LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY OF ONTARIO
ASSEMBLÉE LÉGISLATIVE DE L’ONTARIO
Monday 28 March 2022 Lundi 28 mars 2022
The House met at 1015.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Good morning. We’re going to begin this morning with a moment of silence for inner thought and personal reflection.
Let us pray.
Ms. Doly Begum: First I hope everyone will join me in congratulating the men’s soccer team for qualifying for the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
Today I want to talk about the game of cricket, the people who play this sport and the challenges they face despite being a part of a community with a rich history of this game. Cricket is special to many across our province. The South Asian and Caribbean diasporas specifically have taken local initiatives to engage youth, children, families and seniors alike through cricket clubs and leagues. The GTA alone has more than 300 cricket clubs.
Cricket is not new to our city. In fact, Toronto used to be a cricket city. Some of the greatest players from around the world have come and played here in our city. And yet lack of investment and strategy and growing inequities have made it nearly impossible these days for even local clubs to find space to practise.
Speaker, complete lack of infrastructure and barriers to accessing practice space—even when the city fields sit empty—led to local clubs in my riding of Scarborough Southwest and across Scarborough without much option. Community members have often shared that they felt a sense of double standard when it comes to getting access to space to play cricket.
In many communities, cricket builds bridges among different generations. Young people, for example, are kept away from harm with positive mental and physical health impacts. The least we could do is provide people with the space that they are asking for and they need to play this beautiful sport.
Scarborough Academy of Medicine and Integrated Health
Mr. Aris Babikian: I was proud to participate in a historic announcement to create a medical school in Scarborough. The Academy of Medicine and Integrated Health will provide 30 undergraduate and 45 postgraduate positions to Scarborough students. Finally, Mr. Speaker, the dream becomes a reality.
The University of Toronto’s Scarborough campus will be home to the new school in Scarborough. In addition to graduating physicians, physician assistants, nurse practitioners and physical therapists, it will also provide a life sciences program. SAMIH will graduate up to 30 physicians, 30 physician assistants, 30 nurse practitioners, 40 physical therapists and 300 life sciences undergraduates per year.
After 15 years of Del Duca and Kathleen Wynne neglect, broken promises and dilapidated infrastructure, Scarborough and Scarborough–Agincourt are getting the attention they deserve. In Scarborough–Agincourt alone, our government is building and renovating and expanding the Birchmount emergency department, allocating $20 million to renovate and expand Terry Fox and David Lewis Public Schools, building the Bridletowne community and health hub, and constructing the Scarborough subway. The best is yet to come for Scarborough.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): I remind all members to please refer to each other by your riding name or your ministerial title, as applicable.
Ms. Catherine Fife: My constituent Allana Boussey, a mental health clinician and the parent of two children on the autism spectrum, recently wrote to me about how her family has been affected by the disastrous state of Ontario’s autism program. She spoke of her son, who was diagnosed with autism when he was four years old and at the time was struggling to stay in kindergarten for even a half day, as the sensory input and communication demands were overwhelming.
Once he was diagnosed, Allana and her spouse paid out of pocket for ABA therapy and occupational therapy. This first year of therapy was an incredible success for her son, but financial ruin for the family. Allana’s son has continued to access ABA therapy and occupational therapy, but to a lesser extent each year. Because of his therapy, he is now actually able to attend school full days and shines as a student, but Allana says, “While we have sacrificed our life savings for this success, we don’t think we should have had to.” She’s right.
No family should have to drain their savings to ensure that their child has access to necessary therapy. Families who can’t access private services should not be forced to languish on wait-lists while their children’s long-term development suffers. I ask on behalf of Allana and parents of children with autism across Ontario that this government acknowledge the devastation it’s putting families through, rethink its proposed changes to the OAP and clear the 53,000-child wait-list in this province.
T.A. “Bud” Bradley
Mr. Toby Barrett: I’ll commence my statement by saying, “This Bud’s For You.” That was the election slogan of my mentor, my MP for Haldimand–Norfolk, Dr. T.A. “Bud” Bradley, who very recently passed at the age of 84. Bud was in office from 1979 to 1988, serving as parliamentary secretary to supply and services and to the Minister of Defence, for example, with responsibility for files like NATO and Turkey.
Raised in Dunnville, Bud moved around as an army brat. He played hockey for the Montreal Junior Canadiens and the University of Alberta Golden Bears. Then he joined the Canadian Officers’ Training Corp. in the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry and became an army dentist. After 18 years in the army, it was back to Dunnville to practise, and then he was asked to run.
Bud would do anything to help anyone. He once accepted a dental payment in the form of a cow, a black Angus named Suzy Q. He could talk politics for hours. He could fix anything. He loved dogs and was quite the gardener. Two summers ago he sent me home with some suicide peppers.
I was pleased to see him just before Christmas with his wife, Susan, and his son Drew. Bud, if you’re listening, for all you do, this Bud’s for you.
Ms. Jennifer K. French: I am pleased to stand in my place and share some voices of the seniors across my community. We recently asked them for their input to tell us what life was like as seniors across the Oshawa area.
Kathleen Pellarin wrote: “The impact of the pandemic, both from the point of view of the virus (medically speaking) and socially, has been unprecedented for most people. I am very concerned with the directions the current provincial government is headed in, in terms of life for seniors in Ontario. From my point of view the government needs to invest in models that keep families living in their own homes (whether that is owned or rented) in a supportive setting. Long-term care homes should never be built as a for-profit entity. I believe it has been proven through this pandemic that the care of the individuals in a for-profit LTC home is not the same as that in others funded in large part through government funds....
“As you are aware the other key issues facing seniors in our community are affordable housing and, for some, hunger (reliance on food banks).”
I heard from J.A. Clark who said: “Warehousing our elders is not the solution; funding and expanding home care is.” He goes on to give examples.
I heard from Melanie Kitchen, who reminds us that, “Large institutions cannot do what smaller home care or care in individuals’ homes can do no matter how new or pretty they are.” She goes on at length to explain why we need to be investing in home care for our loved ones.
I heard from Jerry Newson who—I would be glad to talk to the minister of digital affairs—talks about how hard it is for seniors to cope in this world, and we need to support them in so many ways.
Thank you for giving me the chance to share a few of them today.
Canadian Community Services Organization
Ms. Kathleen O. Wynne: I rise today to congratulate an organization that has stepped up to support community in a major way in the community of Thorncliffe Park in Don Valley West. From the very beginning of this COVID pandemic, a small band of only four volunteers led by community leader Masood Alam came together to do everything in their power to support their neighbours through this very trying time.
There are wonderful, established organizations like The Neighbourhood Organization that have provided strong leadership through this period, and they deserve a huge vote of thanks.
But what’s remarkable about Masood Alam and his team is that they had no official backing at the start of their work. Since March 2020, the Canadian Community Services Organization, as we now know them, has grown to 70 volunteers and they’ve accomplished an enormous amount. They have held 23 food drives, serving over 6,000 people; distributed over 10,000 masks; distributed thousands of PPE kits, face shields and hand sanitizers; held a toy drive; helped nearly 200 families every month with groceries; and engaged new high school volunteers.
I know that there are many individuals in small organizations who have supported CCSO’s work. As a local MPP, I want to thank them all, Speaker. But most particularly, I want to thank Masood Alam and his team: Taqi Khan, Rahana Imtiaz, Nasir Malik, Adil Butt, Asif Mahmood, Azhar Bokhari, Moazzum Raza, Shakeel Ahmed, Syed Almas, Azfa Alam and Rizwan Saleem for their dedication to the community and their positive energy throughout this pandemic. Thank you all.
Mr. Lorne Coe: Yesterday, over 29,000 fans braved the cold weather to cheer on the Team Canada men’s soccer team at BMO Field as they took on Team Jamaica. What a game and what a win for Team Canada as they scored early and never looked back, winning the match 4 to 0. With the win, Team Canada has officially qualified for the World Cup in Qatar later this year.
Speaker, soccer is now Ontario’s largest provincial sport organization with over 600 clubs across the province. And I wanted to congratulate Ontario Soccer for having 80% of Team Canada’s roster pass through this system at one point or another. Speaker, this goes to show that investment in community sport has world-class outcomes, which is why the Minister of Heritage, Sport, Tourism and Culture Industries announced that our government is investing $30 million to stabilize Ontario’s sport and recreation sector.
I would like to recognize the outstanding youth soccer clubs across Ontario. In the region of Durham this includes Whitby FC, the Durham Open Ladies Soccer League and many terrific soccer clubs that are part of the Durham Region Soccer Association.
Speaker, on behalf of this Legislature, I want to wish Team Canada the best of luck as they represent our country on the world stage later this year in Qatar.
Mr. Gurratan Singh: Why is the Conservative government allowing billionaire insurance companies to rip you off? People are struggling right now with how unaffordable life is becoming, from the housing crisis to the skyrocketing gas prices, to groceries and more. Instead of helping out people, the Conservative government is allowing them to struggle with one of the greatest expenses they face: car insurance. There are some families in Ontario who pay more for car insurance than for the mortgage of their own home. But instead of helping them, they’re helping their insider friends and buddies in the car insurance industry.
If we look at the track record of this Conservative government since getting elected, time and again they have voted no to lowering rates. They have voted no to two NDP bills to lower car insurance rates. They said no to lowering rates during the pandemic, and they continue to say no today as people struggle to make ends meet. And in case people were confused, your rates only go up when the Conservative government allows them to go up.
That’s why this election is so important. We in opposition, in the NDP, can only raise the issue of car insurance, but an NDP government will once and for all stand up to these billionaire car insurance companies, mandate lower rates, give you a break and make life more affordable for you.
Volunteer organizations in Oakville
Mr. Stephen Crawford: Good morning to everyone in the Legislature today.
In my community of Oakville, you can recognize the strong sense of community support. Local organizations, churches and individuals work tirelessly to help those in need.
I recently joined the Kerr Street Mission to celebrate their successful Ontario Trillium grant. This grant is supporting the incredible efforts of the Kerr Street Mission in its relaunch and expansion of the Fresh Food Box for Halton. The Fresh Food Box for Halton program aims to provide healthy food for all in Halton by equipping local community groups to respond to food insecurity within their own neighbourhoods. Since its relaunch in July 2020, over 1,500 fresh food boxes have been distributed. No one should have to go without healthy and nutritious foods.
In light of the events in Ukraine, Oakville residents have been looking for ways to aid the Ukrainian people. The Ukrainian flag has been prominent in Oakville and is proudly displayed on cars, churches and businesses. In addition to this public display of solidarity, St. Joseph’s Ukrainian Catholic Church held a call for prayer for relatives and friends in Ukraine. St. Volodymyr Cultural Centre partnered with the Ukraine Medical Assist to collect donations from the community to be sent directly to Ukraine during this time of need. Donations included items like bandages, tape, gloves and first-aid products. Residents from all of Oakville, including the various communities, worked quickly to gather supplies that could aid this country.
I am fortunate to live in an engaged community where people are going above and beyond to make sure Oakville is such a great place to work, live and raise a family.
Public sector compensation
Mr. Taras Natyshak: Before I begin, I just want to send our condolences, on behalf of the Ontario NDP and I’m sure all of our colleagues in the House from every party, to the victims—and the family and friends—of a tragic house fire in Brampton over the weekend, where five people died, three of them children. Our hearts and our thoughts are with the family and friends of the victims.
Speaker, my question is to the Premier. The sunshine list shows that the high flyers of this government have made big raises while the front-line heroes of the pandemic have gotten gimmicks. Front-line health care workers are stuck with the Premier’s low-wage policy while his buddies have raked in huge raises. The top 10 earners on the list got a combined raise of $1.9 million just this year. Front-line workers in health care are neglected, thanks to this Premier’s Bill 124, but the Premier’s CEO of Ontario Health got a $186,000 raise just this year. That’s three times the average Ontario worker’s salary.
Speaker, why does this Premier have a huge salary increase for the CEO of Ontario Health, but have nothing but gimmicks for nurses, health care workers and front-line heroes who are getting us through this pandemic?
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Government House leader.
Hon. Paul Calandra: He is correct; the sunshine list was released last Friday, Mr. Speaker, as it is every year. But let me just tell the member this: We have provided a significant amount of resources for our front-line health care workers. I know in the Ministry of Long-Term Care we’ve been working for the addition of 27,000 PSWs. Of course, we’ve provided additional funding, a salary bump, for our front-line workers. You know how important that was, Mr. Speaker. It was something that we knew we had to do the moment we came into office.
We’re making significant investments in long-term care. It’s not just about adding staff, as well; we’ve heard from the people who are working on the front lines that the facilities that they work in have to be top-notch facilities. They have to be facilities that they’re proud to work in, that give people the best quality of care. That’s why we’re building a brand new hospital in Brampton. That’s why Peel is getting the largest hospital in the country. That’s why we’re building schools, universities and colleges. A lot is happening in the province of Ontario, and it’s leading to the most economically prosperous jurisdiction in North America.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): The supplementary.
Mr. Taras Natyshak: As I guessed, Speaker, the government House leader fails to justify those enormous raises in the midst of the pandemic.
The Premier promised to reduce hydro prices, but he has raised them every year, and those higher prices are paying for over $5 million for the top salaries at Ontario Power Generation. At OPG, the top four officials made—get this—$1.1 million on top of their already enormous salaries. While Ontarians watched their monthly bills skyrocket, the Premier’s top OPG officials took in between $160,000 and $399,000 in one-year raises alone.
Speaker, why does this Premier refuse to rein in these outlandish salaries at the top of OPG, leaving Ontarians to literally foot the bill with higher prices for their hydro rates?
Hon. Paul Calandra: Again, as I’ve said, the sunshine list was released last Thursday. Of course, this was an initiative that was brought in by a Conservative government back in the 1990s, and it does highlight, I think, very effectively for the people of the province of Ontario who is making what.
Having said that, when he talks about hydro prices, we knew that the only way we were going to bring back the economy in the province of Ontario is if we made hydro prices stable. That’s something the Premier said right from the beginning: We had to stabilize the hydroelectricity system in the province. We’ve done that. The Premier also said we had to eliminate that 19% hydro increase that was planned by the previous Liberal government. We have done that.
That has led to investments and growth. The Minister of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade made the largest investment in the auto sector. He was able to close a $5-billion deal which would see thousands of jobs brought to the province of Ontario, which will literally save the auto industry for generations to come. You get that because of a strong, stable Progressive Conservative government, and we will continue to do that for a long time.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): The final supplementary.
Mr. Taras Natyshak: That’s strike two for the government House leader in justifying these enormous raises. We’ll give him one more shot at bat here, Speaker.
Even as ridership and fares plummeted at Metrolinx due to the pandemic, the Premier rewarded the CEO with a raise of $96,000. His total salary is over $836,000—this is a typo. Is this a typo, “$836,000”?
Miss Monique Taylor: No, it’s not a typo.
Mr. Taras Natyshak: That’s incredible. To put that into perspective, just to pay for Metrolinx’s CEO salary, the agency would have to collect fares from Ontarians for five full days. That raise alone is more than one and a half times the annual salary of the average Ontarian worker.
Speaker, why, when our transit agencies need to increase affordable and accessible transit across Ontario, has this Premier handed the Metrolinx CEO a $96,000-a-year raise just this year alone?
Hon. Paul Calandra: Again, Mr. Speaker, what we’ve done is handed a mandate to our partners to deliver the largest increase, the largest build in transit history in the province of Ontario.
Now, we didn’t just stop—I know yesterday the Minister of Transportation joined the Premier and a number of our colleagues for the official groundbreaking of the Ontario Line, something that they said couldn’t be done. We are actually doing it, Speaker.
Now, the Ontario Line, of course, will lead—it’s part of a $29-billion investment in transit in Toronto and in the GTA. I know the member for Oak Ridges–Aurora–Richmond Hill has been working very hard, as has the member for Richmond Hill, to get a subway to York region. We’re getting that done.
The people in Scarborough have been waiting for a very long time for a subway. I note that the member for Scarborough–Rouge Park, the members for Scarborough–Agincourt and Scarborough Centre and the minister from Scarborough North have been fighting. They delivered a three-stop subway, as well as a medical school at the University of Toronto, as well as long-term care. A lot of good things are happening across the province.
Mr. Taras Natyshak: The government House leader cannot, in any good conscience, justify the enormous wages and the raises to these people, so we’ll move on. That’s strike three.
We’ll move to the minister of tourism and sport. Tourism operators have had some of the most difficult years of their business thanks to the pandemic. That’s exactly why the province should have had their backs with financial support to keep these businesses afloat, but that is not what happened.
The Premier has abandoned tourism operators, because the CBC reports this morning that not a cent—not one cent—of the $100 million that this Premier has promised has gone out the door. Why has the Premier and his minister of tourism and sport abandoned the tourism sector when they needed it the most?
Hon. Lisa MacLeod: As Minister of Sport, I always enjoy a good gutter ball over there by the NDP. I can tell you, that member opposite has not stood in this place and asked a tourism-related question for the hardest-hit sectors, who were hit first, hardest and would take the longest to recover, in the past two years of this pandemic. Why? Because all they are focused on, on the other side, is complaining. All they are focused on, on the other side, is trying to draw out potential scandals that never really exist.
Speaker, I have stood up for the tourism sector this entire time. I have held over three dozen webinars and round tables with—
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Opposition, come to order.
Hon. Lisa MacLeod: I’ve travelled the entire province. I’ve invested $400,000 in the Tourism Windsor Essex Pelee Island in order to help restore the branding issues after the Ambassador Bridge.
The member opposite says one thing in his place, but when it comes time to vote, he has voted against a billion dollars’ worth of tourism supports, Speaker.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): The opposition will come to order.
Mr. Taras Natyshak: It’s been six months since this minister promised support to tourism operators—six months since she promised support for them. They filled in their paperwork months ago. They were well ahead of the game. Yet, five months later, this government is still delaying while hundreds of businesses are waiting for supports.
The CEO of the Tourism Industry Association of Ontario said, “Every day that is lost is an opportunity lost for Ontarians to be hired and for businesses to get the revenue that they’ve simply not had for the last two years.” Businesses like fishing lodges and bed and breakfasts need support, Speaker, not further delays.
Why is this Premier failing to help the tourism sector with the support they desperately need to stay open?
Hon. Lisa MacLeod: Speaker, the member opposite has limited, if not zero, credibility on these issues. I’m glad that somebody wrote him a question, but I guess he could answer a few things for me. Why, when it came time to invest $270 million into an Ontario Staycation Tax Credit, did he vote against it? Why, when it came time to invest $25 million to sustain iconic institutions across the province, including in Windsor-Essex, did he stand there and vote against it? Why, when this government brought forward $100 million in small business supports for tourism sectors, did he vote against it?
And I’ll ask another question, Speaker. Why, when we doubled the Reconnect Festival and Event Program—every dollar in yields $21 back in return. Why did that member vote against events like the Windsor International Film Festival? I want to know why I have been the only person in this assembly standing up here for two years speaking about heritage, sport, tourism and culture industries, because they have not.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Final supplementary.
Mr. Taras Natyshak: Speaker, it’s question period. We get to ask the questions. They have to answer the questions. If spin and deflection were worth 10 cents, the tourism sector would be overflowing with cash from this minister, but unfortunately they are not.
One business told the CBC that they need a lifeline to stay open, but when that operator tried to find out what’s happening with the funding, he was met with radio silence. That business, an excursion company on Manitoulin Island, said, “But what we do know is the tourism industry generally is hanging on by a thread these days.”
These businesses have cleaned out their savings; they’ve maxed out their credit cards just to keep the doors open. Why have this government and that minister failed to get the funds out the door for a tourism sector that is desperate to stay alive in Ontario?
Hon. Lisa MacLeod: I believe I must have touched a nerve with the member opposite. He clearly doesn’t really understand the file. He hasn’t travelled tens of thousands of kilometres across this great province, meeting directly with tourism operators, as I did last week when I was in Manitoulin, investing $260,000 in Indigenous tourism at Wiikwemkoong First Nation. Why does the member vote against those initiatives?
An additional $100 million to the Ontario Trillium Foundation in order to support heritage, sport, tourism and culture industries: Do you know who voted for that? Progressive Conservatives. Do you know who voted against it? New Democrats. That’s all they do. They’re the party of no; we’re the party of yes. I am the minister responsible for a sector that has been hurt. It doesn’t deserve politics; it deserves their attention. And I am so sad and disappointed that it took them two years to figure out the hardest-hit sectors are the ones that they have always taken for granted.
Northern health services
Mr. Sol Mamakwa: Remarks in Oji-Cree. It’s a good morning.
My question is to the Minister of Health. Red Lake Margaret Cochenour Memorial Hospital, like many hospitals in northwestern Ontario, has many challenges to ensure full-time emergency department position coverage. Many physicians find it daunting to work in small hospitals, where obtaining diagnostic services such as CT scans have to be done off-site. They also must practise with a very broad scope of expertise, with minimal specialist support.
This government must address the inequitable access to basic emergency medical care for northerners in Red Lake and in all of northwestern Ontario. How will this be done? Meegwetch.
Hon. Christine Elliott: I thank the member opposite for the question. It is quite an important one. I can advise that the municipality of Red Lake did declare an emergency on March 25 of this year, and the declaration was due to a service disruption in the emergency department at the Red Lake Margaret Cochenour Memorial Hospital from 8 o’clock on March 26 through to 8 o’clock on March 27 as a result of a physician shortage on that particular day.
But the provincial emergency operations centre and the Ministry of Health coordinated patients to be redirected to Dryden, and air support was available for EMS transfers as required. Fortunately, no air transfers were required, but two ambulances did drive to Dryden with patients. However, the situation has been rectified for the present, and Ontario Health will continue its efforts to find coverage and build up resiliency through the province’s local program.
I’ll speak to other efforts that we’re making in the supplementary.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): The supplementary question?
Mr. Sol Mamakwa: Back to the Minister of Health: Red Lake physicians regularly work 24-hour shifts every three days, or even every two days. Over half of the physicians are locums who need extra time to travel to Red Lake, mainly from southern Ontario. Scheduling is precarious, and one missed flight or sick day for physicians forces the small complement of physicians to cover these shifts or risk closing the hospital’s emergency department.
On March 26, our over-strained system cracked. Over 6,000 Ontarians were left without their emergency department in Red Lake. What is this government doing to ensure that it doesn’t happen again?
Hon. Christine Elliott: I think it’s really important to look back in history to see and understand how this situation became this way. The physician shortage was the direct result of the previous Liberal government, supported by the NDP, eliminating, then capping, medical school seats in Ontario. The Del Duca-Wynne Liberals froze hospital spending for years and eliminated 50 medical residency positions from Ontario.
However, our government is dealing with that. That’s why we’re adding 160 undergraduate seats and 295 post-graduate seats over the next five years, which is the largest expansion in medical schools in the last 10 years. This expansion will support all six medical schools across Ontario.
But especially important to your question is: The Northern Ontario School of Medicine will receive 41 undergraduate positions of medical school and 30 post-graduate positions. This will help eliminate the situation with—
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Thank you very much. The next question.
Mr. Norman Miller: My question is to the Minister of Labour, Training and Skills Development. In my riding of Parry Sound–Muskoka and from businesses across the province, we hear the same issues being raised everywhere. They are desperate to hire, but they cannot find the workers they need.
There are hundreds of thousands of good-paying positions going unfilled across Ontario. Businesses in my riding, from contractors and manufacturers to resorts and restaurants, are all having trouble finding workers. Mr. Speaker, will the minister please tell us what actions the government has taken to address this historic labour shortage?
Hon. Monte McNaughton: I want to thank my colleague from Parry Sound–Muskoka. Before I answer his question, I just want to say, on behalf of all the people in his riding, on behalf of the province, thank you so much for your service to Ontario.
Mr. Speaker, the member is absolutely right: Every paycheque uncollected means a family going another day without. That is why I was pleased to join labour leaders, apprentices and tradespeople in London at the Ontario Masonry Training Centre to announce our government’s investment of $28 million in pre-apprenticeships.
With our increased funding, there will be nearly 100 pre-app projects in every corner of Ontario to help people learn the skills they need to fill these in-demand jobs. From stonecutting and masonry work to hospitality and manufacturing, these programs are open to anyone who wants to learn.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker, and I’ll look forward to the supplementary.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Supplementary question?
Mr. Norman Miller: Thank you, Minister, and thank you for your kind comments. It’s comforting to know our government is tackling this generational labour shortage head-on.
One of the many tools our government is using to accomplish this goal is the Ministry of Labour’s pre-apprenticeship program. Pre-apprenticeships are excellent ways to open new doors for people. They offer Ontarians the opportunity to try a new trade that they might not have considered. Can the minister please explain more about his recent London announcement and how our government is determined to help workers upskill and connect with better careers?
Hon. Monte McNaughton: Again, thank you to the member. Through you, Mr. Speaker: I am a big advocate of pre-apprenticeships and encourage anyone interested in trying a trade to check them out. These programs are short—less than one year long at most—and provide a stepping stone to a better career. Most importantly, they provide an opportunity to learn while working and earning a paycheque.
Through investments like these, the Premier and our government are saying yes to a stronger Ontario. We are bringing together business and labour leaders to make our future brighter for average people who are working hard to get ahead.
Speaker, we’re working for workers. On this side of the House, we’re getting it done.
Gender equity in sport
Ms. Catherine Fife: My question is to the Premier.
Ontario University Athletics took the remarkable step of releasing an open letter condemning this government’s choice of failing to address the gender imbalance in sport. The government has allocated $3 million to men-only hockey scholarships. The OUA says, “The government of Ontario should be equally concerned about providing fair opportunities to all genders with public funds.” We agree.
Instead of acknowledging this unfairness, the minister of sport called the open letter “quibbling” and “misleading.”
Women in sports, including hockey, deserve equality and the chance to reach their athletic potential. They do not deserve attacks. Why would the minister downplay these legitimate concerns of Ontario’s university athletics sports community?
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Minister of Heritage, Sport, Tourism and Culture Industries.
Hon. Lisa MacLeod: Obviously, as a former female athlete myself, a hockey mother and coach, I have dedicated my career to making sure, even when I was minister of women’s issues, that women and girls had an opportunity to succeed, and an equal opportunity to young men and, of course, male sports.
What the member opposite is talking about is a letter after myself and the Minister of Finance announced that there would be additional, brand new money, $30 million, that will go out to a number of different sport entities, including to the OHL for their scholarship program.
That said, what the member opposite is not talking about is the additional $300,000 that the Ontario University Athletics association has received through my ministry—not through the Ministry of Colleges and Universities—whereby they can spend every single cent on that, if they like, to support female athletes.
I’d also like to point out that 52% of our Quest for Gold funding, which is a $6-million fund, went to high-performance female athletes.
We continue to work on a strategy within the ministry, and we’ll not apologize for the great work we’re doing to support women in sport.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): The supplementary.
Ms. Catherine Fife: Speaker, you will never address a problem if you don’t acknowledge that it exists.
Instead of acknowledging the inequity in scholarships, the minister attacked the leadership of Ontario University Athletics and rejected their concerns, as she just did right now. She accused the association last week of trying to “confuse the argument.” She said that they’re quibbling about a scholarship program for a male-dominated sport.
Speaker, leaders in Ontario’s university athletics just want the simple principle of equity in scholarships. Funding choices speak volumes about values, but it is never too late to do the right thing—and they put that in their letter. Equally allocating university athletics scholarships would help launch future sports careers and make huge contributions to our society.
As a former varsity athletic water polo player—even I get that concept—will the minister do the right thing and stand up for women in sport and invest in women athletes like the Ontario University Athletics open letter calls for?
Hon. Lisa MacLeod: My ministry and our government are committed to supporting community-based athletics and recreation across Ontario, which is why we invested $30 million in new money to support all of our provincial sport organizations, multi-sport organizations, and actually have, for the first time ever, opened up to female-dominated sports—skip rope, cheer and dance—which has never been done before, but we got a line of sight into that during the pandemic.
I also wanted to point out that, through the Ontario Trillium Foundation, we’ve invested $105 million, as I mentioned to her colleague, in order to support community-based sport.
Let me read something that the Ontario University Athletics association sent me after we made the announcement: “Just a quick thank you for the additional MHSTCI funding to OUA. Much appreciated and helpful.”
I would encourage the Ontario University Athletics association to use the existing funds and the new money they’re receiving as a result of this in order to distribute it to female athletes if they so choose.
Mr. John Fraser: My question is for the Minister of Health.
This weekend, we learned from CTV and W5 about the extent of the political pressure this Premier and this government are putting on our hospitals and health care system; specifically, Premier Ford’s inappropriate political interference by calling Dr. Naveed Mohammad, the CEO of William Osler, to complain about the social media of Dr. Brooks Fallis. The sequence of events was clear: a tweet, a phone call, a firing.
Speaker, we know the Premier called Dr. Mohammad, and we know that Dr. Mohammad felt that his hospital’s funding was being threatened and put at risk.
Can the minister tell us what threats were made and whether anyone in her office or ministry participated in these intimidation tactics?
Hon. Christine Elliott: None at all. In fact, there were no intimidation tactics. In fact, with respect to Dr. Brooks Fallis, we’ve never heard of this individual, and the allegations that he is making are categorically false.
We have listened to a variety of people, including our Chief Medical Officer of Health, to make decisions with respect to COVID-19 that were based on clinical evidence and science. We will continue to listen to the Chief Medical Officer of Health and to make sure that the decisions we make continue to be based in fact.
As I said before, we have never heard of Dr. Fallis, and any allegations he’s making are false.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): The supplementary question.
Mr. John Fraser: Well, we’ll send you the clip so you can watch it, Minister. But look, we all know if you stand up and criticize this Premier, he can be vindictive—or he will be vindictive—and that’s why the seats behind me keep filling up. So I’m not surprised the minister does not—
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Stop the clock. The government side will come to order.
Start the clock. The member for Ottawa South has the floor.
Mr. John Fraser: Well, they’re laughing, but they were your friends and colleagues at one point. Remember that.
