LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY OF ONTARIO
ASSEMBLÉE LÉGISLATIVE DE L’ONTARIO
Monday 22 August 2022 Lundi 22 août 2022
Report continued from volume A.
Appointment of House officers / Committee membership
Continuation of debate on the motion regarding the appointment of presiding officers and revisions to committee membership.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Ernie Hardeman): Further debate?
Ms. Christine Hogarth: Thank you very much, Speaker, for this opportunity. It’s always great to stand in this House. What a pleasure it is and what an honour it is to represent the members of Etobicoke–Lakeshore for another term. I have such a growing riding and it’s so great when they’re able to tune in to the Legislature and see us at work here in the building, although I’ll have to say, it’s always fun to go to events on the weekends.
This weekend we had a police event with our 22 Division—a shout-out to our 22 officers. You guys and ladies do such a wonderful job to keep our community safe.
I was also able to attend Ukrainian independence this weekend with Minister Lecce and Minister Cho to say some great words on behalf of our Minister of Citizenship and culture, Mr. Michael Ford. That was also a great day. I’ll tell you, what a packed audience it was on a very hot Saturday. I was able to bring my nephew Max, who came along with me for the day to have some fun with our police officers and, of course, later for Ukrainian Independence Day. I think his favourite part of the day was the bouncy castles, as any 11-year-old would think so.
I’m here to join this debate. It is motion number 2. It is about our presiding officers. I’d like to say a couple words about my colleague from Flamborough–Glanbrook, who I’ve had the pleasure of knowing for the last four years. I have gotten to know her very well, as many of you also have here in the House, and I want to talk a little bit about her impartiality. She does such a great job every time she gets up and speaks, she’s very clear and precise, and I do believe she will do an excellent job for all of us here as the appointed member.
First of all, I would also like to congratulate the member from Ajax for your appointment, the member from Parkdale–High Park and the member from Ottawa–Vanier. It is such an honour to actually be nominated for these roles because it is such an important part of the Legislature.
I’ll tell you, during COVID, when not everybody was here—a lot of us were all at home—and there are so many new members, I just have to say thank you to all the staff for the work you did. The Speaker’s role, the Deputy Speaker’s role, the Chair’s role—they played an integral part of making sure that the House still ran, the Clerk’s office still ran, our committees still ran. It was just a really important part, and I thank them all for the hard work that they did to make sure that we could still run government, even when we were in a pandemic.
Thank you very much for the time. I just wanted to share a couple of comments on my colleagues. Congratulations to you all who have been appointed, and I look forward to further debate.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Ernie Hardeman): Further debate?
Ms. Natalie Pierre: It is an honour and a privilege to rise for my first time in the House today as the member representing Burlington.
Congratulations, Speaker, on your election. I am confident in your experience and judgment, and look forward to working with you in the term ahead.
As well, congratulations to my new colleagues. I would especially like to thank and acknowledge the returning members for their guidance over the last couple of months.
I would also like to express my appreciation to everyone here at the Legislative Assembly for their efforts in making this place work, and extend a warm welcome to the legislative pages here in the chamber.
It is a privilege to serve the people of our communities, to make our ridings better places to live, to grow and to prosper. We are here today because we share the same goal: to build a better, stronger Ontario.
To the people of Burlington, thank you for giving me the opportunity to serve and represent you. I will work hard for you every day. I will listen to your concerns and issues, and advocate on your behalf to deliver solutions and results to effect positive change for our community. I am here to represent everyone in my riding fairly.
I would also like to take this opportunity to thank my incredible campaign team. I won’t forget your willingness to give freely of your time, energy and talent, despite the many demands for your attention. These were members of my community with full-time jobs—many with children, families and personal commitments—and they still showed up to get it done. Thank you to all the volunteers who helped put up signs, went door-knocking, staffed the office, made phone calls and drove voters to the polls. I am grateful for your tireless support. Without your help and the help of my campaign team, I wouldn’t be standing here today.
To my brother, Doug, and sister-in-law, Lisa, and to my dear friends, my chosen family, thank you for supporting me on this journey. Thank you for your encouragement, your honesty and your energy.
Finally, I would like to express my heartfelt gratitude to my husband of 30 years, Paul, to my daughter, Katie, and to my son, Mike, who would have been 22 this year.
June 2 was a big day for the women in my family. Not only was it election day, but it was also my daughter’s university convocation day. Leaving her program at UBC early to return home in April and work in the campaign office as our volunteer coordinator, Katie chose to miss her convocation and stayed in Burlington to continue working on the campaign and celebrate alongside us on election night.
I would also like to mention Jane McKenna, the former member for Burlington and minister of women and children’s issues. Jane, thank you for your commitment, your honesty and your mentorship. Jane worked tirelessly for the people of Burlington for two terms. I wish her every success in the road ahead.
