As many of you know, the Ontario government has recently introduced a bill that would give police broad and sweeping powers to arrest and prosecute so-called “squeegee kids” and “aggressive” panhandlers.
While we in Ottawa are familiar with squeegee kids on our downtown street intersections, this legislation has been introduced in reaction to the situation in Toronto and to a large degree it reflects this government's misunderstanding of urban issues.
Our party is opposed to the government's legislation for several reasons. We have legitimate concerns as to its enforceability, as many legal experts have suggested that it will not stand up in a court of law. There are currently municipal bylaws on the books that address the problem of overly aggressive solicitation and we believe that is where the issue should stay.
The provincial government would be well advised instead to take a proactive approach by spending their efforts on treatment programs and programs integrating these kids back into society. In the meantime, this government should focus on more difficult issues. For example, our federal colleagues are in the process of committing money towards the problem of homelessness. Provincially, it is time we stepped up to meet that challenge.
The Ottawa Senators
The provincial government has taken steps to level the playing field for professional sporting franchises by bringing the property tax rate for their facilities (Corel Centre) in line with municipally owned facilities. Hamilton's Copps Coliseum and our own Jetform Park are municipally owned and pay no provincial tax. This special property class would be used at the discretion of the municipality.
This proposed solution should help alleviate some of the excess tax burden that is threatening to drive the Senators out of town. This should not be seen as a tax break for rich hockey players.
If the Senators are forced out, we lose all tax revenues they generate and are willing to pay (through various other forms of taxation), and we lose all the jobs and economic spin-offs (all tax revenue generating) that they bring in as well. Sports fan or not, it is worth attempting to keep our NHL team here.
On November 18th my colleague and long-time Liberal member from the upper Ottawa Valley, Sean Conway, spoke to a resolution regarding Highway 17 west of Ottawa. He asked the government to keep its promise to extend the construction of four lanes along the heavily used and dangerous Highway 17 corridor between Ottawa and Pembroke.
I was happy to support his resolution. Many of you will know from your travels how treacherous and busy this stretch of roadway can be. It is similar in that way to the problem we experienced ten years ago with the Highway 16 link to the 401.
As a minister at that time, I helped push for and got agreement to make Highway 16 a four-lane highway. This of course has finally been realized, and the statistics show that safety-wise it has been worth the effort. We believe that the same would be true for Highway 17.