By Chad Ingram
Haliburton-Kawartha Lakes- Brock MPP Laurie Scott was one of five prominent ministers removed from the Ford government’s cabinet in a shuffle last week.
That shuffle comes one year ahead of next June’s provincial election.
Scott, first elected MPP in 2003, has served as the province’s labour minister, and most recently as infrastructure minister, after the PCs swept to majority victory in the 2018 election.
“I work hard, whether I’m a minister or an MPP,” Scott said in response to the shuffle, adding, “Politics is like that.
“I feel I’ve done a lot in my two portfolios,” Scott told the Echo. As labour minister, she said she was proud of legislation passed to protect “double-hatters” – full-time firefighters who also serve as volunteer firefighters in their home communities. For years, double-hatters were subject to penalties such as fines or dismissal for serving with more than one department. With changes long-requested by rural municipalities, Scott said it was one of the first issues she spoke to on the floor of Queen’s Park in 2003.
As infrastructure minister, Scott said she was proud of the billions of dollars in provincial funding that have been allotted for improving connectivity to high-speed, broadband internet, particularly in rural communities. Improved connectivity for rural communities has been the number one issue she’s heard about from constituents during nearly 18 years in office, she said.
Scott is the nominated Progressive Conservative candidate for the riding for the 2022 election, and said she “absolutely” still intends to run again.
Scott defends use of notwithstanding clause
Scott is defending the Ford government’s controversial use of the notwithstanding clause last week, overturning a judge’s decision and limiting election ad spending by third parties a year from the next provincial election.
The notwithstanding clause allows governments to override portions of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms for a period of five years, and is rarely used. The Ford government’s Bill 307, which had been struck down by a judge as unconstitutional earlier in June, doubles the restricted pre-election spending period for third party advertisements a year before the next election, which will take place in June of 2022. Critics say it’s the government’s attempt to silence critics such as teachers’ unions.
After a weekend of debate, the bill was passed in Queen’s Park on Monday, June 14, 63 votes to 47. It was the first time in Ontario’s history the notwithstanding clause has been used.
“It certainly has been used by other provinces,” Scott said, adding she believed election results should be determined by voters and not third parties through the use of advertising campaigns. “I firmly believe that the voters of Ontario are the ones who should decide the outcome of the election,”
She referenced the unbridled spending that is permitted to take place by so-called super PACs (political action committees) in American elections, and said she didn’t want to see the province heading in that direction. Scott reiterated that political parties themselves are subject to regulated spending limits.
“We have limits and we can’t overspend on those limits,” Scott said. “We are heavily regulated.”
She was asked if she thought it was appropriate for the decision of a judge to be overridden by a government.
“It’s a legitimate constitutional power that we have, that all provinces have,” she said, adding the clause has been used by various parties, and in various provinces. The notwithstanding clause has been most frequently used by the Quebec government.