42e législature, 1re session

L159 - Tue 14 Apr 2020 / Mar 14 avr 2020

The House met at 1300.

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Let us pray.


Royal assent / Sanction royale

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): I beg to inform the House, in the name of Her Majesty the Queen, Her Honour the Lieutenant Governor has been pleased to assent to a certain bill in her office.

The Deputy Clerk (Mr. Trevor Day): The following is the title of the bill to which Her Honour did assent:

An Act to enact and amend various statutes / Loi édictant et modifiant diverses lois.

Social distancing in the chamber

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): I recognize the government House leader.

Hon. Paul Calandra: Speaker, I’m seeking unanimous consent that members present for today’s proceedings be permitted to speak and vote from any member’s desk in the chamber in order to observe recommended social and physical distancing between people at the present time.

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): The government House leader is seeking unanimous consent of the House that members present for today’s proceedings be permitted to speak and vote from any member’s desk in the chamber in order to observe recommended social and physical distancing between people at the present time.

Agreed? Agreed.

Introduction of Bills

Coronavirus (COVID-19) Support and Protection Act, 2020 / Loi de 2020 sur les mesures de soutien et de protection liées au coronavirus (COVID-19)

Mr. Lecce moved first reading of the following bill:

Bill 189, An Act to amend various Acts to address the coronavirus (COVID-19) / Projet de loi 189, Loi modifiant diverses lois pour lutter contre le coronavirus (COVID-19).

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? Carried.

First reading agreed to.

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Would the minister care to give a brief explanation of his bill at this time?

Hon. Stephen Lecce: Thank you, Speaker. The bill will amend five key areas, key acts: the Education Act, the Planning Act, the Development Charges Act, the Police Services Act and the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities Act. I’ll address these further in my remarks.

Statements by the Ministry and Responses


Hon. Doug Ford: COVID-19 is the greatest threat we’ve seen in decades. It’s an invisible enemy, a deadly enemy. The fight against this enemy is the test that will define our generation. It’s the test that will define us as a people and as a province. When they look back on this time, we will be judged on how we looked out for each other. We will be judged on how we looked after those most vulnerable, those who cannot look after themselves. And I can tell you, Mr. Speaker, our enemy is ruthless. It preys on our seniors and most vulnerable, and we must protect them. We’re using every tool available to us. We are deploying every resource we have.

On March 17, I took an unprecedented step of declaring a provincial state of emergency. I did not make this decision lightly, Mr. Speaker. We looked out and looked at our best information we had available to us. We consulted with the Chief Medical Officer of Health. We debated long into the night. And we continue to do everything within our power to stop the spread and flatten the curve.

We know this virus is still far from over. We are still facing a clear and present danger as long as COVID-19 continues to spread. As long as our seniors and the most vulnerable are at risk, Ontario must remain in a position to take any and all actions necessary to fight this virus.

That is why we’re extending the declaration of emergency by another 28 days. We must continue to restrict social gatherings. We must continue to keep non-essential workplaces closed. We must continue to put an iron ring around our seniors. And we must continue to test the most vulnerable and those who care for them. We must continue to do everything in our power to prevent our hospitals from being overwhelmed, and the extension of the emergency order allows us to keep doing what’s necessary.

I want to thank all the parties present for supporting us during this critical time. Mr. Speaker, we know that people are struggling out there, and we’re taking further action today to help ease the financial burden on the people of Ontario.

That’s why we’re proud to introduce the Coronavirus Support and Protection Act. This act will provide targeted support. My colleagues will tell you more about this important bill in just a moment.

Mr. Speaker, when the history books are written, it will be said that the people of this great, great province never surrendered to the virus. They didn’t quit when the going got tough. They didn’t leave anyone behind. This crisis, like many before it, has shown what we’re made of. We are people who stand our ground. We rise to the occasion, and Ontario will get through this together. Ontario will emerge from this crisis stronger than ever before.

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Responses?

Ms. Andrea Horwath: As I rise to respond to the ministerial statement, I’ve got a lot of people across our great province in my heart: the public health staff and all of our health care workers, who are protecting the elderly and caring for the sick; the first responders, who help keep our communities safe and healthy; the pharmacists, grocery store staff, farmers, truckers, supply chain workers, and all those involved in getting food and medicine onto our shelves and eventually onto our tables.

These heroes get up and head to work every day during these dark times so that their friends, their loved ones, their neighbours, and even strangers can do their part and stay home.

I think of the kids decorating the driveways, sidewalks and windows in their homes with encouraging messages for neighbours—this morning I heard of a woman who is putting a riddle out every day on her sidewalk to cheer up her neighbours in her community—or the teachers who are going the extra mile to make their online lessons fun and compelling for the kids by making entertaining TikTok videos for their students and scouring the Internet for educational memes.

I think of the businesses of all sizes that are pitching in by manufacturing masks or hand sanitizer, or by supporting health care workers with food or discounts. I think of the artists and performers using their art to try to help folks make it through the self-isolation. And I think of the folks who are strengthening their communities by making donations, running errands and checking in on the most vulnerable.


The people of this province are tackling this challenge with bravery and compassion. They are doing their part. We are here today to do ours, to push for the help Ontarians need to make it through this crisis.

People across the province are seeing terrifying outbreaks sweep through one long-term-care home after another, as well as assisted living and group home settings. Seniors in care, vulnerable people and their loved ones are anxious about what will happen next as more residents and health care workers in these facilities are diagnosed with COVID-19. All of us are filled with sorrow for those who have lost friends and family members, a sorrow that we know is only deepened because the pandemic has made it impossible for many of us to say goodbye in person to the loved ones we are losing, or sometimes at all.

But Ontarians are made of tough stuff. I’ve been watching over this last week or so, particularly, as people have found new ways to celebrate. We went through a number of celebrations this past number of days, including Passover, Easter and Vaisakhi. I listened to the radio and watched on the Internet as people found new ways to show their support and love for one another. I found it quite inspiring to see the unique ways that people reached out to be with family in a virtual way. Whether it was on FaceTime or Zoom or other types of electronic opportunities, folks didn’t let the coronavirus distancing requirements stop them from getting together and rejoicing with their family, their loved ones and their friends. I think that that’s what Ontarians are made of. They are people who are going to use any opportunity to support one another, and that was what happened over the last number of days. It was interesting to watch as meals were being cooked and left on porches for other neighbours or family members. It was very interesting to see how the necessity of change that the coronavirus has brought amongst us has also been the mother of invention when it comes to finding ways to connect and support each other. For this, I was very inspired, as I said, and very moved by what’s happened over the last number of days.

But that’s not over. We have a bit of a journey left ahead of us. I think we all realize that. It’s that spirit that we’re going to have to pull up from inside of us and basically pretend we’re having those same kinds of celebrations every single day now until the end of this virus. We will support each other as Ontarians. We will get through this. I know that Queen’s Park is going to have to step up to help people weather this storm, which is why we’re going to pass today’s legislation that the government has brought forward and we’re going to continue to be pushing for better, so that folks in every community in this province have the support that they need to cope with the incredible instability that they’re facing. Thanks very much, Speaker. Meegwetch.

Mr. John Fraser: I’d like to begin by thanking everyone out on the front lines, those working in hospitals, long-term care, retirement homes, group homes, grocery stores, pharmacies, first responders, public transit, all those people out there who are taking risks every day so that we can get through this together.

Speaker, it’s not enough for us just to simply say thank you to all these brave men and women. Our words need to be followed by actions. These are exceptional circumstances, truly extraordinary times that require us to take extraordinary measures. That’s why we’re here today, to extend these emergency measures.

There are three things that we must do right now to help those on the front lines:

(1) All front-line workers should have the protective equipment they need to stay safe. In particular, I’d like to thank the Premier for all his efforts in this regard and the people of Alberta for their generosity. Still, not everyone has what they need yet. We know there is more work to do, and we can’t do it fast enough.

(2) There are thousands of PSWs, developmental service workers, youth workers and mental health workers here in Ontario, and we now understand the value of their work. These workers are amongst the lowest-paid in our province. We need to adequately compensate them, and we need to do that now, because they’re taking those risks right now.

(3) Importantly, not all of our front-line workers are covered by WSIB. There are people doing the same work in different settings, and they aren’t covered. That’s not fair. Front-line workers need to know that if they get sick, if they end up with a permanent disability or, heaven forbid, lose their life because of COVID-19, we will take care of them and their families. We need to ensure that all front-line workers are covered by WSIB, and we have to figure out some sort of presumptive measure for COVID-19 in that.

I want to thank the government and my opposition colleagues for all of the work they’re doing here and in their communities. It’s a pleasure to work with you. We have to keep moving forward.

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Responses?

Mr. Mike Schreiner: I’m inspired by the extraordinary way people have responded to this crisis. We’ve learned a lot about how we as Ontarians care for each other. While this crisis has exposed the fragility and inequities of our social and economic systems, it has also highlighted the extraordinary things people will do to care for each other. This caring spirit should inform our plans to combat this crisis.

