Mr Ted Arnott (Waterloo-Wellington PC)
Mr Marcel Beaubien (Lambton-Kent-Middlesex PC)
Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton West / -Ouest ND)
Mr Doug Galt (Northumberland PC)
Mr Monte Kwinter (York Centre / -Centre L)
Mrs Tina R. Molinari (Thornhill PC)
Mr Gerry Phillips (Scarborough-Agincourt L)
Substitutions / Membres remplaçants
Mr Pat Hoy (Chatham-Kent Essex L)
Mr Bert Johnson (Perth-Middlesex PC)
Clerk / Greffier
Mr Tom Prins
Staff / Personnel
Mr David Rampersad, research officer,
Research and Information Services
The committee met at
0900 in the Best Western Wheels Inn, Chatham.
CHATHAM AND DISTRICT CHAMBER OF COMMERCE
The Chair (Mr Marcel
Beaubien): Good morning, everyone. If I can get your
attention, I'd like to bring this committee to order. We do have
to take a bus tonight, so we'd like to run on time.
Our first presenters this
morning are representatives from the Chatham and District Chamber
of Commerce. Could you please step forward and state your names
for the record.
Robinson: My name is Ralph Robinson. Representing the
chamber this morning are Gail Antaya, our general manager, and
Reg MacDonald, one of our directors.
On behalf of the committee, welcome. You have 30 minutes for your
We've broken our presentation down into five subjects. Those
subjects are on page 2 of our presentation. They are: Highway
401; the doctor shortage; agribusiness; maintaining excellence in
education; and the Red Tape Commission.
To lead off our presentation,
I'll call on Gail to cover the subject of Highway 401.
Antaya: In the recent past, a number of fatalities have
occurred along the Highway 401 corridor within our municipality
of Chatham-Kent. Taking into consideration the increased traffic
with the implementation of NAFTA and the many businesses
utilizing a "just in time" delivery, the current nature of the
highway creates a very unsafe driving zone. The recent
announcement of the proposed twinning of the Ambassador Bridge
between Ontario and Michigan will no doubt add to this increase
of traffic on Highway 401.
The current improvements
being made to the highway are recognized, and the widening of the
shoulders will provide additional security to the driving paths.
However, more needs to be done, as was promised in the summer of
1999. The increase of 22 OPP officers, 11 of which are to be
stationed in Chatham-Kent, has not been completed, and the
promise of the increased inspection staff has yet to be
Highway 401 begins in Windsor
with a border crossing extremely busy with trucks importing and
exporting to Ontario and beyond. Many tourists utilize this same
crossing to enter our beautiful province. As such, it is
imperative to ensure safe driving conditions for these users.
An enhanced traffic path
provides more opportunity for industry development and is a major
factor in attracting new business. Being competitive in today's
market is a necessity. As Chatham-Kent is a contributor to
Ontario's economic well-being, the concerns on the safety of the
stretch of Highway 401 running through our municipality need to
It is the recommendation of
the Chatham and District Chamber of Commerce to: continue the
proposed increase of OPP personnel along the corridor as promised
by the Minister of Transportation; increase the inspection staff
as promised by the Minister of Transportation; increase the
current two-lane highway to a safer, more conducive three-lane
freeway; create barriers between the east and west driving paths;
and consider alternatives to concrete, such as the rubberized
post system utilized in some areas of Europe. Implementation of
the rubberized post actually reduces construction zone hazards
due to the lessening of disruption and the closing of traffic
MacDonald: Good morning. My particular application is
around the physician shortage. Chatham-Kent is in a dire doctor
shortage situation. It is recognized that we are not unlike many
of our counterparts in the province. Numerous reports indicate
that the shortage of doctors available to our citizens will only
increase in its severity.
Availability of accessible,
adequate health resources should be a common standard for all of
the citizens living in our community and throughout Ontario.
However, this appears not to be the case. Many citizens are
without a family physician. Individuals with specific needs are
added to the already long lists waiting for specialists to have
diagnostic testing completed or to have necessary treatments
In a November 1999 report
released by the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences, the
southern areas of Ontario, especially Essex, Lambton and
Chatham-Kent, have the lowest number of doctors per capita. Our
area has a continual decline in the number of physicians
available to our citizens. Currently, Chatham-Kent has only
5.7 physicians available per
10,000 population. This situation will only get worse, as
Chatham-Kent has a high proportion of aging physicians. The
provincial health ministry has designated Chatham-Kent an
underserviced area. Indications utilizing their formula prove
Chatham-Kent to be underserviced by 19 family doctors alone. Our
residents are not left with a choice of who to have for a doctor,
but if they will have a doctor. This leaves many families
relocating in Chatham-Kent having to travel hours in order to see
family practitioners located in other areas of the province due
to lack of accessibility to a local physician. This should not be
From an economic perspective,
a community and province without adequate health care creates a
difficult atmosphere in which to attract business. In particular,
business wants to ensure that certain standards are available
prior to making an investment in a community. Health care access
is one of the key standards. In order to maintain economic
well-being and to continue to prosper, our province needs to
correct this situation.
One of our recommendations
would be that the provincial health ministry study the underlying
issues creating the doctor shortage and institute corrective
action. Some specific recommendations would be that the
government intervene in the application of the College of
Physicians and Surgeons and revamp the process and criteria for
admission of non-Ontario-trained physicians in order to
compensate for the current and pending shortage of doctors in
Ontario; also, that the College of Physicians and Surgeons set
enrolment rates back to previous levels in order to accommodate
more students entering medical schools.
The second recommendation is
that the provincial health ministry create location incentive
programs in which doctors are paid at varied payment schedules
according to levels of service available to the population.
Some specific examples would
be that the current negotiations with the physicians include a
process of enhanced deployment to underserviced areas, allowing
for a more equitable distribution of physicians throughout the
province; that the government research and design an assessment
process based on demographics and identify the required types and
quantities of physicians to meet the future needs of Ontario
residents; and that the matrix be met by encouraging students to
enter those areas of greatest need.
Turning to the next subject, agribusiness, 70% of the Chatham
gross national product is agriculture-related, and we are thus a
primary and secondary agriculture area. The recent downsizing of
the local OMAFRA office and cutbacks in related services could
have an adverse effect on this important sector of our local
economy. In the past, farmers did not have to visit an OMAFRA
office to receive services. Officials brought solutions to the
farmer and the local agricultural sector through seminars,
representation on a variety of local committees, and media
articles. These officials will no longer be available to carry
out local programs.
In 1998, Canadian consumers
spent less than 9.8% of their disposable income to cover their
food expenditure, the lowest percentage of any of the world's
industrialized nations. Canadian consumers also enjoy one of the
most abundant food supplies on the globe. Canadian farmers are
among the most innovative, efficient and competitive on the
planet, yet their share of the bounty they produce gets smaller
and smaller year after year. Canadian farmers have taken pride
over the years in providing consumers with high-quality and safe
foods at very competitive prices, as the above ratio
approximately 2,700 farms, with gross gate annual sales of $305
million. It is estimated that loss of cash receipts in
Chatham-Kent alone in 1999 will reach $75 million because of low
agricultural commodity prices.
It is imperative that both
the federal and provincial governments respond immediately to the
inequities and undue hardships placed upon our farm communities.
Ag industry opportunities which would ultimately create jobs,
boost competitiveness and strengthen Ontario's economy must be
developed. We must strengthen our farm safety nets and marketing
structures to allow our farmers to concentrate on competing on a
global stage rather than focusing on financial uncertainties and,
It is the recommendation of
the Chatham and District Chamber of Commerce:
(1) That the provincial
government ensure agricultural programs and services previously
available through our local OMAFRA office continue to be
available to farmers. Consider partnership with local
agricultural, rural and economic organizations to maintain a
local ministry presence.
(2) Together with federal
counterparts, ensure that programs are available to keep farmers
competitive with other primary trading partners and/or
(3) That the provincial and
federal governments aggressively pursue any hint of market
collusion that would create unfair costs or decrease market
prices to our farmers.
The Chatham and District Chamber of Commerce believes that
education, from early childhood education through to
post-graduate studies, including the vital aspects of
apprenticeship studies, is a very important component of making
Ontario North America's leading economy.
The chamber supports many of
the government's actions to reform the education system. In 1998,
the Ontario Chamber of Commerce recommended investing in early
childhood education. Shortly afterwards, both the Leader of the
Opposition and the Premier began speaking on the issue, and
pre-kindergarten funding was maintained.
This year, the release of Dr
Fraser Mustard's and Margaret McCain's Early Years Study pointed
out the dramatic benefits to our society's capabilities if our
communities make a greater investment in time, attention and
money for our youngest.
The education committee of the Ontario Chamber of
Commerce has worked closely with the Ministry of Education to
review the business studies portion of the new curriculum. The
education committee is preparing a submission on the issue of
teacher testing. We, the Chatham chamber of commerce, are pleased
to see the Ontario chamber wanting to continue working with the
government to make education an important priority for Ontario's
It is our recommendation that
the provincial government support the Ontario Chamber of Commerce
recommendation that Ontario recognize the opportunities outlined
in the Early Years Study, and that our provincial government
adopt an approach to give this long-term project provincial
MacDonald: In terms of a submission regarding the Red
Tape Commission, the Chatham and District Chamber of Commerce
supports the work of the Red Tape Commission. We believe the
commission should be continued. The government should make the
commission permanent and mandate it to conduct a biannual review
of regulations to ensure they still remain relevant and are not a
burden on business.
It is the recommendation of
the chamber, then, that the Red Tape Commission be permanent;
that a review of regulations affecting business be completed by
the Red Tape Commission to ensure their current relevancy on a
biannual basis; and that the Red Tape Commission be empowered to
embrace technology to simplify filing processes for all levels of
Thank you very much. We'll maintain the same rotation that we had
last week. I'll start with the government side, and we have four
minutes per caucus.
Mr Ted Arnott
(Waterloo-Wellington): I want to thank the three of you
very much for your presentation. It was very thoughtful, and
you've done a lot of research that will be very helpful to the
committee as we proceed with our deliberations, hopefully giving
advice to the Treasurer which will be included in his budget this
spring. You've identified a number of local concerns, but also
some provincial concerns that affect us all.
The 401 issue is something
that has been discussed extensively in the Legislature. As you've
pointed out, there is a need for additional OPP officers, some
22. Can you tell me if the Minister of Transportation has given
any time frame as to when those officers will be in place, or do
we have any indication as to when that's going to be
We're not aware of any time frame at this stage.
But a commitment has been made, and I'm certain it will be
honoured if that's the case.
You mentioned the doctor
shortage. There are quite a number of communities that are facing
the same sort of problem as you are here in Chatham-Kent.
Certainly the community I represent in Waterloo-Wellington has
this problem, as do many other communities across the province.
The government has studied the problem extensively, and a
commission headed up by someone named Dr McKendry has made
recommendations as to what ought to be done.
I should also tell you that
the government is committed to creating an assistance program for
medical students, that if they commit to going to practise for
five years in an underserviced area, they would get their tuition
free of charge. We're committed to implementing that as well. So
we hope that will be of some assistance in solving this problem.
I just want to say that you're not alone in this, and you should
be commended for your efforts to attract doctors and encouraged
to continue to do that.
You mentioned agriculture,
farming and the importance of agriculture to the local economy
here in Chatham-Kent. I wonder if you could talk about the
benefits, perhaps, that have accrued to this area as a result of
the ethanol plant that the government supported some time
The benefit to the area with the ethanol plant is the obvious
usage of product. There has been a disadvantage, but I don't
think that needs to be covered in this area. But certainly the
ethanol plant has created a market for corn grown not only in
Chatham-Kent but also in other areas. I understand it's not
limited to Ontario production either.
You talked about education. You emphasized the need for early
intervention, and I wanted to let you know that the Minister of
Health, the Honourable Elizabeth Witmer, has presided over a
significant expansion of a program called Healthy Babies, Healthy
Children. Initially, when it was started, the investment and the
expenditure in that program was about $10 million a year. I think
as of next year it's going to be an expenditure of $67 million,
so it has expanded by a factor of six in just two or three short
What the program does is,
through the local health units, attempt to identify children who
may be at risk of unhealthy development and set the families up
with available services that might help alleviate that, as well
as supplementing the program with home visits by people who are
very skilled at raising children and helping the families in that
I wondered if you are aware
of the program, and if that program has been beneficial in this
Ms Antaya: I
am not aware of this program whatsoever, unfortunately. I'm sure
that if I were to do some investigation with the health unit, I
might be aware of it.
Mr Pat Hoy
(Chatham-Kent Essex): Good morning and thank you for
being with us today. I appreciate your presentation. There are
many issues here that are of great interest to myself and other
members. I personally share your concerns about the 401, and of
course all of your concerns, but the 401 in particular. It's my
understanding that the Ontario police personnel who would be
deployed here were promised in September of last year and that
the funding for these officers would expire at the end of the
government year or August 1. I'm glad you raised this issue so
that the government can expedite their being here.
The rubberized posts and
construction zones: I've seen a film about something similar, and
I just want to ask if what I may have seen in this film is the
same thing that you are talking about. It's a rope type of effect
with a post that will fall and rise. Is that what we are probably
talking about here?
Would you agree that a test site might be required along some
highway, not necessarily 401, to test this? Notwithstanding any
liability questions that might arise-we could deal with that
later, I suppose-would you agree that there should be a test
case, a test area for this particular safety feature?
MacDonald: Yes, a test or pilot project, like any new
technology for this particular area-although it's been in Europe
for awhile-would probably be prudent, except that you expressed a
liability situation. I'm sure that would have to be looked at,
and I think the location of this test site would be a critical
item as well so that the usage of it would be appropriate.
Mr Hoy: One
of the situations we have here in Chatham-Kent, as you have
acknowledged, is the lack of a sufficient number of doctors.
Would you agree that nurse practitioners might be able to help
doctors here in Chatham-Kent? I'm thinking of Dr Button who has
7,000 patients. Would you agree that there are situations and
areas of expertise in which nurse practitioners could work and
help a doctor here in Chatham-Kent-Essex?
MacDonald: That is correct. I think that nurse
practitioners fill a need, and I think that physicians would
welcome those nurse practitioners as well.
Mr Hoy: I
appreciate your comments on the importance of agribusiness to
Chatham-Kent and, indeed, Essex. I guess it's been stated before
by others that if it can be grown in Canada, it can be grown in
Chatham-Kent and/or Essex, so we're quite proud of our
agricultural abilities here.
The closure of the
agricultural offices as you've identified here-the government is
going to close 32 of them. I simply want to ask you if you've
utilized government 800 numbers. First of all, have you had any
occasion to use them, and second, what is your experience been
with them? Was it good, fair or poor?
We've been fortunate within our chamber that we have had access
to a representative from OMAFRA, not only through local
conversations but on our agriculture committee that we set up and
that has been active for over 15 years. We have been fortunate in
the aspect that when we need an activity, when we need some
answers, we have that local representation, and not only that,
they bring the information to us on an ongoing basis through
reports, through media, and if there is anything of specific
concern it's brought to our attention.
Mr Hoy: So
having a local representative here, in your mind, would be better
than talking to someone on the phone at some distance away from
Ms Antaya: I
would think so, yes. Not only that, the representation around our
own committee that we have through the chamber represents
approximately 17 agribusiness-related organizations or farming
community organizations. They are getting that information on a
month-to-month basis, if not more often.
Mr Hoy: Many
people have come to me and approached me about these ag office
closures and talked about the hands-on, personal service that
they would get rather than talking over the Internet or some 800
number. They've said to me that cases of importance here in
Chatham-Kent may not be the same as something that's occurring in
the Niagara region, if we think of the crops that are similar in
both areas, and that it may not happen at the same time, or one
problem may be more advanced than another, and it would be better
if someone could actually look at it, rather than having a
description made over the phone or by some other means.
Thank you very much, Mr Hoy. You've run out of time.
Christopherson (Hamilton West): Thank you very much for
your presentation. One of the benefits of travelling to the
different parts of the province is you get a much closer feel for
what's happening on the ground in each of the communities. I
noticed in your text that you mentioned that the Leader of the
Opposition and the Premier began speaking about pre-kindergarten
funding, that they thought it should be maintained. I'm sure it's
just an oversight in noting that it was the NDP government that
actually mandated that boards had to provide it. It was the
current government that eliminated it and then afterwards said,
"Oh, gee, I guess we should be supportive of it." I would just
backfill that point for you, because I'm sure it's just an
You were talking about
education and the importance of education. We've had a number of
presentations from parents, from teachers at all levels,
education specialists, talking about the crisis that exists in
education right now. I would bring to your attention that in
1992, during the depth of the recession, per thousand there were
94.9 teachers. That includes all supports to teachers. In the
last year where figures are available, 1998, it's down to 82.4.
The loss has mostly come from custodians, librarians, computer
technicians and educational assistants, where there's a real
special need and a growing crisis, again because of the funding
that has been cut. They changed it. They said: "There are
problems. We're going to change it." They did change it, but
they've made it worse. There's not as much money as there was.
There are far fewer English-as-a-second-language teachers. Right
now in our ranking in North America, we are 55th out of 63
jurisdictions in terms of per pupil funding. In the depths of the
recession, when the NDP government was in power, we were 13th. So
we were doing a lot better in education during the depths of the
recession than we are now during the economic boom.
With all the implications for
the education system, I just wonder how you feel about this, in
terms of the government's changes in funding. Do you think the
funding ought to be increased so we can go back to the kind of
quality education system we had, or are you supportive of continuing this, what I would
characterize as a downward trend?
In answer to that, I would only say that we have a local
Christian school in our community whose funding represents about
50% of what the public funding is, and the quality of
education-studies have shown that the subsequent success of those
students has not been unduly affected by the funding they didn't
Christopherson: So your point would be?
Funding doesn't guarantee success.
Christopherson: So you're supportive of the government's
cuts in education; you think we're getting more with less?
That wasn't what I said. I said that funding does not guarantee
Christopherson: I appreciate that. I was just trying to
get to a point, though, and that is, do you support the direction
that we've gone in, where there is less money, where we've got
experts disagreeing with you, saying that there are implications
for our children-big implications-or do you think the government
should rethink their funding formula and ensure there's enough
I've got kids in my community
in downtown Hamilton who can't get into a classroom because there
are not enough educational assistants. The money has been cut. I
don't think any of us need to be an expert to appreciate that if
the kids aren't in the school, they can't be getting a better
education than they got a couple of years ago. These are real
issues, and quite frankly a lot of these cuts were made necessary
by the fact that the government gave up $5 billion to $6 billion
in revenue in order to provide the tax cut that the wealthy
benefited from the most.
I think our recommendation was fairly clear.
On behalf of the committee, thank you very much for you
presentation, and for braving the roads this morning. But I'm
sure you didn't have to drive too far.
MUNICIPALITY OF LEAMINGTON
Our next presenter this morning is the mayor of the municipality
of Leamington. If you could step forward and state your name for
the record, please.
Wilkinson: I'm Dave Wilkinson.
On behalf of the committee, Your Worship, welcome. You have 30
minutes for your presentation this morning.
Wilkinson: Believe me, I won't take 30 minutes to do
this. I'm usually very brief.
I come to you from an
average-sized municipality that lies within a two-tier system of
government. In 1998, Leamington, in the county of Essex, did
restructure from 21 municipalities down to seven. We are
currently looking at that structure again.
Whatever that answer is, we
know there is only one option that is needed, and that is lower
property taxes. Since 1997, we have been able to maintain no
property tax increases, and in one of those years we were even
able to reduce property taxes. The room that was made on property
taxes in 1999 by the provincial government was due to the
reduction on the school tax side of things, and we certainly
appreciated that move.
My municipality chose to
freeze the property taxes at current levels, and the extra money
that was raised from the 5% provincial reduction in school taxes
was used for infrastructure inside our community. With the
current good economic growth that is taking place in Ontario
today, and in Leamington, more and more pressure, though, is
being put on the services that we supply. We enjoyed about 3% to
4% growth in 1999, but the extra tax dollars did not keep pace
with the strain on our infrastructure. We therefore strongly urge
you to participate in any new infrastructure program that may be
coming forth. The infrastructure program that occurred back in
1991 was a blessing to our community, but it was created to
create new jobs. In 2000, though, it is not to increase jobs but
to satisfy the growth that is taking place.
Bill 79 certainly has good
intentions, and some of those benefits are taking place today,
but there certainly are some drawbacks to it. One of the most
glaring ones was the late arrival of instructions from the
ministry on the 10-5-5 capping portion of the property taxes. Our
tax notices were delayed throughout the year and with this came
hardships on our taxpayers; it also strained our budgeted targets
that we set throughout the year. Hopefully, the year 2000 will be
different and Bill 79 will see the benefits in a more timely
Another factor that I urge
the province to influence, if it can, is the way property
assessments are handled. I believe it should have more local
representation, instead of the current policy, which is more to
Yes, tax cuts do create
jobs in the private sector and in time more success for our
municipalities. It makes my job a lot easier to help my
municipality when the economy is good. The employment rate is
lower than the national average in Leamington. Provincial
decisions do affect tax rates, but we all know that both the
municipality and province want to deliver services in an
efficient but effective way. I urge the province to work closely
with the municipalities, all ministries, so that we can continue
to deliver services in an efficient way. Decreasing property
taxes is a popular move with our ratepayers, but we must balance
tax cuts with the services that we must provide.
I believe the province,
back in 1995, did jump-start a new way for municipalities to
follow, and change was needed. But as we move down this road
together, it is important to have a good line of communication
between the province and the municipalities.
I want to thank you for the
time you have given me to speak here this morning. I will answer
any questions that I can, from a municipality point of view.
The Chair: I'll start with the
official opposition. We have approximately eight minutes per
Good morning, Mayor. Thank you for being with us here this
morning. You talk about municipal restructuring in your area. For
the benefit of others who are visiting with us today, could you
describe how that restructuring took place. What I'm asking is,
was your restructuring a local solution, was it done by a
commissioner or was it done by legislation from Queen's Park?
Wilkinson: It was a local solution that the county of
Essex, which we lie within, took upon itself. As I said in the
words that I read here this morning, what the province did in
1995-there was change needed, but luckily the county that I come
from, that Leamington participated in, did come up with a local
solution, from 21 down to seven. We've seen the benefits in
Leamington of what we did. We recognize that there are probably
more benefits to be had, and that's why we are currently looking
at our structure today.
You mentioned your dealing with taxes locally and how currently
they seem to be working quite well; you did not have to raise
taxes. Did your municipality receive money from the community
Wilkinson That's the CRF? Yes, I believe my municipality
did. I also believe we did receive help when we restructured,
same as they did in Chatham-Kent.
Would you think that any municipality that might be undergoing
restructuring should have the same consideration based on a
formula, that they too should have some help initially in their
Wilkinson: Yes. In my municipality we amalgamated with
our rural neighbour: Leamington and Mersea went together to get
down to the seven. It was a fairly easy amalgamation that took
place in my municipality. In all the reports that we had
throughout the year or as we moved forward on the downloading
issue and the restructuring, it really was a positive thing for
our community. I can't speak for the other communities, but it
was a positive move that happened there. We received some help
from the ministry when we restructured. It did go smoothly. We
want to take another step. I believe we've seen the benefits of
Would you want to make that other step a local solution as
Wilkinson: Yes. As I said, provincial decisions do
affect tax rates; they really do. As we move along, I believe
where I come from we know the systems down there and different
things. I know the city of Windsor has been urging the province
to appoint a commissioner. I come from a municipality where I
believe there is a local solution that can be found, and
hopefully in the year 2000 we will have an answer for the
You talked about the infrastructure program of the past: federal,
provincial and municipal participation. At the time it seemed to
be generally well accepted across the province by all those
involved, all levels of government. Would you suggest again that
it be one third, one third, one third, or do you have any other
percentage mix of sharing in that?
Wilkinson: I believe it was fair last time. As I said,
before it was maybe to jumpstart the economy, a lot of it. The
municipalities welcomed that with open arms. We understand that
both federally and provincially you have cut back on any kind of
capital programs. We certainly would welcome that back. It
created jobs in 1991 and jumpstarted the economy. Today it's the
fact that our economy is growing and our infrastructure is just
not keeping pace. Sure, we get more dollars from the growth
that's taking place, but we don't seem to be able to keep pace
with the new things that are coming, waterlines and different
things like that.
Christopherson: Thank you, Mayor, for your
Just for your knowledge, I
spent five years on the Hamilton-Wentworth regional council and
Hamilton city council before I moved to Queen's Park, so I think
I have a good feel for both what happens locally and the
relationship between the municipalities and the province. In my
hometown of Hamilton, it has been an incredible struggle on a
whole range of fronts, one of them being-you mentioned the
difficulties around the changes to the assessment, the CVA. I'm
sure you know that when they brought in their first bill, there
were a lot of us who said, "Slow down, take your time, do this
right," which is the excuse they use when there are things
they're being urged to do that they don't want to do. They say,
"We want to get it right the first time," and that's their excuse
for delaying. In this case we were urging them to slow down. We
said, "You're going to run into problems," and as you probably
know, it took them six separate pieces of legislation after the
initial one to fix all the mistakes that happened in the first
one and that continued to be made in other pieces of
All of that has left us in
Hamilton in a real quandary. One of the few benefits to Hamilton
was for small business in the downtown area and in Westdale,
where their assessments were way out of whack, and actually this
would have made them more competitive. Then, when they put the
cap on, it left them being uncompetitive, and we're losing now as
many businesses, if not more than, as we did in the past. I
wonder if you have any similar circumstances within your
Wilkinson: Yes. We had those same problems as we moved
through 1999. Like I said, I believe that change was needed, and
it is a new way of doing business through the amalgamations and
restructuring that are taking place. I guess it's just like any
business. There are some new things that you put in place and
there are bumps in the road as you move along. There certainly
were some bumps in the road as it moved along, but I think that
with every move forward, there are going to be some positive
things coming out of that.
You mentioned the capping
and different things. Yes, I think on the assessment end of
things, and as we move forward along that line, there were some
problems. That's why I
urge taking a second look at those kinds of things. We just have
to accept some of the bumps when change does come.
Christopherson: You mentioned infrastructure, and this
is something that is happening everywhere, but I would imagine
it's even more crucial here, given that you're right near the
opening of the funnel in terms of access to the American market.
We've had many economists come in who have acknowledged that the
vast majority of the economic benefits we're now receiving are
not really related so much to the tax cut as to the booming
American economy, in particular the auto industry. If you think
about it, someone who buys a car in Wisconsin is not affected by
any tax structure that we have here in Ontario, yet we benefit
from the demand on our auto plants and supplier services and
My question is on the
infrastructure part of it. Again, in Hamilton we've still got,
and maybe you do in your area, some of the combined sewer systems
as opposed to the separated ones, which are decades and decades
out of date; bridges that need to be done; major problems with
our water treatment in terms of being able to meet the demand
because of the growing population. What is your sense of what
will happen in your community if this isn't addressed? I
recognize that it's both a provincial and a federal
responsibility, but if there aren't some extraordinary steps
taken, meaning above and beyond current programs, whether it's a
special shared program or some major reinvestment in our
infrastructure, what is the long-term prognosis for your
community if that investment doesn't take place?
