Queen’s Park Update

A surprise majority for the Liberals in the recent election is expected to set a different tone in Queen’s Park after almost 3 years of minority government.  A minority government is all about survival, there is no long-term planning. The Liberals could not focus on deficit reduction, job creation, pensions or stabilizing the auto insurance product without the confidence of having the support of the Legislature.

Despite campaigning under an activist agenda, the Liberals are now signalling that they are serious about deficit reduction. Deb Matthews has been appointed President/Chair of Treasury Board/Management Board which traditionally has been a responsibility of the Ministry of Finance. Treasury Board is not well known outside of government but it is a powerful central agency that manages the fiscal plan of the government including all government spending and approving labour agreements.  A very powerful body.

Charles Sousa continues as Minister of Finance and appears to still be responsible for the auto insurance file.  His Deputy, Steve Orsini has been promoted to Secretary of Cabinet which is head of the Ontario Public Service.  His appointment is intended to also signal that the Liberals are serious about deficit reduction.  He replaces Peter Wallace also preceded Orsini as Deputy Minister of Finance.

There has been some restructuring in the Ministry of Finance.  The Insurance and Cooperatives Policy Unit (which includes auto insurance policy) and the Deposit Taking Institutions Unit of the Industrial and Financial Services Branch will be reconstituted as the Financial Institutions Policy Branch. They will continue to be led by Alvaro del Castillo. Tthe Financial Institutions Policy Branch will join the Securities Reform Division (SRD) reporting to Assistant Deputy Minister Frank Allen who replaces Pat Deutscher. To better reflect its broader mandate the SRD will be renamed the Financial Services Policy Division.

Next week, new MPPs will return to Queen’s Park to elect a new Speaker of the Legislature (July 2), hear a new Speech from the Throne (July 3), then debate a re-introduced provincial budget on July 14. It is expected that shortly after that the Legislature will recess for the summer.  That might mean that the reintroduction of industry supported bills such as Bills 171 and 189 might have to wait until the fall.