LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY OF ONTARIO
ASSEMBLÉE LÉGISLATIVE DE L’ONTARIO
Wednesday 30 October 2019 Mercredi 30 octobre 2019
The House met at 0900.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Let us pray.
Orders of the Day
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): I recognize the minister to move the motion.
Hon. Paul Calandra: I move that, pursuant to standing order 47 and notwithstanding any other standing order or special order of the House relating to Bill 124, An Act to implement moderation measures in respect of compensation in Ontario’s public sector, when the bill is next scheduled as a government order, the Speaker shall put every question necessary to dispose of the second reading stage of the bill without further debate or amendment; and
That at such time the bill shall be ordered referred to the Standing Committee on General Government; and
That the Standing Committee on General Government be authorized to meet on Monday, November 4, 2019, from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. for public hearings on the bill; and
That the Clerk of the Committee, in consultation with the committee Chair, be authorized to arrange the following with regard to Bill 124:
—That the deadline for requests to appear be 10 a.m. on Friday, November 1, 2019; and
—That the Clerk of the Committee provide a list of all interested presenters to each member of the subcommittee and their designate following the deadline for requests to appear by 11 a.m. on Friday, November 1, 2019; and
—That each member of the subcommittee or their designate provide the Clerk of the Committee with a prioritized list of presenters to be scheduled, chosen from the list of all interested presenters received by the Clerk, by 1 p.m. on Friday, November 1, 2019; and
—That each witness will receive up to 10 minutes for their presentation followed by 20 minutes divided equally amongst the recognized parties for questioning; and
That the deadline for filing written submissions be 6 p.m. on Monday, November 4, 2019; and
That the deadline for filing amendments to the bill with the Clerk of the Committee shall be 12 p.m. on Tuesday, November 5, 2019; and
That the Standing Committee on General Government shall be authorized to meet on Wednesday, November 6, 2019, from 9 a.m. to 10:15 a.m. and 1 p.m. to 11 p.m. for clause-by-clause consideration of the bill; and
That on Wednesday, November 6, 2019, at 5 p.m., those amendments which have not yet been moved shall be deemed to have been moved, and the Chair of the committee shall interrupt the proceedings and shall, without further debate or amendment, put every question necessary to dispose of all remaining sections of the bill and any amendments thereto. At this time, the Chair shall allow one 20-minute waiting period pursuant to standing order 129(a); and
That the committee shall report the bill to the House no later than Thursday, November 7, 2019. In the event that the committee fails to report the bill on that day, the bill shall be deemed to be passed by the committee and shall be deemed to be reported to and received by the House; and
That upon receiving the report of the Standing Committee on General Government, the Speaker shall put the question for adoption of the report forthwith, and at such time the bill shall be ordered for third reading, which order may be called that same day; and
That third reading debate shall be limited to one hour, with 25 minutes allotted to the government, 25 minutes allotted to the official opposition, and 10 minutes allotted to the independent members; and
That notwithstanding standing order 81(c), the bill may be called for third reading more than once in the same sessional day; and
That in the event of any division relating to any proceedings on the bill, the division bell shall be limited to 20 minutes; and
That except in the case of a recorded division arising from morning orders of the day, pursuant to standing order 9(c), no deferral of the second reading or third reading vote shall be permitted.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Mr. Calandra has moved government notice of motion number 68. Further debate? Further debate?
Mr. Gilles Bisson: They’re not debating. Wow.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Would the member for Timmins like to—
Mr. Gilles Bisson: I’m a little bit surprised that the government doesn’t debate its own time allocation motion. I was expecting the government House leader or somebody on the government side to explain what has happened since the words we heard from the Premier, the government House leader and others that this is becoming a kinder and gentler Conservative government, that they’re going to work with the opposition and that they’re going to find ways for us to come together so that we can do the business of the people the way it used to be done in this place, back before all the rules were changed back in the 1990s, and ever since thereafter.
What we have now is a government that has come in with probably one of the most draconian approaches to time allocation that I have seen in a while. Now, the previous House leader, in fairness to him, did some of these things too, and they were pretty difficult to deal with. But this particular time allocation motion is really signalling that, when the government House leader, the Premier and others say that they’re kinder, they’re gentler, they want to work with us and they want to do what’s right, they’re just doing the same old thing because they’re banking on that nobody pays attention to the Legislature: “As long as we get our legislation passed without any real scrutiny, who cares?” Well, I think there are people out there who do care, and I think eventually that’s going to creep up in order to bite the government because, quite frankly, it is really a problem.
Let’s look at this particular time allocation motion and at what are the objectionable parts, in my view. I’m sure the government is going to get up and say, “This is a great motion. This is all about efficiency,” and all those buzzwords they like to use on the other side. But what this time allocation motion is doing is taking Bill 124, which is a pretty extraordinary piece of legislation—it’s a piece of legislation that allows the government to be able to control what happens at the bargaining table. Nobody in Ontario, no private sector employer, would ever dream that they could get that type of power. Quite frankly, I think it would be struck down by the courts, and the Supreme Court, if it was challenged, would say, “No. People have a right to free collective bargaining.” But because we’re a Legislature, this government is saying, “We are going to give our ministers the power, through this Legislature, to allow the minister and the crown to decide what the caps are on salary and what can and can’t happen at the bargaining table.”
Now, you don’t have to like unions. I’m not asking you to like them. I know some on that side don’t; they have a hard time saying the word “union.” But the reality is that unions serve a very real role in our society and our economy. One of the key things that they do, other than dealing with health and safety issues and other matters of the workplace, is bargain collectively. It’s free collective bargaining: There are two parties at the negotiating table, and it’s up to the parties to come to an agreement.
If you bother to look at any bargaining that has happened over the last, I would say, three, four or five years, there have been no excessive settlements that have been made, either in the private or public sector, when it comes to ability to pay. Most people, when they go to the bargaining table—and I was a bargain union chair for my unit when I used to work in the mining sector. I worked in the mining sector back in the day when the price of gold went through the roof, and I was there when the price of gold fell to the bottom.
When we’d go to the table and we’d be negotiating in those cycles and the price of gold was low and the company wasn’t making money, we’d moderate our demands. We weren’t silly; we understood that there was only so much money in the pot, so we would moderate our demands. Rather than asking for X we would ask for Y, and we’d try to find language as far as bettering the conditions of the workplace for our workers, when people could get time off and all of that kind of stuff, because most working people understand that there are two sides to the ledger: There’s how much money comes in, and it’s also how much money goes out. If you have less money going out than what’s coming in, you’re still going to have a job. They understand that.
But this government seems to have the Big Brother attitude. It’s almost like Chairman Joe. Remember Chairman Joe from the Soviet Union? I spoke about him before. It’s that Big Brother kind of approach, that we’re going to utilize that power in an excessive way, possibly—or possibly not, depending on how they apply this legislation when it comes to the bargaining table.
There are going to be people interested in this legislation. I’m sure that there are employers out there, and I’m sure that there are unions out there that are going to want to say something about what this legislation does. But here’s the kicker: The government says, “You know, we’re coming back this fall after a five-month break from the Legislature, and we’ve learned our lesson,” say the Premier and the government House leader. “We’re going to come back, and we’re going to be kinder, gentler. We’re going to work with people. We’re not going to do the type of things we did before, where we were heavy-handed when it comes to the approach of government.”
We’re not here more than three days—well, actually, two days—and the government tables this time allocation motion yesterday. I’m reading this on my phone because the great thing about technology today is you can get everything on your Android. I’m looking at this thing, and I’m going, “My God, even Todd Smith wouldn’t have drafted a time allocation like this.” This thing is harder than we have seen before when it comes to what we can and can’t do as the public to get access to this committee.
Here’s the kicker: We’re probably going to have a vote here tomorrow on this particular time allocation motion, which means to say that we’ll deal with the time allocation motion vote. The way this time allocation motion is written, we’ll deal with the second reading vote tomorrow. But if you’re out there and you want to come and speak to this particular motion, you have until 10 o’clock on Friday.
We’re here until the end of second week of December. The government could have said, “We’re going to give people a little bit more time to know about this thing going to committee and for people to be able to apply,” because people have to write their submissions and do the things that they’ve got to do before they get to the Legislature to make their presentation. But more importantly, they’ve got to find out it’s going on. Well, nobody is going to find out, hardly, because this government is saying that you have until 10 o’clock on Friday. So we’re going to have a vote here at about 12 o’clock tomorrow, Thursday, and then you’re going to have till 10 o’clock, less than 24 hours later, to be able to apply to come before the committee to say what you have to say about this legislation. My God—
Mr. Taras Natyshak: What’s the rush?
Mr. Gilles Bisson: What’s the rush? Exactly.
You guys were gone for a couple of months because you guys were trying to duck out from the federal election because Mr. Scheer was worried about what was going to happen in the election if the government was sitting and the Premier and his ministers were running around doing things. But here we are. You have time. We’re here until the end of the second week of December. You could have said, “Well, we’re going to give people until the end or middle of next week to be able to apply. We’re going to have a day or two of hearings.”
Because the government is the one that’s telling me at the House leaders’ meetings, and they’re saying publicly in the paper—I read all of the papers on the weekend for the interviews that the government House leader made along with other ministers—that they were going to provide more time in committee for the public to come. They were going to give the opposition an opportunity to be able to sit down with the government and say, “Here’s a bill we care about. We want more time on it. We want more committee hearings. Here’s one we are not so much interested in. We’re not not interested, but it’s not as critical to us. We’ll allow you to get this one passed quicker, but for this one we want a little bit more time.” Those are the discussions that we’re supposed to be having.
Well, what kind of discussions are we having when the government brings a time allocation motion that says I have to apply, if I’m a citizen, by 10 o’clock on Friday to appear before this committee to have my say on Bill 124? Clearly, the government is saying one thing publicly when it comes to being kinder and gentler, but they’re acting completely differently when it comes to their actions here in the House.
I was talking to a colleague of mine this morning who happens to sit next to me—because I won’t be able to use his first name—the member from Timiskaming–Cochrane. We were having that discussion, and he made the point, and I agree with him, “I think the government is banking that the public doesn’t care what happens in this Legislature, and so they’re just going to keep on doing what they were doing,” and I tend to agree with that. I think that’s actually a pretty good observation, because it’s certainly how I feel.
I don’t think for one second, because they changed a few cabinet ministers around, like the member from North Bay got moved out and some other people got moved in and all that stuff—listen, they’re not changing direction. This government is going to do exactly what it wants to do and what it planned on doing when it comes to implementing its agenda. Fair enough. They got elected fair and square in our first-past-the-post system. They’ve got the right to do that, but they have a responsibility. There is a responsibility to the citizens of Ontario to allow them to have their say, and when a government says, “No, I’m not going to give you the right to have your say,” or, “I’m going to limit your right to have your say,” I think that is wrong, quite frankly.
Now look at the effect of this particular motion. Because of the timing of the committee and how we ordered up the committee witnesses, you are going to get a total of 30 minutes: 10 minutes to present—if you’re selected as a citizen to come before this committee, you’ll get 10 minutes to present, and there will be 20 minutes apportioned between the official opposition and the government to ask questions, which means a total of 30 minutes per presentation.
The committee sits one hour on Monday morning. That’s two people. Two people in Ontario are going to get a chance to come and speak on Bill 124 Monday. And then in the afternoon, it goes from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m., which is eight people. So a total of 10 people in Ontario are going to get an opportunity to come and present on this particular issue.
I can guess there are a lot more than 10 people who would want to be able to speak to this particular legislation. I would think that maybe somebody from CUPE, OPSEU, you know, various unions that represent workers in the broader public sector of the government directly. I think there are probably some academics who would like to speak to the approach of this particular legislation.
There are different people who would have an interest in this and it would be far more than 10 people, but this government has decided we’re going to have a very limited public hearing and we’re going to give 10 people in Ontario—what’s the population of this province again?
Mr. Chris Glover: Fourteen million.
Mr. Gilles Bisson: Fourteen million people live in this province.
Mr. John Vanthof: More than 12.
Mr. Gilles Bisson: More than 12. Exactly—14 million people. That’s funny. Fourteen million people in this province and we’re going to let 10 citizens—only 10—come before us to hear.
Now, I’ve made this argument before: If this government thinks this is great legislation that is supported by everybody in Ontario because you guys are smart and you get everything right, well, why in heck do you not allow more time in committee to be heard? We’re here until the end of the second week of December. You could have had this committee sit more than a total of, what, four hours—or five hours, I should say.
The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Rick Nicholls): May I remind the speaker to address his comments through the Chair?
Mr. Gilles Bisson: I am, Mr. Speaker. I’m speaking to you, Mr. Speaker.
The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Rick Nicholls): Well, I’m over this way, I’m not over that way. I’m here.
Mr. Gilles Bisson: I look both ways, Mr. Speaker.
The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Rick Nicholls): So do I. Especially when I cross the street. In the meantime, in debate I want you to be focusing this way, okay?
Mr. Gilles Bisson: Well, that was my point. My mother told me that when I was a child. My mother told me as a child, “Always look both ways before you cross the street.” I’m not planning on crossing the floor, so I’ll stand over here and I’ll look both ways.
Mr. John Vanthof: You’re fine from behind. We all support you from behind.
Mr. Gilles Bisson: I don’t have to look behind me. I know the troops—they’re right with us.
But the point that I’d make, Mr. Speaker, is that out of 14 million people, there are 10 people who are going to come before this committee to be able to present, and that’s just wrong. As I said, if the government really is proud of what they’re doing and they think this is the greatest thing since sliced bread and they’re so right and everybody else is so wrong, prove it. Go to committee and have the people have their say.
Mr. Taras Natyshak: What are you afraid of?
Mr. Gilles Bisson: This is akin to the promise that the Premier made when it came to public appointments.
I hear my good friend who was on committee yesterday—they had, what, nine motions that they wanted? Was it nine?
Mr. Taras Natyshak: Well, we had hundreds of deputants that we would have liked to talk to.
Mr. Gilles Bisson: Yes. Anyway, the point is that the Premier stood in this House yesterday to a question from the member from—
Mr. Taras Natyshak: Essex.
Mr. Gilles Bisson: —Essex, and said, “Oh, yes, we’ve got this new process, and we’re transparent,” and all that kind of stuff. The government goes to committee and blocks every request by the opposition to review appointments.
Mr. Taras Natyshak: Doesn’t want to talk to them.
Mr. Gilles Bisson: Don’t want to—like, what this government does when it comes to the use of the power in the House and on our committees, quite frankly, is reprehensible.
I go back to the point: If you think this is a good thing, you should be proud of what you’re trying to do and you should allow the people to come and have their say. It’s as simple as that. The fact that you are not allowing the public to have their say tells me that you know that this is controversial. Why else would you try to pass this thing sort of like in the middle of the night? You’ve got until 10 o’clock on Friday to put your name in. Hopefully, you’re going to be one of the 10 that are picked. That’s the other part that’s going to be interesting: one of the 10.
Mr. John Vanthof: You get better odds with Lotto 6/49.
Mr. Gilles Bisson: Exactly. You’d better buy a Lotto 6/49 ticket, says the member from Timiskaming–Cochrane, because your odds are bigger at winning the 6/49 lottery than getting picked to come on this committee.
No, you’re absolutely right, because here’s what really throws the odds against you: 10 people get to come and present, five of which will be picked by the official opposition. Five will be picked by the government. So your odds are even that much less, diminished. Now, I don’t argue that we should change that ratio. My point is, it’s going to be pretty hard to get on this committee. And I’ve got to say, if you are against this bill, you are just essentially being told, “I don’t care. I don’t want to hear from you. That’s the end of it. We’re moving on and we’re doing bigger and greater things.” I think that’s quite frankly wrong. I think that in a democracy, especially a parliamentary democracy, we should never be afraid to have the public come to our Legislature, through our legislative committees, to be able to have their say.
Further, we should be able to travel some of these bills. The government could have decided, when they introduced this bill originally—they could have travelled this bill last summer. There is no reason they couldn’t have. If they had come to the official opposition and said, “Listen, we want to make an agreement that we can get through second reading in order to refer this to committee for a week or two of public hearings,” I don’t think we would have had a huge objection to that, right? But the government didn’t do that. The government took a five-month hiatus by not calling the House back at its regular sitting time in September, Mr. Speaker, and then we get back and they give us a time allocation motion that is the size of a sledgehammer. So I say to the government across the way, this is really, really not the way to go.
The other part of this which is interesting: We’re going to finish at 6 o’clock on Monday, the last deputant who comes before our committee, whoever that lucky person is who just won a lotto ticket, as my friend said. Then you’re going to have to write up all the amendments by, I believe, 10 o’clock; I have to take a look here. Because we are doing the clause-by-clause where we do amendments on Wednesday. The deadline for submissions is 6 p.m., and the deadline for filing amendments is 12 o’clock on Tuesday. So it’s even worse than I thought. I hadn’t underlined that part. This means that 6 o’clock Monday night you get your last presentation. Anybody who wants to send in a written submission has until 6 o’clock on Monday night, Mr. Speaker. Then, by 12 o’clock, you will have had to submit your amendments.
Mr. Speaker, there is an old saying. Writing legislation—what is it about sausage? I don’t remember. What’s that one again? I’m bad with those.
Mr. John Vanthof: You don’t want to watch either one: the making of legislation or the making of sausage.
Mr. Gilles Bisson: Yes, either one is a bad one. Anyway, I’m not going to go there.
The point is, there is hardly enough time to write an amendment, because if I’m the committee member who has heard something that warrants an amendment on the government side or on the official opposition side, you’ve got to get it to legislative counsel for them to be able to draft the amendment. And I can tell you, quickly drafted bills and amendments are what creates bad legislation. And you’re only going to have from 9 o’clock in the morning on Wednesday to 12 o’clock in the afternoon to draft that amendment because, guess what? Legislative counsel doesn’t work in the middle of the night.
Mr. John Vanthof: Could it be the government doesn’t care?
Mr. Gilles Bisson: Oh, I can’t believe that. I know the government cares deeply, deeply, for the 1%. The 1%, they need special protection because they’ve got too much money, and they need protection because, God knows, if working-class people were to actually get a break, it might take something away from the 1%. So they’ve got to take care of their 1%. We know where they are coming from.
But the point I’m making here is that, in this particular motion, we’re going to have three hours to draft our amendments. That makes for bad legislation.
Mr. Gilles Bisson: Yeah, it’s going to be no good.
It’s a little bit like the autism plan. They wrote the autism plan on the back of a napkin, rolled it out, tried to say with great bravado how great this thing was, and, rightfully so, parents and children across this province saw what this government was doing and said, “You can’t do this. This is not going to work.” And the government has had to admit that what they originally did was wrong, it didn’t work, and we’re going to find out today what comes back from the advisory panel that was put in place to talk about what the new rules are. We’ll find out more about that today. But clearly, because the government rushed through it, did not consult with parents, did not consult with experts, did not consult with the official opposition, Mr. Speaker—
The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Rick Nicholls): Can I just remind the member from James Bay that we’re discussing and debating time allocation—
Mr. Gilles Bisson: He’s James Bay.
The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Rick Nicholls): You’re Timmins; sorry.
We are in fact debating time allocation, not the other things you’re trying to bring into the debate. So if you would just, again, stick to the motion before us, I would appreciate that.
