LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY OF ONTARIO
ASSEMBLÉE LÉGISLATIVE DE L’ONTARIO
Thursday 3 November 2022 Jeudi 3 novembre 2022
The House met at 0900.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Good morning. Let us pray.
Orders of the Day
Strengthening Post-secondary Institutions and Students Act, 2022 / Loi de 2022 sur le renforcement des établissements postsecondaires et les étudiants
Resuming the debate adjourned on November 2, 2022, on the motion for second reading of the following bill:
Bill 26, An Act to amend various Acts in respect of post-secondary education / Projet de loi 26, Loi modifiant diverses lois en ce qui concerne l’éducation postsecondaire.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Further debate?
Mr. Todd J. McCarthy: As I join the debate this morning on Bill 26, I am reminded of how I celebrate with all members of this House and all members of our communities the great legacy of the late Honourable Bill Davis, former Premier of Ontario, who was recognized in this House just a few weeks ago. His great legacy was the community college system, which now stands proudly beside our great university system across the province of Ontario.
I can say that members of my family have had the benefit of post-secondary education through both the college programs and the university programs. In my riding of Durham, we have Durham College and Ontario Tech, a college and a university that work together, with thousands of students in both post-secondary institutions having diplomas and degrees from both institutions. That is part of the proud legacy of Premier Davis, and that is our future: diversity of students and diversity of programs, grounded in education and educational principles of the past, but preparing for the jobs and careers of tomorrow. And we attract, of course, students internationally at our colleges and universities.
As a student here at the University of Toronto, in my undergraduate studies I walked through Queen’s Park daily and was proud to do so. We’re right here, as a neighbour of the University of Toronto’s St. George campus. Then, of course, Osgoode Hall Law School at York University is where I attended after undergrad. I remember my days as a student, but I also had the privilege of being an adjunct instructor at Durham College, teaching evidence in the faculty of justice and emergency services, and then an adjunct, also, at Queen’s law school, teaching advocacy and insurance law.
When you have that opportunity to teach our students at college or university, it brings you back to your days as a student, and it’s such a wonderful opportunity to see the idealism of our young people. Our young people deserve a place to learn, to come together and to be safe and free. That is why I speak today in this House about the importance of moving forward to pass this government’s bill, the proposed Strengthening Post-secondary Institutions and Students Act, 2022, Bill 26.
This bill confirms our government’s commitment that was made to all students, leading up to the June 2, 2022 election this year. This commitment is to ensure that they have access to a secure and safe learning environment while attending any post-secondary institution across the province of Ontario.
This legislation, if passed, would amend the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities Act and the Private Career Colleges Act, 2005, to help protect students in cases of faculty and staff sexual misconduct and harassment, but also to allow the institutions to address complaints more efficiently when they arise. These changes would better protect students who experience faculty and staff sexual violence, on and off campus.
The proposed changes would do so in three ways:
—strengthening tools available to institutions in order to address instances of faculty or staff sexual misconduct against students; that is, deeming sexual abuse of a student to be just cause for dismissal;
—preventing the use of non-disclosure agreements to address instances where an employee leaves an institution to be employed at another institution, their prior wrongdoing thereby remaining a secret; that would be prohibited and prevented; and
—requiring institutions to have employee sexual misconduct policies that, at a minimum, include the institution’s rules with respect to sexual behaviour that involves employees and students of the institution, and examples of disciplinary measures that may be imposed on those employees who contravene such policies.
Within this proposed legislation, the bill would also amend the Ryerson University Act, 1977, and the University Foundations Act, 1992. This would change the name of Ryerson University to Toronto Metropolitan University—TMU—and it would change the size and composition of TMU’s senate.
As important as amending these acts are, I would like to return to the first points I mentioned earlier, because for far too long there has been a culture of sexual violence and harassment on college and university campuses. This is unacceptable. I listened carefully to the members speaking from the opposition benches earlier this week, yesterday in particular, and it seems that we share that great concern. That’s why I look forward to the members opposite supporting this bill, because the members opposite and this government know that students deserve better.
Therefore, we are proposing these legislative amendments that would require publicly assisted post-secondary institutions and private career colleges to have specific procedures in place that address and increase transparency—transparency of faculty and staff, transparency with respect to sexual misconduct—requiring institutions to have specific codes of conduct.
Mr. Speaker, as a proud parent who has seen both my son, Brendan, and my daughter, Meaghan, graduate from their respective universities—and Brendan graduated from a private career college, the College of Sports Media, in 2018. Both have gone on to thrive in their chosen professions: Meaghan as a lawyer, a barrister and solicitor, following in my footsteps, and Brendan as a story editor at TSN. I pause with great concern about all young students, however, who may not have been so fortunate because of the trauma that they may have endured as a victim of sexual violence or harassment. I also pause to raise concerns about the anguish endured by parents as they watch their children relive those experiences at the expense of a delayed or postponed education because of the trauma they endured while at school.
The status quo is no longer acceptable, and our government is prepared to act by giving post-secondary institutions the tools they need to address instances of sexual assault and sexual misconduct. To address this issue, then, our government held consultations with more than 100 stakeholders, including representatives from post-secondary institutions, labour and student groups, private career colleges, faculty associations and community organizations. Our government has heard from experts and stakeholders the best ways to address this ongoing and serious problem. These changes also build on the new regulatory amendments that our government introduced last fall to protect students from inappropriate questioning or disciplinary action when they report acts of sexual violence.
We all have a role to play in creating learning environments where students feel supported, protected and safe, and with these amendments, we can and will take action to change the atmosphere and culture of sexual misconduct and harassment.
The nature of this legislation is to support students and change the culture of behaviour within colleges and universities for decades. With this change of culture, members of this Legislature will recall that back in April, following many years of consultation and feedback, the recommendation was made to change the name of Ryerson University to Toronto Metropolitan University. In concurrence with this recommendation, our government is introducing legislative amendments to allow the university to legally change its name, along with the institution’s composition and size of its senate, to introduce two new faculties: the Lincoln Alexander School of Law and the soon-to-be established faculty of medicine. These legislative amendments will not only support our government’s efforts to ensure Ontario has a post-secondary system that is inclusive and promotes the success of students but also help Toronto Metropolitan University begin a new chapter in its history. These faculties are hailed as much-needed steps towards addressing Ontario’s post-secondary educational needs.
The naming of Toronto Metropolitan University’s new faculty of law after a renowned and respected public figure—that being the Honourable Lincoln Alexander, who was the Lieutenant Governor of Ontario from 1985 to 1991—naming the new faculty of law at TMU after Lincoln Alexander does indeed do justice and respect not only to him but to the school and to our community at large.
The opening of the new faculty of medicine is consistent with our government’s commitment to improving and investing in Ontario’s health care by training and accrediting new doctors who will practise their profession in much-needed service areas throughout Ontario.
And this, of course, has a geographical component to it. Continuing with the trend that we’ve seen where post-secondary institutions have campuses at various locations, TMU’s faculty of medicine will be located geographically in Brampton, and that is consistent—near my riding, for example, Trent University, based in Peterborough, is located in south Oshawa, that part of Oshawa that I share with the member for Oshawa, who, I hope and believe, along with her colleagues in the official opposition, will support this bill.
With that, Speaker, I conclude my submissions in support of Bill 26, and I look forward to any questions and to further debate.
The Deputy Speaker (Ms. Donna Skelly): Questions and answers?
Mr. Chris Glover: I appreciate the comments from the member for Durham. I also appreciated your comments yesterday about the charter rights, with regard to another bill.
You started your comments talking about the legacy of Bill Davis, and there is a very strong legacy in our education system with Bill Davis, but there’s also a strong legacy of standing up for human rights. When this government brought forward another bill implementing the “notwithstanding” clause to strip Ontarians of their charter rights and freedoms, he took a strong public stand, asking this government not to do that. Again this government has got a bill before the House using the “notwithstanding” clause. I would ask you to honour the legacy of Bill Davis and not support using the “notwithstanding” clause in this House. And I would also ask you—
The Deputy Speaker (Ms. Donna Skelly): Response.
Mr. Chris Glover: I’ll leave it at that.
Mr. Todd J. McCarthy: Well, we’re here debating Bill 26, so in response to the question relevant to Bill 26, if I may, Speaker, I can say that it is a major step forward for Ontario and consistent with the late Premier Davis’s legacy on community colleges. Look how far we’ve come in just 50 years since the creation of that. They are so well integrated in so many communities, like Durham.
But what this does, of course, is such that, when it comes to this particular bill—and certainly the opposition and the government MPPs have their differences, but on Bill 26 I believe we can stand united. I cannot see a single reason why members of the opposition would choose to vote against Bill 26 because of the position it would put unions in while bargaining new agreements. So I want to remind this House that members from Toronto Centre, Kitchener Centre, Davenport and Toronto–St. Paul’s introduced a bill about awareness of sexual violence on post-secondary campuses. Surely that awareness is there and should justify the—
The Deputy Speaker (Ms. Donna Skelly): Question?
Mr. Rick Byers: I thank the member for his remarks. A question to the member: This government has a proven history of creating policies which continually build on previous legislation. Bill 26 is no different. It builds on regulations that the minister put in place earlier this year. So my question to the member is, can you please outline how this legislation will build on previous regulations passed by our government to better support students in post-secondary education?
Mr. Todd J. McCarthy: Thank you to my colleague for the question. It is about building Ontario in more ways than one, but the member on this side of the House raises an excellent point. That is that last March our government imposed regulations designed around empowering students who are survivors of or have knowledge of an instance of sexual violence. One of the most important changes we put in place was that if someone comes forward with information about an act of sexual violence, they are granted certain exceptions from on-campus policies. So building on that foundation from prior to the election of June 2, having received even a stronger mandate for the people of Ontario, we continue to move forward with those principles and that foundation in mind. That is why we have Bill 26 before the House today.
The Deputy Speaker (Ms. Donna Skelly): Questions?
Ms. Catherine Fife: Thank you to the member from Durham for your presentation. I do want to say, as a member from Waterloo, we have the University of Waterloo, we have Wilfrid Laurier University and Conestoga, so I meet regularly with students and faculty of all those institutions. I think there is a component of this bill that perhaps doesn’t recognize how much courage it takes to come forward when you have experienced sexual violence. When that courage is displayed, it needs to be honoured.
There is certainly a lack of resources on campuses to deal with the counselling that is required to deal with the mental health fallout that often falls from not feeling safe on campus. If we do have the shared goal of ensuring that staff, faculty and students feel safe on our campuses, can the member for Durham address the lack of resources that currently exist and where this legislation does not apply?
Mr. Todd J. McCarthy: Thank you to the member opposite. I believe the member who has just asked the question is coming near to her 10th anniversary as a parliamentarian, if my knowledge of history is correct, so she would have had the opportunity to join a Parliament with a minority government in 2013, I believe, and then would have been in the opposition under both a Liberal government and a PC government.
Having been here for 10 years as a parliamentarian—and me as a private citizen before being here, I think we both are familiar with the need for supports, the need to address this problem, the need to end practices that see offenders going from one institution to another, the need for transparency. I submit that this bill addresses all of those things in a very positive, constructive and necessary way.
No doubt the member has seen, in her time over the past decade as a parliamentarian, that previous governments either failed to address it or did not address it sufficiently. We are building on what we started in the previous mandate to go forward further.
The Deputy Speaker (Ms. Donna Skelly): Questions?
Mr. Deepak Anand: I just want to acknowledge and thank the member for Durham for his remarks and comments. Bill 26 is very close to the heart of each and every parent. As a father of a son who is in university and a daughter who is in high school and going to university next year—for every parent our asset is our children, and we’re always worried about them, that they’re safe. That’s exactly what this bill is doing. Bill 26 is proposing changes that, quite frankly, are long overdue. Protecting students in colleges and universities is so important. That’s why I’m glad to see this government is making this a priority.
My question to the member from Durham is, can the member please outline how these measures will specifically support students and survivors of sexual violence?
Mr. Todd J. McCarthy: Thank you to my colleague the member for Mississauga–Malton for his question. Specifically, these changes, if passed, would better protect students who experience faculty and staff sexual violence in three ways:
—strengthening tools available to institutions in order to address instances of faculty or staff sexual misconduct against students; that is, specifically deeming sexual abuse of a student to be just cause for dismissal;
—secondly, preventing the use of non-disclosure agreements to address instances where an employee leaves an institution to be an employee at another institution and their prior wrongdoing remains a secret; of course, such a person would create greater risk at the new institution; and finally
—requiring institutions to have codes of conduct regarding faculty and staff sexual misconduct.
The Deputy Speaker (Ms. Donna Skelly): Questions?
Mme France Gélinas: I was quite happy to hear you make reference to Bill Davis and to his legacy. He was instrumental in bringing the network of colleges that we have, the network of public colleges, the network of government-funded colleges that we have. Yet, in this bill, the government introduced publicly supported colleges. That’s not the vision of Bill Davis. The vision of Bill Davis was for the government to fund a college.
How do you explain the disconnect?
Mr. Todd J. McCarthy: Of course, as I indicated, our post-secondary institutions have that variety: universities, colleges and career colleges. This is about growth and building on the foundations of the late Premier Davis. This bill proposes something even more inclusive. Not only will it extend in terms of the new measures to stop and prevent sexual misconduct, violence and protect students in that regard, but it extends to the private career colleges alongside the universities and colleges, and we think that that is a very positive step forward and is quite inclusive and necessary.
The Deputy Speaker (Ms. Donna Skelly): There is no longer time for further questions. Further debate?
Mr. Sol Mamakwa: Meegwetch, everyone. It’s always an honour to be able to stand up and speak for the people of Kiiwetinoong. It’s a riding that’s very rich: rich in our ways of life; rich in our identities, our languages; but also rich in community and rich in resources.
This morning, I want to be able to focus my talk on schedule 3, which amends the Ryerson University Act. The schedule of Bill 26 changes the name from Ryerson University to Toronto Metropolitan University.
While we have this official piece of legislation to change the name of this university, it’s important for everyone to know, to talk about and honour the work that happened to make this name change happen, and why the Indigenous community at TMU spent years working to change the university’s name.
TMU, formerly Ryerson, was named after Egerton Ryerson. He played a key role in the design of Indian residential schools in Canada, a system that contributed to the genocide of First Nations people. TMU acknowledged that for years they did not understand the concern of the community people, of the Indigenous people who worked and went to school there, at TMU, about the name. There was also little desire to accept responsibility to address these concerns, and there was also a reluctance to acknowledge the harmful role played by the University’s namesake, Egerton Ryerson.
