LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY OF ONTARIO
ASSEMBLÉE LÉGISLATIVE DE L’ONTARIO
Wednesday 22 February 2023 Mercredi 22 février 2023
Report continued from volume A.
Private Members’ Public Business
Protecting Human Rights in an Emergency Act(Emergency Power Generators), 2023 / Loi de 2023 sur la protection des droits de la personne en cas d’urgence (génératrices de secours)
Ms. Pasma moved second reading of the following bill:
Bill 47, An Act to amend the Residential Tenancies Act, 2006 and the Condominium Act, 1998 to require emergency power generators / Projet de loi 47, Loi modifiant la Loi de 2006 sur la location à usage d’habitation et la Loi de 1998 sur les condominiums pour exiger la présence de génératrices de secours.
The Acting Speaker (Ms. Patrice Barnes): Pursuant to standing order 100, the member has 12 minutes for their presentation.
Ms. Chandra Pasma: I’m proud to rise today to speak about Bill 47, the Protecting Human Rights in an Emergency Act.
Last year when the derecho hit Ottawa, it knocked out power in parts of the city for up to 14 days. For many people in Ottawa this was a huge inconvenience, but for some it was a human rights disaster. People with mobility issues living in multi-storey apartment buildings and condos that didn’t have backup generators were trapped in their homes, unable to access food, water or medical care. This included seniors, people with disabilities and parents of young children.
All of the city’s respite services relied on people being able to get out of their homes and go to a community centre for some food, a hot shower and the chance to charge devices. Those who were unable to get out of their homes were stuck. They didn’t get respite services.
Many other residents in these buildings were put into incredibly unsafe situations, trying to navigate 12 or 15 flights of stairs in the dark to bring up food and water to their homes. Some residents were unable to flush their toilets for a week, until the Ottawa Fire Services showed up to fill their bathtubs with water. And don’t forget, there’s no ventilation either when the power is out, so there’s no air circulation. A week of unflushed toilets and no air circulation—you can imagine the smell.
Sadly, this wasn’t the first time Ottawa has experienced such a disaster. The tornado in 2018 also knocked out power for multiple days, trapping people in their homes without food or water. I have spoken with hundreds of Ottawa residents who have lived through unsafe, dangerous and traumatic situations following these storms due to the lack of power.
Lynn Ashdown is an Ottawa resident who uses a wheelchair and lives in an 11th-storey apartment. Lynn spent 10 days last May trapped in a dark apartment. Her family and friends had to bring her food and battery packs to charge her cell phone, which was her only connection to the outside world. Lynn’s regular home care workers couldn’t come because they couldn’t walk up the 11 flights of stairs or work in the dark either.
She also missed medical appointments because she couldn’t get out. As a result, Lynn’s health deteriorated. Ottawa Public Health came to do wellness checks, but they couldn’t do anything more than check on her. Lynn was told that the only alternative to toughing it out in the dark was to call 911 and have paramedics evacuate her to a hospital bed she didn’t really need.
I challenge everyone to watch the Facebook videos that Lynn recorded during that experience, which are on my Facebook page, and see if you can get through them without crying. Just imagine 10 days on your own in the dark with no timeline for when you’ll be able to get out. And Lynn’s story is only one of many that I have heard from residents.
I spoke with a senior who uses a walker, who had to evacuate 17 storeys, going down the stairs on her bottom, one step at a time. Just imagine how interminable that must have felt to her, and how unsafe.
A man in his late sixties carried his two elderly neighbours, both in their eighties, down eight flights of stairs. It makes me feel a little shaky just to think about how risky that was and how easily that situation could have become tragic.
A couple that I spoke with, including a woman in a wheelchair, were trapped in their apartment on the 12th floor for five days. Their children had to climb 12 flights of stairs daily with food and water for them because they couldn’t be evacuated.
They were lucky, because in the same building a woman who lives on the 15th floor had no one to come and check on her and bring her food. No one from the city or building management came to check on her. She survived on the jar of peanut butter that she had in her apartment—a senior, all alone, eating nothing but peanut butter for five days, Speaker.
A woman who had heart surgery right before the tornado was living in an 18th-storey apartment. Her apartment had no water and home care couldn’t come up 18 flights of stairs to provide post-operative care. She had to be evacuated by the Ottawa Fire Services down the stairs. They walked her down one flight at a time, sitting down to rest in between every flight of stairs.
