The House met at 0900.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
That the Standing Committee on General Government be authorized to meet on Bill 159 on Monday, June 22, 2020, from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. and 1 p.m. to 6 p.m.; Tuesday, June 23, 2020, from 9 a.m. to 10:15 a.m. and 1 p.m. to 6 p.m.; and Wednesday, June 24, 2020, from 9 a.m. to 10:15 a.m. and 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. for the purpose of public hearings; and
That the Clerk of the Committee, in consultation with the committee Chair, be authorized to arrange the following with regard to Bill 159:
—that the deadline for requests to appear be 10 a.m. on Thursday, June 18, 2020;
—that the Clerk of the Committee provide a list of all interested presenters to each member of the subcommittee and their designate following the deadline for requests to appear;
—that each member of the subcommittee or their designate provide the Clerk of the Committee with a prioritized list of presenters to be scheduled, chosen from the list of all interested presenters received by the Clerk by 6 p.m., on Thursday, June 18, 2020;
—that the deadline for written submissions be 6 p.m. on Wednesday, June 24, 2020;
—that the deadline for filing amendments to the bill with the Clerk of the Committee shall be 6 p.m. on Thursday, June 25, 2020;
—that the subcommittee on committee business shall be authorized to otherwise determine the method of proceeding on the bill; and
That the committee meet on Monday, June 29, 2020, from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. and 1 p.m. to 6 p.m.; and Tuesday, June 30, 2020, from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. and 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. for clause-by-clause consideration of Bill 159;
That on Tuesday, June 30, 2020, at 4 p.m., those amendments which have not yet been moved shall be deemed to have been moved, and the Chair of the committee shall interrupt the proceedings and shall, without further debate or amendment, put every question necessary to dispose of all remaining sections of the bill and any amendments thereto. At this time, the Chair shall allow one 20-minute waiting period, pursuant to standing order 132(a); and
That the committee shall report the bill to the House no later than Monday, July 6, 2020. In the event that the committee fails to report the bill on that day, the bill shall be deemed passed by the committee and shall be deemed to be reported to and received by the House; and
That upon receiving the report of the Standing Committee on General Government, the Speaker shall put the question for adoption of the report forthwith, and at such time the bill shall be ordered for third reading, which order may be called the same day; and
That the Standing Committee on Social Policy be authorized to meet on Bill 184 on Wednesday, June 24, 2020, from 9 a.m. to 10:15 a.m. and 1 p.m. to 6 p.m.; Thursday, June 25, 2020, from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. and 1 p.m. to 6 p.m.; and Friday, June 26, 2020, from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. and 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. for the purpose of public hearings; and
That the Clerk of the Committee, in consultation with the committee Chair, be authorized to arrange the following with regard to Bill 184:
—that the deadline for requests to appear be 10 a.m. on Thursday, June 18, 2020;
—that the Clerk of the Committee provide a list of all interested presenters to each member of the subcommittee and their designate following the deadline for requests to appear;
—that each member of the subcommittee or their designate provide the Clerk of the Committee with a prioritized list of presenters to be scheduled, chosen from the list of all interested presenters received by the Clerk by 6 p.m. on Thursday, June 18, 2020;
—that the deadline for written submissions be 6 p.m. on Friday, June 26, 2020;
—that the deadline for filing amendments to the bill with the Clerk of the Committee shall be 6 p.m. on Monday, June 29, 2020;
—that the subcommittee on committee business shall be authorized to otherwise determine the method of proceeding on the bill; and
That the committee meet on Thursday, July 2, 2020, from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. and 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. and Friday, July 3, 2020, from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. and 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. for clause-by-clause consideration of Bill 184; and
That on Friday, July 3, 2020, at 4 p.m., those amendments which have not yet been moved shall be deemed to have been moved, and the Chair of the committee shall interrupt the proceedings and shall, without further debate or amendment, put every question necessary to dispose of all remaining sections of the bill and any amendments thereto. At this time, the Chair shall allow one 20-minute waiting period, pursuant to standing order 132(a); and
That the committee shall report the bill to the House no later than the next sitting day. In the event that the committee fails to report the bill on that day, the bill shall be deemed passed by the committee and shall be deemed to be reported to and received by the House; and
That, upon receiving the report of the Standing Committee on Social Policy, the Speaker shall put the question for adoption of the report forthwith, and at such time the bill shall be ordered for third reading, which order may be called the same day.
I return back to Ms. Khanjin.
On the Standing Committee on Government Agencies, Mademoiselle Simard and Mrs. Martin be added;
On the Standing Committee on Justice Policy, Madame Collard and Mrs. Tangri be added;
On the Standing Committee on Regulations and Private Bills, Mr. Blais replace Ms. Hunter;
On the day following the day on which the Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs deposits its final report pursuant to the order of the House dated May 12, 2020, Ms. Hunter and Mr. Thanigasalam be appointed as permanent members of the Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs; and
That the temporary membership of the Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs set in the order of the House dated May 12, 2020, be amended that Ms. Lindo replace Ms. Andrew as a non-voting member.
On the Standing Committee on Government Agencies, Mademoiselle Simard and Mrs. Martin be added;
On the Standing Committee on Justice Policy, Madame Collard and Mrs. Tangri be added;
On the Standing Committee on Regulations and Private Bills, Mr. Blais replace Ms. Hunter;
On the following day on which the Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs deposits its final report pursuant to the order of the House dated May 12, 2020, Ms. Hunter and Mr. Thanigasalam be appointed as permanent members of the Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs; and
That the temporary membership of the Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs set in the order of the House dated May 12, 2020, be amended that Ms. Lindo replace Ms. Andrew as a non-voting member.
Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carries? Carried.
Motion agreed to.
That being said, let me get to the point here: First of all, here we are with yet another time allocation motion. There was an agreement between the government and the opposition that any business that we were going to do in the spring session was going to be COVID-related only. That was the agreement. The government now, on a number of occasions, has come to the House with motions that have nothing to do with COVID-19. We debated one yesterday, part of which we agree with, which is having a summer session. We agree, as New Democrats, that the work of the people has to continue, has to be done in a way that we’re safe when it comes to distancing inside the Legislature and within the building.
But the government nonetheless brought forward this motion—part of it we agree with; on a lot of it, we didn’t. For example, they time-allocated a number of bills in committee that have nothing to do with COVID-19, plus they’ve changed the way that we’re going to vote in this House, which should have been something that we should have had a discussion at House leaders’. Instead, the government drafted up its own idea with the Clerks, which I think is fraught with problems, and I’ll speak to that in a second.
Worst off, because it’s an extension of the spring session, this summer there will be no opposition days unless the government agrees. But what compounds it is that the government has decided that the House will not sit on Thursdays, and therefore we will have no private members’ bills debates in this House, of government members’ bills or opposition members’ bills. If the government thinks that a government is the only one who has ideas on how to deal with this pandemic, you’ve got another thing coming.
We’re all in this together as Ontarians. Every Ontarian is reaching out to their MPPs across the aisle, on this side and yours, saying, “Here’s what’s going on in my community. Here’s what I think should be done, from municipalities to long-term-care facilities and others.” Instead, what do we get? The government says that we’re not going to hear from any of those people by way of private members’ bills that would come forward as a result of those consultations we’re having in our ridings, and the government is just going to decide everything on its own. I think that’s wrong, and that’s why we voted against the motion.
I know that our housing critic is going to speak to one of the bills inside this motion this morning with regard to what happens to the bill that is being brought forward, and I believe it’s Bill 184, where we have decided as a House—and we had this discussion at House leaders at the beginning of this pandemic—that we will put evictions and private rentals on hold. If people can’t pay their rents, they don’t get kicked out of their apartments. That’s something that we’ve supported on this side of the House. We called for it and the government did it.
The bill—and I’ll let the member speak to the details—decides that, in fact, we’re going to give landlords even more power to evict. What does that have to do with a pandemic? We had an agreement between the parties that the spring session would only deal with COVID-related bills, and the government is bringing forward initiatives that have nothing to do with the COVID-19 pandemic crisis.
I just think the government is totally off base for doing so. The government is going to say, “Yes, well, you broke the agreement. It wasn’t us.” We broke no agreement. We lived up to our agreement. What makes it worse is what we saw here yesterday and apparently last week—I wasn’t here; I was back home—the voting method by which we had members up in the galleries voting at the end of the debate, during deferred votes.
We’re all susceptible to being infected by COVID-19 from something we may have come in contact with in our riding. We are agents of the public. We are out in the public even though there are no events. We bump into people. You go into the grocery store. You drive into Toronto. You come to the session. You deal with what you have to here at Queen’s Park. And we’re going to have a congregation of members in the House, like we did yesterday? To me, that was just not the way to do it—after we had an agreement that we would keep our numbers down in the opposition to make sure that the government always kept its majority. We lived up to that agreement. The government, even though we said, “Listen, you don’t need to do this. We’re fine. We’ve just got our 14 people, and that’s all we’re going to have.” You’ve got your 24, 25 or whatever they’re entitled to, and we’ll just live up to the agreement. They didn’t live up to the agreement. They filled the members’ galleries up with a whole bunch of members who voted from up there.
Now, their way to fix that is to say, “We’ll change the standing orders by way of this motion we did yesterday, so that when we’re voting in this House, if you’re voting yes, we’re all going to line up, we’re all going to go off to the members’ lobby in the back and wait, one by one, to go and vote.” What a congregation. There’s more chances of getting infected doing that than if we were to just respect that we have X number of members on this side and you have X number of members on the other side. We respect your majority.
Why would we, as the opposition, decide to play games and trump the government in the middle of a pandemic? The thought had never crossed our minds. We were so shocked last week when the government decided to come in and do what they did and do it again yesterday that it literally had some of our members shaking their heads and saying, “What are these guys up to?”
We have to be the leaders when it comes to how you physically distance. We’re the ones who are making the decisions about emergency declarations. We give that power in this Legislature to cabinet, and cabinet makes those decisions. When cabinet decides it won’t live up to its own agreements and is not going to respect the agreements we had in place and not properly physically distance, I think the government is going down a path that, quite frankly, they don’t want to be going down. I will be voting against this motion because of that and a number of other things.
In the minute or so that I have left, I do want to say one thing. We should be debating stuff that’s COVID-related. For example, we have all kinds of small businesses who are now starting to be evicted from wherever they’re renting. I listened to CBC Sudbury this morning, where a business just got evicted on May 26 because they didn’t pay the rent for two months. That’s not right. We should be protecting these small businesses and saying, let’s put in place a program that gives a rebate, as Andrea Horwath called for, where up to—75% or 85%?
I just say to the government: You’re going down the wrong way, and we will be voting against this motion.
I’m going to start quickly with the voting procedure, as outlined by the House leader yesterday. It’s interesting that, after it has been voted on and passed in this House—it has been on the order paper. It was discussed at House leaders’ meetings that we intended on changing the procedure for voting. One of the reasons why we had moved to a new system of voting—which would have a “yes” lobby and a “no” lobby, and we would increase bells by half an hour—is because we had heard from members on both sides of the House, quite frankly, that they wanted to participate in voting on things that their constituents had elected them to vote on.
It became increasingly obvious, when unanimous consent wasn’t going to continue to be the way this House would function, that there needed to be a way that we could allow people to vote in this House and ensure social distancing. So just for those who may have heard what the opposition House leader said, we are putting in place a system here that will allow members of this Legislature to vote over a longer period of time. The bells would ring for half an hour. All of the members who are elected by the people of the province of Ontario, all of the members who continue to receive a salary from the people of the province of Ontario, all of those people who were elected to work on behalf of their constituents in this place—and, as I said last week, they are. Members are working very, very hard within their communities—probably harder than they ever have before. As a legislator, I’m very proud of that fact. I’m proud of how hard my colleagues have been working, and, quite honestly, the members of the opposition have worked equally hard.
But as I said last week, as a House leader, I’m not going to decide which of my members should have a say in the very important bills that are before this House, because my colleagues have all expressed an opinion that they want to have a say on behalf of their constituents. I believe that Parliament is an essential service, and that’s why we’re sitting here and continuing to debate bills that are important. I believe that we can do this in a fashion that will respect social distancing, and I’m actually looking forward to this because it will be unique in Canada, I think. It’s something that I hope the federal Parliament might consider. We’ve been hearing editorials on programs for the last week on the outrage that Canadians are feeling that the federal Parliament has decided to adjourn, basically, until September. We’ve chosen to go in a different direction here in the province of Ontario, and I think we should be proud of that. It’s all of us who really should be proud of that, Mr. Speaker, and we should be proud of the fact that we can bring a Legislature back. We have found a mechanism so that members of provincial Parliament can vote on issues that are important to their community, whether they’re in favour or against.
I don’t think the opposition House leader wants to be in a position to say which members of his caucus should sit at home. They’re elected to be here and do things, and we have found a mechanism that allows them to participate. He talked about yesterday and the social distancing. We had members who wanted to vote. We brought them in this chamber and we passed a unanimous consent motion that allowed them to physically distance and be in the members’ gallery and vote. We accomplished that in the province of Ontario, much in the same way as we’re telling people, “If you’re going to get on the TTC”—and we all want people back on trains—“if you can’t physically distance, put a mask on.” It’s okay for the people in the province of Ontario to get on transit in that fashion, but somehow we’re unique in this place in that we can’t have our members vote in a fashion that allows for physical distancing? I’m proud of the fact that this Legislature found a way around that, and we were able to have the voices of all of the people of the province of Ontario—all of their members—vote.
It’s ironic to hear the member opposite—I mean, we heard some outrage on the opposition side. Well, a number of their members on the weekend were posting pictures at a massive rally. Some of those very same members were then in this House, Mr. Speaker. But I say congratulations to those members. They went out and they did what people expect their members of Parliament to do. They participated in something. They felt they did it in a way that was safe, not only to the rest of the members of this House—they were masked; they did what they had to do. It was something that was important to them.