My riding, Burlington, is one of four municipalities in Halton region, along with Oakville, Milton and Halton Hills. Tucked between the Niagara Escarpment and Lake Ontario, the city provides a diverse landscape, the opportunity to experience the beauty of the lake, and the profound expanse of the Niagara Escarpment. Year after year, Burlington is named as one of the best communities in Canada. Having lived in Burlington for over thirty years, I couldn’t agree more. Burlington is a vibrant community with festivals and art exhibitions throughout the year. With a population just shy of 200,000 people, the city still retains its small-town charm. The people here are friendly, kind, and look out for one another.
In the heart of downtown is Spencer Smith Park. The park features a wide promenade for walking, cycling or rollerblading, a sandy beach for the little ones to play in and the Brant Street Pier. With magnificent views of Lake Ontario, the park is home to many of the city’s signature festivals and events, like the Sound of Music Festival, Ribfest and the Burlington Beer Festival. The park is a place for gathering, celebration remembrance and recreation.
Spencer Smith Park is one of Burlington’s jewels. On any given day, you can see thousands of people enjoying the park. It’s not unusual to see generations of families gather to enjoy a day together or a stroll along the waterfront.
Connected by a path from Spencer Smith Park, Beachway Park is a hidden gem in the city. Tucked in the sandbar that connects Burlington to Hamilton, Beachway Park is the perfect destination on a hot summer day. It’s the spot for a refreshing swim or a quiet stroll along the beach; a place to build sandcastles, bird-watch or simply take in the views and bask in an inspirational sunrise or a golden sunset.
Burlington is also home to the Royal Botanical Gardens, Canada’s largest botanical garden, boasting 2,400 acres of nature sanctuaries, over 25 nature trails and 2,500 different plant species. Nature enthusiasts can walk or ride through more than 27 kilometres of trails, offering residents and visitors the opportunity to connect with natural beauty.
In addition to the gardens, the RBG works hard to preserve and restore nature sanctuaries. This includes Project Paradise, one of the largest freshwater restoration projects of its kind in North America, which works to restore the aquatic habitats of Cootes Paradise and Grindstone Creek marshes.
Arts and culture are alive in Burlington, home to the Art Gallery of Burlington and the Burlington Performing Arts Centre. These venues provide cultural and artistic experiences to the entire community.
The Burlington Teen Tour Band is Canada’s oldest and largest youth marching band. Since 1947, the band has represented Burlington, Ontario and Canada around the world in such countries as England, the Republic of Ireland, France, Japan, the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany. The band has performed for heads of state and for royalty, and participated in prestigious events such as the Rose Bowl parade; the 40th, 60th and 75th anniversaries of D-Day; the 70th anniversary of Pearl Harbor and many more. The band has also appeared in many movies and television shows, and over the last 75 years, thousands of young people, my daughter included, have learned leadership, teamwork and responsibility, and experienced the sheer exhilaration and terror of playing before 100,000 people. These skills will serve them well for the rest of their lives.
As a community, we are proud to support our veterans and are grateful for their ongoing contribution to our city. The Burlington branch of the Great War Veterans’ Association, our Legion, was formed in 1920. Earlier this year, Branch 60 received $147,000 from the Resilient Communities Fund through the Ontario Trillium Foundation. On July 31, the Legion hosted the 2022 Ruck 2 Remember campaign. The ruck march ran along the Bruce Trail to support the Legion program Operation: Leave the Streets Behind, an initiative to keep veterans off the streets.
The Juno Beach Centre Association is a non-profit that is based in Burlington. The association owns and operates the Juno Beach Centre in Normandy, France. The centre honours the 45,000 Canadians who lost their lives during World War II. The idea to build a Canadian museum in Normandy was born of a group of World War II veterans from the 14th Field Regiment, who, on the 50th anniversary of D-Day, organized a trip to retrace the route travelled through France, Belgium and Holland by their regiment some 50 years earlier. Opened in 2003, the centre is now a permanent memorial to all Canadians who served during the Second World War. The centre serves as a museum, educating adults, children and future generations about the role Canada played on the world stage, preserving the freedoms we are privileged to enjoy today.
Many people think of Burlington as a residential community and are surprised to learn that, with an annual gross domestic product of $10.6 billion, Burlington is a leader in advanced manufacturing, clean technologies, biomedical and life sciences, and information and communication technology, providing good jobs and economic opportunity. Approximately 5,000 businesses call Burlington home.
Once considered a suburb of Hamilton, Burlington has experienced tremendous growth in both employment and population. With growth comes challenges to deliver a range and mix of housing for residents of all ages, abilities and income levels. Growth also adds pressure on our roads, transit systems, schools and our hospital. I’ve heard it repeatedly in my riding that we need to build more housing.
Our hospital, Joseph Brant, has a history of innovative program delivery and was the first in the province to build a pandemic response unit. In the area of mental health and addiction services, Jo Brant has developed a program to provide patients with a timely response during a mental health crisis. The program provides options for ongoing care outside of a hospital setting. Patients and families have rapid access to assessment and interventions to help them manage the crisis and transition seamlessly to next-stage treatments and supports. This innovative program, known as PHAST, has no specific beginning, no specific end and no prerequisites, allowing for rolling admission into the program and rolling transition to next-stage services. This unique structure can accommodate significantly higher volumes of patients than typical urgent care programs.