So I’m not surprised the minister denied this and denied the interference and intimidation by the Premier, but Ontarians deserve real answers. That is why we’re asking the government to call the Standing Committee on Social Policy to be convened to investigate exactly what happened, including calling Dr. Naveed Mohammad and the Premier and anyone else to speak about this matter under oath.
We can’t have a health care system that’s on the whim of the Premier’s vindictiveness. Speaker, will the minister agree to convene the Standing Committee on Social Policy, so we can get to the bottom of this and get to the real truth about what happened?
Hon. Christine Elliott: The short answer is no, because I can advise that the Premier has always made decisions based on the recommendations of Dr. Moore and his advisers. He has always made his decisions based on the clinical evidence and science. That is what Ontarians have known from the beginning, and so there’s no need to refer it anywhere else.
Mr. Sheref Sabawy: My question is to the Minister of Citizenship and Multiculturalism. Speaker, as we all know, small businesses are the backbone of the Ontario economy, and I have seen the support of small businesses first-hand in my riding of Erin Mills during this pandemic. While our government has taken strong, unprecedented actions to support them, we know there is more we need to do, especially among businesses owned by Black, Indigenous and other racialized entrepreneurs.
Now that Ontario is on the road to economic recovery, we need every small business in every community across the province to succeed. Can the Minister of Citizenship and Multiculturalism please inform the House what our government is doing to ensure no one is left behind?
Hon. Parm Gill: I want to thank my colleague from Mississauga–Erin Mills for the question, and also the tremendous work he does on behalf of his constituents, not just here at Queen’s Park but also in his riding.
Mr. Speaker, as the member pointed out, of course, we know that during the pandemic all small businesses were hit hard and faced lots of challenges. Those owned by Indigenous, Black and racialized communities were the hardest hit. That’s why our government was proud to announce a $5-million investment that we’re providing to support businesses owned by Indigenous, Black and racialized entrepreneurs. Eligible recipients can qualify for up to $10,000 in funding to grow their business and create innovation, as well as to provide culturally relevant training and business coaching.
As a former small business owner myself, I understand some of those challenges first-hand, and I know this investment will be really, really well received by every single business out there.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Supplementary question.
Mr. Sheref Sabawy: Thanks to the minister for this answer. I know small business owners in my community of Mississauga–Erin Mills will be very happy to hear about the grant and the billions of dollars in business support from our government.
Small businesses need to know that their government is creating the right environment for their businesses to grow and flourish. That has never been more important than now. Now more than ever, we need targeted supports to help deliver culturally related programming and remove disparities in all communities, while building new pathways to economic success.
Speaker, through you, can the minister tell us how the RAISE grant will help create more opportunities for everyone across Ontario?
Hon. Parm Gill: I want to thank my colleague for that important question, again. Our government is ensuring that racial equity is included within our COVID-19 recovery plan for the long-term economic growth of our province. With this RAISE grant, we are saying yes to supporting new opportunities for economic success. That’s because encouraging equal opportunities for everyone is the right thing to do. It’s good for jobs. It’s good for businesses. By improving access to economic opportunities, we’re supporting local communities and we’re building a stronger, more inclusive Ontario for everyone.
On this side of the House, we remain committed to turning possibility into prosperity across our great province.
Mr. Faisal Hassan: My question is to the Premier. In my riding of York South–Weston, hard-working people are facing an affordability crisis. Housing, renting and purchasing continue to be unaffordable and people are being forced to leave the community they were raised in.
The Toronto Star recently did a story that highlighted the 33 King Street building in my riding and shared the struggles tenants are facing. Almost 20 years ago, Sharlene Henry moved into the 33 King Street building. She would like a bigger space but feels stuck, as rents have soared. Sharlene stated, “We’ve outgrown our space, but the market has outgrown us.”
The reality is that people have to hold onto units even when it does not make sense for the householder to live there. What is this government doing to address the housing crisis we are in, unreasonable above-guideline rent increases, and holding tenants hostage because they cannot afford to move?
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): To respond on behalf of the government, the member for Aurora–Oak Ridges–Richmond Hill.
Mr. Michael Parsa: I thank my honourable colleague for the question. He is absolutely right: Life had become incredibly unaffordable because of the decisions made by the previous government, and of course often supported by the NDP, which is why we wanted to turn things around. We want to make sure that life is more affordable for Ontarians.
Part of that includes making sure that the jobs that were lost because of the previous government—300,000 manufacturing jobs were lost because of the decisions of the previous government. As you heard last week, the Minister of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade announced a $5-billion investment that is bringing more jobs, good-paying jobs, back to this province again. What we are going to do is we’re going to make sure that the housing supply that was neglected by the previous government—we are increasing housing in all areas. Last year, more housing starts were built here in Ontario. We’re going to make sure housing is built for everyone across Ontario that is affordable for every—
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Thank you.
The supplementary question.
Mr. Faisal Hassan: Back to the Premier: The 33 King Street building in York South–Weston serves as a good example of what is wrong with this government’s approach to housing. When tenants lived in the same apartment for more than a decade, their average rent increase was 28%. If the apartment changed hands, that average rises to an astonishing 73%. Above-guideline rent increases for work done in improvements is another tool to make tenants vacate and to raise rents substantially.
I will end with the words of 33 King Street tenant Sandy Bathie, who feels, “I can’t afford to move, and I can’t afford to stay.” Will this government ban and eliminate above-guideline rent increases and support real rent control today?
Mr. Michael Parsa: Again, I thank the member for raising an important issue here, which is affordability in the province of Ontario. He’s absolutely right, which is why the Minister of Housing took the initiative, under the leadership of Premier Ford, to make sure that we work to ensure that housing supply is increased in this province for anyone who is looking to have—whether it’s affordable housing, whether it’s that dream of owning a home in this province. As I mentioned earlier, housing starts in this province increased for the first time since the 1990s. That’s not by accident. That’s because of the policies of this government under the leadership of this Premier.
I encourage the opposition to work with us so that we can build more houses for all Ontarians. Whether they want to look to rent, whether they want to buy again, we need to make sure these homes are affordable for all Ontarians. We’ll make sure we deliver for them. I hope the opposition supports us along the way.
Mr. Rick Nicholls: Speaker, my question, through you, is to the Minister of Health. The objectives of directive 6 were to set out a provincially consistent approach to COVID-19 immunization policies in covered organizations. Directive 6 was issued by Dr. Moore under the Health Protection and Promotion Act, 2004, section 77.7, on August 17 of last year and it was implemented 21 days later on September 6.
The first stated objective of directive 6 is to optimize COVID-19 immunization rates. Emerging evidence now demonstrates natural immunity to be superior and longer lasting to vaccine-induced immunity. It is a breach of medical ethics to ignore natural immunity and to force employees to undergo vaccination unnecessarily that could expose them to an adverse reaction. Compelling employees to submit to a medical procedure that has little or no benefit may put many at potential risk.
My question to the Minister of Health is, why was natural immunity to COVID-19 disregarded?
Hon. Christine Elliott: Natural immunity was never disregarded. It was regarded by the experts but wasn’t considered to be sufficient enough to prevent a person from contracting COVID.
What is important is to be vaccinated, not once but twice—three times actually. We have actually exceeded over 32 million vaccinations in Ontario right now. This is the best protection for people. Natural immunity helps, but it isn’t going to be the salvation for someone if they contract it. Even with the third inoculation, people can still get COVID, but they are unlikely to be hospitalized because they have that natural protection. It’s more likely to appear as a case of flu or a cold. But that isn’t because of natural immunity; that’s because of vaccination.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Supplementary.
Mr. Rick Nicholls: Back to the Minister of Health, through you, Speaker: Directive 6 allowed for unvaccinated employees to continue to work and undergo antigen testing at intervals to be determined by the covered organization. It was amoral that employers decided on their own and were allowed to further jeopardize patients and staff when they implemented an unnecessary policy of vaccinate or terminate. Forcing employees to be vaccinated with a non-sterilizing vaccine, still in clinical trials with no long-term safety data, was unethical. The vaccine did not shield patients or staff from transmission.
It was the employers who took away the right to informed consent, not directive 6. Sadly, other government levels stood idly by as employers explicitly violated some of the most valued ethical principles of medicine. Your government allowed employers to move far beyond directive 6 into a heavy-handed authoritarian approach of vaccinate or terminate.
Minister, why didn’t you step in and stop these non-medical employers from forcing an invasive medical procedure on employees? It was coercive and illegal.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): I’m going to caution the member on the use of some of the language that he used in his question.
Minister of Health to reply.
Hon. Christine Elliott: Frankly, Speaker, it’s hard to know where to start with an answer here. But ultimately, the best protection against COVID is vaccination. That has been demonstrated by experts across the world. Millions and millions of people have been vaccinated without ill effects. In fact, it’s saved hundreds of thousands of lives. I won’t apologize for that, because that is what the science says and that is what the clinical evidence says.
Employers are allowed to develop their own vaccine policies. Most required vaccines, particularly where there are vulnerable people, in our long-term-care homes and other places. But the way that we’re getting out of this pandemic right now and able to start opening up our economy is because so many Ontarians went out and were vaccinated, and I thank them very much for that. That’s giving Ontario back its future.
Ms. Donna Skelly: My question is for the Minister of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade.
After 15 years of Liberal mismanagement, generations of workers were forgotten, 300,000 manufacturing jobs left Ontario, and there was absolutely no plan for economic growth. The lack of investment had our auto and manufacturing sectors running scared.
But recently, we have seen billions—that’s billions with a “B”—of dollars’ worth of investment back into this province. Could the minister outline what historic investments have been announced recently and how they will support our auto and manufacturing sectors?
Hon. Victor Fedeli: Speaker, since day one, our government has worked to reduce the cost of doing business by $7 billion a year, giving business the confidence to invest here in Ontario.
Over the past 18 months, we’ve seen an historic $13 billion invested in our steel, EV and EV battery manufacturing: Ford, $1.8 billion; Stellantis, $1.5 billion; General Motors, $2.3 billion; Honda, $1.4 billion; Dofasco, $1.8 billion; and, of course, last week, the single biggest auto investment in the history of the country, LG and Stellantis, $5 billion in Windsor.
But, Speaker, we’re just getting started. Stay tuned as auto companies announce more and more and more investments as we unleash Ontario’s economy.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): The supplementary question?
Ms. Donna Skelly: Speaker, we know that Ontarians are so relieved and so happy that Ontario is back and is reversing the damage that the previous Liberal government, supported time and time again by the NDP, did to our economy.
It’s clear that our government has been focused on restoring this critical sector in Ontario’s economy. But reviving Ontario’s auto sector was no easy task, one that took many years. Can the minister please outline how our government’s automotive plan has helped drive automotive investment back into Ontario?
Hon. Victor Fedeli: Speaker, the member from Flamborough–Glanbrook is absolutely correct. Under the previous government, Ontario saw 300,000 jobs flee the province. The Liberal government simply gave up on manufacturing jobs.
Here’s a direct quote from the Liberals’ final economic report: “The structure of the Ontario economy will continue to shift from goods-producing to service-producing sectors.” How sad.
But we knew it did not have to be that way, and we immediately put in steps to stop that loss of jobs. Driving Prosperity was the name of our plan that restored Ontario’s auto sector, and the $13 billion of investments shows that that plan is working.
Ontario has gained 500,000 jobs since we took office, as we unleash Ontario’s economic potential to secure a future for generations to come.
Mr. Terence Kernaghan: Speaker, my question is to the Premier. Affordability is a huge concern for most people today. Housing costs ballooned under the last government and have only accelerated under this one.
Constituents at One Richmond Row reached out to tell me they’re facing rent increases of 7% to 10% simply because they are in a building built after 2018. This government cancelled rent control on new buildings, forcing these tenants to pay hundreds more dollars in additional rent. Seniors living on fixed incomes and young families trying to start their lives are afraid they’re going to end up on the street.
Marnie told me, “I’m very frustrated as to why it will be such a large increase when it should be 1.2% like other renters. As a new renter I had no idea this would” happen “to me. It has been very stressful for several of us as our rent is at top dollar already.”
It’s a simple question: Will this government do the right thing, return rent control to buildings built after 2018 and stand up for Ontario’s renters, yes or no?
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): To reply, the member for Stormont–Dundas–South Glengarry.
Mr. Jim McDonell: Thank you, Speaker, for that question, and I thank the member opposite. Since taking government, we have taken all the measures possible to make sure that housing was affordable for the people of Ontario. This province was in terrible shape. We had the lowest number of housing units per capita in this country, and this country was the worst in the G7, and that’s after decades of the previous government’s stifling red tape.
We took measures. When we came to power, our government immediately put in measures to get rid of the red tape and allow builders to build and developers to develop. It was a key factor in keeping rental units as low as possible. We’ve had the highest number of rental units and the highest number of housing units built since the 1990s in this province, and that goes to the measures we put in place.
The NDP and the Liberals said no to requiring landlords’ efforts to negotiate repayment for agreements.
We’ve done things to make rental issues affordable, especially during COVID-19. We stopped evictions during the COVID-19 time frame to give people who were having trouble with employment time to make repayments and time to get their payments in order.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): The supplementary question.
Mr. Terence Kernaghan: My question is back to the Premier.
Scrapping rent control makes things unaffordable. I’d like this government to get that through its head.
The worst part about this is that people like Marnie thought the Ontario government was on their side and that there were rules to protect renters. The member’s answer shows that this is not the case.
This government voted against my Bill 23 which would protect renters.
With the stroke of a pen, this government could stand up for renters and bring back rent control, but instead, they’d rather help wealthy developers.
For decades, Conservative and Liberal governments have made the housing crisis worse and worse. They’ve allowed the greediest developers and corporate landlords to gouge tenants and throw people out of their homes to make a buck.
My constituent Chris said, “This is an outrageous attempt to essentially evict tenants because they feel they can get more money. It is simply unaffordable. The cost of moving and the horrible burden of finding a new home will be very imposing on the residents in my building.”
What does this government have to say to Marnie, Chris and the other families living at One Richmond Row who might get evicted because they can’t afford the massive, unfair jump in rent that this government has rubber-stamped?
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Member for Aurora–Oak Ridges–Richmond Hill.
Mr. Michael Parsa: I thank my honourable colleague for the question.
My message to all Ontarians and those who are looking for an answer from the government is this: We’ve had your back and we’ll continue to have your back through policies that we have always put in place.
Let me just point out a fact that members opposite never want to bring up, and that is the question of supply. Because of bad decisions by the previous government—and remember who supported them along the way, whenever they needed them—Ontario lacks the supply that we need to house Ontarians, which is why the policies and the decisions that were made by the minister, alluded to by the parliamentary assistant, helped to make sure that we have more units available so that it does help with the prices for Ontarians. It’s simple supply and demand. I understand that sometimes it’s difficult for others to fathom that, but it is a fact, which is why, when you reduce red tape, when you increase inventory through proper decisions, it will make housing more affordable for Ontarians.
We’ll make sure that every single decision we make reflects the best for the people of Ontario.
Mr. Stephen Blais: My question is for the Premier.
The highest-ranking public servant in the city of Ottawa has told Ottawa council that the illegal occupation is going to cost taxpayers $36 million. Mr. Speaker, $36 million is a lot of money, and it’s going to translate into hundreds of dollars of additional property taxes for the residents of Ottawa. That’s on top of hydro rates that are going up and gas prices that are out of control.
For months, Ontario Liberals have been calling on the government to support the residents of Ottawa and ensure they’re made whole as a result of this occupation that was spurred on by Conservative politicians across the country.
The government has offered $10 million—which is half of what the federal government has offered—to support businesses, but they’ve still not offered any support to Ottawa taxpayers who are going to be faced with the bill for this occupation.
Will the Premier commit to ensuring that Ottawa taxpayers are made whole and that he doesn’t force a property tax increase upon them?
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Government House leader.
Hon. Paul Calandra: I think we addressed this last week. I know that the Minister of Tourism has been working alongside Ottawa officials to ensure that Ottawa continues to get the support that it has been getting.
At the same time, we’re also looking beyond what happened during the events of February. We’re looking towards building a better, stronger Ottawa—one that continues to be the centre of culture for the province of Ontario.
Ottawa is the second-largest city in the province of Ontario. It is the centre of our national government. It is also a hub for tourism. It is also a hub for culture. We know how important Ottawa is to the economic growth of the province of Ontario. That is why we are making so many important investments in the city of Ottawa.
The people of Ottawa know that a strong, stable Progressive Conservative majority government will continue to deliver for them, not only over the next number of months but well into the future.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Supplementary?
Mr. Stephen Blais: The residents of Ottawa, particularly in the downtown, were traumatized by the occupation. Small businesses were forced to close right as they were supposed to start reopening because of COVID. Employees were losing shifts—shifts that they couldn’t afford to lose, Mr. Speaker.
The occupation has been over for almost a month. The government still hasn’t announced any funding to support Ottawa taxpayers and the Premier still hasn’t come to Ottawa to speak to residents who were affected, to speak to small business owners who were affected. He had time to go to Washington, DC, to lobby the Americans, but he hasn’t had time to come to Ottawa and speak to residents who were affected by the occupation.
Residents of Ottawa are starting to think that this Premier doesn’t care about them because their issues are continually ignored. He has failed to show leadership once again, and the residents of Ottawa have noticed. Will the government and will the Premier commit to making the city of Ottawa whole and ensure that Ottawa property taxpayers don’t get a tax increase because of this occupation that was spurred on by Conservative politicians?
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Minister of Heritage, Sport, Tourism and Culture Industries.
Hon. Lisa MacLeod: I really reject the inflammatory nature of that question. The member opposite knows that I spent a great deal of time, including with one of his colleagues from Ottawa–Vanier, working with business owners, working with Ottawa police, working with transportation and transit officials, working with small businesses.
I also reject the premise myself. The minister responsible for children and community services and Minister of Transportation were actually with the Premier in downtown Ottawa on Elgin Street on Friday, right after we announced $29 million for the second-largest hospital project in Ontario’s history.
The member opposite talks about the Orléans Health Hub. They talked about a Barnsdale exit on the 416. They talked a lot about the expansion of the Ottawa Hospital. You know what? For 15 years in office, they delivered zip, zero, zilch to the people of Ottawa. But guess what? Doug Ford, he’s getting it done.
Ms. Bhutila Karpoche: My question is to the Premier. Tenants at 12 Lansdowne Avenue in my riding are being renovicted by a landlord who was famously fined $135,000 for dishonest renovictions at 795 College Street back in 2019. Repeat offenders like this landlord know that $100,000 is a drop in the ocean, because renovictions allow bad landlords to sidestep Ontario’s rent control laws and rake in enormous profits. Successive governments, both Liberal and Conservative, have done nothing in two decades to fix it.
We know that allowing landlords to hike rent in between tenants incentivizes landlords to throw tenants out and leads to skyrocketing rents. Speaker, I proposed legislation to fix this, the Rent Stabilization Act, and the Ford government voted it down. So I ask: Does the Premier have a plan to protect tenants from renovictions? If so, what is the Premier’s plan?
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): The member from Stormont–Dundas–South Glengarry.
Mr. Jim McDonell: I want to thank the member opposite. I’ll say she was half right: The Liberal government did nothing for 10 years.
On coming into power, our Protecting Tenants and Strengthening Community Housing Act protected tenants from renovictions, as they call them. We put in fines. We put in that no tenant in this province can be evicted without an order from the Landlord and Tenant Board. The Landlord and Tenant Board also has the ability to review all other previous cases where a landlord has been involved with renovations, something that was not there before.
We see the Landlord and Tenant Board has now got the teeth it needs to protect tenants, as we have increased the housing and the rental units in this province. By getting rid of red tape, we have protected tenants. Last year, we had a zero increase in rent in this province, something that has not been seen in 30 years. We have the backs of tenants and we will continue to protect them.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): The supplementary.
Ms. Bhutila Karpoche: My question is back to the Premier. In my riding, two buildings, 103 and 105 West Lodge, now have over 200 vacant units combined. While shelters are overcrowded and encampments are bulldozed, landlords are evicting tenants and then sitting on hundreds of empty units. Corporate landlords are sitting on hundreds of empty units in the midst of a housing crisis.
Does the Conservative government think this is acceptable, and if not, why won’t the government do something to fix it?
Mr. Jim McDonell: I thank the member opposite for that question. As I said, our government has put in place the rules that the Landlord and Tenant Board now has the ability to review all cases—and actually, they must review all cases. Before a tenant is asked to leave, there is a requirement for an eviction order from the tribunal. As far as the renovations go, they have the ability to review the cases and decide whether they should be phased. Landlords must pay up to three months’ rent for any tenant that is requested to move out because of renovations, and also the tenant has the first right of refusal to move back in at the same rent.
These are protections this government put in. You look back and this party opposite voted against these changes. These were changes that were needed to protect renters in this province, because there was a shortage of rental units. That goes back to the previous coalition of the NDP and the Liberal government, who did nothing for 10 years to address the supply.
Ms. Kathleen O. Wynne: My question is for the Premier. Since 1996, People for Education has been advocating for a strong publicly funded education system in Ontario. Led by Annie Kidder and her team, People for Education has surveyed schools across the province each year to determine the issues, gaps and progress in our schools in terms of funding, staffing and program adequacy.
People for Education formed in response to the neglect and underfunding of a previous Conservative government in Ontario.
The COVID crisis has made this annual sounding even more critical than it has been in the past. What the report found this year, Mr. Speaker: “In last year’s survey, principals pointed to the lack of communication between the Ministry of Education and schools as an ongoing challenge. One year later, no progress appears to have been made on this front.”
Can the Premier explain why this government has consistently ignored repeated recommendations to include the people on the front line of our education system in decision-making?
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): To reply, the member for Niagara West and parliamentary assistant.
Mr. Sam Oosterhoff: I appreciate the member opposite and, of course, recognize the member opposite’s importance in raising these issues. I want to also acknowledge that the member opposite had the opportunity for many years to serve in this Legislature, also as the Minister of Education. Unfortunately, Speaker, what we saw over the course of those years of education, when the member opposite was both Premier and the Minister of Education, was a failure to invest in some of the crucial areas that we’ve heard from our stakeholders, that we’ve heard from partners in the education sector that we need to invest in.
In response to that, under the leadership of Premier Ford and Minister Lecce, we’re responding to the concerns that have been raised over the past years due to the lack of investment from the former Liberal Wynne-Del Duca government, and we’re ensuring that we’re building up our education system. What that means in practice is that we’re investing $304 million in time-limited supports through the COVID-19 Learning Recovery Fund for temporary additional staff and supports to address learning recovery, the implementation of a fully destreamed grade 9, supports and more that I’ll speak about in the supplementary.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): The supplementary question.
Ms. Kathleen O. Wynne: The reality is that there has been funding removed from schools. Per-pupil funding has gone down. There are fewer staff in schools. There are, for example, fewer sections of courses being offered to high school students because of cuts that were made by this government before the pandemic hit, Mr. Speaker.
But my question was about conversations with people in the education system. I’ve spoken to school trustees, teachers, support staff, parents that this lack of inclusion in decision-making is how this government has functioned throughout the pandemic. The most recent example of this lack of respect and outright dismissal of the expertise of the very people who have responsibility for the two million Ontario children in our publicly funded schools is the refusal of this government to allow school boards to have the option to continue to enforce a mask mandate in their schools if they choose to. There has been no consultation. There has been no respect for the front line. Every MPP in this House should know this already from their conversations in their constituencies.
What is being put in place right now, as the government presumably prepares to release the Grants for Student Needs, that will allow school boards and their schools to provide the staffing, mental health and curriculum support necessary to allow schools to support students? What is the plan?
Mr. Sam Oosterhoff: I thank the member opposite, but I have to push back on that assertion, which is factually inaccurate. We have raised funding for the sector of education—historically—since this government came to office. What we’ve seen as a result of those investments is, this year alone, a $683-million increase in our publicly funded education system to ensure that we’re reaching $26.6 billion for the Grants for Student Needs. This is an increase by over $3.25 billion that we’ve seen since the increase through the GSN over the past years—a 9% increase since our government came to office in 2018. That’s a substantial investment to ensure that our students are receiving all the skills that they need to thrive and to succeed going forward, after many years of neglect under the former Liberal government.
But it’s not just more spending; it’s also about investing in the areas like math, STEM, and ensuring that our technological trades are being provided—that we’re providing pre-apprenticeship opportunities, and that we’re creating opportunities for our youth to thrive today and tomorrow. Those are things that we didn’t see under the former Liberal government, but under the leadership of Doug Ford and Stephen Lecce, we’re getting it done.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): That concludes question period for this morning.
Private members’ public business
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): I beg to inform the House that pursuant to standing order 101(c), changes have been made to the order of precedence on the ballot list for private members’ public business, such that Mr. Babikian assumes ballot item 42 and Mr. Crawford assumes ballot item number 43.
Notice of dissatisfaction
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Pursuant to standing order 36(a), the member for Chatham-Kent–Leamington has given notice of his dissatisfaction with the answer to his question given by the Minister of Health concerning directive 6. This matter will be debated Tuesday following private members’ public business.
There being no further business at this time, this House stands in recess until 1 p.m.
The House recessed from 1137 to 1300.
Notice of dissatisfaction
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Pursuant to standing order 36(a), the member for Ottawa South has given notice of his dissatisfaction with the answer to his question given by the Minister of Health concerning interference. This matter will be debated on Tuesday following private members’ public business.
Hon. Paul Calandra: I move that, pursuant to standing order 7(c), the House shall continue to meet past the ordinary hour of adjournment until midnight on the following dates: Tuesday, March 29; Wednesday, March 30; Thursday, March 31; Monday, April 4; Tuesday, April 5; Wednesday, April 6; Thursday, April 7; Monday, April 11; Tuesday, April 12; Wednesday, April 13; Thursday, April 14; Monday, April 25; Tuesday, April 26; Wednesday, April 27; Thursday, April 28; Monday, May 2; Tuesday, May 3; and Wednesday, May 4, 2022, for the purpose of considering government business.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Mr. Calandra has moved government notice of motion number 11. Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? I heard some noes.
All those in favour, please say “aye.”
All those opposed, please say “nay.”
In my opinion, the ayes have it.
Ms. Catherine Fife: On division.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): On division.
Motion agreed to.
Mme France Gélinas: J’aimerais remercier Gerry Talbot de Gogama dans mon comté pour avoir signé la pétition.
“Oversight, Regulations and Limits on Fees Charged by Retirement Homes....
“Whereas residents of retirement homes are mainly seniors on fixed incomes who often pay very high amounts for rent and services and cannot afford big cost increases;
“Whereas we are seeing more financial hardships on seniors, their families and caregivers who support them, due to retirement homes exponentially increasing the costs of the services they provide to their residents;”
They petition the Legislative Assembly as follows:
“To protect retirement home residents from financial exploitation, the government should implement oversight, regulations and limits on the fees charged by retirement homes for all services they provide to their residents.”
I support this petition. I will affix my name to it and ask my good page Jackson to bring it to the Clerk.
Miss Monique Taylor: I have a 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 the government only pays on average $44.65 for an OHIP-insured visit—the lowest rate in Canada; and
“Whereas optometrists are being forced to pay substantially out of their own pocket to provide over four million services each year to Ontarians under OHIP; and
“Whereas optometrists have never been given a formal negotiation process with the government; and
“Whereas the government’s continued neglect resulted in 96% of Ontario optometrists voting to withdraw OHIP services beginning September 1, 2021;
“We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario as follows:
“To instruct the Ontario government to immediately commit to legally binding, formal negotiations to ensure any future OHIP-insured optometry services are, at a minimum, funded at the cost of delivery.”
I wholeheartedly agree with this petition. I will affix my name to it and give it to page Emily to bring to the Clerk.
Mme France Gélinas: I would like to thank Chad Chenard from Sudbury for this petition.
“Make Highway 144 at Marina Road Safe
“To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:
“Whereas residents of Levack, Onaping and Cartier, as well as individuals who travel Highway 144, are concerned about the safety of a stretch of Highway 144 in the vicinity of Marina Road and would like to prevent further accidents and fatalities; and
“Whereas three”—now four—“more accidents occurred in summer 2021 resulting in severe injuries, diesel fuel spilling into the waterways, the closure of Highway 144 for several hours”—as well as the deaths of two people and their dog—“stranding residents; and
“Whereas the Ministry of Transportation has completed a review of this stretch of Highway 144, has made some improvements and has committed to re-evaluate and ensure the highway is safe;”
They petition the Legislative Assembly as follows: “that the Ministry of Transportation review Highway 144 at Marina Road immediately and commit to making it safe, as soon as possible....”
I fully support this petition, will affix my name to it and send it to the Clerk with page Vivian.
Mme France Gélinas: I you would like to thank Brigitte Savard from Hanmer in my riding for this petition. It reads as follows:
“MS Specialized Clinic in Sudbury.
“To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:
“Whereas northeastern Ontario has one of the highest rates of multiple sclerosis (MS) in Ontario; and
“Whereas specialized MS clinics provide essential health care services to those living with multiple sclerosis, their caregiver and their family; and
“Whereas the city of Greater Sudbury is recognized as a hub for health care in northeastern Ontario;”
They petition the Legislative Assembly as follows:
“Immediately set up a specialized MS clinic in the Sudbury area that is staffed by a neurologist who specializes in the treatment of multiple sclerosis, a physiotherapist and a social worker at a minimum.”
I support this petition, will affix my name it to and give it to Vivian to bring it to the Clerk.
Mme France Gélinas: I would like to thank Johanne Lalonde from Azilda in my riding for this petition.
“Make PSW a Career....
“Whereas there has been a shortage of personal support workers (PSWs) in long-term care and home care in Ontario for many years;
“Whereas Ontario’s personal support workers are overworked, underpaid and underappreciated, leading to many of them leaving the profession;
“Whereas the lack of PSWs has created a crisis in LTC, a broken home care system, and poor-quality care for LTC home residents and home care clients;”
They petition the Legislative Assembly as follows:
“Tell Premier Ford to act now to make PSW jobs a career, with” permanent “full-time employment, good wages, paid sick days, benefits, a pension plan and a manageable workload in order to respect the important work of PSWs and improve patient care.”
