LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY OF ONTARIO
ASSEMBLÉE LÉGISLATIVE DE L’ONTARIO
Thursday 14 December 2017 Jeudi 14 décembre 2017
Hon. Michael Chan: I move that the orders for second and third reading of the following private bills shall be called consecutively and the questions on the motions for second and third reading of the bills be put immediately without debate: Bills Pr68, Pr69, Pr70, Pr71, Pr72, Pr73, Pr74, Pr75, Pr76, Pr77, Pr78; and
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Ted Arnott): Mr. Chan has moved that the orders for and third reading of the following private bills shall be called consecutively and the questions on the motions for second and third reading of the bills be put immediately without debate: Bills Pr68, Pr69, Pr70, Pr71, Pr72—
The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Colleagues, it’s time for introductions. I would like to start off by introducing a former member from York South in the 33rd, 34th, 35th and 36th Parliaments, the Premier of the province of Ontario from 1990 to 1995 and a former MP, the Honourable Bob Rae.
Mr. Norm Miller: I would like to introduce my legislative intern, Kassandra Loewen, who is in the members’ west gallery. I just want to say that Kassandra has done an outstanding job as my intern. She helped out with my private member’s bill and could not have done a better job. Unfortunately, I lose her for the second half of the session.
I also want to recognize—I see in the gallery one of my former teachers from St. Mike’s high school, Mr. David Fischer, whose daughter is a page here. He was one of the best teachers I’ve ever had, and I just wanted to recognize him.
Hon. Jeff Leal: In the members’ east gallery today, I would like to introduce my constituent team from Peterborough: Matt Stoeckle, my executive assistant, and my constituency assistants, Andrew Bolton, Nate Lajoie and Sierra Paschalis. Welcome to Queen’s Park, folks.
Ms. Lisa M. Thompson: I, too, would like to extend my appreciation to the Ontario legislative intern that I’ve had the pleasure of working with this past fall. Dani is coming down and she will be sitting in the members’ gallery momentarily.
L’hon. Marie-France Lalonde: J’ai plusieurs invités ici avec moi à l’Assemblée, donc si vous me permettez : nous avons ici Mme Bernadette Sarazin, porte-parole du Mouvement #OttawaBilingue, ville bilingue; Pablo Alejandro, étudiant et président de la FESFO; Lucien Bradet, Mouvement #OttawaBilingue; Carol Jolin, président de l’AFO; et aussi, de mon bureau de circonscription, Anick Tremblay, qui est avec nous.
Nous avons aussi à l’Assemblée législative des gens qui ont participé et contribué au conseil de planification pour le projet de l’université de langue française ici: Dyane Adam, Normand Labrie, Frédéric Dimanche, Fété Ngira-Batware Kimpiobi, Glenn O’Farrell, Yollande Dweme Pitta, Léonie Tchatat et aussi Laurence Péchère, Joey de Pax, Emanuel da Silva et Marc Johnson.
Hon. Indira Naidoo-Harris: I have two sets of introductions today. I’d like to welcome my senior policy adviser, James McLean, who is here today with his family: his son, Jake, and his mother, Karen. Welcome to Queen’s Park.
Hon. David Zimmer: I would like to inform the House that this morning Minister Brad Duguid was made a member of the Order of the Bear. He was granted that membership by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business in recognition of his efforts to reduce red tape. This is what’s important: He is only the seventh Canadian to receive this award, and the very first minister in Canada to receive the award.
Hon. Deborah Matthews: I am absolutely delighted that there are people here who have been real champions and pioneers when it comes to indigenous institutes. They’re here to watch the passage, we hope, of a bill. We have adviser and former Premier Bob Rae; the chair of the Aboriginal Institutes Consortium, Rosie Mosquito; from Six Nations Polytechnic, Rebecca Jamieson; from the First Nations Technical Institute, Suzanne Brant, Adam Hopkins and Keith Williams; and, from the Indigenous Advanced Education and Skills Council, Laurie Robinson. Welcome and congratulations to all.
Mr. Joe Dickson: I would like to welcome to the members’ gallery in the Legislature the family of Ajax page Emma Fischer, who is sitting right at your right footstep, Mr. Speaker. Here this morning to show their support are her father, David Fischer, her mother, Kavita Fischer, and brother, Christian Fischer. Unfortunately, her two sisters, Sarah and Sophia, are doing exams. Let’s welcome them to Queen’s Park.
At the same time, I’d like to introduce Victoria Topalovich. She is one of our key coordinating specialists at the Ajax–Pickering constituency office. She, amongst others, will be here in the galleries this morning.
Hon. Mitzie Hunter: This morning I’m very pleased to welcome 24 grade 10 students from West Hill Collegiate in my great riding of Scarborough–Guildwood. I’m happy to welcome their teacher, Permell Ashby. You will note that this is the third group of students from West Hill that has visited in the last week.
The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): One more introduction: Speaking of hard-working staff, in the Speaker’s gallery today are two students from Queen’s University that I had the pleasure of having as my student interns. Kaitlyn and Chayce, thank you very much for the work that you’ve done over the summer. Welcome.
Ms. Andrea Horwath: I seek unanimous consent to put forward a motion without notice regarding the immediate second and third reading passage of Bill 188 to ban the use of prepaid hydro meters in Ontario.
Hon. Kathleen O. Wynne: Well, Mr. Speaker, in the spirit of the question, I want to wish everyone in this House a very happy holiday and merry Christmas. To all the people of the province at this time of year: Whether it’s Hanukkah, whether it’s Christmas or a celebration of lights, the celebration of light in darkness is really important. I hope everyone has an opportunity to spend some time with the people they love the most.
Now, in response to the verse from across the way, I will just say that our plan to help people with their electricity costs, our plan to make the system more fair for people in urban centres and in rural centres is just that: It is fair, and it means that people are seeing an average of a 25% reduction in their hydro bills.
Hon. Kathleen O. Wynne: In terms of education in this province, today we’re celebrating the move towards recognizing, supporting and funding the aboriginal technical institutes. We have students in this province who are enjoying free tuition. We are putting into our curriculum experiential learning and working with unions and working with business, working with corporations, to provide learning opportunities for young people. We have put in place more supports for young people to get jobs and support employers to hire young people. In fact, education is a priority for this government. It always has been. It is why we see companies coming to this province: because of our highly skilled workforce.
As the member knows, this is the only province in the country, the only government in Canada that has in place rules around advertising that we have put in place because of egregious breaches of partisanship in the past. We’re very, very committed to that. We have rules in place about partisan advertising, and those will stay in place. We are the first government to put those in place, and we believe that it’s important that government advertising not be partisan. That’s why those rules are in place.
Hon. Glenn Thibeault: In keeping with the Christmas theme: It’s only that party that’s talking about coal, which is something that Santa gives to naughty people. It’s that side that’s getting all the coal this year, Mr. Speaker, especially when you look at our hydro plan. Our hydro plan gives a 25% reduction on all bills for families and as many as half a million small businesses and farms.
Now in their people’s garnishee—thank you to the MPP for Ancaster for that—they’re now sneakily including our own platform in their bill. So what is it, Mr. Speaker? Are they sticking with coal or do they want to stick with green?
On this side of the House, we’re sticking with green. We want to ensure that our system is clean, reliable and green so that we can continue to breathe clean air, not coal, like that they’re putting in everyone’s stocking.
Hon. Glenn Thibeault: We’re actually giving 25% off. That’s something that they voted against. So they can bluster and moan all they would like, but we’re making sure that we’re helping families in this province. We’re making sure that, at the end of the year, people have seen a lower hydro bill—not like what they did, where they vote against it every single time. They vote against making sure that we have a clean system. They vote against that we give people a reduction.
When you look at their plan, even the independent energy analysts are saying that all of these new costs will put pressure on making sure that we can continue to invest in hospitals, invest in schools and invest in roads.
Hon. Glenn Thibeault: We introduced long-lasting energy reductions in July. They’re now talking about doing something that will not reduce anybody’s bills; it’s actually going to make it more difficult for people.
At the end of the day, when you’re talking about $12 billion in cuts—$12 billion in cuts. What are they going to cut? Which programs? When it’s talking about energy, are they going to cut the Ontario Electricity Support Program, which helps low-income individuals? Are they going to cut the First Nations delivery—
Hon. Glenn Thibeault: Are they going to cut the First Nations delivery tax credit? You know what, Mr. Speaker? We’ve seen this before. Just like in the Harris years, they’re going to cut and slash everything. That’s what they’re known for. We can guarantee that.
Ms. Andrea Horwath: I want to start by, on behalf of Ontario’s New Democrats, wishing everyone the best of the holiday season and a merry Christmas, and urging people to remember those in our communities who are struggling.
My question is for the Premier. For more than a year, I’ve been hearing the heartbreaking stories of Ontario families who are being forced to receive their medical care in public hallways and storage closets and shower rooms inside our overcrowded hospitals. And for more than a year, this Premier has said that everything is fine, and she and her health minister have accused anyone criticizing them of fearmongering. But just yesterday, the Ontario Hospital Association said that our hospital system is indeed on the brink of crisis.
Hon. Kathleen O. Wynne: We have been very clear on this side of the House that we recognize that there is more that needs to be done in health care. Consistently, every year, we have made changes. We have increased funding. So to suggest that somehow we’ve been complacent and have not recognized that there are challenges is just not the case. It’s not true. We have demonstrated that concern by, in our last budget, increasing funding to hospitals by $500 million. We have demonstrated that commitment by, in recent weeks, working to solve the problem of the surge of need because of the flu season, opening beds and making sure that that capacity is expanded.
On this side of the House, we are consistently looking for solutions, working with organizations like the Ontario Hospital Association, working with nurses and working with doctors. To suggest that we’ve been complacent is just not accurate.
Ms. Andrea Horwath: Speaker, they haven’t been complacent; they’ve brought hallway medicine to Ontario. That’s what they did. Doctors, nurses, patients and families have been pushing the Premier and her minister to take action on the overcrowding crisis at every opportunity.
It’s not a surge, Speaker. Beginning in May 2016, we started to release evidence of severe overcrowding in hospitals such as Toronto’s SickKids, London Health Sciences, Hamilton Health Sciences, the Sault Area Hospital, Peterborough hospital, Scarborough, Ottawa Hospital, Thunder Bay’s hospital, Sudbury’s, Brantford General, Etobicoke General and of course Brampton Civic, and many, many more.
Hon. Kathleen O. Wynne: Putting $500 million into the budget is not ignoring the problem. We are absolutely clear, Mr. Speaker, that there needs to be continued support and increased support for the health care system. That’s why a 3% increase to hospitals across the board in the budget was what we put forward.
So, again, to suggest that we are not working to solve challenges, to suggest that we don’t recognize that hospitals need support, that long-term care needs support, that home care needs support, that mental health needs support—we have added support, added money, in each one of those areas, and we will continue to do so.
We recognize that health care is a cornerstone of how we see ourselves in this province and how we see ourselves in this country. Our publicly funded health care system is essential, and we will continue to support it. We will continue to increase support as the need increases.
Ms. Andrea Horwath: Speaker, this Premier shorted the OHA ask in the current budget by $300 million. That’s what she did. Just yesterday, we released information showing that St. Joe’s hospital in Hamilton reached the dangerously high occupancy level of 139% in August of this year. The hospital has anywhere between five and 31 people waiting in the emergency room every day for an inpatient bed. The Premier’s solution for St. Joe’s hospital in Hamilton: 24 temporary beds. It would be laughable if it wasn’t so terribly wrong for patients who need a proper hospital bed, not a stretcher against a wall without a call button, without privacy and without the decency and the dignity that people deserve in hospital.
I think it’s important that we recognize the quality of the health care system we have in this province. When we look at hospital mortality rates, when we look at cancer outcomes and when we look at avoidable deaths from health outcomes compared to other provinces, compared to other developed countries, Ontario outperforms all other provinces and is close to the top of the OECD.
In fact, we have the lowest rate of potential years of life lost in Canada. We have the best five-year survival rates for prostate, breast, colorectal and lung cancers in Canada. Our mortality rate for these same four cancers is among the best in the world. We need to be proud of the outcomes that we’ve achieved collectively as a province and a society, Mr. Speaker.
Ms. Andrea Horwath: My next question is also for the Premier. You know what we have in this province? We have the lowest number of beds per capita in hospitals. We have the lowest funding per patient in hospitals in our country. That’s what we have after 14 years of Liberal government. Between April 2016 and April 2017, we should all remember that Brampton Civic Hospital treated 4,352 patients in the hallways, Speaker.
The facility was overcrowded the day it opened. The Premier’s complete lack of understanding about the needs of this fast-growing community is absolutely shocking. It mirrors her complete lack of compassion about the overcrowding and hallway medicine crisis that she created all across Ontario.
Hon. Eric Hoskins: Mr. Speaker, as we approach this holiday season, I want to specifically recognize and acknowledge our health care workers across this province: our health care planners, our doctors, our nurses, the front-line workers, the administrators and the support workers, who are doing an exceptional job in this health care system.
That exceptional job is reflected in the results that we’re seeing. We have the second-best rate to access to a family doctor in the country. We have the second-best survival rate for breast cancer in the entire OECD. We need to be proud of that.
Mr. Speaker, the Fraser Institute reported just last week that Ontario has the best wait times in the entire country. We have wait times that are four weeks better than the second-best province. That’s thanks to our hard-working health workers. Thank you for that investment.
Ms. Andrea Horwath: Speaker, yesterday I visited the Hospital for Sick Children right here in Toronto. It’s a world-class hospital, an incredible provincial asset, and home to incredible professionals who provide life-saving care to tiny little babies. But even at a prestigious hospital like SickKids, they are struggling with overcrowding and with funding that just isn’t keeping up. When I was there talking to moms and nurses and other health care providers, the neonatal intensive care unit was at 114% occupancy.
Hon. Eric Hoskins: Mr. Speaker, we know that there is more work to be done and that there are further investments to be made. That’s why, as the Premier referenced, half a billion dollars in this year’s budget and half a billion dollars in last year’s budget—an additional $100 million this fall was invested into our hospitals, resulting in the creation of 1,200 new acute care beds, the equivalent of six community hospitals, and other important investments like the 125 individuals who, up till last week, resided in Toronto and GTA hospitals but didn’t need to be there. Now they’re in a rehabilitation environment, an environment which reactivates them, at the Finch site of the former Humber River Hospital. We’re doing approximately 600 of those rehabilitation investments to make sure that we’re investing where our hospitals, their CEOs, their leadership, and the Ontario Hospital Association tell us we need to make those investments.
Ms. Andrea Horwath: Speaker, SickKids hospital started yesterday with 337 patients, but they’re only budgeted for 288 patients. That’s what the overcrowding crisis looks like just down the street from here.
There are six babies—and all those babies have families, so six families shoved together in a single room. Nurses are almost tripping over the equipment because there isn’t enough space. There’s also red tape that’s taped on the floor around the babies’ areas where there should be walls to prevent the spread of infection.
SickKids is an incredible hospital—there is no doubt about it—but it has been starved of operating funding by this Premier and her government. The Premier’s temporary beds aren’t the real answer because SickKids hospital is literally so full it has run out of room. When will this Premier do the right thing: make sure hospitals can keep up with growth, and fund the capital infrastructure expansion that SickKids hospital needs right now?
We increased their budget this year alone by $9 million. We’ve added neonatal intensive care units to SickKids hospital this year. We gave them a planning grant so we could plan for future capacity and we could make those necessary investments so it can continue to deliver that high-quality, world-class care. Those are the investments that we’re making in every hospital right across this province.
I’ll end by saying that we value and deeply appreciate the work of the Ontario Hospital Association and the leadership across our hospitals and across our health care system, from the front-line worker to the CEO and everybody in between, and the volunteers who make our health care system great. We value their investments, their commitment, their passion and their compassion, which I think we especially remember at this time of year.
Hon. Kevin Daniel Flynn: There’s going to be a lot of very happy families this Christmas, because their mothers and their fathers will be earning more money. These are people who have been earning $11.60 an hour, trying to raise families, trying to buy food, trying to buy Christmas presents, trying to buy a Christmas tree. All the normal things that we want for each and every one of our families are contained in Bill 148. Everything we try to do for the people we care about when we work and come home is in Bill 148, and the grinches across the aisle voted against it.
Hon. Glenn Thibeault: It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas, everywhere we go. You look in Ontario, you’ve got clean air, you’ve got clean electricity—I can’t make it rhyme, Mr. Speaker. I was trying; I’m sorry. That’s all I had.
But really, at the end of the day, Hydro One has been working hard in this province to be a better-run company, and they’re doing just that. Winter disconnections have ended. They’re going to continue to work hard to continue to be a better company.
What we’ve done through our fair hydro plan is allow them to give a reduction to all of their customers in rural and northern parts of our province of anywhere between 40% and 50%. That is good news, because that is more money in the pockets of these people. Like the Minister of Labour said earlier, they can do other things with that, like maybe buy more Christmas presents for their kids.
Ms. Sarah Campbell: My question is to the Premier. Hydro bills have gone up 300% under this Liberal government, and families across northwestern Ontario are paying the price for decades of hydro privatization under this government and under the Conservatives before them. Now we’ve learned that Dryden regional hospital’s hydro bills have increased by a staggering 44% in just five years. The hospital is doing everything that it can to conserve energy. They’ve made significant investments in retrofits, yet their bills continue to soar.
Hon. Glenn Thibeault: We’ve actually worked hard with Hydro One, which is in that area, to reduce bills for all residential customers between 40% and 50%. When I was in Atikokan, early on that agency, that entity, said that the bills in that community have been reduced between 34% and 40%. We’re going to continue to work with these types of companies to bring forward this type of relief.
When it comes to hospitals, they have also been utilizing many of the programs that we have put in place, working with their LDCs, and have seen significant savings that they are now able to put back into care. Many of these hospitals are talking about the impact that the electricity has on their overall costs; it’s only 1%.
Ms. Sarah Campbell: Northern hospitals and northern families need a Premier who cares about making life more affordable and stopping the cuts to our front-line health care, but this Premier keeps letting northwestern Ontario down. Dryden regional hospital is suffering from sky-high hydro costs because of the privatization of our hydro system by Liberals and Conservatives alike.
Our hospital is not getting the relief that it needs, so they’ve come up with a capital plan that would allow the hospital to go off the grid. Yet, this government refuses to deliver the funding they need to implement that plan. Why is this Premier delivering one disappointment after another to the people who need health care and who also need to be able to pay their hydro bills all across northwestern Ontario?
Hon. Glenn Thibeault: Again, since coming into office, we’ve increased hospital funding by 54%, allowing us to treat more patients and provide better care and reduce wait times to some of the shortest in the country. The reality is that hospitals spend 1.6% on average of their total operating budgets on hydro. Also, Mr. Speaker, we just invested $50 million in over 100 hospitals to make sure that can help them retrofit to reduce their bills even more.
That means that well over 90% of the hospital budgets goes towards the rest: hiring nurses and doctors, keeping wait times low and ensuring patients have access to the high-quality services that they need. When it comes to action, when it comes to making sure that we’re helping hospitals, we’re helping individuals, we’re helping families right across this province; we’re doing it with health care and we’re doing the same with electricity.
Mrs. Cristina Martins: My question is to the Minister of Health and Long-Term Care. Our government has made a significant investment in the drug benefits received by seniors in recent years and continues to provide one of the most generous programs for seniors in Canada, and the seniors in my riding of Davenport are grateful for this.
As part of the 2017 budget, our government is giving children and youth a better start in life by moving to make prescription medications free. I know the minister, at several times, has spoken about how this step in providing free access to prescription medications for all Ontario’s children and youth is just the first step towards a full provincial pharmacare program.
Hon. Eric Hoskins: Mr. Speaker, I have to say, I am so proud—so proud of this Premier for her leadership, nationally and in this province, on the issue of pharmacare. It is true; we’re only weeks away from the biggest advancement of medicare in this province in generations. There are only a few short weeks to go until 4,400 drugs become absolutely free for everyone in Ontario aged 24 and under through OHIP+.
Last week, we officially launched a new website where people can go and search for their medications and see that they will be available free of charge. It’s important to stress that OHIP+ will cover every single drug on Ontario’s formulary: asthma inhalers, EpiPens, diabetes test strips, oral contraceptives, cancer drugs and drugs for rare diseases.
