43e législature, 1re session

L147B - Wed 17 Apr 2024 / Mer 17 avr 2024



Wednesday 17 April 2024 Mercredi 17 avril 2024

Private Members’ Public Business

Test Your Smoke Alarm Day Act, 2024 / Loi de 2024 sur la Journée du test des avertisseurs de fumée


Report continued from volume A.


Private Members’ Public Business

Test Your Smoke Alarm Day Act, 2024 / Loi de 2024 sur la Journée du test des avertisseurs de fumée

Mr. Yakabuski moved second reading of the following bill:

Bill 177, An Act to proclaim Test Your Smoke Alarm Day / Projet de loi 177, Loi proclamant la Journée du test des avertisseurs de fumée.

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

Mr. John Yakabuski: I really appreciate the opportunity to bring this to the attention of the Legislature and, by extension, to the people of Ontario.

I don’t live in any—I’m not delusional. Well, not in this matter. In many other ways, people might say I am, but not in this one in particular. I don’t believe for a minute that this is going to be the be-all and end-all of saving lives and protecting people in the province of Ontario. But what I have learned in my lifetime and my time here is that if we incrementally and continuously and consistently deliver a message, eventually more and more people, and hopefully, at some date, everyone gets the message.

So this act to proclaim smoke alarm day—and I’m just getting my glasses; oh, they’re in my pocket, see, look at that—will proclaim September 28 in each year as Test Your Smoke Alarm Day. We recognize the importance of working smoke alarms and we remind Ontarians how important they are.

I can remember, as many people in this chamber would also be able to, when we didn’t have smoke alarms. And anybody who has been around as long as I have can remember, in their communities, big or small, someone they knew—and maybe more people, more than someone but many someones that they knew—who lost their lives in a fire.

Fires were a lot more common in my neck of the woods when I was younger. A lot of things have changed, including the materials that we build homes with, including the building code requirements. I mean, we have fire retardant materials in homes now, which means it takes a lot longer for a fire to catch hold, including the furnishings and also things—we make them with materials that will help to slow down the spread and how quickly a fire envelops a home.

And those are all important because we need to do every single thing we can to protect lives. It’s not even about buildings sometimes, Speaker. We can rebuild just about anything, but you can’t replace a life, so anything we can do to get the message across that lives are precious and it is just so sad when we lose one because, in the case of a fire, there was no working smoke alarm.

So, after smoke alarms—and I have a little history on smoke alarms. You wouldn’t believe this, but in the late 1930s, a fellow by the name of Walter Jaeger—Swiss fellow—was attempting to invent a device which could detect poison gas. The idea was that the gas would enter the alarm system and alter an electrical current inside, thereby setting off the alarm. However, when Jaegar tested the device, the gas did not alter the currents or trigger anything. He was frustrated. He lit a cigarette and noticed that the smoke did register in his device. This was the beginning of what would later become the smoke detector that we see everywhere today. So, thank you, Walter Jaeger. We don’t often say, “I’m really happy that this person or that person smoked,” but in his case, we’re very happy that Walter smoked and lit up a cigarette, because that accident led to saving countless lives all across not just the province of Ontario but all across the world today.

I remember when smoke detectors first came out. We had our first smoke detector—and I might be wrong on this, so I don’t want to be categorical, but I believe it was in the 1970s when we had it, and I think my mother might’ve been still living, and she died in 1974. So it was the early iterations of smoke detectors. We had one smoke detector—and they probably weren’t that sensitive.

I know the smoke detectors of today—we have a smoke detector, and it’s not right in the kitchen, but it’s just as you get into the hallway out of the kitchen. It drives me crazy, because if you burn a piece of toast, off goes the smoke detector, and you’re up there waving a towel or a newspaper or something, trying to get that away from the smoke detector so that you’re not waking the dead, as they say—no pun intended. So they’ve advanced significantly, to the point where we’ve got smoke detectors now—I just recently got some—that have a 10-year battery.

One of the things about having a smoke detector day—we want to remind people how important it is to change those batteries in those smoke detectors, because if the batteries ain’t working, the smoke detector ain’t working either. If the batteries are dead, the smoke detector is not working. Today, most of them will emit some sort of warning that your batteries need replacing, but in some cases, if they don’t, then you’ve got an issue.

