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In extreme heat, landlords should be required to keep tenants cool

From a Globe and Mail opinion piece: Last month, as a heat wave baked parts of the country, people flocked to beaches and neighbourhood pools in an attempt to seek respite from the stifling weather. But as the temperatures climbed so, too, did the death toll. In Ontario, three heat-related deaths were reported. In Quebec, the picture was far worse with more than 90 people dying from heat-related causes over the span of a week.

While the death toll in Ontario could be higher as the province has stricter definitions on what consists of a “heat-related death,” the staggering amount of lives lost in Quebec can be attributed to something more than just a difference in definitions. According to officials in Montreal, of the 53 people who died in the city, none of them had air conditioning in their places of residence. These numbers make one thing clear: With air conditioning, deaths could have been prevented.

As a result of climate change, temperatures across Canada have increased over the past few decades. Data collected by Environment Canada show that between 1961 and 2014, the temperature of Canada’s land mass increased by 1.6 degrees C. National summer temperatures are projected to be 3.5 degrees C higher between 2040-2070 than between 1981-2010. While Canadian cities have rules addressing extreme cold, they have yet to properly address the increasing danger from extreme heat.

Extreme heat can have detrimental effects on the body – heat exhaustion is common, with symptoms including headache and dizziness. Things can get much worse with the onset of heat stroke, which often brings with it unconsciousness and requires medical attention. People’s mental health can also take a toll in the heat; researchers in Britain for instance, found that there is a link between higher temperature and the frequency of suicides.

According to 2015 figures from Statistics Canada, only 53 per cent of households in Quebec have air conditioning, 83 per cent in Ontario and 57 per cent nationwide.

Despite the plethora of evidence demonstrating the need to keep people cool, housing regulations in Canada have yet to catch up. In Toronto for instance, landlords aren’t required to install AC systems. There are regulations for landlords who do have units with air conditioning; they must maintain a temperature below 26 degrees, but this is only if the rental agreement specifies the use of AC.

Read more: In extreme heat, landlords should be required to keep tenants cool

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