Wilkinson: As I prepared my words for today, I knew that
you were going to hear from all aspects and I tried to keep my
few words here this morning strictly on the municipality and
different things. Yes, the infrastructure is getting old in some
areas like that. It's easy to build arenas or do things, but it's
hard to find the money sometimes that you're going to put
underneath the ground to fix the old. We clearly know that we
have to balance between supplying the new and fixing the old. I
think one message that I bring here this morning is-you know the
rumours that we hear from the federal side of things-that we urge
the province to participate in that and to fix, like you said,
those decaying pipes and different things. But it's the new
that's happening. In my municipality we have tremendous growth in
the greenhouse industry and the agriculture industry, and they
require water and waterlines to feed them. The hydro and the gas
are something else. They're done by the private sector. We want
to continue that growth and we would like to have some help on
some of those different things like that.
Christopherson: The cost is enormous, and I appreciate
the problem. It's not very sexy. All that people want to do is to
be able to turn on the tap and flush the toilet. They just want
things to be done the way they should be done, and somebody else
has to worry about what happens. So it's difficult to mount a
campaign to run for re-election on replacing sewer lines,
especially if it means increased taxes, because the money has to
come from somewhere.
Just to come back to the
point, though: If something is not done, and I'm not looking for
a nightmare scenario but just an honest evaluation of what you
think the implications will be for your community five, 10, 15,
20 years out if we don't make that investment now, what are the
implications for your constituents and citizens?
Wilkinson: I think that eventually the taxpayer will pay
for it. It will be through property taxes that we will have those
dollars to spend out there. Like I said, it's easy to be a mayor
in good economic times-we have growth and extra funds coming
in-but if you ask me 15, 20 years from now, if something turned
around and it wasn't as good as it is now, it would be tougher;
believe me. You mentioned that it's hard to get re-elected but,
boy, when the sewer backs up in the basement or something, that
news travels fast throughout the community. We would welcome that
investment into all our communities.
Christopherson: That's great. Thanks, Your Worship.
Mrs Tina R.
Molinari (Thornhill): Thank you, Your Worship, for the
presentation this morning. It's refreshing to hear some of the
comments you've made and it's certainly in line with what we've
been doing in the last number of years: the importance of
reducing taxes. I compliment you on being able to freeze taxes in
your community. I think that's essential.
You talked about some of
the infrastructure needs. As the province is only responsible for
9% of that and there are a number of other partners that fall
into place, I was pleased to hear you say that it's important
that we work together. Certainly municipalities, provincial
governments and the federal government all need to work together
to provide for our taxpayers because in the end there's only one
It's refreshing to have the
mayor come and make a presentation. I think you're the one who is
more directly involved with the people and the public, and it
helps us to hear your views, how you see it, so from my sense I
appreciate the things you've said this morning and the
perspectives you've put on this issue. Thank you very much for
Thank you, Mr Wilkinson. I wanted to ask you about municipal
restructuring and follow up on some of the questions that have
already been put to you on that.
You indicated that Essex
county has reduced its number of municipalities from 21 to seven
a result of the restructuring and that you're looking at further
steps to restructure to improve service and streamline municipal
government. Could you tell us or highlight the benefits that have
been achieved to date as a result of municipal restructuring in
Essex county and what you would hope to achieve by further
Wilkinson: I think one of the main benefits of the
restructuring for my municipality is that it brought the urban
and the rural together to think as one. There was always a competition out there
between the smaller municipalities. I'm not going to say that the
relationship wasn't good, but it was always a competition and
different things. This brought together both rural and urban in
my area to think as one, and I really believe that the rural
people would say that the municipality we went with, Leamington,
is our hometown. I think the public spirit that was out there is
You always heard the
negatives of the restructuring. From my perspective, it was a
positive move. Tax-revenue-wise it was a good move; it really
reduced taxes. Others say it's the public spirit of things, that
now the hometown is Leamington, and even if you live in the rural
area, it was a positive move.
Sure, I would mention there
are some problems here as we get some information back especially
in the 10-5-5, but overall it worked well. I think the local
solution we came up with fit the format.
In your opinion, has there been any loss of community
Wilkinson: No, there hasn't been. We still have smaller
hamlets inside our area: Blytheswood is still there; Albuna is
still Albuna. They are just small places, but people do relate to
those. No, there hasn't been any loss of public recognition to
Christopherson: Don't tell Skarica.
The economy is growing in Ontario. The provincial government has
taken steps over the last four and a half or five years to
attempt to encourage economic growth across the province, and you
indicated that there has been considerable growth in your
community. You would obviously agree that the provincial
government, working with local governments, has a role to play in
encouraging economic growth, and if they're engaging in the right
kinds of policies, jobs are going to be created, would you
Wilkinson: Yes. Like I said, I hope we can work hand in
hand in promoting this. It's unbelievable, what's happening, it
really is. I know there was mention here about the strong US
economy. Sure, that affects what happens in Leamington, but it's
the fact that the public perception out there is positive now:
"Let's go. This is our chance." Whether that's because of the new
technology that's coming on and because we're doing things
differently-it just is positive out there. I believe that the
reduction in taxes creates jobs, I do believe that, and I think
everybody wants the sense of a job out there. So it is
Mr Bert Johnson
(Perth-Middlesex): I was wondering about the
amalgamation, if that's the term you use, the restructuring of
Leamington and Mersea township. What stimulated that? Had that
been discussed during the past or was that fairly recent? You
mentioned the rivalry. I assume that with the fantastic growth in
hothouses and greenhouses in the Leamington area, that would have
involved both municipalities and there would have been rivalry.
In other words, what brought the two together?
Wilkinson: Maybe the rivalry was just somewhat between
rural and urban there, but as we look back, everybody knows that
probably we should have done it 20 years ago in my
I don't want to speak for
anybody else's municipality. We have an ongoing battle right now
with the city of Windsor. They want-how would I say it? I don't
think they want to seek a local solution, and in the county of
Essex, which we lie in, we have laid out a solution to them.
Sure, there is rivalry between the city and the county out there.
We want to seek that local solution.
How did it all start? When
Mr Harris made a speech at AMO back in I believe 1995, he laid
out the fact that we're going to do things differently. I think
we recognized in our county, as things started to unfold then,
that we had to do something, and we really wanted it to be our
solution and not something that was forced on us, so the
municipality got busy and did go from 21 down to seven. We want
to work even with the city. We hope there's a local solution we
can come up with on that one.
Johnson: The city is separated from the county?
Wilkinson: Yes, it is.
Johnson: And it is the only separated municipality
within the boundaries of the county?
Wilkinson: Yes. Windsor sits up in the northwest area of
Essex county. The county has been there for 150 years. I come
from a two-tier system in the county. We want to work with the
city of Windsor; we have no trouble with that. I believe there is
the will to go from seven down to something else. I don't know
whether it will remain a two-tier system; it has worked well for
us. But we want to work with the city of Windsor. We really don't
want things imposed on us. We believe there is a solution out
there, and we are going to come to it.
On behalf of the committee, Your Worship, thank you very much for
your presentation. I hope it wasn't too tough a drive this
Wilkinson: I come from the banana belt.
Our next presenter is not here yet. However, the Sarnia Lambton
Chamber of Commerce is here. If it is agreeable to the committee,
we will take the Sarnia Lambton Chamber of Commerce and, when the
representatives of the Labour Council of Chatham-Kent show up, we
will take them at a later time.
SARNIA LAMBTON CHAMBER OF COMMERCE
Would you please step forward and state your names for the
record. On behalf of the committee, welcome and thank you for
being here this morning. You have 30 minutes for your
Mumby: Good morning. My name is Gus Mumby, and I am
president of the Sarnia Lambton Chamber of Commerce. To my right
is Michael Van Pelt, the general manager of the chamber of
First of all, thank you
very much for the opportunity to present our observations and to
have input into the 2000-01 budget. Secondly, we bring you
greetings from the membership of the Sarnia-Lambton chamber and
from the business community.
Sarnia-Lambton is a
community ready for growth. In the financial world, where the
adage is "Buy low, sell high," Sarnia-Lambton is a preferred
stock. It is soon to be a strong, stable and high-growth mutual
fund. To put it another way, we like to refer to ourselves as
In the past 10 years, the
Sarnia-Lambton community has been the victim of downsizing. In
particular, our petrochemical industry, which was the main
employer, lost approximately 5,000 jobs. As a result of the loss
of these jobs, there is a reduction in consumer spending,
secondary investment is difficult to attract, and the long-term
impact results in weak confidence levels and the exodus of our
In the past three years,
Sarnia-Lambton has launched a very positive effort to diversify
its economy, stabilize its existing industry and move to the new
economy. The attracting of a number of small but vibrant auto
parts companies and the possibilities of the energy sector are
indicators of this positive change. Furthermore, mentalities and
attitudes are becoming changed to accept and capture the reality
of a new entrepreneurial economy. However, the fact is that
Ontario has enjoyed one of its most successful periods of
economic growth, but unfortunately the Sarnia-Lambton area has
The government of Ontario
has recently made two important initiatives to support change in
the Sarnia- Lambton community. The first was changed labour
legislation through the enactment of Bill 31. This opened the
door for our major companies in Sarnia- Lambton and the unions to
enter project agreements.
The second is a move to
deregulate the energy industry, thus creating new possibilities
to open the door to major expansions in co-generation
The difficult truth is that
the project agreements are but a temporary solution that will
allow capital projects to keep existing plants viable. They are
not the door to substantial growth and rejuvenation of our
petrochemical industries. Sarnia-Lambton is home to Ontario's
petrochemical sector, consisting of billions of dollars of
investments. The province will need to be more innovative to
retain and build upon what we already have.
deregulation is fast becoming a very difficult and hesitant
process. The chamber is greatly concerned that we will lose
investment opportunities as the government gets caught up in the
regulations and bureaucracy of the deregulation process.
We are also concerned that
the private sector's hands are being tightly tied by the
preferential treatment to the new Ontario Hydro companies.
The Sarnia Lambton Chamber
of Commerce is generally supportive of the Ontario government's
economic vision to balance the budget and to reduce taxes. It
does, however, believe the government will need to be more
strategically innovative with respect to its responsibility to
the taxpayers and community of Sarnia-Lambton.
Who are we? The Sarnia
Lambton Chamber of Commerce is a grassroots business organization
with over 800 members in the Sarnia-Lambton area. We have a very
broad sector of business representation, with the majority of our
members being independent businesses.
The chamber has a very
qualified economic policy and development committee responsible
for understanding the economic landscape in Sarnia-Lambton. The
committee's function is to monitor and analyze the economic
policies of the provincial government and to understand their
impact on the businesses in Sarnia-Lambton and the community at
large. This committee is the author of this paper being presented
Mr Michael Van
Pelt: What we want to do is just roll through some of
what we consider the basics, and we're going to look specifically
at some of the issues that impact Sarnia-Lambton. As you may see
from the report, the Sarnia Lambton Chamber of Commerce is a
member of the Ontario Chamber of Commerce and was participatory
in some aspects of that report, which has already been presented
to you. We're not going to deal with some of the larger economic
issues that are contained in that report and simply duplicate
that. I sense that you've had a reasonable amount of conversation
on those issues already. We want to target Sarnia-Lambton and
basically look at some of these issues through the lens of our
own community. We're going to target just a few issues. We'll be
quick and to the point.
The first one is the
SuperBuild fund. Obviously the chamber is very pleased with the
overall direction of the SuperBuild fund, and especially the
notion of integrating the various ministries and the
infrastructure investments that the various ministries put into
the community. The notion of integrating that investment is a
positive idea. However, we are very concerned that Sarnia-Lambton
and possibly other communities like ours don't really have the
tools to utilize the investment of that fund to its greatest
extent. Like the Ontario chamber, we're very concerned about the
lack of clarity that's coming through on the SuperBuild fund.
Some sarcastically say that it's been announced more than once,
more than twice, or possibly more than three times. We're looking
for some details. That might seem to be a nitty-gritty for a
small community, but a small community needs to have the tools
well in advance to be able to access and leverage its own
community to utilize that fund, as there has been such an
emphasis on the private sector character of that fund. That's our
concern from a community point of view.
We're ready to come to the
table with investment. We have practical examples that we can
look at in our own community which we can leverage into the
SuperBuild fund, but we do not want to be in a position where
because we're a smaller community we might not have the
resources, ie, the field of grant officers etc, that larger
communities might have and end up being disadvantaged from that
fund. There is a federal example that you all might be reasonably
familiar with that we simply do not want to be the negative
recipient of in this case also.
With respect to municipal taxation and, simply put,
a little bit different emphasis maybe from our counterpart at the
Ontario chamber, we think it's time to stop reviewing the
options. We've reviewed the options on municipal taxation for a
long time, and we want you to move quickly to allow
municipalities to actively and freely utilize the range of
fairness. Although the province's 10-5-5 had a very
"pro-business" character to it, and temporarily kind of limited
some of the increases to businesses, it also prevented
municipalities from utilizing the range of fairness and simply
gave them an opportunity in many cases, and in Sarnia-Lambton's
case, to do actually nothing.
The chamber was very active
in trying to get our county to commit philosophically to moving
in the direction of making commercial taxes a little more
equitable. As you know, there is no question: Commercial property
taxes are not equitable. Philosophically we were very close, then
all sudden 10, 5 and 5 came out and discussion's over. So we're
starting on page 1 there. Forget the options. Give us that
opportunity that your government philosophically committed to
right off the start with municipal taxation.
Second of all, let's remove
the residential preference. There was a tremendous amount of
discussion and talk and hype and excitement about the business
occupancy tax being eliminated. We suggest that maybe it didn't
get eliminated, that in fact it got transferred right on to the
commercial tax rates. There is a very easy way of dealing with
the BOT, which is actually simply eliminating it-period, done. No
more after that. The provision to move it to the commercial tax
rate really was a residential bias decision of your government.
We understand the dynamics, and anyone having to be elected
understands the dynamics, of not wanting to influence the
residential tax rate, but you can't have it both ways. The time
is now to allow your government, and to allow municipalities, to
move towards creating some fairness for commercial businesses and
giving opportunity for job creation. As we know, all the research
shows that property tax is what we now consider the silent job
With respect to red tape,
quick and to the point: Obviously, we're supportive of the
continuance of the Red Tape Commission. Number one, let's stay
aggressive but let's take a very sensible approach to it. We
noted two issues, one on the audit side and one on the reporting
mechanism of the employer health tax, just to show that there's
actually a long way to go here. These are fundamentals that have
to happen in terms of making our reporting mechanisms and the
kind of bureaucracy that businesses have to be involved in to
deal with government and to deal with government taxation-these
are simple ones. We still have a long way to go, but we are very
supportive of the philosophical commitment and the practical
commitment, which some of you have been aggressively involved in,
to remove red tape. There is still a long way to go in that
The final one is with
respect to trade corridor investment. That's come through various
different languages. We think "trade corridor" is the language
that encompasses transportation and trade integration. Ontario
really is the second-largest trading partner with the United
States. Many people don't know that.
$440 billion-and that's probably getting to $450 billion to
$475 billion-between Canada and the United States, over 60%
travels through Ontario's southwest gateways. Transportation
infrastructure is becoming a much more integral part of the
manufacturing process and will also at some point be under the
scrutiny of the manufacturing process.
investment into Ontario's trade corridors, Ontario will be at a
competitive disadvantage to competing jurisdictions such as
Michigan. Sarnia-Lambton is obviously a major gateway. In size,
we're the largest international gateway, and I think third on the
volume side of it. Simply, the corridor can't be ignored. It's a
major component of our trade infrastructure, and this government,
more than any, has been very excited about our export
opportunities. This is becoming one of the fundamentals of that
kind of opportunity. It was interesting to see Minister Eves
actually pick up on the language of trade corridors and even
mention our gateway in his discussions with the Ontario Good
Roads Association. We now have to complete the job.
I will give you a really
interesting example. In the Detroit Free Press in late December
there were three full pages called "The 401, the Death Trap."
That is very much integrated and interrelated with trade
corridors. When you have efficiently designed transportation
infrastructure that handles the manufacturing process and that
handles tourism, you're not going to see three pages in the
Detroit Free Press called "The 401, the Death Trap." The amount
of money that one of your departments-ie, the tourism
department-is going to have to spend in advertising to counteract
those simple three pages in the Detroit Free Press is
fascinating. It's a critical area for us as a board of community
in Sarnia-Lambton, just as much for Toronto as you're starting to
see. I think just last week they signed an accord with respect to
transportation and are looking to begin negotiations with the
Ontario government to maybe do some cost-sharing on municipal
I'll turn it over to Gus
just to deal with the gaming revenues issue.
Point Edward, hopefully in the next couple of weeks, is going to
become the home of one of the province's new charity casinos.
Presently, Sarnia enjoys having the casino/slots in its
municipality. These are both clearly significant contributors in
terms of employment to the Sarnia-Lambton community, and the
community has embraced these two opportunities. However, there
still are a number of challenges now that we have had some
experience with slots. We just wanted to share those challenges
with you and also provide you with some recommendations.
First of all, there have
been studies done and it has been determined that the present
expenditure of a casino visitor outside of the casino itself is only
$3.80, which we find to be somewhat alarming. Communities require
a strong tourism infrastructure to increase visitors'
expenditures that will benefit the entire community. The benefit
of the casino/slots for a host community is premised on tourism
spending in the entire community. From a community development
aspect there is a concern that many of our community support
groups are already experiencing substantial shortfalls in
There has been a tremendous
change over the last few years in terms of the gaming industry.
We have a number of organizations in Sarnia that have been
dependent upon bingo revenues, and with the introduction of the
slots etc, the bingo industry has experienced a significant
downturn. There are a number of organizations which are being
hurt by that.
Sarnia-Lambton is preparing
for tourism growth. It is an undervalued market that will provide
the tourists with excellent value for their dollars. However, to
be successful it must develop a broader and more diversified
tourism infrastructure. Communities with smaller charity casinos
need a strong impetus on the part of the provincial government
for all the parties to benefit. This means that provincial
investment must be beyond just the direct investment into the
Therefore, we have three
recommendations that we would like to leave with you: first, that
the Ontario government review its funding formulas for host
communities, including the Trillium Foundation grid formula,
municipal support and potential infrastructure investment;
second, that the government share in the research of the economic
and social impact of casinos in host communities or fund the
community to conduct its own research; and third, that the
Ontario Lottery Corp be required to actively fund tourism
promotion in host communities to support community efforts and
have casino visitors enjoy Ontario tourism opportunities other
than just the casino.
I'd like to turn it over to
Michael for closing remarks.
Pelt: Just one more thing before quickly closing. Just
to deal with the final issue, energy and economy, this isn't
specifically an economic issue, but as we know in governments,
many of the non-economic issues have very much of an economic
impact in communities.
Sarnia-Lambton can, and
should, benefit substantially by the changes in energy
deregulation. Right now we have two major opportunities coming
online. Your own government touted the TransAlta opportunity,
which we're very excited about, which is a gigantic investment
into our community. Since then, Enron has made an announcement.
Enron is in the top five energy-producing companies in North
America. They will create a peak facility, and we know
confidentially that two other companies within Sarnia-Lambton are
doing the work, doing some of the engineering to be able to
determine whether they in fact are going to launch cogen
opportunities also. So Sarnia-Lambton is very poised to benefit
from this and should be in a position where our costing for hydro
within Sarnia-Lambton is, number one, very, very competitive and,
number two, we are in a position to, at some point when the
regulations get there, be able to export those resources.
We do have a number of
concerns, though, and I think you already have an indication of
those concerns that you're dealing with in everyday life. The
process is starting to take very, very long with the Ontario
Energy Board, the numerous kinds of regulations that have to
happen. We're very concerned that that process ends up limiting
the investment and the kinds of commitments companies will make,
ie, reducing the size of their operations, reducing the size of
their investment and becoming a little more strategic, kind of
limiting their commitment just to see where the water is actually
going to land, because it's becoming more and more confusing
where the regulations are going to land and their impact on the
community. Much of that is obviously surrounding making sure that
the existing Ontario Hydro companies are in reasonable shape to
actually launch themselves successfully into a competitive
We are actually concerned
that there is preferential treatment for those existing Ontario
Hydro companies. We give one example with the Ontario Hydro
Services Co. For example, we actually have one situation in
Sarnia-Lambton right now where a company is looking at a major
investment, but the cost to do the hydro capital upgrades for
that company is very, very high. They have no negotiating power.
They have no room because, "It's Ontario Hydro Services Co you're
dealing with, period, and we'll price whatever we feel like." For
example, we need some bidding opportunities or some arbitration
environments there to move that along and make sure these changes
do not affect our ability-that's what we're looking for-to allow
energy deregulation to be one of the most successful economic
development tools in Sarnia-Lambton. That's what we need to
happen, and it's very cumbersome.
We were reluctant to bring
this up, because it's really specific technical issues that are
causing very large or potentially large economic challenges for
us to deal with. Just to get our membership informed on how this
process is working is a difficult challenge.
I guess our recommendation
is then to do whatever your government has the capability to do
to move this issue along with greater speed and watch and monitor
what we think is the preferential treatment to design Ontario
Hydro companies most effectively to move into the new market and
not be in financial difficulty within months of their moving into
In conclusion, the Sarnia
Lambton Chamber of Commerce appreciates the opportunity to speak
with you. We are very positive and determined about the future of
Sarnia Lambton. We're also realistic about our present situation.
We are preparing and are already taking control of our own
future. However, we believe it's time that the province's helping
hand reaches out, or I think the terminology was "reaching up,"
to Sarnia-Lambton. Thank you very much for the opportunity for us
The Chair: Thank you very much. We
have approximately three minutes per caucus.
Christopherson: First off, let me just say whoever
designed your package here did a great job. We get an awful lot
of these things, but this one sort of stands out to me.
Pelt: We're good in Sarnia.
Christopherson: Yes, I can tell. But this is
Pelt: Thank you.
Christopherson: You mentioned on your first page-it's
numbered 3 but in your opening comments-the fourth paragraph
down, "The fact is, however, while Ontario has enjoyed one of its
most successful periods of economic growth, Sarnia-Lambton has
not." Correct me if I'm wrong, but I would suspect that your view
of things right now is, number one, a recognition that things are
booming, especially the American economy, which is all but
defying gravity in terms of the length of the current boom, and
yet a recognition that this won't last forever. What goes up does
come down, and it's not a question of if but when. There will be
major market correction and when that happens, nobody yet is sure
whether it's going to be what they call a soft landing or whether
we're going to get into a hard, long recession, as we went into
in the early 1990s.
Again, I'm asking for your
comments on this. I would think your sense is we've got to hit
while the iron's hot here, that we've got to grab some of that
and get this infrastructure in place and start to benefit from
some of what is happening in the rest of Ontario, or you're going
to be in serious trouble if that economy falls and it goes
severe, with a very long and gradual pullout, leaving you even
Is this-I don't like to use
the word "desperation," but certainly a sense of urgency that
you've got to make up some ground because you haven't been able
to keep pace with the rest of the province, and that's why you're
imploring the government to move quickly on a lot of these key
Pelt: Clearly, that's the answer. Add to that some very
optimistic and very positive and determined character on the part
of the community and that's a perfect mix. The reality is we're
dealing with structural situations that you don't change very
quickly. You don't change demographics very quickly. When you're
having challenges keeping young people in a community, that is a
structural challenge that doesn't get fixed in one or two or
three years. We have to make sure we have the infrastructure, the
economy, to actually attract young people into our community and
to keep them.
If you look at the
direction of the petrochemical industry, there are long-term
structural changes that are happening in that petrochemical
industry and that are going to keep happening. We've suffered
from the larger part of downsizing in the petrochemical
industries, but some of those billion-dollar investments are
going to be run by less and less people. We're becoming
innovative in terms of creating secondary industries. Energy is
one of those secondary industries out of the petrochemical
industry. We're pulling in some auto parts companies, but we need
to move quicker to be able to deal with that situation so that
when the economy turns, when things aren't as wild as they seem
to be in the rest of Ontario, we're at least structured to be
able to have a reasonably strong economy.
Christopherson: I don't know this, but I would think
that when there's a downturn one of the first places you'd notice
it would be in the auto industry. I don't know if you were here
earlier when I was reminding committee members that most of the
economists who have come in and talked to us have said a lot of
what's happening in Ontario is as a result of the booming US
economy, in particular the auto industry. So any community that's
directly tied to that will be impacted harshly. Second, with the
petrochemical industry, if everything starts to slow down that
means trucks are moving less, people will move around more.
In terms of diversifying to
protect yourself and cushion yourself from that-you don't want to
have all your eggs in one basket, particularly if you're not
building up surpluses and benefits during the boom time-what
other steps are you taking locally to diversify your economic
Pelt: We have actively taken those steps, and your Chair
happened to be involved in some of those steps. We have a very
positive Council for Economic Renewal, which is an innovative
economic development opportunity that has had more economic
investment put into it in the last three or four years than I
think Sarnia Lambton has seen in its history. It's starting to
deliver. We picked up a call centre last week of around 500
people. So that's moving along. The community is putting the
fundamentals into place.
What we're saying is that
the province and the federal government are very key players in
terms of the future of our economy just by noting the two pieces
of legislation the province has been involved in. We want to make
sure that Sarnia is front and centre in the face of the
provincial and federal governments, that we're going to benefit
from every single opportunity. The provincial and federal
governments are major investors in all communities.
Christopherson: I know I'm out of time, but I just want
to get a cautionary note in. On your support of Bill 31, if
you're looking to bring new demographics in, in terms of labour,
this was not something that labour was very happy with. It was
rammed down their throat, and publicly saying you think this is a
wonderful thing, I just suggest to you, is not a positive message
Pelt: I'm not sure we said it was a wonderful thing. I
didn't read that in the report. What we said is: "Do you know
what? It hasn't delivered yet. It's a temporary notion and this
government has to start thinking seriously about how we're going
to act and live beyond those project agreements because something
has to be done and it will be a provincial responsibility."
Mr Johnson: I wanted to say hello
again, Mike and Gus. Good to see you again.
Pelt: Good to see you again.
Johnson: Thanks very much for taking your time to
present to us. You've covered a lot of ground, what with
assessment and mill rates and taxes and all those other things
that will influence Sarnia's ability to compete in the
I want to touch for just a
minute, if I could, on the SuperBuild Growth Fund. I didn't know
if the perception was that that is a fund of money that you have
an application for, and, "Where's my application? I want to apply
for it," sort of thing. I think of it more as kind of an empty
basket where somebody comes along and says, "This is what I want
to do. I want to build another bridge. I want to put bridges in
Sarnia," those sort of projects. "I want to do those things that
will make the community viable into the future," and so on. It's
the sort of thing that you bring your ideas, your dollars and
your commitment to.
I see Sarnia as having two
completely distinct challenges. One is that a lot of people pass
through your community. It makes it hard-and you mentioned it in
connection with casinos-to get those people to stop for a day or
a couple of days and stay at your motels and eat in your
restaurants. By building bridges-I think your twinning, for
instance, will be a little bit like opening a dam where there's
water building up behind it and it will allow you to take
advantage in the future of those economic stimuli that result
from it. The other one I see is in power generation.