A man in another building was living on the 10th floor during last year’s derecho. He was seriously injured during the power outage. He was bleeding profusely and called an ambulance, but then had to walk down 10 flights of stairs, bleeding everywhere, in order to meet the ambulance.
A woman with diabetes was stuck in her unit on the 20th floor. She wasn’t sure how long she was going to be without power, and as the days wore on, she knew she wouldn’t be safe there on her own for too long. The only person that she knew with power nearby was her ex-husband, so she had no other choice but to stay with him, even though it was extremely uncomfortable. When she left her apartment, she had to carry all her luggage down 20 flights of stairs just to get out.
A senior with vision problems is able-bodied and could have taken the stairs if there was light, but she was unable to navigate stairwells in the dark, even with a flashlight.
Seniors have also told me about the difficulty of getting into their apartments even if they can take the stairs, with hallways so dark that they can’t find the keyhole in the door. And many seniors have described to me the dangers of going up and down the stairs as slowly and carefully as possible, in the dark, with a cane.
A woman with a newborn baby and two other children under 10 struggled to get her kids down nine storeys and back up again. She said it was nearly impossible with the lack of lights to go down after a certain hour. The gymnastics she had to undergo to keep her three children safe were not something she would ever want to repeat, and the lack of water in her home felt very unsafe.
A woman with serious mobility issues described herself as “lucky,” because after three days, she was able to find a friend willing to help her down the stairs and take her into their home for the next three days.
Another woman was not so lucky. Being new to Ottawa when the derecho hit, she had no social network in Ottawa yet, and so was forced to drive back to Sudbury just to get help until the water came back on.
Neighbours told me of the work they did to try to look after one another, but they felt abandoned by their landlords and by their governments.
Many of these residents paid a financial cost. Some spent nights in hotel rooms because their home was uninhabitable or because they couldn’t get in and out. Others lost income because they couldn’t get out of their home to work.
Some of them paid a physical cost. I’ve heard from residents that experienced heart failure shortly after navigating the stairs for days at a time—medical conditions that were exacerbated. Speaking with residents and seeing first-hand the staircases they’ve needed to navigate in the dark, I now understand that it is a miracle that no one has died yet due to lack of medical care during a power outage because of the physical stress or because of an accidental fall on the stairs.
Many residents have also paid a tremendous psychological cost. These experiences have caused incredible trauma. Residents are terrified with every storm that the power is going to go out again and they will be trapped once again.
Lynn Ashdown has told me she has multiple weather apps on her phone. She keeps a close eye on approaching storms, terrified she is about to be trapped once again. She says she feels fated to keep living this experience on repeat until legislation finally requires generators in all buildings.
Another woman, a senior, is so afraid of losing power again that she currently stores buckets full of water around her apartment just in case. My team and I were there on a sunny day, Speaker, but she showed us the water jugs sitting ready.
There is also a cost to the city of Ottawa. The Ottawa Fire Services and paramedics had to evacuate residents down stairways in the dark. The Ottawa Fire Services spent time filling bathtubs with water, going from unit to unit in these 12-storey buildings. Public health did home wellness checks. This response not only has a financial cost to the city, but it diverts resources from emergency response at a moment when the entire city is an emergency zone.
Ottawa residents and the city of Ottawa paid these costs, Speaker, because some landlords and condos have not installed generators. And that’s what’s really frustrating here. All of this suffering, all of this trauma, all of these diverted resources are completely unnecessary. Residents of other buildings of similar height don’t face these challenges because those buildings have generators installed. Those residents are able to get in and out freely, even if they don’t have lights on in their units and the stove and the fridge don’t work. They’re able to turn on the water and flush the toilet, even if they can’t cook. They can access city respite services because they’re able to leave their homes.
So why is it, Speaker, in 2023, that we leave it completely up to the choice of the landlord to decide whether or not to install a generator when we can see what the cost is for the tenants?
Yes, there is a cost to the landlords to install a generator, but many of them are already being good citizens and doing it. And we should provide support to community and not-for-profit housing providers who need to get generators installed. But we have hugely profitable landlords, real estate investment trusts reaping millions, that are refusing to install these generators and making seniors, people with disabilities and parents of young children pay these costs instead.
I spoke with a maintenance worker for a large rental corporation in Ottawa who was very sympathetic to this bill because he said that his employer would never act unless they were compelled to by legislation. We as legislators need to take action to protect these residents.
