LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY OF ONTARIO
ASSEMBLÉE LÉGISLATIVE DE L’ONTARIO
Tuesday 22 November 2022 Mardi 22 novembre 2022
Fairness for Road Users Act (Contraventions Causing Death or Serious Bodily Harm), 2022 / Loi de 2022 sur l’équité envers les usagers de la route (contraventions ayant causé un décès ou des blessures corporelles graves)
Report continued from volume A.
Better Municipal Governance Act, 2022 / Loi de 2022 visant à améliorer la gouvernance municipale
Continuation of debate on the motion for second reading of the following bill:
Bill 39, An Act to amend the City of Toronto Act, 2006 and the Municipal Act, 2001 and to enact the Duffins Rouge Agricultural Preserve Repeal Act, 2022 / Projet de loi 39, Loi visant à modifier la Loi de 2006 sur la cité de Toronto et la Loi de 2001 sur les municipalités et à édicter la Loi de 2022 abrogeant la Loi sur la Réserve agricole de Duffins-Rouge.
The Acting Speaker (Mme Lucille Collard): All right. We will proceed with further debate.
Mrs. Jennifer (Jennie) Stevens: I rise to speak to the second reading of a Better Municipal Governance Act, 2022. As a former long-time city councillor in St. Catharines, I look forward to providing comments on Bill 39. This debate will provide an opportunity to put myself into the shoes of newly elected local governments across the province, which I will admit will have their challenges now. This is because, in my experience, no Ontario government has interfered so blatantly in local governance during my 17 years of experience with St. Catharines city council. In fact, I cannot recall hearing of this degree of overreach, at least not since a previous PC government, under Premier Mike Harris, imposed amalgamations on cities all across Ontario.
Speaker, I worry that if any individual, any resident of Ontario is watching this debate right now, they might be confused—a little lost in the chaos. They might assume we were talking about any number of recent legislations in the last six months that impacted municipalities in Ontario. And yet, I am starting to believe this chaos and confusion is by design. My Niagara colleague, the MPP from Niagara Centre, said it well last week, that “it is starkly clear right now that this government is governing by chaos, making massive changes and hoping the people of the province will be too tired or too busy to notice.”
Speaker, he is right, if that is in fact the political goal of these early term moves by the government. So are they? Let me be honest: I govern myself off the principle of making sure I put the first things first, and it is my belief that the government should operate with that same principle. It is why I find it frustrating, and even morally questionable, that we are sitting here debating another municipal government change while I see that our own St. Catharines hospitals, and all hospitals across Ontario, are plagued with surgical delays. Parents are left wondering, if they go to the emergency department, how long will they have to wait? Will their child be sent to another hospital? And if they need an ICU bed, will it be available? In Ontario, we should be putting first things first.
My daughter has a young family. In fact, several of my staff members now have young children. I see their worry; I see their fear. I used to work at a health care facility myself, and many of my friends still work in health care. I see their exhaustion, I see their burnout and I see their anxiety. Speaker, we are in a health care crisis and right now we are debating municipal governance instead of fixing health care in Ontario.
The recent fall economic statement included no new money for nurses. It included no new money for health care. Instead, the priority of this government is to jam through more changes to municipal governance. I am deeply worried. This might be cynical, but anything we do that does not meaningfully invest in health care feels like we are not putting first things first in Ontario.
Back to the contents of this bill: When Bill 39 was announced, it coincided with the news that regional chairs will be appointed. This was a shock to the residents of Niagara. Regardless of who takes up that position, it is a clear and evident example of the Premier expanding minority rule in municipalities. These are types of actions that result in politics being viewed with cynicism. I might be an idealist, but it doesn’t have to be this way. After people put their vote and faith in a system to operate as they understood it at the time, only to see it change right after they cast their ballot, it flies in the face of democracy and voter empowerment.
Ontario has just had an historically low turnout at the municipal polls. Just over 36% of all Ontario residents cast a ballot. Instead of empowering voters and empowering their newly elected councillors, the response from this government is to go through with a plan to disempower them. Now some mayors in this province do not need consensus of a majority; they just need a fraction of support to pass items at council. This is not even about fairness. This is about right and wrong.
Bill 39 is another result of the Premier’s overreaching into municipalities, moving around municipalities without any consultation. The bill before us repeals the Duffins Rouge Agricultural Preserve Act. Under the DRAP Act, it changes lands that can only be used for farming, which greatly reduces their value. These changes dovetail into what is already before a committee in Bill 23 that makes drastic changes to the regulatory responsibility of the province’s conservation authorities and will be precedent-setting.
Niagara is upset. During those hearings, Chandra Sharma, the chief administrative officer of the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority, delivered concerns over all this legislation being proposed for housing reform. She is worried that the changes we are seeing right now will have an extensive impact on provincially extensive wetlands.
Last week, Liz Benneian, founder of Biodiversity and Climate Action Niagara, organized a protest outside of government offices because Niagara is upset—and so they should be. These reactions are tied into changes to DRAPA and the broken promises of this government about not paving over the green lands.
Speaker, I need to talk about Niagara’s serious concerns about the impact that this bill will have on the environment. In Niagara, we had a story-worthy situation about five years ago when some Conservatives, who took over our Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority, thought that they could build on top of wetlands and just create a wetland somewhere else. They called it “biodiversity offsetting.”
This reminds me an awful lot of that, where this government thinks that they can swallow up prime farmland and green space, and then just recreate it somewhere else or protect another area that is already under protection. Simply, Niagara knows not to trust Conservatives with anything—not even the environment.
In Niagara, we remember. In Niagara, we know the cost of losing natural cover and wetlands. It just means, years and years down the line, problems arise because we built on top of wetlands—and there will be problems. You will say that this is a lesson for the future, but in Niagara we have learned that lesson before, and we should heed those lessons. The Premier needs to back down on his flip-flop on the greenbelt and take from the lessons learned in my community.
Speaker, I want to bring us back to the predecessor of Bill 39 that expands the strong-mayor powers. This government introduced it just a few months ago. It would allow strong mayors to propose and pass bylaws with the support of only one third of council. I have heard from voter after voter and councillor after councillor that they are frustrated and unhappy that there is a chance that important motions and decisions could hit the floor of city hall and be passed with only 30% support. That demonstrably reduces the impact of their role as elected officials, and, even more catastrophically, that impacts the voters who put their trust in them by casting ballots. Bullying cannot trump consensus. This is not politics or community building. It is simply Doug Ford’s style of bullying, exported to the cities of Ontario.
