42nd Parliament, 2nd Session

L035B - Thu 24 Feb 2022 / Jeu 24 fév 2022


Report continued from volume A.


Fewer Fees, Better Services Act, 2022 / Loi de 2022 pour de meilleurs services et moins de frais

Continuation of debate on the motion for second reading of the following bill:

Bill 84, An Act to enact two Acts and amend various other Acts / Projet de loi 84, Loi visant à édicter deux lois et à modifier diverses autres lois.

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

Mr. Sheref Sabawy: I would like to take a moment to condemn the attack on Ukraine, and I would like to stand in solidarity with the Ukrainian Canadian community. I had the honour to work closely with the community when we brought the Ivan Franko long-term-care home to my riding, and they are an amazing community. I hope and I believe for all the powers to save the civilians, protect the civilians, because during wartime the civilians are taking all the burden.

I’m proud today to stand and talk about and support Bill 84, the Fewer Fees, Better Services Act. I would like to commend the Associate Minister of Small Business and Red Tape Reduction on the great work done to bring in this piece of legislation. This government assigned an associate minister to remove redundant procedures, simplify steps and remove red tape. This is the eighth red tape reduction package added by this ministry. While in the opposition, Liberals and NDP always talk about, “Let us add more taxes,” adding more overhead on small businesses, fees and procedures. Ontarians can count on this government to make life more accessible and affordable, Madam Speaker.

The federal government announced their intention to welcome 400,000 new immigrants this year. Many of those immigrants can and will start new businesses. We need to make Ontario the most lucrative destination. Not only that: We need to make it the destination. How do we do that? Make it simple, accessible, transparent, affordable and predictable to start a business in Ontario.

Madam Speaker, as an immigrant myself, and also as an elected MPP for Mississauga–Erin Mills, a riding which has 55% of its constituents not born in Canada—meaning immigrants—I get daily complaints from start-up businesses. It takes months and months to even get a reply from a municipality, a province—a government body—about permits, papers, licensing, applications.

Using management and new tools, this government has redesigned the service to be better, more accessible and cheaper. It means that an entrepreneur immigrant starting a business who is new to this country, new to the system, can learn the process, all the ins and outs of all the steps, uploading documents and papers, or even start the procedures or the process months ahead remotely, track their applications, interact and get a reply much faster.

The suggested legislation also touches the hard-working people of Ontario. From the comfort of your home, you can renew your licence, update your address, renew your health card—no more long lines at ServiceOntario to renew your sticker and your plates, no more fees and no to increasing taxes. That’s what this government is all about, Madam Speaker.

That was the clear message from the associate minister when she said, “Our aim is and always has been to create a business-ready, family-friendly, government-supported environment. We are doing this while keeping Ontario workers and families safe and healthy. We’re making government easier to access by removing excess processes and make it predictable by developing service standards. We’ll help Ontario be top of mind for those considering where to invest.”

We know that investments and investors take the path of least resistance. We need to make it easier to start businesses in Ontario.

And as our Premier said many times, “We are making Ontario the best place to have your business, creating good-paying jobs and putting more money in people’s pocket.”

We made sure to increase the gas transfer tax this year so transit services would not either decrease accessibility or raise their prices. We invested in innovative solutions for electric cars so our auto manufacturing power continues to prosper and grow.

Throughout the past two years, this government navigated one of the toughest periods in our lifetime. In the midst of an economic crisis, rising inflation and being the largest debtor of any sub-sovereign nation in the world—add to it a worldwide pandemic of COVID-19—Ontario is growing stronger and building every part of this great province.

Through this legislation, Ontario is proposing to establish a single window for business services. This will require service standards from the government so businesses can track the information they need when building their businesses here in Ontario. Businesses often get lost in the system, trying to figure out the never-ending permits and red tape forms. What we are telling them is we want to help you grow and prosper and get to open your business as soon as possible, with the best standards that Ontarians are used to.

Talking with small businesses in Mississauga, this is great news for the hundreds and thousands of entrepreneurs and business owners who choose Ontario to locate their businesses. As previously mentioned by the Minister of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade, “We are helping to level the playing field for Ontario businesses by changing the government’s approach to procurement.”

On the first day of this Legislature coming back into session, we have announced that we are eliminating the renewal fees and licence plate stickers. That’s another $120 per year saved in the pockets of families. If you have two cars, that’s $240 a year. With today’s inflation and the hard time that everyone is going through, we are working hard to make life more affordable. Not just that, but also, we are making it retroactive to March 2020. So the government of Ontario is not just eliminating it, but also reimbursing everyone who paid for their sticker.

This is not new for this government. In 2018, in September specifically, we had announced that we cancelled the outdated and ineffective Drive Clean program. We eliminated the past Liberal cap-and-trade, saving the average family another $260 per year, putting back $40 million in the pockets of Ontarians.

We are building highways, like Highway 413 and the Bradford Bypass, that will drive and open lands for new housing and manufacturing, as well as ease the traffic on the 400 series.

I heard members of the opposition talking about housing—talking all the time about affordable housing, affordable housing. I think we should talk about houses that are affordable. We need to make sure that we take the steps to allow more housing to be built in Ontario.

We put shovels into the ground to expand Highway 401 from Milton to Mississauga, widening it. We allocated the money and are working on the Hurontario LRT line, now named the Hazel McCallion line after our legendary ex-mayor Hurricane Hazel. We are expanding the subway, GO lines; revitalizing Ontario Place to its glorious days after years of neglect.

Just last week, as confirmed by the Financial Accountability Officer, electricity bills in 2029 will be 23% lower under our government’s plan. Already this year, the average Ontario family will see these benefits as $600 back in their pockets.

We are giving commuters a break by removing tolls from Highways 412 and 418.

I am really proud of Minister Tangri, Minister Fedeli, Minister Rasheed and Premier Ford for challenging the system and making it work for the people. For having a vision for the future of Ontario and bringing us up to the 21st century is essential.

Finally: promise made, promise kept.


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

Mr. Kevin Yarde: I want to thank the member across for his speech. You started off talking about entrepreneurs coming to Canada from other countries and starting up their businesses, and the fact that you’re making the application process much easier and much faster for these people. You’re trying to make it family-friendly and predictable.

However, during this pandemic, over the last two years, my question is to you—because I’ve had many people call my office, saying, “Kevin, I have a new business. I’m from another country, and I’ve had difficulty accessing the emergency COVID funds.” This is a government that says they’re for the people, and as I mentioned, you just mentioned that you’re making things much easier and simpler for them. So what do you have to say to those people who had a difficult time accessing emergency COVID funds?

Mr. Sheref Sabawy: Thank you very much to the member in the opposition for the question. Again, this is not only the complaint you’ve got in your riding, it’s in every riding. We have small businesses that applied and they had some difficulties. We have worked with them, step by step, to understand why. The majority of the time—again, to the same point—they didn’t understand the forms. They didn’t understand if they were eligible or not, and sometimes they were missing papers. Some of the members in the opposition talked about spelling mistakes. It can be a small thing; it can be a big thing.

I can’t standardize it as everybody having troubles, because there were many businesses having received the funds. Of course, thousands of businesses received the funds. Some businesses had troubles, and again, we are working with them, but the majority of the time, it was lack of information, lack of understanding about the criteria—and some of them we managed to solve.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Jennifer K. French): Next question?

Mr. Dave Smith: Madam Speaker, through you to the member from Mississauga: You came from a software development background as well, so I know that you’re going to understand this, and you can probably articulate it very, very well for us. One of the things that we’re doing with this is changing some of the digital aspects of it, to make sure that it’s available as a one-window option for businesses to go in and get access to the services.

Can you explain why you think this is something that is going to be a competitive advantage, then, for our businesses? Because it really should reduce the amount of time and make it more convenient for them to do the reporting and get the information they need.

Mr. Sheref Sabawy: Thank you very much for the question. Actually, it’s a good opportunity for me to speak about that. I would like to ask any of the members here, or even the people who are listening to us, if they have tried to call the 1-800 number to check about something with any government, health, hospital service—credit cards, any of the services—and stayed on hold for about 30 or 50 minutes, waiting until you get somebody to answer the call. The majority of the time, they might be able to help you. In some cases, they will not, or the call gets dropped in the middle because you got an important call and you have to start from scratch again. And you have limited time, from 8 to 4 or 4:30.

Now, with having everything online, you can sit in the evening, read the papers, apply, fill in a form and get somebody to help you instantly, immediately, and you don’t have to do this wait time.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Jennifer K. French): Next question?

Miss Monique Taylor: I would like to ask the member regarding schedule 1. It establishes a service standard and offers a refund, and it also provides a blame-and-shame place for folks to be able to look up the service that they’re at and that they’re angry about.

I know that in my office, I hear on a regular basis about ServiceOntario. I hear about booking road tests, as we hear in the north; surgeries; mental health access. These are all service providers.

The schedule also provides immunity for the government to not have any action taken against the crown. Services that we’re talking about and that people count on rely on funding from the government, which the government continually underfunds. So how does the member justify putting in a blame-and-shame, putting in this schedule, when, actually, it comes back down to the government’s responsibility?