I feel that the work of this Legislature is also important. That’s why we’re going to move heaven and earth to make sure that members have the opportunity to have their say. But to suggest that somehow the government sprung this on the opposition is just absolutely false.
Thankfully—I say this thankfully—the federal government has been a partner with us. They have been a partner with us, and a very good partner, over the last number of months in making sure that we have the resources that the people of the province of Ontario need, so we could focus here on the health care of the people of Ontario. The federal government has been a great partner in helping to make sure that individuals have access to resources so that they can continue to pay their bills.
But I can tell you, as somebody who values this place, I can’t imagine that the federal Parliament has now decided not to sit until September. I’m very proud of the fact that this Legislature has decided that although the session is supposed to end tomorrow, we will be coming back. We will be coming back the rest of June, and we will be coming back into July.
So the member opposite—I want to touch on another thing he talked about. He talked about private members’ bills. There would be no private members’ bills if this House adjourned tomorrow, obviously. But we’re coming back to deal with issues that are important to the people of the province of Ontario.
I’ve also made it quite clear to the members of the opposition that I will find a mechanism so that we can catch up on private members’ bills. Not one of the members of this House, on my side or on that side, will miss their ballot spot because of COVID. We will find a mechanism to catch up, because I do believe it is important that private members have the opportunity to put bills in this House, to have those bills debated and to have the members of this Legislature vote on those bills. When we come out of the COVID reality, I’m going to find a way to work with my colleagues opposite, and we will catch up.
We asked, quite honestly—and I don’t think I’m saying something that would be a surprise. We did ask if there could be a short-term pause on private members’ business.
We asked if that could happen. One of the reasons we asked for that to happen, Mr. Speaker, is because we needed to have the time, as a government, to be able to effectively respond to private members’ bills that might be brought on by the opposition and by our members and we had to have legislative counsel—
Now we will continue. I’ll turn it back to the government House leader.
It’s interesting that, I think it was the member for Toronto Centre, was upset or is suggesting that she’s upset that this House is going to come back and that we’re going to continue to work. Well, look, Mr. Speaker, I think it’s important. Some of the bills we have on the order paper that we’re talking about this summer will have a great impact on the people in her riding. I would suggest to her that the people in her community would expect her to make the decision on whether she’s voting on a bill or not, and not the opposition House leader.
As I said last week, I’m not going to turn to the member for Malton and say, “Oh, well, something might be important to you, but I’m going to decide whether you should come in or not.” I’m not going to do that to the member from Burlington, because these two members would say, “You know what? Go stuff it. I’m coming here on behalf of the people of my riding and I’m going to vote whether you like it or not, and I’m going to participate whether you like it or not.”
We’ve heard from the people in our communities that that’s what they expect of their parliamentarians. I haven’t heard from my community that the people of the province of Ontario and the people in my constituency are upset at us. No. I’ve heard them saying they want more from us. They want us to continue working hard on their behalf. They’re proud of everything that members on both sides of the House have done. But as I said last week, we’re cognizant of the fact that we continue to be paid. We’re in a very privileged position here. Unlike millions of other people, we are continuing to get paid, and the people in the province of Ontario, the people in our ridings, expect us to be here doing work, and that’s what we’re going to continue to do.
When the members opposite said that they wanted us to find a way to vote, we did it. We found a way for them to vote. We found a way for members to vote in advance of the new system that we’re putting in place by allowing members on both sides to vote in the galleries. Why did we have to do this last week? I suppose it doesn’t really matter, because the opposition broke a deal with respect to an opposition day motion.
So colleagues, when you’re faced with the mike-on NDP and the mike-off NDP, you have to do your work. They will know how upset I was last week. The opposition House leader will know that I was not impressed on that opposition day because we lived up to the agreement, and I said to my colleagues on this side of the House, “You have to sit down because we had an agreement with the opposition on how long we would speak, and it was”—
Of course the government has to react—it’s my job as government House leader—and we reacted. I called in my members. I said, “We are going to have to make some modifications. I need you here on standby. I need people to be present and available to vote.” We did our job, and the members on this side came in and voted. They masked up in the exact same way that we’re asking the people of Ontario, whether it’s on GO Transit or the TTC. We asked them to come in.
Do you know what? I didn’t get a lot of calls from my constituency saying, “My God, what are you doing in the House, doing your job and voting on things that are important?” Just the opposite: people saying, “Thank you for doing what you’re supposed to be doing.” And especially in light of the fact of the cooked-up deal that the NDP bargained for in Ottawa—you know, it’s interesting. When the NDP have an opportunity when there’s a minority government—we saw it here in Ontario. They get an opportunity in minority governments. We saw this federally in the 2000s. We saw it here from 2011 to 2014. When they have an opportunity to make a difference in minority Parliaments, they usually choose to adjourn and to run away and do anything but work. That’s not how we feel, and we are going to continue to work.
The member opposite also talked about—the Leader of the Opposition—about the summer session being all about COVID, and by and large it has been all about COVID. That’s why I’ve been so happy and excited that the government of the province of Ontario, a Progressive Conservative government, was able to get the support of the NDP to pass a financial statement—imagine that. I congratulate them, because there was obviously a time when they were thinking, “Wow. You know what? This is great, I’m going to vote.” I think, perhaps—I could be corrected, and maybe the table will correct me on this or Hansard can correct me on this—I don’t ever remember the NDP voting in favour of a Progressive Conservative government financial statement or a budget. So I congratulate them on that. It was lots of good, hard work. We did it together and I’m quite pleased at that.
In fact, I think that, across Canada, this is the only Legislature or the only Parliament that had such a great working relationship, frankly. We were able to pass bills from March right through to very recently with unanimous consent. How do we do that? Well, the government made changes as it went along. We knew that we had to work together, so before legislation was introduced in this House, we brought it to our colleagues on the opposition benches and said, “Are there things here that you want to change or things that you want to take out, things that need to be modified?” And we did it. We wouldn’t bring things forward if we didn’t have to. If we didn’t get consent, we didn’t bring it forward. We worked together. The Liberals and the Greens often made amendments to some of the things that we were doing.
It doesn’t mean they were necessarily supportive. As I’ve said before, they were very vigorous in opposing certain things. They were very vigorous in fighting for the people in their ridings, in their constituencies, as you would expect an opposition to be. But they also understood that what was important at the time was that the government move forward with an agenda that helps us fight COVID, and I was grateful for that. But I think I made it clear the entire time that at some point, the government was going to move ahead with its agenda, that after the spring session was due to be concluded, which is tomorrow, this government was going to move forward with an agenda.
Now, why would the opposition NDP be so angry that a government that was elected by the people, that has a majority, wants to move forward with its agenda? Why would they be angry at that? Because of course the NDP do not want us to fulfill our promises to the people of the province of Ontario. Of course they don’t. It makes it easier if we’re not here and can’t pass any bills. It makes their job easier because they get it both ways, don’t they? We don’t sit, and we don’t get our agenda forward. We don’t move on the things that are important to the people of the province of Ontario.
As I said last week, Mr. Speaker, we have some very important things that we’re doing. We have a massive transit and transportation upgrade that is happening. I know when some of my colleagues in southwestern Ontario, or when Kitchener—
I’ve got 34 minutes, Mr. Speaker. It’s a lot of time to talk about why it’s so important that we move ahead on an agenda. Before I do that, I wanted to also mention some of the things that we’re talking about here. One of the bills that we’re moving forward is on the Ministry of Government and Consumer Services. This is a bill that we took the unusual step in government of travelling after first reading. We didn’t wait for second reading; we actually took an unusual step and said, “We think that it’s important for the people to hear about this bill first.” So we travelled for five days, and part of that travel was in the ridings of the members opposite.
Obviously, when we’ve already done that—it was under the verbal agreement that it would then speed its way through the House, because we would have heard much of the criticisms on the bill. We would have made those changes. We’d come back, do a second reading, have a limited committee after second reading just to make changes, if need be, and we’d come back and do our work. That’s why we sent it out after first reading. Now, they’re upset that it’s being time-allocated. Mr. Speaker, we have done our work. These people have done their work. These members have done their work. Those members did their work. Now we want to get on with it.
There’s a point when people expect you to do your work. One of the reasons that we’re in this situation is because it’s taking so long to get things going. We have a standing committee on finance, an enormous study that we are undertaking for the people of the province over the next number of months. I want to congratulate members on both sides, because this committee is going to be working very, very hard over the summer.
We had one meeting scheduled. It was a three-hour meeting and close to seven hours of subcommittee to debate what had already been decided unanimously in this House. So one of the parties started re-debating what had already been decided unanimously in the House. I can tell you, it wasn’t the Greens and it wasn’t the Liberals, but one of the parties decided, “Let’s re-litigate for seven hours so that we can delay and delay and delay.”
What’s the impact of that, Mr. Speaker? What’s the impact of that? I’m told that the first study, which will be on tourism, which starts tomorrow, if I’m not mistaken—I am told that this is probably one of the largest, most—I don’t want to say “popular”; that’s a bad choice of words. But the amount of people who want to present in front of this committee is probably larger than any other request in Ontario legislative history. It is massive, the amount of people who want to appear before this standing committee, want to have their say, want to give suggestions on how to move the economy forward.
They’re excited to do it. They want to be heard. In fact, we are changing the process of that committee to make sure that three witnesses can appear at the same time, because we don’t want to turn away any one of those. I know the number; I’m not sure if I’m allowed to say it or not, so I won’t say it, but let’s just say there are a significant amount of people. I’m told it’s over 100, which is my understanding, and it might be over 140 people who want to participate.
That is extraordinary for a three-week study. If that doesn’t tell the members of the opposition that the people—and I don’t want to lump in the independent Liberals and Greens on this, but if this doesn’t tell the official opposition how hungry people are that their legislators continue to do the important work which only can be done here in this House, I don’t know what other indication you can have from people.
They’re asking you to be here, to be present, to listen to them at committee, and if something comes out of it, bring it forward, make some changes—because the economy is important. All of these people who are here, they’re here not because they wouldn’t rather be doing things in their communities as well. Every single one of them hops in and out. They’re on Zoom calls; they’re on the phone all the time. Sometimes it’s hard to get them in to do certain things because they’re doing things in their community. But the members of their community are telling them, “I need you to pass legislation.”
Why do we need to pass legislation? Because as we come out of this, it is so important—and it’s not just important to the people of the province of Ontario that our economy picks up steam. There are other provinces that are relying on the economic engine, Ontario, just as much as the people in this province are—resources from other provinces, from Alberta and Saskatchewan, from the Maritimes. Ontario’s 14 million people are very important. We’re important to our trading partners in the United States. We have to be ready, and we will be ready; and the reason we will be ready is because this government will continue to move on the important agenda.
The member from Parry Sound–Muskoka has been, and I know all colleagues will on our side of the House, has been leading part—and one of the reasons I would suggest why there are so many people who are interested in this first phase of the standing committee study, it’s the tourism phase—the member for Parry Sound–Muskoka has been tasked by this caucus to begin that outreach, to start talking about the best ways that we can meet the challenges that they’re facing.
We’ve heard from the member for Parry Sound–Muskoka just how challenging COVID has been to the people in his community. Imagine. It’s not just Parry Sound–Muskoka, obviously. I’ve heard from the member from Niagara Falls about what it is doing. I’ve heard from the member from Niagara-Glan—
Am I going to tell the member from—oh, I can tell you I’m not, because he wouldn’t listen to me. But am I going to tell the member from Parry Sound–Muskoka, “Well, you know what? We might have important legislation here, but I’m not going to let you come in and vote for the people of your riding”? The member for Parry Sound–Muskoka, I can tell you, just wouldn’t listen to me, first of all, because his riding is too important to him, and the people who earn and create jobs—small, medium and large enterprises in his community—would expect him to be here.
But at the same time, we can’t fulfill the work that he has done over the last two months unless we’re back in this place and moving forward with an agenda. And I understand the NDP, why they wouldn’t want us to do that: Because they would want us to fail those 140 people who want to be in front of us, is the only thing I can think of.
But the members opposite individually always approach and say, “Look, I have somebody, a tourist operator in my riding, who wants to speak. I have a restaurant in my riding who has some advice on how to do things.” You see it as soon as question period usually ends. There’s a flood over to this side of the House of people who have questions and comments. They want advice. They want help. They want members to appear in front of standing committees. And we’re fine. We’re open to that because that’s what we have to do.
I’m not going to wait until September to start dealing with the economy. I’m not going to do that. I challenge all of the members opposite to go back into their ridings and tell those small, medium and large job creators, “Well, you know what? We’re not going to come back until September” or “We’re going to debate, for hours, a procedure.” Imagine that. Just think about this for a second: seven hours to debate—and really, congratulations to the subcommittee members on the Conservative side. I know the member for—
I just want to reiterate: This is an agreement that we had, and it was voted on unanimously, and then we spent seven hours delaying hearings from sectors that were so important, only to come up with the decision to continue on in the way that we had already decided as a House, to move on. So what is that?
The member opposite talked about the other bill that we’re bringing through to committee, important legislation that would assist both landlords and tenants in helping resolve issues that landlords and tenants have been facing. We’re hearing from both sides.
One would assume that when debate collapses in the House, you get certain consent to move forward on it. We brought it up for debate, and debate collapsed in the House. The members opposite did not speak to the motion because it collapsed. We had hours scheduled for debate. The members on our side who wanted to speak to it spoke to it. The members opposite didn’t put any speakers forward. We brought it up and said we are bringing it to the standing committee—
I turn it back to the government House leader to continue debate.
