ONTARIO HIGHWAY TRANSPORT BOARD AND PUBLIC VEHICLES AMENDMENT ACT, 1996 / LOI DE 1996 MODIFIANT LA LOI SUR LA COMMISSION DES TRANSPORTS ROUTIERS DE L'ONTARIO ET LA LOI SUR LES VÉHICULES DE TRANSPORT EN COMMUN
Wednesday 15 May 1996
Ontario Highway Transport Board and Public Vehicles Amendment Act, 1996, Bill 39, Mr Palladini / Loi de 1996 modifiant la Loi sur la Commission des transports routiers de l'Ontario et la Loi sur les véhicules de transport en commun, projet de loi 39, M Palladini
Walsh Transportation Ltd
Rick Walsh, president
Major Intercity Carriers of Ontario
Don Haire, coordinator
Amalagamated Transit Union, Local 1415
Bill Noddle, president
Ontario School Bus Association
Fred Thompson, vice-president
Rick Donaldson, executive director
Penetang-Midland Coach Lines Ltd
United Transportation Union
Glenn King, secretary, Ontario legislative board
Guilles Tessier, alternate legislative representative, Local 1161
Transportation Action Now
Stephen Little, co-chair
David Baker, legal counsel
STANDING COMMITTEE ON RESOURCES DEVELOPMENT
Chair / Président: Gilchrist, Steve (Scarborough East / -Est PC)
Vice-Chair / Vice-Président: Fisher, Barbara (Bruce PC)
Baird, John R. (Nepean PC)
*Carroll, Jack (Chatham-Kent PC)
Christopherson, David (Hamilton Centre / -Centre ND)
Chudleigh, Ted (Halton North / -Nord PC)
Churley, Marilyn (Riverdale ND)
*Duncan, Dwight (Windsor-Walkerville L)
*Fisher, Barbara (Bruce PC)
*Gilchrist, Steve (Scarborough East / -Est PC)
Hoy, Pat (Essex-Kent L)
*Lalonde, Jean-Marc (Prescott and Russell / Prescott et Russell L)
*Maves, Bart (Niagara Falls PC)
Murdoch, Bill (Grey-Owen Sound PC)
*Ouellette, Jerry J. (Oshawa PC)
*Tascona, Joseph (Simcoe Centre / -Centre PC)
*In attendance / présents
Substitutions present / Membres remplaçants présents:
Boushy, Dave (Sarnia PC) for Mr Murdoch
Colle, Mike (Oakwood L) for Mr Hoy
DeFaria, Carl (Mississauga East / -Est PC) for Mr Baird
Martel, Shelley (Sudbury East / -Est ND) for Mr Christopherson
Wood, Len (Cochrane North / -Nord ND) for Ms Churley
Also taking part /Autres participants et participantes:
Murray Forbes, counsel, legal services branch, Ministry of Transportation
Clerk / Greffier: Douglas Arnott
Staff / Personnel:
Susan Klein, legislative counsel
Ray McLellan, research officer, Legislative Research Service
The committee met at 1536 in committee room 1.
ONTARIO HIGHWAY TRANSPORT BOARD AND PUBLIC VEHICLES AMENDMENT ACT, 1996 / LOI DE 1996 MODIFIANT LA LOI SUR LA COMMISSION DES TRANSPORTS ROUTIERS DE L'ONTARIO ET LA LOI SUR LES VÉHICULES DE TRANSPORT EN COMMUN
Consideration of Bill 39, An Act to amend the Ontario Highway Transport Board Act and the Public Vehicles Act and to make consequential changes to certain other Acts / Projet de loi 39, Loi modifiant la Loi sur la Commission des transports routiers de l'Ontario et la Loi sur les véhicules de transport en commun et apportant des modifications corrélatives à certaines autres lois.
WALSH TRANSPORTATION LTD
The Vice-Chair (Mrs Barbara Fisher): Good afternoon. I'd like to welcome everybody to the second day of hearings on Bill 39. We will be able to provide 20 minutes to each of the participants who come forward this afternoon. Sir, I assume you're Mr Rick Walsh, president and owner of Walsh Transportation Ltd. Welcome to our hearing process.
Mr Rick Walsh: I'd like to thank this committee very much for the opportunity to be able to speak in front of you. I'll try to be brief and summarize for your information, with the hope that some of the comments I make will bring some response and questions from your various members.
My name is Rick Walsh. I'm president of Walsh Transportation. Walsh Transportation is located in Haileybury. It's been in business since 1935. We are licensed with various licences from Kirkland Lake and the Tri-towns -- North Bay, Huntsville and Bracebridge. Our head offices are in Haileybury, serving the Tri-towns.
We run a variety of different bus transportation modes, such as the public transit system for the Tri-towns. We have line runs. We have a fleet of school buses. We have charters and tours. We have airport service, van rentals, limousine service. We have maintenance facilities for ourselves as well as serving various other operators in the province.
We employ about 85 people, with about 70 pieces of bus equipment.
I have done some consulting work for various other industries in the area. I've been a board member of the Timiskaming health unit and the Tri-town Association for Community Living. I'm a 20-some-year member of Rotary and past president twice over; and also in Knights of Columbus. I'm married with four lovely daughters.
The present regulatory bus system has worked relatively well over the years. The writer believes that the system could have adapted to the changing environment by allowing more entry to create more competition, but at the same time serving the public with safe, reliable equipment at a competitive price. It is believed by myself that the government's commitment to make things easier and more free for business while serving the public well could have been achieved under a regulatory regime.
Having said this, and before addressing the interim legislation, I would like to make the following comments.
The Quebec and US carriers: First of all, it's very hard for Ontario to open up the floodgates in terms of deregulation without other jurisdictions being deregulated at the same time. If that happens, these people will come into our jurisdiction, take our business away from us, cost Ontario jobs and create a lot fewer taxes and benefits to Ontario.
Our position is that we do work for major carriers in the Toronto market during our summer months, when in the winter months our ski buses and hockey teams and various other teams are on the go. I'm not sure how viable we would be if we didn't have access to the Toronto market through other major carriers during the summertime. If we are to deregulate at this time without, say, Quebec and Manitoba deregulating, then these people would come into our jurisdiction and take our trips, certainly making a lot of bus companies in Ontario less viable.
Walsh Transportation has been competing against the Ontario Northland Transportation Commission for many years. It is ironic that its taxes are going to subsidize a government-run competitor of ours. Walsh Transportation is willing and able to take over the Ontario Northland Transportation Commission's line runs in northern Ontario without any loss of service. In fact, we believe the service would be much better, and I'll give you an example of this in a couple of minutes. Because Ontario Northland does service the area from Toronto to North Bay and to Sudbury, we also have a southern operator that would joint-venture such an endeavour. We believe that there are other people in the industry who would also take over the Ontario Northland Transportation routes as well as ourselves, and that you people, or us as taxpayers, would not have to subsidize the service.
The fact that rural Ontario would lose service, as suggested by some of the big line carriers, in my opinion is false. An example of this: Even though the Ontario Northland Transportation Commission is subsidized throughout northeastern Ontario with my dollars, I run a limousine service daily from Kirkland Lake and the Tri-towns to Toronto, Sudbury and North Bay. The ridership is good; it's increasing. We also run a division in North Bay called Northern Airport Service, where we run two daily trips from North Bay, Powassan, South River, Huntsville and Bracebridge to Pearson International Airport.
We believe that our level of service is most probably superior to the ONR. It doesn't cost us a dollar as taxpayers. We think that there's no place but to grow in this area and that the public has been relatively poorly served. We believe the Ontario Northland Transportation Commission has not been very well managed over the years.
The second thing in terms of seeing rural Ontario being served is that I must mention that when you're going from North Bay, say, to Toronto, all the little towns in between North Bay and Toronto will get serviced. It would be crazy not to service these small towns when you're going right by their door. With the example of a place that is out of the way and not on a major corridor between two points, such as the town of Kirkland Lake, we're already serving that city. If you've decided, in all wisdom, that deregulation is happening, even if you're in a place like Peterborough and want to get into Toronto, we firmly believe there are people in private enterprise who will take up all these line runs, and rural Ontario will not only be served, but it'll be served better than it is now because of the monopolistic situation.
There's one thing -- and my apology -- that I forgot to mention in the brief, and that is, as I mentioned earlier, we are a public transit operator. We've run under contract with the municipalities of Dymond township, New Liskeard, Haileybury and Cobalt for 21 years now. Consistently, our rates run about half those of your public sector municipalities that are running their own systems. We believe private enterprise could save the taxpayers of Ontario hundreds of millions of dollars by privatizing yet keeping control of the system.
I run the system for the municipalities. The politicians tell me how to run it, and they have checks and balances to make sure I run it properly and according to their will, so that the public need is being taken care of. My apologies for not mentioning transit contracting, but I think there are a lot of places in Ontario right now, such as Barrie, New Liskeard, Haileybury, Cobalt, Chatham and various localities, that are now privatized out, and it's being done at consistently much lower rates.
A point to remember is that my employees are not paid consistently much less than the unionized employees are paid in some of these systems. That's a point you should remember: It's not that we're cutting our labour rates to do this. Our employees do make within 20% or 10% of what public sector unionized -- we're not unionized, by the way.
Bill 39: I believe some sort of mechanism has to be in place during a transition period. My largest concern in terms of the free trade deal back in the late 1980s was the fact that business was not given sufficient time and knowledge to adjust to the free trade deal. I believe one of the main reasons we lost hundreds of thousands of Ontario jobs was that business wasn't ready. You people, as governments, did not really -- maybe we needed a two by six to our heads to knock into us what was coming, but we lost a lot of jobs in Ontario because of the free trade deal, because we weren't ready for it. I believe a lot of jobs went to the States.
I believe that a transition period that genuinely moves towards deregulation at the least cost is a good idea. We have to have open markets, not shelter existing monopolies. I am for the act in that it makes the best of a bad situation and gives time needed so that other jurisdictions in Canada may open their gates and deregulate at the same time as Ontario. We need this time period. If we don't have the time period, it's going to cost Ontario jobs, because Quebeckers are going to come in and steal a lot of our work, as well as people from the States.
Also, hopefully with what the government is doing in terms of taking the handcuffs of private enterprise so that we can do our job better, there's also responsibility. I'm non-partisan, but I believe the government is running in the right direction in terms of lowering its costs, because when we open the floodgates and we have Americans coming in who are paying $1 a gallon for fuel, and their regulations and various other costs are lower, then we're going to have to be damned smart to compete against these people. We have to have lower costs, and I think it's going to take Ontario several years to get our costs down so that we can compete against other jurisdictions.
I believe that this legislation, when it's implemented, should move very strongly towards deregulation, that we shouldn't leave everything as it is for the next 18 months. That's not going to do us, as business people, any favour. We need you people to gradually open the door so that we can compete against the Greyhounds or whoever else, so that we can be ready when the gates are opened. If we're not, I believe the same darned thing is going to happen to the bus industry as happened to a lot of manufacturing jobs in Ontario.
I believe Bill 39 is far from perfect and I believe the industry's long-term viability has been compromised by certain parties in that I don't really think this is a genuine transition period. It should be a transition period so we can be ready. The other thing is also that we have to compete against other jurisdictions, so they have to deregulate at the same time we do; otherwise, we're just going to get beat up badly.
So, reservedly, for the above reasons, I support Bill 39. I wish to thank you very much for allowing me to present this brief, and I would like you people to ask me some questions.
The Vice-Chair: Thank you very much, Mr Walsh. We have approximately two minutes per party to share in question period, and we'll start with the government side.
Mr Jack Carroll (Chatham-Kent): Mr Walsh, thanks very much for an excellent presentation. Are you familiar with the organization Freedom to Move?
Mr Walsh: Yes, I am.
Mr Carroll: They are doing a fair bit of fearmongering about all of the communities that will lose service should Bill 39 happen and should we go to deregulation. Three places they mention on here of the 170 that will lose service are Bracebridge, Huntsville and Kirkland Lake, three areas that you currently serve. Would you care to comment on the validity of their claim that those three communities would lose service if we proceed down the road we're going?
Mr Walsh: I think that not only won't they lose service, but they'll have more service. It's what form that will take. For example, in the first week of July or June we're going to be starting service -- where we were running limousine services from Kirkland Lake to Toronto, we're upgrading our licence. We've got an application before the Ontario Highway Transport Board to put on airport-type buses with reclining seats, air-conditioning, air ride: a very, very nice, smaller piece of equipment that costs less to run than the big coaches. So if anything, service to the communities you've mentioned, as far as we're concerned, will only get better.
Mr Carroll: I was also interested in your comment that your company feels very comfortable that it could take over the the routes serviced by ONTC and provide better service and not use any taxpayers' dollars to subsidize that. Has that been a position you've held for some time or is it new, and will Bill 39 affect that position?
Mr Walsh: We've felt that for a long time. I was competing in various markets in northeastern Ontario against a government-run outfit that would cut their charter rates just to get the trips. If anybody's looked at their statements for the last few years, they've lost a pile of our money, where I've made money. I think if and when the deregulation happened, we've already got line runs between Kirkland Lake and those various points that I mentioned, and we will increase these, and I would venture to say that unless the government subsidizes or would continue to subsidize the Ontario Northland, they're going to get knocked either by us or by somebody else because we're going to beat them on service.
Mr Mike Colle (Oakwood): It's an interesting comment you have at the end here. You're saying, "It bothers me though that this legislation has been influenced only to give the Greyhounds of the industry time to get their houses in order at the expense of not having a gradual, more open phase to deregulation." Could you explain how this legislation is catering to Greyhound and other big carriers?
Mr Walsh: I believe -- and by the way, I'm a director of the Ontario Motor Coach Association also and I didn't indicate that because I'm appearing as a private company -- we had some comments back to the MTO and to the Minister of Transportation on ways to move towards deregulation and open the gates more. I believe the gates aren't going to be opened enough, and they're not going to be opened enough because there was influence on certain parties. I think that's a very serious mistake in the long term for the bus industry in Ontario.
Mr Colle: So basically the government caved in to pressure from some of these big carriers and didn't proceed as they had intended to.
Mr Walsh: I think they didn't take the advice of the rest of the industry and proceed as they should have proceeded.
Mr Colle: And that advice is?
Mr Walsh: There are 80 other bus companies in Ontario that we, as a board of directors in the Ontario Motor Coach Association, had canvassed, and that had voted on various ways to make the system more streamlined, yet I feel honestly that we're not going to move in the next 18 months and it's going to hurt us.
Mr Colle: So how could you support this bill, since the government basically, through this bill, caved in to people you disagree with in terms of their perspective on where the bus industry is going?
Mr Walsh: We have to support the bill because we didn't have any choice. If we don't support the bill, I believe that de facto deregulation would occur immediately and that Quebec and US operators would have come in and cost Ontario many thousands of jobs. That's why we had to support it.
Ms Shelley Martel (Sudbury East): I want to focus on your comments around your concern with deregulation in the context of Quebec and Manitoba not deregulating. Maybe I can just read you their positions, and they are positions as of November 1995, so they're pretty recent.
Manitoba says there is simply no major problem that would be addressed by bus deregulation and no significant constituency advocating it other than on theoretical or ideological grounds. They have written to the federal Minister of Transport and said they do not support bus deregulation.
Quebec said: "As things stand, total deregulation threatens to accelerate the process whereby regional bus transport services gradually disappear. Moreover, the resulting greater competition on more profitable routes would force carriers to drop less heavily travelled time periods and concentrate on the hours and periods most in demand." Their position as well was that they were opposed to the federal proposition of bus deregulation.
The questions I wanted to raise with you are around that. We haven't heard anything to the contrary to indicate a change in their positions, so I assume in a year and a half from now we're going to be moving into full deregulation in this province, with our neighbours not deregulating. What kind of impact will that have on your service that operates out of Toronto in terms of service lost and jobs lost?
Mr Walsh: First of all, to answer the first part of your question, Shelley, I believe the industry basically is not in favour of deregulation but we were told by the government that we were being deregulated. As I stated in my first few sentences, I believe the system could have been streamlined and made more competitive so that the public was better served. Making that point clear, the industry does not favour deregulation but we were told that's what's going to happen.
Secondly, this is what this interim bill does: It allows us to wait until Quebec and Manitoba are forced because of the free trade deal to deregulate, so that we're all deregulating at the same time. Whether the date is right, 1998, or whether it's going to be 1999 or 2000, it is our hope that when it comes, and if those other jurisdictions are not ready to deregulate, Ontario will put a postponement in place so that we're not deregulated before the other parties, or what you said will happen and there will be a loss of jobs.
Ms Martel: Maybe I can just tell you what the minister said on April 4 when he announced this in the House. It was that, "Today I am announcing interim measures aimed at easing the transition to full deregulation of the intercity bus industry in Ontario on January 1, 1998." I can tell you, there's nothing in the statement he made or statements that he's made since in the House to indicate that over the next year and a half we're going to study this issue, and if Quebec and Manitoba don't move or we see something else happening, we're not going to implement that on January 1. There's been no indication about that at all. So my sense would be that we're moving and it's coming upon us and you and a whole bunch of other carriers are going to find yourselves in a position where you're having to compete directly with regulated markets both to the east and west of us, and a serious problem coming from the US as well.
The Vice-Chair: Thank you very much, Mr Walsh, for attending today. We've enjoyed your presentation.
MAJOR INTERCITY CARRIERS OF ONTARIO
The Vice-Chair: I would ask that Don Haire, president of Proteus Transportation Enterprises, come forward.
Mr Don Haire: I'd like to thank the Chair and members of the committee for the opportunity to speak. I intend to read a very brief statement which summarizes the position of the group I represent, and from that point forward I'm available for questions.
My name is Don Haire. I am the coordinator of MICO, which is an acronym which stands for Major Intercity Carriers of Ontario. MICO was set up in October 1995 for the specific purpose of responding to the government's request for comments and suggestions on how to introduce economic bus deregulation in Ontario.
The members of MICO are Grey Goose Bus Lines, Greyhound Bus Lines of Canada, Ontario Northland Transportation and Voyageur Colonial. These four bus carriers represent some 80% of the scheduled intercity passenger traffic in the province, some 95% of Ontario's bus parcel services, and an important component of Ontario's charter bus services, albeit less than 50%. For calendar year 1994, MICO members operated a total of 21.9 million service miles, as per their 1994 Ontario fuel tax returns. To summarize, the MICO members represent the substantial majority of scheduled bus services in the province and are also a significant component of the province's charter bus industry.
If I may, I just want to give you some background of how MICO came into being. In August and September of 1995, through a series of announcements, the Ontario bus industry was informed that the government was essentially committed to doing three things:
(1) Introducing full economic bus deregulation within three years, thereby permitting open-market entry and exit.
(2) Sharply reducing government spending on economic regulation and economic enforcement, starting almost immediately on April 1, 1996.
(3) Maintaining and enhancing, where appropriate, bus safety regulation and enforcement.
At that point, the government invited the various bus industry members to make suggestions on how the government could best achieve these goals. The bus industry itself at that time can be depicted as having split, in effect, into three camps. There was a camp of bus carriers who essentially refused to partake in the process. As to whether there was absolute disagreement with the government or it was nothing more than not wanting to be bothered, it's difficult to say, but there were a number of people who just didn't get involved. There was a group of carriers who wanted rapid deregulation within Ontario among Ontario-based carriers, but they also wanted protection for an extended period of time from carriers from outside Ontario. Then there were those carriers who wanted a runup period prior to full economic deregulation in order to prepare, in effect, for the new regime. The MICO bus carriers are firmly in this last camp; that is, they want a runup period prior to full deregulation.
A key point: The MICO carriers favour bus regulatory reform rather than complete economic deregulation, but they recognize that the government is committed to this latter policy direction. Consequently, the MICO carriers structured a proposed approach on how best to achieve the government's objective in this regard.
MICO's suggestions, as well as the suggestions from other bus industry members, were received with prompt attention by the government. A composite of this industry input resulted in what you have before you today, Bill 39.
Bill 39 incorporates suggestions from all industry groups, of those that participated. It is the view of MICO that the government has done an excellent job both in soliciting industry input and in incorporating the subsequent feedback. This collegial and cooperative approach has earned the government considerable respect within bus industry circles. In effect, they stipulated their policy goal and then they sought advice on how best to achieve it. While we are not in full agreement with their policy goal, we applaud their efforts at this consultative process. We also recognize that it's the government's role, and indeed you can argue it's the government's duty, to establish such policy goals whether we agree or not.
In establishing a 21-month runup period prior to full bus deregulation, Bill 39 achieves three central objectives:
(1) It gives the government the necessary time to decide on and make whatever changes they feel they need in order to ensure the bus industry's excellent safety record is continued after deregulation.
(2) It allows existing bus carriers to make the necessary changes to their cost base so as to have every reasonable opportunity for economic survival in a deregulated environment, thereby protecting existing industry jobs.
(3) It allows a reasonable planning period for adjustments of operating networks so that the loss of bus service to outlying communities is either avoided or minimized.
MICO believes that Bill 39 will prevent a repeat of the chaos that accompanied de facto trucking deregulation in the late 1980s. Bill 39 contemplates a strengthening of economic regulatory enforcement in order to prevent bus carriers from jumping the gun prior to full economic deregulation. Bill 39 contemplates easing the conditions for market entry where existing bus services are sparse or otherwise inadequate. Bill 39 also requires a mandatory period of notice and consultation prior to any significant bus service reductions.
