The House resumed at 8 p.m.
EMPLOYEES’ HEALTH AND SAFETY ACT (CONTINUED)
Mr. Deputy Speaker: When we rose at 6, the hon. member for Sudbury had the floor.
Mr. Germa: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. At 6 o’clock I was attempting to introduce to the Minister of Labour (B. Stephenson) her new responsibilities upon accepting transfer of part IX of The Mining Act into her jurisdiction. I presume certain personnel from the mines section are going to be transferred to her jurisdiction. The inspection branch, which is contained in part IX of The Mining Act, is now going to be her responsibility.
I’m presuming that she would appreciate knowing these people by their comments. I think one of the ways you get to know a person is by what they stand for and what they’ve said in the past. I was, at that point, quoting certain comments by certain mines inspectors to the Ham commission. Some of the quotes are very noteworthy and some of them are really not. I was also trying to recite the background of this legislation for the protection of employees’ health and safety in industry.
My great concern is in the mining industry, and I’m extremely interested in what the minister is going to do to enhance the credibility of the mines inspection branch. There’s no doubt in my mind that the mines inspection branch suffers from a lack of credibility even more than the Ministry of Labour does. Certainly they are suffering from a great credibility gap.
The minister agrees with the statement by Mr. Ernie Isaac, the regional mine inspector in Sudbury, when he says that “we do not believe that health and safety can be bargained for.” Unfortunately, Mr. Speaker, because of the government’s lack of intervention in the work place, it has been necessary for trade unions to expend considerable amounts of time and energy and money negotiating health and safety problems in the mines and smelters of northern Ontario. Despite the minister’s statement and despite the statement of Mr. Isaac, I cannot see that this bill is going to reduce or take away the responsibility of the trade union movement to negotiate health and safety, despite my statements that that should not be on the bargaining table at all.
Those things we have been bargaining for down the years have deteriorated and diluted the bargaining process. We have had to expend and trade off monetary gains for safety and health items. Those things are documented. A small example is the fact that for a long period of time whenever a miner got killed, it was not allowed for the trade union or the worker’s representative to question witnesses at the inquest. After about 10 years of turmoil, in 1967 the union that I belonged to at the International Nickel Company was given the right to question witnesses when an inquest was investigating the death of a miner.
The cards have been stacked against workers’ representation throughout the years, even in a small item such as that. I even recall the turmoil that was involved in removing the company policemen when the International Nickel Company had its own police force which used to investigate miners’ deaths.
Mr. Deputy Speaker: I think section 6 of the bill addresses itself to that particular situation, would you not agree?
Mr. Germa: I’m sure I’ll take your advice, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Reid: You might even read the bill.
Mr. Germa: I would agree with you, Mr. Speaker. What I was pointing out is the long struggle that has ensued in order to get this bill on the order paper, so the government shouldn’t rest on its laurels. It’s been a long time coming, and certainly we are going to support the bill. I never thought I would be put in a position to accept crumbs off the minister’s table, but in this instance we have to take these crumbs. This bill is not going to solve all of the problems. It’s only the thin edge of the wedge. I would hope that the minister would take a look at the other 108 recommendations of the Ham commission. I don’t know what the government is doing with them.
To give some idea of the past attitude of the mines inspection branch, which comes under part IX, I’ve raised with the minister before that there should not be warnings to the mining companies when an inspector comes in. The minister has denounced that proposal. Last week when we were talking to her in the estimates committee, she said, “Cite one case when a mining inspector warned the mining company that he was coming in to make an inspection.”
Let me quote from Mr. Ernie Isaac’s testimony before the Ham commission: “Another reason given for believing the engineers do favour management is the allegation that management is warned prior to inspection. This in fact was sometimes the practice until about five years ago.” By his clear admission there was complicity between the mining inspectors and the mining companies up until five years ago.
I don’t accept that just because he said it ceased five years ago that has really happened. The method they used for communication was surreptitiously accomplished. I don’t expect the minister to know all the refinements of this jungle system. I know for a fact that when the mining inspector in Sudbury was to visit one of the mines, he didn’t phone up the mining company and say, “I’m coming out tomorrow.” Nothing as blunt as that. He had a better method. He would mail out his hard hat and his overalls. He would send them out in the taxi the day previously. It was understood by the mining company that the mining engineer would appear on the scene 24 hours after his hard hat had arrived.
Hon. B. Stephenson: But not by mail.
Mr. Germa: No, by taxi.
Hon. B. Stephenson: It would be a long time getting there if he sent it by mail.
Mr. Germa: Why did the inspector adopt this attitude if he knew he wasn’t doing wrong? Why did he send his hard hat and his overalls out 24 hours ahead of time?
Mr. Haggerty: He wanted to make sure they got there.
Mr. Germa: He knew that he was doing wrong. And these are the people the minister is inheriting. This is why I am trying to introduce to the minister some of the hazards of her job.
I know she might be quite innocent in this field so she should listen to a person who has been there for some 42 years. This is how it is done. You mail out your hat and your work clothes and then it is understood that you will be on the job 24 hours after your hat arrives. That’s a clear indication of what went on. And from my experience this is why the mines inspection branch has not been effective for the past 30 years in Ontario. They weren’t serious about what the hell they were trying to do.
There has been mention made that there was innocence on behalf of the mining inspection branch -- that the new procedures were baffling them and that they really didn’t know that the hazards existed.
I quote again from Mr. Isaac who says: “As the commission will understand, much of this area is new to us. Up until a few years ago, SO2 in smelters or noise in mines were accepted as a normal part of the working environment. Only recently have they become unacceptable.”
Well, we all knew that SO2 was plaguing the workers. The mining engineer, when he was in the smelter, must have seen that. Yet our union wasn’t competent and I, as an individual worker, was not competent to deal with it. And yet the mining inspector came in and he said, “It’s acceptable. If you want to work in a mine or a smelter then you have to suffer these large doses of SO2 and noise.” And nothing was done.
What I’m thinking about is that the mines inspection branch took no initiative to clean up the work place. They reacted only to complaints. When there was too much heat in the kitchen then they would do something, but on their own, in the past, I think they have not corrected one misdemeanour of the mining companies until it came to the point where they could not do otherwise.
I am sure when this bill goes into committee there’s going to be representation made by the Canadian Manufacturers Association and various industrial organizations. They are going to tell the minister -- and I am sure they are; in fact, I am going to tell her what I heard on a bus the other night, I’m not going to tell it now -- but they are going to tell stories about workers who deliberately refused to operate a machine or refused to go into a work place because it was unsafe.
We have had some experience with that. I was engaged in a walkout some 12 years ago. There were 500 of us, including myself, who were forced to walk out of the Copper Cliff smelter at the International Nickel Company on account of SO2 concentration. We just couldn’t tolerate it any more, so 500 of us walked out the gates.
I’m sure you know what happened. The next day I was called before my supervisor and I was threatened that if that ever happened again I was out. I was finished, and my 35 years seniority and pension rights and everything else was down the drain. And these are the kinds of threats that were laid over our heads that when workers get some power they will abuse it and they will interrupt production for frivolous reasons.
In 1970, 68 workers walked off the job in the Copper Cliff smelter on account of SO2 concentrations. On November 27, one week later under pressure from the --
Mr. Deputy Speaker: I must remind the hon. member that there is nothing about Sudbury or International Nickel or anything of that nature in this bill. There are four principles enunciated in this bill and I wish you would restrict your comments to those four principles.
Mr. Germa: I think I am addressing myself to one of the most important principles -- that a worker has the right to refuse to enter a work place if conditions are dangerous. I’m talking about SO2 concentrations, which gives us some historical background; and the reason for this bill being on the order paper is to protect workers from the environment.
Mr. Deputy Speaker: That’s covered under section 2 of the bill.
Mr. Germa: Anyway, the result of this walkout was that a worker in the smelter could demand a measurement of SO2 concentration. That was granted to them in 1970, and Mr. Isaac tells us that “the company feared this procedure would be abused by the union to disrupt production needlessly. But, in fact, that has never happened. Instead, by involving its employees, by giving them clear rights and authority, Inco succeeded in maintaining production and industrial peace during the improvements to the smelter.”
When the minister hears from the Canadian Manufacturers Association and all these gloomers and doomers that a worker is needlessly going to stop production because he sees an unsafe environment -- and I know it’s coming -- I wish the minister would reject all that.
The minister has also made mention about combative unions and their attitude towards safety and health. There are so many things that she should know about the department that she is taking over. I won’t go through all of them; I will just recite one more thing I heard which I think is going to come up whenever this bill gets to committee.
I was on the bus to the airport the other day and there were a couple of people from the briefcase brigade on their way to the airport. I didn’t know these people, but it was obvious who they were and they were engaged in a conversation in which I was very interested. I was eavesdropping, I’ll admit that. They had been at a meeting discussing this bill -- they were obviously industrialists -- and the points they’re going to raise at the committee. I may as well warn you that one of the points relates to a policeman when a bank robbery is in progress; the policeman says, “That is dangerous to my health; I might get lead poisoning if I go into that bank.” Is the policeman -- this is what the minister is going to hear from these industrialists at the committee --
Mr. Samis: The voice of experience.
Mr. Germa: If a bank robbery is in progress and a policeman is directed to break up the bank robbery, on account of this legislation he might refuse because it might be injurious to his health. The minister will have to think about those things because they’re coming.
The next point they raised -- and this went all the way from the Royal York Hotel to the Malton airport -- was that a nurse working in a hospital might refuse under this legislation to enter a room where a patient had hepatitis because the very nature of this disease might be injurious to her health. I just wonder how the minister is going to respond to those criticisms in the committee.
I close by saying that I support this legislation. It’s the thin edge of the wedge, it’s a crumb off the table --
Mr. Nixon: A short step forward.
