LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY OF ONTARIO
ASSEMBLÉE LÉGISLATIVE DE L’ONTARIO
Tuesday 6 September 2022 Mardi 6 septembre 2022
Report continued from volume A.
Strong Mayors, Building Homes Act, 2022 / Loi de 2022 pour des maires forts et pour la construction de logements
Continuation of debate on the motion for third reading of the following bill:
Bill 3, An Act to amend various statutes with respect to special powers and duties of heads of council / Projet de loi 3, Loi modifiant diverses lois en ce qui concerne les pouvoirs et fonctions spéciaux des présidents du conseil.
The Acting Speaker (Mme Lucille Collard): I recognize the member for Windsor–Tecumseh.
M. Andrew Dowie: Je suis très honoré de prendre la parole aujourd’hui à la Chambre parmi tous mes estimés collègues et de parler à propos du projet de loi 3, Loi de 2022 pour des maires forts et pour la construction de logements. Partout en Ontario, et particulièrement dans ma circonscription de Windsor–Tecumseh, la pénurie de logements est une préoccupation majeure pour nos citoyens de tous âges, en particulier pour les jeunes adultes.
Depuis 16 ans, je travaille avec des jeunes de ma communauté, les regardant grandir et devenir des êtres humains remarquables. Sans aucun doute, comme plusieurs de nos collègues ont mentionné, l’espoir collectif que nous avons pour nos générations futures est qu’elles vivent une vie meilleure que la nôtre.
Nous avons connu des avancées incroyables dans notre société. Qui aurait pu prévoir l’ère numérique et les opportunités qu’elle apporte? Mais en ce qui concerne le logement et la fierté d’avoir un chez-soi, cette promesse est irréalisable pour les jeunes et les jeunes adultes de l’Ontario sans que nous changions notre façon de travailler.
Lorsque j’ai été élu pour la première fois au conseil municipal de Tecumseh il y a huit ans, il y avait déjà des signes avant-coureurs. De nombreux habitants de ma communauté ont exprimé leur inquiétude face au manque d’offre de logement. Non seulement les jeunes familles débutantes étaient concernées, mais les personnes âgées aussi avaient de plus en plus de mal à trouver un domicile qui pouvait être entretenu proche de leurs enfants ou de leur réseau de soutien. Les familles étaient vraiment séparées. Beaucoup étaient surenchéris en raison du manque d’offre de logement disponible dans notre communauté. Comme les familles n’étaient plus en mesure de se payer des maisons dans ma communauté et déménageaient ailleurs, il y a eu trois fermetures d’écoles dans mon quartier.
L’une des causes de cette situation est en quelque sorte une réussite pour notre région de Windsor-Essex. Des retraités, des ouvriers, des travailleurs du secteur des services et de jeunes professionnels se sont installés dans notre région. Beaucoup sont venus d’Ottawa et de Toronto. En vendant leur maison chez eux et en déménageant dans notre région, ils ont pris une chance en laissant derrière eux l’héritage de leur famille pour trouver un domicile réalisable pour eux. Nous sommes si heureux d’avoir hérité des gens formidables des deux régions métropolitaines de l’Ontario. Ils contribuent tellement à notre communauté et, de leur part, en sont venus à aimer notre région.
Our story in Windsor–Tecumseh is hardly unique. Supply is now almost exhausted across Ontario. More importantly, young adults, families and seniors are exhausted and frustrated. They’re trying to afford a home in a place that keeps their families together, but they are being pushed beyond their means to secure a home. To this end, I agree with our former Ontario Liberal Premier, Dalton McGuinty, who noted in 2008, “I’m in support of a strong-mayor system. My support remains there.”
The strong-mayor tools provided by this bill, while they only apply to the cities of Toronto and Ottawa, can nonetheless go a long way toward assisting our largest municipalities to get shovels in the ground and to build homes for Ontarians. Our government truly remains steadfast in our commitment to help build 1.5 million new homes over the next 10 years, as this bill will enable more families to realize the dream of attainable home ownership.
Consider the cities that already employ strong-mayor structures: New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston, Philadelphia, San Diego, San Francisco and Seattle. Toronto and Ottawa, based here in Ontario, are every bit as consequential and substantial as any of these cities.
Speaker, I have heard throughout this debate, including today, the calls for the government to actually demonstrate how a strong-mayor system will build more housing. Well, I was witness to countless examples in my career as a municipal councillor, so here are some very, very clear cases:
On August 13, 2022, a column appeared in Guelph Today by Adam A. Donaldson, titled, “Can a Strong Mayor Beat Up the Housing Crisis? Doubtful.” Now, interestingly enough, despite the title, the column actually makes the case quite well for how this power would be successfully used. It notes, “In February 2020, council voted 3-8 against a proposed development at 361 Whitelaw Rd. At stake were 678 units and Mayor Cam Guthrie was one of the yes votes. In this situation, Guthrie might have vetoed that negative decision, which could only be overturned in a super-majority vote of council, and that would have meant one of the three yes votes would have had to, essentially, change their vote.
“It’s worth noting that the Ontario Land Tribunal ended up overturning council’s decision in November 2021 and allowed the development to move forward. Using these new ‘tools’ proposed by the Ontario Legislature, Guthrie might have saved two years of hemming and hawing at the OLT.”
Closer to my constituency are cases that will sound familiar to most of the former municipal councillors here in the House. Just recently, the Ontario Land Tribunal approved a three-storey, 22-unit apartment in Kingsville, Ontario, in the riding of my good friend the member from Essex, over the objections of four members of council of the seven. The development was downsized from an original proposal that had 28 units of six storeys and five additional townhouses, with the demolition of a home deemed historic by the town’s heritage committee.
In the new iteration recommended by the administration, the heritage home remained in place. The town’s planner noted that there was a need to increase housing stock. In the discussion, Councillor Kimberly DeYong asked, “How many do we have to approve before we say we have enough? It’s important for me to say it’s not the development itself I’m opposed to, it’s the where and I don’t think the justification is there. The specific nature of this development is not appropriate.”
Brotto Development Corp. president Christian LeFave noted, “We had co-operated as a compromise to keep the house and proceed with the development but they still weren’t satisfied with that. Pretty much everybody acknowledged the fact that our appeal would be successful and they still spent money and resources fighting this.”
