LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY OF ONTARIO
ASSEMBLÉE LÉGISLATIVE DE L’ONTARIO
Thursday 1 June 2023 Jeudi 1er juin 2023
The House met at 0900.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Good morning. Let us pray.
Prières / Prayers.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Point of order: the government House leader.
Hon. Paul Calandra: Pursuant to standing order 7(e), I wish to inform the House that tonight’s evening meeting is cancelled.
Orders of the Day
Helping Homebuyers, Protecting Tenants Act, 2023 / Loi de 2023 visant à aider les acheteurs et à protéger les locataires
Resuming the debate adjourned on May 31, 2023, on the motion for third reading of the following bill:
Bill 97, An Act to amend various statutes with respect to housing and development / Projet de loi 97, Loi modifiant diverses lois en ce qui concerne le logement et l’aménagement.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): When we last debated this bill, the member for Renfrew–Nipissing–Pembroke had the floor and still has some time.
Mr. John Yakabuski: I didn’t even know how much time I had left. I knew it wasn’t much, and that could be said in a lot of ways when it comes to me, but for the purpose of today, it’s about this bill.
To build or not to build? If Shakespeare was here, would he ask that question: To build or not to build? Well, this is one party that wants to build and will build. We’ll stand straight and into the wind for all of those that want to attack them for their decision to do what is right, and that is to build here in Ontario and, by extension, just do that: build Ontario.
When we were elected in 2018, that was the catchword: “We’re going to rebuild Ontario.” What have we done? While the Liberals, aided and abetted by the NDP, saw 300,000 and some good-paying manufacturing jobs leave the province, we brought ’em back. We brought ’em back by establishing an environment with which business could look at this province and say, “This is a great place to invest.” We’re now leading the world in investments in the auto sector because they see Ontario is a great place to invest.
But do you know what happens when you bring back people to work? Do you know what they ask you? “I love Ontario; I love what you’re doing, but I need a place to stay. I need a place to stay; my family needs a place to stay; my relatives are going to need a place to stay, and we want to continue to expand. So what are you going to do to help us?” Well, we’re not going to do what the NDP would do, which is to stand against every single bill we put forward and try to prevent housing from being built. Yet, on one hand they’ll say this: “Oh, we want to see 1.5 million homes built by 2031. Oh, yes we do. But no, you can’t do that. You can’t do that. You can’t put them here; can’t put them there.” By the time you get done with the can’ts, it’s a won’t. So many can’ts turn into a won’t. That’s the mantra of the NDP.
Yet, they’ll try to stand there and defend—“Oh, we want to do this for these people and this stakeholder and that stakeholder,” and then they wait to see if any of the cheques are coming in at their riding associations because they had something nice to say about this or that group while they were debating this in the House, all the while knowing full well that nothing was going to get built if it was under their watch.
Yesterday, the member for Thunder Bay–Superior North stood in her place and said, “supply and demand is a myth.” And I briefly touched on that yesterday; “supply and demand is a myth”. It’s about the most basic rule in economics. There have been lots of rules in economics that have been debunked over the years or proven to be weak in their theory, but supply and demand is as basic as it comes.
I was listening to the news last night and there was a real estate person on there with the reporter. The reporter was talking about real estate here in the GTA, and he said, “Well, prices have actually inched back up.” After the pandemic, prices dropped again. They had gone up through the pandemic, and then they had levelled, and then they dropped. But prices are back up, and he asked the realtor, “Why is that?” He said, “Well, it’s simple. There are fewer houses on the market, so the prices have gone up.” Now, isn’t that amazing? Fewer houses on the market, so the prices have gone up—boy, that’s hard to understand over there, isn’t it? Try to get your heads around that: fewer houses on the market, so the prices have gone up.
Well, then it stands to reason, Speaker, that if there were more houses on the market, the prices would come down. We all have to understand the considerations of inflation and everything else, but on a level playing field, the prices will come down. But every single thing we have done from the time we got here—and I’ve got to take my hat off to Premier Ford and his Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, the Honourable Steve Clark. He has shouldered this and kept his shoulder to the wheel right through this whole issue. Every time we come up, we’re doing more for tenants than has ever been done in this province before—ever been done. Bill 97 is another bill that protects tenants; another bill that brings in more protections for tenants than there were before.
And I heard the critic—I think it’s the member for University–Rosedale—
Mr. Chris Glover: No, Spadina–Fort York.
Mr. John Yakabuski: Jessica Bell—maybe she’s not the critic, but the member for University–Rosedale. I’m not a member of your caucus there so I don’t know who has got what role. I applied one time to be a temporary one, but Vanthof threw me out—physically threw me out of the room.
But anyway, she’s talking then about—so we’re bringing in a rule now so that if you’re a tenant and your building does not have air conditioning, the landlord must allow you to put an air conditioner into that building, into your room—a window air conditioner of some form into that apartment or whatever the case may be. So the landlord is going to be doing that. But the member, you know what she said? “Well, you can’t make them pay for the electricity that it takes to run the air conditioner.”
Hon. Greg Rickford: What?
Mr. John Yakabuski: Yes. Sorry, we’re going to let you put that air conditioner in there—that’s your choice—and we’re going to make sure that we mandate that the landlord must allow you to do that. But somebody else has to pay for the electricity?
Boy, this is a great world, Speaker, I’ll tell you. I want that job. I want that place where everything I get, I never have to pay for. But you know what? In this world, it’s called fairness. You have a choice: you want something, you have to accept some of the responsibility for what it takes to get there. But no, because they have to stand there in their places.
I’ve got to believe that every night, they must have an un-pretzelling meeting—the de-pretzelization. You know how you have a debrief? Well, they have a de-pretzellizing, because they’ve twisted themselves in so many knots during the debate because they’re contradicting themselves. They’re for this but they can’t do this.
I sit here when I’m listening to this debate and I’m saying, “God, I hope they play that back before they go to bed tonight and listen to what they actually said—listen to what they actually said and then say to themselves, ‘Which part of me was saying that and which part of me was saying that? Because we’re not the same. We’re just not the same.’” Sesame Street would probably have a good cartoon to work with that: Who’s the same and who’s not? They’re not even the same when they’re the same one. The same isn’t the same because they talk two different stories when they’re up in the same debate.
It’s because they will not support whatever this government does. But I’m going to tell the folks over there—I know they don’t listen to me anyway, or they’ve never done anything I’ve asked them to do—but I do want them to actually understand this, because unfortunately you will never get to experience it: Governing is tough, but governing is real and it takes tough people to govern. It takes those people who will stand up against whatever kind of criticism is being levelled at them, because they are committed to what? They are committed to doing the right thing, even if it means that they’re going to be criticized and cajoled on social media by all of those people who spend half of their lives punching into a computer or an iPhone or something in their messaging, as opposed to actually getting out and talking to the real people in the real world on the streets who are wondering if they’ll ever have a chance to own a home or if their children will ever have a chance to own a home or if their grandchildren will ever have a chance to own a home.
You know who they’re standing with? They are standing with the Doug Ford government, which is going to make sure that the future for them is a bright one, in spite of the darkness that descends every time the NDP speaks on this issue.
The Acting Speaker (Mme Lucille Collard): We’re going to move to questions.
Mme France Gélinas: This is a very good start to a Thursday morning with the member from Renfrew–Nipissing–Pembroke. I know that he knows the north, I know that he cares about the north and I also know that he knows that there are lots of lots that people want to buy that have gone back to MNR. In unorganized areas, which is most of the north, a piece of land—if you don’t pay your taxes directly to the province, the piece of land goes back to the province. People want to buy them, especially around a new mine. Iamgold has set up a gold mine. They are hiring hundreds of new people who would like to be able to purchase homes that are already there that have gone back to the crown, pieces of land that are already serviced with water, sewage, electricity, WiFi, everything, that have gone back to the crown. What is the member willing to do this morning to help put those on the market?
Mr. John Yakabuski: I want to thank the member for her question. It’s a little out of the realm of this particular piece of legislation, but in fairness I know we had this conversation when I was actually in the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry as well. I would suggest that you continue to have those conversations. I don’t think there’s a feeling that opposes that kind of thing, because we want to see more growth, more development.
It’s interesting for me when the member speaks—and I do have to say, you had a chance to support our Mining Act, which is going to bring more prosperity to the north and bring more opportunities for those people to own properties and live in the north while they work in the north. We want to see the north prosper and grow. Stand with us on some of these things and continue to have those conversations with the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry, and if you and I want to have a chat after, I’m more than happy to do that.
The Acting Speaker (Mme Lucille Collard): Next question?
Ms. Andrea Khanjin: I want to ask the member—he’s talking to so many people in his area. I remember visiting Algonquin Park one summer and you can’t run into someone who doesn’t know MPP Yakabuski. I wanted to ask him, what is he hearing first-hand from many families who may want their sons or daughters to stay in the area, but unfortunately they may be leaving for more affordable housing in other provinces?
Mr. John Yakabuski: I have to say—and most people would agree with this statement—my voice is better than my ears. I didn’t hear the first part of that question, but it goes back to the message that we’ve talked about all along. This province needs people. Nothing happens if you don’t have that critical mass of people, but you’ve got to service those people. You’ve got to be able to provide what those people need to make Ontario home.
I don’t think there could be a government—I know there’s not a government, and I know there’s not a Premier or a minister that has done more to make people feel more welcome to come to Ontario. Look at the bills we’ve passed. Look at the bill that is before the Legislature today. You will not find a more proactive government that recognizes the reality out there, that is doing more so that those people can have a home right here in Ontario, the best place to live, work and raise a family.
The Acting Speaker (Mme Lucille Collard): Next question?
Mr. John Vanthof: I always love listening to the member from Renfrew–Nipissing–Pembroke. He is, I think, the best entertainer here and he often has valid points. We all want to build houses, just like in Shakespeare’s day, but it’s important where we build them, and something he said gives me concern because he said that we spend our time listening to people, and they have to make the tough decisions. One of the decisions they have in this bill is three severances per agricultural lot. The Premier seems to have backed down on it, but it’s still in the bill, and the member is now saying that perhaps the tough decisions are still going to be made despite what people in agriculture—because everyone in agriculture united against that provision in the bill. Could you please confirm that that is still the stand of the government
Mr. John Yakabuski: I want to thank the member, and I’ll wait for the Oscar to be presented at a later date.
But I do want to say to the member, this is what governing is all about. That’s why it’s so tough, because you also have to be willing to say, “Was there some confusion or some misunderstanding on something that we talked about?” It’s not directly in the bill, but what is now out there and absolutely clear is that we’re going to continue with that consultation process until August 4—I believe the date is August 4—which is going to give everybody another opportunity to voice their views on what seems to be spreading out there.
As the Premier said, the agricultural community, one thing they also have said, there’s been no government ever that has been better suited and has done more for the agriculture industry in the history of Ontario than this government right here. I know I can give you some comfort in saying: watch, listen and learn; August 4, you’re going to be clapping.
The Acting Speaker (Mme Lucille Collard): Next question?
Hon. Michael S. Kerzner: I want to ask my friend, what happens when you don’t have the vision, when you don’t plan for the future, when you don’t plan for subways, you don’t plan for infrastructure and you don’t make the plans for housing for another generation? What happens when we don’t do it? I think your remarks—and I’d like to hear your thoughts—speak to a vision, that when we have a vision, we have absolutely everything. But I want to ask you, what happens when we don’t have the vision to move forward to plan for another generation?
Mr. John Yakabuski: Thank you to the minister. I won’t quote Shakespeare this time because I don’t think he said it, but that’s when the proverbial stuff hits the fan. We’re not going to let that happen because we’re always planning for the future in spite of the fact there will be people who stand and rise against us. There’s a group of people out there, the NIMBY world, where, once I have my piece of heaven, I email St. Peter and say, “Close the gates. Nobody else gets in.” But in our Ontario, we’ve got room for everybody.
A case in point: the 413—you want to plan for the future? The 413, and they railed against the 413: “Don’t do it. It’s crazy. It’s the worst thing you could ever do.” I asked the members of the NDP from Brampton to tell us how that worked—oh, I’m sorry, there are no MPP members from Brampton because the people of Brampton said, “You people are losing it. We need the 413 if we’re going to prosper, and we’re going to have a better future for our families and our children.” The 413 is important. There are going to be cars on the road. Maybe they won’t be powered by gasoline, but there’s going to be—
The Acting Speaker (Mme Lucille Collard): Thank you. Next question.
Mr. Wayne Gates: I just want to remind that member that he was in official opposition for 15 years and was doing the same type of speeches on this side of the road, going after the government. I just want to remind him. I know because he doesn’t hear as well as he used to.
I agree we need to build 1.5 million homes. What I don’t agree with is that we should be building them on the greenbelt, neither does any young person that I know agree that you should build on the greenbelt. So if you’re caring about young people, you’re caring about our grandkids, don’t build on the greenbelt. It’s their future.
I also don’t agree that we should be—when you talk about farmland—ripping up 319 acres of prime farmland every single day in the province of Ontario. How are we going to feed ourselves?
We have a crisis in health care—I’m going to have a question today on it—where they’re shutting down Fort Erie emergency care.
We have a crisis in affordable housing—
The Acting Speaker (Mme Lucille Collard): Question.
Mr. Wayne Gates: Yes, I’m going to go quick. My question to that member, who I’ve known for years: Do you believe we should be building on the greenbelt and hurting our children and our grandchildren and their future?
Mr. John Yakabuski: I will say to the member, he’s right; I did speak on the opposition side, but they were not the same speeches, let me tell you that. They were very good, but they were not the same speeches. But I will say this: We have two different views. They want to do what they want to do to prevent building from taking place. If it isn’t the greenbelt, it will be something else.
