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Private Member's Bills Help Get Results

Aug 08, 2006 - People often ask me about the current status of my Private Member's Bill - the Frederick Banting Homestead Preservation Act. They also ask how the Ontario Legislature deals with Private Member's Bills in general.

First, I would like to thank the thousands of taxpayers, local businesses and municipal councils who have expressed their support for my initiative.

The Banting Bill would impose a restrictive covenant on the property where Sir Frederick Banting was born in Alliston, a place where he performed some of his earliest experiments. It forbids alteration or demolition of any of the farm buildings except for repairs and renovations or for use as an educational and interpretive centre. It also designates the entire 100-acre farm as a not-for-profit enterprise restricted to agricultural purposes and allows the property to be used as a camp for diabetic children.

In order for a Bill to become law, it must successfully pass three separate votes, or "readings" in the Ontario Legislature. Traditionally, Private Member's Bills pass the First Reading vote unanimously. First Reading basically recognizes the MPP's right to introduce a Bill of his or her choosing and allows the Bill to be printed and distributed to MPP's for further consideration.

Each MPP has the right to call a Private Member's Bill for Second Reading that involves a full and detailed debate on the proposed Bill's contents. Second Reading votes reflect individual MPP's analysis of the Bill. Ideally, these votes take place as "free votes", regardless of party affiliation.

The Banting Bill successfully passed Second Reading in November with unanimous support from MPP's of all three parties.

The reason that the vast majority of substantive Private Member's Bills do not become law is that the final step in the process is controlled by the Government.

Governments tend to monopolize debate time for Government Bills as opposed to Private Member's Bills. Also, quite frankly, the partisan nature of the Ontario Legislature unfortunately results in the odds being stacked against opposition Private Member's Bills.

As the Legislature rose for the summer recess, the Banting Bill remains waiting for the necessary Third Reading vote. It cannot climb that final rung of the legislative ladder unless given a boost by the Liberal Government.

I remain optimistic that my Bill will pass a Third Reading vote if allowed; however, we must keep the pressure on the Liberal Government to allow the final vote.

At the same time, an important function of Private Member's Bills is to shine the spotlight on an issue. In itself, the spotlight can cause the Government to act, even if not perfectly in line with the Private Member's Bill.

I do believe that the introduction of my Bill led the government to hire a provincial facilitator to help resolve the longstanding issue. While the Banting’s and I met with the facilitator some time ago, we were expecting some sort of resolution by late April. Unfortunately, that hasn’t happened.

I thought it was shameful when the Minister of Culture visited Alliston on June 28. Prior to her visit I wrote her asking that she visit the homestead with me. She refused the invite at first by not responding, then when I met with her in Alliston that day she refused to even drive by the site with me. I thought that was a pretty easy thing to do since we were both on our way to Midhurst for the opening of the Simcoe County Museum and we both would be practically driving right by it.

Regardless, I will continue to advocate for a final vote on the Banting Bill. In the meantime, together we can push the McGuinty Government to finally take some action. I encourage you to visit my website at www.jimwilson to sign my petition.

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