PRIVATE MEMBERS BUSINESS — HAWKINS GIGNAC ACTMarch 8, 2012
Mr. Ernie Hardeman: I’m pleased to rise once again to speak to the Hawkins Gignac Act because this bill will ensure Ontario families are protected by having carbon monoxide detectors in their homes, and it will save lives.
Carbon monoxide is a poisonous gas that is colourless, odourless and has no taste. Most of us have a potential source of this gas in our homes-a furnace, space heater, gas stove, hot water heater or even the garage where we warm up our cars in the winter. Without a detector, you have no way of knowing when your house is filling with poisonous gas.
Currently, the Ontario building code only requires carbon monoxide alarms in homes that are built after August 6, 2001. That leaves too many families at risk. The Hawkins Gignac Act would require carbon monoxide detectors in all Ontario homes that have a fuel-burning appliance or an attached garage.
Andy Glynn, deputy chief of Oakville and representative of the Ontario Association of Fire Chiefs, says, “This bill has the support of fire chiefs across the province because all families, regardless of the age of their home, need protection from this silent killer.”
I was pleased that recently Safe Kids Canada declared their support for the bill. This is the national injury prevention program of the Hospital for Sick Children. They said, “The same safety provisions should apply across the province. The safety of Ontario families should not depend on the location or age of their homes.”
As we work to make our homes more airtight and energy-efficient, the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning continues to increase. Three years ago, Ontario’s chief coroner investigated the death of a Sudbury woman due to carbon monoxide poisoning.
A week ago in Florida, an elderly couple passed away in their home. It is believed they were poisoned by carbon monoxide from a car running in their garage. They were not required to have carbon monoxide detectors in their home.
Just over three years ago in my riding of Oxford, we experienced a tragic consequence of not having carbon monoxide detectors in your home when we lost Laurie and Richard Hawkins and their two children, Cassandra and Jordan. As an OPP community relations officer, Constable Hawkins touched the lives of many people throughout Oxford, particularly in schools, where she taught the VIP program: values, influences and peers.
Years after being part of the VIP program, students mentioned to their teachers the great impact that Laurie had on them. In fact, the first time that we debated this bill-and I want to point out that this is the third time-many of the students whom she taught were here in the public gallery to see this happen.
The family had been feeling ill for several weeks and thought they had all come down with the flu. Mr. Speaker, that’s one of the factors that makes carbon monoxide so dangerous. It’s almost impossible to detect early symptoms; headaches, fatigue and dizziness are similar to the flu. In fact, the Hawkins family was suffering from carbon monoxide poisoning. The exhaust on the basement fireplace had become blocked and was filling their home with carbon monoxide.
Following the tragedy, Laurie’s uncle, John Gignac, who is in the gallery today, committed to preventing other families from experiencing the same loss. He founded the Hawkins-Gignac Foundation for CO Education, which increases awareness of the dangers of carbon monoxide and raises funds for the purchase of carbon monoxide detectors to be distributed through fire departments.
Last month, the Hawkins-Gignac Foundation reached out to provide assistance in the wake of another tragedy in the Yukon: A family of four and their tenant were killed by carbon monoxide. Following the tragedy, the Hawkins-Gignac Foundation provided carbon monoxide detectors to ensure that those in the community who could not afford one would be protected against carbon monoxide.
Last fall, John Gignac joined me in my riding of Oxford, where we made a similar donation. I want to thank John for his support for this bill over the last three years and all the efforts on the issue.
I first introduced this bill in 2008, only a few days after the tragic loss of the Hawkins family. The bill passed second reading on April 2, 2009, and was referred to committee. It died on the order paper when Premier McGuinty prorogued the House in March 2010.
A few months later, in May, I reintroduced the Hawkins Gignac Act, Bill 69. In December, it once again passed second reading and was referred to committee. It died on the order paper again when the Legislature prorogued in 2011.
