LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY OF ONTARIO
ASSEMBLÉE LÉGISLATIVE DE L’ONTARIO
Thursday 14 April 2022 Jeudi 14 avril 2022
Report continued from volume A.
Orders of the Day
Police Services Amendment Act, 2022 / Loi de 2022 modifiant la Loi sur les services policiers
Resuming the debate adjourned on April 14, 2022, on the motion for third reading of the following bill:
Bill 78, An Act to amend the Police Services Act / Projet de loi 78, Loi modifiant la Loi sur les services policiers.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Further debate?
Mr. Dave Smith: It gives me a great deal of pleasure to rise and speak to this bill on behalf of my good friend from Kitchener–Conestoga. In full disclosure, my wife works at the police department, so I may have a little bit of a slanted view towards police services. She’s with a municipal police service.
One of the things that has surprised me all along is this was something that could be bestowed upon OPP officers, but there isn’t the equivalent at municipal services. There isn’t the equivalent at First Nation police services. So I truly thank the member for bringing this forward, because I think it’s something that has been amiss for a long time.
When we look at it—and I’ll use my riding as the prime example. Peterborough Police Service polices the city of Peterborough, the town of Lakefield and the town of Millbrook. Peterborough OPP polices everything in between. The interesting part about it is to get from Peterborough to Lakefield, you have to drive through OPP territory to get there. It’s only three or four kilometres, but the city police, the municipal police force, leaves the city, enters OPP area and goes back into Lakefield to police in Lakefield. The officers predominantly live in Peterborough county, whether they are city police officers or whether they’re OPP officers. And there are a lot of things that they do together. It’s almost as if at times it’s a single service.
I want to point out one thing in particular. It’s not part of their job—I can’t say this enough—but the Peterborough OPP and the Peterborough Police Service get together on something called Pedal for Hope. It’s part of Cops for Cancer. Some 15 officers between the two services give up their vacation time and they ride their bikes to 48 elementary schools, from Brighton to Bowmanville and as far north as Apsley. They raise awareness about childhood cancer—as well as money. Together, they have raised $2 million for childhood cancer research—a fantastic initiative. These gentlemen and ladies give freely of their time to do this. They give up their vacation to do this because they’re giving back to their community.
The ironic part about it is if you rise to a certain rank in the OPP, that community service is something that would be taken into account for the Queen’s Commission. But if you rise to that same position in Peterborough municipal, it doesn’t matter how much time you give, it doesn’t matter how much you give back to the community, you would never have qualified for this. I’m not suggesting that anyone who takes part in Cops for Cancer or Pedal for Hope should be given this award. That’s not what I’m saying at all. But it’s one of those extra things that they do, that they give that would be taken into account if you were an OPP officer, but not if you were a city police officer.
Back in 2009, I founded an event called the Under the Lock Hockey Tournament. It was, at the time, Canada’s only minor hockey sanctioned tournament played outside on a body of water. We played on the Trent Canal between locks 20 and 21. What started off as a very small tournament with 16 teams grew. I think the largest that we were one year was 78 teams. We started off with two rinks on the canal, and it grew to six rinks. We hosted Hockey Day in Canada in 2013. It became a really big thing. The reason I bring that up is Peterborough police officers gave of their own time. They would come down in uniform, put their skates on and play hockey with a number of these kids. This is something that would have been taken into account for the OPP officers, but not for the city police officers. That wouldn’t have been taken into account. This commission now is going to be extended, if the bill is passed. It’s going to be extended to First Nations and to municipal services.
Mr. Speaker, I can’t thank the member from Kitchener–Conestoga enough for this. This is something that we need to do. It’s been amiss for a number of years. This is something that is the right thing to do because of all those heroes in blue who freely give up their time to make their community better.
The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bill Walker): Further debate?
Ms. Peggy Sattler: I’m pleased to rise to participate in the debate on Bill 78 from the member for Kitchener–Conestoga, and want to thank him for bringing this bill forward for consideration in this Legislature.
It’s interesting to be participating in a debate on the day before we recess. A budget’s going to come in on April 28, and we know that that budget is going to quickly transition into a campaign platform. We don’t know how many other opportunities there will be to stand in this place and be the voice of the people that we represent in our communities.
I want to say to the people of London West what an extraordinary privilege and honour it has been to serve as MPP for a wonderful community and how much I have appreciated being able to fight on behalf of the people I represent to fix the problems that they are experiencing, to push for better health care, better mental health services, access to affordable housing, good jobs, opportunities for families—all of the things that we want for the people that we represent.
I want to thank my staff, who have done an exemplary job both at Queen’s Park and in the constituency office. I want to thank all of the people who I have met with over the years since I was first elected and who have shared with me their personal stories and their insights and their advice as to what we should be doing, as a Legislature, to deal with the issues that they are facing.
Today we’re looking at legislation to amend the Police Services Act, and I want to give a shout-out to a couple of constituents that I have become very fond of over the years.