Mr. Sheref Sabawy: Thank you very much to the member in opposition. I understand. We have been going through a pandemic—a crisis. The whole government has been going—not only the government; Canada and all other countries. I understand the delays in the booking of tests or delays in surgery, and how important it is—that 100% is acceptable. Currently, I think we just added some funding to accelerate some of the surgeries. All the driving tests are now working extra hours and trying to catch up with some of the stuff. We removed one of the exams so that people can get accelerated G exams right away, because we knew there is a delay. We’re trying to come up with new ideas, not the regular ideas, not the traditional ways of thinking. We are trying to think out of the box. I appreciate your patience, because we’ll get to there.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Jennifer K. French): Next question?

Hon. Kaleed Rasheed: I just want to say thank you to my colleague Associate Minister Tangri for introducing such a wonderful piece of legislation. I think under the leadership of Premier Ford, this province is going to be extremely successful.

But, Madam Speaker, my question to my good friend and colleague from Mississauga–Erin Mills is: As we have heard, this bill will introduce the At Your Service Act and enable the government to set business service standards, requiring ministries and other provincial bodies to follow those standards. This is a terrific step in the right direction for people and businesses across the province, but it’s not the final step. Can the member please elaborate on what else this government is planning to do to make it easier for businesses to interact with government? I know the Minister of Digital Government is also involved in this one, so I would love to hear about that.

Mr. Sheref Sabawy: I would like to thank my colleague the Minister of Digital Government for this question. Again, just as he mentioned, it’s just a step. We are trying to build a platform and we’ll keep moving services as we go. There will be more services coming.

This government has been having some vision on catching up with the 21st-century modernization of government services. We are doing everything online, and COVID showed us how important it is to have online access to services, to education, to ordering systems, to banking, to financials. Everything is now coming online, and it’s a very logical step, in my mind, to have all the services we can for businesses, for people online.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Jennifer K. French): A very quick back-and-forth.


Mr. Faisal Hassan: I’ve been listening intently to the member from Mississauga–Erin Mills. He talked about small businesses. We know that we are in the middle of a pandemic, and businesses have been struggling. They haven’t been getting any support. It was too slow, and still, when they had the Ontario business support grant, it was also very restrictive and very difficult. My question is, the businesses are struggling, and this bill doesn’t really address that. What is the answer, to your government, that the businesses need support and you have been waiting that long? Why is it? Why don’t we support it now?

Mr. Sheref Sabawy: Thank you to the member opposite for the question. We tried as much to accelerate this funding. We tried to automate some of the services. For, let’s say, the last grant, if anybody got the first and second grant, they automatically will qualify for the new grant, so that’s kind of accelerating the process. And at the same—

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Jennifer K. French): Thank you.

I will remind all members: All afternoon I’ve been noticing members continually referencing others by their personal names as opposed to by their riding or their title, so I’m going to crack down. It has been across all members, all day, but let’s rein it back in, please.

Also, the questions and comments: Each member has a maximum of one minute, and I will do my best to remind people when they have a 10-second warning. I will do my best to be consistent.

Further debate?

Mr. Michael Mantha: I want to thank that member from Bruce–Grey–Owen Sound. Before I get into my comments, my friend, I’m going to miss you. I really am going to miss you. You and I have had many discussions over the canoe, and I’m going to wish you luck right now in regard to your future endeavours. I hope that our paths cross again. Best of luck to you, and I really do mean that. I’m going to miss you here.

I want to start today, Speaker, in regard to schedule 1. I’m hoping to get to schedule 2, but I really want to try focusing on schedule 1 because I really want to emphasize one of the issues—just one issue that I’m having in my riding, but it is a big issue.

I could certainly talk about the challenges in regard to the Ontario small business grant program and how small businesses have been frustrated with the lack of responses and the difficulties in getting some answers from this government. I could talk about assistive devices and the challenges that are there as well. I could talk about the travel grants in regard to how people are so frustrated in northern Ontario in order to get access to them. I could talk about health care. I could talk about the challenges with doctor recruitment across my riding, particularly across the North Shore and on Manitoulin Island, in Gore Bay, Blind River, Thessalon, Bruce Mines. I could talk about the challenges that are there with recruitment and retainment, or talk about hydro and the frustration—just getting a house connected and the timelines that are required, the process that individuals have to go through. MPAC is coming up—how people would be frustrated about that. I could go on and on and on. We did, last night, talk about the winter highway roads and the maintenance of them.

But I want to really try to get to one particular issue, and that is access to DriveTest centres. This issue has been going on for six years. I’ve gone through two different governments and four ministers up to now. This started way back in 2016-17, and I started approaching the government in regard to the lack of services that we have in northern Ontario. It was brought to my attention again by the northeast mayors’ group, which is comprised of the municipality of Wawa, the township of Dubreuilville, the township of Chapleau, the township of Hornepayne, the township of White River and the Manitouwadge township as well.

It started with this first one. The challenge was that communities were having a hard time getting the testing done at the satellite offices in their communities for DZ licences. DZ licences are used for fire departments. DZ licences are used for municipal employees. They’re used for the fire department and so on. And this was the challenge that was done back then. That was followed up by an additional letter that was sent to, then, the Liberal government. It was sent in on March 12. That letter went unanswered, and we proceeded into 2018, where we got into a new government and a new minister. I briefed the new minister verbally, but I followed up, once again, with a letter to this new minister. This new minister, as well, gave me a response that they’re looking at it, but we started getting into the area of, “Well, wait a second. This is northern Ontario, and do you know what? There are challenges with opening up those satellite offices. You’re not meeting the volumes. Oh, we don’t have the proper volumes in northern Ontario to have those offices open. You’re having a hard time scheduling.”

All right. So now we’re getting to the issue that this government was having with them. But, again, people were still being denied those services within their community and those testing appointments were also being cancelled.

We now get into the month of June 2019 and a new minister is involved. Now we’re getting into a different issue, where it’s geographical challenges as far as getting the service provider to come to those communities in the winter months. Wow. Well, that caused me to provide another open letter to the new minister who was there, which is the present minister, and now I find out that not only is the volume a concern, but it’s a concern sending the service provider because they don’t feel safe putting their employees on northern roads to provide that service—


Mr. Michael Mantha: That’s what I said; that’s what I said.

So by this government’s own admission, they’re acknowledging that our northern roads are not being kept to the standard they’re supposed to be, because the service providers are not able to come to northern Ontario. Anyway, I did not accept that answer and I did subsequently send another letter on February 3, 2020. The mayor’s group sent another letter in 2020, followed by another letter on September 3, 2020, and then a final letter once again on January 12, 2022. Speaker, the issue is still not resolved. We’re still not getting the same level of services.

Listen, we have economies. We have fire departments. We have school buses that need to operate. We have communities that need this licensing. We have students. We have individuals. We have to use our car to get to work, to get to the grocery store, to get to medical appointments, and we’re still being denied these services.

I took the time to bring this in. I’ve been talking about this for months, if not years, I’ve asked this question over the last two days to several individuals across the way. I’ve put the issue forward. Please, do your job as members, talk to your ministers so that we can try to get some type of service and adequate appointments for people in northern Ontario. Just because we live in the north—and guess what? It snows there, too, and we do have roads. You can reschedule those appointments appropriately to provide those services year-round.

Now I want to go on to schedule 2. I have a very limited amount of time, but I really needed to get that one off my chest.

There is a procurement policy that the government is looking at doing, and it reads, provides preferential treatment for Ontario businesses “when conducting procurement processes for” government goods and services under certain amounts. And it also says how effective it will be in supporting Ontario businesses.

Here’s a good Ontario business, and as it just happens to turn out, it is in my riding of Algoma–Manitoulin. Two great businesses have developed: First Nations Procurement Inc. has partnered with Dent-X Canada, who are producing level 2 and level 3 disposable face masks as well as an FN-N95 respiratory mask series. They are available right in my backyard, and you know what? They are having a hard time—well, first, here’s the good news. They have employed 25 employees at Wiikwemkoong Unceded Territory, and they have hired an additional plant which has just gone into operation about a month ago in Sagamok First Nation, where they’ve employed 25 more employees. They are not just First Nations individuals who are working at this plant. There are individuals from the communities of Spanish, Massey and Espanola.

Now, they have experienced some success in terms of local consumer markets and purchasing their masks. However, the business continues to struggle to obtain its market share of the provincial procurement opportunity. We have secured some smaller orders from Indigenous Services Canada based out of Manitoba, Saskatchewan and British Columbia. We have yet to see any movement from the province of Ontario. We’re in the middle of a pandemic. We have these masks that are being produced right in our own backyard within our First Nations communities—sorry; I’ve got to correct that—within a First Nation community. They are not ours. I apologize to my friends over at Wiikwemkoong First Nation and Sagamok for using that colonial term.


