LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY OF ONTARIO
ASSEMBLÉE LÉGISLATIVE DE L’ONTARIO
Thursday 3 June 2021 Jeudi 3 juin 2021
Report continued from volume A.
The House recessed from 1216 to 1300.
Introduction of Bills
10 Paid Sick Days for Ontario Workers Act, 2021 / Loi de 2021 visant à accorder 10 jours de congé de maladie payé aux travailleurs de l’Ontario
Mr. Fraser moved first reading of the following bill:
Bill 305, An Act to amend the Employment Standards Act, 2000 with respect to personal emergency leave and the establishment of an employer support program for such leave / Projet de loi 305, Loi modifiant la Loi de 2000 sur les normes d’emploi en ce qui concerne le congé d’urgence personnelle et la mise en oeuvre d’un programme d’appui des employeurs relatif à ce congé.
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 member for Ottawa South care to briefly explain his bill?
Mr. John Fraser: The bill makes the following amendments to the Employment Standards Act, 2000: Sections 50, 50.0.1 and 50.0.2 of the act, which provide for sick leave, family responsibility leave and bereavement leave, respectively, are repealed. Section 50 is re-enacted to provide up to 10 paid sick days of personal emergency leave in the case of a personal illness, injury or medical emergency, the illness, injury or medical Emergency of a specified family member or an urgent matter concerning a specified family member.
The act is amended to require that the ministry implement an employer support program to provide resources and supports to assist employers in providing personal emergency leave as required in new section 50.
Section 50.1 of the act, which currently provides for three days of infectious disease emergency leave, is amended to increase this number to 10 days of paid leave.
York Region Wasterwater Act, 2021 / Loi de 2021 sur les eaux usées dans la région de York
Mr. Yurek moved first reading of the following bill:
Bill 306, An Act respecting York Region Wastewater / Projet de loi 306, Loi concernant les eaux usées dans la région de York.
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 of the Environment, Conservation and Parks care to explain his bill?
Hon. Jeff Yurek: I’m standing here today in the Legislature to introduce new legislation that will help address the request from the regional municipality of York to expand its sewage servicing capacity.
In 2014, York region submitted its finalized Upper York Sewage Solutions environmental assessment application for approval, involving the construction of a new waste water treatment plant that would discharge treated effluent into the East Holland River, which is part of the Lake Simcoe watershed. Many years have passed since this environmental assessment began and this government wants to ensure that we have the most up-to-date information on the environmental, social and financial impacts of alternatives to provide waste water servicing for upper York.
That’s why, Mr. Speaker, I have introduced the York Region Wastewater Act, 2021. If passed, it would pause the Upper York Sewage Solution’s environmental assessment. This would allow time for our government to establish an expert panel to provide advice on options to address waste water servicing capacity and the needs of York region. The expert panel would bring together experts in a variety of areas, including land use planning, waste water infrastructure, and would also have key stakeholders like our Indigenous communities that will be affected.
We will continue to work closely with York, Durham and Indigenous communities to ensure that the plan is available to work in an important way as environmentally friendly and fiscally sound.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): I’m going to remind all members on both sides of the House that the explanatory opportunity after an introduction of bills should be as brief as possible and hopefully just the reading of the explanatory note of the bill, as I had to say yesterday as well.
Correction of record
Hon. Jeff Yurek: Point of order, Mr. Speaker.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Point of order, Minister of the Environment.
Hon. Jeff Yurek: Mr. Speaker, I just want to take this opportunity. I did catch myself. I said “our Indigenous communities.” I didn’t mean that. I apologize. That’s not the right terminology. They are a respected nation, and I just want to remove that from my statement.
Statements by the Ministry and Responses
Italian Heritage Month
Hon. Michael A. Tibollo: I would like to start by thanking the Minister of Heritage, Sport, Tourism and Culture Industries for the opportunity to stand today in the House and speak about something that is very near and dear to my heart.
It’s with great pleasure that I rise to honour what is now Ontario’s 11th Italian Heritage Month. While we can’t celebrate today with a flag-raising on the lawns of the Legislature like we normally would, this is still a very important month for all Ontarians, especially those of Italian heritage.
It was in 2010 that Ontario passed a bill that officially proclaimed the month of June as Italian Heritage Month, the first province in Canada to officially proclaim Italian Heritage Month through legislation. That year was also Italy’s 150th birthday. Seven years later, Canada officially proclaimed the month of June as Italian Heritage Month as well, and ironically, it was Canada’s 150th birthday. I was so honoured and humbled to be involved in this initiative here in Ontario and federally in Ottawa.
When Ontario first passed Bill 103, Italian Heritage Month Act, I was then the president of both the Toronto chapter and the federal organization of the National Congress of Italian-Canadians. Both these incredible organizations focus on bringing the Italian community in Toronto, across Ontario and throughout Canada together to educate people about the incredible culture and heritage of the Italian community and its contributions to this great land.
The Italian Heritage Month Act is important legislation that has three objectives. The first is to honour the heroes of the past, the immigrants who arrived here, in many cases, with nothing more than a cardboard suitcase, with little possessions other than the dreams they carried in their hearts. These giants are the people who came before us and provided us the opportunity to stand on their shoulders, dream big and accomplish so much.
Secondly, it is to recognize the continuing achievements of the sons and daughters of these immigrants and thank them for their leadership, their inspiration, their mentorship, the sacrifices and contributions to their families and to this province. They live amongst us today, making a difference in the sciences and humanities, providing services that improve the lives of everyone.
Finally, the act is to inspire future generations to learn from the past and encourage our children to dream, to study, to work with passione e amore, with passion and love, and build a better province and a better country.
Today, I’m proud to say that over 60% of Canadians of Italian heritage call the province of Ontario home. Ontario is three and a half times bigger than Italy in terms of land mass, and as of 2016, over 931,800 individuals identify as being Canadians of Italian heritage here in the province.
Since the 1800s, the Italian community has made and continues to make significant contributions to the growth and prosperity of the province of Ontario. Beginning in the late 1800s, many Italians came to Canada looking to start a new life, including my parents. Those who arrived in Canada back then were instrumental in building and growing our province’s incredible forestry and mining sectors, including building Ontario’s railways and creating connections between communities. As these connections and industries grew, more Italian immigrants came to Canada and to Ontario, where employment saw substantial increases in more industries, such as the construction sector. It was not an easy journey to get here and they lived in very difficult conditions, but they persevered.
There’s an anonymous quote that sums up much of what was seen upon the arrival in Canada back in the 1900s: “I came to America because I heard the streets were paved with gold. When I got here, I found out three things: First, the streets weren’t paved with gold; second, they weren’t paved at all; and third, I was expected to pave them.”
Ironically, the Right Honourable Brian Mulroney, our Prime Minister at the time, in a speech given in Toronto at the Westin Harbour Castle at which I was present—he was honouring the Prime Minister of Italy, Giulio Andreotti—spoke about the contribution of the Italians to the building of the skyline in Toronto, and he remarked, “The Italians built it; now they own it.” This was and continues to be a testament to the hard work of this community.
When most people think of Italy, they think of the explorers, the inventors, the artists, the cuisine, architecture, automobiles, fashion and opera, but there are other aspects that are important to Italians as well, and I’d like to begin by mentioning that one of the most important things to Italians is family. To most Italians, family is the very foundation to who you are as a person.
I was blessed with parents who sacrificed everything in the hope of creating a better future for their children. Saverio and Francesca Tibollo came to Canada in 1958 knowing Canada was a land of great opportunity and possibility.
Remarks in Italian.
Like so many other Canadians who are of Italian heritage from my generation, my parents came to this country with little: no money, no language, only a willingness to work and make every sacrifice necessary to ensure a better life for themselves. They vowed to work hard, have a family, provide for their children and ensure they could give back to their country and to the province.
Many of them died at work, given the terrible working conditions in the mines and the railways. We can never forget what happened on March 17, 1960, when five Italian-born workers were killed while building a Toronto water main tunnel under the Don River. The media coverage, community outrage and demands from unions forced the Ontario government at the time to call a royal commission, which led to new regulations on fire protection and on worker safety in tunnels, and the first overhaul of the province’s labour laws in nearly 40 years. It encouraged the organization of more construction workers and more immigrant workers into unions, so they could stand up for their rights, health and safety. Their deaths saw the revision of labour laws after 40 years that gave way to our modern labour laws.