Of course, any new home that’s built today requires, under the building code, hard-wired smoke detectors, so they’re right in your electrical system. Our home doesn’t have that. Our home will be 64 years old in November. We won’t have a birthday party or anything for the home. But it’s 64 years old; I know, because I moved in there 64 years ago. So those hard-wired—you don’t have to worry about the batteries, but for any of the older homes, we’ve got to make sure we’re on top of it.

Anyway, we’ve got some smoke detectors now where the battery is good for 10 years—10 years. I just got some, so maybe they’ll outlive me; I won’t ever have to change batteries.

You see, the plan is, Speaker, you don’t change the batteries in a smoke detector. After 10 years, you get new smoke detectors. That’s another thing: You’ve got to make sure that you upgrade your smoke detectors and keep them current.

I’ll tell you, I’m so grateful to the fire departments all across Ontario, the great firefighters who rush in there to save lives. I’m sure it must be disheartening to them, sometimes, when they sadly realize that there were no working smoke detectors in a building. We had a couple recently here—one in Guelph in March, and one a few months ago in Mississauga—where it was absolutely determined by the firefighters that there were no working smoke detectors in the home. That’s why I’m sure that you’ve seen campaigns in all of your communities where the firefighters are going around and many times are providing smoke detectors, are willing to check smoke detectors and do all of these kinds of things, because smoke detectors save lives.

I don’t think there’s anybody who could be opposed to anything we do to try to convince people that having a working smoke detector in their home is to their benefit. But we live in a helter-skelter world. We live in a busy world. People do forget sometimes. That’s why I was very pleased to be able to bring forth this little bill—it’s only one page—that will hopefully add to that message and convince more and more people that a priority—not an option, not a luxury or anything else, but it must be a priority.

It really is quite simple when you think about it. You think about what you pay for cable TV or your Internet, and how many hours, in the average home, people spend watching television or doing something on the Internet. I know we live online today, and that’s important; we have to have that access, and that’s part of the society we live in today. With so many things, you almost have to do them online; you can hardly do them the old way.


We want to convince people to take a little time, think about that smoke detector, because that smoke detector may save your life, may save the life of your spouse, your children, or maybe your mother or father depending upon the arrangements in the home itself.

Let’s pray to God that you never have that happen. The most important thing is—we do so many things. It’s so important to do everything we can to take the steps within our own lives and within our own homes. You go through your home, and you look for potential hazards and all of those kinds of things. The first step is prevention. Do what we can to prevent that fire in the first place. But should it happen, that there is an occasion by electrical malfunction—I mean, we have a million things running in our homes today that are electrically operated and there will be more and more as we electrify all of the things that we do. Our house was built in 1960; we’re always complaining there’s not enough outlets in the house. When that house was built in 1960, it had outlets galore, but the world has changed.

So there are so many natural potential hazards within a home. It could be lightning; it could be anything else as well. I know people who have lost their homes because of lightning strikes. You can’t do much about that, but anything we can do to prevent a fire is very, very important.

But in that instance where a fire happens, time is of the essence—and I know I’m running out of mine. Time is of the essence. The sooner that you can be alerted to the fact that you’ve got a potential problem, the only thing you need to know about then is your escape plan. And that’s another thing people need to have: an escape plan. What am I going to do if those alarms go off? Well, get your sweet you-know-what out of that house, call 911 and get the fire department there as quickly as possible.

Those safe smoke detectors can and will help save your life in the case of a catastrophic fire in your home. Thank you very much.

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

Mr. John Vanthof: It’s always a privilege to be able to speak in this House and, today, to support the member from Renfrew–Nipissing–Pembroke on his bill, smoke alarm day—I think that’s what it’s called, or Test Your Smoke Alarm Day.

I listened intently. I enjoy listening to the member from Renfrew–Nipissing–Pembroke, and he mentioned a couple of things I would just like to say off the top. I wasn’t going to talk about them, but just for a minute: Calling 911 is very important if you have an emergency. I don’t think we can mention that in the House without saying there are large portions of the province, populated parts of the province, that don’t have access to 911. So the smoke alarm is important but there are people who live in municipalities, who live in towns, who have to find 1-888-whatever-it-is and have to explain to the first responders how to get there—not to the local fire department, but for ambulance, they have to explain. We should all work together to fix that. I think everyone can agree on that.

