Provincial parties respond to reader questions

We surveyed you to find out what issues mattered most in this provincial election, then we asked the parties to respond. These are their replies.

Robert Hiltz
29 May

After getting feedback from Lookout readers about the issues you care about this provincial election, we put a series of questions to the parties. We asked them five questions about local issues affecting this city, and five questions about broader issues facing the province, all based on your responses to our survey. The local questions about councillor misconduct, the location and funding of the Civic Hospital, construction of the LRT, highway widening, and municipal autonomy. While the bigger issues were about health care, the cost of living, climate change, housing costs, and taxes.

Three of the main parties responded to our requests, but the Progressive Conservative Party did not acknowledge our questions. The Green Party replied that they were working on responses to our, but did not provide them in time to make our initial deadline, so their answers aren’t included here either.

If either party does respond before Election Day, we'll add their answers below.

The Ontario NDP answer your questions about the city

Council misconduct: Our city has had a councillor who has been found to have committed serious misconduct. Would your party pass a bill to allow councillors to be removed from their seats in cases of proven misconduct?

We can’t comment directly on this specific incident, but the NDP will be a committed partner in empowering municipalities to make decisions on their own governance and elections. We will strengthen local democracy by respecting the decisions of local councils, mayors, and residents. 

The Civic Hospital: Does your party support the controversial location of the new Civic Hospital campus? And would your party require the city of Ottawa to pay $150 million for its construction, despite health care being a provincial responsibility?

We can’t comment directly on the location of the Civic Hospital, but we are committed to investing in our hospitals, and stopping the shameful practice of downloading these funding responsibilities to municipalities. An NDP government would raise hospital funding to exceed health sector inflation, population growth, expanded operating plans, and unique local needs such as aging populations.

The NDP will work in partnership with municipalities to implement a new deal that respects municipal government and reverses the unfair downloading of provincial costs and responsibilities to local governments. This means sustainable municipal finances and fair cost-sharing of municipal-provincial priorities like transit, housing, childcare and infrastructure, with predictable and adequate funding that allows municipalities to make long-term plans.

The LRT: Phase 2 of the LRT is under construction. Does your party support the continued financial support for the project until its completion? Will your party support the construction of Phase 3?

The NDP will invest in phase 3 of the Ottawa LRT. Our platform promises to restore the province’s traditional 50% funding for municipal transit systems across Ontario, which will improve transit service in municipalities across Ontario, so they are reliable, affordable and accessible, including the Ottawa LRT.

Widening highways: The province is currently relying on an old study to justify the widening of the 417, a study done before the LRT was under construction. Would your government widen the 417, despite the construction of light rail parallel to the Queensway?

We can’t comment directly on this matter, but an NDP government would make decisions based on the opinions and advocacy of people in the community. We would listen to the needs of the people directly impacted by these kinds of polices. 

Municipal autonomy: Does your party support giving cities like Ottawa broader powers to raise revenue beyond property taxes, like the city of Toronto already has?

Municipalities need a partner at Queen’s Park — a partner committed to stability. Municipalities aren’t getting the stable funding they need from the province. With stable, reliable funding and a no-surprises approach, the NDP will make sure municipalities get the support they need and the kind of transparent partnership they deserve.

The Ontario NDP answer your questions about big issues in Ontario

On health care: The health care system has been stretched to the limit by the pandemic, and repeatedly overwhelmed. How does your party intend to rebuild the system? And how will you clear the backlog of surgeries?

For years it’s been getting harder for Ontarians to get the health care they need. Things have got to change now. Our healthcare system is on its knees. People wait hours at the ER, weeks for a doctor’s appointment and months or ever years for a surgery they need.

The NDP will finally fix our healthcare system so Ontario can once again have a world-class health system. We are going to focus on investing, not cutting, starting with repealing Bill 124 which caps health care workers’ wages. 