Despite the fact that the tunnels lacked fire extinguishers and resuscitators, the timber supports were not strong enough, grout was not used on the floor of the tunnel to keep out the sand and silt, and there were no extra air compressors—not even flashlights—the site, at the time, had been deemed safe.
Late on Thursday, March 17, hours after the work should have stopped, a dozen workers were still underground, welding steel plating in a compression chamber west of Yonge Street, when a fire started and smoke began to fill the main tunnel. A valve that would have allowed the smoke to blow out of that tunnel would not open. Firefighters arrived quickly, but they were told that they had to wait at least 30 minutes before watering the tunnel down for fear that it would collapse. While half the workers managed to get out, the rest were trapped inside with rising temperatures, toxic smoke and rising levels of silt, sand and water. The next day, Pasquale Allegrezza, Giovanni Carriglio, Giovanni Fusillo, and brothers Alessandro and Guido Mantella were dead, poisoned by carbon monoxide and drowned. We’ll never forget their ultimate sacrifice while working to build our city and province, where they gave their lives just because they wanted to provide a better life for themselves and for their families.
Shortly after the arrival of my parents, I was born in February 1960, and I was raised in Toronto, in an area known today as Little Italy. I’m especially proud to call myself a Canadian of Italian heritage. Growing up, it was very normal to see Canadians of Italian heritage working in blue-collar jobs. Whether they worked in construction, ran a small local business or worked in a factory, I learned so many valuable things from those in my local Italian community: respect for every dollar you make, working hard to earn what you have; the pleasure of digging in the dirt, nurturing a seed, seedling and plant and watching it bring you a vegetable or a fruit; carrying yourself with integrity, honesty and the respect you should show for your family, people of authority, your environment, the land and waterways, our province and our country and everyone and everything around us. It is these fundamental values, Mr. Speaker, that Ontario’s Italian community truly believe in, and it’s with these fundamentals that I first began my journey to where I am today.
My brother, Nicholas, is a lawyer. My sister, Lavinia, is an elementary schoolteacher. I see reflections of my parents and the values of our Italian community in each one of them and how they are raising their children. They are living examples of children of Italian immigrants who have been raised with values that all Italians really hold very dearly.
When I met my wife, Silvana, we shared a similar passion of helping others in our community and those around us. She came from a similar background to mine, and one that is familiar to so many Canadians of Italian heritage from our generation. Her parents, Bernardo and Delia Sicilia, emigrated from Italy in 1953 and made tremendous sacrifices for the benefit of their family’s future. Silvana was an elementary schoolteacher in Vaughan–Woodbridge, with a specialty in core French. She took this role very seriously. She understood that she was responsible for teaching the children who would one day be our future. I meet many of her former students who refer to her as Madame Tibollo in my constituency office or in my constituency, and I can see the difference that she made in their lives.
On this note, I want to thank all the teachers who made a huge difference in the life of a little boy from an immigrant family. While my value system developed at home, it was the teachers who reinforced and inspired me to dream and to focus on being everything I could be. It is good teachers who are the reason why an ordinary student can dream of extraordinary things and do them, and accomplish them in his life. It is the teachers today who do just that for each and every young person they inspire through their dedication and passion.
Mr. Speaker, family means the world to Canadians of Italian heritage. Celebrating our families, our people and communities is what Italian Heritage Month is all about. I also want to explain the significance of starting our annual Italian Heritage Month celebrations on June 2. For all Italians, June 2 marks the Republic Day or, as we call it in Italian, Festa della Repubblica. So today, one day later, we not only say “Happy Italian Heritage Month” but “Happy Republic Day” as well, to all Italians.
June 2 is an important day, because it commemorates the date when Italians voted to abolish the monarchy and form a republic. It also marks the day in Italy that women got the right to vote and participate in the formation of the republic of Italy. When World War II had just ended, and with it, fascism, the Italian people were eager to usher in a new chapter of freedom. Since then, Italy has been a unitary republic, a parliamentary republic.
I would be remiss if I did not mention June 10, 1940, and pay homage to all those Canadians of Italian heritage who were declared enemies of the state and sent to camps around Canada, including one in Petawawa, Ontario. Many families were destroyed when over 600 men and women were interned and over 31,000 declared enemy aliens. The repercussions of these events were felt for years, and anti-Italian sentiments in Canada led to abuse, vandalism and loss of life. Though lives were disrupted and reputations damaged, not one internee was officially charged with a crime in a court of law.
For decades, many Canadians of Italian heritage distanced themselves from their culture and their language for fear of reprisals. They changed their names to anglophone names and forbade the speaking of Italian in their homes. Many men and women of Italian heritage who are my age do not speak Italian, nor do they have any knowledge relating to where their families originated from. Their memories of their culture and heritage have been wiped clean.
Speaker, I believe it is important that we know where we come from, because if you don’t know where you came from, then you can’t and don’t know where you’re going, and if you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll never get there. In the words of another famous Italian, Yogi Berra, “If you don’t know where you are going, you might wind up someplace else.”
Mr. Speaker, your roots, your customs, your traditions and your language are critical to how you define yourself. I was happy to see that on May 27 of this year, the Prime Minister of Canada stood up and apologized to the Italian community. After 81 years of discrimination, humiliation and suffering in silence, the healing can now begin.
Today holds such importance for the people of Italy and to many Canadians of Italian heritage. However, the whole idea behind Italian Heritage Month is not only for our community to celebrate the fact that we’re proud to be Italian, but it’s also to give the opportunity to other communities of other cultures to share in the things that we do, learn about the people of Italian heritage who have been an influence on our society and how we, as Italians, live in a community.
Canadians of Italian heritage have created a community that welcomes everyone. This sense of belonging brings comfort to many people. Italian Heritage Month is not only to show the differences of the Italian community compared to other communities, but to show our similarities as well. Multiculturalism, which is also celebrated in Canada in the month of June, on the 27th, is a time to celebrate our communities as interpreted by each of our distinct cultures. In the month of June, we share celebrations together with Indigenous people; it is National Indigenous History Month. It’s also Portuguese History and Heritage Month and Filipino Heritage Month. As of March of next year, there will also be Persian Heritage Month.
Mr. Speaker, when we start talking about Italian heritage—or any heritage, for that matter—one of the things I’ve always believed in is that our culture and traditions define who we are, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with sharing our cultures and traditions with each other. The more we know about each other, the more we celebrate our cultures, the easier it is to love and respect each other. Peace comes from understanding and sharing, out in the open for all to see and hear.
Mr. Speaker, traditions are the guideposts that live deep within our subconscious minds and act as guideposts in our lives. As Mahatma Gandhi stated, “A nation’s culture resides in the hearts and in the soul of its people.” Celebrating language, culture and heritage of all peoples that make our great province is a way to exercise our collective spirit, a way to nourish our collective soul, and how we define who we are as a province.
Italians have influenced and have worked with other cultures around the development of the sciences, medicines, the accounting system and so much more that still continues each day. In fact, Giovanni Caboto, known to some as John Cabot, was an Italian immigrant to England and a famous navigator and explorer who was the first European to ever draw a map of Upper and Lower Canada. In 1497, Caboto set his eyes for the first time on North America, and gazing upon the land he saw before him, his first words were, “O buona vista!” When translated into English, this phrase means “O happy sight!” And so, the legend states, this is how Bonavista, Newfoundland, got its name.
Mr. Speaker, while we can’t have a flag-raising and celebration at Queen’s Park like we traditionally would, we can never forget the accomplishments of Canadians of Italian heritage and their positive impact on the province. The list of notables is many, from history to modern times. I could easily fill my entire time today simply listing names of the pioneers in every sector and in every corner of this fantastic and great province.
I do, however, want to acknowledge my colleagues in the House who are of Italian origin: Minister Victor Fedeli, Minister Ross Romano, Minister Paul Calandra, Minister Stephen Lecce, MPP David Piccini and MPP Rudy Cuzzetto. Mr. Speaker, these are my colleagues, these are my friends, and these are the chosen representatives of thousands of Ontarians around the province. We’re all proud of our heritage and our privilege to serve our respective constituents and the people of this great province.
