The House met at 0900.


The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Let us pray.

Prayers.

ROYAL ASSENT / SANCTION ROYALE


The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): I beg to inform the House that in the name of Her Majesty the Queen, Her Honour the Lieutenant Governor has been pleased to assent to a certain bill in her office.

The Deputy Clerk (Mr. Trevor Day): The following is the title of the bill to which Her Honour did assent:

An Act to amend various Acts to address the coronavirus (COVID-19) / Loi modifiant diverses lois pour lutter contre le coronavirus (COVID-19).

SOCIAL DISTANCING IN THE CHAMBER


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

Hon. Paul Calandra: Mr. Speaker, I seek unanimous consent that for the remainder of the spring meeting period, provided for in standing order 7(a)(i), members be permitted to speak and vote from any member’s desk in the chamber in order to observe recommended physical distancing.

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): The government House leader is seeking the unanimous consent of the House to allow members to sit wherever they like for the purposes of voting or speaking, to observe the recommended physical distance recommendations of the medical officer of health. Agreed? Agreed.

INTRODUCTION OF MEMBERS FOR OTTAWA–VANIER AND ORLÉANS / PRÉSENTATION DES DÉPUTÉS D’OTTAWA–VANIER ET D’ORLÉANS


The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): I beg to inform the House that the Clerk has received from the Chief Electoral Officer and laid upon the table certificates of the by-elections in the electoral districts of Orléans and Ottawa–Vanier.

The Clerk of the Assembly (Mr. Todd Decker): Certificates of by-elections are dated March 13, 2020, and read as follows:

“Mr. Todd Decker

“Clerk of the Legislative Assembly

“Legislative Building

“Room 104

“111 Wellesley Street West

“Queen’s Park

“Toronto ...

“Dear Mr. Decker:

“A writ of election dated the twenty-ninth day of January, 2020, was issued by the Honourable Lieutenant Governor of the province of Ontario, and was addressed to Richard Lalonde, returning officer for the electoral district of Orléans, for the election of a member to represent the said electoral district of Orléans in the Legislative Assembly of this province in the room of Marie-France Lalonde who, since her election as representative of the said electoral district of Orléans, has resigned her seat. This is to certify that, a poll having been granted and held in Orléans on the twenty-seventh day of February, 2020, Stephen Blais has been returned as duly elected as appears by the return of the said writ of election, dated the third day of March, 2020, which is now lodged of record in my office.

“A writ of election dated the twenty-ninth day of January, 2020, was issued by the Honourable Lieutenant Governor of the province of Ontario, and was addressed to Allen Fournier, returning officer for the electoral district of Ottawa–Vanier, for the election of a member to represent the said electoral district of Ottawa–Vanier in the Legislative Assembly of this province in the room of Nathalie Des Rosiers who, since her election as representative of the said electoral district of Ottawa–Vanier, has resigned her seat. This is to certify that, a poll having been granted and held in Ottawa–Vanier on the twenty-seventh day of February, 2020, Lucille Collard has been returned as duly elected, as now appears by the return of the said writ of election dated the third day of March, 2020, which is now lodged of record in my office.

“Yours sincerely,

“Greg Essensa

“Chief Electoral Officer.”

Mr. Blais was escorted into the House by Mr. Fraser.


M. John Fraser: Monsieur le Président, j’ai l’honneur de vous présenter, ainsi qu’à la Chambre, Stephen Blais, député de la circonscription électorale d’Orléans, qui a prêté serment et signé les registres et réclame maintenant le droit de siéger.

Speaker, I have the honour to present to you and to the House Stephen Blais, member-elect for the electoral district of Orléans, who has taken the oath and has signed the roll and now claims the right to take his seat.


The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Let the honourable member take his seat.

Mme Collard was escorted into the House by Mr. Fraser.


M. John Fraser: Monsieur le Président, j’ai l’honneur de vous présenter, ainsi qu’à la Chambre, Lucille Collard, députée de la circonscription électorale d’Ottawa–Vanier, qui a prêté serment et signé les registres et réclame maintenant le droit de siéger.

Speaker, I have the honour to present to you and to the House Lucille Collard, member-elect for the electoral district of Ottawa–Vanier, who has taken the oath and signed the roll and now claims the right to take her seat.


The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Let the honourable member take her seat.

Congratulations and welcome.

EXTENSION OF EMERGENCY DECLARATION


The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): I’ll recognize the government House leader.

Hon. Paul Calandra: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I seek unanimous consent that the motion to extend the period of emergency, as recommended to the Speaker by the Premier in his letter dated May 11, 2020, be permitted to be called today and moved without notice; and

That when the order is called, 100 minutes shall be allotted to the debate on the motion with 20 minutes allotted to the government, 20 minutes to the official opposition, 20 minutes to the independent Liberal members as a group, 20 minutes to the independent Green member, and 20 minutes to the member for Lanark–Frontenac–Kingston (Mr. Hillier), at the end of which time the Speaker shall interrupt the proceedings and put the question without further debate or amendment; and

That in the case of any division related to any proceedings on this motion, the division bell shall be limited to five minutes.


The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): The House leader is seeking the unanimous consent of the House that the motion to extend the period of emergency, as recommended to the Speaker by the Premier in his letter dated May 11, 2020, be permitted to be called today and moved without notice; and

That when the order is called, 100 minutes shall be allotted to the debate on the motion, with 20 minutes allotted to the government, 20 minutes to the official opposition, 20 minutes to the independent Liberal members as a group, 20 minutes to the independent Green member, and 20 minutes to the member for Lanark–Frontenac–Kingston (Mr. Hillier), at the end of which time the Speaker shall interrupt the proceedings and put the question without further debate or amendment; and

That in the case of any division related to any proceedings on this motion, the division bell shall be limited to five minutes.

Agreed? Agreed.

INTRODUCTION OF BILLS


The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Once again, I’ll recognize the government House leader.

Hon. Paul Calandra: Mr. Speaker, I seek unanimous consent for one government bill to be introduced at this time.

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): The government House leader is seeking the unanimous consent of the House to present one government bill at this time. Agreed? Agreed.

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The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Once again, the government House leader.

COVID-19 RESPONSE AND REFORMS TO MODERNIZE ONTARIO ACT, 2020 / LOI DE 2020 SUR LES MESURES EN RÉPONSE À LA COVID-19 ET LES RÉFORMES VISANT À MODERNISER L’ONTARIO

Mr. Calandra moved first reading of the following bill:

Bill 190, An Act to enact one Act and amend various Acts in respect of COVID-19 and to make other amendments / Projet de loi 190, Loi édictant une loi et modifiant diverses lois en ce qui a trait à la COVID-19 et apportant d’autres modifications.


The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? Carried.

First reading agreed to.


The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Would the minister care to explain his bill?

Hon. Paul Calandra: I will wait until debate, Mr. Speaker.

ORDER OF BUSINESS


The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Once again, I recognize the government House leader.

Hon. Paul Calandra: Sorry, unanimous consent is what we’re looking for, Mr. Speaker. I apologize. This is a rather long one, so hopefully you will bear with me.

Speaker, I seek unanimous consent to put forward a motion without notice respecting the organization of the business of the House for today and for the next several weeks.


The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Once again, the government House leader is seeking the unanimous consent of the House to put forward a motion without notice respecting the organization of the business of the House for today and for the next several weeks. Agreed? Agreed.

Once again, the government House leader.


Hon. Paul Calandra: I move that for today’s meeting, and for the remainder of the spring meeting period provided for in standing order 7(a)(i), the proceeding “Introduction of Visitors” shall be suspended; and

That the Speaker shall apportion questions during question period as follows:

Question one, official opposition, supplementary, supplementary;

Question two, official opposition, supplementary, supplementary;

Question three, official opposition, supplementary;

Question four, government, supplementary;

Question five, official opposition, supplementary;

Question six, independent, supplementary;

Question seven, independent, supplementary;

Question eight, official opposition, supplementary;

Question nine, independent, supplementary;

Question 10, official opposition, supplementary;

Question 11, official opposition, supplementary;

Question 12, independent, supplementary;

Question 13, official opposition, supplementary;

Question 14, government, supplementary;

Question 15, official opposition, supplementary;

Question 16, official opposition, supplementary;

Question 17 and remaining, rotation between official opposition and government, supplementary; and

That the afternoon routine shall commence at 1 p.m.; and

That following today’s sitting and notwithstanding any standing order, for the remainder of the spring meeting period the House shall meet on: Tuesday, May 19; Wednesday, May 20; Tuesday, May 26; Wednesday, May 27; Tuesday, June 2; Wednesday, June 3; and

That notwithstanding any standing order or special order of the House, the order for second reading of Bill 190, An Act to enact in respect of COVID-19 and modernizing reforms may be called today, and when that order is called, 45 minutes shall be allotted to the debate on the motion for second reading of the bill, with 15 minutes allotted to the government, 15 minutes allotted to the official opposition, and 15 minutes allotted to the independent members as a group, at the end of which time the Speaker shall interrupt and put every question necessary to dispose of this stage of the bill without further debate or amendment and at such time the bill shall be ordered for third reading; and

That the order for third reading of Bill 190 shall then immediately be called and the question shall be put on the motion for third reading of the bill without debate or amendment; and

That, should consideration of Bill 190 extend past 10:15 a.m., the Speaker shall delay the commencement of the morning routine accordingly; and

That, in the case of any division relating to any proceedings of the bill, the division bell shall be limited to five minutes; and

That, notwithstanding any standing order or special order of the House, the Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs, and all other committees when they are authorized to resume, pursuant to the order of the House dated March 19, 2020, are authorized to use electronic means of communication when meeting, and committee members, witnesses and/or staff are not required to be in one physical place, in accordance with the following guidelines:

(a) The electronic means of communication is approved by the Speaker;

(b) The meeting is held in a room in the Legislative Building, and at least the Chair/Acting Chair and the Clerk of the Committee are physically present;

(c) Other members of the committee participating by electronic means of communication whose identity and location within the province of Ontario have been verified by the Chair are deemed to be present and included in quorum;

(d) The Chair shall ensure that the standing orders and regular committee practices are observed to the greatest extent possible, making adjustments to committee procedures only where necessary to facilitate the physical distancing and electronic participation of members, witnesses and staff; and

That, notwithstanding the order of the House dated March 19, 2020, the Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs is authorized to meet at the call of the Chair to consider its order of reference dated March 25, 2020, respecting the Economic and Fiscal Update Act, 2020 (Bill 188); and

To study the impacts of the COVID-19 crisis on the following sectors of the economy and measures which will contribute to their recovery:

(a) tourism;

(b) culture and heritage;

(c) municipalities, construction and building;

(d) infrastructure;

(e) small and medium enterprises; and

(f) other economic sectors selected by the committee,

—The committee shall study Bill 188 and each specific economic sector for up to three weeks, with one additional week allotted for report writing for each;

—The subcommittee on committee business shall determine the method of proceeding on the study and, at its direction, may extend each sectoral study by one week where a public holiday may fall during the scheduled time for the sectoral study;

—The legislative research service shall make itself available to the committee collectively, and to the members of the committee individually, on a priority basis;

—That, in accordance with section 11(1) of the Financial Accountability Officer Act, the Financial Accountability Officer shall make the resources of his office available to the committee collectively, and to members of the committee individually, on a priority basis;

—The time for questioning witnesses shall be apportioned in equal blocks to each of the recognized parties and to the independent members as a group;

—The committee may present or, if the House is not sitting, may release by depositing with the Clerk of the House interim reports, and a copy of each interim report shall be provided by the committee to the Chair of the Ontario Jobs and Economic Recovery cabinet committee; and

—The committee shall present or, if the House is not sitting, shall release by depositing with the Clerk of the House its final report to the assembly by October 8, 2020, and a copy of the final report shall be provided by the committee to the Chair of the Ontario Jobs and Economic Recovery cabinet committee; and

That, notwithstanding standing orders 38(b), (c) and (d), the interim reports presented under this order of reference shall not be placed on the orders and notices paper for further consideration by the House, nor shall the government be required to table a comprehensive response; and

That, notwithstanding standing orders 116(a), (b) and (c), the membership of the Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs for the duration of its consideration of the order of reference provided for in this motion shall be:

Mr. Sandhu, Chair (subcommittee Chair);

Mr. Roberts, Vice-Chair;

Mr. Arthur;

Mr. Cho, Willowdale (subcommittee member);

Mr. Crawford;

Ms. Hunter (subcommittee member);

Mr. Mamakwa;

Mr. Piccini;

Mr. Schreiner;

Ms. Shaw (subcommittee member);

Ms. Skelly (subcommittee member);

Mr. Smith, Peterborough–Kawartha;

Ms. Andrew (non-voting member);

Mr. Blais (non-voting member);

Ms. Fife (non-voting member);

Mr. Hillier (non-voting member);

Ms. Khanjin (non-voting member);

Mr. Rasheed (non-voting member);

Mr. Vanthof (non-voting member); and

That, should the electronic participation of any voting member of the committee be temporarily interrupted as a result of technical issues, a non-voting member of the same party shall be permitted to cast a vote in their absence; and

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That this House acknowledges that, in accordance with the COVID-19 active screening protocol put in place by the Speaker, any person may be refused entry to the legislative precinct or any part thereof; and

This House acknowledges that members of the assembly are subject to the COVID-19 active screening protocol put in place by the Speaker; and

This House confers the sole and personal authority on the Speaker to refuse the entry of any member of the assembly, or any other person, to the legislative precinct, or any part thereof, pursuant to the COVID-19 active screening protocol; and

This House authorizes that any delegate of the Speaker may temporarily delay the entry of any member of the assembly to the legislative precinct, or any part thereof, pursuant to the COVID-19 active screening protocol, until such a time as the Speaker can be consulted in the specific matter; and

That the Speaker shall be immediately consulted on the delay of entry and potential refusal of any member of the assembly; and

That in each instance where the member of the assembly is delayed entry by a delegate of the Speaker, pursuant to the COVID-19 active screening protocol, the Speaker shall render a decision to refuse or allow entry of any member of the assembly to the legislative precinct, or any part thereof, and that the Speaker shall personally make this decision as soon as it is practicable; and

This House acknowledges that, in the foregoing provisions related to refusal or delay of entry of members of the assembly, that the Speaker is acting on behalf of this House and that this House authorizes the Speaker to act on its behalf until 11:59 p.m. on June 3, 2020 or such time as determined by a future order of the House.


The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): I recognize again the government House leader.

Hon. Paul Calandra: I would like to correct the title of Bill 190. It’s An Act to enact one Act and amend various Acts in respect of COVID-19 and to make other amendments.

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Mr. Calandra has moved that for today’s meeting—

Interjection: Dispense.

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Dispense? Dispense.

Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? Carried.

Motion agreed to.

ORDERS OF THE DAY

COVID-19 RESPONSE AND REFORMS TO MODERNIZE ONTARIO ACT, 2020 / LOI DE 2020 SUR LES MESURES EN RÉPONSE À LA COVID-19 ET LES RÉFORMES VISANT À MODERNISER L’ONTARIO

Mr. Calandra moved second reading of the following bill:

Bill 190, An Act to enact one Act and amend various Acts in respect of COVID-19 and to make other amendments / Projet de loi 190, Loi édictant une loi et modifiant diverses lois en ce qui a trait à la COVID-19 et apportant d’autres modifications.


The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Further debate? I’ll recognize the government House leader to lead it off.

Hon. Paul Calandra: I appreciate the patience of members in allowing me to get through that motion, and also just to acknowledge the efforts of members on all sides of the House to get to that motion over the last number of weeks.

I want to briefly, in a few minutes, highlight some of the things that have been happening over the last number of weeks that allowed us to get to this spot. I’ve been very grateful for the fact that the government has been able to proceed in a very quick fashion. I said this the last time that we were here, Mr. Speaker, that members on both sides have given the government the ability to move quickly and, at the same time, we’ve reciprocated by providing as much opportunity as is possible to allow the opposition to hold the government accountable. I think you’ll see, in that spirit, in today’s motion, as was just highlighted, the government has moved forward with proactive measures, which include providing four of our six questions to the opposition—two to the official opposition and two to the independent members.

In arriving at today’s bill that we brought before the House—which is another bill that I suspect—I hope—will receive unanimous consent and be passed by all of the House. I do appreciate that a little over six hours of consultation was put in place by the government House leader and the opposition House leader, and the leaders of the Green Party and the independent members, and the House leader for the Liberal Party, Mr. Speaker.

As I said the last time, Ontarians should be very confident that while we are moving quickly on a number of fronts, the official opposition and the opposition members have provided vigorous debate where needed. Leading up to this motion today, not only did we have a little over six hours of debate; we did have consultations that included over 25 officials from the various ministries that are part of today’s bill, which included both opposition House leaders. Members of the staff of the Leader of the Opposition were present at these consultations. As was the case with this bill, as has been the case with every bill that we’ve presented before the House, there were modifications to this bill. Some items were removed—temporarily removed—pending further consultation with opposition members. But, ultimately, we were able to arrive together at a consensus that I think we will be able to bring forward and pass together.

I want to just thank the public service for how quickly they’ve been able to turn around bills during this time of crisis. They have done an extraordinary job. And if I may be a little bit self-serving in congratulating all of the ministers, Mr. Speaker, in the sense that none of the bills that we’ve brought forward to this House have been other than COVID-related matters, and in instances where we did not agree, we all agreed to move them off the table pending further debate.