Across the province, mental health and addiction care is of increased importance. I am proud that our government was the first to create a ministry of mental health and addictions. For the last several years, I have advocated for improved mental health education and supports in our schools, and as the member for Burlington, I will continue to advocate for actions that we can take to improve mental health care for Ontarians. There is no health without mental health.
Meaningful work and public service have always been important to me. My passion for education and meaningful work found a home at Sheridan College for more than a decade. In addition to my time at the college, I have spent years working with high school, college and university students to help them overcome the challenges they experience entering the workforce. I look forward to working as the parliamentary assistant to Minister Dunlop in the Ministry of Colleges and Universities to help post-secondary students pursue an education and prepare for the jobs and economy of tomorrow. Our government helped to make post-secondary education more affordable in 2019 by reducing tuition fees.
We all strive for a better province, one with opportunities for our children, care for our seniors, better jobs, schools and health care. Under the leadership of Premier Ford, our government is rebuilding Ontario’s economy. We are building highways and infrastructure across the province. We are encouraging apprenticeships, opening up jobs in the skilled trades, allowing colleges to grant three-year degrees and helping Ontarians train for in-demand occupations through a program such as Better Jobs Ontario.
Over the years I’ve been asked to run for office multiple times, but this time it was different. Running as the PC candidate for Burlington was my opportunity to effect positive change for the people in my community.
I have personally experienced good government and democracy in action when my son, at age six, was flagged on Canada’s no-fly list, and then again most recently working alongside members of provincial Parliament to improve student mental health education and supports in our schools. These solutions helped my family and thousands of other Ontarians. I am inspired by a government that listens and takes action to implement solutions, helping to improve the lives of people across our province.
Finally, I would like to take a moment to reflect on the gift of living in a peaceful democracy and to honour the people of Ontario who have given us the privilege to serve. While we may differ on the path forward, our peaceful election shows we have confidence in our institutions to act in good faith and an ability to choose our leaders in an open and free ballot. It’s easy to forget that much of the world does not have the same opportunity.
At a recent event in support of Ukrainian refugees, a local young businessperson, himself a refugee from war-torn Afghanistan, described life in Burlington as “paradise on earth.” To maintain paradise, we must remember that it is the people whom we serve and not the other way around. It’s up to each of us to advance the causes we are passionate about, to work together in finding solutions for the people of Ontario, making it a better place for all.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Ernie Hardeman): Further debate?
Mr. Ross Romano: It’s a pleasure to rise in this House and have the opportunity to speak today. Quite frankly, I just want to thank the member from Burlington for that wonderful maiden speech. I’m very, very happy to be able to hear from so many of our members and learn so much more about them and what brought them to this fine House. To everyone again that I’ve been able to hear from over the last two weeks, it really is a privilege to be able to hear the stories that bring us all here.
I remember fondly my first opportunity to rise and address this House with my maiden speech. To be brutally honest, Speaker, I’m somewhat jealous. I already was able to provide mine back in 2018 when I was first elected. I wish I had the opportunity to do it again. And, who knows? We may have that opportunity from time to time, depending on what level of discretion you as Speaker will provide in that, but I will say that every time we get the opportunity to be elected to represent the interests of our communities, it is something that we should all be extremely proud of. As I hear people speak in this House, it really warms me a great deal, Mr. Speaker.
I know we often use these lines when we speak about this in this place, that the partisan politics that arise in a forum of this nature can sometimes lead us to really wear our jerseys a lot. But at the end of the day, we are all elected to represent the people of our communities and people of this great province that we all call home. Every one of us comes to this place with the best of intentions and the hope of being able to serve our community to the absolute best of our abilities, notwithstanding what jersey we may don at any particular given time, because at the end of the day, the jersey that we all wear is the jersey of Team Ontario and it’s one that I know we’re all very, very proud to wear.
Mr. Speaker, I would be remiss if I didn’t take this opportunity just to simply say that I’m so privileged to have a family that continues to support me in this House and in this endeavour. As so many of our returning members, obviously, are well aware—and the new members, as well, who are joining us—being in a position of this nature takes us away from our families, our loved ones, and even our ridings a lot of the time, obviously. It’s tough. It’s really tough.
I had the opportunity to speak this morning and provide a member’s statement about coaching my son’s soccer team over the weekend. Just to be in a position to be able to spend that kind of time with my family and then race back into the country last night, obeying all traffic laws, of course, of the United States of America and Canada on my way back, and then to have to race my three kids to my parents’ house so that they could watch my boys because my wife is out of town right now, and then to have to run to the airport to get on a plane to be here this morning—the type of things we all have to do.
