Those come at a cost, to ensure that our future is protected and that we become more competitive going forward. He knows that our long-term plan had estimated much higher fees, and that has not occurred.
He also knows that going forward we are going to ensure we’ll continue to provide integrity in our grid and provide further stimulus in our economy. That has been happening, Mr. Speaker.
I realize it is part of their talking points to talk about coal, despite the fact that the phase-out started under the Progressive Conservatives. Instead of talking points, because every political party agreed on the—
Mr. Speaker, furthermore, we have now invested—
In the end, Mr. Speaker—
Now, back to the question and back to the real concern, and that’s the hydro rates that everyone in Ontario sees as going up except for the Minister of Finance.
Let me give you an example. Last week I was in Thunder Bay, meeting with mayors and councillors from northwestern Ontario communities. I would note that in 2015, the federation of northern municipalities passed a resolution calling for lower hydro rates, as they’ve been disastrous on the north. Resolute forestry, where I toured, told me they have to shut down parts of their plant every day during peak rate periods to keep their costs down. I guess they don’t get the Charles Sousa special.
Mr. Speaker, when will this government stop turning their backs on northern Ontario? When will this government actually have energy policies that don’t cripple northern Ontario?
I remind all members that we use each other’s titles and/or ridings in this House.
I do want to thank the member for supporting our nuclear refurbishment program. The nuclear refurbishment program, over the next 30 years, will put into the grid electricity prices at 7.7 cents per kilowatt hour, on average, and it will be clean energy.
He doesn’t mention that the recent wind prices came in at 8.5 cents, on average, per kilowatt hour—
Northern Ontario industrial prices are the third-lowest in North America, better than all the Canadian provinces, better than all the US states. Do you want to see them? Look online and you’ll see all—
Let me share a story of a letter I got from seven-year-old Warren and his family from Bailieboro. He was diagnosed with autism at the age of three. His parents immediately registered Warren for IBI therapy. About one month ago, Warren’s parents were notified that Warren was seventh on the waiting list for IBI treatment. They were elated. Unfortunately, because of this government’s decision, the rug has been pulled out from underneath this family and Warren. It’s not right.
Mr. Speaker, after so many years on the waiting list, why is this government proceeding with these devastating cuts that will take away IBI treatment from Warren and his family? We know how much the minister was upset. Why did the Minister of Finance allow this cut in his budget?
It’s very important to acknowledge that we are not removing kids from service. In fact, we are taking those kids who are waiting for IBI, who are over five, who are not in the right developmental window, and putting them into immediate service—330 million new dollars, 16,000 new spaces. I acknowledge that it’s a shift. I acknowledge that it’s a transition.
I and many of my colleagues and, I believe, members of the opposition have been meeting with families. I’ve made sure that everyone in the Legislature has all the facts, that they understand the step-by-step process by which this transformation will take place and that the new autism program will provide longer, more intense services and will be tailored to the individual needs of the child.
When the government cuts a service, they say, “It’s a shift. It’s a transformation”—
My question is directly to the Minister of Finance. Autism doesn’t end at five; do you agree with that fundamental concept, yes or no?
I’m very concerned about the opposition positioning this investment of $333 million as a cut. We have 16,000 new spaces that will be provided. Children who are currently receiving IBI will continue to receive that. Guess who will be determining what their transition is? Experts, at their next six-month checkup.
Speaker, I think it’s important to acknowledge that there are stakeholders who support this change:
Leslie Suite, the chair of the Regional Autism Providers of Ontario, says, “We are very excited about what this historic investment means for children and youth with autism and their families. More families will receive the right services at the right time.”
Suzanne Jacobson, founder of Quickstart: Early Intervention for Autism, said, “Parents spoke and they were heard. The right service at the right time: individualized, expanded and timely services will be life changing. We applaud the Ontario government’s ... investment of $333 million....”