In this particular bill, specifically, there are a few items that have been brought forward by the minister of government services, which include extending some virtual powers, allowing for virtual meetings for corporate boards. There is another item that was brought forward by the Minister of Education, which would allow for school trustees to proceed with virtual meetings. This is something that was brought forward by the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing in an earlier order. Having consulted with municipalities across the province, it is something that has been very well received and has been working very, very well. The Minister of Education has brought that forward. There is another item that was brought forward by the Minister of Finance, with respect to allowing virtual identification of beneficiaries.

So what you’ll find in the bill are really technical things that allow us to respond to some of the issues that have resulted from COVID-19. One of the larger items in this is allowing the Métis Nation of Ontario and the Chief Electoral Officer, in 2020, to extend the legislative four-year period in which an MNO election is meant to be held, to give more time to support remote voting. This is something that was brought forward by the Métis Nation, and we were happy to oblige.

Mr. Speaker, that’s an overall overview of what is in this particular bill. Again, I want to thank all members of the House for their support in getting us here and, again, just to thank the public service, who have done extraordinary work in helping us bring these bills forward.


The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Further debate?

Ms. Catherine Fife: I don’t think that there is any contention or any controversy around ensuring that virtual meetings, electronic signatures—and of course the request from the Métis Nation. Changes are embedded in Bill 190. I think what most of us are hearing across this province, though, is genuine stress and tension.

From my perspective as the economic development critic, I’m hearing from businesses every day. One of them is Innocente brewery in Waterloo. Listen, they’re hungry for information. I love this new sense of collaboration and coming together at this one table, but that information and those guidelines are needed now. The number one ask that I’ve been hearing is around rent relief, for instance. This government, they talk a lot about business and keeping business open. Well, businesses will not stay open in the province of Ontario if rent relief is not offered by this provincial government.

The Ontario Chamber of Commerce wrote the government yesterday and they were really clear. They said that “providing landlords appropriate access to small business aid packages so that they are better able to cancel or defer rents for those tenants who cannot pay.” There are two sides of this: There are the landlords and then there are the tenants.

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They also said in this letter, “We also encourage the leveraging of existing financial credit structures to offer forgivable loans to meet costs associated with commercial leases for the duration of COVID-19 containment measures.” This is what the business community is looking for from us, from this Legislature, from this government. I think it’s important that on this day, when we are finally back, we are actually being respectful of those voices.

I think that we have to acknowledge that there will be a complexity to the revitalization of our economy that will truly require all of us, regardless of political stripe—I think that this is one of the reasons why we had proposed a non-partisan, all-party select committee to travel the province, to have three PCs, three New Democrats and three independents—a four-week timeline where we are dedicated to listening to all communities: Indigenous communities, the Black Chamber of Commerce, the businesses and not-for-profit sector, the environmentalists. We had proposed this idea because time is of the essence.

Businesses are feeling this; I need to tell you that. The rent relief strategy that we had put forward to the government was recognized by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business and by the Ontario Chamber of Commerce. Businesses are going to go out of business and our economic recovery as a province will be compromised if we do not come to the table in partnership.

Because, like Innocente brewery, for instance—

Interjections.


The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): I apologize to the member for Waterloo. I realize that members are physically distant and they haven’t seen each other for a while and they would like to catch up. I have to be able to hear the member who has the floor. Please quieten down.

The member for Waterloo.


Ms. Catherine Fife: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

When I reference a business like Innocente brewery, for instance, they’ve lost 257% of their profit. Their landlord is not buying into the federal plan, because it’s not in the landlord’s interest. So, you have a small business that has turned their beer business into a hand sanitizer one. They’ve stepped up for the community, they’ve donated those products to front-line health care workers, and yet they will see no rent relief. This compromises the overall strength of our economy as a province.

I do want to say that I think our economic recovery process needs to be an inclusive process, including racialized and Indigenous communities, so that shared prosperity and equality is built into the model that we see at the end of this crisis. As well, a health strategy that meets the needs of our seniors, for instance—we should be focused on these kinds of jobs. That will take all of us.

I hope that this committee that the House leader has proposed will put partisanship aside, because at the end of the day, if we really are in all of this together as a province, it will take all of us to ensure that our economy is a shared economy for everyone in this province, including our front-line health care workers and our not-for-profit sector.

Of course, we’re going to be supporting this. But listen, we are going to be pushing to have all voices at the table, including those small businesses that provide 80% of the employment in this province, and rent relief will be part of that solution.


The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Further debate?

Mr. Randy Hillier: Speaker, I’m pleased to see the introduction of Bill 190, and I will be supporting it, for it speaks directly to how a government ought to respond and overcome challenge: with due process, debate, votes and collaboration.

Since March, Ontario has been in a declared state of emergency. We have suspended the role and function of our representative government and have enacted laws by decree. We have suspended many civil liberties and have ignored constitutional protections. And we are told that these measures are to keep us safe, that safety must be our paramount and our singular concern.

But many people I speak with are gripped with fear, and some have been completely overcome by it. For them, it is too dangerous to leave their homes, or to see their loved ones—their children and their grandchildren. It is too dangerous to go outside.

Speaker, it is not good to live in fear. But we must also ask this question: How can we be safe if we live in fear? The answer ought to be obvious: To be safe is to live without fear. Every day, people are facing a barrage of COVID messages. In the newspapers, on TV and radio, and throughout social media, there is only one message, one narrative: COVID and danger.

Humanity has experienced great, great obstacles throughout history: pandemics, afflictions, polio, Spanish flu, famines, wars. Regardless of the crisis, society and humanity have overcome and prospered. We did not overcome these past challenges by diminishing civil liberties, but by protecting them; not by embracing authoritarian government, but by enshrining democracy and democratic institutions; not by limiting activity, but by expanding human ingenuity, creativity and industry.

I ask the government to find within itself and to recognize what we’ve helped create. We must stop amplifying the danger and begin communicating a better understanding of the risk.

I reject the continuation of this state of emergency. This House is now in session. There is no longer justification nor merit to a continuation of arbitrary authority. We must return to due process, and we will overcome the effects of the virus.

Bill 190 is an example of implementing public policy with due process. It helps overcome the challenges that COVID presents, and it facilitates interactions without raising risks.

I’m pleased to support Bill 190 and encourage the government to utilize this Legislature to overcome the many challenges that COVID has created and that we must face together.


The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Further debate?

L’hon. Caroline Mulroney: Premièrement, j’aimerais de façon personnelle, et aussi au nom du caucus progressiste-conservateur, souhaiter la bienvenue aux nouveaux députés d’Orléans et d’Ottawa–Vanier. Vous entrez dans cette salle dans des circonstances extraordinaires, et bien qu’elles soient inhabituelles, j’espère que ces circonstances ne vont pas enlever à votre expérience et l’importance de cette journée pour vous.

Monsieur le Président, je me lève aujourd’hui pour appuyer le projet de loi, la Loi édictant une loi et modifiant diverses lois en ce qui a trait à la COVID-19 et apportant d’autres modifications, que nous déposons afin de rendre la vie un peu plus facile dans ces moments difficiles. Ce sont des mesures simples, mais néanmoins importantes. Chaque geste compte.

Mais avant, j’aimerais prendre cette opportunité pour souligner la Semaine nationale des soins infirmiers et pour remercier tous nos héros qui travaillent de longues heures, jour après jour, depuis le début de cette pandémie. Que ce soit les gens sur les premières lignes ou les bénévoles, vos efforts pour aider les autres sont remarquables et grandement appréciés. Vous êtes notre lumière dans ces temps sombres.

Je sais que beaucoup d’Ontariennes et d’Ontariens, ainsi que de Franco-Ontariennes et Franco-Ontariens, traversent présentement des moments très difficiles et vivent des situations complexes et éprouvantes. Comme vous le savez, depuis le début de cette pandémie, la priorité de notre gouvernement a été la santé et la sécurité des Ontariennes et des Ontariens. Notre gouvernement a dû s’adapter à une réalité qui évoluait constamment et qui continue d’évoluer au jour le jour, même parfois d’heure en heure. Nous avons dû prendre des décisions à un rythme accéléré et agir sur plusieurs fronts en même temps.

Ce faisant, nous avons dû pallier certaines lacunes au fur et à mesure où les événements se précipitaient. C’est ce que nous faisons aujourd’hui. Nous avons promulgué des mesures décisives pour enrayer la propagation de la COVID-19.

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Dans le cadre de la mise à jour économique et fiscale le 25 mars dernier, notre gouvernement a annoncé un plan de 17 milliards de dollars afin de combattre la COVID-19 et mettre de l’avant une panoplie de mesures en vue d’aider les entreprises et les organismes de services communautaires.

Les mesures que nous proposons aujourd’hui peuvent être perçues comme étant petites, pour certains, à comparer avec les autres mesures que nous avons promulguées. Ce projet de loi permettra, notamment, des signatures électroniques sur des copies de documents au lieu des originaux, et des alternatives pour le dépôt de certains documents par des entreprises, qui sont présentement obligées de livrer en personne ou par la poste. Il modifie également les délais requis pour la tenue d’assemblées annuelles des actionnaires et des corporations de condos ainsi que pour les rencontres des conseils scolaires, et plusieurs autres mesures pour la santé et la sécurité de tous. Mais pour les gens qui sont directement touchés par ces mesures, ils seront heureux de notre travail.

Ces mesures sont nécessaires afin de permettre la relance de notre économie. Chaque mesure contribue d’une façon ou d’une autre à la relance de notre économie ontarienne, car la situation actuelle frappe de plein fouet de nombreuses entreprises ontariennes et, bien sûr, les organismes communautaires de notre province. C’est pour cette raison que notre gouvernement planifie actuellement les prochaines étapes de sa démarche stratégique face à la pandémie, soit le déconfinement graduel de la province. Tout le monde a son rôle à jouer.

Comme ministre des Transports, une vision et des projets ambitieux seront clés dans notre relance, et en tant que ministre des Affaires francophones, il m’importe d’établir des liens étroits avec la communauté francophone dans le but de bien comprendre les répercussions de la crise sur les entreprises et les organismes francophones et d’identifier des pistes pour la relance. J’avais confiance dans l’avenir de la francophonie ontarienne avant la COVID-19, et malgré les défis auxquels nous sommes maintenant confrontés, je demeure confiante aujourd’hui.

Depuis le début du mandat de notre gouvernement, nous parlons d’un concept important pour moi, celui de la francophonie économique. C’est dans cet égard que je parle de la promotion de la francophonie comme outil de développement. Notre gouvernement estime que la francophonie ontarienne est un atout économique important pour toute la province, un atout au grand potentiel qui doit être mis davantage en valeur. Mais nous devons agir rapidement, et c’est pour cette raison-là que j’appuie ce projet de loi. Chaque mesure, incluant celles d’aujourd’hui, fait partie du casse-tête que nous devons assembler pour aider notre économie et tous les Ontariennes et les Ontariens.

Soyez assuré, monsieur le Président, que notre gouvernement fait tout son possible et continuera de faire son possible pour que les Ontariennes et les Ontariens soient outillés afin de participer à la relance de notre économie et en bénéficier pleinement sur le plan économique, social et culturel.


The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Merci beaucoup.

Further debate?


Ms. Marit Stiles: It’s an honour to rise today on behalf of my community of Davenport and to bring forward to the debate on this piece of legislation the voices that I think many of us have heard more of over the last few weeks than perhaps ever before: the voices of parents, of students and of educational workers in this province. I know I speak for all members when I say that, as I mentioned, we are hearing from more Ontarians now than perhaps ever before. Our constituents are sharing deep concern about the safety of their families, their livelihoods and the future of their communities.

The COVID-19 pandemic has fundamentally altered our lives. It has altered our economy and our way of functioning. It has revealed some deep inequalities in our province that we need to confront if we intend to move forward and build the prosperous Ontario we know is possible. In Toronto and in many parts of Ontario, tenants have lived in fear since the pandemic began, without a real rent subsidy to help them get through this. For those who have already been forced into homelessness before the pandemic, deciding between a crowded shelter or remaining on the street could be a question of life or death.

Municipalities have been left with shrinking resources to deal with this increased demand. Local non-profits—and we all know this—are working harder than ever before to pick up the slack, yet they have received precious little from this government to serve the thousands in need.

That inequality has manifested itself in the broader economy. Our local small businesses are struggling to survive, with government programs that do not meet their needs, while some of the most profitable multi-national corporations are able to grab a greater share of the market and still seek and receive government subsidies.

Today’s legislation will pass, as we mentioned, with our support, but it is disappointing. It offers none of the solutions for those pressing issues that I’ve talked about.

But this legislation does touch on one sector that is seeing a growth, again, in this inequality, and that is the education sector. That’s where I would like to focus the remainder of my remarks.

When I rose in this chamber in April to discuss the earlier emergency legislation, I spoke about what I’d been hearing from students, families and educators as they adapted to the what we’re calling “emergency remote learning” that was necessary to see us through this period.

I can tell the House, Mr. Speaker, that these anxieties have not been calmed; in fact, they are getting worse as time goes on. Parents are still feeling pressured to balance working from home with the demands of supporting cooped-up kids. Students, whether they’re five, 12 or 17, are struggling to stay focused or to access supports they need with uneven Internet and technology access. And educators are facing pressure to deliver education to students in very different settings, while trying to balance the competing demands of their own families, and without the support they might normally access in the school setting.

Right now, the question of what will happen to the school year is difficult to ignore; yet, as the clock ticks toward June, we have heard next to nothing—nothing—about what this government’s plans are to ensure the safety and well-being of students during an eventual return. Each week, that decision seems to be kicked down the road, and that’s leaving already stressed parents and guardians and staff worried about how much time they’re going to have to prepare.

We agree that we need to be absolutely sure it’s safe before we risk sending kids back to school, but whether it’s next month or next fall, the experts are telling us we will need more than positive words to reintegrate and support students, to bring them back up to speed academically, but also to manage the trauma—the deep trauma—the mental health toll of this pandemic. We are going to need a robust and well-resourced plan.

This bill could have started the ball rolling by making commitments to mental health supports and special-education supports, more educational assistance, more child and youth workers, and a plan for the training and support our teachers, custodians and other staff will need. It could provide actual funding for technology instead of press releases taking credit for the work that school boards are already doing.

I want to refer for a moment to a report that People for Education released last week on technology, and specifically technology in schools and what we have learned in this pandemic. I would encourage the members opposite and the Minister of Education to take the time to read that report and examine the research, because out of this tragedy there have to be some lessons learned. Take the time to get this right. Don’t take it from me. Go to the experts, go to the front-line workers; ask them what supports are going to be needed. Take the time to give them the support they will need.

Mr. Speaker, our caucus remains willing to work constructively with the government during these unprecedented circumstances, but it’s time for the government to start coming to the table with real supports and a real plan to support Ontarians during COVID-19.


The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Further debate?

Mr. Mike Schreiner: Before I begin to speak on Bill 190, I just want to take a moment to wish all the nurses all the best for Nursing Week. Thank you for putting your mental and physical health on the line to care for all of us.

I also just want to take a moment to thank legislative staff for helping us reopen safely today, and a moment to thank the government—and the Premier specifically—for saying yes to my call to reopen community gardens, because I believe food security is so critically important at this moment in time, and people and food banks need to access the food we grow in community gardens.

Speaker, I’ve been meeting with community organizations, unions, landlords, tenants, businesses, those on social assistance, students and many others, and all of them will support what is in Bill 190, so I’ll be voting in favour of Bill 190.

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But my concern is what is not in Bill 190: nothing to expand hospital capacity so we can restart surgeries now; nothing to overhaul long-term-care homes to address the tragedy unfolding before our eyes; nothing to address the financial crisis facing our municipalities; nothing for people on social assistance who need to be topped up to the same level as people who are on the CERB benefit; nothing to expand testing and contact tracing so we can safely reopen our economy; and nothing for local businesses struggling to pay the rent—who, I want to remind the government, can be locked out of their commercial leases on Friday, May 15.

Speaker, the actions we take today will determine what our communities look like as we emerge from this crisis. We need to act now and we need to act urgently to emerge from this crisis with a cleaner, safer and healthier Ontario.


The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Further debate?

Ms. Sara Singh: It’s an honour to rise here today on behalf of the good people of Brampton Centre and contribute to the debate on Bill 190.

Just before I start, though, Speaker, I would like to thank all of the amazing front-line workers who have been putting their lives at risk amidst this global pandemic to make sure that our communities can stay safe.

I also want to thank all of the community members who have been following the social distancing and public health recommendations.

Many community members across the province have actually been stepping up and turning their empathy into action. We see grocery delivery, checking in on a senior, or just making sure that everyone is doing well. But it isn’t just up to Ontarians to step up to the plate; I think they also need their government to do a little bit more.

While we will be supporting this bill, as we’ve heard from my colleagues, there are some fundamental gaps and opportunities that I think we’re missing here. When we have a chance to make a difference and make life easier and more affordable for Ontarians, I think that we’re missing the mark.

While this bill does some technical changes to make virtual meetings possible, it’s important to remember that there are many people across this province who actually don’t have access to broadband or Internet service. So while some measures are welcomed, I think we need to still take into consideration that there are many challenges that are still present here in Ontario.