But what it comes right down to, Speaker, is that they are standing in the way of actual progress and building for the future. If they aren’t going to build on the greenbelt, then they will find someplace else we’re not going to build.
But the reality is this: We’re actually expanding the greenbelt. Speaker, the greenbelt will be bigger after we’re done than it was when we got here, and there won’t be 17 separate reductions on the greenbelt—
The Acting Speaker (Mme Lucille Collard): Thank you. That’s it for further questions.
We’re going to move to further debate.
Mr. Terence Kernaghan: It’s always an honour for me to rise and add the voices of the great people of London North Centre, especially on a topic that I know my community is passionate about and one that I am passionate about as well, which is housing. I believe strongly that the government needs to take a leading role. They need to lead from the front. The government needs to make sure that they are fulfilling their historic responsibility for providing an adequate supply of affordable housing in the province.
You see, housing is a human right. But housing is even so many more things. Housing is also health care. Housing is a social determinant of health. Housing is foundational for every single person in this province in order to enjoy their life.
We also need to see a government that is concerned with the creation, the building of non-market homes instead of a private, market-based approach that focuses on tax cuts, deregulation, sprawl across our treasured greenbelt. Their solutions are ones that simply make it harder for people to pay the bills and to put food on the table. There are also no guarantees of enough new affordable homes within this province’s flawed plan.
I would also like to take a look at some proactive measures that the NDP has brought forward to this government, ones that are sitting on the table right now that this government could pass to protect tenants immediately, ones that would be supported by the official opposition, ones that we could get through this House in record time. Those include Bill 25, the Rent Stabilization Act, one that I was proud to co-sponsor to make sure that we are plugging the hole of vacancy decontrol that was brought forward during the last Liberal government.
You see, this Conservative government has continued a system of exploitation on tenants. They’ve made a system of unaffordability even worse by removing rent control from buildings first occupied after November 2018. It’s a system where people are paying more and more and more every year with no signs of relief, and that is on this government. They have chosen to allow unethical corporate landlords to exploit people for something that is a basic human right, which is housing.
We also have introduced other measures, such as Bill 48, to plug that vacancy decontrol hole, to have rent control for all tenants. There’s also Bill 58, which is currently on the table, the Protecting Renters from Illegal Evictions Act. These are proactive steps, Speaker, that would effectively safeguard and protect tenants. But yet we see a government that isn’t concerned about proactive measures; instead, they have looked towards reactive measures through Bill 97.
What is deeply concerning, Speaker, is that only this government could turn a Human Rights Tribunal ruling into a rent hike. What they have allowed is landlords to increase rent on people for having the right of air conditioning. How is that right? At a time of unprecedented unaffordability, they want to let unethical landlords reach deep into people’s pockets and take their hard-earned money. That’s on this government. They want to reach into people’s pockets by this decision. People who have had air conditioning units in the past will now have to pay for them; that’s on this government. That is a choice.
We have proposed so many solutions to problems of unaffordability and the problems facing tenants, but this government has said no every single time. We’ve brought forward opposition day motions. We’ve dedicated entire days to debating this within the Legislature, and this government shuts their ears and doesn’t want to listen to the voices of people who are struggling. They don’t want to listen to the voices of tenants.
They have this ironically titled legislation which does little to help homebuyers and protect tenants. It does so little. They are talking about increasing fines, but we know that fines are not levied in many cases at the Landlord and Tenant Board. The Ombudsman has even called the Landlord and Tenant Board “moribund.” My goodness.
This government has defended rent increases as high as 57%. In London, in my community, they were hit by the biggest average rent increase in all of Canada last year, 33%. And now, this year, it’s 27%. People cannot afford that. They have continued the Liberal loophole of vacancy decontrol, keeping that incentive for unethical corporate landlords to kick good people out, who have been there for many years, so that they can jack up the rent because the market will allow it.
I’ve travelled to 1270 and 1280 Webster Street, where I heard from seniors, people who were in their golden years who just want to enjoy some time in their home. And yet, this building has been sold, Speaker, and because this government does not stand up for tenants and did not plug vacancy decontrol and that loophole, these people have been served with eviction notices. Those are eviction notices that have not gone through the Landlord and Tenant Board; they’re deliberately misleading and threatening. These people are concerned about where they’re going to go. They’re concerned about possibly living in their car. It’s unconscionable, Speaker, that this government has the opportunity to stand up for tenants and chooses not to.
And if that weren’t bad enough, these people—and I’m very thankful for the leadership of the MPP for London–Fanshawe, who has canvassed these buildings; she has told people about their rights, making sure they’re informed, letting them know that these notices are ones that are not correct and an eviction order can only be ordered by the Landlord and Tenant Board. But now, Speaker, this landlord has tried to deliver a charge for parking spaces. They want to charge these residents $200 per month for a parking space—absolutely unbelievable. This government wants to open up people’s pockets so that unethical landlords can jam their hand in as far as they can.
Now, this government briefing on this bill and their ironic title—they say it’s going to make life easier for renters, help homebuyers, streamline policies to build more homes, but there’s no guarantee that their plan is actually going to create the affordable homes that people need. What is concerning is that they can raise fines all they want, but unethical landlords are not afraid of these fines, because it has failed to deter this illegal behaviour. The example at 1270 and 1280 Webster Street is an example of that. NDP legislation would protect them; Conservative legislation does not.
Many tenants are simply unaware of their rights. If this government truly wanted to stand up for tenants and wanted to protect them, they would make sure that the vacancy decontrol hole was plugged. I have heard from so many tenants who have repeatedly reported serious maintenance issues with their units—pests, lack of heat, basic services. At 1270 Webster Street and 1280 Webster Street, residents were telling me just a week ago that they’re responsible for cleaning their own lobby, their hallways and their laundry room because the landlord doesn’t do it. But they care for their place, they love their home, they love their neighbours and they look after one another.
I’d like to also add the voice of the Advocacy Centre for Tenants Ontario, who says, Bill 97 “does not go far enough to protect renters and fix the dysfunction at the Landlord and Tenant Board.” This is just “a band-aid solution.” This bill is only as good as—it’s simply not good enough. It’s just a band-aid solution.
It falls short because it fails to mandate a maximum temperature in the summer, similar to the mandated minimum temperature in the winter. This is something that our housing critic, the MPP for University–Rosedale, has called for. Last summer, I was canvassing on this very issue before it came before the Human Rights Tribunal. I canvassed an east London apartment complex where people who are busy, who are seniors, single parents, people working multiple jobs, were saddled with the choice: They were told that they could not install air conditioning units, which they had done for years. They were told that that was not allowed, that they would have to purchase an air conditioning unit from the landlord and they could have a payment plan to then pay it off. People were told that this was a must, this was the law, and many people made that choice. I shudder to think about the price that the landlord charged for these air conditioning units. It’s unconscionable.
Now, this government in their wisdom has seen fit to let people who have had air conditioners, people who even have the sleeves that are in their units because the builder understood that there would be a necessity to have air conditioning units—those people now have to pay. They’ve never had to pay before, but this government wants them to pay. This government wants to reach into their pockets and take their money.
This government also has really done a disservice to local councils by their removal of development charges—$5 billion, as has been estimated by the Association of Municipalities of Ontario.
They’ve also opened up large swaths of the greenbelt, auctioning it off to the highest donor and their insider friends, the people who actually pull the government strings in the backrooms. That is not something that is going to create the affordable housing that Ontario needs.
What is also really quite shocking is the systems that this government has in place that are supposed to protect homebuyers. For many years, when this government was in opposition, they railed against Tarion. They said how it was a system that was unacceptable. The Premier himself said that it was a monopoly, which it is, and they said that they would repair it. But now, since they’ve gone over to the government side, suddenly the song they’re singing has changed. Instead of overhauling and reforming Tarion, they’ve actually created yet another bureaucratic nightmare.
What is disturbing about this is that the information—when homebuyers have concerns with a builder, they report that, and it should be information that is posted on the Ontario Builder Directory. Unfortunately, that information is not being posted, so consumers are not being protected. Consumers don’t know when a builder who they may be seeking to invest in—it’s the biggest investment of their entire life. They don’t have accurate information provided on the Ontario Builder Directory. It’s deeply, deeply concerning.
It’s something as well that people are forced to pay for. Homebuyers are obliged to pay provincially mandated warranty fees, and it’s factored into the price for new home buyers. They’re stuck paying for it. For a long time, the entire composition of the Tarion board has been suspect. It has been one that has been controlled by the Ontario Home Builders’ Association. There are no consumer advocates on it. There is just a deep, huge concern. The official opposition has brought forward legislation again to help protect people who are making the largest investment of their life, with our consumer watchdog. But this government chooses not to stand up for homebuyers at all.
I think as well of so many people who have had absolutely horrendous stories. I think of Earl Shuman, who lost his life after making the biggest investment of his life and battling with Tarion for years and years and years.
I think of Daniel Browne-Emery, who, again, had mould in his basement the size of pizzas. Finally, after battling for years and years and years, he succumbed to cancer. He took a paltry amount of money as a buyout so that he could at least give something to his family, so that he could leave some sort of legacy.
I think as well of Gayle and Gary Dudeck, who have reached out to every single member in this House. I know you’ve received the letter—every single MPP did. They are from Oshawa. They described how their daughter and partner were fighting with a home builder who was engaged in some really disturbing behaviour. They said there was a weasel clause in the contract that stated that all of the lots had to be serviced by January 13 and if not the builder could cancel. The lots weren’t serviced by January 13—no surprise there; that was probably their intention the entire time—they were serviced on the 28th, 15 days later. That allowed them to renegotiate the contract with the purchaser. They added $200,000 to the purchase price.
Now, through HCRA, this government claims that renegotiations are illegal, but there’s been no enforcement. HCRA took 15 months reviewing the Dudecks’ complaint and they emphasized in their code of ethics that price renegotiations are unacceptable. They still did nothing. In their summary, they said that the builder could have communicated better, but there were no penalties and no negative repercussions for the builder. How is this government, through HCRA, standing up for homebuyers? They are not.
Typically, as well, when people enter into these issues with an unethical home builder, they are subject to having to sign non-disclosure agreements. It silences people. They’re stuck in a situation where their only option, after making the biggest investment of their lives and having their rights taken away and being subject to these massive increases—they then have to sign an NDA.
Whenever the minister for MGCS is questioned on this, there’s always a repeated, canned response. There’s been no positive action for purchasers. This government has known about this for many years. They’ve known about it for 15 years while they were in opposition. They promised to do something and they chose not to. It’s heartbreaking that people are stuck with this.
Many folks have reached out from the Ottawa area who had concerns with Greatwise Developments, which engaged in that very same sort of renegotiation of price. They said, “Well, the market has changed. The cost of materials is up.” That does not change the contract that they legally committed to.
I’d like this government, if indeed they want to stand up for homebuyers and protect tenants, to consider the proactive measures that they need to do. Increasing fines after someone’s rights have been taken away is not enough. That is not getting ahead of the problem. In fact, they ought to know, with the Ombudsman’s report and the backlog of cases at the Landlord and Tenant Board and all of the voices of people across Ontario who have struggled with that system, that Bill 97 is nowhere near enough.
In this bill, as well, they could end exclusionary zoning, a measure that their own Housing Affordability Task Force Report has called for. Their own budget shows that they are not on track to meet the 1.5 million homes they are pretending they’re going to reach.
Instead, this government really needs to focus on adequate housing as a human right. They need to make sure young people have an affordable, safe place to call home. They need to make sure that there’s a rights-based approach to housing, that there’s a variety of public policy tools to make sure that these housing units are being created.
There needs to be investment from this province. There needs to be a focus on non-market housing. Too often, we see a government that is overly reliant on the private market. They believe they can simply make a policy change and that the private market will magically create affordable housing. That is not the case. There is no way that a private, profit-motivated organization is going to create the affordable housing that Ontario needs. Their motive is profit. They have to deliver value to their shareholders between 10% and 15% of investment. Their motive is not going to be creating the affordable housing that Ontarians need.
You see, the NDP has always been and will always be the party of housing. Despite all of the flaws of the Rae government in the 1990s, that government created the greatest amount of social and affordable housing of any government before it. Much of that housing still exists to this day, Speaker, despite the attempts of the Liberal government to redevelop some of that housing into luxury condos.
We see also this government allowing huge holes through Bill 23, allowing these real estate investment trusts to snap up rental buildings to redevelop them into luxury housing. That is backwards. The Non-Resident Speculation Tax has loopholes big enough to drive a truck through.
If this government wants to truly focus on affordable housing, they need to build and provide that affordable housing. Don’t expect someone else to do the heavy lifting for you. The official opposition is here to work with you. Use us, and we will build it together.
The Acting Speaker (Mme Lucille Collard): We’re going to move to questions.
Mr. Rick Byers: I thank the member for his comments. I also heard the broad agreement to build more homes. I’ve heard that from several speakers across the aisle, which is great news, and we agree. That’s why we’re committed to building 1.5 million homes.
This is a tough task. If this was easy, it would have been done in the past and we wouldn’t have this problem. But housing, if you look at policy directives that need to happen, is up there among the toughest, in my opinion, because it requires many governments working together, industry, all sorts of different factors, and that’s why we haven’t had this problem. But we need to do it. The young generation needs it. That’s why this bill, as well as many others, will increase the housing supply. I ask the member, are he and his party willing to support this bill to get that job done?
