view entire issue | new search


Ontario Hansard - 24-February2022

QUESTION PERIOD

MANUFACTURING JOBS


Ms. Andrea Horwath: Before I ask my first question to the Premier, I just want to acknowledge that it’s RNAO’s lobby day today at Queen’s Park. I am sure we’re all looking forward to hearing the advice of the RNAO in terms of how we fix our health care system and our nurse shortage.

But my first question is on a different topic, Speaker, and it’s to the Premier. We all know that we’ve heard of the devastating layoffs that are happening in Thunder Bay this week, so it’s now more important than ever to commit to investing in manufacturing jobs and trades in our province. Ontario has had a long-standing 25% Canadian content policy for transit vehicles, which has created thousands of good jobs and protected thousands of good jobs in our province over the years. So my question to the Premier is: Will he commit to maintaining Ontario’s 25% Canadian content policy for transit vehicles and will he rigorously enforce that commitment?


Hon. Doug Ford: Through you, Mr. Speaker, our government has always championed made-in-Ontario solutions. No government has ordered more Canadian-made vehicles ever than our government.

We’re going to play a little game: fiction and fact. Now I’m going to tell you the facts. Over 75% of the Ontario Line will be Canadian content, with almost 90% occurring right here in Ontario, Mr. This project alone will generate more than $11 billion in local benefits. During the construction, it will support over 4,700 jobs per year, with more employment afterwards for the operations and maintenance of the line.

And do you know what’s a shame, Mr. Speaker, with all the investments we’ve put into Thunder Bay and Alstom? The Leader of the Opposition voted it down, the leader of the Liberals voted it down and the leader of the Green Party voted it down. They had no interest—


The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Thank you.

The supplementary question.


Ms. Andrea Horwath: Unfortunately, the Premier’s actions don’t match his words. The fact is that there used to be a 25% requirement for Canadian content in transit vehicles here in this province, but I’m going to read from a recent RFP for one of the largest transit projects in the history of this province that the Premier was just talking about. I quote from the Ontario Line Subway Rolling Stock, Systems, Operations and Maintenance Project RFP: “‘Canadian content’ means a minimum of 10% of the final value of a car” supplied by Project Co under the project agreement, which must be contracted for by Project Co Canada, as calculated in accordance with this schedule 38. I ask the page to send this over to the Premier.

1050

The question is, why has the Premier put at risk so many good-paying jobs and dropped Ontario’s long-standing 25% commitment to Canadian content in transit vehicles?


Hon. Doug Ford: For 15 years, northern Ontario was ignored and was put at risk through the previous Liberal government, propped up by the NDP government. They were totally ignored, Mr. Speaker.

The facts are, if it wasn’t for this government, the Alstom plant wouldn’t even exist as of today. We invested over $171 million for 94 refurbished GO rail coaches. In May, we made a $180-million investment for new streetcars for the TTC. Those investments are supporting over 300 good manufacturing jobs at the facility alone, as I said earlier.

The shame is, the Leader of the Opposition voted against this, voted against the people in Thunder Bay, voted against the people at Alstom, the hard-working people, has never showed up to their plant in a few years, while we’re there. We’re listening to the people, we’re always going to have their backs, and we’re going to continue to invest in the people of Thunder Bay and Alstom.


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

Ms. Andrea Horwath: Well, the Premier cannot just ignore the facts, Speaker. In fact, I’ll ask a page to send another copy. Maybe he can read what’s highlighted in yellow on this document.

It’s very, very clear, Speaker. This RFP is for the Ontario Line, and it clearly states, I will say again: “‘Canadian content’ means a minimum of 10% of the final value of a car” supplied etc. Speaker, this Premier has abandoned the 25% content requirement. Why on earth would this Premier do that without telling anyone, without consulting anyone? Why would he put thousands of good-paying Ontario jobs on the line and get rid of a long-standing 25% content policy for transit vehicles in our province? Shame on him.

Interjections.


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

To reply, the Associate Minister of Transportation (GTA).


Hon. Stan Cho: I agree, there is some clarity necessary here, so I will clarify for the leader of the official opposition exactly what is already outlined in a letter from Minister Mulroney on this matter just last week. To be clear, there have been no changes to the existing Canadian content policy. And in case the leader did not receive that letter, I’d like to send, through a page, a letter from the minister outlining exactly those details.

What we are talking about here is $11 billion from the construction of the Ontario Line that will go right back into the economy and support those great jobs in Thunder Bay. At the end of the day, 75% of the project will be manufactured in Canada, 90% of that in Ontario. Speaker, it’s called the Ontario Line for a reason. We are investing in transit and transportation across this entire province, and that includes the great people of Thunder Bay.

MANUFACTURING JOBS


Ms. Andrea Horwath: My next question is also for the Premier. But I have to say, with all due respect, it means squat what’s in the Minister of Transportation’s letters. What matters is what is in the RFP. That’s what matters, and this government has abandoned the 25% content requirement. Can you send this over to the Premier, please? I don’t care about the minister’s letter. The letter has to have legs by being included in the contract, and it is not. He secretly changed the contract, Speaker, after he promised the Unifor workers very recently the exact opposite.

In fact, last August this Premier said in Thunder Bay, “We will make sure anything bought in Ontario should be produced in Ontario.” So what manufacturing organization, what municipality, what union asked the Premier to put thousands of good-paying jobs at risk and risk millions of dollars in investments by changing the content requirement for transit vehicles, perversely reversing this policy?

Interjections.


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

The Associate Minister of Transportation.