I support this petition, will affix my name to it and send it to the table with page Vivian.
Mme France Gélinas: I would like to thank Louise Dubé for this petition.
“Vulnerable Children and Seniors Need Eye Care....
“Whereas the Ford government is allowing the withdrawal of eye care to Ontario’s children to continue, which has impaired their ability to learn in school, function freely in their daily lives and risk lifelong vision impairments;
“Whereas the lack of action from the Ford government regarding access to eye care for Ontario seniors has impaired their ability to maintain an independent and active lifestyle; and has increased the risk of permanent complications from manageable degenerative eye conditions;”
They petition the Legislative Assembly as follows:
“To call on the Ford government to commit to a fair formal agreement with Ontario optometrists so that Ontario children and seniors get the preventative and diagnostic eye care they deserve.”
I support this petition, will affix my name it to and send it to the Clerk with page Vivian.
Anti-vaping initiatives for youth
Mme France Gélinas: I would like to thank Gerald Clark from Hanmer for these petitions.
“Protect Kids from Vaping....
“Whereas very little is known about the long-term effects of vaping on youth;
“Whereas aggressive marketing of vaping products by the tobacco industry is causing more and more kids to become addicted to nicotine through the use of e-cigarettes;
“Whereas the hard lessons learned about the...impacts of smoking, should not be repeated with vaping, and the precautionary principle must be applied to protect youth from vaping;
“Whereas many health agencies and Physicians for a Smoke-Free Canada fully endorse the concrete proposals aimed at reducing youth from vaping...;”
They petition the Legislative Assembly as follows:
“To call on the Ford government to immediately pass ... Vaping is Not for Kids Act, in order to protect the health of Ontario’s youth.”
I support this petition, will affix my name to it and send it to the table with page Vivian.
Access to justice
Ms. Doly Begum: I have a petition here entitled “Ensure that All Ontarians Have Access to Justice.
“To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:
“Whereas the government of Ontario has cut the funding for Legal Aid Ontario by almost one third;
“Whereas injured workers may lose their ability to appeal WSIB decisions without legal aid;
“Whereas access to legal aid is essential to low-income Ontarians who are facing legal proceedings in criminal, family, mental health, poverty law and child protection cases;
“Whereas the cuts will lead to backlogs and delays throughout the justice system, causing chaos in the courts and costing taxpayers more, not less;
“Whereas provincial funding for the immigration and refugee law program at Legal Aid Ontario has been completely cut;
“Therefore we, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to reverse the cuts to Legal Aid Ontario so that all Ontarians, including our most vulnerable, have access to justice.”
I fully support this petition, will affix my signature to it and give it to page Callum.
Mme France Gélinas: I would like to thank Carole Brideau from Hanmer in my riding for these petitions.
“Whereas northern Ontario motorists continue to be subject to wild fluctuations in the price of gasoline; and
“Whereas the province could eliminate opportunistic price gouging and deliver fair, stable and predictable fuel prices; and
“Whereas five provinces and many US states already have some sort of gas price regulation; and
“Whereas jurisdictions with gas price regulation have seen an end to wild price fluctuations, a shrinking of price discrepancies between urban and rural communities and lower annualized gas prices;”
They petition the Legislative Assembly as follows:
“Mandate the Ontario Energy Board to monitor the price of gasoline across Ontario in order to reduce price volatility and unfair regional price differences while encouraging competition.”
I support this petition, will affix my name it to and send it to the table with page Stanley.
Orders of the Day
Keeping Ontario Open for Business Act, 2022 / Loi de 2022 visant à ce que l’Ontario reste ouvert aux affaires
Resuming the debate adjourned on March 24, 2022, on the motion for second reading of the following bill:
Bill 100, An Act to enact legislation to protect access to certain transportation infrastructure / Projet de loi 100, Loi édictant une loi pour protéger l’accès à certaines infrastructures de transport.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): I understand when this bill was last debated, the member for Mississauga–Lakeshore had the floor. He still has time on the clock. I recognize the member for Mississauga–Lakeshore.
Mr. Rudy Cuzzetto: Thank you, Speaker, for letting me finish my debate that I started on Thursday. It’s always a pleasure to rise here on behalf of the people of Mississauga–Lakeshore to speak in support of Bill 100, the Keeping Ontario Open for Business Act, introduced by the Solicitor General.
The illegal blockade in February caused a lot of issues for the automotive industry that I used to work for before I was elected here at Queen’s Park. Members of the US Congress are pushing a new round of buy-American products, like Michigan Democrat Elissa Slotkin, who responded to this crisis by tweeting, “We can’t be this reliant on parts ... from” other “countries.... We have to bring American manufacturing back home to states like Michigan.”
As the Solicitor General said, this crisis has also caught the attention of President Biden. This is troubling for many auto sector families, including many of my constituents in Mississauga–Lakeshore. The measures in Bill 100 will help restore and protect Ontario’s reputation as a safe place to invest. I want to thank the Premier and the Minister of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade for delivering this message in person in Washington, DC, last week.
Speaker, while the blockades affected auto workers across Ontario from Windsor to Brampton, Cambridge and Woodstock, as well as Oakville, it had an impact on many other sectors as well, from agricultural to steel and other raw materials. About 70% of vegetables from Ontario’s greenhouses go to the US, and they depend on reliable access at the border. In our steel industry, American firms have threatened to withdraw their business from companies like Dofasco and Stelco.
Bill Anderson, the director of the Cross-Border Institute at the University of Windsor, said that up to $6 billion in goods couldn’t cross the border because of the illegal Ambassador Bridge blockade. It hit our economy just as our supply chains are dealing with the greatest challenge since the Second World War, both because of the COVID-19 pandemic and now delays with the effects of the Russian invasion of Ukraine as well.
Lastly, I want to note that about 1,600 health care workers from Windsor cross the border to work in hospitals in Detroit. They have done this throughout the pandemic, taking care of patients in Michigan, where the rate of death from COVID-19 per capita was about five times higher than in Ontario. Speaker, some of these nurses had to stay in hotels in Detroit during the blockade rather than coming home to their families, and that’s also unacceptable.
While there weren’t any blockades at our airports at the height of this pandemic, as the Solicitor General said, Pearson International Airport in Mississauga served as the central hub for the delivery and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines throughout the entire country. This is critical transportation infrastructure, and we need to give Peel’s Chief Nish and the police services across the province all the resources and tools they need to protect it.
If passed, this is what Bill 100 would do. It includes many important new measures to protect our international border crossings, including the Pearson International Airport in Mississauga, from illegal blockades. If passed, these new tools would allow our police to protect jobs and families from illegal blockades.
Section 3 would allow police to direct owners and operators of vehicles to remove their vehicles from illegal blockades.
Sections 4 and 5 would allow police to remove and store any objects, including vehicles, from an illegal blockade for up to 30 days. Police services would be able to follow the process under the Civil Remedies Act to forfeit any removed objects to the crown.
Section 7 would allow police to temporarily suspend the driver’s licences of anyone taking part in an illegal blockade. Ontario licences would be suspended for 14 days once the officer asks for the licence.
Sections 8 and 9 would allow the police to suspend or cancel the vehicle permits of anyone taking part in an illegal blockade. This is a very significant penalty for anyone who is interfering with our border crossings or our airports. But section 11 also includes penalties of up to $500,000 and a year in prison for individuals, and $10 million for corporations. Finally, failure to identify yourself could result in a fine up to $5,000, which is the penalty under the Provincial Offences Act.
The Solicitor General has been clear about this, but I just want to reiterate: This bill is very narrow, targeted only to illegal blockades at our international border crossings. It will have no impact on peaceful, legal and temporary protests. It will not affect the charter rights to protest, because blockading a bridge or an airport has nothing to do with the right to protest.
Speaker, to provide accountability and transparency, section 16 requires the Solicitor General to conduct a review of the act once it has been in force for a year and to publish a written report online and table it here in the Legislative Assembly.
To build on the tools of Bill 100, our government is also investing $96 million in additional training of the Ontario Police College on safe, effective public order policing; new equipment, including tow trucks, to help police in physically clearing our border blockades; and expansion of the public order unit at the Ontario Provincial Police, including a permanent new emergency response team. This unit helps to manage all kinds of crowds, from the most peaceful to the most confrontational, while protecting peaceful protests using the least force possible.
While our focus today is to protect our borders, this unit can also help clear illegal occupations like we had in Ottawa as well. It is important that we provide law enforcement with all the resources and tools they need to effectively protect not just our international borders, but the right of all Ontarians and our businesses to freedom of movement.
We have heard from people across Ontario that the province needs to provide police with these tools and resources to act quickly and effectively where the openness of our borders is threatened. I’d just like to read some of their comments into the record today.
Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens said that the measures in Bill 100 will help prevent any future blockades. He said, “This” bill “absolutely sends a strong signal and will make any sensible person think twice before they undertake this type of protest again and block an international border crossing.
“A lot of people looked at the events of last month of how it was even possible that a small amount of people were able to hold hostage the economy of our nation. A signal has to be sent how there will now be severe consequences for that type of action.”
Speaker, we agree completely. Without our government’s quick and decisive actions and without severe consequences, there is no doubt that the so-called “freedom convoy” would have expanded its blockades to include other international bridges, like the Blue Water Bridge in Sarnia or the Peace Bridge in Niagara Falls. As the Solicitor General said, Ontario’s manufacturing heartland and our entire economy depend on these critical bridges. Trade with the US represents over 79% of Ontario’s exports and over 52% of our imports, so any threat to our border crossings are threats to our jobs, businesses and the economic well-being of families across Ontario.
Sarnia’s mayor, Mike Bradley, agrees. He said, “Once this has happened, and the economic terrorists can see what they” can do, “they’ll do something similar to blockade the borders ... in the future.”
To conclude, this bill is an important signal to the US and the world that Ontario remains a strong, reliable trading partner, and we will do everything in our power to protect Ontario’s workers, families and our international trade relationships from any future attempt to block our borders. I urge everyone here today to support this bill so we can move forward.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): I want to thank the member for Mississauga–Lakeshore for his presentation. I’m now going to invite questions to the member.
Mr. Jeff Burch: I want to thank my friend from Mississauga–Lakeshore for his presentation. He mentioned section 16 and the review by the Solicitor General, which I think is a very important part of the bill. Are there other checks and balances to guard against an abuse of power; for example, making sure that the powers aren’t abused toward land defenders and other protesters? And is there enough training for the police to ensure that it’s not an abuse from a policing point of view?
Mr. Rudy Cuzzetto: I want to thank the member from Niagara for that question. Like we said, it will be limited to border crossings and international airports, as well as illegal protests like the ones in Ottawa that had occurred during this protest that happened in February.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): The member for Oakville.
Mr. Stephen Crawford: I appreciate the member from Mississauga–Lakeshore and his discussion of Bill 100.
I know the member worked for Ford of Canada for many, many years. Ford of Canada is located in Oakville, in my riding. We’re proud to have them there, and thankfully, Ford of Canada is going to be staying in Oakville and in Ontario for decades to come, thanks to the government of Ontario. So I appreciate the Premier and ministers who worked on keeping Ford here, because they were looking at leaving, like a lot of manufacturers, with high hydro, high taxes etc.
My question to the member is: Ford of Canada plays a critical role in the North American automobile supply chain. How do you feel this bill will help ensure stability for companies like Ford of Canada and ensure we keep jobs right here in Ontario?
Mr. Rudy Cuzzetto: I want to thank the member for Oakville. To speak about Ford Motor Company. As you know, I worked there for 31 years. I know how important it is for the city of Oakville and for the whole area, those jobs that are being created in Oakville, with now the new EV vehicles arriving at Oakville. Five new products will be built out of that Oakville plant, as well as the new plant that was just announced by our minister there, the battery plant in Windsor—that’s another 2,500 jobs.
These measures are very important to keep our borders open because in the automotive industry, our parts get there just in time. If we can’t get our parts there just in time, these plants will shut down. Luckily, in the automotive industry itself, the workers are protected on a 40-hour week. So even if they do not work the 40 hours due to a shutdown of an emergency, they get paid. But other sectors in the auto industry do not get paid for that. So these measures will be very important, moving forward, to keep our auto industry alive and well here in the province, to be the number one jurisdiction in the world building electric cars.
Mrs. Jennifer (Jennie) Stevens: Small and medium businesses in Ottawa have seen some of the worst repercussions on their livelihoods. Windsor saw detrimental effects on their auto sector: shut down shifts, not being able to do production. I sympathize with the communities in Windsor and border communities. Niagara is also known as a border city. The blockages at Fort Erie did cause some delays for people to be able to get back and forth to work and put paycheques on their tables.
We see this bill, largely as for show, may I say. I completely agree that this bill really is just paper, unless there is actually enforcement.
I want to ask the member for Mississauga–Lakeshore if he would care to comment on if he knows how badly small businesses and community organizations were hurt because of this government refusing to act quickly on legislation and waiting until now to bring it to the floor.
Mr. Rudy Cuzzetto: I want to thank the member for that question. As well, there was an emergency order in place, but our police acted very swiftly. And if you noticed, we did not have one death or one injury due to the convoy blockage in the city of Ottawa as well as our border. So I think that our police force had done whatever they could without any deaths or injuries during that time.
Mr. Norman Miller: As has been mentioned, I know the member from Mississauga–Lakeshore did work for Ford Motor Company for a number of years, and I know that in the automotive sector the just-in-time delivery system is used a lot. What I’d like to ask him is, what does it mean to the people who work for Ford and the company itself when you have a border closure like we saw at the Ambassador Bridge?
Mr. Rudy Cuzzetto: I want to thank the member again for that excellent question about Ford Motor Company, where I did work for many years.
When I was working there, when we had a snowstorm we sometimes had problems getting parts in, so we would have to shut down the lines, and that would cause the workers to go home. Like I said, fortunately, they were paid, because they had that in their contract, but in other businesses they would not be paid.
I think keeping our borders open is very necessary, especially for our economic trade with the US. Our number one trading partner is the US. We ship goods in and out of that border on a daily basis. We have to keep them open so we can move goods quickly and fast through our borders and get them to market so our economy can prosper moving forward even more than it is right now after this pandemic.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): The member for Brampton East.
Mr. Gurratan Singh: The anti-vaccine-mandate blockade at the Ambassador Bridge devastated workers across our province, and it hurt truckers who were working so hard to put food on our shelves, to keep our groceries stocked. It hurt them so terribly. Truckers in my riding of Brampton East were actually stuck on the Ambassador Bridge because of this blockade, and it took some of them hours of detour to get home. I spoke with a trucker named Simran who described to me how other truckers were just stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic. They had no access to washrooms, medicine, food and more.
My question to the government is this: Why did it take you so long to act? Why did it take you so long to do what was right and ensure that workers and truckers didn’t have their shifts delayed and truckers weren’t being stuck in this terrible amount of traffic? Why did the Conservative government take so long to act to help people?
Mr. Rudy Cuzzetto: I want to thank the member from Brampton for that question. Yes, the truckers were stuck at the border, but we moved quickly. Remember as well, we had an emergency order in place, but now we do not have to use an emergency order after this bill is passed, so if there is ever an occasion where this happens again, we can move even more swiftly than we did. As well, like I said, there were no deaths or injuries that happened during that time at the borders.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): The member for Whitby.
Mr. Lorne Coe: I met about a week ago with Colin Goodwin, who’s the executive director of the Durham Regional Police Association. We were talking about protection of the border and expanding the anti-blockade tools, and what an honourable cause it is. But it led to a discussion about the costs for local police. Could the member from Mississauga–Lakeshore talk about what type of financial supports we will be providing for law enforcement protecting international borders?
Mr. Rudy Cuzzetto: I want to thank the member from Oshawa for that question. Speaker, like I mentioned earlier on in my speech, our government is also investing $96 million for our Ontario police colleges in additional training on safety; public order policing; new equipment, including heavy duty tow trucks to move vehicles that are blocking our borders; as well, the expansion of the public order unit at the Ontario Provincial Police, including a permanent new emergency response team. These are all things that have been put into Bill 100 so that we can never have this happen again at our borders. I want to thank the member for that very good question.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): I beg to inform the House that, pursuant to standing order 101(c), changes have been made to the order of precedence on the ballot list for private members’ public business, such that Ms. Khanjin assumes ballot item number 42 and Mr. Babikian assumes ballot item number 55.
Ms. Catherine Fife: It’s a pleasure to join the debate on Bill 100, the Keeping Ontario Open for Business Act, 2022. I do think that before we get into the semantics of this piece of legislation, it warrants our full attention to reflect on what happened in Ottawa and what happened in Windsor at the Ambassador Bridge. Many of us who hold power—we have power, we have licence, we have agency, as legislators—watched what happened in Ontario week after week after week in complete horror, because this was a situation that we had never seen in our country, in our province, to the degree where the power imbalance between the citizenry and the convoy, freedom fighters—there are so many names that were associated with this particular group of people. I think we now fully understand, given that we have a better understanding of where the money was coming from, that this was not simply a group of truckers who were fighting to be able to go across the border without a vaccine mandate. This is not who we were dealing with in Ontario.
I think that if we’re honest with each other, as legislators, we can clearly say that when people move into our town squares, our main streets, our public areas, there are ways in which they have to adhere to the administrative guidelines. If you want to have a fun fair in a schoolyard, you have to do a fair amount of paperwork. If you want to host a parade, you have to adhere to the guidelines and the laws of that municipality. You have to make sure that you have hand-washing facilities and washrooms and that public health and safety guidelines are in place.
What we saw happen in Ottawa was a complete—well, to sum it up, it was disrespectful of our democracy, of the rules which we all adhere to, that we agree to because they are part of this democracy, a peaceful democracy for the most part. The fact that this was allowed and that the government was permissive in this role was a real switch in the culture of our politics.
When I heard the Premier of this province, in the early days of the protest, actually say, “They’ve got a lot of reasons to be angry. God bless them. They’re exercising their democratic rights”—I think that if you looked back in our history with some context and you examined those particular words that came from the Premier of the province of Ontario and you compared it to the environmentalists who have been outside this very Legislature or those who have been fighting for safe, affordable, accessible housing in this province or the Indigenous communities who have been protesting and fighting for clean water, there was the prevalence of such a double standard in this province. I don’t think that we’ve ever seen it so clearly. It actually became part of the political discourse, but also the social discourse, where people were saying that if the folks on Ottawa’s Parliament front lawn were BIPOC, if they were Black, if they were brown, if they were Indigenous, there would be no hot tubs set up on that front lawn. At the very least, let’s be honest about what happened in Ottawa.
We all have connections with our industries, with our business leaders in our communities. Herrle’s farm is a prominent business in Waterloo. I think, perhaps, Speaker, you’ve been there before. He’s now on his off-season time, and he has become a trucker. Trucking can be a really rewarding profession. We have really good people who move goods and services across this country and across this province, and their importance cannot be challenged and it’s not going to be questioned, because they do the real work on our roads in this province. Those were not the people, though, on Ottawa hill. Now we have a very clear picture of who these people were, who was funding them and of how the government was caught as spectators in this display of undermining our democracy.
I’m a member of a Canadian Legion. I know many of our members here are as well. When I visited the Legion, I went there to listen, because veterans have a lot to share with us. They have a lot of experience and they’ve seen many things. And this was the topic in the Legion. They were expressing such disappointment—really heartbreaking disappointment—that the Canadian flag was being flown upside down as a measure of revolution, and that these people were at one point espousing, ironically, their amendment rights.
We are a Canadian country. Ontario is a province in Canada. They weren’t even quoting the right piece of legislation. This country is founded on charter rights. We have a Constitution, which is put in action by our charter.
At one point, I think the member will remember, many press conferences were held. I couldn’t believe that the media were even giving these folks a voice, in some respects, because they were sitting down and demanding an audience with the “dictator.” If they knew anything about dictatorships, dictatorships are not elected. There were even PC members in the Canadian Parliament who were calling out their PC colleagues and saying, “Listen, stop calling the Prime Minister a dictator.”
That is not the democracy we all fight for. When we take our place in these Houses of Legislature, of Parliament, across Canada, we have a duty and a responsibility to be truthful and to be honest and to be fair. It was astounding to me, I have to say, Speaker, to see several members of the federal Conservative Party standing shoulder to shoulder with some of the very people who were actively working to undermine our democracy.
When we talk about Bill 100, it shouldn’t be in a flippant way. It shouldn’t be, “This is something that we’re finally going to get to.” Legislation and the process by which legislation comes to this floor is an important part of getting legislation right.
In order to fully understand, really, the gravitas of what we’re charged with here as legislators, to protect the citizens’ rights to clearly articulate their dismay with any government of any stripe—that needs to be clearly protected—but also find the balance with the measure of the rights of the individuals and citizens of this province, and then also, our duty as legislators to create laws that will be actionable and that will make a difference, whereby the citizens of this province fully understand that we are in their corner on both sides of that balance of justice.
As a commentary, I think it’s also worth noting that during the “freedom convoy,” or whatever you prefer to call it—or ignore it; whatever you choose—the role of the media, as well, during this protest was severely compromised. We, as lawmakers, as individuals who have relationships with media, who depend on the media to tell the truth, who depend on their independence as media outlets—they were harassed. They were threatened. They were spit on, and they were compromised.
Finally, after many weeks, the government decided to take some action. And it was really what happened in Windsor, I feel—and several social and political commentaries have made this case as well. When finally, the pressure at the Ambassador Bridge reached a tipping point—when that happened, then Ottawa became a priority.
Our member MPP Harden was in this House on a regular basis, trying to tell the government what was really happening on the ground in Ottawa, and to no avail. So there were many questions at that time as to why the so-called “freedom convoy” was permitted to get to the point that it did, as well.
I started my comments off by saying there are caveats within the laws that we all adhere to, whereby I can’t go set up a hot tub in Waterloo town square and declare that my freedoms, my rights are more important than other people’s. They made a mockery of our democracy—a mockery. And we actually had one of our own legislators in that place, in that space, taking air up. To the law’s credit, of this province, that legislator has now been charged, I think with nine further counts, as he should be.
Our responsibilities—we take an oath when we take this seat. We say a prayer in the morning. Sometimes we just take a moment of silence, which sometimes I actually need. But we say a prayer that we are going to do our best. So I guess the question is, is Bill 100 our best? Can it be strengthened? Can it be informed by the actual experience of what happened in Ottawa and what happened on the Ambassador Bridge?
I do want to thank, in particular, our member from Windsor West for really fighting for the victims of this anarchy. I mean, there is no other way to say it. The victims were children in schools who were being terrorized. The victims were communities that didn’t feel safe anymore. There was actual violence. People had closed an apartment building door and threatened to set it on fire. This happened in our nation’s capital, and the Premier watched it.
There is a real, true calling here to get Bill 100 right, because we might not get a second chance to get it right. The division and the volatility in our province, in our country have never been so profound, and it does not help that there are factions within our own Parliaments that are flaming that dissent, that division. If there was ever a time for us to actually work together to make sure that a piece of legislation would be effective and would address the core issue, it would be getting this one right, and not having an imbalance of the powers that be. That is the core goal of the justice system, to balance the lamb and the lion. What happened in Ottawa is that the lion won for too long before our police services at the federal, provincial and municipal levels had to come in and address this.
I do want to also bring the voices of businesses that were impacted. Ottawa has recently received a small portion of funding—some allocation to address their losses. I went to university in Ottawa; I went to Carleton. The shopping mall in the core centre—I think it’s called the Rideau Centre—is a core place where people gather, where businesses thrive. It has a lot of energy. It was shut down for almost four weeks.
And then what happened in Windsor—what was allowed to happen in Windsor—proved to be very costly, not only for the province of Ontario and for our country, but for the United States. That seemed to be the tipping point, where the Premier of Ontario said, “Well, now, we can’t tolerate this anymore.” Because that dissension was tolerated. It was permitted. It was allowed.
Our member from Windsor West has brought the voices of businesses to the core—one of the businesses is Mr. Bouzide. He said he was shut down. It affected his store’s sales quite a bit. Exact numbers aren’t available yet, but in the period that the truckers blocked the Ambassador Bridge until they opened up again, he said that they’re probably down $30,000 or $40,000 in sales. He said that it was quite a time. Even after, there’s a chilling effect when incidents happen like this, so people are still reluctant to even go into that space.
Windsor and Ottawa are huge centres, and they draw huge crowds for tourism. We’re very proud of what happens in Ottawa. Windsor has so much to offer from a tourism perspective.
We heard this morning that the $100 million that was promised for the tourism sector, which was obviously impacted negatively—people were not going anywhere. They haven’t seen one penny from that fund, and this was announced in November. It’s the end of March. So if it’s a red tape problem, get it dealt with. People in the tourism sector deserve the support. You’ve allocated it. As the finance critic for the official opposition, I know where the money is supposed to be going. I know that there’s a contingency fund, and there’s a huge amount of money that did not get invested for small businesses, for economic relief—at last check, it was $5.5 billion. So there’s money to help the tourism sector. Get it out the door, particularly for these businesses that were affected in Ottawa, these workers who were affected in Ottawa, these workers who were affected in Windsor, and businesses in Windsor. They need to be compensated. You’re breaching this trust relationship.
You acknowledge that this should never have gotten to this place. You brought in a piece of legislation—you said, “Now we need this piece of legislation,” even though in the past you were able to effectively deal with protests, like the dump truck protest that happened. You moved in there after six or seven days. You threatened suspension of licences. There were fines and fees threatened. Even though they had a fairly legitimate cause, the dump trucks moved on. You moved them on. But you couldn’t move the two guys in the hot tub on the front porch of Ottawa. How come you can deal with legitimate concerns from truck drivers in one instance and then not in another?
I know my colleagues on the other side of the House must feel the same way that I do. We watched that play itself out in complete and utter disbelief. This was almost akin to what happened on January 6, 2021, in the United States, when you saw chaos rule. You saw the alt-right take over. You saw, really, democracy be actively, in your face—you can’t hide from it—undermined.
Our colleague MPP Gretzky from Windsor West said last week that first and foremost, in this legislation, there “needs to be a dedicated fund specifically for the businesses that have been impacted by the blockade. It cannot be a business program that the government is currently running, because access to those programs is very limited.” That’s very true.
She went on to say, “I think what they really need to do is speak to the local businesses that were impacted, to talk to the industries here that were impacted and the small and medium-sized business owners, to get a good understanding of what those financial losses were ... then to come up with the plan and the dollar amount....” Really, we are hopeful that the government will do this.
There are 37 days until the election. I’ve been counting a long time. I’m very excited about the election. I cannot wait for the election.
I want to say that there is no good reason, no rational reason, why this government would not compensate these Windsor businesses for your lack of action on addressing the Ambassador Bridge blockade.
With that, Speaker, I’ll conclude my comments. I look forward to the debate and the questions.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): I thank the member for Waterloo for her presentation.
Now we’ll have questions. The member for Haldimand–Norfolk.
Mr. Toby Barrett: Thanks to the member from Waterloo for expressing her concern about the actions of the truckers. I followed the presentation by the member from Windsor West and the concern around the Ambassador Bridge and you ask how this can be strengthened.
I think of an incident a number of years ago in my riding—I’ve had a number of blockades over the years. A tractor-trailer came in—there was no sense yanking the plates, suspending or cancelling the plates on this tractor-trailer because they unhooked the tractor, took off and left the trailer. The trailer was stolen, so the company that owned it—I know the company—you can’t really come on them because it was stolen.
You’ve asked how it can be strengthened. Again, I know the NDP talked about yanking insurance. Well, with a stolen vehicle, how do you track down insurance? What kind of amendment are you looking at to strengthen this bill?
Ms. Catherine Fife: Thank you very much for the question. I want to start at the place, though—a year prior to this convoy, and this is from a CBC article: “Less than a year before the nation’s capital was ensnared by a convoy of flag-bearing big rigs, a line of dump trucks assembled outside an Ontario Ministry of Transportation building, blocking access....
“It’s a far cry from the hands-off response Ontario has had toward the Ottawa blockade that Premier Doug Ford himself has deemed an ‘occupation,’ says Ontario Dump Truck Association advisor Bob Punia.
“‘Literally about five or six days into it, we received an email from the MTO, pretty much extending their heavy hand....’
“The truckers were protesting a Ministry of Transportation requirement for dump trucks older than 15 years to undergo” ... some expensive retrofits to the tune of $40,000.
“At the time, the group received an email from the ministry, saying they had been provided notice on April 15 that they were no longer welcome on the property.” You’re not welcome here. “If they didn’t vacate by 7 a.m. the next morning, they could lose their commercial vehicle operating registrations, face charges or have their vehicles towed.”
I guess the question is, why did that not happen with the Ottawa protest or the Ambassador Bridge protest?
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Questions?
Ms. Doly Begum: I want to thank the member from Waterloo for her excellent presentation. She mentioned a little bit—actually, quite a bit about the impact that the blockade had in our province on so many businesses and so many people’s lives. I would ask the member to talk a little bit about what kinds of things the government could have done to support people across the province who have been impacted.
Ms. Catherine Fife: Thank you very much for the question. It’s interesting because the Solicitor General in her place in this House was very defensive when we questioned her about this. But we do know that the counterpoint is that the province’s lack of response to the Ottawa protest dominated an emergency management meeting—there were three, actually—where opposition members pleaded for the Ford government to do more.
The Solicitor General did not participate in those meetings. So the first thing I’d say is, you show up, and then amid concerns about convoy protesters demonstrating outside schools, our members said that licensing and insurance are tools we have as legislators. Are we prepared to use them? It would seem to me that this convoy is breaking the law and they’re doing it with impunity.
This is how the majority of Ontarians feel. There were tools that we could have used and pre-empted this entrenched protest. The question is, why were those tools not used?
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Next, we’ll have the member for Etobicoke–Lakeshore.
