News


MPP Michael Harris’s transparency bill up for crucial vote this week

September 12, 2012

QUEEN’S PARK – Ontarians need and deserve more accountability and transparency from government decision-makers, especially when new laws will affect their family’s and business’s livelihood, Kitchener-Conestoga MPP Michael Harris said today ahead of a critical vote tomorrow on his private member’s bill, Bill 109: Transparency in Government Bills Act, 2012.

“This is an issue of trust, fairness and government responsibility. Ontarians analyze the costs and benefits of every important decision they make, whether they’re buying a home or starting a business. But they’re limited in their ability to assess how new laws will affect their lives because the government provides little to no information on proposed legislation,” Harris said. “My bill, if passed, would help correct this problem by requiring the government to provide accessible information online, explaining the financial, economic, social and environmental implications of government bills.”

Harris’s private member’s bill has gained local support from the Greater Kitchener-Waterloo Chamber of Commerce and the New Hamburg Board of Trade, as well as provincial support from the Cement Association of Canada and Canadian Manufactures and Exporters.

In question period today, Harris called the Liberal government to task for failing to conduct a proper cost-benefit assessment of the Green Energy Act. Harris pointed out that the Auditor General found last year under the Liberals’ green energy scheme, “Billions of dollars were committed to renewable energy without fully evaluating the impact, the trade-offs, and the alternatives through a comprehensive business-case analysis.”

Harris also raised concerns about the Liberal government’s cap-and-trade scheme, which the Environment Minister confirmed the Liberals are forging ahead with after passing legislation and enacting a regulation in 2009 to create an emissions-trading market.

Quebec plans to raise $2.7 billion in new revenue from its cap-and-trade scheme, and Ontario will likely siphon billions of dollars from Ontario businesses, too, Harris said.

Despite the financial gravity of this plan, the Finance Minister said in July that he’s never evaluated the costs of the Liberals’ cap-and-trade scheme.

“What’s troubling for Ontarians is that the Premier and his Liberal government can table and pass legislation without conducting a proper cost-benefit assessment,” Harris said. “This is exactly why Bill 109 is needed. We know full well that if there’s no requirement to assess how new laws will affect Ontarians, the Liberal government won’t do it.”

Background:

Bill 109 calls for the government to table a comprehensive report with each government bill that includes:

  • A detailed summary of the financial costs the bill will have on government, municipalities, individuals and businesses,
  • An assessment of potential legislative overlap with different levels of government,
  • A review of how the bill will affect Ontario’s competitiveness,
  • And, if applicable, a science-based assessment justifying the bill’s measures.

The report would then be posted on the Legislative Assembly’s website, so that all Ontarians, not just insiders, have an opportunity to learn about government bills.

Endorsements:

“Businesses in Waterloo Region and Ontario support improved transparency across all levels of government. The provisions of this proposed legislation that mandate an assessment of potential costs and impacts on businesses, municipalities, and other affected sectors will significantly enhance provincial accountability.”

– Art Sinclair, vice president, Greater Kitchener-Waterloo Chamber of Commerce

“Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters has long advocated for governments to conduct transparent economic-impact assessments of new legislation and regulations. We support any effort that seeks to increase transparency in government legislation and assess the potential costs it will have on industry.”

– Canadian Manufactures and Exporters

“On behalf of the Cement Association of Canada, I’d like to add my support to this Bill. We are supportive of any initiative that seeks to enhance fiscal transparency for industry.”

– Michael McSweeney, president, Cement Association of Canada

“The New Hamburg Board of Trade supports Mr. Harris’s private member’s bill: Transparency in Government Bills, 2012. We encourage and appreciate any steps members of the provincial Legislature take to ensure greater transparency and accountability in government.”

 – Tim Bender, president of the New Hamburg Board of Trade