L018 - Tue 24 Apr 2018 / Mar 24 avr 2018

 

The House met at 0900.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Good morning. Please join me in prayer.

Prayers.

Orders of the Day

2018 Ontario budget

Resuming the debate adjourned on April 23, 2018, on the motion that this House approves in general the budgetary policy of the government.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Further debate.

Ms. Jennifer K. French: Good morning, Speaker. I am pleased to start this fine day with a 20-minute speech on the budget. I have waited patiently for a chance to speak on this budget, and here we are.

What is in the budget, what isn’t in the budget—these are conversations we’re having across our communities at length. I’ve had a number of fantastic chances, as I’m sure we all have, to connect with our constituents. We have hosted a number of round tables at our constituency office that have been inspired by the significant need in our community. We’ve had seniors’ round tables. We had a round table on developmental services. Goodness, we’ve had a dental needs round table. And this is just at my constituency office, bringing folks together to do our best to understand their needs and do our best to problem-solve.

Unfortunately, the budget that we have in front of us doesn’t do what it needs to problem-solve. It throws a couple of pretty words at these conversations but not the money, not the real investment, not the real intention that is deserved.

We’ve heard this before. There was a fair bit of lead-up to the budget. People were wondering, was this going to be a campaign budget? I anticipated that it was going to be. You know what, Speaker? It even fell flat for that.

This was a government that brought forward this budget because they thought they wanted to build themselves back up in the eyes of the community, but the community has been paying attention and knows that this is not enough, that this was not even stretch goals. They didn’t even commit fully to dental; it was just a little bit: “Here’s enough for a tooth, but only for you and not for the rest of your family. Here’s a bit towards your cleaning.” That’s not what a family can rely on. That’s not what people need.

So, it was clear that this Premier believes it’s more important for her to look good than for the people of Ontario to actually feel good. Certainly, when it comes to health, when it comes to wellness, this budget falls short.

I’d like to bring it back to dental because, of course, people were excited about the NDP dental plan; they continue to be excited about the NDP dental plan. Then out came the budget and the budget didn’t have any teeth—ha ha—let alone a significant commitment to dental. I got some cynical responses from my community but also some pretty sincere concerns, and I’ll share one here. This is a letter from a woman named Donna, one of my constituents, who’s in her thirties. She works full-time. She wrote to me:

“I do not have any benefits, I am employed full-time and I might have some friends with younger kids that benefit from OHIP+, but my immediate circle of friends and colleagues do not qualify. As a single-income earner I’m so excited about the prospect of an Ontario dental plan. I have voiced my concerns about this issue a few times and I feel like finally someone is listening. As a professional vocalist, my mouth health is so important, and often on display. I know how important oral health is to your overall health and I have had a lot of issues affording the dental care I need. I currently am in need of over $400 of cavity work done. As a single earner it comes down to my teeth or my rent; my teeth or my rent, my teeth or my car payments and insurance. I hate that I have to go into debt to take care of my teeth. I hate that I will have [to] pay interest on something that should be under the provincial health care umbrella.”

Interestingly, she has shared that she needs $400 worth of cavity work done. Well, under the Liberal plan, $400 is all she would get, so I hope she doesn’t need a cleaning and I hope she’s not part of a family that requires any other work done.

Laughter.

Ms. Jennifer K. French: Speaker, I find it interesting that the folks across the way think that the dental deficits here are hilarious, but anyway.

Hon. Yasir Naqvi: Oh, come on. You know that they were not even talking about you.

Ms. Jennifer K. French: Okay. Sorry. They were laughing about something else. Maybe it was the lack of funding for health care; I’m not sure.

Another letter that I would like to share—well, it’s not so much a letter; it’s another case that I’d like to share. It’s from Darlene. I want to tell you a little bit about Darlene because Darlene is a firecracker. She came into my office and, like many who come to our constituency offices, didn’t come with just one need; she came with several.

Darlene came to see us. She is 72 years old. She’s a tiny little woman who is a firecracker and is a survivor and has a really special energy. She came to our office, unfortunately, just on that verge of crisis and really needed not just to be heard but needed help. We’re continuing to work with her but we’re finding it really challenging within this system to get her the help she needs. She’s 72; she has not been able to afford dental care since she turned 65 and she lost her benefits. She has 14 teeth left in her mouth. She’s developing gum disease. She is having trouble chewing and swallowing. She told me that she hates to eat. She hates to eat because of the pain and because of her challenges. The hospital won’t do anything for her; they just send her home with antibiotics.

She’s not asking for anything fancy. All she wants is to have her teeth cleaned and she wants to have a cavity filled so that she can feel healthy. This is someone who, before she hit 65 and she got pushed off that seniors’ cliff where you’re on your own—she told me that she desperately wanted some kind of dental work done so she could keep the teeth that she had. She wanted some kind of appliance so she’d be able to keep chewing and eating past 65. She certainly didn’t qualify for that, certainly couldn’t have that and so now, one by one, she has been losing her teeth, and had a number of other concerns when she came to us.

We’ve had folks come to our office who have undergone cancer treatments, not for a mouth cancer, not for an oral cancer, but some of the side effects of the cancer treatments are tooth damage; again, something not covered. We need to have a fulsome plan that allows people to have that oral health that they deserve, because we know it’s connected to everything else.

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For goodness’ sake, the government almost shouldn’t have touched it rather than just $400 and then another $50 or whatever it is; it’s piecemeal. The thing is, all Ontarians who don’t have enough money for dental and don’t have dental coverage—they know what it costs. They know that they can’t afford that $1,600 root canal. So when they see those numbers, it’s insulting.

We’ve talked at length—I would say that we’ve spoken ad nauseam in this room—about health care and the lack of the supports that people need in our hospitals and in our communities. I love being in Oshawa, but being in the Central East LHIN, we are at the very bottom when it comes to funding. We don’t have equity around the province. It depends on where you live—the amount of care that you can get. My understanding is—and I’m sure that my Conservative colleagues will be happy to speak to this and correct me if I’m wrong: Back in the days of Harris, the funding for the LHINs was—I think it was reduced first and then frozen at that moment in time. The thing is, that was a snapshot of how things were at that time. Our area has grown and other areas have grown, but the funding has not been re-evaluated. We are frozen at that point.

Our LHIN is right at the bottom in terms of funding. We see that when it comes to our long-term care; we see that when it comes to our hospitals. It isn’t right. It isn’t fair. It shouldn’t matter where you live in this province; you should have access to the services that you need and the health care that you require and, of course, deserve.

I asked a question in this House a couple of weeks ago about Anna. Anna is someone whose adult children came to our office. They were very concerned because Anna was being held or stored or I don’t know how to put it—has been in ALC, alternate level of care, at the hospital. There is no space for her. Where she had been in a seniors’ residence, they could no longer meet her needs. There was nowhere for her to go, so she literally has been in holding in—rather than long-term care—long-term storage at the hospital, in our ALC beds, waiting for a space.

I’m glad that I pressed in this House. I’m glad I brought it up, because, interestingly, she has been moved. She has not been moved to where she will be permanently, but she has been relocated. I’m glad to hear that, but her family continues to advocate to get her into a space that is close to home so that they can continue to see her and spend time with her. They were so worried that, like many of the other people around her, two or three that they got to know personally over the months that she has been there who died in hospital, she was going to die in this holding bed in the hospital rather than a space where she was welcome and wanted and could spend time with her family with dignity.

Stories like this are all across the province. We hear them on a regular basis. We don’t see these issues addressed in this budget, and we should; we really should. We keep talking about how the government has had 15 years to do something about this. They’ve had 15 years to figure out the problems. I’ve only been here for four, but I know what the problems are, because I pick up my phone in my constituency office and I make appointments with folks and I listen to them. So if I know what the problems are in four years because I’m doing my job, I’m going to trust that everyone else in this Legislature is doing their jobs: that they are answering their phones and that they are working with folks in their constituencies. So they’ve known.

We see right now with this budget and all of these announcements—the flurry of investments and, “You have a car, and you get a car, and you get a car, and you get a car,” and all of this stuff—they knew what was needed. It’s not just that it’s insulting, but that gets to the heart of it. If they knew how to fix it, then why wait? Why not address it? Why not be honest with the people of Ontario and say, “You know what? This might be too big for us to get accomplished, but we’re going to start.” Nope. It’s: “We’re just going to pretend it’s not a thing. We’re not going to own up to it. We’re not going to get working on it.”

Here we have—in how many days is it now, Speaker?—an election on the horizon. It’s not even on the horizon; it’s right around the corner. I think, in that election, there’s going to be a clear message sent. But I think what the message is—regardless of how folks vote; regardless of the outcome of the election—people deserve to live and work in a province where they don’t have to worry about absolutely everything.

In the last four years, first we’re dealing with the sell-off of Hydro One. This is something that will always mark my career: that I had to sit across from the government and watch them slowly sell off Hydro One and dismantle what we owned as a province. With Hydro One, you can’t get much broader than the ownership of everybody in the province. But they sold that off and got rid of the revenue stream that came with that.

They are underfunding our public services without even thinking about it: “Just sell it off; we don’t want to deal with it.” They’ve got friends who need to make a profit, and here we are. We don’t have enough money coming in. They don’t have a plan to bring money in; they just have a plan to spend it. At least, with the NDP and our platform—and we’re getting good reviews, Speaker; I don’t know if you’ve had a chance to check it out—our math checks out. We’re going to bring more money in and we’re going to be spending in places that are so desperately in need. People are fine with that.

People don’t want to go to the hospital and be treated in a hallway. People don’t want to have mouth pain and know that they can’t even get their tooth pulled until there’s an abscess; they have to have a disease before they can get treatment. People want what’s best for their kids. They want affordable child care. They also want affordable housing. They want to be able to look around their community and see that there is a way forward. We don’t see that in this budget, quite frankly.

Speaker, I’m going to shift because we haven’t had too much of a conversation about developmental services that I’ve heard in this room. I have had a number of meetings with folks who work in this sector, with families who are standing patiently in the Passport line, with management, and with the caregivers on the front lines. I want to share a little bit about that.

First, I had met with OASIS—when we’re looking at the management side of developmental services—and they are very concerned. They are concerned about the increased administrative burden, that they won’t be able to give the training that is needed, and that folks will not be able to provide that specialized, individualized care when they just can’t meet the staffing needs. The lack of funding to this sector means delays to infrastructure repairs, and the maintenance of homes is being delayed. We’re just pushing this further and further down the field, like everything else, and we have not been investing in developmental services. If you can’t appropriately staff, then you can’t appropriately care.

What I heard from the front lines, from CUPE members in developmental services—they spoke at length about the complex needs, and they don’t have the training that they require. Sitting them down in front of computer screens and giving them an online workshop is not the same as appropriate training when the needs of our community members that they serve are increasingly complex. It’s far more demanding. You see increasing need and decreasing morale. Speaker, that is not what we should imagine when we think about our vulnerable community members who need strong and supportive developmental services.

I’m going to read some quotes from, like I said, the front lines, from CUPE members who are in developmental services. Here’s one from a direct support worker: “Basically, they’re cutting away all the extras. They’re leaving us enough time to feed, shower, clean—you know, the basic necessities—but all the extra stuff like going to hockey games, all the stuff that makes our guys part of a community, is being taken away slowly until they’re going to be housebound.”

Another one from a group home support worker: “The price of everything in group homes has gone up—food, hydro, heating, insurance, the cost of maintaining vehicles, taxes, health and safety equipment.... But the funding from the province for my agency doesn’t take any of this into account.”

Another one from a developmental services worker: “This work [with people with developmental disabilities] is all about consistency. But staff turnover here is high because the pay is so poor. We’ve been making the same hourly wage since 2007. Families would be appalled.”

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And another one, because we’ve got the time and I’ve got an audience, and I’m so inclined: A vocational instructor said: “The employer’s financial inability to hire new staff, coupled with cuts in hours for part-time employees ... makes it impossible for us to provide the personal support that clients need. At the same time, employers are—at least ours is —looking at increasing the staff-to-client ratios in day programs.”

Lastly, from another vocational instructor: “[The agency I work for] is looking at expanding their services to include clients with mental health issues.... Mixing clients with a primarily developmental disability with clients that primarily have a mental health disorder isn’t good. The two groups require different kinds of support, and we are trained to support with individuals with a developmental disability, not mental health disorders. Nor will employers have the ability to educate us to work with mental health clients.... More clients and staff will be put at risk of violence.”

When it comes to providing the care with dignity and with resources, we are falling short in this province. We are falling short when it comes to developmental services. We are falling short when it comes to our classrooms.

I had met with CUPE 218 a while back, when it came to the issue of violence in our schools. I have spoken at length about this. When I met with the CUPE workers—there are an astronomical number of violent incidents that the front lines are seeing. Where is the commitment to hire and properly resource? When it comes to PTSD and stress-related leave, there need to be fewer appeals. We’re catching on that these are stressful work environments and that people are legitimately suffering and struggling.

In this budget, again, we don’t see enough. We see some funding, but how far will that go? Not far enough, when this government has chosen for the last 15 years to neglect all of our different ministries, all of our different care systems, be it developmental services, be it health care or dental care. Goodness, I didn’t even talk about pharmacare. But don’t worry, Speaker. I have a lot to say, and I’ll save it for another day.

When it comes to all of our care sectors, this government has chosen to neglect them, and now they are pretending that they care. They’re going to throw a couple of dollars at it, and they’re going to cut a ribbon and have a parade for it. Nobody is buying it. It is time for change; it is time for change for the better. People deserve a better Ontario. It’s not just that they want it; they know that it is possible, and they will have it.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Rick Nicholls): Questions and comments?

Mr. Yvan Baker: It’s a pleasure to rise to speak to the member from Oshawa, who I know is passionate about a range of issues. Some of them, she talked about; some of them, she didn’t get to talk about. But I appreciate her passion and her dedication to those issues.

I do have to disagree with her on the substance of the things that she said. One of the arguments that the member made, and that others have made, is that suddenly, the government awoke to the challenges that the people of Ontario are facing, and suddenly, in this budget, at the last minute, decided to invest in services that are important to people.

First of all, that’s not true. If we look back, the facts indicate that that’s not true. In the previous budget, we invested significantly in hospitals. We had the $7-billion booster shot for health care. We increased hospital funding. Over the past number of budgets, if you look at the amount of money we have invested in community care, that number continues to rise. It’s one of the fastest-growing parts of the provincial budget. The health care budget as a whole continues to grow, and so on and so forth.

We’ve invested in mental health. We’ve invested in infrastructure. We’ve invested in all of those services that the member opposite has been talking about, and this budget just continues along that trend.

Certainly, there are some new initiatives in this budget: pharmacare for seniors—I think that’s great news; funding to help people cover the cost of dental care; increases in community care funding; increases in mental health funding. The increase in mental health funding brings that investment to more than $17 billion over four years. How can anyone argue that this is something we suddenly started doing now? This is something we’ve been working on for some time.

I think there are some really important initiatives in this budget that touch on the issues that the member from Oshawa was talking about. I think it’s important for the member, and the members opposite of both opposition parties, to recognize that this is the continuation of a trend where this government continues to try to address the priorities of Ontarians.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Rick Nicholls): Further questions and comments?

Mr. Steve Clark: I’m pleased to provide just a few comments in response to the member for Oshawa’s address this morning on the budget. I want to thank her and her advocacy.

But the last government member really made me think about some comments on the budget. Last week, I was in my riding for a couple of days. We had the Ontario Volunteer Service Awards—two sessions in Elgin and one in Brockville—so we were able to recognize hundreds of volunteers in the community.

I also had a visit from my leader, Doug Ford, at rallies in Brockville and a whistle stop in Gananoque, and also two visits to two industries—two job creators in my riding—Northern Cables and Canarm. The member for Renfrew–Nipissing–Pembroke, as our labour critic, toured Northern Cables with me, and I know some of the concern that they’ve expressed with this government’s policies.

I look forward to the Auditor General—she’s going to be presenting her pre-election report—and I really hope that for a change this government embraces what she says and doesn’t wage war against her. There’s an incredible appetite for change. We saw it last week with Doug Ford’s visit to my riding. A lot of people are really looking for a government that recognizes and respects the taxpayer dollar and doesn’t just decide, after 15 years of waste, scandal, and mismanagement, that they’re going to look at voters in Ontario and say, “We’re not going to spend your money unwisely, and we really, really mean it this time.” It’s pretty rich, coming from this government.

I can’t wait to hear the Auditor General’s recommendations. Ontarians will be watching very closely. They’re going to be watching very closely to see how this government responds.

Interjections.

Mr. Steve Clark: Oh, you want to wake up now? Just take a rotation and talk.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Rick Nicholls): Further questions and comments?

Ms. Catherine Fife: I think the member from Oshawa really went through a number of the files where this government has failed people. The evidence is there. The Liberal member talked about the continuation of a trend. That is exactly the problem, because the best predictor of future behaviour is, of course, past behaviour.

We have seen what you have done. That’s why the York students have been out for seven weeks, because this government continues, to this day, regardless of this better-than-free budget that you’ve tabled—it’s that you’ve created the conditions for tension and strife in our public services. The evidence is so very clear. That is why four students interrupted the Premier’s speech yesterday at the Canadian Club, saying that they cannot take it anymore. And why should our post-secondary institutions be—

Interjection.

Ms. Catherine Fife: Why should our post-secondary institutions be—

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Rick Nicholls): Could I ask that you address the Chair, please.

Ms. Catherine Fife: —the precarious, part-time, contract work—why should our post-secondary institutions be leading the way on part-time, precarious, contract work? That’s the kind of record that you are proud of?

I know the member from Oshawa actually comes from the education sector. When you invest in education, the return on the investment is there. It’s there for the economy. It’s there for the health. It’s there for the future predictors of how we are going to grow as a province. So when she talks about health care and dental and education—

Interjection.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Rick Nicholls): Order.

Ms. Catherine Fife: You know, the biggest thing, I think—and I know that the back row is really feeling a little unstable these days. Quite honestly, I’ve heard what they are saying at the doors. The anger at the doors is real, but the chance for the people of this province to choose an option that actually works for them is also real in this election. You don’t have to choose between that side or that side; you can choose real change for the better.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Rick Nicholls): Further questions and comments?

Hon. Kathryn McGarry: It’s always a pleasure to rise on behalf of my constituents in Cambridge and North Dumfries township. I want to say good morning to my parents at home, Barb and Norm.

I also wanted to make a few comments on the member from Oshawa’s assertions this morning about some of the things that she was talking about in health care. The member from Kitchener–Waterloo just said that past behaviour is a predictor of the future. Well, I know, as a nurse in the early 1990s, that during their time in government, the NDP cut over 9,000 beds, 24% of acute care beds. They also cut 13% of the mental health beds—

Interjection.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Rick Nicholls): Member from Barrie, come to order.

Hon. Kathryn McGarry: They closed nursing school places and created a future that we know, as nurses, would create a health care crisis with too few beds, too few nurses and too few doctors in the system. Then, two successive PC governments also continued to cut, so when we came in in 2003 our number one priority was to ensure that we invested in hospitals and home care.

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We’ve created now, years later, a system that has 30,000 more nurses in the province. We’ve spent billions in building up our health care system: added beds, hospitals, expansions, like Cambridge Memorial Hospital, which is just about to open its new wing. We resolved the doctor shortage.

We continue to invest in many different areas, including OHIP+. OHIP+ is helping children who can’t afford to have medication, so that reduces hospital emerg visits. We’re expanding that to all those over age 65 next summer. We’re continuing to invest in $19 billion worth of infrastructure so that we can have the hospitals and beds that we need. We’re adding long-term-care beds. We’re continuing to invest in home and community care, to ensure that seniors can stay in their homes if they choose to do that.

I’m proud of our budget. I know that we will move forward to ensure that we have what we need in the future years.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Rick Nicholls): Back to the member from Oshawa for final comments.

Ms. Jennifer K. French: I find it really interesting when the—

Interjections.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Rick Nicholls): Order, please.

Ms. Jennifer K. French: Yes, I can’t even hear myself.

Interjections.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Rick Nicholls): Stop the clock, please.

Okay. All right. If you want to have conversations across the aisle, I would suggest that perhaps you find another place to communicate. Right now the member from Oshawa has the floor. She’s finishing up. She’s communicating to us. I think it’s important that we all have that opportunity to listen to what she has to say.

Now I’m going to return it back to the member from Oshawa to finish up her final comments, and I would expect that everyone will listen. Thank you.

Ms. Jennifer K. French: Thank you, Speaker. Now that’s a fair bit of pressure. I’d better make it good. I appreciate the comments from those who actually got up and gave them formally. The back and forth was a bit much; but yes, thank you, Speaker.

To the member from Etobicoke Centre: I’m glad to hear that they recognize the passion that I have for the issues. To challenge the substance of my argument is—that’s fun because the substance of my argument comes from real people in my community. I will take his message back to Donna and Darlene, and Steve, who can’t afford to retire because the government won’t cover his pharmacare costs, and Wanda, whose daughter is epileptic and is concerned about her drug care. When it comes to substance, the substance is what’s in my community, so I’ll certainly pass that along, certainly.

To his point that they’re “continuing to try to address,” we’ve heard from the member from Kitchener–Waterloo that that’s the problem: the continuation to try or the continuation of this pattern. People need change.

To the member from Leeds–Grenville: I appreciate that he recognizes that there’s an incredible appetite for change; however, it’s an appetite for change for the better, not just change for change’s sake. Choosing between bad and worse and bad and worse and back again is nonsense, and people are tired of that.

To always talk about the taxpayer and the voter—every once in a while I’d love to hear them talk about a neighbour, or a real person with a name, or a child, or a grandparent. We need to think about what people need to be able to live with dignity in this province.

I wish that I could address the Minister of Transportation. I really appreciated her two-minute infomercial. Awesome talking points. Great job.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Rick Nicholls): Further debate? I recognize the Attorney General.

Hon. Yasir Naqvi: Thank you very much, Speaker, for recognizing me and giving me the opportunity to speak about our budget, a Plan for Care and Opportunity.

I’m very happy to add my voice and to speak about the important work that is being done to support families and communities around the province. Time permitting, I will be focusing my comments on important initiatives as they relate to the justice portfolio that I’m responsible for. I’ll be speaking about things, like community justice centres, that the budget speaks about. Then, hopefully, if I have some time, I also want to highlight some of the important initiatives that are taking place in my community of Ottawa Centre as a result of a strong, progressive, bold plan that is outlined in this budget.

Overall, this budget recognizes the sacrifices families must make and the value of the care they provide, but it also speaks to how our government intends to improve the circumstances of the many vulnerable and marginalized people who come into contact with the justice system. Today, I would like to talk about how the province is continuing its efforts to transform and modernize the criminal justice system by developing an integrated strategy that brings together various sectors, including health, social services and the justice sector.

We know that many people in Ontario—people facing mental health issues, addiction, poverty and homelessness—will also find themselves in contact with our justice system. And far too often, these individuals will fall into a cycle that includes arrest, charges, court and jail. These are not isolated instances. They are the result of an intersection of complex socio-economic, health and historic factors. As the Attorney General, Speaker, I would like to stand before you today and say that the justice system is well equipped to deal with all of these people, but that is not the truth, and the truth is not that simple. Although police officers and corrections staff, lawyers and judges do amazing work, they are hard pressed to manage issues that, at their core, are social and health issues.

It has become clear to our government that what is needed now is the increased integration of policing, justice and corrections services with health and social services. To be fair, community safety and well-being demands that we find innovative ways to hold people accountable for the harm they cause, yet we still need to address the underlying factors that lead to conflict with the law. That is why, in this budget, our government is investing in community justice centres. This investment is something I place a great deal of hope in.

Community justice centres will improve outcomes for offenders and their communities by working to address the root causes of crime and criminal behaviour. We know this because the model has proved effective in 70 communities around the world, communities that vary in size, cultural and ethnic backgrounds, and even legal traditions. What works is the idea of placing everything in one place, a justice hub, putting restorative and therapeutic courts with culturally relevant, community-based triage and case management services. That means having judges, crowns, duty counsel and probation workers on-site with social workers, nurses, and mental health and addictions staff, as well as indigenous court workers, in our communities.

Last year, I had the opportunity to travel to Brooklyn, New York, to visit the Red Hook Community Justice Center, a community justice centre that has been in operation for 20 years. It was incredible to see a former school building transformed into a place where an intake officer can guide a vulnerable offender to the services he or she needs most, where a judge can put an arm around a man’s shoulder and ask how his addiction treatment is going and how his children are doing. Speaker, I saw that first-hand taking place at the Red Hook Community Justice Center. This particular community in Brooklyn, New York, at one time in the 1980s, was known as the crack capital of the United States, with drugs, drug-related crime, and the devastation of families everywhere, to the point where even once, in a gang rivalry, a school principal was shot and killed. That’s when the community, along with the New York government, came together and said, “We need to do something different,” and hence came the Red Hook Community Justice Center.

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Since then, inch by inch, day by day, the community, along with the community justice centre, has been working to focus on individuals and some of the core health and social issues they may be going through, and to assist them—not just penalize them, but assist them to live a better life.

The result is that this community justice centre, this court, is thriving. Better services are being provided for people who may be engaged in low-level crime but actually are dealing with issues around social service safety networks, homelessness or poverty.

The community is thriving as a result as well. We did a walk-around in the neighbourhood. It was incredible to see businesses opening up. It was incredible to see people smiling and feeling safe walking on the streets. They were really proud to highlight that the largest IKEA in New York City has opened up in Red Hook, creating hundreds of jobs. They were really proud to highlight the first Tesla dealership in New York City has opened in Red Hook, creating jobs.

That’s the magnitude of the difference we’re talking about. It has taken them a couple of decades to get there, but nonetheless, it’s quite telling in terms of the right direction they are moving forward in. That is the essence of a community justice centre: to put people first.

The question we asked in my ministry was: Could community justice centres improve how we are delivering justice in certain communities in Ontario? Starting in 2017, a project team from my ministry embarked on a month-long needs assessment process in Kenora, in London and in Toronto’s Moss Park neighbourhood.