This bill doesn’t even do anything to address the skyrocketing auto insurance rates in our province. We hear every day from constituents who are not driving, who are, again, following the recommendations of public health but are still forced to pay those high auto insurance premiums. We have an opportunity to legislate that, to regulate what those rates look like, and I think we’re missing that opportunity, again, in this bill.

As the housing critic, I hear from tenants and landlords on a regular basis who would just like to see some clear communication and support from this government and yet, nothing. This is the second time we’re meeting to pass an emergency bill and yet we’re not taking into consideration what we keep hearing from community members across the province—not just in my riding; I’m sure in many of the other members’ ridings, you’re hearing those concerns as well.

The supply chain in our province has continued to function because we have dedicated front-line truck drivers, logistics and warehouse workers, who are working around the clock to make sure that we are still receiving the goods that we need. Those people are still looking to hear from this government whether they’re going to receive the protections they need or supports that they’re looking for.

Taxi and limo drivers: Many of them have lost their lives serving the public. They’ve asked the government to step up to the plate and ensure that they can reduce their auto insurance premiums—reduce the costs associated with doing business. We have an opportunity, with an omnibus bill here today, to implement some of those measures and create those regulations in the future to help those small businesses, and yet this government isn’t taking that opportunity. I find that a little disappointing, Speaker.

As other members have mentioned, we heard about the need to increase capacity in our health care system. Again, we have a bill, we have an opportunity to have those conversations, perhaps increase capacity for testing to ensure that surgeries can continue so people aren’t waiting for those surgeries that they need, but there’s nothing in this bill that speaks to that.

Technical changes are welcome; I think we all agree that those changes are needed. But again, we could do more, and I think that’s where we need to be focusing.

We need to be proactive, and I think that this bill isn’t necessarily thinking proactively and putting into place those protections.

I come from a small business family; many of you do as well. I think that it’s important that we recognize that small businesses—many of them have had to close up shop.

In Brampton, I spoke with the board of trade. Nearly 40% of our businesses are currently closed. That means that 40% of those businesses may not be able to open post-COVID. There aren’t real economic recovery plans here in place to protect those businesses, to forgive those commercial rents that they’re going to have to pay. If they’re not open, a deferral of those rents isn’t going to do much for them when they have to still pay $20,000, $30,000 or $40,000 worth of rent six months from now.

I urge this government to think more critically. I understand that this is a first step. We will be supporting it. But when we have the opportunity to do better for Ontario, I think we should take that.


The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Further debate?

Mr. John Fraser: It’s great to be back. It’s good to see all of you, and I want to thank all of the staff in the assembly for enabling us to do this, and for all their hard work.

I would like to welcome the new members from Orléans and Ottawa–Vanier. We’re very pleased to have them here. Thank you for welcoming them so graciously.

I’ll be supporting Bill 190. There are measures in that bill that are necessary. We’ve heard the voices of business, school boards and the Métis Nation. We need this. Our job is to listen to those voices. Our toughest job is to listen to those voices that are hardest to hear. And in this space where we’re at, we’re planning for re-opening the economy and starting elective surgeries. There are all these demands.

There’s a voice out there that’s not being heard very well, and that’s the voice of family caregivers—essential caregivers: moms and dads, sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, who care for a loved one. They care. They are part of essential care. Right now, there are blanket policies across Ontario that say, “You can’t come in. You’re not part of their care.” We can understand why that happened because, as this pandemic hit, we needed to be able to cope and protect each other.

But this is going to be with us for a while. There are places in Ontario, institutions like CHEO in my riding of Ottawa South, that have been able to make this work for essential family caregivers. It requires testing, PPE and trust, but they’ve been able to do it.

In this Legislature, we need to provide some leadership. Right now in Ontario, we don’t have a Patient Ombudsman—not yet. The family and caregiver council hasn’t done much in the last year. What’s happening right now is not good for our health care system, and it’s unjust. We need to think about that. It’s not the biggest thing in front of us, but it’s one of the most important things that we can do for each other. I wanted to mention that this morning because we need to think about that. We can’t forget it. We can’t just say, “No, you can’t come in.” It’s not right.

I know this because my dad visited his mother, who was in a continuing care hospital for six years, almost every day until he figured out that she was overmedicated—over six years of sleuthing. She was kind of given up for dead. She got out of that because my dad said, “She’s overmedicated.” They changed her medication, and she left the hospital. She lived six years semi-independently after being in a bed in Saint-Vincent Hospital. That’s what family caregivers do. They’re a voice for their vulnerable family. They’re an extra set of eyes and ears, they’re an advocate and they’re an important part of our health care system. We can’t forget them.


The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Further debate? I recognize the member for Ottawa–Vanier.

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Mme Lucille Collard: I am happy to rise today for the first time in the House to support Bill 190.

Le projet de loi 190 est un pas dans la bonne direction pour nous aider à rencontrer cette nouvelle réalité. Virtual meetings for school boards, non-profits and other community organizations help ensure that they are able to conduct their meetings and continue to help Ontarians.

As this pandemic continues, we need to support local organizations that work hard for the fight against COVID-19. I have seen many organizations in my riding of Ottawa–Vanier step up and do their part, demonstrating the unity of our community rising to the challenge. For example, Le CAP offers mental health services for the most vulnerable affected by social distancing and the pandemic. Retraite en Action and Seniors for Seniors look after the needs of our elders while offering services and programs. Even private companies like Gabriel Pizza committed to donate 5,000 meals before the end of May, and this this is a small business doing its big part. Individuals are also doing their part and signing up with Volunteer Ottawa and Ottawa Cares to give their time and help their neighbours and those in need.

Going forward, collaboration is key. It is the reason I have been meeting with my federal counterpart and also with the city councillors every week in my riding. We all need to come together. This is why we need to ensure that we give Ontarians the resources to keep helping one another.


The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Further debate?

M. Stephen Blais: Ces deux derniers mois, nous avons pu voir de quoi est fait notre communauté. Ça nous a permis de mieux apprécier des personnes parmi les plus précieuses et, pourtant, sous-payées de notre société : des gens comme Guylaine, une caissière dans une de nos épiceries à Orléans qui accueille toujours ses clients avec un sourire, et discute avec eux comme s’ils étaient de vieux amis.

Front-line staff have kept our society working during this crisis and during National Nursing Week, we would be remiss if we did not thank and recognize the amazing nurses who support our families. In fact, all health care workers deserve our praise and recognition. The plan to provide additional pay for some health care workers is welcome but we’ve heard from thousands who have put their health and the health of their families on the line to risk for us that they fear that they will be excluded. All front-line health care workers deserve this bonus in recognition of their efforts to keep us safe and healthy.

This morning, Mr. Speaker, I joined my federal and municipal counterparts in Orléans to encourage landlords to participate in the Ontario-Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance Program. Too many haven’t, and in the absence of this government prohibiting commercial evictions, small business owners feel they will be shut down.

Finally, we need to recognize and thank residents of Ontario for their exceptional efforts to contain the virus. In particular, our children: For months they have missed their friends, been stuck inside and been unable to do many of the things that we remember so fondly from our childhood. Never before have so many young people reveled for the opportunity to return to school. We’re fortunate to have teachers like Gabriella who engage our children in Google Hangouts and over Zoom and FaceTime.

In the darkness of this era and uncertainty from a lack of a plan from the government to return to school, our teachers have been a beacon of hope. Their professionalism and dedication to the their vocation inspires us and inspires that when we return to normal, our children will be in very good hands.


The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Further debate? Further debate?

Pursuant to the order of the House passed earlier today, I am now required to put the question. Mr. Calandra has moved second reading of Bill 190, An Act to enact one Act and amend various Acts in respect of COVID-19 and to make other amendments. Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? Carried.

Second reading agreed to.

COVID-19 RESPONSE AND REFORMS TO MODERNIZE ONTARIO ACT, 2020 / LOI DE 2020 SUR LES MESURES EN RÉPONSE À LA COVID-19 ET LES RÉFORMES VISANT À MODERNISER L’ONTARIO

Mr. Calandra moved third reading of the following bill:

Bill 190, An Act to enact one Act and amend various Acts in respect of COVID-19 and to make other amendments / Projet de loi 190, Loi édictant une loi et modifiant diverses lois en ce qui a trait à la COVID-19 et apportant d’autres modifications.


The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Pursuant to the order of the House passed earlier today, I am now required to put the question. Mr. Calandra has moved third reading of Bill 190, An Act to enact one Act and amend various Acts in respect of COVID-19 and to make other amendments. Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? Carried.

Third reading agreed to.


The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Be it resolved that the bill do now pass and be entitled as in the motion.

OPPOSITION DAY MOTION


The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): I recognize the member for London West. I believe she has a request for unanimous consent.

Ms. Peggy Sattler: Thank you very much, Speaker. I seek unanimous consent that, notwithstanding standing order 46(b)(vi), the official opposition be permitted to file an opposition day motion, to be debated on Tuesday, May 19, 2020.

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Ms. Sattler is seeking the unanimous consent of the House that, notwithstanding standing order 46(b)(vi), the official opposition be permitted to file an opposition day motion, to be debated on Tuesday, May 19, 2020. Agreed? Agreed.

We’re going to recess the House until 10:15.

The House recessed from 1007 to 1015.

MEMBERS’ STATEMENTS

SMALL BUSINESS


Ms. Jill Andrew: I am honoured to rise today on behalf of Toronto–St. Paul’s. I want to say thank you to all of our essential workers and all of our health care workers who have been doing the best job they can—a good job under very, very strained circumstances.

I want to speak particularly today about our small businesses in Toronto–St. Paul’s. I’m thinking of Little Jamaica, Oakwood and Vaughan, St. Clair West, and Yonge and Eglinton. Mr. Speaker, our businesses are crying for help—they are desperate for help—from this provincial government. I’m hearing from owner after owner, entrepreneurs, women business owners, and Black business owners that the federal program is just not working and that what they need is rent relief. They need direct support. In Toronto–St. Paul’s, we need direct support to our small businesses, not necessarily loans and deferrals. Those may help a bit, but they’re certainly not helping the majority of folks who need help.

We also want to say, as the NDP, the official opposition, as the Black caucus, that it is crucial that our Black business owners be at the table. We support the call for a Black economic and community leadership network, and we hope that that’s something that your government will implement.

WILLOWDALE COVID RESPONSE NETWORK


Mr. Stan Cho: It’s an honour to rise in the House today, especially given the extraordinary challenges we face. We should all remember what a privilege it is to represent the voices of those in our communities.

This morning, Speaker, I want to take a moment to recognize volunteers in my community who are joining the fight against COVID-19. As members of this House will remember, Willowdale suffered a terrible attack on Yonge Street in April 2018. In the aftermath of that tragedy, a group of neighbours formed a group called We Love Willowdale, a volunteer organization to support the victims and their families and help bring the community together to heal.

In the face of this pandemic, We Love Willowdale has launched the Willowdale COVID Response Network, a group of 80 volunteers—and counting—who grocery-shop for seniors, drop off medication and other essentials for those in need, or simply provide a friendly, comforting voice on the phone to those feeling lonely and isolated.

The group recently took a call from an elderly lady who was in tears because she was too scared to go to the grocery store. In talking to this neighbour, the volunteers discovered that what she really needed was food bank support. Within the hour, volunteers had donated items from their very own kitchens, Mr. Speaker, for immediate delivery, and connected her with the supports she needs going forward.

These neighbours helping neighbours are one of the many reasons I’m so proud to represent the people of Willowdale. I’m inspired every day by their compassion, their selflessness and their continued strength to come together in the community when it’s needed most. We must all, too, come together to fight this pandemic and fight for our communities.

ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION


Mr. Ian Arthur: On April 3, the government suspended parts of Ontario’s Environmental Bill of Rights. Although the COVID-19 pandemic must merit a robust response, it doesn’t warrant undermining Ontarians’ ability to engage safely. The suspension is an unnecessary overreach that undermines accountability. Projects and decisions that are environmentally harmful may now be pushed through without notice, even if they are not related to COVID-19.

This is far-reaching. It exempts any steps including making or revoking environmental laws from public scrutiny. It exempts ministries from having to consider the environmental impacts of their decisions. And for the duration of the suspension, Ontario residents, including Indigenous communities, have no way to participate in decisions that affect their well-being.

Worst of all, Speaker, it is unnecessary. The EBR already contained the tools to allow for a robust response to COVID-19. In it, it said sections on consultation need not apply if, “in the minister’s opinion, the delay ... in giving notice to the public, in allowing time for public response to the notice or in considering the response to the notice would result in,

“(a) danger to the health or safety of any person;

“(b) harm or serious risk of harm to the environment; or

“(c) injury or damage or serious risk of injury or damage to any property.”

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But suspending the consultations could cause this exact harm to Ontarians. Why didn’t the government simply invoke the exemptions built into the bill?

COVID-19 RESPONSE IN MILTON


Mr. Parm Gill: Mr. Speaker, during COVID-19, Milton has demonstrated once again that we care for and look out for one another. Our community, with the help of the Milton Chamber of Commerce, immediately went to work by creating a micro-PPE online portal which matches non-medical PPE suppliers with front-line workers who need it the most.

Milton organized thousands of drop-offs of food hampers through Meals on Wheels and Halton Food for Thought. We organized more volunteers to pick up prescriptions and groceries for our seniors.

One of my constituents, Ryan, got right to work at the beginning by purchasing a number of 3D printers. He installed them in his house and started printing. In the first 30 days of printing, Ryan and his team made over 2,000 face shields and almost 4,000 ear savers. These were delivered to 26 different hospitals, long-term-care facilities, EMS workers and other front-line workers. Well done, Ryan.

Speaker, our town of Milton has been one of the fastest-growing communities for a number of years, adding on average 5,000 homes each year. It’s times like this that we demonstrate that, while our population is growing fast, our sense of community continues to grow even faster. Well done, Milton. We’re all in this together, and together we will beat it.

FOON HAY LUM


Ms. Jessica Bell: COVID-19 has spread through the homeless shelters, retirement homes and long-term-care homes of my riding of University–Rosedale. Our most vulnerable have been hit worst and first.

I talked to Helen Lee, chair of Mon Sheong’s family council on April 20. She was frantic. Her grandmother, Foon Hay Lum, lived in Mon Sheong, and she was scared for her life because she had contracted COVID-19. Helen described the dire situation in Mon Sheong—of the 49 residents who tested positive and the 12 people who had already died. She told me of staff shortages, because Mon Sheong had already lost 80% of its staff, and how in some evenings there were just two workers who were servicing the entire building. She told me of Mon Sheong’s repeated requests to the ministry for personal protective equipment, because there were shortages.

Foon Hay Lum died of COVID-19 on Friday evening, April 24. Foon Hay Lum was a leading advocate for Chinese Canadians. She fought for reparations for the 81,000 Chinese Canadians who were impacted by the exclusion act and the $500 head tax that kept her apart from her family for 33 years, until 1959. After 20 years of activism, Foon Hay Lum secured an apology from Stephen Harper, the Prime Minister, in 2006.

Foon Hay Lum: Thank you for what you have given our city and our country. Your legacy is recognized. Your work will be remembered.

STATE OF EMERGENCY


Mr. Randy Hillier: Speaker, both in this House and publicly, I have commended the government House leader and the Premier for their collaboration working with opposition members and independents to find our way forward through these challenging times.

The state of emergency was put in place as a temporary measure, and gave the executive branch the authority to address the pandemic while this House was going into recess and we were surrounded with uncertainty. Those circumstances have changed.

The members of this House were elected to be decision-makers and to represent their constituents. The time has come to return to that. Continuing under the state of emergency is unwarranted while this House is in session and able to meet, discuss and debate the many important decisions that we have been called upon to make.

Sir John A. Macdonald once said, “Parliament is a grand inquest with the right to inquire into anything and everything.” It’s time we returned to that spirit—one of inquiry, discussion and accountability. Speaker, it’s time for the government to end the broad and universal and unilateral powers we granted the executive in March under the state of emergency, and allow this House to make decisions in the spirit of collaboration and healthy debate, as is intended in a free society.

COVID-19 RESPONSE IN KITCHENER–CONESTOGA


The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): The member for Kitchener–Conestoga.

Mr. Mike Harris: Thank you, Speaker. It’s a pleasure to see you and also my colleagues here in the House today. It’s nice to be back here working together.

Like many of you, I’ve spent countless hours speaking with constituents and businesses about the unique struggles they’re facing due to COVID-19. My message to them is that the province will stop at nothing to get them through these tough times.

This crisis has proven that when we work together, the Ontario spirit prevails. This is definitely true in Waterloo region, where people have gone above and beyond to help. From local restaurants, like Never Enough Thyme in Elmira, delivering meals for our front-line health care heroes, to the volunteers picking up essentials for seniors, our sense of community has grown stronger in the face of this crisis.

I’m inspired by the dozens of local businesses that have answered the call to help. Distilleries like Murphy’s Law have retooled their production to make hand sanitizer, St. Jacobs Quilt Company is sewing gowns for health care workers across southern Ontario, and companies who specialize in 3D printing are manufacturing face shields, including Kitchener’s InkSmith, whose Canadian Shield has been shipped to hospitals across the province.

