Legislative Reports: Ontario
Change was the order of the day when the Ontario Legislative Assembly resumed sitting again on May 9, with a Speech from the Throne opening the 3rd Session of the 37th Parliament. The Speech was read by the Honourable James Bartleman, who was installed as Lieutenant Governor on March 7, 2002, replacing the Honourable Hilary Weston. Mr. Bartleman comes to the Vice-Regal position after a 35-year career in the Canadian Foreign Service, most recently as Canada's Ambassador to the European Union since 2000.
The new legislative Session also marked a transition in the governing Progressive Conservative administration. Six weeks earlier, in March, the Progressive Conservative Party chose Ernie Eves at its leadership convention to replace Premier Mike Harris, who had announced his intention to leave elected office in October of 2001. Mr. Eves was a 20 year veteran of the Ontario Legislature when he decided to retire from public life early in 2001. However, he decided to contest the Conservative leadership vacated by Mr. Harris and, having won, now was looking for a seat in the House.
Subsequently, in April 2002, both Mr. Harris and David Tilson (PC/Dufferin-Peel-Wellington-Grey) resigned their seats in the Legislature, triggering by-elections which were called for May 2. Mr. Eves, Premier-designate, chose to run in the seat vacated by Mr. Tilson. During the by-election period, on April 15, the Lieutenant Governor swore in Mr. Eves' first Cabinet, and Mr. Eves as Premier, marking the final day of Mr. Harris' public service to the Province of Ontario.
Mr. Eves subsequently won the by-election in Dufferin-Peel-Wellington-Grey and took his seat in the Legislature on May 13. The by-election in Mr. Harris' former riding of Nipissing produced a very close result, which was settled by a judicial recount on May 15. The victorious candidate, Al McDonald, retained the riding for the governing Progressive Conservatives with just a 48 vote margin, and he took his seat on May 27.
The new Session began with a very full agenda, since 128 public bills of the previous Session had been carried over to the current Session by a special order of the House. The main political theme dominating the Ontario Legislature in Spring 2002 revolves around controversial plans for Hydro One, the provincially-owned electrical transmission utility, one of 3 successor companies to the former Ontario Hydro, which was broken apart by the government several years ago.
A planned initial public offering of shares in Hydro One was struck down by the Ontario Superior Court, which ruled that the Province lacked the legislative authority to divest itself of this public asset. …