All of us in this province face tremendous stress—probably no one more so than the Premier. So, through you, Speaker, I’d like to address the Premier directly. Premier, I know that you are working incredibly long hours, dealing with unprecedented demands. I’d like to extend that to the entire cabinet, Speaker.

I want you to know that when I respond to what people are saying to me by putting their demands on the table, it is in the spirit of co-operation and social solidarity. We are in this crisis together, and we must recover from it together.

While I applaud the Premier for forming a cabinet committee on economic recovery, giving us a glimmer of hope that, yes, we are going to recover from this crisis, I urge him to include an active role for the opposition. Recovery will not only require a whole-of-government approach; it will require a whole-of-society approach, and that includes the voices of the people who elected all members of this House.

There are gaps in the government’s response to this crisis. Those gaps will be closed by all of us working together, giving everyone in this province, through the members of this House, a seat at the table and a voice at the table—because we are all in this together.

Thank you, Speaker, and thank you to the people of Ontario for the extraordinary way we have all responded to this crisis together.


Order of business

Hon. Paul Calandra: Speaker, I believe you will find we have unanimous consent to move a motion without notice regarding the immediate passage of one bill, debate on a motion to extend the period of emergency in Ontario, and the adjournment of the House.

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): The government House leader is seeking the unanimous consent of the House to move a motion without notice regarding the immediate passage of one bill, debate on a motion to extend the period of emergency in Ontario, and the adjournment of the House. Agreed? Agreed.

Again, I’ll recognize the government House leader.

Hon. Paul Calandra: I move that, notwithstanding any standing order or special order of the House,

That the order for second reading of Bill 189, An Act to amend various Acts to address the coronavirus (COVID-19), may be called today, and when that order is called, 80 minutes shall be allotted to the debate on the motion for second reading of the bill, with 30 minutes allotted to the government, 30 minutes allotted to the official opposition and 20 minutes allotted to the independent members as a group, at the end of which time the Speaker shall interrupt and put every question necessary to dispose of this stage of the bill without further debate or amendment, and at such time the bill shall be ordered for third reading; and


That the order for third reading of Bill 189 shall then immediately be called and the question shall immediately be put on the motion for third reading of the bill without debate or amendment; and

That the motion to extend the period of emergency, as recommended to the Speaker by the Premier in his letter dated April 10, 2020, be immediately called and moved without notice; and

That the Speaker shall immediately put the question on the motion without debate or amendment; and

That in the case of any division on any proceedings provided for in this motion, the division bell be limited to five minutes; and

That the House shall continue to meet beyond the normal hour of adjournment today if necessary; and

That when the House adjourns today, it shall stand adjourned until Tuesday, May 12, 2020, at 9 a.m.

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Mr. Calandra has moved that, notwithstanding any standing order or special order of the House—

Interjection: Dispense.

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Dispense? Dispense.

Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? Carried.

Motion agreed to.

Appointment of Information and Privacy Commissioner

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Once again, I’ll recognize the government House leader.

Hon. Paul Calandra: Speaker, I believe you will find we have unanimous consent to move a motion without notice regarding the appointment of the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario.

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Mr. Calandra is seeking unanimous consent of the House to move a motion without notice regarding the appointment of the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario. Agreed? Agreed.

Once again, government House leader.

Hon. Paul Calandra: I move that, in accordance with subsection 4(2) of the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, R.S.O. 1990, c. F.31, Patricia Kosseim be appointed Information and Privacy Commissioner for a term of five years, as set out in subsection 5(1) of the act, commencing on July 1, 2020.

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Mr. Calandra has moved that, in accordance with subsection 4(2) of the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, R.S.O. 1990, c. F.31, Patricia Kosseim be appointed Information and Privacy Commissioner for a term of five years, as set out in subsection 5(1) of the act, commencing on July 1, 2020. Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? Carried.

Motion agreed to.

Orders of the Day

Coronavirus (COVID-19) Support and Protection Act, 2020 / Loi de 2020 sur les mesures de soutien et de protection liées au coronavirus (COVID-19)

Mr. Lecce moved second reading of the following bill:

Bill 189, An Act to amend various Acts to address the coronavirus (COVID-19) / Projet de loi 189, Loi modifiant diverses lois pour lutter contre le coronavirus (COVID-19).

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): I look to the government’s side to lead off the debate and recognize again the Minister of Education.

Hon. Stephen Lecce: Speaker, we swore an oath to serve the people of this province, to do what is right, to protect human health, to protect workers’ jobs and their incomes, to do whatever it takes to safeguard the people in this province from the sea of turmoil around us. Today, we embody the best of our parliamentary traditions, the best of this country, and uphold the strength of our democracy by coming together to overcome this threat. One people, one country and one mission, and that is to conquer COVID-19.

I am grateful to the people of this province, led by our front-line workers, for demonstrating a resolve, a determination, an unshakable commitment to win this battle, to overcome this adversity and to emerge from this darkness stronger and more united than ever before, as the Premier has said. Let that light ignite us all, in all regions of our province—north, south, east and west—all free people to do their part to overcome our challenge.

This Legislature and government are reflecting that spirit. Last month, we issued a declaration of emergency and a closure of non-essential business. We ordered the closure of all publicly funded schools until April 5 and then extended the closure until May. I can assure you, Speaker, those decisions were not made easily and they were not taken lightly, but they were made to protect the health and safety of all Ontarians.

COVID-19 will create additional unforeseen hardships on students and communities if we do not act quickly. The Premier made clear our government’s intent to renew the emergency order for another 28 days, giving our heroic front-line health workers the resources they need to decisively combat COVID-19.

To build on this, to build on our actions to date to save lives, I am pleased to rise in the Legislature to introduce the Coronavirus Support and Protection Act, designed with one aim in mind: maintain the safety of families and protect the financial interests of households, of our communities, of our schools and of our future. This bill will help build and protect the public by amending five key areas: the Education Act, the Planning Act, the Development Charges Act, the Police Services Act, and the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities Act.

Speaker, we’re providing real relief for post-secondary students. This bill will give Ontario students a well-earned break by suspending payments for OSAP borrowers and initiating a six-month, interest-free moratorium on OSAP loans. By temporarily suspending loan repayments and interest accrual, our government is providing immediate support for students during this difficult time.

We’re acting to ensure our schools continue to be built and students remain safe. In the Ministry of Education, we’re acting to allow school boards to charge education development charges, or EDCs, on new construction, ensuring a vital source of revenue continues to flow so that we can build schools in this province. EDC bylaws expire every five years, and three school board EDCs are set to expire at the end of June.

This bill would allow school boards to continue using their existing bylaws during the current emergency and for six months after the emergency’s termination to allow EDCs on new projects. The measure will allow school boards to focus on other urgent matters in these unprecedented times, such as ensuring the continuity of learning.

An additional amendment to the Education Act would provide a fair province-wide approach to addressing school suspensions and expulsions during this closure period. The amendment would allow principals and boards to carry out investigations and expulsion hearings for those students up to 20 days after the school closure or when schools reopen. Suspensions made under this section of the Education Act are for fairly serious criminal offences. The amendment would help protect the safety and security of students and staff upon the reopening of schools.

We’ll continue to work to ensure students remain learning in an ambitious program that restores teacher-led learning through this province. And I want to echo the message of the Leader of the Opposition, the Premier, the leader of the Green Party, the leader of the Liberal Party and so many others who have expressed gratitude to our educators for rising to the challenge and working so hard to do what is right for their kids. After all, we took nearly two million students into distant virtual learning in a matter of days—an incredible transformation, truly a collaborative work in progress, that’s making a difference for our kids.

This bill provides some much-needed assistance to our municipal partners. More specifically, our legislation will give municipalities the time they need to focus on public health priorities by allowing them to use their current development charge bylaws during this time and for up to six months following the end of the emergency declaration. Finally, our government will give municipalities an extension for preparing and adopting a community safety and well-being plan.

Mr. Speaker, this bill, coupled with actions to date—from hydro relief for families, to enhanced support for seniors, to direct financial support to parents—will deliver the relief Ontarians deserve. It is an action plan to ensure we get through this. It embraces the enduring fortitude of the words spoken through the ages by former Prime Minister Winston Churchill, who expressed to a fatigued nation to “never, never, never give up.” Together, we will not.

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Further debate?

Ms. Andrea Horwath: As I rise to speak to this legislation, I want to start by again recognizing, thanking and celebrating the people of Ontario, who continue to act with courage and selflessness each and every day. I know that all of us, both in this House today and in communities across Ontario, extend our deepest thanks to our province’s public health staff, all health care workers, grocery store staff, pharmacists, transit drivers, truckers, supply chain workers, first responders and all essential workers—the folks who go to work every day so their friends, loved ones and neighbours can do their part by staying home.

Our thoughts continue to be with everyone who is battling COVID-19. We wish them a speedy and complete recovery. We also extend, of course, our deepest condolences to the loved ones of those who have lost their lives fighting this virus. We wish their family and friends comfort, peace and resilience during this painful time.