Ms. Christine Hogarth: Thank to the member from Waterloo for her comments. I guess when I was listening to what you had to say, through you, Mr. Speaker, is that—and I’m sure I didn’t hear that—the opposition feels that the government or politicians should be directing the police. When you say, “Did you move this or did you move that?”—because it is certainly not the politicians’ job to direct the police in any way. We provide the tools for the police so that they have the tools to do their jobs as they see fit and in an operational manner.
I guess my question for the member opposite is, when you look at this legislation, do you agree with some of the stiffer penalties, as we know we need to keep Ontario moving, we need to make sure that our borders—people are allowed to cross them. We are making sure we can protect our jobs, especially those good union jobs, and people who need to cross those borders.
Do you agree with this legislation? Do you agree with the stiffer penalties, and will you be supporting this legislation?
Ms. Catherine Fife: It’s very clear—and if I wasn’t clear in my comments, I’ll say it: The Ottawa police in this instance, at the beginning, remained the lead on enforcement issues, and that the Highway Traffic Act was “meant for road safety and for the policing of public order.”
However, there were recent changes to the Police Services Act under which, as of three years ago, organizations can be charged for excessive costs incurred for things like rallies, parades or, in this case, an occupation.
An effective tool to send to the organizers, who are getting tons of foreign money coming in—there were mechanisms that the government could have already used to address that, the fact that millions of dollars were coming in from the United States. You knew this. That has nothing to do with directing police or interjecting in the police services. That means you stop funding the protest. That could have happened.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): The member for Ottawa–Vanier.
Mme Lucille Collard: Thank you to the member for Waterloo. I was listening to your speech there and I appreciate your level of understanding of the situation that was happening in Ottawa.
My question, very simply, that I keep asking myself: The premise of this bill has been based on the blockade at the Ambassador Bridge, but also we keep referencing the situation in Ottawa. Yet there is nothing in this bill that seems to address the situation or that has measures that would prevent the situation of the occupation in Ottawa from happening again.
You’ve said that this bill could be improved. Do you have an opinion on whether we should be mentioning the occupation in Ottawa in this bill?
Ms. Catherine Fife: Thank you very much for the question. I know our member from Ottawa worked closely, I think, across party lines during this time, because so much was at stake. Ottawa was the centerpiece which has driven this piece of legislation, so you can’t ignore what happened in Ottawa. We should actually be always mindful of how out of control our democracy got during this really challenging time.
The fact of the matter, though, is that in order to pre-empt that from happening again—Bill 100 will not do that, unless the government is willing to act, because the government did have tools in their tool box to pre-empt the escalation of the blockade in Ottawa, as well as the one that happened at the Ambassador Bridge in Windsor.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Next question?
Mrs. Daisy Wai: Thank you to the honourable member from Waterloo. I thank you for your presentation and I thank you for understanding how the convoy in Ottawa has affected our trade. Yes, Ontario has been a strong, reliable trading partner with the US. It is the third-largest trading partner. With my residents and my people in Richmond Hill, a lot of them are doing a lot of trading around the world as well as with the States. This has affected them as well.
My question for the member is: We all feel for the residents in Ottawa. We know that there are a lot of lessons we need to learn from the Ottawa Police Service’s experience. I think we saw how—
The Acting Speaker (Ms. Jennifer K. French): Thank you. Response?
Ms. Catherine Fife: Just really quickly: The mayor of Windsor said, “The government needs to provide resources to be more proactive. This wasn’t a secret the convoy was coming to Windsor. A lot more pre-emptive action should have taken place. There were a lot of concerns how long it took the provincial government to respond.” These are facts.
I guess the counterpoint is, how can you actually make a government react? How can you make them respond to a crisis as what happened in Ottawa with the blockade and the Ambassador Bridge?
The Acting Speaker (Ms. Jennifer K. French): Further debate?
Mme Lucille Collard: It’s a pleasure to rise this afternoon to speak to Bill 100, which I’ve been thinking about a lot since it was introduced last week. Of course, everybody knows my riding of Ottawa–Vanier went weeks under occupation. You had to be there, I guess, to understand and grasp the severity of the situation and the intensity of the impact on people living in Ottawa. Unfortunately, the Premier did not once show up in Ottawa to show his support or even to try to better understand the situation, as if Ottawa was not part of Ontario.
Residents watched their downtown city being taken hostage and endured many hardships. They endured exhaust fumes, the loud horns and the mockery of the occupiers, feeling powerless as institutions failed them. Residents were harassed for wearing masks. Visible minorities, in particular, were not safe among the crowds that filled our streets, as many have reported to my office, having been victims of aggressive behaviour. Businesses piled up expenses and lost millions in revenue because they were not able to open because the streets were unsafe and, frankly, customers were not coming downtown.
The convoy arrived in Ottawa on Friday, January 28, and the impact was rapidly felt as people started asking why no one was intervening when it became clear and obvious that the convoy was setting up camp.
My office started receiving multiple phone calls and emails from people being distressed by the situation and just asking for answers. On Monday, I received this email from Jennifer. She’s a neighbour in an Ottawa business who delivers local food to Ottawa residents. She wrote, “We need the city to take action on the disruption in the downtown core. We have residents, including elderly people, who depend on our delivery of produce and grocery items and currently delivering will be very difficult this week.” That was the first week of the occupation.
That same day, David in Vanier wrote, “I would like to urge you to do everything within your powers, provincially and federally, to stop this occupation and intimidation by right-wing extremists of our city. I have now had multiple run-ins with people, including a near-violent altercation in front of my kids’ elementary school, with people who feel deeply emboldened by their success in shutting the city down and who are now actively and aggressively promoting their agenda of hate and fear through intimidation and threat of violence.”
Of course, Madam Speaker, this was just the beginning. As you can imagine, as the situation was allowed to continue, testimonies of fear, frustration and disbelief continued to pour in my office.
Another aspect of serious concern was the fact that the limited forces of the Ottawa police were all concentrated in the downtown area, with the consequence that the rest of the community was underserved.
In that first week of what had clearly become an occupation, many calls for support to the province were sent. The Ottawa Coalition of BIAs, representing 19 BIAs and over 120,000 employees; the Ottawa Liberal members; the members of the opposition; and the mayor of Ottawa all wrote to the government asking for support. The events were reported live on TV, so there was no ignoring what was going on. The requests for help came from everywhere, yet it took 14 days—that’s two full weeks—for this government to actually do something. That was because, of course, of what was happening at the Ambassador Bridge, and the action was motivated by money.
We need an explanation as to why the province did not respond to the occupation in Ottawa. We need to know why our institutions failed us and left residents feeling unsafe. Once we get answers and gain clarity on what happened and why it was allowed to degenerate to the point we all know now, we then need legislation to make sure that a situation like the occupation of Ottawa or the one at the Ambassador Bridge is never allowed to happen again.
That is not what this legislation does. Frankly, it is a bit upsetting that the government would table legislation to amend for their mismanagement of the occupation and then not deal with the situation in Ottawa.
When the bill was introduced last week, the Attorney General stated, “We simply cannot afford the economic impacts that we saw as a result of recent blockades and occupations in Windsor and Ottawa.” The Attorney General went on to say, “The right to make a political statement does not outweigh the rights of citizens in our nation’s capital to live peacefully in their own homes.” And I totally agree.
Recognizing this as the premise of the bill, we find it shocking that there is nothing in the bill to address the situation in Ottawa. Ottawa not being an international trade hub doesn’t mean people deserve to be left without responses to crisis. People felt unsafe in Ottawa, and businesses suffered and are still trying to recover, frankly. The government did nothing to help us, and this legislation continues that trend. Of course, we don’t want other blockades of international crossings, but I wish that equally harmful occupations such as the one in Ottawa would be worth the attention of the government.
Now, beyond these reflections about what happened in Ottawa—which will leave, in my view, a dark stain on this government’s determination to treat every Ontarian with the same level of dignity—there are some real concerns with the content of this bill and its scope. The extraordinary measures that are meant to become permanent raise legitimate apprehensions about civil rights and the necessity to have proper oversight on the exercise of these new powers. Is the government being guided by a clear human rights framework? Did the Solicitor General and the Attorney General get supportive expert legal advice that the limitations being introduced in the bill under freedoms of expression, association and assembly are justified in the interests of national security or public safety?
I’m surprised and I am wondering, actually, why this legislation is being introduced before we get the results of the federal inquiry and of the provincial report that is required to be published following the provincial state of emergency. Bill 100 is primarily motivated by the truckers’ blockade of the Ambassador Bridge. This is rushed legislation that may not have had the benefit of a fulsome analysis of its impact on civil rights. Are the right checks and balances in place?
Let us not forget that this is about much more than what happened at the Ambassador Bridge. This bill sets a legal framework with wide applications across Ontario and for years to come. That’s why, in my view, a proper, in-depth analysis is required so that we ensure that the measures are responsive to the shortcomings as to how the situations were dealt with. But we don’t have that information yet, Madam Speaker, about what the deficiencies were that we should be addressing, because the federal inquiry and the provincial report have not been completed yet.
What happened in Ottawa was opposing two fundamental rights, the right of expression against the right to live peacefully, based on the principle that one person’s right ends where the right of another person begins. Not being able to open your business, not being able to go to work, not being able to sleep because of the noise, not being able to go to your local merchant, not being able to leave or stay in your apartment because of the intensity of the occupation activities are what drove people to question the ability of our government institutions to protect their rights, to protect them. There seemed to be no leverage, legal or political, to make it stop.
To quote Alex Neve, who served as secretary general of Amnesty International and is a senior fellow at the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs at the University of Ottawa, “Notably absent from Bill 100 are meaningful provisions that focus on the human rights harms that were perpetrated by people involved in freedom convoy activities, including tactics that caused physical and mental suffering for members of the public, and numerous instances of racist, misogynist and homophobic threats, harassment and assaults against people living in or passing by areas where blockades and protests were being held. That is not surprising perhaps, given that the legislation is entitled the Keeping Ontario Open for Business Act as opposed to something along the lines of the upholding peaceful protest and protecting human rights in Ontario act. When the priority is that clear, the human rights shortcomings are sadly predictable.”
This piece of legislation is being rushed without proper consideration of its potential repercussions. The situation at the Ambassador Bridge and in Ottawa—and everywhere else, actually, in our province and in our country—was complex. It has raised the voice of those calling out our institutions of democracy. We need to listen and respond thoughtfully. Hopefully this bill gets a proper review before it is brought into law.
The Acting Speaker (Ms. Jennifer K. French): Questions?
Mr. Toby Barrett: I thank the member from Ottawa–Vanier. Suggesting the bill comes up short as far as not addressing the occupation in your area that went on for 14 days, and it comes to mind an occupation of a subdivision in Haldimand–Norfolk that’s been going on for 16 years that involved a tractor-trailer, heavy equipment, blockading of roads, fires, destroying bridges and things like this. Given your feelings about this, are you supporting the bill, and are you bringing forward amendments to perhaps have this legislation address issues and occupations in other parts of the province of Ontario?
Mme Lucille Collard: Thank you to the member opposite for the question. I do appreciate the distinction you’re trying to make. There’s nothing in the bill also that specifically speaks to First Nations blockades, and that may be something that’s missing.
Mr. Toby Barrett: I’m not talking about First Nations.
Mme Lucille Collard: Okay.
Well, the Solicitor General and the Attorney General keep saying that this is a very narrow bill that has limited application, and I understand that. But the problem is that the situation that was allowed to happen and to continue to happen in Ottawa for a month—not 14 days; 14 days is the time that it took the government to pay attention to what was happening in Ottawa—shouldn’t be allowed to happen again. There was major deficiency in the response from the government. There were no resources that were sent to the city of Ottawa to help with the situation, despite many calls for supports from many parties here in Ottawa.
Ms. Catherine Fife: Thanks to the member from Ottawa–Vanier. You can hear how much pain the Ottawa community went through when you listen to her comments. On February 9, our leader and members from Windsor, including the member from Windsor West, wrote to the Premier and said, “Thousands of workers cross into the United States every day, many of which are front-line workers working in hospitals and health care.... Locally, 2600 businesses ... employing over 10,000 people.... Truck drivers are feeling abandoned stuck on highways and parking lots near the Windsor-Detroit border some for over 24 hours without access to food or a restroom break.”
The mayor of Windsor said, “We’ve written to you. We’re requesting additional supports including resources and personnel from your government.”
Would the member from Ottawa–Vanier acknowledge that Windsor is also worthy of the supports to make up for the pain of the occupation?
Mme Lucille Collard: Thank you to the member from Waterloo for the important question. Of course, all the businesses that have suffered from these blockades or these occupations deserve and need the support of their government. That’s what is very sad, because what we’re seeing is that they’re being let down. In Ottawa, they received a portion of money. I’m not going to say that they didn’t get anything, but this is far from sufficient to help them get over the hurdle of everything that they’ve lost, the employees who couldn’t get to work who lost revenues, who even lost their jobs because they went on maybe to do something else. It’s an additional burden for the businesses.
The government needs to step up and bring more support for all the businesses that were impacted by these events.
The Acting Speaker (Ms. Jennifer K. French): Next question?
Ms. Christine Hogarth: Thank you to the member opposite for her statement and adding to the debate today.
Some comments that were made saying that this was rushed and the response was slow: Well, the OPP were in Ottawa before the political stand, and as the commissioner has attested, there were hundreds of officers—thousands of men, women, people hours—that were dedicated to Ottawa under the leadership of the Ontario police chief. There were those officers on the ground, they were doing their job on the ground, so it bothers me when we say that it was a rushed response. Now, with this legislation, we have business owners, moms, dads trying to earn a living, relying on the ability to access international borders. Does the member opposite and her party—will they support this legislation to keep Ontario open for business?
Mme Lucille Collard: I do very much appreciate this question from the member opposite about the help that was actually sent to Ottawa. The Solicitor General said early on that she had sent 1,500 OPP officers to Ottawa. I’m sorry, but I was there, physically, on the ground, and those officers were either hiding very well or they hadn’t arrived yet. That didn’t happen until the end of the occupation. I don’t know where the numbers add up. There was some math that suggested that it was different shifts. Sorry, I was on the ground. There were not 1,500 officers—not even nearly that. Actually, once people were sent to Ottawa, it took two days and the occupation was over. When the actual boots were on the ground, they dealt with the situation. It didn’t happen for a full month.
The Acting Speaker (Ms. Jennifer K. French): Questions?
M. Michael Mantha: Je veux poser la question à la membre d’Ottawa–Vanier: pendant tout le déroulement de ce qu’on voyait arriver sur les rues d’Ottawa—c’était la semaine de circonscription, quand j’étais dans mon comté dans les communautés du Nord. Une des grosses frustrations que les gens exprimaient avec moi, c’était : « Est-ce qu’on n’a pas les outils nécessaires pour adresser ce problème? Pourquoi est-ce qu’on permet ceci à continuer? Pourquoi est-ce qu’on voit les entreprises qui sont en train de se faire bouleverser fermer? Pourquoi est-ce qu’on voit tellement de confrontation sur les rues d’Ottawa? » Puis le projet de loi qu’on a devant nous aujourd’hui nous dit—si on les avait, les outils du temps, pourquoi on ne les a pas utilisés? Et puis le projet de loi 100, nous donne-t-il les outils nécessaires pour adresser les problèmes qui sont arrivés à Ottawa?
Mme Lucille Collard: Merci beaucoup pour la question. C’est vraiment une question importante qui apporte des éléments importants qui se sont passés à Ottawa. Effectivement, ce qu’il y a dans le projet de loi présentement n’apporte pas grand-chose de supplémentaire, parce que la chose qui a vraiment manqué à Ottawa c’était des ressources : c’était des polices pour être capable d’utiliser les lois qui étaient déjà en place. On a déjà des pouvoirs, on a déjà des agissements qui sont criminalisés qu’on aurait pu s’assurer d’adresser—donner des tickets aux personnes.
Ce que j’ai entendu de façon très régulière—en fait, à tous les jours j’étais en communication, j’avais des appels, avec les conseillers municipaux, avec les services de police, avec les « by-laws », avec les membres des « BIAs ». Ce qu’on nous répétait constamment, c’était qu’il n’y avait pas de ressources. Les membres de la police n’étaient pas en nombre suffisant pour être capable de travailler. Donc c’est complètement au niveau des ressources; ce n’est pas au niveau de la législation qu’il y avait un manque.
The Acting Speaker (Ms. Jennifer K. French): Further questions?
Mrs. Daisy Wai: Thank you to the member opposite. We all feel for the residents of Ontario. But I think I also saw how other municipalities, like Toronto, had been able to manage the situation with much better results once they knew how to manage the blockade playbook. Although this bill is about protecting the borders, does the member see that if we had had complementary investment in police equipment, such as heavy tow trucks for the OPP, would that have helped?
Mme Lucille Collard: That element that you’re raising was but one of the elements. I was talking earlier about missing resources. That was probably among them, because we knew the tow truck companies refused to lend a hand. Everybody was overpowered. There were too many of the protesters and too little police force to be able to deal with them. The legal tools were there to be able to address the situation. Unfortunately, there were not enough police officers on the ground. That’s why the request went to the province for support. The mayor wrote, the Liberal members, the opposition members, all the BIAs—they were writing to the government to say, “Please, we need help. We don’t have the resources necessary to deal with the situation.”
Police officers were being intimidated by the protesters, and all the residents in Ottawa were as well. We needed the help. It just took too long for the help to come.
The Acting Speaker (Ms. Jennifer K. French): Further debate?
Ms. Christine Hogarth: It is my pleasure to join in today’s debate on Bill 100, the proposed Keeping Ontario Open for Business Act, 2022.
In February 2022, Ontario faced unprecedented challenges when the freedom convoy protesters set up blockades in Windsor. The six-day blocking of the Ambassador Bridge delayed or prevented billions of dollars of international trade, and shook investor confidence in Ontario as a reliable place to invest and locate manufacturing. Approximately $17 million of trade crosses over the Ambassador Bridge hourly, making up 25% of all Canada-US trade.
During the blockade, supply chains were seriously disrupted, manufacturing facilities closed and employees sent home because parts were not arriving on time. The Anderson Economic Group calculated that the loss to Michigan and Ontario wages during the course of the blockade was equivalent to US$144.9 million. Losses to automakers like GM, Chrysler, Ford, Honda and Toyota were equivalent to US$155 million, for a total deficit of US$299.9 million.
In calculating this total, the group looked at how work was impacted at facilities in Ingersoll, Brampton, Windsor, Oakville, Cambridge and Woodstock in Ontario, as well as some in Ohio, Michigan, Kentucky and Alabama. Ontario’s reputation as a reliable place to invest was impacted. This caught the attention of the President of the United States at a critical time in our trading partnership.
This economic disruption was compounded by public safety threats and resulted in significant amounts of overtime and increased policing costs. It showed how important it is for law enforcement to have the right tools at the right time to effectively respond.
Challenges faced in addressing the illegal blockade of the Ambassador Bridge included:
—a need for police officers to approve provisions from multiple statutes to piece together an effective response. While this may be possible during a normal exercise of duty, it was challenging in an emergency context;
—limits of what the province could enable through the emergency order, as constrained by what is possible under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act;
—enforcement levers such as fines were not as effective at dispersing the crowd when compared to the seizure of vehicles, which allowed for more efficient responses to ending the blockades;
—the lack of heavy equipment, such as tow trucks, and the unwillingness of tow truck operators to voluntarily take part in actions that could impact their business relationships.
Transportation infrastructure ties our province together. It keeps people and our economy moving and plugs Ontario into the world around us. This freedom of movement is why Ontario is poised for massive economic growth. It is the foundation on which countless hard-working moms, dads, men and women make their living here in Ontario. It is a tightly woven network where disruption of one piece of infrastructure can have a cascading impact on the entire province.
Speaker, fallout from the events in February has shown the government that new tools are needed to defend our economy from further disruptions, as are strengthened laws and policing capacity to protect our borders and trade corridors, without having to declare an emergency.
This proposed legislation would provide police services with enhanced measures to make it illegal to block certain transportation infrastructure, and it gives police officers and the registrar of motor vehicles new tools to clear blockages. These proposed tools would allow the police to suspend a driver’s licence, seize licence plates and suspend vehicles permits at roadside for 14 days for any vehicle participating in an illegal blockade; the registrar of motor vehicles to suspend or cancel the plate portion of a commercial vehicle or trailer permit; and the registrar of motor vehicles, on the direction of a justice of the peace, to suspend the driver’s licence and refuse a vehicle permit renewal for individuals who are convicted of violating the new legislation and do not pay their fines.
Speaker, as the Solicitor General noted in her second reading remarks, Bill 100 is narrowly scoped and there is nothing in this proposed legislation to infringe on the people’s right to protest. It does not apply to impediments that are minor or easy to move around, a right this government supports 100%.
This legislation is one way the government is taking action to defend our economy and protecting certain transportation infrastructure from further disruptions. This proposed legislation will support the government’s overall strategy to keep Ontario open for business. This proposed act would protect jobs and shield the economy from future disturbances like the recent blockade at Windsor’s Ambassador Bridge that halted billions of dollars of trade. It will signal to the world that Ontario is a reliable trading partner and is open for business.
Emergency order O. Reg. 71/22, made under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act, prohibits persons from blocking critical infrastructure, defined as 400-series highways; airports; canals; hospitals; infrastructure for the supply of utilities such as water, gas, sanitation and telecommunications; international and interprovincial bridges and crossings; locations where COVID-19 vaccines are administered; ports; power generation and transmission facilities; and railways.
“Protected transportation infrastructure” is more narrowly defined in section 1 of the proposed legislation as “any land or water border crossing point between Ontario and the United States, any airport that regularly accommodates flights directly between Ontario and a country other than Canada that is prescribed by the regulations made under the act.”
If situations arise where government deems it necessary to prescribe additional infrastructure, such as 400-series highways, subsection 17(2) provides that “such regulation ceases to apply after 30 days, if it is not revoked earlier.”
And while the international border crossings and international airports mentioned here are federal authorities, the province does have an active role to play. Local police are the first responders to situations of unrest and disruption in communities, including blockades of roadways.
Speaker, at the Ambassador Bridge, due to the size and impact of the blockade, officers from the Ontario Provincial Police, the RCMP and other municipal police services were required to support the Windsor Police Service as part of this response.
Speaker, I’d now like to take a little deeper dive into the specific aspects of this proposed Bill 100. The proposed act would prohibit all persons from impeding access to, egress from and ordinary use of protected transportation infrastructure if the impediment disrupts ordinary economic activity; interferes with the safety, health or well-being of members of the public; or directly or indirectly causes an impediment as described above. Impediments that are trivial, transient or minor in nature, or easily avoided, would not be prohibited.
I would like to move on to the police officer powers in this act. This act creates several new powers for police officers. Police officers would be able to issue certain directions when they have reasonable grounds to believe that a person is breaching the prohibition on impediments or the prohibition on assistance. “Police officer” does not include police officers from other provinces. However, the Interprovincial Policing Act, 2009, allows for out-of-province police officers to be appointed and given police powers in Ontario.
I’d like to move on to the removal of objects. The proposed legislation would grant police officers the power to remove, maintain possession of and store objects, including vehicles, for 30 days. If police officers remove and store objects or get someone else to remove and store them under the act, they would be required to make reasonable efforts to notify the owner. If required by the regulations, police officers would also have to provide confirmation of the request they made to a person to remove or store an object.
Part of this act includes offences. The maximum punishment for breaching any offence under the new legislation, except a failure to identify oneself, is one year’s imprisonment and/or a fine of up to $100,000. Directors and officers of corporations can face up to $500,000 in fines or up to one year’s imprisonment, or both. Corporations can face up to $10 million in fines. Failure to comply with the proposed requirement to identify oneself would result in a fine of up to $5,000, which is the default penalty under the Provincial Offences Act.
Roadside suspensions: Enabling police to take immediate action requires the necessary tools to clear road blockages more quickly and effectively. Currently, police have a range of tools available to support them when activities involve unsafe uses of vehicles or blocking roadways. However, these need to be supplemented with additional tools to quickly address serious interference with infrastructure used in international trade.
This legislation provides the authority for police to impose roadside suspensions of drivers’ licences and vehicle permits or to seize licence plates for 14 days when a vehicle is used in an illegal blockade of protected transportation infrastructure. These provisions would also apply if a vehicle were used to illegally assist a person who was illegally impeding access to protected transportation infrastructure.
I’m going to move on to suspension of certificates and permits. Bill 100 is also proposing additional powers for the registrar of motor vehicles to suspend or cancel the plate portion of a commercial motor vehicle or trailer permit or a commercial vehicle operator’s registration certificate. Permit suspensions or cancellations would apply to trucks, buses and commercial trailers. These powers provide significant consequences for the misuse of a commercial vehicle or trailer to interfere with protected transportation infrastructure.
A suspension or cancellation of a CVOR, which is a commercial vehicle operator’s registration certificate, has significant impacts on Ontario-based companies. The suspension is not only in effect for a vehicle identified as being involved in a protest, but is in effect for the entire company’s fleet associated with the CVOR holder.
The next section of the act is seeking forfeitures of removed objects. Police services and the crown would be able to follow the process under the Civil Remedies Act, 2001, to seek to have removed objects forfeited to the crown. In addition to being able to maintain possession of an object for up to 30 days under the new act, police can maintain possession of objects pursuant to the Civil Remedies Act, 2001, to allow the Attorney General to decide whether they should start legal proceedings that would result in the objects being forfeited to the crown.
Under the Civil Remedies Act, 2001, police can maintain possession of the object for up to 75 days from the day that the person requests its return in writing or commences a proceeding for the return of the object.
Amendments to the Civil Remedies Act, 2001, will be required to facilitate forfeiture of objects removed and maintained in police possession under the new act. Specifically, the provisions regarding civil forfeiture of “instruments of illegal activity” would be amended to provide that forfeiture is possible where property was used in unlawful activity and where it was likely to be used to cause “injury to the public.” The Civil Remedies Act, 2001, would also be amended to expand the definition of “injury to the public” to include the offences of breaching the prohibition on impediments and breaching the prohibitions on assistance for impediments under the new act.
The last section is provincial offences court. If a person is convicted of an offence under this act and they are fined, and they fail to pay the fine, a provincial offences court could make an order causing the driver’s licence to be suspended and preventing their vehicle permit from being renewed until the final fine is paid.
I’m just going to put this speech aside here, because if anyone is still awake after that—those who are listening at home, it’s a lot of verbiage and a lot of technical pieces. I’m even having a hard time reading it. I apologize. I’m just getting over being sick.
The one part of this legislation I think that we should all know is that we don’t want to see what happened along our borders ever happen again. We have to look at our province of Ontario and we have to look at who this protest affected. Our members, all of us here represent people from all across this province, and when it hurts their businesses, we have to look at this legislation and say, “What can we do better and what can we do better for the people of Ontario?” I think this is a good piece of legislation so we don’t see this happening again.
I was sitting in the standing committee, and I know some of the members from both sides of the House who have communities that sit on this border, and bringing their opinions forward of what’s happening and how it’s hurting small business owners, how it’s hurting jobs and the economy. At the end of the day, people just want to get to work. They want to go to work and they want to make some money so they can raise their family, and it hasn’t been easy over the last couple of years, so to put a piece of legislation forward that will help those people so we don’t see this happen again—we all want good things for Ontario, all of us. It doesn’t matter what political stripe we are here, we all want to see our families do well, we want to see businesses succeed, we just have different ways of doing that.
I am very supportive of this legislation, and I hope that our opposition members will also join in and support this legislation, because what it does is, it stops these types of protests happening along our borders. It also gives more tools to our police force, where they didn’t have the tow truck equipment to help move some of these big vehicles. We all watched what happened on TV. I know the member opposite spoke a little bit about Ottawa and the situation in Ottawa. This legislation is really about the border, but it will help move those types of vehicles if a demonstration does happen in Ottawa again. It gives them the equipment to do so. We all know businesses, we all know people, and I guess it was hard for some of those tow truck operators, because we heard on TV that some of them may have been threatened or they didn’t feel comfortable moving these vehicles out of the way. Now the police will have these tools at their disposal to help move these vehicles out of harms way so we don’t see these things happen again.
None of us are happy with what happened in Ottawa—none of us. There’s nobody across the province, there’s no one across Canada—a lot of these people weren’t even from Ontario. They came to our nation’s capital and they were on the Prime Minister’s front steps causing havoc. We don’t want to see this happen again, but, again, one job of the government is not to direct the police. We are here to give them the tools, to provide the tools to do their job, and the inquiries will dictate on how that unfolds. The federal government will have an inquiry on things that went down with their emergency order, as will Ontario, but at the end of the day, we all want to see Ontario prosper. We want to see our businesses prosper, we want to see all of us prosper.
One thing about this legislation is that it will enforce to the rest of the world, especially Ontario, that Ontario is a strong, reliable trading partner. What we can do as a government is create the environment to create jobs, and we want to make sure that the people of the US know that this is not going to happen again and that we are a reliable trading partner for them.
Thank you for your time.
The Acting Speaker (Ms. Jennifer K. French): Questions?
Mr. Jeff Burch: Thank you to my friend from Etobicoke–Lakeshore for her presentation. I appreciate that much of this legislation is directed to the border, but I think a lot of people are surprised that there is not more in the bill with respect to what happened in Ottawa. I don’t think any reasonable person would suggest that the provincial government’s response—or the federal or municipal, quite frankly—was adequate in Ottawa.
I’m just wondering, why does there seem to be nothing in this bill that acknowledges the failure of the provincial government to act in a timely manner? The people of Ottawa were left wondering why their respective police forces weren’t coordinating and the governments didn’t seem to be coordinating either, as the Premier seemed to be absent from what was going on in Ottawa.
Ms. Christine Hogarth: Thanks for that question, but I think we’ll have to disagree on that. I believe that people were acting. We had the RCMP who were acting. We have our commissioner. Politicians don’t direct the police. There is an order. They have a police services board, they have a chief of police and then we had the interim chief of police, so they had a plan and a strategy to get things done.
We also believe in peaceful protests. People are allowed to have their say. When they start moving things in, like hot tubs, and causing disruption, that’s a different situation. We have to still look at the situation as it is, and we still have to allow people the opportunity to protest when they feel that they want to. But it should be in a respectful and responsible manner. When you start disrupting the people of the community, that is different.