It’s not just Ottawa, either. The city of Toronto has experienced similar storms and seen similar stories and experiences of heartbreak, challenge and danger. So in 2016, the city of Toronto created a voluntary standard stating that all apartment buildings and condos should have a backup generator. But Toronto has also seen that a voluntary standard is not enough. Without legislation, not all landlords will act. That’s why, on February 8, the city of Toronto passed a motion endorsing Bill 47 and calling on all members of provincial Parliament to support this bill.
The CEO of Hydro Ottawa is also very supportive of this bill. He has noted that it’s not a matter of “if” we have another storm like this, but “when.”
Bill 47 also has support from tenants groups, seniors groups and disability advocates: ACORN Ottawa, the Federation of Metro Tenants’ Associations, Action Logement, the Accessible Housing Network, the Rick Hansen Foundation, the StopGap Foundation, the Ottawa Disability Coalition, the Council on Aging of Ottawa, Seniors for Social Action Ontario, and CanAge. Many of these organizations and residents cannot believe that a measure like this is not already mandatory.
Years ago, we used to leave it up to the personal choice of building owners whether or not to install smoke detectors and fire alarms, but we made it mandatory because we recognized the cost of human suffering. That time has come now for emergency generators, and I hope I can count on the support of every member of this Legislature for the human rights of our seniors, persons living with disabilities, parents of young children, and everyone living in Ontario during an emergency.
The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bhutila Karpoche): Further debate?
Mr. Stephen Blais: I’m very happy to be here tonight to debate Bill 47, Protecting Human Rights in an Emergency Act. I want to thank my colleague and neighbour from Ottawa West–Nepean for bringing this forward and allowing us to discuss it. Tonight, as she so eloquently described—I think the impetus for the bill stems from the derecho that ravaged the nation’s capital a little less than a year ago. This unexpected derecho had wind gusts of over 190 kilometres an hour, and it ripped through the city of Ottawa. The storm led to widespread power outages, tree displacements, damage to residential homes and businesses, and the destruction of many farms. Speaker, 180,000 residents were without power, some for days and others for well over a week. Residents were isolated on the upper floors of apartments without, obviously, power, without the ability to get down to the ground floor—and as the member from Ottawa West–Nepean described, some without access to fresh water.
Some of the hardest hit in the region, as a result of the derecho, were in Ottawa’s rural communities—in Carlsbad Springs, in my riding; in Navan; in Sarsfield and other parts of the Glengarry–Prescott–Russell riding. And that devastation continues to exist in those communities. Why? Because this government has refused to support those farmers and those homeowners with the damage that was caused as a result of the derecho.
Dave Spence, a resident from Navan, which is just next door to Orléans, in the Glengarry–Prescott–Russell riding, has to shovel snow out of the loft of his barn every time it snows. Why? Because the barn doesn’t have a roof. Imagine this: a farmer in the middle of winter with a barn without a roof as a result of a storm, and no support from this government.
John McWilliams, who lives nearby, also has to shovel snow every time there’s a storm, because the snow blows through the holes in the walls of his barn. He said, “You could go to every farm and every farmer, and they will all have a story.”
So many of these farmers and residents have been displaced from their homes as a result of a lack of government support from the derecho. During an emergency, it is important to be there for one another, to provide help, and it’s important for the government to be there for its citizens. The emergency response from the storm has cost the city of Ottawa and Hydro Ottawa some $50 million, but the government hasn’t been there to provide support to these farmers, to these residents. It hasn’t been there to provide support to Hydro Ottawa or the taxpayers of Ottawa, who have spent millions of dollars recovering from the storm last spring. So just as I hope that the government will finally come around to supporting the residents of Ottawa, finally come around to supporting Hydro Ottawa in recovering these tens of millions of dollars—the support the Premier promised the city of Ottawa when he came to Orléans during the campaign, went to the fire station and was so proud of the first responders and their response to the storm. I hope that he will lead his government into providing the necessary funding supports to the residents and to the city of Ottawa to recover from this storm.
We’re very happy to support this legislation, but I do think that there is a mistake, or something that has been overlooked, perhaps. In my reading of the legislation, it refers to all landlords. I really think that this legislation should be focused on landlords in multi-residential buildings and taller buildings. I think that’s the intent of what the member is going after. I don’t think that if you own a townhome in Orléans, as an example, you should be forced to have a power generator to support your townhome. I think that is something that should be looked at at the committee stage—some language that can be clarified. I certainly support the intent for taller, multi-residential buildings, but I’m not sure that all rental units are treated equally in that regard. We’re happy to support the bill, but we hope to work with the member at committee to address that particular issue.