With satisfaction, I can say that my ministry received and continues to receive strong support for doing justice differently in these communities. These needs assessment meetings were successful. People came from all different aspects of service provision in terms of health and social services, education, justice—folks who work in the community day in and day out—to tell us how something like this can help their particular community and could result in better outcomes.

The investment put forward in this budget bill, if passed, will create three unique community justice centres in three different communities. At this moment, I would like to outline for the members present just how these three centres will operate.

In Kenora, the criminal justice system has quite literally become a holding place for indigenous peoples from the northwest who face multiple challenges rooted in intergenerational trauma and colonialism.

Our government’s response has been to work very closely with local indigenous organizations and First Nations leadership to develop a bicultural community justice centre. This centre would be the first of its kind in Ontario and would provide parallel criminal and indigenous restorative justice processes. By putting both processes in one space, this model will support access to culturally appropriate programs and services and could help to reduce the number of incarcerated indigenous people and remove barriers to accessing justice.

We are further extending the reach of the centre and exploring opportunities to establish satellite hubs in Sioux Lookout and Timmins to better serve the unique needs of those in remote northern communities.

Toronto’s Moss Park is not far from here and is a very different community than the one in Kenora. It is a vibrant neighbourhood, but this area of Toronto’s eastern downtown presents some of the city’s highest rates of crime and of priority calls to our police. The result: Area jails and emergency rooms have become holding places for community members with acute addictions and mental health needs.

To help local justice and social service partners address the contributing factors related to crime in this area, we will work closely with local health authorities and service providers to create an urban community health and justice centre. Through information-sharing and on-site coordinator services, the centre will seek to promote continuity of care, which means increased access to harm reduction and therapeutic justice solutions in order to address the complex factors that lead to criminal behaviour.

Moving on to southwestern Ontario, Speaker, London’s criminal justice system is also responding to a high-priority population: transition-aged young adults, those young people between the ages of 18 and 25 years old. In London, this group accounts for a disproportionate share of criminal charges. Compared to the rest of the province, London has some of the highest numbers of at-risk young adults. More often, these young adults are falling through the cracks once they age out of child protection or teen-focused social and health services. By working with local youth service providers, we are creating a youth-in-transition community justice hub. This innovative centre will focus on preventative interventions aimed at building abilities and self-esteem, and creating purpose for young adults.

Speaker, as you can see, these are exciting and innovative solutions. But I do want to be clear that these centres will not replace the existing court system. Instead, they will work in conjunction with courts to provide holistic and targeted justice solutions while balancing public safety. This is the beginning of an important journey to bring criminal justice, social service integration and community together in a way that Ontario hasn’t seen before.

You can see, also, Speaker, that each one of these proposed community justice centres is unique. They are unique because their design is a result of looking at the data and looking at the evidence and the kind of challenges faced by that local community. They are designed by listening to the service providers, not just in the justice and law enforcement sector but other members of the community, who try very hard to work together, by asking them what challenges and gaps you see and how we can address them. All three of them then address the unique circumstances of the community.

That is, in fact, the beauty of community justice centres, that although the model or the principle is the same, which is to bring all service providers under one roof, the delivery is unique. There is no one model that fits all. The delivery has to be inspired by the community based on the data and evidence. I would suggest and recommend to members that if they are interested to learn more about the potential of community justice centres and how they will look and feel, there is a chart on page 48 of the budget book that outlines a sample. There’s an infographic that outlines a model or a sample of the potential of a community justice centre and how different service providers are going to interact.

Speaker, I also wanted to quickly talk about the bail beds program that we started as a result of the last budget and in the response to the Jordan decision, to ensure that we are creating an opportunity for those individuals who are vulnerable or low-risk to be able to be released in the community. One of the things that we learned is that a lot of people do not get bail because they don’t have housing. They live in shelter space, they may have complex needs, and therefore they are not given bail. So we created 75 bail beds across the province to create that opportunity where they could be out in the community, under supervision and getting support, but have housing to go to. Instead of being remanded in the local detention centre, they could be out in the community.

As I said, there are 75. Some 24 of them are in Ottawa: 12 for men, run by the John Howard Society of Ottawa, and 12 for women, run by the Elizabeth Fry Society. That model has been very successful. We’re seeing a great uptake of those beds. We’re seeing these individuals doing better, in terms of working on their needs, and they are getting to the courts to appear when their hearings come up. This budget, Speaker, I’m glad to say, also speaks about expanding bail beds in northern, rural and remote communities to provide community-based supervision for higher-need individuals who would likely otherwise be held in custody pending resolution of their criminal charge. This is good news, Speaker, because now we’re targeting them even further in northern, rural and remote communities, where we know distances are even greater.

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If you take the northwest, where you’ve got a lot of indigenous offenders being brought in to Kenora, for instance, they come from remote communities, from the Far North, and their home is not there. The only solution is that they will be remanded to the local detention centre. This would allow an opportunity for them to be in a community setting, in a supervised place, and getting care while they are dealing with some of the underlying factors.

Speaker, I know I have only a few moments left, but in the remaining time I would like to highlight another important initiative, and that is ending gender-based violence. If passed, this budget will build on our government’s commitment to create a province free of gender-based violence.

In March, we announced a comprehensive new strategy, investing up to $242 million over three years to help support survivors and their children, and to end the cycle of violence. At its core, this is a strategy to help build a stronger system so that those who have experienced gender-based violence and those who are most at risk will be safer and receive the help they need when they need it. My own ministry heard clearly that the justice system needs to be more survivor-centric and trauma-informed, and we responded. Let me just give you two quick examples.

In this budget, we are expanding a pilot project that provides free legal advice to survivors of sexual assault. Now any survivor, no matter where they live, regardless of how much time has passed, will have access to free legal advice when they are ready.

Also, because violence is most likely to occur at a time of family breakdown, Ontario is also increasing funding to help survivors navigate the Family Court process. This increased investment in the Family Court Support Worker Program will support survivors who may be at a heightened risk of violence.

Speaker, it comes as no surprise that the economy is changing rapidly and that many Ontarians are having a hard time keeping up. In this budget, we have made a deliberate choice to invest in programs that help these people, but also to invest in programs that help those who are struggling most: those vulnerable and marginalized people who have reached rock bottom and who come into contact with the justice system when they are at the lowest point in their life.

This budget sets before the people of Ontario our government’s plan for care and opportunity for each and every person living in this province. It’s a plan that, in my view, everyone should support; a plan that I am quite proud to stand by. It is really putting things like mental health care, child care, health care and long-term care right at the core, right in the centre of delivery of important programs by the government.

Day in and day out, these are the issues that we hear about from our communities; from my community of Ottawa Centre, where a lot of middle-class families live, a lot of the sandwich generation families live—very much like myself—whose parents are getting elderly and need more care and support, whose children are young and need an opportunity to get good care and education, and the rest of us in the middle trying to accommodate both while progressing in our own careers.

This budget speaks right to all those people, to make sure that we have all those supports in space. For that, investment is necessary, and we’re doing that.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Rick Nicholls): Questions and comments?

Ms. Laurie Scott: I wanted to rise and give comment to the Attorney General’s response to the budget. He brought up programs, he brought up models, especially in the justice system, about hubs and coordination of community services and helping victims. Certainly we are supportive of models like that. We have yet to see it really come to fruition, but it’s in the works and I appreciate that.

He spoke about gender-based violence at the end, and I do want to bring to his attention that there has been movement. In Durham it’s called Driven, and in my riding it’s called the Bridges of Kawartha Lakes hub. They are bringing together service providers for victims of gender-based violence and they coordinate services, which is what we like to see.

The government, under the former minister of MCSS—we worked a lot for the Rural Realities program. I don’t know if he exactly mentioned that program, but anyway, it is that format that we are encouraging. But the problem is that they push the communities, and rightly so, to create these hubs, but the fact is that now I’m getting letters that the hubs cannot survive. In fact, it’s now under threat by the government—I know it’s the Ministry of Children and Youth Services and the Ministry of Community and Social Services—that they’re not going to be able to sustain this hub model that the government had helped them initiate.

The services they provided have been wide-ranging. It’s effective. They need assistance for one full-time person. This is going to be province-wide. I’m giving you two examples right now, but that has been neglected. Again, to the government: You start programs, but there are no ongoing initiatives to continue the programs. You know violence against women is rising when one in six women is affected every day in Canada. So I say to the government: Start a program and continue it.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Rick Nicholls): Further questions and comments.

Ms. Jennifer K. French: I’m also glad to address the comments from the Attorney General. I appreciate that the focus of his remarks was on the community justice centres and the idea of more interconnected strategies and interconnected, hopefully, solutions, talking about the complex health and historic details of the needs in our community, and factoring those in, when we’re talking about an individual’s journey through the community and into our justice system. We need to look at those pathways. We need to look at the people and to make sure that we are putting systems in place that support them all the way along.

When we’re talking about increased integration, that’s wonderful. I just did a 12-hour ride-along with our DRPS human trafficking division, and it was excellent, because other folks on the ride-along with came from the social work sector. There was a fantastic woman from Bethesda House; she was actually interfacing and working with the women who are trapped in this net and trapped in this horrible nightmare. She is reaching in and helping those women to get out. The police are doing phenomenal work as well, but they are doing it alongside each other. This world was the most horrible thing I have ever seen, and yet I’m so hopeful because of that integration and the potential to help.

As long as we put the people first, as the minister said—but remember, this was a budget that didn’t even use the term “child poverty.” If we’re going to talk about putting people first, we have to look at their entire justice needs, from the beginning. We do need to talk about affordable housing. We need to talk about supporting our students in school all the way along. We need not just deterrence, but supports all the way so that folks cannot find their way into the justice system, or fewer folks do.

I understand that this is a massive undertaking. I’m glad that we’re talking about it.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Rick Nicholls): Further questions and comments?

Mr. Yvan Baker: I’m proud to respond to the Attorney General and comment on his remarks. The Attorney General spent a fair amount of his 20 minutes talking about some of the reforms in the justice system, and I know that a number of the members opposite have commented on that. I’m quite proud of the work that the Attorney General and the rest of the team have done in terms of reform in the justice system. That’s not to say there isn’t more work to be done—not at all, of course—but there is some significant progress that has been made over the last number of years.

I remember being with the Attorney General and a number of others, looking at how smaller and smaller numbers of young people are reoffending. A lot of that has to do with the reforms that we’ve put in place, where we’re no longer incarcerating young people as often as we used to. Instead, we’re trying to provide them with the supports that they need to be able to rebuild their lives, to re-integrate in society and to get the mental health supports that they need, if that’s appropriate. These are the kinds of things that the Attorney General and others have been leading, and I think that that is something to be very proud of.

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When the members opposite question the commitment and question the progress that has been made, I think there is a lot of tangible progress that has been made if you actually look at the facts. I compliment the Attorney General on that work. I think it’s very, very important.

I would also say that when you look at this budget and you look at how we continue to make investments in those things that provide young people with the best possible start in life so that they don’t encounter the justice system, so that they have success, they achieve their potential in life and they’re less likely to be part of any kind of justice process—that means child care, that means a good start in life, that means education at the elementary and high school level, that means post-secondary opportunities and opportunities in the trades, that means good jobs, all of those things. When young people succeed, they don’t encounter the justice system. When they don’t encounter the justice system, we don’t need to be as concerned about it. But the reforms have been great, and I compliment the Attorney General on that.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Rick Nicholls): Further questions and comments?

Mr. John Yakabuski: It’s a pleasure to make comment on the address by the Attorney General. He didn’t speak much about the budget, but he talked about, essentially, a project.

On the budget, it’s interesting, the government today—the budget will exceed $150 billion in spending. In 2003, spending was $68 billion. I think the question that the people of Ontario are going to be asking, when you increase the budget spending by over two and a quarter times in the last 15 years, that the spending has gone up by that much—they are going to ask themselves, “Are we doing any better here in Ontario under this government in 15 years?” The reality is no.

But I’ll tell you who is doing better in Ontario: people like David Herle. David Herle is doing all right: sole-source contracts from the Liberal government to service them, and then he becomes the campaign chair and he is sent out to insult the leader of the Progressive Conservative Party. So the people in Ontario like David Herle, who have been enriched by secret deals and sole-source contracts by the Liberal government, are doing very well.

When you start to add up the $150 billion in spending, the question that needs to be asked for those people who are hurting in Ontario—who they finally recognized after 15 years and are now trying to buy their votes by bringing in all kinds of programs at the last dying gasp of this government, trying to make a Hail Mary pass to try to survive. Now, they want to spend this money. But where has the money gone other than to the David Herles of this province in the last 15 years? That’s the question they should be answering.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Rick Nicholls): Back to the Attorney General for final comments.

Hon. Yasir Naqvi: I want to thank the members from Haliburton–Kawartha Lakes–Brock, Oshawa, and Etobicoke Centre for their very thoughtful comments to the remarks that I made.

I take exception to the member from Renfrew–Nipissing–Pembroke, whom I consider a friend. For his record—he may not have read the budget—I was speaking directly to the budget. I refer him to pages 45 to 53 that speak to community justice centres and gender-based violence. The funding is in the budget. I was doing my job while he did his political bluster. But I think he just made the point.

On one point, I heard the member from Haliburton–Kawartha Lakes–Brock rightfully talking about how we need more investment in all these initiatives. These initiatives are the right ones, but we need to have sustained funding, which is exactly what we’re doing in this budget.

But on the other hand, the other member from the same party talked about how they are just going to cut those services. They’re going to cut those services because it’s more important for them to give tax breaks to rich, big businesses out there, to cut the minimum wage for hard-working people. That’s what they are going to do, somehow, because they think we’re spending billions of more dollars in health and education and that it’s unnecessary.

Interjections.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Rick Nicholls): Order, please.

Hon. Yasir Naqvi: Yes, Speaker, we are proud of the fact that spending has gone up in this province from, what, the 60-or-some-odd billion dollars that Mike Harris used to spend versus what we invest in health care and education, because that is what the people of Ontario want. They want better health care. They want better education. That is what this Liberal government has done. What the Conservatives will do, what they have always done in the past, is cut those important services and give a tax cut to their—

Interjections.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Rick Nicholls): Stop the clock, please.

Back to the Attorney General. You’re finished? Thank you very much.

Further debate?

Mr. Ernie Hardeman: I’m pleased to rise today to speak to the budget motion.

A budget is about setting priorities, so today I want to share the priorities of the people of the great riding of Oxford, especially the ones that the government missed in this budget.

I hear often from constituents, about issues that matter to them, in the mornings when I stop for a coffee on the way to Queen’s Park or on weekends while attending events. I would like to share some of those comments with the Legislature today.

Ontario families understand budgeting. With high hydro prices that continue to go up, and the increasing costs of goods and services, families know the importance of financial planning and spending within their means. Unfortunately, this government does not take that same approach with the taxpayers’ dollars and spends their hard-earned money recklessly. Ontarians are looking for real relief and a commitment to good fiscal management, but they can’t find it with the current government.

We know it’s an election year, and the government wants to make big promises to hold on to power. But their record of broken promises makes it hard to believe that they will keep any promise they make to the people of Ontario.

They promised all-day, two-way GO between Kitchener and Toronto by 2019. Now they say it won’t be feasible until 2024.

They promised lower car insurance rates by 15%, but rates continue to rise and now the Premier says, “Well, it was just a stretch goal.”

They promised to provide more affordable housing, but the wait-list continues to grow, meaning more seniors and families are unable to find suitable housing, and the current supply of affordable housing continues to deteriorate. In fact, the auditor found that so much social housing is in poor repair that the province is at risk of losing almost one third of its affordable rental units as current contracts expire and other units fall into disrepair.

On affordability, this government continues to miss the mark. In this budget, 1.8 million hard-working Ontarians will see their taxes go up, 1.8 million people who carefully save their money and work hard to earn a living and who will now have to fund government waste.

But it’s not just individuals who will be paying more to the government. Some 20,000 businesses will also see a tax increase, another burden added to them by a government that continually makes it harder and harder for them to operate in Ontario. Businesses cannot afford to continue to pay all these additional costs. That means that we all pay. Businesses can’t afford to hire more people. Prices go up. Our communities lose these important local resources that often help fund sports teams and community events.

To make things worse, even with these increased taxes, they are still running large deficits. They promised a balanced budget, but in this budget, the government breaks that promise with a $6.7-billion deficit this year, and deficits for the next six years—six more years.

As you know, Mr. Speaker, interest on the debt alone is $12.5 billion this year, more than $1 billion a month just to service the debt, with more debt being added annually if the government continues to run deficits.

In 2012, the Premier was on record as saying, “I think everyone here knows that eliminating the deficit is the most important thing we can do to move to economic growth.”

In 2014, she said, “I actually believe that fiscal prudence and a strong economy are connected. I think that they are absolutely connected, and that’s why we have remained committed to our elimination of the deficit by 2017-18.”

What has changed, that the Premier now thinks a deficit is the right answer for the future of Ontario? Why has the government decided to blow the budget this year, when, last year, they were boasting about balance? Is it because, in a few weeks, we’re going to have an election?

The people in my riding aren’t asking the government to run a deficit. Later this morning, a whole group of my constituents will be here to deliver a message to the government, and they aren’t here to ask the government to spend more money. They’re concerned about the waste in this province, both in the government and the waste being sent to landfills.

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I’ve been consistently raising concerns about landfills in this Legislature through petitions, statements, questions, and in debate. However, the government doesn’t seem to be listening.

As you know, Mr. Speaker, in my riding, there’s a proposed landfill in Beachville on fractured limestone near the Thames River and close to one of the town of Ingersoll’s main wells. Should this landfill be built, our water would be at risk of contamination.

There is nothing in this budget to address the waste problem in this province or to provide solutions that can ensure that landfills are not pushed on unwilling hosts.

Earlier this year, I introduced the Respecting Municipal Authority Over Landfilling Sites Act, which would allow municipalities to have a voice in the location of proposed landfills. If passed, my bill would ensure that landfills only go ahead when waste companies can earn community approval. This is about respect for municipalities and their residents. Ontarians are tired of governments forcing everything from wind farms to landfill sites down their throats. There is support for my bill across Ontario. Last fall, the mayor of Ingersoll came to Queen’s Park to request this authority as part of the committee hearings on Bill 139, Building Better Communities and Conserving Watersheds Act. Following his committee presentation, I put forward an amendment that would have ensured that garbage from other communities cannot be forced on unwilling host municipalities, but the government, of course, voted it down. In fact, over 30 municipalities have passed resolutions of support, and a further 150 municipal leaders have signed petitions demanding the right to approve landfills in their communities and are in the process of passing similar motions in their own councils. This is a priority for people, and yet there isn’t even a mention of it in the government budget.

Mr. Speaker, as I mentioned previously, the Premier said that eliminating the deficit is important to grow the economy. Yet, despite all the job losses we’ve already seen in Ontario, they have introduced a budget in which they have deliberately chosen to run a massive deficit, and they are predicting deficits for six years. I’m concerned about the impact it could have on our economy, provincially and in my riding of Oxford.

Jobs and economic growth are a priority for the residents of my riding. Last year, 1,500 people were laid off as a result of businesses leaving Oxford because government policies made it harder to operate in Ontario. One business in my riding had been operating in Oxford for 81 years, but the government kept adding so many new burdens and costs that they made the decision to close the local factory and increase operations in one of their American facilities. Last fall, 2,800 auto workers at the CAMI plant went on strike, trying to keep their jobs in Ontario, worried that the government was driving their jobs out of the province. That’s an issue that they think should be a government priority.

Residents in Oxford take pride in their local businesses and locally made products. In fact, in my recent newsletter survey, 96% of respondents said they shop local to support local businesses, something that I agree is very important.

In the wake of these layoffs and strikes, I launched a Shop Local, Buy Local initiative to highlight Oxford businesses and encourage residents to shop at their local stores and look for local produce and products. With a strong agriculture industry in my riding and many great shops in the communities all throughout Oxford, you don’t have to look very far to find what you’re looking for.

A number of municipalities in my riding also passed resolutions supporting my Shop Local, Buy Local campaign and encouraging the provincial government to support small, local businesses to make it easier for businesses to operate in Ontario. Unfortunately, this budget misses the mark. In fact, it puts part of that industry at risk.

Mr. Speaker, I’m concerned that this budget talks about high-speed rail but doesn’t contain a real commitment to a full and open consultation. The government is proposing a limited environmental assessment that won’t look fully at items like alternate routes. As you know, the proposed Toronto-Windsor rail corridor primarily runs through agricultural land and the proposed route would also mean the closure of many level crossings at country side roads that are important for the production and delivery of farm products and for emergency vehicles such as fire trucks and ambulances to arrive at emergencies.

I’m supposed to stop because my time is consumed for today. I’ll be back next week.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Rick Nicholls): I thank everyone for their active participation in the debate this morning.

Debate deemed adjourned.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Rick Nicholls): It is now 10:15. This House will stand recessed until 10:30.

The House recessed from 1015 to 1030.

Introduction of Visitors

Hon. Kathleen O. Wynne: I want to welcome this year’s Don Valley West recipients of the Leading Women, Building Communities award. Barbara Gosse is here, joined by her husband, Wayne Gosse, and Jennifer Rajasekar is here, joined by her husband, Rajasekar Athiappan; Dorothy Robertson, joined by her good friend Carolyn Rumble.

I’d also like to welcome Afie Mardukhi, who runs my constituency office in Don Valley West. Thank you for all that you do.

Mr. John Yakabuski: Speaker, it’s not exactly an introduction, but I want to rise to wish our granddaughter Lilli a happy sixth birthday today and our grandson Wallace, who will be nine on Sunday, but of course we won’t be here. So happy birthday to both of you.

Mr. Vic Dhillon: I’d like to wish my son Harsaajan a very happy birthday. He is also here with us today as a page during this session. I want to tell him his mom and I are very proud of him.

Mr. Granville Anderson: I would like to welcome the family of page captain Sophie Hamilton: mother Jennifer Hamilton, sister Hannah Hamilton, brother Jake Hamilton, grandmother Dianne Mott and grandparents Bridget and Doug Hamilton. They’re in the public gallery this morning. Welcome.

Mr. Jack MacLaren: I have guests from the Trillium Party of Ontario here today. We have Bobby Turley, who is our candidate in Scarborough Southwest. We have Lionel Poizner, who is our candidate in Eglinton–Lawrence. And we have Esther Bentata.

Mr. Han Dong: I would also like to wish a happy birthday to my daughter, Emma Dong. She brought a lot of joy to our lives, and Mom and Dad and Yeye and Nai nai love you very much.

Mr. Randy Hillier: I’d like to welcome and introduce to the House two constituents from People First of Canada: Kory Earle and Alice-Anne Paterson Collinge are here today.

Hon. Michael Coteau: Today I’d like to introduce Esther Weah Akerele. She is a receptionist and a personal support worker at a retirement residence, and she is also the mother of my wonderful staff member Toks Weah. Welcome to the Legislature.

Mr. Ted McMeekin: I’d like to introduce a number of participants in the basic income pilot who are in the Legislative Assembly today commemorating the one-year anniversary of the basic income pilot launch. They are Lance Dingman, Jayne Cardno, Rhonda Castello, John Mills, Dave Cherkewski, Wendy Moore, Alana Baltzer and Margie Goold. Welcome to the Legislature.

Hon. Michael Coteau: I’d like to introduce Kory Earle, president of People First of Canada, and Alice-Anne Paterson Collinge, manager of Community Living Association of Lanark County. Welcome to the Legislature.

Mr. Ernie Hardeman: I’d like to introduce Ingersoll mayor Ted Comiskey, here today for the Demand the Right rally for municipal approval of landfills. Welcome, Mayor, and all those attending the rally here today.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Today I have some guests in the Speaker’s gallery. We have three individuals from the riding of Brant. The first is my grade 6 teacher, who also hired me as a teacher and then hired me as a principal. He almost got it right. My friend—he was the director of education—Brendan Ryan. With Brendan are his granddaughters Ashley Ryan and Maddie Ryan, here to learn about politics.

Minister of the Environment and Climate Change.

Hon. Chris Ballard: Thank you, Speaker, for the indulgence. I’d like to welcome two folks from my constituency office who are in the gallery today, Cleopatra Masinga and Robina Hafizy, who is a volunteer. Welcome to Queen’s Park.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): I’ve been given the nod that the Minister of Tourism, Culture and Sport has an introduction.

Hon. Daiene Vernile: I am delighted to welcome to Queen’s Park the parents and family of the page captain today, Colin Robinson. Here we have Brooke and Scott Robinson, sister Taylor, brother Layton, billet family Casey Hadaway and billet family Jeff Dobson. Thank you very much for being at the Legislature today.

Attack in Toronto

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): The Premier on a point of order.

Hon. Kathleen O. Wynne: I believe you will find that we have unanimous consent to observe a moment of silence as a sign of this House’s condolences for the victims and families impacted by the devastating attack in North York yesterday.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): The Premier is seeking unanimous consent to do a moment of silence to show a sign of this House’s condolence to the victims and the families impacted by the devastating attack in North York yesterday. Do we agree? Agreed.

I would ask everyone in the House to please rise.

The House observed a moment’s silence.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): God rest their souls.

It is therefore time for question period.

Mr. Victor Fedeli: To the Premier: PC leader Doug Ford and the entire Ontario PC family were all moved by the events of yesterday. Our thoughts are with the victims, the families and those affected at Yonge and Finch here in Toronto. We want to thank the brave first responders—

Applause.

Mr. Victor Fedeli: We want to thank the brave first responders and the EMS teams who continue to work tirelessly on our behalf.

Mr. Speaker, would the Premier like to share her sentiments with the House?

Hon. Kathleen O. Wynne: I know that everyone in this House joins with the families of the victims, friends of the victims and all of the people who are affected by this—and, I would say, we all are.