Each year, the Canadian Italian Heritage Foundation commissions a poster to mark the month, and I believe everyone was given a copy of it this morning. This year, the artist is Rachel Liberio. When selected, she was given three items to include in the poster: the Tricolore, or the Italian flag; the maple leaf; and the trillium. This year, given COVID-19, she has chosen to celebrate the people of the province who have gone above and beyond, working throughout the pandemic because they were deemed essential services:
—the construction companies, with Clearway Construction, started in 1970 by Giovanni, Peter and Nick Di Battista, represented by Anthony Di Battista, the next generation;
—long-term care represented by Carmela Liparoti of the Mississauga Italian Canadian Benevolent Association;
—emergency services represented by Andrew Sicilia, a firefighter with the Toronto Fire Services;
—Dr. Natasha Collia representing front-line health care workers, a pediatric emergency physician at SickKids in Toronto; and finally,
—the little girl wearing the trillium as a hair tie. She is turned away and represents the future of our province. She is writing on a blackboard, “Tutto andrà bene,” “Everything will be okay,” dreaming of her future and what she will do to make our province and our country a better place. She’s nameless because she represents the dreams of every child in this province and the work we must do to give children a face and a voice.
I encourage all Ontarians to safely celebrate this month and be mindful and respectful of each other. Learning more about your neighbour will not take away from you, but it will give you a better life. On that note, [remarks in Italian]. Grazie. Thank you.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Responses?
Mr. Faisal Hassan: I am honoured to rise on behalf of the official opposition and speak to the very well-deserved commemoration marking the month of June as Italian Heritage Month.
Yesterday, June 2, marked the 75th anniversary of Festa della Repubblica, when the republic of Italy was formally established. It is unfortunate that due to COVID, the usual yearly celebrations, with flag raising, music, food and community, will not take place in quite the same way. However, I’m sure we can make up for that when things reopen and we can enjoy and celebrate the culinary and cultural joys that the Italian community brings to this province.
Italian Heritage Month was first proclaimed in Ontario in 2010. In the spirit of bipartisanship, three members of provincial parties came together to co-sponsor that bill. I would like to acknowledge and thank former parliamentarians Peter Shurman, a Conservative representing Thornhill; Mario Sergio, representing York West; and the official opposition’s own past MPP Rosario Marchese from Trinity–Spadina. Party politics were put aside and these three MPPs were able to pass the very fitting legislation that will forever mark June as Italian Heritage Month.
Mr. Speaker, the Italian community has brought so much to our society, and their influence is everywhere you look. Italian Canadians, in fact, are amongst the earliest Europeans to have visited and settled the country.
Before I get to talk about the wonderful contributions of Italian Canadians, I would be remiss if I didn’t touch on the overdue apology given by the federal government of Canada to Italian Canadians last week. A sad and regrettable chapter in the history of Canada occurred in 1940 when Canada interned more than 600 people of Italian heritage and declared about 31,000 as enemy aliens. The Prime Minister rightfully formally apologized to the tens of thousands of innocent Italian Canadians who were labelled enemy aliens and to their children and grandchildren, who have given so much to Canada. We need to apologize and make amends for our past wrongs as a country, and I’m hoping this step helps in the healing.
Canada is now home to 1.6 million Italian Canadians, and we are fortunate to have close to one million Italians who call Ontario home. Italian Canadians helped to build Toronto and the GTA, and we know they continue to do so and are well represented and active union members of LIUNA and the Carpenters’, among others. The historic building we work in, as countless other historic buildings and homes were, was constructed with the fine artistic craftsmanship that Italians are recognized for worldwide.
Mr. Speaker, I mentioned union involvement, and that involvement which today translates to tremendous advocacy for workers’ rights and fair pay and working conditions comes directly from the exploitations of Italian labour in the post-war period. By the 1960s, it is estimated that over 15,000 Italian Canadians worked in the unregulated residential construction sector as bricklayers, labourers, carpenters, plasterers and cement finishers. This sector was nicknamed “the jungle” for the complete lack of safety and the chaotic employers who would often not pay. People were getting injured and dying on the job. At one point, the local Italian newspaper stopped reporting deaths on the front page because it was such a common occurrence. Against this backdrop, the Italian community banded together and formed—
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): I apologize to the member for York South–Weston. I’m going to have to ask the members to quieten down, please.
Member for York South–Weston.
Mr. Faisal Hassan: The Italian community banded together and formed unions to better protect themselves. These were not easy times, and one only has to speak to Italian elders to hear those heartbreaking stories. This is why it’s so important to commemorate Italian Heritage Month: We need to learn the history. We need to celebrate and take part in the incredible culinary achievements in Italian restaurants, bakeries and households. We need to delight in the beautiful music and enjoy the many contributions of Italian Canadians. Their strong family commitment, their respect for elders and belief in giving back to the community is a lesson we should all follow.
The influence of Italian Canadians is forever to be felt, and we need to celebrate and thank Italian Canadians for their sacrifices and contributions to our society.
Grazie mille. Saluto.
Mr. John Fraser: It’s an honour to rise today and speak about Italian Heritage Month. I first want to say that the remarks by the associate minister were very thoughtful and meaningful and very heartfelt, and it was an honour to be here to listen to you. You did a great job.
When I think about Italian heritage—we all think about food. It’s one of the big things, right? You think about their contributions to politics, contributions to arts, to science—I could go on. But when I really think about the heritage, it’s family heritage. In almost every family, there’s a parent, a grandparent, a great-grandparent who came here with no money and no language. They built their families up, they built their businesses up and they built this country up, literally, in different ways, not just the construction industry.
Every Saturday—it’s not a well-known fact—I take Mom out for a drive. We always go to the Experimental Farm. We see the buttonwood tree, which is a 125-year-old tree—long story; we don’t have time for that now. But we always have to drive down Preston Street, which, if you know Ottawa, is the heart of Little Italy. We have to go there. And actually, if we’re out in the car anywhere close, we’ve got to go down Preston Street.
My mom loves food. She loves Italian food, and she’s always shopping at La Bottega, or goes to the Pasticceria Gelateria to see Joe, or to Nicastro. She hasn’t been able to do that for a while. What it made me realize is—the food is an important thing. We can always bring it to her. But she doesn’t want to drive by because of the food. She wants to drive by because Joe treats her like family when she’s there. When she’s at La Bottega or at Nicastro, it’s the same thing. She’s driving down that street because she wants to see her family. It’s not unique just to Italian Canadians, but it’s something that is very special to her.
I’m very pleased to have an opportunity to say a few words today.
Mr. Mike Schreiner: It’s an honour to rise today in this House and celebrate Italian Heritage Month—to celebrate the culture and culinary traditions, the contributions, the construction and winemaking, food and family that the Italian Canadian community has made to our province. I, too, wanted to say a heartfelt thanks for the associate minister’s moving words today not only celebrating Italian heritage, but the heritage of many diverse cultural communities in our province. What makes our province strong and a great place to live is the diversity in Ontario and our ability to live together, work together, raise families together.
Speaker, Ontario is home to 1,350,000 Italian Canadians, and I have to say that my riding of Guelph is home to many Italian Canadians. Just down the street from my house is St. Patrick’s Ward or, as we call it, The Ward, which retains a hundreds-of-years-long history of the Italian community—a neighbourhood that I will continue to protect, a neighbourhood that really shows the contributions of the Italian community to my community and to our province.
I just want to point out that the University of Guelph and the Italian Canadian Archives Project have a wonderful initiative called the Guelph Italian Heritage Project, which aims to collect and preserve the narratives and artifacts of Italian immigrants to Canada and to Guelph-Wellington. I encourage everyone in this House and everyone across the province to learn more about it.
Before I close—and my time is almost up—I, too, like my colleagues, want to acknowledge the historic apology from the Prime Minister of Canada to the Italian Canadian community. I want to say that we, as Ontarians, are stronger and better because of the contributions of the Italian Canadian community to our great province.
Private members’ public business
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): I beg to inform the House that pursuant to standing order 101(c), a change has been made in the order of precedence on the ballot list for private members’ public business, such that on the ballot list draw of May 5, 2021, Mr. Sabawy assumes ballot item number 15 and Mr. Gill assumes ballot item number 62.
Ms. Doly Begum: I have a petition here for the small business grant.
“To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:
“Whereas businesses across Ontario have been closed for over a year and are being forced to shut down permanently due to lack of adequate support from the Ontario government;
“Whereas Ontario needs a program to efficiently support local businesses so we can keep workers on the payroll, help businesses make it to their reopening day, rebuild Ontario’s battered main streets, and help entrepreneurs keep their dreams alive;
“Whereas multiple dozens of eligible applicants have received unexplained rejections from the grant programs and are still waiting to hear back from the ministry about their application;
“Whereas small businesses urgently need support and the government must do its part in assisting those who keep our economy running;
“Therefore we, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to provide the following:
“(1) Start a third round of Ontario Small Business Support Grant payments through a comprehensive and vastly improved program;
“(2) Expand the eligibility criteria, reduce wait time for payments, and provide an explanation to those who have been rejected;
“(3) Establish a $1,000 tourism and local restaurant tax credit;
“(4) Establish a targeted reopening support program for personal care and service-based businesses;
“(5) Give small businesses access to forgivable loans.”