This isn’t just me. Every one of us has so many of these types of occasions and difficult times in our lives where we have to really give a lot. We do it because we care about the communities that we represent, and the communities deserve to be represented. Our constituents deserve a level of representation of that nature. It’s certainly something that I’m very proud of. As I listen to people speak here, it really does remind me, obviously, of the people who brought me here, and the support that I need from my own family to be able to be here. It’s humbling, really. It truly is.
Obviously, the motion that brings us here at this point is one that—quite frankly, I’m somewhat surprised that we are having any level of debate. I was even more surprised that there was a motion that struggled with the motion in and of itself, and I was really happy to hear our Speaker’s decision that confirmed that the motion was certainly not out of order. Clearly, the motion is not, in fact, out of order. The motion that is before this House is to recommend certain individuals in this House, individuals who, I think, will perform exceptionally well in their duties as Deputy Speaker and second and third deputies. I fully expect that the members who have been put forward will do outstanding jobs in the roles.
When I look at the member from Flamborough–Glanbrook as Deputy Speaker, I know that her community saw fit to elect her and bring her into this House to represent the people of that community. They’ve elected her now twice, as a matter of fact, to represent that community. Clearly they have a great deal of faith in her ability to do the role. We know, on this side of the House—quite frankly, I don’t think there’s anybody in this House who would suggest that she would not be an appropriate individual to perform in that particular role. I believe that she will do an absolutely exceptional job, as she has continually done, for the people of her community. I know she would exercise those duties to the absolute most good faith, as we’ve always seen her conduct herself in this House and on behalf of her constituents.
When I think of the member who has been advanced as the First Deputy Chair—I want to make sure that I have the proper member’s riding—for Parkdale–High Park, I’ve had the privilege of having numerous conversations over the last parliamentary session, the 42nd parliamentary session, and I know the member for Parkdale–High Park to also have that same level of esteem within her own community, certainly within the opposition party. I have every faith that she would continue to do the job in an absolutely exceptional way. I find it really problematic that we would be having any type of debate over the ability of a member like the member for Parkdale–High Park to be able to perform in this role. I think she would be absolutely exceptional.
As I remember—if I remember correctly—I think our House leader actually spoke to this at one point during the debate over the motion itself that had been brought forward by the NDP, suggesting that this was somehow an improper motion—that it was actually the House leader for the opposition party, the opposition House leader, that, if I’m not mistaken—the House leader can correct me if I’m wrong—but I think that the opposition House leader had actually suggested the member for Parkdale–High Park. So I find it very, very confusing as to why the opposition party would have any problem with that at all.
I think of the member that was suggested, I believe, as Second Deputy Chair for the role. The member—forgive me, I don’t want to mistake the member—the member for Ajax would also perform exceptionally well in her role, and while I know she’s representing a former member and minister, clearly her community saw fit to elect her as well into this House.
Mr. Speaker, we have a democratic process in this province, and according to the rules, we are in a position and our House leader has the ability not to choose the members of these committees or to choose the individual Deputy Speakers, but to advance names for those particular positions, and then it is up to those elected officials in this House, who have been duly elected by the members of their community. It is our obligation as members to represent our constituents, to advance their voice in this House. Our House leader is not suggesting to choose the individuals, simply advancing the names forward for the consideration of the members of this House. And it will be up to the members, on behalf of their constituents—the people of the great province of Ontario—to make a determination as to whether or not the member for Ajax, the member for Parkdale–High Park and the member for Flamborough–Glanbrook would be appropriate to serve in that role.
And so, Mr. Speaker, I believe that they are absolutely appropriate for those roles, as I know many of you will feel the same. I think at this point in time, I will close my remarks and thank you again for having the opportunity to be able to address this House today.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Ernie Hardeman): Further debate? The member from Parkdale–High Park, is it?
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Ernie Hardeman): Brampton? Well, anyway, thank you.
Hon. Charmaine A. Williams: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. It is a truly an honour to rise in this extraordinary building with so many of my esteemed colleagues here today.
Regardless of political stripe, every elected member in this building knows first-hand how challenging it is to run a successful campaign and win. These campaigns are never easy. They are gruelling, they demand time away from our families and they consume every part of our being. So why do we do them? Every member here will have a unique motivation, but at the core, it is because we believe we can help make life better for our communities, for our families, for Ontario. I am honoured to be able to be part of that universal goal, in my own small way, but it all started with an election.
So I want to start by thanking my campaign team for their steadfast dedication, service and support, because without them, I would not be standing here before you. I want to thank Rob El-Sayed, my campaign manager. Thank you, Allison Petal, my nephew Noah and my sister-in-law Sharon Bailey; I want to thank Cailen Elliot, Harby Rakhra, Roberta Quammaie, Mark Thompson, Eva Hara, Talibah Johnson, Kadiah Dabreo, Joshua Deslandes, Samantha Martinez, Beverly Taylor, Mike Makrigiorgos, Tunji Asiwaju Sr. and Jr.—their mom came out too; it was a family affair—Ayinde Azeez, Uche Okugo, Johnson Achilike, Leslie Morgan and John Smele, Idris Orughu, Candice Fonseca, Moreen McCallister, Osa Alile, the many students who came out and devoted their time, my sign crew and the many other dedicated groups of volunteers—this moment is yours.