The fall economic statement indicated that over four years the government housing bills have not even built enough houses. This government has been one of deregulation, especially when it comes to the environment and farmland. The result is the government saying one thing about 1.5 million homes that will be built; however, it has significantly reduced its projections for housing starts through 2023-25. Simply and clearly, this is not enough.
The Acting Speaker (Mme Lucille Collard): We’ll move to questions and answers.
Mr. Vincent Ke: Thank you to the member for St. Catharines for the presentation. Speaker, since our government introduced the More Homes, More Choice Act in 2019, housing starts are at an all-time high across Ontario. Last year, Ontario had over 100,000 housing starts, the highest ever since 1987, and more than 13,000 rental starts, the highest ever in 30 years.
But we know we need to be building more homes, because Ontario’s population is set to grow by another two million in the next 10 years. Speaker, my question to the member is, why does the opposition not agree that we need to accelerate the construction of all kinds of homes for all kinds of Ontarians? And why does the opposition not want the mayors—
The Acting Speaker (Mme Lucille Collard): Thank you for the question. The member for St. Catharines to respond.
Mrs. Jennifer (Jennie) Stevens: This government doesn’t seem to understand that we’re in an affordable housing crisis. The argument from the government is that they must spend this time opening up municipal governance because it will clear the way to build more homes, including some assumptions that houses that will be built will be affordable.
However, already in St. Catharines, I’m worried about the chaos that the government brings forward to cities. I’m going to let you know, we had an example of affordable housing at 320 Geneva Street in St. Catharines, and it was cancelled. It was cancelled. It was affordable housing that was going to be built, that was redeveloped surplus city land, into a blended affordable social housing market, and it was cancelled, as I said. It was cancelled likely due to the financing issues, which, by the way, are the core problem of building houses right now, and the government’s legislation does not address this. Bill 39 does not address it, and it doesn’t address labour, still a persistent problem across Ontario.
The Acting Speaker (Mme Lucille Collard): Next question.
Mr. Chris Glover: Thank you to the member from St. Catharines for your comments today. It’s always a pleasure to listen to you.
The government had a housing task force just over a year ago. I’ve looked at that housing task force report, and it said specifically that there’s enough available land for building housing. You don’t need to pave over the wetlands. You don’t need to pave over the greenbelt.
I have scoured that document, and I cannot find any-where in there where the recommendation was to override democratic governance at the municipal level. Did you see that in there? Do you think it’s necessary to override democratic governance in order to build housing?
Mrs. Jennifer (Jennie) Stevens: Thank you to my colleague for that question. No, I didn’t see, but what I can say is that when I was on council and it was at the municipal level, we never looked at the greenbelt to treat it like Swiss cheese and chop it up and build on it and wetlands.
What we did was we looked for incentives from the province to be able to build on brownfields. St. Catharines is actually known for—they were awarded at the Brownie event because they did the most affordable housing and the most roads on brownfields. I’m not sure if this government is even looking at giving developers incentives to build affordable housing on brownfields. That would be another option, instead of going across and tearing up the greenbelt and wetlands and looking for a future problem. Maybe they should invest in incentives for developers so that we can get affordable housing on brownfields—
The Acting Speaker (Mme Lucille Collard): Thank you for the answer.
Ms. Donna Skelly: I’m hearing from the NDP all afternoon and for the last couple of days that we’ve been debating this bill that they’re angry with our proposed legislation, which will expedite the housing building process. I bought a home in Hamilton many years ago for $100,000 and that same home sold for over $1 million—tenfold. My salary hasn’t increased tenfold. That means young people cannot buy homes in communities, such as Hamilton, because they are simply out of reach.
All of the changes that we’re bringing forward are to build homes faster, so that people can afford more homes and faster, so that young people can realize the dream of home ownership. Your arguments today have not ever addressed how you would keep the price of a house for a young family—how it would be affordable. Why are you so opposed to putting measures in place to expedite a process and build more homes young people can afford? It doesn’t make sense.
Mrs. Jennifer (Jennie) Stevens: Thank you for the question from the member opposite. Building homes faster doesn’t mean that you have to build on the greenbelt. You’re from Niagara. You know how precious the greenbelt is. You know what could happen if you build on wetlands. We have future problems of flooding with our climate change now.
Conservative and Liberal governments have been making it harder and harder to afford a good home for decades, and we need legislation that creates more supply-side support for housing, not legislation like this Bill 39 that just makes it harder for the municipalities in the sector.
The Acting Speaker (Mme Lucille Collard): Next question?
MPP Jill Andrew: The Conservative government’s bill proposes to build 1.5 million homes, and what we are seeing in St. Paul’s is that we have a majority of renters. So I’m wondering if the member from St. Catharines can speak to how this government’s Bill 39 is supporting renters, considering the government has slashed rent control; considering the government has no respect for ending exclusionary zoning; considering the government doesn’t even understand what vacancy control is and, therefore, doesn’t have it; considering that this government has created no legislation to support people who are experiencing demovictions—I can go on and on. Is Bill 39 a bill that’s going to allow Ontarians who are not making $130,000 a year to be able to actually afford to even rent a home, let alone buy one?
Mrs. Jennifer (Jennie) Stevens: Thank you to my colleague. Let’s be quite honest here. This bill doesn’t even speak really about housing; it speaks more about stripping the democratic rights of the people of Ontario. When you take a municipal council and you give the majority of the vote to one third to make decisions, the people who voted those municipal councillors in have the right to be able to hear from those councillors.
Let’s be clear: In Niagara, we have a regional chair. This government, in 2018, stripped the democratic right of the people within Niagara to vote for their regional chair at large. Now they’re taking it away and putting a facilitator in to be able to dictate to us.
The Acting Speaker (Mme Lucille Collard): Next question?
Mr. Billy Pang: Thank you for the presentation of the member. As I mentioned earlier to the other members, I asked the stakeholder how long it takes after every document is filed to then deliver a house. She said 10 to 11 years. That means the member opposite needs a plan that all builders have to submit all the applications, fully submitted today so that in 10 years 1.5 million homes can be delivered. If they are still keeping NATO—no action, talk only—how can this 1.5 million be delivered?
