43e législature, 1re session

L146B - Tue 16 Apr 2024 / Mar 16 avr 2024



Tuesday 16 April 2024 Mardi 16 avril 2024

Private Members’ Public Business

Education issues

Adjournment Debate

Electric vehicles

Water quality


Report continued from volume A.


Private Members’ Public Business

Education issues

Ms. Jess Dixon: I move that, in the opinion of this House, the Minister of Education should continue to reduce distractions in school by introducing enhanced policy to counter the rise of personal mobile devices; and toughen restrictions on use and possession of tobacco, vape, recreational cannabis, and nicotine products.

The Deputy Speaker (Ms. Donna Skelly): Pursuant to standing order 100, the member has 12 minutes for her presentation.

Ms. Jess Dixon: When looking into the opportunities of a private members’ bill or motion, I was initially a little bit more prejudiced towards being able to do a bill versus a motion, until I started to realize the opportunities that can come with a motion and particularly, in some cases, the opportunity to unite the House, which is what I am certainly hoping that this motion will do.

There are a lot of clichés about the value of our children. The thing with the clichés is that they tend to become clichés because they are proven true over and over and over again. There are many things to be said about children: that they are our future, they are the next generation, they’re the leaders of the future, they’re worthy of protection, and all of those things are true. And I say this as somebody that isn’t a parent but has seen, to be honest, in courts day in and day out the impact of children that were not nurtured, and frankly, that became a central reason that I ran for office.

The reason that I brought this the specific motion is to address and to focus the government’s attention on two increasingly pernicious influences that are arising in our schools that I think we have the opportunity to do something about. Is there more to be done? Are there other factors that underlie these issues? Yes. However, in the context of my ability to draw attention to it, I decided to focus on the two particular issues and what the government can do and, essentially, what the government can do to encourage school boards to act on this.

We’re talking particularly—it’s listed as personal mobile devices; really, we’re talking about smart phones, and the use of substances: vaping, vape pens, recreational cannabis, nicotine, tobacco etc.

I’ll start with smart phones. I’m going to be turning 37 in a few weeks, and I must say, I am incredibly grateful that I was finishing high school in the time where people were just really starting to use flip phones. Instagram didn’t exist yet. Facebook didn’t exist. Just the havoc that MSN managed to wreak in my own personal life is a terrible thought—our “away” messages and passive aggressive posting of, you know, emotional lyrics.

But I am genuinely so incredibly relieved that I existed before social media and before smart phones because, I mean, to be honest, my time in school is sort of a dark, blurred memory that I don’t really like returning to, because it wasn’t a very pleasant time. When I think about the impacts that smart phones would have had on it, I perish the thought—but that is reality. That is reality for our children today in Ontario.

Right now any one of us could pick up our phone and, particularly with your iPhone, you swipe, and you’ll see your screen time use organized by app. If you haven’t done that lately, I challenge you to do so. It’s a reckoning to come to. I’m not going to share mine, but it’s depressing.

But right now, students in grades 9 to 12 are far more likely to be spending over five hours on social media alone, so not even other uses of smart phones, just on social media in their free time and otherwise, and at least one in five students are reporting symptoms of moderate to serious problem technology use, so preoccupation, loss of control, withdrawal etc.

Right now, UNESCO is actually pushing for classrooms around the world and internationally to ban smart phone use on the grounds that the devices are distracting from students’ ability to learn. They’re bad for their mental health and well-being and also, of course, create a lot of privacy concerns.

There was a paper in 2017 called Brain Drain: The Mere Presence of One’s Own Smart Phone Reduces Available Cognitive Capacity. In that paper, scientists demonstrated that the closer a smart phone was to a student, the worse they performed on a test. Students that left their phone in another room performed best, students who kept their phone in a pocket or a bag had sort of medium results, and the ones that had their phone on their desk performed the worst.

Also, of course, we talk about the issue with relationships and mental health. Right now, we’ve got 11- to 14-year-olds spending about nine hours in front of a screen, and it drops down a little, actually, in the 15 to 18. I always turn the suspicious prosecutor lens on everything, but this isn’t just about the ability to distract yourself or not pay attention to the teacher. Even at the first level down, before we get into full criminality, we have the ability to bully. I was bullied in high school, and when I think about the fact that in today’s age, my bullies could essentially come home with me and be right in my hand and accessible to me at any time, it’s really not surprising that we have such a crisis in mental health.

As a prosecutor, I dealt with a lot of cases of sexploitation, frankly, as well as one of the things that was always very frustrating to encounter was children often don’t believe or don’t understand that they can, in fact, be charged with producing and distributing child pornography if they are creating images and sharing images of their girlfriend or boyfriend or a person in the class they’re picking on. The fact that they themselves are a minor does not mitigate them from the responsibility of committing that actual offence, and the number of times that that was revealed in schools, where I would be dealing with a victim who suddenly finds out that an appalling video or photo of her had been spread around the entire school as she’s in the class—I genuinely don’t really know how you come back from that.

Now, banning or reducing the accessibility of smart phones from classrooms doesn’t completely obviate that issue, but it does at least begin to address it in some factor. Right now, there are a number of school boards that have either varying or no policies at all on how students in classrooms can use their smart phones. There may be pressure from parents in other areas, but what this motion is doing is calling on the House to come together and say, “Look, this is an issue, and we should be calling on the government to come up with some policies, some sort of action to do something about it.”