Hon. Stan Cho: I guess it’s worth repeating to the Leader of the Opposition that there have been no changes to the Canadian content requirement for manufacturing here in the province, Speaker. I will repeat: 75% of the Ontario Line will be Canadian content, with almost 90% occurring right here in Ontario. This is in addition to the fact that there is $180 million we committed to in May to support the purchase of 60 new TTC vehicles; in addition, $171 million to refurbish 94 GO Transit rail coaches; 60 new electric streetcars.

The layoffs in Alstom—we know those are temporary, because our government, our Premier, has reached out to the leadership team there, who have assured us that their intention is to bring back their workers in June of this year. They have to, Speaker, because this is unprecedented growth on the way for this province and for Thunder Bay.


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

Ms. Andrea Horwath: What is unprecedented is that for almost 15 years we’ve had a Canadian content policy that required 25%. It’s unprecedented that this Ford government would stand up and pretend that they didn’t reduce that content to 10% in the RFP for the Ontario Line. I will send this over to the associate minister, if he doesn’t know the facts of what’s in their own RFP.

This Premier told Unifor workers in Thunder Bay, “Please don’t be looking for other jobs because we will make sure we have contracts to keep you going.” But he secretly changed the long-standing policy that created great jobs for years. There won’t be contracts without a 25% requirement. It’s not just Thunder Bay, Speaker; it’s the entire supply chain, which will impact the entire province.

Will this Premier, right now, then, today, if he is committed to that 25% policy, stand up and commit that not only will we continue to have a 25% content policy, but he will make sure that that is included in all RFPs going forward and he will—


The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Thank you.

Interjections.


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

To reply, again the Associate Minister of Transportation.


Hon. Stan Cho: Speaker, we will clarify for a third time that there have been no changes to the existing Canadian content policy—no changes. Our government will continue to say yes to deals that make sense for taxpayers and transit riders, especially when it creates good-paying private sector jobs. Nowhere is this more evident than in the Ontario Line, a massive undertaking that will support over 4,700 jobs per year during the years of construction, while generating more than $11 billion in local economic growth.

Speaker, I know the opposition is used to propping up the Liberals when they were in power: 300,000 manufacturing jobs left from 2004 to 2014. We will not take lectures from the members opposite on this issue. It is our government that is building back the manufacturing sector and transforming Ontario’s transit network, after the Liberals doing years of nothing.


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

Ms. Andrea Horwath: There’s no doubt that that policy had been in place for 15 years and that it created great jobs. It was supported by manufacturers. It was supported by workers and unions. It was supported by municipalities. The Premier, I think, gave some false hope to the Unifor workers up in Thunder Bay, because he has now betrayed them and abandoned that policy. It is in black and white. I’ve run out of copies. I guess the government side doesn’t know how to read or doesn’t pay attention to the policies that they embed in their RFPs.

The letters from ministers mean nothing, and the drivel coming from the associate minister means nothing. What means something is embedding the policy in the RFPs, and this Premier decided not to do that. So why would he secretly ditch that policy? He has to stop making excuses, Speaker. He has to stand up for workers—some claim that he makes all the time, which is absolutely not the case and we see it right now.

Buck up, do the right thing, pull that RFP and fix it to make sure there’s 25% embedded in that—

Interjections.


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

To reply, the Premier.


Hon. Doug Ford: I find it ironic and hypocritical by the Leader of the Opposition—

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Stop the clock. The Premier will take his seat.

1100

Interjections.


The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Okay. The House will come to order.

The Premier must withdraw his unparliamentary comment—


Hon. Doug Ford: Withdraw.

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Thank you. He may continue the response if he chooses to do so.

Hon. Doug Ford: Mr. Speaker, I find it ironic that the Leader of the Opposition has the gall to say what she’s saying when they have voted against it. They voted against the funding for Alstom. They voted against the people of Thunder Bay. For 15 years, northern Ontario was ignored by the Del Duca-Wynne-Horwath governments. They were propped up. They didn’t worry about the people in the north. They were worried about their downtown Toronto elites. That’s what they were worried about. That’s what their concern is about.

I can tell you, Mr. Speaker, this project alone will generate over $11 billion. There’s no government in the history of this province that has invested more into transit than what we have.

MANUFACTURING JOBS


Ms. Judith Monteith-Farrell: My question is for the Premier. The workers at the Alstom plant in Thunder Bay deserve better from this government. I want to talk specifically about the workers because they do great work. They produce excellent vehicles. We are proud that Thunder Bay produces transit vehicles that are used by people all over Ontario—actually, all over North America. Every time I come to Queen’s Park, I walk past many Thunder Bay vehicles, and it makes me proud of my city and of those workers.

When this government began their time in office, we had 1,200 staff at the then-Bombardier plant. Soon there will be only 75 unionized employees. It could have been avoided. We knew the problems. We were talking about it in this House in 2018.

Premier, why didn’t this government take action sooner to stop the layoffs at the Alstom plant?


The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): The Associate Minister of Transportation (GTA).

Hon. Stan Cho: I, too, like the member from Thunder Bay–Atikokan, have immense pride when I see our fine TTC fleet vehicles being manufactured right here in Ontario, in the Thunder Bay area, and our government is also proud of that. That’s why we’re investing in those good, homegrown jobs in Ontario.

When it comes to the layoffs in Thunder Bay, I want to be clear: These layoffs are temporary. Alstom’s leadership team has spoken with our government and said exactly that—that their intention is to bring these workers back in June of this year. Speaker, they have to, because there is a lot of construction happening when it comes to transit in our province. There are contracts that have been signed with our government in May of last year—$180 million for 60 new streetcars. This investment is part of a contract with the Thunder Bay plant to supply streetcars, with vehicle delivery starting as early as 2023—and another $171 million for 94 GO Transit rail coaches at the Alstom facility in Thunder Bay.

