LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY OF ONTARIO
ASSEMBLÉE LÉGISLATIVE DE L’ONTARIO
Wednesday 13 April 2022 Mercredi 13 avril 2022
Report continued from volume A.
Private Members’ Public Business
Fairness in Petroleum Products Pricing Act, 2022 / Loi de 2022 sur l’équité en matière d’établissement du prix des produits pétroliers
Mr. Vanthof, on behalf of Mr. Bisson, moved second reading of the following bill:
Bill 91, An Act to regulate the price of petroleum products / Projet de loi 91, Loi réglementant le prix des produits pétroliers.
The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bill Walker): Pursuant to standing order 101, the member has 12 minutes for their presentation.
Mr. John Vanthof: It’s always an honour to stand in the House, but today is something that I have never done before. I would like to first thank the co-operation of the government to allow me to speak on behalf of the member for Timmins. It was his ballot slot today. As you know, Gilles has a health issue. But I would like to tell you that, in my conversation with Gilles today, his first question was, “What are they doing with my ballot slot?” So I have big shoes to fill.
This is an incredibly important issue to the member for Timmins, and to many people across the province and certainly in northern Ontario. The issue is that gasoline prices vary widely across the province and often are really, really expensive in the north. They often don’t seem to have anything to do with market forces or prices in other parts of the province. Often, northerners, quite frankly, feel that they’re being gouged. Why it’s such a hot issue in northern Ontario is because we often don’t have access to public transportation; we don’t have subways. There’s a lot of things we don’t have. We rely on our vehicles.
What’s frustrating is, if you take—and the first gas price I’ll take is the gas price in Timmins today. The average gas is $1.806 per litre, but the average gas price in Ottawa is $1.569; in Barrie, $1.623—20 cents, more than 20 cents, and that’s a lot of money when you’re filling a tank. In northern Ontario and many other parts of Ontario, many of us drive pickup trucks because of our winter conditions, our weather conditions and our roads. That’s a lot of money every fill-up. In my riding, in West Nipissing, $1.89; Kirkland Lake, $1.79. West Nipissing is really interesting, because West Nipissing used to have the cheapest gas in the area, but now Sudbury is $1.74 and West Nipissing is $1.90. It has no rhyme or reason, and northerners feel we’re being gouged. That’s why northerners have some issue with the government’s recent passing of—and you’d think that we would be very happy with it. But dropping the gas tax lowers the government’s revenue, and there’s no guarantee that it comes to the pumps in northern Ontario—zero guarantee. That’s why we pushed to have a direct rebate to go to northerners. That way at least northerners knew that the tax money that the government was forfeiting on this would go straight to northerners. There was no guarantee.
We often feel that we’re being gouged and I’m sure that someone is going to say, “Oh, yes, well, that’s an NDP issue” and blah, blah. You know what? We have some validators. We have validators, and this isn’t a partisan issue. Many people are very concerned about being gouged at the gas pump, that if the government drops the price or drops the tax, it won’t directly impact consumers.
I’d like to read a couple of quotes. I don’t know which one I should pick. In one of his first speeches, “Doug Ford”—the Premier—I apologize, Speaker; I shouldn’t use a proper name. The Premier “warned oil companies that they’re being ‘watched’ and called on them to pass any savings he gives them to the price at the pump. ‘We’re going to have a frank discussion with the oil companies.’”
The second one: “We just have a good heart-to-heart talk with the oil companies and understand that they’re being watched right now.”
Another one, and northerners would agree with this one: “It’s called the free market. But when you have four or five oil companies, it’s called a monopoly too.” That’s the problem in northern Ontario: There’s no competition, and there’s no guarantee that any tax rebate is going to go to northerners. It’s a huge, huge problem.
Another one that is really personal to me, again from the Premier, a question from the Premier: “Does it tick you off on a Friday on a long weekend just arbitrarily the oil companies decide to jack their prices?” Do you know what? There are not a lot of times that I agree with the Premier, but on that one I fully agree. It ticks northerners off that we always pay 20 or 25 cents more. It ticks us off even more that there’s no guarantee that that gas tax rebate is ever going to make it to the pump. It ticks us off even more that when we propose a direct rebate, the government even blocks the vote. That really ticks us off.
Now, other energy sources in this province are regulated. Natural gas is regulated. I don’t hear a hue and cry that we have to unregulate natural gas, because we know how important it is to make sure that natural gas is as affordable as possible and the infrastructure is as safe as possible to all users. It’s not impossible.
There are arguments against regulation, and the other side is going to put those arguments forward. I’m sure they will, rightfully so. One of the arguments is, “Oh, it’s going to be difficult. There are going to be so many extra steps.” Well, I was here a few days ago when the Minister of Finance explained all the steps that had to be taken to transfer that 5.6 cents from the wholesalers to the retailers. The one step he didn’t mention: There was no guarantee it was actually going to make it to the gas pump in northern Ontario—none, except for the Premier’s “Let’s have a heart-to-heart discussion.”
Well, do you know what? There are going to be some bumps to do regulation, and maybe our proposal isn’t perfect, so it should go to a committee and we should talk to experts, and we should improve it and find a way so that people across the province, where there isn’t competition—because there’s no way that there should be 25 cents’ difference between Ottawa and Timmins, because most of our gas is based on the rack price in Ottawa, and I know it doesn’t cost 25 cents a litre to bring it to Timmins. There has got to be a way to do this, to make it somehow equitable, and we’re proposing regulation.
I believe this is the third time that Mr. Bisson—pardon me; the member for Timmins—has put this forward. The first time he put it forward was with the Liberal government. The Liberal government voted against it, but the Conservatives, who were in opposition at that point, voted in favour—although the Liberals quashed it.
The second time the member for Timmins brought it forward, the Conservative government voted in favour. Actually, the Minister of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade spoke in favour and voted in favour.
And again, there very well could be issues with this bill. We spend a lot of our time bringing forward issues with Conservative bills. There are issues with many bills. But the biggest issue is that the climate in northern Ontario, for example, is colder. Costs are higher. We have no access to other forms of transportation. We depend on gas, on home heating fuel, on diesel. We continue, year after year, to have to pay more, because there’s no real competition, because what’s driving—and I have asked this question to the oil refiners. I have asked so many questions about gas, and what it really comes down to is that in many areas of the province, there’s no real competition. And when there’s no real competition, somebody should step in.
Even the Premier acknowledges that when you have four or five companies—and I believe 90% of the gas is sold through those four or five companies, and when they’re the only game in town, in a small town or a small city in northern Ontario, quite frankly, northerners get hosed. And we get hosed continually. We know it. In 2018, the Premier knew it too. And, yet, they introduced legislation to drop the gas tax—I know I’m going to get all kinds of leaflets on how I voted against it, but why we voted against it is because, once again, even though the government knew it, there is no guarantee—none—that that gas tax will ever make it to the little thing on the pump. It likely will in places where there is competition; maybe it will for a while. But in places where there is no competition, it will just go into somebody else’s pocket. And it won’t be into the pocket of the little retailer on the corner, because the person who is actually pumping the gas, they’re not making the big bucks on gas. It’s not the person pumping the gas—and we still have a lot of full-serve gas pumps in northern Ontario—it’s not those people where the problem is.
We need some kind of mechanism so that northerners don’t continue to get gouged. We’re proposing a mechanism. Hopefully, the government will help us make it, something to help the north.
The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bill Walker): Further debate?
Mr. Stephen Crawford: It’s an honour to be able to speak to this private member’s bill. Before I start, I certainly want to pass on my best wishes to the member from Timmins, who, as you mentioned, has a bit of a health issue right now. I know I speak for all members on this side of the House: We certainly wish him a very speedy recovery and look forward to having him back here in the House.
It is an honour to be able to speak today to this private member’s bill from the member from Timmins, as the parliamentary assistant to the Ministry of Energy. I’ll be sharing my time with the MPP from Brantford–Brant, who is the parliamentary assistant to the Minister of Finance.
Since this government took office in June 2018, we have been hard at work fulfilling one of the most important aspects of our mandate, which is making life more affordable for the hard-working people of Ontario. I think we should all be able to agree that that is a worthwhile goal. That’s what makes it so troubling when we see the NDP, the official opposition, doing the opposite.
I’m going to let my colleague speak about all the amazing work we are doing on this side of the House to achieve this goal of greater affordability: initiatives such as cutting gas taxes, passing those savings on to consumers; scrapping the unfair Liberal tolls on Highways 412 and 418; and getting rid of fees for licence plate renewals and so much more.
The NDP have opposed all of our efforts to make life more affordable. That’s not surprising. They’re the party of no. We know that the NDP support higher gas prices. They are advocates for higher carbon taxes, after all. Let’s all remember that making gasoline more expensive is not an unintended consequence of carbon pricing. It is the stated purpose of carbon taxes. So we know the NDP support making life more expensive for workers trying to drive to their jobs, parents picking up their kids from school or taking them to sports, or anyone who drives a car for whatever purpose in their lives.
Now, we’ve established that the NDP are actively trying to make life more expensive. I suppose it’s logical to follow that they’ve taken this step to introduce more red tape in the form of regulation on gas prices, because that’s what this regulation would do, Speaker: make gasoline even more expensive than it already is. We know this because Ontario’s independent energy regulator, the Ontario Energy Board, conducted an analysis of the effect of regulation on prices of gasoline across Canadian jurisdictions in 2017. I hope the member opposite has had a chance to review this analysis as they drafted the bill, but in case he didn’t, I have a few key excerpts I’d like to share.
As part of this bill, the NDP are proposing to grant the OEB the power to set a weekly maximum retail price for gasoline. Here’s what the OEB had to say about the practice of setting weekly maximum retail prices in other jurisdictions, and this is a quote from OEB:
“In Newfoundland, there is evidence that retailers used the weekly setting of the regulated maximum as a price signal, often deviating from a lower market-derived price, to a higher statutory price in coordination with their regulation’s administrative cycle. It is likely that if regulated maximum prices did not exist in Newfoundland, pump prices would not have behaved in this manner. This has likely contributed to retail margins that are among the highest in the country.”
We have other examples of maximum weekly prices not serving their intended goals:
“Pump prices in seven of New Brunswick’s largest markets had not reached the regulated maximum price at any point over a 10-month span. This demonstrates that retailers were competing at prices within but irrespective of the regulations, suggesting that New Brunswick’s gasoline price regulations were in effect, meaningless over this period.”
The OEB’s analysis showed that “markets with greater frequency of price changes generally had lower retail margins—and generally lower prices for consumers as a result. The correlation between price and volatility was the strongest of all the pricing factors that we examined.”
At best, Speaker, regulation proposed by the NDP has no impact on prices, and at worst, it actually increases prices for consumers.
We know that Ontario’s free-market approach to gasoline is already by default a better option that produces lower prices for consumers than what the NDP are proposing through this bill. What’s more, on this side of the aisle, we’ve taken action to provide real relief to consumers, and those savings will be passed directly to Ontario families and businesses.
The member opposite says that this bill is about fairness, but what is fair about retailers jacking up the price of gasoline to whatever that week’s maximum is even if the market price is lower? If you were serious about providing relief to Ontarians at the pump, the right thing to do would be to support our bill to cut gas taxes and help pass those savings directly to Ontario businesses and families. Unfortunately, the NDP are continuing to show us that affordability for Ontario families and businesses is not a priority.
With that, I’ll pass it now to the member from Brantford–Brant.
The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bill Walker): Further debate?
Mr. Michael Mantha: I want to start by thanking the member from Timmins for bringing this bill, the Fairness in Petroleum Products Pricing Act. I hope you’re doing well, my friend.
I want to start on the same theme the member from Timiskaming–Cochrane had left off on, and I want to go with validating points as well, with quotes, that were as well done.
Here’s a good one: “Every day, I hear from the people who are fed up. Fed up with being gouged at the gas pumps. Fed up with the price of gas going up, and with, the price for goods and services, with no end in sight.” It goes on to say, “We can’t afford not to end the gouging.”
And he goes on to say as well, “Friday rolls around long weekends and they start gouging people.”
And then one last validating point, which is funny; these quotes come in and validation points come in during an election cycle, and then once you get into government, I don’t know what happens. But a final validation point says, “The party’s over with taxpayers’ money. Just want to make sure the gas companies hear me loud and clear.” And the validator was none other than our Premier.
I don’t know what happened to the Premier, because what we’re proposing here isn’t the end-all to all issues that we have with pricing. No, it’s to stop the price gouging. It’s to start having the conversation. Bring it to committee so we can start having the difficult discussions about how we’re going to be addressing it.
I want to thank Guy Naubert from Blind River, who has been a constant individual for the 11 years that I’ve been here as an MPP, who continues to provide me with information and his views in regard to how he as a taxpayer is being gouged.
Speaker, this is the beginning. Let’s get this into committee and let’s have those challenging discussions in order to bring savings to Ontarians.
The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bill Walker): Further debate?
Mr. Will Bouma: It’s my sincere pleasure and honour to rise in the House and speak, along with my colleague the member for Oakville, to this private member’s bill brought forward by the member for Timmins. I would like to begin by wishing the member for Timmins the very best and letting him know that he is in our thoughts and prayers. It’s interesting to think that he has been here longer than half of my life and longer than some of the members here have been alive. I appreciate his wisdom and his kindness and his mentorship, as this is my first term in the House.
My colleague the member for Oakville just did a great job in his role as parliamentary assistant to the Minister of Energy in explaining to us why a bill which proposes the changes we see in this bill here today would introduce needless red tape and, at absolute best, have no impact on gas prices, and possibly just increase at the pumps, at the absolute worst.
Speaker, the costs of essentials, from gas to groceries, are going up and the impact is being particularly felt by low-income families and workers. That is why our government is laser-focused on addressing this problem, doing everything we can to keep costs down.
This proposed bill is exactly the kind of unfair, red tape-riddled NDP policy that would do nothing to cut costs for Ontario families and workers. Speaker, in short, this bill is not a bill that would cut costs. This is not a bill that will get it done.
That’s why, as the parliamentary assistant to the Minister of Finance, I am here today to talk about how this government is getting it done. In this House, just a few days ago, I was speaking to Bill 111, the Tax Relief at the Pumps Act, which this opposition across voted exactly against at every opportunity. Speaker, unlike the NDP opposition when they supported the Liberals for four years, this government is doing everything we can to get costs down, because, as we know, the most important economic decisions are not made at a boardroom table; they are made at a kitchen table.
We have a plan to provide relief from rising costs and to put money back into the pockets of people and businesses. Speaker, unlike this bill we’re discussing here today, the Tax Relief at the Pumps Act, 2022, would, if passed, temporarily cut the gas tax by 5.7 cents per litre and the fuel tax by 5.3 cents per litre for six months, beginning July 1, 2022. Vehicle owners in Ontario would see a significant direct savings from this proposed gas tax cut and the recently announced elimination of licence plate renewal fees and refund fees paid since March 2020.
It is also worth noting that in 2018, our government passed legislation to eliminate the previous government’s cap-and-trade carbon tax to reduce gas prices by 4.3 cents per litre. We are continuing to call on the federal government to do the right thing and to join us in providing relief for hard-working Canadians by cutting the carbon tax.
