This week has been a busy one at Queen’s Park as the legislature adjourns for the summer. It’s an opportunity to focus on community work, touring tech companies, speaking with local businesses about their needs, helping with food and housing programs and looking for ways to expand them as the need grows. I’m also working on legislation to improve protections for condo owners and renters, to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, to eliminate homelessness, and to address the opioid epidemic. If you’d like to speak, please reach out to my office to arrange a meeting or call.
We are all excited to start enjoying the outdoors, but the smoky haze in our skies due to forest fires in Quebec and northeastern Ontario is deeply concerning. Anyone with asthma or heart conditions, children or older people, those who are pregnant, and those who work outside are at higher risk of experiencing health effects so should take precautions and avoid spending prolonged periods outdoors. You can find more information on Environment Canada’s website here.
It is very disturbing that the government has not acknowledged the impact that climate change has on the proliferation of wildfires across the entire country. When this government came into power, they tore up 700 renewable energy contracts, pulled out electric vehicle chargers and funded the expansion of natural gas rather than more cost effective renewables. These actions have left Ontarians ill-prepared for these extreme conditions that have become too common. The climate crisis is upon us now and requires immediate action from the government.
With Canada facing the worst forest fire season, Ontario has 50 forest fire crews fewer than last year. In the 1980s, I was a forest firefighter working out of Geraldton, Ontario. The government is having trouble recruiting forest firefighters because of a $5/hour inflationary cut to wages and because aspiring forest firefighters now have to pay for a $1,000 training program in the hope that they will be hired. We are asking the government to invest in better wages for essential workers including forest fire fighters.
That’s me on the far left working as a firefighter in Geraldton, Ontario in the ‘80s
On Friday, June 2nd, I held a press conference to call on the provincial government to declare the first Friday in June as the Provincial Day Against Gun Violence in Ontario. All parties and governments say they want to reduce and ultimately eliminate gun violence. I sent an open letter asking the Ontario government to demonstrate that it is committed to eliminating gun violence by acknowledging that the root cause of gun violence is poverty and the growing gap between rich and poor, and by immediately taking measures to prevent, intervene and ultimately help communities to heal from gun violence. You can watch the CBC footage here (at 29:48 minutes).
At the press conference last Friday asking the province to declare the first Friday in June as the Provincial Day Against Gun Violence in Ontario
There are so many amazing events happening in the riding this month! The Luminato Festival began on June 7th and I had the pleasure of participating in the “Walk with Amal”, an incredible 12-foot puppet of a Syrian child refugee. Amal has travelled through 13 countries as a symbol of compassion and human rights representing displaced children everywhere. She will be walking across Toronto for the next five days.
At the Luminato “Walk with Amal” event at Nathan Phillips Square (left) and recognizing Portuguese community leader Maria Isabel Fernandes at Queen’s Park (right)
This weekend, I’ll be participating in a number of events in celebration of Portugal Week. The Portugal Day Parade kicks off the festivities on Saturday morning along Dundas Street West from Lansdowne to Crawford. Also taking place along Dundas is the Do West Fest with music, food and activities for all ages. See more Fun Things to Do!
June is also Pride Month in Toronto. While there is so much joy that Pride brings to our community, it’s important to recognize the ongoing struggle for 2SLGBTQI+ rights and the rise of hate crime across the province. The recent decision by the York Catholic District School Board to refuse to fly the Pride Flag raises concerns about the continued support of all students within their schools. Now, more than ever, it is important for people to come together to celebrate the importance of human rights and to advocate for everyone to be able to live in a safe and welcoming environment. Watch my statement at CAMH’s Pride flag-raising event.
I’m excited to be attending several graduations this month! Congratulations to all the students!
Don’t forget to get out and vote in the Mayor By-Election! Advance voting is June 8-13, and election day is on Monday, June 26. More details here.
Wishing you a wonderful summer!
