Ontario’s government is looking to change what it means to be “official” as a cabinet minster announced today that the line is being moved as to when a party in the Ontario Legislature can secure for themselves Official Party Status.
Progressive Conservative House Leader Todd Smith announced today that moving forward, Official Party Status will be obtained when the number of seats a party has equals 10 per cent of the House, or 12 seats. As it stands now, Official Party Status is obtained when a party has eight seats.
“When we saw the legislature shrink in size in 1999, the number of seats needed for official party status shrunk as well. We saw the size of the legislature increase from 107 seats to 124 seats for the last election and the number didn’t change, so what we’re doing is making it clear to all involved that 10 per cent is the number from here on out,” Smith said today according to Global News.
The change will be officially announced later this week during the fall economic statement.
“[We’re] bringing a little bit more stability on this situation and trying to take politics out of it,” Smith added.
Some people though are smelling politics on this direction.
“Doug Ford is thwarting democracy again,” said interim Liberal Leader John Fraser in a statement. “He is changing the rules to try and keep his crisis prone government from answering questions in the people’s house.”
Of course, the change most dramatically affects the Liberals, who are presently one seat shy of the current determination on who has Official Party Status; the Liberals won only seven seats in June’s provincial election.
Liberals have been hoping that the PC government of Premier Doug Ford might have granted Official Party status on the Liberals despite the hard and fast seat count, similar to what the Liberal government did in 2003 when it was the NDP who had only won seven seats. Official Party Status grants parties additional funds for research and staff, while also allowing more opportunities to directly question the government in Question Period.
“We respect the decisions of Ontario voters in the last election and the distribution of seats that followed. With that in mind, we will thoroughly review any changes to the official party status threshold that government brings forward,” said NDP Deputy Leader Sara Singh after the announcement.
Even one-person caucuses in the House didn’t look too kindly on the changes.
“This is another example of the PC government choosing politics over the people of Ontario,” said Green Party Leader and Guelph MPP Mike Schreiner in a statement.
“They’re acting out of their own party’s self-interest and not what’s good for democracy or the people. Changing the rules of the game midstream, like they did with Toronto, or after the election, like they’re doing now, is a slap in the face to democracy,” he added.
The news about the changes to Official Party Status came on the same day as a fresh scandal broke concerning the Ford government. A Globe and Mail report alleged that Ford’s chief of staff was involved with the removal of a former Patrick Brown staffer from an executive position with Ontario Power Generation.