I want to share some words from the final report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission describing Indian residential schools. I want to quote this: “Canada’s” Indian “residential school system for” Indigenous “children was an education system in name only for much of its existence. These residential schools were created for the purpose of separating” Indigenous “children from their families, in order to minimize and weaken family ties and cultural linkages, and to indoctrinate children into a new culture—the culture of the legally dominant Euro-Christian Canadian society, led by Canada’s first Prime Minister, Sir John A. Macdonald. The schools were in existence for well over 100 years, and many successive generations of children from the same communities and families endured the experience of them. That experience was hidden for most of Canada’s history, until survivors of the system were finally able to find the strength, courage, and support to bring their experiences to light in” multiple “court cases that ultimately led to the largest class-action lawsuit in Canada’s history....”
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission “heard from more than 6,000 witnesses, most of whom survived the experience of living in the schools as students. The stories of that experience are sometimes difficult to accept as something that could have happened in a country such as Canada, which has long prided itself on being a bastion of democracy, peace, and kindness throughout the world. Children were abused, physically and sexually, and they died in the schools in numbers that would not have been tolerated in any school system anywhere in the country, or in the world....
“For over a century, the central goals of Canada’s” Indigenous “policy were to eliminate” Indigenous “governments; ignore” Indigenous “rights; terminate the treaties; and, through a process of assimilation, cause” Indigenous “peoples to cease to exist as distinct legal, social, cultural, religious, and racial entities in Canada. The establishment and operation of” Indian “residential schools were a central element of this policy, which can best be described as ‘cultural genocide.’
“Physical genocide is the mass killing of the members of a targeted group, and biological genocide is the destruction of the group’s reproductive capacity. Cultural genocide is the destruction of those structures and practices that allow the group to continue as a group. States that engage in cultural genocide set out to destroy the political and social institutions of the targeted group. Land is seized, and populations are forcibly transferred and their movement is restricted. Languages are banned. Spiritual leaders are persecuted, spiritual practices are forbidden, and objects of spiritual value are confiscated and destroyed. And most significantly to the issue at hand, families are disrupted to prevent the transmission of cultural values and identity from one generation to the next.
“In its dealings with” Indigenous “people, Canada did all these things.”
That’s a quote from the report. I share that because, Speaker, it was because of the role that Egerton Ryerson played in this cultural disruption and genocide that the name of Ryerson University had to be changed.
In 2017, the Ryerson University Indigenous Students’ Association called on the school to remove the statue of Egerton Ryerson and to change its name. The student-led campaign from 2020 pushed for the school to change its name out of respect for Indian residential school survivors. They asked the university to “change the name of Ryerson University to a name that does not celebrate a man who supported and created the structures of colonial genocide.”
While Ryerson did not develop the Indian residential school policy, he did recommend the 1842-44 Bagot Commission to the Department of Indian Affairs. That commission recommended “manual labour schools where Indigenous children were separated from their parents to achieve the assimilation” of Indigenous peoples—a legacy that has had a negative effect on Indigenous people in Canada for all the years since.
Ryerson’s role in the development of residential schools was also identified in 2015 in the Final Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, volume 1, part 1.
In 2010, Ryerson University acknowledged the legacy of a painful past, and the Aboriginal Education Council there identified Ryerson’s “role in shaping the concept of the residential school system and the system’s devastating impact on Indigenous people.”
Another step to acknowledge this past was taken in 2018. There was a plaque that was installed on the statue of Ryerson on campus. The plaque was meant to contextualize the role Ryerson played in upholding the residential school system. The plaque read, “This plaque serves as a reminder of Ryerson University’s commitment to moving forward in the spirit of truth and reconciliation.
“Egerton Ryerson is widely known for his contributions to Ontario’s public educational system. As chief superintendent of education, Ryerson’s recommendations were instrumental in the design and implementation of the Indian residential school system.
“In 2015, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission reported that children in the schools were subjected to unthinkable abuse and neglect, to medical experimentation, punishment for the practice of cultures or languages and death. The aim of the residential school system was cultural genocide.”
That plaque concluded with two quotes, one by Chief Sitting Bull: “Let us put our minds together to see what kind of lives we can create for our children.”
The other quote that they had on there was from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada: “For the child taken, for the parent left behind.”
After this, in 2020, the president of Ryerson University established the Indigenous-led Standing Strong Task Force, which made a number of recommendations to change the university for the better. Their primary recommendation at that time was to change the name of the university in the spirit of reconciliation. But the discovery of the 215 changed the timeline suggested by the task force. At this time, there was an outpouring of grief nationwide after the discovery of the 215 in Tk’emlúps.
On May 27, 2021, the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc Nation confirmed the unthinkable loss that was spoken about but never documented by the Kamloops Indian Residential School. With the help of a ground-penetrating radar specialist, the truth of the preliminary findings came to light: the confirmation of the remains of the 215 children who were students at the Kamloops Indian Residential School.
I remember at that same moment, in June 2021, the statue of Ryerson at Ryerson University was pulled down by demonstrators. I actually was there. I happened to be in town, and I saw it come down. Part of it, I watched, and then the next day, I went to visit the residential school here in Brantford.
Ms. Catherine Fife: Mohawk.
Mr. Sol Mamakwa: Mohawk Institute.
At that same time, I spoke in this chamber about the collective grief that Indigenous people were feeling last year. It was a great open secret that our children lie on these properties of former schools, an open secret that Canadians can no longer look away from. In keeping with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s missing children project, every school site must be searched for the graves of our ancestors. Canada must demand apologies from those who helped commit these heinous crimes.
I understand that this name change is only one symbolic step. But we as the government need to do the work asked of us by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the survivors of residential schools and their families. Meegwetch.
The Deputy Speaker (Ms. Donna Skelly): It is now time for questions.
Mr. Joel Harden: I want to thank our friend from Kiiwetinoong for that incredible offering for us this morning. I want to thank you, actually, my friend, for all of the teachings you have helped us try to grapple with in the four and a half years I’ve been around this place.
You mentioned as you closed that the renaming of the university you spoke about is symbolic. I have heard people say in the past when we’ve raised these issues in our community that we shouldn’t just focus on symbols, that symbols are unimportant. But it struck me, from what you were telling us, that symbols really are important.
At home, we have but we have a parkway we’re trying to rename from the Sir John A. parkway to the Kitchissippi Highway, inspired by the great Albert Dumont, our city’s poet laureate and Algonquin leader. We’re having this debate at home. I’m wondering if you could just help us understand a little further why, in your view, symbols are important.
Mr. Sol Mamakwa: Sometimes the work that we do—the name changes, the small steps—will lead to bigger changes. Some people may think it’s just a name change, but it’s a change in history that we see, the real history of Canada. We need to acknowledge that great open secret I spoke about. That’s the real history, and I think little, small steps lead to bigger change. Meegwetch.
The Deputy Speaker (Ms. Donna Skelly): Questions?
Mr. Stephen Crawford: Good morning to everyone in the House. The member opposite spoke to one component of the bill; there are certainly multiple components. I know recently the member from Kitchener Centre, who is the critic for colleges and universities, discussed sexual violence in this Legislature previously and certainly brought up situations at post-secondary colleges, universities etc.
So my question to the member opposite is: We’ve heard from you that you seem to be supportive of the name change for Ryerson, so based on that and other components related to sexual violence on campus, can we assume, then, that you will be supporting this government legislation?
Mr. Sol Mamakwa: Bill 26—I’m always of the mind that there are always opportunities for improvements. I think it’s important to listen to some of the points that we make as the opposition. I’m always of the mind that the biggest room in the world is the room for improvement, and I say that in this legislation, there’s room for improvement.
The Deputy Speaker (Ms. Donna Skelly): Further questions?
Mr. Chris Glover: Thank you to the member from Kiiwetinoong for your comments today. We are all so fortunate to have you in this House, to have your voice and your experience as a residential school survivor in this House. Every time that I hear you speak, everybody in the House is paying attention, and especially in these quieter periods in the House, that’s not always happening.
You mentioned at the end of your speech that renaming Ryerson to Toronto Metropolitan University is one step and that there’s room for improvement in this bill. What else should this Legislature be doing in order to get to true truth and reconciliation about the residential school system?
Mr. Sol Mamakwa: Certainly one of the things that we need to start looking at is implementing the 94 calls to action from the Truth and Reconciliation report. I know sometimes I hear “reconciliation” so many times. Sometimes I feel that word is overused, overused because we make it look as if we’re doing something without really doing anything. And I think it’s important that we put some resources towards actioning those 94 calls to action. Meegwetch.
The Deputy Speaker (Ms. Donna Skelly): Questions?
Ms. Catherine Fife: The member talked about Egerton Ryerson within the context of the piece of legislation, around the renaming and the importance of that. And he said that there was some resistance, I think, to contextualize Ryerson’s role in establishing the design and the implementation around residential schools. And so my question to the member is, how important is it to recognize the truth of our history, and in a moving-forward way, how important is it that that history be taught in a safe and accurate way?
Mr. Sol Mamakwa: I’m not sure—when I went to school I learned about Canada’s history. I never learned about treaties. I never learned about Indian residential schools. I never learned about how the lands were taken from Indigenous people. And I think it’s important that when we talk about learning the real history of Canada, I think we need to be able to implement it at every grade level, to learn the real history of Canada, so young people—there’s a child over there, so that he grows up to learn about the real history, the great open secret of what happened to Indigenous people. I think we need to be able to bring back these Indigenous curriculum writing sessions, where every child in Ontario learns about us, learns about the Indian residential schools, learns about the treaties. Meegwetch.
The Deputy Speaker (Ms. Donna Skelly): Questions?
Mr. Rob Flack: I appreciate the words this morning from the member opposite. I can say that one of the great things I’ve come to understand and respect about sitting in this Legislature is that we listen and we learn. We can’t listen and learn enough, and I think we all need to take heed of that thought, so again, thank you very much.
That being said, just looking back at a little history, the member opposite from Algoma–Manitoulin once said, “The effects of sexual violence cannot be understated....
“The official opposition supports legislation and policies that keep people safe and provide effective tools to do so.”
Speaker, through you, does the member opposite still support, or does he support—what is the position of the opposition, and will he support Bill 26?
Mr. Sol Mamakwa: I think over the last few days when we’ve been debating this, every question that’s being questioned, like, “Do you support this legislation?”—I think we must remember that Canada’s governments at every level, including ours, including this Legislature, have roles to play. We have responsibilities. We have treaty obligations. Next week is Treaties Recognition Week. What are we doing for Treaties Recognition Week? What are you doing for Treaties Recognition Week? Meegwetch.
The Deputy Speaker (Ms. Donna Skelly): There’s not enough time on the clock for further questions and answers, but we do have time for further debate.
Mr. John Jordan: I rise today with the honour to speak on behalf and in support of Bill 26, the Strengthening Post-secondary Institutions and Students Act, 2022. The Minister of Colleges and Universities continues her great work on behalf of Ontario students, and I’m pleased to contribute to her work today.
Our government is committed to ensuring students have access to a secure and safe learning environment. We’ve taken recent steps to strengthen supports for post-secondary students reporting sexual violence or harassment. We must also specifically address sexual misconduct by faculty and staff toward students. That is why we’re proposing legislative amendments that would require publicly assisted post-secondary institutions and private career colleges to have specific processes in place that address, and increase transparency of, faculty and staff sexual misconduct.
If passed, these changes would better protect students who experience faculty and staff sexual violence by:
—strengthening tools available to institutions in order to address instances of faculty or staff sexual misconduct against students; deeming sexual abuse of a student to be just cause for dismissal is one example;
—preventing the use of non-disclosure agreements to address instances where an employee leaves an institution to be employed at another institution and their prior wrongdoing remains a secret; and
—requiring institutions to have codes of conduct regarding faculty and staff sexual misconduct.
As a parent, I am sure I’m not alone in this. We raise our children knowing that at some point they will leave the safety and security of the family home. We do our very best to prepare them and provide them with the skills and the tools for success and their safety, but we still must let them go.
We have recently seen a series of stories regarding sexual misconduct in publicly trusted institutions. Clearly, more must be done to protect the children of this province, and that’s why I’m speaking today in support of Bill 26.
Speaker, if you’ll indulge me this opportunity, I’d like to quote the minister on introduction of this important bill. The minister stated, “Our government believes that no one should have to worry about sexual violence or misconduct on or off campus. And from day one, we have been clear: this government has zero tolerance for sexual assault, harassment, or any other forms of violence or misconduct. All post-secondary institutions have a responsibility to provide a safe and supportive learning environment and are expected to do everything possible to address issues of sexual violence and misconduct on campuses. While our government has taken action to strengthen the policies that protect post-secondary students who report incidents of sexual violence or harassment on campus, we must also address acts committed by faculty and staff towards students.”
I know that the Minister of Colleges and Universities is passionate about this issue, as she too is a parent. As I said earlier, we as parents do our best to prepare our children for the rigours and risks of the real world. That’s why we are here today, to enhance the safety of our children and students in the post-secondary world.
That’s why last summer the minister held consultations with more than 100 stakeholders, including representatives from post-secondary institutions, labour and student groups, private career colleges, faculty associations and community organizations. Today, I am pleased to support the minister on the legislative amendments contained in Bill 26 that, if passed, would require publicly assisted colleges and universities and private career colleges to have specific processes in place that address and increase transparency of faculty and staff sexual misconduct on post-secondary campuses.
Again, the strengthened policies would allow institutions to:
—deem the sexual abuse of a student as just cause for dismissal;
—prevent the use of non-disclosure agreements to address cases where an employee leaves an institution to be employed at another institution and their prior wrongdoing remains a secret and unknown; and
—require institutions to have sexual misconduct policies in place that provide rules for behaviour between faculty, staff and students, as well as disciplinary measures for faculty and staff who break these rules.
These changes would not only help protect students in cases of faculty and staff sexual misconduct, but also allow the institutions to better address complaints when they arise. The changes also build on the new regulatory amendments that our government introduced last fall to protect students from inappropriate questioning or disciplinary action when they report acts of sexual violence. All of us have a role to play in creating learning environments where students feel safe and supported, and with these legislative amendments we will ensure that all post-secondary students in Ontario can feel safe on campus.
The Strengthening Post-secondary Institutions and Students Act, 2022, if passed, would further protect students by providing measures for post-secondary institutions to address faculty and staff sexual misconduct towards students on campus. I can’t say it better than the minister, so I’ll once again share her powerful words upon her introduction of Bill 26, words I feel all of us in this great House can get behind and support.
The minister stated, “All students deserve to learn in a safe and supportive learning environment. From day one, we have been clear: This government has zero tolerance for sexual assault, harassment or any other forms of violence or misconduct. That’s why we’re taking action to better protect students from sexual violence and misconduct on and off campus.”
Additionally, I would like to point out that through Bill 26, if passed, our government is introducing legislative amendments so Ryerson University can legally change its name to Toronto Metropolitan University. The proposed change in name supports our government’s efforts to ensure Ontario has a post-secondary system that embraces diversity, inclusivity and promotes success for all learners, including Indigenous learners, so they can find rewarding careers. These legislative amendments contained within Bill 26, if passed, will help Toronto Metropolitan University begin a new chapter in its history and better reflects the current values and aspirations of the institution.
