What's ON: The week ahead in Ontario politics (November 8-12)

A housing task force, criticism of funding for unmarked graves, and a Hillier apology
By Daniel Kitts - Published on Nov 08, 2021
The office of Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister Steve Clark says the province is preparing to unveil a housing affordability task force. (Chris Young/CP)

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Every Monday, TVO.org provides a primer on what to look for in the coming week in Ontario politics, and features some stories making news now.

Here’s what we’ve got our eye on:

Queen’s Park Keywords

Quiet Park: The legislature is in recess this week. It will be back in session on Monday, Nov. 15. Still, there’s lots to talk about…

Housing task force: The Canadian Press reports the Ontario government is planning to strike a housing affordability task force. According to a statement by Zoe Knowles, director of communications for Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister Steve Clark, the task force will “identify other opportunities to get shovels in the ground faster, remove duplication and barriers, and make housing more affordable for hardworking Ontarians.”

Residential schools: Survivors of residential schools and Indigenous leaders are criticizing the province’s fund to help find unmarked graves at former residential school sites. They say the $20 million promised up to now is far short of what’s needed, and some are arguing the way the money is supposed to be split doesn’t make sense. The funds are meant to be divided among communities associated with the known 18 residential schools in the province. But as Six Nations of the Grand River Elected Chief Mark Hill has argued to the government, some communities will require more funding than others since some residential schools operated for far longer than others and will require much more complex investigations.

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Hillier says sorry: Independent MPP for Lanark-Frontenac-Kingston Randy Hillier apologized Friday night for social media posts where he alleged some recently-deceased Ontarians died because they got vaccinated against COVID-19. Family members of some of the dead publicly condemned Hillier for using their loved ones’ images without permission, and denied their deaths had anything to do with getting vaccinated. In a statement posted to Twitter, Hillier said he exercised poor judgment by not contacting the families to secure their permission to share information regarding their deceased family members. “To these families I offer my most sincere regrets for the further distress my actions have caused them, and I sincerely apologize for the disruption to your lives that my actions have caused,” he wrote.

Climate change: Hundreds took to the lawn of Queen’s Park Saturday to demand all levels of government take stronger action dealing with climate change. According to Alice Zhu, one of the speakers at the event, the demonstrators’ four key demands were: respect Indigenous sovereignty, phase out fossil fuels, a just transition for communities and workers, and global justice around climate.

Looking ahead: Some of what you can expect when the legislature returns next week includes a motion by NDP Leader Andrea Horwath targeting the government’s record on several pocketbook issues, such as the cost of housing, electricity, auto insurance, and gasoline; debate on Finance Minister Peter Bethlenfalvy’s fall economic statement and Minister of Long-Term Care Rod Phillips’ Providing More Care, Protecting Seniors, and Building More Beds Act; and debate on two private member’s bills: The Change of Name Amendment Act by Scarborough Centre PC MPP Christina Mitas, and the Preventing Worker Misclassification Act by London West NDP MPP Peggy Sattler.

Beyond the Pink Palace

COVID-19 case numbers: The province’s seven-day average for new COVID-19 cases is going back up. It was 468 yesterday, up from about 362 a week before. “We are looking forward towards the winter vacation and thinking to ourselves what are things going to look like in six to eight weeks and that's where we need to be a little bit concerned,” Barry Pakes of the Temerty Faculty of Medicine at the University of Toronto told CP24.

Open borders: As of today, the U.S. is reopening its borders to Canadians and citizens of other countries. But: You need to be able to prove you’ve been vaccinated. If you’re flying, you’ll also need to show a pre-departure negative COVID-19 test taken within three days of boarding your flight. If you’re crossing by land, you won’t need to show a test to get into the U.S. But you will need one to get back into Canada.

Gold: The Globe and Mail has a look at a new open-pit gold mine opening up in Geraldton that is expected to one day be the fourth biggest gold mine in the country, and promises to be a significant job creator in northern Ontario. But at a cost estimated at $1.2 billion, the project is a bit of a gamble.

Upcoming Ontario politics coverage on TVO

On Tuesday, listen to the latest edition of the #onpoli podcast, hosted by Steve Paikin and John Michael McGrath.

On Wednesday, The Agenda will examine the province’s new labour legislation, and what the upcoming minimum wage hike means for restaurant workers.

And on TVO.org, you can expect new material from our regular political columnists, John Michael McGrath and Matt Gurney. Also, as the author of books on premiers John Robarts and Bill Davis, Steve Paikin rarely misses an excuse to write about them for TVO’s website — very rarely. And Steve tells me there’s an anniversary related to Robarts’ political career this week. So don't be the least bit suprised to see something about that. 

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