‘I Heard a No’ ~ Unanimous Consent Elusive as Ontario’s official Opposition advocated for 3 Bills

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The Ontario Legislature at Queen's Park. Toronto, Ontario

Official Opposition leader Andrea Horwath (NDP) held a press conference Tuesday, Feb.16, 2021 at Queen’s Park following the return of the Ontario Legislature from its recent recess.The Opposition Leader expressed disappointment that three of the Bills presented by the opposition team this morning were not received with unanimous consent.

Andrea Horwath had asked MPP’s to pass the 3 Bills today, in order “to give people help to get through the pandemic.” They centre around 1) Paid Sick Days, 2) Four Hours of Hands On Care for LTC residents and 3) Essential Caregiver Rights.

Further, Horwath expressed astonishment that the Ford government voted against a request for unanimous consent to immediately lower the flag at the Ontario Legislature to half mast as a way to honour Ontarians who have died from COVID-19 while the Legislature has been in recess.

“We are shocked the Ford government voted ‘no’ to my motion to fly flags at half mast to honour Ontarians tragically lost to COVID19 during the adjournment of the legislature. Families mourning their lost loved ones deserve better.” she said. “We thought it was important to have flags at half mast for the rest of this week to show our respect for the folks who have lost their lives during the interim while the legislature wasn’t sitting. It was disappointing that the Ford government wasn’t interested in paying those respects. I can’t say for sure who said no,(when unanimous consent was being sought) but it is generally the House leader’s decision on behalf of the government to determine which unanimous consent motions will pass or which will not.”

Scrolling through Andrea Horwath’s twitter feed, it would appear that there are many Ontarians who agree with her – also expressing outrage at the failure of the Legislature to take up this meaningful acknowledgement.

MPP London West, Peggy Sattler (Opposition House Leader, and Critic for Labour and Democratic Reform) sought unanimous consent to move a motion for immediate passage for Bill 239 – ‘Stay Home if You are Sick Act‘. Bill 239 did not pass with unanimous consent.”

“Paid sick days for workers, help to ensure that the opening of our economy and the province as a whole, is done with more caution.” Horwath said. “Paid sick days are a provincial responsibility – they always have been. They are being recommended by virtually every public health expert, who say, ‘we need paid sick days’. Mayors and City Councils say we need paid sick days – health experts, business leaders, labour leaders – even the past two leaders of the provincial PC party all say we need paid sick days – which are to the benefit of stopping the spread of COVID-19.”

London Fanshawe MPP (NDP) Teresa Armstrong rose in the Legislature to move a motion to  allow for the immediate passage of Bill 13. Bill 13, ‘The Time to Care Act‘ is to help protect seniors in Long-term Care (LTC) from COVID-19. The motion did not receive unanimous consent.The Bill amends the Long-Term Care Homes Act, 2007 so that a long-term care home will have to provide its residents with at least four hours a day of nursing and personal support services, averaged across the residents. The minimum hours may be increased by regulation.

MPP Lisa Gretzky Windsor West (NDP) sought unanimous consent to move a motion for the immediate passage of Bill 203, ‘More Than a Visitor Act (Caregiving in Congregate Care Settings) 2020. The Act centers around respecting the rights of persons receiving care, support or services in congregate care settings and their caregivers. Congregate Care settings are described as: long-term care homes, retirement homes, a private hospital,a hospital within the meaning of the ‘Public Hospitals Act’,an independent health facility, a hospice or other facility that provides palliative care services, a dwelling or premises in which home and community care services are provided that include residential accommodation within the meaning of the Connecting Care Act, 2019, an assisted living facility, an intervenor services residential site, a residential group home for those with developmental disabilities and more.

Further, Horwath expressed outrage that the Ford government said ‘no’ to urgently passing paid sick days for Ontarians, as well as guaranteed four hours of care for LTC residents and improving caregivers access to their loved ones.

photo via Andrea Horwath on twitter

“Transition or not, the economy is reopening”, said Horwath. “Many of the experts are saying publicly that we are opening too fast. Proper measurements aren’t in place yet to mitigate a third wave, especially with the COVID variants now being diagnosed throughout the province.”

Horwath is concerned that the Premier is making serious mistakes on opening the province too soon, and the potential pressure that will be put on hospital ICU’s and Long-term care homes.

Premier Ford said, “We aren’t transitioning with the approval and advice of the Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. David Williams.”

Watch the exchange at Queen’s Park in the video link.

Watch Andrea Horwath’s press conference here