Welcome to my community newsletter. Fall is in the air and legislators are back at work at Queen’s Park.
Need help? See my website to plan your visit: Contact-MPP Ted Hsu .
Here’s what you can find in this month’s issue:
- Ontario Place Value-For-Money Audit
- Fall Economic Statement
- “Jurisdictional Creep”
- More Primary Care Issues for Rural Ontarians
- Canada Disability Benefit
- Pharmacists Granted More Prescribing Powers
- New Legislation to Address Labour Shortage
- Highway 413
- New Lieutenant Governor
- Sleeping Cabins
- Belle Park Encampment
- Wolfe Islander IV
In Our Community
- Order of Ontario Appointee
- Habitat for Humanity Tiny Homes
- Little Forest Walk
- Cantabile Choirs OTF
- Student Climate Initiative
- Remembrance Day
Here are some of the big stories from Ontario over the last month.
Ontario Place Value-For-Money Audit
On November 3, the Auditor General of Ontario confirmed that they are conducting a value-for-money audit of Ontario Place. The office of the Auditor General also announced that they were auditing the plan for moving the Ontario Science Centre there. A value-for-money audit enables the Auditor General to investigate whether there has been effective and efficient use of public funds. Current plans for Ontario Place have raised concerns about the relocation of the Ontario Science Centre and the creation of the Therme Spa and underground parking. Underground parking at a “revamped” Ontario Place is projected to cost $650 million and the contract with Therme, details of which are still secret, is 95 years long. I am pleased to see the Auditor General conduct this investigation and while I would like to see something happen with Ontario Place, I firmly believe that the Ontario Government’s plans for Ontario Place are misguided and open to influence from people with special access to government.
Earlier this month, the Premier stated that the Housing Accelerator Fund was nothing but an attempt for the Federal Government to interfere in matters under provincial jurisdiction. The Premier stated that the federal government providing municipalities with funds for housing was “jurisdictional creep” and that it would be better if Ottawa ended the funding to municipalities to get houses built and work with the provinces directly. We’re in a housing crisis. The options before elected officials in this province and country are simple. We can either squabble amongst ourselves about who has what jurisdiction and let the situation continue to worsen, or we can work together and provide real action and solutions. I strongly urge the Premier and the Ontario government to do the latter.
New Labour Legislation
In response to a substantial labour shortage, the Ontario Government is implementing certain measures. These initiatives aim to enable internationally trained immigrants to pursue careers aligned with their academic backgrounds. This involves removing the requirement for Canadian work experience in job postings. Simultaneously, the government is enforcing pioneering policies demanding businesses to disclose the use of AI in their hiring process. Alongside this, legislation is being introduced compelling businesses to specify expected salary ranges in job postings. These efforts are directed at improving retention rates and addressing the gender pay gap.
However, the new legislation does not prohibit employers from requesting salary history and it does not protect employees who compare salaries with each other from retaliation.
Fall Economic Statement
The Ontario Government recently released their Fall Economic Statement. There are some good policies in the Statement, however, like the spring 2023 Budget, there is an absence of investment in the people of Ontario. There is little to no action on affordability measures at a time when many Ontarians are struggling to put food on their tables. My full statement on the Ontario Fall Economic Statement can be viewed here
Canada Disability Benefit
The Canadian Disability Benefit Act (CDB) has passed and discussions surrounding the potential structure have begun. CDB aims enhance the livelihood and address the financial insecurity many disabled people face. The new benefit will supplement existing income from both provincial and federal programs, functioning similarly to the Guaranteed Income Supplement for low-income seniors. It is imperative that the development of this benefit be done with the advocacy of those it directly affects. The engagement tool is fully accessible and available in American Sign Language and langue des signes québécoise. To have your voice heard and participate in its development, visit https://www.canada.ca/en/employment-social-development/programs/disabilities-benefits/consultation-canada-disability-benefit-regulations.html.
Additionally, my office has been receiving questions from residents about whether the CDB will impact their ODSP. I am keeping close tabs on this so that people on ODSP do not receive less if they apply for and receive the CDB. I encourage all those who do receive ODSP to provide feedback using the engagement tool above so that there is less likelihood that ODSP is impacted negatively by the CDB.
Pharmacists Granted More Prescribing Powers
In addressing the healthcare shortage and its impacts, the Ontario government has granted pharmacists prescribing power for 13 common ailments. At the beginning of this year, the provincial government allowed pharmacists to prescribe 6 ailments such as diaper rash, acne, and canker sores. Now, more specific treatments such as parasitic worms, nausea and vomiting during pregnancy, and others will be accessible to Ontarians at nearly 89 percent of pharmacies in Ontario. This expansion is a step in the right direction, allowing our healthcare system to be better accessible to those who need it.
More Primary Care Problems
On November 21st I raised a question in the Ontario Legislature about the closure of Mallorytown’s only walk-in clinic and the government not keeping their promise to fund nurse practitioner clinics. Currently, there are 100+ applications before the Ministry of Health that could help Ontarians get care.
Early in this fall session, I tabled two written questions on the proposed Highway 413. The first asked the government to disclose any of the costs related to (1) Highway 413, including the construction of the highway, (2) the acquisition of Greenbelt land, (3) the acquisition of non-Greenbelt land and (4) any other costs. The second question asked the Government of Ontario to disclose the total amount of Greenbelt land, in hectares, and the total amount of farmland (inside or outside the Greenbelt) in hectares, that the Government (a) intends to acquire, (b) already possesses, for the construction of Highway 413. On both accounts, the Ministry of Transportation failed to answer either of these questions. The Trillium recently reported that Highway 413, originally slated to be four to six-lanes at its widest, is projected to be 10 lanes in 20 years. While we cannot hamper economic growth in this province and the ability to move goods from one place to another, we cannot do so by destroying our precious prime farmland, ecosystems and biodiversity.