We will invest to eliminate the surgical backlog. We’ll identify and publicize the number of delayed procedures and publish regular progress reports. We’ll expand operating room hours over the evenings and weekends to increase hospital capacity, engage in a health care worker hiring blitz, and create a centralized referral system. We’ll make sure this gets done without privatizing our health care system.

On the cost of living: The cost of living is rapidly increasing. What measures will you put in place to help out Ontarians who are hurting that don’t sacrifice the future of public services?

From the grocery store to the gas pumps to the rent or mortgage bill, the cost of everything is going up. To help Ontarians be able to afford their lives, the NDP will ensure that gas prices are fair and competitive regardless of where you live and will protect consumers from price gouging. We’ll also put in place real rent control that put an end to renovictions, make sure Ontarians are not paying out of pocket for the dental care and medication they need, and work to accelerate and deliver a universal, public, non-profit $10-a-day child care.

On climate change: Ottawa has been hit by a devastating storm, one with infrastructure damage beyond the 2018 tornado. We have also already seen all-time heat records being broken in a May heatwave. How will your party protect the future of Ontarians by reducing the province’s carbon output?

In April 2021, we released the Green New Democratic Deal–we believe it is the boldest, most effective, and achievable climate plan Ontario’s ever had.

We will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 50% by 2030 and reach net-zero by no later than 2050, which are in line with the targets laid out in the Paris Climate Accords. We will also introduce a world-leading building retrofit program that will bring existing public sector buildings to net zero by 2030, and all privately-owned buildings to net zero by 2050 and a Home Retrofit Program for eligible investments like heat pumps, high-efficiency electric water heaters, deep energy retrofits.

We will protect greenspaces and forests and will enforce watershed management regulations. We will also partner with communities all across the province to foster climate change resilience and provide economic opportunities for all Ontarians. We’ll implement a Climate Stress Test on all existing and planned provincial infrastructure to make sure that our communities are prepared, and make repairs and upgrades where needed. We will also put in place a Provincial Action Plan on Flooding, invest in flood defences, make sure that Ontarians can access affordable flood insurance and require flood risk disclosure in real estate listings.

On housing: Housing prices have exploded since 2020. The average house price was below $500,000 in 2018, and is now well above $800,000. What specific measures will you bring in to bring housing prices under control?

To address the housing crisis, Ontario needs to build at least 1.5 million new market and non-market homes over the next decade, in the communities where people want to live. We need to crack down on housing speculation and other financial games that drive up home prices, and we need to increase protections and supports for renters and first-time home buyers.

The NDP will take on bad developers, flippers, speculators, multi-national corporations and billionaire investors. Our changes will help cool the market. We will introduce an annual speculation and vacancy tax on residential property and use tax policy or regulation to put limits on investor purchases of resale homes, and give regular families a fair shot at home ownership. We will regulate short-term rentals and track and tax pre-construction condo flipping. 

Our plan is designed to give people more stability, more affordability and more support to build their best life here in Ontario.

On taxes: With the high cost of living, our readers are concerned about their tax burden. How will you make the tax system fairer, so it doesn’t fall on those hurting most? And if you plan on broadly cutting taxes, what public services will have to be cut to afford that?

Regular Ontario families have been through a lot the last few years. Life keeps getting harder, with thecost of living skyrocketing. Lower and middle class Ontarians deserve to get back on solid ground, sothey can build their best life here in Ontario.

To make the tax system fairer and help all Ontarians, we will freeze taxes for low and middle income families, and ensure that big corporations and the wealthiest pay their fair share. 

For seniors, our property tax deferral program will allow them to use the proceeds from their house when they sell it to pay off property taxes, making thousands of dollars available every year and allowing to live in their home longer.

The Liberal Party of Ontario answer your questions about the city

Council misconduct: Our city has had a councillor who has been found to have committed serious misconduct. Would your party pass a bill to allow councillors to be removed from their seats in cases of proven misconduct?