To the people who continue to practise physical distancing every day, thank you for doing your part to stop the spread of COVID-19. If we continue to work together and show our Ontario spirit, I know we will emerge from this crisis stronger than ever.

EMPLOYMENT STANDARDS


Ms. Sandy Shaw: We all know that we are going through an unprecedented health crisis, but we’re also going through an economic crisis that none of us has seen in our lifetime. We’re seeing devastating job loss and unemployment levels we’ve never heard of. Unfortunately we’re learning a lot of hard lessons. Many of the fault lines, the shortcomings of our economy, are coming to the surface and these are problems that we can never turn away from again. We could never again turn away from how our seniors are being treated in long-term care, and how our PSWs who care for them now have part-time jobs, minimum wage and no benefits. We also now see that grocery store workers and staff that work in not-for-profits—these are our front-line workers, these are our unsung heroes.

We’ve seen recent job numbers that are staggering and we’ve also seen how these job numbers are not impacting us all equally. Women bear the brunt of these job losses, and members of the racialized community as well. So now that we see how our economy has treated Ontarians unequally, let’s not go back there. Let’s do better. Let’s never again treat our seniors like profit centres. Let’s recognize front-line workers with decent jobs, decent pay and benefits, and let’s ensure that protecting our environment is a central piece of our economic recovery. Let’s field a new economy that doesn’t leave anyone behind.

Mr. Speaker, I can’t think of a more poignant time to remind everyone of the inspiration and the vision of Tommy Douglas when he encouraged all of us by saying, “Courage my friends, ’tis not too late to build a better world.”

ONTARIO ACTION ON LITTER DAY


Ms. Andrea Khanjin: Today is the first Provincial Day of Action on Litter in Ontario. It’s a historic day, Mr. Speaker. This is a day to bring attention to the impacts of waste in our community, and to find practical ways that we can take action to prevent, reduce and divert waste at home and in our daily lives. And as we continue to fight the spread of COVID-19, we are seeing first-hand the difference that individual actions can make. We’re all in this together and we all can take actions in our own hands, and we’ve seen how it all starts at home in our individual communities and the roles that we can take to make a difference.

So when you’re shopping around for your essential goods, things like protective masks or gloves, remember: Please do not litter them. I’ve heard from countless community members and store owners that their parking lots and their communities are now covered with these supplies. As we aim to protect ourselves in this pandemic, we also have to remember we have an environment to protect as well. So today, on the Ontario Action on Litter Day, I urge everyone to do something to prevent litter in their communities and in their homes.

Of course, we were planning to do a province-wide day today across every single community to pick up litter, but we are going to be delaying this until October. So in the meantime, I encourage you to reach out to your communities and advocate, “Do not litter.”

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FRONT-LINE WORKERS


Mr. Stephen Crawford: It’s a pleasure to be back at the House here today.

These are difficult days for Ontario and the world. The COVID-19 pandemic is a unique threat—a challenge we have not seen in recent memory. COVID-19 does not discriminate; it affects everyone regardless of background, yet there has been an awakened, powerful spirit of duty, sacrifice and volunteerism that unites us all together.

During these times, our front-line workers are the true heroes. They include doctors, nurses, personal support workers, paramedics, law enforcement, grocery workers, truck drivers, and many more. Their personal sacrifice to help our communities is something we cannot forget or ignore. They are a shining beacon of our collective efforts.

I would like to highlight a few examples of individuals and organizations who have stepped up in the Oakville community to help our community: Oakville resident Cathy Butts donated 550 pounds of food to the Kerr Street Mission; the Oakville Rotary Club is helping vulnerable students; Ritorno Italian restaurant is cooking food for families in need; Film.Ca is hosting community collection efforts for food and protective equipment; and Grasshopper Energy has donated thousands of face masks to our Oakville hospital and to local health professionals. In addition, I would like to thank the many residents of Oakville who have also stepped up to the plate to support our food banks and front-line workers.

This pandemic is a monumental challenge to our province, but I know there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Our efforts have been resolute and effective thus far. We are all in this together.

COVID-19 DEATHS


The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): I understand the Leader of the Opposition has a point of order.

Ms. Andrea Horwath: Yes, thank you. Speaker, I seek unanimous consent for the House to observe a moment of silence to honour all front-line workers who have died during the pandemic—I have a list—as well as the 1,235 long-term-care residents who have lost their lives, and everyone else who has lost a loved one or their lives to COVID-19.

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): The Leader of the Opposition is seeking the unanimous consent of the House to observe a moment of silence for the people who have lost their lives. Agreed? Agreed.

Ms. Andrea Horwath: Can I read the full statement? I asked for the approval. Can I read the full unanimous consent?

I seek unanimous consent for the House to observe a moment of silence to honour all front-line workers who have died during the pandemic, including Kamal Dhami, Gurdeep Dhugga, Akashdeep Grewal, Paul Grewal, Maroun Haddad, Ki-oh Kim, Christine Mandegarian, Arlene Reid, Sharon Roberts, Leonard Rodriguez, Keith Saunders, Karam Singh Punian, James Wu and Lawrence Zah, and the 1,235 long-term-care residents whose lives were tragically cut short by COVID-19 and the system’s inability to protect them, and for all who have lost their lives to COVID-19.

The House observed a moment’s silence.

SHOOTING IN NOVA SCOTIA


Hon. Lisa MacLeod: Speaker?

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): A point of order? The Minister of Heritage, Sport, Tourism and Culture Industries.

Hon. Lisa MacLeod: I too am seeking unanimous consent for this House to mark a moment of silence on behalf of those struggling in Nova Scotia; from the worst shooting rampage in our country’s history during the worst pandemic any of us have lived through.

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): The Minister of Heritage, Sport, Tourism and Culture Industries is seeking the unanimous consent of the House for a moment’s silence in recognition of the people who are struggling in Nova Scotia. Agreed? Agreed.

The House observed a moment’s silence.


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

QUESTION PERIOD

LONG-TERM CARE


Ms. Andrea Horwath: Speaker, we’re here to ask questions today in this House that no one ever wanted to ever have to ask or have to answer. I’m going to be straightforward in my questions, and I hope that the Premier will be straightforward and honest in his answers as well. Ontarians deserve this.

The tragic situation inside long-term-care homes has made it clearer than ever that that system in our province is broken. Will the Premier commit to a full public inquiry into long-term care, with a mandate to review not only the tragedies of the last couple of weeks but for the last couple of decades?


Hon. Doug Ford: Through you, Mr. Speaker: We will make sure we review long-term care along with all sorts of different areas within the government. Our number one priority is protecting the health and safety of the most vulnerable members of our society.

Mr. Speaker, my heart breaks for the people in long-term care. I know first-hand what people go through day in and day out, standing outside the window, talking to their loved ones, trying to communicate. In some cases, the loved ones don’t know what’s happening. They don’t know why their brother, sister, son or daughter isn’t going into the long-term-care home.

But I can promise you one thing, Mr. Speaker: We’re going to review the system—a system that has been broken for decades. I can promise you one thing: We are going to fix it. We’re going to fix it collectively, as a Legislature—not just as a party, but everyone in this room.


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

Ms. Andrea Horwath: Families with loved ones in long-term care are demanding answers. They deserve those answers, and they deserve a full public inquiry that is non-partisan to give them those answers.

On March 12, before the Legislature was suspended for the state of emergency, the government stated, “I can tell you, as the Minister of Long-Term Care, that we are on this. We are making sure our active screening is occurring in all our homes.... This government has a plan and we’re acting on it.” Since that time, COVID-19 outbreaks have occurred in 231 long-term-care facilities, and over 1,200 seniors in care have died.

Does the Premier not agree that people have a right to a full, independent public inquiry so we know exactly what happened and where this plan fell short? These are lessons we simply must learn.


Hon. Doug Ford: Before I start, Mr. Speaker, I want to welcome the two new MPPs, from Orléans and Ottawa–Vanier. Welcome to the Legislature.

We committed to putting an iron ring around our long-term-care homes. We took quick action, and we made sure that we gave the homes and the operators the right tools to operate. We put two packages of emergency regulations in, two emergency orders, plus $243 million of increased emergency funding. Right now, we have 174 homes out of 626—that’s approximately 28%. In my opinion, that’s 28% too many. Even though 72% aren’t infected, again, 28% is too many. We shouldn’t have one home that has been infected.

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Every single day, we’re improving the system; 57 homes have had outbreaks resolved. But more needs to be done. We continue to call on the federal government to provide proper funding to help us and the rest of the provinces to get through this long-term crisis that we’re seeing not just across the country but across the world.


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

Ms. Andrea Horwath: Court documents filed by grieving families and long-term-care workers paint a picture of long-term-care homes in which seniors were sharing rooms with infected patients and effective screening was not occurring. Even weeks after the Premier had declared, as he just mentioned, that there would be an iron ring around long-term-care facilities, this was what is happening.

As the Premier has admitted, the system is definitely broken. Will he put partisanship aside and commit to a full public inquiry—a full, independent public inquiry—so that we can learn what went wrong but also how to fix this deeply broken system?


The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): The Minister of Long-Term Care to reply on behalf of the government.

Hon. Merrilee Fullerton: Thank you for your concern, to the member opposite. This is a global tragedy. Ontario is affected by COVID-19, a virus never seen before. As the science and evidence have progressed, we’ve understood more and have followed the directives of the Chief Medical Officer of Health to take every step possible, every measure possible, use every tool possible, every step of the way. We were early acting on the screening, early on declaring essential visitors only, early on taking steps every step of the way, as science and evidence emerged.

My heart goes out to everyone who has been affected by this. The loss is great. We will make sure that we address the contributing factors to this, many of them pre-existing for decades. The neglect of long-term care has been substantial for decades, and that’s one of the reasons I came to politics: to address that. That’s what we’re going to do. There will be a review. The scope and the levels of detail are yet to be determined. We will get to the bottom of this.

LONG-TERM CARE


Ms. Andrea Horwath: My next question is also to the Premier. In the months leading up to the Ontario COVID-19 outbreak, front-line care providers had warned that a broken long-term-care system was forcing them to work at more than one home, and experts were telling the government—they were being told by experts—that this was a dangerous practice that could cost lives. Why did the Premier wait as long as he did before beginning to address this particular practice?

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): To reply on behalf of the government, the Minister of Long-Term Care.

Hon. Merrilee Fullerton: Thank you again for the question. Our government created a dedicated ministry in the summer of 2019. At that point, it was absolutely clear that there was a staffing crisis in long-term care. We took Justice Gillese’s report from the public inquiry. She said that the system was under strain. As we look forward and with COVID, the system is broken, and you’ve heard the Premier say that.

As we go forward, we must understand the incredible importance of the staffing crisis that was pre-existing to our crisis in COVID. We took every measure to shore up staffing and create staffing flexibility for our homes—three emergency orders and two packages of amendments and regulation. We took measures at every step of the way, including addressing how staffing was moving between homes. That has since stopped, but because of the staffing shortage, we needed to make sure that residents were hydrated, that residents got food, that residents got the care they need. We had to shore up the staffing. It was a decision following the Chief Medical Officer of Health, and we have done that every step of the way.


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

Ms. Andrea Horwath: Well, Speaker, in fact, it took the government several weeks to issue an order preventing staff from working in multiple facilities, and staff from temporary agencies are still, to this very day, allowed to move from home to home. Will the government shut this practice down entirely?

Hon. Merrilee Fullerton: Once again, thank you for the question. I go back to the start of our long-term-care ministry and understanding the pre-existing crisis in long-term care in terms of staffing. The agency health care staff who work in long-term care make up only about 2% of the overall staffing. It was determined that this was a critical piece to make sure that our homes had adequate staffing and to support our front-line providers, who have been working so valiantly to care for our loved ones in long-term care.

We were taking every measure, every tool, everything we could possibly do to shore up the staffing problems that had been existing for years and years under previous governments. We were taking action. We took it seriously, looking at every measure following the directive of the Chief Medical Officer of Health.

My heart goes out to everyone who has been affected. We are all touched by COVID-19.


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

Ms. Andrea Horwath: Well, Speaker, it only takes one person to spread COVID-19, so 2% is not something that I feel very confident with.

One of the key lessons from SARS, in fact, was that health care workers forced to move from place to place would pose a risk to themselves, their families, the people they cared for and public health.

In British Columbia, the government took decisive action back in March, and effectively took over the running of long-term-care homes and made it a key priority to ensure that staff could only work in one location and be paid decently. Why has the Ontario government, to this day, still refused to do the same?


Hon. Merrilee Fullerton: Thank you again for the question. The pre-existing staffing crisis that was in our long-term-care homes necessitated understanding how we were going to make sure that our residents got the care that they need. We issued recommendations from the Chief Medical Officer of Health and directives, and we were consistent, starting back in February, giving guidelines involving prevention and containment of COVID-19 in our long-term-care homes. We took action in terms of aggressive active screening in our long-term-care homes, with essential visitors only in our long-term-care homes. We’ve added, in fact, $243 million to prevent the spread of infection and to support staffing.

These issues were pre-existing; the staffing crisis was there. And we’ve allowed our homes to be flexible in terms of addressing the needs of our residents and supporting our front-line staff, following the directives of our Chief Medical Officer of Health every step of the way.

Our residents in long-term care deserve respect and dignity and our support.

PROTECTION FOR HEALTH CARE WORKERS


Ms. Andrea Horwath: My next question is to the Premier. I would just suggest that—I don’t disagree that the system was in bad, bad shape for many, many years, with pre-existing circumstances, as the minister has said. That’s why the public inquiry needs to happen and why it needs to go back a number of years.

The Premier has repeatedly claimed that front-line workers will have the personal protective equipment that they need to safely do their jobs. Today, we’ve learned that the government is now encouraging staff in residential facilities like care homes for people with disabilities to downgrade to non-medical cloth masks, even where there’s an active COVID-19 outbreak. Other workers have had to go to court to obtain access to the PPE they need.

If PPE is available, why are workers being forced to fight so hard to get access to it?


Hon. Doug Ford: Through you, Mr. Speaker, front-line workers are sacrificing every single day they walk into work. They’re saving other lives and putting their own in jeopardy. For what they do, we’ll always, always be grateful. We’re making sure the resources are at the long-term-care homes when needed. We will have those resources there in 24 hours, or, at the latest, 48 hours.

We have been calling around the world. I’m on PPE, along with our procurement team, along with everyone else in the province and in the world, going after the same products. But, as I’ve said, as long as I’m Premier, we aren’t going to rely on foreign countries. We aren’t going to rely on foreign governments, when there’s a crisis, to shut the borders down and say, “You aren’t getting any more N95 masks.”

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We put a call out to businesses around Ontario, and did they ever step up. They’re stocked up, they’re making N95 masks; they’re making face shields now. We’re making gowns right here in Ontario, so we’ll never have to rely on another foreign government again.


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

Ms. Andrea Horwath: I would agree that front-line workers on the front lines of the health care system and long-term care and, in fact, all essential workers are sacrificing a great deal for all of us at this time. Since the outbreak of this pandemic, thousands of health care and personal support workers have been diagnosed with COVID-19, and Christine Mandegarian, Arlene Reid and Sharon Roberts have died. They and all front-line health care workers deserved and were told that they would have the protective equipment that they needed. Yet, too often, their employers failed to provide it.

Does the Premier have a new plan to ensure that PSWs and front-line workers have the protective equipment that they have been repeatedly promised?


Hon. Doug Ford: First of all, I want to give my condolences. My prayers and thoughts go out to the families that have lost a loved one.

Mr. Speaker, we have great companies in Ontario, great ingenuity and great manufacturing might, and we’re putting that to use now, no matter if it’s Linamar connecting with O2 to build 10,000 ventilators that they’re rolling off the assembly right now, or if it’s Woodbridge that is making N95 masks and is producing hundreds of thousands of masks every single day, or it’s the spirits companies across this province that switched from spirits and beer over to hand sanitizer. That’s the true Ontario spirit, and that’s what we’re capable of doing in a great province like Ontario. We’re going to continue doing that, continue making supplies right here in Ontario.

COVID-19 RESPONSE


Mr. Mike Harris: My question is to the Premier. Many weeks ago, Ontario put out a call to businesses and manufacturing sectors to secure crucial PPE that our province needed to support our front-line workers. Since the call went out, I know that many businesses across the province have stepped up to answer that call. Some companies have completely retooled their manufacturing lines to build these crucial products. This truly is the Ontario spirit.

Premier, can you tell us more about what these businesses are doing to help support front-line workers?


Hon. Doug Ford: I want to thank the great member for Kitchener–Conestoga. He has been truly outstanding in his community and a great representative for the Waterloo region.

Ontario businesses have truly stepped up, Mr. Speaker. We have InkSmith from Kitchener, right in the member’s own backyard, who have adjusted their production lines to make plastic face shields. We have All or Nothing Brewhouse in Oshawa, who are producing hand sanitizer for their local hospital, or, all the way in Powassan near North Bay, the Original Bug Shirt Company has switched over to make face masks.

We’re hearing this right across the province—that people are switching their lines—and that just goes to show the world the talent we have, the innovative people right here in Ontario that are stepping up and providing the critical PPE that we need.


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

Mr. Mike Harris: Thank you, Premier. It is clear that Ontario has been a remarkable example of how business and the manufacturing sector can step up when needed most.

