By MPP Bobbi Ann Brady
The Ontario Legislature rose a week earlier than expected for Christmas, but as your lone truly Independent member of provincial parliament, it sure didn’t stop me from an action-packed 2023 at Queen’s Park and in Haldimand-Norfolk.
Any MPP’s riding is where the real work lies, and that’s where you find me plugging away most of the time. You deserve nothing less. But when it best serves the people of Haldimand-Norfolk, I make sure I’m at Queen’s Park to speak or ask a question. Again, you deserve nothing less.
In that spirit, in this and the next column I’ll focus on some of my 2023 Queen’s Park highlights.
Early in the new year and throughout February, I travelled across the province with the government’s finance committee to conduct pre-budget consultations.
Also in February, I gave MPPs the chance to join Haldimand-Norfolk’s commitment to protecting farm families and their farmland in the form of my Private Members Bill, Bill 62 the Farmland and Arable Land Strategy Act, 2023. The bill would have required the Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs to develop a strategic action plan to protect the most productive land and would have established a committee whose responsibility would have been to determine where building would have made the most sense. My bill was supported by everyone except the PC members who were directed to vote against it, although some discreetly told me they wished they could have voted for it.
On the 17th anniversary of Douglas Creek Estates land occupation in March, I asked the Minister of Indigenous Affairs with whom Haldimand County should be consulting with at Six Nations – Six Nations elected council or the Haudenosaunee Development Institute?
I also asked the government to include hospice care in its upcoming spring budget.
March was a busy month, and near the end, I warned of the consequences of uncapped legacy gas wells across Haldimand-Norfolk and across Southwestern Ontario. I made it clear that I was in support of licensed, still-operating gas wells used by our farmers, but abandoned wells are a different animal. Not long after I asked my question, Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry Graydon Smith announced the government would be rolling out a $23.6 million program to identify and plug old gas wells. The funding would be used to develop an oil and gas action plan to help address the risks of old wells and conduct science and research to better understand the risks that old oil and gas wells pose. Included in the announcement was $7.5 million for eligible communities to reduce risks and increase emergency preparedness and a doubling of the funding in the Abandoned Works program.
One of the first things I did in April is question the Minister of Finance why in 2023, despite signals to the contrary in 2019, Ontario had still not yet adopted Quebec’s model of dealing with contraband tobacco, which is highly effective. The question remains, why is this government turning a blind eye to a contraband/illicit market?
In May, in the second iteration of what would be four queries, I directly asked the Minister of Transportation about the Caledonia Argyle Street Bridge reconstruction delay. As was the trend, no concrete answer was given, just a re-hash of the government’s infrastructure spending and commitment to safety.
I also took every opportunity I could to express my displeasure with the idea of a Minister’s Zoning Order (MZO) in connection with Empire Homes proposed city of 40,000 at Nanticoke. In May, I read in petitions with the names people from the riding opposed to that MZO. A few weeks later, I followed up with a question asking the government if it would honour its job-protecting 2019 Provincially Significant Employment Zones (PSEZ) program and provide me an assurance that it would protect jobs at Stelco and Imperial Oil. Again, no acceptable answer about Nanticoke was provided, just campaign-like rhetoric about their commitment to build homes.
This is just a recap of the highlights and doesn’t include all the statements I delivered talking about all the good people in Haldimand-Norfolk and what they are up to. Stay tuned next week for more 2023 highlights!
Bobbi Ann Brady is the MPP for Haldimand-Norfolk