Ontario Health Coalition Referendum Results
The Ontario Health Coalition (OHC) announced the results of their community-run referendum held over the last six weeks. Ontarians were given the opportunity to vote in person or online on whether they want public hospital services to be privatized to for-profit hospitals and clinics. This came as a result of the government’s implementation of Bill 60, Your Health Act.
Almost 400,000 people voted on this critical issue with an overwhelming 99% of voters opposed to the privatization of Ontario’s public hospital services. These referendum results were dismissed by Premier Doug Ford.
Evidence indicates that shifting to private, for-profit clinics has failed in other provinces, jeopardizing the affordability of health care for everyone in the long run. My colleagues and I will continue to fight to ensure the sustainability of our healthcare system for the benefit of all.
Ontario Medical Association Progress Report
The Ontario Medical Association (OMA) released a Prescription Progress Report related to its Prescription for Ontario: Doctors’ 5-Point Plan for Better Health Care. This is the first of what are intended to be annual reports to highlight progress made and to identify immediate healthcare priorities.
Prescription for Ontario, released in 2021, is a comprehensive plan developed by the OMA with the objective of transforming health care in our province. It encompasses a wide range of key areas to improve patient care, address healthcare system challenges and support physicians in delivering high-quality services.
The OMA has identified three key areas where we must focus our immediate attention:
- Ensuring that everyone has access to team-based primary care
- Reducing physician burnout and the administrative burden contributing to it
- Addressing the lack of access to co-ordinated community-based care
My colleagues and I will be working with the OMA to address Ontario’s healthcare challenges.
Demanding Action on ER Closures
On Wednesday, I was joined by my colleague and Health Critic France Gélinas and members from local health coalitions from communities across Ontario to demand the government address the ongoing emergency room closures in their local hospitals. ER closures are currently impacting residents in Mount Forest, Palmerston, Listowel, Wingham, Seaforth, Clinton, Minden, Thessalon, Blind River, Chesley, Grey Bruce, and more.
All of these communities have suffered either permanent or temporary closures to their local emergency rooms. They are victims of this government’s campaign to privatize our public healthcare system in Ontario. Every single one of these communities are suffering because this government illegally restrained the wages of healthcare workers, allowed private for-profit corporations to profit from healthcare, and pushed aside the needs and well-being of everyday Ontarians.
We’re calling on the government to keep every single emergency department open, to find a way to reopen those they’ve already closed, and to ensure equity of access across the province. They must do the right thing and find the right solutions.
Ontario Place Update
Map of closure from Ontario Place website
Last week a fence went up closing access to the path that connects the West Island to Trillium Park. This path was being used by many residents for walking and cycling and provided access to Ontario Place Marina, the pebble beach and the Cinesphere. The sign on the fence has a QR code that directs people to the Ontario Place website stating: “As part of the redevelopment of Ontario Place, construction activities have started across the site, and site servicing construction work will begin soon to upgrade critical infrastructure, such as sewage, water, electrical and gas services.”
I am very disturbed by the government’s actions to proceed with development even before a building permit has been issued. I am also concerned with the timeline of the project. In September 2018, spa developer Therme hired well-known Conservative lobbyists and, two months before the government made any public announcement about the redevelopment of Ontario Place. This raises the question of why they hired these lobbyists.
In May 2019, the government requested proposals to redevelop Ontario Place. Simultaneously, they changed regulations to exempt projects like Therme’s from an environmental assessment. Watch my statement at Queen’s Park here.
Other new information has come to light through legislative committee meetings. Six days before the deadline for bid submissions, the deadline was suddenly extended, despite Infrastructure Ontario already receiving several bids. One bid that hadn’t been received after the initial deadline was from Therme, which eventually won the redevelopment rights.
The 2019 Call for Development stated that bidders “should consider adequacy of parking” in their proposed plans and that the government “will not be making any financial contributions towards the design or construction of any proposed facilities.” But now it has come to light that Therme is getting access to a new, publicly-funded, five-level subterranean parking facility with more than 2,000 spots, the cost of which has been estimated at $450 million. Did this addition give Therme an advantage over other bidders that were not offered the parking lot.