Across the province, each and every one of us has a role to play in the fight against COVID-19. That means, as a government, we need to make it as easy as possible for our innovators and entrepreneurs to work with us. By removing barriers, our business partners can offer made-in-Ontario products and a made-in-Ontario solution to help fight COVID-19.

Premier, can you tell us more about what the government has done to support these businesses to create a made-in-Ontario solution?


Hon. Doug Ford: I want to thank the member from Kitchener–Conestoga. Since the onset of COVID, Ontario businesses have offered their assistance and support to help protect the health and the well-being of people across our great province. So we, as a government, took action to support them. We unveiled a $50-million fund specifically designed to help businesses provide innovative solutions to retool their operations in order to manufacture essential medical supplies and equipment.

And there was a handy-wipe company that—we’re in desperate need of hand sanitizer, handy wipes. They were one of recipients not too long ago—about a week ago—to help them increase their production line to make sure they not only supply Ontario, but that they can supply all of Canada. We’re all in this together, Mr. Speaker.

We’re very, very grateful for the face masks that Alberta gave us. That is absolutely incredible. That is the Canadian spirit. I want to thank our friends from Alberta, and we’re going to reciprocate with the supplies that we have as well.

PROTECTION FOR HEALTH CARE WORKERS


Ms. Andrea Horwath: My next question is also for the Premier. The government has said there was “no playbook” for dealing with a pandemic like COVID-19, but experts disagree. After the SARS crisis, numerous reports and pandemic plans were developed, including plans to have adequate PPE on hand.

When did the Premier learn that the protective equipment stockpiled after SARS had expired or been destroyed?


The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): I look to the Minister of Health to reply on behalf of the government.

Hon. Christine Elliott: Thank you for the question. There were pandemic plans, of course, that were written after SARS. We learned a lot of lessons from SARS that we brought forward in dealing with COVID-19. There had been some supplies that had expired, but we quickly started to order new supplies. As the Premier has indicated, through Ontario Together, Ontario companies have stepped forward to produce N95 face masks, to produce gowns, to produce hand sanitizer, to produce ventilators.

We quickly stepped up. We have supplies now, and we have avoided the situation that has happened in many other parts of the world—in Italy and Spain, for example, where they ran out of hospital space and they ran out of equipment, and they had thousands of people who died.

We have been fortunate in Ontario in the sense that we have the capacity, we have the supplies, and through the efforts of the 14.5 million Ontarians—people self-isolated, practised physical distancing—now we’re in a situation where we are flattening the curve, and we’re prepared to move on with opening up our economy.


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

Ms. Andrea Horwath: Ontario should never have been in a place where personal support workers are forced to make do with protective equipment that they bought from places like Dollarama. That’s tragically what the case was for Leonard Rodriguez, a personal support worker who died last week. Our hearts go out to his family and loved ones.

On Friday, the Premier once again insisted that personal protective equipment was available for front-line staff like personal support workers. Yet even as he was saying that, those same front-line staff were sounding the alarm about government plans to water down access to protective equipment.

The minister has just said that we have the supplies now, so will the Premier make public the exact types and amounts of supplies of PPE that are available?


Hon. Christine Elliott: Of course, our thoughts and prayers go out to the family of Mr. Rodriguez, as well as any of the other front-line workers who have passed away during the COVID outbreak.

However, the appropriate personal protective equipment has always been available. We support the use of the appropriate equipment. We’ve had conversations with the employee organizations. They understand exactly what we have in store. They understand exactly what we’re shipping. We are shipping PPE to hospitals, long-term-care homes, retirement homes, places of congregate living, on a daily basis. We have a system where they let us know what their inventory is. They let us know what they’re going to need two or three days hence, based on past usage, and we ship it to them on a daily basis so there’s never a situation where they are without the appropriate PPE. If an N95 mask needs to be worn, it is available.

COVID-19


Mr. John Fraser: My question is for the Premier. We’ve seen how COVID-19 has disproportionately impacted our parents and grandparents living in Ontario’s long-term-care homes. We also know that testing is critical to the management and containment of COVID-19.

Our Chief Medical Officer of Health confirmed that in mid-March, Ontario was not utilizing its full testing capacity. This continued for about a month—thousands and thousands and thousands of tests.

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Through you, Speaker, to the Premier: We knew who was most vulnerable. Why did we not utilize that excess capacity to test staff and residents, at least in those homes that we knew were most at risk?


Hon. Doug Ford: I want to thank the opposition for the question. I don’t know anyone down here in the Legislature who was screaming louder than I was about increasing the testing. I want to thank our public health right across this province. They have stepped it up tremendously. They’re doing an incredible job. They’re going out there and testing every single day. We’re just shy of about a half a million tests across the province. We’re getting stronger. We’re coming up with new apps when it comes to contact tracing and tracking. It’s absolutely critical that that’s part of it.

But the good news is, by probably early next week, and hopefully sooner, we will have tested every single patient and health care worker in long-term care right across this province. We’re going to continue doing that, working with seniors residences and continue working. We will never stop testing.


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

Mr. John Fraser: I’d like to thank the Premier for his response. It does lead into my supplementary.

It’s clear that the front-line workers working in multiple facilities have continued to spread the virus. This week, in New York, Andrew Cuomo said every worker, twice a week, not optional. We haven’t finished—it’s almost mid-May, and we haven’t finished our long-term-care homes yet. We’ll finish next week, and that’s a good thing. That’s just a start. We’re going to be doing this for a while.

Speaker, through you to the Premier: What is the government’s plan going forward? I realize we’ve got a bigger plan for the community, but what is the plan going forward to ensure that residents in long-term care, and staff—and in group homes, as well—will have a testing protocol that will protect them?


Hon. Doug Ford: Through you, Mr. Speaker, our first goal is to get through all the long-term care, get through all the seniors residences, go through the group homes. Once we get through that, we re-evaluate, and if we need to go again, we’re going again. We’re going to continue staying on this. We’re going to continue testing. We’re going to continue contact tracing.

Again, you’ve seen where we were a few weeks ago compared to where we are now. Our goal for public health right across this province is to make sure we hit 20,000 every single day. They’re getting better and better. They’re doing a great job. They’re working around the clock, and I want to congratulate everyone part of the health team and part of public health right across this province.


The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): The next question: the member for Guelph.

COMMERCIAL TENANT PROTECTION


Mr. Mike Schreiner: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Good to see you and all my colleagues today. My question is for the Premier.

For the past two months, I’ve called on the government to deliver a rent relief program. Without help, local businesses will not survive this crisis, so I was relieved when a joint federal-provincial commercial rent assistance program was announced. But the program is not working. Only 10% of businesses both qualify and think their landlord will participate in the program when it opens. Local businesses are running out of time. Landlords can lock out tenants on May 15.

Will the Premier stand up for small businesses by placing a temporary ban on commercial evictions to prevent our downtowns from becoming ghost towns?


The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Minister of Finance to reply.

Hon. Rod Phillips: I thank the member for Guelph for his question. I thank all the members of this Legislature for voting for the $17-billion program that this government brought forward, and it was supported unanimously, to support people and businesses. Included in that program, as the member correctly points out, was the $241 million that our government has put to support the emergency commercial rent assistance program. This program will provide landlords with 75% of the rent that they are owed for the months of April, May and June, and will also ensure that tenants who are eligible are only required to pay 25%.

As the member noted, the program has yet to become available. Myself and the other provincial finance ministers were assured by the federal Minister of Finance—of course, the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. is administering this program, but we’re assured that it will be opening in the days ahead. I would ask that he and the rest of us wait to see the program open and look to see how the program has been modified to be supportive of tenants and landlords before we judge its success.


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

Mr. Mike Schreiner: I appreciate the minister’s response, but it confirms exactly why I’m asking for a temporary ban on commercial renovictions. May 15 is the day that landlords can lock out their commercial tenants. I’ve heard heartbreaking stories from small-business owners who have put, literally, their life savings into their businesses and are worried they’re going to be locked out in three days, on May 15. It means not only that these businesses will be lost but that their employees will not have jobs to go back to. Many of these employees are in the service, hospitality and retail sectors. It means that more women will lose their jobs in what people are calling a “she-cession.”

The vibrancy and the vitality of our communities are at stake by not keeping our local businesses open, and so I ask the minister if we can alleviate the anxiety of small businesses by bringing in a temporary ban on commercial renovictions until the joint federal-provincial program can be up and running.


Hon. Rod Phillips: Again, I appreciate the question from the member. This program, in which there is over a billion dollars now dedicated to the province of Ontario and to tenants and landlords here, has been modified to make sure that it addresses many of the concerns that have been raised through the conversations we’ve had, including with the CFIB and the Ontario Chamber of Commerce. That includes making sure that the basis is gross rent, making sure that those landlords that have mortgages or don’t have mortgages will be eligible.

Mr. Speaker, it’s in addition to the supports that this government, again, through the support of the Legislature, has been able to provide. That includes $10 billion of deferrals. That includes $355 million in reductions in employer health tax this year. That includes $300 per month in reductions as a result of time-of-use pricing.

So again, I think it’s important that the federal program be allowed to be initiated. We’ve been assured by the federal Minister of Finance that that will happen in the days ahead, and then we’ll look to see the effectiveness of that program and if any additional actions are necessary.

COVID-19


Ms. Sara Singh: My question is for the Premier. Experts from around the world know that the best way to contain the spread of COVID-19 is to test, test and test some more. The trouble is, Ontario’s testing is behind the Canadian average and even its own public targets. On March 26, the Ontario Deputy Minister of Health said that Ontario would be testing 18,900 a day. Not once has Ontario met that target. Then, on April 8, the Premier revised that target to 16,000 tests a day, and we still struggle to meet that target consistently. Six weeks later, we’re still lagging, over 160,000 tests behind.

Has the Premier received advice from Public Health Ontario on how many tests Ontario must be consistently conducting on a daily basis in order for us to safely reopen this province?


Hon. Doug Ford: I want to thank the opposition for the question.

Mr. Speaker, it’s a shame that the opposition is saying that public health hasn’t tested more than that number. Actually, they did. They tested over 19,000 a few days ago and 18,000 a couple of days before that. By the way, they’re actually leading the country now per capita, if you want to look into it and get the actual facts.

I’m so proud of our public health team. Yes, were there a few bumps on the road? Absolutely, there were a few bumps, but they are going full steam ahead. They’re going to continue testing. Our target is going to be 20,000 every single day. They’re doing an incredible, incredible job. These are the men and women who are going out there and testing people constantly, every single day, so I’m proud of what they’re doing.

Yes, our goal will be 20,000, but we had that 19,000 and 18,000 and we are leading the country. Thank you for that question.


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

Ms. Sara Singh: Speaker, I think we all recognize the hard work of our public health officials and front-line nurses and folks that are doing that testing, but the whole point of testing is to make sure we actually know where we are at as a province. Since we don’t have widespread testing in place, we simply just don’t know. We don’t fully know where the virus is spreading and who is being infected. That makes it so much harder to plan things like getting students back to schools, or opening up our small businesses, or even just hugging our loved ones.

Why has this Premier not scaled up testing to meet even his own targets?

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

Hon. Christine Elliott: The member is absolutely right that we do need to have testing across the entire province, and we do. We have over 20 different organizations that are testing the samples that have been brought to them. We have paramedics who are helping with the assistance, public health officials who are helping. We have all hands on deck with this, because we know that as we try to open the economy and as we try to make sure that people in long-term-care homes and other places of congregate living are kept safe and healthy—we know that we need to increase testing. That is absolutely vital.

I know that the people of Ontario generally want to know, if they’re looking at a return to work, that there are going to be ways that everyone can continue to be testing to make sure that we all remain safe. That is a fundamental principle for us. We receive daily results of tests. We know exactly how many tests are being done, and they are coming in from all parts of Ontario. We will continue to do that as we slowly and gradually start opening up our economy.

PROTECTION FOR HEALTH CARE WORKERS / PROTECTION POUR TRAVAILLEURS DE SOINS DE SANTÉ


Mme Lucille Collard: C’est avec plaisir que je me lève en Chambre aujourd’hui pour poser ma première question. Ma première question s’adresse à la ministre des Soins de longue durée.

Aujourd’hui, c’est la semaine des infirmiers et infirmières en Ontario. Chaque jour, ils se battent en première ligne contre ce terrible virus. Ils sont essentiels à notre système de santé, et nous leur devons d’obtenir l’équipement de protection dont ils ont besoin. Nous avons entendu de nombreux témoignages de la part d’infirmiers, d’infirmières et d’autres travailleurs de première ligne, comme les préposés aux bénéficiaires, n’ayant pas accès à l’équipement approprié, y compris les masques N95.

Monsieur le Président, par votre intermédiaire, la ministre peut-elle décrire les mesures immédiates qui sont prises pour s’assurer que tous les infirmiers et infirmières, et tous les travailleurs de la santé de première ligne dans les différents milieux, y compris les soins à domicile, ont accès à l’équipement de protection approprié?


Hon. Christine Elliott: I thank the member very much for the question. Welcome to Queen’s Park. We look forward to having conversations with you and questions from you in the future.

The question of personal protective equipment is very important, because the people who are performing front-line care, whether it’s in hospitals, long-term-care homes or in the community, they really are the heroes here. We owe it to them to provide them with the equipment that they need to properly care for their patients or residents and to make sure that they stay safe and healthy themselves, as well as for their families, because every day they need to go home and make sure that they’re not going to be transmitting COVID-19 to their family members. That is fundamentally important to us, that we do have the PPE that they need.

That is why we have a system where they let us know, the organizations, what equipment they need. It’s shipped to them on a daily basis, either from our regional reserves or from our pandemic reserves. Whatever equipment it is that they need at point of care—if nurses require an N95 mask for whatever procedure it is that they’re performing, if it’s an aerosol-generating procedure, they will have that N95 mask. That is something that we have had many discussions with the employee representatives about, over many conversations, and we have agreed with them that if a nurse requires an N95 mask, it will be available to him or her to use.


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

Mme Lucille Collard: I thank the minister for her answer. Unfortunately, that’s not the experience I’m hearing on the ground.

I wrote to the Minister of Long-Term Care last week about my concerns regarding three long-term-care homes in my riding. Nurses and staff in these homes are reporting inconsistent PPE practices, insufficient supply, staff shortages and escalating tensions between colleagues. This is having an effect on the care and the quality of life of our most vulnerable—our moms and dads, our parents. So Speaker, through you to the minister: What are you doing to ensure that nurses in long-term care have access to proper PPE and that PPE protocols are clearly articulated?


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

Hon. Christine Elliott: The appropriate PPE is being supplied, as I indicated earlier, to every long-term-care home, to retirement homes, and in hospitals, of course, as well. We know that that is fundamental for the people on the front lines providing care. I would say, however, that there have been some situations in some long-term-care homes where it has been necessary, because of a shortage of staff—staff have become ill or just have not been coming back to work since there have been outbreaks in some of the homes—that it has been necessary for hospitals to go in. We have changed the order to allow for hospitals to see long-term-care homes as work sites. They have staff that are going in with PPE and they are making sure that, in those situations where they are providing care—in some cases, having to provide supervision—that there is PPE available and that it is being used according to the appropriate protocols. So we’re continuing to follow that.

COVID-19


Mr. Percy Hatfield: My question is to the Premier. Today’s new testing numbers show that we have completed 12,000 tests—far short of the national per capita average and far short of the Premier’s target.

Alberta has a network of public labs and universities to do their testing. As a result, Alberta is consistently outperforming Ontario, with more than 33% samples tested there than here. In fact, Alberta announced just last week more money to increase their testing capacity. Speaker, why is Alberta able to test so many more people for COVID-19 than Ontario?


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

Hon. Christine Elliott: Thank you very much for the question, but, in actual fact, Ontario is now the leader in testing in Canada. We have surpassed every other province. But it is important to continue with the testing and to make sure it comes in on a timely basis.

The situation that the member is referring to happens on a weekly basis because of the fact that there is a delay over the weekend with the transportation of some of the swabs to the labs. Later on in the week, we will see the numbers come back, but this is something that happens on a weekly basis. There are no surprises here. It is just due to the transportation issues involved over the weekend.

But we know that we need to continue to test. We have significantly increased our lab testing capability, from the public health units to hospitals, to universities, to other companies that have come forward to assist us with the lab testing. So we are going to continue to increase our numbers. We have a plan to do that. That is something that is happening as we speak. We’re increasing the numbers. But Ontario is leading the rest of the country right now in terms of lab testing.


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

Mr. Percy Hatfield: The Premier said over a month ago that the testing rate was unacceptable. But a month later, it’s the same old problem. Without a massive jump in the number of test results, we just don’t know what’s going on with this pandemic. Every day that goes by, we’re missing those targets; there is one more day lost when we could have gotten things back on track quicker for Ontarians. Why has this government not prioritized testing for COVID-19 in this time of absolute crisis?

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): The Premier to reply.

Hon. Doug Ford: The fact is, we’ve tested 447,964 tests, and that’s probably a day or so old. We’ve tested 73% of all the long-term-care patients. I said “early next week,” but hopefully by this weekend we’ll have every single patient tested. If we need to go over it again, we’ll continue doing this until we get through this pandemic. We’ll continue testing and we’ll get better at testing. Public health will get better at testing. As the apps come out, we’ll have better contact tracing. It’s absolutely essential. As I mentioned to the Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister and all the Premiers, we want to lead the way when it comes to contact tracing and tracking. It’s absolutely critical.

