The Inside Agenda Blog

Those Special Moments in Question Period

by Steve Paikin Wednesday February 20, 2013

Another day, and more "firsts" at the Ontario legislature:

  • The first Question Period for the new Kathleen Wynne government.
  • The first time in Ontario history that one female party leader asked a question that was answered by another female party leader.

Yes, Question Period is filled with feigned indigation, over-the-top theatrics, and a lot of nonsensical drivel. And today's edition was no exception.

But every now and then, you see things that remind you that, from time to time, politicians are people too. Seriously.

Here's a sample:

Opposition leader Tim Hudak prefaced his first question by congratulating Kathleen Wynne on becoming Ontario's 25th premier. It was a reminder that, amidst all the sturm und drang of Question Period, there actually are some moments of genuine collegiality.

NDP leader Andrea Horwath likewise welcomed Wynne by congratulating her on her leadership victory.

Kathleen Wynne answers her first question as premier. The geniality from the opposition benches didn't last long. The Speaker had to admonish the Tories to keep quiet so the premier could finish her reply.

Earlier in the day, PC MPP Rob Leone (Cambridge-North Dumfries) successfully argued for a continuation of the contempt hearings into the gas plant fiasco. Despite the prorogation, the legislature committees can pick up where they left off and hold the government to account on the decision to cancel the gas-fired generating station in Mississauga in the middle of the 2011 election campaign.

The first ever answer from a first ever cabinet minister: Windsor's Teresa Piruzza, Minister of Children's and Youth Services ...

... And the Liberal front bench turns around to watch Piruzza's answer in a show of support. I've never seen that happen before.

Both Finance Minister Charles Sousa and Premier Kathleen Wynne give their rapt attention to Piruzza's answer.

Health Minister Deb Matthews enthusiastically applauds the answer as well.

Education Minister Liz Sandals has waited nine years for this moment. Until now, she's been a backbencher. Now, she's in charge of a $20-billion ministry.

Later during Question Period, Hudak left his chair, and went into the Liberals' Visitors' Gallery, where he talked to the grandparents of one of the legislative pages. The family is from Fort Erie, Hudak's home town, and he knows them personally. The trio spent a good 15 minutes conversing.

The NDP's Andrea Horwath was urging the government to have fewer "conversations" (the premier's favourite word), and demonstrate more action and accomplishment.

But the Grits seemed pretty pleased with their leader's day-one performance.