Speaker, there is a lot of work on the way to Thunder Bay and Alstom, and we are confident that they will be up and running again in June, very soon.


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

Ms. Judith Monteith-Farrell: My question is for the Premier. Last year, this government announced an order for 60 streetcars and refurbishing 94 bi-level cars, but the contracts were signed so late, and now the work won’t be able to begin till this fall. If this government had planned ahead, we wouldn’t be facing layoffs.

This government needs to realize that you can’t turn on and off manufacturing capacity with a light switch. Uncertainty means we might lose workers to other regions and other industries, because this government chose to take its time. We need to make an in-Ontario transit vehicle procurement policy.

Premier, when will you commit to a made-in-Ontario policy for transit vehicles?


Hon. Stan Cho: Well, to answer that question very directly, the Premier committed to creating those jobs a long time ago. That’s why, at the Alstom plant in Thunder Bay, 60 new streetcars are on the way, 94 GO Transit refurbishments are on the way, 60 new electric streetcars are on the way. And here’s the greatest part of all of this: This means jobs in Thunder Bay.

Now, of course, the plant has to be retooled to create all that capacity. That’s why it is temporarily shut down. But the fact of the matter is, those vehicles are on the way. And that’s despite the best efforts of the opposite members as well as the Liberals, who voted against every single one of them. They voted against the 60 new streetcars, against the 94 refurbishments, against the 60 new electric streetcars.

Despite the best efforts of the opposition, we are going to support jobs in this province and in Thunder Bay.

INFRASTRUCTURE FUNDING


Mr. Bill Walker: My question is for the Minister of Infrastructure. For far too long, Ontario’s small, rural and northern communities have struggled to keep their public infrastructure up to date, due to chronic underfunding and neglect from previous governments. This neglect has led to the infrastructure backlogs in communities across our great province.

For 15 years, the Liberal government failed to address infrastructure needs, continued to cut investments in crucial infrastructure and ignored calls for further funding. The people of Ontario, no matter where they are in this province, deserve to reap the benefits of new, modernized and updated public infrastructure that will help the town they call home be safer and more accessible.

Mr. Speaker, through you to the Minister of Infrastructure, what is the government doing to provide Ontario’s municipalities with the funding they need to upgrade and renew their critical infrastructure?


The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): The parliamentary assistant.

Mr. Amarjot Sandhu: I want to thank the member from Bruce–Grey–Owen Sound for this great question. I also want to thank him for his years of service to the people of Ontario.

Our government is stepping up and investing in infrastructure and saying yes to building Ontario and providing municipalities with the funding they need to provide residents with the safe and reliable public infrastructure they need and deserve.

Earlier this month, our government released the 2021 Ontario Economic Outlook and Fiscal Review: Build Ontario. In it we reaffirmed our commitment to supporting small, rural and northern communities by increasing the amount of annual funding they are getting through the Ontario Community Infrastructure Fund, also known as OCIF. Over the next five years, we are investing an additional $1 billion in OCIF to help 424 communities to repair and modernize roads, bridges, drinking water, stormwater and waste water projects. That works out to an additional $200 million every year until 2026.

And we are not stopping there. To continue supporting the growth of our province and our communities, we have also gone so—


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

Mr. Bill Walker: Thank you to the parliamentary assistant—who is looking very GQ today—for his response and dedication to supporting critical infrastructure projects in my great riding of Bruce–Grey–Owen Sound and across the province. I am proud to be part of a government that is taking appropriate measures to ensure our small, rural and northern communities are getting the attention and the funding they deserve.

Municipalities in my riding are repeatedly expressing their concerns over infrastructure backlogs, and stress the need to address critical projects such as replacing water mains, upgrading water treatment plants, resurfacing roads and so much more. Ontario’s municipalities continue to face financial restraints when preparing their budgets and are concerned they will be forced to cut back on their infrastructure capital projects and reduce services to stay within their budgets. These municipalities are calling for further financial support to work through their project backlogs so they can provide their residents with infrastructure that is safe, reliable and more resilient.

Mr. Speaker, we have done a lot as a government and will continue to do so, but I ask the parliamentary assistant, through you: What does this investment mean for the people of Ontario?


Mr. Amarjot Sandhu: Thanks again to the member for another great question. Unlike the repeated noes and flip-flopping on policies we have seen from previous governments, our government has created a detailed and comprehensive plan that supports infrastructure projects throughout the province. To provide additional support for our municipalities to address financial restraints during the pandemic, our government stepped up and created the COVID-19 resilience infrastructure stream of the Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program. From Kenora to Chatham-Kent and Essex to Glengarry, our government is ensuring the people of Ontario have access to the safe and reliable infrastructure they need and deserve.

When it comes to Ontario’s infrastructure, we are not leaving any stone unturned. We are investing $148 billion over the period of the next 10 years. We are building new schools. We are building new hospitals. Most importantly, we are connecting Ontarians, providing them with a high-speed Internet connection and making sure that every household in the province of Ontario will have access to high-speed Internet by 2025.

LONG-TERM CARE


Miss Monique Taylor: My question is for the Premier. The Minister of Long-Term Care recently came to Hamilton and announced provincial funding for several for-profit long-term-care homes. The minister left out Macassa Lodge, which is in my riding, from his announcement—a municipally run not-for-profit home with a request to upgrade 44 existing beds. Only one not-for-profit home was included in the minister’s announcement. This is unacceptable and quite obvious of where this government’s priorities lie.