Retired OPP Sergeant Bill Litowski accompanies me to the Byron Legion Remembrance Day service every year and walks beside me as we lay the wreath at the Byron Legion. We go for lunch afterwards and we have a beer in the Legion, of course, after the service. He has become a friend, although we only see each other once a year on Remembrance Day. There are a lot of dignitaries who participate in the Remembrance Day wreath-laying, and he always gives me a call and says that he has told the Legion that he is accompanying me for the wreath-laying. It’s really lovely to have had that friendship with retired OPP Sergeant Litowski.
I also want to now recognize some members of the London Police Association. Ozzie Nethersole is the vice-president of the London Police Association. He comes to Queen’s Park to participate in the Police Association of Ontario advocacy days. It’s also been a pleasure to get to know Ozzie and Rick Robson, the executive director of the London Police Association.
This bill that we have before us looks at expanding the Queen’s Commission to recognize other police officers who have demonstrated exemplary performance. I have to give a shout-out to Ozzie in that regard. There was a posting on Facebook, I think, that went viral. Ozzie did not know that he was being filmed or videoed at the time. He was on duty and there was someone who, in the winter, was trying to unload groceries from her car. Ozzie pulled over and helped her unload the groceries from her car and carried the groceries to her house. He did not know that anybody had seen this, but somebody had taken a video and posted it on social media and it went across the community. I think that is the kind of support and small gestures that go unnoticed on a daily basis by so many police officers in our communities who are there to support people and who are there to serve and protect, and that’s what they do.
I also know from Ozzie and from Rick Robson at the police association that many, many police officers struggle desperately with lack of access to mental health supports. Unfortunately, our community suffered the loss of a London police officer by suicide just last year. Constable Omar Hassan died by suicide after a lengthy struggle with his own mental health needs and without the kind of supports that would have been necessary to help him through his illness.
We know at the same time that police in London—I mentioned earlier today, in the latest StatsCan survey, London has been identified as Canada’s fastest-growing metropolitan area. There was a 10% increase in population over the last five years. With that increase of population comes increased demand for services such as policing, and police budgets have not increased to the same extent.
We know from the pandemic, of course, there were an increased number of calls, increased severity of calls. I myself, for one of the first times as an MPP, dealt with a constituent who was so angry, I thought that there was going to be harm done to the person that this constituent was angry at, and I had to call the police. I had to call the police because I felt that I had been on the receiving end of information that I had to pass along to somebody to try to prevent what I thought was a very possible incident of violence.
The police told me, when I called, that the pandemic had really heightened people’s anxieties, and so they were dealing with a much-increased number of crisis calls and requests to go and deal with issues that people were experiencing.
What has happened in London just earlier this year, in January, was the police had announced that they were having to redeploy the COR unit, the community oriented response unit, in order to deal with the onslaught of 911 calls. They said that response times to life-threatening code 1 emergency calls had grown by 27%, and police were taking 97% longer to respond to code 2 crimes in progress. This creates the workload pressures on the police officers, who are dealing with this deluge of calls and trying to triage so that they can respond appropriately.
It’s also creating frustrations for, obviously, people who live in our communities. I heard from a small business owner in London West just this week whose small business had been robbed for the second time over the last three weeks. The constituent said that they had evidence on tape of the person stealing $1,000. The evidence was right there, they called the police, and the police said they were simply unable to respond to the call that night.
After what small businesses have been through in this pandemic as they’ve struggled to try to keep their doors open, stay afloat with significant drops in revenue, you can imagine, for that small business owner, how frustrating that would be to have been robbed for the second time in three weeks and not to have the police respond.
But the impact on the police, the workload pressures, is taking a toll on police officers’ mental health. I don’t want to say it was workload pressures, but certainly the experience of Omar Hassan, the police officer with PTSD who died by suicide last year, is not unique to London unfortunately.
I want to commend the London Police Service for a proposal that they put forward to this government for a crisis intervention and prevention service for police officers who are experiencing a mental health crisis. They talk about the urgency of providing alternative crisis interventions for first responders with suicidal ideations. They say that the only existing form of treatment is admittance to an emergency ward at a local hospital, the very emergency wards where first responders bring patients themselves.
They go on to say that colleagues and family of Omar Hassan firmly believe that if a first responder crisis intervention facility had existed in May 2021, Omar may be alive today. Omar had been through the emergency ward at the Victoria campus of London Health Sciences Centre and the emergency ward at St. Thomas hospital. He spent time on both psychiatric wards under observation, but, in the end, it was not a viable option when Omar was at his darkest and in greatest need. They are urging this government to create a crisis intervention and prevention service that is focused exclusively on first responders.
In London—police, fire and correctional officers—we have about 1,200 or more first responders, and looking at research of how many first responders are in mental health need, they estimate that of the 600 police officers in the London Police Service, 220 to 270 could be in need of service for mental health care services at some time in their career.
In London, we had the murder-suicide of a London police officer and a retired London police office in 2008, then the suicide of Omar Hassan in 2021, and the London Police Association is aware of at least eight other members who attempted suicide and survived.
We know that police officers are among the most reluctant to seek help when they are in mental health crisis for fear of stigma and how revealing a mental health issue might affect their work, and the services that are available don’t acknowledge the particular reality of front-line first responders.