But with the current uncertainty of the province lifting provincial pandemic mandates, the business is concerned that First Nations Procurement Inc. will not be able to compete and continue employing people in northeastern Ontario. They have not requested any funding or any subsidies from this government. Instead, the only thing that they are requesting is the support of this government.

I wish I could have gotten to a lot more that I have here, but those are just two examples related to schedules 1 and 2 where this government can take concrete steps to helping many constituents across my riding of Algoma–Manitoulin. I’ve given you the explanation. I’ve given you the history. If you want the notes, I’d be happy to provide them to you. Now, I put it into your hands. I did what I’m supposed to do as an opposition member. I’ve given you the issues. I’ve given you suggestions. I’ve given you an idea with regard to where those resources are and how they can resolve them. Now, your role as the government is to look up at the eagle, be vigilant and do your job.

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

Mr. Lorne Coe: I thank my colleague opposite for the presentation this afternoon. He always brings a lot of passion to his presentations.

Recently, the Minister of Northern Development, Mines, Natural Resources and Forestry announced the creation of a Critical Minerals Strategy for Ontario. I know the members are all familiar with that strategy and its relative impacts. The intention of that strategy is to attract investment and increase Ontario’s competitiveness in the global market and become an important global supplier of critical minerals here in the province, and the member opposite will appreciate that. The proposed changes in this legislation are correcting outdated information so that we can continue to expand mining in Ontario, but, importantly, respecting the Aboriginal and treaty rights and, of course, the environment in that process.

Does the member opposite support the expansion, what the strategy calls for: the expansion of northern Ontario’s—

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Jennifer K. French): Thank you.


Mr. Michael Mantha: Of course, I will support any development that is going to be supported and fully consensual along with great relationships and the need to meet with First Nations. This is a fundamental part about new development, or any development, that’s going to happen across this province: We need to recognize those who were here before us and the needs for social programs and the development of their own communities. Now, that’s not going to happen overnight, and it’s not going to happen when you’re making comments through your leadership and saying, “We’re going to jump on a bulldozer and go open up particular roads.” That’s not going to happen that way. What you have to do is you have to be present in those communities. You have to be there in the good times and in the bad times. You have to sit and understand and receive and absorb and actually address their basic human right need to basic water first. Before we can talk about anything hard, let’s provide them with the opportunity and a glass of water first.

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

Mr. Kevin Yarde: I want to thank the member from Algoma–Manitoulin for his impassioned speech, as always.

Here in southern Ontario, we take it for granted that we have DriveTest centres, that we’re able to go to ServiceOntario when it’s available, like in the Brampton area and Peel region. When we’re in the north, it is a little difficult. The member just mentioned all the problems his constituents have been having trying to get these services. I mean, the bill is entitled the Fewer Fees, Better Services Act, but obviously, better services does not seem to apply in northern Ontario. People drive cars in northern Ontario. They have to get to work. They have to get to school. They’re not riding on horse-and-buggies; this is 2022.

So my question to the member is, could you discuss a little bit more as to maybe the reasons why we are not seeing these services in northern Ontario?

Mr. Michael Mantha: I have to say, each and every one of the northern members has been very loud and clear to this government as to what’s lacking, and what’s lacking are ServiceOntario offices or DriveTest offices so that those tests, those appointments can be set up. Now, when we raised this as a concern, the government announced more offices in southern Ontario.

I’m not holding anything back from southern Ontario. You need your offices. You need your services. We’re not asking for anything more, but we certainly won’t be accepting anything less.

There was a second round of announcements that came out of this government. Once again, more offices opened up in southern Ontario.

Oh, we got a hiccup. There are additional inspectors who are going to be provided at offices in northern Ontario—one. That one office—we have regional officers that stay in their communities, that still don’t come out to the satellite offices, and we’re still backlogged with many tests that are needed.

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

Ms. Goldie Ghamari: Madam Speaker, as the Associate Minister of Small Business and Red Tape Reduction mentioned in her leadoff, the Fewer Fees, Better Services Act is this government’s eighth red tape reduction bill. It builds on previous legislation we introduced to support people and businesses across the province. The measures included in these bills have allowed us to reduce needless regulatory compliance requirements by 6.5% since June 2018. We’re also near our goal of achieving $373 million in net annual compliance cost savings for businesses, not-for-profits, municipalities, universities and colleges, school boards and hospitals.

The opposition’s voting record on these bills speaks volumes, but in the interest of fairness, I’ll ask the member opposite: Do you support efforts to make things easier for people and businesses in our province, and will you vote in favour of this bill?

Mr. Michael Mantha: I will always stand in my place on behalf of the good people of Algoma–Manitoulin and support what their views and their wishes are.

Do I support the elimination of red tape in order to facilitate the funding going to small businesses? Absolutely. What I recommend is for this government to answer phones and develop an appeal process so that small businesses can actually put their complaint forward, or give consideration for either not having dotted an i or crossed a t. I would support that.

I would also ask this government: Why would you stash away, in a contingency fund, about $4.6 million that should have been provided to those small businesses, or provided for the PPE that was needed to hospitals, or provided to our education system—instead of holding off on it just before we get into an election? That’s what I would have done.

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

Miss Monique Taylor: Thank you to the member for Algoma–Manitoulin for really highlighting the serious issues that we have with services in Ontario.

Again, I’m going to bring it back to schedule 1 and disagree with the member opposite, from his last debate—the member from Mississauga–Lakeshore, I believe it is; regardless, the government side and their debate. The services that you explained would now be able to be on a website naming and shaming them for bad service. The government claims that these services are in bad condition because of COVID-19, and they’re understanding that they’re in a bad position—other than, we know they were in a bad position before COVID-19, and now they want to provide people with a bat to hit them over the head. Do you think that this is fair, particularly with the government saying that they’re in bad shape with COVID-19? Why would they give them a further punishment now?

Mr. Michael Mantha: I want to thank the member for asking that question because there is an issue I forgot to mention a while ago.

You’re going to know this name. I was sitting in Manitouwadge, over at Friends. It’s a little bakery that they have in town. I never leave Manitouwadge without having a piece of cheesecake. Guess who I was sitting there with? I was sitting there with Danielle Paananen. Who is Danielle Paananen? Danielle Paananen is the northern representative for autism families. When I sat down with her, that morning on CBC Radio they were talking about the probability of this government removing these sticker costs for Ontario residents. Guess what Danielle’s suggestion was? “My goodness. This government has failed autism families for their entire term. Would that funding not be a resource for the ability to help my son or my child or the many individuals across this province?”

Yes, it does provide a bat—as long as the constituents can start using that bat on their government.


The Acting Speaker (Ms. Jennifer K. French): A very quick back-and-forth.

Mr. Vijay Thanigasalam: Under the Del Duca-Wynne Liberals, the cost of licence plate stickers increased more than 60% in a five-year period. Our government has not raised these fees even one cent, and we’re proposing to get with the times, to eliminate the fees entirely to give financial relief for businesses and also bring a refund for businesses, back to March 2020.

My question to the member opposite: Will the member opposite support our bill and our government’s plan to reduce fees for everyday Ontarians?

Mr. Michael Mantha: Again, I will bring it from the views and perspective from the constituents in Algoma–Manitoulin. Will they accept this refund? Of course they will. Will they find someplace to put that money towards? Of course they will. But will they also look at this government and be wise to why it’s happening, when it’s happening—just prior to an election? Of course they will.

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

Mr. Kevin Yarde: First off, I just want to provide my support to the people of Ukraine. Their country has been invaded by Russia—an unprovoked attack by Russia. I have many constituents in Brampton North of Ukrainian descent, and I want them to know that I stand with them. And I believe everybody else in this House stands with the people of Ukraine.

To Bill 84: It’s an honour to have the privilege to rise in the House and speak to this legislation. I would like to raise my concern that, once again, we are faced with another Conservative omnibus bill that attempts to change too much while providing too little guidance. How will the Fewer Fees, Better Services Act give the people of Ontario any confidence that the level of provincial services they receive will be significantly better while removing fees that are designed to support these services in the first place?

Let me start with schedule 1. I’m going to go through a few of the schedules during the next 10 minutes. Madam Speaker, I’m curious to know who will be assigned to determine the base standards of service mentioned in schedule 1. Will this act be able to meet or exceed current expectations of the public’s experience in government services? Will these standards be consistent across all ministries and in all ridings? Also, will standards take into consideration the unique requirements of the diverse communities we have throughout this province? These are some of the questions that must be considered to give this act more substance and assure the people of Ontario that the government is truly at their service.

Madam Speaker, it is a dangerous precedent for this government to set, where the failure of sufficient service is simply compensated to citizens in the form of a small payout—and I’ll talk a little bit about that in greater detail. What this does, instead, is reduces the compassion and genuine interest that service centres are supposed to provide to citizens down to a rather impersonal financial transaction and dismissal.

What this government should provide is increased funding in public services in the first place that allows these service centres to thrive. Provide Ontario government services with appropriate tools and resources, a strong team of staff and policies that support them to effectively serve the public. Then there would be no need for refunds in the first place, because exemplary levels of standards will always be met.

