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Ottawa area MPP disappointed in lack of support for derecho-inspired generator bill

People walk away along Merivale Road, after power lines and utility poles came down onto the roadway during a major storm, forcing motorists to remain in their vehicles until crews determined it was safe to leave, on Merivale Road in Ottawa, on Saturday, May 21, 2022. (Justin Tang/THE CANADIAN PRESS) People walk away along Merivale Road, after power lines and utility poles came down onto the roadway during a major storm, forcing motorists to remain in their vehicles until crews determined it was safe to leave, on Merivale Road in Ottawa, on Saturday, May 21, 2022. (Justin Tang/THE CANADIAN PRESS)
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An Ottawa MPP's private member's bill inspired by the May 2022 derecho appears unlikely to pass, as it lacks support from the governing Progressive Conservative party.

Ottawa West—Nepean MPP Chandra Pasma (NDP) introduced Bill 47, titled "Protecting Human Rights in an Emergency Act" in November. If passed, it would amend the Residential Tenancies Act and the Condominium Act to require landlords to have an emergency generator or generators capable of powering at least one elevator, hallway lights and water supply throughout their buildings for two weeks, in the event of an extended power outage.

It was created on the heels of the May storm that knocked out power for hundreds of thousands of people for several days. Residents who live on upper floors of high-rise buildings lost access to elevators and running water.

Pasma compared the bill to previous legislation requiring landlords provide smoke detectors in their rental units when speaking to Newstalk 580 CFRA's Ottawa Now with Kristy Cameron Wednesday afternoon.

"Once upon a time, we decided that it should no longer be up to the landlord to install smoke detectors and fire alarms in a building because of the human cost. The time now has come where it should no longer be up to the landlord to decide whether or not to have a generator when it's our seniors, people with disabilities, parents with young children and others with mobility issues who have to pay the cost," she said.

During the debate Wednesday, Pasma described the story of Ottawa's Lynn Ashdown, who uses and wheelchair and was trapped in her 11th floor apartment for 10 days after the May 2022 derecho. Ashdown previously shared her story with CTV News in the days after the storm, and is one of the people who inspired the bill.

She told CFRA that during a recent winter storm in December, she was unable to sleep, and counted all the times the lights flickered—14 times—worried that her apartment would lose power and she may be trapped again.

However, the Progressive Conservatives do not appear to be poised to support the bill. Thunder Bay—Atikokan MPP Kevin Holland spoke against it Wednesday, saying it would create more red tape and more costs for landlords and would decrease the amount of rental units available in Ontario.

A vote on the bill was deferred to Thursday, but without the support of the governing majority, it is unlikely to survive.

Pasma said Wednesday night she was disappointed.

"Ford Conservatives are saying no to protecting Ontarians during emergencies," she wrote on Twitter. "In doing so they have jeopardized the safety of thousands. Though this is incredibly disappointing, I will not give up until we make access to fundamental necessities in an emergency a reality."

An Ottawa city council committee recently debated a motion calling on the city to lend its support to Bill 47. While it had the support of some councillors, including Sean Devine, whose ward was one of the hardest hit by the storm, and from Hydro Ottawa CEO Bryce Conrad, it was ultimately defeated. Councillors were concerned about the potential costs to both private landlords and non-profits, including who would pay to install the generators should the bill become law.

Pasma stressed during Wednesday's debate that many landlords already have generators but there are some, including very large and wealthy corporations, who do not.

Ashdown told CTV News she's disappointed the Progressive Conservatives would not be supporting the bill.

"You're sentencing people to endure the physical and psychological trauma over and over," she said. "It tells me that I don't matter. That's ultimately what it tells me and everybody like me."

She said that while this bill may not be successful, it's starting a conversation.

"At least we're having the discussion now and we know that it's an issue. What I'd like to see happen is tenants speaking up, asking their landlords and putting more pressure on their landlords," she said.

"Let's elevate the stories of the landlords who are doing this voluntarily… I actually think we should be learning from them… because obviously there was enough of a reason that compelled them to do it," she said of what she'd like to see next.

"I don't want the conversation to die. Change, sometimes, takes a lot of time." 

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