I fully support this petition, Mr. Speaker, and will affix my signature to it.
Ms. Jill Andrew: This petition is entitled “Real Rent Freeze: Ban Above-the-Guideline Increases.” The petition is to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario.
“Whereas COVID-19 has had a devastating impact on Ontario’s economy;
“Whereas the province of Ontario has committed to a temporary COVID “rent freeze” that currently falls short for tenants by allowing tenants to still get hit with above-the-guideline increases;
“Whereas above-the-guideline rent increases are routinely abused by landlords;
“Whereas above-the-guideline rent increases in Toronto alone have increased by 250% in the last years;
“Whereas over 84% of above-the-guideline increase applications were from corporate landlords;
“Whereas housing is a human right;
“Therefore we, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to implement an immediate ban on above-guideline rent increases ... to protect tenants until at least 12 months after the official end of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
I couldn’t support this more, and I’ve affixed my signature.
Ms. Doly Begum: I have another petition here, and I want to thank Grace Basra and Adam Solakis, and all the community members in the Oakridge region who have been organizing and working hard to get these petitions signed, for their efforts. This is called “Metrolinx Train Tracks Construction,” and the petition reads:
“To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:
“Whereas households within the vicinity of the north side of the Metrolinx train tracks in the Danforth and Oakridge area are faced with construction and removal of mature trees, which increased noise and vibration, caused a loss of beauty and privacy of the properties, and raised many environmental concerns for residents;
“Whereas the construction of an additional train track will not bring direct benefit to the community members but is instead causing a loss of natural space, increasing noise/air pollution and may result in a decrease in property valuation;
“Whereas there has been no community consultation about train tracks being placed closer to residential houses and addressing concerns about risks to houses in the area through vibration of tracks and other environmental concerns;
“Therefore we, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario demand Metrolinx of the following:
“(1) Provide a noise barrier and/or tree replacements to supplement the removed trees;
“(2) Consider building the train tracks on the south side of the existing tracks (which consist of vast undeveloped lands compared to the north side);
“(3) Consult with the community to provide transparency on timeline and the plans;
“(4) Ensure the community receives fair treatment and benefits from the transit construction.”
I fully support this petition, Mr. Speaker, and will affix my signature to it and give it to the Clerks.
Land use planning
Mr. Mike Schreiner: I have a petition from grade 8 students with the Youth Climate Change Association of Oakville:
“Whereas the proposed Highway 413 is not in the best interests of the Ontario citizens for a number of important reasons, including destruction of wildlife and wildlife habitat; destroys prime farmland; runs through the greenbelt, a protected area; increased carbon emissions; risk to groundwater; opposition from local governments; promotes urban sprawl; saves drivers only 30 to 60 seconds’ driving time, whilst the 407, a similar highway, is underused; deprives future generations of recreation land; and
“Whereas many Oakville citizens have voiced their objections to the environmental impact that will be caused by the construction of the proposed highway; and
“Whereas many Oakville citizens have voiced their objections to the large sum of taxpayers’ dollars ... being misused in this way when they could be used to fund climate change initiatives, such as expanding public transportation; environmentally friendly alternatives such as electric vehicles subsidies and renewable energies; protecting environmentally sensitive areas; non-profit environmental organizations; and
“Whereas the Highway 413 proposal was already cancelled by a previous government;
“We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to immediately cancel any plans to construct the proposed Highway 413.”
I support this petition. I will sign it and send it to the table.
Miss Monique Taylor: “To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:
“Transparency for families in regard to the Ontario Autism Program.
“Whereas families and kids have been waiting for over two years for service after this government dismantled the Ontario Autism Program;
“Whereas the provincial government and the Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services has not provided families and kids with timely and concrete information;
“Whereas the Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services has not answered these families’, nor the official opposition’s specific questions about the Ontario Autism Program;
“Whereas the Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services has yet to confirm whether there will be an appeals process, what the success markers of the pilot program are, whether clinicians will get the final say in funding or whether it will be care coordinators who have no clinical expertise, and what criteria the minister used to determine invitations to the pilot OAP program;
“Therefore we, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to ensure families of children with autism receive actual answers to their valid questions, and that the ministry establish a direct contact with the ministry assigned to answer these questions in a timely manner.”
I fully support this petition. I will affix my signature to it and send it to the Clerks’ table.
Ms. Jill Andrew: This petition is called “Petition to Save Eye Care in Ontario.
“To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:
“Whereas the Ontario government has underfunded optometric eye care for 30 years; and
“Whereas optometrists now subsidize the delivery of OHIP-covered eye care by $173 million a year; and
“Whereas COVID-19 forced optometrists to close their doors, resulting in a 75%-plus drop in revenue; and
“Whereas optometrists will see patient volumes reduced between 40% and 60%, resulting in more than two million comprehensive eye exams being wiped out over the next 12 months; and
“Whereas communities across Ontario are in danger of losing access to optometric care;
“We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario as follows:
“To instruct the Ontario government to immediately establish a timetable and a process for renewed negotiations concerning optometry fees.”
I couldn’t agree more, and I’m signing my signature to the petition.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): It appears there are no more petitions to be presented today.
I recognize the government House leader.
Hon. Paul Calandra: Speaker, Her Honour awaits.
Her Honour the Lieutenant Governor of Ontario entered the chamber of the Legislative Assembly and took her seat upon the throne.
Royal Assent / Sanction royale
Hon. Elizabeth Dowdeswell (Lieutenant Governor): Pray be seated.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): May it please Your Honour, the Legislative Assembly of the province has, at its present meetings thereof, passed certain bills to which, in the name of and on behalf of the said Legislative Assembly, I respectfully request Your Honour’s assent.
The Clerk-at-the-Table (Mr. William Wong): The following are the titles of the bills to which Your Honour’s assent is prayed:
An Act to proclaim COPD Awareness Day / Loi proclamant la Journée de sensibilisation à la BPCO.
An Act to proclaim Scottish Heritage Day / Loi proclamant le Jour du patrimoine écossais.
An Act to proclaim Front-line and Essential Service Worker Week / Loi proclamant la Semaine de reconnaissance du personnel des services de première ligne et des services essentiels.
An Act to enact, amend and repeal various Acts in respect of human trafficking matters / Loi édictant, modifiant et abrogeant diverses lois en ce qui concerne les questions de traite des personnes.
An Act to proclaim Sickle Cell Disease Awareness Day and Thalassemia Awareness Day / Loi proclamant la Journée de sensibilisation à la drépanocytose et la Journée de sensibilisation aux thalassémies.
An Act to proclaim Senior Volunteer Appreciation Week / Loi proclamant la Semaine de reconnaissance des aînés bénévoles.
An Act to proclaim the month of March as Persian Heritage Month / Loi proclamant le mois de mars Mois du patrimoine perse.
An Act to enact and amend various Acts / Loi édictant et modifiant diverses lois.
An Act in respect of various road safety matters / Loi concernant diverses questions de sécurité routière.
An Act to amend and enact various Acts with respect to the health system / Loi visant à modifier et à édicter diverses lois en ce qui concerne le système de santé.
An Act to enact the Building Opportunities in the Skilled Trades Act, 2021 / Loi édictant la Loi de 2021 ouvrant des perspectives dans les métiers spécialisés.
An Act to proclaim July 10 as Nikola Tesla Day in Ontario / Loi proclamant le 10 juillet Jour de Nikola Tesla en Ontario.
An Act to revive Apollo Shawarma and Grill Inc.
An Act respecting the Parya Trillium Foundation
An Act to revive Robe Investments & Consulting Services Limited
An Act to revive Castleform Developments Inc.
An Act to revive 2560462 Ontario Ltd.
An Act to revive Hawke-Lea Holdings Ltd.
An Act to revive 2271767 Ontario Inc.
An Act to revive 2353043 Ontario Inc.
An Act to revive 1825821 Ontario Ltd.
An Act to revive Shuang Ying Company Ltd.
An Act to revive Darvey Holdings Limited.
An Act to revive Woodex Inc.
