April 2024 Community Update

  • Community Update

Welcome to my community newsletter. Spring is officially here and legislators are working hard in Queen’s Park for the spring session. You can catch some of the action here.  

Need help? See my website to plan your visit: Contact-MPP Ted Hsu.

Here’s what you can find in this month’s issue:

 Across Ontario

  • Ontario Government Still Not Serious about Fixing Ontario’s Tribunals
  • New Housing Bill
  • Keep Well Water Testing Free and Local! 
  • Dorms as Housing?
  • Intimate Partner Violence Legislation
  • Ontario Prospectors Association Showcase
  • Housing Affordability

Local Issues

  • Primary Care
  • Health Homes Expansion
  • Ferry Updates
  • Ontario Federation of Agriculture and RED Program
  • Kingston Gets Its Housing Money

In Our Community

  • Boys and Girls Club 
  • Checking in with KEDCO
  • Spring Pitch-In
  • l’École Secondaire Publique Mille-Îles
  • Providence Village
  • Youth Council Visits Queen’s Park
  • Local Student in Legislative Page Program

Warm regards,

Across Ontario

Here are some of the big stories from Ontario over the last month.

Ontario Government Still Not Serious about Fixing Ontario’s Tribunals

This month, my Private Member’s bill, the Fewer Backlogs and Less Partisan Tribunals Act, underwent second reading debate. Unfortunately, the Ontario government chose not to pass it. 

Bill 179 would have headed off future delays in tribunals, e.g. Landlord and Tenant Board, Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario, Social Benefits Tribunal and License Appeal Tribunal (automobile accident insurance disputes). 

The legislation also would have created an independent Council to monitor the appointment, operational and severance policies of Ontario’s tribunals. The Council would have had proactive approval, reporting and investigative powers and its chair would be an Officer of the Legislative Assembly. If this government cared about the poor state of Ontario’s tribunals over the past few years, and about how the delays have hurt Ontarians, they would adopt the measures in Bill 179. 

New Housing Bill 

In the wake of new housing legislation introduced earlier this month, media and opposition MPPs say the bill does not do enough. Some policies have been applauded:  implementing “use it or lose it” powers whereby municipalities can revoke a zoning permit if a developer has been sitting on an approved project, prohibiting a minimum number of parking spaces for housing around major transit stations; and allowing the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing to approve standardized home designs and exempt them from local planning (although this latter policy would largely only apply in Toronto, where the bulk of public transit is located).

Although the bill has good measures, it does nothing bold, such as allowing fourplexes to be as-of-right across Ontario. There’s no funding for below-market or rent-geared-to-income housing. TVO journalist John Michael McGrath wrote that “In the face of a crushing housing crisis, the Tories are fiddling with the dials of housing policy.” 

Keep Well Water Testing Free and Local!

Several Public Health Ontario labs, conducting private residential well water testing, may be closed. In 2017, Public Health Ontario proposed closing six of eleven labs, including Hamilton, Kingston, Orillia, Peterborough, Sault Ste. Marie, and Timmins. The proposal also recommended the gradual phasing out of free-well water testing. This discussion became relevant again after a 2023 Auditor General report echoed these recommendations.  

During Question Period, the Minister of Health did not initially guarantee that well water testing would remain free, nor that those labs would remain open. Subsequently, I asked for unanimous consent in the Legislature to tell the government to keep water testing free in Ontario. Government MPPs refused.

Some progress was made though. Through all the questioning from opposition MPPs, the minister’s response evolved from, “The ministry has not made any decisions about changes to the provincial well water testing program” (on April 16th) to “there are no changes anticipated in well water testing” and “We will continue to test the well water in the province of Ontario.” 

While the Conservative government’s language around continuing free well-water testing has evolved, it has never answered the question about laboratory closures. The closures could jeopardize the health of rural Ontarians. Discontinuing free water testing could deter residents from getting their well water tested, making it harder to detect outbreaks.  

