Your Question Period briefing: ‘What does systemic racism mean to you?’

Your Question Period briefing: ‘What does systemic racism mean to you?’

Voices were raised and fences were mended Wednesday.

A simple question on a complex issue

Liberal MPP Michael Coteau asked Doug Ford a seemingly straightforward question Wednesday: “What does systemic racism mean to you and do you believe it exists in Ontario?”

That was his entire question, with no preamble — marking the rare time a politician in the house got straight to the point.

The premier said nothing for a moment before a few words from Finance Minister Vic Fedeli apparently prompted him to direct the response to Community Safety Minister Michael Tibollo, who is responsible for the province's Anti-Racism Directorate.

“I want to assure the house that the Anti-Racism Directorate is continuing to fulfill its mandate of the whole government approach,” Tibollo said.

He then declined to answer directly a follow-up from Coteau on whether the directorate will collect race-based data in the justice system.

Last week, NDP Leader Andrea Horwath accused Tibollo of making “racist” remarks about wearing a bulletproof vest while touring Toronto's Jane and Finch neighbourhood with police. Tibollo later conceded he should have been more “careful” in his choice of words, but insisted the comment wasn’t offensive. Coteau didn't describe the comment as racist, but encouraged Tibollo to visit Ontario communities without a bulletproof vest on. 

Sex ed on the mind

Sex ed has kicked off Question Period every day except one of the past six days that the house has sat.

“Yesterday, I asked the premier if gender identity, sexual orientation and LGBTQ families would be fully included in the curriculum this fall, but the premier failed to say yes,” Horwath said Wednesday. “Why does this premier think that keeping his social conservative friends happy is more important than keeping queer youth safe?”

Citing a need for more extensive parental consultation, Ford rebutted with a quotation from Jagmeet Singh, Horwath’s former deputy and the current federal New Democrat leader: “ ‘When it comes to proper consultation, it’s clear the Liberal government has not learned from previous mistakes. The lack of inclusive consultation before announcing the curriculum was disrespectful to parents in my constituency and a mistake on the Liberal government’s part.’ ”

Education Minister Lisa Thompson has been absent from the house for more than a week after walking back a remark that consent, cyber safety and gender identity would be taught this fall.

Holla at me

For the second day in a row, a protester interrupted house proceedings from the visitors gallery, shouting that legislation — poised to pass Wednesday — to force employees back to work after 143 days on strike is “not solving” the underlying problem.

After about 20 seconds, Ford shouted back from the floor. “Your one minute’s up! You’re done!” he hollered.

The tone was markedly different from former premier Kathleen Wynne’s past encounters with demonstrators, abiding speech interruptions and having an impromptu meeting with members of Black Lives Matter in front of the legislature in 2016.

Mental health on the mind

NDP MPP Laura Mae Lindo brought up Ford’s plan to redirect a portion of a reduced mental health-care funding commitment toward police. “How will this government ensure that reallocating mental health funding does not exacerbate the mental health crisis here in Ontario?” she asked.

“Our government is presently working on developing a comprehensive mental health and addiction system which actually takes into account about 12 different ministries that have an impact – it’s Attorney General, it’s housing, it’s ComSoc [Community and Social Services], it’s health and many others,” said Health Minister Christine Elliott.

Elliott confirmed Wednesday that a Progressive Conservative plan for $1.9 billion over 10 years for mental health funding will replace the previous Liberal government’s $2.1-billion pledge over four years. Unless the new government spends a disproportionate amount of the mental-health funding in its first mandate, it will mean a reduction in funding compared to what the Liberal government had planned. 

Healing fresh wounds

As soon as Question Period wrapped up, Ford darted over to see his predecessor, Wynne, who made her second appearance at the legislature in the since the election.

Christopher Reynolds


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