I commend the London Police Service for putting together this proposal. It would be an additional step to the treatment facility that has been announced in Caledon.
It is equally important to have these specialized crisis intervention and prevention services available to officers like Omar Hassan and all officers across this province who are struggling with a mental health crisis.
So I want to thank the member for Kitchener–Conestoga for bringing forward this legislation. Certainly, it is appropriate to acknowledge and recognize the exemplary service of officers—not just OPP, but also officers who serve in municipal police services and as First Nations constables. It is legislation that the official opposition supported at second reading, and we are very pleased to continue to support this bill through third reading, and we look forward to it becoming law.
I just want to conclude by saying that, as I talked about in my remarks, as well as recognizing and acknowledging and commending officers for exemplary service, we also have to support those officers who are sometimes dealing with very, very serious mental health needs for which there are no appropriate services available to support them.
The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bill Walker): Further debate?
Mr. John Vanthof: It’s always an honour to stand in the House—and today, to speak on Bill 78, the Police Services Amendment Act, 2021. Basically, what this bill does is, it allows a Queen’s Commission to be awarded to other police forces other than the OPP. I think that’s a well-deserved goal. We support it because, regardless of which force you work with, police officers face the same incredible challenges.
I’m sure we have all attended awards services—and there’s always one that you remember. I would just like to take a few minutes to talk about one that I will never forget. The West Nipissing Police Service switched over to the OPP, and the OPP had their regional awards ceremony in the West Nipissing municipal complex on September 13, 2019. Officers from across the region were awarded, and rightfully so—but the one that touched everyone that day was four-year-old Liam Lamarche. On June 12, 2019, Liam’s mom had a seizure. Liam lives out in the country. Four-year-old Liam Lamarche called 911 and stayed on the phone for 30 minutes until the emergency response people showed up. It was an incredible feat for a four-year-old. As all the officers came up for their awards—and we have all been to police ceremonies. They’re official. They’re very well done. Liam was watching all this happen—I don’t have a military background or a police background, but they have salutes—and then he got called to the front, and they had an OPP truck that they were going to give him. But you could tell that he wanted something else. He wanted the truck, no doubt about it, but he also wanted to be part of the ceremony. Anyone who has had kids—the member from Kitchener–Conestoga has kids, and we’re looking at each other, and he can picture this in his mind. I will never forget this. It’s the first time that I met—at that time, he was relatively new—OPP Commissioner Thomas Carrique. He was standing across from Liam. He took his hat off and put it on Liam’s head, and they did a salute. It was one of the most incredible moments. I’m sure Liam will never forget it, and no one else in that room will ever forget it either. At another event, I told Commissioner Carrique about how impressed I was. I’m really happy that I get to tell that here, because, to me, that he recognized that is what true policing is—understanding people, seeing them at their best and at their worst.
If you think about it, police deal with us at our best, and with society at their worst. It’s a calling. They are not super-people; they are human. They are incredible humans, but they are human and they need support.
The people in police forces in my riding now are all OPP, and there’s a shortage of police officers. We need more police officers. Part of the reason that police officers are under so much stress—and they are; they have an incredibly stressful job. They’re short, and people become critical because they can’t get there quickly enough, when there are not enough people on the road. They’re doing what they can. So any time I have the chance to put that on the record—the incredible job that police officers do, the incredible stress they’re under, regardless of which police force they serve with.
Especially in the last few months, when we’ve seen there has been a lot of police around here lately too, if I catch their eye, I always say, “Thank you for what you do”—because not all of us can do it. I believe the member from Brantford–Brant is a firefighter; I couldn’t do that either. I commend firefighters for what they do, and I commend police officers for what they do. I can do some pretty tough things, but those are things that I couldn’t do.
I commend the member from Kitchener–Conestoga for bringing this bill forward. I’m not going to belabour the point.
It’s an honour to stand in this House—and it very well may be the last time I get to speak in this House until the election. And if the member from Kitchener–Conestoga and the other folks on the other side have their way, it might be the last time I speak in the House. That is the beauty of our system. In this House, we get to exchange views. But soon, the election will start, and we’ll get to exchange views at home.
I’m proud and happy to say that in the 15 years I’ve been involved in partisan politics, we have always, in Timiskaming–Cochrane, been able to exchange views and work together after. I’m proud of that.
I don’t think I’ve mentioned this in the House before: One of my previous opponents, Shawn Poirier, was the candidate for the Northern Ontario Party. Shawn now drives for Grant’s Transport. Obviously, I’ve been pushing very hard, as we all do, on road safety, and Shawn and Grant’s Transport offered a ride-along. I spent the whole day with Shawn. We don’t agree on a lot of things, politically, but it was an incredible day, and I’m glad I have the chance to thank Shawn publicly.