Mrs. Cristina Martins: Thank you, Minister. I, too, am also proud to be part of a team that has worked to make this historic advancement in medicare, and want to thank you and our Premier for your leadership as we move to a full provincial pharmacare program. I have no doubt that this new program will improve access to prescription medications for more than four million children and young people and will help many families to afford the medications their children need to stay healthy.
I know that much of the focus when we look at prescription drugs for youth will be focused on access to antibiotics, inhalers and EpiPens. I think all of us in the Legislature can agree how important that is. But there are often accessibility issues for medications we do not often talk about. Would the minister be able to inform the House about the full scope of health options OHIP+ will offer?
Hon. Eric Hoskins: The reality of the Ontario drug formulary is that it will offer, through OHIP+, more independence, more opportunity and more health for our children and youth. Diabetes test strips and insulin for low-income families struggling to pay the bills every week will save them thousands of dollars each year. Birth control for the 22-year-old young woman at college pursuing a degree—January 1 is going to be a historic day for Ontario, not just for the four million children and youth who will be receiving those drugs absolutely free of charge.
I want to say again just how proud I am of this Premier, this team and this government for the leadership that has been demonstrated. This is absolutely a first, and a major leap forward. We are 100% committed to continue working with the federal government for a national pharmacare program so these benefits can be extended to all Canadians.
Hon. Charles Sousa: The halls of the Legislature are haunted by the ghosts of Christmas past. They bring to us today the likeness of the miser Ebenezer Scrooge from across the aisle: they who have wanted to make cuts to supporting our families, to deny the gifts of our province’s prosperity, to share for all.
Mrs. Lisa Gretzky: My question is to the Premier. Earlier this week, my constituent Ida Harry shared with me the heartbreaking experiences she has endured while trying to get help for her 12-year-old son, who lives and struggles with serious mental health challenges. Ida’s son has been on wait-list after wait-list. He has waited for psychologists, waited for beds in support centres and waited in hospitals.
Ida wrote to me: “Our children are victims of the province’s neglect to provide adequate mental health care for our youth. I implore the province and its officials to do something now before it’s too late.”
On Tuesday, my NDP colleague from Hamilton Mountain introduced a motion that urges the government to eliminate mental health wait-lists for children and youth. Will the Premier listen to Ida and the thousands of families like her, eliminate the wait-lists and do something now, before it’s too late for Ida’s son and others like him?
Hon. Michael Coteau: I want to thank the member for the question. I want everyone here in the Legislature and across the province to know that we’re working hard to transform the system that is built for young people to get the best possible services necessary.
We recognize we need to do more as a government, as the people of Ontario, to deliver better services to young people, and we’ve been looking for ways to transform the system. The Moving on Mental Health strategy that we put forward a few years ago—and we backed that up initially with a $100-million investment—has gone a long way, but it’s brought us to a point now where we do have lead agencies across the province.
We’re reorganizing the way service delivery is being delivered on the ground, and I’m working with the Minister of Health to look for ways to further enhance youth mental health here in the province of Ontario, because we want young people to get the service that they deserve when they need it.
Mrs. Lisa Gretzky: Back to the Premier: On Tuesday, my colleague from Hamilton Mountain also raised the issue of youth suicides. She highlighted that the majority of people who are treated in emergency rooms after a suicide attempt are not getting the follow-ups with necessary supports.
This certainly has been the case with Ida and her son. When Ida’s son attempted suicide, they went to the emergency room, where they waited for six hours before speaking with a medical student and a counsellor. After that, they were sent home. They have made numerous trips to the hospital but have not received the support they need.
Over the last 20 years—even, in fact, over the last decade—what we’ve seen with mental health challenges here in the province of Ontario is a huge growth. We think that’s partially because of the stigma that’s been removed from mental health. We’ve been working hard as a government to let people know that if they need services, they should go forward and get those services.
We have 130,000 young people here in the province of Ontario who access services today. We know that more is needed, and that’s why we continue to invest. We’ve invested in 72 school boards to bring in mental health leaders in all of our school boards across the province. We’ve provided funding to hire 770 additional community mental health workers across the province. We’ll continue to do more to make sure young people get the help that they deserve.
Speaker, attracting international investment and helping business compete on a global scale is part of Ontario’s plan to create opportunity and fairness for workers, businesses and the people of this great province.
The House has seen the great work that the Ministry of International Trade has done so far in promoting Ontario globally. I know that during these trade missions, business-to-business communication is integral. I also know that there is time for the minister to speak to each business and learn about their goals internationally. Each interaction works to promote Ontario as a great place to do business, visit and discover.
Ontario’s plan to diversify trade is key to our continuous economic growth. It is important to remember that trade does not only involve goods. Services such as health care, education and tourism, are vital to trade. Trade missions provide Ontario the unique opportunity to showcase our province’s leading industries—in this case, tourism.
As a leader in global talent, with a GDP growth rate higher than any other G7 country and a diminishing small-business tax rate, Ontario has much to offer. That is why, in partnership with Tourism Toronto, Amway China has selected Toronto to host their 25th anniversary leadership conference in Ontario. This is an incredible opportunity for Ontario, and I would be delighted if the member from Burlington could speak more to this.
Mr. Han Dong: I want to thank the minister for the response. Thanks in part to the investments that this government has made to our tourism ministry, the sector has been a key economic driver in the province. I know Toronto has competed with some of the biggest destinations in the world for the Amway China bid, and it’s very exciting to have been selected. I know many of them will be visiting my downtown riding of Trinity–Spadina.
By choosing Ontario to host their 25th anniversary leadership seminar, Amway China is giving a nod to Toronto as a world-class city. It also further demonstrates that Ontario is a competitive destination for significant conventions. National and international conventions continue to be a major economic driver in Ontario, and we look forward to welcoming Amway China in 2020.
Hon. Eleanor McMahon: Thank you to the member for this excellent question. The news about Amway China 2020 is a direct result of our government’s strategic framework for tourism. I want to thank Minister Chan, and Johanne Bélanger and her team at Tourism Toronto, as without their excellent collaboration and efforts this would not have happened. We know, Speaker, that tourism is a vital economic driver for Ontario, supporting 380,000 jobs and generating over $32 billion to our economy.
China is Ontario’s second-largest contributor of tourism spending, with over half a billion dollars coming from over 200,000 tourists, so attracting international leadership events like Amway China’s 25th-anniversary leadership seminar is great news. It showcases Ontario as a world-class tourism destination while promoting investment opportunities, and it will welcome over 10,000 distributors to Toronto, generating an estimated $80 million in revenue and tourism spending from Toronto to Niagara Falls.
Mr. Wayne Gates: My question is to the Premier. As the Premier knows, Parliament Oak School, the jewel of Niagara-on-the-Lake’s old town, was closed. Now the community is rallying together again to save Parliament Oak. This time they’re fighting to keep the school in the old town and turn it into a community hub that gives back to the residents for generations to come. I fully support these efforts.
However, DSBN has rejected an offer over the asking price in the town to buy the school, which would keep it in community hands. The town previously gave this same building to the board for free. They rejected the work done by the community to keep Parliament Oak where it is and ensure it gives back to the community. Will the Premier intervene today and ask DSBN to reconsider selling Parliament Oak School to the town, so it can be used as a community hub for the town?
Hon. Mitzie Hunter: I want to thank the member opposite for his question. I’ve been almost in daily dialogue with him about this particular issue. I know that he is well aware that my ministry and I are also well aware of the conversations that are happening between the school board and the town. I sent a letter, in fact, to the school board, expressing the desire for them to work together with the town, in the spirit of how do we look at the community needs in this instance and support the notion of a community hub.
Our government has a stated policy. We have funding behind it to support community hubs across this province, because we know how vital these public locations are to communities. In this instance, we are encouraging the school board to work together with the town.
Mr. Wayne Gates: Again to the Premier: According to the Education Act, the minister has the power to regulate the sale or lease of school sites. We know that Niagara-on-the-Lake has already endured the closing of Parliament Oak school. We have many community organizations that have come to the table and supported this, including Lord Mayor Pat Darte, the town council and all of the residents of Niagara-on-the-Lake.
Hon. Mitzie Hunter: I am very supportive of any solution that allows the use of this property for community use. That’s why we have a stated policy to support community hubs. That’s why we’ve been working together with the school board and the town to really encourage them to talk together to find a solution that best supports the local community, and that’s exactly what is happening.
There is, of course, a process for the disposition of properties. My understanding is that the school board has followed that particular process. But this is about what is the best resolution for the local community, and that is what we are focused on. That’s why we’re working to bring those two parties together—the school board and the town—to talk about how we resolve this for the best use for the community itself, and we support that process.
Mr. Arthur Potts: My question is to the Minister of Transportation. In keeping with the holiday spirit, children across the province are very excited about the next few days and the next few weeks: time off from school, presents under the tree—they have a lot to look forward to.
But they’re not the only ones who are excited about the great things that are coming. Commuters across the GTA will soon be receiving a very early Christmas present—or let’s call it a sixth-day-of-Hanukkah present. The present is a first edition as well; it is unlike anything the region has seen before. The best part: After years of planning and building, we only have to wait a few more days. Would the minister please provide more information on what this present is, what makes it so unique, and why commuters in the GTA can’t wait to open it on December 17?
That member is absolutely correct: Commuters in this region will be receiving one of the best Christmas, or holiday, gifts I can think of that a government can offer them: a new option for commuters to get from point A to point B. This coming Sunday, December 17, the Toronto-York Spadina subway extension will see its first day of revenue service. In just three days, that is, commuters will have the opportunity to hop on board the first new subway extension in the GTA to open up in 15 years.
This, of course, will be the first subway to cross regional boundaries. By hopping on board the Line 1 extension, commuters will be able to move between the 416 and the 905 for a single fare. And come this January, thanks to this provincial government, that fare will be only $1.50 if you’re hopping on to the TTC from GO or the Union Pearson Express.
On this side of the House, we know that the reasons to invest in transit are absolutely clear: It helps ease congestion, it promotes a better quality of life and reduces greenhouse gas emissions, it gives companies yet another good reason to invest in Ontario, and it saves commuters money. It is clear that the TYSSE, an $870-million investment made by our government, will support all of these important outcomes, and that will make it money that has been very well spent.
Speaker, I know this is just one of the very many transit projects that are going on in Ontario. Would the minister please provide us with more information and greater details on what else commuters in the region can expect to see in the years to come thanks to our government’s historic investments in transit?
Hon. Steven Del Duca: I thank the member for his follow-up question. Of course he is right; the Line 1 extension to York University and York region is one part of the integrated transit map that we are building. We’re talking about GO regional express rail, the Eglinton Crosstown, the Finch West LRT, the Hurontario and Hamilton LRTs, extending GO train service to Niagara, extending GO train service to Bowmanville, and doing so much more right across this entire region.
But coming back to the Line 1 subway extension that opens up for service this Sunday: The first train will leave the 905, will leave the city of Vaughan, at 7:57 a.m. I’ll be on that train with my daughters, Talia and Grace. I strongly urge every single member here, regardless of where you live, to come down to the GTA and hop on that first train. It truly is a day for transit celebration in the GTA.
Hon. Glenn Thibeault: Just like how we can rhyme off the reindeer, I am very happy to rhyme off all of the investments that we make in northern Ontario. Let’s just talk about Sault Ste. Marie, this year: $2 million for the Institute for the Environment, Education and Entrepreneurship, $750,000 for the Child and Family Centre at Sault College, $900,000 for the Waterfront and Tennis Centre, and NOHFC is supporting the expansion of the ARCH hospice with a $1-million investment.
It just goes on and on, Mr. Speaker, ensuring the investments that we’re making in northern Ontario, all the way from making sure we’re four-laning Highway 69, making our roads safer with a $173-million investment in that—we’re more than happy to talk about northern Ontario, because it’s this government that is making those investments.
Ms. Peggy Sattler: My question is to the Minister of Natural Resources. Speaker, 16 months ago, this Liberal government decided to impose parking fees for the use of Komoka Provincial Park, a park that was free for Londoners to use for decades and is much loved by the estimated 100,000 people who used to visit each year.
One of my constituents, Bill Boswell, was recently informed by the park superintendent that a total of $67,000 has been collected in parking fees. Assuming two people per car with each car paying for just one hour of parking, this translates into 25,000 visitors over 16 months—a drop in attendance of more than 75%.
Speaker, does the minister think that a paltry $67,000 was worth depriving tens of thousands of Londoners, including seniors, people struggling with mental health issues, and others on low or fixed incomes from the benefits of using this park?
Speaker, I want to start out about how Ontario Parks funds its management programs. All of the programs that are offered by our Ontario parks—and there are 340 of them in the province of Ontario, not all with services—are funded through gate receipts. All of the programs, all of the trails, all of the infrastructure that Ontario Parks manages, all of the staff and all of the facilities that our visitors to our parks enjoy are paid for through the special purpose account.
I know that there have been many users of Komoka park. It was unfortunate that we needed to move forward with another way of recouping some of the services that we’ve paid for at that park—including new washroom facilities, new lighting, new parking lot facilities that the users have been asking for.
Again to the minister: The fees of $5.25 an hour or $14.50 a day were imposed without any real consultation and with paving as the only justification. Since the fees were introduced in August 2016, thousands of Londoners have signed my petition calling for the removal of the fees.
The park is really only accessible by car, and the data confirms that the fees are creating huge barriers to access. They are preventing Londoners from reaping the benefits of the enhanced physical and mental well-being that comes with access to the natural environment.
Hon. Kathryn McGarry: Again, what I would like to say to everybody in this House is that all of the incredible services that our Ontario parks provide for the people of Ontario, all of the staff who provide the resources that people enjoy when they visit the parks, are paid for by gate receipts.
It’s also worth noting to the member opposite that each Ontario provincial park has its own management plan, and that management plan is set in progress for many years. I don’t have the authority to do that; it is the provincial parks and their management staff that step forward.
What I can say to everybody in this House is that we have an incredible opportunity in our province to enjoy many parks, some with services, some without. Many visitors come to Ontario specifically to see the parks.
On Tuesday, new legislation was passed titled the Building Better Communities and Conserving Watersheds Act, 2017. As members of the House know from debating this legislation, this bill provides important updates to our current land use planning system as well as our conservation authorities, giving more opportunities for Ontarians to have their voices heard.
Therefore, my question to the minister is, can you tell me what changes this legislation will bring to Ontario’s very important conservation authorities and how these changes will benefit the people of Ontario?
Hon. Kathryn McGarry: Thank you very much to the hard-working member from Barrie for that question, and thank you again for giving me the opportunity to talk about our great new legislation, which I’m very proud of.
I know just how important this new act is to so many communities around Ontario, as I see first-hand the great work that the Grand River Conservation Authority does in my own community of Grand River and Waterloo region—and Brantford, I might add, Speaker.
By modernizing the Conservation Authorities Act, we’ve delivered some real benefits to the people of Ontario—benefits like stronger oversight and accountability for conservation authority decision-making; more clarity and consistency in the services that conservation authorities provide; and increased public engagement in conservation authorities to ensure the people have a voice in their local conservation authorities. These important changes are necessary to ensure the environment will be there for years to come.
Ms. Ann Hoggarth: Thank you to the minister for that answer. When changes to the Ontario Municipal Board were proposed last year, the government held 12 town halls across the province to get feedback from the people of Ontario. Through those town halls, we heard opinions from Windsor to Ottawa, from the GTA to Thunder Bay, and many members held town halls in their own ridings. People told us that too often the OMB doesn’t consider local perspectives when it makes decisions, that too many decisions went to the board and that the process was complicated for community groups. We heard that people want more say in how their communities are developed.
Through Bill 139, the Minister of Municipal Affairs and the Attorney General proposed legislation that would overhaul the OMB and replace it with the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal. Bill 139 received royal assent this week.
But first, I would like to take a moment to introduce a former twin dean of the House, the member from Carleton–Grenville in the 31st, 32nd,and 33rd Parliaments; Carleton in the 34th, 35th and 36th Parliaments; Lanark–Carleton in the 37th and 38th Parliaments; and Carleton–Mississippi Mills in the 39th Parliament, Mr. Norm Sterling.
Ms. Andrea Horwath: It’s actually my privilege to rise on a point of order, considering that this is the last day in the Legislature for the member for Parkdale–High Park, Cheri DiNovo. As leader of Ontario’s NDP, I want to just take a quick moment to thank Cheri for all the work that she’s done after many years of being a member in this Legislature.
I think we would all agree that her work, particularly on LGBTQ issues, is unparalleled in any legislative chamber across our country. I believe that without that work, without Cheri being here, that work wouldn’t have ever been done, from Toby’s Law right up until the passing of the Trans Day of Remembrance just the other day, her work on first responders and PTSD presumptive legislation, her work on anti-poverty issues and social justice. It has been an amazing, amazing journey.
Cheri is a passionate, committed woman who really does care about the well-being of everyday folks, and she has put her heart and soul into her work here in the Legislature. I know that her next journey at the church that she is going back to—as she says, her “best love”—will also continue that amazing work and passion.
Hon. Kathleen O. Wynne: Yes, the same point of order, Mr. Speaker: I just want to add my voice of thanks to Cheri DiNovo for all the work that she has done for the people of Ontario and for the people of Parkdale–High Park. We could always count on Cheri to ask questions and to raise issues that were of serious importance to the people of this province and to her community, and so we’re very grateful to her for that.
I will just say, as a fellow member of the United Church, often we are asked within the United Church about how we are living our faith. I just want to say that Cheri DiNovo, without bells and whistles and without flaunting liturgy, lives her faith. She brings her consciousness of poverty and of the needs of people to this place. She has always done that, and I wish her all the very best in the next phase of her life.
Ms. Lisa MacLeod: To my dear friend Cheri DiNovo: I’m really going to miss you. We’ve been friends for the past 10 years, sort of an odd couple, but we have had an enduring friendship that I believe will last long past the time you leave here and when you go back to the cloth.
A lot of people probably don’t know that we were elected in by-elections in the same year. I’ve got a bit more seniority; it’s starting to show in the grey hair I have on my head. But we’ve developed a friendship and we have a number of mutual friends. Every sitting we would have an opportunity to go out for dinner and put politics aside, and just talk about some of the issues that deal with our families.
We also had an opportunity to go to Taiwan together. It was a very exciting trip that the member took with the members from Renfrew–Nipissing–Pembroke and Leeds–Grenville and the former members from Beaches–East York and Trinity–Spadina, I believe. It was there, overseas, that we put partisanship aside and we were Ontarians and Canadians first. Anybody who’s ever taken a trip like that with their colleagues—it really seems to unite our core values as Canadians. We certainly got to share that.
I’m going to tell a little bit of a tale out of school. During that trip we wrote a song and we would sing it. Cheri decided, when we got back from that trip, that it would be fun to invite me, Steve and John to the caucus party at the end of the year for the New Democrats. Cheri, of course, knows a lot of talented musicians. She told her caucus that she had a band coming. Her caucus thought it was the Barenaked Ladies. I think they were shocked when one by one we came down the staircase and they saw these three Tories standing in Cheri DiNovo’s living room to sing a very-off-key song. But you know what? John Yakabuski knows 6,000 songs right up here, so it was really good. We came down and we had this song, and it was our group that came back together again. It was the three of us as well as three New Democratic members, and we sang for the caucus. They still laugh about it. Taras and I were talking about it last week—I apologize for using the member’s name, Speaker. But we came down, and they actually said we were better than the Barenaked Ladies. I can’t tell you the song because it was at the expense of the governing party. I don’t think they would be surprised.
I just wanted to say that one of the things that the Premier and the leader of the third party talked about is the humanity of this woman, this wonderful MPP, who has—right up until the last week that she served here—passed a private member’s bill that I was proud to co-sponsor. So to you, my friend, I look forward to seeing you grace these halls as a clergyperson, but also as a friend to every member here.
Hon. Glenn Thibeault: My point of order is a little less formal. I need to correct my record. Earlier, I said that hospitals are receiving $50 million in funding for energy retrofit upgrades; I should have said that the number is actually $64 million.
Hon. Steven Del Duca: I’m delighted to introduce a couple of individuals who work in my constituency office: Francesca Cesario and Alessia Ricciuti, who are in the west gallery. I believe we are also joined by York University student Marzie Aghdaee.
Hon. Charles Sousa: I just saw, behind me, my constituency office, who are here. They’ve been doing an excellent job in Mississauga South: Brenda Armstrong, Kevin Draper and Lucas Alves. Welcome to Queen’s Park, and thank you for all you do.