Bill 26, the Strengthening Post-secondary Institutions and Students Act, is about combining student safety and student protection as they go about their learning experience at Ontario’s 23 public universities, 24 colleges or 400-plus registered private career colleges.
Heading off to post-secondary school is a new-found freedom for many of our children. It’s an exciting time of their lives in a new environment, maybe a new community far from their home. This exciting time in our students’ and our children’s lives should serve as a safe and secure experience for learning. That’s why I’m speaking today on behalf of my colleague’s important bill. Any effort we can take to protect our children, our students, is something I can proudly stand in the House and support.
The Deputy Speaker (Ms. Donna Skelly): Questions and answers?
Ms. Natalie Pierre: Thank you to my colleague for his speech and remarks this morning. I’m just wondering if he can comment on how the government is helping to keep publicly assisted colleges and university campuses safer, including campus sexual violence prevention.
Mr. John Jordan: This government invests $6 million annually in the campus safety program. These funds assist and support publicly assisted colleges and universities with campus safety, and initiatives include safety training for staff, student leaders and volunteers; consent and healthy relationship workshops or programs; security cameras, lighting, safety apps and emergency notification systems; safe walk programs; sexual violence prevention websites and programs; safety and sexual violence prevention workshops, conferences and speaker series; assault prevention programs and bystander/upstander training.
The Deputy Speaker (Ms. Donna Skelly): Questions?
Mr. Chris Glover: Thank you to the member opposite for your comments today on this bill. Sexual assault on campus is a huge issue that needs to be addressed, and a couple of the things that we in the opposition have asked the government to do—I’m wondering if your government is willing to incorporate these into this legislation.
One is that the government disbanded the Roundtable on Violence Against Women. We’re asking that this be re-established, and we’re also asking that a private member’s bill from a member on our side to create a consent awareness week also be established in this province. Would you be supportive of these two initiatives to help address sexual assault on campus in Ontario?
Mr. John Jordan: I thank the member opposite for the question. Through our annual investment in the campus safety program, we’re also supporting institutions with campus safety programs like—and this is the way we’re addressing your concerns that you’re presenting in the house today—safety training; consent and healthy relationships workshops; security cameras and lighting; safe walk programs; sexual violence prevention websites and programs; safety and sexual violence prevention workshops, conferences and speaker series; and assault prevention programs, as well.
The Deputy Speaker (Ms. Donna Skelly): Question?
Mr. Dave Smith: It’s just over a year ago that the sexual allegations came to light from Western University. I know that the minister has spoken out repeatedly about this and how there is no tolerance anywhere in Ontario for this. I know the member talked about it during his speech, I know that he has touched on it a little bit with some of the other questions, but could the member give us a little bit more about specifically what this bill does to help prevent some of those problems?
Mr. John Jordan: I think there are really three things that the bill looks at. It provides the universities and colleges with tools to facilitate the proper response to sexual misconduct complaints; it protects the students from bringing forward issues or experiences that they’ve had—they can do that safely, without fear of any rebuttal—and it gives the universities and colleges the responsibility to discipline, dismiss and report the sexual misconducts that have been reported.
The Deputy Speaker (Ms. Donna Skelly): We have time for a very quick question and answer. I recognize the member for Nickel Belt.
Mme France Gélinas: What does the member think about the idea that the bill mentions colleges that are publicly supported, rather than having public colleges who are supported by the government to teach our kids?
Mr. John Jordan: Well, in short, I think that funding models have many different components and many different breakdowns between the government’s responsibility, the colleges’ and universities’ responsibility, and the students’ and parents’ responsibility. I think that like all of the funding models that we have for our—
The Deputy Speaker (Ms. Donna Skelly): That is all the time we have for questions and answers.
MPP Lise Vaugeois: Far too many people, especially racialized women and non-binary, trans and gender-diverse folks, experience sexual harassment and sexual violence. It’s common and it’s a brutal feature of the university experience, but I would like to say it is also an everyday experience.
I want to talk a little bit about—I support the bill, I think it’s useful, but I don’t think it addresses some very key aspects of why sexual violence and other forms of violence, particularly against racialized or somehow lower-on-the-gender-hierarchy people, who are subject to violence.
I’m just going to give a little bit of a story. I know we don’t have a lot of time, so I’m skipping through what I have to say, but let me tell you how often this happens in graduate school, where there is close one-on-one contact and where a student is utterly dependent on the support of their advisers for their future careers and for their future lives. These relationships are of necessity close, and they’re relationships of power.
What is missing for me in this bill is an understanding that we’re actually dealing with relationships of power and a culture of entitlement. I want to tie this also to what the member from Kiiwetinoong had to say about the violence of colonization experienced by Indigenous peoples, because it’s a violence that’s borne out of entitlement, the entitlement to dominate somebody else.
If you look at court cases about where Indigenous women have been raped and killed, you’ll be horrified, because so often, right up until today, the perpetrators are never punished. Those women are understood to be deserving of what they got. Part of what is taking place is that the perpetrators are reinforcing their sense of entitlement as male, as white and having the entitlement to act out their superiority over somebody with less power.
Now we see this with gender-non-conforming people; you see it with women, with people deciding to teach them a lesson. So we’re not talking just about sexual interest, sexual tension. We’re talking about sexual acts as an acting-out of a relationship of power, of proving oneself to be higher up in that hierarchy of who counts and who’s entitled to be dominant.
What I see as being completely necessary is a very big education piece. We need to understand what is meant by consent. I would like to see this government accept the bill that brings consent to younger people, so that people are actually learning and thinking about this at a young age. But I would also like to see all of us make the connection between something like Bill 28, which assumes an entitlement to exploit the lowest-paid workers to death—“They’re mostly women and they’re low down on the hierarchy. Who cares if they don’t get a living wage?” There is a sense of entitlement, that it is okay to pay people nothing—hardly anything—and expect them to work themselves to death. I connect this to this culture of domination, this culture of entitlement that is also connected to sexual violence, and the acting out of putting yourself in a pecking order and having somebody you can look down on to prove your superiority.
I want to say that yes, this bill is important for students, but it’s only one piece, and it’s not really going to change the culture of universities. It’s going to add a punitive element—excellent; if some people start to realize that they have to be accountable, excellent—but it is not going to change the culture until we really dig deep and start to look at what the formation of Canada is. On what basis was a whole group of people dismissed, raped, slaughtered, pillaged, whatever, and a whole new population brought in to replace them? On what basis? What kind of thinking does that reflect? That is the thinking of entitlement and the entitlement to dominate others. That’s got to be part of what goes into any program—
The Deputy Speaker (Ms. Donna Skelly): And that is all the time we have now for debate.
Second reading debate deemed adjourned.
Polish Independence Day
Ms. Natalia Kusendova-Bashta: Good morning. As Remembrance Day comes closer and we don our poppies proudly to remember and honour our brave Canadian men and women who fought for your freedom and ours and often paid the ultimate sacrifice to preserve peace, democracy and the rule of law, Polish Canadians and Poles around the world celebrate November 11 as Polish Independence Day.
This year marks Poland’s 114th anniversary of national independence, also known as Narodowe Święto Niepodległości. We salute the brave men and women who fought and died courageously to preserve Poland’s sovereignty. We ponder the numerous struggles Poland has endured over the last century on the road to freedom and self-governance, including 123 years of partition, the devastation of two world wars, and the hardships endured at the hands of the communist regime.
Madam Speaker, throughout all the hardships and wars, the spirit of Poles and their yearning for freedom could not be crushed. It persevered. As Winston Churchill said, “The soul of Poland is indestructible, and that she will rise again like a rock, which may for a spell be submerged by a tidal wave, but which remains....”
Here in Canada, Polish Canadians make up an essential part of our national character, making up the second-largest Polish diaspora in the world, with over one million Polish individuals who contribute vitally to Ontario and Canada’s economic, social and cultural areas.
Sovereignty and independence are central values of both Canada and Poland. This is why Polish Independence Day signifies personal pride for me. As an immigrant, I am proud of my Polish heritage. I am proud of my homeland, its people, and the fight it had to stand for in order to fight for its freedom.
Jeszcze Polska nie zginęła.
Long live Poland. Long live Canada.
Mr. Jeff Burch: The normalization of the use of the “notwithstanding” clause should alarm all of us. Prior to this government, the “notwithstanding” clause had never been used in Ontario. At its inception, no one could predict a government that would override fundamental freedoms in such a cavalier manner. It was designed to be a nuclear option, not a convenient loophole when the work of governing is difficult.
In 2018, this government threatened to use the “notwithstanding” clause to reduce the size of Toronto’s municipal council. And it used it in 2021 to uphold a law that limited the ability of third parties to advertise during an election—an election that happened this summer and had the lowest voter turnout in Ontario’s history.
Bill 28 will fundamentally change labour rights in this province. Governments in Ontario throughout history survived strikes; this government has halted collective bargaining before that bargaining even reached an impasse. Today is a day in constitutional history, a day when this government threw us into a constitutional crisis simply because it was inconvenient for them to bargain in good faith.
What other matters will be too inconvenient for this government to respect charter rights? This government has put legislation before this House that sections 2 and 7 to 15 are notwithstanding. Section 2 is the freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression; section 7, life, liberty and security of the person; section 15, that every individual is equal before the law and has the right to equal protection without discrimination.
I urge every government member to sit down and think about what they will be voting on today. Party discipline is not a matter of law. The fundamental freedoms of the people of this province are. Do not support Bill 28.
Mr. Dave Smith: Next week, the Legislature will not be sitting while we observe Remembrance Day week. As we reflect on Remembrance Day, I’d like to speak about a group that has largely been forgotten.
Although First Nation individuals were exempt from conscription, between the First and Second World War, more than 7,000 First Nation individuals voluntarily joined the Canadian Forces to fight for our freedom. At the time, if someone lived off-reserve for more than four years, that person could lose their official Indian status. For many individuals, stationed overseas, fighting for Canada, Canada stripped them of their Indian status, yet many of those individuals continued to give back to their community when they returned to Canada.
Curve Lake First Nation in my riding demonstrated this. During the Second World War, every single eligible male over the age of 18 volunteered to fight for Canada. One of those volunteers was a gentleman named Murray Whetung. Mr. Whetung is someone that I’ve spoken about in this chamber a number of times. His role during the D-Day invasions was to keep the communication lines functioning.
When he returned to Curve Lake, he continued to give back to his community. He was known throughout Peterborough county and revered as an elder, a knowledge holder and a community volunteer. Later today, I will be reintroducing the Murray Whetung Community Service Award to ensure that the positive message he embodied about giving back to communities will be told to our youth.
Ms. Catherine Fife: Now we know why Premier Ford didn’t have time to appear before the Emergencies Act inquiry: He was busy preparing his latest assault on the charter of rights. Bill 28, which prohibits education workers from striking, also prevents them from petitioning a court to restore the right that was just taken from them; that is, it invokes the Constitution’s “notwithstanding” clause, exempting it from the charter’s scrutiny for the next four years.
This move builds on a record of distrust by not releasing the mandate letters. The principle of transparency would demand that the Premier release these letters. He has chosen not to. He has gone to the Divisional Court, he has gone to the Court of Appeal, he has gone to the Supreme Court of Canada, and he’s even gone to the courts to prevent the people of Ontario from finding out how much all of these court visits are costing. We are learning that his choices against transparency go deeper. This Premier went back to the courts this week to keep the cost of all of these battles a secret.
I bring this up today because the Premier has been asked to testify at the Public Order Emergency Commission in Ottawa. Appearing would be a simple act of transparency. Once again, he has gone to the courts to not testify. But as a basic act of responsible government, he should choose to release the mandate letters, reveal the cost of the court cases around them, and appear before the emergency commission in Ontario. If you want to restore trust and accountability, you actually have to show up and do the hard work.
Royal Agricultural Winter Fair
Mr. Rob Flack: My statement today celebrates the most renewable and sustainable industry in the world: agriculture and food. Throughout the last number of weeks, I have enjoyed listening to my colleagues’ statements in this House recognizing the many summer and fall fairs that have taken place throughout our province. I am excited to announce the culmination of Ontario’s fair season begins this Friday night, here in Toronto at Exhibition Place, where the country truly does come to the city.
The Royal Agricultural Winter Fair is celebrating its 100th anniversary. Since 1922, the Royal has crowned a century of champions in livestock, poultry, equine and food. Today, the Royal has grown to be the largest indoor agricultural and equestrian event in the world. A win at the Royal is special, whether you are pickling, making butter tarts, raising beef cattle, marketing dairy genetics internationally, or showing a six-horse hitch, you will experience the strength and vibrancy of rural Ontario.
Every year, over 300,000 people come to the fair to celebrate the very best food, livestock and horsemanship Canada has to offer. The Royal is happy to welcome you and your families back in person for the 2022 fair starting this weekend. Come to Exhibition Place and discover the sights, the sounds and the smells of the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair. If you want to better understand how your food comes to your plate every day, please come to the Royal.
Finally, if you had a meal today, thank a farmer.
Ms. Jennifer K. French: This week, the NDP tried to convince this PC government to increase the rates for ODSP and OW. People are hurting. Doubling the rates would make a real difference to real people who:
—cannot find safe places to live that they can afford;
—are in debt to the utility company because they will never have enough to pay rent, buy food and pay the bills with such a small cheque;
—are celiac but can’t afford gluten-free food to keep from getting sick;
—during COVID, could never afford to bulk-buy food to stay home more often and had to pay to take transit and take more risks than others;
—could never stock up to save money or shop when things are on sale because they are forced to buy what they need when they have the money;
—need to clothe themselves and their growing kids—kids who more often get bullied;
—deserve to feed their family nutritious and real food;
—don’t want to be forced to live beholden to skeezy landlords who take advantage of their desperation;
—need a phone but have no access to credit and must pay the highest rates, usually without data;
—don’t get extra money to replace their bed or belongings when they get bedbugs from substandard housing;
—can’t afford a ticket to a hockey game;
—would love to see a movie or have dinner out with friends, but can’t budget for it;
—want to live with a spouse or companion without losing their independence or money;
—want to work without having that money clawed back; and
—want to live but are choosing to die because the torment of poverty is inescapable.
Who can survive in today’s world on $1,200? No one. Who deserves to suffer in legislated poverty day in and day out with no compassion from this government or end in sight? No one.
This government has chirpy and flippant slogans like, “The best social program is a job.” Well, Premier, those who can’t work can’t, and for the record, the best social program would be compassionate and fair. Raise the rates.
Mr. John Yakabuski: We are being joined today by a contingent from Renfrew county, including Warden Debbie Robinson, a number of municipal representatives, county staff and local entrepreneurs.
