L065 - Thu 20 Dec 2018 / Jeu 20 déc 2018

 

The House met at 0900.

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Let us pray.

Prayers.

Request to the Integrity Commissioner

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): I beg to inform the House that I have today laid upon the table a request by the member for Ottawa South to the Honourable J. David Wake, Integrity Commissioner, for an opinion pursuant to section 30 of the Members’ Integrity Act, 1994, on whether the member for Etobicoke North, Doug Ford, has contravened the act or Ontario parliamentary convention.

Orders of the Day

Labour Relations Amendment Act (Protecting Ontario’s Power Supply), 2018 / Loi de 2018 modifiant la Loi sur les relations de travail (protection de l’approvisionnement de l’Ontario en électricité)

Ms. Scott moved third reading of the following bill:

Bill 67, An Act to amend the Labour Relations Act, 1995 / Projet de loi 67, Loi modifiant la Loi de 1995 sur les relations de travail.

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): I look to the minister to lead off the debate.

Hon. Laurie Scott: Thank you, Speaker. We’re now at the third reading of Bill 67, Protecting Ontario’s Power Supply. I want to urge the House again to pass this bill immediately. The stakes are very high.

Any labour disruption at OPG would lead to an electricity shortage in Ontario. The consequences of that would be dire. Families, seniors and all Ontarians face the possibility of no heat or light at Christmastime, and apart from the obvious inconvenience this would cause, it also poses serious health and safety concerns. Worse, it would be exacerbated by any extreme weather conditions.

Industries and businesses, the backbone of Ontario’s economy, would suffer. It could also lead to higher electricity rates as Ontario tries to buy power from other jurisdictions, jurisdictions that do not have much surplus power to sell during the winter months.

OPG is responsible for approximately 51% of all electricity generation in Ontario. It operates nuclear, hydroelectric, thermal and wind power facilities. My colleague the Minister of Energy, Northern Development and Mines estimates that a strike by PWU workers could result in some or all of OPG’s facilities being shut down and going off-line within weeks.

Disputes arising during contract negotiations are best resolved at the bargaining table. The government believes in this strongly, and we respect the process of collective bargaining. Government intervention should be reserved for times when the public interest and public safety are at risk and a resolution is not possible. Unfortunately, this is the situation we are now facing.

We must act quickly. A safe shutdown of our nuclear reactors could take as long as a week. Restarting those reactors would take approximately two weeks. Hydroelectric facilities could continue to operate for about one to two weeks before shutdown. If half the grid went off-line, we would have no choice but to start buying power from other jurisdictions, and we would be purchasing power at a premium, since no other jurisdiction would have much surplus power to sell during the dead of winter. The consequences of this would be a significant rise in the cost of electricity. Working families and seniors would again be forced to choose between heating their houses and paying their hydro bill. We cannot go through that again.

To be precise, Mr. Speaker, we are facing a potential emergency in Ontario—Madam Speaker; sorry about the change—and it is no time for ideological posturing. We are facing a serious threat to Ontario’s health and safety and to Ontario’s economy. This is the time to take strong, decisive action to prevent grave damage. I urge all of the members in this House to stand with us and quickly act to pass our proposed legislation.

Thank you, Madam Speaker, for the time, and I hope they have been listening.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Jennifer K. French): Further debate? I recognize the leader of the official opposition.

Ms. Andrea Horwath: Well, thank you very kindly, Speaker.

Over the course of the debate on this bill we’ve heard a lot from the members of the government side, saying how important it is to remember why it is that we’re here right now. You know, Speaker, they’re right, so let’s talk a bit about why we’re here today.

We’re here because the Premier won’t stop meddling in places where he shouldn’t be meddling, and making things worse for Ontarians in the process. This is a government that meddled at OPG because of a personal vendetta, costing Ontarians half a million bucks so the Premier could pull the rug out from under an old political foe. This is a government that has tried multiple times now to meddle in Ontario’s police services. First they tried to orchestrate police raids on cannabis dispensaries that would get them splashy news coverage. Since then, of course, we’ve heard even more disturbing allegations of meddling from this Premier. We’ve heard from the acting OPP commissioner himself, Brad Blair, that the Premier demanded the OPP buy him a custom camper van from his preferred source, built to his specifications, and hide the expense from Ontarians. And, of course, there’s a cloud of suspicion hanging over the Premier’s attempt to make his close personal friend the new OPP commissioner.

So when this government packed up—

Mr. Stephen Lecce: Point of order.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Jennifer K. French): I recognize the member from King–Vaughan.

Mr. Stephen Lecce: I just don’t understand what’s germane about the subject matter related to the substance of the bill before the House. I’d ask you, Speaker, to review that. Thank you.

Interjections.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Jennifer K. French): The House will come to order.

The Leader of the Opposition will ensure that her remarks are connected to the bill, and I return to the member.

Ms. Andrea Horwath: So when this government packed up shop and closed the Legislature a week early, I wasn’t surprised. I don’t think any of us were surprised. I thought maybe, Madam Speaker, that they might even have learned a lesson from the public outcry that was surrounding them.

But here we are, Speaker. The Premier and his government saw collective bargaining taking place between Ontario’s power workers and OPG, and instead of bringing people together, instead of respecting collective bargaining and the rights of power workers, the Premier and his government decided to put their thumb on the scale. They could have helped both parties reach an agreement at the bargaining table; they could have looked back over the 33 years—yes, 33 years—that we have not had a strike at OPG, and looked at the work that governments from all political stripes, New Democrats, Conservatives and Liberals, did to make sure that we kept the lights on in this province and, at the same time, upheld the power workers’ charter rights to collective bargaining.

But this government didn’t do that, Speaker. They didn’t do that, because of course we know that Mr. Ford does not believe in people’s charter rights. We’ve seen that already here in this Legislature in their short six months in office.

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Instead, what they did this time was decide to threaten the power workers with back-to-work legislation even before the decision had been made to go on strike. That’s what happened here, Speaker. This government threw a wrench into the collective bargaining process with their threats. They essentially made sure that good-faith bargaining between OPG and the Power Workers’ Union would stop dead in its tracks, because you can’t have free collective bargaining when the employer’s side already knows that the government is going to legislate the workers back to work. The bargaining power of the workers is then made nil. The bargaining power of the workers no longer exists in a scenario like that. So Mr. Ford and his government made sure that there was going to be no deal between the power workers and OPG.

To back up their decision to trample on the charter rights of workers in this province, they then decided to go on a campaign of fearmongering—quite shameful fearmongering. In fact, the minister was participating in that again this morning. For the past week they’ve been talking non-stop about holiday blackouts, rolling blackouts, rolling brownouts. If I’ve heard it once, I’ve heard it a hundred times from the members of the government side, how if we don’t squash the rights of these workers then there won’t be any lights on people’s Christmas trees and our nuclear reactors are going to be dangerously unstaffed.

Everyone in this House knows that the Premier and his government have a majority, and we will be seeing, in very short order, in a matter of probably hours, this legislation is going to pass. We’re not going to vote for it, of course, but it will absolutely pass. It’s going to pass while Ontario power workers are still on the job. Not a single power worker has left the job. It’s going to pass well before anyone in the public would even be close to experiencing any supply impacts whatsoever. But this Premier and his government have decided to go ahead and fearmonger anyway. I guess they figure they can get some good headlines or some good press. But it’s very disrespectful and in fact rude to the people of Ontario that this kind of behaviour is coming from their government, to try to scare people, to try to frighten them, to try to worry them that their Christmases are going to be ruined. I’m sorry, but this behaviour is unbecoming of a government.

So we have a Premier who has decided to go ahead and fearmonger, making stuff up once again, as this Premier has a penchant for doing. They figure that their fearmongering and stamping on power workers’ charter rights now are going to distract Ontarians from all of the failures of this government over the last number of months—the divisiveness that this government has caused in our province, the callous cuts that this government is rolling out to Ontario’s services, including most recently the horrifying cuts we saw to our most vulnerable children’s educational supports, the bulldozing of people’s rights that they’ve been doing all the way along here in our Legislature. But we in the official opposition are not going to fall for it, just like Ontarians are not going to fall for it.

We’re going to continue paying very, very close attention to what this government is up to. We’re going to continue paying very close attention to what this Premier says and the difference between that and what is reality.

We’re going to vote against the bill that’s coming to a vote a little later on today because we know that there are other tools available to end labour disputes. We don’t agree with this government. We don’t agree with this Premier. We didn’t agree with the Liberals when they decided to legislate workers back to work.

New Democrats know that we don’t have to trample on people’s charter rights to keep the lights on. For 33 years, Speaker, this province managed to get that right. Ontarians can count on New Democrats to stand with workers and their families and to defend their charter rights, unlike the other two parties, and to do that before elections, during elections, and after elections. We’re very proud to stand with workers and their charter rights.

I look forward to hearing the rest of the debate.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Jennifer K. French): Further debate.

Mr. John Fraser: I won’t say it’s a pleasure to rise to speak to this bill today, but we’re here because we all know, at the end of this, where we’re going to be—that we’re going to pass this bill. It’s not because the Conservatives have a majority. It’s because all of us here know that people need their power. They need to have confidence. It’s a public good. It’s an issue of public safety.

Since 1985, for 33 years, successive Ministers of Energy and Premiers have ensured that the lights stay on and that we don’t get to a point like this where we’re legislating people back to work. By his own admission, the Minister of Energy has said that this was his level of participation: “I was briefed.” That’s not good enough. That’s not what Ontarians expect. What Ontarians expect is that our eye is always on that ball—that when the minister got appointed, he realized that this was perhaps his single most important file because all Ontarians depended on it. And what did he have to say? “I was briefed.” And the next comment was, “We really aren’t supposed to intervene.” Well, you’re there as the representative of the single shareholder whose livelihood and family safety depends on that.

The thing that I find really disturbing about this, besides the apparent lack of effort or interest on the minister’s behalf, is that now we have the party across saying, “We just saved the day.” The member from Eglinton–Lawrence was chastising the NDP because people were ordering generators and people were upset and people were concerned. I agree with the Leader of the Opposition. In patting yourselves on the back and congratulating yourselves, you’re scaring Ontarians. We never should have been at this point. Ontarians should not be here at this point right now, and you all know it.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Jennifer K. French): Direct your remarks through the Chair, please.

Mr. John Fraser: So let’s stop pretending. What needs to happen here is that we have to have a fair debate. Our colleagues on the other side are talking about a really important right: collective bargaining, a charter right. The arguments that they make are correct. We have to look at those things and ensure that we protect those rights. But we’re looking at two rights now, and you have brought us to a point where those two rights are in conflict. What happens in a situation like this is that the public good and public safety always supersedes. The needs of the all are more important than the needs of the few, because of the situation.

I want to go back. As I supported this bill on second reading, I will support this bill again. But what I really want to underline here is that we did not need to be at this point. The Minister of Energy abdicated his single most important responsibility as the Minister of Energy, which is to make sure that our electricity system was secure and was going to be there for people consistently, without the fear of it not being there. By his own admission, he has not done that. I would like the party opposite to stop sending out all of those social media messages that are congratulating yourselves for putting out a fire that you set. It’s really not very respectful of the people of Ontario. It’s like the emperor’s clothes, folks—“Everybody Knows.” Have you ever heard the Leonard Cohen song “Everybody Knows”? That’s exactly what this is right here.

