43e législature, 1e session

L115A - Mon 27 Nov 2023 / Lun 27 nov 2023

 

The House met at 0900.

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Good morning. Let us pray.

Prayers.

Orders of the Day

Convenient Care at Home Act, 2023 / Loi de 2023 sur la prestation commode de soins à domicile

Resuming the debate adjourned on November 23, 2023, on the motion for third reading of the following bill:

Bill 135, An Act to amend the Connecting Care Act, 2019 with respect to home and community care services and health governance and to make related amendments to other Acts / Projet de loi 135, Loi modifiant la Loi de 2019 pour des soins interconnectés en ce qui concerne les services de soins à domicile et en milieu communautaire et la gouvernance de la santé et apportant des modifications connexes à d’autres lois.

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Further debate? I recognize the member for Nickel Belt.

Mme France Gélinas: Thank you, Speaker. If you’ll allow me, I would like to say thank you. I was supposed to do my lead on Thursday afternoon. I would like to thank my House leader team, as well as the House leader from the government, for allowing me to postpone my lead to this morning. I attended my nephew’s funeral Thursday afternoon. I was there when my nephew was born. My daughter used to babysit him and his brother. I was there when he graduated. He was a gifted mechanic, a really nice person. He died of a drug overdose at the age of 28, and it was gut-wrenching. I thank you for allowing me time to grieve with my family and attend his funeral. I will change the topic because I may start crying.

Thank you, also, to everybody who reached out and offered me a word of encouragement and support. From both sides of the House, I received them, and it was very much appreciated. Thank you.

Applause.

Mme France Gélinas: To Bill 135: Bill 135 is a bill that will change how home care is managed and coordinated in Ontario. Our health care system has many parts: health promotion, disease prevention—most people know about primary care, where you have a physician or a nurse practitioner who follows you. We know our hospital system, whether it be specialty care, pediatric care—we have strong hospitals. We have palliative care. We have community mental health and addictions. We also have a part of this big system of care that is called home care.

Home care has seen many changes in the way that it is governed and managed but not so many in the way that it is delivered. The way that it is managed is that there are basically three big groups of people who have needs and can live healthy and productive lives with the help of home care. We will start with the small one.

Some people are born with severe disability or diseases right from birth, whether they need special G-tube feeding to be able to feed themselves or they need help with breathing. Often, those babies becoming kids becoming grown-ups will be sent home with home care. For a lot of people who have severe disability and health needs—as I said, for breathing, for eating etc.—they could be on home care for their entire life. If you have a disability, you may tap into what is called the Passport Program, where you will basically become an employer and hire your own people to come and provide home care to you. Home care can range from helping you get out of bed and into your wheelchair in the morning, transferring to a toilet, showering, preparing meals, eating—all of the activities of daily living. So that’s one part.

The second part, which most adults will know, is post-discharge from hospitals—the ones that are the best known are hip and knee surgeries. I will take them as an example, but there are many others. For hip and knee surgeries, in my day, you used to be admitted to a hospital two or three days before and have the surgery. For a knee, you stayed for a week; for a hip, you stayed at least for 10 days—none of that anymore. All of the assessment is done ahead of time. They show you the exercises that you’ll have to do. They fit you for a walker or crutches, or whatever needs to be done. All of this is done before surgery. More and more, the surgery will be done the same day. The day of the surgery, you will be able to go home—or, at least, the next day or the following day. But the follow-up that used to happen in the hospital still needs to happen. You will have big surgical scars for which you will need a change of bandages. You will still need to be seen by a physiotherapist to make sure that you get your range of motion, you get your balance, you have full extension in your knees, you learn how to go up and down the stairs and how to manage on uneven ground—all of this. More and more of this in our home care is what we call bundled care; that is, you go home and you have a bundle of care where you already know that the nurse will come to see you on this day, this day and this day to change the bandages. The physiotherapist will come to see you to teach you exercises, then on day 5, she’ll start to teach you range of motion so that you get ready for stairs etc. etc. Bundled care happens after surgical or in-patient admission into the hospital.

The third part of home care—and I’m generalizing; there’s way more than that. The third part, I would say, is related to frailty and related to aging. Aging is not a disease. There are many, many elderly people who will live their entire lives never needing home care—but some of us will, and those are usually concentrated on what we call activities of daily living. So they may be able to get out of bed by themselves, but they will need help to go into a tub or a shower. They may be able to do certain things—they’ve had a stroke, and now they need a little bit of help to make sure that they learn to transfer from their bed to a wheelchair, or they learn to stand safely in their home, so you make their homes as safe as possible, to make sure that they continue to be able to walk, maybe with a walker, maybe with a cane, maybe with a quad cane etc.

This type of home care tends to go on for a longer period of time. You will continue to have somebody coming in to help you have a bath. You will continue to have people coming to see you to help you do the transfer, to help you do the toileting, to help you do the feeding and eating and preparing meals and changing the bedsheets and vacuuming. And if you live in my neck of the woods, you may need community care also to shovel the driveway. It just dumped snow in northern Ontario yesterday. The roads were really awful. By the way, where are all the snowplows? I did 450 kilometres, and I saw two snowplows going the opposite way, none in my way. The roads were awful.

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Back to home care: So those are the three big parts of home care. Home and community care, way back, used to be delivered mainly by the VO; it was throughout the province. Saint Elizabeth was also very involved. We had the Red Cross. But VON was the biggest one. Basically, when you were discharged from hospital or when your family physician thought that it was not safe for you to be home by yourself, to have a bath by yourself or to transfer, they would send home care. There were no care coordinators or anything like this. It was a referral from your family physicians to home care, and home care was delivered to you. Home care was way closer to primary care at the time, because it was mainly your primary care provider who would make the referral for you to gain access to home care. All of this changed, Speaker, when the Mike Harris government came into power—I think you were there at the time, actually. When Mike Harris came into power, they decided to offer a competitive bidding process for home care rather than having this close-knit referral system from your primary care providers to not-for-profit home care providers that had been there for decades and decades.

In my neck of the woods, it was the VON who had the contract and who provided home care; they were the home care providers. They had nurses there who had done an entire career doing home care. They were really, really good at what they did. Just like anybody else—you work in one sector of health care, you develop best practices, you share them with the rest of your co-workers, and you get pretty good at providing that kind of care because this is what you do as a profession day in and day out.

All of this went out the window when the Mike Harris government decided to make home care “better, faster, cheaper” through the competitive bidding process. Through the competitive bidding process, we saw a whole lot of for-profit companies make bids to offer home care. The for-profit companies’ bids were amazing. They had found a way to clone Mother Teresa. They were going to offer incredibly good home care with knowledgeable people, and they were going to do things better, faster, cheaper. None of that happened—except that the not-for-profits did not win the bids. Most of the bids were won by the for-profit companies, and many not-for-profit home care providers that had been providing really good home care in close relationship to primary care were out of a job.

In my neck of the woods, everybody who used to work home care for VON were let go because VON did not win the contract; it was a for-profit American company that did, so everybody got laid off. The for-profit company tried to rehire some of them. They offered lower pay. They did not offer permanent jobs; they were all part-time. They offered no benefits, no pension, no sick days. And they changed the way they were going to be reimbursed—because in home care, you have to go from one home to the next. In northern Ontario, you drive long distances. In Toronto, you take transit to go from one place to the other. So the way they were going to be reimbursed went down.

What do you think happened to those nurses who had been working in home care all their lives? They said, “I’m not interested in working, standing by a phone”—because back then, it was not an app; it was a phone—“waiting for the phone to ring. I’m not interested in taking a cut in pay. I’m not interested in losing my pension plan. I used to like to have a couple of weeks of paid holidays, and I used to like to have a couple of paid sick days. Why should I do without all of this?” And they went and found work elsewhere. It’s not hard to find jobs when you have a nursing degree. Hospitals wanted them; primary care wanted them; palliative care wanted them—health promotion. It was really easy for them, and it started what we have now—where our home care system cannot recruit and retain a stable workforce.

Remember, I told you how home care was organized. At the end of the day, home care is a home care provider that comes to your home to help you. If you cannot recruit and retain home care providers to come to your home and help you, you cannot have quality home care.

So this is what we have been looking at in Ontario since 1996, when Mike Harris brought in the competitive bidding process, and it has been going downhill. It went downhill under the Liberals, and it’s going further downhill.

The contracts were first awarded by the province. Then, we had the creation of the CCACs, the community care access centres. CCACs would handle all of the home care. We had about 42 of them throughout the province. They were the ones that managed the contracts for home care. The physicians or nurse practitioners or primary care providers did not have direct contact with the home care providers anymore. Through the competitive bidding process, we put in place care coordinators. Care coordinators existed for one reason: to make sure that the limited amount of resources were going to be allocated as appropriately as possible. So we had a system where your family physicians or your nurse practitioners referred to the community care access centre—you couldd also self-refer—and then the care coordinators decide who of the different contractors, that got the different contracts, would provide you the care. We went from 42 community care access centres, CCACs, to 14 community care access centres, because by then, we had 14 LHINs, local health integration networks. The boundaries of the 42 community care access centres were reshaped to fit into the 14 LHINs’ boundaries. So we had 14 CCACs and 14 LHINs that managed the contracts for home care. They also had the care coordinators work for them. The care coordinators could decide how much care you would get. So we went from 42 to 14.

Then, the CCACs disappeared and they got kind of amalgamated with the local health integration networks. There continued to be 14 of them, but the CCACs did not exist anymore—the LHINs.

Then, from the LHINs, we had Home and Community Care Support Services, HCCSS—you learn a lot of alphabet when you work in that kind of program. Home and Community Care Support Services became the agency—14 of them—that would handle home care.

Now, under this new bill—because there have been many, many changes—Home and Community Care Support Services and the LHINs won’t exist anymore. It will be a new agency called Ontario Health atHome. Ontario Health atHome will be one agency province-wide that will then—the bill doesn’t say exactly how that will happen, but it will go into contractual arrangements with the 57 Ontario health teams that we have now in Ontario. If you’re lost in translation, don’t feel bad; we all are.

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Ontario health teams are a creation of this government; we have 57 of them in Ontario. They cover almost, geographically—not quite the entire province. They’re all different, no matter where you go. All we know about Ontario health teams is that to be called a health team, you have to have at least three of those five—now six—providers. Hospitals can be a part, long-term-care homes can be a part, primary care can be a part, mental health and addictions can be a part, palliative care can be a part, and now home and community care can be a part. If three partners within those six types of partners in the health care system come together, they can be called an Ontario health team. Not everyone within those health teams are in, so it could very well be that—in my neck of the woods, the francophone community health centre does not want to be part of the family health team, and that’s fine. We still have a family health team that has a hospital—they have a few hospitals, actually: one in Sudbury and one in Espanola. There are a few long-term-care homes that are a part, though not all. There is, I think, one mental health provider that is in, and the rest of them are not. The family health teams went in, but the rest of the other primary care providers did not go in.

Anyway, if you have three of those six different areas of health that get together, you can be called a health team, and 57 health teams have been called throughout our province. But the health teams do not exist in and of themselves, as in, you won’t see them as a transfer payment agency on the list of agencies that the Auditor General reports on. They decide within themselves who will be the lead for the health team.

Well, let’s be serious. The health team that takes in a multi-million dollar hospital or a multi-million dollar long-term-care home—do you really think that a community health centre with a $2.7-million budget would ever be able to manage a health team? No. The big players are the ones who will manage the health teams.

The reluctance of many primary care, community mental health or community care providers to join those groups is that they feel it is hard to put women’s health at the top of the list—it is hard to put mental health; it is even harder to put addiction at the top of the list. Hospitals are well-known and people support them—not so much for other parts of our health care system. Now you’re asking those different health care providers to be within a health team that may not have them as a priority.

So the health teams vary greatly throughout the province. In some parts, they really had to be pushed hard—to say, “You must form a health team,” because the local health providers did not want to do that. As I said, they do not exist as an entity; they exist as a collaborative of good people who want to work together to improve care for the people of Ontario. Sometimes, in some areas, it works better than others—never mind how good or bad, this is where home care will go. It won’t go there initially. Home care should start to go to—I forgot if it’s 10 or 12, Ontario health teams that are a little bit more structured and have been in place a little longer, and they will be the ones that will start providing home and community care.

Those are the two big things that the bill does. It gets rid of the CCACs, LHINs, Home and Community Care Support Services—all of this disappears—and Ontario Health atHome becomes a province-wide agency that will be a sub-agency of Ontario Health. Ontario Health is already there to look after hospitals, long-term-care homes, primary care—a group of different players within the health care system. So Ontario Health atHome is being created; the LHINs and CCACs and Home and Community Care Support Services disappear. That’s one part.

Ontario Health atHome will have a board of directors. All that we know of the board of directors is that they will be appointed by the Ministry of Health. The board will consist of six members appointed by the ministry, and three members appointed by the minister—sorry, not the ministry; the minister—so six members appointed by the minister and up to three members appointed by the minister on the recommendations of Ontario Health.