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to escalate and upend the lives of folks across the province, the country and the globe, I’m so proud that Ontarians are continuing to step up and find new ways to come together and take care of one another. We are a community, even when we’re apart.

People in every corner of this province are feeling the painful impacts of this pandemic on their lives. It is terrifying, heartbreaking and tragic to witness COVID-19 outbreaks sweeping through one long-term-care home after the other. We are filled with sorrow for those who have lost family and friends and for those who can’t be with their loved ones as they fight this deadly virus.


We can’t go back in time. And the time to evaluate the preparedness in our health care and long-term-care system will come later. But the things Ontario has failed to do, we have to do now. We have to stop workers from working in more than one care home, which risks bringing the virus from one facility to another, causing more deadly outbreaks. We have to start testing everyone in long-term care, supportive and assisted housing, retirement homes, and group home settings, and we need to keep testing them regularly so we can catch outbreaks and isolate people quickly.

We need to ramp up testing now, and saying the right words is simply not enough. We need every worker in home care, long-term care and health care wearing protective gear, and we need them tested, and we need them paid well enough that they don’t need to moonlight at a second facility.

Ontarians have seen their lives and livelihoods overturned. With each passing week, desperation mounts. People are seeing their bills pile up. If they managed to scrape together April’s rent or mortgage payment—and not everyone did—they’re now just two weeks away from May’s bills. Many are looking at a bank balance that won’t cover them. Seniors on fixed income can’t afford more frequent co-payments. Students’ OSAP funds are drying up and their summer job prospects are pretty much nil.

Some of our heroes during this crisis are sure as heck not being paid like heroes, like the grocery store staff who make minimum wage and take home less than the federal CERB offers, or the personal support workers who are forced to cobble together two or three jobs to get enough hours to make ends meet. The federal programs have offered some relief, no doubt, but they’ve taken too long to arrive. They’re too slow to reach people. For too many, they just fall short, while others fall right through the cracks. They need the provincial government to catch them.

The NDP will vote in favour of today’s bill and allow it to pass immediately. But if Ontario doesn’t do more to help, some people will go hungry, and others will go without the medication they need. The urgent economic crisis Ontarians are facing as a result of COVID-19 is causing suffering, and it will only get worse if the province doesn’t do its part. That’s why the province should offer a supplementary emergency benefit of up to $2,000 a month for those who fall through the cracks of federal support. We should top up social assistance payments with $300 a month, and provide top-ups to low-wage essential workers and families that need more help making ends meet. We need to supply income for students in the form of OSAP grants to get them through the weeks ahead. And, finally, we need to offer complete drug coverage for anyone who’s receiving emergency benefits.

There are other supports for people that this government has still not put into place. This includes a rent supplement, which should be up to 80% of a person’s rent, up to $2,500 a month, plus a ban on evictions—an actual ban on evictions that’s backed up by law, not just by hopes—because we all know that evictions are continuing in Ontario. If we are getting the calls, I’m sure all members of the Legislative Assembly are getting the calls.

People haven’t taken the car out of the garage in weeks, and accidents are way down. Yet many are still struggling to pay full price for their auto insurance because the government hasn’t put in place the 50% discount that people are asking for and we believe they deserve.

Ontarians were hoping that today’s legislation would rescue them from sleepless nights and payments they can’t afford. It doesn’t. It doesn’t do any of those things. It doesn’t rescue people.

I also want to talk about support for small and medium-sized enterprises. Local businesses, charities, and community-based non-profits from shelters to food banks to churches—they’re all falling through the cracks, too, and this bill doesn’t help them, either. Shelter organizations and folks that work on the front lines of communities across the province are raising the alarm. The federal government’s improved wage subsidy is welcome relief, but it doesn’t help with the rent.

I want to tell you about someone named Lavender Chan. Lavender reached out to the NDP MPP for University–Rosedale because the federal help that was provided simply fails her and falls short for her needs. Lavender is a mom to two little ones. Their ages are one and three years old. Her family opened its first small business three years ago, the sushi restaurant called Rolltation. With COVID-19 raging, business has plummeted and Lavender simply cannot pay the rent. She applied to her landlord for a rent reduction but hasn’t gotten a response. The penalty she faces if she breaks her seven-year lease is astronomical. Lavender is one of thousands of business owners across Ontario who have zero options and need help now.

I also want to point out that COVID-19 has begun to reach First Nations communities, and they desperately need help from both the federal and provincial governments to fight this pandemic. The members of this House know far too well that from Fort Hope in the north to Six Nations of the Grand River in the south, many First Nations communities were already dealing with crises in health care outcomes, adequate quality housing, safe running water, flooding and so much more before COVID-19. Now is not the time to play jurisdictional Ping-Pong with the federal government. The folks in these communities live within this province. This government has to step up and provide First Nations communities with the support and the resources they need to fight this pandemic.

The people of the province are counting on us to get this right. They’re counting on us to give front-line health care workers and public health staff the support they need to keep themselves and Ontarians safe. They’re counting on us to make sure the most vulnerable are protected; to provide concrete financial supports to workers, families and small businesses; and to take the steps necessary to safeguard our province’s economy so that all Ontarians, no matter their income, their age, their occupation or what corner of the province they call home, are able to not just weather this storm but make it through ready to build and rebuild their lives and our province’s economy.

We can do this. We can support our health care heroes by ensuring that they have the resources, protection and staffing they need. We can make sure that every worker, family and small business in Ontario has the direct financial support that they need to make it through this crisis. We can ensure that the most vulnerable amongst us—from seniors in long-term care and home care, to people who are homeless and living in shelters, to rural, remote and First Nations communities—are supported and protected during this pandemic.

Every day, I am flooded with stories of Ontarians leading, supporting and amplifying efforts to strengthen our communities and look out for each other. From the kids putting hand-drawn messages in their windows to encourage their neighbours, to the folks at charities and non-profits who continue to be helpers, to the businesses of all sizes that are contributing whatever they can to support their communities, to everyday folks who are staying home to save us all, the people of this province are meeting this crisis with kindness, with courage and with selflessness. They’re doing their part. Now, the government needs to do its part.

Thank you. Merci. Meegwetch.

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Further debate?

Mr. John Fraser: It’s a pleasure to rise today and say a few words about this bill. I want to start by saying thanks to all the children in Ontario. Hopefully, you’re not watching this channel right now; you’re on TVO. But you’re helping a lot. You’re helping a lot by encouraging all of us.

I want to tell you a funny story. My daughter had to drive around the block to drop something off at a neighbour’s house, on the step. She had Fraser, my grandson, in the car. He was in the back seat. He was saying, “It’s taking too long.” She’s going, “Fraser, we’re just going around the corner.” He said, “It’s taking too long,” and he kept going. Then, she says, “Fraser, what is it?” He says, “COVID-19, it’s taking too long.” And today—sorry, Fraser—we’re extending another 28 days.

That’s how we all feel. It’s not easy to be away from the people who we love, whether they’re our grandchildren, our brothers, our sisters, our mums and dads. It’s not easy. It’s not easy for any of us. It’s not easy for any Ontarian. That’s why we all have to pull together and work together, and that’s why we’re going to support this legislation today.

There are important administrative things that are going to help our partners, that are going to protect students. They’re good things. They’re forward-looking. There’s no sense in looking in the rear-view mirror right now. We can’t look behind us. There’s no time. There’s no time for that at all. We’ll have the time to do that sometime from now, and we’ll have to do an honest assessment of how we’ve responded, but we can’t do that right now. What we have to do is move forward.

We know the advice of public health, which tells us to stay home, practise social distancing, wash our hands. If you’re vulnerable, you’re over 70—I’m not there yet, thankfully—or you have a compromised immune system, stay home; isolate. That’s how we’re protecting all those people on the front lines as well.


We need to keep our eyes fixed on what’s in front of us. We have to look forward. Last week, I hosted a town hall, a tele-town hall. I know some of us are doing it here, and I want to thank the Board of Internal Economy for making sure we’re able to do those things and for making such a quick decision. I heard we had 2,700 people on the call at some point, a thousand people, a lot of people. Overwhelmingly, I heard these three things: They’re concerned about their personal and financial health, they’re concerned about long-term care, and they’re concerned about testing. Those are genuine concerns, and they expressed them. Our job is to try to express those to all of us here so we can take some action. I appreciate all the work that people are doing.

In long-term care—we talk about flattening the curve. I think we all feel like we’re behind the curve. And that’s not a criticism. The question is, how do we get ahead of that? It needs to be clearly articulated to people how we’re going to do that. It hasn’t been. I know there are great efforts, but people need to understand that. People need to understand how we can better prepare for what’s happening in long-term-care and retirement homes. There have been some great suggestions by the RNAO about what we need to be doing there. I know the government has followed some of those things and taken them on, and that is great. We need to do all of them. You’ve done great things like look at foreign-trained professionals; that’s important. Ensuring that PPE gets there—it needs to get to every setting. That’s what we’re hearing from people. That’s what they want.