I’d like to thank everyone I’ve worked with over the years. I’d like to thank my staff, and I’d like to thank my volunteers. We’re all going to work really hard in the next little while.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of my colleagues on my side—actually, the majority of you guys, too; I would say all of you. I laugh more with some than with others. Some, quite frankly, make me a lot better member, because they make me work pretty hard, make us all work pretty hard. We don’t always agree, but I think we all have the same goal in mind. Anyway, Speaker, I’m very happy to have had this time. Thank you for the time you’ve given me.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Further debate? Further debate?
Mr. Harris has moved third reading of Bill 78, An Act to amend the Police Services Act. 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 will please say “nay.”
In my opinion, 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 Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Orders of the day. I recognize the member for Barrie–Innisfil.
Ms. Andrea Khanjin: Just a point of order, Speaker: If you seek it, you will find unanimous consent to see the clock at 6.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): The member for Barrie–Innisfil is seeking unanimous consent of the House to see the clock at 6. Agreed? Agreed.
Ms. Andrea Khanjin: I move that, in the opinion of this House, the government of Ontario should engage in consultations with the Ontario land lease homeowners’ action group to review the Residential Tenancies Act, create land lease guidance materials to support and inform land lessees and landlords, and form future policies to protect land lease tenants.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Ms. Khanjin has moved private member’s notice of motion number 14. Pursuant to standing order 101, the member has 12 minutes for her presentation.
Ms. Andrea Khanjin: I rise to talk about motion 14. Exactly why do we rise in this Legislature? Well, today I rise for those who built our country. I rise for those who created the freedom we share today. I rise for those who created the innovations we enjoy and those who paved the path that we have taken for granted. They deserve our respect, and they deserve to retire in dignity. They are our seniors. We have a moral obligation, as a society, to show our hard-working seniors respect and dignity. These are the convictions that I was raised with as I was raised by my beloved grandmother and grandfather.
I was elected to do something—and I want to do many things—to help make my community an even better place. Motion 14, which we are debating today, was inspired by my community and many communities of my colleagues who will be speaking about this motion today.
I want to talk about how I was inspired by the first two residents who brought this issue to my attention. They’re residents from Sandycove Acres, which is located in Innisfil, just 13 minutes away from where I live. Something that is always near and dear to my heart, the Sandycove annual Canada Day parade—Speaker, I have to highlight this event. The residents decorate their golf carts with Canada Day decorations and form this parade, but they cannot do that without the tight-knit community that they form. Tess Royal, my husband’s nana, also lives in Sandycove Acres, and so many of our local volunteers live there as well. It’s a really unique, dynamic neighbourhood, which now doesn’t just see seniors who are living there, but people of all ages who want attainable housing. Naturally, when John Bicknell and Linda Morris from Sandycove requested to meet with me, I said yes.
The meeting that we had was not just with John and Linda, but we subsequently had an entire meeting with the Ontario land lease homeowners’ action group. I want to recognize the individuals who were part of that meeting: Brian Askett from Albion Woods, one of the largest land lease communities; Bob McCarthy from Bluewater Country, with Bonnie Backshall; Chris Juzda from Cherry Hill at Vineland; Linda Morris, as I mentioned, from Sandycove Acres; Rita Stock from Wasaga Meadows; Paula Brunkard; Linda Ceci; Steve McKeown; Rick Knutson; Gary Kokayko; Ron Craig; and Annie Ferrera. It was an interesting meeting we had, to really get things moving. They spoke to me about a petition that they wanted to have the government table when it comes to working with the land lease community to find better approaches for making land leases more fair, accessible and available. They said that they had hundreds upon hundreds of petitions signed, asking for consultations on land leases, and they were not kidding. My colleague from Sarnia–Lambton and I tabled these petitions many months ago because we recognized the importance of getting things done and not dilly-dallying, as the member from Sarnia–Lambton would say.
Today’s motion addresses that petition in a very meaningful way, with meaningful action. I read the motion—that we want to engage with the land lease homeowners’ action group, we want to review the Residential Tenancies Act, we want to create a guideline document and material to support and inform people when it comes to land leases. Work has already begun, but we have more to do.
I was proud to work with the Ministry of Municipal Affairs on a land lease guide, and now it’s natural that the next step would also be to do something with life leases. This would help the entire community be able to understand their rights and obligations and responsibilities—more importantly, their rights—under the land lease model. The importance of this is to really stand shoulder to shoulder with our seniors in this nation from coast to coast to tell them that we’re listening. Of course, as I mentioned, it’s not just seniors who choose these land lease communities to live in, but it’s becoming a nice, innovative model.
Our government has set out a really strategic agenda, when it comes to attainable housing, to recognize different types of housing innovation. Whether it’s tiny homes or the Golden Girls model, whether it’s land leases or life leases or modular houses, we recognize all types of innovation with one goal in mind: again, making people the heart and centre of the policies that we make and bringing affordability back into the hands of all Ontarians. We have a great record to show for it for the past four years, but there’s always more to do.
After tabling these petitions and after meeting with this particular homeowners’ action group, of course, the member from Sarnia–Lambton and I wanted to do more. We met with other members of our caucus who had communities that were affected by this particular issue, and we also engaged the staff at the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing. I want to thank the staff there who have been working with us to pave a pathway to listen to these seniors and continue these consultations, and who are already doing meaningful work that we’re going to continue for a few years to come.