Bill 177, An Act to implement Budget measures and to enact and amend various statutes / Projet de loi 177, Loi visant à mettre en oeuvre les mesures budgétaires et à édicter et à modifier diverses lois.
The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): We do have a vote, and we don’t want to keep the Lieutenant Governor waiting, although the democracy of old said that they had to wait. Anyway, we do have something else to do after, so please stay by after the Lieutenant Governor is finished. I would appreciate it very much.
The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): May it please Your Honour, the Legislative Assembly of the province has, at its present meetings thereof, passed certain bills to which, in the name of and on behalf of the said Legislative Assembly, I respectfully request Your Honour’s assent.
An Act to establish the Lung Health Advisory Council and develop a provincial action plan respecting lung disease / Loi créant le Conseil consultatif de la maladie pulmonaire et visant l’élaboration d’un plan d’action provincial à l’égard des maladies pulmonaires.
An Act to amend or repeal various Acts and to enact three new Acts with respect to the construction of new homes and ticket sales for events / Loi modifiant ou abrogeant diverses lois et édictant trois nouvelles lois en ce qui concerne la construction de logements neufs et la vente de billets d’événements.
Hon. Elizabeth Dowdeswell (Lieutenant Governor): Mr. Speaker, if I may: This has been a long, busy and memorable year as we have all commemorated and celebrated Ontario and Canada 150. I thank you for your contribution to all of those events.
It is a time to wish all of you a happy Christmas, happy holidays, a wonderful time with your family and friends, and a nice break. May I also wish all of you, each and every member, a year ahead of good health, happiness and peace. Thank you.
The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): I would ask your indulgence. I want to thank all of you. I know how hard you work. Not a lot of people know how hard you work, but I do. I want to thank every member and all of your families for the wonderful work that you do, not just here, but in the communities. As this is my last Christmas as Speaker and as MPP, I offer you my commitment to continue to spread the word of how hard you work and the job you do, seven days a week.
Hon. Kathleen O. Wynne: I know I speak on behalf of all of the members of the Legislature: I want to thank you because we know how hard you work, because we make you work that hard. We wish you a very merry Christmas and a great holiday.
Ms. Sophie Kiwala: I would like to extend a warm welcome to those who are here to support the motion that I will be bringing forward today: Rob More and Len Whalen from Kingston FASD parent support group and Lanark, Leeds and Grenville FASD support group; Brian Philcox, chairman of FASworld Canada; Mark Courtepatte, co-chair of Hamilton FASD Parents and Caregivers Support Group; Savanna Pietrantonio and her beautiful service dog, Sasha; Valerie Temple, clinical psychologist at Surrey Place Centre; Mary Ann Bunkowsky, FASD parent advocate from Hamilton FASD; Karen Huber, chair of the Waterloo Region FASD Action Group; Mary Cunningham from KWC FASD Consulting; Sharron Richards and Mary Hutchings, FASD-ONE; Kaitlyn McLachlan, Vanesa Hrvatin, Larry Byrne and others who are watching from home—thank you for joining us; Cheryl Neave and Tracey Ashby from FASD-ONE, chair and vice-chair, respectively; De-Ann DeGraaf and Lisa Picano, co-facilitators of FASD Connection Peel; the Physicians of Ontario Neurodevelopmental Advocacy steering committee; Brenda Pinkus; and Terressa Finley.
Ms. Lisa MacLeod: Today I have my constituent Gordon Stringer joining me. He’s in the dining room right now—I left him so I could introduce him—but he’ll be up here in a few minutes. I just wanted to welcome him to the Legislative Assembly, and to also acknowledge the work the minister is doing in terms of introducing that law later today.
I would like to introduce a number of seniors and their allies who are here. They’re here for the petition that’s going to ask for free transportation for seniors in Toronto and for those on social assistance. We’ve got Joseph Marando, Baohai Want, Xiaoping Zu, Natalis Wong, Raquel Amarna Moscote, Maria Gomez, Andrew Ngoc, Jaime Oskam and Jamyang Dolma.
Mr. Arthur Potts: I want to introduce my legislative assistant, Steven Crombie, who’s here in the House. He does great work. He helped me with my member’s statement, and any errors in it will certainly be his.
Mrs. Cristina Martins: It gives me great pleasure to introduce someone I consider a friend, Nancy Coldham, who’s here in the gallery with us today; as well as Dr. James Hill from the Ontario Podiatric Medical Association, who is here to present me with an award on the passing of my private member’s bill, Putting Your Best Foot Forward. Welcome to Queen’s Park.
Mr. Bill Walker: What an honour it is to rise today to pay tribute to the great people of Wiarton, whose vibrant community has been named as one of the top three happiest places in Canada by expedia.ca.
There were 765,000 Instagram posts about this thriving four-season community, according to blogger Carolyn Albee, who sorted through more than 100,000 conversations for hashtags like #cheerful, #blessed and #happy to find the happiest places in the country.
Apart from the fact that the town of Wiarton simply has it all—the towering bluffs of the Niagara Escarpment and views of Colpoy’s and Georgian Bay—Albee says that the Wiarton Willie Festival, Ontario’s biggest winter festival and, without a shadow of a doubt, a must-see prediction ceremony for every Ontarian and Canadian, is one reason people feel so good about Wiarton.
Wiarton ranked behind Canada’s surfing capital, Tofino, BC, and Lake Louise in Banff, Alberta, which was voted as the happiest place in the country. No other town or city in southwestern Ontario made the top 40 list by Expedia.
South Bruce Peninsula mayor Janice Jackson says that the only thing that surprised her was that Wiarton did not make top honours as number one. I have to concur with the mayor on that point, being a proud Wiartonian. I spent a lot of my life in Wiarton, as most people know.
As Wiarton is expecting record numbers of tourists in 2018, the community is abuzz with activities, including the completion of the new tourism centre in my hometown of Hepworth. So I invite all members and everyone listening to visit our little piece of heaven as early as February 2 for Groundhog Day and meet the late Wiarton Willie’s understudy, Wee Willie. Happy Wiarton.
Ms. Peggy Sattler: As London digs out from a walloping of snow this week, stories are being told of random acts of snow removal. Snow angels are appearing with shovels or snow blowers to assist seniors, persons with disabilities and people who just need a helping hand. London’s Snow Angels program, which matches volunteer shovellers with those who need assistance, started in 2015 through the efforts of Lincoln McCardle and the web firm Simalam. McCardle calls it an “experiment in kindness,” something that links into what people are already doing, and formalizes how Londoners help each other.
I can tell you, Speaker, Londoners are helping each other in extraordinary ways. When My Sisters’ Place, a day shelter for vulnerable women, faced an unexpected and costly sewage problem that could have forced the end of evening programming, word got out and dollars poured in, including $10,000 from the London Police Association and $77,000 from Shoppers Drug Mart. This month, an anonymous donor provided funding for five years of extended evening and weekend hours.
In October, Youth Opportunities Unlimited received the largest cash donation in its 35-year history to support an innovative housing-first project for youth, young mothers and mothers-to-be who are experiencing or are at risk of homelessness. The YOU new addition will now be known as the Joan Smith Building for Youth, thanks to a generous $1-million donation from the Smith family.
Mr. Steve Clark: It’s with profound sadness that I rise to pay tribute to Barbara Woodman. Barbara died November 30 at age 70 from systemic scleroderma-associated pulmonary arterial hypertension. PAH is an aggressive lung disease and a common complication for scleroderma.
Barbara wrote to me in October after the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care denied her request for the drug Uptravi for a second time. Her letter is featured in the winter issue of Scleroderma Canada magazine. I wrote to the minister and I’m devastated that Barbara died before our system could help.
I want to make it clear, Speaker, that I rise not to make this a partisan issue. That’s not what her husband of 48 years, Paul, her sons Scott and Brent and daughter Stephanie want. As Stephanie wrote, “We hope my mother’s story will help benefit others that are also sharing their plea for treatments not accessible to them through public funding in Ontario. For many suffering with this condition, these treatments are a matter of life or death.”
Speaker, no family should lose a loving wife, a mother and grandmother because a life-saving drug is too expensive. Barbara wanted our health care system to do better. I think we owe it to Barbara and the many Ontarians like her, whose tragic stories MPPs have shared too often, to create that system as their legacy.
Ms. Sarah Campbell: Ten days ago, northwestern Ontario was walloped with a winter storm that brought with it more than a foot of snow in some areas. While that may not be noteworthy in and of itself, what is remarkable is that 10 days later motorists are still grappling with the remnants of that storm on our highways.
Parts of the Trans-Canada Highway, our country’s main artery, still cannot be seen as it lies underneath layers of packed snow and glare ice in many areas across the northwest. This is despite the fact that the MTO deems it a class 2 highway, giving area contractors 16 hours to restore it to bare pavement. It appears as though these road-clearing standards mean little, if anything, to area contractors, as my offices are still inundated with complaints from northerners who are unnecessarily put at risk due to shoddy maintenance.
I have heard from seniors who have gone off the road, seasoned truck drivers who are unable to control their rigs and, quite alarmingly, from a father and infant who were trapped in their vehicle days after the storm ended.
The response from the MTO has been that there are “ongoing concerns” with Emcon and that financial non-conformance penalties have been issued. But that seems to have little effect on the condition of the roads and the resulting risks imposed on northerners who have no other transportation options. Northerners are tired of the same old tune each and every winter, and they want to know when this government will prioritize our highways and our safety.
Mrs. Cristina Martins: This weekend, I had the privilege of hosting my fourth annual holiday open house to celebrate the close of another year with some great holiday treats and some festive holiday cheer. It gave me an opportunity to gather with many of the constituents from my riding of Davenport and many of the community organizations, and an opportunity to thank all of the organizations that serve Davenport for all of the work that they do and for everyone in the community who works every day to make our neighbourhoods stronger and more connected.
My open house was also an opportunity to welcome new art in my constituency office. This month, my constituency office is showcasing the work of local Davenport artists. I was lucky to get to show some pieces from Brian Rideout, who earlier this year won the Premier’s Award for Excellence in the Arts as emerging artist of the year.
As well, art was provided by seniors from the Davenport-Perth Neighbourhood and Community Health Centre, whose seniors’ art group received funding from the Seniors Community Grant. This fantastic initiative keeps seniors active and engaged through art classes. Davenport seniors produce truly magnificent works of art.
Mr. Raymond Sung Joon Cho: Canada has been a world leader when it comes to defending human rights. Today in Myanmar, we are witnessing very gross human rights violations. The Myanmar army has worked in unison with the various extremist vigilantes to systematically target Muslim Rohingya civilians. Many were killed and raped. Villages were intentionally raided and burned. Any remaining villages have been denied access to vital supplies.
Since August 25, 645,000 people have fled Myanmar to Bangladesh, and 80,000-plus people are currently stuck in Myanmar, either internally displaced or in concentration camps. According to the secret agreement signed by Myanmar and Bangladesh, starting January 23, the Rohingya refugees can return to Myanmar.
It is obvious that the Rohingya refugees don’t trust that Myanmar would treat them any better than it has done in the last three months. The following needs to be done: Establish a safety zone managed by UN peacekeepers with a mandate to defend and protect the people under their jurisdiction; and review the honorary Canadian citizenship bestowed on Aung San Suu Kyi.
This past Halloween, a major elevator company was fined $50,000 for five violations, including letting an unsafe elevator run in a Toronto condo. Prior to that, in January the same company was fined $375,000 for a potentially fatal safety law breach where a man was injured. At the College Park courthouse, escalators have been out for two years, forcing people with canes and strollers to climb two flights of stairs.
I’m grateful to Minister MacCharles and the Ministry of Government and Consumer Services for supporting this bill and to the Technical Standards and Safety Authority for commissioning a report on elevator reliability.
Speaker, with the rapid growth of super high-rises in Toronto, Ontario’s building code must be updated as well. This is more than just about mechanics, reliability and convenience; it’s a safety issue for at-risk people like seniors, who require regular transportation to and from their homes.
Since 1955, the chamber has honoured outstanding local businesses in the community that demonstrate a passion for excellence, commitment to community and entrepreneurial spirit. Many businesses in Whitby spend countless hours making their local community a better place, and these business awards are a way of recognizing those contributions.
The winners this year are the Brock Street Brewing Co.; Collins Barrow Durham; the Abilities Centre, which we well know; and Durham Escape Rooms. The businessperson of the year: John Draper from Together We Rock!
I’d also like to take a moment this afternoon to congratulate Kathy Beattie from my constituency office, who was a recipient last week of the Paul Harris award. This is the highest award that a Rotarian can receive from their club, which in my case and her case is the Whitby Sunrise club. It acknowledges the outstanding contribution and exceptional service that Kathy has made to the Whitby community overall.
I’d like to take this opportunity to congratulate all the award recipients from the chamber but more importantly Kathy Beattie for the work she’s doing in building up the town of Whitby. “Service above self,” Speaker.
Bill 193, An Act to enact Rowan’s Law (Concussion Safety), 2017 and to amend the Education Act / Projet de loi 193, Loi édictant la Loi Rowan de 2017 sur la sécurité en matière de commotions cérébrales et modifiant la Loi sur l’éducation.
Hon. Eleanor McMahon: Before I begin my remarks, I want to recognize the presence in the House today of Gordon Stringer, Rowan’s father. It is in her memory that we pass this legislation, in the hope that other parents like Gordon and Kathleen won’t have to suffer similar tragedies. Thank you.
If passed, Rowan’s Law (Concussion Safety), 2017, and amendments to the Education Act would provide the framework to govern concussion prevention, detection, management and awareness in amateur competitive sport and schools. If passed, this would require sport organizations and school boards to implement the following:
The proposed legislation would also proclaim a Rowan’s Law Day, to be held every year on the last Wednesday of September, and require the Minister of Tourism, Culture and Sport to prepare and publish reports on the progress made in implementing recommendations set out in the report of the Rowan’s Law Advisory Committee.
It’s an honour to rise in the House today to acknowledge the over 800,000 hard-working Ontarians who wake up each and every day to work in our province’s innovative agri-food sector. The people who work in Ontario’s agri-food sector are innovative, passionate and, indeed, determined.
That passion was on display earlier this week when the Premier and I welcomed more than 100 representatives from across our province’s agri-food sector at the 13th Premier’s Agri-Food Summit. The theme of this year’s summit was “Growing Ontario’s Agri-Food Sector at Home and Abroad.” The summit reinforced how important two-way agri-food trade is between Ontario and the United States, and how our province is poised to become a global hub for agri-food research and innovation. The United Nations tells us that by the year 2050, there will be nine billion people in the world to feed.
We were delighted to welcome United States government representatives, and friends of mine, director Jamie Clover Adams from the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, and Russell Redding, the Secretary of Agriculture from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. We also welcomed a very special guest, Canada’s deputy ambassador to the United States, Kirsten Hillman, to Toronto to participate in a panel discussion on two-way trade, where we’re continuing to foster our strong and productive trading relationship. We also extended an invitation to my colleagues from Haldimand–Norfolk and Timiskaming–Cochrane.
As we do every year, we also took the opportunity to recognize the many different ideas and innovations that begin on the farm, through the Premier’s Award for Agri-Food Innovation Excellence program. At the summit, we announced the top five recipients chosen from among this year’s 50 award-winning innovations. I’d like to share their stories with you.
The Premier and I were very pleased to present three Leaders in Innovation Awards at the summit. We recognized Paul Moyer of Moyer’s Apple Products for developing a new sanitizer for produce that is even more effective than water-based systems. This innovation takes cleaning to a higher level and positions Ontario as a leader in food safety technology.
We also recognized Jay Barnard of Freshwater Cuisine, from Ontario’s Kenora district. Freshwater Cuisine has helped reduce fish waste by creating new, tasty appetizers that incorporate all parts of freshwater fish. Over the past year, the business has established relationships with more than 50 harvesters in nearby First Nations communities, who supply them with 100% of the wild-caught fish.
Mr. Speaker, I’d also like to acknowledge this year’s third leader in innovation. Through his Fresh Air Media videos, Andrew Campbell is an inspiring young man on a mission to help urban populations learn more about where their food comes from and how it’s produced. By leveraging the power of modern technology, he is sparking important conversations on food production, animal welfare and environmental sustainability, and helping to establish trust from gate to plate.
I also had the pleasure of presenting the Minister’s Award to Peter Wheeler of SunPillar Inc./Two Bridges Vineyard, which is in beautiful Prince Edward county. Beekeepers will soon be buzzing about their new product that monitors bee health. Designed to fit in a commercial hive, Hive Health gives producers the essential information they need without having to disturb the bees. The sensors for this project can easily be adapted to monitor plants for growth and disease so that crop producers can also benefit from this innovative Ontario technology.
The Premier had the opportunity to present her award to Michael Curry and Ian Adamson of Greenbelt Microgreens. Greenbelt Microgreens has developed an eco-friendly process for growing organic microgreens such as lettuce, arugula and wheatgrass. They grow them year-round right in Ontario’s greenbelt. Today, the company has become the largest grower of organic microgreens in Canada, supplying fresh produce to hundreds of retailers, such as Longo’s, Sobeys and T&T Supermarket. This is a real home-grown success story.
Mr. Speaker, these are just a few stories that show us how great ideas are being generated by farmers and food processors. I want to thank each and every one of this year’s 50 award-winning innovators who are inspiring the next generation to be innovative and to drive our agri-food sector forward into the future. Congratulations on those achievements.
In closing, Mr. Speaker, as we wind down the year and look forward to celebrating the holidays with our families, I encourage everyone to support Ontario’s farmers and include local food, beverages and foliage in their festivities. I wish everybody a merry Christmas and a happy holiday season.
Mr. Toby Barrett: “The Premier’s Award for Agri-Food Innovation Excellence” has got a real nice ring to it and it’s a very important ceremony to pay tribute and to recognize those who are out there at the forefront.
As we’re fully aware, the change in administration south of the border has really put us in Ontario and across Canada in a position where we’ve got to up our game. Last May, US trade representative Robert Lighthizer gave notice of intent to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement—NAFTA—with both Canada and Mexico. He cited outdated regulation and standards. He stressed the need for high-paying jobs in the United States.
Last spring, our federal government and many of the provinces scrambled to put together a bit of an effort to persuade US states and the Trump administration to leave Canada out of these protectionist measures, and we recognize the work of this Ontario government visiting many of the states that we work with and compete with.
Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall offered up his explanation of the importance of the cross-border supply chains we benefit from: “Saskatchewan farmers buy John Deere tractors, made in Iowa, to harvest oats that are then sold to General Mills in Cedar Rapids, turned into Cheerios and exported back to Canada.” That’s how it works.
The US remains Ontario’s primary destination for international merchandise exports, representing over 80% of our provincial total. As part of Canada, we in Ontario are part of the largest trading relationship in the world. No other country buys more goods and services that are made in the USA than does Canada, to the tune of something like $322 billion a year, and through that—and this came up at the ceremony the other day—Canada supports nine million jobs in the United States.
NAFTA is not only about buying and selling, it’s also about co-operation and integration. The factories and the farms in both countries are linked through just-in-time supply chains that criss-cross the border. Investment, productivity and competitiveness in both countries are by and large supported by harmonized regulation and common rules.
I’ve attended, as has the minister, a number of meetings in the United States over the past year. I find state elected representatives, farmers and ranchers are with us. We’re of a like mind. They realize the importance of trade certainly in agri-food. Any growth in the agri-food economy in North America has been based on exports. That results in good-paying jobs.
Bear in mind, however, that we see the problems. We’ve lost on all sides of the border. We have lost hundreds of thousands of manufacturing jobs. We are competing with obviously much lower wages in countries like Mexico and China.
NAFTA negotiations started August 16. The uncertainty has been huge. It remains unknown where we’re going. I hope in a positive sense that it’s really a modernization of the agreement and, in my view, essentially moving free trade to a system of fair trade. Isn’t this really how our trade relationships are supposed to work? Trade dollars flow back and forth across the border, but in a balanced way and in a very fair way.
There are so many statistics on the trading relationships between Ontario and the various states across the union, and our trading relationship with Mexico. Trade is a good thing. Like they say, the only bad trade agreement is the one you’re not in.