Anything that we can do—and this bill is a step towards it, to remind people to test their smoke alarms, to make sure they have the right smoke alarm in the right place. We go through lots of houses and sometimes it frustrates me. You’ll go see somebody and you’ll see a disconnected one; it’s tough.

We know that we are—a lot of people are in tough financial straits right now but a smoke alarm, considering the benefit, the safety measure that it can provide for your family, isn’t a big investment. And to make sure that that smoke alarm is working isn’t a lot of time to do either, but it’s something that’s easy to forget.

The one thing, when I read through the bill—the time that I’m usually reminded is when there’s a time change. You’ll hear ads on the radio, and they’re usually put forward by municipalities or the fire department. If this is the same day as the time change, it would maybe—but there’s never a bad time to test a smoke alarm.

The member from Renfrew–Nipissing–Pembroke and I are the same generation. We both have grandkids. I’m hoping you will enjoy this story. My little grandson—he’s two and a half years old. Once in a while something will burn in the house from cooking or something.

Mr. Anthony Leardi: What’s his name, John?

Mr. John Vanthof: Joey.

So we were there visiting and something burned on the stove. And, you know what, they are irritating sometimes, right? It’s not a major fire; it’s just like a cooking mishap. But Joey knew exactly what to do. As soon as he heard the noise, he had a placemat and he was doing this, so he had heard that noise before. My daughter and son-in-law have to work on their escape plan because Joey is more interested in fanning the flames.

But it is something—I’m not going to spend a lot of time talking about this. It’s a common-sense bill to make people do a common-sense thing: Check your smoke alarm. We’ve all had cases in our respective ridings of tragedies that were due to lack of a smoke alarm.

I have had—probably unique—something that it’s a privilege to speak to here. I have had a unique case, unique to me, that people from some religious faiths don’t want smoke alarms. It was interesting. I don’t agree, but it was because they feel that they are connected to modern society with a smoke alarm. But it’s an interesting point of view—one that I disagree with, but a religious view that you respect.

But anyway, anything that we can do to remind people to make sure they have a working smoke alarm and save their family’s lives and possibly save others’ lives—and actually also for the first responders who run towards us, run towards a fire when we run away, every second counts for them too. So every second that the fire is identified earlier, it makes their lives—and their risks smaller as well. For that part alone, we fully back this bill, and I’d like to thank you very much for the opportunity to speak to this.

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

Mr. Lorne Coe: I’m pleased to stand in support of Bill 177, a bill that is a call to action; an opportunity to educate, empower and, ultimately, save lives.

In 2022, the Office of the Fire Marshal reported a staggering 133 fire fatalities, marking the highest number in 20 years. This total represents families shattered and communities forever changed by preventable tragedies.

In Whitby, the 2019 annual report from the fire emergency services found that in the past five years, 50% of homes in Whitby that experienced a fire did not have working smoke alarms. This must change, Speaker. Action must be taken. Regularly testing smoke alarms is a vital measure in protecting ourselves and our loved ones from the destructive consequences of fires. Importantly, the Test Your Smoke Alarm Day Act is also an opportunity to educate on fire escape planning and overall fire safety. At the end of the day, Speaker, knowledge is power, and equipping our residents with this information can also make all the difference in an emergency.

Now, Speaker, this proposed legislation has garnered significant support across the province, including from Whitby Fire Chief Michael Hickey. The chief’s message is clear: Fire safety is not a passive endeavour, but an active responsibility that each of us must uphold. A house fire can happen to any of us. It can happen to you. I hope it doesn’t. When it does, every second counts. Working smoke alarms can make the difference between safety and tragedy and between life and, yes, death.


This bill isn’t just about regulations. It’s about safeguarding the value of every life—every life across the province of Ontario. By supporting Bill 177, we reaffirm our commitment to fire safety and prevention, protecting our homes, our loved ones and, yes, our communities.

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

Ms. Natalie Pierre: Good evening. Today, I stand before you to support my colleague in advocating for the designation of September 28 of each year as Test Your Smoke Alarm Day, a day that can serve as a reminder for all Ontarians to routinely test their smoke alarms and to highlight the critical importance of testing smoke alarms each month.

