasks related to the Sudbury by-election to Sorbara and Lougheed, and tried to convince the court, as well as the province, that she did nothing wrong.

The decision was eventually made to dismiss the charges, leading Ontario NDP MPP Gilles Bisson to say that the Liberals “got off on a technicality.” Sorbara said that they were grateful, and Lougheed said that the decision was a great relief.

The other trial is related to the 2010 and 2011 Liberal decisions to cancel the gas plants in Oakville and Mississauga, which according to the Auditor General of Ontario cost at least 950 million dollars to close down, significantly more than what the Liberals originally promised.

The trial is for David Livingston, former Premier Dalton McGuinty’s Chief of Staff and Laura Miller, McGuinty’s former Deputy Chief of Staff. The allegation is that Peter Faist, Miller’s common-law spouse, was hired by the two Liberal staff members to destroy documents related to the cancellation of the two gas plants – in particular, to wipe hard drives that were in McGuinty’s office during the transition period to Premier Kathleen Wynne. According to Faist, around 20 government hard drives were cleaned.

The trial for Livingston and Miller is ongoing and both have pleaded not guilty to breach of trust, mischief in relation to data and misuse of a computer system.

These two trials have caused many people to call into question the credibility of the Liberal government. The NDP has said that the Liberals have lost in the court of public opinion and the Progressive Conservatives have said that this is a scandal-ridden government.