Once again, we do not direct the police. The police have an operational command and they deal with that.
The Acting Speaker (Ms. Jennifer K. French): Questions?
Mr. Stephen Crawford: Thank you to the member from Etobicoke–Lakeshore for that presentation. We all know that the North American economy is very integrated with the supply chain and business going back and forth between Canada and the US and how critical that is for jobs, for families here, for Ontarians. We obviously saw supply disruption.
I know Premier Ford and the Minister of Economic Development were down in Washington, DC a week ago, and they talked to government and business leaders.
I’m just wondering what your perception of foreign investors, people that are creating jobs here and are part of our economy, how do you think they will feel about this new proposed legislation that the government of Ontario is putting forward?
Ms. Christine Hogarth: Thank you to the member for Oakville for that question. I think it’s important for everybody to look at the economy and that Ontario is open for business. People want to have a safe and reliable province to invest in, and that’s one thing that our government is offering, that security of a place to invest your money.
People have a choice of where they want to move. People have a choice of where they want to invest their money and they want to set up a corporation. Sometimes we all say, “Oh, you know, it’s the employer. The employer pays, pays, pays,” but they don’t have to start that business up. We welcome them to Ontario. We want to make sure that they know that Ontario is a safe and secure place to invest and that we’re going to protect them once they’re here in Ontario.
The Acting Speaker (Ms. Jennifer K. French): Next question?
Mrs. Jennifer (Jennie) Stevens: Thank you to the member from Etobicoke–Lakeshore. I’m just going to ask the question. This issue impacted and was detrimental to small and medium businesses in Ottawa and mainly in Windsor when the borders were shut down. People couldn’t get back and forth to work, because it is a border community. I’m from a border community as well. I represent St. Catharines, and St. Catharines also is a community that is noted to be a border town.
Now, I just want to ask. So much time passed. Weeks passed, actually, while small and medium businesses in Ottawa were detrimentally impacted. They had to shut their doors, they lost their livelihoods, and before this Ford government did anything, now long, long after the events of—I don’t even want to call it “events”; I’ll call it illegal barricades—we are seeing this legislation. I just want to know why it took so long for it to come to the table. What was the stalling on that? And what will you do for these businesses that were so detrimentally impacted by the border—
The Acting Speaker (Ms. Jennifer K. French): Thank you. Response?
Ms. Christine Hogarth: Thank you very much to the member from St. Catharines.
I have to disagree; I don’t believe that this took a long time. This happened in February, and it’s March. We do allow peaceful protest. We had that discussion. It was quite quickly after the incidents happened that this legislation was brought forward. I do think it will make a difference moving forward, especially in communities that have those international bridges to allow people, goods and services to cross. Part of what I spoke about in my speech was the millions of dollars it cost the economy in wages, goods and services. We have to continue to look forward and look for other ways. I think this is a good step to make sure that we protect our borders and we protect our businesses to make sure that people in the US and the people—
The Acting Speaker (Ms. Jennifer K. French): Thank you. Further questions?
Mr. Lorne Coe: The proposed legislation that we’ve been debating thus far ensures that officers can effectively stop unlawful, disruptive activity. Those officers came from a variety of locations across the province, including 50 from the region of Durham. In my conversations with some of those officers and other constituents I have the privilege of representing, they’re concerned that officers are given reasonable authority to ensure that what we saw in Windsor and what we saw in Ottawa does not happen again without—and this is important—repressing peaceful protest.
Can the member from Etobicoke–Lakeshore explain for us this afternoon why existing emergency legislation is not sufficient and why we have brought forward this augmenting legislation to deal with some of what we saw in Windsor and Ottawa?
Ms. Christine Hogarth: I thank the member for Whitby for his question.
You’re right: There are going to be some more pieces that are going to be some more tools. We are going to be investing in additional training for our law enforcement on safe, effective police order; equipment like heavy-duty tow trucks to help clear if these blockages occur again—and that’s not just at the border, but other places. It’s also setting up an emergency management team at the OPP, the Ontario Provincial Police.
So we are moving forward. There is going to be an investment of $96 million in additional non-legislative measures to provide sustainable supports to mitigate and address unlawful demonstrations and illegal blockages.
At the end of the day, as I’ve said, we want to make sure that people know Ontario is open for business. We want people to know that they can have confidence in the Ontario government and that they can smoothly cross the border into our province.
The Acting Speaker (Ms. Jennifer K. French): There’s time for a very quick back-and-forth. Next question? I’m seeing no further questions.
Miss Monique Taylor: I’m happy to have the opportunity to be able to stand today to speak to this government’s bill, Bill 100, the Keeping Ontario Open for Business Act. Definitely, a lot of titles come through this Legislature that call on “open for business” but don’t necessarily reflect that as such. As I get into the bill further, I will delve a little deeper into that.
I want to start today’s debate by speaking to what I heard in my community as the occupation in Ottawa unfolded and how people in my community felt about that occupation. I’m not going to call it a protest, because there are lots of protests that happen across this province, many on the front lawn of this very Legislature, but they don’t last for over a month and take over other peoples’ lives, as we definitely saw happen in Ottawa and then in Windsor.
The occupation that started in Ottawa was no surprise to anyone. Everyone had heard of the truckers making their way down highways towards Ottawa. It kind of feels like, I think, that space was made for them to set up, as such, instead of being prepared for the fact that they were coming in for the long haul, and that is what became concerning as the days unfolded.
I definitely can say that I know people who travelled to Ottawa to join in for a couple of days at a time. They would take off for the weekend and go to Ottawa to join the occupation. These are the same people whose concerns I hear, how angry they were with the mandates, how frustrated they were with the lack of leadership that we’ve seen both provincially and federally throughout COVID. The change in messaging that happened on a regular basis, the change of rules that happened on a regular basis, the opening, the closing, the uncertainty, the lack of planning even a week ahead was something that we’ve seen frustrate all of our communities across this province.
When the rules came in place for truck drivers to be vaccinated when going over the border, not just here in Canada but rules in the United States—there was no control over that on our end. But that opened an opportunity for groups to take advantage of that story. Unfortunately, it was right-wing, white supremacy, Trump supporters that we’ve seen really latch onto that story and latch onto that trucker story. We know that 96% of truck drivers are vaccinated, that the trucking companies and associations did not support what was called the trucking convoy.
It was literally hijacked by people who had an agenda against the Canadian government, and whether anyone likes our Prime Minister or not, that was no excuse for how they were able to just take on that story. Some 56%, I believe, is the number, so over half of the millions and millions of dollars that were raised to support this occupation came from outside of Canada. It came from email addresses that were—I’m not even going to go there. But there were email addresses that never should have been attached to something about overtaking a Canadian government. That, in itself, should have been raising alarm bells to so many people across our communities.
But then again, our constituents are frustrated. They’re angry. Most don’t pay attention to a lot of stuff that happens within government, because everyone is taught that we don’t talk about politics; we don’t talk about government. That stuff is bad. We leave that for somebody else. So most people really don’t pay attention to most things that happen within politics or government, but this was a really easy story to latch themselves onto, because they had that emotional attachment. They had that, “I haven’t been able to go to work. I’m tired of wearing a mask. Whether I’m vaccinated or not vaccinated, these stories just keep swirling around.” It was really easy to be able to pull people into this story. I know a lot of good people who went to Ottawa just on the basis of—they’re frustrated. They’re frustrated with governments. They’re frustrated on so many levels of what has been taking place over the last couple of years of COVID, but they got wrapped up into many organizations that, as I said, had hijacked that conversation.
Why the government allowed this to continue for a whole month is absolutely mind-blowing to many of us. Hot tubs, bouncy castles, barbecues and spits, and porta-potties—I mean, they literally took over the front grounds of our most sacred place in Canada, our House of Commons, where democracy happens—what makes us Canadian, democracy—and lost track of what democracy truly meant. If people believe in democracy and they don’t like the government, then you vote.
Just in my riding—I’ll speak to in the last election because I know that number off the top of my head: 46% of people in my riding voted in the last election, only 46%. So if I was to do a quick Google, I could find the number of people who voted in the province or in the country, but it’s not very high. It’s not very high of how many people voted, and that’s how we overturn governments. It’s not about camping out on the front lawn here or at the House of Commons. That’s not how we do it. We don’t set up bouncy castles and hot tubs and say we’re going to take over the government and we’re not leaving until the government leaves. That’s not the way our democracy works.
I’m really proud of our democracy, and while speaking to veterans in my community, they were just as shocked at the conversation and how things had turned really into an anti-democratic process. They had fought and many had lost their lives or lost family members. They came back injured, wounded and they suffered just being an injured veteran in this country with the lack of resources, and here, everything they had fought for was being turned upside down along with their Canadian flag. There’s nothing more disheartening than seeing the abuse of our flag.
The way our flag was hijacked through this occupation breaks my heart. Every time I’m on the street and I see a pickup truck with flags on it, it makes me think and it makes me hurt. The pride of our country is our Canadian flag, and now it makes me wonder every time I see it, is that what somebody’s thinking? That’s hurtful; it’s really hurtful and it’s sad. I know that our veterans are feeling that same thing and that same hurt.
I hope that now that the mandates are over, people are now rethinking how they treat our flag and how they’re feeling about it. I hope that how they now decide to turn this emotion that they have against the government, I hope they now think about what comes next. They have a provincial election on their doorstep. How do they want to see their community? What is it that they were so frustrated about that they’re now going to vote to change? That’s how democracy works.
A health care system that pretty much almost crumbled because of lack of funding and lack of structure due to this pandemic—it pretty much almost crumbled. We have health care workers that are barely holding on and who are tired. That’s a prime example of a system that didn’t have enough structure underneath it to hold it up, and that came from years of neglect, years of underfunding, years of telling hospitals to do more with less. And that’s not just the Conservatives that did that: The Liberals have to take part of that too.
When I’m knocking on doors and I’m talking to constituents, I raise this to them. I talk about what—you were angry about the mandates. I get it. We’re all tired. We are all frustrated. But what do you want to see next? That’s where we need to see. That’s where, unfortunately, this bill doesn’t take into place. We know that Ottawa struggled for a whole month: a whole month of horns honking, people defecating in public spaces. The Terry Fox monument was abused, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier: All of these things were just disrespected by people who were at this occupation. Their livelihoods were literally turned upside down, with horns honking incessantly, businesses not being able to open, people not being able to get to work, people having a hard time walking their kids to and from school. An apartment building was set on fire in the lobby—our member from Ottawa Centre was then camping out just to help keep his community safe. The government did send off some money, but not nearly enough to make Ottawa whole for the policing costs, the extra security costs, the loss to business.
That was from—January 22, that started. Then, by February 8, the convoy or protests or occupations—whatever we’re going to call them, because they were popping up all over the country—
Mrs. Jennifer (Jennie) Stevens: The assault.
Miss Monique Taylor: —the assault on Canadian land. That’s a good word. By February 8, they had moved to the Ambassador Bridge to shut off the Ambassador Bridge in Windsor. By February 9, New Democrats were already writing letters to the Premier saying, “Premier, please, step in.”
Let’s quote from one of their letters from February 9, just a part of it: “We want to highlight what importance this border crossing has. An estimated $450 million dollars of goods cross the Ambassador Bridge each day. Locally, 2,600 businesses are in the transportation and warehousing sector employing over 10,000 people. Thousands of workers cross into the United States every day, many of which are front-line” or hospital workers—and I’m going to get into that too. But that part right there: The government has not sent any money to Windsor yet to be able to help that. That was on February 8 that they moved onto the bridge. February 9, the letter comes. February 11, the Premier decides to finally call a state of emergency. Days later, protests are happening, occupations—and I have to not call it protests; it was literally an occupation—were still ongoing in Ottawa and now they’re moving onto bridges. I know Fort Erie had people driving there to the bridges. I know there were convoys happening through Hamilton. There were convoys happening everywhere.
You know, you can protest and do whatever you want. We’re full believers in protests. I’ve been to so many protests that, Speaker, I can’t even tell you, but it wasn’t occupations, and it didn’t take over a bridge. These are serious effects that the Premier just didn’t move on quickly enough. Instead—shamefully, I have to say, and I’m going say it—he was snowmobiling at his cottage. As people were in crisis across this province, he’s out snowmobiling and taking selfies with folks. I’m sorry, Speaker, it’s heartbreaking to think that our Premier didn’t find it necessary to show up in Ottawa until the other day, when he was making an announcement. He was there Friday, the minister told us, because we were telling him he hadn’t even been to Ottawa yet. He showed up to make a campaign announcement on Friday. But from January 22 until Friday, he hadn’t shown up.
But we have a bill in front of us that doesn’t even make sure it provides the necessary funds to bring those municipalities back whole again. It doesn’t do anything to help the auto sector that had to close their doors and not be able to do the work that it needed to do to build cars.
It affected my community of Hamilton with the steel industry that produced sheet steel. They couldn’t work because they couldn’t get the steel out. Stelco, another major employer and contributor to Hamilton, also faced concerns about losing long-term relationships with US customers who threatened to withdraw the business during the blockade when Stelco couldn’t ship their products to the United States.
It took the government five days before they got the police and made sure that there were enough police there to shut it down. I’m grateful to the police across the province who showed up for both Ottawa and Windsor. But did the government ensure that all of that overtime was covered for all of those extra police services?
And then we come back here to Toronto, back to Queen’s Park—we’re coming in and there are blockades everywhere, so again, more police costs. Why is it that they knew to set up blockades here to make sure they shut it down but they weren’t able to do the same thing in Ottawa and Windsor? They knew they were coming. This was not a secret that these convoys were moving into Ottawa and to Windsor and yet the government allowed it to happen. That’s a big problem, and there is nothing in this legislation to prevent future blockades and future occupations from happening.
There are a lot of communities that were impacted by these occupations and blockades, Speaker. By blocking the Ambassador Bridge for five days, think of the health care workers who work in Detroit and live in Windsor not being able to get there. And let’s talk about those same health care workers who should be working in Ontario instead of working in Detroit, but they work there because they get better wages and better job security. Here in Ontario, we forced a bill on them, Bill 124, that caps their wages. Then the government gives them a $5,000 stipend to say, “Here, this should make you happy,” yet if you work out the hours, that $5,000 doesn’t go very far. It’s pennies per hour to try to keep the nurses happy. The nurses I speak to are not happy. The health care workers are not happy. We spoke to RPNs and they are now, in some places, making less than PSWs.
So the government definitely has their priorities messed up. It’s a good thing New Democrats are here to keep them to account, and we will continue to do that work because we know that speaking to people in our communities truly does give us insight into what our communities want and need. Unfortunately for many people in this province, the Conservatives don’t see it in the same light or fashion.
Thanks for the opportunity.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Questions to the member for Hamilton Mountain? The member for Haldimand–Norfolk.
Mr. Toby Barrett: Hamilton Mountain is over there, just north of me.
I hear what you’re saying, the seriousness of blockades and the effect on the steel industry, as you’ve mentioned. So we have a bill that will do things like impose roadside suspensions on drivers’ licences and vehicle permits, and seize licence plates.
Just a few miles down the road from your riding, a tractor-trailer rolled in, part of a blockade and an occupation of a subdivision. It was stolen, so there’s no sense seizing the plates. The tractor unhooked. The driver disappeared. You can’t suspend his licence—if she or he did have a licence. Then the trailer was torched. It was full of rubber tires. All the evidence was destroyed.
What kind of amendments would you be bringing forward to deal with some of the issues you mentioned you felt this legislation was failing in some quarters?
Miss Monique Taylor: Thank you very much to the member from Haldimand–Norfolk for the question. There are definitely serious gaps within this legislation that do not address—
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): I apologize to the member for Hamilton Mountain. I have to interrupt her.
Pursuant to standing order 50(c), I am now required to interrupt the proceedings and announce that there have been six and a half hours of debate on the motion for second reading of this bill. This debate will therefore be deemed adjourned, unless the government House leader or his designate directs the debate to continue.
I recognize the Attorney General.
Hon. Doug Downey: Please continue, Mr. Speaker.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): I return to the member for Hamilton Mountain.
Miss Monique Taylor: As I was saying, we understand that there will be several scenarios that this government will bring forward, and that really was an isolated incident. But we are going to continue to focus on the issues that happened in Ottawa and how we prevent those things from happening again, particularly at main bridges, and also to ensure that this legislation cannot be used for peaceful protest or for Indigenous sovereignty—like when Indigenous people are using protest to be able to protect their land.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Next question?
Mr. Jeff Burch: Thank you to my friend from the great riding of Hamilton Mountain for her speech.
I just want to touch on this idea that it’s not the government’s job to direct the police. I think everyone knows that the provincial government, along with many other levels of government—their responses were completely inadequate in this crisis. People were left alone wondering where their governments were, where their police officers, who should have been there, were.
Governments do actually have some say over the scope and speed of a response. Municipally, especially, we have municipal politicians sitting on police boards, so is it really an excuse to say that the government doesn’t direct the police, or is that kind of a way of blaming the police and absolving the government’s role in a slow response?
Miss Monique Taylor: Thank you to my friend from Niagara Centre. He’s absolutely right. I think it was the government saying, “It’s not my problem. It’s not our fault.” Yet the Solicitor General at the same time was saying that she had sent 1,500 officers to Ottawa. Very clearly, from the members we have heard from, they didn’t see those 1,500 officers. Where were they on the ground while people’s lives were being taken over?
I think it’s a cop-out. I think the government has a responsibility to show up and to ensure that things like this don’t happen. As I said during my speech, everyone knew that these convoys were headed to Ottawa and the numbers that they were claiming to be, and nobody did anything except put out the welcome mat and welcome those folks into Ottawa. Now we’ve seen very clearly the lack of leadership and what that did.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Next question?
Mr. Norman Miller: Thank you to the member from Hamilton Mountain for the comments on this bill. We certainly heard about the effects on the automotive industry and the good jobs that were put at risk. I know the member mentioned the steel industry as well.
This bill is going to have some powers, like directing owners and operators of vehicles to remove their vehicles from illegal blockades, removing and storing objects making up illegal blockades and suspending drivers’ licences and vehicle permits of those taking part in an illegal blockade. I would say those are important tools to be able to deal with future incidents.
Do you feel that legislation like this can assist, in the future, to protect the good-paying jobs in Hamilton and in the automotive sector?
Miss Monique Taylor: Thank you to the member from Parry Sound–Muskoka for the question.
I believe a lot of the things that are being implemented in this legislation were already in place and were already available to be used and were not used. It took days before vehicles were removed from the Ambassador Bridge, and it shouldn’t have taken that long. The government could have acted and pushed things further and quicker and had police forces gather much quicker than they did.
I’m quite curious to know how many fines were actually given through that time when there was the ability to give those fines, and if the government used their abilities to actually fine the people who had done that. They’re putting them in place again, but if they don’t use those abilities, are they actually worth anything?
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): The next question.
Mr. Gurratan Singh: We know that the impact of these anti-vaccine mandate blockades devastated workers across Ontario.
Could you share the specific economic impact that you heard about in Hamilton, in the riding that you represent—how bad did these blockades of our major economic channels and bridges and roads hurt you and your community at home?
Miss Monique Taylor: Thank you very much to the member from Brampton East.
We definitely heard about issues, as I said. Our steel industry was affected. Stelco was affected. I did hear at times that grocery stores just didn’t have the produce on the shelves that we’re all used to and that some items were a little sparse on the grocery item list, and that is a big effect to our community because we haven’t had to witness that. When people started to see things not on the shelves, they really questioned what was happening in our community, and it made them not feel so secure in what is available to us—and how blessed we usually are for the items that are available to us. To see those things missing was an impact to many of our constituents.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): There’s time for one last quick question.
Ms. Christine Hogarth: I want to thank the member for her comments.
You talked a lot about Ottawa in your speech. We know a lot of lessons were learned from the Ottawa Police Service experience. We also saw how other municipalities—like my city of Toronto reacted and managed the situation here, which only lasted a couple of hours, and cars were not allowed to stay overnight.
Although this bill is about protecting our borders, I’m just wondering if the member sees complementary investments in police equipment, such as the heavy tow trucks for the OPP that stepped up in a big way to help—do you think these investments would help in the future?
Miss Monique Taylor: Thank you to the member opposite for the question.
I think if they already know it’s coming, then they shouldn’t have to tow anything away. Put up the blockades and make sure that people are not able to get into those secure spaces. They did it very well here. I think it was a good lesson learned—that Toronto learned from the mistakes that happened in Ottawa.
So is it the investments on the heavy artillery, for the heavy tow trucks for police? I think there are a lot of investments that the police need more than a tow truck. I think if people are proactive they know exactly what’s coming to their community. Social media is very wide, and everybody’s telling what’s happening on social media, so I think being proactive in the matter would probably fix this situation much sooner.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Next presentation, the member for Haliburton–Kawartha Lakes–Brock.
Ms. Laurie Scott: I’m pleased to rise and speak about our government’s bill, Bill 100, the Keeping Ontario Open for Business Act, 2022.
Just last month the events that took place along one of the country’s busiest borders has underscored the importance of ensuring that the Ontario-United States border, including the Ambassador Bridge and all trade corridors, always remain open for business. As a result of the blockade, the government took immediate and decisive action to stop the unacceptable and illegal disruption to trade and traffic at the border. Bill 100 is just one more way the Ontario government is taking action to defend the provincial economy from future disruptions and strengthening policing capacity to protect our borders. Bill 100 will reinforce Ontario’s position as a reliable trade partner and ensure that unacceptable disruptions to trade and our local workers’ jobs never happen again, Mr. Speaker. I think it was one of those times in our country’s history where things changed, dynamics changed, and tools had to be implemented and used.
During that six-day blockade, one of Canada’s most important international border crossings was brought to a standing halt. This is a border crossing we all watched on the news on TV and other devices. This border crossing brings approximately $17 million of trade across the Ambassador Bridge hourly—that’s hourly—making up 25% of all Canada-US trade. The effects of the disruption impacted not only trade, but the jobs of workers across the province and their livelihoods. But Mr. Speaker, their jobs and livelihoods were not the only factors impacted during the blockade. Ontarians and their families also felt the impacts as a result of the disruption.
This winter has been a true Canadian winter, with bitter, cold temperatures and more snow than we have seen in over a decade, with February being one of the coldest months of the year. I had a family reach out to my constituency office last month in the dead of winter because their propane tank was critically low and their propane provider, one of the largest in the country, had not automatically topped up their supply. When the constituent asked the propane company why they had not come by to fill their only source of heat for their home, they were told the company was experiencing a severe supply shortage due to the blockade at the border. The company then asked if the constituent had an alternative source of heat. But in rural communities like mine, in Haliburton–Kawartha Lakes–Brock, propane is one of the main sources of fuel that people use to heat their homes and to power their appliances.
The propane company then explained that due to the significant supply shortages they were trying to best distribute the resources they had left, because they didn’t know when any more propane would cross the border next. You can only imagine, this put my constituents in a very vulnerable situation. Not only were families put at risk of running out of propane and being left without heat, the ability to use their cooking and water heating appliances, and the potential of causing costly damage to their water pipes—we all know what happens when that freezes—but facilities like hospitals, long-term-care homes and other critical facilities were also put at risk. Simply put, this blockade had become a matter of public safety and a ripple effect impacted a far reach of sectors, communities and Ontario families.
These critical shortages of supplies due to the blockade at the border even impacted local snow plow operators. One company explained they were put under significant stress from families and propane companies to clear driveways and walkways as fast as possible so propane trucks were not forced to make return calls if they could not navigate the rural driveways. That’s a perspective that I think gets lost in the reality of life—the to and the fro—that those are real things that are happening to people: too much snow, you can’t get into driveways. You have, in my instance, a lot of older people in my communities that rely on other people to help them and clear paths. Look, I feel guilty if I don’t get my pathway to my propane tank dug out in time for the driver to come in. These are real consequences that happen.
The agriculture sector was also impacted by the blockade and propane shortage, because farmers use propane to keep livestock warm in barns, to heat their water supply, not to mention how the blockade impacted the agriculture and horticulture exports and, of course, the feed coming across the borders. Some years are good for hay production and corn production, some years are not. We rely on each other’s countries to keep our livestock fed, to keep the food supply chain going.
The Ontario Greenhouse Vegetable Growers explained that 220 Ontario Greenhouse Vegetable Growers members farm over 3,000 acres across the province and heavily rely on their produce to be exported before it goes to waste. In fact, 70% of their produce is exported directly to the United States. And that’s why we must take action to defend the provincial economy from future disruptions and strengthen the policing capacity to protect our borders. To ensure we create a collaborative and comprehensive approach to enhance protections for international border infrastructure and have the most appropriate tools at our disposal, our government will be engaging with justice sector partners, key stakeholders and First Nations, and we are doing more.
Building on this, our government is investing $96 million in additional non-legislative measures to provide sustainable support to mitigate and address unlawful demonstrations and illegal blockades that impede international borders and airports. These measures include additional training for law enforcement on safe, effective public-order policing; equipment like tow trucks to physically clear border blockades; and setting up a permanent emergency management team at the Ontario Provincial Police. These are important tools that should be available to law enforcement without the need for an emergency order. This will help safeguard the province from unlawful disruptions to the economy, such as the recent blockade of the Ambassador Bridge, which led to factory closures, shift reductions, and halted billions—let me say it again—billions of dollars’ worth of trade.
Ontario is a strong, reliable trading partner, and we are signalling to the world that we continue to be open for business and that we will do everything in our power to protect our workers, job creators and international trade relationships from any future attempts to block our borders.
I want to thank the officers who were able to quickly and safely clear the blockade so Ontarians could get back to work. So thank you to the Windsor Police Service, the Ontario Provincial Police and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, who were able to act swiftly using additional enforcement tools that our government quickly provided through an emergency order.
But as Ontario Solicitor General Sylvia Jones said, it shouldn’t take an emergency order to get our police force the proper tools they need to keep borders open, and this is the reason why our government has taken action to introduce a suite of new measures to protect international border crossings like bridges and airports from illegal blockades that threaten the economic security of Ontarians. Bill 100, if passed, will give police and the registrar of motor vehicles the tools they need to protect jobs that rely on international trade and shield the economy from future disruptions.
Now, I want to talk about a sector that was arguably one of the most impacted by the blockade and associated product shortage: the manufacturing sector. In my riding, some of the largest employers are manufacturing plants and the supply chain companies who utilize their products to operate, especially the auto industry, in which—it was said earlier today but I want to emphasize it. The Anderson Economic Group estimated that the auto industry lost a whopping US$299.9 million between the dates of February 7 to February 15, all due to the blockade.
Many of my constituents travel to the Durham region for work in the auto sector, at GM in Oshawa, or work at local manufacturers that make parts to support that supply chain. Whether it’s Armada Toolworks in Lindsay or Flex-N-Gate in Beaverton, these are good jobs that were put in jeopardy because critical supplies were not able to travel freely across the border and were held up for days.
We all know there is a global supply chain crisis that companies have been struggling with for over a year that has impacted several goods, including the worldwide shortage of computer chips, which we hear about every day. That causes historic slowdowns for automakers and, subsequently, job and revenue loss for Ontarians and their families. We’re working on fixing that with the Critical Minerals Strategy that we have. That’s not happening tomorrow, but it is coming.
When COVID-19 first hit, factories and manufacturers were slowed and staffing shortages impacted production. We’ve all lived that for two years now, and we are still feeling the impacts from the slowdown and could be for some time. That’s why it’s critical that we keep products moving to avoid adding to the already-existing shortage of goods and supply chain issues.
In 2021, the Ambassador Bridge accounted for US$137 billion in trade, according to WorldCity, and $2.2 billion in goods was imported into Ontario from Michigan in December alone. These are astounding statistics. This is according to Statistics Canada.
The blockades last month affected both sides of the border as parts became unavailable and people’s shifts were cancelled at their work. That’s why Premier Ford had to make the tough decision to declare a province-wide emergency, pursuant to section 7.0.1 of the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act. And on February 12, 2022, the government approved O. Reg. 71/22, Critical Infrastructure and Highways emergency order. The emergency order provided police services with the tools necessary to remove the illegal blockade at the Ambassador Bridge and enabled the registrar of motor vehicles to suspend and revoke the licences, vehicle permits and commercial vehicle operator registration certificates of those individuals who were holding up trade and commerce.
So when the opposition over there said that we didn’t act quickly enough—I think I’ve just said a dissertation of two minutes of what we did to act quickly.
Without the authority to order the removal and storage of vehicles and objects used to block the flow of people and trade, police would have had to piece together provisions from multiple statutes, which would be very challenging in an emergency context. The tools the police officers had available, such as fines, were also not as effective at dispersing a crowd when compared to the seizure of vehicles. The lack of heavy equipment. such as tow trucks, combined with the unwillingness of tow truck operators to assist, simply meant that vehicles weren’t being moved and no progress was being made—and I’m sure Wellington Street in Ottawa, at the front of the House of Commons, is all very familiar to us now. That’s why these measures were necessary at the time of the blockade. However, even under the emergency order, police were limited by what the province could enable under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act. Again, that’s why we need further protections to combat future disruptions and strengthen policing capacity to protect our borders and reinforce Ontario’s position as a reliable trade partner. We need to ensure that unacceptable disruptions to trade never happen again.
Bill 100 also includes the ability to suspend driver’s licences and vehicle permits for those taking part in an illegal blockade. Ontario licences would be suspended for 14 days once the officer asks for the licence to be surrendered, regardless of whether the individual complies. Police officers could also seize licence plates from a vehicle when they believe, on reasonable grounds, that the vehicle has been used to breach the prohibition on impediments or assistance for impediments. Licence plates from any jurisdiction can be seized. If an Ontario licence plate is seized, the vehicle’s permit would be suspended for 14 days. For licences and permits from out of province, the privilege to use the licence or permit in Ontario would be suspended.
Police officers would also be required to notify the registrar of motor vehicles of surrendered drivers’ licences and seized licence plates, keep a record and provide the person with a written statement that includes when the suspension is in effect.