The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bhutila Karpoche): Further debate?
Mr. Kevin Holland: I rise this evening to speak to Bill 47, proposed by the MPP for Ottawa West–Nepean, my colleague across the aisle. I’m glad for the opportunity to do so because it gives me a chance to lay out the need for robust tenant protection in Ontario and the steps our government has taken to provide these protections.
Speaker, the bill that is being debated this evening was presented to this House as a measure that would supposedly support tenants by requiring landlords and condo corporations to provide emergency power generators that can operate for at least two weeks during a power outage. But the reality is that it would simply increase red tape and costs, making it less likely that Ontarians can find rental housing that meets their needs and budget.
This bill does not address the issue of who or how any of the substantial costs involved in providing the proposed generators would be covered. Make no mistake: In most instances, these generators would not be something you could pick up at the hardware store. They would be massive upgrades to existing rental buildings that would impose huge costs on landlords and, ultimately—whatever the member opposite might think—renters. This does not align with our government’s priority to help all Ontarians find safe, secure and attainable housing, including for those who rent.
We know that there is not enough rental housing in Ontario today and that this lack of supply is making it more and more difficult for Ontarians to find a home they can actually afford. That’s why our government has taken the necessary steps to increase supply and get more rental housing built.
In our most recent housing supply action plan, for instance, More Homes Built Faster, our government drastically lowered the government fees that can be charged to purpose-built rental housing. For family-friendly purpose-built rental, fees are now reduced by up to 25% to make it cheaper and easier to build this type of housing. We have also made it easier to increase the number of rental units within existing homes and properties by allowing up to three units to be built, as of right, across Ontario. This will support the expansion of laneway houses, basement apartments, garden suites and other rental units throughout the province, which is a proven and effective way to bring more rental housing online without delay.
We know the efforts our government has made to increase rental supply are working. Last year, for instance, Ontario recorded the highest number of purpose-built rental units ever. The grand total of purpose-built rental housing starts, Speaker, was approximately 15,000—fantastic news for the many Ontarians who rent rather than own.
Because let’s be clear, Speaker: Ontario faces a housing supply crisis and the only way to bring costs down and make housing more attainable for more Ontarians is to build more homes of all types faster. But we know that finding a rental unit isn’t the only challenge facing renters. That’s why we are focused on making sure that once Ontarians have a home to rent, their rights are clearly and properly protected.
In 2020, for instance, our government passed Bill 184, the Protecting Tenants and Strengthening Community Housing Act. Under Bill 184, the Residential Tenancies Act was amended to strengthen tenant protections in a variety of ways. For instance, we increased penalties and fines for landlords who break the law, strengthened protections for tenants facing so-called “renovictions” and increased the compensation which they are owed due to no fault and bad faith evictions. We also lowered the administrative burden on renters and landlords alike to make it easier and faster to find rental housing and resolve disputes.
I recount all this, Speaker, because I believe it provides important context to this evening’s debate. Our government has repeatedly stood up for tenants, including throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, when our government froze rents for the vast majority of renters. We are working tirelessly to increase the supply of purpose-built rentals, particularly for families, so that Ontarians can access the rental housing they need.
The bill introduced would impose extra costs on landlords that would inevitably end up being borne by tenants—and all by attempting to solve an issue already addressed by our government—with the potential for massive increases to upkeep and maintenance costs. Moreover, the bill would affect not just apartment buildings and condos but would also apply to rental units within houses and other buildings that have never previously been required to have a generator. The likely outcome of this onerous new requirement, Speaker, would be that rental housing supply in Ontario would actually decrease, with higher costs making new rental units unviable and existing landlords choosing to take their units off the market rather than covering the significant new costs being proposed in this bill, particularly in instances when a room or unit within a house is being rented out.