Again, I will be supporting this bill because this is what Ontarians need.

I’d like to wish all of my colleagues a really merry Christmas. I hope you have a great time with your families. I hope you get to forget about this place for a little while and I hope that all of you have a great new year. I do really enjoy working with all of you.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Jennifer K. French): Further debate?

Hon. Greg Rickford: I’ll address what I thought were some quality points from the Leader of the Opposition. I hadn’t intended to respond to the independent member from Ottawa—Ottawa Centre, yes?

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Mr. John Fraser: South.

Hon. Greg Rickford: South—whatever; Ottawa South.

Mr. John Fraser: It matters to them.

Interjections.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Jennifer K. French): The House will come to order.

Hon. Greg Rickford: My apologies to his constituents. Thank you, Madam Speaker.

I have served this country as Canada’s former minister of energy. I have presided over some of the biggest and most complex files that you can think of in the energy and natural resources sector, including this one. I take this very seriously. There has never been an abdication, and I hope you get up one day at some point, hopefully before we rise, and apologize. There is no need for that.

We all know why there’s a small, independent group of former Liberals who used to govern this party—and it’s in large part because of the energy sector.

Madam Speaker, I want to just address a few points. I find it interesting that after being wrongly accused of meddling, particularly when it comes to public utilities in the energy sector and public companies that the government has a considerable stake in, that at a point in time when we actually were hopeful for several months—we’re talking about nine months and a couple of votes—that the two parties could come together and find an agreement. There were only a few issues outstanding. As it stood last week, it was very clear that in rejecting the final offer—those matters were just enough to put the vote for a strike, and so we were served that notice.

In fact, when it comes to constitutional rights, they actually exercised those rights, to the credit of the Power Workers’ Union, especially in light of the fact that even the non-nuclear workers understood the importance of this and did not take a job action and vacate their posts. That would be significant. We have given them every opportunity to get to a point where they could agree on a few final points.

So in order to address this situation, we moved quickly, after a strike notice was served, to make a decision as a government and put legislation together that would create a fair, open and transparent mechanism for these two parties, moving forward, to resolve their disputes; and that the Power Workers’ Union would continue to do their jobs, but that they would operate not on a 21-day strike notice—and as the energy critic knows, we had a good conversation. He took on a very important technical briefing that included OPG officials who laid out very clearly that this wasn’t a 21-day strike notice—that we had seven days, as part of their responsibilities to start to wind down those assets that supply 50% of Ontario’s hydro. It’s day 6. Tomorrow, we will find ourselves in a very difficult situation if this filibustering and these delays continue by the opposition.

It’s time to get down to work and stand shoulder to shoulder with the rest of Ontario, who overwhelmingly, from the information that I’m getting from several social media outlets and from the press themselves, understand the magnitude of this. We’ve been fair. We’ve been transparent throughout this whole process. There has never been a sense that we would put in any onerous legislation other than to facilitate arbitration and mediation—an arbiter or a mediator of their choice—and give them every opportunity to move forward and ensure the contiguous supply of electricity to our entire province, as we enter the holiday season, as we enter the heart of winter.

I want to thank you, Madam Speaker, for indulging me in this important debate and discussion.

Merry Christmas and thank you for this opportunity.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Jennifer K. French): Further debate?

Mr. Mike Schreiner: I appreciate the opportunity to contribute to the debate on Bill 67, a bill that forces power workers at Ontario Power Generation back to work; a bill that, quite frankly, I wish we didn’t have to debate today, but nevertheless, we are having this conversation.

The government’s quick introduction of this bill raises many questions for me, my constituents, and the people of Ontario. OPG and the Power Workers’ Union have not made much progress at the bargaining table for a number of months now. The government has known that a work stoppage involving nuclear power plants and 50% of the province’s electricity system was possible, and it appears to me that the government has been asleep at the switch.

Here we are in the middle of the holiday season, and people are being told by the minister to worry about whether their lights will be turned on in a few days and whether those who rely on electric heating will be able to heat their homes. The minister says that we are facing a crisis. Well, if we are facing a crisis, I want to ask, and I believe many Ontarians want to ask, what has the government done to prevent this crisis? As the sole shareholder of Ontario Power Generation, what has the government done to encourage a fair settlement and a fair bargaining process? Has the government even tried to facilitate a settlement at the bargaining table? Could the government have moved to binding arbitration without taking the power workers’ right to strike away from them?

I believe the government has a responsibility to the people of Ontario to be honest and to be transparent about what, if any, efforts have been made to encourage both the union and OPG to bargain in good faith and to reach a negotiated settlement. Nobody wants the lights to go out. Nobody wants rolling blackouts. It’s bad for our quality of life, for our communities, for our economy. It affects public health and safety. And the government’s only answer so far is to bring the hammer down, and in some ways to almost gleefully use this as a wedge issue to hammer the opposition.

People want and deserve answers. They want and deserve sensible solutions to this situation. They want negotiated agreements that are fair, not political games or over-the-top rhetoric. I will remind the members opposite that the campaign is over; it’s time to govern responsibly and respectfully. People want government to deliver solutions, not wedge issues. People also want to know that government will make sure this does not happen again.

And so this raises another question for me: Why is Ontario’s electricity system so vulnerable? Why are we in a situation where three big centralized power plants supply over 50% of Ontario’s electricity system? It’s risky to have most of our eggs in one basket, especially when it comes to something so essential as electrical power generation. Any investor knows that you spread your risk out over a variety of options. Businesses know that you don’t want all of your customers to be in one place or all of your supply to come from one supplier. Consumers shop around for the best deal. Our current situation is a wake-up call that Ontario needs more diversified sources of electricity generation.

Part of that diversification strategy should include additional generation sources that are more flexible, to be turned on and off quickly. As the minister has noted, one reason the government was forced to act so quickly to end this dispute so quickly is that it takes weeks to safely shut down a nuclear power plant, and then it takes weeks to safely turn it back on. A contributing factor to our current challenge is that Ontario is overly reliant on an inflexible source of power generation.

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Countries around the world are moving towards more decentralized, distributed electricity systems. Distributed energy is more resilient. They are less vulnerable to extreme weather events, strikes, terrorist attacks and any other threats. Distributed energy systems tend to be more efficient. They are more democratic. They’re better for our economy. They don’t concentrate wealth and power in fewer hands. They foster more local job creation and economic activity.

Technology is rapidly making local micro-grids and storage systems clean, efficient and reliable. That is why many countries around the world and many distribution companies are making significant investments in local micro-grids, local distribution systems and storage systems, so they are less vulnerable to the kinds of situations Ontario finds itself in today. The situation we’re in today should be a wake-up call, Madam Speaker, a wake-up call that Ontario needs to make this move as well.

I want to be clear: I’m not opposed to all sources of centralized power generation. What I’m asking this government to do, though, as we think about what we learn from the situation we’re in today as we develop a new long-term energy plan, is to make sure that Ontario is never this vulnerable again, that we’re never in this kind of situation again, where a handful of workers can put our entire power system in jeopardy. It’s clear that Ontario needs to make investments in moving towards a more decentralized distributed system.

This vote today, for me, has been a tough decision. I’ve thought about it long and hard. It’s putting two things at conflict for me, and I want to be very clear to my constituents about that. On the one hand, I believe workers have a right to bargain. I believe workers have a right to strike. I believe workers’ bargaining rights should be respected and that we should encourage and facilitate workers and employers negotiating fair settlements at the bargaining table. I also recognize that we have a responsibility as parliamentarians to put the public good and the public’s safety first, to ensure that power is delivered to people, to ensure that we have a system that’s reliable and safe, especially a system that right now is so overly dependent on nuclear power.

I’ve reached out to my constituents and I’ve asked people on all sides of this issue how they would vote. I want to just say how much I deeply appreciate all the people in Guelph who have gotten back to me, talked to me about this issue and emphasized over and over again to me: “Mike, can you deliver a message? Can you deliver a message at this moment to talk about the vulnerability of Ontario’s electricity system?” So that’s what I’ve tried to do with my time today.

I want to be clear to the government that I’ve landed on that I’m going to vote for this bill. I’m going to vote for it. The reason I’m going to vote for it—there is one component why. It’s because you’ve elected to go to binding arbitration. I feel like this should be decided at arbitration. If the government had put in the bill a legislated settlement, I’d be voting against it.

I don’t think this is going to be the first time or the last time—it’s not even the first time, I should say, and it won’t be the last time that we’ve had this debate and this discussion about negotiating contracts and about labour rights. I think the government needs to be put on warning, Madam Speaker, that the people of Ontario are going to mobilize. They’re going to be opposed to a government that doesn’t respect labour rights. I hope this is the last time. I don’t think it will be, but I hope this is the last time in this Parliament that we have this kind of discussion, because workers should have the right to bargain fairly at the table.

Thank you, Madam Speaker, for the opportunity to participate in today’s debate.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Jennifer K. French): Further debate? I recognize the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing.

Hon. Steve Clark: Thank you, Speaker, and good morning. It’s always nice to see you in the chair.

I want to use my opportunity, while I have a microphone, to raise awareness about a terrible injustice that’s happening to a Canadian family with ties to my riding.

For nearly five months, Clark and Kimberlee Moran have been desperately fighting with Canada’s high commission in Ghana to get their adopted son, Ayo, home to British Columbia. Clark grew up in my riding and he’s in Ghana right now, waiting for the commission to do its job and issue Ayo a temporary visa to leave.

Interjections.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Jennifer K. French): Order.

Hon. Steve Clark: The bureaucratic nightmare Clark and Kimberlee have been going through is absolutely heartbreaking. The agonizing delay is taking a terrible toll on the family.

Kimberlee was in Ghana with Ayo, but complications with her MS left her in hospital, and ultimately forced her to return home without her little boy. I can’t believe how devastating that was for her.

Ayo’s story was first raised in the House of Commons by their local Conservative MP, Ed Fast, who has been remarkable, Speaker. They’ve made national news and people coast to coast have added their voice to demand justice for Ayo, but the federal Liberal government remains unmoved in their pleas and hasn’t been supporting the family.

So today, Speaker, in the few moments the House is allowing me, I’m calling on Prime Minister Trudeau and the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, Ahmed Hussen, to finally do the right thing. In the spirit of Christmas, I implore the Prime Minister and Minister Hussen to have a heart. Act now and reunite this little boy with the family that loves him so dearly.

Interjections.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Jennifer K. French): Order.

Hon. Steve Clark: Speaker, the last flight leaves Accra on Saturday at 10:20 p.m., so there’s still time to bring Clark, with Ayo, home to Kimberlee for Christmas. It’s never too late to do the right thing, Speaker. Thank you for giving me this opportunity.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Jennifer K. French): Before we continue with debate, a reminder to all members that they are to speak to the bill, and a reminder to everyone else that if they ever want to rise on a point of order, it is their right to do so, but the constant heckling and diatribe is not helpful.

Further debate? I recognize the member from Sudbury.

Mr. Jamie West: Thank you, Madam Speaker. We’re all here today because Premier Ford and his government have decided to make things worse for Ontario. Let’s quickly review what happened.

On March 31, OPG’s and the Power Workers’ Union’s collective agreement expired. That summer, they got their first contract offer. It was rejected by the membership. And then somewhere near the end of November, beginning of December, they had their second contract offer, and that was rejected by the membership. Then, on December 13, basically a week ago today, they had their third contract offer, the final offer—I’m going to explain what a final offer is later on—but that was also rejected by the membership.