Mr. Germa: -- and I look forward to legislation which will enunciate the other 117 recommendations as cited in the Ham commission report.
Mr. Deputy Speaker: The hon. member for Downsview.
Mr. Samis: Another voice of experience.
Mr. Wildman: A northerner at heart.
Mr. di Santo: I rise in support of the second reading of this bill, Mr. Speaker, as has everybody else in this House at this point. I think this is the first timid step in the right direction.
I think that safety councils are a minimum requirement in a modern, advanced industrial society, where the workers are not considered only as part of the production chain; where they are not considered only as part of the profit-making process of the corporations; where the workers are not only considered as subjects of the decisions of the management of the companies; where the workers are considered part of the process, with their responsibilities, with their interest and with their own personal integrity, to preserve it throughout that process.
I think that this bill is the result of extremely tough pressure for many years on our part and on the part of the trade unions in this province. It is also the result of Professor Ham’s report. I don’t think the government could avoid making some decisions at this point on what we consider has been for a long time a neglected area of our industrial relations in this province. I don’t think with this bill, even though the safety councils are instituted, that we solve the problem of the workers at the work place. It fails to solve their safety problems and the problems of the decision-making process at the work place, the decisions which affect the workers directly, unless we change the whole philosophy of the relationship of the workers and the management at the work place. I don’t think that this government will be able to do that and that’s why I am pessimistic.
Until now, the thrust of this government in the field of safety has always been towards the worker, never towards management and never towards the companies. All the campaigns run by this government -- I don’t know how many but an incredibly high number of safety associations, safety groups -- have always been directed to the workers. The workers are those who have to be careful; the workers are those who have to wear hard hats; the workers have to watch out because they can be hurt. We know that even if the workers are careful, accidents cannot always be avoided.
Sometimes these accidents are very serious and in many cases they claim lives. It isn’t by chance that in the province of Ontario every year we have 460,000 industrial accidents while in England, with a work force 10 times ours, they have 500,000 accidents a year. I don’t think that the minister can convince me that that it’s always the fault of the workers of Ontario because so many accidents take place in this province.
I think that the government has to change that attitude. The workers are getting fed up with that approach, with the kind of attitude that puts the burden of the safety only on them and never on the companies.
Last week during the Labour estimates on this specific point, I raised the case of an accident which claimed the life of a worker, Dominic Gorari. I am bringing up this example now, Mr. Speaker, because I don’t think that with this bill we can solve that kind of problem. We cannot solve the problem of safety at the work place properly.
In that case we have seen, through the inquest of the coroner, though the verdict of the jury of the coroner, what kind of attitude the government of Ontario and the Ministry of Labour have taken. We had an inquest only six months after the accident. The coroner said at that point that evidence was not available, witnesses were not available, and it was not possible to clarify the causes of the accident, the circumstances, and therefore, whether there was any responsibility or not on the part of the company.
More serious than that, during the same inquest one of the high officers of the Ministry of Labour, the assistant director of the safety branch, testified and said that at this point only the small companies are being penalized because dollars are what count, and the big companies are not penalized. The coroner was directed by the jury to ask the minister whether there is a double standard in this province -- justice for the poor companies and justice for the rich companies.
I think until we have that kind of attitude in this province, we will never solve the problems of workers’ safety at the work place. I think this bill, as I said before, shows us what kind of avenues are open to a modern democracy, what kind of avenues are open to an industrial province which wants to institute some kind of industrial democracy at the work place. I think that is not enough because most of the problems are originated by the fact that today, as I said before, the workers are only the target of orders which come from the companies. Safety committees will perform a useful function because they will give the worker some pull in the limited area of safety.
We all know that in that industry, in that plant, there are decisions which affect the safety sector. Therefore, I think that we should go beyond this bill and we should give the worker a true voice in the whole decision-making system inside the companies.
The member for Sarnia (Mr. Bullbrook) mentioned the other day that we should introduce some kind of method which is used in most of the western countries -- a decision-making process inside the companies. This bill, even if --
Mr. di Santo: That’s only socially democratic, the member for Sarnia said. That’s what it is, in fact, because we recognize today that the workers are interested in the economic process of the nation as human beings and not only as tools of an industry. Therefore, they have to be part of the process from the beginning with all the responsibilities that belong to the shareholders.
There is no difference today between shareholder and jobholder, because the shareholder cannot operate without the jobholder, and the jobholder cannot operate without the shareholder. This is a principle which has been recognized in many democratic countries in the world. We have to come to terms, even in Canada, because if we don’t do that then we will be faced with discontent, with uproar and we will end up in days --
Mr. Deputy Speaker: It’s nice to see so many ministers here tonight, but would they keep their conversations down a bit, please?
Mr. di Santo: The national day of protest on October 14 will be only an example of what will happen in the future. Because we won’t reach safety conditions at the work place when all the economic operations of the companies are directed towards profit. We won’t reach safety conditions until we desist from saying that it’s the workers’ responsibility to look after themselves. We know very well that it’s cheaper to tell the workers to “be careful.” It costs less to have a media campaign in order to educate the workers than force the companies to adopt equipment that will make the work place safe. We know that.
It happened two years ago with the lead companies. We know that the workers who were working in those companies were in no safe conditions. We know that the filters and the purification system are expensive. But then this government resisted and resisted because they said that there was no danger there. The companies, if they are to adopt safety equipment, have to spend money. And, of course, it’s cheaper to go after the workers and tell them to be careful and to get educated in order to avoid accidents.
For this reason I, like my colleagues, support the bill, because I recognize that it’s a step in the right direction. At the committee level we will introduce amendments. To begin with, we will make sure that the committees will be compulsory and we will fight so that the idea of the council committees will be enlarged to the point where we can institute, even in this province, a system of industrial democracy. Thank you.
Mr. McClellan: I rise to speak in support of Bill 139 and to join with my colleagues in trying to outline some of our concerns with respect to it.
There are a number of problems with this bill that I think have been very clearly delineated. I think that those problems can be dealt with adequately through strengthening amendments which will be coming from us later in the clause-by-clause.
But there’s another problem with this bill that, unfortunately, we on this side of the House can do nothing about. That problem is as follows:
Aneurin Bevan of the British Labour Party once said that you can make your laws as nice as you like, but what counts in the long run is the spirit of administration. And that remains, I think, a simple truism for all governments. This is a nice piece of paper and together I hope we can make it a nicer piece of paper. Unfortunately, it will remain utterly insignificant unless the minister and her ministry are prepared to implement it in an honest and aggressive way.
The second problem I refer to is that the Ministry of Labour has not earned the kind of trust in this province among working people that is essential to make this bill work.
Mr. Laughren: Get the message?
Mr. McClellan: The ministry is regarded with a pervasive cynicism, with a lack of trust, with hostility, with leariness --
Hon. Mr. Rhodes: You don’t trust the civil servants of Ontario?
Mr. Laughren: We don’t trust the minister.
Mr. McClellan: -- and that is a major obstacle to the success of this bill. It will only be overcome by the actions of the ministry and the good faith of the ministry in implementing the principles and the policies and programmes of the legislation. I’ve talked to labour leaders and I’ve talked to construction workers in my own constituency, and they share the legacy of years of inadequate action by the ministry. That legacy is mistrust -- and cynicism.
I was down in Windsor at the end of last week for a mini-caucus and we met with a number of delegations which made presentations to us. One, from the United Auto Workers staff which services the V-8 assembly plant in the Chrysler works at Windsor, told us a characteristic story about the plant.
One day the machinery used to move automobiles through the plant broke down and the management said to the work force, “Okay, you move those cars manually -- that means you push them through the plant.”
The problem was brought to the shop steward. He looked at it and it was clearly an unsafe practice. The ministry inspector was contacted and he arrived late in the morning, close to 11:30. He looked at the conditions, saw that the men were trying to push automobiles manually through the plant and said to the work force and the union representatives that it was obviously an unsafe condition.
The inspector then went out to lunch -- with management representatives -- and when he came back after lunch he told the union representative and the work force that now it was a safe working condition.
I would be pleased, before the minister gnashes her teeth, to give her the particulars of this.
Hon. B. Stephenson: No. When? What date and what plant, please?
Mr. McClellan: Yes, I anticipated the minister’s interest and I’d be pleased to put her in contact with the gentleman who made this submission.
Hon. B. Stephenson: No, put it on the record now. I’d like to investigate it, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. McClellan: Right. I’d be --
Hon. W. Newman: Put it on the record now.
Mr. McClellan: I’m afraid I don’t have the name with me. I can get it before this evening’s debate is over, and I’d be pleased to do that.
Hon. B. Stephenson: Mr. Speaker, with this kind of allegation, I think really it should be on the record at this time.
Mr. Warner: It will be. We don’t usually fool around.
Mr. Laughren: We agree with you entirely.
Mr. MacDonald: File it like everything else.
Mr. Bain: You’ll probably give him a pension.
Mr. McClellan: This was a public meeting at which these allegations were made, and the media were present.
Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order please. The Chair has no authority to insist that any member make certain information available to the House, but if he’s going to make allegations, I suggest that he be able to back them up with facts.
Mr. McClellan: Absolutely, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Warner: Of course he will.
Mr. Laughren: It’s his choice, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. McClellan: Mr. Speaker, I have indicated to the minister I have every intention of providing the particulars to her.
Mr. Laughren: Does the Minister of Housing (Mr. Rhodes) --
Hon. Mr. Rhodes: The member without a riding.
Hon. W. Newman: Dr. Nixon, why don’t you join us?
Mr. McClellan: If I may continue. Each of us brings our own concerns with respect to Bill 139. My colleague from Sudbury (Mr. Germa) spoke of his own concern around the mining industry because those are his constituents. I bring a particular concern around the construction industry because my constituents by and large work in the construction industry.
