Politics

Trudeau’s assignments to ministers that affect Ontario

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau published the mandate letters he gave to ministers last Thursday, spelling out to them what their priorities should be in this Parliament.

National issues like the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change, and reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples are focuses of many ministerial mandates, while some are also tasked with more regionally or locally relevant assignments.

Housing affordability, improving health and long-term care, and steering people towards using more electric vehicles are some files highlighted in Trudeau’s letters that are specially of concern in Ontario.

Housing affordability is of particular interest to Ontarians, given the high cost of owning a home in the province.

Federal Housing Minister Ahmed Hussen has been told to attack the problem by:

  • Creating an anti-flipping tax on residential properties, and requiring they be held for at least 12 months;
  • Temporarily banning foreign buyers;
  • Banning blind bidding in real estate;
  • Preventing “reno-victions”;
  • Increasing Canada’s housing supply through inclusionary zoning, more densification, and reducing construction approval timelines; and
  • Taxing landlords who excessively increase rent between tenants.

Several of Trudeau’s ministers, including Finance, Health and Mental Health and Addictions — which is a new portfolio — have been given direction to improve the health and long-term care system in a number of ways. Ontario’s long-term care system was devastated by the pandemic, while it’s hospital system suffers from chronic staffing issues and has a reputation for offering slow care.

Trudeau told members of his cabinet to improve these systems by:

  • Creating a new Canada Mental Health Transfer to “expand the delivery of high-quality, accessible, and free mental health services, including for prevention and treatment”;
  • Negotiating agreements with the provinces and territories to improve long-term care homes; and
  • Training up to 50,000 new personal support workers and raising their wages.

The mandate letters don’t mention an increase to the Canada Health Transfer, as Premier Doug Ford and his counterparts have asked.

Ontario is also where most auto-manufacturing takes places in Canada, which produces the 12th-most automobiles in the world.

Ford’s Progressive Conservative government has indicated a change in tact in its auto-strategy as of late, by planning to install electric-vehicle (EV) chargers and suggesting consumer rebates for EV purchases could return, both of which he previously cancelled.

Trudeau’s ministers have been instructed to grow the automotive-manufacturing industry, position Canada at the forefront of extracting critical minerals — of which certain types are needed for EV batteries, establishing Canada as a global leader in battery manufacturing, adding 50,000 new EV chargers and hydrogen stations in the country, and addressing trade issues and protectionist measures by the U.S. — whose administration is currently trying to pass a bill that would hurt Canada’s automotive industry.

Other Ontario-specific assignments Trudeau gave to ministers in their mandate letters include:

  • Conclude childcare negotiations with Ontario and Nunavut, the last province and territory to sign onto Ottawa’s childcare plan to achieve $10/day childcare.
  • Launch a procurement process and move forward with the High Frequency Rail project in the Toronto to Quebec City corridor using electrified technology, working towards the ultimate goal of extending it to Southwestern Ontario.
  • Support the Windsor-Detroit Bridge Authority to complete the Gordie Howe International Bridge, set to be completed by the end of 2024.
  • Implement a strengthened Freshwater Action Plan, including historic investment to protect large lakes and river systems, beginning with the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River System, Lake Simcoe, the Lake Winnipeg Basin, which includes part of Ontario.
  • Invest in the Experimental Lakes Area in northern Ontario to support international freshwater science and research.
  • Eliminate all remaining long-term drinking water advisories on First Nations reserves and make sure long-term investments and resources in place prevent future ones — including keeping a promise to invest $6 billion to ensure all First Nations communities have access to clean water. According to the government’s website, there are 21 First Nations in Ontario with long-term drinking water advisories.
  • Build a national monument honouring residential school survivors in Ottawa.
  • Replace the Alexandra Bridge, and invest in rehabilitating the Chaudière and Macdonald-Cartier crossings, all of which connect Ottawa and Gatineau.

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