Let me just read the update that I gave to the media this morning. I said this morning that, as the city wakes up, there are family and friends of this horrible tragedy and the victims themselves who have survived whose lives will never be the same. Our hearts reach out to them and we desperately want to give them some comfort. As Mayor Tory said last night, that desire to comfort can perhaps help us all in Toronto and beyond to be a bit kinder and a bit more gentle with each other today and in the days to come. In my role as Premier, it is my responsibility to ensure that any provincial resources that are needed to cope with the ongoing investigation and security measures are available. I want to report to Torontonians and Ontarians that that is happening.

I was briefed again first thing this morning. Our provincial security officials continue to work hand in hand with federal and municipal officials. The OPP is in constant touch with the RCMP and the Toronto Police Service officials who are involved in the ongoing investigation. The people who are involved in the identification of victims put extra teams on duty last night to move that processing along, to help families get information sooner and to help ease those painful hours of waiting.

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I spent the afternoon yesterday with Mayor Tory in North York. I have nothing but the deepest admiration for the Toronto police officers, firefighters and paramedics who responded so quickly.

Applause.

Hon. Kathleen O. Wynne: They responded so professionally, so compassionately to the tragedy that unfolded. These are brave, highly skilled men and women who deserve our heartfelt thanks.

I also had the opportunity to spend some time last night at Sunnybrook hospital, the hospital that received the largest number of victims. Again, we want to thank every one of the paramedics, nurses, doctors and all of the health personnel who responded so professionally and so well. CEO Andy Smith emphasized the sad reality that his team is prepared for a situation like this because they practise and train for such a day, hoping it will never come. But when it did, and calls were made to off-duty nurses and personnel to come in, they were already on their way. They knew exactly what had to happen. Thank you to each of the professionals, each of the neighbours and passersby who helped an injured person. Thank you to each and every person who lent a hand.

I heard a question on the radio this morning about whether our city, our province and our country will be changed because of this senseless act of violence. The lives of the families and friends of the victims are changed forever. But our collective job now is to find a way to grieve, to acknowledge that pain and stand with those who have lost so much, and then to make sure that the life of this vibrant, good city and province goes on. We are capable of deep compassion and understanding in Toronto, in Ontario and in Canada, and we will be called upon to summon all of that in the days ahead.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Given the unique circumstances, it is my decision that when the third party comes for their first question, I will allocate and give some time for them to make a comment as well.

I would come back to the leader to offer him an opportunity, if he so chooses, to say a few words. Then we’ll move into question period, as we have to. Leader?

Mr. Victor Fedeli: Thank you, Speaker. First of all, I want to thank the Premier for that update. I think that was a thorough and respectful update. We genuinely appreciate the work of the first responders and the EMS teams that are out there. There are many questions that will be answered over the coming days, and we look forward, Premier, to continued updates as the province and the municipality learns them. Our hearts ache for the families and for the victims.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): The House leader of the third party.

Mr. Gilles Bisson: Mr. Speaker, these types of things are never things that we think are going to happen in our backyard but, unfortunately, we do find out that we live in a world where unfortunately things unfold in ways that are not pleasant for many who are directly affected, and for those not affected directly.

I think there are a couple of things, and the Premier summed them up well. Our police forces and the way that they acted yesterday make us all proud—that their reaction was in order to calm the situation down and do what was right when it came to apprehending the individual. I think we can all be proud of that because I think it speaks volumes to the training that we do with our police. To the ambulance people, the paramedics, the fire department and everybody else who showed up: again, kudos. I think the Premier summed it up quite well, along with the leader of the Conservative Party here in the Legislature: They acted totally professionally.

The other thing that I think we are all impressed with is how the public reacted. Those people that were there on the sidewalk, those people that were there on the streets—they were there doing what they could in order to make things better and to try to administer first aid. In fact, a good friend of mine, David Sword, happened to be on-site when it happened, I found out after. We haven’t talked about it yet because he’s probably still going through some of that trauma.

But I want to let you know that Andrea Horwath and New Democrats stand tall and proud with our police forces and emergency services and what they’ve done, and with the citizens of this province. Andrea is actually on-site there this morning. She thought she would go and pay respects directly on-site.

Our party’s, along with our leader’s, congratulations go out to those who were on-site, and we grieve for the families, quite frankly, that have been so devastated by what happened yesterday.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): I appreciate all of the comments and your latitude to allow me to make sure we all have a word to say.

Oral Questions

Executive compensation

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): I will now, then, return to the Leader of the Opposition for his supplementary question, and recognize that this place is unique and we need to ask some questions of the government, and that will take place.

Supplementary?

Mr. Victor Fedeli: Thank you, Speaker.

I’ll now speak in my role as the interim leader of the official opposition and continue our duties in that respect.

So back to the Premier: Ontario ratepayers and taxpayers want answers. When did the Premier become aware that Hydro One gave their CEO a $6-million salary and a $10-million severance?

Hon. Kathleen O. Wynne: Minister of Energy.

Hon. Glenn Thibeault: I’m pleased to rise and respond to the question put by the leader within the House from the Conservatives. When it comes to the executive salaries at Hydro One, we recognize these are high compared to the vast majority of Ontario salaries. We’ll continue to remain committed to work with Hydro One on their regulation, accountability and transparency through our government’s involvement as a majority shareholder.

I know we will continue to work with Hydro One because we have seen a change in that company. The executive team has found $114 million in savings. They’ve entered a voluntary winter disconnection program before we, as a House, had to implement that. We’ll continue to monitor.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Final supplementary?

Mr. Victor Fedeli: Back to the Premier: Does the Premier approve of both the Hydro One CEO’s $6-million salary and his $10-million severance?

Hon. Glenn Thibeault: When it comes to costs, the board—the Ontario Energy Board that is, Mr. Speaker—sets rates, so by talking about firing the CEO of Hydro One, that doesn’t take anything off anyone’s bills. The board is the energy sector’s independent regulator with a mandate to protect ratepayers, and that is how it’s going to continue to deliver on that mandate.

For instance, last fall, the Ontario Energy Board capped the portion of executive compensation Hydro One electricity customers are required to fund at 10% of base salaries, saving ratepayers $30 million over this year and next. The Ontario Energy Board will continue to monitor. We’ll continue to work with Hydro One to help them become a better company.

Government accounting practices

Mr. Victor Fedeli: My question is to the Minister of Energy. In speaking about the Auditor General’s comments on the Liberal hydro scheme, the Minister of Energy had the following to say: “Our plan has been approved by her peers at some of Canada’s top accounting firms, KPMG, E and Y and Deloitte.” The Auditor General has said that’s not true. Did the accounting firms mentioned approve the plan?

Hon. Glenn Thibeault: What we have here are two world-class accounting firms, and I will outline what they had to say in statements about rate-regulated accounting within the public sector accounting standards. KPMG said, “On the basis of our extensive research, deliberations and an opinion from another major accounting firm, we believe that the accounting policies adopted by” the Independent Electricity System Operator “are in accordance with Canadian public sector accounting standards.” That’s Deloitte, Mr. Speaker.

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They “concluded that any regulatory assets and liabilities recognized through the appropriate application of these policies would meet the criteria for recognition” under the Canadian public sector accounting standards. Additionally, Ernst and Young is OPG’s financial auditor and is consulted on this on an ongoing basis.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Supplementary.

Mr. Victor Fedeli: Back to the Minister of Energy: It’s interesting that he uses those phrases, which have nothing to do with what we’re talking about.

In regard to KPMG, Ernst and Young, and Deloitte, the Auditor General has said, “The sum of all of this work” the minister was just speaking about “does not equate to approval of the accounting” of the hydro scheme.

To the minister: Is the Auditor General correct?

Hon. Glenn Thibeault: Once again, I don’t believe I need to reiterate and reread what the accounting firms have said, because I know the honourable member has just heard those.

But they do talk about—and I will say it again: As KPMG said, these “accounting policies ... are in accordance with Canadian public sector accounting standards.”

Deloitte: They “meet the criteria for recognition” under the Canadian public sector accounting standards.

I know we’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again: It was a policy choice made by this government. We made this policy choice to ensure that we continue to have a clean, reliable and affordable electricity system for the ratepayers of today and the ratepayers of tomorrow. The fair hydro plan keeps the cost of borrowing within the rate base, not on the tax base, because that’s the logical thing to do and how it has been done in the past.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Final supplementary.

Mr. Victor Fedeli: Back to the Minister of Energy: The minister has said, “Of course, we’ve worked with KPMG; we’ve worked with” Ernst and Young; “we’ve worked with Deloitte.... All of them agree that the accounting standards are accurate,” except the Auditor General has said that’s not true. They didn’t approve the books.

So, will the Minister of Energy come clean?

Hon. Glenn Thibeault: I’ll reiterate once again. Here is what KPMG said in a public statement. On the basis of their extensive research, deliberations and the opinion from another major accounting firm, KPMG stated, “We believe that the accounting policies adopted by” the Independent Electricity System Operator “are in accordance with Canadian public sector accounting standards.”

The policies and the implementation of this process for the fair hydro plan were designed and extensively reviewed by senior bureaucratic officials from my ministry, the Ministry of Energy, the Ministry of Finance, the Treasury Board Secretariat, the Office of the Provincial Controller, Cabinet Office, the Ontario Financial Authority, the IESO and the OPG, and we worked with those third-party accounting firms.

We will continue to look at and monitor implementation options, to ensure that due diligence was completed.

Hospital funding

Ms. Andrea Horwath: I want to start by saying I regret that I wasn’t here to hear the comments from the Premier or from the parliamentary leader of the official opposition or my colleague Gilles Bisson. I was at the memorial at Yonge Street and Finch. I just want to say that it was a very emotional scene. All I can say to everyone here is that I believe that, together, we need to mourn, and we need to seek justice, and then we need to help each other heal. That’s all I can say, Speaker.

I’m going to start my question by asking the Premier this: The Premier has underfunded hospitals every single year that she has been in that office. I want to ask if she’s surprised that, after years of underfunding, it has created such a crisis in hallway medicine in our province.

Hon. Kathleen O. Wynne: I appreciate that the leader of the third party was at the memorial. I’ll be heading up shortly.

But she wasn’t here when I said how excellent the service in our hospitals is. I was speaking about the response of the doctors and the nurses and all of the personnel at Sunnybrook specifically. But I can speak for hospitals across this province that have responded to needs in their communities year after year, month after month.

We have supported them. We have worked with them. We have increased the number of nurses, increased the number of doctors and increased the funding. We recognize that there is more to be done, which is why on top of the $500 million in last year’s budget, there is $822 million that will go directly to hospitals.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Supplementary?

Ms. Andrea Horwath: After 15 years, Ontario has the fewest number of hospital beds per capita in the entire country. Since 2015, the Premier has fired 1,600 nurses. As bad as it is, Doug Ford says that he would cut 4% from everything. That would mean 32,000 nurses over four years. If firing 1,600 nurses means that this crisis has occurred, imagine how bad hospital overcrowding would be with Doug Ford firing 32,000 nurses.

Will the Premier admit finally that she has created this crisis?

Hon. Kathleen O. Wynne: I assume that underlying the question from the leader of the third party is that she doesn’t believe that our health care system functions well. She doesn’t believe that when people go to a hospital or they go to a doctor or a nurse practitioner, to a clinic or a community health centre—of which we have built dozens across the province—people get good care.

I would say to the leader of the third party that that is absolutely not true. People in this province know that they can count on their health care system. They know that, in their hospital, their clinic led by a nurse practitioner, their community health centre, they are going to receive excellent, excellent care. They know that, because we have supported the health care system and we will continue to do that.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Final supplementary?

Ms. Andrea Horwath: What the Premier forgot to talk about is hallway medicine, Speaker, the crisis that she has created in our hospitals. That’s the concern that New Democrats are talking about.

The good news is that people don’t have to choose between the Liberals who created this crisis by underfunding health care and the Conservatives who would make it worse by cutting even further and privatizing our health care system. As Premier, I will fund hospitals properly. I’ve made that commitment. We will end hallway medicine. New Democrats have made that commitment.

Why can’t the Premier admit that the Liberal government is responsible for Ontario’s crisis in hallway medicine? Why can’t she just admit it? Everyone can see it, Speaker.

Hon. Kathleen O. Wynne: Minister of Health and Long-Term Care.

Hon. Helena Jaczek: As the Premier has said, we have continued our investments every year. I want to address the issue of nurses in our health care system, because the leader of the third party did refer to some imaginary cuts in this regard. Since our government took office in 2003, more than 30,000 nurses have begun work in Ontario. That is a 27% increase. Even just recently, there are 1,200 more nurses employed in Ontario compared to last year.

These are substantial increases year over year. In fact, there are almost 10,000 more nurses working since 2013. These are the facts. We’re increasing our wonderful, excellent nursing staff, as well as so many of the components of our health care system.

Hospital funding

Ms. Andrea Horwath: My next question is also to the Premier. Hallway medicine has reached such a crisis that London Health Sciences has had to develop a new “hallway transfer protocol.” The vice-president of London Health Sciences says theirs is “not the only hospital (affected by gridlock). We’re seeing more and more of this because our system is stretched from a capacity perspective.”

Now, is the Premier still denying that there is a hallway medicine crisis in the province of Ontario?

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Hon. Kathleen O. Wynne: I’m not going to deny that there is a need for continued and increased funding in our health care system. There is an aging demographic, particularly in areas of growth. There are real concerns about the need for more support, which is exactly why we’re investing an additional $822 million in hospitals directly. That’s an overall 4.6% increase, and that’s in addition to the 3.2% increase that we put in place last year. It will increase capacity, decrease wait times and improve access to care for families in Ontario.

But Mr. Speaker, in addition to that, we are investing in home care. We are investing in mental health. We are expanding OHIP+ to cover seniors. We recognize that there has been a transformation in health care, that people want care at home, which is why we have been investing in home care. We will continue to do that, as well as to invest in hospitals.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Supplementary.

Ms. Andrea Horwath: Well, Speaker, there was a real need for funding and a real need for support for the 10 years that this Premier froze budgets or increased them below inflationary levels. There was need for it then too. For years, the NDP has been telling the stories of everyday people who have found themselves in a hospital hallway or a bathroom or a lounge room or TV room. The staff do their very, very best, but the lights are always on in those places. People have no privacy, and the resources that they need are simply not there.

In London, it won’t just be hallways. The new protocol will see people put anywhere that isn’t in front of an exit or a stairwell, or near a hazardous item. This is Ontario in 2018—

Hon. David Zimmer: Shame on you, Andrea. How could you do this on a day like today? Shame on you.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): The Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation is warned.

Interjections.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): I’ll take care of it.

Hon. David Zimmer: The minister is from Willowdale.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): The Minister of Indigenous Affairs and Reconciliation is named.

Mr. Zimmer was escorted from the chamber.

Hon. Chris Ballard: Disgusting tone over there.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): The Minister of the Environment and Climate Change is warned.

The leader may finish her question.

Ms. Andrea Horwath: Is the Premier still denying that there is a crisis in hallway medicine in Ontario?

Hon. Kathleen O. Wynne: Mr. Speaker, I think it’s clear that feelings are running high today, and I think we all can acknowledge that.

I’ll just say again to the leader of the third party that we have consistently increased funding to hospitals. We have also, year over year, increased funding to home care and to other parts of the health care system that need to be in place because people are asking for care in different ways.

I think that what the Minister of Indigenous Relations was responding to was that at a time when we know that our health care professionals are among the best in the world, we all need to be supporting them. We need to be recognizing them for the excellent, excellent professionals that they are.

Interjections.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Be seated, please.

Final supplementary.

Ms. Andrea Horwath: Four years of freezes, zero increases: That’s exactly what this Premier did. She can paint it in any terms she wants, but the facts are the case. A zero increase doesn’t mean that they increased the hospital budgets; it means that they froze them for four years.

Doug Ford said he’ll privatize everywhere, including in our health care system. The Conservatives would cut and privatize, and the Liberals have given us the hallway medicine crisis that we have right now, so we can’t trust them to fix it. But there is hope on the way, because I have a plan to fix hallway medicine, to provide hospitals with stable funding that will end the crisis and add 2,000 beds immediately. Why can’t this Premier just admit that she has created a hallway medicine crisis in the province of Ontario?

Hon. Kathleen O. Wynne: First of all, the allegation that the leader of the third party is making is just not true. We have increased funding to hospitals year over year. I recognize that there is a need for an increased investment; that’s why there is a 4.6% increase in our budget: $822 million.

I would say to the leader of the third party that, as the Premier of this province and as the government, it is our responsibility to look at the entire health care system, to look at all of the different parts of the health care system, and to make sure that we respond to the evolution of people’s needs in the province.

We have an aging demographic. People have said, “We want to be at home. We want more home care. We want health care delivered differently.” That is what we have done, Mr. Speaker, as we have continued to hire more nurses, more doctors, and increased funding to hospitals.

Landfill

Mr. Steve Clark: My question is for the Premier. Speaker, it has been a month and a half since the Premier spoke briefly with opponents of the ED-19 mega dump in my riding. Media reported that she would speak to me and get my views on the dump, which is actually quite strange because I’ve been very clear: No mega dump should be built in my riding with 20-year-old approvals.

She hasn’t honoured her commitment, but I’ve just got one question for her today. Does she agree with me, the area residents, the township of Edwardsburgh/Cardinal, and the Mohawk Council of Akwesasne Grand Chief Benedict that it’s wrong to open a mega dump with 20-year-old environmental approvals: yes or no?

Hon. Kathleen O. Wynne: Minister of the Environment and Climate Change.

Hon. Chris Ballard: Thank you for the important question about the dump. I know this is a very sensitive issue and I understand that where dumps are placed, how dumps are located and how big they are can be very sensitive. Granted, no one is happy if they’re having a dump placed in their community.

I will say, Speaker, that we do take the placement of these dumps quite seriously, the landfills quite seriously, and we go through a rigorous monitoring and evaluation process before permissions are given around any of these landfall sites.

I’ll speak more about other efforts that this government is making to deal with waste.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Supplementary.

Mr. Steve Clark: Speaker, this is the same minister who mocked my constituents’ legitimate concerns by telling me in this House that one person’s garbage is another person’s treasure. I can assure you, Minister, that this garbage is no treasure to those forced to live with it.

When the Premier was in my riding she told opponents that they have a compelling argument. No kidding. Her own Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change says no dump in Ontario has ever opened with such stale-dated permits. They told me that dumps usually proceed within one to eight years of getting a permit; ED-19’s have been sitting on the shelf for over 20 years.

Finally my question: Will you join me today and take a stand and pledge that no mega dump will go on this site without a full environmental assessment, consultation with the Mohawks of Akwesasne and a willing-host declaration from township council?

Hon. Chris Ballard: Speaker, I think the member opposite needs to understand a little bit more about the government’s circular economy act and about our Waste-Free Ontario Act, quite frankly, but I won’t talk about that right now.

I will say that ED-19 remains valid under a number of conditions only if the proposed landfall is to be constructed as it was originally sited and designed. While the current environmental assessments and compliance approvals are still valid, the ministry is going to require a new assessment if changes are made to the project in regards to expansion, monitoring or leachate collection under the Environmental Assessment Act. The ministry requires a new assessment if the county’s proposed an expansion of the service area of that project.

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Tenant protection

Mr. Peter Tabuns: My question to the Acting Premier: Recently we learned how five tenants living at 795 College Street in Toronto were forced from their apartments so the landlord could complete renovations. The landlord ignored the tenants’ right to reoccupy the units after the renovations were completed and instead rented the apartments out to new tenants at three times the rent. It’s called a “renoviction.”

Last year, the Premier had an opportunity to support NDP amendments to Bill 124 that would have closed loopholes that allow unethical landlords to use renovictions to force out tenants so they can jack up the rent. Why didn’t the Premier support these amendments?

Hon. Yasir Naqvi: Minister of Housing.

Hon. Peter Z. Milczyn: I want to thank the member for Toronto–Danforth for the question. In fact, our government made substantial changes to expand rent control for all Ontario tenants. Previously, about a quarter million Ontario tenants did not enjoy the protection of rent control. We brought that change in.

As part of our fair housing plan, we wanted to make sure that tenants receive the protection they require. We expanded the rent control system. We recently brought in the standard lease, which takes effect as of April 30, in a few days’ time. That will also give more protection to all Ontario tenants and make it clear what landlords’ obligations are and what tenants’ rights are.

I’m happy to address more of this issue in the supplementary.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Supplementary?

Mr. Peter Tabuns: Well, you didn’t protect these tenants.

Back to the Acting Premier: Landlords are using pressure tactics to push tenants out so they can raise the rent to whatever level they want. In February, tenants in Parkdale claimed that their landlord neglected basic repairs, but then installed upscale amenities that the low-income tenants were supposed to pay for with above-guideline increases. These tenants were basically being forced to either finance the gentrification of their own units or face renoviction. Instead, they decided to go on a rent strike.

Why must tenants go on a rent strike to keep their homes safe, properly maintained and affordable? Why?

Hon. Peter Z. Milczyn: I’m not able to speak to specific cases which might be before the landlord and tenant tribunal, but we do have a strong Residential Tenancies Act that does have enforcement measures when a landlord breaks the law. I know in some of these cases, the rental enforcement unit of the Ministry of Housing is investigating. If there are charges that are warranted, they would be laid following a proper investigation.

If a landlord attempts to have expenses put on an above-the-guideline increase, the landlord and tenant tribunal can stop that and can mandate that only proper expenses are passed on to tenants. Where there’s a situation where a landlord tries to illegally evict tenants, there are remedies to protect tenants, Mr. Speaker.

Natural gas rates

Mr. Monte McNaughton: My question this morning is to the Minister of Finance. Many people in this province rely on natural gas to heat their homes and run their major appliances. When the Liberals and NDP brought in the cap-and-trade carbon tax, they made life expensive for millions of people in Ontario.

In 2017, the cost of cap-and-trade on natural gas bills was on average an extra $80.50 per year. But shockingly, in 2020, according to the long-term forecast commissioned by the Ontario Energy Board, it could cost an extra $336 per year. That’s an increase of 317%.

Speaker, how much is this Liberal government prepared to make families pay for natural gas?

Hon. Charles Sousa: I appreciate the question. I will give the supplementary to one of my colleagues.

Let’s be clear: We’re talking about a cap-and-trade system, a wholesale product, that is enabling us to provide up to $2 billion more to reinvest in new economies and in a new green energy program, which enables us to build our economy and increase our GDP.

Furthermore, we are—

Interjections.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): As you can tell, I’m in the mood—and I’ll use it.

Finish, please.

Hon. Charles Sousa: Furthermore, we’re now increasing natural gas into those communities that do not have that opportunity. That only happens because we do have a program in place to enable those capital infrastructure programs that the opposition would vote against.

They’re cutting back on the things that matter to Ontario, including the expansion of natural gas to all communities across the province, and, furthermore, a new economy and greater growth in our province.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Supplementary.

Mr. Monte McNaughton: Back to the Minister of Finance: When the Liberals and NDP brought in the cap-and-trade carbon tax, they knew it was going to hit families where it hurt—from keeping their car on the road to keeping their home heated through winter. It makes everything in the province more expensive. Not only is the cap-and-trade carbon tax hidden on natural gas bills, it also has HST on top of it.

Is this government willing to hike the carbon tax on natural gas from $80.50 per year to $336 per year?

Hon. Charles Sousa: Minister of Energy.

Hon. Glenn Thibeault: I’m pleased to rise and talk about cap-and-trade and, of course, the decision that was talked about earlier, when we talked about consumers’ bills.

Cap-and-trade and the decision on how to present that on consumers’ bills was made by the Ontario Energy Board, and that’s an independent, arm’s-length regulator for the province’s energy sector. It did so based on extensive consultations with consumers, utilities and environmental stakeholders, including over 40 written—

Interjections.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): The member from Leeds—sorry, the member from Prince Edward–Hastings; you’re trying to hide behind him. You were behaving yourself, I will admit that.

The member from Prince Edward–Hastings is warned.

Hon. Glenn Thibeault: In their decision, the Ontario Energy Board highlighted that cap-and-trade costs are part of doing the business of delivering natural gas to homes and businesses. To quote the board and the OEB’s view: “Separating out cap-and-trade-related costs as a line item on the bill is inconsistent with the manner in which all other ongoing costs of operating the utility are reflected on”—

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Thank you. New question.

Labour dispute

Mrs. Lisa Gretzky: My question is to the Acting Premier. The Caesars Windsor casino labour dispute is nearly three weeks long. Some 2,300 workers, members of Unifor Local 444, are ready to negotiate. They’ve been ready since day one. But it takes two to bargain, Speaker, and Caesars management has shown that they are anything but a willing partner in this negotiation process. In fact, they just cancelled all programming at the casino today, up until May 19.

This isn’t just any business. Casinos in Ontario operate in partnership with the OLG, a division of this Liberal government. These 2,300 workers make possible the hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue that the casino takes in. They deserve respect and a partner in the negotiation process, not someone that won’t engage in bargaining.

Will the Premier direct Caesars management to live up to its responsibilities and get back to the bargaining table?

Hon. Yasir Naqvi: Minister of Labour.

Hon. Kevin Daniel Flynn: Thank you to the member for their question about the Caesars strike.

The province of Ontario—I’ve said this over and over again—has got one of the best dispute resolution records in North America. When people are collectively bargaining in this province, in about 98%—

Ms. Catherine Fife: Schedule 14—

Hon. Kevin Daniel Flynn: —of the cases we reach a collective agreement without having to resort to a strike or to a lockout. That is something we should be proud of.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): The member from Kitchener–Waterloo is warned.

Finish, please.

Hon. Kevin Daniel Flynn: Currently at Caesars, we’ve got just over 2,000 employees. They’re members of Unifor 444. They’ve been on strike since April 6. At the time of the strike deadline, they did reach a tentative agreement, and it was not ratified by the members.

I’ll follow up in the supplementary.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Supplementary.

Mrs. Lisa Gretzky: A reminder to the Minister of Labour: It takes two parties at the bargaining table, and Caesars is not bargaining.