I want to thank Alex Earthy, the senior policy adviser for the minister’s office; Kai Nademi, the senior manager of strategy and stakeholder relations; Vicky Rajput; Joshua Paul; Darren Cooney; Mavis Fung; and Jason Mallett, all who have been really keen on listening to the concerns of this homeowners’ action group and working with them—not only for the work we’ve done, but of course work going forward.
We were also joined by Christine Rankin, a manager from the Attorney General’s office, and I want to thank her for her contribution and help on this particular issue.
The meeting we had was chaired by—and she’ll know; she’s watching today—Annie Ferrera. We talked with Bonnie Backshall as well. The concerns they raised are concerns that we share on this side of the House when it comes to affordability and making sure that our seniors have their rights represented and that we have all different types of housing recognized. They presented concerns that they’re being faced with right now when it comes to tenants and land lease communities; specifically, when it comes to rent increases, above-guideline increases, lease agreements or terminations, the lack of landlord accountability, as well as tenant awareness of their rights and the rules. The group is committed to working with us on many of these challenges and finding solutions.
This is something that our government is very committed to. If you look at our actions to date, when we introduced More Homes, More Choice—we already saw the fruits of that labour, and the statistics speak for themselves. In 2022, we saw really high levels of housing starts—the highest we’ve ever had in decades; in fact, more than we ever had at its peak, in 1987. We also had a record in housing rental starts as well. This speaks, again, to actions we’ve taken in More Homes, More Choice, recognizing that these types of communities, like land lease communities—but we built on it more recently with More Homes for Everyone, which is the plan to continue on this progress with smart, targeted policies that make housing more fair for hard-working Ontarians and our seniors. But we have to get communities like this built faster and more equitably.
If you look at the growing numbers, it clearly shows that Ontario has a severe shortage of housing. If you look at the significance of the shortage, you’re looking at about 1.5 million over 10 years, when it comes to the shortage we have in our housing stock, according to the Scotiabank report, which says we need 1.2 million new homes now to meet the G7 per capita rate. That’s why it’s one of the key things we’ve been focused on, and we started really early in our mandate. In 2018, we tabled a housing strategy which included changes and improvements to housing policy that we’re committed to making every year. So we started in 2018, made changes to make housing more attainable, and we’re continuing it to this day.
And when it comes to continuing to work on policies for housing affordability and for recognizing different styles and types and innovations of housing, we can’t forget our land lease communities. So I am looking forward to working with my colleagues who share these types of communities in their ridings, and I look forward to continuously working with the Ontario land lease homeowners’ action group. I want to thank them for bringing this concern to my attention. I know we’re going to take it up with real action and continue the work we’ve done with our partners at the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing and, of course, all the residents of these communities, including those at Sandycove Acres.
Speaker, I want to conclude with this message: Our government is aware of the concerns and experiences tenants of land lease communities have, which have been highlighted through a series of correspondence we’ve shared. We’ve talked about the petitions we’ve tabled. We’ve had a few meetings already. We have this motion now, and we’re on the path to future consultations as well.
I look forward to the continued work that we’re going to have with the land lease homeowners’ action group, with the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing, to continue to discuss policy and how we can improve the situation, come up with innovative solutions and make land lease something that is very attainable and affordable and include more accountability in such a model for those who choose it.
That makes me proud to represent my community and the Sandycove residents, who very much rely on this particular model, and the future residents who are going to be moving into that community. We recognize the fact that as these communities evolve, as more people move in, policies need to evolve with them. So this motion today is exactly that—recognizing that our policies need to evolve with these types of housing models.
Again, I’m looking forward to working with the land lease community to make things happen and make things more fair.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Further debate?
Mr. John Vanthof: It’s always a honour to stand in the House—and particularly to this motion. Because I’m the whip and I’m here Thursdays, I end up talking to bills that sometimes I’m not that interested in, honestly, but this one—I commend the member for Barrie–Innisfil for bringing land lease concerns forward. And I welcome the member from Barrie–Innisfil back. The last time we spoke, we happened to meet while walking home. We had a really long discussion, and I really enjoyed it.
Land leases are seen as an innovative way to attain home ownership, but they have some issues, and I’m hoping that this motion will precipitate that the current government and future governments look at this.
I’m going to give a description of three projects in Timiskaming–Cochrane that are very innovative. They’re so innovative that no one really knows what to do with them. I’ve brought these to the attention of the Minister of Municipal Affairs. Again, I’m not being critical, because they are innovative, but there could be problems. They’re called Boreal medieval villages. I am not part of the Boreal medieval villages; I am not trying to sell shares.
In northern Ontario, there is unorganized territory—basically, townships that have no municipal government. The government is actually the province. In these townships, the government is responsible for the planning. I believe there is another one in Parry Sound. The planning is the responsibility of the province, and as a result, there is much less planning. That is actually why many people move to unorganized areas. Other than a septic permit, technically, there are no other permits required to build. I have a cabin in unorganized territory. Many people move to unorganized territories because of the freedom and because—very upfront—the tax burden is quite a bit less.