Speaker, it’s these kinds of policies, like the Tax Relief at the Pumps Act, 2022, that would have a direct, immediate effect, cutting costs for consumers the day it would go into effect. The NDP opposition’s bill today, as my great colleague from Oakville explained so well, would introduce more painful red tape, at best have no impact on gas and fuel prices, and at worst increase gas and fuel prices just as they are already going up in the summer months.
The past two years have seen people and businesses step up and do their part to follow public health guidelines and to keep people safe, to find new ways of living and working, and to demonstrate true tenacity and perseverance in the face of a global pandemic. Now is not the time to hit these people and businesses with extra costs. No, rather, our government is taking actions to keep costs down for people and for businesses; to address the cost pressures, which are not unique to Ontario; and to put more money back into people’s pockets so that they can invest in themselves, that they can invest in their communities, in their families and in their futures.
That is also why our government has a plan to keep costs down for people and for businesses. An important part of this plan is tax relief for people and for businesses. We are working to keep costs low for families through tax credits and benefits. Our LIFT tax credit is also helping keep taxes low for working people by providing up to $850 each year in Ontario personal income tax relief for low-income workers.
Our Ontario Child Care Tax Credit allows families to claim up to 75% of their eligible child care expenses, including for care provided in child care centres, homes and for camps. When people file their 2021 tax returns this year, they can benefit from our 20% top-up to this tax credit to choose the child care options that work best for them.
Our jobs training tax credit is helping workers get the training that they may be needing for a career shift, retraining or to sharpen their skills. It provides up to $2,000 in relief for 50% of a person’s eligible expenses.
Further relief for drivers includes permanently removing the unfair Liberal tolls on Highways 412 and 418 and eliminating licence plate renewal fees and stickers.
Our government has a plan to build Ontario and to cut costs for every single person in every single part of this province. It is time for the opposition to stop saying no to the people of Ontario and join with us as we say yes to make life more affordable for every single person in the province of Ontario.
The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bill Walker): Further debate?
Mr. Jamie West: I want to thank the member from Timmins for putting forward Bill 91, the Fairness in Petroleum Products Pricing Act.
I just want to go off topic for a second and come back to it. I was contacted yesterday by Elie Martel, former MPP for Sudbury East, for 20 years, about the death of Paul Falkowski, a good friend of the member for Timmins, and I just want to talk about Paul for a moment. He has a connection to all of us here in the Legislature as well.
Paul was the environmental representative for the United Steelworkers of America. He represented mine workers in Elliot Lake. That’s where the member from Timmins originally worked, before coming here.
Paul was described this way: “He’s combative, and he unhesitatingly lunges for the jugular whenever occupational and environmental health issues are contested.
“In fact, he’s so uncompromising over workers’ health issues that his union colleagues admit they have trouble controlling him.”
Paul had the title of environmental representative because the joint health and safety committee, the IRS and the Occupational Health and Safety Act didn’t exist back then. In fact, it only exists today because of steelworkers like Paul.
Elliot Lake had unusually high levels of cancer. The uranium miners there were dying of cancer at three times the normal rate. The workplaces and the government of the day said there were no connection to their workplaces, no connection to the silicosis and the radiation involved in mining uranium. But Paul Falkowski didn’t believe them, and it turns out he was right, Speaker.
You see, the provincial government was at an occupational health conference in France, and another steelworker, Homer Seguin, was there in France as well. Homer was there to learn about workplace cancers. The provincial government was there to present a study on workplace cancers on Elliot Lake miners. The provincial government was telling the miners in Elliot Lake there was no connection, and provincial government was telling scientists in France that there was a clear connection. Homer let everyone know: steelworkers like the current member from Timmins—I apologize; he was a miner, not who worked with the steelworkers but in Elliot Lake—Paul Falkowski, and the NDP.
The next day, there was a wildcat strike, and that wildcat strike was for safety. I think it’s important to recognize that steelworkers like Paul Falkowski had a wildcat strike for health and safety that resulted in the Ham commission that resulted in the joint health and safety committee that resulted with every worker in Ontario—not just those steelworkers, not just the Elliot Lake workers, not just miners but all workers—to have the right to refuse unsafe work, the right to know and the right to participate.
I owe a debt of gratitude to Paul Falkowski. We all do.
Thank you very much, Speaker. I’m getting the eye that I’m out of time.
The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bill Walker): I recognize the member from Nickel Belt.
Mme France Gélinas: Well, I will keep right on with the steelworkers. Do you know what all steelworkers who work for the mines have in common? They have to drive long distances to go to the mine. This is exactly what the president and CEO of the Canadian Fuels Association told me when I asked, “Why is it that the price of gas in Nickel Belt is so high?” He said, “Because workers have to drive long distances to go to work, to go to the mine. Therefore, they will pay the price to get to work.” If that’s not a definition of gouging, I don’t know what the definition of gouging stands for. So they sell gas at a higher price in my riding because we have to drive longer distances to get to work.
If you look throughout Nickel Belt, there is no competition. There’s only one gas station in Foleyet; in Mattagami, one; in Gogama, one; in the Watershed, one; in Cartier, one. I can go on. There is no competition. So I fully understand the member who comes from Oakville—of course competition works and drives the price of gas down. There is no competition where I live. What there is, though, is 20 cents a litre, sometimes 30 cents a litre more to buy gas in my riding. Then—no offence, John—if I go to Sturgeon Falls in his riding, it will be 30 cents cheaper. If I go to the member from Algoma’s riding in Espanola, it will be 18 cents cheaper than in my riding.
What we are asking you to do is to regulate the price of gas and set a price limit so that in places like where I live, we don’t get gouged. That’s all we’re asking you. The competition will continue to work in the big centres: in Toronto, in Oakville, in Ottawa and Waterloo. It will work.
It does not work where I live. It does not work for the people of Ontario who live where I live. You need to change it. You can change this, and it’s by passing this bill.
The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bill Walker): Further debate?
Ms. Catherine Fife: Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Quebec all have some form of price regulation. The price of transportation fuel has a significant impact on the lives of Ontario consumers. For most people, gasoline- or diesel-powered vehicles are their main source of transportation. This is very true in the north and rural communities.
It’s not like the people of this province actually expect you to bring back the Northlander in five to eight years. I guarantee that the people of Timmins, who, for instance—they know who’s been fighting for this train and connectivity, and they aren’t going to be fooled by the Premier wearing his Thomas the train conductor outfit last Sunday. The people of Timmins know who their MPP is, even if the Premier suddenly forgot and failed to recognize over two decades of public service to those people when he conveniently said, “I don’t even know who represents the riding of Timmins.” That does not increase the level of discourse or respect in this place, nor does it instill any confidence in what should be happening for the people of this province.
The government should do the right thing on this bill. Third time is the charm. Send it to committee. Let’s have the discussion. Let’s find a solution. Let’s act.
The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bill Walker): Further debate?
Mr. Sol Mamakwa: Meegwetch, Speaker. It’s an honour to be able to speak on this private member’s bill, the Fairness in Petroleum Products Pricing Act. I know that in northwestern Ontario in the riding of Kiiwetinoong, certainly everybody is talking about $1.80, $1.65. I know, yesterday, in one of the First Nations that I represent, the price was $2.99. I think it’s important to acknowledge what this would mean when we control, regulate gas prices.
When you fly from my home community of Kingfisher Lake going to Sioux Lookout, which is a major hub in northwestern Ontario—airports are lifelines to these First Nations to be able to access health services, to access education, to access health care. It’s a lifeline to be able to jump on a plane to be able to do that, but it costs resources to do that.
I know that the way fuel happens in the First Nations is that each year, they have to get a loan, whether it’s a million litres, whether it’s $2 million worth of fuel, and they have a tank farm. Depending on the climate, depending on the weather, they will have to haul it in, the fuel. Sometimes you have three weeks, sometimes you have six weeks, sometimes, if you’re lucky, you have eight weeks to haul that fuel. And once they run out—on the tank farm, you typically run out by about November, December, just right before the winter road. That’s where you pay the high price. You fly it in. I remember—I think this was in December 2021. There was a price of $3.09 per litre.
I think it’s really important. Gas is an essential item in far northern Ontario. You need to be able to live your way of life of accessing—to do your traditional hunting, gathering traditions, you need fuel, a chainsaw, a snowmobile in the wintertime. Then, even to get on a boat, to check your nets, to go fishing, we always need fuel again. But to be able to regulate it—and I hope the government hears us, the government hears and listens to this bill and what we’ve been trying to acknowledge.
I fully see the politics around it. I see we go back and forth. But we cannot continue to play politics with the lives and the health and the wellness of people in Kiiwetinoong.
The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bill Walker): The member from Timiskaming–Cochrane has two minutes to reply.
Mr. John Vanthof: I’d like to thank all the speakers and, most of all, I’d like to thank the member from Timmins for bringing this issue forward once again to this House.
I would once again like to quote the Premier: “It’s called the free market. But when you have four or five oil companies, it’s called a monopoly too.”
You know how we know that in northern Ontario? I have got lots of hunters who come from Brantford, who come from Oakville. The average price in Brantford and Oakville? It’s 156.9 and 159.9 cents, and it’s 180 cents where I came from. And you know what? Nobody brings a box of beer from Brantford, because it’s the same price, but there is jerry can after jerry can after jerry can of the hunters bringing gas, because they know they’re going to be hosed when they come to the north.
This government knows that. They bring forward legislation to drop the gas—they forfeit their own money from the gas tax, yet they don’t include anything in that legislation to ensure that in places where there’s no competition, that will actually be transferred to the people who buy the gas. They know it won’t be transferred. Every hunter knows it won’t be transferred and northerners know it won’t be transferred, too.
Northerners aren’t asking you to change the world. They’re asking for a fair shake. They’re asking that this bill go to committee, that we actually, all together, look at how we can make the system more fair in places where competition doesn’t work and hasn’t worked for a long, long time. If there’s no competition, those savings don’t get transferred through; we all know that. It’s time that it gets fixed.
Once again, the government has put forward legislation, passed it, and they know that it will not fix the issue in northern Ontario.
The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bill Walker): Thank you. The time provided for private members’ public business has expired.
Mr. Vanthof has moved second reading of Bill 91, An Act to regulate the price of petroleum products. Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? I heard a no.
All those in favour of the motion will please say “aye.”
All those opposed to the motion will please say “nay.”
In my opinion, the nays have it.
A recorded division being required, the vote on this item of private members’ public business will be deferred until the next proceeding of deferred votes.
Second reading vote deferred.
The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bill Walker): All matters relating to private members’ public business having been completed, it is now time for orders of the day.
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 April 13, 2022, on the motion for third 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 Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bill Walker): Further debate?
Mr. John Vanthof: Thank you, Speaker. I’m going to be a little bit slow at the start. I’m just shifting gears.
Once again, it’s always an honour to rise in this House and, on this shift, to speak for myself on behalf of the people of Timiskaming–Cochrane and the official opposition regarding Bill 100, the Keeping Ontario Open for Business Act. The reason for this act, as we all know, is what happened in Ottawa—more importantly to the government, what happened at the Ambassador Bridge, basically where illegal protesters blocked trade routes. I would submit that it was also an illegal protest in Ottawa, but the government was much slower moving in Ottawa.
There’s no doubt that keeping supply lines open is crucial and it’s part of the government’s job. And before I go any further, I would like to comment that although it took a long time, the police forces in this country did an excellent job. There were no water cannons, there were no—some people, the protesters, weren’t happy, and there were a couple of incidents that are being investigated; I don’t know where they are in the process. But overall, police forces in this country—and many police forces across the country were involved—used their training and their restraint and I think, at the end of the day, made us proud to be Canadians. Some of the people who now display Canadian flags maybe aren’t as proud of that as most of us are, but I would just like to say that.
The issue with Bill 100 is that a lot of the measures contained within it already existed. So you have to question what took so long in Ottawa; you have to question that. There is—and I’m going to tell this. The Sergeant-at-Arms is here, so I might as well confess again. There is a difference between a peaceful protest and a blockade. I’ve been at both. I’ve organized both and paid the price for the illegal blockade one. That was a long time ago, but the laws existed then to move in, for the police to take action when there was an illegal blockade. And we knew that it was an illegal blockade; we knew that before we started. We knew there would be action taken, and that action was taken. I paid the fine, and rightfully so.
So it’s not that the legislation, in many cases, didn’t exist. Part of the legislation in this Bill 100 contains measures that could take commercial vehicle licences. Well, that already existed. The official opposition suggested that the government should take those measures and that that would have encouraged many of the protestors to move on much quicker.
One thing that didn’t make me proud as a Canadian was that when the truckers—and I don’t like the term “truckers” because the vast, vast, vast majority of truckers were on the road delivering the goods and services that this country relies on. That’s where the vast, vast majority of truckers were. But some of the people of the convoy—they were no longer a peaceful protest. There were people there among them who had good intentions. People from my riding were there. I disagreed with some of their issues, but they thought they were in a peaceful protest. They were not being told the truth. But when you honk a truck horn 24 hours a day, for days and days and days, that is no longer a peaceful protest. And that it took a young lady to force a court injunction to stop that—that was not a proud day for Canadians. I don’t think it was. There were tools in the tool box to stop that.
I’m going to use this opportunity—I’m a farmer by trade, and I talk to a lot of farmers. I’m the ag critic. There were, and are, many farmers who were very much in favour of what the convoy was doing. I spoke to several farm groups and said, “So if people came and parked on a public road in front of your farm with transport trucks and honked their horns for 24 hours a day for two weeks, that would not only drive your family to the brink, but your animals would get so stressed out that—that is not peaceful. That is not peaceful. And you would demand that the police move in way before. You would demand that because your animals, at that point, could be dying.” And yet that is a peaceful protest? It wasn’t.
And it’s the same—and I’m going to maybe get in trouble for this, but if those trucks parked in front of a meat plant, a processing plant—and I’m a proud farmer and meat-eater. If they parked there and honked their horns for 24 hours a day for two weeks and played road hockey on the street and didn’t let anybody in, people would be, “What are you doing?” “It’s just a peaceful protest.”
What about the jobs? What about the people who worked in Rideau shopping centre? Nobody seemed to care about their jobs.
This wasn’t a peaceful protest. So why did it take the government so long to move? We understand why the government moved at the Ambassador Bridge. We understand that. But why did it take so long? Everyone’s going to have their opinions, but it wasn’t a peaceful protest, and any farmer who thinks it was, anybody in the country who thinks it was, just think if you had 20 trucks parked in front of your driveway on a public road, honking their horns for 24 hours a day. For the members on the other side, how many calls would you get? You’d get a lot. Yes, they moved them, but nobody seemed to move them in Ottawa. It took a long, long time.
We are going to support this bill. We believe that the government needs the tools to be able to keep trade routes open. But we support it with caveats. Now, the Solicitor General said—she just said in third reading, in her lead, that Bill 100 wouldn’t be used other than in extreme circumstances. But there’s nothing in the bill that actually says that. So the Ambassador Bridge gets plugged: “Oh, I’ve got to move.” But when you read the bill completely, it’s anything that has to do with a trade route, with the economy, so that basically is almost any road, railroad or port in this country.
Mr. Robert Bailey: Good for the railroads; I’m in favour of that.
Mr. John Vanthof: Yes, but any of them, for any reason.