You can see, Speaker, that the people who came and did deputations—very few of them were able to come and actually do a deputation, because under this government, it’s always the same thing: We have a meeting of the committee. They ask to go into closed session so nobody will know what they say, but they always say the same thing: “We will limit—here’s how many hours of deputations we will allow. It doesn’t matter if we have”—I don’t know if I’m allowed to say how many dozens and hundreds of people applied to do deputations. That doesn’t matter. There will be room for 15 or 18 people to do deputations—and that was it, that was all, on something like home care, that has needed reform for such a long time. Since the Mike Harris era of 1996, we have needed serious reform to improve the quality of our home care system. But no, we went in camera—I won’t tell you exactly what they said, because it was in camera, so I’m not allowed. But I can tell you that we came out of camera with a schedule that said there will be deputations from—

Mr. Trevor Jones: Point of order.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bhutila Karpoche): I’m sorry to interrupt the member.

A point of order from the member of from Chatham-Kent–Leamington.

Mr. Trevor Jones: I’m raising this point of order: I believe the member across just revealed closed in camera committee meeting minutes, and that’s not for public discourse in this House—if she can check her previous statement and perhaps withdraw that.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bhutila Karpoche): Thank you. I caution the member to tread lightly in terms of discussions that were made in camera at committee.

Mme France Gélinas: I will. Thank you, Speaker.

Everybody saw the schedule; it was made public. We had about 18 people and providers who had a chance to come and talk to us—they were few and far between, who got the permission to come and talk to us. But many, many more sent us documents in writing, and many of the documents in writing talked about the first point I was talking about, which was the makeup of the board. A lot of people asked, “If you want to provide quality care and Ontario Health atHome is going to be the agency responsible for that, why don’t we make sure that the board reflects what kind of services that they will be providing?”

The big fear is that the big, for-profit home care companies will all be appointed to that board. And then how about giving health care providers a voice? How about giving caregivers a voice? How about giving someone who receives the services a voice on that board? How about people with lived experience? How about making sure that we have geographical representation, regional representation? How about making sure that we have a French-speaking representative on that board, or somebody from multicultural—or even First Nations?

Anyway, I tried many, many amendments to try to make sure that I was reflecting the recommendations that had come to the committee, and they voted that all down.

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Other things that people who presented and people who sent written submissions were asking about is that, right now, the boards of the LHINs, or Home and Community Care Support Services, or CCACs, or whatever you want to call them, because people call them very different names—when the boards meet, their agenda is made public. The meetings are public; I have attended some of them. The minutes of those meetings are also made available. They always have a session in camera, and I respect that. They are allowed to go in camera to talk about different things that should not be made public, but the meetings as a whole are public. So the people ask if the LHINs, the CCACs, Home and Community Care Support Services are not going to exist anymore—if they’re going to become Ontario Health atHome. Well, let’s make sure that this level of transparency that we had at the local level is going to be respected.

I put an amendment forward just to make sure that the board’s minutes, once they were approved, would be made available. Let’s make sure that the meetings are open to the public, if people are interested. Let’s make sure that the people, if they’re all going to be based out of Toronto—how about we make sure that they travel and maybe come to the north once in a while, just for fun, just to see where Biscotasing is on the map; maybe some people would like to find that out. But same thing—when I asked that they travel, they voted that down. When I asked that the agenda be made public, that the minutes be made public when they were approved, that people be allowed to attend, they voted all of that down. They were not interested in transparency or in public access whatsoever.

All that the bill says is that the board is required to meet at least four times per year, and quorum requires an equal or greater number of members appointed by the minister than members recommended by Ontario Health. That’s really low comfort for people who, for good reason, are afraid that the people who will be appointed to that board will be the president and CEO of all of the big, for-profit home care companies whose number one goal is to make money for their shareholders, not to provide good home care.

The next series of amendments that we tried to put forward were things as simple as “let’s make sure that the French Language Services Act is actually respected.” You may not know that, Speaker, but the French Language Services Act—the way that it is written, it applies to a transfer payment agency of the government. So the government is covered by the French language act, and so is the transfer payment agency of the Ministry of Health, but the more you go into independent contractors, then the French Language Services Act won’t apply anymore. People are worried, because now it will be Ontario Health atHome that will issue requests for proposals. The requests for proposals will be handled province-wide. When you represent 33 small communities in northern Ontario—what are the chances that the little not-for-profit home care providers that provide services for Alban are going to be able to bid on a province-wide bidding process and win a bid? Let’s just say that it doesn’t look good. If you’re big, like the Bayshores and the CarePartners and the ParaMeds of this world, you won’t have any problems. They will file the requests for proposals and be recognized as home care agencies that the 57 different Ontario health teams will be able to contract out to. But for the French community, this is very worrisome—because the more subcontracts you go, the less the French Language Services Act applies.

If you are a French woman, 95 years old, you are a woman of your time. You probably never went out to work, because at the time you raised your 12 or 14 kids, and that was your priority. All of your family speaks French. You’ve never really learned to speak English because you go to a French church and you go to a French market and you deal with your French kids and grandkids and great-grandkids. All of a sudden, you need home care, and you have no guarantee that the person who will come to give you your bath will be able to speak in your language.

For the francophone community, they wrote—they were not able to come to present because, remember, we only had 18 slots for people to come and present. So they were not able to come and present, but they certainly made their voices heard and said that the French Language Services Act—you have to take that into account; make sure that there’s a member on the board, so that at the level of the board of Ontario Health atHome, you think about the French services act. They voted that down.

I put a motion forward, following the recommendations from the francophone community, that the board appoint at least someone within Ontario Health to be responsible for the French Language Services Act, to be responsible for French services. They voted that down.

Then I put a motion forward to say, “Let’s make sure that the French Language Services Act will apply no matter how many times the contracts are subcontracted”—because it’s not out of the ordinary for Bayshore to subcontract to a physio provider, who will subcontract to the physiotherapists themselves, and the physiotherapist will come to see this 95-year-old French woman and not be able to speak French to her, because that’s the only physio they have and they don’t have to follow the French Language Services Act. They voted that down.

Then we looked at best practices. This is something that happens in health care a lot. If a hospital finds a better way to provide care—I remember the first hospital that started to do pre-assessments for their hips and knees. This became a best practice, and then it got spread to all of the hospitals that do orthopaedic surgery throughout our province. So health care is very much—you find a best practice, you test it, and then you share it with everyone. But that doesn’t happen in home care. Why? Because in home care, we have for-profit companies that see a best practice as a competitive advantage. If we have discovered a best practice in home care, rather than making sure that it is spread throughout the province—they don’t want to spread it with their competitors. They want to keep the best practice to themselves, which is not the way to grow our health care system.

We grow our health care system the more we discover best practices, the more we share them, learn from them and move our health care system as a whole forward to provide better quality care—but not in home care. So I put a motion forward to say that best practices have to be identified and they have to be shared, because we know that it is not happening right now. You guessed it, Speaker: They voted it down.

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Then a big one that came from—I forget exactly how many people wrote to us and asked to present, but altogether I would say that, between the presentations and the written submissions, we must have at least 60 of them that had been received by the time the deadline came. Of those 60, 59 asked that we took the for-profit motive out. Do you know the one that did not ask for it? It was Bayshore. But everybody else who came and presented and who wrote talked about, “Let’s take the for-profit out. Let’s focus. If we’re not going to take it out, let’s make sure that if you issue a new request for proposals, take into account the value of not-for-profits. Let’s give priority to not-for-profits.” So I tried to put that in many, many parts of the bill. This is what people are asking for. People make the relationship between the two.

Why is it that home care is not able to recruit and retain a stable workforce? Because they don’t offer good jobs. Why don’t they offer good jobs? Because they exist for one reason: to make money for their shareholders. And how do you make money? By not paying your workers. How do you solve all of the missed appointments—and I will go through a list of examples of people who are being failed by our home care system. It’s easy. Make home care jobs good jobs; make them permanent, full-time, well-paid, with benefits, sick days, a pension plan and a workload that you can handle. And there are lots of people who love to work home care, who are good at providing home care, but right now cannot make ends meet. They cannot pay the rent and feed their kids with the money they get paid in home care. Why? Because home care has been privatized.

We can change all of this. We can make sure that the 30% of the $1.8 billion this province spends in home care does not go to profit and goes to patient care. Patient care is directly related to the person who gives you that care. This is as simple as it is. Home care depends on a home care worker bringing you the care you need. If you’re not able to recruit and retain a stable work force, you are not able to provide quality care. So I put that as an amendment to the bill, and they voted it down.

I also put a part of the bill called, I think, “making home care jobs good jobs.” It was voted out of order, but it’s too bad, because we all know that in order for home and community care to meet the needs of the people who need home care, you need a stable force in home care. There’s no doubt about it. A lot of care that is provided by home care is very personal. You have a stranger coming to your house, and you strip naked in front of that stranger to have a bath. There needs to be a relationship of trust between those two individuals. When every Thursday and every Saturday, a different person you don’t know comes into your house to strip you naked to put you into the tub, after a while, you don’t want home care anymore. Why? Because this is a total lack of respect. Why are we having the lack of respect? Why are we having different people stripping you naked twice a week? Because home care cannot recruit and retain a stable workforce, because they’re more interested in the 30% profit that they will give to their shareholders than providing decent care. Would you want a different stranger giving you a bath? Nobody wants that. We know how to change that. You change this by making home care jobs good jobs. I tabled that in the bill. It was voted down.

Then, after the not-for-profit and the French—I tried many times to get the French back in, and it did not work—we went on to look at the process of awarding the contracts. Ontario Health atHome will be the provincial agency that will issue a request for proposals. We are continuing in Ontario with this competitive bidding process. We already know that the competitive bidding process fails us. It’s not because you’re able to write a good proposal that says, “We will provide home care like Mother Teresa wanted us to provide home care”—because we already know that none of that is true. But there are still some small, not-for-profit home care agencies that exist in different areas of our province that have survived, since the Mike Harris era, the competitive bidding process, mainly because they are the only show in town and the big corporate home care providers don’t want to pay for their staff to travel all the way there.

What’s the chance that they continue to exist? What’s the chance that they continue with this new competitive bidding process that will be province-wide? Because remember, the 42 CCACs that became the 14 CCACs that became the 14 LHINs that became the 14 Home and Community Care Support Services—that was 14 geographical regions that handled their competitive bidding process, that were able to enter into financial arrangements with different care providers. They knew their community better than an agency based out of Toronto—where we’ve tried to say, “Your board of directors should have regional representation,” and they said no. So it could very well be the directors and the CEOs of all of the big, for-profit home care agencies, all based out of Toronto, who decide who will have a contract for Westree, a community they could not even point to on the map because they don’t know where it is. But they will be deciding who gets the contract for that community and who doesn’t.

At least when we had the competitive bidding process and the contract with the 14 agencies, there was a better chance that those 14 agencies knew the different providers and knew the different communities. Nothing wrong against the people from Toronto—they are good people, like there are good people everywhere. But that doesn’t mean that you know the needs and the specificity of the different regions of our province and the different communities. Home care is really delivered at the community level.

We tried to put amendments forward that said, “How about you put that the criteria for the requests for proposals be public, so that at least we could have a say, we could look?” They voted that down.

How about the results of the awarded contracts, so that we would know who was awarded what and have a little bit of information? “No, no. Nobody will know what’s in the contracts.”

There was an interesting amendment that came from the Integrity Commissioner. There’s a part of the bill that gives the minister the right to gain access to personal health information. That’s not something that you see very often, and that’s not something that the Integrity Commissioner takes lightly. Gaining access to aggregate data, yes, absolutely—the Ministry of Health needs to know what kinds of services are being provided, by who, where, when, all of this. No problem with aggregate data going to the ministry, going to Ontario Health, going to Ontario Health atHome—absolutely. But once you get an amendment written by the Integrity Commissioner, who is worried about the powers that the minister is giving himself, or herself, in the case right now, to access patients’ data—I took that quite seriously. He is an independent officer of the Legislature. He knows the integrity act, the PHIPA, and all of the acts that protect personal health information inside and out. This is why he exists. This is what he does for a living. He wrote to us, wrote the actual wording of the amendment that he wanted to make to the bill. I copied and pasted it into an amendment. I let everybody know that this came from the document that the Integrity Commissioner had given to us, at the end of his explanation, as to why he was worried about the access to personal information that was being given in the bill. I explained all of this, and they voted it down.

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That worries me. Health care happens between two people. A lot of information is shared with health care providers that is not shared with anybody else. Think about it. There are probably things that you have told your physician or your nurse practitioner or your mental health providers that you have never told anybody else. Nobody else knows that but the person who is there to help you. This is what quality care is based on. You feel free to share things with your health care providers that you would not share with anybody else. But now, every time you have a change in law that allows the minister to gain access to personal health information, there will be people who won’t tell the whole story to their health care providers, because there is information that they don’t want anybody to know. They were willing to share it with their health care providers before, because they knew that—and you could ask, “Don’t put that in my chart. I want you to know, but don’t write it down.” I can tell you, any health care provider will have had that kind of request. They want you to know. They know it is important in the decisions you will make for their care. But they don’t want anybody else to know. The Integrity Commissioner had written an amendment. This amendment also got thrown out—voted down, actually.

I asked for things like: require an audit of the number of hours claimed, the number of employees, the number of clients served, to support standards of care, monitoring and enforcement.