As a parent and as the former parliamentary assistant to the Minister of Colleges and Universities, this bill holds significance for me. It addresses an important task often overlooked by students transitioning into post-secondary education: fire safety. Living away from home, often for the first time, is exciting for most college and university students. Amidst the whirlwind of adjusting to new classes, new living arrangements and new-found independence, the importance of testing smoke alarms may not be at the forefront of their minds. This designated day would serve as a life-saving reminder for everyone, including students, many of whom will be living away from home for the very first time.

While living at home, the responsibilities of home maintenance, including testing smoke alarms, usually fall to parents. When students move into shared or rental accommodations to attend post-secondary, the responsibility becomes theirs. This day would serve as a reminder for students to take an active role to adopt good fire safety practices. Whether returning back to school after summer or leaving home for the very first time, a discussion about good fire safety practices can help to ensure this exciting time in a student’s life is not marred by a fire tragedy.

Sadly, there have been incidents of fires in student housing—tragedies that were never anticipated. September 28 would signify more than just reminding Ontarians to test their smoke alarms monthly. It would also remind students that they need to take an active role in fire and life safety. Early detection facilitated by functioning smoke alarms is not just a precaution; it’s a necessity that has the power to save lives. The devastation caused by fire extends far beyond physical damage. A fire can disrupt lives, shatter dreams and leave behind lasting mental and emotional trauma.

By designating September 28 as a day to highlight the importance of testing smoke alarms monthly, we’re not only promoting fire safety, but also fostering a culture of preparedness and vigilance. We’re empowering individuals to take proactive steps to protect themselves and their loved ones from the destructive effects of fire.

So, let us come together as a community, as leaders, as advocates for safety, and declare our commitment to fire safety. Let’s ensure that every home, every school, every workplace is equipped with functioning smoke alarms. And let us never underestimate the power of early detection in saving lives.

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

Mrs. Karen McCrimmon: We all understand the crucial roles that preventing and fighting fires play here in Ontario. Ontario’s firefighters are unsung heroes who risk their lives every day to commit to their communities, and it’s important that we recognize and appreciate their sacrifices. I know that the honourable member who brought this bill forward does exactly that.

We need to acknowledge the challenges that firefighters encounter in their demanding and dangerous work. On top of physical dangers and extreme heat and smoke and hazardous materials, they are also faced with mentally and emotionally challenging situations, witnessing the devastation that fires can cause to lives and property. Despite these challenges, firefighters bravely and selflessly continue to serve, putting the safety of others ahead of their own.

Mitigating the dangers that these firefighters face is essential, and smoke detectors can help do exactly that. We need to advocate for increased funding and support for fire prevention and fire safety, and this bill contributes to that effort. Fire prevention and safety is so important to all of us, and all Ontario firefighters—whether they are professional, volunteer or dedicated wildfire firefighters—must have the training, equipment and support needed to do their job.

Firefighters have long advocated for technologies that keep people safe, just like smoke detectors do. I want to thank the firefighters who have worked long and hard to remind people every year what they can do at home to protect themselves and their families, including testing fire alarms. Their continued advocacy leads to bills like this, and rightfully so. And I thank the honourable member for Bill 177.

Speaker, I would like to express my heartfelt gratitude to Ontario’s firefighters for their unwavering dedication, bravery, and sacrifice. Your commitment to serving and protecting our communities does not go unnoticed, and we are immensely grateful for your service and sacrifice. Let us all take a moment to thank our firefighters for their hard work and pledge our support for their ongoing efforts to keep Ontario safe.

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

Mr. Dave Smith: As I look at the clock, I’ve got six minutes to speak to a bill that has 174 words in it. I speak at about 160 words a minute, so even if I read the entire bill, I’d still have about five minutes left to speak. It’s really a very, very simple concept, and it’s something that will make a massive difference to people.

We take it for granted that the technology is going to work. Most people don’t really know what makes their smoke detector work. There are two different kinds. There’s an ionization smoke detector; what it does is it has two electrodes, I guess would be the best way to describe it, that are slightly radioactive—they’re shielded. But what happens is when particles get up into that area, it creates an electric current between it, and that’s what causes the smoke detector to go off.

The second one is an infrared or photoelectric sensor. Basically, the idea behind it is, if you think of a laser light, that’s pretty much what it is, and when particles get up in there, they break that light beam, and that’s what causes the smoke detector to go off. So it’s really, really simple technology that we take for granted all the time.