Mr. Speaker, let me be clear: Nobody is asking the Premier to interfere with collective bargaining. We are asking her to make sure that management at Caesars Windsor comes to the table in good faith. That’s all. Caesars Windsor’s management hasn’t even reached out to Unifor to schedule dates. They are not willing to talk to the front-line workers who provide the services that make Caesars Windsor profitable in the first place.

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The Premier needs to know that losses to Windsor’s economy are estimated to be in the millions, and climbing.

Speaker, workers can’t bargain with themselves. They need a partner who is also committed to reaching a fair deal. Caesars’ unwillingness to come to the table isn’t just on them; it’s on the Premier, because she’s responsible for OLG and all government-owned casinos.

When will the Premier do the right thing and make sure that Caesars’ management gets back to bargaining?

Hon. Kevin Daniel Flynn: Thank you to the member for the supplementary.

As I said, we have an excellent record of dispute resolution in this province—some of the best arbitrators in the country, some of the best mediators in the country—and we bring them into situations like this. We offer them to the parties.

In this case, an agreement was reached at the table. The agreement was sent to the membership; the membership did not ratify it. As a result of that, on April 18, we had our mediators back into the situation.

I agree with the member: It’s the responsibility of the employer and the union to make every effort to resolve their differences at the bargaining table.

I don’t know how the member is asking me, as the Minister of Labour, to interfere in this dispute. We don’t do that; we provide assistance. The best deals are those that are reached at the bargaining table. We would urge both sides to return to the table and strike a deal.

Social assistance

Mr. Ted McMeekin: My question is for the Minister of Housing.

Speaker, in our 2017 budget, this government committed to creating more fairness across Ontario. Part of that commitment was the introduction of the Basic Income Pilot. This pilot aims to determine how a basic income can expand opportunities and job prospects while providing greater security for people living on low incomes. The pilot was launched in four sites, including my home riding of Hamilton, and studies both a randomized control trial and a saturation trial. I’ve been happy to see the early and positive results.

Our innovative Basic Income Pilot is also receiving international recognition. The Basic Income Pilot was recently chosen as a finalist for Fast Company’s annual World Changing Ideas Awards.

Could the minister please update the House on the status of the basic income program?

Hon. Peter Z. Milczyn: I want to thank the member for the question and for his life-long advocacy for social justice.

Mr. Speaker, on the first anniversary of launching the Basic Income Pilot, I’m pleased to announce that it is fully subscribed. Four thousand people are now receiving payments from the three-year pilot, and 2,000 people have been placed in the control group, which provides the pilot’s evaluators with crucial data on vital outcomes.

Participants in the study are telling us already how it’s transforming their lives. They’re able to pay the rent, buy groceries, buy new clothes, and it’s helping them get back to school. It’s helping them turn their lives around.

Ontario’s Basic Income Pilot is part of the government’s plan to build everyone up in this province. Whether it’s increasing the minimum wage, or providing more housing, medicare or other health care, it’s important that we support our people.

The BI is showing that our government invests in care, as opposed to a government that would cut benefits for Ontarians and call it “efficiency.”

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Supplementary?

Mr. Ted McMeekin: Thank you to the minister for that answer.

Speaker, I know that my constituents in Hamilton and the surrounding region enrolled in the project are already beginning to see the difference that a basic income is making on their lives.

Alana is from Hamilton and is on the pilot. She and several other participants are in the Legislature today to commemorate the one-year anniversary of the launch of this government’s Basic Income Pilot.

This group and many others are preparing to share their basic income experiences at the upcoming North American Basic Income Guarantee Congress, to be held in my beloved Hamilton this May. We’re looking forward to hearing their stories and perspectives.

Speaker, I’m proud, on this side of the House, that we continue to look for innovative ways to support low-income Ontarians.

Can the minister please tell this House what the next steps are for the basic income program?

Hon. Peter Z. Milczyn: Minister of Community and Social Services.

Hon. Michael Coteau: I would like thank the member for the question and also welcome the advocates and supporters who are here today joining us in the Legislature.

Mr. Speaker, we’re going to continue to evaluate and test how the basic income can support vulnerable workers and improve health, education and housing outcomes for people on low income.

However, our government understands that more needs to be done to support all low-income Ontarians. That’s why in our 2018 budget our government announced historic investments to social services. Mr. Speaker, $2.3 billion over the next three years will increase social assistance rates, change earning exemptions and eliminate ineffective rules.

I’m finally happy that the NDP has a plan to invest in social assistance, but the real threat to social assistance in the province of Ontario is the Conservatives who, in the last administration, cut social assistance by 22%.

Landfill

Mr. Ernie Hardeman: My question is to the Minister of Municipal Affairs. Currently, only the Ministry of the Environment is required to approve the location of a landfill. Municipalities aren’t given a say despite the significant impact landfills have on their communities. From Mattice-Val Côté to Sarnia, councils are passing resolutions demanding the right to have authority over landfills.

Does the Minister of Municipal Affairs believe that municipalities should have the authority over actions taken in their communities?

Hon. Bill Mauro: Minister of the Environment and Climate Change.

Hon. Chris Ballard: Thank you to the member opposite for his advocacy around this issue. We’re taking his bill under careful review.

Our first priority is to keep waste out of landfill through existing waste diversion efforts. We’re keeping approximately three million tonnes of waste out of landfills every year. Through our Waste-Free Ontario Act—which, I regret to say, the member opposite voted against—we’re committed to doing even more.

Our new model is going to shift more of the burden of reducing and reusing waste to producers. We expect this shift is going to save municipalities across Ontario about $120 million a year.

Still, Speaker, we recognize that we have to have solutions in place for waste that can’t be diverted.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Supplementary?

Mr. Ernie Hardeman: Back to the Minister of Municipal Affairs: I recently introduced Bill 16, Respecting Municipal Authority Over Landfilling Sites Act. It’s an act to give municipalities the respect they deserve and give them a say over the location of landfills, and ensure that they are willing hosts. It’s about respecting municipal authority in their communities.

Will the minister support my bill giving municipalities the authority to have a say, or will he continue to deny them that right? I would like the Minister of Municipal Affairs to answer the question as this is a municipal issue.

Hon. Chris Ballard: I seem to recall from my time on a municipal council that there is nothing in the act that prevents a municipality around this issue right now. But I will leave that to the member opposite to debate.

I can tell you though, Speaker, from this portfolio, the Minister of the Environment and Climate Change, any decision regarding a landfill requires independent, non-partisan staff with the Ministry of the Environment to consult widely through thorough consultation with the public, stakeholders, indigenous communities, municipalities and others.

Through this consultation, ministry officials are able to identify and find solutions for any potential negative effects of proposals before decisions are made. We remain very committed to working with municipalities and communities to ensure that all projects are protective of both the environment and public health.

Contaminated soil cleanup

Mr. Gilles Bisson: My question is to the Minister of Health. Minister, the community of Attawapiskat on the James Bay, like many other communities that are without roads, had their electricity generated for years by way of diesel generators. Unfortunately, in Attawapiskat—like other communities, but in this case, Attawapiskat—there was a major diesel spill over a period of years that contaminated ground underneath what is now the daycare centre, what is now the hospital, what is now the ambulance garage, nurses’ residence and other buildings in and around the Vez site—Vez site being where the tanks used to be.

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There was an allocation made by your ministry of about $1.6 million to clean this up. The Ministry of Energy was the other one, because Hydro One had to pay part of the bill. But when we cleaned the spill at the hospital, because of another spill, we utilized that money to pay for it. My question to you is: Have we made a new reallocation of funds in order to get this project back on track and clean up the Vez site?

Hon. Helena Jaczek: Thank you to the member for this question. I am not familiar with the particular circumstances of this particular event that happened at some point in the past. I will certainly commit to the member that I will look into it in more depth.

But I would like to say that our government is absolutely committed to the health of our First Nations communities. I think we’ve demonstrated this type of commitment with the signature last year—the former Minister of Health made an agreement with the Nishnawbe Aski Nation and Health Canada, outlining a path to transforming the health care system for our First Nations.

This is a health care facility. I certainly will look into the circumstances and provide the member with a further response in the near future.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Supplementary?

Mr. Gilles Bisson: But to be clear, Minister, your ministry made the allocation, so the responsibility has already been accepted by MOH, because much of where the spill is happens to be on MOH property under WAHA, which is the hospital.

The community is concerned. When I was there the other day meeting with them, they were concerned that everything has ground to a halt after we utilized that money to clean the spill that happened later on under the WAHA hospital in Attawapiskat.

What we need is a commitment to make sure that the dollars that are supposed to be allocated for the cleanup—which were, five years ago, worth about $1.6 million, so it will obviously be more than that today—are reallocated so that the community can do the cleanup and make sure that kids and daycare centres, nurses and nursing residents, ambulance attendants and ambulances and people in the hospital are not at any risk, and the community is cleaned up.

Hon. Helena Jaczek: As I’ve said, I certainly will look into the situation and get back to the member.

But I think it is a good opportunity to talk to some of our recently announced new initiatives. We are providing funding directly to each of the 133 First Nations communities in Ontario to strengthen access to culturally appropriate home and community care services—and, in this case, if there is some interruption, obviously we wish those vital services to be continued.

We are creating 16 new or expanded indigenous-governed and community-driven interprofessional primary care teams across Ontario, providing culturally safe primary health care services and programs to over 70,000 indigenous peoples.

I have visited some fly-in communities myself. I understand the issues on the ground. I will certainly look into this particular situation.

Post-secondary education

Mr. Shafiq Qaadri: My question is for the Minister of Advanced Education and Skills Development.

Speaker, as you will appreciate, Ontario’s economy is growing, and well-paying jobs are being created daily. We lead the G7 in economic growth and, as you will know, we have the lowest unemployment rate in two decades. Of course, that kind of economic growth will be accompanied by demographic growth in many of our communities.

By the way, I would like to thank the minister for presenting herself at West Humber Collegiate Institute in Etobicoke North for a recent educational announcement.

Brampton is one such vibrant city, the second-fastest-growing community in Canada. Its youth population is expected to grow by 20% by 2035. There’s much to offer in the city of Brampton, like a strong economy, a stable marketplace, a growing transit system and, of course, an inclusive community spirit.

Speaker, I would like to ask the minister, could she explain in detail more of the access to education initiatives that her ministry is executing for young people?

Hon. Mitzie Hunter: I want to thank the very dedicated and hard-working member of Etobicoke North for this question. We know that we have great communities and a great education system. We have a classroom of students here today, and it’s important that we give them hope for the future.

Our government recognized that Brampton is a city that is really, at the heart, a great city. That is why, with the leadership of our Premier, we made a commitment to the people of Peel region. We promised that we would build a university campus. We asked universities and colleges in Ontario to partner so that they could bring this vision to Brampton.

I’m proud to stand in this House today to say that we have delivered on this commitment. Last week, the member from Brampton West, the member from Mississauga–Brampton South, the member from Brampton–Springdale and I were pleased to announce that Ryerson University, together with Sheridan College, will develop a campus that is focused on the people of Brampton.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Supplementary.

Mr. Shafiq Qaadri: Of course, I’m completely aware of how people in Peel are thrilled by this new announcement, courtesy of Ryerson and Sheridan. Of course, folks in Brampton want to stay in their community. They’ve been calling for a local option for education, and our government has delivered.

I want to again salute the minister for initiatives in education in this knowledge-based economy—and the government broadly—whether we’re talking about full-day kindergarten, teaching computer coding in grade school, increased graduation rates or, by the way, the 235,000 young folks and others who are now availing themselves of the free tuition for two- and four-year college and university.

My question is this: Would the minister please outline more details about this educational investment in Peel region?

Hon. Mitzie Hunter: Thank you again to the member from Etobicoke North. I want to thank all of our caucus members from the Brampton and Peel region for championing this initiative.

Our government is ensuring that Brampton continues on its path to innovation, because Brampton is in the middle of Canada’s innovation super-corridor. We want people to learn, to be trained and to stay in their communities. With our programs like free tuition that we’re offering through the new OSAP, we’re making college and university more accessible to more families.

Our focus is to create a talent pipeline in this community for science, technology, engineering and arts, as well as mathematics, for students, enhancing an already talented and innovative region through a focus on STEAM. That is why our government announced an investment of $90 million to support this opportunity for the people of Brampton. Tens of thousands of smart companies are already doing business in the region. By building this campus, businesses will have a steady supply of current—

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Thank you.

New question.

Government spending

Mr. Randy Hillier: To the Attorney General: The Attorney General is charged with providing advice to the cabinet and protecting the integrity of the crown. In the past few weeks, the Premier has been campaigning on the public dime. At last count, it was 39 different events across the province, and for that, the Premier is under investigation.

Will the Attorney General advise cabinet and the Premier to end this pernicious practice of campaigning on the taxpayer’s dime?

Hon. Yasir Naqvi: First of all, I would just highlight to the member opposite that the Premier is under no investigation whatsoever. The members opposite have filed a spurious complaint to Elections Ontario. Elections Ontario, of course, looks at all matters that are brought forward to them. They issue a template response, as they have done in this particular instance.

But I just continue to notice how the members opposite, the Doug Ford team, do not want the Premier to talk about the plan for care and opportunity: her plan to build Ontario up, her plan to create opportunity for hard-working Ontarians, a plan that will ensure we expand OHIP+ from children that are up to 25 years old all the way up to seniors 65 and older; a plan that will ensure that we increase the minimum wage to $15 an hour starting January 1, 2019; a plan that is going to build more long-term-care beds and puts much-needed investment in the health care system.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Supplementary.

Mr. Randy Hillier: Again to the Attorney General: The writing is on the wall for this tired, uncaring and scandalous government, and a line-by-line audit will expose in detail the many suspected sketchy practices. But the Premier continues to bend the rules and uses taxpayer money to campaign across the province.

Will the Attorney General advise and instruct all of cabinet not to delete e-mails or shred important documents that would obstruct or frustrate the Chief Electoral Officer’s investigation into these pernicious practices?

Hon. Yasir Naqvi: The people of Ontario want to know what Doug Ford is hiding. Why does he not want the media to follow him and make sure that they get to ask him the important questions? Why doesn’t he answer questions to the media when posed to him? Because Doug Ford has an agenda of cuts, cuts and cuts.

Interjections.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Wrap up the sentence, please.

Hon. Yasir Naqvi: Doug Ford wants to cut taxes for large, wealthy businesses. Doug Ford will cut the minimum wage for hard-working people. Doug Ford will cut services like health care and education. He wants to just cut, cut and cut, Speaker.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Thank you.

Interjections.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): It’s never too late. The member from Lanark–Frontenac–Lennox and Addington is warned. The Minister of Infrastructure is warned. The member from Leeds–Grenville is warned. And that carries over to this afternoon.

Deferred Votes

Plan for Care and Opportunity Act (Budget Measures), 2018 / Loi de 2018 pour un plan axé sur le mieux-être et l’avenir (mesures budgétaires)

Deferred vote on the motion for second reading of the following bill:

Bill 31, An Act to implement Budget measures and to enact and amend various statutes / Projet de loi 31, Loi visant à mettre en oeuvre les mesures budgétaires et à édicter et à modifier diverses lois.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Call in the members. This will be a five-minute bell.

The division bells rang from 1141 to 1146.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): All members, please take your seats.

On April 10, 2018, Mr. Sousa moved second reading of Bill 31, An Act to implement Budget measures and to enact and amend various statutes.

All those in favour, please rise one at a time and be recognized by the Clerk.

Ayes

  • Albanese, Laura
  • Anderson, Granville
  • Baker, Yvan
  • Ballard, Chris
  • Berardinetti, Lorenzo
  • Bradley, James J.
  • Chan, Michael
  • Chiarelli, Bob
  • Colle, Mike
  • Coteau, Michael
  • Crack, Grant
  • Damerla, Dipika
  • Del Duca, Steven
  • Delaney, Bob
  • Des Rosiers, Nathalie
  • Dhillon, Vic
  • Dong, Han
  • Duguid, Brad
  • Flynn, Kevin Daniel
  • Fraser, John
  • Gravelle, Michael
  • Hoggarth, Ann
  • Hunter, Mitzie
  • Jaczek, Helena
  • Kiwala, Sophie
  • Lalonde, Marie-France
  • Leal, Jeff
  • MacCharles, Tracy
  • Malhi, Harinder
  • Mangat, Amrit
  • Martins, Cristina
  • Matthews, Deborah
  • Mauro, Bill
  • McGarry, Kathryn
  • McMahon, Eleanor
  • McMeekin, Ted
  • Milczyn, Peter Z.
  • Moridi, Reza
  • Naidoo-Harris, Indira
  • Naqvi, Yasir
  • Potts, Arthur
  • Qaadri, Shafiq
  • Rinaldi, Lou
  • Sandals, Liz
  • Sousa, Charles
  • Takhar, Harinder S.
  • Thibeault, Glenn
  • Vernile, Daiene
  • Wong, Soo

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): All those opposed, please rise one at a time and be recognized by the Clerk.

Nays

  • Bailey, Robert
  • Bisson, Gilles
  • Clark, Steve
  • Coe, Lorne
  • Fedeli, Victor
  • Fife, Catherine
  • Forster, Cindy
  • French, Jennifer K.
  • Gates, Wayne
  • Gélinas, France
  • Gretzky, Lisa
  • Hardeman, Ernie
  • Hatfield, Percy
  • Hillier, Randy
  • Horwath, Andrea
  • Jones, Sylvia
  • MacLaren, Jack
  • MacLeod, Lisa
  • Mantha, Michael
  • Martow, Gila
  • McDonell, Jim
  • McNaughton, Monte
  • Miller, Norm
  • Munro, Julia
  • Natyshak, Taras
  • Nicholls, Rick
  • Pettapiece, Randy
  • Sattler, Peggy
  • Scott, Laurie
  • Smith, Todd
  • Tabuns, Peter
  • Taylor, Monique
  • Thompson, Lisa M.
  • Vanthof, John
  • Walker, Bill
  • Wilson, Jim
  • Yakabuski, John
  • Yurek, Jeff

The Clerk of the Assembly (Mr. Todd Decker): The ayes are 49; the nays are 38.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): I declare the motion carried.

Second reading agreed to.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Pursuant to the order of the House dated April 23, 2018, the bill is referred to the Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs.

There are no further deferred votes. This House stands recessed until 3 p.m. this afternoon.

The House recessed from 1150 to 1500.

Introduction of Visitors

Mr. Percy Hatfield: We do have a large number of guests here from the Windsor-Essex area this afternoon. They’re members of Local 444 of Unifor who are here for Ms. Gretzky, the member for Windsor West’s, statement this afternoon. I’ll introduce some of them: Brad Lucio, Crystal Cross, Debra Belleperche, Debra Pillar, Diego Mazzone, Doug Drouillard, Elizabeth Kanyenda, Erin Gusba, Jerold Tim, Greg Cross, James Blanchette, Jason Dunn, Jo-Anne Erickson, Karen Popson and Kathleen Lappan.

Mrs. Lisa Gretzky: I will pick up where the member from Windsor–Tecumseh left off. I would like to welcome Unifor members. Most are from Caesars Windsor back home. We have Dana Dunphy, who’s the Unifor chairperson at Caesars Windsor; Brian Zarin, who’s on the bargaining team. We also have Dave Cassidy, secretary-treasurer of Local 444; Paul Renaud, who’s the skilled trades chair at Windsor assembly plant. We also have Shauna Thorne-Zarin, who’s actually a Unifor Local 707 member; Sue McKinnon, Laurie Green, Leonard Hilt, Lynn Lacey and Mark Morin. Welcome to Queen’s Park.

Mr. Taras Natyshak: I am honoured to pick up where my two colleagues left off and welcome more members who are representing striking workers at Casino Windsor. We have Mark Wood, Melissa Chemello, Michelle Stachow, Monica Romeo, Paulette Savoie, Rhonda Clarke and Shane Trudell. I want to welcome them here to Queen’s Park today.

Mr. Wayne Gates: I don’t normally do this, but I would like to welcome a couple of people from my sister Local 444: Dave Cassidy, my good friend—welcome to Queen’s Park; and my good friends Brian and Shauna, who just got married. Welcome to Queen’s Park.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Congratulations.

Members’ Statements

Volunteers

Mr. Bill Walker: What an honour to share with this House that, just this weekend, I and my colleague Lisa Thompson from Huron–Bruce were privileged to present the local recipients of the Ontario Volunteer Service Awards. Two hundred and eighty-nine people across Bruce–Grey–Owen Sound and Huron–Bruce were thanked this past Sunday for their great contribution to community life.

Our constituents are among some five million Ontarians who give generously their time and talents to multiple local causes in an effort to make Bruce–Grey–Owen Sound and Huron–Bruce better places to live for all. They deserve our recognition and heartfelt thanks.

It is always a privilege to recognize outstanding constituents who serve our region by dedicating time to volunteering; for example, Home and Community Support Services of Grey-Bruce; GRACE, the Georgian Riding Association for Challenged Equestrians; Alzheimer Society of Grey-Bruce; the Neustadt/Normanby/Carrick Agricultural Society; Victim Services Bruce Grey Perth; Sauble Beach and District Lions Club; and the Victorian Order of Nurses—Grey-Bruce, just to name a few.

I always do my best to be on hand for volunteer awards because I know that in my riding’s case this precious sector is made up of many, many of our proud seniors and other people who give every day.

It is also a personal connection for me because public service has always played a key role in my life. Whether it was volunteering for Heart and Stroke; serving with the Bruce Peninsula Health Services Foundation, where we raised $3 million for the Lion’s Head Hospital and Wiarton Hospital; or volunteering as a coach of a sports team or the manager of a festival, to me it’s always about the people. I have immense respect for all those who use their lives to make a positive difference in their communities and the lives of others.

I want to close with one final comment. I read somewhere that, in the last 10 years, more than 250,000 Ontario youth volunteers have contributed more than 1.2 million volunteer hours. This is an amazing point, and I’m very pleased to see our youth engaged and fostering a sense of community responsibility.

People across Ontario have a reason to be grateful for the efforts of our volunteers, both young and old, who are making an effort every day to build better communities everywhere. Thank you, Mr. Speaker, and thank you to them.

Ontario farmers

Mr. Taras Natyshak: I’m sure it came as a welcome surprise to walk outside yesterday in this city and across Ontario to feel some warmth finally in the province. Yes, Speaker, indeed, spring is finally upon us. That means that there are thousands of farmers and farm families across rural Ontario who are gearing up for the spring planting season.

If you go on Twitter to #plant18 or #ontario or #ontag you can follow some of our province’s farmers almost in real time. They are teaching us about the challenges of agricultural production and the wonderment of the bounty of this province in every corner.

We are so grateful for their endeavours and what they do not only to provide food for our communities but also to provide a massive infusion of economic stimulus. We want to wish them all the best in the spring planting season. Winter wheat is starting to sprout, if you drive around rural areas. I just want to give them a shout-out.

Also, a couple of weeks ago I was able to attend the Essex County Agricultural Hall of Fame induction, where we inducted Charles Desmarais and Terrance H. Wright. These are two gentlemen who have spent their entire lives promoting and working in our Ontario agricultural sector. They are gentlemen. They have wonderful families. They, among many others across the province, have contributed to our welfare, to our benefit. We want to thank them and wish everyone planting in the spring a wonderful spring planting season.

Armenian genocide anniversary

Ms. Soo Wong: I rise today to recognize the 103rd anniversary of the Armenian genocide. One hundred and three years ago today, troops from the Ottoman Empire massacred and forcibly removed Armenians from their homes in Armenia and Anatolia.

Through this bloodshed, innocent people were violently displaced from their communities, and many were subject to torture, abuse and starvation. In all, it is estimated that 1.5 million Armenians were massacred during the genocide.

In commemoration, this past Sunday I attended the annual Armenian genocide commemoration event hosted by the Armenian National Committee of Toronto. This event not only allows the community to grieve the tragedy that struck the Armenian people between 1915 and 1923, but it also enables Ontarians to reflect on and celebrate the contributions of the Armenian Canadian community in Ontario today.

Despite this great tragedy, Mr. Speaker, the Armenian people remain resilient, and many managed to escape to find homes across Canada and in this province and in my riding of Scarborough–Agincourt.

I’d like to thank the Armenian Canadian community for reminding us of the importance of recognizing tragedies that occurred in the past so that we can prevent them in the future. I also want to offer my sincere condolences to those who lost loved ones during the Armenian genocide. Your community is in our thoughts today here at Queen’s Park.

Health care funding

Mr. Norm Miller: This past weekend I had the pleasure of meeting with some amazing people who are very passionate about saving our Muskoka hospitals. As you may have noticed, I’ve been reading petitions calling on the Minister of Health to maintain two hospitals in Muskoka, one in Bracebridge and one in Huntsville. The petition also calls upon the minister to ensure that small and medium-sized hospitals receive enough funding to maintain core services.

The future of these hospitals has been a long-standing issue, but recently the Muskoka Algonquin Healthcare capital development task force announced that they will soon be making a recommendation.

With than on the horizon, my constituents asked me to launch another petition to ensure that their concerns were heard. But a petition doesn’t do any good without signatures, so I want to thank some of the dedicated people who have been distributing and collecting these petitions: Norine Sinclair, who collected 338 signatures in four hours at the Foodland in Sundridge, and Ruby Truax, who sent in sheets with 324 signatures.

Then there are the people I met this weekend: Marcia Mackesy, who has been distributing petitions up and down the main street of Huntsville; Marjory Goodwin, who collected 468 signatures; June Tebby, who collected 505 signatures; Karen Wright, who presented me with 526 signatures; and finally, Tammy McAughey and Peter Sangoi of Sprucedale, who collected some 1,500 signatures that I will be presenting today. And there are more.

Thank you to everyone who sent in petitions and to all the business owners and municipalities who are displaying the petitions in their shops and offices.

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Labour dispute

Mrs. Lisa Gretzky: I stand here in solidarity with 2,300 sisters and brothers of Unifor Local 444. Some of them are here with us today at Queen’s Park. They’ve been on the picket line at the government-owned Caesars Windsor casino for nearly three weeks. I raised this issue here two weeks ago, and I’m raising it again today, because management at Caesars isn’t taking bargaining seriously.