I want to refer again to the final report of the Italian pilot study entitled, The Delivery of Safety Services to New Canadian Workers in Union Hiring Halls, the report done by Sidlofsky and Hellman. It’s a very interesting report because what they were looking at was the success of educational safety campaigns within the hiring halls of locals 506 and 183, Labourers International. They were open to normal conversation with the respondents in the sample; what they discovered was that a key factor in the whole equation around safety in the construction industry was the push man, or the pusher.
We talked a little bit about that during the estimates debate, but I wanted to read very briefly one interesting section around the pusher, because unless this legislation and the measures in Bill 139 are able to address themselves to time pacing in the construction industry and the kind of coercive pressure that the chain of management command places on the work force then we’re not going to be able to deal with the accident rate in the construction industry. It’s very clearly linked to the phenomenon of the pusher and pushing within the construction industry.
Sidlofsky and Hellman describe the pusher thusly: “No single figure featured as prominently in the construction labourers’ discussions as the pushman. Often varying and contradictory descriptions of this figure can be culled from interviews and discussions. This perhaps indicates a lack of clarity on the part of the respondents, but is more likely just a reflection of the complex role of the pushman, which varies a good deal from one work site to another.
“Although there is probably no single key to understanding this figure, this does not mean that nothing more needs to be said about it. Irrespective of his qualifications the pushman represents that part of the chain of command which is closest to the construction labourer. Moreover, the very lack of definition of the pusher’s role contributes to problems in the area of safety. According to the informants in this study, all employers with more than a few labourers feel it necessary to single out individual crew leaders and to give them de facto measures of responsibility on the work site.
“On the basis of the available data it also appears that the pushman is perceived as directly responsible for those safety factors related to the immediate environment and base of work. Many interviewees complained that these responsibilities enabled the pushers to bypass company policies on safety, for example by berating workers who attempted to take the time to secure a ladder properly or to attach a safety harness” -- and they go on.
Because of the time constraints I won’t read, as I had intended to, some selections from the appendix, where the authors have given a synoptic summary of interviews with a number of construction workers. Each of them had his own description of the role of the pusher and of the role of pushing in the construction site. It’s not a very long section, even if you don’t have time to go through the whole report. It’s worth reading that appendix, because you get a feel of what it’s like to work on a construction site which is dominated by the phenomenon of the pusher. It could only be described as a kind of reign of terror. It’s kind of an atmosphere of fear that’s set up that drives people into unsafe work practices. It obviously doesn’t exist in all aspects of the construction industry, but there are a significant number of firms in this city where the phenomenon of pushing is a major and frightening concern.
It’s absolutely essential therefore that two of the key principles of this bill be maintained and strengthened: The right of workers to refuse to work and the right of workers to control occupational health and safety on the work site through their health and safety committees.
We feel that the powers of the joint health and safety committees under section 4 must be spelled out more clearly, and indeed given more authority. They must be made mandatory and they must be given more power. We are confident that if workers -- again I’m speaking of the construction industry -- are given that kind of authority and responsibility they will be able to deal with the phenomenon of pushing and they will be able to have a constructive effect on the accident rate in the construction industry.
If that isn’t sufficient, then we will have to look at other measures. We’ll have to look at amendments to The Construction Safety Act, and we’ll do that. But I think myself that the bill ought to be able to take us a major step along the road to dealing with that problem.
The final point I want to make is a plea to the minister not to cave in when this bill goes out to committee.
Mr. Laughren: Is it going out to committee?
Mr. McClellan: If it goes out to committee. We are not sure that it is going out to committee. Maybe the minister could indicate whether the bill is going out to committee or whether we will deal with it in committee of the whole. The minister is maintaining a stony silence. I will proceed.
Mr. Ferrier: That’s as clear an indication as you will get.
Mr. Deputy Speaker: I think the member knows that questions aren’t permitted during second reading.
Mr. McClellan: Yes, Mr. Speaker, but the minister has a great facility in communicating her response from her seat in many different situations.
Mr. McClellan: This time there is no communication.
Let me say again what I said at the beginning that there is genuine concern about how this bill will be handled. The labour movement and working people are, quite frankly, cynical about it. The kind of trust, as I said, has yet to be earned. If the minister waters down this bill, she will be justifying this suspicion and this cynicism.
I don’t believe myself that she wants to see the three essential principles of this bill altered, or that she wants to see this bill watered down. I think she wants to see it proceed and that she is open to strengthening amendments. I have some misgivings about her caucus, her colleagues. I am apprehensive about what will happen to the essential principles of this bill if it goes outside to committee.
I want to be very clear about this concern. I have a memo that was distributed to us by one of our research staff in early November. She provided us with the information that at a meeting of The Mining Act revision committee the mining company people passed a resolution to be sent to the minister over labour’s opposition to alter significantly the right-to-refuse section. They want unsafe conditions defined along the lines of the Manitoba legislation.
As I am sure the minister is aware, labour objects to defining anything that is not a normal condition as unsafe because in the mining industry normal can mean almost anything. The mining people also want provisions for penalties against employees who use the right in a frivolous manner. They don’t feel that the penalty of loss of pay already in the bill is sufficient. Finally, they want the penalty clause as it applies to section 9(1), and therefore the right to refuse, removed entirely.
The reason I mention that is that yesterday in the leadoff for the Liberal Party the member for Sarnia (Mr. Bullbrook) read from a submission from the Ontario Mining Association. He made precisely those points. If you look at Hansard, Mr. Speaker, you will see that, number one, he espoused the Manitoba legislation, which we don’t feel is adequate. Secondly, he raised in a backdoor kind of way questions about the penalty section. He was taking his material right from the communications of the Ontario Mining Association. In fact, he was reading out of their correspondence.
Mr. McClellan: It could well be.
Mr. Samis: And he is the Liberal critic for labour.
Mr. McClellan: That causes me enormous concern. If the labour critic for the third party is already preparing the ground for significant watering down of essential features of this bill, then all of us had better be on our guard for what happens when that bill goes into committee.
Mr. Breithaupt: I am sure you will be very careful.
Mr. McClellan: Don’t worry, we will save it.
Mr. Laughren: We are worried and we will be very careful.
Mr. McClellan: I think indeed we do have to be very careful. Those of us who believe in this bill, and I include the minister, had better be on our guard, if and when the bill goes outside into committee and the mining companies start to exert their pressure. The minister’s own caucus had better remain solid. I can assure her that we will remain solid in upholding the essential principles of this bill. After the leadoff speech of the labour critic for the third party, I can only express some profound apprehension as to what direction that group may go.
It’s my further understanding that the construction industry is incredibly upset about the health and safety committees. We can expect a very strong lobby from that sector to have that essential feature of the bill watered down substantially.
Mr. Laughren: The Liberal Party will reflect the concern of the construction industry.
Mr. Sweeney: The Liberal Party will try to be fair to both sides. There are two parties to that thing.
Mr. Laughren: It is the super-crotch party.
Mr. McClellan: I think my fear again has been justified by that interjection, that the Liberal Party will try to be fair to both sides.
Mr. Sweeney: You guys are blind in one eye.
Mr. Kerrio: The party that walks on one leg -- left, left, left, left.
Mr. Laughren: Stop being provocative.
Mr. McClellan: I think that that is a simple code word for attempting to water down the bill substantially.
Mr. Laughren: That’s where he gets his orders.
Mr. Angus: They haven’t got a leg to stand on.
Mr. McClellan: I ask the minister again to hold fast to the principles of this bill and rally her caucus mates to its defence. Don’t let it be compromised in committee by those who would subvert it, and I think those who would subvert it are sitting in the third party right now.
Mr. Breithaupt: Your conclusion is as faulty as your premise.
Mr. McClellan: I also want to warn the minister that if she does back down and waters down this bill or allows others to move watering down in subversive amendments, and if her own members on the committee support it, she will forfeit for a long time the kind of trust I talked of at the beginning, the kind of trust from the labour movement and from working people that is going to be essential if this bill is to work and if the whole occupational health and safety programme is to work. People are expecting the minister to water down this bill. That is a simple reality. People in the labour movement expect her to take out the right to refuse to work.
Mr. Laughren: Absolutely right.
Mr. McClellan: People in the labour movement expect her to water down the health and safety committee.
Mr. Kerrio: Like you guys and non-returnable bottles.
Mr. McClellan: People are just waiting for the minister to do it. I invite her to surprise them.
Mr. Hall: You have gone around the Horn four times now.
Mr. McClellan: I invite her to maintain the integrity of the bill, be open to amendments that would strengthen it and listen carefully to the arguments upon which those amendments were based. Together I think we can come through this with a bill that does have integrity and has the possibility of working. If the process is gone through and gone through well, there will be a kind of trust there that we can build on for the development of an adequate occupational health and safety programme in this province.
Mr. Laughren: That’s the scenario, absolutely right on.
Mr. Deputy Speaker: The member for Wentworth North.
An hon. member: Oh, they have found another one.
Mr. Cunningham: I rise too in support of this piece of legislation.
Mr. Laughren: The construction industry is about to speak now.
Mr. Deputy Speaker: Could we have some order please, especially from the member for Nickel Belt?
Mr. Cunningham: He and I used to be friends.
I rise in support of this bill and I know all members of the House basically are in support of its thesis. I think it comes as a result not only of great consultation with probably the working sector of our province, but also a number of members of this Legislature. More specifically too, I think the member for Hamilton East (Mr. Mackenzie) has some very legitimate concerns as the member representing an area that has a number of steel mills and certainly some very dangerous industries.
As a resident of the Hamilton area, according to Bill 155, the regional municipality of Hamilton-Wentworth, I too am familiar with some of the difficulties that employees face in that particular area. I know it wasn’t that long ago that I was working in the summers in some of the more dangerous aspects of the city, not just as far as crime goes, but certainly as far as occupational dangers go. I recall some of the dirty jobs that people had to do.