Mr. Gilles Bisson: Well, I am speaking to the time allocation motion. The point I’m making is, when you rush the writing of amendments, you’re going to make for bad legislation. I’m making the comparison to what happened with just one program in Ontario, the autism program. The government rushed. They didn’t consult. That’s the point I’m making in this debate: that if the government consults with the public and those affected by the legislation, they’re more than likely to find out how to make their legislation better. And if we take the time to write amendments, we can write them properly, because I can tell you, Mr. Speaker, that rushing the writing of legislative amendments creates problems.
I will use an example by the former Conservative government. When Mike Harris was the Premier of Ontario, they were trying to make changes to the Planning Act. I remember being a member of the government on committee when we were originally looking at the Planning Act. I think we had about six weeks of public hearings in order to get information on the Planning Act for what we were doing. When Harris came in, he decided that he was going to undo the work that the NDP had done, so he introduced a bill and he short-shrifted the time, just as we’re doing here, on the Planning Act when it came to writing the legislation. We pointed out at the time that there were so many problems in the way the legislation was drafted that it would either be challenged or the government itself would have to admit it was wrong and come back and make amendments to its own legislation.
That bill came back, in the time that Mr. Harris was in government, four or five times. Parts of that bill had to come back to be fixed because the government had rushed the drafting.
That’s the same thing with this. When you rush the process, you make for faulty legislation. The responsibility of the government is to take care in how they draft legislation so that it is as good as it can be when it comes to achieving their goal, and the job of the opposition is to scrutinize it. That’s how this place works. When the government says, “We’re not going to give the opposition the time it needs to scrutinize and we’re not going to allow the public to have their say,” well, then a whole bunch of things happen such as what we are seeing now.
I know that I have other members of our caucus who would like to speak to this. I’m looking forward to a response from the government in regard to this particular time allocation motion. We’ll see what the government has to say. But Mr. Speaker, we will definitely be voting against this time allocation motion. This is, quite frankly, a draconian motion that goes far beyond the tone that the government has said it wants to set up when it comes to working with the opposition and being kinder and gentler in their approach. This is more of the same, on steroids. This is not the way to go.
The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Rick Nicholls): Further debate? I recognize the member from Aurora–Oak Ridges–Richmond Hill.
Mr. Michael Parsa: Thanks very much, Speaker—it’s so good to see you this morning—and thanks very much to my honourable colleague across for his speech.
Before I go any further, I just want to point out a few facts. Our government received some substantial feedback during the six-week consultation period that we had. A lot of them were in-session and attracted participation from over 68 employer organizations in sectors covering more than 2,500 collective agreements and from 57 bargaining agents who collectively represent over 780,000 workers across all sectors of Ontario’s public service. All major bargaining agents attended and participated in the consultations.
It’s my pleasure once again to rise in the House, this time to speak to the time allocation motion for Bill 124, the Protecting a Sustainable Public Sector for Future Generations Act, 2019. For 15 years, Ontarians watched the previous Liberal government spend recklessly and unsustainably, jeopardizing the critical public services they all count on. Waste, scandal and total disregard for the fiscal health of the province were the orders of the day. Last year, for this reason and for many more, the Ontario people gave our government a clear mandate to ensure that those public services will be there for them now and in the future—not just for today, not just for tomorrow, but for decades to come.
We are committed to the goal of fiscal sustainability. I’m proud to say that Bill 124 represents an important step towards that goal. Speaker, our government understands that Ontario taxpayers do not have bottomless pockets or endless patience. Every day, the hard-working men and women of our great province make difficult decisions in an effort to make ends meet, and we in government must do the same. We all need to do our part to ensure the sustainability of public sector jobs and services.
When Ontarians went to the polls in 2018, they chose fiscal responsibility over reckless spending. They chose to confront our province’s challenges head on, rather than ignore them. They chose reality over fantasy, and they chose correctly, Speaker. The people of Ontario care about jobs. They care about the economy. They care about how they’re going to put food on their table and gas in their tank. With the kind of heat we experienced last summer, it isn’t right that the people in this province had to worry about turning on their air conditioners. This winter, as the Premier has said often, no Ontarian should have to choose between heating and eating, and next summer, no Ontarian should have to choose between cooling and fuelling.
Mr. David Piccini: Well said.
Mr. Michael Parsa: Thank you.
After hearing the opposition speak about Bill 124 and our efforts to restore Ontario’s fiscal health, the contrast between us could not be more clear. It comes down to respect. We know the opposition has been out of ideas for years. Their only solution to problems is to raise taxes. Speaker, that doesn’t work. Bloating the public sector and taking a top-down approach to governance will not address the cause of Ontario’s problems and it will not solve them. Seniors, students and small businesses are already dealing with expenses and a high cost of living. We must not add to their burden.
We were elected and sent to Queen’s Park to fix government, restore fiscal balance, lower the cost of living and improve the lives of Ontarians. And that’s exactly what we are going to do. As a government, what sets us apart from the opposition is that we understand the bottom line, that every dollar we spend comes out of the monthly budget of an Ontario family and that every one of those dollars must be spent efficiently and with great respect. That’s what we will always keep in mind every step of the way as we get our province back on track.
We will also keep in mind the Ontario government’s fiscal reality. It’s a reality that can’t be ignored. The previous Liberal government tried, and we can see the devastating results of their short-sightedness. As of this moment, Ontario spends over $36 million every day—that’s every day—on the debt interest payment. That’s money that should be spent on health care, education and social services for our most vulnerable. Instead, thanks to Liberal short-sightedness, it’s going to our creditors. The status quo is unacceptable and it is unsustainable. We have a duty to do better, not just for the working people of Ontario, but for their children, their grandchildren and their great-grandchildren. We will not pretend that the challenges we face don’t exist or try to wish them away, or pass them along to future generations for them to solve. Ontarians have chosen a responsible path, a sustainable path, a path without careless waste and mountains of debt, and I’m proud to say that we are delivering for them.
Speaker, the numbers don’t lie. By the time the Liberals were defeated, they had left our province with the largest sub-sovereign debt in the world. A debt totalling over $360 billion—$360 billion. That’s an unbelievable number. That works out to almost $25,000 of debt for every man, woman and child in Ontario.
To make matters even worse, they had no plan to get that number under control. Instead, they planned to continue borrowing billions, more every year, with no end in sight. This year alone, it will cost taxpayers $13.3 billion just to service the mountain of debt they have left us with. That’s over $36 million every day of the year in interest payments coming out of the pockets of Ontario families.
Again, we have to ask ourselves, “What did the people of this province get for all the debt and deficit spending?” Ontario has some of the worst traffic jams in North America. Ontario has declining math scores in our public schools. Ontario has overcrowded hospitals and hallway medicine.
For the Liberals to say that they spent so much and achieved so little is truly shocking. They left Ontario totally vulnerable with a debt burden that would give us no fiscal room to respond should we experience an economic downturn.
But perhaps the most appalling part of this Liberal fiasco was their attempt—
The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Rick Nicholls): Excuse me. Stop the clock. The member from Hamilton Mountain will come to order.
I want to remind the member debating right now that before us is a time allocation motion. I would ask that your comments be directed towards the time-allocation motion as well.
With everyone in here right now, the decorum is good, and I want to keep it that way. I don’t want to hear any of these sidebars or partisan comments that I have been currently hearing. We’ll keep the decorum very low in terms of no outbursts and so on.
Again, I will turn it back to the speaker to continue. Thank you.
Mr. Michael Parsa: Thank you very much, Speaker. I promise you I will come back to it. Thank you for the reminder from my honourable colleagues across.
These are important facts that we need to get across to Ontarians so they’re aware of what we are dealing with and why we need to move on the decisions that we’re making. But thank you very much to my honourable colleagues. They will see that I will come to it.
But perhaps the most appalling part of this Liberal fiasco was their attempt to hide the magnitude of their wasteful spending from the very people who they thought they were fooling: the people of Ontario. It was absolutely shameful.
Our government will be truthful with the people of Ontario. We will tell it like it is and give them the facts. It’s in light of these facts that we are taking strong and responsible action to get our spending under control. We are committed to protecting front-line services and support, and ensuring the long-term sustainability of our services.
Here in Ontario, our public sector employees enjoy higher wages, earlier retirement, more job security and better benefits than most of their private sector counterparts. Make no mistake, Ontario does indeed have the best public servants in the world. They work hard and they perform their duties admirably.
We are taking necessary action across all areas of government to ensure that our public sector employees and the important services they provide are protected from wasteful and out-of-control spending. This is a noble goal and everyone needs to do their part to make sure we get there responsibly.
That’s why, on April 4, we announced our intent to consult on managing public sector compensation. It’s important to repeat that the government spends $72 billion a year on salaries and compensation for the over one million people we employ. That’s nearly half of the total amount the government spends in a given year.
Minister Bethlenfalvy first introduced the Protecting a Sustainable Public Sector for Future Generations Act on June 5 of this year, after six weeks of good-faith consultations with the Ontario public service and our stakeholders.
Over the summer, our government continued that dialogue. We listened, Speaker. We carefully considered the feedback we received and we proposed amendments accordingly. We know that we achieve best results when we work with our employees, partners and stakeholders, and that’s exactly what we did. We asked hard questions so that we could generate good ideas and build Ontario together.
The employers and bargaining agents we talked to raised a number of important issues and proposals for our consideration, and we took them very seriously. Our government was told of the importance of the free collective bargaining process, the benefit of centralized collective bargaining, opportunities to achieve cost savings by pooling benefits, the importance of protecting public services and the workers who deliver them and the complexities of each sector.
The employers and bargaining agents raised key proposals. For example, we heard about changes to governance and oversight of collective bargaining. We were told about enabling access to centralized benefits plan administration to reduce costs and take advantage of economies of scale. We gathered that information carefully, assessed it and used it to guide our plan of action.
Let me restate that we are a government that listens. The Protecting a Sustainable Public Sector for Future Generations Act is the result of thoughtful and inclusive consultation with employers, bargaining agents and the general public. As a government, we’re willing to innovate and consider every idea that’s put before us.
This bill is a critically important part of our road map to restoring fiscal balance to Ontario. Allow me to briefly repeat what the bill would do. If passed, it will establish a modest 1% limit on annual salary and compensation increases across most of our public service. The cap would exist within a three-year moderation period and would exclude Ontario’s municipalities and the entities they control. Of course—and this part is so important—public servants would still be able to move within their salary grid, meaning that salary increases resulting from merit, length of employment or education credentials would be exempt from the cap. As a government that respects the collective bargaining process, we have also ensured that this limit would not apply to agreements reached before June 5.
Bill 124 is balanced, fair and reasonable, and it respects our valued public servants. Just as importantly, it respects the taxpayers who put us here and who rely on critical public services every single day. We have to remember that every 1% increase in compensation costs the province an additional $720 million a year. That’s a lot of money for any jurisdiction, but especially considering the state of Ontario’s finances after 15 years of Liberal mismanagement, it is truly a huge amount.
Speaker, here at Queen’s Park, we’re hard at work doing what the people elected us to do. In just our first year in office, our government has accomplished so much for Ontarians: We scrapped the cap-and-trade carbon tax scheme, we improved transparency and accountability at Hydro One—
The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Rick Nicholls): Point of order. I’ll recognize the member of Essex when he gets to his chair. Now I will recognize the member from Essex on a point of order.
Mr. Taras Natyshak: Thank you very much, Speaker. I was listening intently from another chair, as you saw, and I don’t quite think I’m hearing the member on point as to the content of the time allocation motion. I’m hearing him divert far away from that. I’m wondering if he should be on track.
The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Rick Nicholls): I appreciate the comment. I have been listening closely, and I am seeing that he is actually drawing it back to the motion before us as well. But again, just a friendly reminder to our member. Thank you very much.
Mr. Michael Parsa: Speaker, I think it’s the ending that my colleagues will enjoy the most. I have to give you the content in order for you to get to the ending. If I give you the punchline now, why would you want to hear the rest of my speech?
Speaker, in our first year in office, as I said, our government has accomplished so much for Ontarians. We improved transparency and accountability at Hydro One, as I mentioned. We cancelled the wasteful and destructive energy contracts. We accomplished a line-by-line audit of government spending. We invested in the fight against guns and gangs. We passed legislation to get university students back to class. We froze driver fees and scrapped the outdated Drive Clean Program. We expanded access to, and removed the carbon tax from, natural gas. We lowered WSIB premiums. We’re well on our way to building 15,000 desperately needed long-term-care beds and upgrading 15,000 more. And we increased support to Ontario’s hospitals as part of our ongoing effort to end hallway medicine.
Miss Monique Taylor: Point of order.
The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Rick Nicholls): Point of order. I recognize the member from Hamilton Mountain.
Miss Monique Taylor: I understand that the speaker is trying to stick to his notes, but the motion before us is time allocation. I am not hearing anything from that member regarding the actual motion that’s on the table right now.
The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Rick Nicholls): Again, I thank you for the comment and for pointing that out.
Again I will remind the member that we are addressing the time allocation motion, and I’m certain that the points that you are making are driving towards a comment with regard to time allocation and the things that have been covered.
So again I will turn it back to the member.
Mr. Michael Parsa: Speaker, I just want to remind my colleagues here: The reason that it is so important for us to pass this bill is because of the services that we are—this bill was put forward as a result of careful consultations and an inclusive process open to everyone that wanted to be involved. This bill helps and protects—some of my colleagues, during their speeches on Bill 124, talked about the sustainability of our social programs. They talked about how important these social programs are.
Well, Speaker, this bill does exactly that: It creates a path for us to have these social programs now and into the future. It’s vital for this bill to be passed in order for these services to exist now and in the future. So I don’t know if that is an issue with my colleagues on this, but this is work that was done for the people and by the people. This was an inclusive process. I’m simply sharing all of this with my colleagues so that they know the process and how we got here.
I think it’s important for people to know that the process was open and inclusive, that we talked with the stakeholders, with our partners that are involved in this. I thought my colleagues would want to know about this process, because when my honourable colleague from across got up, he wanted to know about the process and who was involved. He was talking about the number of people. So I was simply sharing the issues of where we are, the process which led to us being here. It’s important for people to know that—that this was an inclusive process. It involved every single stakeholder that we invited, anybody that wanted to be a part of it—in person, as well as they could submit their information. That’s why we’re trying to stress the importance of why this bill needs to pass.
We made a promise to Ontarians, Mr. Speaker—I did. When I was canvassing my riding, when I was asking them to support me and to vote for me, I asked them for a mandate to allow me to come here and to serve them, to turn the province around. In order to do that, we need to make decisions. Some are tough decisions; they’re not easy.
The last government left this government in a really, really bad situation. When you have the title of being the highest-indebted province—sub-sovereign nation—in the world, that’s a title we don’t want to have. I’m sure my colleagues across agree with that. Because that will jeopardize, at some point, the social programs that our vulnerable people, the people of Ontario, heavily rely on. So we need to take these steps now to be able to make sure these programs, these vital programs, are available in the future. And it requires making some tough decisions.
When you’re looking at spending more than $13 billion—just burning more than $13 billion a year on interest on the debt, that’s a lot of money that’s not going to hospitals, that’s not going to schools, that’s not going to people who need it.
Speaker, that’s $36 million a day. Just think about that. I want my colleagues to think about that: $36 million a day, we’re spending on interest. That’s why this bill is so important. I hope that my colleagues will support us in making sure it passes.
The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Rick Nicholls): Further debate?
Miss Monique Taylor: I’m pleased to have the opportunity to join in this debate. Unfortunately, it’s not a debate we should be having in this House on a routine basis. Time allocation has become a major part of how we do business here at Queen’s Park, in the Legislature, and that is not what the people of this province have asked us to do. They send us here to do the work, to consult with the province and to make sure things are put forward that actually benefit the people of this province. When we come to time allocation, we’re truncating that message; we’re truncating that ability for people to be able to come to this House.
My colleague before me, the member from Timmins, went through the actual motion. “Draconian” is what he called it. This is what we have seen previously in time allocation motions and the lack of availability for people to be able to come. To think that 10 people will be able to come and speak to this bill, and five of them will be the choice of the official opposition, I’m sure, and five will be the choice of the government—so that will be five people who will be chosen to come and speak against this bill. From the Ontario Federation of Labour’s numbers, over a million people will be affected by this bill.
We hear the government saying that we have to be stringent and we need to save money. Well, maybe it’s not as much a saving-money problem as a revenue problem. We know we have a major revenue problem in this province that doesn’t allow for us to make sure that money is spent appropriately on services. They want to cut services. They want to hurt people in their pockets, quite honestly. They talk about saving money in people’s pockets, but when you don’t give them the proper increases to meet inflation, you’re actually putting less money in their pockets and less money in the economy. It doesn’t make sense.
For Conservatives who believe in numbers, you would think they would understand basic economics. They talk about the concern for dollars, and yet they increased their parliamentary assistants to 31. That’s a 14% increase for their caucus members. They’ve added five associate ministers who each got a 19% pay raise, but everybody else in the province has to suck it up and take the generous 1% increase.
When the member from Mississauga–Lakeshore was speaking in his debate yesterday, I believe he was talking about deputy ministers and explaining how that whole process went. He was talking about a modest 2% increase. So 2% for—
Ms. Lindsey Park: Point of order, Speaker.
The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Rick Nicholls): I recognize the member on a point of order.
Ms. Lindsey Park: Thank you, Speaker. I’m really trying to understand how the subject of the opposite member’s remarks speaks to the contents of the time allocation motion.
The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Rick Nicholls): I thank the member for her comment. Again, it’s difficult, when we are discussing time allocation motions, to not introduce components of the main motion. But I want to remind the member with regard to your comments to keep it to the motion before us as well. Okay? I appreciate it. Thanks.
Miss Monique Taylor: Sorry, Speaker, just for clarification: What I’m speaking about is the main motion and the purpose and importance of being able to have proper debate in this House and to be able to have proper consultation. What I’m speaking to is the main motion that we’re time-allocating. Is that allowed? That’s correct; right? I’m allowed to do that.
Mr. Gilles Bisson: Sure it is. Of course.
Miss Monique Taylor: Okay. So the member was incorrect when she thought I wasn’t speaking about the motion—
The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Rick Nicholls): Excuse me just a moment. You know what? I’d ask the member to withdraw your comment, please, and let’s just keep the debate civil and on point. Thank you.
Miss Monique Taylor: I withdraw. I apologize to the member.
My point was that when the members opposite, of the government, want to talk about their friends and people in higher positions, then 2% is modest. But when we’re talking about the labourers in this province, the people who roll up their sleeves and take care of our grandparents and take care of our children and do all of the hard work that we so desperately rely on, it is that 1% for them should be generous, that they should be grateful, that they should be thankful. And yet we know with the Liberals’ time in office before that that they froze public sector wages for years, so people are already behind. Now, at the current rate of 2% inflation, we can’t even give them that because they have other priorities.
Not allowing people to come to this House to speak to the problems that are within this motion is just absolutely wrong. It doesn’t make sense. It is not for the good of the people at all. There is nothing good for the people that is within this bill.
I was able to do a two-minute comment yesterday. I spoke of a woman I know very well who is a developmental service worker. She takes care of some of our most vulnerable people, people who are in wheelchairs, non-verbal, who need constant, 24-hour care and are in one of our group homes in the province. I won’t talk about the organization. But she has to provide medication, she has to dress, she has to feed, she has to take them to doctors’ appointments. She has to create all of their entertainment. She is a team leader within this house. That is the first level down after management. She has been there for 26 years. For 26 years she has been there taking care of these people in this house. Do you know how much she makes an hour? It’s $22.58. Twenty-six years as a team leader, taking care of our most vulnerable population, and she makes $22 an hour. And yet we think that giving our public sector workers 1% is a pat on the back, is helpful to that community. It’s wrong.