Mrs. Jennifer (Jennie) Stevens: Speaker, through you to the member opposite, I’ll let you know a little fun fact. The city of St. Catharines staff, who I met with two weeks ago on this bill, did an audit of their approval process and found that they currently have 2,200 units in the city at the finish line for approvals, okay? Now here is the fun fact: However, 1,600 are entirely delayed at the hands of the applicant. This is significant as nearly three quarters, nearly 75% of the unit approvals are delayed at the developers’ end.
This government keeps saying if it’s shovel-ready, it’s ready to go. Well, then, why is St. Catharines sitting with 1,600 ready-to-go units they can’t build because this government—
The Acting Speaker (Mme Lucille Collard): Thank you. We’re going to move to further debate.
Mr. Lorne Coe: It’s a pleasure to be able to speak to Bill 39, the Better Municipal Governance Act, 2022. I come to the debate tonight having served for 13 years as a municipal councillor—six as a local councillor, seven as a Durham regional councillor. During that period, I was the chair of the planning and development committee at the town of Whitby for 11 years.
What’s clear, at least to this side of the House and government members, is that throughout the province we need to significantly increase the speed of new housing building to meet the demand and lower costs for hard-working Ontarians, including my constituents and my colleagues who are sitting to my left and right and behind me.
Speaker, study after study has found that development approvals and appropriate zoning are often delayed or hindered because of opposition from some members of municipal council; sadly, some projects are abandoned altogether. We’ve seen that occur across the province. Even if a project finally gets the go-ahead, the damage has already been done, and it’s hard-working Ontarians in search of a home who are paying the cost.
A study released in September by the Building Industry and Land Development Association reports that costs can increase substantially each month that a permit is stuck in the approvals system. They found that development application timelines in the greater Toronto area have gotten 40% longer over the past two years—I’m going to repeat that, Speaker: 40% longer over the past two years—and that each month of delay in a typical high-density project amounts to $2,600 to $3,300 in additional construction costs per residential unit.
The Ontario Association of Architects also looked into the cost of delays and concluded that the total cost of site plan review application delays could range between $300 million and $900 million every year in Ontario. Just think about the effect of that for a moment. This drives up costs for builders, for renters and for homeowners alike.
Speaker, I’ll turn to another survey. A 2022 survey by the Canadian Home Builders’ Association looked at the time it takes to secure development approvals in 23 Canadian cities. We know, as I stand here this evening, that this has been a long-standing issue in municipalities across Ontario; it has been throughout the region of Durham. The survey cited Hamilton, Toronto and Ottawa as having some of the longest timelines across Canada, ranging from 20 to 24 months, and that’s without even including the time it takes to get a building permit. Can you imagine that? A follow-up study by the association which was released this past September found that approval times for most greater Toronto area municipalities have only worsened in the year since. Ontarians are counting on us to fix that. Once again, I want to be very clear—very, very clear—that we’re not going to let them down.
In December, our government created the Housing Affordability Task Force, which was made up of industry leaders and experts. We asked them to recommend additional measures to increase the supply of market housing. Earlier today, the member from Brampton North spoke about supply and demand, and he was absolutely correct in his analysis. The task force stated at the beginning of its report, “For many years, the province has not built enough housing to meet the needs of our growing population.” And we know who caused that: for 15 years, provincial Liberals, propped up by the official opposition—propped up. Yes, you know it’s true. Don’t look across. You know it’s true.
The task force noted that many “efforts to cool the housing market have only provided temporary relief to homebuyers. The long-term trend is clear: House prices are increasing much faster than Ontarians’ incomes.” They stated this: “The time for action is now.”
That’s why, Speaker, at around the same time, we convened with our municipal partners at both the Ontario-Municipal Summit and the Rural Housing Roundtable to seek their input into the province’s housing supply crisis. We also heard from more than 2,000 people through a public consultation that we held to gather even more input.
Nonetheless, while we’ve been creating a record amount of housing—and yes, we have—there’s still a severe shortage of supply. Rental housing and affordable home ownership are even further out of reach for Ontarians. We knew more needed to be done. It was clear that without an increase in housing supply to match the housing demand, housing prices would keep going up and affordability would worsen.
We took all that information that we gained from our many consultations and created our second housing supply action plan, called More Homes for Everyone, which was what was launched earlier this year. We wanted to build on the success of More Homes, More Choice. More Homes for Everyone outlined the next steps we’re taking to address Ontario’s housing crisis, steps such as accelerating approval timelines and protecting homebuyers from unethical business practice.
We also took further steps to make it easier to build transit-oriented communities, like those in the region of Durham, and just like the town of Whitby. Speaker, as many members of the House will recall, transit-oriented communities are our government’s vision for higher-density, mixed-use development and stops like GO Transit in Whitby.
Speaker, I’ll move that the question now be put.
The Acting Speaker (Mme Lucille Collard): There have been eight hours and 54 minutes of debate, and the House has heard debate from 21 members. Mr. Coe has moved that the question be now put. I am satisfied that there has been sufficient debate to allow this question to be put to the House.
Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? I heard a no.
All those in favour of the motion that the question be now put, please say “aye.”
All those opposed to the motion that the question be now put, please say “nay.”
In my opinion, the ayes have it.
A recorded vote being required, it will be deferred to the next instance of deferred votes.
Ms. Andrea Khanjin: Point of order.
The Acting Speaker (Mme Lucille Collard): The member for Barrie–Innisfil has a point of order.
Ms. Andrea Khanjin: Speaker, if you seek it, you’ll find we may have unanimous consent to see the clock at 6.
The Acting Speaker (Mme Lucille Collard): Do we have unanimous consent to see the clock at 6? Agreed.
Private Members’ Public Business
Fairness for Road Users Act (Contraventions Causing Death or Serious Bodily Harm), 2022 / Loi de 2022 sur l’équité envers les usagers de la route (contraventions ayant causé un décès ou des blessures corporelles graves)
Ms. French moved second reading of the following bill:
Bill 15, An Act to amend the Highway Traffic Act to create an offence of contravention causing death or serious bodily harm / Projet de loi 15, Loi modifiant le Code de la route pour ériger en infraction le fait d’avoir causé un décès ou des blessures corporelles graves pendant la commission d’une contravention.