Don’t take my word for it, Speaker: The member sponsoring the bill in front of us is the MPP for Ottawa West–Nepean, and Ottawa city council recently had the chance to weigh in on this proposal, with councillors noting that the bill did not have the “best information” needed to support its implementation. Instead, as councillors pointed out, this bill’s proposals would impose substantial new costs on renters, landlords and non-profit organizations, without any clear sense of how or who would pay for it. Speaker, allow me to say this with all due respect: When it comes to legislation brought before this house, that’s simply not good enough. As one Ottawa councillor put it in the recent debate, “Serious issues require serious analysis.” Unfortunately, that serious analysis is not present in this bill. I take the warnings that we have heard from these councillors seriously, and I would encourage my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to do the same.
Tony Irwin, the president and CEO of the Federation of Rental-housing Providers of Ontario, states, “FRPO members take pride in the quality of their stock and the service they provide to residents. The private member’s legislation Bill 47 adds significant costs to rental operations while putting severe limits on recovery of those costs. The Residential Tenancies Act identifies water, heat—during the prescribed time of the year—and electricity as vital services to be provided to residents, which renders this bill redundant. These types of policies, and, moreover, the NDP attitude towards rental housing providers that results in these policies, serve as a disincentive to create, build and own apartments in Ontario. Given the housing crisis we currently face, we should look for ways to incentivize construction instead of punitively punishing current providers.”
Since day one, our government has been prepared to take a hard look at the challenges facing renters and provide real assistance that will help tenants. Yet I note with regret that the members opposite not only failed to support these efforts but instead actively campaigned against them and against the non-profit and affordable housing partners who supported them. Our government will continue to stand up for renters, for non-profit housing, for affordable housing and for attainable housing. We will continue to consider common-sense, well-thought-out measures that will lower costs and cut red tape for Ontarians and make it cheaper and easier for Ontarians to find a home they need and can afford.
The bill in front of us today would do the opposite. It would increase costs, it would lower the supply of new rental housing and it would drive existing units out of the rental market. For that reason, I will be voting against this bill, and I encourage my colleagues to do the same. Instead, I will continue to support our government’s efforts to get more purpose-built rental housing built without delay so we can end Ontario’s housing supply crisis, protect renters and help more Ontarians find a home they can actually afford, because that is what the people of Ontario expect of us.
The Acting Speaker (Ms. Patrice Barnes): The member for University–Rosedale.
Ms. Jessica Bell: Thank you to the member for Ottawa West–Nepean for introducing this very important bill. I was very surprised by the member for Thunder Bay–Atikokan’s comments. I have never heard of backup generation having so much impact on an entire housing sector.
This government’s track record on housing affordability is abysmal. In the five years this government has been in power—approaching five years—housing has never been more expensive, renting has never been more expensive, and it is this that is your government’s legacy.
I am very proud to be standing in support of Bill 47. Bill 47 is a very practical, well-thought-out bill. It requires every apartment and condo building in Ontario to have a backup generator that is capable of powering at least one elevator, water pumps and lights in common areas like stairwells during a power outage for a period of up to two weeks. That is so practical. The reason why this is so practical is because we are entering this new climate reality, this new weather reality where extreme weather events are becoming a monthly occurrence. We have the events in Ottawa. We have the ice storm in Toronto. We also have examples of 650 Parliament, which had a fire outage which resulted in the thousand-plus people living in that building being without their basic essentials for extended periods of time.
Having a backup generator makes a whole lot of sense. Just like we no longer leave it to the landlord to decide whether or not to install smoke alarms or fire alarms, we can no longer leave it up to a landlord to decide whether or not to protect people’s human rights in an emergency.
The reason why this issue is so important to me and the constituents in my riding is because 80% of the people in University–Rosedale live in buildings that are five units or more. When we’re looking at these buildings on Bay Street, on Bloor Street, in Yorkville, they’re small towns. There are upwards of 2,000 people living in these buildings, and it makes a whole lot of sense to ensure that they have backup power, just like a small municipality would, in instances of extreme weather events. The people who will benefit most from this are people who are most vulnerable: our seniors who can’t get downstairs, people with disabilities, people with accessibility challenges, parents with small children, people with complex medical needs who need that extra help. They need the elevator to work, they need their water to turn on, they need to be able to cook food in their home, they need to be able to survive.
This is also about saving money, because it is always cheaper to prevent an emergency than pay for the cost of a recovery. That is why I support this bill, and I congratulate the member from Ottawa West–Nepean for introducing it and taking it to second reading. Thank you.
The Acting Speaker (Ms. Patrice Barnes): Further debate.
