Ford government allows independent MPs to speak on International Women’s Day after ‘silenced’ allegation

Doug Ford’s government, after denying multiple requests, finally allowed independent members more time to speak ahead of International Women’s Day.

The decision was made before question period Thursday, after the Ontario Liberals, Green Party and other independent members made numerous attempts to give women more time to speak in the legislature.

A first request was made Wednesday by Liberal MP Vanier Lucille Collard of Ottawa, who asked members of the legislature to allow independent members five minutes to respond to ministerial statements on International Women’s Day.

His request was denied. The Ontario New Democratic Party asked again Thursday morning, but the Progressive Conservatives voted against it.

At a news conference on Thursday, seven independent MPs spoke out about the Ford government’s denial, calling it an intimidation tactic and accusing the Progressive Conservatives of “silencing” women.

“This day is meant to amplify voices, not suppress them,” said Liberal MP Stephanie Bowman.

MPPs said their speeches would recognize and celebrate women rather than political politics.

“International Women’s Day is not a partisan celebration and parliamentary privilege should give us all equal opportunities. If we choose to talk about the contributions women have made in our lives,” said independent MP Bobbi Ann Brady.

The Ontario Liberals have nine seats in the legislature and do not meet the threshold for official party status. This means that they are considered independent members and are not normally allocated significant speaking time, which must be shared among all independents.

Of the nine members, five are women. This count does not include Ontario Liberal Party leader Bonnie Crombie.

A joint statement from the Liberals and their leader claims the PCs were deliberately silencing women by denying their petition.

According to the MPPs, the person who rejected their request was the leader of the Government House, Paul Calandra.

They also indicated that a PC MPP mocked them by faking teary eyes. Calandra, however, said her remarks were directed at Liberal MP John Fraser, and had no bearing on the request.

“We were outraged and trying to stand up for ourselves and fight for women everywhere,” Liberal MP Mary-Margaret McMahon told reporters.

“It was absolutely deplorable, degrading and disgraceful.”

A spokesperson for the State House leader told CTV News Toronto in a statement that independent members have “far greater capacities for participation than others in Canada.”

“Independent members here, as in other parliaments, do not automatically have the same speaking time as recognized parties,” they said.

“If the House allows unanimous consent, independents may be given special time to speak, and in this case, the House did not agree.”

Later that day, Calandra said he always votes against unanimous consent motions that he was not aware of. He said the independent members did not approach him, even though emails show the independent members notified Calandra’s office five days earlier of his intention to request time to speak.

“There was never any intention to not allow women to speak at home,” she told reporters. “I would have preferred them to approach me.”

“I will not change the fact that I am going to say no if I am not aware of the unanimous consent motion.”

Members were willing to “fight” and leave the legislature after making a last-ditch attempt to get more speaking time Thursday morning; However, the Ford government surprised them by allowing the point of order to pass.

It’s unclear why the Progressive Conservatives changed their minds.

International Women’s Day is celebrated on March 8; However, Thursday is the legislature’s last day of session before MPPs retire for March Break.


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