Mr. LeFave noted that his company has since engaged in other projects and the additional units are not destined to be constructed soon. A mayor’s veto of town council’s decision would have saved years and thousands of taxpayer dollars for what was widely deemed to be an inevitable outcome, and these units could have been online by now.
This was not the first time that former mayor Santos was outvoted by his council with respect to approval of new and compliant residential development, including 169 Prince Albert Street North and 342 Main Street East, although these latter developments did not result in tribunal appeals.
In 2017, the municipality of Lakeshore council denied a 10-unit townhouse development on a major arterial road, County Road 22 at Beechwood Drive, with six units in one building and four units in the other. In a 7 to 1 denial vote of council, with Mayor Tom Bain the lone dissenter, the development advanced to the Ontario Municipal Board, where the hearing was concluded in what could very well have been record time. Under a strong-mayor system, Mayor Bain could have saved the taxpayers of Lakeshore thousands of dollars and several months spent on the appeal and those homes could have come online.
In the above-noted cases, the mayor would have, under this system, been able to veto the bylaws passed by council, with a further council override of the mayor’s veto on a two-thirds vote. The examples demonstrate that otherwise unpopular residential developments could very well be approved if the mayor believes them to be in the interests of the community.
This isn’t a criticism of municipal councillors. So many in our PC government caucus, including me, have been in their shoes. Ward councillors are truly torn in all directions with respect to their role as municipal representatives. These are the people who elected you, the people who do not want these developments to proceed, and they expect you to carry their voice. The consequence of this bill provides more, not less, freedom for municipal councillors to vocalize and prioritize the concerns of their constituents and to shift ownership of the decision to the mayor. This system gives the opportunity to limit the prospect of an inevitable defeat at the tribunal by allowing the mayor to take ownership of the responsibility for improving our housing supply even when unpopular.
I’m proud to have served for eight years as an elected ward councillor in the town of Tecumseh, working with a visionary leader in his own right, His Worship Mayor Gary McNamara. With Mayor McNamara, I was always able to voice my dissension without issue on council. He does a great job for the people of Tecumseh. I have no qualms whatsoever in the powers of this bill ever being prescribed to him or to any of the mayors that I’ve worked with, including from my time with our incredible past mayor of the city of Windsor, His Worship Mayor Eddie Francis.
My nearly 20-year career in municipal government gave me a front-row seat in the planning process. I was a civil servant up until my election on June 2. I was involved in the planning process and development review, and the various regulatory capacities related to land development as a professional engineer. When it comes to having a balanced and thorough perspective on this issue, I would put my experience up against anyone’s.
The challenge that we are facing is straightforward. We need housing supply today, and our planning and building legislation does not allow for that, by design. The legislative changes proposed by Minister Clark are destined to be a significant tool, helping to address the challenges that we are facing working in Ontario’s system.
Our present-day system of collective governance, but administered by the mayor acting otherwise as the chief executive officer, provides shared oversight of governance but without shared responsibility. Tackling the public’s need for new housing to be established can become less of a consideration for the outcome of a project than the perception of the project, regardless of the technical data.
The lack of predictability of outcome for builders, faced with the prospect of denials and appeals regardless of whether the technical and administrative conditions are satisfied, drives up the cost for buyers, drives up the cost for young families, drives up the cost for seniors. The chances are high that the buyer, or the tenant of that buyer, will be that young family or that senior who needs to economize more than ever.
This bill assigns the oversight of operations very clearly to the mayor, and this is a good thing. The council-manager system undervalues the day-to-day experience of the mayor in our largest municipal governments. Many of our large urban mayors serve as the sole political representative who has had to earn a mandate from across the municipality, and invariably, citizens and stakeholders hold the mayor accountable the most for the implementation of the municipal council’s strategic vision for the term, or lack thereof.
The mayor is also the one being called upon to deliver by stakeholders and residents, far more than the ward councillors. Many want to go right up to the top in order to drive change. The mayor’s office—and I’ve witnessed this first-hand from my two and a half years working in one—receives a proportion of complaints, requests and responsibilities that exponentially surpasses those of members of council.
From my experience I’ve had in both the lower-tier municipality, that of the town of Tecumseh, and single-tier municipal, the city of Windsor, it’s been clear to me that they operate very differently from one another. There are fewer opportunities for a file to languish on a person’s desk in a smaller municipality. Conversely, for the many residents who have shared with me their frustrations with the responsiveness of government, I can assure you, receiving those complaints, being on the other side, I want the same thing that you want: decisions to be made promptly, with minimal delay, and requests for service to be addressed in return.
The mayor is the elected official held publicly accountable for the results of the work by administrative staff, but he or she truly has limited ability to resolve those issues today and turn them around without significant process and delay. The mayor today cannot redeploy resources where they are needed and when they are needed. Indeed, that truly cannot be accomplished today.
This bill gives the mayors of Toronto and Ottawa the flexibility to do something about this and be given the authority to take action when they need to. This bill directs staff supports to the mayor, enabling them to appoint the municipality’s chief administrative officer as well as the non-statutory city staff. This change establishes clarity and accountability in policy decision-making. The change is a more accurate reflection of the day-to-day relationship that a mayor has with the chief administrative officer in working to advance municipal business. Should the mayor wish to delegate these powers back to council, they are free to do so.
Speaker, consider this reality under our present-day system: A majority vote of city council today can deliver a chief administrative officer whose vision is diametrically opposed to that of the mayor. These are the two positions who will work most closely with one another. While creating that conflict might be an immediately satisfying political action for some, it doesn’t have an outcome that gets the job done quickly and efficiently with respect to serving the public. The mayor has significantly more engagement with the administration and is empowered by this bill to direct and be accountable for the use of staff time.
This bill’s provisions for the mayor to organize a municipality’s committees and local boards, including appointments of its chair and vice-chair, provide the means to share the load. They’re an opportunity to divide up the work of municipal council effectively, when needed, keeping priority business moving and assigning the skill sets of members of councils to their particular strengths. The mayors would be empowered to enact those boards and committees necessary to get the job done to create new housing stock.