Again, are there a number of other factors? Yes, but this is a meaningful start, I think, and also sends a clear message to parents, schools and teachers that we are aware of this problem, and we are there to support them.

When you look at vaping as well as the use of other substances—also, again, a significant consequence there. A dramatic amount of Ontario teenagers, far more than adults, are participating in those practices, but particularly vaping, and the strongest reason that they start vaping is usually because of social pressure. They cite the times they are most likely to vape being when they are at school or in social situations.

Again, I may not be the only one that doesn’t want to mentally return to the days of high school, but if you think back to when you were in school and just how much of your time was occupied by being at school or on school grounds, it’s literally like going to work. I live right by a high school, and frankly, I see kids who seem to be maybe 10 or 11 walk by vaping and smoking every single day, and it’s really terrifying.

There’s also some data showing that, for example, a lot of online vape websites that offer them for sale don’t have anything security-wise beyond just a button to click showing that you’re over 18. But despite that, the most common way for children to access vape pens, vape liquids, marijuana, that type of thing, is actually through friends and family—and very commonly at school, frankly, because that is where they are most likely to encounter peers who have access to those products.


But again, to turn the deeply suspicious mind that I have grown over years of being involved in criminal justice, there is some data from a large American study, which was national, that showed a correlation between particularly of vaping cannabis and an increase in violent crime and property crimes. Not to sound like an old-school social philosopher, but I do think there’s a significant amount of merit in the argument that continuing to turn a blind eye toward the breach of the smaller laws in society tends to create an escalating or avalanche effect of disregard for greater laws in society, plus the fact that there is significant medical evidence that these products used by youth could have significant impacts on their developing minds, on their impulse control, on their anxiety and a number of other factors.

There’s also an increasing trend that I’ve heard about, almost of vape exploitation. Young users of vaping and cannabis products in Canada can easily spend $15 to $20 on vaping, and a lot of these kids are not working and may not be able to access an allowance. And so, frankly, when we’re talking about recruiting human trafficking victims, recruiting kids into organized crime and into other illicit activities in society, actually being able to provide them with vapes, with liquids, with cannabis, has been shown to be one of the currencies that people who seek to abuse these children are in fact using to gain their trust, to gain their compliance, almost as a form of payment.

Again, a lot of this is happening in school areas. Right now, yes, of course it’s against the law to do this on school property, but we then fall into the grey area of who is in fact enforcing it. What do we do if we discover a student vaping in a school bathroom? What do we do if we see vape products being transferred between students?

So really what this motion is doing is it’s calling on the entirety of this House to say, “Do you know what? This is a problem. It is significantly impacting our young people.” As a government, we have the opportunity to hold up a flag and say, “We need to do something about this,” and I’m dearly hoping that everyone can join with me on this motion.

The Deputy Speaker (Ms. Donna Skelly): Further debate?

Ms. Chandra Pasma: Thank you to the member for Kitchener South–Hespeler for bringing forward this motion. I think there’s not one of us in this House, Speaker, especially those of us who are parents, who are not concerned about the impact of screens on our children, in school and out of school, and what effect that has on their ability to learn. I know I spend a lot of time arguing with my kids about how much time is appropriate and the importance of having screen-free time so that they can appreciate the beauty of the world around them: real, in-person social connections; physical activity; a good, old-fashioned book; and even the gift of being bored—something I’m still working on with them.

I’ve heard from teachers and education workers about the effects of screens and social media on children’s capacity to learn and their ability to pay attention in school, and I think we all have concerns about teens consuming substances that have health impacts and that can lead to long-term addictions that can impact their lives.

Recognizing that this is an important issue and that this motion is being brought forward by a private member, not by the government, I’d like to offer the government some advice on how we could put this motion into effect in Ontario and address the issue of distractions and healthy behaviours in schools in Ontario.

There’s a lot of evidence about how social media algorithms have been created to keep children consuming their content and to spend more time on these platforms. This was one of the conclusions of a bipartisan investigation of over 40 Attorneys General in the United States, and as a result of that investigation, over 40 states, including New York and California, are pursuing Meta, Snap and ByteDance in court, alleging that they are liable for the impact of Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and TikTok on children’s mental health and their contribution to the youth mental health crisis. There are also hundreds of school districts across the United States pursuing these same companies in court for their impacts on children’s learning.

Here in Ontario, five school boards have stepped up to take these companies to court over the effects of these platforms on children’s ability to pay attention and learn. But unfortunately, instead of joining this effort or supporting it the way that US states have, the Premier dismissed this effort as “nonsense,” and the Minister of Education doubled down, saying that instead of this lawsuit, school boards should be focused on student outcomes.

Well, I would submit that school boards are in fact focused on student outcomes, and the Premier and the Minister of Education can’t have it both ways. They’re concerned about distractions in schools and want children to learn reading, writing and math, but they also are not going to actually do anything about the distractions that are preventing them from learning reading, writing and math.

In December, the Minister of Education told the Toronto Star, “From TikTok to social media, to cellphone use, we all have to step up to reduce the impact it’s having on learning.” He also went on to say, “I am prepared to work with every school board in Ontario to remove distractions.” Well, here are the school boards doing something about the impact that TikTok and social media are having on learning, and instead of working with them, the minister is attacking them.

