Ontario MPP 'disappointed' after being turfed from PC party by Premier Doug Ford
TORONTO -- Cambridge MPP Belinda Karahalios says she was "disappointed" but not surprised after Premier Doug Ford ejected her from the Progressive Conservative caucus for voting against legislation that gives the government new pandemic-related powers.
Bill 195, which was passed by the Progressive Conservatives on Tuesday, gives the government the power to keep extending COVID-19 emergency orders without the need for legislative approval or debate.
Karahalios claimed the bill "essentially silences every single Ontario MPP on the most important issue facing our legislature today" and was the only government MPP to vote against the bill.
"If we needed to do a second lockdown, that can happen but without the vote [from the legislature]," Karahalios told CTVNews Toronto. "That decision can get made without them (MPPs) having any say on it whatsoever."
Ford, who immediately ejected Karahalios from the Ontario PC party, said there are "no excuses" and that Karahalios should have supported a bill that the premier claims is designed to protect the health care and long-term care system in the event of a second wave of the COVID-19 virus.
"You need to vote on an important piece of legislation like this," Ford said.
Karahalios told CTVNews Toronto, however, that she wasn't the only government MPP who felt discomfort with the legislation but others might not have voiced their opinion out of "fear" of being "kicked out" of the party.
"There were a number of my colleagues who were uncomfortable with this bill, ones in cabinet, ones who are [Parliamentary Assistants]," Karahalios said. "It's a hard decision, there is a lot of pressure."
Government House Leader Paul Calandra confirmed that his office indicated to members that they were required to vote in favour of the bill because the legislation "is central" to the government's COVID-19 response.
Calandra said Karahalios had been given a "number of briefings" about the contents of the bill, and said she never expressed a desire to vote against the government. Ford echoed the statement and said Karahalios never mentioned her dissatisfaction with the bill during the premier's recent campaign-style stops in Cambridge.
"I was with her for two days. Last week, never said a word to me, didn't mention anything to me," Ford said.
Karahalios, however, said she made multiple attempts to highlight issues with the Premier's Office, even requested a meeting with Premier Ford while on tour in Cambridge.
"When he came to Cambridge ... I did say 'hey, can you call me? It's quite urgent' and he didn't call," Karahalios said.
Karahalios ultimately decided the proposed legislation was "undemocratic" and voted against it as a mater or principle.
"This is all part of Ontario history and I did not want my name attached to something like that."
NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said the controversy demonstrates the premier's willingness to "crush" those who have a difference of opinion.
"What it shows it that nothing's changed when it comes to the way Mr. Ford behaves. He simply cannot tolerate a difference of opinion and he punishes people severely when they dare to stand up to him," Horwath told reporters on Wednesday.
In 2018, MPP Amanda Simard announced she was leaving the PC caucus to sit as an independent just days after publicly speaking out against her party’s cuts to French-language services. Simard would later cross the floor to join the Ontario Liberals calling it the "party of the future."
Ford said he has frequent disagreements with the PC caucus and with cabinet but said he's part of a team.
"At the end of the day when the cabinet [and] caucus make a decision. I go with it."
The premier's comments come as the Ontario legislature adjourns until September.