Mr. Speaker, first the Liberal government took people like Warren’s parents to court. Now, they’re kicking kids like Warren off the wait-list. When will the government stop their war on autistic children and parents who love them? It’s not the right thing. Correct course.
I just wish the opposition would get the facts. His critic has had the briefing. It’s important they convey the facts during this time of transition.
The member opposite also talks about fundraising activities. I think the leader of the third party, who is strongly defending her secret union-backed shell corporation, is clear as to why the NDP has not decided to act on the reforms that we’re putting forward.
When will this Premier and this Liberal government realize that the rules on how parties and elections are financed must be seen as credible by the people, and agree to put aside her partisan process?
Our questions to the leader of the opposition are, do you believe that we need to reform third-party advertising? Do you believe that we need to ban corporate and union donations? Do you believe that we need to reduce the maximum amount of those donations? Do you believe that we need to have the constraints necessary on loans, loan guarantees and phantom landowners? Do you believe that reform on by-elections is also important? Do you believe that we need an overall reduction in the spending limits by central parties in election periods and between those elections? Do you believe that we need new leadership, and nomination campaign spending limits on those donation opportunities during those campaigns?
I believe the consensus around this room, and certainly outside of this Legislature, is that we do. That’s what we’re putting forward, and we expect—
The real question is, why is the Liberal Party of Ontario insisting on a partisan process that they control?
The real question is, why is the leader of the third party defending a secret, union-backed shell corporation? Why are they continuing to throw up roadblocks in the process?
What we need is action, Mr. Speaker. We’re prepared to act now.
HEALTH CARE FUNDING
When will the Liberal government stop firing nurses?
But it’s important to recognize that we are investing more. Let me be clear: The opposition continues to make disingenuous claims about our health care system. In reality—
The opposition fails to tell what are, in fact, the facts. The reality is that we’ve increased hospital funding by 53% since 2003, from $11 billion to $17.3 billion, and we’re increasing funding for every single hospital in Ontario this year. This is part of our budget proposal of a $1-billion increase to health care funding. We will continue to invest in hospitals, and we must recognize that we’re moving towards a system where more services are delivered at home and in the community.
The NDP voted against these very measures. They voted against an additional $270 million for home and community care, they voted against $75 million for community-based hospice and palliative care, and they voted against $85 million for community health centres.
We’re investing more, Mr. Speaker.
Here are the facts: People in Orillia have learned that 16 beds at Orillia Soldiers’ Memorial Hospital will be closed, and the hospital is losing 35 full-time-equivalent staff. They’re losing seven full-time RNs, four part-time RNs, and a nurse practitioner.
The CEO says this: “On the heels of a four-year funding freeze and only a modest increase to base funding for 2016-17, it’s increasingly difficult.”
When will the Liberal government stop cutting hospitals, Speaker?
But let’s hear what else the CEO of that hospital said. It was based on—there’s a rehabilitation alliance, the Rehabilitative Care Alliance, which is a province-wide body, and they are making changes which are in accordance with, and in fact recommended by, that alliance.
“The major budget initiative is a bed restructuring plan that will see the establishment of a newly designed program to enhance care for patients”—this is quoting the CEO—“requiring post-acute rehabilitation services and medical care. To develop this new model of care,” the hospital has withdrawn from the regional complex continuing care program and is “relocating other beds within the hospital to the new unit to be established on the fourth floor.”
In Windsor hospitals, health care workers right now know that their cuts are coming. The situation has gotten so bad that nurses are getting second jobs and some are leaving in advance, because they’re so worried about the layoff notices that are coming. They are so stressed about the impending layoff notices that they are actually leaving their jobs before the pink slip hits them. That’s bad for nurses, but it’s also bad for patients.
When will this Liberal government start putting patients first and stop cutting hospitals and firing nurses?
SOCIAL ASSISTANCE MANAGEMENT SYSTEM
Will the minister now admit that just wasn’t true, and will she apologize to the people of Ontario?