We just heard the member from Algoma–Manitoulin mention how in northern Ontario these service centres are so lacking. We take for granted here in southern Ontario—in Brampton, Brampton North, Peel region—that we will have service centres, albeit not the best in Ontario. However, in northern Ontario, where they drive to work, they drive to school, they drive to church, these service centres are woefully lacking, and it has been like that for the last four years under this government. Year after year, our northern members stand up and talk about the lack of services in northern Ontario, but nothing ever seems to get done with this government in terms of these services. And it was ironic hearing the story from the member for Algoma–Manitoulin on how some of these ServiceOntario workers did not want to go to work because the roads in the wintertime were so horrific. Where’s the irony in that, right?

So you have to listen to what the members from northern Ontario are saying. Don’t have it go in one ear and out the next. You have to actually do something about the services in northern Ontario.

Madam Speaker, I’d like to give a real-time example of how a small business is doing everything they can during this pandemic. The government told people in March 2020, “We want you to step up to the plate and help Ontario get through this pandemic.” One story I want to talk to you about is a gentleman whose name is Dean Edwards. I recently had the pleasure to meet Dean Edwards and go to his facility. He’s the president of Avocet Aerospace Inc. Mr. Edwards started his business in the Lester B. Pearson airport area in 1987, later relocating to Brampton in 2011. Avocet supplies aircraft parts worldwide and has an aircraft components repair shop in Ottawa.

When the pandemic hit Canada, Avocet being considered an essential service continued their work through the lockdowns and restrictions; unable, however, to shut down and ineligible for government financial assistance. Unfortunately, a large reduction in airplane activity and airplane travel, as we all know, left this business operationally grounded.

So what did Mr. Edwards do? He didn’t give up. He was determined to see his business continue and to rise to the challenge of providing essential service during these trying times. What he did was he pivoted his business operations by supplying PPE to airlines, industries, film sets, the medical sector, and he’s even opened up an e-commerce website supplying PPE to the general public. The PPE Avocet supplies include items made by Dent-X Canada, of which we heard about a little bit earlier, a company with a PPE manufacturing facility in Vaughan. Dent-X also works with First Nations Procurement, a company that acquires goods and services for clients around Ontario’s north. The partnership led to the creation of two manufacturing facilities, one on Manitoulin Island and one around Sudbury, that provide full-time jobs and benefits to the local Indigenous community.

However—this is a big “however”—instead of prioritizing PPE suppliers like Avocet, ministries are looking outside the province and even outside the country. Our education and health care sectors could be receiving locally sourced supplies. Companies like Avocet and Dent-X could be serving the province with large orders of products, but they see their business opportunities pushed aside in the name of cheaper foreign products. The government talks about buying local, supporting local, but they’re definitely not doing it.

And they are also providing PPE not just for adults, but also PPE for children.

Ontario companies that are providing Ontario jobs, supporting Ontario’s economy and protecting Ontario’s health and safety need the support of the Ontario government.

I want to go to schedule 5. It talks about the removal of tolls on Highways 412 and 418, which the member from Oshawa has been advocating for for four years now. This member was not listened to until now. Why? Well, if we look at the clock, there must be an election coming soon.

So my question to the Conservatives is—this is a good thing; I have nothing against removing the tolls on Highways 412 or 418—why not remove the tolls on the entire 407? That would help the residents of Brampton. That would help the residents of Woodbridge, Vaughan, Markham and right across the GTA. If the government is willing to blow $1 billion on removing licence plate stickers, they should be willing to buy back the 407. It will cost billions of dollars, of course. We all know that. But you will recoup that money over the years with throwing in a loonie or a toonie into the bin.


I could go on and on and on. I want to quickly talk about one more thing, about the autism file. There are many waiting lists for services, with over 500,000 people. The handling of the autism file should be a priority, and no cuts should be made by this government.

Recently, I had the honour of meeting Jamie Peddle, a single father of a child with autism, in Brampton. Families like the Peddles are on long waiting lists and waiting for speech and occupational therapy. These are families that need more therapy time for their children and need more affordable avenues. They cannot simply keep paying out of pocket or with their credit cards when their health cards should be supplying these services. Some of them are paying over $3,000 a month for these autism services.

The government talks about making things more affordable, making things easier. But as we’ve seen, they have to remove these fees to help the people of Ontario and to benefit Ontarians, and it is not happening.

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

Mr. Bill Walker: It’s always a pleasure to listen to my colleague, and I know he shares lots of thoughts very similar to us, actually, but he just caught me with one there. I know that he said, “Let go of the fees for the tolls,” which is good, and I’m glad he agrees with that. I know many of the members over there see that there’s good rationale for many of these. But it kind of comes back—and I don’t think he was maybe in the House earlier when one of his colleagues, the member from Timmins, talked about what’s going to happen. We’re going to have to get rid of a snowplow, I think he said, in Timiskaming–Cochrane. But the member opposite just said a phrase: “Do it, and it will cost billions, but we’ll just do it, and it will all be good.” In the last NDP budget, in 2018, there was a $7-billion hole in their actual campaign platform. How many snowplows across the province would have to be pulled off the road? How many services would have to be pulled?

I know he’s rational. I know he can see the benefits of this, but I hope he’ll answer, perhaps on behalf of his friend from Timmins, on that $7-billion hole and the billions we don’t have.

Mr. Kevin Yarde: I want to thank the member for his question. Yes, of course, buying back the 407 will cost money, but in the long run, it’s going to provide better services. We’ll be seeing better jobs, fewer delays on the highway. Right now, we have congestion on the 401, the 410, the 427, the 400. If we’re serious about improving transportation in southern Ontario, this is something the government has to seriously, seriously look at.

I come here from Brampton North down the 410, and I have to sometimes hop on the 407 because of the traffic and the congestion, and it costs a lot of money to ride on the 407. As we know, if it’s expensive for members here, who are making $116,000 a year, just imagine the cost for the ordinary citizen of Ontario.

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

Ms. Jill Andrew: Thank you to our member from Brampton North for that impassioned conversation on Bill 84. My question to the member is, in Little Jamaica, we just learned that we lost one ever of our treasured restaurants, Randy’s patties. They had been around since 1979. I was two years old. It is shocking. Because of Metrolinx construction, because of lack of government funding to our small businesses, businesses are dying. Another one is hitting the dust here, and it’s Randy’s patties.

I want to ask you, member from Brampton North, why you think this government is hell-bent on fewer fees, but it’s not providing better services or better access to resources for our small businesses in the province of Ontario?

Mr. Kevin Yarde: I want to thank the member from Toronto–St. Paul’s. Of course, I’ve been down to Little Jamaica, and I’ve seen the problems they’ve been having there, with the Eglinton LRT construction. It has devastated many small businesses—barbershops and so on—and I’ve had the same story in Brampton. In Brampton North, people cannot access the COVID emergency funds. Many businesses are going under because of that. The government talks about being able to supply funding and services for these small businesses, but what we’ve seen is people applying for these grants and loans and they’re missing an i, they’re not crossing a t properly—and there is no appeal process. So what I want this government to do is to install an appeal process so that these businesses will get a second chance at trying to get these monies that they need so desperately so they won’t be going under, like the businesses in Toronto–St. Paul’s and across Ontario.

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

Mr. Amarjot Sandhu: I appreciate the presentation from my friend from Brampton North. It’s great to see him after a long time.

Madam Speaker, since we eliminated the licence plate stickers, I’ve received hundreds of calls from his constituents of Brampton North who really appreciate that the government is putting more money into their pockets and also cutting red tape at the same time.

The member also highlighted the small business grant. Maybe we can take a tour on the weekend and see how appreciative the businesses are of the government, because the government supported them in unprecedented tough times.

My question to the member opposite is, will he stand with his constituents and vote in favour of this bill?

Mr. Kevin Yarde: I want to thank the member for his question. I spoke not too long ago about Avocet technologies. This business is in Brampton West, in the member’s riding. I would like for him to join me next time I go there and speak with the business, which is providing PPE but cannot source it out because the government is not using their business to source PPE to small corporations, to education boards. So the government really isn’t doing anything for small businesses. A business that is in his riding that I just talked about is coming to me in Brampton North and saying, “Kevin, we need this government to assist us. They wanted us to step up to the plate. We’re doing everything the government asked us to do, but we’re getting stepped on and we’re not getting the respect that we’re due.”

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

Miss Monique Taylor: It’s definitely been a riveting afternoon, listening to debate on this bill. There has been a lot of dialogue going back and forth, the government putting out their position on the bill, the opposition putting out their position on the bill, hopefully to come to some kind of agreement or come up with some kind of changes or things to make things better—which brings me to schedule 4.

Schedule 4 will allow the government an extension to bring forward their budget, the budget that is to take them to the election. Now they are allowed a deadline of April 30, and shockingly, the campaign starts shortly after, days later. That will take away this ability to be able to debate.

What does the member have to say about the lack of accountability, the lack of transparency that will allow this government to take their budget, sight unseen, to the public without us having the ability to pick it apart?