The Minister of Education and the Premier are also refusing to invest in the resources that would actually allow teachers and education workers to enforce the rules around use of cellphones in classrooms, like the fact that they’re supposed to be limited to educational purposes and accommodations. In order for a policy to have any meaning at all, there actually need to be enough adults in the building to know about the policy and be able to implement it. Thanks to the government’s cuts to education funding and disrespect of teachers, which are leading to a teacher shortage, we do not have enough adults in the classrooms, let alone qualified teachers to actually implement the policy. The government also needs to provide tangible guidance on what teachers and education workers are expected to do when students do not abide by the policy.

So there are some suggestions right there for the government to follow through on this motion’s call for enhanced policy to counter the rise of personal mobile devices. They can join our school boards in standing up to the social media giants, provide clear guidance on the cellphone policy for schools and adequately fund schools and address the teacher shortage so that we have enough caring adults in our classrooms to actually intervene and enforce the policy.

In a similar vein, I have some advice for the government on how to better address concerns around vaping and use of tobacco and nicotine products and other substances at schools. The government just included some funding for vape detectors in the recent budget, but this is kind of like standing by taking photos after the fox has already invaded the henhouse. Why is there no funding for curriculum or resources that actually teach students about the risks and dangers of using tobacco, nicotine and vape products, so that we’re doing something to reduce use, not just catching it once students are using it in the bathroom already?

Public Health Ontario says that a quarter of high school students in Ontario are vaping, and the majority of them said they started because they were curious or because they wanted to try something new. I think it’s really important for students to have information about what the effects of vaping are before they try it just out of curiosity, but there are absolutely no resources in the budget for an addition to the health curriculum to actually teach students about the risks and to stop the use of these products before it even begins.

Finally, in the spirit of this motion calling for action on distractions in schools, I would like to offer the government some advice on some very substantial distractions within schools. The number one distraction that I hear about from students, parents, teachers, education workers, administrators and trustees is the issue of violence in schools. This is a crisis that is exacerbated by the underfunding of special education and the lack of resources to address the crisis in students’ mental health.

We are seeing far too many instances of violence, which is disrupting classes and making students feel unsafe at school. I hear many stories from students, parents and teachers about classes needing to be evacuated because of a violent eruption. It’s tough to learn when you’re in the hallway or in the library waiting while staff try to de-escalate or clean up after a violent incident in the classroom.

A teacher in Hamilton shared this with me: “Violence in schools is at an all-time high as is the complex and diverse needs of students. I had a very disruptive and violent student in my class that I was not able to teach the class or had to stop teaching the class to support the student’s violence or disruptive outbursts. This student has since moved to being home-schooled because they were having such a hard time in school and not getting support because there were so many other needs in the school, and he wasn’t violent enough compared to other students.”


A teacher in Toronto told me, “The violence in schools, which was once manageable, is now out of control. Students with significant challenges, who need support and one-on-one attention, are left to their own devices in destreamed classes. Teachers spend more time managing behaviour than they do teaching material.”

Schools don’t have the resources or the staff to meaningfully address these levels of violence. School boards are literally spending tens of millions of dollars more on special education than what they are receiving from the government, and that’s to just barely keep the ship afloat. Students are not getting the supports they need to stay safe, let alone to learn, and that is leading to major disruptions in the class, not to mention a major impediment to learning at school for children who need these supports but aren’t getting them.

Nine out of 10 principals say they don’t have enough supports for mental health; half of schools in Ontario have no access to mental health professionals at all.

The government put money in the budget for security cameras, but at this point I can only assume these security cameras are there to watch the violence as it unfolds, because there’s no money for additional teachers, EAs, administrators or for professional development to address violence and provide strategies for de-escalation.

And then there’s the shortage of teachers and education workers. I would say it counts as a major distraction from learning when students are sitting in the library or in the cafeteria because there are no teachers available and multiple classes have been herded into a room where they can all be watched by one unqualified teacher at the same time.

It’s also a distraction when a student needs the support of an EA but no EA is available because there are only two for a school of 500 students.

It is a distraction from students’ learning whenever we are not able to provide the supports a student needs, Speaker.

A teacher in Waterloo wrote to me, “Students continue to show more violence and aggression and mental health needs. Behaviours are ramping up. Students are behind in reading, writing, math, social skills etc. We continue to receive many newcomer students. However, we have less and less support. The number of ESL teachers [has] been reduced. The number of specialized itinerant special education staff [has] been reduced, including behaviour specialists. EA time is minimal and when they are sick there are no replacements. Our mental health supports are videos we should watch—not humans in the schools caring for the children who need it. It feels more and more like we are barely surviving and not able to meet all of students’ basic needs—let alone being able to support them to reach their full potential.”

A government that was truly interested in removing distractions and supporting the full potential of all of our students to learn would make the necessary investments and work hand in hand with teachers, education workers, administrators, social workers, psychologists, child and youth workers, and other staff to address the issue of violence in our schools and the shortage of qualified teachers and other staff, Speaker.

I hope the government today will embrace the spirit of this motion presented by the member for Kitchener South–Hespeler and take immediate action on the many distractions impeding our children’s learning.