I was talking about some of the hard work. The member for Northumberland–Peterborough South, our member David Piccini, is one of the most challenging members I have; I will say this. Trying to get him to commit to full hours on committees is tough because he’s so popular in his riding, doing work in his community. It’s a challenge because the people in his riding want him all of the time, and he has made himself available, day and night, to his community, whether it’s answering phone calls, whether it’s participating in Zoom meetings. But that member has said—and obviously all members are the same—that as important as that is, one of the things they’ve also told him is that they want to continue the work of the standing committee on finance. They want to continue the work that is being done by the government in other areas—transit and transportation, in particular. Transit and transportation are important in his riding. Some of the other initiatives that we’re doing on environmental protection are important in his riding. Some of the work that we’re doing with respect to farm trespass, for his farmers—this is one member close to Toronto—an hour and a half away, I guess—who has been vocal in making sure that his farmers are protected. He wants to make sure his farmers are protected, and we can’t do that unless the Legislature sits and we push through bills like the farm trespass bill. He’s not the only one; there are a number of members on this side who have expressed the same concern. I’m not going to say to the member for Northumberland, “We’re going to help your farmers sometime in the future, in September, October, November.” I said, and he said, and the Premier, more importantly, said, no, we are going to move forward, and we’re going to protect those farmers, and we’re going to bring legislation forward, because that’s what a government does. We heard from the member opposite that we shouldn’t be doing that; we should be concentrating on other things that are important. Well, I would suggest that protecting farmers, protecting the supply chain, getting products and transit and transportation, are important even more so during a COVID crisis—so we are going to move forward on those things. The minister of children and family—
The member for Don Valley West—west, is it?
I know the member for Sarnia—
So when we talked about coming back to this place, the first person on the phone to me was the member for Sarnia–Lambton, who said, “I have to come back. I have to be here. I want to speak to things that are important in my community, but more importantly, I want to be able to vote on issues that are important to my riding.” And he’s been here—the first one to be here, the last one to leave. I’m certainly not going to tell the member for Sarnia–Lambton, Bob Bailey, in his years of experience, “No, you can’t come in.” I’m not going to be the one to do that, because it’s up to the people of his riding to tell him when he should stop coming to this place. It’s not up to me to tell him when he should stop coming to this place.
The member from Mississauga and the assistant whip, and the whip, the member from Whitby—the member from Whitby has held numerous town halls with his chambers of commerce and other social service organizations in his riding. He is constantly on the phone with members of cabinet, with other colleagues who might be experiencing some of the very same things, to see where there’s unity so he can bring that message forward to the Premier and parliamentary assistants, so that we can move on things that are important. I actually told our chief government whip that he could maybe take one day off, but he didn’t. I was at home on the last caucus call; he was at Queen’s Park in front of his office, making sure that we were ready to go.
The member for Mississauga Erin—
Really, colleagues, if you read between the lines, what they’re trying to do is what they do at committee: delay. It’s about delay. That’s what it’s about. We should delay. We should not do anything because they want us just to focus on one narrow thing: question period and get out of here every day.
But what we’re doing is bringing forward measures so that when this House comes back in June, when it comes back in July, we will hit the ground running, as we have always said that we would do. We would move on things that weren’t COVID-related.
That’s not to suggest that we won’t still be laser-focused on COVID. Obviously, we’re going to be because it has such an impact on all of the things that are important to the people. It has an impact on health care. It is having a dramatic impact on tourism, on restaurants. I know the members from the capital, from the Ottawa region, have told me that the summer months are enormous to them. The amount of people that flood into the city, into the capital during that time period, is enormous. That will all be lost.
I know the Minister of Colleges and Universities has been holding round tables and chatting with members on this side of the House. I know the member for Flamborough–Glanbrook, the member for Peterborough who has Trent close to his riding, Kitchener–Conestoga, all members on this side—and I would hope the members on that side have reached out as well—where we’re seeing that, for the first number of months of the next school year, it will be done virtually, or online.
Think of the impact it has on communities when thousands of students aren’t coming into their communities for the first number of months, for five, six months or maybe even a year. Can you imagine the impact that will have on Hamilton, the impact it will have on Peterborough? This is a huge, huge problem. The member for Kitchener—
I’m not going to just turn my back on McMaster University because it happens to be, I think, in the riding of the Leader of the Opposition. In fact, I’m going to make sure that Hamilton succeeds, because when Hamilton does well, the member for Flamborough–Glanbrook doesn’t break down my door constantly and break down the door of the cabinet and of the Premier. When it does well, the GTHA does well. And when Hamilton does well, there’s more money available for us to expand transit and transportation in areas.
The member for Flamborough fought tooth and nail to make sure there was $1 billion investment in transit and transportation in her city. Imagine the benefit that it’s going to have, especially at a time when 60,000 students in the Kitchener area and the Waterloo area, and I don’t know how many go to Hamilton—how many are in Trent? I don’t know.
It’s for the member for Peterborough’s daughter now that we really start—think of the class right now of 2020. Think of the class of 2020 coming into this environment. Think of how important it is to them that we move forward, that we continue to work on an agenda that is important to the people of the province of Ontario. Am I going to say to the member from Peterborough—I know I’m not going to say it. The member from Peterborough himself is going to say, “We’re going to work hard.”
We say this all the time: “We’re here for our kids. We’re doing it for our kids, for the next generation.” And we are. I believe that. I believe that every member of this House, on both sides, has come here with the intention of doing something for the next generation, not only for their communities now, but leaving something, a legacy, in place for the next generation. I believe that.
Am I going to turn to the member for Peterborough and say, “Well, you know, I can’t get consent from the NDP, so we’re going to put her future on hold for a bit—a couple of years—while we figure out things”? No, because the member for Peterborough wouldn’t accept that, we as a government wouldn’t accept that, and I know, despite the rhetoric, that the opposition really wouldn’t accept that. I’ve got to believe that that’s not what they want as well.
I think of my own daughter. She’s graduating grade 8, and she’s not having a grade 8 graduation this year. Maybe we’ll have it hopefully in the new year. But these are very challenging times. She’s going to transition into grade 9, and she hasn’t been in an organized classroom since March. But it’s a challenging time. As a parent, I’m worried about that. I’m worried about that transition. I remember how hard it was to transition from grade 8 to grade 9. I know that a lot of parents from my community are feeling the exact same way. I know that the Minister of Education is working very, very hard to put in place all of the resources that are needed so that our students can succeed. We’re going to do that, Mr. Speaker, but in part, we need to be here in order to fulfill our mandate and to move forward if we’re going to accomplish that goal.
The member for Brant, as well, has been extraordinary during this. The member for Brant has taken up an initiative that I think all members will be excited about, and it’s an initiative that stems from what we’ve seen during COVID. We’ve heard of “the Ontario spirit,” and, “We’re in it together.” So the member for Brant has decided on how we seize on that, how we move forward with making sure that the Ontario spirit that we see here from all members from all sides, from all communities, is not lost once we defeat COVID. He has taken it upon himself to make sure that we develop a volunteer corps that will be here and ready to go at all times so that we don’t lose the advantages.
If there’s anything that we’ve learned from this COVID crisis, it’s that you always look for a positive in what is a horrifying time—and this is horrifying; make no mistake about it. But the way people have come forward, the way people have volunteered, the way people want to donate their time: We’ve all posted pictures of people in our community going the extra mile who are delivering food to communities and who want to donate PPE to different health care sectors. We’ve all seen this. If there’s any positive that comes out of this, that is one of the things. I know that the member for Brant has been seized with making sure that they accomplish that goal, Mr. Speaker.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t talk about the member for Richmond Hill-Aurora-Oak Ridges—probably the longest name in here.
I’m a York region member of the House. The member has been—
Last night, I received an important text from a local business person. She was very, very grateful for everything we’ve done, but she’s nervous. It’s a great local hair salon in my riding: Headlines Hair Salon. They’re anxious to get back. They understand the challenge, the health care crisis that we’re in, but they’re anxious to get back. They say, “Look, we’re preparing. When you give us the authorization, we are good to go. We want to be part of this community.” This is a small business, colleagues, that took an old library, a very small library in my hometown, and turned it into a thriving small business. They do extraordinary work. They hire a lot of people and train people. They are important to our community. They donate. They do a lot of things. For her and for that small business, and for all of those people there, I want to make sure that we’re ready to go and that this economy can fire on all cylinders, Mr. Speaker.
I was waiting in line up at the grocery store—
I turn now back over to the government House leader once again.
The local barber, Frank Frano at Frank’s and Son—this is a great little local business, Mr. Speaker. You can go there and either get your hair cut or you could just go there to have an espresso. Frank might play the accordion for you. It’s a hub for the community. It is a community hub for so many reasons.
People are anxious. They understand the decisions that we have had to make. They get it. But they have said constantly, day in and day out, “When things get going, we’re ready. We want to be a part of helping build this economy.” It’s little places that, like Frank’s and Son, like Headlines, like the local real estate champions Trentadue Torres—it’s the people who are working at Walmart, making sure that we’re distanced while we’re waiting in line.
Somehow we can do it at Walmart in Stouffville with hundreds of people, but the opposition is suggesting that somehow 70 members out of—I don’t know—120 members of Parliament can’t figure out a way to vote yes or no in a socially distant way. I have confidence that the Sergeant-at-Arms will make sure that when we’re voting in this fashion—and by the way, you’ll have a half hour to vote. I am fairly confident that the members of this Legislature will be able to take the example of the people in Stouffville who wait at Walmart, who wait at the Metro, who are waiting for a slice of pizza. If they can figure that out, I am sure, colleagues, that members of this Legislative Assembly will be able to figure out the space that is required in half an hour in order to vote. I’m very confident of it.
Before I conclude, I want to say this: We have seen all of the crisis that has gone on with committees in Ottawa. I want to give a shout-out to our Clerks and to the committee persons out there. I think all members will join me on this. The standing committee on finance is the first committee that has opened up using Zoom technology, and I don’t know how much smoother it could possibly be.
I notice the member for Stormont-Dundas is here. I don’t have enough time to talk about all the great things that he’s been doing in his riding. Unfortunately, I only have 16 seconds, but if they would give me unanimous consent, I would continue on. But I think that they won’t.
Mr. Speaker, I am confident that we can do the people’s work and—
Debate deemed adjourned.
Leonard was a resident of York South–Weston and passed away on May 6 after 30 years of service to our community’s most vulnerable population. Mr. Rodriques was not provided with the necessary PPE to perform his job safely and contracted COVID-19. As Leonard’s situation worsened, Dorothy tried to get him medical treatment, only to encounter resistance at every turn.
This is a stressful time for Dorothy and her family. While they cope with the loss of their loved one, they worry that other families may encounter similar situations. Dorothy’s voice deserves to be heard. She wants to know if the neglect experienced by her husband was part of a pattern of racial discrimination, but the data does not exist.
Dorothy has asked that I continue to shine a spotlight on the need for race-based data collection in Ontario’s health care system. She no longer wants to see us cover our eyes to racial bias. To quote Mrs. Rodriques directly, “Just because an institution has a system in place to treat all people fairly and equitably, it doesn’t mean it is being put into practice.”
With all they have gone through, I urge this House to honour her request and work toward the necessary reforms to bring real systemic change to our province.
PLACES OF RELIGIOUS WORSHIP
For those of us who attend service, the restrictions of the pandemic have been very dramatic. In my community of Oakville North–Burlington, I have spoken to many faith leaders about this. They know the government had to take strong measures to restrict public gatherings but want to know when our churches, mosques, temples and other religious buildings can safely reopen.
Services with worshippers who gather in cars are now permitted, but it’s only a partial step. This is why we are holding a virtual meeting tomorrow with religious leaders, led by the Minister of Labour, to consult about the reopening of religious institutions. We will work together to ensure reopening can be done safely and that health guidelines can be followed to protect people, particularly the elderly and the vulnerable.
We know that religious services are important to so many, and we are thankful that our religious leaders and people across Ontario have been praying for this pandemic to end. We must work together, consult and listen so that our houses of worship can safely reopen.
People are tired of this government’s refusal to do their work to address anti-Black and anti-Indigenous racism, so imagine our disappointment and hurt when this Premier boldly claimed that systemic racism does not exist here in Ontario.
Here are some facts: Between 2013 and 2017, Black folks were 20 times more likely than whites to be fatally shot and killed by Toronto police. Black and racialized Ontarians make up the majority of essential workers who have died due to COVID-19 and due to this government’s lack of providing PPE. In Ontario, Black students and their families deal with the trauma of anti-Black racism in their schools every single day.
This is the province we’re living in, not your imaginary Ontario. When you deny that systemic racism exists in Ontario—in Canada, at that—you deny that systemic change is needed right here and now. If we’re going to truly address how colonization and white supremacy have impacted the lives of Black and Indigenous people right here in Canada, this government must admit it and do your work. Stop erasing our lived experience. The NDP Black caucus and the official opposition will continue to advocate until all institutions that are meant to “serve and protect” do so for all Ontarians, and that includes Black Ontarians, because Black lives matter.
Our youth are also involved very actively. Some high school students donate from their own pockets to buy PPE, while others prepare homemade meals for the hospital health care workers. Many senior residents living in high-rise apartments receive donated face masks to protect them. The Bridge program, under the leadership of Teddy Lema, hosts food drives with the kind support of local grocers to help feed families in need.
On behalf of the community of Don Valley North, I commend them all for their extraordinary efforts and extend them our deepest gratitude.
I am glad that people across Ontario spoke up about the repeal of the 2015 health and phys ed curriculum, which some people refer to as the sex ed curriculum. We now have a curriculum which includes LGBTQ families and individuals, so students see themselves reflected in their education. Delaying gender expression until grade 8 is a huge mistake, but I’m glad we are not still using the anachronistic 1998 version.
As true progressives, the NDP realizes that much work needs to be done. LGBTQ folks face challenges accessing health care that is affirming, friendly and competent. Too many LGBTQ seniors enter long-term-care environments where they’re forced back into the closet. It’s unfair that these champions of human rights and human dignity encounter living situations where they don’t feel safe to be their authentic selves. Other NDP measures to support LGBTQ folks include pharmacare for all, access to PrEP, and gender-affirming transition medication and therapies.