Mr. Terence Kernaghan: I’d like to thank the member from Bruce–Grey–Owen Sound for the question. I think there has been some misunderstanding on the government side about what we’re suggesting as the official opposition. We do not believe that a private, market-based approach will succeed in creating the truly affordable housing that Ontarians need.
We believe Ontario needs to actually invest. They need to have a public builder who will deliver those non-market homes, so that people have a safe place to call home. Crossing your fingers and hoping for the best and expecting that a private, for-profit industry will do the work the government needs to do is not a plan. Hope is not a plan. There are no legislative guarantees in any of the housing bills that this government has had to really control the number of affordable units or the rate of affordability that will be delivered.
Their plan is not going to succeed. Their budget already shows that they’re not going to succeed with their 1.5 million homes.
The Acting Speaker (Mme Lucille Collard): Next question?
Ms. Teresa J. Armstrong: The member from London North Centre spoke about 1270 and 1280 Webster Street, which is really another example of how legislation right now is failing tenants when it comes to renovictions and other ways landlords get creative on how to evict tenants.
An example I have is Lori and Ron. I’ve spoken about them before. They lived in a two-bedroom apartment for 11 years. They were told by the landlord they were going to have renovations for seven to eight months. They’ve been trying to get hold of the landlord. They can’t contact the landlord. They’re renting a hotel room in the meantime, hoping to get back in.
In this piece of legislation, again, with the renovictions, it’s left up to the tenant to do all the investigating and creating a case. Why has the government allowed this piece of legislation to be a loophole, where tenants can’t get justice if they’re the ones acting as the investigators?
Mr. Terence Kernaghan: I’d like to thank the member from London–Fanshawe for her excellent question. It’s something we see time and again, and it’s because this government has chosen to not close the loophole for landlords to renovict tenants. There is a financial incentive for unethical landlords to kick long-standing tenants out because Liberal and Conservative governments have prioritized these unethical for-profit landlords, these corporate landlords who want to kick good people out so they can jack up the rent.
This government could pass NDP legislation to protect tenants. It’s on the table right now. We could pass it today. But instead this government chooses to have ironically titled bills that will not protect tenants, that will not do enough.
But the member is absolutely right: The onus, the burden is placed upon tenants, who have to be their own private investigator, and that is wrong. We need to protect tenants before there is an issue rather than having these reactive solutions that simply won’t work.
The Acting Speaker (Mme Lucille Collard): Next question?
Ms. Andrea Khanjin: The member made it clear he doesn’t believe in the market or market economics, made that clear in his plan and his speech. But in his NDP plan, they make it clear—our goal is to build 1.5 million homes so that more people have access to affordable homes. We’re not shackling the next generation with debt because of government decisions. But in their plan, they want to build 250,000 homes, which is going to cost the taxpayer $125 billion, which is shackling the next generation with that burden, that debt. So how is someone supposed to get into the housing market under the NDP plan if now they have to pay $125 billion for just 250,000 homes, and they might not get one of those 250,000 homes?
Mr. Terence Kernaghan: I’d like to thank the member from Barrie–Innisfil for her comments. I would suggest to the member that they listen to all of the constituents in their riding who are affected by this government’s removal of rent control on buildings first occupied after November 2018. Those people are suffering. This government, through that decision, has shackled a number of people with incredible debt just to simply have a roof over their heads. That is a conscious decision that this government took to take away the rights of tenants. They removed rent control; they took a protection away. It’s really quite shocking.
There is always room for the private market. What the NDP is suggesting is that we have a public builder who is responsible for the funding, delivery, acquisition and protection of truly affordable housing. That’s something that people need. That will also make sure that people have a place to call home because, as I said, housing is health care. This government has responsibility to provide it. Housing is a human right. Housing is a social determinant of health, and this government needs to take proactive steps to make sure that it’s actually being created, not crossing their fingers and hoping for the best, like so many ironically titled pieces of legislation do.
The Acting Speaker (Mme Lucille Collard): Next question.
Mr. Chris Glover: I want to thank the member for London North Centre for his comments today. He always brings the experience of his residents to the Legislature here and it’s wonderful to hear those experiences. Hopefully the government side will actually listen and take some lessons from you so that they can improve their legislation.
When we’re talking about affordable housing, this government passed Bill 23, which downloads the cost of development charges onto municipal taxpayers to the tune of $5 billion, and this is being paid for—this Bill 23 is nicknamed the “building fewer homes slower” act—by municipal taxpayers through what is being deemed as the “Ford tax.” But will this $5-billion tax handout to for-profit developers actually build affordable housing for Ontarians?
Mr. Terence Kernaghan: I’d like to thank the member from Spadina–Fort York for an excellent question. I believe the member is absolutely right that, through Bill 23, the removal of development charges, giving more money to the for-profit industry—$5 billion—and expecting that regular Ontarians are going to pick up that bill is unconscionable. Ford’s tax on everyday folks to provide the services that all of these new developments, all of these McMansions across the greenbelt are going to require is something that’s going to hit everyone hard. At a time of unprecedented unaffordability, the government sees fit to give yet more money to an already very lucrative industry, expecting everyday folks to pick up that tab.
Developers should be responsible for paying for the services that are required for all of these new homes, whether it’s electricity, sewers—all of the utilities that are necessary. But there’s no guarantee in Bill 23 that any affordable housing will actually be created. That is the biggest gap. It’s unbelievable that this government even uses the word “affordable.”
The Acting Speaker (Mme Lucille Collard): Next question?
Mr. Todd J. McCarthy: My question for the member for London North Centre is this: We know that we have to plan for incredible and wonderful growth here in Ontario. Ontario’s share of newcomers to Canada was 39% before we took office. Now, as of 2021, it is almost 50%. By 2025, by mid-decade, 60%, or 300,000 or more newcomers per year, will make Ontario home.
Is it not a moral imperative to plan for this growth and embrace the newcomers who will contribute to Ontario’s prosperity? If the member agrees that we should plan for growth and that it is a moral imperative, why will the opposition not support this bill?
Mr. Terence Kernaghan: Growth is absolutely a moral imperative. But do you know what is also a moral imperative? Making sure that people have protections. The NDP has suggested a number of different things. This government, if they had morals, would protect tenants. They would pass the NDP legislation that will re-establish rent control, plug vacancy decontrol to make sure that all the places that were built after November 2018 have rent control again. That would be a moral choice.
But this government has instead made a different choice. They’ve made a choice not to protect tenants. We have a number of different solutions on the table which could be passed immediately. It’s really shocking to think that this government is talking about growth. Growth without protection is unsustainable. People will be in a situation where once their lease is up, they will be subject to massive rent increases because of this government’s neglect, this government’s willful ignoring of the affordability issues that affect newcomers, that affect young people, that affect families, that affect seniors. This government has ignored people, and I think it’s deeply immoral.
The Acting Speaker (Mme Lucille Collard): We’re going to move to further debate. I recognize the member for Don Valley East.
Mr. Adil Shamji: Madam Speaker, it is an honour to rise in this august chamber on behalf of the constituents of Don Valley East and on behalf of the people of Ontario, particularly on an issue that is a crisis to so many us, and that is of course on housing.
Just earlier this morning, the member from York Centre spoke about visionary plans, but there’s nothing visionary about rewriting plans over and over and over—because, in fact, this is the third time this government has rewritten urban development policy since October 2022. So you’ll forgive me for believing that sometimes it feels like they’re just making it up as they go along. That’s not intended to be a dig at this government; it’s an expression of concern from the people of Ontario and, of course, for myself included.
When this bill was first announced, the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing spoke of flexibility and boosting housing supply. Translated, what he really was saying is that he wants to be able to do whatever he wants. Madam Speaker, Ontario needs housing—we all know that—but Bill 97 fails to consider its agricultural, economic and environmental consequences, nor its consequences for tenants and for residents.
On the matter of agricultural and environmental issues, sweeping, unchecked urban sprawl is an asset to nobody, especially when this government neglects basic city services like hospitals and schools. But this government, sadly, is not interested in feedback. After all, they’re stripping away power from municipalities, the local jurisdictions who know their communities best and know how the negative consequences of Bill 97 could unfold.
Madam Speaker, the consequences may be significant. Had the government bothered to meaningfully consult with stakeholders, they would know that. Here’s one stakeholder: The Ontario Federation of Agriculture, representing over 80% of Ontario’s farmers, has voiced opposition to the bill, as schedule 6 will severely reduce the already diminished amount of agricultural land in our province. This government just wants to plop multi-lot residential areas in prime rural farmland and walk away saying it built a few houses. This simply is not good enough.
This government hasn’t considered the environmental implications of what it is proposing. The changes, for example, made under schedule 6 will tear into green space and exponentially increase our carbon emissions. And without public transport, hospitals, schools, employment areas—residents will need to drive to get where they’re going, emitting even more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.
From an economic perspective, cities designate lands as employment lands, places for industry and economic development. This legislation circumvents these rules so that developers can build on those very lands. This will contribute to forcing new residents to commute long distances for basic services and for infrastructure, because it’s an attempt at a housing plan without an accompanying infrastructure plan. This government forgets that livable housing doesn’t just mean access to a roof and four walls. Access to a grocery store, a school, a hospital: These are all critical to the success of a community as well and are not provided under this bill.
Bill 97 also removes the rule for municipalities that stipulates they must prove the need to expand before they push their municipal urban boundaries outward. Municipalities could rezone land without requiring evidence or studies. This bill seeks to do away with the municipal comprehensive review. This is, as you know, the review every five years that municipalities undertake about lands which should be employment lands and which lands should no longer be those. The land needs assessment is also being done away with—a valuable assessment that looks at populations to determine employment lands. All of this means fewer local jobs, more commuting, more pollution.
On the topic of affordable housing—because this is not just an environmental issue or even a complete disregard towards protecting agricultural lands—this bill offers little to no substantial policies to address or promote affordable housing. For example, schedule 2 doesn’t just diminish the authority of municipalities, which is a point I will get back to, but it also opens up many avenues to avoid the development of affordable housing units and fair treatment for tenants. The new regulatory control over demolition and conversion of rental units could easily give the province the power to weaken or even eliminate rental replacement bylaws.
Rental replacement bylaws play an integral role in ensuring tenants who are forced out of their homes due to demolition or conversion are properly supported, either through financial compensation or replacement homes. In a report done by the city of Toronto which highlighted concerns of Bill 97, it stated, “From 2018 to 2022, the city approved nearly 2,500 replacement units at below-market rents (i.e., meeting the city’s definition of affordable or mid-range rents). Without the ability to regulate replacement rents, this existing stock of housing affordable to low- and moderate-income households would have been lost.”
This government loves to talk about the housing crisis as though it is only an issue of lack of supply. While that certainly is one of the issues, affordable housing must be and remain a key priority. Nothing in this bill suggests that policies would be put in place to help ensure and guarantee that homebuyers are given affordable options or that tenants are protected against price gouging or given fair rights.
On my final point about the diminishment of municipal power, what seems very apparent in this bill is that this government is intent to suggest that municipalities are ill-equipped to understand and address the unique needs of their own region. It also seems to suggest that every municipality in Ontario is facing identical issues when it comes to housing, even though this is simply not true. The housing crisis looks very different in northern regions of Ontario versus more urban regions. The unique needs of each region cannot be solved by a one-size-fits-all approach. Yet this is exactly what Bill 97 is proposing by diminishing the authority of municipalities completely and giving that complete control to the ministry.
For example, changes in schedule 1 of the bill allow the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing to appoint his own inspectors necessary for the enforcement of this act. This required appealing subsection 4(4) of the Building Code Act, which once stipulated that inspectors would be appointed under part III of the Public Service of Ontario Act, the Public Service Commission in charge of appointing public servants. Their mandate is to ensure “non-partisan”—non-partisan—“recruitment and employment of public servants that PSC or its delegates appoint to employment by the crown.” Can the minister make that guarantee? Can the people of Ontario expect that of this government? If the past is any indication of the future, then the answer, unfortunately, is no. This matters, because this government has promised to build Ontarians 1.5 million homes by 2030, and they’re afraid of delivering on that. As it is, they’re behind schedule. It’s worrisome that the minister can now appoint his own inspectors who could easily be directed to fast-track the inspection process in order to expedite the number of homes built. Building homes is good; building them recklessly is not.
When I see that the minister has been given the power to “make regulations prescribing anything that is referred to in section 14” when section 14 has within it 14 major subsections, I’m concerned. In fact, it gives me flashbacks to Bill 60. As a result, a concerning pattern of unaccountability is established in this bill.
In closing, this bill would make sweeping changes to how municipalities grow. It could force 444 Ontario municipalities to grow the same way. Municipalities in northern Ontario would be subject to the same rules as municipalities in southwestern Ontario, despite having completely different needs. That is not acceptable. This is not a one-size-fits-all province, and we can’t govern like that.
For once, this government is actually being transparent. They have shown that Bill 97 is their chosen mechanism for throwing out every rule and protection meant to ensure that growth in Ontario is fiscally and environmentally responsible. Just because the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing has a promise to deliver on for the Premier doesn’t mean he has carte blanche to get us there.
The Acting Speaker (Mme Lucille Collard): We’re going to move to questions.
Mr. Todd J. McCarthy: The member for Don Valley East I’m sure is aware that there are thousands of residential tenants—families in rental accommodation—that they call home. Our government has in the past brought in measures to strengthen protections for tenants, including fines for bad landlords and measures to prevent evictions. Unfortunately, the opposition chose to vote against those measures. This time, there’s an opportunity for the member opposite to support better protections for tenants in this province once again.