I also want to thank my church for their years of support. Since I was a little girl, I’ve attended St. Joseph of Nazareth in Brampton on Balmoral Drive. The parishioners there have watched me grow up. That church has been such a place in my heart because they’ve been there during every major milestone in my life, especially the birth of all five of my kids. So thank you to them as well.
Most importantly—and I don’t want to get too emotional while citing these names—but to my friends and family, thank you. You’ve all been my rock. My children—yes, there’s a number of them—Malik, Nayomi, Lily, Vi and Malcolm; my darling husband, Steve; my mom and dad, Carl and Carleen Williams; my brother Sylvan, my sister-in-law, Sharon, and their kids; and my sister, Donna Williams, you guys are the universe. Like the moon, you have guided me through some of my darkest nights and, like stars, you’ve been my compass home whenever I’ve felt lost. Thank you. I love you and I could not have triumphed without you.
Now, Brampton Centre, what can I say? I say, “We did it.” My thanks to you is going to be much larger than a mention in this speech; it’s going to be the unwavering support I’m going to give you as your voice in this House. I will fight for you, I will champion you and I will serve you.
Mr. Speaker, Brampton Centre has some of the oldest neighbourhoods in the city of Brampton. I’ve lived in this amazing community since 1980. At the time, our population was not as large as it is today, but it had a charm, it had community spirit, and it had love through the many families that lived there. I grew up riding my bike along many of the pathways that Brampton has, playing outside with friends and interacting with my neighbours and communities during street parties.
In 1975, Brampton and Bramalea amalgamated and this small hidden gem became a popular place to live, because it’s all interconnected—every single rec centre, every single plaza is like a five-minute walk. It made homeownership a possibility for so many families, especially new Canadians from the Caribbean and other places. My parents, both from humble beginnings, made this country and Brampton their home. My father and my mother, both retired—my dad a multi-decade Chrysler employee and my mom a psychiatric nurse at Etobicoke Gen—planted roots here in Brampton because they knew then what we all know now, and that is Brampton and Brampton Centre is the place to be. It’s a great place to grow your family, to know your neighbours and feel part of a community.
Now, my journey here has been anything but ordinary. It didn’t stem from the political hallways of a university, the hallways of Queen’s Park or of city hall but, rather, from a hospital bed. I had just had my fifth, and final, child and assumed that the headache I was having was a mixture of hormones, sleep deprivation and dehydration. But this pounding headache never went away and it got worse throughout the day. I knew something was wrong, and I went to the hospital. I was given medication and it worked for a bit, temporarily, but then it wore off and the headaches became intense, like two bricks pounding in the back of my head. I remember calling out for a nurse, she came in and I said, “My head, my head,” and then I passed out.
When I woke up, I was told that I had a severe brain hemorrhage. As frightening as that news was, and I don’t know why, but I immediately felt calm. I told my mom, who was understandably distraught, that I was going to be okay. And then I passed out again.
I woke up a few days later in the ICU. I was unable to walk and I could barely see. Naturally, one would feel completely hopeless after a traumatic experience like that. But I thought of my family and how much they needed me, and how much I wanted to be there for them, so I fought.
I wasn’t fully recovered, but after about four weeks I was well enough to leave the hospital and continue my recovery at home. Now, this is a part of my journey that I don’t usually tell, but just over three weeks later I was back in the hospital because I became septic due to a cyst that was on my kidney. While I was fighting this blood infection, I had a heart episode, or a heart attack. Now, when you’re not in a drug-induced coma or heavily medicated lying in a hospital bed, you have a lot of time to think and reflect. I was in bad shape, but I was still alive. And I swore every day that if God had given me a second chance to live, I wasn’t going to misuse it. I knew that there was more to my story and that I wanted to fight, not just for myself but for others.
When you lose your why, Mr. Speaker, you lose your way. I know my why, and I’m ready to help lead that way.
I’m ready for women, for children, for families, for diverse and under-represented communities and for all Ontarians. As Brampton’s first Black female elected to Brampton city council and now the first Black woman appointed to a PC cabinet, I’m no stranger to firsts. My goal is to ensure that I’m not the last, because representation matters. Through this historic election and appointment, young Black girls will see themselves more clearly, not just in powerful positions but in our government—a government that has said yes to the investments needed to bringing back jobs, a government that has said yes to housing, has said yes to fixing the systems that broke under years of neglect from previous governments, and yes to ensuring that women and young girls have an Ontario that supports them socially and economically.
To our Premier: Thank you. Your encouragement has meant the world to me. I am thrilled to be a part of this team and I cannot wait to continue delivering for Ontarians. I’m very proud of this government. I’m proud of this government’s commitment to getting things done for the residents of Ontario. Through the leadership of our Premier and this government, we have been committed to rebuilding Ontario’s economy with good manufacturing jobs and more support for small businesses and entrepreneurs.