Mr. John Vanthof: I hear the member from Sarnia heckling me, and that’s great. It’s great right now, because they’re the government and they’re in control, but they have to realize that bills like this, with huge powers, are also still there when someone you might not like is in control. So you have to make laws that stand the test of time. And this one, we need to put on the record that you need to be very—and the Solicitor General acknowledged it. You need to be very judicious, very careful with this type of legislation.
It begs the question. It really does beg the question. The Solicitor General just said that Bill 100 wouldn’t be used unless—I wrote down “Bill 100 wouldn’t be used,” with quotations, and then I was preparing for the other bill so I couldn’t remember the rest. But it wouldn’t be used—I’m paraphrasing—unless it was very serious circumstances. I do a lot of work with the Solicitor General and I respect what she said, but it begs the question: Why weren’t those other tools used in Ottawa? It really does beg that question, because they already had the tools, specifically regarding the commercial vehicle licences. We showed them where and in which acts you had the power to do it. Perhaps it would take a little bit longer, but it took a long time for them to act. It begs the question.
Also, because it begs that question, it also begs the question: So what, really, are the checks and balances to Bill 100? I think we all are going to have to be—basically, we are the checks and balances: the opposition, the government, the members. We have to be very cognizant of that. Because the line that we have to look out for very sharply, like the owl—is it the owl or the eagle? I’ve never done that quote before.
I have this debate with people at home: whether it was a peaceful protest or whether it was, “This was a peaceful protest because, well, we swept the streets after.” Well, I left the train tracks as clean as I found them, but I got charged. But now with Bill 100, who is going to decide whether it’s a blockade or a peaceful protest? Because some things might be peaceful protests, legitimate protests—perhaps work stoppages—and who is going to decide whether Bill 100 is warranted or not? We hope, we trust that the government, whatever the government of the day is that looks at this and—
Miss Monique Taylor: Interprets.
Mr. John Vanthof: Yes. Thank you for that word—interprets the legislation, I hope, the way it was intended here. But it is a step towards—it could be problematic. It could be. The government of the day certainly doesn’t think so, but it’s our job to point out where there are issues.
Mr. John Vanthof: Obviously, some of the members of the government don’t like to hear it, and quite frankly, Speaker, that’s tough. I respect their positions. I don’t agree with most of them, but I respect them. But on this legislation, that is the biggest risk: that it will be misinterpreted.
We are not going to spend hours debating this. As we said, we are going to support it. Because of the importance to the economy, the importance to people’s lives, we are going to support this legislation—but with a caveat that we all need to be very cognizant that this legislation could be abused.
In this country, in this province, in this party and I’m hoping in other parties as well, we do believe in the right to peaceful protest. Peaceful protest is a crucial part of our democracy. But there is a line, and we need to be able to define what the line is. I’m hoping that the government and future governments recognize that.
There is a difference between a peaceful protest and a blockade. A peaceful protest, in my view, is when we have protesters on the lawn, when you put your views forward, you make your views loud and you hope to influence government decision-making, government policy. The difference is, a blockade is where you do something and you demand that the government, that you’re not moving unless—there is a difference. But there’s really nothing in this legislation that defines that. It gives the government more tools—some more. Most of the tools here existed before—not all; most did. It puts it in a different package, perhaps, and acts quicker.
But again, it’s getting late. I don’t know what we’re going to be debating after. I’m not going to belabour this point. We are reluctantly in favour of this legislation. It’s important legislation, but it’s also legislation that could be misinterpreted by this government, by future governments, to the peril of our democratic institutions.
With that, Speaker, I would like to finish my remarks. Thank you.
The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bill Walker): Questions and response?
Mr. John Yakabuski: I want to thank the member for Timiskaming–Cochrane for his roughly 18, 19 minutes. He definitely had to make his views known on the bill. They’re going to support it. But a bill such as this—he knows that the lines can’t be drawn in the bill. That’s why we have people with judgment.
All across this country, we have bills and laws that require an act of either Parliament or the executive council in order to invoke the terms of the act. Every government will do that to their peril if they exceed what the general accepted norm should be.
That is what we’re talking about here. You agree that this bill is necessary. You’re going to support the bill. I don’t think we can spend our time wondering about what possible situation, but the need to have it enacted you agree with. Is that not correct?
Mr. John Vanthof: Actually, with that point of view, I totally disagree. I agree that people with judgment—so the people who are going to enact, police forces, have to have the judgment. But this bill is basically the emergency measures act for transportation, so you need to be cognizant that this bill is not like every other bill. And if you think it is—
The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bill Walker): Order.
Mr. John Vanthof: All bills are important, but this bill—you have to understand that the powers that are contained within it can be abused.
The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bill Walker): Further questions?
Ms. Peggy Sattler: I appreciate the remarks from my colleague the member for Timiskaming–Cochrane. I want to recognize the efforts of our other colleagues, the member for Ottawa Centre and the member for Windsor West in particular, in their advocacy to this government to respond to the crisis that was unfolding in the city of Ottawa and in Windsor with this crucial blockade of a trade corridor.
We all watched, I think, on the news every night and saw what was happening in those communities and saw workers who were unable to go to their jobs and businesses that had to close down because of the occupation and the blockade. Does this member believe that government has an obligation to provide financial support for the families and the communities that were so disrupted by these actions?
Mr. John Vanthof: Thank you to the member from—
Ms. Peggy Sattler: London West.
Mr. John Vanthof: —London West; I knew it was London—and to our House leader. I missed a very important point regarding the work our members did during that, but an even more important point: that there were huge economic losses because of the government’s reluctance to act. So far, those businesses have suffered those losses alone. Those losses weren’t the same as other losses caused across the province because of COVID and they do need different programming, because what happened in Ottawa and in Windsor wasn’t the same issue.
The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bill Walker): The member from Sarnia–Lambton.
Mr. Robert Bailey: It’s a privilege to rise and speak in the House. My community was affected by this as well. On the 402 there were demonstrators and illegal blockades, with people parked on the road. The OPP had to redirect traffic through the city of Sarnia and through the Village of Port Edward, a very unsafe situation with the narrow streets and truck traffic etc.
But one thing the member from Perth talked about one day—and the member from Timiskaming, I know, coming from the rural communities, being very involved in farming—he talked about livestock having to sit for hours on the bridge or to get to the next—whether it was to an abattoir or it was someone bringing cattle in. Can the member understand the importance—I know he does. But you can you speak to the importance of this bill for livestock that’s being shipped back and forth?
Mr. John Vanthof: To the member from Sarnia–Lambton: Yes, you can’t leave livestock on trucks for more than a few hours. It’s very important. What I focused on more is the issues with protesters harming farms by protesting for days and days and days. But for the member for Sarnia–Lambton, if his community had been impacted by this for three weeks, would he also believe that that community should have some kind of financial support for the losses that they incurred? Because the government didn’t move for weeks and weeks in Ottawa. They moved much quicker in your end of the world.
The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bill Walker): Question and response?
Miss Monique Taylor: Thank you to the member for Timiskaming–Cochrane for his debate this evening. We definitely have seen the extent of the convoy and the protests that happened in Ottawa, a month of disruption to that community. We figure that the measures that were put into this bill are something that the government already had the power to do. I believe you mentioned that within your debate time.
We’ve seen a lot of chaos in Ottawa, and yes, we’ve seen things move quickly in Windsor when it came to the economic issues that we saw with crossing the border. Could you please explain your thoughts on why it took the government so long to act in Ottawa when they, really, already had the tools to do so?
Mr. John Vanthof: I’d like to thank my colleague for that question. I really wish I knew the answer to that question. We can guess. What was interesting was, there was a point where the people from Ottawa and the protesters met—and I can’t remember the name of the bridge—on the street and they actually started talking to each other. But there was no involvement from—there was involvement from, I believe, our member from Ottawa, but why did it take the government so long? You moved very quick on the Ambassador Bridge, but it was like Ottawa was a city-state on its own when it came to this government. I don’t really know why the government decided not to act.
The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bill Walker): Question and response?
Mr. Randy Pettapiece: Speaker, I’ve listened to the member from Timiskaming–Cochrane. He has certainly the same background as I do, but I think we’re sitting here speculating on things, as the members go, “Why did this happen?” There are going to be I don’t know how many inquiries involved which I hope are going to answer these things. But I do know that emergency orders were put in place in both areas to get this thing going. Police officers couldn’t get tow trucks. They wanted to get these vehicles put out of there, but the tow truck operators were getting threatened, so it just kind of went on and on.
I think we need this legislation in place, in case—and I hope it never does happen again—if it ever happens again, to protect our international borders. That’s what it’s specific to. I wonder if the member would agree with the points I have just made, that we need to allow the process to happen, the inquiries, before we make any judgments on what governments did and didn’t do.
Mr. John Vanthof: I certainly hope that there are legitimate investigations to see what actions were or weren’t taken, and that we actually take the results of those investigations and learn from them. In my remarks, I didn’t really veer into that. I did remark that this is a very powerful piece of legislation. The government is, in fact, also doing the same thing. They are creating a very powerful piece of legislation without really knowing what went wrong.
We understand how important it is to keep trade routes open. We understand how important it is to keep the economy running. I’m fully cognizant of that. It’s just that, when you create a big hammer like this one, when you create a big hammer, you just have to know that it can do big damage, too, if it’s not used correctly.
The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bill Walker): I think there’s not enough time for another question and response.
Mr. Sol Mamakwa: It’s always an honour to be able to speak, on behalf of Kiiwetinoong, on the issues that affect Ontarians but also people who live in northwestern Ontario. I know Bill 100, the Keeping Ontario Open for Business Act—certainly, we speak about what happened with the blockade of the Ambassador Bridge, which was not good—actually, awful—for the people and for the community. I know it’s always important to acknowledge the truckers, the working truckers, and the goods that they were delivering that were stuck at the borders for days, and they had to be rerouted hundreds of kilometres away.
I know that during that time, too, it’s important to acknowledge that people were afraid for their safety. It’s important to acknowledge, as well, and it reminded us that people were cut off from family. People were cut off from work. Another thing, when we talk about the occupation, the illegal occupation, in Ottawa, it certainly had an impact on the city and the residents within the downtown, when we talk about people, when we talk about small business that lost weeks of income—we had families in Ottawa and seniors who were afraid to leave the house. Then, not only that, we had children, we had babies that didn’t sleep with the truck horns blaring for hours on end. It’s important to acknowledge those things.
People witnessed some of the Confederate flags and swastikas being marched down the streets—that’s not good. But it’s also important to remind the people of Ontario, it’s important also to remind the government that they always had the tools and the resources to end the blockades and the protests, but the Premier and this government just chose not to use them right away. I say right away because one of the things that happened for me during that time, some of the leadership in far northern Ontario—chiefs—called me and said, “Why aren’t they doing something? Why aren’t they doing anything? Why aren’t the police going after them?”
This particular chief, Chief Donny Morris from Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug, which is Big Trout Lake, got thrown in jail for six weeks in the late 2000s for protecting the territories where he lives when they had a fight against Platinex. He was doing the same thing. Right away, the police came, took them away, and they were there for six weeks. The whole council was in jail. That’s the only thing he asked me, “Why aren’t they doing anything?” and the only answer I could give, or the only thought that came to my mind was, “We’re brown. We’re First Nations.” I think it’s important when we talk about how we’re treated differently, when we talk about the tools, the laws that are in place to be able to enact action on people.
I know one of the things we talked about in this bill is that it reinstates the powers and the tools of government. Again, earlier it was talked about, that the government had these powers already. I’m not sure what’s been done so far—when we talk about reimbursement of workers and small businesses, what the convoy cost them in lost income.
I know there’s so much stuff that we could do. Back in early February, maybe around February 10, 2020, I remember I came from Ottawa, drove here and stopped over in Tyendinaga. There were these land protectors that blocked the railroad and I went to talk to them. One of the things they said was, “We continue to be treated as criminals, whereby we’re trying to protect the lands that were stolen from us, stolen lands.” And all they were doing is taking their land back. “Land back” means a lot of things to different people.
I know it’s important to acknowledge that this bill should not be weaponized against Indigenous peoples. I know some of the land protectors that I spoke to during the illegal occupation and the blockade of the bridge—these Indigenous land protectors said, “If that was us doing that, rubber bullets would be already flying.” And I think that’s the difference between being able to—and that’s why I say we should be cognizant of the fact that we cannot use this bill to be weaponized against Indigenous people.
I know that my colleague already mentioned that we’re in a position to support it, in a reluctant manner, but it’s important that we continue that route where we protect the economy, the workers and the people of Ontario. I know one of the things that’s really being pushed by this government is to open up the north. As part of the economic recovery of COVID-19, the government will say, “Northern Ontario is open for business.” But there are always First Nations that are not being consulted.
And why I’m talking about that is because we don’t want another Platinex issue whereby you—again, do not use this bill as a weapon against Indigenous people when they protect their traditional territories. Because what happens is, when you’re trying to develop our territories, what you’re trying to do is change our ways of life forever. And what is the cost of that? Is that $200,000 per year? Is that $2 million per year? Is that $20 million per year in perpetuity? I don’t know. That’s all part—at the expense of the economy, at the expense of business, at the expense of our treaty rights, at the expense of our ways of life. Again, I’m saying we cannot use this as a weapon against Indigenous people.
I know that this bill amends the Solicitor General act, the Highway Traffic Act, but also the Civil Remedies Act to provide limited abilities to police for potential blockades, as was experienced in Windsor at the Ambassador Bridge. I know I was hearing the Solicitor General characterize the bill as making permanent a number of emergency measures available through the emergency measures act. That’s what I mean by what is the cost of a blockade if there is work to be done, whether it’s in southern Ontario, whether it’s in other areas where there is mining happening.
The bill sets, again, joint and several liabilities for owners and operators of any costs associated with the removal and storage of a vehicle. A transport trucking firm, for instance, who did not consent to a driver—it talked about that. It talks about how section 7 permits the forfeiture of a licence of a person suspected of contravening section 2 of the act.
I know that the bill does not authorize the government to order a tow company to remove a vehicle, which is a key weakness in the provincial emergency orders. As you know, tow companies did not want to tow convoy vehicles, either out of fear, either out of solidarity with what’s happening. But in contrast, I think it’s important to acknowledge that the federal emergency order did allow the federal government to issue orders to tow companies.
I know that, as the official opposition, we stand in solidarity with the people of Windsor, the people of Ottawa, as well as the health care heroes in Toronto. I remember coming back here and I remember seeing the blockades here, coming to Queen’s Park
I know that as a caucus, as an official opposition, we called for the revoking of commercial licences and for occupants’ drivers’ licences to be suspended. One of the things that we did as well is that we called on this government to be clear on where they stand, but also to act to end the occupation by sending resources to Ottawa. I know that came a bit later. It took time. Why did it take so long? What has been the economic relief and the support for the prolonged impacts of the blockade?
I know that when that issue happened, the Ottawa Centre MPP pointed out how this government didn’t call a state of emergency until February 7, after the Ambassador Bridge had been blocked for days. I know that we also continued, as the official opposition, but also the leader of the NDP opposition, to call for immediate aid to auto workers impacted by the ongoing blockade and for this government to replace the lost wages.
I remember one Saturday morning I was watching how the police moved in on the blockade at the Ambassador Bridge. I remember how slowly they moved forward. It was an operation, and how slowly it moved. But I also recognized, again, that if it was Indigenous people, it would have been treated differently.