The “final offer” is a term used in the Labour Relations Act. Section 42 allows the employer to force a vote of the membership; otherwise, the vote comes through the negotiating committee. They typically do this because they feel like the membership will accept the offer. They can only do it one time. It’s called the final offer.

I’m not sure why OPG chose to do this, because from the press releases, the three offers were essentially the same. The other two were voted down, and this third offer was voted down by nearly 60% of their membership—59.8%. That’s important, 60% voting it down, because on Tuesday the Premier said, “I don’t stand with the union bosses. I stand for the little guy, the front-line workers.” Well, the front-line workers are the membership that voted on this offer, and they voted it down three times, Speaker, by large majorities.

So on Friday, December 14, the power workers gave notice of a strike. That’s important: the notice of a strike; it’s not a strike. That puts pressure on both parties. Basically what it says is that it’s a deadline. In this case, it’s 21 days; in other cases it’s different, but it’s a deadline: “Let’s put our heads together. Let’s get things done, because in 21 days we’re going to walk off the job.”

It appears that the Minister of Energy, Northern Development and Mines and the Minister of Labour understood this because on Thursday they released a joint statement. The joint statement said: “We strongly urge both parties to reach a resolution, before this leads to any power interruptions.” So let’s negotiate. Let’s work together.

What changed? On Friday at noon, the Premier announced that he was going to legislate the Power Workers’ Union members back to work. That’s what changed. That’s important, because in Canada, the right to collective bargaining is a constitutional right. In the past in Canada, it was illegal. Yes, you could get beat up and put in jail. But workers now have a right to bargain collectively; they have a right to strike. Those rights are protected by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. That’s important. The Supreme Court of Canada ruled they’re protected by the Constitution. When they made the ruling, Justice Abella said the right to strike is essential in evening the playing field between workers and employers and “attributing equivalence between the power of employees and employers ... ignores the fundamental power imbalance....”

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The other day, I was watching Saturday Night Live reruns and Phil Hartman was on doing Frankenstein’s monster. Every time they would go to speak to him on the news, Frankenstein’s monster would just go, “Fire bad.” That reminded me of this government, because the government, every time they hear “unions,” the response is, “Unions bad.”

I want to tell you a little story about unions, Speaker. It’s timely because it’s a Christmas story. It’s about Edgar Burton. He was a steelworker from Sudbury; he’s passed on. In 1987, back then, his children were going to St. David, which is where I grew up, actually, in that riding, in the Donovan. Anyway, the kids came home one day and they said, “Dad, why are some people not having enough food to eat?” He looks at these big childlike eyes. What can you do as a father, right? “Let’s try to collect some cans.”

So he works with the union; he works with the steelworkers; he works with the company. Back then, it was Inco; it’s Vale now, Together they negotiate and they start up the business-employee Christmas food drive. They have this one wooden box and they place it in divisional shops where Edgar works and they collect some food, a couple of cans, and put them together. After that year, his daughters said, “Let’s do it again.” So as a father, he’s going to do it again. He came up with a slogan called “One More Can Than Last Year.” So if you could just collect one more, he was going to be happy.

Edgar died in 2010, but this has been growing over the last 31 years. It’s grown to include the support of more than 250 local businesses, multiple unions and the entire Rainbow District School Board, which enlisted the teachers and the students—everybody—to get involved. The food drive was renamed the Edgar Burton Christmas Food Drive. It wrapped up yesterday in Sudbury. The Sudbury Star ran an article I was reading this morning. I want to share some of it here:

“The Edgar Burton Christmas Food Drive is expected to collect more than 100 tons of food again this year. The annual campaign has collected more than 1,000 tons of food since it first began....

“Today, Vale,” which was Inco in the past, “donates the time of one full-time and one part-time United Steel Worker ... for about two months to organize the Edgar Burton Christmas Food Drive.

“‘USW Local 6500 is proud to continue Edgar Burton’s vision,’ said Nick Larochelle, president of USW Local 6500. ‘We would like to thank our members, Owen Marcotte and Jeff Lalonde from Vale’s divisional shops, and all the volunteers for their work on this year’s campaign’....

“The Sudbury Food Bank provides food to about 11,000 people every month.... Of those clients, more than half are children....

“Collection of all the donations during the Edgar Burton Christmas Food Drive is no easy feat. In fact, the campaign organizers call in the army to get the job done.

“‘The 2nd Battalion Irish Regiment of Canada has participated in this event for many years and it is a great source of pride to the unit,’ said Sgt. Scott Barbe....

“‘It’s kids helping kids. It’s neighbours helping neighbours. It’s coming together as a community to make sure that no one goes hungry this holiday season,’ said Mayor Brian Bigger.”

The reason I raise that is that it’s an example that unions aren’t bad. Unions are good, and they have fundamental rights. In fact, the Minister of Labour should know that the entire Occupational Health and Safety Act was formed because of steelworkers in Elliot Lake. I also think people need to know that workers, unionized or not, don’t want to go without money, workers don’t want to be on strike. I know this first-hand, because I’ve been on strike twice. I was on strike for three months in 2002 and I was on strike for a year while these governments, the Liberals and the Conservatives, sat on their hands, by the way.

Workers don’t want to be on strike and there’s a false perception that workers like to go long periods without pay; that they want to lose their house; that they enjoy the stress it creates on their families and friends. They strike and they vote down contracts because they think there’s something fundamentally wrong with them.

Also, management doesn’t want a strike, and that’s reflected when we go back to OPG and the Power Workers’ Union, because they haven’t had a labour stoppage in 33 years. Realistically, they could have negotiated a fair collective agreement if the Premier didn’t get involved. Instead of helping the parties reach an agreement, the Premier made sure that the deal wouldn’t be reached. The government basically ensured that good-faith bargaining would stop. They sent a message, intentional or not, to the employer, “You don’t need to negotiate because I’ve got my thumb on the scale.”

The government doesn’t like to talk about that, and that’s why they choose to talk about blackouts by Christmas. Maybe Christmas next year, but this Christmas? No. There they go again, choosing to scare people. There wouldn’t be blackouts by Christmas and the government knows it. I see them smiling.

Let’s review. This isn’t a strike; it’s a 21-day strike notice. Negotiations would have likely resumed if the Premier didn’t announce back-to-work before the ink was dry on that 21-day notice.

We’re going to do our job as the official opposition. We’re going to debate the legislation and, no surprise, we’re not going for vote for it. I’ll be proud to be the first to stand not to vote for it.

None of us are going to be surprised when the legislation passes today, on Thursday—and the government knows this. They know the legislation is going to pass today. They know that the strike notice extends two weeks beyond today. They know there’s no crisis. This government knows that not even one tiny, little Christmas light is going to go out, but they talk like it’s a Tom Clancy novel.

I would love to see the movie they’re promoting, Speaker. It’s a 48-hour crisis. I can picture the deep voice: “In a world where the light is going out at Christmas”—it’s not.

Speaker, I have to tell you, instead of Christmas bells, all I’ve heard this week is the ringing of a non-stop false alarm by this government. It’s important to point out that this isn’t accidental; this is deliberate. The fearmongering they’re doing is a distraction. This is an attempt to change the channel from the Premier trampling on the Ontario power workers’ constitutional rights. Every time you hear the minister stand up, and he loves to say time and time again that this is less about rights and more about lights, I want you to remind yourself that lights were never in danger—never, not even a little bit. But our constitutional rights absolutely were. The government knew the whole time, and they kept trying to change the channel.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Jennifer K. French): Further debate?

Mr. Stephen Lecce: I will give acknowledgement to the impression by the member from Sudbury. I was watching Saturday Night Live that night—I’m not even kidding—and there was an amazing Chris Farley reference, where he said, “I live in a van down by the river.”

I think it speaks volumes to the energy plan of the New Democratic Party in the province of Ontario that you guys want to make light of a scenario that the IESO has said—

Interjections.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Jennifer K. French): Order.

Mr. Stephen Lecce: You may suggest I’m not an authority. You may suggest the Minister of Energy, who served the national government—but I would suggest that the independent regulator is an authority. This is what they said, to counter the point from the member from Sudbury, to counter the point from the leader of Her Majesty’s loyal opposition, who submitted that we are not at a point where we are at an imperative to act, that this is just some false pretense to distract. I would argue that given the quote—and I’m going to read it for the member from Waterloo and for all our edification: “A Power Workers’ Union strike at Ontario Power Generation would put the reliability of Ontario’s electricity system at risk.” I will continue, Madam Speaker. “At that point Ontario would not have the generation needed to meet” new “consumer demand and customers would begin losing power.”

What do you know—

Interjections.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Jennifer K. French): Stop the clock. I apologize to the member.

The opposition will come to order. The member from Sudbury was essentially uninterrupted. We will allow the same courtesy for the member from King–Vaughan. Then there will be a rotation, and the opposition is welcome to make further comments at that time.

I return to the member.

Mr. Stephen Lecce: Thank you, Madam Speaker.

Look, I think we must take the advice and the counsel of independent regulators, who have made it clear that, given that we are in a strike position—we’re now on day 6. The minister just reaffirmed that on Friday, unfortunately, if legislation is not passed—of course, we don’t presume the outcome of this House—we will be in a position where nuclear units will begin to be shut down as per the regulations required by law. That is a scary thing.

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What is “fearful”—the word du jour by the members opposite—is that in the coming days, energy production will start to decrease and therefore there will be rolling blackouts. This is not a position advanced by the government; it’s a position advanced by the independent energy regulator of the province of Ontario. And unless you have greater authority to speak on this bill than they, I would submit we should listen to them and we should act accordingly and vote accordingly.

So we have a choice. What is fearful for Conservatives and, I would argue, for 13 million Ontarians is that there are parliamentarians prepared to put blind ideology ahead of keeping the lights on at Christmas.

Interjection.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Jennifer K. French): Order.

Mr. Stephen Lecce: No, honest to goodness, for the member from Hamilton to heckle—

Interjection.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Jennifer K. French): The member from Hamilton West–Ancaster–Dundas is warned.

Mr. Stephen Lecce: For the member from Hamilton West–Ancaster–Dundas to suggest that this is anything other than putting blind ideology ahead of the economic interest and the quality of life of every Ontarian—my grandmother, God bless her, at 93 years old is in a long-term-care centre in this province. They have seven days of generation capacity. Just the idea that we would put them in that position I find is morally reprehensible, and yet the members opposite continue to advance a theory that this is nothing more than something invented.

Madam Speaker, we have to act. We were given a decisive mandate to act. This Premier made a choice, yes, last Friday, when the two parties could not come to an agreement after a year of negotiating, after a year of respecting collective bargaining, after a year that the government has allowed both parties in good faith—the leadership of the union encouraged their members to take a deal. They did not in their judgment, and we respect that decision. That is their right. But my goodness, Madam Speaker, is there a statute of limitations on when you act? Is it 12,14, 16, 18 months of negotiations? When is the right time? The government steps in, using this tool that should not be invoked, you know, seasonally—I agree. But, Madam Speaker, we now have an opportunity to ensure, to provide market certainty to both industry and to families—yes, as we are in the midst of the winter; yes, as we head into the Christmas period—that there is electricity on, that there is energy on.

