POLITICS

Competing anti-bullying bills are headed to legislative committee

05/03/2012 02:18 EDT | Updated 07/03/2012 05:12 EDT
TORONTO - Anti-bullying legislation that was bogged down in procedural wrangling for weeks is now moving ahead in the legislature.

All three parties agreed Thursday to allow two competing bills — one Liberal, one Conservative — to go to committee.

Education Minister Laurel Broten said she hopes the all-party committee can find a way to combine the two bills. There will also be public hearings.

The Tory bill has some "good provisions," such as a wider definition of what constitutes cyber-bullying, Broten said.

"Very good idea," she said.

"That work has to happen at committee."

Moving the bills forward also increases the chances of having anti-bullying legislation in place before the new school year starts in September, she said.

The minority Liberals' Bill 13 also passed second reading by a vote of 66 to 33, with only the Conservatives voting against it, saying they favour their own legislation, Bill 14.

"We've been very clear from the outset that we felt that Bill 14 was a superior bill," said Tory education critic Lisa MacLeod.

The Tory bill was the brainchild of longtime politician Elizabeth Witmer, who resigned her seat last week to accept a government-appointed post at the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board.

Before an all-party deal was brokered to allow the bills to go to committee, the Liberals accused the Tories of holding up debate by triggering the 30-minute division bells repeatedly in the legislature.

But the Tories said they were triggering the bells to protest the government's refusal to abide by the will of the legislature and strike a special committee to investigate Ornge, the province's troubled air ambulance service.

The Tories say they'll keep ringing the bells because it's the only way they can keep pushing the government on the Ornge issue.

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said she hopes both parties will stop the partisan shenanigans and get down to work on the bills in committee.

"I think people are pretty tired of political game-playing," she said. "What they want to see is us actually try to work together to get some things done. That's our obligation in a minority government."