I think we need to be able to have these plans in place to make sure it does not happen. I want to repeat this: Government, please do not use this bill to weaponize against Indigenous people when they’re protecting their lands, their territories, their resources, where we come from. We cannot continue to oppress Indigenous people for who they are, where we come from.
Again, we will be supporting this bill—hesitantly, but it needs to be done.
The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bill Walker): Questions and response?
Mr. Randy Pettapiece: I want to thank the member for his speech and some of the issues he raised. I would like to address some of the issues. I want to read him a little bit of what the bill is actually about. The legislation is very narrowly scoped to provide provincial officers with the tools they need to clear illegal blockages of border infrastructure, such as international border crossings and international airports, that disrupt ordinary economic activity or international trade. That is very narrow in scope here. This is what this is about.
I know he said he’s going to support the bill, but would the member state that that makes him feel a lot better about this bill because of some of the issues that he raised?
Mr. Sol Mamakwa: Meegwetch for the question. When we talk about borders, I can understand what borders you’re talking about. As Indigenous people, we don’t have borders. We have never had borders. It was the governments, the colonial system that came into play, that started to create these provinces. They started to create this country.
The issue of how restrictive it is or how—I can see what you’re saying, but I think Indigenous people, in order to be heard, in order to be acknowledged, sometimes they do these blockades. We need to be able to not go that route where we weaponize this bill.
The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bill Walker): I recognize the member from Algoma–Manitoulin.
Mr. Michael Mantha: I want to start off where the member just left off. He talked about how First Nations communities need to be heard. They also need to educate the public. That’s why they have these afternoons where they share in ceremony, share in their heritage and also share in their experience, so that they have the ability to educate the public as to what they’re out—when they are exercising their sovereign right to protecting their lands, to protecting their communities, to protecting their waters, to protecting their forests, to doing what their elders have known, which is their actual right.
When we raise these questions in regard to where this possibly could be far-reaching in nature, I want to ask the member to continue with his explanation as to where those concerns are coming from. Those concerns are quite set in their ways.
Mr. Sol Mamakwa: Thank you to the member for that question. I know that one of the things I always bring up here is access to clean drinking water. And I remember all the people that donated online to the convoy. You know, it got so much attention; it was on every day. I remember some of that community, some of the First Nation community—some of the First Nations, some of the nations that I represent—what is this? With those donations, we could actually fix one boil-water advisory in a First Nation. And I think it’s so important to be able to acknowledge that. When we are set in the ways of the system that’s there where it oppresses people, you normalize it.
The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bill Walker): The member from Peterborough–Kawartha.
Mr. Dave Smith: To the member across the way: I greatly appreciate the perspective that you bring to this House because you make us more aware of things that we wouldn’t normally experience in our own ridings and in our own situations. So I thoroughly enjoy the perspective that he brings forward to us, because it gives us that opportunity for that sober second thought on everything.
My question to the member opposite, though, is that if we find ourselves in a position where trade has been disrupted in such a way that we don’t have food in grocery stores, that we have that loss of ability, then to actually look after our people as a result of it, would he agree that this is something that we should be looking at doing to make sure that we don’t find ourselves in a position where we cannot keep grocery stores stocked, we cannot make sure there is food in the cupboard, on the counter for people?
Mr. Sol Mamakwa: I know that for governments and settlers, the economy is very important. I’ll use an example. I remember an elder told me, “We were promised that trapping could be a livelihood, that you can live off of trapping.” This was 50 years ago, 60 years ago, 75 years ago: “You can trap, you can make a living off of it.” Today, you can’t. We continue to be treated like that by governments, by settlers, whereby we’re promised these things and those promises do not last.
The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bill Walker): I recognize the member from London West.
Ms. Peggy Sattler: I want to thank my colleague the member for Kiiwetinoong because he always speaks with such gravitas and power when he participants in debates in this place. And I think the caution he raises about ensuring that this legislation is not weaponized against Indigenous people is well-founded, because we have seen laws weaponized against Indigenous people who are asserting their sovereign rights to territory. I wondered if he has advice for the government on how to ensure that this bill is not weaponized in that way against Indigenous people in this province.
Mr. Sol Mamakwa: I think one of the things is, we cannot use jurisdiction on-reserve for Indigenous people to be part of the solution. We cannot use jurisdiction to say no to clean drinking water on First Nation reserves. We cannot use jurisdiction to be complacent and not doing anything. We cannot use jurisdiction. We cannot use the Indian Act, the most racist, the most colonial federal act that’s there, to not do anything. I think it’s really important that this is Ontario. We are part of Ontario. We need to be treated as such.
The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bill Walker): Questions and response?
Mr. Sheref Sabawy: Thank you very much to the member opposite. I understand your concerns about the bill and the authority or the abilities it gives to the government. I understand that. But the bill does not touch the right to protest. It’s just trying to protect the arteries of the economy. It’s trying to protect the jobs of the people. Just the Ambassador Bridge by itself—the federal government was saying that it was around $400 million or more in losses per day. That cannot be happening.
Even here in this Parliament, we got some questions during that time: Why is the government not taking action? Why is the government not moving fast to make sure that businesses and the economy are protected? That’s what we are doing, but proactively.
Can you agree or give us a direct opinion about if you agree or do not agree that we have to take a proactive role so that we don’t have that again?
Mr. Sol Mamakwa: Yes, I agree that that’s why we are doing that. But what I’m saying is, sometimes, in order to be heard as a First Nations person, we have to do these blockades, whether it’s the railroad, whether it’s a rolling blockade on the 401 or something. What is stopping First Nations from blocking a bridge? I don’t know. What’s going to happen then? Just to be heard, just to get clean drinking water, for example. Those are just words of caution.
Again, I just want to finish by saying that we will be supporting this bill.
The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bill Walker): Further debate? Further debate? I recognize the member for Chatham-Kent–Leamington.
Mr. Rick Nicholls: Thank you very much, Speaker. Boy, talk about cutting it close, eh? I was afraid that maybe the debate might close, but obviously not.
Listen, I’m going to be totally transparent: I’m not going to be supporting the bill. But I’m going to outline my reasons for doing so.
To begin with, Bill 100 and everything that transpired prior to the creation of Bill 100 could have been eliminated if Prime Minister Trudeau and Premier Ford had taken the time to meet with the truckers’ convoy. That would have saved millions of taxpayers’ dollars in policing costs, not only in Ottawa but also in Windsor.
One must ask, why did the truckers embark on a cross-Canada convoy to the nation’s capital in the first place? Vaccine mandates? Partially. The loss of the freedom and rights of every Canadian and the overreach of governments with their mandates? Mostly accurate.
What I’m very disturbed about, though, is the use of inflammatory language used at these legal protests, words used in the Legislature and in Ottawa and in Windsor by government officials, such as calling them “Nazis,” “occupying,” “defacing statues,” “violent,” “illegal,” “tyrannical,” “disrespectful,” “racist,” and probably much more.
Speaker, I had boots on the ground in Ottawa and I saw many videos of what was actually happening. Mainstream media would not report that because, let’s face it, peaceful protests don’t sell papers or make the 11 o’clock news. These so-called illegal protesters were feeding the hungry and supporting local businesses who stayed open. They were picking up garbage and had peaceful talks with police officers. Prior to the protests, truckers were heralded as heroes because they kept the economy crossing the borders.
I will go on record and state that I didn’t agree with the complete shutdown of the Ambassador Bridge. I recognize that. I was pleased that the truckers complied and opened up two lanes to allow traffic and the flow of goods to cross borders both ways, and, I might also add, it allowed for people in Windsor who worked in Detroit and vice versa to at least get to work; they might have been delayed a little bit. But what’s the reason for the blockades? People were not listening. Senior government officials were not listening to the requests—not demands, the requests—of our truckers, who were representing, actually, every one of us.
I was in Windsor, and I spoke with RCMP and police officers and many people who were peacefully protesting the violation of their rights and freedoms. I will also add that on the Saturday that I was there, the truckers were completely off the bridge. They were asked to move, and they complied. So kudos to the truckers.
I want to read a quote from one of our former Prime Ministers: “I am a Canadian, free to speak without fear, free to worship God in my own way, free to stand for what I think right, free to oppose what I believe wrong, free to choose those who shall govern my country. This heritage I pledge to uphold for myself and all mankind.”
That quote was given by the Right Honourable John G. Diefenbaker, Prime Minister of Canada, in the House of Commons back on July 1, 1960. Speaker, I, too, stand by those words.
The intent of Bill 100, entitled the Keeping Ontario Open for Business Act, 2022, may be narrow and noble to prevent trucks from impeding critical infrastructure and trade routes. But, unfortunately, it goes much further. The powers conferred allow for the seizure of all property, including homes, for far less than another convoy or blockade. Cars and trucks may be seized administratively with no hearing or trial. The same with one’s licence and plates: no hearing, no trial. No presumption of innocence: One is guilty until proven innocent—and there is no incentive or practicable way for one to be proven innocent. Summary arrests without a warrant are also contained in section 13. The powers are all non-emergency measures. The act lasts forever. There is no sunset clause. Whatever happened to innocent until proven guilty? I believe that this is an overreach by taking a strong-arm approach, with the aim of stopping people from conducting peaceful protests in the name of democracy.
The amendments to the Civil Remedies Act—legislation that has been used to seize houses—are unconscionable and completely unwarranted. There’s no need for another convoy or blockade, either, to trigger the usage of said act. We’re all shocked at the lightning pace, that this particular bill is being put through the Legislature in record time—oh, wait a minute; there’s an election coming. I forgot about that—actually, no, I didn’t.
Bill 100 authorizes the seizure of property, including one’s home. All law enforcement is also made immune to civil litigation unless bad faith can be proven. Is any of this right, fair or just?
Bill 100 does not affect a virtually permanent state of emergency. It’s business as usual. Tyranny will literally become the new norm, with no end in sight.
To the minister: Those charged with an offence are entitled to make full answer and defence, have the right to cross-examination of their accusers and the right to be convicted beyond a reasonable doubt, under the Provincial Offences Act.
The bill is the worst, most tyrannical and draconian piece of legislation to be ever tabled in Canadian history. And that may sound like some harsh language. I get that, but bear with me. The intent may be narrow, as I mentioned earlier, and noble: to prevent trucks from impeding critical infrastructure and trade routes. Unfortunately, as I said earlier, it goes much further than that. The powers conferred allow for the seizure of all property, including homes, for far less than any convoy or blockade. Cars and trucks may be seized administratively, with no hearing or trial. The same with one’s licence plates: They can just take it—no hearing, no trial, once again. No presumption of innocence: One is guilty until proven innocent. I said that before. It’s worth repeating. There’s no incentive or practicable way for one to be proven innocent. If you doubt me on that, check section 9(3).
Summary arrests without a warrant are contained in section 13. The powers are all non-emergency measures. The act lasts forever. I’ve said that before. There is no sunset clause. I’ve said that before. It’s designed to remove our charter rights and century-old natural justice and common-law property rights for good.
It doesn’t come right out and say that, but the bill says one thing, and regulations can be happening and can be changed in a moment’s notice. This turns our entire long-standing legal system upside down and presumes everyone accused as guilty, not innocent. The amendments to the Civil Remedies Act—legislation that has been used to seize houses—are, as I said earlier, unconscionable and completely unwarranted. There’s no need for another convoy or blockade, either, to trigger the usage of said act.
We’re all shocked at the lightning pace, as I said, of the way that this is being put through. It appears to be a shoo-in on third reading after committee, as early as the beginning of—well, today. It started today. It could very easily be ending and voted on, probably in a deferred vote tomorrow afternoon, if we don’t get six and a half hours in—depending upon how long we go tonight.
Bill 100 authorizes the seizure of property, including one’s home, for the following reasons, amongst other things, via amendments to the Civil Remedies Act:
“18(1) Subsection 7(1) of the Civil Remedies Act, 2001 is amended by adding the following definition:
“‘injury to the public’ includes,
“(a) any unreasonable interference with the public’s interest in the enjoyment of property,
“(b) any unreasonable interference with the public’s interest in questions of health, safety, comfort or convenience....”
If one interferes with public interest in mere questions of comfort or convenience, the government may seize one’s property without ever convicting them of a crime. The one thing that really struck me, Speaker, was the fact that in Ottawa, the residents of Ottawa—listen, I get it. The truckers perhaps caused a little bit of inconvenience for the people. Do I agree with their horns blasting all the time? No. It’s a stretch to say they went 24 hours—I don’t believe that for one minute; my boots on the ground can verify that.
But again, if one interferes with public interest in mere questions of comfort or convenience, the government may seize one’s property without ever convicting them of a crime. These terms are not defined and are open to such expansive interpretation that if history serves us as a guide, stunning abuses of power will result, with zero checks or balances to prevent them.
This is called civil asset forfeiture and represents a great contradiction to what the Premier and his Attorney General did with the Reilly case in August 2018. They stood on principle and ceased the nearly decade-long persecution of Orillia landlords convicted of nothing while the properties decayed significantly during the government’s possession. Crime similarly increased while under the government’s ownership.
And I might add that during the quote-unquote, the inflammatory word “occupy”—well, I’ll tell you, I really have a problem with that particular word, because if that’s an “occupy,” what do you call the Russian Ukraine invasion? It’s far more than that, and yet they’re using similar words—a far cry. It’s not fair. It’s not right. It should never have been said, it should never have been done and those words should be pulled back. The other thing I was going to mention is that crime in Ottawa was on the decrease, and it decreased quite a bit for the time that the truckers were in fact there.
This echoes the disastrous experience of civil forfeiture in the United States since 1984, where small towns such as Dunedin, Florida, seized more houses than all of Ontario did at its zenith in the use of the Civil Remedies Act. But that may soon change. Our Charter of Rights at sections 2(b) and (c) and also 7, 8, 9, 10 and 11(d) would all be severely imperilled by this draconian legislation. Our natural justice rights, simply the right to be heard and to be able to meet the case made against the accused, would literally be cancelled. Our property rights would similarly be cancelled and will be at the whim of an administrator who would be provided the consolidated powers of prosecutor, judge, jury and executioner. All law enforcement is made immune to civil litigation, unless bad faith can be proven. Is any of this right, fair or just?
These checks and balances were developed not over years or decades, but over centuries under the British common-law doctrine, tradition and practice. What has happened to our country over the past two years, and especially over the last six to eight months? Consent and bodily autonomy have been cancelled. Now, unsurprisingly, with several provisions of the reopening Ontario act to be revoked, this act will take its place.
But unlike the reopening Ontario act, Bill 100 does not effect a virtually permanent state of emergency. It’s business as usual. And please, make absolutely no mistake about it: What I’ve highlighted in Bill 100 is tyranny defined and personified. It does not belong in Canada. Is this what anyone voted for or would ever vote for in this country? Is this where you want to take us as elected representatives and as members of our current majority party in power?
I urge the government, in the strongest possible terms, to either defeat this legislation at all costs or to amend it to pertain to critical infrastructure only, while preserving our natural justice, property, statutory and charter rights. Indeed, you must go further, since those charged with an offence are entitled to make a full answer in defence, and have the right to cross examination of their accusers and the right to be convicted beyond a reasonable doubt under the Provincial Offences Act. Nothing less is in the least bit acceptable, tolerable or respectful of our long-standing and truly exceptional legal system, which our forefathers fought, sometimes to death, to defend; either that or they braved extremely perilous conditions to escape their home countries, such as other families here, to find peace, solace, justice, freedom and the protection of our most basic rights under this one shining star of a country known as Canada.