My question to the member from Don Valley East: On behalf of his constituents, will he join us in supporting these enhanced protections for tenants?
Mr. Adil Shamji: I absolutely, categorically support increased protections for tenants. It’s a little bit hypocritical to hear from the other side that they support those protections when they have, for example, done away with rent control and implemented policies that have resulted in unprecedented economic hardship for my constituents in Don Valley East.
I’m proud to stand here on behalf of those same constituents to hold this government to account, to point out that they have made life more difficult for tenants, more difficult for renters, more expensive for renters, and to point out that, unfortunately, to call these piecemeal efforts that are unclear—it’s inappropriate to do so.
The Acting Speaker (Mme Lucille Collard): Next question?
Mr. Wayne Gates: If you care about renters, then how is it that the average rent in Toronto is $3,000? What new Canadian or young person can afford $3,000 for their rent right here in Toronto? What are we doing? You’re not protecting renters. You’re not protecting young people. You’re not protecting families in the province of Ontario when $3,000 is the average of rent here in Toronto.
My question is—in my riding in Niagara Falls, I’m hearing from residents that are facing significant rent increases because they live in units built after 2018. In some cases, they can’t afford to rent anymore. Do you think we should have rent controls for all units built in the province of Ontario?
Mr. Adil Shamji: I thank you very much for your question. We saw exactly what happened when this government did away with rent control. And I’ll point out that the Liberals, in our last election platform, in fact called for that rent control to be restored.
I was just in St. Catharines and in the Niagara region within the last few days. I’ve heard from your constituents—who thank you for your advocacy, by the way—but who point out that housing is out of control for them, that rent is out of control for them and that this government, the present government, hasn’t done anything for them in order to make that issue go away. This bill certainly won’t.
The Acting Speaker (Mme Lucille Collard): Next question?
Mr. Rick Byers: I thank the member for his comments. As I think about all the housing initiatives that our government is doing, I think of my own family situation where I’ve got three sons—twenties and early thirties. They don’t have the opportunity in housing that us older baby boomers have had. Back in the last millennium, when I started my first job, you could get a job and find a place to live. That math worked. For this generation, our generation of young folks and many who are coming, that math does not work. For me, that is what’s fundamental about what we’re doing. As I said in the previous question, none of this is easy. If it was easy, we wouldn’t have this problem.
Will the member join us in this goal of getting 1.5 million homes built so that those young people can find a place to stay?
Mr. Adil Shamji: I do appreciate the ambition of the member across to deliver 1.5 million homes over 10 years, a call that we ourselves, the Liberal Party, have called for and committed to in the last election. However, building 1.5 million homes in 10 years does not have to be mutually exclusive with doing it in a thoughtful way, one that listens to farmers, protects agricultural farmland, protects our economy and makes sure that we work with our municipalities and collaborate together. This is fundamentally the difference: We’re willing to work with partners and to consider all of the potential consequences, not just allow things to happen unregulated.
The Acting Speaker (Mme Lucille Collard): We’re going to move to further debate.
Mr. Logan Kanapathi: I rise today to speak about the Helping Homebuyers, Protecting Tenants Act, 2023, also known as Bill 97. This legislation is a cornerstone of our latest housing supply action plan which aims to create a solid foundation for growth while providing enhanced protection for renters and homebuyers.
Ontario is experiencing remarkable growth, with 445,000 new residents in 2022 alone. Our province is growing, attracting newcomers, job creators and entrepreneurs from all around the world who seek to make Ontario their home. However, this rapid growth has exacerbated an ongoing and severe shortage of housing options.
Madam Speaker, our growth plan is a provincial plan. More growth means more people, more opportunities. The previous Liberal government miserably failed for 13 years of planning and managing growth in our cities and the region and the province, especially the growth plan for the greater Golden Horseshoe area. However, for the greater Golden Horseshoe, there is an additional set of planning rules contained in A Place to Grow, the growth plan. That’s why they call it the greater Golden Horseshoe.
The greater Toronto area, which is just one area in the greater Golden Horseshoe, is expected to grow by 2.9 million people by 2046. I want to say that again. We will need homes to accommodate an additional 2.9 million people within the next 23 years, Madam Speaker.
This is not just a housing issue. The member opposite talked about the housing issue as a human rights issue. It’s also an economic problem that can affect the entire country. The greater Golden Horseshoe generates more than 25% of Canada’s gross domestic product. It is the economic engine of Ontario. But this economic engine needs workers who, in turn, need a place to live.
We are also asking our municipality to plan for 25 years’ growth. It’s never happened before. If you don’t plan, you can’t get it. We would also continue to encourage the municipality to build where it makes sense, such as major transit corridors and residential development near transit areas.
We are streamlining the land use planning policy and working on key priorities to increase the housing supply.
Madam Speaker, our government is fighting back. The people of Markham—I come from Markham and the Markham–Thornhill riding, a wonderful riding—are not immune to these challenges. Markham is the fastest-growing municipality in all of Canada. It’s also the most ethnically diverse riding in all of Canada, and 61% of Markham residents were born outside of Canada. What does that mean? They need more housing, more opportunity to fulfill their dreams.
Markham is also a thriving hub of innovation and advanced technologies in the greater Toronto area. The demand for housing has changed alongside the influx of residents and businesses. As such, our government recognizes the urgent need to address the housing supply crisis, not only in my beautiful riding of Markham–Thornhill and the city of Markham, but in the entire province, ensuring that our residents have access to affordable and accessible housing options.
Through the Helping Homebuyers, Protecting Tenants Act, we are taking bold steps to ensure that more homes are brought online, directly benefiting the people of Ontario. This legislation will lay the groundwork for an increased housing supply, offering relief to those struggling to find suitable and affordable housing in our vibrant communities.
Our Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing stated, “Too many Ontarians have been priced out of the housing market through no fault of their own.” We acknowledge the challenges faced by Ontarians and are committed to providing them with the opportunity to access affordable housing.
Unfortunately, Madam Speaker, the opposition New Democratic Party has shown a concerning disregard for the urgent needs of our province’s housing crisis. Shockingly, they have voted against housing supply plans put forward by our government on four separate occasions, disregarding pressing needs of Ontarians. We recognize the importance of supporting new homebuyers and safeguarding the rights of tenants in Ontario.
In my riding of Markham–Thornhill, we have received numerous complaints from our residents regarding the slow hearing process at the Landlord and Tenant Board. One of my constituents who submitted his application in November 2021 was originally scheduled for an early September 2022 hearing. Unfortunately, due to a delay in combining his two applications, he has been forced to wait for over four months. This extended waiting period has significantly impacted his well-being as he has been facing mental and medical health issues. Madam Speaker, it is crucial that we prioritize our people’s urgent need for a stable living situation.
Under the leadership of our Premier and the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, our government is unwavering in our commitment to truly listen to the voice of our people. The proposed changes to the Landlord and Tenant Board, driven by the feedback we have received from both landlords and tenants, are specifically designed to address the unique needs of our local communities. By enhancing the legal protections for tenants and clamping down on bad landlords, we are a fostering a safe and secure environment for all residents in this province.
Additionally, our government’s commitment to investing an additional $6.5 million to hire new adjudicators—
The Acting Speaker (Mme Lucille Collard): I apologize to the member from Markham–Thornhill. It is 10:15. We need to move to members’ statements.
Third reading debate deemed adjourned.
Vision Health Month
Mr. Deepak Anand: Over 1.5 million Canadians are battling sight loss. An estimated 5.6 million Canadians across our country suffer from eye disease that could lead to blindness. The annual cost of vision loss in Canada is approximately $32.9 billion. Vision is vital, as it synergizes with our other senses, amplifying hearing, touch, taste and smell to enrich our perception of the world.
Madam Speaker, with great admiration and gratitude, I would like to acknowledge the visionary leadership of Senator Dr. Asha Seth, who is here today, for proposing the designation of May as the national Vision Health Month a decade ago. Dr. Seth’s tireless efforts and unwavering commitment to this cause were recently recognized in Ottawa, and her exceptional contribution.
Dr. Seth’s current focus involves promoting comprehensive eye exams for children to detect and intervene at an early age, safeguarding their future. Thank you, Dr. Seth, for your unwavering dedication and impactful contributions. Your efforts have profound impact on the lives of countless individuals, and we are grateful to your leadership. You are a true vision champion. May God keep giving you the energy to serve the community. Thank you so much.
MPP Lise Vaugeois: The Workers’ Compensation Board of 1914 represents a historic compromise between employers and workers. In a non-adversarial system, employers would be protected from lawsuits and injured workers would receive prompt benefits for as long as their disability lasted. However, beginning with the Mike Harris Conservative government, continued by the Ford government, these principles have been turned on their head, betraying at every turn workers injured or made ill on the job.
The WSIB now looks for every means to suppress claims. They call on doctors who have never met the worker to decide if an injury has taken place. They push people back to work against medical advice, resulting in further injury. They reduce supports based on phantom jobs. The Minister of Labour promises to increase wage-replacement rates but breaks his promise. They cut the cost-of-living allowance for injured workers. Then, incredibly, the government gives $1.2 billion to employers, money that injured workers and their families need and are entitled to. Now this government plans on reducing the time to appeal to one month.
These are crimes against all workers. Today, let us demand a return to the original purpose of workers’ compensation: respect and care for injured workers, and prompt benefits for as long as the disability lasts. Thank you. Merci. Meegwetch.
Sri Varasiththi Vinaayagar Hindu Temple of Toronto
Mr. Aris Babikian: Sri Varasiththi Vinaayagar Hindu Temple in Scarborough–Agincourt is an outstanding institution providing spiritual, educational and cultural guidance to many diverse generations of the Tamil and Hindu communities. Their 17th annual cultural day festivities were one such forum to showcase their work. The Sri Varasiththi Vinaayagar Hindu College students, aged four to 14, performed more than 20 cultural displays to celebrate Tamil culture and heritage. About 200 students participated in this day-long celebration. I commend the chief priest, the teachers, the clergy and the organizers for bringing together the community and passing the torch to the next generation. Scarborough–Agincourt is proud to host such a great organization.
A week later, I had the honour of participating in a sombre Tamil Genocide Remembrance Day commemoration to uphold the memory of the victims, pay tribute to the survivors and send a message to deniers that their efforts to negate the facts will not be successful. The most impressing aspect of the night was the visit to the genocide memorial wall—
The Acting Speaker (Mme Lucille Collard): Thank you.
Ms. Sarah Jama: Madam Speaker, an investigation from the Hamilton Spectator recently found that over the last year a group of men have been responsible for a white nationalist vandalism campaign in Hamilton and recently emerged from the shadows to use public parks for combat training. This investigation found that they are a part of a vast global network of neo-Nazis spreading hatred against Jewish people, Black people and the LGBTQ+ community while the social media platform they call home takes no steps to stop it.
We need this government, and I call on this government, to denounce all forms of hate in our communities across this province and call and speak against the rise of white nationalism in our communities.
Ms. Laura Smith: Not long ago, I joined colleagues to announce an investment of over $36 million to York region as part of our Homelessness Prevention Program. The issue of homelessness is complex and our government is continuously working on it. Everyone deserves a place to call home.
I’ve had many opportunities to engage with homeless support programs in my riding. I’ve joined St. Joseph the Worker Parish’s Street Patrol program, packing meals for those in need alongside remarkable Thornhill teens. And while volunteering at the Holy Trinity Church homeless shelter, I met two dedicated sisters, Miriam and Hillary, along with a remarkable young woman by the name of Cindy. Cindy arrived at the shelter back in December. She’d suffered from some very hard times and found herself homeless for the night. She showed me the exact mattress she lay on that night; she had a picture of it. She was approached by Rehana Sumar, executive director at Mosaic Interfaith Out of the Cold program. Today, just a few months later, Cindy is employed as a PSW. She’s moved into new, permanent housing and working side by side with Rehana to give back to the community.
Mosaic, part of Blue Door, recently received an OTF grant to help them continue their significant work. I am so proud to be a part of this cause, and this is not only to prevent homelessness, but to provide resources.
Mr. John Vanthof: I would like to take this opportunity to update the House on a flooding situation in Timiskaming–Cochrane, in Elliot Lake, just outside of Iroquois Falls. It has been in flood conditions for a few weeks now. A lot of my riding had the flood and the flood flowed away, but Elliot Lake is unique because, for residents around the lake now, their septic systems are flooding; they no longer work. They’re having to boil water and now it’s questionable whether the foundations around their homes are going to be maintained.
Elliot Lake is unique because part of it is in the municipality of Iroquois Falls and they have declared a state of emergency, and part of it is in unorganized territory.
I would like to say, I met with the Minister of Natural Resources and the Minister of Municipal Affairs and we are working together to try and alleviate the situation. It’s hard to find the short-term solution, but there are long-term consequences to what is happening here. It is unprecedented. Elliot Lake, in my time, hasn’t flooded and people around this area have never seen this before. There’s no such thing as an easy flood, but if a flood comes and goes, it’s one thing, but this flood came and it stayed and it’s staying.
I’m going to continue to work with the ministries to work on behalf of the people of Elliot Lake.
Events in Hastings–Lennox and Addington
Mr. Ric Bresee: This morning, I’m rising in recognition that we’re rapidly coming to the end of the spring session, and while I have truly enjoyed this sitting of the Legislature, working with all of the members and moving forward with the government’s plans to build Ontario, to build homes and to bring jobs and prosperity to all parts of Ontario, I am very much looking forward to spending the summer back in my riding, visiting with our residents and working locally to achieve the very necessary goals.