New Lieutenant Governor
On November 14th, 2023, The Honourable Edith Dumont was sworn in as the 30th Lieutenant-Governor. Dumont has dedicated her life to community service as an educator and mentor and continues to play a pivotal role in supporting Francophone communities. As Lieutenant-Governor, Madame Dumont plays an important role in performing constitutional functions such as opening the Legislature, formally appointing ministers and granting royal assent to legislation. She has received the honour of being a Member of the Order of Ontario, and the Chevalier de l’Ordre des Palmes académiques. I look forward to witnessing Madame Dumont’s continued success and advocacy as Lieutenant-Governor of Ontario.
Sleeping Cabin Project Voted by Kingston Council to Wind Down
After two years, the transitional housing support offered by Our Livable Solutions alongside the City of Kingston is coming to an end. The council voted to wind down the program at the November 7th, 2023, meeting, believing that housing funds could be better spent in other ways. The motion to place the sleeping cabins at Rodden Park was struck down, with the secondary and more efficient option being the Rideau Marina. However, moving the cabins from the Portsmouth Olympic Harbour to the Rideau Marina was financially infeasible. OLS will be working alongside City staff to help transition out of the cabins and into other supportive housing options. The November 7th, 2023, agenda can be found at https://www.cityofkingston.ca/city-hall/council-meetings.
Belle Park Encampment
The Kingston Community Legal Clinic (KCLC) represented 14 encampment residents challenging the City of Kingston’s bylaw evicting those living in Belle Park. A KCLC lawyer argued that the bylaw violates residents’ constitutional right to life, liberty and security. Currently, Kingston only offers half the shelter spaces necessary for unhoused individuals. The Court agreed with the residents and ruled against the City. The approach to housing must change to effectively tackle the crisis. Everyone should have a place to call home.
Wolfe Island Ferry
This fall, I talked with the new Minister of Transportation about the continuing Wolfe Islander IV delays. The new Minister informed me that he has been fully briefed on the issue. The new ferry has been periodically in operation however, it remains to be seen when it will fully come into service. I will continue to advocate for the Ministry to be more transparent with residents about the delays.
In Our Community
Order of Ontario Appointee
Dr. John P. Smol was recently appointed to the Order of Ontario. A distinguished Queen’s University professor, Dr. Smol is acknowledged as one of the world’s leading authorities on the long-term changes to rivers and lakes. His influence inspires and informs regulators and policymakers well beyond academic circles. He is recognized for having shown how paleolimnology—the study of lake deposits—allows one to track the environmental effects of human activity throughout time and has resulted in heightened protection for inland waters and other areas.
The Order of Ontario was created in 1986 and is the province’s highest civilian honour. It is reserved for Ontarians from all fields of endeavour and backgrounds, whose excellence has left a lasting legacy in the province, Canada and around the world. You can learn more about Dr. Smol and his work here Distinguished Queen’s professor appointed to the Order of Ontario (kingstonist.com)
Habitat for Humanity Tiny Homes
I recently had the opportunity to tour the first four tiny homes built by Habitat for Humanity that are being installed on MacCauley Street. The project is a partnership between the City and Habitat Kingston to build and offer for rent eight affordable housing units on a geared-to-income model to those on the social housing waitlist. Habitat is currently working with local agencies to find suitable individuals for the units and hopes to have all eight homes occupied by March 2024. I was impressed by the thought and quality that went into designing and building the homes which were constructed with help from Ernestown Secondary School students through the Limestone District School Board’s Building Construction Internship Program under the guidance of a local home builder.
Little Forests Walk
In November I met with members of Little Forests Kingston for a walk in the Portsmouth Harbour area. The purpose of the walk was to view an area the group sees as a prime planting location and to discuss the health benefits of little forests such as their ability to cool the air during extreme heat events, store carbon and clean the air, reduce noise, and aid with rainwater management. Trees also add to the beauty of our community and have been shown to lower stress levels. You can learn more about Little Forests Kingston here Little Forests Kingston
I had the privilege of taking part in recognizing the Cantabile Choirs’ Ontario Trillium Fund (OTF) grant as part of the Legacy in Song concert, a long-anticipated farewell to Dr. Mark Sirrett and his 25-year tenure as Founding Artistic Director. It was a lovely concert and a testament to the impact that the OTF grants have on organizations in our community and across the province. If you’re interested in more information about this year’s grantees or how to apply for these and other provincial grants, please contact my office.
Student Climate Initiative
Attention students, educators, and not-for-profit leaders who are passionate about climate change and looking to make a difference! Applications are now open for the Now for Net Zero grant by the Foundation for Environmental Stewardship, a youth-led, youth-serving Canadian non-profit that aims to empower youth to create a more sustainable and prosperous future for all. Successful applicants can receive funding to implement projects that reduce GHG emissions and/or improve net-zero literacy in their communities. To learn more about this exciting opportunity visit Now for Net Zero Funding and please let me know if you apply!
Remembrance Day Ceremonies
My staff and I had the honour of laying a wreath on behalf of the people of Ontario at several Remembrance Day Ceremonies held in Kingston and on Wolfe Island. Let us never forget those who made the ultimate sacrifice and acknowledge our shared responsibility to maintain the peace they fought hard to achieve.