This is a story that a mom allowed me to share, and there are many, many stories like this: Tina is a nurse who works in my riding. She has a very disabled child who is now going to school. He requires G-tube feeding. She was assessed by home care. Home care goes to the school for an hour and a half, sets up his G-tube feeding and makes sure that he’s fed, and then they go on. So she gets an hour and a half of home care during the day for her child to make sure that he gets fed and hydrated—both drinking and eating, through a G-tube. Bayshore happens to have the contract for most of the areas that I serve. Bayshore sends the nurse. The nurse sets up the G-tube feeding and then, 15 minutes later, takes off. But Bayshore gets paid for an hour and a half. This child is supposed to have a nurse with him for an hour and a half. And what ends up happening two or three times a week is, halfway through the feeding, the machine starts to go “beep beep beep” because he moved, because something is not going right. The nurse is gone. And then they phone the mom. The mom has to go to school to reset the G-tube machine, to make sure that her son gets fed. So she put in a complaint and said, “The care coordinator tells you that you have a contract to provide an hour and a half. This is how long it takes to feed my son, to make sure that you set up the machine, then everything is done and disconnected, and all of that. But you only stayed for 15 minutes.” So she puts in a complaint. The care coordinator says, “Yes, you were allowed an hour and a half. This is what’s not happening.” After she started to push—she’s a nurse; she knows how the health care system works—Bayshore said, “Oh, we can’t find anybody to go and feed your son.” So she had to quit her job as a nurse, to be the one who would be there for her son, so that her son would be fed. Her son needs hydration. Some days, he comes home—the hydrations got set up, but they never worked. He comes home and he has never soiled a diaper—it takes hours after he gets home. She starts to hydrate him and feed him. Then, he starts to pee again etc. As a nurse, she knows that means that he hasn’t had anything to drink from 8 o’clock in the morning, when he left for school, until 3:30 in the afternoon, when he came back from school. This is wrong. This is what happens when you have a system that is driven by profit, not by people’s needs.

I have another gentleman—he’s a lower-limb amputee. He’s missing a leg, above the knee, on his left side, and has a serious wound on his right side. We all want to keep both legs, but when you only have one left—he really, really wants to make sure that those wounds on his right legs are well looked after. Same thing: It’s Bayshore that has that contract. They’re supposed to come at 8 o’clock in the morning to change his dressing and come back at 4 o’clock in the afternoon to change his dressing, because this thing leaks and he has had an infection before etc. At 8 o’clock, they’re not there; 9 o’clock, they’re not there. He phones at 9, nobody picks up the phone, and he leaves a message. He phones at 10, nobody picks up, and he leaves a message. He phones at 11, nobody picks up the phone, and he leaves a message. At noon, he got a phone call back from Bayshore to say that somebody will be there at 2. He says, “Somebody will be there at 4. Why would you come and change my dressing at 2? You were supposed to come at 8.” “Oh, are you refusing the visit?” If the patient refuses the visit, Bayshore gets paid, but the patients get no care. He keeps a little log of every time the Bayshore nurse did not come on time or did not come at all. He shares that with me every two weeks. How could that be? He’s an amputee. He has one leg. His right leg has a severe wound. He needs his dressing changed. Everybody agrees to this, but yet, every week, there is a missed appointment. Every week, there is a risk that this wound is going to get infected, because nobody was there to change the dressing; but it doesn’t matter. Bayshore continues to have this contract, they continue to have money every time a nurse doesn’t show up in the morning or in the afternoon, and life goes on.

I also tried to put into this bill some other requests that we received from written submissions and the people who presented that had to do with staffing agencies. More and more people, nurses, who work for home care will work for for-profit providers who subcontract to a staffing agency. Remember, I talked about continuity of care and how you can only have quality care if you have continuity of care. Through for-profit agencies and through staffing agencies, it makes things worse, not better.

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I also asked for mandatory reporting—this was ruled out of order—for suspicion of abuse. When you work in home care, you go into people’s homes—often, vulnerable people’s homes. It is pretty easy for the home care worker to see that there’s abuse taking place in that home—either physical abuse or money abuse or mental abuse. They often are the first ones to become aware that abuse is taking place, because the person is mainly homebound and not too many people see them, and their abuser lives with them. Right now, if you report abuse, you have to report it to the police. The police set the bar pretty high to charge against abuse. So what I tried to put forward is the same system that we have for children. Right now, if you are a health care provider—you hold a licence in Ontario—if you suspect abuse, you don’t have to have 100% proof to meet the standard of the police. If you suspect abuse, you have to report it to children’s aid. Children’s aid will go in and do an assessment, and it could very well be that the family needed a little bit of help and a few things needed to be changed in order to make sure that you protect that child. I wanted the same protections to become available to vulnerable people. Not all vulnerable people receive home care, but a lot of vulnerable people receive home care, and a lot of times you have home care providers who are suspicious of abuse. You come to give somebody a bath and they have cigarette butt burns on their back. How do you burn yourself on the back? It’s not obvious, especially if you don’t smoke, but your partner smokes and yells at you quite a bit—but it doesn’t matter if you report that to the police. You don’t have enough proof and evidence for them to charge, but you would have enough proof and evidence for somebody to come and do an assessment and make sure that we protect the vulnerable people. That was also ruled out of order.

I asked for a little bit of training on sexual and gender diversity for home care workers. That was also ruled out of order.

Altogether, the NDP presented 17 different amendments to the bill. Our home care system is broken; it fails more people than it helps every single day. To make Ontario Health atHome is not the solution to the problems that people face on a daily basis with our home care system—but this is what the government has brought forward. We tried to put amendments forward that respond to the actual problems that people face. They voted them all down.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bhutila Karpoche): Questions?

Mme Dawn Gallagher Murphy: Ce projet de loi, s’il est adopté, conférera aux équipes santé Ontario la responsabilité de connecter les gens aux services de soins à domicile à partir de 2025. Aujourd’hui, les équipes santé Ontario sont encouragées à travailler avec leurs membres et les organisations affiliées pour planifier une meilleure prestation des soins. Alors, on aura la Santé à domicile Ontario, qui sera un partenaire clé dans ce travail.

Donc, ma question : je me demande si la députée peut parler d’une partie du projet de loi qu’elle pourrait appuyer.

Mme France Gélinas: Je vous remercie, et je vous remercie de la question en français.

Nous avons 57 équipes santé Ontario, et oui, elles vont commencer à être responsables pour les services à domicile dans 10 ou 12 parties de l’Ontario à partir de 2025. De rapprocher les soins primaires des soins à domicile, oui, c’est une excellente, bonne idée. C’est ce qu’on avait avant que le gouvernement de Mike Harris soit au pouvoir. On avait une très bonne relation entre les soins primaires et la santé à domicile. Ça, c’est quelque chose qu’on va toujours appuyer et quelque chose de bien. Le problème, c’est que c’est Ontario à domicile, qui est un organisme provincial, qui va donner les contrats, donc on ne sait vraiment pas qui seront les personnes—

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bhutila Karpoche): Response.

Mme France Gélinas: —localement pour offrir les services.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bhutila Karpoche): Question?

MPP Lise Vaugeois: We saw after the Mike Harris government privatized long-term care that conditions for workers and people in long-term care have been disastrous, but enormously profitable to the former Premier himself.

Given the terrible wages and working conditions of PSWs in home care at this time, are you worried that those working conditions and the quality of care will decline even more in order to provide profits to investors?

Mme France Gélinas: The member is very, very accurate. Ontario is the only province where our home care system is dominated by the big for-profit companies. The number one reason the for-profit companies exist is to make a profit and to give money to their shareholders. They do this by taking as much of the money as they receive, not to provide good quality care, but to pay their shareholders. Of the $1.8 billion that we presently invest in home care in Ontario, 30% of that money—this is $600 million—never reaches the patients’ care; 30% of that money goes to shareholders.

We could pay our PSWs more than $18.50 an hour. We could give all of them a raise with the money that we pay to for-profit companies.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bhutila Karpoche): Question?

Mme Natalia Kusendova-Bashta: La députée sait que pour offrir les soins en français, on doit avoir du personnel de santé qui parle français. Alors, on a une grande pénurie. C’est pourquoi notre gouvernement a soutenu la création d’un campus francophone du Collège Boréal ici à Toronto, où, pour la première fois, on va avoir les infirmières et infirmiers éduqués en français, ici à Toronto.

Est-ce que la députée soutient ce projet?

Mme France Gélinas: Je suis toujours très heureuse de parler du Collège Boréal. Le Collège Boréal est situé juste à la frontière de mon comté, dans Sudbury—juste à la frontière de mon comté, qui s’appelle Nickel Belt. Ils ont changé les choses pour le meilleur pour la communauté francophone.

Ça faisait longtemps qu’ils demandaient d’avoir un programme d’infirmières. Qu’ils puissent offrir un programme d’infirmières en français, ça va changer la donne. Quasiment tous les collèges en Ontario—le Collège Boréal, qui est situé à Sudbury—offre le cours d’infirmières en anglais. Le Collège Boréal ne l’offre pas encore, mais va l’offrir l’année prochaine, et, oui, on a très hâte. Je vous garantis qu’il va y avoir beaucoup, beaucoup d’inscriptions. C’est un programme qui est en grande demande, et ce sont des professionnels de la santé qui sont en grande demande.

Oui, c’est quelque chose qu’on attendait depuis longtemps. Je suis certaine que le Collège Boréal va faire un bon travail pour avoir des infirmières francophones qui vont au Collège Boréal, qui graduent en Ontario et qui travaillent en Ontario.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bhutila Karpoche): Question?

Mr. Peter Tabuns: A 30% rate of profit is quite an extraordinary return. Can you talk about how it is that they’re able to secure such a high rate of return on this service?

Mme France Gélinas: The contracts do not give them a 30% rate of return. There are many other ways where they will get paid for service not provided. The number one way that for-profit companies get paid for service not provided is as long as the patient on the phone refuses—it’s called refusing treatment.

I gave the example of the amputee in my riding who gets called back at noon to say, “We will send you a nurse at 2 o’clock,” when he already has a dressing change scheduled for 4. He says, “Well, don’t bother.” So they say really clearly, “You refuse treatment?” The minute they hear those words, they are allowed to bill for that service, but they don’t have to provide it. Therefore, it does not cost them anything.

In bundled care, it’s the same thing. Bundled care is used mainly for people who get discharged from the hospital. Post-hip and post-knee surgery, you get bundled care, where a nurse will come and change your dressing and a physiotherapist will come and show you your range-of-motion exercises, strengthening exercises, balance, how to do stairs etc. It’s called bundled care. They get the fixed amount to provide what the patient needs, and in that fixed amount there will be five physio visits, 10 nursing visits, 20 PSW visits—I’m making that up. They get paid for that bundled care—they provide half of it, and they still get paid the same amount.

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The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bhutila Karpoche): Questions?

Mrs. Robin Martin: Thank you to the member from Nickel Belt for her comments.

As we all know, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

We’re bringing a lot of change to our home care sector for the first time in 25 years. As you know, we revisited the legislation. We took off the service maximum, so people can get the amount of home care that they need in their home, and there’s the opportunity for innovation and integrated care in home care for the first time.

In my area, the North Toronto Ontario Health Team has established a neighbourhood care team in a seniors’ housing building offering low-income senior tenants a range of health care services, including regular blood pressure checks, foot care, access to social workers, wellness checks etc.

Can the member opposite not see the importance of innovating and trying to bring new ways of providing home care to our seniors?

Mme France Gélinas: Two things: Whenever someone on this side of the House says “innovation,” what you should really hear is “privatization,” because the only innovations they have brought forward for the five and a half years that they have been in power are privatizations of our health care system.

Interjection.

Mme France Gélinas: Yes, exactly.

The other is that they have changed it so there are no more set amounts for home care—it used to be like this. We don’t have a set amount anymore. It doesn’t matter, because home care cannot make a deficit. The agency that receives the funds—it used to be home and community care—receives the funds and cannot do a deficit. So from February and March, in my riding, it doesn’t matter how high your needs for home care are; you get two baths a week. That’s it. That’s all. It doesn’t matter that you’re not able to go to the bathroom by yourself, that you’re not able to transfer from your bed. You get two baths a week—because that’s all the money they have left.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bhutila Karpoche): Thank you.

Third reading debate deemed adjourned.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bhutila Karpoche): It is now time for members’ statements.

Members’ Statements

Radon Action Month

Ms. Natalia Kusendova-Bashta: November is Lung Cancer Awareness Month. Lung cancer is the leading cause of death from cancer in men and women in Ontario. In Canada, 30,000 people are diagnosed each year, making it the most commonly diagnosed cancer type.

November also marks Radon Action Month, yet there is little known about this invisible and odourless radioactive gas that is naturally released from rocks, soil and water. It can get into homes through cracks and holes over time, and breathing in this gas can cause lung cancer. For those who do not smoke, radon gas is the leading cause of lung cancer, responsible for over 3,000 deaths in Canada each year. Home testing kits for radon are inexpensive and can be purchased at your local retailer.

Madam Speaker, our government has already made strides in cancer prevention, such as our initiative to start screening earlier for breast cancer.

I am thankful to the survivors and advocates for their dedication to this cause—including those from the Canadian Cancer Survivor Network, Right2Survive, Lung Cancer Canada, and others—for their continued advocacy on this imperative and deadly issue in Ontario.