Mr. John Vanthof: It’s always an honour to be able to stand in this House and speak on behalf of the residents of Timiskaming–Cochrane and my NDP colleagues in response to the minister on the agri-food summit and the Premier’s Award for Agri-Food Innovation Excellence
First, I’d like to say it’s our job to be critical of government policy, but it’s also our job to recognize when we can work together. I’d like to thank the minister for his invitation to the conference and for his invitation to many other things. We understand and he understands that in agriculture, although our benefit to the province is very large, our numbers are small and we need to work together, and I’d like to recognize the minister for that.
The focus of the conference and the focus of much of our thoughts on all sides of the House is trade. Often, throughout our history, we have had issues with our trading partners, and one of our most important trading partners is the United States of America. I think the biggest issue now, with the current administration, is the uncertainty of what their positions are. Having spoken to secretaries of agriculture in other states, they have the same issue, because both people at the farm level and people at the state level understand how important trade is. From our side, we are all wanting to work together to ensure that we can come up with trade deals that not only benefit the farmers and the agri-food sector, but benefit all Ontarians and all Canadians. We continue to work together on that.
Furthermore, on the part about the award for agri-food innovation excellence, I’d like to thank and congratulate all the winners. I’d like to thank the Premier for doing this. But most of all, I think we need to recognize that at all levels of the agri-food sector—but specifically, because I’m a farmer, at the farm level—almost all farmers are innovators. That’s how we get innovation excellence, because they have to innovate on a constant basis to deal with nature, to deal with weather and to deal with political policy. They have to innovate and change their farming practices, and I think that’s one of the strengths.
At this time of year, I would really like to recognize—often we recognize essential services like police and firefighters, people who have to work during the Christmas season. I’d like to take a minute and recognize the people who work in the food sector, from the farmers to the processors to the retailers. But when you’re dealing specifically with livestock, you have to care for livestock 365 days a year.
This is our last day here until February. I’m sure I can speak for all legislators: We’re all looking very forward to not having to be here tomorrow. But when you’re a farmer, you don’t have that option, and that’s why they have to love their job, because they’re there every day.
I remember that the cows always had to be milked on Christmas day and New Year’s day. Even on larger operations, most times you’ll find it will be the farmer himself, because the people he works with, they want Christmas off. So they’re doing it themselves. I also know, from personal experience, that Christmas and New Year’s are the days that things are going to break on the farm and the days that you’re going to be there all day. It’s those kinds of days. Stuff always breaks on a Sunday.
Farmers pray a lot on Christmas day, because we also want to be with our family for the big Christmas dinner. Sometimes it doesn’t happen, because the cows have to be fed, or a cow will have a calf. I’m a dairy farmer, I talk about cows, but there are all kinds of livestock.
Anyway, I’d really like to take this opportunity to thank the farmers out there and everyone in the system, but specifically thank the farmers. On behalf of, I’m sure, all the legislators in Ontario, merry Christmas to our farm community and those people working Christmas day.
“To approve the development of a comprehensive Ontario dementia plan that would include the development of strategies in primary health care, in health promotion and prevention of illness, in community development, in building community capacity and care partner engagement, in caregiver support and investments in research.”
“Whereas mobility is crucial to our well-being and independence. It allows us to work, engage in our communities and take care of our personal needs. The inability to move freely can lead us to feel helpless and lonely. These effects impact low- or fixed-income individuals the most, such as seniors or those who rely on social assistance;
“For seniors and those relying on social assistance, this is a growing problem. Those with limited resources are geographically isolated in their homes. The cost of public transit forces them to miss appointments, interviews and other opportunities to socialize. It forces them to accept a lower quality of life.
“We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to provide funding so that low-income seniors (65+) and individuals receiving social assistance can use the municipal transit services for free. We all want to work, participate in our community and take care of ourselves. Give everyone the opportunity to do so.”
“Whereas under sections 230 and 257.30 of the Education Act, the minister has the power to appoint an investigator to review the financial and administrative affairs of the Toronto Catholic District School Board in circumstances provided for in the legislation;
“Whereas the Catholic school board secretly purchased another three acres of adjacent land from the Sisters of the Good Shepherd for another $18 million, in the land adjacent to the high school, and refused to make public the reason and future use for this $18-million land purchase;
“We, the undersigned, formally request that the Minister of Education appoint an investigator to report on and investigate the use of public funds as it relates to the secret development agreement between the Catholic school board and Villa Charities Inc., and whether the financing of this joint-use facility and other expenditures adhere to approved Ministry of Education guidelines.”
“Whereas a motion was introduced to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario encouraging the government to adopt a strategy on Lyme disease, while taking into account the impact the disease has upon individuals and families in Ontario;
“We, the undersigned, petition the government of Ontario to develop an integrated strategy on Lyme disease consistent with the action plan of the Public Health Agency of Canada, taking into account available treatments, accessibility issues and the efficacy of the currently available diagnostic mechanisms. In so doing, it should consult with representatives of the health care community and patients’ groups within one year.”
“Whereas approximately every nine minutes a person in Ontario arrives at a hospital emergency room with a dental problem but can only get painkillers and antibiotics, and this costs the health care system at least $31 million annually with no treatment of the problem;
“—delivering public dental services in a cost-efficient way through publicly funded dental clinics such as public health units, community health centres and aboriginal health access centres to ensure primary oral health services are accessible to vulnerable people in Ontario.”
“Whereas the government of Ontario, through the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario, levies the Ontario provincial fee on the sale of break-open tickets by charitable and non-profit organizations in the province; and
“Whereas local hospital auxiliaries/associations across the province, who are members of the Hospital Auxiliaries ... use break-open tickets to raise funds to support local health care equipment needs in more than 100 communities across the province; and
“Whereas in September 2010, the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario announced a series of changes to the Ontario provincial fee which included a reduction of the fee for certain organizations and the complete elimination of the fee for other organizations....
“We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to eliminate the Ontario provincial fee on break-open tickets for all charitable and non-profit organizations in Ontario and allow all organizations using this fundraising tool to invest more funds in local community projects, including local health care equipment needs....”
“We, the undersigned, call upon the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to immediately return Hydro One to public hands; end the practice of paying for electricity Ontario doesn’t need; review and renegotiate bad private power contracts; end unfair rural delivery charges; re-examine the impact that density has on cost; cap private profit margins; end time-of-use billing and negotiate the permanent removal of the HST from electricity bills.”
“Whereas collecting and restoring old vehicles honours Ontario’s automotive heritage while contributing to the economy through the purchase of goods and services, tourism, and support for special events; and
“Whereas the stringent application of emissions regulations for older cars equipped with newer engines can result in fines and additional expenses that discourage car collectors and restorers from pursuing their hobby; and
“Therefore, be it resolved that the Ontario Legislature support Ontarians who collect and restore old vehicles by amending the appropriate laws and regulations to ensure vehicles over 20 years old and exempt from Drive Clean testing shall also be exempt from additional emissions requirements enforced by the Ministry of the Environment and governing the installation of newer engines into old cars and trucks.”
“Whereas the residents of Cambridge and the Waterloo region believe that they would be well-served by commuter rail transit that connects the region to the Milton line, and that this infrastructure would have positive, tangible economic benefits to the province of Ontario;
“Direct crown agency Metrolinx to commission a feasibility study into building a rail line that connects the city of Cambridge to the GO train station in Milton, and to complete this study in a timely manner and communicate the results to the municipal government of Cambridge.”
That there is a need for collaboration between parent groups, service providers, and educators who are involved in the everyday challenges of those living with FASD in order to develop and implement a strategy to assist in the recognition and treatment of those directly affected by this condition.
After many months of hard work, a myriad of meetings, conference calls, letters, and a gazillion tête-à-têtes with many members of our staff, various ministries, parent groups and beyond, I am thrilled to rise for the debate of my private member’s motion on Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder Awareness Day. This subject is very near and dear to my heart, as it is to many who live and work in the field.
I am thrilled to see that so many advocates and stakeholders are with us here today from across the entire province. The journey to get where we are today has been a long one, especially for those affected and impacted by FASD. The dedication that I have witnessed first-hand has been truly remarkable and has inspired my advocacy for the FASD community. I would like to once again take this opportunity to thank those who are with us in the House today. Thank you for showing your support and, most importantly, thank you so much for all your efforts to raise awareness and to help those living with this condition.
I would also like to thank my fellow members of caucus MPP Fraser and MPP Anderson, who will be speaking in support of my motion shortly. It means so much to these groups and those who could not be here today. Stakeholders will be particularly acquainted with MPP Anderson, as he was the parliamentary assistant to the Minister of Children and Youth Services before I assumed the role. He did a great deal of work on the FASD file, and I know that he’s very familiar with this topic. I thank my colleague for his work.
Thank you to everyone who assisted with drafting this important piece of legislation, including the legislative counsel, the Ministry of Education, and the government House leader’s office—and the unending patience, of course, of Jagtaran Singh; my executive assistant, Jaclynne Hamel; and my legislative assistant, Anna Majetic. Thank you for your never-ending trips back and forth from our Wellesley Street office, for your meetings, arranging phone calls—all of that back and forth. Incredible. Thank you. Your good energy that you continually brought forward has always been an ongoing inspiration.
My advocacy for the FASD community was inspired by attending a monthly meeting with the Kingston and the Islands parent network, led by the remarkable Len Whalen. You have been amazing. I’m very thankful that you were able to join us in the gallery today. Through this meeting, I gained a better understanding of the daily challenges that children with FASD and their families face. I was deeply moved by their personal stories of struggle and resilience, and I was inspired to further advocate on their behalf.
As many in this House already know, “fetal alcohol spectrum disorder” is an umbrella term used to describe a range of cognitive developmental disorders that are caused by exposure to alcohol in utero. When a woman becomes pregnant, alcohol consumption can pose significant risk to the fetus and result in fetal alcohol syndrome, partial fetal alcohol syndrome, alcohol-related neurodevelopmental disorder and alcohol-related birth defects. It is estimated that one out of every 100 people may have FASD, meaning that as many as 130,000 Ontarians may be affected.
FASD is a lifelong, debilitating neurological condition which is largely unrecognized and has no cure. It is also largely misunderstood. There is a great deal that is not known about FASD. For example, sometimes people who have FASD have particular facial features. However, the majority of people with FASD do not display the physical indicators of FASD. The presence of facial features depends on whether alcohol was consumed between day 19 and 21 of pregnancy, to be exact. The common myth that all cases of FASD involve the presence of facial features is completely false, yet it is widely considered a fact.
That this is considered to be a truth can lead to some devastating impacts. Anyone who may work with individuals living with FASD in any capacity, be it service providers in various fields, teachers or educational assistants, for example, may simply assume that a child or an individual without these facial features doesn’t have FASD, or may have a different behavioural issue. This may lead to improper and ineffective support of that child or individual, hampering their ability to succeed in a positive environment that understands them and their disorder. This is just one example of how misinformation can impede individuals with FASD from receiving the best possible support. We have a collective responsibility to ensure that children with FASD get the best possible support they need.
In my conversations with families and caregivers, they have expressed concerns that there are many myths that are taken as fact, which has led to a great deal of misunderstanding, stigma and shaming. FASD is particularly hard to diagnose because children and adults might display a wide range of behavioural issues that are symptomatic of other conditions.
Adding further complexity is the fact that some women don’t know they are pregnant until further along in their pregnancies. In fact, just this summer, the Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada reported that a survey conducted in 2016 found that 61% of women had unintended or unplanned pregnancies, and as such, women may unknowingly cause harm to their unborn child.
Contrary to many myths and misinformation, there is no safe amount of alcohol that can be consumed during a pregnancy. The stigma associated with FASD and the tendency to blame mothers often lead to situations where families and mothers are afraid to come forward because they fear being judged and/or they might not know what their options are. Mr. Speaker, it’s important not to blame women or expectant mothers, but instead extend as much support as possible.
A focus on awareness would go a very long way toward prevention efforts. We need greater awareness to not only help prevent FASD, but to approach this very important issue in the most compassionate and informed way possible. The fact is that individuals with FASD and their families face difficulty in society when it comes to equity, inclusion and well-being.
In MPP Anderson’s report to the minister in 2015, it was noted that cultural knowledge-building is essential toward ensuring that communities in the north and remote locations can develop solutions that best help individuals with FASD. That is why simply raising awareness is not enough. This motion calls for greater collaboration between parent groups, service providers and educators who are involved in the everyday challenges of those with FASD.
Learning from lived experience is a critical step that we need to take in order to develop and implement a strategy to assist in the recognition and treatment of those directly affected by this condition. Since the beginning of my journey on this issue, I have been overwhelmed by the level of engagement, resilience and deep commitment across the province from advocates, families, communities and organizations like FASD Connection Peel, FASworld and many others that I wish I had time to list.
In recognizing September 9 as Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder Awareness Day, this motion will help create opportunities to elevate the discussion of FASD in the public realm. It would provide an opportunity to acknowledge FASD in the province of Ontario every single year, and it would ensure continued advocacy on behalf of those who have lived experience. Importantly, an awareness day should signal the government of Ontario’s continued commitment to the FASD community in order to enhance awareness and prevention.
I am very proud that budget 2017 included $26 million over four years earmarked specifically for FASD and that it was specifically included in the budget. This strategy, which is currently in its development and rollout stages, includes six major initiatives that the government will focus on. They include a one-stop, full-access hub; more than 50 new FASD positions to support 2,500 people with FASD; boosting the number of parent support networks and assisting those already in existence; and we also have initiatives with our indigenous partners.
It goes on. The motion is but a small step within a movement that has already been in motion, a movement that has been the result of literally thousands and thousands of individuals over decades; many of them are here today. Yet in many ways, FASD continues to fly under the radar.
Mr. Speaker, before I close I would like to ask all of the members of this House to acknowledge the real heroes on this issue, those individuals with FASD and the incredible challenges that they face, but also those heroes—the parents, the support network and service providers—who are with us today. Thank you for all of your hard work on this issue.
In closing, this motion would establish the ninth day of the ninth month as Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder Awareness Day—which symbolizes the average period during which a woman is pregnant—and as a day of recognition, education and awareness of FASD.
I would like to once again thank everyone who has contributed to this motion and those who are here to support it. I hope that all members will give their full support to this motion. I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for your work. Job well done.
Mr. Steve Clark: It’s an honour to rise on behalf of the people of Leeds–Grenville to speak to the motion by the member from Kingston and the Islands. I think that most people know that, while we’re on opposite sides of the House, she and I are on the same side when it comes to the issue of fetal alcohol syndrome disorder. In fact, it’s a subject that the member for Kingston and the Islands and I have spoken about many times.
As she knows and as she mentioned earlier, FASD advocates in my riding have formed the Lanark, Leeds and Grenville fetal alcohol syndrome disorder working group. I want to thank them and commend them for their work, and I want to thank Ms. Kiwala for acknowledging the local and regional members right across Ontario who are here today following this motion.
I had the opportunity to meet with Diane Greer, Shelley More and Erin Bertrand from the working group in June. I know that they met with my colleague MPP Randy Hillier from Lanark–Frontenac–Lennox and Addington. MPP Hillier and I share many organizations, so it’s natural that we would take a keen interest in a new working group in our community.
I know that some of the members couldn’t be with us today. They’re watching the proceedings, so I hope that they’re going to have the same excitement that I think they’re going to hear from all parties this afternoon.
Speaker, it’s estimated that 4% of the population is affected with FASD, and the stories of Ontarians living with it are heartbreaking. I go back to the meeting that I had in my constituency office in Brockville with the local members of the working group. It really is something to hear the stories from those parents.
And for all of the families and individuals who have come forward with their painful experiences, many more suffer in silence due to the stigma associated with FASD. That stigma results in people being reluctant to seek out help, even where it exists, for a condition that’s very chronically underserviced in our province.
Again, I want to commend the member for helping raise awareness to combat the stigma and by recognizing September 9 as FASD awareness day in Ontario. I know she did not really have a long opportunity to talk about that component of her motion, but it’s just so important what a declaration of a day like that means to parents and families dealing with FASD.
This discussion is also important, Speaker, for letting families in my riding know there is a strong support network for them with the Lanark, Leeds and Grenville FASD working group. I want anyone who picks up on this debate today that is from my riding or from my neighbour’s riding in Lanark to know that there is a working group out there for you that is able to provide that outreach that I think many people need.
I agree, Speaker, with the member from Kingston and the Islands. We need more conversations to create a better understanding of what has been called an invisible disability, and the devastating impact it has on individuals, their families and our society.
As the member said earlier, the government has actually put some money on the table for FASD; they have actually said some very good things that people in communities like the ones that I represent are very encouraged to hear.
I hope that the member for Kingston and the Islands agrees with me that there is so much more that we can do. We need more funding, we need more resources—resources that are desperately needed to make us the leader in early diagnosis and also in intervention and in properly supporting those with FASD.
I know that the members of the Lanark, Leeds and Grenville working group would want me to express their concern—which I share with them wholeheartedly—that those supports have to be easily accessible in rural Ontario. My constituents and those that Mr. Hillier represent shouldn’t always have to travel to Ottawa or to Kingston to access services. Transportation in a riding like mine is so very difficult for so many of my constituents. We need those services to be accessible close to home. So I do want to express my local working group’s concern that having support available is not always support in Kingston or Ottawa. We need to have services available in Lanark, Leeds and Grenville.
Yes, Speaker, I want to acknowledge that there is a cost to our province of being a leader in FASD recognition and support. But if you consider, Speaker, the cost to society for us continuing to fail those with FASD, I think that we have to be able to afford those investments. We can’t afford not to make that investment as a government.
Ms. Teresa J. Armstrong: First I would like to congratulate the MPP from Kingston and the Islands for bringing this motion forward. I’m glad to be able to contribute to the debate, as it is so vital that we continue to raise awareness and promote education around fetal alcohol spectrum disorder.
Recently, I was given the opportunity in September of this year to attend the Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder—Elgin, London, Middlesex, Oxford Network open house in London, also known as FASD ELMO. This was also an opportunity for me to recognize and understand the issues that children with FASD face, along with their parents.
I feel it is important to outline what causes FASD and what it is. It is caused by women who drink alcohol during pregnancy, who later give birth to babies with FASD. As the member from Kingston and the Islands pointed out, not every woman knows when they are pregnant, and therefore those things can complicate the situation.
FASD is an umbrella term for a range of disorders, as mentioned. These disorders can be mild to severe, can cause physical or mental birth defects, and have been found to be the leading cause of developmental disabilities among Canadian children.
The FASD ELMO Network is a group of community agencies, individuals and service providers in the Thames Valley area whose mission is to enhance the community’s capacity for advocacy and provide support to children and parents impacted by fetal alcohol spectrum disorder in the areas of community awareness, education, diagnostics, justice and support.
Recently, a story was shared with me: I know a couple who adopted twin girls—really adorable twin girls—when they were two years old. Shortly after they were adopted, they soon found out that there were some complications. The twins fought with each other every day, and one of the twins would scream daily on a regular basis for 20 minutes. As they grew older, some of the problems worsened. One of the twins violently attacked the mother and therefore had to be given to foster care. That just escalated problems with that twin, and she soon became a teenage runaway, at 15 years old, and had nine children starting from that time.
What had happened is, when they adopted these twin girls, they tried to get help dealing with the problems that they were facing, but they kept being told that it was their own fault as parents. They took many courses on parenting that were suggested, but none of them recognized the special treatment that children faced with FASD needed. That was well over some-40-odd years ago. We’ve come a long way in some ways, but there’s still a lot of work to be done.
The organization in London also collaborates with the Thames Valley District School Board in order to have discussions on ways to support children in the school system. That is a very important piece that has been missing and that parents have talked about. I spoke to several members of these community agencies and service providers, as well as parents, grandparents, caregivers and other loved ones who adopt children with FASD.
FASD ELMO says that there is an urgent need for action in preventing, diagnosing and serving FASD and individuals who are impacted. The parents I spoke to feel that there is a need for awareness and urgent action, so thank you to the member for bringing this motion forward. Education and action needs to happen because people need to access resources that will help them with the treatment of their children, as well as with how to handle the behaviours.
As treatment for a child with FASD is an around-the-clock job, these parents are looking for easier access to resources and supports. Children who are born with FASD grow into adulthood and continue to experience life challenges. With Health Canada’s estimate of more than 300,000 people living with FASD, it is vital that we recognize the magnitude of the issue and that it is a nationwide concern. We need to truly understand the ways in which we can discuss, educate and prevent FASD, because FASD is preventable.