I just wanted to suggest to
you that both of those are the sorts of ideas that I'm sure this
basket of super-growth would be very receptive to. Thanks very
much for being here.
We're out of time. The official opposition.
Mr Monte Kwinter
(York Centre): Thank you very much for your
presentation. I just wanted to talk about gaming revenues and the
concerns that you have.
I sat on this committee
when we looked into casino gambling for Ontario. We went to
Windsor, and the people in Windsor were very enthusiastic about
their casino. They made presentations to us in which they said
they were going to run shuttles between the casino and the
shopping centres out in the suburbs; they were going to have this
incredible program that was going to take people out of the
casinos into the community. The stores were going to thrive;
business was going to boom and it was going to be sweetness and
light forever after. I suggested that that wasn't going to
happen, that history says it never happens, and I was just about
run out of town on a rail. The headline stories in the Windsor
Star said, "Kwinter Rains on our Parade."
What has happened is-and
I'm not clairvoyant; I'm just telling you the experience that has
happened, and you say it right here-"Spending in the community is
approximately $3.80." Gamblers come to gamble. They don't come to
shop; they don't come to do other things. They're there to
gamble, and if there's a gambling location somewhere between you
and them that's closer, that's where they're going to go. So
there's no question that casinos benefit a community. They
benefit in the sense that they create jobs. There is some spinoff
for the people who work there who may have been unemployed then
get employed. They then have the ability to spend some money. But
to suggest that just because the casino is there there's going to
be a huge boom to tourism just is not borne out by history.
As I say, you just take a
look. They used to tell me about all the empty stores in Windsor.
Most of those stores are still empty. With the casinos opening up
in Detroit, you will see a significant difference in the
attendance, because 80% of the people who come to Windsor come
from the United States.
The point I'm really
making-I'm not trying to discourage casinos, because certainly
the province benefits. They get huge revenues from gambling. The
municipality benefits because they have taxation, they have
employment. But I don't think it's a strategy that you base all
of your economic-and I'm not necessarily saying your are, but
that you look at this and say, "This is going to be a huge
benefit for our tourism," because the history just doesn't bear
Do you have any comments on
Pelt: Yes, we do. I think that's the very point we're
making. It's a reality in our community. We will see numerous new
visitors to our community. However, the strategy within the
community itself is changing the nature of the visitor from a
daytripper to a destination. What you need is a fundamental
change in the infrastructure outside of a casino to be able to do
that. You only need small amounts. If you look at Niagara Falls,
one of the reasons why Niagara Falls has seen such a benefit is
because of the destination character. Their dollars per person
are much higher than ours. That's why we make the ensuing
recommendations that in host communities there needs to be a lot
more creativity outside of just that facility, and the province
should play a part in it.
We also know, and I don't
think it's any secret to anyone, that the Ontario Lottery Corp's
marketing is very much designed to have everyone spend everything
all the time in their facility. So I think the government might
have to consider some kind of stipulation, some kind of criterion
in host communities where there is-and that's our third
recommendation-investment into the tourism and promotion body of
the community, to allow them to pull what we call a "play and
stay," develop some kind of sophisticated program to "play and
stay." It's extremely hard, there's no doubt about it, but we
only need small numbers.
With that we've run out of time. On behalf of the committee,
thank you very much for your presentation this morning. Drive
Our next presenter, the
Labour Council of Chatham-Kent, still has not shown up, so we'll
take a recess until 11 o'clock unless they show up prior to that
The committee recessed from 1032 to
ONTARIO SECONDARY SCHOOL TEACHERS' FEDERATION,
I'd like to bring the committee back to order. Our 11 o'clock
presenter is here from the OSSTF, district 10. Could you state
your name for the record, please.
Hulme: I'm Jane Hulme.
On behalf of the committee, welcome.
Let me begin by stating that OSSTF, district 10, regrets that the
government of Ontario would choose this location to hold this
hearing. This is a site that's well known in the community for
its labour strife, and the workers who work here are currently
awaiting the outcome of an arbitration with their first contract.
We very much oppose using this hotel.
As president of district
10, I represent the secondary teachers and secondary occasional
teachers of the Lambton Kent District School Board. This region
is vast and extremely diversified. It encompasses the communities
of Forest, Watford, Dresden, Sarnia, Chatham, Petrolia,
Wallaceburg, Blenheim, Ridgetown and Tilbury. Needless to say,
the secondary schools service a wide variety of clientele. There
are rural students, adult students, students with special needs
and urban students. The requirements of these communities with
respect to their educational needs and the necessity for this
government to invest in their futures by providing adequate
educational funding are the issues I'd like to address today.
In its report released in
June 1999, the Education Improvement Commission outlined that
several issues would be problematic for the Lambton Kent District
School Board. These problems are rooted in the inequities of the
provincial funding formula. The funding formula was designed to
be a one-size-fits-all solution to education finance. However,
rather like pantyhose-and I have experience with those-this
one-size-fits-all approach doesn't fit anybody.
The EIC reported that the
Lambton Kent District School Board had completed a pupil
accommodation study and, according to the government's formula,
there were approximately 2,000 surplus spaces in the secondary
schools and 5,000 surplus spaces in the elementary schools. What
became evident to the board was that the majority of these
surplus spaces were in rural areas, and the school board now
faces the very thorny issue of school closure. In all, the board
is considering closing two secondary schools and five elementary
The community of Watford,
for example, is faced with the very real threat of closure of
both its secondary school, which is East Lambton Secondary
School, and one or two of its elementary schools. This is very
much a community in crisis. The proposed plan would see secondary
students bused to the communities of Forest and Petrolia, while
students who are currently living within those catchment areas
would be forced to attend high school in other communities,
namely Sarnia and Dresden. Students from Watford who now attend
East Lambton would be divvied up and sent hither and yon. This
has a devastating effect on the cohesiveness of the adolescent
population within eastern Lambton county. For the general public
in east Lambton, the high school is the hub of the community.
Local merchants will suffer loss of revenue, as the local
students generate a lot of business. Real estate values for the
area will drop-we're anticipating that-as proximity to schools is
a real selling point, and families tend to live in subdivisions
and towns that are close to schools.
Who is at fault for this
dilemma? Surely this government is going to place the blame on
the board of education as, rightfully so, the board must make the
choices regarding which schools will close. But what has forced
this decision is the fact the funding formula decrees what
constitutes a rural school. Anyone who has ever been to Watford
would see that the community is nestled among some of the most
lush farmland in southwestern Ontario. The town itself has a
population of 1,700. It's home to CornFest every August. For
miles around, as far as the eye can see, there are pastures and
tractors. But this secondary school doesn't meet the requirements
of a rural school that would entitle the board to extra grants.
It is located one kilometre too close to the ever growing
community of Petrolia, a community that is currently enjoying
some industrial growth. The citizens of this community have
attended many meetings with respect to this issue and have
offered many concrete recommendations. School closure is a hot
topic in our area, particularly for the communities that are
encompassed by the school board boundaries. The lack of
empowerment has left most of the citizens extremely
What community school will
be safe within the context of the funding formula? The community
secondary schools situated in Tilbury and Ridgetown are also at
risk, given the comparatively low populations of their schools.
If East Lambton Secondary School with a population of just under
300 is at risk of closure, then surely Ridgetown and Tilbury
secondary schools, with populations of just above 300, will be
slated for closure in the upcoming years.
When will it end? What
small community school will exist under these conditions, and
what will happen to Ontario's small towns? The lack of ability
for the community to decide if they want to support these
schools-and by this I mean the ability to raise some additional
funds through local taxation-severely limits the power of the
local citizens. The reality of Toronto's calling the shots has
disenfranchised the citizens and has left the majority feeling
isolated from the very education system that was envisioned by
With respect to adult
education, the funding formula outlines that these are
non-classroom expenditures. The cuts to funding levels have meant
a drop from $7,000 per student to a new rate of $2,257 per
student. While the school boards have been offering continuing
education at night
school for decades, the night school programs do not have the
success rate of the adult day school programs.
In 1996, OSSTF conducted a
survey that found that among adult students, 63% were female, 16%
had disabilities, 53% needed English-as-a-second-language
assistance and 48% were on social assistance. Are these not the
people who need the programs that are designed to meet the
special learning needs of adults?
The same OSSTF survey
indicated that in the past 83% of adult daytime students got a
job or moved on to further education after graduating from adult
programs. By cutting the funding to these programs, are we not
condemning these students to failure? Despite the high success
rate of adult day school programs, the funding formula gutted
available funds for adult education. In the Lambton Kent District
School Board, this means that the adult education centre in
Sarnia will forever close its doors. It means that the ability
for adult students to remain in the milieu of their peers and not
have to suffer the shame of completing their high school
education in the same building as their own children is forever
lost. It means that very specific needs of those vulnerable
adults cannot effectively be addressed. It means that the
barriers to employment will not be erased and that the majority
of these students don't even have a chance of breaking the social
The funding formula
mandates that no money could be allocated to "non-classroom"
lines. The citizens of our communities don't even have the power
to ensure that programs like the adult day school can be made a
priority. The restrictive nature of the funding formula ensures
that local budgetary decisions cannot be made.
Special-needs students are
also at risk, given the drastic underfunding that has occurred in
this area. The bureaucratic red tape that is necessary to fill in
the grant applications for students with special needs is
extraordinary and extremely unwieldy and takes the teachers away
from direct service to students. The process seems designed to
discourage applications, and the technology provided to make
these applications often crashes and causes teachers extreme
stress and inordinate hours of extra work. Once again, poor
planning and inefficient practices are putting the educational
needs of our students at risk.
Students whose progress has
been marginal, who had previously been placed in what we used to
call basic level programs, with educational supports such as
educational assistants, lower class sizes and extra resource
teacher assistants, are now all lumped together with students who
do not require the same supports. Not only is there no equivalent
academic level at present in the new curriculum, but lack of
funding dictates that there are very limited opportunities for
access to the aforementioned educational supports.
Educational assistants are
allocated based on grants for which the former basic level
student does not qualify. The size of the classes in the
aggregate is mandated by the funding formula to be 22 to 1 for
secondary and 25 to 1 for elementary. Resource teachers are
allocated based on school size, not based on the number of
special students within the school. The funding formula mandates
that the ratio of resource teachers to students will be 3.6 to
1,000 students. This means that despite the fact that in a school
like Alexander Mackenzie Secondary School, where there are 300 or
400 students who are IPRC'd-that's the process for identifying
these students-as having learning difficulties and special needs,
the funding formula only provides 1.5 resource teachers. Another
school, with a student population of 1,200 and perhaps only 100
IPRC'd students, would generate 4.3 resource teachers.
In Wallaceburg, a community
with a very high population of First Nation students, the school
has a population of 1,200 and has 1.5 resource teachers. These
students have traditionally utilized many special education
services, and the supports that were promised to the band are
becoming increasingly difficult to provide.
The government insists that
the funding for special education has increased; however, in the
Lambton Kent District School Board the funds have actually
decreased. The combined special education spending for the former
Lambton and Kent boards was $19 million for approximately 3,400
students prior to amalgamation. From these grants, teachers,
educational assistants, psychologists, paraprofessionals, speech
pathologists and counsellors were employed to work directly with
students with special needs.
Following amalgamation, the
board was provided with $15.9 million in special education
grants. The board opted to use one-time grants-they were called
mitigation and stabilization grants-to subsidize special
education budgets by a further $2.5 million to continue with what
the EIC deemed to be the exemplary special education practices.
Indeed, the Education Improvement Commission recognized that the
Lambton Kent District School Board had "exemplary process for
amalgamation for special education programs and services." The
funding reductions experienced by this board will make it
impossible to maintain the current initiatives.
The intensive support
amount grant-we call that the ISA grant-was supposed to provide
funds for intensive support for high-needs students and was to
follow the student. The portability of the grant has not been
seen, and when students move from another school board to ours
the dollars have not come with them. The number of these students
has increased from 331 students in the 1998-99 school year to 487
students in the current school year. No additional dollars were
allotted to the board as the ISA grants were frozen at the
1998-99 school year by the Ministry of Education. The lack of
funding for these additional 156 students has severely strained
budgetary lines and, as indicated, jeopardizes the very services
so necessary to our high-needs students.
The board, the SEAC
committee, parents, teachers and students have not remained
silent on these issues. They have written to their MPPs, they've
written to Janet Ecker,
the Minister of Education, to express their concerns. To date,
there has been no response that addresses their specific
The very recent
announcement of a grant of up to $40 million for special
education is to be divided among 70 boards of education, and it
is a red herring. This division will not occur evenly, with the
majority of these grants being given to boards in large urban
centres. While these boards certainly have need of the additional
funds, it can once again be construed that boards with a higher
rural population, such as ours, are being left out in the
The promise of this extra
$40 million is like the proverbial drop in the bucket for special
education programs throughout the province, and as yet the
Lambton Kent District School Board is unsure of the amount of its
allocation after this announcement.
In a report to the
ministry, superintendents of school boards recommended that
special education funding needed an additional $100 million to
provide the same level of service. Why has the ministry not
As I have outlined, there
is significant evidence that funding constraints are having a
substantially negative impact on the programs and services so
necessary to meet the needs of all our communities and the
clientele within the purview of the Lambton Kent District School
With this in mind, I offer
the following recommendations: that the mitigation and
stabilization grants be reinstituted until a complete review of
education finance has been undertaken; that some level of local
taxation be permitted in order to empower the trustees and local
taxpayers with the opportunity to set some of those educational
priorities for their own communities; and that funding be
restored to adult education programs so as to provide adult
students with opportunities for success.
Thank you. I would like to clarify the record. Regarding your
statement in the first paragraph, the locations are picked by the
subcommittee of the standing committee on finance and economic
affairs. The subcommittee is made up of one member from the
government side, one from the opposition and one from the third
Christopherson: Mr Chair, a point of order on that
point, because I was going to raise it in my comments: The last
thing in the world I ever like to do is take the government off
the hook for anything, but nonetheless the truth is the truth. I
was on that subcommittee and I urged that we meet here. You may
or may not know that I was invited to speak when the strike was
on. I came down here and spoke to the picketers. The fact that it
was then unionized seemed to me to be a good reason why we ought
to be here: to send a message to employers that there are clear
benefits to allowing and supporting your employees to be
So if there's any blame,
which I don't think there should be because I philosophically
agree with what I just said, it is mine and not anyone else's. I
was the one who urged that we meet at this location.
Thank you very much. With that, we have four minutes per caucus.
I'll start with the government side.
I just want to say that we are glad to be here in Chatham and
glad that you had the opportunity to come forward and express the
concerns you may have on behalf of your membership.
I do have one specific
question. I found it quite startling, on page 4, where you talked
about the Alexander Mackenzie Secondary School, that 300 of 400
students, 75% of the students in the school, have been identified
as requiring special needs. I wonder if you could briefly explain
what kind of process is undertaken to identify students as having
special needs whereby three out of four students in a school are
identified in that way?
The IPRC process is a process whereby students meet with
psychometrists, psychiatrists, board personnel, many
paraprofessionals, and doctors sometimes also are involved. The
recommendations come from them as to whether these students have
learning disabilities; they may have ADHD, they may have higher
needs than that, they may have physical disabilities. Those
students, if they have physical disabilities, meet a different
criterion of grant. There are different levels of identifying
students. You can identify students at the higher level also, to
be gifted students, and they would also be IPRC'd.
I just wonder if that identification process has changed in
recent years to-
No, it has not.
Would that be typical of other high schools?
No, this high school is absolutely atypical, but it is a high
school that has 300 of 400 students who have been IPRC'd.
So there would be unique challenges there that the board has to
Very unique challenges, yes.
Molinari: Thank you very much for your presentation. I'm
glad my colleague asked that question, because when I saw that I
thought, that's very unusual. That's not the norm, that's rather
the exception. I'm sure the board is pursuing the ministry with
respect to situations like that, because with special education
there are two grants, as you know. There's the ISA but there's
also the SEPPA grant. In a school like that, I could see how that
wouldn't be of as much help as it is to other schools where there
isn't the high ratio of special education.
I want to address some of
the points you made with respect to the funding formula and
classroom versus non-classroom expenditure. You indicated that
the "formula mandates that no money can be allocated to
`non-classroom' lines." That's true, but there's another side to
that. The funding formula is made up of classroom expenditure and
non-classroom expenditure, and there is flexibility where
non-classroom expenditure can be used for classroom expenditure.
The protected one is the classroom expenditure, because the
government's view is that it wants to ensure that money dedicated
to the classroom is in
fact spent on the classroom and not in other areas. So there is
My point there was that adult education programs are deemed to be
Molinari: Yes, because they're adult education programs;
they're not specific to the students in the school. That's an
area that needs to be addressed, I've heard from a few people.
There's the other side to that too. I've heard some say that we
shouldn't be in the business of adult education, that we're there
to educate the students in the schools who are there from junior
kindergarten right through to finishing Ontario secondary school.
That's a whole other argument that can be for another time.
You also mention the
difficulties with the community that needs to look at the
possibility of school closures and the fact that one particular
school is one kilometre too close to be considered a rural
community. We've heard a number of presentations and comments
from people who have similar concerns because of what it does to
rural, that it's not the same as urban. I know the minister is
looking at those very carefully.
On the one kilometre, I
guess what I'd say to that is that there has to be a cut-off
somewhere. If it's one kilometre over, they'll say, "That's
another kilometre." It's really difficult to determine what's
considered and what isn't in distance spaces, because the cut-off
has to be somewhere. I'm sensitive to those comments.
Thank you very much for your presentation. You hit on a number of
points. I want to particularly mention your concern for rural
school closings, not to say that you aren't concerned about urban
school closings. I have been concerned about this for some years
now. Romney school, which was closed, was surrounded by fields
and woodlots. People there told me that deer from time to time
ran through the backyard. To me, that seemed to be the perfect
example of a rural school, but the rural school grant or the
small school grant either didn't apply to them or wasn't
available to them. It just seemed strange. I think we must look
closely at rural schools and the grant system.
You're quite right: I have
had representation made to me on an informal basis by people who
are quite concerned about schools in the Kent portion of the
Lambton Kent District School Board; Tilbury and Ridgetown and
perhaps others as well.
I particularly took note of
your suggestion 2, to allow some taxation at the local level so
that better decisions, I would think, are made for the local
community in terms of its ability. Do you have any opinion as to
how much taxation the local community should be responsible for?
Do you have any view on that at all?
I would think that would have to be in addition to the funding
formula allocations. There shouldn't be a clawback because local
school boards have decided to do that. I would think anywhere
from 5% to 10% would give them the flexibility to do some local
During your involvement with schools and education in all
aspects, have you ever witnessed a school that was closed
Never. In fact, in 1986 there was a school in Sarnia-that's where
I originally come from-that was sold to the separate school
system for $1 and was never returned.
Mr Hoy: My
understanding is that some months ago Romney school had not been
disposed of. It may be now, but at the time I asked the question
it was vacant and unused. In my community, the Merlin District
High School, which I attended, was eventually torn down and is a
vacant lot now. I certainly do have a concern for smaller
communities and their schools, as I do for urban communities, and
I appreciate your comments today.
Mr Kwinter, you still have a minute and a half.
Kwinter: I'd like to talk about the whole issue of where
they're closing down schools and busing them to a community, but
to accommodate them they're taking children out of that community
and busing them somewhere else. Can you explain that to me, how
That's a local board decision they have proposed to try and
address the needs of filling up all the empty school spaces,
according to this funding formula. Schools that have existed with
the same population are now deemed to be underutilized, so
they're trying to move the bodies around, so to speak, to fill up
the spots. They're doing that through boundary changes to schools
and adding to busing.
Kwinter: So it's really a leapfrog system, where you
bring someone in and then you move someone out, and then they
probably are going to be displacing somebody along their way.
Where does it end? How does it make any sense?
The whole community will be affected. It's not just the community
of Watford that's going to be affected; it's every community.
Dresden, Petrolia, Sarnia, all the school boundaries are slated
for change to address this one issue.
Christopherson: Thank you for your presentation.
I would draw to your
attention that the first presentation we heard this morning was
from the Chatham and District Chamber of Commerce. Under the
heading "Maintaining Excellence in Education," they said:
"The Chatham and District
Chamber of Commerce believes that education from early childhood
education to post-graduate studies, including the vital aspects
[of] apprenticeship studies, are important components of making
Ontario North America's leading economy.
"The chamber supports many
of the government's actions to reform the education system."
I drew to their attention
that while they on the one hand support the tax cuts that
benefited the very well off in our society, it has to be paid for
somewhere and one of the places it's being paid for is in our
education system. There's a crisis there, and there's a bit of a
lack of continuity in terms of arguing that the tax cuts should
continue, but you want
to support the education system. You can't have it both ways.
Chambers are usually the first to acknowledge there's no free
The government member, when
speaking-I didn't get an exact quote, but it's pretty close-said,
"The government wants money spent on classroom expenditures and
not on other things." Of course "other things," when you phrase
it that way, almost sounds like frivolous sorts of things, fat in
the system, inefficiencies. But the reality is those other things
happen to be heating the classroom, turning the lights on,
cleaning the classroom, providing computer maintenance and, in a
rural area, as we're in today, transportation, which is a huge
issue. None of those things have anything to do with classroom
spending, if you listen to the government.
Also, the government goes
on record as saying they support lifelong learning, but it's only
for people who start kindergarten and then, with no break in
their education, go through the formal system. First of all, what
happened to lifelong learning, and what about the notion of
somebody who goes out for a few year and spends some time in the
real world and then decides they want to go back to school? They
just don't count. There's so much inconsistency, and I'm really
glad you're in here exposing these things.
You point particularly to
the adult education and that funding levels have dropped from
$7,000 per student to $2,257, and you point out that the
cookie-cutter approach isn't working. The government argues: "It
puts everybody on the same playing field. It's unfair that there
were some boards that had more money than others." Yes, they're
right; it is unfortunate. But we had one presenter who came in
and said, "You know, it never dawned on me that you'd go to the
lowest dollar figure and drop everybody down to that."
I want to ask you where you
think the education system is going to be in five or 10 years if
there isn't a major turnaround in the funding for our education
system. Where are we going to be if we continue down this
Programs like special needs programs and the adult education
programs are definitely at risk. I can see that the crisis that
was going to be created a number of years ago is certainly coming
Christopherson: What does that mean for the students,
those programs not being there?
There is a lack of funding available for the resources they need
in terms of people to assist them with their special needs.
Christopherson: What's their future without that?
Their future without that is very risky. We have a high level of
graduation for students who have gone on to succeed in life.
Without these supports, I'm not sure how successful these kids
are going to be.
Christopherson: With the chamber calling for the need to
maintain the excellence in education, yet the government still
hacking away and refusing to acknowledge the damage they're
doing-and you can hear the government, and they're not
apologizing for anything. They best they can do is keep talking
and use up the time so you can't respond to them, which is a
trick of theirs when somebody comes in and points out all the
problems they have.
In your opinion, don't you
think it would be wise for the chamber and others who are only
looking at the bottom line to recognize that they're being very
short-sighted? We had one economist say that those of us who are
boomers are really like pigs at the trough, because we benefited
from the expenditures that created the debt and those of us who
are at our high earning peak capacity are benefiting from the tax
cut, and the generation following may look at us as pigs at the
trough. If all this continues, don't you think they need to wake
up and realize that this is short-term gain for a very few and
long-term pain for everyone, including the economy, at the end of
On behalf of the committee, thank you very much for your
CAW CHILD CARE SERVICES
Our next presenters are representatives from CAW Child Care
Services. Would you please step forward and state your names for
Boyer: Heather Boyer.
Dugal: Earl Dugal.
On behalf of the committee, welcome. You have 30 minutes for your
Thank you very much, Mr Chair and members of the committee. What
we want to do this morning is walk you through the child care
issues that are happening in the province today. With me is
Heather Boyer, the administrator of the child care services that
we have for our union members and for some people in the public
sector. With that, I am going to turn it over to Heather. At the
end, we will be glad to answer any questions.
CAW Child Care Services, which began in 1989, began in
partnership with the union, the corporations and government, with
a vision that child care is a right for all Canadian children. As
an organization, we are active members of the Ontario Coalition
for Better Child Care, and we believe in and support their
mandate to advocate for the development of high-quality,
non-profit child care services in Ontario.
Over the past 10 years, we
have closely watched as the government of the day made promises
to child care that didn't materialize. The current environment in
Ontario has seriously affected the accessibility of quality
services and threatens to destroy an entire system that was once
envied by every province in this country. Although the Ontario
government maintains that it is spending more on child care than
any previous government, the actual annual child care expenditure
per child has dropped 15% since 1995. Between 1995 and 1998, the
number of children under the age of 12 with mothers in the
workforce increased by
70,000, but only 19,000 new child care spaces were created.
Municipal downloading: The
downloading to municipalities of child care costs were fully
implemented in January of this year. Municipal governments are
still trying to assess the impact as they prepare their next
budgets. To support the transfer of child care costs announced in
1997, municipalities were given the ability to retain 100% of
subsidized parent fee revenue to offset costs or enhance service.
They were shocked when this support was recently deemed an
interim measure and withdrawn. This latest move by the province
gave municipalities the discretion to reallocate wage grants as a
method of managing increased child care costs. Although based on
the principles of equity, reallocation will result in lower wages
for the majority of child care staff.
Child care in schools: 40
percent of Ontario's licensed child care is located in schools.
However, recent education reforms do not treat these programs as
legitimate school expenses. If forced out of schools, child care
programs have no capital funding to relocate.
The Ontario Coalition for
Better Child Care has conducted a survey to determine how child
care programs in schools are being affected by education reforms.
The survey data reveal that child care programs across the
province are facing eviction, increased rental costs and reduced
space. These and many other issues are jeopardizing the important
link between child care and schools.
Changes to OSAP
regulations: The 1996 decision to remove parents in
post-secondary education from social assistance and eliminate the
child care bursary is still having a devastating impact.
Low-income parents who continue to struggle for a better life for
their families are graduating with untenable debts and are the
only parents expected to borrow in order to pay for child
Pay equity: While
legislation mandates that child care programs continue pay equity
adjustments beyond 1998, the province refuses to flow additional
money to meet this obligation. Child care programs are being
forced to decide between making the pay equity adjustments and
accumulating debts that will become unsustainable, or
discontinuing further adjustments that would be in direct
contravention of the statute. Both options are untenable.
Ontario Works child care:
Municipalities' inability to implement this program was
documented in the KPMG report that concluded that the Ontario
Works program could not succeed in the long term with inadequate
access to child care. It predicted that children of Ontario Works
clients would be forced into informal care, irrespective of
Some municipalities have
indicated that they will use only unregulated care for these
children because of the lack of adequate funding. This is the
first public policy in Ontario to determine that the children of
welfare recipients will be limited to unmonitored care. Some of
our neediest children are being placed at risk.
Playground directive: In
September 1999, the Ministry of Community and Social Services'
new playground directive required operators of licensed child
care centres to meet new Canadian Standards Association standards
for outdoor playgrounds. All licensed child care operators were
also required to develop a playground safety policy
While the child care
community supported the move to ensure outdoor play environments
are maintained in a safe manner, they were astounded that the
government would expect them to implement such a policy without
adequate training and capital funding. Successful implementation
of this directive requires partnership. If the government is
serious about keeping children safe, it should ensure that the
necessary resources and training are available.