These workers are on the front line, doing the work that makes the hundreds of millions of dollars in revenues the casino brings in possible. The average pay is just above minimum wage. These workers deserve to be treated fairly.

While on strike, these workers continue to give back to our community by collecting items for our food banks. There was a rally at the casino on Sunday, which was attended by nearly 2,000 participants, including me and my NDP colleagues.

These workers have community support. Now they need support from their employer, from this Liberal government.

This labour dispute began in the first week of April. Just three days into the strike, management cancelled all shows, reservations and promotions for the entire month. It takes both sides to bargain, and while it seems that casino management isn’t interested in resolving this issue, the OLG, the Premier, can direct management to get back to bargaining and negotiate a fair agreement.

This labour dispute affects casino workers, local businesses and our municipality. Other workers are being laid off, and the estimated community revenue loss is multi-millions of dollars and climbing.

It’s time for casino workers to benefit from their hard work and the success of the casino. It’s time for the Premier to direct management to get to the bargaining table and stay there until an agreement is reached.

London organizations

Ms. Deborah Matthews: As I approach the end of my time as MPP for London North Centre, I rise to acknowledge some incredible organizations in London that have inspired me with their deep commitment to understanding the needs of people in my community, and that work tirelessly to make a positive impact in their lives.

For 142 years, the amazing team at Merrymount has been supporting children and families going through tough times with tremendous programs delivered with loving care.

For over 60 years, the great folks at Boys and Girls Club of London have been there when school is out, offering a safe, welcoming place for kids to learn, have fun and build positive relationships.

For over 30 years, the wonderful staff and volunteers at Participation House have been encouraging and supporting people with disabilities to reach their full potential in the community.

Since 1971, Big Brothers Big Sisters of London and Area have been connecting kids with mentors who remind “the Littles” that they can be anything they dream of when they grow up.

All of these organizations and so many more that I cannot mention in my meagre 90 seconds here have touched so many lives, including mine. I want to say thank you to every one of them for the great work that they do.

Sharon Temple

Mrs. Julia Munro: It is my pleasure to rise today to celebrate a historic landmark in my riding, the Sharon Temple. I was delighted to learn that artifacts from the temple demonstrating its significance are being displayed right here in a display in the halls of the Legislative Assembly.

The Sharon Temple is a beautiful, historic building located in the village of Sharon, just north of Newmarket. Designated as a National Historic Site of Canada, it is home to over 6,000 artifacts. It was constructed between 1825 and 1832 by the Children of Peace, a Quaker community. The Sharon Temple is a beautiful gem of architecture, and architectural students from around the world come to look at it and measure it and examine it.

It’s really a thrill to be able to have it here in the Legislature. I would encourage all of my colleagues here and the guests to take a moment to stop by the display, and if you like what you see, come visit the Sharon Temple in East Gwillimbury.

Attack in Toronto

Mr. Mike Colle: I just wanted to make a comment about the slaughter that occurred on Yonge Street yesterday. There are some people who are starting to say how awful things are and that evil has taken over. I just want to be very clear in stating what the majority of people think, whether they’re in Toronto or anywhere in Ontario or Canada: that the vast majority of Torontonians or Ontarians or Canadians are amazingly compassionate, good, accepting people that aren’t going to let this one person destroy all the good that is in our province and in our country. They are saying, “No, we are not going to let this happen.”

Yonge Street runs right through the heart of the province. I think it goes all the way up to James Bay. It represents all of us. It’s the heart. We’re not going to let people stand by and say, “It’s no longer Toronto the Good. It’s no longer the good Canada.” Well, they’re wrong. This is an amazingly wonderful place, with people of all walks of life who support each other, help each other, and volunteer for each other.

It still is Toronto the Good. It still is Canada the good. We’re not going to let this vile episode bring us down one inch.

Connect Youth

Mr. Steve Clark: Too often, people make the mistake of assuming youth homelessness is an urban issue. Tomorrow, in Prescott, Connect Youth is launching an awareness campaign to show that no community is immune. Organizers will display 92 purple ribbons at South Grenville District High School. The ribbons represent the number of young people who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless referred to Connect Youth from across Leeds–Grenville last year. That’s, actually, quite an eye-opening number for a small urban and rural community.

It shows why we are so blessed to have Connect Youth working so closely with these vulnerable youth. They know what’s happening in young people’s lives. They saw youth homelessness as a growing concern and they’ve decided to work with partners like the united counties of Leeds and Grenville to respond.

As a result, they temporarily provided transitional housing to 54 of those youth referred to them. That’s 54 at-risk youth who, in a moment of crisis, found what we sometimes take for granted: a safe place to live. Being there at the precise moment a young person needs them is what Connect Youth has been working on since it was founded in 2001 in response to a tragic suicide. It’s no overstatement to say that they are saving lives.

Unfortunately, tomorrow, my duties at Queen’s Park will prevent me from being at their youth homelessness event, but I want everybody who is connected with Connect Youth to know how I 100% support what they’re doing, and how I thank them for making a difference in Leeds–Grenville.

Reports by Committees

Standing Committee on Public Accounts

Mr. Ernie Hardeman: I beg leave to present a report on Immunization, section 1.04 of the 2016 Annual Report of the Office of the Auditor General of Ontario, from the Standing Committee on Public Accounts and move the adoption of its recommendations.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Mr. Hardeman presents the committee’s report and moves the adoption of its recommendations.

Does the member wish to make a brief statement?

Mr. Ernie Hardeman: As Chair of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts, I am pleased to table the committee’s report today entitled Immunization, section 1.04 of the 2016 Annual Report of the Office of the Auditor General of Ontario.

I’d like to take this opportunity to thank France Gélinas, who regularly served as a substitute member on the committee, as well as the permanent members of the committee at the time this report was written: Lisa MacLeod, Vice-Chair; Bob Delaney; Vic Dhillon; Han Dong; John Fraser; Percy Hatfield; Randy Hillier; and Liz Sandals.

The committee extends its appreciation to officials from the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care for their attendance at the hearings.

The committee also acknowledges the assistance provided during the hearings and report-writing deliberations by the Office of the Auditor General, the Clerk of the Committee and staff in the Legislative Research Service. I thank them all.

Thank you. I move adjournment of the debate.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? Carried.

Debate adjourned.

Standing Committee on Social Policy

Mr. Peter Tabuns: I beg leave to present a report from the Standing Committee on Social Policy and move its adoption.

The Clerk-at-the-Table (Ms. Valerie Quioc Lim): Your committee begs to report the following bill, as amended:

Bill 3, An Act respecting transparency of pay in employment / Projet de loi 3, Loi portant sur la transparence salariale.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Shall the report be received and adopted? Agreed? Carried.

Report adopted.

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The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Pursuant to the order of the House dated April 11, 2018, the bill is ordered for third reading.

Introduction of Bills

2297970 Ontario Inc. Act, 2018

Ms. Wong moved first reading of the following bill:

Bill Pr84, An Act to revive 2297970 Ontario Inc.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? Carried.

First reading agreed to.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Pursuant to standing order 86, the bill stands referred to the Standing Committee on Regulations and Private Bills.

2258733 Ontario Inc. Act, 2018

Ms. Wong moved first reading of the following bill:

Bill Pr87, An Act to revive 2258733 Ontario Inc.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? Carried.

First reading agreed to.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Pursuant to standing order 86, the bill stands referred to the Standing Committee on Regulations and Private Bills.

Tencrest Realty Ltd. Act, 2018

Mr. Colle moved first reading of the following bill:

Bill Pr85, An Act to revive Tencrest Realty Ltd.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? Carried.

First reading agreed to.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Pursuant to standing order 86, the bill stands referred to the Standing Committee on Regulations and Private Bills.

Motions

Private members’ public business

Hon. Daiene Vernile: I believe we have unanimous consent to put forward a motion without notice regarding private members’ public business.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): The minister is seeking unanimous consent to put forward a motion without notice. Do we agree? Agreed.

Minister?

Hon. Daiene Vernile: I move that, notwithstanding standing order 98(c), that a change be made to the order of precedence for private members’ public business, such that Mr. Colle assumes ballot item number 15, Mr. Bradley assumes ballot item number 58, Mr. Baker assumes ballot item number 17, and Mr. Dhillon assumes ballot item number 52.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): The minister moves that, notwithstanding standing order 98(c), that a change be made to the order of precedence of—

Mr. Gilles Bisson: Dispense.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Dispense? Dispense. Do we agree? Carried.

Motion agreed to.

Petitions

Health care funding

Mr. Norm Miller: I have some 1,500 petitions from areas north of Huntsville: Burk’s Falls, Sprucedale, Kearney, Sundridge, Magnetawan, Emsdale and South River. It reads:

“To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

“Whereas Muskoka Algonquin Healthcare has been considering the future of the Huntsville District Memorial and South Muskoka Memorial hospitals since 2012; and

“Whereas accessible health care services are of critical importance to all Ontarians, including those living in rural areas; and

“Whereas patients currently travel significant distances to access acute in-patient care, emergency, diagnostic and surgical services available at these hospitals; and

“Whereas the funding for small and medium-sized hospitals has not kept up with increasing costs including hydro rates and collective bargaining agreements made by the province; and

“Whereas the residents of Muskoka and surrounding areas feel that MAHC has not been listening to them; and

“Whereas the board of MAHC has yet to take the single-site proposal from 2015 off its books;

“We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario as follows:

“That the Legislative Assembly of Ontario requests that the Minister of Health and Long-Term Care” commits to maintaining “core hospital services ... at both Huntsville District Memorial Hospital and South Muskoka Memorial Hospital and ensures all small and medium-sized hospitals receive enough funding to maintain core services.”

Mr. Speaker, I’ve signed this and shall give it to Abinaya.

Government services

Mme France Gélinas: I would like to thank Marie Gilbert from Val Caron in my riding for this petition. It goes as follows:

“Whereas Valley East’s privately operated ServiceOntario centre closed abruptly in January 2018; and

“Whereas the people of Valley East have the right to reliable business hours and reasonable wait times; and ... a full range of services in both English and French; and

“Whereas the people of Valley East pay the same provincial taxes as other Ontarians and have the right to equal services;

They “petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario as follows:

To “instruct ServiceOntario to immediately and permanently open and staff a public ServiceOntario centre in Valley East.”

I support this petition, will affix my name to it and ask page Maxime to bring it to the Clerk.

Water fluoridation

Ms. Soo Wong: I have a petition addressed to the Ontario Legislative Assembly.

“Whereas community water fluoridation is a safe, effective and scientifically proven means of preventing dental decay, and is a public health measure endorsed by more than 90 national and international health organizations; and

“Whereas recent experience in such Canadian cities as Dorval, Calgary and Windsor that have removed fluoride from drinking water has shown a dramatic increase in dental decay; and

“Whereas the continued use of fluoride in community drinking water is at risk in Ontario cities representing more than 10% of Ontario’s population, including the region of Peel; and

“Whereas the Ontario Legislature has twice voted unanimously in favour of the benefits of community water fluoridation, and the Ontario Ministries of Health and Long-Term Care and Municipal Affairs and Housing urge support for amending the Health Protection and Promotion Act and other applicable legislation to ensure community water fluoridation is mandatory and to remove provisions allowing Ontario municipalities to cease drinking water fluoridation, or fail to start drinking water fluoridation, from the Ontario Municipal Act;

“We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario as follows:

“That the Premier of Ontario direct the Ministries of Municipal Affairs and Housing and Health and Long-Term Care to introduce legislation amending the Health Protection and Promotion Act and make changes to other applicable legislation and regulations to make the fluoridation of municipal drinking water mandatory in all municipal water systems across the province of Ontario.”

I fully agree with the petition. I give my petition through Harsaajan.

Doctor shortage

Ms. Laurie Scott: “Spots Today for Doctors Tomorrow.

“To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

“Whereas 25 residency spots were cut in Ontario in 2015;

“Whereas 68 medical graduates went unmatched in 2017, 35 of them from Ontario;

“Whereas the AFMC predicts that 141 graduates will go unmatched in 2021, adding to the backlog;

“Whereas an estimated $200,000 of provincial taxpayer dollars are spent to train each graduate;

“Whereas the ratio of medical students to residency positions had declined to 1 to 1.026 in 2017 from 1 to 1.1 in 2012;

“Whereas wait times for specialists in Ontario continue to grow while many Ontario citizens are still without access to primary care providers;

“We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario as follows:

“(1) Stop any further cuts to residency positions until a long-term solution is well under way;

“(2) Reinstate the 25 residency positions cut in 2015 to bring Ontario back to its previous steady state;

“(3) Create extra Ontario-only residency spots that can be used when there is an unexpected excess of unmatched Ontario grads to guarantee a spot for every graduate every year;

“(4) Pass Bill 18 as part of the solution to develop actionable long-term recommendations; and

“(5) Improve communications between the MAESD and the MOHLTC so that medical school admissions correspond with residency spots and Ontario’s health needs.”

I affix my signature to that and hand it to page Maxime.

Poet laureate

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Rick Nicholls): Further petitions? The member from Windsor–Tecumseh.

Mr. Percy Hatfield: Good afternoon, Speaker. It’s good to see you in the chair this afternoon, sir.

“To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

“Whereas poets laureate have been officially recognized at all levels of Canadian government and in at least 15 countries around the world; and

“Whereas the establishment of our own poet laureate for the province of Ontario would promote literacy and celebrate Ontario culture and heritage, along with raising public awareness of poetry and of the spoken word; and

“Whereas Gord Downie was a poet, a singer and advocate for indigenous issues, and designating the poet laureate in his memory will serve to honour him and continue his legacy; and”

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“Whereas Bill 13, An Act to establish the Poet Laureate of Ontario in memory of Gord Downie, will establish the Office of Poet Laureate for the province of Ontario as a non-partisan attempt to promote literacy, to focus attention on our iconic poets and to give new focus to the arts community in Ontario;

“We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario as follows:

“To support the establishment of the Office of Poet Laureate as an officer of the Ontario Legislature and that private member’s Bill 13, An Act to establish the Poet Laureate of Ontario in memory of Gord Downie, receive swift passage through the legislative process.”

I agree, obviously. I will sign it and give it to Eric to bring to the front table.

Water fluoridation

Mr. James J. Bradley: “Petition to the Ontario Legislative Assembly:

“Whereas community water fluoridation is a safe, effective and scientifically proven means of preventing dental decay, and is a public health measure endorsed by more than 90 national and international health organizations; and

“Whereas recent experience in such Canadian cities as Dorval, Calgary and Windsor that have removed fluoride from drinking water has shown a dramatic increase in dental decay; and

“Whereas the continued use of fluoride in community drinking water is at risk in Ontario cities representing more than 10% of Ontario’s population, including the region of Peel; and

“Whereas the Ontario Legislature has twice voted unanimously in favour of the benefits of community water fluoridation, and the Ontario Ministries of Health and Long-Term Care and Municipal Affairs and Housing urge support for amending the Health Protection and Promotion Act and other applicable legislation to ensure community water fluoridation is mandatory and to remove provisions allowing Ontario municipalities to cease drinking water fluoridation, or fail to start drinking water fluoridation, from the Ontario Municipal Act;

“We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario as follows:

“That the Premier of Ontario direct the Ministries of Municipal Affairs and Housing and Health and Long-Term Care to introduce legislation amending the Health Protection and Promotion Act and make changes to other applicable legislation and regulations to make the fluoridation of municipal drinking water mandatory in all municipal water systems across the province of Ontario.”

Great Lakes protection

Ms. Lisa M. Thompson: “To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

“Whereas the Great Lakes are the foundation for billions of dollars in trade, shipping, tourism, recreation, industry and agri-food production; and

“Whereas the Great Lakes supply drinking water for 8.5 million Canadians; and

“Whereas the Great Lakes face ecological challenges such as 61 endangered fish species, 18 extinct species, as well as the introduction of 150 invasive species;

“Therefore we, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to support the Great Lakes Day Act, 2018.”

I totally agree. I’ll affix my signature and send it to the desk.

Energy policies

Mme France Gélinas: I would like to thank Gerard and Murielle Ouellette from Hanmer in my riding for this petition. It reads as follows:

“Whereas hydro bills in Ontario have become unaffordable for too many people, and that reducing hydro bills by up to 30% for families and businesses is an ambitious but realistic target; and

“Whereas the only way to fix the hydro system is to address the root causes of high prices including privatization, excessive profit margins, oversupply and more; and

“Whereas Ontario families should not have to pay time-of-use premiums, and those living in a rural or northern region should not have to pay higher, punitive, delivery charges; and

“Whereas returning Hydro One to public ownership would deliver over $7 billion back to the province and the people of Ontario”;

They petition the Legislative Assembly as follows: to reduce hydro bills for businesses and families by up to 30%, eliminate mandatory time-of-use, end unfair rural delivery costs, and restore public ownership of Hydro One.

I support this petition and will affix my name to it and ask page Sophie to bring it to the Clerk.

Anti-smoking initiatives for youth

Mr. Lou Rinaldi: I have a petition to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario.

“Whereas:

“—In the past 10 years in Ontario, 86% of all movies with on-screen smoking were rated for youth;

“—The tobacco industry has a long, well-documented history of promoting tobacco use on-screen;

“—A scientific report released by the Ontario Tobacco Research Unit estimated that 185,000 children in Ontario today will be recruited to smoking by exposure to on-screen smoking;

“—More than 59,000 will eventually die from tobacco-related cancers, strokes, heart disease and emphysema, incurring at least $1.1 billion in health care costs; and whereas an adult rating (18A) for movies that promote on-screen tobacco in Ontario would save at least 30,000 lives and half a billion health care dollars;

“—The Ontario government has a stated goal to achieve the lowest smoking rates in Canada;

“—79% of Ontarians support not allowing smoking in movies rated G, PG, 14A (increased from 73% in 2011);

“—The Minister of Government and Consumer Services has the authority to amend the regulations of the Film Classification Act via cabinet;

“We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario as follows:

“—To request the Standing Committee on Government Agencies examine the ways in which the regulations of the Film Classification Act could be amended to reduce smoking in youth-rated films released in Ontario;

“—That the committee report back on its findings to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario, and that the Minister of Government and Consumer Services prepare a response.”

I sign this petition and send it to the desk.

Landfill

Mr. Ernie Hardeman: I have a petition here to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario.

“Whereas many of the resources of this planet are finite and are necessary to sustain both life and quality of life for future generations;

“Whereas the disposal of resources in landfills creates environmental hazards which have significant human and financial costs;

“Whereas all levels of government are elected to guarantee their constituents’ physical, financial, emotional and mental well-being;

“Whereas the health risks to the community and watershed increase in direct relationship to the proximity of any landfill site;

“Whereas the placement of a landfill in a limestone quarry has been shown to be detrimental;

“Whereas the placement of a landfill in the headwaters of multiple highly vulnerable aquifers is detrimental;

“Therefore be it resolved that we, the undersigned, humbly petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario as follows:

“To implement a moratorium in Oxford county, Ontario, on any future landfill construction or approval until such time as a full and comprehensive review of alternatives has been completed which would examine best practices in other jurisdictions around the world;

“That this review of alternatives would give particular emphasis to (a) practices which involve the total recycling or composting of all products currently destined for landfill sites in Ontario and (b) the production of goods which can be practically and efficiently recycled or reused so as to not require disposal.”

I affix my signature, Mr. Speaker, as I agree with it, and I thank you very much for the time to present it.

Long-term care

Mr. Percy Hatfield: “To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario....

“Whereas quality care for the 78,000 residents of (LTC) homes is a priority for many Ontario families; and

“Whereas the provincial government does not provide adequate funding to ensure care and staffing levels in LTC homes to keep pace with residents’ increasing acuity and the growing number of residents with complex behaviours; and

“Whereas several Ontario coroner’s inquests into LTC homes deaths have recommended an increase in direct hands-on care for residents and staffing levels and the most reputable studies on this topic recommend 4.1 hours of direct care per day;

“We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to:

“Amend the LTC Homes Act (2007) for a legislated minimum care standard of four hours per resident per day, adjusted for acuity level and case mix.”

I fully agree. I will sign this, Speaker, with your permission, and give this to Maxime to bring up to the table.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Rick Nicholls): That concludes our time for petitions.

Orders of the Day

Government Contract Wages Act, 2018 / Loi de 2018 sur les salaires pour les marchés publics

Mr. Flynn moved second reading of the following bill:

Bill 53, An Act respecting the establishment of minimum government contract wages / Projet de loi 53, Loi concernant la fixation de salaires minimums pour les marchés publics.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Rick Nicholls): The minister has moved second reading of Bill 53. Back to the minister.

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Hon. Kevin Daniel Flynn: I’d like to start by saying I’ll be sharing my time with the member from Eglinton–Lawrence this afternoon.

It’s a real pleasure to stand and to begin discussions on our proposed legislation, which is Bill 53, the Government Contract Wages Act, as we move into second reading.

Bill 53 is all about building on our work to ensure that people who are working in Ontario are paid a fair wage right here in Ontario. When you look at the economy of the province, Speaker, you’ll see an economy that is growing stronger. Unemployment is at the lowest it has been in almost 20 years.

When you look at how we’re doing compared to other jurisdictions, you’ll find that Ontario, as a subnational jurisdiction, still is leading the G7 in economic growth. There are some pretty powerful members in the G7, places like the UK, Japan and the United States—leading economies.

As a government, what we’ve done is work very hard to increase fairness in the workplaces, but there’s still more that we can do, and that’s what Bill 53 is about. Bill 53, at its core, is really all about ensuring that we protect workers’ wages when they work on contracts that are let by the government of Ontario. What that simply means is that workers are going to be paid a fair rate when they work on a contract that is let by this government, by the government that is here in the province of Ontario. It means that if you work on one of these projects, in either construction and building services, building cleaning, or any one of those sectors, you’ll be paid fairly. That’s the overall intent of the bill. It’s that simple.

It’s about preventing employers from undercutting workers’ wages in order to provide a lowball bid on provincial projects. Bill 53 enshrines the principle of a fair prevailing wage in law, as well as provides the necessary supports and enforcements that we need at the Ministry of Labour to make it work.

Enforcement is so important. What you want is compliance, obviously. You want people to be able to understand the law; then you want them to be able to comply with the law; and they need to know what they need to do to comply with the law. The vast majority of businesses in the province of Ontario—good, decent organizations—want to comply with the law. They want to be productive. They want to treat their employees well, and they want to earn a good profit.

There are some where enforcement is needed. There are some companies still in the province of Ontario that somehow think they’re beyond the law, that the law applies to somebody else but not to them. That’s where we need the supports, and that’s where we need the enforcement to make sure this works.

Within the Ministry of Labour, obviously, we’re used to performing that function. We need a sector within the Ministry of Labour that’s going to help set that fair wage. It’s going to base that information on collective agreements that are out there today, and ensure that contractors stick to what the fair wage is set at. It’s a fair way of doing things, and it’s the right thing to do.

What the bill would do, if passed, is enable the government to set a fair wage policy. It would establish minimum rates of pay for work that’s performed by contractors or by individuals under certain government contracts.

Right now, we do have a fair wage policy in the province of Ontario. It sets wage rates for employees who are working on government contracts in certain sectors of industries, like the construction industry; industrial, commercial and institutional, which people often refer to as the ICI sector; and things like sewers, water mains and roads, as well as the rates for protection, security or the cleaning services that are contained in those buildings.

The current policy is contained in an order in council. What that order in council does, amongst a host of many other things, is that it establishes the scope of the policy. It gives the Ministry of Labour the authority to issue schedules and to set out hourly wage rates for certain classes of employees. It also requires that contracts to which the policy applies include provisions mandating that the contractors who are successful pay employees at least at the fair wage rate. So it establishes a floor; it doesn’t establish a ceiling. The current policy applies to contracting ministries and to certain agencies.

Speaker, the fair wage schedules established under the current policy—three for construction and one for building services—run approximately 100 pages in length. They detail very specific wage rates in support of certain trades in certain geographic areas of this province. Unfortunately, these wage rates and these schedules that exist have not been revised since 1995, and the rates, as you will understand, Speaker, may be a little outdated. When you think of what’s happened in the economy since 1995, you would have seen a few changes in government; you would have seen a recession in the middle of all that; you would have seen the advent of technology that just didn’t exist in 1995. Quite simply, it’s a much different economy, and the wage rates and the wage schedules would not apply to today’s modern economy. A growing number of those schedules are now below the current minimum wage.

The prescribed enforcement mechanism in the current policy relies on claims and it relies on holdback processes. It’s just not appropriate for the procurement models and practices that we have today, and it’s not appropriate for the complex funding models that we have today for government contracts.

In addition, three of the four agencies that existed in 1995 in the current fair wage policy no longer exist today. Those three agencies—people might remember if they go back in their memory a little bit—that no longer exist are the ORC, the Ontario Realty Corp.; the Ontario Housing Corp.; and the Ontario Transportation Capital Corp. Of the four that are named, only the Ontario Clean Water Agency continues to operate today.

Speaker, if you look over that period of time since 1995, you’ll see the way that the government purchases—the procurement policies and the practices that it has today—has changed very, very significantly. Previously, ministries once were more likely to directly engage in infrastructure procurement themselves in things like construction and building services. Today, in 2018, most of that procurement is now managed by Infrastructure Ontario and by Metrolinx. I would like to point out that both Infrastructure Ontario and Metrolinx are not on the current list of agencies named under the fair wage policy.

As well, Infrastructure Ontario’s practices include the use of alternative financing. In the past, it was called P3 and all sorts of other names. It’s alternative financing and procurement, and those simply did not exist in 1995. They weren’t even contemplated at the time that the current policy that’s in place was developed.

Speaker, the Premier has committed publicly to updating Ontario’s fair wage policy, and that’s what we’re proposing to do at second reading today. I’ve reiterated this commitment to the people of Ontario as I’ve travelled around as the Minister of Labour because it aligns perfectly the proposed legislation we have before us with our goal of promoting safe, fair and very harmonious workplaces.