The bill’s provisions for the mayor to direct staff to bring matters forward for council consideration will ensure that housing matters and matters of strategic importance do not sit on the shelf at a time of controversy.
Speaker, I mentioned earlier the redeployment of resources to match strategic priorities, including housing. This bill makes the mayor responsible for proposing the municipal budget for consideration by the city council. The value inherent in enabling the mayor to bring forward the budget is the ownership of responsibility and accountability to match the existing expectation of the public. Together with the ability for councils to make changes to the budget, with a mayoral veto of the changes available initially, and council override of the veto possible, again, with a two-thirds vote, the measures keep members of council in power. They’ve been given the final say, while ensuring that the mayor retains responsibility and accountability for implementation.
During my time as a municipal elected official, I learned quite clearly that people want their municipal government to get things done. They don’t particularly want explanations from their councillors as to why public processes can take years. In a strong-mayor system, the mayor gains the authority and ultimately the firm responsibility to actually achieve results, while municipal councillors provide the requisite accountability and transparency measures.
In drawing upon my nearly two decades of work as a member of the city of Windsor’s civil service and as a professional engineer, I know that our professionals are guided by core values. Politicians can come and go, but as professionals, we’re unemployable when in breach of ethics. It doesn’t matter at all whether or not the mayor or council is the employer, the recommendations will be the same. The politicization of recommendations is quite simply a false risk and should not be confused with the prioritization set by the mayor.
I’d also like to add that engineers seek to maximize efficiency when delivering results, and I carry this approach with me into my new role as the MPP for Windsor–Tecumseh, as I’ve always done as a municipal employee and councillor. I’m very proud to be part of a government that shares the prioritization of this approach. This government recognizes that there is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all solution for Ontario’s housing crisis.
As noted in the report of the Housing Affordability Task Force released earlier this year, while the affordability crisis began in our large cities, it has now spread to smaller towns and rural communities. This includes the two communities that I represent, the city of Windsor and the town of Tecumseh.
With that, Speaker, I thank Minister Clark and Premier Ford for investing their time and resources where it matters most, as we do our part to help Ontarians of all ages find a place of their own to call home. I look forward to serving the residents of Windsor–Tecumseh well through positive legislation that shows a deliverable, and to help foster a local environment that is conducive to enabling the community that I know and I love to reach its full potential, both now and into the future. And possibly, some day they will have that opportunity.
I’d like to close by echoing the comments of Minister Clark this morning, congratulating all of our municipal election candidates—the best of success this fall—and thanks to my colleagues in all municipalities for their hard work in the coming election. Thank you, Speaker.
The Acting Speaker (Mme Lucille Collard): Questions?
Mr. Jeff Burch: Thank you to the member from Windsor–Tecumseh for his perspective, and I certainly respect his municipal experience.
I’d like to know what he thinks of the Ontario Professional Planners Institute statement in our delegation last Monday, that professional planners being hired directly by a mayor could actually slow down the process. It verifies my own experience as a councillor, that often the planner is the voice of reason, and when a mayor or council is being pressured by constituents, it’s often the planner who has that perspective and says, “If this is the official plan, this development should go forward.” What does he think of the fact that if a mayor with strong-mayor powers is a NIMBY mayor, he has the power to hire a NIMBY planner?
Mr. Andrew Dowie: I thank the member for Niagara Centre for his question. I don’t believe that will materialize. I have known planners hired directly by the mayor, and I can think of one who’s a former colleague who worked for a former mayor of Windsor, Mike Hurst, as the downtown revitalization planner. Ultimately, they still retain their professional ethics and their professional integrity, whether they work for a mayor or not, and ultimately we have to make decisions as professionals as to whether the workplace that we’re in is the right one for us or not. Ultimately, we’re unemployable if we happen to challenge our ethics and break our ethics.
Ultimately, I do not foresee that happening with this bill, where a recommendation will not materialize or will materialize based on undue influence by a political leader.
The Acting Speaker (Mme Lucille Collard): We have time for one more question.
Ms. Laura Smith: I want to thank the member from Windsor–Tecumseh for providing his insight on the municipal system. I truly appreciate that.
This legislation will give mayors the tools they need to cut through the red tape. It’s slowing down construction, and the accessibility and the flexibility—I appreciate the information that he talked about when discussing the mayor. He talked about the balance just briefly in his last statement. Can he give us more information about the checks and balances that are in place to keep people honest, to keep the legislation together and to keep both mayors and councils accountable?
Mr. Andrew Dowie: I appreciate the member from Thornhill’s question. I know that this legislation will empower mayors to set an agenda for council, propose a budget and veto certain proposals that are out of line with Ontario’s priorities—and, in particular, the need for more housing and the maintenance of important infrastructure such as transit. But it also includes robust safeguards and an important role for municipal councillors. We know councillors have a critical job representing the interests of their constituents, which is why the legislation gives council the ability to override vetoes with the support of two thirds of council members.
The bill will also ensure that local officials are properly informed with guidance material and training—and that will be coming from our government—to provide a smooth transition as these powers are introduced, subject to approval of the bill. At the end of the day, we in this government trust Ontarians to elect leaders who will act responsibly and who can be held accountable by voters—
The Acting Speaker (Mme Lucille Collard): Thank you. That’s all the time we have for today.
Third reading debate deemed adjourned.
Private Members’ Public Business
Mr. Graham McGregor: I move that, in the opinion of this House, the government of Ontario should continue its work to build Highway 413, as it is a critical piece of key public infrastructure that will save drivers up to five hours a week by alleviating traffic in the most heavily congested corridor in North America, and will support up to 3,500 jobs and generate up to $350 million annually in gross domestic product.
The Acting Speaker (Mme Lucille Collard): Mr. McGregor has moved private member’s notice of motion number 2. Pursuant to standing order 100, the member has 12 minutes for their presentation.
Mr. Graham McGregor: I rise here today on behalf of not only my constituents in Brampton North, but for all Ontarians.
Our government highlighted building Highway 413 in our budget, Ontario’s Plan to Build, and in early June the results spoke for themselves.
Highway 413 will grow our economy and support a growing Brampton and Peel region. It will extend family hour and shorten rush hour for thousands of families in my community and across our province.