The Acting Speaker (Mme Lucille Collard): Pursuant to standing order 100, the member has 12 minutes for her presentation.
Ms. Jennifer K. French: I am grateful to be able to debate this important issue today, but this House has been discussing this important justice issue for 20 years. Today, we are debating Bill 15, the Fairness for Road Users Act, 2022. It has a long history, and I am glad to be able to share the voices of some of the people who have been relentless in seeing justice through for loved ones lost and those who have survived terrible collisions, who will never be the same.
I want to thank Gerry Rhodes, the provincial government liaison officer of the Bikers Rights Organization; Brian Burnett, also with BRO, who is joining us here today; the folks from Good Roads, who recognize the importance of this issue; and the families and advocates who have shared their hurt and their voices with me.
Speaker, this bill and its road began in 2002, north of Batchawana Bay, Ontario. Wanda and David Harrison were visiting from the States and were touring on their motorcycles, enjoying Ontario. A man from Etobicoke made an unsafe left turn across their path and killed both of them. The OPP closed the Trans-Canada Highway for six or seven hours while they gathered all evidence, and several days later, they laid a charge of unsafe turn—police could not lay a more serious charge, hence the Highway Traffic Act infraction. The maximum penalty was $500.
As shared by Gerry Rhodes, from the Bikers Rights Organization, “A member of our organization was in attendance at the trial of the accused. The justice at trial, prior to formally passing sentence, spoke to the accused, in open court, and stated words to the effect of: ‘Had you been charged under the Criminal Code, I could have given you a more appropriate penalty. As it was, you were charged under the Highway Traffic Act, and the maximum penalty I can apply is a $500 fine. Two people died that day. You have to live with that for the rest of your life.’”
Speaker, we know that terrible things can happen on the roads. When people violate the Highway Traffic Act and someone dies or suffers serious bodily harm as the result of that violation, there is not a significant penalty that can be given upon sentencing. Too many families have been devastated by a judge’s inability to do more than issue a $500 fine, which is a slap in the face to loved ones already suffering. Survivors of a collision as a result of a Highway Traffic Act violation are often lucky to be alive and are heading to a very changed future, and they are told at sentencing that their suffering is worth no more than 500 bucks.
Brian Burnett, a member of the Bikers Rights Organization, is joining us today at Queen’s Park. Brian has been here a few times to see various incarnations of this bill come before this House. Welcome back, Brian. Brian was also a victim of a left-turning vehicle. Although he survived the accident, Brian is now permanently disabled and he requires medical prosthesis to allow him to walk. I want to share Mr. Burnett’s account of what happened to him:
“l also am a survivor of an auto-motorcycle collision back on October 7, 2003. She failed to ensure the way was clear before she committed to her left turn, across my straight line of travel as I was coming up beside an also-left-turning city bus, on my left side. Got to the front of the bus and the 1995 Honda Civic she was driving cut across my path. I hit the right front wheel area and was ejected off the bike, hit the fender, hit the hood twice and then hit the pavement on the other side of the now-stopped car.
“I remember the distinct sound of each contact with either the car or the pavement.
“Shattered the hip socket, broke the tibia and fibula below the knee and above the ankle.
“Two and a half months in hospital, three separate surgeries in Ottawa after ... to install surgical implants around my shattered hip socket, two implants just below my knee and two implants in the area of my ankle.
“Have sustained nerve damage in the knee area so I can barely move my ankle down and can’t move it up at all. I can barely wiggle some of the toes and half of my foot is numb on the surface.
“But I can still walk, after a fashion, with a limp.
“She was charged with a turn not in safety—a $500 fine. She didn’t set out to change the course of my life, but she did.”
Brian was one of the lucky ones. His friend Chris Mayhew was not. Chris was very active in the biker community and, I’ve been told, was a great friend. He was killed on the road on July 7, 2001. Brian recalled to me that the judge’s hands were tied and that he wished he could have issued more than a $500 fine, which was and is the maximum allowed under the Highway Traffic Act.
Chris’s death was the inspiration for the Fallen Riders Memorial. Mr. Burnett is the Bikers Rights Organization’s Fallen Riders Memorial coordinator. For many years pre-pandemic, BRO would gather on the Queen’s Park front lawn for a memorial service on the last Saturday in May, honouring fallen motorcycle riders. I hope the way is clear for them to hold their memorial again this May.
Speaker, it isn’t right and it isn’t fair. As Brian pointed out, when someone is killed as a result of a Highway Traffic Act violation, the charge is an HTA infraction, so even if charged and sentenced, “It doesn’t go on your licence, doesn’t go on your record. A ‘turn not in safety’ doesn’t go anywhere except on your own conscience. People are dying and we want to have justice for the families.”
I also want to thank Ray Damude for taking the time to talk with me. As Mr. Damude told me, “It’s sad to relive an incident that brought myself and the community such grief. Stan Krawcar—a close friend and business partner—was struck down on his motorcycle by a driver making an illegal left-hand turn. Upon arriving at the scene, watching my friend die was devastating.
“Going to the court hearing was almost as devastating, as the judge said he wished he could impose a much harsher penalty for the manslaughter, but his hands were tied and sentencing could only result in a $500 fine. This incident has haunted me ever since, as the punishment does not align with the crime.” I am sure that everyone here can understand the injustice of a measly $500 fine in the face of devastating loss or injury. This ought to be a quick solve, but so far that hasn’t happened.
I want to say that, historically, various government responses to this issue have shown either a limited understanding or a lack of interest or will: thousands of signatures on petitions, four separate bills, amendments voted down at committee, missed opportunities. I will say, however, that I am hopeful that we can move this ahead and make some important changes.
I have appreciated that this Minister of Transportation has made herself and her staff available to discuss this issue and some of the connecting pieces, like how this would impact the Ministry of the Attorney General and the justice aspects. I know we aren’t there yet, but the spirit and intent of this bill are sound. I believe that the minister understands the inadvertent harm being caused to grieving families, and I am hopeful that she and this government will let this issue move forward to be fixed.