Given the government's stated commitment to full economic bus deregulation, MICO believes that Bill 39 reflects an intelligent adjustment mechanism for achieving this goal. It minimizes the shocks to public bus service levels that would otherwise obtain if deregulation were to occur in a less structured and more abrupt fashion.
Lastly, and this we find an important point, we observe that Bill 39 is open-ended. While the government has signalled its intent to pursue full economic bus deregulation as of January 1, 1998, it has specifically refrained from incorporating such a sunset date into Bill 39. We note with that the government has given itself the flexibility to adjust the timing of full deregulation should such compelling circumstances as interprovincial bilateral negotiations determine common dates for deregulation that are at variance with the January 1, 1998 date.
The government has articulated its goals and has also articulated its timetable, and those are the signals which industry needs in order to adjust and prepare itself. Based upon experience to date, MICO is confident that the government will be pragmatic in its pursuit of these targets, and we are further confident that the government will continue its consultative approach in the face of any contemplated adjustments to its announced intentions.
With that, I'm certainly prepared to answer any questions you may pose.
The Vice-Chair: Thank you very much. We have about four minutes each for questioning, starting with the official opposition.
Mr Colle: Thank you, Mr Haire, for a good comprehensive overview of the bus industry and how it relates to Bill 39.
I guess one of the interesting, intriguing comments you made is that even though the minister has been very specific about the January 1, 1998 date for deregulation, I too noted that there's no sunset provision in it. In other words, deregulation may come into effect January 1 and it may not. Therefore, the industry as a whole is basically of the opinion that January 1 doesn't have any real binding, let's say, direction?
Mr Haire: No. If I may, Mr Colle, I think you have to take it back one step. One of the things which virtually everybody, to my knowledge, made very clear to the minister was, tell us what you're going to do and tell us when you're going to do it. So in a sense the industry has been asking for direction as to the timetable.
Yes, when I look at the fact that Bill 39 does not have a sunset date, that indicates to me that at the very least they are going to have to come back and pass some form of legislation which will be open to discussion, I presume, at that time. Until they do that, what is now the interim regulatory period continues on indefinitely.
My own reading of the situation is that the government is strongly committed to deregulation, and by not putting a sunset date in in effect they're giving themselves some degree of latitude that if, for example, a deal had been worked with Quebec that there was going to be common deregulation on July 1, 1998, I suspect, although I can't speak for the minister, they would just let Bill 39 continue in existence for another six months. That's my reading of it.
Mr Colle: Another area, just quickly. In essence, you're saying the people you represent believe there are some problems with total deregulation and you think there should be some regulation of the environment and the industry. What are the benefits of keeping a certain degree of regulation, as far as you see it, as far as the industry is concerned?
Mr Haire: The main benefits of maintaining a regulatory environment -- although I would add that just about everybody agrees that the current regulatory environment is not good and needs some form of reform -- the main benefit, in my view, is the fact that it maintains orderly markets. You don't get fast surprises out there. There is a process that people have to go through to change service levels. In effect, there's a process that people have to go through in order to radically change fare levels to the degree that there is certainly cross-subsidization, although we've just heard a counter-argument from someone else. You can argue that there will be better geographic network coverage with some form of regulated environment.
The position of most of the industry is that regulatory reform would have been preferable to complete deregulation. But let me add that we do not have in any way, and neither do we assert that we have, a monopoly on wisdom. There are pros and cons. The government happens to believe there are more pros associated with deregulation than cons. The bus industry feels somewhat of the reverse. But it is not a black and white situation.
Mr Colle: One of your partners here is Ontario Northland. They're government subsidized, aren't they?
Mr Haire: They are a government crown, and there's an argument as to whether or not the bus operations are subsidized, but I'll leave that for somebody else to decide.
Ms Martel: I want to go to your three points that you raise on page 4 where you say that by having a runup to full bus dereg the bill achieves three objectives and you talk about allowing existing carriers to make necessary changes to their cost base. Can you describe that, tell me what that means?
Further, if you were going to assume that the government was going to live up to everything the minister has already said about moving to full bus deregulation as of January 1, what kind of changes would the four carriers involved in your group have to make to be ready for that as of January 1?
Mr Haire: I'll have to speculate because I'm not a party to their individual plans, but I certainly know a fair amount about the industry.
One of the things I think a lot of people lose sight of is that what they'll have to do is review their entire commitment to fixed infrastructure. They may decide, for example, to get out of terminal garage facilities that they own and go to a variable cost basis so that when the surprises of changes in volumes occur they're not stuck with a fixed cost overhead which is overhanging their cost base.
Again, I can't speak for the individual carriers per se, but certainly you can expect that there will be attempts which will happen in cooperative terms, I would hope, between the companies and the unions to try and vary their existing collective bargaining agreements. So they can vary themselves to the conditions they face.
One of the things which happens with deregulation is change starts coming at you at a tremendously fast pace. You cannot foresee what's going to happen out there. A new operator can pop up and he can have an introductory price offer of 75% off. You have to respond to that. There are several ways you can respond to it. One, you can match his price or, two, you can get out or, three, you can do some combination thereof, which is what most people will end up doing. They'll partly match his price but they'll also restrict service. For each individual market event the response could be different.
I don't know if I'm helping with this, but there are a lot of things that they have to be worried about. At the fundament of it, what they need to do is to get themselves into a position where their cost base is as variable as possible so they can respond quickly.
Ms Martel: Does that include cutting off service to communities where that service is just not viable?
Mr Haire: I think in some cases it will, quite honestly, but that doesn't mean that that service is going to lose all bus service. You're going to have situations in which the large carriers are going to say, "No, I am not going to service the following towns." Then in some cases people are going to step in and say, "I can do it because I'm a lower-cost operator." In other cases perhaps nobody's going to step in. It's really very difficult to stipulate in any detail what exactly is going to happen because nobody ultimately knows.
Mr Len Wood (Cochrane North): A lot of concern out there with Bill 39 is that for small communities, and I'm from northern Ontario, when you have the large bus companies, with deregulation they're going to end up cutting the rates down to the bare minimum, whatever they can, to drive the small operators out of business and then in turn jack their prices back up. It has happened in the States. I'm just wondering if you think this might happen as well.
Mr Haire: There will possibly be examples of that kind of behaviour which, to me, verges on predation. There was some instance of it in the UK more than in the United States. I don't think it happened that much in the United States, quite frankly. There was a pattern of that to some degree in the United Kingdom. But I think any time you have a situation in which you're in a market regulatory framework which is open, where you have entry and exit on a rapid basis if necessary, you cannot easily force somebody out and then go back in and raise your rates, because the moment you raise your rates you just attract somebody back in.
Granted, there is going to be a time delay but it's not necessarily that large in the bus industry, because this is not an airline where you've got fixed airports and very expensive planes. People can enter and exit from the industry fairly rapidly if they have to.
Mr Len Wood: But if they've either gone bankrupt or sold all their buses, they're not going to get back in.
Mr Haire: Then they're out.
Mr Len Wood: Exactly.
Mr Jerry J. Ouellette (Oshawa): Just a quick question about your industry. First of all, what percentage of the actual parcel industry does your industry occupy, including the other major players?
Mr Haire: Including the couriers?
Mr Ouellette: Yes. Do you have any idea on those?
Mr Haire: Yes, it's bizarre. It's very small in the east, like less than a 1% market share, but if you go out west, it's quite significant, 20% or something like that.
Mr Ouellette: I just wanted some information on that. One of the spokesmen for Grey Goose stated that it would not be Grey Goose's intent to reduce services. Is this what we can expect from most of the members of your organization?
Mr Haire: You have to ask me as me, not as MICO, because we honestly haven't discussed that. I've got to believe that some of them are going to reduce services. I'm a former president of Voyageur and I certainly know there are a couple of routes that, were I president, I probably wouldn't operate. But I'm not saying that somebody won't step in and operate them.
Mr Ouellette: Some of your other members actually stated that there was a potential to go to mini-buses or minivans to carry passengers. Do you see that as a problem in your industry?
Mr Haire: I have some problems with it, and they relate fundamentally to safety. I can think of some vans I'd rather not see in commercial service and I can think of other vans that would be okay. It depends on the construction of the van itself. This is an area which is being looked at not only by the Ontario government but also by the federal government as to what nature of vehicles should be available for public carriage. The answer is, downsizing makes sense on certain routes, there's no question about it, but there is a point at which it would not be smart. Some of these minivans I think are quite dangerous.
Mr Ouellette: Do you expect the appeal mechanism in Bill 39 to pose any problems to your members?
Mr Haire: I don't think so, no; the life of the interim framework is so short. The whole idea of doing that was to be able to establish discipline in the market so that if somebody was a bad actor, the board could act. I don't think that anybody's rights are being terribly jeopardized because it's only for a short period of time. This is what I mean about avoiding the chaos which happened out of de facto trucking deregulation.
Mr Carroll: I have one quick question. The government obviously has a role to play in safety standards, liability insurance standards. Do you think the government should set a minimum amount of the liability insurances required for bus operators and, if they do, can you hazard what that number should be?
Mr Haire: Right now it's two. They've already indicated they're taking it to five. I think the majority of the bus membership wouldn't mind if it went as far as 10. That, if I may be so bold as to say so, is partly because that's the smart thing to do, but also partly that will prevent fly-by-night operators from jumping in if they have to show a meaningful proof of insurance.
The higher you put the insurance level, the more you then bring the insurance industry into controlling the safety levels of the insurance client, because they have a bigger potential downside risk. I think that basically most of the bus industry, no matter which side of the Bill 39 question they're on, would not object to a higher insurance standard.
Mr Carroll: But can --
The Vice-Chair: Excuse me, Mr Carroll.
Mr Carroll: -- because it's required to keep out the small operators.
Mr Haire: Both.
The Vice-Chair: Thank you very much for appearing before us today.
AMALGAMATED TRANSIT UNION, LOCAL 1415
The Vice-Chair: I would ask that the Amalgamated Transit Union representative Bill Noddle please come forward. Good afternoon.
Mr Bill Noddle: Good afternoon. My name is Bill Noddle, and I'm the president and business agent for the Amalgamated Transit Union, Local 1415. I want to thank the resources development committee for the opportunity to comment on Bill 39, which is An Act to amend the Ontario Highway Transport Act and the Public Vehicles Act.
The Amalgamated Transit Union, Local 1415, represents operators, mechanics, cleaners and other employees of Greyhound Canada's eastern division. We view ourselves as partners in the industry, and are supportive of all efforts to expand the intercity service.
For that reason, we support initiatives that streamline the OHTB. With respect to Bill 39, we believe that with some amendment we could support this piece of legislation. I'd like to take the opportunity to make some recommendations or modifications on it.
One, we'd like a purpose clause. For those of you who have not been in and around the debates of the OHTB over the years, there has been some movement towards the idea of creating a purpose clause in an attempt to assist board members. Many other acts that use interpretive boards include purpose clauses.
We support the concept of a purpose clause and feel that such a clause should explicitly state that the OHTB exists to regulate the commercial use of Ontario's public roadways in the best interests of the people of Ontario, particularly to promote the ability to travel to smaller communities that otherwise would have no public transit system at all.
On the matter of rehearing, we believe that the intention of the government is good, but it has gone too far. Hearings are obviously expensive, and we are supportive of efforts to ensure that the board's time is spent in the most efficient manner possible. However, completely eliminating rehearings is like completely eliminating retrials in criminal cases.
It may surprise some committee members, but in the past parties to a board hearing have submitted erroneous and even fraudulent evidence. Not knowing any better, the board accepts the evidence and makes a decision considering that evidence. Without the ability to rehear, we'll be stuck with decisions that are, to be blunt, based on lies. Obviously, that is a completely unacceptable situation. Sometimes a board makes mistakes in giving weight, or even consideration, to evidence. Without rehearings there is no opportunity to fix these errors.
Finally, there should be rehearings in some cases where the interest of the board has not been strongly enough represented in the decision. This would allow the board to correct errors to ensure that decisions are consistent with the purpose of the board.
I believe these amendments would make the guidelines for rehearing more specific, while still allowing for the types of rehearings that are essential to ensure predictability and lawfulness from the board.
In regard to oral hearings, under Bill 39 oral hearings would only be reheard when all parties to the hearing agree to oral hearings; otherwise, hearings would be written. The intention of this amendment is to streamline the process.
However, I believe that in many cases a party may attempt to use written hearings as a way to escape strong cross-examination. Cross-examination can be a much faster tool for a board than written hearings, especially if the goal of one party is to attempt to obscure some facts. Also, for members of the general public who are parties to the board, writing a brief may not always be possible. In these cases, I would think other parties might wish to cross-examine such a witness. It is our belief that the hearings should generally be oral, unless there is agreement to the contrary. Generally, hearings are not long. The average hearing lasts about one and a quarter days. With these amendments, however, we believe that hearing can be made even more brief and efficient.
Who is a party in front of the board? The new act states that someone with an economic interest may be a party to a board hearing. But who is someone with an economic interest or, more appropriately, who isn't? Does a mayor of a town that has been hit with abandonment have an economic interest? Does a person whose regular bus has been cancelled have an economic interest? The legislation has to be more clear about the meaning of the phrase. It seems to me that the clear intention of this amendment was to reduce hearing time. My suggestion would be to allow members of the public to be parties to the hearing. After all, the board exists to regulate in the public's interest, but only after making an application stating their intention. As a streamlining effort at the time of appearance, parties to the board should be warned that they could be charged for the full costs they incur at the board if the board believes the intervention was frivolous.
Access to justice: As you know, because the ministry has already cut about $350,000 in funding to the board, revenues from fines and fees, which were about $100,000 last year, will have to be tripled. Allocating the full cost of a hearing to the parties, especially when the cost will be going up so fast, may be unfair to smaller companies and individuals. For that reason, we are hoping there can be some changes to allow for equal access to justice.
Sometimes you can go into a board hearing thinking you've got the strongest argument and the rightest cause, only to come out losing. In situations like these, a "degree of success" rule would really hurt, especially if the party was a small company or an individual. We are hoping the legislation can be amended to allow the board to waive or lower fees in specific cases.
Summary: Our position with respect to Bill 39 is fairly straightforward. With changes, we believe we can support the bill. The changes we believe would be helpful are: (1) a purpose clause to give the board a clear sense of the intentions of the crown; (2) the ability to rehear cases so that decisions based on errors or fraud or running contrary to the purpose of the board can be reversed; (3) fairness in court fees to ensure that small operators and members of the public are not denied access to the OHTB; (4) oral hearings to speed hearings and gain more accurate testimony through cross-examination; (5) requirement that a person must apply in advance to be a party to the board; (6) harsher penalties for the parties who want to waste the board's time.
Our position on deregulation, on the idea that in a year or so there should be an attempt to deregulate the intercity bus industry: Let me say that we believe deregulation is not in the interests of anyone; not the companies, the passengers, the BPX clients or the employees. At the same time, we know that Minister Palladini sometimes throws ideas out for consideration to see what the public thinks, like he did with increasing of speed limits.
So let me give you our response to your trial balloon. We believe deregulation is a bad policy for three main reasons.
(1) Quebec-licensed companies won't need a licence to work in Ontario while Ontario-licensed companies will need a licence to work in Quebec, which is highly unlikely ever to be granted.
(2) It will lead to the loss of service in a huge number of smaller communities that receive no other form of public transportation.
(3) It will lead to unregulated monopolies in certain regions or routes that will increase prices and undermine competition.
Ontario is the province that would be most hurt by unilateral deregulation. Unilateral deregulation will place every advantage in the hands of non-Ontario companies and put every Ontario company at a disadvantage. Deregulating in the belief that other provinces will fall into line is playing a high-risk game with the futures of communities, employees and companies. We urge you not to do it.
Policy around intercity busing really is a federal issue. There is a federal process already under way and it makes sense to give that process the time to work. Unilateral deregulation won't force Quebec to deregulate, it will only make them more unlikely to do so. Basically, they'll have their cake and eat it too at that time.
Deregulation and loss of rural service: The idea has been put forward that deregulation can better protect the service in smaller communities. I believe a comparison with what happened in the United States since they deregulated in 1982 clearly shows that a regulated bus industry is better at preserving service into the small communities. According to the Ontario Ministry of Transportation, 1,500 communities were served in 1982, while only 1,100 are served today. That's a drop of about 25% in that time period. However, according to the Interstate Commerce Commission, there were 11,820 American communities served in 1982, which was the year of deregulation, and in 1991 there are only 5,690. That's a drop of 52% not 25%. And in the United States, some states subsidize remote and rural routes. Without that subsidy, more than 52% of the communities would have lost their service. It seems strange that if we are trying to save money by deregulating we are going to be spending it by subsidizing. It seemed a little contradictory to me.
I believe we can conclude that deregulation would cause an acceleration in the trend of route abandonment.
Regional and route monopolies: In both the US and in Britain, bus deregulation has led to unregulated regional monopolies. In the Canadian airline industry we've experienced much the same situation. Smaller airlines were incorporated into larger ones, even to the point that Canadian Airlines is effectively controlled by American Airlines. In transportation industries regulation is often the only effective way of maintaining some level of competition.
In regard to smaller buses, sometimes I have heard it said that deregulation would be a good thing because regulation requires companies to use expensive 47-passenger coaches and under deregulation they could use passenger vans. Let me clearly state to you that there is absolutely nothing in the existing regulation which places any requirements on coach size on any operator. Under existing regulation, licensed operators could be running passenger vans if they wanted to.
Statements that suggest regulation requires operators to use vehicles of a specified size are completely untrue. Therefore, the argument that deregulation would expand service by replacing buses with more frequent passenger vans is also completely untrue. Right now, if companies thought they could earn more money by replacing coaches with more frequent van service there is no regulation stopping them from doing it. But they haven't, and they won't do it under deregulation either because it doesn't make business sense.
Quite simply, deregulation will cause abandonment of service, especially to small towns and rural areas, and that service will not be replaced by buses or vans. The service will just disappear as it did in the United States.
Deregulation is not a good transportation policy for Ontario. Many town councils -- Sault Ste. Marie, Timmins, Barry's Bay, St Thomas, Lakefield and others -- have passed motions and resolutions in opposition to deregulation knowing the damage that could be inflicted upon them. There have been petitions, mail-back cards, newspaper stories and letters to the editors. Sitting here in Toronto, you won't have seen those kinds of stories because they're not covered by our daily press. But go to the small towns where the weekly newspaper is read with the attention of the Bible and that's where this is going to hurt.
Members of the committee, this summer listen to the concerns of your constituents. Listen to the person who runs your local bus service. Listen to the shopkeeper where the bus stops or the agent who sells tickets. In the last election, you didn't knock on doors promising to deregulate bus service. Mike Harris never mentioned it and it doesn't appear anywhere in the Common Sense Revolution.
Bill 39 saves you some money by moving the cost of the board on to the industry, so the tax-cutting agenda has been served. After that, there's no compelling reason to upset the apple cart any further. Don't take on a problem that isn't yours, especially a problem that's in your own backyard.
This was not your idea and you don't have to feel you have any commitment to it. It is a trial balloon from the minister and now you are hearing the public's response. I hope that after some time of reflection you will agree that this trial balloon should be allowed to float away. Thank you.
Ms Martel: Thank you very much for your presentation, Mr Noddle. There was one thing that I disagreed with in what you said in terms of making the comparison with the US and deregulation and what the costs would be here. You said, "It seems strange that if we're trying to save money we'll have to spend money to subsidize routes." I can assure you that will not happen with this government. What you will see is a whole bunch of communities losing service because they have no intention of subsidizing any of these routes. That's part of what this is all about, even in terms of cross-subsidization for the private sector.
Let me just go back to your concern about deregulation, because those of us on this side really believe this is what this bill is leading to. The minister's made it clear in every comment that he's made that this is the transition process to full bus deregulation as of January 1, 1998. "It doesn't matter what's happening in other jurisdictions. We hope they'll get on board and deregulate too. If they don't, too bad."
What do you think it's going to mean in terms of job loss for the people you represent if we move to a situation, as I fully expect we will in a year and a half from now, of being fully deregulated here in Ontario and having both our neighbours in Quebec and Manitoba still operating under a regulatory regime?
Mr Noddle: The best thing I can do is quote the facts I know, and that's from the example that occurred in the United States. In 1982, there were 14,000 Greyhound employees; in 1987, there were about 3,200. So less than a quarter.
Mr Bart Maves (Niagara Falls): You said at the start that you're a partner in your industry and I know you're proud of your ability to offer competitive service. If there were unregulated markets in Manitoba and Quebec, could the companies your workers work for compete in those open markets?
Mr Noddle: Could we compete? On certain lines. The small towns and villages, no. They would have to be dropped; exactly what happened in the United States.
Mr Maves: With regard to small lines, Mr Carroll had talked about Freedom to Move. Do you remember that?
Mr Noddle: Yes.
Mr Maves: Some of the communities that are mentioned as losing service are Bracebridge, Huntsville and Kirkland Lake. We've just heard a smaller operator previous to yourself say they would actually increase the service in those communities. How does your position jibe with that?