After many years of
advocating for children, the Coalition for Better Child Care has
come to appreciate that what families in Ontario need to support
them through the parenting cycle is a holistic approach to
providing support during the early years. In Ontario, parents
need a judicious mix of benefits and services that are targeted
at identified needs and not designed to favour one family type at
the expense of another.
The formula for good child
care is no mystery. Extensive research shows that quality
programs such as the program CAW offers have high adult-child
ratios, consistent caregivers, small group sizes, appropriately
trained and compensated staff, and adequate physical
environments. These elements of quality care depend on adequate
public funding, non-profit delivery, parental involvement and
enforced regulatory standards.
Numerous reports, studies
and experts in the areas of social policy, health, economics,
education and child development agree that the best way to
support children is by supporting their families through
progressive family policy. CAW Canada and the Ontario Coalition
for Better Child Care are calling on the provincial government to
invest in the future of Ontario by developing a comprehensive
system of early childhood development services, including child
care, to support families during the important early years of
We now know from the
volumes of research available to us that the early years are too
important to waste on the patchwork of disjointed and diminishing
services available today in Ontario. Dr Fraser Mustard and the
Honourable Margaret Norrie McCain, of the Early Years Study
commissioned by the present government, urge a holistic approach
to early child development and parenting, and it is needed as
early as possible with leadership and commitment. It is time to
transform the knowledge and understanding we now have into
Why do we need a system of
early childhood development services? It supports healthy child
development. We recognize that regardless of a parent's
employment status, early childhood development opportunities
benefit all children and help them realize their full potential
at each stage of life.
It fosters economic growth.
Early childhood development services enable parents to work or
enter training so they can access employment opportunities.
affordable services help parents maintain their employment.
It creates jobs. With
government investment, early childhood development services will
create thousands of jobs over the next 10 years; reduce child
poverty; affordable early childhood development services allow
parents to participate in the labour force and to support their
children; and they invest in the future workforce. High-quality,
accessible, early childhood development services provide children
with the best possible start in life so they can become skilful,
competent workers. It is more cost-efficient for the government
to invest in high-quality services now than pay later for the
results of low-quality or non-existent services.
The Ontario government can
make the development of early childhood development services a
high priority by co-operating with the federal government in the
negotiations of a national children's agenda and by allocating
their own additional resources.
CAW Canada and the Ontario
Coalition for Better Child Care recommend that:
(1) The Ontario government
return to its traditional leadership role in developing licensed,
quality child care by making substantial new investments in this
(2) The Ontario government
undertake a five-year plan to double the capacity of licensed
(3) The Ontario government
provide ongoing funding for mandatory pay equity adjustments in
recognition of pay equity principles;
(4) The Ontario government
make more provisions for licensed, quality child care for Ontario
Works clients and exempt parents who are unable to obtain
licensed care from Ontario Works participation requirements;
(5) The Ontario government
amend the education funding formula to support school-based child
(6) The Ontario government
reinstate the policy which required all new school buildings to
include child care space;
(7) The Ontario government
make new and substantial investments in children to address the
serious issue of child poverty;
(8) The Ontario government
provide the necessary resources and training to child care
programs to enable them to meet CSA standards and implement safe
playground policies; and lastly,
(9) As a signatory to the
National Children's Agenda, the Ontario government demonstrate
vision, political will and commitment to children in the next
Chair: Thank you very much for your presentation. In
rotation, it's the turn of the Liberal caucus to start off, if
you have any questions.
Thank you very much for your presentation. You make suggestions
at the end of your presentation about a five-year plan to double
the capacity of licensed child care. In the beginning you
mentioned that between 1995 and 1998 the number of children under
age 12 with mothers in the workforce increased by 70,000, but
that only 19,000 new child care spaces were created. So your
recommendation, I assume, for a five-year plan to double the
capacity would alleviate that statistical analysis at the
One of the big issues we're finding today in this whole area of
early childhood education is the fact that the children
themselves are not being educated to the point where there are
spaces available for them. What is happening today is that
they're allowing for a child tax credit, which really does not
provide any spaces for new children in order for them to have
this type of development in education. This is the seriousness of
the whole program, trying to educate the youth while they are
young to going into the workforce in a later year, to make them
educated, because spaces are not available to do that. What we're
looking for, I guess, in the presentation from finance to the
Ontario people, is something to create more licensed spaces to
help the people who are looking for work to have that kind of
care for their children while they go to work.
Mr Hoy: I
recently attended an event where scholarships were given out to
some very bright young individuals. They hoped to have better
employment than they do now, but in some cases their situation is
that they are entering into what is commonly called entry level
jobs, which have wages they hope to certainly acquire but to
increase over their time, gain some experience and so on. So I
appreciate the fact that you mention that a graduating student
could use this help. They are not always moved right into the
workforce at the top dollar within their field and should move
on, eventually. Is that what you meant by favouring one family
type at the expense of another, the income level situation that
may or may not improve over time? Is that what you meant by one
It's based on income bracket.
You mentioned that schools should include child care space and
you heard the presentation just prior. I have some concern that
the school itself would even exist, let alone have a child care
space, and that's a component that is significant to rural
Ontario where we have greater distances than we would perhaps in
Windsor, where the next school might be only some blocks away. I
would hope that the government would give some flexibility back
to the local board so that we can keep the school open to have a
child care space develop. You talk about risk, where a child care
space may not be licensed. Maybe you could describe some examples
of what risks might occur if someone is forced to go to an
One statistic we can give you is that there are more children in
Ontario in unregulated child care than in any other form of child
care. More children have died in these unregulated environments
than we've had people dying from flying truck tires on our
highways. We've had 54
new inspectors hired to monitor our highways, and not one
supervisor of an unregulated child care environment has been
hired to address a problem that is far more serious than people
dying on our highways.
Christopherson: Thank you both, Earl and Heather, for
your presentation. Let me say at the outset, as not only a former
member of the auto workers but as a former president of a local
in Hamilton-it's 20 years ago now-I'm really proud of the fact
that you've been breaking ground in this area, as you have also
done in ensuring that your members have access to legal services
and a whole host of social issues that go way beyond what people
normally think unions do. CAW continues to be a leader in that
I just want to pick up
where Pat left off on the whole issue of unregulated, informal
care, because there's a myth to be punctured here. The myth is
that, number one, this is about choice. The government does this
a lot. They will try and frame things in a way where this is
about choice, that you can have a choice. Ultimately, what they
want to be able to say, in terms of health care, is that you can
have a choice: public health care or private health care. It's
democracy. Education: You can have the public system or the
private system. The fact that the public system in both those
cases is going into crisis and that the choice is only available
to those who have the means doesn't get on their radar screen,
but that's the reality.
I'm sure they want people
to think this is about either having mom come in or somebody you
know next door, who is almost part of the family, totally
ignoring the fact that what we've actually got is individuals
who, because of tough circumstances of their own in many cases,
are taking in kids. There's no way of guaranteeing that they have
any parental skills for their own kids, let alone to start taking
care of others'. You mentioned the number of deaths. I suspect
that the only way the pendulum is going to swing back, and
unfortunately we're going to lose a good part of a generation,
and children are going to be hurt and die unnecessarily, is when
we start having inquests. Then the whole story will get blown out
and it will be on the front page of the papers and the top of the
news, and eventually we'll get back to where we've been, but oh,
what a waste, what a shameful waste before we get back there.
I've got to believe, for a
lot of the government's friends, that this is all about not even
needing child care, because, "Just hire a nanny." So life is
What we're talking about is
the vast majority of working people out there. We know they need
two incomes and we've got to provide decent, accessible,
affordable child care. So I'd ask you to comment on that.
I'll raise one other issue
because I probably won't have time to get the mike back. The
other thing I want to talk about-and I put the emphasis on this
because it's difficult for presenters to not look self-serving-is
the whole issue of wages for early childhood educators. It's
shameful. We had a presentation last week and the woman making
the presentation said, "I'm at the top of everything you can get.
I'm in a non-profit, I've got the education skills, I've got the
seniority," and she was making $38,000 tops. Most of them
entering the field after leaving their formal education are
starting at minimum wage. In my point of view, either they are
absolutely, totally dedicated to committing their lives to
helping children or they're crazy to choose this course.
Yet the government has no
problem with leaving the wages where they were. They want the
value of all labour to be reduced because they know that if one
area of wages goes up, it's going to affect others. But I think
it's important we get the message out that if we want our
children cared for in a professional fashion, we've got to pay
professional wages. If you don't have a full, complete person in
terms of the person who is providing the care, your child is not
going to receive the support they need and the education they
need. So I'd like you to comment and expand a little bit more on
what's happening to the wages of early childhood educators.
It has just occurred to me
that they were being compared to parking lot attendants in terms
of their wages. What was the phrase? I think they are up one
other category in terms of the real wages that are paid. The lack
of decent wages and benefits that early childhood educators are
receiving is shameful, given the level of education, the
responsibility and their importance in our society.
Just on your comments, David, the issue today about why people
are getting into the field and taking the wages they are taking
is because there is no real work out there for people to be doing
that does pay very good, decent wages. The average earning of an
ECE today in the field is $19,000 a year. They are taking those
jobs because the only other jobs out there that the government
keeps talking about are all of these McDonalds jobs and Burger
King jobs and things of that nature. There aren't any serious
jobs out there, where people who are looking to get into a field
can look at it in a positive vein.
We bring the issue today to
the committee to say to them in all honesty-and I understand that
maybe some of the people in government today can afford a nanny,
can afford those things that other people can't, but you are only
a small minority. The majority of people today are looking for
some type of help from the government so that they can feel
comfortable with where their children are going.
A provider who is doing
this type of work-raising a child-they're taking that risk on to
make sure that child is also given that type of protection while
they are in their care. For this kind of money, is that what they
are worth, $19,000?
In the CAW, we say no. In
the CAW, we say people should be paid a decent wage for the work
they're doing. We pay our workers a very decent wage, probably
the highest anywhere in the province.
I say to all of you, you
can all sit there and do what you want, but at the end of the
day, if you invest in the future of young kids today, while
they're growing up, as they grow into their older years you will
have more educated
people to create things that you're looking at to be created. You
won't have them if you sit there and do nothing about the whole
issue of early childhood education while the children are still
Christopherson: Well said, Earl. Thanks.
Molinari: Child care and the development of our youth
and children is a very important issue to all of us and I thank
you for some of the comments you've made. And thank you, Mr
Dugal, for your very emotional and passionate response to that
I have to differ with the
comment you made, though. I think those who become child care
workers, other than what you mentioned, that those are the only
jobs available-I've spoken to a number of child care workers and
they tell me they do it because they love the kids and because
they feel they can really contribute and benefit. It's not so
much the salary but because it's a job they love. I'm really
happy to hear that, because I know it is a very stressful job,
dealing with a number of children, all with different needs and
different exceptionalities. I'm glad to hear that from the number
of people I've spoken to.
I have a couple of
questions more of a technical nature. To begin, you mentioned in
your presentation that 40% of Ontario's licensed child care is
located in schools. Can you tell me a little about the others?
You talked about some of the unregulated ones. I guess those
would also be with families, grandparents, aunts and uncles. Some
of those are in the other 60%. Can you tell me what some of the
other ones might be?
There are licensed child care programs, a very small percentage.
About 7% of children are in those environments; that's all
there's room for. The majority of children are in unlicensed home
settings, either with a relative or a parent. Families often
decide to off-shift to make their child care arrangements work;
there's nothing available in their community so they work
opposite shifts to one another. That is a very interesting
statistic that they say may lend itself to the high divorce rate,
that families are not spending time together. There's no child
care to be found that either they've had a choice in or feel
comfortable with; they have to off-shift from one another and
family time together is dramatically reduced as a result.
Molinari: Thank you for that. I know times have changed
from when I was growing up and was small, but I do remember my
parents having shift work so there would always be one of them
home for me and my sister, to be able to take care of us. We had
our Sundays, which were a very special family time. They took a
lot of responsibility and made a lot of sacrifices to do that.
They felt the only ones who could appropriately look after us
were the two of them, not anyone else. Times have changed
drastically since then.
I want to tell you a little
about a school in my community that has done a wonderful job.
Where there was a school at risk of closure because of declining
enrolment, the community came together and took a couple of the
available classrooms in that school as a child care centre.
They've made the necessary modifications, and they've not only
maintained that school feasible and open but they've also brought
in another service which the community needed, and that was a
child care centre in a couple of the classrooms. They've been
able to use those resources, take something that would have been
a negative to the community but made it into a positive and
offered a service for the community. They're very excited about
it and the community's very excited about it.
That does exist in almost every community in the province, but
right now in Windsor alone there are six schools threatened with
closure about which the school board just made a decision that
they would keep open for another year and not amalgamate. But
those very important child care programs that exist currently in
those schools are also threatened with closure, with no place to
relocate, should the school board decide they can't afford to not
use the space in a better manner and to deal with the new funding
formulas they have. That's why child care programs are very
highly linked with vacant space in grade schools, but with the
threat of those schools amalgamating and closing, child care
programs don't have the space to exist any longer.
We've run out of time. On behalf of the committee, thank you very
much for your presentation this morning.
Before we break, a couple
of short announcements: Lunch will be served in the Tree Room,
buffet style. We have some reserved tables.
I'd like to have a couple
of minutes of the subcommittee's time before lunch.
The committee recessed
from 1200 to 1302.
Good afternoon. If I can get your attention, we'll bring the
committee back to order so that we remain on time. It is shortly
after 1 o'clock.
Our first presenter this
afternoon is Anne DiCecco. On behalf of the committee, welcome.
You have 15 minutes for your presentation this afternoon.
DiCecco: Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to
come before you and humbly express my opinion regarding your
upcoming budget considerations.
I am pleased the current
leadership has resulted in the gradual elimination of an enormous
inherited deficit budget. Even if the budget could be balanced
tomorrow and budget deficits deemed illegal unless in the case of
war or unforeseen natural disaster, we must resort to creative
measures to continue to deliver a high standard of necessary
service that will alleviate prevailing fears of average
Ontarians, particularly in health care, and will continue to
ensure that the Ontario engine that drives the nation will
continue to prevail with adequate infrastructure, an independent,
robust agricultural base, and hope via excellence in primary and
secondary educational standards and the ability to contribute at
a higher level with a post-secondary education that embraces both
a pragmatic approach to economic reality and the ability for all Ontarians to obtain
higher levels of appreciation for social, historic, and artistic
elements that complement the practical and enable us to
appreciate how far we've come and how far we can yet travel, all
the while retaining our freedoms derived from historically gained
democracy and an appreciation of the fragility that is both
mankind and the environment in which we prevail.
Under the excellent
leadership of Mike Harris, to date 30% of provincial income tax
has been cut and consideration has been made to cutting, as per
election promise, an additional 20%. Unless one has a pea for a
brain, it is not difficult to understand that we are so
enormously taxed as to indeed undermine the prospect of increased
productivity. However, it appears that the federal government
should be placed on the hot seat now, especially to index the
high-end tax bracket of $62,000 to an inflationarily gauged level
closer to between $90,000 and $100,000. A common factory worker
should not be considered within the highest tax level, so
ridiculously rated as high end as to discourage a spouse from
obtaining any additional income for fear of losing tax credits or
being ridiculously pivoted into a bracket that negates any real
gain. Until the feds initiate this "real" tax initiative, one
wonders as to the merit of any provincial initiative.
I understand that the
mandate to reduce taxes an additional 20% was given a window of
five years to be implemented. The current government should be
commended for commencing this policy, whereas others have simply
increased deficits, debts and taxes. This current provincial
government has not just inherited monumental deficit and debt,
but as well inherited a federally underfunded health care system,
deteriorated both morally and structurally, and a crumbling
Any tax decrease, as
opposed to an increase, is certainly appreciated, and yet one
wonders, although in the face of a great economic boom, should
the decrease be commenced now or should we get our house in order
on all fronts, infrastructurally, health care-wise and
educationally, before commencing a substantial tax strike-down?
If we commence additional substantial tax cutting at this
juncture, can we substantiate these cuts with a guarantee of
controlled, continued excellent delivery of service?
I believe I speak for the
majority of Ontarians when I thank you for putting our house in
order and striving to put a lid on an extravagant, unnecessary
spendthrift mentality. However, I implore caution and the
restoration of order, even with a return to mid-1990s transfer
payments, before commencing great additional tax reductions.
Health care: Even if all
mid-1990s-level transfer payments were restored tomorrow, would
that provide the panacea for health care? I humbly concede not.
Please consider the recommendations of Shirley Douglas, daughter
of Tommy Douglas, to appoint a non-partisan health care committee
to get at the crux of the matter: patient-supplemented fees. Her
comments that her father's vision of public medicare for all
Canadians did not consider an absolutely gratuitous approach seem
to be echoed by every doctor with whom I converse that this is
one worthy program that should be supported by user fees. That
may be the only way to obtain the previous excellent level of
service, especially in light of generational need and increased
demand for costly diagnostic procedures and the pursuit, at all
costs, of prolonged lifespan.
I imagine it would not be
unfathomable that all patients with the ability to do so could,
at a minimum, pay an individual family fee to their family
practice to alleviate administrative costs and access a
consultative nurse via phone. In lieu of this, we could perhaps
install per visit fees, although this may provide an
administrative burden, as opposed to a straight annual fee. There
should be a base understanding of what services could be covered
and considered reasonable within basic medicare provision.
Services over and above this level, especially services that
continue to have questionable success, could either be
supplemented by medicare or subscribed to by private patient
insurance. It is truly a mark of needed reform when cancer
patients must traverse to the States to avoid prolonged waits to
obtain life-saving radiation therapy.
The Windsor-Essex county
area has been designated underserviced. Municipal partnerships
must be formed to entice doctors to this vibrant, booming area,
even without a teaching facility. I commend Ms Witmer et al for
increasing the international medical training program by 50%.
This program specifically targets underserviced areas, and
hopefully Windsor-Essex county should find somewhat of an
alleviation to their doctor shortage with this
This area has a shift-work,
blue-collar base, with a majority of workers logging six days a
week and many working seven. It does not seem unreasonable, then,
that health care delivery should be available at a central
hospital location 24 hours, seven days a week. Such a location
could absorb unnecessary emergency usage, and its proximity to an
emergency ward could work splendidly with effective emergency
triage. I was horrified that sufficient personnel were not
available throughout the holiday season to effectively attend to
the flu outbreak. This is public medicare, and unless that
changes, hospital administrations should be responsible for
ensuring that area residents will never again be faced with this
sort of nightmarish fiasco. We may be federally underfunded but
I, for one, am not ready to concede Russian-style health
The Blueprint outlined a
plan to hire an additional 10,000 nurses. We may indeed not have
sufficient doctors, but they at least are respectively honoured
and apparently sufficiently paid. Nurses, on the other hand,
especially those with low seniority and home care providers, seem
to need satisfaction in three areas: nurse practitioner
implementation, full-time hours and benefits. All three of these
deficiencies are most apparent in areas, like Windsor, bordering
the States, where it is all too easy to find work that pays
better. Most nurses I talk with would gladly remain and serve in their own
country, yet there is currently very little incentive. They are
overworked, demoralized and just plain cranky. It's time they
received their commendation for the lifeline they provide within
Please, please, please, of
course we need additional long-term-care beds to alleviate
misused acute care beds, but home care and hospital care can only
receive stamps of excellence when this facet of health care
delivery is satisfied. I understand that a national home care
program has been suggested. That just may be swell, since
hospitals and beds across the county have been closed and the
burden of home care provision has been handed to the provinces,
along with slashed transfer payments to support growing demand.
It's a lovely idea, yet it resonates with me, at this point, as
similar to red book promises to eliminate the GST and provide a
national daycare program. I'm glad the federal government has
finally balanced their budget, unfortunately at a cost to the
provinces. They should concentrate on reducing the debt and
taxes. The provinces may be in a position to better determine the
needs of home care for their residents.
There has been much bad
press regarding walk-in clinics as being taboo. I consider
"walk-in" to simply refer to a form of service as opposed to
making an appointment around your work schedule and finding that
you cannot access a doctor, preferably your family doctor, for a
week. There are very successful walk-in clinics that accommodate
patients around their schedule and do not just have waiting rooms
and appointments booked around the elderly, who are a more
certain guarantee of consistent income. Perhaps all records will
be computerized and accessible by all doctors, hopefully
privacy-protected, so that walk-in delivery could be the norm and
duplication and medical combinations could be effectively
monitored. Is there a private or government online or phone
service that could pacify patients with information/alternative
treatments and centres of excellence, or could a phone service be
monitored by a medical specialist to avoid current six-hour
Windsor-Essex county seems
to be particularly deficient in the area of psychiatric
practitioners. Are we now graduating sufficient staff, or are
they just not inclined to venture into this area? The PACT
program for psychiatric patients appears to be a godsend for
patients and families of the mentally ill. Its only drawback
seems to be its inability to be aligned with patients receiving
pensions, noting their inability to regularly garner a consistent
income. This program alleviates some need for
institutionalization, and for those who recognize the benefit of
the PACT commitment it provides a lifeline to ensure proper
medicinal intake, counselling, access to available support
organizations, and general survey of hygiene and psyche.
I am not a psychiatric
expert, yet it is easy to conclude that the majority of homeless
may indeed be the psychiatrically impaired, ostracized by family
and society who are unable to assist them because that may oppose
their freedoms and rights. It just seems very odd that the
psychiatrically maligned are expected to make rational decisions
when they may be psychotic and that intercession of even loved
ones is not heeded to ensure the civil libertarian protection of
an individual with a history of psychiatric illness. Can the PACT
program work co-operatively with psychiatric pension recipients,
or is this contrary to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms?
Education: My children
attend the French Catholic separate school board and have had the
benefit of receiving what I believe to be the best early
childhood JK/SK program going. The programs have all been full
day, and they certainly support the precepts of the Fraser
Mustard report and the Royal Commission on Education, both
highlighting the importance of strong early childhood education
to encourage optimal educational excellence and early
intervention to alleviate social deviance often associated with
childhood learning problems, commonly previously determined too
late in life when frustration, lack of confidence and
peer/teacher judgment have already set in.
The French board appears to
be fiscally prudent and has been able to continue delivering
these optimal early childhood education programs with excellent
grade 3 and grade 6 test scores in reading, writing and math to
substantiate the claims of Dr Mustard as to the importance of
SK is available throughout
most school boards at only half-day, and JK programs are not
nationally available and/or viable within all provinces. The
federal government continues to tout a national children's
agenda, which may include long-fought-for child tax credit
increases, which I and every other parent surely welcome. Young
people starting families, paying off student loans, mortgages and
car payments and being faced with less disposable income now than
in the 1980s, need help now. The States at least offers the
economic tax boon incentive that allows the full write-off of
mortgage interest payments. Tell me that's not an incentive for a
brain drain that supposedly doesn't exist. I would hope that the
federal government would inflationarily index the top bracket
from $62,000 to a more reasonable $90,000 to $100,000. In the
interim, young families continue to struggle. To obtain any
reasonable standard of living requires one and a half to two
full-time incomes and there's very little left over for any rainy
days or oft-needed unobtainable family and children's
Because I have very little
hope that the federal government is sincerely interested in
alleviating the middle-income tax burden and because every study
backs the benefits of early childhood education, I am asking for
Ontario provincial intervention to encourage the federal
government to supplement SK to full-day funding. This would not
only be supported by the likes of early childhood advocates such
as Fraser Mustard, but probably by every parent who must work to
live in this country.
There are many who advocate
a national daycare program. Health care, infrastructure and
farmers should be first in line. If the tax system was fairer for
the middle level, which really is the $62,000 earner, perhaps
parents might be
inclined to remain at home for the preschool period. As this
high-end tax bracket seems unlikely to change any time soon, I
implore you to work with the federal government to initiate this
improvement to early childhood education.
The royal commission on
education, along with the Mustard report, supports that JK and SK
be implemented and delivered via early childhood educators. I
understand that a pilot project in this regard has been ongoing
in the Ottawa area. Is it successful? Have the glitches been
ironed out? By substituting ECE providers for teaching staff, yet
following a common curriculum, could we possibly deliver a
program of this calibre on a full-time basis throughout all of
Ontario? Could SK be delivered with certified teachers in the
morning and ECE providers in the afternoon? Of course, if there
was no monetary restriction, I would certainly support the more
optimal program delivered entirely by certified teaching staff.
Yet, with studies identifying a very real prospect for teacher
shortage, is this the right time to implement a different
approach that could benefit all Ontarians, not just those
attending French-language schools?
Could the Ontario
government work in conjunction with municipalities to identify
sufficient latchkey programs in key areas that support bus
routes? This is another crucial program that supports working
parents, alleviates some of their stress and, from my
understanding, is operated independently of schools by private
providers in co-operation with school boards. Probably Ontario's
consistently poor reading test results could most assuredly be
attributed to the lack of time overworked, too-tired parents do
not have to give to their children. This may sound like a lame
excuse until you're in this boat. Latchkey programs, properly
supervised, could possibly accommodate a program that pairs grade
7 and 8 readers with program subscribers. These older students
could obtain a modest allowance and everyone could benefit. It
may sound crazy, but it works. My children were benefactors of a
If you are not agreeable to
any of the previous suggestions, could you at the least consider
decreasing student-teacher ratios from JK to grade 3 from the
current 1:25 to a more early childhood compatible 1:20 ratio as
an indication that you truly consider the merits of smaller class
size crucial in the first eight years of life to obtain an
optimal learning head start?
Excuse me, you have one minute. I'll give you another minute to
wrap it up.
DiCecco: OK, fine.
As for teacher testing, I
agree with the recent report from the College of Teachers
encouraging optimal initiation testing only. With principals
removed from unions and acting more in the position of managers
having responsibility to oversee curriculum implementation and
mediate between parents and teachers, we ought to give this its
due. In cases where there is concern of teacher inadequacy and
impropriety, we should return to the approach of my school days
when superintendents were visibly conspicuous during random
visits throughout schools. There should be no prior warning of
these random visits. I believe that was the best way to instill
excellence. When parents have concerns that they feel are dealt
with effectively by neither teachers, principals or
superintendents, they should themselves be able to access review
by the College of Teachers.
Overall, I believe the
majority of teachers are committed to excellence. They are very
professional. They seem committed to the implementation of an
enhanced curriculum, and it is time to honour their efforts, to
publicly commend those excellent individuals who make it their
life's work to mould children into responsible learned members of
society with a penchant to satisfy curiosity and compel
advancement of knowledge from all facets of life.
I believe the changes to
education were necessary. I believe there was questionable
accountability, not just from teachers but from parents
themselves, who tended to prefer a lack of involvement and the
notion that only schools contribute to the learning process. It
is now time to support teachers with teacher development programs
that make a difference, and with support from our government
leaders. If teacher testing, costing millions of dollars, has
failed or produced a questionable outcome in other areas, let's
keep the testing to initiation levels and let's give our teachers
tools and public support to get the job done.