Renfrew county is the largest county in Ontario, incorporated in 1861. Speaker, many of my colleagues claim to come from the most beautiful part of Ontario, but I actually do. Today you will have the opportunity to hear first-hand just what a fantastic place Renfrew is. Without question, it is Canada’s white-water capital, as well as being home to some of the most picturesque vistas anywhere in the province.
Renfrew county is populated by people who work hard, play hard and pray hard. The county was built on and still relies heavily on our forestry industry. Agriculture is also a key industry back home. And as the world changes and continues to get smaller, tourism is becoming more and more important as an economic driver as well.
Today you will also have the opportunity to meet with some of the most creative and innovative people anywhere, particularly when it comes to the delivery of health care in rural communities. Renfrew county was the birthplace of community paramedicine, a service that has been adopted in many rural areas since. It also created the Virtual Triage and Assessment Centre during the pandemic. VTAC, as it is better known, provides an important medical service, particularly to those without a family doctor, and we are grateful that our government has continued to support it. It could be adapted for use anywhere in Ontario as a permanent component of our health care system.
I want to thank our good friends from the county for bringing their message here today. I encourage everyone to visit them in rooms 238 and 230 and get yourself a taste of good old Renfrew county hospitality.
Municipal elections / Élections municipales
Mme Lucille Collard: Mr. Speaker, the Ottawa municipal election recently resulted in the election of three outstanding councillors in Ottawa–Vanier. To Rawlson King and Tim Tierney: I am excited to continue our record of friendship and collaboration. To Stéphanie Plante: I can’t wait to see the great things you will accomplish for our community during this term of council. Ça sera vraiment un plaisir de travailler avec toi.
Je voudrais rendre hommage aujourd’hui à notre étonnant conseiller municipal sortant, Mathieu Fleury. Mathieu et moi travaillons ensemble depuis le jour où j’ai été élue conseillère scolaire en 2010. Il a toujours fait preuve d’une énergie incomparable à défendre les intérêts du quartier Rideau-Vanier, à appuyer nos organismes communautaires et à ouvrir des opportunités pour les jeunes dans les sports. Grâce à sa détermination et à son ardeur, nous avons des parcs et des infrastructures renouvelées, et il a joué un rôle clé dans la création de logements plus abordables.
Mathieu a également joué un rôle important en assurant une présence francophone au conseil, ce qui est absolument vital à Ottawa. Sa participation aux innombrables événements et réunions est légendaire, au point que j’en suis venue à croire qu’il avait sans doute découvert une façon de se cloner.
En 12 ans, il a laissé une marque indélébile avec son éthique de travail, son efficacité, sans oublier son charme.
Mathieu, you will be profoundly missed by so many people, but I am comforted by the fact that this means you will be spending more time with your young family. Thank you for your service, Mathieu Fleury. Merci.
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
Mr. Logan Kanapathi: I am happy to rise in the House today and speak about COPD Awareness Month in November. Early detection of COPD dramatically increases life expectancy and quality of life.
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease is a slowly progressing lung disease that makes it harder to breathe. By 2030, COPD is expected to be the third leading cause of death in Canada and around the world.
Mr. Speaker, I spoke to many general practitioners, family doctors, respirologists, specialists in lung disease and organizations such as COPD Awareness Canada and the lung association of Ontario. After my research, I came to know that many times the patients are not aware that they are suffering from COPD.
COPD is characterized by a narrowing of the airways that makes breathing increasingly difficult as the disease worsens. Everyday, simple tasks that we take for granted—walking up the stairs, getting dressed in the morning, carrying groceries from the car to the front door, doing house chores—can feel debilitating for those with COPD.
In the majority of cases, COPD is diagnosed in people over 40 years old. The most common symptoms include a cough that lasts longer than three months, coughing up mucus, and feeling short of breath while doing routine activities.
Cigarette smoking is the number one cause of COPD and accounts for approximately 80% to 90% of all new cases of COPD, including others.
While COPD is incurable, it is possible to treat and manage. A diagnostic test called a spirometry test can detect the presence of COPD.
In Ontario, approximately 10% of adults—or 900,000 Ontarians, according to the Lung Association—are living with COPD.
Mr. Speaker, my private member’s Bill 157, COPD Awareness Day Act, 2021, received royal assent on June 3, 2021. According to the bill, the third Wednesday in November of each year was proclaimed as COPD Awareness Day.
Diabetes Awareness Month
Mr. Robert Bailey: This week marks the beginning of Diabetes Awareness Month in Ontario. Every three minutes, someone in this country is diagnosed with type 1 or type 2 diabetes. In the next 10 years, diabetes—both type 1 and type 2 being diagnosed—will increase by 26%. For those living with pre-diabetes, about half will develop type 2 diabetes if no intervention is made.
The medications, devices and supplies required to treat diabetes can cost people thousands of dollars annually. One quarter of people living with diabetes have reported that these additional costs affect their adherence to their prescribed treatment regimens, which has significant risks to their short- and long-term health.
Diabetes also adds immense cost to our health care system. People with diabetes are over three times more likely to be hospitalized with cardiovascular disease, 12 times more likely to be hospitalized with end-stage renal disease and almost 20 times more likely to be hospitalized for a non-traumatic lower limb amputation, compared to the general population.
Improving the health of people with diabetes will have a direct impact on the costs associated with the disease. The cost burden will decrease with improved prevention efforts and better care, as more people with diabetes will be diverted from acute care and will enjoy a higher quality of life with increased function and productivity.
We need a provincial strategy for people with diabetes now more than ever.
Introduction of Visitors
Le Président (L’hon. Ted Arnott): Dans la tribune du Président ce matin sont les stagiaires de la Fondation Jean-Charles-Bonenfant qui travaillent avec les députés à l’Assemblée nationale du Québec : Ali El-Samra, Carolane Fillion, Gabriel Moreau, Powen-Alexandre Morin et Charles-Étienne Ostiguy. Bienvenue à Queen’s Park.
Mr. John Yakabuski: In addition to the contingent in 228 and 230, I have in the members’ gallery today: Warden Debbie Robinson, from Renfrew county; Reeve Peter Emon, from Renfrew, also a county councillor; Reeve Dan Lynch, from Arnprior, a county councillor; and the chief of paramedics in Renfrew county, Mike Nolan. Welcome to Queen’s Park.
Ms. Chandra Pasma: I’d like to introduce Karissa Singh, who is an OLIP intern in my office. Karissa has had a very eventful first week, but she’s already proved to be a great member of the team. Welcome, Karissa.
Mr. Robert Bailey: Today at Queen’s Park, we are glad to welcome from the Peel police service: Deputy Chief Nick Milinovich and Detective Sergeant Earl Scott. Welcome to Queen’s Park.
Mme France Gélinas: It is my pleasure to introduce Monique Farrell. She is the mother of page Molly Farrell—sorry Molly—who is leaving us today, so she came and saw her daughter.
I also want to thank all of the members of the medical laboratory associations that are with us today. Thank you for being here today.
Mr. Matthew Rae: Similar to my colleague just now, I want to welcome the Medical Laboratory Professionals’ Association of Ontario who are in the public gallery above, their staff and board members including Jessie, Lorraine, Michelle, Jeffrey, Andrea, John and Robin who are here in the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to discuss how Ontario’s government can further aid our fourth-largest health care profession and support patient health in Ontario. Thank you for being here today.
Ms. Peggy Sattler: I am delighted to welcome Meredith Patterson, the proud mother of page Pearl Clarke, who has joined us today along with Pearl’s grandfather, Neil Patterson, and his wife, Jay DuBoisson. Welcome to Queen’s Park.
Mme Dawn Gallagher Murphy: As the parliamentary assistant to the Minister of Health, I would like to thank and introduce the Medical Laboratory Professionals’ Association of Ontario. Thank you very much for that lovely breakfast this morning and thank you Jeffrey Dale, CEO of the Eastern Ontario Regional Laboratory Association, for the great chat. Welcome to Queen’s Park. Bienvenue à Queen’s Park.
MPP Kristyn Wong-Tam: I would like to recognize the members of ACORN Canada, Parkdale People’s Economy, as well as the Justice for Queen and Clothes. I believe that they were trying to get in the House. I’m not sure if they have been allowed in as of yet, but they did want me to deliver a letter on their behalf to the Premier, as well as the Minister of Housing, should they not be permitted into the House. They were rallying outside of Queen’s Park this morning.
Hon. David Piccini: I just wanted to quickly welcome a fantastic member of our team at the Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks, Tim Wontorra. Welcome, Tim.
Mr. Joel Harden: I also want to welcome members from ACORN Canada, who have come here to talk about affordable housing and living with dignity in Ontario—particularly Ashley Reyns, who deserves to be in this House. This is their House, too.
Mr. Dave Smith: Later today I am reintroducing my Murray Whetung private member’s bill, so I have members of the Whetung family here: his daughter Joanne Seymour, her husband, Phillip Seymour, and their son, Dean Seymour; Murray’s son Lorenzo Whetung; his granddaughter Emily Whetung-MacInnes; his granddaughter Ashkineeg-kwa Whetung; great-granddaughter Rian Whetung; great-grandson Callum Whetung-MacInnes; and—their flight has been delayed, but they will be here shortly—Regional Chief Mel Hardy and Elder James Mishquart.
MPP Jill Andrew: I would like to say thank you to Sofia Marra, who was a page here from St. Paul’s. I know it’s her last day, so I’m just thanking her for her wonderful work and saying a great “hello” to her parents, who also allowed her to be part of this fantastic program—and also giving a shout-out to ACORN Canada, our friends who are always advocating for tenants’ rights. I’m right alongside you.
Hon. Stan Cho: I am thrilled to introduce our newest team member, Tony Mantul and I am so happy to have some family here I haven’t seen for a long time from New Jersey: my three cousins David, Suzie and Paul Ham, and my beautiful aunt, my dad’s younger sister—hard to believe they’re related—Judy Ham. Thank you so much for visiting the Legislature.
Ms. Bhutila Karpoche: I’d like to give a warm welcome to members of ACORN and Parkdale People’s Economy, who are at Queen’s Park today to advocate for tenants’ rights.
Ms. Mary-Margaret McMahon: I would like to introduce page Nolan Stoqua. Although he is from Stormont–Dundas–South Glengarry, he has actually been residing in beautiful Beaches–East York. We’ve been taking great care of him during his time here. He’s actually right down the street from me. I wish him the best of luck as it’s his last day today.
Mr. Sheref Sabawy: I would like to take the opportunity to welcome my EA, Andrew Fahmy, to the House today. This month marks about 10 years working together as part of the team, and today is his birthday. Happy birthday.
Hon. Prabmeet Singh Sarkaria: Please join me in welcoming, from the Peel Regional Police, Deputy Chief Nick Milinovich. Also, Mr. Speaker, I’m very thankful for the work that our front-line officers are doing, including last week, when the deputy chief pulled off one of the largest drug busts in Peel’s history. Please join me in welcoming him to Queen’s Park.
Mr. Nolan Quinn: I’d like to welcome, from my riding of Stormont–Dundas–South Glengarry, Scott and Sheena Stoqua. They’re here for Nolan’s last day of being a page.
Hon. Graydon Smith: I want to welcome Alex Ribadeniera and his grade 10 class from East York Collegiate here today. They’re somewhere in the building, not sure where. But Alex’s family and mine have known each other for a long, long time. I just wanted to welcome them all to Queen’s Park, wherever they are.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): That concludes the time we have available this morning for introduction of visitors.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): The government House leader, on a point of order.
Hon. Paul Calandra: Mr. Speaker, if you seek it, you will find unanimous consent to allow members to make statements regarding Remembrance Day, with five minutes allotted to His Majesty’s loyal opposition, five minutes allotted to the independent members as a group, and five minutes allotted to His Majesty’s government, after which the House shall observe two minutes of silence in commemoration of all those who have served in our Armed Forces.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): The House leader is seeking the unanimous consent of the House to allow members to make statements regarding Remembrance Day, with five minutes allotted to His Majesty’s loyal opposition, five minutes allotted to the independent members as a group, and five minutes allotted to His Majesty’s government, after which the House shall observe two minutes of silence in commemoration of all those who served in our Armed Forces. Agreed? Agreed.
Mrs. Jennifer (Jennie) Stevens: It is my distinct honour to stand in this Legislature and speak today in recognition of Remembrance Week and Remembrance Day. Every year on November 11, Canadians pause in a moment of silence to remember the men and women who have served, and continue to serve, our country during times of war, conflict and peace. We acknowledge the efforts and the sacrifice of these special Canadians and their families. We pause for two minutes of special tribute and we attend commemorative ceremonies in memory of those who made the supreme sacrifice for us in:
—the South African War, or Boer War, from 1899 to 1902;
—the First World War, from 1914 to 1918;
—the Second World War, from 1939 to 1945;
—the Korean War, from 1950 to 1953;
—the Gulf War, from 1990 to 1991; and
—the Afghanistan War, from 2001 to 2014.
I mention all of these wars and conflicts simply because it is important that the service and the sacrifices of Canadians in all of these is never, and will never be, forgotten.
For more than 100 years, millions of Canadians have proudly served our country in uniform. While the Canadian Armed Forces are known to put their lives on the line to support international operations, they also fulfill important roles on home soil.
During the recent COVID crisis, our Canadian Armed Forces came to the aid of Ontario, as well as other provinces, with seniors in long-term care homes. They did so at the request of local civil authorities and provincial governments to help protect Canadians and minimize the impact of the health crisis. It is incumbent upon us all to remember what they found in these homes and to ensure it never, never happens again.
They provide national and regional security, serve on search and rescue missions and respond to national disasters.
Speaker, I cannot let Remembrance Day go by without special recognition and note that it has a special meaning for myself and my family. As I have mentioned before, I am a proud mother to an active service member, Jonathan Lindal. Jonathan is a petty officer first class, currently posted to the Naval Fleet School, Atlantic, as a senior combat information instructor, teaching today’s naval tactics and doctrines to future of the fleet. Jonathan has served over 18 years on His Majesty’s Canadian ships for multiple overseas deployments including missions combatting global terror, anti-piracy, sovereignty patrols and Operation Reassurance support for NATO’s assurance and deterrence measures in central and eastern Europe.
Both his grandfather—my father—and his great-grandfather served our country, as many of us today have family members that we will remember, thank and honour on November 11. We can never repay the debt we owe, nor will we ever have enough gratitude for the freedom and security we enjoy every day across all of our communities. We must do our part to ensure that the sacrifices of our country’s men and women, who fought for and in many cases gave up their life for our right to sit as democratically elected members of this assembly, are not forgotten.