The powers to suspend licences and permits and seize licence plates could be limited by regulation. For example, the regulations could specify conditions that must be met before a police officer can require a licence to be surrendered or they can seize a licence plate. Bill 100 also allows the registrar of motor vehicles to make orders that suspend or cancel the commercial vehicle operator’s registration—the CVOR we’ve heard about—certificates, as well as the plate portion of commercial motor vehicle and trailer permits, if they have reasonable grounds to believe that the holder breached the prohibition on impediments or assistance for impediments or was the owner or operator of a vehicle that was used to breach the prohibition on impediments or the prohibition on assistance. I know it’s detailed, Mr. Speaker; I apologize to everyone listening.
For out-of-province commercial motor vehicle and trailer permits, the privilege to use the permit would be suspended in Ontario. The registrar would specify the duration of any suspension when such a suspension or cancellation order is in effect. Any person with knowledge of the order cannot transfer or lease any of the operator’s commercial vehicles or trailers or do anything that will result in a change of name with respect to the vehicle or trailer, unless the registrar consents. The registrar must consent if the operator satisfies the registrar that the transfer, lease or change of name is not being made for the purpose of avoiding a suspension or cancellation of a permit or CVOR certificate.
There would be no right to a hearing before the registrar makes a suspension or cancellation order, but an owner or operator could request that the registrar modify or rescind the order by applying in writing within 30 days after the order is made.
A police officer or Ministry of Transportation enforcement officer, as appointed under section 223 of the Highway Traffic Act, could seize licence plates from vehicles if the permit was suspended or cancelled by order of the registrar. Officers who seize licence plates would have to notify the registrar.
These are a few aspects of Bill 100 that demonstrate how we can prevent and remove any future blockades in a timely manner so we can get trade moving and people to their jobs. I’ve said many numbers during the time that I’ve been speaking, but it is very impactful to both our countries, the largest trading group of countries in the world. We cannot underestimate—I think everyone in the Legislature knows that—the importance of keeping those borders open.
Even over a month later, I know we are not sure we can fully understand the impact that the blockade had on the greater province, so more numbers will be coming. But I know locally, with a lack of machine parts being sent across the border, heavy equipment that broke down had to be off-line longer than needed, resulting in construction sites halted. People with good-paying jobs were without work while they waited for parts sitting on the other side of the blockade.
There is no doubt that this is a critical time for building and growth as we recover from the pandemic. In my riding, like many others across the province, there is considerable growth specifically in housing and infrastructure. The only way to keep Ontario open for business is to keep our borders open and free of obstruction so critical construction projects can move ahead.
There is no doubt that legislation that deals with unlawful demonstrations and illegal blockades that impede international borders and airports will benefit each and every community in this province, and that’s why I encourage all members to support this bill, to keep Ontario open for business and to protect our reputation as a province, as a safe place to invest, to grow and to do business.
Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased that I’ve had the opportunity to speak to Bill 100 today on behalf of our government. I look forward to questions and comments.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Questions?
Mr. Terence Kernaghan: I’d like to thank the member for her presentation. Southwestern Ontario is the heart of auto manufacturing, and the blockades shut down the Big Three, they shut down Toyota, and Stellantis had their shifts cut. There were so many other subsidiary businesses that depend on those large auto manufacturers that also shut down. And what we saw from this government was a dithering, slow response to the blockade.
My question to the member is, what is this government doing to help the families who were affected, all of the people who weren’t able to work? We see legislation on the books here that does nothing to support those families that had their economic sustainability impacted. What is the government going to do to help those families?
Ms. Laurie Scott: What you saw having occurred since the pandemic, the disruptions that have resulted in us bringing in Bill 100 to make sure things like border crossings, the impact on businesses—you come from a very large manufacturing area that you represent in your riding and you saw the impacts that could happen.
Mr. Speaker, the government brought in emergency orders and worked with all police services to peacefully dismantle the protests and the illegal occupation in Ottawa. You saw the police quickly address the Ambassador Bridge. We did have to bring in emergency orders with that to make that happen as quickly as it did, and the longer-term effect is the fact that we’re speaking about Bill 100, rightfully named the Keeping Ontario Open for Business Act, so we don’t have to have any more experiences like we did with the border closing and the effects that it had on manufacturing, on families, on the safety of people, as in the stories that I mentioned from my riding.
We are addressing the fact, and I think educating the whole province on the importance of keeping the border open to many, many capacities so that none of this happens again and we actually grow stronger, and those businesses will be more successful than they are at present day.
I’ve probably spoken a lot now, Mr. Speaker.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Questions?
Mr. Norman Miller: Thank you to the member from Haliburton–Kawartha Lakes–Brock for your comments. The proposed legislation ensures that officers can effectively stop unlawful disruptive activity that hurts our economy. My constituents are concerned that officers are given reasonable authority to ensure this does not happen again without repressing peaceful protest. Could the member explain why existing emergency legislation is not sufficient in combatting this sort of disruption?
Ms. Laurie Scott: It’s a very important question from the member from Parry Sound–Muskoka. I want to just quickly thank him for his over two decades of service in the provincial Legislature to the people of Parry Sound–Muskoka.
The proposed legislation does give the police more tools that they can use quickly. It’s narrow in scope and it’s specific to illegal blockades at border crossings. It will give them additional enforcement tools, whether to direct owners and operators of vehicles to remove their vehicles from illegal blockades, remove and store objects making up an illegal blockade or suspend the drivers’ licences and vehicle permits of those taking part in an illegal blockade. These are important tools that should be available to law enforcement to be able to respond quickly without the need for an emergency order. In the situation that did occur this year, there was an emergency order so we could act quickly, and then obviously follow it up with this piece of legislation so that there could be more tools for police to use and we can keep our borders and airports open.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): The next question.
Mr. Michael Mantha: I want to continue on with this discussion that’s about tools, because certainly, from a northern Ontario lens, when I was meeting with constituents as this was progressing in Ottawa and over in Windsor, when we were looking at why is this happening, why aren’t we using the tools that we have in place, that question always comes up. We had tools that are in place. Yes, this government is introducing more tools, but if you’re not going to use your tools that you have in order to first prevent what is there, we are just throwing more tools overtop.
The other question that consistently comes up in my riding, and I’m going to be touching on it later on when I have an opportunity to speak to this, is Indigenous sovereignty. Are we overreaching? And is this legislation actually going to be reaching into their sovereign rights when they’re having their community engagement, when they’re reaching out to the OPP, making them aware that this is going to happen, and providing the information of their frustration in regard to the issues and challenges they have with both provincial and federal governments?
Ms. Laurie Scott: I think what you saw in Ottawa and at the Ambassador Bridge was a signal that there is co-operation on different police levels, as well as the First Nations. Our goal is to keep our international borders open. I think of Ottawa and how they worked together to end the illegal occupation. It was done in a very concise way, in which people—you know, it was done as peacefully as it could be. I think that we should all thank our police services.
The government did speak with the police. They don’t direct the police. But obviously the input has occurred of what additional tools we would like to see. We’re investing $96 million in additional non-legislative measures to the police—as in my earlier answer, but I’ll repeat again—some of which are additional training for law enforcement on safe and effective public order policing; equipment like tow trucks to physically clear border blockades; and setting up a permanent emergency management team at the Ontario Provincial Police, which I think will address some of the questions that the member brought up about dealing with all levels of police forces, whether they be municipal, OPP or First Nations, and in this case, it was the RCMP at one point.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Next question.
Mr. Randy Pettapiece: I listened intently to the member’s speech. Certainly, sometimes these days get long, so it’s nice to have something that inspires you, keeps you active and keeps you awake. Thank you for that.
We have a great friend in the United States. I know we complain a lot about how we bicker back and forth sometimes, but it is a great partner. I think 80% of our trade goes to the United States, so they’re a great trading partner with us and they’re our friend. When things like this happen at the borders, you can understand what happens: All this trade is going back and forth and then all of a sudden it stops. I know our manufacturing plants in Perth–Wellington, because of just-in-time delivery, shuddered at the fact that this thing went on too long and what was going to happen to them.
I wonder if the member could talk to the trading relationship we have with our American friends and what this impact could have if the borders were shut off.
Ms. Laurie Scott: I want to also, if I can, say to the member from Perth–Wellington: Thank you for your years of service in the provincial Legislature. He has decided to take another chapter in his life. So thank you for that.
I know that we come from agriculture communities and share this strong connection with our agriculture communities—but also the impact, not only that the auto sector had with the US and Canada, but on our agriculture communities and the commodities that cross the border every day and that supply chain for keeping food on our shelves. There is a generation now, I heard the member from the opposition say last week, that never saw an empty shelf before now. They’re wondering what’s going on. We live in a very changing time.
To highlight, when you say that close to 80% of trade goes across the border with each country, that’s an incredible amount of trade. We’re all better off if those international borders are protected and strengthened so we can continue to be family with the United States.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): One more very quick question.
Mr. Michael Mantha: I want to go back to the member and go back to the point that I raised in regard to an overreach, to how this may impact the sovereignty of First Nations when they’re out providing their information sessions on highways. They do that, again, in order to educate the public. I was wondering if you could touch on that, in regard to how this legislation might—and is it going to—impact those rights.
Ms. Laurie Scott: I believe in the great spirit of co-operation in the province of Ontario and I think that you’ve seen that displayed in what’s taken place in the last few months. Certainly in the First Nations there’s been co-operation that has existed. I’m sure, going forward, that that will continue and it will only be enhanced.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Further debate?
Mme France Gélinas: It is my pleasure to put a few words on the record regarding Bill 100, the Keeping Ontario Open for Business Act. I will go into some of the details in the act, but as some of the questions that my colleagues have asked made clear, there’s a little bit of worry that as much as what happened with the blockade of the Ambassador Bridge was awful—it was awful for people. It was awful for businesses. Many people were afraid for their safety, afraid to go out. Many people were cut off from their families, from their jobs. We’ve all talked about the supply chain disruption and the effect it had on some big employers, who could not continue. The economic impact that it had was pretty awful and should never, ever be repeated in Ontario.
The same thing with the occupation that took place in Ottawa: If any of you have ever been stuck behind a big transport truck—try Highway 69, which is closed at least once a month for an accident—not only is it claustrophobic, not only do the fumes of the diesel choke you, but the noise is really, really difficult. The people of Ottawa had to live with this for a month. I don’t know how they survived this. They did. It should have never gone on that long.
We have this piece of legislation here that gives police new tools. I would say some of the tools that could have been used in both the blockade at the Ambassador Bridge and the occupation in Ottawa already existed. They existed through a piece of legislation that had been used quite extensively during the pandemic, the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act. But as has been mentioned before, those pieces of legislation that give the government the tools to protect us, the tools to make sure that the economy goes, the tools to make sure that the people don’t have to endure that kind of stuff, existed. If you don’t use them, then getting new tools is not going to be that helpful.
But I want to bring us back, Speaker. It has been two very difficult years. If you look at when the pandemic started—we’re all trying to forget it, but allow me for a few minutes to bring you back there—the level of stress within our community just shot through the roof. We were hearing what was going on in China, in other parts of the world. We started to see images on the television that were pretty stressful. What was going on? Most people have never heard of a pandemic, have never heard of the coronavirus or any of its mutations, and all of a sudden that was coming to us. The level of stress through society as a whole, through Ontario as a whole, shot up.
It didn’t take long, as the first cases of COVID were identified in Ontario, for that general level of stress to become a general level of anxiety. People who are not usually anxious were dealing with quite a bit of anxiety. They knew someone, they cared for someone, they had children around. They had some of their friends or family members who were coming from a trip where the virus had been identified or they knew some of the first few Ontarians who had COVID. Then more and more people started getting COVID and you could see the level of anxiety in our province all through, I would say, the stress of January to March and April. And then we saw, from April until the summer, the level of anxiety—because we saw people getting sick, because we had no treatment for the people who got sick. A family member would be admitted into the hospital and then into the ICU, and was then put on a respirator, and our health care system did the best they could to keep the person alive. Really, we had no treatment for the disease. We kept reading the statistics as to how many people were getting sick, how many people were being admitted to the hospital and admitted into the ICU, on a ventilator, on a respirator, and dying, unfortunately.
For our most vulnerable, the residents of our long-term-care homes—the picture was very anxiety-producing for the families of the 78,000 people who live in our long-term-care homes. It was really tough. Then, the public health measures came that limited what visitors could go into the long-term-care homes and limited what the residents of long-term-care homes and retirement homes were allowed to do.
Just before Christmas of 2020, we saw the closure of all of the small businesses. We all know how important Christmas is for sales in most of the small and medium-sized businesses. Costco, Loblaws and Walmart were allowed to stay open. The shoe stores were closed, but you could buy shoes at Costco. The clothing stores were closed, but you could buy clothes at Loblaws and Walmart.
All of this was going on and building this anxiety. From anxiety, people went to anger. It was difficult. They saw things that made them angry. Don’t get me wrong: It’s not because the people of Ontario are bad people. You cannot be under stress and you cannot live with this level of anxiety—people need mechanisms to cope with this. There was nothing to help them deal with this anxiety. There was nothing available to us to help us deal with that stress, so a lot of people made the step from being anxious to being angry. The easiest thing is to be angry at the government. It’s very easy to be angry at politicians. This is what we saw.
Then, going from anxiety to anger, we saw the hate. Hate is what we saw when we saw the swastikas flying during the occupation in Ottawa, when we saw some of the Confederate flags. We saw the hatred. All of this was linked to the hard times we had through the pandemic.
This new piece of legislation will give more power to the government and to the police.
I’m with the NDP; I have participated in dozens and dozens of protests and demonstrations.
I was talking about the big demonstrations we had on Highway 144. March 7, 2015, is in my brain for the rest of my life. This was when the big train derailed in Gogama, spilling over a million litres of crude oil into the Makami River. It took forever and ever to get the government to pay attention. With Chief Naveau from Mattagami First Nation and everybody from Gogama, we had to organize a protest. We closed down Highway 144 to finally get the government to pay attention and order CN to come and clean their mess. It was not even the government’s responsibility. It cost zero to the government to order CN, but they would not even do this until we closed Highway 144. I was there at this protest, and it gave results: CN came and cleaned. I’m afraid that with this legislation, we would not have been able to do this, and Makami River would still be full of oil.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Questions?
Mr. Lorne Coe: Thank you to the colleague for her presentation. You know, when stores from Whitby are importing food or farmers from Ashburn or Myrtle Station, which is in the north part of my riding, are exporting fresh produce, time can mean spoilage, right? Time can mean spoilage. Keep in mind that when the Ambassador Bridge was blocked, it didn’t just add six hours to travel time, did it? Truckers are required to rest for safety reasons as well.
Does the member opposite share concerns about our food supply chain, recognizing the riding that you represent, but if you think more broadly, if you think about the province, do you share concerns about our food supply chain being affected by illegal blockages?
Mme France Gélinas: Absolutely, without a doubt. Although I come from a northern riding, I can tell you that we do have agricultural—the biggest potato producer in all of Ontario lives in Nickel Belt, Poulin patates. They are the biggest potato producer. I encourage you to buy your potatoes from Ontario and buy them from Nickel Belt.
But you need more than potatoes to have a healthy diet, and I fully get that. And yes, I want to make sure that our supply chain is secure. A lot of our food is imported. A lot of this travels through the Ambassador Bridge. It needs to be protected, absolutely. It should have never been blocked for so long. I just want to make the difference between having the tools, and having the political will to use the tools. There’s a big difference between the two.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): The next question.
Mr. Michael Mantha: I always enjoy listening to the member from Nickel Belt talk about her riding, because I was actually born and raised in a big part of her riding. She talked about a particular bridge, the Makami bridge. I used to go fishing there under that bridge with my uncle Babbé. We used to go fish there and grab a bunch of minnows and lunch and pull in lots of pickerel while we were under that bridge.
But she raises a good point: The tools are available to the government. The tools have been available to the government. These are additional reaching tools that are going to be brought there.
You can have all the tools that you want in your tool box; if you’re not going to use those tools, then you are not going to resolve the issues. If you’re not willing—and she talked a lot about having that will to put in place the mechanism to taking the steps in order to resolve the issues—then you are just throwing more tools that are going to end up collecting rust in the tool box.
My question to member is, with the tools that we presently have, what was missing for this government in order to get the action that was required to address the blockades in both Ottawa and at the Windsor bridge?
Mme France Gélinas: I would say the answer to this is the political will to do this.
Remember, I spent the first two or three minutes explaining the state of mind of the people of Ontario at the time that this was going on, going from stress to anxiety to anger to hate. When you see this, when you see hate, the government has a mandate to act immediately. Nothing good ever comes from hate. But this is what we saw: The government had tools at its disposal. It had just pulled the licence from a dump truck demonstration, months before. But yet it did not do this in Ottawa. It did not do this on the Ambassador Bridge. We saw a line-up six kilometres long of people trying to cross the bridge that were not able to do this. The political will was not there.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): The member for Parry Sound–Muskoka.
Mr. Norman Miller: Thank you to the member from Nickel Belt for your comments today. I’m getting the impression, though, that the NDP is asking that the government direct the police, which is not something that the government does. I just wonder if the member might comment on that, because even the member from Algoma–Manitoulin seemed to be suggesting that.
This bill is very narrowly scoped, so I believe the other protest you were talking about would not be affected by this because it has specifically to do with international borders, trade and international airports. Perhaps the member could clarify: If you’re not suggesting that the government should direct the police, what are you suggesting?
Mme France Gélinas: You are absolutely right that the police are independent; so are the courts, and this is the way we want to keep it. There is language in the bill that says “disrupting ordinary economic activity,” so, you’re right when it comes to international bridges and when it comes to airports, but when we see language in the bill that says “disrupting ordinary economic activity,” then it becomes clear that—I was there on Highway 144 when we blocked it. There are economic activities—all of the mines in northern Ontario use Highway 144. They could not get the slag to the smelter and the crush to the mills and all of that. Is this considered economic activity? Absolutely. Mining represents billions of dollars for Ontario, so you will understand our worry. We are giving the police more power with words such as “disrupting ordinary economic activity” that could be interpreted in ways that would not help our province.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): The member for Oshawa is next.
Ms. Jennifer K. French: I’m pleased to ask a question. I’m going to actually ask it on behalf of the member from Windsor West, who gave her hour-long speech last week and it wasn’t answered when she had asked the government, so I’m going to ask this member to take it on.
The member from Windsor West laid out just so much of the challenge that her community has gone through and she said, “The province needs to step in immediately to provide relief and replace the income workers and small businesses lost because of the blockade. Working people should not have to pay for the illegal blockade and its aftermath. Small businesses have already suffered tremendously these last two years.” She has written a series of letters to the government regarding the blockade.
What do you think it would mean to the people of Windsor to have that direct financial support, and do you have any idea as to why the government has left them out of the support? Why won’t they support Windsor and the people there?
Mme France Gélinas: The member for Windsor West was absolutely right. She was there; she lived it. The blockade on the Ambassador Bridge was awful for people, but it was really hard for businesses also that depend on the supply chain that goes across that bridge. People suffered. People were facing loss of income. Businesses also suffered as the supply chain was not there. All of this was illegal. It seems that turning toward your government for justice is the right thing to do. The government has to take an active role. When they see something that was not just, something that was illegal being done, it falls onto the government’s shoulders to help the people affected by those illegal activities. That means supporting them if they have lost income or business revenue.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): One last quick question is possible.
Mr. Stephen Crawford: I appreciate the member opposite speaking about the bridge. I think we all share the same thoughts in terms of wanting to make sure infrastructure, bridges remain open. We know the value of the commerce going back and forth between the United States and Canada. There are about 10,000 commercial vehicles hauling about $325 million a day on the Ambassador Bridge.
Is it fair to say, then, that you could support this legislation? Will the official opposition join us in supporting this, that so many businesses have been calling for this?
Mme France Gélinas: I would say that I have no problem supporting legislation that gives the government more tools so that we never have to deal with this again. It also has to come with government willingness to use those tools. But we are here to debate the bill. I am putting it on the record that I have no problem with the part that says: “prohibits” anyone “from impeding access to or egress from, or the ordinary use of, protected transportation infrastructure ... directly or indirectly.” I don’t know why things are always written so complicated. But I do have a problem with the part that says “disrupting ordinary economic activity,” because it is a bit broad and worries me.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Further debate?
Mrs. Belinda C. Karahalios: Good afternoon. I wasn’t planning on speaking to the debate today, but I’ve just been so inspired by all the speakers here today. It’s interesting, because the Keeping Ontario Open for Business Act, brought to you by the same Solicitor General, the same PC government who forced the reopening Ontario act on Ontarians—the reopening Ontario act that, Mr. Speaker, you remember I voted against, the one for which I was kicked out of the PC Party but which was the little spark that ignited the New Blue Party of Ontario. So there’s some good that came from that.
I’m going to compare these two bills just briefly, Speaker, because I don’t have too much time. The reopening Ontario act gave the PC government the power to maintain emergency powers without there being a state of emergency. At the time, I said—and I still say, and I maintain this—that that bill is and was an unnecessary overreach on our parliamentary democracy. This bill, Bill 100, the Keeping Ontario Open for Business Act—also ironically named—takes the powers that the PC government gave themselves when they declared a state of emergency on February 11, 2022, to deal with the protests at the Ambassador Bridge and they are now enshrining these emergency powers into permanent law.
This government is drunk with power. They have no desire to let go of their emergency powers. Really and truly, Bill 100 is a continuation of Bill 195, the ROA, the reopening Ontario act.
The one thing that has been missing over debate for the last afternoon, and even last week, is that no one has acknowledged why this has even happened. No one has acknowledged that people have been discriminated against, that people have lost jobs. I meet these people every day, Speaker, when I’m out and about grocery shopping—people who have had to leave long-term care work and are now working elsewhere, students who have lost their education.
It’s okay to have a different opinion. My different opinion isn’t misinformation. This is what the good of debate is. They can argue one thing and I can argue something else. Everyone is arguing the same thing except for myself, to be quite honest. We need to learn from this and we need to grow with it. Ontarians have largely felt ignored by their elected representatives, municipally, provincially and federally. It’s sad. And I know all of you guys are getting emails and phone calls from those frustrated Ontarians. They are frustrated. It’s been two years of this. No one has acknowledged that the reason for the protests in Ottawa and at the Ambassador Bridge is because of two years of poor policy that has been rammed through by this government.
Speaker, this bill, Bill 100, is not about keeping Ontario open. It’s implementing rules that intend to silence the Ontario public, to discourage individuals from engaging in the right to protest. There are a few especially troubling schedules and pieces in this bill. One is “not entitled to a hearing.” The other: If asked by a police officer to help “in removing or storing the object,” the person must “promptly comply.” There were penalties of a fine no more than $100,000 to a max of $500,000, and imprisonment for a term of not more than one year or both for an individual. For corporations, penalties could be as high as $10 million. And there was a requirement to identify.
Listening last week, Thursday, when debate was occurring and the government kept saying, “There’s no impact on peaceful, lawful and temporary protests,” that the scope is narrow—where are these definitions? Where is the definition for this? Who is defining what “peaceful” and “lawful” and “temporary” are? Where is the scope? Just saying it doesn’t make it true. So we’re going to put it into regulation, then? It is unbelievable, Mr. Speaker. It is unbelievable.
And now, the police are going after and locking up the member from Lanark–Frontenac–Kingston, an elected member, because why? Because he’s a political opponent? Why? It’s not about friends, to the member across. This is not about being friendly. It’s about being fair. People know where I stand on all these issues. Everyone knows. But it’s about being fair. The man is an elected representative, and it’s a witch hunt for the guy.
The Highway Traffic Act currently already allows for police officers to move vehicles or objects that are blocking the normal and reasonable movement of traffic on highways and bridges. At this point, there is no reason to table or pass a bill like Bill 100. Events like the trucker convoy, which is what the PCs claim spurred this legislation, are rare events. And if needed, then a state of emergency can be instated, because that’s what that legislation is there for. Making these emergency powers permanent is yet another example of the PC Party’s disdain for freedom of speech and their love of unnecessary government overreach and draconian powers.
Speaker, it is clear, I hope, that you know I will not be supporting this bill, and I believe it should be taken right off of the table.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): We’ll now have questions to the member for Cambridge, if there are any. Questions? Okay. Thank you.
Mr. Norman Miller: I’m pleased to have the opportunity to speak to this Bill 100 this afternoon. I would like to thank my OLIP intern, Clare Simon, for her comments that she worked on, although I do have a 20-minute speech for a 10-minute time slot, I’m afraid.
I’m happy to stand in the House today to speak to Bill 100, Keeping Ontario Open for Business Act, 2022. If passed, this legislation would give police and the registrar of motor vehicles tools to prevent the illegal blockading of critical border infrastructure. These tools include the ability of police to direct owners and operators of vehicles being used in an illegal blockade to move them, remove and store objects being used in an illegal blockade and temporarily suspend the driver’s licences and vehicle permits of those taking part in an illegal blockade. This legislation will mean that law enforcement can take the necessary action to protect public safety and economic activity without an emergency order in a border blockade situation.
This bill protects vital trade infrastructure such as land or water border crossing points between Ontario and the United States, significant trade infrastructure and international airports. Our international border crossings are a large part of the reason why Ontario is known around the world as a reliable trading partner. Our reputation for being a good place to do business is what drives economic growth in the province.
Every day hundreds of millions of dollars in goods flow over our borders. Booming trade at our borders means more jobs at home, which means more families able to make and maintain a decent standard of living.
In February, we saw what happens when illegal blockades stall this international trade and the impact it can have on working Ontarians. The Anderson Economic Group estimates that the so-called “freedom convoy” cost an estimated $144.9 million in lost wages on both sides of the border. That is $144.9 million directly out of the pockets of hard-working people in communities like Ingersoll, Brampton, Windsor, Oakville, Cambridge and Woodstock. Bill 100 would defend the provincial economy from future disruptions that threaten the livelihoods of Ontarians by giving law enforcement the tools they need to respond to blockades on border infrastructure.
The North American auto sector is a cross-border industry. Our auto parts manufacturers and auto makers work with businesses on both sides of the border. A small part made in Michigan will be shipped to Ontario to be made into a larger part, shipped to the US to be made into a larger part and then back to Ontario to be installed in a car. About $100 million worth of auto parts cross the border each day, with many shipments timed to arrive just when the manufacturers need them. As a result of these just-in-time shipments being delayed, some of our auto makers and automotive parts manufacturers had to cancel shifts.
The auto sector supports nearly 100,000 jobs in Ontario and hundreds of thousands more spinoff jobs from the sector. But between February 7 and February 15 of this year, when there were blockages at vital border crossings, Anderson Economic Group estimates that the auto industry lost US$299.9 million.
Thankfully, despite this challenge, our government has been able to attract historic investments in this industry in the past few weeks alone. On March 23, our government announced a $5-billion investment from LG Energy Solution and Stellantis to build a facility in Windsor to manufacture batteries for electric vehicles. This facility will provide 2,500 jobs to Windsor and will be fully operational by 2025. On March 16, our government announced a $1.4-billion investment from Honda to upgrade and retool a plant in Alliston, Ontario. This investment will upgrade assembly lines to enable them to produce hybrid cars.
These investments are part of phase 2 of Ontario’s 10-year plan, Driving Prosperity: The Future of Ontario’s Automotive Sector. The strategy leverages Ontario’s position as a leader in the automotive and tech sectors as well as the presence of critical minerals to become a hub for developing the cars of the future.
This is the result of years of work from our government to make Ontario an attractive place to do business, by building relationships, cutting red tape, fostering innovation and talent. But this progress must be protected. The continued success of our automotive sector depends on open and free-flowing trade with the United States. As a result, our government is taking action to protect our borders from illegal interference.
In addition to this legislation, our government is making the necessary investments to give law enforcement important tools to deal with illegal blockades on international trade infrastructure. Our government is investing $96 million to provide support to mitigate and address unlawful demonstrations in illegal blockades that impede trade at our borders. This money will go towards enhancing training at the Ontario Police College to support safe public order policing; strengthening and improving OPP emergency management investigations and intelligence resources; purchasing equipment, such as heavy tow trucks; and improving border infrastructure.
When the blockades began to appear at border crossings such as the Ambassador Bridge, law enforcement did not have the tools they needed to effectively deal with this emergency. Fines were not sufficient to break up the illegal blockades. Police were piecing together provisions from multiple statutes. Law enforcement lacked tow trucks, and tow truck operators were reluctant to move vehicles blocking the infrastructure.
On February 11, the Premier declared a province-wide state of emergency, and on February 12, the government approved Ontario regulation 71/22, the Critical Infrastructure and Highways emergency order. These emergency orders gave law enforcement the tools they needed to safely end the blockade at the Ambassador Bridge, including the ability to remove and store vehicles; and it enabled the motor vehicle registry to suspend and revoke licence vehicle permits and commercial vehicle operators registration certificates of those individuals who were holding up trade and commerce.
This bill will ensure that law enforcement has the tools it needs to deal with any future blockades of vital infrastructure, such as a land or water crossing with the United States, an international airport or any significant international trade infrastructure, without an emergency order.
Our government, our small- and medium-sized businesses and our workforce have worked hard to ensure that Ontario is a reliable trading partner and a good place to invest. However, the so-called “freedom convoy” in February made it clear that this reputation must be protected from individuals who seek to disrupt economic activity and the safety, health and well-being of the public.
Our government recognizes that freedom of speech and the right to protest is a cornerstone of a healthy democracy. We have the right to disagree with each other and to engage in debate. The members in this House demonstrate the value in this every day by showing up and advocating for the point of view of their constituents. That is why this legislation has been drafted to be as narrow as possible so as not to interfere with the right to peaceful protests. It does not apply to minor impediments or those that are easily removed, nor does it apply to any events for which a permit has been issued.
The goal of this legislation is to protect the health and safety of the public by ensuring that any future incidents similar to the border blockades we saw in February are dealt with quickly, effectively and safely.
I encourage all members to support this legislation to protect our economy and our workers.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Questions?