But let’s be clear about what we’re talking about. A memo was released. It was written by the project manager for SAMS and it was addressed to the administrators out in the field. I would like to read that memo in its entirety.
What he said on November 1 was, “I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge that there have been significant challenges both with the development of the solution and with site readiness. However, this was not unexpected in such a large and complex modernization initiative, and in every instance we have worked together to overcome these challenges.”
This was precisely the type of information that was relied upon to roll out SAMS in November 2014.
In previous governments, a scandal like this would have triggered resignations. Has anyone in this government accepted the consequences for such a monumental screw-up? Anyone at all? Because this minister hasn’t.
Having said that, we know that challenges did exist with the rollout. I have accepted the responsibility for that. I started staff working groups, front-line working groups. We hired PricewaterhouseCoopers to assist us in a third-party evaluation of what needed to be done. We have now fixed 100% of the priority issues identified by the front lines and 95% of the defects identified in the Auditor General’s report.
First, the Attorney General took 30 days to read a report that only she could read. Then, while the Premier made some promising remarks about perhaps releasing this report, the Attorney General said no to questions asked by media to releasing this report, four times. Now, finally, when the government releases the report, they release it late on a Friday. They release only 10 out of 34 pages, and one of those pages is blank. The pages that are released are heavily redacted. In fact, the public is left with more questions rather than answers.
Why does the government continue to disrespect Ontarians and discourage transparency turn after turn?
As I said, our government is very committed to effective and fair civilian oversight of the police. We are aware that there are concerns about transparency and accountability in current police oversight, so the time has come to look critically at how this system is working. That’s why last week we appointed the Honourable Michael Tulloch, who is from the appeal court of Ontario, to lead an independent review of three agencies that oversee police conduct in Ontario.
He has been asked to provide the government with recommendations on ways to enhance the transparency and accountability of the province’s three police oversight bodies. Today, I want to thank him for accepting to take on this very challenging review.
The government likes to talk about transparency time and time again, but when it comes to it, the government does not act on that. The government has failed to act on delivering true transparency. The community has raised a number of concerns around the circumstances of Mr. Loku’s death, and the government has an opportunity to provide the transparency. They like to talk about it, but again, they haven’t delivered on it.
The public has questions; Mr. Andrew Loku’s family has questions; this government can provide the answers. Will the government commit today to releasing a fulsome report—understanding the concerns around privacy—that actually answers the questions that the community has?
We have asked Justice Tulloch to prioritize making recommendations as to how information in SIU reports could be made public in the future. He will also prioritize looking at whether past SIU reports should be made public, and the form this information would take. The government expects to receive these prioritized recommendations in the coming months. Justice Tulloch will conduct broad public consultations, including conversations with the police community, Black Lives Matter and a variety of municipal and community leaders.
I’m confident that, through this review process, we will create a more transparent approach to police oversight that has the confidence of both the police and the public they serve.
ONTARIO’S CREDIT RATING
Our government values the input of third-party analysis as an important checkpoint in ensuring that our fiscal plan is credible, reliable and transparent.
As the press release by Moody’s stated, “The stable outlook on the province of Ontario’s ratings reflects our opinion that the province has presented a budget plan with little risk that the debt burden will exceed recent levels.” They also forecast Ontario’s debt to “fall ... across the medium term and, as importantly, for interest expense to remain manageable as well.”
It sounds to me like our government is doing a great job at coming to balance in a way that is fair and responsible.
Can the Minister of Finance please inform this House about the status of our fiscal plan and provide some insight into why Moody’s made this change?
We will continue to reduce the deficit through a fair and balanced approach. We continue to implement our plan to balance the budget, grow the economy and create jobs. Ontarians will continue to see measurable results, as already seen around the world from those who value the work that we’ve done here in Ontario.
Will the minister finally admit that the people’s skyrocketing energy rates are not a result of weather but of the colossal mismanagement of Ontario’s electricity system under his guidance, and will he commit to a real plan to stop abusing Ontarians with skyrocketing hydro rates?