Speaker, some of the questions I’ve had to answer about this are around the nature of the charge and the fact that Ontario does have some strong penalties for various offences. Basically, it is this: Police may respond to a collision, see the awful carnage and well know the devastating loss to a family, but they can’t upsize the charge; they have to lay a charge that they can support with evidence. Only an evidence-based charge will stand up in court. An improper turn or flipping an unsafe U-turn may kill someone, but it still is technically a minor infraction.
A judge also cannot upsize an HTA sentence. They have no tools to reach for beyond the maximum of $500. The driver may be a menace, a serial offender or unlucky, but the judge is not allowed to factor in any of these circumstances at sentencing. I believe a judge should be allowed to use their discretion.
Also, let’s recognize that the high penalties the government is likely to mention in their remarks are for careless driving, but my understanding is that more than 80% of these charges are pled down to lesser charges like an improper U-turn. Almost no one is convicted of careless driving; they plead down. What we think is happening in the courts is not happening. We don’t see closure for families. There isn’t much justice for survivors or surviving families right now.
I am proposing this very simple bill to give the judges access to higher penalties and options if the charge sticks and a driver is sentenced. It increases the penalty to be in line with careless driving; increases the minimum fine to $2,000, with a maximum of $50,000; and outlines a range of penalties, including that a judge can suspend a licence or permit—which currently, unbelievably, is not an option.
There are others who understand that this matters and that this change is part of a much larger need for better and safer roads. This is from a letter from Good Roads, who are here today at Queen’s Park. They said:
“Dear Ms. French,
“I am writing to you on behalf of the Good Roads board of directors, who recently passed a resolution supporting Bill 15, the Fairness for Road Users Act, 2022. Good Roads believes that action must be taken to better protect the safety of vulnerable road users throughout the province, and that this bill will have an impact in that regard.” That is from Paul Schoppmann, president of Good Roads.
Speaker, there are many measures that should be law to make our roads safer; today’s private member’s bill is one of those. And out of respect for the 20 years of tireless work done by the folks I’ve been speaking about, it is a stand-alone piece. But it is a piece of a broader puzzle to address the need for victim impact statements and education, broader “vulnerable road users” definitions and a host of other measures that would both make our roads safer and support survivors and surviving loved ones.
I also want the government to consider the tremendous work done by my colleagues who continue to work with advocacy and safety groups across the province on behalf of vulnerable road users. The MPP from University–Rosedale and the MPP from Ottawa Centre have been working tirelessly on vulnerable road user legislation that would ensure mandatory added penalties are included with a sentence when someone is seriously injured or killed.
Please pass this bill, but see it as part of a comprehensive strategy to make things better and safer for all vulnerable road users.
During the committee hearing for Bill 282, the MOMS Act, we heard from road safety groups and individuals. We heard from Jessica Spieker and Heather Sim from Friends and Families for Safe Streets, who spoke from personal experience.
Heather Sim, the daughter of Gary Sim, told the committee:
“On June 30, 2017, my dad was riding his bike home from running errands.... He was riding straight past a plaza when a driver in a van drove up behind him, passed him and turned right into him. He spent two days on life support before he died....
“For my dad’s case, the driver was charged with turn not in safety. He was found guilty and given the maximum fine of $500 and two demerit points. There was no licence suspension. At sentencing, the judge called a recess to determine if she could increase the fine as she felt this was not sufficient, but unfortunately, her hands were tied by the Highway Traffic Act. My dad’s life was worth so much more than $500.”
I asked her if she would support my proposed legislative change to change the penalties, and she told me, “I think that would be fantastic, because that happened in our exact case, and the judge made it clear that she thought this should be a lot higher, based on what happened, but her hands were tied. And she made that very clear in the sentencing.”
Jessica told us, “In 2015, I was riding my bike to work in a straight line on a bright morning with the right of way when an oncoming driver made a left turn and slammed her large SUV into me. When she struck me, she broke my spine, she inflicted a brain injury and she did such extensive damage to the side of my body that she hit that I developed a large blood clot in my leg. Later, a piece of that blood clot broke off, chewed through my heart and landed across both lobes of my lungs. In effect, her actions nearly killed me twice.”
Jessica talked about the need for justice for victims. She said, “The fact that Gary Sim’s life was officially deemed to be worth $500 is a disgusting insult, and that the value of my health and my future was $300 hurts me every single day.”
I don’t know how to explain it in a way that would convince this government more than what I’ve shared from survivors and surviving loved ones. Their stories are haunting. Please listen to them.
Please pass my private member’s bill so that when bad things happen, we don’t add insult to injury, and so that we can finally have some fairness for road users.
The Acting Speaker (Mme Lucille Collard): Further debate?
Mr. Hardeep Singh Grewal: First, I’d like to thank Brian Burnett for being with us here today in the visitors’ gallery. Thank you, Brian, for being here as we discuss this important legislation.
I’m pleased to have the opportunity to rise in the House today to discuss Bill 15, the Fairness for Road Users Act. As we discuss Bill 15, it’s important to acknowledge that all of us in this House share a common goal, and that is road safety and the importance of saving lives. Road safety is a non-partisan issue. We welcome the opportunity to debate this bill, and I will say at the outset that we intend to support the bill at this stage, as the issues it raises warrant further study and discussion.
Mr. Speaker, a well-functioning, safe and efficient transportation network is critical to the health and well-being of our communities. And while our government is focused on building new infrastructure—the 413, the Bradford Bypass, the priority transit projects—we understand that there are many factors that go into ensuring the safety and the reliability of our roads. Equally important is managing behaviour on our roads and highways to ensure they remain as safe as possible.
Ontario has so much to be proud of when it comes to road safety. Approximately 10.6 million licensed drivers in this province travel more than 150 billion kilometres on our roads in an average year and, on average, more than $785 million in goods is moved on Ontario’s highways per day. That’s a huge number, Mr. Speaker—$785 million. Despite all this traffic, between 2009 and 2018, motor vehicle fatality rates have dropped by 7%, ranking Ontario as the safest jurisdiction in all of North America, and this occurred while the number of licensed drivers in Ontario increased by 15% over the same period. In fact, for 20 years now, Ontario has consistently been among the top five safest jurisdictions for roads in North America.