1110

Seniors in my riding need access to upgraded, quality long-term-care-home beds now. Will the Premier commit to providing funding to Macassa Lodge so they can make the necessary upgrades to the 44 existing beds?


The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): To reply, the government House leader.

Hon. Paul Calandra: The member is right: Ontario seniors have needed access to quality long-term care for a very long time in this province—in fact, for decades. That is why we are endeavouring to ensure that over 30,000 new long-term-care beds are built across the province of Ontario, upgrading an additional 28,000 in what is the largest upgrade and building of new long-term-care beds in the history of the country.

She is quite correct: We were in Hamilton, making an announcement for a number of new and upgraded beds in Hamilton. We’ve built, are committed to building and are in the pipeline more beds in Hamilton alone than were built by the previous two Liberal administrations, and for a number of those years supported, of course, by the NDP. So there is good news for Hamilton, good news for Ontarians, and it’s long overdue.


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

Miss Monique Taylor: Speaker, Ontarians need access to quality, not-for-profit long-term care—which you have heard the government minister not deny—beds that are safe and of quality and that are good enough for our parents and grandparents. That is the only quality that we should be looking at, and that should not be lost on for-profit. It is shameful that this government continues to refuse to recognize this—although we shouldn’t be surprised, considering last year this government announced that over half of the new long-term-care homes being built in Ontario would be for-profit. They have a crusade against public health care, and this needs to end.

Can the Premier promise that his government will only fund not-for-profit long-term-care homes in Ontario from here on out?


Hon. Paul Calandra: Of course, we’ll work with providers to ensure that our seniors have access to the best quality health care and long-term care possible.

I do note, of course, that in the member’s riding, Macassa Lodge actually has been approved for additional beds. She might not have known that, because she missed the announcement—

Interjection.


The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Order. Member for Hamilton Mountain, come to order.

Hon. Paul Calandra: Grace Villa, 192 upgraded beds; Shalom Manor, a not-for-profit, 128 beds; in the member for Hamilton Centre’s riding, 128 new and 128 upgraded beds at Baywoods Place; 34 new and 126 upgraded beds at Parkview Nursing Centre; 160 redeveloped beds at Dundurn Place; in addition, over $2.4 million—

Interjection.


The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): The member for Hamilton Mountain must come to order.

Hon. Paul Calandra: I know they’re going to try to shut it down, but listen to this, Speaker: over $2.4 million in new funding for new staff in the Leader of the Opposition’s riding and $15 million more in annual funding on top of the $2.3 million in the member’s riding—

Interjections.


The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): I’m going to remind the House that when the Speaker calls you to order, you must come to order. If you don’t, I’ll call you out by name, and if you still don’t, you’ll be warned. And if you still don’t, you might be able to go home early.

The next question.

MEMBER’S CONDUCT


Mrs. Belinda C. Karahalios: My question is for the Premier. On Tuesday, the minute I left this chamber, and without notice to me, the PC government tabled a motion to condemn the member for Lanark–Frontenac–Kingston for inflammatory social media posts encouraging people to engage in conduct that this government has repeatedly claimed they disapprove of. But what the government won’t say is that the actions of the member in question have been funded by this government for months through changes in election laws which provide this member, for the first time ever in Ontario’s history, a riding association with an annual taxpayer subsidy of $66,000—and the governing party granted itself $5.9 million per year in the same deal.

If the government opposes the member’s actions, why don’t they stop sponsoring the political operations for him and all MPPs by cancelling the per-vote subsidy for all members in this Legislature, which has cost taxpayers more than $100 million in 10 years?


The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): And to reply for the government, the government House leader.

Hon. Paul Calandra: I am sure you can appreciate that it is not my job, as government House leader, to monitor the attendance of the members of the House. This chamber sits most days from 9 o’clock till about 6:40, and it is the expectation that if members are interested in the proceedings of this House, they will attend to this House. I will endeavour to tell the honourable member that, in future, if the member is concerned about motions that may be coming forward or the work of this House, the best place to hear about that is in this chamber itself.

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

Mrs. Belinda C. Karahalios: In justifying the government’s most recent emergency measures and the Premier’s seal of approval for Justin Trudeau’s, the Premier called the Ottawa protest an “illegal occupation.” But those in Ottawa who were trying to lead a safe withdrawal of the protest and to safely negotiate with the city were hijacked by the government’s own agent provocateur, the member from Lanark. It was reported by one of the leading protesters that the member from Lanark–Frontenac–Kingston encouraged the convoy to talk to the mayor of Ottawa, but once the talks became public, the member said they were abandoning the protesters, thus making the possibility of a peaceful withdrawal impossible. In fact, the Premier’s own first chief of staff was reportedly in the back talking to all leaders involved.

Can this government tell us how many other sponsored actors it has infiltrating peaceful protest movements, with the job of sabotaging the efforts, so the government can use the actions of its own agents as justification for imposing authoritarian measures on all Ontarians?


The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): I’m going to caution the member on her use of language, and allow the government House leader to respond.

Hon. Paul Calandra: Mr. Speaker, we just talked yesterday about the importance of elevating the level of debate around this place, of people on both sides—the opposition and the government, frankly—better understanding what happened in Ottawa, what happened at some of these protests. We were all very clear. We spoke unanimously on the fact that the aims of the protest leaders to overthrow a democratically elected government were not something that any of us could ever support. In fact, they were idiotic, and we all stood up against that.

But within that protest movement there were other people who had other concerns: the cost of living, the cost of fuel, the carbon tax, other issues that impact some of the things that we are doing, the mandates. We all talked and we all said that we had to find a better way of communicating so that all people feel part of the decision-making process.