I worked in one plant for five years -- certainly this was not one of the more dangerous jobs, largely because I am not quite that nervy -- but I recall people had to be involved in the handling of asbestos in bags. I don’t think, until the last year I was there, there was any provision whatsoever for any kind of masks or respiratory protection. I am sure that as a non-practising physician the minister would agree that this is a very dangerous occupation, to say the least.
There is one particular plant which has had a great deal of -- well, I guess I would just have to say that the Ministry of the Environment has been very kind to them over the years -- largely, I guess, at the expense of people who live around it. Perhaps the most dangerous area has been in the pouring of hot tar which has been used for roofing materials. I will just explain to the members very briefly what this process involves.
Coal distillate is brought in from the Steel Company of Canada. It is distilled, poured off into 45-gallon pitch drums and is then used for the process of hot roofing.
The injuries that I saw there were just disgusting, to say the least. There were shaky metal troughs pouring hot molten material into these weak containers and also fumes would come off. I truly say to the minister that if legislation like this were in effect, I don’t think a number of the employees who work in that particular environment would be there if they were aware of the dangers and aware of their right to avoid them.
I think this legislation in itself encourages many of these industries to clean up their acts. They are in the business of making money, I suppose, but at the same time those who are not too concerned about the safety within their plant would, I am sure, provide safer and more efficient methods of conducting their business.
I recall my employment as a student at a particular quarry. The workmen’s compensation rates there I think would bear out my argument that a number of unsafe activities went on in this particular place. It wasn’t that long ago that a fellow, by virtue I think of a very sloppy operation at the scales, was backed over and killed. I think that this legislation, if the spirit of it is effectively enforced and I am sure it could be if the government decided on that, would save many people from being involved in what I regard to be very, very hazardous activities. Your workmen’s compensation involvement I am sure would bear that out.
The thing I am primarily concerned about, and I hope that the minister will think about this in the context of this legislation, is the spirit in which the employer will look at an employee who, under this legislation, opts out of what he or she considers to be a particularly dangerous activity. I am sure all members of the House would agree that many employers are only too willing to dismiss an employee who points out these dangers or who makes his concerns known to the proper authorities or is involved in a long and arduous workmen’s compensation claim. All too often these employers look for the very thinnest and most remote excuse possible, and quite often these employees are then quite summarily dismissed for whatever particular cause the employer can come up with.
To that end, and while I don’t have an amendment at this time, I would suggest that some sort of mechanism be devised to ensure that all employees in Ontario have some form of protection from being unduly dismissed for recognizing what might be something that maybe would save somebody from a preventable injury, two, three, four years from now. I can only say, that if this legislation is passed -- and I would urge that it be passed and implemented as soon as possible -- it’s going to save some claims at the Workmen’s Compensation and more importantly, I think, a number of people from being involved in unfortunate accidents.
Mr. Ferrier: Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin my remarks by reading part of a paragraph from page 250 of the Ham commission report:
“Within the internal responsibility system at the company level, which is the key to the quality of the overall control of occupational hazards, there has been in many companies an inadequate opportunity for workers to contribute their insight to the assessment of work conditions and to the basis on which management makes decisions on issues of health and safety. The adamantly confrontational character of Canadian labour-management relations has deterred the creation of sensible arrangements for worker participation. Questions of health and safety are not suitable issues for collective bargaining. The commission has carefully defined a framework for the operation of joint labour- management health and safety committees as bodies contributive to the formulation and review of sound managerial policies and practices.”
This bill incorporates the joint safety committees, and in so doing I think a very significant step is being taken. When part IX of The Mining Act was under consideration some six years ago, there was a strong appeal by the steelworkers and by those of us in this party to make safety a joint worker-management responsibility in the working out of that Act. Whenever we would make a point or move an amendment, the then minister, Allan Lawrence, would look down at Norman Wadge, who represented Inco at the time, and a gentleman by the name of Perry, who was with Hollinger, and every time they would nod their heads, the amendment wasn’t accepted. As a result, safety standards and responsibilities in the mines were enshrined in The Mining Act at that time as the sole responsibility of management.
This bill makes safety a joint responsibility and states that the provisions of this bill will take precedence to those of any other Acts of the Legislature. One of the things that always stuck in the craw of the steelworkers’ representatives in my riding was a section in The Mining Act -- in part IX, I believe -- which said if there was a dispute over a safety matter, that management rights always took precedence over any other Act or anything that the workers said. So if there was ever a dispute that went to arbitration, it was always found in favour of management. I gather from section 11 of this bill that it will remove that overall prerogative that has been granted to management in The Mining Act and will now mean that matters can be arbitrated in this whole field if we get to that point.
I think this bill is meeting a long-standing need that has existed as far as The Mining Act is concerned, and I am sure a number of the steelworkers’ representatives in my area will feel that there is a bit of justice finally being put into the Acts of the Ontario Legislature. The Labour Relations Act always had to take second place to The Mining Act, and now I gather this is going to be the Act that does take precedence as far as the mines are concerned.
Another thing noted in the Ham report is the fact that by joining the mines engineering branch with the environmental health group, we are now going to have some interaction between these two bodies of people; and that the professional people who had tended to stay with their own group, the mining engineers had intended to identify almost totally with the mining industry and the health people stayed more with their group of professionals. And now both groups will have to come together and there will be some interchange and some very significant discussion.
I think this is important as far as dust conditions are concerned in the mines. I would like to see some more consideration being given by the environmental health people to the whole problem of lung conditions in the gold miners. The gold miners are a little different than the uranium miners because there are a number of other conditions that develop, and they often develop much later in life.
The whole problem of chronic bronchitis is one that usually disables. I believe there are studies that show conclusively that if a person has been subjected to silica dust over a period of time and develops tuberculosis the silica exposure has been significant in the cause and effect. But this is not recognized yet by the Workmen’s Compensation Board. The case of bronchitis in gold miners seems to be significantly higher than it is in the general population, and this has been shown by studies -- I think there’s a man by the name of Higgins -- I. T. T. Higgins and P. D. Oltem have found this out. There’s another study referred to in the Ham commission, and I understand that South Africa also compensates gold miners for bronchitis.
I think that there needs to be --
Mr. Wildman: You mean South Africa is more progressive than we are?
Mr. Ferrier: In this point they have recognized something that we haven’t yet. I’m hoping that the minister, being a medical person, will look into these studies and will see that these older miners do receive some kind of justice.
In the consolidation and in the responsibility that this Act gives to the minister is the transferring of The Silicosis Act under her jurisdiction. This should give her some leeway to look into the whole, broad field of chest conditions in all miners. But my particular concern is more the gold miners because that’s the area that I come from and I’ve dealt with this problem for eight or nine years. If we can make a significant breakthrough there and begin to provide a much better sense of justice for them, I would be, of all people, the happiest there could be.
In carrying out the responsibilities that are granted to the minister under this Act, I hope that her colleagues in cabinet will make sure that she is given adequate staff to carry out those responsibilities. There has been some concern that has filtered through to me that to really do the job, there needs to be more staff in the mines engineering branch. I believe there’s a move afoot to create a different degree of inspector -- perhaps not the engineer, but another level as recommended by the Ham commission -- so I hope that the Chairman of Management Board and others will see that she has sufficient funding to carry out this very important work that is being given to her.
I am pleased that the minister is finally getting the whole mines engineering section and the inspection of mines in her ministry. This thrust has been made by this party for the nine years that I’ve been in the House, and I think that now the branch is where it belongs. I think that in that branch, because of the interaction with people in the Ministry of Health and because it is a step removed from the Ministry of Natural Resources, there will begin to come a greater degree of objectivity than we have known in the past.
Ham pointed out very convincingly what many of us knew for a long time, that that branch was not doing its job; that it was just tip-toeing around and was catering too much to the mining industry and not protecting the worker.
I hope that with the new director in that branch and having it under the Ministry of Labour, it will make a very strong presence in the mines and will ensure that The Mining Act, as it presently is and as it will probably be amended a little later on in the next year, will be enforced rigidly to the benefit of the miners of this province. Because we certainly know that this is important. It would give a better working environment for men who work in a very dangerous industry where deaths and the serious injuries and industrial diseases that developed have been very high over the years. I suspect that a major number of compensation cases have come from this very industry.
I think that the permissiveness in setting up these committees -- I believe, the minister has “may” and not “must” -- is a mistake. I think it should be obligatory. There are some small companies where there are some very bad working conditions. In some of the forestry industry, some of the smaller jobbers and that type of thing, the accident rate is particularly high. I think those are some of the areas where workers must have a say. They must have a say, with the protection of this Act, that certain things are unsafe and must be changed and they can’t be dismissed arbitrarily at the whim of some of those employers. Some of them are pretty tough individuals and it’s the law of the jungle that prevails there.
It has been documented that some pretty disturbing situations have developed. One of them in my riding was the Johns-Manville Reeves mine. There have been a lot of major concerns about those workers and major concerns that they will be followed up. I hope that there will be provisions made for people who have worked in what later is shown to be dangerous conditions. Their medical condition should be followed up on a regular and sustained basis. I hope that the minister will make sure that is done.
As I say, there are some very good things in this Act. It does have its defects but it does answer some of the problems that I have wanted to see answered for quite a long time. And if the Act is administered firmly and resolutely and there does come the co-operation that is so necessary in the work place as far as safety conditions are concerned and the workers are given an adequate say, I think that we have entered into a new era as far as this is concerned.
There are many things that other speakers in my party have said that could be done to improve it. But at least we’ve come this far after a lot of years of pleading. I’m pleased that we have made at least this progress.