The Deputy Speaker (Ms. Donna Skelly): Further debate?

Mr. Anthony Leardi: This evening we are addressing the motion put forward by the member from Kitchener South–Hespeler. I know the member, and I’ve had the opportunity to learn about her over the last two years. I know that she’s especially passionate about issues that touch upon young people, and I’m sure that’s why her constituents sent her here to this assembly, because they recognize the passion that she puts into her work and the passion that she represents her constituents with. I want to congratulate her for that.

The motion before us tonight speaks, essentially, to two things: (1) cellphone use in the classroom, and (2) measures to discourage activities related to the tobacco use, marijuana use and vaping use. I think that those are two good and important things to talk about.

First, I want to talk about cellphone use. I think that all of us recognize the usefulness of cellphones in this day and age. I can tell you that cellphones can be very useful in the classroom, and I’ve seen very experienced teachers use cellphones very well and advance educational purposes inside the classroom. I think that’s very good. In fact, we do that right in this assembly; we do it as we’re participating in debates. I can tell you that I have done research right in the middle of a debate and gotten information and used it right in the course of a debate.

So we all recognize the practical use of a cellphone, but we also recognize the practical distraction of a cellphone, and that’s not only observable in this chamber, but it’s also observable in classrooms.

We need to give teachers our support, to let them know that when they need to manage their classrooms for the best interest of their students, we will be there to support them. And parents want this too.

I’ve spoken to the parents in my riding of Essex, and I can tell you that almost every single parent I’ve spoken to has said, “Yes, it would be good if the government would assist teachers and school boards and principals in enforcing and giving greater guidance to the use and the management of cellphones in the classroom.” That’s why I think it’s a very good thing that the member has put this motion forward so that we can move in that direction.

I also want to touch briefly on what we have in the other half of this motion, which is to speak to the practices of vaping and tobacco use and marijuana use. That is also something that the teachers and the principals I’ve spoken to are concerned about. They have tools at their disposal to control and manage these substances on school property, but they would actually invite and appreciate greater guidance and greater assistance from the province. I think that’s a good thing to do. The parents in the riding of Essex who have spoken to me have said that they would encourage that from the provincial government.

I think that we should be there for our teachers and our principals, and we should give them the tools that they need to manage the classrooms they are teaching in. I think that the parents who are, after all, placing their children in the custody of the principals and the teachers for the day would appreciate more support in managing these issues on school property.

Those are, very briefly, my views on this particular motion.

Again, I want to congratulate the member from Kitchener South–Hespeler for bringing this motion forward. Clearly, her passion has been shown again with her concern with young people, and I want to say congratulations to her.

The Deputy Speaker (Ms. Donna Skelly): Further debate?

Ms. Aislinn Clancy: I’m here today as a mother, as a former school social worker, and as a politician who is happy to celebrate my neighbour for bringing forward a very important motion, something that I think is long overdue.

As a school social worker, I saw, over more than a decade working in the field, the change in our children and youth mental health, especially as it relates to school, as more and more students went online and had more access to smart phones. So I am going to focus mostly on smart phone use.

Gaming addiction affects millions of students now, but we’re also seeing how access to cellphones—just having them in their pocket—is causing massive health and well-being concerns for young people today.

One of the things that I’ve seen in my time, definitely post-pandemic, was an exacerbation of the amount of time young people spend online, and it caused a lot of harm to their overall life.

I had students who might be violent toward their parents when gaming access was withdrawn. I actually advised a lot of parents not to take away the technology from their child because I was worried that there was a lot of risk and it could create a really volatile situation.

We’ve seen the impact of smart phones—suicidal ideations, for example, and self-harm exploded at the introduction of smart phones in 2012. And we’ve seen it affect many different young people, based on their gender, so it’s not a one-size-fits-all.

Like my colleague shared, we’re seeing a massive increase in pornography use. During COVID, we had a system to track the amount of pornography access on school computers, and we could address that and identify that and provide support. And this was alarming to us, to see how much there was access to pornography, and not just pornography that’s hidden in the back of the store; now it’s in people’s pockets, and like my colleague shared, their first introduction to pornography is also at school, and we’re seeing a rise in misogyny in pornography, which undermines all the good work we’re doing to prevent intimate partner violence.


A lot of young people’s first intimate experiences are being tragically changed forever because of the examples they’re seeing online—increases in violence, really massive impacts on sleep, which affects young people’s development. We’re seeing a half of people’s attention spans, so young people’s attention spans have been cut in half and are shrinking every day. We are seeing kids miss more school than ever.

As a social worker, we recognized how much students who have access to their phones in their class are using that opportunity to text with a friend and meet them in the bathroom to vape, or at the plaza, so there’s a massive concern that I don’t think we have talked about fully, about the attendance problems we face in schools, and we know that this relates to tech companies capitalizing on the minds of our children.

There’s a book called Stolen Attention, and what it refers to is how algorithms, how this capital system is hijacking our young people’s attention, and it’s causing them to spend more and more hours online as they move further and further away from their face-to-face lives.

I think the biggest tragedy of cellphone addictions, video game addictions, is the fact that kids no longer go outside to play. They’re not looking to talk to their family members. Kids are withdrawing to their bedrooms, and I speak to this because this is the work I’ve done day in and day out throughout my career.