So I would ask the honourable member to reflect on the question that she just asked and ask how that can help elevate the level of debate in this place. This House spoke unanimously yesterday when it came to the member for Lanark, and I am proud of how this House reacted to that member and the nonsense that he has been spewing.

WOMEN IN SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY


Ms. Natalia Kusendova: Before I ask my question this morning, I would like to add my voice in categorically condemning Putin’s unprovoked aggression and invasion of the sovereign nation of Ukraine. In speaking with my family in Poland this morning, I learned that the situation is extremely tense as Poland prepares humanitarian aid, shelters and resources to accept Ukrainian refugees. I believe I speak for members of this House in expressing our solidarity with the people of Ukraine and in calling on Putin to get out of Ukraine.

My question is to the Associate Minister of Digital Government. As you know, February 11 was the International Day of Women and Girls in Science, a day to recognize the crucial role of women and girls in advancing science and technology. In acknowledgment of this important day and being an advocate for women in the tech sector, I understand Minister Rasheed hosted a “helping women in tech to succeed” round table. Speaker, through you to the Associate Minister of Digital Government: What topics were discussed and what next steps will be taken to support women and girls in tech?


The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): The government House leader.

Hon. Paul Calandra: Speaker, I just wanted to reflect on the first part of the member’s question. Again, as the leader of the Green Party and each of the leaders in this place have highlighted, the actions that have been taken by Russia are completely unacceptable. We will continue to stand with the people of Ukraine, understanding how important it is to the Ukrainian diaspora here in Ontario and across this country that we continue to do that.

1120

At the same time, I do reflect on the fact that the Minister of Labour and immigration just this morning also reiterated Ontario’s openness to working with and helping the federal government, looking at ways that we can better settle immigrants from Ukraine to Ontario as quickly as possible. I thank the honourable member for that question, and again thank all the members of the House for their statements earlier.


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

Ms. Natalia Kusendova: Thank you to the House leader for acknowledging the gravity of the situation.

Back to the Associate Minister of Digital Government: Recruiting and keeping talented people, especially women and girls, in Ontario’s tech sector is a priority for our government. As you know, Ontario is committed to being a leader in the tech sector, and I am interested in hearing the feedback participants provided.

To the Associate Minister of Digital Government: What information was gathered and how will the input received assist the government going forward? This round table was very informative and highlights just how important it is to continue building an inclusive and diverse workforce.


The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): The Associate Minister of Digital Government.

Hon. Kaleed Rasheed: Thank you to the member for Mississauga Centre for the question. Mr. Speaker, the member is correct. As a father of three daughters, I’m a strong advocate for not only women in tech but also about seeing women advance in the workplace.

I recently invited my colleagues Minister Dunlop and Minister McKenna, as well as Ontario’s chief digital and data officer, Hillary Hartley, to host a “helping women in tech to succeed” round table. Eight leaders in Ontario’s tech sector joined our virtual event. It was important to discuss how our government can partner with the tech sector to encourage even more women to get involved in the STEM field and build their careers right here in Ontario.

PHARMACEUTICAL INDUSTRY


Mrs. Jennifer (Jennie) Stevens: Ontario’s one and only local manufacturer of injectable oncology drugs is at risk in St. Catharines. This is because, unfortunately, hospitals in this province mostly buy their drugs through large group-purchasing organizations—huge entities that deal with billions of dollars of taxpayers’ money with no oversight. Last month, HealthPRO, the biggest of these groups, told Biolyse it could not bid to sell their products in Canada because of a contract dispute, effectively putting their 25 years of producing medicine in Canada and 25 years of creating good-paying jobs in St. Catharines at risk. This is not building medicine manufacturing capacity in Ontario. This is going backwards.

Through you, Speaker, is the Premier going to at least respond to this company with many unanswered letters, because this situation has gone from a contract disagreement to a destructive force that could ruin a really good local Ontario company?


The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Before I ask the minister to reply, we have some trouble with the clock, but I’ve got my watch, so no problem. Don’t worry. I’ll be watching carefully.

Minister of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade.


Hon. Victor Fedeli: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I’ll keep it short and sweet, then, so you don’t have to check your watch.

While we don’t get involved in corporate contract disputes, we continue to encourage the company to deal with Health Canada to make certain that they have met all of the regulations.

But I can tell you, to your comment about manufacturing in Ontario, when we first saw the pandemic, we realized very little of our pandemic requirements are made in Ontario. We invested $100 million. We ended up with 45 projects, $187 million by companies was invested, and we have continued to reduce our dependence on foreign-made PPE, including injectables, and we will continue with the $100-million Ontario Together Fund that we have in existence.


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

Mrs. Jennifer (Jennie) Stevens: Back to the Premier: The diluted chemo drug report made it clear that a lot of public money goes to kick back to group-purchasing agencies. The idea of having public money being kicked back to a private organization does not sit very well with me. We talk about supply chain issues with medicine, and Biolyse has been a company with 25 years of experience producing medicine for the Canadian market. They have come to the rescue. When other chemo drug manufacturers let us down, they saved the day for cancer patients.

Speaker, I hear the Premier talk today about made-in-Ontario vaccines and medicines. However, allowing a drug procurement system with no oversight that can put a nearly-three-decade company at risk of closing puts in question this government’s priorities. The purchasing groups are more interested in making money on their kickbacks than making sure the supply chains for cancer medication are strong.

Will the Premier bring oversight and accountability to group purchasing agencies?


Hon. Victor Fedeli: Again, I would encourage the company to continue to deal with Health Canada, who monitors our pharmaceutical sector.