As the winter season arrives, our government is proud to have some of the highest winter maintenance standards across North America. Our province has maintenance crews ready to deploy their equipment within 30 minutes from the start of a winter storm to plow, salt and sand, to help keep Ontario’s 16,900 kilometres of highways safe during the winter, and our standards are increasing. Last week, the House passed a motion from the member from Thunder Bay calling for improved standards for clearing snow on Highways 11 and 17. The minister acted; the new standard is now 12 hours.
But, Mr. Speaker, there’s always more to be done when it comes to road safety. The Minister of Transportation has called it an evergreen issue, and considering the incredible growth rates forecasted for the province in the coming decades, our efforts will be more important than ever.
People and businesses from around the world are moving to Ontario and the greater Golden Horseshoe for new opportunities. This region will attract one million new people every five years, reaching a population of nearly 15 million people by 2051. To put that in context, that’s a population about equal to the total population of Ontario in 2019.
To accommodate this growth, we need two things: First, we need to build the infrastructure that the people need. Second, we need new, improved measures to keep our roads safe, because even though our roads are among the safest roads across North America, we’ve recently seen a rise in unsafe and aggressive driving incidents, and the consequences of these incidents are all too often deadly. The increase in aggressive and unsafe driving behaviour compels us to review the effectiveness of our current road safety measures and make those necessary adjustments.
Mr. Speaker, since this government was first elected in 2018, we have taken a close look at the province’s current road safety measures and taken decisive action where it made sense. Last year, this assembly passed the Moving Ontarians More Safely Act. The motivation behind the MOMS Act was clear—protect law-abiding road users and crack down on bad actors—and we did that by introducing measures like longer driver’s licence suspensions and longer vehicle impoundment periods for drivers who engage in stunt driving, street racing and aggressive driving.
This included creating a lower speed limit threshold for stunt driving charges of driving 40 kilometres per hour or more above the speed limit on roads where the speed limit is less than 80 kilometres an hour. We also increased the roadside driver’s licence suspension and vehicle impoundment periods for drivers caught street racing or stunt driving from seven days each to a 30-day driver’s licence suspension and a 14-day vehicle impoundment.
In 2019, the Ontario Legislature also passed legislation to allow for the creation of an administrative monetary penalty framework as part of the Getting Ontario Moving Act. MTO implemented regulatory changes the following year to improve the enforcement capacity of school bus camera systems, making them a more viable enforcement option for municipalities. This past July, after months of collaboration with municipalities, the government proclaimed the administrative penalty regulatory framework for vehicle-based offences captured by automated cameras. This regulatory framework will help alleviate the court burden associated with camera-based enforcement and allow more municipalities to use the camera technology.
Our collaborative approach will help streamline the processing of infractions and reduce administrative costs for municipalities. We remain committed to working with our road safety and municipal partners to develop a policy framework for municipally-operated red-light, automated-speed-enforcement, school bus and streetcar camera administrative penalty programs.
As part of our ongoing commitment to improving road safety, the Ministry of Transportation regularly reviews its policies and practices to determine if they are current with research and best practices worldwide. As part of our targeted approach to road safety, MTO studies data very closely to ensure they focus on and prioritize locations where safety improvements can be facilitated.
Amendments have also been made to the Highway Traffic Act and associated regulations to provide municipalities with additional options to implement safety improvements on their roads and highways; for instance, allowing the use of speed cameras in high-risk areas like school and community safety zones, and permitting streetcar cameras.
I would like to again acknowledge that all of the members of this House share the common goal of improving road safety and understanding the importance of safeguarding the lives of the people of Ontario. The government shares the view that drivers who harm or kill other road users should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. While we look at any proposed measures to deal with those issues, we need to be sure that legislation will achieve its aims and intended outcomes. So, while we support the bill’s overall intention, we believe it would benefit from further study and scrutiny by a committee of this House.
Speaker, our government’s message to the province’s bad drivers is clear: Driving is a privilege, and those who threaten the safety of others have no place on our roads. We are committed to continuing to work closely with all members of this House to rigorously target those who engage in unsafe driving behaviours and endanger the lives of others.
In closing, I want to acknowledge the work that the member for Oshawa has put into this bill. I believe she has introduced this bill on at least two previous occasions, which speaks to the importance of the issue that it raises. I look forward to the continued debate. I would like to thank you, Speaker, for giving me the opportunity to speak about this today.
The Acting Speaker (Mme Lucille Collard): Further debate?
Mr. Wayne Gates: I was really surprised—before I get into my formal presentation—by your last comment, quite frankly. You said that we need more study on this issue. It’s been 20 years. I think it’s been studied to death. I say it’s been studied to death, because people have been dying on illegal left turns for 20 years.
You have a majority government, and you guys all know how quick you can put bills through. But 20 years and we need more study? I can tell you that you don’t know this because most of the people here today have really been just elected: I did this bill myself with Brian, who is here today.
I can tell you a cute story, I’ve got a few minutes here. I brought him and some of his colleagues to Queen’s Park and they had all their biker stuff on. I know you remember this, Brian. They had all their biker stuff on. I met him in my office, and I said, “Look, we have about an hour to kill here. Can I take you out for lunch?” So I did. I took him down to the lounge downstairs, where all the MPPs are, to show my colleagues that they’re just regular guys. They just love to ride their motorcycles, with their partners a lot of times. They go all over, all over the States, all over Ontario. The couple that Jen talked about, who are in my formal presentation, were just driving around in the north, having a great time—a husband and a wife. In this case, she was on the back. Somebody did an illegal left turn and killed them. Think about that—killed them.
Just a couple of months ago, to give you a little comparison, I was in my car and I was driving down Portage Road in Niagara Falls, going to an event at 11 o’clock. I might have been a minute or two late—maybe not. I’m going through a green light. Guess what happened? A young lady, 21 years old, made an illegal left turn. She hit me head-on. My car was destroyed—well, it was written off. But what did I have that was different than the motorcycle and the opportunity for them to survive an illegal left turn? I had a car in front of me. I had airbags that came out of the steering wheel, airbags that came out of the sides. They just kind of pummelled me, quite frankly.
