Jessica Bell MPP, University–Rosedale

Government of Ontario

January 2019 Community Update

Dear Friend,

Happy New Year!

This past winter was a very busy time in the Ontario Legislature. The Government has: meddled in municipal elections, rolled back workers rights, environmental protections, tenants rights and commitments to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. The Government has also made deep cuts to social assistance, children's services, francophone services, and our education system, and has announced plans to take the subway from Toronto. In addition to these big items, I introduced my first Private Member's Bill, Bill 62, Protecting Vulnerable Road Users Act, 2018. 

Needless to say, my team and I have been working hard to represent you and to serve you as a strong voice of opposition in the Legislature. In this current climate, it is only in working together that we are going to be able to enact any meaningful policy change that will make our lives better.

This is the first of what will become a regular series of e-newsletters to help keep you up-to-date and informed on my activities at Queen's Park and in our community of University-Rosedale.

In this edition you will find information on:
  • Cuts to Education
  • Municipal Election Meddling
  • Climate Change & Cap and Trade
  • Affordable Housing Crisis
  • Labour Rights Rollback
  • Vulnerable Road Users
  • Transit Update
  • Upcoming actions and opportunities to get involved
Cuts to Education

Since taking office in June, the Government has made significant cuts to our education system. They began by rolling back recent changes to the sex-ed and indigenous curricula. The Government also cut $100 million slated to begin addressing the $16 billion dollar repair backlog that had accumulated during the 15 years of the previous government. In December, the Government cut $25 million from special education. Now most recently, school boards have been told to expect a 4% cut to their budgets, totalling roughly $1 billion.

I have been active, alongside my colleague MPP Marit Stiles, in fighting these cuts, while trying to push a positive vision of education where needed repairs are fixed, the curriculum reflects modern thinking, and where students get the extra supports they need to succeed. 
On July 19, I shared the story of local student and constituent Jed Sears, whose school environment is becoming increasingly unsafe due to worsening need for repairs.
In September, I helped organize a press conference at Clinton School with colleagues, MPP Marit Stiles and MPP Bhutila Karpoche along with then Trustee Ausma Malik and the local Parent's Council to demand that the government seriously address the repair backlog.

Youth across Ontario have been hosting rallies and media events to demand the Government restore their curriculum. In support of these actions, I have been knocking on doors, meeting with Parent's Councils, attending and speaking at rallies, and doing school gating to collect signatures on a petition to push the government to teach the updated sex education curriculum.  The rollback of the curriculum is now being challenged in court. If you would like to join me in these actions, or if you are part of a parent council in University-Rosedale that would like to meet with me on this or any other matter, please email my office
Municipal Election Meddling

In an unprecedented move the Government chose to invoke the "Notwithstanding Clause" to push through their drastic change to cut Toronto's councillors from 47 to 25 during an election without any consultation. This was a major blow to democracy, and could signal the government's willingness to use extreme measures such as this for future endeavors. I was proud to join the thousands of people across our province who fought hard against this move. In addition to rising several times in the Legislature I also joined my colleague MPP Suze Morrison in organizing a large public demonstration in protest.
 
My comments during the midnight sitting in the Legislature to defend democracy.
While the outcome may not have been what we wanted, I am still proud of the work that all of us did. My office was simply overwhelmed by the amount of correspondence we received on this issue. The level of civic engagement this issue inspired gives me hope that together we will be able to win some of the bigger battles that are coming in the near future. This new year is a great time to contact your local representatives who you support to find out what you can do to work with us. 
Hosting a downtown rally with MPP Suze Morrison.
Climate Change & Cap and Trade

In addition to scrapping Ontario's Climate Change Plan and the Cap and Trade program, the Government also used Bill 66, Restoring Ontario's Competitiveness Act, 2018 to further erode environmental protections. Some of Bill 66's most concerning pieces are the erosion of the Clean Water Act and opening the Green Belt up for development. The Fall Economic Statement saw the passing of Bill 57, Restoring Trust, Transparency and Accountability Act, 2018 an Omnibus bill that saw cuts to many independent offices across this province, including the Environment Commissioner, an office that provided proactive investigations to protect our vulnerable environment.
In October, I challenged the government to seriously address climate change, and to remember that all planning impacting our environment must include youth consultation.
I was proud to join my colleagues in supporting MPP Peter Tabuns' Bill 37, Liability for Climate-Related Harms Act, 2018. If this bill had received broader support it would have ensured that fossil fuel producers were open to being found liable for the greenhouse gas emissions they produce if they produced them at a globally detectable level. This was a very important Bill and I was sorry to see it defeated in the Legislature.