Mr. Kevin Yarde: I want to thank the member for her question. I’m actually looking at the calendar. You’re right: April 30 is when they will table this budget, and the writ will most likely be dropped on May 2. So it looks like there will be no days available to debate the budget that’s going to be coming forward.

Why is that? I don’t know. Maybe they want to hide what’s in the budget. Maybe there’s a lot of cuts. Maybe there are services in there that the people of Ontario will not be happy with. But it is ironic that the budget will be coming down not in March—we all expected it to be coming in March—but on April 30, and the writ is going to be dropped on May 2 or May 3. This is wrong.

But do you know what? We’re not surprised. This is the type of government we’ve been dealing with for the last four years, where they’ve been trying to pull the wool over the eyes of the people of Ontario.


The Acting Speaker (Ms. Jennifer K. French): Just a reminder to all members that we can’t suggest what the government is thinking or what drives them.

Further questions?

Mr. Will Bouma: I appreciate the conversation with the member across. I was wondering—the point seems to be being made that we’re not supporting businesses, and that by leaving more money in people’s pockets, we’re actually doing a great disservice to the province.

With that in mind, coming from the Ministry of Finance perspective, a year ago with our budget, we were forecasting a $31-billion deficit. We were able to update that to $21 billion or so, maybe $22 billion, in the fall economic statement. Recently, the Auditor General announced that’s $8.4 billion lower, to $13 billion. We’ve spent all that money. The difference is the revenues that have come in because of the decision of this government to support businesses to make those things happen.

Could you help me understand how we won’t make this up by supporting businesses?

Mr. Kevin Yarde: I want to thank the member for his question. What the people of Ontario want, and what I recommend, is that the government install an appeal process for small businesses; that the government bring in $10-a-day child care; that the government remove Bill 124 and increase the wages for front-line workers; that the government increase the minimum wage; and that the government bring in a budget in March and not on April 30, just before the writ is dropped. That is what I want this government to look at, and that is what I want this government to do.

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

Mr. Bill Walker: I want to start off by again, like many, and everyone, really, in this House, extending my condolences to the people of Ukraine in this senseless act and pledge my support to the people of Ukraine.

Madam Speaker, the other thing I want to do is reciprocate the kind words from my colleague Monsieur Mantha, the MPP for Algoma–Manitoulin, and say merci. I think what we’ve been able to do in this House in 10 years is show that you can have friendship, you can have collegiality, you can be respectful and you can get things done. He referenced in his comments that we share the big canoe, which is in my world as well. I’ll share for those who don’t know what the big canoe is: It’s the Chi-Cheemaun, which is the beautiful boat that sails back and forth, a First Nations-named boat that serves both of us. Again, we come here with very different ideals in many ways, and we come here with very similar ideals in many ways, but at the end of the day, and from day one, really, we dropped all the partisan rhetoric, we dropped all the stuff, because we went back and said, “What are we going to do to help the people of our respective communities?” And I think that’s shown very well, both as colleagues—when we were both in opposition, we did a lot of things to press the government, and then when we became government, and me as a minister, I always took great pride in him coming to me first-hand and saying, “How can we work together? How can you help me? How can I help you?” So, to you, I truly thank—and that young fellow in front of him from Timiskaming–Cochrane, I think, we can say pretty much the same thing with him, although he gives me a few more jabs every now and again. But that’s fair game.

I want to show some acknowledgement to some people who maybe have all got noted in the House today. I want to start off with Associate Minister Tangri, the Associate Minister of Small Business and Red Tape Reduction, and respecting you, the member from Mississauga–Streetsville. I also want to reflect on MPP Rickford from Kenora–Rainy River, the Minister of Northern Development, Mines, Natural Resources and Forestry and Minister of Indigenous Affairs; MPP Dave Smith from Peterborough–Kawartha, his PA; MPP Fedeli, the MPP from Nipissing, the Minister of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade; MPP Jeff Yurek, the member from Elgin–Middlesex–London, the PA; MPP Rasheed from Mississauga East–Cooksville, the Associate Minister of Digital Government; MPP Mulroney from York–Simcoe, the Minister of Transportation; MPP Thanigasalam, the PA from Scarborough–Rouge Park; MPP Romano, from Sault Ste. Marie, Minister of Government and Consumer Services; and his very reliable and long-standing PA, and the absolute champion of private members’ bills, Bob Bailey from Sarnia–Lambton; as well as the President of the Treasury Board—as someone mentioned earlier here today, this is the eighth red tape reduction bill that we’ve brought in, and it does have a huge impact by taking a lot of that burden away—that is MPP Sarkaria from Brampton South.

This bill has been brought in to truly try to help Ontarians in many aspects that have gone unnoticed for many years across many of the ministries, to give them a simpler way of life, to put money back in their pockets; in regard to businesses, to make it simpler and easier for them to be able to do business, Madam Speaker.

I’m going to touch on a couple of different points here, and one is the actual ability for permitting. I hear all the time, “Why does it take so long to get a permit?” I know in this House it has been referenced that in India—in many cases, one of our biggest competitors—you can get a permit in two, three, four months. Here, sometimes, it takes two, three, four years. That’s impacting jobs. That’s impacting livelihoods. That’s impacting taxes, which pay for the education, social services and health benefits we want. Why would we not want things that are going to be more timely and give cost savings to Ontarians?

Madam Speaker, it also talks in here about doing some of those permits and service standards to provide clarity, to provide timelines, to provide accountability. As a minister, I certainly took that very seriously and said, when a member of the public services comes to me, and there was no deadline, no timeline—why can’t we tell people that within a six-month period, “Here are the 15 steps you’ve got to go through, but when you get to that, you’re going to be done”? It’s not this “and bring back another,” what if, wherefore—and you’re another six months down the road, which again impacts.

In today’s housing crisis, it’s another six months to get a building permit for a house, affordable housing, a long-term-care facility, a hospital. The costs are escalating, so we need to do whatever we can there.

Many people always say about the developers—well, those developers have built a lot of our great province and a lot of our great country, so we need to work hand in hand and not always put them out to be the bad guy. We need to work with them so they actually know that we’re in partnership with them.

The single window for business: Again, I hear people—“I don’t even know how to navigate the multitudes of things out there.” All they want to do is get into business or get a job or get their kids through school or get into a long-term-care facility. So why wouldn’t we want an efficient, accountable and timelined single window of business?

Supply chain: Minister Fedeli, again, earlier today—when we started the pandemic, 0% of personal protective equipment was actually procured in the province of Ontario. In two short years, in the middle of a pandemic, we’ve moved that to 74%. I know one of my colleagues across the way said, “You came and you did a thing that business”—there are contracts. There are processes we have to go through. But look for the good here. Let’s look for the yeses and say, “We’ve gone to 74% from 0%.” And we’re still trying to climb that ladder to get more.

BOBI, the ability to do those things and business initiatives—I know the Minister of Government and Consumer Services was in here earlier, filling my seat admirably, I must say, after a long time.

CORE, selling real estate: The Minister of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade—in North Bay, an OPP station sat empty for 10 years. That cost the taxpayers $1 million. We heated it, we cleaned the snow, we did the grass removal, all of those things—$1 million over 10 years. Within the first year—I was in the chair when it happened—we got rid of it. There’s massive numbers of real estate that that money could be going back in—to support our colleges, our universities, our health care system, our long-term-care facilities, our social services and our affordable housing, those people in need. So that centre of realty excellence, CORE, is one that I absolutely think is critical.

At the end of the day, we have our red tape reduction, making life simpler, making it easier to navigate.

I believe that even the opposition, in their job of opposition, can support this if they really, truly want to help the people of Ontario.

Madam Speaker, at this point, I’d like to move that the question now be put.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Jennifer K. French): Mr. Walker has moved that the question be now put. There having been a total of over nine hours of debate and 23 members speaking, I am satisfied that there has been sufficient debate to allow this question to be put to the House.

Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? I heard a no.

All those in favour of the motion that the question be now put, please say “aye.”

All those opposed to the motion that the question be now put, please say “nay.”

In my opinion, the ayes have it.

Mr. John Vanthof: On division.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Jennifer K. French): The ayes have it on division.

Mrs. Tangri has moved second reading of Bill 84, An Act to enact two Acts and amend various other Acts. Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? I declare the motion carried.

Second reading agreed to.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Jennifer K. French): Shall the bill be ordered for third reading?

Hon. Nina Tangri: Yes, please, Speaker.


The Acting Speaker (Ms. Jennifer K. French): So ordered.

Orders of the day? I recognize the deputy government House leader on a point of order.

Mr. Michael Parsa: If you seek it, you’ll find that we have unanimous consent to see the clock at 6.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Jennifer K. French): The deputy government House leader has moved that we see the clock at 6. Is it agreed? Agreed.

Private Members’ Public Business

Police Services Amendment Act, 2022 / Loi de 2022 modifiant la Loi sur les services policiers

Mr. Harris moved second reading of the following bill:

Bill 78, An Act to amend the Police Services Act / Projet de loi 78, Loi modifiant la Loi sur les services policiers.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Jennifer K. French): Pursuant to standing order 101, the member has 12 minutes for their presentation.