We’re all affected by this. We all know that we can’t do it fast enough, but we have to try. We have to try to be bold and take those measures that right now might seem—like looking at how we’re paying those people who are caring for the people we care for most, because it’s important, and they deserve it. The benefit of that is it’s going to create some stabilization in the workforce and achieve some of those public health guidelines that are being put forward by our public health experts.

I think we all know what we have to do here. I kind of hope the kids are tuning in, and here’s why: Because this is the way that we should work all the time. It is. Maybe that sounds Pollyannaish—I’ve been accused of that before—but that’s the way that things should be. That’s how we have to continue to work through this to support each other, to support all Ontarians and ensure that we all come through this together and nobody gets left behind.

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Further debate?

L’hon. Caroline Mulroney: C’est un honneur pour moi de me lever en cette Chambre aujourd’hui pour appuyer ce projet de loi qui protège les Ontariennes et les Ontariens, ainsi que pour remercier ceux et celles qui travaillent si fort sur les premières lignes afin d’assurer que nous avons tout ce dont nous avons besoin.

Nous voyons tous qu’en ces temps extraordinaires, nous avons des héros extraordinaires. Ce sont les médecins, les infirmières et les infirmiers, et les autres professionnels de la santé dans nos hôpitaux et dans nos centres médicaux, dans les soins de longue durée et les maisons de retraite; les premiers intervenants, les camionneurs, les gens qui travaillent dans les épiceries et les magasins, ainsi que ceux qui assurent le transport en commun à travers notre province; et les entrepreneurs qui ont répondu « présent » lorsque nous avons lancé des demandes d’aide pour de l’équipement et des produits pour assurer le bon fonctionnement de notre chaîne d’approvisionnement et la protection de ceux qui sont sur les premières lignes; et bien sûr, monsieur le Président, tous les bénévoles. Nous vous disons merci. Merci pour votre temps et vos efforts jour après jour pour nous aider à passer à travers. Vous êtes des vrais héros.

Nous, politiciens, sommes ici dans cette session extraordinaire de l’Assemblée législative—un plus petit groupe que d’habitude par exprès, pour que nous puissions observer la distanciation physique—pour prolonger l’état d’urgence sanitaire de 28 jours de plus, cette période pendant laquelle les vrais héros continuent à faire des sacrifices pour nous tous.

Et nous, citoyennes et citoyens de l’Ontario? Nous devons continuer à respecter les consignes du médecin hygiéniste en chef. C’est essentiel pour aplatir la courbe, c’est essentiel pour protéger les plus vulnérables de notre société, et c’est essentiel pour protéger les premiers intervenants.

Le projet de loi que nous proposons aujourd’hui ajoutera aux mesures déjà annoncées qui visent à nous aider à passer à travers ces moments difficiles ensemble. Ce projet de loi contribuera à protéger le public en modifiant cinq lois clés, soit la Loi sur l’éducation, la Loi sur l’aménagement du territoire, la Loi sur les redevances d’aménagement, la Loi sur les services policiers et la Loi sur le ministère de la Formation et des Collèges et Universités.

Les mesures proposées apporteront une aide réelle aux conseils scolaires et aux municipalités dans leur gestion de l’urgence créée par la COVID-19 et apporteront à nos élèves un soutien indispensable. Les mesures sont nécessaires, monsieur le Président, et c’est pour cela que c’est essentiel que tous les membres de cette Assemblée les appuient.

Le projet de loi que nous proposons ajoutera aux mesures déjà annoncées qui visent à nous aider à passer à travers les moments difficiles ensemble. Je voudrais prendre un moment pour vous parler de quelques mesures que nous avons déjà annoncées dans les dernières semaines.

Nous avons annoncé un plan d’action de 17 milliards de dollars afin de lutter contre la COVID-19. Ce plan contient 10 milliards de dollars pour soutenir les particuliers et les entreprises par le biais de reports fiscaux et autres mesures pour améliorer leurs liquidités, pour protéger les emplois et les budgets de nos familles; 3,3 milliards de dollars pour soutenir notre système de santé; et 3,7 milliards de dollars en soutien direct aux personnes et aux emplois.

Notre gouvernement veut assurer que l’Ontario aura les ressources nécessaires pour battre la COVID-19 et protéger la santé et les finances des gens qui en ont besoin.

Cette crise a démontré les héros qui existent parmi nous. J’aimerais prendre un moment pour briller une lumière sur un groupe de héros que nous connaissons tous très bien : les camionneurs. C’est grâce à nos camionneurs que nous avons des aliments et des produits dans nos épiceries et nos magasins. Ils travaillent de longues heures jour après jour et nuit après nuit. Ils méritent notre respect, notre soutien, nos remerciements et nos meilleurs efforts pour les aider. C’est pourquoi nous avons fait appel, à tout le monde, de soutenir nos camionneurs lorsqu’ils s’arrêtent pour se reposer, pour manger et pour faire le plein d’essence. C’est pourquoi nous offrons maintenant davantage d’endroits sécuritaires où les camionneurs peuvent s’arrêter et se reposer dans toute la province, et nous remercions nos partenaires du secteur privé pour leur appui dans ce travail. Ces mesures s’ajoutent aux actions que nous avons prises au début de cette crise pour promouvoir la distanciation sociale et pour réduire le stress des conducteurs.

À tous ceux qui travaillent sur les premières lignes de cette épidémie, on veut vous dire que votre santé et votre bien-être sont la priorité, absolument, de notre gouvernement. Nous sommes à l’écoute, et c’est ensemble que nous allons passer à travers.

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Further debate?

Mr. Jeff Burch: I’d like to take a few moments to speak to the municipal amendments in this bill. Of course, we support those items, which provide some flexibility to municipalities. The development charge bylaws: I believe there are almost 20 municipalities whose development charge bylaws will expire shortly. Providing them with a six-month window to continue to collect those important development charges that support soft services in municipalities across Ontario is very important, and we appreciate that change.

As well as schedule 4, with the changes to the Planning Act, with municipal councils meeting remotely and dealing, of course, with much more important issues, it’s important to extend that period of time that councils have to act on planning decisions before they’re automatically referred to the LPAT.


What we’ve been hearing, Speaker, is that municipalities are bleeding cash. We know that revenues are down from things like transportation and fees, expenses are up as municipalities deal with this crisis, and they’re worried about going into the red. Municipalities cannot run deficits, and so they will need more assistance in the long term than they’re getting now.

The government, I think, has heard people on this side of the House talking about how, if there is any kind of a committee that deals with recovery, all parties need to be part of that committee so that we can have input. Some of the input that our leader has put forward and that we support would be for municipalities that institute property tax deferrals. They should be able to ensure the flexibility to defer their remittance of property tax to the province. That would provide some breathing room for municipalities. We believe that should be in this bill, and we hope that the government considers that in the future.

We should also provide 100% provincial funding to public health units. Currently, municipalities are paying 30% of those costs. What better time than now in this crisis for the province to show that they are partners with municipalities and to support municipalities by footing the cost of public health units and people on the front lines?

There are other jurisdictions like Denmark that are moving forward with plans for recovery. Like businesses, municipalities don’t want to find themselves behind the eight ball when it is time for us to think about recovery. So I hope the government, moving forward, will consider some of these recommendations that are coming from this side of the House.

In the last few moments, Speaker, I would just like—I believe, on behalf of all members of this Legislature—to extend deepest condolences to the family of Councillor Mike Ciolfi from Pelham who passed away on Sunday after testing positive for COVID-19. I want to thank the leader of the official opposition and the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing for recognizing him on social media yesterday. He leaves behind a wife and two daughters. He was a wonderful community activist and a great councillor, and he will be deeply missed.

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Further debate?

Mr. Mike Schreiner: It’s an honour today to rise to speak on this bill. Before I begin, I just want to take a moment to thank the front-line health care workers, the delivery drivers, the transit drivers, our long-term-care workers, our teachers. My children have received their homework, much to their displeasure, but they’re working hard at it, I hope, as we speak.

I want to offer my condolences to everyone who we’ve lost in this crisis. I know we all feel it. I think, sometimes, where I most feel it is when I do that thing that we all do every week and go grocery shopping. You can see it in the eyes of everyone who’s also shopping and you can see it in the eyes of the people at the store. There’s this fear, but yet a deep desire to connect with each other. It just shows you the everyday heroes that we experience as we do some of the most mundane things day to day in our lives.

I also want to say I appreciate the actions of the government that they’ve taken to help flatten the curve and, frankly, save lives. I want to thank the people of Ontario who are staying home and practising physical distancing and saving lives.

