A little more than a month ago, Nickel Belt MPP France Gélinas was elated after Premier Dalton McGuinty phoned her to say his government would support her private member's bill banning tanning bed use for those under 18.
Fast forward to the evening of Oct. 15, and McGuinty announced he was proroguing the legislature and would resign as premier as soon as the Liberals can choose a new leader.
Because the legislature has been prorogued, more than 100 bills on the docket, including Gélinas', will have to be reintroduced if they're to become law.
The tanning bill was part of Bill 126, which consolidated four bills.
Elements of the bill include: Bill 66, which limits or prohibits the sale of certain tobacco products, like flavoured cigarillos; Bill 74, which restricts tanning bed usage for those under the age of 18; Bill 86, which makes it mandatory for restaurant chains to list calorie and salt content of the foods offered; and Bill 122, which would give the Ontario Ombudsman the power to investigate health-care services.
The bill was due to receive second reading on Oct. 18. Gélinas, the NDP's health and long-term care critic, had hoped the bill would be come law before the end of the year.
“This is way bigger than just bad news,” she said. “This is horrible news.”
Not only will young people continue to be subjected to the dangers of tanning beds, which the World Health Organization has classified in its high cancer risk category, Gélinas said she feels bad for the youth who helped promote the bill.
Because this was the third time Gélinas has brought the bill before the legislature, she recruited youth groups from health units and the Canadian Cancer Society to increase its chance of being passed.
“On Monday night, I had to start making calls, telling them that it was all for nothing,” she said.
“It felt so yucky. They didn't expect it. They said 'But Mr. McGuinty said. We heard it on TV. He said he was going to support the bill.'
“But when the premier decides to do this, basically all the bills get thrown away, and you have to start at square one. It didn't take long for their anger to become mine.”
It's hard to get youth interested in politics, Gélinas said.
Now they're “even more disengaged from the political process that they feel has let them down,” she said.
As for what will happen to the bill now, the MPP said she'll reintroduce it when she gets the chance.
She has to wait for a new session in the legislature to start, and even then it's literally up to the luck of the draw when her bill can receive first reading once again.
“Ninety names get literally put in a hat, and the clerks pull them out, and then you see the order,” Gélinas said. “They slot three a week. This is how it's done.”
There is, of course, also the possibility that there could be another provincial election. If the NDP wins, Gélinas' bill could be put forward by the party.
But the last provincial election was only a year ago, and there's no appetite for another one right now, she said.
Gélinas said she'd just like to go back to work. “I feel like I'm being locked out,” she said. “I want to go to work, and I'm not allowed. I'm not happy.”