Welcome to my community newsletter. Winter and the holiday season are here. Legislators are back in their ridings until February 2024 for the holiday break.
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
- The House is Out
- Omnibus Justice Legislation
- Concerning Numbers from the Ontario Health Coalition
- No Impact Assessment of Ontario Place
- Launch of 988
- More Alcohol in More Stores
- Reversing Course on Renewable Energy
- Flip Flopping on Peel Region
- Holodomor Education
- Local Issues
- Get Your Flu Shot
- ONA and KHSC
- In Our Community
- KCHC and Lionhearts
- Community Foundations Kingston & Area
- Tett Centre OTF
- Rideau Heights Salvation Army Dinner
- New Youth Council
- Happy Holidays and Office Hours
Here are some of the big stories from Ontario over the last month.
The House is Out
On Wednesday, December 6, the Ontario Legislature adjourned for the holiday break. MPPs will work from their ridings until Tuesday, February 20, 2024, except that Committees will continue to meet. The Government of Ontario spent much of the fall session undoing the work it did in the 2023 spring and 2022 fall session. I am concerned about the serious problems which still need to be tackled. From healthcare, to housing, to cost-of-living, to a slowing economy, and other areas, Ontarians need their government to take more action. My New Year’s wish is that the current Ontario Government be more thoughtfully proactive.
Omnibus Justice Legislation
On November 30, the Government introduced the Enhancing Access to Justice Act. This is an omnibus bill with 19 parts. It includes things like expanding the list of possible names given to the minister for judicial appointments (so it’s more likely there is one the minister will like, hence speeding up appointments), making permanent the ability to virtually witness wills and powers of attorney, guaranteeing the ability to file court documents in French, and consolidating five tribunals, including the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal, into the Ontario Land Tribunal, if passed.
The bill does not address the core problem in our court system, which is the staffing crisis, leading to long delays and even dismissals of cases. It also does not address cuts to Legal Aid.
Another thing of note is that the Ontario Government is ending automatic coroner’s reports if someone dies on a construction site. The rationale behind this is to help clear the backlog at the provincial coroner’s office. However, it is now the onus of family members or construction companies to request a coroner’s report. This potentially sacrifices workplace safety so that casework gets cleared faster.
For a good breakdown of this legislation, since it’s so wide-ranging, I encourage you to listen to this interview from CBC Metro Morning. Currently, the bill has passed second reading and been referred to committee.
Concerning Numbers from the Ontario Health Coalition
The Ontario Health Coalition (OHC) recently released a report about hospital closures in the province. The OHC reported that between January 1, 2023, and November 24, 2023, there were almost 1,200 unit closures in hospitals. Broken down, the OHC reported that there were 867 temporary emergency department closures and one permanent (Minden), 316 closures of urgent care centres, two outpatient closures, one ICU closure and one labour and delivery unit closure.
These numbers show a healthcare system in need of significant support. When asked about the closures, the Minister of Health noted they were disruptive but failed to take responsibility for the state of the system. The OHC numbers are troubling, and I will continue to work on holding the government to account so that Ontarians can get the care they deserve when and where they need it.
No Impact Assessment of Ontario Place
On December 4, the federal government announced that they would not be undertaking an impact study on the redevelopment of Ontario Place. The Ontario Government now has one less hurdle to clear in redeveloping Ontario Place. The decision was made by the federal Environment Minister and based on the conclusion of the Impact Assessment Agency of Canada that any detrimental effects to wildlife and habitats could be mitigated and that the planned parking garage, “is not likely to cause adverse effects” to the environment. In the meantime, the Ontario government reached an agreement with Olivia Chow, the mayor of Toronto, to take over Ontario Place in return for provincial funding for Toronto’s highways, affordable housing, shelters and transportation. This was formalized by passing Bill 154, the New Deal for Toronto Act. Clearing of land has now begun on the Ontario Place site.
Launch of 988
At the beginning of the month, 9-8-8 launched across Canada. Already in place for one year in the United States, 9-8-8 is a suicide prevention hotline that anyone can call or text 24/7. 9-8-8 connects individuals with a nationwide support network of organizations or trained responders who specialize in mental health. 9-8-8 assess risk and encourages the development of safety plans for those who call. Anyone can call 9-8-8 but services geared towards children like Kids Help Phone are still available and worthwhile as those services have experts that are trained to deal with youth mental health. To read more about this life-saving service, click here.
More Alcohol in More Stores
On Thursday, December 14, the province announced that it would not be renewing the agreement between the government and the Beer Store when it expires at the end of 2025.
As a result, in 2026, Ontarians can expect to see beer from major breweries and from select craft breweries as well as wine and mixed drinks (ciders, for example) in convenience and grocery stores or gas stations. The Beer Store is supposed to shift operations primarily to distribution until at least the early 2030s.
This change, however, does not come without challenges. For example, the Ontario Government must ensure that sufficient regulations and regular inspections are in place so that anyone under the age of 19 cannot purchase alcohol. More convenience for consumers over the age of 19 may be welcome by some, but easier access to those under 19 is not. In addition, some neighbourhoods may have an interest in restricting late night sales of alcohol or sales of alcohol in glass containers.
Reversing Course on Renewable Energy
The Government of Ontario recently announced that they would be procuring 2,000 MW of new renewable energy (mostly comprised of wind, solar, hydro, and bioenergy). That’s adding about one-tenth of current capacity. This is welcome news, but it is worth noting the time the province has wasted. When this government came to power in 2018, the Ontario Government cancelled 750+ renewable energy contracts at a cost to taxpayers of $230 million. Much of the infrastructure that the Government announced was in place before the cancellation of these contracts – 5 years ago. Rather than getting it done, the Ontario Government is developing a theme of getting things redone and making taxpayers pay twice for the same thing (EV chargers are another example).