As the proud member of a military family, both past and present, I will watch the national ceremony, locate and attend local ceremonies leading up to the events of November 11—just last week, I attended my local Legion’s poppy kickoff ceremony—lay a wreath at local cenotaphs, proudly wear my poppy, thank and honour anyone in uniform and observe two minutes of silence.
I encourage all of us to do the same because our Canadian Armed Forces and our veterans want Canadians to understand the price of freedom. They are passing the torch to the people of Canada so that the memory and the importance of sacrifices will continue and the values they fought for will continue to live on in all of us.
Our veterans, our country’s men and women of our Canadian services, be it land, air or sea, answered the call to defend freedom. We will forever be grateful. We will remember them. Lest we forget.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): The member for Ottawa South.
Mr. John Fraser: Saturday will be the first day of Remembrance Week here in Ontario. It’s that time of year when we remember and reflect on the sacrifices of so many in both small and great conflicts over the years. Their sacrifice was the price of the freedom and the rights we all enjoy today.
One of those who paid the price for us was Robert Ansley Cavanagh. He died at Dieppe on August 19, 1942. He was 19 years old. He was my wife Linda’s uncle, the one she never met. More importantly, he was the brother and best friend to my mother-in-law, Yvonne. His loss was devastating for her. She loved him dearly and never got over it, and for almost 80 years she had his picture by her bedside, right up until the day she died. She never forgot. We have that picture now so that we’ll never forget.
These are turbulent times in our world. We are seeing the rise of fascism with Putin’s attack on the people of Ukraine and all those other conflicts that are happening in the world, and throughout the world whenever we see an effort to take away fundamental rights and freedoms from people it requires all of to us stand up.
It’s important for all of us to remember that our way of life, our democracy, things like our Charter of Rights and Freedoms, were purchased with the blood and sweat and lives of women and men like Robert Ansley Cavanaugh, and the tears of people like my mother-in-law, Yvonne Hooper. We must never forget.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): The member for Guelph.
Mr. Mike Schreiner: Mr. Speaker, it is my distinct honour to rise today to pay tribute to, and express my sincere gratitude for, the service and sacrifice veterans have made in this province and for our country. To those who made the ultimate sacrifice, they provide a stark reminder of what it takes to defend our rights and freedoms. We all continue to benefit from your sacrifices, and each and every one of us has a duty to defend our democracy, our rights and freedoms. As Guelph’s famous son, Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae said, “If ye break faith with us who die / We shall not sleep, though poppies grow / In Flanders fields.” To those who served, we shall not break faith with what you fought and died for.
The scars of war run deep. I’ve experienced it in the stoicism of my own family members who served, who quietly carried memories of the horrors they experienced to protect those of us they loved. We have an obligation to not only remember and pay tribute, but to also care and support those who served and their families who carry the pain of their loss.
To the veterans and first responders of this province and this country, I say thank you. Thank you, thank you, thank you for your service and sacrifice. We must honour it. We must remember it. Lest we forget.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): I recognize the Premier.
Hon. Doug Ford: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I consider it one of my highest honours to rise in this House and pay tribute to those who have served in Canada’s military. As we all know, Remembrance Day occurs on Friday of next week and it is the culmination of Remembrance Week. It is the day on which we dedicated our gratitude to those who’ve given so much to this province and this country.
Before the ceremonies of November 11, the nation will also pause on November 8, national Indigenous Veterans Day, to pay tribute to the many contributions of First Nations, Inuit and Métis service people. This province has a long and distinguished record of military heroism and leadership shown by Indigenous soldiers, those who overcame cultural challenges and discrimination to serve this country with honour and distinction.
Throughout Remembrance Week, we pay our respects to the individuals in uniform who protect Canada’s freedoms with courage and selflessness. Remembrance Day is our opportunity to honour those brave women and men who made the ultimate sacrifice in defence of democracy, and to recognize the military veterans who are still with us in our communities today. Every Ontarian owes a debt to these veterans that we can never fully repay.
We must always demonstrate our appreciation, not only on the 11th day of the 11th month, but every day that we step outside our homes as people free of government oppression and free of armed conflict on our home soil. The brutal war being waged by Russia on Ukraine brings into stark focus the dangers that exist in the world today, and the importance of vigilance and standing shoulder to shoulder with our partners in defence of freedom and liberty. As I stand here, brave Canadian servicepeople are stationed across the world providing vital supports including, recently, increased deployments to our friends and allies in eastern Europe.
This year also marks the 150th birthday of Colonel John McCrae, born in Guelph, Ontario in 1872. Colonel McCrae was a combat surgeon who served in one of the bloodiest battles of World War I. Seeing red poppies amid the devastation on the battlefield, Colonel McCrae was moved to write the beloved poem In Flanders Fields. For more than a century, this poem has inspired millions around the globe, and Colonel McCrae’s sentiment lives on in the poppies worn by citizens of numerous countries in honour of their own service members.
And so I encourage every citizen of Ontario to wear the red poppy with pride, to acknowledge that gift of freedom we all hold dear. It’s a gift given to us by all brave servicemen and women who have stood tall and answered the call throughout the history of our country. I also encourage every Ontarian to hold a moment of silence this November 11 in order to thank and remember every one of our heroic military members, both living and those who have sadly departed.
To those heroes, I make a solemn promise to you: We will always stand with you, lest we forget. God bless our veterans: active, retired, and the ones we have lost.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Thank you.
I’ll now ask members to rise to observe two minutes of silence in commemoration of all those who served in our armed forces.
The House observed two minutes’ silence.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): We will remember them.
Interjections: We will remember them.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Members may take their seats.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): On Tuesday, November 1, 2022, the member for Scarborough–Guildwood raised a question of privilege relating to comments made by the Minister of Education. The government House leader, the official opposition House leader, the member for Ottawa South and the member for Guelph also spoke to the question.
According to the member for Scarborough–Guildwood, the Minister of Education made statements in the media, as well as on his social media account, that presupposed the outcome of proceedings on Bill 28, An Act to resolve labour disputes involving school board employees represented by the Canadian Union of Public Employees, which, as we know, is currently being considered by the House.
I have had the opportunity to review the Hansard, the written materials provided by the member for Scarborough–Guildwood and the government House leader and the relevant precedents and authorities, and I am now prepared to provide a ruling.
Before I address the substance of the matter, I would like to first note that in raising her question of privilege, the member for Scarborough–Guildwood correctly identified the underlying issues as relating to contempt rather than to one of the distinct parliamentary privileges enjoyed by the individual members of the House or possessed by the House as a collective body. Allow me to briefly explain the nature of contempt, which is defined at pages 289, 292 and 295 of the 25th edition of Erskine May as follows: “Generally speaking, any act or omission which obstructs or impedes either House of Parliament in the performance of its functions, or which obstructs or impedes any member or officer of such House in the discharge of their duty, or which has a tendency, directly or indirectly, to produce such results, may be treated as a contempt....
“In the past indignities offered to the House by words spoken or writings published reflecting on its character or proceedings have been punished by both the lords and the Commons upon the principle that such acts of abuse tend to obstruct the Houses in the performance of their functions by diminishing the respect due to them....
“Other acts, besides words spoken or writings published reflecting upon either House or its proceedings which, though they do not tend to directly obstruct or impede either House in the performance of its functions, yet have a tendency to produce this result indirectly by bringing such House into odium, contempt or ridicule or by lowering its authority, may constitute contempts.”
In her written submission and the remarks made in the chamber, the member for Scarborough–Guildwood made reference to statements made by the Minister of Education on October 31 relating to Bill 28. The member argued that the minister’s comments presumed the passage of Bill 28, which had been introduced earlier that day. At the time that the minister’s comments were made, the bill had been given first reading by the House and stood ordered for second reading. Along with her written notice, the member provided copies of stories published in various news outlets as well as videos of the minister’s comments to the media. She highlighted statements that the minister had made, for example, that “the government is going to pass the bill” and that “we will pass a law.”
The issue of government statements that presuppose the outcome of House proceedings is not a new one in our Legislature—in fact, we have a substantial body of precedents on this very subject. In arguing that the minister’s statements amounted to a contempt, the member referred to a frequently cited precedent from January 22, 1997, when Speaker Stockwell found that a ministerial pamphlet concerning the amalgamation of the city of Toronto had used definitive, unqualified language which gave the impression that passing the requisite legislation was not necessary or was a foregone conclusion.
I have carefully considered the full statements made by the minister in the case at hand, and I’ve noted a number of occasions on which the minister acknowledged that the bill had not yet passed through the full legislative process. For example, he referenced the government’s “decision to introduce legislation to provide stability,” and further, that “even after the government passes the law, which is the intent ahead of Friday.” These statements do not seem to betray a mindset that questions the role of the Legislature in enacting a necessary law.
I also note that, on the same day in this chamber, the minister also spoke about Bill 28 when it was introduced. In his brief comments after the bill received first reading, the minister explicitly recognized the role of the Legislature, saying the bill—and I quote from Hansard—“would, if passed, keep kids learning in school without disruption” and “(t)his legislation would, if passed, ensure students remain in class with a refocus on learning.” During the leadoff speech on the motion for second reading of the bill on Tuesday, the minister also used similar language. This is the type of conditional language that the 1997 Stockwell precedent has consistently encouraged and tends to lead to a conclusion that the minister’s mindset around this time was not one of contempt for the Legislature.
Let me be clear: The use of conditional language would not, in and of itself, extinguish any charge of contempt if it occurred in tandem with utterances or the publication of the type of material that was found to constitute a contempt in the 1997 precedent, being a ministry pamphlet that was produced to advertise the government’s plan to the public. In that case, where the impugned statement was contained in a government publication, Speaker Stockwell found that a prima facie case for contempt was established because “a reader of that document could be left with an incorrect impression about how parliamentary democracy works in Ontario, an impression that undermines respect for our parliamentary institutions.” That comes from the journals for January 22, 1997, at page 458.
Speaker Stockwell did not have to inquire beyond the pamphlet because he found it to be obviously contemptuous. Additionally, pamphlets, as we know, require more thought and consideration and preparation than oral remarks. This is distinguishable from the case at hand, where we’re dealing with oral remarks of the minister made in the chamber and others made extemporaneously to the news media.
Finally, I’d like to briefly address a document submitted by the member for Scarborough–Guildwood, which included a copy of a tweet from the account of the Minister of Education, posted on October 30, 2022. In the tweet, the minister referenced the planned introduction of the bill, along with the statement, “Kids will be in class. Enough is enough.” However, the tweet also included a picture which included the statement, “Because CUPE refuses to withdraw their intent to strike, in order to avoid shutting down classes we will have no other choice but to introduce legislation tomorrow, which will ensure that students remain in class to catch up on their learning.”
Taken as a whole, one statement in the tweet is tempered by another, which does acknowledge the necessary role of the Legislature. As with the minister’s oral statements, I am not persuaded that the broader picture supports the case put forward by the member for Scarborough–Guildwood.
For all of these reasons, I am unable to find that a prima facie case of contempt has been established.
I want to thank the member for Scarborough–Guildwood for raising the question, and the other members who contributed to the discussion.
The member for Scarborough–Guildwood, point of order?
Ms. Mitzie Hunter: Point of order, Speaker: I do want to thank you for your careful consideration of my point of privilege to this Legislature. As a Legislative Assembly as a whole, we have taken oaths to do our duty and to serve. I raised this point of privilege because I believed that the minister’s comments, as well as the actions of stepping away from the bargaining table at the time, on Monday, provided enough of a concern as to the role of the Legislature vis-à-vis a government that is in majority. Speaker—
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): I appreciate that. Thank you very much.
It is now time for oral questions.
Mr. Peter Tabuns: Speaker, a question to the Premier: This Premier likes to claim that he’s for the little guy, but the littlest people in this province will pay the biggest price if he keeps up his attack on education workers. Our kids count on caring adults in the classroom, and this government is going to drive them out the door permanently. That will mean less support for kids with disabilities, less support for the youngest students and less safe schools. If the Premier won’t rip up his anti-worker legislation for the sake of kids, parents and education workers, will he do it to salvage his so-called brand?
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): To reply, the Premier.
Hon. Doug Ford: It’s nice to see the opposition is changing the message to they’re actually worried about kids, because they were worried about the unions yesterday and the day before and the day before.
From the beginning, I’ve been very clear that we will do whatever it takes to keep Ontario’s two million students in class. We will do whatever it takes to give students and parents certainty. After two years of pandemic disruptions, enough is enough. We need kids in the classroom, learning. This is about the mental, emotional and physical well-being of two million students and, therefore, their respective families after two very difficult years brought on by this pandemic.
Unfortunately, CUPE refuses, absolutely refuses, to withdraw their strike action. They refuse to back down from shutting down schools. CUPE has left us no choice but to use legislation to ensure stability—
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Thank you very much.
The supplementary question.
Mr. Peter Tabuns: Actually, the Premier does have a choice. He could make a good offer. He could make a difference in the lives of our children and our education workers.
Speaker, the Premier says education workers are little guys, little gals. This government thinks it’s okay for them to have to use food banks. The Premier is acting like a bad boss. When bad bosses disrespect and underpay people for long enough, those people quit; they walk. It won’t be just Friday or next week that parents have to worry about if education workers leave the profession; it’s the future of their kids’ education.
If the Premier won’t rip up his anti-worker legislation for the sake of kids, parents and education workers, will he do it to avoid getting booed in public again for acting like a bad boss?
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Order, order.
Hon. Doug Ford: We live in a democracy. People spoke, June 2, very loud, and that’s why they lost seats. They lost seats, and we filled the seats.
Mr. Speaker, we will always, always support the front-line workers. Our offer includes increased wages, the largest in the entire country, and maintains the most generous pension and benefit plan, again in the entire country, including 131 paid sick days.
The fact is, CUPE demanded a nearly 50% increase and threatened a strike if they didn’t get it. They have left us—
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): The official opposition will come to order.
Premier, please reply.
Hon. Doug Ford: They have left us with no other choice but to proceed with legislation. For the sake of Ontario’s two million students and their parents, schools must remain open. We’re using every tool at our disposal to make sure kids are in class full-time, where they need and deserve to be. We are investing $26.6 billion—
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Thank you.
Mr. Peter Tabuns: Again to the Premier: Before the election, this government went on a so-called charm offensive to court workers. Most workers saw through this government. They remembered when his government cancelled the minimum wage increase and took away paid sick days. After the election, now workers know without a doubt that this government is not really interested in them. The second this government got what it wanted, it lost the workers’ phone number and it lost directions to the bargaining table.
If the Premier won’t rip up his anti-work legislation for the sake of kids, parents and education workers, will he do it to stop embarrassing his own labour minister?