Mr Noddle: On either side of the coin, you will hear the pros and cons of either position. You'll hear that with deregulation some communities will gain service and on the other side of the coin there will be numerous communities lose service. Deregulation would make it a free-for-all in a dog-eat-dog atmosphere, and then people lose out in the long run, as they did in the United States.
Mr Colle: The real catch-22 in this bill is that they've signalled Quebec to hold on to January 1, 1998. We're going to deregulate. Quebec is sitting in the bushes across from Hawkesbury, saying: "Okay, they're coming in here. They're going to deregulate. We're just going to pick off this Ontario industry."
Mr Noddle: Quebec is sitting on top of the world if we deregulate. It's going to be a one-way street for those people, and Manitoba operators also. It --
Mr Colle: Sorry to interrupt, but the only way they can really fix this error they've made is to say, "We're not going to deregulate unless we get a level playing field with Quebec and Ontario operators get the same entry into the Quebec market that they're getting into our market."
Mr Noddle: Absolutely.
Mr Colle: And that's not in this bill.
Mr Noddle: No.
The Vice-Chair: Thank you very much for attending this afternoon.
ONTARIO SCHOOL BUS ASSOCIATION
The Vice-Chair: I would ask that Fred Thompson and Rick Donaldson come forward on behalf of the Ontario School Bus Association. Welcome to our hearing process.
Mr Fred Thompson: Good afternoon. My name is Fred Thompson. I'm the vice-president of the Ontario School Bus Association, otherwise known as OSBA. I'm also the general manager of the Metro Toronto division of Charterways Transportation. My colleague Rick Donaldson is the OSBA executive director.
The OSBA is a voluntary association representing 240 private sector school bus companies, plus 60 school boards. Our fleets vary in size from one bus to 2,700 buses. We enjoy about 75% representation of the total industry in Ontario. Our organization is headed by a volunteer board of directors. To quote from our mission statement, "Through advocacy and education, we strive to create an environment that enhances the long-term safety record, stability and viability of our industry." I trust this will help you to put our remarks into context.
We wish to appear before the committee today to express our support for economic deregulation of bus transportation industries in this province. More specifically, we came to support Bill 39. We also have a few observations on this legislation to offer.
In February of this year, the Ontario School Bus Association wrote to the transportation minister urging an early end to economic regulation of Ontario bus transportation industries. By "early," you should know that we supported Minister Palladini's original target deregulation date of April 1, 1996. At that time, we were aware of requests from some charter/tour operators and scheduled line run carriers for a transitional period that would allow a gradual adjustment to open market conditions. The Ministry of Transportation, working in consultation with industry, arrived at the interim regulatory mechanism ultimately described in Bill 39.
As the school bus industry, we feel no strong need for such an interim regulatory mechanism. Our accustomed method of demonstrating how public necessity and convenience are served was by presenting to the former Ontario Highway Transport Board a contract already awarded by a board of education. Very seldom, once such a contract is produced, is our operating authority ever contested or otherwise called into question.
However, we recognize merits in Bill 39 and are quite prepared to comply with the new legislation until January 1, 1998. We feel the transition period will allow adequate time for complementary safety regulations and important reciprocity agreements to be completed. Of course, we are anticipating open market conditions after that date. We share the Ontario government's view that removing bureaucratic red tape and barriers to entrepreneurship will ultimately benefit both the bus passengers and the bus transporters.
Remember that school buses are to be found in virtually every county in the province. Consider for a moment that school buses are historically underutilized outside of school hours. You will quickly realize what we realized: After January 1, 1998, the school bus industry will be well placed to extend our excellent safety and service record to broader community transportation needs all over urban and rural Ontario.
Indeed, our industry welcomes fresh challenges and opportunities to compete in new markets. When all the safety factors are weighed, when all the costs are counted, our school bus operations consistently excel. For decades we have been the safest, most secure and most cost-effective transporter of students in the province. Last year alone, we provided over 296 million safe rides. We know we can maintain this enviable record. At the same time, we can begin to serve public necessity and convenience in ways which would likely have remained closed to us under the old system of economic regulation.
This committee may or may not be aware of the province's recent community transportation review, or CTR, initiative. Essentially, CTR has been exploring ways to use existing provincially funded transportation resources more effectively. Making maximum use of investments is something we strive to do daily in our own operations, so naturally the OSBA has been supportive of the CTR. It is clear to us that ending economic regulation of Ontario's bus industries is one step forward in realizing the fundamental objectives of the CTR.
There is just one word of caution we would offer you today pertaining to the effects of increased competition on Ontario's bus industries. We do not doubt the potential for open market conditions to better align the price of bus transportation with the cost of providing service, except in one special scenario.
Substantial Ministry of Transportation subsidies paid to municipal public sector transporters have in the past allowed them to offer student transportation services to boards of education at deep discounts. Transportation cross-subsidizes education, you could say. But of course the ultimate cost is borne by Ontario taxpayers who may, but more likely do not, derive any direct benefit. Let me elaborate on that.
For decades our industry has observed large portions of municipal public transit fleets become dedicated to student transportation, even though the costs of using those transit vehicles can actually be as much as four times higher than for standard 72-passenger school buses to provide the same service. Some municipal public transit costing models of which we are aware simply neglect to consider maintenance, administration or even capital cost components adequately. Only the chronic lack of full-cost accounting practices by transit properties, and perhaps also by the province, allows this wasteful situation to persist.
After levelling the playing field, because in our perception that's precisely what economic deregulation is going to do for bus transportation in Ontario, we urge government to keep the field level. Make sure all the costs to all the ministries are properly accounted for when comparing public sector and private sector service providers. To this end, we appeared before the standing committee on public accounts earlier this year in support of the Provincial Auditor's proposed amendments to require full-cost accounting and value-for-money audits in the MUSH sector.
I'd like to thank you today, members of the standing committee on resources development, for your time and attention. The Ontario School Bus Association supports the work Bill 39 seeks to accomplish, and we'd be pleased to answer any questions at this time.
Mr Dave Boushy (Sarnia): Could you elaborate a little more on the changes and how they reduce the red tape and lessen the burden on the school bus industry?
Mr Rick Donaldson: If I can answer that, the basic elements of this package scale down the administrative practices of the board. Historically, it has been that, as we said in our brief, once the operator presents a contract signed between a board of education and the operator, that is sufficient proof to allow an operator's licence to be issued by the Ministry of Transportation. In essence, it's a rubber stamp. We see that any administrative pruning of that is beneficial.
Mr Boushy: There have been fears from the opposition, and I've heard many comments, about smaller operators not being able to compete with big bus companies, which I consider you to be. Is that fear justified? How do you feel about these comments?
Mr Donaldson: I can only answer on behalf of the school bus industry, and I want to make it clear that I am. As we say, we have operators with one school bus and operators with 2,700 school buses, and we don't believe it will impact negatively on those smaller operators. In fact, we know in some communities, in Sudbury and elsewhere, that there are some small school bus operators doing many of the sort of community transportation services that we've referenced in here. We don't see that the small operator will be disadvantaged, and neither will the large operator. There are business opportunities.
Mr Carroll: Thank you very much for your presentation. We're sort of falling into a mindset here that we in Ontario can't compete with bus operators in Quebec and Manitoba. Is that a valid concern for us to have? Is there any reason why we can't compete in Ontario with bus operators from Quebec and Manitoba?
Mr Donaldson: Well again, on behalf of the industry, I think we can compete certainly with school bus operators in Quebec. We have a safety record, we have a system in place that is well regarded and well respected. We have good relations with our Quebec school bus operators. We operate into Quebec and they operate across the borders, and there have been no difficulties to my knowledge.
Mr Carroll: School buses, by the very nature of what they're used for, tend to not get used -- utilization is not 100% obviously.
Mr Donaldson: Well, it's 100% during the terms of the contract, if you will. In other words, if you're moving kids to school and home from school, it's 100% utilization in that time period.
Mr Carroll: If you were allowed to use those buses for more things, to compete with some other current operators for more business, would you see them in your industry become more efficient and in actual fact you could lower the cost of school bus transportation, which would inevitably lower the cost of education in our province? Could you see that kind of a result happening?
Mr Thompson: I guess one response I might have to that is that our industry is heavily involved right now with the Ministry of Education and Training in terms of utilizing the vehicle more in a given day. Historically, there was the morning, the noon and the afternoon, whereas now the bus is being -- in some cases, we're quadrupling, close to 200 children in one period of time. The bell times are staggering. To say that they'd be able to become competitive in the charter market, it's hard to say. Right now we're addressing what we can do within the school times, what we can do to better utilize the vehicle for the boards of ed. Charters are sort of what we term as gravy. It's incremental revenue. We're looking at all of that, but right now our biggest focus is on what can we do with the board to make better use of the vehicle.
Mr Colle: I'm a bit puzzled. I hear your response to the question from the honourable member Carroll that the Quebec competition isn't a problem. My understanding of it is if you want to charter a line service and try to get a licence in Quebec, it's almost impossible, yet they can come in here and get licences and operate out of Pearson or all over the place. They're waiting on the other side of Hawkesbury to basically poach. How is it different for the school bus industry? You have no problems in getting a licence and operating and picking up passengers in Quebec? How is it different than -- this is the first time I've ever heard this, that there's no problem with the Quebec situation.
Mr Thompson: I think what Rick was referring to was where we have contracts with boards of education and take excursion trips across Quebec or into another province, those communities that border the province from one to the other, there's interprovincial boundaries, and if it's a school trip my understanding is that that's --
Mr Colle: But have you any licences where you can pick up kids on the other side of the Quebec border?
Mr Donaldson: No. On that point, I'm aware that a number of our contractors do move from Ontario into Quebec, take students into Quebec, but we're solely talking school bus operations, we're not talking line carrier runs. We're talking where a school board has contracted with an operator and those children may move into Quebec for a charter for the day through their school. Some may go to school across the border and then they come back at night. That's the context --
Mr Colle: No, but we're talking about operating let's say a fixed service and picking up regularly on the other side of the border as an Ontario-based business. It's owned by an Ontario company and Ontario operated. They would have no problem operating on the other side on a regular route?
Mr Donaldson: I can't answer that. I'm saying solely for the school bus contract with boards of education, they move into Quebec and they move out of Quebec. That's the contract I'm talking about. I'm not talking about scheduled line runs, I'm talking about our experience moving kids in and out of Quebec.
Mr Colle: Moving but not establishing a business like the Quebec operators. Let me make sure we clarify that, because I think it's certainly inconsistent with the reality of what's happening. As you well know, the line carriers, the charter carriers, are being hammered by the fact that in Quebec they don't allow Ontario businesses to set up their operation on the other side.
There are so many requirements and so many obstacles; whereas, on the other hand, we seem to have no obstacles to them setting and running out of Pearson willy-nilly. I think there are more Quebec operators out at Pearson than Ontario operators. I think it's 50 Quebec licences and six Ontario operators out of Pearson. I just wanted to put that on the record, because I think it's a bit misleading in terms of your sort of particular niche of taking students across to Quebec City and bringing them back, whatever it may be. I'm not sure what it is, but I just wanted to make sure that was clarified.
By the way, I am glad that you are advocating the Provincial Auditor's proposal to really investigate this whole MUSH sector, municipalities, school boards and so forth, where we find out exactly where tax dollars are going and how they're being used in those sectors, and they're more accountable. Certainly, as members of the public accounts committee we're trying our best to ensure that recommendation of the auditor is taken seriously. I think it would be part of levelling the playing field that private entrepreneurs like yourself have at the present time. Sometimes it is a bit of a disadvantage, no doubt.
Mr Donaldson: Thank you.
Mr Len Wood: You're going to have to help me. I'm a little bit confused here. On page 6, you're saying that you're competing against the Ministry of Transportation that is subsidizing municipal bus lines. In my community, and a lot of other communities that I know of around Ontario, the school bus industry is 100% subsidized from the Ministry of Transportation or from municipalities. In my community they collect 60-40. It's all taxpayers' money that is being used to pay for the school buses that are out there, although you sign contracts with the school board.
What is the difference? You're getting 100% subsidized from the taxpayers in the province either through collection of school taxes at the local level or through the Ministry of Education transporting them. Municipal school buses are being subsidized by property taxpayers, the Ministry of Transportation, and they're also being subsidized by paying 50 cents or $1 or whatever. You're saying you want to go out and compete with one group that is being subsidized partially when you are being subsidized 100% by the taxpayers in the province. I just want to get some clarification. I'm confused.
Mr Donaldson: I think, first of all, I take offence; we're not subsidized. We provide a service, and boards buy the service. There's a difference between a subsidy and a contract price. Our contracts are --
Mr Len Wood: It's taxpayers' money in the province.
Mr Donaldson: Yes, it's taxpayers' cost, but it's not a subsidy, and I'd be glad to send you a submission that we made to the Minister of Finance. There's quite a difference between a hidden subsidy and a contracted cost, where the price of the service equals the cost. If everybody were to do that on the municipal sector side, I think you'd save an awful lot of money.
Mr Len Wood: But the point I wanted to make is -- and I know Ms Martel's got a question -- as far as I know, school buses are 100% subsidized by the taxpayers in this province either through property taxes or through transfers from the province, as well as municipal buses are supported three ways: by individual fees, by the municipal tax levels and by transfers from the Ministry of Transportation. You're saying, from what I can gather, during the off months you want to be able to go out and compete with the other ones after being subsidized for eight or 10 months of the year 100% from the province; you want to compete with the private sector.
Mr Donaldson: Well, Mr Wood, if I had half an hour I'd love that half an hour to talk --
Mr Len Wood: I need that clarification because --
Mr Donaldson: I'd be glad to send you a submission we made, which explains it. The Ministry of Education provides grants to school boards to purchase transportation services.
Mr Len Wood: Yes, exactly.
Mr Donaldson: So it's all coming out of the taxpayer. It's a grant, it's not a subsidy. It's a grant.
Mr Len Wood: Same thing.
Mr Donaldson: No, it's not, with due respect.
Mr Len Wood: It's taxpayers' money.
Mr Donaldson: It's taxpayers' money, but there is a difference between a hidden subsidy and a service provided at full cost; and I'd be glad to send you some material which will explain that.
Mr Len Wood: When Mike Harris campaigned he said, "There's only one taxpayer." So the taxpayer's putting money into the Ministry of Transportation, they're putting it into the Ministry of Education and they're feeding it out. They give you 100%, and the other buses they only give 40% or 50%. You're saying, I get 100% for looking after all the school buses, now I'd like to compete with the private sector or compete with the municipalities and take away their business during the time you're not busy. That's the impression I'm getting here.
Mr Donaldson: No, again, the contract is only for transportation to and from during school hours.
Mr Len Wood: Yes, exactly.
Mr Donaldson: So the buses could be used outside of those hours.
Mr Len Wood: Yes, use taxpayers' money, compete in the private sector.
Mr Donaldson: I'd remind you of a statistic that in the last three years there's been a $130-million reduction in the student transportation budget from the province. We've still been an efficient operation.
Ms Martel: I think that --
The Vice-Chair: I'm sorry, the time has expired. I'm sorry you didn't get to share the time there. Thank you very much for coming this afternoon and making your presentation.
PENETANG-MIDLAND COACH LINES LTD
The Vice-Chair: I would ask that Penetang-Midland Coach Lines represented by Brian Dubeau come forward please. Good afternoon, Mr Dubeau. Welcome to our hearing process.
Mr Brian Dubeau: I appreciate the opportunity to appear before the committee on deregulation. I have prepared a portfolio for you, and I'd just like to step you through it. I'm here to answer questions regarding our company's position and where we see the deregulation going in the bus business in the future.
First of all, our company is 129 years in the same family, the same business, in the transportation business, originating in Penetang. Over the years, we have grown to serve various parts of Ontario.
We employ approximately 650 people. The Dubeau family are basically the shareholders of the company, and I'm only one compared to six others. If you look on the front of the brochure, the fellow driving the stagecoach is my uncle Jumbo. He's passed away. The fellow on the right is my father and the fellow looking out the window is my son. He's in the back of the coach.
Our company, PMCL, to be able to sustain in a market today, to be able to branch out and to do different aspects of transportation, our business is made up of different divisions. Our head office is in the town of Midland. Our branch offices are in Toronto, Barrie, Collingwood, Orillia and Elmvale.
The company is made up of charters and tours, primarily operating anywhere in the province of Ontario, anywhere in the dominion of Canada and all points in the United States.
Under municipal transit contracts, our company operates the city of Barrie transit contract, the city of Orillia, the town of Midland and the town of Collingwood. The reason I'm giving you this is because it all fits. You're looking at a mixed operation. To make it fit in this business today, you have to have a mixed bag of goods.
The transit operations are operations that the city own the buses and we operate the contracts for the respective municipalities.
School contracts is another part of our business where we operate school contracts for the following boards as listed, anywhere from Simcoe county right through to Metropolitan Toronto.
Transport Canada contracts Pearson airport, terminals 1, 2 and 3, under Transport Canada.
I've enclosed for you a green document that represents our intercity schedule services. I'd just like to step you through this because our company is primarily a rural Ontario company.
When I say rural Ontario, I look at the fact that the services we operate are vital services. The routes we've taken over in the last few years -- we've expanded our routes, we've gone through the application route, made application to prove public convenience and necessity. That's all we know: proving public convenience and necessity.
The main core of our routes is Toronto, Barrie, Orillia, and I must say before we go any further that the routes we basically are operating are routes that have been disbanded by other operators. I use the Toronto Transit Commission, which operated the routes in conjunction with Gray Coach Lines. While we were operating our own routes down the backroads, we then got into the main corridor route, which I refer to as the Toronto-Barrie-Orillia corridor, which is the main trunk.
Just recently another route we have taken over is a route that was dropped off by the Ontario Northland Transportation. They dropped service into Port Carling and Bala this year and we now operate services into Port Carling-Bala. These are routes that we have built on other people dropping.
The Toronto-Barrie-Midland-Penetang route is another ex-Gray Coach route, again in our backyard. Toronto-Barrie-Collingwood-Owen Sound is another route dropped by another carrier, which was Gray Coach Lines. Toronto-Bolton-Alliston-CFB Borden is another route that was dropped by Gray Coach Lines.
GO Transit put services into the communities of Bolton, Vaughan, Caledon, and then dropped those services. Even while we were competing, they competed against us. They now have dropped those services. GO Transit has also dropped services in the area of Uxbridge. Private operators have gone out and picked up those routes. The routes of Owen Sound over to Southampton-Port Elgin-Kincardine have been dropped by various bus companies over the years over there.
We have put a network together that works. Our network is important to us, and deregulation will hurt our company.
Another part of our business boils down to transportation and tourism. Over the years we have developed a tourism business of cruise boat operations, the PMCL 30,000 Island Boat Cruises at Midland. This cruise boat fits in with our marketing of the province of Ontario. The Miss Midland carries approximately 40,000 passengers in the months of May to October. It fits and is part of our transportation and tourism plan. A new boat we're building for the city of Barrie this year is the Serendipity Princess, which will be a 250-passenger paddle-wheel. Again it fits.
I would like to look at the unfair competition that our company and I think other companies that operate in the province of Ontario have to face. Over the years, as I've mentioned to you, we competed heavily with Gray Coach Lines, which was a subsidized company, and even today we're doing the same thing with Ontario Northland. Contrary to Ontario Northland's opinion, Highway 7 is not the boundary for northern Ontario. Northern Ontario is northern Ontario. Even though they bought the routes from Gray Coach Lines and paid excess dollars to maintain a presence, a connection from Toronto to North Bay and Toronto to Sudbury, today we are sharing the corridor with Ontario Northland between Toronto, Barrie and Orillia, where each company is picking up each other's tickets and so forth.
Should deregulation take place, you will see that competition will control the movement of people. Competition will be that people will not be able to honour each other's tickets and people will be stranded. When we competed with Ontario Northland, they tried to exercise their strength and they failed. Competition doesn't scare us. We'll compete with anybody. But there was a problem on tickets, the freedom of movement where people can take one bus between one point and honour on the next bus where it's another carrier. This company tried to restrict the movement of people. The minister at that time, Ms Martel I believe, took a position to set them straight and I appreciate the effort that she did at that time.
Deregulation hits. You're going to see a restriction of people moving between point A and point B because a company will not honour tickets. There are only so many carriers in the bus business today operating intercity routes.
I look at the GO Transit operations, heavily subsidized operations, again impeding the operations of private carriers. I'm not here to bash government. I'm just here to tell you my thoughts on how to save dollars and where there's contracting out, we as private operators are capable of doing that because we do transit operations.
I use Barrie as my backyard because I know the operations well. I don't go to sleep without looking at schedules. For instance, you have the Ontario Northland operating commuter services between Toronto and Barrie, totally uncalled for. Highway 7 does not dictate northern Ontario. They are losing dollars the way they operate, but you cannot get that through to the government as to how they operate. Look at GO Transit. They operate in competition with Ontario Northland on commuter services between Toronto and Yorkdale, Toronto and Union Station. Again, they compete with themselves.
The point I'm trying to make is that we believe deregulation will hurt our company, will hurt the travelling public. Our feeder routes between Barrie and Midland and the spurs of Barrie, Collingwood, Owen Sound to Kincardine are marginal routes. They carry few people. The aspect of operating a large bus compared to a small bus does not buy. We have operated those small buses before. Your cost of operation is there, and the idea that small bus companies with vans will feed larger bus companies will not happen. You may think it is, you may be told it is, but it will not happen.