We’ve been working for workers by encouraging apprenticeships, opening jobs in skilled trades, allowing colleges to grant three-year degrees and increasing the minimum wage.
We have built highways and infrastructure, and we’re including highways like the 413 and the Bradford Bypass while investing in the 401 east. We have kept costs down by lowering taxes and getting rid of licence plate stickers and removing unfair tolls on Highways 412 and 418.
These are only a few accomplishments of this government and commitments to Ontario. But we’re not done yet. This government has already invested $21 million to expand hospital capacity in Brampton. That’s a big number, and Brampton needs it.
Also, $18 million was pledged toward the creation of an emergency department at Peel Memorial Centre for Integrated Health and Wellness in Brampton—the hospital that my younger sister was born in; she’s the only Canadian in our family, although we are all Canadian citizens—and $3 million was pledged toward expanding cancer care at the Brampton Civic Hospital. Mr. Speaker, we’re giving Bramptonians the message that this government has got your back.
Mr. Speaker, in this 43rd Parliament, there are six Black elected officials from various governments. We are all elected and speaking in a building that historically did not celebrate our voices. Now that we are here, it is our duty when we have a seat at the table to work together in a manner that encourages our community to want to be here too.
Mr. Speaker, yes, there is a history of slavery, bigotry and violence with respect to our community that has left us feelings of mistrust of government, and, trust me, those feelings are very deep and are very real. But with that said, we must find ways to heal from those traumas and find constructive ways to move the needle forward for generations to come. Because we are here, we are speaking from a place of lived experience which helps us form more equitable policies that will positively impact our communities.
I want to take a moment to talk about historic firsts, because there have been many firsts in this building, and people from our respective communities have been watching. There is now representation from all parts of this Legislature, and people are watching what we say, watching what we do and, of course, watching how we react: how we react to triggers, failures and perceived slights, and how we use our voice.
Now, Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate all the Deputy Speakers who will be sharing the Chair. It is not lost on me that all are women. All these women earned these positions through their hard work and commitment to the function of this government. This is their moment to celebrate, and we celebrate with them. These moments are not about political stripes; they are about breaking down walls, shattering glass ceilings and building bridges that generations to come will walk across. I’m confident that these Deputy Speakers will preside over this House with confidence, grace and fairness.
Many don’t know this, but before politics, I was a certified multisystemic therapist, behavioural consultant and counsellor during my 19-year career. I’ve been a voice on behalf of families and children of all ages coping with domestic violence, mental illness, substance abuse, trauma, neglect and other personal challenges. During my career in social services, some of the driving factors that contributed to many of the challenges that women faced were precarious, low-paying jobs and income insecurity, which trapped them in their circumstances.
As Associate Minister of Women’s Social and Economic Opportunity, I will ensure that women and girls in this province will not only have their needs met, but will flourish. I believe not just in the Ontario that exists today, but in the Ontario that we can build for tomorrow: one that sees more women and girls in the trades and STEM fields, that continues to protect the vulnerable with supports and resources, and putting women into the driver’s seat of their own economic future with no roadblocks in their path. That is the Ontario that I believe in, and that is the Ontario that I’m here to help build.
Mr. Speaker, we have put $18 million into the Investing in Women’s Futures Program. This has allowed 35 organizations key training supports to see women have in-demand skills and opportunities, in addition to another $6.9 million we’re adding that will help increase the amount of programs, increase the amount of places that will get this funding.
As I’ve stated in this House before, women belong in all spaces, at every table and in all sectors—and now, in every chair. We are working hard and will continue to work hard to get it done for all women in Ontario.
With the expansion of the Investing in Women’s Futures Program, it is estimated that the number of women served through the program could reach approximately 10,000. Now, that is 10,000 women, but we know that it doesn’t stop at 10,000 women, because women have families and children. So this program is going to see success to help change the trajectory of families and their circumstances.
I have always said, Mr. Speaker, healthy parents raise healthy children to become healthy adults. These are the adults that will be positioned for success, so we have to invest now to build for tomorrow. These women are going to be empowered to take control of their lives through key resources and supports provided by this government.
It is really an honour to have a seat at this table—
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Excuse me. I have to interrupt the associate minister.
Pursuant to standing order 50(c), I am now required to interrupt the proceedings and announce that there have been six and a half hours of debate on this motion. This debate will therefore be deemed adjourned unless the government House leader directs the debate to continue. The government House leader?
Hon. Paul Calandra: To continue the debate, Speaker.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): I’ll return to the Associate Minister of Women’s Social and Economic Opportunity.
Hon. Charmaine A. Williams: Well, it is really an honour to have a seat at this table, using my experiences throughout my career and life to help create equitable policies for all Ontario women.
Mr. Speaker, let us never forget the words that I said last week, “When women succeed, Ontario succeeds.” Thank you.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Further debate?