Bill 53 also aligns with a broader government commitment to continue to create an innovation-driven economy. This includes the government’s role in the adoption of innovation procurement, and in helping small and medium-sized firms demonstrate that they have innovative solutions, thus improving their profile both here in Ontario, in a domestic or Canadian market, or even internationally throughout the world.

The revised policy, though, would also support other initiatives that we’re dealing with:

—the gender wage gap strategy: Men and women are still not paid the same. Women are paid, on average, about 70 cents for every dollar that a man earns, and that just has to change;

—the Changing Workplaces Review that led to Bill 148, which led to the reforms that took place, I think the most extensive reforms we’ve seen in a generation;

—the Poverty Reduction Strategy that we have in the province of Ontario; and

—the province’s record-breaking infrastructure plan.

All of these align with the government’s efforts as well to promote the skilled trades as a career option for young men and women who are considering a career or are trying to see what they’re going to do with their lives in the future. We hope that they look to skilled trades.

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When you look at some of the projects that are taking place, from a transportation perspective, from an infrastructure perspective; if you look at the nuclear industry right now, and the refurbishment that’s taking place at Bruce; the decommissioning, eventually, of Pickering; the refurbishment that’s taking place at Darlington, that is a career’s worth of work for young people who go into the skilled trades.

I’d like to remind members that in our 2017 budget, the government committed to the largest infrastructure investment in Ontario’s history, and a projected $190 billion—that’s with a B, Speaker—in public-infrastructure spending over a 13-year period that commenced in 2014-15.

You would think, Speaker, that with such a historic investment, we’ve got the moral responsibility, I believe, as a level of government, to ensure that the people we hire to carry out that work, to perform that work, on behalf of the people of Ontario are paid a good wage that reflects the value, the hard work and the effort that they put into our projects.

With that in mind, we’ve introduced this legislation, Bill 53, which empowers that government to create a new fair wage policy. In reality, it is a revised fair wage policy that is relevant to current government procurement activities, initiatives and practices today. It demonstrates the government’s commitment to an updated policy on fair wages in certain government procurements.

What the legislation would do, if it was passed, is it would enable the government to develop a new policy on fair wages in government procurement for those certain construction projects, and for things like the cleaning of our buildings, the maintenance of our buildings, and security services. What the aim is, what the target is, is permitting flexibility, and minimizing any disruption at all to existing procurement practices.

What we intend to do through this legislation, if passed, is we intend to achieve the objective I just outlined by enabling legislation, which we are debating right now.

The following elements are addressed very, very clearly by the proposed legislation.

It would give the authority to a person employed by the Ministry of Labour to establish minimum government contract wages by order. When you look around at other jurisdictions around the province, throughout the world, or even right here in the city of Toronto, other jurisdictions deal with this issue, and they deal with it in certain ways. Bill 53 proposes a way for the government of Ontario to deal with that.

The orders that would be issued by the individual who performs this task would set out the minimum rates of pay for work that is performed in relation to those certain contracts I outlined, for construction projects with government entities, and for contracts for building cleaning, for security services work at government-owned and -occupied buildings and, where prescribed, buildings that are also leased by those entities as well.

The bill would apply to certain work for government entities which are defined as a crown in right of Ontario, including any ministry of the government of Ontario, and to any public body that is prescribed under the Public Service of Ontario Act, 2006.

The bill would also enable the addition, as prescribed by regulation, of a body or a class of bodies that directly or indirectly receive public funds.

The bill would apply to the following types of work: work in relation to construction projects provided under contract with government entities in the following sectors of the construction industry: industrial, commercial, institutional—that ICI sector that I talked about earlier—roads, sewers, water mains and heavy engineering—all associated with the infrastructure program of this government—and people we meet on a regular basis as we all do our work here: building security services, cleaning work provided for buildings owned and occupied, or, where prescribed by regulation, that have been leased by entities of the government.

Once applicable, minimum government wage contracts are established by order. There would be an obligation for contractors and for subcontractors to pay their employees at least these rates. In other words, Speaker, what it says is that employees who are performing work on the construction and building service contracts covered by this bill would have to be compensated at least at the wage rates established by the government. As I said before, this is the floor; it certainly is not a ceiling.

There would be a requirement for the government to promptly publish those orders that establish those minimum government contract wages.

It provides for enforcement for unionized workers through the grievance process, and for non-unionized workers by way of complaint to the Ministry of Labour, should they feel a contravention has occurred. Complaints would be dealt with by the director of employment standards and also by employment standards officers, and the relevant provisions of the Employment Standards Act, 2000, that have been incorporated into the bill by reference would also apply during those enforcements or during the investigation of those complaints.

Anti-reprisal protection for employees is something that I hear a lot of at the Ministry of Labour. It’s one thing to grant an employee or a citizen of Ontario the right to make a complaint or to assert those rights; it’s another thing if you have employers who decide, as a result of an individual asserting their rights, that they are going to fire them or they are going to treat them in a way that’s different from other employees. In this act, there will be very, very clear anti-reprisal protection for those employees who find, unfortunately, that they need to assert their rights. This is built right into the bill.

It would authorize the appointment of a director of government contract wages. That individual would have the authority to establish, to amend or, from time to time, even to revoke orders setting minimum government contract wages, and the authority to establish a list of employers or directors who have contravened the act.

It would also permit the creation of a regulation-making authority to enable, among other things, changes to the scope of the legislation, including, for instance, if need be, the exemption of government entities or of certain classes of work as workplaces change.

Speaker, this is what our proposed legislation would do, and I think I have explained that in some detail; I may have even put some people to sleep in that explanation. But there is a reason we did it. There is a reason we did that. So that is the “how,” Speaker, and maybe it’s time to talk about the “why.” Why would we bring this in, and why would it not be supported by the opposition parties, for example?

In doing so, I intend to quote extensively from a report on fair wage policy in the province of Ontario. It was authored by Morley Gunderson. Anybody who is around the field of labour relations and employment standards would know that name very, very well, and would have a variety of opinions. It was delivered to the Minister of Labour in January 2008.

Mr. Gunderson is a very highly regarded economist. He does international work as well. He is an academic. I believe he even had a role to play in the Changing Workplaces Review. What Mr. Gunderson specializes in, where he has got very, very special interests, is in the labour markets impact of trade liberalization and globalization and what that means to our economies, what certain changes in trade agreements might mean; gender discrimination—why are women still today, in most of the world, paid 70 cents for each dollar that’s earned by a man? He looks at things like youth unemployment, minimum wages, retirement and pension issues, workers’ compensation and disability issues.

There is a little bit of a history that goes along with this. This is not a novel or a new idea. In 1936, Ontario enacted fair wage legislation—1936, Speaker. This legislation was not repealed until 2001. I don’t have to tell you who repealed it, Speaker. For decades prior to the repeal, the government’s fair wage policy was implemented not under the authority of the legislation, but as a matter of contract where the government retained private sector employees to undertake certain types of work. That’s the approach that continues to be used today. There was a fair wage policy that was put in place; however, it is currently regarded as not being effective, as the schedules have not been updated since 1995.

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Market conditions have dictated that the wages paid, naturally, just in the course of events, are invariably well above what are the existing scheduled minimum rates. In fact, as I said earlier, some of those wage rates in that fair wage policy that exists today have fallen under the current minimum wage of $14 an hour.

So now is the time to begin establishing an effective fair wage policy, working with stakeholders, working with people who have a specific interest in this, talking to employers, with organized labour. Now is the time to move forward on a fair wage policy that is relevant to the economy of today, to the procurement practices that are used by the government in 2018 and beyond.

I think it shows a commitment to fairness to those people, who, when they get up in the morning and come to work, come to work for a contractor that is working for the government of Ontario. I don’t think there’s any side of the House, regardless of whether they’re going to support this bill or not, that doesn’t feel that people who are working should be fairly compensated for that work. I think that’s a universal part of life in Ontario and the lifestyle that we enjoy. We believe that nobody who is working full-time in the province of Ontario should live in poverty. We believe the government has a responsibility to address precarious employment and to protect Ontario workers by updating the province’s labour and employment laws.

The Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act, 2017, or Bill 148, was introduced to create more opportunity and security for Ontario workers. At the same time, it modernized our labour laws to help businesses and to help the economy grow. Certainly, every indication is that despite many naysayers—many economists, the Fraser Institute and others who were talking about doom and gloom and how the economy was simply going to crumble—that hasn’t been the case, Speaker. The economy is healthy. Young people are facing employment prospects for this summer coming up.

If you read the Spectator in Hamilton or you read the Globe and Mail article that was out today and others, Speaker, young people have a choice of jobs. It’s quite clear in the one article that if you’re a young person in Hamilton and you want a summer job, you’ve got one. In fact, you’ve got your pick of the jobs.

Many businesses—the Better Way Alliance, for example—across the province have come out in support of our plan because they know that it helps them attract employees, it reduces the labour turnover, and it encourages employees to become more invested in the business and to have a sense of ownership in the business themselves.

The same sentiment that drives the thinking behind the Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act also holds true for creating and using a fair wage policy. Just as government has a responsibility to address precarious, low-paying, vulnerable work, the government, I believe, also has a responsibility to set an example to ensure that workers who are working on government construction projects, workers who provide the cleaning for the buildings we work in, the security services to those government-owned and -occupied buildings that we work in as well, are paid fairly for their work.

We, as a government, have a responsibility to ensure the contracting work in these areas does not result in that race to the bottom that we’ve seen in other jurisdictions, that race to the bottom that could result as prospective contractors trying to attain a government contract cut wages to remain competitive or cut wages in order to win that contract.

Government business should benefit all: the citizens who pay for the work, the taxpayers of the province of Ontario, but also the citizens, the people, the taxpayers of the province of Ontario who perform that work as well. We often forget that, Speaker. We often think of them as two different people. The people who work for our contractors are taxpayers in the province of Ontario. They’re taxpayers who live and work and raise families here. What this does is, it ensures that they’re paid fairly.

There are a number of arguments that are clearly in favour of a fair wage policy. It prevents, as I said just a few minutes ago, that race to the bottom that we’ve seen around the world as globalization takes hold. It certainly is seen by some as a way to secure contracts, to simply try to pay people less. As members can imagine, the bidding process in construction often leads those contractors to compete on wages, with workers paying the price so that their employers can try to win those contracts.

What it does is create a level playing field for all those excellent contractors in the province of Ontario. A fair wage policy would help prevent contractors from competing for bids by lowering wages below applicable minimum contract wage rates that could be established by the passage of this legislation.

Secondly, our proposed legislation reduces accidents. It reduces accidents by encouraging contractors to use more trained workers now that they’re paying a higher wage rate. It ensures that they have the ability to put into their own practices work practices that comply with the Occupational Health and Safety Act, so that we’re not using health and safety as a shortcut to a lower price.

We all know that the more experienced a worker is, the more training they’ve had, whether it be an apprenticeship or whether it be a skills training program; and the more experience that a young worker gets, the more likely they are to work safely. A fair wage policy enhances training. Employers who would be required to pay the applicable government contract wage rates would have a very, very clear incentive to expand that training for their own workers.

Speaker, if you’re paying more, you expect more productivity. A well-trained worker should be more productive, and clearly is more productive. Our proposals raise the quality of work that’s performed for the government. It leads to a much higher quality of construction labour. What that leads to, as any economist will tell you, is a higher quality of construction output. Simply put, the finished job—the bridge that is left behind; the tunnel that is left behind; the building that is built—is of higher quality if trained workers are used to build it. And it’s a safer project if trained workers are used to build it.

As I mentioned earlier, the bill and this new policy would enable us to set and also support other government initiatives. We talked about the gender wage gap—perhaps this would help attract more women into the skill trades—the Changing Workplaces Review, the Poverty Reduction Strategy, as well as the infrastructure plan; as well, as I said earlier, the government’s efforts to promote the trades as a career option for both men and women.

Speaker, a lot of this centres around Ontario’s economy. Over the past three years, as I said a while back, Ontario’s economy has outperformed all other G7 countries in terms of real GDP growth. We’ve seen exports increase from the province, we’ve seen business investments within the province increase, and Ontario’s unemployment rate has been below the national average each month for the last 24 months.

But the numbers do not tell the whole story. The economy is changing. The economy is constantly changing. Some people look to the future with uncertainty, and they see challenges in the future as that technological change takes place. Everybody is running to keep up. Everybody is running to get the new technology, or to invent the new technology. But as I said earlier, as we go through that upheaval that takes place when you have technological innovation like that, the government believes that nobody who works full-time in this province should live in poverty.

The Changing Workplaces Review final report estimated that over 30% of Ontario workers were in precarious employment in 2014. We believe that a government—any government, Speaker; this is not unique to Ontario; this is right through North America—has the responsibility to address that precarious employment and to protect Ontario workers by updating the province’s labour and employment laws on a regular basis. That’s why we introduced Bill 148. When it was introduced, it was designed to create more opportunity and security, as well as modernizing our labour laws to help businesses and the economy grow. We know that that act passed in November 2017, and the people of Ontario have been very, very supportive of that act.

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Even people who don’t earn at the minimum wage levels know how important it is to those people who do earn at the lower levels, because we know that that act increased the minimum wage. It created new equal-pay-for-equal-work rules and introduced, for the first time in the province, two paid sick days for workers who had been employed by their employer. It also established card-based certification for the temporary help agency industry, the building services industry, and home care and community services industry. It extended successor rights to the retendering of building services in an attempt—as I’ve said, we were talking about a race to the bottom when it comes to wages, Speaker. Successor rights was cited as one of those things that caused the race to the bottom. It provided authority to further extend these rights to other publicly funded service providers as well.

There again, when we talked about employment standards, a lot of people raised enforcement. As I said earlier, a lot of people—the vast majority of Ontario businesses—understand the rules and just want to obey the rules, Speaker, just want to get on with it. They understand the value of treating their employees with dignity and with respect and adhering to the rules. And they expect a lot out of their employees. They want productive employees. They want a good day’s work for a good day’s pay. Nothing wrong with that at all; I support that 100%.

The act was introduced to ensure that all workers are treated fairly and properly, that they’re compensated fairly for their work, and that act, as I said, passed last year. It’s in the same spirit that we’re proposing a bill that, if passed, would enable the creation of a new wage policy with respect to the procurement of government construction projects and building services contracts.

We’ve taken other steps in other bills and other initiatives in promoting fairness, equality, and support for women and others who, over the years, have experienced disadvantages when it comes to the workplace. When you see increases to the minimum wage, when you see enhanced employment protection, when you see investments in child care and education, they all go along with this initiative of treating people with fairness and taking decisive action when it comes to that fairness.

Speaker, the women’s economic empowerment strategy was announced on March 6 by the Premier at the Women’s Empowerment Summit in Toronto. The strategy that we have is a key part of the government’s approach to building a very strong economy and a very inclusive economy in the province. We’re going to do this by removing systemic barriers that prevent, and have prevented in the past, women’s full economic participation. We’re going to do that by promoting fairer workplaces. We need to change all our perspectives about gender. We need to promote women’s leadership and access to jobs and career advancement. The number of women on boards across the province of Ontario, for example, is nowhere near what it should be.

Across this province, women represent about 48% of the labour force—almost half. They represent more than half when it comes to university and college grads today. Yet those same women continue to experience marked economic disadvantages in our province: in business, in workplaces and in our society.

As I said earlier, the gender wage gap in Ontario, despite everybody’s best efforts, is still, on average, about 30%, and has remained largely unchanged for the last little while. What that means is that, on average, daughters and wives and granddaughters earn 70 cents for every dollar that is earned by men in our society.

We find that women are also more likely to reduce their hours of work, or they take part-time jobs only, because they’ve got to balance paid employment with unpaid caregiving responsibilities at home, which still fall primarily on women in our society.

Speaker, it gets worse if you’re racialized, if you’re an immigrant, if you’re new to this country, if you’re just establishing yourself. If you’re an indigenous woman in our society or if you have a disability, it’s further exacerbated. They experience even greater disadvantages and, sadly, the wage gap gets even larger.

Our government understands that this is unacceptable. We’re committed to developing the conditions and the supports that are needed for inclusive economic growth that helps all Ontarians realize their full potential. It’s not only a social equity and not only a fairness issue; it’s also an economic one, and our government is seizing the opportunity to take action.

If passed, this bill and the ability to establish those minimum government contract wages for certain government construction projects and for building services contracts would work towards fair wages for everybody in the province. What we’re proposing to do in the bill is not new; it’s not radical. As I mentioned before, this goes back as far as 1936. Fair wage policies have been instituted by governments in Canada, in the United States, our neighbour to the south, and in Britain and the UK for over 100 years.

Currently, a number of other Canadian jurisdictions—municipal, provincial, federal—as well as at the US state and federal levels also have fair wage policies. What those governments see, as we do as well, are the benefits of a fair wage policy that sets minimum government contract wages.

Our government’s economic plan states that our number one priority is to grow the economy and to create jobs. Fair wage policies are needed in recognition of some of the more intense competition that exists in some sectors of the economy. You look at the construction, building cleaning and security services that are included in this bill. In these industries, what makes them unique is that limited-term contracts are the norm, and businesses have to compete over and over and over again. As you win the contract, the contract is performed, and you bid on the next contract. You’ve got to compete over and over and over again to win those contracts.

As I mentioned earlier, what this policy would do is prevent contractors from competing for bids simply by lowering wages below those applicable minimum government contract wage rates that would be established. Such a policy limits the degree to which bidders can lower bids based simply on reduced labour costs.

We’re committed to building a strong workforce that’s fair, balanced and progressive for Ontario workers and for their employers. We recognize the need that stakeholders have brought to us to update Ontario’s policy on fair wages when it comes to procurement for certain construction projects, building cleaning and security services, as outlined before. The current policy we have has simply become out of date. It needs to be updated to be effective. Stakeholders have told us that, and we agree.

Our economic plan includes making the largest investment in public infrastructure in Ontario’s history. That’s going to create thousands of jobs for workers in many sectors across this province. What this would do is ensure that workers on those government contracts are being treated fairly. It would minimize conflicts between unionized and non-unionized labour in competition for that work. And it aligns with the government’s efforts to promote the trades to all as a career option.

Speaker, now is not the time to go backwards or to make deep cuts to things we rely on. Now is not the time for standing in the way of the $15 minimum wage. You can’t simply just tell workers, “We’ll just let the market decide what you’re worth.” You can’t tell women, “We think you’re doing well enough right now when it comes to pay equity.” That would be Doug Ford and the PCs’ approach to things. It’s not my way; it’s not people on this side of the House. It’s not the government’s way, and it never will be.

I, obviously, as a minister, fully support the legislation that I’m putting before you. I support any action that’s going to ensure that those who work on government contracts are paid a fair and livable wage. In fact, I’m convinced that almost all Ontarians support that policy. Our proposed legislation is going to help us to achieve this goal. I would ask, but I don’t expect, all parties to support this bill.

I would like to now turn it over to my colleague from Eglinton–Lawrence.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Rick Nicholls): Thank you very much, Minister. You did indicate that you were sharing your time with the member from Eglinton–Lawrence, so over to the member from Eglinton–Lawrence.

Mr. Mike Colle: I don’t know what is left to say here. I think the minister covered everything from first to third and the outfield, too, and the dugout included. I gleaned from his remarks a number of clarifying points that I think help to explain a bill that is inside baseball in many ways, but it is about fair wages. It’s about levelling the playing field.

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The thing is, I guess, that when a company bids on a government contract that might be unionized, and another company bids on a government contract that is not, it is possible that the non-unionized company may get the bid, because they don’t have to pay union wages, so they’ll pay the workers less. Therefore, there is an attempt to try and level the playing field, so that if someone is trying to get that government contract to do government work, at least the wages are fair. You can’t dictate the exact wage, but at least there’s a fairness there.

I think that the essence of this bill is to ensure that workers who, through a second or third party, basically work for the government through contracts, are abiding by government wage rules.

As the minister said, this hasn’t been updated since 1995, so there’s a need to include a lot of organizations, a lot of new workplace entities, that would not have existed back in 1995.

He mentioned Metrolinx, which is the public transit, construction and capital project arm of the Ministry of Transportation. I know it very well, in that Metrolinx is undertaking a huge project in my own riding of Eglinton–Lawrence. They are building a rapid transit line, the Eglinton Crosstown LRT, that goes from the town of Weston along Eglinton, all the way to Scarborough. More than half of it is underground. It’s a huge tunnel that has already been built, that runs now from Jane Street all the way to Bayview Avenue. In fact, the rail is already in and the tunnels have been built.

Above ground, there’s huge construction, because they have to build the stations. There’s major work, and very complex work that’s being done by Metrolinx through their construction arm, which is called Crosslinx.

We want to make sure that anybody working for those entities that are building the Eglinton Crosstown, and their subcontractors—that they all pay their workers a fair wage. But right now, Metrolinx is not covered under the legislation, because they came into existence in the last 10 years. Therefore, that’s one of the reasons why we have to update this.

I also want to mention, besides the infrastructure construction that’s going on—and the Eglinton Crosstown line is basically, I think, the largest construction project in North America right now. It’s a $6.3-billion undertaking. It is extremely complex work, moving sewer lines—conduits for electricity, for cable. It is, to say the least, a daunting task. I’ve been underneath in the tunnels, and I can’t believe how these workers are behind a computer screen, managing these tunnel-boring machines.

On the other side of that, in my riding, the two largest employers are—I don’t know if you’ve ever been there—Yorkdale Shopping Centre. Yorkdale is at the 401 and Dufferin Avenue. It is the most profitable shopping centre in Canada, which essentially means that they’re selling all kinds of products, from clothing to computer high-tech stuff to sporting goods. They have movie theaters. They even sell Tesla cars there. If you’ve got $180,000, Mr. Speaker, you might go and buy a Tesla. I walk by and look at them, anyway. Maybe Mr. Rinaldi can afford a Tesla.

Mr. Lou Rinaldi: Not today.

Mr. Mike Colle: He has a Fiat Spider at home; I know that.

Mr. Lou Rinaldi: An Alfa Spider.

Mr. Mike Colle: An Alfa Spider. Excuse me.

We were there with Minister Flynn at Yorkdale when we announced the $15 minimum wage.

Hon. Kevin Daniel Flynn: We’re two high-fashion guys.

Mr. Mike Colle: Yes, I know.

The manager of Yorkdale mentioned that all of their stores already pay their workers more than minimum wage. They sell everything, as I said, from Harry Rosen clothing to Rolex watches to Tesla. But what the manager was saying to us was that when you are asking people to pay top dollar for certain products, you need highly trained sales staff. If you don’t train the staff, she was saying, and they’re not well paid, there’s going to be turnover. So by the time you train someone to deal with very complex customer needs, the costs of then turning it over to someone else are just prohibitive. What they really believe in is sales force retention. They pay them a good wage, give them good benefits. That way, they ensure they get the best productivity out of their sales force. You can imagine, sales is not as easy as it looks, as we all know. It’s a special talent.

In Yorkdale, besides all of the cleaners and security staff, there are exceptionally well-trained salespeople and managers throughout the plaza. In fact, Yorkdale is really like a tourist destination now. People come for the weekend. They stay in a hotel. There are restaurants there. There’s a food court that none of us here could afford—no, but there are some reasonable—you can still get a hamburger. But anyway, it is an exceptional food court, restaurants, movie theaters—the whole spectrum. Those are the new kinds of jobs. There’s a major employer that pays people for expert work.

I also have another excellent employer that would come under this: Baycrest hospital. Baycrest hospital started off as a nursing home for seniors, an old age home. It existed here in downtown Toronto. It was done by the Jewish community to house their seniors, then it moved up to Bathurst and the 401. Not only does it provide an old age home and a retirement home, but it also provides cutting-edge research into brain health. There are even top-notch scientists working there, along with the PSWs, the nurses, the doctors, the cleaners. Baycrest is another major employer, whereby through government funding, they undertake all kinds of government initiatives.

This fair wage policy would apply to all these workplaces, ensuring that if they get government money, there is a fair wage policy in place that they adhere to. That is, I think, very important, because if we’re passing laws that govern the $15 minimum wage and fair workplace rules like paid vacation and equal pay for equal work, as we’ve done with Bill 148, it only makes sense that we also have this fair wage policy for anyone who undertakes work under a government contract.

These contracts are being let out on a continual basis, and it’s not only for construction projects, infrastructure projects, road repairs, road maintenance and bridge repairs, but also, as the minister said, for security services in all these buildings. More and more you have to also have security in a workplace. You also have to have cleaning services.

We have cleaning services here in this building. We’ve got some excellent cleaners who work here. I know that they are very dedicated, hard-working men and women who are very conscientious. All these government-contracted entities also employ not only the construction people, but also the security services, the cleaners and all kinds of other technicians.

This bill ensures that there is a fair wage policy in place, so they’re not outbidding each other. Because what will happen is that one cleaning company will come in and say, “We’ll give you a great deal: Instead of this contract costing you 500,000 bucks a year, we’ll cut it down to $400,000”—but then you realize the way they’re able to undercut the competitive bid is, they’re not paying their workers as much. That’s what this tries to do when it relates to government contracts, that there is a level playing field in terms of wages. This really helps to ensure that there are fair practices taking place. This, as I said, is something that is definitely overdue since these rules have changed; the type of work has changed.

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This legislation also creates a director of government contract wages who has the authority to establish minimum rates of pay for work performed in relation to certain government contracts in construction and building services, and establish and maintain a registry of non-compliant employers and directors. So if there are bad actors, they’re recorded. Therefore they can keep track of them and say, “Well, listen, you’ve had a track record that isn’t very good. You want to bid for this new contract? Well, look, you haven’t been paying fairly.” That’s what he or she can do as the director of government contract wages.

There’s an obligation for contractors—and subcontractors, too, because, remember, every contractor always has subcontractors. You want to keep some kind of continuity there for the subcontractors so you have an eye on them.

I just wanted to mention—I don’t know what it’s like in Chatham-Kent, but I know that in Toronto, there has been such a frenzy to get things done—renovating homes, adding on extensions to a home or upgrading a facility—so there has been a huge demand for skilled trades, whether it be plumbers, pipefitters, electricians or carpenters. It is really the Wild West sometimes; you can’t find workers.

