43e législature, 1e session

L118A - Thu 30 Nov 2023 / Jeu 30 nov 2023

 

The House met at 0900.

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

Prières / Prayers.

Orders of the Day

New Deal for Toronto Act, 2023 / Loi de 2023 sur un nouvel accord pour Toronto

Resuming the debate adjourned on November 29, 2023, on the motion for second reading of the following bill:

Bill 154, An Act to enact the Recovery Through Growth Act (City of Toronto), 2023 and the Rebuilding Ontario Place Act, 2023 / Projet de loi 154, Loi édictant la Loi de 2023 sur la relance portée par la croissance (cité de Toronto) et la Loi de 2023 sur la reconstruction de la Place de l’Ontario.

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Further debate?

Ms. Christine Hogarth: Good morning. What an honour it is to talk about the city of Toronto: the city that I call home, the city that my family calls home. It is a privilege to be here at second reading of the government’s proposed legislation the New Deal for Toronto Act, 2023. I first want to thank the Minister of Finance, the Minister of Infrastructure and the Premier for their work in delivering Bill 154, the Rebuilding Ontario Place Act, and bringing about this new deal for Toronto.

Speaker, as a proud representative of Toronto I’d like to talk about the importance of the city of Toronto to Ontario’s economic prosperity. Our government knows what people across this province also know, that when Toronto succeeds, Ontario succeeds. Toronto is a vibrant economic and financial hub and driver of not just this province but also our whole country. People across the country would flock to Toronto to see the many amazing attractions it provides. As these visitors come to Toronto, they boost the economy and have fun while doing it. For example, my cousin, her husband and my cousin’s kids—one is my goddaughter—are here this weekend to see a play, and we’re going to have some brunch on Sunday and they’re going to do some Christmas shopping.

People come from everywhere just to come to Toronto to see the sites, maybe go see the Maple Leafs, the Marlies, maybe the Raptors, the Blue Jays, the Toronto Argonauts, the Rock or maybe even Toronto FC play. We have so much to offer.

When we talk about tourism, I also want to give a shout-out to an amazing organization in my riding of Etobicoke–Lakeshore, and I hope that many of you have heard of it. It’s called Famous People Players. It’s run by a wonderful woman, Diane Dupuy, and her daughter. It’s a glow-in-the-dark dine-and-dream dinner theatre. It attracts people and their families from all around. I know as a small child, I remember watching a movie on TV with Liberace. It featured these puppets, and I could not believe that this little puppet theatre was actually located in my riding. So if you haven’t had the opportunity to visit Famous People Players in Etobicoke–Lakeshore, I highly recommend going, having an evening out and just enjoying the scenery and helping those who have different abilities who are learning how to cook, hang coats and how to serve. It’s just an amazing, awe-inspiring opportunity. I want to thank Diane for all her work over the years in making this truly a success in our province.

When people come to Toronto, they also visit the CN Tower. I know many of you here have visited the CN Tower and our major entertainment attractions. You may go to the theatre. You may try out our amazing restaurants and cafés—doesn’t matter your price point; you can get a high-end restaurant, a medium restaurant or you can just go and grab a hot dog on the street. Toronto has everything and something for everyone.

Do you know what? Whatever you desire is whatever you desire, and you never know who you’re going to see. I’ll tell you, you never know who you’re going to see on the street. Always, when I’m walking around, sometimes I’ll see someone and I’ll go, “I recognize that person.” It might have been somebody I grew up with back in Thunder Bay and they’re walking the streets shopping in our amazing city.

Having the opportunity and the privilege of serving in Toronto, I can confidently tell this House that Toronto is world-class in every way. But, you know, this also has some issues. They do need the support, and they do need a new deal for the province, because—let’s be honest—we can’t afford a property tax hike in our city.

For decades the city has serviced and facilitated vast networks of both domestic and international trade. The city boasts representation in every business sector. You name it; it’s here: financial services, tech, education, life sciences, digital media and gaming, fashion, design, food and beverage, the film and television industry—a lot of that actually takes place right in Etobicoke–Lakeshore. We are the home of major movie studios, which is an economic engine for the city of Toronto. I’m just a really big fan of the city.

Toronto is the financial capital of this country, a recognized financial hub in North America and top 10 among the global financial centres. It is an engine of economic growth. In fact, Toronto alone drives a significant portion of this country’s GDP growth, outpacing the national average. Unfortunately, we cannot let these facts mislead us. Not everything is perfect. Without our government’s support, that upward trajectory would be at risk.

Our government has the proven experience with righting the financial course of major jurisdictions. That’s why we ensured the work was undertaken by a new-deal working group to secure a historic deal between the province of Ontario and the city of Toronto, and out of this working group has become a deal that will help achieve long-term financial stability and sustainability for our city.

When Toronto came to our government asking for assistance and worried about the viability of their finances, not only did we listen, the government took action. It was clear that addressing the city’s deep financial troubles would require significant collaboration from all levels of government. The city’s deep financial challenges are no longer sustainable. The financial pressures are unique, decades in the making, and growing. Our government’s response was rapid and comprehensive. We worked with the city right away to create the new-deal working group.

I want to reinforce that federal assistance is essential for our city to achieve long-term financial stability. Along with our city, we continue to call on the federal government to step up as a full partner with funding in critical areas of need such as shelter support, funding in critical areas such as asylum claimants—you know, the weather is turning a little cooler these days, although today is actually quite a nice day, but we know it’s inevitable. Winter is going to be here.

We need more money for transit. We also need transit that is safe, dependable and reliable. I should note that the federal government eventually did come to the table—late and following our lead, but they came and offered their expertise, as well.

Our government is not a government to sit on our hands. We are a government that gets things done, and we will fix the problems.

The goals set out in the working group were ambitious. The working group was tasked with delivering recommendations before the end of November 2023. For the last two to three months, Ontario has been working closely and alongside the city of Toronto, through a new-deal working group, to find real solutions to help our city achieve long-term financial stability and sustainability.

The group focused on the government-shared goals, including supporting transit, infrastructure, shelters, housing, as well as getting Toronto’s finances back on a stable and sustainable path. As you have already heard, they put forward a set of concrete, actionable recommendations that would protect services, avoid new taxes—I’m going to repeat that, avoid new taxes—and put the city on a path forward for long-term financial stability and ensure it remains an economic engine for Canada—and once again, no new taxes.

0910

But as a government, we know that funding alone cannot solve some of these structural problems. While the opposition may want us to spend recklessly with no concern for the future—and we know there are no taxes the Liberals don’t like—we want to ensure that Toronto remains an economic engine, and this must be met with a series of measures that, together, are a realistic, proportional and good response.

Speaker, there are those who might call me slightly biased as I believe that Toronto is unique among our nation’s cities. It sure is. And it’s uncapable in its long-standing and unparalleled contributions to Ontario’s shared success. It is, in many ways, unique in terms of the scope and scale of the challenges it faces. In addition to its fiscal obstacles, the city is facing a housing crisis—although you wouldn’t know that in Etobicoke because we are growing like crazy. We have cranes everywhere but, obviously, we are still in need of housing.

This is a challenge exasperated by the record numbers of new residents looking for affordable places to live. These new residents include record numbers of immigrants, refugees and asylum claimants, all drawn to the promise that Toronto offers. The nice thing about Toronto is that people come move here because it’s so culturally diverse. We have so many amazing communities, food, culture—it’s just all there right at your fingertips, so I understand why people want to move here to the city. I chose to move to the city from northern Ontario because it just had something different to offer.

Our city is also struggling with tremendous pressure on social supports that are being stretched to capacity. That’s why, with this new deal, we are providing new supports to improve transit across the city. This offer includes $300 million in one-time funding for subways and transit safety, recovery and sustainability. This includes commitments on the part of the city to establish a new transit rider safety commitment. This commitment must include increased police and/or safety officers present on and near transit vehicles and in station areas. It’s going to have continued expansion of cellular and data services for transit riders across the TTC network and enhanced emergency reporting options and response timelines for riders to signal incidents, threats or concerns to the attention of authorities.

You know, people need to feel safe on the TTC. I take the TTC. I take the GO train. Anytime I go to a concert or a soccer game or a football game or basketball game, I’ll hop on at the Mimico GO station and it takes me seven minutes to get downtown, and I just sit there and it’s at ease. But you have to feel safe. We do hear often from our constituents that maybe they haven’t been feeling safe lately so they haven’t been taking the TTC. They haven’t been jumping on the Bloor line or the Yonge line or whatever line they want to get on. We want to make sure that you do feel safe.

And we’ve been doing other things to make sure transit is actually easier to take, because if you want to take transit, please take transit because that takes one other car off the road, which helps with congestion. One thing I like is that one day I was taking transit—I think I was actually going to a volunteer event that Minister Ford’s office put on. I forgot my Presto card, but I was able to tap my Visa on the train and I was able to get on, and it was just seamless. We’ve done a lot of work to make sure that it’s easier to ride the TTC, so I just encourage people to go back on the TTC. It is a great way of getting downtown. You don’t have to park, you don’t have to drive and you can just sit back and relax. We’re going to make it safer for everybody.

This province and this government have always been guided by the goal of supporting Toronto on a path towards long-term financial stability and sustainability. The new-deal working group operated with a set of guiding principles. At the core of each is a deep love and pride for our great city. But while making this deal, we also laid out some serious and non-negotiable priorities. For Ontario to lend its support, the terms of the deal had to maintain investment and supports for critical services and programs that residents depend on. To put it plainly, there could be no deep cuts to front-line services or workers. And Speaker, did I mention that we would not entertain any new taxes on people or businesses in Toronto, who are already facing enough uncertainty?

Now, as our great Minister of Finance reported in the recent fall economic statement, we are a province that continues to face heightened economic and geopolitical uncertainties. Many times over the past year, he has said that Ontario is not immune to the risks of an economic slowdown, and that’s what he has highlighted in the 2023 fall economic statement. Our government has a prudent and responsible fiscal plan that shows we can deliver a path to balance as we also continue to deliver on priorities that the people and businesses of this province have come to expect and deserve.

I just want to highlight some of the items that the Minister of Finance mentioned in his fall economic statement. We have to look at affordability and what’s affordable in our communities, and one thing I would like to talk about—I actually had the privilege of attending this announcement with the Premier, the Minister of Finance, the Minister of Infrastructure and the Minister of Transportation, and it was the cut to the gas tax. It’s the extension of that nine cents. Now, that makes a really big difference to families who have to drive.

I know that, if my councillor is listening, she likes the bike lanes on Bloor Street, but on Bloor Street is not the right place for bike lanes. There are other streets that you can put those bike lanes on, because not everyone can buy a barbecue and put it on the back of a bike. I’m sure our Speaker may have heard of that from some of her constituents, because it’s just maybe the wrong section of that. I am not against bike lanes, but just on that one section of our businesses, it’s really hurting. So, if Ms. Morley is listening, please, let’s look at those bike lanes on Bloor.

But when we talk about gas tax, people are driving their kids to hockey practice. It’s cold. It’s cold right now, so they’re driving their kids to hockey. They’re driving their kids to skating, once those skating rinks open. These are things you can’t usually take transit to; you have to usually drive, so that nine cents makes a difference.

Interestingly enough, my uncle Robert always likes to watch when I’m on TV. He lives in Thunder Bay, and he said, “Well, we didn’t get that discount of the nine cents,” and I said, “Yes, you did. You would be paying nine cents more.” So it is across the board. Everybody is getting that nine-cent reduction, but you have to think, if we didn’t cut it by the nine cents, you would be paying nine cents more. So, Uncle Robert, if you’re listening, you did get that cut.

Now, where was I? We were talking about gas tax. Oh, we were talking about the fall economic statement and some of the good things he said. Tomorrow, I’m actually touring two schools that are almost finished, so I thank the Minister of Education. We were able to get four new schools in the area of Etobicoke South, which is a growing community. Tomorrow, with our local trustee, Teresa Lubinski, I am going to be visiting St. Leo, which is in the middle of construction, and it’s great. It’s a growing school, a growing area, with lots of immigrants coming down there who are attending school there.

And we’re going to add some child care spaces, so that was an extra announcement. I want to thank the Minister of Education for adding that money, so we can have child care spaces right in the school, because it’s so important for parents to be able to have one stop: child care, and then school. It’s one drive versus hopping around and driving all around town, because we all know that it’s not the easiest to drive in Toronto.

The other school I’m visiting is Holy Angels, which is almost completed. I drive by it on my way to work. It looks fantastic. So, you know, we are building infrastructure, and it’s so exciting that we’re building more spaces for our students. We have two more schools on the books that have not put shovels in the ground yet, and that’s a high school, Bishop Allen, which is getting more spaces, and St. Elizabeth, which is not only getting a new school, they’re getting new child care spaces—once again, an important element to parents, families, people who want to make a one-stop drive and drop off your kids at child care and at school. It’s just convenience for parents, but we want to make sure that we get more women in the workforce, so they can have their child care at $10 a day, which is great—and again, to our Minister of Education, for the work he did to make sure that happened. We want to be there for our parents and our families.

What else are we doing? This is an important one, really near and dear to my heart: the breast screening for 40 years and older. I had a cousin; her name was Jan Lockwood. She passed away at 42 of breast cancer—42 years of age. I was a lot younger then, and at that point, I probably thought 42 years of age was old. Well, it certainly is not old. So I am really pleased to see this in our legislation and, to all those ladies out there: Please go and get your screening. Go get it done. It’s a little uncomfortable, but just do it. Book those appointments and make sure you get your screening done. I applaud the Minister of Health for making sure that our women can remain safe and healthy, because some things are curable, so let’s get that done and have a healthy population.

Now, back to the new deal for Toronto. I wanted to talk—I don’t have a lot of time, so I actually want to spend my last minutes talking about Ontario Place. On my way here, I actually drove down Lake Shore and took a look at Ontario Place. There are boards up, and the sun was shining and it shone on this derelict old amusement park area that’s falling down, that’s all full of vandalism. So I really applaud the Premier for his initiative and his sight to improve Ontario Place.

0920

You know, I was here in the late 1970s. I grew up in northern Ontario and I used to come down here for allergy testing because I had allergies. I think I was allergic to absolutely everything. My dad took me down—I guess they probably felt bad that I was sick, so my dad took me to Ontario Place. It was the late 1970s. When we were there, we went in. I remember being really itchy because when you do allergy tests—well, that’s what it is: you find out what you’re allergic to. We went there and I remember there was this gigantic jungle gym and I just remember having fun. That stuff doesn’t exist there anymore.

It has such potential, and right now, I love going to the concerts there at night at the amphitheatre. It is one of my favourite venues for concerts. Any time in the summer, you see the parking lot jammed full of cars. You see the Ubers dropping off people. You see people on these little caravans making their way there. It is such a great venue, and I’m so looking forward to having a brand new Ontario Place for the future for children, adults and young adults.