Health care

Ms. Catherine Fife: We’re very excited, on this side of the House, that the government has signalled they may support a motion by our caucus and the amazing member from St. Catharines to provide full coverage for birth control under OHIP. This could be a game-changer for so many women in Ontario who can’t afford or have easy access to contraception.

Our leader has said, “There’s no doubt that lowering the barriers to accessing contraception can have a huge impact on people’s ability to have control over their family plans and their bodies. It’s long overdue, and it’s just common sense.” I would add that it certainly is worth fighting for—and truly encouraging that the government is considering supporting.

After all, as MPP Stevens has said, “This isn’t just about health; it’s a matter of gender equality.”

Advocates have said that ensuring women don’t have to pay hundreds of dollars a year on birth control will offer more protection for victims of sexual violence, provide women with autonomy over reproductive health, and act as yet another step towards gender equality.

Many people don’t know that “in abusive relationships, violence often escalates during pregnancy,” says Krista MacNeil, the executive director of Victim Services of Durham Region. “The cost of unwanted pregnancies in Canada [is] in excess of $320 million. By contrast, no-cost contraception represents a fraction of that cost and the lives of women are worth this investment.”

Let’s hope that we can work together to expand contraceptive health care for women in the province of Ontario. Let’s get it done.

Nova Vita Domestic Violence Prevention Services

Mr. Will Bouma: I am pleased to rise to speak about the Nova Vita women’s shelter.

Domestic violence is a horrific form of intimate partner violence that affects roughly 100,000 Canadians each year. Domestic violence has devastating effects on a victim’s physical health and mental well-being. Often, the effects of domestic violence can seriously disrupt a victim’s social and economic well-being as well.

That is why the Nova Vita women’s shelter has dedicated itself to fighting to end interpersonal violence and abuse by supporting individuals and families who have experienced domestic violence.

Nova Vita was founded in the Brantford-Brant community in 1982, and it has flourished into a beacon of hope for everyone affected by domestic violence.

In 2003, Nova Vita renovated their emergency shelter, which is open 24/7 and provides a safe place for women and children experiencing abuse or homelessness to eat, sleep and meet with Nova Vita workers for support.

Nova Vita continues to engage in evaluative research of its many programs and services, in partnership with a variety of educational institutions, to ensure that those who rely on their services for support are receiving the highest-quality care.

I am proud to represent a community that takes care of its own.

On behalf of Brantford-Brant, I want to extend my thanks to Nova Vita for protecting the most vulnerable in our community.

Nova Vita, keep up the great work.

Road safety

Mr. Guy Bourgouin: In 2022, Chad Bélanger was the victim of a tragic accident while driving between Kapuskasing and Val-Rita on a short work delivery. His vehicle was in a head-on collision with a commercial truck after the truck crossed two solid yellow lines to pass another commercial vehicle going up a hill. He survived, but with extreme pain, bruises on vital organs, including the heart and lungs, a severe concussion, and memory loss from the accident. He had a broken jaw, broken neck, broken ribs. He now lives with anxiety and PTSD.

Currently, there is a grey zone for drivers when it comes to this dangerous manoeuvre. Police officers cannot fine someone for passing on two solid lines; they can only give a slim $85 fine when it is considered unsafe passing. This leaves little room for prevention, and most times it takes an accident to have any consequences from this careless driving.

Speaker, Chad’s Law is a common-sense law. Ontarians wrote to me in complete shock that this was not already illegal, like in all the other provinces in Canada.

As an MPP from northern Ontario, I know all MPPs representing communities from all parties can testify to how dangerous Highways 11 and 17 can be.

Winter is at our door; highways in the north will become more dangerous.

I hope we can all work together, and not wait for another accident, to make passing double lines finally illegal.

Community safety

Mr. Sheref Sabawy: On Friday, I joined my colleagues at Peel Regional Police headquarters in Mississauga, where the Premier announced the Preventing Auto Thefts Grant, an $18-million investment over three years to help police services combat auto theft and protect communities, including $900,000 for Peel region.

We know that auto thefts are an increasingly serious problem in Mississauga and across the province. That’s why our government is taking immediate and decisive action to increase safety and security and prevent crime.

Earlier this year, the Solicitor General announced a $51-million investment over three years to fight criminal organizations and put these criminals behind bars.

Although our government is working hard to fight crime, we must be clear: Comprehensive reforms from the federal government are needed to take criminals off the streets and keep them in jails. That’s why this Legislature called on our federal counterparts to implement bail reform. The non-stop game of catch-and-release and the dangerous opposition rhetoric of defunding the police only serves to punish the hard-working, law-abiding residents of Ontario.

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We will always continue to support law enforcement officers, such as Peel Regional Police, who are working hard to keep our community safe.

Changes we made earlier this year will provide free tuition at the Ontario Police College and allow up to 550 recruits per cohort—such as the 51 police who graduated in Peel this year.

This government is providing police with the resources and training they need to be successful. We are firmly committed to—

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Thank you very much. Members’ statements?

Food banks

Mrs. Jennifer (Jennie) Stevens: As we welcome the festive season, it is crucial to address a growing concern in our communities. While the holidays traditionally see an increase in food bank usage, this year presents an unprecedented challenge. Minister, today’s Feed Ontario report highlights a distressing reality: a significant rise in food bank use across Ontario—an increase of over 38% from last year. This is double the increase Ontario saw during the 2008 recession.

In Niagara, organizations like Community Care, Salvation Army, and the local churches run our food banks. They are an incredible force for good, yet they face immense strain due to systemic issues beyond the holiday spike. The root causes—chronic income insecurity, precarious employment, and a dire shortage of affordable housing—all demand our immediate attention.

This crisis calls for more than seasonal generosity. It requires concrete action from the government of Ontario. We should be leading by example, showing compassion at this time of the year, providing emergency assistance for food banks that are ringing the alarm bells. In order to get there, it will require a bridge, and the province holds the purse strings.

Minister, it is time to seriously look at emergency assistance for food banks.

As we move towards the new year, let us embrace a vision of hope and resilience.

Windsor Goodfellows

Mr. Andrew Dowie: In tribute to my predecessor, Percy Hatfield,

A heartwarming story of community generosity shall be revealed.

This weekend over 600 Goodfellows stood at street corners aplenty.

Exchanging Windsor Star newspapers for nickels, toonies and bills of twenty.

In the frigid cold, at Tecumseh and Forest Glade.

I joined the 600 volunteers who encouraged that trade.

For 110 years strong, this tradition has endured,

The gift of monthly food boxes and hampers to the needy is assured.

Thirty-three hundred such hampers are known to be needed.

But in true Windsor-Essex form, we know that this target will be exceeded.

And as this holiday campaign ends, our Goodfellows keep helping the masses

With shoes, boots, breakfasts and bagged lunches for students in classes.

And their food bank on Tuesdays and Fridays helping many families eat

Prices keep on climbing and they struggle to make ends meet.

To the Goodfellows serving us across Windsor and Essex county,

A sincere thank you for filling families’ dinner tables with a generous bounty.

Long-term care in Killarney

Mr. Michael Mantha: I want to take this opportunity today to speak about Killarney, a wonderful municipality in my riding. Killarney pretty much has everything—beautiful views of Lake Huron and the La Cloche Mountains, a welcoming community near some of Ontario’s most pristine wilderness, and the best fish and chips in Ontario. But there is one thing they currently do not have, and that’s a long-term-care facility close to home.

Speaker, that hasn’t stopped the people of Killarney. They have come together with care partners, stakeholders and community members to develop an innovative pilot project for a long-term-care home that would meet the needs of the people in Killarney. They are proposing a small home model that would allow seniors to age in the place they call home. It will have 14 private rooms, a central living space with an open kitchen, a dining and living area with a fireplace, and access to the outdoors on its 2.7-acre campus.

This is a project to be excited about; however, Killarney needs the support of the government and the Minister of Long-Term Care to make it reality. An invitation has been extended to the minister to come and visit Killarney to learn exactly what makes this town and their project so unique—and the invitation is extended to you as well, Speaker. I want to extend the invitation to him again this morning.

Come and visit Killarney, Minister. See what they have to offer. Let’s do the impossible in Ontario and provide Killarney with a long-term-care home.

Michigan Wolverines football

Mr. Trevor Jones: As a young man growing up in Leamington, Ontario, the southernmost community in Canada, my geography had a profound impact on me—in particular, our friends, allies and closest trading partners from the beautiful state of Michigan. My airwaves were filled with the music of Motown, our local news was from Detroit, and the skyline I adored, growing up, had the shimmering Renaissance Center standing on the shores of the Detroit River. This unique geography also influenced the sports teams I cheered for.

My grandfather Joseph was born in a small community near Flint, Michigan. My great-grandfather played baseball for the development team for the Detroit Tigers while working in a local automotive plant. This history made for enjoyable and interesting traditions, not to mention two beautiful Thanksgiving dinners and University of Michigan football. I was inspired by a young coach called Bo Schembechler, whose leadership, commitment and grit guided my life. I believed in the team. I was guided by a mantra: “Those who stay will be champions.” No person is more important than the team; no coach is more important than the team—the team, the team, the team. If you take this mantra with your daily life, just take into consideration what effects that might have on the outcomes.

Yesterday, in front of 116,000 fans, they defeated their rivals from Ohio State, with a score of 30-24.

Congratulations to the University of Michigan and to the fans worldwide for believing in the team. Hail to the victors.

Holodomor

Mr. Stephen Crawford: This past weekend, we marked the Ukrainian Holodomor Memorial Day, which honours the memory of the millions who perished during one of the most tragic events of the 20th century. On the fourth Saturday of November, across Canada and around the world, we remember the Holodomor of 1932-33, the catastrophic famine orchestrated by the Soviet regime which resulted in the death of countless Ukrainians.

The term “Holodomor” directly translates to “death by hunger”—a sombre reminder of the deliberate and brutal campaign of starvation inflicted upon the Ukrainian people. The policies of Joseph Stalin’s Communist government not only deprived individuals of nourishment but also stripped away the very essence of their freedom and dignity, leading to the deaths of millions of individuals under excruciating conditions.

This day of remembrance takes on even deeper significance in the current context. The resolve of the Ukrainian people, as seen throughout history, is once again being tested by the ongoing conflict in their homeland.

In Oakville, we stand united with Ukraine. Our local institutions, such as St. Joseph’s Ukrainian Catholic Church and St. Volodymyr Cultural Centre, have been at the forefront, providing unwavering support to those affected by the crisis.

On the 90th anniversary of this tragedy, let us remember those who suffered under Stalin’s regime. Let us also keep in our thoughts the 43 million citizens of Ukraine.

We remember, we stand together, and we look forward to a future of peace and justice for Ukraine.

Introduction of Visitors

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): We have with us in the Speaker’s gallery today a delegation from the state of Michigan. Joining us are Joe Tate, Speaker of the Michigan House of Representatives; State Representative Tyrone Carter; State Representative Amos O’Neal; and State Representative Regina Weiss.

Please join me in warmly welcoming our guests to the Legislature today.

Applause.

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The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): We also have with us in the House some former members: the member for Stoney Creek in the 38th Parliament, Jennifer Mossop; from the riding of Sault Ste. Marie in the 38th, 39th, 40th and 41st Parliaments, David Orazietti; and from the 42nd Parliament, the member for Thunder Bay–Atikokan, Judith Monteith-Farrell. Welcome back.

We also have with us in the visitors’ gallery a trustee from the Halton public school board, Jeanne Gray. She represents Halton Hills on the school board.

Welcome to Queen’s Park.

Ms. Mary-Margaret McMahon: Good morning, everyone. Happy Monday. I have a few people to introduce. I have Beaches–East York trustee Michelle Aarts—doing great work. And I have some very, very famous people from the riding of Simcoe–Grey. Over here I have jazzy Jane Walcroft; I have my amazing sister-in-law Aranka Jones, an incredible naturopathic doctor, right there; and then I have my brother Collingwood Deputy Fire Chief Stephen Emo, right there. And I have, last but never ever least, my 86-year-old father—the guy I told I would never ever run for office. He’s a former OMB member. He’s an Order of Collingwood recipient. He’s the world’s greatest volunteer. He was the best mayor Collingwood ever had: rowdy Ron Emo.

Hon. Jill Dunlop: Mr. Speaker, I know you already introduced him as a former member, but I would also like to introduce him: David Orazietti, president of Sault College.

Thanks for being here today, David.

Miss Monique Taylor: I’d like to welcome OPSBA, who are here today—and from the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board, Becky Buck, from wards 8 and 14.

I also see Jan Johnstone up in the gallery.

Welcome to Queen’s Park today.

Hon. Stephen Lecce: On behalf of the government, we want to welcome OPSBA—the 1.3 million people they represent—and give a special shout-out to their president, Cathy Abraham, who is with us, and all the trustees, for your leadership in Ontario.

Ms. Marit Stiles: It’s my great pleasure this morning to welcome the Ontario Public School Boards’ Association here today. I’m honoured to welcome Cathy Abraham, president; executive director Stephanie Donaldson; my own trustee from the wonderful riding of Davenport, Alexis Dawson—and all of the other school board trustees from across the province. Thank you for the work that you do in advocating for public education in Ontario. I look forward to going to your reception later today.

Mrs. Karen McCrimmon: Our page captain today is Elliott Bernier from Kanata–Carleton. Je suis heureuse de reconnaître son père, M. Eric Bernier, qui est avec nous aujourd’hui. Bienvenue à M. Bernier.

