Ford government ‘shamed’ into letting independent female MPPs speak: Ont. Liberal

Independent female MPPs held a press conference at Queen's Park on Thursday, March 7, 2024. © Global News

An Ontario Liberal MPP says the Ford government has been “shamed into reversing course on a bad decision” after the Progressive Conservatives allowed independent female legislators to speak after multiple requests.

On Wednesday, Liberal MPP Lucille Collard asked for unanimous consent to allow her and other female independent members to speak about the importance of International Women’s Day during a period of recognition in the Ontario legislature.

The request — which would have allowed Liberal, Green and other MPPs from parties that do not hold enough seats to receive official party status at Queen’s Park — to speak about women and their achievements.

The request would have required unanimous consent from the legislature without opposition. When the question was asked, however, Government House Leader Paul Calandra said “no.”

The Ontario NDP made a second attempt to gain unanimous consent but was once against shutdown by the Ford government. It was only after multiple requests and a press conference held by independent female MPPs, the government relented.

“I think it was just great to see it was a unanimous yes, and that’s the most important thing we need to focus on,” Associate Minister of Women’s Social and Economic Opportunity Charmaine Williams told Global News.

She would not say if she had spoken to the house leader about his opposition to the request. Calandra said he had listened to the independent MPPs’ press conference and changed his mind.

“I had not heard from any of the members,” he told reporters Thursday. “I did watch the news conference, obviously, and it certainly bothered me that they felt that way. And I think we addressed that this afternoon.”

The Liberals, however, insist they gave the government ample warning they were planning to make the request.

“The motion was read very clearly by Lucille (Collard) and then read very clearly by the speaker,” Liberal MPP John Fraser said. “And I know that everybody was listening, I know that Paul was listening because I was looking at him.”

An email from the Ontario Liberals also shows they sent advance notice of their plan to introduce the motion to the house leader’s office on March 1, the week before International Women’s Day.

“I think this government was shamed into reversing course on a bad decision,” Ontario Liberal MPP Stephanie Bowman said.

“To be denied the right to speak on a day that is meant to amplify women’s voices and not suppress them, to celebrate women like us who have been elected to office, that was a real shame.”

On Wednesday, Collard told Global News the rejection was “very insulting.” She took particular issue with the fact that, after the government rejected her request, MPPs were reminded female members from across the aisle were to gather for an International Women’s Day photograph.

“This is like saying, ‘OK, you’re very welcome to come here in the legislature to be part of the picture — be pretty but shut up,’” she said.

Williams, who organized the photograph, said she was pleased the government had reconsidered its position and that more members would be able to speak on International Women’s Day.

“Every time we’re in this house, there’s opportunity for sober second thoughts, there’s opportunity for the decision that was turned around today,” she said.

“And we had that happen and now all the women are going to have the opportunity to speak.”

While the independent MPPs were allowed to give their remarks about International Women’s Day, the episode left some seething and asking for an official apology.

“I think an apology would have been in order,” said Liberal MPP Stephanie Bowman. “Because this was a real slap in the face to the women.”

Source: Global News