You know, we have to always look forward. We’re here for this time but I believe long-term goals are really important. We have to look: What do people want to see in the future?

You’re going to come down and have an experience. You’re coming from other places. You might be coming from northern Ontario. You might be coming from western Ontario. You might be coming from eastern Ontario. Who knows where you’re coming from? You might not even be coming from Ontario. We want an Ontario Place for everybody and all through the season.

You might want to go to a water park. You might want to go to the beach. You might be a boater. You might have a friend who has a boat and you can raft up outside and swim onto the beach or go get a hamburger or a hot dog or a coffee. Right now you can’t do any of those things, so I am so excited about the future of Ontario Place.

And I love the idea that the science centre is going to be moved down there because it gives you something else to do. It gives an educational purpose for our kids. If it’s wintertime or if it’s raining—you’re not sitting on the beach—what are you going to do? This is your day outing. Well, you’ll go to the science centre and check out what it has to offer.

So I think this is a really important element. I just want to thank the minister, and I thank you for your time this morning.

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

Mr. Wayne Gates: I appreciate the comments made, but I really don’t think the taxpayers should be paying $650 million for a spa using taxpayers’ dollars. I think that’s a mistake.

We also know that the government is spending $600 million on a private spa while food bank usage has skyrocketed and people can’t afford to make ends meet right here in Toronto. In my riding in Niagara Falls, Project Share had a 71% increase in usage.

Could the member explain why the government cares more about a private spa than people going hungry, dying on the streets of Toronto, and having encampments set up all over Niagara Falls?

Ms. Christine Hogarth: I’m happy to talk a little bit about my excitement about Ontario Place, because I am actually really excited. There’s going to be a wellness centre, yes, as we’ve all discussed, and there will be more things. There will be bike lanes. There will be beautiful bike paths. They have these fire pits. Ontario Place is going to be amazing.

We are going to be building some parking because people need to drive because they come from your riding. They’re not going to ride a bike from the Windsor area; they’re going to have to drive a car.

Mr. Joel Harden: Niagara Falls.

Ms. Christine Hogarth: Niagara Falls. Sorry.

So, wherever we come from around the province, we have to actually drive. We also like to be environmentally friendly but it is actually impossible for you to put four kids on the back of a bicycle, so you need a place for that car to go.

Our plan for Ontario Place is phenomenal, and if you have some other ideas, please share them.

I know the minister has been working hard. There is a map if you want to see all the things that you can share with your constituents of what Ontario Place will offer.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bhutila Karpoche): Next question?

Mr. John Jordan: Since I’m going to be spending a lot of time in Toronto in the next few years, one of my plans is to make a bucket list of all the things that I want to see and do while I have this opportunity.

So my question for the member from Etobicoke–Lakeshore is, how do you think this new deal, this plan, will make Ontario Place sustainable? Because that’s one of the things on my list for sure, as well as the science centre.

Ms. Christine Hogarth: Thank you very much for that question. Through you, Speaker, you know, we have to look at—we’re not looking at today, although it would be great to see it. As I said, I drove by Ontario Place today. The boards are up. There’s a lot of rust. Things are falling down. It is in a state of disrepair. I understand the same—I haven’t been to the science centre probably since I was 11, so that would be many, many years ago. I haven’t been up there, but I’m excited about having that as a destination.

You can go to the aquarium, which is down by the CN Tower. You can go to the CN Tower. You’ll be able to take—because the new Ontario Line will connect everything. You can actually walk it. It’s not that far if you have the energy, and we all know that young kids have the energy to go take a walk through. Or you can rent bikes. We have bike rentals everywhere, so you can grab a bike and you can bike through the biking paths through Ontario Place and have a great day. You can stop and have a coffee; you can stop and have lunch. It’s going to be a destination for everybody.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bhutila Karpoche): Next question.

Mr. John Fraser: I’d like to thank the member for her presentation. What I’m trying to understand—and I hear all these wonderful things that the member was talking about, about what’s going to happen at Ontario Place. But the thing that we’re concerned about is we don’t actually know about the deal. We’re dealing with a company that is a sole proprietorship. It’s not traded on any exchange. It’s not subject to any security laws. We don’t have anything about the deal. All of a sudden, we had a $650-million parking lot that the people of Ontario were supposed to participate in that wasn’t part of what the RFP was. So there’s no transparency around it, and this government has, in this session and probably for its full term, had a history of insiders getting an advantage: greenbelt, urban boundaries, MZOs. So how come we can’t see what’s in the deal?

Ms. Christine Hogarth: Well, as I remember—oh, and thank you for the question. I remember the Minister of Infrastructure answering a similar question to that many weeks ago. Since we’re here at midnight, every day is blending. My life is just here, as we all are.

I understand that the Liberals had an RFP and chose the same, Therme, when they were in power. So there was an RFP that was put out, and they were the winning bid. But you know what I didn’t mention? I didn’t mention the uploading of the Gardiner and the DVP. That’s part of this whole plan. This will help get people to Ontario Place. They can take the Gardiner. The city of Toronto can no longer dangle that in front of our face, saying, “We’re going to get rid of that”—because we need that infrastructure so people can get to and from work on time, people can get to and from the places. This is a major artery. I’m really happy to see that the government is going to be taking over the Gardiner.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bhutila Karpoche): Next question.

Mr. Deepak Anand: Thank you to the member. I was listening intently. Your uncle—so if he’s watching, I want to assure him, yes, there is an Ontario gas tax which has been reduced by this government. However, can you tell your uncle there is another tax, the carbon tax, which is 14 cents, from the federal government? Can he help us to shave that off so that all Ontarians can get the same benefit of—having to live under this affordability crisis—a little more savings so they can spend more on their family?

Ms. Christine Hogarth: To the member for Mississauga–Malton, that is a fantastic question. And you know, the carbon tax—and we’ve said this from day one, when the federal government brought this in, that it was a bad tax. But Liberals love their taxes. We do not. We believe money belongs in your pocket.

When it comes to the carbon tax, one thing that I can look at in my riding of Etobicoke–Lakeshore, which is the home of the food terminal, is, how does that food get from the farms to the food terminal in Etobicoke? Well, they drive. They have to fill up their trucks with gas. Each time they fill up their cars with gas, it costs more. Then they come to the food terminal and the trucks ship it out again, and how much—what is that? More tax, and it’s the carbon tax. Then you look at the circle—so that means your prices of your food are going up, everything is going up. So the carbon tax, there is nothing positive about it. It is a tax. It is money that’s coming directly out of our pockets. We’re in an affordability crisis. I think it’s time to axe the tax.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bhutila Karpoche): Next question.

Mme France Gélinas: The member mentioned about women 40 years and over not needing a physician’s referral anymore to gain access to breast screening services. Whenever we make access easier, it always helps health care, but we know that the existing hospitals that have mammograms for breast screening already have very long wait-lists. You’re talking—if you phone now, you will get an appointment in July when the recommended time frame is no more than two months. Is your government going to invest in those publicly delivered funds in our hospitals or give private clinics the money to handle the new clients?

0930

Ms. Christine Hogarth: Thank you to the member for that question. I know in Sudbury they have a great group of workers. Louise, who is a nurse at the hospital in Sudbury—I say hello to you and thank you for your work.

I will give you an example of how that is not accurate. I had a breast screening. My doctor said I needed a breast screening. It was five weeks I waited. I went in—it was 8:30 in the morning.

I also want to thank the Minister of Health for the infrastructure investments in St. Joseph’s hospital. They’ve opened up their new breast-screening rooms, which are on the third floor. It was seamless. It was easy to park. I had my test and I went home. I was in and out within an hour—I only had to pay $5 for parking. That’s why I know.

So we are investing in our hospitals. Hospitals are getting the money. They’re getting the funding to open up these sessions. If you want to look at the one at St. Joseph’s hospital, please do. It’s a beautiful site, and I—

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

Mr. Stephen Blais: Thank you for your presentation. The other day, the Premier said that this was a very one-sided deal but that he was willing to do it because he loves his city so much. I love my city. I think we all love the cities we’re from and that we represent. So I’m wondering, when is this government going to show some love to the city of Ottawa? Because it got no money to repair from the derecho. It got no money to support from the trucker convoy. There’s a bill before the House to upload Highway 174, which is similar to the Don Valley and the Gardiner in Toronto. So when is the government going to show Ottawa a little love?

Ms. Christine Hogarth: Well, this bill we’re talking about today is about Toronto and a new deal for Toronto. I think some of the key pieces that I mentioned when I spoke—we talked about Ontario Place growing. We talked about the Gardiner and the DVP being uploaded, which are key pieces of infrastructure to keep our province moving. I’m sure if you drive back and forth to Ottawa, you probably take the Gardiner out to get on the DVP to get on the 401.

This is for everybody, these highways. So I just want to congratulate the government on this bill.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bhutila Karpoche): Further debate?

Mr. Joel Harden: It’s a pleasure to rise this morning and speak to this legislation before the House, the New Deal for Toronto Act.

I want to acknowledge some breakthroughs in this legislation, despite the fact that I have some lingering concerns. One of the breakthroughs, I think, about this legislation is beyond what’s actually in the bill. It’s a lesson for anybody that wants to get into politics. Let me explain what I mean by that, Speaker.

We began this morning with a prayer, with the directive, as we have often heard, to use power wisely and well, to create a society where freedom reigns and where justice rules. I love that prayer. It’s a terrific prayer. But often in the five years I’ve served in this building for the great people of Ottawa Centre, I’ve heard us collectively offer that prayer, and then the moment we tumble into debate, we start doing the opposite. We start saying and holding forth in a way that disrespects each other, that insults the integrity of this place and that puts Ontario on a bad footing, in my opinion.

I believe the Premier of this province did that when, on June 21, 2023, he called Mayor Olivia Chow an “unmitigated disaster.” Those were the words that tumbled out of the most powerful office-holder in this province. The Premier is entitled to his opinions. His speech, like all of our speech, is charter-protected. But I don’t think he set a very good example for people who are thinking about getting into politics in the way he characterized someone like Mayor Olivia Chow as, again, for the record, on June 21, 2023, an “unmitigated disaster.” The Premier was making the argument, I guess, that Mayor Chow—now Mayor Chow—would create too great a toll on the revenues of the city of Toronto and was too ambitious in her plans. Well, the people of Toronto thought differently. Thankfully for us, the Conservative-supported candidates in that mayoral race would appear to have been split at least three ways because they couldn’t get their act together.

So what Mayor Chow has done since then is not respond in kind with ritual denunciations to the Premier—that’s more his gambit. What she has done is take the higher road in speech after speech. Her choice was not to fire back at the Premier and call him a bunch of names. She certainly could have. Her choice was to say, “What do the people of Toronto deserve?” They deserve good transit. They deserve community safety. They deserve money for housing; money for community services; the after-school programs that so many children in this city rely upon; the city staff, who work hard every single day, whether it’s collecting the garbage or the recycling in this city or monitoring the safety of our streets, roads and enforcing the bylaws, or making sure the beautiful parks of this city are well-maintained. That was Mayor Olivia Chow’s priority—not responding in kind to ridiculous assertions from the Premier. There’s a lesson in here for how we do politics.

And do you know what also is informative for me, Speaker? What’s informative for me is: This week, as the Premier was promoting this particular bill in the House, I saw him describe Mayor Olivia Chow as the greatest NDP leader in history. Colleagues, did you see that too? So it’s an interesting leap of logic for a man to go from categorizing somebody as an unmitigated disaster to calling her the greatest NDP leader in history. What’s happened since? Well, I want to believe that what’s happened since is that one person showed humanity in politics and the other did not. One person showed how you lead in a moment, despite the arrows slung by your critics, and the other did not.

It reminds me, Speaker, of a quotation often used by the great Nelson Mandela, someone who had the pleasure to visit this particular building twice. I have a picture of one of those occasions proudly in my office. Mandela once said, “The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.” Who would know the lesson of that better than him? Someone imprisoned for 27 years by an apartheid regime that dehumanized him.

And I think about Mayor Olivia Chow and the roads she walked to the mayor’s office: losing a mayoralty race that many people predicted she was pledged to win, getting knocked down, dusting herself off and getting back up again to serve not yourself, but to serve the community that you live in.

I had great pleasure, Speaker, to knock on doors in the mayoral by-election. I came a day early one weekend. It’s always a negotiation, I’m sure, for all of us when we come to this city from out of the city a day early. I had to plead with my family: “Hey, let me go a day early to Toronto. I want to go knock on doors for Olivia in St. James Town, where she grew up.” And when I knocked on some of these apartment buildings, they are, in Ottawa-Centre terms, like twice or three times the size of apartment buildings back home—massive apartment buildings. But when I said the words “Olivia Chow,” faces brightened because those are the buildings Olivia grew up in. That was the community she proudly served as an immigrant kid coming to this country at the age of 14, with a family divided by violence and difficulty. She persevered to the office of school board trustee. She persevered to the office of city councillor. And now, St. James Town has a mayor—a mayor, in the seat of power, serving this great city. That’s not an unmitigated disaster, Speaker; it’s a Canadian success story. She withstood the arrows from this Premier. She clearly has turned him around.

And now, before the House, we have a piece of legislation that is proposing some significant investments that I want to talk about this morning. One of them is something that I have had occasion to talk about many times as the transit critic for this province: funding for operational transit. In this legislation is $300 million in a one-time transfer for subway and transit safety recovery and sustainable operations. Another is a $330-million investment over three years—that funding accumulates over three years—for operating support for new integrated provincial transit projects.

People have been rising in this House for years, encouraging this government, encouraging governments before it, to not come to the people of Ontario and say, “We have a wonderful transit plan. Billions of dollars of aspirational transit projects”—be it the Eglinton Crosstown LRT, the Finch West LRT, the Confederation LRT in my city. “Look at the wonderful products we have. Look at the consultants we’re hiring. Look at the beautiful ticker tape we’re going to cut at press announcements.”

0940

This is what I call aspirational transit. That is what governments have been seized with in Ontario for years, but it hasn’t moved a single human being, and the only person who has been employed by aspirational transit are the consultants hired to come up with the dreams. Meanwhile, the women and men who woke up this morning early to move people around this great city have been struggling with a poorly funded transit system.

But again, what precedes this bill? What precedes this bill is a mayor of the city, Olivia Chow, who said on September 20 that as this government’s aspirational transit plans continue to fail, the Finch West LRT, the Eglinton Crosstown LRT—both over budget, both delayed, both being built by consultants who rake huge salaries from the taxpayers despite delivering nothing. Mayor Chow announced that she was going to reallocate, based on advice from staff, $10.3 million from these delayed aspirational transit projects to the TTC that actually exists. She said in that press conference that 160 more staff could be hired with that $10.3 million to make sure staff were visible on our trains, to make sure neighbours who are having mental health challenges, whatever they may be—feeling themselves unsafe, making other people feel unsafe—they would visibly be interacting with staff so transit could be safer.