Why is all of this important? It’s a repeat of the May 2000 Walkerton water crisis. A public inquiry on Walkerton drew a direct connection between the thousands of illnesses caused by contaminated water and the Harris government’s closure of regional laboratories and privatization of water testing.

Watch the Government say NO to keeping well water testing free and local here.

Dorms as Housing?

The government is considering counting student residences and retirement homes to meet its goal of building 1.5 million homes by 2030. They have already started counting long-term care beds as housing units. The new inclusions to how the Ontario government is counting housing comes after figures showed the province is falling short of its annual targets. According to Global News, in 2023, the provincial government had 85,770 housing starts – only 78% of their goal of 110,000 starts.  To reach their goal of 1.5 million by 2030, the Ontario government needs at least 180,000 annual housing starts.  

Intimate Partner Violence Legislation

Earlier this month, all political parties voted in support of the second reading of an opposition bill declaring intimate partner violence (IPV) an epidemic in Ontario. Bill 173, the Intimate Partner Violence Epidemic Act, was tabled on March 7th and was sent to the Standing Committee on Justice Policy after the unanimous vote. Opposition MPPs are accusing the government of stalling by not fast-tracking the bill – commonly, private members’ bills that get sent to committee stay there for extended periods.

Declaring IPV as an epidemic, rather than a generic emergency will allow the application of public health measures to help address the crisis. To date, over 90 municipalities in Ontario have declared IPV an epidemic.

Ontario Prospectors Association Showcase

MPP Ted Hsu and the Minister of Mines at the Ontario Prospectors Association Showcase

On April 23rd and 24th, I attended and addressed the Ontario Prospectors Association Showcase in Thunder Bay. At this showcase, I was able to talk to and learn from Ontario Geological Survey staff, prospectors, advisors to First Nations communities, junior mining companies, and exploration service companies. As the caucus Mining critic (and the only opposition critic in attendance), I was able to provide a counterpoint to Mining Minister, who was also in attendance. I will make sure that miners and mining stakeholders know that we are listening as much as the government.  

Housing Affordability

Following the 2024 budget, I asked a question in the legislature about housing affordability. This government does not care about affordable housing — the 2024 budget has made this clear. Students, renters, and families need more than a “stay tuned” to get by and the recent legislation, noted in the section above, does little to address the significant barriers to affordable housing for all demographics. 

Watch My Question Here

If you want more frequent updates about provincial news, subscribe to my Weekly Wrap where I cover five of the top news stories of the week. 

Local Issues

Primary Care Motion

At the request of Kingston City Council, I’ve tabled a written motion, motion 99, calling on the Ontario government to address the substantial lack of primary care in Kingston and the Islands by designating the City of Kingston as an area of high need. Kingston has had a relatively worse shortage for a long time because many family doctors are doing some research or teaching or have patients from outside the Kingston area, but they are counted by the Ministry as working full-time in family medicine. A high-needs designation, along with better working conditions and supports for family doctors, nurse practitioners and team-based primary care will provide relief to the 20,000 to 30,000 people who don’t have ready access to primary care. 

Health Homes Expansion

The Frontenac, Lennox, and Addington Ontario Health Team recently announced that three Health Homes are expanding and taking on patients in their catchment areas: East End Health Home, CDK Health Home, and Greater Napanee Health Home. People are eligible if they do not currently have a primary care provider, are registered with Health Care Connect, and live within the geographical boundaries of each Health Home. If you haven’t already done so, make sure to register on Health Care Connect!  

Ferry Updates

This month, officials from MTO provided me with a technical briefing, at my request, about both the Howe Island and Wolfe Island ferries. I found out that a replacement winch for the Howe Island Ferry was being worked on at Timberland Equipment in Woodstock. The next step is for that winch to be fixed and installed. The MTO is pushing Timberland to prioritize this work and that MTO is paying for this work to be completed. The refurbished drive unit will be installed on May 7, 2024.   While this is welcome news, MTO also needs to speed up the process of considering a permanent solution for Howe Island, including a new ferry. That has been under discussion for at least a year.