The system that is in place in Ontario today is what you have. The carriers that are out there that want to serve the public on point A to point B are in place. Our company was not part of the MICO group, for unknown reasons. Maybe they didn't like the style of operation, maybe they don't like how we do things. Maybe I don't believe in the philosophies of the MICO group, but I do believe in the fact that rural Ontario will be affected. You will see companies like ourselves, companies like the major carriers are going to protect their main-line hauls, the main points, the main cities.
If you look at dormant licences, Greyhound, Voyageur Colonial and Ontario Northland, if they really wanted to go out and serve rural Ontario, they have the opportunity. They have licences today but they've dropped them. They're primarily interested in point A to point B, half-load, full loads or whatever.
I could go on, but I think you may have some questions to ask me and I'm here to serve you the best I can.
Mr Colle: Just quickly, to summarize, Mr Dubeau, you're a free enterpriser. You've been taking over routes that other big companies have got rid off. You've created this network with basically no government help. You've provided the service. I see everything from Loretto to Minesing, Elmvale, Stayner. You're all over the place, and you've done this on your own. You're also concerned about competing with government-subsidized operations like Ontario Northland and GO.
Obviously you are typical of what this government wants: free enterprise, rugged individualism, get out there and do it for yourself. You've done that. Yet you believe that deregulation is really going to hinder you who basically have a proven track record of doing it on your own without government help. Do you want to just quickly restate that to make clear how that's going to hurt you?
Mr Dubeau: What you're going to find is the fact that the cross-subsidy principle, which maybe you've talked about before, the cross-subsidy principle of charters and cross-subsidizing line run services -- the main markets are markets of high populations. People who want to get into the bus business today are not interested in getting in the line run business. They're interested in getting into the charter coach business primarily.
However, you have these people on the fringes outside of Toronto where if the government agencies would open up their doors and let private enterprise share, whether on a contracting basis -- I don't think I've answered your question, because I've always been a poor listener, but I hope I have.
Mr Colle: What I think isn't clear, though --
The Chair (Mr Steve Gilchrist): Mr Colle, our time is up for that rotation. We'll move on to the third party.
Ms Martel: I was interested as I was listening to you talk about the routes that had been dropped by other carriers that were subsidized, which is a bad word some days in this committee, and picked up by you, and how you ran even in competition with some of these groups and picked up those lines, I could see my colleagues across the way saying: "This is exactly the reason why we need to have deregulation. Here it is. Here's a classic example of the people who are going to walk into this market and make things operate and provide service." Then all of a sudden you said, and I quote, "Deregulation will hurt our company."
I need you really to expand on this, because you just blew the air out of all their balloons over there. You're the person they're looking to to say why deregulation is going to work in this province, yet you, as an experienced operator, one who doesn't get a government subsidy, one who has competed against government carriers and has still continued to capture that market, don't want deregulation. Why is that?
Mr Dubeau: Because of the fact that the routes we operate are marginal routes. I look at the spurs from Barrie up to Collingwood-Owen Sound; those routes are marginal routes. We rely on some cross-subsidy, whatever it is. We don't need protection, but there is some cross-subsidy. If we start seeing van pools, if we start seeing small vehicles competing against us in those corridors, what's the first thing we're going to do? We're going to protect our main corridor routes. I'm trying to protect the route system we have put in place.
We'll compete with deregulation if they open it up, but just because you go out and compete doesn't mean you're going to be profitable. We will protect. We are not afraid of deregulation. However, the fact is you may say, "The sitting group over here is the type of guy we want," but I don't believe that. I go back to the fact that the government, operating the services that they do, could very easily open up the markets for the private operations on contracting out. The routes we have are marginal routes. I look at the services we need, some assistance, some assurance, number one. If deregulation goes out, we are going to say to ourselves, do we really need the cross east-west service? But if it does go out, we're prepared.
Mr Joseph N. Tascona (Simcoe Centre): Thank you, Mr Dubeau, for coming down from Penetang to join us today. You said you had picked up routes that had been abandoned by the bigger firms. My question is, if it was profitable for your firm to do that, as a smaller bus line, to take over these routes, why wouldn't it, for firms that are smaller than yourself, be in their interest to pick up smaller abandoned routes that will result as you said?
Mr Dubeau: Good question. If you look at the points that we operate, they're mixed services. We have school bus operations, we have transit operations, we've got package tour operations, we have tourism boat operations all mixing together. You need a mix to get the product sold. If somebody on their own is going to operate a sole bus system, they will not survive. You need a mixed bag of operations to make it work.
Mr Tascona: With respect to the safety issue, certainly the government's role in terms of protecting safety in this industry is not going to change by this bill, but do you think it's better for the government to use its scarce resources to enforce a system of market entry control that is arguably burdensome and onerous on both government and industry?
Mr Dubeau: Market entry control, whether it be from the outside province of Quebec or the United States, they're just licking their chops to get at us. They're licking their chops to get at the Ontario operations' high population centres.
I want to just go on to the safety aspect. Operators today are waiting out there with 23- and 24-year-old vehicles to put them into the market. The buses we're buying today are costing us $475,000. They'll go and buy a used bus, and we are operating under regulations of CVOR and the safety and insurance levels and so forth. Talk about $2,000; $2,000 today is like a ticket between Penetang and Midland when it comes to insurance. You want to put some teeth into insurance, look at somewhere in the $15-million range and see how many people want to get into the business.
There are school boards out there today -- there are contracts that are given out by municipal transit operations where they're saying millions of dollars are up front before you get into it. Some of them are not getting into it because of the fact it's a fly-by-night operation.
You've got to be concerned with regard to safety. It's a big item. One person just two days ago said, "I was waiting for deregulation to come in on April 1 because I went out and bought a bus 23 years old."
Mr Tascona: Arguably, those buses have to be inspected before they get on the road though.
Mr Dubeau: They have to be inspected --
Ms Martel: If you have MTO staff.
Mr Tascona: Ms Martel, you're not answering questions so don't interfere.
The Chair: Mr Tascona, we've used up your time allocation as well.
Thank you, Mr Dubeau. We appreciate your taking the time to come and make a presentation, and particularly I appreciate your rescheduling yourself to accommodate the cancellation we had.
Mr Colle: He's always on schedule.
The Chair: Thank you very much for coming in to see us here today.
Mr Colle: When does that boat leave Midland there, the first one?
Mr Dubeau: It started today, but you've got to look at this new boat we're putting in to Barrie. That's the one that's going to be the eye-catcher, guaranteed. I say to Mr Tascona and all you people from northern Ontario, you go through that direction, so stop in.
UNITED TRANSPORTATION UNION
The Chair: Our next presentation will be from the United Transportation Union, Mr King and Mr Tessier. Good afternoon, gentlemen. Welcome to the committee.
Mr Glenn King: Good afternoon, Mr Gilchrist and members of the standing committee. I'm Glenn King, secretary of the Ontario legislative board, United Transportation Union. With me today is Guilles Tessier, alternate legislative representative, Local 1161, United Transportation Union. We are both presently employed -- and maybe I should put my head down after the previous presentation -- by Ontario Northland Transportation Commission.
On behalf of the United Transportation Union, I would like to thank the resources development committee for the opportunity to provide input on Bill 39, An Act to amend the Ontario Highway Transport Board Act and the Public Vehicles Act.
As secretary of the Ontario legislative board, I've been afforded the opportunity to speak to you today on behalf of the 2,900 rail and bus members we represent in the province of Ontario. Presently we have members operating municipal bus service in Sault Ste Marie, intercity bus service along the Highway 11, 69 and 144 corridors and interprovincial charter services.
I wish to make it quite clear to the standing committee that the United Transportation Union supports many of the initiatives of Bill 39, but we are totally opposed to the government's intention to fully deregulate the bus industry in 1998 or any move to abolish the Ontario Highway Transport Board.
It would be appreciated by our organization if the standing committee would consider our suggestions and amendments as presented today. The UTU wishes to suggest that a purpose clause be considered as an amendment to the OHTB Act in order to enshrine the continuation of service to smaller communities. Ultimately, a purpose clause would set the parameters for the operation of the board. We feel that our amendment should be noted as section 1 of Bill 39, and we suggest that it be worded in the following manner:
"The Ontario Highway Transport Board exists to protect the transportation interests of smaller communities and ensure the greatest level of service possible from commercial use of public highways."
We believe a purpose clause is a clear mission statement that the OHTB is responsible for defending the interests of citizens and smaller communities in this province, ensuring that service is a priority and the travelling public has an opportunity to commute in a comfortable and efficient manner.
If it would suitable, we have in our brief provided a presentation which is along the lines of what the Amalgamated Transit Union has presented today, and with due respect to the Chairman, we'd like to just move on to the end of our presentation. I think you understand our points and what we would like to see amended. We hope that you will consider those recommendations when you do a clause-by-clause review of the bill.
To commence on page 3, fourth paragraph, as we stated above, the United Transportation Union is adamantly opposed to bus deregulation. Mr Palladini has indicated that the Ontario government is committed to eliminating red tape and reducing regulatory burdens in this province. He feels that continued economic regulation of the intercity bus industry represents a barrier to job creation, economic growth and investment in this province.
In a fully deregulated environment, any operator will be allowed to start up a bus service, with safety and proof of insurance being the only criteria for licensing. It is still not confirmed as to who would take over the OHTB's regulatory authority and ensure that provincial safety standards and regulations will be adhered to.
It should be recognized by this committee that the OMCA is clearly divided over the issue of bus deregulation, as you've heard today, and has attempted to lobby the Minister of Transportation. They have suggested legislative changes, but to this point in time there has been no direct change in government direction.
If the bus industry is deregulated, many communities in northeastern Ontario could incur a loss of service. In a deregulated environment, the provision of bus service will be driven by market forces. This move will result in a no-demand, no-service scenario, much like what we've seen in the airline industry and in northern Ontario with the loss of norOntair. Furthermore, there will be no requirement to prove public necessity or convenience. We feel there will be a scooping of Ontario Northland's prime runs by outside carriers, which will increase in a deregulated environment, and further service cuts to northern communities will occur.
If Ontario moves to a fully deregulated environment, the competition for charter business will be intense, and our carriers will be operating at a disadvantage. Carriers that previously had no charter rights in Ontario will have full rights to compete with Ontario's currently regulated carriers, while still enjoying protection in their home jurisdiction. We've seen the results of this in the United States over a 10-year period, from 1982 to 1992. During the Reagan era, 7,000 communities lost their regularly scheduled bus service. We feel that there are upwards of possibly 170 communities in Ontario that could lose their regularly scheduled line services.
Due to the above concerns, the United Transportation Union has made presentations to municipal councils and we have been granted resolutions from the communities of Sault Ste Marie, Timmins and Kirkland Lake. There is one provided from the town of Warren, a community that is west of North Bay by about 50 miles. I just received that this morning and I hope there is a copy for everybody.
As a point of interest for the committee, the town of Warren is most concerned. They are not a regularly scheduled bus stop. They are a flag stop. They have been in contact with Greyhound to look at setting up a depot, and Greyhound has come back to tell them that until the issue of deregulation is solved, there will be no regularly scheduled stop in the town of Warren.
On May 10, 1996, we attended the Federation of Northern Ontario Municipalities conference in North Bay. At FONOM we received a unanimous resolution to oppose intercity bus deregulation, and a copy of that resolution is attached for your information.
On numerous occasions the present government has indicated in the Legislature that bus deregulation is a viable option for Ontario. We request that you listen to the travelling public and municipal leaders. They have been instrumental in supporting this government. Please acknowledge their direction.
The Chair: Thank you very much. You've allowed about four and a quarter minutes per caucus. The questions this time will commence with the third party.
Ms Martel: Let me start with FONOM. Maybe you can just explain to the committee how many municipalities that involves, because that is certainly an important body to have spoken to and have gotten a resolution from.
Mr King: Actually, we ran a display booth at FONOM, the Federation of Northern Ontario Municipalities. There were 160 delegates present from the communities in northern Ontario, and that conference was held in the Best Western at North Bay on the 9th, 10th and 11th last week. It was most interesting. In talking to many of the delegates, they do not have an understanding of what this government is proposing by throwing out a balloon regarding bus deregulation, and they were also concerned at their lack of opportunity to provide input into Bill 39.
Ms Martel: What does bus service mean in northern Ontario? You can appreciate that the northern members who have been on this committee spoke at great length in opposition to bus deregulation. We spoke about it in the context of this bill, because we certainly believe that is exactly where this bill is leading, and the minister has made that point abundantly clear, but we've also tried to point out from the communities that we represent why having adequate, regular, scheduled bus service is terribly important in our part of the province. Given that you work in this industry and you deal with these folks, maybe you can describe it better than we.
Mr King: Certainly. When we lost our -- and I'm talking along the Highway 11 corridor now, and it's much the same in western Ontario with the loss of rail services. The federal government was quite effective in indicating and lobbying that northern communities were overserviced with rail, bus and plane. We're coming down to an issue now where possibly the bus might be the only viable means of transportation for most people in those communities. In northern Ontario we've seen the recent loss of norOntair. There have been contracts go out to try and alleviate that problem, but there are still difficulties in awarding those contracts.
A community much affected is Kirkland Lake, which is north of North Bay by about 130 miles. They've been successful in having an air carrier come in and service their community, being I believe Bearskin, but they're still under the onus that it's ridership and if the demand isn't there, they're not going to have that service. This is a big bus community too. They're most concerned about what's going on here.
Mr Len Wood: Just briefly, I also attended FONOM in North Bay last Thursday and I can vouch for the anxiety that there was no consultation, there were no discussions whatsoever in bringing in Bill 39 and saying, "We know everything and this is what's going to happen," and railroading it through.
Just going back a little bit on norOntair, last Thursday was a good example. When you don't have norOntair service, it costs an additional $500. I could not get out of North Bay going north unless I flew back to Toronto and then from Toronto flew over top of North Bay to get into Timmins and then in turn get in there. So just by what the government has done, it's added an extra burden of $500 or $600 on to the individual. Some of them can't afford it. I'm fortunate that the taxpayers are subsidizing me and my transportation and I'm able to do it.
As far as the question is concerned, do you feel that the next step is that we might lose the bus, the Ontario Northland bus, with deregulation?
Mr King: Our carriers are all concerned about a deregulated environment. There's going to be a lot of competition. If you take communities along the northern Highway 11 corridor, we touch very closely with the province of Quebec. Kirkland Lake is one of them. We have concerns that they'll be coming in out of Quebec and cherry-picking our routes there.
Mr Carroll: Mr King, are you familiar with the Freedom to Move organization?
Mr King: Yes, I am, sir. I work very closely with that coalition.
Mr Carroll: Then obviously you're aware of this list of 170 threatened communities. I'd just like to ask you a couple of questions about that. There's quite a range of places on here, places like Armstrong in the north; the town of Wallaceburg in my riding has got 12,000 or 13,000 people in it; the town of Leamington, 12,000 or 13,000 people; Port Perry, which is basically a suburb of Oshawa -- they probably wouldn't like me to say that. Can you tell me based on what evidence this list was put together?
Mr King: That was a selection of communities based on, from what I understand, looking at schedules, and I would say that some ridership figures were looked at. A lot of those communities, sir, have ridership where we draw four or five passengers out of them. Those are the communities that are in jeopardy here. When you're not running a half-filled motorcoach, you're not going to be making any money at it. That's the concern.
Mr Carroll: So it's just kind of anecdotal evidence that put this list together.
Mr King: Yes.
Mr Carroll: One of the places that's on here is Kirkland Lake. You made reference to Kirkland Lake, and Kirkland Lake has passed a motion; their town council has passed a motion. Yet Mr Walsh, who owns the bus company that services Kirkland Lake, told us quite emphatically that deregulation would have absolutely no effect on his company's ability to service Kirkland Lake.
Mr King: Is that right?
Mr Carroll: What basis do you have to refute the man who is providing the service now? On what basis do you say that, no, that service will be discontinued?
Mr King: I think if we look at what the government is proposing and if I go up there and buy myself a minivan, I'm competing in Mr Walsh's environment, and that's what concerns us. If he's not concerned about deregulation, I would think he should be.
Mr Carroll: Is there any possibility that what we have here on behalf of your organization is an element of fearmongering designed to protect the jobs of the unionized workers?
Mr King: No, sir.
Mr Len Wood: It's fearmongering on the part of the Tory caucus. That's what the fearmongering is.
Mr Carroll: I'm asking him the questions, Mr Wood.
Mr King: No, I don't think it is, sir. I don't know of anybody today who isn't concerned about their job. No job is guaranteed here.
Ms Martel: Especially with this group.
Mr Carroll: On what basis then can you justify circulating this list -- and you've admitted it comes from just anecdotal evidence -- telling people these 170 communities are going to lose their service if we proceed with deregulation, if it's not fearmongering?
Mr King: No. We've said they could lose them. I think if you look at the evidence that has been provided from the communities in the United States, we're very concerned about where the transportation industry is going in Ontario. Being out there with the travelling public, we want to see the people transported around.
Mr Guilles Tessier: I think you also have to realize the number of towns that would be affected that are not on this list. Those have to be taken into account as well.
Mr Carroll: On what basis, though, sir, would you have them on the list?
Mr Tessier: I can tell you right now that between Sudbury and North Bay, for instance, which is the Trans-Canada Highway, the ridership really isn't there. If any company could run non-stop through them, they probably would because it would save them time and money.
Mr Carroll: Would you not agree with me, sir, that the operators who are running the routes are the best judges of whether or not the route will continue to be viable? Do you not agree with that?
Mr Tessier: I personally think, especially in northern Ontario where, like we said, bus service is a crucial service because it's the only means of transportation for seniors and students to get home on weekends, if you read the whole fact sheet, you'll understand our whole point behind Freedom to Move.
Mr Carroll: But this, I submit, is fearmongering designed to protect union jobs.
Mr Tessier: Absolutely not.
Mr Carroll: That's all, Mr Chairman.
Mr Dwight Duncan (Windsor-Walkerville): Would you agree that protecting union jobs in the province is a noble and worthy endeavour?
Mr Tessier: I would think that any job we protect in this province, whether it be union or non-union, is important.
Mr Duncan: Absolutely. Talk to me a bit about the economics of transportation, particularly in the north, and indeed in towns like Wallaceburg and Leamington, which I too am familiar with. My understanding is that a carrier like Mr Walsh, their first objective is profit, and properly so. It's my understanding that a number of these lines, without the regulatory protection, would not be profitable. Would that be your view?
Mr Tessier: Yes, generally through the way licences are awarded, the smaller communities are covered in service agreements for more profitable runs.
Mr Duncan: So that we in effect use the leverage of the profitable runs to ensure that those communities that can't be profitable on their own, like Wallaceburg and Leamington, very important towns in this province -- we use the leverage associated with the more profitable runs to subsidize those towns that would not be profitable on their own.
Mr Tessier: Yes.
Mr Duncan: Would it be your view, given your experience in the industry, that the regulatory climate that has developed over the years, I suppose, has served us well?
Mr Tessier: Yes.
Mr Duncan: Are there other ways of amending the regulatory climate we've talked about that you think could enhance service and profitability, and would you expound on that a bit?
Mr Tessier: I think anything that gives the carrier flexibility to set up a run or drop a run, if we're looking at fees -- when you're looking at setting ticket prices and that, I believe the carriers need that flexibility and to not be running back to a regulatory body to get that approval so they can do it.
Mr Duncan: And your union and others would be prepared to work cooperatively to find those kinds of regulatory changes that would make Ontario more competitive and at the same time protect those vulnerable communities like Wallaceburg that will stand at least some chance of losing their service?
Mr Tessier: Sure. We're willing to work with anybody. We're out there.
The Chair: Mr Tessier, Mr King, thank you very much for taking the time to make a presentation before us here today. We appreciate you coming in.
TRANSPORTATION ACTION NOW
The Chair: Our next group is Transportation Action Now. Good afternoon.
Mr Stephen Little: We have circulated two presentations because ours is basically in two parts, and we will be reading from parts of them, so I urge all the committee members to read the entire submission to capture the full flavour of what we hope to be able to capture concisely right now.
Thanks for the opportunity to be able to present to the resources committee on this very important subject. I bring regrets from the acting executive director, Janice Tait, who unfortunately had a family emergency. My name is Stephen Little and I'm a member of the board of Transportation Action Now. I represent the board members of the organization, a coalition of nearly 100 organizations in Ontario supporting accessible transportation for the over one million Ontarians with disabilities, as well as those ambulatory disabled seniors who cannot drive or have no access to a car.
Our organization has been advocating for accessible transportation since 1985, but there are many of our constituents who have been lobbying for access since the early 1970s. Two of these people, Jean and Lew Blancher, are here with me today. In addition, our legal counsel, David Baker, will speak to you about the situation with respect to the federal regulation on accessibility on intercity buses.
Jean and Lew Blancher complained to the Ontario Highway Transport Board in 1974 that they were refused passage on an intercity bus because they were unable to board independently. Their lawyer argued before the OHTB that bus companies had an obligation to carry people who paid for a ticket and were not drunk or disorderly under section 15 of the Public Vehicles Act. The board agreed with this argument and asked bus companies as a condition of licensing to make provisions for the carriage of people with disabilities. That order has never been carried out.