While we’ve had a government for years that has gotten up in this building and talked about aspirational transit, here we had a mayor of this city who said, “Actually, I’m going to redirect money from your failing transit projects”—I’m adding the editorialism; Olivia is a bigger person than me—“I’m going to reallocate money to make sure that people are safe in our subways, because the aspirational transit systems of this government and governments before it are failing.” That’s leadership.

But what’s also leadership in this bill is the fact that we have finally convinced the Premier of this province to take an interest in operational transit. But as the member for Orléans just said, the transit needs in this province are much bigger than the city of Toronto. We need a new deal for transit all over this province. We need it for Sudbury; we need it for Niagara Falls; we need it for Windsor; we need it for Thunder Bay; and we absolutely need it for Ottawa, Speaker. I can tell you that. Because what we just learned at city council in Ottawa is that in 2024, we are going to have 74,000 fewer service hours in our public transit system—74,000.

I took the bus over the weekend, as I was finding my way around community events. I took the number 6 down Bank Street, headed back to home near where I live, near Billings Bridge—packed to the gills, barely a place to sit or stand. But do you know what was great, Speaker? You could always see, as I’ve seen on so many buses, so many subways, neighbours helping elderly folks, people with children finding safe places to sit.

But you ask yourself the question, “Why isn’t there another bus right behind this bus at peak hours? Why is there one staff member on this entire elongated bus sitting in the front, behind Plexiglas, and no other staff members that are available, dispersed across stops to help people figure their way on and off the bus who have mobility challenges?” Cutbacks, Speaker—cutbacks from this government.

What we know is, we’re $500 million short in operational funding for transit across the province of Ontario. We have been making the message very clear to this government that in their upcoming budget, they need to put that $500 million back into the system so the buses, the subways, the streetcars can run safely and run effectively to get people to work and get people back home, get people where they need to go. But that hasn’t happened.

So who has been the stopgap, as this government loves its aspirational transit but neglects its operational transit, loves its dreams but disrespects the people who deliver every single day? I’m going to tell you: It’s the riders who are organizing to get together to bring messages into this place and, close to my heart, it’s the workers who operate the public transit system.

I want to spend some time this morning talking about someone who has got a message for this House. His name is Cory MacLeod; he’s the president of ATU 1320, which is in the great city of Peterborough. In Peterborough, Cory MacLeod just presided over a terrific campaign that sadly had to lead to a strike, in which he told the city of Peterborough that 2%, which was the original wage offer being offered by the municipal authorities in Peterborough—2% is good for milk, but it’s not good for people fighting to make a living.

Mr. Dave Smith: Except there’s no strikes.

Mr. Joel Harden: The member from Peterborough–Kawartha just said there’s no strike. Do you want to know why, Speaker? Because the women and men who stood up and fought—the 125 operators and the eight folks who work in the garage fixing that transit actually stood up and fought for their transit system.

But it’s funny, Speaker—as the member for Peterborough–Kawartha heckles me—I don’t think he’s once called Corey MacLeod to congratulate him on the agreement that they just won. I don’t think he has once taken an interest in his public transit system to talk to the elected leadership of the transit authority at the municipal level. Isn’t that a curious thing, Speaker? I wonder why the member from Peterborough–Kawartha has nothing but disinterest and disrespect for the people who run and work in the public transit sector. That’d be a good question for him to answer his constituents.

It might be the fact that Laurie Stratton, who is a disgraced former Metrolinx executive, was sent to his city to run the Peterborough transit system, and it may be the fact that Ms. Stratton was fired in March, because she—among many transit executives—had been pushing this on-demand transit system to try to eat into the schedules and the jobs and the operating hours that serve his city and many great cities.

But unfortunately the member never found it worth his time to contact Corey MacLeod once, to visit the transit workers once, to find out about their concerns, to raise them in this House. Let’s look through the Hansard, Speaker, and see if the member has once stood up for his community.

Now the members of that union, however, they stood up for Peterborough. They care about the people of Peterborough.

Interjection.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bhutila Karpoche): The member for Peterborough–Kawartha will come to order.

Mr. Joel Harden: The member has been holding forth, yelling and screaming in this place for months. I’ve had occasion, sadly, to witness it. But he has never had occasion to rise in his place and stand up for transit and transit workers.

But do you know who has? Mayor Olivia Chow. Mayor Olivia Chow has stood up for the transit workers in this great city of Toronto. Mayor Olivia Chow cares about the operating efficacy of transit in this city.

The member for Peterborough–Kawartha may think that people will forget how he behaved in this moment. They may think that people will forget that he wasn’t there as Laurie Stratton and that team drove that transit system into the ground—or attempted to. But people won’t forget, Speaker. People won’t forget. They won’t forget the fact that, as the member sat on his hands and watched a transit disaster almost unfold, as people were pushed to the brink of a strike, as people pushed and fought and tried to get the attention of decision-makers like him, they stood up for their community. And I tip my hat this morning to ATU 1320. I thank them for their public service.

I hope this government extends its new-found empathy for the city of Toronto to the rest of Ontario, because the great people of Peterborough, the great people of Sudbury, the great people of Windsor, of Thunder Bay, of Niagara Falls, of Oshawa, of London—they deserve great, functioning transit too, and it shouldn’t have to come to the fact that women and men working in a struggling operational transit system have to go nearly on strike to make sure that we get their attention.

I wonder, Speaker, how do you contrast a government that manages to find over $600 million in funding for a luxury spa, for an Austrian-owned conglomerate, but that will watch operational transit systems fall apart; they will watch people suffer instead of helping the people that make our communities work.

I wonder how big the cheques are, Speaker, that are coming out of Therme into the Progressive Conservative donations department. I wonder how big the cheques are coming out of various real estate conglomerates for the various projects this government pushed. Meanwhile, Speaker, the women and men operating transit in this great city impacted by this bill, operating transit in Peterborough, operating transit in Ottawa—they don’t get the attention and the love. There’s no new deal for them, and you have to ask yourself why.

Interjection.

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

Mr. Joel Harden: Are those women and men an “unmitigated disaster” too, Speaker? Are those women and men an “unmitigated disaster” too?

It doesn’t matter. It really doesn’t matter, because whatever opinions that member over there and this government may have of transit workers in this province, they will persevere. They will persevere. They will persevere in Peterborough, will persevere in Ottawa. We’ll persevere in a great city like Hamilton, where ATU 107 just negotiated an agreement.

0950

I was moved deeply, Speaker, when, just before the Grey Cup that was in that terrific city of Hamilton, the transit workers were pushed into a position of having to threaten job action that would have impacted that terrific celebration, the Grey Cup celebration, because they were pushed to the brink. Cassie Theaker, who is a single mom, told the press with tears that she had no money in her bank account after two weeks, despite serving that city for 25 years. The costs of living have increased so much that with what she is paid to operate public transit in the great city of Hamilton, she couldn’t feed her kids; she couldn’t pay the rent. So that should be a cautionary tale for all of us.

I want to congratulate the Premier for having a change of heart about Mayor Olivia Chow. I want to congratulate the fact that finally, this government seems to have taken an interest in operational transit instead of aspirational transit. They finally looked into the eyes of a leader who had more humanity than them, who suffered the arrows of the moment to win the victories that come later, and that’s a lesson for all of us in politics. That is a lesson for all of us.

Now, we have a bill before the House that is proposing some funds for operational transit for this great city, but we need funds for operational transit all over Ontario. That’s what this government needs to recognize, and if they’re not prepared to do it, there will be a consequence for them. If they’re not prepared to fund the transit systems of Peterborough and Windsor and Niagara Falls and Sudbury and Thunder Bay and Ottawa—the residents of those communities care about those buses. The residents of those communities care about the operators and mechanics that fix those buses, and we’re prepared to stand up and advocate for them.

So, is this bill a useful step in the right direction? Yes. It has taken them a long time. Meanwhile, we somehow find a million dollars to pay Phil Verster at Metrolinx. Meanwhile, we somehow find the money to pay his 59 vice-presidents and 19 C-suite executives. Meanwhile, we have projects like the Eglinton Crosstown, which is a billion dollars over budget and three years late.

We’ve got some work to do to get transit back on track. There are elements of this bill that I like that move in that direction, and I’m happy to rise as the transit critic in this province to speak to those. But I remind this government again: The province of Ontario is bigger than the city of Toronto. It’s a wonderful place, and I agree with the government members who said we have to recognize Toronto’s special place in Ontario. But the rest of this province needs a new deal for transit too, and we need to see it now.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bhutila Karpoche): Before we move on to questions, I want to recognize that Peter Meligrana from the riding of Kingston and the Islands is today’s page captain, and he is being visited by his grandparents: his grandmother Hiltrudis Meligrana and his grandfather Francesco Meligrana. They have been married for 60 years and have lived in Parkdale–High Park the entirety of their marriage, and are excited to be here today to support Peter during his page captain day. Welcome.

Questions?

Mr. Stephen Blais: It was great to hear the presentation this morning from my colleague from Ottawa. I was, however, slightly confused during parts of the presentation, because on one hand, the member rails against one of the primary features of the deal between the Premier and the mayor of Toronto, which is the completion of the Ontario Place partnership and the building of a water park and what he describes as a luxury spa, and on the other hand, he tries to take credit for the NDP in negotiating such a great deal with the Premier of Ontario. That’s certainly the tack that the leader of Ontario’s New Democrats has taken the last number of days.

So I’m wondering, is he going to vote against the bill and support the leader of Ontario’s New Democrats, or is he going to vote for the bill and support the most powerful New Democrat in Ontario, the mayor of Toronto?

Mr. Joel Harden: What I’ll say to my friend from Orléans is this: This bill is before the House now, before debate, and our job in that debate is to scrutinize this bill heavily. That’s the job of the official opposition.

So really, this bill, in the end, as my friend from Oshawa was just telling me, is about committing to a conversation, and I think it’s a good thing that that conversation—so far, at least—is committing to real money going into operational transit. Do I have a problem with the fact that the government would seem to have a greater priority for a wellness spa that would cost $650 million to taxpayers in Toronto? That investment is greater than the investment contemplated for operational transit in this bill. So yes, I’ll say to my friend from Orléans, yes, I have a problem with that. But am I happy that this conversation is moving in a direction of more funding for transit? Great. He knows and I know, though, that the transit needs of Ontario are much bigger than the city of Toronto. We need a new deal for transit everywhere.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bhutila Karpoche): Next question?

Mr. John Jordan: I find it really rich when someone from Ottawa Centre starts giving advice on transit. That’s special. Then the member from Ottawa Centre is trying to give the NDP credit for this deal. What Olivia Chow did is that she decided to sit down with the Premier, with mutual respect, and come up with this deal. It is so many good things for Toronto, but it’s also good things for Ontarians. The Premier is known for deals for the benefit of Ontarians. The Minister of Economic Development speaks about it almost every day.

My question to the member is, does the member not know or believe that deals require two people, two parties with a focus—and the focus is for the benefit of Ontario—and is he going to support this bill?

Mr. Joel Harden: As I said to the member from Orléans, this is a bill before the House and our job is to scrutinize it. Time will tell where we fall on this. But do I like the fact that this conversation has more money for operational transit? Yes.

The richness of advice from Ottawa Centre on transit has not been lost on this government. I know, because we fought for two years for a public inquiry into stage 1 of our LRT system and we won. We won. We finally got the government to listen to us. So we’re happy to offer the richness of that advice every day.

The member is right: The Premier is known for his deals in this place. Half the time I wonder, as I hear government members talk about red tape, if I’m going to walk into this building one day and see police tape wrapped around the Premier’s office because of the kinds of deals that have been publicly exposed that this Premier has been privy to negotiate. That’s on them. That’s their caucus meeting. That’s the presence they have to live with.

I am happy that in this bill before the House there is contemplation of real investments in operational transit. Am I happy about that, member? Yes, I am.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bhutila Karpoche): Next question?

Ms. Jennifer K. French: I’m glad to ask the member a question. We put our focus very differently in our debates on this bill. I focused on schedule 2 and the unbelievable redevelopment plan of this government. But because the member focused on schedule 1, I will as well.

I have concerns. I’ve never in my nine and a half years seen before a legislated discussion, which doesn’t need to exist. There can be a discussion; there doesn’t need to be legislation that says, “Thou shalt have a conversation.”

Where I see concerns in here is that financial support for the city of Toronto for shelters and other homelessness programs and services is conditional on financial support from the government of Canada. The money is, of course, conditional upon money from the feds. This is a schedule that repeals itself once those legislated discussions have been had, and yet there is, indeed, no commitment for any outcomes from these discussions.

I’m holding my breath and hopeful. What does the member say?

Mr. Joel Harden: The thing I’m hopeful about is the fact that this city of Toronto, where I was born and had the great pleasure to live in for many years as a student, has fantastic leadership. This city has already shown that they are willing to find funds, to reallocate funds to operational transit—because of the failures of this government’s aspirational transit to make sure our transit system in this city is safe. My hope is with Mayor Olivia Chow and her team. I’m glad that the Premier has had a change of heart in how he wants to treat that office and that he’s decided to treat it lately with respect. I have great confidence in that. I have great confidence, Speaker, that people can change.

So, are we potentially moving into a good place with this commitment to a conversation? Yes. Is there a chance that there will be more money for operational transit in Toronto? Yes. Do we need it everywhere else in Ontario? Yes.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bhutila Karpoche): Next question?

Ms. Peggy Sattler: I want to congratulate my colleague from Ottawa for his comments. Speaker, the people of this province have serious trust issues with this government and for very good reason. This is the first time, I think, in the history of this province that we have a government that’s being investigated by the RCMP for potential criminal wrongdoing.

1000

This bill gives the government extraordinary powers to indemnify itself against legal action from a number of things: government misrepresentation, misconduct, misfeasance, bad faith, breach of trust, or breach of fiduciary obligation. The government is giving itself these powers so it can push through a luxury spa and this $650-million parking lot. My question is: Why do you think the government is giving itself these extraordinary powers?

Mr. Joel Harden: I heard the member from Niagara Falls say, as the member from London West was asking that question, “Well, it’s exactly what happened in long-term care,” and he’s right. The government indemnified long-term-care operators, set the bar so high for tort that people who had family members killed in the for-profit institutions had no legal recourse. That was one of the greatest shames I have seen in my five years in this place. So no surprise that we see aspects of this bill indemnifying people from seeking redress in court—I’m not surprised.

