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MPPs debate morning coffee


May 6, 2008
By The Canadian Press

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May 6, 2008, Toronto – Someone install a machine … morning coffee was
top of mind for Ontario politicians Monday as they began the work week
much earlier than normal thanks to a Liberal government experiment that
starts the legislative day at nine o'clock each morning instead of in
the afternoon.

May 6, 2008, Toronto – Someone install a machine … morning coffee was top of mind for Ontario politicians Monday as they began the work week much earlier than normal thanks to a Liberal government experiment that starts the legislative day at nine o'clock each morning instead of in the afternoon.

Before debate could even begin on new animal protection legislation, veteran Conservative Norm Sterling was seeking permission to change the rules so all the elected members could enjoy a cup of coffee inside the legislative chamber.

"I normally have a coffee at my desk at 9:00 a.m.,'' Sterling told the legislature. "Mr. Speaker, I ask your indulgence to allow the morning session to enjoy a cup of coffee while they're listening to debate.''

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Government House Leader Michael Bryant joked that he'd be the first to pour Sterling that cup of coffee if the Speaker gives permission, but later told reporters he thought Sterling was just trying to make a light-hearted comment about the new working hours.

"The fact that the co-dean of the legislature decided to make light and enjoy, for literally about 60 seconds of the entire debate, the fact that we were undertaking historic new changes in the house should be taken for that,'' said Bryant. "It was something by a very experienced member meant to try and make the place more collegial, and I appreciate that.''

But Speaker Steve Peters said Sterling's request to enjoy his morning caffeine fix inside the legislature raised interesting questions that he thinks should be decided by the all-party standing committee on the Legislative Assembly.

"Would we restrict to coffee mugs? How would we deal with paper cups? Do we take it beyond just coffee? What if somebody likes tea? What if somebody likes cider (or) orange juice,'' asked Peters.

"I respect the request that came forward, but I believe it has to be looked at in the context of all items that would want to be consumed in there.''

PC Leader John Tory said that the Speaker should simply make a ruling on the coffee question without sending the issue to committee for further study.

"It's another diversion away from the real issues. I think people would rather if we had a standing committee look into unemployment and what we can do to save jobs,'' said Tory. "The real point here is not what people are drinking or what their wearing. It really is: have we diminished the accountability of ministers and the premier himself?''

The New Democrats complained that the Liberals would let a committee study the issue of the members' daily cup of coffee, but unilaterally decided to move the hour-long question period to 10:45 a.m. from its former mid-afternoon time slot.

"The McGuinty government, which has a large majority, wants as much as possible to make question period disappear,'' said NDP Leader Howard Hampton. "This is single most important way of holding majority governments accountable, and responsible, and the McGuinty government wants to make it disappear.''

Bryant pointed out that the government has agreed to have a committee review the new legislative hours, and the new time slot for question period, after the legislature breaks for its summer recess. The Liberals would be willing to make changes if that's what members agree they want, he said.

Source: The Canadian Press