Pride will be very different this year, and I commend Queer Events, Regional HIV/AIDS Connection, Pflag chapters, CUPE Ontario, Glad Day and the 519 for reaching out virtually to support the community at this time. We look forward to celebrating Pride in person in the years to come. Happy Pride, everyone.
SKYDIVING LANDING ZONE
I understand that after several years of rejecting Mr. Farkas’s requests for permission to use a small portion of the beachfront for periodic landings, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry is now considering his request, and I commend them for that.
Skydiving is a safe, highly regulated and licensed activity. It is a popular and fast-growing sport that has the potential to help breathe new life and vitality into the Wasaga Beach community and economy.
Supporting outdoor recreation opportunities is a key component of MNRF’s mandate. I would hope, as Ontario focuses on job creation and opportunities for economic growth, that the government will remove the ill-conceived and counterproductive red tape that has stopped Mr. Farkas from realizing his vision. I look forward to the day that, when the beach returns and it’s safe to do so, a large Canadian flag is allowed to drop from the sky for a celebration on the beachfront.
Floyd Dingwall owned and operated a successful dairy farm with his brother in Berwick, in North Stormont township. Farming was tough work, but Floyd always made time for significant contributions to his hometown of Berwick and surrounding area.
Through the local agricultural groups, he shared his herdsmanship and cropping experience with others. Floyd was named Jersey Canada’s 1985 Master Breeder, judging countless shows, which eventually led him to England, where he met Queen Elizabeth and toured her Jersey cow farm. In 2002, he was awarded the Ontario agricultural service diploma, and Jersey Canada made him an honorary lifetime member in 2011.
Floyd served with the Berwick township council as councillor and mayor, and in 1995 was the warden of Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry and the first deputy mayor of the newly amalgamated North Stormont.
He became especially interested in conservation issues, becoming a member of the South Nation Conservation Authority board for 18 years, including three years as chair. For his time on the board and his work to develop the popular McIntosh Park in Berwick, South Nation awarded Floyd its first lifetime achievement award in 2012.
For all his contributions to the community of North Stormont, he humbly confided in a Chesterville Record article that he benefited in return because all the organizations educated him.
On behalf of my constituents, I offer my condolences to his wife, Esther, and his family.
Some Canadians, including our Premier, look to America and say, “At least that’s not us. In Canada, we’re different.” To those folks, to the Premier, I say, Canada, Ontario, this very House that we stand in here today, is built upon systemic racism. It is built upon a history of the oppression of Black and brown people, of the enslavement of Black people, of the genocide of Indigenous people. Instead of acknowledging this deep history of injustice that exists here, our Premier denies it. Worse, he guts the institutions that are meant to fight racism and inequity by slashing the Anti-Racism Directorate and the public services that we rely on.
So today I ask all of you in this House, let’s do more than call for peace. Let’s call for justice. Let’s fully investigate all police killings. Let’s end the systemic discrimination of Black students in our schools. Let’s invest in our communities and the services that help to end inequity. We need justice, and I promise you, we’re not going to stop fighting for justice until we get it.
Willowdale is one of the most diverse communities in our country. It’s no surprise that our neighbourhood is home to synagogues, mosques, churches and temples. Some congregations number in the dozens and others in the thousands, with services in English, Mandarin, Cantonese, Farsi, Korean, Russian and Tagalog.
The last few months have been difficult for people in our faith communities. Gathering to worship and fellowship are keystones in the lives of many. Although we can’t gather in person at the moment, the essential work that our religious leaders and their congregations do has continued throughout the pandemic.
Over the last few months, I have attended several virtual services and seen first-hand how Willowdalers have come together to support one another and serve the community—like Pastor Paul and the team at Willowdale Community Christian Assembly, who started the Kindness Project to deliver groceries and supplies to seniors and people in need. Many are also preparing for the new normal, like Rabbi Grover, who has been working tirelessly with his team, including doctors in their congregation, to prepare Beth Tikvah for in-person services; or Pastor Sean of Faith Church and Pastor Bruce at Willowdale Baptist, who have been working together with other faith leaders to develop best practices for re-gathering. Many have spoken directly with the Minister of Labour as part of his consultations in developing guidelines for religious gatherings.
Places of worship and our faith communities are essential, and the work that priests, rabbis, imams, pastors, pujari, staff and volunteers do is vital to so many communities across the province. Thank you for your hard work, for your sacrifice in staying home and for keeping our neighbours safe. Thank you for your faith, prayers and love. God bless.
I want to acknowledge and say thanks to a couple of businesses in Brantford–Brant that exemplify the Ontario spirit.
KeepRite Refrigeration has been operating in Brantford for over 75 years, employing hundreds within the community. They are a leading North American manufacturer of commercial refrigeration products. Recently, led by their employees, KeepRite donated $10,000 to our local food bank. I want to say thank you to your amazing employees for all that you do.
Another business in Brantford–Brant I would like to recognize is Apotex. At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Apotex Pharmachem, Canada’s largest producer of active pharmaceutical ingredients, retooled part of its Brantford facility to produce high-in-demand hand sanitizer. Employees at the Spalding Drive facility produced an initial run of 500 one-litre bottles of sanitizer that were donated for distribution among local agencies and health care facilities. As the need for hand sanitizer skyrocketed during the pandemic, dozens of Apotex employees collaborated to get production of the germ-killing liquid ramped up as quickly as possible. From the bottom of my heart, I want to say thank you to Apotex and your employees for stepping up and showing us what the Ontario spirit truly looks like.
CORRECTION OF RECORD
Today, I ask for the unanimous consent of this House for a moment of silence to remember those victims and all other victims of the Sikh genocide. Lest we forgot.
Members will please rise.
The House observed a moment’s silence.
Point of order, the member for Timmins.
Families across Ontario are in anguish watching the ongoing tragedy unfold in our long-term-care homes. The Premier promised to share information with them as soon as he knew it. But yesterday he refused to answer even basic questions.
Today I’d like to start by asking the question I asked yesterday: Will the Premier tell families with loved ones in long-term care which homes are on the high-risk red list, and if not, why not?
Our government has been clear from the beginning that we will be transparent about these issues. When the Canadian Armed Forces were called in, we were transparent about the homes that they were going into. These homes that are fluctuating out of the various levels, whether it’s yellow to red or red to yellow—there is a dynamic nature to this list. It would not be fair to homes if we were to put out a list that was erroneous in terms of the immediate change that occurs in these homes. It is a dynamic situation. We are monitoring these homes. It is the necessary thing to do.
We’re looking at making sure that all our homes are improving. In fact, we are at 14 days of lowering active resident cases. This is good news.
I want to thank all the staff—our personal support workers and nurses, and all our health workers who are on the front lines—for what they’re doing to support our homes. The integration with hospitals and public health is appreciated very much.
The bad news is that we’ve lost 1,652 seniors as of today. That’s the bad news.
Transparency is about providing information so that people can make decisions and prepare for what their loved ones are going through.
For months, families have been unable to see their loved ones—we all know that—in long-term care. And some have read with horror the reports from military personnel of literally criminal levels of neglect in those homes.
The Premier says that he knows what’s going on inside the homes and which homes pose the highest risk to residents. The government releases daily updates on the progress of COVID-19 in Ontario. You just heard the minister do it again today, just a second ago, around how many homes are still in COVID-19 crisis. So why can’t the Premier tell families what’s actually happening in their long-term-care homes? Why can’t families know what’s happening in the places where their loved ones live?
Our number one priority is protecting the health and the safety of our must vulnerable members of society and residents of long-term-care homes. We’ve pulled out every single stop to make sure that we make these homes safe. We’re going to be reviewing it through a commission. The Auditor General is going to be reviewing it. We have the coroner’s office reviewing it. We have the Ombudsman reviewing it. So we’re going to get down to the answers of how this happened over decades—not just in the last 18 months or two years. It has been going on for decades, under other governments, under other leadership, as people sat around for 15 years and never addressed this problem. We’ll address it, and we’re going to fix it.
Since residents and their families are not allowed to know whether they live inside a high-risk red home, can the Premier confirm that the for-profit homeowners and their lobbyists know whether or not they’re on the red list?
But every single day, we’re improving the system. Every single day, we’re improving it. We will review the system with an independent, non-partisan commission and we’ll get down to the bottom of this, Mr. Speaker. We will do whatever it takes to fix these homes. We will do whatever it takes—I want to repeat that—to fix these homes of the mistakes that have happened for decades.
As I said the other day in my news conference, I spoke to one unnamed politician who said, “Doug, this has been happening since Bill Davis. We’re going to be the government that fixes it.” I’d like to ask the opposition: Rather than sit there and criticize, why don’t you help us fix the system that they had 15 years to fix, that they did not fix?
But yesterday, families in Kitchener learned that the for-profit Forest Heights facility had been on the red list for weeks and was finally being taken over after weeks of delay. Over a month ago, grieving families and staff were warning the government that residents with COVID-19 were not being quarantined, even while Revera insisted they were meeting or exceeding government standards.
Since that time, 28 more residents have died. How long was Forest Heights on the government’s secret list of high-risk red homes, and why did government allow Revera to continue running the facility and claim that they were meeting government standards?
They’ve been doing a great job, by the way. They’ve been supporting all provinces, all the people. I want to thank them. But we need more support. We need more support in long-term care.
In British Columbia, to this day, 111 seniors have lost their lives in long-term care during this COVID-19 pandemic. In Ontario, as I already mentioned, over 1,650 long-term-care residents have died. Why has the Premier refused to take the measures that BC has taken when it is clear that their actions have in fact saved lives?
But he’ll be the first to admit that this virus hit BC four weeks before it hit Ontario full-fledged, and he’s the one that I consult with. I talk to him privately on the phone, not to mention on our weekly calls as well, and I think the world of Premier Horgan. I think he’s doing a great job. So if we can learn something off BC, we’ll take it. If we can learn something off Quebec, we’ll take it. And if we can get the funding from the federal government, we will take that as well, and fix the problem.
Across Ontario, thousands of families have been forced to watch helplessly as loved ones in long-term care have fallen ill; and have learned, often after their loved ones had died, that their loved ones weren’t being quarantined and, in some cases, weren’t being cared for at all, even while for-profit homes insisted that they were meeting government standards and the Premier was claiming that there was an “iron ring” protecting their loved ones, which we all know was not the case.
Will the Premier do the right thing today and admit that he and his team have actually failed, and call an independent judicial inquiry? Because that’s what Ontarians deserve.
This is a global pandemic. This is not a normal time. Every measure and every tool possible has been used to prevent the spread of COVID into our long-term-care homes. There are many variables. I can assure you that when we put active screening in place, essential visitors only, one location of work, infection prevention and control measures, integrating with hospitals to get rapid deployment teams and SWAT teams into our homes, working with public health, taking the directives of the Chief Medical Officer of Health—every measure has been taken. We will continue to take measures as necessary, including the management of homes, if necessary.
Dorothy has called for the immediate collection of race-based data by this government. Will the Premier listen to Dorothy?
This has been asked for by a number of organizations. We are listening, we are willing to collect this data, and we are looking at the best way to do so to protect everyone’s health and to make sure that we can continue to do that in future.
Leonard Rodriques spent 30 years of his life caring for vulnerable Ontarians as a PSW. His spouse is pleading with the government to act, and I can tell you, she is not alone. Health experts from across the province, as the minister already mentioned, have identified anti-Black racism as a public health crisis and have called for government action.
Dorothy said, “Canada has gone too long covering their eyes to racial discrimination by refusing to collect data that challenges Canada’s racial bias.” And that would be the same right here in Ontario—news flash for the minister. “We need a plan of action,” she says.
The Premier can answer this call today. Will the Premier acknowledge that hundreds of thousands of Ontarians face racial discrimination every day in this province and immediately issue an emergency order for the collection of race-based health data in Ontario?
What I don’t know are the hardships faced by those communities, and a lot of us in this chamber do not know the hardships within those communities. I don’t have those lived experiences. I do not have those lived experiences, and I can empathize with them. But again, a lot of us have never lived that. We have never walked a mile in someone’s shoes who has faced racism. Not only just in the Black community; a lot of minority communities throughout the history of Ontario and Canada have faced racism.
Our government won’t stand for it, I won’t stand for it as Premier, and we will do everything we can in our power and work collectively with other parties to stamp this out.
Back in March, our province launched the Ontario Together website, and you made a call. You issued a call out to our business community to say, “We need reinforcements. This is the time that we need your help,” and they answered that call. We had our great entrepreneurial leaders step up to the plate and channel that enterprising spirit to help us make the medical supplies and equipment we need to get through this pandemic.
Could the Premier please update this Legislature about those positive efforts that this has resulted in for the people of this great province?
Since launching the Ontario Together Fund, these are some of the amazing numbers here. We received over 25,000 submissions from businesses right across the province, and 15,000 of those submissions have led to $200 million in purchases of medical supplies and equipment: 121 million masks, four million face shields, 100 million surgical gloves and 20.9 million gowns straight to the front lines.
We can compete against anyone. As I’ve always said, we won’t rely on foreign countries for PPE any longer.
Now, our government is also proud to partner with these businesses to unleash that power—the power of the private sector—in an effort to beat this virus for good and ensure that Ontario never again is at the mercy of another country when it comes to personal protective equipment.
I, as well as everybody else, want to thank the great leaders for stepping up to the plate during this very difficult time—these great examples of leadership by Paul Moyer, an apple farmer in Niagara who retooled his apple-sanitizing machine to sanitize used N95 masks with technology that kills 99.9% of germs; or True North Printed Plastics in Bracebridge, who have been teaming up with northern Ontario medical students to make 3D-printed face shields.
Could the Premier please share with the Legislature other examples of ingenuity and leadership by companies during this time?
Mr. Speaker, twelve weeks ago we were relying on other countries; now we are relying on our own Ontario base of manufacturers.
Cases in my riding are growing, and we are desperate, Speaker. We are desperate for more testing. Many are essential workers and are at the front line of this crisis, and need to know that their families are safe.