It makes me ask the question, on an attempt at humour: What could we do to have the government take as great an interest in operational transit as they do in a private, for-profit luxury spa? Maybe if we put a wellness centre in the back of the bus, they would be prepared—maybe a massage table. What have we got to do to make buses and transit out of the city of Toronto interesting enough for you to warrant public investment?

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bhutila Karpoche): Next question?

Mr. John Fraser: I’ll just respond to my colleague from Ottawa Centre: I think the only way he can do that is through cheques. Apparently, that’s how it works around here.

I would like to ask the member—

Interjection.

Mr. John Fraser: Well, they know. They can hear.

I would like to ask the member: Why do you think, with all the pressure that has been put on about Ontario Place and the concerns of the community, that the mayor of Toronto decided to make the deal that she did?

Mr. Joel Harden: I think the mayor of Toronto knows very well the jurisdiction of her office. I think the mayor of Toronto is as shrewd a discussion-maker and negotiator as this country has ever seen. I think it is incumbent upon us to have respect for someone who can sit down with a leader in this province who had called her an “unmitigated disaster” and find a way to bring more operational transit funds into her city. It takes great strength, takes great patience and takes great courage.

Do I hope we get to the bottom of this 95-year lease with this private, for-profit Austrian company? Do I hope that we get some disclosure into the private consortiums this government likes to sign secret deals with? Yes, I do. That’s incumbent upon the people in this building.

What I’m confident is that the mayor of Toronto has a leader that will get the best deal possible for their city, and I tip my hat to her for it this morning.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bhutila Karpoche): We don’t have time for more questions. Further debate?

Mr. Stephen Blais: It’s a pleasure to rise and discuss this new deal for the city of Toronto. It’s great to see everyone this morning—a little bit warmer today than it has been in the last couple of days here in the Big Smoke, and maybe that’s because of this deal that the city has now entered into with the province and is trying to get through.

I think, if I was a resident of Toronto, which, of course, I’m not, or if I was a politician in Toronto, if I was a member of provincial Parliament from Toronto—especially one from maybe downtown Toronto—and I was a New Democrat and my New Democratic mayor had just negotiated this deal with the Premier of Ontario, I would with think that this is a really good deal, because it’s going to support investment in affordable housing. It’s going to support investing in transit. It’s going to upload highways off of the backs of property taxpayers in Toronto and free up even more cash for the mayor of Toronto to be able to do with as she and her council pleases.

Unlike other New Democratic leaders, the mayor of Toronto has demonstrated that she can bring disparate elements together into a common cause. There are Conservatives, Liberals, New Democrats and probably others on Toronto city council that she’s been able to bring together. Obviously, she’s made a deal with a Conservative Premier in Ontario. I think that’s an example for other New Democratic leaders in the province who are currently having a little bit of difficulty bringing people together, who are having a little bit of difficulty keeping the team rowing in the same direction. I think there are some lessons that could be learned there.

It’s a very good sign, this legislation, that the Premier and his government are open to investing more in municipalities. We’ve seen over the last five years—and certainly since the pandemic began and is now behind us, we hope—that cities are struggling. They’re struggling with declining public transit ridership because of the nature of people’s workplace. There aren’t as many people travelling into downtowns of our cities and, therefore, there’s an enormous reduction in the number of people using public transit.

We’re dealing with an affordability crisis where the price of groceries is up, the price of provincially regulated hydroelectricity is up, the price of provincially regulated natural gas is up. The price of most of the things in our lives is up, and so the ability to provide some financial relief to Toronto taxpayers, whether that is through some kind of property tax action or investing in social services that will help people, is obviously very good for the city of Toronto.

But my question, as someone who lives in the city of Ottawa, is, does the government understand that there are more cities in the province than just Toronto? The Premier was very clear that he made a one-sided deal. He made a great deal for the city of Toronto, which he admitted was one-sided, because he loves his city. And I don’t blame him for loving his city. He grew up here. He represents a part of Toronto. I think we would all be silly to not say that we love our cities. Of course we love the communities that we all represent and the communities that many of us were born in.

The real question is, though, are other cities going to see some love? The city of Ottawa is the second-largest city in the province. There are a million people in Ottawa. If you include the metro region and if you include Glengarry, Prescott and Russell and going to Kemptville, and heading out into the Ottawa Valley into Renfrew, Nipissing, and Pembroke, you’re getting into 1.2, 1.3 million people. So, there are a lot of people in eastern Ontario as well that would like to see some love from the Premier, and I think part of our ongoing frustration is that over the last number of years, it doesn’t seem like that love has been there. There was an absence of love.

There was an absence of presence during the convoy protests. The government really didn’t take notice of what was happening in Ottawa and didn’t really say anything about the protests overall until the Ambassador Bridge in Windsor was being blockaded. That’s when the government decided to talk about the convoy situation.

When the derecho windstorm ripped through eastern Ontario in the spring of 2022, there was an absence of love from the Premier then. He came to Orléans. He came to the fire station on the Charlemagne Boulevard. It’s a fire station I know very, very well. He thanked those firefighters for their efforts in the recovery and he said that he would be there for the city of Ottawa. He said to the mayor that he would be there for the city of Ottawa. And as of the city’s budget process, which is ongoing right now, we’ve heard from the president and the chair of Hydro Ottawa that they’ve received no funding from the province to cover the—I think it’s $30 million or $40 million in costs they had to clean up from the derecho. The city of Ottawa itself has received no funding to help with its cleanup costs for the derecho. So again the question is, where is the love? Where is the love for Ottawa?

And it has continued since then. We know that Ottawa, as the second-largest city in the province, isn’t represented in the Premier’s cabinet. There are many—well, maybe not many, but there are certainly a few government members from Ottawa and the Ottawa region, and yet we don’t have a cabinet minister in the cabinet. We don’t have someone who can be that cabinet champion for investment in the National Capital Region, who can be on the phone with the mayor every week or occasionally to talk about the issues that are important to the city that relate to the provincial government and how they might move forward on them. We don’t have that representative who can be in contact with the federal minister for the National Capital Region to work on those issues collaboratively. So again, residents in Ottawa are wondering, where’s the love for Ottawa there?

1010

An important part of this deal that the Premier has made with the mayor of Toronto is, of course, the uploading of the Don Valley Parkway and the Gardiner Expressway. I think that’s a very good deal for the property tax payers in Toronto. Property taxes aren’t really designed to pay for urban expressways like the DVP and the Gardiner, and that money that’s used on policing those highways, that’s used on repairing those highways, that’s used on snow-clearing for those highways, that’s used for lighting those highways—all of that money could be better spent on local roads, on side streets and collectors and main arteries that perhaps don’t get the care and attention that they need. Those policing resources can be better spent in the community to deal with the increase in violence that we’ve seen around the TTC and other areas of downtown Toronto. So there’s a great benefit to the city of Toronto and to taxpayers in Toronto for that upload.

Again, though, I ask, where’s the love? Because in Ottawa and in eastern Ontario, we have a very similar situation. We have an urban expressway, Highway 174/17, that travels from the centre of the city of Ottawa all the way out to basically the border of Quebec, through Orléans and through the riding of Glengarry–Prescott–Russell that is the responsibility of property tax payers of Ottawa and Glengarry–Prescott–Russell. That’s a highway that takes millions and millions and millions of property tax dollars each and every year to maintain. It requires additional policing. It requires an additional snow-clearing operation. When there are major events like the flooding we experienced in Ottawa or the sinkhole that we experienced on Highway 174, we’re talking about tens and tens of millions of dollars in both unforeseen but enormous costs to maintain that urban expressway, which is really a regional highway. The 174/17 in fact used to be part of the Trans-Canada Highway system, which I think should just in and of itself tell everyone that that’s not the kind of road that property tax payers should be paying for with property taxes. Property taxes should be used to pay for your local infrastructure: for the street that you live on, for the streets that your bus drives on, for the parks around the corner and for the rec centre your kids learn to swim at. It should not be paying for urban expressways.

So the upload of the Gardiner and the DVP in Toronto, I think, is a very good step. It’s a step in the right direction. It’s obviously a very good deal for the residents of the city of Toronto. But for the residents in Ottawa and the residents of other cities across the province who have similar situations, I think they are and will continue to ask, “Where is the love for our communities?” Because we have these same financial pressures.

I want to continue to talk about the city of Ottawa a little bit more because the government doesn’t have that member in cabinet to maybe share with their caucus the challenges that Ottawa is facing. I want to spend the next three or four minutes sharing some of those.

OC Transpo, which is the second-largest transit agency in the province, is running a $40-million deficit this year. They are cutting back bus routes—and I’m not talking about a bus route at 11:30 at night that’s got one person riding it; I’m talking about suburban connection routes that feed into the hub-and-spoke system of OC Transpo, two in particular in Orléans that travel past a community rec centre. It travels past a library, and it travels past a high school. These are the kinds of bus routes that are now being cut in the city of Ottawa because of the financial challenges that the city is facing.

The city is also facing challenges when it comes to affordable housing. In fact, right now, as the city is going through its budget process for the next fiscal year, it is contemplating and debating the purchase of those white military refugee-style tents. Imagine that—

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bhutila Karpoche): I’m sorry to interrupt the member, but it is now time for members’ statements.

Second reading debate deemed adjourned.

Members’ Statements

Ontario Place

MPP Jill Andrew: I’ve got a message from St. Paul’s for this Conservative government: Hands off Ontario Place. Keep Ontario Place public.

This government has quietly taken down the Ontario Place statement of heritage value from its website. It’s not the first time this government has disregarded culture and heritage. Last year, Architectural Conservancy Ontario and other key heritage stakeholders were not consulted on the disastrous Bill 23, which served as a slap in the face to our Ontario heritage system.

Their Ontario Place redevelopment deal, or scheme? Same old deal: no meaningful consultation with community, Indigenous land keepers, environmentalists. Even its own landscape architect has stepped away from this government’s ill-fated project due to its attack on climate change, including tree-clearing which would essentially kill decades-old wildlife habitat. I oppose this government’s new “no deal for Toronto” act. It stinks of preferential treatment for friends and wedding guests, and disregards comprehensive environmental and heritage assessments that should be necessary for large-scale infrastructure projects. Bill 154 allows for a government power grab bypassing and breaking multiple provincial laws in order to complete the Ontario Place redevelopment on behalf of their private luxury buddy firm—and don’t forget, folks, the secretly publicly funded garage.

We stand with Ontario Place for All, the Future of Ontario Place Project and thousands more across Ontario saying, “Hands off our Ontario Place.”

Government’s agenda

Mr. Stephen Crawford: I first want to say happy Scottish Heritage Day to everyone in Ontario of Scottish heritage.

As member of provincial Parliament for Oakville, I’m proud to discuss yesterday’s passing of the fall economic statement. I’m honoured to highlight some of the significant strides that our government is making for the people of Ontario and my riding of Oakville. This plan features some of the most ambitious capital spending in our province’s history, totalling $185 billion over the next 10 years.

Let’s dive into some of the initiatives that will make life better for the residents of Oakville. We are extending the cuts to gasoline and fuel tax rates, maintaining them at nine cents per litre until June 30, 2024. This initiative will continue to provide financial relief to the residents of Oakville.

We are also enhancing the Ontario Focused Flow-Through Share Tax Credit to maximize opportunities in critical mineral exploration. This will not only improve access to capital for small mining exploration companies, but support industries such as the Ford auto plant in Oakville, which is critical to critical minerals in Ontario here.

We’ve expanded the provincial eligibility for breast cancer screening for women ages 40 to 49, to underscore our commitment to health care and early detection. This expansion will directly benefit the women of Oakville, ensuring they have access to vital health care in our community.

And as auto theft has increased in Oakville and across Ontario, our investment of $51 million to fight auto theft and assist police in identifying and dismantling criminal networks will help make the residents of Oakville live in a safer community.

Danielle Brown-Shreves

Mr. Joel Harden: I’m rising this morning to pay great thanks to Dr. Danielle Brown-Shreves, who is a family physician in our community who has just been recognized by the Ontario College of Family Physicians as being a regional family physician of the year. She just won a Dr. Reg L. Perkin Ontario Family Physician of the Year award from her colleagues, and let me tell you why, according to her colleagues.

Dr. Brown-Shreves leads the only Black-led team-based family physician clinic in our city. Dr. Brown-Shreves opens up “wellness day” opportunities for people in our city who do not have health coverage because of their citizenship status. Dr. Brown-Shreves spends her own time meeting directly with settlement agencies in our city, above and beyond what we would expect health practitioners in our province to do.

That’s what leadership looks like to me, Speaker. That’s why I want to thank Dr. Brown-Shreves and her team from the bottom of my heart for all you do to keep our city healthy. Our city is living in a context where at least 150,000 do not have attachment to a nurse practitioner or to a family doctor. This government has only allocated $30 million in the next two years—that’s two bucks per Ontarian—to expand primary health care. They should sit down with Dr. Brown-Shreves, they should sit down with the Restore clinic and they should listen to other initiatives from Ottawa Centre I’ll be talking about in this House in the next two weeks to put us back on track.

Dr. Brown-Shreves, thank you for your service.

Volunteers

Mr. Brian Saunderson: I stand today to talk about the incredible history of volunteerism in my riding of Simcoe–Grey. Indeed, it is part of the DNA of our residents. As we get close to entering the month of December and we reflect on the end of the year and the start of a new one, I think about a full year of successful events, charitable fundraisers, community gatherings and sporting events that have brought the people of Simcoe–Grey together.

1020

Like communities across our great province, the communities of Simcoe–Grey are filled with kind, caring, compassionate and dedicated individuals who give their time freely to many worthy causes. The impact that this has across our communities, the ripple effect that it has, it goes to show the saying a high tide raises all boats.

The word “community” in my mind is derived from two root words: “common” and “unity.” Our communities work together to ensure that they are supporting their residents in a compassionate way, growing community spirit that can only happen when we work together.

Recently, I was notified by the Ontario Ministry of Citizenship and Multiculturalism that over 30 residents of Simcoe–Grey are being recognized with Ontario Volunteer Service Awards. I want to thank each and every one of those individuals. This year’s recipients truly represent the qualities that make Simcoe–Grey so strong. Each in their own way has their own story of how volunteerism has made our community stronger, more resilient, more inclusive and more compassionate. Thank you to each of those volunteers, and congratulations.

Giving Tuesday

Mr. John Jordan: Giving Tuesday was earlier this week—the world’s largest generosity movement. It was created in 2013 in Canada with a simple goal of encouraging people to do good in their own communities. Giving Tuesday has spread to over 90 countries, including thousands of non-profit organizations participating in whatever ways they can.