I have little doubt that the government, with a bit of pushing from the opposition and others, are doing everything they can to make sure we ramp up the amount of testing we do in the province, to make sure that everyone—our front-line health care workers; those who work in long-term-care homes; those who work in any homes, whether it’s supportive housing, housing for disabled people of all abilities—has the personal protective equipment they need. Front-line officers—I’m starting to see more delivery drivers having access now. It’s so critically important to get that in the hands of everyone who’s working on the front lines in our province.

I think the Premier and the Prime Minister deserve compliments and kudos for the clear way they’ve been communicating during this crisis, being transparent with the public about what is happening and the urgent priorities to flatten the curve and save lives.

In many respects, that means quarantining partisanship in this House, so I’ll be supporting this bill, supporting the fast passage of this bill, like the other opposition parties. But I also want to talk about some things that I feel are missing from the bill as well, because I think it’s important to hear from those Ontarians who want us to come and fill in the gaps.

Unfortunately, even though the federal government has acted, there are a lot of Ontarians who are still falling through the gaps. I’ve been hearing from people who don’t fully qualify for the CERB payments. I’m talking about people who need additional mental health supports. I’m talking about small businesses who don’t know if they’re going to keep the doors open after May 1, when the next rent is due. And I’m sure the government is hearing those concerns too.

The problem is not what’s in the bill. What’s in the bill is good. The challenge is what’s not in the bill, and that’s what I think we need to address when we come back next month, if it’s not too late for some folks.

I received an email, and I want to read it, from a constituent of mine who I think really captures how some people are falling through the cracks:

“I am a single mom that has a 20-year-old daughter that is dependent on me, as we both are victims of domestic violence ... her mental and emotional health is very unstable at this time. She was in trauma counselling.

“She is also an essential service worker ... with the reduction of hours at her employment, she only works 10 hours a week.

“She doesn’t qualify for EI benefits nor the CERB.

“Now with the loss of one of my positions, there is not enough to pay for rent, car payments, food and any of our bills.

“I am not sure where to turn to or who to turn to at this time. Everything that I have read online doesn’t qualify my daughter and myself. I am reaching out for help.”

So I want a bill that’s going to help the people like her—and she’s not the only one—across Ontario. We need direct financial payments for people who don’t qualify for the CERB. We need direct financial payments for people who are on social assistance, to top them up to the CERB. Because I can tell you, so many people I know on Ontario Works and Ontario disability support would get by by doing odd jobs here and there to bring in a little extra cash, or they would go to places like Hope House in my riding to get lunch as a community. Those places are closed. Those job opportunities no longer exist. But those people still need to eat. They’re our neighbours.

We’re fortunate that landlords are mostly being pretty flexible with rent, but we can’t rely on goodwill alone. I’ve talked to small business owners who don’t know if they’ll be able to maintain their business. We know the Amazons and the Walmarts of the world are going to survive this crisis, but I want our downtowns to survive this crisis. I want the businesses that make our communities so vibrant and vital to survive this crisis. I don’t know if they’re going to be able to reopen if they don’t get rent support for May 1, certainly not if they don’t get it by June 1.

I know the Premier likes to talk about Ontario being open for business. I want to make sure our small businesses can reopen when we emerge from this crisis. I want Ontario businesses, local businesses, independently owned businesses to be open for business when we recover from this pandemic.

Speaker, I want to echo my colleagues’ calls for support for municipalities. I’ve been meeting with mayors who have talked about the fact that they’re losing millions of dollars in transit fares, parking fees and other sources of revenue. There’s a lot of people who are not going to be able to pay their property taxes over the next little while. We know that municipalities provide essential services. We have to keep our transit going. We have to ensure that our public health units are fully funded and operating—now more than ever do we need them—and all the other vital services that municipalities play in our communities. When we come back in May, I want to make sure that we have a relief package for our municipalities.


Finally, I want to say that when we come back in May—and I see the minister is here—we provide more than $12 million of extra funding for mental health supports. I can tell you, the people reaching out to my office, and I’m sure everyone’s office in this House—the need and the demand to provide additional mental health support is huge. We’re going to have to step up and support and help those people. I know we all care, and so let’s provide the funding that’s needed to provide the mental health supports that the people of Ontario are going to need.

Speaker, we will emerge from this crisis because of the spirit of the people of this province, their courage and the extraordinary way in which they are caring for people, and I believe the government and everybody in this House—we have to step up and ensure that we provide the helping hand that’s going to ensure that nobody falls through the cracks because of COVID-19.

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Further debate? The Solicitor General.

Hon. Sylvia Jones: Thank you, Speaker, and may I channel you for a moment and thank the Legislative Assembly staff who have ensured that our debate can continue here safely. Thank you very much.


Hon. Sylvia Jones: I also, as Solicitor General, want to personally the Solicitor General’s staff. Deputy Solicitor General Di Tommaso, Deputy Solicitor General Deborah Richardson and their staff are literally working around the clock. We are, by our very nature, an operational ministry: police, First Nations, municipal partners, corrections, animal welfare, firefighters, Emergency Measures Ontario—did I say corrections officers? Because they are so critical. It is incredible to me to see the professionalism and to see the commitment that your staff and you have given in support of the people of Ontario, so thank you, thank you, thank you.

As we are here, I would like to provide more details on the proposed legislative amendment to the Police Services Act. Currently, the Police Services Act requires municipalities to develop a community safety and well-being plan by January 1, 2021. These plans require municipalities to work across a wide range of sectors such as policing, health and social services to develop proactive strategies that will address local priorities related to the safety and well-being of our Ontario citizens. However, given the current global public health emergency, we must ensure that municipalities and the sectors they are required to work with can focus their attention on maintaining public safety, containing the spread of COVID-19, and treating those who have become ill with the virus.

We have also been working closely with municipalities as they respond to the impacts and ramifications of the COVID-19 outbreak and the effects it’s having on Ontario communities. In our discussions, municipalities have raised concerns regarding the January 1, 2021, deadline and have asked to delay the existing timeline.

The bill that we have proposed in the Legislature today would amend the Police Services Act to allow a new deadline to be prescribed in regulation for community safety and well-being plans to be completed. This will give municipalities an extension for preparing and adopting these plans so they can focus their staff and resources to address the COVID-19 outbreak. I want to raise, very briefly, that there was some concern about why we didn’t prescribe a date. Frankly, we didn’t prescribe a date because we do not know when this pandemic will be finished, so prescribing it in regulation allows us the flexibility, and the municipal need for flexibility, while the pandemic occurs.

While the community safety and well-being plans are an important tool for municipalities to keep our communities safe in more normal times, we need to focus on allocating resources where they are needed most, right now, and that is to stop the spread of COVID-19. The safety and well-being of all Ontarians is our government’s top priority and we will continue to take decisive action to protect everyone who calls Ontario home.

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Further debate?

Mr. Chris Glover: It’s an honour to rise in the House today, especially during this pandemic and these important times. I just want to start my remarks by thanking all of the health care heroes out there: the doctors, the nurses, the personal support workers, the technicians, the cleaners, the administrators—all of the people who were taking care of the elderly and ill before this started and who are looking after the people through this pandemic and putting their own health at risk. I want to thank them.

I want to thank the essential service workers. I want to start with the farmers—because that’s where the food we’re eating starts—the truck drivers who deliver it, the grocery store clerks, the social workers, the food-deliverers, the cooks.

I want to also reach out and thank all of the community members who are doing what they can: calling their neighbours, sewing masks and cooking and delivering meals. Especially this past weekend, I saw many people out there cooking meals and reaching out to people who were unable to cook, or just reaching out to provide some warmth and comfort, letting others know that they are there for them.

Like the other opposition members mentioned, we are going to be supporting this bill. My role as critic for colleges and universities is to point out the things that need to be done. The six-month OSAP relief is absolutely vital. It’s an important first step, but there are many other steps that need to be taken to support our post-secondary sector and our students.

Ontario’s colleges and universities are stepping up during this crisis. There are health care students who are fast-tracking their training so that they can get on the front line. There are other health care students who are supporting their future colleagues by providing meals to them while they’re working long shifts in hospitals. Student residences are being used as shelters. Some students are 3-D printing face shields to protect our front-line health care heroes.

Research labs are isolating COVID-19 and working on a vaccine. They’re also offering their lab services to increase our level of testing, because the World Health Organization says that we are not going to be able to start reducing the restrictions on us until we have a thorough “testing, tracking and isolation” regime in place.

Our public universities and colleges in this province are stepping up during this crisis. They have been the foundation for the success of our 21st-century economy in this province, and not just during this crisis. We have the fastest-growing IT sector in North America. A lot of that is due to the innovation centres and the research work that takes place at our public colleges and universities.

But the success they’ve achieved and the contribution they’ve made to our success in Ontario has not been rewarded with funding. The per student funding in Ontario is 40% lower than the Canadian average. Our college and university students face the highest tuition fees and the highest student debt levels. Operating grants have been flatlined for a decade. That equals a $2-billion inflationary cut. Just a year ago, the OSAP grants were converted to loans. There was a $670-million cut to operating grants for our post-secondary institutions.