Hon. Michael S. Kerzner: Mr. Speaker, I believe our best of tomorrow is yet to be lived, and we know that to whom much is given, much is expected. I’m mindful of these lands where we gather today and those who cared for and worked these lands so we can prosper and live together one to another. I’m respectful of our history, our past and our reconciliation.
C’est un honneur d’être ici aujourd’hui avec vous et de faire partie de cette histoire de notre province et de l’Ontario—parce que nos communautés, dont la communauté franco-ontarienne, sont importantes pour nous tous; parce que nous croyons en notre province et en notre avenir; parce que nous nous souvenons de notre histoire et de son importance et, aujourd’hui, nous bâtissons l’Ontario. C’est pourquoi durant mon mandat dans cette législature je veillerai à ce que la communauté francophone soit bien servie et qu’elle ait un solliciteur général qui parle leur langue.
In some ways, today for me is both common and miraculous. It’s common because each of us here elected to serve this Legislature takes our place at these desks as equals, to serve our constituencies to the best of our abilities, to listen, to learn and to lead. Miraculous because we are a small group of less than 1,900 people who have come here since Confederation, ready to serve—and miraculous again, especially for me, as a third-generation Canadian in awe of this honour of a lifetime.
C’est un grand honneur de servir. C’est un privilège.
Mr. Speaker, let me also take this opportunity to extend my warmest congratulations to you on your re-election as Speaker of this Legislature. From the earliest moments when you greeted the class of 2022, early in our orientation this past June, your warmth and welcome resonated and radiated amongst us. We recognize the critical role you play and wish you well.
For me, this past election reflected on my own life’s simple principles of listening, of learning and of leading. I’m a positive person. I believe in the best of people. I believe in our province. I’m optimistic about the future.
Je suis une personne positive. Je crois en notre province. Je suis optimiste quant à l’avenir.
Mr. Speaker, as I’ve said many times before to the constituents of York Centre, there is no height to which I have risen—not even this—that would allow me to forget my family and my friends and my community; to allow me to forget where I came from, where I stand and how I stand with my feet on the ground, just a man at the mercy of our democracy.
And I’ve said before, that the path that finds me here is also clear because it’s an extension of who I am. It’s about serving my community, it’s about service over self. And I could never have embarked on this journey without the love and support from my wife Rochelle, who’s sitting right over there, together with my son Aaron. And Rochelle, you’ve tirelessly through this journey worked in the coldest and snowiest and wettest days, when the path seemed unpredictable and at times impossible but you were there. And together with our three children, each accomplished who never gave up or gave in, Seth, Aaron and Shaina—they were pillars of strengths when I needed it most, and we draw strength from the people we love, from their confidence in us and when they believe in us which further strengthens ourselves. They are the reason why I’m here today, and without them, this journey would never have happened.
I also want to acknowledge my parents, Max and Dolly Kerzner, who have bridged the gap of my generation, believing in building bridges amongst each other and trying to find a commonality between people, do well by doing good. I have watched my mom and dad build everything that mattered to them—which was a good name—and I’m grateful that they have lived to see this day. I also want to acknowledge Rochelle’s parents, as I mentioned to the member from Timiskaming–Cochrane, who were prospectors and pioneers in your riding: the late Norton and Barbara Grimson. Their memory should be forever a blessing, too.
I’m also grateful to our team of our amazing group of talented people that helped me get to this stage, and please let me acknowledge a few of them: from our campaign leadership, Aaron Posner; Aytakin Mohammadi; Sydney Grad; Zach Zarnett Klein; Spencer Fair; Jerry Loterman; Samrid Neghi; Mark and Leslie Tenaglia; Toddy, Irving and Boaz Granovsky; Lisa Fruitman; Danny Strong; Creed Atkinson; and many others.
I want to acknowledge some of the brightest university students that came forward to help me open up my constituency office so quickly, and two of them are here with us: Michael Mandel and Joseph Choi. I want to acknowledge Alex and Liam Correlli who are unbelievable in helping me run the constituency office together with yourselves.
Mr. Speaker, words cannot easily sum up this honour to be elected representing the riding of York Centre, a place that I’ve called home for 25 years. But this election was never about me; it was about York Centre, a community of diversity and something I’m proud of; a community that’s woven together with local pride, of hard-working people, coming from all over the world to call York Centre home—people of different faiths and backgrounds and races, of different languages, of different sexual orientations, young and old. I know that better begins when everyone feels like they belong and has the chance to thrive.
Through this journey and visiting over tens of thousands of residents along the way, I not only learned about them, but I learned about myself. I learned skills of listening and empathy, and I laughed with them and I cried with them. And we prayed with those who prayed. I learned that my journey was indeed a journey of service over self. I became resolved that every day I would try to do something for somebody, and that everyday I would try to learn something new. I know the only thing we leave behind are our accomplishments because our lives are all defined by defying long odds. We must ask ourselves, are we willing to face the challenges in front of us? And I say the answer is yes. These challenges help us define our journey. Mr. Speaker, along my journey I also came to understand that some things have to matter. I’m committed to build a great Ontario and help this government and our Premier any way I can, as we like to say, to Get it Done.