Mr. Burr: I should like to speak very briefly on a subject which has been covered very thoroughly by many previous speakers. But one point perhaps needs some emphasis. Inasmuch as tobacco smoke is the most intense and ubiquitous form of air pollution, and there are undoubtedly some offices and other areas in many work places in this province where smoking occurs to the detriment of the health and well-being of passive smokers, I wish to ask the minister whether section 2 of this Bill 139, An Act respecting Employees’ Health and Safety, gives protection to those employees who are unwilling to submit their lungs to avoidable air pollution.
When I was a teacher the problem of the smoky staff lunch room was solved by the provision of an alternative room for non-smokers. I should like the minister to consider whether section 2 does give passive smokers the protection many of them may insist upon, and if not, whether she would devise an amendment to make clear that employers do have an obligation to provide clean air for those employees who want it.
Minnesota has passed a law that states: “No person shall smoke in a public place or in a public meeting except in designated smoking areas.” The possible fine is $100. And the Minnesota law also extends to offices which must be considered as non-smoking areas unless, as is unlikely to happen, all the employees smoke.
If anyone believes that all smokers will voluntarily refrain from smoking in the work place if asked, let me relate an incident that happened recently in an Ontario junior high school staff room. There are 26 teachers 13 of whom are smokers and 13 of whom are non-smokers. The non-smokers have previously asked for abstention from smoking during the staff meetings which last for about an hour to an hour-and-a-half and which all members of the staff, of course, are required to attend. Recently before the staff meeting, someone posted no smoking signs around the room and placed a copy of the non-smokers’ bill of rights at each member’s place. The results were entirely negative.
Mr. Burr: Someone described the results as “reeking of guilt, aggression, and paranoia.” I quote from a letter reporting the incident:
“Every smoker who came into the room made a great show of lighting up. One went so far as to go out to his car to get cigars, which would, he said, be worse. Then the principal, a smoker, entered.”
An hon. member: The principal smoker.
Mr. Burr: “He picked up the bill of rights and exclaimed loudly, ‘I believe in freedom,’ took out his lighter and held it to the paper. I have never witnessed such childish and ignorant group behaviour from adults.” I am still quoting the letter. “I myself suffer from smoke and when exposed to it for a length of time easily get bronchial conditions and infections.”
A few days later a yellow sheet was given to every staff member containing what I believe was a parody of the non-smokers’ bill of rights, including this statement: “We insist on the right to smoke in a relaxing place (we have only one staff room) without constantly being told by those who choose to sit next to us that smoke bothers them.”
So you can see from this that those who are compelled to be present in certain rooms or areas of a work place may be exposed against their will and at risk to their health, because of tobacco smoke which, as I said before, is the most intense form of air pollution. And if Bill 139 is to be a really effective bill, it must protect the health of non-smokers, or passive smokers, or if you wish to call them that, involuntary smokers. Thank you.
Mr. Deputy Speaker: The hon. member for Algoma.
Mr. Laughren: Another New Democrat?
Mr. Wildman: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I rise to participate in this debate in support of Bill 139 although, as my colleagues have expressed reservations, I too have some worries about the bill. However, I welcome it as a shift, however reluctant, in the government’s attitude towards workers’ health and safety in the work place. Perhaps this is the beginning of moves that will eventually lead to the situation where workers no longer have to choose between their livelihoods and their lives, a situation which is one of the worst kinds of choices to give a working man in this province.
The government for a long time has tried to pretend that it is on the side of workers in this province. The fact of the matter, of course, is that although the Ministry of Health may have tried in the past, the Ministry of Labour and the Ministry of Natural Resources have never of their own volition taken measures to improve safety in the work place. It’s always taken a fight on the part of the workers or on the part of the unions, or bad publicity, before the government would move.
Mr. Laughren: Exactly right.
Mr. Davidson: Don’t shake your head. It’s true.
Mr. Wildman: I can point to a couple of things that indicate the government’s attitude in the past. The attitudes expressed and shown by the Workmen’s Compensation Board really demonstrate the attitudes of this government towards workers in this province. I have a quote from a release issued by the Workmen’s Compensation Board -- and this relates to the principles of the bill, because hopefully this bill will cut down on the number of compensation cases, if it operates correctly. It says here:
“If you are a miner, a construction worker, a hospital nurse, or a farm hand, you will be well looked after in the event of an accident on the job.”
And it goes on to say:
“Injured workers are sure of getting the benefits to which they are entitled promptly and with a minimum of formality.”
That’s the Workmen’s Compensation Board release --
Mr. McClellan: Must be some other jurisdiction.
Mr. Wildman: When I read that I must admit I had a hard time understanding whether or not they were referring to Ontario.
Mr. Davidson: What about all the appeals?
Mr. Wildman: The fact that there are so many Workmen’s Compensation cases in this province indicates that that is just pure hogwash. The fact that we have so many cases relates directly to the fact that the various ministries involved in workmen’s health and safety have not ensured that the worker is protected and safe in his work place.
The government has never really protected the workers and quite often when they are hurt, especially if it involves a permanent disability, the Workmen’s Compensation Board doesn’t provide them with the benefits to which they are entitled. Injured worker after injured worker in this province has to fight for his rightful benefits, especially if it involves a permanent disability. If it’s a temporary disability, it’s not so tough. But if it involves a permanent disability, he has a terrible time to get benefits that he should have received immediately.
An hon. member: Appeal after appeal.
Mr. Wildman: Right, one appeal after another. They have to go to unions, to doctors, to MPPs, to lawyers, to intercede in appeals, letters and phone calls to the board simply because they can’t obtain the benefits to which they are entitled, or because benefits are delayed that they should be getting and the board has said they will get or, as I have found in my short period in this House, on many occasions the board has lost their file.
I just hope that this bill we are discussing today will do something to get rid of the problems of workers who have been injured and so we will have fewer injured workers.
Last week, in the discussion of the estimates of the Ministry of Labour, a number of comments were made about the difficulties workers have in getting protection in this province. I pointed out the situation in Wawa, where a number of miners have been informed by the Ministry of Health that they have silicosis or will contract the disease if they continue to work underground. They’ve been advised by the Ministry of Health that they shouldn’t go back underground.
They’ve been unable to obtain Workmen’s Compensation benefits because, according to the board, their cases are not serious enough. The board has advised them to work again for another year and to be x-rayed in another year and, if their condition has deteriorated then, to reapply to the board for benefits. This is even after their own family physicians have advised them not to go back underground. I just have a very difficult time accepting that this government really cares about workers and injured workers in this province. If this bill means there’s a change in their attitude, then I salute it, but somehow I’m sceptical.
In essence, the board is telling these particular workers to continue to work, to become even more ill than they are now and then to reapply and get compensated for becoming ill because of government order. That’s how well the government’s Workmen’s Compensation Board has looked after workers in this province up until now. The minister shakes her head. I can give her the eight cases. I’ll send them to her tomorrow.
Hon. B. Stephenson: Just give me the letter from the Workmen’s Compensation Board that says what you said they said.
Mr. Wildman: I have a copy of it. I will be quite willing to give a copy to the minister of the letter which states that “your condition is not serious enough. We advise you to be re-examined in one year.”
Hon. B. Stephenson: They don’t tell them to go back underground.
Mr. Wildman: Where on earth else are they going to work?
Mr. Wildman: I’m sorry but when they live in a place like Wawa where the major industry is Algoma Ore, where the major industry is an iron ore mine, where else are these people going to work? It’s an interesting concept the minister has.
To get directly to the bill, one of the good things about it is that it consolidates jurisdiction over workers’ health and safety under the Ministry of Labour. Although sometimes, considering the minister’s latest remarks, that may not be a good thing, this is something that we in the NDP have advocated for a long time and it’s taken a long time to come. The reason this is a good thing is that at least the miners will no longer be under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Natural Resources. At least they won’t have to depend on the Minister of Natural Resources (Mr. Bernier) to look after their interests because in those cases it was hopeless.
If the Ministry of Labour continues to operate in the fashion exemplified by its lack of action in the past or the attitudes of the minister in this House or the attitudes of the Workmen’s Compensation Board when it refers to permanent disability, then I’m a little sceptical that the new branch of occupational health and safety will be effective in implementing the other provisions of the bill. The main provisions of this bill seem to have come as a result of the Ham commission’s hearings and its report. I think that’s a very valuable report and one study that should have been implemented long ago. It’s a good thing that we finally had an independent inquiry into the whole problem of miner’s safety.
The Minister of Natural Resources and the government, however, have tried to give the impression that the commission was set up willingly by the government because of its concern for miners’ safety. In fact, it took many years of struggle by workers in this province, by miners in this province, especially the miners in Elliot Lake, and many years of protest by members of this caucus, especially by the member for Sudbury East (Mr. Martel), who deserves a great deal of credit, before the government moved for the fact that there has been any move by the government on this matter.
I want to refer to one gentleman who really deserves a great deal of credit in bringing about a change in attitude on the part of the government. That is Gus Frobel, who has been mentioned earlier in this debate and who is a miner in Elliot Lake. After a long period of struggle, he was able to receive compensation for lung cancer. It was the beginning of the recognition of the problems in Elliot Lake.
As is well known here, the problem of silica as a component of dust in the mines in this province is a very serious one. In Elliot Lake the ore bodies contain some of the highest silica content in any mines in the province. Since Gus Frobel, a large number of uranium workers have been identified as having contracted cancer as a result of working in the mines. Since the end of 1974, according to the Ministry of Natural Resources’ own figures and the Workmen’s Compensation Board figures, 81 of those miners have died -- 81.
Gus Frobel is one of the three or four who are left. He was the first and he is the last, it appears, of that group of workers. I think Gus has demonstrated his desire to ensure that this doesn’t happen to anyone else by the fact that he remains in Elliot Lake as a symbol of the serious situation that workers in the mines face in this province and especially in Elliot Lake.