We’re talking about women in most of these sectors, very highly—
Mr. Taras Natyshak: Concentrated.
Miss Monique Taylor: —concentrated, thank you—in hospitals, in colleges. I believe the numbers that I heard my colleague from Nickel Belt talk about in universities were a little bit more balanced out. Children’s aid societies: a very high concentration of women. Bus drivers. These are workers in our province who are scraping by, truly scraping by, many of them.
Like I said, in developmental services, those people haven’t had raises in forever. They have constantly been the ones who have to take the brunt of the cost of government, and that’s unfair. When a government wants to tighten their belt, it’s always the labourers who have to tighten their belt. We heard of the extra parliamentary assistants and their wages and the extra associate ministers and the offices and staff and drivers and everything that just goes with the gravy train when it comes to the government and their spending, but the workers in this province have to tighten their belts. There’s a problem with that.
We heard from the member that we care about the services that happen in this province. Absolutely, we care about the services that happen in this province. We care about who takes care of our parents and our grandparents. But yet we don’t ensure that they have a decent wage, that they can afford to go to work every day, that they can afford child care for their families. These are the people who want to come here to this Legislature to be able to speak, to be able to say that it’s unfair, that we can’t do this any longer, that you need to tighten your belt somewhere else.
Maybe you need to not take so many organizations to court. How much money is this government spending in court costs because they would rather take it out in court than give autism families the money that they have already won through the courts? Instead, they will take them through court and spend millions of dollars because they think it’s okay because it’s their money. Well, it’s not their money; it’s our money. It’s the people of Ontario’s money. They have been given the honour to be stewards of that. To be reckless with it and to cut services and yet increase the debt over what the Liberals had done is unbelievable. It’s unbelievable that they talk about tightening their belts and saving money and they talk about the deficit on a daily basis and yet they have increased the debt. They increased it, over the Liberals. And they cut services. They cut services and increased the debt. I think that only a Conservative could do that. It blows my mind that this is what’s happening in the province today. Then we hear that they’re trying to “save” the services for the people of Ontario. They are not trying to save the services; they would rather privatize all the services, privatize our hospitals, privatize—
Mr. Michael Parsa: Point of order, Speaker.
The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Rick Nicholls): Yes. I recognize the member on a point of order.
Mr. Michael Parsa: I’m sorry to interrupt my honourable colleague, but I just want to remind my honourable colleague that when I was speaking she was adamant about talking about time allocation etc. and didn’t give me the opportunity to be able to get to my point, but she’s doing exactly the same thing—
The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Rick Nicholls): Thank you. Okay. Point made. Again, I will remind the member to stay on that. Let’s not deviate and swing out. Okay? Thank you.
Miss Monique Taylor: My point is that all of these thousands of people in our province who work in our public sector will have to literally win the lottery to be able to be one of the five deputants able to come and speak against this bill that has been truncated that we literally started debating on Monday. Bill 124 was dropped at the last second before we rose in June. We started the debate on Monday, and now here it is Wednesday and we’re talking about time-allocating this bill. The deadline for filing written submissions is Monday, November 4. This will probably be voted on by Wednesday or Thursday. On Thursday of next week, this bill will be done. It affects over a million workers in this province—who should be grateful, obviously. According to the government, they should be grateful for the 1% because they’re the ones who always have to tighten their belts around here, and we’ll give the cushy positions and the gravy train to all of the Conservative friends. That’s the way that this has been happening here in the province.
My point is that five lucky people in the province of Ontario are about to get a golden ticket to be able to come to committee and speak to this horrendous bill, Bill 124, that will affect over a million workers in this province.
I appreciate the opportunity to be able to have my two cents. I stand with the people of this province, knowing that life is harder, that hydro bills are going up, that it’s just getting harder and harder to raise your families—probably two, three or four jobs, no pensions, no benefits—yet they will have to unfortunately take the hit once again.
The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Rick Nicholls): Further debate? The member from Mississauga–Lakeshore.
Mr. Rudy Cuzzetto: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. It’s an honour to see you sitting there today.
I’m proud to speak today in favour of the government House leader’s motion for time allocation on Bill 124, the Protecting a Sustainable Public Sector for Future Generations Act. It is very important that we move forward today with time allocation on this bill to restore fiscal responsibility and sustainability in the government of Ontario.
Before Bill 124 was even introduced, we held six weeks of consultations with public sector employers, bargaining agencies and other stakeholders. Six amendments to Bill 124 were produced after extensive consultations over the past seven months. On October 9, a new round of consultations began, focusing on the pooling of employee benefits. And once Bill 124 is referred to a standing committee, another round of public hearings will begin.
Speaker, it is important to review how we got here today on Bill 124—and without any further delay. Over the last 15 years, the previous Liberal government nearly tripled our debt. Our debt-to-GDP ratio went from 27% to 40%. That’s a number we’ve never seen before in Ontario. At nearly $360 billion, we now have the largest subnational debt in the world, larger than any province, state or city. The interest alone on this debt costs us $1.5 million every hour, $36 million every day and over $13 billion every year. That’s almost $1,000 for every man, woman or child in Ontario every year. This is an incredible amount of money. It’s the fourth largest item in the provincial budget, more than post-secondary education and just behind community and social services.
As the minister has explained, we’re spending over $1 billion every month in interest. Can you believe that? A billion dollars a month in interest. That’s money that is not going to critical front-line services, including health care and education. It is no surprise that the Parliamentary Budget Officer concluded that Ontario’s fiscal policies are simply unsustainable over the long term. Our debt burden leaves us no fiscal room to respond in the event of a downturn in the economy, and there could always be a downturn in the economy. As our former Liberal Prime Minister Paul Martin said, “The debt and deficit are not inventions of ideology. They are facts of arithmetic. The quicksand of compound interest is real.”
To restore sustainability to Ontario’s finances, we must recognize the need to address public sector compensation. At $72 billion each year, it represents about half of all government spending in Ontario. So we put together a plan, both to consult and to listen. On April 4, the minister announced that we would begin a new round of consultations with our public sector employers and bargaining agents. The goal was to have a conversation about how compensation growth could be managed to ensure public sector wages are reasonable, fair and sustainable. Many options were put on the table for feedback. Consultations were held with other public sector stakeholders from April 5 to May 24, 2019.
That’s why time allocation is very important, because we have consulted from April 5 to May 24. The funny thing is, the member across there, in 1992, was quoted: “I think that is pretty reasonable. If you can’t come to your point in 20 minutes you have a real problem.”
During this time, we held 23 in-person consultation sessions. They all took place at publicly held facilities, at low cost or at no cost. Teleconference options were available to minimize travel-related costs, both for our government representatives and stakeholder participants. These sessions were attended by 68 employer organizations in sectors covering more than 2,500 collective agreements and 57 bargaining agents who, together, represent over 780,000 workers across all sectors of Ontario’s public service.
In short, all our major bargaining agents attended and participated. Employers who participated included the colleges, the universities, the school board trustee associations, the Ontario Hospital Association and many other provincial agencies.
Bargaining agent participants included:
—the Ontario Public Service Employees Union;
—the Canadian Union of Public Employees;
—the Service Employees International Union;
—the Ontario Nurses’ Association;
—the Association of Management, Administrative and Professional Crown Employees of Ontario;
—the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario;
—the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation;
—the Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association;
—the Society of United Professionals;
—the Power Workers’ Union; and
—Unifor. As a member of Ford Motor Co.—I worked there for 31 years—even Unifor showed up here.
It is very important for us to note here that Bill 124 would not interfere with the collective bargaining process. It would not limit the right to strike. It will not impose a wage freeze, a wage rollback or a job cut. I’ll repeat that again: It will not impose a wage freeze, a wage rollback or a job cut. In fact, employees will still be eligible for compensation increases. They would still be able to move up within their established salary ranges, and I’ll repeat that one again, too: They will still be able to move up within their established salary ranges. So that would be more than a 1% increase.
They can still receive merit increases, even beyond the 1% cap, during the three-year moderation period. For example, the average public sector employee in Ontario makes about $64,000 each year. They could be eligible to receive up to an additional $1,900 in salary after a three-year period, not including any in-range salary movement and not including any merit increases they may be eligible for.
Bill 124 would provide stability, fairness, wage growth and benefits that still aren’t available for most working individuals in the private sector, and it would do so in a way that reflects the province’s current fiscal reality. Last year alone, the total number of public sector employees making over $100,000 increased by over 20,000 people. We need to be honest about what we can reasonably afford while also protecting the sustainability of our programs and services.
Mr. Speaker, time allocation on this Bill 124 is very important. After introducing Bill 124 on June 5, we provided an additional 15 weeks of consultation over the summer for public employers, partner ministries, bargaining agents and other stakeholders to address any other concerns with the proposed bill, and they did, throughout the summer and into the fall. In total, we heard from employers and bargaining agents who represented over a million employees across the provincial public sector.
Some of the groups involved and some of the members opposite ask that we simply raise taxes. I cannot agree. We should not be raising taxes in this province. We campaigned on making life easier and more affordable for Ontario families, not to raise their taxes.
Other feedback: Of all items that were proposed, 14 policy issues were identified. For each issue, the office of the Treasury Board Secretariat worked hard over the summer developing new policy options. These were carefully considered together with feedback from stakeholders, experts and the people of Ontario to prepare six amendments to the proposed Bill 124. These changes will help ensure the proposed Bill 124 fulfills its original intent. They will strengthen Bill 124, further clarify the government’s intent, and ensure that the legislation is consistently and fairly applied. There are very important amendments, and I want to thank everyone who sent their feedback to the government to make their voices heard throughout this process. I look forward to reviewing any other amendments proposed by the opposition or by the public.
Another suggestion that came out of this consultation was allowing the pooling of employee benefits. We listened to the bargaining units which brought this opinion to our attention. We heard how important it was to them, and on October 9—
The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Rick Nicholls): Excuse me—by the way, happy birthday—but we are at 10:15. The member will have an opportunity when this is back in the House again for debate to continue along. So thank you very much.
Debate deemed adjourned.
The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Rick Nicholls): This House will stand recessed until 10:30.
The House recessed from 1015 to 1030.
Birth of member’s grandchild
Hon. Steve Clark: Point of order.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Point of order. The Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing.
Hon. Steve Clark: I want to take this opportunity on behalf of my wife, Deanna, and I to announce that on August 5, at—
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Order. I apologize to the minister. I can’t hear the minister. I apologize to the Minister of Municipal Affairs, on a point of order.
Hon. Steve Clark: Thank you, Speaker. On a point of order, Deanna and I would like to acknowledge that, in the intercession, on August 5, at 7:17 p.m., we welcomed our new granddaughter Mila Jane to the Brockville General Hospital. She’s a great daughter to Megan and Jordan Lysko. Her big brother, Georgy, is very happy. She was seven pounds, four ounces; 20 inches. We’re all very blessed to have Mila Jane in our lives.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): I’ll rule that as a very valid point of order. Congratulations.
Introduction of Visitors
Ms. Kathleen O. Wynne: First, let me congratulate the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing. Being a grandparent is the best.
I’d like to welcome to the Legislature a group of representatives of residents’ associations from the Yonge-Eglinton area who are here, I think, to have a moment to talk with the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing. They are Meraj Ahmed, Geri Berholz, Tom Cohen, David Dumoulin, Jane Fitzwilliam, May Gardiner, Tony Gardiner, Miria Ioannou, Maureen Kapral, Geoff Kettel, Richard MacFarlane, Vesna Milevska, Sharon Mourer, Dorijan Najdovski, Lancelyn Rayman-Watters and Timothy Swift. Welcome to the Legislature.
Mrs. Gila Martow: I’m very happy to see so many people here representing CAA. They’re having their advocacy day. In our gallery over here on the east side, we have Ethel Taylor from the board of directors. I don’t know everybody else’s names who are here, but I want to especially welcome Teresa Di Felice and my constituent Elliott Silverstein from government and consumer relations.
Mr. Tom Rakocevic: I’d like to expand on the members of CAA who are here today. It’s Raymond Chan, manager of government relations; Tina Wong, government relations specialist; Christina Hlusko, president of CAA North and East Ontario; and Jean Desgagne, CAA board member. We welcome you, and I hope people attend their advocacy day this evening.
Mr. Randy Hillier: I’d like to welcome to the House today Jim Whelan and Brian Tropea from the Ontario Harness Horse Association.
Mr. Vijay Thanigasalam: I am pleased to welcome two of my constituents from the great riding of Scarborough–Rouge Park to Queen’s Park. Roshan Chauhan and her sister Aban Karkaria are here because Mrs. Chauhan’s grandson, Kiran Chauhan, has the distinguished honour of being the page captain today. Welcome to Queen’s Park.
Ms. Andrea Horwath: Today’s page captain is Ella Bradley from Hamilton Centre and Ryerson Middle School in my riding, right around the corner from where I live. I want to welcome her mother, Grace Chaves, and her father, David Bradley, here today to watch their daughter in action.
Mr. Michael Coteau: I’d like to welcome some guests from CAA here today: Rhonda English, chief marketing officer; Anita Mueller, VP of automotive; Teresa Di Felice, AVP of government and community relations; Lorna MacInnis, board of directors of CAA Niagara; and Raymond Chan.
Hon. Todd Smith: It’s a pleasure to welcome three members of our expert Ontario autism panel to the Legislature today: Christine Levesque, Matthew Jason Dever and Laura Kirby-McIntosh. Welcome to Queen’s Park.
Mr. Faisal Hassan: I would like to welcome a constituent of mine, Stephen Mensah, who is also a member of the Toronto Youth Cabinet. Welcome to your House, Stephen.
Mr. Norman Miller: Today I’d like to welcome my legislative assistant, Sam Routley, and his father, Brian Routley, who are sitting in the east members’ gallery for question period this morning. Welcome.
Ms. Sandy Shaw: Not to be outdone by the leader, I too have a page captain from Hamilton: Hamilton West–Ancaster–Dundas. I would like to welcome the family of Kiran Chauhan. I have his parents here, Amit and Rebecca, and his sister, Maya. Welcome to Queen’s Park.
Mr. Billy Pang: I’d like to welcome my new, young, talented LA, Micael Thompson. Welcome on board.
Miss Monique Taylor: I would like to do my daily welcome to the families of children with autism and advocates: Faith Munoz, Amanda Mooyer, Laura Kirby-McIntosh, Michau van Speyk, Amy Moledzki, Kelly Russell and Sarah Klodnicki. Welcome back to the Legislature.
Tabling of sessional papers
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Before I move to oral questions, I beg to inform the House that the following documents have been tabled: a report entitled Long-Term Care Homes Program from the Financial Accountability Office of Ontario, and a special report entitled Special Audit of the Tarion Warranty Corporation, from the office of the Auditor General of Ontario.
Wearing of ribbons
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Point of order, the Associate Minister of Children and Women’s Issues.
Hon. Jill Dunlop: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I believe you will find we have unanimous consent to wear purple ribbons for Child Abuse Prevention Month.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Ms. Dunlop is seeking the unanimous consent of the House to allow the members to wear purple ribbons for Child Abuse Prevention Month. Agreed? Agreed.
Ms. Andrea Horwath: Good morning, Speaker. My first question is to the Premier. The Premier recently said that he would end hallway medicine by next summer. Is he on track?
Hon. Doug Ford: Through you, Mr. Speaker: We’re well on our way. We’re working hard to end hallway health care.
As the Minister of Health has mentioned numerous, numerous times, one of the avenues—and there are many avenues—of ending hallway health care is making sure that we have long-term-care beds. We have committed to having 15,000 long-term-care beds in the first five years, another 15,000 in the following five years. We’re already, after a year and five months, well on our way, with well over 7,500, and I think it might even be closer to 8,000, moving forward. That is one avenue.
Working with the doctors, working with the nurses, they have the ideas. We aren’t super experts—my Minister of Health has become an expert—but we listen to the front-line doctors. And every doctor I talk to, Mr. Speaker, has new ways of delivering health care more efficiently.
Home care is another area that we have to focus on. Technology: We have to focus on technology—
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Thank you very much. Supplementary question?
Ms. Andrea Horwath: Today, the independent Financial Accountability Office released their report into long-term care. Their findings show that the government’s plan for long-term care will leave the wait-list growing longer, that we’ll need almost four times as many beds as the government is planning just to keep the wait-list at a horrendous 37,000 people. Without other changes in the health care sector, the problem of hallway medicine will get worse over the next two years.
The Premier said he would end the hallway medicine crisis that was created by the Liberals. Why is he taking things from bad to worse?
Hon. Doug Ford: Minister of Health.
Hon. Christine Elliott: Through you, Mr. Speaker, I would remind the leader of the official opposition of several things. One is that we did not create the system of hallway health care. That’s a system that’s been growing for 15 years under the previous government, but we did promise the people of Ontario that we would do something about it, and we are. We have started. We promised the people of Ontario that we would create 15,000 new long-term-care spaces within five years. We are on track to do that.
My colleague the Minister of Long-Term Care is continuing the work that was started and doing an excellent job at it. We’re working on that, but we also recognize that our seniors population is growing rapidly. That’s nothing new. I think everyone in this Legislature knows that and so we have to continue with our efforts. We promised 15,000 new spaces within five years, another 15,000 in five years thereafter, but we’re also targeting new and innovative approaches, which I will speak to in the supplemental.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Final supplementary?
Ms. Andrea Horwath: The Financial Accountability Officer is clear that the job of tackling hallway medicine is not going to be the walk in the park that the Premier promised. The report that he released today, or that their office released today, indicates that even if the government keeps its promise, and that is a big if, wait-lists for long-term care will continue to grow in our province and hallway medicine will get worse.
Is the Premier ready to admit that his plan to eliminate hallway medicine is falling short?
Hon. Christine Elliott: We made the people of Ontario a promise that we would end hallway health care, and we are going to do that. We are working on a number of approaches. There is no one simple approach to ending hallway health care. No one has ever suggested it’s going to be a walk in the park.
We need to build more long-term-care spaces; that’s clear. We have an unacceptably high number of people who are alternate-level-of-care patients in our hospitals who don’t need to be there but have nowhere else to go. That is something we inherited but it’s something that we are dealing with.
We also need to make sure that people who cycle in and out of hospital emergency departments with chronic mental health and addiction problems have the community care resources that they need. We are working on that in building our comprehensive, connected mental health and addictions plan, because what happens so often is that people who end up in a crisis with their mental health care or addictions care end up in hospital because there’s no other place for them to go. We want to create those places for them and we want to create alternate types of spaces for people in our reactivation care centres where they can go, where they can be relocated—
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Thank you very much.
The next question.
Ms. Andrea Horwath: My next question is for the Premier as well, but I have to say, underfunding hospitals, forcing them to close beds and laying off front-line workers is not going to help with the hallway medicine crisis that we have right now.
The government boasts that it increased spending in long-term care by $72 million this year, but the FOA report shows that this will not be anywhere near enough. When beds are actually built, funding needs will increase, but the Ford government is already moving in the opposite direction, planning to cut $34 million in long-term-care funding by next year.
Does the Premier realize that cutting long-term-care funding will make the wait times for long-term care even worse?
Hon. Doug Ford: Minister of Long-Term Care.
Hon. Merrilee Fullerton: Thank you to the member for the question. You know, we look back on 15 years of Liberal neglect in the long-term-care sector, 15 years of runway that we would have been able to develop the beds and make that capacity and accessibility for those individuals needed in the community. That’s 15 years.