Mr. Mike Harris: It’s an honour to rise this evening to speak to Bill 78, the Police Services Amendment Act, 2022. I just want to start by saying that it’s great to be back here this week and, of course, to see all my colleagues again after what seems like an everlasting winter, if you’re outside today back in Kitchener–Conestoga.

I also want to give a special shout-out to our pages. It’s wonderful to have them back here with us once again and especially to have my son Maverick, who is actually back up in my office right now, my second-eldest child, joining us in this cohort. It’s really great to have him here at Queen’s Park and I’m looking forward to hearing what he’s learning and what he’s thinking of everything that’s going on here.

It’s kind of interesting, because obviously at the Harris house, take your kid to work day is a little bit different. My eldest son, Jaxon, was also a page just before we shut down, actually, before the pandemic in 2020. And while I was not a page myself, our family tradition of having Harris kids at Queen’s Park really began in the 1990s for me with my dad actually bringing me here for take your kid to work day. I actually got to open a cabinet meeting, which I think was pretty cool.

Mr. Gilles Bisson: I remember that.

Mr. Mike Harris: The member from Timmins was here, actually, at that point, and it’s great that he remembers that.

It’s really great to watch so many young parliamentarians-to-be getting a chance to experience all the things that happen here in the Ontario Legislature. And because we’ve all learned recently, of course, that things can change rapidly and an emergency can arise when you least expect it, it’s really great to have people here understanding what the government can do in those situations.

It’s equally important to understand and acknowledge the service providers that keep things working for us when those unprecedented challenges occur. That includes front-line health care workers in our hospitals and of course long-term-care homes; our incredible, hard-working nurses and personal support workers; our delivery drivers and logistics professionals who keep goods flowing and make sure that we have the essentials that we need. Of course—the reason we’re here to talk about this today—that also means our first responders: the paramedics, firefighters and police services that we rely on in a crisis, whenever a crisis arises—not just during the pandemic.

Before I get into the Police Services Amendment Act and what Bill 78 proposes in more detail, I want to just sincerely thank all our front-line professionals, essential workers and first responders for everything that they have done and really stepped up through the last two years of uncertainty.

In fact, just earlier this week, we debated Bill 51, the Provincial Day of Service Act, that was brought forward by the member for Whitby, which honours the victims and heroes of 9/11 and their families. Many of the victims of 9/11 were themselves first responders who rushed into danger while everyone else was running away. Despite that danger, they chose to do the right thing; they tried to help; they tried to save lives. That takes a very special kind of person, Madam Speaker. So I’m glad that Bill 51 was brought forward by the member for Whitby and I’m equally glad that my bill seeks to work in a bit of parallel and bring attention to the officers who serve in municipalities across Ontario and the tremendous work that they undertake to serve our communities, and to do what is necessary when called upon.

Speaker, that is why I wanted to bring Bill 78 forward and honour these special individuals among our police services in municipalities and First Nations across Ontario.

On a little bit more of a technical level, Bill 78 seeks to amend the eligibility criteria for the Queen’s Commission to municipal police officers and First Nations constables. Currently in Ontario, only police officers serving with the OPP may attain the Queen’s Commission. The Queen’s Commission, of course, is an award of recognition granted to officers for exemplary performance of their duties. The OPP ethics and values handbook, titled The Promise of the OPP, outlines the expectations, duties and responsibilities of commissioned officers as follows:

“As a commissioned officer, you must:

“—dedicate yourself to acting in the best interests of the public;

“—remain loyal to the vision and mission of the” police service “and champion its corporate direction;

“—demonstrate, by example, your belief in the value of: accountability for professional excellence; positive and respectful relationships; fairness, courage and caring; continuous learning; and diversity in society and in our workplace;

“—foster and sustain an organizational culture of open and honest dialogue, equality and trust;

“—exercise leadership responsibilities consistent with goals of achieving justice, applying the rule of law, maintaining a strong moral core, and respecting human dignity and the democratic principles upon which our society is based.”

The commission is typically awarded to officers at the same time that they are promoted to the rank of inspector. This has been the case for OPP officers since 1964. Our sources within the OPP also tell us that only about 133 such promotions have been granted in the last five years, so the honour is extremely rare. I also want to note—because it will be important to the point I’ll make a little bit later—that out of 444 municipalities across the province, over 60 have OPP officers serving the duties of local municipal law enforcement, and I see many members here today that have OPP services within their ridings.

Speaker, I reached out to the North Bay Police Service, wanting a perspective from chief of police, Scott Tod. Of course, I grew up in North Bay, and I thought he was an important person to talk to about this because he’s also a retired inspector from the OPP. I’ve got a quote here from him: “As a retired commissioned officer with the Ontario Provincial Police, I fully support this amendment to the Police Services Act, which extends the eligibility criteria of the Queen’s Commission to officers in municipal and First Nations jurisdictions.

“In my current role as a municipal police chief, I can attest to these deserving qualities of municipal and Indigenous police leaders specific to the trust and confidence to their loyalty, integrity and ability.”

Madam Speaker, I believe Chief Tod has an invaluable and unique perspective in that, like I said, he was also a commissioned officer himself within the OPP and now has insight into municipal policing in his role as police chief of North Bay. I hope everyone listening today can make that same connection: that officers serving at the municipal level are often expected to and already act according to the very same standards held by their provincial counterparts within the OPP.

Speaker, getting back to the technical bits of Bill 78, I want to remind the House of the definition of a police officer as it currently stands—and this is an important part of this legislation—“a chief of police or any other police officer, including a person who is appointed as a police officer under the Interprovincial Policing Act, 2009, but does not include a special constable, a First Nations constable, a municipal law enforcement officer or an auxiliary member of a police force ... ”

When we talk about this and look at some of the nuances of why we need to change this act to be much more accommodating for people across the province—as it sits right now, First Nations constables aren’t actually considered police officers in the eyes of the province. So when we talk about these changes, this is to ensure that officers performing the same duties across Ontario are afforded the same recognition for their work in their communities.

I’ve got a really great quote here from the chief of police for Six Nations, Darren Montour. He said, “I have read over MPP Harris’s letter proposing the Queen’s Commission be made available to First Nations and municipal police officers. We all do the same job for the communities we serve, and we should be on the same page as far as recognition of exemplary performance.” Speaker, I could not have said it better myself. The same job deserves the same recognition, especially when service is exemplary.


The spirit of Bill 78 is really about inclusivity and recognition of exemplary officers across Ontario for the work that they do in their communities. From First Nations to northern communities like North Bay and big cities like Toronto, officers are doing the hard work of policing and enforcing laws and regulations so that we can live safely, knowing we have someone that we can count on in a crisis.

I don’t have a whole lot of time left here, Madam Speaker, but I did want to read a quick quote from Chief Bryan Larkin from Waterloo region. He’s also the current president of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police. He says:

“I applaud these changes, which will honour the incredible work and leadership of officers who work each and every day to uphold the law and public safety, who work to foster trust and confidence between their organizations and the communities they serve, and who commit themselves to achieving justice for all.”

He goes on to say, “Extending the Queen’s Commission to exceptional municipal police officers and First Nations constables is an honour that is deserving and is one that I support fully.”

I don’t have a lot of time left here. I’ve got a couple of other quotes from the Police Association of Ontario. But I did want to take a little bit of time to just talk quickly about some of the things that are going on in the world, and we’re talking about being safe here at home in Ontario and in Canada in our representative communities. I think when we talk about policing and public safety, we often take that for granted here. Canada and Ontario are truly a mosaic of cultures, and when we see what’s happening across the world and right now in the Ukraine—we’ve got a strong and vibrant community from the Ukraine, not only in Kitchener–Conestoga, but all across Waterloo region and all across Canada.

I was listening to the news earlier today, talking about how there are more, we’ll say “expat” Ukrainians, or folks from the Ukraine, who have immigrated all across the world—there are more in Canada than anywhere else. We’ve got a huge farming community out west. We’ve got a great Ukrainian community here in Ontario. With everything that’s going on, we often talk about how our hearts go out or we send prayers, but I think that when we see what’s happened with the aggression from Vladimir Putin and Russia that happened overnight—often we kind of pay lip service to some of those things, but I think we can all agree here today that it’s a really unfortunate situation and our true hearts and prayers and thoughts go out to all the families that are affected by this. It’s certainly something where I hope we see our federal government stand up, where we see other governments around the world step up and not let these types of things happen to, quite frankly, very peace-loving countries.

Thank you, Madam Speaker. I’m looking forward to hearing the thoughts from the opposition members and—who knows—maybe even the Liberals.

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

Mr. Gilles Bisson: I want to make, first of all, the comment up front that, of course we’ll be supporting this legislation. Extending the Queen’s Commission from the Ontario Provincial Police to our local force and to our NAPS officers up north I think makes ultimate sense, and it’s the least we can do in order to recognize the work, the sacrifice, the professionalism that the police services have here in Ontario.