From the shores of Lake Ontario, through farms and forests, villages and towns, all the way north to Algonquin Park, I have the privilege of representing what must be, in my opinion, the most beautiful and varied riding in the entire province. Over the summer, I have been invited to so many different fairs, festivals, exhibitions and social events, with summer fairs in Tweed, Napanee, Odessa, Stirling and Coe Hill, and even the World’s Fair in Shannonville, Ontario. And amazing events, like Tamworth’s 175th anniversary, the Farm to Table Community Dinner and so many more—with all of these events leading up to the Hastings County Plowing Match and then even more events in the fall. Speaker, it will be a very busy summer, because the people of Hastings–Lennox and Addington are very excited and energized, and we know that Ontario is on the right path. It’s going to be a great summer, Speaker.
Events in Bruce–Grey–Owen Sound
Mr. Rick Byers: Mr. Speaker, this past weekend I had the pleasure of attending two events that demonstrated the great energy, character and generosity of the people of Bruce–Grey–Owen Sound. The first was Saturday morning at the Walk for Alzheimer’s at the Grey Sauble Conservation Authority near Inglis Falls outside Owen Sound. It was a beautiful morning, and there was a huge turnout of walkers, volunteers and supporters. This great event was organized by the Alzheimer Society of Grey-Bruce and was supported by IG Wealth Management. Amazingly, it was one of four walks they organized that day. Alzheimer Society does such important work to support those living with Alzheimer’s and dementia in our community, and it was great to see such active community support for this important work.
Next, it was off to beautiful Harrison Park in Owen Sound for the Hike for Hospice in support of Grey Bruce Hospice and Chapman House in Owen Sound. Again, there were many hikers and volunteers supporting a great organization. Grey Bruce Hospice provides comprehensive and compassionate care to residents and families in communities during their journey with life-limiting illness. Our friend former MPP Bill Murdoch received great care at the Grey Bruce Hospice before his passing last August. Thank you to all who supported the Hike for Hospice.
These two events demonstrate the great character of our great community in Bruce–Grey–Owen Sound, so thank you to all who were involved.
Dr. Jennifer Kagan
Ms. Effie J. Triantafilopoulos: It’s my distinct pleasure to congratulate Dr. Jennifer Kagan, who was honoured with the Attorney General’s Victim Services Award of Distinction. This award recognizes the dedication and achievements of individuals and organizations working to support people who have been victimized due to crime, and to raise awareness of victims’ issues in Ontario.
From the tragic death of her daughter Keira, Dr. Kagan has been a tireless advocate for women who are victims of intimate partner violence and for children traumatized by the violence. She has called for policy and legislative change to better protect victims of domestic violence in the family courts and child protection system.
Her leadership on this important issue inspired me to introduce the Kiera’s Law motion which was unanimously passed last year. My motion shone a bright light on the need for specific education and training about intimate partner violence and coercive control for judges, justices of the peace and other legal professionals. I applaud the government for including in Bill 102 the need to enhance training for judges and JPs. It is an important first step.
To Jennifer, we thank you for not giving up and being a strong leader for so many. This battle has come with the utmost pain, but let it be known, your little girl Keira is changing the world for the better.
Introduction of Visitors
Mr. Will Bouma: I’d like to welcome to the House today my summer interns: Sam, Levi, Halle, Abi, Celina, Steve and Vanshika. Thank you for the incredible work that you’re doing in our community telling people about what we’re doing.
Ms. Catherine Fife: I’d like to welcome, from the Ontario Public School Boards’ Association, executive director Stephanie Donaldson, Jennifer McIntyre, Shane Gonsalves; and from Wilfrid Laurier University, students Adam Sutherland, Justin Doolittle and Ranjit Saini. Welcome to your House.
Hon. Michael S. Kerzner: It’s my honour to welcome Shaykh Imam Imran Ally, a leader in the Taric Islamic community, a leader of interfaith dialogue, a chaplain for first responders. It’s also my honour to introduce leaders of the Turkish-Syrian relief effort here in our city, Sinan Erdemir and Can Gursoz. Thank you for your leadership, and welcome to the Ontario Legislature.
Hon. Jill Dunlop: I would like to welcome two of the interns from the Ministry of Colleges and Universities to Queen’s Park today: Katherine Chouinard and Ryan Ross. Welcome to Queen’s Park.
Hon. Stan Cho: I’m honoured to introduce one of the hardest-working volunteers from my campaign, Reese Nemeth, to the House, as well as some of his colleagues: Christian von Donat, Jayme Wilson, Charlotte Reed, Sara Clark, Noah Mondrow and Holly Yoon. Welcome to the Legislature.
Hon. Kaleed Rasheed: Mr. Speaker, I would like to welcome Glenda Brindle. She is the chair of the Bereavement Authority of Ontario. Welcome to Queen’s Park. Looking forward to meeting with you this afternoon.
Miss Monique Taylor: Once again, I’d like to welcome Michau van Speyk to the House, from the Ontario Autism Coalition. And I see my friend Kim Wright in the chamber, too. Welcome back to Queen’s Park.
Mr. Todd J. McCarthy: I’d like to welcome to the House today a young gentleman who, as a student, is destined to be a future law student, a future trial lawyer and maybe even a future parliamentarian: young Mr. Liam MacCarthy.
Mr. Chris Glover: It’s ALS Awareness Month. Today in the House we have Ilayda Ulgenalp and CEO Tammy Moore. Welcome to the House.
I’d also like to extend a welcome to the OPSBA president, Stephanie Donaldson, who was the former trustee for the beautiful riding of Spadina–Fort York.
Mr. Deepak Anand: I’d like to welcome Dr. Arun Seth and Honourable Dr. Asha Seth to Queen’s Park. Welcome to Queen’s Park.
Hon. Sylvia Jones: As we all know, June is ALS Awareness Month. I am also pleased to join and welcome members from the ALS Society of Canada here at Queen’s Park. Welcome.
Mr. Sol Mamakwa: I’d just like to welcome Daniela Graziano from Vaughan, Ontario. She’s one of the nurses who works in far northern Ontario. Meegwetch for coming.
Hon. Michael Parsa: Speaker, I’d like to introduce my good friend Steve Armes and his son, Liam Armes, to the Legislature today. Steve is the director and chief instructor of Shoshinkan Martial Arts. Over the years that I’ve known him, I have witnessed his service and dedication to community. Welcome to the Legislature.
Hon. Todd Smith: I’m so pleased to welcome the constituency staff from the best constituency in Ontario, Bay of Quinte, here to the Legislature today: Ian Chapelle is here; Adam Bramburger; we have Susan Smith—no relation—and Jennifer Kyte. Jennifer has worked for me for all 12 years that I’ve been here at the Legislature, and it’s her first time attending question period live. Welcome to the great crew from Bay of Quinte.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Unless there are any objections, I’d like to continue with introduction of visitors.
Hon. Kinga Surma: I have a wonderful page called Sara Gomes from the best riding in the province of Ontario, Etobicoke Centre. Her mom and dad, Nancy and Sergio, are here to watch her work today. We’re very happy to have them.
Hon. Michael A. Tibollo: This morning, I have two groups that I’d like to introduce. First are the members of the Canada India Foundation, who are here today for the celebration of International Yoga Day being held in room 228 at 2 p.m.: Dr. Harish Verma, Dr. Pawan Chankotra and Mr. Satish Thakkar, the chair of the foundation.
The second group, Mr. Speaker, are members of my family, my friends and my constituency staff who are here for the beginning of Italian Heritage Month: Tanya Crimp, Rosarina Bonazza, Chelsea Jones-Duval, Dominic Sciullo, Adele Delia, Marcos Zottas, Miguel Tulloch, McCair Tulloch and, of course, my higher authority when I’m not in the House, my wife, Silvana Tibollo.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): I believe that concludes the time we have available for introduction of visitors.
Wearing of pins
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): I understand the Associate Minister of Mental Health and Addictions may have a point of order?
Hon. Michael A. Tibollo: Sorry, I was caught up there for a moment, Mr. Speaker.
If you seek it, you will find unanimous consent to allow members to wear pins in recognition of June being Italian Heritage Month.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Mr. Tibollo is seeking the unanimous consent of the House to allow members to wear pins in recognition of June being Italian Heritage Month in Ontario. Agreed? Agreed.
Appointment of Clerk of the Legislative Assembly
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): I understand the government House leader has a point of order.
Hon. Paul Calandra: I do, Speaker. If you seek it, you will find unanimous consent to move a motion without notice concerning the appointment of the next Clerk of the Legislative Assembly.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): The government House leader is seeking the unanimous consent of the House to move a motion without notice concerning the appointment of the next Clerk of the Legislative Assembly. Agreed? Agreed.
I recognize the government House leader and Minister of Legislative Affairs.
Hon. Paul Calandra: I move that, in accordance with subsections 77(1) and (2) of the Legislative Assembly Act, Trevor Day be appointed Clerk of the Legislative Assembly, commencing on July 1, 2023.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): The government House leader has moved that, in accordance with subsections 77(1) and (2) of the Legislative Assembly Act, Trevor Day be appointed Clerk of the Legislative Assembly, commencing on July 1, 2023. Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? Carried.
Motion agreed to.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Congratulations, Mr. Day.
Global Coptic Day
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): It appears the member for Mississauga–Erin Mills has a point of order.
Mr. Sheref Sabawy: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. The June 1 is Global Coptic Day. I would like to wish all the Coptics around world a happy Coptic day.
Ms. Marit Stiles: Good morning, Speaker. This question is for the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing. Earlier today, the NDP released a document obtained from freedom-of-information requests showing that officials at the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing were discussing the removal of specific greenbelt lands prior to the last election.
Will the minister tell us which officials were discussing these greenbelt removals and was he one of them?
Hon. Steve Clark: Well, Speaker, there wasn’t much detail there, but I believe that I am familiar with what the opposition is referring to. My understanding is that the third party in question was the city of Hamilton and that the record should be released in due course.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Supplementary question?
Ms. Marit Stiles: Speaker, let’s be clear. According to the documents we’ve obtained, from anywhere from about six months to two years before the public was told, ministry staff were talking about removals from the greenbelt. But the minister told the Integrity Commissioner that he did not know about the greenbelt removals until shortly before the public did, on November 4, 2022. How could that be true? Does the minister want to correct his timeline right now?
Hon. Steve Clark: I’m not familiar in totality with what the Leader of the Opposition speaks of, but if I understand it correctly, the request was from the city of Hamilton, a third party, and those documents will be released very, very shortly.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): The final supplementary?
Ms. Marit Stiles: I’m going to go to the Premier with this one. It now clear that government officials in the Premier’s office and the Ministry of Municipal Affairs knew specific details about the greenbelt removal plans much earlier than the Premier and the minister have claimed.
There is also evidence that certain landowners were tipped off about the greenbelt plans long before the general public learned about them. The NDP and journalists have filed more freedom-of-information requests for documents that might shine more of a light on who knew what about the greenbelt plans and when they knew it. We know these documents exist but the Premier and the minister are keeping them secret.
Why are these documents being kept from the public, and will the Premier release them now?
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): To respond, the government House leader.
Hon. Paul Calandra: Secret documents that the Leader of the Opposition got in a freedom-of-information request—this is just another—
Hon. Paul Calandra: I will speak up, because what we’re doing is speaking on behalf of the people of the province Ontario who, because of 15 years of Liberal and NDP mismanagement of the economy, have put the province of Ontario in a housing crisis. The largest land mass in the country has a housing crisis. Why? Because they put obstacle after obstacle after obstacle in the way of building new homes and that is all that they have been doing since we got back here.
We won an election on a promise to build more homes. We won an election on a promise to grow the economy, to bring more people to the province of Ontario. They can stand in the way all they like, but it really comes down to one thing: They want people to be dependent and reliant on the government and Progressive Conservatives want to give people the tools and the resources to succeed, and we will not stop. We will remove obstacles. We will build homes and we will continue to ensure we are the most prosperous province in the country.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Stop the clock.
Restart the clock. The next question.
Ms. Marit Stiles: That doubling down tells us a lot.
This next question is to the Premier. The dissolution of Peel is an unprecedented change that will affect the daily lives of millions of people. It’s going to be complicated and it could get very messy. If this is going to work, then the people of Peel need to be at the centre of the process. They need to be consulted. They need to be heard. So why won’t the Premier consult the public and conduct committee hearings to ensure that Bill 112 will deliver the best possible outcome for Peel residents?
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Minister for Municipal Affairs and Housing.
Hon. Steve Clark: I want to say to the Leader of the Opposition, we were crystal clear in the press conference with the three mayors the day we presented the Hazel McCallion Act on the legislative floor. This is an issue that has been widely discussed. There have been elections run on this topic and our government was clear in terms of the dissolution of Peel. If you live in Peel today and you receive services, on January 1, 2025, when the dissolution will take place, those same services will be in place.
If the bill passes, we’ll appoint a transition board. That transition board will work with those three mayors and those mayors are going to have to roll up their sleeves, because it’s going to be a big process to be able to transition from the region of Peel, which has been in effect for 50 years, and end on January 1, 2025, with three separate municipalities that stand on their own but that still provide those same excellent front-line services enjoyed today.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): The supplementary question?
Ms. Marit Stiles: I’d say to the minister, he needs to get out there and listen to the people, particularly in Brampton and Caledon, who are very deeply concerned.
People in Mississauga, in Brampton and in Caledon have a lot of questions about what’s going to happen to them, what’s going to happen to their municipal services, what’s going to happen to their tax bills or their utility bills. These questions are to be answered, apparently, by a transition board, whose mandate—and also who’s on it—remain completely unknown right now, with no guarantee that this process will be any more transparent than the last regional governance review, the findings of which, I’ll remind everyone, remain a complete government secret, right?