At the post-secondary
level, it is time for a novel approach. I have very little
sympathy for lifelong students who chose curriculum irrelevant to
realistic employment opportunities. I would like consideration be
made of five-year studies of employment deficiencies and I would
like students entering into these areas to be considered for
subsidies or grants, with the understanding that they remain in
the country for a minimum of 10 years. I'm sure this is probably
contrary to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, yet it seems
rather obvious that, while our great minds are being educated in
tax-subsidized institutions, they have no obligation and very
little tax incentive or optimal opportunity to remain in Canada.
Therefore, we continue to supply especially the United States
with the export of our best and brightest Canadians. Not a great
way to ensure the growth of a country, and very little
accountability to taxpayers who subsidize this great Canadian
As a simple, humble mother
of five, neither a doctor nor a teacher, just an ardent observer
of life, is maybe even the whole university deliverance of
academia in need of an overhaul? If someone wants to become a
mechanical engineer and a product designer or a civil engineer
and an architect or an artist-teacher-graphic artist-animator,
just as examples, do they have to become lifelong students at
great cost, or could there be a little more willingness to carve
out a personalized curriculum that opens more doors with less
time and less cost than the current stale approach that begs an
overhaul? How many courses can now be offered over the Internet
or closed-circuit television? If we could just open up our
minds to change, we
could invite the lifelong pursuit of education to all
With that, I'll have to bring your presentation to an end. On
behalf of the committee, thank you very much for your
presentation this afternoon.
Our next presenter is Peter Neilson. On behalf of the committee,
welcome. You have 15 minutes for your presentation.
Neilson: Members of the committee, I thank you for the
opportunity to present my views.
First, I would like to
congratulate the government for the job it has done in helping to
turn around Ontario's economy. Some challenges remain, of course,
and it is the choice of opportunities presented by our thriving
economy that I wish to address.
While critics have
condemned your tax cuts, I would hope that the economy you have
encouraged would allow you to explore cutting various taxes even
further. At the same time, I would like to see you explore
imaginative solutions to some of the problems which we all agree
still exist. For instance, we continue to face discontent from
some of our professionals who face specific challenges in their
professional lives and unfavourable federal tax rates and
policies when compared to our American neighbours. The result has
been the so-called brain drain.
While we wait with
frustration for the federal government to lower taxes, in the
meantime we can certainly create a more favourable economic
climate for professionals to not only remain in Ontario but
actually move here. Therefore, I am offering the following
suggestions for your consideration.
(1) Incorporation: Consider
moving quickly to allow incorporation of professionals in Ontario
in order to (a) help prevent the brain drain from Ontario, and to
protect our education investment in these bright individuals; (b)
help to attract physicians to Ontario to help offset the effects
of the cap on their billings; (c) level the playing field with
our largest trading partner to the south as well as with
provinces which currently already allow incorporation; (d)
attract entrepreneurs to Ontario from elsewhere.
investment: As a resident of the greater Windsor area adjacent to
the Ambassador Bridge, I fully support your announcement to
invest the first part of the SuperBuild Growth Fund in
transportation infrastructure. As an extremely important part of
this transportation investment, I would hope to see a new bridge
built to the United States from Windsor, preferably sooner than
later. My fear is that the focus will be on the bridge itself,
rather than what could be possible for the greater Windsor area
with some imagination directed towards creating a true
transportation hub with the new bridge at one end, the 401 at the
other, and Windsor airport and CP Rail in the middle.
As such, I see the new
bridge at the western end of the already existing E.C. Row
Expressway right on to I-75 in Michigan. They are already
virtually within sight of each other, as you can see on the map
I've included. It's even more apparent when driving westward at
the western end of the E.C. Row. E.C. Row would then connect to
401 across the eastern end of Windsor airport, via Lauzon Parkway
and the 10th concession, both for ease of land connections and
for the connection of air transport at Windsor airport as well as
rail transport via CP Rail to the NAFTA superhighway. Local
international traffic would continue to use the existing bridge
and tunnel connections.
This plan not only avoids
but alleviates the dangerous and rapidly growing gridlock on
Huron Church Road, it avoids adding to the exhaust pollution in
west-end Windsor, which already has some of the worst air in
Ontario, and it greatly improves and enhances the traffic flow of
the entire greater Windsor area, making it a much more livable
city for coming decades. It would also cut a significant amount
of time off the typical cross-border trip for trucks by avoiding
all of the local streets and traffic lights on both sides of the
The land to expand to three
or four lanes in each direction already exists on the E.C. Row.
The western end of E.C. Row is a sparsely built, heavy industrial
area, meaning little disruption to residents and current
arteries. At the eastern end, a logical connection to the 401
exists along the eastern end of Windsor airport and along
existing county roads, with little need for large expropriations
The E.C. Row would also
become the major east-west artery off which north-south
connections could be expanded and improved to help ease smooth
exit and entry to the downtown and to our major automotive and
feeder plants. With the automotive plants increasingly using air
transport for just-in-time delivery, the integration of Windsor
airport into the overall I-75-E.C. Row-Highway 401 corridor would
seem to be a natural.
CP Rail tracks are already
situated close by for rail transport. As a final step to this
plan, consideration should be given to moving the Via Rail
passenger station from its current congested and isolated site
near Hiram Walker on the river to the resulting central NAFTA
corridor adjacent to the airport for the creation of a true
central commercial and transportation hub for the greater Windsor
and Essex county area.
I believe that focusing
solely on a new bridge, especially one located adjacent to the
current Ambassador Bridge, without considering the possibilities
of a fully integrated transportation strategy, is short-sighted.
The true potential is best viewed from a bird's-eye view of the
entire city and county and not simply from the very narrow view
of the current bridge. We need to focus on the future rather than
on the past.
(3) Health care, high tech
and genetics: Regarding health care, I would like to focus
briefly on an aspect that may not yet be readily apparent but
which is about to become paramount. This one example highlights
the growing weakness in our current system.
The human genome project will be completed
within the next nine to 18 months. I'm not sure that anyone
recognizes the huge impact this is about to have on our medical
treatment capabilities and thus on our approach to health
As high-tech genetic
treatments for diseases and conditions which were never before
treatable become rapidly available, every citizen will rightly
expect and demand access. I am certain that our current health
care model is not prepared to handle the pace of change that is
about to occur as a result.
While we struggle to add
several MRI machines to our provincial system every year, please
consider the fact that the database on the human genome's Web
site is now updated every 12 hours. This flood of knowledge,
which will offer answers to a whole host of human medical
problems, will be useless if it cannot be put to practical
The current model of
universal health care was developed in the 1960s and was
appropriate for that much simpler time. That time has passed us
by and is gone. I suggest that rather than fiddling with details
we begin to cut our apron strings to that aging model. We need to
redesign the system to meet the emerging needs of the next 40
years rather than the past 40.
It is my opinion that the
current publicly funded model alone will not be able to handle
this change, and thus needs to be re-examined. The known factor
of a rapidly aging population will test the system to its limits.
The addition of a less familiar high-tech revolution and
knowledge explosion will make it unworkable. The myopic view of
our current federal government towards a 40-year-old health care
model is perhaps the single biggest impediment that we face. In
my opinion, new partnerships with private enterprise must be
explored if we are to best serve our citizens.
(4) Mandatory achievement
in education: I think we all know that the biggest single
determinant of poverty and lack of employability is a lack of
education and training. The days of being able to make a decent
and dependable living on a strong back and a grade 10 education
are pretty much history.
It makes no sense to me to
spend large amounts on retraining programs and welfare schemes at
the far end while we still allow students to quit the education
system at age 16 at the near end. I believe that 16 was chosen
when families needed their children to help out on the farm and
little formal education was required to prosper. Those times are
It is my opinion that the
time has come to re-evaluate the determinant of when a student
can leave the education system. I suggest that achievement rather
than age be the sole determinant. Such a scheme would be enforced
by making successful completion of an approved course of study
the criterion for having access to the full range of social
assistance programs in Ontario. If we are to demand that welfare
recipients work for their benefits in workfare schemes, then does
it not make sense to demand that everyone achieve the appropriate
skills they need to avoid welfare in the first place? With rights
come responsibilities. Rules made early in the last century need
to be revisited. They are not serving us very well in the new
(5) Sales tax cuts: Once
the promised income tax cuts of the PC Blueprint have been
achieved, I would like to see cuts come from the provincial sales
tax, 1% at a time.
We are told that our
standard of living has lagged behind that of our American
neighbours. Part of that is high income taxes, but another part
is higher costs for daily goods. The playing field can be
levelled by cutting the taxes that every Ontarian pays for almost
everything they purchase. Alberta has done very nicely with no
sales taxes at all as a result of their oil-based heritage fund.
With our booming economy we will see our surplus grow and may
soon be in a position to offer our consumers a break. If so, we
(6) Mortgage interest
deductibility: This is another benefit we lack that our American
competitors can offer to our best and brightest when enticing
them to move south along with their fine Ontario educations.
While we have the advantage of tax-free capital gains realized on
the sale of a family home, the assistance of getting into the
housing market with before-tax dollars is not available to young
Ontarians, as it is when they make their move across the border
to the US. We need to compete.
(7) Computer and Internet
investment: Ford Motor Co and Delta Airlines recently announced
free computers and cheap Internet access for all of their
employees. Ford Motor Co were innovators decades ago when they
were the first to pay their employees enough to be able to afford
to buy their products.
Business has moved on-line
like never before. As a result, those in the workforce who are
not connected today are becoming seriously disadvantaged. Job
opportunities, networking with co-workers, job improvement
information, cheap and quick communication between employers and
employees, continuing education, resumé distribution, and
access to vital information are all available online.
Ford Motor Co and Delta
Airlines aren't stupid. They are in business to make money. I
suggest that your government have a serious look at the
investment return of welfare recipients having available at-home
Internet access to see whether there is an obvious payback. If
so, then it would make sense to investigate a plan to get those
on assistance who are trying to find work connected to the
Innovative approaches could
be investigated, including partnerships with private industry
where there might be a mutual advantage to all concerned.
Incentives to master this technology could be built into such a
program, such as loaning the computer to the welfare recipient on
condition that studies are pursued in the basics of spreadsheets,
word processing, database and Internet usage. Successful
attainment of permanent employment would result in the computer
being turned over permanently. Economies of scale along with
private partnerships might make this plan surprisingly
As part of this same initiative, moving our
school classrooms truly on-line should be pursued. Several
computers in the computer room with a 10-year-old showing the
teacher how to use them is simply not acceptable in the on-line
world of 2000. Those students without the at-home on-line
presence of many of their classmates are being relegated to
second-class status without this access.
In summary, I support the
general direction that you have laid out in your budgets in the
past four years and, given the results, I fully expect that you
will stay the course. However, imagination, attention to detail,
careful management and steadfast focus on excellence can always
make a good thing even better. That's my hope.
Thank you very much for your presentation, on behalf of the
committee. We've run out of time today for a question.
We've just been notified
that our next group, the Elementary Teachers' Federation of
Ontario, is going to be somewhat late, about 15 minutes, because
of road conditions. The 2 o'clock group has cancelled
Johnson: Do they get a detention?
No, I'm not going to comment on that.
However, if we wait for a
couple of minutes, the Alliance of Canadian Second Stage Housing
are currently in the building and they might be able to make
their presentation. We'll take the teachers' federation after
this group. We'll just take a couple of minutes' pause here for
coffee or water.
The committee recessed
from 1335 to 1338.
ELEMENTARY TEACHERS' FEDERATION OF ONTARIO,
THAMES VALLEY LOCAL
The next presentation is from the Elementary Teachers' Federation
of Ontario, Thames Valley local. On behalf of the committee,
welcome. You have 30 minutes for your presentation, starting
Holgate: We're John Stevens, president, and Marion
Holgate, vice-president, of the Elementary Teachers' Federation
of Ontario, Thames Valley local. Our local consists of
approximately 3,200 elementary teachers who are employed by the
Thames Valley District Board of Education. Our parent
organization, the Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario,
which we will refer to as ETFO, represents 70,000 teachers and
education workers in the public elementary schools of this
province. The Thames Valley Local is the third-largest of
Our employer, the Thames
Valley District School Board, was created by the amalgamation of
the four predecessor boards: the Elgin county, the city of
London, the county of Middlesex and the county of Oxford. We
affectionately referred to that as ELMO in the former days. Our
local's members teach 58,000 students from junior kindergarten to
grade 8, in regular classrooms, in special education programs, in
ESL programs and in section 19 school settings in our employer's
160-plus elementary schools.
We propose to describe to
you in statistics and in human terms the detrimental effects the
funding cuts and restructuring have had on the elementary
students of the Thames Valley District School Board. It is indeed
our view that the current education funding model and the cuts it
has administered to public education in Ontario have impacted
negatively on the quality of public education, on the morale of
the hard-working professionals who dedicate their working lives
to the education of elementary students in our publics schools
and, most significantly, on the future of this province's
greatest resource, our children.
Due to time restraints, we
will focus our presentation on the effects the funding structure
has had on our youngest learners.
Stevens: First I'd like to concentrate on a survey of
our membership done by the firm ComQUEST, which was hired by the
provincial organization. We received a 49% return rate. This
report confirms the following about public elementary schools in
Ontario, and all of the findings apply to the Thames Valley
District School Board in varying degrees.
student-teacher ratio has increased from 18.6 to 19.0, a 2%
increase in one year. Teachers' jobs have been cut while
enrolments have increased.
Some 22% of schools report
the loss of teacher-librarians; 12% report the loss of music
teachers; 9% report the loss of special education teachers. This
loss of specialist teachers has a direct impact on education
programs. Forty-seven per cent of schools report a reduction in
their library program since the new funding model was
implemented; 22% report the loss of music, design and technology,
and ESL programs.
In half the schools, field
trips have been reduced. Two thirds report less money for field
trips, often resulting in parents having to pick up the
While the average class
size of boards may be 25 across the province, the data show that
the average for grades 3 to 8 is higher than this, reaching an
average of 28 in grade 8.
On average, schools report
seven classes per school with more than one student with special
needs. That is almost half the total number of classes. More than
one in four classes are combined grades, and that has a
significant impact when you're talking about implementing the new
curriculum. Support for students with special needs has declined.
While there are more teaching assistants for such students than
two years ago, there are fewer special education teachers and
less withdrawal time available.
Over 40% of schools report
that there are rooms in the school that are now being used for
classrooms that two years ago had other functions: 21% indicate
the loss of resource withdrawal rooms-that's where you can take
special ed students and deal with them in smaller groups; 11%
have lost music rooms; 10% have lost computer rooms; 9% have lost
library rooms; and 6% have lost daycare spaces.
The ETFO school-based research survey captures
only the period since the implementation of the new funding
formula. Its results must be placed in the broader context of
program cuts at the elementary level throughout the 1990s. The
survey does provide solid evidence demonstrating the impact of
the funding. We will include a detailed copy of the results of
this survey with our submission.
Holgate: The following information continues to reflect
the impact of the current funding model in provincial terms.
research to support the educational importance and long-term
economic value of educating the very young, this government
failed to recognize or deliberately ignored the evidence. It has
continued to support the historical imbalance in funding between
elementary and secondary students. There is a $600 per pupil
funding gap between the two panels. Despite the volumes of
supporting educational research, this government failed to seize
the opportunity to correct this illogical inequity and chose to
take away incentive funding for small primary classes.
It cut funding to students
at risk by driving more special education students into full or
partial integration. It reduced the number of teachers in the
system by setting the arbitrary elementary class size average at
25. It eliminated funding for valuable programs such as early
years, FSL and full-day kindergarten. By introducing the early
learning grant, the government forced school boards to choose
between providing junior kindergarten programs or enhancing
programming for kindergarten to grade 3. In predecessor boards
which have offered their communities junior kindergarten for
years, as two of the four Thames Valley District School Board
predecessor boards did, this is not a fair or educationally sound
set of choices.
Therefore, it is the
recommendation of our local that the funding for elementary be at
least equal to the funding currently provided for secondary.
Stevens: This next area is one of the places where we
think the funding model seriously has an impact on our students.
It is class size. In the Thames Valley District School Board's
elementary schools, the detrimental impact of the average class
size of 25 is no more evident than in the younger grades. The
following charts demonstrate how the application of this
arbitrary and educationally unsound number, 25, penalizes the
Thames Valley early learners the most.
The first chart outlines
the number of students in each elementary division for the Thames
Valley District School Board. You can see the large numbers
moving through the early years. Division 1 is the kindergarten,
JK; division 2 is the primary grades 1, 2 and 3; division 3 would
be junior; and division 4 is grades 7 and 8.
The second chart
demonstrates how well the board has adhered to the provincial
class size average for elementary schools. It's a perfect bell
curve. What that means is, while this is student-focused funding,
it shows that the further to the right of the centre of this
graph, the less the focus is on you. For the younger students,
the size of the grades that you see in front of you, for every
one of those smaller classes of 15, for example, there has to be
a class of 30 somewhere else to balance it. While this may be a
fiscally manageable number and save expenses, what it really does
is, some people get focus funding and some people don't.
The following four charts
demonstrate the distribution of students in each of the four
divisions. You can see that up at the top. In our collective
agreement, what we tried to do was recognize that the younger the
child, the more important it was that they were in a smaller
grade. To that end, we put in the number 20 for the early
years-that's JK-SK. We negotiated the number 22 for the primary
grades. Then we negotiated 26 and 28 for junior and intermediate.
However, because of the arbitrary number of 25, it's very
difficult to get that language in place. In fact, the pattern
gradually decreases. If you notice, because of the size of the
classes in the earlier years, the pattern gradually decreases as
the age of the student increases, resulting in the fewest classes
above the class size average in the transition years.
The trend observed in the
charts for the Thames Valley District School Board continues to
be one of added dollars for the top part of the educational
pyramid and less for the foundation. We view the early years as
being the foundation of the education system all the way through
to the OAC. The first educational experience of a child should be
one worth coming back for.
A further compromise to the
education and safety of our youngest students in Thames Valley
schools is the change in the funding formula which generates
dollars for education assistants. Prior to the creation of the
new special education funding which "Velcroes"-that's a ministry
word, not ours-EAs to individual high-needs students who have met
the stringent ISA funding criteria, large early-year classes in
the Thames Valley predecessor boards used to be granted EA
support in addition to the teacher. This no longer occurs.
Consequently, the safety of students in these large classes is
placed in jeopardy.
The Premier has recently
gone on record as saying that his government will do everything
in its power to ensure the safety of Ontario's public schools.
But if you consider the following information presented by our
local early years committee, you would think otherwise.
Nobody in this room would
ever take five or six or 10 three-, four- and five-year old
children on their own. But regularly and daily in Thames Valley
we have upwards of 31 children with one teacher, and they range
in age from three to five years old. Not one of us in here would
ever do that. We couldn't suffer the risk, the danger involved
with having that many young children. They're all on their own
page; they've all got their own agenda. Regularly, we expect that
to happen in elementary schools. In Thames Valley we regularly
have teachers who have 25, 26, 30 children.
"Supervision of 20-plus
students aged three to five is difficult under the best of
circumstances. Major safety concerns come into play when a teacher is
expected to supervise children in parts of the room which have
physical barriers (cloakrooms and washrooms).
Travelling from point A to
point B within a school or on school property can also be a
safety issue when one adult is responsible for 20-plus very small
children. Some early years students do not even have the
convenience of a washroom or a water fountain in their classroom,
thus creating an even greater potential for accidents. Many of
the classrooms with washrooms have only one washroom. This
creates a problem because very young students are prone to the
`domino effect.'" If you've ever been around them, you would
understand that. "The very structure, design and size of
classrooms create a safety problem for most early years students.
Classrooms were simply not designed to hold that many very small
If you wanted to go back to
the good old days-I'll speak from experience-my wife teaches in a
kindergarten that was built probably about 1935, 1940. It is
probably one of the nicest rooms in the former London board. It's
got windows; it's got space; it's got two washrooms; it's got
everything you would ever expect in a kindergarten. You don't see
any of those kinds of kindergartens being built any more. In
fact, most of the ones we've got now are converted classrooms
which were designed for 25 students and desks in rows.
"Behavioural problems in a
classroom with this many young children and only one adult can
also be a major problem should a serious problem arise. Many
small schools also have no support available to them during
crisis situations due to a lack of support personnel, people (eg
vice-principal)." We used to be able to come down if there was an
emergency situation in the school.
The irony of Mr Harris's
comment is that he and his government do have the power to ensure
a much greater degree of safety in Ontario classrooms, but the
funding model, as demonstrated in the elementary average class
size of 25, creates a safety hazard.
Perhaps the most widely
quoted research regarding the long-term economic, social and
educational value of the early years education is the Perry
Preschool Project in the United States. This study clearly shows
that the long-term benefits of early childhood education far
outweigh its cost. Indeed, for every $1 spent on early education
for four- and five-year olds, the benefits gained by the whole of
society are over $7.
I think maybe this is one
of the problems we have: Governments come and governments go.
Having the focus on the short-term future of the term of office
of a government-these kids are in kindergarten right now-the
people who put them in these situations probably won't be around
to face the consequences of their decision 10 or 12 years from
now. The payoff is down the road, but we tend to look for this
year's budget, next year's budget-maybe; that's long-range-but
beyond two or three years we forget about it. You're setting a
pattern right now, and the investment in this isn't going to show
up until 10 years from now.
Keep in mind the proportion
of Thames Valley District School Board's JK-SK teachers who have
the large class sizes, over 20. The information that follows is
from those teachers.
"No time exists for
one-on-one work between the teacher and the child. Time becomes
very limited when teachers are expected to single-handedly assist
20-plus students to prepare for recess. Fifteen to 20 minutes of
precious teaching time can be easily spent assisting large
numbers of youngsters as they dress for outdoors. Discipline
supersedes program because teachers are too busy managing
activities with large numbers of very young students. Limited or
crowded space does not allow for the type of activities which
students of this age need to experience. The type and number of
hands-on academic activities which one adult can complete with a
group of 16 JK and/or SKs is much greater than those one can
accomplish with a group of 26. Program quality is suffering due
to sheer numbers. Time to properly evaluate the academic
achievements of students is severely compromised due to the lack
of one-on-one time required to complete the necessary assessments
of such young learners."
You cannot have a
standardized test. They don't sit in their seats and they don't
do pencil-and-paper exercises that can be marked at home. You
have to interact with the child.
These points are taken from
Thames Valley early years teachers themselves, not from the
bureaucrats or policy-makers at the Mowat Block. Yet the pain
does not end simply with the class size issue. Compounding the
challenges to the learning environment of elementary students is
the issue of split classes. As evidenced in the following chart,
by far the largest number of split classes occur at the JK-SK
level. Ask elementary teachers about the added strain on the
health of the learning environment when teachers are asked to
implement new curriculum, with very limited support, to two
different grades. Early years classes are no exception to this.
The children in their first year of socialization in the public
school system are very different than children in their second
year of schooling. There are significant differences between a
three-year-old entering a program, or one who has just turned
four, and the five-year-old. The JK-SK split may serve as a quick
fix for enrolment gaps in elementary schools, especially in small
schools, but it is not the solution for maximizing the learning
The EFTO Thames Valley
local recommends that funding be provided to reduce class sizes
in kindergarten to grade 3 to no more than 20 students, that
funding for full-day senior kindergarten be restored, and that
real caps be placed on elementary class sizes. Class sizes for
grades 4 to 8 should be no more than 22 students.
I guess we always come back
to the old question that we've had in the elementary panel for a
long time: How come a 16-year-old is worth more than a
six-year-old? What's the big difference between the kid in grade
8, who is being allocated staff at 1 to 25, and what happens the
next year, when they get it at 1 to 22?
Ms Holgate: In regard to
preparation time, the funding formula further undervalues
elementary students by undervaluing their teachers. The formula
does not even meet the standards set out in Bill 160.
Consequently, elementary teachers are left to implement nine new
curricula in larger classes, with reduced administration school
support, reduced special education support, and more integration
of special education students. They are expected to implement new
report cards, meet higher demands for documentation, and meet
with parents and outside agencies. The expectation is that
elementary teachers do all of this with a level of support
significantly below that given to our secondary colleagues.
Therefore, it is our recommendation that preparation time for
elementary teachers be funded at a rate no lower than the
200-minutes standard set out in Bill 160.
recommendations would go a long way to restoring the quality of
elementary education, which we believe has been eroded since the
inception of the current funding model.
The following chart
demonstrates how much the application of a class size average of
22 would increase the complement of Thames Valley elementary
classrooms and teachers required for our district school board's
58,000 elementary students. If you follow along, you can see that
the application of 22 varies so that at the bottom right-hand
corner, working through that formula, it would increase the
full-time-equivalent teachers in the elementary panel to 287.5
more elementary teachers if you use the application of 22 in the
Our recommendation is that
as a minimum, any funds generated for elementary education be
used exclusively for elementary education and that both the
ministry and school boards be required to report revenues,
allocations and expenditures by panel.
Stevens: I'd just like to add to that. We spend an awful
lot of time and energy in our negotiations trying to make sure
that the money that is sent for elementary is indeed spent
totally on elementary schools. The same situation, I imagine,
would exist in secondary.
If we are going to the
one-size-fits-all formula that comes out of Toronto, why is it
that we would have to go to a board and try to discover where the
money is and what it's being used for? It should be openly
transparent to the whole world: "Here's how much money we're
spending on elementary education. Here's how much money we've
got; here's how much money we've spent."
Special education and ESL
are two areas where, if you put these into the mix of the
classes, you can get an idea of how difficult the challenge for
elementary teachers is.
The ETFO Thames Valley
local will add its voice to the call for greater funding for
special education. The third interim report of the EIC confirmed
what educators and parents have been telling the government for
years: Programs for students with special needs are dangerously
underfunded. This formula cheats the most needy students of the
supports they deserve. We reiterate that the earlier the
identification and support for learning difficulties occurs, the
greater the opportunity to help more challenged students develop
compensatory strategies for learning.
The Thames Valley District
School Board is no exception. It spent $6 million in excess of
the allocated $46 million received for special education
funding to address the needs of its 12,000 special-needs
students. Since special education funding was frozen in June
1998, there has been an increase in the number of special
education students in the Thames Valley District School Board.
They didn't stop coming because the money stopped appearing.
This board sought funds
from building maintenance and computer hardware to shore up the
underfunded special education line. However, in taking special
education dollars to support these programs, the Thames Valley
District School Board reduced the complement of learning support
teachers or resource teachers for regular classrooms.