Ontario is tired of waiting. With communities in corners across the province growing at rapid paces, only our government understands the need to get urgently moving on critical infrastructure projects, especially Highway 413.
Ontario is the largest economy in this country and is proudly home to the largest population of Canadians, and we are only continuing to grow. I see it first-hand in my riding of Brampton North. What I see is a diverse population eager to set their mark in their home. They’re eager to build a better tomorrow for their families through hard work and sacrifice. Unfortunately, one of those sacrifices is time—time with who matters most, their families. That’s why our government is fighting to build Highway 413, because we understand what it means to spend more time with your loved ones after countless hours every day of working to provide and put food on the table.
But for some reason, the opposition and their downtown environmental activist buddies want to punish the people of Brampton. It blows my mind. These are members who do not live in Brampton, who don’t visit Brampton. They certainly don’t drive in Brampton. Mr. Speaker, I am sick and tired of the members opposite fighting against us any time the people of Brampton need this government’s support. Brampton is a beautiful place, led by its diversity and its people, and no matter how much the opposition disagree, the people of Brampton deserve a new highway.
Frankly, Speaker, Highway 413 should have been built years ago. This is not a new idea. The idea of a GTA west corridor highway dates back almost 20 years; however, a combination of previous government inaction and environmental activism, with no regard for the people actually in need of the highway, stopped this happening at every turn. It is my hope that this motion will finally put the debate to rest, so we can all get on board with the new highway. This clarity is critical, and we need our municipal partners to take notice, as well.
For instance, on the northwest end of Brampton, we have the Heritage Heights development, which is set to provide housing for tens of thousands of new residents, many of them new Canadians. This work is currently stalled because the region of Peel is still fighting the government about whether the highway will actually get built or not. I hope that, with the blessing of this House, my motion passes and pushes the region to support our project.
Our roads and highways are critical for getting Ontarians from place to place and keeping our goods flowing across the province. We have our heroic truck drivers to thank for that. Ontario has always been able to count on our truck drivers to ensure our communities receive necessary supplies. We saw it during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic—truck drivers worked tirelessly to get goods where they needed to be, so that families could eat and businesses could stay open in times of extreme uncertainty.
If you ate today, thank a trucker. If you are wearing clothes today, thank a trucker. If you are logged in to a mobile device, maybe while I’m speaking in the House, thank a trucker.
I am fortunate to represent a number of communities in my riding, and that includes a significant number of truck drivers, especially in the neighbourhood of Springdale. These are hard-working—many times—parents who sometimes don’t get to see their families for days at a time. For some reason, the opposition wants us to turn our backs on them. If only the opposition and their downtown environmental activist friends could understand how important our truck drivers are to our city and to our economy. Madam Speaker, the opposition is heavy on rhetoric when it comes to thanking our truck drivers, but time and time again they have voted against their interests.
In Brampton, we have thousands of families who rely on the truck industry every single day to put food on their dinner table. And our government gets it. That’s why we’re so committed to building Highway 413, so that our truck drivers get access to critical highway infrastructure to make their lives easier, so that they can get home sooner—unlike the NDP, I guess, who would prefer they get stuck on gridlocked main roads.
As highlighted in our budget, travel demand on provincial highways in the greater Golden Horseshoe grew three times faster than the rate of new road construction—three times faster than the rate of new road construction. And gridlock on our road infrastructure costs our economy over $11 billion in productivity every single year.
Once completed, Highway 413 would help goods travel faster to and through the greater Toronto area, significantly boosting Ontario and Canada’s economy. Ontario’s trucking industry accounts for about 4% of Ontario’s GDP and approximately 40% of the jobs in the transportation sector. More than $785 million worth of goods per day move on Ontario’s highways, making the transportation system the backbone of our export-driven economy.
Stephen Laskowski, president of the Ontario Trucking Association, stated, “Highway 413 is not only a fundamental piece of infrastructure, it’s a key part of Ontario’s success in the future.”
Mr. Speaker, we need to act before it is too late, and that is exactly what our government, led by Premier Ford, intends to do.
Joe Mancinelli, international vice-president and regional manager of central and eastern Canada at LIUNA—you guys will remember LIUNA, before you abandoned the working class. He said, “Investing in a resilient, reliable infrastructure plan for our province empowers long-term, good-paying jobs for our members across the construction industry and various sectors of the skilled trades portfolio.... [W]e commend the leadership of Premier Doug Ford and ongoing commitment to investing in jobs, investing in infrastructure like Highway 413 and investing in a prosperous future for Ontario.”
But, of course, the opposition will continue to turn their backs on workers in favour of sounding woke at downtown Toronto dinner parties.
Mr. Speaker, it absolutely blows my mind how members of this House will sabotage businesses and families and pretend that it’s about the environment, when in fact they’re saying no for the sake of no just to oppose our government. I don’t think that’s right. The hard-working families and business owners of Ontario deserve representatives who fight for what they need and people who understand what they need.
As a resident of Brampton, someone born and raised in Heart Lake, who took the 410 to get here, I think I know a little bit about what the people of Brampton need and what my city deserves. The people of Brampton are tired of waiting, and I will not let them wait any longer, no matter how many games the opposition try to play with the livelihoods of my constituents and the rest of those who desperately need Highway 413.
Speaker, when I’m at the doors, I hear excitement from my constituents about building Highway 413. The idea of less congestion and less gridlock, as crazy as it may sound, is actually what people want. And our government will get it done.
Our budget recognizes the increased demands for infrastructure due to increasing populations. That’s why I supported our government’s budget, and that’s why the people of Ontario supported our budget when they voted on it in the last provincial election on June 2.
To the members of other parties, I ask whether they might know anybody who wishes they had supported our budget and wanted to build Highway 413. I suspect there are a number of failed candidates from the Liberals and from the NDP—sorry, the Liberals and the NDP; you get them confused—who probably do. I would put forward that you can’t live on Twitter; you have to speak to real people where they live. It is our job, as legislators, to listen to them and advance their priorities. Time is the most valuable thing we have, Speaker. It simply is not fair to my constituents in Brampton North that opposition members want to take that away from us.