The Boreal medieval village concept—I will call it a numbered company. They buy a chunk of land, usually on a lake—100 acres, 150 acres, 200 acres. They will leave a certain amount of land close to the water as communal. They will subdivide the rest of this area into half-acre lots—unofficially, because there is no planning in unorganized townships—and then they will sell these lots to prospective homeowners or campers or whoever. For people who are buying these lots—just off the top of my head, I believe, for one of the projects in my area, the lots started at $3,000. They were gone right away, because that’s very, very reasonable. For many, it’s a dream come true. But the issue is, there could be problems. I’m not saying there have to be problems, but there could be problems, due to the fact that there are no planning rules. The lot owners don’t technically have a deed—I might have some of the terms wrong—because the deed belongs to the numbered company. The rules are set within the community. It’s kind of like—now many of us, and I, too, for the first time in my life, live in a condo six months a year; I rent a condo here because of this job—a condo corporation, but with no rules. It’s the Wild West of land leases. It draws many people—people from the tiny house movement, people from the back-to-the-land movement, people from many movements.
The Temiskaming municipal association, for one, has expressed concern, because these subdivisions, with no overall planning, increase the demands on our local hospital system, on many of our public services. Because there’s no planning involved, there’s no assessment, really.
It could work. They are sold out, but—I see some of the members across the way shaking their heads—anyone who has been involved in municipal politics or provincial politics can see that there might be some problems coming.
So I’m glad that this motion is coming forward and that I have the opportunity to bring this forward, not only on behalf of the many residents in Timiskaming–Cochrane who are concerned, but also on behalf of people who are buying these lots and who need to know what their rights are.
I bring this up on many occasions: They have one 911 number, but with 100 lots subdivided any which way the community desires, how do we find someone who needs help?
All of this is possible. But the reason, over the years, that we have developed our planning system—and I know sometimes we don’t like rules and regulations and we argue about how many there should be, but I don’t think too many of us are going to argue against having building permits in a subdivision. That is not required in the Boreal medieval village, so every half acre—and it’s advertised as such, that no building permits are required, so no building inspections are required either. If you want to build something that’s going to need a mortgage, then you might run into a problem.
It is an issue that this government or a future government needs to look at. It’s innovative. It’s—
Mr. Michael Mantha: Creative.
Mr. John Vanthof: —creative. It provides for someone who, under our current housing conditions, might never be able to afford their chunk of paradise—and that’s how it’s sold. There are a lot of chunks of paradise in northern Ontario, across the province, but paradise without planning—I’m not sure it’s always going to be paradise. And this isn’t something that’s going to happen; this is happening. So I’ve made the Minister of Municipal Affairs aware, and now, through this motion, I have made the House aware. When something goes wrong, you can’t say that nobody told you, because I’m telling you; I’m telling the Minister of Municipal Affairs. I don’t really know what our next step is.
I’ve got to say, I went to one, and I—
Mr. John Vanthof: —yes, I’m going to tell this story. It’s not a bad story. Kevin is saying, “Oh, no, not again.” This summer, I found one. They’ve private. There were a few people there, and they were making roads, doing it with tractors. There were no hard hats involved. There was no safety tape involved, and no cones. I’ve got to say, on a beautiful summer day, a couple of farm tractors making roads—I kind of wanted to stop and see if they wanted a mayor. It was idyllic. But we all know that without planning, things tend not to stay idyllic.
The promoters of the concept have been quite open, talking about how they’re going to handle the wastewater, the sewage, from these lots. They are going to use environmentally friendly composting toilets. But again, there’s no real regulation of this. For the grey water, there’s no real regulation either. And there is no building inspection. That is a safety concern, and we all know it.
So I’d like to commend the member for bringing this forward.
I urge the member and the government and the Minister of Municipal Affairs to take into account and have a good look at the Boreal medieval village concept, and make sure that for the people buying in, their safety is being protected—not just financial, but their personal safety.
With that, I’d like to thank you very much for the time.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Further debate?
Hon. Lisa M. Thompson: It truly is an honour to stand in this House, every opportunity we can, to represent our constituents. I’m very proud to always have an opportunity to represent the amazing people who call Huron–Bruce home.
I can tell you that when it comes to land leases—from Grand Bend in the south, due north to Southampton—we have a number of communities where people are choosing the amazing riding of Huron–Bruce to retire and call home, to enjoy the sunsets and to enjoy the quality of life that none of us should ever take for granted. So when an opportunity came forward to speak to the member from Barrie–Innisfil’s motion 14, I leapt at it, actually, because I think there’s much to be said.
For people watching today, I just want to share with you that a land lease enables people to own their home without buying the land, creating more affordable home ownership, with all the benefits of a vibrant community. That’s exactly how I would describe all of the communities that I have in the riding of Huron–Bruce. There’s so much opportunity.
We’re a government that’s getting the job done when it comes to more homes for everyone. We need to be innovative. We need to be open to how people can be proud to have a home that they can call their own.