Our government has committed $1.75 billion for 15,000 beds over five years. This is a problem that has been a long time coming, and our government is committed. We’ve spent $72 million more this year over last year in long-term care. We’re spending millions of dollars improving care in the community and we’re improving the integration of home care, community care and our long-term-care sector. So this was many years in the making. Our government is putting the money behind our commitment, $1.75 billion, and that will be done. We are committed to doing that.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Supplementary question?
Ms. Andrea Horwath: Well, Speaker, there’s no doubt the Liberals let the wait-list for long-term care balloon by 78% over seven years. That is a disgrace and I think everybody in this chamber and everybody in Ontario would agree, but cutting $34 million next year is not going to help the problem. They ignored the hallway medicine crisis. There’s no doubt about it that the last government did, but now the Ford government is carrying on the same tradition.
The FAO report is clear that the wait-lists for long-term care are going to keep growing and that the challenges of hospital hallway medicine will go from bad to worse. When will this government admit that they need to do much, much more?
Hon. Merrilee Fullerton: The report from the FAO states that between 2011 and 2018, the number of long-term-care beds in Ontario increased by only 0.8% while the population of Ontarians aged 75 and over grew by 20%—
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): I’m going to ask the Minister of Labour, Training and Skills Development to come to order. Even when you have your hand over your mouth like that, I can still hear that it’s you, because you’re sitting very close to me.
I apologize to the Minister of Long-Term Care for having to interrupt her.
Hon. Merrilee Fullerton: I am actually very pleased that the FAO recognizes that our government’s investment in long-term care “is the largest new health sector spending commitment in the 2019 budget and is ‘a crucial part of the government’s priority to end hallway health care.’”
Our government is committing to make sure we can have residents in those long-term-care beds when they need it and where they need it, and we are investing in that. I’m working with the Ministry of Health and across ministries to make sure that happens, and streamlining processes to—
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Thank you very much.
Ms. Andrea Horwath: Well, Speaker, here’s what families see: Hospital emergency rooms routinely operating at over 100% capacity, and wait-lists for long-term care that have more than doubled over the term of the Liberal government and have continued to grow under the Ford government.
The FAO was very, very clear today, Speaker: This government’s plan has us on track for longer wait-lists for long-term care. It’s in black and white. It’s in the report. He also says that it’s putting us in a position to have even more hallway medicine. Why does the Premier think that this is acceptable?
Hon. Merrilee Fullerton: Thank you for that question. To date, our government has allocated almost 8,000 new beds. We are well on our way to creating the capacity that is needed.
But it’s more than simply bricks and mortar. Long-term care: People need it when they need it. We want to make sure that they get it when they need it, but we’re also building capacity in the community with home care. People want to stay in the community. They want to receive care in the community, so our capacity is building. We’re already at 50% of what we have promised to commit to, and we are getting there.
We look at the FAO report. Estimated timing in March of 2021 is when our call for applications is designed to address those remaining beds, so we are making really, really important progress. I must admit again that we’ve lost 15 years of runway. Our government is committed to making sure that the capacity is built, and I’m working, again, with multiple ministries to make sure that we achieve our goal.
Ms. Andrea Horwath: My next question is also for the Premier. Yesterday, the Globe and Mail revealed more concerning news about the close ties between Mario Di Tommaso, the person hired by the Premier to oversee the appointment of a new OPP commissioner, and Ron Taverner, the person whom Di Tommaso ultimately hired.
We know, based on the Integrity Commissioner’s report and extensive ongoing media investigations, that the process by which Mr. Taverner was appointed was flawed from day one, including the fact that Taverner was literally planning a party for the man who would hire him.
When will the government start providing basic answers about what appears to be a glaring conflict of interest on the part of the person the Premier appointed to a senior role in the civil service?
Hon. Doug Ford: Solicitor General.
Hon. Sylvia Jones: I understand that the members opposite of the NDP want to continue to build a narrative about an individual who has served in the OPS and in the Toronto Police Service, but I want to remind people that we have an excellent commissioner in Commissioner Carrique with the OPP. The leadership that he has shown on mental health issues, on ensuring that the individuals who serve in our communities, protecting our families and our property—he’s doing incredible work.
I only hope that, as the member opposite continues to see the excellent work that is coming out of the OPP and the leadership there, they will embrace the commissioner and assist him in his work in our communities.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Supplementary question.
Ms. Andrea Horwath: Speaker, this is not about a narrative; it’s about a government that has been terrible with its appointments process, with the fishy appointments that it has made, with the lack of due process, the lack of transparency. That’s what the questioning is all about. This is just one of many concerning instances where the Ford government has appointed friends and insiders to key government roles. But this is especially troubling because it concerns Ontario’s top policing job and the highest ranks of the civil service.
Yesterday, the government House leader claimed that the government would welcome suggestions on how to improve the process by which people are appointed to important public offices, in hopes of making it more transparent and open for the public. Well, we would like to take them up on this offer, Speaker. So will the Premier back our motion to have the justice committee review the appointment process for the OPP commissioner and ensure the committee hears directly from Deputy Minister Di Tommaso?
Hon. Sylvia Jones: Government House leader.
Hon. Paul Calandra: I think the Solicitor General was quite clear, and I share her sentiments with respect to Commissioner Carrique. He’s somebody who served in York region, and I know that the York region caucus are incredibly proud of his service to the people of York region and, of course, of the continuing service he’ll provide to the people of Ontario with the OPP.
But as I said yesterday, there was more coming with respect to improving openness and transparency for our public appointment process. I would suspect that all members of this Legislature would want that. We have made some important changes. We’ve looked at some of the recommendations that the Auditor General brought forward. We’ve added some cooling-off provisions with respect to special advisers, as colleagues will know. That’s something the Auditor General brought forward. We’re increasing transparency. We’re enhancing conflict-of-interest assessments. Some of these appointments will be referred to the Integrity Commissioner.
So these are all important appointments. Of course, special advisers will now be posted publicly. These are important changes, and I hope the opposition will support them.
Mr. Amarjot Sandhu: My question is to the Premier. Premier, as you know, our government was elected on a promise to help turn our province around economically. For far too long, Ontario was always having to play economic catch-up when it came to the rest of Canada and even North America. The previous economic policies in place caused fiscal stagnation while limiting job prospects and economic potential for families, small and medium-sized business owners in my riding and throughout our province.
Since our election, our main focus has been to put in place policies and regulations that will lead the way for economic expansion. Premier, can you elaborate on the positive impact that our policies have had economically in our province under your watch?
Hon. Doug Ford: I’d like to thank my all-star colleague from Brampton West—absolute champion. Things are booming in Brampton.
Through you, Mr. Speaker: Under our watch, we have helped create economic conditions for 272,000 jobs. That’s 272,000 jobs. That’s the size of Windsor. That’s almost the size of Vaughan employing people.
TD Economics recently published a great report that describes in detail Ontario’s economic output for just a year alone. Only five times since 1981—almost 40 years—has there been at least three quarters in which the economy has created jobs at a faster pace than output has expanded. Some 80,000 new self-employed positions have been created this year alone. These are true entrepreneurs going out there, creating more jobs.
The report even goes and states that we have hired 41,000 new public sector jobs—so much for laying people off. There are 41,000 more people—
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Thank you very much. Supplementary.
Mr. Amarjot Sandhu: Back to the Premier: Premier, those are incredible numbers, and shows what can be accomplished by the ingenuity and innovation of the people of Ontario themselves. It is refreshing that we finally have—
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): It now appears there’s a ventriloquist on this side of the House, and I suspect it’s the member for Hamilton East–Stoney Creek. I would ask him to come to order.
I apologize to the member for Brampton West, who has the floor.
Mr. Amarjot Sandhu: It is refreshing that we finally have a government that supports job creators instead of punishing them, and works with them instead of against them. I know that both yourself and the Minister of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade have been major supporters of the open-for-business strategy and in welcoming new Ontarians to our economic sector.
Can you elaborate on the continuing positive impact that immigration has had on the economic success experienced in this province?
Hon. Doug Ford: Thank you very much, our great MPP from Brampton.
I can tell you, Mr. Speaker, as I mentioned, we created 272,000 jobs, and our biggest problem right now is we don’t have enough people here in Ontario to fill the additional 200,000 jobs that are out there. In Ontario alone, in the first half of this year, over 65,000 immigrants settled in Ontario. That’s 50% being classified as coming on economic grounds. So we’re getting some of the brightest people here in Ontario.
But my call-out to the world: “You want to work, you want to contribute back to Ontario, come to Ontario. We have jobs.” Our economy will continue to boom as long as we have the people to fill the production output of these companies that they’re facing.
We’re going to continue on this economic growth. We’re leading North America. We’re on fire because of the policies of this great party.
I can tell you, what a great announcement yesterday: $100 million from DHL right in the Leader of the Opposition’s back garden—
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Thank you.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Stop the clock. I’m going to remind all members that when the Speaker stands, your microphone is cut off, and that’s a signal that you should sit down because your time is up.
I stopped the clock. Please restart the clock.
Miss Monique Taylor: My question is to the Premier. For parents raising a child with autism, the last year of this government’s failed policies has been a nightmare. Last night, we learned that the government’s panel has submitted their recommendations. For months, even years, parents have been calling for a needs-based program, and now even the government’s own panel is calling for the same.
Will the Premier commit right now to make the OAP available based on a child’s need, and provide the funding to ensure that no child is left to languish on wait-lists?
Hon. Doug Ford: Minister of Children, Community and Social Services.
Hon. Todd Smith: It’s an honour to rise for the first time in this House as the Minister of Children, Community and Social Services and take a question from my opposition critic today.
I want to thank the members of the expert panel, the Ontario autism panel, who worked tirelessly throughout the summer. They met 18 different times face to face. These weren’t just one-hour meetings; these were all-day sessions where they came together from various points of view. Parents with lived experience, adults with lived experience with autism, other clinicians and therapists and people from academia came together to develop the foundation for a new Ontario Autism Program here in Ontario, something that people have been waiting for for a long, long time.
I’m very proud of the work that they’ve done and I want to thank them for the work that they’ve done. Many of them are here today.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Supplementary question.
Miss Monique Taylor: I’m pleased to hear that the minister is happy with the recommendations. I hope that he’ll be implementing them immediately.
Children have waited months and months because of the Ford government’s failed autism program cuts and their constant refusal to listen to parents. They shouldn’t have to wait a minute longer. Every day that goes by without services is a day that a child’s developmental potential is put further behind. Life is getting harder and harder for families scrounging to pay for expensive therapy out of pocket.
How much longer will families have to wait to get the help they need and have been promised?
Hon. Todd Smith: I received a draft copy of the recommendations from the panel last night. I know that the panel’s report is now public, and it’s online for the entire community to view. I know that this program has been developed by the community for the autism community. I’m very, very proud of that. It’s the first time in the province’s history that this type of consultation has ever happened. So again, I want to thank them for the work that they’ve done.
The other important piece of this, Mr. Speaker, and for those of you who have been paying attention, is that back in July, I actually gave the panel some new guidelines to work within. The previous Liberal government funded autism to the tune of $300 million. Under Premier Ford and our government, that has doubled to $600 million.
I look forward to looking at the full report later today with my team. I know that the community is going to want to provide input. There are a lot of great strides that have been made, thanks to the work of this expert panel. I know they’re waiting for us to implement this as soon as we possibly can.
Again, I just want to thank the members who are here and the members who worked all summer on this proposal.
Ms. Kathleen O. Wynne: My question is for the Minister of Health. According to the World Health Organization, growing vaccine hesitancy is one of the top 10 threats to global health. In Canada, an estimated 20% of parents are vaccine hesitant. What that means is that one in five families may choose not to have their children vaccinated against measles, mumps, rubella, diphtheria, tetanus, polio, whooping cough, meningitis or chicken pox. That is what threatens, as the minister knows, the herd immunity that has protected generations of Canadians, including hers and mine.
Earlier this month, the Toronto Board of Health accepted the September 2019 report of the medical officer of health and its strategy to address vaccine hesitancy. The strategy calls on the provincial government to follow the advice of the Premier’s own council to, among other recommendations, improve immunization information sharing, set immunization targets for Ontario health teams and provide financial incentives to promote vaccinations for local health providers.
In February of this year, the minister said that she was concerned about vaccine skeptics, and yet, in September, just last month, she said that the government has “no plans” to update the province’s approach. So I ask the minister, will she reconsider? Will she in fact follow the advice of the Premier’s council, and if not, why not?
Hon. Christine Elliott: I thank the member very much for the question.
It is a serious concern. I am concerned about the lower levels of vaccinations—as a matter of fact, I just received my own flu vaccine this morning—that we’re seeing, and we did some publications, some announcements about it. We do have a province-wide advisory that’s going out, urging people to receive vaccinations.
Last year, we know that over 5,000 people were hospitalized because of not getting the flu vaccine and ended up in hospital. What I don’t think that people realize is that the flu, in particular, can be deadly. People die because of the flu.
We want to encourage people—I am encouraging everyone—to please get the flu vaccine. It’s important for your own health and safety, and it’s important for the health and safety of those around you. We do have that herd immunity. We do need to have a high level of people vaccinated in this province, so I urge people to reconsider. If you have any hesitancy about it, please get the correct information. Getting the flu vaccine in particular, as I am speaking about it today, is very, very important. It’s absolutely safe, it’s free and it’s readily available.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): The supplementary question.
Ms. Kathleen O. Wynne: I certainly agree with the minister on the flu vaccine, but I’m actually talking about the broad range of vaccinations, particularly the childhood vaccinations that are so important. One of the ways in which vaccination rates can be improved is to tighten or eliminate the restrictions on non-medical exemptions.
I know this is highly contentious. I know it’s difficult. But there are other jurisdictions—New Brunswick, California, Mississippi, West Virginia, Maine and New York—that are already moving to, or have already, put in place a prohibition on non-medical exemptions. In other words, a family can still get an exemption from a vaccination but only for medical reasons. There’s evidence from the United States jurisdictions that where non-medical exemptions have been removed, levels of immunization coverage go up.
My personal opinion, Mr. Speaker, is that vaccinations have been so successful that there’s a generation of people who do not know what can happen if you get measles, mumps or rubella. What our generation had to do was that we just had to get those diseases and build up our own immune system, if we could.
Mr. Speaker, will the minister—
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Thank you. Once again I will say to the member for Hamilton East–Stoney Creek: We don’t need the buzzer.
I would ask the Minister of Health to reply.
Hon. Christine Elliott: I certainly agree with the member that there is a whole generation of people who don’t understand the importance of vaccinations, and that’s where I think the education piece is so important, our provincial campaign with respect to the flu vaccine. But with respect to other vaccinations, it’s really, really important to remind people that they can become very ill or they can make other people very ill if they don’t get vaccinated.
My preference is to proceed with a more robust education campaign. I understand that the non-medical exemption has been very contentious, but there is a very small number of people who rely on that. We have no intention of subverting people’s religious concerns. There are some people who have true religious concerns with respect to vaccinations. I believe we should respect that. It is a very small number of people, though, among the groups that choose not to be vaccinated. There are larger groups of people with a lot of myths and misunderstandings with respect to vaccinations.
I believe it’s important to educate people on the actual reality and the importance of being vaccinated. It’s for your own health and for the health of—
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Thank you very much.
The next question.
Mr. Mike Harris: My question is for the Solicitor General. Yesterday, the Solicitor General introduced the Provincial Animal Welfare Services Act, or the PAWS Act for short. This comes after the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals ended its 100-year role as the enforcement agency of Ontario’s animal welfare legislation.
Our government stepped up with an interim solution to protect animals in the short term while we consulted with animal welfare stakeholders in order to inform the permanent solution we developed. Can the minister please tell this House how the PAWS Act will help ensure that animals remain protected in the long term?
Hon. Sylvia Jones: Thank you to the member for Kitchener–Conestoga. There are many of us in this chamber who feel very strongly that there were opportunities in Ontario to strengthen the animal welfare protection system, and I believe we have done that with the introduction of PAWS.
What we are proposing, if passed, will actually ensure that Ontario has the strongest animal protection welfare in Canada, and I’m proud of that work. I’m proud of the assistance of my parliamentary assistants and other colleagues in the chamber who have brought forward a private member’s bill and have participated in this process.
It is vitally important that we get this legislation right. I am pleased with where we have landed with the PAWS Act, and I hope that going forward we can have the support of all members in the Legislature because I think we understand the importance and value of protecting the animals that we live with and love.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Supplementary question.
Mr. Mike Harris: Through you, Speaker, I’d like to thank the Solicitor General for her answer. It is great to hear that, if passed, the PAWS Act will implement the strongest fines for offenders in Canada.
With over 60% of Ontario households having at least one pet, I know that animal welfare is a pressing issue for many of us. With substantial public interest and a diverse group of stakeholders, public consultation is critical for the development of a new animal welfare system to build public trust. Can the Solicitor General outline for this House what consultations went into developing the PAWS Act?
Hon. Sylvia Jones: As I mentioned previously, there was a lot of interest in this issue. In the three short weeks that we had public consultation open, we had 16,000 individual members of the public participate and get involved. But in addition to that, we had round tables with colleagues and caucus members. We involved and engaged local humane societies, the municipalities, police services, veterinarians. There are a lot of players in this field who are very, very interested in ensuring that we get the balance right.
I believe that when members opposite have had an opportunity to review the PAWS Act, they will see that the input and engagement was large and fulsome and the interim model has been a successful process. We intend to expand that, and I would encourage people to use 1-833-9-ANIMAL if they see any animal in distress or have concerns.
Mr. Taras Natyshak: My question is to the Premier. For months, the Premier has insisted that his government’s appointments process is above board, even after appointee after appointee has been forced to resign amidst evidence of cronyism and scandal. But the Premier’s attempt to make his close personal friend OPP commissioner and appoint his close personal friend to the civil service so that he could run the hiring process stinks pretty badly, Speaker, even by this government’s standards.
Speaker, will the Premier—
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): I’m going to caution the member on his language and ask him to rephrase his question.
Mr. Taras Natyshak: Thank you very much, Speaker.
The Premier has an opportunity to set the record straight here today. Will he let the justice committee hear from the deputy minister?
Hon. Doug Ford: Government House leader.
Hon. Paul Calandra: You know, Mr. Speaker, what’s disappointing? What’s disappointing is hearing from the members opposite, who are trying to somehow impugn the work that these two individuals have done. We’re talking about a police officer with many, many years of service; two individuals who have served the province of Ontario exceptionally well for many, many years. I think we should celebrate those types of individuals, not take it to the floor of the Legislature and bring those types of individuals down.
But at the same time, we said we want to improve the appointments process. We took a look at what the Auditor General had to say, and we are making changes. I highlighted some of those changes in an earlier answer, including adding a cooling-off period for special advisers. That was a recommendation of the Auditor General. I hope the opposition will support that. We have some additional transparency measures that we’re bringing forward. We’re seeking some comment from the chairs of the different boards so that we can update the skillsets of individuals we’re appointing. These are people who do very good work for the people of the province of Ontario, and they certainly don’t deserve to be talked down to by the members of the opposition.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): The supplementary question?
Mr. Taras Natyshak: Speaker, the purpose of this committee is to look at what happened at every step of this widely criticized process; to be, in the words of the House leader, open and transparent. But by refusing to co-operate, the Premier is telling Ontarians that the transparency that they’re looking for is just too much to ask from him. If the Premier really wants to correct his disastrous first year in office, it’s going to take more than simply throwing his chief of staff under the bus.