In downtown Toronto, you may see a few “Stop the 413” signs. Guess what? In Brampton, in the previous election, there were over 10,000 PC signs on the lawns of Brampton families who support our Premier and support our party to get it done. That’s what the people want. That’s why we got elected. That’s what we’re going to get done for the people of Brampton.
Our government has said it before: Highway 413 will bring much-needed relief to most congested corridor in North America. Infrastructure projects like Highway 413 highlighted in our budget will play a vital role in the government’s plan for job creation and economic growth.
The results of accelerating the development of the 413 aren’t just about a black-and-white conclusion. This isn’t just another highway. It’s parents getting back to their children sooner each day; it’s fewer trucks on our congested roads; it’s generating a third of a billion dollars each year in real gross domestic product and supporting thousands of jobs in the construction sector. This is critical after the economic uncertainty caused by the pandemic.
Frank Notte—hey, Frank—of the Trillium Automobile Dealers Association said, “Building Highway 413 means planning for the massive population and employment growth for the GTA.” As a former automotive consultant, I know the importance of listening to people. I would suppose I would put forward that the opposition party should probably listen to their constituents about what they want as well.
In addition to reducing time on the road for drivers, including those taking goods to market, this highway will link growing regions, providing better connections to housing and jobs, and attract increased investment in auto manufacturing and other industries. The highway and the transitway would also help connect people to major employment centres and attract more businesses to the area, creating and sustaining good local jobs. Speaker, across our province, we’re short about almost 400,000 jobs that are unfilled.
Ontario is a land of opportunity. That is why we encourage people from anywhere in the world who want to work and fill those jobs to come and make our province their home, but I know in order to welcome others to the province we must first make them feel welcome. The opposition would rather ignore these new families and focus on their downtown Toronto woke supporters’ wants instead of supporting the needs of everybody else in this province.
With the rapid growth along the greater Golden Horseshoe, we need Highway 413 now more than ever. We must accelerate the development, because, without it, congestion only gets worse and gridlock will only get worse. Building solid infrastructure is the solution.
As communities all across Brampton and Peel continue to welcome new Canadians from all walks of life, this province can’t afford to let the opposition get their way and discourage people from coming to our beautiful province. We need the infrastructure to continue to grow.
The people of Ontario elected a government that they know will get it done for them. As hard as the opposition will try to slow down this project and sabotage families and businesses, we will not let that happen. As some in my riding have said:
Remarks in Punjabi.
We will get it done. We will build Highway 413 for people in Brampton, Peel and all of Ontario.
The Acting Speaker (Mme Lucille Collard): Further debate?
Ms. Jennifer K. French: I’m pleased to stand today as the official opposition critic for transportation and highways. This motion today is essentially an infomercial for this Premier and his pet Highway 413 project that will cost untold billions, which won’t help commuters today or even 10 years from now when it might be built. The 413 will slash through the greenbelt and the Credit and Humber rivers’ headwaters, likely to increase flooding. It will pave over some of the best farmland, which Ontario used to be losing to development at a jarring rate of 175 acres per day, but updated numbers report that now we are losing farmland at a rate of 319 acres a day. Attacking farmland and our green space won’t help Ontarians.
There are alternatives. Highway 407 is underutilized. A plane was able to land on the 407 in the middle of the day with no problem last October. Instead of taking a decade and billions of dollars to build a highway that won’t help, allow trucks to drive the underused Highway 407 toll-free. This Premier left a billion dollars on the table, as we recall, in unpaid penalties that was owed to the province by the private operators of the 407 ETR. Let’s use that to pay the tab on toll-free trucking. But this government said no to that.
There is no proven research that has shown the proposed 413 will deliver actual commute time savings. The government’s own studies say it will cut 30 to 60 seconds off commutes. This motion makes wild and unsubstantiated claims about how much time it could save commuters. I would encourage them to prove it. I haven’t seen them cite their sources and the time savings aren’t real.
The government won’t say what it will cost taxpayers, but folks in the community know that the cost to their futures and the environment is too high. Linda Heron sent me a petition that she and her granddaughter wrote and then rallied their friends to help gather signatures. She wants this room filled with legislators to know that they are opposed to the building of the proposed Highway 413. Linda wrote, “The effects of it would be vast: The concerns of environmental damage, reduced and polluted farms, human health, urban sprawl are all interconnected and point to the conclusion that it should not be built.”
When grandmas are rallying the troops of their neighbours to fight you and to create a petition, you might be on the wrong side of history. I proudly stand with Linda and her granddaughter and all of their neighbours and our neighbours who are defending a healthy future.
I don’t support this motion or this government’s plan to pave over farmland, but I’ll leave you with the words shared by community voices with the Stop the 413 Now group, and they shared this with all MPPs. They said in conclusion, “Highway 413 has been in study for almost two decades at significant cost to the public, has been shelved by a previous government, and has now been resurrected by the Ford government. The Ford government has proposed the most environmentally devastating route through Vaughan, which has been stated by consultants to ‘undermine the credibility’ of the entire project. Analysis has shown Hwy 413 is not the best solution to address the needs of the GTA and our growing region.”
It outlines the concerns about the project, and finally they say, “We are requesting you to help ‘Stop the Hwy 413’ project and support better use of Highway 407 and its surrounding corridor, apply smart growth principles to provide much needed affordable housing and address other pressing needs in our communities, like education, health care and more transit solutions.”
I can get on board with that, not this motion. I’m very proud to stand here on behalf of New Democrats in opposition to this motion.
The Acting Speaker (Mme Lucille Collard): Further debate? The member for Beaches–East York.
Ms. Mary-Margaret McMahon: Thank you, Madam Speaker. Nice to see a woman in that chair, and I want to remind members to say “Madam Speaker” when there’s a woman there.
Highway 413 is a direct threat to Ontario’s environment and an unnecessary waste of taxpayer money. It will destroy our farmlands and affect food security during a time when many Ontarians already struggle to put food on the table. And for what? An expert panel study found Highway 413 would only save drivers in the region 30 to 60 seconds per trip. Let me be clear: This highway will not eliminate the congestion and the traffic it aims to.