As indicated earlier in the
discussion of the early years, class size and the assignment of
EAs, the current funding model is far too restrictive and does
not give schools the flexibility they need in the most effective
assignment of EAs to particular students or classes. Criteria for
the highest-needs students, for example, demand an EA for at
least 50% of the school day. Students who need a lesser degree of
support are out of luck. And as stated earlier, EAs are no longer
assigned to excessively large early-years classes in order to
deal with the educational and safety issues these classes
Further exacerbating the
problem of erosion of learning supports for high-needs students
is the issue of ESL funding. More and more of the Thames Valley
ESL students come from refugee families. These children seldom
have the literacy skills in their first language equivalent to
immigrant children. This places them in a higher needs category
than those already literate in one language. The social and
emotional trauma experienced by many refugee children also places
their learning at risk. Now take these issues into account with
the widely accepted view of expert ESL educators that the current
policy of funding ESL students for three years does not go far
enough. It may be sufficient for addressing students'
conversational language competence, but ESL educators would argue
that in order to assure new Canadian children's achievement of
adequate writing skills, five years of ESL funding support is
A government which
continues to fail to fund the needs of ESL learners is a
government that will condemn these children. In the end, this
ill-informed or mean-spirited view of educating Ontario's most
needy will cost all of society more in human and financial
resources later on. This situation is reminiscent of the
intransigent stance this government has taken toward blaming the
poor for Ontario's economic deficiencies. Therefore, the ETFO
Thames Valley local adds its voice to those, including the
neutral EIC, to recommend that the government increase grants for
special education, learning opportunities and English as a second
Ms Holgate: We'd like to talk
to you about an area that may not necessarily receive a great
deal of attention but that is, I assure you, of a great deal of
concern not just for teacher-librarians, but for the teachers who
have been depending on their support in supporting educational
The allocation of
teacher-librarians in the Thames Valley District School Board is
that of the funding model: one teacher-librarian for every 625
full-time-equivalent students. Of note in this issue is the fact
that only three of the four predecessor boards which created this
large amalgamated board employed teacher-librarians. The former
Elgin county board did not. Therefore, overall statistics will
show that there has been a slight increase in the total number of
teacher-librarians employed, given the necessity of implementing
equitable library programming throughout the Thames Valley
District School Board. That's not the whole picture. What the
numbers don't demonstrate is that there is a reduced level of
teacher-librarian time allocated in the elementary schools of the
three other predecessor boards.
There are some points about
the erosion of the library program in the Thames Valley
elementary schools as reported by the co-chair of the Thames
Valley Teacher-Librarian Association. She points out that there
is definitely an erosion in the library program and that there
are inequities across the valley. That continues to be their
The situation may look good
on paper, but the real inequities show up when we examine the
figures indicating how much of the teacher-librarian's allocated
time is diverted elsewhere in the schools. For example, some
teacher-librarians are spending more than 75% of their allocated
time delivering preparation time, while some teacher-librarians
deliver none. Some of this prep has nothing to do with library
use or library-related skills.
Schools with equal student
enrolments and equal teacher-librarian time allocations have very
different timetables with respect to flexible scheduling and prep
coverage. Some teacher-librarians' schedules are so chopped up
that no meaningful teaching can go on because there are no blocks
of real time. Twenty minutes is not enough to deliver a program.
Some principals, due to the reduction of the allocation of
administration, are assuming the role of teacher-librarian, which
is very difficult to do when the administration calls on the
principal's time so often or they are called out of the building
so often. No school should have less than a half-time
teacher-librarian. No teacher-librarian working less than half
time in a library can keep up with the vast amount of
administrative work and deliver a quality program.
Having the funding for time
allocations based on the number of FTE students is not fair for
the teacher-librarian. Junior and senior kindergarten students
may be in the school only half-time, but the teacher-librarian in
most schools will want to see each kindergarten class as often as
possible. The JK-SK classes take twice as many time slots in a
teacher-librarian's schedule to get the same program delivered to
the two half-time classes. The teacher-librarian time allocation
should be calculated on a student body count, not the FTE.
We submit the following
That the teacher-librarian
allocation funding be based on the student body count rather than
allocation funding be based on a ratio of 1:500 or less;
That all elementary schools
shall have a minimum half-time teacher-librarian allocation;
That principals and schools
boards not have authority to reassign teacher-librarian
allocation to other teaching functions, such as for the delivery
of preparation time.
Stevens: I'd like to add one more area where a
teacher-librarian is really taken in, where the use of their time
has been cut.
Every school in Thames
Valley now has computers, has a network. Most of us are slowly
but surely getting hooked up to the Internet. Every school has a
server, and those computers, once they are set up and running,
don't just carry on by themselves without problems. Usually in
every school they've asked to have a volunteer computer contact
teacher. The job of maintaining the server, the job of dealing
with how to get the new report card programs running, is left to
this volunteer. There is no funding for that job. We invested
millions of dollars in computers, but we have very little support
money to get them running, to in-service people on how to use
them, to troubleshoot them when they have a problem with software
or hardware. Student administration, getting students signed up
on computers, is also a difficulty. Somebody has to do the job,
but there is no recognition that this job is worth doing.
school closures and accommodation: The funding issue that
currently has the most media attention in the Thames Valley
vicinity and that has motivated communities to organize and lobby
the Thames Valley District School Board is that of school
closures and the reorganization of boundaries. Currently, three
Thames Valley communities are undergoing the turmoil of school
closure and/or reorganizing their school boundaries and
communities. This situation is occurring in Woodstock, Dorchester
and St Thomas, where up to seven elementary schools are
vulnerable to closing and many more will be impacted by the
resulting change in school demographics and cultures.
Precipitated by arbitrary
space limitations in this shortsighted and inflexible funding
formula, the Thames Valley District School Board, like many
others throughout the province, is forced to close small
community schools in order to meet the criteria for continued
levels of funding. Very young students are bused to farther
schools, grades 7s and 8s are forced to attend classes in
secondary schools, and programs are lost, oversubscribed or
watered down to accommodate the changed population. Long overdue
renovations to elementary schools are forgotten in this kind of
exercise. The overall result is no-win. Class sizes go up,
education quality goes down, community morale declines and trust
in the responsiveness and integrity of the public education
system is damaged
further. Therefore, it is our recommendation that the formula for
funding elementary pupil spaces be increased.
Holgate: In conclusion, the EIC's third interim report
confirms what elementary teachers have been saying: that most
school boards are spending at or above the level of funding the
Ministry of Education provides for classroom expenditures. Boards
are paying their bills by drawing on dwindling reserve funds, by
diverting temporary mitigation money and by scraping dollars from
other strained lines in the education funding formula.
The EIC has also identified
many other problems with the funding formula and confirms that
major elements are dangerously underfunded. The Minister of
Education and the Premier have heard this message from teachers,
parents and school boards. Now they are hearing it from their own
government agencies. If they have listened, surely it's time to
If you are following our
brief, we have summarized our recommendations to the committee on
the last page.
I have to apologize. In our
haste to get here from London in the weather this morning, we
referenced the complete report that the ETFO survey has
developed. I may be assuming incorrectly, but I can forward that
later in the day to this committee for inclusion. It's my belief
that our provincial body has also forwarded it to the ministry,
but I can look after that detail for you.
On behalf of the committee, I would like to thank you for your
presentation this afternoon but we have exhausted your time so
there is no time for questions and comments.
It looks like we're going
to have to take another pause. The 3 o'clock group is in the
building, but we can't locate them. So until the mayor of London
shows up-or if the other group shows up first, we might be in a
position to take them-we'll have to take a short break.
The committee recessed
from 1412 to 1415.
ALLIANCE OF CANADIAN SECOND STAGE HOUSING
If I can get your attention, we'll bring the committee back to
order. We have our next group in the audience, the Alliance of
Canadian Second Stage Housing (Ontario Caucus). Could you please
step forward and state your names for the record.
Yeo: Shelley Yeo.
Hansen: Donna Hansen.
Hyatt: I'm Ruth Hyatt.
On behalf of the committee, welcome. You have 30 minutes for your
presentation this afternoon.
Thank you very much for inviting us to speak to you today about
second-stage housing. We're going to focus on who we are, some of
the history of second-stage housing, some current stats and our
financial status today.
Second-stage housing was
developed in response to an identified need for long-term safety
and support for women and children leaving abusive relationships.
Emergency shelter workers witnessed women having to return to
abusive partners when leaving shelters because of a serious lack
of safe, affordable and supportive housing alternatives in the
Approximately 40 women are
murdered by their estranged partners each year in Ontario
according to a 1994 study of intimate femicide. The study also
shows that women are most often killed after first leaving a
The first second-stage
housing program in Canada was built in 1979. Between 1985 and
1995 the number of second-stage housing programs in Ontario had
grown to 28. A survey by the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp
shows that safety is the number one reason that women, with or
without children, seek housing at second-stage housing
Today there are 23
second-stage housing programs operating in Ontario and one
second-stage housing program in the building stage. The
facilities range from three units to 40 units, with a total of
350 units. They are typically self-contained apartments,
townhouses or single-family units where women can live
independently with their children for approximately one year. The
length of stay depends on the needs of each woman and the program
Women often access
second-stage housing after leaving women's crisis shelters.
Living in second-stage housing provides women the opportunity to
rebuild their lives and the lives of their children in a safe,
affordable and supportive environment.
provides a unique service to women and their children. Women
living at second-stage housing are usually on a low income.
During their tenancy, women are able to set goals and objectives,
connect with appropriate community resources, and are provided
the opportunity to build on new skills as they move on to
Support in most programs is
offered through individual and group counselling in order to
assist women and children to develop coping strategies, build
social networks, enhance self-esteem, understand the impact of
violence in their lives and develop realistic future plans.
Many of the children and
youth at second-stage housing have been the targets of physical
and sexual violence and most have been witnesses to woman abuse.
According to Children Exposed to Woman Abuse, a recent handbook
that was compiled by the London Family Court Clinic, children who
witness woman abuse frequently experience post-traumatic stress
disorder. The symptoms of PTSD include extreme anxiety, fear,
irritability, intrusive thoughts and flashbacks about the
violence, unpredictable anger outbursts and avoidance of
situations that remind them of the abuse they witnessed.
These children have a
number of needs in common: breaking the silence of abuse;
learning about safety planning in case the abuse recurs; learning
they were not at fault; processing the traumatic memories in a
safe and nurturing environment; assistance with coping strategies
around trauma symptoms such as irritability, avoidance of
situations which remind them of the abuse, anger outbursts and
fearfulness; learning that there are alternatives to violence in
relationships and that violence is not acceptable; learning about
equality in relationships; and dispelling the myths about woman
Individual and group
programs strive to increase children's and youth's knowledge and
awareness of these issues, developing coping skills and
supporting them in making healthy choices in their lives.
A recent questionnaire that was completed by individual program
directors in second-stage housing in January 2000 indicates the
following results for the year 1998.
We learned that there are
350 units of second-stage housing in Ontario and their occupancy
averaged 90%. Some 2,088 women and children lived in second-stage
housing programs for the year 1998. Some 1,556 women applied for
residency in second-stage housing programs, but 604 of those
women who applied did not move in, and the most common reason
that was given to me via the questionnaire was that there were no
vacancies. The average length of stay in 1998 in second-stage
housing was 8.5 months.
Seventy-seven per cent of
the directors reported that counselling services couldn't be
easily accessed in their communities. They gave reasons, and they
included: lack of available and suitable services in their
community; too long waiting lists; lack of affordable
transportation; the distance to travel was too long from their
second-stage housing program to the services they needed; and
women were fearful of being in the community and being found by
One hundred per cent of the
directors reported that in 1995 their programs provided on-site
counselling services for both women and children; 38% reported
that in the year 2000 their programs provide on-site counselling
services for women; and only 29% reported that in 2000 their
programs provide on-site counselling services for children.
Eighty-seven per cent of
the directors reported that in 1995 their programs provided
on-site group counselling services for both women and children.
In 2000, that number has dropped to 38% of the programs that can
provide on-site counselling services for women and 11% that do
provide on-site counselling services for children.
Eighty-six per cent of
directors reported they had staff on site to provide referral
services until December 1995. In January 2000 only 40% of the
directors report having staff to do this work.
Directors report that 75%
of the programs had staff available to provide assistance in
accessing education and/or training opportunities in their
programs before 1995. In January 2000 only 33% of the directors
report that they have staff available to do this work.
It is important to note
that on-site programming at second-stage housing is now being
provided mostly by counsellors who come into the facility from a
counselling service in the community for a very limited number of
hours each week. Directors are reporting that this is just not
adequate. They report that there are insufficient hours to meet
the needs of the women and children and there are long waiting
lists. Further, they report that the counsellors coming into the
facility cannot create the same level of trust and continuity of
service that an on-site counsellor can provide. One director
reports, in reference to children's counsellors: "Trust issues
are not being dealt with. Volunteers and students come and go.
Children (whose mothers have been abused) have suffered enough
losses in their lives."
The results of the
questionnaire clearly show that full-time, on-site counselling
services to women and children are needed to meet the needs of
women and children in second-stage housing in Ontario. As well,
it is clear that in January 2000, counselling services to
children have almost disappeared from second-stage housing
programs. Statistics show us that children who witness violence
or have experienced violence too often grow up to repeat the
violence as adults.
By far the biggest struggle facing all second-stage housing
programs in Ontario today is the serious lack of funding to
support counselling programs. However, the impact does go beyond
the cuts to staff and services.
The number one reason that
women enter second-stage housing is for safety, and in many
programs safety and security have been compromised. There are two
reasons for this: (1) There are insufficient funds to repair,
maintain and upgrade security systems; and (2) there is
insufficient staff to ensure that safety policies and procedures
We have heard stories where
women have been able to move ex-partners into their apartments
and there is nothing to protect the other women from these
abusive men. At times, women, children, staff and volunteers are
at risk from abusive partners determined to have access to the
women. Every effort must be made to ensure the safety of everyone
connected with the program.
Priority status moves the
woman who has left an abusive relationship to the top of waiting
lists for housing. In Dryden, because of the cuts to funding, the
second-stage housing program is now under the administration of
the local housing authority. They are addressing only priority
status issues and only allowing women some place to go. There is
no staff on site to provide any level of counselling or support.
Safety becomes a serious issue if programs do not have adequate
violence-against-women agencies and community groups are used to
develop prevention initiatives and public education events and to
coordinate the services provided to victims of violence. Most
staff in second-stage housing report that it is difficult, if not
impossible, for them to attend coordinating committee meetings
for violence-against-women services, for children's services in
their area and for domestic assault review teams. This is because of a
serious lack of time, money and staff.
Credibility has also become
an issue for second-stage housing throughout the province.
Systems were in place prior to 1995, when programs were funded,
to ensure that the programs were supportive, responsive and
accountable to the women and children using them. The complete
withdrawal of funding to support counselling services
disconnected the programs from the government body that gives
direction to all other violence-against-women service providers.
Therefore we are no longer directly involved in policy
development and program planning, which also means that the women
and children using our services have been taken out of the
Many program directors
found that prior to 1995, information flowed through the
provincial funding body. When funding was cut, information
stopped flowing. In order for the service providers to maximize
women's safety, it is imperative that they keep abreast of the
changes that occur in systems that affect the lives of women and
children in the program. An example of information that has not
reached the second stages are the proposed changes to the child
welfare legislation involving reporting procedures and service
Though staff training is a
priority for many second-stage housing programs, it is not
possible to allocate funding resources or staff time for training
and development. Many second-stage housing boards, volunteers and
staff have also needed to change their focus to fundraising for
survival of the agency. Day-to-day issues and actual work with
the women and children must be attended to around fundraising
schedules. Many second-stage housing programs in the province
have experienced significant losses of staff. Many have left
exhausted and burned out.
Though second-stage housing
programs may vary in size, configuration and management style,
the mandate of all programs is to deliver services that will
contribute to keeping women and their children safe. We need the
help of the provincial government in order to continue to provide
these efficient and cost-effective programs.
In the four years since
1995, all second-stage housing programs have changed. Counselling
programs have been carved to the bone and many programs are in
crisis-survival mode. Today, on behalf of the Alliance of
Canadian Second Stage Housing, Ontario Caucus, we are asking the
government of Ontario to support the continued operation of these
programs for women and children fleeing abuse in this province.
We are requesting $120,000 in annualized funding for each
second-stage housing program in the province, which would be a
total of $3,360,000.
We thank you for listening
to our presentation and would be pleased to answer any questions
you might have.
Thank you very much for your presentation. We have four minutes
per caucus, and I'll start with the third party.
Christopherson: Thank you for your presentation. I would
say that if anybody should be answering questions around here it
ought to be the government. For the life of me, I don't know how
some members of the government caucus manage to continue to look
themselves in the mirror, given some of the things this
government has had to do.
We have maintained from the
beginning that, on balance, the vast majority of decisions this
government has taken, outside of their fiscal policies,
negatively impact women and children. You mentioned that the
majority of women you deal with are low-income, so some would be
using social services. We know their income was cut by 22%. God
forbid that somebody who makes $200,000 a year would have their
pay cut by 22%. But it's OK to do it to the poorest of the poor,
the majority of whom are kids, and we know that most of those
families are headed by women.
The complete abandonment of
affordable housing-gone-affects this group of citizens the most.
Removal of rent control, if they do happen to have somewhere to
live. A lot are living in the inner cities. Because they don't
have transportation, they need bus services. That, of course, has
been downloaded to the municipalities. It's slowly going to be
If you are in the inner
city, you're going to one of the inner-city schools. If you've
heard any of the teacher or parent presentations we've been
hearing while we've been on the road, inner cities are facing the
biggest crunch. That's where the greatest challenges are. You
have children with developmental difficulties who need
educational assistants, and they're not there.
English-as-a-second-language services aren't there. All these
things are affecting kids. Health care-often the woman is the
primary health care provider in a family situation. All these
things affect women. Yet, time after time, these bloody
economists roll in here, and a lot of the chambers, and tell us
how wonderful everything is. Everything is great; it's the best
it's ever been. Well, for some people I guess it is. But for an
awful lot of people, these are the worst of times.
God help us if they're
still in power when the economy goes in the ditch. If this is the
way they treat women, children and families in good times, it's
nightmarish to think what's going to happen in bad times, in
My question to you would
be: Are you yet accumulating statistics that tell us what is
happening to women who have no alternative than to return to
abusive relationships because there's nowhere else for them to
go? Do we know what's happening out there statistically, and if
not statistically, at least anecdotally?
I know that we've barely been able to keep stats ourselves.
Mr Christopherson: Because you
don't have the funding to hire the people to do it.
We don't have the manpower, or the womanpower, to do that. We do
know that in our communities, where we have talked with other
second stages, there could always be more second stages. But what
we need is support right now for the ones that are currently in
We believe that on Wednesday you'll be speaking with Eileen
Morrow from the Ontario Association of Interval and Transition
Christopherson: I know Eileen. She's from Hamilton.
I would be very surprised if she didn't tell you that shelters
are seeing huge amounts of return visitors, women returning again
and again. They come, spend their six weeks and can't find a
place. They go back, they are re-abused and they come back to the
shelters. I imagine that a lot of that is going on.
Christopherson: What does your provincial organization
hear from the government, from the minister, when you lay these
issues in front of the minister? What kind of response do you
get? How do they justify, or how are they attempting to
We still hope we will be given a meeting with Minister Baird. Mr
Baird has met with one second-stage housing provider in
Woodstock. We are working with the Liberal women's issues critic,
and we hope that in time we will get a meeting scheduled with Mr
Christopherson: So the biggest hope you have on the
horizon right now is a meeting?
We've been asking for a meeting since 1995 and haven't been able
to get one.
Christopherson: Sorry, say that again.
We've been asking to have a meeting with the minister since 1995,
and we haven't yet been able to do that.
Christopherson: That's incredible. It's mind-boggling
what's going on in this province. The phrase has been used
before, the idea of two Ontarios, but never have we seen such
inequity in terms of those who are doing so well getting more and
more, and those who are doing the best they can to survive and
are facing horrors in their lives doing worse and worse. What the
hell happened to the Ontario we grew up in? I'm done.
Johnson: I had a comment or a question. Donna Hansen
used to be administrator of Emily Murphy in Stratford, and you
Johnson: I'm glad that you took the time to come down
today with your colleagues, Donna, to make us aware of your views
on what has been done and what should be done.
I wanted to make one
definitive comment. The last paragraph of your presentation comes
down to a very specific costing and has given us a very specific
request, and I wanted to compliment you on that. So often we are
given some very soft and fuzzy requests by groups that would like
us to do something, but we're not asked specifically. I think of
the last two or three that have presented here, we don't really
know what the cost of the request is. I wanted to compliment you
on being able to define that specific need. I don't by any
stretch of the imagination want to leave the impression that this
would cure all the ills and fill all the needs that you feel you
have, but I wanted to compliment you on making yours very
specific. It seems to me, as a finance committee, that's what we
have to do.
May I compliment you, Mr Johnson. The Emily Murphy Centre
second-stage housing in your riding has 20 units. In all of
Toronto there is nothing comparable. Nellie's in Toronto used to
provide a second-stage housing component to its program, but when
the cuts came that closed. Nekanaan has 40 units and they are for
native Canadian women in the former city of York; that's it.
Windsor does not have second-stage housing; Chatham does not have
second-stage housing. If you look at the map just inside, you
will see that in the far north there are three; two of them have
been taken over by their local housing authority. Besides the
programs being starved for money for the last four years, there
are huge gaps in service where women do not get even a chance to
be turned away from a full second-stage housing centre; there is
no second-stage housing. So you're a very lucky MPP, Mr Johnson,
to have a facility like the Emily Murphy Centre in your
Kwinter: Thank you very much for your presentation. I
read it with interest but also with a little bit of puzzlement,
only because I'm not familiar-I am from Toronto and, as you said,
there are only a couple in there and it's not really well
This has been around since
1979, and you've now got about 350 units. Is that correct?
Kwinter: Who funds the bricks and mortar?
It's important to note that in 1979, Second Stage housing started
in BC. It never really got started in Ontario until about
We're all funded differently, especially since our funding was
cut four years ago. Some of us have bricks and mortar funded
through municipal affairs and housing; some of us are all
fundraised dollars; some of us have been taken over by shelters.
I'm from London Second Stage housing. We were taken over by the
shelter, Women's Community House. That assists us with our
funding, so we're able to continue with the program we offer, or
at least we're able to house women in a safe, affordable,
supportive way. Second Stage in St Thomas is all fundraised
dollars, I believe.
We get no provincial funding whatsoever. A federal grant built
our building and we have a forgivable mortgage. But beyond that,
we have no funding whatsoever. We raise the dollars.
Ms Yeo: As
Donna mentioned, there are two second-stage housing facilities in
northern Ontario that have been taken over by the local housing
authority, so that's how they receive their funding, but they're
not able to provide
the program that they were able to provide four years ago.
Kwinter: Does the provincial government have any
responsibility for these programs at all?
We had contracts, initially, for them to supply the dollars for
the counselling programs, but that was all withdrawn.
That was all withdrawn over four years ago.
Kwinter: That's what I'm trying to get at. Right now the
Ministry of Community and Social Services is providing no
Not for the counselling.
Kwinter: The only funding you get is either through
local agencies or through fundraising, and I guess some
forgivable loans at the federal level. Is that correct?
Kwinter: What is the legal entity that owns each of
these particular second-stage housing projects? Does each one
have its own situation?
They're all independent.
I guess you could say that the taxpayers really own them, because
the Ministry of Community and Social Services used to fund
in-house counselling, and most of us were getting monies from
municipal affairs and housing for the mortgage and the bricks and
the mortar. Then they're all managed by independent volunteer
boards of directors who direct the staff.
Kwinter: At the present time they have sort of cut you
adrift and you're out there on your own.
Kwinter: You're now looking for the government to
provide you with some stable funding so that you can implement
these programs and provide the services that you do.
And to be part of all other programs as well. We've just been cut
adrift and are expected to survive on our own. It has done more
than just cut the services. I have worked in a lot of social
services programs. I watch women come through our doors initially
confused, very upset, not knowing which direction to take. Eight
months later, when they're leaving that program and they have has
been through all the group and individual counselling and their
children have been through the programs that are provided for
them, they leave with such great self-esteem. Sometimes we think,
"Oh, my goodness, should we be releasing them into the world?"
because they're just ready to do things, so independent, and go
back out there and lead productive lives. It works; we know it
works. That is what's frustrating about it.
We feel very strongly that second-stage housing can lower that
number of 40 women a year killed by their ex-partners because
they come at the time when the murders would be happening and
they get safety and support. Their lives, we believe, are
literally saved by coming to second-stage housing. We would like
very much to have that number go down to nothing in our lifetime.
It would be great.
On behalf of the committee, thank you very much for your
presentation this afternoon.
CITY OF LONDON
Our next presenter this afternoon is the mayor of the city of
London. Your Worship, could you please step forward and state
your name for the record.
Haskett: Hello. My name is Dianne Haskett. I'm the mayor
of the city of London, and this is John Winston, our
intergovernmental affairs director. We're very pleased to be with
you today. It looks like a long day.
On behalf of the committee, welcome. You have 30 minutes for your
presentation this afternoon.
Haskett: Should we just wait a moment?
I think we might as well start, Your Worship, and if they get
disruptive we'll deal with it.
Haskett: That's fine.
On behalf of London city
council, we welcome the opportunity to be here today in Chatham
to provide our input into the Ontario 2000 budget. The city of
London has offered input in previous years during provincial
pre-budget consultations and we are pleased to do so again. The
city of London is seeking to become more actively involved with
our provincial and federal counterparts. We feel it is important
that we work more closely with both levels of government in order
to ensure that there is a better understanding of the way
provincial and federal public policy affects Ontario's
If I could draw your
attention to an example of that, we have felt that the municipal
perspective be taken into account and have had the opportunity to
meet with various ministers on a number of issues. London has
shown real initiative, in particular this past summer with the
superhighway issue. You may know that on June 18 last year in
London we hosted the mayors' summit on superhighways.
Mr Arnott, if you're going to carry on a conversation, could you
go outside, please?
Haskett: We in the city of London feel very strongly
that some of these major issues-and I just used our major highway
system in the province of Ontario as an example; it's a
provincial issue, but it also dramatically affects how we succeed
as municipalities because, for example, London now goes all the
way down to the edge of Elgin county, which means the 401 runs
right through the centre of our city. The 402 also runs right
through the city of London. We see even transportation as a
national issue. We have been lobbying very hard for a national
policy on transportation. But we know that the funding and the
primary responsibility is provincial, and you'll hear me saying
several times in my presentation today that we are looking to the
provincial government in your budget to recognize the need for
spending on provincial
highways. We want to be at the table with you when it comes to
talking about the impact on our municipality, when it comes to
talking about policy. We've heard recently about the possibility
of toll roads being used through southwestern Ontario in order to
deal with some of the great demand we have for trade and tourism.
We want to be consulted on that.
I'll speak later to the
issue of the funding in this budget for superhighways, but I use
this as an example of the fact that we do appreciate
opportunities such as today, and other opportunities, to meet
with ministers and ministerial advisers, to see what is the
municipal perspective on how the dollars are being spent and on
how policies are being formulated.
You all have copies of our
brief that was provided some time ago, so I will not read from
it. Instead, I would like to touch on the highlights contained in
our presentation and answer any questions that you might
According to the Financial
Times, the city of London is the best-run city in Canada.
Companies like General Motors, 3M Canada, Trojan Technologies,
Ford, Magna and Kellogg have chosen to locate in London and area.