Minister of Energy.
As I said earlier today, northern Ontario has the third-lowest industrial rates in North America.
I had a gentleman in my constituency office on Friday who said that this hydro fiasco that you’ve created is tearing families apart. I spoke to a woman yesterday in my constituency office who works at a food bank in Eganville. She said that there was a 30% increase at the food bank. They ran out. When you talk to people and ask them why they’re at the food bank, it’s because they have to make a choice: “If we pay our hydro bill, we can’t afford food.” That’s what you’ve done here in the province of Ontario.
Will you show some compassion and stop going down the disastrous road that you’ve built for Ontario families?
I do want to thank the Conservative Party again for supporting our nuclear refurbishment program, which sees an average price of 7.7 cents per kilowatt hour over the next 30 years—
We’re taking a lot of other steps to reduce the cost of electricity, including the new price of wind—
The question is very simple: When is this minister and this government going to get on side and do what we’ve been asking and what municipalities across the north have been asking; that is, either get these gas companies to stop gouging the public or, if not, regulate the price of gas?
Of course, you would know that cutting across all of the activity that this government does—thanks not only to the Premier but, of course, to members like the Minister of Northern Development and Mines, the Minister of Government and Consumer Services, the Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry and, also, the member from Sudbury—this is a government that, for 13 years, has worked very hard in a determined fashion to make sure that northern Ontarians have a bright and prosperous future, and that the quality of life for northern Ontarians continues to improve, including, of course, in budget 2016; for example, a number of initiatives from the Ministry of Transportation on the infrastructure front to support highway expansion, roads, bridges and so much more for all of northern Ontario.
For 13 years, thanks to this Ontario Liberal government, we have moved the yardsticks forward for northern Ontario. Because of our leadership, unlike the NDP, we’ll continue to get the job done.
This government is the same government who got rid of the Ontario Northland, the only train that we have in northern Ontario. This is a government who has driven the price of electricity through the roof to the point that residents and industry can’t afford it. And now I’m asking him a question about the price of gas.
How could it be that gas companies are able to charge a 26-cents-per-litre difference for gasoline across this province? If you can sell a case of beer in Kenora for the same price you sell it for in downtown Toronto, how is it that you’re going to have a 26-cents-a-litre difference on the price of gas?
I ask you again: Are you prepared to step in, get these guys under control and, if not, regulate them?
The provinces who have tried to regulate have seen the prices stay the same as the other provinces, or they went up, because of the cost of administrating the price control they’re trying to implement.
SEXUAL VIOLENCE AND HARASSMENT
Minister, I was pleased to join you in Ottawa in February when you announced the funding of six research projects at post-secondary institutions across the province, dedicated to improving how police respond. Through you to the minister, Mr. Speaker, would the minister please explain how he is addressing this very real and pressing gap?
Sexual violence and harassment is something that is far too prevalent in our communities and something that cannot be tolerated. That is why I was very happy to join the member from Ottawa–Orléans in February to announce that we are investing $375,000 to support six research projects at post-secondary institutions across the province, to provide our police and law enforcement officials with the tools and training they need in order to best support survivors of these terrible crimes.
This research is about identifying best practices based on evidence. It is about supporting an even more compassionate and sensitive approach from law enforcement. It is about learning and implementing best practices, to encourage more survivors to report sexual violence and to continue to improve how police respond to and investigate cases of sexual violence.
I am glad to hear that you’re taking concrete steps to better support survivors of sexual violence and harassment, and improve training for the police who respond to these crimes.
While this research will be important in addressing these issues, we must also recognize that indigenous women are disproportionately more likely to experience violence; in fact, they are three times as likely compared to other women in Canada. Our First Nations partners have told us that there has always been a gap in the justice system, so as we move forward to eliminate sexual violence from our communities, we cannot lose sight of the indigenous women who need our help the most. That means that we must work to develop a more compassionate, sensitive and culturally appropriate response for law enforcement when dealing with sexual violence against indigenous women, while encouraging more survivors to report.