Over time, we have seen all around the world that building new highways does nothing to relieve congestion. If this government was serious about preventing long commutes, they would invest in better infrastructure, public transit and good, green, local jobs. This project will be detrimental to our beautiful province’s precious farmlands and biodiversity, 400 acres of which should be protected under the greenbelt. It will add over 17 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, resulting in an estimated $1.5 billion in damages from pollution when cutting emissions is more urgent than ever.
We already see the negative effects of climate change, like the tragic flooding in Pakistan and the brutal heat waves in California, and that’s just this week. We must act now and prevent projects like this from being advanced. The state of our earth depends on it.
Food security is one of the most crucial issues many people in Ontario are facing, and the climate crisis and the creation of this highway will only worsen its effect. This project will pave over 2,000 acres of class 1 and class 2 farmland, among Ontario’s most productive farmland. This worries me. How will this affect the food supply chain?
We are lucky to have a province in which we can produce our own food thanks to our incredible farmers and their precious farmland. This government wants to jeopardize that and continue to outsource food production when we have so much of what we need within the provincial lines. Highway 413 will make food more expensive and leave people in our province hungry. We cannot allow this to happen.
Madam Speaker, this highway won’t solve traffic congestion; it will just be a redundant, expensive and destructive project that will cost Ontarians in more ways than one.
The Acting Speaker (Mme Lucille Collard): Further debate?
Mr. Rudy Cuzzetto: I’m proud to speak this afternoon in support of private member’s motion 2, moved by my friend from Brampton North. I want to congratulate him both on his election to this House and on this motion.
It is appropriate that this is the first motion we debate here in the 43rd Parliament. Four years ago, in my first meeting with the region of Peel, on September 18, 2018, the GTA west corridor was their highest priority. Our region chair, Frank Dale, said this project is “critical to the economic well-being of both the region of Peel and the province.” Speaker, this was true in 2018 and it’s true today.
The greater Golden Horseshoe is adding 200,000 new residents every year; that’s one million every five years. That’s roughly the size of the city of Ottawa. Speaker, we don’t have the highway capacity we need to support this growth.
According to MTO, the major highways in the western GTA, including the 407, will be over capacity within the next 10 years. We need the 413 to support our goods-movement industry and to support economic recovery and growth. As the motion says: 3,500 new jobs and $350 million to our GDP.
As we transition to electric vehicles, the 413 will also be a carbon-free highway, connecting lithium, nickel and cobalt from the Ring of Fire to the Ford plant in Oakville and others across Ontario.
Speaker, when the former Liberal leader Steven Del Duca launched his campaign for mayor last month on a platform of road building, he explained that traffic congestion generates more carbon emissions, so building more roads can help reduce emissions. Richard Southern at CityNews said that now he sounds a lot like Premier Ford on Highway 413.
But Speaker, besides the impact on our environment, traffic congestion also has a real impact on many Ontario families. For some, it’s the difference between calling home to say good night and tucking their kids into bed themselves.
The members opposite quote a 2017 study that suggests the 413 would save commuters only 30 seconds. I want to thank MTO for explaining that this is just an average time savings across the entire greater Golden Horseshoe. In other words, it includes trips nowhere near the 143, like Oshawa to Whitby or Niagara Falls to St. Catharines. As the Highway 413 project team says, if you used the same principle to decide whether to build any highway or transit project, we’d never build any of them. People who travel the full length of the 413 will save up to 30 minutes each way, as the member says, five hours per week. That’s over 260 hours per year or 11 days, Speaker, every year. That is a life-changing amount of time.
Lastly, Speaker, I want to bring an important court decision to the attention of this House. In May, during our campaign, the member might not have noticed that the highest court in Alberta, including a justice appointed by Prime Minister Trudeau, declared the federal Impact Assessment Act unconstitutional. This is an act being used to target the 413 for a potential federal EA. I urge all members to read the decision, and I’ll quote from this briefly:
“The division of powers exists for a reason,” the court wrote.
Parliament is not “entitled to require federal oversight and approval of intraprovincial activities” like Highway 413.
This is “a classic example of legislative creep” that would override federalism.
“It is hard to imagine what aspects of the economy and daily life would be left for provincial Legislatures.”
I ask members on both sides of this aisle to reflect on this decision, and I ask the federal government to withdraw so that we can complete the provincial EA for this important provincial project as quickly as possible so that we can build this 413.
The Acting Speaker (Mme Lucille Collard): Further debate?
Ms. Lise Vaugeois: One issue that we in northern Ontario are well familiar with is the inadequacy of our northern roads.
In 1996, the Mike Harris government privatized road maintenance and, year after year, Auditor General reports have noted that the quality of highway maintenance has deteriorated while the annual cost to taxpayers has gone up by millions and millions of dollars.
During the government’s last term in office, a member of the NDP presented a bill asking to change the status of the northern sections of the Trans-Canada Highway to the same status as the 400-series highways so they could be cleared within an eight-hour period instead of 16 hours. This seems like a very simple ask, and yet the Ford government voted against this bill twice. Apparently, the safety of northerners is not a priority.
This government talks about having the backs of workers, but they certainly do not have the backs of the transport drivers who have to meet deadlines while trying to navigate such treacherous conditions.
The member earlier spoke about all the sprays for truckers, but apparently it only matters when you’re on the southern Ontario side of the map. When you go to the northern Ontario side of the map, their safety is not a consideration.
Oh, sorry; I should address myself to the Speaker.
When you think about how many thousands and thousands of transport trucks, along with emergency vehicles, school buses and residents are travelling along Highway 11 between Caramat and Nipigon—a very long two-lane section of the Trans-Canada Highway, with very few passing lanes and inadequate maintenance—is it any wonder there are so many dreadful accidents recorded along this stretch of highway? Many communities don’t even have secondary roads that can be used in a fire emergency.
Regarding Highway 413, the people of Thunder Bay–Superior North do not support the government spending billions of dollars on an unnecessary highway that will, not incidentally, pave over some of the most fertile farmland in the province.
Perhaps we should talk about the underused 407 highway the NDP built, which the Harris government then sold off, following their ideological privatization playbook, resulting in Ontarians paying some of the highest toll rates in North America. The 407 is so underused that a year ago, as we heard earlier, an airplane was safely able to make an emergency landing. The 407, under the NDP, would have remained in public hands, with the tolls long removed, alleviating the congestion this government is now using to justify building a $10-billion highway through farmland.