Who will serve on the transition board, and will their findings be released to the public well in advance before the government makes a decision about Peel?
Hon. Steve Clark: The Leader of the Opposition knows how this place works, right? The Minister of Legislative Affairs and I are working very closely, but you don’t appoint a transition board until the bill passes. We want to ensure that there’s certainty for the people of Peel as we move the Hazel McCallion Act through the process, but until the bill passes, the transition board will not be appointed.
But I can tell you exactly the same thing today that I said the day the bill was presented. We need all of those mayors in Mississauga, Brampton and Caledon, some of our province’s fastest-growing municipalities, to work together with the transition board to ensure that my mandate—that those excellent front-line services that people in Peel region receive today are going to be the same services they receive on January 1, 2025.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Final supplementary.
Ms. Marit Stiles: Speaker, I cannot understand why this government would refuse to consult the public on a bill that’s going to have such significant consequences for the people in Mississauga, Brampton and Caledon. The mayor of Brampton, in particular, and many Brampton residents have raised serious concerns that this dissolution of Peel is going to cost the city billions of dollars and drive up their tax bills or threaten their services.
Mr. Speaker, through you to the Associate Minister of Women’s Social and Economic Opportunity, who is also the member for Brampton Centre: Why did she move the motion that blocked her Brampton constituents from being heard on Bill 112?
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Government House leader.
Hon. Paul Calandra: Mr. Speaker, let me get this straight. A party that lost all of their members in Peel region—they were all thrown out in the last election—is now pretending to understand what the people of Peel want.
I will say very directly to the Leader of the Opposition, the reason why we voted on the legislation was because the NDP allowed the bill to collapse at 9 o’clock, right? We had scheduled hours of debate on this, and you know what happened? The members of Peel from the Progressive Conservative caucus all talked. They all had speeches. They engaged in comments and questions. They stood up on behalf of the people of Peel who sent them here unanimously—unanimously.
Do you know what happened with the opposition? Nothing—they went home at 9 o’clock. They allowed the bill to collapse in a whimper, Mr. Speaker. Do you know why? Because they know it’s the right thing to do. And do you know what this is about for the Leader of the Opposition? More obstacles in the way of moving the province forward; obstacles in the way of building homes.
This Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing will remove those obstacles. This caucus will get it done.
Mme France Gélinas: Ma question est pour le premier ministre. This morning, the people of Minden have lost their emergency department. There is now a big piece of plywood where a blue H used to be. The emergency departments in Chesley, Almonte, Arnprior and many others are in precarious positions. The hospitals in Fort Erie and Port Colborne went from having a full emergency department to a 24/7 urgent care centre, and now Niagara Health has announced a 50% reduction in the hours of operation. And even with this reduction in hours, they will not be able to cover all the shifts this summer in Fort Erie or Port Colborne.
What is the Premier doing to keep emergency health services going 24/7 in all areas of our province?
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): The Deputy Premier and Minister of Health.
Hon. Sylvia Jones: The member opposite knows very well that these are not unique circumstances to Ontario. In fact, we see it across Canada and around the world where health human resources are being stretched, and we are making sure that we put programs and incentives in place to make sure that hospital leadership have many different programs to tap into.
But I have to say, the NDP keeps talking about the status quo. We are not satisfied with the status quo. So while since 2018 we’ve had 1,800 new physicians opening and practising in the province of Ontario—which the NDP opposite voted against. When we voted and invested in two new medical schools, the NDP chose to vote against. When we expanded the ability for community surgical centres to have that critical access to critical diagnostic and surgical pathways in their communities, the NDP voted against. You stand—
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Order. The supplementary question, the member from Niagara Falls.
Mr. Wayne Gates: Back to the Premier: The residents in Fort Erie and Port Colborne deserve health care in the province of Ontario, and you’re causing the crisis right here in this province.
The actions of this government have serious consequences for the people of Ontario; just ask the people of Fort Erie, another community losing access to health care services under this government. Yesterday, Niagara Health announced the Fort Erie Urgent Care Centre would greatly reduce their hours, only operating between 10 a.m. and 10 p.m. That’s a 50% cut in hours. Why? Because this government is facing a staffing crisis in health care, one this government is happy to make extremely worse with Bill 124 and Bill 60.
Speaker, will this government step in, repeal Bill 124 and provide the support now to keep the Fort Erie Urgent Care Centre open 24/7 now?
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Members will take their seats. I’ll remind members to direct their comments through the Chair, not directly across the floor of the House.
The Minister of Health.
Hon. Sylvia Jones: So $27 billion in capital investments across 50 different hospitals, new expanded renovations—including, I might add, a large building build that is happening in Niagara region. Why? Because our government saw from 2018 that lack of investment, lack of foresight ensured that we need to make those investments, and we are. We’ve done short-term, medium-term and long-term investments. And every single time, Speaker, the NDP voted against them. You can talk about status quo. We will move forward with investments, and we will continue to do that work, including in Niagara region, where we have a very substantial hospital build that is happening in his own community.
Ms. Goldie Ghamari: My question is for the Minister of Education. With Ontario’s population growing rapidly and an increasing demand for workers in many sectors, we need to make sure that our students are properly equipped for the jobs of the future. Sadly, the previous Liberal government failed to update critical elements of the curriculum, which left too many young people unprepared for the emerging global economy.
Since taking office in 2018, our government has demonstrated unprecedented leadership in addressing these urgent needs. Our students deserve to learn fundamental concepts and skills that will prepare them for the workplace of tomorrow. Speaker, through you, can the minister please elaborate on how our government has updated Ontario’s education curriculum?
Hon. Stephen Lecce: I want to thank the member from Carleton for this question. I think many parent are seized with this question: How are we helping to set kids up for success in this economy? Mr. Speaker, one of the most fundamental ways we can enable the success of young people is to make sure they are learning skills relevant for the job market today. And so in the legislation before this House, the Better Schools and Student Outcomes Act, we have a provision that will mandate, as a matter of course, that the government, every three years at the least, must update curricula to keep it relevant to the labour market and to the skill sets young people need to succeed.
In addition, this coming September we’re very proud to be unveiling a new language curriculum that aligns with the Ontario Human Rights Commission’s Right to Read report, invoking a phonics-based approach to learning again that’s going to help young people read, particularly children with special education needs. We’re hiring 2,000 more staff, particularly literacy-focused teachers, to get this right. And we know a modern curriculum will help kids succeed in a changing world around us.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Supplementary question.
Ms. Goldie Ghamari: Mr. Speaker, it’s encouraging to hear that our government has led the way for so many updates to the curriculum that will help our students to succeed. However, I hear concerns from many families across my riding of Carleton that students are not being taught the relevant life and job skills that they need to function in our modern economy.
It’s projected that by 2026, approximately one in five job openings in Ontario will be in the skilled trades sector. That’s why our government must continue to make critical investments that will benefit our students for years to come and will help to strengthen the economy of tomorrow.
Speaker, through you, can the minister please explain what our government is doing to prepare students for careers in the skilled trades and technology sectors?
Hon. Stephen Lecce: Thank you again to the member for Carleton. I think this is an important question. The minister responsible for economic and social opportunities for women often speaks about the fact that there’s too few girls in our school system on a path of STEM education, specifically in the skilled trades, and we know a third of girls take a technical education course. To help ensure we bridge that gap, we’re going to require every student in Ontario schools, starting next September, to take at least one technological education course. It’s going to help open the horizon and the opportunities of young people to succeed.
This coming September, we have a new technology course being unveiled, and then next September the entire technology curriculum will be unveiled. It’s all part of a broader plan to ensure that, with the disruptions happening in the economy around us, we are ensuring young people have the skills necessary, from financial literacy to coding, learning about skill sets fundamental to help them have a leading-edge job, a good-paying job when they graduate from Ontario schools.
Mr. Sol Mamakwa: Meegwetch, Speaker. Remarks in Anishininiimowin. Good morning.
My question is to the Premier. In 2017, the chair of the Ontario Human Rights Commission toured a provincial jail in Kenora and found that every inmate was struggling with mental health and addictions disorders. Speaker, I was there last week, and I can tell you that that situation is not getting any better. What I saw—it’s as if the people who are there are not human. Ontario needs to act on its promises to provide more treatment in jails, especially as the addictions crisis continues.
Speaker, what is Ontario going to do to ensure inmates in northern jails are getting the mental health and the addictions they need help with?
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): The Solicitor General.
Hon. Michael S. Kerzner: I want to thank my friend for the question. I’ve toured a lot of facilities all over Ontario, and it has been an eye opener for me to see the investments that we made in the facilities to meet the cultural needs of Indigenous peoples there, such as the smudging spaces, the sweat lodges and the teaching lodges.
Mr. Speaker, it has been my honour to meet so many native inmate liaison officers, the NILOs, who are absolutely critical to the chaplaincy and the well-being of those facilities. It has been my honour to meet Elder Cam Goodman in Thunder Bay where I’ve seen for myself.
This is important to our government, and we will continue to act.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Supplementary question?
Mr. Sol Mamakwa: What the Solicitor General is describing is not working, because when I was there, the officials who were there with me told me that 50 people who were there did not belong there. They need mental health services.
The lack of resources inside provincial jails is simply a reflection of society—out of sight, out of mind. The answer is not building more correctional facilities. If we had proper addiction and mental health treatment for our communities, there wouldn’t be nearly as many people in jails in the first place.
What is this government doing to ensure that that the addictions crisis doesn’t continue filling Ontario jails, especially in the north, for our young people?
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Members will please take their seats.
To reply for the government, the Associate Minister of Mental Health and Addictions.
Hon. Michael A. Tibollo: Our government shares the concerns that are being spoken of in the House this morning. When you stop and think about the importance of providing culturally safe services that are low barrier to individuals, these are investments that need to be made upstream.
Yes, investments are being made in corrections facilities by increasing the amount of services and supports; transitional housing when individuals come out of the corrections system, but we have to look upstream. We have to look and see what needs to be done in the communities and provide the services where the individuals live, and that’s exactly what we did. The $90-million investment put 54% of the dollars and created 7,000 treatment spots, the majority of which are in northern Ontario. Why? Because we need to deliver supports and services before individuals resort to situations that get them into corrections facilities. We’ve done that in Sioux Lookout, in Thunder Bay, in Sudbury, in Timmins—and the list goes on and on.
We will continue building continuums of care for individuals that are culturally safe and appropriate as close to home as we possibly can.
Skilled trades / Immigrants’ skills
Mr. Aris Babikian: My question is for the Minister of Labour, Immigration, Training and Skills Development. With over 300,000 jobs going unfilled daily, we are facing a historic shortage of workers in Ontario. In order to ensure that our economy is strong and resilient, we need more skilled workers to fill labour gaps in key sectors. We must welcome more workers who are best positioned to succeed in critical industries where there are significant labour shortages, including construction, health care and technology.
Our government must do everything we can to ensure that we have the workforce that is needed to help build Ontario. Speaker, can the minister please explain what actions our government is taking to strengthen Ontario’s workforce?
Hon. Monte McNaughton: Thank you to the member for this very important question. He’s right: One of the greatest economic challenges we’re facing in Ontario today is that 300,000 jobs are going unfilled. I’m proud that, under the leadership of Premier Ford, our government has landed a truly historic deal with the federal government to double the number of economic immigrants we can select, to a minimum of 18,000 by 2025.
Speaker, this means that we can select more skilled trades workers, more software and IT workers and more health care workers like nurses and personal support workers. We’re tackling our labour shortage head-on and making it easier for employers to find the skilled workers they need to grow and build the future of Ontario.
All across our province there are in-demand and well-paying jobs waiting to be filled. Welcoming more immigrants with the skills we need is a win for workers, businesses and communities in every corner of Ontario.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): The supplementary question.
Mr. Aris Babikian: The increase of individuals and families arriving to the Ontario Immigrant Nominee Program is certainly good news for workers, employers and for the overall prosperity of our province.
However, for some newcomers who have already settled in Ontario—and many of them settled in Scarborough–Agincourt—there are barriers that, unfortunately, prevent them from pursuing careers in fields that they are trained for and are eager to work in. Currently, only one in four immigrants is able to continue working in their professions when they come to Ontario. That is why our government needs to show leadership and remove obstacles that make it difficult for qualified individuals to apply for work. It costs our province billions in lost productivity when jobs remain unfilled.
Can the minister please explain how our government is eliminating barriers so that skilled immigrants can pursue employment in their professions?
Hon. Monte McNaughton: I want to thank the member. He’s been such a champion to really set up immigrants for success when they come here to Ontario, so I want to say thanks to the member.
Our government, through our first Working for Workers Act, made it illegal for regulators to require Canadian work experience. We are leading the way in Canada by eliminating this unfair and truly discriminatory barrier that far too many immigrants coming to Ontario face. The Professional Engineers of Ontario became the first regulator to remove their requirement for Canadian work experience. Every single regulator should follow their lead before our December deadline.
We need all hands on deck to build a brighter future for all of us. This change allows immigrants to start better jobs, earn bigger paycheques and build a better life for themselves and their families. Our government, under the leadership of Premier Ford, is levelling the playing field and bringing the Canadian dream within reach for more people.
Ms. Catherine Fife: My question is to the Premier. Ontario’s own Education Equity Action Plan directs school boards to undertake work that will “eliminate inequities in the education system.” Most school boards have taken this responsibility to heart. They understand that it impacts student achievement and well-being. But there has been significant and damaging pushback in communities. In Waterloo, both public and Catholic school boards have faced outright vicious hatred.