To give an example of the way this worker views his situation and the situation of miners in general in this province, I would like to read a quote from an interview with Gus in the Sault Star recently where he said:
“Many thousands of years ago when civilizations began, men went out hunting and one fell into a hole. He called ‘Watch out!’ to the others behind him. I am the one who got it and the least I can do is call out ‘Watch out!’ to the others.”
This man is there as a symbol of the callousness of the industry and of the ignorance or lack of action of the government. And he is not willing to just take it and because he wasn’t -- not because of the desire of the government to do something about the situation -- we now are starting to do something about the problems in Elliot Lake. It is because of men like this and because of the work of the United Steelworkers of America that this government has suggested in this bill that workers be given the right to refuse to work under unsafe conditions.
I don’t really think that it’s because this government suddenly changed its views on everything. If it did, it did because the evidence was so great that they had to move. And the evidence wasn’t collected by themselves of their own volition. It was collected by people in the work place. It was collected by the unions and it was collected by members of this caucus and it had to be thrown out to the industries and to the ministries before they moved. The fact that they have moved I welcome but I wonder why it didn’t come a lot sooner. I wonder whether or not their attitudes have changed enough to make this legislation effective once it’s passed.
There are a couple of things that I question in the bill. I wonder, if this bill is the result of the Ham commission report, why the provision was put in that the workers would be allowed to accompany inspectors. I welcome that but I wonder why the government didn’t accept the suggestion that we have permanent worker auditors who could take time off work to inspect the situation on a permanent basis and with their regular pay. I would hope that the government would consider accepting that provision.
Also I welcome the provision in the bill that sets up health and safety committees. Again I would like to see it mandatory. I wonder why there is the suggestion in the bill that these committees should meet not more than once a month. What if you have a situation like Matachewan and they were only allowed to meet once a month?
An hon. member: The whole town?
Mr. Wildman: United Asbestos; I don’t mean the whole town. It’s an interesting point! I am sure they could meet more than once a month if you were talking about the town, but what about the company? If you had a situation like that and they only meet once a month, why is that provision there? What is the purpose of it?
If the situation is serious surely the health and safety committees can meet as many times as is necessary to analyse the situation and to make suggestions on how to improve it? I am sure that would be in the interest not only of the workers but also in the interest of the company. For that reason, I will be supporting amendments that will be suggested by our caucus at the committee stage.
Mr. Laughren: I’m glad to hear it.
Mr. Wildman: I am glad you are here listening to me.
I do support the bill because, as I said before, it at least looks as if the government is moving away from its alliance with capital in this province, who maximize profits at the expense of the lives of the working people in this province. But I would just like to end, Mr. Speaker, by emphasizing I suppose the bill only is a first step and not as a final be-all and end-all in health and safety in this province.
The situation we have in this province, Mr. Speaker, results, as Mr. Frobel says, because there is a smell of money in the air. The reason there was such an emphasis on development, with so little regard for safety in Elliot Lake, was because the companies knew there was a market and that’s what matters.
Mr. Laughren: Has the minister ever met Mr. Frobel?
Mr. Wildman: Mr. Frobel says, “Before it was the cold war, now it’s the energy crisis. The only difference is that now we have 90 dead.” And as he says at the end, “It’s the widows I feel for, that’s where my heart is. You have to do your own battle. That’s the only way life becomes meaningful. The miners have to stand up and fight for what they need.”
And that’s indeed true. If the miners hadn’t stood up and fought for what they needed, we wouldn’t have even this bill yet. It is to these people, Mr. Speaker, that we owe this legislation, not to this government.
I support it as a first step to ensuring that we don’t have any more Gus Frobels in this province.
Mr. Breaugh: I imagine by now the minister is a little upset that so many people this evening are choosing to speak to the principles of this particular bill.
Hon. B. Stephenson: Not in the least.
Mr. Breaugh: Let me say I enjoy her discomfort immensely. And I think it’s time that she recognized very clearly that the reason we are here --
Mr. Laughren: It’s a class issue. That’s why. A class issue.
Mr. Breaugh: -- to speak this evening on the principles of this bill is because it is the very principles of the bill that are vital to us.
It has taken so long to get this far in the province of Ontario, and the principles that are enunciated in this bill are so important to us, that we feel it is worth spending the time on it. I am sure the minister doesn’t object.
Mr. Davidson: It took you that long to get here.
Mr. Breaugh: We see so many of our brothers and sisters, the people we work with, the people we live with, so directly affected by the principles that are laid out in this bill, that we think it is important that we spend time on it.
One of the things that’s curious -- and I think we should emphasize that point -- is that the principles of the bill are even more important than the mechanics of the bill. You see, the mechanics are not any kind of a final solution at all, but the principles enunciated in this particular bill are very important. They are the first major response, in legislative terms, from the province of Ontario to that Ham commission report.
One of the things I found very interesting was that one of the very first major statements by the minister, after that report, was made in an address to the International Association of Industrial Accident Boards and Commissions. A couple of things are interesting about that.
First of all, the fact that the group she chose to address -- and I don’t imply that she wouldn’t talk to the workers or anything --
Mr. Laughren: Oh no.
Mr. Breaugh: -- but that particular group was important. The second major thing that is interesting about the address was that it was made in Biloxi, Mississippi. Now, I can’t think of a better place to talk about the health and safety of Ontario workers than Biloxi, Mississippi. Frankly, those laws about Ontario workers look a hell of a lot better in Biloxi than they do in Matachewan. I don’t blame the minister for getting that much distance for the fallout that’s in there.
What I thought was impressive was the things she had to say which are certainly reflected in these principles. I want you to listen to this very carefully because this is a direct quote, and see if you can recognize the body identified in here.
“The board is now taking an active role in the battle against the medical mysteries in the occupational health field.” Now catch this line: “The board is now similar to a forward command post marshalling the forces of medical expertise.” I’m glad that was said in Biloxi.
I want to just put one other small matter on the record from that very same speech because I think this is quite worthwhile.
Mr. Bain: You didn’t think anyone would read that speech, did you?
Mr. Breaugh: It’s bordering on the unique because it says, and I want to quote this one line: “The board has developed a plan -- a plan to remove employees from the hazardous work environment --” I’m not sure whether that removal will be by the Krauss-Maffei system or just ordinary buses. And the last part of that line is important --
Mr. Davidson: The plan is very simple; you drop dead on the job. That is the removal process.
Mr. Breaugh: -- because it says; “particularly before the risk of a disease becomes serious.” Not afterwards; not after you’ve gone through the Workmen’s Compensation Board and the appeals and the medical sources have gotten together and the expertise is out there. It says right here that they now have a plan to remove employees from the hazardous work environment, particularly before the risk of a disease becomes serious.
Mr. Laughren: Dr. McCracken wrote that speech.
Mr. Breaugh: That’s good stuff and I welcome that from the minister. That’s an important statement; that’s an important principle to be enunciated, even in Biloxi, about Ontario’s health and safety work record.
Mr. Laughren: Unfortunately, it is not true.
Mr. Breaugh: And I think a substantial change is in the works. I really think that the principles of this bill are really so very important because too much of the legislation that we’ve had in Ontario is really quite good legislation if you’re reading it somewhere else in the world. It only looks bad if you’re here in Ontario seeing that legislation at work, seeing how it’s implemented. That’s the only thing we have wrong in a number of areas.
Let me quote another international source, since the minister chose to go to Biloxi. This one was not quite such a glamorous spot as the Broadwater Beach Hotel in Biloxi, Mississippi. This one was done at a place called Black Lake in Michigan. There was a slightly different crowd at Black Lake, which happened to be a UAW conference centre. Let me point to a couple of principles that are there. They were enunciated at that particular conference and I think they are inherent in this particular bill, a substantial change in Ontario.
“The elimination of pollutants in the plant has always been the goal of the labour movement. The growth of the environmental movement has focused attention on the long-term health effects of occupational chemical exposures and has spurred new effort on the part of many unions, including the UAW, who have included new safeguards in our contracts, trained safety and health committee men and expanded our professional staff. But the problems go beyond what labour can achieve in collective bargaining, or solely with its own forces in the political area.”
That’s important stuff; that’s a response from another side of the coin, and I think an important one and certainly a very valid one for a number of people.
Let me just quote another small line. Two small quotes from each side, if you want to put it that way:
“The corporate executive’s message to workers who complain about health and safety conditions often is, ‘Keep quiet or we’ll have to shut down.’ The reality is that they seldom do shut down and when plant closures do occur that are attributed to safety enforcement, closer investigation often reveals that the operation was old, outmoded and unprofitable for other reasons. Yet to a worker worried about losing his or her job, health and safety blackmail can have the same devastating effect as environmental blackmail.”
That’s important stuff to get on the record because that deals with the principle of this particular bill.
Mr. Laughren: Did the minister say that?
Mr. Breaugh: No, actually the minister was not the one who said that. I should quote the source; it’s a fellow by the name of Leonard Woodcock, who might know something about workers because he represents a few of them in the United Automobile Workers.
That’s the context in which this bill has to be viewed. Very simply, why is this bill before the House now? Why are these principles being enunciated? Why is there this new plan? I’d like to think it was the result of a conscientious person thinking through what should be done. I’m afraid that I’m cynical enough to say that it’s probably because it’s a very hot political issue, because it affects a number of people, because the case has been made substantially day after day in this House over case after case of very real people experiencing very real problems.
Mr. Davidson: And more yet to come.
Mr. Breaugh: A lot of public pressure has been there for some time. I welcome the change in attitude on the part of the government from last spring when, in a number of cases when problems were presented before the House, they were pooh-poohed. The government would say things weren’t all that bad and of course the workers were wrong and they didn’t have their facts straight and you’re wrong again. The tabling of that Ham commission report was a substantial change in Ontario’s history. If you like, it might very simply be the matter that a third party had intervened and said essentially the same thing that a number of other people had said for a great many years.
