It’s never an easy thing to vote against your own party, especially when that party forms the government in power. As they say, “Elections have consequences”, but so does defiance, and Progressive Conservative MPP Belinda Karahalios paid the price on Tuesday when she was tossed from her own caucus for voting against the government on extending emergency powers.
On Tuesday, the Ontario Legislature heard the third and final reading on Bill 195, which will allow the Provincial government to extend or amend emergency orders a month at a time for up to two years without the consultation or approval of the Legislature. Karahalios, the Cambridge MPP who was first elected in 2018, called the bill an “unnecessary overreach” and was the one government member to vote against it.
“At its core, Bill 195 takes away the legislature’s ability to vote on the use of extraordinary emergency powers on Ontarians for the next year,” Karahalios said in a statement. “By transferring away the ability for Ontario MPPs to consider, debate, and vote on how emergency powers are used on Ontarians, Bill 195 essentially silences every single Ontario MPP on the most important issue facing our legislature today.”
Karahalios is not the first independent member of the legislature to formally sit with the governing PC party. In 2018 Glengarry—Prescott—Russell MPP Amanda Simard left the PCs because of the elimination of the Province’s French-language services commissioner and the cancellation of a planned new French language university. Then, in 2019, Lanark—Frontenac—Kingston MPP Randy Hillier was removed from the PC caucus for allegedly being too confrontational with staff from the Premier’s office.
In her statement, Karahalios said that she knew her vote might cost her a seat with the government, and her appointment as the parliamentary assistant to the Solicitor General, but Karahalios explained that she knew her vote was the right move for her, and her constituents.
“All Ontario MPPs have been responsive to return to the legislature whenever urgent legislation is required, including but not limited to dealing with the current pandemic,” Karahalios said. “No one has been able to provide a good reason why we can’t continue with regards to the use of emergency powers for the rest of our mandate.”
Karahalios’ stand has the support of one of her fellow (technically) independent legislators, Guelph MPP and Green Party of Ontario leader Mike Schreiner.
“I respect MPP Karahalios for voting her conscience and opposing the government’s power grab in Bill 195,” Schreiner said. “MPPs should not be punished for thinking freely or representing the views of their constituents. This says a lot about how freedom of speech is received in the Ford government.”
“The Green Party of Ontario believes that politicians are elected to serve their constituents, not the Premier’s Office,” Schreiner added.