Many organizations in my riding of Lanark–Frontenac–Kingston participated this year, highlighting their missions, asking for donations and gaining new supporters, organizations like the Perth and Smith Falls District Hospital Foundation, who are seeking donations to their MRI campaign. Lanark County Interval House is requesting donations to its Christmas holiday program, as well as becoming a volunteer. The Lanark County Community Justice program is appealing for socks, mitts or gloves, which will be donated to someone in need, and Southern Frontenac Community Services celebrated Giving Tuesday by acknowledging their wonderful volunteers and thanking the public for rallying behind its mission to work with others to provide health and social services.

I would also like to congratulate the Perth Lions Club. I had the pleasure of attending their 70th anniversary celebration last weekend—70 years of service and giving back to its community.

Let’s all think about how we can lend a hand to one favourite non-profit, not only on Giving Tuesday but throughout the year.

Southwest Ontario Aboriginal Health Access Centre

Mr. Brian Riddell: It’s an honour today to speak in front of the House. I would like to speak about the people in my riding of Cambridge who are truly fortunate to be cared for by countless organizations dedicated to making their lives better.

Among those organizations is the Southwest Ontario Aboriginal Health Access Centre on Coronation Boulevard, which provides quality health care and services to Indigenous peoples. With six locations in southwestern Ontario, the organization recently marked its 25th year of caring for First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples, from Windsor to Waterloo-Wellington and north to Owen Sound. In that time they have provided care to more than 35,000 people. A highlight of the 25th anniversary was a grand opening of the location on Dundas Street in London, Ontario. However, celebrations will continue in the next couple of months.

The Southwest Ontario Aboriginal Health Centre was founded in response to epidemic, systemic health disparities and things that were not equal within the Indigenous population of Ontario. Its mission is to empower Indigenous families and individuals to live in a balanced state of well-being by sharing and promoting holistic health practices. The centre provides innovative, Indigenous-informed care through a combination of health and social services.

This past summer, myself and MPP Dawn Gallagher Murphy were honoured to attend the grand opening ceremonies at the Cambridge location, where we were treated to the traditional sights and sounds of Indigenous culture. We were privileged to have a meal with the centre, and they served buffalo meat, which my EA Grace Camara had never tried before. Now she is a lover of that meat.

Lebanese Heritage Month

Mr. John Fraser: I was pleased to join members of the Lebanese community and my colleague from Ottawa–Vanier yesterday to raise the Lebanese flag in recognition of Lebanese Independence Day. On November 22, 1943, Lebanon was declared a sovereign nation, following 23 years of mandate rule.

November is Lebanese Heritage Month here in Ontario. It recognizes the many contributions of the Lebanese community across our province. I was proud to introduce Bill 60 here in the Legislature, the Lebanese Heritage Month Act, and I would like to thank the member from Nepean and the member from London West for helping to pass that into law in 2017.

In my riding of Ottawa South, we have a very strong, deeply rooted Lebanese community. Every year, there are wonderful celebrations in our riding, celebrations of Lebanese culture, such as the annual St. Elias festival. It’s one of the biggest festivals in Ottawa. Actually, one of my friends, Michael Qaqish, met his now-wife there at the Lebanese festival. I always like to say about the festivals that they combine the five Fs, which are faith, family, food, friends and fun. If you’re ever in Ottawa in the middle of July, please come.

Lebanese Heritage Month is an opportunity for Lebanese Canadians to celebrate their culture and traditions. It’s also a great opportunity to recognize and educate future generations about the great contributions the Lebanese community has made to our community, to our province, to our country and to the world—contributions made to, but not limited to, law, science, politics, business and culture.

Happy Lebanese Heritage Month.

Well Grounded Real Estate

Mr. David Smith: I am honoured this morning to announce that Well Grounded Real Estate’s dedication has elevated them as leaders in purpose-built housing, where from being a finalist in the North American division, they are now winners of the 2023 Holcim gold award in the global competition for excellence in sustainable architecture and design in Venice, Italy. It gives me great pride to report that this project is taking place in my riding of Scarborough Centre at 1925 Victoria Park.

This purpose-built is a mid-market rental building that fulfills a critical void in the marketplace, representing a scalable strategy for solving Ontario’s housing crisis, which our government, under the leadership of the Premier, is tirelessly working to solve.

Mr. Speaker, I would like to welcome Jonathan and Gabriel Diamond, both vice­presidents of Well Grounded Real Estate, for taking us to the world stage. Welcome to your House. Your accomplishments not only bring pride to yourselves, but to all Scarborough Centre residents, all Ontarians and all Canadians.

Thank you and congratulations for your success, but also for elevating Scarborough Centre on the world stage.

Injured workers

Ms. Bhutila Karpoche: I stand today to honour firefighters like Captain Sean Coles, who served as a firefighter for 24 years—nearly half his life. He was diagnosed with stage 4 esophageal cancer and is not expected to see Christmas. He is the father of two kids, and after his diagnosis, Sean not only had to fight cancer, but also fight to ensure his family was supported, because even though he had dedicated 24 years of service, he was one year short of qualifying for benefits for his family.

The blue bracelet I am wearing was created to raise funds for Captain Coles’s family, who would have been left without their father and unsupported. Thankfully, just last month, the latency period for esophageal cancer, the mandatory period of service before qualifying for financial supports, was reduced from 25 years to 15 years.

1030

Sean has the relief of knowing his family will be financially supported. As well, his name will be added to a memorial, showing he gave his life for something bigger than himself.

But more needs to be done. The risk of kidney and skin cancer is also incredibly high, and their latency period must be lowered. The restrictions for eligibility for colorectal cancer must be changed. It makes no sense that once a firefighter reaches 61, they’re ineligible for supports, even though they can serve on a truck until 65.

Firefighters die of cancer at two to four times the rate of the general population. They are at the highest possible occupational risk for cancer. We must step up for firefighters the way they step up for us.

Al Taylor

Ms. Natalie Pierre: This year, at their 2023 Distinguished Entrepreneur of the Year Award ceremony, the Burlington Chamber of Commerce paid tribute to Al Taylor.

In 1959, on his 20th birthday, Al founded Taylor Moving and Storage. In the 63 years since the company’s founding, Al Taylor estimates his company has moved more than half a million people. That’s more than the number of people who currently live in Hamilton.

Today, Taylor Moving and Storage employs more than 120 people, including Al’s sons and grandson. From the very start, Al knew the importance of keeping his business in the community. His story, rooted in hard work and determination, mirrors the very soul of entrepreneurship. From sweeping floors at 14 to driving trucks at 16, Al’s early days provided a hands-on education in the school of hard work. He hustled, built relationships based on integrity and trust, laying the foundation for an extraordinary legacy.

Al’s story embodies the Canadian spirit of entrepreneurship and community building. The Taylor legacy continues through Al’s sons, Richard and Russell Taylor, who purchased the company in 2002.

I would like to congratulate Al Taylor for his years of service to the Burlington community.

Introduction of Visitors

Mr. John Fraser: I would like to welcome Jordan Vecchio, who is from my constituency office, here, and Andrew Green, who used to work in this building for the former member from Don Valley East.

I would especially like to welcome my long-suffering wife, Linda. She is here today.

Interjections.

Mr. John Fraser: Yes, long-suffering—she’s had to live with me. So, apparently, I have to be on my best behaviour today.

Hon. Michael S. Kerzner: I’m pleased to welcome Krupesh Shah, a member of the Brantford Police Services Board. Welcome to the Ontario Legislature.

Mrs. Jennifer (Jennie) Stevens: It gives me great pleasure to introduce four wonderful people that I met with this morning, as well as their cohorts: Jazzlyn Abbott from McMaster University; Alyssa Hall, from BUSU, Brock University—woo hoo!—and Carleigh Charlton, BUSU, Brock University; and Victoria Mills, Queen’s University.

Welcome to your House. It was a pleasure meeting you.

Mr. Will Bouma: I would like to welcome to the people’s House, from Brantford’s North Park Collegiate Student Anti-Racism Coalition, Bhumi Shah, Alicia Melick, Lily Song, and Cordelia Simmons. Welcome to the people’s House.

Mr. Logan Kanapathi: I’m delighted to introduce, Dr. T. Varatharajah, subject of the biography Untold Truth of Tamil Genocide, and the author, Raji Patterson.

In the last stages of the war in Sri Lanka, in 2009, Dr. Varatharajah continued to show compassion and humanity by upholding his Hippocratic oath in unimaginable conditions, even as tens of thousands of people were killed around him.

I encourage all the members to come to boardroom 432 after question period to hear his incredible story.

Welcome to the Legislature of Ontario, Dr. Varatharajah.

Miss Monique Taylor: Once again I’d like to welcome Michau van Speyk from the Ontario Autism Coalition. Welcome back to Queen’s Park, Michau.

Mr. Trevor Jones: I’m proud to introduce and welcome Vivian Chiem, Julian Mollot-Hill, Angelique Dack and Zarreen Brown from the Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance. Thank you very much for a productive and interesting meeting this morning.

Mr. David Smith: I’d like to welcome again both Jonathan and Gabriel from Well Grounded Real Estate to the House today. Welcome to your House.

House sittings

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): I beg to inform the House that, pursuant to standing order 9(h), the Clerk has received written notice from the government House leader indicating that a temporary change in the weekly meeting schedule of the House is required, and therefore the House shall commence at 9 a.m. on Monday, December 4, 2023, for the proceeding of orders of the day.

It is now time for oral questions.

Question Period

Ontario Science Centre

Ms. Marit Stiles: Good morning, Speaker. Yesterday, the government finally released its business case for relocating the Ontario Science Centre to Ontario Place, finally, after they tried to hide it for so long. It showed that the cost of building a new science centre at Ontario Place would be double the cost of repairing the existing science centre. All the so-called savings come from the lower cost of operating a half-sized science centre over 50 years.

So, my question is for the Premier. Why would this Premier force the people of Ontario to pay twice as much for a science centre that’s half the size?

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): To reply, Minister of Infrastructure.

Hon. Kinga Surma: Thank you to the member for the question. Funny that she’s speaking about the business case but yesterday she was calling it a “shell game” and a “scam.” There is no scam here. We made the business case public, and the numbers are very clear that we would be saving $257 million over a 50-year period and up to $600 million in tomorrow’s dollars over a 50-year period.

Now, I know what the Leader of the Opposition is doing. She doesn’t want children to have a science centre for the next 50 years. That is what she is saying, because she’s not thinking about the long-term sustainability of that facility.

Mr. Speaker, the evidence was clear yesterday. I was super happy to share it with the public. And I’m sorry, but they have nothing to say.

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

Ms. Marit Stiles: Yes, Speaker, “scam,” “shell game” —but don’t just count on me here. The Globe and Mail: “all spin,” “bogus” logic, “faulty” numbers.

Let’s talk about kids. Let’s talk about children. Schools from across the province visit the science centre. Kids and families learn about science and the world around us. The government is slicing it in half and reducing its capacity, planning to fire science centre staff—that’s how they’re going to find savings—and making it harder for kids to actually go there.

Back to the Premier: At a time when we need people to go into the sciences, why is this government making it even harder?

Hon. Kinga Surma: I would love to talk about the attendance of the science centre. In fact, attendance at the science centre has been declining by 40% since 2009. Why is that the case? I don’t know. It could be the fact that this facility is 54 years old.

But let’s talk about the size of the science centre: 18% of the size of the science centre is actually used for exhibits today. The new facility, although smaller in size, more energy-efficient, would actually be more sustainable and will have 10,000 more square feet of exhibition space for the children to enjoy.

Interjections.

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): I’m going to ask the member for Hamilton Mountain and the government House leader to come to order.

The final supplementary.

1040

Ms. Marit Stiles: Speaker, I’ll tell you, the legacy of disrepair is on this government and the previous government.

But I will give them some advice for free here: They can save $650 million right now by cancelling the public subsidy for their luxury spa. How about that?

The Ontario Science Centre is a crucial cultural and educational hub as well as an employer for people in East York, including in the Thorncliffe Park and Flemingdon Park neighbourhoods. Instead of making the necessary repairs, the Premier wants to spend twice as much to build a new science centre that’s half the size and located an hour farther away for anybody who doesn’t already live in downtown Toronto.

So, to the Premier: Why won’t the Premier listen to the people of Thorncliffe Park, Flemingdon Park and many other communities served by the science centre and keep it where it is?

Hon. Kinga Surma: Mr. Speaker, there’s the Leader of the Opposition talking about Therme again. She is obsessed; that is all she cares about. She doesn’t care about revitalizing Ontario Place and bringing it back to life, making sure that we improve the site.

But, Mr. Speaker, let’s talk about what she would like to do. Okay, fine. So let’s provide millions more dollars to the existing science centre facility. Let’s do that this year. You know what? Let’s do that next year. Then let’s do that the year after and then let’s face a systemic failure, structural failure, and then be forced to decommission the building. I don’t think that is the responsible move. I don’t think that’s the responsible move for the hard-working people at the science centre.

What we’re doing is ensuring that Ontarians have a science centre for the future, for the next 50 years, and we are being fiscally prudent.

Government accountability

Ms. Marit Stiles: Yesterday I asked the Premier why this $650-million luxury spa is so important to him at a time when Ontarians can’t make ends meet. He couldn’t answer me, so I’m going to ask again and hopefully he will answer me this time.

To the Premier: Why is this luxury spa so important to him that he is rewriting the laws of the province of Ontario to make it happen?

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

Hon. Kinga Surma: Thank you to the member opposite for the question. Let’s again raise the fact that Therme was a successful proponent when we weren’t even in government back in 2016. And they were, again, a successful proponent back in 2019.

But I would like to ask the member opposite why is she so against fixing Ontario Place? Why does she want Ontario Place to continue to deteriorate, to continue to flood, to continue to flood to the degree where Live Nation actually had to cancel their concerts in 2017? How is that acceptable? Can you answer that question for the people of Ontario? Because I would like to hear it.

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

Ms. Marit Stiles: Quite a performance, Speaker.

Interjections.

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Order.

Ms. Marit Stiles: This bill, the so-called Rebuilding Ontario Place Act, specifically blocks people from suing the government for misrepresentation or misconduct. It specifically blocks remedies for people who have been harmed by government misfeasance, bad faith, breach of trust, or breach of fiduciary obligation. It is unprecedented.

Speaker, to the Premier: What does it tell Ontarians about this government’s secret 95-year-long deal that they have to rewrite the laws to protect themselves?

Hon. Kinga Surma: Well, let’s talk about why people enter into a long-term lease. We entered into a long-term lease with the city of Toronto when we built the science centre facility 54 years ago. Why did we do that? Because we paid for the facility and we wanted to know that we could stay there for a while.

The same circumstances exist at Ontario Place. We have someone that is willing to invest in the site in terms of hundreds of millions of dollars, operate a facility that families can enjoy, a wellness and water park facility, and contribute to the annual maintenance of the site so that we can have a well-maintained Ontario Place.