I hope that we can be successful in addressing this issue. What we need to do is ensure that we have staff support, social workers and CYCWs to help children cope because teachers are trying to teach. We have to be sure that we have good barriers and we prepare families well at the beginning of the school year and throughout the school year because caregivers are grossly unprepared to have this battle. I know myself, it’s a fierce battle in every household, and we need to help families feel prepared to address this. We do need to fight back against the algorithm and hold these tech companies accountable. The groups that are most vocal in keeping technology in schools are those that directly profit from access.

We need to be sure that we take a harm reduction approach. I was involved in the federal government’s campaign to educate those on cannabis use. We talked about vaping. It was essential. We need to bring this back and do it regularly in a meaningful way. I hope that we can invest in this, that we can empower our schools and be sure to address this massive public health crisis.

The Deputy Speaker (Ms. Donna Skelly): Further debate?

Mr. Brian Saunderson: It’s certainly a pleasure to rise in the House tonight to speak to my colleague’s private member’s motion number 85, and I want to congratulate her on this initiative. From the discussion we’ve had thus far, it appears that it’s going to get unanimous consent, and I think that’s an extremely important event. It doesn’t happen often in this House, and it happens, really, when there’s an issue that requires, I think, all of our attention, as does this one.

As the father of three, I know that education is a very important topic across the province for parents and for students and for our teachers and staff. This motion, in my opinion, is really to reduce distractions in schools by enhancing policies to reduce the use of cellphones and mobile devices in schools and to restrict the use and possession of tobacco vape, recreational cannabis and tobacco products in our schools.

These aren’t new issues, but they’re issues that have continued to evolve over time. When I look back to my youth, the song Smokin’ in the Boys Room was very prevalent at the time. We didn’t have cellphones then, but we distracted ourselves with other things. Really, what we’re seeing is the evolution of technology in society and how it impacts the learning experiences of our students across the province. So while these issues aren’t new, they are extremely important, and I think the common theme we’ve heard tonight is how they impact our students’ experience and their mental health.

After the pandemic, which was a major disruption for all of us, I don’t think any lives were disrupted so much as our students’ lives: their loss of learning in the classroom, their loss of socialization from interaction and the impacts on their mental health as they weathered the pandemic, like all of us, isolated and away from their usual supports.

Madam Speaker, both the aspects of this motion deal, I think, very directly with the mental health of our students across the province, whether it be from cellphone use or vaping and other products, tobacco and cannabis included. We know that both of these are serious issues.

Starting with cellphones, I note that, back in 2007, the Toronto District School Board issued a total ban on cellphones in class because of the prevalence of them in the classroom. Recognizing, four years later, that they serve as an important learning tool, they retracted that. But the issue continues, and it has gotten worse and, I think, partly as a result of the pandemic.

A UNESCO report in 2016 found that it can take a student up to 20 minutes to refocus on the learning environment after looking at their cellphone. If these students are anything like my sons, they look at their cellphones quite regularly, so the distractions mount.

In January of this year, Madam Speaker, the Toronto District School Board announced that it was revisiting the issue of cellphone use and mobile device use in the classroom. The reason for that is they’re seeing the rise of a multitude of different social media platforms.

I can say that I attended a WE Day event at a school in Collingwood, and a psychiatrist spoke about the effects of being on more than two social media platforms. They find that if you’re involved in more than two social media platforms—keeping up with the platforms, keeping up with the correspondence, keeping up with the texting—there’s a huge increase in mental health issues in trying to do that on young students. That affects not only their learning; it affects their mental health.

We also know, Madam Speaker, that vaping and tobacco are huge problems in our schools. The CBC ran an article in May of last year indicating that smoking in the bathroom or vaping in bathrooms is endemic across the province; it is everywhere. And, we know, a CAMH report indicates that one in four high school students are vaping and using tobacco products, and that goes up to 32% in grade 12.

These are issues that impact our kids’ well-being and their mental health. We know, from addictions and mental health, that can impact all aspects of their life. So this motion is really about making sure that we’re setting up our students for success, that we’re removing distractions, we’re providing a healthy environment, and we’re setting our students up for the jobs of tomorrow.

The Deputy Speaker (Ms. Donna Skelly): Further debate?

Mr. Nolan Quinn: I appreciate the member from Kitchener South–Hespeler for bringing this forward. She mentioned that she was the era of the flip phone. I was the era of the Nokia phone that I think has been on social media. They drop it from buildings, and it’s like a brick; it doesn’t break. But I also remember we used to pay for ringtones back in the day. Now, if the phone rang, I think I would probably freak out that it was not on silent mode.

I can appreciate her comments that, in today’s day and age, if the students are being bullied, they are taking that home with them on the cellphone and on social media, so it adds a lot more pressure.

Being the husband of an educator myself, my wife being a teacher in elementary school—also owning a restaurant and being a father of three young children—I can understand the importance of both the vaping aspect of this and the cellphone as well.

First I’d like to speak from the aspect of a small-business owner that employs many youth. We’ve had challenges in our store, whether it’s with the cellphone or with the vaping. I’ve had staff actually hide their cellphone in the bathroom, put it in shoes, put it under the sink. Unfortunately, as we’re all well aware, the cellphone and vaping—it’s an addictive product in that regard.

