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TVO Civics 101, First Past the Post
Screencap from TVO Civics 101 Video "First Past the Post"

How Does the Ontario Government Work?

… or Who Does What, Who’s Who, and What’s Going On?

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne, at MP Robert Oliphant's 2017 Canada Day Celebration, Edwards Gardens, Toronto
Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne, at MP Robert Oliphant’s 2017 Canada Day Celebration, Edwards Gardens, Toronto

Working with a not-for-profit funded in part by the provincial government, I’ve learned how important it is to (attempt to) understand How Things Work, including Who Does What, Who’s Who, and generally What’s Going On.

Living away from Ontario for quite a while, though, I’ve missed a lot of recent political history.

In the past few years, mostly through work, I’ve had occasion to meet federal MPs, Ontario MPPs, Toronto City Councillors, and the Lieutenant Governor of Ontario. I’m curious about what they do, how they’re chosen, what they represent, what their powers are, and how they relate to each other.

For now, I needed a refresher on how the Ontario government works.

Here are some resources I’ve found useful, for current and future reference.

1) TVO Civics 101

TVO, the educational public services broadcaster for Ontario, has produced a terrific Civics 101 series of 30+ bite-sized videos answering exactly the questions I’ve had. TVO notes that “Civics 101 illustrates how the provincial political process works and how citizens participate in that process enhancing their civic engagement.”

Though a bit dated (Dalton McGuinty is Premier and Kathleen Wynne is Education Minister), the series features Members of Provincial Parliament (MPPs) speaking to questions relevant to their positions. Accessibility kudos to TVO for including full closed captioning on the videos, plus transcripts.

Here’s a selection of especially informative ones.

What is the Role the Official Opposition? (John Tory, 2:10)
What is the Role of a Critic? (Joyce Savoline, 1:34)
What is the Role of the Third Party? (Cheri DiNovo, 0:32)
What's a Private Member's Bill? (Peter Kormos, 1:17)
How Does a Bill Become a Law? (Laurel Broten, 2:03)
How Do Committees Work? (John Yakabuski, 1:41)
What is the Job of an MPP? (Monte Kwinter, 1:10)
What Does the Speaker Do? (Steve Peters, 2:44)
What's a Budget vs. an Economic Statement? (Dwight Duncan, 1:13)
Where Do Ideas for Legislation Come From? (Julia Monroe, 1:40)
TVO’s Civics 101 also features short animated (and musical) videos, reminiscent of the American Schoolhouse Rock! series, on which I grew up (including the classic I’m Just a Bill).

How a Law is Made (3:07)
What's a Budget All About? (2:50)
First Past the Post (3:15)
Who Does What (4:23)
Minority and Majority Governments (3:04)
What's a By-election? (2:23)
A Very, Very, Brief History of Democracy (5:03)
Rights and Responsibilities (3:23)
How to Vote in Ontario (3:12)

2) Ontario Government Website


The Ontario government’s own website is, of course, full of useful information. Two especially helpful sections are:

3) Legislative Assembly of Ontario Website


The Legislative Assembly’s own website includes:

  • A Chamber seating plan (opens PDF) with the names and home ridings of MPPs, showing who sits next to whom.
  • A list of current MPPs, which may be sorted by Ministers, Opposition Critics, Parliamentary Assistants, and political parties.
  • House Video, and schedule when the House is sitting (with jazzy music in the meantime!).

The Ontario Legislature’s YouTube channel also features recordings of Question Periods and Members’ Statements, such as this lively recording from December 14, 2017.

A live view of sessions in the legislature is also available on local cable television on the Ontario Parliament Network (check local listings, but likely channels 105, 129, and 199).

4) Infographic from Ontario Nonprofit Network

The Ontario Government: A Snapshot: Read in an online viewer or open as a PDF.

The Ontario Government: A Snapshot, an Infographic from the Ontario Nonprofit Network

I quite like this comprehensive four-page infographic booklet from the Ontario Nonprofit Network and partners, which I first saw a couple years ago. It covers the Legislative Assembly of Ontario, the Cabinet, and the Ontario Public Service, with a snapshot of Ontario ministries and their areas of responsibility (of interest to nonprofits).

5) Wikipedia on Government of Ontario

Finally, there’s always Wikipedia, with its myriad links to explore:

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