From our point of view, the two levels of government, federal and provincial, are playing a game of hot potato where each side is trying to pass off responsibility to the other for the issue of accessibility. The Advisory Committee on Accessible Transportation, which advises the federal Minister of Transport, met recently with the bus industry to try and work out some form of voluntary standards, but there has been no progress. So we have the situation in Ontario where Greyhound and Trentway-Wagar are making some effort to provide access, while Voyageur, PMCL and GO Transit, the bus part, do nothing.
With deregulation, we anticipate a situation where many people with disabilities or those without a car in smaller towns and cities in Ontario will have no option at all to travel outside their community. Leaving accessibility to the private sector will not work, as we have seen by the reluctant performance of some members of the bus industry to date.
Prior to his election as Premier, Mike Harris stated in response to a written question from our organization that, "A Harris government would work to ensure that all new intercity buses purchased in Ontario are fully accessible."
My questions to this committee today are: Does the Mike Harris government support the integration of people with disabilities into the mainstream of Canadian life? If so, as part of that commitment, will you ensure that barrier reduction in bus transportation services for persons with disabilities will occur? How can you ensure this will happen except by regulation, not by deregulation? If the Harris government does support barrier-free bus transportation, will the minister affirm in Bill 39 that the Ontario government will ensure that persons with disabilities are accommodated?
If the government is interested in economic growth and investment, excluding a large number of people from this form of transportation seems to run contrary to that commitment. Many people in Ontario need accessible intercity bus services to get to school, employment, hospital and medical appointments as well as social and familial activities. All of these activities promote growth and enhance the quality of life for the citizens of this province.
The future of intercity buses in Ontario has now become a lottery. Accessible service is even more problematic. If you need accessible transportation, you are in double jeopardy with this new legislation.
Through this committee, we urge the Minister of Transportation to (1) commit his government to the principles of integration into the mainstream of Canadian life for people with disabilities in this legislation by incorporating the federal access clause, section 63, into the amended Public Vehicles Act; and (2) provide the interim system with the regulatory power to fulfil the commitment made by Mike Harris to purchase only accessible intercity buses.
I'll now give David Baker an opportunity to explain to you how this matter was addressed at the federal level.
Mr David Baker: In 1985, when the federal government proposed deregulating modes of transportation under federal jurisdiction, it was agreed that the government would continue to regulate safety, as the current Ontario minister proposes doing, through the process of deregulation with respect to the intercity bus industry. But the federal government also felt it was essential to continue to regulate accessibility of federal modes of transportation.
At the present time, the intercity bus industry in Ontario is the only mode of transportation where there is no provision and no authority to provide accessibility standards for persons with disabilities. It's the only mode that is in that situation.
In 1987, the federal government introduced specific legislation -- we have the sections at pages 3, 4 and 5 of the supplementary submission -- and we have reviewed them carefully. With very minor changes, these sections could be inserted into the Public Vehicles Act of Ontario. In other words, the wording need not change, assuming the government is persuaded, as the federal Conservative government was in 1987, that there was, notwithstanding the desire to deregulate, a need to continue to regulate both safety and accessibility.
The response to this issue at the federal level is as follows: When Ontario changed its position in 1993 and indicated that it would be supportive of there being national standards with respect to the intercity bus industry, an effort was made to develop a national standard. That consensus has disappeared as a consequence of the election in Quebec. There is no agreement from Quebec to a national anything, least of all a standard in this area. However, what we are proposing would permit the adoption of any national standard if it were established.
The proposal in 1993 was that there be a national standard but that it be implemented under Ontario legislation. As a consequence of the Blancher case and other cases in which we've been involved involving the Greyhound takeover of Gray Coach and so on, it is clear that under the current legislation if there were a national standard it could not be enforced in Ontario; it could be in other provinces, but it could not be enforced in Ontario without this proposal.
We are submitting to you that if the promise of the Premier is to be kept and if the very important element of accessibility is to have any protection at all, legislation such as that which we are proposing should be adopted now into the Public Vehicles Act.
The Chair: Thank you, Mr Baker. That's the end of your submission, so I appreciate that.
Mr Carl DeFaria (Mississauga East): My question is to Mr Baker. I was reviewing your research, and in your research you seem to indicate that the issue of accessibility is with the federal government and it has been delegated to a board in Ontario. As far as intercity transportation is concerned, it was delegated to the Ontario Highway Transport Board. Is that correct?
Mr Baker: No. Perhaps I should apologize if that was how you read what I was saying. The federal government, in the 1960s, delegated authority for buses that go over provincial boundaries. So a bus from Toronto to Quebec is a matter of federal jurisdiction. Because a bus from Toronto to Kingston would be provincial, it was felt it should all be in the hands of the provinces, and the federal government got out of the business.
There was a feeling that it would be useful to have a national standard. There was preliminary agreement to a standard. This would not be regulated; it would simply be by agreement of a federal-provincial-territorial committee. But it would require that there be an amendment such as the one we're proposing here to enforce a national standard if one were ever to emerge.
Unfortunately, what's happened since 1993 is that there's a change in the federal government and also a change in the Quebec government. There is no longer a consensus for a national standard and each province is left to go its own way.
Mr DeFaria: Right, but my question is that the delegation was to the Ontario Highway Transport Board, not to the province of Ontario, because as you know, in constitutional law the federal government could not delegate to the province; it can delegate to a provincial board but not to the province, under the BNA Act and case law.
Mr Baker: I'd have to do some research.
Mr DeFaria: The problem I have with your request for some legislation from Ontario is that it may not be possible under constitutional law.
Mr Baker: The problem I have with that, sir, is that that's exactly what was proposed in 1993 by the federal-provincial-territorial agreement. With all due respect, I assume that if there was that kind of an agreement, certainly it could be done. There is nothing preventing the province from developing its own standard. You may be right, maybe there can't be a national standard, but there certainly can be a provincial standard within the province, which is exclusively within provincial jurisdiction. I would submit to you that that's really no answer to the point I've made.
Mr DeFaria: What I'm talking about is that once the federal government delegates power to a board, the federal government can legislate on accessibility and other things and provide those directions with the delegation. You can't expect the province, which does not have the power under the BNA Act on intercity busing, to create laws that it doesn't have the power to do.
Mr Baker: The province has exclusive jurisdiction over intercity busing within the province. The difficulty I have with what you're saying is that there is nothing preventing the province from establishing standards; that's what we're asking that the province do until such time as there is agreement. There was never any intention of federal legislation. The intention was that there would be a national standard which all the provinces and territories and the federal government agreed to so there'd be a uniform standard. There would be nothing preventing the Ontario government from taking what was proposed and agreed to in 1993 and saying that that's the Ontario standard and hoping that everybody else would adopt the same standard so there would be a uniform standard even without a national agreement, which there couldn't be without Quebec.
Mr Colle: I guess it's no different than when the past NDP government mandated that all new inner-city buses, any new ones, be accessible. They took that action in 1992 or whatever it was. There's precedent for doing that. In essence, I guess you're asking this government to take Mike Harris at his word. He said he would do it, and there is the obvious indication from the Premier that he supports this. This would enable people with disabilities to access buses that go from cities to towns across Ontario. In terms of the federal statute, how specific is it in terms of accessibility on these buses?
Mr Baker: There's no federal statute that deals with accessibility of buses. I'm sorry if I've confused people on this point. There was simply a standard, which means an agreement reached between the federal, provincial and territorial governments, based on some work done by the National Transportation Agency. That standard is not now a national standard, because Quebec is not prepared even to come to the table to discuss it, let alone sign anything.
We have the work all done. There was basically agreement -- Ontario bought in in 1993 -- that could not be implemented without a change such as the one we're proposing to the Public Vehicles Act. That would have had to happen in any event, even if Quebec had agreed. The point is that the standard is known. Everybody knows what's required. All that need be done is that there be a mechanism for enforcing the standard, which there is not at the present time. We would ask that there be a standard.
Mr Colle: You're asking really for the mechanism to be incorporated in an amendment to the Public Vehicles Act, which is strictly under provincial jurisdiction, which we have before us today. That's being amended.
Mr Baker: Absolutely.
Mr Colle: You're asking for a very simple amendment that would allow for an accessibility mechanism to be incorporated in the amendments to Bill 39.
Mr Baker: Which is exactly what the federal Conservative government did in 1987 when it deregulated air.
Mr Colle: Right now in Bill 39 or the proposed amendments there is no reference to doing that. You're saying that is an omission and that should be included in the amendments.
Mr Baker: That's right.
Mr Colle: On a point of order on that, Mr Chair: What is the mechanism here in terms of making amendments?
The Chair: They must be presented in writing to be considered by the committee.
Mr Colle: They must be presented in writing. Is this adequate in terms of being presented in writing?
The Chair: No. It would have to be couched in the form of a motion.
Mr Colle: Those motions can be presented -- I know we're going through clause-by-clause --
The Chair: At any point prior to reaching the relevant clause.
Mr Colle: I'd like to move that this amendment be brought forward as on page 8, that "The mechanism selected by the federal government (ie, sections 63.1, 63.3 and 63.4 of the National Transportation Act)" --
The Chair: Mr Colle, if I can stop you, we're not in clause-by-clause yet. There's no mechanism to accept a motion per se during a submission. If you want to do that at such time as we're in clause-by-clause, it would be in order at that time.
Mr Colle: I can present that at that time. That's all I was really asking.
Ms Martel: Maybe we can ask legislative counsel if they might consider that we're going to do that and take some time to look at it. I think the reference you had is actually found on page 3. Was that the text of the federal legislation?
Mr Baker: That's correct, and Mr Colle was referring to the section numbers at page 8.
Ms Martel: I think you will get some support from the two opposition parties in terms of moving that amendment, and certainly we hope the government members would see fit to move that as an amendment, given that we are dealing with the Public Vehicles Act today and changes to it, and given that their Premier made a very specific commitment to this. I hope they would not want to see themselves not supporting a commitment the Premier made, especially during an election campaign. It could be very important.
Mr Len Wood: Yes, or a by-election --
Ms Martel: We just might, given the Premier also said he would resign if he didn't keep his promise on May 10. We'll see what the outcome will be.
Let me go back to your concerns around regulation, because I think they're very serious ones and they're ones the committee, regardless of our partisanship, should probably consider. We have a position today where the very good folks you brought with you many years ago raised this problem with the Highway Transport Board. There were supposed to be some changes to allow for accessibility, and yet, even in a regulated environment where we have a board that can provide some direction, where we have some legal means to force people to provide that direction and to comply with that direction, we've seen that some of the bigger bus companies have no intention whatsoever of complying. Really, your concern is that if you allow smaller companies in, certainly people who are looking at operating minivans, without any kind of protection, you're not going to see accessibility for a long time in many parts of this province.
Mr Little: The issue seems to have escaped resolution simply because there was this dispute as to who actually had jurisdiction over it. With our proposals anchoring it firmly in the Ontario provincial jurisdiction, we would hope there would be no more avoiding any resolutions. If you deregulate and do not have any aspect addressing accessibility -- because one recognizes that there is certainly the intent to continue regulating the safety, why not address the issue of accessibility in the same way? If we want to firmly anchor it in the provincial jurisdiction, that way it will get done and it will be enforceable.
Ms Martel: Your position is that if the minister obviously, by his statements in the House, sees that the province and in essence his ministry still have a role to enforce safety, this would be a very significant and very important addition to the role he already plays, not only guaranteeing safety but guaranteeing accessibility, and as a minister of the crown, he can do that and he should do that?
Mr Little: Correct.
Mr Lew Blancher: Not only our safety but the drivers' safety.
Ms Martel: Yes, not only your safety but the drivers' safety as well. Absolutely. Thank you very much for coming here today and taking the time to do so.
The Chair: Yes, thank you all, Mr Little, Mr Baker and the Blanchers. We appreciate your taking the time to come and visit with us today and to make these presentations. We appreciate your comments.
That being the last presentation to be made before us today, we now will move into clause-by-clause consideration of the bill. The clerk will be distributed an assorted packet of amendments already presented by the two opposition parties.
Legal counsel has asked for a minute or two. She wants to be involved while we debate the sections, plus she's just getting some guidance from Mr Colle.
I call the room back to order and commence with our clause-by-clause consideration. Based on what I've received so far, seeing no amendments proposed for subsections 1(1) and (2), are there any comments, questions or amendments on those two subsections?
Ms Martel: I want to add a point in there but it wasn't subsection (1) or (2), it was (3). Do you want me to do that now?
The Chair: I was going to deal with that as the next step.
Ms Martel: Okay, I'll wait.
The Chair: If there are none, I'll put the question. Shall the motion carry?
We will deal with your amendment first, sorry.
Ms Martel: That's okay. I just wondered too if you were going to vote on the whole question.
The Chair: Just doing this job once every three months on different bills, you get rusty.
Ms Martel: I move that section 1 of the bill be amended by adding the following subsection:
"(3) Section 2 of the act is amended by adding the following subsection:
"Purpose of board
"(4) The purpose of the board is to protect the transportation interests of smaller communities and to ensure the greatest level of service possible from the commercial use of public highways."
As a brief explanation, you heard a number of the groups that came forward, particularly from the union side, suggest that we should have an actual purpose clause that would outline that the role and responsibility also of the board is to ensure that we are providing service to smaller communities, given that those carriers are using public highways.
We didn't put it into a purpose clause, but we are requesting that it be inserted now as part of the purpose of the board, which is to the greatest level possible make sure that small communities still continue to have some service in this province.
Mr Ouellette: The introduction of such a purpose clause is not necessary because the government's direction to the board is already provided for through the policy statement issued to the board. Currently, the board operates in deciding on licence applications on the basis of a policy statement which sets out the form elements to be considered in determining public necessity and convenience. It does not make sense to add a vague statement of intent at this point, given the temporary nature of the interim regulatory system.
In any event, the board will continue to be fully accountable to the Minister of Transportation and would not be allowed to stray from the government's policy directions. For that reason, we will be opposing the amendment.
Ms Martel: On a point of clarification, I'm assuming it is the government's intention to bring in a second bill before January 1, 1999, which would permit full deregulation. Is that correct?
Mr Ouellette: The House leaders discussed this and are aware of the situation.
Ms Martel: I'm not sure I have an answer to my question, and I will tell you why I'm raising it here. If we're not going to see another bill that moves us to full bus deregulation and in fact we will just have a phasing in of bus deregulation in time for 1998, you will not have any other mechanism to put in a clause that outlines the importance of providing bus transportation to small communities.
I heard you say that right now you've got an interim board with policies and procedures that can take direction from the minister etc. I'm assuming that with full deregulation, we probably won't have a board. I'm not clear what the mechanism will be around enforcing safety. I'm assuming that's going to come through the ministry, and I worry then that any kind of statement of principle around how important I think all of us see bus services to be will have nowhere to be put as a statement of policy, principle or anything else.
That's why I'm asking the question about whether or not we're actually going to see a bill on bus deregulation, because then it could be put there.
Mr Ouellette: The intention is so.
Mr Colle: Just briefly, I don't see the harm in essentially putting in a general intention of protecting transportation interests for small communities -- I think that's the intention of the government -- and to ensure the greatest level of service possible from commercial use of the highways. It certainly doesn't contradict in any way, shape or form the policy statements of the government, and I don't see any drawback in putting it in there, except it does make a commitment to provide a high level of service.
The Chair: Any further comments? Seeing none, I'll put the question. Shall Ms Martel's motion carry? All those in favour, raise your hands? Those opposed?
I deem the amendment to fail.
Are there any further amendments to section 1? Seeing none, I'll put the question. Shall section 1 carry? All those in favour? Those opposed?
Section 1 carries.
Are there any amendments to section 2 or any comments or questions? Seeing none, I'll put that question. All those in favour of section 2, raise your hands? Contrary?
Section 2 carries.
I see there is at least one amendment to section 3. Mr Colle, are you going to speak to that?
Mr Colle: The intent here is to ensure -- I think it was one of the deputants put forth a concern about the problem we may have with limited access to the board if it only sat on a part-time basis, and I think this is trying to make it possible for the board to extend the sitting days to more than the three days. I think that was brought up by Mr Hugh Morris. He thought that would facilitate dealing with matters in a more --
The Chair: Mr Colle, forgive me, but to make the motion, we actually have to have it presented orally. If you could read the motion.
Mr Colle: I move that section 3 of the bill be struck out and the following substituted:
"3. Sections 7, 9 and 10 of the act are repealed and the following substituted:
"Member designated to act for chair
"7(1) The chair may designate another member of the board to act as chair in his or her absence.
"(2) If the chair cannot act and has not designated another member to act as chair, or if the office of chair is vacant, the minister may designate a member of the board to act as chair.
"(3) A member designated under subsection (1) or (2) may act as and has all the powers of the chair.
"9. The board may engage and employ such persons as are necessary to carry out the board's functions."
Again, the basic intention here is just to try and ensure the board has the capacity to meet on a full-time basis when it seems fit that it has to, to meet the demands placed before it.
Mr Ouellette: This motion would remove provision for a part-time board which is needed to reduce the cost of the board and make it flexible to meet the demands which we anticipate to reduce as the deregulation date approaches.
Section 8 of the OHTBA also has a provision against conflict of interest which is presently in the act.
For those reasons, we would oppose this.
Mr Colle: I just think that matters are going to be quite complex in some cases, and you may need to give that board the flexibility to deal comprehensively with issues. I was just trying to facilitate that. In the long run, it may save you money by dealing with something thoroughly and save the applicants some time and energy too.
The Chair: Any further comments? Seeing none, I'll put the question. Shall the motion carry? All those in favour? Those opposed? I deem the motion to fail.
Any further amendments to section 3? Seeing none, I'll put the question. Shall section 3 carry? All those in favour? Contrary?
Section 3 carries.
Seeing no amendments proposed for sections 4 or 5, I'll ask if there are any comments, questions or amendments for those sections. Seeing none, I'll put the question. All those in favour that sections 4 and 5 carry? Contrary?
Sections 4 and 5 carry.
Section 6: I see two questions. We'll start with yours, Ms Martel.
Ms Martel: I move that section 6 of the bill be struck out and the following substituted:
"6. Sections 16, 17, 18, 19 and 20 of the act are repealed and the following substituted:
"Power to review
"16. The board may rehear any application and may review, amend or revoke its decisions, orders, directions, certificates or approvals and may within its jurisdiction review, amend or revoke any decision, certificate or approval made before October 17, 1955, by the Ontario Municipal Board under the Public Vehicles Act or the Public Commercial Vehicles Act, being chapters 322 and 304, respectively, of the Revised Statutes of Ontario, 1980, if, upon application by any person, a majority of the members of the board is of the opinion that,
"(a) there is cause to doubt the accuracy, conclusiveness, authenticity or like property of any evidence received and relied upon at a previous hearing;
"(b) there has been an error in the administration of this act or the Public Vehicles Act; or
"(c) a rehearing would otherwise serve the purpose of the board as set out in subsection 2(4), as amended."
So that members understand what we are trying to do, this refers to the power of the board to rehear a hearing or any other application. You will know that under the changes the government's proposing at this time, that provision would be eliminated from the bill. I think we heard a number of people make a deputation to say that the board should still have some ability to rehear cases, because from time to time, while we don't like to know that it is so, information might have come before the board that was not accurate and people made a decision based on that information. Or secondly, there may be an error in judgement or an error in law that is only caught afterwards. Right now, as I understand it, the position the government is taking would not allow for a rehearing, and I think we are requesting that some specific provision be put back in to allow that to be so.
Mr Ouellette: The right to a rehearing would not likely benefit a carrier but would only delay the inevitable outcome. Unless the original decision was blatantly unfounded, it would be unlikely that the decision would be set aside as a result of the rehearing. If the original decision was blatantly unfounded, then it was probably also in violation of natural justice or jurisdiction and could be jurisdictionally reviewed under the Judicial Review Procedure Act and under the Statutory Powers Procedure Act. A delay would be undesirable and sanctioning, because there is a stay of a stopover pending appeal by virtue of the Statutory Powers Procedure Act.
There is an additional cost associated with a rehearing which would be onerous on the applicant, who in a user-pay system would be forced to invest more money to reach a decision, including greater legal fees.
Also, the industry has spoken with a single voice on this issue that the rehearing provision is not needed and that all unnecessary appeal mechanisms would compromise the effectiveness of the interim regulatory system.
For those reasons, we would oppose the motion presented.
Ms Martel: I would like some clarification from counsel or ministry staff who are here, because it's also my understanding that in fact the Statutory Powers Procedure Act is affected and an appeal under that act would also be compromised by the amendments the government is moving forward with. So I want some clarification, because it doesn't seem to me that is a route that will be open after the bill is passed.
Secondly, from what I heard the member say, there is an assumption that always all of the evidence purported by an operator will be correct and anyone intervening will do so for a frivolous or vexatious matter. I don't think that is the case. There are probably some circumstances, albeit we hope there aren't many, where perhaps the information put forward by an operator was in fact incorrect. So you have others who lose service or don't get a chance to operate as a consequence.
Clearly there can be some mechanism arranged by the board to be sure they don't deal with frivolous and vexatious matters, that they truly only have a rehearing in the case where obviously there has been some judgement in error, in law or some obviously false information that was provided. In those situations, there has to be some other mechanism of appeal.