Hon. Doug Ford: We’re investing more than $26.6 billion in public education this year, the single largest investment in Ontario’s history. Of that $26.6 billion that our government is spending on public education, 80% of that $26.6 billion goes solely towards paying salaries. Education funding for this school year is $2 billion more than the final year of the NDP and the Liberals’ rule. Our focus is on the mental, emotional and physical health of Ontario’s two million students and their families. The students have had enough. The parents have had enough. The NDP and Liberals can’t have it both ways. They either stand with the students and parents, or they support shutting down schools. And they support shutting down schools, keeping the kids at home and a million parents wondering what to do. It strikes our students—
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Premier, please take a seat. Stop the clock.
The member for Ottawa Centre will come to order. The member for Sudbury will come to order. The member for Davenport will come to order. The member for Windsor West will come to order. The member for Toronto–St. Paul’s will come to order.
Start the clock. The member for Sudbury.
Labour dispute / Conflit de travail
MPP Jamie West: The question is for the Premier. Bill 27 invokes the “notwithstanding” clause to violate sections of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Human Rights Code, and that is a disgrace. The Premier says there is no other option. I disagree. It doesn’t have to be this way. The Conservative government doesn’t have to stop kids from going to school on Friday. There are more options. For example, the minister could continue negotiating. CUPE came back to the table yesterday with substantial changes. The minister could offer to extend the deadline and continue to bargain. The minister could offer binding arbitration.
My question: If the Premier is dedicated to keeping kids in class, why not use all the options? Has the Premier directed the minister to issue binding arbitration or to offer to continue bargaining beyond the deadline, and if not, then why is the Premier choosing to force the strike?
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): To reply, the Minister of Education.
Hon. Stephen Lecce: Mr. Speaker, we insist that kids are in class. We believe we are here because CUPE decided on Sunday to put this province on a strike footing for Friday, and that is unacceptable. These kids have paid enough of a price with the pandemic and the recent strikes just three years ago.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Order. Order.
Hon. Stephen Lecce: After not securing a nearly 50% increase in compensation, they’ve decided to strike. Because they have refused to withdraw their strike, this government has no choice but to move forward with a bill that will provide stability for children. Mr. Speaker, this legislation before the House will provide stability that every child in this province deserves.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): If members continue to ignore my requests to come to order, I will warn them. If they continue to persist in ignoring the Speaker, they will be named.
Member for Sudbury, supplementary.
MPP Jamie West: Une autre question pour le premier ministre : Trixie est une technicienne de bibliothèque qui aime son travail et ses élèves. Trixie m’a dit qu’une grève est une pensée effrayante. Chaque seconde passée loin de ses élèves lui manque, car ils sont comme sa famille. Les travailleurs de soutien à l’éducation comme Trixie sont tellement investis émotionnellement dans leurs élèves. Trixie dit que la joie de ses élèves la rend heureuse.
Ma question : ce gouvernement va-t-il se remettre à négocier une entente équitable afin que les travailleurs comme Trixie puissent retourner auprès des élèves et faire le travail qu’ils aiment?
Hon. Stephen Lecce: Mr. Speaker, it was just yesterday that a resident from Severn, Ontario, from Simcoe North, wrote to us. She said that she and her husband, like many Canadians, are hurting financially right now. Unlike the education unions, they’re not guaranteed salary increases, benefits, pensions or job security. She urged the government to get this bill through the House to provide stability for her children.
We have an obligation to keep kids in the classroom. I urge the members opposite to stand up for kids and work with this government to keep kids in class, where they belong.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Member for Sudbury, come to order.
Supplementary? The member for Ottawa West–Nepean.
Ms. Chandra Pasma: You don’t avert a strike by refusing to negotiate. You avert a strike by bargaining a deal. But this week, the minister has stubbornly refused to negotiate. Yesterday, the government rejected a new proposal from CUPE that could have ended this whole situation. The government has failed to ask for binding arbitration.
The Premier claims they’re doing all they can for our kids, so why, when there are so many other things the government could have done this week, have they virtually guaranteed schools will be disrupted tomorrow?
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Members will please take their seats.
The Minister of Education.
Hon. Stephen Lecce: Mr. Speaker, we never walked away from the negotiating table, but the union is walking away from two million children this Friday and it is unacceptable. The government has—
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): The member for Davenport will come to order. The member for Windsor West will come to order.
The Minister of Education.
Hon. Stephen Lecce: Mr. Speaker, this government has never walked away from the negotiating table. CUPE has decided to walk away from kids on Friday on a path to a strike they always intended to deliver. It was only this summer, before the government even tabled our first proposal, that they announced a strike mandate. Why would they be on this path other than to frustrate children, parents and our entire economy?
We need kids in school; every parent knows this. Our government will deliver on a plan and a promise to provide stability for kids who have endured so much from this pandemic. I urge the members opposite to stand up for kids and vote for this bill.
Ms. Jennifer K. French: My question is to the Premier. Speaker, this government is desperately trying to paint caring adults who work in our kids’ schools as the bad guys. Everyone else knows they work hard and deserve their rights, fair wages and respect.
James is a school custodian who writes: “I now barely earn enough to support myself, let alone help my mom who’s 75, also still working as a part-time custodian because she can’t afford to retire....
“My school board job doesn’t pay me enough to pay for the rising costs of living. My co-workers and I earn on average $39,000 and can’t afford to live on that. We want our students to have the services they need in our public schools.
“I am asking you to give us the improvement on wages and working conditions that I need, and not support legislation that takes away our right to negotiate those improvements.”
What would this Premier like to say to James?
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Minister of Education.
Hon. Stephen Lecce: We are committed to keeping kids in the classroom. That is our obligation as a government, and we will fulfill it through this legislation before the House, designed to put an end—because we believe enough is enough.
The Premier is right: There is one party in this House that is standing up for kids on the backdrop of a never-ending strike in the province of Ontario.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): The opposition will come to order.
Minister of Education.
Hon. Stephen Lecce: Mr. Speaker, a rather serious matter is before the House. A bill is before us to ensure kids are in school, and I would not trivialize the impacts on working people in this province. Their kids deserve to be in school. Every child deserves to be in school.
I urge the members to have the courage of their convictions, stand up for their constituents and vote for stability in the classroom.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Stop the clock.
Start the clock. Supplementary question.
Ms. Jennifer K. French: Back to the Premier—and I am happy to stand on the courage of my convictions in opposition to this horrible government right now.
Erin is a frustrated education assistant and she writes: “The schools are on ‘fire.’ In all my years I have never seen the challenges the schools and students are facing each day.
“We need to fight to ensure no more dedicated, effective workers leave their profession because they need to pay their bills.
“We need to fight to protect the students’ rights to the proper resources and supports that they need to be successful in the classroom.
“We need to fight to ensure that the students get the education system they deserve. They should not have to pay privately for a proper education.
“All I want is a liveable wage. I want resources and money put into our education system so that all our children, including my own, have the best chance at a positive and successful future.
“I want the government to respect us and our roles and that is shown through true collective bargaining. The bully tactics the government is using is not only an attack on education workers, but on all unions.”
What on earth would this Premier like to say to Erin?
Hon. Stephen Lecce: We are grateful to Erin and to every member who works in our schools. So much so, Speaker, that we have hired 7,000 more education workers in the province. Under the plan proposed before this House, 1,800 more education workers and 800 more educators will be hired, the largest investment in the province’s history—$680 million more this year compared to last year. That is an investment in public education.
In addition to providing investments in our schools, we are increasing salaries every year, 10% over four years; maintaining a pension and the best health benefits, 131 days of sick leave; and absolute job security that many people watching could only dream of.
Mr. Speaker, we want kids in the classroom. We believe they have a right to learn and we will stand up for their parents—the million parents—who deserve this government to get the job done and provide stability for the people we all represent.
Mr. Stephen Crawford: My question is to the Associate Minister of Transportation. While winter is fast approaching and more people are using public transit, their schedules are busy and they just want to get to from point A to point B as conveniently as possible without any hassle. Unfortunately, after two decades of transit mismanagement and neglect by the previous Liberal government, our government inherited a transit system in the GTHA that pales in comparison to the ridership experiences of other jurisdictions.
Speaker, through you, I’d like to ask the Associate Minister of Transportation what our government is doing to improve the ridership experience of my constituents, many of whom travel from the Oakville GO station, which is the busiest transit station in the network outside Union Station.
Hon. Stan Cho: Thank you to the member from Oakville for the question and for his tireless work in advocating for transit in his riding. It is indeed true: The Liberal government left Ontario unprepared for both today’s and tomorrow’s transit needs. Fortunately, this government is making the largest investment in public transit in Canadian history and bettering the rider experience all along.
On August 11 our government began offering riders on GO, Brampton, MiWay and Oakville Transit the ability to pay their fares by tapping their credit cards on Presto readers. I’m glad to let the members know that the technology is working and that commuters are choosing this option. They’ve tapped over 255,000 times using credit cards on these four agencies since we launched in August.
Enabling riders to simply tap with their credit cards is yet another example of how our government is bettering the transit experience, respecting taxpayers’ money and helping people get to where they need to go.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Supplementary question.
Mr. Stephen Crawford: Thank you to the associate minister for your response. I’m encouraged by this update, especially after the track record of the previous Liberal government, which decimated the quality of the transit system across the GTHA. Under their watch, promises of subway development were broken, transit investments were delayed and growing regional transit needs were neglected. And they launched the Presto fare collection system, which resulted in nearly half a billion dollars in cost overruns.
Speaker, through you, I’d like to ask the Associate Minister of Transportation how our government is delivering on an improved transit experience for my constituents and all the residents of the GTHA.
Hon. Stan Cho: That’s a very fair concern, because after 15 years of zero action from the NDP-and-Liberal coalition, our transit system is simply not where it needs to be. That is why our government is improving the rider experience and introducing an enhanced Presto system. In fact, next year our government will further expand the new payment options across the entire GTHA, with our next step to expand the credit card tap payment option across the 905, including Durham, York, Hamilton and Burlington.
We’re not going to stop until we connect the entire grid with these payment options and better experiences for riders so that they can go more conveniently from work, school or wherever they need to be. When you combine this with our GO affordability pilot, our youth and post-secondary student 40% discount, our elimination of double fares for riders in the 905 connecting to and from GO on their local transit, it’s clear we’re getting the job done. We’re not only delivering record transit investments, we’re delivering a better experience all the way.
Mrs. Lisa Gretzky: My question is to the Premier. Education workers—a largely women-led profession—are earning an average of $39,000 a year or less and often have to access food banks. Many need a second or third job to keep a roof over their heads.
I ask the Premier this: When will he actually put students first by investing in these low-wage education workers—the backbone of our schools—and stop undermining our public education? Rip up Bill 28.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Minister of Education.
Hon. Stephen Lecce: I wish the member opposite would bring that energy and urge CUPE to rip up their strike tomorrow that’s going to impact two million kids. Not once has the member from Windsor raised the concerns of children. I find that entirely reprehensible. Who are we here to serve if not the parents, the taxpayers and the children, the next generation of our province?
Let’s be clear: The average worker makes $27 an hour—in Toronto it’s north of $32, Mr. Speaker.
Hon. Stephen Lecce: Ten months, on average, a year—which makes a good point. In addition, they have 131 days of paid sick leave. They have a pension that is indexed to inflation. They have health benefits for their entire family. They have job security. Not many of our constituents can say they have that deal. They make more in a school than in a college, in a hospital, in manufacturing, in transportation, in any sector of the economy.. We are committed to offering a fair deal, but we’re also committed to standing up for kids and keeping them in school.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): The member for Ottawa Centre is warned.
The member for Davenport is warned.
The member for London North Centre is warned.
Mrs. Lisa Gretzky: I wish the Minister of Education would put that much energy into actually bargaining a fair collective agreement with these—
Mrs. Lisa Gretzky: Speaker, I’ve heard from hundreds of education workers, ECEs, EAs and others. They’re sharing their stories about not being able to feed their children or working multiple jobs to barely scrape by. This government is pushing them to the brink and out of their profession. Explain to me how that is supporting students.
Speaker, why is the Premier attacking workers and why is he especially focused on women-led professions, like nurses, health care workers—Bill 124 ring a bell?—and education workers?
Hon. Stephen Lecce: Mr. Speaker, in the words of a mother from Stittsville—she said, “I’m truly counting on your government to get kids back in school where they belong.” Tom from Whitby, a supply teacher, said, “I can tell you not a single parent wants a strike. You guys are doing the right thing. Please stick to your guns.”
Mr. Speaker, a message for Tom and for every parent in this province: We hear them. We will stand up for them, and we’re going to ensure these kids stay in school tomorrow.
Ms. Effie J. Triantafilopoulos: My question is for the Minister of Finance. My constituents in Oakville North–Burlington are experiencing increased cost-of-living pressures due to high inflation, which is making life more challenging and less affordable for them. Many global factors are contributing to the economic challenges that people are facing day to day.
On the news, my constituents hear about the geopolitical instability caused by Russia’s brutal war on Ukraine. They see how this impacts rising prices in our stores and the disruption it’s having on our supply chains.
Could the minister please provide this House with specifics about how our government plans to address our province’s finances during this period of global economic uncertainty?
Hon. Peter Bethlenfalvy: Thanks to the hard-working member from Oakville North–Burlington for that terrific question. Colleagues, we are in uncertain times amid global economic uncertainty. She’s absolutely correct. We know that the people of Ontario are feeling those challenges. That is why we are maintaining a flexible plan and will continue to invest in building the critical infrastructure and services that people rely on, like highways, education, public transit, schools, hospitals and long-term-care homes.
Our government will always work to support people and businesses in these uncertain times. For too long, we had a Liberal government that continued to impose new taxes upon new taxes, increasing the financial burdens on the people of Ontario. Our government’s plan will build a stronger Ontario and put more money back into people’s pockets, the hard-working people of this province.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Supplementary question.
Ms. Effie J. Triantafilopoulos: Thank you, Minister, for that important answer. It is reassuring that our government has a robust plan, one that is flexible enough to deal with the current global economic uncertainty while ensuring that we continue to invest in the vital priorities of the people of this province.
Canada’s federal Minister of Finance Chrystia Freeland recently said that there will be “difficult days ahead” for Canada’s economy. The Conference Board of Canada has also reported that Canada’s economic output will slow to a near standstill over the next three quarters.
Given the current and future concerns about economic uncertainty, what actions will our government and the Minister of Finance take to continue to keep our province on a strong economic path?
Hon. Peter Bethlenfalvy: Again to the member from Oakville North–Burlington, that’s a very important question. The road ahead will not be easy in these uncertain times. The global economy will continue to see growth slow in the near term. Governments will need to be agile, with a responsible plan to respond to all challenges while acknowledging the risks of inflation.
But I am confident in our province. I am confident in the resilience of the people of Ontario and I am confident in our plan to build Ontario, Mr. Speaker. We have a strong plan to build infrastructure, train workers, and restore our manufacturing capacity, while keeping costs down for people and businesses. We have a strong plan for Ontario, and by being flexible and demonstrating restraint, we can overcome any challenge that comes our way.