Currently, there is widespread ignorance and a taboo around discussing FASD, but that needs to change for the sake of the children with FASD and their parents. Population studies show incidence of FASD as high as 4.8%, with an average life expectancy of 34 years. With FASD being completely preventable, it shows that the current prevention methods need to be improved. We need to do better, and we need to do more.
We must increase awareness and education for both men and women, because this is where we can make a change. For young women now, we can educate them and their partners about alcohol consumption when they’re expecting.
There are over 400 conditions that occur with FASD, which shows that accurate and early assessments are needed in order to treat and support these children. Those early assessments can help identify which support programs are best suited for the child, including: physicians and pediatricians, speech and language pathologists, occupational therapists, psychologists and psychiatrists, physiotherapists, social workers, educators, and training for parents and caregivers. Speaker, as you can see, it’s not a one-agency or silo approach to FASD; it’s a collaborative approach, a team approach, with those professionals and people involved with FASD all working together to make a difference.
Again, I just want to express my thanks to the member for bringing this motion forward. This motion offers a real opportunity for us to do work together in this Legislature. It’s apparent that we need to continue to acknowledge this and take further steps in order to make sure that people with FASD feel supported. We can talk about the prevention piece.
Mr. Granville Anderson: It’s a pleasure to rise in the Legislature this afternoon to speak to the motion from MPP Kiwala—the member from Kingston and the Islands—to recognize Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) Awareness Day on September 9 here in Ontario.
As I look at the audience, I see a lot of advocates, family members and supporters, some of whom I have met. I won’t mention any names in case I miss anyone, but I really have to commend them for their advocacy on this matter.
MPP Kiwala is a really strong advocate for this. She knew I did a report on this, and she came to me several times and asked about the funding for this. We advocated to the minister. I have to thank the Minister of Finance and the Minister of Health for their assistance in providing funding for this. I said to the minister, “If it’s a matter of money, if we can’t find funding, why don’t we just take a percentage or two from the sale of alcohol to fund this? It should be funded.” And 1% or 2% would be a significant amount, given that alcohol sales in Ontario are in excess of $2 billion a year.
This motion, Speaker, would recognize September 9 of each year as FASD Awareness Day across this province. I have been to Nathan Phillips Square on September 9—so I didn’t realize that it’s recognized, but not officially, in the province of Ontario. That’s what this motion does today. It provides that recognition which it so richly deserves.
I am so honoured to be able to speak to this motion. As I said, this motion would establish the ninth day of the ninth month, which symbolizes the average period during which a woman is pregnant, as a day of recognition, education and awareness of FASD in the province of Ontario.
Additionally, it calls for collaboration between parents’ groups, service providers and educators who are involved in the everyday challenges of those living with FASD, in order to develop and implement a strategy to assist in the recognition and treatment of those affected by this condition.
As the member from Leeds–Grenville and the member from London–Fanshawe alluded to, it’s preventable. It’s something that doesn’t need to happen. To do that and to enhance that, this funding will go towards awareness and prevention.
Speaker, it’s estimated that one out of every hundred people may have FASD, meaning that as many as 130,000 in Ontario could be affected by FASD—and most people think that’s a conservative estimate. To put that in context, that’s as many people who live in my riding of Durham. It’s more than the population of the town of Ajax, or Pickering, or Whitby, for that matter. It’s similar to the amount of people living in Oshawa, to put it in context. That’s the amount of people who are affected by FASD.
While FASD is preventable, it often goes undetected and can be very misunderstood and misdiagnosed, as I have learned through my travels throughout the province during the development of a strategy for FASD in Ontario.
Speaker, I previously served as parliamentary assistant to the Minister of Children and Youth Services, who at the time was the Honourable Tracy MacCharles. She isn’t here today, but she is to be thanked for her contribution to this and her passion in going forward with a strategy for FASD. Minister MacCharles recognized the importance. I also have to give a shout-out to my colleague Soo Wong, who is a very strong advocate on this file as well.
Recognizing the importance of the FASD issue in our province of Ontario, Minister MacCharles asked me to host province-wide round tables to listen and learn about what is needed to better meet the needs of individuals with FASD, their families and caregivers. Speaker, to be quite honest, I wasn’t quite aware of the enormity of the problem in Ontario and the number of people who are affected by FASD, so I said to the minister, “I will gladly do this.” Upon further investigation and further review of what it entailed, when I realized that there are over 130,000 people who are affected by FASD, I said, “I will do this on one condition: that the report is acted upon—that it’s not placed on a shelf to gather dust—and that it’s going to be fully funded.” With that assurance, I decided to take this task on.
I did 25 round tables all across Ontario. Some of what I heard is that it was preventable. I heard that a stigma existed. I heard that it can go undetected and misdiagnosed. I also learned that it is a shared responsibility. It’s not just a woman’s responsibility; it’s shared between men and women alike. We all have to work together to create better awareness and to remove that stigma.
It was apparent from our first-round table session that it was a very complex issue. I learned that public knowledge of FASD was very limited, and several women and men, being unaware of the risk of alcohol use before pregnancy, would drink. It wasn’t purposeful. It’s just to have a drink—and even doctors, when you’re pregnant, advise folks that they could have a drink or two. They also need to be educated that it should be zero tolerance while pregnant or if there is a possibility that you could get pregnant.
I could speak on this for hours. My colleague wants to have some time as well, so I am going to cut this short and say that I am honoured to be able to contribute to this here this afternoon. Thank you for the opportunity.
I’m pleased to rise and speak in support of this motion, which is really an opportunity to empower women to make healthy choices for themselves and their babies. I acknowledge and welcome the members of the public who are here as strong advocates for this bill as well.
Many countries around the world have put in place their own fetal alcohol spectrum disorder awareness days to assist in their public education efforts about the dangers of drinking during pregnancy, while communities across Ontario have implemented their own programs to help families deal with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder; for example, Waterloo region’s Reach for It! program.
The first fetal alcohol syndrome day was recognized on September 9, 1999. This day was chosen so that on the ninth day of the ninth month of the year, the world would remember that during the nine months of pregnancy, a woman should abstain from drinking alcohol, as there is no known safe amount of alcohol to drink while expecting.
This public education campaign is important, as there is still a poor understanding of the risks of drinking during pregnancy. Just as an example, in a survey of Grey Bruce residents, the local public health unit found that 25% of respondents felt that it was safe to consume alcohol during pregnancy. Another local study revealed that four babies in every 100 born in Grey Bruce were significantly exposed to alcohol while in the womb. With that in mind, it’s critical to start the public dialogue on ultimately reducing the incidence of fetal alcohol spectrum disorder in Ontario.
According to the Institute of Health Economics, the government could save somewhere in the area of $800,000 for each prevented case of fetal alcohol spectrum disorder. More importantly, it could save a life—a life free from physical, mental, behavioural and intellectual disabilities, as FASD is a lifelong brain development disorder that can occur if a baby is exposed to alcohol in the womb.
According to the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, CAMH, one in every 13 women who consumes alcohol while expecting will have a baby born with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, and nine in every 1,000 Canadian children are born with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder.
These statistics highlight the need for more awareness. That really begins with a strong public education campaign about addictions. Members will know that this is exactly why my colleagues in the PC caucus have called for a dedicated advertising fund to fight addictions. We think it’s fair and responsible to spend money on an advertising campaign to raise awareness, to give people knowledge of the risks and to fight addictions that are either taking or ripping apart people’s lives, instead of spending money on government vanity ads. After all, don’t we want to protect women vulnerable to addiction? Don’t we want to help fight addiction to alcohol, which is known to lead to poor health and poor educational outcomes, and is a major contributor to mental health problems?
Earlier this year, a report published by the University of Manitoba found that women who give birth to children with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, FASD, are at an increased risk of attempting suicide and dying by suicide. That study looked at health data over a 34-year period, comparing 700 mothers who had children diagnosed with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder to 2,100 mothers whose children didn’t have fetal alcohol spectrum disorder. The study also found the mothers had higher rates of poverty, single parenthood, mental disorders and alcohol use.
This raises the need to reduce stigma, as fetal alcohol spectrum disorder can be stigmatized because there can be a tendency to mother-shame. That is simply unacceptable, and truly is shameful in any way, shape or thought. I think it’s important to recognize that pregnant women don’t drink to intentionally harm the baby; they may drink alcohol to cope with other stressful life circumstances and other addictions.
This is why our party has committed to the largest mental health investment in our province’s history: $1.9 billion in additional new funding to make sure we close the gap on mental health services in Ontario. This is our guarantee, because we do not accept the current wait times—18 months on average—for someone suffering with mental health and needs.
As fetal alcohol spectrum disorder has become the leading cause of birth defects and developmental delays in the western world—including Canada, where at least one child is born with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder every day—we have to do better to help the plight of individuals and families who struggle with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder.
Mr. Speaker, I commend the efforts by the member for Kingston and the Islands, MPP Sophie Kiwala. She is certainly a passionate advocate on behalf of those living with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder. I am pleased to support her resolution, and I trust it will get unanimous support from the members here today.
Ms. Peggy Sattler: I am very pleased to rise today in support of the motion from the member for Kingston and the Islands on fetal alcohol spectrum disorder. I want to give a shout-out to the members of FASD—Elgin, London, Middlesex, Oxford Network, a network that was created in 2009 in my community that has been doing significant work to raise awareness of these issues and to advocate on behalf of families and children with FASD. In particular, I want to acknowledge the co-chairs of FASD ELMO, Craig Read and Juanita St. Croix, and also my friend Tracy Grant, who was a trustee with me at the Thames Valley District School Board around the time that FASD ELMO was established, and who has really been an incredible advocate and champion on this issue.
Currently, FASD ELMO has about 57 members. They come from 23 different agencies across health, mental health, education and justice—and parents of children with FASD. They are working on a shoestring to raise awareness in my community and to host events like International FASD Awareness Day, which is held on September 9 and, thanks to this motion, will be recognized by the Ontario Legislature on an ongoing basis.
The network sent a letter to members of this government in November highlighting their top three priorities, based on the needs of our community. Those are around prevention, assessments, and family-focused supports and interventions.
Certainly, we know, as has been mentioned here, that this is a preventable condition. Prevention efforts are absolutely critical. There needs to be consistent messaging about alcohol exposure. There needs to be training for health care professionals on appropriate advice to give through prenatal counselling and alcohol-use screening.
There also needs to be inter-ministerial collaboration around these efforts on promoting prevention. We saw, not that long ago, when the government decided to move ahead with the sale of alcohol in grocery stores, that there was a bit of an oversight in terms of adherence to Sandy’s Law, which required the LCBO and other outlets to post warning signs on alcohol use for pregnant women. When beer sales were first rolled out in grocery stores, there was a loophole in that legislation that did not require the warning signs. So this is a clear example of where inter-ministerial collaboration is important.
The second priority that they identified was around assessments. Through their efforts in London, an assessment clinic was created with funding from the Ontario Trillium Foundation. This enabled the assessment of 10 children and youth per year. I have grave concerns that it took Ontario Trillium Foundation funding to create this assessment clinic. However, the funding has now run out. The only options for people in my community are to pay out of pocket for assessment or to seek assessment services elsewhere. We know how limited the capacity is across the province.
Assessments are critically important to understand the child’s strengths and areas of challenge, to develop appropriate strategies and plans of care, and to support parents and caregivers in understanding what this condition means for their child. We know, from research that the FASO—Elgin, London, Middlesex, Oxford Network did, that an FASD assessment done properly is very cost-effective. The cost of an assessment is around $6,000. They put together an example of what happens when there isn’t a proper assessment, when there are multiple related misdiagnoses and ineffective interventions. They determined that while an assessment costs approximately $6,000, $94,000 could be spent on trying to secure an assessment for a child with FASD.
Mr. John Fraser: It’s a pleasure to speak to the motion from the member from Kingston and the Islands. I want to commend her for putting that motion forward. She’s a very dedicated member of her community and is very dedicated to those causes that she takes under her wing. I know that she’s a great collaborator, and it’s a real pleasure to work with her.
I just came from another private members’ bill that has actually now found its way to government legislation: Rowan’s Law, which started out as an awareness around concussions. It passed as a private member’s bill.
The critical thing in all of these issues where people don’t really understand or they have partial information—it’s an issue or a disorder or a disease or condition that is hard for us to understand, because there are many things out there for us to understand. But this issue is really one that is central to people being able to live to their full potential and ensuring that we have the awareness so people understand.
I have to say to myself, I don’t really fully understand it. I know the member from Durham, who spoke earlier, has a passion for it. I know he went across the province. I think he did 25 consultations, which are a lot of consultations. This makes a difference to educators, to health care professionals, to parents and to those who suffer.
It’s not something that has a cure, but it’s something that needs to be addressed through the measures that we take, not just as the Legislature or as a government governing these things, but in how we react to and understand those people who suffer from that condition and the wide variety of symptoms that exists.
I want to commend the member, and I’m fully supportive of the motion. I know that the member is also doing a private member’s bill on FASD awareness in the education system, and I think that’s central. I can remember going to elementary school and young people I was at school with who were experiencing challenges. At that point I didn’t know—and even as my children were growing up, I would have to say I didn’t know—that there were young friends, neighbours, people in that classroom who were suffering.
Again, I am fully supportive of this bill. I think the member is doing the right thing by bringing this motion forward to create this day, and by following that up with the next step, which is to create a private member’s bill that speaks specifically about how we handle and collaborate to serve those young people who are suffering from fetal alcohol syndrome disorder.
Ms. Sophie Kiwala: I’d like to express my thanks to the member from Leeds–Grenville, the member from London–Fanshawe, the member from Durham, the member from Bruce–Grey–Owen Sound, the member from London West and the member from Ottawa South.
One of the things that I love about these kinds of debates is that we all have an opportunity to chime in in a particular way and bring our own passion and our own sense of who we are to the piece of legislation. We’ve certainly seen that here today.
The member from Leeds–Grenville brought out something that I think is very important. It’s certainly something that I will be focusing on as well going forward: the need to have services in rural areas. I appreciate your thoughts there.
The member from London–Fanshawe brought forward—as she always does, very compassionately—the groundwork specific to the community that occurs on any particular issue. She talked about the impact it can have on a particular family.
Back to the member from Ottawa South: I want to thank you for your thoughts on this bill, and for talking about the private member’s bill, which is the other part of the work that I’m doing. You always bring a compassionate debate to this House, and I am very appreciative of what you have brought forward.
Basically, I want to just once again acknowledge the stakeholders we have in the room and all of the incredible work you have done. This is your day, and September 9 is going to be your day. Thank you for all of your work—
Before I begin debate this afternoon, I wish to acknowledge several important people in the chamber: my parents, Carl and Monica Oosterhoff; my brother, Aaron Oosterhoff; Pamela Blackwood, the executive director of McNally House in Grimsby; and Rick Firth, the executive director of Hospice Palliative Care Ontario. Thank you for all you do.
It’s humbling today to be able to rise in this Legislature, in this House of democracy and speak about an incredibly important issue, one that will touch, inevitably, all of us in the Legislature today at some point in our journey. That issue is palliative care.
The reality is that all of us will die. We may not like to talk about it. We may not like to think about it. We may not wish to acknowledge it until the very end, but we will all die. The Roman philosopher and playwright Seneca once said that “Death is the wish of some, the relief of many, and the end of all.”
My speech today on Bill 182, the Compassionate Care Act, is not really about death, but rather about life and about living a good life and having a good death, right up to the very end. Bill 182, the Compassionate Care Act, is an act providing for the development of a provincial framework on hospice palliative care. However, at its very core, this act is not really a provincial strategy or a hospice palliative care framework or any other bureaucratic phraseology that reeks of ennui and institutional caution. No, at its very core, at the root of its purpose, the Compassionate Care Act is about people. It is about helping people, honouring people, respecting people and loving people.
As a Christian, I do not fear death. I remain personally confident and energized in the reality of the resurrection and the assurance of things not yet seen. As we are in the season of Advent, the reminder of this truth is all around us, and I am grateful for it. But I know death is a reality, and, for many, an incredibly painful reality that tears at the heart, spirit and very strength of what makes us human.
End-of-life care needs to be respectful of this pain and anguish, and it needs to address the hurt that plagues so many across our province and nation, who look for meaningful end-of-life care without finding it. Palliative care focuses on the relief of pain and other symptoms for patients with advanced illnesses, and on maximizing the quality of their remaining life. It may also involve emotional and spiritual support, as well as caregiver and bereavement support, and provides comfort-based care, as opposed to curative treatment. Patients can receive palliative care in their homes, in hospitals, in hospices and in long-term-care homes in a variety of different situations.
The act that I’m bringing forward today will ensure legislative accountability for the Minister of Health and Long-Term Care, by ensuring that the minister will develop a provincial framework designed to support improved access to hospice palliative care, provided through hospitals, home care, long-term-care homes and hospices.
This bill will, among other things, define what hospice palliative care is; identify the hospice palliative care training and education needs of health care providers as well as other caregivers; identify measures to support hospice palliative care providers; promote research and the collection of data on hospice palliative care; identify measures to facilitate consistent access to hospice palliative care across Ontario; and take into consideration existing hospice palliative care frameworks, strategies and best practices, as I’m sure the member from Ottawa South will contribute to later in this debate.
Also, the minister will develop this provincial framework, if this act is passed, in consultation with hospice palliative care providers, any other affected ministries, the federal government and any other persons or entities that the minister considers appropriate in the circumstances.
A very important aspect of the legislation is the ministerial report. The Minister of Health and Long-Term Care will have to prepare a report laying out the provincial framework on hospice palliative care and shall lay the report before the assembly within one year after the day on which the act comes into force. This is very important, as the report, which shall be published on the government of Ontario website within 10 days after the act, and the subsequent follow-up report about five years after the day on which the report referred to is tabled in the assembly, grants accountability when it comes to this particular issue and ensures that the Legislature will receive a report that will be able to be held up as a benchmark and that will be able to be referred to in discussion surrounding palliative care.
Dr. José Pereira, the director of research with the College of Family Physicians of Canada says that, “Given a provincial population of 13.5 million, Ontario currently needs 1,300 hospice and palliative care beds.”
So if Ontario needs 1,300 beds, how many do we actually have, Speaker? We have 341, only 26% of the needed hospice palliative care beds. Quite frankly, I think we can do a lot better. Moreover, overall many hospices have an average daily occupancy rate of about 80%, which means beds can be vacant up to 20% of the time. The occupancy rate means Ontario hospices have the potential to serve more patients. Edmonton, for example, has a 92% occupancy benchmark.
The demand for palliative care is likely to increase significantly because of three trends: (1) the aging population in Ontario; (2) the growing number of patients with life-limiting chronic conditions and complex care needs; and (3) new advances in health care, promising life-saving and life-prolonging possibilities.
It is estimated that upwards of 90% of Canadians in the final stages of life could, and should, benefit from palliative care; however, the health system is currently unable to provide palliative care to up to 70% of those in need. Improving access to palliative care is a pressing need across Canada in general and here in Ontario.
I want to just mention briefly the excellent work that Marilyn Gladu, the member for Sarnia–Lambton, has been doing on this very issue in the federal Parliament where her bill just received royal assent this week, on Tuesday, Bill C-277, which would establish a national framework on palliative care; as well as the excellent work Harold Albrecht, the federal member for Kitchener–Conestoga, has done—it has just been phenomenal; as well as the New Democratic member Charlie Angus, who has also done really good work on this.
Palliative care in Ontario has been described as a patchwork of services, with very little integration, a lot of overlap and significant gaps. Much good work has been done discussing the need for palliative care, and there has been some improvement because of these discussions. Federally, we saw the Harper government strike a committee. We’ve seen many universities put forward forums with recommendations, such as the McMaster forum in 2013. The Canadian Cancer Society has released comprehensive reports.
As well, the number one recommendation of the Provincial-Territorial Expert Advisory Group on Physician-Assisted Dying, which released its report in November 2015 said that, “Provinces and territories, preferably in collaboration with the federal government, should develop and implement a pan-Canadian strategy for palliative and end-of-life care, including physician-assisted dying.” It was emphasized that this should never be an either/or scenario for those facing end of life.
I believe we do have a unique opportunity now in Ontario to make real headway in this battle. The federal government announced in their election platform that they had earmarked $3 billion for home care and specifically mentioned palliative care in their federal platform. In fact, this mention, which has now been hopefully followed up with Marilyn Gladu’s bill, means that we should be seeing some of this $3 billion flowing to the provinces and hopefully to Ontario as well, which we can take advantage of, to use and support this strategy and expansion of care.