My question to the Premier, Mr. Speaker, is, how can they trust a government that so consistently overpromised and under-delivered when it comes to testing and tracking cases for COVID-19?
We submitted over 17,000 tests yesterday. As a matter of fact, I also went to a testing centre, a pop-up centre in Scarborough, where we’re trying to increase testing. Anyone who wants to be tested, who feels that they have symptoms of COVID-19 or feels that they have been in contact with someone who has COVID-19, can go to be tested. So anyone who wants to be tested will be tested at an assessment centre.
This pop-up centre, I can tell you, when I was there yesterday, had a lineup of at least 40 people half an hour before they were even going to be opening. People want to come in for testing. We are accommodating them. We have a strategy to increase our testing, and we are increasing it on a daily basis with over 17,000 tests done and over 20,000 on several days just before the weekend.
Thousands of Ontarians are going back to work now and they’re getting back out in their communities, so we can’t continue to underperform on testing and we certainly cannot lose track of tests. When is the government going to ensure that the hard work and the sacrifices made by everyday Ontarians aren’t undone by these failures?
Currently, we are working with businesses to allow, when the time is right, for people to come back in a safe way. We are increasing our testing, because we know that as we open up the economy bit by bit, in a careful and measured approach, people will continue to be safe. We absolutely know that testing is important, and we are increasing our testing. We can do 20,000 tests per day now; we’re going to increase that so that anyone who wants to be tested will be tested. And when people come back to employment, they will be tested to make sure that it’s safe for them to return. That is a major priority for us.
Mr. Speaker, the Premier has said that we will know everything that he knows. The Minister of Long-Term Care has asked the opposition for help in assisting her in finding a solution to the problem, yet when asked which facilities are in trouble, she refuses to answer.
Mr. Speaker, given the Premier’s declaration and the minister’s request for our assistance, will she release the lists of long-term-care homes in need, those that are scoring a yellow and red?
We’ve heard your concerns, we’ve heard the concerns from Ontarians, and we listened. That is why these inspections will be unannounced for these long-term-care homes. This is a process.
I want to clarify something that was said earlier from the Leader of the Opposition. In fact, our numbers are not as you portray in terms of the outbreaks. We are substantially reducing our numbers. We’re now at about 108, so we are—
My question to the minister is, what’s the plan to continue to provide supports to Madonna Care Community through the summer and as we approach the fall into a second wave?
But I ask the Solicitor General, what specific actions is the government going to take to combat systemic and institutional anti-Black racism, anti-Indigenous racism and racism against people of colour in Ontario?
Speaker, will the government today commit to fully funding the Anti-Racism Directorate and to fully implementing all four of the commitments in the Anti-Racism Act?
There has been zero change to the budget of the Anti-Racism Directorate, and our government has been clear in our support for the ARD and its important mandate. The Anti-Racism Directorate, to your point, is leading strategic initiatives to advance anti-racism work across government with a plan, including through the three-year anti-racism strategy, and including the issues I have already spoken about and that they’re already working on. They are also working to identify and address racial barriers in the recruitment of correctional officers.
Speaker, the Anti-Racism Directorate is doing excellent work. I would hope that, with the co-operation of all members of this House, we can continue that important work.
These were agricultural workers who were brought here. They were recruited here in the middle of a pandemic because what they do is so essential—the work that they perform, the expertise that they bring is so essential—that our agriculture sector could not operate without them. Speaker, what concrete steps does the Premier intend to take today to protect these workers, to prevent a further outbreak jeopardizing these workers’ health, and why hasn’t he acted to this point?
As the member opposite noted, migrant workers play a key part in the agricultural sector of Ontario’s economy. I come from the great riding of Lambton–Kent–Middlesex, and migrant workers are part of our communities and part of the agricultural industry in the province. Mr. Speaker, I can report to the House that in April, I launched a health and safety blitz of the agricultural sector, of farms, specifically those farms with migrant workers; and I can report to the House today that we’ve done 137 field visits to date.
The province has bought up banks of hotel and motel rooms elsewhere in the province in order to rehouse those who need to self-isolate. The Premier could do that here in order to help stop a worsening situation and even help the struggling hospitality sector. Here’s an idea from the opposition that you could take to make life better for these workers. Will you take this and act on it today?
But, Mr. Speaker, I would like to talk specifically about a $2.25-million investment announced by Minister Hardeman and OMAFRA. Our government has put in place $2.25 million. This will be used for key initiatives like purchasing PPE, enhancing cleaning and disinfection, and redesigning work stations on farms to protect migrant workers across this province.
TOURISME / TOURISM
Le secteur du tourisme est l’un des plus durement frappés par la COVID-19 avec les restrictions de déplacement, oui, mais en plus, on ajoute à ça une chute significative dans le revenu des Ontariens et des touristes : une recette de dommages catastrophiques. Comme on dit, on n’est pas sorti du bois.
Et comme ça semble être la tendance, le gouvernement lance la balle au fédéral pour fournir un appui à ce secteur. C’est la ministre fédérale du Développement économique qui vient d’annoncer 30 millions de dollars pour l’Association de l’industrie touristique de l’Ontario. Encore une fois, la ministre Joly à la rescousse.
Quand est-ce que le gouvernement va arrêter de dépendre du fédéral pour venir en aide aux entrepreneurs de notre province, les créateurs d’emplois, et commencer à assumer ses responsabilités et offrir de l’aide au secteur du tourisme?
She has appointed within our caucus the member for Parry Sound–Muskoka to reach out to tourism operators across the province of Ontario. We’ve heard from numerous members on our side. More importantly, Mr. Speaker, the Standing Committee on Finance, which is about to begin meetings on the tourism sector tomorrow, has over 140 individuals who want to present, who want to give ideas on how we can move that sector forward.
She has done a tremendous amount of work, and I am very proud of the work she has done, and all colleagues have done. We will continue to work with Minister Joly to bring visitors back not only to Ontario but all of Canada.
J’ai entendu de plusieurs, dont Beau’s dans ma circonscription, sur les mesures qu’ils souhaiteraient voir du gouvernement à la reprise économique. Pendant que ces créateurs d’emplois travaillent fort pour planifier, autant qu’ils le peuvent, pour la réouverture sécuritaire du secteur et proposent des suggestions concrètes au gouvernement, nous n’avons toujours pas vu de plan du gouvernement pour aider ces entreprises à se rétablir.
Monsieur le Président, à quand peut-on s’attendre à des mesures de soutien temporaires aux brasseries et aux vignobles de l’Ontario?
It is one of the sectors that will be reporting to the Standing Committee on Finance beginning Thursday. That report is due to be completed within three weeks, with recommendations that will come to the Ontario Jobs and Recovery Committee, and straight to cabinet and into this Legislature, Mr. Speaker. It continues on the hard work that’s being by members like the member for Niagara-Glanbrook, the member for—
Cities and towns across this province are passing motions, sending letters and pleading for emergency operating funding to help them weather this storm. From Niagara to Sudbury to Toronto, local governments are bleeding cash and facing shortfalls in the millions, yet this government refuses to act. And it’s cities, towns and everyday Ontarians who will pay the price with tax increases and service cuts.
Will the Premier commit to supporting municipalities by providing emergency operating funding now?
On a call last week with my federal and provincial colleagues, we all acknowledged that the scope and magnitude of what not just Ontario municipalities but Canadian municipalities have faced require incredible co-operation between all three levels of government. Our government is committed, as the Premier has said, to be at the table and support our municipal sector financially. But again, we need to work collaboratively.
We need to be non-partisan, as the Premier has said many times and as I have said many times. We have to break down those partisan walls, work together, and ensure that municipalities will continue to be strong. They are the level of government that will lead the recovery in our country. Join us.
Minister of Municipal Affairs to respond.
But, Speaker, as we move forward, given the magnitude, we need to be collaborative. Every single province and every territory agrees that we need to have a federal commitment. I have stated in this House, and I stated in that interview, that I support the Federation of Canadian Municipalities with their ask to the federal government. I support the Association of Municipalities of Ontario’s ask, along with CUPE, to the federal government.
We will be there at the table. We will support municipalities financially, but we need to have a Canadian solution, Speaker. That’s the key.
ASSISTANCE TO PERSONS WITH DISABILITIES
Heather from my riding has been a PSW for 23 years and has two children with disabilities who are both medically fragile. Think about how Heather’s life and her children’s lives have been impacted by the pandemic. She works tirelessly on the front lines while also caring full-time for her children with complex needs.
Why has this government failed to step up with support for people with disabilities and parents like Heather?
As the Minister of Municipal Affairs—
The question was asked by a member from the official opposition. I think the official opposition should want to hear the response from the minister and allow him to make his response.
I’m going to give you some extra time.
We brought forward a $40-million residential relief fund, which helps those in the developmental services sector immensely.
I’ve been speaking with all of our partners in that sector to ensure that they’re getting the support that they need, and—
Supplementary question, the member for Toronto–St. Paul’s.
Sandra, who lives in St. Paul’s, is on ODSP and wouldn’t be able to work even if the province wasn’t having emergency measures. But she has been told by her worker that she can’t access her employment insurance without receiving 100% dollar-for-dollar clawbacks.
Mr. Speaker, during a global health crisis, this Conservative government should not be asking anyone to give a single cent of these cheques back to the province. The province has no right profiting on the backs of Ontarians who are disabled. That is disgusting.
To the Premier: When will the Conservatives do the right thing by Sandra and all ODSP recipients in Ontario and reverse your clawback decision?
The minister to reply.
The member for Lanark–Frontenac–Kingston.
My question to the minister is, when was the OMA offer initially made, but more importantly, who rejected it? Was it the minister, the Premier or the COVID command table?
I want to make sure that the member opposite understands that we’ve reached across the spectrum for all levels of assistance, and I want to assure you that the physician and medical expertise has been valued, as has the nursing expertise, as have our PSWs and everybody else who is contributing to the understanding of COVID-19.
By the time the specific OMA proposal to help was rejected, the number of deaths had risen to 500 in long-term care. The need for help was clearly evident, and you said earlier today that every tool was used, but the OMA tool was not used. There are now over 1,650 deaths in long-term care.
My question to the minister is simple: Who made this terrible decision that imperilled the lives of so many? Was it the minister, was it the Premier or was it the COVID command table?
This has been an ongoing process, an integrated process, and as I said, there has been medical assistance through physicians, there has been nursing assistance, we have had portals, we have had the ability to have volunteers—and also provincial and federal portals. Every tool has been used.
I do not speak specifically to this issue because it was an integrated response, and the command table has been very transparent about the command table from the beginning. We need an integrated response, and that’s what that was.
But now it’s Pam who needs our support. This week, they turned to the community for help when their landlord was threatening to evict them. This landlord knows about the CECRA, but refuses to apply. In fact, I’ll note that we now know that just over 1%—only 1%—of landlords have opted into the federal-provincial program. It’s a massive failure and it’s leaving businesses like Pam’s with no government support.
Mr. Speaker, how many of our local businesses have to be shuttered before the Premier halts commercial evictions and brings in a small business rent relief program that works?
I’m going to give the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing a little more time.
This government will continue to work with our business community. We will continue, as Minister Phillips has said in this House many times, to work with Minister Morneau and the federal government on this program. These are early days in this program, but we appreciate the experiences that members have in their own ridings. But make no mistake: This government will continue to support our business community.
I recently spoke to one of my constituents, named Emily. Despite being laid off, she still managed to pay the majority of her rent. She paid most of it; she was only a few hundred dollars behind. Within an hour of falling a little bit behind on her rent, she had an N4 slid under the door to get her in the queue for the Landlord and Tenant Board the second that it reopens.
Speaker, I’ve heard from countless constituents who are all in the same place. They want to know why this Conservative government is leaving them behind when they need help the most.
Why is this government proceeding to rush through legislation that will make it easier for landlords to evict tenants in tenants’ darkest hour? When they need us the most, why are you making it easier to evict tenants?
What our proposed change will allow is an alternative dispute resolution if the tenant prefers. This means that the tenant and the landlord can go to mediation instead of going to the Landlord and Tenant Board. Once the tenant and the landlord come to an agreement through mediation, everyone must abide by the terms.
Make no mistake, our proposed change allows for mediation outside the Landlord and Tenant Board, freeing up resources. It does not change the tenant’s right to have a hearing at the LTB. That information that’s being spread by the opposition is incorrect.
Every Ontarian has felt the financial impacts of COVID-19, including drivers who use Highways 407, 412 and 418. I was pleased, Speaker, to hear that the minister is taking proactive steps to protect those drivers from further financial burdens. Could the minister please share the work she has done with respect to the tolls on Highways 407, 412 and 418?
Ontarians are facing great hardship and economic difficulties as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. That’s why our government moved quickly to freeze the CPI increase to toll rates on Highways 407, 412 and 418 that were scheduled to come into effect on June 1, 2020. Mr. Speaker, I want to repeat: Our government took action to freeze the CPI increase on Highways 407, 412 and 418.
We’ve also suspended the collection of interest on unpaid fees. We have taken a series of important steps to ease the burden on drivers and on commercial carriers during these challenging times, and I look forward to sharing more during the supplementary.
While freezing highway toll hikes and suspending the collection of interest on unpaid fees are both very important steps, I also understand that there are many other actions the minister has undertaken to make life easier for not only drivers in Durham region but also across Ontario.
Speaker, could the minister please share what additional measures she has introduced to make life easier and more affordable for drivers and commercial carriers?
The Associate Minister of Transportation and I speak regularly to industry stakeholders to learn about the issues and the challenges that they’re facing within the transportation sector and to determine steps that our government can take to make life easier for them. To that end, we’ve extended the validation periods for government driver, vehicle and carrier products. By extending the validation for International Registration Plan and other commercial vehicle and driver products, the collection of fees has been postponed.