I think this motion that the member from Barrie–Innisfil has brought forward is very thoughtful. I noted that she also shared that not only is it thoughtful, but there’s meaningful action that’s going to result. That is something that I can tell you will be very well-received, not only in my riding of Huron–Bruce, but across the province.
Again, I just want to share with everyone what this motion says: “In the opinion of this House, the government of Ontario should engage in consultations with the Ontario land lease homeowners’ action group to review the Residential Tenancies Act, create land lease guidance materials to support and inform land lessees and landlords, and form future policies to protect land lease tenants.”
The people who are choosing to call these communities home are making an investment not only in the form of a home but, truly, in the form of community. Time and again, we have heard from constituents in Huron–Bruce, when people have concerns. It could be a clubhouse that needs repair. It could be road access. The list goes on and on.
Another thing that I’ve heard about from constituents in my riding is the fact that, in some cases, people are finding it difficult to get a mortgage to buy the home because, in actual fact, in this particular arrangement, they don’t own the land.
So I applaud the member from Barrie–Innisfil for bringing this piece of important work forward, because we need to ensure that we’re not leaving any stone unturned when it comes to realizing and providing opportunities for people to find a home that they love and enjoy and a community where they fit so well.
I’m smiling because we have some very vibrant communities that have evolved and been built. The people who have chosen to call that community home just love it. I mentioned earlier that, in some cases, they’re early retirees. They’re the young at heart who have much to do. They have gorgeous homes, and then they have this whole new community where people have the same interests and the same sense of fun. It’s really something that brings a little bit of pep into people’s steps when they choose to retire.
In working with the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, I know this particular type of housing is very important, and there’s work to be done to ensure that we have the best policies in place. Again, as the member from Barrie–Innisfil mentioned, we need to put people at the centre of all the policy that we bring forward. We know that there’s value in bringing that sense of home ownership to individuals who like it.
Just to close off, before I share my time with the amazing member from Sarnia–Lambton, I want to share a stat. According to the research that we did, 26,000 men and women, mostly seniors, live in 72 communities across the province, including communities in my riding of Huron–Bruce. These are self-owned homes on leased property. I think this is an absolute path forward to bring certainty for people who are looking to come out to rural Ontario to retire and enjoy an amazing quality of life.
I feel very strongly that this motion will produce meaningful action. Again, we’re getting the job done. We’ve been listening, and we have taken to heart what matters. We’re going to continue to build an Ontario that provides homes, including land lease arrangements.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Further debate?
Mr. Robert Bailey: I’m honoured to rise in the House today to follow up on the remarks of the member from Huron and the member from Barrie–Innisfil, who both spoke so eloquently regarding her motion in support of the tens of thousands of residents of land lease communities in Ontario.
As the member from Barrie–Innisfil mentioned, motion 14 says, “In the opinion of this House, the government of Ontario should engage in consultations with the Ontario land lease homeowners’ action group to review the Residential Tenancies Act, create land lease guidance materials to support and inform land lessees and landlords, and form future policies to protect land lease tenants.”
Mr. Speaker, as you know, land lease communities are very unique in that the tenant owns the home but pays rent to the landlord, who actually owns the land. Although land lease communities are covered under the Residential Tenancies Act, they are very different in many ways, in terms of the landlord-tenant relationship.
The member from Barrie–Innisfil and I both learned of the concerns of some land lease residents when we were contacted by local constituents in both ridings, who made us aware of a number of issues affecting their local communities.
In my riding of Sarnia–Lambton, I had the privilege of meeting with Ms. Annie Ferrera and Mr. Bob McCarthy, the president and vice-president of the residents’ association at Bluewater Country. Annie and Bob are very strong advocates for the large number of seniors who live in more than 425 homes at Bluewater Country. We have a number of these homes in Sarnia–Lambton—this one being one of the major ones, and then another one called Green Haven. In meetings with myself and my constituency staff, they described a variety of concerns related to the Residential Tenancies Act and how it was interpreted by the owners of the community. Their concerns included such things as above-guideline rent increases, lease assignments and terminations, lack of landlord accountability and tenants’ awareness of their rights under the Residential Tenancies Act. I welcomed their feedback and suggested that we arrange a meeting with staff from the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing, so that the residents’ concerns could be heard directly and we could look at positive ways forward that would ensure an equitable balance in the RTA for land lessees and their landlords.
During our ongoing discussions, Annie and Bob indicated that they had been in contact with residents’ associations from several other land lease communities, including Sandycove Acres, the largest residential retirement community in southern Ontario, which is located in the riding of Barrie–Innisfil. As a result of their meetings, representatives from various associations across the province decided to form the Ontario land lease homeowners’ action group, which brought strength in numbers to help ensure their concerns were being heard by the province. Through the group’s determined efforts, we were able to facilitate a meeting in November 2021 between representatives from various land lease communities and the Ministry of Housing, along with the Attorney General’s office.