Ms. Catherine Fife: My question is for the Premier. In the last few days, I have heard from education workers who have expressed disappointment and they’ve expressed fear over the government’s attack on their rights with the introduction of Bill 28. I heard from one constituent, Angela; she’s an educational assistant. She’s 60 years old. She works three jobs and she can barely make ends meet. I want the Premier to know that parents support Angela and they also are shocked at how little money she actually makes in her job. This Premier thinks that Angela and her colleagues should lose their right to collective bargaining and continue struggling to support themselves and their families. This Premier also feels they should be content with a minimal increase that doesn’t recognize historic inequities. This Premier also gave 88% of his caucus a 13%-plus pay increase with a stipend increase.
Will the government just admit that instead of being for the people, they’re really just here for themselves?
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): The Minister of Education.
Hon. Stephen Lecce: We are for the students, which is why we brought forth a bill that ensures they’re in class on Friday. I would urge the member opposite to stand with the government in opposition to a strike that hurts every single constituent in our economy, in our society and in all of our ridings. We have an obligation to these kids. What more do they have to go through until a responsible government, according to the NDP, actually stands up for their rights to learn? We need to ensure these kids have stability, continuity. A million parents depend on us today to get the job done. And to the families who are urging the government to use every tool available to provide stability, they should be assured that we will move forward with legislation. It is our intent to provide stability for the people we represent.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Supplementary question.
Ms. Catherine Fife: It will be a cold day in hell when we vote for a piece of legislation that tramples charter rights and human rights. If this Premier continues to drive education workers away from Ontario permanently, our kids will pay the price. We are actually seeing this happen in the health care sector.
In the 2021 economic outlook and fiscal review, the Minister of Finance said, “For too long, the workers of our province have been taken for granted.... Take-home pay for many workers has not kept up with rising costs.” He said this, and continued by saying, “During the pandemic, the workers of Ontario had our back. And our government has theirs.” Well, these statements clearly need to be called into question, especially given Bill 28.
The government also—and this is worth noting—this government has the money to respect workers in the education system by paying them fairly. You have the money. So why is it that the government said all the right things to workers just ahead of the election, but post-election, they have forgotten all of their principles, all of their morals and all of your promises?
Hon. Stephen Lecce: The irony of the moral indignation of the NDP. This is a party that, in 1993’s social contract, actually legislated away 12 days of work, also known as the Rae Days. We’ll take no lessons from the NDP in any way on this issue.
Mr. Speaker, that’s your record. The member seems to find it comical—not parents who are scrambling to find child care today. You have a choice: Vote for this bill, stand with families and ensure kids are in the classroom tomorrow.
Ms. Mitzie Hunter: My question is to the Premier. This government has shown contempt for the Charter of Rights and Canada’s Constitution, the highest law in this land. This government has shown contempt with legislation that is really bullying—this bill is a bully bill—for the front-line education workers and the students that they support. This government has shown contempt for all of our government workers with Bill 124.
The Premier and his minister have single-handedly created chaos in our education system and confusion for parents in our communities. Their heavy-handed approach is forcing an agreement upon 55,000 CUPE workers, 70% of whom are women. They are the lowest-paid workers in our education system, and this is just the beginning of negotiations.
Speaker, can this Premier tell this House what he has next for the other education workers? ETFO, OSSTF, all of the other education workers: What do you have in your back pocket for them?
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Minister of Education.
Hon. Stephen Lecce: Our commitment is to keep kids in the classroom, although I am reminded by a statement from 2018 from the Liberal Party, who said, “The NDP will let strikes carry on indefinitely because they’ll never be able to use back-to-work laws. What does this mean for York University students?”
Could the Liberal Party of 2018 please stand up? Because we’re using back-to-work legislation to ensure kids are in school, to provide stability for the children we all represent. We have an obligation to kids, and I’m going to move forward with legislation—
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Stop the clock.
Mr. John Fraser: Let’s all cheer for using a hammer for the most vulnerable people in our education system.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): The member for Ottawa South will come to order.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): The President of the Treasury Board will come to order.
Start the clock. The supplementary question.
Ms. Mitzie Hunter: Speaker, the Premier and this minister are too weak to face education workers. Instead, they are relying on using the “notwithstanding” clause against the fundamental rights of all Canadians to negotiate, instead of negotiating with education workers who are waiting right now at the table for this government to show up. Why are they not doing their work? Instead, they are diminishing the collective rights of all Canadians. This is shameful. Do your work. Settle the agreements.
As the former education minister, I settled nine agreements with all of our education tables, with zero disruption. It is possible. Why can’t you do your work, instead of introducing pre-emptive legislation? These workers are at the table right now. Where are you? Why are you not there? Why are you not giving them a fair offer? Why are you not proposing a fair deal—
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): The member will take her seat. The government side will come to order.
The Minister of Education can reply.
Hon. Stephen Lecce: Mr. Speaker, it’s not just CUPE that wants to close schools; the former of Minister of Education closed 600 in the province at one time. It’s unacceptable.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Stop the clock.
Restart the clock.
Hon. Stephen Lecce: We are investing more in public education than at any point in the history of Ontario—
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Stop the clock.
The member for Scarborough–Guildwood will come to order. The President of Treasury Board will come to order. The Minister of Infrastructure will come to order.
Start the clock. Minister of Education, please reply.
Hon. Stephen Lecce: We insist kids are in the classroom, and I am urging the members of the Liberal Party, who themselves have used back-to-work legislation in this House, to stand with the government and work together to provide stability for our kids—
Mr. John Fraser: This is where you wanted to end up.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): The member for Ottawa South will come to order.
Hon. Stephen Lecce: Families in Scarborough, in Ottawa, in Toronto and every region deserve to be in school. It is the most vulnerable kids among us who pay the price. I’m urging the members: Vote for this bill. Let’s get kids back to class.
Mr. John Fraser: You’re using the hammer, Minister.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): The member for Ottawa South is warned.
Indigenous economic development
Mr. Ross Romano: My question is for the Minister of Tourism, Culture and Sport. Recently in my community and surrounding area of Sault Ste. Marie, also known as Baawaating, several events were held to commemorate the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. The weekend for truth and reconciliation in Baawaating was a two-day showcase of Indigenous arts, culture and heritage that were held in partnership between Indigenous Tourism Ontario and the Shingwauk Kinoomaage Gamig, which is an Indigenous institute in my riding.
This event’s overall success and benefits cannot be understated in recognizing truth and healing in creating a path forward. One of these events showcased a special drone show that was used to illustrate a creation story about truth and reconciliation that was told by a local elder and former Ojibway teacher of mine, Barbara Nolan, which she narrated in both Nishnaabemwin and English.
Based on the success of the first-time event in my riding, can we count on our government to continue to provide these significant investments for Indigenous events throughout Ontario?
Hon. Neil Lumsden: The member for Sault Ste. Marie raises a great point. I’d like to thank him, and I’m happy to hear that the $185,000 provided to Indigenous Tourism Ontario through our Reconnect Ontario program achieved the intended result. This Weekend for Truth and Reconciliation in Sault Ste. Marie was one of the several Indigenous festivals and events we are supporting. This year, more than half a million dollars has been provided for events across Ontario.
I agree with the CFO of Indigenous Tourism Ontario, who recently said, “Indigenous tourism is no longer an emerging market. It’s one of the sectors consumers are demanding when they travel in and to Ontario.” That’s why we’ve invested $1.65 million since 2018 to Indigenous Tourism Ontario to create and encourage visits for operators and jobs and business communities. We will not stop working towards our goals and working with them.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Supplementary question.
Mr. Ross Romano: Thank you to the minister. Indigenous communities significantly contribute to Ontario’s cultural tourism and economic landscape.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Order.
Mr. Ross Romano: Seeing the success of the Weekend for Truth and Reconciliation in my riding of Sault Ste. Marie, it is evident that there’s a demand and an appreciation for Indigenous cultural tourism.
Some of the things you could have enjoyed over the weekend were shopping in an Indigenous vendor marketplace. You could have had some Indigenous food. You could have learned about Indigenous tourism experiences in Ontario and enjoyed some local Indigenous music. Since 2018, our government’s focus on supporting Indigenous tourism has contributed to Indigenous cultural expression and preservation.
To the minister: Can you please detail what further investment our government is making towards creating jobs for Indigenous people and expanding tourism offerings across the great province of Ontario?
Hon. Neil Lumsden: Thank you again for the question. Just last week, I was in Huntsville, where Destination Ontario signed an agreement with Indigenous Tourism Ontario at the Ontario Tourism Summit to work together in promoting Indigenous tourism across our province. This partnership is an important milestone in supporting the growth of a sector that has contributed over $600 million of direct GDP and more than 10,000 full-year jobs to the economy in 2019.
Just a few weeks before, I toured Manitoulin Island to announce $300,000 to Indigenous Tourism Ontario through the Pan-Regional Fund to support unique and authentic experiences in our province. “ITO is extremely thankful for the fantastic contributions provided by the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport,” ITO’s CEO and president said during the announcement. “We couldn’t continue our work to improve the socio-economic conditions of Indigenous people through tourism without support like this.”
We will continue, as I said earlier, to show our support and act behind it.
Mr. Chris Glover: To the Premier: I’ve heard from an education assistant who is homeless. She’s sleeping in her car and in homeless shelters. Education workers have experienced a 10% inflationary cut to their wages over the past decade, and your plan is to impose an additional 5% inflationary cut this year. Their pay is now so low that many cannot afford food, shelter or shelter for themselves or their children. Will your government ensure that our education workers are not forced to live on the streets or to access food banks?
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Minister of Education.
Hon. Stephen Lecce: Mr. Speaker, this government insists that kids are in the classroom. We believe it is so important that these kids are able to catch up. We’ve announced Ontario’s Plan to Catch Up, which includes the largest tutoring program, 7,000 more staff since we came to office, 1,800 more under our program.
For that individual worker, who we thank for her work in our schools, she should know that her pay will go up each and every year in the contract, 10% over four years. She should know that her benefits will be maintained for her and her family, that her pension will continue to be indexed to inflation, unlike the majority of workers in this nation, Speaker. And I can confirm that she will continue to have job security, which many people through the pandemic did not have.
We are committed to the workers of this province, but we also believe we have to stand up for our kids. I wish the NDP would do the same.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Supplementary.
Mr. Chris Glover: The custodians at the Ontario French school board make $18 an hour. I’m hearing from parents and students who want our education workers to make a living wage. Parents and students marched with our education workers on Tuesday at Queen’s Park to demand that the government return to the negotiating table, and they will be marching with us on Friday to demand that this government give these workers a living wage.
Parents and students are angry that you are stripping Ontarians of their charter rights. They are demanding that you get back to the negotiating table so that there’s no disruption to our education system and that our workers, the people who serve our children every day, are making enough money to pay for the basics. Will you do that?
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): I’ll remind the members to make their comments through the Chair, not directly across the floor of the House.
The Minister of Education.
Hon. Stephen Lecce: Speaker, we will ensure kids are in the classroom. That is the obligation we made to the people of Ontario.
I want to read a message from Ian, from my colleague the member for Burlington. Ian said: “I just want to thank you for your government introducing Bill 28. The kids have had enough disruption in their education over the past three years, and I’m very happy to see the Ford government standing up to the CUPE. Please continue to advocate for the kids of Ontario.”
Mr. Speaker, these are the voices we are hearing from parents, those that are desperate to see their kids get back on track, desperate to see them have the social and emotional interaction, the learning, the mental health benefits that come with our schools. And so, Speaker, we’re moving forward with the bill.
Regrettably, as it is, we’re in this place in the first place because we presented CUPE with a path to a voluntary settlement. They refused. They insisted on the strike. Therefore, the government will bring forth and move forward this legislation that provides stability for the people of this province.
Community safety / Sécurité communautaire
Mr. Deepak Anand: My question is for the Solicitor General. My constituents are concerned about the reports of increasing crime in the region of Peel and across this province. Peel is a great place to live, with vibrant communities, friendly neighbourhoods and positive economic growth and development. Peel is a place for hard-working people. However, my constituents in the riding of Mississauga–Malton have seen an increase in violence and crime in their neighbourhood.
Our government has a strong record of supporting the police and cracking down on crime, but clearly more needs to be done, especially in light of the recent events. Speaker, my question to the Solicitor General: Please explain how our government and local police services are tackling crime in communities like Mississauga–Malton.
Hon. Michael S. Kerzner: I’d like to thank the member from Mississauga–Malton for his question.
Monsieur le Président, tous ont le droit de se sentir en sécurité chez eux dans leur collectivité.
I have a personal connection to what’s happening in Peel because I’ve been there and I’ve seen for myself. I’ve been to division 11, which responded to Constable Andrew Hong’s tragedy call. I’ve been to the 911 call centre and met with the operators there. I want to recognize the leadership of Peel.
We know that our brave men and women that serve in services across Ontario, but particularly in Peel, have made a massive sacrifice to serve. We thank them. We will always have their backs. They can depend on our Premier and our government, today and every day; aujourd’hui et tous les jours.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Supplementary?
Mr. Deepak Anand: I want to say thank you to the Solicitor General for your response. He’s someone who believes in service over self. As previously stated, our government supports police across the province and we thank them for their service in our communities every day.
Mr. Speaker, it is reported that Peel police conducted an extensive investigation into a Canada-US smuggling ring that resulted in the seizure of a large quantity of illegal drugs. The dedicated officers of Peel Regional Police, some of whom are here as well, are deserving of our thanks and gratitude for ongoing support in our region, especially for their recent successful operation.
To the minister: We’ll appreciate it if you can provide details on the excellent work done by Peel police services in securing the largest drug bust in their history.
Hon. Michael S. Kerzner: I want to thank my friend from Mississauga–Malton. Peel Regional Police Specialized Enforcement Bureau, through funding provided by the Ontario government, were involved in an 11-month investigation involving an international drug trafficking enterprise. And through this project, Peel Regional Police seized more than $25-million worth of narcotics from a criminal group that used commercial trucks to smuggle drugs across the border. I’d like to give credit to the deputy chief and detective sergeant who are with us today. It is great to hear how joint operations can be so effective to keep everyone safe.
Monsieur le Président, je suis fier de soutenir nos policiers et tous ceux qui assurent la sécurité de l’Ontario tous les jours.
Mrs. Jennifer (Jennie) Stevens: My question is to the Premier. I want to bring up the story of an education assistant in Niagara: Michelle Branch. Michelle knew she was never going to be rich doing what she does. She said as a university- and college-educated single mother, she thought she could do this work and provide more for her family—help pay for her mortgage, insurance, groceries and all the things her daughter needs. This is a female-dominated workplace, and once again, like the nurses and the health care workers before this, this government is continuing to keep women down.
Will the Premier answer why this government is refusing to bargain in good faith with education workers—passionate education workers—that are struggling to make ends meet?