Speaker, our government has also expedited the opening of public rest areas to give truck drivers across the province places to stop and rest safely. And with the new Ontario 511 app, truck drivers have immediate access to important information that they need to stay safe, fed and rested while delivering essential goods across the province.
Our government will continue to support the transportation sector and to support drivers in Ontario.
The House recessed from 1137 to 1300.
“Stop the Cuts to Public Health
“To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:
“Whereas the Ford government is ripping $1 billion from Toronto Public Health over the next 10 years; and
“Whereas the cuts will threaten student breakfast programs for over 200,000 hungry kids, emergency response to public health threats like SARS, overdose prevention programs, daycare safety inspections, restaurant inspections, disease and infection outbreak prevention, sexual health clinics and much more; and
“Whereas Ontario will rack up health care costs from cutting these preventative programs that keep people healthy and out of hospitals;
“Whereas our families and loved ones deserve quality health care that keeps them safe and healthy;
“Therefore we, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to demand the government reverse the cuts to Toronto Public Health and invest in strengthening health care in Ontario.”
I’m very pleased to affix my signature to this petition, and I’ll be tabling it with the Clerks.
“Whereas, on December 29, 2019, five people were maliciously killed at the home of an ultra-Orthodox rabbi during Hanukkah celebrations in Monsey, New York;
“Whereas the horrendous events that took place on December 29, 2019, in Monsey, New York, coincide with an upward trend of instances of egregious acts of anti-Semitic behaviour, including within the province of Ontario;
“Whereas anti-Semitism can manifest in various different ways and cannot be adequately countered if it cannot be properly identified; moreover, anti-Semitism is a multi-faceted problem that requires a multi-faceted solution;
“Whereas the province of Ontario prides itself on being a safe and welcoming place free from religious-based hate;
“Therefore we, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario as follows:
“Proceed as effectively as possible to ensure that all Ontarians are protected from discrimination and hate amounting to anti-Semitism by immediately passing Bill 168, the Combating Antisemitism Act, 2019, so that the government of Ontario be guided by the working definition of anti-Semitism and the list of illustrative examples of it, adopted by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance plenary on May 26, 2016, where it interprets acts, regulations and policies designed to protect Ontarians from discrimination and hate amounting to anti-Semitism.”
I wholeheartedly agree with this petition, will sign it and hand it over to the appropriate personnel.
PUBLIC SECTOR COMPENSATION
“To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:
“Whereas the Ontario government has announced the temporary pandemic pay in recognition of the dedication, long hours and increased risk of working to contain the COVID-19 outbreak;
“Whereas this increase will provide $4 per hour worked on top of existing hourly wages, regardless of the qualified employee’s hourly wage. In addition, employees working over 100 hours per month would receive lump sum payments of $250 per month for each of the next four months;
“Whereas those eligible to receive the payment will be staff working in long-term-care homes, retirement homes, emergency shelters, supportive housing, social services congregate care settings, correction institutions and youth justice facilities, as well as those providing home and community care and staff in hospitals;
“Whereas staff providing front-line clinical services along with those providing support services will be eligible to receive the pandemic payment;
“Whereas it is vital that front-line health care providers are retained as together we continue our fight to stop the spread of COVID-19; and
“Whereas the Ontario government remains committed to using every resource it has to support the front-line workers as we work to stop the spread of COVID-19;
“We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario as follows:
“Request that the Premier of Ontario, Deputy Premier and the Minister of Health include all front-line health care providers committed to providing front-line clinical services.
“Health care is comprised of many professionals that provide front-line care and support, and all front-line health care professionals should be included in the temporary pandemic pay program.”
I fully support this petition, Speaker, will affix my signature to it and give it to one of the pages to send it to the Clerks.
ACCESS TO JUSTICE
“To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:
“Whereas after 15 years of neglect under successive Liberal governments the justice system grew outdated and unnecessarily complex;
“Whereas Ontario’s class action legislation has not been significantly updated in more than 25 years. The current system is outdated, slow and doesn’t always put people at the centre of class actions in Ontario;
“Whereas lives can be—and have been—destroyed by serious crimes like sharing intimate images without consent. Cyberbullies can communicate broadly and quickly, making targets feel like they have no escape and often causing enduring mental and emotional harm;
“Therefore we, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario as follows:
“Proceed as effectively as possible to stand up for victims and law-abiding citizens, provide better, more affordable justice for families and consumers, and simplify a complex and outdated justice system to better serve the people of Ontario by immediately passing Bill 161, An Act to enact the Legal Aid Services Act, 2019 and to make various amendments to other Acts dealing with the courts and other justice matters, so that:
“(1) A flexible, sustainable and accountable legal aid system is built...;
“(2) Ontario’s outdated class action legislation is updated...;
“(3) Criminals don’t profit from crimes...;
“(4) How a small estate is handled is simplified...;
“(5) Notary and commissioner services are modernized...;
“(6) It is made easier for cyberbullying victims to sue their offender...;
“(7) In the tragic death of a loved one families are given closure...;
“(8) Who can perform marriage ceremonies is expanded...;
“(9) Lawyers and paralegals are held to the highest ethical standards...;
“(10) Juror privacy and security is protected...;
“(11) Reappointing case management masters is more efficient...;” and
“(12) Taxpayer dollars are no longer used to pay legal fees for judicial officials removed from office....”
I will affix my signature and give it to the appropriate page.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Resuming the debate adjourned on June 3, 2020, on the motion for allocation of time on the following bills:
Bill 159, An Act to amend various statutes in respect of consumer protection / Projet de loi 159, Loi modifiant diverses lois en ce qui concerne la protection du consommateur;
Bill 184, An Act to amend the Building Code Act, 1992, the Housing Services Act, 2011 and the Residential Tenancies Act, 2006 and to enact the Ontario Mortgage and Housing Corporation Repeal Act, 2020 / Projet de loi 184, Loi modifiant la Loi de 1992 sur le code du bâtiment, la Loi de 2011 sur les services de logement et la Loi de 2006 sur la location à usage d’habitation et édictant la Loi de 2020 abrogeant la Loi sur la Société ontarienne d’hypothèques et de logement.
Speaker, this is a dangerous bill that will have far-reaching consequences for the most vulnerable tenants in Ontario. The fact that we’re even here debating whether we should make it easier to evict tenants during a pandemic is mind-boggling. I just can’t understand how the government members thought this bill was a good idea before COVID-19 hit our communities, why they are continuing to stand by this disastrous bill considering the seriousness of the emergency before us, and why they are ramming it through this House with a time allocation motion which is going to limit debate and fast-track this bill through committee.
The motion before us is a technical, procedural motion that’s going to allow this government to move this bill through this House as quickly as possible. I’m curious to ask the government members if you think that folks in our communities are so busy trying to keep their families alive, trying to survive in a pandemic, that they’re not going to notice that you are chipping away at the limited tenant protections that we have left in this province.
I’d like to spend some time today walking the government through this bill and making some of the comments that I wish I’d had the opportunity to make at second reading. But as the government House leader said this morning—I’d like to clarify, from my perspective, his comments. When he said that this debate collapsed at second reading, that is not an accurate depiction of what happened. What happened was the government members called this bill quietly forward for second reading with no notice given to the opposition members. And because we were abiding by our agreement to maintain limited numbers in this House, the members that wanted to speak to this bill weren’t physically here. I was not physically here.
I know we’re not allowed to make mention of members not being in the House, but I think I can call myself out on this. I would have been here if I had known the bill was going to be brought forward for debate at second reading. Then when we put forward a unanimous consent to stand down the lead so that I would have a full hour to go through all of the issues that I have with this bill, you said no. You denied me my right to get on the record at second reading on this bill, and now I have probably 10 to 15 minutes to go through all of the issues that I have, and it’s not enough. That is exactly the problem with time-allocating bills.
So I want to start with schedule 4 of Bill 184, which contains several concerning clauses that further erode tenant rights. It starts with limiting a tenant’s ability to defend themselves at an eviction hearing if they’re facing an eviction for rent arrears. It complicates the tribunal process by putting the onus on the tenant to give prior written notice to the tribunal to raise a new issue at their hearing. Tenants deserve to have their fair day for justice in front of that tribunal, in front of the Landlord and Tenant Board, and they don’t always have the administrative knowledge to navigate the processes and procedures of that board to best represent their rights.
You’ve now added a whole new layer of technical procedures that a tenant has to navigate. You shouldn’t need to be a lawyer to make your case to keep your home at the Landlord and Tenant Board. You shouldn’t have to navigate complex legalese and procedural requirements. Most tenants show up the day of their hearing, and now, all of a sudden, they’re going to be told, under your new rules, “Well, you didn’t give us advance written notice of the issue that you want to raise, so you can’t raise it.” You’re silencing tenants at the judicial board that oversees evictions and has the power to throw people out in the streets. What are you doing?
Through Bill 184, you’re also creating new rules for the system that will make it harder to self-advocate as a tenant, but it is going to make evictions easier. You’re going to make it easier for landlords to throw tenants out in the midst of a pandemic, and at a time when you promised us—you promised us—that the only business that we were going to be addressing as a House this summer session was going to be COVID-19-related. You broke that promise. What did they used to chant when we first got in here, in those first few months? “Promise made, promise kept.” This is a promise you did not keep. This is not related to—making it easier to evict tenants in a pandemic: Honestly, what are you thinking? How do you sleep at night? How do you go home to your communities and think that this is okay?
So I have a hypothetical situation that I’ve thought up that explains how this eviction process is going to work under the new rules that you’ve proposed under Bill 184. Let’s say our hypothetical tenant’s name is Maseeda. Maseeda is a waitress at a family restaurant. She is a single mom. She has two kids. She has been laid off because of COVID-19, through no fault of her own. The restaurant that she worked at was forced to shut down and Maseeda qualifies for CERB because of this. But CERB is only $2,000 a month, and the apartment that she rents—the going rate for a two-bedroom apartment in St. James Town right now, in my constituency, is $2,100 a month. Her two kids share a room. She’s got one bedroom. It’s a tiny, little apartment in the most densely populated neighbourhood in the country, and already she’s $100 short to pay her rent if she put 100% of the CERB benefit that she got towards her rent.
So she does the math, and Maseeda figures out that she can afford to pay $1,500 of the $2,100 that she owes to her landlord, which is the best that she can do right now because she has to keep the Internet going so that her kids can participate in online classes because they’re learning from home right now. She’s got to keep the phone connected. She’s got to feed three people for a whole month, and all of the other bills and expenses that she has. She figures if she pays $1,500, that leaves her still $600 behind on her rent every single month that the pandemic continues because this government hasn’t provided the rent subsidies that we continue to call for, that tenants are asking us for.
After April, May and June, Maseeda is now $1,800 behind on her rent. I don’t know how this government thinks she’s supposed to get caught up. Under the new rules that you’ve proposed, her landlord applies for an N4 at the board and plans to evict her for falling behind that few hundred dollars every single month, which has now added up to just short of a full month’s rent.
But Maseeda is resilient and creative, and she wants to work with her landlord. She manages to get another part-time job working at a café down the street, which is doing curbside pickup for coffee, but she’s only making $14 an hour because, let’s not forget, you rolled back the extra dollar an hour that minimum wage workers would have gotten last year. And she enters into an agreement with her landlord, through the board, on how to get caught up on her rent.
But because we are in a pandemic, which is a fluid and constantly changing situation, perhaps in a few months, as she’s trying to get caught up, we see a second resurgence in COVID-19 cases—not entirely surprising considering this government’s failure to meet your testing targets and the absolute disaster that we’re seeing in the long-term-care homes. Maybe in three, four months down the road, you’ve reopened the LTB, Maseeda has entered into this agreement with her landlord to get caught up, but all of a sudden, she loses her job for a second time in a year because now the businesses have been forced to close down as we see a resurgence of COVID-19 cases. Again, this is a hypothetical case that I’m trying to walk through to show exactly the problem with this legislation.
Now, Maseeda has missed a payment on her written agreement with her landlord. Under this bill, she doesn’t have the right to go back to the board and explain that, again, through no fault of her own, because of a pandemic, she’s fallen behind on the payment plan that she agreed to enter into, and needs a chance to change that agreement to meet her current situation. Now her landlord won’t have to go to the board to throw her and her two kids out on the street; they’ll be able to call the sheriff up right away.
Where do you think that single moms like Maseeda are going to go? Do you think they’re going to go to our shelter system in downtown Toronto? The beds are full. There are no beds. Is she going to go and join one of the encampments that we’ve seen popping up all over my riding? Is that where she’s supposed to take her two kids? No, they’re getting kicked out. The kids are probably going to end up in CAS. Has anyone thought about the social cost of what it’s now going to cost for the mom to be in a shelter bed that costs probably $200 a night and the two kids that have now been apprehended away from their family in the midst of a pandemic? There’s a social cost to not protecting the rights to housing.
There’s so much wrong with this bill—and I know that my time is limited. I do want to leave some time on the clock for some of the other members to get on the record as well.
This bill will also allow rent increases that are unlawful to become legal and permanent if a tenant unknowingly pays that illegal rent increase for more than a year. So in cases where tenants maybe don’t know their rights and don’t know that they’re paying an illegal increase—let’s say 13 months down the road they’re having a conversation with a neighbour and they find out that that increase that their landlord slapped them with just a little over a year ago wasn’t actually legal. Under the current system, that tenant would be able to go to the board and get that rent increase retroactively taken off. It’s an illegal increase; they never should have been paying it in the first place. But now you’re saying that if tenants don’t wise up to their rights, too bad, so sad. This government certainly doesn’t care about you. You’re going to be stuck paying that illegal rent increase forever.
It gets worse. For tenants who live in trailer parks, guess what? This government doesn’t care about you either—too bad, so sad. They’re loosening the cap on above-guideline rent increases for folks who live in trailer parks, meaning that your rents can go through the roof, again, with no recourse. It’s entirely legal under Bill 184.