Yes. When serious allegations surfaced against Councillor Rick Chiarelli, Orléans Liberal MPP Stephen Blais introduced legislation that would have given municipalities this power. The Ford Conservatives refused to move on this bill and let it die on order paper. If elected, we will bring back similar legislation and work with municipalities to ensure anyone who brings forward allegations of abuse is listened to and supported.

The Civic Hospital: Does your party support the controversial location of the new Civic Hospital campus? And would your party require the city of Ottawa to pay $150 million for its construction, despite health care being a provincial responsibility?

This project urgently needs to move ahead. Our Ottawa team has passionately advocated for its funding and an Ontario Liberal government will move quickly to ensure the city is supported through its completion. Additionally, we will be supporting all Ontario hospitals to clear the surgical and diagnostic backlog with a $1 billion investment in additional capacity.

While we have not received a proposal to change the new Civic Hospital campus’ funding framework, we know that municipal budgets were hit hard during the pandemic. As such, we will review municipal fiscal sustainability and the potential to upload responsibility of more critical infrastructure to the province. As this review is ongoing, we will maintain regular contact with the City of Ottawa to ensure their budgetary needs are met, including those related to Civic Hospital.

The LRT: Phase 2 of the LRT is under construction. Does your party support the continued financial support for the project until its completion? Will your party support the construction of Phase 3?

We know that more frequent and accessible transit will transform the Ottawa region and empower locals to choose transit over driving. The Ottawa LRT is a key part of this equation. That is why an Ontario Liberal government will fund Stage 3 of Ottawa’s regional transit plan and apply the lessons learned from the first two stages to make this project as successful as possible.

Widening highways: The province is currently relying on an old study to justify the widening of the 417, a study done before the LRT was under construction. Would your government widen the 417, despite the construction of light rail parallel to the Queensway?

Ontario Liberals will get Ontario commuters moving, including smart investments in Stage Three of Ottawa’s Regional Transportation Plan and the responsible maintenance of crucial roads and highways. If elected, we will ask the Ministry of Transportation to further analyze the need for widening Highway 417 based on the current needs of Ottawa commuters.

Municipal autonomy: Does your party support giving cities like Ottawa broader powers to raise revenue beyond property taxes, like the city of Toronto already has?

An Ontario Liberal government will be a true partner with the City of Ottawa to address the financial impact of the pandemic and support its continued growth. In addition to our above-mentioned plans to review fiscal sustainability and potential uploads, we will make substantial investments in Ottawa through $1.3 billion in new, annual supports to municipalities. This provincewide commitment includes:

  • $375 million for municipal transit;
  • $360 million to operate and improve social, supportive and community housing services – funding that will increase as 38,000 new homes are completed;
  • $100 million to promote a ‘Housing First’ approach to ending chronic homelessness that will quickly move people into independent, permanent housing with comprehensive supports;
  • $250 million for climate resilient infrastructure;
  • $100 for separated bike lanes and cycling trails, bike sharing, rental services, and bike parking;
  • $60 million for planning and housing approval; and
  • $53 million for mental health first responders.

The Liberal Party of Ontario answer your questions about big issues in the province

On health care: The health care system has been stretched to the limit by the pandemic, and repeatedly overwhelmed. How does your party intend to rebuild the system? And how will you clear the backlog of surgeries?

Over 250,000 Ontarians are waiting for much-needed surgeries while millions of diagnostic procedures are delayed because of the pandemic. An Ontario Liberal government would clear the backlog with a $1 billion investment in additional capacity – empowering hospitals to operate significantly above prepandemic volumes and expand operating room, MRI and CT operations – including into evenings and weekends. We’ll also establish and publish maximum wait times for all surgeries and return to prepandemic wait times by the end of 2022.

To address the critical shortage of health care workers in Ontario, we will also train and hire 100,000 new health care professionals to meet demand over the next six years – prioritizing full-time roles across the health system, including a target of 70% jobs in long-term care homes being full-time.