Mr. Joel Harden: I want to begin, as other colleagues have done, with a deep note of gratitude to my friend from Ottawa West–Nepean for bringing this forward. In making that acknowledgement of gratitude, I want us all in this House to remember that this was the moment when some people stood up in this place to fight for people to have access to basic core human needs in emergencies. And there will be more emergencies, unthankfully.
There will be more emergencies because of this government’s lackluster record on the climate emergency in which we’re living. But let it also be known for the record that tonight was the night where some members, like the member for Thunder Bay–Atikokan, stood up in this place and made arguments that were eerily similar, perhaps, to those who once stood in this place and argued against seat belts in cars as “red tape for industry,” or they argued against the notion that we shouldn’t cease smoking in closed spaces like restaurants or airplanes.
There’s always someone somewhere willing to say that somebody’s human rights and the need to preserve those human rights are expendable red tape for somebody very rich and powerful. But that’s not who the NDP listen to. That’s not who the member for Ottawa West–Nepean listens to. When the derecho happened, in May, the member for Ottawa West–Nepean and the folks who work hard in our community in Ottawa Centre—we were in the middle of an election campaign but we immediately went to work. We stopped knocking on doors for an election and we started knocking on doors to do wellness checks for neighbours.
I will never forget going into a community housing building around the corner from my own home in the south end of the riding. Going into that community housing building, a three-storey community housing building, four days into this derecho, was like going into a coal mine. You couldn’t see a thing. The backup emergency generators for that building were off. Food in people’s fridges had expired. They were scraping by and trying to figure out a way to survive. People were falling down the stairs in the dark. And the member from Thunder Bay–Atikokan has the temerity to say the human rights of those people in that building don’t matter.
Well, I can tell you something, Speaker, that the member has inspired me to do. I can’t wait—I was talking to my friend from Thunder Bay–Superior North—to go up to his community and knock on some doors in some apartment buildings and to tell them that there are members of this House that do not care for their human rights and are willing to think about them as red tape. And should they consider re-electing people like that, sending them back here? Because we have a record in Ottawa West–Nepean of removing Conservatives who have contempt for people’s human rights. Thank you, Speaker.
The Acting Speaker (Ms. Patrice Barnes): Further debate.
Ms. Bhutila Karpoche: It is my privilege to rise today, on behalf of the residents of Parkdale–High Park who live in apartment buildings and condos, to speak to Bill 47, the Protecting Human Rights in an Emergency Act.
I would like to begin by expressing my gratitude to the member for Ottawa West–Nepean for her leadership and her work on this important bill, and I’m proud to be a co-sponsor.
This bill mandates that every apartment and condo building in Ontario must have a generator capable of powering at least one elevator, water pumps, and lights in common areas like stairwells during a power outage for a period of up to two weeks. The bill also prevents building owners from passing the cost of installing the generator onto tenants and residents.
Speaker, power outages can be dangerous, unsafe and deeply traumatic experiences for people who are trapped in their homes without access to food, water or medical care. People with mobility issues, such as seniors, people living with disabilities and parents of young children are especially vulnerable during a power outage, as they cannot use elevators. Residents are also forced into unsafe situations where they try to use the stairs, often in the dark, while carrying food and water into their homes—and maybe their children.
CanAge, Canada’s national seniors advocacy organization, has spoken out about how critical generators are for seniors and for disabled individuals during power outages, where oxygen hookups can fail and medications cannot be obtained. We in Toronto remember the experience of tenants at 650 Parliament Street, and also the experience of many residents living in buildings during the ice storm of December 2013.
Speaker, a panel that studied the response to the ice storm said that high-rise apartments and condominiums needed far bigger backup power systems in case of extended power outages. That recommendation was made in 2014.
It is unacceptable that Ontario residents living in buildings without any backup generators continue to experience these challenges. With the increasing frequency of extreme weather events due to climate change, the need for backup generators is becoming more urgent. The city of Toronto adopted a voluntary standard in 2016 calling for generators in all buildings, but this protection should not be voluntary; it must be mandatory. It is astonishing, really, that such a life-saving measure is not already in place.
Just like how we require the installation of smoke detectors and fire alarms, we can no longer leave it up to building owners and landlords to decide whether or not to protect human rights in an emergency. Therefore, I urge all members of this House to support Bill 47, which can and will save lives. Thank you.
The Acting Speaker (Ms. Patrice Barnes): Further debate?