An Act to revive Whittrick N D T Services Ltd.
The Clerk of the Assembly (Mr. Todd Decker): In Her Majesty’s name, Her Honour the Lieutenant Governor assents to these bills.
Au nom de Sa Majesté, Son Honneur la Lieutenante-gouverneure sanctionne ces projets de loi.
Hon. Elizabeth Dowdeswell (Lieutenant Governor): Mr. Speaker, with your permission: May I simply thank each and every member of the House for what has been a difficult time. It’s a difficult time for all Ontarians, and knowing that you are here, dedicated to doing their work—albeit with differing views on the outcome, but nonetheless serving the people of Ontario—has been very important, and I want to thank you on their behalf.
I hope that as you change the focus of your work, perhaps to a little more constituency work during the summer session, you will also be able to take some time with your families—well deserved time—and that you will keep safe and well. Thank you again.
Her Honour was then pleased to retire.
Orders of the Day
Food Day Canada in Ontario (in Honour of Anita Stewart) Act, 2021 / Loi de 2021 sur la Journée des terroirs du Canada en Ontario (à la mémoire d’Anita Stewart)
Mr. Ke moved third reading of the following bill:
Bill 163, An Act to proclaim Food Day Ontario (Food Day Canada in Ontario) / Projet de loi 163, Loi proclamant la Journée des terroirs de l’Ontario (Journée des terroirs du Canada en Ontario).
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): I recognize the member for Don Valley North to lead off the debate.
Mr. Vincent Ke: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I am especially honoured to rise today to present the third reading of my first private member’s bill, Bill 163, An Act to proclaim Food Day Ontario (Food Day Canada in Ontario). The short title of this act is the Food Day Canada in Ontario (in Honour of Anita Stewart) Act, 2021.
I had the opportunity to present the second reading of Bill 163 last year on February 20 here in this House. At that time, I was surrounded by enthusiastic supporters, excited colleagues and staff and distinguished guests in the gallery. I did not then imagine that I would be delivering third reading during a pandemic, the public gallery empty and, most notably, without the presence of the most iconic person whose passion for food and its importance was the original inspiration for this bill: Dr. Anita Stewart.
Today is a bittersweet occasion. Like you, many other people in Ontario and all across Canada and, indeed, many people all over the world who admired Dr. Anita Stewart’s substantial life’s mission, I felt deeply saddened by the news that Dr. Anita Stewart had passed away in October 2020. I ask that we honour her memory and reflect on the remarkable life and work of such a vocal food champion, an exceptional agriculture and culinary advocate and an unforgettable and outstanding agri-food visionary.
To her proud family, sons Jeff, Brad, Mark and Paul, their partners, her many grandchildren and to all those who knew and loved Dr. Stewart, we extend to each of you our heartfelt sympathies for your immense loss, along with our profound gratitude for your limitless support for this bill and especially for her.
Speaker, we hope to continue to honour and build on the strong foundation of Dr. Stewart’s legacy through the passing of this bill by rising to the challenges to make food a priority and support the growth and production of local, fresh, homegrown foods.
The pandemic has reinforced many of the lessons that Dr. Stewart taught us. Now, we must commit our research and resources to discovering, protecting and promoting a self-sustainable food landscape across the province. We have learned swiftly that uninterrupted food production and distribution is a priority in our province, particularly in challenging times. We thank the essential workers whose collective efforts were extraordinary throughout the pandemic, as they worked hard to safeguard and secure our food supply.
Ontario has an abundance of food options from which to choose. From farm to table, no matter the circumstance, we must ensure that the abundance of food continues to grow and flow through our supply chains uncompromised.
With the creation of the Agri-food Prevention and Control Innovation Program, our government has wisely invested $25.5 million in funding over three years to help minimize and mitigate COVID-19 exposure risks in the workplace and to help strengthen and support the province’s food supply chain.
By supporting projects and programs to sustain Ontario’s agri-food supply chain and by proactively addressing and responding to challenges such as the COVID-19 pandemic, along with other variables such as weather events and market conditions, our government is committed to ensuring food safety and security for the sake of all Ontarians.
If passed, Bill 163 will designate Food Day Canada in Ontario (in Honour of Anita Stewart) Act, 2021, in our province. It offers us the opportunity to supplement the efforts made by agri-food and culinary contributors. It will add to our post-COVID-19 recovery strategy. It will also help counteract the harmful impacts of COVID-19 on essential food industries through a campaign to promote the benefits of Ontario’s local food bounty. It will encourage the public to focus on fresh, local food sources.
Food is the centerpiece of celebrations, the feature at family gatherings, where recipes are shared and passed down through generations. Food connects us.
The Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs invests approximately $75 million annually in research. In partnership with the University of Guelph, the ministry welcomes the opportunity to champion the Ontario Agri-Food Innovation Alliance, which supports development and competitive enterprise among Ontario’s agri-food industries, creates good jobs and career opportunities, and fortifies Ontario’s reputation as a world-respected leader in agri-food research, innovation and education.
We all recognize the Foodland Ontario logo, which helps to boost public awareness while celebrating local food options. When given a choice, I invite consumers to make Ontario food their first choice.
Ontario’s agriculture, agri-food and culinary tourism sectors add a powerful fuel to the fire of Ontario’s robust economic engine. They will also play a prominent role in our post-pandemic economic performance.
Madam Speaker, our government is proud of our five core commitments, which include protecting jobs and creating new ones. Even in the midst of the historic pandemic, with its widespread challenges and change, we have adapted to support workers and create and protect jobs in industries all over the province.
In Ontario, we have everything we need to succeed. Our culinary culture is the cream of the crop, and Ontario food and cuisine are among the best in all of Canada. As our government works to protect and preserve our prized natural environments, Ontario’s greenbelt and lush farmlands, we know that our province’s commitment to the environment as a whole is critical to sustaining our ability to produce local homegrown foods, fruit, vegetables, dairy, poultry and meats.
We are also mindful of the impacts of food miles on the environment, and by our efforts to promote the value of local, Ontario-made food, we make strides to reduce the environmental impacts in our province. Food imports often travel 3,000 kilometres from farm to table, even though we have a wealth of homegrown, local foods to choose from in Ontario’s own backyard.
As the premier champion of local foods, and a persuasive and worthy ambassador for our meat, poultry, dairy, fruit and vegetable farmers, our gardeners, food researchers and chefs, it is an honour for me to recognize Dr. Stewart’s commendable contributions. As an integral partner and adviser and fierce friend of the environment, she was determined to bring to life this proposed legislation, Bill 163.
Dr. Stewart believed that this bill would provide the ideal platform for Ontario to launch a campaign of progress to promote the importance of agri-food and the culinary arts and culinary tourism industries. I share her determination and belief.
Bill 163 invites us all to take up the torch to become Ontario’s agri-food and culinary tourism ambassadors. Bill 163 will also raise awareness and inspire appreciation of Ontario’s dynamic food presence in the world.
With a colourful selection of foods on offer, Ontarians are invited to experience a taste of the world with Canadian bacon, Indigenous grilled trout, Caribbean curry, Chinese dumplings, Italian pasta, Thai coconut soup, Irish stew, French Canadian poutine, Ontario blueberries, Vietnamese noodle soup, Korean kimchi, Indian samosa, Japanese sushi, and halal and kosher foods. The list goes on and on. We can virtually visit with people and places from all over the globe, and all without having to travel outside of the province.
Speaker, the COVID-19 crisis has brought with it a renewed appreciation for the sovereignty, sustenance and true value of local food, and the importance of its availability. Along with this renewed appreciation comes our gratitude to the farmers and restaurateurs, migrant workers, food processors, truck drivers, chefs and grocers and to everyone involved in agri-food and the culinary industry as they work hard to ensure that our food supply is stable and uninterrupted.
Bill 123 will satisfy the public appetite for a celebration of Ontario’s food industries as it helps to promote not only local foods, but the farmers, growers and chefs who dedicate their lives to creating appetizing, nutritious foods. They impress us daily with their achievements in food growth, presentation and promotion. Ontario invites people to choose a career in these fertile fields of endeavour.
In the latest report by the Ontario Chamber of Commerce, entitled Growing a More Resilient Food Supply Chain in Ontario, Cathy Lennon, general manager of the Ontario Federation of Agriculture, comments, “The agri-food sector contributes over $47 billion to the annual GDP and supports over 860,000 jobs across the province. The pandemic has awakened Ontarians’ interest in local food and increased their appreciation for farmers.”
