In her presentation to the Ontario government’s Standing Committee on Finance, Society President Michelle Johnston urged Queen’s Park to repeal Bill 124, electrify the province’s transportation systems, and reinvest in legal aid.
“Supporting a shift towards electrification in transportation is one of the most significant moves that the government could make in the province’s fight against climate change, while also providing a crucial boost to the province’s manufacturing sector during this economic recovery,” Johnston told the committee composed of members from all the major political parties.
The demand for electric vehicles will generate significant new demand for electricity. The IESO recently published forecasts estimating that for electric vehicles alone, the province will require an additional 24 TWh annually by 2042. That is about the same amount of electricity generated by Pickering Nuclear Generating Station, which is slated to be decommissioned in 2025.
Recognizing this reality, Johnston told the committee that “it is the Society’s strong recommendation that Ontario work with (Ontario Power Generation) to begin the process of investing in a new, publicly owned and operated nuclear power station to replace Pickering.”
In her remarks on energy, Johnston commended the government for progress on the Ivy network of electric vehicle charging stations and the recent decision to have OPG investigate new hydroelectric opportunities in northern Ontario.
The Society also continues to raise the importance of reversing the Ford government’s 2019 cut to Legal Aid Ontario. The $133 million cut has harmed Ontario’s most vulnerable residents and made it more expensive to administer the justice system.
In addition to reversing the funding cuts, Johnston urged the committee to move to a more predictable funding model for legal aid. Legal Aid Ontario (LAO) receives a sizable portion of its budget from a foundation that is funded from interest payments on money held in trust as part of real estate transactions. This funding depends on the volume of real estate transactions as well as interest rates. With interest rate cuts during the pandemic, funding from the Law Foundation has dried up, making the provincial government’s 2019 cut even harder to bear.
Johnston also took the opportunity to remind MPPs about the need to repeal Bill 124, the legislation that caps public sector workers’ wage increases at just 1% for three consecutive years.
“Society members, and other essential public servants, have put their health and the health of their families at risk going to work throughout the pandemic,” Johnston told committee members. “The government has rewarded their service with a mandated 1% wage increase – at a time when inflation in the province is at 3.5%.”
“The Society views Bill 124 as…an unwarranted and unnecessary interference in free and fair collective bargaining.”
In the question and answer period following her presentation, Johnston received questions from NDP and Liberal MPPs on the committee, offering the chance to expand on the Society’s vision for electrification and legal aid funding.