Will the Premier show that he’s actually committed to the openness and transparency that he likes to talk about and allow us to hear from his deputy minister about this deeply flawed process?
Hon. Paul Calandra: Mr. Speaker, obviously committees are the masters of their own domain. We’ll let them make that decision on their own. At the same time, as I said, we’ve brought in a number of transparency measures. We’re improving the public appointments process. I would hope that all members of the Legislature want to continuously improve that process. I know that on our side of the House we are doing that always. Our ministers are working harder. Our members of provincial Parliament are all working hard to improve the public appointments process. I’ve highlighted some of the things that we’re doing.
The member opposite talks about a disastrous first year in government. A disastrous first year? Tell that to the 280,000 people who are working who weren’t working before. Tell that to the people of the city of Toronto who will be going on subways after years and years of not being able to do that. Tell that to the people who have a long-term-care bed for the first time in generations.
I would say that the first year in government, for us, has been spectacular but it has been even more important and more impressive for the people of Ontario who are working, who are paying fewer taxes, who have better schools, who have better long-term-care facilities, who will have subways and better roads and transit and transportation. I would say that the first year was a huge success.
Mrs. Daisy Wai: My question is for the Minister of Long-Term Care. I am very concerned with the FAO report as well that was just released this morning. It is disappointing that over the last 15 years the long-term-care system was simply inactive. It is reported that, “Between 2011 and 2018, the number of long-term-care beds in Ontario increased by only 0.8%, while the population of Ontarians aged 75 and over grew by 20%.” This number is simply unacceptable to me. People in my riding are waiting to get into long-term care, and they simply aren’t able to.
Minister, can you tell me more about how our government is taking a different approach and acting in the best interests of Ontarians to get these beds built?
Hon. Merrilee Fullerton: Thank you to the member from Richmond Hill for bringing this to light. I also want to thank the Financial Accountability Officer of Ontario for his very comprehensive review of our plan. This report confirms that the previous government ignored the long-term-care system and that our plan is headed in the right direction.
In contrast to what wasn’t done in the last 15 years, our government is investing $1.75 billion to create 15,000 new long-term-care beds and to redevelop another 15,000 to long-term-care modern design standards, and, in addition to that, $72 million more this year compared to last year to go to long-term care. This is to support more beds, more nursing, more personal support care—really looking at helping our residents get the care they need when they need it.
Mr. Speaker, those are real dollars, real investment, and a vision for a 21st-century long-term-care system. We’ll get the capacity, and our residents will get the care they need.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): The supplementary question.
Mrs. Daisy Wai: Thank you to the minister for your encouraging answer. Wow, 30,000 new and redeveloped long-term-care beds. This is exactly the real investment that we’re looking for. Communities across the province and countless families will see their loved ones being cared for after this long wait. After 15 years of neglect in the long-term-care system by the Liberals, this is a major improvement. Building more beds and redeveloping older beds will help relieve pressure on the hospital system and will work to end hallway health care.
But I know that we need real relief in the long-term-care system as soon as possible. Minister, along with the investment that you just spoke about, what further action is the government taking to get more beds into the long-term-care system?
Hon. Merrilee Fullerton: Thank you again to the member for the question.
To date, our government has already allocated almost 8,000 beds to long-term care. That is moving in the right direction towards our 15,000 new bed commitment. In addition, we have started accepting applications from current and future potential long-term-care operators to build new long-term-care beds and to redevelop existing ones across Ontario. And, just this morning, the FAO validated our commitment to have these 15,000 beds built within five years. However, we are actively engaging with our long-term-care sector to modernize development processes by reducing red tape, streamlining processes and creating greater flexibility in expediting our processes. So we’re putting shovels in the ground faster, and we’ll get people into those beds faster, but we know our work has only just begun.
Our government has committed to creating the capacity in long-term care and, together, we can improve long-term care for all Ontarians.
Research and innovation
Ms. Catherine Fife: My question is to the Premier. Kitchener-Waterloo is an established innovation hub in Ontario. Tech companies in my riding create thousands of good jobs and drive our economy. But across the province, we’ve seen funding cuts to tech and research groups by this Conservative government. The latest on the chopping block is the University of Waterloo’s Institute for Quantum Computing. This move puts good jobs and economic opportunities at risk due to short-sighted cuts from this Conservative government. This now jeopardizes our competitive advantage as a province.
Will the Premier reverse this harmful decision for Waterloo and Kitchener-Waterloo?
Hon. Doug Ford: Minister of Economic Development.
Hon. Victor Fedeli: We are indeed committed to ensuring Ontario is open for business and open for jobs. We have ongoing conversations with the tech sector about creating the conditions that will continue to allow companies to scale up and grow. We continue to work with and support the tech sector, because when our tech jobs thrive, our communities thrive.
In September, our government announced that we are investing nearly $41 million in 174 research projects across the province as part of Ontario’s “open for business, open for jobs” plan. In fact, University of Waterloo received 14 grants totalling over $2 million that will go toward funding research projects in quantum computing and other high-tech sectors.
We will continue to work with the industry to ensure an innovative business environment protects the workers, builds capacity and creates jobs, opportunity and growth.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): The supplementary question.
Ms. Catherine Fife: In part, the reason why Waterloo and Canada are on the map for quantum computing is because we invested early and we invested often. Ontario has been a leader in this country in investing in areas like quantum computing, AI and medical research, including cancer research.
But since this PC government has been elected, the research sector has seen cut after cut after cut. And when a pattern of defunding emerges, it becomes more difficult to market the province as a leader in business and research.
Does the Premier of Ontario really believe he is on the right track?
Hon. Victor Fedeli: Speaker, we’ve seen job after job after job. In fact, 272,400 of them have been created.
Our government understands the value of quantum computing and AI across multiple sectors. We have over 300 AI-enabled firms and institutions in Ontario, and we continue with our plan to protect good jobs in the tech sector today, while investing in the skills and technology essential to remain competitive tomorrow.
We have nearly 300,000 tech workers in Ontario today. That puts Ontario as the second-largest IT cluster in all of North America.
Quantum computing and AI will have enormous economic impacts, thanks to our investments. By 2035, it is estimated that AI will add more than $1 trillion to the global economy. That is why our government remains committed to investing in quantum computing, facilitating an environment where the tech and the AI sectors can continue to grow and thrive.
Public transit / Transports en commun
Mr. Stan Cho: My question is for the Minister of Transportation. Yesterday marked a momentous day for public transit in the province of Ontario. I want to offer my personal congratulations to the minister for receiving Toronto city council’s endorsement of her four priority subway projects. The minister took over this portfolio just over 100 days ago and has successfully built on the foundation built by her predecessor.
Our four priority projects will deliver rapid transit to communities that need it, like Flemingdon Park, Thorncliffe and Liberty Village—which will all directly benefit from the Ontario Line—and Scarborough, which will finally have the three-stop subway line that it deserves.
Can the minister please explain what yesterday’s city council vote means for the people of Ontario and Toronto?
Hon. Caroline Mulroney: I would like to thank the member from Willowdale for his question and his very kind comments. I was happy to take over this ministry, which was left in great shape by my colleague Minister Yurek; and I have been very lucky to be working alongside the Associate Minister of Transportation, Minister Surma, who knows and understands the transit needs in the GTA.
Nous avons atteint un moment charnière dans l’histoire du transport en commun à Toronto : After years of discussions, the city of Toronto and the province of Ontario have endorsed one single, unified plan for subway expansion in Toronto. I am grateful that city council has endorsed our proposal of October 10. This is a testament to the commitment of our Premier and the mayor to get transit built. Pour paraphraser le premier ministre, ce qui est bon pour Toronto est bon pour l’Ontario.
We’ve finally broken political gridlock to address traffic gridlock, and we are one step closer to delivering public transit—
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Thank you very much. The supplementary question.
Mr. Stan Cho: Thank you for that, Minister. Our government’s goal has always been to improve transit and to get Ontario moving. This region loses $11 billion a year to gridlock, a fact that is all too well known in Willowdale. We recognize the urgency of building the transit network that our province needs. Our four priority projects—the Yonge North extension, the three-stop Scarborough extension, the Eglinton West extension and the Ontario Line—will provide the relief that my constituents and all Ontarians need and deserve.
Yesterday’s council vote was crucial, but there is plenty of work ahead of us. Through you, Speaker, can the minister tell us: What’s next?
Hon. Caroline Mulroney: I’m very happy to answer that question. We have been clear from the onset that our plan is ambitious and attainable. With city council’s support, the province has begun a new era of co-operation and partnership with the city of Toronto that will turn our government’s transit plans into a reality. Now the federal government must view our transit plan as the urgent priority that it is.
I’m calling on Prime Minister Trudeau to fulfill his campaign promise and commit his full 40% funding share to get these projects built. Je fais appel au premier ministre Trudeau afin qu’il respecte sa promesse électorale et engage sa pleine part de financement, à la hauteur de 40 % du financement, pour que ces projets soient mis en oeuvre.
Mr. Speaker, we are making serious headway in getting subways built in Toronto. The train is leaving the station. We are building transit for the future.
Ms. Jennifer K. French: My question is for the Premier. Last year, this government voted against building 2,000 new not-for-profit long-term-care spaces in Scarborough, Whitby and Oshawa. Under the previous Liberal government, wait times to access long-term care in Durham region grew to be among the longest in the province. That was the Liberals. Under this government, wait times have grown longer. We’ve gone from bad to worse. I hear it regularly from families in my riding. I’ve been listening to families who are desperate on behalf of their loved ones. This is unacceptable.
Why does the Premier think it is acceptable for seniors and their families to wait years on end to find an appropriate place to live and to receive the care that they deserve?
Hon. Doug Ford: Minister of Long-Term Care.
Hon. Merrilee Fullerton: Thank you to the member opposite for the question. Our government is committed to building a 21st-century long-term-care system to meet the vital needs of our growing long-term-care population. We are investing $1.75 billion over five years to create that new capacity: 15,000 new beds to be developed to modern design standards. We have already allocated almost 2,000 of those beds and reaffirmed another 6,085. We’re one step closer to fulfilling this commitment. Our recent call for applications, on October 1, from current and potential long-term-care-home operators to build new long-term-care beds and redevelop long-term-care beds is part of our commitment. We’re modernizing long-term care and adding $72 million more this year than the year before. With an aging population, these new and redeveloped beds will help more families and—
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Thank you very much. Supplementary question?
Ms. Jennifer K. French: Again to the Premier: As of this past September, there were nearly 1,500 people waiting to get a room at the long-term-care home Hillsdale Estates in my riding of Oshawa. They will be waiting for over a year. That is the best-case scenario, and that’s for a shared room; it is years and years and years for a private room. In Whitby there are over 1,700 people waiting for a room at Fairview Lodge. Over 1,400 people are waiting for a room at the Village of Taunton Mills. Under the Liberals, wait-lists skyrocketed due to years of underfunding and wilful neglect. Under this Conservative government, as we learned today from the FAO report, those wait-lists will only get longer.
Why is the Premier allowing seniors to languish on ballooning long-term-care wait-lists, just like the Liberals did before him?
Hon. Merrilee Fullerton: Thank you to the member opposite for that question. I want to thank you for raising that concern with me.
We want to hear from our sector, and we have been hearing from our sector over the last few months, and so our government knows that some facilities in the province are facing very long wait times and they have issues that we need to help them resolve.
We’re committed to building a long-term-care system for the 21st century so that our most vulnerable people can get the care they need when and where they need it. That means ensuring that each and every long-term-care home in Ontario is fulfilling its potential.
I want to assure the member opposite that I will be looking into that, and I will ensure that my office will be following up with you regarding that. We want to work with our sector. I appreciate you bringing forward that concern.
Mr. Roman Baber: My question is to the Associate Minister of Transportation. Minister, yesterday I was thrilled to see that Toronto city council voted to approve our subway plan. As someone who takes the subway daily, I know that it will reduce overcrowding on Line 1 and I may finally get a seat.
After years of political squabbling, it’s great to see the province moving forward together with the city to finally build new transit. Can the minister please tell us more about this historic arrangement between the city and the province of Ontario?
Hon. Kinga Surma: Thank you very much to the member for the question.
Yesterday was truly a historic day for the people of Toronto. The city and the province came together to finally bring relief for families and provide the service that the great people of the city deserve. City council approved our transit plan, which includes four priority transit projects: our Ontario Line, our three-stop Scarborough subway, our Yonge extension north and, of course, the Eglinton Crosstown, which will be predominantly built underground.
With this agreement in place, we are making a commitment to the people of Toronto that we will work together to build subways as quickly as possible. We will now be building and extending subways in the west and east ends of the city, connecting them to the downtown core.
Yesterday’s council decision confirmed that we can now have discussions with the federal government on a true partnership with the city of Toronto. This is a great day for the city of Toronto and the province of Ontario, but most importantly, it’s a great day for the taxpayer.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Supplementary question?
Mr. Roman Baber: I agree with the minister when she says that it’s a great day for Toronto and it’s a great day for our entire region.
When I talk to people in York Centre, they don’t want to hear more excuses or delays when it comes to building transit. All they want is to see progress, shovels in the ground and, ultimately, new stations built.
Speaker, could the minister please share more about our proposed projects and how they will benefit local transit riders?
Hon. Kinga Surma: Thank you very much for the supplementary question.
Mr. Speaker, as I mentioned before, we will finally be bringing relief to families in the west end and the east end of the city. Our Ontario Line is 15 kilometres in length, and it is double the distance of the previously proposed city downtown relief line.
Anyone who takes the subway knows how busy the Yonge line is. That’s why it’s important to highlight that the Ontario Line will be reducing crowding on the Yonge line by 14%, reducing crowding at Bloor-Yonge Station by 17% and reducing crowding at Union Station by 13%. The Ontario Line will also run north of Pape to the science centre, serving communities along the way.
Mr. Speaker, it has been an absolute pleasure to work at the Ministry of Transportation on this initiative, and I look forward to continuing the good work.
Ms. Doly Begum: My question is to the Premier. Last year, this Conservative government voted against building 2,000 new not-for-profit long-term-care spaces in Scarborough and Durham region. You all know this; you voted against it last year.
We learned today from the FAO report that the number of people waiting for long-term-care beds grew by nearly 78% under the previous Liberal government, and that wait-list is expected to grow under this Conservative government.
Premier, my people in Scarborough have waited long enough under the Liberal government, and now they’re going to wait under this Conservative government. Why is this Conservative government taking it from bad to worse?
Hon. Doug Ford: The Minister of Long-Term Care again.
Hon. Merrilee Fullerton: Thank you to the member opposite for addressing that issue. For the first time in Ontario’s history, we are prioritizing the long-term-care sector and making long-term-care residents and caregivers a priority.
We recognize that there has been a significant increase in the need for long-term-care beds, and that’s why we’re investing $1.75 billion over the next five years to improve access to the long-term-care system by creating 15,000 new long-term-care beds and redeveloping another 15,000 beds to modern design standards. We’re adding $72 million more this year than last year, building more beds. Redeveloping older beds will help address the pressures in hospital.
The hallway health care issue is growing—we understand that—but this is an important step to ending hallway health care and ensuring that every Ontarian who needs it can access our long-term-care system.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Supplementary question.
Ms. Doly Begum: No, Minister, you’re making a cut of $35 million.
Speaker, my question is back to the Premier. Does the Premier know what happens when someone falls in a long-term-care home, in the washroom, for example? They wait about five to 10 minutes, lying on the floor, because there are not enough people in those long-term-care homes to help when they press that buzzer. That’s what happens in Scarborough. Scarborough has some of the longest wait times for long-term-care beds in the province because of the previous Liberal government’s underfunding. Wait-lists will only get longer under this Conservative government, and we know this from the FAO report.
Speaker, there are already 3,000 people waiting for long-term-care beds in the Mon Sheong Long-Term Care Centre in Scarborough. Will this minister commit that they’re not doing the same thing as the previous Liberal government and they will do a better job, or are they keeping up with what the Liberals did and just making it worse?
Hon. Merrilee Fullerton: Thank you for that concern. Our government has been absolutely transparent about the need to increase access to long-term care, and we know it will take a cross-ministry approach to serve people better. While we work to improve our system, we will continue to invest. We have not cut $34 million from long-term care. We are also working with industry partners to streamline processes and make sure we get shovels in the ground faster and those beds built.
Mr. Norman Miller: My question is for the Minister of Infrastructure. Minister, municipalities and the federal and provincial governments must work together to ensure our constituents have safe roads, bridges and transit.
This summer I had the pleasure of sharing details of the local investments our government is making in Parry Sound–Muskoka: $1.2 million in improvements to Dillon Road in the community of Carling. In Huntsville, we’re investing $267,000 for the replacement of the Etwell Bridge and more than $122,000 for phase one of their transit ridership growth plan. I’m also pleased that our government is investing more than $337,000 for the replacement of the Snider’s Bay Bridge in Gravenhurst.
Can the minister tell this House if the province will continue to make these important investments in our communities?
Hon. Laurie Scott: I’d like to thank the member from Parry Sound–Muskoka for his hard work on behalf of his constituents and his contribution to our government. Our government is and will continue to work together with municipalities, families and businesses to make smart investments in our infrastructure and keep it reliable for the people of Ontario.
Our government is committed to making these investments, and I can assure the member we will continue these important investments—investments like over $851,000 for the replacement of Black Bridge in the town of Bracebridge and more than $900,000 for road reconstruction in Wasauksing First Nation.
Ontario has committed infrastructure funding valued at more than $4.5 million in communities across Parry Sound–Muskoka to date, Mr. Speaker. Ontario has nominated 144 projects of road, bridge and air through the rural and northern funding stream, a total of $115 million in provincial funding. We’re just waiting for the federal government to approve these projects that have been nominated by the municipalities and the provincial government. We’re waiting for that—
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Thank you very much.
That concludes question period today.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Is it a point of order?
Hon. Jill Dunlop: Yes, it’s a point of order.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Before I entertain any points of order, I’m going to point out that we have had ample time to introduce visitors this morning before question period. We’re not going to be entertaining points of order after question period to introduce visitors anymore.
The Associate Minister for Children and Women’s Issues.
Child Abuse Prevention Month
Hon. Jill Dunlop: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I’d like to invite all of my colleagues from the House to join us for a picture on the stairs in honour of Child Abuse Prevention Month after question period.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): This House stands in recess until 3 p.m.
The House recessed from 1141 to 1500.
Emily and Alex Beduz
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): I understand that the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing has a point of order.
Hon. Steve Clark: I’d like to take a moment to welcome Isla Mary Beduz to the world. She was born on October 16 at Mount Sinai Hospital. Her parents, Emily and Alex, who work for the Minister of Health and myself, are overjoyed with their healthy new addition to the family.
Introduction of Visitors
Mr. Percy Hatfield: I have two very close and personal friends here in the gallery this afternoon from the Ontario Harness Horse Association. Jim Whelan is the president, and Brian Tropea is the general manager. Welcome to Queen’s Park.
Hon. Jill Dunlop: I would like to introduce a good friend of mine who’s visiting here from Sudbury today: Derek Laporte.
Mrs. Daisy Wai: I would like to welcome my husband, Albert Wai. He is coming here to witness the private bill that I am presenting.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Welcome.