On the cost of living: The cost of living is rapidly increasing. What measures will you put in place to help out Ontarians who are hurting that don’t sacrifice the future of public services?

We understand that when it comes to the cost of living, people need immediate relief right now. Our Ontario Liberal plan for affordability puts more money in people’s pockets and gives them a break after a hard and expensive four years. To start, we will lower the costs of transit rides to $1 province-wide and increase the minimum wage to $16 an hour to help the more than 700,000 workers who were denied three years of increases to their wages by the Ford government. While we work to tackle food costs in the long-term through fairer negotiations between food producers and retailers, we will immediately help families by taking the provincial HST off prepared foods under $20 effective September 1. We will bring back rent controls and build 1.5 million new homes over ten years, including 138,000 deeply affordable homes.

On climate change: Ottawa has been hit by a devastating storm, one with infrastructure damage beyond the 2018 tornado. We have also already seen all-time heat records being broken in a May heatwave. How will your party protect the future of Ontarians by reducing the province’s carbon output?

The Ford Conservatives have taken Ontario backwards in the fight against climate change. Our Ontario Liberal plan gets Ontario back on track by cleaning our air, changing how we move and creating jobs through climate action. To start, we’ll cut greenhouse gas emissions by 50% below 2005 levels by 2030 and achieve net-zero emissions by 2050. We’ll require high-emitting industries, which create up to 30% of Ontario’s pollution, to cut their emissions by strengthening the Emissions Performance Standards in line with our 2030 target. We’ll reinvest and match all proceeds into grants, tax credits and loan guarantees through a Green Jobs Fund to support made-in-Ontario clean tech and green jobs.

We will also expand the Greenbelt with 30% of our lands designated as protected areas up from 10%. We will create five new provincial parks, plant 800 million trees and provide up to $9,500 in rebates on electric vehicles and charging equipment.

On housing: Housing prices have exploded since 2020. The average house price was below $500,000 in 2018, and is now well above $800,000. What specific measures will you bring in to bring housing prices under control?

We will build 1.5 million homes, including truly affordable homes like new social and supportive housing for people who need it. To double the pace of homebuilding, we will create a new Ontario Home Building Corporation (OHBC) to finance and build new, affordable homes. The OHBC will work with local communities, as well as not-for-profit and private housing partners to build and maintain affordable homes of all types and homes sold by the OHBC will be available only to first-time home buyers.The Liberal plan for housing affordability will also:

  • Ban new non-resident ownership and put a tax on empty homes;
  • Introduce “use it or lose it” levies on speculators sitting on serviced land who have approved building permits, and use the funds generated to get more affordable housing built;
  • Bring back rent control to all homes across Ontario;
  • Enforce larger fines for persistently negligent landlords;
  • Regulate home inspectors and make home inspections a legal right;
  • Ensure buyers are refunded sooner for canceled housing projects, with significantly higher interest rates on lost deposits;

On taxes: With the high cost of living, our readers are concerned about their tax burden. How will you make the tax system fairer, so it doesn’t fall on those hurting most? And if you plan on broadly cutting taxes, what public services will have to be cut to afford that?

While the cost of living has skyrocketed under the Ford Conservatives, Ontario Liberals have a balanced, progressive and fully costed plan to help families with rising costs. Ontarians have a clear choice between four more years of the Ford Conservatives making their richest donors richer, or an Ontario Liberal plan to put $50 a day back in their pockets.

Our plan asks our highest earners and most profitable corporations to pay a little more so that middle-class families and small businesses receive much-needed relief. We’ll implement a 1% surtax on highly-profitable companies operating in Ontario who earn more than $1 billion a year. We’ll also introduce a new tax bracket for the 0.2% of Ontarians whose taxable income is over $500,000 per year, which would be taxed at a rate of 15.16% – up 2% from the current rate. In addition, we will cut the fuel tax and create a new tax for vacant residential properties in designated urban areas.

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