Mr. Speaker, I’ve travelled across the province, visiting various palliative facilities, from Bruyère home in Ottawa with the member for Nepean–Carleton, to McNally House in Niagara—the incredible work that they do. Thank you, Pam. I’ve seen the positive impact that adequate palliative care can have on families and individuals. But I’m not the only one saying this. I hope members of this House will consider some of the endorsements of Bill 182.
Dr. J. David Henderson said, “There are currently no standards for the provision of palliative care nationally or within Ontario.” He’s the president of the Canadian Society of Palliative Care Physicians, and he said, “We recommend that all provinces have a provincial strategy for palliative care like that being recommended in MPP Oosterhoff’s bill.”
Dr. Joshua Shadd, director, division of palliative care at McMaster University says, “Commitment on every level will be necessary to achieve meaningful system change, and the proposed legislated provincial framework will be one manifestation of such commitment at the highest government level.”
Dr. Shawn Whatley, president of the Ontario Medical Association, says, “As a family physician, I understand the importance of a provincial framework for palliative care and the importance of increased awareness and access for patients. I support the objective of this private member’s bill and thank MPP Oosterhoff for his advocacy.”
Paul Lapierre, executive director of the Ontario AIDS Network says, “In Ontario, we need more hospice beds and a provincial framework on hospice and palliative care. We support the proposed private bill and look forward to the implementation of the framework.”
I have heard countless stories of the meaning and compassion that palliative care provides to families and individuals on their end-of-life journey. A particular story that I’m reminded of is that of Pieter Harsevoort. Pieter passed away earlier this year from spinal muscular atrophy, yet lived much of his life accessing palliative care while he served as a special education teacher at an elementary school in Hamilton. Pieter was able to bring so much meaning to people’s lives and was able to touch so many people with love, although he suffered from a degenerative disease and needed that access to palliative care.
This bill is dedicated to people like Pieter and many people like him whose end-of-life experience was improved through palliative care and, through that care, improved so many other lives in the process.
The Compassionate Care Act is about dignity, respect and meaningful support for families and individuals on their end-of-life journey. Ultimately, I am confident that these goals resonate and are shared by all members of this Legislature, and I hope that I can trust and count on the support of all members in this House. I hope I can count on your support and look forward to seeing the vote this afternoon.
Mr. Wayne Gates: I’d also like to acknowledge my colleague’s parents and brother who are here. Welcome to Queen’s Park. Actually my eyesight’s not that good. When I was looking up there, I thought you were Sam, but he actually told me you’re taller. So there you go. Anyway, I’ll talk to the bill, Bill 182, the Compassionate Care Act.
Mr. Speaker, thank you for allowing me to rise today and speak to the private member’s bill from the member from Niagara West–Glanbrook, the Compassionate Care Act. I know the member has witnessed first-hand the issues we face in Niagara and across the province with access to appropriate health care during the end-of-life stage.
Let me tell you: It’s a real problem, and it goes well beyond just hospice care. I appreciate that the member’s bill looks directly at creating a provincial framework for palliative and hospice care, but I think it’s also important to address issues more generally in our long-term-care homes in Niagara and across this province.
Mr. Speaker, right in the member’s own riding we were contacted by a family that had their parents unnecessarily separated in two separate long-term-care homes. They were separated because this province is facing a serious lack of beds in long-term-care facilities. It’s so serious that an aged couple could not even find beds in the same home. Clarence and Jessie were married for 70 years, never separated, never away from their family. In a time of need, they couldn’t get a place at Shalom Manor in Grimsby.
What happened here is sad; it’s actually terrible, quite frankly. You have parents—it could be our parents; it could be our grandparents—and they’re sick and they’re separated. So what happens is, you put one in Grimsby and you put one in St. Catharines. Think about that: never separated. Every statistic says that when they’re separated from their spouses, they’re more likely to die sooner. Do you know why? Because they worry about each other. They worry about their wife or they worry about their husband. In our system in Ontario, that should never, ever happen. When I’ve been with my spouse all those years, the last thing I’d think is going to happen to me in my time of need is that we’re going to be separated.
You look at the effect on the parents; now take a look at the effect on the family. You have families trying to take care of both parents in two separate locations, in two separate cities. This is something we have to work on as well. I know that the member is well aware of this case. I know the member has spoken up in this House on this case.
Fortunately, in this particular case my office was able to work with the minister and the ministry to find a solution and bring this couple back together under one roof. I’m happy to say that they were able to spend time together before they unfortunately passed on.
Mr. Speaker, while this story does have a happy ending, we know it should never happen in the first place. The NDP and I have been raising the concerns of long-term care in this province for a long, long time, and that’s because there are serious problems that need to be fixed.
This bill has several motives behind it, but the one that I can appreciate is the need to ensure that seniors are respected in the later stages of their lives. I think that is the least we can do for the people who have raised us and cared for us and have built this great province and country.
Mr. Speaker, in my riding of Niagara Falls, I can tell you that we regularly hear from constituents who are having issues with the long-term-care system. Their stories always come back to the same two problems that the member talked about: lack of care and lack of beds.
In the area of lack of care, I have to commend CUPE and Unifor for putting together lobbying days to address the lack of care. CUPE has worked with my colleague the member for Nickel Belt in her attempt to ensure four hours of care for all long-term-care residents—four hours. This would be a wonderful campaign, and I think the member from Niagara West–Glanbrook should take a look at the campaign and support it as well.
Overall, I truly appreciate the opportunity to speak to this legislation. Ensuring that seniors are respected at the end-of-life stage is incredibly important to me, to our party and, quite frankly, to everybody in the province of Ontario.
In my role as critic for seniors, long-term care and accessibility, I’m pleased to rise and take part in today’s debate in support of the Compassionate Care Act, Bill 182, introduced by my colleague the member for Niagara West–Glanbrook, Sam Oosterhoff.
Hospice palliative care is about creating a home-like environment where people who are facing a serious illness or nearing the end of their lives can be surrounded by family, friends and loved ones, yet it’s estimated that fewer than one in three people with chronic illness currently have access to palliative care. This means that thousands of Canadians each year are suffering an end that could have been made better.
The international standard, I believe, Mr. Speaker, is 10 beds per 100,000 people, which means we would need about 1,300. An analysis recently of palliative care by the province’s Auditor General, Bonnie Lysyk, found that we need between 755 and 1,080 hospice beds to meet the needs of patients. Ontario currently has only 271 available.
In my riding of Bruce–Grey–Owen Sound, it’s estimated that there is only one bed in each of the hospitals outside of Owen Sound designated for use for possible palliative care. There is only one palliative care bed in the Owen Sound hospital, although there were six beds in a separate wing of the hospital about 10 years ago. The closed beds were the result of the government tightening and freezing hospital budgets, which sadly pushed out access to palliative care beds.
As a result of the lack of beds in hospitals for terminally ill patients, it was essential for facilities specially designed for palliative patients to be created. In Owen Sound, I’m proud to say that we were fortunate to see a hospice community project come to fruition, especially after the Chapman family of Chapman’s Ice Cream in Markdale generously donated $1 million towards this important project. I’d like to acknowledge the Chapman family for all that they contribute to our great community. I’d also like to acknowledge that a number of Chapman’s Ice Cream staff continue to donate, as our community hospice still has a bit more to go, with another $289,000 left to be raised, and certainly the government was very good and instrumental in making sure that this happened in our community.
Since the hospice originally opened in 2013 and operated out of the Seasons retirement community as kind of a stopgap measure until it was built, it has served nearly 400 patients from across Grey and Bruce. Finally, on June 1 of this year, the Residential Hospice of Grey Bruce opened the doors to its brand new, stand-alone, state-of-the-art, 18,500-square-foot Chapman House facility on 10th Street East.
My constituents in Bruce–Grey–Owen Sound certainly support making hospice palliative care a priority in Ontario, as the demand for palliative care, as we all know, is growing. With about 25% of all health care costs devoted to caring for patients who are in their last year of life, access to hospice beds is also a sensible cost opportunity. Considering that the cost of providing palliative care in the last month of a patient’s life averages about $1,100 per day in an acute care hospital bed, $630 in a bed in a palliative care unit or $460 in a hospice bed, I would suggest that this is the way we go.
For all of these reasons, we should support Bill 182 so that we can get a provincial framework for improved access to hospice palliative care. Again, I commend my colleague from Niagara West–Glanbrook and look forward to unanimous support of his bill today.
Mme France Gélinas: I am really proud of the work that this fairly new member has done in this Houseby bringing Bill 182. While he was working on the bill, he reached across the aisle. I can say that he came and talked to me, showed me the bill and asked for input into the bill. That’s not something you see very often around here, but he did it, and I think what he is putting forward, the bill he is putting forward, is well thought out, well written and certainly worth supporting.
Why do we need a compassionate care bill? Well, let me quote from Health Quality Ontario. Health Quality Ontario looks at the quality of care in our health care system, and they say: “Currently, we are not always achieving best quality care. In surveys of patients and caregivers in Ontario, most people say that they would prefer to die at home.” But this is not accessible to them. Why not? Because we don’t have high-quality home care, and we don’t have home visits from most family physicians, so what happens is that most Ontarians die in hospital, and very few of them receive palliative care.
The report goes on to talk about how half of Ontarians begin receiving palliative care in the last month of life. This is way too late. About two thirds of us will die in hospital; two thirds of us who wanted to die at home will end up dying in hospital. About one quarter will spend half or more of their last month of life in hospital when they don’t want to be there. Nearly two thirds will have an unplanned emergency department visit in their last month of life, when, if this care had been available in their home or their place of residence, it could have been avoided. Less than half will receive palliative home care services in their last month of life—again, because the home care system is not there—and about one third receive a home visit from a physician in the last month of life. I think we could do a whole lot better. What the member’s bill does is hold the government to account to do better, to put palliative care at the top of the list and to measure the success.
Palliative care is not equally accessible to all. I happen to live in the community of Sudbury, where we are one of the lucky ones. We have Maison McCulloch Hospice, which is run by a good friend of mine, Mr. Léo Therrien. The hospice has five major programs. The first one is the residential care program. It is 10 beds that are available for people who need palliative care.
The home itself, Maison McCulloch Hospice, is just beautiful. It’s located on the side of a quiet little lake that we have in Sudbury. The grounds have all been developed by volunteers. It is a beautiful place and it is a very, very welcoming home. Unfortunately, we only have 10 beds. The member shared some numbers. Well, in our hospice, occupancy is at 100% all the time. People who wish to go to the hospice cannot access it because the hospice is full.
We have a residential volunteer service. They offer a 30-hour class. It’s 10 weeks in a row for three hours a week, where you learn how to be a volunteer to support people who are going through the end stages of life. I know that a lot of my friends, who are either retired nurses, social workers or just people who want to continue to help, have taken those classes and are now doing friendly visiting to people who have a loved one in palliative care but who still live at home. This program brings a lot to the volunteers but also brings a lot to the people who receive those services.
They have a shared care team. This is a fantastic program where people whose sole expertise—maybe not sole—is in palliative care. They know how to do symptom management; they know how to support people in physical ways, in mental health and in spiritual ways; and they bring this expertise into the patient’s home and into the resident’s home. You don’t have to be admitted to the hospice to benefit from this shared care team.
As I said, I’m really proud of what we have in my community, but it’s not available to most of the people of Ontario. What the member’s bill would do is make sure that the government will have to look at best practices, make sure that it is equitably accessible to the people of Ontario so that all of us—as he said, we all know we are going to die, but we deserve dignity, we deserve support and we deserve to be cared for with compassion with our symptoms under check so that we don’t physically and mentally suffer in the end stage of life.
I want to take the opportunity to congratulate the member for Niagara West–Glanbrook. The fact that this member’s first PMB is on an issue in our health care system to the degree of palliative care just shows how well served the people of Niagara West–Glanbrook are with Sam Oosterhoff as their MPP.
Palliative care and hospice care is an issue that’s very important to me. I was elected in March 2010, and less than a month later I gave a member’s statement in tribute to Beth Donovan. Beth passed away on April 4, 2010. She was a champion for rural hospice care. She worked for 16 years to establish the hospice in Kemptville that bears her name. It had always been her dream to expand services to include residential hospice beds.
As my colleague highlighted, funding for residential beds across Ontario is desperately falling short of need. In rural ridings like mine, the need is more than acute. It’s not that beds are in short supply: beds simply don’t exist. For 25 years, the Beth Donovan Hospice and the services that its amazing volunteers and staff provide have received tremendous support from the citizens of north Grenville and Merrickville-Wolford. In fact, earlier this year we celebrated the opening of the hospice’s new forever home in Kemptville. It was a proud day, but there was something missing, something the member from Ottawa South and I have discussed many times, and that’s a commitment from the Champlain LHIN, which continues to stall on providing funding for that hospice to open those residential beds. That means families are forced to take their loved ones away from a community that many have called home all their lives to spend their final days, and I don’t think that’s right, Speaker. That’s why I think this legislation is needed: to hold the government’s feet to the fire to fix the glaring gaps in our health care system.
Of course, I want to close by talking about another palliative care service in my riding. I can’t speak about palliative care in Leeds–Grenville without highlighting the amazing work of the staff and volunteers of the Brockville and District Hospice Palliative Care Service. It’s yet another example of how our community has stepped up where the government won’t. The program costs more than $575,000 a year to operate, and incredibly, most of that is raised through events like the Friends of Palliative Care Annual Golf Tournament and the 30-hour telethon for palliative care services. I am tremendously proud of what our communities have done to ensure that these cherished programs exist in Leeds–Grenville. But it’s long overdue for this government to step up and support them.
Ms. Lisa MacLeod: It’s my pleasure to be able to rise in debate today to support the member from Niagara West–Glanbrook. I want to acknowledge the presence of his mother and father and brother. I want you to know that he is doing a fine job here, and we are remarkably proud of the young man that you raised. He’s going to be a fine, fine MPP. I think it speaks to this, because his first visit outside of his community was to my community in Nepean–Carleton. We visited Bruyère.
It’s interesting. When we were at Bruyère, Sam had mentioned that he had actually been to Bruyère and Saint-Vincent before. I said, “How were you there?” He said, “When I worked briefly on Parliament Hill, I used to go in and play the piano and sing to the patients.”
That brought tears to my eyes because I have had experience in the palliative care sector before. A decade ago, my father died of cancer, and during the six months that he had cancer he relied on palliative care in Nova Scotia. Sometimes it was for respite for him and my mom, and he would actually go into the hospice at the Aberdeen Hospital; at other times, it was the VON.
My father—like you, Sam—was a man of tremendous faith. One day, I had flown in right after it was my one-year anniversary of being an MPP. I flew into Nova Scotia to be with my father. He smiled at me. He had just been diagnosed. He said, “I’m getting ready to meet my maker,” and he had a smile on his face. I thought, “Dad, I am so devastated that you’re going to be leaving me.” But his faith was so important to him.
If we are to debate a bill on palliative care, I think that we all have experiences or know someone in our community who has relied on it. So I must say, as somebody who has seen the system first-hand and has seen the positive attributes of the palliative care system in another province but also here at home in Ontario, I wholeheartedly support this legislation and I wholeheartedly support how you’ve approached this. I think it’s remarkable that a young man of 20 years old has touched so many lives in people’s final days before he entered this place.
I want you to know this—to your parents, Sam: When we were at Bruyère and we were with a man who had not much time left in his life, your son held his hand and prayed with him. Sometimes we don’t talk about our faith enough in this place, and I’m very proud of the member for being an unabashed Christian, as I would be of anybody of any other faith who lives their values.
Mr. Monte McNaughton: I’m very pleased to rise today and speak in support of the Compassionate Care Act, Bill 182. First of all, I want to applaud the member for Niagara West–Glanbrook for bringing forward such an important and thoughtful piece of legislation here today. This bill addresses a serious problem in our health care system.
Over the last decade or so, the government has been, quite frankly, a poor steward of our palliative care system in this province. The Compassionate Care Act would be an important step towards getting Ontario back on track so patients can get the care they need and deserve.
I also want to thank—and I know the member from Niagara West–Glanbrook mentioned her as well in his opening remarks—the MP from my neighbouring riding of Sarnia–Lambton, Marilyn Gladu, who led the charge on this at the federal level with Bill C-277. She shepherded her bill, which provides for the development of framework on palliative care across Canada, through to royal assent after receiving unanimous support in both the House of Commons and the Senate. I hope to see this bill enjoy similar bipartisan support here today.
MP Gladu was clear about why this is such a vital initiative: “Canadians, when given the option, will choose to live as well as they can for as long as they can. Providing better palliative care service across Canada will strengthen our nation and improve conditions for millions of Canadians making important health care choices.”
Mr. Speaker, palliative care is extremely beneficial for patients, their families and for the health care system as a whole. The support and expertise of specialized palliative health care providers ensure optimal care and comfort.
Currently, too many acute care beds and alternate-level-of-care-bed days are being occupied by patients with a palliative care diagnosis. The most recent statistic I saw was that two thirds of Canadians die in hospital. That’s not what patients or families want, and it’s not an efficient way to run our health care system.
I also want to mention that the need for action on palliative care is even more urgent now that assisted suicide has been legalized. No one should feel pressured or in any way compelled to pursue assisted suicide because of concerns about lack of pain management or other end-of-life care or concerns about being a burden to family and friends. As legislators, we need to be working to ensure no one is put in that terrible position. This government owes it to the people of Ontario to improve access to and education about hospice palliative care.
I wholeheartedly support this bill, and I hope the government will do the right thing and allow this bill to move forward, get it through committee and get it back for third reading before the election.
Mr. John Fraser: It’s a pleasure to speak to Bill 182, an act to provide a provincial framework for palliative care. I want to thank the member from Niagara West–Glanbrook for bringing this bill forward. His interest in palliative and end-of-life care should be commended. It’s an interest that we share.
I think it’s very important issue. Just so you know, it’s an issue that will stick with you for your lifetime, and there are a few people around here who can attest to that. I’ll say a bit about that later.
I have been fortunate for the past three-plus years to have served as the parliamentary assistant to the Minister of Health and Long-Term Care. My mandate was to support the development of a comprehensive strategy on palliative and end-of-life care and to ensure all patients across all sectors have access to palliative and end-of-life care.
The mandate also included the oversight of the expansion of hospice care to include 20 new hospices here in Ontario, almost doubling our capacity. It’s a mandate that I asked for, and one I’m very grateful to have. I want to thank the minister for allowing me to have that mandate. It’s not often that you get to do the work you want to do in a field that you want to be in. I’m fortunate to have that.
My work is informed by my personal experience, as a volunteer and as somebody working in palliative and end-of-life care in my community, to put it forward, but most significantly by my father’s death.
In October 2013, weeks after I took my seat in this Legislature, my father was diagnosed with an inoperable oral cancer. I was here at Queen’s Park when we found that out. Our family rallied around him and we kept him at home for six months. We had kind of an army of people to keep him there, but it didn’t work. Towards the end it wasn’t working, for a variety of reasons, so he spent the last three weeks of his life at the Hospice at May Court. I like to describe it that, if there are rest stations that exist between heaven and earth, the May Court is certainly one of them. I know that hospices across Ontario share that.
In that experience with my father, I saw where things really worked and where they didn’t, where the gaps were and where we met angels of care along the way, and how often the path forward was not clear.
Speaker, I’d like to take a few moments to talk about the work we’ve done together in this Legislature that addresses measures sought in this bill. I want to give a shout-out, first, to Rick Firth, who is over here from Hospice Palliative Care Ontario, for his support. I know Pam Blackwood is here as well from McNally House. Rick is not only a strong advocate, he is a trusted partner who has contributed greatly to the progress we’ve made together.
It’s also important to remember that the work we have done and that we will embark upon is informed by the work and dedication of many people over decades to support palliative and end-of-life care. They are the coalition and the declaration of partnership and commitment to action, with over 80 organizations signing on. It’s the work of hundreds of health care professionals and volunteers—some of them starting off in church basements—that have brought us to this point.