There are problems inherent in adopting the principles in this kind of legislation. Not the least of them is all of what I think Mr. Woodcock referred to as “the environmental and occupational health blackmail” that goes on. It’s a question of jobs. Will you throw the jobs out the window if you try to get somebody a safe place to work?
Mr. Laughren: Shades of Leo Bernier.
Mr. Breaugh: There are some very real costs involved in doing this kind of work because once you set up the kind of mechanism that’s laid forth in this bill, then that means you can’t bury it forever. You really must do something about it. You’re setting forth mechanisms here to identify unhealthy practices. I think that once you have done that -- once you have bitten the bullet, you have turned the corner, you’ve said that we’re no longer sweeping those under the rug, we’ll not only just identify them, we’ll now do something about them -- that’s a substantial change.
I wonder how relevant it is to ask those people to do that kind of research -- to keep those kinds of records. For a number of them it’s possible. A number of them probably have as much expertise in that field as anybody, but a number of people in other work places don’t. That causes me some problems. Who’s going to do the analysis of all this investigation that takes place? Are we really raising people’s expectations to a height that this legislation won’t fulfill? And to be very blunt about it, is this government raising those expectations to a point that they’re not prepared to carry through? That’s the crucial point.
There are a number of work places that don’t have the resources to take this kind of legislation, these kinds of principles, and do a bang-up job with them, and we have to recognize that. There are some very real problems with how realistic, how practical, this legislation is. Is it really a practical approach to the problem itself? It may be. I suppose we’ll have to wait to see the first person who refuses to go into an unsafe work place.
But I think the principles enunciated in this bill retain something that’s perhaps not too favourable at all, and that’s an adversary system. Somebody will have to object, and a committee will have to look into it. Someone else will have to investigate it. What happens to that worker during that time? It sounds simple enough. It might take a day. What happens if it takes three years? It might, before someone makes that decision.
I wonder what will happen when the first problem about asbestos workers comes to the fore -- when they say no. My difficulty with that is that I’ve got people in my riding who work in JohnsManville. They’ve been investigated and they’ve had all kinds of public spotlights and all kinds of medical research, and I know that some of them are still working there.
I know one lady in particular who rather breaks my heart because her husband died there. She’s 54 years old and she can’t get a proper job and she’s got some teenage kids to raise, and she was one of those who missed out on the last go-round with the Compensation Board making awards. That’s tough stuff to put out. It’s very tough to sit in her kitchen and listen to her problems and try to explain the process that’s there.
In Ontario it’s a long and a complex and a cruel system that’s at work, and there isn’t very much enunciated in the principles of this bill that substantially alters that approach. The approach remains roughly the same. It simply recognizes there are some valid principles, some very simple mechanism, to put to work in the work place.
One of the things that bothers me about the bill, frankly, is that it still says that something must be wrong before anything can be done about it. Essentially, that’s the problem. Why does something have to be wrong in the work place before we’re prepared to look at it?
The other evening I had a rather pleasant dinner with some people from General Motors who were outlining their plans for automobiles in North America. They were design engineers. I was really impressed with the amount of time, money and effort they spend analysing, building models and doing all kinds of tests with things.
They had comparisons of diesel engines, gas-fired engines and battery-powered engines. They had broken it down to such a degree that they were making estimations or cost counts on whether it would be a better use of the oil resource to build cars as we now have them or to run battery-powered cars. They had that down to a fine art -- all of that caution so far in the future -- and frankly admitted that most of the projects they were working on wouldn’t be in production for at least 20 years.
They were prepared to go to that length to look at a product -- to see how it would market, to see whether it would work, to see whether there would be alternatives. They have entire staffs of people working on it.
Mr. Davidson: Do they spend that on their people?
Mr. Breaugh: Who is the guy that does that same kind of analysis on the chemicals that are used, on the materials that are used, on the kinds of machines that they use, on the kind of job training that people need before they can function safely in that work place? Who does that? Nobody.
That’s the tragedy we’re in because of this great free enterprise system that we have. Large corporations are not shy about spending money. They are prepared to spend it for marketable materials. The principles of this bill say that’s okay. The principles of this bill say, in effect, that something must be wrong and then we’ll set up a mechanism to look after it. That’s a basic fault in the bill and it’s a basic change that must come in the philosophy in which we deal with all of this.
An hon. member: It’s a cover-up bill.
Mr. Breaugh: Those are a number of basic problems. In effect, what I am saying about this bill is very simply this: Those people who up until this time have negotiated safety in the work place, those organized units that have the people and the expertise to do it, will welcome this as being a very practical and easy step to put in. I’m not so sure that it’s even relevant to a number of people in the working situation in Ontario. I’m not so sure that a great many people in small plants can take the principles enunciated in this bill and apply them on a workable day-by-day basis.
I have to put this position before the House. As a member of this Legislature, I can’t say that I think that the Minister of Labour is an untrustworthy soul. I can’t infer that she doesn’t always tell the truth. I can’t say that she’s misleading the House. By the very nature of the Legislature, I have to accept on good faith that this is a trusting situation and that the principles enunciated in this bill will be carried out by her ministry and by that government.
I feel very uncomfortable with that position. I would like to quote some comments that I heard in my constituency office on Friday afternoon about her ministry, but there isn’t very much of them that’s in parliamentary language. There are a very few words, but if we took out the unparliamentary language there wouldn’t be very much left.
There is not a matter of trust. There is a very real fear in the work place these days that bad things are happening and we are not too sure how to deal with them. I am not very certain at all that the principles enunciated in this particular piece of legislation go very far to allay those fears for very many people.
There is a need, as this bill moves through the House, for the bill to be strengthened. More important than that, what I want to hear this evening, or whenever the minister wraps up, is a very firm commitment. If she cares to, the minister can pour it all over the benches here that we’re all very cynical people, that we don’t trust her enough and that she is prepared to jump up and down and yell and scream for the principles of this kind of legislation. I would welcome that. I’d love to hear the minister do that at great length.
I want to hear a very firm commitment on the part of the government to carry through with the other part of that plan that was mentioned in Biloxi. I want to see the rest of that stuff. This is hardly enough to make it a safe work place.
Mr. Davidson: It was never enunciated in Ontario.
Mr. Laughren: Did you say Biloxi?
Mr. Breaugh: Biloxi, Mississippi. Lovely Biloxi.
Hon. B. Stephenson: Biloxi.
Mr. Breaugh: I have never been there, unfortunately.
Hon. B. Stephenson: Neither had I before.
Mr. Davidson: Not only that, he never made a speech.
Mr. Laughren: Is that anyplace near Plains, Georgia?
Mr. Breaugh: Mr. Speaker, I want to end with a few little comments. One of the things in the principles of this bill is very clearly the recognition of a problem that has been in Ontario for a long time, but the principles are very simple and very short-term ones that will deal with one very small portion of that problem. There are a number of other things that must come if it’s to mean anything.
I think that the intent of the bill is appropriate for sure. It’s long overdue but it is appropriate. The principles of the bill are fine as far as they go, but they are very short-term and are very limited. It’s probably a reasonable approach if I hear some firm commitment. In terms of legislation, it may be a reasonable approach but we need much more than that. We need much more than the minister’s assurances in the House. We need finally to see the labour laws in Ontario protect the worker in the work place before something happens to him.
The principles put forward in this bill make us accept really on a matter of trust that the government is now prepared to do what it says right on the front cover of this bill, to put forward An Act respecting Employees’ Health and Safety; that it will carry forward a programme that is far more comprehensive than what we see in this particular bill and that it is prepared to change an attitude of governing in Ontario that has been substantially lacking in this particular field for a number of years.
I trust the minister. I trust her tonight. It’s probably the first time I have ever done that. I hope I haven’t made a bad mistake in supporting this kind of legislation but we are in that position as members of this House that when the government proposes legislation we have to say they mean what they are putting forward in terms of legislation, they will carry it through and they will bring in more legislation, if necessary. Perhaps more pertinent is the fact that they will actually take the words on this paper and make them work for the people in Ontario.
Mr. Riddell: As the spokesmen in this party who have debated this bill have indicated, we certainly support Bill 139. I wasn’t going to have anything to say about this bill because I am not all that knowledgeable about labour matters. But when I sit and listen to the nonsense and the repetition that is taking place on this side --
Mr. Davidson: Stay on the farm, Kojak.
Mr. Cassidy: The anti-labour member for Huron-Middlesex.
Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order, please. The hon. member for Huron-Middlesex has the floor.
Hon. Mr. Rhodes: You have them cackling now.
Mr. Riddell: -- I just feel that I have to make some comment and remind my friends in the NDP that in November, 1970, the member for Welland South moved an amendment to section 161 of The Mining Act.
Mr. Samis: We went through this.
Mr. Davidson: You missed that.
Mr. Cassidy: You are being repetitious.
Mr. Riddell: That amendment stated that a safety committee shall be established for every mine, comprising equal representation from management and labour --
Mr. Samis: Read Hansard.
Mr. Breithaupt: We have listened to 20 of you; now you can listen to something from us.
Mr. Riddell: -- and the committee is responsible for ensuring that the safety provisions of this Act are complied with and shall forthwith notify the minister and the district mining engineer of any act or injury to any workmen occurring in or about the mine.
I want to tell you, Mr. Speaker, that the NDP voted against this amendment.
Mr. Laughren: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Deputy Speaker: Point of order, the hon. member for Nickel belt.
Mr. Laughren: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I really feel that it is incumbent upon me --
Mr. Deputy Speaker: What is your point of order?