And I’m still waiting for an answer to the question of how the food production lost through this significant loss of farmland will be replaced. What happens when more and more farmland also disappears because of climate change? According to the latest figures, 319 acres of farmland are disappearing each and every day. Shouldn’t we be doing whatever we can to protect and preserve the land that grows our food?
Speaker, this government is again listening to their developer friends and donors who stand to be greatly enriched by the development of this green space.
I know that the people of Thunder Bay–Superior North do not want to see their tax dollars going to this unnecessary highway. Therefore, I strongly recommend abandoning this costly and wasteful project.
The Acting Speaker (Mme Lucille Collard): Further debate?
Mr. Hardeep Singh Grewal: I’m pleased to rise in the House today to speak in support of Highway 413 and in support of the private member’s bill put forward by the member from Brampton North. Thank you for putting this private member’s bill forward. This highway is crucial for the growth of Peel region and crucial for the growth of our province.
I would like to remind my friends on the right and left of me that we are on the right side of history. If you take a look around the room, it is clear that the people of Ontario are in support of Highway 413 and want this new highway.
The proposed Highway 413 will be a 400-series highway and transit corridor that will span across Halton, Peel and York regions. The corridor will be four to six lanes wide. To the members opposite who don’t know where this highway is located, the proposed 52-kilometre 413 and transitway will extend from Highway 400, between Kirby and King-Vaughan Road in the east, to the Highway 401-407 interchange in the west, connecting the regions of York, Peel and Halton. This project also includes a four-kilometre extension to Highway 410 and a three-kilometre extension to Highway 427, bringing it to a total of 59 kilometres for this corridor.
Madam Speaker, Highway 413 will lead the way for innovation with dedicated areas for electric vehicle charging stations and will help encourage more people to choose cleaner transportation options, as well as promote and adopt state-of-the-art technologies.
The highway will have 11 interchanges at municipal roads and other features such as service centres, carpool lots and truck inspection stations.
The transitway will be a separate corridor running alongside the highway dedicated exclusively for public transit, such as buses or light rail transit. The transitway would make public transit a realistic and appealing option in many communities that are currently underserved, especially those in Brampton. The proposed transitway adjacent to the highway will give thousands of people the option to leave their cars at home and improve transit connectivity throughout the region, an option that is not available for them today.
Highway 413 will also significantly reduce travel times for drivers, again, in York, Peel and Halton regions by 30 minutes each way, saving drivers up to one hour a day and five hours per week; that’s 20 hours per month. That is time better spent with your family, friends and loved ones, as well as getting goods to market in a timely manner.
The region of Peel, which consists of Brampton, Mississauga and Caledon, is home to Toronto Pearson Airport, Canada’s largest airport by freight and passenger volume. The CN Brampton Intermodal Terminal is the largest in Canada and travelled by 13,000 trucks every week. Further, this region is directly adjacent to the CP Vaughan Intermodal Terminal. Close to 500,000 tricks travel through Peel, carrying approximately $10.8 billion worth of commodity on a weekly basis.
Speaker, Peel serves as a major economic hub, and thousands of transport vehicles carrying goods and services pass through the region every single day. Four out of nine jobs in Peel depend on the transport of goods.
As this highway is such a crucial investment for the transport of goods, I’d also like to talk about the greater Golden Horseshoe, which this highway is going to significantly help. The greater Golden Horseshoe is one of the fastest-growing regions in North America. The existing major highways in York and Peel regions are forecasted to be operating over capacity by 2031. Even with the significant investments in transit, the MTO’s traffic-modelling data shows that, by the year 2041, the level of congestion in the greater Golden Horseshoe will be about double what it is today.
The greater Golden Horseshoe, also known as the GGH, is expected to attract approximately one million new people every five years, reaching nearly 15 million people by 2051. Even with Ontario’s currently planned significant investments in transit, a new highway and transitway are necessary to meet the travel demands of a projected population and economic growth in the greater Golden Horseshoe. Decisive action will ensure better caught of life for all of our future generations.
History has shown that unchecked congestion has a very real cost. Today, in the greater Toronto area alone, $11 billion is lost each year in productivity. To put that in perspective, that’s approximately $30 million a day lost as cars and trucks sit idle on our highways in the GTA.
Highway 413 is needed to move goods, and Highway 413 is needed for goods movement as well as modern manufacturing, because, in the GTA, a quick delivery model is what most manufacturers rely on. It’s time our commuters and transporters finally get the gridlock relief they so desperately need. Let’s further strengthen our strong manufacturing industry in the GTA, and let’s ensure that goods can be delivered on time. Let’s build the infrastructure we so desperately need. Together, let’s build Highway 413.
The Acting Speaker (Mme Lucille Collard): Further debate?
Mr. Mike Schreiner: There is one concern I share with the member for Brampton North: Gridlock is costing our economy money and people time. But we have 75 years of history that show that building 400-series highways only makes gridlock worse.
We are facing a climate crisis right now. A report last week showed that water damage alone from climate-fuelled weather events will cost Canadians, at current rates, $139 billion over the next two decades. We simply cannot afford to waste money on a project that will pave over 2,000 acres of prime farmland and unleash sprawl development on additional thousands of acres of farmland, and that will destroy 65 wetlands and pave over 400 acres of the greenbelt. When the rains come, where will the water go? Into people’s basements, at an average cost of $42,000 for homeowners.
Speaker, you know what? This might be understandable if there weren’t cheaper and better options. We have a highway called the 407 that is completely underutilized, and according to Transport Action Ontario, we could put dedicated toll roads for truckers on the 407 at a cost of $260 million a year. Over the next 30 years we could provide relief to truckers, starting tomorrow. In over 30 years, it would only even come up to half the cost of building the 413, which may provide some relief 10 or 15 years into the future.
Speaker, I don’t know what this government has against food and farming, but the food and farming sector generates $50 billion for the province’s GDP. The sector creates over 800,000 jobs. If we pave over the asset base of all of that wealth, we threaten Ontario’s economy, we threaten our food security, and we threaten those jobs.