I’ll speak to the consultation first. In 2016, we undertook extensive consultation with stakeholders. We did 16 sessions, involving hundreds of people: nurses, doctors, PSWs, volunteers, social workers and caregivers. They came from hospitals, long-term-care homes, home care, pediatrics, those serving vulnerable populations, francophones and First Nations. I visited hospices in Ottawa, Brantford, Sudbury, Windsor and Toronto, to name a few. I had the opportunity to meet with individuals like Dr. José Pereira, Dr. Sandy Buchman, Dr. Darren Cargill and Dr. Scott Wooder, and these consultations led to the palliative and end-of-life care round table report in March 2016.
I want to take this opportunity to once again thank my staff, the minister’s staff, and everyone in the ministry who worked so hard to support this report. This report here, I’m sure the member opposite is aware, informed and addressed the things that we saw and heard in those consultations. I think I’ve given the member a copy of my report. It talked about what worked, what didn’t work and what we need to do.
That report informed the development of a provincial framework that captures all of the aspects of Bill 182. It led to a budget investment in 2016 of $75 million over three years, including increased funding to current hospices by 16%, operational funding to support 20 new hospices across Ontario, and increased supports for caregivers at home. It promoted advanced care planning, partnering with HPCO—Hospice Palliative Care Ontario—to provide online training to hospice palliative care volunteers and, importantly, to establish the Ontario Palliative Care Network, which supports the delivery of palliative and end-of-life care across the province.
I do want to say to the member opposite—not that I want to parse numbers here, because there’s a lot of work to do. We can all agree on that. We fund 386 hospice beds. That does not include PCUs—palliative-care-unit beds—in hospitals. That’s not to say that there is not still work to do.
This plan: I would recommend that people go and take a look at it online. I think it’s a good, solid plan. It speaks to all of the things that you mentioned in your bill. I’m very proud that they are doing this work and that your bill includes that, because I think it’s important for us to always keep our eye on the ball. This is about the long game. There is a lot of work to do.
In 2017, in the provincial budget, we made two other announcements. The first was palliative care training for staff working in long-term care. It’s very important. There is excellence happening in our long-term care across this province, but it’s not everywhere and we have to make sure that it’s everywhere.
Secondly, we announced the first-ever hospice capital program that funds up to $200,000 per bed, or about $2 million for a 10-bed hospice. So far this year, we have approved capital funding for about 11 hospices. That’s totalling somewhere near $14 million. I know that there are another eight hospices that have applied as well. I want to thank the staff at the capital branch of the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care for their initiative on this program and their work right now. We are moving forward on these applications very quickly, I would consider, by any objective standard.
I want to thank everyone at the Ministry of Health who has ever worked on the palliative file. Without their support, the work that we have done and the things that we have been able to accomplish would not have happened.
This brings me to the last part, which is the report back. It’s actually the part in the bill that, to me, is the thing we need to do. I keep saying that it’s a long game. There’s a lot of work to do here. We’re addressing hospice care; we’re addressing long-term care. There’s a lot of work there. Even with our best efforts, 35% to 40% of people will still die in hospital, and we have to address it there.
This is about a culture change inside not just government. One of the things that I learned through the report and through the consultations and through Hospice Palliative Care Ontario is that hospice palliative care is a community-based initiative. It works because it involves community. That’s what drives it. That’s why it worked when it was in church basements, because people understood the need to care for each other.
This is what informs my thinking on this, and I would like to repeat it—I’m getting old, so I repeat things all the time. Nine months to the day that my father died, our first grandson, Vaughan, was born. I remember thinking—I was really happy—“We’re really ready.” We were ready for Vaughan. We were all waiting. They had the nursery ready. The schools were ready and the health system was certainly ready—we’ve got it all lined up. Then I thought about my dad, because coming and going, living and dying—they’re both ends of the same string. I thought, “We weren’t really ready.”
What informs me is that I think, as a society—all of us—the care that we provide for each other at the end of our lives deserves the same kind of attention as we give to the beginning of life, and I’m glad the member shares it. But I want him to understand, and I don’t mean this in a—just through my experience. I didn’t say that the right way. I’d like you to know that it’s a long haul, that it’s a lot of work. It’s a lifetime of work. Rick can attest to that. Pam can attest to that. Sandy Buchman can attest to that. There are hundreds of people across this province whose life’s work it has been to take this on in some way, shape or form. There are incredible people out there.
So you’ve put this bill forward. That’s your commitment. You’ve just made a lifelong commitment, and that’s a really good thing. I want to encourage you to keep doing stuff like this. It takes work. There’s a lot of interest in here that can come in front of what it is we’re trying to advocate for. There’s always something going on. It takes continuous advocacy, continuous work. Keep going. Don’t give up, don’t slow down. I’m very glad to have spoken in support of your bill. Thank you.
Mr. Sam Oosterhoff: I wish to first of all thank the member for Niagara Falls for his comments about long-term care in general, and specifically on the issue that occurred in my riding during the last by-election, prior to my election and following the resignation of the previous member. That does speak to the need to invest in long-term care specifically in the Niagara region, but I think that also ties in with this legislation.
I also wish to thank the member for Bruce–Grey–Owen Sound, who happens to be in a different chair right now, for describing the situation in his riding, the cost benefits of palliative care and how it’s actually a savings on the system, which is something to take into consideration considering the state of the our provincial finances.
I wish to thank the member for Nickel Belt for bringing to our attention the reality that people do wish to die at home. That’s something we always have to look into, what home palliative care means, not just hospice palliative care.
I wish to thank the member for Leeds–Grenville for speaking about more rural equitability—thank you for that—and the member for Nepean–Carleton, who has just been an incredible inspiration to me since my entry into the House, for sharing their family’s experience and for being willing to show me around Ottawa and the hospice palliative care in that part of the province.
I wish to also thank the member for Lambton–Kent–Middlesex for speaking about the importance of ensuring people don’t feel pressured into medical assistance in dying and have the choice of palliative care in that situation.
Of course, I wish to thank the member for Ottawa South for the incredible advocacy that he has been doing with this government. I do wish to acknowledge that there have been positive steps made in the right direction. I wish to also thank the Minister of Health and Long-Term Care for that. You’re right: There’s more that needs to be done, and that’s why I’m bringing forward this legislation, to keep up the pressure on all parties in the House, heading into the next election, so that this is something that is top of mind that we all can have unanimity on.
Mr. Gilles Bisson: Well, Mr. Speaker, I’ve got to tell you, if there’s an issue that drives motorists and a whole bunch of other people in Ontario—and, I would argue, across Canada—crazy, it is the price of gas. We look at the price of a barrel. When the price of a barrel was $100 or $110, you were paying less for gas then than we are now, with the price of a barrel being somewhere around $50 or $55. If you look at the relationship between the barrel and the actual price we pay at the pumps, there’s no comparison.
We see huge spike differences when it comes to the price of gas depending on where you are in the province. As an example, the other day I was looking at gasbuddy.com, one of the websites that looks at the prices of gas. In the areas of Hamilton and Niagara, they were paying $1.00 or $1.01 a litre. If you go up to Thunder Bay in northern Ontario, you’re paying $1.40 to $1.42 a litre.
Nobody is going to tell me it costs 40 cents a litre to transport gas from somewhere in southern Ontario to northern Ontario. It just does not make any sense. Clearly, what you’ve got is very few people who are the refiners and very few people who are the distributors, and they set the price of gas.
There are a couple of ways that we can deal with this. There is the federal authority with regard to the competition issue—it’s something that both the Liberals federally and the Conservatives federally have refused to deal with—or you can deal with it at the provincial level because, lo and behold, we are the regulators. It is the province of Ontario that’s responsible for the regulation of energy and a whole bunch of other products. So clearly we should be able to look at the various models of regulation that have been put in place across North America and Europe and say, “Is there a model that would suit Ontario better?”
Now, there are some models that are better than others. Let’s admit that in the debate up front. But the general idea is that you need a regulatory regime that allows you to say it doesn’t make sense that you have a 40-cent-a-litre difference of gas from one part of the province to the other. Even here in the city of Toronto, I have often seen, as I drive out of the city of Toronto going into central and northern Ontario, that at times the price of gas is the other way, where you’re paying a lot more, especially on a weekend, especially on a long weekend—if you’re driving out of this city on a Thursday or a Friday, you’re going to see a 10-cent, 15-cent spike per litre, just because they can.
I think a government, a Legislature, is measured by how it deals with issues like this with regard to being able to give consumers some protection. Now, I’ve already heard the arguments. The government across the way, Mr. Thibeault, who used to be an advocate of gas price regulation when he was a federal member—I saw him at press conferences. As a matter of fact, I stood next to him at press conferences, and Mr. Mantha did as well, when he was there saying it was unacceptable and that the federal government had to do something, or the province had to regulate.
Lo and behold, he says, “I think I’m going to come to provincial politics.” I thought, “Well, maybe the reason he’s coming is because he wants to regulate gas prices.” But no, no. He gets here and he says, “Let me go out and do a study and tell you why it is that we can’t do that.” What happened to Mr. Thibeault? He was converted on the way to the cabinet table, that’s what happened. He converted his position from wanting to do something for consumers to not.
But here’s his argument, and here’s the argument of the government on this particular issue. They say, “It’s really impractical to regulate. Regulating is such a bad thing to do.” We regulate milk, for God’s sake. We regulate milk when it comes to quota for milk, the money that the dairy farmers get for milk. We regulate the price of butter across the border—300% in some cases. We regulate the price of natural gas so that if you live in northern Ontario or you live down in Niagara, you pay close to about the same. There are some offsets for transportation, but it’s all within reason. We regulate many things in our society because we recognize that if you sometimes let the market do what it wants, there are people who will take advantage.
What we now have is that a lot of the independents that used to be the small independents that sold gas in our communities from Cornwall to Timmins to Sudbury down to the Niagara and Waterloo area—a lot of the independents have been pushed out. The large refiners and distributors have decided, “You know what we can do? We’ll set the price low. We’ll create a little gas war of our own.” The gas war comes and the independent is not able to survive over the longer period of time because they can’t sell at a loss. Mind you, the big guys can. They’ve got the money to do it. So the independents have been dying off, a very fast death, when it comes to having real competition in the system.
What we have is a system that is supposedly competitive, but it really isn’t. It’s a system by which the larger corporations decide, “Okay, this morning, how much money do you think we can make in Sudbury,” or Timmins or Cornwall or wherever it might be, and they charge whatever the price is that they think the market will bear. It doesn’t relate to anything having to do with the price of the barrel. It doesn’t relate to anything having to do with the issue as far what it costs to move gas and produce gas and get it from the well to the gas pump.
What we did is we looked at various jurisdictions. Essentially, what we’ve said is there are some models that work better than others. What we’ve done is we’ve established a model that is a bit of a hybrid. It recognizes that you have to regulate both the high and the low on the price of gas, because if you don’t regulate the low, the larger corporation will come in and freeze out the independents, so you want to stop that from happening. You also want to regulate how high, what the price of gas itself could be, a “no more than and no less” than type of thing.
The other thing that we recognize inside our bill is that there has to be, at the end, some ability to transport gas and recoup your costs. There is going to be some cost to transportation; we understand that. But you’re not going to argue that 40 cents a litre from downtown Petrolia to Thunder Bay makes any sense whatsoever.
I think it’s a question of picking sides. This is what this debate and this is what this bill are really all about. Whose side are you on? Are you on the side of the consumer or are you on the side of the large gas companies? I think that’s what this vote will inform us as we go into the debate that will ensue, and the vote somewhat after. I think you have to pick sides. I think that the public wants to know that you’re on their side, that somehow or other, somebody out there is listening, in government, to what is a huge irritant and a huge cost for individuals.
Why should I pay 40 cents a litre more for gasoline because of where I live? Why should I pay 15 or 20 cents a litre more because I happen to want to drive away on a long weekend to visit my family or friends somewhere up in the Muskokas or down by Kingston or whereever you might be going? I think people want to know that somebody is watching out for you.
As I said in the press conference at which I launched this bill on behalf of New Democrats, certainly to God, if we can regulate the price of a case of beer and we can regulate the price of a bottle of alcohol or wine—so that if you are in Cornwall, you pay the same price as if you’re in Kenora—we can find a way to equalize the price, somewhat, of gas across this province. I don’t think it’s an unreasonable thing for us to want or try to do.
The government may take exception and say, “Oh, we think your model is not”—well, if you think the model needs to be changed, let’s send it in to committee and we can make amendments. We’re not wedded to it having to be a particular version of the bill, as long as we get the result that we want in the end. But I think it’s high time that somebody in the public sees somebody standing on their side and somebody picks them for a change and says, “You know what? That’s enough.”
These companies have been taking advantage of the system. By doing so, they really stick it to the little guy and the small businesses and large businesses out there that need to buy gas. We need to have a system that equalizes the playing field, as Mr. Mulroney used to say years ago.
Mr. Gilles Bisson: But I just want to say that it’s a question of I think we really need to decide whose side we’re on. I think what we’re saying here, from New Democrats, is that we want to be on the side of the people out there.
Should oil companies make a profit? Absolutely. There has to be a return on investment for the oil companies. I don’t argue for one second. I said it in my press conference the other day: I believe that oil companies, refiners, distributors and retailers have to get a return on investment that makes some sense. But let’s not have a system by which they are able to peg the price—those very few distributors and refiners—based on how much they can pick out of your pocket to put more in their chequebooks.
I think, at the end, what we need is a system that allows fairness in the system. It allows us to say every week: What should the price of gas be, based on what the cost of the barrel is, what the cost is to produce it and get it to market, and to make sure that there is a fair return on investment for oil companies that is not going to gouge the public in the way that we see it now?
I have a couple of minutes left, and I just want to end on this note—one of the frustrating things that happen to all of us. How many times have you been in this situation? You’re driving back from some event. We all go to events. You’re driving back from your event. It’s 9:30 or 10 o’clock at night. You look at your gas gauge and you say, “Oh, well, I’m down to a quarter. It’s probably a good idea to fill up now.” You look at the gas station as you’re driving by, and it says whatever the price is. We’ll say it’s $1.20, just as a number. You say, “Well, I’ll do it tomorrow morning.” The next morning, you’re back out on the road at 7:30 or 8 o’clock to go to whatever morning meeting you’ve got to go to. You drive by the same gas station, and the price of gas has jumped up by 10 or 15 cents.
We see that on a daily basis. I have a large geographic riding, like my colleague here next to me. In Timmins, at one point I think it was $1.21 that you were paying for gas in Timmins. You drove northwest two hours further to Kapuskasing—further away from the distributor, further away from the refiner—and the price of gas was 10 cents a litre cheaper.
I’m glad for the people of Kapuskasing. I think they were very excited that they got a deal there. But how do you explain that? It’s simply that there’s a market where they could get more money because there are more cars in Timmins and they figure they could jack up the price, and it happens to be that Kapuskasing is on the Trans-Canada Highway. So it is one of those things that irritates.
I think that in the end, as I said at the beginning, this is a question of picking whose side you’re on. New Democrats want to be on the side of people, to make sure that they get a savings, that they don’t get fleeced at the pump and that they get some respect when it comes to a system that looks at fairness when it comes to gasoline prices.
Mr. Arthur Potts: It’s a great pleasure to rise here on the last bill on the last day of the House before we recess for Christmas and the holidays, and to have a chance to bring comment to Bill 183, An Act to regulate the price of petroleum products, brought forward by our good friend the member from Timmins–James Bay.
I understand exactly why the member has brought this bill forward. All the private member’s bills I’ve been successful with have been exactly on this issue of consumer issues. I’m the consumer advocate on this side of the House, on a whole range of bills, from the tipping bill to the daycare fees bill to the Air Miles bill, and more recently the credit protection act, where we tried to make credit protection agencies act more responsibly for the consumer, so I understand.
We see, Speaker, that this kind of a bill on gas prices is almost an annual event—or maybe more of an election-time event. As the price of gasoline starts to go up, people are confused about it, and members will stand up and bring a bill promising lower prices through government regulation. We’ve seen this act before numerous times, and members on our side of the House are equally responsible; we’ve done it a few times. Dan McTeague out of Ottawa was repeatedly the consumer advocate for trying to get to the heart of why prices were the way they were.
So what we’re preying on in the bill we have before us now is really consumer confusion. I think the member did a good job of outlining where that confusion comes from: the relationship between the price of a barrel of gasoline and the litre price at the pumps. I remember, probably going back seven or eight years, that the price of a barrel of oil was starting to go up to $50, $60 or $70, and I think the litre price was about 75 cents. My friend said to me, “By the end of this year”—I believe it was in March—“the price of gasoline at the pump will be over a dollar.”
I laughed at him. I said, “No way. That’s ridiculous. That kind of an increase couldn’t happen.” So we bet a hundred bucks, and of course, I lost. I was shocked and surprised. But then the price of a barrel of gasoline was up to $80, $90, going to $100, and we were seeing $1-plus at the pumps.
Now, as the member rightly points out, we’re in a situation where we’re still paying $1-plus at the pumps. It’s $1.15 in Toronto right now, and the price of a barrel of oil is $55, so there’s a disconnect between the consumer’s perception of the litre price and the barrel price, and I get that. It is confusing.
I’m no expert on the retail aspects of why gasoline goes up. Supply and demand, obviously, is a big part of it. What’s in the pipe, what’s flowing through from refineries, is the biggest part. When you have a big fire threatening refineries in the south, in Texas, or hurricanes knocking them out, you watch what happens, and all of a sudden the supply dries up. You have a couple of refineries who are in winter maintenance, in a maintenance situation, and the supply dries up, and the price goes up quite quickly.
It has always been a concern of mine. I wonder, “Gee, it seems to go up really quickly in response to an event, but it takes such a long time for it to come back down.” You always wonder about what the connection is there. As I said, I’m not an expert, but what I do know is that within the Competition Bureau, within the federal responsibilities that look into these matters, there are some very clear consumer oversights that don’t allow for price gouging, that don’t allow for collusion, that don’t allow for taking predatory positions. The best people to review that within the federal scheme are the consumer advocates who are out there, who are keeping a very close eye on where the pricing is going.
From a consumer’s perspective, it’s really easy for a bill like this to ratchet up a lot of support, because you’re attacking big oil, and big oil appears an easy target: all these rich fat cats with cigars playing golf who are making money at the expense of the consumer. We all know that’s just not the reality of how we see things out there.
I had the pleasure, Speaker, of being in Alberta recently for the filming of Political Blind Date. I hope the members have all had a chance to take a look at my debate with Shannon Stubbs, a Tory from northern Alberta who represents Lakeland. It’s actually very entertaining TV, so during the break session I hope you’ll have a chance to sit down and get to know Shannon Stubbs, who is actually a really wonderful individual working hard for her community.
I was able to share at the time—because they’re angry at Liberals and carbon taxes and such. They’re angry about it. We had a long, great conversation with a cattle rancher out there, as I explained to him not to be focusing so much on the costs of pricing carbon, but on the benefits that come from it as well. I was relieved. By the end of our conversation, the guy had offered me a job, he was so appreciative of the work that I was doing. He said, “If you don’t get re-elected, you come back and work for me on this cattle ranch.” I helped him inoculate a few cattle while I was out there; it’s quite a fun story in itself.
The feds regulate, and the Ontario Energy Board is there to regulate prices amongst monopolies and oligopolies. There is enough competition in the system that you can have competitive pricing for gasoline in the province of Ontario. It does probably require better explanations for the consumers, so as to alleviate the confusion we see, but there is opportunity for competition.
The Minister of Energy here, a year ago, recognized that there are some issues around people’s perception, and he did some groundwork and had the OEB conduct a study. I believe it was done by the Kent Group, who are experts in oil refinery issues and such. They went out and did a study and lo and behold, they determined in their conclusions that Ontario’s regulatory competitive regime, without government interference, is actually working quite well.
When they compared what we are doing with what is happening in other jurisdictions in Canada—the member from Timmins–James Bay referenced it in his press conference. We’re going to follow those provinces who are already regulating—there’s a model out there, in Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick and Newfoundland. They concluded in their report that through the regulatory scheme, consumers were paying more than they would have otherwise in those jurisdictions. So what I see here, quite astonishingly, is an opportunity, a bill, that would regulate gasoline prices in a way that’s going to cost the consumer more.
When you talk about consumer confusion as being a reason you want to put this bill forward, if the consumer were fully informed about the impacts of paying millions more, paying 10% or 15% more on average at the pump in the regulated scheme that’s being proposed here, I think the consumers wouldn’t be as supportive as the member would have hoped.