To the members opposite: Housing is a human right. It’s not a privilege that’s supposed to be reserved for those with the most money. At the base of the hierarchy of needs is the foundation of shelter. It’s at the bottom because it’s the foundation that every part of a good life is built on. If people don’t have access to shelter you can’t support your family, you can’t get an education, you can’t participate in society. You can’t live your life to the fullest if you’re precariously housed.
My ask to the members opposite is, please, don’t do this. We don’t have to be here doing this. There are so many more important priorities before us right now. We could be working to provide rent subsidies for folks. We could be working to provide commercial rent subsidies to the small businesses in my community that are closing their doors. We could be working to get our testing numbers up and get a real strategy to get the spread of COVID-19 in our long-term-care homes under control. Instead, here we are debating how to make it easier to evict tenants. Honestly, shame on you.
Another clause that I did want to briefly touch on is the part of Bill 184 that amends the rules for the HSA. Under the Housing Services Act, we currently have a bit of a problem when it comes to co-ops and not-for-profit housing providers who have been telling us for a very long time that under the HSA they are legislatively required to provide certain amounts of subsidized housing. If we’re in a situation where their funding agreements end with the provincial government or the municipality that they’re getting their funding from to provide that subsidized housing, they’re still legally required to provide that housing even though they’re not being paid by any level of government to do it.
What we’re seeing is when co-ops and housing providers reach the end of their mortgages and the end of their operating agreements, they’re being put in a situation that’s leaving them financially vulnerable and financially at risk. They’re left on the hook to continue providing a public service that they’re not being funded by the public to provide, putting that stock of housing at risk.
I’m not saying that this wasn’t a problem that needed a solution, but you’ve gone about it in an entirely backwards way and provided a solution that has really dangerous consequences. What you’ve done is you’ve allowed for a mechanism for co-ops and non-profit housing providers to exit out of their provincial HSA agreements, which solves a financial crisis in one part of our housing sector; but what it actually means is, you haven’t provided any way to make sure that that housing supply, those subsidized housing units, are re-created in any other part of our system.
So yes, maybe those housing units need to come off-line in this one area, but then you need to bring them back online somewhere else. You’ve built no guarantee into this legislation that the net number of social housing units will remain the same when, in fact, we need to be increasing those units, not losing them to the system.
I want to see a solution from this government that’s going to address the end-of-mortgage issue for co-ops, but I also want a guarantee that you’re not going to quietly use this mechanism as a way to take social housing off-line when, as we’ve seen historically, neither the Liberals for the last 15 years nor this Conservative government have made any investment in social housing for more than 15 years, to the point that our wait-lists for social housing are 15 years long.
We have more people on the wait-lists for social housing in Toronto than we have units for, and we are losing more than a thousand units of subsidized housing a year to the $2-billion capital repair backlog. The units are falling into such a state of disrepair that they’re having to take the units off-line because they’re not safe to live in. So not only are we not getting new units through new investments; we’re losing units to disrepair. And now, under the provisions that you’ve created here in the HSA, we could potentially lose all of the stock through the provincial HSA agreements because you’re allowing those units to come off-line with, again, no guarantee to replace those units anywhere else in the system.
Speaker, this is shameful. My constituents are facing a housing crisis—and I’ve lived it. I’m not just here standing on a soapbox preaching. I spent 15 years of my life on the wait-list for social housing. My mom went on the wait-list for social housing. My mom went on the wait-list for social housing when I was nine years old. She was a single mom with two girls trying to get her life back on track, going back to school to get an education. She wasn’t prioritized to the top of that list until I was a university graduate and had moved in with my now husband. And she wasn’t a single mom with two kids anymore. Her housing needs had completely changed. She was now almost a senior living with a disability and several complex health conditions, and then spent another two years in housing waiting to get into a wheelchair-accessible unit.
My story is not unique. I can’t tell you the number of constituents who come through my office and that’s their story too. Whole generations of families shouldn’t grow up on housing wait-lists. Guys, get your act together here.
The last piece that I want to touch on here is schedule 1, which basically creates a delegated administrative authority that will appoint a chief building inspector and license and oversee building inspectors in the province of Ontario. This is a body that would have some general public accountability through the Auditor General, but it would not come under the purview of the Ontario Ombudsman.
My concern here, particularly with this government, is that you have made previous attempts to allow the development industry to govern and police itself. We know how susceptible these delegated administrative authorities are to industry takeover, and I say that because we’ve seen it. We’ve seen it with Tarion. We watched what was supposed to be an accountability measure to ensure that consumers were getting homes that were being built to a high-quality standard and that there was accountability there. We saw how easily susceptible the leadership and the management of Tarion was to takeover by the development industry.
My concern here with the provisions in schedule 1 is that it’s dangerous to pull building inspectors out into a body with limited provincial oversight that, again, is so easily susceptible to industry control, as we’ve seen with Tarion and as we saw with the OMB. These authorities need to be in public hands. These delegated authorities can become quite dangerous.
I want to leave some time on the clock for some of my colleagues to get on the record here, but overall I want to say to the government members opposite: I’ve said this several times now, but we have more important priorities that we need to be coming together as a Legislature to address in the midst of a pandemic, and this bill is not it. More so, fast-tracking it through this House is not the way to do it.
The people of Ontario deserve a good process to raise their issues with this bill, to raise the concerns that maybe—I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt—you haven’t thought about. Maybe you haven’t considered the unintended consequences of your legislation. That’s why we debate these bills. That’s why we give the time that we need for public hearings.
Please, please, do not time-allocate this bill. Please pull out the eviction clauses. Let’s put our attention collectively back to the crisis before us.
I won’t be supporting this motion. We just extended the state of emergency yesterday to June 30. That was the right thing to do, because it’s not business as usual out there in our communities and it shouldn’t be business as usual in here. And this time allocation motion certainly feels like that.
This time allocation motion goes too far—too much, too quick, and not the most important things that we should be dealing with right now. In fairness to the government House leader, we have to work together in trust and respect, and we’ve been doing that, although there were occasions—too many of them—where there was delay and frustration that was unnecessary. None of us like that, and I don’t expect that our electors, our constituents, would like that either.
I understand the frustration. I saw the frustration in his speech this morning. But this motion goes too far. Despite how other people might behave, the things that are most important to people remain the same. We don’t change it because we’re angry or frustrated. I have a lot of respect for him, but this goes too far.
The government has its agenda, and that’s clear. And the government is allowed to have an agenda because you got elected. You’re the government. But what I’m trying to understand is why we’re discussing a bill to make it easier to evict people in the middle of a pandemic. How is that a priority in some way of most Ontarians? I don’t think it is. I don’t think they’re saying, “Guys, we want you to pass that bill. We’ve been thinking about it through this whole pandemic and we can’t wait until you pass this bill.” I’m sure that’s not how they feel.
We’re debating a bill about home care. It’s a bill that I supported at second reading. Something has happened between second reading and now, and that is that the whole ground underneath health care is shifting, because we have to look at how we’re going to deal with aging, and home care is a really big piece of that.
I think we’re in a rush to do this piece of legislation, and I think that what our people are saying to us is, “You don’t need to rush. Get it right.” But we’re rushing, and we’re rushing to do the wrong things—maybe not the wrong things; we’re rushing to do the things that aren’t the most important. Why aren’t we rushing to do universal masking? Why are we not trying to figure out how we can make sure that every Ontarian has a cloth mask to protect themselves? We know it’s going to work. We talk about it in the briefings. Every day, we talk about it in the briefings, but no one’s going to say, “Well, how am I going to make sure that this community has access to masks?” No one’s saying we’re going to have an industrial policy to make these masks. No one’s saying, “We’ve all got to come together and get this thing done.”
That’s the thing that’s most important. That’s what we should be doing here. We need to put aside the things we could do later and focus on the things that we need to do right now in response to COVID-19, and universal masking is one of those things. I would encourage the government to undertake that.
Where’s the plan for regional reopening? Where’s that plan? There’s no plan for regional reopening. I know many members on the opposite side and members of all caucuses live in regions where they’re saying, “Why are we waiting here? We’ve had one case. We know how to physically distance. We have everything that we need. Why are we waiting? My constituents’ livelihoods depend on it. We need a plan.”
The longer we delay making decisions, the more risk we put to things, especially in terms of the spread of the virus, but also in terms of our economy. Ontario is a really, really big place—a really big place—and there are lots of regions out there that are saying, “Where’s the plan?” I think that’s a thing that we need to be focused on in here, that we should be talking about in here—not over there, in a building somewhere over there, but that we should be debating here. Why aren’t we debating that, to at least inform that place over there, where they’re making the decisions, so that they hear those people’s voices? That’s the point of this place. That’s the thing that’s on people’s minds.
I’m not going to go on about commercial rent evictions, because I’ve already done this once. It’s not good enough to say, “Hey, kids, if you don’t behave, I’m going to come upstairs, and when I come upstairs, you’d better watch out.” That’s essentially what the Premier has done: “Just watch me.” Watch you do what? Jack. So far, jack. That’s it. What’s Main Street saying? Main Street is saying, “What’s your plan?” Are we debating that in here?
Where’s the plan for long-term care? We talk about that in here, but we don’t talk about a plan. In Quebec, they’re hiring 10,000 PSWs—training them, hiring them aggressively out there. What are we doing? If anybody can inform me later on in the debate, that would be great. I’d like to know, because as far as I can see, we’re not making that kind of effort that we need to make. The hospitals are going to be out of long-term care, and so is the Canadian military, in weeks. Those places are still vulnerable. We need a plan.
I don’t want to put too fine a point on it, but it’s all well and good to say it went over decades and decades of governments, and then, when you get pressed, to say, “It’s the last 15 years and it’s those folks. There was a staffing problem before.” We’ve got a staffing problem. The words would not be so hollow if people hadn’t voted against the $4 raise for PSWs, repealed two paid sick days, returned doctors’ notes or rolled back all those things that would have stabilized the jobs in that sector. That happened. We don’t need to talk about that right now. We need to fix it. That’s what we need to be doing in here.
There are no answers to the questions. Are we going to make the pay scale permanent for PSWs in long-term care? We’re going to have to. How are we going to make sure that people have the kind of benefits that they need? How are we going to stabilize that sector? We’ve got to make sure they have enough PPE. We have to make sure they’re trained. They really have to be trained. That’s what we have to do right now. We can go back and look, people can point fingers and blame, but that ain’t going to solve the problem right now. That’s not going to solve it; and debating what we’re debating over the next five weeks isn’t going to solve that problem either.
We are here, all of us, to give expression to what we hear from our constituents, to give expression to what’s important to them. Quite frankly, what’s important to all of our constituents is pretty much the same, save for some differences. They want us to fix that. We should be talking about that in here, not somewhere over there where we try to figure out what the answers are, who’s thinking what and who did what when. We should be talking about it here to inform those people over there. That’s why I can’t support this motion.
I’d gladly sit here every day this summer if you wanted to talk about those things, if you wanted to make those plans. I’m sure my colleagues would as well. I would argue that I’m sure most of you would as well.
That’s the problem with this time allocation motion. It’s not focusing on what’s most important right now in our response to COVID-19 and giving expression to the concerns and the worries and the hopes of the people who we represent.
First of all, we’re here today discussing a time allocation motion. For those who are watching, this essentially takes away time from opposition, from members in the House, from community to really have their voices heard. This is what the government has decided to do with this bill during a pandemic, during a time, when in my humble opinion, as a renter and as the MPP for St. Paul’s, we have 67.8% or so renters—any legislation that’s talking about protecting tenants, I believe the buck stops with bringing back rent control.
The buck stops with rent relief. These are the words that I want to hear when I’m talking about protecting tenants, especially during the time of the COVID-19 pandemic, but also as we recover from COVID-19—because what I don’t want is to see what carpet is left pulled out from my constituents when we begin to recover from this pandemic.
So on that note, I’m going to share some of the words that are actually coming from our constituents’ mouths. Here is a gentleman who is a renter. He’s a leader, actually, in our community. He’s the leader of one of our tenants’ associations, and here are his words:
“I’m writing to you today to express my opposition to Bill 184 and my dismay that your government would introduce this legislation at this time. Making it easier for landlords to evict tenants who are struggling with repayment plans would be immoral under normal conditions. To introduce this legislation at a time when more than a quarter of Canadian renters are struggling with rent due to COVID-19 is cowardly and craven.”
The changes proposed to eviction hearings are also deeply disturbing. If a landlord is claiming that a tenant has failed their obligations under the RTA—Residential Tenancies Act, for those watching—there’s no reason why tenants should not be able to raise new issues at eviction hearings to show that landlords have similarly failed to meet their obligations. What I’ve heard consistently from constituents is that there is a power imbalance between the LTB and a renter. This power imbalance is greater when tenants are not able to bring issues that matter to them in real time to their hearings.
So that’s just a little bit from this gentleman.
We have another person who shared that she has been in the same apartment since 2011. She said, “When I moved in, the rent was high for us to pay, and we had pigeons on our balcony, infested with cockroaches, and very wary of bedbugs. I would have nightmares of cockroaches crawling under my skin.”
She dreams about a time when above-guideline increases won’t completely put her in debt.
She said, “We daydream of one day owning a home, but it’s impossible to get ahead. We have good, middle-class jobs, but it seems the middle and lower classes are doomed because of decisions like these in Bill 184.
“Year upon year upon year we get notices for above-guideline increases because of some capital expenditure loophole; you know, like changing the marble in the lobby, the tile. The interior of the apartment never changes, of course.
“We tenants have gone to the LTB, and we’ve had dismissals over and over. They always side with landlords. In those nine years, the rent has increased so much that it’s more than 1.5 times what it was. Still, we’ve got the kitchen that leaves the sawdust on our forks, still the same square footage, but now we have a toddler.”