Mr. Terence Kernaghan: I’d like to thank the member from Parry Sound–Muskoka for his presentation.
Throughout the pandemic, we heard from this government that they would create an iron ring to protect seniors in long-term care, and we saw that the only iron ring that was created was one that protected this government as well as long-term-care owner-operators from legal liability. No seniors were protected whatsoever by this government.
With Bill 100, I’m worried that this government is worried about protecting itself and protecting the industry rather than regular families, who were the most impacted.
What is this government doing to offer relief for families who were impacted by this blockade?
Mr. Norman Miller: Thank you to the member from London North Centre for the question.
He mentioned long-term care. Of course, we’ve learned a lot, through COVID-19, to do with long-term care, and the government is making historic investments around the province. Just last week, in my riding of Parry Sound–Muskoka, I announced some $6 million in funding for the individual long-term-care homes in the riding—and that’s just this year. It’s going up, I do believe—the last two years of fully implementing four hours of direct care per day, the province is spending $1.2 billion and then $1.8 billion across the province. Those are absolutely huge investments to provide better care in our long-term-care homes and to implement lessons learned through the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): The next question.
Ms. Laurie Scott: I’d like to thank the member for Parry Sound–Muskoka for his comments.
I want to ask him a question: Will there be a time limit on enhanced enforcement measures if the proposed legislation were to be enacted?
Mr. Norman Miller: Thank you to the member from Haliburton–Kawartha Lakes–Brock for the question.
The described measures will not be time-limited as emergency orders are. The purpose of the proposed legislation is to give tools to end unlawful blockades at border infrastructure sites and keep Ontario open for business. This is especially important, given last week’s announcement by Premier Ford and the Minister of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade—an announcement that, with the support of the Ontario, federal and municipal governments, LG Energy Solution and automaker Stellantis are joining forces to build the province’s first large-scale electric vehicle battery manufacturing plant. It’s a very exciting announcement.
We need to have a secure border to keep growing our automotive industry here in Ontario. That’s what this legislation is intended to do.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): The next question.
Ms. Jennifer K. French: We’re all so excited to engage with the member opposite and ask questions, so I will ask a question.
As this piece of legislation is intended to be narrow in scope, we’re also focused on Windsor. I would like to keep us focused on Windsor and let the member know that the member from Windsor West has written many letters to the Premier. In this particular one, she said, “I spoke with several small business owners that have been severely impacted from the loss of business and continue to financially suffer from the remaining long-term effects of the blockade. I have also spoken to workers that had shifts cancelled during the blockade that cannot afford their monthly expenses and have not recovered those lost wages.
“I am asking for you to expand the support program for small businesses to include those in Windsor-Essex and ask that you reimburse workers for lost wages.”
Since the member opposite talked about lost wages and the impact of that, is he excited to let us know that his government will indeed be supportive of those folks in Windsor and provide that direct support?
Mr. Norman Miller: Thank you to the member for Oshawa for that question. Certainly it’s been a really challenging couple of years through COVID, and the government stepped up with billions of dollars of support for small business across the province. This bill is intended to stop a blockade happening at our border so that we don’t have to talk about compensation for businesses because the border will be open and there will be more and more jobs as a result of some of these new announcements that have just been made. Giving the police the powers to direct owners and operators of vehicles to remove their vehicles from illegal blockades, tow trucks that will be operated by the police to be able to remove vehicles, some of the tools to be able to end the blockade if there is a future blockade quickly to keep the jobs open, to keep the small businesses open, so they don’t need any compensation.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Further debate?
Ms. Jennifer K. French: I appreciate the opportunity to stand today and speak on Bill 100, An Act to enact legislation to protect access of certain transportation infrastructure. I think its short title is Keeping Ontario Open for Business Act, 2022.
I’m glad to continue the conversation we have been having this past week on this topic about international trade, on industry, on manufacturing on the importance of keeping goods moving, of the impact on the automotive sector, on the province—certainly, Speaker, I know it intimately well, being the member for Oshawa and recognizing not just the importance of a thriving and solid automotive sector on a community but the heart of it.
We can talk about the dollars and cents, and I’m glad to. I’m glad to talk about the contribution the auto sector makes, that the automotive workers make across our community, whether that’s in their donations to the United Way or just rolling up their sleeves and being involved in just about everything I could name in our community through the years. But this is a sector that deserves respect, it’s a sector that deserves support, and I am glad to be able to stand and provide an alternative version to the revisionist history that we’ve been hearing the past few days.
My version of events when it comes to the automotive sector and my version of things is through that Oshawa lens, that local lens, and takes us back in time to 2018, if any of us remember that far back, but to me it was like it was yesterday and to many of the workers in Oshawa it was indeed like it was yesterday.
Speaker, what has been happening in the room is there has been a lot of celebration about investment. I support and celebrate investment, and I’m very grateful for it. What I take issue with has been the self-congratulatory tone of the government, that it has been about the government and the work they have done as opposed to the work of those on the shop floor, the work of the collective bargaining teams, of the local leadership. The folks at Unifor 222 in Oshawa never gave up, and I never gave up alongside them.
In fact, I remember, though, standing in this House and asking the Premier why he was so quick to give up on the folks in Oshawa. This was in response to the fact that the Premier had said that politicians and union leaders were selling false hope.
Speaker, this is on the heels on the knowledge that GM was going to be abandoning Oshawa at that time and the fear of that. I remember getting the news in the middle of the night, and it wasn’t quite news yet; it was rumours. So many of us went down to the plant in the middle of the night. The media was there. I remember standing there and saying, “I hope that the Premier rallies and that the Prime Minister comes to our defence.” I thought I was being maybe a little bit over the top at the time. I thought, “Well, of course they would. Of course they would.” And they didn’t. In fact, it was this Premier who said, “The ship has left the dock,” and tapped out before even getting into the ring. The fight was over. He let us know many times that he had spoken to everybody on his cellphone and had spoken to the president of GM and had been assured that it was over, and here I was, running around selling false hope.
I was running around, and I was talking to a lot of folks, hugging a lot of people, back when we could hug people. I would never sell false hope, but I would never give up hope. And I’m awfully glad I didn’t, because as it turns out, we were right. There was a reason to not count Oshawa out. That was because of the bargaining teams. That was because of the local leadership. That was because of the heart of the workers.
I’m just going to take us back in time, because it’s fun. It’s fun to go back and actually look at the words that were really said in here, because everybody sort of forgets them. I asked the government on behalf of Michelle—Michelle had said, “Jennifer, thank you for standing with us in this fight. I am a second-generation auto worker. I was born and raised in Oshawa. General Motors raised me, it paid for all my birthdays, extracurricular activities, medicine when I was sick, and dental, food, school and the roof over my head.” She keeps going on to say, “I hurt so badly inside thinking about what I will face in this next year. I hurt because we currently have a Premier who doesn’t care about me or my family or General Motors having a manufacturing presence in Canada. Why does my government not care about me and my family?” Do you remember, Speaker, that Michelle, my constituent, was heckled in the response? I do. That still burns our community.
The Premier responded with, “What is the NDP doing? I’ll tell you what they’re doing, Mr. Speaker. They’re doing nothing, zero. As you’re sitting there, running around talking, we’re out there creating new jobs.” Okay, I was running around talking and I was also standing alongside my community, because I believe that Oshawa is worth fighting for. I didn’t understand why the government had no hope and turned tail, so to speak.
I’m taking us back to that point because one should never count out a community that is building something with the future in mind. This government has learned that, right? They said, “Enough, forget it. It’s over, it’s done with. GM said it’s done; therefore, it’s done,” because they didn’t understand how the working world works. They didn’t understand the power of the union or the power of the people.
It’s fun to hear the government now suggest that they knew all along. No, they didn’t. They were ripping out charging stations back when the big automotive folks were saying, “The future is electric.” They were ripping out the charging stations. Well now, they’ve got that little tip that there is going to be new investment in Brampton—all of this is good news. We love investment, especially in a town like mine or in a place like Windsor, which is what we’ve been talking about the last couple of days. We know what that means to folks, to the parts supplier, to the auto workers, to the broader community. We want that investment, but we want the folks who do the building, the folks who do the heavy lifting, we want them to get the credit there too. Just a polite reminder to the government to maybe have some humility and recognize that there’s a lot to the sector, and it has to do with the people.
Speaking of those people, in Windsor, the illegal blockade wreaked havoc and was horrible for the folks there. It was the automotive sector. The auto manufacturing plants that were forced to send workers home without pay and there were cancelled shifts. Things were in a mess—the small businesses, the workers without their wages—and they’re still in turmoil.
I applaud my colleague the member from Windsor West, who gave an hour speech about the importance of investing in community and a way that this government could do that on the heels of this illegal blockade that—yes, the economics of it were significant and terrible, but also the human experience of it. This government would do well to recognize that in more than just this piece of the legislation. Take it that next step and expand the support program for small businesses to include those in Windsor-Essex. They’re an auto town—well, like Oshawa, they’re not just an auto town; they’re a booming community, all interconnected, and a lot of people are hurting right now. So I would encourage this government to take a closer look at the people side of things.
We know it’s an international hub. We understand that the blockade at the Ambassador Bridge was awful for people in the economy, but what we do next is an important part of their story and an important opportunity for this government to show leadership and remember their role. The clock’s ticking. They won’t get to be government for too much longer, but they could leave a couple of legacy pieces. This is a perfect example. Again, I would challenge the government in that regard.
One more thing I’ll say, as I have just a couple of seconds left on the clock: This government would do well to remember—as folks across Ontario do well to remember—not ever to count out a worker, not ever to count out the folks in the labour movement and those who are doing the heavy lifting and are on the shop floors across the province building and making and doing. They really are the ones that make us strong, and we would do better to support them in real ways.
Speaker, with that reminder I never lost hope and never lost faith in the folks in Oshawa. I’m awfully glad, because here we have a next chapter, and as we’re talking about Windsor, let’s ensure that they do as well.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Questions?
Ms. Christine Hogarth: I’ll tell you, this government and this Minister of Labour, Training and Skills Development has done more for workers than probably any government in history. I applaud the work that he has done to put our workers first.
We heard a lot from the member opposite, through you, Mr. Speaker, about the effects on the automotive industry, which is extremely important. Once again, our Minister of Economic Development has done a lot—and our Premier, of course—to bring back the automotive industry here in Ontario. We have to also talk about the good-paying jobs, the union jobs that were put at risk over this border issue.
I guess my question over to the member opposite is, do you feel that this legislation can assist in the future projects to make sure that those good-paying union jobs are not affected in the future by having this legislation in place? My second question is, will you support this legislation to support workers?
Ms. Jennifer K. French: I always support workers, and actually not just on the floor of this House and not just in my words, having been a union member and one who, as we’re talking about protests, has organized more than a few. I absolutely will stand alongside them and will stand up for their rights to protest but also their right to have good-paying union jobs.
I will say, interestingly, the more people we talk to about good-paying jobs—yes, that’s the goal, but they also need to be enough to pay their bills. More and more, unfortunately, even union jobs aren’t enough to pay the bills right now. This government, with all of its other decisions, is making life so much harder for folks.
So is this a piece that’s going to help us hopefully keep a strong relationship at our international borders? I hope so, but there’s a lot of other stuff. The Premier talked about hydro rates back in the day. They don’t seem to care the same way now. It’s still a problem. There are a lot of other initiatives that I hope the government will take or follow through on to make life easier for workers and families.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Next, we have the member for York South–Weston.
Mr. Faisal Hassan: Thank you to my colleague from Oshawa for an excellent presentation this afternoon. I know the folks from Oshawa have been struggling, and they have been struggling because of the lack of investment by this government. I know that you talked in your speech about the importance of investing in municipalities such as Oshawa and Windsor and places like that to bring also to the auto industry. Why is this government not investing in communities?
Ms. Jennifer K. French: I’m going to acknowledge that there’s a lot of money coming to the automotive sector. We applaud that and we’re grateful for it. I think what the member is asking me about, though, is that investing and believing in communities and looking at that big picture. We’ve seen this government turn its back on money, from the 407, the penalty fees, and just sort of like, “Who cares? What’s $1 billion?” and they’ll set money on fire for pet projects and things like that.
What I would like to see them do is not just invest in communities, but work with communities to find out what it is that they actually need, not just what they are told at a golf tournament or a fancy dinner from their friends who might tell them what it is that they would like them to invest in. I want that investment to actually reflect the needs of growing communities like in Durham region, and I guess I’d like it to be quite purposeful and community-based.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): The member for Haliburton–Kawartha Lakes–Brock.
Ms. Laurie Scott: I want to make some comments to the member from Oshawa about what the Progressive Conservative government has done for the people of Oshawa, not only in the auto industry, but in the Minister of Labour, Training and Skills Development’s—the investments they have made to increase the skills of people in Oshawa and across the province, so they can get those jobs that we as a Progressive Conservative government have brought to this province, and the billions of dollars just in electric vehicle manufacturing that is going to come and the partnerships that have been developed.
But even before that, when the member was in opposition and the Liberal government was in power, they were taxing the businesses of Ontario. They were driving out the manufacturing sector. Since we have been in government, we have decreased by $7 billion the cost of doing business in the province of Ontario.
So I would ask the member opposite: bills like this Bill 100 that we have in front of us, which will increase the trade across the borders—would she not support this for the auto workers who are here now and are going to come to her city of Oshawa?
Ms. Jennifer K. French: Speaker, I’m going to say something: the member opposite—I kind of miss her as the Minister of Infrastructure. I appreciate her comments, and I appreciate that she has been keeping track of what’s going on in the Durham region. Me too, and I’d like to see more.
But I am going to tap into her former expertise as the Minister of Infrastructure, because you’re wanting me to support this bill, which remains to be seen; however, the definition of “public infrastructure” in this act is concerningly broad. I’d love to know what it actually will look like, because we’re talking about how airports and border crossings are one thing, but it’s giving the government powers to designate any infrastructure site as covered in the act.
No offence, but I don’t trust the government, because this member can cite some positives—I will give her that—but I could cite probably a few more negatives, and so I don’t have trust in this government. I’m sorry we can’t have more of a back-and-forth, but—yes, thank you. That’s my comment.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): The member for London North Centre.
Mr. Terence Kernaghan: I’d like to thank the member from Oshawa for her kind words about what auto workers bring to their communities. My grandfather himself was an auto worker at Ford Talbotville, and because of that work my mother was able to receive a scholarship, attended university and changed the trajectory of her life.
I remember comments at the time, with the Premier giving up on Oshawa and how the member from Oshawa said that he had folded “like a cheap suit” because he refused to stand up for auto workers. So I’d like to ask the member: Does she think that this government would like the people of Oshawa to forget that the government did not stand up for them in 2018? Or do they hope that all of Ontario will forget?
Ms. Jennifer K. French: Thank you so much for asking. Yes, I said a couple of things back then, and a lot of it was quite emotionally motivated, because it was unfolding in real time. He did fold like a cheap suit, but you would not remember that based on the conversations in here.
Here are some quotes from Hansard on November 29, 2018, if any of you would like to check it out. The Premier said: “All I’ve heard are these leaders get up there and talk, talk, talk, talk, talk, giving these poor people—I feel so sorry for them because, again, my phone has been ringing off the hook.” I think he was talking about giving them false hope. He said, “I spoke to the CEOs of Ford Motor Co., Honda and Toyota. Everyone knows GM is leaving. Our job, rather than talking and giving people false hope, which is the worst thing you can do to a family, is to create opportunities ... create the environment by lowering gas prices”—wait a second—“lowering hydro rates....” Anyway, but I digress.
In answer to your question, I don’t know. I can’t forget. The folks in Oshawa can’t forget and a lot of people were watching at the time. I’m glad to see that they understand the importance of the automotive sector now. I’m glad that the Premier has learned that valuable lesson that it ain’t over till it’s over and you should never count Oshawa out.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): The member for Whitby.
Mr. Lorne Coe: Thank you, Speaker, for the opportunity to ask a question.
Speaker, facts matter. For 15 long years, there was no investment in long-term care in the region of Durham. Two weeks ago, millions of dollars came into the region of Durham, millions of dollars in particular into the Oshawa riding, in long-term care; millions of dollars in the education sector in the city of Oshawa; millions of dollars in terms of infrastructure.
The value of goods that were imported into Ontario from Michigan in December, according to Statistics Canada, was $2.2 billion. Does the member from Oshawa agree that protecting the jobs and hard workers this represents is essential?
Ms. Jennifer K. French: I’m glad to answer directly the member from Whitby. Yes, I agree that protecting the workers in Oshawa and Durham region and across the province is an important priority for all of us. I would say we have to do it; it’s not just a “should.”
The piece of legislation that we have before us is part of that conversation. It’s sort of a day late and a dollar short, but it is putting something into legislation. There needs to be a lot more coming when we’re talking about protecting long-term.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Further debate?
Mr. Randy Pettapiece: It’s been a long afternoon, and I’m sure you’re all up to listening to me right now, so we’ll get at it. Anyway.
I’m going to read something here that struck me when I read it, and I think—it concerns the bridge blockade in Windsor. It says, “Supply chains were seriously disrupted. Employees were sent home because parts were not arriving on time. Our auto sector took huge losses, as did agriculture and many other industries, and Ontario’s reputation as a reliable place to invest in manufacturing plants took a hit, which caught the attention of the President of the United States at an important time in our trading relationship.”
The President of the United States—we all think that the United States doesn’t pay a lot of attention to us. It’s very seldom, when you listen to an American news channel, that Canada is even mentioned. This caught his attention. This is how serious this thing was. We have to make sure that they have confidence in us as a trading partner, and this legislation will certainly help that.
I’m going to talk a little bit about agriculture, since I’m a PA to the Minister of Agriculture, and some past experiences I had at the border and how important I always thought it was—or I know it is. Most of my part-time trucking was in the livestock industry. We used to take livestock into the States all the time, and sometimes bring the livestock back, but it was mostly going into the States. I travelled over five bridges, from Port Huron right up to Gananoque. We used all those bridges in there. So I’ve been across a number of bridges a number of times.
We were allowed to go in front of everybody because we didn’t want to put any more stress on our animals than we had to. So if there was a lineup at the bridges, we were allowed to drive around the freight haulers, go into customs and get out of there so we could get to the vet—they always had to be inspected by a vet when they went across—and that allowed for less stress on the animals so that we could get them to the processing plants.
I can’t imagine sitting in the lineup that happened at the Ambassador Bridge, trying to get across with a load of animals on that truck. The stress involved not only on the animals, but on the truckers involved—in fact, you could actually run out of hours to operate. Then, what were you going to do? You were going to have to haul somebody up to take your place so that you could go somewhere to get some rest so that you could go back into the truck.
I travelled different parts of Ontario. Little Current, which is in the member from Algoma–Manitoulin’s riding: I was up there taking animals out. Thessalon was another place I went to. So I got to travel quite a bit around the province, but mostly into the States.
When I saw this going on at the border—in fact, I did get some information from one of the companies I used to work for that their drivers were sitting there for six hours, trying to get across the Blue Water Bridge because the Ambassador Bridge was blocked. These guys were coming back up, trying to get across the Blue Water Bridge. That’s just not right, especially when you’re hauling livestock. That just doesn’t work. I don’t know what they did about that, whether they turned around and went home with them; I don’t know. That’s something that’s just not acceptable.
The other thing we need to talk about when we’re talking about this is the interruption of the food trade coming from the United States, mostly. I know we export a lot of food to the United States, but we also bring food in, especially in the wintertime when we can’t grow some of these crops. I think about the most vulnerable in our communities, which are people in long-term care—or one of the groups is long-term care. I was so pleased last week, Speaker, that I was able to announce 326 new beds coming to Perth–Wellington and 282 upgraded beds coming to Perth–Wellington. Those are announcements that were from January till now. It was a great announcement that means that we are going towards our goal of 30,000 beds in Ontario.
But that food chain was interrupted. There were some bare shelves in our grocery stores. So I can imagine dieticians in these nursing homes trying to prepare meals for these people that occupy the nursing homes and not having the products to do it with because of something that’s going on at the border with these illegal blockades. Can you imagine, Speaker, of the five bridges that I used to use when I was crossing down there, if they had all been blockaded? What a mess that would have been. It would not only have been livestock, but it was the whole trade—all the trade that we have with the United States.
The Solicitor General bringing in this bill, Bill 100—it needs to be done. We need to give our officials, our police forces the tools they need in order to stop it quickly and get things done.
Car manufacturers were calling me up. Feed mills were even calling me up, because they couldn’t get product that they generally get in the United States, mostly in Michigan, Ohio, around that area. They couldn’t get product to even make feed for some animals. I got a call from a very worried feed mill operator that they were going to have issues making feed for some of the farmers that they serviced. He called me and said, “We’ve got to get this thing looked after.” And it was. The police forces did a remarkable job, in my opinion, of clearing these blockades out when they chose to do it.
As you know, we don’t direct the police forces. We don’t tell them to do things. We give them the tools to do it. This is one of those things that we’re doing, is giving our police forces the tools to do things so they can do their jobs. I would be the last guy and certainly our government would be the last to order police to do things, because we don’t do that. But they do need these tools, and this is something that they’ve been appreciative of.
Also, the mayor of Windsor, especially, and the mayor of Sarnia—the mayor of Windsor, Mayor Drew Dilkens has praised the Keeping Ontario Open for Business Act, saying the proposed legislation “should go a long way in preventing any future blockades from even happening again in Windsor.
“This absolutely sends a strong signal and will make any sensible person think twice before they undertake this type of protest again and block an international border crossing.”
In Sarnia, Mayor Mike Bradley also stated his support for this legislation, saying that it may “limit the need for large police actions in his city or elsewhere, to respond to blockades.
“What happens in Windsor hurts here and even the blockade on the 402 had a negative economic impact. Again, it was the right thing to do, what the government is proposing.” So here we have two mayors backing this legislation. I hope the opposition listens to this and will support this legislation, because here were two mayors who were directly impacted by what was going on.
One of the girls who works in my office has a husband who’s a trucker. He travels to the United States. He had to drive from Port Huron down to Buffalo to get across. It was three or four hours of extra time that he had to drive to get his load back across to Ohio, and he was going up above Chicago into Wisconsin. But the problem he was having is his hour times, the amount of hours that he could work. He had another guy with him, so they were able to team, but then, again, he still has three hours that he can’t use because of that trip. It affected him and it’s affected a lot of other truckers.
For the most part, truckers were not involved in this thing. It was only a few. The truckers are a great industry. They work hard. They want to do their job. It was just a few truckers who chose to do what they did in Windsor and other places, so we should not condemn the trucking industry on this. They’re a great bunch of people and I’ll support them as much as I can.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Questions to the member for Perth–Wellington?
Mme France Gélinas: I agree with the member that most people who work in the trucking industry are wonderful people. People in my own family cross the borders and are truckers, and they work hard and they are dedicated to what they do.
The bill that we have in front of us talks about protecting infrastructure such as bridges and such as airports, but there is a part of the bill that also talks about giving police extra powers for “disrupting ordinary economic activity.” When the member thinks about ordinary economic activity, does he only think about what is going on on the bridge, or are there ordinary economic activities in his riding that are going on that could also be affected by that bill?
Mr. Randy Pettapiece: Thank you to the member from Nickel Belt for that question. I trust our police forces to do the right thing, but in order for them to do the right thing, in order for them to do their job, they need the tools to do that. So I trust our police forces to make decisions on what they’re going to do and how they’re going to do it. I think we saw, from those events that happened a month ago or so, how they handled the situations. There was nobody hurt. They were efficient and they did it well. I think that the police forces—because we don’t tell them what to do, we give them the tools to do it. The police forces that we have in this province, we should be very thankful for.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): The next question.
Ms. Christine Hogarth: Thank you to the member for your comments today. I also, too, want to add my thanks to the truckers out there who do such an amazing job. In Etobicoke–Lakeshore, we are home to the Ontario Food Terminal, where our trucks come in and out every day, all day long, and I thank all those workers who certainly were at the forefront during the pandemic to make sure we had food at our tables.
But I also want to thank our police officers, the men and women in uniform who were there at the protests to keep us safe, so I also want to give a shout-out to those folks who were there and put themselves on the line in front of—what we always say about our police officers is that we run away from danger and they run towards it. So I thank all our police officers for their work.
My question to the member is: We talked about $96 million to help provide supports, and I’m wondering if the member can expand, for those who are listening in today, on some of the supports that we are giving through this legislation to help our officers?
Mr. Randy Pettapiece: Thank you to the member from Etobicoke–Lakeshore. Yes, the police forces are actually very dear to my heart. My son is a police officer and so is his wife. They’ve been police officers for—what year is this? 2022?—22 years. They started in 2000, so they’ve been police officers for a long time. He wasn’t involved, and neither was she, in the demonstrations. Some of their officers did go, where they’re from, but they weren’t involved in this thing. It’s interesting: He doesn’t tell me about some of the things he’s involved with, and he shouldn’t do that, because some of the things that they’re involved with shouldn’t be talked about, even to their parents.
But they’re always appreciative the more support the government can give them, not only with money but with regulations that they can use or laws that they can use. They can see the sense in these types of things. It makes their job easier, as difficult as it is. A lot of the time they deal with very strong emotions, which sometimes makes their job a lot more difficult. Anything the governments can do to help money-wise, but also with legislation like this, they’re very appreciative.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): We have time for a very quick question.
Mr. Faisal Hassan: My question to the Perth–Wellington member is: You talked about the truckers, and truckers are doing a fantastic job, but the truckers have difficulties with auto insurance. Their auto insurance is terrible. There’s also one company that’s dealing with it, and this bill doesn’t deal with that. Is there any plan to support them in that regard?
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): And a very quick response.
Mr. Randy Pettapiece: Like any worker in the province of Ontario, truckers included, what they want to do is to be able to do their work. That’s how they make their living. That’s what they’re doing, and that’s what they want. They want an assurance that they can do their work, and bills such as this will help ensure that.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): The next presentation will be from the member for Brampton East.
Mr. Gurratan Singh: I rise today to talk about the impact of these anti-vaccine mandate protests that we know devastated the economy across Ontario. Particularly in Brampton, the impact of the blockade at the Ambassador Bridge had a really terrible, terrible hurt. It caused so much hurt for the people of Brampton. If folks don’t know, Brampton is home to an incredibly dynamic trucking community. Lots of truckers call Brampton home. I actually spoke with truckers who were stuck in America and struggled to come home. They struggled to come home because of these blockades, and it resulted in a huge, huge backlog. It resulted in hours upon hours added on to the drive that these truckers were taking.
I want to take a moment just to explain the fact that these blockades hurt a community that’s already facing so many obstacles. Truckers right now in Ontario are already faced with things like incredibly high truck insurance or fleet insurance. They are struggling right now with issues around unpaid wages or unfair wages. They are struggling right now with skyrocketing gas prices that are really just forcing truckers into an incredibly desperate situation. They are struggling with working conditions. These are some of the issues that truckers are facing, and then you add on top of it this blockade that put these truckers in an even further precarious situation. When you have truckers who are struggling with issues around skyrocketing gas prices, issues around fleet insurance and truck insurance, when you have truckers who are struggling with unfair, unpaid wages in the industry, when you have truckers who are struggling with terrible working conditions, you see the truckers who are contributing so much to us, putting food on our table, on the one hand; on the other hand, they are struggling to made ends meet. These blockades put these truckers in a further desperate situation.
But I want to take a moment to just look at each of these issues that truckers are already facing in this context and see how, given they’re already in this desperate situation, these blockades then push them even further to the margins.
Let’s talk about gas prices. Let’s talk about the fact that people who are already struggling right now with unaffordability are now being pushed to the edge with skyrocketing gas prices. Frankly, the Conservative government had four years to address the issue of gas prices and chose to do nothing and instead, time and again, side with their friends in big oil and gas instead of standing up for people who are struggling right now to make ends meet.
Truckers are struggling across the board because these skyrocketing gas prices are putting them further down the margins. These skyrocketing gas prices are making them really struggle to make ends meet, on top of it all.
When we look at gas prices, we look at the fact that right now, across Ontario, people are already struggling with unaffordability—across Ontario, people are already struggling with unaffordability. Now, on top of it all, after struggling with all this unaffordability, people are struggling with skyrocketing gas prices. The fact is, the Conservative government had four years to bring down gas prices, but instead of acting, time and again, they stand alongside their friends in big oil and gas, and the result is that people are struggling. The result is, people are struggling to make ends meet.
We look at the issue of insurance. Truckers are struggling so terribly with these rising insurance costs. It’s truck insurance, it’s fleet insurance, it’s a variety of these forms of insurance that are forcing truckers who work day and night to put food on our table—they’re now struggling to put food on their own table because of how unaffordable their job is becoming. Instead of acting, instead of making a decisive action to help these truckers, the Conservative government, time and again, is standing by and once again siding with their friends in the insurance companies instead of actually giving relief to truckers, who deserve it so desperately.
When we look at the state of truckers in Brampton—and it’s important to have this context, because truckers are already struggling and then they had these blockades to push them further down the margins. It’s important to understand that truckers in Brampton live in a community that’s already being underserviced, a community that’s being left behind. I’ve talked about it before and I’ll talk about it again: Auto insurance is one of the greatest expenses that people in Brampton face. We are talking about a community in which people, time and again, are paying more for their car insurance than their household mortgage. People are struggling to make ends meet. They are struggling with higher gas prices. They are struggling with really high groceries and a housing crisis. On top of it all, they are struggling with a car insurance rate that is probably one of the highest in this country. And instead of giving relief to these Ontarians who are struggling right now, the Conservative government, time and again, is standing beside their friends in the insurance companies and refusing to bring in policies to actually bring in affordability and reduce rates.
That’s why we in the NDP have been fighting, time and again, for Ontarians. We’ve been saying: Let’s bring down car insurance rates. Let’s make sure that people have affordable lives. Let’s bring down truck insurance and fleet insurance so truckers who work day and night to put food on our tables can have the dignity to live a life where they can put food on their own table and provide for their family without having to struggle.