MPP Kristyn Wong-Tam: It’s my honour to rise in this House to speak on behalf of the good people of Toronto Centre in support of Bill 47.
This is a pretty important bill for my community and actually for the city of Toronto and, I suspect, for every city that has high-rises. If you’ve got five floors, 10 units and you’ve got an elevator in this unit, this bill is going to help your local community, because disaster will happen. Electrical fires will take place. Electrical failures will take place. Power will be lost. And at that point in time, your community is going to be looking to you for help.
That’s what happened to me at 650 Parliament when my community experienced a catastrophic electrical failure. Fifteen hundred residents, larger than some of your local communities, in one tower had to be evacuated—1,500 residents, 22-storeys large, 570 units. In that building were a range of residents: seniors, people with mobility devices who use them, as well as the elderly, mothers who had just recently given birth, all trying to navigate the stairwell in the dark. Eventually, those residents were out of the building for about two years.
Now, this is an extreme example, but let me tell you what ended up happening. The property owner was not able to provide care for their residents, which was deemed as their responsibility. The city of Toronto stepped in. What did we do? We provided emergency shelter. We booked hotel rooms for them. We had to make sure that their medication was in refrigerators. We had to make sure that they were going to be safe. They couldn’t go back to their place of residence because there was no ability to get them back into those properties. It was very, very stressful. It resulted in two class action lawsuits that then merged together into one.
Why do I raise that issue with you? Because I’m hearing members of this House, Speaker, talk about the cost to landlords. I’ll tell you what the cost is to the landlord. The city of Toronto is going to recover that cost. We issued a civil action because the landlord at that time, the property owner at that time, said, “I’m ill-equipped to provide support to my tenants.” City officials, including city lawyers, said, “It is your responsibility—your responsibility to take care of your residents, your responsibility to make sure that they have interim shelter, your responsibility to make sure they have emergency clothing as well as the fact that it happened in the wintertime.” It was their responsibility. They asked the city for help, and the city provided that help, and now the city is going to court to recover those charges.
All of that being said is that, it is not necessarily about how much you’re going to save up front. You are going to pay later on. There is an ability right now for us to provide security to those property owners and the landlords to make sure that they can provide support to their tenants down the road. You pay now or you pay later. It’s going to cost you a lot more if you have to pay later.
The Acting Speaker (Ms. Patrice Barnes): Further debate?
The member has two minutes to reply.
Ms. Chandra Pasma: After hearing so many difficult and challenging stories from Ottawa residents, there’s a few that are going to stay with me, probably for the rest of my life.
One of them is Marlene, the senior who was left alone for five days with no one to check on her, eating peanut butter because that’s all she had in her apartment; the senior who made her way down 17 flights of stairs by herself on her bottom, one step at a time; and Lynn Ashdown’s video diary, the panic and the despair she felt after 10 days alone in the dark. The landlords of these three women, Speaker, are hugely profitable. Lynn’s landlord is Minto, a real estate investment trust, which is charging an average rent of $1,700 per unit and raking in millions. And yet these landlords are willing to let people like Lynn, people like Marlene, suffer alone in the dark without food or water, rather than installing a generator.
Today this government chose to side with those landlords and property developers instead of with our seniors, our people with disabilities, parents of young children and people like Marlene and Lynn. I suppose I should have expected it, Speaker, because this is part of a pattern that we are seeing from this government. That, in a moment when we have incredible challenges—when people can’t get health care, when people can’t find affordable housing, when people can’t put food on the table—instead of fixing those challenges this government is busy enriching the family and friends, already wealthy, who are around the Premier.
This is incredibly disappointing—incredibly disappointing, Speaker—but the people of Ontario can clearly see who is on their side and who is not. Thank you.
The Acting Speaker (Ms. Patrice Barnes): The time provided for private members’ public business has expired. Ms. Pasma has moved second reading of Bill 47, An Act to amend the Residential Tenancies Act, 2006 and the Condominium Act, 1998 to require emergency power generators. Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry?
All those in favour of the motion will say “aye.”
All those opposed to the motion will say “nay.”
In my opinion, the nays have it.
A recorded vote being required, it will be deferred until the next instance of deferred votes.
Second reading vote deferred.
The Acting Speaker (Ms. Patrice Barnes): All matters relating to private members’ public business have been completed. This House stands adjourned until tomorrow, February 23, at 9 a.m.
The House adjourned at 1842.