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Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne and Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak.DEBORAH BAIC/The Globe and Mail

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For a few weeks this fall, it seemed the legislative gridlock that marked Ontario's hung Parliament was finally over.

In late September, Premier Kathleen Wynne's minority Liberal government cut a deal with Tim Hudak's Progressive Conservatives to fast-track eight pieces of legislation. Over the next two months, all but one of those bills sailed through the legislature. The last two – one on protecting consumers from unscrupulous door-to-door salespeople and another mandating carbon monoxide detectors in most Ontario homes – passed unanimously this week.

But any hopes this spirit of co-operation would extend to the glut of other legislation sitting on Parliament's order paper were dashed this week.

The PCs are using a range of procedural manoeuvres to hold up bills on everything from creating a new collective bargaining system for the province's teachers to making companies pay for a government recycling program.

One Tory tactic is classic filibustering: having MPP after MPP speak at length about a piece of legislation, running down the clock. The PCs have also used a stalling measure called "ringing the bells": in the middle of debate, a Tory MPP will suddenly move to adjourn the legislature. The House then comes to a standstill for half an hour while bells are rung to call MPPs to vote, wasting even more time. (Tellingly, the PCs generally vote against their own adjournment motions.)

The result of all this isn't hard to guess. The teacher bill has been debated for about 13 hours; the Waste Reduction Act for 16 hours and 33 minutes; a relatively non-contentious cut to small-business health taxes had 15 hours and 40 minutes of discussion. By comparison, the legislature's own standing orders recommend six and a half hours of debate.

Why are the PCs doing all this? They say they are trying to send a message to Ms. Wynne – that she has not done enough to fix the province's ailing economy.

"If they hear the bell ringing, they know exactly what it is," PC House Leader Jim Wilson said Thursday. "It's not attached to a particular bill, it's attached to the fact that they have not come up with a jobs plan."

Asked about the collateral damage of this procedure – the pieces of legislation that aren't moving forward – Mr. Wilson suggests such things aren't as important.

"We've got every interest group and their mother calling us. That doesn't matter. We're here to speak up for the one million unemployed people in the province," he said.

The Liberals counter that some of these bills badly need to get through. The teachers' bargaining framework has to be in place for negotiations to begin; the small business tax cut must be passed relatively soon for companies to take advantage of the savings in the new year.

"The Conservatives are playing games," Government House Leader John Milloy said. "They are filibustering and they're not making this place work, which I think sends a really negative message to the people of Ontario."

If the Tories continue to slow down legislation, the government is planning to introduce motions next week to have the House sit at night to make up for time lost to the filibusters.

The third-party New Democrats, meanwhile, argue the Liberals are partly responsible for the slow-down, too. House Leader Gilles Bisson said the government could have organized the legislative agenda better, rather than introducing bills one at a time.

He also argued the Tories are "dealing themselves out" by obstructing.

"They take this kind of posturing of trying to get little procedural victories in the House by ringing bells and doing the kinds of things they do, and I think the voter doesn't reward that," he said.

Amid the acrimony and finger-pointing, it's easy to forget that – thanks to the Grit-Tory accord in September – the fall session had been relatively productive until now.

One bill that passed ensured mobile phone users can now ditch their contracts after two years, limited the amount of cancellation fees they can be charged and mandated that telephone companies cannot alter peoples' contracts without their express consent.

Another law this fall forces real-estate agents to have documentation of all bids on a property to prevent them lying about bidders to drive up prices. It also bans debt-settlement services from charging fees up front.

A third, meanwhile, moves tenancy disputes at housing co-ops out of the court system and puts them in the Landlord-Tenant Board.

And on Thursday afternoon a light, however dim, appeared at the end of the tunnel: the three parties agreed to move the small business tax cut bill from one committee, where it was getting held up, to another with more time to work on it.

It's not much, but it might be reason to hold out hope.

Adrian Morrow reports on the Ontario legislature.