But I can tell you that back to when the pandemic first began we saw very little PPE being made here in Ontario. We’re very proud to be able to say that now, as of today, 74% of all PPE purchased by the province of Ontario—that’s almost from zero to now 74%—is made domestically, and almost all of it is made right here in Ontario. I would encourage the member across the aisle, through the bill that the Associate Minister of Small Business and Red Tape Reduction presented just this week that has a section in it called BOBi, the Building Ontario Business Initiative—that she continue to support that initiative which supports made-in-Ontario companies.

ASSISTANCE TO BUSINESSES


Mme Lucille Collard: Mr. Speaker, until we hear about the details of the government’s plan to help the people of Ottawa who have suffered from 24 days of occupation, I will continue to stand up for the people of Ottawa–Vanier and to rise in this House to ask the same question. I want this government to fully understand the enormous economic cost of this illegal occupation that was allowed to go on for way too long in Ottawa. In my riding alone, that means 1,000 businesses that were impacted by the occupation; $200 million in lost business revenue and $30 million in costs to the municipality. These costs and these losses could have been mitigated if the Premier had taken action instead of waiting and letting down the people of Ottawa.

My question to the Premier is, will the Premier admit that he needs to pay his share for the costs of the occupation in Ottawa?


The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): To reply, the parliamentary assistant, the member for Brantford–Brant.

Mr. Will Bouma: Thank you for that question. I very much appreciate it. I can completely understand the difficulty that businesses and individuals have had throughout Ottawa. I’ve heard some of those stories and I very much feel for the people there, as does the Minister of Finance. I think we’ve demonstrated since the beginning of the pandemic that we have been there for individuals and businesses. But we also recognize that the situation in Ottawa is extremely, extremely unique. That’s why we are working on this issue, and I hope to be able to bring more forward soon.

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

Mme Lucille Collard: Ontario Liberals representing the Ottawa area are calling for the government to provide substantive support to our city now. There was nothing of that in the first part of the answer.

If the government doesn’t know where to start, we have provided specific recommendations: match the federal support for businesses; forgive hydro charges that businesses have incurred while they were forced to close; cover policing fees that have been forced on the city; call for an inquiry into how the situation was allowed to deteriorate into flagrant lawlessness; and, most importantly, this government should be financially supporting workers who lost wages during the whole occupation period. Will the government follow our advice and provide urgently needed support to Ottawa?


Mr. Will Bouma: Again, thank you for reiterating the importance of the support that the businesses and individuals in Ottawa need. I was very encouraged to see the support program announced by the federal government. While it was a quick announcement, what I did not see in it was exactly how it would be rolling out. I think it’s very important, as we have in the past as we’ve supported businesses and individuals through COVID, that we also have a very clear sense of what will happen, how it will happen and who should be eligible because we don’t want to see any assistance going the wrong way. That’s why we are working on this, and we hope to be able to announce something soon.

1130

Again, thank you for the question, and I look forward to being able to say more.

SERVICE FEES


Mr. Michael Parsa: My question is to the Minister of Government and Consumer Services. When meeting with members of my community, I often hear how costly life has become for individuals, families and especially those affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. The last thing Ontarians need right now is to worry about spending more money and extra time away from their jobs or loved ones just to renew their licence plate stickers.

Speaker, through you to the minister, could he please explain to this House how the recent decision to eliminate licence plate renewal fees and the requirement to have licence plate stickers will benefit all Ontarians?


Hon. Ross Romano: Speaker, through you to the great member for Aurora–Oak Ridges–Richmond Hill, thank you for the question. By eliminating licence plate stickers and those renewal fees, we’re saving people money: $120 back in your pocket for every motor vehicle that you have registered on the road in southern Ontario, and $60 per vehicle in northern Ontario. This is eight million vehicle owners across all of the province.

It’s a very, very stark contrast to the former Liberal Party with then-Minister of Transportation, now leader, Steven Del Duca, who actually increased drivers’ fees. Mr. Del Duca put his hand deeper into your pocket. We’re actually taking our hands out. We’re putting money back into people’s pockets and giving money back to the people of this province. We’re putting it back in their pockets because we’re about saying yes, Mr. Speaker. We’re not about saying no, like the party of no and, obviously, their friends led by Mr. Del Duca.


The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Supplementary.

Mr. Michael Parsa: I really appreciate the answer provided by the minister. Speaker, this announcement presents a great opportunity for millions of people across the province to create additional savings after two challenging years. My constituents and many Ontarians want to know more. Speaker, through you, can the minister explain how Ontarians can expect to get a refund for their licence plate sticker payments and where can they access additional information on this program?

Hon. Ross Romano: Thank you again for the question, to our member from Aurora–Oak Ridges–Richmond Hill. I think it’s a very good question. It’s very important that we make sure—we want to be able to get a refund and the refund is going to be for any registrations that you paid right back to March 1, 2020, so two years’ worth. If you paid for, let’s say, two vehicles, $120 a vehicle for two years, you’ll get $480 back.

But we need to make sure we have your proper address, so please visit Ontario.ca/addresschange so we can verify your address and you can get your cheque in the mail, or you can call 1-888-333-0049. Please call by March 7, 2022, so we can process those cheques.

Mr. Speaker, if I may say, just as a last piece to the member opposite, this isn’t just about putting more money in your pocket, but the convenience. I, for one, am extremely happy that I won’t have to change a sticker on my licence plate anymore.

