In Brief: PC candidate Rod Phillips, support for harm reduction in a public park, and the Sheppard subway resurfaces

In Brief: PC candidate Rod Phillips, support for harm reduction in a public park, and the Sheppard subway resurfaces

The province is providing additional support to a harm reduction site in Toronto's Moss Park.

Since August, harm reduction advocates and clinicians have administered drugs under supervision in a tent. Supporters say the idea is backed by extensive research, and that the government isn't moving fast enough to support vulnerable users during a public health crisis. In recent weeks some advocates have made emotional pleas about how the existing tent isn't adequate for the coming cold weather, and have asked for government support.

Health Minister Eric Hoskins announced today that a military-grade insulated tent would be provided to the site, as well as accompanying space heaters and a generator.

"We've been working on an option for a number of weeks that would help the professionals providing the care and support at Moss Park throughout the winter," he said following Question Period.

But with the City of Toronto they're working towards a more sustainable solution. They're also partnering with the Fred Victor Centre across the street from Moss Park to provide safe injection services indoors. Yesterday Hoskins signed off on $500,000 in funding for Fred Victor to provide the service, but a federal exemption to allow the site is still required.

The Sheppard subway proposal made a return to Question Period Thursday as PC MPP Raymond Cho questioned whether the government's lack of support for the idea is because of Shelley Carroll, the 2018 Don Valley North Liberal candidate who has voted against the project at Toronto city council.

Recently, the Premier appointed Shelley Carroll as her candidate in Don Valley North. Ms. Carroll is a large opponent to the Scarborough subway project.<br /> Deputy Premier, will your government continue to stall on construction on the Scarborough subway to make Shelley Carroll happy?

But Infrastructure Minister Bob Chiarelli was quick to point out that Cho supported the Sheppard LRT line before he was against it. While the PCs support an eastward extension of the Sheppard subway line, no order of government has voted to approve that project, or lined up funding.

In a critical February 2012 council vote, then-councillor Cho voted for a package of LRT lines over Mayor Rob Ford's transit proposal, which included an unfunded Sheppard subway line. A 2012 expert panel report [PDF] on the feasibility of the Sheppard subway extension, which is different than the one-stop $3.35 billion Scaborough Subway Extension, found that 2031 ridership would be 22 per cent lower than the minimum threshold needed to justify the project, and that it would cost upwards of $3.7 billion in 2010 money.

Cho will run in the new Scarborough North riding in 2018, where he will face off against Toronto city councillor Chin Lee for the Liberals. Lee has also shifted his support from an LRT to a subway line over the years.

The Liberals and PCs voted against an NDP bill that would have seen servers, bartenders, and students get the same minimum wage as everyone else. Right now employers have the right to pay certain type of workers sub-standard minimum wages, either because they earn tips in lieu of salary or because there's a special exemption carved out to make it more attractive to hire students. The bill, sponsored by Cindy Forster, failed by a 15–29 vote in second reading.

A private member's bill that would make it mandatory for long-term-care homes to provide residents with a minimum average of four hours of hands-on care a day passed second reading Thursday.

NDP Health Critic France Gélinas’ bill, the Time To Care Act, received all-party support.

The Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) had run an advocacy campaign in support of the bill.

“Right now, we have five to 10 minutes to help a resident with their morning routine. That includes waking, washing, dressing and use of the commode. Imagine if you only had 10 minutes for all those activities in the morning. Then imagine you are 82 years old with mobility issues,” said Andrea Legault, a personal support worker quoted in a CUPE press release. “We need mandatory care levels. We just run from person to person. We don’t have enough time for the level of care our residents need. It’s heartbreaking.”

Rod Phillips — chair of the Postmedia board and the former president and CEO of Ontario Lottery and Gaming — announced his intention to become a Progressive Conservative candidate Thursday morning, and within hours was the topic of debate in Question Period.

Phillips announced Thursday morning he intends to seek the PC nomination in Ajax.

“I am seeking to be part of the Ontario PC team as it puts forward a positive, inclusive, and responsible vision for our province under the leadership of Patrick Brown,” he said in a press release.

In Question Period, the PCs attacked the government over the lobbyists, with Liberal party ties, who lobbied on OLG’s modernization plans, which the PCs are highly critical of.

“They’re the ones who have actually been acting upon it,” Finance Minister Charles Sousa shot back. “In fact, their newest candidate is a former president of OLG, another Conservative who is acting on this very matter of modernization.”


David Hains

QP Briefing Reporter

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