Et aussi, I would like to introduce members of the Ontario Public School Boards’ Association, including Cathy Abraham, who are here today for the Queen’s Park lobby day. Thank you for being here.

Mr. Dave Smith: I’d like to introduce a good friend of mine from Hospice Peterborough: Len Lifchus.

Ms. Chandra Pasma: I would also like to welcome the many public school board trustees who are visiting us today, including President Cathy Abraham and, from the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board, the chair of the board, Lynn Scott, and Trustee Jennifer Jennekens. Welcome.

Mr. Ross Romano: I’m going to go for the hat trick here: I also want to welcome, from Sault Ste. Marie, our former MPP and now president of Sault College, David Orazietti.

I also want to introduce Sherri Smith, the vice-president of academics, innovation and student services at Sault College; Rachel MacDonald, the director of communications and stakeholder relations at Sault College; and a very good personal friend of mine, Don Mitchell, the chair of the board of governors at Sault College.

Welcome, everyone, to Queen’s Park.

Mrs. Jennifer (Jennie) Stevens: Speaker, good morning. I know you’ve already introduced her, but I’d like to take this opportunity to welcome a former colleague, a good friend, a member of provincial Parliament, Judith Monteith-Farrell from Thunder Bay–Atikokan.

Welcome back to your House, Judith.

Mr. Michael Mantha: I have a few introductions today, from the Ontario Public School Boards’ Association, who are with us today—from my riding, in my area, I have Greg Bowman, David Farrow, Judy Kosmerly, Julie Bertram, and Allison Jarvis.

Also, I want to thank Mr. Rick Firth, CEO from Hospice Palliative Care Ontario, for the very, very informative meeting this morning.

Mr. Kevin Holland: I’d like to take the opportunity to welcome Volker Kromm and Ashley Quan from the Regional Food Distribution Association in Thunder Bay here today.

As well, I’d like to welcome Alicia Cameron from Thunder Bay.

And, again, a shout-out to Judith Monteith-Farrell—thank you for your time serving at this House.

Mr. Joel Harden: It gives me great pleasure to welcome to the members’ gallery the family of Erin McCarthy, who has been serving on our page team.

Emma and Paul, I look forward to meeting you for lunch later today.

I’m also very glad that Lynn Scott from OCDSB is here today.

Thank you to the folks here from hospice care in Ontario.

And last but not least—Speaker, I think she’s tuning in—it’s my partner’s 52nd birthday.

Happy birthday, my love, Clare Roscoe, back home.

Mrs. Robin Martin: On behalf of the Minister of Health and the government, I would like to introduce Rick Firth, president and CEO of Hospice Palliative Care Ontario, and Jennifer Mossop, along with the executive directors from hospices across Ontario to the Legislature. Welcome to Queen’s Park.

MPP Kristyn Wong-Tam: I also want to add my voice to welcome all the wonderful, hard-working trustees from the Ontario Public School Boards’ Association, including mine.

Dee Williams, thank you very much for being in the House.

I also want to welcome Malika Dhanani, who is from the Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance. They’re here at Queen’s Park for their student advocacy week.

Ms. Patrice Barnes: I’d like to welcome Donna Edwards, trustee for the Ajax area. Welcome to Queen’s Park.

Ms. Peggy Sattler: I am delighted to see so many former colleagues and friends from OPSBA today. I’m looking forward to the meeting.

I want to say a special welcome to Sherri Moore and Lori-Ann Pizzolato, who are here from the Thames Valley District School Board.

Welcome to Queen’s Park.

Mr. Vincent Ke: I would like to introduce class 5 students from Blessed Trinity Catholic School in my riding. They have a trip to Queen’s Park today. Welcome to Queen’s Park.

Mr. David Smith: I’d like to welcome the president of OPSBA, Cathy Abraham, and executive director Stephanie Donaldson, a great friend of mine, along with my TDSB colleagues: Michelle Aarts, Nathan Shan, Deborah Wilson, and Alex Dawson. Welcome to your House.

Mr. Peter Tabuns: Speaker, I’d like to welcome guests Kate Azure, Lynn Blaxley, Nick De Carlo, Gail Fairley, Moya Beall, and Henry Lowi, here with Seniors for Climate Action Now.

Mrs. Daisy Wai: I want to welcome all members from the Ontario Public School Boards’ Association, and particularly Nadeem Mahmood and Elizabeth Sinclair, whom I will be meeting later on today. I’m looking forward to it. Welcome to Queen’s Park.

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Ms. Catherine Fife: I’d like to welcome Kathleen Woodcock, who is the vice-president of OBSPA and a local Waterloo Region District School Board trustee, along with Scott Piatkowski. Welcome to your House.

Mr. Andrew Dowie: I want to wish a warm welcome to all the Ontario Public School Boards’ Association trustees here today, including Sarah Cipkar, from the great city of Windsor, and, from southwestern Ontario, Robert Hunking, Jan Johnstone, Kelley Robertson, and Arlene Morell. Thank you for being here at Queen’s Park.

Mr. Sol Mamakwa: Remarks in Anishininiimowin.

Good morning. We have a visitor in our office who is at the Legislature for the first time today: Valerie Bedassigae-Pheasant. She comes from Whitefish River First Nation, but she is a principal at Migizi Wazisin School, which means eagle’s nest school, in the Long Lake #58 First Nation. Also, she is with her daughter Athena, who is my EA—but she just calls her Mom. Meegwetch for being here today.

Mr. Dave Smith: I missed her earlier, but I see her up in the public gallery now: Diane Lloyd from Kawartha Pine Ridge District School Board.

Mr. Terence Kernaghan: It gives me great pleasure to welcome all of the wonderful people from Feed Ontario. There’s a copy of their most recent report, Hunger Report 2023: Why Ontarians Can’t Get Ahead, on each member’s desk. The members I’d like to welcome are Carolyn Stewart, Ashley Quan, Adelaide Wimpenny, Kirstin Beardsley, Neil Hetherington, Kimberley Wilhelm, Meghan Nicholls, Christine Lind, Vanessa Glasby, Brendan Carlin, June Muir, Lynda Davidson, Rachael Wilson, Radhika Subramanyan, Benjamin Earle, Ryan Noble, Connor Evans Davis, and Andrea Waters. Welcome to Queen’s Park.

Question Period

Government accountability

Ms. Marit Stiles: This question is for the Premier.

As this House well knows, this government is under criminal investigation by the RCMP for their decisions in the greenbelt scandal. We now know that a special prosecutor has been appointed and interviews have started.

The Integrity Commissioner’s report found that the former Minister of Municipal Affairs violated the Integrity Act for his conduct, and the Integrity Commissioner recommended reprimand. The report stated that the minister knowingly chose to “stick his head in the sand” when this government started its chaotic and reckless process.

Is the Premier concerned about what might be revealed about his former minister’s involvement in the greenbelt scandal?

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): To reply, the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing.

Hon. Paul Calandra: The government, as I’ve said on a number of occasions, made a policy decision that was not ultimately supported by the people of the province of Ontario. That is why we have a bill in front of this House that would return those greenbelt lands back to the greenbelt and add added protections to those very same lands.

But members opposite should be under no illusion: Today we are hosting our first-ever Ontario housing forum, ostensibly because we want to double down and make sure that we build 1.5 million homes for the people of the province of Ontario. We want to get kids out of their parents’ basements and into their homes.

We’ve done heavy lifting before in this province. A wartime effort was needed after the Second World War, and we’re in the exact same position today.

We have to build millions of homes for the people of the province of Ontario. We will remove the roadblocks. We will remove everything that is standing in the way, and we will get the job done.

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): The supplementary question.

Ms. Marit Stiles: I just want to say it’s not just about the former Minister of Housing; the Conservatives’ former Minister of Public and Business Service Delivery was forced to resign when it was revealed that he lied under oath to the Integrity Commissioner about a trip he and two of the Premier’s—

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): That’s an unparliamentary comment. You have to withdraw.

Ms. Marit Stiles: Withdraw.

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Thank you. Continue your response.

Ms. Marit Stiles: —when he spoke to the Integrity Commissioner about a trip he and two of the Premier’s former senior staffers took with a greenbelt developer.

The Integrity Commissioner has confirmed that they’re waiting on the RCMP to conclude their investigation before looking into the NDP’s complaint about that fateful boys’ trip to Vegas.

Is the Premier concerned about what cabinet documents and interviews might reveal about another former minister’s involvement in the greenbelt scandal?

Hon. Paul Calandra: No, Mr. Speaker.

At the same time, we’ve said that we will assist the RCMP as they undertake a review.

At the same time, again, let there be no confusion around what our goal is. Our goal is to build 1.5 million homes across the province of Ontario and to ensure that as many Ontarians as possible can get into their very first home. We’re seeing the results of that. Minister Clark, when he was here, brought in four housing supply action plans which see us, right now, with the highest starts in Ontario history when it comes to purpose-built rentals. We have the highest starts, with new shovels in the ground, that we’ve had in over 15 years because this government has been focused on building homes for the people of the province of Ontario.

We’re putting billions of dollars of investments in the ground—whether it’s transit, highways, trains or subways—and across that system, we’re going to build even more homes. The opposition is opposed to that.

But let me be very clear: We are going to double down, remove the obstacles, and build 1.5 million homes for the people of the province of Ontario.

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): The final supplementary.

Ms. Marit Stiles: Speaker, they’ve wasted years while they put together this greenbelt grab for their wealthy friends. They’ve lost three ministers, countless staff. They’re lurching from crisis to crisis. That’s the truth.

While the Premier puts up the government House leader to tap dance around this issue, around everybody in this House, we all know that all roads lead to this Premier. You’ve got land speculators handing Conservative staff brown envelopes with their greenbelt removal requests. You’ve got, the very next day, the Premier meeting with the major players in the scandal—a meeting that he conveniently “doesn’t recall.” And then the day after that, those removals ended up at the ministry for government policy changes.

Back to the Premier: Are members of his caucus worried about what would be revealed in their interviews with the RCMP, and are they concerned their Premier may be implicated?

Interjections.

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Members will please take their seats.

Again, the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing.

Hon. Paul Calandra: I think the only one who should be concerned is the Leader of the Opposition—because she’s right; all roads lead back to this government, because we’re the only government that actually invests in roads; we’re the only government that actually puts money to build highways; we improve our infrastructure—billions of dollars to build subways. Do you know why we have to spend billions of dollars to build subways? Because when they had the opportunity, in coalition with the Liberals, they couldn’t decide on what they wanted to build.

When I was a federal member, I announced the Sheppard subway five different times. Do you know who stopped it? They and they, Mr. Speaker.

Do you know why we need to build more roads? It’s because we’ve got $28 billion worth of investments in our automotive sector, and all of those roads lead back to this government that is making historic investments.

Some 700,000 people have the dignity of a job who didn’t when the socialists were in power, with the Liberals, and we will not turn our back on those Ontarians. We will get the job done.

Social assistance

Ms. Marit Stiles: All the RCMP investigations lead back to this government.

Speaker, last week, CityNews revealed that the government transition binder for the new Minister of Children, Community and Social Services refers to the new federal Canada Disability Benefit as a way to “mitigate costs” for the province.

People are living through seriously tough times, and this government is looking to cut funds to the programs that the most vulnerable people in our communities rely on.

To the Premier: Will you pledge now to not make any cuts to ODSP?

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): To reply, the government House leader.

Hon. Paul Calandra: What a comment coming from the Leader of the Opposition, whose party voted against the increase in ODSP that this government brought in. We just didn’t increase ODSP; we were the first government to tie it to inflation. It’s not a radical concept, but it is a radical concept for the radical NDP. More money for those who need it the most—that is what we’ve been about since day one.

In fact, when we introduced the LIFT tax credit so that the absolute lowest-income-earning Ontarians didn’t have to pay taxes at all, the NDP voted against it.

So let’s get this straight. Increased ODSP: They voted against it. Removing the lowest-income earners from the tax rolls altogether: They voted against it. Transit fares unified across the GTA so that people have to pay only one fare, saving them $1,600: They voted against it. Tax cuts: They voted against it. All they care about is making people responsible—

Interjections.

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The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): The member for Brantford–Brant will come to order. The member for Waterloo will come to order.

Supplementary question.

Ms. Marit Stiles: Revisionist history over there. ODSP maxes out at just $1,300 a month—just $1,300 to cover housing, utilities and food in the middle of a housing and affordability crisis. Food bank use is at an all-time high for working people. It’s up 40% from last year. The federal benefit was always supposed to be a top-up to the provincial program to help people make ends meet, yet the Conservatives want to use it as an excuse to make more cuts.

To the Premier: Why is your government taking away vulnerable people’s safety net at a time when things are more expensive than ever before?

Hon. Paul Calandra: The Leader of the Opposition knows full well that we’re doing no such thing. In fact, we are making record investments, because what we know is this: We know that when we give people the tools to succeed, they will pick up those tools and they’ll do just that. That is why 700,000 people have the dignity of a job today that didn’t when the Liberals and the NDP were in office. We’ve increased ODSP rates. The Leader of the Opposition voted against that increase. We tied it to inflation. The Leader of the Opposition voted against that.

