On April 21, Jessica Bell, the MPP for University—Rosedale, hosted a roundtable discussion at the University of Toronto Student Commons in collaboration with the University of Toronto Students’ Union, the University of Toronto Graduate Students’ Union, the Canadian Union of Public Employees Local 3902, the Canadian Federation of Students Ontario, and other U of T-connected student groups and faculty. 

The event aimed to help students learn more about their local MPP. It also provided students with a platform to express their concerns and work with Bell to better the experiences of the university’s students and employees.

Bell was reelected for a four-year term during Ontario’s provincial elections in June 2022. 

The roundtable discussion

Bell divided the room into smaller groups and encouraged participants to introduce themselves and share two issues they’d seen in their community, “[whether at] U of T or otherwise.” Participants discussed the ongoing housing crisis, accessibility challenges for disabled students on and off campus, and the “Don’t Invoice Our Illness” campaign, which the Association for Part-time Undergraduate Students (APUS) spearheads. APUS’ campaign advocates to eliminate fees associated with taking a missed exam due to an illness.

When asked about the issue of landlords exploiting out-of-province tenants through hidden deposits and payments, Bell highlighted rent and vacancy control as ways to increase stability in the housing market and curb exploitation. She noted her efforts to push for stronger rental protections because she believes that the Landlord and Tenant Board in Toronto, a tribunal that handles conflicts between landlords and tenants, is “not working right now.” According to The Local, tenants in Toronto have seen waiting times of up to two years to process their complaints with landlords. 

Bell also spoke about increasing accessibility by planning new construction to address concerns regarding the difficulty of finding disability-friendly apartments. 

Affordable housing

Bell shared that she plans to remove restrictive zoning laws that prevent additional construction of affordable housing. She defended Toronto’s rent control policy, arguing that the existing system of rent controls protects lower-income Toronto residents and allows them to spend less income on rent and more in other sectors of the economy, encouraging economic growth. 

“We absolutely do need to invest in better public services; we need to invest in universities and transit and affordable housing,” she said. “When we do that, not only do we stimulate the economy, but we just make life better for people — and we can absolutely afford it.”

She emphasized that university students and workers can contact her for support planning events and to provide feedback on proposed laws.