You know what’s happening? I don’t know if it’s happening out your way, but a lot of young people are not looking at getting into the skilled trades. They don’t understand that you could make a good living in the skilled trades. You could essentially perform a trade that you could find great fulfillment in. There’s always going to be a demand for a good plumber, electrician, glazier, cement finisher or bricklayer. There’s an incredible demand, and a lot of the people that have small contracting companies say that their biggest challenge is trying to find skilled workers who will know what they’re doing and be able to perform everything from cement finishing to doing roof repairs etc. There’s such a frenzy to get things done. The homeowner or small business owner may say, “Well, listen, I’ve got to get my best price,” but never asking the questions, “Let’s see if there’s workmen’s comp coverage. You’ve got a licence? What are your references?” If you let that person into your business or your home, and something happens and they injure themselves on the job because they haven’t been trained—and the roofing business is notorious for this; people fall off roofs—you may be liable. You will be one of the ones sued if there’s an injury on the site. But I know that a lot of the contractors tell me, “All of the homeowners and business owners ask me, ‘How much and how fast can you do it?’”

Mr. Lou Rinaldi: There’s no warranty.

Mr. Mike Colle: Yes, and plus, you don’t know—if they fix your roof or do your floors or repair a leaky basement—if there is a warranty, that afterwards there’s someone you can go and chase down and say, “Listen, my basement is still leaking.” But there’s such a push for workers that what they’re doing is that the homeowner is not asking, “Have you got any references? Can I call a couple of people you’ve done work for before? How long have you been in business in Chatham?” You’ve got to go to tried-and-proven people. You may pay a bit more, but is the extra 10% you pay not worth it?

There’s just such a push to get the job done at the lowest price, and that is why we need to have contractors and subcontractors that obey the same rules and not undercut the rules so they can underbid through wages etc. on getting, especially, a government contract, given the fact that there’s such a pressure—I don’t know whether there is, down Brighton way, but it’s hard to find trained, skilled people. That’s why I tell these young pages here: Some of you should look at being carpenters, cement finishers, glaziers or electricians. There’s big money to be made, you get great satisfaction, and your friends and relatives will always call upon you: “Come fix my electrical problem.” But you should consider that. Don’t just consider the white-collar jobs. There’s a great satisfaction in being an architect, a carpenter or a plumber. Those are jobs that are out there. They are always going to be there. There’s always going to be a demand for those jobs, so we’re trying to make sure that people who get into those skilled trades and work for contractors big and small get treated fairly, that they are protected under the same labour laws as union workers, the non-union workers, that there’s a level playing field.

I just think that this is legislation that makes it, let’s say, more uniform in dealing with the reality of today’s workforce. If you look at today’s workforce, it’s another example of how things change, and then it’s very complex in how you deal with some of the new workplaces.

I know that in Toronto, some of the largest employers now are people who produce film and television programs. We’ve got over 150,000 people who work in film and television production here in the Toronto area. They produce television shows of all descriptions, but you need technicians to work there. You need lighting technicians and sound technicians.

I ran into a woman the other day canvassing. She said she was a wrangler for a television show. I said, “What does a wrangler for a television show do?” I don’t know if my friend from Brighton understands what a wrangler does, or maybe the pages know what a wrangler is, but I didn’t know. I said, “What does a wrangler do?”

Mr. Lou Rinaldi: Tell them. Tell the pages.

Mr. Mike Colle: Well, what her job is—some of these television commercials, movies and television reality shows use animals. It could be snakes; it could be rats;. it could be horses; it could be dogs or cats. Well, she’s an expert in dealing with these animals that are used in these television productions. She has got her expertise in that area of dealing with animals. That’s a job that I’ve never run across; I thought it was something out west. But that’s what a wrangler does.

Anyway, I just make that example because I’m trying to say how the workplace is changing. It is not our workplace from when we were teenagers. There is a totally different dynamic out there. It’s totally different. That’s why this fair wage policy legislation is just updating, to make sure that the workplace and government rules and laws on equal treatment, equal wages, and fair wages and compensation are reflective of the workplace that exists, because there is no longer a static workplace with the same old people doing the same old—in Brighton, they’ve still got the blacksmith there, still working away, but these things are changing.

In Liberty Village, as I mentioned, as the member from Trinity–Spadina knows, that’s a whole new city of 150,000 people. My daughter used to work in the old carpet factory.

Mr. Han Dong: Yes, it’s right there.

Mr. Mike Colle: It’s an incredible, beautiful building that was saved from demolition, Mr. Speaker. There are BC timbers in there that are about as high as this room in here. Instead of demolishing that old carpet factory with all the beautiful concrete and marble floors, they converted it into a modern workplace where young people have all these start-up companies. There are a couple of hundred little companies all working out of an old carpet factory down there in Liberty Village, off King and Shaw and Dufferin, in that area.

Again, that’s another example of the dynamic change that is taking place. Where at one time people were making carpets, now they are designing new pharmaceuticals, new communication products; they are designing new clothing fabric. These are all by young people who are entrepreneurial and work to make a living, and we’ve got to recognize that it’s no longer just people working in the carpet factory of old. Now we’ve got these new jobs.

So the new jobs require new legislation, and this is what this bill attempts to address. I think it’s a reasonable thing to support.

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The Acting Speaker (Mr. Rick Nicholls): Questions and comments?

Ms. Lisa M. Thompson: I’m pleased to add my voice to this debate today on Bill 53, the Government Contract Wages Act.

You know what? We have to call this out for what it is. It’s another piece of legislation that has been rushed. It’s the typical Liberal government MO, where they go forward without any consultation, and what do we get as a result? We get a piece of legislation that leaves a lot of questions and concerns.

For instance, the Minister of Labour actually said—he challenged us here in the House today—“Why now? Why are we bringing Bill 53 forward now?” I’d suggest to you, Speaker, that some of us were smiling on the other side here, because it’s like, “Really?” Bringing forward Bill 53 right now is probably the most transparent thing this government has done in days. It’s because there is an election around the corner, and they’re trying to garner, and carve out, every piece of support that they can, because they know they’re in trouble. That’s why Bill 53 has been brought out now.

I do also want to mention the fact that I heard the Minister of Labour talk about Bruce Power. I’m very proud of the fact that Bruce Power calls Huron–Bruce home—the amazing riding of Huron–Bruce. Just last week, I was there with the member from Bruce–Grey–Owen Sound as well as our leader, Doug Ford. It was an absolute pleasure to be there on site and recognize unit 8 in Bruce B. Unit 8, particularly, was recognized for the 623 days of continuous safe operations from May 31, 2016, through to February 13, 2018. I was pleased to present them with a scroll recognizing the fact that unit 8 has now set a new record-long run. It’s something they’re all very proud of on this site. Nuclear energy is here to stay.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Rick Nicholls): Further questions and comments?

Mr. Percy Hatfield: Speaker, I don’t know if I’m outraged or flabbergasted. I hear the minister talk about looking after the construction workers, looking after those who clean the floors, and security guards. He’s going to bite the hand that feeds him. What about the cafeteria workers? What about the people who cook the meals and serve the meals here?

Where’s the media to call these guys out for turning their backs on the people who feed them? I can’t believe it. Think of Vlad; think of Lucas; think of Jackie; think of Leo; think of Callie; think of Linda; think of Andrea—all the people who are working in the kitchen, and the staff, and they’re not covered. They work under a government roof. Why should they be the ones left behind?

You guys rushed this bill to this House without thinking of those who need it most. You talk about fairness. You talk about dignity. You talk about helping people raise a family in Ontario. What about the ones you’re leaving behind? It isn’t fair; it isn’t just. You should be treating them with dignity too.

Hon. Kevin Daniel Flynn: You brought the bill in, Percy.

Mr. Percy Hatfield: You brought the bill in, Minister. You guys brought this in.

It needs to be fixed. It needs to be fixed for the people down in our kitchen. Where’s the media? They’re trying to bite the hand that feeds them. They’ve turned their backs on them.

You have time to change it. You can amend your bill. You can fix your bill. You can look after the people you forgot in your blind rush to get this bill to the House on the eve of an election. You have time.

Do the right thing over there, you guys. Wake up. Look after the people who need your help the most, the people downstairs who feed you, who go to your receptions. You can do it. I’m leaving it up to you, Minister.

Speaker, keep an eye on those guys. They need supervision—

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Rick Nicholls): Thank you very much.

Further questions and comments?

Ms. Ann Hoggarth: I’m pleased to rise and speak in support of Bill 53. It is what’s fair, and it’s the right thing to do. Now is simply not the time to go backwards and make deep cuts in all the things that people in Ontario rely on. Now is not the time for standing in the way of—

Ms. Lisa MacLeod: Oh my God, won’t somebody just stop this?

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Rick Nicholls): Order, please.

Ms. Ann Hoggarth: Now is not the time for standing in the way of a $15 minimum wage or—God forbid—rolling it back. It’s not the time for telling workers, “We’ll just let the market decide what you will be paid.” It doesn’t work. Most companies are not benevolent enough to give extra profits to their minimum wage employees.

It’s not the time for telling women, “We think you’re doing well enough when it comes to pay equity.” Gone is the time when a large percentage of women worked for pin money and depended on a man for the rest of their income. That’s Doug Ford’s and the PCs’ way, but it is not my way and it is not the way of this government, and it never will be.

Speaker, I fully support this legislation—

Interjection.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Rick Nicholls): Order, please.

Ms. Ann Hoggarth: I support any action that would ensure that those who work on government contracts are paid a fair, reasonable and livable wage. In fact, I am convinced most Ontarians support this policy. Our proposed legislation would help us achieve this goal. I would ask that all parties support this bill. I know that that’s definitely not what’s going to happen from over there—

Ms. Lisa MacLeod: See you later, baby. You’ve got seven weeks to go.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Rick Nicholls): Order, please, or next time I may do something a little more drastic.

Mr. Han Dong: That was just rude.

Ms. Ann Hoggarth: That’s just typical, Speaker, of that particular member. Thank you very much.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Rick Nicholls): Further questions and comments? The member for—

Ms. Lisa MacLeod: Thank you very much, Speaker. It’s my pleasure—

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Rick Nicholls): Hold on a minute. Hold on a minute. I haven’t recognized you yet.

Ms. Lisa MacLeod: Oh, sorry, Speaker.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Rick Nicholls): You’re getting ahead of yourself a little bit. Thank you.

Now I will recognize the member from Nepean–Carleton.

Ms. Lisa MacLeod: Thank you very much, Speaker. It’s my pleasure to rise in debate to challenge what the Liberals have just said. Can you imagine weeks before—

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Rick Nicholls): Address the Speaker, please.

Ms. Lisa MacLeod: —an imminent election is to be called, they bring in legislation that is more than 23 years old in order to play bait-and-switch in an election campaign? Speaker, this is exactly what we’re talking about.

The member from Barrie has just offended every small business owner in this province not once—

Interjections.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Rick Nicholls): Order, please.

Ms. Lisa MacLeod: —but twice in the last several months: first on the minimum wage increase, and now today where she calls small business owners not benevolent enough. They are the economic engine of this province—

Interjections.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Rick Nicholls): Order, please.

Ms. Lisa MacLeod: —and your government has caused them to lose 51,000 jobs in the month of January alone, which is why this government—

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Rick Nicholls): Order, please.

Mr. Han Dong: How many jobs have you created?

Ms. Lisa MacLeod: Governments don’t create jobs.

Interjections.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Rick Nicholls): Well, first of all, to the member: I would ask that you address the Chair. That way you don’t incite riots on the other side.

To the other side: You didn’t hear me several times when I asked for order, because you were very loud. So I would ask that we bring some—

Interjection.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Rick Nicholls): Thank you for admitting that. That’s the first step.

Now I’m going to ask that we continue this atmosphere of civility inside the Legislature. Having said that, I will now return to the member from Nepean–Carleton, having given everyone a fine reputation to live up to.

Back to the member.

Ms. Lisa MacLeod: Thank you very much, Speaker. Again, it’s my pleasure to rise. Again, we have two weeks before we go to an election, and this Liberal government again wants to play politics on the labour file.

If they want to do what’s fair and just, as my colleague from Windsor–Tecumseh said, then they would have looked at other policies; they would have brought this piece of legislation in when we would have fair and equitable time to debate it. Instead, what we are going to see again with this Liberal government is time allocation—

Interjection.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Rick Nicholls): Member from Trinity–Spadina, come to order.

Ms. Lisa MacLeod: —the guillotine motion, as always, is set to come down on this piece of legislation.

But I will tell you, Speaker, that there is one party that is willing to stand up for workers in this province and to make sure life is easier and more affordable, and that’s Doug Ford and the Progressive Conservative Party, who will make sure that anybody who is making minimum wage right now won’t have to pay provincial income tax. That’s what our party would do. Our party would stand up for the little guy, which is why he had 700 people in Ottawa, why he had 300 people in Cornwall—

Interjection.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Rick Nicholls): Member for Durham, come to order.

Ms. Lisa MacLeod: —why he had 300 people in Brockville, why he had 300 people in Belleville, why he had 700 people in Chatham, why he had 900 people in Mildmay.

That’s why we are going to form the next government, and that’s why we’re going to be in it for the people and make sure that life is affordable and life is fair, life is just and life is equitable under an Ontario PC government.

Interjections.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Rick Nicholls): Order, please.

I will delicately refer back to the Minister of Labour for his final comment.

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Ms. Lisa M. Thompson: Speaker, point of order.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Rick Nicholls): Point of order: I recognize the member from Huron-Bruce.

Ms. Lisa M. Thompson: Thank you very much. I appreciate it. I just wanted to point out that it was actually 900 people who came out for Doug Ford in Mildmay, Bruce county.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Rick Nicholls): That’s not a point of order.

To the Minister of Labour for final comment.

Hon. Kevin Daniel Flynn: And I’m sure it was 900 people who went home and said, “What the heck was that?”

Speaker, this is hilarious. I have heard it all now. The PCs, a few weeks before an election, have become the champion of the working class. These are the people who just recently said, “I know how I’m going to treat the minimum wage. I know how I’m going to treat the people who are earning a minimum wage. I’m going to reach right into their wallets, and I’m going to take money out of their wallets”—the people who are earning the least in our society; the people who are earning a minimum wage; the people who, under Bill 148, enjoyed an increase to their standard of living.

There were people living in the province of Ontario working, like we asked them to do, 35, 40 hours a week. There were sometimes two jobs, sometimes even three jobs—trying to put together enough so that they could afford to pay their rent, pay for groceries, and put shoes on their kids’ feet. And what was the response from the other side? It was to vote against that. It was to tell those people, “No, we don’t think you should have that money. We want to give that money to our rich friends. We want to give that money to the corporate elites, who are represented by Doug Ford in this society.”

We have a different opinion on this side of the House. We believe that if you work hard in this province, you should get a fair salary. If you work hard in this province, Speaker—

Mr. Percy Hatfield: Except for the people in the cafeteria, obviously.

Hon. Kevin Daniel Flynn: Who excluded the workers that the member opposite talks about? Who introduced the bill, Percy? Who left the people out—1995. Think about it.

Interjections.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Rick Nicholls): Order. Thank you.

I’m a little disappointed, because I gave everyone, I thought, a fine reputation to live up to, and you kind of disappointed me a little bit here.

To the minister and to others here: When we refer to someone in the Legislature, we must refer to them by their riding, not by their first name or by their last name. I hope that what I’ve said I’ve made perfectly clear.

Having said that, further debate?

Mr. John Yakabuski: Well, Speaker, that was quite a display, and we will try to inject a little civility into this House, as is my wont.

I must say, it is unique and desperate times here. We’re seeing behaviour from the other side—Speaker, I was here in 2007, at the end of the session before the general election of 2007. I was here in 2011, before the end of the session, and I didn’t witness a government act like this. I was here in 2014 as the session came near the end, and I did not witness a government behave like this. On all those occasions, the government recognized that we were going to a general election, and the people would have their say, but they were not conducting themselves with the desperation that I see today—the absolute desperation.

I say to the member from Barrie, who shouted over at the member from Nepean–Carleton at least a half a dozen times, shouting out, “Bully, bully, bully”—I heard it half a dozen times. These are the kinds of things that the Liberals have resorted to. And the member for Northumberland—they’re all worried about Doug Ford, because Doug Ford is making an impression across this province that is scaring the heck out of them.

In fact, last week, Speaker, the Premier took politics to a new low level. She resorted to calling the leader of the PC Party of Ontario a bully. She resorted to calling the leader of her opposition in this province—not the leader in the House—a bully. Well, I’m going to tell you, folks, you can’t bully the Premier of Ontario. She owns the bully pulpit. The old saying in politics: The mayor of Toronto, the Premier, the Prime Minister, they occupy the bully pulpit, because they have the legislative power to speak when they choose from that office. Yet she is so desperate, clinging to power by her fingernails, that she is resorting to calling the elected leader of a party in this province a bully.

I don’t know that Doug Ford and Premier Wynne have ever had an exchange of any kind directly. I don’t know that.

Hon. Daiene Vernile: They’re going to.

Mr. John Yakabuski: Oh, they most certainly are. Yes, and we’re looking forward to that. But when the Premier has to resort to using that kind of language, it takes politics to a new low.

Ms. Ann Hoggarth: “Lock her up.”

Mr. John Yakabuski: He never said that, so don’t make that up. He absolutely did not. That is a new—

Mr. Steve Clark: That’s a lie.

Mr. John Yakabuski: And you know it.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Rick Nicholls): Excuse me. I would ask the member from Leeds–Grenville to withdraw, please.

Mr. Steve Clark: Withdraw, Speaker.

Mr. John Yakabuski: You know, it’s funny, Speaker. In this Legislature, the standing orders are sometimes a little confusing. It is quite all right under the standing orders to tell a lie, but it is not all right to call someone on that. The average person out there would ask themselves, “Isn’t that a little strange? Isn’t that just a little strange?” Someone can utter something in this Legislature that has no basis in truth whatsoever, but if they’re called on it, that person who calls them on it is expected to withdraw. That is something.

The Premier wants to make this personal because it’s all she’s got left. She does not want to talk about the 15 years that Ontario has gone backwards.

Speaker, in 2003, the spending in this province, government spending, was $68 billion. With this budget, it will eclipse $150 billion. When we go around this province, and when you members go to your ridings, ask your constituents: Is your life that much better, $150 billion versus $68 billion, since the Liberals took office?

There are people who have benefited quite well under this government: people who signed massive energy contracts at exorbitant prices. Even a few years ago, the Auditor General said we had paid $9.2 billion too much already for energy under the Liberals’ plan, and that by the time it had worked itself through the systems and those contracts were fulfilled, we would have paid $137 billion more—in addition to the $9.2 billion too much, $137 billion more too much—over the true value of those contracts should they have been signed at market rates. Somebody out there was getting basically $146.2 billion more than they should have over the life of 20-year contracts.

Do you know who pays for that? That’s the ratepayer. That’s the hydro ratepayer, those people the Liberals keep talking about caring for—opportunity and care.

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They’re talking about raising minimum wages, but those poor people who are making the minimum wage were the very people that you raised their hydro rates to the point where they had to make a choice between heating and eating.

Hon. Daiene Vernile: They got a 25% reduction.

Mr. John Yakabuski: Heating and eating—oh, the member from Kitchener says they got a 25% reduction. Oh, sure, 25%, and they will pay significantly more than that after four years.

The Liberals did a remortgaging. Essentially what they did, Speaker, was they remortgaged the house, so that instead of having a 25-year mortgage, they’re going to have a 90-year mortgage. This is what they’ve done, so that at the end of the day, the house that cost $200,000, let’s say, for the sake of argument, is now going to be $400,000.

This is the kind of accounting—and then they pretend that KPMG, Ernst and Young, and Deloitte actually agree with their accounting practices, but they can’t quite get the quote to fit. They’re dancing all around it, but they can’t quite make the quote fit so that they actually support what they’ve done with their so-called fair hydro plan.

This is what happens when you’ve been in government so long. The rot has set in so deep—15 years. The rot has set in so deep—15 years: the untendered contracts, the sweetheart deals, the backroom deals.

Speaker, I’ll tell you that if for no other reason than the truth needs to be exposed, we need to change government in this province, because we’ve got to stop what’s happening in Ontario under this government. If for no other reason than the truth needs to be told, this government has to change. When that band-aid gets ripped off, and this government is thrown out of office—please, dear Lord. When this government is thrown out of office, as they very well should be, and that band-aid is ripped off and every one of these deals and every one of these insider trading deals—Liberal friends who have gotten sole-sourced deals and contracts—when every one of those is exposed, the people of Ontario are going to ask themselves, “How could this have happened? How could this have happened?”

But we’ve been warned. The Auditor General has been warning you every year that things are going wrong, that things are being done wrong by this government. Things are being done wrong by this government. Every year, the auditor’s report brings to light—and that’s only a snapshot of everything that is going on. You think the auditor has enough people working for her that they can examine everything that’s going on in every ministry? Impossible.

Speaker, when that becomes known, the people of Ontario are going to shake their heads and say, “Is anybody going to jail over this? Is anybody going to jail over this?”

Ms. Lisa M. Thompson: It’s a fair question.

Mr. John Yakabuski: That’s a fair question. When you have taken—we’re not talking about anybody individually. We’re talking about the whole system that you and your cronies, the David Herles of this world, the David Herles that you signed contracts with for $3.5 million—

Interjections.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Rick Nicholls): Order, please.

Mr. John Yakabuski: —a sole-sourced deal—

Interjections.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Rick Nicholls): Stop the clock, please.

Look, I am trying to maintain civility inside this Legislature. I know that sometimes, trigger words, therefore, create an emotional feeling in someone, in anyone here. I’m going to ask that we kind of focus on not allowing those trigger words to excite us, as I try to maintain some civility inside this Legislature. Again, I’m going to ask for your co-operation.

I’m going to turn it back to the member from Renfrew–Nipissing–Pembroke.

Do we have a point of order first?

Ms. Lisa M. Thompson: Yes, Speaker.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Rick Nicholls): Point of order from the member for Huron–Bruce.

Ms. Lisa M. Thompson: I would like to know if we have a quorum.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Rick Nicholls): I’d ask you to check, please.

The Clerk-at-the-Table (Ms. Valerie Quioc Lim): A quorum is not present, Speaker.

The Acting Speaker ordered the bells rung.

The Clerk-at-the-Table (Ms. Valerie Quioc Lim): A quorum is now present.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Rick Nicholls): I will now refer back to the member from Renfrew–Nipissing–Pembroke to continue debate.

Mr. John Yakabuski: Thank you very much, Speaker. That’s the kind of reaction any kind of criticism seems to elicit out of the government benches—

Interjection.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Rick Nicholls): Minister of Tourism, Culture and Sport, come to order.

Mr. John Yakabuski: —in this day and age when you ask pertinent questions—questions that are being asked by the public.

Interjection.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Rick Nicholls): The Minister of Tourism, Culture and Sport, second time.

Mr. John Yakabuski: We hear it every day in our ridings, and we’re going to hear a lot more once the decision by the people of this province is made that it’s time for this government to go.

I was literally mortified last week when the Premier got up and read from a prepared text—this was not in response to an impromptu question from the media; this was a prepared text—and characterized the leader of the PC Party of Ontario as a bully. I’ll pretend to believe a lot of things, but you cannot believe that the Premier of Ontario, who owns the bully pulpit in this province, can be bullied. That is what she is down to: speaking in this province about the leader of another party that way, because she does not want to talk about her record. Instead of debating the issues and talking about the future of Ontario, which—this is the problem when a government gets like this, so old and so arrogant, so long and so arrogant.

Interjections.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Rick Nicholls): Stop the clock, please.

I’m moving to warnings now. I have tried diligently and I’ve asked for civility within the Legislature, and it seems to be falling on deaf ears.

Secondly, I would ask the member—again, we’re on Bill 53. I would ask that you direct your remarks with regard to Bill 53.

Having said that, back to the member from Renfrew–Nipissing–Pembroke to continue debate.

Mr. John Yakabuski: Thank you, Speaker. I’m getting to that, but I feel I have to respond to the continuous heckles from the other side when I’m trying to make a point.

This government believes that they have earned the divine right to rule at this point. In the history of democracy, every government has to accept that they are answerable for their actions. They are answerable for their actions, whether it’s a four-year term or whether they’ve been around for, like this government, nigh on 15 years. They are answerable for those actions, but they do not want to answer for them. So what do they resort to? They resort to character assassination.

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Ms. Deborah Matthews: He said she should be in jail.

Mr. John Yakabuski: He never said that.

Ms. Deborah Matthews: He did so.

Mr. John Yakabuski: He said other Liberals. That does not mean a name.

Interjection.

Mr. John Yakabuski: No, you better check the quote, Deb. Check the quote.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Rick Nicholls): Address the Chair, please.

Ms. Deborah Matthews: I’ve got the quote. I will get it for you.

Mr. John Yakabuski: You do that.

Ms. Deborah Matthews: I will get you a copy, and you will read it into the record.

Mr. John Yakabuski: I hardly think so—but you may, on a point of order. You might try that.

Speaker, I believe I was trying to get to Bill 53. I was waylaid because the members of the government get themselves into such a tizzy whenever you say something that they don’t like. Well, I was not sent here to say things that the government likes; I’m here to represent the people who have sent me here. When I talk to them on the weekends and when the House is not in session, these are the kinds of things they’re telling me, to take that message back. They’re not happy. They are not happy with the performance of this government.

You see, Speaker, I was hoping I’d get a chance to speak to the budget. The budget bill was already voted on today, because they brought in time allocation on the budget bill. Speaker, of course, through you, you can rest assured, as God is my witness, as they say, that Bill 53 will be time-allocated too. Bill 53 will be time-allocated—a bill that they brought into the Legislature and only recently introduced.