I myself have my cellphones right beside me. Quite often I have to flip them over so I don’t even see them light up when I get a message, so I can appreciate that. As the member from Kitchener South–Hespeler mentioned, I don’t want to state how many hours I actually use my cellphone a day. You get the report once a week, and it is quite scary. I do believe having this instilled on our children at an earlier age will set them up for success that we may not necessarily even understand ourselves—as my phone lights up right beside me and I look down at it.

Ultimately, I’ve been into others of my colleagues’ restaurants, and they have certain systems in place for cellphones so that the staff are keeping productive and not on their phone quite often. It’s interesting because, when I first started at the restaurant, if my parents needed to get a hold of me, they would call the restaurant. Now it’s more the cellphone in the pocket.

As a parent of three young children—six, nine and 11—I look at the stat that 50% of children aged seven to 12 have a smartphone. My children don’t have a smartphone yet, so I’m sure that if they heard that stat they would be quite upset. They do have their iPads and they use them quite frequently at home, but they get my old cellphones with actually no cellphone technology on it. But it is quite scary to know that children are getting them younger, and being that they are addictive, it has worried me as a parent as well, knowing that that number jumps up to 87% from the age of 12 to 17.


I remember buying my first cellphone at 15, and it was a big deal. I also remember my mother saying, “You don’t need a cellphone.” It was just like a pager back in the day, and she would say, “Only drug dealers have pagers,” and I didn’t fully understand that. Again, I was all about having the Hockey Night in Canada ringtone on my cellphone. I remember buying that and just being excited by it.

Again, as for the vaping, there are some pretty scary stats: 15% of students in grades 7 to 12 report vaping. That’s almost one in five students currently vaping. We have had issues at my restaurant with the vaping as well. Unfortunately, it is growing and it’s getting more severe. So I definitely support this bill, and I hope that everyone will.

The Deputy Speaker (Ms. Donna Skelly): The member now has two minutes to respond to the comments.

Ms. Jess Dixon: Thank you, Speaker. I have to truly thank my fellow members from Kitchener Centre, Ottawa West–Nepean, Essex, Simcoe–Grey and Stormont–Dundas–South Glengarry for their words and submissions on this motion. I think the discussion that we had in the House today shows not only that we all recognize that this is an issue but also the wide variety of problems that underpin it, as well as the sorts of solutions and actions that will be required to address it, and I will absolutely be checking the Hansard transcript of our discussion in my ongoing discussions with education.

Ultimately, I really, really enjoyed hearing the support from all the members, as well as the opposition and the independent. As we all say, it’s not as often that we hear that in the House, but it’s very clear that we can truly unite on this. As I said, I really, really appreciate all the different perspectives that were brought to it. We have a lot of people in this House—sometimes we forget that we all have our own backgrounds and histories and families that inform our thoughts, and it’s motions like this and opportunities like this that, really, I find, draw those stories out of people, draw those personal accounts out of people, which I love because, frankly, it’s a great way of reminding ourselves that we’re all people and, despite our differences, we did all come here for the same reason, which was to make a difference and make things better.

Coming together on motions like this one is restorative for the soul—I’ll put it that way—as somebody that heavily overuses Instagram and feels like I do not occupy the moral high ground on this motion at all. But anyway, thank you all so much for your contributions. I appreciate the time you’ve taken to respond to this motion, and I hope you will be supporting it.

The Deputy Speaker (Ms. Donna Skelly): The time provided for private members’ public business has now expired.

Ms. Dixon has moved private member’s notice of motion number 85. Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? I declare the motion carried.

Motion agreed to.

The Deputy Speaker (Ms. Donna Skelly): All matters relating to private members’ public business having been completed, we now have two late shows.

Pursuant to standing order 36, the question that this House do now adjourn is deemed to have been made.

Adjournment Debate

Electric vehicles

The Deputy Speaker (Ms. Donna Skelly): The member for Oshawa has given notice of dissatisfaction with the answer to a question given by the Minister of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade. The member has up to five minutes to debate the matter and a minister or a parliamentary assistant may reply for up to five minutes.

I recognize the member for Oshawa.

Ms. Jennifer K. French: Speaker, the future is electric and the future is coming, and we have to be ready for it.

I represent Oshawa, and I support the automotive sector and the workers who have built the vehicles and who will be building the future of transportation in this province. We will all be proud to build electric vehicles right here in our province and proud of the good jobs and the auto workers who will build them, but Ontario needs a real plan so we can charge them and drive them.

Speaker, we are not EV-ready, and we are falling behind. We need a serious EV strategy to grow development, manufacturing and the charging infrastructure. I asked this government what specifically they will do to make sure Ontario auto workers build the electric vehicles of the future and where the EV infrastructure is so that we can actually drive those vehicles.

Well, we’re here again today because the answer given didn’t give us a plan. Ford Motor Co. is pumping the brakes on its Ontario-built electric vehicles and delaying the start of manufacturing from 2025 to 2027. More than 5,000 auto workers at Oakville assembly and throughout the supply chain now are facing an uncertain future. Oshawa auto workers know a thing or two about uncertainty, but auto workers across the province want to see this government pull out all the stops to secure and support an EV future. People who want to buy electric vehicles look around and realize that the infrastructure isn’t there yet: not on the road, not in their communities and not at home.