There are still lots of opportunities to push for a positive climate agenda.  Please contact my office if you would like to volunteer with us. 
Affordable Housing Crisis

One of the biggest issues facing Toronto and Ontario is the access to safe, affordable housing. In University-Rosedale I constantly hear from constituents who are struggling to make ends meet and are terrified that they will soon be without a place to live. 

To make matters worse, legal aid and the Landlord and Tenant Board are struggling to keep up with demand, meaning that waitlists to access legal support or to secure help have ballooned.
In November I shared the story of a constituent who was illegally evicted.
In December I hosted an Emergency Townhall on Affordable Housing.  The response to the event was overwhelming, and many good and important conversations were started. 
I want to thank the community partners who came and spoke as panelists, or who helped lead a break out discussion. In particular I want to thank:
- MPP Suze Morrison who came and spoke about legislation that she is pushing to tackle housing affordability at the provincial level.
- City Councillor Mike Layton who spoke about municipal policies that he is fighting for to improve the issue here in our community.
- Melissa Jean Baptiste from Kensington Bellwoods Community Legal Services who provided tips on how to protect your rights if you are a tenant, and how to fight evictions.
- Geordie Dent from the Federation of Metro Tenants Association who shared how their organization can help tenants and how renters can start tenants associations.
- Marva Burnett from ACORN who shared what renters can do to advocate for broader change.
- Helen Luu from the Advocacy Centre for Tenants Ontario who shared the important work the organization does to help make housing more affordable. 
In December over 100 University-Rosedale residents came to my Emergency Townhall on Affordable Housing
In addition to the townhall, I have been canvassing on this issue, and invite you to join me on one of my upcoming canvasses. You can contact my office at jbell-co@ndp.on.ca if you want to get more involved. Please stay tuned, as there will be more developments on this file in the near future!
Labour Rights Rollback

As many of you may be aware, in November the government rolled back many of the recent gains won by workers in Ontario. This included ending the planned increase of the minimum wage to $15, ending equal pay for equal work, removing emergency leave days and reinstating the requirement to have a sick note when going to work. 
In November I shared a letter I received from a local medical specialist on the risks of requiring a sick note at work.
As your representative in the Ontario Legislature I remain steadfast in my commitment to ensuring that workers regain these hard-fought rights. I continue to work closely with activists, unions and other labour rights organizations on this issue.
Vulnerable Road Users

During the last session I introduced my first Private Members' Bill, Protecting Vulnerable Road Users.This bill was previously introduced by then MPP Cheri DiNovo, and then again by MPP Catherine Fife. 
As we know all too well in Toronto, vulnerable road user deaths are at an all-time high and more needs to be done. 
Under this law, penalties would apply to all driving offences under the Highway Traffic Act that result in the death or serious injury of a vulnerable road user. It includes community service, license suspension, driver re-education and also requires a culpable motorist to attend court for sentencing and to hear victim impact statements. Vulnerable road users include cyclists and people who use mobility devices like walkers or wheelchairs.
Following the tabling of this bill, every City Councillor voted in support of my private members bill during a City Council meeting. The government needs to listen to the experts, and the families and friends of people who have lost a loved one on our roads, and support our plan to protect vulnerable road users.
With local activists and advocacy groups to announce my PMB to protect vulnerable road users
Tabling this bill was a collaborative effort, and wouldn't have been possible without the support of key community members. In particular I want to acknowledge the support from Friends and Families for Safe Streets, Cycle Toronto, Bikelaw Canada, Advocacy for Respect for Cyclists, Hoof & Cycle, Toronto Bicycling Network, Walk Toronto, Kids at Play, Toronto Centre for Active Transportation, Citizens for Safe Cycling, Citizens Environment Alliance and United Senior Citizens of Ontario Inc.
If you want to support this bill you can do so by signing the petition found here on my website.
Transit Update