There are better, cheaper solutions. People want homes, not highways. They do not want the 413 built.
The Acting Speaker (Mme Lucille Collard): Further debate?
Mr. Deepak Anand: Madam Speaker, looking at the time, I want to say this: We heard from members how important Highway 413 is. When talking about the gridlock, we are already struggling. Many of my colleagues actually know, when we take a highway, how difficult it is to be on the 401, the Gardiner and other highways.
What we’re doing is trying to make sure that more and more Ontarians, when they make this province their home, have a luxury of life. They can live well. The thing that they do the best as Ontarians is that they’re engaged in what they love to do, work hard to grow and spend quality time with their loved ones. That is what Highway 413 is going to be doing, saving 30 minutes every day, per one side—added on twice is an hour a day.
Madam Speaker, as we attract more and more Ontarians so that they come and grow this province, we need to make sure we are investing in and expanding our infrastructure. It is no longer an option. It is a necessity today for a promising future of our province, ensuring hard-working residents have access to the quality of life they deserve.
Let’s work together. Let’s keep politics on the side. Let’s work to make sure Ontario is the best destination to live and grow. Madam Speaker, let’s support Highway 413.
The Acting Speaker (Mme Lucille Collard): Further debate?
Mr. John Vanthof: It’s always an honour to be able to stand in the House and speak on important issues. I’d like to commend the member from Brampton North for bringing forward an issue that’s very important to his riding and to the people of Ontario: whether or not we should build Highway 413. He, and many others who support it, brought forward compelling arguments.
We all fight for our communities. I spend a lot of time talking about northern roads and how, if northern roads were improved and they weren’t closed all the time, Ontario’s economic GDP would grow exponentially. I spend a lot of time talking about that.
But in government and opposition, we also have to talk about both sides. One thing that the member didn’t talk about and the member of the Green Party did—and I’m going to expand on it. It’s very important.
In 2016, Ontario was losing 175 acres a day of class 1 farmland. Right now, it’s 319 acres a day—not just today, but every day, on top of day, on top of day. One thing about the farmland in southern Ontario right here: Because of the way it’s surrounded by the Great Lakes, it’s not just the soil. The climatic conditions are some of the best in the world. That’s why we can grow 200 crops. That’s why it’s such a powerhouse. Every time we do something that is going impact that land, we have to take that decision very seriously.
It’s not just the 2,000 acres that we’re going to lose to the corridor. Let’s be serious. When you build a corridor across the top of the GTA, you’re going to lose a lot more than that because everything in between is going to be built up. We all know that. Let’s quit saying it’s not going to happen, because that’s why the corridor, truthfully, is being built. You’re going to lose thousands of acres of farmland. That’s a decision that is not a surprise and is not a shock. The election has happened. You won the election. But it’s a decision you’re going to be responsible for—not just the environmental issues that it’s going to create, but the 319 acres a day, every day. At some point, someone is going to wonder and someone is going to say, “Wait a second. Why did we do that?”
I drove this morning from my home, six hours, and I saw the nice sign where the 413 is going to be built, and I looked at the farmland on both sides that’s going to be gone. I remember when all the land around Canada’s Wonderland was fields. I’m old, but not that old. If you keep doing it, eventually you’re going to lose the capacity to be the agricultural powerhouse that we are and, in changing growing conditions, that we will be.
Regardless of what your position is on 413 or on anything, look at both sides of the coin. Wherever there are winners—like in an election—there are also losers. But the losers also sometimes have a relevant point of view that the winners have to consider.
Speaker, 10 years from now, when someone maybe is going to get a benefit from Highway 413, when it will be built, perhaps it will be a bigger benefit if we improve the capacity of 407 by getting more trucks on the 407. There are a lot of trucks in Brampton. Brampton is a powerhouse. Let’s get those truckers home sooner. I’m not opposed to that.
But please consider what you are doing to the future economic prosperity of not just the province, but the country and the world. They’re going to depend on places that can grow food as places where it’s going to get warmer and warmer won’t be able to grow it. And here we are blissfully just paving it over. It’s the greatest gift that God has ever given us, and all you can think about is how fast you can cover it with pavement and how much money you can make in short order. That is a crime.
The Acting Speaker (Mme Lucille Collard): The member has two minutes to respond.
Mr. Graham McGregor: It’s a tough act to follow, but I’ll do my best. I appreciate the feedback from all of my colleagues.
I appreciate the feedback from the member for Thunder Bay–Superior North. The member indicated that her constituents didn’t support the highway, which may be true; it may not. But what I can tell you is, the constituents of Brampton North, Brampton South, Brampton Centre, Brampton East and Brampton West do support the highway. They do want to see it get done. And I suspect the residents of Thunder Bay–Atikokan might feel the same way.
Growing up, we always wanted to make sure that when somebody new came to our home, we made them feel welcome. We have a labour shortage in this province of almost 400,000 unfilled jobs. We need people from all over the world to come and fill those jobs. How would we feel if we welcomed all these people into Ontario but we didn’t build any highways for them to drive on, if we didn’t build any houses for them to live in, if we didn’t build hospitals and long-term-care beds for them to go to when they get sick? We need to build and we need to get things done for the residents we serve and for the residents we will serve when they choose to make our province their home.
We have a lot of truck drivers. I know that came up. Speaking of food security, truck drivers play a vital role in food security for all Ontario families. What we are trying to do with Highway 413 is give them a little bit of their life back. We want to make family hour a little bit longer; we want to make rush hour a little bit shorter. This project will do that. It will mean more time with their family for workers and drivers and a third of a billion dollars a year in economic output. It is good for the region—
The Acting Speaker (Mme Lucille Collard): Thank you. The time provided for private members’ public business has expired.
Mr. McGregor has moved private member’s notice of motion number 2. Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? I heard a no.
All those in favour, please say “aye.”
All those opposed, please say “nay.”
In my opinion, the ayes have it.
A recorded division being required, the vote on this item of private members’ public business will be deferred until the next proceeding of deferred votes.
The Acting Speaker (Mme Lucille Collard): All matters relating to private members’ public business having been completed, this House stands adjourned until 9 a.m. tomorrow, September 7, 2022.
The House adjourned at 1845.