Boards are doing this important equity work as directed by the government, and yet Ontario school boards are receiving very little support from the ministry. I’m asking today very clearly: Does the Minister of Education stand behind Waterloo public and Catholic school boards, their trustees, their directors of education and their students as they undertake this important equity work?
Hon. Stephen Lecce: Mr. Speaker, we stand by everyone who is committed to quality education for the people and the students of this province, and that includes in Waterloo region and in all regions of Ontario, where we value the work of our front-line educators trying to make a difference in our schools.
But Mr. Speaker, if the aim fundamentally is to reduce barriers that impede progress for some of the most at-risk kids in Waterloo or in any region, then the members opposite should explain in the supplemental the logical consistency of opposing the de-streaming of the entire grade 9 curriculum; how the members opposite could pose the question when we are trying to ensure there are more racialized, qualified, merit-based educators in the front of classes where we have some of the highest amount of classrooms with racialized kids.
When we removed O. Reg. 274, it was the Leader of the Opposition, the former education critic, who suggested siding with the education union, saying that’s the wrong policy. Stand up for kids. Make actions necessary to improve the lives of kids. Get over the performative hashtag politics of the NDP.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Stop the clock. Members will take their seats.
Start the clock. Supplementary question.
Ms. Catherine Fife: Speaker, it’s interesting that the Minister of Education avoided my question, but I might add, you might try funding de-streaming to make it successful in the province of Ontario.
Earlier this week, when the Premier was asked whether he thinks the York school board should fly the Pride flag in June, he said “no comment.” A failure to comment is a failure to stand up for equity. There are no neutral positions on this.
When those who oppose equity in our schools hear the Premier’s refusal to comment, they feel emboldened. They assume, rightly or not, that he agrees with them and is making space for those voices. Does this government realize the damage caused by saying “no comment” on matters of equality and equity?
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Members will please take their seats. Order.
Hon. Stephen Lecce: Mr. Speaker, on this issue, on an issue of fundamental human rights, I would hope and expect members opposite to bring people together instead of dividing us based on your own political opportunism. It is actually shameful. It is shameful to divide people instead of bringing us together on the basis of standing up—
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Member for Waterloo, come to order.
Hon. Stephen Lecce: —for the rights of every child—every single child—to be respected and safe in a school. The Premier of Ontario walked in the York Pride parade with York Regional Police, with parents and with students—
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Opposition, come to order.
Hon. Stephen Lecce: The visibility, the presence, the pride we share in those kids—and we’re going to be there again, irrespective of the division of the NDP.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Stop the clock.
Order. The member for Waterloo will come to order. The Minister of Education will come to order. The member for Hamilton Mountain will come to order.
Are we ready to start again? Start the clock. The next question.
Landlord and Tenant Board
Mr. Ted Hsu: Earlier this month, the Ombudsman released a report on the Landlord and Tenant Board. In response to questions, the Attorney General stated that Ontario’s tribunals were in shambles when this government took over in 2018; however, the chapter entitled “Issues Contributing to Delay” notes that the problems started in 2019, Mr. Speaker. Delays were specifically attributed to the Conservatives’ decision to leave positions unfilled, presumably waiting for preferred candidates, while experienced applicants were available or could have been renewed.
Mr. Speaker, under this government’s watch, Ontario’s tribunals have fallen into a shambles. Will this government commit to putting aside what the Ombudsman called the “political nature of elections,” especially when tribunals have many unfilled positions, so that people can have timely access to justice?
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): To reply, the Attorney General.
Hon. Doug Downey: I’m not sure which of those questions to answer but I’m going to tell you what we are doing at the Landlord and Tenant Board. We are investing so much money and effort and time to make sure that the people of Ontario are served.
When the Liberals left the fire that was in tribunals, when they left it to us to fix it, Mr. Speaker—I can tell you, the back office system was not working. So we undertook, as soon as we came into office, to start rebuilding the backbone of the tribunal system, and the Landlord and Tenant Board in particular. We worked with the province of British Columbia, an NDP government, to see what they were doing. We’ve adopted parts of their system. We’ve invested $26.5 million, Mr. Speaker, to fix that part of the LTB alone.
He can talk about the Ombudsman’s report, Mr. Speaker. There were so many things that they left undone that we’ve had to fix, but we are going to get it done.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Supplementary question.
Mr. Ted Hsu: Mr. Speaker, the Attorney General knows well that the timeline for the problems at the Landlord and Tenant Board, as identified by the Ombudsman, started in 2019 and made no mention of the Liberal government.
Tribunal Watch Ontario, in response to the report, said, “Experienced and proven leaders were replaced, in some cases, by people for whom political affiliation seemed to be the main qualification.” This seems to be a common theme with this Conservative government. It’s okay to ignore what’s broken in Ontario so long as their friends are taken care of.
Mr. Speaker, let me be constructive. Will the government commit to creating a non-partisan oversight body that protects the independence of Ontario’s adjudicative tribunals?
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Order. Government side come to order.
The Attorney General to respond.
Hon. Doug Downey: I welcome the opposite member to the politics of Queen’s Park. Maybe not everybody knows, but I can tell you, Mr. Speaker, that the way that it works is Tribunals Ontario is an independent operation. They advertise for positions, they interview for positions and they recommend for positions, all independently and in a non-partisan way. Now, I know he’s new to the Legislature, Mr. Speaker, but it’s important that he understand that the independence of the tribunal is really important. We honour that and we are making sure that qualified people are serving the people of Ontario. We will continue to do that, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Aris Babikian: Speaker, my question is for the Associate Minister of Transportation. My community is growing rapidly and they need more convenient ways to connect to their jobs, family, appointments and other communities in the GTA. Whether travelling by car or bus, traffic congestion and gridlock add frustration and unnecessary delays.
Even though our government is making historic investments into new transit infrastructure, Toronto’s north end still needs more transit options. The people of my community and across the GTA are looking to our government for solutions that will make transit easier and more convenient. Speaker, can the associate minister please explain how our government plans to increase the transit options in the GTA?
Interjection: Great question.
Hon. Stan Cho: It is a good question, because we need to increase those transit options. Minister Mulroney and I recently gave official direction to develop an initial business case for an extension of the Sheppard subway. Let’s break it down, Speaker. We’ve asked officials to examine extending the Sheppard line eastwards from its current terminus at Don Mills station to the future Scarborough subway extension, which would serve that very member’s community. But that’s not all.
While the initial business case will focus mostly on the eastward route, we’ve also tasked agency officials to investigate a possible western extension from Sheppard-Yonge station to Sheppard West station. This potential east-west expansion would create a game-changing transit corridor across Toronto’s north for riders across Scarborough, North York and beyond. This is a stark contrast to the Liberals and the NDP who, for decades, did nothing to build transit in any meaningful way. We’re not only cleaning up their mess; we’re building that transit for riders today—
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Supplementary question?
Mr. Aris Babikian: Thank you, Associate Minister. Speaker, our government’s commitment to deliver transit relief for the people of Ontario is welcome news. I am sure the residents of Scarborough–Agincourt, Scarborough North and Don Valley North will be delighted with this news today.
Transit upgrades and expansions are needed now to ensure frequent and convenient service for years to come. The previous Liberal government failed to plan for Ontario’s transit needs and failed to invest in building vital transit infrastructure. The investments and construction work that are currently under way to strengthen our province’s transit networks show that our government is getting it done for the people of Ontario. But more can and should be done to deliver on our commitment to these projects.
Speaker, can the associate minister please expand on how our government is making historic investments in building transit networks?
Hon. Stan Cho: Speaker, that’s a vitally important question. As I look up at the gallery and see our young friends visiting us in the chamber, I think back to when I was their age—no transit in any meaningful way. It was a joke for a growing city, a world-class city like the city of Toronto. But that transit gap is being filled under the leadership of this Premier and this government, in fact, with the largest transit expansion plan in Canadian history being under way.
But to turn those plans into reality, we have to get through the red tape. I know the Liberals love the colour red, whether it be ties or tape, but we’ve got to cut through that to actually build that transit. That’s why we passed the Building Transit Faster Act. That’s why our four priority subway projects are well under way. That includes the Sheppard subway east extension’s initial business case by examining track alignments, grade options, storage facility requirements and technology regimes of the potential extension. Speaker, we’re dedicating $1 million to the early planning work on this.
All that is to say, these aren’t just plans; these are reality. We’re bringing transit in a meaningful way to the great people of Scarborough and across this entire province.
Mr. Peter Tabuns: Speaker, through you to the Minister of Energy: Yesterday, the body that oversees electricity grids in North America reported that Ontario risks power outages this summer. In fact, Ontario is the only province in Canada that is rated with elevated risk that it can’t meet peak demand. After five years, this government’s policies of cutting funding for efficiency and conservation, of demolishing wind farms and cancelling other renewable projects have led to this.
What will the minister do immediately to protect this province from the risk that he has set up?
Hon. Todd Smith: Thanks very much to the member opposite for the question. My number one job is to ensure that we have an energy system here that’s reliable, one that’s affordable and one that’s clean. I’m glad to say it’s an A+ on all three of those categories in Ontario. We have a system that is 90% clean, one that is attracting investment from all around the world. They’re coming here because our system is clean, because it’s reliable and it’s affordable.
If the member opposite was in charge of our energy system—God forbid that that should ever happen—we certainly would become one of the most unreliable jurisdictions in the world because he is against baseload power.
Hon. Steve Clark: What?
Hon. Todd Smith: He’s against baseload power. We get 55% to 60% of our nuclear energy that provides power on our grid—clean, non-emitting energy. He would be against that. He would be against natural gas, which is our insurance policy to ensure that the lights stay on. Don’t trust me; trust the Independent Electricity System Operator that says that the prices would go up and it would become less—
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Supplementary question?
Mr. Peter Tabuns: Again, through you, Speaker: The North American Electricity Reliability Corp. has just said Ontario, under his watch, is at risk of power outages this summer. He can give us all the talking points he wants. The independent North American regulator says you got a problem. You’re in charge. You have, for five years, neglected the steps necessary to make sure that we have the power we need when we need it. You’ve refused to act on the climate crisis. We’re going to see more extreme weather that increases the chances that we’ll have outages. We’ve seen that in Ottawa.
Again, what will the minister do today to protect us this summer so that we don’t have those outages?
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): One more time, I will remind members to make their comments through the Chair, not directly across the floor of the House.
Minister of Energy.
Hon. Todd Smith: Speaker, we have a grid in Ontario that is the envy of all jurisdictions in North America: one that’s clean, one that’s affordable, one that’s reliable and one that’s safe. God help us if the NDP were ever in charge of our energy system. We’re seeing multi-billion-dollar investments in our province from companies around the world like Volkswagen, Stellantis, Umicore—so many others because we have a system that people can rely on.
We’re making sure that we’re hardening the infrastructure here to deal with some of the conditions that the member is talking about, but at the same time, because of our success on this file, we’re now building North America’s first small modular reactor that’s going to go online in 2028. Our nuclear fleet is being refurbished. When they come back a little bit later on this decade, that’s 3,500 megawatts of clean non-emitting electricity, enough to power the city of Toronto for the next 35 years—the largest procurement of energy storage in Canadian history—
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Thank you.
The next question.
Mr. Ric Bresee: My question is for the Minister of Tourism, Culture and Sport. My home communities of Hastings–Lennox and Addington have very much to offer in the way of hospitality and tourism. Across the vast region of eastern Ontario, there are thousands of lakes, rivers, trees and wildlife that represent the very best of the great outdoors here in Ontario. With summer vacation time fast approaching, many local businesses in my communities are eager to benefit from visitors enjoying our hospitality while they contribute to our local economy.
Tourism is vital to Ontario’s economy and our government must do all that we can to encourage more people to visit our cities, towns and our rural communities across the province.
Speaker, will the minister please explain what our government is doing to encourage and promote tourism all across Ontario?
Hon. Neil Lumsden: I’d like to thank the member representing Hastings–Lennox and Addington for his question and, more importantly, telling us earlier today about some of the events and festivals that are going on in your community. That’s what tourism is all about, sir. You’ve got it, and your community is doing it right.
From the buzz of the big city and the bright lights to the stars up north, our government is providing support for tourism across the brand. This year, we are providing $1.3 million through the local regional tourism organizations that will help promote Hastings–Lennox and Addington as a tourism destination. Our government is delighted to spread the news about experiences like agri-tourism and the nature trails and make the member’s community an attraction and destination for all people, because you have a lot to offer.
We’re excited about where tourism is going, and I have more in the supplementary for you.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Supplementary?
Mr. Ric Bresee: Speaker, I can tell you that our communities appreciate this important investment made by our government to support the initiatives that will draw more visitors to eastern Ontario. Our restaurants, hotels and all of our attractions are looking forward to increased attendance this year and increased revenues this summer and beyond. The growth that we see in Ontario’s tourism sector is encouraging. It’s exciting.
However, it is vital that our government continues to address the challenges that many tourism-related businesses face. The tourism sector contributes significantly to Ontario’s overall economy and benefits many other industries in the process. The importance of tourism in Ontario simply cannot be understated.
Speaker, will the minister please elaborate on the long-term outlook for the tourism sector here in Ontario?
Hon. Neil Lumsden: Thank you again for the question. Everyone uses the word “rebounding.” We’re past that in tourism; we’re talking about getting stronger. We’ve rebounded and we’re moving ahead on things. A lot of people might find it interesting that the World Travel and Tourism Council just reported that Canada’s travel and tourism sector is poised for a huge rebound—I call it moving forward. We’re the nation’s largest travel destination, welcoming 42% of all visitors to Canada. That tells you something, Mr. Speaker.