She got fined $500. I’m okay; I’m here. Nobody can tell me that when you kill somebody with an illegal left turn, the punishment that fits the crime is $500. And what we’re saying to the Conservatives—because you can pass this bill; you can get it to committee; you can do whatever you want. We’re probably seeing that—I’ve been here for nine years, Speaker. Imagine, nine years—wow. I used to be 6 foot 2 when I got here. I’ve been pounded down pretty good. This has been going on for 20 years, and all we’re saying to the Conservatives is, pass the bill. It’s been long enough.
I’m not going to sit here and say there haven’t been some successes. I know my colleagues might not know this, but they didn’t just come for an illegal left turn. If I recall, Brian, there were other issues that you thought were important to make it safer for motorcycles to drive in Ontario, to drive around the Toronto area. What we did was, we went to the government—at that time it was the Liberals, I believe—and we tried to get them to agree to allow motorcycles to drive in the HOV lanes. That was a big win. But what was it about? It was about safety. It was about making sure that they could drive and it’s a little safer for them and their partners, if they have their partners with them.
Then we had other wins. I think it was the handlebars, if I’m not mistaken, the big handlebars. I think it first came in in Quebec, if I’m not mistaken, and then it’s come to Ontario. Well, somebody like myself, I don’t need big handlebars because I’m kind of 4 foot nothing. But that was a win—it was a win for safety for motorcycles—and that’s what this bill is about. It’s why I brought this bill forward. It broke my heart to hear that somebody was out enjoying their day with their partner, driving their motorcycle in the north, and because of an illegal left turn, they died instantly. They’re gone like that. I think it’s 178 that are out here on the wall outside honouring motorcyclists. They all didn’t die from an illegal left turn, but they died on the roads in the province of Ontario.
I think we’ve got an obligation, all of us: Conservatives, Liberals—I see the Green guy is here today and is probably going to talk on the bill. We’ve all got an obligation to make our roads safe, because nobody should be out on a drive on their motorcycle with their partner, just seeing this beautiful province, this beautiful country, and get killed by an illegal left turn—and then the person that made the illegal left turn gets a $500 fine. It makes absolutely no sense.
I know I’ve only got six minutes and I don’t want to take my friend’s time. Please, after 20 years, pass this bill as quick as we can so that people like ourselves, quite frankly, who may own a motorcycle, can know that if they’re enjoying this beautiful country and somebody makes an illegal turn, the punishment fits the crime.
The Acting Speaker (Mme Lucille Collard): Further debate?
Mr. Mike Schreiner: It’s always an honour to rise and, today, to speak in favour of Bill 15. I want to just thank the member from Oshawa for bringing this bill forward, I believe for the third time, and I would like to thank the member for Niagara Falls, who has also put this bill forward. You can call me “the Green guy” whenever you want. I’ll proudly be called the Green guy around this place. I want to thank the member from University–Rosedale as well because I know that member has brought forward similar legislation. I feel like every time over the last four years that the Highway Traffic Act has been opened up for debate in this House, those members and myself have brought forward amendments that essentially tried to implement this bill. And I would say that we’re not going to give up. I appreciate that the member from Oshawa hasn’t given up.
Because when you hear the stories, when you hear the heartbreaking stories when people come to committee and they talk about what’s happened to themselves and what’s happened to their loved ones, to know that somebody made an illegal left turn or turned right when they weren’t supposed to on a red light, or sped through an intersection, or side-swiped or doored a vulnerable road user—whether it’s a cyclist, a pedestrian, a person with disabilities in a wheeled mobility device, somebody on a motor bike, somebody working on the side of the road, just trying to fix the road, when you hear the stories of their tragic death or their crippling injuries, and you see the tears in somebody’s eyes when they sit in front of a committee and say, “I have a disability for life because of what somebody did,” and in many cases they got a slap on the wrist, sometimes not even a $500 fine—a slap on the wrist—do you know how that makes people feel? It makes them feel disrespected.
I think this is the type of bill that everybody of all parties can get together and stand behind, because we know that keeping cyclists and pedestrians, and oftentimes pedestrians who are elders, safe, even people with disabilities safe—a contributing factor in that is that those of us who drive—and I’m a driver, I’m a cyclist, I’m a walker—that when we are driving tonnes of steel, we know that if we break the law, there will be consequences. That’s what this bill is about. When you break the law, and you cause death or serious injury, there will be consequences.
Speaker, that’s how we create a deterrent in our society. That’s how we ensure that people do what they’re supposed to do. In 2021, I remember reading that road fatalities had reached the highest level in a decade. And then I was sad to learn—I don’t have the updated specifics; maybe the member from Oshawa does—when I read that in August of this year, the end of August of this year, cycling deaths were up 300% in the province of Ontario. And so, despite what the honourable member said about the safety of roads in Ontario, I don’t think they’re safe enough. We can do something about that today by supporting Bill 15.
I would be remiss if I didn’t talk just briefly, in the limited time I have, about some other things we could do. Good Roads is here at Queen’s Park right now. I just spoke at their reception downstairs. One of the things they’re promoting is Vision Zero. that we actually have zero deaths and fatalities on our streets. One of the ways we can do that is to invest in the infrastructure that keeps people safe, to ensure that everyone has a right to access streets and roads in this province; that whether you’re a cyclist, a pedestrian, a person with disabilities, you have infrastructure in place that respects you, that treats you with dignity and ensures the safety of our roads.
We know that the number one barrier to people cycling in this province is safety concerns. If we want to build affordable, sustainable, safe communities, we have to make sure those communities are safe for everyone, including vulnerable road users.
The Acting Speaker (Mme Lucille Collard): Further debate?
Mr. Joel Harden: It’s an honour to rise and speak to this legislation that our friend from Oshawa has put forward, that our friend from Niagara Falls has put forward in previous incarnations, and related legislation put before this House by the member for University–Rosedale. There seems to be a lot of goodwill in this place, and thanks to the advocates for always being there for families.
I want to read into the record, as motivation for supporting this bill, the story of Colleen Worsley. Colleen lost her son William. I met her last week because we’ve picked up the torch from MPP Bell and we’re reintroducing companion legislation to what MPP French is putting forward. I got the chance to meet Colleen and she wrote me the story about her son.
“On a bright, clear day in September of last year, our beautiful son William was riding his bike home from work in our small village of Mount Albert. He was returning from work at The Giving Place, where he had volunteered and later worked since the spring. He was almost home when he was struck and killed by a car. He was one month shy of his 15th birthday.