I also want to speak a little bit to how we’re talking here about what I would call a temporary problem, because we aren’t far away from the day when we will not be using an internal combustion engine for the bulk of our transportation in the province of Ontario. We are getting frighteningly close to electric vehicles, hydrogen electric vehicles, being the mainstay of transportation in this province. And it happens for a number of reasons, a number of technologies that are all starting to collapse around the same time. We have a tipping point coming here. If you’ve had a chance to watch the videos or see some of the research by Professor Tony Seba out of Princeton University, we are so close right now to a tipping point. The price of lithium ion batteries is getting so low, and the price of an electric vehicle is getting to a point—the range is getting to a point where you can go 350 kilometres on an electric battery right now that out of financial self interest, consumers across the province are going to be diving in to electric vehicles extremely quickly.
Now, in Ontario, because we have our cap-and-trade program, which is premised on the basis of a 17% price on carbon—much lower than the Trudeau $50, by the way, so we’re actually doing it in a much better way for the consumer—we’re able to use those cap-and-trade dollars to subsidize the cost of an electric vehicle by up to $14,000 for five seats. This is extremely important to help us move people into electric vehicles. We have a system in place in Ontario right now which could probably, with current generation capacity, accommodate upwards of 50% of the vehicles in the province of Ontario being electric vehicles.
You are seeing major manufacturers in the auto sector coming forward now with a declaration. Volvo won’t be building an internal combustion engine in 10 years. You are seeing manufacturers like Dyson—they make vacuum cleaners—who have just announced a whole new automotive division to make electric vehicles. And you’re going to see Samsung—they’re all coming forward because we won’t be using gasoline or diesel in these vehicles.
I had the chance of taking Ms. Stubbs, on my Political Blind Date, to the Electric Vehicle Discovery Centre up on Finch, up in North York, and there were all these cars. I looked at her and I said, “Look at these vehicles. None of them have tailpipes.” Do you know why? Because they don’t burn gasoline. They don’t burn diesel. So what are we going to need your gas for?
Then we went to Hydrogenics, which is a company that makes electrolyzers that can take surplus electricity, electrolyze water, release hydrogen and then capture it for zero-carbon transportation fuels. So I asked her. I said, “What do we need your natural gas for?”
We are heading to a world in which the demand for petroleum products is going to be bottoming out, worldwide, into the $40-a-barrel rate. The demand is going to be extremely low because we won’t be using it for transportation at the level that we are now. We will have electric-powered and hydrogen-powered tractors pulling trailers across Ontario and across North America. We will have hydrogen-powered trains not burning diesel. These transformations are coming.
I say to the member that this concept of starting to regulate gasoline is way too late. You’re five years away from it being a non-issue, because the price will be so low, because there will be so much supply and so little demand.
When I look at the bill here, what I see is a piece of unnecessary red tape. I know the Minister of Economic Development has gone to great lengths to find ways in the province of Ontario that will reduce red tape across all sectors. We will bring in necessary regulations to protect consumers and protect society, but at the same time we will be taking out one and a half regulations for every one we propose, looking for savings so that businesses and consumers won’t be burdened by unnecessary red tape.
I’ve got a great copy of the people’s garnishee document here. I notice their plan here for carbon pricing is sort of like they’ve thrown their hands up again and they’ve said, “No, it’s not us. Whatever Trudeau says, we’re just going to go along with it.” The party opposite, the official opposition, are now going to a place, again flip-flopping, to: “Yes, we don’t think we need to do any carbon pricing. We’re just going to tag onto the Trudeau plan. We’re going to use those revenues”—and I see it in the people’s garnishee document. They’re going to use those revenues to give people that little middle-income break, which they claim is 22.5%. They claim everyone is going to get 22.5%, but we know it’s only a reduction in that one segment, so that people aren’t going to see anywhere near 22.5%.
The member from Beaches–East York, that really was a colourful presentation. I have to give you Christmas points for that one. Unfortunately, it had very little to do with the member from Timmins–James Bay’s actual bill.
I know you spoke a lot about the carbon tax. I can imagine why you would want to spend your time trying to fluff it up when the Auditor General herself—now, I know you disparage the Auditor General and you don’t speak very highly of her on any occasion, but I can tell you, she told us that $466 million of your cap-and-trade slush fund is on its way to California and Quebec. So we understand why you’re so concerned about trying to give some spin.
The Auditor General told us also that by 2020, $2.2 billion of your cap-and-trade slush fund will be on its way to California and Quebec, and Ontario, sadly, accrues very, very little of the benefits. We don’t have any greenhouse gas savings here beyond 20% and we don’t have any money. It’s all going to California and to Quebec. So let’s just be clear about that.
More to the issue of the member from Timmins–James Bay, who was talking about the price of gas: I live in North Bay. I live in Corbeil, actually. I was born and raised in the city of North Bay. I represent the riding of Nipissing. I’m a northern boy. I’ve been there 61 years, and I can tell you that this is a lifelong issue, gas prices in the north.
When we come to Queen’s Park and we drive by a pump here, we look at it and have to do a double take and think, “What the heck was that?” I think I saw gas that’s 10 or more cents a litre cheaper than what it was when I left home this morning. We know that there is a huge disparity in prices between Ontario’s north—our north, Gilles and others—and southern Ontario. We know that. We understand that there is a huge disparity.
But it’s not just the fact that there’s a disparity. What really makes this a big issue at home is the fact that in the north, we just don’t have the same transit opportunities, and so we are unbelievably dependent and reliant on our vehicles to get from point A to point B. We don’t have transit options. I live in a riding where I serve 11 mayors, one urban mayor in the city of North Bay and 10 rural mayors. The 10 rural mayors: Not one of them has transit. There is no transit option, so we, collectively in rural and northern Ontario, rely on our vehicles and we rely on hitting the gas station down the street, certainly more than once a week because the areas that we travel are vast.
This is not the reality in southern Ontario. You work in a very, very different way than we do. You have tremendous transit opportunities; we just don’t. There’s no way to get from where I live in Corbeil, East Ferris, into North Bay unless you drive. You could take a taxi; there is one Callander cab that will come out to where I live in East Ferris. They will come from Callander and pick me up if I have to get to the airport for that 6:20-in-the-morning flight every once in a while. But that’s still driving.
We depend on this. To have this variation in fuel prices is hurtful to us. When you look at the cap-and-trade taxes that come off of that, when you look at—they talk about a triple hydro rate. Where we live in Corbeil on my street, we don’t have triple hydro rates; we have quadruple hydro rates because we’re medium density. If you go just around the corner on Treadlightly Drive, my buddy Phil—there are only 12 houses on the street—pays low density. If you’re paying 18 cents a kilowatt hour for your power and I pay 22 and a half cents, he pays 26 cents.
We’ve got these differences in northern Ontario that you wouldn’t even have a clue about. You just would not know that our costs are so very, very much higher. Our distances are longer. It is more difficult to get through a day. But I’ll tell you, as I look at my northern friends, I don’t think we’d give it up for a second—the beauty of it and the joy.
We’ve seen that life for northerners has become far more difficult under Kathleen Wynne’s Liberals. We understand that and we want you to acknowledge that. We want you to understand that that’s why in our People’s Guarantee, you’ll see tax cuts, hydro rate cuts, aviation fuel tax reversals, bringing back passenger rail. These are things that are so important to us in acknowledgement of the fact that our fuel prices are so much higher.
June 30, 2014: The price of a barrel of oil is around $110. Here in Ontario, it was $1.30 a litre. Early in 2015, the price of oil completely crashed across the world. In fact, it crashed more than 60%. In September/October 2017, the price of oil hasn’t rebounded. It’s still around US$50 to US$55 a barrel. Yet the price of the gasoline even in Niagara is $1.20.
They talk about the north. The north is right: They’re paying more because they got rid of any independent that was up north. Here in Toronto, where most of the MPPs are—the Liberal MPPs—you know what they did? They got rid of all the independents. You can look at Toronto and you can be within one or two cents of the price of a litre of gas today—one or two cents. You come to Niagara, there’s a price war going on on Ontario Street for two years. You know why it’s gone on for two years? They want to get rid of the independents. They want to make sure they have a monopoly so they can keep the gas high. Make no mistake about it: We’re being gouged at the pumps every single day.
And they’re hiding it around the refineries, the very refineries, by the way—most people will remember from Toronto—we used to own. We used to refine our own oil here in the province of Ontario, creating good-paying jobs. We got rid of that. Remember we used to own Petro-Canada? The oil companies lobbied to get rid of it because they didn’t want it. They wanted the refineries to make more money. That’s what is going on in the province of Ontario, make no mistake about it.
Then you take a look—my colleagues mentioned this. On a long weekend, you want to go enjoy time with your family. What happens? They raise the price 10 to 15 cents just like that because they can and it’s a weekend. Then you go—and he talked about it; it’s happened to me many, many times. I go to bed at night and it might be $1; I wake up in the morning and it’s $1.15. How does that happen? It’s nothing more than gouging the consumer.
The member who spoke on behalf of the Liberals can stand up and say all he wants but, I tell you, you go and talk to your constituents and they’ll tell you that on the price of gas they’re being gouged. They’re being gouged more in Toronto than anywhere else because they got rid of the independents. The independents at least give us a chance. We have 11 independents in Niagara and the oil companies are attacking every single one of them every day to put them out of business so they get the same opportunity to gouge the people in Niagara like they’ve been gouging the people in Toronto for years.
I’ve talked to the member for Timmins–James Bay about this. I’m going to be supporting his bill. He and I were on CFRA a week or so ago talking about his bill. I’m not going to surprise him with some of my comments but I did want to tell him off the top that I am going to support him today in his private member’s bill, and I want to thank him for this debate.
Gas price gouging is, I think, an issue that we need to address. I think people on this side of the House agree that has to happen. I know it’s a serious matter for northern Ontarians. They feel that they’re being ripped off by the price of gas. I know my leader, Patrick Brown, has made a commitment since he was the leader to spend more time and have his caucus spend more time in northern Ontario. We have had three caucus meetings there. I have to tell you, I know how mad people get about gas gouging in my riding, but prices in northern Ontario were sky high; there was no question.
In Leeds–Grenville, motorists have been subjected to wild price hikes in one area while communities that are nearby to us, other communities in eastern Ontario, pay much less. I was telling the member for Timmins–James Bay some of the sayings that we have in Leeds–Grenville when we see severe spikes in gas prices. We have a term called “10-cent Tuesday” when it seems that the price automatically goes up 10 cents, sometimes more. We have a term, “Way-Up Wednesday,” that happens quite often in our riding where we’ll do the story, as the member said, where you’re deciding not to buy gas in the evening, only to find that on Wednesday morning prices have gone through the roof. Regardless of what you call it, Speaker—I’ve given you two names that we have in Leeds–Grenville—people call it gouging.
There are two other reasons that I want to place on the order paper today—things that Mr. Bisson is not surprised at. I’m concerned about the price controls, and I’m also concerned about the Ontario Energy Board having a role in pricing. So I’m going to talk about those two.
I think the member, when he introduced the bill in his 12 minutes, talked about the fact that not every system of controlling prices has been successful, the fact that in some cases it’s had a somewhat limited effect on volatility, that people over time in some of those regulated systems find that they’re paying, on average, higher prices than even what we are paying in parts of Ontario.
Secondly, tasking the OEB to look out for motorists—I have to ask people if they would consider how the OEB has done in keeping our hydro bills down. Speaker, I think you know exactly what I’m talking about. I think people question having faith in the OEB doing a better job with regulating gas prices. I don’t think that we need the OEB on this issue.
While I do agree that getting the bill into committee is a good step, so that we can talk about it and look at some of the suggestions that the member has talked about in his 12 minutes, I happen to think that the Competition Bureau—which, granted, is a federal agency—exists to be a watchdog for consumers, but it has been toothless when it comes to gas prices.
I have written to that bureau countless times on behalf of my constituents. I have provided detailed complaints about gas price fluctuations. The response that I got was quite surprising. In fact, they asked me to tell my constituents to gather more evidence and perhaps have conversations between gas company officials about price-fixing. I’m not sure what that means, Speaker. Are my residents supposed to quit their day jobs and go sleuthing, so that they can hear conversations that take place at local gas stations and the gas companies? I just thought it was unbelievable when the Competition Bureau brought that suggestion back.
I have asked more than a few ministers of consumer services to join with me, to stand with me and ask the Competition Bureau to become more of a watchdog and to have it do its job. I remember a couple of great YouTube videos from question period that I posted with former consumer minister Margarett Best. We had an exchange but, unfortunately, no action by the government.
I think it’s sadly ironic that the Competition Bureau is asleep at the switch at gas prices, but recently they announced a price-fixing investigation for the price of bread. I will have been an MPP for eight years next year, and I don’t think I have ever had a complaint about bread price-fixing. But on a 10-cent Tuesday or a Way-Up Wednesday, I get lots of complaints about the price of gas. I would think that if the Competition Bureau is so intent with doing its job, a far better investigation than bread-fixing would be to get down on price-fixing—not price controls, not a system with the OEB, but have them actually do their job.
Ms. Sarah Campbell: Thank you to my colleague from Timmins–James Bay for bringing this bill forward. My offices are routinely approached by northerners who are exasperated with gas price fluctuations that seem out of sync with neighbouring communities in other regions across the province, as well as by pump price changes that follow dubious patterns such as spiking around the long weekends, as many have talked about.
Since prices have jumped to well over $1 a litre, many of us keep at least a somewhat close eye on the price at the pumps, and we’ve all been there, as members already alluded to. We look at the gauge in the car and we realize that we’re low. It’s late at night, and we figure, “Ah, it can wait until morning.” We go to fill up in the morning and bam! The prices have jumped 10 or 15 cents a litre, and we grumble and fill up anyway.
Northerners in particular can identify with this pain and frustration because we have no choice. It is necessary that we fill up our vehicles, because otherwise we have no means of transportation. Most communities in the northwest do not have intercommunity public transportation, nor do they have intracommunity transportation. We don’t have rail options like the member from Beaches–East York has access to, like GO trains and the TTC. The Greyhound bus that comes through our communities comes through in the middle of the night at 2 or 3 o’clock in the morning, so that’s not very practical. That makes having fair and affordable gas prices a necessity for northerners.
Yesterday, my offices did some calling around to gas stations in Kenora–Rainy River. What my staff found out is that the prices very closely matched within each community, but the prices differ, sometimes substantially, between communities. Now you may think that that makes sense, but how does it really make sense for gas prices in a community more than 100 kilometres closer to the fuel distribution centre to charge six cents more a litre, where the wholesale supplier is likely the same for the two gas stations in both communities because they’re both owned and branded by the same parent company?
I’m not wanting to single anyone out, but how can company A justify charging $1.25 a litre in Kenora, a mere 200 kilometres from its fuel distribution centre in Winnipeg, yet only $1.19 or less a litre 135 kilometres further away in Dryden? Dryden is both further away and a smaller community, suggesting that there would be both increased transportation charges and lower demand or volume.
To be fair, though, not all companies engage in these kinds of questionable tactics. There are examples right in northwestern Ontario where companies cap their profit margins and keep them fixed at a reasonable rate. For them, their transportation costs are also fixed according to location, and their only variable is the wholesale rack price. These companies would not be impacted by this bill because they’re already serving northerners well.
But for the other companies that seem to play by their own rules and often not in favour of northerners who are at their mercy, this bill is much needed to bring about some fairness to the pumps for what is, to northerners, an essential part of life in the north.
Mme France Gélinas: I can tell you that I have one of those big northern ridings that I’m really proud of, and public transit does not exist for 90% of my riding, so we drive cars. It doesn’t matter where I go; the first thing people say after, “My, it’s cold today,” is, “Did you see the price of gas?” So, yes, I do look at the price of gas because, you see, Speaker, it makes no sense whatsoever.
Today in Sturgeon Falls, they pay $1.12 for gas. Today in Sudbury, we pay $1.23 for gas. The problem with this is that in order to bring gas to Sturgeon Falls, you have to come through Sudbury. How can you justify that people in Sudbury pay 11 cents more a litre for gas than the people in Sturgeon Falls?
I’ve had so, so many people come to me that I started to look into this. I talked to some of the retailers and I talked to some of the people who sell gas to the retailers and all this, and the answer that I got knocked my socks off. It was, “You know, in Nickel Belt, people have good jobs working in the mines. People have to drive long distances to get to their jobs. Therefore, they have no choice but to buy gas because none of the mines are serviced by a bus. Everybody has to drive to the mines”—which are the main employers in my region—“and if you have a job in a mine, you can pay a high price for gas.” Therefore, they feel justified in gouging each and every one of us because they can.
That they could say this to my face, Speaker, was jaw-dropping. Really? You’re telling me that you are gouging us at the pump because you know we have to drive long distances to make a living, and this is justifiable? It is not acceptable. This is why we need oversight. This is why we need regulation. People shouldn’t have to drive to Sturgeon Falls to fill up because we’re living in Sudbury, but if you drive out there, you save 11 cents a litre. I can tell you that any time I have to go down this way and anybody who goes down this way, you fill the back of your truck with jerry cans and you fill them up because you know full well that when you get back home, you’re going to be paying more for gas. I’ve had enough of this. It makes no sense.
Here’s Algoma–Manitoulin: Nairn Centre, $1.20; McKerrow, $1.22; Elliot Lake, $1.21; Blind River, $1.22; Desbarats, $1.25; Echo Bay, $1.23; Manitouwadge—my highest one—$1.33; and Massey, $1.20. For an average in the area, about $1.21 is what you’re looking at. That’s 25 cents more than what it’s being sold for in other parts of this province.
The member from Timmins–James Bay brought up an interesting point earlier. I remember standing in Sudbury on the corner of Lasalle in front of the Shell station with the member, along with then-MP Thibeault. I have a friend, Mr. Guy Naubert from Blind River, who had been communicating with the member from Sudbury for a very long time, back when he actually stood shoulder to shoulder with us. Here’s his latest message, a response to Mr. Naubert’s message as to what is going on with the 9,000 petitions you were supposed to present in the House. He said:
“The campaign went really well. Over 9,000 people sent letters to the Competition Bureau ... asking for that investigation. I am hopeful that the meeting with the commissioner will happen in the next few weeks. Keep watching here.... I should have an update soon.” It’s signed “G.” That was to Mr. Naubert from then-MP Glenn Thibeault.
Speaker, we don’t have buses. We don’t have other means of transportation. We have to use our vehicles to get to work. We have to use our vehicles to get to the hospital. We have to use our vehicles to get our children to recreational activities.
Mr. Gilles Bisson: Thank you very much, Speaker. I just have to say again: this is all about picking sides. This is about: Whose side are you on? Do you want to protect the consumer or do you want to protect the big guys? The vote will determine who is on whose side.
Mr. Gilles Bisson: Leeds–Grenville. He said, “You know, I’m not too big on the Ontario Energy Board taking that on because they’re not doing a good thing with electricity.” You’re the guys who deregulated the Ontario electricity prices.
The regulation that we had at the OEB has been very weakened over the years, but the larger issue is privatization. That is what has driven it up. The production and selling of private power has cost us far more money than it’s worth.
In this bill, what we’re trying to do is give consumers a break, to say: “Let’s stand with consumers and let’s make sure that they get themselves a fairer break when it comes to the pump.” We are tired of being gouged. There is no excuse that you can have a 40-cent-a-litre difference between one part of this province and another. It doesn’t make any sense. When you look at the price of the barrel, it doesn’t reflect whatsoever the price at the pump.
We need to make sure that we stop gouging the public. As I said earlier, if we can sell a case of beer in Cornwall for the same price that we sell for it in Kenora—or a bottle of wine or a quart of milk—certainly to God we can find a way to do that so that there is some fairness when it comes to the price of gas.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bill Walker): Mr. Oosterhoff has moved second reading of Bill 182, An Act providing for the development of a provincial framework on hospice palliative care. Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? Carried.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bill Walker): Mr. Bisson has moved second reading of Bill 183, An Act to regulate the price of petroleum products. Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? I heard a no.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bill Walker): Mr. Bisson has moved second reading of Bill 183, An Act to regulate the price of petroleum products. All those in favour, please rise and remain standing until recognized by the Clerk.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bill Walker): I would like to wish our pages and their families a merry Christmas. All at the Clerks’ table and their staff and families, all of the members and all of the people that work for the public service: a merry Christmas and the best of the season.