The Minister of Energy, I think, in his judgment, and the Premier in his, and this entire caucus made a choice, rather immediately, that we were going to act. What is fearful is that there are a critical mass of legislators who think that ideology should trump economics, that health and the quality of life of our people should come second to the interests of working people in this province—a rather ideological disposition blindly adhered to by the New Democratic Party.

Madam Speaker, I want to recognize those independent members who have put pragmatism over blind ideology, two members in this House I’m looking at today, and I’m not trying to be light about this. The fact is, there are two independent members in this Legislature, and Conservatives in this House, among others, who have made a choice to stand with this bill. So when we vote in the coming hours or days or whenever this bill comes forth—it’s certainly expected today—we hope that the NDP and all parliamentarians will ensure, with 51% of the energy supply produced and generated by OPG, that they will put the interests of seniors in long-term-care centres, of patients in hospitals, of workers, union workers, blue-collar workers, every single worker in the province of Ontario first by not putting at risk the energy supply in this province.

Madam Speaker, when it comes to fear, what is fearful is that a quote was invoked by the members opposite over the weekend, one that led a variety of newspapers: “We will use every legislative tool at our disposal to block this legislation”—to delay this legislation, actually. Madam Speaker, that is fearful. It is fearful to conceive that the members opposite will delay or impede the legislative mandate of this government when we know, decisively and qualitatively by the IESO, that we have to act or else something much more dramatic and, I would submit, much more fearful will take place, which is rolling blackouts which would have a devastating economic impact on the province and undermine the most vulnerable people in our society who do not have the disposable income, perhaps, to buy a generator, or for seniors in long-term-care centres who don’t have the prospect of that.

I will conclude just by reaffirming to the people of Ontario that the Minister of Labour, the Minister of Energy, the Premier of Ontario and the caucus assembled in this government will decisively and absolutely act every time we face a challenge where the public interest is at risk. It is Conservatives who will put the public interest over special interests every step of the way.

I’m looking forward to and I am proud to vote for this bill.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Jennifer K. French): Further debate?

Mr. Gilles Bisson: I wasn’t going to add to the debate, but I have to now, because my good friend and colleague from across the way, the deputy government House leader, was at the meeting with us on Monday where he and his government House leader briefed us and said, “We need to be able to make something happen by after Christmas,” because after Christmas is when the 21-day protocol starts, where you start shutting down the reactors. And what did we tell you, my dear friend? We told you that you would have your legislation by Thursday. So here you are, in this House—

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Jennifer K. French): Through the Chair, please.

Mr. Gilles Bisson: —trying to fearmonger, Madam Speaker, the people of Ontario, and saying that somehow the actions of New Democrats are putting Ontarians at risk, when he well knows because he sat at the meetings with me in the government House leader’s office where we talked about this and we said, “You will have your bill by Thursday.”

What does the government want us to do? They were going to introduce a bill on Monday, and they were asking us to take the bill and pass second and third reading without ever reading the bill. Would you ever sign a mortgage without reading it? Would you ever sign a car loan without reading it? Would you sign a lease without reading it? Everybody has to be able to read the legislation. So we said, “Table your bill on Monday.” The rules of the House make it so that the bill came back to the House on Tuesday. By that time, we had read it. We had a pretty short debate; I think we went about two hours. We had a time allocation debate yesterday where we didn’t even use the full time, and we’re here today, in time allocation, with a vote coming up right after question period.

So the government tried to feign: “My God, New Democrats are making the lights come off.” It’s such a stretch that I think the people back home understand it, and look at you and say, “Shame on you for playing politics and playing games with what is, quite frankly, an issue you shouldn’t have done.”

We, as New Democrats, will always do our job. We will read legislation. We will know what we’re voting on. And no, we will never vote in favour of your back-to-work legislation.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Jennifer K. French): Further debate? Further debate?

Pursuant to the order of the House dated December 19, 2018, I am now required to put the question.

Ms. Scott has moved third reading of Bill 67, An Act to amend the Labour Relations Act, 1995. Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? I heard a no.

All those in favour of the motion will please say “aye.”

All those opposed to the motion will please say “nay.”

In my opinion, the ayes have it.

A recorded vote being required, it will be deferred until after question period today.

Third reading vote deferred.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Jennifer K. French): Orders of the day.

Hon. Sylvia Jones: No further business, Speaker.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Jennifer K. French): There being no further business, this House stands in recess until 10:30.

The House recessed from 0958 to 1030.

Introduction of Visitors

Mr. Stephen Lecce: Good morning to everyone. I’m very proud to introduce a dear friend of mine, Gaggan Gill, a former vice-president of our party and a long-tenured staffer of this Legislature. Gaggan Gill, welcome back to the people’s House.

Mr. Sam Oosterhoff: I would like to introduce everyone to this Legislature.

People may not know this, but I learned from our dear friends in the press gallery that this is the first time the Legislature has been recalled over the Christmas break since 1869. Congratulations to everyone for coming back.

Mr. Jamie West: I’d like to introduce Michael “O.B.” O’Brien, who is running late because in the riding of Sudbury you can get anywhere in 15 minutes. He’s not used to traffic in Toronto. He’ll be joining us all the way from Copper Cliff, Ontario.

Hon. Laurie Scott: I’d like to introduce Courtney Scott—first time to the Legislature—Katie Pfisterer and Kennisha Taylor. Welcome. They’re all from the Ministry of Labour.

Mr. Stan Cho: Mr. Speaker, to you as well as everybody in the House today: happy holidays. I think I just had déjà vu.

I’ve got two very special visitors here today without whom I wouldn’t be alive: first of all, my mom, and of course, my dad. I’d also like to point out, Mr. Speaker, that even though he looks double his age, it’s my dad’s 69th birthday today. Lunch is on you, Dad—happy birthday.

Mrs. Nina Tangri: I’d like to welcome to the House Nicholas Christodoulou and his parents, Steven and Sherry. At 13 years old, Nicholas is the youngest Formula 4 driver in the world, travelling across the globe to compete while still maintaining excellent grades. He’s a proud Canadian, a proud Ontarian, and certainly, he will continue to achieve great things and make everyone on all sides of this House proud. Welcome to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario.

Mrs. Jennifer (Jennie) Stevens: Today is a very special day for the NDP caucus here. We would all like to join together and have the House wish Ian Arthur from Kingston and the Islands a very, very happy birthday—30-something, I hear. Happy birthday to you.

Ms. Bhutila Karpoche: I’d like to welcome back to the House Jean-François L’Heureux, who is here to watch his son and page, our wonderful Vincent, in action one last time.

Oral Questions

Government accountability

Ms. Andrea Horwath: Before I start, I just want to repeat what I said two weeks ago, which is, I’m hoping that everybody gets a chance to spend some time with friends and family over the holiday season and that folks have a great vacation. Thank you to the staff of the Legislative Assembly for being back here. To all of the people who work for the government of Ontario: Happy holidays. All the very best. Enjoy the season.

My question is for the Acting Premier. Over the last week, the Premier has refused to answer basic questions in this House about his decision to hire a personal family friend to head up the Ontario Provincial Police. Why is the Premier refusing to answer basic questions?

Hon. Christine Elliott: To the Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services.

Hon. Sylvia Jones: In the spirit of the season, I offer the NDP a Christmas gift: I will respect and await the report from the Integrity Commissioner—his report on the investigation—as long as you can see through to vote on third reading and pass Bill 67 today.

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Supplementary?

Ms. Andrea Horwath: Speaker, the people of Ontario need to have confidence in the independence of the police and the integrity of government. Given that the Premier is refusing to answer basic questions in the Legislature and refusing to conduct interviews with the press, and is using the Integrity Commissioner’s standard process that keeps his responses confidential, how can the people have that confidence?

Hon. Sylvia Jones: It’s pretty clear that the NDP refuse to understand or do not understand how the independent officers of the Legislative Assembly work. We have an investigation going on. I am awaiting that report. We are going—

Interjections.

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Order.

Hon. Sylvia Jones: —to respect that report when it is published. I think it is incumbent on all of us to let that independent—

Interjections.

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Stop the clock.

We’re less than three minutes into question period. We’ve got a long way to go. We have an obligation and responsibility to discuss public business. I need to be able to hear the member who has the floor. I would ask the members to come to order, and I’d take this opportunity to remind the members who were warned this morning that the warnings carry over into question period. The way it works is, the Speaker, if your interjections are always out of order—as we know, the Speaker asks you to come to order and the Speaker would expect you to come to order. If you don’t come to order, you might be warned. If you’re warned the next time the Speaker has to speak to you, you might be named. I hope that’s well understood. Those rules will be enforced this morning.

Where were we?

Start the clock.

I recognize the Minister of Community Safety and Correctional—no?

Hon. Sylvia Jones: I will repeat: The Integrity Commissioner—

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Where were we?

Interjection.

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Okay. I apologize.

Final supplementary?

Ms. Andrea Horwath: Thank you, Speaker.

It’s more clear than ever that we won’t get straight answers from the Premier unless he’s compelled to provide a public response through a public inquiry, under oath.

Will the Acting Premier do the right thing, admit that the only way to clear the air and get real answers is through a full public inquiry, and join us in urging the Integrity Commissioner to conduct one, as he can do under his act?

Hon. Sylvia Jones: What’s clear to me is, the NDP do not believe or trust that the independent officer of the Legislative Assembly, the Integrity Commissioner, has the ability to do this work.

Interjection.

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Stop the clock.

The member for Essex will withdraw.

Mr. Taras Natyshak: Withdraw.

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): I apologize. Minister?

Start the clock.

Hon. Sylvia Jones: So much for Christmas cheer, I guess.

As I said, the Integrity Commissioner is doing the investigation now. Let them complete their work, and then at the end of the day I believe you will find that the process was completely appropriate and used in every previous OPP commissioner’s hiring. We are awaiting that report. I wish the NDP would do the same.

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Government accountability

Ms. Andrea Horwath: The member opposite just accused us of not believing or trusting the Integrity Commissioner. I’d say we don’t believe or trust the Premier, Speaker. That’s the problem here.

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): I’m going to ask the Leader of the Opposition to withdraw.

Ms. Andrea Horwath: Withdraw.

In a letter to Ontario’s Ombudsman, Brad Blair, the acting OPP commissioner, raised serious concerns about the hiring process for the new commissioner, and about a demand from the Premier’s office to sole-source a personal vehicle for the Premier, to be kept “off the books.” The Premier’s response was to claim that the deputy commissioner had broken the law by speaking up.

Most people think Blair should be commended for speaking up. Why does the government think he should be charged with a crime?

Hon. Christine Elliott: To the Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services.

Hon. Sylvia Jones: It amazes me, the willingness of the NDP to continue to drag down the character of individuals who have been chosen by a unanimous hiring process to serve as the commissioner of the OPP.

I cannot understand why you are not willing to allow the Integrity Commissioner to do his work, have that report and then have the process completed. We are talking about a hiring process, a hiring process that has been used in many, many OPP commissioner hirings.

I do not understand the willingness of the NDP to continue to drag down people’s characters and to suggest that in any way, Ron Taverner has done something untoward, just because he happens to be a 50-year police officer who worked in Etobicoke.

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Final supplementary.

Ms. Andrea Horwath: This minister is tossing stones while her Premier lives in a glass House.