The City of Toronto is planning further public engagement on the Ontario Place development application and you can stay informed about upcoming events by visiting the website here. You can also email [email protected] to ask to receive updates.
Provincial Hearings to Lower Cell Phone Bills
On Wednesday, I joined Consumer Protection Critic Tom Rakocevic (Humber River – Black Creek) to launch province-wide hearings to tackle high cell phone bills and lack of reliable internet access in Northern and rural communities. Ontarians pay some of the highest cell phone and internet bills in the world. And yet, there are parts of the province that do not have reliable access to high-speed internet.
Cellular service and reliable internet are not luxuries, but basic and essential services that people rely on to connect with loved ones and for jobs, safety, education, and more. Yet, our system allows for a select few large corporations to gouge hard-working Ontarians simply so that they can access this essential service. Affordable and reliable access to these services is long overdue and we are looking forward to building equitable and innovative solutions that serve all Ontarians.
We will be launching a series of public consultations on the future of cell phone and internet service affordability and access. Industry stakeholders, consumer advocates and telecom experts will discuss solutions and give communities the opportunity to share their experiences with cell phone bills, access and service issues in rural and remote communities.
The first hearing will take place at Queen’s Park on Wednesday, June 28, 2023. Register here to participate.
Additional hearings and consultations will take place throughout the summer and into the fall.
Bill 97 Passes as Rent Skyrockets Across Ontario
With the passing of Bill 97 on Monday, the provincial government has been given power over Toronto’s rental replacement by-laws which is cause for great concern. Rent in Toronto and across the province continues to soar beyond what people can afford.
Last week, I heard from a constituent who was evicted from the apartment she had been living in for eight years. Her landlord said they needed it for a family member but relisted it a short time later for almost $1000 more than what she was paying. She’s been waiting almost a year for a hearing at the Landlord and Tenant Board and is now paying $900 more in rent than her previous apartment.
Thousands of residents are living in fear of being forced to move because the landlord can raise the rent to whatever price they want.
Lack of rent control is one of many factors that is contributing to the record rise in rent across Ontario. According to reports in the Star, average GTA rents in purpose-built apartments broke the $3,000 barrier for the first time in the first quarter of this year. The latest Urbanation report shows rent for available homes rose by 20.5% in Toronto, 30% in Markham, 31% in Scarborough, and 32% in Brampton.
No one can afford rent increases like this. Just last month, the government voted against our motion for real rent control. How high does rent have to get before this government brings back rent control? Sign my petition here.
Bill 98 Passes But No Deal with Teachers
The Ontario government passed Bill 98 on Thursday giving them more power over school boards and the sale of unused property. With the school year coming to an end, I am concerned that no attempt has been made yet to bargain with the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation. If this government wants to avoid a strike in the fall, they need to come forward with a significant offer that respects these important workers.
The government continues to demand that children and educators make do with less. I have heard from many parents who are concerned about the cuts being made to staff at their schools. Schools are being forced to cut vice principals and education assistants who are critical to helping children catch up after the pandemic. I presented a petition from our local schools in the legislature this week. Watch here.
The government has finally responded to the message that they need to invest in childcare and are set to boost wages for early childhood educators (ECEs). Through a Freedom of Information request, the Canadian Press obtained Ministry of Education summaries on consultation sessions that showed the government was overwhelmingly told to pay ECEs more.
Childcare centres have relied on parent fees to fund their operations, including staff wages, but under the $10-a-day program they cannot raise fees, and have been asking the province to provide funding for ECEs to attract and retain them. Unless the 86,000 new spaces promised by the province are accompanied by improved workforce compensation, childcare operators will struggle to implement the new system.
We have been calling on this government to repeal harmful legislation like Bill 124 and Bill 28, lay out practical and proven solutions like investing in childcare, providing better working conditions for ECEs, and more.
Issues in Your Condo?
There are over 1.4 million condo residents in Ontario who deserve to live in safe and well-maintained homes. If an issue should arise, residents should be heard in a safe, fair and affordable manner.