The agri-food and culinary and food tourism industries in Ontario will continue to be essential to our economic recovery post-pandemic as we rebound and recover. It is crucial that we continue to pay attention to these sectors and all the people who contribute to our economic wealth and to our health with their expertise, energy and enthusiasm. They earn our special attention, and they deserve it.
Speaker, when we sit down to eat our next meal, I ask us all, think about where our food came from. Let’s all remember to honour our homegrown foods and local agri-food and culinary resources, and especially the people who work so hard to provide us with the necessary ingredients to enhance our quality of life. Dr. Anita Stewart was an outstanding agri-food culture visionary in her field. I ask you to support this bill, as her life’s work continues to inspire us all to keep growing stronger together in Ontario.
I would like to thank Minister MacLeod, Associate Minister Sarkaria and the member for Guelph, MPP Mike Schreiner, for your confidence in Bill 163 and for your support.
Madam Speaker, today I stand in Dr. Stewart’s formidable shadow and ask you to stand with me to create the ripe environment for an agri-food and culinary cuisine movement to take root and to flourish. We need to increase the profile of local, fresh, homegrown foods in the province for the sustainable good health and enjoyment of all Ontarians. Please support Bill 163, Food Day Canada in Ontario Act. Its short title is Food Day Canada in Ontario (in Honour of Anita Stewart) Act, 2021.
The Acting Speaker (Ms. Jennifer K. French): Further debate?
Ms. Jill Andrew: It is a pleasure to stand today to speak on behalf of the member’s Bill 163, An Act to proclaim Food Day Ontario. This is a wonderful bill, and one that certainly gives proper respect, acknowledgement and celebration to our farmers, our Ontario farmers and processors who are certainly responsible for keeping our entire province, every single one of our ridings, fed, especially during this difficult time.
What I’d like to add to this bill is that while it’s excellent to have one day—
The Acting Speaker (Ms. Jennifer K. French): Order.
Ms. Jill Andrew: Thank you, Speaker—
The Acting Speaker (Ms. Jennifer K. French): Come to order, please.
Ms. Jill Andrew: While it’s an excellent idea to have a Food Day Ontario, just from my own work as the MPP for St. Paul’s, I’ve certainly seen how ingrained food insecurity has been in the lives of many of our most vulnerable folks in St. Paul’s. I would also hope that the government might consider having a food strategy. In that regard, I actually have introduced a motion, motion 146, which speaks about food and celebrating food, and also ensuring that everyone has equitable access to good food.
That motion read: “That, in the opinion of this House, the government of Ontario should create a provincial food strategy that includes affirmation of access to food inclusive of fresh fruits and vegetables as a human right and culturally and regionally addresses marginal, moderate and severe food insecurity for all Ontarians, including seniors, ODSP/OW recipients, BIPOC, artist and 2SLGBTQIA+ communities, fixed or low-income households, sole-parent families, persons with disabilities, injured workers and others”—quite frankly—“disproportionately impacted by COVID-19”—food insecurity—“and the social determinants of health in general.”
I certainly will be supporting the government’s bill for a day in Ontario to celebrate food, but I also think it’s important that we consider all the food banks that are in all of our ridings, that we consider the hot meal programs that are in all of our ridings. I can’t even list all of the ones that I’ve got in St. Paul’s in the small time I have, but what I will say is that all of our food banks and our meal programs are overrun, and in many cases they just can’t keep up with the demand. So we need a food strategy, and I’m really hoping that the government will consider passing my motion 146, calling for just that: a food strategy to address food insecurity.
Before I end, I just want to give a shout-out to Lori Beazer, who has created our first Little Jamaica Afro-Caribbean Farmers’ Market, which will start this summer. Lori, congratulations. Thank you for bringing a culturally relevant food market to St. Paul’s. I can’t wait to shop ‘til I drop there, too.
The Acting Speaker (Ms. Jennifer K. French): Further debate?
Mr. Mike Schreiner: It’s an honour today to rise and speak in favour of Bill 163, Food Day Canada in Ontario (in Honour of Anita Stewart) Act. I want to thank the member from Don Valley North for bringing forward this bill and for working with me to amend the bill in honour of Anita Stewart, the founder of Food Day Canada and the inspiration for this bill.
Sadly, we lost Anita on October 29, 2020, and so I know it means a great deal to Anita’s family and especially her four sons, Jeff, Brad, Mark and Paul Stewart, as well as many of Anita’s friends and colleagues in the food movement and at the University of Guelph, that the member from Don Valley North and the government House leader agreed to an amendment to honour Anita Stewart in this bill.
Anita Stewart was a passionate supporter of Canadian food and farmers. In a Mother’s Day tribute to their mom last month, Anita’s sons wrote:
“Food Day Canada has grown and flourished. Thanks to a dedicated network of talented chefs combined with amazing producers and access to incredible quality ingredients, it gives us all as Canadians something to celebrate nationally. Mom said all the time, ‘Canada is Food!’ and we are grateful for it. Carrying her legacy forward we encourage all Canadians to celebrate our diverse ingredients across Canada. Mid-summer our markets and menus are abundant with local bounty. Corn on the cob, tender fruit, berries, heirloom tomatoes, fresh-dug new potatoes, what an amazing start to a menu and opportunity to promote our northern bounty.”
Speaker, Bill 163 gives us an opportunity to celebrate Ontario food, farmers, producers and farm workers on the Saturday immediately before the civic holiday as Food Day Canada in Ontario. It’s a day to celebrate local food, a day to encourage chefs and home cooks to buy local, and a day to unite our communities, create jobs and boost our economy by supporting local food, farmers and producers, and it’s a day to honour my friend Anita Stewart.
Anita was the author of 11 books focused on Canada’s culinary and agricultural heritage—Indigenous and settler food cultures. She co-authored many more books and was the author of many articles on Canadian cuisine. Anita’s mantra was, “Canada is food and the world is richer for it.” Anita founded the national culinary organization Cuisine Canada in 1994, and in 2003 she launched Food Day Canada to support Ontario’s beleaguered beef farmers. She expanded and grew Food Day Canada, and in 2011 she was made a member of the Order of Canada. In 2012, Anita was appointed as the University of Guelph’s food laureate to promote the school’s culinary contributions from its agricultural and hospitality programs.
On a personal note, Speaker, as many of you know, I grew up on a farm, and I’ve started many local food businesses and non-profit organizations to promote Ontario’s food and farmers. Anita supported and inspired my work every step of the way. She always took the time to answer my call and to step up when we needed somebody to promote Ontario food and farmers. My last conversation with Anita was last summer when I knew she wasn’t well. We talked about Bill 163 and how much she appreciated the member from Don Valley North bringing it forward. I know she would be honoured with the debate we’re having today.
Mr. Mike Schreiner: Sorry. I sometimes wear my emotions on my sleeve, Speaker.
One of my favourite photos—and as many of you know, in the pre-times, we’d take lots of photos around this place—was with Anita, the member from Don Valley North and many of Anita’s friends and colleagues from Guelph, from the University of Guelph, from the farming community, right outside this door. Anita was so proud the day this bill was introduced.
Anita knew the connection between food, farmland and the environment. She knew the connection between Ontario food and our economy. She knew that we could bring communities and people together around food, across diverse cultures and divides. She knew that we could connect settlers and Indigenous cultures through food.
Speaker, Anita Stewart is one of my heroes. I think she is a Canadian hero, a Canadian treasure, and I will thank each and every member of this House for the vote we take today in passing Bill 163 to honour one of my heroes, a true Canadian hero, Anita Stewart.
The Acting Speaker (Ms. Jennifer K. French): Further debate?
Hon. Lisa MacLeod: They say that sometimes in politics, life is unfair, and it’s really unfair to have to follow that magnificent speech. To the leader of the Green Party, your commitment to your friend, your commitment to your riding and your commitment to my colleague my parliamentary assistant, Vincent Ke, is absolutely outstanding.
As we reflect on what has likely been the most difficult year any of us have experienced in our life—and being legislators on top of that, sometimes missing our families as we’re here—isn’t this a terrific way to end this session, a terrific way that we’re all united in one piece of legislation by my parliamentary assistant, Vincent Ke, that we can stand here today to speak about positive things, whether that is Persian Heritage Month that just passed, or Scottish Heritage Month that just passed, or Nikola Tesla Day that has just passed, or the important work we’ve all done with respect to human trafficking? What a remarkable way to end this session.