I’m committed to respect my colleagues here and to extend a hand one to another, and to respect democracy in this special place. I know that what we will do together in this legislature matters, and I will do this with unassailable integrity. With my heart filled with goodwill, I pledge to serve the people of Ontario well.
People who know me know I am very curious about the future, about our collective potential and what’s beyond the horizon. I believe in innovation and in imagination. I believe in pursuing the next frontier of science and technology, and I believe in asking questions that others don’t always want to hear. I will never mind hearing dissenting opinions if they come with realistic solutions. And to my colleagues across the way, from the other parties, who I must say I’ve enjoyed meeting: We will have our disagreements, and we may exchange at times strong words, yet even in these moments I pledge to be courteous and respectful. To my colleagues on this side of the legislature: Thank you for welcoming me to this caucus, and exemplifying how to serve with honour.
Mr. Speaker, it is also an extremely high honour, and an honour of a lifetime, to be given the responsibility to serve our province as Solicitor General. I want to thank the Premier, who also came from a multigenerational family that has led by example, a family that has always put service over self. As the Premier told me, never give up serving your constituents. I’m proud of the work our government has accomplished during our first mandate, and I look forward to continuing the tremendous work of my predecessor, now the Deputy Premier and Minister of Health, the member from Dufferin–Caledon. She has been an excellent exemplar to all of us, and I really appreciate her counsel.
As Solicitor General, I will work under the leadership of our Premier. I will work hard each day to have the backs of our police officers, correctional service officers, firefighters and everyone else who works tirelessly to keep Ontario safe.
In my few months, my greatest accomplishments are the visits I have made and the conversations I have had with our world-class front-line safety personnel. They are all heroes, and they have accepted proudly the call to serve and protect the whole of Ontario. Like me, Mr. Speaker, these great men and women fundamentally understand service over self, and this inspires us every day. And I want to repeat again, we’ve got their backs. We will make sure they have the tools and resources necessary to keep our communities safe and secure, and this includes building on investments our government made for police services to address local and provincial priorities such as human trafficking, gun and gang violence and mental health supports.
I’m proud that we are also energetically working towards transforming and modernizing our correctional service facilities throughout the province. We are hiring more correctional officers and removing financial and geographic burdens to ensure that anyone that wants a career in corrections can have one.
I want to also highlight that we’re building on the important work we have done with municipalities to create and implement fire certification standards tailored to regional differences and local needs in every corner of the province. We’re continuing to give a voice to the voiceless by expanding our made-in-Ontario animal welfare legislation. Our Provincial Animal Welfare Service Act, also known as the PAWS Act, is the first of its kind in Canada that will give the toughest punishments in the country to those who violate animal welfare rights. There’s a lot of work to do, and I will work diligently, with boundless energy, to do my best. And I’ll look forward to working with our parliamentary assistants, two amazing people, Bob Bailey and Christine Hogarth.
Mr. Speaker, a great Canadian, the late Rabbi Reuven Bulka of Ottawa, who selflessly inspired people across the country, reminded us that we need to live with optimism and humility and devotion to kindness. It is what makes us whole. Our time together is the most precious asset we have, and I want to make sure that I use every day here to do my part to do service over self.
On a personal note, I really was inspired by the throne speech, and particularly the words read by Her Honour when she spoke of a limitless potential here in Ontario. She reminded us of the story that many of us have forgotten, and a younger generation never knew: In 1967, Premier John Robarts and his government commissioned a song to capture the energy and the creativity and the dynamism of our growing province. The song was entitled A Place to Stand, with lyrics, as I said, that my son here and those of that generation will have never heard.
“Give us a place to stand / Give us a place to grow” sought to remind us that in its day, this was an era when Ontario more confidently developed its sense of self. These lyrics and optimism absolutely ring true today. As I’ve said many times locally in York Centre, regardless of where we came from or how we got here, we come united and willing to face the challenges in front of us, confident and proud.
Ensemble, bâtissons un grand Ontario.
Mr. Speaker, optimism is in our blood. Obstacles can be overcome. We are a province without limits, and as said by Premier Ford many times, when we unite, we are unstoppable.
Nos meilleurs jours sont encore à venir.
Our best days are yet to come.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Further debate? Further debate?
Ms. Khanjin has moved government order number 2, regarding the appointment of presiding officers and revisions to committee membership. Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? I heard some noes.
All those in favour of the motion will please say “aye.”
All those opposed will please say “nay.”
In my opinion, the ayes have it.
A recorded vote being required, it will be deferred until the next instance of deferred votes.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Orders of the day? Government House leader.
Hon. Paul Calandra: Thank you, Speaker. No further business.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): There being no further business, this House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 9 a.m.
The House adjourned at 1638.