But as the member from Renfrew–Nipissing–Pembroke described, they’re battery-operated, unless you have one of the ones that are hardwired. Most people with an older home have a battery-operated one, and it really isn’t that much of a challenge for you to reach up and push the test button. Some of us, like myself and the member from Nipissing-Pembroke-Renfrew—from Nipissing-Renfrew-Pembroke—

Mr. John Yakabuski: Whatever.

Mr. Dave Smith: —from that place to be named later—are tall enough that we can do it without having to stand on a chair. It’s not something that’s hard to do, and yet we all take it for granted. We all assume that that technology is going to work. “We just replaced the battery a few months ago.” All of us say that. I’ve been in my place now for a number of years; it didn’t dawn on me until we changed the clocks to test the batteries, and actually, the batteries were dead in four of the six smoke detectors I had.

It’s not a hardship to check it, and yet we take it for granted. The reason we take it for granted is, we’re not reminded of those simple things to do, and when you’re not reminded of something that’s simple, you forget about it. You take it for granted. So really, what this bill does is it gives us that reminder, that common-sense reminder to say, “This is something that will save your life. Take 10 seconds out of your day once a year and push the button to see if it works.”


How many times in all of our communities have we seen newspaper or news stories about a tragic fire, and the Ontario fire marshal’s office says, “There were no working smoke detectors.” Smoke detectors were in the house, but they weren’t working, and it’s because we take it for granted.

This bill, as small and simple as it is—a single page, as the member said—is something that isn’t life-altering in terms of all of the verbiage in it, but the end result of it can very much be life-altering for so many families. It is that simple: Reach up and press the test button. That’s all we are asking. Once a year, reach up and press the test button because that simple act might save your family.

The building code says that we have to have smoke detectors outside of bedrooms. The building code says that we have to have smoke detectors where there are fire sources. But if you never test to see if it works, it doesn’t do any good to have it. So I thank the member from Renfrew–Nipissing–Pembroke for bringing this forward to remind us all that just that small, simple act can make a difference in everyone’s lives.

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

The member now has two minutes for a response.

Mr. John Yakabuski: I want to thank the members from Timiskaming–Cochrane, Whitby, Burlington, Kanata–Carleton and Peterborough–Kawartha for their comments. It’s interesting; every one of them had a little bit of a different perspective on how they were coming at this, but in the end, the message was exactly the same, about how important it is to have a fire safety plan, a prevention plan, and then an escape plan, and how important it is to make our homes fire-safe.

I want to thank the member from Kanata–Carleton for specifically reaching out and thanking our brave men and women in our firefighting departments all across the province for the work that they do that may give us this sense of comfort, knowing that if, by George, something does go wrong, we have brave people who are going to come and see to it that if we need assistance to get out of there, we’re going to get out of there, and other than that, they’ll be working on preventing it from spreading to others as well.

But I think the message is clear: how important working smoke alarms are in any and all homes. The member from Peterborough pointed it out: Let’s just hit that button. Reach up and hit that test button to make sure that—even if the batteries are good, if there is something wrong with the smoke detector, then the batteries are powering something that’s not working effectively itself.

So press that button and make sure your smoke detectors are working properly. If we do all of these things and listen to all of the things that our fire departments have been telling us for years about how we can prevent deaths from home fires, this will be worthwhile. If it saves one life, it’s accomplished something. If it saves many more, it will have accomplished a lot. Thank you, Speaker, for the opportunity.

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

Mr. Yakabuski has moved second reading of Bill 177, An Act to proclaim Test Your Smoke Alarm Day. Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? Carried.

Second reading agreed to.

The Deputy Speaker (Ms. Donna Skelly): Pursuant to standing order 100(h), the bill is referred to the Committee of the Whole House, unless the member wishes to refer it to another standing committee.

Mr. John Yakabuski: Pardon me, Speaker. I’m sorry.

The Deputy Speaker (Ms. Donna Skelly): Does the member wish to refer the bill to a standing committee?

Mr. John Yakabuski: I’d like to refer it to the committee on justice policy.

The Deputy Speaker (Ms. Donna Skelly): Is the majority in favour of the bill being referred to the Standing Committee on Justice Policy? Carried.

All matters relating to private members’ public business having been completed, this House now stands adjourned until 9 o’clock, Thursday, April 18, 2024.

The House adjourned at 1835.