As for the Wolfe islander IV, the new boat ramp, to replace the damaged one, is supposed to be ready by the end of April.  MTO will purchase an extra ramp to be stored and used in case of future damage. 

Ontario Federation of Agriculture and RED Program

It was great to sit down with the Ontario Federation of Agriculture this month, and to speak at their Queen’s Park reception, to discuss the issues rural areas and farms face in Kingston and the Islands and across Ontario. Our conversation touched on innovation, the need for value-added opportunities like food processing, the importance of maintaining rural infrastructure, and the difficulty for local farmers unable to access the RED program. Ontario and Kingston are lucky to have such an agri-food industry with such potential. 

Kingston Gets Its Housing Money

Kingston finally received money from Ontario’s Building Faster Fund for surpassing its provincial housing targets. Housing has been a focus for the City of Kingston for years. In 2019, the city launched a Housing Task Force, which I was honoured to co-chair and whose 2020 report I co-wrote. We’re fortunate the Mayor, Councillors, and staff were willing to focus on housing that early on. I’m glad Kingston is finally getting recognition for leading the province on housing.

In Our Community

Boys and Girls Club

This month, I was able to tour the newly expanded Boy and Girls Club facility. The Boys and Girls Club is essential to Kingston and the surrounding area. Not only does it provide a place for youth to go if Mom or Dad can’t pick them up after school right away, but the BGC’s programming means that youth can explore their interests and develop a sense of community at a young age. We know both are strong indicators for setting up youth for success. Congratulations on your new expansion! 

Checking in with KEDCO

This month, I sat down with KEDCO. We spoke about manufacturing looking to locate in the Kingston area, power needs, and provincial economic development funding. I always look forward to my meetings with KEDCO and discussing ways to help promote Kingston and the region’s economic growth. 

Spring Pitch-In

I’d like to say thanks to everyone who joined MP Mark Gerretsen and I for this year’s Spring Pitch-In, with special thanks to the Union for National Defence Employees Local 681. We had such a great turnout and were able to clean up a small part of our community. Thanks to Sustainable Kingston for once again putting on this great initiative!  

l’École Secondaire Publique Mille-Îles

Je suis allé à l’École Secondaire Publique Mille-Îles pour assister à la célébration de son 30me anniversaire. J’ai partagé les mots suivants avec la communauté: Je soutiendrai avec enthousiasme l’éducation en français. Pour la préservation de la culture franco-ontarienne, et la langue française, il faut que la langue soit utilisée dans les situations où sa capacité est poussée aux limites. Et voilà, pour moi, pourquoi l’école, centre d’enseignement, de formation, de croissance personnelle, pourquoi l’école francophone est indispensable. Félicitations à l’occasion du 30me anniversaire de l’École Secondaire Publique Mille-Îles!  

Providence Village

I was pleased to visit Providence Village recently. Construction is underway to build the new Providence Manor and Hospice Kingston Residence. We discussed enabling affordable housing and other long-term community uses of that land as part of the Sisters of Providence legacy. 

Youth Council Visit to Queen’s Park

This month, my Youth Council came to visit Queen’s Park! They had a chance to watch Question Period, the press scrums, and tour the legislature. We had good conversations about democratic mechanisms and standards. My Youth Council has put together petitions, written questions and motions — I’m grateful to have their insights. 

Local Student in Legislative Page Program

The youngest volunteer in my constituency office was chosen to serve in the Ontario Legislature Page Program for the last few weeks. Duncan is a bright, dedicated youth who actively seeks opportunities to better understand the Ontario political landscape. I am proud of him for being accepted to the program. Well done Duncan! Applications are open right now for the fall 2024 Page Program. You must be in grade 8 and information is available here.