Does the government believe that whistle-blowers who step forward and speak truth to power should be allowed or even encouraged to do so? If so, why are they accusing the deputy commissioner of breaking the law and demeaning other respected police veterans who have raised concerns about the hiring of the OPP commissioner?

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): I wish to clarify. My mistake, that was the first supplementary in this round.

Minister?

Hon. Sylvia Jones: I wish to have clarified by the NDP why you are so prepared to throw people who have a 50-year career in the province of Ontario serving the public and disparage them in such a way after an independent hiring committee has said that they were a unanimous choice. They had never had so many people come forward and endorse someone as the OPP commissioner.

It is shameful and it’s unbelievable that, after you asked for a hearing from the Integrity Commissioner, now, in some way, that is not sufficient, and you don’t believe or trust that he can do that work.

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Once again, I’ll remind the House that you have to make your comments through the chair.

Interjection.

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): I don’t know what you’re referring to.

Final supplementary.

Ms. Andrea Horwath: This is about the Premier and the way he’s behaved during the hiring process of the new OPP commissioner, and that’s all this is about. The public has a right to know whether their Premier interfered in that process, which appears to be the case.

The Premier has made it clear that he will attack and threaten public servants who speak honestly about his government. He sent a clear signal this week to every public servant in the province by accusing the deputy commissioner of the OPP of breaking the law.

We need to ensure the public has faith in the integrity of this assembly and the independence of our police forces. A public inquiry by the Integrity Commissioner will ensure that whistle-blowers can speak without fear of retaliation. Will the Acting Premier join us in urging the Integrity Commissioner to use his powers under the Members’ Integrity Act to launch a full public inquiry?

Interjections.

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Members, please take their seats.

Minister?

Hon. Sylvia Jones: I’m starting to think it’s actually Groundhog Day.

Again, I will say through you, Speaker, this is an independent hiring commission, an independent process that included people who unanimously chose Ron Taverner to serve as the OPP commissioner.

The NDP—which is their right—suggested that they wanted to review the hiring process, and they requested that through the Integrity Commissioner. The Integrity Commissioner said yes. That investigation is going on now. That report will happen.

The NDP can’t take yes for an answer.

Government accountability

Ms. Andrea Horwath: My next question is for the Acting Premier. What guarantees can the Acting Premier offer that public servants who come forward to shed light on the Premier’s meddling in the OPP commissioner’s appointment will not be subject to public attack, recrimination and possible legal action from the Premier or his chief of staff?

Hon. Christine Elliott: To the Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services.

Hon. Sylvia Jones: It’s been a great pleasure to learn from, meet and work with the excellent people in the OPS. I am constantly impressed with the ideas and the suggestions that they bring forward to make our government work for the people, ideas that are actually going to make a difference in the province of Ontario. There is no doubt in my mind that we have been using those excellent ideas from the public service to make our province better.

If the NDP would like to come on board and join our quest to make Ontario better for the people, I’m happy to welcome their ideas. We’ve been doing that for the last six months with the public service, and we will continue to do that.

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Supplementary?

Ms. Andrea Horwath: I thank the member for the offer, but New Democrats will continue to represent the 60% of Ontarians that didn’t support this government at the polls.

Look, effective governments want staff who speak truth to power and who are not afraid of public disclosure—

Interjections.

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Stop the clock. I apologize to the Leader of the Opposition. The government side must come to order.

Start the clock. Continue with your question.

Ms. Andrea Horwath: Effective governments want staff who speak truth to power and are not afraid of public disclosure, because they know that governments work best when they’re open and accountable to the people who elect them.

The Premier has already made it clear that he and his chief of staff will take out anyone who challenges their actions. The Premier spent half a million public dollars to get rid of Alykhan Velshi from OPG and is now claiming that the deputy commissioner of the OPP has broken the law. Without the protection of a public inquiry, why would any public servant come forward and challenge the Premier’s version of events?

Interjection.

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Stop the clock. The Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry will withdraw his unparliamentary comment.

Hon. John Yakabuski: Withdraw.

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Start the clock. Response, Minister?

Hon. Sylvia Jones: Speaker, it’s a Christmas miracle: The NDP actually used the word “power” in their lead questions.

We’re here this week to ensure that the power and the lights stay on in the province of Ontario. We’re here to debate and vote on Bill 67. It is incredible to me that the NDP has chosen to ignore the primary purpose of our reason for being here this week.

Labour dispute

Mr. Stan Cho: My question this morning is for the Minister of Energy, Northern Development and Mines.

Interjection: A good minister.

Mr. Stan Cho: A great minister.

We all know why the Legislature is sitting again the week before Christmas. We are here for this emergency session because Ontarians cannot afford to allow strike action to cause electricity interruptions, especially in the north.

In our increasingly globalized and competitive world, it is critical that the power stays on. Ontario has world-class industries that we can all be proud of, especially in the mining sector. People across this province rely on our major northern industries to earn their livelihoods. This is why it is absolutely critical that we protect these industries from electricity shortages.

Can the minister speak to why it is so important to protect mining sectors from power interruptions?

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Hon. Greg Rickford: I want to thank this member for his important work he does here in this place for his constituents. He’s a fantastic guy to work for on the Treasury Board. It’s just great.

It’s true, Mr. Speaker: Stakeholders from across the province are coming out in full support of what we’re trying to accomplish here today, and the mining sector is no exception. David Garofalo, president and CEO of Goldcorp, had this to say: “A reliable supply of affordable electricity is essential to our mining operations in Ontario and something that the province must ensure businesses can count on. Anything raising doubts about our ability to depend on this vital service is an economic threat and a risk to productivity at a critical time of year for our business and for the people of Ontario. With Bill 67, it was important that decisive action be taken to provide our nearly 3,000 employees in Ontario with certainty that the power they need to do their jobs will be there when they need it.”

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Supplementary?

Mr. Stan Cho: Thank you to the wonderful minister for that answer. It’s reassuring to know that our government will continue to fight for the mining industry and northern Ontario. I am proud to be part of a government that appreciates this sector and is prioritizing mining development.

Of course, there are other large employers in northern Ontario that can’t afford to lose their power either. The pulp industry is another example of an electricity-intensive industry where production relies on a consistent, reliable flow of power. I know that our government is committed to making sure that northern employers will not have to shut down and put jobs at risk. Unfortunately, it’s clear that the opposition is willing to risk these jobs, but our government won’t stand for it. We will continue to make sure that the economy is not threatened by power interruptions.

Can the minister please tell us more about how important it is for northern employers to have a stable source of power?

Hon. Greg Rickford: I look forward to the member coming up and visiting the great Kenora–Rainy River riding, spending some time in our vast region. We may visit a few other ridings in northern Ontario and let them know about the delays that are going on here today.

But listen to what somebody in the forestry sector had to say, what Eric Johnson from Rayonier Advanced Materials had to say: “Rayonier Advanced Materials relies heavily on Ontario’s electricity supply to successfully participate in the highly competitive global forestry products industry. Dependable electricity supply allows Rayonier Advanced Materials to employ hundreds of hard-working Ontarians to produce best-in-class products every day. We support the actions taken by the Ontario government and Minister Rickford”—that’s nice—“to ensure the continued reliability of Ontario’s electricity supply over the holiday season and beyond.”

Government accountability

Mr. Taras Natyshak: My question is to the Premier—the Acting Premier, sorry. Deputy OPP Commissioner Brad Blair has raised serious concerns about the Premier’s demand that the OPP provide a sole-sourced, off-the-books personal pleasure wagon. The day after the deputy commissioner made these concerns public, Ron Taverner was quoted in the Toronto Star as saying, “I am told it’s not a camper van but an extended-size van. He’s a big guy and it would have more room....”

Can the Acting Premier tell us how Ron Taverner knew the details of this request weeks before he was to assume command of the OPP?

Interjections.

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Members please take their seats.

Deputy Premier?

Hon. Christine Elliott: To the Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services.

Hon. Sylvia Jones: The unsubstantiated allegations and accusations that happen inside this chamber—because the NDP know that they have immunity—continue today.

Interjections.

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Opposition, come to order.

Interjections.

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Okay. Now I’m going to ask the opposition to come to order, so that I can hear the member who has the floor.

Minister.

Hon. Sylvia Jones: The member from Essex wants to attack and disparage people. I want to get Ontario back to work. I want to work with a team who understands that we need to make sure the power is on and the lights are on over the Christmas holidays. Please stop with the shenanigans, stop with the accusations and actually vote for Bill 67.

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Supplementary?

Mr. Taras Natyshak: The government might think that it’s okay to spend tax dollars on a personal pleasure wagon and have the OPP hide the costs. But on behalf of the people stuck paying the bill, I can tell you it is not, and it looks like Brad Blair told the Premier the same thing. At that point, most people would give their heads a shake and admit that they were wrong, but it looks like this Premier got his friend on the phone and said, “Hey, once you’re commissioner, your top priority is my personal pleasure wagon.”

Did the Premier ask Ron Taverner to provide him with a sole-sourced, off-the-books personal pleasure wagon once he became commissioner?

Interjections.

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Members please take their seats.

Minister.

Hon. Sylvia Jones: While the NDP continue to chase headlines, we will do our work over here. Our work today, our work this week, when we were recalled to the Legislature, was to pass Bill 67 to make sure that the heat is on and the power is on.

Again, I will remind members: In 2013, we had a three-day blackout that impacted many in southern Ontario, including my riding in Caledon, and Brampton, and the city of Toronto. Three days, and it put the city in flux. We had people who were seniors in homes who couldn’t get out of their apartment because their elevator wasn’t working. I’m not sure about the NDP, but I don’t want to see that happen again. I want to get this legislation passed and make sure that Ontario is back to work.

Labour dispute

Mme Goldie Ghamari: Avant de poser ma question, je voudrais souhaiter à tous un joyeux Noël et une bonne année.

Merry Christmas, season’s greetings, and happy holidays to everyone in this House and across Ontario.

My question is for the Minister of Energy, Northern Development and Mines. We all know that the minister has shown great leadership on the energy file since the June 7 election. We have seen yet more examples of that this week. I am proud to be part of a government that takes the necessary steps to defend our economy. On this side of the House, we are part of a government that doesn’t play politics when critical industries and major employers in this province face the uncertainty of power disruptions over the winter. Major employers and, by definition, thousands of employees and their families in our province depend on a reliable source of power. This is another reason why it’s critical for our government to pass Bill 67 before it’s too late.

Can the minister please explain why it’s so important to our industry that our government continue to fight to keep the lights on this winter?

Hon. Greg Rickford: As we move through the sectors, not just in northern Ontario but in southern Ontario, industry is very, very concerned. Listen to what Roger Paiva, the VP of operations at Gerdau, had to say about our government: “We applaud Minister Rickford”—that’s nice, again—“and the Ford government for doing what we all know is necessary for our province’s greater economy and the standard and quality of living. Gerdau leverages Ontario’s electricity system to produce best-in-class steel products, and we employ hundreds of hard-working Ontarians while we do it each and every day. Any threat to our reliable supply of electricity is a direct threat to the core of our business and the workforce we employ in Whitby, Cambridge, and beyond.”

Mr. Speaker, it’s clear that the industry sectors across this province are concerned. They’re glad that we’re standing in this place to ensure that electricity supply is uninterrupted for the province of Ontario.

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Supplementary?

Interjections.

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Restart the clock. Supplementary?