Flip Flopping on Peel Region
Is Peel Region breaking up into Mississauga, Brampton and Caledon? Apparently not. On December 13, 2023, the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing announced that they would be repealing their own legislation for breaking up Peel Region. The reason given was that the dissolution could lead to substantial increases in property taxes for residents of Brampton and Caledon. That’s not surprising as Brampton and Caledon property taxes are much lower than Mississauga even though, as components of the Peel region, they share the cost of many services.
This follows a seemingly ever-growing list of reversals by the Ontario Government. Since September, the Ontario Government has reversed course on its Greenbelt plans, urban boundary changes, the use of MZOs, and now the dissolution of Peel Region.
Holodomor Now a Part of Canadian History Education Curriculum
Grade 10 students will also see a curriculum change in their Canadian History course. As of September 2025, the course will include mandatory education on the Holodomor famine in Ukraine and its impact on Canada, with the goal being to remember the role political extremism has played in history.
ONA and Kingston Health Sciences Centre
The Ontario Nurses Association (ONA) is calling on the Kingston Health Sciences Centre to address staffing shortages. According to the provincial president of ONA, staff at KHSC have filed over 400 patient workload complaints since 2018. The complaints have been a result of increased workloads and patient to nurse ratios. An independent committee completed their investigation of the complaints in November, and the recommendations are expected to be released in January. The Chief Nurse Executive for KHSC says that staffing shortages are common across Ontario right now, and that they have made progress regarding the registered nurse vacancy rate through hiring incentives. Read more here.
Get Your Flu, COVID, and RSV (if eligible) Vaccinations
I encourage you to get your flu and COVID vaccinations if you haven’t yet. You can get these vaccinations at participating primary-care providers and pharmacists. A list of pharmacy vaccine locations can be found at Ontario Vaccine Locations. The RSV vaccine is currently only covered by OHIP for those who are 60 years of age or older and residing in long term care homes or select retirement homes. If you do not meet these eligibility requirements, the vaccine costs approximately $230. A recommendation has not been put out by the Nation Advisory Council on Immunizations (NACI) which is likely what the Government of Ontario is waiting to hear from regarding further funding decisions, including OHIP coverage.
As of mid-December KFL&A Public Health (Kingston area) COVID positivity rate is 14% (17 hospitalizations), 6.1% for RSV (6 hospitalizations), 3.1% for Influenza. KFLAPH is reporting COVID and unknown respiratory outbreaks at Extendicare LTC and a COVID outbreak at Trillium Retirement Home.
Kingston is in a period of high risk for respiratory illness. Please help by doing your part.
In Our Community
KCHC and Lionhearts OTF
I recently congratulated Kingston Community Health Centre on receiving a Resilient Communities Fund grant from the Ontario Trillium Foundation to support their Fresh Food Market Pop-Ups. The initiative makes fresh produce (purchased in bulk with the help of Tony Deodato and sons) and healthy prepared foods (with the help of Lionhearts) accessible and affordable at several locations in the greater Kingston area. Affordability and the exhaustion of food banks are top of my mind right now. I’m grateful to organizations which are making a difference. I asked about the long-term financing for this project and was told that they are aiming to become self-sustaining.
Community Foundations Kingston and Area
On the December 14, I met with Community Foundations Kingston & Area (CFKA) President Stacy Kelly to discuss potential legislation concerning unclaimed property in Ontario. Currently, there is no legislation for unclaimed property, so it just sits unused forever. The amount of unclaimed property is estimated to be at $14.4 million per year in Ontario. British Columbia has unclaimed properties legislation and, based on BC’s model, CFKA predicts that $4.4m could be returned, and then about $10 million could go to community needs across Ontario, managed by Community Foundations branches. CFKA would be in line to get roughly 1.27% of that $10 million. The Bank of Canada also runs an unclaimed property program.
Tett Centre OTF
In early December, the Tett Centre for Creativity and Learning also received a Resilient Communities Fund grant. The grant will support post-Covid recovery which includes developing alternative sources of revenue, adapting program delivery, and procuring new technology.
The Tett Centre has served as a beacon of inspiration and creativity, fostering a vibrant arts community in Kingston and beyond. I look forward to seeing how this Ontario Trillium Fund grant will support the Centre in continuing to enrich our community.
Rideau Heights Salvation Army Dinner
Recently, I attended the Rideau Heights Salvation Army Christmas Dinner. I want to extend my thanks to the many volunteers and their organizational skills who served multiple sittings of guests – you all contributed to a very impressive event at a stressful time of year for many.
New Youth Council
My new Youth Council met for the first time on Friday, December 8th. It’s an energetic and engaged group. I am looking forward to them bringing the perspective of high school students to my office. I will be helping them to influence and participate in what I do at Queen’s Park.
Happy Holidays and Office Hours
I want to extend my warmest wishes for a joyful and peaceful holiday season from my family to yours. May the coming year be filled with hope, prosperity, and opportunities for growth. Ma famille et moi vous souhaitons, a vous ainsi qu’à vos proches, une joyeuse période des Fêtes en toutes quiétude. Que l’année à venir soit remplie d’espoir, de prospérité et de possibilités de croissance.
For the holiday season, the constituency office will be closed from December 25, 2023 – January 2, 2024. Between the period of December 27-29, 2023, the office will remain closed for walk-ins and in-person meetings but, for urgent matters, our email inbox [email protected] and phone messages will be monitored.
Have a great holiday season and see you next year!