Where was the consultation on this bill? How are we going to be able to even have a proper hearing? How are we going to be able to have proper committee hearings on a bill as extensive a labour bill as this, when it’s going to be time-allocated? In fact, I guarantee you we’ll have probably one, maybe two days of hearings; clause-by-clause will be a couple of hours. Those people who want to comment on this bill will not have the opportunity. They won’t even feel that they’re part of the conversation.

On the issue of fair wages in contracting and also security and cleaners in government buildings, it’s interesting that, as my friend from Windsor–Tecumseh pointed out, it only applies to those people in the buildings, the security and the cleaners. This is a government building; there are more than security and cleaners. Now, the security guards that work here probably come under a different collective agreement, but for government buildings that have contracted security work with private firms, I suppose it would apply to them.

It’s interesting that here, in 2018—the law was repealed in 2001 and has been effectively ineffective since 1995. In 2007, the government commissioned Professor Morley Gunderson from the University of Toronto to do an independent review of Ontario’s fair wage policy. Interestingly, it was received positively by both labour and management stakeholders, who generally regarded the ambiguous status of Ontario’s fair wage policy as undesirable.

But here we are 11 years later, on the eve of an election where the Liberals are throwing every possible Hail Mary pass that they can, hoping—

Hon. Kathryn McGarry: Because we balanced the budget.

Mr. John Yakabuski: Yeah, they balanced the budget, all right. Well, the auditor doesn’t think so. I’ll tell you, when the books get ripped open, we’re probably going to find that it was never balanced at all. They only did that by gerrymandering OPG’s assets, and also selling shares of Hydro One.

Interjections.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Rick Nicholls): Point of order: I recognize the member from Beaches–East York.

Mr. Arthur Potts: Speaker, I believe the member just violated section 23(k), in that he used an abusive word in the House which has been ruled repeatedly as not to be used. I would hope you would ask him to withdraw.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Rick Nicholls): I appreciate you pointing this out. I may have missed it, and therefore we’ll continue back, but I would ask the member to be very cautious.

Mr. John Yakabuski: Speaker, if I used any word that is not to be used in this House, on my own, voluntarily, I withdraw that word.

Mr. Percy Hatfield: You’re going to gerrymander it?

Mr. John Yakabuski: Absolutely, and I apologize if it was one that was considered to be unparliamentary.

Having said that, the government has played some games with numbers, according to the auditor, not me; I’m not the accountant here. But the auditor has repeatedly said that the government has done all kinds of tricky things with numbers.

Speaker, you may have heard this at some time in your life. I’m not suggesting—I don’t want to be taken to task for everything that I say here, but you know: A guy is running a bit of a shady operation. He’s got two people, and he’s going to hire one of them to be his accountant. He asks the one fellow, “Okay, if you want the job, I’ve got a question for you. What’s 10 plus 10?” The fellow says, “It’s 20.” “Thank you very much.” He says to the other fellow, “What’s 10 plus 10?” He says, “Whatever you want it to be.” The fellow says, “You’re hired,” because that’s what he wanted in his accountant. He wants to be able to make the numbers whatever he wants them to be.

That’s the concern that the auditor of Ontario has with the Liberal books. Every time they don’t like what it’s showing, they come up with a new angle. They want the ends to justify the means. If they want it to show that there’s this much money in the bank, or this much of a surplus or whatever, they’ll plug in the numbers and make them fit. That’s what the auditor has been saying about this government for some time, and she has questioned just about everything they have done in the energy sector.

It would really be nice—I’m looking forward to tomorrow. Is it tomorrow, the auditor’s report?

Mr. Jim Wilson: Yes.

Ms. Lisa M. Thompson: Yes, it is.

Mr. John Yakabuski: Tomorrow? Oh, oh, it’s not going to be a good day for the Liberals tomorrow, Speaker. The auditor’s pre-election report is coming out. You know, I don’t get to see it ahead of time, but the people of Ontario should know that the government actually does get to see it ahead of time. They know what’s in it. We don’t. Isn’t that something? The auditor gets to do a report, but the government gets to see it ahead of time so they can have their answers ready. They do their responses, and they have all their spin doctors ready.

In fact, all of those Liberal members, I’m sure, have got their talking points about what to say about the auditor’s report tomorrow. They’ve all been schooled in their caucus: “These are the talking points. Now rehearse them. Go home and make sure that you understand them well, and deliver them if you’re asked, either in your home constituencies or anywhere here by the Queen’s Park press gallery.” But that is something—

Mr. Lou Rinaldi: Point of order.

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The Acting Speaker (Mr. Rick Nicholls): Point of order: I recognize the member from Northumberland–Quinte West.

Mr. Lou Rinaldi: Thank you, Speaker. Just quickly, I wonder—I know you tried before; it was not very successful—could he come back and talk about the bill?

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Rick Nicholls): He has been, and I’ve been listening carefully. It’s anecdotes, and then he brings it back. But thank you for reminding me.

Mr. Lou Rinaldi: Thank you.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Rick Nicholls): I remind the member as well. Continue, please.

Mr. John Yakabuski: Thank you very much, Speaker.

Bill 53: Some of my first summer jobs were in the construction business. I would presume that all road projects on provincial highways are government projects, so this new law would apply to them.

I had some great jobs in construction, because it was a great business. We would work long, long days on paving crews. You know the old saying: You make hay when the sun shines. Well, you make blacktop when the sun shines too. In those days, you didn’t pave at all in the rain. You could pave a little bit on gravel, but you couldn’t pave if you were doing a repaving job, because you just couldn’t get it to adhere, if it was even a little bit wet. Today, they have some better adhesives, and they’re a little bit more able to deal with light moisture and still get the blacktop laid down.

I’ve got to tell you, my dad was an MPP for 24 years. In those days, in the 1960s and into the 1970s and 1980s, but particularly in the 1960s, there was a lot of new highway work going on, because the highway network was expanding. My dad used to say, “In an election year, there was nothin’ as beneficial as layin’ down a lot of miles of blacktop.” In rural Ontario, they were trying to grow and they were trying to expand. They needed new roads, and putting that asphalt down was very, very beneficial to the incumbent member of the Legislature, and a welcome announcement.

My father was successful in—God, I’d better get this right—I think it was seven elections: 1963, 1967, 1971, 1975, 1977, 1981 and 1985. It was seven elections, yes. Seven elections he was successful in, because he did what the rural people in Ontario’s constituencies, his constituents, expected him to do, and that was be an honest representative at the Legislature and not be afraid to—and he was in government for 22 of those 24 years, so he had to answer for a government record. He had to answer for a government record, and that is what’s going to happen here this year. They’re going to have to answer for a government record.

He was able to go back to those constituents. It was a smaller constituency then; the population was less. I remember my dad saying one time, “You know, John, it was the Progressive Conservatives of Renfrew South who elected me in 1963. But,” he said, “it was the Liberals who kept re-electing me, because if I did my job as an MPP, at home the good people of Renfrew South would reward me with a re-election.” That’s essentially why we come here: to represent those people of our constituencies.

My dad loved construction; he loved construction projects. I remember that my first construction job was on the paving crew with K.J. Beamish Construction—King John Beamish. They were paving Highway 60 all the way from Whitney into Cache Lake in the middle of the park. It was about 26 miles: a big job, a big paving job. Oh, and it was hotter than the hobs of hell that summer, in 1975. Oh, man, it was a warm summer, and you were working on that paving crew.

I’ll tell you one thing: You were in the sun all the time, and we weren’t taking the precautions that you do today, with lots of sunscreens and better ways of protecting yourself. Man, I got a lot of sun that summer. I think I might have got beaten to it, but some people might say I got too much sun that summer. The effects of it did wear off.

Interestingly enough, the next summer, I was not working in construction. I worked as a canoe ranger in Algonquin park. And 1975 was a hot, hot summer. I don’t know if it’s been eclipsed since. I was a canoe ranger working in the park, so I was in the bush. I’d be in the bush for 10 days, and I’d come out for four.

The summer of 1976, Speaker, had less sunshine than any summer ever recorded up until that time in southern Ontario, the part that includes Algonquin park. So we got a pile of rain in the summer of 1976—unbelievable.

But it was a great job as well: mowing trails, scything the trails, chainsawing the deadfalls and stuff like that, building campsites and putting up privies—

Mr. Wayne Gates: Kill some more time. Go back to when you were a baby. I want to hear how you were born.

Mr. John Yakabuski: Well, I was born pretty much the same way you were, Gatesy.

Mr. Wayne Gates: You’ve got lots of time—a half an hour to kill there.

Mr. John Yakabuski: Yes, exactly.

There’s not a lot of difference, just in the way—pretty much the same.

Interjections.

Mr. John Yakabuski: Anyway, the next summer, the summer of 1977, I was back on construction. But I got a job closer to home, because I wanted to be able to play ball.

Hon. Kevin Daniel Flynn: Are we going through every year of your life?

Mr. John Yakabuski: Pretty much—well, all my working life there—all the construction work, the contract work.

I felt I was paid fairly well. I’ve got to tell you: I had a deal with my foreman, Brian Briscoe. Charlie Mackay, the superintendent, never knew about our deal, but Brian would always let me off early on a night that we had a ball game, so I could get to Killaloe. Brian Briscoe was my foreman but his brother, Jack, was the coach of the ball team. Jack wanted to make sure that I could get off early so I could go play ball.

Billy Griffith, who worked on the job with us—he passed away a couple of years ago. He was probably one of the best grader operators ever. When I would come in in the morning and we’d meet at the office to head out on the job, he used his call: “Well, Part-Time is back today”—or “Half-a-Day,” he used to call me, because, he said, “Every time I turn around, you’ve got a ball game to go to.” But it was a great job, building Highway 41 through Renfrew county there.

Well, 41—I’m almost up to the number 53, Speaker; 53, this labour bill. It seems to have gotten a lot of people upset. They’re not happy with it. One of the things I’m most concerned about is—and I know that somewhere in the standing orders I cannot question the motive of another member, but I do believe you can question the motive of the government, because it’s not quite so personal. Unlike the Premier, when she got personal with Doug Ford, I’m just talking about the government in general and the motive of the government. The motive of the government is so, so, so obvious. This is about influencing a sector—

Ms. Lisa MacLeod: Or trying to.

Mr. John Yakabuski: —or trying to—thank you very much to the member from Nepean–Carleton—trying to influence a sector when it comes to their decision on June 7.

You would think that this could have been brought in sometime within the last nine years—11 years, pardon me—2007 to today.

Mr. Percy Hatfield: Like the carpenters in LIUNA.

Mr. John Yakabuski: Yes, why are these things all happening at one time?

I have to go back, Speaker. The minister spent a lot of time talking about Bill 148 today. He talked about Bill 3.

Hon. Kevin Daniel Flynn: You voted against that.

Mr. John Yakabuski: I know how I voted.

He talked about these things, which were not in Bill 53, by the way, but I like to give the minister a little bit of latitude when he’s addressing the Legislature.

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But the motive behind all of those pieces of legislation is as clear as those summer days in 1975, Speaker. It’s not hard to see—

Interjection: It was rainy.

Mr. John Yakabuski: No, 1976 was rainy.

It’s not hard to see what they’re up to. The budget—what do they call it? A Time for Care and Opportunity? Or that’s the throne speech, but they used the same words in the budget. It is all about their overwhelming desire to influence the people of Ontario.

I’ve got to tell you, Speaker—my voice is starting to wane a bit here. They got me worked up earlier on with things that should not have been said. I had to raise my voice to get above theirs and may have put a little strain on those vocal cords. But I do have 24 minutes left—24 minutes or so—

Mr. Percy Hatfield: You could have strained it screaming during the game last night.

Mr. John Yakabuski: Pardon me?

Mr. Percy Hatfield: You could have strained it from screaming—

Mr. John Yakabuski: I may have strained them a little bit last night, watching that Leafs game as well. But hey, how are those Leafs doing?

Mr. Speaker, I’ve got to tell you—do you remember 1953? Speaker, you know, the Leafs, they’ve won 11 cups.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Rick Nicholls): I suspect that you’re probably going to talk about rebuilding and construction with regard to the Leafs. However, I would ask that your points be more specific to Bill 53 and construction and the things that have been talked about. Please continue, but I would ask that you—

Mr. John Yakabuski: Oh, sorry.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Rick Nicholls): That’s all right. I would ask that you focus on Bill 53, please. Thank you.

Mr. John Yakabuski: Speaker, your wish is my command, as they say.

Bill 53 is a framework piece of legislation that many of the critics are saying does little to change—in fact, the legislation itself doesn’t even establish a beginning floor wage. You can say what you want about Bill 148—

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Rick Nicholls): To the Speaker, please.

Mr. John Yakabuski: —but it actually had contained in the bill what the wage rates would be at the given dates. It would be so much on January 1, 2018, and it would go up again on January 1, 2019. It indicated what the wage rates were going to be for guides and it indicated what wage rates were going to be for servers. It did all of those things.

Bill 53 does not even give us a starting point. What it does, Speaker, is it basically appoints—and I just want to get the wording right here—a director of contract wages is one—

Ms. Deborah Matthews: Point of order, Speaker.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Rick Nicholls): Stop the clock, please. I recognize the member from London North Centre.

Ms. Deborah Matthews: I just wanted to make sure that the member opposite had the information he needed when he accused me of making something up. I have, in paper, the press release where the leader of the Conservative Party said—

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Rick Nicholls): Thank you very much.

Ms. Lisa MacLeod: No, no. Read it out.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Rick Nicholls): Order, please.

Ms. Lisa MacLeod: Point of order, Speaker.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Rick Nicholls): That is not a point of order, unfortunately, so I have to revert back to the member from Renfrew–Nipissing–Pembroke to continue with his debate. Thank you very much.

Mr. John Yakabuski: She won’t be quoting anything; otherwise, she’ll be quoting it inaccurately.

The government will be appointing a director of government contract wages. This director could take—there are over 100 different categories that they’ve got to look at. It could take a year or maybe two years to actually come up with the first floor for contract wages for construction, cleaners or—

Ms. Cindy Forster: Building services.

Mr. John Yakabuski: No, not building—it’s security. Construction, cleaners or security. So it could take up to two years before they make any significant decisions with regard to what those wages are going to be.

Mr. Percy Hatfield: Is that after the election?

Mr. John Yakabuski: After the election. So, knowing that that’s the time frame, why would they have waited until the eve—

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Rick Nicholls): Address the Speaker, please.

Mr. John Yakabuski: I am addressing the Speaker. I’m just thinking out loud.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Rick Nicholls): This way. Thank you.

Mr. John Yakabuski: Why would they not address this two years ago? Why would they not have addressed this shortly after 2007, when the Gunderson report was drawn up?

So when I stand here and doubt or question the motives or even the commitment of this government, I think that’s a fair question. Do they really even want to see this happen? Because it really does nothing for a long time. It creates a framework. It allows someone to begin the job of figuring out what a basic contract wage should be if you’re working on a government project or if you’re in a government building in the security or the cleaning aspect of it. Not if you’re in foodservices or other parts of the many different—I mean, look at this building here, which contract workers could be working in. Only two sectors are covered by this bill.

It brings me back to—

Mr. Percy Hatfield: To 1976.

Mr. John Yakabuski: No. It brings me back to, why now? It’s a fair question. We should have been talking about this a long time ago. If you’re really planning to make changes for workers here in Ontario, it should have happened some time ago. In fact, they could have incorporated all this right into Bill 148. If they really wanted to make changes—I mean, you’ll recall, and I know my friend from Welland will recall, when we were doing the hearings on 148, the number of people from the security sector and the cleaning sector who came in to talk about how they felt left out on Bill 148. So they could have incorporated all of this into Bill 148.

But, you see, here’s what they wanted. They wanted to appear to be the one-time Santa Claus just before the end of 2017, and they wanted to be Santa Claus one more time just before the election. They wanted to give two gifts to the people they’re trying their best to influence in this election. But you know, Speaker, it’s not really working—

Hon. Dipika Damerla: We are Santa and you’re the Grinch.

Mr. John Yakabuski: I just got called the Grinch. My goodness gracious, Speaker. I’m going to tell my grandkids. They will not agree with that characterization of their grandpa. They will not agree.

Hon. Daiene Vernile: Put him in jail, then.

Mr. John Yakabuski: Oh, now the member from Kitchener wants to see me go to jail. Oh, that’s a low blow. But do you know what? After June, you won’t be able to say that in this House anymore.

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Interjection.

Mr. John Yakabuski: Do you know what I say to the member for Barrie? You want to play that game? You won’t be able to say something as nasty as that in this House after June 7. You won’t be able to say that. I’m not afraid of any mistakes I’ve made in my life. But I can tell you this—you want to drop to that level? You will get what you deserve, ma’am.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Rick Nicholls): Address the Speaker, please.

Mr. John Yakabuski: Unfortunately, when they don’t like what you say, they drop to personal insults and mischaracterizations.

Interjection.

Mr. John Yakabuski: No.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Rick Nicholls): Member from Nepean–Carleton.

Mr. John Yakabuski: Speaker, the member for Barrie wanted to make a reference to a past mistake that I made in my life some 30 years ago.

Ms. Lisa MacLeod: As a young man.

Mr. John Yakabuski: Yes.

If that’s the kind of game you want to play, go right ahead, I say to the member for Barrie. The people of Renfrew–Nipissing–Pembroke—there are no secrets, and they have continued to elect me since 2003 because they believe in me and they have trust in me. Regardless of what you want to say, you have no effect on the good people of Renfrew–Nipissing–Pembroke. They’ve elected me since 2003.

Regardless of what the member for Barrie wants to say, what personal insults she wants to hurl across this House—that will have no impact.

Interjection.

Mr. John Yakabuski: Oh, I heard it last week, too, ma’am, and it was not just that comment. There was something lower than that.

Anyway, that’s what’s happening here in this House—

Interjection.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Rick Nicholls): First of all, I recognize the member from Niagara Falls on a point of order.

Mr. Wayne Gates: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I’ve been here for the last couple of hours. Can we just bring it back to a business-like manner for the next 15 minutes? This has really gone off the rails. I’m sitting here and I don’t want to be a part of it. So could you please rule—

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Rick Nicholls): That is the next point that I was about to make. Both sides—I’ve asked for civility. We are in warnings. Now I’m going to go one step further: If I hear any more breakouts, you will be named.

Again, when the member from Renfrew is speaking, I would ask that he please address the Speaker. That way, we will maintain some order of civility here.

Back to the member.

Mr. John Yakabuski: Thank you, Speaker.

Again, I will question the motives of the government and what they have done in these last few months. I even ask myself—to the member for Niagara Falls—why are we here? They’re not productive in anything they’re doing here. It is based on one goal: trying to snatch one more rabbit out of the hat—one more time that they can win an election here in Ontario.

They don’t even get it. The people aren’t buying a single word they say anymore. Every time they come out with an announcement—they do their budget, and what happens? The polling numbers get worse, because they have lost the trust of the people of Ontario.

Once you go so far as to lose the trust of the people, you’re not getting it back. You’ve gone too far. They don’t believe anything you say anymore. You’re not getting the trust back.

Bill 53, if I may—

Interjections.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Rick Nicholls): We’re all in warnings now. If I hear anything from anyone, whether it be drive-by comments, as I call it, or anything else in the Legislature, trust me, you’ll make my day. You’ll be named.

We will finish now with the member from Renfrew–Nipissing–Pembroke.

Mr. John Yakabuski: Thank you, Speaker.

If I may address the point of order that the member from London raised—she did stand on a point of order; it wasn’t a point of order, but she did get her words in—I’m just going to quote from the PC press release. Here’s what it says: “‘If Kathleen Wynne tried to pull these kinds of shady tricks’”—

Interjections.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Rick Nicholls): Excuse me. Hold on.

Interjection.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Rick Nicholls): Hold on. I haven’t recognized you yet.

I recognize the Minister of Labour on a point of order.

Hon. Kevin Daniel Flynn: Thank you. On a number of occasions, Speaker, you have tried to get the speaker to address the bill. He’s simply defying you. I ask that you go back and ask him to speak to the bill under consideration.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Rick Nicholls): Thank you very much. I appreciate the respectfulness that you showed.

I will ask the member: We are discussing Bill 53, nothing else with regard to what may have been placed on desks or in people’s hands. Please address the bill. Thank you.

Mr. John Yakabuski: Speaker, accusations were made in this House by the members of the opposite side. They said they would get me a copy of the press release that I could read. I am only doing what they asked me to do.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Rick Nicholls): I respect what you’ve said. I decided that that was not a point of order, so she was shut down at that point in time. I’m not sure; I may have seen some things circulated which may be deemed unparliamentary. Having said that, I’m going to go back to the member. I would ask that whatever may have been circulated—that you don’t refer to that, because it wasn’t recognized as a point of order.

We’ll continue with Bill 53.

Mr. John Yakabuski: Thank you, Speaker.

Well, there are certain things in Bill 53 that I don’t agree with. And I don’t agree with the assertions of the members on the other side as to what may or may not have been said by leaders of parties in this province. Anyway, that’s what we do in this House: Sometimes we agree on things and sometimes we don’t.

I’ll agree with one thing that the member for Oakville and Minister of Labour said, and that is that we all believe in a fair wage for a fair day’s work. My son is employed in the construction business. He’s in the ICI sector—industrial, commercial, institutional. He loves his job. He doesn’t believe in getting paid for something he’s not doing. He doesn’t believe in getting well paid for shoddy work. He has a lot of pride in his work. But he rightfully expects to be paid for the work that he does do.

A fair wage is not something that, on principle, anybody could possibly oppose. If that’s what we’re talking about here today, I would suggest that we’re all in agreement. A fair wage for a fair day’s work is something we all expect. I received that when I worked in the construction business. I believe I received that wherever I worked, whether as a summer student or in any job that I may have had in my working life.

I still can’t shake my concern as to why they’re doing this with this bill at this time, and there are people in the industry who have concerns about it as well.

If I may, I have some quotes here from some people who have made comments on the bill and have indicated that they themselves were somewhat surprised when the bill was introduced, because they weren’t consulted either.

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I have quotes. “David Frame, director of government relations at the Ontario General Contractors Association, said his organization had no idea the legislation was coming and the news caught them off guard Tuesday. They consulted with the government on the wage schedules a year ago and hadn’t heard anything since.” That was quoted in the Globe and Mail on April 17.

Mr. Percy Hatfield: They didn’t get a written request?

Mr. John Yakabuski: Well, I don’t know if it was written. It was quoted in the Globe and Mail.

“‘What surprises me is they don’t need legislation,’ he said about the updates. ‘They have the [regulatory] authority to bring the schedules up to date.’” So, Speaker, they already have the authority, with the current legislative powers they have, without a new bill, to bring this up to date, according to Mr. Frame.

“Wayne Peterson, executive director of the Construction Employers Coordinating Council of Ontario, said the industry welcomes the new bill and would have liked to have seen it introduced earlier.

“The Liberal legislation should spell out how the new rules will be enforced, he said. ‘It’s fine to pass legislation, but if it has no enforcement and no teeth, then it’s just frivolous legislation.’”

Again, that’s from that Globe and Mail article. The people who are being affected by it the most see through it the same way we do, and it’s not comforting to them that in the final days of a desperate government, they’re bringing this forward. But it will never be enacted before we go to the polls. It will receive royal assent because they will make sure they time-allocate the bill. They’ll make sure that it passes before we leave here, but nothing in this bill will ever be enacted before we go to the polls.

What they were hoping for was that if the government really believes in what they’re doing here, they would have done it much sooner, as Mr. Peterson says. Why wouldn’t we have done this many months ago? There were opportunities. This legislative calendar has had lots of time to have dealt with these pieces of legislation, but what has happened as they get desperate before the election—I honestly can’t remember the last bill that came before this Legislature that wasn’t time-allocated, other than the private members’ stuff that we hear on Thursday afternoons, which often receives approval on second reading but never goes any further. The government votes for the bills, even if they’re opposition bills, on Thursday afternoons, but there’s little chance that the government is ever going to advance the bills on the legislative calendar.

They have all the power, Speaker. They have a majority. They can practically do what they want here. That’s why I say that when Premier Wynne says she’s being bullied, no one believes that. She’s the Premier. She is Premier Wynne. We can call her Premier Wynne. Just like we talk about other Premiers, she is Premier Wynne. She can’t hide from that. I know she’d like to. She’s trying hard to hide from the record of the past 15 years, but there’s no place for her to go.

Interjection.

Mr. John Yakabuski: Oh, she may have feathered some other nest. Maybe she has made a deal. Maybe David Herle has got something waiting for her. The Liberals are paying David Herle $70,000 a month to be an attack dog. He had to go out and apologize for what he said—

Hon. Kathryn McGarry: Point of order.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Rick Nicholls): I recognize the Minister of Transportation on a point of order.

Hon. Kathryn McGarry: Speaker, I don’t believe that the member opposite is speaking to the bill.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Rick Nicholls): Again, I would like to remind the member: You need to talk to the bill.

Mr. John Yakabuski: Speaker, you have no idea how hard I am trying to, but there are so many times that you just feel that the people out there have to know what is actually going on. And they’re not going to know. They’re not going to know anything about Bill 53, because none of it will be enacted before June 7. They’re not going to know the truth of what has gone on in the backrooms for the past 15 years. They won’t know that until after June 7.

But I can tell you, they are so anxious to hear the truth. They are so anxious to find out how this government of 15 years, which has changed rules and made deals—they want to know so badly just how this government has treated the taxpayers of this province and the voters of this province. We’re going to get the chance to find that out after June 7. I can tell you, I am looking forward to it, just as they are.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Rick Nicholls): Thank you very much. I appreciated the debate this afternoon.

Second reading debate deemed adjourned.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Rick Nicholls): Are you standing on a point of order?

Mr. Wayne Gates: No, I stood, I thought, for a two-minute hit.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Rick Nicholls): We don’t have time for that, unfortunately. But I will remind the member that the next time this bill comes forward, there will be time for questions and comments, provided the member is present in the Legislature.

Having said that, it is now close to 6 o’clock. This House stands adjourned until 9 o’clock tomorrow morning.

The House adjourned at 1757.