They each made the decision to invest based on our highly
trained, skilled workforce, our infrastructure, competitive
municipal tax rates and a positive attitude by local government
towards business. Having said that, I might draw to your
attention that the city of London has had a tax freeze for the
last two years, and as strenuous as it has been for our
municipality to adapt to the dramatic restructuring and
downloading that has been occurring in recent years with this
provincial government, we feel that if any municipality has
adapted to that, the city of London has. We have done the best
that we possibly could, but throughout we have always asked for
the opportunity for consultation, and we continue to ask for that
Even though the city of
London has done its best in the restructuring, and we have done
our best to keep taxes low and in the last two years to freeze
them, I do have to tell you that the city of London also has its
share of residents who are very financially challenged. It's hard
for us to understand why, but we're a city that when provincial
studies have been done, we find that we have more than our
percentage of those who are below the poverty level. There are
many Londoners, frankly, who have been suffering. They have been
suffering, I have to be frank with you, to a certain extent
because of some of the provincial policies and the cutbacks that
we've seen, for example, in welfare benefits and other related
We have tried as a
municipality to be balanced in our decision-making and balanced
in our policies, and we ask you to do so as well in this
provincial budget that you're bringing up. It's important that we
be pro-business as a municipality. It's important that you be
pro-business as a government, and that you attract investment to
our province so there are many jobs and opportunities for people.
But we must not forget those who are in serious need. We don't
want to see people slipping through the cracks. Two or three
years ago we set up the Mayor's Anti-Poverty Action Group and all
of our policies right now, when it comes to those who are poor,
are driven by the recommendations of the document put out by that
group. We find ourselves, frankly, so often having to step
forward and fill in the cracks that have been left by some of the
changes in provincial policy. So we would ask you to be balanced
in this budget. Yes, keep taxes low in the province of Ontario
and reduce the deficit, but don't forget those who are poor.
Our goal in London is
simple: to ensure that our citizens have every opportunity to
achieve economic and social well-being for their families and to
maintain the exceptional quality of life that we have worked hard
in London to obtain.
Provincial funding is key
to maintaining our current physical and educational
infrastructure. This funding must be stable and predictable in
order to allow for long-range planning and phased expansions,
upgrades to our schools, hospitals, roads and community
I would like to draw to
your attention the fact that right now in the city of London we
are, as a council, taking the very bold initiative to invest in a
number of ways in our community. London is a city that, in order
to keep its tax rate low over the years, previous councils have
not spent in areas where they needed to spend: on sewage
treatment, sewer systems, community facilities and on many of the
things, for example, that can make for a vibrant downtown.
This council is investing
dramatically in our infrastructure and in our community
infrastructure by way of facilities, such as new libraries,
arenas and so on. We are doing so, and we're doing so
responsibly. We're maintaining a AAA credit rating in the
process, but we need to have stability and the ability to do
long-range planning because we know what the provincial
government is going to be doing. It's very difficult for us if we
get hit by surprises partway through the year.
We applaud your commitment
made in the recent speech from the throne to new infrastructure
designed to meet the needs of tomorrow's entrepreneurs, students
and workers. We could not agree more on the importance of modern
schools, new roads and information networks.
The speech also touched on
other areas of critical importance to the city of London. It
announced that the Minister of Economic Development and Trade
will work with other ministers to establish a public-private
sector task group. The task group is to recommend the best
long-term approach to stay competitive, create future jobs and
promote high technology and innovation.
We support the concept of
public-private partnership and collaboration and have been quick
to follow up with the ministry to offer our assistance. We have
had a policy of public-private partnership in place for many
years. By working together, the province and municipalities can
ensure continued economic growth and prosperity.
An excellent example of
what can happen when governments work together is our city's
hosting of the 2001 Canada Summer Games. Not only will this help
Ontario regain its
leadership in sports facilities, coaching programs and athletic
performance, it will also improve our infrastructure and
strengthen Ontario's tourism industry, one of the fastest-growing
industries in the world.
Speaking of infrastructure,
I want to be clear that the city of London is supportive of the
SuperBuild fund. As an example, education, health care and
biotechnology are three areas that our city clearly has an
interest in both nurturing and protecting. Finance Minister Eves
announced in last year's budget speech that the initial focus of
the fund would be on strategic investments in our universities
and colleges in health care and in roads.
Our response was
overwhelmingly positive, since London is a leader in both
post-secondary education and in health care. We at city council
have invested some $15 million in the local health care
restructuring initiative: $10 million in support of the
University of Western Ontario and its SuperBuild application and
$5 million for a biotechnology incubator. We have already
initiated discussions with the SuperBuild Corp to work with them
in identifying future opportunities for the city of London.
As a world centre for organ
transplants, we are pleased with the province's commitment to
develop an organ donor action plan to increase the number of
organs available for transplant.
And on roads, as I was
starting to say earlier, before I was a little bit
distracted-sorry about that-I was starting to mention to you that
in the city of London we've tried to play a leadership role in
bringing together mayors across the province, first of all with
the mayors' summit last summer, and that has now grown into the
mayors' alliance on superhighways, where we are continually, with
mayors across the province, bringing the message to the
provincial and federal governments that our superhighways are in
need of a national policy. We are pressing to have the provinces
and the federal government go in partnership together.
If, years ago, when I was
younger, there was the foresight to build the TransCanada Highway
or even, for that matter, the tremendous foresight that was shown
by earlier provincial governments to build the 401 and to build
those highways not for the traffic that would go on those roads
at that point in time but for what they anticipated in the decade
or so ahead, we feel that at the very least we have to do the
same today, and we want you to have a message clearly from us
that the SuperBuild fund should not be for that. We should not be
expected, as a municipality, to contribute towards the provincial
highways. We want to encourage, we want to be there with you
shoulder to shoulder in going to the federal Minister of
Transport and encouraging a federal policy on transportation,
opening up federal dollars, because, after all, most of the trade
and tourism in the country is occurring right here in Ontario. We
feel we need our municipal transportation dollars for our own
roads, our own bridges and our own transit, so please don't
misunderstand anything in our brief that we've provided to you.
We want to work in partnership with you in the best way we can on
the provincial highways by being a voice of support, but we want
to be in partnership with you financially on roads, bridges and
these sorts of things only when it comes to our municipal roads,
because we are frankly very stretched in that regard.
In his remarks before the
committee, I mentioned earlier, the finance minister announced
that Ontario will deliver a balanced budget this spring for
2000-01. We applaud the government for this. We also encourage
the government to make investments in Ontario that we believe
will pay dividends in the future.
In the upcoming provincial
budget we would like to see the following: first, substantial
dollar amounts for strategic highway improvements in specific
partnership arrangements; second, continued spending on hospital
and health services sector upgrades; third, continued funding for
innovation in education and biotechnology; and fourth, ongoing
investment in land ambulance and dispatch requirements. We go
into quite a bit more detail about that in our brief. Finally, as
you know, the 10-5-5 cap on the current value assessment program
ends this year. We are looking forward to seeing what is proposed
to replace the caps. I've had opportunity personally to meet with
Minister Eves about this and to speak to some of our own members
of provincial Parliament.
We would like again to see
predictability and fairness but, moreover, we would like to see a
plan. We have not yet heard what the government plans to do when
that cap is lifted, and it does eventually have to be lifted so
that people will end up paying taxes for their properties that
reflect the actual value of those properties. We have encountered
quite a bit of difficulty in London because of that 10-5-5 cap
coming back on arbitrarily, and we need to know what the
government's plan is so that we can plan and so that we can
communicate with our citizens.
Another point that I wanted
to make is possibly for this budget, but it's for the budget
beyond as well. We would like to show support in the strongest
possible terms for the infrastructure program that's a three-way
partnership with the federal government of which we've seen two
versions previously, what we call the COIW program. I don't know
if that's how you refer to it in your circles. We used that
program very significantly when it was available earlier this
decade. We feel that it was a great vehicle to create investment
in our communities, and it raised the calibre of communities
across the province.
The key that I would
appreciate you as MPPs writing down is that we as the
municipalities must be the ones to tell you where those dollars
can best be spent. It is absolutely wrong for the Premier and the
government to say, "All right, here's how much we get from the
federal government, and we will decide how that is spent across
the province." There has to be a fairness in the dividing of
those funds among municipalities. I believe, with the greatest of
respect, that no group knows better than local councils and
mayors where those funds need to be spent. As we look to the
federal government's budget and what we are hoping will be their
announcement of a similar infrastructure program, we do hope that
you will recognize
that the municipality needs to be an equal partner in the
decision-making and in the spending.
There is still the need as
well to have the new Municipal Act passed in order to clarify the
roles of the two levels of government. That will ultimately lead
to greater efficiencies, we believe, for both governments.
In closing, on the remarks
that I have at this point- I'm going to take just a moment to
highlight a little bit of the brief-we want to acknowledge the
provincial government's efforts to create jobs and improve the
investment climate. The city of London, like many municipalities,
has an important role to play in ensuring that the momentum
continues. We look forward to working together on the building of
crucial new infrastructure.
I do want to say that we
have tried with a concerted effort in the city of London, in
spite of the challenges, to work with the provincial government.
We accept that this is a government that has certain philosophies
and certain policies and we don't always agree on what those
policies are, but we have tried in every instance to come to the
table, to work together and to adapt to whatever the present
reality might be. We would always continue to ask for the
opportunity to do that. In other words, it's not just the budget
that comes down; it's how we are given the opportunity as
municipalities to be consulted and to be able to ensure that the
way these policies are carried out is the fairest possible.
If I could just take a
moment and only highlight two or three sections from the brief.
I'll just highlight the headings. First of all, you can see what
we say about SuperBuild, about economic development, about health
care, on restructuring, access to service, information systems,
federal transfer payments, how we support the provincial
government in your efforts with the feds, and what we say about
I would like to draw your
special attention to what we say about social services, and I'll
just take a moment to read that. The city of London has been
active in seeking appropriate solutions to poverty-related issues
in our community, and we encourage the province to: (1) examine
the issue of shelter ceilings, which are frequently inadequate,
to allow Ontario Works participants to sustain quality housing;
(2) reinstate the monies deducted from social assistance
recipients as a result of the national child benefit supplement;
(3) reconsider the elimination of special assistance and
supplementary aid for the working poor; (4) reconsider the
elimination of the pregnancy allowance; and (5) provide budgetary
support for any costs associated with the implementation of a new
social assistance service delivery model.
If I might move down to
housing. To ease the issue of homelessness, the city of London
believes that funding is required to address the following needs:
(1) enough year-round crash beds, that is to say, beds with no
other support services provided for the more difficult to serve;
(2) community support workers to provide assistance to those
individuals and families leaving emergency shelter and moving to
permanent accommodation; and (3) a central housing registry to
access both social and private sector housing.
The city of London endorses
the FCM quality of life infrastructure program proposal, which
calls for all levels of government to participate in the
provision of adequate and affordable housing for all Canadians
now and in the future.
We have right now an
affordable housing task force that has been meeting in the city
of London for almost the past year. I'd like to tell you that
this has been a very broad-based committee, although the person
who initiated it might described as very left of centre, out of
her concern for the poor and for the housing needs in the
community. We have seen brought together members of the
development industry, in other words, the housing construction
industry of the business community in general and of all aspects
of the community.
This group has been
gathering data and gathering opinion throughout the city of
London. I can tell you that we are very concerned that we will
not be able to meet the needs that already are there now, let
alone what will be there in the future, if we do not have greater
help with the capital cost of rebuilding housing that needs to be
rebuilt and building new housing where it is needed. We have a
long waiting list of people who need affordable housing in our
community-3,000 families currently. You can just imagine how many
that is if you add up all the members of the family in current
need in the city of London. We do not have the resources to all
of a sudden be finding it within our budgets, based on the
property taxes, to be building.
We're not saying it's all
the responsibility of the provincial government. We're saying the
federal government has really stepped away from it's
responsibility. We want to be a partner with you in pressing them
and in playing your own part.
You see our comments on
policing, which we feel are quite significant. We've been really
stretched in the city of London with the need for more police
officers. The police college is not graduating sufficient
numbers. I've talked to you already about what we feel about
highway improvements, and you can just amend the comments in the
brief here to reflect some of what I said about where we feel the
funding should come for that.
I'll just finally close by
reiterating our point that we support the pro-business, low-tax
approach of the provincial government, that we don't feel that
you should move forward so fast that you forget those who are in
need. We believe that in the long term, any community that
forgets its poor and forgets those who are in great need, whether
it be those who are disabled or those who are students needing
help with education and so forth-it may be a short-term gain but
it will not be a long-term gain. So we urge upon you balance and
we urge upon you consultation with the municipalities,
particularly with London, since I am here on behalf of London. We
will always come to the table any time you offer us the
Thank you for this
opportunity today, and I'd be happy to answer any questions.
The Chair: Thank you very much
for your presentation. We have three minutes per caucus, and I'll
start with the government side.
Thank you, Mayor Haskett. I really appreciate the presentation
you made today. You've been fair. Where you've been critical of
the government's policies, you've been constructive in your
criticism and you've offered alternatives, and we appreciate
I am glad you mentioned
that the federal government has reduced transfers for health care
to the provinces. The reduction to all the provinces in recent
years has been in the range of $6.2 billion. Last year's federal
budget gave partial restoration of those cuts to $2 billion, but
certainly the provincial government has been forcefully pushing
for full reinstatement of those reduced health transfers as well
as the establishment of an escalator clause to respond to our
growing and aging population. I am glad you highlighted that
issue, among the many issues you raised.
Haskett: That's probably the issue you hear about more
than any from the electorate; we certainly do. Obviously, we have
shortages of all sorts of specialists and GPs in London. At one
time we didn't, but we certainly do now. So I hope you are
hearing that message loud and clear.
Yes. Thank you.
On another issue, you
talked about the 10-5-5 property tax cap for business properties.
You've suggested that the city would encourage the province to
initiate an exit strategy that incorporates predictability and
fairness. I'm wondering if you're in a position to be more
specific as to what your city would recommend the provincial
government do in this respect.
Haskett: Frankly, we wish the provincial government had
left things the way they were, which was to go to market value
assessment. We as a municipal council already took all the
political hit there was to be taken on that. That was mostly
coming from car dealerships that had purchased property which not
too much earlier had been farmland, so it had been not terribly
expensive property. Then, all of a sudden with market value
assessment-none of them said their property wasn't worth what it
was being assessed at, but they saw it was going to go up
substantially. These were businesses that were making substantial
We were probably going to
lose votes from a certain sector, but we had already taken the
hit. Then the provincial government came in and, for the whole
city and for every municipality in the province it's this 10-5-5.
What that meant was incredible inequity for those who had already
been told their taxes were going down. They not only had to bump
back up and lose that deduction, but then to see that again the
next year is simply not fair.
I believe you should leave
it to us as municipal politicians to deal with that, and we had
dealt with that. I would say that since we're where we are now,
the sooner you can get to market value assessment the better. If
you have to stretch it over three years, that's fine. But don't
be stretching it over five or seven years. We believe a truly
smaller percentage of businesses would have been impacted if
you'd left things the way they were, and those were businesses
that for the most part could have afforded it.
That may have been the case in the city of London. There may be
other communities where-
Haskett: I realize it may not be the same elsewhere.
Thank you very much for being here and making your presentation.
I must say it is balanced, with some criticisms and some praise.
From time to time we see suggestions that are weighted on one
side and maybe not on the other.
There is much here to talk
about, but I want to talk about the 401 and toll roads. The other
day I learned through the press that Mr Eves was thinking about
toll roads. It wasn't expressed or clear, but it seemed to be
implied that these were new roads and not necessarily the 401 or
the 402 that we know now.
Would you agree with the
view that perhaps what the government should do first is make
sure we have safe highways, such as the 401 or 402; that before
they move on they should make the upgrades that have been
suggested by many, provide the police that were announced in
September and do those things first to the 401 and 402 or other
roads the province has jurisdiction over before they move on to
toll roads, expropriation of lands, which takes a great deal of
time etc? Do you think we should work on the 401 first?
Haskett: I'm really happy that you asked that question,
because I feel very strongly about the answer. I also want to say
how much we in London have appreciated your intervention on these
issues. We've seen that on a consistent basis and we've
appreciated it. I feel very strongly that the provincial
government needs to move immediately to improve the existing
infrastructure. And I don't speak only on my own behalf; I can
tell you that the mayors across the province are supportive. We
have formed an alliance. We agree on the fact that the existing
infrastructure needs to be improved, particularly between Windsor
and London, and beyond; in fact, even beyond to Kitchener and so
We feel that this area in
particular where we are now, which has seen such carnage over the
course of the last year-we've just driven it again today and we
can see its shortcomings-must have a divided highway and it must
have three lanes on either side. With all the infrastructure
worthy of a province that is enjoying the benefits of NAFTA and
all the free trade and tourism that brings, and with the safety
of our citizens at stake, absolutely that has to be done first
and foremost. We would not encourage toll roads before that is
However, I have said
publicly that if the choice was put to me as the mayor of London,
if I had a choice between no improvements and a toll road, would
I accept a toll road? I've only said that I would, in that case,
rather see an additional toll road than no work being done, no
vision on improving the highway infrastructure, but we would want to be consulted as
a municipality as to where that would go. It would be very
important to us that we continue to maintain the trade we now
have and the tourism and so forth. I understand one of the toll
roads they might be looking at might go from Windsor, for
example, to the Niagara Peninsula. I would be very concerned as
to what route that would take.
But I believe the best
possible investment for the provincial government is the
investment of improving the existing infrastructure.
Christopherson: Thank you, Your Worship, an excellent
presentation, really excellent in terms of looking at things from
a municipal perspective. I think you've really captured the
essence of what most locally elected municipal representatives
struggle with in terms of trying to find that balance. I join
with my other colleagues-I think you're the first one who has
gotten us to do that, so that's an accomplishment right there-in
congratulating you on the nature and the essence of your
A couple of things: You
talked about the Trans-Canada and the 401 and the fact that those
were made as investments. I think one could argue that we're
living off the dividends of that investment, the same as you
could argue that we're living off the dividends of the investment
in our public health care system and our public education system,
particularly at the post-secondary level, and if we don't get a
renewed investment at this point, eventually those dividends are
going to peter out.
First, I would want your
thoughts on the notion that if they do start to peter out and
someone makes the argument that there's not the capital there to
reinvest, we ought to look at going to the private system, both
in education and health care. How do you feel about that? Given
your strong feelings about tax cuts, I think your opinion would
be of value on that.
I was going to ask about
the exit strategy, but that's been covered by Ted.
You also talked about the
re-creation of a loan corporation similar to the ODC in terms of
significant economic development initiatives in local
communities. I would ask you to tease that out a bit, if you have
any further thoughts on how that might work.
And a question that's
totally unfair, so if you choose not to answer it, I'll respect
that. But given that I quit counting at 14 initiatives you were
recommending that actually had dollars involved, that to achieve
some kind of benefit to what you were recommending there were
dollars involved, if it came down to a question of being able to
fund these recommendations but it meant giving up the planned 20%
reduction in taxes, which way would you go? Would you give the
higher priority to these investments or would you give the higher
priority to the further tax cut, if it was a straight
Haskett: It's going to be a real challenge for me
answering this one because I'm not a provincial politician, and I
know this is starting to step into a bit of political philosophy
and policy so I'm going to tread-
Christopherson: It's an election year too, so I expect
you to be prudent.
Haskett: I would say, when you were asking the question
about health care and education and how we would feel about
changing the whole underpinning, the philosophy that's been
behind it of it being publicly funded as opposed to these
partnerships with the private sector, I'm going to just keep my
mayor's hat on here. Believe me, I have lots of other opinions if
I were ever to run provincially or federally, but I just keep my
mayor's hat on in these presentations.
The most important thing to
me as the mayor is that the people of the city of London get the
service they need, that we can maintain the quality of life and
that people aren't having to wait for chemotherapy or cataract
operations or things like that. That's the most important thing.
In that sense, totally apart from any political philosophy, if
what it takes to free that up, to make the system work a little
better even in the short term, is some involvement different from
what we've known in the last 20 years, then I would be flexible.
It's more important to me that the people get the service they
I feel very strongly that
we should never have a two-tier system where those who are poor
cannot afford the same services as those who are rich, but I
still think in all of that there may be an opportunity for people
to still get the service by subsidy for those who are in greater
need and so forth. If somebody, for example, has all the money in
the world and they really want to have a cataract operation and
they don't want to wait two years, it's part of that person's
quality of life to be able to see, and I wouldn't stand in the
way of that.
On the issue of reduction
in taxes as opposed to some of these needs, I think there has to
be a balance. It's not a matter of saying we don't want any of
that 20% reduction in taxes. Frankly, that's helping to fuel a
very strong economy in Ontario right now and we're seeing the
benefit of that in London. It takes longer to work its way to
London from Toronto than maybe to Mississauga. We're now finally
starting to see that and our unemployment is finally starting to
go down, so I wouldn't want the government to reverse its efforts
to reduce taxes. But if you go too far-I think it's just
balance-and take away too many of the services and programs and
the quality of life starts to suffer, then businesses are not
going to want to relocate here from the US and other parts of the
I would just say the
watchword of this budget should be "balance," and it should not
have the word "extreme" in it anywhere. It should be balanced,
always bearing in mind those who are in need, while giving the
tools to the business community to prosper and create the jobs
On that note, I'll bring the discussion to an end. Your Worship,
on behalf of the committee, thank you very much for your
presentation this afternoon. Drive carefully.
I guess we're going to have
to take another slight recess because of weather. Our next
presenter is not in the audience, so as soon as they show up we
will take their presentation.
The committee recessed
from 1518 to 1525.
We have the 4 o'clock presenter, Mr Don Currie. Could you please
step forward. On behalf of the committee, welcome. You have 15
minutes for your presentation this afternoon.
Currie: I won't need that.
I'm sure there'll be some questions, then.
OK. My name is Don Currie. I live in Windsor and I work for
Windsor Utilities. Overall, I'm very happy with the province's
economic growth last year and the low jobless rate. I'm also
happy with the strong growth predictions for the future in
Ontario. The government needs to be congratulated for creating
the necessary conditions for the stellar growth.
I have some concerns
regarding debt reduction. I'm very happy that the government will
finally have a balanced budget, but I'm concerned by the size of
the province's debt. I would like to see a more aggressive debt
reduction plan than the $2-billion reduction promised over four
years. I'm concerned that 16% of the government's $60-billion
budget goes to interest on the debt and that interest is our
fastest growing expenditure. This is money that could be better
spent elsewhere. I'm hoping that the government uses any future
budget surpluses to pay down the debt more quickly.
In the area of personal
income taxes, I'm very happy that the government is cutting the
provincial income tax rate by an additional 20%. This is good
news for everybody. But I am concerned with how steep our
progressive tax rates are. Ontario currently adds two surtaxes on
upper incomes. I believe that the government should work towards
reducing and eliminating these surtaxes to reduce the highest
marginal tax rate. A high marginal tax rate is a disincentive to
hard work and contributes to the growth of the underground
economy and to the brain drain. As well, I would like to see the
government work towards raising the basic exemption level and
keep hammering the federal government to reduce the federal
personal income tax rate.
In the area of property
taxes, again I'm happy that the government is cutting the
provincial portion of the residential property taxes by 20%.
That's great news for everybody, homeowners and renters. I would
like to see the government work towards eliminating their portion
of the property taxes in Ontario if that's possible.
In the area of business
taxes, I'm happy that the government is continuing to cut the
small business corporate taxes. They're going to cut the rate to
4.75%, half of its 1997 level. I would like to see the government
to phase out incentives given by business tax credits and start
looking at the economy as a whole. I think businesses currently
make decisions to avoid paying taxes instead of on sound economic
principles. Instead of the business tax credit, I would like to
see the government introduce a low, broad-base business tax rate.
I would like the province to keep pushing the federal government
to reduce employment insurance payroll taxes to create more jobs
in the province.
In the area of government
growth, I'm happy that the government has tried to cut the size
of government, but I still think more should be done. The
government has grown at a rate of over 8% over the last four
years, and I think that's more than inflation. I would encourage
the government to find new ways of reducing the size of
government by using new technologies to deliver all government
services more effectively. I would also encourage the government
to redesign the delivery systems for education and health care so
that the benefits and costs of these systems are more clearly
apparent for all system users. I want the government to continue
stressing accountability in the management of these very
Thank you very much. We have three minutes per caucus. I'll start
with the official opposition.
Thank you very much for being with us here today. I took great
note of your desire to see a more aggressive debt reduction plan
than the $2 billion put forth by the government over the next
Most people and experts in
the field anticipate that the economy will grow for some number
of years, barring some unforeseen calamity. So we have perhaps
some surpluses in the future, and I guess it's up to the
government to decide how best to deal with that.
But you said at one point
that you'd like them to use that surplus to tackle the debt and
at the same time you would like to see provincial income taxes
reduced. As well, it's not mentioned here but I'm sure you know
we have a lot of questions and we have a responsibility to
address the health care and education problems that loom.
You want them to tackle the
debt that has accumulated over the last number of years, which is
quite high, yet you ask for more personal income tax cuts. Do you
believe that's achievable?
Yes, because I think what's happening is that with the
underground economy, people are doing business under the table
and carrying out economic activity that's not being taxed. I
think if we backed off on the rates and made things more fair for
people, that would more readily come forward and do business
above board. I think that the tax cuts would probably stimulate
economic growth. In the areas of health and education, there are
definitely some changes that could be made in terms of how those
services are delivered, making people more aware of what it costs
to actually service them and tying the benefits into that.
Mr Hoy: At
the end of your presentation you talked about the size of
government growing. I actually have constituents I represent and
persons outside of my riding talk to me about not being able to
access a live voice through the government more often than
perhaps you're talking about here. I have a lot of people
complain to me that they don't reach someone on the other end of
the line when they call a government agency. They have to deal
with 1-800 numbers which have rather poor response ratios and
they're going through the directory, which seems to be quite large, trying to find the
answer to a question.
The other part is that they
go through maybe eight numbers to find what they should be asking
for. Then they realize they've got to go through these eight
numbers again because none of them seems to match what their
question is about.
I don't find that
constituents believe that the government has grown in size to a
burdensome degree. They find it actually the opposite, that
there's no one at the other end of the line.
I'm an Internet user. I check out the government Web sites. I get
a lot of information that way. I love the kiosks for licence
services. I think if we could expand those, they would work for
me. I find that much more convenient for me. If things were
Web-based and the role of the kiosks were expanded, that would
work for me for most things.
Thank you very much, Mr Hoy. Mr Christopherson.
Christopherson: I pass.
Johnson: I was interested in your comments and the
issues that you were bringing forward. The first one, just
because I happen to agree with you, I guess, is the debt
reduction. I'm a little older than you but I remember being in a
community that had 21%, 22% and 23% interest rates that had to be
paid. It seems to me, if our present debt stayed the same and
interest rates doubled or tripled or quadrupled, that we as a
government would certainly be in straits, along with a lot of
other businesses and individuals who had borrowed money as well.
But it was a devastating time for that.
I was wondering, in your
recommendation, how long do you think that we should stretch out
the debt repayment, or have you looked at it in terms of paying
off a mortgage or whatever?
No, I don't really have a good understanding of how quickly we
should pay it off. It's probably not even important that we pay
it all off, but we have to get it down from its current levels
rather quickly so we're not as vulnerable, as you say.
Johnson: I disagree with you there. I guess if I had my
way, we would not only pay it off but we wouldn't want to have it
again if we could get away from it.