Mr Ouellette: When there is an error in law, there is the ability for the courts to review the decision in any event. There are small, minor problems such as name changes and things like that that allow for a review by the courts.
Ms Martel: I'd still like an answer to the question as to whether or not what the government is doing also changes people's ability to continue to appeal using the Statutory Powers Procedure Act. It was my intention that it was. If that's not the case, then I'd like to be corrected on that, but that is part of the reason why I'm moving forward this amendment.
The Chair: Mr Ouellette, you can delegate the answer if you prefer.
Mr Murray Forbes: My name is Murray Forbes. I'm a lawyer with the Ministry of Transportation. My understanding is that if there's a denial of natural justice or a jurisdictional error, an application could be brought for judicial review before Divisional Court. This would give protection in cases of blatant refusal, for instance, to take jurisdiction or where one side was not given an opportunity to know what the case was to meet, or something like that.
Ms Martel: So it is not correct to say that people then can still continue to try and find natural justice through the Statutory Powers Procedure Act. That's not an option that's left open to them now.
Mr Forbes: Well, the application would be brought under the Judicial Review Procedure Act and the Statutory Powers Procedure Act to a High Court to review the decision made by the board, if there has been a denial of natural justice by the board.
Ms Martel: So people's option is to go through court then, which would probably be fairly expensive.
Mr Colle: Certainly, one of the worrisome aspects about the bill is that the traditional appeals to cabinet are removed and appeals to Divisional Court are removed. I think we're going to be in most cases dealing with a one-person board whose decisions are final, and if it happens there's an error -- because some of these matters are very technical. For the ordinary person, a small operator, before the board, there is no recourse. They can make an appeal to I don't know what level of court, but that is going to be even more expensive than making an appeal before the Divisional Court. Because going on the basis of negation of natural justice is quite a complex matter before a court, and I really wonder how many small operators will be able to undertake that appeal.
It's really making it almost impossible for someone to question the decision of this one-person tribunal, and I don't think that is really going to treat people fairly, especially, again, if you have a small matter that may be a technical error. There's got to be a way of at least presenting that and going to I don't know what level of court -- maybe the solicitor would know that -- where you would make that appeal. Would you go to a Supreme Court, the provincial court?
Interjection: Divisional Court.
Mr Colle: But you can't go to Divisional Court, because they've said you can't.
The Chair: Mr Forbes, can you clarify that?
Mr Forbes: If there was a technical error, if there was a typographical error or something of that nature, there is power to go back to the board to have it corrected. That's right in the Statutory Powers Procedure Act. That's not actually an appeal, that is just an ability for the board to correct technical-type errors.
Mr Colle: No, but I'm talking about the fact -- let's say the board didn't take into consideration that there was a certain costing related to this one route and that was certainly misrepresented or it was misunderstood that the dollar amount and the impact of that on the decision was going to give undue financial hardship to that company, for instance. That's not technical, that's something that maybe somebody -- people can make mistakes. This one-person tribunal can make a mistake.
Mr Forbes: There would be no right of appeal on an error of law or fact. There would only be a right to review in the case of want of jurisdiction or --
Mr Colle: So if there was a gross error made by the person making the decision on that tribunal, on the board or agency, whatever it is, there is no way you could appeal it then.
Mr Forbes: Unless the gross error went to the root of the jurisdiction or the gross error resulted in a denial of natural justice.
Mr Colle: So where would you go then?
Mr Forbes: Then you would go to Divisional Court for a review of the board's decision.
Mr Colle: But doesn't that contradict? I'm just looking at the preamble, the explanatory notes. It says, "Appeals to Divisional Court...are no longer available." Isn't that a contradiction?
Mr Forbes: No --
Mr Colle: So in other words, you can still go to the Divisional Court?
Mr Forbes: Yes, you bring an application for judicial review. It would not be an appeal of the decision. You'd ask the superior court to review the decision of the board for denial of natural justice, or a jurisdictional error. You wouldn't appeal on the legal questions or the factual question. You would ask the court to review whether the tribunal had jurisdiction to make the decision it made, or whether the people who appeared before the tribunal had been treated fairly, basically.
The Chair: Thank you, Mr Forbes. Mr Colle, any further questions?
Mr Colle: No, that's fine.
The Chair: Any further questions? Comments? Seeing none, I'll put the question.
All those in favour that the motion carry? Those opposed? I deem the motion to fail.
Mr Colle, your motion is next.
Mr Colle: Yes, I'm just trying to keep track here. The next motion deals with the -- if I could check with our legal counsel. This is the same section. I think what I was asking for there, if I'm not mistaken, is the right to present a motion. I just want to make sure I've got the right one here.
I move that section 6 of the bill be struck out and the following substituted:
"6. Sections 17, 18, 19 and 20 of the act are repealed."
What I am just trying to accomplish here is that the appeal mechanism --
The Chair: We've seen this before. Could you just re-read the last two words?
Mr Colle: Okay: "are repealed."
The Chair: Nope. Oh, I beg your pardon. So our copy is correct?
Mr Colle: Yes, "are repealed." What I'm trying to achieve here is that there be an appeal mechanism left in the act. That's the objective of this motion before you, just in terms of trying to allow people to at least have recourse for an appeal.
Mr Ouellette: For the same reasons that we opposed the NDP motion, we will be opposing this motion. It should also be noted that in the courts you can recoup your costs as well.
Mr Colle: Just one second. You can recoup the costs depending on what the judge's ruling is. Let's be clear on that. A lot of people have been prohibited from making that appeal because they may have court costs awarded. So it's not an automatic recouping of costs. That's why I think it's a bit of a concern for people.
The Chair: Any further comments? Seeing none, I'll put the question. Shall the motion carry? All those in favour? Opposed? I deem the motion to fail.
Shall section 6 carry? All those in favour? Opposed? Section 6 is carried.
Section 7. The first motion up will be Ms Martel's.
Ms Martel: I move that subsection 22(3) of the Ontario Highway Transport Board Act, as set out in subsection 7(1) of the bill, be struck out and the following substituted:
"Public and oral hearings
"(3) Despite subsection (1), all hearings of the board shall be open to the public and, if any party to a hearing requests an oral hearing, the hearing shall be an oral hearing."
What we are suggesting in this section, and some of the presenters made reference to it as well, is that there are some real advantages to having a hearing that is open to the public because it involves the public interest, bus service, commercial use of public highways, but secondly that we believe it makes a lot of sense to have an oral hearing, not just in the case if all the parties agree.
We heard some presenters say today that in most cases hearings last all of a day and a half, that what it does when you have an oral hearing is allow people to be cross-examined by the board, but also if there are petitioners or intervenors or objectors, they as well have the opportunity to cross-examine witnesses. In that way, you might have much more information that comes to the fore than you would just through a written appeal.
We don't see that an oral hearing would lengthen the time of a hearing before the board. I think, in fact, it would probably reduce some of the time because of the allowance for cross-examination by the parties involved. I certainly think it would be a much more public process, which I think it should be given that what we are talking about is a service for the public on transportation corridors that are in essence owned and maintained by the public as well.
Mr Ouellette: The industry wanted to keep the costs down, and a significant part of the industry wanted written hearings. Unless credibility is directly at issue, natural justice should be met by written hearings. Cost savings would include costs of hearings, a hearing room and services, which is transcripts, costs of calling witnesses, increased legal fees etc. Also, scheduling would not be a problem, so that the decision is more likely to be reached quickly. Written hearings are public hearings, just as are oral hearings.
Our view is that the bill has been drafted to achieve flexibility and the balance between the use of oral hearings and the use of written submissions. In fact, the board's consideration of enforcement and penalties will rely on oral hearings unless all parties agree to written submissions. In the case of applications, oral hearings are possible where all parties agree to an oral hearing or where one party requests an oral proceeding and the board agrees.
For those reasons, we'll be opposing.
Ms Martel: I just don't understand what the huge cost is here, and I guess I disagree that a written hearing is a public hearing when you have no opportunity to cross-examine either from members of the board or from intervenors. I don't know how that gives people any more access to getting all the information.
It might be that the industry recommended this happen. I suspect there are a lot of people who would like to intervene who will not have an opportunity to because all of the parties won't agree. If you've got the public that's coming in and is saying that someone should not be allowed to discontinue a route because it's going to affect their community, it's not going be in the bus operator's interest to have an oral hearing. He'll want it written; he'll want it done with the least amount of intervention.
Given that we're talking about the use of something that the public maintains, which is our highways, people should have the broadest opportunity to participate, and I don't see how they do that in a written form.
Mr Ouellette: Over 400 communities currently lost their service and there were no hearings available for them. The process obviously isn't working. We feel that what we've presented here is fair and balanced.
The Chair: Any further comments? Seeing none, I'll put the question. All those in favour of the motion? Opposed? I deem the motion to fail.
The next motion is yours as well, Ms Martel.
Ms Martel: I move that subsection 22(4) of the Ontario Highway Transport Board Act, as set out in subsection 7(1) of the bill, be amended by striking out "and" at the end of clause (a), by adding "and" at the end of clause (b) and by adding the following clause:
"(c) any person who advises the board, in accordance with subsection (5), that the person wishes to make a presentation in the proceeding."
Both this amendment and the one that comes directly after it refer to who is a party at a hearing. We heard some deputations being made about, how do you determine that? Is it only an operator? Should it only be an operator when, in the case of a community, for example, that community that is very reliant on bus service because it has a lot of seniors and a lot of students ends up losing that?
What we're trying to do is find a mechanism so that the issue of who is a party can be a broader one and does not only include an operator who might just be the same operator who is pulling service out of a community who would like to make a presentation and be party to that proceeding.
Mr Ouellette: For the same reasons of the Liberal motion under subsection 14(1), we'll be opposing this. That is, the reasons for limiting parties to those who are economically affected is that the user-pay board is more of a civil process than a regulatory process. There is a need to screen out frivolous representations before the board. Requiring parties to have an economic interest should screen out those frivolous appearances. Any party who wants to become involved in a board proceeding can make their case at the board that they have an economic interest. This flexibility exists in the bill as drafted. If local communities can demonstrate to the board that they have an economic interest in the outcome, then the current wording does not preclude them from being parties.
Ms Martel: I think it's going to be pretty hard for a community to demonstrate an economic interest. It's going to be hard for them to put a dollar value on a service lost to either seniors or students or other people who depend on public transportation in their community. I don't think we can expect them to try and work out that kind of valuation. The people who want to intervene also have a social interest, not just an economic interest. It's how they ensure the people in their community, depending on where they live, especially in rural and northern Ontario, still are in a position to get some service, and when that gets cut off, they can at least appeal somewhere.
These folks are not nominally affected, I can assure you, given that there are communities in my riding that have lost bus service. They are very much affected. For the life of me, you can -- in the next amendment it's quite clear -- allow the board to develop those criteria upon which they would determine in advance which are frivolous and vexatious interventions and not allow them. But to say that a community, for example, would have to prove some economic interest before it could participate, I think you're clearly writing into the law now all of those reasons why communities are not going to be able to intervene, because they're not going to be able to put an economic value or a monetary value on that kind of loss.
Mr Ouellette: The former government did not take this position when there were 400 communities being lost. We've had presentations from organizations which are willing to take over and support the northern communities. So we fail to see how they feel all of a sudden that because this is the legislation that's coming forward, this is what the impact is going to be. We don't believe what you're presenting is in fact the actual case that will be presented.
Ms Martel: Whether or not we did it is not the issue. You're the government now; you've got the legislation before you. We're in the process of moving clause-by-clause. Our government never considered bus deregulation, which is what this is leading to. What we're trying to do is at least find a mechanism to allow parties in the next 18 months, some of whom, I suspect, are going to lose service, to have some say, to have some intervention.
Mr Ouellette: Under the current regulations, they have the opportunity, as the 400 communities have already lost their service, to remove their service, as was presented today, that Warren had lost services there under the current legislation.
Ms Martel: Warren just lost their service.
Mr Ouellette: That's what I just said.
Ms Martel: Because of what's happening right now.
Mr Ouellette: No, not necessarily. It's because they have the ability to do so. That's what the problem is. We are opening the doors to allow other communities or other entrepreneurs the opportunity to move into those locations, as was presented by numerous groups.
Mr Len Wood: I listened to the argument from Mr Ouellette saying why he wouldn't support this. He's using the argument that 400 other communities lost their service over a number of years so we should put a number of other communities at risk, and even a person's own grandmother or something. How do you put an economic dollar figure on a grandmother who is in a small community that has bus service now who wants to be able to go and visit her children or her grandchildren and as a result of this legislation is going to be denied that? How do you put an economic dollar value, or expect her to put an economic dollar value, on what her social life should be?
The argument doesn't make any sense to me when you say, "Four hundred other communities lost their service and now we have a right to put all the other communities at risk," and even some of the people with disabilities or seniors who have no other choice but to depend on the bus service because they either can't afford a car or they can't drive one. They're going to be isolated as a direct result of this. If we can bring amendments forward that will help to resolve some of the pain and suffering for people in those communities, I can't see why the Tory caucus wouldn't support it.
Mr Colle: It seems very restrictive. I don't see any harm in trying to ensure that perhaps a local reeve or a mayor, or let's say the director of a medical facility, could make a presentation before the board without having to prove economic need. There may be a variety of different interests that go beyond the pure economics. This is very exclusive and it's going to mean that a lot of people affected by decisions of this board may not get the opportunity to present a case to the board. I don't see the value of that, especially when some of the impacts could be very dramatic. I support this motion.
The Chair: Any further comments? Seeing none, I'll put the question. All those in favour of the motion? Those opposed? I declare that the motion is lost.
Ms Martel: I move that section 22 of the Ontario Highway Transport Board Act --
The Chair: I thought you were going to do that one. Unfortunately, because it refers to the amendment we just defeated, it's out of order.
Ms Martel: No. There were two, actually, Mr Chair. One was trying to expand it to parties so there didn't have to be an economic interest, and the second section was to set out who those parties could be and that the board itself could also order any person who was there making frivolous actions to have to pay a fine.
The Chair: Unfortunately, the one that refers to subsections 22(5) and (6) makes a reference to the (4)(c) that was just defeated.
Ms Martel: All right. Mine is also the next one?
The Chair: Yes. You have one for subsection 24(2).
Ms Martel: I move that subsection 24(2) of the Ontario Highway Transport Board Act, as set out in subsection 7(1) of the bill, be amended by adding "unless in the opinion of the board, such additional costs would be injurious to the viability of a commercial entity or would unjustly penalize participation before the board" at the end.
This sets out some guidelines or rules or perhaps a restriction on the ability of the board to charge for its services. We want to be sure that operators of all different levels of incomes still have the ability to make a presentation before the board. We heard a number of operators talk about the cost of doing so at this point, and it's not clear to me whether, with the changes the government is making right now, there's also going to be a change in fees for people appearing before the board. We want to make it clear that the board would have to take into account the ability of operators to pay so we're not moving into a system where only the big guys, big operators, can come before the board for an application or for an appeal etc.
Mr Ouellette: The bus industry clearly told us that the costs should be recovered strictly on a user-pay basis. They were strongly opposed to any across-the-board cost recovery mechanism which would have reduced fees and user costs for board proceedings. The user-pay system is in response to the government's clear direction that funding for continued economic regulation is no longer available. Waiving fees would require money that taxpayers and government simply just don't have.
Ms Martel: Can the parliamentary assistant then tell me what the fees are going to be before the board? Even some of the larger operators raised with us their concerns about how much it costs to appear before the board now. Is that going to change?
Mr Ouellette: The presentations we had by the smaller groups who were in favour of this made no indication that there was any concern regarding the fees at all.
Ms Martel: I seem to recall a reference to $20,000 being made by one presenter.
Mr Ouellette: Those were legal fees administered by that organization.
Ms Martel: Okay, my apologies. I assumed the reference was also to the cost of having to appear and make a whole case.
The Chair: Any further comments? Seeing none, we'll put the question. Shall the motion carry? All those in favour? Those opposed? I declare the motion to fail.
Again, Ms Martel.
Ms Martel: I move that subsection 7(2) of the bill be amended by adding "Applications and" at the beginning.
This reference goes back to the intervention made by Mr Morris, an individual who told the committee that he does numerous cases before the transport board and has over the last number of years. It's an effort to capture those applications and hearings which started before the government introduced the bill. I think he made it clear to us that the government had directed the highway transport board to stop proceeding with applications while this bill was under review, and that after threatening to sue the government those processes started again. I assume a number of applications are sitting there which may in effect have to be dropped if we don't cover for the period under which the government gave a direction to the board that was to the contrary of how it's proceeding now.
Mr Ouellette: This is specifically against an orderly transition. It would encourage applications being filed to take advantage of the old hearings system that is not user-pay. For the board to be self-funded, a narrow transition must be pursued. We need to have a break-off point.
As a point of clarification, there will be no need for applicants to reapply. Matters currently in the hearing stage will continue under the old rules, while those matters not yet having reaching the hearing stage will be handled under the new rules. The board will endeavour to deal with applications in a timely and efficient manner whether under the old or new rules.
Ms Martel: Are you still not going to find yourself in a position of two different standards being applied to people moving through the system at this time? That's what I'm trying to avoid.
Mr Ouellette: As I said, we need to have a break-off point, and that's what we're aiming for.
Ms Martel: My understanding, though, is that the board decided to continue to accept applications after being threatened to be sued. I'm just trying to get clarification on how you're going to deal with not just the hearings but the applications that may not have been acted upon yet but that were accepted into the system during the time we've been in flux dealing with this bill.
Mr Ouellette: MTO doesn't instruct the OHTB to do anything, and they did not stop taking any applications at all.
Ms Martel: But Mr Morris said something quite different to this committee. He made it very clear that the government told the Ontario Highway Transport Board to stop processing applications while this bill was being deliberated. He said that in his remarks to the committee.
Mr Ouellette: What he said was that they stopped scheduling hearings.
The Chair: I think you'll find that on page 3 under "Transition," Ms Martel.
Ms Martel: Mr Morris says: "Applications will continue to be filed every week between now and the date that the new legislation comes into force. What do we do with these filed applications?" Can the parliamentary assistant tell me what's happening with those applications that continue to be filed?
Mr Ouellette: They would fall under the new system. As I said, we don't instruct the OHTB to do anything.
Ms Martel: We have a contradiction. Mr Morris said: "The past February, the Ministry of Transport directed the board not to set down any more applications for hearing." We have a difference in opinion between the parliamentary assistant and what Mr Morris said. What I'm trying to deal with is that obviously he has put applications in and also has asked the board to schedule hearing dates, and I would like to be clear about how those are going to be handled by the board, both with respect to those that were in place before the legislation is passed and after.
Mr Ouellette: So what you're asking is for us to start mandating what the board's going to do?
Ms Martel: I want to know how they're going to handle those that were in the system before the legislation is passed, given that they obviously were put into the system under a different set of rules than are going to be in place once this legislation is passed. Are we going to be dealing with the applications and the hearings that were in place before the legislation passed under the old rules or not?
Mr Tascona: It's fairly clear on a reading of the section. It says, "Hearings commenced before this section comes into force and continued after this section comes into force" will go under the old rules. If the application does not become a hearing, obviously it won't be dealt with in the same manner. It's very clear language. I think Mr Morris's point when he was asking for the amendment was very clear. He wanted to make sure the applications would be received; obviously they would processed, but if they don't become a hearing by the time this section comes into force, they're not going to be heard under the old rules. An application has to become a hearing.
Ms Martel: Except why wouldn't we allow those who did apply before to continue to operate under the rules that were in place at the time they applied?
Mr Tascona: If they don't become a hearing, I guess it's a matter of time, because there's a time period that has to be dealt with. It would be for the board to determine its own process, not for this committee to determine how it deals with its applications. If the board allows an application to become a hearing before the transition period, it obviously will be dealt with under this section and under the old rules.
Ms Martel: That's not clear to me. That's why I'm asking the question. I do think it's the role of this committee --
Mr Tascona: It's extremely clear, Ms Martel, if you read it. If an application has not become a hearing by the time this comes into force, it is strictly an application. It has to become a hearing. The fact that the board's continuing to take applications -- they may become a hearing during the time frame allowed under this act, because there is a transition period. If it's not a hearing, it's still an application and it won't be dealt with under the old rules.
Ms Martel: Then I don't see any problem with accepting the amendment I moved, which said "applications and hearings."
Mr Tascona: Because an application, if it hasn't become a hearing, would be dealt with under the old rules, and as Mr Ouellette indicated, that will clog the system. There has to be a cutoff point. If you're dealing with hearings and you finish the hearings, like under the Labour Relations Act, you finish the hearings under the old rules so everybody knows what they are. That's fair. But if you're dealing with applications and you allow -- what Mr Morris is really asking for is a flood of applications to come in and basically clog the system so they won't be dealt with under the new legislation.
Ms Martel: But Mr Morris also made a point that there is an economic interest he's also trying to protect. I recall that he spoke at great length about what a delay would mean for people who had then to operate under a different set of rules. He made it very clear that there would be operators who would lose money as a consequence.
Mr Tascona: He also indicated that he didn't really care if it did change, because he would prefer not to have to go through the old process in terms of the type of preparation that was involved.
Ms Martel: Surely we have an interest, this government more than anyone else when you talk about trying to increase jobs etc, that there would be operators, as he well said in his remarks, who would be adversely affected in a negative economic way. That's also the point we want to deal with.