To my parliamentary assistant, Vincent Ke, I am remarkably proud of you as well. Day in and day out, we get to work together. You bring thoughtful pieces of legislation that unify people on the floor of this House. Earlier this month, you and I had the opportunity, with many of our colleagues, to talk about Anti-Asian Racism Education Month and how we can lift ourselves up and better ourselves. Then here you are today. This will pass, it will receive royal assent, and there will be a day, Food Day Canada in Ontario, recognizing Anita Stewart and the important work that she has done—and I’ll get into that in a little bit.
I think it’s important that we look at this piece of legislation as not just about grocery shops. I have a funny little story. I used to work at Sobeys as a kid in the management program in produce, so I remember codes, like “5576” is actually the code for pistachios. I used to have to do the midnight shift, and I would have 25-pound bags of potatoes, carrots and turnips and get physically stronger, mentally stronger.
Well, this past week, a young lady that all of you know, my daughter, Victoria, turned 16. She was a page here on the floor of the assembly, learned how to walk here. She got her first job at Farm Boy. She started Monday night, and it was great. She is learning. She’s a little nervous on the cash. Then Tuesday night, her father called me and told me that she had a bit of a rough day. I said, “Why?” And he said, “Well, she didn’t know what a cabbage was, and she rang through the cabbage at $12,” and the customer had to come back and demand a refund or whatever. When I told Bruno this earlier, he said, “Well, that’s just Farm Boy, so it probably was 12 bucks.”
But anyhow, food is important to us in many different ways. It puts food on our table, and we remember some of the finest moments with our families around our tables collectively, whether that’s at Thanksgiving, some of us celebrate Christmas, others Hanukkah—many different ways we have that opportunity.
It’s also interesting: As the minister that’s responsible for tourism, I often say that we’re the world in one province. And so today, culinary experiences in Ontario—it’s not just meat and potatoes, or poutine, or beaver tails or maple syrup. You can probably find some of the best jerk chicken in the world right here Toronto. You can find some of the best shawarma in Ottawa. You can find some of the best Italian food—trust me; I’ve experienced it—in Sault Ste. Marie. That’s why I think it’s important that we have this conversation about food security, that we talk about agriculture—and I’ll touch on that in a second—but it’s also important as we start to talk about the redesign of what tourism will look like in a post-pandemic reality. I will speak more to that because I think that there is an opportunity for Ontario food, culinary and craft to really make a difference. I think that’s going to be important.
When I first joined this assembly 15 years ago, Speaker, I had the opportunity to represent a riding called Nepean–Carleton. As you know, Ottawa is the largest agricultural city in the world. In my previous riding, it was sort of 50/50 urban/rural; the Carleton part of the riding had the farms. I got to get to know a lot of different farmers, whether they were dairy farmers, beef farmers, mushroom farmers—they were doing cash crop. And so, people like Peter Reuter, Dwight Foster, Fernando Medeiros—yes, the member opposite knows all of these names quite well because they are leaders in the agricultural movement in this province. And I think of John Newman, who is now deceased, who would have probably known Anita because he was a beef farmer going through that crisis at the time.
And so, I got to see how we could be self-sufficient with respect to our food because my former riding had offered that. Anything you needed to get, you could get in Nepean–Carleton. To this day, I still support Foster’s farm in getting a CSA box for 14 weeks. I never know what I am going to be making, depending on what that box is that I pick up each week, but I do know that I can get local eggs and I can get local vegetables, and it’s allowed us to experiment in many different things.
It’s important as well that when we talk about food, we talk about how our restaurants and our bistros and our food trucks can all be part of this supply chain, because when we serve local Ontario product, we serve pride of people, pride of place and of course, pride of that product. That’s why I’m proud to be working with Restaurants Canada as well as ORHMA on my working group for restaurant recovery in post-COVID-19. And what we did is we actually encouraged the Ontario Culinary Tourism Alliance to be part of that conversation as well so we can encourage more Ontario product to be placed on tables across this province, not just in our homes but in some of our favourite restaurants and pubs, and I think that’s really important. I can say with great pride that our agency, the Niagara Parks Commission, does serve Ontario product and does support the Feast On program that we help fund through this ministry.
You are aware that we are the hardest-hit sectors. We have been hit first and we will take the longest to recover. My friend the mayor of Niagara Falls said to me at the beginning of this pandemic, “This is time to plan, not to panic,” and I have taken that advice each and every day, despite some of the very difficult things I have had to see. It made me think that we can do so much more with what we have here. We really have to be proud of what we have got. And so, as we start to talk about the year of the staycation, we’re also going to be starting to talk about how we can best support our culinary and craft cideries, breweries, wineries and distilleries as we look at reopening our economy and we look at the recovery piece.
I did want to say a few words about Anita Stewart who, as my colleague so rightfully said, was an Order of Canada recipient and unfortunately passed away and probably would have loved to have been here, if we were not in a pandemic and she had been well, to see this pass. To my PA, my parliamentary assistant, for you to carry this through in her name is a tremendous honour, I have to say, for her vision to really marry agriculture, the environment, as well as our restaurants and our culinary. I saw some quotes from her talk about the authentic tourism experience that you can get, and so her words really excited me.
As the member of Guelph has said, she was a great friend of his, and I know so too was she of Ted Arnott, our Speaker. Ted and I spoke earlier today, and he wanted to convey this: She had a tremendous spirit, she was incredibly positive, and she was always very optimistic and a very good person to be around. But what he said he remembers most about her is that, for once in his life, he had the best muffin that he had ever eaten in his life. He was really quite taken with this muffin, so she must have been an incredible cook.
I know she was a noted culinary author. I, too, as many of you know, wrote a book, I’d Rather Be Baking Cookies, with Lisa MacLeod and friends. Of course, the Right Honourable Stephen Harper, Tim Hudak and Bob Runciman and I think even John Tory might be in that cookbook. I might have to do a second edition and really test out some of Anita’s cooking.
I think what’s interesting about the culinary experience in Ontario now is, because we are the world in one province and we have members from pretty much every continent in the world sitting around this assembly, that we all do get to experience some really incredible things. I really want to make sure, in a post-pandemic world, that that’s what we’re focusing on and that that’s what we share and showcase, and we really start to talk about that as part of our agri-tourism, our craft and culinary, and all of those wonderful opportunities that we have.
Again, like I said earlier, this isn’t just about the maple syrup and the poutine and the beaver tails that we think of when we think about Ontario. We think about world-class food being served here with Canadian product, and that could be any type of cuisine. It could be Indo-Canadian cuisine, it could be Mediterranean cuisine, it could be Chinese-Canadian cuisine, it could be Mexican-Canadian cuisine, and I think that that’s really cool.
I’m going to conclude on this, because I do know my colleague the associate minister for small business has some remarks that he’d like to make, but I think about some of the shows that I watch on TV now: the late Anthony Bourdain, or we think about Guy Fieri in Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives—that’s my go-to, by the way, after a stressful week; I just go mindless on that one—or you think about Stanley Tucci, and then you think about how they are elevating food to an edible adventure, to a culinary tour, to an excitement, and I think that that’s what is going to happen in Ontario post COVID-19. That’s certainly, as minister of tourism and culture, what I’m striving toward.
I want to simply say at the end of this how proud I am of you, PA Ke. You have come into this Legislature as a new member, now three years into this—and I’m sure the pandemic has made it feel like 10—but you’ve done a remarkable job in bringing thoughtful, unifying legislation to this House, and, for that, I would like to thank you.
The Acting Speaker (Ms. Jennifer K. French): Further debate?
Mr. John Vanthof: It’s always an honour to rise in the House, specifically today, the last day of this spring session, and to speak on one of my favourite subjects, in many ways: food. I’d like to commend the member from Don Valley North for bringing this act forward, An Act to proclaim Food Day Ontario, and I would like to commend all the remarks.
To the member from Guelph and his memories of Anita Stewart, we all learned something today; I certainly did. To the member from Toronto–St. Paul’s, about how food is not that accessible to all people in Ontario. That’s also something we need to bring. To the minister of tourism, how important food and our multicultural background are to the future of people in the tourism sector. In each of those cases, I can’t equal those remarks. They were spoken from the heart and spoken in the spirit of this day.