Now that we’re in the middle of this pandemic, we are entering it with already underfunded post-secondary institutions. We need the government to step up, and there are a number of things I’m hoping will come the next time we meet, in May.

There needs to be an increase in OSAP to make up for the money that students are not going to be able to earn because of the loss of summer jobs and their parents’ loss of income—so they’re not going to be able to contribute. We want those to be grants; they can’t be loans. Our students are already deeply indebted. We know—the research shows—that student debt and the cost of university and college are fuelling the mental health crisis on our campuses. We can’t add to that fuel right now. We can’t add to that mental health crisis.

We need an emergency relief fund to help students just to meet basic, urgent needs.

We need to increase the operating grants to our universities and colleges so that they can transition to online learning, and because of the expected loss of income from students who won’t be able to return—and in particular international students.

We need to cancel the math proficiency test. This is holding up the licensing of teachers who should be able to start work in September in our schools or online—however we’re delivering it. But we need to cancel that math proficiency test so that they can begin teaching as soon as possible.


We will bounce back from this, and in order to bounce back, we need to protect our public colleges and universities. I’ll just mention that, in 1921, just a few blocks from here, Banting and Best discovered insulin in one of our public universities. That vaccine for COVID-19 could also come from one of the labs in our public colleges and universities, so we need to support them and we need to support their students.

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Further debate?

Ms. Mitzie Hunter: It’s my pleasure to rise today on behalf of the people of Scarborough–Guildwood. Indeed, Speaker, we are in this together. The measure of a society is the way that it treats its most vulnerable. When I last rose in this chamber, I spoke about the urgency of the moment. I shared the devastating news that two residents of Seven Oaks Long-Term Care Home in my riding of Scarborough–Guildwood had sadly passed away from COVID-19. And in just a few short weeks, the situation has become even more dire. Twenty-two people have now passed away at Seven Oaks, and my heartfelt condolences to those families as they are grieving at this time, and the staff who care for them. But, Speaker, the situation is even more distressing. Eighty-two more confirmed cases are in residence there, as well as 14 confirmed staff.

This outbreak is not limited to one facility. There are outbreaks in 82 long-term-care homes peppered across this province. All of us in this room are impacted by this virus. Today, we must stand together and do all that we can with a spirit of urgency to protect our constituents and especially those who are vulnerable. The elderly have given so much to our province and to our communities, and we feel this loss keenly. If what we are doing is not working, we have to stop and we have to rethink. We urgently need to do more to protect vulnerable populations and the staff who care for them. I see that the province is taking steps such as doing more testing of these populations, but we need to do more and we need to move much more quickly.

Preventing the spread of COVID-19 in these facilities will directly translate into lives that are saved. Residents in long-term-care facilities do not have the same options as everyone else in the general public to protect themselves. Public health advice—to stay at home, to self-isolate, to cough in your sleeve, to do all of these things—is meaningless in those facilities, because they are already at home. They need the staff who care for them where they live to be healthy, and the staff doing rigorous testing also need to feel protected. So personal protective equipment is essential when working in these facilities—not after there is an outbreak, but every day.

Many facilities are struggling to meet their staffing needs. Many workers have already become sick themselves, and those who have not worry about bringing this virus home to their families. Staff who relied on income from working at more than one job at multiple sites will feel the impact of this virus right in their bank accounts.

In addition to increased funding for the long-term-care sector, the government has set aside $1 billion in contingency funding. This funding is designed to respond to the pandemic. It should be proactively used to protect people in long-term care and other congregate settings.

In order to attract and retain staff, the government should need immediately and retroactively implement “hero pay” for all staff at long-term-care homes by giving them an immediate raise of $4 an hour. The high risk that these workers take on in order to provide the care and support for our society’s most vulnerable should be valued and rewarded.

Speaker, we also need to listen to those working in home care, because it’s a system of care and home care workers are equally as exposed because of the intimate work that they provide to people in need. They, too, need personal protective equipment, and they urgently need a system of testing so we know what the risks are in those home care settings.

Under the Emergency Management Act, the province has the ability to appoint a single person who is responsible for vulnerable people in this province. I urge this government to use the tools at their disposal to appoint that individual and make it known to the long-term-care, the home care, the community care, the congregate living settings and the group homes that are in this province, as well as those who are in transitional housing and emergency shelters, so that vulnerable groups have the protection that they need.

Finally, I want to talk to the students of this province. I know that my colleagues on the other side have spoken very well to the importance of those in our universities and our colleges. One of the things that we have to be careful about is unintended consequences. Usually, from May to May is when leases are signed, so we need to make sure that our students are not caught in further debt because they cannot honour those leases if their schools move to virtual learning in the fall.

These are just some of the things the government can do that are in the capacity of the government to do during these times. And yes, Speaker, we can and we should do more, as urgently as the situation of COVID-19 demands.

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Further debate?

Mr. Parm Gill: It is an honour to rise in this House to speak to this important legislation and also to serve with our Premier, the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing and all of my colleagues on both sides of the House during this unprecedented time in Ontario’s history.

As everyone in Ontario knows, the current situation is not business as usual for anyone, and that includes our municipalities. That is why we’re proposing legislative changes to two acts, the Planning Act and the Development Charges Act.

First, I’ll outline proposed changes to the Planning Act. An increasing number of municipalities are responding to the COVID-19 outbreak by diverting resources to essential services, instructing non-essential staff to work from home or suspending in-person meetings. We are proposing to give our municipal partners the time they need to focus on local public health priorities by temporarily suspending planning decision timelines.

Currently, when someone applies to change a planning document or to develop or divide land, municipalities and planning boards have specified timelines to make a decision before the applicant can appeal it to the LPAT. The changes proposed today would allow the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing to temporarily pause the need for municipalities and planning boards to make decisions within these timelines without the risk of appeal. This responds to requests from municipalities and would help them better manage staff time and resources in order to direct them to more urgent needs at this time.

This would apply to all Ontario municipalities and planning boards. However, municipalities that want to continue to process planning applications, hold virtual or electronic public meetings and make decisions during this time can still continue to do so.

Next, Mr. Speaker, I would like to highlight our proposed changes to the Development Charges Act. Our government believes that growth should pay for growth, and we want to ensure municipalities have the tools they need to build complete communities. Municipalities are allowed to make builders pay development charges on new construction to help with the cost of growth-related infrastructure, such as roads, water, waste water, police and fire services. To levy development charges, municipalities need to have a bylaw in place, which must be reviewed, consulted on and replaced at least every five years. But if a development charges bylaw is scheduled to expire in the coming months, it would be difficult to replace during the COVID-19 outbreak.


That’s why we’re proposing changes to the Development Charges Act that would allow municipalities to keep using their existing bylaw during this time. We want to ensure that municipalities can count on this important source of revenue for local infrastructure and services during the COVID-19 outbreak.

Upon royal assent, both the changes we’re proposing in this bill would come into effect. The Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing would then have the authority to make the necessary regulatory changes to the Planning Act to temporarily suspend specified timelines. The regulatory changes would be able to suspend timelines back to March 17, 2020. Once the provincially declared emergency has ended, the regular land use planning timelines would automatically come back into effect, and the Development Charges Act changes would apply for up to six months following the end of the emergency declaration. This would allow municipalities time to put in place a new development charge bylaw if needed.

Mr. Speaker, we know these measures are necessary to help municipalities better manage staff time and resources so they can focus on the COVID-19 outbreak. Our proposals build on the package of support I spoke to last month that gives municipalities the ability to fully conduct council, local board and committee meetings electronically during this time. We will continue to work with our municipal partners to support our communities and keep Ontarians safe.

I want to thank all of my colleagues in this chamber and the opposition parties for supporting this important piece of legislation and for passing it quickly. Thank you very much.

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Further debate?

Ms. Marit Stiles: It’s a really great pleasure to be here to speak both as the education critic for the official opposition and also on behalf of the people of my riding of Davenport.

I want to start by thanking our health care workers and all of the other workers who are fighting COVID-19 on the front line, ensuring that Ontarians get the essential services that they need—and others here have already spoken about that.

I also want to acknowledge, though, the incredible work that all Ontarians are doing, whether you’re just staying inside, or you’re caring for your kids and juggling work, or just finding ways to check in on others. I have noticed myself—and I know many of us in our communities across the province have noticed—the incredible work that’s happening to support Ontarians and fill in all of those gaps as we see in the crisis the enormous inequities that exist across our communities.

We have already had, Mr. Speaker, a year of quite significant uncertainty in education. Now with the threat of COVID-19 and the closure of schools, we know how hard this is for students, for families and for education workers.

Mr. Speaker, I’m hearing from students who are nervous about what this means for the academic year, for their prospects for post-secondary education and for the courses they’re going to take next year in high school.

I spoke this morning with representatives from the Ontario Student Trustees’ Association. They talked about the impact this uncertainty is having on the mental health of students—not to mention, of course, the impact of social isolation and health care fears. They’re asking for more consistent communication from government and from school boards.