If the Leader of the Opposition wants to have a role, any role whatsoever, what she can do is pick up the phone, call the coalition partners in Ottawa—the NDP, who hold the balance of power—and make sure that they provide Ontario with the exact same resources that they provide every other province. The Minister of Children, Community and Social Services is standing up every single day for all Ontarians. I wish the NDP and their federal partners would—

Interjections.

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): The member for Waterloo and the member for Hamilton Mountain will come to order.

Final supplementary.

Ms. Marit Stiles: Speaker, the minister should read the briefing book. This government has stashed billions in their slush fund. They have no problem blowing $650 million on a luxury spa in downtown Toronto, and yet they will still turn their backs on people relying on ODSP and OW. The number of people living on ODSP and OW has increased by 17% since last year alone. That’s more than 120,000 more people because this government has failed to make life any more affordable for the people of this province. We need urgent action to end legislated poverty.

To the Premier: Will you commit to doubling the ODSP today?

Interjections.

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Members will please take their seats.

The government House leader.

Hon. Paul Calandra: You always know when the gallery has people that are concerned about an issue, because that’s the only time the NDP care about an issue. Right?

Now, listen, this is a party that voted against increasing ODSP. They literally voted against it. They had the balance of power—this is what I love about the NDP, whether it’s here or in Ottawa. They actually held the balance of power. They could have brought any of these policies in place. They could have increased ODSP rates. Did they? No. They could have tied ODSP to inflation. Did they? No. Instead, they stuck with a stretch goal for insurance. Did insurance rates go down when they held the balance of power? No, they actually increased. Do you know the only party to bring insurance rates down was the Progressive Conservatives? That’s it, Mr. Speaker. They support a carbon tax, which hurts every single Ontarian. They didn’t support a child care deal which allowed hundreds thousands of people to get back to work. They vote against everything that puts more money back in the pockets of the people of Ontario, and we will always—

Interjections.

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Order. The next question.

Cost of living

Mr. Terence Kernaghan: My question is to the Premier. Feed Ontario released their 2023 Hunger Report on food bank use. Every MPP has a copy on their desk. Food banks in Ontario have doubled their use since the pandemic, with six million visitors over the last year. Two thirds were first-time visitors, signalling that things are getting much worse for Ontarians. Yet this government wants to keep people in poverty. During a cost-of-living crisis, the minister won’t even back off from a cruel social assistance clawback, and food banks warned us today they’re on the brink of collapse—on the brink of collapse.

To the Premier: Will you act now to save Ontarians from legislated poverty and increase ODSP and OW?

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Government House leader.

Hon. Paul Calandra: Well, we did. We increased ODSP, we tied it to inflation, and the member opposite voted against that increase. Now, I know the Minister of Education and the Minister of Children, Community and Social Services provided an increase to the Student Nutrition Program at schools. The opposition voted against that.

But Mr. Speaker, this is a party that, until recently, fought tooth and nail to put a carbon tax on everything.

Interjections.

Hon. Paul Calandra: The opposition laugh at it now. They laugh at it because they say, “Oh, it’s just a little tax,” but at least the NDP has finally come to understand how it is impacting everybody. The Minister of Agriculture talked about how it’s impacting our farmers to the tune of millions of dollars. People bringing our food to our grocery stores pay a carbon tax. When you go to the store to buy your food, you pay a carbon tax. The carbon tax is the most unaffordable, cost-prohibitive tax that we have ever had.

So as opposed to standing up for taxes, stand up for the very same people that you’re asking a question about.

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): The supplementary question: the member for Humber River–Black Creek.

Mr. Tom Rakocevic: Back to the Premier: Ontarians are struggling under out-of-control costs of living, including food prices, leading over 800,000 more Ontarians to food banks and leaving them to make tough nutritional choices, especially those on social assistance, affecting their health and, ultimately, our health care system overall. Throughout this affordability crisis, grocers continue to post record profits and are making the situation even worse.

Why won’t this government stand up to these gouging grocers instead of making excuses for them?

Interjections.

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Members will please take their seats.

Government House leader.

Hon. Paul Calandra: You know, Mr. Speaker, since day one, we have been fighting a federal carbon tax. Since day one, we have said that that tax would eventually cost the people of the province of Ontario and make life less affordable. We’ve also said higher taxes do that. We’ve also said out-of-control spending does that. We said that out-of-control spending would lead to inflation, which would lead to higher interest rates, and guess what? A federal Liberal government, supported by an NDP government—and that’s what you have in the province of Ontario: out-of-control spending, high interest rates and the most unaffordable economy that we’ve seen in a very long time. And standing against that are Progressive Conservative Premiers across this country who are cutting taxes, who are supporting the most vulnerable each and every day.

If the member opposite wants to have a real impact, then I suggest the member opposite call the federal Liberals’ coalition partner in Ottawa today, put in a motion of non-confidence and bring down the federal Liberal government so we can have a party that actually cares about the people of the province of Ontario in Canada.

Taxation

Mr. Lorne Coe: My question is for the Minister of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade. Since we took office, Ontario is seeing record levels of investment across our economy. Countless companies from across the globe who didn’t have a Canadian presence before 2018 have come to Ontario to set up shop.

Now, under the previous Liberal government, the opposite was occurring. Their high-tax agenda, endorsed by the NDP, drove businesses out of Ontario. Now they want our government to sit idly by while the federal government tries to hike the carbon tax. That’s unacceptable, Speaker. We refuse to go back to the Liberal days when businesses were fleeing our province in droves because of high taxes and, yes, red tape.

Can the minister please explain how our government’s approach to business has contributed to record levels of investment in Ontario?

Hon. Victor Fedeli: Well, here’s the difference: While the federal government is increasing taxes through the carbon tax, we have been reducing taxes. In fact, we’ve lowered the cost of doing business by $8 billion a year. What has that resulted in? Site Selection Magazine declared Ontario as Canada’s most-competitive jurisdiction again this year. That’s five out of six years Ontario is our most competitive jurisdiction. The CBRE declared Toronto is the leading North American jurisdiction for tech job creation. Ontario leads Canada in foreign direct investment. In fact, in the first half of the year, almost $9 billion came into Ontario from outside of North America. That’s 57% of Canada’s foreign direct investment.

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Speaker, none of this happened by raising taxes. We want our federal government to hear loud and clear that lower taxes create jobs.

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): And the supplementary question.

Mr. Lorne Coe: Back to the minister: With fierce competition from across the globe, it’s great to hear that Ontario has been able to land billions of dollars in job-creating investments.

One of the reasons we’ve been able to secure record levels of investment is because we’ve kept costs low for businesses and workers. But as we do that, Liberal leadership candidates and opposition members in this House are going around talking about how great the federal carbon tax is. They think you can raise taxes on businesses and people, and still see job creation and growth. They had their chance to test that theory out and it failed miserably: 300,000 manufacturing jobs disappeared when the Liberals were in office.

Speaker, can the minister please explain how our government’s approach to job creation and business development is helping to turn Ontario’s economy around?

Hon. Victor Fedeli: Speaker, a few minutes ago, you heard the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing say that 700,000 new jobs were created in Ontario in just the last five years. Let me give you a bit of a breakdown: 70,000 workers work at 1,900 life science sector firms in Ontario, 420,000 workers are at 25,000 tech firms in Ontario, and over 120,000 direct jobs and hundreds of thousands of indirect jobs are now in our auto sector all across Ontario. All of that, Speaker, is not by raising taxes; it’s by lowering taxes and lowering the cost of doing business by $8 billion a year. Record job numbers have hit Ontario by keeping taxes low.

Climate change

Mr. Peter Tabuns: My question is to the Premier. Throughout this past summer’s heat waves, unprecedented wildfires, deadly smoke and catastrophic flooding, your government has done virtually nothing to prepare Ontarians for the impact of the climate crisis. In fact, you have suppressed vital reports that could help Ontarians and local governments address these horrendous impacts of climate breakdown.

Will the Premier commit today to release all reports of the climate change impact assessment and the report of the Advisory Panel on Climate Change?

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): I’ll remind the members to make their comments through the Chair.

To reply, the member for Renfrew–Nipissing–Pembroke and parliamentary assistant.

Mr. John Yakabuski: I want to thank the member for his question.

We’re very proud of our climate change record in this province. We are leading the country: 86% of the greenhouse gas reductions that have taken place in Canada—Ontario is responsible for that. We continue to make the proper changes that will not only reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, but also continue to provide the jobs and the growth in the economy that Ontario needs so badly. We’re able to continue to build Ontario: 700,000 new jobs; at the same time, reducing our emissions; bringing electric arc furnaces to Sault Ste. Marie and Hamilton—taking two million cars off the road.

These are the kinds of things where we have one party that is focused on only one thing, and that is doing everything that will reduce the number of people working in Ontario, reduce the growth in our economy—while fixating only on one simple thing. We can do both here in the province of Ontario, because we are committed to Ontario of the future.

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): The supplementary question.

Mr. Peter Tabuns: Well, that’s an extraordinary response. This is the government that’s driving up greenhouse gas emissions dramatically, and it is killing our green tech sector. That’s the reality.

I’m going back to the Premier. Last week, the province’s Financial Accountability Officer released yet another report showing how Ontario will be paying a fortune for the impacts of climate change on public infrastructure. The burden of dealing with washed-out roads, disrupted municipal water supply and downed hydro lines will be huge for Ontarians. And yet, your government won’t even release the reports detailing what we need to do to protect the public.

When will you release the reports so communities can take steps to protect themselves from the climate disasters you are creating?

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Again, I’ll remind the members to make their comments through the Chair.

The member for Renfrew–Nipissing–Pembroke, in reply.

Interjections.

Mr. John Yakabuski: —are responsible for building Ontario, and quite frankly, we are making tremendous progress. We’re on target to meet our 2030 targets for the greenhouse gas emissions. But also, we’re building the infrastructure that will be responsible and able to withstand the effects of climate change. That’s what we’re committed to in this province.

But at the same time, we’re ensuring that there will be an Ontario working. So I would ask the people on the other side to start to broaden their position as well, because what is hurting Ontario more than anything else is the carbon tax being inflicted by the federal government, which your party supports. In fact, you favour increasing it even more. The biggest enemy that Ontario has in fighting climate change and building is the carbon tax.

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Members should make their comments through the Chair and not directly across the floor of the House.

The next question.

Taxation

Mr. Will Bouma: My question is for the Minister of Indigenous Affairs and Northern Development. The carbon tax should be called the tax on everything as it hurts every aspect of daily life for Ontarians. The pain of the carbon tax is felt hardest by the residents of northern Ontario and Indigenous communities. These individuals feel the pressure at the gas pumps most severely, where fuel costs are already significantly higher than elsewhere.

The federal Liberal government has increased the carbon tax on gasoline five times, with plans for seven more increases by 2030. These continual price hikes on fuel contribute to the overall increase of the cost of goods throughout the supply chain, particularly in the north.

Can the minister please explain the negative impact of the carbon tax on northern Ontario and Indigenous communities?

Hon. Greg Rickford: From coast to coast to coast, Canadians have been clear: They want this tax scrapped. Let me point out that in Hearst, gas is $1.59; Sioux Lookout, $1.62; Terrace Bay; $1.54; Gogama, $1.51; Kirkland Lake, $1.54; Blind River, $1.53. This is a premium on gasoline that costs us more to fill up our pickup trucks, more for us to support the resource industries and drive larger distances than any other place in the province.

This is a premium on gasoline supported by the NDP. Now, that sounds like a New Democratic premium. What we call it is a carbon tax, and the carbon tax needs to go. Scrap the tax.

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Supplementary question?

Mr. Will Bouma: Thank you, Minister, for that response. Unlike other areas in our province, the north faces greater challenges and difficulties in their quality of life because of increasing fuel-related costs. What the carbon tax does to make their lives more costly is not right or fair. Life is more unaffordable, and people feel the burden of the added costs.

Clearly, the federal government doesn’t understand or appreciate just how unaffordable daily living is in northern Ontario. It is just as disappointing to see that the opposition members consistently downplay the repercussions of the carbon tax on northern Ontario.

Can the minister please elaborate on how the carbon tax is negatively impacting residents, communities and businesses throughout the north?

Hon. Greg Rickford: It’s a really a tax on a tax on a tax on a tax. It really never ends, and it’s interesting because it isn’t just a tax on the consumer for products that they buy. This hurts the cost of services and programs that are so vital to us in northern Ontario. Just last week, I learned that the difference of the increased cost of the carbon tax on operations for our district services boards to operate their ambulance is one new ambulance a year.

People who are running the district school boards in our vast region are now going to face cutting back on having children and high schools play against each other when they live 150 to 170 to 250 kilometres away. No more hockey or football for those schools, unless they want to play against themselves. This tax needs to go, and the NDP needs to stop supporting it.

Interjections.

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): The government House Leader, come to order. The member for Waterloo, come to order.

The next question.

Health care

Mrs. Jennifer (Jennie) Stevens: To the Minister of Health: Your openness to work with me on contraception is very appreciated. Yet 250 days have passed since the public response to our motion for universal access. Rarely does a policy dramatically address gender equity while making such a significant health system savings.

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Consider the research: It’s $76.9 million in projected annual health savings. It’s a substantial reduction in unintended pregnancy. It’s a gateway to economic participation and independence for many. It is about women’s health. It is about gender equity, and it’s about affordability.