Speaker, I mentioned at the very beginning—and I’m going to close with this as well—that I cannot support this bill based on the reasons that I’ve cited. I would hope that others would consider what I have said, because sometimes what’s contained in a bill in black and white, we don’t know what goes on behind that, and those are the regulations that can, in fact—they don’t have to be voted on, but they can make those changes. That’s the thing that is very, very scary for a lot of people in Ontario and in Canada as well.
Again, Bill 100, An Act to enact legislation to protect access to certain transportation infrastructure—they say it’s for bridges and crossings; I think it’s for more than that.
The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bill Walker): Questions and response?
Further debate? Further debate?
Ms. Jones has moved third reading of Bill 100, An Act to enact legislation to protect access to certain transportation infrastructure. Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? I heard a no.
All those in favour of the motion will please say “aye.”
All those opposed to the motion will please say “nay.”
In my opinion, the ayes have it. I declare the motion carried.
Be it resolved that the bill do now pass and be entitled as in the motion.
Third reading agreed to.
The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bill Walker): Orders of the day?
More Homes for Everyone Act, 2022 / Loi de 2022 pour plus de logements pour tous
Mr. Clark moved third reading of the following bill:
Bill 109, An Act to amend the various statutes with respect to housing, development and various other matters / Projet de loi 109, Loi modifiant diverses lois en ce qui concerne le logement, l’aménagement et diverses autres questions.
The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bill Walker): I recognize Minister Clark.
Hon. Steve Clark: I cherish this evening opportunity to join in and kick off third reading debate to Bill 109, the More Homes for Everyone Act.
We’ve said many times on this side of the House that Ontario is in a housing crisis. Our government inherited a crisis that followed 15 years of inaction by the Liberals. It’s our government, under the leadership of Premier Ford, that is really putting forward constructive, forward-thinking policies to increase housing supply and deal with the housing supply crisis, despite the fact that the party of no opposite continues to block all of the information and all of the policies that we’re putting forward.
This week in committee, we had a great opportunity to hear from a number of folks, given what’s going on on the ground in Ontario. We’re finding as a party and as a government that young people who are searching for their first home, they want to have room to grow their family, to have children, to be close to work, to be close to their schools and essential services; we’re hearing from seniors who are thinking about downsizing that they want homes that meet their needs as they age and they want to do it without having to move away from the neighbourhoods that they love. Everyone is looking for something different, and that’s why, from the very first moment in the Legislature, we looked at housing supply as a critical issue for our government and we immediately started working on a plan.
Our housing supply action plan, the More Homes, More Choice, which we tabled in 2019, called Bill 108 at the time, really put into play a variety of measures, both legislative and regulatory, to really increase housing supply. And what did we see, Speaker? We saw incredible uptake in housing starts in the province. Just last year alone, we’ve seen more than 100,000 housing starts, the most housing starts that our province has seen since 1987.
We’ve also seen a tremendous amount of purpose-built rental, which the opposition said wouldn’t happen. Last year, we had over 13,000 starts for purpose-built rental, the highest in 30 years. So despite the opposition talking down the housing industry, talking down the policies that our government is putting forward, and despite all of the success that we’ve had with More Homes, More Choice, we’re following it up with even more changes in terms of regulation and legislation. More Homes for Everyone strikes that balance.
We need to work with our partners. The housing supply crisis is a long-term strategy that the government’s putting forward. It means long-term coordination between all three levels of government. I’m so pleased that, as a government, the support that I’ve received from members on the government side who are here today. I’m just so excited about this opportunity, that Bill 109 is now having third reading and we’re just that much closer to having this bill passed in the Legislature and to build upon our success that we’ve had as a government over the last four years.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Sam Oosterhoff): Questions and comments?
Ms. Jessica Bell: Thank you to the minister for your brief presentation. My question is around speculation. The issues are certainly related to increasing housing supply, especially when it relates to the housing supply we need, but it also relates to demand issues as well. What is this government’s plan to tackle domestic speculation?
Hon. Steve Clark: I am very glad to respond to this member. She said that my comments were brief; I didn’t see her at committee when I appeared. But you know what, Speaker? I want to answer her question this way: Her party had an opportunity to provide amendments on Bill 109. They had a chance to put all of the things that she says in the House, all of the things that she says in response to me in question period, she had a chance to lay out amendments for her party in Bill 109. Do you know how many she put forward on the housing side? Zero, absolutely zero. So I find it pretty rich for that member opposite to ask a question about what I feel—I put my plan on the table; we’re debating it today. She had an opportunity to put amendments forward. She put forward nothing.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Sam Oosterhoff): I recognize the member for Renfrew–Nipissing–Pembroke.
Mr. John Yakabuski: I want to thank the minister for his address this evening. He has been an absolute—I know the Premier likes to use the word, but he has been an absolute champion for building housing and building Ontario. We were elected on a plan, and he has been implementing that plan to get more homes for more people to deal with the housing crisis here in Ontario—the most new housing starts since 1991 and most rental starts since, I believe, 1993 maybe. It’s just been tremendous work.
I do have a question, and I think it’s important, Minister, that you explain to the House and the people of Ontario why this legislation is needed to help address the housing affordability crisis.
Hon. Steve Clark: I want to thank my good friend the member for Renfrew–Nipissing–Pembroke. We’ve been in the chamber a long time together, and we’ve been at a number of these evening debates, and one of the things that he brings up is the importance of the bill. We needed to make some changes. We needed to build upon our success.
He talked about the statistics of how we’ve seen such an increase in housing supply, but we know that demand has far exceeded supply. It takes way too long to get things built. We need to cut the red tape. We need to cut the duplication at this level, and we need to work with our municipal partners. We appointed a Housing Affordability Task Force, and municipalities said they just weren’t there yet. They found their recommendations were too bold.
We’re going to implement, if the bill is passed, these recommendations, but we’re also going to continue to consult municipalities on the next bill. I think in a re-elected Doug Ford government we’re going to have four bills in our four-year term.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Sam Oosterhoff): Further questions?
Ms. Jessica Bell: Thank you to the minister as well. I had the privilege of speaking at the Ontario Home Builders’ Association when you were doing your initial presentation for Bill 109, and we did actually happen to introduce five amendments to a bill which I would say needed a hell of a lot of improvement.
My question is around speeding up the construction of homes. There happens to be 59 modular homes that are in the MPP for Willowdale’s riding, homes for low-income people, and this government has been ignoring a city of Toronto request for those 59 modular homes to be built so that we can address our affordable housing crisis and our homelessness crisis in the city of Toronto. Can you say yes to approving the 59 modular homes in the MPP for Willowdale’s riding?
Hon. Steve Clark: Speaker, I just can’t resist responding to this member. She didn’t go to committee because she was speaking at an organization, the Ontario Home Builders’ Association, that she and her leader, Andrea Horwath, vilify continuously in this House—vilify the people who are putting a plan in place so that individuals, young families can realize the dream of home ownership. I just can’t understand the hypocrisy.
The five amendments she put in had nothing to do with my sections of the bill; they all concerned the Minister of Government and Consumer Services. I find it pretty rich that the NDP continue to talk no, they continue to vote down, and I’d be very interested to see how this member—
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Sam Oosterhoff): Thank you very much.
Mr. Sheref Sabawy: Thank you very much, Minister, for this piece of legislation which has been long awaited to add more availability to housing in Ontario. What our government did in the red tape reduction bills, the government has committed to a housing supply action plan every year for the next four years to help unlock housing supply. How will this longer-term approach work to help more Ontarians realize the dream of home ownership?
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Sam Oosterhoff): Thank you very much. I appreciate the debate from the member from Mississauga–Erin Mills.
Ms. Jessica Bell: Thank you to the member for the presentation. The question I have for you is this: Housing supply is certainly an issue in Ontario, but an additional issue is demand-related issues. We now see in Ontario that the biggest purchaser, the primary purchaser of homes in Ontario are multiple property investors. What is this government’s plan to make it easier for first-time homebuyers to buy and limit the number of homes that are being scooped up by multiple property investors?
Mr. Sheref Sabawy: As we’ve seen from the NDP, every time we put any legislation which has an approach to do something to fix one of the issues, we leave this issue and we talk about other issues. We talk about adding more supply; you talk about affordable housing. We talk about helping immigrants to quickly get into the workforce; you talk about medical people. Every time this government tries to push something to help Ontarians, you try to camouflage and go to another point.
I ask you, again, the question: This legislation is going to add more supply to housing and make young Canadians who are average working Canadians—make their dream come true. Do you agree, or not agree?
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Sam Oosterhoff): Further questions? The Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing.
Hon. Steve Clark: Thanks, Speaker. It’s nice to see you in the chair this evening.
I appreciate the opportunity to pose a question. You know, on this side of the House we talk about the importance of all three levels of government working together, and one of the things that our government is really promoting that we haven’t yet heard from the opposition is this plan about having a fair share from the federal government. We’re short-changed about $490 million from the federal government for housing. That would create a lot more affordable housing opportunities. I wondered if the member from Mississauga–Erin Mills would talk about the importance of all three levels of government working collaboratively on the housing supply issue.
Mr. Sheref Sabawy: Minister, I would like to elaborate more about talking about average Canadians who work hard to make ends meet. Those young families who are working Canadians cannot get enough to buy a house because of the supply. There is no supply, and that’s how we see more offers on one house, which drives the price up. By adding more supply, by making the municipalities accountable, putting time frames on developers being able to get approved to start building and adding more homes for everyone in Ontario—I think this is the only way we can control the price of housing, which is going above average.
The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bill Walker): I recognize the member from Kiiwetinoong.
Mr. Sol Mamakwa: I hear the minister talk about three levels of government. When we talk about First Nations and Indigenous people, I know there’s a housing crisis happening in the north. That there is a housing crisis means that there’s a mental health crisis in the north. A housing crisis means there’s a suicide crisis in the north, in First Nations communities. What type of conversation did you have with First Nations to create this bill?
Mr. Sheref Sabawy: Again, we are talking about housing. We are talking about how we can make more houses available. We talk about developers who take three or four years just to get rezoning and plan approval to start building. This time is taking off the availability of the market. By putting some restrictions or some time frames to get the municipalities accountable and get the building going, it gets the shovels into the ground and gets those houses ready for families to move on. Canada needs more housing. Ontario needs more housing. We are getting more immigrants every day. We have youth moving every day. We need houses. Thank you very much to the minister for taking these efforts to get that going.
The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bill Walker): Further debate?
Ms. Jessica Bell: Thank you for the opportunity to speak to this bill. We’re now at third reading. This is the More Homes for Everyone Act, and I’m very pleased to be speaking to this bill because housing affordability is the biggest issue in my riding and it’s fast becoming one of the biggest issues in Ontario and Canada.
There’s no question that housing affordability has escalated from a crisis into a massive crisis under this government’s four-year term. In University–Rosedale and across Toronto, we have people who are grappling with housing affordability issues at every level. We have people who are sleeping in parks: Alexandra Park, the park in Kensington, Dufferin Grove, Christie Pits, Bickford Park—people who have nowhere to go. Some of them are dying young. They are going to the emergency rooms again and again, because many of them have mental health issues. In the winter, they were appearing in the emergency room with frostbite and cold-related injuries.
It’s having a massive impact on businesses in University–Rosedale as well. In Kensington Market, for instance, we have businesses regularly communicating with us and residents regularly communicating with us, begging for more city and provincial help in order to house people who have nowhere to go.
And then moving upwards, we have families who are living in one-bedroom apartments, raising their children in one-bedroom apartments, who are waiting upwards of a decade or more to move into community housing. I’ve always remembered the MPP for Toronto Centre’s story about how her mother and her lived in student housing, and it wasn’t until she had moved out of her home that her mother was finally able to get access to a community housing unit, which she had been eligible for for many years.
The other issue that we have that is often not addressed with this government is the issue of overcrowding. When we look at some areas in our city—in particular, Scarborough, York, Finch, Etobicoke, especially in racialized neighbourhoods, lower-income neighbourhoods—we see an increasing instance, especially in the big, purpose-built rental towers, of two families living in a two-bedroom unit. They can’t make it work. If they’re earning $40,000 a year or less because they’re on minimum wage, they can’t make it work.
Many, many people are living in overcrowded housing. The city of Toronto estimates that there are over 135,000 households in Toronto that are living in homes that are too small for them. And then, of course, there are thousands and thousands of people who are living in homes that are too expensive for them as well.
The Financial Accountability Office did an assessment to look at how many people in Ontario are in core housing need, which is a term that means that a family is either living in a home that is too small for them or they’re living in a home that’s too expensive for them. When we’re talking about too expensive, we’re talking about spending more than 30% of your income on rent.
What they found is that over 30% of Ontarians are living in homes that are too expensive for them to afford. They just can’t make it work, and it means they’ve got to cut corners elsewhere. They might say no to child care. They might delay on transportation. We hear stories of people sharing a Metropass between multiple people in a household. And they might skimp on food. It’s hard to hear, in one of the richest provinces in the world, that that’s a daily reality for many people.
Then moving up, we deal with the issue of housing affordability at the point of purchase, and that is really where this government has spent a lot of attention. It certainly is a crisis. Under this government’s four-year term, housing prices have gone up about 50% in four years. So after Bill 108 was introduced, the More Homes, More Choice Act, homes have gone up 50% in the last four years. This can’t be all blamed on the Ontario government. The federal government has a role to play as well, as do municipal governments. But there are many things that this Ontario government could have done to make housing more affordable for renters and first-time home buyers, which they didn’t do.
And that has had a huge impact on a lot of people. It’s made the dream of home ownership and the stability of home ownership all but impossible, except for the top 5% of income earners in Ontario. You need to earn about $200,000 a year as a household in order to afford a home. That’s a lot of money. And it also means that our lives are impacted in many different ways. It means that a kid’s best friend might move out of the neighbourhood because they can’t afford to buy a home. It might mean that couples choose to stay in a home for longer than they want to, because one partner can’t buy the other partner out. It also means that our economy suffers because when we have people spending upwards of 50% of their income on rent or a mortgage, it means they’re not spending that money on more productive segments of society. That’s a problem.
It also means our economy suffers because there is a drain of young people leaving the province. We are experiencing that now. During this period, where we have seen housing prices go up by 50%, we are also seeing a net drain of people from the province. That’s partly because immigration numbers have stalled during the pandemic. It’s also because younger people in particular are saying, “I can’t afford to live in this province anymore,” and they’re moving to Nova Scotia or they’re moving to Alberta. They’re moving to places that are a little bit more affordable.
These are teachers. These are firefighters. These are physicians. They’re health care workers. They’re nurses. They’re personal support workers. They’re people that we need to stay in Ontario in order to make Ontario work, and they’re leaving. That is this government’s legacy. Despite the rhetoric, that is this government’s legacy.
I’m going to take a little bit of time to talk about a few of the things the government has done and has not done, and then I’m going to move to Bill 109, the More Homes for Everyone Act.