Since the 2020 Auditor General’s report on the condo sector was published, my colleagues and I have held several consultations with condo dwellers. We have heard common complaints around condo board transparency and poor property management.
On May 18, MPPs Jessica Bell, Doly Begum, Joel Harden, Tom Rakocevic, Peter Tabuns and I sent a letter to the Minister of Public and Business Service Delivery to express the feedback we’ve received from condo residents. Some of the changes we are advocating for include:
- Expanding the jurisdiction of the Condominium Authority Tribunal
- Pushing for the proclamation of all unproclaimed provisions of the Protecting Condominium Owners Act, 2015
- Strengthening the two regulatory agencies responsible for overseeing condo boards and property managers
If you are having an issue in your condo, you can email your concerns to the office of the Premier, the Minister of Public and Business Service ([email protected]), and copy my office at [email protected].
Open Call for Visual Artists
The Liberty Village BIA is seeking expressions of interest from experienced visual artists or muralists to submit their bio/portfolio for a mural that will appear on the south-facing brick wall of the Liberty Market Building located at 171 East Liberty St. This is in grant partnership with the City of Toronto, Liberty Village BIA and the Liberty Market Building. Complete details here.
Please submit portfolios to [email protected] by Friday, June 23, 2023 at 5:00 pm.
MPP Scrolls for Special Occasions
Turning 30, 40, 80, 90 or 100? Celebrate a significant birthday with a certificate from my office.
Is there a new addition to your family? Send the name of your baby, the parents’ names and other relevant information and we’ll send a “Welcome to the World” certificate to celebrate this special event.
Chris in the House
Below are some of my recent statements at Queen’s Park:
- MPP Bhutila Karpoche and I ask the government to work with Ontarians on the redevelopment of Ontario Place. Watch here.
- Calling for more transparency on the redevelopment. Watch here.
- Questioning the Therme timeline. Watch here.
- Petition from our local schools regarding staff cuts. Watch here.
Environment and Bill 69
- Climate Critic MPP Peter Tabuns and I debating Bill 69, Reducing Inefficiencies Act and how development is taking priority over the environment. Watch here.
- Impacts on Ontario Place and the environment. Watch here.
Health Care Privatization
- The government’s funding of private, for-profit clinics will only worsen the health care crisis. Watch here.
- Culture Critic MPP Jill Andrew and I address the cuts to arts funding in Ontario. Watch here.
International Women’s Day
- Actions the government can take for pay equity, including repealing Bill 124. Watch here.
Bill 39: Red Tape Reduction and Democracy
- Is it not possible to build housing while still respecting the outcomes of our recent municipal elections? Watch my question here.
Debate on Bill 26: Misogyny in Post-Secondary Institutions
- Statistics show that 1 in 5 women have experienced sexual assault on campuses. It’s a difficult discussion we need to have to raise awareness so we can change the culture. Watch my statement here.
The Impact of Interest Hikes on Student Loans
- Ontario students have the highest debt rate and the lowest per-student funding in the country. We need to eliminate interest on student debt. Watch my question here.
Double ODSP Rates & Improve the Homelessness Crisis
- CTV recently reported that at least two Ontarians with disabilities are choosing to die through Medical Assistance in Dying (MAiD) because they could not pay for housing that would reduce their suffering from their disability. Current monthly ODSP payments are 47.5 per cent short of the municipal poverty line in Toronto and 30 per cent below the province's poverty line. It is not possible to survive on these amounts in Ontario and many on ODSP are ending up homeless. I asked the Ford government to double ODSP rates. Watch my statement here.
- Rents in Toronto rose 14.5% in 2021. Those in non-rent-controlled buildings are facing rent increases of $500/month. To say that housing under the Ford government is unaffordable is a huge understatement. Watch my statement here.
- In January, my daughter gave birth to a beautiful baby boy! Becoming a grandparent has further put into perspective how urgently we need to act on the climate crisis so future generations can have a sustainable world to live in. Watch my statement here.
- We need to do everything we can to support the people of Ukraine in these incredibly difficult times. Watch my statement here.