I think if we look at what happened in Ottawa recently, what happened in Windsor recently, nobody likes to see those situations. The protesters obviously didn’t want the police there. They wanted to make their point. We understand that. We are all people here in this Legislature who like to make our point. Obviously, those who were protesting felt strongly about what they did, and—rightfully so—they went out and protested. But somebody at one point had to go in and had to take them out, because you can’t close down the Windsor bridge and expect our economy to work very long, and we were seeing shutdowns. I’m sure they were not trying to hurt us. It was just an effect of what their protest was all about. And what we saw in Ottawa, the same. But really what I think we can be proud of—all of us as Ontarians—is that our police were extremely professional: the work that they did in Windsor, the work that they’re doing now in Toronto. I just drove through another one of those blockades—not a blockade of protesters, but actually, the police are securing this perimeter. What we saw in Ottawa reflects the good sense and the strong training that our police officers have in being able to deal with situations like that.

I think they deserve applause, I absolutely agree, because in the end we didn’t see the type of things that we saw in other jurisdictions when there were the protests. We didn’t see our police running out with batons. They weren’t doing extraordinary things that didn’t need to be done to bring the situation under control, but nonetheless, they did and they did so professionally.

Was it fun for the protesters? Absolutely not. I’ve been on the receiving end of those protests. I used to organize some of them.

Mr. Mike Harris: No.

Mr. Gilles Bisson: Oh, I’m telling you. As a matter of fact, when you were a little boy, back in the time when your dad was the Premier, I organized protests at that time. Whenever we got in a situation where we were getting a little bit out of hand or things were being held up a bit too long, the police would always come by and, in a very thoughtful way, make us understand that you just can’t hold up things, that you had to allow people to move freely.

So, my hat’s off to the police because of the work that they do. I think we should all give them a round of applause for the work that they do.

I want to speak very quickly, because I know my good friend from Manitoulin wants to speak as well to the honourable member across the way.

He referred to how the Harris family over the years has been a part of this institution as long as I have been here. I’ve been serving with your father and yourself. I remember others—like you said, when your son was here as a page. I think that speaks a testament to your family’s determination to serve. We may not agree—I can tell you we don’t agree; we see things very differently—but we all come to this House, Conservative or New Democrat, with a strong ideology, a strong belief and a want to serve. To you and your family, I want to say thank you for the service that your father did. I didn’t agree with him as Premier—in fact, I organized protests against him—but I do recognize that it was his way of serving.

I do remember you and your brother coming here when you were little guys. In the dining room, I remember chatting with you. I don’t know if you remember that, but I was always impressed that—when members bring their kids here, their sons and daughters, it’s always a pretty special moment, I think. So, my hat’s off to you.

I can’t do this speech without mentioning: Guess what’s happening in Timmins today?

Mr. Mike Harris: What’s happening?

Mr. Gilles Bisson: We’re swearing in a new police chief.

Mr. Mike Harris: Oh, there you go.

Mr. Gilles Bisson: Yes, we’ve been very, very blessed with John Gauthier, who was our chief for a number of years. He’s been there since, oh, 2010 or 2011, something like that. He’s the longest-serving chief in the city of Timmins. He is a person of integrity, a person of good humour, very calm. He has led our police force in a way that, quite frankly, we can all be proud of, that reflects the good way that our police have been trained. He’s being replaced by an OPP officer, which is pretty cool, because we’ve got Dan Foy, who’s coming in as our new chief. Today, they actually did the swearing-in ceremony.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t be there because I had to be here in the Legislature, and at times that happens, but I want to thank my staff, Sylvie Vermette, who was there, who presented on behalf of myself in absentia, as we say, to the outgoing and the incoming police chiefs.

I know that Dan will do a great job. He used to police in your riding. He was actually in the OPP out of Chapleau when he started and then moved on to be the detachment commander—my other friend isn’t here—for the James Bay coast. He has a lot of experience coming in about policing and what needs to be done. I’m sure that we’ll be well served and I’m sure that his officers will support him to a great extent.

On behalf of all of us in the Legislature, we want to say to John Gauthier, the outgoing chief, congratulations, a job well done and a great retirement. We know we’ll be seeing you around.

And to Dan Foy, I look forward to the many phone calls that we’re going to have over the years dealing with the many issues that we deal with.

To the member across the way: a great bill. We will support it. Its a good initiative.

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

Mr. Michael Parsa: I’d like to start by thanking my amazing colleague representing the riding of Kitchener–Conestoga for introducing this bill, and also for allowing me to speak on its importance for Ontarians and First Nations communities all across the province as well, Madam Speaker.

As we all know, our police officers do so much for our province and, really, all over in our communities. Along with other first responders, they have sacrificed so much, really, in the last two years. They worked tirelessly to keep our communities safe and have responded to our calls when we needed them. I can’t thank them enough for all the work they continue to do in our communities. To put on a uniform and serve is truly a great honour.


Here in Queen’s Park, our police force shows up to serve every single day to protect all of us. Those who are watching at home and those who are here—everybody knows how important it is to have a workplace that is safe to come to. They put themselves in harm’s way every single day to serve for the greater good, which is why Bill 78 is important, as it acknowledges the sacrifices they make every single day when they go to work.

Bill 78 ensures hard-working police officers who serve in our municipal communities, as well as First Nations constables who serve and protect areas around the province, are rewarded and recognized for their efforts. Bill 78 proposes amendments to the Police Services Act to allow for the recognition of municipal and First Nations police services. It expands on the eligibility requirements for receiving the Queen’s Commission award, which is given to officers who have dedicated themselves to acting in the best interests of the public. They remain loyal to the vision and mission of the Ontario police by demonstrating a belief and value in accountability for professional excellence, and they have shown fairness, courage and sympathy to fellow colleagues and Ontarians. Perhaps most importantly, they have exercised leadership responsibilities and have successfully applied the rule of law, maintained a strong moral code and respected human dignity and democratic principles. As you can see, Speaker, the goal for Bill 78 is simple: It is to reward police officers who stand out and go above and beyond every single day.

Under the current legislation, only non-commissioned officers serving within the Ontario Provincial Police qualify for the Queen’s Commission award. This amendment ensures that other officers who also go above and beyond fulfilling their duties are also recognized for their commitment and dedication.

For the past couple of weeks, we have seen this dedication at our borders, in our nation’s capital in Ottawa, in Windsor and, of course, right here in Toronto as well. These brave officers worked tirelessly to keep our borders open so food and services could continue to pass through safely and uninterrupted. In Ottawa, police services tried to control the city when they were called upon for help.

I’d like to point out that this disruptive behaviour was dealt with professionally. I commend the local, provincial and federal officers who assisted and continue to keep the downtown core safe and secure for the residents.

Also, right here, outside the Ontario Legislature, we see municipal and provincial officers protecting our streets and keeping all of us safe.

I am also proud to say that, over the years, this government has introduced other pieces of legislation that pay respect to first responders—those we have lost and those who continue to serve the people of Ontario. In fact, Speaker, just this week, my fellow colleague, representing the great riding of Whitby, spoke about a bill he introduced to officially designate September 11 as Provincial Day of Service. On this day every year, we as a province will honour those who lost their lives in the 9/11 attacks and acknowledge the incredible acts of courage, sacrifice and kindness that were made on and following that day by the military, law enforcement and intelligence personnel.

Speaker, in the few minutes that I have left, I’d like to acknowledge the officers and personnel in my community of York region. The York Regional Police recently took part in the Holiday Heroes campaign, where more than 120 members volunteered over 1,000 hours this year to help 3,000 families and more than 5,000 children. The Holiday Heroes campaign is important for our community, as officers assist with handing out donations and visiting local schools, businesses and public spaces, along with assisting newcomers who have recently immigrated to Canada.

This is an excellent initiative. I know many officers working for municipal police services are deserving recipients of the Queen’s Commission due to their years of dedicated service, volunteerism and community-building. This is just one of the many initiatives the York Regional Police continue to repeat every year to support our community. I’m sure that other regions around the province, like mine, feel the same way about their local enforcement.

I fully support this bill, and I hope fellow members here in the Legislature agree that we need to acknowledge the hard-working municipal and First Nations officers and also show their support for this bill as well. Again, I thank my colleague for introducing it, and I look forward to hearing the rest of the speeches.

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

Mr. Michael Mantha: It’s a pleasure to stand here on behalf of the good people of Algoma–Manitoulin on Bill 78, An Act to amend the Police Services Act. The bill proposes to amend the Police Services Act to allow the award to be granted to municipal police officers and First Nations constables. In my riding of Algoma–Manitoulin, we have the United Chiefs and Council of Mnidoo Mnising, the Anishinaabe police force, the Anishinabek Police Service and the Wikwemikong tribal police.

Given the topic of the bill we are debating today, I want to take a chance to highlight some of the amazing work done by First Nations constables and the tribal police forces in Algoma–Manitoulin. The work that the constables and the staff in the department do is extremely beneficial to the communities and it deserves to be acknowledged.