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Minister of Education.
Hon. Stephen Lecce: We are committed to getting and keeping kids in class. Mr. Speaker, to the rhetoric from the members opposite, we never left the bargaining table. We’ve been before the union for the past several days. The only thing that hasn’t changed: the intransigence of the union for not withdrawing the strike on Friday.
Not one time, for the record state, has a Liberal or New Democrat asked the union to withdraw the strike on two million kids. Am I the only one, are we the only ones who are somewhat concerned with the impact on kids? I guess we are. I find that quite troubling, that only Progressive Conservatives are standing up to ensure kids are in school.
I’m urging the members opposite to put the interests of children first. Vote for this bill. Let’s make sure kids are in school, Speaker.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): The supplementary question.
Mrs. Jennifer (Jennie) Stevens: The interests of my grandson are in front of my mind and within this side of the House, for clean, safe schools—not ordering back.
I have been sent pay stub after pay stub after pay stub from education workers this week. The vast majority of them are making barely over a minimum wage. I hear about veteran education workers of 30 years having to watch their colleagues finish their work at school and then go to McDonald’s for a night shift.
Melanie O’Neil is an EA and a parent and knows the value of and need for staff—qualified, professional, skilled and experienced staff—who feel valued and motivated to do their jobs and who will stay long-term.
Premier, given the fact that you are willing to table this massive bill to trample the rights of education workers, were you ever really bargaining in good faith for parents and the staff that make our schools work and keep our children safe and our classrooms clean?
Hon. Stephen Lecce: It was our government that got nine voluntary agreements with every single education union just three years ago.
What I will note is a quote from Larry from London, a retired educator, a vice-principal, who said, “The students have already lost so much over the past two and a half years—lost education, effects on their mental health. Send a message to the unions that kids belong in school.”
We firmly agree with this former educator, who himself has seen the adverse impacts of disruption. In response to the union’s decision to proceed with the strike, the government brought forth legislation to avert the strike and to keep kids in school, where we believe they belong.
Sexual violence and harassment
Mr. Rob Flack: The prevalence of gender-based and sexual violence on university and college campuses is disturbing and upsetting. I know we can all agree: Students attending colleges and universities across this province should not be victims of sexual violence and harassment. The overall safety of students should be the top priority of our educational institutions and our government. We must ensure students attending college or university in London or anywhere across this province feel safe and supported.
Can the Minister of Colleges and Universities share with the House how our government’s proposed legislation, Bill 26, will strengthen protection for students from gender-based and sexual violence, and how this legislation will improve campus safety?
Hon. Jill Dunlop: Thank you to the member for such an important question. Our government has a zero-tolerance policy for any form of sexual violence or harassment. As a mother of three post-secondary-aged daughters, I know first-hand the feeling as a parent of wanting your kids to enjoy everything the post-secondary education journey has to offer, while still worrying about their safety and their well-being.
One of the first actions I took as Minister of Colleges and Universities was to participate in sector-wide consultations to determine how, as a sector, we could better address instances of sexual violence on campus. What we heard across the board is that we need to find ways to not only empower survivors but also deal with the issues surrounding the prevalence of power dynamics and secrecy in many instances of sexual violence.
If passed, Bill 26 will tackle just that. It will prevent any instances of sexual violence committed by a faculty or staff member from going unreported and prevent those who commit acts of sexual violence from moving from one institution to the next under the protection of non-disclosure agreements. I look forward—
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Thank you. Supplementary question.
Mr. Rob Flack: The minister just explained how Bill 26 would provide measures for post-secondary institutions to address faculty and staff sexual abuse toward students. The provisions in Bill 26 are necessary steps and will have a meaningful impact on ensuring that cases of sexual violence do not go unreported.
While we know that there are faculty and staff who do incredible work at our local colleges and universities, it is clear that Bill 26 is intended to strengthen measures to protect our students. Speaker, can the minister tell the House how this bill will help protect students in cases of faculty and staff sexual misconduct?
Hon. Jill Dunlop: The member raises an incredibly important point. Ontario colleges and universities have incredible faculty and staff who not only helped to carry our sector through the pandemic but, day in and day out, are finding ways to make our sector even better. As minister, I’ve had the opportunity to meet with countless faculty and staff at institutions across the province. I am so grateful for the work that they do.
In speaking with many of those faculty and staff members, the changes we are proposing in Bill 26 are long overdue and desperately needed in the sector. Specifically, these changes would give institutions stronger tools to address instances of faculty or staff sexual misconduct against students, prevent the use of non-disclosure agreements and further require institutions to have sexual misconduct policies in place.
Our government will always do what is necessary to keep the people of Ontario safe. As minister and mother, I encourage members of our faculty and staff across the post-secondary sector to stand with me and our government to make sure that students are safe on campuses.
Mr. Sol Mamakwa: Remarks in Oji-Cree. Good morning. My question is to the Premier. Next week is Treaties Recognition Week in Ontario. Treaty rights are rights set out in the treaty agreement. These treaty rights are recognized and affirmed by section 35 of the Constitution Act. They define the specific rights, benefits and obligations of the signatories.
In my riding I see boil-water advisories. In my riding I see young people, 11 years old, dying by suicide. What work is Ontario doing to uphold their treaty obligations?
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Minister of Indigenous Affairs.
Hon. Greg Rickford: I want to thank the honourable member for his question. It is an important point. There are more than 40 treaties of adhesion that cover the province of Ontario, in the past and present day. We have a responsibility to make sure that the people of Ontario, through Treaties Recognition Week, have an opportunity to access information that will help better inform them of the lands they’re living on.
For our purposes, the government takes this responsibility very seriously, and, over the course of next week, as my learned colleague has said just moments ago, there are events across the province that will bring and draw attention to this. In the meantime, we will remain focused as a government on ensuring that these treaties are honoured, respected and carried out as they should be.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): The supplementary?
Mr. Sol Mamakwa: This government thinks nothing of trampling on the rights of all people. I think a lot about the progress Ontario is making towards honouring treaty rights, and when I see it use the “notwithstanding” clause, when I see the substandard housing, when I see the boil-water advisories I mentioned before, when I see the lack of education, the lack of schools and resources in our nations, that says a lot to me.
One way Ontario can honour its treaty obligations is by dropping its appeal of the Robison-Huron annuities ruling. Will Ontario drop the annuity appeal?
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Members will please take their seats. The Minister of Indigenous Affairs.
Hon. Greg Rickford: I won’t speak directly to the matter because it is before the courts, but I can say that there have been fruitful conversations with respect to just about every treaty in this province when it comes to disputed land claims and flooding claims. Since 2018, under the leadership of our Premier, he has made a clear commitment to ensure that these claims that cover treaties are settled. In the context of reconciliation, this is giving communities and community members an opportunity to move on, to actually experience the kind of prosperity that many Ontarians have taken for granted.
For far too long, Indigenous communities have been held back by this, so honouring the treaties and moving beyond those treaties to ensure that communities are involved in things like forest management plans, the incredible opportunities in the Ring of Fire, and the opportunity for a young Indigenous person to have a clear path to a job for a better set of economic circumstances for them, their families and their communities, are a top priority.
National Disability Employment Awareness Month
Mr. Dave Smith: My question is for the Minister for Seniors and Accessibility.
Last month in my riding of Peterborough–Kawartha, our government participated in the Light It Up! event to help raise awareness for National Disability Employment Awareness Month by lighting up the ServiceOntario building in blue and purple.
This annual event comes at a time when many employers across Ontario and across all of Canada are in fierce competition to secure the best talent. With so many job vacancies throughout the province, employers benefit greatly from a diverse workforce.
Could the minister please explain to the House why raising awareness in support of National Disability Employment Awareness Month is crucial and what actions our government will take towards making Ontario open and inclusive for everyone?
Hon. Raymond Sung Joon Cho: Thank you to the hard-working member from Peterborough–Kawartha for asking such an important question. Our government is committed to removing barriers to employment for people with disabilities and connecting job-seekers and employers.
Mr. Speaker, October was National Disability Employment Awareness Month, also known as NDEAM. People with disabilities represent a large talent pool of skilled workers, and they are ready to make a difference in Ontario’s workplaces.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): The supplementary question?
Mr. Dave Smith: A commitment to accessibility awareness doesn’t just stop with recognizing the importance of National Disability Employment Awareness Month.
People in my riding want good-paying jobs regardless of their backgrounds, and when employers focus on an individual’s strength first, they can find great employees.
Speaker, could the minister please tell the House what our government is doing to support employment opportunities for people with disabilities in my riding of Peterborough–Kawartha and across Ontario, and how is our government making investments that will help create inclusive opportunities for all Ontarians?
Hon. Raymond Sung Joon Cho: Thank you for another good question.
Our government is dedicated to helping create a society that is more inclusive for everyone, especially people with disabilities and older Ontarians, like me.
The Minister of Labour, Immigration, Training and Skills Development has invested an additional $90 million into the Skills Development Fund. This fund supports projects that prepare jobseekers for meaningful careers.
We will continue to engage with employers and partners to promote the benefits of hiring people with disabilities, to improve the culture of employment in Ontario.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): That concludes our question period for this morning.
Notice of dissatisfaction
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Pursuant to standing order 36(a), the member for Scarborough–Guildwood has given notice of her dissatisfaction with the answer to her question given by the Minister of Education concerning Bill 28 and the use of the “notwithstanding” clause. This matter will be debated Tuesday, November 15, following private members’ public business.
Renfrew county reception
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): The member for Renfrew–Nipissing–Pembroke has a point of order.
Mr. John Yakabuski: I just want to remind folks that the county is calling—Renfrew county in 228 and 230. Don’t forget to stop by, say hello and find out what Renfrew county has to offer. They’re here to see you; they’re looking forward to it. Thank you.
Correction of record
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): The member for Sudbury has point of order.
MPP Jamie West: I rise on a point of order to correct my record. This morning during my question, I said that Bill 27 invokes the “notwithstanding” clause to violate sections of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Human Rights Code. It is Bill 28, Speaker. I apologize for the error.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): The member for Peterborough–Kawartha has a point of order.
Mr. Dave Smith: I’d just like to introduce Lorenzo Whetung. He was not here earlier on today; he was delayed by the fog. He’s here today. He’s the son of Murray Whetung, who I am introducing the bill on later this afternoon.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): I’m going to ask our legislative pages to assemble.
It’s my honour to now say a word of thanks to our legislative pages. Our pages are smart, trustworthy and hard-working. They are indispensable to the effective functioning of this chamber. They cheerfully and efficiently deliver our notes, run our errands, transport important documents throughout the precinct and make sure that our water glasses are always full. We are indeed fortunate to have them here. Our pages depart having made many new friends, with a greater understanding of parliamentary democracy and memories that will last a lifetime.
Each of you will go home now and carry on and continue your studies, and will no doubt contribute to your community in important ways. You will serve your province, your country and your communities. We expect great things from all of you. Maybe some day, some of you will take your seats in this House as members or serve as staff.
We wish you well.
Please join me in thanking this group of legislative pages.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): We now have a deferred vote on government notice of motion number 7, relating to allocation of time on Bill 28.
Call in the members. This is a five-minute bell.
The division bells rang from 1215 to 1220.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Mr. Parsa has moved government notice of motion number 7 relating to allocation of time on Bill 28, An Act to resolve labour disputes involving school board employees represented by the Canadian Union of Public Employees.
All those in favour of the motion will please rise one at a time and be recognized by the Clerk.
- Anand, Deepak
- Babikian, Aris
- Bailey, Robert
- Barnes, Patrice
- Bethlenfalvy, Peter
- Bouma, Will
- Byers, Rick
- Calandra, Paul
- Cho, Raymond Sung Joon
- Cho, Stan
- Clark, Steve
- Coe, Lorne
- Crawford, Stephen
- Cuzzetto, Rudy
- Dixon, Jess
- Dowie, Andrew
- Downey, Doug
- Dunlop, Jill
- Fedeli, Victor
- Flack, Rob
- Ford, Doug
- Ford, Michael D.
- Fullerton, Merrilee
- Gallagher Murphy, Dawn
- Ghamari, Goldie
- Gill, Parm
- Grewal, Hardeep Singh
- Hardeman, Ernie
- Hogarth, Christine
- Holland, Kevin
- Jones, Sylvia
- Jones, Trevor
- Jordan, John
- Kanapathi, Logan
- Ke, Vincent
- Kerzner, Michael S.
- Khanjin, Andrea
- Kusendova-Bashta, Natalia
- Leardi, Anthony
- Lecce, Stephen
- Lumsden, Neil
- MacLeod, Lisa
- Martin, Robin
- McCarthy, Todd J.
- McGregor, Graham
- McNaughton, Monte
- Mulroney, Caroline
- Oosterhoff, Sam
- Pang, Billy
- Parsa, Michael
- Piccini, David
- Pierre, Natalie
- Pirie, George
- Quinn, Nolan
- Rae, Matthew
- Rasheed, Kaleed
- Rickford, Greg
- Riddell, Brian
- Romano, Ross
- Sabawy, Sheref
- Sandhu, Amarjot
- Sarkaria, Prabmeet Singh
- Saunderson, Brian
- Scott, Laurie
- Skelly, Donna
- Smith, Dave
- Smith, David
- Smith, Graydon
- Smith, Laura
- Surma, Kinga
- Tangri, Nina
- Thanigasalam, Vijay
- Thompson, Lisa M.
- Tibollo, Michael A.
- Triantafilopoulos, Effie J.
- Wai, Daisy
- Williams, Charmaine A.
- Yakabuski, John
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): All those opposed to the motion will please rise one at a time and be recognized by the Clerk.
- Andrew, Jill
- Armstrong, Teresa J.
- Begum, Doly
- Bell, Jessica
- Bowman, Stephanie
- Burch, Jeff
- Collard, Lucille
- Fife, Catherine
- Fraser, John
- French, Jennifer K.
- Gates, Wayne
- Gélinas, France
- Glover, Chris
- Gretzky, Lisa
- Harden, Joel
- Hsu, Ted
- Hunter, Mitzie
- Karpoche, Bhutila
- Kernaghan, Terence
- Mamakwa, Sol
- Mantha, Michael
- McMahon, Mary-Margaret
- Pasma, Chandra
- Sattler, Peggy
- Schreiner, Mike
- Shamji, Adil
- Stevens, Jennifer (Jennie)
- Stiles, Marit
- Tabuns, Peter
- Vanthof, John
- Vaugeois, Lise
- West, Jamie
- Wong-Tam, Kristyn
The Clerk of the Assembly (Mr. Todd Decker): The ayes are 78; the nays are 33.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): I declare the motion carried.
Motion agreed to.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): This House stands in recess until 1 p.m.
The House recessed from 1224 to 1300.
Afternoon meeting reported in volume B.