Let’s stand up to these gigantic oil and gas companies that are gouging Ontarians. They are making money hand over fist right now. They are just making profits. But instead of standing up to these oil and gas companies, the Conservative government, time and again, is siding with them, while we in the NDP are saying we will stand up—you can trust the NDP to stand up to big oil and gas. You can trust the NDP to mandate and ensure that gas prices are coming down so people can live affordable lives.
Of course, as I always have said before, Brampton is a community that is struggling with a health care crisis. We are talking about a city that has 700,000 people and only one hospital. Name me another city in Canada that has 700,000 people and one hospital. Brampton is the only city in Canada that is so fastly growing—Brampton is the only city in Canada that is growing so fast, has a population of 700,000 people and only has one hospital. That is shameful. That is wrong. And that’s what these truckers—who are already facing all these issues, that are struggling so much, that are getting blocked at the border—are having to face excessively long wait times to come home, but then they’re coming back to a community that’s already underserviced, and not getting the support they need. So cumulatively, together, this creates a very terrible situation for these truckers. That’s why we need to stand up to ensure that truckers are being protected, to ensure that they don’t have these major routes being blocked, so they don’t have to struggle in such a way.
I need to go back to this point. Just think about this: Name me another city in Canada that is one of the fastest-growing, that has 700,000-plus people and only has one hospital. Brampton is the only city in Canada that’s being left behind in this manner. It is wrong, it is unjust and it is, frankly, something that we in the NDP have been banging on the door for since we got elected to say enough is enough. We need to end Brampton’s health care crisis, and that starts by investing in our health care, investing in Brampton’s health care so that we have three hospitals with three emergency rooms. That’s what Brampton deserves, and that’s what we in the NDP are fighting for.
But time and again, we’re seeing that these truckers, who are facing so many systemic issues, who are facing all of these issues back home, they’re facing all of these issues in their industry, are now going to face this added burden of these blockades, that are just really causing so much pain and so much disruption to their lives.
I talked to a trucker who was stuck in America during these blockades. His name was Simran, and he described to me how desperate the situation was. He described to me how individuals were actually stuck in kilometres-long lineups of traffic and how in this, when you’re stuck in traffic like this, you can’t get access to the washroom, you can’t get access to food, you can’t get access to the things you need because you’re stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic. What do you need to do if you’re hungry and need a drink? They actually described that people had issues accessing their medication because of the fact that they were in such a desperate situation and time was coming up. People were being delayed excessive times, and the result was, that was a legitimate fear that they had.
Enough is enough. We need to stand up for truckers. We need to ensure that truckers can live with dignity, with respect. That means making sure they’re protected in their work, that they have good working conditions, that they’re living affordable lives, that they’re not struggling with skyrocketing gas prices, that they’re not struggling with incredibly expensive fleet and truck insurance. We need to ensure that truckers who put food on our table have the dignity to put food on their own table without having to struggle each and every day.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Questions?
Mr. Stephen Crawford: Thank you to the member opposite. I certainly agree with you about Brampton being neglected over the years by the previous Liberal government. With our government now, we’ve brought in a hospital, we’re bringing in a hospital, bringing in a medical school.
But to your point about the truckers and supporting them, I just want to highlight a few things we’ve done and then I’ll tie in Bill 100 with that. We’ve lowered gas prices by 4.3 cents per litre by capping cap-and-trade. We’ve fought against the carbon tax, which is very punitive to truckers in Brampton and Oakville and across the province. We’ve been reducing licensing costs with stickers. We’ve reduced red tape in renewing licences, to make it online and easier, and Bill 100, I believe, will also help truckers in that it will provide stability to cross-border truckers for their travel across the border. So will you join us and support truckers by supporting Bill 100?
Mr. Gurratan Singh: I find it ridiculous that a member of the Conservative government can stand in this House and say with a straight face that they’ve done anything for Brampton’s health care crisis. They had four years to invest in our health care crisis. What do we have four years later? One hospital for 700,000 people. That’s the legacy of this Conservative government, who has, time and again, voted no to building more hospitals in Brampton, voted no to investing in our health care, voted no to giving and ensuring that the people of Brampton have the dignity to attend a hospital in their own city and not have to wait hours of wait time.
That is the legacy of this Conservative government. They have chosen to leave Brampton behind, and the people of Brampton know it.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Member for York South–Weston.
Mr. Faisal Hassan: Thank you, Speaker, and thank you to my colleague from Brampton East. In his comments, he talked about cost of living and that this government had four years to deal with affordability issues.
They also talked about truck drivers. I know you talked about it a lot and that you have championed auto insurance and truck insurance. Could you speak about this monopoly about truck insurance and how truckers who are bringing goods and food to our tables are being treated, and how you think we could support them to make it easier with their truck insurance issues?
Mr. Gurratan Singh: Let’s say it clearly, Speaker: Truckers work every single day to put food on our tables. Truckers ensure that we have the goods we need to live a good life, but they are struggling right now because of these unjust, incredibly high truck insurance prices that are forcing them to live hand to mouth right now, and it’s wrong. But instead of standing alongside truckers, the Conservative government, time and again, has decided to side with billionaire insurance companies that are ripping off truckers, ripping off Ontarians. It’s wrong.
We in the NDP are going to continue to fight tooth and nail to ensure that truckers can live an affordable life, and we’ll mandate lower truck insurance rates for truckers across our province.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): The member for Haldimand–Norfolk.
Mr. Toby Barrett: The member opposite certainly talked about his area—well known for the trucking industry.
Coming back to Bill 100: We know it’s to deal with international border crossings—land and water and airports, and other infrastructure. The proposal is for heavy tow trucks to deal with tractor-trailers.
My question is, if you want to see this go to committee—any thoughts on how we deal with international trade through pipeline blockades, for example, or harbour ship blockades or railroad blockades? Has your party been doing any work on that to improve this bill?
Mr. Gurratan Singh: I just want to take this moment to continue to really highlight and acknowledge truckers and their service for our province. It is so important that we recognize the amazing work they’re doing and how they deserve better. Truckers deserve—
Mr. Gurratan Singh: I hear members laughing at the fact that truckers deserve better. That is reprehensible. You shouldn’t be laughing at truckers when they deserve more. We should be celebrating them. That’s what we in the NDP are going to do. We’re going to continue to stand in support of truckers and demand better for them. That starts with lower fleet insurance, lower car insurance and more affordable lives.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Next question.
Ms. Jennifer K. French: I’m pleased to ask my colleague a question. As he has outlined so clearly the circumstances for the truckers and their families in the Brampton community—I’m going to challenge him to extend that beyond Brampton, because as the critic for transportation and highways for our party, I know that it isn’t only Brampton. So much of what he has been talking about, the gas prices and unpaid wages, the high fleet and truck insurance—are those challenges only facing the workers in Brampton? Can you speak to that?
Mr. Gurratan Singh: This is a fact: Be it in Brampton or Oshawa or communities across our province, they have all been left behind by this Conservative government. Every single trucker in this province who has to face these incredibly expensive fleet insurance or truck insurance rates—it’s because of the fact that the Conservative government has chosen to stand with their billionaire friends in the insurance companies instead of standing with everyday truckers. It’s wrong. It is reprehensible.
Truckers deserve better. Ontarians deserve better. We deserve a government that’s going to stand with people over profits. That’s what we in the NDP have been putting forward since day one. We are going to stand alongside workers, residents and families to make sure they have a life that’s affordable and a life that’s fair, and that starts with lowering car insurance rates and truck insurance rates.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): The member for Etobicoke–Lakeshore.
Ms. Christine Hogarth: Coming from the party of no across the way—they’ve had lots of opportunities to help support everyday Ontarians, including truckers.
I was at an announcement with the Minister of Labour, Training and Skills Development, in my riding of Etobicoke–Lakeshore, with truckers who thanked the minister for his work on the Working for Workers Act to make life more affordable and to make life better for our truckers. Instead of always complaining and saying, “We’re not doing this,” maybe you should support some of the legislation that this government has done, putting workers first, including the people of Brampton and all across the province. It’s important that we do that. That’s why this party, this government, recognizes the good work that our truckers are doing.
Our member from Perth–Wellington spoke about truckers sometimes sitting for six hours on the road. And we were talking about the stress on animals, and that really touched me, because we always want to make sure that our animals are not stressed.
Now let’s get back to Bill 100. Through you, Mr. Speaker, can the member share any concerns, if he has any concerns, about the food supply chain as they are stuck on the border? Will you be supporting this legislation and will you be supporting our truckers moving forward?
Mr. Gurratan Singh: The only party of no that I see is the Conservative government. They said no to another hospital in Brampton. They said no to lower car insurance rates. They said no to permanent paid sick days. They said no to lowering gas prices. They’ve said no to every single measure that is needed to make sure that people in Ontario have a better life. That is the real party of no. The only thing they do say yes to is whatever their insider friends and buddies say.
That’s not what we in the NDP stand for. We’re going to fight for people. We’re going to fight to make life more affordable, we’re going to fight to lower car insurance rates, we’re going to fight for investment in our health care, because that’s what we, in the NDP, believe in. We’re a party of yes and standing up for people.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): The next question, briefly.
Mme France Gélinas: I just have a few seconds on the clock to ask. The bill certainly focuses on what happened at the Ambassador Bridge and at airports, but it also goes on to say: prohibit anyone “from impeding access to or egress from ... transportation infrastructure” and “disrupting ordinary economic activity.” Do you think that those words in the legislation could lead to the police working outside of bridges and the infrastructure?
Mr. Gurratan Singh: This has been an issue that has been brought up by a variety of individuals. It’s so important that we make sure that truckers have safety and that our borders are open for trade. All those factors are incredibly important, but at the same time, we have to make sure there’s no overreach of power. That’s something that’s been highlighted, and it’s a concern that is shared, I think, by members across the board.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Further debate?
Hon. Paul Calandra: It’s a pleasure to get up and speak to this bill this afternoon. I have been listening to debate all afternoon, and there has not been really much discussion on the bill in terms of the opposition. I think people at home might be confused as to what we’re talking about. For the people at home and for my caucus colleagues who might be confused—although I know none of them are confused—the real reason they don’t talk about the bill is because they’re actually going to support the bill and they don’t want to talk about the fact that they’re going to support the bill.
They’re not going to support the bill because they actually believe in the things that are in the bill. It’s very clear that the NDP don’t really concern themselves about growing the economy. They don’t concern themselves about a market economy. They don’t concern themselves about the people who work within the economy. We just heard that from the speaker before, didn’t we, colleagues? We just heard that from the speaker before, because everything that he talked about was about nationalizing everything. That’s really what the NDP focus is about.
The bill, at its core, is about ensuring that our critical infrastructure—roads, bridges, everything that we need to continue to build wealth and opportunity in the province of Ontario—is open and people have the ability to continue to generate wealth, the same wealth that helps pay for all of the things that we find important. If you don’t trade, if you’re not a trading nation, you can’t have money for hospitals. You won’t have money for health care. You won’t have money for long-term care. You won’t have it for schools and all of the things that are important to people.
The NDP talk about it, but when you listen to them speak, when you listen to the platforms and the programs that they put forward, they make it very clear that they have absolutely no idea on how to do that. For them, nationalizing everything, by taking money away from people, is the best way of generating wealth.
Now, we’ve seen this. It doesn’t work. We know that. We just heard the member from—is it Brampton—
Hon. Kaleed Rasheed: Brampton East.
Hon. Paul Calandra: —Brampton East. He talked about making life more affordable. There’s nobody in the province of Ontario—I think you will agree, Speaker, that there is nobody in the province of Ontario, except the 40 members of the NDP caucus, and probably not even all of them, frankly, who believes that the NDP will ever make life more affordable for people.
Let’s take a look at what the member said. They’re going to make life more affordable by mandating auto insurance rates go down. They’re just going to say—they’re going to strike with a pen, colleagues. On their first or second day, they’re going to go into the office and they’ll speak with their partners in the Liberals—we’re not sure who will be the Premier, if that happens. They’re just going to say, “Oh, 30% reduction.” They can say, “Wow. It’s great.” They’re going to go out there and they’re going to say, “Oh, look what we’ve done: a 30% reduction.” They’re not going to think of all the decisions that need to be made around doing something like that, but the second thing they’re going to do, Speaker, is then they’re going to increase the carbon tax to $200. That is a campaign pledge of the NDP. They have been fighting for this for years—for years.
It is typical NDP. We’ve seen this before, right? They give from one, but then, man, they keep taking, so that at the end of it, your pockets are like this. There’s nothing in your pockets because the NDP have come and taken everything out of your pockets.
So I’m sure the truckers who the member opposite talks about, who are struggling so hard, can’t wait for an NDP government to give them a $200 carbon tax. Imagine the cost of that on filling up your truck when you try to cross the border.
Because of the NDP, if the NDP ever got in government—colleagues, we know the people of Ontario are never going to give them the opportunity. They did once before and the economy—we didn’t have to worry about trade when the NDP were last in government because nobody wanted to trade with us, so there was no problem with that. And we saw that that was the hallmark of the previous Liberal-NDP coalition as well—those 300,000 jobs that were lost because of the policies of the Liberals and the NDP, those 300,000 jobs in manufacturing. There weren’t a lot of truckers delivering product across the border then because they had given up on those industries, right? They had given up on them.
Whilst the protests were happening, the members opposite didn’t care about truckers. If you ever mentioned a trucker during the protest, you were told that you were some far-right-wing lunatic Conservative: “We shouldn’t talk about truckers.” Now, all of a sudden, they think that truckers are good. They think truckers are good all of a sudden, but three weeks ago, four weeks ago, if you said that truckers—in fact, I answered some of the questions, and we said at the time there were other issues that some people were protesting, that it was the carbon tax, that it was the cost of doing business, that the cost of living had increased. We had said that. But to them, you were a far-right-wing lunatic Conservative. You shouldn’t support these big, nasty truckers.
Now, all of a sudden, the member for Brampton East cares about truckers. All of a sudden, he cares about truckers. We heard the member from Oshawa talk about the automotive sector, and let’s be clear: The automotive sector was done in the province of Ontario, and it is old-school manufacturing in the auto sector that is done. That’s not what has come back to Oshawa; it’s not the old-school manufacturing that has come back, colleagues, because, as the Premier said, that’s done. That’s not who Ontario wants to be anymore. We want to be a manufacturing destination for the future, to build the cars of tomorrow. Advanced manufacturing: That’s where we want to be and that’s what we brought back.
It drives them crazy, because we were able to succeed for the workers. We were able to bring back thousands of jobs in the automotive sector, not because we wanted to do what the NDP would have us do: focus on the cars of yesterday—and let’s be clear, they’re still important. There’s still important manufacturing that goes in the old-school cars that many of us still drive and will continue to drive for many years to come. But as an economic powerhouse, we knew that we had to shift and put in place the economy that would allow us to get those jobs.
We talked about it before. We also heard them say, “Oh, you ripped out charging stations.” I talked about this the other day, colleagues, because the coalition genius would be to put a charging station where someone parks for eight hours a day, despite the fact that his or her car is charged in 20 minutes, and block it. This House unanimously passed a bill that would make that illegal, but for the NDP, that’s okay. But I digress.
The member for Brampton talks about Brampton. We’re delivering a new hospital for Brampton—not that they did, not that they made it a priority when they were in government with the Liberals. They were a junior partner. They didn’t make it a priority. Their one priority was to lower auto insurance rates. You hold the balance of power in the government of Ontario. It’s a minority government. You hold the balance of power. Your one priority is to lower auto insurance rates; that’s it. That was their one priority. Did they do it, colleagues? Because if they had done it, then the member for Brampton wouldn’t be standing in his seat, saying how expensive auto insurance is.
Colleagues, who is the only party that actually has seen a reduction in auto insurance rates over the last number of months?
Hon. Kaleed Rasheed: Our party.
Hon. Paul Calandra: That’s right. It’s on this side of the House.
Who is the only party that delivered a medical school to Brampton?
Hon. Kaleed Rasheed: This side.
Hon. Paul Calandra: That’s right. It was the members from this side of the House who delivered a medical school.
They don’t want the long-term-care homes that we’ve been able to announce for Brampton. They don’t want them.
Hon. Paul Calandra: They don’t want them. The member for Perth–Wellington says, “You’re kidding.” They don’t want them because what they want to do is nationalize all long-term-care homes. They want to nationalize them all. They don’t have a plan of how much that would cost. I could tell you, to build a new long-term-care home in the province of Ontario is about $250 million. As the member for Perth–Wellington was talking about, we’re building 30,000, and we’re upgrading another 20,000. When we say “upgrading,” we’re demolishing old buildings and rebuilding them, twice the size. We’re putting thousands of more people to work by doing it. But they don’t want that. They don’t want that, right?
So they’re twisting and turning, maneuvering themselves into a pretzel, because they want to vote for this legislation. Not because they believe in it, Mr. Speaker, but because they know the people of the province of Ontario believe in it. That is why they want to vote for it.
The people of this province will not be fooled by that type of logic from the NDP. They know full well that the NDP are not the party that will ever grow an economy. They know that the NDP is not a party that will ever stand up for them or make life more affordable. It will never bring down auto insurance rates. It will never open up new land so that people can actually build and buy their first home. That’s not what the NDP does, and the people of this province know that, Mr. Speaker.
I’m willing to say this, Mr. Speaker: I am willing to bet—and I’ve only got 10 seconds left, but mark my words—when this bill comes up for a vote, every single one of them will get up in their place and vote in favour of this legislation, because they know that if they don’t, the people of the province of Ontario will certainly take it out on them.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Questions?
Mme France Gélinas: I was wondering if the member would care to share his point of view about the part of the bill that deals with-prohibiting anyone “from impeding access to ... the ordinary use of, protected transportation infrastructure ... directly or indirectly”—we’re all good, but the part that gives me worries is the part that says, “disrupting ordinary economic activity.”
I have given, earlier on this afternoon, an example where we had to put up a blockade on Highway 144 to help the people of Gogama, who had seen a horrendous train derailment with a million litres of crude going into the Makami River. The government would not pay any attention to this. The only way to get the government’s attention was to put up a blockade with the Mattagami First Nation, and we did. We blocked Highway 144. Does “disrupting ordinary economic activity”—would that kind of disruption have been allowed with this language in this bill?
Hon. Paul Calandra: Yes, it would, actually, and the member knows that, because that’s not what this bill is meant to capture. The member knows that. I have a lot of respect for the member, and I know the member has read the bill, so the member appreciates the language in the bill and what it was meant to do.
That’s why, Mr. Speaker, I’m so convinced that members opposite are going to vote in favour of this bill. They’ll vote in favour of this bill, without any amendments to the bill, because they know how important it is to the economy. They also understand that the type of protest that we saw at the Ambassador Bridge has not been contemplated before. It hasn’t happened like this before, and that’s why we had to bring legislation forward.
So, very clearly to the member: No, but we will make sure that people still have the ability to earn, that we have the ability to prosper and make this province even more prosperous than it has been at any point in time in our history. I think the people of Ontario know that they can depend on a strong majority Progressive Conservative government to continue to deliver that for them.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Another question?
Mr. Stephen Crawford: I just wanted to ask the member why Bill 100—we’ve been debating it today, and I know the member from Nickel Belt, who I have respect for as well, certainly has read this. I appreciate that, because I don’t think the rest of the members over there have. They’ve been focused on other issues. They haven’t even touched on Bill 100.
I want to ask the member: Why are they not discussing it? Are they afraid to talk about it? What’s the reason for not talking about Bill 100? That’s what we’re here to debate today.
Hon. Paul Calandra: You’re right. The member for Oakville is right. The member for Oakville, in particular, I have to congratulate him, because he also was somebody who sat around the table and helped preserve and get important investment for Ford—very, very important investment for Ford. Part of what is manufactured at Ford is one of the reasons why we need a bill like this, because the parts go back and forth so often.
He’s right, though. The NDP won’t talk about this, because they know full well that this is an important piece of legislation. It is important to the thousands of people who help us grow our economy, getting access back and forth across the borders. They understand that it’s important. They are going to vote in favour of the bill—they know that. But they don’t want to admit it, because, like in their support of pipelines, they know that if they admit why it is that they have to support this bill, it really throws into chaos everything they believe, because what they’re admitting is that a market economy is better, putting more money back in people’s pockets is better, allowing business to thrive to employ people is better, and it drives them crazy to have to admit that so close to an election.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): The member for Brampton East.
Mr. Gurratan Singh: Frankly, I’m shocked. I am shocked that the government House leader can stand in this House and, with a straight face, try to convince members of this House, and, more importantly, members of this province, that he has somehow done something to lower car insurance rates in this province. Go to Brampton. Go to Scarborough. Go to Humber River–Black Creek. I dare the government House leader to go to these communities and say, “Hey, we’ve lowered your rates.” They will tell you, time and again, “We are struggling. We are struggling with some of the highest car insurance rates in this country.” And instead of acting, the government House leader is drinking his own Kool-Aid. He is somehow trying to convince himself and members of this House that they’ve done something when they have done nothing. Rates are going up, people are struggling and the Conservative government, time and again, is siding with their friends in the insurance companies instead of standing up for people across Ontario.
Hon. Paul Calandra: So let me get this straight, then, Mr. Speaker: The solution for the member opposite is that if an NDP government were elected, they wouldn’t pay any attention, they wouldn’t work with stakeholders in the industry, they wouldn’t work with the people of Brampton, they would just somehow sign something that says, “I’m reducing auto insurance rates” by, what, 40%, 50%—who knows? They’ll just pick a number out of thin air. They’re going to pick a number out of thin air, right?
The reality is that when they had the opportunity, what did they do, colleagues? Nothing. They failed so miserably. They held the balance of power in the province of Ontario, and they could have done something about it. But under this government, under the last two years, during a pandemic when things were at their most difficult globally, we have seen auto insurance rates come down.
Is there more to do? Absolutely. But that is what is core to Progressive Conservatives beliefs: putting more money back in the pockets of people, making life more affordable. That is how you generate wealth and that’s how you make life easier for people—not taxing more, not putting more red tape and regulation on top of people. We’ve done that. They have done that before, and it led to jobs and economic growth fleeing the province. We’re not going to let that happen.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Next question?
Hon. Doug Downey: I’m listening intently to the other side and I’m hearing conflicting messages—and this is my question to the House leader. This bill is very much about keeping the economy moving, keeping truckers crossing the border, keeping people employed, keeping the economy turning and, yet, I’m hearing the other side say they want to support truckers but they’re not saying they’re going to support the bill. So I’m a little confused at how they want to shut down truckers at the border when—why do you think they can’t bring themselves to actually just support the bill and support truckers and the economy?
Hon. Paul Calandra: It’s a good question, because as I said—I think to the Attorney General’s point—I think they will support the bill. They just don’t want to be in the House—it’s hard for them to admit that everything that the NDP have ever stood for is actually wrong. It makes no sense. So it’s hard for them to stand in their place and admit that.
They did it once earlier when the member for Sarnia–Lambton brought a motion forward about supporting oil and gas—who he calls big gas. He calls it big gas, but this House voted unified, 100% support, to support the people that he calls now big gas. They’re responsible for thousands of well-paying union jobs in this province, but he doesn’t like it and wants to close them down.
But to your point, they will vote in favour of this; they just don’t want to admit it because it means admitting that everything they believe in is wrong.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Next question.
Mr. Gurratan Singh: It seems to me that the government House leader just said it himself. The Conservative government, it looks like to me, is afraid of standing up to their friends in the insurance companies. When I put the question to them, very clearly, to lower rates—it’s fully under the mandate and purview of the provincial government to lower car insurance rates. Instead of saying boldly, “I will stand with the people of Ontario, and I will immediately lower rates, and I will give them a break,” at a time when they are facing some of the greatest economic peril we’ve ever seen in our lives—at this time, we see the government House leader, it seems to me, afraid to stand up to his friends in the insurance companies, and instead he is bowing down to them instead of standing up for the people of Ontario.
That’s the difference between the Conservatives and the NDP. We stand with people. We’re not afraid to stand up to these billion-dollar car insurance companies. We’re not on their side. We’re on the side of the people of Ontario, and we’re not going to stop fighting until the rates come down.
Hon. Paul Calandra: Mr. Speaker, that is the funniest bit of acting I have seen in this place in a long time.
They had the opportunity in 2011. They won enough seats to hold the government to a minority, and they wanted one thing. They could have asked for anything. They asked for lower insurance rates. And what happened? Every single year, it went up. Under our government, it started to come down.
What is this member’s solution? He had the opportunity to bring a bill forward in this House. Did he bring a bill forward that said, “I am reducing insurance rates?” No. Did he say by how much? No. He said, “Well, let’s just do something with postal codes.” Is that enough to bring down auto insurance rates across the province? Absolutely not. All talk, no action.
Remember this, Mr. Speaker: They’ll vote in favour of this, but even if they ever got into power—I think the people of the province of Ontario can understand that a $200 carbon tax is certainly not going to make life more affordable for anybody.
That’s what you believe in, and that’s why people won’t vote for you.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): The next presentation will be from the member for Algoma–Manitoulin.
Mr. Michael Mantha: Oh, how I enjoy the Monday afternoons, especially when I get to follow my friend from across the way. I’ll speak to the good people of Algoma–Manitoulin: Speaking to these cameras, for some of our colleagues in here, is an art, and what you just saw here was a very masterful piece of art. I enjoyed listening to the member. He’s very good at his job. He is very crafty, very sharp with his words.
The one thing I want to leave with people is—you’ve seen the exchange in regard to the insurance rates, which has gone on for the last two or three questions. Just remember this: In the last four years, how much have your insurance rates gone down? Not very much, right?
Last week, I brought up the question in regard to many of the truck drivers along the North Shore and some of the challenges that they’re facing. We’re not talking about a few hundred dollars, as far as insurance rates going up; we’re talking about thousands of dollars.
That brings me to a trucker, Dennis Barbeiro. I met up with him, actually, during the blockades, when I was up in Chapleau during constituency week.
Before I get to Dennis, here’s the interesting thing: While I was up through the riding—I really didn’t shy away from anyone, mind you. I went out and I engaged with constituents. It’s something that I regularly do throughout my riding. I go to each and every one of the communities. My riding is quite big. I have 37 municipalities. There are 22 First Nations. I try to get to them about four to five times over the course of the year. During this one constituency clinic, I went to the Three Mills motel. When I went there, there was a lady at reception who normally is very shy. She doesn’t talk very much; she takes my reservation and sends me off to my room. The interesting thing is, she asked me one question. She said, “What do you think about that blockade that’s going up in Ottawa?” I expressed my views, and, oh, my goodness, she blew up on me, Speaker, and she chewed—she went down the right side and up my left side. She was so frustrated, as many Ontarians have been frustrated, with a lot of the unknowns and the frustrations that we’ve gone through, the whole process over the last two years. And we had a very good conversation, actually. I did most of the listening, I have to say, but we ended up respectfully agreeing to disagree in regard to how certain decisions were made and who made those decisions and some of the information that she had shared with me—which brought me to Dennis Barbeiro the next morning.
As I’m walking from the hotel, I got into my truck, and I’m driving down. I said, “I’ll go grab a coffee and say hi to a few of the local people.” As I’m walking to the restaurant, there’s Dennis. We hadn’t met yet, but he recognized me. He points at me and he says, “I want to have a word with you.” I’m just looking at him, and I said, “Oh, my. This is going to be a good one.” He says, “I’m a trucker.” I said, “Well, wait a second. Before you start, all I want to tell you is, I don’t have anything left to chew off of me because it got chewed off last night. But I will stand here and have a discussion with you.”
Here’s the interesting thing: I had the most uplifting and best conversation with Dennis in regard to his perspective as far as what was happening in Ottawa at that point in time in regard to the blockade. He definitely expressed frustrations with the conditions, what was going on, certain decisions, his frustration about the unknowns, the elevated costs, the lockdowns, the openings, the lockdowns, the openings, start up, kids at home, not at home, the protocols and so on. Everybody has been expressing those frustrations. But I really enjoyed my conversation with him.
I looked at him, and I said, “Dennis, when we look at what’s happening in Ottawa right now—I’m a politician. I’m not qualified, nor do I claim to be qualified, to make those decisions as far as what’s best for our health care. I rely on those who are in the public health sector. I rely on individuals who are at the Sudbury and Manitoulin district public health unit. I rely on the Algoma Public Health unit. I rely on those who are sitting at the Thunder Bay District Health Unit. I rely on my doctor. I rely on those who are providing me the best possible advice that they can.” He agreed. He said, “You know, that makes sense.” I looked at him and I said, “Dennis, let’s agree on something: Neither I as a politician or you as a truck driver has the ability to make those decisions.” We agreed on that.
I told Dennis today that I would be raising this in the House. I told him, “I look forward to the day I come back to Chapleau so that you and I can actually sit down and have a coffee together and talk about how we got through this pandemic and the challenges that we’ve been facing.”
What I do want to raise, Speaker, is, in this legislation, we’re talking about potential blockades, physical blockades of trucks or barriers or individuals and so on. There’s another blockade that is not in this bill, that we’re not talking about, and that’s the informal blockade. What is going to happen next time? Because that blockade, which is hurting and devastating a lot of our tourism sector, which we have not been talking about enough in this House, where they have not received the supports—heck, we just talked about it last week and again this morning, that the $100-million announcement that this government had made in order to provide support to the industry—not one penny has been issued to help them out. They’re getting closer and closer to the opening of the season. A lot of them are being held hostage. Now, that’s a blockade also, but that’s an informal blockade.
It won’t be COVID next time. What is it going to be? Because that is going to create a barrier, a blockade, a wall, a fence for the industry, particularly the tourism industry, and we don’t talk about them enough in this House. They’re an afterthought. We haven’t talked about how this is impacting them, and particularly in northern Ontario. We have the hugest border, globally, between our shared neighbours that we have. But that informal barrier is generating a lot of pain on the tourism industry, and we’re—
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Thank you very much.
Second reading debate deemed adjourned.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): I regret I have to interrupt the member because it is 6 of the clock. As such, this House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 9 a.m.
The House adjourned at 1800.