ANTI-SEMITISM


Ms. Jill Andrew: My question is to the Minister of Education. Minister, residents of my community in Toronto–St. Paul’s, Jewish Ontarians and allies across the province are deeply disturbed by the escalating incidents of anti-Semitism in our schools. Students performing the Nazi salute, anti-Semitic graffiti like what Beth Sholom Synagogue in our community experienced last year, and a teacher comparing COVID-19 vaccine mandates to the yellow Star of David that Jewish people were forced to wear during the Holocaust are all part of a traumatic pattern of anti-Semitism harming Jewish students, families and our educators.

Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center and other Jewish community leaders have called for an emergency board-level investigation into anti-Semitism in our TDSB schools. What is the Minister of Education doing to support this request for an emergency investigation?


Hon. Stephen Lecce: I want to thank the member opposite for the question. I absolutely agree that the rise of anti-Semitism is disturbing. It is the fastest-growing hate crime reported in Canada year over year, and the first principle is that we, as legislators, must acknowledge what is transpiring: that there is hatred against Jews transpiring in schools and communities and in workplaces in Canada. We have to acknowledge that as the first principle, and be decisive in denouncing it and combatting it, which is exactly why we partnered with the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies and the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs for the second year in a row, for the first time in Ontario history, to strengthen Holocaust education so that students are ambassadors and allies when it comes to combatting this age-old hate and so that they learn from history never to repeat it.

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): And the supplementary.

Ms. Jill Andrew: Of course, we must move away from awareness alone; there have to also be mandatory changes.

My question is back to the Minister of Education. Last month, Liberation75 released a study showing that approximately one out of three students were unsure—unsure—about the Holocaust, thought the Holocaust was exaggerated or, frankly, didn’t think it happened at all. The study also found that 40% of students were learning about the Holocaust through social media. The Holocaust was the mass genocide of over six million Jewish folks—six million—and other marginalized people.

Liberation75, Jewish community organizations and educators have long called for Holocaust education to be a mandatory part of our curriculum that moves beyond just awareness, and not at the teacher’s discretion. Only the provincial government can make that change. We must address the escalating anti-Semitism. Will the minister recognize this long-standing call for action and make Holocaust education a mandatory part of the school curriculum today?


Hon. Stephen Lecce: We accept that anti-Semitism must come to an end. The rise of hate affecting Jewish students and educators and families is honestly deeply disturbing for all of us. I think leading by example is the reason why, two years ago, we started an investment working with Jewish community leaders to help empower and educate all Canadians, all citizens in this province. When it comes to Holocaust education, we strongly support further strengthening and mandating Holocaust education.

You mentioned Liberation75; the lead of it is Marilyn Sinclair, who happens to be a constituent, someone I’ve met with consistently over the past years. I have assured her we will work with her in advance of the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, which is the basis of that organization, to embed education learning on the Holocaust to make sure that students are aware of what transpired, the human history, the devastation, and the evil that has happened in the last century, so that we seek to avoid it in the coming years.

COVID-19 IMMUNIZATION


Mr. Rick Nicholls: Speaker, my question, through you, is to the Minister of Health. Often, the minister claims that vaccines are safe and effective. Respectfully, people are telling me that that line is getting a little old. First, it was two weeks to flatten the curve. That was two years ago. And here we are, basically four lockdowns later: Thousands of small businesses have closed or are on the verge of closing, and students, some of whom you’d never expect, are suffering from mental health issues, including contemplating suicide.

When the vaccines were introduced, everyone thought that once they got the jabs, everything would be okay, but it wasn’t. Many ended up with either short-, mid- or, in some cases, long-term adverse effects. Then the new variants were identified, Delta and Omicron: more panic, more jabs. Recently, Dr. Moore stated boosters don’t cure Omicron. So why take the boosters?

Minister, will you follow the new science and Dr. Moore’s advice, convince the Premier that it’s time to end all mandates and open everything up? Premier Ford says that he’s done with it. The people are done with it. So, Minister, together, let’s—


The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Thank you.

Minister of Health?


Hon. Christine Elliott: As the member will know, we already have a plan for reopening Ontario. Two steps have already been taken, and on March 1, if the Omicron numbers continue to go down, we will be able to take that step to, again, cautiously and gradually, open up Ontario.

But to suggest that the mandates are of no use is not correct. Dr. Moore has always indicated, as has the Premier, to please get vaccinated. It’s important for your health and for the health of people that you care about. Unvaccinated people are six times more likely to have to enter hospital if they contract COVID, and 12 times more likely to end up in intensive care, with the result that sometimes happens: People do lose their lives.

1140

The vaccination has been proven to be effective. It continues to be effective. It saves people, and I encourage anyone who hasn’t had their vaccination yet—first, second or booster—to please do so now.


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

Mr. Rick Nicholls: Back to the minister: Recently, the UK government admitted that vaccines have damaged the natural immune system of the double-vaccinated, stating that they will never again be able to acquire full immunity to COVID variants, or possibly any other virus. Vaccines did not prevent infection or transmission of the virus. The British have found that the vaccine interferes with the body’s ability to make antibodies after infection, not only against the spike protein, but also against other parts of the virus. In the long term, the vaccinated are far more susceptible to any mutations in the spike protein, even if they have already been infected and cured once or more.

Now that far more research and clinical testing has been done, Minister, will you reconsider your previous statements and, based on new information, put a stop to further boosters? After all, the life you save could even be your own.


Hon. Christine Elliott: The short answer is no. No, we are not going to change our policies with respect to vaccination. The view that you’ve just indicated is contrary to the view of the vast majority of scientists and specialist epidemiologists around the world. That is contrary to the views of NACI, Health Canada, Dr. Moore, the science advisory table and all of the medical experts who are advising us in Ontario. Vaccinations have saved thousands of lives in Ontario, and there is no change to vaccination policy that we’re contemplating.