But we will continue to be the leader—not only are we the leader here; we are now not only the leader in Canada, but in testing per capita ranked among the top globally, in the world. And we will never stop testing; we’re just going to ramp the testing up. Again, I want to thank the people from public health for doing a great job.

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LONG-TERM CARE


Ms. Marit Stiles: I would just like to say, with due respect to the Minister of Health and the Premier today, what you’re saying is happening in terms of the provision of personal protective equipment and testing and so on is not what’s translating into what we’re seeing on the ground and hearing from constituents.

My question is to the Premier. The uncontrolled spread of COVID-19 in long-term-care homes is heartbreaking. But what’s even worse is that we know that many of these outbreaks would have been preventable if only the staff and the residents had been given the personal protective equipment they were desperately calling for. My constituent’s 95-year-old father contracted COVID-19 at Mon Sheong Home for the Aged after that home tried and failed to get needed protective equipment. PSWs, those health care heroes we talk about all the time, in my community are telling me they are afraid to go to work because they don’t have the equipment they need, despite this Premier’s assurances.

When is the government going to address these continuing issues in long-term care and protect our vulnerable seniors?


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

Hon. Christine Elliott: I thank the member very much for the question, but the fact is that we do have the inventory and the inventory is being shipped on a daily basis to whatever organization needs it. Whether it’s a long-term care home or whether it is a hospital or whether it’s for home care, we do have the supplies. They were being sent on a daily basis. There is no concern with that.

We have been very frank in our discussions with the employee organizations. We developed a directive with them that if there is a need, if a nurse or whatever worker on the front line requires an N95 mask—because those are the masks that have been most in discussion. If they needed one for a procedure, they had the ability to choose one and to use it. That is what was agreed with the employee organizations. That is what the hospitals know. That is what the long-term-care homes know. That is a procedure we have followed from the beginning.


The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): The supplementary question, member from Toronto–St Paul’s.

Ms. Jill Andrew: Meighen Manor long-term care: We need help, and we need help now. My question to the Premier. Forty-two people have died, 61 residents are positive and 45 staff are also positive. I’ve heard from families, our families at Meighen Manor, that their loved ones are lying in beds and they’re starving. They cannot reach their food. They are thirsty for hours. They cannot reach their water. Residents are falling out of beds in the dark and are on the floor for hours. What struck me most is one family member I spoke to. She actually had to sit with her mother’s dead body overnight at Meighen Manor, because there were not enough staff to come support her.

We all know that our staff at Meighen Manor are doing their absolute best, Premier. They’re doing their best, but they cannot do their best for themselves or their residents if they’re having to wear the same PPE moving from a negative room to a positive room, from a positive room to a negative room. And this is current information.

Mr. Premier, what will you do, what will your government do for Meighen Manor? How will you help us now? I have written to you, and I have the letters and I will give you the letters today in your hand. What is this government going to do for Meighen Manor now?


The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Minister of Long-Term Care to reply.

Hon. Merrilee Fullerton: Thank you for the question. This is a heartbreaking situation. I want to reassure all Ontarians that measures are being taken for homes that are in distress, and that our Ministry of Long-Term Care is, every single hour, mounting a response to support those homes. You know that it is widespread. You know that this is happening around the world. The situation in Ontario is a tragedy. But looking at how we’re getting hospitals, from Meighen Manor—there is another hospital, Sunnybrook hospital, that has been actively involved in supporting Meighen Manor.

The Salvation Army has brought in additional services for Meighen Manor. We are making sure that the staffing there is getting support so that they are not burning out. This is absolutely critical to make sure that our residents get the water, care, food and hygiene that they need.

We are looking at every measure possible. They are being supported. We are making sure that we are in touch and have our inspectors in there. There have been labour inspectors and long-term-care inspectors into these homes. We’ve called in the military in some instances, and other homes are managing.

This is something that we are addressing on the go. We are increasing our funding for our staff and looking at measures to make sure that the staff is supported at every step.

LONG-TERM CARE


Mr. Stephen Blais: Madonna Care Community in Orléans has suffered unimaginable challenges and tragedies as a result of COVID-19. With over 30 cases amongst the staff, the private operator of the home has struggled to maintain adequate staffing ratios.

Family members report having difficulty getting timely information about their loved ones. Media reports describe a work environment that is haggard, with dedicated staff lacking proper PPE and at least one staff member working four consecutive 16-hour shifts.

It’s clear that the amazing medical team at Madonna are doing all they can for their patients. What is also clear is that the iron ring around Madonna has crumbled.

When will the government step in and put in place a plan to get Madonna Community Care back on track?


Hon. Merrilee Fullerton: Thank you for the question, and welcome.

Our government has been using every tool possible, taking every measure possible. In terms of the Madonna situation, I can tell you that we’ve had Ontario Health involved since May 2. The Royal Ottawa hospital, the Ottawa Hospital and the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario are all supporting Madonna, the staff and the residents there.

CHEO and the Royal Ottawa are currently staffing 100% of the home’s requested needs, including an environmental services supervisor and cleaners. In total, 11 personal support workers and two culinary staff have been deployed by CHEO and Royal. An inspection team was on the ground on Friday.

I want to assure you that we are taking every measure. We are in regular contact. The drastic situation is, there is a shortage of staff across our homes in Ontario, for many of them in outbreak. But we’re actively working on that, making sure that they get the support they need, supporting our staff and supporting our residents—all of our loved ones—in long-term care.


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

Mr. Stephen Blais: Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the minister for her response and our communications over the last number of weeks.

But, Mr. Speaker, over this past weekend, I’ve heard from staff and family from Madonna describing an ongoing situation that does not seem to be getting better.

One family member wrote in regard to PPE: “It doesn’t just work to say there is enough and it is being used. Unfortunately, there needs to be more direct involvement and supervision of the staff and PPE continually.”

According to reports from the Ottawa Citizen, one registered nurse was asked to leave because she raised concerns that the use of PPE was not safe and did not meet public health guidance.

CUPE has filed a grievance because of the lax infection protection control and risk-assessment reviews being done when staff from outside hospitals are deployed to support the nursing home.

My question, Mr. Speaker: When will the government demonstrate to the families and the community alike that the situation at Madonna Community Care is under control and there is a long-term plan to manage the COVID-19 crisis at Madonna now and over the coming months?


Hon. Merrilee Fullerton: Thank you again for the question.

This is an ongoing situation not only with Madonna but with several other homes. We are aware and acknowledge the issues there in terms of staffing. That’s why we are using the hospitals, their SWAT teams or their rapid response teams, their infection prevention and control teams and their staffing. You can see that the hospitals are rallying around the homes that need the support.

The efforts to shore up the staffing will be ongoing. We know that Madonna is getting the support that they need. We are in regular contact. The homes in these sorts of situations are required to put forth a plan in terms of what they need so we can meet their needs. That communication is ongoing between the teams that are supporting the home, the home and the ministry, also Ontario Health, also the Ministry of Health and public health; all measures are being taken to support these homes.

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As you can understand, this is a trying time. It is a challenging time in long-term care, not only in our Ottawa homes but in Ontario and across the globe. Everything is being done to support Madonna.

COMMERCIAL TENANT PROTECTION


Ms. Catherine Fife: My question is to the Premier. Business owners like Steve Innocente of Innocente Brewing pour their heart and soul into their work. But now, bills are piling up and real relief is nowhere in sight. For Innocente Brewing, profit was down 257% in March. Despite this, Steve and his team rallied, turning over $30,000 worth of beer into hand sanitizer to donate to front-line health care workers.

Now their priority, like so many other businesses, is direct rent relief. In fact, this is key to our economic recovery as a province. We have called for rent relief subsidies, and this has been supported by the Ontario Chamber of Commerce and by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business.

For too many Ontario businesses, the current federal rent relief program is too complicated, it is reliant upon the buy-in of landlords and it will not come in time to save these business. Will this government finally agree today for a made-in-Ontario strategy to support businesses by providing rent relief? They’ve stepped up for us, and we need to step up for them.


The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Minister of Finance to reply.

Hon. Rod Phillips: I thank the member for the question. She is right: We all know that Ontario businesses are facing extreme pressures at this time. A global economic slowdown, which is underpinned by a global health crisis, is putting real pressure on Ontario businesses and entrepreneurs. That is why, on the 25th of March, we brought forward a comprehensive program, $17 billion worth of support, including $10 billion worth of deferrals to support businesses and a reduction in the employer health tax that accounted for $355 million in support for 57,000 employers. That means that 90% of employers won’t be paying that tax this year.

With regard to the rent situation, as I have said, the program that the federal government has brought forward, the program that this government has supported to the tune of almost one quarter-billion dollars, is a program designed to support those kinds of businesses and make sure that they and the landlords that they work with can continue their businesses through these difficult economic times.


The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Supplementary, the member for York South–Weston.

Mr. Faisal Hassan: It is clear that the government’s new program won’t help pay the rent and it won’t stop businesses from being evicted. Osman is a small business owner in my community who does not qualify because his landlord does not carry a mortgage. Others like TDot Tumblers , Hair Plus Beauty Supplies and R & R Jewellery are losing their businesses because their landlords are refusing to participate.

To the Premier: Too many small businesses are falling through the cracks. We cannot let the dreams of these owners wither away. So I will ask again: Will the government commit to direct financial support to businesses who say that this is not working for them?


The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Again, the Minister of Finance.

Hon. Rod Phillips: I appreciate the question. We have been in consultation with the CFIB and we have been in consultation with the Ontario Chamber of Commerce and through our Minister Sarkaria, who has hosted 28 round table with small businesses. So this is a government that is listening and reaching out to those concerns.

To the member’s point, the program that he’s discussing has been adjusted and adapted—and I give the federal government credit for that—to make sure that businesses that don’t have a mortgage and businesses that finance their businesses in different way are eligible. It has also been modified to make sure that the calculation is based on gross rent and not net rent—again, feedback that we received from both of those organizations.

This is a government that the people of Ontario know is committed to businesses, committed to small business, and it’s going to do everything in its power to make sure that they continue through this very difficult global economic challenge.

ONTARIO ECONOMY


Mr. Stan Cho: My question is to the Premier. Only months ago, our province, thanks to the Premier’s leadership and our policies in the government, we were able to turn Ontario’s economy around. Our province was the job creation leader in 2019, with 76% of all jobs created in Canada originating right here in Ontario.

Last Friday, Statistics Canada reported on the April employment numbers for our country and confirmed some difficult news for Ontarians. In April, Ontario was hit hard with an unemployment rate of 11.3%.

COVID-19 has been a relentless enemy. It has taken hundreds of lives—mothers, fathers, neighbours and friends. It has forced our economy to a virtual standstill, shuttering businesses and throwing people out of work.

Can the Premier share with this House the impact the pandemic has had and how he will address it, moving forward?


Hon. Doug Ford: I want to thank the member from Willowdale. The job numbers that were just announced—it just hits you. It keeps you up at night. Let’s go back before the pandemic, when we were leading North America with job creation per capita and economic development of 307,000 new jobs.

I have the confidence of the businesses out there and the true entrepreneurs and the people, the 14-and-a-half-million people, that we’re going to get back on our feet. We’re going to make sure to get the economy going by cutting the red tape, getting rid of the regulations and making an environment so that companies can thrive and prosper as they did before this pandemic. Before this pandemic, we were reaching out to the federal government to ask for 250,000 more people to fill the jobs because we created that environment.

But it goes back to the people. The people have been outstanding. The ingenuity of these companies and the manufacturing right here in Ontario is second to none anywhere in North America. We will continue to be the engine of Canada once again, and we ask for the opposition’s support to help that happen.


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

Mr. Stan Cho: Thank you, Speaker, and through you: Premier, you said it best. During these difficult times, there is no blue team, there is no red team, orange team or green team. There is only Team Ontario, and our province will be able to move forward together because we are an army of 14-and-a-half-million people who have all been pulling in the same direction.

As I said, COVID-19 has been a relentless enemy. People in my riding are struggling, through no fault of their own. In the face of adversity, we must stand together and support each other. We must keep fighting, we must keep going.

Can the Premier elaborate on what measures our government has taken to restore economic confidence, while ensuring that health and safety are never compromised?


Hon. Doug Ford: I’d like to thank the member. Mr. Speaker, we provided over $17 billion towards the fight against COVID-19 and $10 billion in tax deferrals, helping businesses with numerous, numerous programs.

We have the right framework about reopening our economy. We have the guidelines to protect the workers. We have over 60 protocols in place, or guidelines, to make sure we have a safe working environment. We’re opening up the economy in a trickle, making sure that not only customers are safe, but employees are safe. But the number one priority is making sure the health and the well-being of the people of this province are safe before we continue opening up and opening the economy wide open.

I think, so far, the people of Ontario have done an incredible job working with this government and other governments. It just goes to show you, when governments work together, no matter if it’s the 444 municipalities in this province or the phenomenal relationship we have with our federal government, our Liberal counterparts up in Ottawa—when we all work together, it’s amazing how we can move this country and this province forward. We look forward to continuing with the municipality co-operation, along with the federal government.


The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): That concludes the time we have for question period.

ESTIMATES


The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): I understand the President of the Treasury Board has a point of order.

Hon. Peter Bethlenfalvy: Mr. Speaker, I have a message from the Honourable Elizabeth Dowdeswell.

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Members will please rise.

The Lieutenant Governor transmits estimates of certain sums required for the services of the province for the year ending March 31, 2021, and recommends them to the Legislative Assembly.

This House stands in recess until 1 p.m.

The House recessed from 1140 to 1300.

ROYAL ASSENT / SANCTION ROYALE


The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): I beg to inform the House that in the name of Her Majesty the Queen, Her Honour the Lieutenant Governor has been pleased to assent to a certain bill in her office.

The Deputy Clerk (Mr. Trevor Day): The following is the title of the bill to which Her Honour did assent:

An Act to enact one Act and amend various Acts in respect of COVID-19 and to make other amendments / Loi édictant une loi et modifiant diverses lois en ce qui a trait à la COVID-19 et apportant d’autres modifications.

ORDERS OF THE DAY

EXTENSION OF EMERGENCY DECLARATION


Ms. Andrea Khanjin: I move that:

Whereas an emergency was declared by order-in-council 518/2020 (O. Reg 50/20) on March 17, 2020 pursuant to section 7.0.1 of the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act; and

Whereas the emergency was extended past the end of March 31, 2020 for a period of 14 days by O. Reg 84/20 on March 30, 2020 pursuant to subsection 7.0.7(2) of the act; and

Whereas the emergency was extended by resolution of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario for a period of 28 days on April 14, 2020 pursuant to subsection 7.0.7(3) of the act; and

Whereas the period of emergency may be further extended only by resolution of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario pursuant to subsection 7.0.7(3) of the act; and

Whereas the Premier has recommended that the period of the emergency be extended for 21 days;

Therefore, the Legislative Assembly of Ontario hereby declares that the period of the emergency is extended past the end of May 12, 2020 for a further period of 21 days.


The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Further debate?

Mr. Randy Hillier: I’m pleased to debate this motion. The motion leads us to a singular question that this debate is meant to inform and answer: During a crisis, what is the best form of government? Is it a representative, democratic, elected government that is accountable for its actions, or is it an autocratic government where one person, the Premier, can create laws without debate or affirmation from the people? How we answer that question is vital.

For if we agree an autocratic government is best during a crisis, why then, by deduction, is it not best at all times, even without a crisis? Are elected members necessary, or are they only optional? Are 124 members worse at making decisions than the single member? The motion asks you to answer that question. Should we be disregarding the purpose we have all consented to, in reopening this Legislature?

Today we are being asked to reaffirm that Ontario is in a state of emergency. If passed, this would empower the Premier and his delegates to continue to make new unilateral and arbitrary emergency orders while halting and disregarding the function, purpose and responsibility of this assembly in the development of public policy.

In March, I supported the declaration of an emergency while understanding that those extraordinary powers that we granted to the Premier were temporary. The House had recessed, the risk of exigent circumstances arising was great, and granting those emergency powers was the prudent and wise path to take at that time. And let us not forget the circumstances back then: There were far more unknowns, far more uncertainty. There were more unknowns than knowns. Confusion was compounded with contradictory statements from the regime in China, from the World Health Organization. We were told one day that the borders should be opened, the next day that the borders should be closed. We were told that human transmission was not possible, then that it was. We were told that masks couldn’t protect you but then that they could. All of these contradictory statements—misinformation, in some cases—and uncertainty dictated and justified, while the House was going into recess, that the Premier be granted these exigent and extraordinary powers.

We also didn’t fully know how it spread. We didn’t even really fully understand the symptoms. We didn’t know if there was immunity or not. We didn’t know what the lethality rates were. All these unknowns were present.

However, a time comes in a free and just society when the executive must return the powers conferred upon them by this House back to this House. I understand the fear we all have with ending the state of emergency. We fear a second wave. We think that these orders are necessary. I concur that there is still some level of uncertainty and that the existing orders ought to remain in place. However, we can keep those existing orders in place while returning the authority for future orders back to this Legislative Assembly.