The one thing I noticed when the minister was speaking is that they mentioned Bill 108, the More Homes, More Choice Act. They talked a good talk about how this made everything wonderful again. There are some things in that bill, Bill 108, that I thought were pretty decent. Increasing density near transit stations, when done right, is a very sensible move. It will increase density, it will provide more homes to people and it’s a sustainable way to plan. It’s a good thing.
What I wasn’t so happy about is that Bill 108 gutted inclusionary zoning and it limited inclusionary zoning so that it can only be near transit zones or areas that the minister designates, and the minister hasn’t designated a lot. In fact, the minister hasn’t even approved the only inclusionary zoning plan that any municipality across Ontario has developed, and that’s the city of Toronto’s plan. They’ve limited inclusionary zoning, which would have required that more affordable homes would be built in any big new development in certain municipalities across Ontario. They narrowed it completely.
What I also notice this government has done is that they’ve cut funding to municipalities in housing. We saw that with the recent Financial Accountability Office report. That showed that as housing need has increased, costs have gone up and more people are struggling to pay the rent, the amount of funding that this government has dedicated to housing programs has actually decreased. Now, the government made a big announcement. They combined all these housing programs and these homelessness programs together and said. “Voila, we’re actually increasing funding.” But when you actually look at all the programs that they amalgamated, they actually cut funding.
You can see this very clearly when you look at the city of Toronto and how much the provincial governmental allocates to supportive housing programs and building new affordable homes. The city has a supportive housing program where the federal government gives $300 million a year, the city gives $800 million a year, and guess how much the province gives? Three million dollars a year. That’s all the province gives to build supportive housing and affordable housing to the city of Toronto, the largest city in Canada. That has impacts. That affects affordability.
This government has also done very little to protect tenants during this pandemic. This government danced around with an eviction ban, implemented it and then didn’t implement it, implemented it and then didn’t implement it. But what this government essentially did is made it so that every single stage of the eviction process could happen, except for the bit when the bailiff comes in and enforces the order. So in many cases tenants, who had lost their job through no fault of their own—because the business or organization they were working for had to reduce their hours, lay people off, or give them less hours—found themselves in a difficult situation when it came to rent. Then they found themselves with a Landlord and Tenant Board decision saying, “You’re going to have to move out and there’s nothing the government is going to do to help you. And you may as well move out now because the decision is already made.”
That was really hard. There were a lot of people in our riding who were affected by that.
Then this government also eliminated rent controls on new buildings, which also affects affordability. We have been receiving many calls from tenants who—maybe they’re international students; maybe they didn’t know the rules so well—moved into a new condo, enticed by the month of free rent. Then they found themselves, once the rent freeze was lifted at the start of this year, facing upwards of 20%, 30%, sometimes 50% rent increases, because they didn’t realize that when you move into a new building, a new condo, a new purpose-built rental, you’re exempt from rent control. Which means these new buildings, these new purpose-built rentals that this government has made it easier to build, are unaffordable and they’re precarious, because tenants can be evicted by a landlord who wants to increase the rent.
Now, the government likes to say that it’s important to get rid of rent control on new buildings because it will stimulate demand. Quite frankly, this is a myth, and it’s a myth for a few reasons. One, we’ve tried this experiment in Ontario already. The Harris government got rid of rent control on new buildings, and the Liberal government for 15 years kept no rent control on new buildings. What they found is that during this period, we had the lowest amount of new rental construction for a decade, mainly because it was more profitable to build condos.
That ignores the fact that there are other ways to incentivize the construction of purpose-built rentals. It also ignores the fact that when you eliminate rent control, you might be building some new supply, but you’re building unaffordable supply. And you’re making it easier for big developers and big, corporate landlords to continue to make record profits—which they are—and you make it harder for people who earn $30,000 to $80,000 a year to afford to live in our city and to save up enough money for a down payment. That is not the way to build an affordable housing system.
This government has also made the decision to allow the Landlord and Tenant Board to become one of the most dysfunctional tribunals in Ontario. I’ve communicated with the Ombudsman about the Landlord and Tenant Board. I’ve communicated with landlords about the Landlord and Tenant Board, and tenants, and they tell me alike that this tribunal is not working for anybody. It takes upwards of six months for a landlord and, in some cases, two years for a tenant to get a hearing. In many cases, it’s very difficult for a tenant to get the ruling enforced, except if they’re asking for a rent abatement.
I think of an individual called Pin in my riding. He has been working very hard to get his landlord to install and maintain a clean and well-functioning kitchen and bathroom in the property, because the landlord is using every trick in the book—has moved in, has torn down walls, has behaved in very destructive ways—in order to get this tenant out. He’s still waiting for a hearing, two years later. That is an example of what this government has done when we are talking about ensuring that renters have safe, affordable and well-maintained homes. That requires a well-functioning Landlord and Tenant Board, and this government’s record is to turn a dysfunctional tribunal into an extremely dysfunctional tribunal.
I am heartened by this government’s decision—they amalgamated it together with this bill—to increase funding to the Landlord and Tenant Board. My hope is that that will address some of the backlogs and delays that we’re experiencing with that tribunal, because this tribunal is adjudicating disputes between landlords who see a house as an investment and tenants who see that very same house as a home. It matters. The tribunal needs to be fast, effective and fair. My hope is that the funding that is going to the Landlord and Tenant Board goes some way into addressing that.
So I’m going to talk a little bit about Bill 109. We are at third reading. I did sit through a committee and heard many organizations and associations speak about this bill—some in support, many against. The goal of Bill 109 is to build more homes faster; that’s the goal. I would say, we do need to build more homes—there’s no question about that—but we also need to make sure that we address this housing crisis in a comprehensive and holistic fashion, which means that we build new homes but we also address the fact that we need to build affordable homes and supportive housing homes. And that is going to require government investment. It means we need to improve protections on renters and it means that we need to clamp down on investor speculation. It requires a multi-pronged approach. Having a simplistic, myopic approach on one plank of a multi-pronged problem is not going to address the issue in the way that it needs to be addressed. That’s my first critique with the overall premise of Bill 109. It’s just focused on one issue, and it’s not providing a comprehensive response to the problem.
I want to get to the bill. The first thing I want to do is thank the many witnesses that came to committee to share their expertise. These organizations included:
—AMO, the Association of Municipalities of Ontario;
—BILD, the Building Industry and Land Development Association;
—CERA, the Centre for Equality Rights in Accommodation;
—CMHA, the Canadian Mental Health Association;
—Canadians for Properly Built Homes, which was a very interesting presentation; I actually learned a lot listening to their presentation;
—Environmental Defence, who had some concerns around the ability for new municipal official plans to now be appealed at the lands tribunal;
—the Federation of South Toronto Residents’ Associations—thank you for giving us a written submission—a new association of all the southern Toronto residents’ associations; I’m pleased to see a submission there;
—the Federation of Rental-Housing Providers of Ontario;
—the Federation of Urban Neighbourhoods;
—the city of Hamilton;
—Huron-Sussex Residents Association, a local residents’ association—thank you so much for sharing your presentation as well;
—the Maytree foundation, which has a strong commitment to ensuring that housing is seen as a human right;
—Ontario for All, who gave very, very interesting insight into inclusionary zoning;
—the Ontario Home Builders’ Association;
—Ontario Real Estate Association;
—the city of Ottawa;
—the region of Peel; and
—the city of Toronto.
It was a really comprehensive group of individuals and organizations and associations that came to share their expertise. I listened very carefully to what they had to say and I also read many of the submissions that they provided, just to get a better understanding of their take on the bill.
The one that has gotten a lot of attention is the decision to refund site plan application fees if timelines for approval aren’t met. What this means is that if a developer submits an application to a municipality for a zoning bylaw application or a site plan application, the clock starts ticking. The municipality has a set period of time to get that application approved, and if they don’t get that application approved they have to refund the fees that the developer has given to have that application assessed.
One of the issues with this is that the municipalities are going to put staffing time into assessing these proposals, which means that it essentially works out to be a fine. Because if money is returned and staff have already been working on that application, it means that money has been lost. So it essentially amounts to a fine.
The timelines for approval are really quite short. If you want to get a zoning bylaw application, if you don’t get it approved in 91 days, it’s a 50% refund of the fees. For a combined official plan and zoning bylaw application, if you don’t get it approved in 120 days, on the 121st day it’s a 50% refund. With a site plan application, after 61 days it’s a 50% refund.
You can imagine that municipalities and AMO were pretty concerned by this government’s decision to not work with municipalities but punish municipalities for not meeting strict deadlines. I want to read an example of what some of these municipalities said.
One is from the city of Hamilton. They gave an excellent summary. They wrote a very lengthy letter. The key thing that they wanted to emphasize and which I’m reading out to you is that approving a 20-storey condo or a development that will have an impact on the electricity supply, on the sewage system, on water supply—it’s not something that can just be rubber-stamped. It’s a complicated process. They took the time to explain it here. They said: “Bill 109 does not recognize that the planning approvals process is a partnership involving the municipality, the applicant, the community and external agencies and provincial ministries. The planning process is not linear, but reiterative, and applicants play a significant role in both the timing of and the quality of submissions and re-submissions.”
So what they’re trying to say there is that sometimes it’s not the municipality’s fault if an application is late or it’s taking its time; sometimes it’s the provincial government’s fault, because they need to get approvals from the provincial government; sometimes it’s other departments’ fault within the municipality; and sometimes it’s the developer’s fault, because they haven’t submitted an application that is adequate or complete or has all the information that they need to make a good decision. That puts municipalities in a very difficult bind, and in written submission after written submission they made that clear—Peel, Hamilton and Toronto, some of the biggest municipalities in Ontario.
They said, “Hold on.” The key point they really had to say is that penalizing municipalities for not getting approvals done within an extremely short period of time will likely have the intended impact of slowing down building applications. The reason is that municipalities are going to look at a big application and they’re going to say, “We know we don’t have the ability to get this approved within the timeline that’s been set out for us, so we’re just going to reject this application outright.” As a consequence, the developer is going to have to go to the land tribunal to get that application approved, and the land tribunal is backlogged and it takes a very long time for developments to get approved in this way, and sometimes the development is approved in a way that doesn’t meet the city’s official plan and doesn’t meet the infrastructure realities that a municipality has. That’s a concern. They were very clear. They said, “This bill could actually slow down building approvals. It won’t necessarily speed things up.”
The second set of schedules that I do want to address are schedule 3 and schedule 4. Some of this information was a little new to me. My colleague the MPP for Humber River–Black Creek is very interested in this issue, so I was pleased to learn a little bit more about it, which is that when a first-time homebuyer buys a new home, sometimes they are buying a home that is not up to code. The developer has built a home or the builder has built a home that has defects. Sometimes the furnace—this is a big issue that came up—that has been installed is a refurbished furnace, a second-hand furnace, even though they expected to get a new one. Sometimes there are issues that make it impossible for an individual to live in the home. We had two people speak who were very clear that schedule 3 and schedule 4, while they strengthened the complaints process and the warranties process for new homes—there is some improvement there—they don’t go far enough.
What this bill doesn’t do is require new homes to be built to code, because there is no improvement in the inspection process. Inspectors are meant to go into a home that is being built to ensure that the home is up to code. Unfortunately, this government has watered down the inspection process so that now inspections can be done remotely, and the government has even allowed inspections by drone, which was really news to me. I did not know about that.
We introduced some amendments to strengthen the warranty process in order to give first-time homebuyers the rights they need so that if they move into a home that has defects that weren’t their fault, it was the builders fault, then they have recourse. They can get compensated and get their home repaired. This government chose to reject those multiple amendments, which is very disappointing because this government has said time and time again that it is hoping to help first-time homebuyers. Well, I’ll tell you, if you spend $1 million on a new home, you want to make sure that that home is built to code and you want to know the government has your back if you find out that home is not built to code. So that is a problem.
The final schedule to the bill was schedule 5, and schedule 5 had a few issues to it. One was the issue around essentially penalizing municipalities if they didn’t get approvals done on time. Then there are a few other amendments to this that I think are worth mentioning. One is that the government has given themselves the right to suspend the time period for an official plan to be reviewed and approved. It has also given them the right to send a municipality’s official plan to the Ontario Land Tribunal. This is important right now because municipalities all across Ontario are reviewing their official plans and upgrading them to make sure that they meet growth plan targets.
Some municipalities have some concerns with how this process is going because the ministry, the Ontario government, has turned around and said to many municipalities, from Hamilton to Halton, “You know what? We’re going to make you increase your municipal boundary so that you will be forced to permit urban sprawl on farmland,” instead of building within a municipal boundary and meeting population demand by gently increasing density: the missing middle, building more duplexes and townhomes and triplexes. Some municipalities have said, “Hold on. We like our green space.” Other municipalities have said, “Hold on. When we build urban sprawl, it means that we have to construct a whole lot of new infrastructure,” and it actually costs more to do that than it does to build homes within a municipal boundary.
So it actually costs municipalities more. It costs us more, we lose green space, we lose world-class farmland, and we also are contributing to our unfortunately very unsustainable transportation system, because when people move into those homes, they often find themselves living upwards of 90 minutes to two hours away from where they work, which means they’re locking themselves into epic, soul-destroying, lengthy commutes. That’s a problem, and some municipalities have realized this.
Hamilton has realized this. Hamilton, after a long fight and a vote, made the decision that they were going to increase density by building within existing boundaries and that they were going to say no to boundary expansion and keep and protect their surrounding farmland. This was a pretty momentous decision.
This government turned around and said, “We’re not going to allow that. We’re going to do two things. One, we’re going give ourselves the right to have greater control over your official plan”—that’s what they do in this bill. And they also said, “We’re going to send your official plan to the land tribunal and let an unelected, unaccountable tribunal”—one of the most unelected and unaccountable tribunals in North America—“decide what your official plan is going to look like, even though your democratically elected city council decided and had a different vision.”
That’s what part of schedule 5 does. You can imagine that there are a lot of people who are very concerned about that. Some of those people include, once again, the cities of Toronto and Hamilton. Hamilton wanted to point out the impact of this kind of decision, financially, on them—actually, I’m going to go to the city of Toronto. They had a more comprehensive response; they kind of laid it out.
What they found is that when you allow a city’s official plan to go to the land tribunal to be appealed—so a democratically elected official plan decided by democratically elected city councillors is going to be sent to one-man rule at the land tribunal—this is what happens: It means that this planning process that you want to speed up—it causes significant delays and increased costs for planning staff, legal staff and consultants to participate in hearings. They gave an example: It could take upwards of $1 million to $2 million to contest this issue in court, so that’s $1 million to $2 million of taxpayer money being used to uphold an official plan, which is not great. And then—where’s number eight? The city of Toronto outlined it really nicely. I can’t find it, so I’m going to keep going. I’m sure no one minds.
But the city of Toronto did a very good job explaining that the last time their official plan was taken to the land tribunal, it was delayed for years, and they had multiple appeals, more than a dozen appeals, which held up the official planning process for a very long time. The reason why I give this as an example is because it demonstrates that this bill does a lot to actually create a whole lot more red tape and give municipalities more say when they’re saying yes to increased density. That’s a problem, because that’s the opposite of what this bill aims to do.