HEALTH CARE FUNDING


Mr. Terence Kernaghan: Speaker, my question is to the Premier. Long wait-lists and placing arbitrary surgery caps was a callous cost-cutting measure by the previous Liberal government which forced countless seniors to live their life in agony. Constant pain changes a person. It changes their personality. Orthopedic surgeons have their hands tied. They were willing and able to complete the surgeries, but the Liberal government didn’t want to pay for it.

Now, as a result of the COVID pandemic, people will wait almost three years for knee replacements, two years for cataract surgeries, and a year and a half for hip replacements. It’s unacceptable. Will this government invest today and stop forcing people to live in agony?


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

Hon. Christine Elliott: Well, the short answer is, of course, yes, we have made those investments. There is good news here, despite the nature of the question. We’ve recently been able to lift directive 2, which required the postponement of many surgeries and procedures for many people who, as you’ve indicated, have been waiting for orthopedic procedures, cancer surgeries, cardiac surgeries and so on.

But we have put the money into assistance. We are allowing those surgeries to proceed. Many hospitals now are able to proceed with up to 90% of their 2019 surgeries, if they have the space and if they are still able to take patients from other hospitals where they need that relief. We have put $5.1 billion into creating another 3,100 hospital spaces, first to cover COVID patients, but now to continue to remain open, in order to be able to serve the patients who have been waiting for a long period of time to have those orthopedic procedures done, as well as cancer surgeries and cardiac surgeries. We are putting the money into those investments, because we know—


The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Thank you.

The supplementary question.


Mr. Terence Kernaghan: Back to the Premier: Speaker, allowing these procedures to proceed is different than making a solid investment to make sure to catch up with the backlog. It’s unfortunate that we always hear these procedures called “elective” when we’re talking about people living in excruciating pain.

Cancer screening and treatment have also been seeing much longer wait times. Oncologists like Dr. Joseph Chin at London Health Sciences Centre have called for more operating time, stating that patients who should be treated within 12 weeks of diagnosis might wait several months, and some patients might miss the window in which surgery is a viable treatment.

Furthermore, nurses play a vital role in reducing surgical wait times. This government needs to support them and rip up Bill 124.

Will this government listen to the calls from patients, doctors, the RNAO, the Ontario Medical Association and the Ontario Nurses’ Association to distribute more funding, hire more nurses and strengthen home care, so that people get the treatment they urgently need?


Hon. Christine Elliott: Well, with the lifting of directive 2, we are now investing in all of those procedures, some of which had to be postponed during the COVID pandemic, when the numbers were very high. But we’ve also already reinstituted the cancer screenings, pediatric surgeries and others; and we’ve also made the investments to allow that to happen faster. We invested $300 million last year in order to allow surgeries to happen more frequently on weekends and in the evenings. We’ve put another $200 million into that—$500 million to allow people to get those services, to get those surgeries that they need.

As for people who had life-threatening conditions such as, perhaps, a cardiac surgery or cancer surgery, we did that triage to make sure that people who needed it immediately were able to get it, and now we are bumping up. We’ve put the money into hospitals. We’ve put the money into operating times. We have a comprehensive health human resource strategy so that the people of Ontario can get their—


The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Thank you. Next question.

CHILD CARE


Mlle Amanda Simard: My question is to the Premier. But first, yesterday, Vladimir Putin began a full-scale invasion, an unprovoked war on Ukraine, on democracy and the international rules-based order that protects us all. I join with all members of this House and stand with the Ukrainian Canadian community and the people of Ukraine.

Mr. Speaker, my question to the government today: February 24, 2022, almost a year since it was first offered by the feds, 72 days before the election is called—when will this government stop denying the people of Ontario $10-a-day child care?


The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): To respond, the Minister of Education.

Hon. Stephen Lecce: For 15 years, the Liberal Party denied Ontario families affordable child care, increased it by 400%—40% above the national average. Who in this Legislature believes the Del Duca Liberals have any credibility on affordability? You had an opportunity. Speaker, they had an opportunity to vote for $1.8 billion—$1,000 on average—in direct financial payment, e-transfer into the accounts of families during this pandemic. You voted against that. You had the opportunity to support affordability. You had the opportunity to build child care spaces. You did none of it, but our Premier is fighting and standing up for this province for the best deal for the people of Ontario.

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

BUSINESS OF THE HOUSE


The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): I’m advised that the government House leader has a point of order that he wishes to raise.

Hon. Paul Calandra: Yes, Speaker, just to rise on standing order 59 to outline the order of business for next week for colleagues.

On Monday afternoon we will begin with opposition day number 1, which is on surgical backlogs.

On Tuesday, March 1: A motion on the standing order changes, and before question period there will be a tribute to a former member, Dr. Stuart Smith. Of course, thank you to all colleagues. It is certainly nice to be able to honour our former colleagues again. In the afternoon we will move to Bill 84—the fewer fees, better government act—and in the evening PMB ballot item 25, standing in the name of the member for St. Catharines, which is private member’s notice of motion number 13.

On Wednesday, March 2, in the morning, we will continue on with the motion on the standing order changes. In the afternoon, it will be Bill 84—again, fewer fees, better government act. In the evening it will be PMB ballot item 26, standing in the name of the member for Kitchener Centre, which is Bill 67, the Racial Equity in the Education System Act.

On Thursday, March 3: In the morning and afternoon sessions a bill which will be introduced early next week will be debated, and in the evening we will move forward to PMB ballot item number 27.

top | new search