Ms. Goldie Ghamari: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, and through you I’d like to thank the minister for looking after the large employers in our province, because they are such an integral part of our economic landscape. Ontario has always been known for powerful industry that drives economic growth. This creates jobs and helps communities like mine in Carleton grow and prosper. But in recent times, there is a particular industry in Ontario that is suffering because of matters outside of its control.

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It’s no secret that steel and aluminum tariffs are hurting one of the province’s most important sectors. The last thing the steel industry needs is more uncertainty when it comes to their operations. Can the minister please explain how our government’s actions ensure the steel industry will not have to face any more uncertainty this winter?

Hon. Greg Rickford: It is day 6. In a little over 24 hours, in accordance with the plan that was presented to myself and the energy critic, there will be consequences if we don’t pass this legislation.

We know the member from Brampton Centre, who is a credible member of this provincial Parliament, said that they would use every available legislative tool at their disposal—and I read it in the Toronto Star, so it’s got to be true.

I’ve been following this debate very, very closely. Here’s the reality: When it comes to source hydro, they’re the “nuclear deniers’ party.” When it comes to the distribution of hydro, they’re intent on “not delivering power.” When it comes to this legislation, day after day, when Ontario wants an uninterrupted supply of hydro, they become the “new delays power party,” Mr. Speaker.

This has to end. The people of Ontario want assurances that their hydro will be uninterrupted, and hopefully later today—

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Thank you.

Government accountability

Mr. Kevin Yarde: This question is to the Attorney General. Deputy OPP Commissioner Brad Blair is a police veteran with more than three decades of service. On Tuesday, the Premier made the serious claim that this decorated and respected public servant broke the law.

Attorney General, as the chief legal officer for the province, you have the responsibility to uphold the law. Can the Attorney General explain what steps she has taken in light of this serious claim from the Premier?

Hon. Caroline Mulroney: Thank you to the member for the question. As chief legal officer for the crown, it is my duty to uphold the law. We have a legitimate process in place right now that is being undertaken by the Integrity Commissioner, who has a process that we respect. We will await the outcome of his work. He is an independent member to investigate our government, and that’s what he’s doing. We await his investigation. As chief legal officer of the crown, I look forward to his report and following the recommendations.

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Supplementary?

Mr. Kevin Yarde: Let’s try this question, then. The Premier has made allegations about the current commissioner of the OPP. If those allegations are serious, the Attorney General has a responsibility to act. If they’re not serious, the Attorney General has a responsibility to speak out and let Ontarians know that the Premier was making baseless allegations about a decorated OPP commissioner. What is she going to do?

Hon. Caroline Mulroney: I can tell you what I’m going to do is stand here with the members of my government and work hard to keep the lights on and the heat on for the people of Ontario. That is what the people of Ontario expect us to do.

As I’m doing that, I’m going to await the work of the Integrity Commissioner, who is doing the work that he has been tasked with as an independent officer of the Legislature. We will await the outcome of his work.

Education funding

Mr. Michael Coteau: My question is to the Minister of Education. Minister, just over a decade ago, a grade 9 student at C.W. Jefferys, Jordan Manners, was shot and killed in one of our schools. This tragic event brought attention to an issue that for too long had gone unaddressed, namely, the lack of school supports and programs in our schools that were targeting low-income, marginalized and racialized youth.

At the time, I was a Toronto District School Board trustee, and the Minister of Education worked with the Toronto District School Board to put in programs for those youth. We put in place a series of programs to help students get on the right track, including Focus on Youth and after-school programs.

Interjections.

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Government side, come to order.

Mr. Michael Coteau: I’m talking about a young grade 9 student who was shot in one of our schools. I’d like to ask this question, please.

We hear the Premier and the government constantly talk about gun violence and making sure that young people have the ability to get onto the right track. Does the minister understand that these programs that she’s proposing to cut are going to have a negative effect on young people here in our city?

Hon. Lisa M. Thompson: First of all, I’d like to recognize that any tragedy that happens in a school is something that we can’t take lightly. That said, I can appreciate where the member is coming from. But what he neglected to say in his lead-up to his question was that he had an opportunity for 15 years to really get it right. Unfortunately, under the Liberal watch that education program and other baskets became somewhat of a slush fund for pet Liberal projects.

We’re going to get it right, Speaker. We are remembering how important it is to keep a safe and effective learning environment in the classroom. We are continuing to support priority urban schools. We are doing everything we can to make sure that both students and teachers feel safe in the environment in terms of a safe classroom.

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Supplementary?

Mr. Michael Coteau: Mr. Speaker, I cannot believe that the Minister of Education has the audacity to accuse the previous government of not putting in programs to help young people. We put in a series of programs across this province to help young people. What the minister is proposing to cut are programs that help the most marginalized young people in this province. This was an opposition—now they’re in government—that voted consistently against the programs we put in place. Over the last six months we’ve seen no action on the Black Youth Action Plan. We’ve seen cuts to—

Interjections.

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): I can’t hear the member. I asked the government side to come to order. I assume all of you want to be here for the vote.

Start the clock.

Mr. Michael Coteau: Mr. Speaker, this government has had six months to take action on the Black Youth Action Plan and the Anti-Racism Directorate. But what we’ve seen is we’ve seen them cut programs that go to help young people learn about truth and reconciliation, cut programs for our most marginalized young people, and this government should be ashamed of itself.

Hon. Lisa M. Thompson: You know what? I didn’t hear a question. So let me tell you, Speaker, what we are doing. When it comes to making sure we’re getting it right in the classroom, the PC government is continuing with the Lincoln M. Alexander Award that recognizes young people who have demonstrated exemplary leadership—

Mr. Michael Coteau: It’s an award for three kids. It helps three kids.

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): The member for Don Valley East, come to order.

Hon. Lisa M. Thompson: —so they can lead by example. We’re establishing a network of universities, school boards and community organizations to design pilot on-campus activities for Black youth to think about their futures, to know that they have an opportunity to pursue college and university. We’re funding Black business professionals in terms of supporting young people pursuing a future. Most importantly, we’re investing $400 million in education programming—in STEM, $60 million; $28 million to Indigenous education supports like a graduation coach to make sure our Indigenous students have the best path and support going forward. We’re investing $20 million in mental health.

Speaker, it’s the PC government that’s cleaning up—

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Thank you.

Interjections.

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Stop the clock. Order. The member for York Centre, come to order. The member for York Centre is warned.

Start the clock. The next question.

Labour dispute

Mr. Kaleed Rasheed: My question is to the Minister of Labour. Late last week, the Power Workers’ Union had voted to reject a new collective agreement with Ontario Power Generation. In other words, the PWU is now on strike. Talks between the PWU and OPG have broken down.

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A strike at OPG would have a disastrous effect on Ontario’s electricity supply. It would endanger the health and safety of Ontarians. Our government must ensure that Ontario has a steady, uninterrupted supply of electricity. Any labour disruption at OPG would lead to an electricity shortage in Ontario, and yet our colleagues in the nuclear denial party continue to refuse to support an end to the strike.

Mr. Speaker, what will the minister do to ensure that the electricity supply will be—

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Thank you. Minister of Labour.

Hon. Laurie Scott: I would like to thank the member from Mississauga East–Cooksville for all the work that he does for his constituents representing them here. I’m very happy that he’s part of our government that puts the interests of the people first.

That’s why we introduced legislation to send the dispute to arbitration and protect the people of Ontario from power shortages. The legislation was tabled Monday, Mr. Speaker; we’re now sitting at Thursday. I’m hoping the legislation does pass today. If passed, it will terminate any strikes or lockouts between OPG and the Power Workers’ Union for the current round of bargaining. This will make sure Ontario’s electricity supply is not disrupted.

If this legislation does not pass, Mr. Speaker, families, seniors and all Ontarians face the possibility of no heat or light during the cold winter months. That—

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Thank you. Supplementary?

Mr. Kaleed Rasheed: Thank you to the minister for that answer. OPG could not continue operations without PWU workers. This means that they could shut down all energy production within weeks of a strike.

As the regulator, IESO had stated that a safe shutdown of our nuclear reactors could take as long as a week.

Interjections.

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Member for Niagara Falls, come to order. Member for Essex, come to order.

Mr. Kaleed Rasheed: Restarting those reactors would take approximately two weeks. This would seriously affect—

Interjection.

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): The member for Essex is warned.

Mr. Kaleed Rasheed: —the operation and stability of the grid. Again, Mr. Speaker, we are facing a potential provincial emergency. Action is required now.

If the nuclear denial party had their way, Ontarians would spend Christmas shivering in the dark. Can the minister please explain to this House why this legislation is so vital for Ontarians?

Hon. Laurie Scott: The member is correct. This is really an emergency situation in the province of Ontario when 51% of all electricity generation in Ontario is produced by OPG. A reduction in power supply of that magnitude is not something that we want this province’s families, seniors and businesses to endure.

Mr. Speaker, our government does believe that disputes that arise during contract negotiations are best resolved at the bargaining table. We, as in government, should only intervene when the public interest and public health and safety are at risk and the resolution is not possible. Again, the member is correct: This is the situation that we are facing now.

The proposed legislation would prevent a severe disruption of Ontario’s electricity that could greatly endanger our population. Mr. Speaker—

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Thank you. Next question.

Education funding

Ms. Marit Stiles: My question is to the Minister of Education. Students, parents and educators are telling this government there are very real consequences to immediately cutting $25 million from education programs midway through the school year. These programs not only support disadvantaged students across Ontario but also provide vital work experience for so many. Mr. Speaker, these students have names. They have dreams and aspirations.

Can the minister explain why she has tried to explain away her devastating cut to student opportunities as “redundant”? What exactly is redundant about these programs?

Hon. Lisa M. Thompson: Actually, Speaker, I’m really pleased to continue to be able to stand up and talk about how we’re approaching the education program and other funding, because as we went through line by line, we saw a lot of waste that the former Liberal government was sliding through the EPO funding basket.

The fact of the matter is—do you know what? In terms of where we landed, I feel very good that we were thoughtful, we were responsible and we’re moving forward with programs that are going to reflect a safe and effective learning environment. It’s important that everybody recognize that school boards across this province receive, through Grants for Student Needs, $24 billion.

The one program that the member opposite mentioned, in terms of tutoring—they could match. They could go forward with that program if they so choose. But on our side of the board, when we’re spending $40 million—

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Thank you.

Supplementary, the member for London–Fanshawe.

Ms. Teresa J. Armstrong: Back to the minister: The member from Davenport warned us yesterday about the long-term impact of this government’s short-sighted decision to cut $25 million in education programs.

Now we’re hearing that London school boards have lost millions for after-school programs that one official described as “necessary and needed” programs. This is especially hard-hitting since one of the programs was designed for students who struggle with math. We know that the Premier and his government have made quite the fuss about declining math scores. If the minister had worked with London school boards—or any school boards, for that matter—she may have learned how these programs specifically support our most vulnerable students.

Why did the minister and the government choose not to consult with students or school boards before making education cuts?

Hon. Lisa M. Thompson: With all due respect, I’m very pleased that we’re prioritizing how we’re investing our money, such as in financial literacy, because some of the articles that are coming out of the London area had some questionable math put in place.

