May 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

  • FAO Letter about OEB
  • “New” Cellphone and Vaping Policy
  • “Not a Major Concern”, Ministry says about Doctor Shortage
  • Auto Theft Law
  • Bradford Bypass
  • Ontario Place MZO

Local Issues

  • Housing & Homeless Report Update
  • Public Health Labs
  • Howe Island Ferry Update
  • Bath Road Service Ontario Location

In Our Community

  • ICH Visit with Leader Bonnie Crombie
  • In the Classroom
  • Defeat Depression Wellness Walk
  • Celebrating Dawn House
  • Science Rendezvous 2024
  • Meeting with KAREA
  • Visit to KHSC
  • Camp Molly Graduation
  • Millwrights Local 1410 Training Centre
  • Visiting St. Marguerite Bourgeoys Catholic School
  • Canadian Colours Event 

Warm regards,

Across Ontario

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

FAO Letter about OEB Decision

This month, my colleague MPP Mary Margaret McMahon and I sent a letter to Jeffrey Novak, Ontario’s Financial Accountability Officer, asking him to investigate the government’s decision to overturn an Ontario Energy Board (OEB) decision. Under the current system, which the OEB wants to change but the Ontario government wants to preserve (through Bill 165), developers don’t pay for new natural gas infrastructure. The cost goes on everybody’s gas bills and gets paid off over 40 years. Because of the necessity to fight climate change, more and more people won’t be using new natural gas infrastructure over time. Under the current system, every gas customer must pay off that new infrastructure, even if it is not used.

The OEB, mandated to protect energy consumers, ruled, in December 2023, that gas infrastructure should be paid for upfront, just like electricity. 

Read the Full Letter Here

“Not a Major Concern”

Recently, the Ministry of Health said that the recruitment and retention of doctors in Ontario is “not a major concern.” The statement was submitted to the arbitrator as the province negotiates with the Ontario Medical Association (OMA), which represents Ontario’s doctors, to determine how much doctors will be compensated over the next four years. In response to the statement, the OMA highlighted the extent of the crisis by pointing out that over two million Ontarians do not have access to a family doctor. One thing that’s going on is that, given poor working conditions, many family doctors are voting with their feet and not practicing full-time as family doctors. Read more here

“New” Cellphone and Vaping Policy

This month, Ontario announced that they will be cracking down on cell phones and vaping in schools. For students up to Grade 6, cell phones will have to be turned off and put away. For Grades 7 to 12, the rules are loosened, with students having access to their phones between classes and at lunch. Education Minister Stephen Lecce said enforcement policies would be up to the teachers and schools.The Ontario Liberal Party supports stricter rules for cellphones and vaping at school. But to enforce these policies, our schools and boards need support and funding. 

Bradford Bypass

Earlier this month, Leader Bonnie Crombie voiced “support building the Bradford Bypass, working with the community to reduce traffic congestion, increasing investments in regional transit, and ensuring you get home faster.” Unlike the Premier, “we believe in partnering with local communities to ensure all the right measures are in place to protect our environment.” With contracts now being signed, workers and businesses needed to know whether a future government would be honouring or breaking contracts. I remain opposed to Highway 413.  

Auto Theft Law

Earlier this month, the Ontario government announced new auto theft prevention legislation. Legislation tabled on the 16th would suspend the driver’s licenses of car thieves. Depending on the severity of the theft and the number of offences, the suspension can range from a decade to a lifetime. Since the criminal code is federal jurisdiction, some experts say this may be unconstitutional. It’s also not clear whether license suspensions would deter professional and organized thieves responsible for the recent surge in thefts and insurance rates. 

Ontario Place MZO

In a news release Friday evening before the Victoria Day long weekend, the Infrastructure Minister revealed that she issued an enhanced minister’s zoning order (MZO) to move ahead with its plans for Ontario Place. The MZO will “exempt certain parts of the Ontario Place site from the municipal site plan process” according to the Minister’s press secretary. Advocates against the project argue that the use of the MZO is questionable and sets a “terrible” precedent.  

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

Housing and Homeless Update

A constituent, who works with the homeless, asked me to inquire about updating the Financial Accountability Office’s 2021 Housing and Homelessness report. The FAO, which works for MPPs, agreed to my request. A lot has happened since 2021, and I look forward to meeting with the FAO and suggesting issues to examine in an update. I will update the community again following my meeting.

Public Health Labs

During Question Period, I asked whether the government would commit to keeping open the Public Health Ontario labs in Kingston, Peterborough, Orillia, Hamilton, Sault Ste. Marie, and Timmins. These labs test well water, were crucial during COVID-19 and will be on the front lines in any future health crises. The Medical Officer of Health for Kingston, Frontenac, Lennox and Addington Public Health said publicly that “the closure of such a well-functioning facility poses a threat to the effective management of public health issues and may compromise our ability to respond promptly to emerging health concerns.”

I’ve also tabled a written question asking specifically if the government would commit to keeping the Kingston lab location open.  