Mr. Speaker, again, I ask the member across the floor, why is she so against bringing Ontario Place back to life and saving the science centre?

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

Ms. Marit Stiles: Gotcha—so instead of learning the lessons of the greenbelt scandal, this time they’re covering their tracks so they don’t get caught the next time. Okay. We got it.

Here’s another thing that Bill 154 does: It would give another minister, the Minister of Infrastructure, the power to issue MZOs. I asked the Premier yesterday why he would do this, and he answered, “Why wouldn’t we?” Well, I’ll tell you why they shouldn’t. They’re under a criminal investigation already by the RCMP and the Auditor General for abusing MZOs to benefit their insider friends.

To the Premier: Is this government expanding MZO powers to make it easier to grease the wheels for more of their insiders?

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

Hon. Paul Calandra: You know who our insiders are, Mr. Speaker? Olivia Chow, the most powerful NDP leader in the province of Ontario. That’s who our insiders are, all right? That’s who our insiders are. This is a caucus that is going to vote against somebody who sat in their caucus, an NDP leader, mayor of the city of Toronto.

You know what this deal does? The deal ensures that there is housing in the city of Toronto. The deal, supported by the mayor of Toronto, brings back Ontario Place. Yes, it saves the science centre. Yes, Mr. Speaker, but it also provides transit and transportation for the city of Toronto. That is why the city of Toronto, led by Mayor Olivia Chow, are supporting this deal. She was in this place, not two days ago, touting the importance of this deal. The only one who is against this deal is the NDP Leader of the Opposition. And why is she against it? Because they are against everything. There is nothing that they want. This is a radical NDP, a weakened NDP leader—she should take the advice of the mayor of the city of Toronto and support this deal for the people of Toronto.

Interjections.

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Stop the clock. Order.

Start the clock. The next question.

Entretien hivernal des routes / Winter highway maintenance

M. Guy Bourgouin: Au premier ministre : dans le Nord, nous avons déjà eu deux fermetures de l’autoroute 11 à cause des tempêtes de neige. Les municipalités du Nord ont déjà commencé à entretenir la route avant même la première neige à Toronto.

Le gouvernement a fait une entente pour remettre dans les mains de la province l’entretien de la Gardiner Expressway et de la Don Valley. Ma question pour le premier ministre : allez-vous signer les mêmes ententes avec les municipalités du Nord?

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

Hon. Paul Calandra: Mr. Speaker, what a question to get from the member opposite, right? I tell you what. Why don’t you stand in your place and vote in favour of the bill that your leader just said was a scam?

How can you, in one breath, say, “We want you to do more of what you’re just doing in Toronto,” but in the other breath, lead question period with, “We don’t like the deal; we’re voting against it”? The member for. St. Paul’s, in her member’s statement, said she would be voting against the very same bill that the mayor of the city of Toronto is in favour of—

Interjections.

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Order.

Hon. Paul Calandra: —the NDP mayor of the city of Toronto is in favour of, and now this member stands in his place and says, “Can you do more of it?” Well, I’ll tell you what. We’re going to do more to build Ontario, despite the objections of the NDP.

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

The supplementary question? The member for Timiskaming–Cochrane.

Mr. John Vanthof: We must be talking about a different bill because that bill just says “discussions” about highways. And while you’re discussing the Gardiner and the Don Valley, how about discussing Highway 11, which you already have control of, on which people play chicken with transports every day—transports passing each other on double lines, people being pushed in the ditch—and the Trans-Canada Highway.

How about discussing with municipalities like Timmins, like Temiskaming Shores, like Iroquois Falls, about the highways that you downloaded to them? How about discussing uploading them so they can pay for social services, so they can pay for subsidized housing? How about doing that?

Hon. Paul Calandra: I almost feel like I should have a sweater vest on again. I feel like today would have been a good sweater vest day.

1050

To hear the NDP stand in their place now and ask us to continue doing the job we’ve been doing for five years—and they have voted against it every single time. We’re bringing back roads; we’re building roads. We’re making them safer. That member votes against it. His own caucus has just said they are going to vote against the bill, a bill that we are bringing forward to improve transit and transportation in the city of Toronto, to create thousands of jobs for the people of Toronto.

I tell you what we will do: We will continue to reach out to our municipal partners. We’ll continue to make those investments to improve roads not only in southern Ontario but in northern Ontario, bring back the Northlander, expand Highway 401, make our roads safer, improved bridges, and bring jobs, hope and opportunity back to what you called a “wasteland” with the support of the Liberals.

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

The next question.

Taxation

Mr. Will Bouma: My question is for the Minister of Northern Development and Minister of Indigenous Affairs. Municipalities across Ontario, especially in rural, remote and northern communities, face unprecedented economic challenges due to unforeseen additional costs arising from the carbon tax. Increasing cost to heat buildings and rising fuel costs for front-line municipal vehicles create economic and budgetary challenges for our municipal partners. This is especially true for northern municipalities and Indigenous communities who feel the effects of the federal carbon tax more significantly than other municipalities.

While the NDP tries to confuse everyone as to where they stand on this punitive and regressive tax, our government’s position has always been clear: It’s time to scrap the carbon tax. Can the minister please explain how the carbon tax negatively impacts northern municipalities and Indigenous communities?

Hon. Greg Rickford: The federal government made the pitch to the municipalities that this carbon tax would have a net benefit for them, and opposition members here in this place have rallied around that thought. But let’s test that theory for a second.

In fact, Mr. Speaker, 10% of tax revenues are used to fund environmental projects for small businesses, municipalities, hospital, schools and Indigenous communities. Wow. Meanwhile many municipalities have seen significant increases in their operating expenses because of the carbon tax. In Kenora–Rainy River, the local district services board tells us that their fuel costs have doubled since 2020.

Even in the NDP-governed British Columbia, we’re seeing strong opposition by the municipalities to this regressive tax. Fort St. John said it best. They said a carbon tax on home heating and everything else is an unfair financial burden for residents in northern cities in their province. We agree. Let’s scrap that tax.

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

Mr. Will Bouma: Thank you, Minister, for that response. It’s clear from your response that the negative impact from the carbon tax continues to be a pressing concern for northern municipalities and Indigenous communities. Major industries and local businesses across the north are worse off as a result of the carbon tax. Every day, municipalities and businesses deal with pressures of making difficult decisions because of this ludicrous and punitive tax.

It is difficult to understand why the independent Liberals and the opposition NDP continue to disrespect the north by supporting the federal government’s imposition of this regressive tax. Can the minister please elaborate on how the carbon tax is making life more expensive and more costly for northern Ontario?

Hon. Greg Rickford: We can’t have a contemporary conversation about northern development without thinking about the cost that the carbon tax puts on all of the different projects that we do and the industries that drive our communities.

The Canadian Energy Centre reports that the forestry and logging sector in Ontario alone will see a cost increase of 5%. Now, a lot of those trees create board foot. That board foot goes to build homes, which we badly need. So we can see those costs being buried in the very things that we’re trying to build for Ontario in the midst of a housing crisis. The same study suggests that the carbon tax will result in a 4.4% increase in the cost of creating legacy infrastructure for mining operations and those mining operations. That’s not helpful when we’re trying to develop critical minerals to transform a green economy and incredible opportunity for Ontarians. Let’s just scrap the tax.

Prescription contraceptives

Mrs. Jennifer (Jennie) Stevens: This question is to the Minister of Health.

We had a great debate on universal contraception. We found out that OHIP+ and the government’s coverage that they mentioned—they said that it was six million people, but most of them are men, seniors and children. I was wondering if the minister can answer the question: Why doesn’t it cover the 30 years in between?

Hon. Sylvia Jones: Perhaps the member opposite is not familiar with the Trillium drug plan, which is available to all Ontario residents who have a financial need, to ensure that they have their drugs covered. We have often talked about the OHIP+ pathway, for individuals under the age of 25, and the Trillium drug plan.

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Supplementary question: the member for Nickel Belt.

Mme France Gélinas: We all know that when we make access easier, we get results. We get results by lowering the demand in the rest of our health care system. There is an inequity right now for women who cannot gain access to contraception. We have an opportunity in a few minutes, as legislators, to change all of that, to make sure that every woman in Ontario who needs contraception will be covered and will be getting contraception through our health care system.

Why is it that, after discussion, after reading hundreds of letters from women who need this to happen, we are still debating this issue? This is a non-issue, Speaker. This is a service that needs to be covered by the government, end of story. Will the members of the Conservative Party stand up for women’s rights and vote in favour of that motion?

Hon. Sylvia Jones: Absolutely, we will and we do. The member opposite should know that we made a very recent announcement last month that will allow and expand mammograms for individuals who want to self-refer from 40 and up. Those are the types of concrete examples of what we are doing. A non-binding resolution isn’t going to improve women’s health in the province of Ontario; actual concrete action is what we are doing. Whether it is with OHIP+, with the Trillium drug plan or with expanding access to self-referrals for mammograms, we’re getting the job done.

Taxation

Mr. Dave Smith: First off, I want to say happy Scottish Heritage Day to everyone today.

My question is for the Minister of Transportation. The people of my riding are telling me that the carbon tax is making life more expensive for them, as the cost of everything keeps increasing. The rising cost of fuel is greatly impacting individuals and families in every corner of our province. I want to point out that when a Sayers grocery store burned in Apsley, it was the only grocery store within 50 kilometres. People had to drive to get groceries, and the carbon tax increased the cost of gas, which hurt everyone.

Ontarians should not be experiencing financial hardship or having to make difficult choices on whether they can afford to drive to the places they need to go to, like the grocery store. It is unacceptable that the federal government is intent on raising the carbon tax even more at a time when Ontarians are struggling.

Can the minister please explain what the impact of the federal carbon tax is having on the transportation needs of Ontario families?

Hon. Prabmeet Singh Sarkaria: Thank you to that member for that question. The federal carbon tax is hurting Ontario’s economy and is really hurting families and making life harder.

Speaker, the federal government doesn’t seem to understand that for parents filling up their cars in places like Peterborough, Kenora and Wawa, there are, in many cases, no alternatives, and the carbon tax adds unnecessary costs for families who need to rely on a car to drive their kids to school, to go to work or to visit their doctor. Unlike in Toronto, communities like Kenora, Peterborough and Wawa don’t have access to rapid transit and subways, and we need to recognize this.

1100

It’s clear that the federal Liberals and their provincial counterparts are out of touch with the needs of Ontario families, and we urge the federal government to do the right thing: Support Ontario’s families and scrap your carbon tax.

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

Mr. Dave Smith: Thank you to the minister for that response. The minister is correct: The federal Liberals are out of touch when it comes to understanding that the carbon tax is leading to soaring fuel prices that make life unaffordable and difficult for everyone. Anyone sitting in this chamber that agrees the carbon tax is good for the people of Ontario is out of touch.

The reality is that Ontarians are already struggling with the high cost of goods, groceries and gas because of that carbon tax. The carbon tax adversely affects every business and negatively impacts our economy and every single worker in Ontario. That’s why our government must continue to call on federal government to do the right thing and eliminate the tax completely.

Speaker, can the minister please elaborate on how future carbon tax increases are going to negatively impact the people of Ontario?

Hon. Prabmeet Singh Sarkaria: At a time when Canadians are seeing costs go up everywhere, the federal Liberals, supported by their provincial counterparts, are raising taxes on families across the province. The federal Liberals will increase it from $65 per tonne to $170 per tonne by 2030. If we think gas is expensive now, it’s going to get a lot worse. It’s going to get harder for families to take their kids to soccer practice. It’s going to get even more expensive for us to afford food.

It’s about time that the federal Liberals and the provincial Liberals stand up for drivers and appreciate the unique needs of those in communities that don’t have rapid transit and subways. Families cannot afford higher taxes. We have to be serious about reducing emissions and addressing affordability, and they need to take leadership and scrap the carbon tax.

Public transit

Mr. Joel Harden: My question is for the Premier. It’s nice to see him here this morning. Unfortunately, I hasten to inform the members of this House—

Interjections.

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Stop the clock.

It is against the rules of the House to make reference to the absence of a member, and it creates disorder in the House. I would remind members not to make reference to the absence of any member.

Interjections.

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Order.

Restart the clock. The member for Ottawa Centre has the floor.

Mr. Joel Harden: Thank you, Speaker.

I hastily and sadly inform the members of the House, in a question to the Premier, that Metrolinx has missed another deadline. We were supposed to hear two months ago, according to their failed CEO, Mr. Verster, that we’d get an update on the Eglinton Crosstown project. But two months have passed and the only thing that has happened is that Mr. Verster has apparently earned another $160,000 thanks to the Ontario taxpayer, and his army of 59 vice-presidents and 19 C-suite executives are probably doing very well.

So my question to the Premier, through you, Speaker: Can we expect an actual update from Mr. Verster on the status of the Eglinton Crosstown LRT?

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): To reply, the Minister of Transportation.

Hon. Prabmeet Singh Sarkaria: We are launching the largest public transit expansion in the history of this province and this country and, in fact, in North America: $70 billion over the next 10 years. That includes historic projects like the Ontario Line, which that member voted against and his party voted against.

The Scarborough subway extension: a project, Mr. Speaker, that the provincial Liberals spoke about for 15 years and did absolutely nothing and ignored the people of Scarborough. Under this Premier and his leadership, we’re building the Scarborough subway extension.

We look at LRTs across this province. The Hazel McCallion Line: We were just there with the Premier and the hard-working construction workers on the line, making sure it’s ready to go.

We’re going to change the face of transportation across this province. We’re going to change how people are moving. We’re going to build highways, we’re going to build public transit, and we’ll take no lessons from the official opposition on that.

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

Mr. Joel Harden: Speaker, back to the Premier, I hope: I do know that this government is building something. It’s not transit. They’re building the bank accounts of consultants and executives that serve Mr. Verster. That’s what they’re doing.

This government seems to be confused, Speaker, rather like the federal government. They have great ideas about aspirational transit—transit that might come one day, transit that is $1 billion over budget in this particular project and three years late.

So my question to the Premier: Why are you continuing to tolerate an executive who apparently earns $1 million a year thanks to the Ontario taxpayer, who presides over failing transit projects, who has spent at least $500 million in court fighting the company building this project? And why are you not respecting the women and men all across Ontario that operate our transit system and paying them the salaries they deserve and giving the municipalities the money they deserve? Operational transit: That’s what we want here.

Interjections.

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Members will take their seats. I remind members to make their comments through the Chair.

The Premier to reply.