The Premier has done his best, as we all have, but we must remember that as members of the House we were elected to make decisions for the people. Forgetting or abdicating that responsibility is denying the people their voice.

I’ve asked the government, why do you want to extend this authority to make unilateral decisions? Because that is what is at the heart of the declaration. That question has gone unanswered. It has been met with only silence. The government has failed or refused to offer any argument or evidence that would justify continuing these powers. It is through our collaboration that we have created and agreed to a framework for this House to resume its proper role. But apparently, the government does not want the assembly and its members to exercise our full functions—rather, more the appearance of democracy than functional democracy.

For absolute clarity, I am not suggesting—not for a moment—that we are out of this crisis. I’m simply saying that the time has come that the advice being received by the Premier alone from public health ought to be presented to this House. It ought to be discussed, it ought to be debated, and then we can make decisions on how to move forward, as is intended and required by our system of representative government.

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COVID has caused a great deal of suffering for a great many people, and that cannot be overlooked or diminished. But there is another tragedy—another tragedy that is not so clearly seen, not so clearly understood. It doesn’t make the headlines of the papers. It doesn’t capture the nightly newscasts. For the last two months, every day, from morning to night, I have been on the phone, talking with constituents, hearing their trembled voices, listening to their despair. It has been the most emotional and troubling experience.

I spoke with a woman whose 58-year-old husband requires a live liver transplant. He is dying. But because that procedure requires the use of two ventilators, he cannot get a liver transplant. It was heartbreaking, really. The words cannot describe speaking to her. She had no mechanism to protect or save her loved one.

I spoke with another father whose younger daughter had been discovered to have a tumor, but because of COVID, she cannot get the procedure done. It is too dangerous to remove the tumor in a young woman because of COVID.

I spoke with a lady. Her husband is a roofer, self-employed. She called me many times, just absolutely overwhelmed. They are going to lose their house. They are going to lose their equipment. They are going to lose their business. They don’t qualify for relief. Her husband, through all these confusing and contradictory clauses of the essential workplaces act, is too fearful of going to work because of possible fines.

The stories are endless. They’re real. They’re not in the newspapers. But I’m telling you, they’re real. They are the unseen tragedy of what has happened. If I had 12 hours to debate this motion, I could not communicate all of those stories to the people in this House, to the public.

A man who had retired and invested his life-savings into a new bar and restaurant in Perth—he was meant to open on March 17, the day we shuttered the hospitality industry. All his pension money, all his savings money, everything that he owns is invested into this restaurant. He has his inventory of beer and spirits. He has his inventory of food. He can’t pay his rent. He can’t pay his credit lines. He will be bankrupted.

The stories, like I said, are heart-wrenching to listen to. I’m sure every member in this House has heard similar and equally despairing stories. These are the tragedy, the unseen tragedy of COVID, and they will continue to mount. That’s important for us to understand. They will continue to mount under a renewed state of emergency, because that’s the other element of the state of emergency: The state of emergency, the declaration, says that is our priority. All these other concerns must take a back seat.

These people are constituents. They’ve elected us. They’ve elected us to be their voice. They need a voice during this time because they’re not being heard. And they are preventable. If we are allowed to do our work, if we are allowed to bring concerns and debate and discuss how policies impact people, we can maybe minimize or mitigate some of them, maybe many of them. I think we can. The spirit of collaboration that I’ve seen from people clearly demonstrates there is a desire. But we have to have their interests also represented in this House.

And it’s not only constituent concerns, but all these other elements that this House has an obligation to air and to ventilate. But under the state of emergency, the declaration of emergency, are we talking about services for autistic children? No, we’re not. Are we talking about Lyme disease? No, we’re not. Are we talking about the failures of the Family Responsibility Office? They have been growing under this time. There is some talk about long-term care, but long-term care has been a problem for decades—decades. I’m sure many members in this House have submitted many briefs to the current minister and former ministers on how to reform long-term care. I know I have, and I’m sure many others have. What has happened there is again another tragedy. I was not elected to ignore these issues. We all have the ability to partake in the legislative process.

COVID is not over. We’ve achieved the main objective of not having everyone get sick all at once. We have prevented our health care system from being overwhelmed. But it has come at a great cost, a great cost that is unseen by many. The FAO report has come out with unsurprising but very frightening facts. This ought to be understood. We ought to be able to inform our constituents of what these consequences are that we’ll be facing. But a reaffirmation of the declaration of emergency power will trump that consideration as well.

I do commend the Premier for voicing his concerns regarding our province’s unpreparedness for pharmaceuticals, PPEs and our testing capacity. And I agree that we must make it a priority that products and tools are made in Ontario. We have to end our reliance and our dependency on less-than-trustworthy friends and allies. That has to come to an end.

But also, there’s the underutilization of our health care, these empty beds. None of these powerfully important subjects are going to be discussed under the declaration of emergency. These are all important debates and discussions. They cannot happen earnestly while we are under this emergency. I believe it’s time that we reclaim our rational inquiry and reasoned deliberations, remove them back from the hands of arbitrary and unilateral excess. It’s time to end the decrees and edicts coming on the fly and sometimes by the seat of our pants.

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The Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act remains bound by our constitution, yet no member of this House has had the opportunity to challenge the government on regulations that violate our protected rights of mobility and freedom of assembly.

Finally, I will add—and this came up through the discussions with the government House leader yesterday—that there is a huge and gaping loophole in the existing emergency management act. It is one that none of us understood was there. Within that statute, the loophole allows for the state of emergency to remain indefinitely at the will of the Premier. There is no means that this House can compel an end to the emergency under the existing legislation. I appreciate the House leader’s commitment to me to amend the legislation expeditiously.

I also commend the House leader and the government in the manner that they have engaged and facilitated thoughtful negotiations and deliberations with all members of this House during these challenging times. There is work that needs to be done. Resolving, correcting, mitigating the many tragedies that this pandemic has exposed is on that list. Remaining locked into a state of emergency impedes and delays our efforts. Let us begin this work without delay, without fear and without trepidation. Let us lead by example.


The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Further debate?

Hon. Sylvia Jones: Speaker, I’d like to begin by thanking you and the legislative staff who have made it possible for members to safely assemble here today to continue our work in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. I also want to thank colleagues from each side of the House for their personal efforts to travel here from near and far, and I thank you for your continued public service in your communities and in this chamber.

Speaker, I would also like to take this opportunity to give my deepest gratitude and admiration to Ontario’s front-line workers. During these unprecedented times, we have witnessed extraordinary efforts made by the people in this province. From health care professionals to store clerks to truckers, your dedication, commitment and courage deserve a special thank you from us. We are making a great difference during these unprecedented times, and you play a huge part in that.

As we all know, the COVID-19 outbreak is the greatest threat that our province, our country and, indeed, the world has seen in decades. The unique threat posed by COVID-19 requires all of us to do our part. We all need to work together by staying home, practising physical distancing and avoiding social gatherings. The past two months have tested the strength of people and families, businesses, and even governments across Canada. I’m proud to say that Ontarians from all walks of life have risen to the occasion. They have done their part in the fight against this deadly virus.

Similarly, from the beginning, our government has been taking action to combat the spread of COVID-19 within our community. As Solicitor General, my ministry is responsible for Emergency Management Ontario, as well as the Provincial Emergency Operations Centre, or PEOC, as we like to call it affectionately. The dedicated staff and leadership involved in emergency preparedness at both the provincial and municipal levels are working literally around the clock with public health officials to respond to this crisis faced in all corners of the province. Additionally, the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act, which is Ontario’s emergency management legislation, also falls under the Ministry of the Solicitor General.

On March 17, upon the recommendation of the Chief Medical Officer of Health, we took an important and critical step to protect Ontarians by declaring a provincial emergency through the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act. In doing so, we established the ability to quickly implement and enforce time-limited orders that keep our communities and businesses protected, assist our front-line workers, and reduce the burden on our health care system.

The decision to declare a provincial emergency was not made lightly. We took this extraordinary measure because we must offer our full support and every power possible to help front-line workers in health care and other sectors contain the spread of COVID-19. Some examples of the measures taken were the closure of all non-essential workplaces and restrictions on social gatherings in Ontario.

We also know that this unprecedented outbreak has put financial pressures on families and households. That is why we have responded in a number of ways, including issuing an emergency order to adopt a fixed, 24/7 off-peak electricity rate. This will help those who are doing the right thing by staying home, and small businesses that have closed or are seeing fewer customers.

Premier Ford also sent a strong message that we will not tolerate price-gouging. We were able to back that up through an emergency order to stop retail businesses and individuals from charging unfair prices for necessary goods Ontarians need to protect themselves and their families from COVID-19.

It is critical that we continue to do everything we can to contain the spread of COVID-19 and protect the health, safety and well-being of all Ontarians. That is why, today, this motion is before the House to extend the provincial emergency and its subsequent orders until June 2. This will allow us to continue to quickly implement and enforce orders in the public interest. We know that these measures continue to affect people’s everyday lives, but they are necessary to ensure that we can stop the spread of COVID-19.

The declaration of emergency and the associated emergency orders are regularly reviewed and assessed. The initial declaration of emergency lasted for a period of 14 days, at which time it was renewed by cabinet for an additional 14 days. After that, it can continue to be renewed in 28-day increments through a vote in this Legislature. That is why this Legislature met to vote on extending the declaration of emergency on April 14 through unanimous consent and it is why we are here again today.

In addition to these required renewals, emergency orders that are made under section 7.0.2 are also subject to a renewal by cabinet every 14 days.

As we have with all decisions as we battle this deadly virus, we have consulted with the Chief Medical Officer of Health. From the beginning, we have not hesitated to use every tool and every resource available to us, and we will continue to do so, doing everything within our power to protect the health and safety of all Ontarians. It is our number one priority.

I want to thank all Ontarians for the role each and every one of them is playing in this fight so far. Whether it is practising physical distancing and staying home, working on the front lines to keep critical supply chains running, or those working in the health care sector during these extraordinary times, each and every one of you is critical to our success so far and will be critical in the days, weeks and months to come.

The business community has also stepped up to the plate with their supplies, their innovation and their ideas to help protect our front-line workers and vulnerable Ontario individuals and businesses. More than 23,000 submissions have been received since the launch of the Ontario Together portal. This has manifested into 200 million pieces of critical supplies and equipment to support staff on the front lines, including 600,000 gowns, 80 million gloves, 80 million masks and over one million face shields. Over 2,000 ideas have been submitted through the portal on how to address the COVID-19 outbreak, including offers to retool their business to make critical supplies or to deliver goods or services needed at this time.

Speaker, this truly is what the Ontario spirit is: demonstrating the power of working together to combat this virus. And although we’ve made great strides in fighting COVID-19, we know that this battle is not over. We are still facing a clear and present danger as long as COVID-19 continues to spread. As long as Ontarians, especially our seniors and the most vulnerable, are at risk, we must remain in a position to take any and all actions necessary to fight this virus. That is why the motion before this House today is so important.

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As I mentioned, if passed, this motion would extend the declaration of emergency until June 2. This allows the government to continue supporting Ontarians through the emergency orders issued to date, including:

—an emergency order ensuring that Ontarians who use time-of-use billing are charged at the lowest off-peak rate; or

—the emergency order allowing for rapid credentialing within the hospital system so that doctors and medical staff can be rapidly deployed to potential COVID hot spots; or

—the emergency order allowing corporations, such as condo and co-op boards, to meet electronically, in keeping with public health guidelines.

As I’ve said, thanks to the collective effort of all Ontarians, we are making steady progress against COVID-19. That is why we’ve started down the slow and steady process to safely and carefully reduce the restrictions in place and begin reopening Ontario’s economy.

This work is guided by a number of considerations, primarily and chiefly including the advice of the Chief Medical Officer of Health, as well as the framework for reopening our province, which is our road map to a measured reopening of the economy. This work is supported by the Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development and its health and safety association partners, who have now released over 80 sector-specific health and safety guidelines, including guidelines for curbside pickup and delivery services. The Minister of Health has also released a guidance document for essential workplace business owners, who can use these guidelines to develop reopening plans that work for their business and protect their workers, customers and the general public as the province prepares for the gradual reopening of our economy.

Starting yesterday, more people are returning to work across the province, as we have allowed stores with a street entrance to offer curbside pickup and delivery. Over the weekend, garden centres, nurseries, hardware stores and safety supply stores began offering in-store purchasing again. In addition, provincial parks and conservation reserves will be opening today with limited access. To start, recreational activities will be restricted to walking, hiking, biking and birdwatching. People will be able to access all park and conservation reserves for free until the end of this month.

At the same time, we are moving carefully and cautiously to ensure we don’t put people at risk, to remain ready to respond to any potential outbreaks or surges in cases. The work of the Legislature in assisting in the government’s response to COVID-19 does not end here, nor is it limited simply to the renewals of the declaration of emergency. Legislators and the opposition play a constitutionally important role in holding the government to account.

That is why, with the agreement of the opposition parties and the independent members, this Legislature will sit on May 19, 20, 26 and 27, and June 2 and June 3. These sittings may include COVID-19-related business, and will include both members’ statements and question period.

The Legislature adopted the motion to expand the membership, that includes members of the opposition parties and independent members, and the scope of the Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs and permit it to meet virtually in order to begin study of Bill 188, the economic and fiscal update. Additionally, it will proceed to a sector-based study of the economic impacts of COVID-19, along with a path to recovery. The sectors studied will include tourism, culture and heritage, municipalities, construction and building, infrastructure, small and medium enterprises, and other sectors to be selected by the legislative committee. This committee will conduct up to four-week studies of each sector, releasing interim reports and a final report which will be tabled in the Legislature and sent to Ontario’s jobs and recovery cabinet committee.

Speaker, these are extraordinary times that we are living through. Looking around, the measures taken so that we can be here today are indicative of that. As they say, extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures.

I want to thank all of the parties present for supporting us during this critical time. We know that people are struggling out there, and that’s why we’re taking further action to help the people of Ontario. As Premier Ford has said, when the history books are written, it will be said that the people of our province never surrendered to the virus. They didn’t quit when the going got tough, and they didn’t leave anyone behind. I would like to close by echoing the Premier’s comments. Although Ontario has faced many crises in our 153-year history, as a founding province of Canada, the crisis that we face in COVID-19 is unlike any that we have seen before.

This will not be the last time we have such extraordinary sittings of the Legislature, just as all Ontarians have endured extraordinary moments in their lives during this crisis. We will no doubt make the necessary adjustments to combat COVID-19, but we must not lose sight of what we are all collectively fighting for. Our province will come out of this crisis changed, but it is up to us to shape that change. Through the work that all of us put in—those here in this chamber, across government and, indeed, Ontarians—we know that we can emerge from this crisis ultimately changed for the better.


The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Further debate?

Ms. Peggy Sattler: I rise today as the member for London West and also as the deputy House leader on behalf of the official opposition. I want to say at the outset that we’re not going to oppose the motion that is before us today. We are also not going to be taking the time that has been allocated in that motion.

I do want to say a big thank you to the Legislative Assembly staff who have come to work today to enable us to participate in the democratic process. And of course, I want to say thank you to all my colleagues across all sides for your participation in question period today and in the debate that we are having.

Speaker, we are in a state of emergency in Ontario. It’s interesting that just as we arrived to the chamber this afternoon, the Ontario Health Coalition released its latest report on COVID-19 tracking. The title of the news release on the report says, “Staff and Patients Infected by COVID-19 Outbreaks in Health Care Settings Almost Doubled, Death Toll Increased by 333.7% in Two Weeks: Outbreaks Are Not Under Control.”

So we have a lot of work to do to deal with the COVID-19 crisis in our province. I want to take the few minutes that I’m going to use to highlight some of the issues that we expect and that the people of Ontario expect to see addressed during the extended declaration of emergency.

Also, before I do that, I want to say it’s very important, as often as possible, to say thank you to the health care heroes who have been putting themselves at risk throughout this crisis. They have been making enormous personal sacrifices to go to work every day. Some of them are living away from home for weeks because they don’t want to put their family members at risk. They come home; their face is bruised from wearing masks and eye coverings. They’re making advance care directives, in case they get sick and are placed on a ventilator, so that they can make arrangements for their families.

These are powerful, heart-wrenching stories that I’m sure we have all been watching. No words, of course, can express our immense gratitude for the work that these heroes have done throughout this emergency and the work they will continue to do long after the emergency ends. I’ve heard from them how much they appreciate the pots that are banging every night at 7:30—I was here last night in Toronto and heard that from the balconies around me—and the supportive signs they see on people’s lawns. These are important to health care workers, but more than that, Speaker—it’s not just our thanks that they deserve; they deserve action. They deserve to have their contributions to keeping us safe recognized through compensation that doesn’t single out some health care workers as deserving of pandemic pay and says other health care workers are less deserving when they are all taking the same kinds of risks.

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They deserve access to the PPE that will protect them, that in their professional judgment they know that they need. I’m sure I’m not the only MPP who, throughout these last eight weeks, has sat on the phone line in tears, talking to a health care worker as they tell you about the reality in the hospital that they’re working at.

I had a nurse in London Health Sciences Centre who told me about the shortage of N95 masks at the hospital. She described how it felt to be handed a ration of two masks, plus a Tupperware container so that she could put the masks in during her breaks and then reuse them for her entire shift. Speaker, if we truly value our health care heroes, we have to do everything possible to protect them, and that means ensuring that they have immediate access to the PPE they need.