I agree with that.
Johnson: But I was thinking, the province of Alberta,
for instance, decided they would take their provincial debt,
divide it by 25 for 25 years because that seemed to be a
realistic amount, and pay it off.
We have pledged in our
election program to pay off $500 million a year over the next
four years. I don't think that's enough. At least, if you
extrapolated that rate, I think it would take 238 years to pay it
off. It would seem to me that's unreasonable when as a family we
would usually amortize the mortgage on our house over 25 years,
or the payments on our car for three or four or something like
that. That's why I was wondering if you had projected how you
felt about that.
So you would recommend paying about $5 billion to $6 billion a
Johnson: That to me isn't unreasonable, when you take a
look at how long we have to do it or how long we should do it and
what it is at the present time.
It would certainly have clear benefits to reduce the debt-16% of
With that, we have run out of time. On behalf of the committee,
thank you very much for driving from Windsor today and making
Again, I guess we'll recess
Kwinter: Mr Chairman, just as a point of interest, I
notice, and it may be just coincidence, that earlier this morning
the Labour Council of Chatham-Kent didn't show. We now have the
Windsor and District Labour Council not showing so far, and it's
after 3:30, when they're supposed to be here. Do you think, given
what we heard about the labour situation in this hotel, that they
are boycotting this meeting?
I don't know. I'm not in a position to make any educated guess
here, or wise guess. I have no idea.
Christopherson: I'm not aware of it. I would think
there's a good possibility, if that was going to happen, that I
would have been tipped off if that's the case.
Kwinter: I just think it's a coincidence that we have
the two labour councils who have not shown.
Christopherson: Yes. I don't know. Certainly Earl is one
of the most prominent leaders in the area and would have tipped
me off, because I mentioned to him that the earlier Chatham
labour council wasn't here, and did he know anything about
I live in the area and I certainly haven't heard anything about
it, not that-I would be made aware of it, but I certainly haven't
Christopherson: If perchance anyone hears that it is-I
can make a call too-I'll be glad to make sure they get a copy of
the Hansard where I clarified the situation. But it would seem to
me that ordinarily a labour council, if that's the way they felt,
would send a very strongly worded letter and make their point,
and even maybe have a couple of people picketing out front if
they felt that strongly. This is not their normal style, to take
up a spot. If they were going to do that, they would flood it
with spots and have nobody show up. So I've got to believe it's
coincidence. There's lots of ways to make mischief other than
Especially from Windsor, I can see where it may be
weather-related. The one from Chatham is a little more difficult
to understand, but certainly from Windsor-
Christopherson: I'm sure it's just coincidence.
I don't know. So we'll wait. We have to be here until 4:15
anyway, until the corn producers show up.
Mr Christopherson: Again, I
know Gary really well. I think he would have called me and said,
"Hey, what's up?"
Kwinter: Just coincidence.
So we'll recess for a few minutes.
The committee recessed
from 1538 to 1548.
ONTARIO CORN PRODUCERS' ASSOCIATION
If I could get your attention again, we'll bring the committee
back to order. We have the 4:15 presenters from the Ontario Corn
Producers' Association. Gentlemen, would you please state your
names for the record.
Jack: Dennis Jack from the Ontario Corn Producers'
Doidge: Brian Doidge, from Ridgetown College, the
University of Guelph, and I work with the Ontario Corn
On behalf of the committee, welcome. You have 30 minutes for your
presentation this afternoon.
Mr Jack: I
apologize for reading the brief, but I'll go through it as
quickly as I can and hopefully we can have a brief period of time
for discussion, if that meets with your approval. I'll try not to
cover it all.
I'd like to thank you for
the opportunity of making this presentation to you, ladies and
gentlemen. The Ontario Corn Producers' Association is a group
representing corn producers in the province of Ontario. We have
21,000 members who fund through a voluntary check-off. Ontario
Corn Producers' Association is committed to working in a globally
competitive environment as part of the North American corn
economy, with special attention to corn quality, niche marketing
and industrial processing. Livestock continues to be a dominant
market for Ontario corn, and the needs of livestock producers-for
example, mould-free corn-are priorities.
But the largest growth in
demand for Ontario corn in recent years has been for the
manufacture of food and industrial products. A world-scale
ethanol plant began operations in Chatham in 1997. Construction
is expected to begin in 2000 at Port Colborne on one of the
world's largest citric acid plant operations. Casco, owned by
Corn Products International in Chicago, continues to expand its
Ontario plant operations as a global corporate priority, and
Ontario corn growers continue to seek better ways of serving
these customers. Future market opportunities include both food
and non-food products, such as biodegradable plastics.
The Ontario Ministry of
Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs is a vital partner in corn
development activities in Ontario, and cutbacks in OMAFRA funding
are of serious concern. The elimination of local extension
offices and crop extension specialist positions will have
detrimental effects. It is important that no further cuts occur
in extension and teaching functions, including those at regional
campuses of the University of Guelph such as Ridgetown
Support of research must
also be a continued priority of the Ontario Ministry of
Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs. In addition, research
infrastructure is important. Long-term planning is difficult if
the funding base is primarily short-term in nature.
Research and development
are top priorities for OCPA. R&D represents one of the most
important means of ensuring the success of the Ontario Corn
Producers' Association corn strategy. OCPA provides about
$200,000 per year of association funds for direct support of
research and is able to lever this money to provide much larger
amounts of financial support. In fact, by levering other means of
financing, that support usually generates between $3.75 million
and $4 million in research. The funds are targeted to projects
which improve our competitive position and are spent so as to
complement, and not duplicate, related research activities in the
private and public sectors, both in Ontario and in adjacent
states and provinces.
OCPA is attempting to
increase available funds for public research via a contribution
of 50 cents per unit on all corn seed sales in Ontario. This
would ensure that all corn growers, except those few requesting a
refund of levies, contribute to the support of public corn
research in an equitable way. Most seed companies are
co-operating with this venture, but a few are not. Encouragement
from the government of Ontario for this initiative would be
We have a long history of
environmental proactivity, being one of the founding forces for
the creation of AGCare, the Ontario pesticide certification
program, the Ontario Farm Environmental farm planning process,
the National Agriculture Environment Committee, and more. We are
active in seeking means by which Ontario farmers can help Canada
meet its Kyoto obligations for reduction in net greenhouse gas
emissions by building soil organic matter levels through reduced
tillage and more efficient fertilizer management.
Fuel ethanol represents an
excellent means of improving environmental quality. The Ontario
Corn Producers' Association is pleased that Sunoco is now using
9.6% ethanol in all gasoline sold in Ontario, and there are many
smaller retailers for this environmentally superior product. A
recent government of Canada study shows that the use of
corn-based ethanol can mean a 39% reduction in net greenhouse gas
emissions compared to gasoline. Ethanol also provides the means
to eliminate usage of other hazardous gasoline additives, such as
benzene, for octane enhancement. The goal should be 10% inclusion
in all Ontario gasolines.
Biotechnology is another
means for environmental improvement both through the use of fewer
pesticides and safer ones. It is critical that Bt technology be
allowed to continue to develop as a means of controlling European
corn borer insects without pesticide application, while reducing
levels of moulds and natural toxins in corn. When a new race of
rotation tolerant corn rootworm enters Ontario in the next few years,
rootworm insecticide applications may skyrocket, reversing the
90% reduction achieved between 1983 and 1998, unless Bt
technology is allowed to be used as a genetic means for insect
control. Soil-applied insecticides for rootworm control are an
especially dangerous form of pesticide usage because of their
toxicity, longevity in the soil and potential for water
I'll discuss this next
paragraph and then Mr Doidge will explain with his charts.
Because of threats provided
by inclement weather and by high subsidy levels for competing
grain and oilseed producers in the United States and the European
Union, Ontario corn producers can only survive and prosper if
they receive equivalent government support in Ontario.
Recent analyses by Brian
Doidge, University of Guelph, have shown that the current level
of Canada-Ontario support for a corn-soybean-wheat grower in
Ontario is only about a third of that for an identical farmer
located in Michigan. This is unacceptable, especially given the
open border for corn movement between the two countries. Ontario
farmers also receive far less government income support than is
the case for farmers in most other Canadian provinces, even after
accounting for that portion of agriculture which is
supply-managed. Correcting the imbalances must be a top goal for
the Ontario Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs in
We appreciate the attention
which has been given by the Premier of Ontario and the Ontario
Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs to inequities
among provinces in the amount of federal support for agriculture
provided by the government of Canada. Statements by the Premier
and minister match those which OCPA has voiced for many years.
Similar attention would be welcome to inequities which exist
between support provided for grain and oilseed producers in
Ontario versus adjacent states.
If you'd pick up the
coloured charts, Brian will explain those, but I'd like to
explain where we're coming from in a fairly interesting fashion,
if I could.
I farm in Kent and Lambton
county. We farm a little over 1,000 acres. I have a
brother-in-law and one term employee. It's a family corporation.
Twenty years ago, we undertook to start another farming operation
in the southern United States. As a result of that, my brother
farms three hours south of Memphis, Tennessee, in the Mississippi
delta. He farms 4,000 acres of cropland, growing corn and
soybeans, rice and cotton. The support he received from his
favourite uncle last year, Uncle Sam, amounted to $150 per acre
for just a little over 4,000 acres. I don't know how your math
is, folks, but I think you can figure out that's a significant
amount of income that he derived from the US government. That is
the competition Ontario farmers are faced with. We can get up as
early as anyone else in business, we can work as hard, we can
work as smart, but we cannot compete with the coffers of other
The kit you have in front of you attempts to demonstrate what's
been happening in the last four years, particularly in the United
States, concerning direct income support from the government and
emergency assistance. We'll get into the pages as we go
The coloured bars: The
green portion is the amount of income that a farmer would receive
from farming-so that's from the market-the red is from direct
government payments, and the tan or yellow is emergency
assistance that was introduced in 1999. The reason we concentrate
on the US is because it's an open border. Grains and oilseeds, in
particular corn, flow freely back and forth. In fact, probably
one of every five trucks delivering corn to the ethanol plant in
Chatham is from Michigan. So we compete directly with these folks
and, if they have additional revenues in particular from the
government to sustain their operations, that makes it especially
hard to do the same thing on this side of the border without
You can see that ever since
1996 the amount of money received from the marketplace farm
income has been declining. As it has declined, the US government
has been increasing direct payments to producers and in fact in
1999 added additional payments. If your eyes are sharp, you'll
see that the column in 1999, the portion represented by farm
income, is actually less than half of total farm income. Total
farm income in the United States in 1999 is going to set a new
record despite commodity prices that are as low as they've ever
been in history, lower than in the Depression. In fact, direct
farm income support in the United States is a record
If you flip the page,
you'll see the impact on us. This is a comparison for a 500-acre
corn, soybean and wheat farm in Ontario operating under existing
income support programs in Ontario, that being market revenue and
NISA, and in 1999 the new Ontario whole farm relief program.
You can see that in 1996,
farms under Ontario programs received slightly less than C$20 per
acre in income assistance. Under US programs, and that's the
solid line, this would be the 1996 freedom-to-farm legislation,
commonly known as the US Farm Bill, and the adjustments made in
the year 2000 for ag appropriations. In 1996, support under both
income support regimes was roughly equivalent. By 1998 it was
dramatically out of line, and in 1999 that same farm operating
under US programs would have received C$110 per acre, and in
Ontario it received C$41 per acre. The discrepancy is almost
You might ask, "If the
programs were equivalent back in 1996, why isn't the Ontario
program acceptable now?" I think you have to step back and
realize that all things are relative. Because those trucks come
into Chatham, delivering corn to the ethanol plant every day,
that's the competition. You're up against that every day. If the
income support that one truck from Michigan receives is three
times the amount that it is in Ontario, that's an unacceptable situation. In
fact, what was acceptable in 1996, because they were roughly
equivalent, is no longer acceptable, and Ontario farmers are
falling dramatically behind very quickly.
The last two tables are
simply some of the details, which I won't go into, of the farms.
We also compared an actual large-acreage farm that's a real farm
of 2,996 acres and a small-acreage farm that's a real 464-acre
farm. We compared them on both sides of the border, as well as a
benchmark or average farm, from a data set that we've maintained
since 1992. We can get to income support questions at the end of
the presentation, if you have any.
We'd welcome any questions or comments or the opportunity to
discuss any of this with you as we go on.
The Ontario market revenue
insurance program created 10 years ago as part of the national
gross revenue insurance program has served Ontario grain and
oilseed producers well, including those who feed their own grain
Market revenue insurance is
the most important farm income safety net program for most
Ontario grain and oilseed producers. The decision of the Ontario
government to maintain market revenue insurance a few years ago,
despite short-sighted decisions by prairie governments to end
their GRIP programs, with the approval of the government of
Canada, is probably the dominant reason why Ontario grain and
oilseed farmers have not, to date, joined their western
counterparts in public demonstrations about current low prices,
though this could change in coming months.
A top priority is the
maintenance of this program at least until the millennium round
of trade negotiations establishes more stringent rules on the US
and EU subsidy programs, or until current US
production-and-price-distorting grain and oilseed income
supporting programs end. Neither is expected to occur soon.
Though we appreciate the recent federal decision to extend its
support of market revenue insurance through 2000-01, this is
insufficient. A longer-term commitment is needed.
In addition, there is need
to enhance the support provided through market revenue insurance
in order to reduce the gap between support levels provided for
Ontario grain and oilseed farmers and those with whom we must
compete in adjacent states.
Mechanisms for enhancing
the support provided by market revenue insurance and levelling
the playing field include eliminating the one-third "premium"
deduction from payouts, increasing the support level from the
present 85% level to 90% of historic average prices and farm
yields, or both.
It is critical to ensure
that the market revenue fund receives sufficient money to meet
expected payout needs. Annual government contributions need to be
increased above recent levels, which are typically less than 20%
of amounts provided for MRI support during the early 1990s.
Crop insurance is the
second most important program for Ontario grain and oilseed
producers after market revenue insurance. We're pleased that corn
crop insurance coverage was more than one million acres in 1999
for the first time in history, thanks to better programs and good
marketing, but the participation level is still insufficient. The
goal should be at least 75% of acreage enrolled versus about 50%
as at present.
One major problem with crop
insurance for full-time commercial field crop producers is that
lack of recognition given to those who farm larger acreages.
Premium discounts are needed to reflect the reduced risk
associated with the inherent self-insurance which exists when
crop acreage is spread over larger distances. In addition, the
pilot optional unit coverage program introduced in 1999 needs to
be continued in 2000, with a view to making the program permanent
This is an issue of
fairness and equity and also of recognizing the need to provide
adequate economic stability in rural Ontario communities.
Memories will long persist of the economic calamity which
occurred because of a widespread weather-related crop disaster in
1992. I think Mr Hoy may have been a member of the Crop Insurance
Commission back at that time. If so, I imagine he has some very
vivid memories of the problems that were occurring at that
NISA is an excellent
program designed to address normal year-to-year variations in
farm income. It should be maintained as presently structured,
including the enhancements which exist to address particular
Ontario needs, perhaps with some attention given to means to
further facilitate payouts during times of financial need. NISA,
however, was not designed to address unique situations where need
levels can be large and acute. This is why crop insurance exists.
Ontario's market revenue insurance program, part of the national
GRIP program, was created at the same time as NISA and as a
complement to NISA and crop insurance to address the special
needs of Canadian grain and oilseed farmers weathering the
economic effects of high-subsidy programs for grain and oilseed
producers in the United States and Western Europe. This is why
market revenue insurance is still needed.
There is a need for a
provincial or national disaster relief program to address highly
unusual circumstances. However, disaster relief should not be
used as a substitute for adequate statutory programs designed to
address foreseeable needs and hazards. Perhaps too much attention
has been paid over the past 16 months to disaster assistance
program design. Too little has been paid to the need for and
design of sustainable programs designed to minimize the need for
disaster assistance. Disaster relief should not be the focal
point of future safety net program design.
Corn producers deal with a
large number of other issues. If you're interested in any of the
pertinent information, I can assure you that we'd be glad to send
you a copy of the magazine, or you can access that information at
our Web site. The address is on the printed page.
The board of directors of
the Ontario Corn Producers' Association expresses appreciation
for this opportunity to address issues of importance to you, and we
thank you very much. We welcome and will try to respond to any
questions raised from our presentation. I understand there were
some other discussions and comments this morning about ethanol
and other issues dealing with corn.
Thank you very much for your presentation. We have four minutes
Christopherson: Thank you for your presentation. Just so
I understand the structure, are you part of the Ontario
Federation of Agriculture? Is that an umbrella group that you're
a part of, or are you a stand-alone umbrella group?
We have membership in the Ontario Federation of Agriculture as
one of the commodity groups that are involved with OFA. We tend
to believe that the most widely respected voice for agriculture
might at this time come from the Ontario Agricultural Commodity
Council, which is a group formed of the chairs of all the
different commodity groups in the province.
Christopherson: That's separate and apart from the
Christopherson: They made an excellent presentation. It
was well received.
I wanted to ask you to
flesh out for me the whole issue on page 4 about the trade talks,
the millennium round of trade negotiations. I don't know nearly
as much about this as I'd like to and probably should. The talks
are, again, under the umbrella of WTO, and these are stand-alone
discussions that happen regarding agriculture? I see one of you
shaking your head no.
No. Agriculture is one of the tables under the umbrella of the
World Trade Organization. There are multiple tables, including
intellectual rights, culture, all that kind of thing.
Christopherson: In the last couple of years there was a
flurry of information in the papers about which governments were
interested in lowering barriers and which ones weren't. As I
understand it-again, please help me get through this-the US were
the ones that didn't want to talk about lowering any kind of
barriers because of the fact that they provided so much subsidy
to their growers. Is that correct?
I would say there are two culprits at that table. One is the
European Union and the other is the United States.
The European Union has a
very sheltered agricultural regime, very high tariff barriers,
very high price of food within the European Union. The European
Union has food costs that are roughly 30% of individual income.
In the United States and in Canada it's around 11%. So food
prices are very high in Europe. They have a high value-added tax
coming in, so any imports are highly taxed and used to subsidize
not only production but also the dumping of surplus product onto
world markets. A particular concern to us is the dumping of beef
or butter or, in our case, grains and oilseeds, which
dramatically depresses world grain prices and causes the kind of
terrible fall in net farm income that you see.
Christopherson: We saw the problem with dumping with the
Russian steel, where they were doing serious dumping and it was
hurting our end from Hamilton. So I'll be aware of that, and then
the high tariffs, similar to what the Japanese have done for
decades with regard to their auto industry, where it's easy for
them to export things out, very difficult for anybody else to
Do you see any of that
changing in terms of seeds and grain over the next while, during
these rounds? I notice that you said, or at least you gave the
impression, that you think there might be or you look forward to
them. Do you think things are going to change there? Have the
Americans shifted? Have the politics around it shifted? Because
that's really where it's at.
It's an election year in the US.
Christopherson: Yes, exactly.
And the fact that the Seattle round broke up early, it in fact
could not achieve agreement on agriculture. Agriculture is what
blew it apart. The European Union is not willing to increase
import access, reduce tariffs, reduce subsidies and, in
particular, support for their farmers for things not directly
related to agriculture, which they were referring to as
multi-functionality supports. In other words, they would support
small picturesque farms on a mountainside in Norway or
Switzerland because they increased tourism. Income support, for
example, in Switzerland or in Norway is over US$33,000 per farm
compared to, in Canada as a whole, less than US$7,000. The United
States, by the way, is US$19,000, and Europe as a whole is
US$19,000. So Canada is not a culprit when it comes to
Under the WTO round, the
previous round that concluded, we were all supposed to meet caps
and reduce income support spending and subsidies to a certain
level in part of the agreement. The United States, because of
this additional spending in 1999, exceeded their cap. Their cap
was $19.5 billion; it's now at $22.5 billion. Rest assured Canada
is not in danger of exceeding our target.
Johnson: I had a couple of things. First, I wanted to
correct the statement about the cutbacks. The last figure I saw
for the Ministry of Agriculture in the provincial budget was that
it has been increasing and indeed was higher this past year than
the year before, and it was higher that year than it was before
I understand about the
subsidies in Europe; I understand that half their budget is
agricultural subsidies. But what I want to know is, when that
truckload of corn drives into the ethanol plant in Ontario, why
are they not being charged with dumping if the United States
subsidies are that much higher? In any other product, they would
be charged with dumping, or they could be. Why aren't we doing
I think it's a political question. There was a countervailing
duty imposed on imports of US corn at the behest of the Ontario Corn Producers as one
of the litigants from about 1986 through 1991. That imposed a
tariff, because of similar subsidy programs in the United States
on imports of corn, of about 45 cents a bushel at that time. It
was allowed to lapse, and it takes a lot of money to fight that
and reimpose the thing. Under existing NAFTA agreements and WTO
commitments too, it would be highly improbable that we would be
able to get a countervailing duty re-imposed.
Johnson: It seems to me the Americans are doing it with
bananas from Nicaragua and Central America. Why are we allowing
them to, if you like, run over us that way? What I'm saying is
that as a Canadian I don't see myself subsidizing our farmers to
the extent that they are in the United States so that we can play
that game of catch-up to the Europeans who are spending half
their budget on it. It seems to me that yes, you're at a
disadvantage as corn producers, but there has to be a better way
than just subsidizing it more.
I suggest to you, Mr Johnson, that if you don't support Canadian
agriculture, and Ontario agriculture in particular, you won't
have to worry about it; it won't be around.
Johnson: I understand that, but my point is that we
cannot afford to just keep playing that game. It seems to me
there has to be another game or different rules put into it.
I agree. The trouble is, though, you're at a poker table with the
players from the European Union and the United States, and what's
happened is they've upped the ante, and we either play the game
or we fold our hands and close shop.
One of the lessons that I learned as a young lad going to school
was never pick on the biggest, meanest guy in the class. The
Americans and the Europeans are formidable opponents, and I don't
think we're going to beat them at their own game.
You've got to understand
that the programs that the US have instituted are GATT-green and
trade-neutral and were developed in the US in their blue box. I
say that with tongue-in-cheek, because I think we could probably
prove differently, but they developed a program specifically to
put the hurt on the competition, if I can put it in those plain
terms. And it's working remarkably well right now. I would
suggest that a number of my colleagues in agriculture aren't
doing that well, including myself.
We can fight the battle
with Mother Nature-sometimes we win and sometimes we lose. I can
win or lose that battle depending on how I play my cards, but I
can't beat what the US does. I know I may be dressed up nicely
and here making a presentation to you, but may I assure you that
I understand how the ethanol plant works, and if you want to get
your truck with corn unloaded, the best time of the day to be
there is at 5:30 in the morning, and I've been there a number of
times so I am a hands-on farmer. This is part of what we do.
I understand the point
you're making, and it is a valid argument. I guess one of the
things we're supposed to do when we identify a problem is propose
a solution. That's a very difficult thing to do, and we really
don't have a total solution other than maintaining the support
programs we have and enhancing them until they tire of the game
they're playing. Eventually they will. The US public, I don't
believe, can be willing to spend these dollars forever, but bear
in mind that it is an election year in the US, and I wouldn't see
that the US support will wane this year.
The program that they
developed in the US was supposed to ratchet down over a period of
seven years. In fact, last year the support they received was
two-years-in-one support; the year before it was a
year-and-a-half. That's the game they're playing. They keep
moving ahead. Someday it's got to end, but when is the
Thank you very much. The official opposition.
Thank you for your presentation, and I hope we can have a
continued dialogue about this over time, although we won't have
enough minutes today to discuss it. I do support you, and I hope
the government will quickly, on the issues here, certainly around
the safety nets which need implementation immediately, and
ongoing issues such as disaster relief and seeing that that
program, if producers want it, is looking less ad hoc than it is
now. There tend to be inequities when ad hoc programs come in and
they need refining from time to time.
You opened up, other than
the facts about the OCPA, with a reference to the extension
offices. I've had a lot of comment about ag office closures. I
hope that the OCPA will put some pressure on the government to
maintain those offices on behalf of producers.
It was interesting. I asked
to look back at a report that was put together in a final report
by Terry Daynard who works for your organization, and Frank
Ingratta who is the deputy minister, and in their report they
stated, "We recommend that the OMFRA retain at least the same
number of field offices as at present."
So there seems to be either
a lack of influence or a change of mind with the deputy minister,
at least on that report which suggested that we maintain those. I
hope you would speak to the deputy and the minister about it, and
if need be, the Premier, because I'm not sure if the deputy had
this view as to who was making the decisions within OMAFRA and
who was discarding his wisdom.
Biotechnology is becoming a
better-known technology among the community at large. There has
been a lot of talk about biotechnology. Would you agree with me
that all governments, and since I work within the provincial
government sphere of things, that the provincial government could
do more to accentuate the positives of genetically modified
organisms or whatever other terms people have used? Do you think
there is a role for them to come forward and say that these are
positive technologies? It seems to me that people don't criticize
biotechnology when it's a health issue, ingested into one's body
either through the bloodstream or taken in pill form or whatever,
but when we have biotechnology in our food chain, people seem to
get quite nervous. My question is, do you think the provincial
government should step forward and promote more aggressively the biotechnological
advantages that exist?
It might be helpful. The executives of the Ontario Corn
Producers' Association have obviously talked to other elected
officials. We had a meeting not too long ago with Ernie Hardeman
and the deputies. That issue came up, and we dealt with it at
some length. Any support that we have would be useful in the long
The whole issue of
biotechnology has become an emotional issue. It's not an issue
that deals with science or facts. My assessment of how
biotechnology works is that it is another tool in the toolbox of
agriculture and industry for the long term. The problems that we
hear expressed and the concerns about biotechnology really stem
from a regulatory process in Great Britain that failed the
consuming public there and a bureaucracy that let them down. Then
we get into the Greenpeaces, Sierra Club of Canada, clubs of the
world that are taking issue with biotechnology. If you'll pardon
me, it's the latest yuppie, trendy, causey thing. It's the battle
of the day. If there isn't a crisis for us to rally around,
someone seems to generate a crisis.
We are very involved in
supporting biotech as that other tool. I don't wish to sound
cynical but the whole discussion about biotechnology now, while
it is an emotional issue that deals with all these areas of
interest, has got to the point where we're concerned about who
can increase market share and profitability. Do you suppose
McCain's opposed the use of BT potatoes because it was a serious
health issue? We deep-fry all those potatoes in oil. I'm sure
that's more of a health issue than the BT potatoes. Or is it
perhaps because McCain's has one major competitor in that
industry, and they are owned by another family, called Irving. I
think they're in a fairly life-and-death battle for market share
It seems to me that the
consuming public is led down the path and led to believe what
they will believe, but a lot of the things that are stated are
not really based on science but, rather, on emotion. So yes, any
clear, reasonable arguments would be useful in the future.
I'm sorry for the
long-winded roundabout, but I just love to preach that little
On behalf of the committee, thank you very much for your
presentation this afternoon. We've run out of time. All good
things must come to an end.
I have a couple of short
announcements. The bus leaves at 4:45. Supper will be served on
board. It may not be a gourmet meal tonight, but it will be
The committee reconvenes
tomorrow morning at 8:45 in Niagara Falls.