Ms. Jessica Bell: I want to talk about Enrico Miranda. Enrico was a father and a grandfather. He was known for his kind smile. He grew up in the Philippines, where he trained as an engineer. In Ontario, he was a temporary employee for 10 years.
On September 25, Enrico was crushed to death by a machine that he was cleaning at Fiera Foods. He was the fifth employee who died at Fiera Foods since 1999—five people who shouldn’t have had to die.
For years, groups like the Workers’ Action Centre in my riding of University–Rosedale have been fighting for safer working conditions for temporary workers, because temporary workers are twice as likely as permanent employees to be injured at work.
Some 70% of the workers at Fiera Foods are temporary workers. So if a worker is injured, Fiera doesn’t have to pay the WSIB claim or have it on their record; the temp agency does.
This government has a choice: Make workplaces safer or make them more dangerous. What has this government done? They’ve refused to make companies like Fiera Foods face real penalties. They’ve reduced workplace safety inspectors. They’ve lowered safety training requirements. They’ve refused our call for a full public investigation.
When people go to work, they expect to come home. This government is not making it safer for people to come home. They are not making workplaces safer, and that’s not right.
I’ll continue to fight with workers to ensure we pass and enforce laws so that everyone is safe when they go to work.
Members of provincial parliament
Mrs. Nina Tangri: Today I would like to take this opportunity to thank all members of this House for the commitment, courage, long hours and vision that they bring to serve the people of Ontario.
After spending time in our ridings over the summer, we were able to connect with the various community groups, local businesses and residents that gave us the privilege to represent them. From speaking to groups of Fortune 500 executives looking to invest in Ontario, to opening a large EarlyON daycare centre; from wading in the Credit River touring the salmon facility ensuring sufficient salmon population occurs, to visiting a fur auction facility in North Bay; from joining Luso charities, where we provide funding for a Snoezelen room, which is significant for those with disabilities, to attending the numerous ethnic events, including Iftar dinners, Eid, Portuguese, Goan, Polish, Filipino, Hindu, Sikh, Croatian, Chinese, and many others—and not to forget the many wonderful food festivals—to the weddings, birthdays, new babies, christenings, retirements and anniversaries. Congratulations to you all.
We host our own community barbecues, and at mine we were able to present the first recipients of the life sciences scholarship program, my own initiative where 20 students in first- or second-year university each received $4,000, plus one-on-one mentoring.
We are truly privileged to be able to be the voice of our constituents, and I’d like to thank all the people here and the people of Ontario for their confidence in our government.
Ms. Rima Berns-McGown: I’m excited to be back to voice the concerns of my constituents in Beaches–East York. The government’s cuts continue to hurt Ontario and Ontarians. Its cuts to education at every level have been particularly cruel.
Instead of a summer where parents, teachers, education workers and students could kick back and enjoy themselves, teachers and workers spent it worrying about their jobs and their ability to put food on the table. Students spent it worrying about their futures. I heard story after story of cancelled programs, overcrowded classrooms and diminished opportunities. I heard about a guidance counsellor who is now responsible for 10 different schools instead of the three or four they had previously. It is simply not possible to give students the support they need when you have those kinds of numbers.
Once when I was out in the community, two high school students approached me in complete desperation. In fact, one of them was in tears because the courses they need to graduate and apply for the post-secondary programs they want are no longer available. One said, “We’re a low-income family, and with the cuts to OSAP, I don’t even know how I’m going to manage to go to university.” Destroying students’ ability to get the education they need is both horrible for them and terrible economic and social policy. They suffer; Ontario loses.
The government’s education cuts were as ill-conceived as all the other poor decisions it has been forced to reverse. It needs to reverse the education cuts now.
Events in Haldimand–Norfolk
Mr. Toby Barrett: I rise today to commend all those who do their part and volunteer so we can enjoy our local festivals, parades and events. As the fall festival season and Thanksgiving wrap up, we’re reminded how blessed we are to live in areas where celebrating sometimes the simplest things in life can provide the boost we all need as a community.
Over the past few months, I have been fortunate to participate in so many events in both Haldimand and Norfolk counties.
The Norfolk County Fair and Horse Show caps off our fall season, and the weather couldn’t have been better: seven days of rides, music, demolition derbies, tractor pulls, horses and other livestock.
Warriors’ Day and Remembrance Day follow the celebration of our harvest bounty. Locally, I’m proud to say there are so many ceremonies to honour and remember the men and women who have served and continue to serve Canada during times of war, conflict and peace.
Soon, Christmas parades, church bazaars and the Salvation Army kettle campaign will begin in earnest and with enthusiasm. Speaker—and I think this is very significant—over the coming winter months, so many dedicated organizers and volunteers will be hard at it, planning and preparing for yet another festival, another fair or parade season to ensure our local traditions many of us hold dear will continue to flourish and entertain.
Horse racing industry
Mr. Percy Hatfield: Harness racing in Ontario is in big trouble. The Liberals messed it up big-time, and the Ford Conservatives haven’t fixed it. The people who run Woodbine have total control. They’ve eliminated funding for the Ontario Harness Horse Association. They are silencing their critics. The OHHA has represented horse people for the past 60 years.
We value democracy here in this House, yet the breeders, trainers, drivers, owners and grooms aren’t being allowed to democratically determine who they want to represent them. And, Speaker, the Conservatives have refused to get involved. That’s not right. They promised they would, but they haven’t kept that promise. Meanwhile, fees paid to those who run Woodbine and our land-based casinos have increased by more than $800 million. That’s money that could have gone into health care and education instead of the pockets of the private sector.
The net profit to the taxpayers has dropped by $170 million. That’s an outrageous attack on our public treasury. The little guys in the gaming industry, those involved in harness racing, are getting the short end of the stick. They need immediate help from this government. Profits from gaming need to be examined and better distributed. The Premier needs to break the monopoly of Woodbine and insist on a democratic election for representatives of the harness horse industry, and he needs to do it now.
Services en français
M. John Fraser: Lundi dernier, j’ai présenté le projet de loi de mon ancienne collègue Nathalie Des Rosiers. Le projet de loi remplace la Loi sur les services en français par une autre loi intitulée Loi de 2019 sur la francophonie. Voici quelques points saillants du projet de loi :
L’Assemblée législative effectue ses travaux dans les deux langues. Les règlements sont bilingues.
Les tribunaux judiciaires et administratifs doivent pouvoir fonctionner en français. Les décisions importantes sont publiées dans les deux langues.
Les entités gouvernementales offrent, de manière active, leurs services dans les deux langues. L’affichage doit lui aussi être dans les deux langues.
Les municipalités peuvent décider de fonctionner dans les deux langues. La loi reconnaît le caractère bilingue d’Ottawa.
Les organismes gouvernementaux et les institutions publiques doivent élaborer des plans de services en français.
Et, très important : la loi rétablira le commissaire indépendant aux services en français.
Je sais que le député Bourgouin présentera un projet de loi similaire la semaine prochaine. Je suis impatient de le voir présenter.
La mise à jour de la loi sur la langue française pour mieux protéger et promouvoir la francophonie de l’Ontario est une chose à laquelle tous les députés de cette législature peuvent travailler ensemble.
Mr. Norman Miller: I rise today as we approach Remembrance Day to speak about two local initiatives designed to help ensure we never forget the sacrifices of our veterans.
This past weekend, the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 507 in MacTier unveiled their new cenotaph. The new structure replaces an aging and crumbling cenotaph which had been in place for decades. Over the past year, this small community raised more than $30,000 to design and build this new memorial.
The new cenotaph includes a plaque listing the names of all the local men and women who served in the First and Second World Wars. I want to congratulate Legion Branch 507 president Bruce Henn, members of the Legion and the community of MacTier on having this new cenotaph ready for Remembrance Day.
In another effort to ensure we remember those who fought for our freedoms, local historian Patrick Boyer has published a new book entitled Muskokans Fight the Great War: Striking Back for the Empire, 1914-1918. I hope to attend one of his readings over the next few weeks, and I look forward to reading his book.
I encourage everyone to do more than wear a poppy at this time of year. Take some time to attend a Remembrance Day service, stop at a cenotaph or learn more about Canada’s military history. Our veterans did their duty to protect our country; it is our duty to remember.
Robarts Research Institute
Mr. Terence Kernaghan: I recently toured Robarts Research Institute, part of the Schulich School of Medicine and Dentistry at Western University in my riding of London North Centre. London has an important history of medical innovation, as the birthplace of insulin, the first human blood transfusion and the first brain MRI, to name a mere few.
Robarts’s interdisciplinary approach involves physicians, physicists, biologists, biomedical engineers and so many more. Collaboration is key, with brilliant minds investigating heart disease and stroke, diabetes, Alzheimer’s and cancer.
I was incredibly impressed by:
—Dr. Fenster’s work with 3D imaging and cancer treatment;
—Dr. Hegele’s work on genetics. He was the first to identify a genetic basis for many diseases;
—Dr. Parraga’s lung imaging, showing the damaging effects of tobacco, cannabis and vaping products;
—Dr. Prado’s work on Alzheimer’s disease;
—Dr. Rieder on drug safety;
—Drs. Bartha and Khan on neuro-imaging;
—Dr. Peters’s surgical simulations; and
—Dr. Drangova’s robotics and 3D printing for joint and tissue replacement.
I’d like to thank all the scientists, researchers, students and staff for your groundbreaking work at Robarts Research Institute. It’s a state-of-the-art facility, and I wish you much success as you continue London’s history of world-class research.
Ms. Natalia Kusendova: It’s wonderful to be back in the House. Like many of my colleagues, I have had a busy summer, attending events in the community and meeting with constituents. Some highlights included marking International Overdose Awareness Day with my naloxone poster campaign that I sent to all honourable members, and celebrating Mississauga’s own US Open champion, the remarkable young woman, Bianca Andreescu.
While I did enjoy my summer, I was also hard at work with my colleague the member from Cambridge, as we completed our consultation task force on combatting human trafficking. Together with the new Associate Minister for Women and Children we held 12 round tables across this province, where we listened to survivors, service providers, police enforcement, francophone and Indigenous groups, and various stakeholders on this issue.
Speaker, it has become clear to me as I work on this issue: There is a lack of public awareness and education on this topic. Human trafficking is not something that happens in Third World countries. It is something that is happening right here at home in Ontario. Some 93% of victims are Canadian-born and as young as 12 to 14 years old.
Last year, Minister MacLeod called human trafficking Ontario’s secret. It is now time the secret was out in the open. We must break the silos and work together across ministries and industries. That is why I’m so pleased that we have engaged multiple ministers on this topic and our government is taking an inter-ministerial approach.
I also note that this is a priority issue for the Premier, as he has recently announced an additional $6 million in funding to three priority crime areas, human trafficking being one of them.
We must work across party lines and levels of government to put an end to this modern-day form of slavery. Human beings are not for sale.
Mr. Kaleed Rasheed: I rise today to share with the House some of the very positive economic news in the province of Ontario, particularly with regard to the employment picture and the number of jobs created in recent months.
As you know, Mr. Speaker, our government has been working non-stop to deliver real change and to keep our promises to the people of Ontario. Today, I can tell you that 85% of the total commitments we made to the people of Ontario have been completed or put into action, as we have implemented over 250 initiatives to date.
As a result of this work, we are delivering unprecedented results for taxpayers. Families, individuals and businesses are all enjoying an improved outlook.
Since we took office, more than 270,000 jobs have been created. In fact, employment in Ontario increased by 41,100 jobs in September, after increasing by 57,800 jobs in August. These two months represent the largest back-to-back monthly jobs gain on record: 98,900 new jobs. Our province’s unemployment rate fell to 5.3% in September.
Looking ahead, Ontario’s economy is expected to grow at a steady pace from 2019 to 2024. This is such great news, which I’m happy to share with the House today.
Reports by Committees
Standing Committee on the Legislative Assembly
Mr. Kaleed Rasheed: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to present a report from the Standing Committee on the Legislative Assembly, pursuant to standing order 111(b).
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Mr. Rasheed has presented the committee’s report. Does the member wish to make a brief statement?
Mr. Kaleed Rasheed: No, Mr. Speaker. Thank you.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Thank you. Pursuant to standing order 111(b), the report is deemed to be adopted by the House.
Report deemed adopted.
Introduction of Bills
Canadian Chinese School of Theology Act, 2019
Mrs. Wai moved first reading of the following bill:
Bill Pr16, An Act respecting the Canadian Chinese School of Theology.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? Carried.
First reading agreed to.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Pursuant to standing order 86, this bill stands referred to the Standing Committee on Regulations and Private Bills.
Statements by the Ministry and Responses
Child Abuse Prevention Month
Hon. Jill Dunlop: I rise today to recognize October as a special month for many reasons. The first is Child Abuse Prevention Month. The purple ribbons we are wearing remind us that we all have a responsibility to protect our children and youth from harm. I thank the members of this House who are joining me today in bringing awareness to this important cause. All of us have a moral and legal duty to report suspected cases of child abuse and neglect.
Children and youth are often the most vulnerable in our society, and it is our collective responsibility to use our voices and our positions to ensure their safety and well-being.
We know that child abuse occurs at all levels of income and education, and it takes on many forms. It can be physical, verbal, emotional or sexual. It can also take the form of neglect, failing to provide a child with basic needs such as food, shelter, medical treatment and safety. The heartbreaking reality is that each year, Ontario’s children’s aid societies confirm numerous reports of alleged child abuse and neglect.
Today, I’m calling on everyone—neighbours, teachers, colleagues, coaches and friends—to be vigilant, because every child should feel safe, protected and cared for by the adults trusted with their well-being. If you have any concerns, please contact your local children’s aid society.
Mr. Speaker, I would also like to take this opportunity to acknowledge the amazing work of Ontario’s children’s aid societies in protecting the rights of all children and youth in this province. The remarkable work of the front-line staff has not gone unnoticed by this government. Over the last four months, I have travelled to over 30 children’s aid societies across the province, and each time, I am inspired by their hard work and compassion.
During my visits to these children’s aid societies, I’ve heard loud and clear the concerns faced by the sector. We know that our current child welfare system is facing challenges, and that is unacceptable. Our government is committed to working with all of our partners to ensure that our most vulnerable children and youth get the care they deserve and services they need. That means providing high-quality, culturally appropriate care and being truly responsive to their needs.
But we understand there is more work to be done, and that is why our government is engaging stakeholders, children in care, families, caregivers and Indigenous partners, to hear their ideas and advice on how best to move forward.
We know that in order to make long-lasting changes that will positively affect the lives of the most vulnerable children in our province, we must have meaningful engagement with those on the front lines. But, most importantly, we must listen to the lived experiences of the young children and people who have gone through this system. Our government is committed to building programs that not only improve their lives, but ensure they have a bright future ahead of them. Each child in this province should have the tools and resources they need to succeed.
But government cannot do it alone. I urge all members of this House and the people of this province to learn the signs of child abuse and neglect and to report known or suspected child abuse cases. It truly takes a village, and in order to truly stop or reduce child abuse, it is incumbent on all of us to work together towards this collective goal.
We need to raise up all of our children and youth so they can succeed in whatever they do, including being the Prime Minister of Canada.
Women’s History Month
Hon. Jill Dunlop: I would also like to recognize October as Women’s History Month. I’m glad to have the opportunity to celebrate fantastic women, like Ellen Fairclough, who have broken the glass ceiling, fought for the rights of women and girls and inspired generations along the way.
So many Ontario women perfectly illustrate this year’s theme, “Make an Impact.” No matter the field of expertise, whether it’s sports, science, medicine, journalism, technology, and, yes, public service, Ontario women have stepped up despite tremendous barriers and made a lasting impact on this province.
We celebrate women like Mary Ann Shadd, the first Black woman publisher in North America. Her newspaper, the Provincial Freeman, published out of Windsor in the 1850s, became a vehicle for the anti-slavery movement on both sides of the US-Canadian border.
We celebrate women like Dr. Roberta Bondar, a neurologist who became Canada’s first woman astronaut. For more than a decade, she headed an international team researching space medicine.
We celebrate women like Roberta Jamieson, a lawyer who became Ontario’s first Indigenous Ombudsman. Today, she is globally recognized for her work in alternative dispute resolution.
These are just a few of the many Ontario women who have enriched our history with their dedication and excellence.
As I look around at my colleagues in this Legislature, I’m reminded that our province made history last year with a record number of women MPPs elected to any provincial Legislature in Canada. The women in this assembly represent a breadth of qualifications and lived experiences that are vital to bringing new perspectives to politics, and I am proud to represent the people of this province along with all of you.
While we have made great strides in recent years, we still have a long way to improve the representation of all women in politics. As Ellen Fairclough used to tell her audiences after she left the office, “Get in there! Don’t worry, you won’t get tarnished—though you may get polished up a bit. And when you enter politics, don’t waste time trying to please everyone. It can’t be done. Just relax and stick to your convictions.”
This month we also celebrated International Day of the Girl on October 11. We use this day to reflect on the needs and challenges that face girls in Ontario and around the world, and address these needs while promoting empowerment.
Right here in Ontario, we have girls leading change and inspiring their peers. They are in our constituencies, in our schools, in our places of worship. Age and gender should never be a barrier to a young girl reaching their full potential.
A young girl from my riding, Cassidy Byers, is an exemplary young lady in our area. She served on the Warminster Elementary School council as well as her high school council at Patrick Fogarty. She has volunteered for the Canadian Cancer Society, she has volunteered on municipal and provincial elections, she has packed shoeboxes, worked as a Rotary International student host, worked at the hospital and Kiwanis—the list goes on—and I’m very excited to highlight Cassidy’s achievements.
We also celebrated Persons Day on October 18, remembering the 1929 court decision that some women were legally considered persons. I say “some” because, sadly, this ruling did not apply to many racialized and Indigenous women. Women of Asian descent were not given the right to vote until after World War II; Inuit women, in 1950. More than 20 years after the first women were given the right to vote, the same privilege was extended to Indigenous women.
Speaker, we cannot let the successes we have made in recent years absolve us of our responsibility to strive for continued progress, because we know that barriers remain for women in our province, as they continue to be under-represented in many vital sectors critical to economic growth, including science, technology, engineering, math and the trades. Many women who do pursue STEM-related careers are often concentrated in lower-paying administrative or part-time technical roles.
It’s common knowledge that Ontario is facing a shortage of skilled trade workers. These are good-paying jobs that are in demand right now. However, in 2017, women made up only 4.5% of all skilled trade workers in Canada.
Addressing these kinds of gender biases and systemic barriers in the labour market is imperative to helping women fully participate in the economy. Our government is committed to promoting women’s participation in the workforce and specific sectors. We’re working to support women and girls in achieving economic equality.
Women are resilient, and it’s empowering, how far we’ve come in such a short time. But imagine how far we can go if gender barriers didn’t exist at all.
Speaker, I would also like to take this moment to acknowledge the unique challenges faced by transgender women in our society. We know that transgender women are often victims of violence and discrimination. This is unacceptable. We must ensure all women have equal opportunity to advance, are recognized for their ideas and are fairly rewarded for their work.
When women in our society and economy succeed, we are all stronger. Promoting women’s full economic participation will support Ontario’s continued growth and prosperity.
Our government’s commitment to girls and women is total. We believe change for the better is possible and worth working for. Let us encourage and help them write their own story for Women’s History Month.
Child Abuse Prevention Month
Mrs. Lisa Gretzky: I rise today to deliver remarks on behalf of the NDP official opposition in recognition of Child Abuse Prevention Month.