Minister of Health: As this comes up for debate on Wednesday, will you commit to working with me to provide universal contraception access across the province?

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Member for Eglinton–Lawrence and parliamentary assistant to the Minister of Health.

Mrs. Robin Martin: Thank you to the member from St. Catharines for the question. Our government is making great strides to support women’s health, including the recent announcement of breast cancer screening from 40 years of age, which has been welcomed by the community. We have six publicly funded drug programs for Ontarians who need help getting the medications they need to live a healthy life. Through the Ontario Drug Benefit Program, many commonly used birth control products are available to eligible Ontarians as part of nearly 5,000 medications, which are part of this program. With six million Ontarians eligible to receive the Ontario Drug Benefit Program, nearly half of all Ontarians are eligible. OHIP+ assistance is also available to Ontarians 25 years of age or younger that are not covered by a private insurance plan.

Ontario invested through the ODB roughly $16 million on contraception in the 2021-22 fiscal year. With almost half of people covered, we’re making sure that Ontarians get the health care that they need when they need it.

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Supplementary question.

Mrs. Jennifer (Jennie) Stevens: I find that response profoundly disappointing to the policy discourse directed at women’s health and gender equity. Six million Ontarians have access to public funding contraceptives? The vast, vast majority of those six million Ontarians are men, children and seniors.

While I recognize your numbers are provided by staff, let me be clear that only a fraction of the six million you mentioned are women and gender-diverse individuals that need these barriers removed. It’s not the time for coached language.

Speaker, through you, with two days until the debate, we need you to be crystal clear that you commit to universal contraception access—that means everyone who needs it can get it.

Interjections.

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Members will take their seats.

Once again, the member for Eglinton–Lawrence.

Mrs. Robin Martin: Our government is ensuring that Ontarians are receiving connected and convenient care where they need it. We’re reducing barriers to getting services.

Our government is making it easier for Ontarians to get prescriptions they need, such as birth control. Thanks to changes that we announced recently—I think it was November 6—we’ve made qualified midwives and registered nurses now able to provide convenient access to birth control prescriptions.

Through the Ontario Drug Benefit Program many commonly used birth control products are available to eligible Ontarians as part of nearly 5,000 medications covered by the program. With six million Ontarians eligible to receive the Ontario Drug Benefit Program, nearly half of all Ontarians are eligible.

We are going to continue to work to make sure that Ontarians are connected to convenient care where and when they need it across the province.

Government accountability

Mr. John Fraser: My question is to the Premier. Let’s just recap what’s happened so far in this session. First, the Premier got caught with his hand in the cookie jar, trying to give his rich friends an $8.3-billion payday. The Premier’s principal secretary, his director of housing, his former executive assistant and his handpicked chief of staff for the then Minister of Housing were all implicated. Three cabinet ministers resigned. And the RCMP has launched a criminal investigation. That’s just the tip of the iceberg.

We also know that urban boundary changes and ministerial zoning orders were all used to pay off the Premier’s ultra-rich friends. So Speaker, will the Premier please explain just what he has accomplished—

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): The member is directly imputing motive. I’m going to ask him to withdraw.

Mr. John Fraser: Withdrawn.

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): And to reply, the government House leader and Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing.

Hon. Paul Calandra: The Premier and the Progressive Conservative caucus have managed to reduce the Liberals to a rump in the Legislative Assembly of Ontario. Firstly, they went from a majority to seven people.

And the other things that we’ve accomplished—700,000 people have a job who didn’t when he was in government. He will remember that 300,000 people lost their jobs.

In fact, the happiest people in the world, when the Liberals were in power—it was the state of Michigan, because all our jobs were going to the state of Michigan, because we couldn’t compete with them.

Thankfully, we’re going to work together with our friends in the state of Michigan so that both of us can be successful, and the only way that we can do that is to never again elect a Liberal government supported by the socialist NDP, who will drive jobs away not only from Ontario but from our good friends in Michigan.

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Supplementary question?

Mr. John Fraser: Speaker, it’s no wonder that Minister McNaughton thought his chances, his luck, would be better at Woodbine than on the front benches here.

Here’s what the Premier got done: legislation to protect the greenbelt from himself; legislation to undo the urban boundary; ministerial zoning orders frozen for review.

Speaker, this Ford is stuck in one gear: reverse.

Here’s the kicker: At a time when people are trying to pay the bills, trying to pay the rent—they’re just trying to take care of their families—what does the Premier do? He creates a bank—unbelievable—one that I know will mean more high-paying jobs for his friends.

When will the Premier do something other than taking care of his wealthy, well-connected friends?

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): I’ll remind the members to make reference to each other by ministerial title or by riding name.

The Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing.

Hon. Paul Calandra: I do have to agree with the Minister of Long-Term Care—thank God that member gets one question every 11 days, because they’re never good questions.

You would think that the Liberals would have learned a lesson. The Liberals have been reduced to seven people in the Legislative Assembly. When they were in power, they didn’t build long-term care, they didn’t build hospitals—we all know that. They couldn’t decide on subways. They decimated our education system, brought our colleges and universities to the ground. And we literally lost thousands of jobs because the Liberals said that the north was a wasteland that we shouldn’t invest in, that the Ring of Fire was of no value, and that Ontario—the manufacturing hub of Canada, responsible for the success of this country—should transition to a service economy.

People had to decide between heating and eating under the Liberals, and this guy gets up and asks a question, “What have you done for me lately?”

Two majority governments, 700,000 people, the dignity of a job, and a booming economy—that’s what we’ve done this week.

Taxation

Mr. Trevor Jones: My question is to the Minister of Energy.

The people of Ontario are well aware that the carbon tax is making life more difficult. Winter is approaching. People across Ontario are worried about the impact the carbon tax will have on their home heating bills.

Speaker, the Premier has accurately stated that the carbon tax is making life more expensive for everyone. Further, the Parliamentary Budget Officer, business leaders and economists have all echoed our Premier’s statement.

The carbon tax hurts hard-working Ontarians. This ridiculous tax is raising the cost of energy and impacting the cost of everything we have to purchase.

Can the minister please explain how the carbon tax is negatively impacting the people of Ontario?

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): The parliamentary assistant and member for Kitchener South–Hespeler.

Ms. Jess Dixon: I know this is something that is very close to that member’s heart, coming from an area with so many greenhouse growers.

The carbon tax is a perfect example of ideological devotion overriding basic common sense. Unfortunately, the cost of that devotion to ideology is ultimately being borne by hard-working Ontarians.

The holiday season is on us—Christmas, for many—and with it comes a lot more financial burdens for the average Ontarian and the average family. There’s travelling, there are family get-togethers, dinners, presents.

The carbon tax doesn’t just impact heating costs. Its insidious cost creeps into the final amount of virtually everything that we pay for.

Ultimately, if the federal government genuinely cared about affordability and about Canadians, about Ontarians, they would start with something really simple and axe the tax.

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Supplementary question.

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Mr. Trevor Jones: Thank you to the parliamentary assistant for her response.

Lowering the cost of living is precisely what our government has fought for, and that’s precisely why we challenged the carbon tax all the way to the Supreme Court.

However, the worst part about the carbon tax is that it will only make life worse and more expensive for all of us. Worse, the federal government and opposition parties want to nearly triple this tax by 2030.

The carbon tax hurts our businesses, impacts our economy and hurts workers.

Can the parliamentary assistant please explain the impact of future tax increases on the people of Ontario?

Ms. Jess Dixon: I’m thinking back to my days in court, and one of my favourite objections was, “Your Honour, this question has been asked and answered.” I would say that some would say that’s happening here. But why? Because the carbon tax is still here. So we’re going to keep on asking and we’re going to keep on answering until the carbon tax is gone.

It’s driving up heating costs, it’s driving up food costs—but it’s not just that. I called the effect of this tax “insidious” and that’s what it is, and in every question and answer that we’ve had here about the carbon tax, we’ve seen examples of that over and over. You drive up the cost of gas. You drive up the cost to farmers who produce our food. You drive up the cost to truckers to ship our food. As the dominoes fall and the ripples spread, ultimately someone has to pay that price and, unfortunately, right now, it’s the taxpayer. It comes down to common sense and axing the tax.

Northern health services

Mr. Guy Bourgouin: To the Premier: A constituent in my riding has been living in Kapuskasing for the last five decades, and over 20 years ago her family doctor left the city to close the practice, leaving her without a primary care physician. For those 20 years, every time a new clinic has opened, she applied, but every single time, she was told that they were already full. She is now past her retirement age, health issues are arising, and she cannot access primary care.

Premier, what is your government going to do today to put an end to the shortage of family doctors in the north?

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Member for Eglinton–Lawrence.

Mrs. Robin Martin: Thank you to the member opposite for the question.

For years, health care in the north has not been performing well, and we know that more needs to be done.

In the 2012 Auditor General’s report on health human resources, it was revealed that northern Ontario had a shortage of 200 physicians, or 40,000 hours of care.

Under the former government, supported by the opposition as well, little was done.

But this government is getting things done. That’s why we issued Your Health: A Plan for Connected and Convenient Care, and thousands of copies of that plan have been distributed.

Our government is expanding the Northern Ontario School of Medicine. The Northern Ontario School of Medicine offers a total of 108 seats—nearly doubling that capacity for their MD program. The Northern Ontario School of Medicine will increase those graduate positions from 60 to 123 by 2028.

We’re making sure that the resources will be there for people in the north.

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Supplementary question. The member for Thunder Bay–Superior North.

MPP Lise Vaugeois: To the Premier: 40-plus ministerial visits to the north, and this government still has no idea of our lived realities—or they don’t care.

The government is now studying whether district health units in northern Ontario should be merged. Can you imagine one health unit to cover 400,000 square kilometres?

The government is limiting funding increases to 1% per year, far less than inflation, and, shamefully, they are downloading another 5% of costs onto already strapped municipalities.

Why is this government trying to reduce health care services for the people of northern Ontario?

Mrs. Robin Martin: Thank you to the member opposite for the question.

Years of neglect by previous governments, supported by the New Democrats, got us into the situation that we’re in today. But we’re taking action to fix the mistakes of past governments.

I can’t believe the member opposite is complaining about the number of ministers going to the north from this government. That should be a good thing.

We are paying attention to what’s happening in the north, and we’re already seeing results from our plan.

We’re nearly doubling the capacity of the Northern Ontario School of Medicine, which keeps northerners in the north while pursuing the education they need to become medical professionals. The Northern Ontario School of Medicine is attracting future professionals who will experience the advantages and the beauty of living in the north while they’re making plans about where to live and work.

We’re going to continue to work with all of our partners, including Ontario Health, northern hospital corporations, health sector unions, to address the challenges that are unique to northern Ontario. Thank goodness our ministers are going there all the time so that they know what those challenges are on the ground and can let us know so we can make sure that we’re addressing them. We’re going to keep working for the north.

Taxation

Ms. Laura Smith: My question is for the Minister of Transportation.

Since the federal government imposed the carbon tax, the people of Ontario have been paying more for everything.

Speaker, people in my community tell me that every time they go to the grocery store to buy food, they find it challenging to keep up with the rising costs.

The reality is that the carbon tax is making life unaffordable for everyone. It’s unfair that many individuals and families across this province continue to struggle to buy the necessities for daily living.

Can the minister please explain how the carbon tax negatively affects the hard-working people of Ontario?

Hon. Prabmeet Singh Sarkaria: The carbon tax is hurting truckers and their families. These are the same people who keep our shelves stocked. They were the same ones who were driving across this province when nobody else wanted to drive, during the pandemic.

I was speaking to many truckers over the past couple of weeks. The Ontario Trucking Association told me that there’s about a 17.5-cent impact per litre on the truckers. For a long-haul trucker, that equates to about $15,000 to $20,000 a year. That’s $15,000 to $20,000 that that trucker could be spending to support his family, put his kids in hockey.

At a time when we’re facing a cost-of-living crisis, I urge the member of the independent Liberals, in his last couple of days as leader, to call the Prime Minister and tell him to do the right thing and scrap the carbon tax.

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Supplementary?

Ms. Laura Smith: Thank you to the minister for his response and his dedication to and work for the people of Ontario.

Speaker, the federal government has increased the carbon tax on gasoline five times so far, and they are planning another seven increases by the year 2030.

Grocery prices are already unaffordable for too many people, as are the costs for other products and services.

Simply put, the carbon tax is wrong and unfair and makes life harder for everyone. The carbon tax adversely affects our businesses and negatively impacts our economy and Ontario workers. Further increases to the carbon tax will only make the situation worse.

Can the minister please elaborate on how the carbon tax makes life unaffordable for all Ontarians?

Hon. Prabmeet Singh Sarkaria: Not only is the carbon tax making life more expensive for individuals and truckers and their families, but it’s hurting small businesses across this province.

Imagine an owner of five trucks, long-haul drivers—the cost of the carbon tax per year is anywhere between $75,000 to $100,000, because of the carbon tax. This is directly relating to an increase in not just grocery costs but everything that gets delivered by these hard-working men and women in our trucking industry.

It’s important that the Liberals and the NDP stand up for truckers and ask the federal government to scrap the carbon tax.

Affordable housing

Ms. Jessica Bell: My question is to the Premier.