Over and over and over, what I’m hearing people say is that they’re afraid of being drowned by debt during COVID-19—especially my constituents, as I shared this morning, who are on ODSP. We have a ton of seniors who are on fixed incomes, and they just want to get by. Every day, they’re trying to do everything that our public health officials have said to keep safe, to not get COVID-19, but the looming pandemic of homelessness, the looming pandemic of being pushed out of their homes because of something completely out of their control—ironically, that’s keeping them up at night even more, quite frankly, than the handwashing routine and the wearing of the masks and the social distancing. They’ve got that. What they don’t have control over is the potential of being evicted once COVID-19 is over, and once they’re unable to pay the $4,000 to $8,000 to $10,000 to $12,000 or more, I’ve been told, that they might have to repay—because it’s not like we’ve got rent freezes in Bill 184, it’s not like we have rent subsidies being the meat and potatoes of Bill 184, and we certainly don’t have rent control. These are absent.
I could go on to share quotes from ACORN. I could go on to mention that, based on the latest figures—“43% of Ontario renters have less than a month’s worth of savings, and 45% are paying more than 30% of their incomes to rent,” said Ricardo Tranjan, a political economist and senior researcher with the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.
I also want to just take a few minutes to remind people about Bill 159, which was all about consumer protections. I’d like to think that a person who buys a home, the biggest purchase of their life—and I can’t wait to join that club myself, to be honest—and then to be betrayed by Tarion Warranty Corp., by a corporation that’s supposed to speak your language. It’s supposed to be there to support you as the homeowner, but instead, it’s there to support the builders and the developers.
I have to say thank you, and I consistently say thank you, to our member for Humber River–Black Creek, who has been a stalwart here, advocating for transparent changes, for an entire reform of Tarion. Quite frankly, Bill 159 does nothing to really support homeowners. Our member for Humber River–Black Creek—his PMB would fix all of the cracks, the gaps that folks are falling into.
One of these gaps, according to Barbara Captijn, who is one of our community leaders when it comes to reforming Tarion, is a lack of transparency and accountability to the public. That seems to be a chronic issue with Tarion Warranty Corp. The Auditor General’s report in 2019 actually found that Tarion was found to be denying claims to boost executive salaries. Tarion executives were getting up to 60% of their income based on revenue, and the focus was put on denying claims for profit.
This is the hard thing. Again, if Tarion is supposed to be the place where I can come and get shelter and support as a homeowner, if there’s positive reinforcement happening to silence me and to ignore my problems so executives can get paid, it doesn’t seem like the homeowner is getting the long end of the stick.
I understand that the CEO was being paid over $800,000 a year. And now the new CEO, apparently—we don’t know how much they’re being paid, but I guess that goes with the whole transparency or the whole opaque thing. The board was cut from 16 to 12 members after Tarion had a number of its responsibilities removed from them. Overall, we see a pattern here. It doesn’t protect consumers. They deflect responsibility between themselves and the builders until consumers give up.
Here’s a quote from a woman—I didn’t get consent to use her name, so I won’t, but she was saying thank you to the MPP from Humber River–Black Creek and myself and to the opposition for fighting against Tarion for all these years. She said, “More MPPs need to get a grip on the reality of many homeowners’ serious and life-altering struggles with a home warranty program run by greedy and uncompassionate employees who don’t really care about homes or the people who are truly trapped in them.”
I can’t even fathom what it means to be trapped in my home. But it’s interesting, because one of my constituents was talking to me, and she said, “`Jill, this whole notion of no rent control and surging rent costs—I’ve got to tell you, as a woman, I know women who have stayed in abusive relationships because they just can’t get out. They just can’t get out. There’s nowhere that they can afford.” So the choice—imagine that—of having to live with violence because you can’t afford to get out anywhere else in Toronto and many places across the province to rent a home that you can feel safe in.
There’s so much to say and so little time. What I would like to end with to Ontarians is, I need you to hear that your official opposition, since the beginning of this pandemic, have been consistently communicating with this government. But communication needs to be a two-way street. When we put forth proposals to save residential renters, to save our commercial renters, to save and help our landlords and those with mortgages, and the government consistently turns their back on those proposals—and again, as I said last week, google “COVID-19 NDP responses” and you’ll see them all. When they continue to turn their back on those responses, they’re turning their back on you. That’s not good enough here in Ontario. It’s not good enough for any of us in the House.
Housing is fundamental. It is the very fabric on which we build our entire lives. With this time allocation motion and this legislation that’s been put forward, it is of grave concern. When one looks at business, all business deals—ones that are good business deals—should be equally balanced. Someone should be able to offer a good or a service at a reasonable price, so much so that each side doesn’t feel great about it, but they feel pretty good.
In those business deals, there should be a concept, which I’m going to remind this government of, called honour. It’s a contract between a person and society. Embedded within that concept of honour is honesty. We have to not only speak the truth but act it out—fairness as well as integrity.
But what we see from this government is a growing chasm between words and actions. We came to an agreement during the time of COVID-19 that the government would have 26 members, the opposition would have 14 and the independents would have six. Yet yesterday, we saw that agreement broken.
We also see the name of this bill—and I’m not even going to repeat the name of this bill aloud because I can’t feel good about it. I can’t feel honest about it. It’s almost as though this government has taken a vicious, frothing-at-the-mouth attack dog and they’ve named it “Fluffy.”
Just because their words say one thing does not actually indicate what is found within this. What is found within this is odious at best. To allow for vacancy decontrol, to allow for rent increases is really well and truly shameless. It is actually tone-deaf for this government to introduce this bill and to time-allocate it at the time of COVID-19. It is utterly shocking. It is truly beyond belief.
We need more rent-geared-to-income housing across this province. If this government really wanted to work with us and was talking about building social housing, we would be all-in. We would be on board. But unfortunately, no, they’re talking about helping out their friends.
What is also shocking about this is the fact that landlords will be allowed to, in a circuitous way, have a rent increase. So a rent increase that is imposed without the legally required 90 days’ notice will become legal if the tenant pays it for 12 months. Basically, that’s saying that this government is quite comfortable telling landlords that if they trick their tenant, then gold star—they get away with it.
Congratulations. I hope that makes you feel good.
There’s no reason during the time of COVID-19 that we would take away rent controls, that we would take away tenant rights. It is bad business, it is unethical, it is unfair and it is not honest. It is utterly tone-deaf, and I implore you to open your eyes, think about what tenants are going through across this province and scrap this piece of legislation.
Mr. Speaker, many of my colleagues have already touched on a lot of really important points, I think, this afternoon—concerns generally about the way that this government is using, I guess we could say, the “guise” of a pandemic to rush through legislation, which I have to say I was surprised at. I mentioned this last week when I spoke to a similar motion.
Not only are the bills that we’re talking about not emergency legislation by any stretch of the imagination; they are being brought forward in the midst of a historic crisis which makes it all the more, frankly, distasteful.
I think that when we originally saw this legislation at a very different times—so much has happened since then, and it’s really hard to imagine why the government would come forward with legislation like this without having clearly taken a moment to stop and think twice about whether or not maybe the context within which we’re living and the pandemic itself might cause them to think twice about whether or not moving forward with this was a good idea.
I tell you that over the last week or so since the government made clear their intention to rush this legislation through—particularly Bill 184, I’m talking about, because I think that the reality in many of our communities, and certainly in my riding, is that people are fighting to keep their homes. Renters are really struggling to keep their homes. It was already a difficult situation, I’ll say. Rent was extraordinarily high. In my community and in communities across the province, people have been fighting renovictions for many years. We see it happening again and again—and then the rise, of course, in homelessness and families who have nowhere to live.
And so, in this moment, when it’s become even more difficult for people, and they’re really being forced to choose between food on the table and a roof over their heads—I’m talking about families losing their homes—in that moment, the idea that we would push through legislation that would actually make it easier to evict tenants is astonishing. I received a number of emails from people saying, “I must be confused by this. Surely this isn’t right.”
I want to just tell you a few things that came to my attention that I wanted to raise. For example, as I mentioned, I’ve heard from many concerned community members who are shocked and living in disbelief that the government would, at this moment, choose to do away with some of the protections that they’ve had, and make it easier for landlords to evict tenants. I’ve heard from tenants at 800 Lansdowne Avenue, at 806 Lansdowne Avenue, at 1401 Dupont and at 1407 Dupont.
I’ve heard from so many who have actually started to come together to try to be a stronger voice for tenants in their community. They are doing the responsible thing, right? They are reaching out to their landlord as a group to open up a dialogue, where they have had difficulty, where they have had cases of eviction notices being presented to them, where they have had threats of rent increases—above-guideline increases, in this moment. It’s astonishing.
I want to tell you there have also been landlords—I want to shout out to the landlords who have actually, rightfully, suspended or discussed reduced rent for their tenants. There are a lot of those. But I have to say, and I wish it wasn’t true, that I think that the larger the landlord, the more difficult that has been. Of course, a lot of these landlords we’re talking about are companies that really have no connection back to communities, and you see the difference that that makes in what we’re dealing with right now.
I really want to implore the government members opposite to think twice about whether this legislation is what they want to be moving forward at this time, because I can tell you right now that when the moratorium that’s currently in place is lifted, there will be a lot of people who will lose their homes. This government’s legislation is going to make that easier for landlords. We are going to end up with families with nowhere to go at exactly the time, I just want to make clear, when we are asking people to prioritize their health and the safety of our communities. That’s why we put in place an eviction moratorium. So I implore the government, please, let’s look at other options. Let’s shelve this legislation.
Let’s truly work together. We’ve moved motions, we want to come in, we want to sit more days during the week all summer. That’s what we’re here for, but we want to come up with good legislation that’s actually going to provide real protection for tenants, for renters, in this pandemic and beyond, because I can tell you that the old normal wasn’t working for a whole lot of people; we need a new normal that does.
Mr. Speaker, home is the centre of human rights. As you know, the gains that the tenants have gained for many, many years now are now being reversed. In 1979, Ontario tenants won important protections for their security of tenure, guaranteeing that they would not lose their homes without due process of the law, which includes a hearing before an independent tribunal and for the opportunity to plead their case. This was an important and fundamental step forward to advance the rights to housing in Ontario. Bill 184 threatens to reverse these important advancements in the rights to housing.
If passed, Bill 184 will speed up the eviction process by allowing landlords to evict tenants who have defaulted on repayment agreements without a hearing and an order from an adjudicator at the Landlord and Tenant Board, prevent tenants from requesting compensation for illegal rent increases in some circumstances, allow landlords to further pursue tenants for utility and rent arrears at the Landlord and Tenant Board, allow landlords to seek financial compensation from tenants in cases of interference of reasonable enjoyment of a unit—it goes on.
These changes to Bill 184 threaten the right to adequate housing, and in particular, the security of tenure of all Ontarians. It is particularly troubling that this policy is being advanced in the midst of an unprecedented global pandemic. This is a shame. As has been made abundantly clear in recent weeks, stable housing is key to being able to maintain the physical and social distancing requirements recommended by our public health authorities. Without question, speeding up the eviction process puts the health and well-being of Ontarians in jeopardy.
I also want to say a few things about Bill 159 at this juncture, and I hope that the members opposite will take our suggestions seriously. By opening up 10 pieces of legislation for amendments, this bill, that is Bill 159, had a huge opportunity to make substantive improvements to Ontario’s consumer protections. We can all agree these improvements are necessary. The Liberals and Conservatives have left Ontarians unprotected for years. But in some key ways, the bill fails to live up to its potential. That is the basis of what I want to talk about in this.
The changes in schedules 1 and 2 of this bill need further questioning. I have concerns about the delegation of regulation-making power to the Condominium Management Regulatory Authority of Ontario. Is this giving more self-regulatory powers to a body that has failed to act in the best interests of Ontarians in the past? How exactly does this make matters better? People deserve to have confidence in how their homes are run.
These amendments had an opportunity to make condo boards more democratic. I have constituents calling for condo act amendments to ensure free and fair elections. They want an anonymous vote and the opportunity to organize and campaign without intimidation. Sufficient notice of elections must be given and non-resident owners must receive notices. Lastly, they want legal protection against intimidation during condo elections.
Furthermore, these folks are asking for real consequences for breaches of the condo act by the corporation; for example, fines for violations. There are very few consequences currently, and for most condo owners, taking their board or condo corporations to court in a dispute just isn’t an option. That is why they are also asking for a legislated dispute mechanism. They want a provincial board similar to the Landlord and Tenant Board. Condo owners deserve real recourse and an appropriate venue to seek that recourse in a dispute.
These are all very reasonable requests. The government had an opportunity to make these changes, and they didn’t.
These recommendations would have been very useful to another constituent of mine. After condo management failed to repair her heating unit—she waited for over a year—she took it upon herself and paid out of pocket. She was then invoiced $6,000 by her condo management company for work they never did.
This bill does not provide any options for people like her.
I think my time is running out, but I have a lot to say about this bill. Successive reviews and reports by the Auditor General on delegated authorities have made many recommendations to strengthen the public interest and better protect Ontarians. There were 32 recommendations in that Auditor General’s October 2019 special investigation of Tarion. This investigation found Tarion favoured the interests of builders over homeowners.
The Auditor General, in this case, isn’t the only one asking for change. Let me outline some—but I don’t have much time to do that today. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Ms. Khanjin has moved government notice of motion number 80, relating to allocation of time on Bill 159, An Act to amend various statutes in respect of consumer protection, and Bill 184, An Act to amend the Building Code Act, 1992, the Housing Services Act, 2011 and the Residential Tenancies Act, 2006 and to enact the Ontario Mortgage and Housing Corporation Repeal Act, 2020. Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? I heard a no.
All those in favour of the motion will please say “aye.”
All those opposed will please say “nay.”
In my opinion, the ayes have it.
Unless this vote is deferred, we will enter into the voting procedure.
I wish to inform the House that I’ve received two requests for deferral of this vote, so it will now take place at the time set aside for deferred votes on Tuesday, June 16, 2020.
The House adjourned at 1407.
top | new search