Hon. Doug Ford: Mr. Speaker, to the carbon tax king who wants to increase taxes on absolutely everyone, I’ll follow up what the minister has just said. We’re building the largest transit expansion in North America. We’re doubling the size of the Toronto transit system. As he was mentioning, for years and years—decades—under the Liberals, they forgot about the people of Scarborough. They forgot about the people of Etobicoke going west, which is, by the way, six weeks ahead of schedule and on time. And we’re doing the Yonge extension as well. He mentioned all the LTRs going in, the great Hazel McCallion Line out in Mississauga and the line going along Finch.

We’re making a difference here for the people in Toronto and the GTA and right across this province. We’re going to continue building transit. As you vote no against every single transit project, we’re going to keep moving forward. Thank you for the question.

Defibrillators

Mr. John Fraser: My question is for the Premier. Four years ago last week, we passed Bill 141, which is the Defibrillator Registration and Public Access Act, at second reading. This bill lets us know where defibrillators are across the province. It also lets us know that they’ve been maintained so we know they work.

There were three bills, actually, from the member from Nickel Belt, myself and the member from Eglinton–Lawrence. We asked the new House leader at the time to say, “Pass this bill. Take it to committee. Let’s travel it.” We did that. It received royal assent in June 2020. We were all pretty excited—change. We did something good. We were going to save lives.

Since then—crickets. The bill is not enacted. It hasn’t been enacted three and a half years later—a bill that will help keep people alive. So could the minister and the Premier please tell us exactly what’s happened with this bill?

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): To reply, the Deputy Premier and Minister of Health.

Hon. Sylvia Jones: Respectfully, the member opposite is not quite up to date. We have absolutely been working with our paramedic partners and other municipal leaders to make sure that we get this right.

I’m going to give credit where credit is due, and that is my amazing parliamentary assistant, the member from Eglinton–Lawrence, who brought this bill forward. We often talk about how our government has a plan and it’s working. This is a beautiful example of something that the member from Eglinton–Lawrence saw, brought forward a solution, and now we’re working through those regulatory details to make sure we get it right. I am incredibly proud of the work that she’s been doing.

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

Mr. John Fraser: Respectfully, Speaker: three and a half years.

Defibrillators save lives. The person sitting next to me is living proof, and if they couldn’t find the defibrillator or it didn’t work, that chair would be empty right now.

So, 7,000 people have cardiac arrest in Ontario every year—7,000 people—and we know that if defibrillation is applied within three minutes, most of them survive. Every minute after, it gets worse. Three minutes; three and a half years.

1110

Minister, will you commit to making sure that this bill is enacted before we return here in February? It’s important to Ontario families, because they don’t want any empty chairs.

Hon. Sylvia Jones: I respect the member opposite. I really do. I think he has been doing an excellent job as the interim leader; you will of course transition to a new role. But I want to give a bit of a history lesson: You had a Liberal member when the Liberal government was here in control in the province of Ontario who brought forward very similar legislation. That was Ted McMeekin. What did your government do with it? What they did with it, Speaker, is they ignored it. We’re actually passing this legislation, we’re passing the regulations and we’re putting it in place, while you had members in your own party that you turned your back on and said, “We’re not interested in that registry.” We are doing it.

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Once again, I’ll remind members to make their comments through the Chair, not directly across the floor of the House.

Next question.

Taxation

Mr. Lorne Coe: My question is for the Associate Minister of Small Business. The federal government has already raised the carbon tax on gasoline five times, and they intend to raise prices another seven times in the coming years. The carbon tax adversely affects our businesses and negatively impacts our economy and Ontario workers. That is why it was truly shocking to hear that the Liberal member for Kanata–Carleton actually stood up in the Legislature and praised the carbon tax as beneficial for Ontarians.

While the opposition NDP and independent Liberals continue to believe that increasing taxes is the best solution, our government realizes that’s wrong and unfair to hard-working Ontarians. Speaker, can the associate minister please explain the negative impact of the carbon tax on the province’s businesses?

Hon. Nina Tangri: I really do appreciate the member from Whitby for raising such an important question.

The continuous increase in the carbon tax poses significant challenges for these businesses and the broader economy. Fuel is a significant expense for the trucking and logistics industry, and the continuous rise in the carbon tax directly translates into higher fuel prices. These higher costs have a cascading effect, as they are passed on to small businesses through increased transportation costs for goods. This means less money to expand their operations or, even worse, potentially laying off staff.

With the recent fall economic statement, Ottawa has made it very clear: It’s only up from here for the carbon tax. Speaker, I know the Liberals are busy deciding who gets to drive the minivan next, but if they have some time, they should pick up the phone and do their job by telling their federal counterpart to scrap the tax.

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

Mr. Lorne Coe: Thank you to the associate minister for that response.

According to the Parliamentary Budget Officer, by 2030, Ontario households will experience a decline in their quality of life due to the additional costs resulting from the carbon tax. A financial loss of $2,000 per household will bring even further hardship to individuals and families who are already struggling to make ends meet.

Speaker, increasing the carbon tax will negatively impact the people of Ontario and, yes, our economy. Contrary to claims made by the Liberal Party, the carbon tax adversely affects our businesses and negatively impacts our economy and Ontario workers. Can the associate minister please elaborate on the impact of the carbon tax on small businesses and communities across our province?

Hon. Nina Tangri: Thank you again to the member from Whitby for the question. Let me tell you what I have heard from members of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business. From a small manufacturer: “The carbon tax increasing each year is crippling our ability to do business outside of our local area. We used to have a large province-wide presence with some of our product in a major retailer and online delivery but now shipping costs are too high to make a profit doing that. We have had to pivot our whole business model because of that.”

From a construction business: “The carbon tax is simply an added cost to our small business. We need trucks to move our equipment and fuel costs are through the roof. I feel there are better ways to help fight climate change.”

The opposition have failed to recognize the impact this tax has on Ontario’s small businesses and the communities that rely on them. It is high time for the NDP and the Liberals to stop grandstanding. Tell Ottawa: Scrap the tax.

Health Care

MPP Lise Vaugeois: To the Premier: Seniors in my riding of Thunder Bay–Superior North and the neighbouring riding of Thunder Bay–Atikokan are telling me they cannot afford to pay for the RSV vaccine that the government is only providing under OHIP to seniors in long-term care.

People over the age of 60 account for 80% of deaths from the virus, yet the ministry has erected financial barriers to adults seeking the vaccine who live in their own homes. Will the Premier end this discriminatory practice and provide full RSV coverage for all people over the age of 60?

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

Hon. Sylvia Jones: Well, I’m very pleased that you have constituents in your communities who are so excited about a vaccine that is literally, for the first time ever, available for RSV. As soon as Health Canada approved that vaccine, Ontario was and continues to be the only Canadian jurisdiction that is providing RSV vaccines for free in our long-term-care homes and our high-risk retirement homes.

It is a very strategic decision to make sure that the individuals who are most vulnerable living in those congregate care settings have access to what truly is a life-saving, game-changing vaccine.

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

MPP Lise Vaugeois: Access to the Shingrix vaccine is also a problem. For those between 65 and 70, it is covered by OHIP, but anybody older than 70 has to pay $300 to get the vaccine, even though the risks of getting a severe case increase with age. My mother, who turns 96 today, was not offered the vaccine, came down with an excruciating case of shingles a year ago and is still experiencing pain to this day.

Will the Premier stop this discriminatory practice, remove the upper age limit and provide shingles coverage for all people over the age of 65?

Hon. Sylvia Jones: Thank you, and happy birthday to your mother.

I want to say, Ontario does lead Canada in terms of the number of drugs and access to vaccines that we have on the formulary. Again, we are very strategic in making sure that we have and ensure access for the people who are most vulnerable.

When I think of the changes that we’ve been able to make because we have COVID-19 vaccines in our community, because we have thousands of pharmacies and pharmacists who are, on a daily basis, providing vaccines to our residents, it really is taking a very different approach in making sure that we are protecting as many Ontario residents as possible. We’ll continue to do that work because we see that this is yet another protection to ensure people in Ontario remain safe.

Landlord and Tenant Board

Mr. Vincent Ke: My question is to the Attorney General. My constituents, both landlords and tenants, often express their frustration with the delays at the Landlord and Tenant Board.

We currently have a national housing crisis. The long-term rental supply plays a vital role in tackling this issue. Sadly, we are seeing financial disasters caused by non-paying tenants, which result in landlords having to either sell their property or move into short-term rentals.

1120

The LTB is the backbone of a functional rental community and provides a legal framework for how landlords and tenants should govern themselves. It is intended as a means of resolving disputes between both parties in a fair and timely manner. My question is, what steps is the government taking to ensure that the LTB is fair and fast for everyone?

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): The Attorney General.

Hon. Doug Downey: I want to thank the member from Don Valley North. He’s clearly in touch with his constituents. We’re hearing it from our constituents as well.

The Landlord and Tenant Board is an important part of our system, and I can tell you that we’re making progress. This government made investments last year that the NDP opposed. We made investments this year that the NDP opposed. We have doubled the number of adjudicators. By the end of today, there will be 69, where there were 40 in June—full-time. We’re adding more. We’ll be at 86 very shortly.

I sat down with Sean Weir, the executive chair, and we are making progress. Of our 13 tribunals, 11 are hitting their targets. The Landlord and Tenant Board is next, Mr. Speaker. Of urgent matters reviewed and processed as of September of last year, 964; by September this year, 2,356—a 140% improvement. In terms of scheduled hearings: last year, 49,000 scheduled hearings; this year so far, 70,000—a 40% increase.

I’ll have more in the supplementary.

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

Mr. Vincent Ke: Thank you to the Attorney General for his response. Since the pandemic, the issues of fraudulent rental applications and non-payment of rent have soared to historically high levels. Fake identities, job letters, employment income and bank statements, as well as forged credit reports, have become more common in rental applications without the offenders facing any consequences. Those acts are not just hurting landlords; the impact of their behaviour extends to honest, paying tenants as well. When landlords start to withdraw from long-term rentals, it limits the choice of housing and increases the cost of living.

Can the Attorney General tell us what can be done to make sure those who break the law intentionally are held accountable, to help restore public confidence in our justice system?

Hon. Doug Downey: Again, thank you to the member from Don Valley North. We looked at the system and how it had developed through COVID. We have frozen fees. We have added resources. We have changed systems. We have put a whole new backbone into it.

We want to make sure that the landlords—and when we say “landlords,” we’re talking about not just large landlords; we’re talking about your neighbours who are trying to rent out part of their house or an investment property that they have. We looked at where the choke points were in the system, and one of them was the orders. Once the hearing had happened, the orders weren’t getting out fast enough. The L3s and L4s—in February of this year, there were 1,000 waiting to be processed; as of early October of this year, there were 75.

We are making progress. We will get there, and we will make sure that the landlords and the tenants have a fair and responsive system.

Taxation

Ms. Laura Smith: My question is for the Minister of Finance. When meeting with local businesses in my riding of Thornhill, they consistently tell me about how the federal carbon tax is so detrimental to our local economy and making their businesses more expensive to operate.

Our government is very clear that local businesses are essential and serve a vital role in driving our province’s economic prosperity. Local businesses in all communities need to feel supported, not penalized. It’s not fair or right that our businesses are being punished because of this regressive tax forced on them by the federal Liberal government. Can the minister please explain how a carbon tax negatively impacts our local businesses?

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): The parliamentary assistant and member for Oakville.

Mr. Stephen Crawford: Thank you to the hard-working member from Thornhill. You’re absolutely right: Local businesses are a pivotal part of our economy and this government continues to ensure they are getting the supports that they need. That’s why during COVID we took action early and provided grants to small businesses to ensure that they would come out of COVID and continue to thrive across this province. But local business owners in the member’s riding are also right when they say the carbon tax is driving costs and making life more expensive for the people of Ontario. It’s not just driving up the price of gasoline, but it’s also driving up the expenses of supply chains, our housing, grocery prices and, of course, inflation.

It’s not fair for the people of this province, and that’s why we continue to fight the carbon tax and call on the federal government to end this regressive tax. Will the opposition join us on our call or continue to sit on their hands?

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

Ms. Laura Smith: Thank you to the member from Oakville for his dedicated work.

When it comes to the negative impact of the carbon tax, everyone shares the same message of concern. From the governor of the Bank of Canada to the parliamentary budget officers, academics, economists, business leaders and even Premiers of all political stripes agree that the carbon tax is making life more challenging and unaffordable for everyone. The carbon tax is also increasing prices and is creating unfavourable conditions that weaken our competitive economic advantage. Local businesses are struggling and this regressive tax is only making their work more difficult.

During this time of economic uncertainty and affordability concerns, Ontarians should not be taxed more. Can the parliamentary assistant please explain how our government is supporting Ontario businesses and families?

Mr. Stephen Crawford: Thank you again for the question from the member for Thornhill.

As the member clearly outlined, the carbon tax continues to drive up prices and make life more unaffordable. I was disappointed to see here in our chamber the Liberal Party of this province show their continued support by voting against our motion on the removal of carbon tax on all home heating fuels. They did this in spite of the evidence highlighting the damage it’s doing to local businesses throughout Ontario.

But that’s why, while the other party continues to vote to increase prices for Ontarians, we are working to make life more affordable. From removing double transit fares, ending tolls on Highways 412 and 418 to eliminating the need for licence stickers, we are continuing to take action and put money back in the pockets of the people of Ontario at a time when they need it the most.

Gender-based violence.

MPP Jill Andrew: My question’s to the Premier. Speaker, 62 women and children were lost to femicide in the past year according to OAITH’s 2023 femicide list. We know these numbers, with each passing day, are rising. Yesterday, I met with OAITH and spoke with workers—women—on the front lines of gender-based violence and intimate partner violence working hard to help save the lives of women and children exposed to violence. You refuse to listen to our countless calls for you to name gender-based violence as an epidemic in this province of Ontario. This sector hasn’t seen real investments, deep investments, to its operational funding in 15 years and counting.

My question is to the Premier. You keep talking about a national plan to address gender-based violence, national dollars. As Premier of Ontario, what is your plan? What is Ontario’s provincial plan to address gender-based and intimate partner violence? Let’s not pass the buck. Thank you, Speaker.

Interjections.

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

The member for Stormont–Dundas–South Glengarry and parliamentary assistant.

Mr. Nolan Quinn: The government will always be there to protect women and their children escaping violence. We back up that work with investments. Supports to victims of violence have increased by $6.5 million in this year’s budget over last year, and we have flowed $6 million to support initiatives and supports in rural and remote communities.

We invested $18.5 million over three years to enhance the Transitional and Housing Support Program to help victims of domestic violence and survivors of human trafficking find and maintain housing and help transition to independence, and those were on top of approximately $240 million we invested for victims of violence and $10.2 million for violence prevention initiatives.