The Alliance for a Liveable Ontario came out with a new report. It shows how bad our housing affordability crisis is. It gives a snapshot of the amount of affordable homes that we need, and the numbers are, quite frankly, astronomical. Ontario needs over 300,000 affordable one-bedroom homes for low-income households.

Given the need for affordable rental, why have the Conservatives been relentless in their approach, in pushing for expensive, sprawl-style housing instead?

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing.

Hon. Paul Calandra: I don’t know, Speaker; I mean, we’ve been relentless on all forms of housing: affordable housing, attainable housing and long-term-care homes for seniors. We’ve been relentless on purpose-built rentals. That’s why we have the highest starts in the province’s history.

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We want all forms of housing, because ostensibly what we want to do is get people out of their parents’ basements, for one—because I think that has always been the dream of the people of the province of Ontario. When you’ve come to this country and when you come to this province, many people dream of owning their own home. That has escaped them, ostensibly because of the policies of the Liberals and the NDP to put obstacles in the way of doing so.

We are on track to building 1.5 million homes for the people of the province of Ontario. We’re going to build it along our transit corridors because we’re spending billions of dollars along those corridors. We’re making it easier for people to access affordable homes. We have a bill before this House which is modifying the definition of “affordability,” which they support, and I think we’re well on our way.

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): The supplementary question.

Ms. Jessica Bell: My question is back to the Premier. This government has been in power for five years and it has never been more expensive to rent or buy a home in Ontario. That’s your legacy. Whatever you’re doing is clearly not working.

When we look at Toronto, it now costs $2,500 to rent an available one-bedroom apartment. How can anyone afford to save up for a down payment when they’re spending $2,500 a month to rent a one-bedroom apartment? When we’re talking about barriers, that is the barrier that is stopping people from having the dream of home ownership.

Building McMansions on the greenbelt was never the answer to our housing affordability crisis, so why did this government waste a year doing exactly that?

Hon. Paul Calandra: It’s very clear that the NDP are literally against every form of housing. There are advocates in the gallery so they talk about affordable housing today, but when it comes to actually voting in favour of transit-oriented communities they vote against that. We want to ensure—

Interjection.

Hon. Paul Calandra: Now the member for Waterloo is hollering about the carbon tax because earlier in question period she hollered out to me that it’s free, that a tax will create jobs. Because that’s what the NDP believe. If you tax people, we’re not going to create jobs for you—

Interjections.

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Order.

Hon. Paul Calandra: You know why we’re in a housing crisis? Because the Liberals and the NDP in Ottawa spent so much money in such a short period of time we have an inflation crisis. You know what that has meant? The highest and fastest increase in interest rates in the history of this country.

If the member opposite wants to do something about affordability, call Jagmeet Singh: 1-613-JAGMEET—not 1-800—and tell him to bring down—

Interjections.

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Order.

The next question.

Taxation

Mr. Dave Smith: The sun is coming through that window today. It’s a beautiful day in here.

My question is for the Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry. The carbon tax increases the cost of living and does nothing to reduce emissions. Just a few weeks ago, an actual Liberal member of this House said that the federal carbon tax was making life more affordable for the people of Ontario. Stand-up comedy is not her next career.

Either they don’t understand or they simply don’t care what the carbon tax is doing to everyday Ontarians. Businesses, including those in the natural resource sector, are negatively impacted because of the carbon tax. Unfortunately, this will force many businesses to increase the price of raw products like gravel and lumber. Can the minister explain how the carbon tax is impacting Ontario’s natural resource sector?

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Member for Hastings–Lennox and Addington and parliamentary assistant.

Mr. Ric Bresee: Thank you to the member for the question. Speaker, after two straight elections of failing to win even official party status, the leaderless Liberals are still doubling down on this undeniable, unsupportable carbon tax, and they’re still saying no. They say no to reducing the cost of living. They say no to supporting northern Ontario businesses—

Interjection.

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Member for Ottawa South, come to order.

Mr. Ric Bresee: They say no to building homes and key infrastructure and they say no to reducing emissions while creating jobs. Even one of the leadership candidates, the member from Kingston and the Islands, has said no to clean, green nuclear power.

Under their watch, they chased away 300,000 good-paying manufacturing jobs, closed 600 schools and built less than 700 long-term-care beds when the province needs thousands.

It’s clearer than ever: When the Liberals and the NDP have no plan but to tax—

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Supplementary question?

Mr. Dave Smith: Thank you to the parliamentary assistant for that response. The federal Parliamentary Budget Officer recently said that most households will experience a net loss of income from the federal carbon tax when you account for both the direct and the indirect costs. Specifically, the report finds that 60% of households in Alberta, Ontario, Saskatchewan and Manitoba will pay more in carbon tax than they receive in rebates.

Liberal MPPs and the federal Liberals are completely out of touch with how the carbon tax is negatively impacting everyone in Ontario. The carbon tax hurts Ontario businesses, it hurts our economy, and when both of those are hurting, that hurts Ontario workers as well.

Speaker, can the parliamentary assistant please elaborate on how the current carbon tax and future tax hikes will impact Ontario’s natural resource sector?

Mr. Ric Bresee: The member is absolutely right. It’s no surprise: The Liberal Party’s math just doesn’t check out. The federal Liberal government’s own Parliamentary Budget Officer says that Ontarians will pay $478 more per household just because of the federal carbon tax. They say that in the year 2030, the average financial loss for Ontarians will be closer to $2,000 per household. It’s a shame that the members opposite will continue to put politics ahead of affordability for Ontario’s families and businesses.

Our government will reduce the price of fuel. Our government will support innovation to create jobs and reduce emissions. Our government is creating more jobs with bigger paycheques. Speaker, our government will deliver relief to the people of Ontario. It’s our government supporting and building this province.

Education funding

Ms. Chandra Pasma: Our children in our schools are facing incredible challenges. More than half of students say they are depressed about the future, yet only one in 10 schools have regularly scheduled access to a mental health professional. Demands for special education supports is increasing, but the government is refusing to fully fund it. The lack of mental health and special education resources are contributing to an epidemic of violence in our schools.

Why has the Premier cut funding for education by $1,200 per student instead of providing the help our kids so desperately need?

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Minister of Education.

Hon. Stephen Lecce: The best way we can improve the lives of children is to keep them in class every single day without interruption, and that’s why this government is proud to have delivered another deal with ETFO last week. I will note that the members opposite have been quite silent on the progress the government is making to provide stability for all of our constituents. We should celebrate progress if it’s good for kids.

I will also note, on mental health, the member opposite mentioned an issue that is close to heart of our government. We increased funding by 550% when compared with the peak of spending under Premier Wynne. I will note for the trustees from Ottawa who are with us today and across Ontario that the New Democrats have systematically voted against that increase in every single budget.

This year, we increased funding to annualize it based on the good feedback of our school board trustees to make sure children can get access to the continuity of services. In the summer, we did that. This year, we’re increasing funding: $14 million next year and $16 million the year after. We will be there to support children in this province, Speaker.

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Supplementary question?

Ms. Chandra Pasma: The minister can talk all he wants, but the government’s budgets are talking louder than his words.

You can’t learn if you can’t even get to school, but thanks to this government’s changes to the transportation funding formula, students across the province are having trouble even getting to school. The problem will be even worse next year if this isn’t fixed now. Costs are going up. It’s hard to find and retain drivers. But the government just isn’t taking these challenges seriously.

Will the Premier commit today to revising his broken school transportation formula and provide the necessary funding to make sure that all of our kids can get to school everyday?

Hon. Stephen Lecce: I will note that funding this year is up by $111 million when compared to last year.

But in addition to that, the member also spoke about bus drivers. We’ve actually increased bus driver wages, starting with an average of 23%. We’ve added statutory benefits of 30%. That never existed. We’re actually paying bus drivers for the first time for 10 statutory holidays, four days of dry runs. All of this was recommended and endorsed by School Bus Ontario, and again, the members opposite were silent because they can’t put good public policy ahead of their own political interests and celebrate support for our bus drivers, who work so hard every single day.

Now, Mr. Speaker, we increased funding. We know there’s more to do. Learning loss is at a historic high. It’s why we stand strong in defence of keeping kids in school. If members opposite want to be constructive as they meet trustees today, tell them you will use your influence on labour and urge OECTA, urge AEFO to get a deal with this government so all kids could have peace, stability and hope for the year ahead.

Taxation

Ms. Natalie Pierre: My question is to the Associate Minister of Small Business. I was shocked when I heard the Liberal member for Kanata–Carleton say in this House that the federal carbon tax is making life better for the people of Ontario. Unlike the independent Liberal members, my constituents have been very clear about the negative impact this tax is having on them. The carbon tax increases their expenses and makes operating their businesses more challenging. They certainly don’t need politicians advocating for increased costs and additional red tape. That’s why our government must be laser-focused on lowering prices however we can.

Can the associate minister please explain how the carbon tax is negatively impacting small businesses across Ontario?

Hon. Nina Tangri: Thank you to the member for her question and her unwavering support for Burlington’s job creators. It is indeed disheartening to hear some members suggest that the carbon tax is improving the lives of Ontarians when the reality on the ground tells a very different story. Speaker, think of Ontario’s 28,000 barley, corn, oat, soybean and wheat farmers, most of which are small family-owned businesses. It’s estimated that up to $2.7 billion of carbon tax will be paid by Ontario’s grains and oil seed farmers on a tax that cannot be passed on to their customers. That’s billions of dollars that could be reinvested into small towns to help grow the rural economy of Ontario.

The opposition likes to claim they’re for rural Ontario businesses, but so far, all they’ve done is sat on their hands while their federal cousins steamroll over Ontario’s businesses. This government will not rest until every—

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Thank you very much. That concludes our question period for this morning.

Deferred Votes

Anti-Scab Labour Act, 2023 / Loi de 2023 sur les briseurs de grève

Deferred vote on the motion for second reading of the following bill:

Bill 90, An Act to amend the Labour Relations Act, 1995 with respect to replacement workers / Projet de loi 90, Loi modifiant la Loi de 1995 sur les relations de travail en ce qui concerne les travailleurs suppléants.

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Call in the members. This is a five-minute bell.

The division bells rang from 1143 to 1148.

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Members will please take their seats.

On November 23, 2023, MPP West moved second reading of Bill 90, An Act to amend the Labour Relations Act, 1995 with respect to replacement workers.

All those in favour will please rise and remain standing until recognized by the Clerk.

Ayes

  • Armstrong, Teresa J.
  • Bell, Jessica
  • Bourgouin, Guy
  • Bowman, Stephanie
  • Collard, Lucille
  • Fife, Catherine
  • Fraser, John
  • French, Jennifer K.
  • Gélinas, France
  • Harden, Joel
  • Karpoche, Bhutila
  • Kernaghan, Terence
  • Mamakwa, Sol
  • Mantha, Michael
  • McCrimmon, Karen
  • McMahon, Mary-Margaret
  • Pasma, Chandra
  • Rakocevic, Tom
  • Sattler, Peggy
  • Schreiner, Mike
  • Shamji, Adil
  • Shaw, Sandy
  • Stevens, Jennifer (Jennie)
  • Stiles, Marit
  • Tabuns, Peter
  • Taylor, Monique
  • Vanthof, John
  • Vaugeois, Lise
  • West, Jamie
  • Wong-Tam, Kristyn

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): All those opposed will please rise and remain standing until recognized by the Clerk.

Nays

  • Anand, Deepak
  • Babikian, Aris
  • Bailey, Robert
  • Barnes, Patrice
  • Bethlenfalvy, Peter
  • Bouma, Will
  • Brady, Bobbi Ann
  • Bresee, Ric
  • Byers, Rick
  • Calandra, Paul
  • Cho, Raymond Sung Joon
  • Cho, Stan
  • Clark, Steve
  • Coe, Lorne
  • Crawford, Stephen
  • Cuzzetto, Rudy
  • Dixon, Jess
  • Dowie, Andrew
  • Downey, Doug
  • Dunlop, Jill
  • Fedeli, Victor
  • Gallagher Murphy, Dawn
  • Grewal, Hardeep Singh
  • Hardeman, Ernie
  • Hogarth, Christine
  • Holland, Kevin
  • Jones, Trevor
  • Jordan, John
  • Kanapathi, Logan
  • Ke, Vincent
  • Kerzner, Michael S.
  • Kusendova-Bashta, Natalia
  • Lecce, Stephen
  • Martin, Robin
  • McCarthy, Todd J.
  • Mulroney, Caroline
  • Pang, Billy
  • Piccini, David
  • Pierre, Natalie
  • Quinn, Nolan
  • Rickford, Greg
  • Riddell, Brian
  • Romano, Ross
  • Sabawy, Sheref
  • Sandhu, Amarjot
  • Sarkaria, Prabmeet Singh
  • Sarrazin, Stéphane
  • Scott, Laurie
  • Smith, Dave
  • Smith, David
  • Smith, Laura
  • Surma, Kinga
  • Tangri, Nina
  • Thompson, Lisa M.
  • Tibollo, Michael A.
  • Wai, Daisy
  • Williams, Charmaine A.
  • Yakabuski, John

The Clerk of the Assembly (Mr. Trevor Day): The ayes are 30; the nays are 58.

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): I declare the motion lost.

Second reading negatived.

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): There being no further business at this time this morning, this House stands in recess until 1 p.m.

The House recessed from 1152 to 1300.

Report continues in volume B.