The fact of the matter is we are moving forward. Let me tell you what we’re doing. What we’ve prioritized is a new investment of $20 million for mental health, in terms of putting mental health workers right into high schools. We’re supporting our boards with mental health assist programs. We’re putting $20 million in French-language education. We’re putting $60 million into STEM. Employers, parents, teachers and students alike are asking for more focus on STEM. We’re looking at province-wide investments for parents. We’re investing over $28 million in Indigenous education supports, such as graduation coaching. We’re putting $20 million in safety and anti-bullying programs like kids’ helpline. The list goes on and on—

Interjections.

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Stop the clock.

Start the clock. Next question.

Ontario economy

Mr. Lorne Coe: My question is to the Minister of Finance. Last week, Ontario received another stern reminder about the culture of waste and mismanagement allowed to fester under the previous Liberal government. Moody’s downgraded Ontario’s credit rating, citing Ontario’s debt and interest burden, which skyrocketed over the past 15 years. Speaker, we owe it to our children to fix the mess inherited from the previous Liberal government and get Ontario back on track.

Can the Minister of Finance update the House on the situation left behind by the previous government and how we plan to tackle it?

Hon. Victor Fedeli: The hard-working member from Whitby is quite right: The Liberals left a horrible legacy in Ontario. They were spending $40 million a day more than they took in.

Moody’s has indeed downgraded Ontario. They stated it was based on “debt-to-revenue numbers.” Let’s look at those two numbers. The first is debt. The Liberals more than doubled the debt in their term, ballooning it to $347 billion. The other number is revenue. We learned that the Liberals artificially inflated their numbers with the onetime sale of LCBO, the OPG headquarters, GM shares and other non-recurring revenue. Those are the facts they used. As the Auditor General stated, bogus numbers were used.

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The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Supplementary?

Mr. Lorne Coe: Back to the Minister of Finance: It’s clear that the Liberals left Ontario in a dire fiscal situation, which led to the news received last week. My constituents are concerned that Ontario has become the most indebted sub-sovereign jurisdiction in the world under the previous Liberal government. A debt load of $340 billion, or $24,000 for every man, woman and child in Durham and Ontario is unacceptable. It’s time for a fresh approach.

Speaker, the people of Ontario elected our government to clean up the waste and mismanagement perpetuated by the previous government. Can the minister tell us why it is necessary to get Ontario’s fiscal house back in order?

Hon. Victor Fedeli: President of the Treasury Board.

Hon. Peter Bethlenfalvy: To the member from Whitby: What are you doing here?

Laughter.

Hon. Peter Bethlenfalvy: In 2009, my team at DBRS, the credit-rating agency, downgraded the province, saying, “Expenditure pressure raises considerable doubt about the Province’s fiscal resolve.” Mr. Speaker, the Liberals ignored that warning—irresponsible, reckless, short-sighted and negligent—and the NDP enabled this by begging, “More spending, more debt.” The Liberals asked, “How much more?”

Mr. Speaker, it’s this government that’s going to fix it. It’s this Premier, this Minister of Finance, this President of the Treasury Board and all of my colleagues who are going to fix this problem.

Environmental protection

Mr. Jeff Burch: My question is to the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing. On Tuesday, in response to the member from Guelph, the minister insisted that, “We are going to protect the greenbelt. We are going to not support any municipal plan under the open-for-business tool that would do that.” But it’s right there in black and white in Bill 66, schedule 10, part 1, that greenbelt protections will not apply to open-for-business bylaws.

Does the minister understand that he cannot remove protections for the greenbelt and still claim that he is protecting the greenbelt?

Hon. Steve Clark: Speaker, through you to the honourable member: Our government brought forward a package of regulatory and legislative changes through Bill 66. One of them was our open-for-business tool. As the member opposite would know, a ministerial zoning order, which works very similarly to the open-for-business tool, is a top-down process. What we’re proposing is that if a municipality decides that they have a job-creating opportunity—let’s say they’re competing against another jurisdiction like New York state, Michigan or perhaps another province—then they can work with our government on ensuring that we’re competitive and we’re open for business.

In regard to the issue around the greenbelt, we’ve been very clear as a government that we’re not going to touch the greenbelt in its entirety. That’s our commitment to Ontarians. We made the commitment during the campaign. I make it here today.

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Supplementary.

Mr. Jeff Burch: Nobody believes this government is committed to protecting the greenbelt. Before the election, the Premier was caught making a secret backroom deal with developers in which he promised to open up the greenbelt. He backed off only after he got caught. Now that the election is over, the Premier is trying to keep his secret promise to developers while breaking his public promise to the people to “protect the greenbelt in its entirety.” That’s what the Premier had said.

Will the minister put the people ahead of the Premier’s backroom friends and remove schedule 10 from Bill 66?

Hon. Steve Clark: Again, Speaker, through you to the honourable member: We have been crystal clear in terms of saying to municipalities that have inquired that we will not put health and safety at risk. We will not put clean drinking water at risk. We will reject any request from a municipal government to put the greenbelt at risk. The Premier has made that commitment. The Minister of Environment, Conservation and Parks has made that commitment. I am making that commitment today. We will protect the greenbelt. This government will protect the greenbelt—

Interjections.

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Stop the clock.

It seems a bit redundant to have to say this yet again, but once the standing ovation erupted, I couldn’t hear the minister. I had to stand up, interrupting him while he still had time on the clock, such that he wasn’t able to complete his answer on the record.

Start the clock. Next question.

Immigrant and refugee policy

Mr. Sheref Sabawy: My question is to the Minister of Children, Community and Social Services. Our government is working hard this week to ensure that the lights stay on in homes and businesses across the province, but Ontario shelters know this struggle better than most. Since 2016, they have been struggling to cover added costs brought on in part because of the influx of illegal border crossers caused by the federal Liberal government’s failed border policies. Shelters across the province are operating at or above capacity. They have no choice but to dip into their reserves and open temporary accommodations to ensure no one is left out in the cold. Meanwhile, Ontario taxpayers are left footing the bill.

Minister, the federal government is more than 24 months late paying their bills. Can Ontarians expect to be reimbursed next year?

Hon. Lisa MacLeod: To the member from Mississauga–Erin Mills, I want to wish him and all members of this House, including yourself, Speaker, a merry Christmas and a very happy new year.

I have been working very hard and diligently trying to secure over $200 million for the people of Ontario from the federal government as a result of their failed border policies. I’ve spoken directly with the mayor of Toronto, who has $64 million and growing in shelter costs in this city alone, as well as the mayor of Ottawa, who has over $11 million required in shelter costs—not to mention $90 million in social assistance and $20 million in education costs as well as other costs attributed to this illegal-border-crossing issue.

The Parliamentary Budget Officer has confirmed our numbers. The Auditor General in Ontario will also be moving forward. I am today, yet again, calling on Bill Blair and the federal Liberal government to come to the table and make the city of Ottawa, the city of Toronto and the province of Ontario whole.

Interjections.

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Stop the clock.

Start the clock. Supplementary?

Mr. Sheref Sabawy: I appreciate the minister’s response and her unwavering commitment to this file.

Each month, more and more officials are beginning to brand the situation at the border as a crisis. The backlog of asylum claims is reported to be in excess of 65,000 and is expected to take almost two years to clear.

According to the Parliamentary Budget Officer, each claimant costs the feds over $14,000. Instead of taking action, the Prime Minister prefers to say that we are playing dog-whistle politics, while his immigration minister accuses those who question him of being un-Canadian.

Mr. Speaker, we know the truth. Can the minister tell us and all Ontarians if we should expect the crisis to continue into the new year?

Hon. Lisa MacLeod: Speaker, I can tell you something: that I, as a member of this government and a very proud Canadian, am very excited to continue to stand up for the people of Ontario, but also the people of Canada, because every single Premier in every single province and territory signed on with our Premier and our leader to call for the federal government to make Ontario and the other provinces experiencing this backlog whole.

We know, for example, that the Parliamentary Budget Officer not only confirmed our numbers of over $200 million in social assistance and other costs with respect to shelter, but we also know that the failed border policies right now by the federal Liberals will cost Canadian taxpayers $1 billion if they don’t fix this problem.

We are going to continue to call on them to reimburse us for our costs. We’re going to continue to stand up for the people of Ontario and the people of Canada to have a confident, robust immigration process.

Again, thank you very much and merry Christmas, Speaker.

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Education funding

Mr. Faisal Hassan: My question is to the Minister of Education. The Conservative government’s decision to cut $27 million impacts disadvantaged students, many of those who live in my riding of York South–Weston in Toronto.

Kids in Toronto are struggling. The youth unemployment rate in Toronto and Ontario is higher than the national average. Despite this, one of the programs affected by the $27-million education cut is the Focus on Youth program, which provides employment and leadership opportunities for young people in urban neighbourhoods like here in York South–Weston, with a focus on at-risk children.

Ontario youth deserve better, but the Ford Conservatives have made the situation worse. Will the minister restore funding for these necessary education programs, or will she finally speak directly to students to tell them why her government believes that their futures are not worth the investment?

Hon. Lisa M. Thompson: You know what? I absolutely believe in the futures of our students, every single student in Ontario. We’re standing up for students as well as their parents, and their teachers as well. There are no two ways about that.

It’s interesting because I submit to you, Speaker, that time and again I’ve stood in this House and said, “We have to get it right.” We are in a fiscal situation that absolutely demands responsible decision-making.

The fact of the matter is we have $24 billion going to school boards across this province in Grants for Student Needs. The tutoring program that the member opposite specifically mentioned was a matching dollar-for-dollar program that the former Liberal government brought in. If a board chooses to continue with that program, by all means, I welcome them to do that. But the reality is there was no transfer payment agreement signed for that program. The former Liberal government had not signed it, and so we have to be responsible. That is why we’re moving forward with other programing to support our students, and I believe—

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Thank you. Supplementary?

Mr. Faisal Hassan: That’s not the program.

Mr. Speaker, again to the minister: I believe that Ontario’s youth are our best investment, which is why I have tabled a motion to create 27,000 new, paid, work-integrated training opportunities for young people.

Cutting the Focus on Youth program sends the wrong message to our most vulnerable young people. The Conservatives are telling at-risk young people that they are not worth the investment, and that they are not a priority. The Conservatives are, in effect, giving up on these young people before they’ve even gotten a chance.

Mr. Speaker, again through you, I ask the minister if she agrees that our children deserve more, not less. Will she restore funding to these vital programs for our children?

Interjections.

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Members please take their seats.

Minister?

Hon. Lisa M. Thompson: Speaker, I’ll tell you what our students deserve. They deserve a government that understands the fiscal situation and the fiscal realities that are going to burden them for years to come if we don’t get it right. The best thing we can do in this House is make pertinent fiscal decisions so that our students aren’t laden with a huge debt load on their shoulders as they enter their careers. We are a government that’s going to get it straight so that they do not have that fiscal pressure on their shoulders that they have to carry because of the mismanagement of the previous Liberal government. I’m telling you that we are absolutely getting it right.

Shame on the members opposite for fearmongering. Let me tell you a little bit about the cuts that we did make. You know what? There was a pet project from the former Liberal government that saw money going to an edible garden when there’s already a program out there that has been running for 25 years—

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Thank you. Next question?

Mental health and addiction services

Mrs. Nina Tangri: As this is one of the last questions of 2018 in this chamber, I look forward to seeing everyone here in 2019 safe and healthy.

Interjections.

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): The Minister of Education, come to order. The member for Davenport, come to order.