Mr. Speaker, through you, would the minister please explain what our government is doing to identify the gaps in best practices to help indigenous women across Ontario?
This must change. That is why last month, along with the minister responsible for women’s issues and the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs, I announced that we’re providing over $250,000 to support research that will specifically draw on the lived experiences of indigenous survivors of sexual violence. These research projects will build on Walking Together: Ontario’s Long-Term Strategy to End Violence Against Indigenous Women and our It’s Never Okay action plan. They will examine how police respond to and investigate these crimes. It is my hope that this research will show us how to improve supports and empower indigenous survivors.
Speaker, this is how our government is working to identify the gaps and best practices, so we can develop tools to improve police responses and investigations to help indigenous women across the province.
In my riding, five schools are closing. OSCVI alumni, parents and students have appealed to the minister to step in and review the decision—a call that’s supported by over 2,100 petitioners. Mr. Speaker, these constituents want to know: Will the minister support a one-year moratorium on the decision and allow the community, the students and all stakeholder groups to consult on the proposal to close OSCVI?
We actually announced that they will be receiving $24 million in the small community of Meaford in order to build a new 1,000-student JK-to-12 school to consolidate all three of those schools. The community, including the mayor, was absolutely delighted.
Despite promising to address the funding formula in the past two elections, it appears the minister is indifferent to the predicament they’re creating and the impact of school closures on people and their communities. This attitude runs parallel to their waste and mismanagement pattern, the same one that has led the government to cut back on funding essential public services, such as education and health care.
Minister, you control the purse strings. You set the rules of the funding formula. You said you would change it. A busload of constituents will be arriving any minute and they want assurances from you that you’ll do the right thing.
Mr. Speaker, I ask again through you: Will the minister agree to a review of this decision to ensure that students’ best interests are served at the end of the day by this government? It’s not about the Meaford school; it’s about the OSCVI school.
I would like to point out that I am the Minister of Education, not the minister of schools. My primary focus is to make sure that students receive good programming. What we know in secondary schools is that when there’s a critical mass of students, the board has the opportunity to provide a broader breadth of programs for the students. They can provide better-quality programming. That actually is my job: to make sure students receive—
Will the Liberal government guarantee that Metrolinx will not force people living in Scarborough to pay more to ride the subway?
I think anyone who moves around the greater Toronto and Hamilton area would recognize—and certainly I hear it loud and clear from my own constituents in York region—in order to support the unprecedented transit investments that this government is making, that we need a fare integration system across this entire region that works seamlessly, that makes transit more accessible, more affordable, more reliable and more dependable for the people of the entire region. That’s the work that Metrolinx is embarking upon, in conjunction with all of our municipal transit systems. They will keep working hard to make sure that we can get it right.
Will the Liberal government guarantee that there will be no fare zones within Toronto, and that Metrolinx will not force the TTC to charge higher fares for subway riders?
I think what’s also, perhaps, the reason that the leader of the NDP is mistaken about how supposedly hidden this effort is is that because—while we are investing in transit through budget after budget after budget, that leader and the NDP caucus continue to vote against them. They are obviously more focused on petty partisan politics in Scarborough instead of being focused on making sure that they support the transit investments needed to deliver the seamless integrated transit network the people of this region and the people of Scarborough deserve.
There is an unacceptable disparity in health outcomes between lower- and higher-income individuals in this province. It is true of dental health as well.
Speaker, through you to the Minister of Health and Long-Term Care: Can he please inform the House what the government is doing to ensure that children in my riding of Scarborough–Agincourt and across Ontario receive the proper dental care they deserve?
As the Minister of Health and as a parent, I want to see all children grow up to be healthy and live healthy lives. The family income level should not be a barrier to that. That’s why I was pleased last week to announce that our government is supporting families in raising healthy kids by making it easier for more eligible children and youth from low-income families to access free dental health services in Ontario.