I want to focus on one small solution to ensuring EV-ready homes. In front of this Legislature is legislation that is opening up the building code, which could give us the opportunity to fix a government mistake. Added to the Ontario building code just before Doug Ford arrived was a change that would make sure new homes built in the province would be EV-charger-ready, which would have made it cheaper and easier for drivers to make the switch to electric. Rather than supporting an approach that made sense to help folks get ready for an electric future, this Premier removed it from the building code. And just to remind folks, this Premier’s first order of business was to rip out and remove charging infrastructure—literally ripped charging stations out of the ground, then cancelled EV rebates in 2019, and now is jeopardizing EV sales and production with this short-sighted decision not to make new homes EV-charger-ready.

Folks in the industry, both the energy side of things as well as the manufacturing side of things, are concerned about the lack of charging infrastructure. As the critic for infrastructure, transportation and highways, I have been learning from stakeholders about the importance of building new homes that are roughed in and ready to support electric vehicle chargers. Folks in manufacturing, energy, the business community and in various planning departments see this as a simple, uncomplicated and proactive step to prepare for a future we know is coming and that we want to arrive.

This isn’t about building homes with charging stations ready to plug and play. This is about wiring and roughing in the electrical to support the future needs of the homeowner. The cost of aftermarket charging infrastructure is way higher than the cost of wiring it right when it is built. Folks who work in retrofitting and aftermarket installation are going to be doing a booming business when folks buy EVs and then realize they need basically the equivalent of a clothes dryer outlet.

It is far more expensive after the fact for homeowners than it would be for planning ahead, so I asked the government in question period. I didn’t get an answer in this chamber, but interestingly, the Premier talked about it shortly thereafter out in the real world and said it is basically a hard no about planning ahead and ensuring homes would be EV-ready. And that’s disappointing.

I want to use this time to appeal to the Premier’s enthusiasm for the electric vehicle sector. We will be building cars and making batteries, and hopefully strengthening the energy grid to support our electric future. But if we don’t make sure people can charge their vehicles, we are undermining the potential for manufacturing and sales. People won’t buy them if they can’t charge them.

The Premier cited the concerns of developers and the negligible impact on a new home’s price. That cost, amortized over 25 or 30 years, is far more affordable than an aftermarket install forced on a homeowner because the Premier doesn’t want to disappoint developers. Well, why is it okay to disappoint the automotive sector and regular folks who are wanting to switch to electric cars?

Ontario wants the chance to be a global leader in EV production and should be able to secure tens of thousands of good jobs, the jobs that a thriving, well-planned, made-in-Ontario EV plan would ensure. EV-ready homes are one small but easy piece of the potential, and I hope this Premier will switch gears and commit to ensuring we are EV-ready at home and on the road.

The Deputy Speaker (Ms. Donna Skelly): Further debate?

Ms. Effie J. Triantafilopoulos: I’m pleased to rise and to respond to the honourable member from Oshawa following her recent question in the Legislature. It’s important to provide some context and to remember the dire economic situation Ontario faced under the previous Liberal government.

The Liberals, with the NDP supporting them every step of the way, implemented tax hikes and added mountains of red tape. Businesses were leaving for more competitive jurisdictions. They didn’t believe in Ontario’s manufacturing capacity, and they didn’t believe in the talented workforce here in Ontario. As a result, their policies drove 300,000 good-paying manufacturing jobs south of the border. Our auto sector was on life support thanks to their disastrous high-tax policies.


Reviving the auto sector was not going to be easy, but we did not let that stop us. For EV production, the writing was on the wall. Global demand was expected to increase rapidly in the coming years, and yet the Liberals did nothing to ensure Ontario could capitalize on this massive economic opportunity. In 2019, Reuters reported that companies plan to spend $300 billion globally in the EV sector, but none were planned for Canada.

I am pleased to say that our government was able to turn this right around. Unlike other governments, we believe that Ontario has everything it needs to be a global auto manufacturing powerhouse. We believe in the 120,000 auto workers who give Ontario our competitive advantage. We believe in cutting costs and creating the right conditions for our auto sector to succeed and thrive.

This has resulted in $28 billion in new auto and EV investments in the last three years, which will deliver thousands of good-paying jobs. That includes Volkswagen’s $7-billion EV battery manufacturing facility in St. Thomas, the largest auto investment in Ontario’s history, which will employ over 3,000 people. And in the member’s own riding, General Motors is investing $2.3 billion in Oshawa and Ingersoll to develop full-scale EV production capacity. More than 2,600 new jobs have been created since production started at the Oshawa plant.

In Oakville, I was pleased to join Premier Ford, economic development minister Fedeli and Ford Canada to announce the investment of nearly $2 billion. This is a game-changer, transforming the plant into a global hub for EV production and battery packing. It means 3,000 skilled and good-paying jobs for our community. In the current economic climate, we understand Ford Canada has pushed back production to 2027. However, it is working closely with Unifor to ensure employees are taken care of. With Unifor, we can work together to ensure workers are well supported with training and upskilling, to ensure we have a workforce ready to be the leading jurisdiction in EV production. Workers drive our economy, and we will always have their back.