Many parents as well—and I know they’ve reached out to others in this House—have reached out to me with worries about the expectations being placed on them. Are they meant to run a full, programmed day school at home? Parents of students with special needs are left without the resources and, frankly, the respite they need to support their kids fully. And so many parents are either juggling work from home or worrying about the impact of lost employment on their future and their ability to care for their families.

Teachers and education workers, we want to thank you as well. We know that teachers have been keen to adapt and connect with their students, but they’re also facing these challenges. There are questions about privacy. There are questions about access to technology and how to best support our students in the home. They’re doing that while they’re also juggling the pressures of home life or health care issues.

I know that many, many teachers out there and others in our education system are thinking about the one or two students that they have not been able to connect with. I know how that weighs on them, and I want to thank them for all they’re doing. There are also the occasional teachers and other staff who have lost employment altogether and the aspiring teachers, as my colleague mentioned previously, who are facing barriers related to the troubling rollout of the math proficiency test.

Mr. Speaker, I’ve appreciated the opportunity to meet with the Minister of Education and have phone briefings and to have raised some of these issues previously. I want to encourage the minister to continue to listen to parents, to create an opportunity and a space for a student voice to also be considered as we move forward.

What is lacking in this legislation, Mr. Speaker—we will be supporting it, as we said, but this is a lost opportunity. We have an opportunity here to actually think a little bit more about what the coming school year is going to mean, the kind of remediation that’s going to be necessary and the kind of resources that need to be there for our students. This is essential, that we consider this in this moment, because there is a lot of work to be done. Our students, our teachers, our families are counting on us.

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Further debate?

Mr. David Piccini: It’s an honour to rise today to speak to this important piece of legislation and to make the drive on what were eerily quiet 401 highways into the Legislature this morning.

Before I begin, Mr. Speaker, I’d like to take this opportunity to join my colleagues, many of whom have thanked the front-line workers in their riding, especially, given the agricultural nature of my riding of Northumberland–Peterborough South, the grocery store workers who time in and day out are going in and making sure that folks in my community have the food they need and, of course, our remarkable farmers throughout Northumberland–Peterborough South. Farmers quite literally feed cities, and I think they’re showing it true to form in this COVID-19 pandemic and working exceptionally hard to ensure that we have the food we need as a community.

Also, Mr. Speaker, to our front-line workers, with a specific shout-out to our health care workers: In so many of the communities that define Northumberland–Peterborough South, we have seen the remarkable outpouring of support. People are going to their windows, putting up signs; our first responders going through the neighbourhood with sirens going, thanking the front-line workers, our health care workers, who are quite literally on the front lines of what the Premier referred to earlier as an “invisible enemy.” A heartfelt, on behalf of myself, the colleagues who came to the Legislature here and our government—to the men and women on the front lines, our health care workers and our first responders and everybody who is working hard on the essential services list in Northumberland–Peterborough South, thank you very much.

Every one of us, Mr. Speaker, understands the importance of today’s legislation and the need for all MPPs to come together. We know the challenges of COVID-19, the challenges it presents to our communities and to our province. I’m proud of the actions that our government has taken to support all Ontarians. Under the leadership of Premier Ford and Deputy Premier and Minister of Health Christine Elliott, Ontario has taken the necessary steps to ensure the continued health and well-being of Ontarians. We understand that things like social distancing aren’t always easy, but they are necessary for us to flatten the curve. Our actions have been and continue to be made on the advice of Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health and the COVID-19 response table, and I continue to have faith in their leadership and guidance as we collectively navigate these uncharted waters together.

I would like to thank members of my community of Northumberland–Peterborough South who are working tirelessly and reaching out to their neighbours, delivering groceries for those in need or those who, for accessibility reasons, are unable to leave their house. Thank you for reaching out. Thank you for coming together as a community and lending a helpful hand.

As the parliamentary assistant to the Minister of Colleges and Universities, I am proud to be able to speak to our ministry’s portion of the COVID-19 supports and protections act and amendments to the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities Act. Since the beginning of this outbreak, Minister Romano has been working tirelessly to advocate on behalf of our students, our faculty and our post-secondary institutions across the province. He and I have joined a number of calls across the province and have been on phones well into the evening. I know the minister has been speaking with our colleges, our universities, our post-secondary sector and our students. We’ve been speaking with them so that we can identify their particular areas of need and find ways to support them during these uncharted times.


Mr. Speaker, we have seen the innovative spirit, the ingenuity and the response from our post-secondary sector to COVID-19. It’s been truly remarkable, from the development of masks and other PPEs, to reaching out and offering residences that are going unused at this moment to support the men and women who are on the front lines, our health care workers, or those in self-isolation. Our colleges and universities have stood up to support Ontarians during these times.

While we look forward to discussing our ongoing commitment to support our post-secondary institutions, today I’d like to talk about action we are taking to support the foundation of our sector: the students. Our government understands that our students make great sacrifices to attend colleges and universities. In fact, there is no greater investment in one’s future than in their education. That’s why we understand that, in light of COVID-19, OSAP borrowers need relief. I’ve spoken to a number in our community over the past number of weeks, and that’s why our ministry has introduced a six-month deferral of OSAP payments, including stopping the accrual of interest on these loans for a six-month period. This will automatically apply to loans currently in good standing from March 30 through to September 30, 2020.

I want to, again, reiterate, Mr. Speaker—this is an important clarification—no applications, no approvals, no paperwork; just immediate support to the OSAP borrowers and students in this province during their time of need. I know all the members of this Legislature can agree that, while a simple step, this action will go a long way to providing immediate relief across the province. Now more than ever, we need to ensure that our policies lift each other up and provide relief to those that need it.

In addition, Minister Romano and our ministry have been working diligently on digital learning, online exam proctoring and grading tools for our educators to ensure continuity of education for our post-secondary students, and an immediate investment of over $25 million to institutions to allow them the flexibility to respond to their local needs. Our post-secondary institutions, colleges and universities are pivotal and monumental to the footprint of the broader communities and are instrumental in the overall economy of the towns and cities that they’re situated in. Providing that immediate relief and flexibility to allow them to be responsive was a critical and important step this government has made, and a direct response to conversations well into the evening that the minister and I have had across the sector and across the province over the past number of weeks.

In closing, the deferral of OSAP is supporting our students when they need it most. I know that, as we gather at this Legislature and as we work together with one goal in mind—to support Ontarians during these uncharted times—and as we gaze to the future on additional supports that we can take, our universities and colleges will be instrumental in that process. I’d like to thank them for the work that they do. I’d like to thank our students—our future. I’d like to tell you that you have a government that is here to support you, and we’re working across the sector to continue to provide the necessary supports for our students during these challenging times.

I know my time is running short so, in closing, I’d like to again thank everyone in the Legislature for being here today and again reiterate my thanks to the front-line workers and all of our essential workers in Northumberland–Peterborough South and around the province, because no matter where Ontarians are in the province, or their colour or political stripe, we’re all a part of Team Ontario and we’re all a part of Team Canada.

It’s an honour to be here today and to say a few short remarks on the steps our government is taking to support our post-secondary sector.

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Further debate?

Mr. Kevin Yarde: I also want to thank our first responders, the police, the firefighters, the health care workers, the PSWs and the RPNs for all of the great work that they do. Now, when I decided to speak to this bill—as I mentioned before, we are going to support this bill, but there are some areas in this bill where we do have some concerns. Now, I could talk about law enforcement, I could talk about the firefighters and the ambulance workers, but I’m going to focus on one group that doesn’t get a lot of attention: corrections workers.

This bill fails to address and rectify some of the problems of corrections workers. I have spoken to corrections workers over the last several weeks, during COVID-19, and, Mr. Speaker, they’ve been telling me all of their concerns. I know we are here and we should be as one, but at the same time, as opposition, we have to mention and show where there are problems with the bill. Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to rise here today as well as represent the people of Brampton North and discuss the concerns in corrections institutions when it comes to battling this insidious coronavirus.

While we, the opposition, agree with the ministry on lowering the provincial count by almost 2,000 inmates—this was a good thing since, as we all know, prisons and jails are like stationary cruise ships. They are breeding grounds for viruses, and there is an interconnectedness within the community. However, Mr. Speaker, I believe the government has focused too much on this one particular issue. The ministry seems to be waiting to take a reactive rather than a proactive approach.

Now, I’ve been informed, after speaking to corrections workers as well as union members, that, to this date, not even half of all institutions have begun the process of screening all staff, as they are still awaiting the delivery of thermometers to take staff temperatures. This is extremely concerning, as there are institutions that have thermometers in boxes, not being used, in health care offices. However, the ministry will not allow them to be used, as they are resources that have been allocated to the inmates, so they sit, unused, while the virus can seemingly walk through the front door.

Accessing PPE, as we know, is a problem right around the world—not just here in Ontario, not just in other provinces in the country, but right around the world. What we need is PPE for correctional workers, who come and go, so they can protect themselves, they can protect their families and they can protect the corrections institutions.