Prior to this meeting, the member from Barrie–Innisfil and I were honoured to present thousands of petitions at Queen’s Park, which the member alluded to earlier, which were gathered by members of this land lease homeowners’ group on behalf of their fellow residents. Among other things, the petitions advocated for a review of the Residential Tenancies Act to ensure that land lease homeowners are treated fairly, justly and equitably.
The government recognizes the important role that landlords and tenants serve in land lease communities, including the thousands of senior Ontarians who have chosen to make these communities their home. That means that the Residential Tenancies Act must represent the interests of both tenants and landlords fairly, including in land lease communities, which are a unique entity in the Residential Tenancies Act. To achieve that, there must be balanced and accessible adjudication through equitable treatment of tenant and landlord disputes, and streamlined and simpler processes at the Landlord and Tenant Board.
Additionally, the Residential Tenancies Act must provide enhanced administrative efficiency, with less red tape and burdens for tenants and landlords, and more effective rules and procedures to ensure equitable treatment of all parties. It sounds like those rules wouldn’t apply up in the unorganized territories. Maybe if they went up there and spent some time, they’d be glad for the rules they’ve got down here in southern Ontario.
More specifically, in terms of land lease communities, the Residential Tenancies Act must reflect the unique nature of their operation, which is substantially different from the traditional landlord-tenant relationship in apartments and other rental properties.
That is why the member from Barrie–Innisfil and I believe, along with the member from Huron–Bruce, that this motion is an important one that deserves your support.
No matter where you make your home, you deserve to live your best life, knowing that your government has your back and is committed to ensuring that your quality of life is the best it can possibly be.
With that, I’ll rest my case.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Further debate? Further debate?
I’m going to recognize the member for Barrie–Innisfil to reply.
Ms. Andrea Khanjin: I want to thank all the members who spoke to this motion to recognize the importance that the land lease model plays in our province.
However, many improvements are still needed to be done, and this is an opportunity for us to stand up for seniors and make sure they get the dignity and the respect that they deserve. These changes make it clear, when we are building additional land lease communities in our province, that if you’re not making things convenient and accountable to the residents of a land lease community, it’s hard to attract people to live there.
We see how meaningful and how great these communities can be, if they’re run well and there’s that community relationship and there’s that great relationship between the landlord and the tenant. But when they’re fragmented, that’s when improvements need to be made.
For our government—we’re always standing on the side of people. When we see that people are being taken advantage of, we want to stand up for them and make sure that we’re strengthening legislation, that we’re strengthening guides or rules or regulations. That brings things back to the heart of why we got elected, which is putting people at the centre of everything we do.
The member from Huron–Bruce talked about her great community, and the member for Sarnia–Lambton also talked about his community. I also wanted to thank other members who did want to speak in favour of this motion, who have communities in their ridings as well, like the member from Flamborough–Glanbrook and the member for Carleton. We also have a smaller community in Bruce–Grey–Owen Sound—the member close to me here.
It really shows you that this is a model across the province that needs to be respected, but we also need to respect those who choose this model.
It’s up to the government, of course, to ensure that our seniors are not being taken advantage of and that we stand up for their rights.
Moving forward with our ambitious agenda on attainable housing, this is going to be part of the model, but there’s way more innovation that we have planned. So stay tuned, because this government is getting it done, and we have more to show for our efforts.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): The time for private members’ public business has expired.
Ms. Khanjin has moved private member’s notice of motion number 14. Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? Carried.
Motion agreed to.
Royal assent / Sanction royale
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): I beg to inform the House that in the name of Her Majesty the Queen, the Administrator has been pleased to assent to certain bills in the Lieutenant Governor’s office.
The Clerk-at-the-Table (Ms. Valerie Quioc Lim): The following are the titles of the bills to which Her Honour did assent:
An Act to amend the Building Broadband Faster Act, 2021 and the Ontario Underground Infrastructure Notification System Act, 2012 / Loi modifiant la Loi de 2021 sur la réalisation accélérée de projets d’Internet à haut débit et la Loi de 2012 sur un système d’information sur les infrastructures souterraines en Ontario.
An Act to enact legislation to protect access to certain transportation infrastructure / Loi édictant une loi pour protéger l’accès à certaines infrastructures de transport.
An Act to enact two Acts and amend various other Acts / Loi visant à édicter deux lois et à modifier diverses autres lois.
An Act to amend the various statutes with respect to housing, development and various other matters / Loi modifiant diverses lois en ce qui concerne le logement, l’aménagement et diverses autres questions.
An Act to amend the Fuel Tax Act and the Gasoline Tax Act with respect to a temporary reduction to the tax payable on certain clear fuel and on gasoline / Loi modifiant la Loi de la taxe sur les carburants et la Loi de la taxe sur l’essence en ce qui concerne la réduction temporaire de la taxe à payer sur certains types de carburant incolore et sur l’essence.
An Act to proclaim the month of June as Myasthenia Gravis Month / Loi proclamant le mois de juin Mois de la myasthénie grave.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Orders of the day?
Mr. Michael Parsa: No further business.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): There being no further business, this House stands adjourned until Thursday, April 28, 2022, at 9 a.m.
The House adjourned at 1618.