Just two weeks ago, we negotiated with the federal government to implement the National Action Plan to End Gender-Based Violence that will see an additional $162 million invested over four years in Ontario. Our government has and will continue to increase investments across the board to end violence against women, and we are going to keep doing whatever it takes to protect women.

1130

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

MPP Jill Andrew: Premier, shelters and transition houses are bursting at the seams. Many children and women have nowhere to go. The sector is facing critical staffing shortages and turnover as wages in this sector have been brutally shut down and stifled because of this Conservative government’s Bill 124. While they should be expanding programs to meet the demand, they are struggling to keep their doors open on shoestring budgets that are not tending to the operational needs.

Yesterday, a front-line worker shared how they are fundraising for food for their clients. Another spoke of how their organization’s funding expired, reversing progress made for women and children fleeing violence.

Again, my question is back to the Premier: Will he commit to ending gender-based violence today by creating a sustainable needs-based funding model for this sector? Will he support these workers and can Bill 124?

Mr. Nolan Quinn: Speaker, it’s crucial that women and children fleeing violence have the supports they need to start new lives. That’s why we’re working to increase access to safe and affordable housing for women escaping violence and human trafficking. We’re investing $18.5 million over three years in the transitional housing support program to support victims of domestic violence and survivors of human trafficking find and maintain housing to help transition to independence.

It also connects them to socially and culturally responsive wraparound community supports like safety planning, counselling, health and wellness, education, legal and immigration services, financial resources, and child care services.

Speaker, every single Ontarian deserves to have a safe place to live, especially women fleeing violence and their children, and our government will ensure that they have the supports that they need.

Child care

Ms. Teresa J. Armstrong: My question is to the Premier. Families and advocates from across the province are taking action today to call for an end to the severe shortage of licensed child care spaces. Thousands of families are stuck on wait-lists. Centres are raising concerns about the ballooning costs of operating an underfunded system. A shortage of workers threatens the program. And while federal funding has increased, provincial child care funding has decreased since 2018.

Speaker, during an affordability crisis, why is this government underfunding the child care system and delaying the implementation of affordable child care across this province?

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

Hon. Stephen Lecce: Speaker, let us not forget that the NDP and Liberals urged Ontario to sign the first deal with the federal government that would have omitted every single for-profit child care operator. They would have denied flexibility. They would have left $3 billion on the table and they would have had no review mechanism with the federal government to get more funding, as the member opposite urges us, to deliver for this sector. You can’t have it both ways.

You propped up the Liberal Party that increased child care fees by over 500%. And here we are, a Progressive Conservative government that, under our Premier’s leadership, cut fees by 50%, building 86,000 more spaces. The NDP voted against that progress for families and for working people. We will continue to build space. We’ll continue to cut fees. We will do so without the support of the NDP. That’s regretful because families in this province would want to believe we can come together to provide affordability for the people we represent.

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

Ms. Teresa J. Armstrong: I don’t think children should be used as a political football.

Speaker, experts are saying that the majority of Ontario’s early childhood educators and child care staff don’t qualify for the government’s recent announced wage supports. We have workers here today who say they can’t afford to make a living working in child care. The YMCA of Greater Toronto has just 16,000 kids enrolled in its 35,000 licensed spaces because they don’t have enough people to staff the spaces.

Will the minister commit to a salary scale starting at $25 per hour for all child care workers and $30 per hour for registered ECEs today, yes or no?

Interjections.

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

The Minister of Education.

Hon. Stephen Lecce: Yes, we will continue to raise fees for our workers, notwithstanding the opposition of the NDP. You voted against a 19% increase for workers starting this January. You’re voting against a $1 increase every hour per year thereafter. That’s on you.

In this government, we’re increasing fees, career-laddering opportunities, professional development. We’re launching an ad program. And in the words of the CEO of the College of Early Childhood Educators, “We are encouraged that the strategy seeks to address some of the long-standing systemic challenges that contribute to attrition in the profession and the current workforce crisis in child care.”

Mr. Speaker, we’re going to keep increasing spaces, decreasing fees, supporting the workers, increasing their wages every single year and doing better to support all families and the people in the province of Ontario.

Taxation

Mr. Will Bouma: My question is for the Minister of Energy. An increasing number of constituents from my riding have voiced their concerns about the carbon tax and its harmful impact on their lives. We are already in a cost-of-living crisis here in Ontario, and people are especially fearful about how the carbon tax will make things more expensive. Most Ontarians are already feeling the negative impact the carbon tax is having on their lives, and sadly, the federal government does not care.

The carbon tax adversely affects our businesses and negatively impacts our economy and Ontario workers. Can the minister please explain how further increases to the carbon tax will hurt Ontarians?

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): The member for Glengarry–Prescott–Russell and parliamentary assistant.

Mr. Stéphane Sarrazin: Thank you to the member for Brantford–Brant for the excellent question. It’s a topic that needs to be addressed, for sure. I do not want to be the bearer of bad news, but if the carbon tax persists, the Parliamentary Budget Officer has confirmed that by 2030, the tax will cost families $2,000 a year, and that is after the federal government’s climate incentive program.

Speaker, it’s important for the federal Liberals to understand that our government has shown time and again through our programs that we do not need the carbon tax to cut emissions. We are currently looking at the expansion of the CHHI program, the Clean Home Heating Initiative, to cut heating emissions by a third, and Ontario already has one of the cleanest energy grids in the world. It makes no sense for the federal government to keep increasing this tax on the backs of families.

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

Mr. Will Bouma: Thank you to the member for Glengarry–Prescott–Russell for the response. The carbon tax adversely affects our businesses and negatively impacts our economy and Ontario workers.

For people living in rural, remote and northern Ontario communities, the negative impacts of the carbon tax are truly devastating. For many individuals, the carbon tax is creating additional hardships and challenges for all sectors of the economy. The carbon tax harms hard-working individuals, businesses and farmers by taking away money from them. The delivery of every single consumer good in our province, particularly fresh and processed food, is being affected by one of the most economically harmful taxes.

Speaker, can the parliamentary assistant please elaborate on how the carbon tax negatively impacts all Ontarians?

Mr. Stéphane Sarrazin: Speaker, I couldn’t agree more. My constituents have told me how this tax has made their lives worse but that they have to endure this as fuel is too integral a part of their lives for them to find another option. Manufacturers pass the increased cost of distribution to food depots, who then pass it on to supermarkets, who make the consumer absorb the tax by increasing prices. That’s why everyone should care about eliminating the carbon tax.

The increased fuel costs for a farmer in my riding, in Glengarry–Prescott–Russell, make the food they deliver to a Toronto supermarket more expensive, which in turn affects the buyer. In this case, one person affected by the carbon tax is felt by another person who lives across the province from them.

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

Deferred Votes

Prescription contraceptives / Contraceptifs sur ordonnance

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): We have a deferred vote on private members’ notice of motion number 36.

Call in the members. This is a five-minute bell.

The division bells rang from 1139 to 1144.

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

MPP Stevens has moved private member’s notice of motion number 36.

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

Ayes

  • Andrew, Jill
  • Armstrong, Teresa J.
  • Bell, Jessica
  • Blais, Stephen
  • Bourgouin, Guy
  • Collard, Lucille
  • Fraser, John
  • Gates, Wayne
  • Gélinas, France
  • Glover, Chris
  • Gretzky, Lisa
  • Harden, Joel
  • Mantha, Michael
  • McMahon, Mary-Margaret
  • Sattler, Peggy
  • Shaw, Sandy
  • Stevens, Jennifer (Jennie)
  • Stiles, Marit
  • Taylor, Monique
  • Vanthof, John
  • Vaugeois, Lise
  • West, Jamie
  • Wong-Tam, Kristyn

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

Nays

  • Anand, Deepak
  • Babikian, Aris
  • Bailey, Robert
  • Barnes, Patrice
  • Bouma, Will
  • Bresee, Ric
  • Byers, Rick
  • Calandra, Paul
  • Cho, Raymond Sung Joon
  • Cho, Stan
  • Clark, Steve
  • Coe, Lorne
  • Crawford, Stephen
  • Cuzzetto, Rudy
  • Dowie, Andrew
  • Downey, Doug
  • Fedeli, Victor
  • Ford, Doug
  • Ford, Michael D.
  • Gallagher Murphy, Dawn
  • Grewal, Hardeep Singh
  • Hardeman, Ernie
  • Harris, Mike
  • Hogarth, Christine
  • Holland, Kevin
  • Jones, Sylvia
  • Jones, Trevor
  • Jordan, John
  • Kanapathi, Logan
  • Ke, Vincent
  • Kerzner, Michael S.
  • Kusendova-Bashta, Natalia
  • Leardi, Anthony
  • Lecce, Stephen
  • Lumsden, Neil
  • MacLeod, Lisa
  • Martin, Robin
  • McCarthy, Todd J.
  • Pang, Billy
  • Pierre, Natalie
  • Quinn, Nolan
  • Rae, Matthew
  • Rickford, Greg
  • Riddell, Brian
  • Romano, Ross
  • Sabawy, Sheref
  • Sandhu, Amarjot
  • Sarkaria, Prabmeet Singh
  • Sarrazin, Stéphane
  • Saunderson, Brian
  • Scott, Laurie
  • Smith, Dave
  • Smith, David
  • Smith, Laura
  • Surma, Kinga
  • Tangri, Nina
  • Thanigasalam, Vijay
  • Tibollo, Michael A.
  • Wai, Daisy
  • Williams, Charmaine A.
  • Yakabuski, John

The Clerk of the Assembly (Mr. Trevor Day): The ayes are 23; the nays are 61.

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

Motion negatived.

Notice of dissatisfaction

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Pursuant to standing pursuant order 36(a), the member for Ottawa South has given notice of his dissatisfaction with the answer to his question given by the Minister of Health concerning defibrillators. This matter will be debated on Tuesday, December 5, 2023, following private members’ public business.

House sittings / Standing orders

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): A number of members have informed me they have points of order that they wish to raise. I’ll recognize the government House leader first.

Hon. Paul Calandra: Speaker, if you seek it, you will find unanimous consent to move a motion without notice respecting a change to the spring 2024 meeting period and a permanent change to the standing orders.

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Agreed? Agreed.

I recognize the government House leader.

Hon. Paul Calandra: I move that, notwithstanding standing order 7(a)(i), when the House adjourns on Thursday, April 25, 2024, it shall stand adjourned until Monday, May 6, 2024; and

That the House shall continue to meet in the spring meeting period until Thursday, June 13, 2024; and

That the standing orders of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario be permanently amended as follows:

Standing order 9(d) is amended by deleting the word “Prayers” and substituting “Introduction of Visitors during the Morning Routine”;

Standing order 110(g) be amended by adding at the end:

“and to the committee provided for in subsection 7(1) and section 12 of the Queen’s Park Restoration Secretariat Act, 2023 and subsection 108.3(1) and section 108.5 of the Legislative Assembly Act and, without limitation, to have the general mandate to inquire into and make recommendations respecting any project to restore the legislative building at Queen’s Park including any relocation of legislative operations to a temporary location throughout the project.”

1150

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Mr. Calandra has moved that notwithstanding standing order—

Hon. Paul Calandra: Dispense.

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Dispense? Dispense.

Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? Carried.

Motion agreed to.

House sittings / Business of the House

Hon. Paul Calandra: Pursuant to standing order 7(e), I wish to inform the House that tonight’s evening meeting is cancelled.

Now, in relation to standing order 59, on Monday, December 4, in the morning, we will be debating a bill that will be introduced; in the afternoon, third reading of Bill 142; and in the night, third reading of Bill 142.

On Tuesday, December 5, we will be debating in the morning a bill which will be introduced; in the afternoon, a bill to be introduced. There will be no private members’ public business on Tuesday, December 5. In the night sitting, it will be a bill to be introduced.

On Wednesday, December 6, morning, it will be private bill; in the afternoon routine, a ministerial statement on the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women; in the afternoon, a bill to be introduced; at 6 p.m., the member for Kitchener–Conestoga, Bill 143, Harvest Season Road Safety Week Act, 2023; and at night, a bill to be introduced.

On Thursday, December 7, in the morning and afternoon, a bill to be introduced. On Thursday, December 7, there will also be no private members’ public business.

Member for Ottawa South

Hon. Paul Calandra: In conclusion, I would just like to take an opportunity to thank and congratulate the interim leader of the Liberal Party for a job very, very well done on behalf of his party.

Applause.

William Darcy McKeough

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): I understand the member for Chatham-Kent–Leamington has a point of order.

Mr. Trevor Jones: Colleagues, it’s with a very heavy heart that I regret to share with you the very recent passing of the Honourable Darcy McKeough, in his 90th year: our former Treasurer, Duke of Kent, my constituent, friend and mentor.

As arrangements are still being made, I just ask this House: Please keep his memory and his family in your thoughts and prayers.

Member for Ottawa South

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): The member for Ottawa–Vanier has a point of order.

Mme Lucille Collard: As mentioned, after today, the member for Ottawa South will no longer be the interim leader for the Liberal Party. I do want to take a moment to thank him for being the best interim leader there could ever be: for holding us together, for always caring for each and every one of us and for fighting on our behalf when necessary. We’re small, but we’re strong and a mighty team because of your leadership.

From the bottom of my heart and on behalf of all the caucus members, thank you so much, John.

Applause.

Ian Laing

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Point of order: the member for Newmarket–Aurora.

Mme Dawn Gallagher Murphy: Yes, thank you, Speaker. I just received word that the fire chief, Ian Laing, of Central York Fire Services has just passed away last night—48 years as a firefighter, he started his career in Mississauga and came to York region.

I just saw him at the recognition ceremony a few weeks ago. He stood strong for all the firefighters for Central York Fire Services. Apparently, he passed away peacefully in his sleep last night. God rest his soul.

Member for Ottawa South

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Point of order: the member for Ottawa South.

Mr. John Fraser: Thank you, Speaker. I was just trying to make sure I got the last word.

Laughter.

Mr. John Fraser: Well, hey, that’s the way it works, right?

In the famous words of Yogi Berra, it’s déjà vu all over again. I think we were here before. I want to thank both House leaders for their kind words. This place is a wonderful place. I love it. I love every one of you—not as much sometimes, depending on the day.

This is a really special place, and to do this even for a short while is a real honour and a privilege, and one that I’ll never forget. You’ve all made it fun and interesting, and as I said last time, we’re a family—one big, dysfunctional family. But I can remember in COVID, when push comes to shove, how we can come together and how we try to do things that really change the lives of people in Ontario, even though we disagree.

I just want to say thank you. It’s that simple. I’m not going away. It’s not my eulogy; I’m not done. You can’t box me up yet, even though my name is in marble downstairs. I just don’t know where I’m going to be sitting.

Applause.

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

The House recessed from 1157 to 1300.

Report continues in volume B.