Mr Tascona: I don't think he did indicate that. I think he was talking professionally, as a lawyer representing the transportation lawyers' association, in terms of the procedure he would like to see in place. But he also indicated he didn't have a problem in terms of how that would be handled. The handling under the old rules was something he would like to avoid, if possible, and put his application after.
Ms Martel: He may have come to speak in that capacity. I think he was also speaking in terms of people he represents, and I think he did make it clear to this committee that there are people in the system, who he is representing now, who would suffer an adverse consequence. Whether they came individually to make that case I don't think is relevant one way or the other.
Mr Tascona: I think he can only speculate in terms of whether they would suffer an adverse consequence, because he indicated that the preparation time under the old system would be alleviated by going under the new system. I don't really think he was suggesting that.
Ms Martel: I don't think it was the prep time as much as when they were going to get a decision. He also made it clear that by the time some of these things were handled, it might even be after the summer, where some of those operators were trying to operate this summer. I don't think it was just an issue for him of preparation time to develop a case; it was also a question of when decisions would be made so that operators could know whether they could carry on.
The Chair: To both the participants, looking inside Mr Morris's mind and who he was representing is perhaps not too germane to the point at hand. I wonder if we could restrict our comments to whether we are in favour of or opposed to the motion on the floor.
Ms Martel: Fair enough, Mr Chair.
The Chair: Any further comments? Seeing none, I'll put the question. Is it the wish of the committee that the motion carry? All those in favour? Those opposed? I declare the motion lost.
Shall section 7 carry? All those in favour? Opposed? I declare section 7 carried.
Ms Martel: I move that section 8 of the bill be struck out and the following substituted:
"8(1) Sections 25 and 26 of the act are repealed.
"(2) Section 26, as it read immediately before its repeal, continues to apply to a petition that was filed before this section comes into force.
"(3) After this section comes into force,
"(a) the board shall not state a case under section 25, as it read immediately before its repeal; and
"(b) no petition may be filed under section 26, as it read immediately before its repeal."
This goes back to a point I raised earlier about what people's ability was going to be under the new bill with respect to appeals. We dealt with rehearing and also that it was the view of the government that people could use the court system to try to get some relief in cases of natural justice where they felt their rights had not been respected. This as well would reinstate a repeal to the courts on questions of law and jurisdiction as per the Statutory Powers Procedure Act, and that was a change we felt had been taken out of the act in the amendments the government was moving.
Mr Ouellette: The concerns raised over the delay would apply if appeals to Divisional Court on questions of law were preserved. A judicial review is available without retaining section 27 of the OHTBA, but applications for judicial review would not act as a stay of order reviewed, which would encourage speedy resolution rather than unwarranted delays. We would oppose this motion, this amendment.
The Chair: Any further comments? Seeing none, I'll put the question. Is it the favour of the committee that the motion carries? All those in favour? Those opposed? I declare the motion failed.
That being the only amendment to section 8, shall section 8 carry? All those in favour? Opposed? Section 8 carries.
Section 9. Mr Colle?
Mr Colle: Again just an attempt to get back to the right of appeal of board decisions, a continuation of the previous amendments dealing in that direction.
The Chair: Mr Colle, you did it to me again. You have to read the motion.
Mr Colle: I move that section 28 of the Ontario Highway Transport Board Act, as set out in section 9 of the bill, be amended by adding "Except as provided in section 16" at the beginning.
The Chair: Ms Martel's experience had lulled me into a false sense of security. Any comments?
Mr Ouellette: For the same reasons in regard to the amendment proposed on section 6, we would oppose this amendment.
The Chair: Any further comments? Seeing none, is it the favour of the committee that the motion carries? All those in favour? Those opposed? I declare the motion fails.
Now Ms Martel.
Ms Martel: I move that section 28 of the Ontario Highway Transport Board Act, as set out in section 9 of the bill, be struck out and the following substituted:
"Orders of board final and binding
"28. Except as provided in sections 16 and 27, every order, direction and decision of the board is final and binding."
Mr Chair, part of those sections were dependent upon other amendments that we have already moved and that have been voted down, so it probably doesn't make much sense to rephrase the argument I made at that point.
The Chair: You're not making the motion?
Ms Martel: I am, but I know it's going to be voted down because the other sections upon which it was dependent were already voted down.
The Chair: Any further comments? Seeing none, I'll put the question. Is it the favour of the committee that this motion carry? Those in favour? Opposed? I declare the motion lost.
I'll put the question on section 9 itself. Is it the favour of the committee that section 9 carries? All those in favour? Opposed? Section 9 carries.
Seeing no amendments proposed for sections 10, 11, 12 or 13, are there any comments, questions or amendments now to those sections? Seeing none, all those in favour that sections 10, 11, 12 and 13 carry? Those opposed? Sections 10, 11, 12 and 13 carry.
Mr Colle: I move that the definition of "interested person" in section 1 of the Public Vehicles Act, as set out in subsection 14(1) of the bill, be amended by adding "including elected officials or people affected by decision of the board and residents in a community affected by a decision of the board" at the end.
Essentially, this is again trying to ensure that if people are affected by a board decision there is recourse to come before the board. I was trying to widen that by changing the definition of "interested person." I think this would help ensure that there would be an opportunity to be heard if an impacting decision were made by the board.
The Chair: Any further comments? Seeing none, all those in favour of this motion? Those opposed? I declare the motion lost.
I put the question on section 14. Is it the favour of the committee that section 14 carries? All in favour? Opposed? Section 14 carries.
Are there any comments, questions or amendments to sections 15 or 16? Seeing none, all those in favour that sections 15 and 16 carry? In favour? Opposed? Sections 15 and 16 carry.
Ms Martel: I move that subsection 5(2) of the Public Vehicles Act, as set out in section 17 of the bill, be struck out and the following substituted:
"Discontinuance of scheduled service
"(2) The holder of an operating licence shall not discontinue any scheduled service authorized under the holder's licence except after giving 90 days written notice,
"(a) to the minister; and
"(b) to the public in the area affected, as set out in subsection (4).
"Reduction of scheduled service
"(2.1) The holder of an operating licence shall not reduce by 25% or more any scheduled service authorized under the holder's licence except after giving 30 days written notice,
"(a) to the minister; and
"(b) to the public in the area affected, as set out in subsection (4)."
What this amendment does is take what is now appearing in regulation and put into the act, which we feel would give more weight to it and more strength. Also, it provides for a new section around reducing what is a scheduled service to try and capture some of the concerns that were raised; for example, of people deciding to operate only in peak hours instead of continuing to operate a service that had been in place before. It imposes some responsibilities on a carrier who still wants to continue to provide a service on a route but wants to do that at a much reduced rate and sets out the provisions around how that would have to occur.
Mr Ouellette: The protection proposed in the regulations will do this and more. However, as I'm sure you're well aware, the regulations which set out specifics of the government's proposal to increase protection for small communities can't be disclosed in detail because it must first go through the normal regulatory process but can't proceed to finalization until the bill becomes law.
The Chair: Any further comments? Seeing none, all those in favour of the motion? Opposed? I declare the motion lost.
Ms Martel, that would make your next amendment out of order, so the next one up is a Liberal motion.
Mr Duncan: I move that section 6 of the Public Vehicles Act, as set out in section 17 of the bill, be amended by adding the following subsection:
"Safety audit required
"2.1 Upon issuing a licence under subsection (2) the board shall require that a comprehensive safety audit be completed prior to the start of operations."
It's fairly self-explanatory. We reaffirm our commitment to safety on Ontario's roads and would urge the government to do the same.
Mr Ouellette: Safety audits are provided for under the HTA applying to both private and public carriers and to other commercial vehicles. The Ministry of Transportation has committed to implementing new safety measures to augment the existing elaborate array of safety requirements pertaining to bus operators. Specifically, new market entrants will be required to demonstrate to the MTO before being allowed to operate on our roadways that their safety house is in order.
In accomplishing the intent of the proposal for amendment, the bill pertains to economic regulation and is not the proper place to specify safety rules.
Mr Len Wood: I listened to Mr Ouellette's explanation. We just had a presentation that all kinds of people right now are out there anxiously waiting to grab these buses for $1,000 or $2,000 and put them on the road to try to get into the business. You've got somebody who's spending $50,000 or $75,000 or $100,000 on a bus, and then you get somebody else who's going to get a mechanical fitness done that's good for about 30 days, who puts this bus on the road and the wheels start flying off and breaking windshields and causing all kinds of accidents.
All we're saying is that a comprehensive safety audit be done prior to the start of operations. We're talking about putting people at risk, not only the people who are on the buses but people who are on the highways as well. I don't want to see a wheel off a bus come flying at me when I'm driving down the road because I know there are probably 30 or 40 people on the bus who are going to die at the same time as I'm going to die.
Mr Ouellette: As we stated before, they can't put them on the road without an inspection. Our commitment to safety is paramount. There would be no deviation from ensuring that our roads are safe and that the public's best interests are there.
Mr Colle: I found this really contradictory and unbelievable. What we're saying here is essentially that when a person applies for a licence, they undertake an audit prior and not six months after. I don't see how safety is enhanced by waiting six months. If they have the will and the ability to carry people safely, they'll have that in order. Why wouldn't you want to encourage that?
To say safety is paramount and then put a six-month delay on safety -- it's especially paramount considering the fact that there are people who will enter into line routes or the charter business who perhaps are not fully up to safety standards. This ensures added protection for the thousands of people who will be on the buses, never mind the people on the roads and highways and the operators. It just doesn't make any sense at all to wait six months. The good, safe carriers have no problem with this. All you're doing is giving a green light to the ones who want to cut corners. Why this government would cut corners on safety -- how can you rationalize this? You get the licence and you have the safety audit as you get the licence. You don't wait six months. What happens in that six-month period, with no safety audit?
Mr Ouellette: It is up to six months. The commitment with the bus blitzes currently ongoing, the safety standards we've established and the fact that they have to be inspected as well we believe will ensure that the public is safe there.
Mr Colle: In terms of the bus blitzes, you heard Mr Burley come in here yesterday and say he picked up a bus that went into his garage. How many people are doing bus blitzes in this province right now? We know how many people are doing truck blitzes. How many OPP officers have we got on the truck squad? In the whole province, what are there, a dozen? And you're laying off 1,200 people in the Ministry of Transportation. Who's going to be doing these bus blitzes?
Mr Ouellette: Actually, we've increased the inspection staff and there haven't been any layoffs in that area at all.
Mr Colle: How many are on staff right now?
Mr Ouellette: The exact number? It's up to 240 now.
Mr Colle: For the whole province.
Mr Ouellette: Which is an increase of 30 or 40 individuals.
Mr Colle: And you're going to now say that's going to be adequate, considering you're going to be expanding it; there are more people entering the market as you deregulate. I just don't see the problem. If you've got that many more staff, then you shouldn't have a problem with the --
Mr Ouellette: We feel, with the number of increased inspectors, with the mandatory inspections, the commitment to bus blitzes, that it's more than adequate to ensure that our roads are safe.
Mr Colle: So the six-month --
Mr Carroll: Mr Colle, are you concerned primarily about new buses going on?
Mr Colle: Yes.
Mr Carroll: As I understand the laws of the province of Ontario, you cannot put a licence on a vehicle without a safety inspection. So I think that would cover that if you're talking about new buses going on the road.
Mr Colle: We're talking about a comprehensive safety audit --
Mr Carroll: But a safety inspection --
Mr Colle: -- which goes beyond the licensing provision.
Mr Carroll: A safety inspection as required by the Ministry of Transportation should be sufficient.
Mr Colle: Yes, just like the ones people have for cars, you know. They've been buying the certificates and the whole works.
Mr Carroll: Well, that's another issue, but we currently have a system in place in the province of Ontario where a vehicle going on the road for the first time, licensed in Ontario, has to have a safety inspection. I think that's sufficient.
Mr Colle: That may be sufficient for private automobiles -- in fact, in many cases it isn't -- but as Mr Dubeau said, there are people who are entering the bus business with used vehicles, 20 years of age etc, because of trying to cut costs etc, which is reasonable. So I would think you've got another safeguard by saying you have to have the safety audit done before you operate. I don't see the harm in it. I don't see the downside.
Mr Carroll: It's overkill. We've got lots of regulation now to protect us in that area.
Mr Colle: "Overkill" is maybe the wrong word.
Mr Duncan: Yes, I wouldn't use that word.
The Chair: Any further comments? Seeing none, I'll put the question. All those in favour of the motion? Opposed? I declare the motion lost.
I'll put the question on section 17. All those in favour that section 17 carry? Opposed? I declare section 17 is carried.
Are there any comments, questions or amendments to sections 18 through 23? Seeing none, I'll put the question. Is it the pleasure of the committee that sections 18 through 23 carry? All in favour? Opposed? Sections 18 through 23 carry.
Mr Colle: I move that section 33 of the Public Vehicles Act as amended by subsection 24(1) of the bill be further amended by adding the following clause:
"(b.3) requiring applicants for licence renewals under subsection 6(3) to provide information and documents relating to the applicant's safety record as specified in the regulation."
All I'm trying to do here, Mr Chair, is ensure that all relevant documentation as it relates to safety is part of the process and is presented by the applicant so that the board can have all pertinent records before them and ensure that's the case, relating to safety.
Mr Ouellette: First of all, the licence renewals are unusual. Most operating licences are permanent. Under both the existing and the proposed systems, such renewals would normally be automatic and only exceptionally go to a hearing. The only change in the proposed system is that the minister would not be referring renewals to the board but it would be up to a competitor to present a case for conduct of a hearing on renewal. On those bases, we would be opposed to this amendment.
The Chair: Any further comments? Seeing none, I'll put the question. All those in favour of the motion? Those opposed? I declare the motion lost.
Mr Jean-Marc Lalonde (Prescott and Russell): I move that section 24 of the bill be amended by adding the following subsection:
"(1.1) Clause 33(d) of the act is amended by adding `provided that the amount of the liability insurance coverage shall not be less than ten million dollars' at the end."
The purpose of this amendment is, at the present time for car owners, we're asking most of the time that there be coverage of $1 million. This time when it is a bus carrying 47 people, I think we have at least 10 times the number of passengers, and if a small operator doesn't have the ability or the financial support to have insurance with $10 million coverage, he should not be able to operate a bus, for the public safety.
Mr Ouellette: The intent is to continue to allow insurance rates to be at different levels for different sizes of buses, based on passenger capacity. The levels should not be set at unreasonably high minimum levels. What needs to be done and what we intend to do in the regulation under this bill is to bring the insurance requirements for the intercity bus industry in line with today's realities and in line with the levels of neighbouring jurisdictions. Rest assured that the insurance levels are being raised to appropriate levels. So for those reasons we would oppose this amendment.
Ms Martel: Could I just ask then, is what Mr Lalonde proposed out of whack with other jurisdictions or in line with other jurisdictions? It seems to me if we're moving in that direction, does what he propose actually reflect what's happening in other provinces, or do we have that information?
Mr Ouellette: It is in line with what's going on in other jurisdictions, the way that we have presented it.
Mr Lalonde: It is in line with other jurisdictions?
Mr Ouellette: Yes, the way that we have presented the bill, up to the $10 million, allowing variable rates for the mini-buses and things like that, based on passenger capacity.
Mr Len Wood: Are you saying that the $10 million is the minimum for any operator out there and then if they have bigger buses and more -- it's more than that in other jurisdictions?
Mr Ouellette: No. What we're saying is that $10 million, being that it's "shall not be less than," could be too high in certain instances, for small capacities and things like that.
Mr Colle: In terms of the liability threshold here, again I think that the purpose here is to ensure that we don't have the situation which occurs today where some bus operators have about the same level of liability as ordinary motorists do. What it's really doing is ensuring that people have a substantial track record in businesses, that you don't have people entering the market who have no business being there. It's all part of the risk to the public and I think also unfair competition for people who have safe vehicles and carry these costs. So there are two aspects to it.
A $10-million level for a passenger vehicle -- if you want to have a special regulation that also deals with minivans or other vehicles, you can do that afterwards by regulation, but a $10-million limit for regular intercity buses is quite reasonable. I'm not sure what the problem is in terms of sending a strong message to people that if you want to enter this field, you have to be willing to secure sufficient insurance. I think it really makes it fair for everybody in the business and at the same time ensures that the public is not going to be at risk in terms of insurance liability.
The Chair: Any further comments? Seeing none, I'll put the question. All those in favour of the motion? Opposed? I declare the motion lost, which leads us to Ms Martel.
Ms Martel: I move that clause 33(o) of the Public Vehicles Act, as set out in subsection 24(2) of the bill, be amended by striking out "the amount of notice and" in the sixth and seventh lines.
The purpose here was to move some provisions that currently appear in regulation into the act itself to give it what we thought would be greater strength in law.
Mr Ouellette: We feel that the regulations are a better place to set out the rules governing notice of discontinuance and reduction so that it can be more flexible to changing requirements if changes are necessary in the public interest. So for those reasons we will be opposing the motion.
The Chair: Any further comments? Seeing none, I'll put the question. All those in favour of the motion? Opposed? I declare the motion lost.
Mr Colle: I move that section 33 of the Public Vehicles Act, as amended by section 24 of the bill, be further amended by adding the following clause:
"(p) For the purpose of eliminating undue obstacles in the transportation network governed by this act to the mobility of disabled persons, including regulations respecting:
"(i) the design, construction or modification of, and the posting of signs on, in or around, means of transportation and related facilities and premises, including equipment used in them;
"(ii) the training of personnel employed at or in those facilities for premises or by carriers;
"(iii) tariffs, rates, fares, charges and terms and conditions of carriage applicable in respect of the transportation of disabled persons or services incidental thereto;
"(iv) the communication of information to disabled persons;
"(v) exemptions for specified persons, means of transportation, services or related facilities in premises from the application of regulations made under subclause (i), (ii), (iii) or (iv)."
Just again, in support of the deputation we had here, it's very clear that the provincial government has the authority to enact regulations as it relates to intercity buses and their accessibility for public transportation.
We know that the Premier is clearly on record that he would proceed with this and made that commitment, so we're just supporting the Premier's initiative on ensuring that people across Ontario have access to disabled transportation.
I think it's an essential basic right that people have mobility rights across the province of Ontario, especially when many small communities are serviced by the intercity bus industry and they have the right to intercity travel as much as anybody else.
This amendment ensures that the act enables fair, equitable and available mobility for all Ontarians and doesn't exclude any Ontarians who, because of a disability that may be beyond their control, don't have the same access to public transportation.
I think the Premier is right in supporting this proposal of accessibility in Ontario on intercity buses, and we support the Premier's initiative. I'm sure that he would support this amendment, as he has stated so, because I'm sure he doesn't want to resign.
Mr Len Wood: In support of this amendment that's brought forward by my good colleague Mr Colle, it's quite clear in the presentation that was made from the Transportation Action Now group that they were given a written response. Prior to his election as Premier, Mike Harris stated in a response to a written question from our organization that a Harris government would work to ensure that all new intercity buses purchased in Ontario are fully accessible.
He also pointed out on May 10 that he stands by his election promises and will resign if he fails to honour them. He promised persons with disabilities that all new intercity buses purchased in Ontario would be fully accessible.
Either Bill 39 will have to be amended with this section that's brought forward to reflect his campaign promise, or he should be prepared to do the honourable thing and resign.
I point out that in the conclusion by the presenters Transportation Action Now, they say:
"At present there is no mechanism for implementing the government's campaign promise on accessible intercity buses. Transportation Action Now respectfully requests that the government follow the lead of the federal government and establish a mechanism for ensuring not only safety but also accessibility."
I would go back to point out that it was a promise that was made by Mike Harris during the election campaign, and he repeated it again on May 10, that "he stands by his election promises and will resign if he fails to honour them. He promised persons with disabilities that all new intercity buses purchased in Ontario would be fully accessible."
I can't see any reason why anybody in this room would not be fully supportive of a position that Mike Harris, who is the Premier now, has taken during the election campaign and since the election campaign. We saw Sheila Copps make a promise, and she kept her promise. She's fighting it out now in a by-election in Hamilton. She said she would resign if she could not scrap the GST. Mike Harris has said that if he doesn't keep his promise to make buses fully accessible in Ontario, he will resign.
I wouldn't want to see the six or seven Tory members, people over here having to go up in the next couple of weeks and start campaigning for Mike Harris to get re-elected in a by-election in the riding of Nipissing. Of course, I would be up there campaigning against him. I would look for support from all three political parties and make sure that the Premier of Ontario, Mike Harris, does not have to resign over a broken promise if you vote against this amendment.
Mr DeFaria: This is an amendment that I have a great deal of sympathy for. The only problem I have, and maybe Ms Martel will be able to assist me, is that I assume this provision is not presently law in Ontario. There is no such provision presently in our laws?
Ms Martel: I'm going by what the group said to us, which Mr Colle repeated, that there was a provision around municipally operated transit services.
Mr DeFaria: But not intercity.
Ms Martel: Not for transit on line. I would assume charter is included in that as well.
Mr DeFaria: The reason I'm asking that is because both the NDP and the Liberal governments had been in power for so long in the province and had not chosen to bring it forward. Maybe the reason it had not been brought forward is because it would put Ontario operators in a disadvantaged position in comparison to other interprovincial -- like Quebec -- operators, because interprovincial are also intercity. Some of the intercity go from one province to the other, and provisions such as these would be very difficult to enforce when buses come from Quebec, for example.
