News / Toronto

New MPP Oosterhoff calls parenting bill ‘horrible legislation’

Comments come after PC leader Patrick Brown said he expected his caucus to support Bill 28.

Progressive Conservative MPP Sam Oosterhoff speaks to supporters after winning the byelection in Niagara-West Glanbrook and becoming Ontario's youngest-ever MPP on Nov. 17. Oosterhoff said he would not have supported a parenting bill that gives same-sex parents legal recognition. It's a position that breaks with Tory party leader Patrick Brown.

The Canadian Press

Progressive Conservative MPP Sam Oosterhoff speaks to supporters after winning the byelection in Niagara-West Glanbrook and becoming Ontario's youngest-ever MPP on Nov. 17. Oosterhoff said he would not have supported a parenting bill that gives same-sex parents legal recognition. It's a position that breaks with Tory party leader Patrick Brown.

He’s not even been sworn in and already he’s breaking with his leader.

Newly elected MPP Sam Oosterhoff told Torstar News Service that if he had been able to vote on Bill 28, he would “definitely not have supported” it — even though a day earlier PC leader Patrick Brown said he expected his caucus to vote in favour of the legislation giving same sex couples and those who use reproductive technology legal recognition as parents.

Oosterhoff, Brown said Tuesday, is a “team player … we fully expect him to support the direction that I’m taking the party and I have confidence that he will.”

But in an interview, the 19-year-old Oosterhoff called it a “horrible piece of legislation,” and said while all parents need to be respected, the bill as is “can lead to litigation on the child.”

The All Families are Equal Act, the first update of parentage laws since 1978, passed unanimously Tuesday. It means same-sex parents will no longer have to go to court — spending thousands — to get legal recognition, allowing them to register births in the same way heterosexual couples do. The new legislation also means a birth parent can enter into a parenting agreement with up to three others before a child is conceived.

NDP MPP Cheri DiNovo, whose private member’s bill inspired the legislation, said it has taken more than a decade to make these changes as ordered by an Ontario Superior Court.

“This is a wonderful day,” said DiNovo (Parkdale-High Park). “Again, this is about the children. All children should be born having the same rights, and this finally accomplishes that.”

The bill passed with all 79 MPPs present in favour, including just over half of the Progressive Conservative caucus. A handful, known for socially conservative views, either did not show up or left before the vote.

“Almost half his caucus wouldn’t vote on that bill. That tells you something,” Deputy Premier Deb Matthews told reporters. “It’s clearly a divided caucus.”

Oosterhoff was elected Nov. 17, the same as Liberal MPP Nathalie Des Rosiers (Ottawa-Vanier), who was sworn in Monday.

The Liberals had charged that Brown, who has been trying to build an inclusive party, was delaying the teen’s swearing in as he was “anxious to avoid having his new MPP voting against a bill that gives legal rights to gay couples.”

But Oosterhoff said while Bill 28 “attempted to streamline certain processes in law, which was a good thing — I encourage adoption and I am super pro-adoption … but the reality is we made a very common sense, very practical proposed amendment at the committee stage which was shut down by the Liberals. I think it just goes to show how out of touch they are with people.”

He’s concerned that “having the opportunity for four parents, for example, is something that when the child is placed into the contractual agreement where you don’t even need to have a notarization… (four of us), we could create a contract and adopt a child together — and I think that’s worrying because that can create difficult scenarios down the road where you can be litigating … over the child.

“I think that we have to make sure that family law is very child-focused,” he said during a five-minute sit-down interview at Queen’s Park.

Oosterhoff was at Queen’s Park all day Tuesday and has been planning a celebration for the swearing in ceremony, scheduled for first thing Wednesday morning with about 60 friends and family members in attendance.

He’s expecting four of his seven siblings to be there, including his brother, whose wife gave birth to a baby girl on Monday. Family is coming in from Ottawa and Owen Sound, he added, and his “oma and opa” — grandparents — who live in his Niagara West-Glanbrook riding will also make the trip.

He called Bill 28 “an attempt to distract people from the very real, negative impact they’re having on families through soaring hydro rates, cuts to health care — you name it, right? We can all testify to that damage.”

Would he have voted against it? “I would definitely not have supported the legislation.”

And when asked how he feels about same-sex parents, Oosterhoff said “we need to respect all parents. I think it’s amazing whenver people decide to be parents … I was a counsellor at camp … I had four kids I was taking care of — man, I was beat, like I was so tired … anyone who takes it upon themselves to be a parent should be commended because it’s a sacrificial job.”

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