Over the three years since I first introduced the Hawkins Gignac Act, I’ve heard from many people and organizations about the need for carbon monoxide detectors, and I’ve received many comments and suggestions on the bill. I want to thank everyone who took time to share their thoughts. I was pleased to incurporate many of those recommendations in Bill 20 to ensure that we are protecting Ontario families without placing any unnecessary burden on people who are not in danger of carbon monoxide poisoning.
This bill would only require detectors in homes that have a potential source of carbon monoxide, such as fuel-burning appliances or an attached garage. Homes that are all electric with no garage would not be required to have a detector.
For multi-residential units, detectors would only be required in suites where there is a fuel-burning appliance, or suites that are adjacent to the storage garage or service room with fuel-burning appliances.
For new homes, carbon monoxide detectors must be hard-wired and interconnected. We recognize that this would be cost-prohibitive in existing homes, and so for these homes a battery-operated or plug-in carbon monoxide detector would be acceptable.
Carbon monoxide detectors range in price, but there are models available for $20 or $25: not a high price to pay to protect lives. I know the people across Ontario accepted the importance of having smoke detectors at every level of their home. I hope that we can make people aware of the need for the same with carbon monoxide alarms.
While I have been working to get this legislation through the Legislature, many municipalities have taken the initiative to protect their citizens, enacting bylaws to require these carbon monoxide alarms. I want to commend municipalities, such as Niagara Falls, Mississauga, Caledon, North Bay, Pickering, Georgina and Sault Ste. Marie, that have taken the steps-and I know that there are more that are considering it. In fact, just this week, my home municipality of South-West Oxford passed a bylaw requiring carbon monoxide detectors.
Over the past few years, there have been numerous stories about families who have been saved because there was a bylaw in place and their family installed the detector. Dana Melanson bought a carbon monoxide detector to comply with the bylaw in her town of Sault Ste. Marie. Last summer it started going off, so she called the fire department, who discovered that a family hot water heater was filling their home with carbon monoxide. If she hadn’t heard the detector, it could well have been another tragedy.
In December, a Keswick family was also saved by their detector going off. The Georgina fire department responded and the deputy fire chief said, “If this family had not had a working carbon monoxide alarm and responded as they did, the outcome may have been fatal.”
Around the same time, the town of Ingersoll, in my riding of Oxford, passed a bylaw requiring carbon monoxide detectors in all homes with fuel-burning appliances or attached garages. Ingersoll Fire Chief Darell Parker said, “It is our hope that the province would pass the legislation, but with the risks involved it’s important we step up and make a statement.”
Mr. Speaker, these detectors save lives. Do we really only want Ontario families to have that protection if they live in certain towns? While I commend these municipalities for taking the initiative, those bylaws don’t take the place of a provincial law. All Ontario families should be protected against carbon monoxide, not just those who live in new houses or certain municipalities.
As we worked with the Federation of Rental-housing Providers to refine the section of the bill that deals with multi-residential units, we researched a number of these municipal bylaws. Each one puts different requirements on the landlord; different rules in different municipalities create red tape and confusion. Our goal should be to create a situation that makes it as easy as possible for people to comply with the law and protect Ontarians against carbon monoxide poisoning. That is why we need to move forward with the Hawkins Gignac Act.
I appreciate all the support and the many people who have worked to help us raise awareness about the need for detectors, including numerous fire chiefs, municipal politicians and safety experts. David Thomson, past president of Firefighters Association of Ontario, said, “Carbon monoxide is known as the silent killer. With the introduction of the Hawkins Gignac Act, this will ensure that all homes in Ontario will have early detection on all levels of residences and that they are installed and maintained properly.”
Mr. Speaker, one of the things that makes carbon monoxide poisoning so tragic is that it is preventable. Over the last three years, many more people have become aware of the need for carbon monoxide detectors, and I’m pleased that so many families have made the decision to ensure they are protected, but there are still far too many people at risk. I want to encourage everyone who is listening to this debate today, here and at home, not to wait for the legislation to pass, but to make sure that they and their loved ones have working carbon monoxide detectors in their homes as soon as possible. Working together, we can prevent more tragedies. Working together, we can raise awareness, move this bill forward to committee and ensure that we can protect Ontario’s families from carbon monoxide poisoning.