Watch the Full Exchange

Watch the Government Avoid Answering For a Second Time

Howe Island Ferry Update

On May 10,  I met with Mayor Judy Greenwood-Speers about ferries. We spoke about her ideas for a bridge to Howe Island and what support that may or may not have. Mayor Greenwood Speers also brought up concerns about mobility disabled passengers riding the Wolfe Island IV and consequences of the delayed changeover to the new service. I acknowledge the frustrations of Howe Island residents with the continuing disruptions to ferry service. During a trip to Southwestern Ontario, I talked to Timberland Equipment, located in Woodstock. Timberland is the custom heavy industrial equipment manufacturer who is refurbishing the drive units for the ferry. I appreciated the opportunity to learn about different engineering solutions being worked on and put my technology background to use. 

Bath Road Service Ontario Location

This month, it became known that more small business-run Service Ontario locations could be closing their doors in place of kiosks in large, box box-retailers, like Staples, Walmart and Canadian Tire. Our own small-business Service Ontario on Bath Road (above) has a contract that goes only until the middle of next year. After that, it may lose out to a big-box retailer under the government’s new model for Service Ontario locations. 

In Our Community

ICH Visit with Leader Bonnie Crombie

Earlier this month, I welcomed Ontario Liberal Party Leader Bonnie Crombie to Kingston. During her time in the riding, Bonnie was able to join myself and staff on a tour of Kingston’s Integrated Care Hub (ICH). While visiting, we were able to talk at length about the mental health and addictions crisis, the province downloading responsibilities onto municipalities, longer-term funding to provide stability at the ICH, and the need for supportive and deeply affordable housing to help people move on from their addictions.

I am grateful to the staff at the ICH and from Addiction & Mental Health Services KFL&A for taking time out of their busy day to talk with us

In the Classroom

Photos were taken with proper consent.

I spoke with a lot of engaged, inquisitive students as a part of Take Your MPP to School Week (May 20th-24th)! It was a pleasure to be asked such in-depth, thoughtful questions. Thank you, Winston Churchill School, Amherstview Public School, Polson Park, and Sydenham PS. I always look forward to visiting classrooms and helping your teachers bring civics to life! 

Defeat Depression Wellness Walk

Resolve Counselling Services is a not-for-profit in Kingston that provides a range of counselling, for children and youth, family, to intimate partner violence. Thank for inviting me to your Walk for Wellness this month, which had a great turnout. I look forward to keeping in touch and learning from you.  

Celebrating Dawn House

I was able to tour Dawn House this month. With an Ontario Trillium Fund grant, they’ve been able to strengthen governance, volunteer capacity, and the well-being of staff – congratulations on all you’ve accomplished! 

Science Rendezvous

This month, I attended the annual Kingston Science Rendezvous hosted by Queen’s University. It was great to see such impressive levels of engagement from the community and the commitment of STEM sector workers to be accessible. I look forward to next year’s festivities! 

Meeting with Kingston Real Estate Association 

I met with representatives of the Kingston and Area Real Estate Association. They are worried about not only the recent slowdown in housing starts, but also how we are lagging in building non-student and non-large single detached housing. They said that the time taken to reach decisions at the Landlord and Tenant Board must be reduced and maintained at four weeks. The current LTB backlog is scaring off those who would build new purpose-built rentals or encouraging landlords to put their properties on the short-term rental market. Delays at the LTB hurt landlords and tenants alike. At the Legislature my recent Private Member’s Bill, Bill 179, pushed the government to make sure the LTB is adequately staffed with well-trained adjudicators. 

The discussion with KAREA covered a number of other policy ideas. I am very pleased to have an activist local association with ideas to tackle our housing affordability crisis. 

Visiting KHSC

This month, I had the opportunity to visit the Kingston Health Sciences Centre and get an update from the administration. The tour included a look at their energy systems — KHSC is one of the top 5 hospitals in Canada for energy efficiency. They’ve also have stopped using desflurane (an anesthetic gas) and have systems in operating rooms to recapture and reuse gases. Due to rapid population growth in Kingston and the age of the hospital, KHSC is struggling to keep on top of equipment repairs and maintenance, even with the energy savings. We talked about plans for the future of the hospital and what provincial funding needs there will be in the years to come. 

Camp Molly Graduation

I was honoured to address Camp Molly’s 2024 graduating class. The camp fosters a supportive environment for self-identifying females, two spirit and non-binary youth to show them through four days of intense, hands-on fire and rescue activities how to imagine themselves having a career in Fire and Rescue Services. Like their T-shirts said, “You were challenged. You have been empowered. You changed the way you see yourself.” 

Millwrights 1410

This month, I was able to stop in to see the Millwrights Local 1410 training centre. The Millwrights’ top concerns are affordable childcare, especially for extended hours, and the use of temporary foreign workers in the new EV and battery plants. 

St. Marguerite Bourgeoys Catholic School

Isaac and his classmates from St. Marguerite Bourgeoys Catholic School wrote to me about his experience at the local skating arena where he encountered resistance to being able to use an assistive device on the ice. They learned that they could contact a government representative for help when something can be improved. In this case, it was how to interpret rules which applied to devices to help mobility-impaired people skate with their friends.  

Canadian Colours Event

In this province, we are in what some have called a polycrisis. We must be able to work together to make our way through this challenging time.

Ce dont nous avons besoin, c’est de pouvoir travailler ensemble face aux défis importants de notre époque.

That for me is the significance of our gathering together to celebrate diversity. Thanks to Trillium District Councillor Jimmy Hassan, for hosting a great Canadian Colours event.