Mr Len Wood: We're just saying, don't discriminate against the disabled.
Mr DeFaria: Right, but how would you be able to enforce the training of personnel --
Mr Colle: The Premier --
The Chair: Order. We've got a speaking order.
Mr DeFaria: -- and tariffs and rates that are being imposed out of Quebec on people travelling from --
Mr Len Wood: We're simply saying, don't discriminate in Ontario against disabled people. That's all we're saying.
Mr DeFaria: You have specific provisions here. You have training of personnel, tariffs, rates, communication of information, signs. If an operator is coming from Montreal to Toronto, you would have difficulty in enforcing some of these provisions, and maybe that's why your governments didn't choose to legislate it.
Mrs Barbara Fisher (Bruce): I would like to be on record as supportive of the issue that has been brought before us today. In fairness, we haven't had representation from other stakeholders who would have, I'm sure, something to say about this. I think we should be listening to all parties. This is a 10-year-old problem. I don't think somebody should be introducing it in this way, as a 15-minute, last-minute move. There is going to be an opportunity when further legislation with regard to deregulation is brought forward, and I think that would be the proper time to address it. I agree, and I am compassionate to the issue, but I think it should be handled in a way that is fair not only to the group that made representation requesting consideration of this point today but to those others involved who will have to make changes because of it. I hope we could consider it at the time we bring forward additional legislation. I don't think there's anybody sitting here at this table today -- I haven't heard so yet, not one body -- who said they didn't agree with the issue being dealt with. But I don't think 10 minutes -- it wasn't even 10 minutes -- the last thing that happened before we closed, before going into clause-by-clause, is the way to handle this. It's not a responsible way to make a decision on such a major issue.
Ms Martel: In response to both Ms Fisher and Mr DeFaria, someone on that side better explain to me why these weren't all concerns that Mike Harris had when he made the commitment in the first place during the election campaign to get the vote of the disabled. Let's face it, folks, you can't have a double standard, you can't be on both sides of this issue, and that's what you're trying to do right now.
Your leader, the man who is now Premier, had no trouble when he was out on the campaign trail, trying to get votes from people in the disabled community, saying this wasn't going to be a problem. He didn't raise it before the disabled community or send a letter back to their organization which said, "Jeez, we'd like to accommodate you, but we're really worried about having the opportunity to talk to other people, ie, the operators, to see if they can enforce it." He didn't say to them, "We'd like to have an opportunity to see if some of the provisions can be enforced and to determine if that's why the NDP didn't move on it."
No, I'm sorry; Mr Harris, during an election campaign, to try to get votes from the disabled, said, "A Harris government would work to ensure that all new intercity buses purchased in Ontario are fully accessible," period. There you have it. That's what the man said, and if it was good enough before the election to try to get votes from the disabled community, why isn't it good enough now?
Mrs Fisher: It still is.
Ms Martel: If it still is, then let's move the motion now. Obviously, Mr Harris wasn't concerned about all these things when he made the commitment. Mr Harris, in making the commitment, wanted to be sure that people who are disabled have equal access on intercity buses. That must be what he agreed to when he sent this letter back. He had to know what that meant. He had lots of research staff who could have looked into this. Of course he knew what it meant. I suspect that what he wanted to ensure was that there was no discrimination against disabled people in terms of having accessibility to buses in this province. We agree with that. That's why we're moving the amendment now. I really think the government members ought to be supporting this motion. It was sure good enough for him then in the election campaign; it should be good enough now.
Mr Carroll: I want to support what Ms Fisher said, that we agree it is an issue that does need to be dealt with.
It's interesting that the two parties opposite came forward with many amendments, some of which were on very small issues, yet on this particular big issue --
Mr Len Wood: Don't discriminate against the disabled in Ontario; that's all I'm saying.
Mr Carroll: -- which they feel is so important now, they did not see fit to come forward with an amendment until the last second, scribbled out on a piece of paper, as a result of a presentation that was made. I think they're reacting to --
Mr Colle: On a point of privilege, Mr Chair: It wasn't our fault that the deputation was made this afternoon at this hour. We did not have an opportunity to set the timetable for deputations; It wasn't our doing. If we had had an opportunity of a couple of days -- I think that is very unfair.
Mr Carroll: If the issue is what Mr Harris, the Premier, said during the election campaign, they should have known about that well before today and should have been making the appropriate amendment prior to now. I think it's opportunism on their part. It is something we should be dealing with in the future.
The Chair: Are there any more comments?
Ms Martel: They made all kinds of promises.
The Chair: Ms Martel, please, order. Could we stay on the topic at hand.
Mr Len Wood: With all due respect, the arguments that were given by Ms Fisher, Mr Carroll and Mr DeFaria don't make any sense. It's a simple matter of fact that these people made a presentation based on what Mike Harris told them during the election campaign. He put it in writing. He agreed that he would stop the discrimination against those people who were going to be riding the buses on the highways throughout Ontario. Now all of a sudden we hear the Tory members saying: "We're going to vote against this because we don't think Mike Harris meant that during the election campaign. We don't think we should help him to keep his promises, so we're going to vote against all in the disabled community who want to travel by bus in Ontario."
I'm quite prepared to go out in the by-election and help to make sure Mike Harris is known in his riding for the promises he made, and walking away from them, if he decides that he's going to keep his promise and resign, because this is what it's all about. It's an amendment that was brought forward based on a suggestion that was presented to us by the Transportation Action Now group. It was presented at the last part of the day.
There are all of the arguments asking, "Why didn't the Liberal or the NDP government do it in the 10 years prior to it?" I don't think you would see either the Liberals or the NDP vote against an amendment that would stop discrimination in the province of Ontario against the disabled and those people, aged or whatever, who want to travel the bus system in Ontario. You have the opportunity now to rectify a bad situation. Don't blame the NDP or the Liberals for not doing it. You have the opportunity now to rectify it based on what Mike Harris said -- "I'll keep my promises or I will resign." He made a promise that the disabled community would not be discriminated against as far as the public busing system on the highways of Ontario was concerned.
I don't accept the argument that it might be more expensive if there's a bus from Manitoba or Quebec that comes in and wants to discriminate against them. They should be told very clearly, "Look, if you're going to pick up passengers in Ontario, you're going to pick up the disabled people as well as the healthy people or you don't come into the province." It's very simple. Stand up and support what your Premier has said. Don't vote against him and force him into a by-election.
Mr Ouellette: When we started this, we had a discussion that this bill had a very narrow focus in that it was designed to establish an interim regime prior to deregulation, that the intent was to have further legislation coming out. The MTO could not contemplate in the short term the amendment that has been brought forward. We have not consulted with the industry on this. Although, as I stated earlier, we intend to have further legislation come out, this has given the opportunity to review the industry, and so the industry also has the ability to review how it will impact them. At that time, we can expect to see some changes.
For those reasons, as we stated, we're looking at this legislation. That's why it's not in as of April 1, as was stated in one of the earlier presentations, so that all implications can be dealt with. For those reasons, I will be opposing this amendment.
Mrs Fisher: I would like to add one more thing to further support the reason why we should do this in a mature manner. In the presentation that was made to us today, there was a supplementary submission on behalf of the group that came before us. I would like to quote one part of it and why we need to be discussing that, not only with other stakeholders, by the way, but with the federal government. I want to quote from the report that was given to us today why we should be handling it in a proper way. It's section 6, page 6 of the supplementary submission on behalf of Transportation Action Now to our committee today.
"What followed was a 12-year period of waiting for provincial action. In 1991, the federal Minister of Transport asked the National Transportation Agency of Canada to carry out an inquiry into the accessibility of extraprovincial motor coach services in Canada. The agency reported in 1993 in The Road to Accessibility: An Inquiry into Canadian Motor Coach Services. The report recommended that a national standard of accessibility be established and that provinces delegate to the federal government authority over buses under their jurisdiction so that the agency might have a consolidated enforcement authority."
I happen to support that type of intent and I think we should be doing it in cooperation with the federal government. We can show leadership in this as a province that understands the need to take care of a problem that's been long outstanding, and I would urge us to do that. But I don't think by handling a motion today without that kind of consultation that's required to have that partnership between the two levels of authority -- governments -- we'd be acting in a responsible manner. That's why I will be voting against the motion today, but would be very pleased to look into this further in any capacity that I'm asked to on behalf of the government.
Mr Len Wood: I'm still puzzled. One year ago Mike Harris had no problem standing up at every microphone there was around and saying, "I promise this; I promise that." He promised that he would take action that would help out the disabled community in the province of Ontario; he promised it in writing. Now, a year later, you're saying, "We've got to take some time to look at this to see if we can pass the buck off on to the federal government." That's not acceptable. It's completely not acceptable that you would, a year later, after Mike Harris making those promises, say, "Can we not blame the Liberal government in Ottawa now for not helping out the disabled community in Ontario?"
You have the opportunity now to support Mike Harris in the promise that he made, "If I don't do something about the disabled people in this province as far as busing is concerned, I will resign." He said that; he put it in writing. Don't try to tell me that you have to wait for more time to study to see if you can find a way of passing off the buck on to the Ottawa government. That's completely not acceptable at all.
Mr Maves: On Monday this committee heard from an intercity bus operator who had tried to implement a fully accessible bus service in the Niagara area, yet when he went to the transport board for a licence he was denied, and after he had spent $200,000 on his application. After full deregulation, this gentleman would have been able to provide such accessible service for the disabled. In a sense, with this bill, which is hopefully leading us towards greater deregulation, this gentleman would have been able to have brought on line his business of accessible bus service. He would have to fulfil certain safety requirements, but under full deregulation that accessible service would be there. I think that's significant; it's a way to fulfil such promises. By deregulating, people can more easily bring on these services. That's an example that was heard right in front of this committee on Monday. In the current system, that ability is not there, so this bill is speaking to this issue.
Furthermore, Mr Colle said, "In fairness, we drafted this at the last minute because we just heard of it at the last minute." Clearly, in fairness then, to consider a motion like this you have to have an opportunity to see if the motion, as worded, is proper with ministry lawyers, and there are so many other ramifications that we must have time to consider. Let's look at this logically and quit the grandstanding. Obviously, we should not accept this motion at this point in time, having not had proper time to consider all of the ramifications and the legalities of it. I'll vote against that motion.
Ms Martel: There's no reason, before or after bus deregulation, that any operator should be restricted or feel that he or she can't make anything fully accessible. There's nothing in law or under the current structure that you're now trying to change which forbids or somehow restricts an operator from becoming fully accessible to people who are disabled. That's a ridiculous argument.
Secondly, folks, the Premier made a commitment well over 10 months ago, and it seems to me, since there are enough whiz kids working for this government, that someone, having looked at the Premier's promises, would have been busily working away figuring out exactly what he meant when he said what he said and how that was going to be implemented. To try and say now that we're sitting here at the last minute and dealing with something that no one has any idea about is also ridiculous.
I'm sorry, your Premier made the commitment. Surely when he made the commitment he understood what the consequences would be and what was going to be involved. Why would he make a commitment without having a clear understanding of that? To try and say, "We're going to vote against it because right now, at this hour, we don't know what all the implications are, even though our Premier made the commitment over 10 months ago, and to fulfil his promises we should be looking at what he said and how those things can be implemented," is just not an acceptable argument, not only to the members of this committee, but to the disabled community.
Finally, with respect to waiting for the feds and looking for a national standard, my goodness, if Ontario can't and doesn't want to lead in this regard, then there's something wrong. To say that we're going to wait and we're going to see what everyone else does and we'll spend two or three years fooling around studying it -- look, the fact of the matter is it was a Conservative government in 1987, folks, that put this into place, and in 1993 we had an agreement. There's no reason now why we shouldn't be carrying through on that.
The legislation is open now. It's sitting in the hands of your government. Your Premier, when he was out on the campaign trail, thought it was good enough to campaign on, thought it was good enough to make a commitment on with respect to the disabled community. We're asking you today to live up to that commitment on behalf of those folks, and I think you should want to do that.
Mr Len Wood: It frustrates me a little bit to hear some of the arguments out there, because we hear comments that somebody has to spend $200,000 to get permission to take disabled people on the bus. We have buses from the airport, coming into town, going all over the over place.
All we're saying in simple terms is that you have an opportunity now to show the disabled community or the aging community that they are part of society, that if they want to ride a bus on Highway 11, Highway 16 or 69 or whatever the highways are throughout this province, Mike Harris is going to keep his promise and see that they will not be discriminated against any more; they will be allowed to go on these buses. There might be the odd time that the bus with 47 or 50 passengers is going to be able to take only two people in wheelchairs or whatever, but that's understandable. Even the people who are sitting in wheelchairs understand that there's only room for so many of them on a specific bus.
Don't let your Premier down and say we're going to leave these people sitting on the side of the road and they're going to have to spend money out of their pocket to get taxis or whatever, when we have buses going right by there and we have an opportunity now to include this in Bill 39, which is part of the complete deregulation of the bus industry somewhere down the road. It can send a message out loud and clear that the disabled community will be looked after in this province, that Mike Harris wants to do it.
Why do we have the arguments from so many Conservatives that they're not going to do it, they're going to vote against it? I haven't heard a single good reason yet why they would vote against it, knowing that 10 or 11 months ago Mike Harris made that promise and he put it in writing to the group Transportation Action Now. It doesn't make any sense that we would still sit here arguing about whether you should support Mike Harris in his bid or force him into a by-election. I'm sure that when the media get wind of this they're going to be hounding him all over the place.
I was in North Bay last Thursday. They don't think very much of him in his own town. Now if you get this coming out, another broken promise, allowing the continued discrimination against the disabled community by not agreeing to an amendment of this kind, it doesn't make any sense to me. I can't understand it.
Mr DeFaria: Just to clear the record, I think the arguments made on the other side minimize the commitment we made. The commitment we made says, "A Harris government would work to ensure that all new intercity buses purchased within Ontario are fully accessible." Can you tell me, Mr Chair, what that has to do with the posting of signs, which this amendment deals with? It has nothing to do with the commitment.
The commitment is buses purchased within Ontario, that we'd work to ensure that those buses are fully accessible; nothing to do with the posting of signs and other things that this amendment deals with. By putting the two side by side, you're minimizing our commitment made to the disabled community in Ontario.
Mr Colle: Mr Chair, that is an incredible comment. In the disabled community, it's critical to have proper signage. I don't know if you've ever seen signage saying there are ramps available, there is access available. Signage is part and parcel of accessible transportation. They have the right to know where the access points are. You can't have accessible service without proper direction and the signs are a critical component and a minor component.
The final thing I'll say is that the way this process works is that we had deputations come in today until 5:30; we have scheduled it up to 6 o'clock. It was possible that other deputants would have had some meaningful amendments to make. I think the Chair was reasonable in accepting the fact that these people had legitimate points to make, and there were even a couple of other suggested amendments made by a couple of other deputants that I thought would have been worthwhile to look at.
It wasn't by our design that this came up at the last minute. I think either you say, "Don't bother coming and making deputations," the day that you go to clause-by-clause or you enable them to. We obviously try to accommodate people who make meaningful suggestions. Those people who came today, the last day, have the right to suggest amendments and we're giving them that opportunity. It's not a matter of anything more than that this amendment was brought forward and it had some relevance to our debate here, and I think it's part of the debate. The timing of it is none of our doing or none of the deputants' doing. This is the way the process works here in terms of the time constraints. We don't want to start restricting people.
Mr Duncan: Just to that, we advocated a subcommittee for a longer period of time. Your government, as has been consistent, has insisted on just giving you your marching orders and sending you in here. What has happened is we're here to listen to these delegations, and you know what? You have a chance to right a wrong; you have a chance right now to do exactly what you said you would do. To suggest somehow that we ought to just come in here, listen to deputants, do our clause-by-clause and walk away, to me just undermines the principle of why we're here.
If you want to have clause-by-clause on this section next week, we'll be happy to. We advocated for a longer period of time. We advocated that we travel the province, because we are interested in hearing what people have to say and we're prepared to respond to them. I think you have an opportunity here to adopt a commonsense amendment to the bill which recognizes what municipal authorities and other authorities have done and to do it in a timely fashion. I think you are passing up an opportunity to put the interests of those who require accessibility ahead of whoever else you're representing here today.
Mrs Fisher: I would like to say just a couple of things and then I hope that we will stop reiterating points, but I would like to introduce a new point here.
What some of the members on this side have indicated, those who have spoken so far, and I haven't yet heard any murmurs that there is any dissension with regard to that issue, is that we are more than willing to look at it, and I don't think we should leave the room tonight being portrayed that we're not going to deal with it. We will deal with it. But it's rather ironical that somebody who sits on the other side and continues to say, "You ram it through, you ram it through, you ram it through," all of a sudden wants it rammed through.
There is an ability to deal with this in the near future in a responsible way. I can assure you that this will be raised through our committee and our caucus representatives to this committee with the responsible minister, and I'm sure that some action will be undertaken to deal with the problem.
I can only say one thing. Being a new member here and looking over the history of the presentation that was made today, anybody who is left in the room who was part of that delegation, and there is at least one party still here -- I don't think that person would want to leave the room thinking this government is not looking to take action on this. Some of the opinions I'm hearing on the other side suggest that might be the case. I think we'll live up to a commitment to deal with the issue and take it to committee and take it back to our minister and express the concerns that were raised today. We have an opportunity to deal with it, we will deal with it, but I think we ought to do it in a responsible manner.
Mr Duncan: I certainly concur and I move a one-week deferral of consideration of this amendment.
The Chair: The motion is out of order. There's a motion on the floor right now.
Mr Len Wood: On the issue, there's nothing that's happened here on the spur of the moment, there's nothing that is being rammed down anybody's throat. We're talking about a lot of thought that went into building up Mike Harris to make that promise 10 months ago. I'm sure he thought about that in all the Common Sense Revolution booklets that he was making. There were a number of editions of them. Then he finally came to the point that it doesn't make any sense to allow the bus industry to drive right by disabled people in this province. "I will change that," or "If I don't change it, I will resign."
There's nothing that's happened here on the spur of the moment. A lot of thought has gone into the decision-making leading up to making sure that the disabled community is not being discriminated against in this province, and I don't accept the argument that somebody is trying to ram something down somebody's throat. Mike Harris spoke it. He put it in writing 10 months ago. He had probably thought about it for a couple of years before he did it, so you're talking about a long process here.
Now all of a sudden we have the Tory caucus sitting on the other side saying: "Something happened here on the spur of the moment. The disabled community came in and made a presentation under Transportation Action Now. They want an amendment and the Liberals and the NDP are supporting it. We can't support it, even though we campaigned on it, we talked about it during the election campaign. Mike Harris made a promise on it, but we're not going to support the disabled community. We're going to push them out through the door and we'll tell them, `Somewhere down the road, trust us.'"
The welfare people, the women, the children are still saying, "We trusted Mike Harris; we trusted them that they wouldn't make us starve in this province."
There are a lot of things that you have been able to do over the last year, and now it's very simple that we're saying, stand up and be counted. I made comments in the Legislature. I get concerned when people act like what happened in Jonestown. They all say: "We've got to follow the leader. Exactly what the leader says, we're going to follow." Now you have an opportunity to follow what your leader says -- and you won't die as a result of it. Support him, support us. He's saying the same thing as we're saying. We're saying, "Support it; don't leave the disabled community dangling out there that somewhere down the road we'll take a look at it." It doesn't make any sense at all.
The Chair: Any further comments? Seeing none, I'll put the question.
All those in favour of the motion? Opposed?
Mr Len Wood: Recorded vote.
Mr Duncan: Recorded vote.
The Chair: The vote has been called. Sorry, it takes unanimous consent. I'll ask the question. Is there unanimous consent for a recorded vote? I'm supposed to hear yes or no.
Mr Duncan: What are you afraid of?
The Chair: Once I've put the question, Mr Wood. The clerk is telling me yes. Once the vote has started -- your hands were already up.
All those opposed? I declare the motion failed.
Mr Duncan: I move deferral of clause-by-clause consideration until next week for the purpose of reconsidering this matter.
The Chair: That motion is not, strictly speaking, in order, but with unanimous consent we could defer further debate on that section. Is there unanimous consent to defer? No. Sorry.
I'll therefore put the question on section 24 itself.
Mr Duncan: I'd like a recorded vote on this as well.
The Chair: Very good.
Boushy, Carroll, DeFaria, Fisher, Maves, Ouellette, Tascona.
Colle, Duncan, Lalonde, Martel, Len Wood.
The Chair: I declare that section carried.
Seeing no amendments, I ask if there are any comments, questions or suggestions for sections 25 through 40. Seeing none, I'll put the question.
All those in favour that sections 25 through 40 carry? Opposed? Sections 25 through 40 carry.
Shall section 41, the short title of the bill, carry? All those in favour? Those opposed? Section 41 is carried.
Shall the long title of the bill carry? All those in favour? Contrary? The long title of the bill carries.
Shall Bill 39 carry? Those opposed? Bill 39 carries.
Shall Bill 39 be reported to the House? All those in favour? Contrary? Bill 39 shall be reported back to the House.
Thank you, committee members. This committee stands adjourned.
The committee adjourned at 2011.