“The collision happened on the edge of the intersection. Despite the driver’s story that William ran into him, accident re-constructionists determined that the driver hit the front wheel of William’s bicycle, forcing William’s bike into his car and throwing William first into and then over his vehicle and onto the road. William died alone.
“The driver never braked, never swerved. Reportedly, the driver had not even seen our son. This was a tall boy on a bike approaching an intersection bounded by a wide open field. The driver clearly had not been paying attention to the road or any possible hazard near the road that was not a car. What was he doing? Where was he looking? Why did he drift so far over in the intersection as to hit and kill a child?
“We were amazed to learn that at no point did the police test the driver for any blood alcohol or drug impairment or possible distraction through phone use. The police told us it would be a violation of the driver’s civil rights.
“What about William’s rights to ride safely on the road? Why is William’s life worth less than the driver’s privacy rights, and why does killing someone not result in severe fines and compulsory driver re-training? We don’t understand why phone testing and toxicity screening is not compulsory when there is a death involved in a vehicle accident. We also don’t understand how there is no option for recommending driver training or license suspension when serious injury or death occurs.
“If vulnerable users such as cyclists are required and expected to use the roadways, they deserve to be protected. Furthermore, drivers who seriously injure or kill a vulnerable road user need to experience meaningful consequences, not a minimal fine, if they are to change dangerous driving behaviours.
“Legislation that increases fines and consequences will help to deliver the message that driving is a privilege—one that requires a responsibility to be alert and aware of others on the road at all times.
“Changes in legislation that demand penalties of community service, license suspension,” or the more severe fines that the member is seeking in her legislation, these can help save someone else. “This driver, and all drivers, should be trained to scan for hazards and to share the road safely.
“While we and William’s brothers, friends and extended family struggle daily to find a way through our grief, the driver who killed our son was allowed to drive away without repercussion. We feel an overwhelming sense of responsibility to other parents to ensure this kind of tragedy never happens in their families from this or any other driver.
“The balance of justice in terms of road safety policies is not equal for all users. Drivers of vehicles are not the only individuals legally allowed to use the roadways. We must start to build accountability and driving responsibility considerations for drivers for their behaviour behind the wheel.”
I want to thank Colleen for sharing that story with me and now with this House. I want to be inspired by what MPP French is doing, by the goodwill I can see in this place, by the advocates who’ve always been there for survivors. Also, Speaker, if I may, from a point of restorative justice, one can imagine that anybody who has been involved in an accident like this wants to be a better person after a horrifying accident like this, even if you’re the person who perpetrated the accident. So MPP French’s legislation is going to give decision-makers in our legal system the power to levy serious consequences. It’s going to send a message across the system.
But we in the province of Ontario can also figure out a way to make sure people learn from their bad decisions. As Colleen has said so articulately in the case of William, we can make sure that those folks are going to be the leading change-makers to ensure road safety for everyone.
Again, friend from Oshawa, thank you for leading us down this path. I look forward to this legislation getting to committee, being brought back from committee and becoming law in the province of Ontario.
The Acting Speaker (Mme Lucille Collard): Further debate? The member for Oshawa has two minutes to reply.
Ms. Jennifer K. French: Thank you to everyone for their comments on this legislation. I would actually like to say a thank you to the Minister of Transportation and staff for moving this forward. I have been working with them, and I appreciate that this time might be different.
What we have been hearing is that what’s seen in the courtroom doesn’t reflect what is needed to keep streets safer or to have some kind of justice for families. The fact of the matter is that while this government increased penalties for careless driving causing bodily harm or death in narrow circumstances, it isn’t addressing the shortcomings of the Highway Traffic Act, which still allows nearly all drivers who kill or seriously injure others to avoid those significant consequences. That’s the reality of what’s happening.
I want judges to have the tools they need and the discretion, because we have heard from families who have said that the judges’ hands were tied and that they were quite frustrated in their decisions. They’ve said, “All I’m allowed to do is issue a $500 fine,” which adds insult to injury when people have lost a loved one.
The police are frustrated. They lay a charge and they watch people plead down or watch during sentencing while the maximum $500 penalty only adds harm to a family’s loss, as we heard from Heather Sim at committee. She said:
“With our case it was a ‘turn not in safety,’ because they knew that they definitely could charge that, they could prove that and he would be found guilty of that. If they were to up it to the dangerous driving charge, there was the risk of him walking with absolutely no charges. But to add to that, he drove away from the scene of the crash, and he always drove. There was never even a licence suspension in his case.”
Speaker, no one sets out in the morning to kill someone on the road. We know that. This is not about criminal intent. When someone does something that is in contravention of the Highway Traffic Act and something horrible happens, families are left with that slap on the wrist—$500. Their loved one’s life was only worth, at most, $500. This increases the potential penalties to be in line with careless driving, which people have said is needed.
I want to thank Gerry and Brian and Heather and Jessica and Ray for sharing their words with this Legislature and those who know the impact of this bill. Today I am thinking of Wanda and James Harrison, Chris Mayhew, Stan Krawcar and Gary Sim. I appreciate that we are looking to pass this bill so together we can fix this.
The Acting Speaker (Mme Lucille Collard): The time provided for private members’ public business has expired.
Ms. French has moved second reading of Bill 15, An Act to amend the Highway Traffic Act to create an offence of contravention causing death or serious bodily harm. Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? Carried.
Second reading agreed to.
The Acting Speaker (Mme Lucille Collard): Pursuant to standing order 100(h), the bill is referred to the Committee of the Whole House, unless—
Ms. Jennifer K. French: No. I would like to refer it to the Standing Committee on Heritage, Infrastructure and Cultural Policy.
The Acting Speaker (Mme Lucille Collard): Is the majority in favour of this bill being referred to the Standing Committee on Heritage, as stated by the member? Agreed.
So the bill is referred to the Standing Committee on Heritage, Infrastructure and—the one you said.
Ms. Jennifer K. French: Cultural Policy.
The Acting Speaker (Mme Lucille Collard): Cultural Policy, thank you.
All matters relating to private members’ public business having been completed, this House stands adjourned until 9 a.m. tomorrow, Wednesday, November 23, 2022.
The House adjourned at 1834.