There have been instances—and I’ve been told this by staff members—where, since they don’t have PPE, staff members are bringing their own PPE into the institutions. There have been situations where corrections workers have been reprimanded, they have been disciplined and they have been sent home because they brought their own PPE into the facility. This, Mr. Speaker, I think, is wrong, especially during a pandemic, where everyone is trying to protect themselves.

COVID-19 is cropping up in our prisons. In terms of the numbers—well, as we all know, in the federal institutions we already have six known cases in the Kitchener-Waterloo and the Grand Valley area. Here in Ontario, for the provincial jails, there is one correctional officer at Toronto South who has tested positive for COVID-19. Also, a staff member from Hamilton has recently—just a few days ago—tested positive for COVID-19.

Ontario’s first inmate tested positive for COVID-19. He was tested before he was jailed at Toronto South Detention Centre and was admitted even after a public health authority warned the staff he had been identified as a possible case. This jail, of course, is in Etobicoke—the second-largest jail in Canada, with around 1,500 inmates.

Now, I know I don’t have much time left, so I just want to say, in closing: The government needs to do more. They are simply plugging up holes as they arise. Each week, we are seeing more staff and more inmates testing positive with COVID-19. Now, I pray that this doesn’t happen, but there will be an outbreak inside one of our institutions if the government does not fully implement the recommendations that have been provided to them on an almost daily basis. I am requesting the government provide clear and consistent direction regarding the protection of the health of front-line officers.

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Further debate?

Hon. Paul Calandra: I just want to take a few minutes to thank a few people and also to highlight the fact that when this started a number of weeks ago and the Legislature gave me the ability to meet in a different fashion, one of the things that the Premier said to me at the start was that, yes, he understood we have to be able to move quickly but that it is vital that we ensure that the opposition continue to fulfill their constitutionally important role of holding government accountable. I want to thank all members of the opposition. They have allowed us to move very, very quickly when it was needed, but I want to also assure the people of the province of Ontario that they have been vigorous in their advocacy for the people of Ontario. I thank them on behalf of that, Mr. Speaker.


I will say, as the House leader, I never thought I would be starting meetings with my colleagues on the opposite side by apologizing for what my dog, Milo, might do on one of our video conference calls, panicked about whether I turned off my microphone or not, and somewhat frustrated by the leader of the Green Party, who always shows up looking better than I do on these video chats.

I also want to take a moment to thank the public service. If there’s one thing I will take from this—it’s one of the funnier parts, I guess—it’s having a briefing from a public servant, who had just put together a very, very important bill for the people of the province of Ontario—colleagues might remember this—when the sheer panic sets in that his daughter is saying things on our video chat that he probably didn’t want, and him running from the basement to the main floor, ultimately to a bedroom with a backdrop of Elsa from Frozen, as he gave us a briefing on an important piece of legislation. These are the types of things that people are doing now. It’s not what we would have expected.

Finally, to those members who aren’t able to be here—we know how important this place is to all those people who are elected—I want to thank all of them for allowing us to do this in this fashion. We all want to be back in this place as soon as possible, returning to the type of vigorous debate that we have on all fronts. I want to thank all of them. I know members have been working very, very hard across party lines in order to advance issues in their community. So I thank them for that. Again, I thank all colleagues on both sides for all the hard work that they have been doing.

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): The member for Timmins?

M. Gilles Bisson: Merci beaucoup, monsieur le Président. Écoute, c’est dans ces temps qu’on commence à réaliser juste comment important les travailleurs et travailleuses sont ici en Ontario, ceux qui travaillent dans les épiceries, ceux qui travaillent aux taxis, ceux qui travaillent aux autobus, le monde qui travaille dans le système de santé, et j’en passe. Je pense que ça nous donne une opportunité de réfléchir et de nous demander la question : est-ce qu’on traite ces travailleurs-là d’une manière respectueuse et adéquate quand ça vient à leur salaire?

On sait qu’il y a eu une grosse poussée ici en Ontario pour augmenter le salaire minimum à 15 $ de l’heure, justement, une couple d’années passées. Ça a été contourné jusqu’à un certain point par ce gouvernement. Mais je pense que ça nous donne la chance de faire pause et de se dire : « Ce monde-là, si on n’a pas ce monde-là dans les épiceries, si on n’a pas de monde qui livre les “groceries” à la maison, si on n’a pas le monde qui fait les travaux nécessaires pour qu’on soit capable de fonctionner comme une société, on n’est nulle part. » So donc, espérons qu’en sortant de cette affaire nous allons apprendre comment respecter ce monde-là, sur la base salariale, et aussi un respect pour le travail qu’ils font.

L’autre point que je veux faire, c’est l’importance de l’investissement dans nos institutions publiques. Imaginez où on serait aujourd’hui si on n’avait pas de santé publique telle que l’on a aujourd’hui. Tout ce monde-là qui travaille à travers la province pour regarder la situation et faire des recommandations et travailler pour nous garder sains et sécures dans nos communautés, nos hôpitaux et tout le monde qui travaille dans le système de santé—imaginez, si on n’avait pas fait ces investissements-là, où on serait aujourd’hui. Il y a certaines instances dans le monde—on regarde outre-mer—franchement, certaines sociétés qui n’ont pas ces investissements. Quand on regarde ce qui arrive dans ces sociétés, c’est pas mal noir comparé à ce qu’on voit ici. Est-ce qu’on est parfait? Est-ce qu’on a fait tout ce qu’il y a à faire? Non, il y a beaucoup d’autres à faire. Mais j’espère qu’on sort de cette affaire à la fin reconnaissant que l’argent qu’on investit dans nos systèmes publics, c’est de l’argent qui est investi dans la sauvegarde de la population et pour assurer, quand quelque chose arrive, qu’on a un système là capable de répondre à ce qu’il se passe.

Avec ça, monsieur le Président, j’aimerais remercier tous les travailleuses et travailleurs à travers la province qui travaillent dans le domaine de la santé, en éducation et dans d’autres secteurs publics, la police, les gardes de sécurité, le monde qui travaille dans les magasins de « groceries »—un gros remerciement pour l’ouvrage que vous faites, parce qu’on sait que, sans vous, cette vie serait beaucoup plus difficile.

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Thank you very much.

Pursuant to the order of the House passed earlier today, I am now required to put the question. Mr. Lecce has moved second reading of Bill 189, An Act to amend various Acts to address the coronavirus (COVID-19).

Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? Carried.

Second reading agreed to.

Coronavirus (COVID-19) Support and Protection Act, 2020 / Loi de 2020 sur les mesures de soutien et de protection liées au coronavirus (COVID-19)

Mr. Lecce moved third reading of the following bill:

Bill 189, An Act to amend various Acts to address the coronavirus (COVID-19) / Projet de loi 189, Loi modifiant diverses lois pour lutter contre le coronavirus (COVID-19).

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Pursuant to the order of the House passed earlier today, I am now required to put the question. Mr. Lecce has moved third reading of Bill 189, An Act to amend various Acts to address the coronavirus (COVID-19).

Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? Carried.

Be it resolved that the bill do now pass and be entitled as in the motion.

Third reading agreed to.

Extension of emergency declaration

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): I recognize, once again, the government House leader.

Hon. Paul Calandra: I move that:

Whereas an emergency was declared by order-in-council 518/2020 (O. Reg 50/20) on March 17, 2020 pursuant to section 7.0.1 of the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act; and

Whereas the emergency was extended past the end of March 31, 2020 for a further period of 14 days by O. Reg 84/20 on March 30, 2020 pursuant to subsection 7.0.7(2) of the act; and

Whereas the period of an emergency may be further extended only by resolution of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario pursuant to subsection 7.0.7(3) of the act; and

Whereas the Premier has recommended that the period of the emergency be extended for 28 days;

Therefore, the Legislative Assembly of Ontario hereby declares that the period of the emergency is extended past the end of April 14, 2020 for a further period of 28 days.

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): I want to read the motion once again for the benefit of the whole House.

Mr. Calandra has moved that:

Whereas an emergency was declared by order-in-council 518/2020 (O. Reg 50/20) on March 17, 2020 pursuant to section 7.0.1 of the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act; and

Whereas the emergency was extended past the end of March 31, 2020 for a further period of 14 days by O. Reg 84/20 on March 30, 2020 pursuant to subsection 7.0.7(2) of the act; and

Whereas the period of an emergency may be further extended only by resolution of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario pursuant to subsection 7.0.7(3) of the act; and

Whereas the Premier has recommended that the period of the emergency be extended for 28 days;

Therefore, the Legislative Assembly of Ontario hereby declares that the period of the emergency is extended past the end of April 14, 2020 for a further period of 28 days.

Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? Carried.

Motion agreed to.

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Orders of the day.

Hon. Paul Calandra: No further business.

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): There being no further business, this House stands adjourned until Tuesday, May 12, 2020, at 9 a.m.

May God bless the people of Ontario.

The House adjourned at 1449.