From my meetings across the province, and specifically in just the last couple of weeks in the Niagara region, I met with Niagara Parks, casinos, hoteliers, the great wineries and the opportunities there—they are ready to go. They aren’t rebounding; they’re there, Mr. Speaker. We are happy to support them, to drive them even further in their destination of what they’re trying to accomplish in being a tourist destination, maybe being the best tourist destination in this country.
Mrs. Lisa Gretzky: My question is to the Minister of Labour. Windsor Salt workers from Unifor Locals 240 and 1959 have been on strike for 104 days. They’re fighting a US hedge fund company that wants to contract out their jobs and is using scab labour to prolong the labour dispute. The company is using union-busting tactics and refuses to bargain in good faith.
When will the minister stand up to this American hedge fund company, support these Unifor members as they fight union busting and the use of scab labour, and pass our anti-scab legislation?
Hon. Monte McNaughton: Look, my message is clear: Get a deal at the table, a deal that’s good for workers and families in Windsor.
Mr. Speaker, it’s our government, under the leadership of Premier Ford, that continues to work with our labour partners, with employers and with workers across this province to ensure that we’re creating better jobs and bigger paycheques for workers out there.
Under the leadership of the Minister of Economic Development and our entire government, we have 600,000 more people working in Ontario today than when we were elected back in 2018, including tens of thousands of more people in southwestern Ontario. In fact, the Premier is down there today with our amazing MPP from Windsor–Tecumseh to make more great announcements.
It’s our government that’s building a brand new hospital down there, which the member opposite opposes. It’s our government that’s widening Highway 3, which the NDP opposed. But Mr. Speaker, we’ll continue having the backs of people in Windsor-Essex every day.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Supplementary question.
Mrs. Lisa Gretzky: I’ve never opposed the hospital. That’s a lie from the minister.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Stop the clock. Order.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Order. I heard the member for Windsor West. I heard what she said. I’m going to ask the member for Windsor West to withdraw.
Mrs. Lisa Gretzky: Mr. Speaker, I withdraw. I said I withdraw.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Start the clock.
Mrs. Lisa Gretzky: Thank you, Speaker. These workers have been on strike for 104 days, Minister. They can’t feed their kids, and they’re about to lose their homes. They need you to pass anti-scab legislation and actually support them.
I have a letter from the Minister of Labour in response to a petition supporting anti-scab labour legislation that my NDP colleagues and I tabled. The minister appears to support the use of scab labour in his response by stating that the use of replacement workers does not prevent those employees who are on a lawful strike or locked out from returning to their jobs as part of a return-to-work protocol at the conclusion of a labour dispute.
The minister knows that using scab labour undermines the collective bargaining process, prolongs labour disputes and raises serious safety concerns.
Again, I’ll state that these workers have been out for 104 days. I ask the minister this simple question once again: Will you support these workers and pass our anti-scab labour legislation, yes or no?
Hon. Monte McNaughton: Mr. Speaker, it’s under the leadership of Premier Ford and this Progressive Conservative government that is supporting workers everywhere in Ontario every single day.
Mr. Speaker, let’s look at what happened in the Legislature yesterday. We passed legislation that reduces diesel exhaust in mines across Ontario by 70%, the toughest regulations in all of North America. Do you know who opposed standing up for those 30,000 miners? The NDP in Ontario. Do you know who voted against all of the investments in the skilled trades to get people jobs with defined pensions and benefits in Windsor? The NDP. Do you know who voted against hiring more inspectors today than at any point in Ontario’s history? The NDP.
We will take no lessons from the NDP when it comes to standing up for workers in this province. It is under the leadership of Doug Ford—
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Stop the clock. I had to interrupt the Minister of Labour, I couldn’t hear.
Start the clock.
Electronic service delivery
Mr. Ric Bresee: My question this time is for the Minister of Public and Business Service Delivery. I just spoke about the value of tourism, and those entrepreneurs and businesses are vital to Ontario’s economic prosperity.
Starting and growing a business can be incredibly challenging when trying to navigate complex processes to obtain permits, follow regulations and create jobs. While these are necessary requirements, accessing government services should not be complicated and difficult. The faster businesses can get up and running, the faster they can pursue their dreams and help to build a stronger Ontario. That’s why it’s up to our government to remove obstacles that create unnecessary delays so that business applications can be processed easier and more efficiently.
Speaker, will the minister please explain how our government is making it easier for businesses in Ontario to access the government services that they need?
Hon. Kaleed Rasheed: Thanks to the member from Hastings–Lennox and Addington for his question. In the past, Speaker, Ontarians have been forced to navigate through a fragmented experience when trying to start, operate and grow their own business thanks to unclear and hard-to-find information that is scattered across the Internet.
But in the Premier’s own words, the buck stops with us. Our government has built a new digital experience on Ontario.ca/business that makes it easier for businesses to get the information they need when they need it through a new single window of seamless information. Thanks to our ability to use this best-in-class technology, we are providing them with the best that Ontario has to offer. We absolutely have to seize this unique opportunity, Speaker, to transform how our government better serves businesses right here in our great province.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Supplementary.
Mr. Ric Bresee: Thank you to the minister. It’s great to hear that improved access to our government services will make it easier for businesses to navigate the website and to find the information they need.
As a former IT guy, I know that when it comes to providing government services, we can’t be an off-line government in an online world. Any initiative that makes it easier for businesses to get up and running is a positive step that will contribute to their eventual successes. It is essential that our government continues to listen to the business community and to implement solutions that help to move Ontario forward.
Speaker, will the minister please elaborate on how this new single-window access system will help to improve services for businesses here in Ontario?
Hon. Kaleed Rasheed: Thanks again to the member for his question. These new additions to the portal will bring a lot of new benefits that businesses have wanted for a very long time. For example, businesses will be able to get updates in real time on their phones and computers. They will find the information they need on streamlined websites quickly. Speaker, they will have a clear resource mechanism whenever they feel that service providers have not met their expectations, and they will have proactive alerts and reminders that help them stay on top of their needs.
Speaker, as our economy continues to boom, as businesses continue to come in this province, we want to make business owners’ lives easy, not difficult—as what the opposition would always be looking for, to make life difficult for businesses to come in our province. This government will make sure that businesses have—make it easy for them to—
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Thank you.
Employment standards / Normes d’emploi
MPP Lise Vaugeois: My question is to the Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry. On April 21, I received a letter signed by this minister stating that conservation officers did not deserve to be reclassified, thus denying them wage parity with other enforcement officers. So imagine my surprise when, 10 days ago, this very same minister stated that conservation officer classifications are being reviewed with OPSEU, together with the ministry director of enforcement.
Well, OPSEU was as surprised as I was and described the minister’s statement as not accurate and misleading the public. So I ask: Will the minister come clean on the truth? He has the power. Does he—
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): I’m going to ask the member to withdraw the unparliamentary comment.
MPP Lise Vaugeois: Okay. Withdraw.
I ask the minister, does he or does he not intend to reclassify conservation officers to give them wage parity with other enforcement officers?
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Minister of Legislative Affairs and government House leader.
Hon. Paul Calandra: I have to say, the Minister of Natural Resources is working very closely with his partners on this.
It really is exhausting to listen to the NDP. Question after question today has been about the NDP wanting something that they have voted against. Let’s see: The members for Windsor vote against hospitals and then say they want hospitals. The members from Toronto vote against subways and roads and expansions in Toronto but then say they want them. The members for Sudbury and the northern members vote against miners and the work that we’re doing to protect and improve the economy in the north and then say, “Oh, maybe we should do something about that.”
I’m going to give some unsolicited, unpaid advice to the NDP: What happens in a Parliament is that we bring things forward and when you want them and they’re supported in legislation you vote in favour of it. When you vote against things, what happens is that you don’t get it, but thankfully, a Progressive Conservative government is moving on all of these things, including adding more conservation officers to the province of Ontario, and that member voted against that.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Supplementary? The member from Mushkegowuk–James Bay.
Mr. Guy Bourgouin: The situation of having no wage parity is a lack of political will and a lack of respect for conservation officers. Stop hiding behind a collective agreement. The government needs to finally give the conservation officers the respect and the increase they deserve.
You have the ability to intervene. You have done it in the past, including in this House when you added associate ministers’ titles to your MPPs.
Les agents de conservation sont demandés de porter des vestes anti-balles, d’emporter des armes de poing. Ils sont demandés d’adresser des situations de danger.
Ce qu’ils demandent depuis des années c’est d’être rémunérés pour l’ouvrage qu’ils font. Je pense que c’est la moindre des choses, comme gouvernement, qu’on doit adresser. Puis de dire que c’est la faute de l’opposition officielle, c’est se tirer de la situation.
To the Premier: Will your government do the right thing and give conservation officers their fair compensation, similar to other enforcement officers?
L’hon. Paul Calandra: Vraiment, c’est le NPD qui se cachait toujours. Quand nous avons ces politiques pour augmenter les services pour les Ontariens, c’est le NPD qui se cachait chaque fois.
They say don’t hide behind a collective agreement. I don’t know, colleagues. We’ve been sitting here constantly—for months—and they keep talking about the importance of respecting collective agreements. I appreciate the member opposite for confirming that it is Progressive Conservatives who actually honour the workers of the province of Ontario, day in and day out.
Let me tell the member very clearly: I will not do what he asks. I will not turn my back on a collective agreement that was signed by the workers of the province of Ontario. I’ll let him explain to conservation officers, to the workers of the province of Ontario, why they want to open up those hard-fought collective agreements and turn their backs on the workers. Conservatives will never do that—
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Stop the clock.
Start the clock. The next question.
Mme Dawn Gallagher Murphy: My question is for the Associate Minister of Women’s Social and Economic Opportunity. Our government needs to build a province where every woman and girl is empowered to succeed. This starts with getting more women into jobs than ever before. According to recent employment data regarding women’s labour force participation, the overall employment rate in April significantly increased as compared to pre-pandemic levels. There has been an increase of 415,000 jobs, a large portion of which have been filled by women.
This number demonstrates that the investments and supports put in place by our government are increasing women’s economic security. However, there is still more that needs to be done in advancing equality and economic independence for women.
Speaker, can the associate minister please explain what actions our government is taking to support even greater participation by women in Ontario’s workforce?
Hon. Charmaine A. Williams: The member from Newmarket–Aurora is absolutely correct: The current data reveals the ongoing increase and contribution of women in Ontario’s workforce. One of the key reasons for this success is due to the historic agreement that our government was able to secure regarding enhancements to affordable child care. Through our Minister of Education, our Premier and this government, Speaker, we didn’t just sign any deal with the federal government; we signed a better deal for the people of this province: a billion additional dollars and an additional year of funding guarantee that no other province in Canada had.
It is this Premier that was able to do what the NDP and Liberals couldn’t do for 15 years, which is reduce child care fees for generations to come—a 50% reduction in fees for women, working moms and dads—and with an increase of 86,000 new child care spaces by 2026. We’re going to—
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Thank you. That concludes the time we have available for question period this morning.
Business of the House
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): I recognize the government House leader under standing order 59.
Hon. Paul Calandra: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker, and thank you to all colleagues for what was another great week on behalf of the people of the province of Ontario.
On Monday, June 5, we will start in the afternoon. We will continue third reading of Bill 102, Strengthening Safety and Modernizing Justice Act, 2023. In the night sitting, we’ll continue third reading of Bill 112, the Hazel McCallion Act.
On Tuesday, June 6, in the morning, there will be third reading of Bill 102, Strengthening Safety and Modernizing Justice Act. Before question period, Minister Michael Ford will be seeking unanimous consent for a moment of silence to mark the anniversary of the London, Ontario, truck attack. In the afternoon, third reading of Bill 102, Strengthening Safety and Modernizing Justice Act, and third reading of Bill 98, the Better Schools and Student Outcomes Act, will be debated. In the evening, the member for Etobicoke–Lakeshore’s private member’s motion number 50.
On Wednesday, June 7, in the morning, third reading of Bill 98, Better Schools and Student Outcomes Act. In the afternoon, third reading of Bill 98, Better Schools and Student Outcomes Act. In the evening, the member for Markham–Unionville’s private member’s motion number 56.
On Thursday, June 8, in the morning, we’ll have third reading of Bill 98, the Better Schools and Student Outcomes Act. Before question period, despite his vigorous objections, we will be honouring the outgoing Clerk of the Legislative Assembly, even if we have to hold him in his chair to hear the accolades from all sides of the House. The afternoon session is yet to be determined. And currently scheduled in the evening for private members’ business would be the member for Ottawa Centre’s Bill 54, which is the WSIB Coverage for Workers in Residential Care Facilities and Group Homes Act, 2022.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Point of order, President of the Treasury Board.
Hon. Prabmeet Singh Sarkaria: Point of order, Speaker. I’d just like to make an introduction to some visitors we have today at Queen’s Park. We have Mr. D.S. Bains, who is here from Punjab, the former Home Secretary for the state. We also have with him Mr. Paramjeet Johal and Gursharan Sidhu, who are also visiting us today in the Legislature.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): I wish to inform the House that we have a special guest in the visitors’ gallery: a former senator, the Honourable Asha Seth, who was appointed to the Senate of Canada in January 2012. Welcome to the Legislative Assembly. We’re delighted to have you here.
There being no further business this morning, this House stands in recess until 1 p.m.
The House recessed from 1144 to 1300.
Afternoon meeting reported in volume B.