elow are the responses we have received from provincial election candidates from the four major parties represented at Queen's Park running in University-Rosedale. We will update this page as more answers come in.
Andrea Barrack - 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?
Andrea Barrack: While building takes time the Ontario Liberals plan to build 1.5 Million new homes over the next 10 years. As part of these 1.5 million homes, we’ll build at least 138,000 new deeply affordable homes including much-needed supportive housing and homes for Indigenous peoples – as well as retain and repair tens of thousands of existing affordable homes. By doing so, we’ll aim to end the waitlist for affordable public housing. We’ll also work with partners to make sure these newly built homes create more ownership options for marginalized communities. Putting money behind housing is also good for our economy. Every dollar invested in housing results in $1.40 in economic growth and 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?
Andrea Barrack: Delivering all the care we need means we need the people to do it and we need to treat them with the respect they deserve to do that work. We will not legislate limitations to public sector workers’ collective bargaining rights. Instead we will make sure these workers are valued and paid more, can save more and feel more supported by repealing the wage-capping Bill 124 as well as a minimum wage increase to $25 for personal support workers (PSWs).
We’ll also provide additional wages for every person on a short-staffed shift – as well as 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.
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?
Our emergency response systems must meet the needs of those calling on us for help and we have been told by our communities time and time again that their needs are not being met. The Liberal party recognizes that police are often the first call regardless of whether police intervention is the appropriate response. To make sure Ontarians are getting the help they need we will invest in mental health first responders and the OPP Crisis Call Diversion Program. This team will be ready to respond to low-risk emergency calls to help identify and divert people with addictions and disabilities from the justice system, directing them to services that can give them the help they deserve. Additionally, The Liberal party will ensure that police training includes de-escalation, anti-racism, cultural sensitivity and mental health education.
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?
Andrea Barrack: Protecting Ontario’s health care, education and economies from the impacts of COVID-19 and our resiliency against pandemics in the future are a priority for the Ontario Liberals. We will invest in increasing lab testing capacity, retrofitting schools with improved ventilation systems and conducting a public inquiry to learn from the COVID Pandemic.
COVID-19 exposed and widened the many cracks to our public health services and infrastructure. A Liberal government means investing $1 billion in health care to be used for increasing the capacity and services at existing hospitals and care centers as well as building new facilities province-wide. These investments as well as the lessons learned from the public inquiry will inform the creation of an Ontario pandemic resilience hub focused on preparing for future crises.
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?
Andrea Barrack: The Ontario Liberals recognize that it is unacceptable to have a job in Ontario yet still 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.