Child Abuse Prevention Month was created to raise awareness about the rights of children and youth to safety and well-being, and the responsibility of adults and community services to help children, youth and families who need support.
This is a difficult topic, but it is an important one. As the Ontario Association of Children’s Aid Societies notes, “There are many types of child abuse, including physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, and exposure to domestic violence. Child neglect is also considered an equally serious child protection concern.”
We as MPPs are elected to this Legislature to represent our constituents and our communities. In my opinion, we have a particular responsibility to raise the voices of those who are struggling the most. I spend a lot of my time in the Legislature speaking about community and social services, poverty, affordable and supportive housing, and disability supports because I know that vulnerable people and the social services meant to support them are really struggling right now.
For example, we know that many of the children and families assisted by children’s aid societies are dealing with mental health challenges, poverty or addiction issues. If we truly want to tackle child abuse and address it head-on, we need to start by investing in our social services and community agencies. These organizations and their front-line workers need the resources to help families through challenging times.
I think this is best captured by the former child advocate, Irwin Elman, whose office was recently dismantled by Premier Ford and his government. I quote Mr. Elman: “When a government is interested in, and solely interested, with a touch of mean-spiritedness, austerity and they lose sight of the people who depend on the fragile social service framework, when they lose sight of the people who depend on that, it becomes very dangerous, especially when there’s nobody there to remind people of the children who’ve been rendered invisible in our province.”
Speaker, I could not agree more with Mr. Elman. Ontario no longer has a child advocate to stand up for vulnerable children, and this Conservative government continues to underfund crucial community and social services, amplifying the crisis.
As we recognize Child Abuse Prevention Month, I call on this Conservative government to do better, to put their words into action, to live up to their responsibilities and to commit to providing the supports that children and their families need to thrive. Children’s lives depend on it.
Women’s History Month
Ms. Jill Andrew: I am proud to rise today to speak in solidarity with many women and girls, workers, community advocates and survivors I have met with during my October women’s issues listening tour.
Rather than reflect on Women’s History Month, I would like to propose directly to the associate minister and the government that you all commit to “Women’s Future Months,” because currently, the future looks very bleak for many women and their children.
Women cannot excel at 73 cents for every man’s dollar, and it’s lower still for all of the marginalized and vulnerable groups, especially newcomers, immigrants, previously incarcerated women, and those living with HIV and AIDS. Yet this government’s response has been to scrap the Pay Transparency Act, freeze minimum wage, and slash child care funding, creating ballooning child care wait-lists that specifically target single moms and make it near-impossible for many lower-income women to attend post-secondary education.
This government has no inter-ministerial provincial gender equity strategy. Ontario needs one desperately. Your entire cabinet must ask yourselves, “How can my ministerial work and budget further women’s security and gender equity?”
In 2000, the Harris government had a chance to sign the declaration of commitment outlining community, legal, economic, survival and workplace safety emergency measures, and refused to.
Skip to the present: You have slashed the round table on violence against women. Rape and sexual assault centres are dangerously underfunded and are at the mercy of a flawed funding formula. But neither the Liberals nor Conservatives were bothered enough about it to fix it.
This government’s callous decision to cut funds away from victims of violence: Frankly, that’s revictimization. You cannot balance the budget on the backs of sexually assaulted victims who are forced to choose between fresh fruit, trauma-informed massage therapy and homelessness due to the housing crisis this government has made worse for women and females and children and families by removing rent control.
Associate Minister, I will ask you again: Please meet with me so that we can work together. Women’s futures are depending on it.
Women’s History Month
Mr. John Fraser: It’s a pleasure to stand and say a few words in recognition of Women’s History Month.
Historically, women and girls have been overlooked in their accomplishments and achievements. It’s interesting that this week in the Legislature, on Monday, we started, at the end of this month, talking about Dr. Bette Stephenson, whom I never knew. I’d seen her picture in a few places and heard about her, but I had to do a bit of research for the speech that I was doing. As I researched it, I realized how much she got done, which is not a surprise to me because I’ve spent most of my life working with women, and that’s generally a trait that I’ve seen. They get stuff done, and that’s important.
I want to go back to Dr. Stephenson again. What she did—I’ll give you an example. She broke the glass ceiling in the medical world. She took leadership of Canada’s medical associations when it was just hard to be a woman physician. But then she came here, and a month after she got elected, she became the Minister of Labour. At the time, we were fighting inflation—which a lot of young people over there won’t remember, but I do—at a time when there was labour strife. Her ability to work through all of that—there’s a whole bunch of other stuff—amazed me, to switch and be there. The thing that really caught me was that she had six children.
So we’re here today and we’re recognizing all these things—great things, historical things—that women have done. But every day, moms, grandmas, and sisters do incredible things, and it’s all under a bushel basket. The role that women play in our lives—I’m not saying exclusively, but generally—is important, and it’s important because, number one, we’re here largely because of their efforts—not solely, but largely, and largely as we grow up. I have the privilege right now of spending a lot of time with my mom right now because we’re helping her stay at home. What I’ve learned about my mom is that she is a really strong person, an incredibly strong person, a nurse and a mom who has endured a lot during her life and her youth and as she got older, with illnesses.
Women’s history month—but let’s remember all the histories that we don’t see. I would like to leave you with that thought.
Child Abuse Prevention Month
Mr. John Fraser: I would like to say a few words about Child Abuse Prevention Month. It has been championed by children’s aid societies, school boards and community centres. It’s important today to recommit ourselves to preventing child abuse, because it should not happen.
My dad, when I was younger, was an officer of the Family Court, an archaic thing which most of the young people won’t know about. It dealt with families and dealt with things like wards of the crown and children who became wards of the crown because of abuse, because of neglect. It was really important work. He used to talk to me about it, and what he used to say is that what every child needs is genuine interest, someone to be genuinely interested in them. That helps children thrive. As legislators, it’s our duty to have that genuine interest, not just in individual children, but in all children, and in particular those children who are wards of the crown. These are children who, largely, are escaping family situations where there’s violence or where there’s neglect, and they’re on their own.
So I’m going to ask the government one thing, and I think it’s really important: You need to re-establish the independent child advocate. That’s the advocate for the children whose voices are hardest to hear. You can do it. I’m not going to criticize you because you’re going back on that. But what I’m saying is that you have an opportunity to do that. You can do that, because you’ve done it in other places. So I implore you to reconsider, especially this month being Child Abuse Prevention Month.
Ms. Sara Singh: Speaker, it’s great to see you in the Chair. Welcome back.
I’m proud to present this petition on behalf of the residents of Brampton Centre. A big thank you to the Brampton Centre youth council, who have been out working hard to gather these signatures. The petition is entitled “Save Our Health Care....
“To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:
“Whereas the Ford government is currently proposing massive restructuring to the entire health system without any public consultation;
“Whereas the proposal eliminates local planning and control of health care;
“Whereas the proposal will open the door for unprecedented levels of for-profit providers in our health care system;
“Whereas the last Conservative government privatized home care services, creating a system that fails too many families;
“Whereas the current hallway medicine crisis is a direct result of inadequate home care, long-term care and community care services;
“We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to request the government to abandon Bill 74, The People’s Health Care Act, and focus on improving our province’s not-for-profit delivery of universal health care” here in the province.
I am proud to sign this and send it off with page Bernat.
Mr. Jim McDonell: I have a petition to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario.
“Whereas almost one year ago, Premier Ford’s PC-led government was elected with an overwhelming majority; and
“Whereas the government was elected on a mandate of restoring Ontario’s finances, as well as delivering responsible, accountable and transparent government; and
“Whereas since being elected, the Premier Ford government has passed a historic amount of legislation to get Ontario on the right track, including:
“Bill 2, Urgent Priorities Act, 2018;
“Bill 4, Cap and Trade Cancellation Act, 2018;
“Bill 5, Better Local Government Act, 2018;
“Bill 32, Access to Natural Gas Act, 2018;
“Bill 34, Green Energy Repeal Act, 2018;
“Bill 36, Cannabis Statute Law Amendment Act, 2018;
“Bill 47, Making Ontario Open for Business Act, 2018;
“Bill 48, Safe and Supportive Classrooms Act, 2019;
“Bill 57, Restoring Trust, Transparency and Accountability Act, 2018;
“Bill 66, Restoring Ontario’s Competitiveness Act, 2019;
“Bill 67, Labour Relations Amendment Act (Protecting Ontario’s Power Supply), 2018;
“Bill 68, Comprehensive Ontario Police Services Act, 2019;
“Bill 74, The People’s Health Care Act, 2019;
“Bill 81, Supply Act, 2019;
“Bill 87, Fixing the Hydro Mess Act, 2019;
“Bill 100, Protecting What Matters Most Act (Budget Measures), 2019;
“Therefore we, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario as follows:
“Continue to fulfill your mandate to protect what matters most to the people of Ontario while working to reduce immense debt and deficit shamefully left by the previous Kathleen Wynne Liberal government.”
I agree with the petition, and I will pass it off to Alisha.
Public sector compensation
The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Rick Nicholls): The member from London North Centre.
Mr. Terence Kernaghan: Thank you, Speaker. It’s great to see you.
I’m pleased to present this petition on behalf of CUPE members. It reads:
“To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:
“Whereas the ... Conservatives’ cuts represent an all-out attack on municipalities, health care, schools, universities and social services; and
“Whereas the ... Conservatives’ cuts are harming families, children and the most vulnerable across Ontario, making the services we all rely on less accessible and accountable; and
“Whereas Bill 124 will strip workers of their charter-protected right to free collective bargaining; and
“Whereas Bill 124 will force front-line public sector workers to accept contracts below inflation, compounding cuts that make the delivery of services more difficult;
“We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario as follows:
“That the government of Ontario stop dismantling our social infrastructure, properly fund our public services, withdraw Bill 124 and support communities, not cuts.”
I fully support this petition, will affix my signature and deliver it to page Bernat.
The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Rick Nicholls): The member from Markham–Unionville.
Mr. Billy Pang: Good afternoon, Mr. Speaker. It’s good to see you again.
I would like to read out this petition.
“To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:
“Whereas building much-needed transit to reduce gridlock is an urgent priority for commuters and businesses in the greater Toronto and Hamilton area (GTHA) and across southern Ontario;
“Whereas the current government is making smart transit infrastructure investments across the province, to make life easier for commuters and make Ontario a more attractive destination for business to invest;
“Whereas increasing and expanding transit options eases congestion and promotes economic growth in the GTHA and southern Ontario;
“Whereas the current government has a plan to get past delays and build transit faster by delivering four new or expanded subway lines in the GTHA, at an estimated cost of $28.5 billion; and
“Whereas the current provincial government is committed to working with the municipal and federal governments to build transit, deliver subways, solve gridlock and promote economic growth;
“We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario as follows:
“That the Ontario government continue to support, and invest in, expanding provincial and regional transit network services and infrastructure to continue getting Ontario moving.”
I 100% support this petition, put my name and submit it through Aarya.
Ms. Judith Monteith-Farrell: This is a petition I’m presenting on behalf of the dairy farmers in my riding.
“Standing Up for Ontario Dairy.
“To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:
“Whereas the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) makes major concessions to the United States that will hurt dairy farmers and producers, putting the future of the supply management system at risk;
“Whereas under the USMCA, class 7 milk has been eliminated, destabilizing the milk classification process and putting the long-term stability of Ontario’s dairy industry in jeopardy;
“Whereas the milk classification system is regulated provincially by the Milk Act, which places responsibility for the system under the purview of the provincial government;
“We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to:
“Take immediate action by working in consultation with and alongside producers to implement provincial measures that will stabilize Ontario’s dairy industry through the milk classification system, and ensure the continuation of the supply management system—a system which farmers and consumers have relied on for over 50 years.”
I fully agree with this petition. I affix my signature and give it to page Zakiyya to take to the Clerks’ desk.
Mr. Dave Smith: “To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:
“Whereas currently Peterborough city and county has seen a major increase in the amount of opioid-related overdoses, poisonings, and deaths;
“Whereas in Ontario and across the country it has been deemed that there is a current opioid crisis; and
“Whereas Peterborough currently does not have a consumption and treatment site to help in the reduction of overdoses and deaths in the area;
“We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario as follows:
“Work to put forward an application for a treatment and consumption services site to follow the mandatory services, such as:
“a) supervised drug consumption (injection, intranasal, oral) and overdose prevention services;
“b) on-site or defined pathways to addiction treatment services;
“c) on-site or defined pathways to wraparound services: primary care, mental health, housing, other social supports;
“d) provide proper harm reduction services such as education, first aid/wound care, distribution and safe disposal of needles, and provision of naloxone and oxygen;
“e) removal of any discarded harm reduction supplies around the consumption and treatment area;
“f) support ongoing discussions to address local community and neighbourhood concerns on an ongoing basis.”
I’ll sign this petition and give it to page Elizabeth.
The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Rick Nicholls): Further petitions? The member from Algoma–Manitoulin.
Mr. Michael Mantha: Mr. Speaker, I believe that you could do a little bit better on that introduction. It’s not fair. I hear you introducing the others and you have a lot more zeal in it.
« Intervention d’urgence 911.
« À l’Assemblée législative de l’Ontario :
« Alors que lorsque nous sommes confrontés à une urgence nous savons tous que nous appelons le 911 pour de l’aide; et
« Alors que l’accès aux services d’urgence par le biais du 911 n’est pas disponible dans toutes les régions de l’Ontario, mais la plupart des gens croient qu’ils le sont; et
« Alors que plusieurs personnes ont découvert que le 911 n’était pas disponible alors qu’elles faisaient face à une urgence; et
« Alors que tous les Ontariens s’attendent et méritent d’avoir accès au service 911 partout dans la province;
« Nous, soussignés, pétitionnons l’Assemblée législative de l’Ontario : de fournir une intervention d’urgence 911 partout en Ontario par des lignes téléphoniques ou cellulaires. »
Je suis complètement d’accord avec cette pétition. J’y affixe ma signature et je la présente à page Jack pour l’apporter à la table des greffiers.
Mr. Billy Pang: I’m so honoured to be standing here on behalf of my constituents in Markham to present this petition.
“To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:
“Whereas veterans have sacrificed a tremendous amount to protect our country and province;
“Whereas there is no civic holiday in Ontario that celebrates the brave sacrifice made by the men and women in the armed service;
“Whereas Ontario is one of four provinces that has not made Remembrance Day a civic holiday;
“Therefore we, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario as follows:
“Remembrance Day be made a civic holiday in celebration of the brave men and women that have sacrificed their lives for our freedom, security and peace.”
I support this petition. I’ll put my name here and get it through to our page Pearl.
Public sector compensation
Mrs. Lisa Gretzky: I have a petition here from CUPE Ontario that reads:
“To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:
“Whereas the Ford Conservatives’ cuts represent an all-out attack on municipalities, health care, schools, universities and social services; and
“Whereas the Ford Conservatives’ cuts are harming families, children and the most vulnerable across Ontario, making the services we all rely on less accessible and accountable; and
“Whereas Bill 124 will strip workers of their charter-protected right to free collective bargaining; and
“Whereas Bill 124 will force front-line public sector workers to accept contracts below inflation, compounding cuts that make the delivery of services more difficult;
“We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario as follows:
“That the government of Ontario stop dismantling our social infrastructure, properly fund our public services, withdraw Bill 124, and support communities, not cuts.”
I fully support this, will sign my name to it and send it to the table.
Mrs. Robin Martin: I have a petition here to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario.
“Whereas Ontario regulation 493/17 part III, section 14, states that ‘every room where food is prepared, processed, packaged, served, transported, manufactured, handled, sold, offered for sale or displayed shall be kept free from live birds or animals’; and
“Whereas low-risk food premises serving only beverages and/or only prepackaged or non-hazardous foods have for many years in this province allowed customers to be accompanied by their pet dogs for their convenience and social benefit; and
“Whereas the decision whether or not to allow dogs on site should be driven by the business needs of such premises, so long as sanitary and safe conditions are upheld;
“We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to create an exception to Ontario regulation 493/17 part III, section 14, for low-risk food premises serving only prepackaged or non-hazardous foods, for the benefit of all Ontario pet owners and the businesses that serve them.”
I’ll sign this petition and pass it along to page Alexander.
Ms. Suze Morrison: I have a petition here from the Ontario Federation of Labour that I’d like to present entitled “Don’t Take Away Social and Economic Rights for Women and Marginalized People.” I want to thank Shawna Lewkowitz for providing this. It reads:
“Whereas Bill 47 erased many of the legislative gains achieved through Bill 148, the fairer labour laws and working conditions that had a particularly positive impact on women and marginalized people;
“Whereas statistics show that women, particularly women of colour, are most likely to be employed in precarious work, and the Bill 47 amendments to the Employment Standards Act, 2000 and Labour Relations Act, 1995 create conditions that lead to a growth in precarious employment while also eliminating protections for millions of Ontario workers;
“Whereas Bill 66 further erodes women’s and marginalized people’s social and economic rights; and
“Whereas the” current “government continues to remove, cancel or freeze funding for other supports, programs and regulations that would increase women’s equality in the workforce and beyond;
“We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to, at the very least:
“—reinstate paid sick days, the scheduled increase to a $15 minimum wage, legislation to increase pay transparency, regulations that support equal pay for equal work, and all other worker protections gained under the Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act;
“—reverse changes to daycare regulations that allow more children per caregiver;
“—reverse the retroactive cuts to ... the Ontario College of Midwives;
“—reinstate funding increases to sexual assault centres;
“—restore the” provincial round table on ending “violence against women; and
“—restore the child and youth advocate commissioner’s office.”
I fully endorse this petition, will affix my signature to it and provide it to page Jack to deliver to the Clerks.
The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Rick Nicholls): The time for petitions has now expired.
Orders of the Day
Resuming the debate adjourned on October 30, 2019, on the motion for time allocation of the following bill:
Bill 124, An Act to implement moderation measures in respect of compensation in Ontario’s public sector / Projet de loi 124, Loi visant à mettre en oeuvre des mesures de modération concernant la rémunération dans le secteur public de l’Ontario.
The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Rick Nicholls): Further debate?
Mr. Rudy Cuzzetto: I’m proud to speak today in favour of the motion for time allocation on Bill 124, Protecting a Sustainable Public Sector for Future Generations Act. Speaker, it is very important that we move forward today with time allocation on this bill to restore fiscal responsibility and sustainability in the government of Ontario. If Bill 124 passes second reading, we also intend to refer it to a standing committee for public hearings and a careful clause-by-clause review. If anyone else is interested in speaking to the committee about Bill 124, I urge them to contact the Clerk of the Legislative Assembly, but frankly, it’s now time to proceed.
To repeat a point made by the President of the Treasury Board, restoring the province’s fiscal health is not just a fiscal issue; it’s a moral one as well. Without fiscal health in the province, more of our loved ones will be treated in hallway health care, more of our schools will fall into disrepair, public services will go unfunded, and our neighbourhoods would be unsafe. The most vulnerable among us always suffer most when a government must focus on sustaining lenders abroad instead of the real needs at home. And, of course, the real victims are our children and grandchildren, who will have to live with the consequences. This is unacceptable.
Our government has already taken several steps to control unnecessary expenses and to ensure our tax dollars are treated with respect. This includes important initiatives like the creation of the Audit and Accountability Committee, to direct internal audits into priority areas across the government. This committee, which I am proud to be a member of, is the only one of its kind in this country of Canada, and it has already helped to bring a new level of accountability, to ensure Ontarians receive the best value for their money.