The new Healthy Smiles Ontario program provides access to free preventive, routine and emergency dental services for all eligible children and youth. I’m very proud of our government’s Healthy Smiles program. It’s an important step in Ontario’s overall Poverty Reduction Strategy.
Healthy Smiles is an excellent oral health program run by the public health units across Ontario. We know this type of preventive treatment, whether it’s checkups, cleaning, fillings or X-rays, saves our health care system dollars in the long run.
Studies show that early detection and identification of oral diseases are critical in children’s overall health, social well-being and learning.
As a former public health nurse and school board trustee, I know the free Healthy Smiles dental health care program will help children in my riding of Scarborough–Agincourt and across Ontario improve their oral health, keep them out of the emergency room, ensure proper nutrition, promote self-esteem and reduce absenteeism from school.
Speaker, through you to the minister: Can he please tell the House how families can access the Healthy Smiles program?
I’m pleased to report back today that already more than 323,000 young people are enrolled in the Healthy Smiles program. To bring that number even higher, we launched an awareness campaign last week across the province to encourage more people to visit ontario.ca/ healthysmiles to find out if their kids are eligible, and to sign them up for these important publicly funded dental services. Families can also speak to their local public health unit.
Of course, our public health units are essential partners, and I want to thank them and our other partners, including our dentists, as we roll out this important program.
The member from Elgin–Middlesex–London.
A 2012 report released by Canada’s Premiers revealed that an estimated 85% of leg amputations are the result of a non-healing foot ulcer. The report recommended the use of the Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario’s best practices guide to prevent the need for amputation, but four years later about 2,000 patients are forced to undergo physically and emotionally traumatic amputations each year.
Mr. Speaker, why has the minister failed to implement RNAO’s preventive measures, which could save millions of dollars and thousands of limbs of Ontario’s diabetic patients?
The level of amputation that we’re seeing is unacceptable. It’s important that we have a wound care approach that is based on best practices and best principles, and that that is applied province-wide.
We’ve gathered together the experts—of course, RNAO and the Canadian Association of Wound Care are part of that process—so we can actually hear from them, work with them in this working group to develop those standards of care and implement them across the province.
The Canadian Diabetes Association reported that the economic burden of diabetes was estimated to be $4.9 billion in 2010 and is expected to increase to $6.9 billion by 2020. An estimated 1.5 million people in Ontario have diabetes, and that’s expected to grow to 2.3 million people by 2025. These Ontarians are 12 times more likely to be hospitalized with end-stage renal disease and 20 times more likely to be hospitalized for a lower-limb amputation than the general public.
Could the minister explain why prevention is not a priority in this government?
I need to remind the member opposite that Ontario was the first province or territory in Canada to fully fund insulin pumps for children and adults with type 1 diabetes.
We’ve established six centres for complex diabetes care. They have provided care to over 9,000 new patients. We’ve increased the number of diabetes education teams, which I suspect the member opposite would agree is a preventive aspect of care. We now have 321 diabetes education teams across the province. We have diabetes mobile outreach services. And we’ve invested in self-management, as well, making sure that individuals like my sister, who has type 1 diabetes, have the education and support that they need to be able to live those high-quality lives.
It seems that the minister’s efforts to educate employers are not working. While the blitz stopped the exploitation of unpaid interns at 18 firms, what is the minister doing to prevent the thousands of other young people who are working without pay at hundreds more firms across this province?
Let me make it perfectly clear: Unpaid internships are illegal in the province of Ontario. There is no such thing as a legal unpaid internship. If there are employers out there today—and the blitz shows us there are—that still do not understand or decide not to follow the rules, we are going to continue to level that playing field for other employers in this province that do abide by the rules. I’m proud we were able to recover the money for these young people, who deserve that money.
NOTICE OF DISSATISFACTION
There being no deferred votes, this House stands recessed until 1 p.m.
The House recessed from 1143 to 1300.top | new search