I’m going to concentrate on something I know a little bit about. It’s fitting that we’re actually talking about food on the last day of this session, because we have all gone through a year that I don’t think another generation in our memory, certainly, has ever gone through, and there is still food on the shelves. We maybe get it in different ways. Restaurants: We’re not allowed to dine in restaurants, and they are going through a terrible time and they’re part of the food system. But the vast majority of us aren’t worried if there’s going to be food on the shelf tomorrow, and that is due to everyone in the food sector, from the farmers to people who work in the processing sector to the people who work in the delivery sector to the people who work in the retail sector—all of them.
It’s fitting that we are talking about one of the most important things in everyone’s life, one of the things that crossed my mind when the pandemic first hit that could be vulnerable. There were some problems, but in large, collectively the industry and all the people involved were successful, so that most of us didn’t really recognize that, didn’t really feel as part of the pandemic that our food supply could be vulnerable. We owe a huge debt of gratitude to everyone in the sector.
We’ve had a few discussions—as everyone in this House knows, agriculture is a pretty big thing in our family. The minister and I don’t always agree, but we have some good discussions. But there are some things—I hope that we use food day to also reflect on the challenges that we all face and that we all have to think about, regardless who is in charge of the various aspects of this great province.
For that, you have to back up a little bit. Most of our great cities started as small farming towns to serve the farmers in the area, and many of them have now become the great metropolises, and that’s successful. The reason why farming works here is we have one of the best land resources and one of the most stable climates in North America. Southwestern Ontario is the most stable climate on the continent. A lot of people don’t know that. It’s the truth.
Climate change is even starting to impact here. I saw lots of tweets, lots of social media about how it snowed here a couple of days ago—unheard of. Well, I have a farm in northern Ontario—great farmland, but the climate isn’t as stable, and it’s changing rapidly. Where I’m from, we can grow crops now that we couldn’t grow 20 years ago, but our climate is changing so rapidly that we were sowing crops earlier than ever. It was 30 degrees Celsius on Saturday, and on Monday it was minus five and everything was wiped out.
We have to understand that we all need to be cognizant of what climate change is doing and how it’s changing our potential to grow food. It’s actually increasing it in some areas, but overall, it’s making it more tenuous.
Something else we have to think about is that we are losing 175 acres a day on average of our best farmland in this province. We are a rapidly growing province. We know that, and we have to take that into consideration and we need to plan for that, for how we’re going to protect that farmland or how we’re going to deal with it, because from a farmer’s perspective as well, to just say farmland has to be protected—well, if you’re the only farmer left and there are houses all around you, you can’t farm.
So it’s not that easy. We have to sit down and think about that, because one thing we’ve all learned from the pandemic is we need the capacity, the capability to be self-sufficient. Now, you don’t always have to buy local. I prefer you buy local. We all want to buy local. The lowest common denominator isn’t always the best in the long run. When we import and we allow those imports to have lower standards, sometimes, than our own farmers and our own processors have to face, they face competition, and they get pushed out of business. But someday food security will be an issue. It will be, and we don’t want to be the ones looking back and saying, “We paved over all of the most stable farmland in North America.” We don’t want that to be our legacy—because once you pave it over, it’s not coming back. Now, there are things we can do. There’s rooftop agriculture. There is vertical agriculture. There are all kinds of things. But farmland itself is a resource that you can’t replace, and that’s something that we really have to be cognizant of.
Another issue we have to be cognizant of is who actually controls the resources, because one of the biggest issues right now—and the minister of tourism talked about starting her career in the grocery store. I enjoyed that. And now, her daughter is working in a grocery store.
Hon. Lisa MacLeod: You enjoy me doing the lugging?
Mr. John Vanthof: Yes, I enjoyed that.
But one of the big, big issues facing agriculture right now is concentration in the retail sector and that they’re putting so much pressure on the processing side and on the growing side that they’re pushing people out of business. We have to be cognizant of that. We have to be cognizant of who controls the resources in this province. All these issues aren’t things that have to be solved today. And they’re not partisan; I am not trying to be, at all. But they’re all issues that we need to think about. Going forward, we need to understand the great resources we have, because we have been given incredible food-producing resources, and we have all benefited from them, every person in this province. We need to make sure that we are caretakers of these resources, that we put in policies that are reasonable so people can—as someone who made his living as a farmer for 30 years, I’m not all about rules and regulations and “thou shalt do this” and “thou shalt not do that.” We need regulation, but we need a long-term outlook. Regulations have to make sense, but we need a long-term outlook to protect the future. I can’t stress that enough.
It’s so fitting that we are talking about food on the last day of the Legislature. I hope that we’re all thinking about the future of food, because we’re not going to be successful unless everyone can access it, everyone can afford it and we can be self-sufficient when the time comes. I can’t stress that enough. If you look at great civilizations and you look at the downfall of great civilizations, it’s when their soil is so depleted and the food is so scarce that Rome fell. If anyone thinks that that can’t happen to us, they’re wrong. We are a great civilization.
We’re talking about food today, and food is accessible to almost all Ontarians—fantastic food that we can build our economy around. We’ve gone through a year where we’ve lost a lot of our businesses that serve people food. We need to make sure that we can help these people, but we have to understand the role and the responsibility that we’ve been given, the trust that we’ve been given, to ensure that 50 years from now—or 10 years from now, or 20 or 50—that we are still in the same position with food, because there is no guarantee that we will be. We have the capability; we have the thought process. The choice is ours.
I would like to commend the member for bringing this forward—all the remarks. I look forward to continuing to work with anyone for the advancement on the protection of our agricultural sector, of all our sectors in the province, but it starts with the soil. If we lose the soil, we are going to lose the game, and the game is life.
The Acting Speaker (Ms. Jennifer K. French): Further debate?
Hon. Prabmeet Singh Sarkaria: I first want to take this opportunity to thank my colleague from Don Valley North for bringing this very important piece of legislation forward. He has worked tirelessly over the past couple of months and year to really acknowledge the importance of what we’re debating here today, especially in memory of Anita Stewart, who has been a leader in this field, as the member from Guelph has expressed through his debate. I will also take the opportunity to thank him for his remarks, and the members opposite, for all that they have contributed to this debate as well.
When we talk about food and we talk about the importance of it, you look at what can really unify people from various cultures across this province, and it’s usually food. The importance of food can’t be understated—bringing people together; the diversity of food here in the city of Toronto. It probably makes Toronto one of the greatest cities to live in—the diversity, the great places to eat across the province.
This piece of legislation gives an opportunity to celebrate many of those that are a part of that supply chain, whether it’s the farmers, whether it’s the agri-food sector workers, the chefs, the restaurant owners that have gone above and beyond during this time, especially given the circumstances that many of us have faced during this pandemic. But I think each and every single one of them will benefit from the passage of this legislation because we get to honour them.
We get to recognize the work that they have done. We get to recognize the important history of why this day even started in the first place, led by important individuals like Anita Stewart. That’s really why I’m happy to be here to support this piece of legislation, to support making sure that this is something that we all continue to celebrate, how food can bring us all together in some of the most difficult of times. It’s something that we can get together with family. We get to learn more about other cultures, other people or religions.
Food plays an important part in my father’s upbringing. He was a farmer back home before immigrating to Ontario. I often hear many of his stories: waking up early in the morning to farm, to put food on the table for his family, and making a living off that. It’s a story, regardless of where you live in the world, that we can all connect with. That’s why I want to once again applaud my colleague from Don Valley North for bringing forward this very important piece of legislation, so we can continue to recognize all of those in this industry—those in the agriculture industry, those in the hospitality industry, the restaurant sector—who play such an important role in all of our lives on a daily basis.
Thank you very much for giving me this opportunity, to the member from Don Valley North. As we continue to look at better ways to support those in this industry, we all are united in this House in appreciating not only the efforts of Anita Stewart, but everything that goes behind those involved in this sector.
The Acting Speaker (Ms. Jennifer K. French): Further debate? Further debate?
Mr. Ke has moved third reading of Bill 163, An Act to proclaim Food Day Ontario (Food Day Canada in Ontario). Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? I declare the motion carried.
Be it resolved that the bill do now pass and be entitled as in the motion.
Third reading agreed to.
The Acting Speaker (Ms. Jennifer K. French): Orders of the day?
Hon. Paul Calandra: I move adjournment of the House.
The Acting Speaker (Ms. Jennifer K. French): The government House leader has moved adjournment of the House. Is it agreed? I heard a no.
All those in favour of the motion, please say “aye.”
All those opposed to the motion, please say “nay.”
I declare the motion carried. Therefore, this House stands adjourned until Monday, September 13, 2021, at 10:15 a.m.
The House adjourned at 1457.