We also have to protect all of our essential and front-line staff. Today we learned that the government is now encouraging staff in residential facilities like care homes for people with disabilities to downgrade to non-medical cloth masks even when there is an active COVID-19 outbreak.

Other workers: We know nurses have had to go to court to obtain access to the PPE they need. This is absolutely unacceptable, and this is an issue that we will be dealing with throughout the next 21 days of the state of emergency and throughout the six days that this Legislature is going to be meeting.

This morning, we all joined together in a moment of silence for those who have lost their lives to COVID-19: the long-term-care residents, other Ontarians and the 14 workers who have died. Many of these were essential workers who didn’t have a choice whether or not they could go to work. They couldn’t afford to take the unpaid infectious disease emergency leave. They had to go to their jobs. And these are the workers who have kept us all going. These are the grocery store clerks, the delivery drivers, the cleaners, the others who have made it possible for us to work at home to help flatten the curve.

Every health care worker, every shelter worker, every group home worker, every essential and front-line worker deserves to be protected at work, and they deserve a wage enhancement that shows them that their efforts are appreciated.

Throughout this period, we also have to take the strongest measures possible to address the crisis in long-term care. I quoted the shocking, shameful statistics from the Ontario Health Coalition. But these are not just statistics, Speaker; these are our family members. We have talked to people who have lost a loved one in a seniors’ residence, a long-term-care facility, who are grieving. They deserve answers as to how this was allowed to happen in the province of Ontario, how more than 1,200 residents of long-term-care facilities have been left to die during this pandemic. Why was the active screening not done? Why are there still PSWs working at multiple facilities? Why are there so many facilities still in outbreak? Why do people have to go to court to file documents to make the government aware of the problems that were occurring, that continue to occur, with seniors sharing rooms with other infected patients, and no screening protocols in place?

We will also be focusing on the need for testing. Certainly, as the economy begins to reopen, testing will be even more critical to ensure that we are not experiencing a resurgence of the spread. The testing numbers in Ontario remain far, far below what we need to see in order to safely reopen the economy and ensure that all of our citizens remain safe from this virus.

Finally, Speaker, we need to use the opportunity over the next 21 days to support our small business community. This morning we heard the Minister of Finance say, “Don’t rush to judgment on whether the commercial rent subsidy program is working.” We’re not rushing to judgment. We’re listening. We’re listening to the small- and-medium-sized businesses who are coming to our offices and telling us that the landlord that they have a commercial lease agreement with is not participating in this program, has no intention of participating in this program.

The small businesses in this province are calling for real mortgage relief measures to be put in place. They are calling for a ban on evictions for commercial tenants. This is not just a business here or there. This is coming from the Ontario Chamber of Commerce. In my community, the London Small Business Centre; the London Economic Development Corporation; TechAlliance; the five business improvement associations, Hyde Park, downtown London, Old East Village, Argyle and Hamilton Road, all co-signed a letter that was endorsed by the mayor of London, Ed Holder, and sent to the Premier, urging the Premier to act now, to act immediately, because these businesses are going to fold if we don’t take decisive action now.

These are the kinds of issues that we have an opportunity to address over the next 21 days, and as we assemble here together, these are the issues that we are going to be bringing forward. We need legislation that will deal with the actual big problems that people are facing as a result of COVID-19, and we need to see bills come forward that have a lot more substance, quite frankly, than the pieces of legislation we have passed since this emergency was first declared.


The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Further debate?

Mr. John Fraser: It’s a pleasure to rise today and speak to the extension of the state of emergency. I want to start by saying it is Nursing Week here in Ontario and today is International Nurses Day, so I want to thank all the nurses, in particular one nurse: Hi, Mom. Hopefully she’s watching. She’s retired now. We owe a lot to nurses. I owe a lot to a nurse, so—

Interjections.


Mr. John Fraser: Yes. Hopefully she’s watching. My mom is the smartest, most caring, strongest, toughest person I know. And I know a lot of nurses like that. It’s not an easy job, as it is with all front-line workers. Again, to all nurses, thank you so much for everything that you do, not just now but all the way through our lives.

I listened to the speech from the member from Lanark–Frontenac–Kingston, and I really do appreciate his speech, because I know he cares very deeply about his constituents. I’ve seen him, since I’ve been here, work very hard for his constituents. It was a great speech. I do disagree that we shouldn’t be extending this state of emergency, but the principles that he talked about are important. We have to put some boundaries around these kinds of measures. It’s really important, and if we’re debating that here today, that’s highlighted that. It’s also highlighted the fact we have to find a way to get out of this.

We declared an emergency for two reasons: That we needed to act quickly, and we needed to take strong measures. That’s going to diminish. We’ve been working here on a basis of trust. That’s what it requires. The state of emergency requires a basis of trust amongst all of us, and I think that trust is there. From time to time it wanes a bit.

I want to thank the government House leader, and actually all colleagues and House leaders for the way that we’ve worked together. There have been some bumps in the road. I would characterize it as a very collaborative working relationship. It’s not that I’m happy with everything that’s happened, so people shouldn’t mistake it as a blanket “it’s all good.” I think we were on our toes for acute care. We were ready—more ready than we thought—but we are on our heels, flat-footed, in long-term care. It’s important that we’re coming back and having question period. Somebody said today, “Really, are you wasting the government’s time?” No, it’s time to ask questions, not about what’s in the rear-view mirror, but what we are going to do, because we know this is going to be here.

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So we’re going to have question period. To the member from Lanark–Frontenac–Kingston, I think that’s going to start us on the path to climbing out of this. I encourage the government to continue to work with us the way we have been, collaboratively in the House, and I think they will. That’s not a demand; that’s just a continued encouragement.

It’s a really strange situation we find ourselves in. We’re all kind of separated here. We’re separated from each other in our work days. It takes longer to get anything done, right? You’re on the phone; you’re in a Zoom meeting. It’s like Hollywood Squares in eternity, and it’s really hard to adjust to, especially for many of us who are so used to human contact. Even when we’re in here, it’s so hard not to come close to somebody, and in our communities. I know that’s putting a lot of pressure on us. It’s putting a lot of pressure on people in communities.

We have to find a way to come through that and work here and protect all of ourselves, but especially the people who make this Legislature run. If they weren’t here, it wouldn’t happen. They’re taking the biggest risks. They’re working the hardest to make this place run. I just think it’s really important that right now, for today and for next week and the week after that and the week after that, we just say thank you to them. We really, really do appreciate all the things that you do for us.

Some other unsung heroes: legislative drafters, legislative counsel. They’ve been busy. They’re going to be busy as we come along. They’ve had to do things very quickly, worked hard, been away from family.

I’m going down this slippery slope of thanking everyone, and I’m going to miss somebody. But there are a whole bunch more people out there in communities going to work every day, just getting us gas, making sure we can get some shampoo—sorry; I thought I’d get a laugh out of that one, but anyhow. I’m trying. I’ll keep trying.


Mr. Mike Schreiner: A haircut.

Mr. John Fraser: Yes. Haircuts: not yet, folks.

But they’re in the grocery stores; they’re everywhere. Now we notice them, but let’s not stop noticing them as we get busier, right? Because they’re the people that the member from Lanark–Frontenac–Kingston is talking about, and there are people who we don’t see.

We’re going to support the motion today and the continuation of the state of emergency. I look forward to continued debate, and question period. I’d like to say that I liked question period today; there was no heckling. It felt different. It felt good. The questions were great. I hope it continues forever. Now, if that’s not Pollyanna, I don’t know what is.


Hon. Sylvia Jones: No heckling if you keep your hair.

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Further debate?

Mr. Mike Schreiner: Just on the hair comment, I did cut my own hair; I hope you all approve. My family was a bit concerned about it. The front looks better than the back, I’ll have you all know.

Speaker, we live in extraordinary times, and it requires extraordinary measures. I think it’s important that we’re having this debate, because I don’t think we should ever take extending a state of emergency lightly. Who would have thought we would be in a state of emergency for two months, and here we are back today to extend it another 21 days?

It is true that the member from Lanark–Frontenac–Kingston has raised some legitimate and serious concerns, but I believe we should extend the state of emergency, Speaker, and I want to tell you why.

First of all, we’re still in a state of emergency, and I’m going to outline that shortly. Second of all, I have reassurance—and I want to give a shout-out to not only the government House leader but the official opposition House leader and the independent House leaders for the extraordinary way in which we’ve all worked together. It hasn’t always been easy and we don’t always agree, but an extraordinary level of collaboration gives me comfort that we can extend the state of emergency for another 21 days. We’ve had all-party negotiations and conversations. I expressed many of the things that I wanted to see in Bill 190, which we voted on this morning, that weren’t there, but—I’ll give the government credit—some of the things that those of us in opposition did not want to see in the bill were withdrawn. I think it’s those levels of co-operation and negotiation that give me comfort that we can extend the state of emergency.

It’s also because Ontarians want us to work together. I’ve heard that over and over again from my own supporters, but also from constituents of mine who clearly stated to me, “I didn’t vote for you, and I’ll probably never vote for you, but I really appreciate the way that you’re working with government and the other opposition members.”

It would be nice, as my colleague from Ottawa South just said, if we had question period tomorrow like what we had earlier today, with a little less heckling, a little less cheering.


Mr. Mike Harris: I don’t know about that.

Mr. Mike Schreiner: I don’t know how long that will last but—

Mr. John Fraser: Don’t start.

Mr. Mike Schreiner: Yes, there you go; don’t start heckling now.

Interjection: It’s already over.

Mr. Mike Schreiner: There you go. It’s already over.

Hon. Steve Clark: I was going to start clapping.

Mr. Mike Schreiner: You were going to start clapping for me.

But that’s what the people of Ontario want, especially right now, because we are still in a state of emergency. We still are having outbreaks. I just looked up, right before I came into the House, that we had 361 new positive COVID tests today, up slightly—1.8%—from yesterday. But it’s not anywhere close to what public health officials are saying, that we need to be down to 200 or less before we really start opening up the province.

The heartbreaking and tragic situation in long-term care, I know, breaks all of our hearts. I know we’re going to have a serious conversation about how we overhaul the way in which we care for elders in our province, but we may need to issue additional emergency orders to protect people in long-term care. I want the government to have that power.

The outbreak that we are seeing in food-processing facilities across the country deeply troubles me. In Brampton, in one plant alone, there are 24 confirmed cases. It took three extra weeks to even report on those and one unfortunate person who passed away. We may need to issue emergency orders to deal with those types of workplace outbreaks in the next 21 days. I want the government to have the opportunity to do that.

I think we should close the loophole that allows workers in long-term care to still go from facility to facility if they’re working through a temp agency. I hope the government uses emergency orders over the next 21 days to close that loophole. We’re still hearing about lack of access to personal protective equipment. We need to make sure that’s available, and I want the government to have the ability to issue emergency orders to address that concern.

The emergency order I want the Premier to issue, today if possible—it’s only 2 o’clock—or tomorrow, is I want him to use his power to suspend section 18 of the Commercial Tenancies Act, which allows landlords to repossess leased premises 15 days after they have failed to pay rent. I know the finance minister earlier today said, “You know what, let’s have a wait-and-see approach” to when the federal emergency commercial rent assistance program is going to open, but, I’m sorry, most small businesses cannot wait. They’re not in a wait-and-see mode. It’s three days. May 15 is three days from today.

According to the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, only one in 10 small business owners say that they both qualify for the program and that their landlord has agreed to participate. That’s only 10%, Speaker. Imagine what our downtowns are going to look like, imagine what our neighbourhoods are going to look like, if local businesses have their premises repossessed on Friday.

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So I’m hoping that when we extend this emergency order today—I’m hoping we will extend it—the Premier will use his power to save those small businesses and save our downtowns, our local communities and our neighbourhoods, because the vitality and vibrancy of our communities rest with so many of those mom-and-pop shops, small entrepreneurs, restaurants, pubs, cafes, bakeries and all the things that we love about our downtowns—and yes, our barbers. I want my barber to reopen, desperately. So—


Mr. John Fraser: We do too.

Mr. Mike Schreiner: Yes, John does too. So I hope that as we extend this over the next 21 days, the Premier uses his power to save those businesses.

I do want to point out—and this is an important loophole that the member from Lanark–Frontenac–Kingston identified in the emergency management act. Yesterday, as we were having multiple conversations and a full day of back-and-forth, trying to figure out how we were going to write this motion, support this motion, not support this motion—the fact that we learned that an emergency order could remain indefinitely, to me, is a huge loophole that needs to be closed. I appreciate the government House leader recognizing that that maybe is a power that, even in extraordinary times, is a little too extraordinary, and so I look forward to having this Legislature, over the next few weeks, close that loophole. So I want to close that loophole.

And so, I want to close—


Ms. Catherine Fife: That loophole.

Mr. Mike Schreiner: That loophole. I want to close that loophole.

I want to close today by giving you one reason that I’m reluctant to extend the emergency order for another 21 days, and that’s because of the environment minister’s suspension of the Environmental Bill of Rights. I wrote the environment minister about that on April 9. I was pleased that the member from Kingston and the Islands brought it up earlier today in his member’s statement. I understand that we might need to suspend the Environmental Bill of Rights for COVID-related reasons, but the order suspending the EBR goes far beyond limitations regarding COVID.

I’m not saying there’s any nefarious intent by the government. I’m not accusing them of that. But we have seen in other jurisdictions around the world where governments have used emergency situations and emergency orders to contravene environmental protections that are essential to clean water, clean air, public health. I’m not saying the government is doing that, but I’m saying the ability to do that currently exists without proper public consultation.

I’m going to ask this in really good faith. I would ask the Minister of the Environment to respond to the concerns that not only I and other opposition members have expressed, but many members of our community—so many community organizations and environmental groups, even municipalities and citizens’ groups—who are all concerned about a suspension of public engagement and the public’s ability to be a part of the process when it comes to environmental decisions that directly affect the quality of their life.

In closing, I want to say that I will be voting for this motion, and I hope that the collaboration we’ve seen over the last two months will continue over the next 21 days, but I do look to the government for reassurance that nothing nefarious is going to happen when it comes to the Environmental Bill of Rights.


The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Further debate?

Mr. Stephen Blais: For two months, Ontarians have sacrificed a great deal to protect each other. In the process, many have lost their jobs or their businesses. Those are our neighbours, our family and our friends, and it’s been difficult to see happen, to be sure. Health care workers are putting their lives and the lives of those close to them on the line, showing up to work to protect us. Children have not been allowed to play at the park with their friends. They’ve missed out on seeing extended family and on being able to give gran a hug on mother’s day. We’ve seen the tragic loss of life that has swept through our long-term-care homes. And while there are points to criticize, change and improve, and certainly while on this side we likely would have done things differently or done more, the government has not abused the emergency powers that they have been provided, and the powers have surely allowed them to act more quickly than otherwise.

As has been mentioned, there are things that I’d like to see the government take action on. I’d like to see all front-line workers get the emergency pay bonus the Premier has discussed and the pay that they deserve. I’d like to see commercial evictions cancelled. I’d like to see a plan to ensure that our family physicians and walk-in clinics are protected from mounting overhead and reduced patient visits.

But, Mr. Speaker, as it has already been described, we’re not out of the woods yet. Community spread continues and outbreaks in some long-term-care facilities remain unchecked. Can anyone in this chamber envision the masses riding the bus or the subway any time soon? How will Ottawa, Toronto, London and Hamilton function without public transit? That one simple reality demonstrates that the emergency continues. Downtowns won’t be able to function. Municipalities will continue to lose millions of dollars a day. That emergency will take enormous effort to overcome.

Question period has resumed and provides an opportunity for members to hold the government to account. And while the medical situation in Ontario is slowly getting better and it’s possible to envision a time not so far from now where the emergency itself will be over, the time hasn’t arrived. While we slowly move to open businesses, parks and some elements of normal life, we are reminded by public health experts that the virus could yet take off again. In such a circumstance, I would not want government action slowed simply because we want the need to debate.

I want our family, friends and neighbours to be protected. We must continue our vigilance and support for each other.


The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Further debate? Further debate?

Ms. Khanjin has moved that:

Whereas an emergency was declared by order-in-council 518/2020 (O. Reg. 50/20) on March 17, 2020 pursuant to section 7.0.1 of the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act; and

Whereas the emergency was extended past the end of March 31, 2020 for a period of 14 days by O. Reg. 84/20 on March 30, 2020 pursuant to subsection 7.0.7(2) of the act; and

Whereas the emergency was extended by resolution of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario for a period of 28 days on April 14, 2020 pursuant to subsection 7.0.7(3) of the act; and

Whereas the period of the emergency may be further extended only by resolution of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario pursuant to subsection 7.0.7(3) of the act; and

Whereas the Premier has recommended that the period of the emergency be extended for 21 days;

Therefore, the Legislative Assembly of Ontario hereby declares that the period of the emergency is extended past the end of May 12, 2020 for a further period of 21 days.

Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? Carried.

Motion agreed to.


The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Orders of the day.

Hon. Paul Calandra: No further business.

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): This House stands adjourned until Tuesday, May 19, 2020, at 9 a.m.

The House adjourned at 1409.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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