The government has taken a coordinated approach to manage expenses to ensure our programs are efficient, affordable, and meet the needs of Ontarians. As part of this, expenditure management restrictions have been implemented by all ministries across the Ontario public service. These restrictions include a hiring freeze, with the exception of jobs in essential front-line services; a pay-for-performance compensation agreement for executives, managers and non-bargaining staff in the public service; a freeze on discretionary spending; the cancellation of subscription-based services; and restrictions on travel, meal and hospitality spending. As the member from Aurora–Oak Ridges–Richmond Hill explained, bold steps have also been taken to address March madness spending that happened too often at the end of the government’s fiscal year.
We have already seen significant cost savings because of these measures. By implementing year-end budget management, spending controls, and targeted measures to end March madness, the government has saved $153 million in tax dollars in the fiscal year, and we built on the commitment to restore trust and accountability to the province’s finances and to spend Ontario’s money smarter.
All of these steps we have taken are about putting the taxpayer at the centre of everything our government does. They are about putting the structure in place to end a culture of waste, and creating a new culture of efficiencies in our government. Our approach is to help to bring the deficit under control in a way that protects what matters most: our core services, including health care and education and other programs that the people of Ontario depend on.
Speaker, our government is on the path to balance, but we know that more needs to be done, and Bill 124 is a responsible and necessary step. It will allow the government to manage public sector compensation growth in a way that allows for reasonable wage increases while protecting jobs and protecting front-line services.
The minister said this before, but I think it’s important to say it again: We must be clear both about what this legislation would mean as well as what it would not mean. The legislation would establish a framework that would allow up to a 1% increase to salaries and overall compensation for both unionized and non-unionized employees in the Ontario public sector each year for three years. This is a fair, reasonable and time-limited plan. Bill 124 would apply to the Ontario public service, provincial authorities, boards, commissions, corporations, offices or organizations in which a majority of directors, members or officers are appointed or chosen by the province, including the Ontario Power Generation and the Independent Electricity System Operator; Ornge air ambulance service; school boards; colleges and universities; hospitals; and non-profit transfer payment recipients who received more than $1 million in annual funds in 2018. These provisions would apply for a period of three years after the end of the existing collective agreements.
We have been clear that in order to restore sustainability to Ontario’s finances and to transform government, everybody needs to do their part. That includes making hard choices, but we’re also ensuring there’s a dialogue around decisions so that everyone has a say.
We are working to protect the hospitals that care for our loved ones, the schools our children attend, and the roads and the transit that everyone uses. When we say we’re a government that listens, that means we engage, we ask questions and we take real steps forward together with our partners.
Throughout this process we have done just that. Through our proposed amendments to Bill 124 and by exploring the ideas put forward during the consultation process, we have demonstrated that we are listening, and as the minister and the parliamentary assistant outlined, we are moving forward in a way that is reasonable, fair and sustainable.
We understand the importance of our decisions to protect vital services for our children and for our seniors, and for the public sector workers who deliver them. If we fail to act, we could be putting tens of thousands of jobs at risk. We can’t allow this to happen. The state of the province’s finances simply need to be addressed and it needs to be addressed now.
That is why I encourage my fellow members to support this motion for time allocation on Bill 124.
The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Rick Nicholls): Further debate? The member from Essex.
Mr. Taras Natyshak: Thank you very much, Speaker. I missed that. You could certainly be an announcer at any major league baseball game after your career here at Queen’s Park. Thanks for the humour this afternoon.
As always, it is an honour for me to rise in this House to speak on behalf of my constituents of Essex and to play an important role in the democracy of this province. I think it’s one that we all cherish and one that we all respect, and when it’s time to hang up the skates as foes and as colleagues, I think we’ll all look back fondly on our ability to contribute to debate in a democratic way. That’s really the crux of what we do here: We debate law, and it’s an important measure of our democracies.
However, that being said, as an opposition member my job is to be critical of the government when it is warranted. We’re three days into this new sitting. Today is October 30, the day before Halloween. Our normal legislative calendar would have seen us sit at the beginning of September; however, the Premier decided that we wouldn’t sit until the Monday of this week. That means that two months of the legislative calendar were vaporized, wasted, gone, where the work of this House, the people’s work, could not be done and was not being done, and wasn’t open and transparent for the people of the province, which is a hallmark of any democracy.
What we are debating here today is a time allocation motion tied to Bill 124. That’s a government bill that proposes to essentially cap, retroactively, public sector salaries at 1%, intervening in the constitutionally protected charter right to bargain and negotiate a collective agreement freely. That’s what we’re talking about.
But attached to that—again, for those who are tuning in at home and those who may watch this after the debate and after we’ve come to some conclusion around this debate—a time allocation motion isn’t necessarily a measure of law as much as it is a procedure that allows a measure of law to be fast-tracked through this House. It’s a motion. It’s one that is binding, should it pass, and it’s one that allows the government to fast-track—to put on a rocket ship—bills that they see fit, that they need to get through this House. I’ve seen it happen.
There are potentially some occasions when it is appropriate: in times of national need, emergency need, provincial disasters. When the government is running out of time at the end of their mandate, we’ve seen them look at the legislative calendar and realize that they’re not able to get all the bills that might have general consensus in the House through the House and through the process. We know that the process itself of time allocation has a few select opportunities where it is reasonable to use.
However, given what I stated prior and given the fact that the Premier in his infinite wisdom decided to truncate this session, decided to not come to work, to stay on vacation, to be hidden in the Andrew Scheer witness protection program for two months, we wonder what the hurry is. Why the hurry on this? You had two months to be able to table this bill. Had we come in in September, when we normally sit, you could have tabled the bill. We could have had a frank discussion about the merits of this bill. We could have had testimony at committee. What you’re doing now is eliminating that ability for the public to review this bill, an important bill that affects nearly a million people as public sector workers in the province, one that they won’t have the opportunity to review.
I had the privilege of sitting in the House this morning when the bill was debated. The member from Aurora–Oak Ridges–Richmond Hill did about 20 minutes or half an hour on the bill. He mentioned that the government embarked on a lot of consultation on this, spoke to a lot of people. I take him at his word. I truly hope they did. We’d like to see that consultation. Can you show it to us? Can you provide us what the report is on that consultation? As far as we know, it has not happened. We don’t see that. We don’t know where it exists. It might just be anecdotal evidence. You might have been told that that happened, but unless it’s on paper—that’s one thing that we learn in this building, that if it isn’t on paper and it isn’t written down and logged for posterity and put on the record, it doesn’t exist.
I appreciate the member from Aurora–Oak Ridges–Richmond Hill—I hope that happened, but let’s see the proof, let’s see what type of consultation you had. If you were so open to consultation, you wouldn’t be truncating this bill. You wouldn’t be trying to fast-track it and hiding it under a cloak of what we know is a mechanism that doesn’t give full transparency to the bills in this House.
One of the effects of doing a time allocation motion is that it also truncates the committee process, one that is vitally important to a bill moving its way through the House. It’s where the general public gets to come and make deputations, to tell us what they think the effects are, good or bad, on the economy, on the welfare of the people. The effect of putting this bill through time allocation will mean that the deputants who successfully apply to depute at that committee will have less than 24 hours from the passing of this time allocation motion to apply and to appear.
They could be coming from all quadrants of the province, Speaker, and I think you understand how big this province is. It’s quite large, and there are lots of challenges to get to downtown Toronto from the far reaches of northern Ontario if this bill affects you. There are lots of challenges for people who may have accessibility issues to arrange for transportation to get here. There are lots of challenges for people to get here in less than 24 hours to talk to a bill that has such important ramifications, and that’s a shame. It’s a shame on this government that they’re not willing to be open and transparent about what their intentions are. They’re trying to fast-track this bill, and for what? We’ve heard that it is based on the economic realities and the fiscal realities of the province of Ontario. I understand that. That’s sort of their rationale for anything that they do in this House. The money isn’t there, or the money is there. The economy is suffering or, as we heard the Premier say this morning, the economy is booming. Which one is it? Do you have a $15-billion deficit, or do you have $7-billion deficit? Because those numbers change each and every day.
What we know is that you have to sit in this House and be honest with the people about what your agenda is, and you can’t do that under the cloak of secrecy. You have to do that in the light, through the light of democracy.
I would argue that what this time allocation motion does, specifically attached to this bill, is weaken our democracy, full stop. When the people of this House don’t have the opportunity to come and speak at committee, and to talk about what their concerns are—even worse, when the government isn’t willing to listen to them—then it weakens our democracy, and it demeans the role of the elected members of this House.
It wasn’t long ago that, I can recall, at this very desk—because I still see, if you look at this and put a level across this desk, that it is concave from the member for—Yak’s riding is?
Mr. Michael Mantha: Renfrew–Nipissing–Pembroke.
Mr. Taras Natyshak: —Renfrew–Nipissing–Pembroke. That member stood here—and he’s a tall individual. He’s over six foot; he’s 6 foot 2, 6 foot 3, probably. That arm would come down from about seven feet and hit this desk, and he would talk about the guillotine of time allocation. It wasn’t long ago, just a little over a year ago, when he admonished the Liberal government for using time allocation. He nearly cracked this desk in half. And we’d watch him, and we’d agree with him. We agreed with him, Speaker, because it diminishes democracy. It diminishes the role of elected members. It puts a stain on the government, and the government paid the price for that, I think.
This government hasn’t learned the lessons of the previous. We’re here as opposition members to tell them that they can do better—they have to do better—with something with such importance.
Speaker, my colleague from Hamilton Mountain—today I sat next to her to listen to her comments on the debate. She spoke to what some of the effects will be, should this bill pass. She spoke about a woman who has been in the home care/supportive care sector for over 20 years and is responsible for a team that is responsible for people who have various disabilities. Their responsibilities include some of the general hygiene—bathing, clothing—physical activity, emotional support and a connection with services outside of the assisted living. It’s a very complex job and one that, at its core, protects our citizens. They’re the guardians of our children. We put a lot of trust in them, and a lot of faith.
For that commitment, for over 20 years of commitment, this person can expect a 1% increase in her wage. That’s what this bill will do. It will say, “Thank you so much. We’re going to give you a raise below the rate of inflation. We hope you can make it—and keep doing a great job.”
What does that say to our public sector workers? What does that say to folks in the broader economy? Does that say, “Look, this economy is teetering on disaster,” when we can’t even pay people who perform some of the hardest work in the province, when we can’t even give them an above-the-rate-of-inflation pay raise?
I think that speaks to the weakness of the Premier and his economic plan if he can’t account for those who need the most support, who provide the most support, and ensure that we are honouring them with what would be reasonable.
A good business person rewards, and understands that you have to take care of your people. That’s pretty fundamental to business, Speaker. I haven’t seen an inkling of good business strategy out of this Premier since he set foot in this building or sat in that chair. It’s unfortunate. We want the province to succeed. We want it to succeed. In these types of actions, we don’t see a province or a Premier that is boding any confidence into the economy.
The argument to fast-track—as I understand it, and I stand to be corrected, but what I’ve been able to parse out from some of the members who have spoken to time allocation already is that there is an impetus to get this through because of the nature of the economy and the fragile nature of our provincial debt and deficit. I don’t believe it. I’m sorry, I don’t believe it. Because when we last tuned in to this channel, some time in June, the Premier was about to cancel a contract with the Beer Store.
We know through legal experts that the penalties to exit that contract two years in advance are going to be upwards of a billion dollars. A Premier who valued money, who cared about—let’s even just say—a billion dollars of public dollars, would never, never embark on that type of anti-business, anti-contractual obligation action. He would say—a reasonable person would say—“Look, we’ve got two, three years left on this contract. People are getting their beer. We can wait it out. The beer is not going to go flat. They’re going to keep making it.” But no, the push continues, and we know who will pay the price for that. It’s taxpayers in Ontario.
Again, I point to their argument not really being able to carry that much weight—not enough to discourage people and to prohibit people from not speaking to this bill, from not being able to access their democratic right and their rights as citizens and taxpayers to enter this building, to put themselves on the record and to either object or promote and accept this bill. We don’t know. That’s all right. But what I do know is that it is your job to open the doors to this chamber and to this House. It is not your House. It is the people’s House. We all know that. But through these measures of time allocation, especially tied to this bill, you are prohibiting people to do that.
It’s something that we’ve seen before, far too often. On the first week back after the summer recess, we see them getting right back on to this agenda. I had heard rumblings about a kinder, gentler Premier, a different approach, new staff, new chief of staff. They’re reorienting themselves after the federal election where Ontarians sent a resounding message to the Premier. He was spoken about more in that federal election than I think the candidates were.
Mr. Taras Natyshak: I think so.
But what that message should be is that he can’t continue along the same lines. I don’t think he’s gotten it yet. We’re here to tell him that it’s clear and evident that this road is going to take us down a further path towards making this place inaccessible to people and diminishing the role of legislators.
I think I’ve clearly laid out what my concerns are about this bill. Luckily, we still have this opportunity. When will it be before they continue to truncate our ability in the House to even speak generally? They’re the government. They can make the rules. This is the big hand of the government in action—the heavy hand of the government in action. It’s one that I don’t think constituents appreciate, and when they fully understand how it works in here, I think it adds to the overall cynicism of the electorate. They don’t see a government working for them. They don’t see a government open and readily accepting of some of the criticism.
We’re back to having an autism strategy unveiled—or at least an autism plan unveiled—today because they couldn’t get it right the first time. Why couldn’t they get it right the first time? Because they didn’t listen to anybody. Why didn’t they listen to anybody? Because they eliminated the ability for people to be heard. We’ve seen this play out before. But yet, here we are again on a bill that will affect a million people.
Speaker, I understand that should this go forward and should the timelines continue for the committee process, there will be at most 10 people who will be able to give deputations. Ten people will have less than 24 hours to put their name on a list to be accepted to give a deputation at that committee to speak to Bill 124. Out of those 10, the opposition gets to select five, and the government will select five. So five people, we can assume, will have some really important critical remarks of this—10 people out of a province of 14 million people. My colleague the member from Timmins said this morning that you’ve got a better chance of hitting 6/49 than you do to get onto this committee.
This is not the way this House should operate. There’s a way to have openness and transparency. There’s a way to do your due diligence. There’s a way to ensure that people who need to be heard have that opportunity. This is the absolute opposite. If that’s what the goal is—I can’t imagine there’s any other goal, because you would never do this. You would never fast-track a bill like this if you wanted to hear from everybody. We know what their motive is. What we don’t understand is why they continue down this path when Ontarians have rightfully been critical.
Speaker, New Democrats have clearly outlined our objection to what this bill does and what this time allocation motion does. I hope the government members and those in cabinet take some of that new-found collegial attitude and maybe have a sober second thought around, “Should we take this approach with a bill so vital and with so much impact to our public sector workers?”, like the one I referenced who works in our home care industry, because it’s going to cause a lot of harm to Ontarians and it’s going to cause a lot of harm to our economy.
The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Rick Nicholls): Further debate? Further debate?
Seeing no further debate: Mr. Calandra has moved government notice of motion 68 relating to allocation of time on Bill 124, An Act to implement moderation measures in respect of compensation in Ontario’s public sector. Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? I heard a no.
All of those in favour will please say “aye.”
All opposed will please say “nay.”
In my opinion, the ayes have it.
Call in the members. This will be a 10-minute bell.
The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Rick Nicholls): I’ve just been handed a deferral slip, and it’s entitled:
“To the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly:
“Pursuant to standing order 28(h), I respectfully request that the vote on government notice of motion 68 be deferred until deferred votes on Thursday, October 31, 2019.”
Resuming the debate adjourned on October 29, 2019, on the motion for interim supply.
The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Rick Nicholls): Further debate?
Ms. Teresa J. Armstrong: I know there’s limited time left on the clock, but I did want to speak to this interim supply motion because it’s really, really important that we make sure that government has the ability to continue to support programs and ministries who do such good work for social programs that we’re talking about. Without that authorization, without that interim supply motion in order for us to make sure that hospitals have funding and education have their funding—but there is a bigger topic, too.
We’re talking about what’s happening now in our sector when it comes to education and the bargaining that’s going around and how this government is squeezing front-line workers, like education workers and education assistants, so that they only get a 1% increase. And we know that we need to operate at the rate of inflation. When governments understand that, things work better. I want to just put that in there.
I’m going to close off my remarks right now, and I know there’s probably somebody wanting to speak to this as well.
The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Rick Nicholls): Further debate? I recognize the member from London West.
The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Rick Nicholls): Unfortunately, the member from London West has already addressed this particular portion of the debate. So I will once again say, further debate?
Mr. Joel Harden: It’s a privilege to talk to this particular bill. I think we can all agree that we certainly need the adequate resources for this House and all the folks associated with it to get what they need done. What I wanted to say in the time that we have left on the clock is that, I wish we had the same attitude towards everybody in this province.
With that in mind, I want to talk briefly about some of the people who have contacted me on an urgent basis here, people with disabilities who have their needs—that are very alarming—that need to be filled. This motion is going to ask us to make sure that there’s a proper allocation for this House and its business to work. What about people currently trapped, without access to the supports they need to live their lives?
I want to talk about a woman who contacted our constituency office today, who has been at the Ottawa Hospital for two years and can’t be released from the Ottawa Hospital, according to the CBC, because there’s no personal support worker and team of personal support workers available to make sure that she can be released to home. So right now we have a situation where someone is actually wanting to get home, wanting to be mobile and waiting to avail themselves of some time, but she can’t, because we have a crisis in the amount of personal support workers we have in this province. I think that’s a real shame.
Right now, as I stand, Speaker, as I say these very words, there is a mom in front of the city of Renfrew town council waging a hunger strike because her daughter was released from hospital in the Renfrew area and admitted to a homeless shelter in Cornwall, Ontario. This is a story that ran in Ottawa last night—a homeless shelter in Cornwall, Ontario. I’ll talk to my colleague from Stormont–Dundas–South Glengarry after so I can tell him about what my office heard with this story today. This 36-year-old woman with the mentality of a five-year-old is currently at a homeless shelter in Cornwall, and she does not have access to supportive housing. Before she was in hospital, she had that support. Now she doesn’t.
What I’m asking my friends in government to be mindful of is that while we absolutely need to allocate the funds that we need to make this place work, let’s make sure that some of the most vulnerable people in our province have the funds so that their lives can work too.
I want to take my hat off to the mom waging a hunger strike in Renfrew to get attention to her daughter’s condition right now. I’m going to walk across the aisle after we finish here and talk to some of my colleagues, and hopefully, we can resolve that.
I want to also end—in the 30 seconds I have left, Speaker—by talking about Melissa Graham in my colleague’s riding of Etobicoke–Lakeshore, who contacted me through Twitter just recently to tell me that she was in an accident with her power chair and she has been waiting for action from Motion since last Saturday to have a replacement chair and since then has been homebound.
These are citizens of our province in vulnerable situations who need help. It behooves us, as a Legislature, to help them as quickly as we help this wonderful building and all of its wonderful staff.
The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Rick Nicholls): Further debate? Further debate?
Mr. Calandra has moved government notice of motion number 37 relating to interim supply. Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? Carried.
Motion agreed to.
The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Rick Nicholls): Orders of the day. I recognize the government House leader.
Hon. Paul Calandra: Mr. Speaker, I move adjournment of the House.
The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Rick Nicholls): The government House leader has moved adjournment of the House. Is it the pleasure of the House that the House adjourn? Carried.
This House now stands adjourned until tomorrow morning at 9 o’clock.
The House adjourned at 1635.