elow are the responses we have received from provincial election candidates from the four major parties at Queen's Park running in Mississauga-Lakeshore. We will update this page as more answers come in.
Elizabeth Mendes - Liberal Party Candidate
The Hoser: The federal government divested from a responsibility to build public housing in the early 1990s, downloading the responsibility to provinces and municipalities. If your party forms government, how many units of public housing can you commit to building in your first term?
Elizabeth Mendes: Under the Ford Conservatives’ four different housing plans, the average Ontario home price went up by nearly half a million dollars, while rents skyrocketed. Ontario is the best place in the world to call home, yet too many people can’t afford to live in the neighbourhoods where they grew up and the ones they love.
An Ontario Liberal Government would build 1.5 million homes over the next 10 years. Of those, 138,000 will be deeply affordable homes - including 78,000 new social and community homes, 38,000 homes in supportive housing, and 22,000 homes for Indigenous peoples.
We’ll also help with housing affordability by taxing homes sitting empty, especially for non-Canadian owners, ban new non-resident ownership, introduce a use-it-or-lose-it tax on developers sitting on land ready for development.
Putting money behind housing is good for our economy. Every dollar invested in housing results in $1.40 in economic growth. Our housing plan will create an estimated 150,000 jobs per year.
The Hoser: Bill 124 has frozen public sector wage increases at 1 percent since 2019. Inflation has climbed upwards of six percent in 2022. Will your government keep Bill 124 as provincial law? If not, will you legislate any limitations to public sector workers’ collective bargaining rights?
Elizabeth Mendes: It’s so disappointing to see the Ford government claim they want to put more money in families’ pockets, but voted to cap salaries and hamper collective bargaining.
An Ontario Liberal government would ensure workers are valued and paid more, can save more and feel more supported. We’ll repeal the wage-capping Bill 124 and provide health care workers with the raises they deserve – including a minimum wage increase to $25 for personal support workers.
We’ll also provide additional wages for every person on a short-staffed shift – and deliver fair and consistent pay for workers across home and community care, long-term care and hospitals and a fair wage differential between PSWs, Registered Practical Nurses and Registered Nurses.
It’s time we paid our public sector workers the wages they deserve.
The Hoser: Communities and advocates concerned with police violence have for years been demanding a defunding of police services, rerouting that money to public social services. Is this a policy your government would pursue? If so, how much money would you reallocate from current provincial policing budgets?
Elizabeth Mendes: Ontarians need to feel safe in their communities. In an emergency or conflict, police are often the first call – even though the situation doesn’t always call for police intervention. We’ll ensure more mental health workers are ready to respond to low-risk emergency calls to identify and divert people with addictions and disabilities from the justice system, directing them to more appropriate services. We’ll do this by investing in mental health first responders and the OPP Crisis Call Diversion Program, as well as provide greater access to social workers for those leaving correctional facilities.
Police services must also be responsive to the changing needs of the communities they serve and ensure everyone feels safe. We’ll require that all police training contains appropriate content regarding de-escalation, anti-racism, cultural sensitivity and engaging with individuals experiencing mental health conditions – and provide funding to police forces to deploy body cameras. We’ll also create a standalone Minister responsible for anti-racism.
To make sure police look like the communities they serve, we’ll support training and hiring more diverse police officers, such as expanding the Youth in Policing Initiative – and we’ll require police services to disclose annual statistics regarding the diversity of their officers, leadership and police service boards.
To address anti-Black racism specifically, we’ll refresh Ontario’s 2017 Anti-Black Racism Strategy. In education, we’ll make sure Black history, literature and the contributions of Black Canadians are featured in the yearlong curriculum and end streaming in schools which can segregate classrooms. We’ll also provide $5 million to Black historical sites and community centres and $10 million in grants to help support Black entrepreneurs and small businesses.
The Hoser: Considering that COVID is airborne and cases are once again quite high, will your government make any investments in retrofits or building new hospitals, schools, public transit vehicles, or any other large-scale investments related to public health, indoor crowding and ventilation?
Elizabeth Mendes: We can take lessons from this pandemic to build up our resilience in the face of future threats and rebuild trust in evidence-based decision making. We’ll conduct an independent public inquiry to review what happened during this pandemic, building on the reviews done to date – establishing an all-party committee to lead the response.
Ontario is growing, but more students shouldn’t mean the quality and access to learning suffers. To keep up with this growth, an Ontario Liberal government would build new schools and add to existing schools to fit more students where needed.
We’ll also make sure schools already built are accessible and in a good condition measured by publicly-reported standards, especially when it comes to ventilation.
The Hoser: As of 2021, the living wage in Toronto was over $22 an hour. In all major cities and towns in the province, the $15/hr minimum wage is below a living wage. Inflation is now upwards of six percent, and scheduled wage increases and cost of living adjustments are not keeping up. Is your government committed to getting minimum wage levels to a living wage? If not, why?
Elizabeth Mendes: If you have a job in Ontario, you shouldn’t struggle to meet your basic needs – especially if you’re working full-time hours. Yet for many of Ontario’s minimum-wage workers, the paycheque from a hard week’s effort isn’t enough to keep up with the rising cost of living.
One of the very first things the Ford Conservatives did in office was freeze the minimum wage at $14 an hour and scrap a planned increase to $15 an hour in 2019. We’ll increase the minimum wage to $16 an hour effective January 1, 2023 to help the more than 700,000 workers who were denied three years of increases to their wages.
We’ll then consult broadly and develop a living wage structure that factors different wage rates in different regions of the province – recognizing that some areas are more expensive to meet basic needs in than others.