Speaker, we remain committed to creating the conditions for job growth and new investments in the auto sector in Oakville, Oshawa and right across the province. The strong foundation we have laid will ensure major manufacturers will keep coming to the province, attracted by proven excellence and a proven capacity to get it done. “Made in Ontario” will mean something once more.

We are revitalizing the auto sector and building an end-to-end electric vehicle supply chain right here in Ontario, and the world is taking note. Bloomberg put out their global battery supply chain ratings last February, and as a result of the investments Ontario has secured, they now rank Canada as number one. That marks the first time China has been dethroned since the ratings were introduced. This is a new chapter for Ontario. We are building every component of the cars of the future, right here in our province, and we are ready to supply the world with Ontario-made EVs.

At the same time, we’re making sure the infrastructure is there for those who choose to purchase an EV. Through the EV ChargeON Program, our government is investing $92 million to support the installation of public EV chargers outside of large urban centres.

Today, Ontario is an auto manufacturing powerhouse.

Water quality

The Deputy Speaker (Ms. Donna Skelly): The member for Beaches–East York has given notice of dissatisfaction with the answer to a question given by the Minister of Health. The member has up to five minutes to debate the matter, and the minister or parliamentary assistant may reply for up to five minutes.

Ms. Mary-Margaret McMahon: It’s a true pleasure being in the chamber with all of you at night. So I’m going to be short and sweet. I just have a few questions, and I’m looking for succinct, clear answers.

Are you going to continue the free well water testing in Ontario?

Are you going to close the six public health testing labs?

Are you going to privatize water testing in Ontario?

Will the well water testing still remain free?

Do you believe in providing safe, clean and accessible drinking water to Ontarians?

The Deputy Speaker (Ms. Donna Skelly): Further debate?

Mr. Nolan Quinn: That was very short.

Speaker, I’m surprised the member from Beaches–East York isn’t satisfied with our government’s response from earlier today, despite it being crystal clear that well water testing continues to be provided free of charge through Public Health Ontario. No one has any intention of changing that, and our answer hasn’t changed since this morning. Our government has been clear, despite what the opposition member is suggesting. Ontarians are not charged for biological testing through Public Health Ontario for well water testing. There is no one in the province of Ontario or in this Legislature who believes in putting well water testing at risk.

Earlier today, the Minister of Health said, “The Ministry of Health funds Public Health Ontario to provide testing services for individuals who rely on private drinking water systems to serve households.” I repeat: Public Health Ontario provides free testing of water samples collected from private drinking water systems, such as a well and other private drinking water systems, including water from cisterns and treated lake water. The member from Beaches–East York heard this response this morning, and that clearly answers her question, but she wasn’t satisfied. So I have to ask: Does she want a different answer than, “We do not charge for well water testing”? No government website says there is a charge for it; no public health unit says you must pay; no Ministry of Health notice says you must pay, and yet the member from Beaches–East York keeps insisting otherwise. Why, you ask? Because of the Liberal way that starved the health care system for over a decade, closed hospital beds, cut residency school spots, and fired nurses. And now we’re resorting to fearmongering about publicly funded services.

Speaker, the people of Ontario are tired of old Liberal politics.

If our constituents or people watching from home are looking for well water testing, we recommend contacting your local public health unit. The tests are for the bacterial contaminants, E. coli and total coliforms. This is important because well water can affect the health of everyone who consumes it. Groundwater is generally a clean, safe, sustainable source of water, but it is important to test for bacteria.

At Public Health Ontario, they test for the indicators of bacterial contamination for free. Public Health Ontario looks for coliforms. These bacteria are found in animal waste, sewage, as well as soil and vegetation. If they are in drinking water, surface water may be entering the well. Public Health Ontario also tests for E. coli. These bacteria are normally found in the digestive systems of people and animals; if they are in drinking water, it usually means that the animal or human waste is entering a well from a nearby source.

It’s important to ensure wells are deep and well-placed. Shallow wells that tap into sand and gravel water supplies are often more vulnerable to contaminants that come from surface activities. Properly constructed, deeper-drilled wells are usually more isolated from surface contaminants but should still be monitored regularly to pick up any changes that could indicate a problem at the well. I know this and experienced this first-hand, as well water is a normal source of water in my home of Stormont–Dundas–South Glengarry. In fact, myself and my family live off well water, and so do many of my community members.

Unlike the member from Beaches–East York, first a city councillor and now a member of an urban region, I can tell you first-hand how important testing is.

I encourage those who need their well water tested to ignore the opposition fearmongering tactics and reach out to your local health unit to get the testing done.

The well water testing program can be used by Ontarians who rely on drinking water from a privately owned water source, such as a well and other private drinking water systems.

This year alone, our government has invested over $175 million to support Public Health Ontario’s operations to continue to build a strong and sustainable public health system, including well water testing.

Under the leadership of Premier Ford and Minister Jones, our government will continue to ensure a strong and robust public health system for all Ontarians for years to come.

The Deputy Speaker (Ms. Donna Skelly): There being no further matters to debate, pursuant to standing order 36(c), I deem the motion to adjourn to be carried.

This House stands adjourned until 9 a.m. tomorrow morning.

The House adjourned at 1810.