Mrs. Nina Tangri: My question is to the Minister of Health and Long-Term Care.

Interjections.

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): The Minister of Education is warned. The member for Davenport is warned.

Mrs. Nina Tangri: This government acknowledges the importance of financial and social supports for those facing mental health issues. We made a promise during the election to make mental health a priority, because we believe no one should have to wait for long periods of time to get the mental health and addictions services they need when they need them.

Can the minister please update the House as to what our government is doing to address mental health and addictions support in our province?

Hon. Christine Elliott: Thank you very much to the member from Mississauga–Streetsville for the question and for the great work you’re doing in your community.

The member is absolutely correct that we made a promise to the people of Ontario and we are making mental health a priority in the province. That’s why yesterday I announced that our government is taking immediate action to address the critical gaps in our mental health system with the first wave of direct funding that includes adding more than 50 new mental health beds in hospitals across the province. This immediate investment will help reduce wait times, help build more capacity in our hospitals and help those in need of in-patient mental health and addictions treatment.

Our government is committed to ensuring that each dollar goes directly to patients to make a significant difference in their mental health and well-being.

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Supplementary?

Mrs. Nina Tangri: Thank you to the minister for that response. I am proud that our government for the people is delivering on a clear promise we made to the people of Ontario. We are investing a record $3.8 billion in mental health over the next 10 years, including in Mississauga at the new Trillium Health Partners. It’s important that we make the proper investments into mental health because, as the minister rightfully says, mental health is health. The people of this province deserve a connected mental health system that is patient-centric and connects people to the care that they need where and when they need it.

Can the minister please tell the House how we plan to make sure our mental health system really works for the people of Ontario?

Hon. Christine Elliott: Thank you again to the member for the question. Yesterday I also announced that our government is taking action and engaging with health sector leaders, experts on mental health and addictions, sector partners and associations, health service providers, the official opposition and the other members of this Legislature because we want to hear your ideas. But most importantly, we want to listen to people with lived experience. We need to speak to the people who are experiencing mental health and addiction problems to understand what they need and how we can provide that care.

I am proud to say that we had the first of our engagement sessions yesterday with leaders in the health care field. We are committed to listening to experts as well as people with ideas they want to bring forward. I encourage all members of this Legislature to come forward with their ideas. I want to hear them because we need to work together on building the system so that we can all deliver a connected and comprehensive mental health and addictions system that people—

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Thank you. Next question?

Water quality

Mr. Guy Bourgouin: My question is for the Minister of the Environment, Conservation and Parks. Two days ago, the Minister of the Environment, Conservation and Parks boasted that 99.8% of drinking water tests last year met provincial standards. But he clearly did not test the water of the 69 Ontario communities that are under boil-water advisories. He clearly did not test the water in Grassy Narrows, where the people are still waiting for the ministry to clean up the mercury in the Wabigoon River. The government won’t even acknowledge a single case of Minamata disease in Grassy Narrows First Nations or Wabaseemoong Independent Nations.

Instead of taking victory laps, will the government take action to guarantee the right of everyone in Ontario to safe and clean water?

Hon. Rod Phillips: Mr. Speaker, through you to the member, thank you for the question. In our made-in-Ontario environment plan, we made it clear that clean water is going to be a priority. In fact, we are going to deal with what the previous government didn’t deal with in terms of sewage going into our water system.

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When it comes to Grassy Narrows—that’s why myself, as well as the Minister of northern affairs and Energy, have visited the community of Grassy Narrows and reaffirmed the commitment of this government to deal with the mercury contamination.

This government is nothing, nothing at all but proud of the approach that we’re taking on clean water. It is a priority for this government. It will be maintained as a priority of this government, and we will take the actions that the previous government did not to make sure that things like sewage—sewage in our water—is not going in untreated.

Visitors

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): A number of members have informed me that they wish to raise a point of order. We’ll start with the member from Sudbury.

Mr. Jamie West: Thank you, Speaker. I rise on a point of order. I want to introduce Mike O’Brien, “O.B.”, from Copper Cliff. He was running late, so I just wanted to make sure he got the chance to be—welcome to Queen’s Park, Mike.

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Second, the member from Ottawa South.

M. John Fraser: Je demande le consentement unanime pour que les membres déposent sur leur bureau un petit modèle de l’Université de l’Ontario français pour le reste de la journée.

I’m seeking unanimous consent so that we can place these small models of the francophone university here in Ontario on our desks for the rest of the day.

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): The member from Ottawa South is seeking the unanimous consent of the House to be allowed to place a model of the francophone university on all the desks in the Legislature for the remainder of the day. Agreed? I heard some noes.

Next, the member for Chatham-Kent–Leamington.

Mr. Rick Nicholls: It’s my great pleasure to introduce to the Ontario Legislature the 2018 Canadian gospel music award winner for female vocalist of the year, my daughter, Brooke Nicholls.

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Welcome.

Deferred Votes

Labour Relations Amendment Act (Protecting Ontario’s Power Supply), 2018 / Loi de 2018 modifiant la Loi sur les relations de travail (protection de l’approvisionnement de l’Ontario en électricité)

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

Bill 67, An Act to amend the Labour Relations Act, 1995 / Projet de loi 67, Loi modifiant la Loi de 1995 sur les relations de travail.

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

The House recessed from 1142 to 1147.

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): I would ask the members to please take their seats.

On December 20, 2018, Ms. Scott moved third reading of Bill 67, An Act to amend the Labour Relations Act, 1995.

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

Ayes

  • Anand, Deepak
  • Baber, Roman
  • Babikian, Aris
  • Bailey, Robert
  • Barrett, Toby
  • Bethlenfalvy, Peter
  • Bouma, Will
  • Calandra, Paul
  • Cho, Raymond Sung Joon
  • Cho, Stan
  • Clark, Steve
  • Coe, Lorne
  • Coteau, Michael
  • Crawford, Stephen
  • Cuzzetto, Rudy
  • Downey, Doug
  • Dunlop, Jill
  • Elliott, Christine
  • Fedeli, Victor
  • Fee, Amy
  • Fraser, John
  • Fullerton, Merrilee
  • Ghamari, Goldie
  • Gill, Parm
  • Hardeman, Ernie
  • Harris, Mike
  • Hogarth, Christine
  • Jones, Sylvia
  • Kanapathi, Logan
  • Karahalios, Belinda
  • Ke, Vincent
  • Khanjin, Andrea
  • Kramp, Daryl
  • Kusendova, Natalia
  • Lecce, Stephen
  • MacLeod, Lisa
  • Martin, Robin
  • Martow, Gila
  • McDonell, Jim
  • McKenna, Jane
  • Miller, Norman
  • Mulroney, Caroline
  • Nicholls, Rick
  • Oosterhoff, Sam
  • Pang, Billy
  • Park, Lindsey
  • Parsa, Michael
  • Pettapiece, Randy
  • Phillips, Rod
  • Piccini, David
  • Rasheed, Kaleed
  • Rickford, Greg
  • Roberts, Jeremy
  • Romano, Ross
  • Sabawy, Sheref
  • Sandhu, Amarjot
  • Sarkaria, Prabmeet Singh
  • Schreiner, Mike
  • Scott, Laurie
  • Skelly, Donna
  • Smith, Dave
  • Smith, Todd
  • Surma, Kinga
  • Tangri, Nina
  • Thanigasalam, Vijay
  • Thompson, Lisa M.
  • Triantafilopoulos, Effie J.
  • Wai, Daisy
  • Walker, Bill
  • Wynne, Kathleen O.
  • Yakabuski, John
  • Yurek, Jeff

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): All those opposed to the motion will please rise one at a time and be recognized by the Clerk.

Nays

  • Andrew, Jill
  • Armstrong, Teresa J.
  • Arthur, Ian
  • Begum, Doly
  • Bell, Jessica
  • Berns-McGown, Rima
  • Bisson, Gilles
  • Bourgouin, Guy
  • Burch, Jeff
  • Fife, Catherine
  • French, Jennifer K.
  • Gates, Wayne
  • Glover, Chris
  • Gretzky, Lisa
  • Harden, Joel
  • Hassan, Faisal
  • Horwath, Andrea
  • Karpoche, Bhutila
  • Kernaghan, Terence
  • Lindo, Laura Mae
  • Mantha, Michael
  • Monteith-Farrell, Judith
  • Morrison, Suze
  • Natyshak, Taras
  • Rakocevic, Tom
  • Shaw, Sandy
  • Singh, Gurratan
  • Singh, Sara
  • Stevens, Jennifer (Jennie)
  • Stiles, Marit
  • Tabuns, Peter
  • Taylor, Monique
  • Vanthof, John
  • West, Jamie
  • Yarde, Kevin

The Clerk of the Assembly (Mr. Todd Decker): The ayes are 72; the nays are 35.

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): I declare the motion carried.

Be it resolved that the bill do now pass and be entitled as in the motion.

Third reading agreed to.

Legislature of Ontario

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): I would ask for the attention of the House for a moment.

Two weeks ago today, I informed the House that we were finished for 2018. Little did the Speaker know. Today I believe that we are, in fact, finished for the year. It is interesting to note that this is the first Christmas sitting of the Ontario Legislature since 1869, which was pointed out earlier.

I want to express my appreciation to our pages, who have come back on very short notice to help us out this week, interrupting their pre-Christmas plans.

I also want to thank the hundreds of people who work here as staff at the Legislative Assembly of Ontario. Their hard work and dedication are what makes this place operate.

Without the efforts of our legislative protective service, this House, its members and everyone here who visits would not be safe. Without our cleaning staff, the legislative building would soon be a mess. Without our precinct properties division, our historic building would not be maintained. Without the Hansard and interpretation staff, our words in this chamber would not be recorded. Without our broadcast and recording services, our proceedings would not be aired. Without our Clerks and committees branch, our standing orders, parliamentary traditions and conventions could not be upheld and our standing committees could not function. Without our administrative services staff, our human and financial resources would not be managed. Without our legislative library and research services, our library would soon be closed and our research would not be as rich. Without our PPPR staff, our visitors would not be greeted. Without our catering staff, we would all go hungry. Without our technology services, IT would soon shut down.

In short, this place would cease to function and the light of parliamentary democracy in this province would soon go out.

Before I finish, I want to express, on behalf of the whole House, our thanks to the press gallery, whose work as part of a free and independent media—

Applause.

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): I hope some of them are here.

Their work as part of a free and independent media is vital to the health of democracy in this province.

Once again, I want to thank each and every one of you who works tirelessly to keep Queen’s Park running, and I want to wish you all merry Christmas, happy holidays, and I really look forward to working with you in 2019.

Applause.

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Thank you.

Government House leader.

Hon. Todd Smith: Point of order, Mr. Speaker: I have news. No, I’m just kidding.

I’m seeking unanimous consent to move a motion regarding the immediate adjournment of the House.

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): The government House leader is seeking unanimous consent of the House to move a motion regarding its adjournment. Agreed? Agreed.

Hon. Todd Smith: Speaker, I move that, notwithstanding standing order 46(a), the House do now adjourn until Tuesday, February 19, 2019.

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Mr. Smith, Bay of Quinte, has moved, notwithstanding standing order 46(a), the House do now adjourn until Tuesday, February 19, 2019. Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? Carried.

This House stands adjourned until Tuesday, February 19, 2019.

The House adjourned at 1155.