I’ll start off by congratulating James Killeen, the newly appointed chief of police for the United Chiefs and Councils of Manitoulin Anishinaabe Police Service. Chief of police Killeen was initially hired with UCCM police as detective inspector in April 2021. He spent a few weeks with the service before being appointed as acting chief of police, where he remained until his recent appointment as police chief. Chief of police Killeen has had a distinguished career in both the Greater Sudbury Police Service and in the UCCM Anishinaabe Police Service. I know that he will continue to serve the communities well on behalf of the good people of Algoma–Manitoulin. I want to offer my congratulations on behalf of everyone across my riding for his appointment.

The work that constables do—whether they’re OPP, municipal police services or First Nations police services—is invaluable to communities and goes well beyond their day-to-day work of keeping communities safe. For example, over the Christmas holiday, all three police services on Manitoulin Island—the OPP, the UCCM Anishnaabe Police Service and the Wikwemikong tribal police—teamed up for the Stuff-a-Cruiser campaign. Constables from all three services collected non-perishable food donations to be distributed across Manitoulin Island.

It’s great to highlight the hard work that these constables do, and it brings me great pride to bring their stories here. But I also need to talk about the issues and challenges the Indigenous police services face when it comes to adequate funding. Just three weeks ago, the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal found that Canada is discriminating against Indigenous police services by not properly funding their services and not providing the same level of protection as non-Indigenous forces. And this is also this government’s responsibility because the province and the federal government split the funding fifty-fifty for Indigenous police forces. This has affected the police forces in my riding. There are times where communities of over 1,000 people will have one constable on duty responding to every call. Vern Macumber from the Anishinabek Police Force detachment in Sagamok First Nation said in a CBC article that he can work up to 450 hours of overtime because the resources of the force are stretched so thin.

So, absolutely, let’s take every chance that we can to recognize the hard work that these officers put in to our daily lives. Let’s do more than just recognizing their actions—let’s put those actions right here and not just have them remain in words, but let’s put concrete steps and take the necessary steps to recognize them. Let’s make sure that the officers on the front lines in these communities have the ability to do the important work they do.

I would also encourage people—over the course of this week, when I was leaving the Legislature or even walking into the Legislature, as we’re walking in and we meet up with those police officers on the highway as we’re coming in onto the streets, how many of you just stopped in or give them a fist-bump just to acknowledge the work that has been done? I see some thumbs-up, and that’s fantastic.

But that shouldn’t just be done because of what has happened recently in this province. We should be going a little bit of our way, because these police officers take a lot more than that badge on their back. They take a lot of criticism. They take a lot of pains providing the services, and they care, and they have a conscience, and they have families as well. Many of them, particularly in my riding of Algoma–Manitoulin, wear different hats as well. That same police officer could be the hockey coach, could be the martial arts instructor that we have in our communities.


Having said that, yes, it is absolutely important that we do recognize these police officers when the merit is there—and the merit is there; let’s be clear on that. Let’s also recognize that there are some discrepancies that we need to address that are within our powers—that is not medal-recognized, but that is equity-recognized. We need to take those steps as well—hold on to our roles that we have here as legislative individuals, to provide those guides and make sure that they are recognized today, tomorrow, yesterday and for years to come. And we know that they very well deserve it.

I wholeheartedly support this bill. It’s a good initiative. Hats off to you, my friend.

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

Mr. Bill Walker: It gives me great pleasure to rise today to speak to this very important matter.

It’s interesting and complementary that yesterday our good colleague and friend the MPP for Whitby had his bill, Bill 51, An Act to proclaim the Provincial Day of Service, adopted, which will commemorate and proclaim September 11 of each year as a Provincial Day of Service.

I want to thank my colleague from Kitchener–Conestoga for the opportunity to speak to this, and also his father, former-Premier Harris, for his public service and all the difference he has made in our community.

Madam Speaker, as we all know and as has been said by everyone in here, we’re very supportive of our police officers. We want to make sure that we show that acknowledgement. At the end of the day, we know—similar to those firefighters and paramedics—they go out every morning, they leave their loved ones every morning for the front lines, and they don’t know what their day is going to present to them. The only hope we can have is that they get home safely at the end of the night. As we’ve heard many times—and particularly back to 9/11—they’re running into the burning building, they’re running into danger, when we’re running out. So I think this is incredibly important, that we’re able to show these officers how much we support them, and I cannot think of a better way for our municipal and First Nations police forces—to recognize and highlight the work of their deserving officers. This is an amazing chance to acknowledge and, equally importantly, increase the morale of officers across this province.

I truly am honoured to be able to speak to this bill to show our concern and also our support for all of these officers out there. I know that there’s a lot of support, again, across—the Ontario Provincial Police commissioner, the OACP board of directors and the Lieutenant Governor of Ontario’s office have all been consulted on this proposal and have been very supportive.

MPP Harris, I really, really acknowledge and thank you for the opportunity. I think it’s a great thing you’re doing. We need to do more of this to show those people who are showing their public service, who are putting their lives on the line, how much we care about them, how much we desire them and how much we value their service to our communities. Thank you so much, and all the very best. I support it fully.

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

Mr. Lorne Coe: I’m really pleased to be able to congratulate the member for Kitchener–Conestoga for bringing forward this terrific bill. It’s also very timely, when you consider that we’re moving out of the pandemic, and we’ve had a lot of challenges in Windsor, and we’ve had challenges in Ottawa as well.

Speaker, where you and I have the privilege of representing constituents—it’s the Durham Regional Police Service, and many of those members will be very supportive of the bill before us this evening. Equally important, where we have the privilege of representing close to a million people in the region of Durham—I know the eight municipalities that comprise the region of Durham will be applauding the initiative and thoughtfulness of this particular bill, but more importantly, the effect it’s going to have in commemorating the work that police officers do every day, every month, every year to keep our communities safe. Equally applauding this bill will be their families, because those families know the type of sacrifice they make for those front-line police officers in the region of Durham.

MPP Harris’s efforts in seeking to recognize and honour the exceptional performance of Ontario’s officers in the line of duty is a tremendous effort and acknowledgement of the men and women that comprise the region of Durham’s police association, which you’re familiar with as well, Speaker.

Extending the Queen’s Commission to exceptional senior municipal police leaders and First Nations constables is an honour that is long-deserving. There has been a lot of conversation in communities across Ontario of doing this, but we have a member here this evening who is standing up and honouring police officers, police constables across the province.

I know that we have widespread support in this chamber tonight to support the legislation, which we should. Taken in tandem—and I thank the members for their comments about the Provincial Day of Service, across the aisle and here; and you as well, Speaker. Collectively, it’s an important step forward in recognizing the service and sacrifice not only of front-line police officers but, again, their families. It’s their families as well.

Again, taken in combination with the Provincial Day of Service, this particular proposed legislation is so timely as we evolve out of the pandemic. The collective effort of police forces across Ontario in keeping our communities safe and moving forward and giving people a hand up when they needed a hand up is so critically important.

I’d like to sincerely thank the member for Kitchener–Conestoga and his team for bringing forward Bill 78, the Police Services Amendment Act. It’s a legacy act. When we’ve long departed this particular Legislative Assembly, this bill will stand forever, as it should.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Jennifer K. French): I believe there is no further debate, so I return to the member, who has two minutes to reply.

Mr. Mike Harris: Thank you to everyone who’s taken part in debate tonight. It’s really great to hear the kind words from the member from Timmins and the member from Bruce–Grey–Owen Sound—I believe I’ve gotten that right. I want to thank both of them for their service to this Legislature for many, many years and for the things that they’ve been able to accomplish and the things that they’ve been able to do. I know we aren’t supposed to use names, but to my good friend Bill Walker, we’re going to miss you around here. You’ve made some great contributions to this House. We wish you all the best as you move into the next phase of your life, if you will.

On a bit more of a serious note, the member from Algoma–Manitoulin made a good point. I pride myself on standing up for our police officers, our first responders every day of the week. I go out on ride-alongs. I’ve been to the union hall. I’ve met with families. We’ve had a great opportunity to make some really good change in Waterloo region when we talk about mental health initiatives and the IMPACT program we have there, where we actually have mental health clinicians embedded with police officers to go to those types of calls where someone showing up in a uniform with a gun maybe isn’t really going to be best for that situation, where there are people who are better trained to do that.

But we’ve got a long way to go. I think this is a really great step in helping to build that morale. I want to thank the Solicitor General for all the work that she’s done, the other members of this government and, of course, the members of the official opposition and our independent parties for standing up and supporting our police officers and their families here in the province. I’m really looking forward to seeing this bill come to fruition.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Jennifer K. French): The time provided for private members’ public business has expired.

Mr. Harris has moved second reading of Bill 78, An Act to amend the Police Services Act. Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? Carried.

Second reading agreed to.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Jennifer K. French): Which committee?

Mr. Mike Harris: Justice policy.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Jennifer K. French): Is the majority in favour of this bill being referred to the Standing Committee on Justice Policy? Agreed.

All matters relating to private members’ public business having been completed, this House stands adjourned until Monday, February 28, at 10:15 in the morning.

The House adjourned at 1820.