There have been a lot of dramatic changes in the transit file over the past few months. As a riding that relies heavily on our public transit system it is important that we stay vigilant in ensuring that we have a transit system that is safe, affordable, reliable and public.
The government began by putting every planned transit project under review. Although I have pushed the Minister of Transportation both in private meetings and during Question Period to get some clarity on which projects will or won't be cut, the Minister has refused to say what projects will proceed and what ones will be cut.
The Fall Economic Statement included a $1.4 Billion cut to transit infrastructure.
The Fall Economic Statement also included changes to the relationship between Metrolinx and the government.  The Government can now override any decision Metrolinx makes in secret, and Metrolinx is no longer required to engage in any kind of public consultation. This is particularly concerning in light of a recent Auditor General report that found that political interference in transit planning to the benefit of politicians not the public has taken place. 
We then learned that in addition to being under review, many major projects are also facing additional delays as a result of the government's push to have a market-driven approach to transit planning. This is an approach that I oppose because transit should be help the public, first and foremost.
Finally, the government released their terms of reference for their plan to take the subway from Toronto and potentially other transportation and transit assets. Breaking up the TTC is a move that experts across Ontario are calling a disaster in waiting. This move is going to lead to worse service and higher fares. In no way is it going to help us build more transit. 
We deserve real solutions on transit, like funding the relief line to get people moving, and proper funding for the TTC so riders can have immediate service improvements on all TTC routes.
In University-Rosedale we are working hard to fight the break up of our TTC. We have have already helped to launch a coalition, organize a day of action and a rally to make sure we keep the TTC together. 
Speaking at the rally to keep the TTC intact at Toronto City Hall
The Premier has indicated that he will be tabling legislation on this when the House returns in February - so we only have a short time to take action to stop the breakup of our transit system.
Coming up...

My main focus over the next month is working to fight the planned break up and sell off of the TTC. I will be canvassing at all 13 transit stops in the riding, and would love it if you could come and join me. If you want to help with these efforts, please contact my office at jbell-co@ndp.on.ca.
Thank you so much for taking the time to read through my first community e-newsletter. I want to remind you that if you are aware of any local issues or events that I should know about that you please contact my office. 
Wishing you a successful 2019!
Sincerely,


Jessica Bell, MPP
University-Rosedale
Jessica Bell, MPP
University-Rosedale

Community Office:
#103-719 Bloor Street West
Toronto, ON M5G 1K5
416-535-7206 | jbell-co@ndp.on.ca

Queen's Park Office:
Room 372, Main Legislative Building, Queen's Park
Toronto, ON M7A 1A5
416-325-1620 | jbell-qp@ndp.on.ca
Standing with my colleagues at Queen's Park
In solidarity with injured workers
Visiting with residents of Cawartha Co-op
Delivering Christmas Greetings with Cheri DiNovo at Trinity St. Paul's
Supporting Midwife Pay Equity
With local constituent and Ontario Senior Achievement Award Recipient Lilian Wells
With local constituent Uriyah Ravitz-Heller on Take Your Kid to Work Day
Meeting with members of Climate Fast
Talking transit in Seaton Village with local volunteers
Fighting for democracy with University-Rosedale School Trustee Chris Moise and Jennifer Hollett
Joining local youth at Hot Docs premiere of the documentary about Reteah Parsons
Commemorating Remembrance Day at University of Toronto
Attending St. Stephen's Community House Seniors' Information Fair and Social
With MPPs Jill Andrews and Laura Mae Lindo in defense of Trans Rights
Taking my daughter and friend to enjoy Ontario Culture Days
Supporting youth rally on climate change at Queen's Park
Joining City Shul at Bloor St. United to remember the victims of the Pitsburgh tragedy
With TTC workers at Toronto's Labour Day Parade
Touring Women's College Hospital
Meeting with Defend Toronto to discuss protecting Toronto's transit
Test driving a hydrogen car at Queen's Park
With University-Rosedale City Councillor Mike Layton
In Solidarity with Registered Nurses
Celebrating Toronto Pride with MPPs Marit Stiles and Bhutila Karpoche
Talking student issues with CFS Ontario
Supporting leaders from the Toronto Environmental Alliance.
With students from Woodsworth College
Talking transit with TTCriders
Canvassing against cuts to minimium wage
Supporting paid sick days
Defending access to legal aid
Defending integrated public transit at Queen's Park Station