MPP Column on the Fall Session of the Legislature

As the Legislature returns for the fall session one of the key topics will be the rapidly increasing cost of living and doing business in Ontario.

Over the summer I heard from people across Oxford who are struggling to pay their hydro bills. It is an issue that I will continue to raise the Legislature. Too many people are suffering in the heat during the summer and the cold during the winter because they can’t afford the hydro, yet this government continues to sign new green energy contracts at above market rates for power we don’t need. At the end of 2015 more than 8 percent of families were in arrears on their hydro bill owing a total of $172.5 million.

At the recent Association of Municipalities conference the cost of hydro was raised often by municipalities, both their own costs and the impact on businesses in their communities. Factories are closing and moving to jurisdictions where they can get cheaper power and they are taking the jobs with them.

As critic for Municipal Affairs and Housing I will also be dealing with affordable housing this fall. As the cost of living and housing has increased more and more families that used to be able to afford housing on their own now require assistance.  Over the last ten years the wait list for affordable housing has grown by almost 40 percent to a record high of 171,360 families.

This government’s policies have contributed to the housing affordability problem, including increasing development charges, high taxes and land use polices. As well, the government allowed social housing money to be spent on luxury vacations for executives instead of housing.

Last spring the government introduced a bill on inclusionary zoning which would require a number of affordable units in each development and allow that cost to be passed on to all the other new homeowners or renters. I have concern that this will simply drive up the cost of housing further and result in more people being unable to afford proper housing without assistance.

There are many unanswered questions about the government’s proposal.  How can a percentage of the units be affordable in a development with only two or three homes? Who will choose the people who get to purchase a house for significantly less than their neighbours? Maintenance on a house is expensive, who will pay the cost?

The government cannot explain how this would work in condominiums. Would the affordable unit tenant pay their share of services, including in some cases a concierge or valet parking? Would the other people pay more to cover these units? Or does social housing money pay the condo fees even though that money might have been enough to house several families somewhere else?

We all want to ensure that help is available for those who need it, but it has to be done in a way that makes sense and uses taxpayers’ dollars as efficiently as possible. Ontarians who are already struggling to make ends meet can’t afford to pay for more government waste.

This fall I will be delivering the message that the government needs recognize that their policies have made life unaffordable for Ontarians and start considering the impact on the cost of living for everyone when they make a decision.