The other section of schedule 5 which has also drawn a lot of ire is the government’s decision to create a new community accelerator tool. This accelerator tool is essentially an MZO, which is very controversial. It’s a ministerial zoning order, which means that the ministers give themselves the power to say yes to any kind of development they want, even if the infrastructure is not necessarily there. It allows them to override city planning rules. It allows them to create new provincial planning rules. It basically gives them carte blanche over a piece of land. After public outcry, this government, in this bill, has decided to come up with a new tool called the community accelerator tool, which essentially puts a little bit of accountability into the ministerial zoning order process.
On the surface of it, there are some things which I’m kind of okay with about this bill. One, it says that local councils need to request these approvals and that they need to undergo some kind of public consultation process before they request, essentially, an MZO from the minister.
I’m going to give you some credit here. In my riding, I have seen some instances where some projects have been fast-tracked, that are in the public interest, that I support. The examples that I use include the decision by Toronto Western Hospital to expand its emergency room. The city of Toronto will be putting in a request to speed that process up. I’ve seen Toronto Western’s emergency room. It is really rough in there, and it is way too small. You’re not going to see me opposing that; I support it. An MZO has been used for 877 Yonge to reduce parking minimums so this building can be turned into a supportive housing facility more quickly, and something similar has been done with 222 Spadina Avenue. These are all in my riding, and I was absolutely fine with that as well.
So in situations where fast-tracking certain approvals is being done for the public interest—good.
The challenge with this tool is that—the MZOs can still be used whenever it suits this government, and when it suits this government and maybe some of their developer friends, it could be used for political gain. It’s not an accountable and fair process in the public interest. It could still be abused and misused. We have a planning process for a reason, and it should be used.
Those were the concerns we had with the schedules that were in the bill.
I’m not going to be using all of my time.
Ms. Jessica Bell: I know. I can sense the vibe in the room.
I am going to summarize by talking briefly about some of the real solutions to the housing affordability crisis that I wish and I hope this government would address. These are solutions that we as an NDP government, if we are privileged enough to be chosen by the voters to take on that responsibility, will address as well.
I agree that we do need new homes in Ontario. We have the federal government making the decision to increase immigration to 400,000 people a year. That’s a marked change, and we do need new homes in Ontario. The Ontario government doesn’t actually do a great job at assessing how many homes we need and for whom, which is why we have to rely on third parties to do that assessment. The Smart Prosperity Institute did a pretty good assessment, and they calculated that we need to increase our housing supply targets from 80,000 a year to 100,000 a year. That makes sense. The challenge is that this government is building a whole lot of multi-million dollar homes on farmland and 650-square-foot condos, but they’re not doing enough to build the more affordable duplexes, townhomes, triplexes and walk-up apartments and accessible apartments that we need to meet the needs of seniors, in particular, who want to downsize, families and young people. It’s not being met. This bill doesn’t do it. You know what needs to be done. It involves zoning reform. This government needs to do it. We will do it.
The additional thing that this government has failed to do, which they need to do, is to build supportive housing and affordable housing. That means having more government regulation to ensure that it happens, and it means government investment. That means being inspired by Montreal, buying up properties and turning them into supportive housing and affordable housing.
It means being inspired by Housing Now, the city of Toronto’s program, which is already slated to build 5,000 affordable housing projects on public land. We own over 6,000 pieces of public land. That should be used for affordable housing. Some of that land should be used for affordable housing. We should be making it easier to have non-profit developers and co-ops get the financing they need to build affordable housing, because it actually does work, especially if you provide the financing. I don’t see any of that here.
And we need real inclusionary zoning. If a developer is benefiting from new zoning laws which allow them to increase the value of their land because they can build up, that increase in value needs to be shared. Municipalities should have some. The public should have some, and that means requiring developers to share that profit and build affordable housing as well. We need supportive and affordable housing.
We need to help renters. Thirty-five per cent of Ontarians rent, and my guess is that that number has gone up in the last few years. We need to make sure that we have proper rent control, not just within a tenancy but between a tenancy, so we can stop the rapid rise in evictions and so that we can stabilize rent, because people need an affordable home. Not everyone is going to be able to afford a home to buy. We need to make renting a long-term, stable and safe alternative. This government is not going to do that. We will.
Finally, we will move forward, and this government should move forward, with addressing domestic and foreign speculation. You’ve done a little bit with the non-resident speculation tax, but we have a real issue with speculation in Canada and Ontario. We have one in six homes being bought by investors. That is an issue. They can use equity in homes they already use to buy another home and another home and another home. And first-time homebuyers are completely on the side. They can’t keep up; they cannot keep up. There are measures that we can take in this Legislature to make it easier for first-time homebuyers to buy, and that means making it more expensive for investors to buy their 17th home.
This is our plan. This is what we will implement. It’s not in this bill. Bill 109 is a very modest, timid bill. What it does is that it punishes municipalities instead of working with them—and that’s how we are going to solve our housing affordability crisis.
Thank you for your time. I appreciate being given the opportunity to speak on this bill.
The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bill Walker): Questions and response?
Mr. Sheref Sabawy: Thanks for the good speech from the member opposite. I picked a few points in your presentation that I would like to maybe ask some comments from your side about. When you’re saying the government is not building enough low-cost housing, duplexes or condos and the government is more interested in building multi-million-dollar houses for families, I think I should maybe just correct the record here, because the government doesn’t build houses. We are not in the construction business. We are building an environment which helps construction companies to do good business. I don’t know exactly why you would like to colour the whole thing with one brush, because there will be construction companies whose business is doing that, and I don’t think that’s something wrong.
My question for you: Are you trying to punish the construction companies who can build houses—which now in Mississauga, less than a million dollars wouldn’t get you a house—
The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bill Walker): Thank you. I recognize the member from University–Rosedale.
Ms. Jessica Bell: Thank you very much for that question. The government sets the rules and regulations and we do have a very loosely regulated market, which has meant that developers build what is most profitable for them. Today, developers are building condos. The average size of a condo is 650 square feet. I don’t know how many of you live in a 650-square-foot apartment and raise a family, but that’s what they build. They also build single-family homes, which, by and large, are beyond what any first-time homebuyer can afford.
What we are calling for, and what we want this government to do, is to change the rules to make it more attractive to build those townhomes, those duplexes, those triplexes, which are more affordable options. They’re more affordable options for Ontarians.
The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bill Walker): Questions and response?
Ms. Peggy Sattler: I want to congratulate the member for University–Rosedale on her very comprehensive and thorough analysis of this bill, even at this time in the evening.
I want to share a story of a London West constituent, Walter Nowobranec, who is 69 years old. He and his wife are both crossing guards. They’ve lived for 14 years in the same apartment in a little community in London West called Old South. They pay $1,100 a month in rent. They recently got a notice from their landlord. He says he’s going to be moving in so they must move out. They are crushed at the thought of leaving. There is nowhere else in that area of the city—or anywhere in the city—where they can get a comparable apartment for $1,100 a month.
Will this bill do anything to help people like Walter who are experiencing this on a daily basis?
Ms. Jessica Bell: Thank you to the member for London West for your question. This bill does nothing to help renters who are facing an eviction. Some 35% of Ontarians rent, as I said, and upwards of 15% of renters every year move. In many cases they have to move because they are being evicted. The challenge is that a lot of these evictions are shady evictions, where a landlord says they’re going to move in but actually they don’t, or a landlord says they’re going to renovate but actually they don’t.
This bill does nothing to enforce eviction law so that a tenant has protection, and this bill does nothing to bring in rent stabilization so that we can end vacancy decontrol and make it more stable and affordable for renters to live in Ontario.
The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bill Walker): I recognize the member for Mississauga–Erin Mills.
Mr. Sheref Sabawy: The member opposite has a good point about rental units. I would like to ask the member opposite, when did you last hear about a new building coming for rent in your riding? When was the last time you heard about a new building for rent? There is not enough rental building now because of all the restrictions that have been added by the Liberal government, with your support, which made this business not profitable. Nobody’s building rental housing because it’s very, very difficult to manage now.
Ms. Jessica Bell: I do want to point out to the member for Mississauga–Erin Mills that the time when we built the most amount of affordable housing and purpose-built rentals was in the 1970s, when government invested in building co-ops and more affordable purpose-built rentals.
I live in a riding that has astronomical rents. It’s one of the top three ridings in the country in terms of rent. We do have purpose-built rentals that are being built in our riding. The example I have thought of recently is, we have a new building on College Street. The available rent to move into this place—I actually took a look because a few tenants approached me about it. It’s about a 1,100-square-foot apartment. It costs over $3,500 to rent that 1,100-square-foot apartment because these apartments are not protected by rent control. How is that in any way affordable?
The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bill Walker): Questions and response?
Mr. Sol Mamakwa: Thank you to the member for speaking on Bill 109, the More Homes for Everyone Act. When we talk about more homes for everyone, it does not say anything about First Nations on reserves. That’s not everyone. It’s always like that when we use jurisdiction as an excuse, when we use jurisdiction to be complacent about the shortage of housing on reserves.
My question is: Is there anywhere in the bill that talks about Indigenous First Nations housing?
Ms. Jessica Bell: Thank you to the member for Kiiwetinoong for that important question. Bill 109 does not mention at all any move by this government to build more affordable housing or to maintain and improve housing for Indigenous people. We are calling for an affordable housing program to address the housing shortage and housing crisis in Indigenous communities that is led by Indigenous communities. It is part of our housing platform. It makes a lot of sense. I don’t see anything like that in this bill.
The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bill Walker): Question and response?
Mr. Sheref Sabawy: Again, I will go back to one of the points you mentioned in your speech about municipalities, that municipalities do not have the resources, or if they’re putting together a 20-storey building, it’s going to take a long time to be done, and it’s not reasonable. Again, currently, there is no limit. It could take up to a year, maybe more, before anybody gets an answer for something.
And number two: Do you know how much the municipalities charge for developing fees, on average? This 20-storey building in Mississauga could come to between $8 million and $10 million. So are you telling me that there are no resources, maybe, to hire somebody for three months to get things done? This is not acceptable.
Ms. Jessica Bell: Thank you very much for raising the issue of developer fees. One of the things that I heard AMO and speakers in committee talk about is that a lot of those developer fees go towards providing infrastructure that is necessary for the people that are moving into that building. It contributes to transit costs; it contributes to daycare costs; it contributes to infrastructure costs, and that’s part of the charge.
The additional thing that the city of Toronto and AMO and Peel and Hamilton pointed out is that they want to work in partnership with the province to ensure that building approvals are done. What they clearly don’t want is to be financially penalized to do their fee-for-service work and then have their application processes go to the land tribunal, where it could take even longer to get these building permits approved.
The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bill Walker): There’s not enough time for another question and answer.
Miss Monique Taylor: The member opposite had so much to say, I was expecting him to get up and to participate in the debate.
Miss Monique Taylor: The minister has spoken, the member did not, and I know he wanted to.
Miss Monique Taylor: I left the House for 10 minutes. A lot happened in that time, quite obviously. My apologies to the member opposite, Speaker. I literally left the House for 10 minutes, so the member could not have spoken very long.
There is definitely a lot to speak about in this bill—a lot of concerns from my constituents that I hear on a regular basis. One of the most major calls to my office is the unaffordability of housing, of renovictions, of landlords claiming that they’re going to take over the units, and then where is that person supposed to go? It is definitely a major issue. So I’m happy to have the opportunity to put a few moments on the record in support of my community and what they’re facing.
For instance, just on Saturday, I joined ACORN at a rally in front of a townhouse complex that has five tenants left out of 12 due to renoviction. This has been happening for some time. This has been going on, and we haven’t really been able to find anything legal about it. The paperwork that’s been given to these tenants has been very shoddy, at best.
The landlord claims that he’s sold the property, but we cannot find any proof of that. He has threatened these tenants. He’s actually suing one tenant for speaking to another tenant about the N13. Now she’s being sued for colluding to interfere with the sale of a property, and yet we cannot find any proof to show that sale.
You can see the decline of those housing units over the past few years. It’s definitely not, from the outside, a place that is glorified. You can see the breakdown of the units. You can definitely see the lack of maintenance that’s been given to these homes. And yet, on the inside, people have made them their homes. Some of those tenants have lived there for over 10 years and very clearly have a very comfortable home inside. You do see some water leakage in ceilings, different things that are broken, but they’re doing their best to keep it up.
They’re refusing to leave, Speaker, for the fact of, where are they going to go? To be able to find a housing unit that is affordable is pretty much impossible in the city of Hamilton unless you have a very high income, or several people within the home to be able to contribute to the cost of rent. For a one-bedroom apartment, on average, right now, we’re seeing about $1,500 a month. For a two-bedroom, for families, or a three-bedroom, we’re seeing $2,000 and over. This is completely unaffordable.
For someone who is on ODSP, possibly making $1,169 a month—right away, they have no place to find suitable, affordable housing, if rent is going for over $1,500 a month. A person on Ontario Works, $733 a month—how are they possibly supposed to be able to afford a $1,500-a-month rent, which, as I said, is the average rent currently in Hamilton?
We’re seeing this happen on a regular basis, and this bill, unfortunately, does nothing to address that, and that is so disheartening to our communities. Every door I knock on, people want to talk about affordability. I knocked on a door on the weekend and it was a dad who rents the house. He has a grown son who is living with them with his partner, and they’re expecting a child. They have no idea how they’re going to be able to afford to buy a home. I was really proud to tell them about the programs and the platform that New Democrats have put forward, because it would ensure that people had the opportunity to buy a new home, to have access to their first home.
As a child, it was a natural thing—I’m sure for yourself, too, Speaker—that our parents were able to buy homes. Dad went to work and mom typically stayed home, for a lot of us, at those ages and in that time, taking care of the house and taking care of us and making sure we got off to school, or maybe we weren’t even in school. Our parents struggled to be able to keep that up, but that was at such a low cost. It was $20,000, $30,000 to buy a home. But it was achievable. They could go to work, they could have an honest living, and they could afford that home.
Now, we’re looking at homes with—$1 million is the average cost of a home. In Hamilton, I think $900,000 is the average cost of a home. That’s just absolutely absurd. I know I was fortunate enough to be able to purchase my home back in 2013. I’m okay to say I paid $290,000 for my home at that time, which was just the beginning of the bidding wars, because I believe it was listed at $249,000. I was able to purchase that home in the beginning of that bidding war without even knowing what the other bidders put in. We just had to guess by what the market was going for and what we saw those bids coming in at. Now you look at my home, and it’s almost $1 million. But it’s not about making profit on that home—because where am I going to go? I have to have my home. I love my home. I want to stay in my home. So it’s not about that profit, because, regardless, one day when I leave there, I’m going to have to go somewhere else, and the cost of housing is just—am I going to get what I currently have for the same amount of money? Probably not.
This is what young people are looking at, and to tell them that their first home they’re looking at is $800,000 just to even—we’re seeing houses go for $500,000 or $600,000 and they’re complete guts, there’s nothing to them. They’re a complete mess inside and they need a complete renovation, and they’re going for that $500,000 or $600,000 mark. Families just don’t have the ability to start there.
It’s really unfortunate that the minister missed the mark on this, that there is no affordability built in, that there’s no rent control, that there is no protection for renovictions. These are the real issues that are faced by people, not just in Hamilton, but across this province. We’re seeing unhoused people on a regular basis. We’re seeing more tents through our city and people really struggling. They’re working full-time, yet they just don’t have the ability to pay that rent, to buy a home and to have that comfort of stable living.
I’m going to leave it there, because I think that the major things I wanted to hit on in this bill—and the lack of affordability that affects my constituents. I’m just happy to have the opportunity to participate in tonight’s debate.
The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bill Walker): Questions and responses?
Mr. Sheref Sabawy: I totally agree with the presentation from the member from Hamilton Mountain. I 100% agree on presenting what is the situation; we all know this is the situation. The problem is, we are talking about affordable housing or social housing or subsidized housing, and this is just a sector of the community. If we are talking about new homebuyers, young families—that’s another small vertical of the community. We need to address those by itself—a new homebuyer program or affordable housing for families under a specific level of income, they can get government support.
What we are trying to address with this bill is that 80%, the rest of the community, the people who are working, who are making money, who can afford to buy, but because there is no supply, the prices are going off the roof. How this bill—this bill is not addressing affordable housing for newcomers and new homebuyers—
The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bill Walker): Thank you.
Miss Monique Taylor: Not everyone has the ability to buy that first home. When you need that type of down payment that is completely unreachable—$20,000 is not even going to be enough to put a down payment on a home now. The homes that are being built are big homes that are unaffordable. We need to see different multi-use homes being built, smaller homes being built, tiny home projects being built. Those are the types of homes that people are looking to now, because they cannot afford these large, single-unit dwellings. We know construction costs have gone through the roof. Builders want to make a profit. Everybody wants to make their profit. We don’t have the affordable homes.
Housing is a human right. It’s not about profit. It shouldn’t be about real estate. It should be about having a home.
The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bill Walker): Questions and responses?
Mr. Michael Mantha: This is just a quick story of a young lady who graduated from college, got herself a job, established her career, and now she’s looking to purchase a home. She’s got her student loan, and of course she needs a vehicle to get to and from work, so she’s got her payments that she has to do in order to meet those needs. She sat down with the bank and tried to get pre-approved for a mortgage. “Here you go. You’re pre-approved for a mortgage”—she got $150,000 pre-approved. What the heck are you going to buy with $150,000? Her dream of owning a home is so far down the road, and it’s frustrating. That’s her dream. How does she get to that point of owning her own home? My question to the member is, what are the supports that are there for a young person like this who is looking at establishing and owning their first home?
Miss Monique Taylor: Thank you to the member from Algoma–Manitoulin. He’s absolutely right: It’s out of reach. It’s completely out of reach. I was talking about the dream of our parents, which is absolutely not even possible. You talk to young people these days, and they know they’re not going to be able to afford a home and that they’re going to struggle, to possibly live in mom and dad’s basement or stay in their old room while hoping to save that money. The years of savings that I’ve heard is that it would take 40 to 50 years to actually save and pay your own rent to be able to afford that new home.
New Democrats have a program called Homes in Ontario. It’s going to help young people buy their first home.
The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bill Walker): There’s time for a 30-second question and a 30-second answer.
Mr. Sheref Sabawy: To the member from Hamilton Mountain, I just have a quick question again. We talked about the verticals that are addressing the new homebuyers and the families that need help to buy a house or to afford housing. I’m asking you about the 80% left of Ontarians who are not able to buy. They can’t afford buying, but if it’s good pricing—which this bill will help, to make more supply and make those affordable to buy.
Miss Monique Taylor: I’m sorry, but I’m not sure I’m clear on what the member is asking me. You just heard very clearly from the member from Algoma–Manitoulin that the bank rate that she was afforded was $170,000. Where are houses being built for $170,000? We all want to know. Our young people want to know, our kids want to know, because it’s unaffordable and it’s out of reach.
The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bill Walker): Further debate? Further debate? Further debate?
Mr. Clark has moved third reading of Bill 109, An Act to amend the various statutes with respect to housing, development and various other matters. Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? I heard a no.
All those in favour of the motion will please say “aye.”
All those opposed to the motion will please say “nay.”
I believe the ayes have it.
A recorded vote being required, it will be deferred until the next instance of deferred votes.
Third reading vote deferred.
The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bill Walker): Orders of the day. I recognize the government House leader.
Hon. Paul Calandra: Speaker, I am actually seeking unanimous consent to call the order for second reading of Bill 117, An Act to proclaim the month of June as Myasthenia Gravis Month, notwithstanding standing order 74(a).
The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bill Walker): The government House leader is seeking unanimous consent to call the order for second reading of Bill 117, An Act to proclaim the month of June as Myasthenia Gravis Month, notwithstanding standing order 74(a). Agreed? Agreed.
Point of order? I recognize the government House leader.
Hon. Paul Calandra: Sorry, Speaker, I was unaware. We are, of course, on second reading on this, if I’m not mistaken. I wanted to just thank the entire House for their wonderful appreciation for this. I know they’re allowing us to do this. I thank the member from Bruce–Grey–Owen Sound as he brought this forward today—
Hon. Paul Calandra: I’m not sure if it’s a valid point of order, Speaker—
Myasthenia Gravis Month Act, 2022 / Loi de 2022 sur le mois de la myasthénie grave
Mr. Walker moved second reading of the following bill:
Bill 117, An Act to proclaim the month of June as Myasthenia Gravis Month / Projet de loi 117, Loi proclamant le mois de juin Mois de la myasthénie grave.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Randy Pettapiece): I recognize the member from Bruce–Grey–Owen Sound to lead off the debate.
Mr. Bill Walker: It is truly a pleasure to stand and speak to this bill this evening. Although it’s a small number, there are a number of people across Ontario who actually have myasthenia gravis, and it is a situation that impacts their lives.
It is something that has been brought to us by the member from Markham–Stouffville. A number of families in his riding have had the challenge of myasthenia gravis, and we also have members with us in this House—and I’m not going to name them because I didn’t get permission to do that. But I know one at least approached me today and said, “Thank you for bringing this forward. This is something I have and I’m dealing with in my life.” I want to make sure that I acknowledge that.
Again, it’s the type of thing—the whole intent of this bill is to raise awareness, to make the month of June Myasthenia Gravis Month so that we all are aware of things that other families, other people, other loved ones, have to deal with on a very regular basis. It’s something that I had never heard of until it was brought forward to me to say this is something that we need to raise awareness on because there are people who are challenged by myasthenia gravis.
It is truly again my appreciation to the government House leader, the member from Markham–Stouffville, on behalf of the families in his riding who came and requested him to bring this to the House to actually have awareness raised for other people. Again, there are other members within the House who are dealing with this, who are aware of it. I know there are some members within our own caucus who can actually pronounce it better than I do, but they probably have practised a little bit more. Again, I want to applaud them and I want them to be able to go back to their ridings and to be able to say that we, as a government, have listened. We did hear this come forward and we are going to do whatever we can to be able to raise awareness, to make this a month so that those people know we are listening, we do care and to try to help them through the process they’re going to deal with through their lifetime.
It is something that there’s not a lot of knowledge on. We don’t know how it’s caused. We don’t know exactly what the reality is for those people, but by raising awareness, I believe, like many things, we can help those who are struggling, who are challenged by it and, over time, by raising that awareness, we’ll have more focus on it, we’ll find out more about it, and that way we’ll be able to truly provide some help to those people struggling with and challenged by myasthenia gravis. Thank you very much.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Randy Pettapiece): Further debate?
Miss Monique Taylor: It’s definitely been an interesting day for me here in the Legislature because I heard the member introduce this bill earlier, and I was like, “Wow, I have that.” It’s a very rare disease. I didn’t have time to pull up facts, so I only have my own experience of this, but I think here it says there are fewer than 10,000 cases in Canada.
I was very fortunate, and actually, what I was told when I was diagnosed at the age of 17 was that it was one in 10,000 to one in 50,000 and mostly in men over 50. Here I was, a 17-year-old girl that was falling. My muscle reaction was very weak, so I was tripping over my own feet. I wasn’t able to lift my arms properly, I couldn’t brush my own hair. I mean, it was chaos. And thank goodness for my family, who were picking me up in the most odd places and making sure that I was able to get around—I actually feel a little emotional about this. I’ve never really spoken about this publicly before.
So I couldn’t see properly; I had double vision. I used to walk around with one eye closed until they could give me glasses with a prism that corrected my vision so I could see. I couldn’t swallow properly. At one point, they thought they were going to put me in a wheelchair. You could see, by the progressed symptoms, that I could lose the ability to breathe.
I was, of course, very scared, not knowing what was wrong with me. I went to my family doctor, and I was really fortunate that my doctor, Dr. Morris—thanks, Dr. Ruth Morris—had done a paper about myasthenia gravis when she was in school. So she was very shocked, also because she was like, “I think you have myasthenia gravis,” and I was like, “What? Can you write that down?” Anyway, she sent me to my neurologist, Dr. Savelli, who then definitely diagnosed me with myasthenia gravis and started the process of trying to make me better.
They put me on medication. They put me through several plasmaphereses, which is when they take the blood out of one arm, put it through a system, spin it all out to take all of your plasma off and then add your blood back through your other arm to give you fresh plasma. How it was explained to me—like I said, I really didn’t have time to prepare for this debate—is, when the message goes through the nerve to the muscle, in between that area is where your antibodies are. My thyroid gland was overproducing antibodies, so by the time the message got through, it was tired, which is what caused all of the muscle weakness.
I can only imagine—I’ll finish my story first, and then I’ll go back to the member’s president. They did all of these plasmaphereses, they sent me in for surgery. I had my thymus gland removed, which is what produced all of the antibodies. More plasmaphereses, more medication and, eventually, I just was fine. Many members see me walk around this House would never know that I had anything wrong with me—well, anything physically wrong with me—or that I suffered through this. But it was a very trying time for me as a young person, especially when I had my daughter at the very young age of 20, still having severe muscle weakness. I remember falling down a set of stairs holding her in my arms, when she was three months old—thankfully, we were both fine. But falling down stairs was something that happened to me on a regular basis. So I’m very fortunate to be able to say that I’m okay today.
And as I looked at this quickly, they say that it can last forever and that some people can really suffer from something like this. I’m just so grateful and so blessed that I was diagnosed as quickly, I guess, as I was, and that they were able to give me the treatments to make me healthy again—and to be able to walk and talk and see clearly and just to brush my own hair is a big deal.
But when I heard this being talked about earlier, I talked to the member and he told me that it came from the House leader—this bill—so I went over to talk to him, because of course I was so intrigued of how this bill was making it to the floor. He explained to me—is it okay?
Hon. Paul Calandra: Yes.
Miss Monique Taylor: He explained to me that the president of his riding association had actually been suffering from this for quite some time without diagnosis. I can only imagine how far into the symptoms—I know how far I was getting into the symptoms, and I was able to start getting those treatments—to not have that diagnosis and to be diagnosed incorrectly and to be given the wrong medications is horrifying. And like I said, I know how scary that is. So for someone to have to go through that and not have the ability to know what was wrong with them is really scary.
I am thrilled to see this bill come forward so that people will be recognized for this. They will see that when there’s muscle weakness, when there are all of these things happening, they will be able to think about myasthenia gravis and be able to provide that diagnosis, because the blood tests shows it. It shows the over-amount of antibodies in your blood system.
The other thing I thought was really great: They said that it’s in June, and I was like, “Wow, the minister is giving me my month for my birthday month.” June is my birthday month.
I’m honestly thrilled to be able to support this today. I’m grateful that legislation like this is coming forward, because I know what this diagnosis meant for me and my family. I hope that others will be able to have that same experience, to be able to be okay one day, and I hope that anybody who does get this disease is able to get that diagnosed quickly, be able to move on with their life and be able to function properly.
Thank you to all the members going forward, and I look forward to myself and my party supporting this bill.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Randy Pettapiece): Further debate?
Hon. Paul Calandra: Only just to thank colleagues on all sides—I really thank the member for Bruce–Grey–Owen Sound for carrying this and thank the member for Hamilton Mountain for sharing her story with us. She said there are very few people who know anything about this, and it is very, very terrifying for people who come down with this, especially if they don’t know what the diagnosis is and what’s happening.
The president of the riding association, a gentleman by the name of Lindsay O’Connor, was on TSN as the International Sports Report host and was vibrant—and still is a vibrant guy; I shouldn’t say “was.” He is a very vibrant person but went through some very, very difficult challenges until doctors figured out what was wrong with him and they could prescribe the right medications for him. It was very, very terrifying, as the member talked about.
And, of course, I’ll just quickly mention Cap Cowan, who is also in my riding. Ironically, there are two people in my riding, in the town of Stouffville, who have come down with this and faced very, very similar trials in trying to figure out what it is, and then finding out how few people have it and how rare it is and how difficult it is to diagnose. So I do appreciate members in getting this done quickly.
And of course, the Deputy Speaker, the member from Bruce–Grey–Owen Sound, is possibly the only person in this chamber who could have carried it as quickly and effectively as he did under the brief notice that he was given, so I thank you.
Miss Monique Taylor: Point of order.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Randy Pettapiece): Point of order.
Miss Monique Taylor: I hope the House will excuse my indulgence, but I’m going to take the opportunity, and I’ll try. In light of what has happened tonight, would the member consider it being a co-sponsored bill? I seek unanimous consent to make this bill a co-sponsored bill.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Randy Pettapiece): The member from Hamilton Mountain seeks unanimous consent to make this a co-sponsored bill. Agreed? Agreed.
Further debate? Further debate? Further debate?
Mr. Walker has moved second reading of Bill 117, An Act to proclaim the month of June as Myasthenia Gravis Month. Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? Carried.
Second reading agreed to.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Randy Pettapiece): Pursuant to standing order 101—
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Randy Pettapiece): Member for Bruce–Grey–Owen Sound.
Mr. Bill Walker: I’m seeking unanimous consent that the bill be ordered for third reading.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Randy Pettapiece): The member is seeking unanimous consent that the bill be ordered for third reading. Agreed? Agreed.
Orders of the day.
Myasthenia Gravis Month Act, 2022 / Loi de 2022 sur le mois de la myasthénie grave
Mr. Walker moved third reading of the following bill:
Bill 117, An Act to proclaim the month of June as Myasthenia Gravis Month / Projet de loi 117, Loi proclamant le mois de juin Mois de la myasthénie grave.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Randy Pettapiece): Would the member care to lead off the debate?
Mr. Bill Walker: I am very humbled and honoured to be able to offer this as third debate—and again, co-sponsor the bill with my friend across the hall from Hamilton Mountain, and obviously, for what she has gone through in her life already—for the member from the House leader’s office who has talked about this and shared with him, something that is so very rare. Hopefully, by doing this bill, proclaiming the month of June as Myasthenia Gravis Month, many other people will have more hope, will find out more about it, and it will give them a better quality of life.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Randy Pettapiece): Further debate?
Miss Monique Taylor: I’m truly grateful for the opportunity to be able to be a co-sponsor on this bill because it will be life-changing for many folks. Thank you for the opportunity, thank you for allowing this to pass, and thank you for allowing me to be the co-sponsor.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Randy Pettapiece): Further debate? Further debate?
Mr. Walker has moved third reading of Bill 117. Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? Carried.
Be it resolved that the bill do now pass and be entitled as in the motion.
Third reading agreed to.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Randy Pettapiece): Orders of the day? Government House leader.
Hon. Paul Calandra: No further business.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Randy Pettapiece): There being no further business, this House stands adjourned until 9 a.m. tomorrow morning.
The House adjourned at 2133.