Mr. Laughren: -- to remind the member who is speaking now that --
Mr. Good: That is no point of order.
Mr. Laughren: It is a point of order. The member is introducing it into the debate. In the 1970 debate the amendment that was put forward indicated that the safety committees would supervise the safety provisions.
Mr. Deputy Speaker: That is not a point of order.
Mr. Good: You weren’t even in normal school then.
Mr. Deputy Speaker: The hon. member for Huron-Middlesex has the floor.
Mr. McClellan: Political fakery.
Mr. Riddell: If I may continue, Mr. Speaker, I simply want to indicate that we were in favour of establishing a safety committee as early as 1970 and we didn’t receive any support whatsoever from the NDP.
Mr. Ferrier: The committee had no say at all.
Mr. Mackenzie: You have lost the battle.
Mr. Riddell: Then following that amendment, the member for Welland South introduced a private member’s bill, An Act to provide for the Establishment of Safety Committees. The bill was debated in the House and I will say once again the NDP supported it with reservations.
Mr. Laughren: Is he in order, Mr. Speaker?
Mr. Mackenzie: What about the bill?
Mr. Riddell: In connection with the bill, we commend the minister for bringing in this bill.
Mr. Riddell: One would think to listen to the NDP people that they were responsible for introducing the bill and that they consider it to be the greatest thing since sliced bread.
Mr. Nixon: That’s what 20 of them are trying to say.
Mr. Laughren: That’s an original line.
Mr. Kerrio: It doesn’t have to be original to be appropriate.
Mr. Riddell: The intent of this bill is to put The Construction Safety Act, The Industrial Safety Act and sections of The Mining Act that relate to safety in mines under one ministry.
Mr. Davidson: It is always nice to have a farmer who knows about labour.
Mr. Riddell: This is something that we in the Liberal Party have been proposing for some time.
Hon. Mr. Rhodes: Where have you been?
Mr. Riddell: The minister stated: “As members know, my ministry is now responsible for The Industrial Safety Act and The Construction Safety Act. With the transfer proposed in the new legislation, responsibility for all occupational health and safety legislation will reside in the Ministry of Labour. The division will be headed by a person having the status of an assistant deputy minister with whom my deputy minister and I will have close and continuing contact. The person appointed will have administrative responsibility for all of the statutes to which I referred. I shall be announcing the name of the appointee at the earliest possible date.”
Here again this is something that the member for Welland South has been asking for in a direct or indirect way for some period of time.
Mr. McClellan: Where is he tonight?
Mr. Riddell: We are very pleased to see that the government is now adopting some of the principles of the Liberal Party, for the Liberal Party has certainly taken this position for some time.
Hon. Mr. Kerr: Liberal who?
Mr. Deputy Speaker: I’m wondering if the hon. member for Sault St. Marie has a point of order?
Hon. Mr. Rhodes: Yes, Mr. Speaker, will the hon. member tell us who is the member for Welland South? I can’t find him here and I’d like to commend him.
Mr. Deputy Speaker: That’s not a point of order.
Hon. Mr. Rhodes: I apologize.
Mr. Deputy Speaker: I think he is referring to the member for Erie.
Mr. Riddell: Might I just remind the Minister of Housing that at the time he introduced the bill or the amendment he was the member for Welland South, but I understand since redistribution, he’s now the member for Erie. His name is Ray Haggerty.
Mr. Deputy Speaker: And that’s not the principle of the bill either.
Mr. Good: He is speaking to the point of order.
Mr. Riddell: Yes, I am speaking to the point of order.
Mr. Good: And that was back when the Minister of Housing was still a Liberal.
Mr. Riddell: I have some other comments I wanted to make on this bill but I want to give the minister a chance to respond. The only thing that bothers me is that we should have more funds made available for research into occupational health. I think the minister did indicate in a speech that funds would be available through the Wintario grant. It seems to me a shame that we have to play around with the lives of people in order to wait for somebody to buy a Wintario ticket.
Mr. Laughren: It’s the Provincial Lottery.
Mr. Riddell: All right, the Provincial Lottery. It’s still a lottery and we have to wait for somebody to buy a ticket in order to conduct research into occupational health.
I really got up to indicate that this isn’t a novel idea that the minister has brought in. It’s been an approach that we’ve taken now for five or six years.
Mr. Davidson: They keep putting time limits on it.
Mr. Riddell: The NDP would not support us on this endeavour until now and now they think they’ve got something that they can support.
Mr. Riddell: I hope we will now give the minister a chance to respond without having the NDP further filibuster this bill just for the sake of sending copies out to their constituents.
Mr. Deputy Speaker: The member for Fort William.
Mr. Maeck: Tell us something we haven’t heard.
Mr. Angus: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I would like to say at the start that I don’t plan on a filibuster. I plan on speaking to the principle of this bill.
Mr. Angus: If I can use the words of my colleague, the member for Sudbury, this bill is the thin edge of the wedge. We need to assist the workers in this province to be protected, to ensure their work place is safe and that they have a happy work life.
Hon. Mr. Rhodes: I believe Bud is the only one who worked in your caucus.
Mr. Davidson: I object.
Mr. Angus: Mr. Speaker, will you constrain the group?
Mr. Wildman: Which Bud?
Mr. Angus: With particular reference to the section which relates to the safety and health committees that may be established. I would like to suggest that what my colleagues have been talking about today and yesterday has been a matter of trust -- a degree of trust. The record of this government is one that we cannot trust. The minister has the discretion of establishing committees if the minister desires.
Mr. Riddell: You people only endorse yourselves.
Mr. Angus: It should be mandatory and let me tell you why, Mr. Speaker. The Ministry of the Environment a year and a half or two years ago or even longer passed certain Acts related to the protection of people in general from intrusion on the environment. They haven’t had the decency to enact all the segments of those pieces of legislation or to declare them. In other words, they are not in use. They are not effective. They mean nothing.
There has to be trust and with the record the government has had over the past number of years, we do not have that trust. That is why we want to change a particular clause in this bill to make it mandatory for safety committees and health committees to be established in all plants over a certain size. I think the comments related to whether it should be 10 or two or whatever, but there are a lot of cases where there are plants that do employ only eight or 10 people which are environmentally unsafe for the workers.
I can recall some of my days in the construction industry where we tended to tolerate conditions because those were the way the conditions always were. While we might have grumbled a bit, we never did anything more than that. We didn’t learn about the effects of road dust on construction workers or the effects of concrete dust or cement powder on workers who come in contact with it. We just thought that that was there and that was the kind of situation that we had to put up with if we wanted to earn our living in that particular field. I think the comments relating to that aspect in the mining industry -- especially about whether or not the workers should ever go back underground -- are appropriate.
Mandatory health and safety committees will provide workers with a vehicle for understanding what is happening to them. Obviously these committees will be looking into research available on all aspects of their environment -- whether it be suspended air particles or toxic substances that they use in the work place, whether it be noise, whether it be light, or whether it be psychological conditions. They are going to learn about them. They are not just going to sit there and have a meeting and adjourn a minute later because there is nothing to discuss. They are going to want to learn and it is going to give them an excuse to do so and I think it will be to their betterment.
Another section of the bill relates to an employee being able to have what I would consider a witness participate in the inspection -- it’s section 3(3), referring to the investigation by an inspector or engineer. It provides for a safety representative, a committee member who represents employees, or a person authorized by the trade union that represents the employee.
If none of those three exists then the individual who has registered the complaint, and is concerned about his work environment, has to go it alone. I think that person should be able to bring a third party, either quite possibly his particular member of the Legislature, or an individual who can act as a third party, a representative, to understand what’s happening. So in terms of the safety committees and the concept of making all available research accessible to the committee and to the worker, I think that will go a long way to assist in cleaning up the environment of the work place.
I think, too, if in particular instances, such as in the area of noise levels, permanent noise monitoring equipment was installed in the high-intensity areas, that would be a natural function of safety committees to pinpoint these particular aspects and to ensure they are brought about. I hope the ministry will accept that kind of approach and direct the companies to consider it as well.
The bill should speak to the total work environment. It should speak to the air problem -- the air that the worker is in -- whether it be inside a building or the external air, the noise levels, the noise pollution, the chemicals that they work with, the psychological aspects of close concentration work that may have an effect on the employee’s health and his future ability to work. Well, there is an old saying that what you don’t know won’t hurt you. But I think the more we know and the more the workers know, the better off we will be and the better off the province will be.
Section 5, subsection 3, relates to a maximum of one-a-month inspections and I think that section is disgusting. I think the inspection should occur whenever necessary. I think there should be a minimum of one month inspections. I think the inspection should occur whenever the inspector or an individual requests it. In addition, when an employee leaves the work place because of what he or she considers an environmentally unsound situation, then I believe that reimbursement should continue until the matter is settled and a decision has been reached. I don’t think the worker’s income should be jeopardized by the fact that he has had the courage to speak up for his rights.
Two of my colleagues, the member for Durham West and the member for Windsor-Riverside, bravely mentioned the problems of smokers and non-smokers and the effects. I would like to take their comments a little bit further, again going back to my own past experience in the work field. There are areas in business where there is an abnormal concentration of cigarette, cigar and other types of tobacco smoke.
An hon. member: The political back rooms.
Mr. Angus: Aside from the political back rooms. I am talking about the hospitality industry -- the bars and lounges of this province. I, for one, having worked in such a facility, found myself becoming acutely sick, violently ill, because of the high level of cigarette smoke. I will tell you the option I took. I got out.
This was a number of years ago. I decided I could no longer do it because my health would not stand it. What about those individuals who are making bartending or bar managing a career? Will they have the option under this Act to say this work environment is environmentally unsound and that something has to be done? Probably the only approach would be permanent installation of exhaust equipment to protect the workers.
The whole area of suspended air particles and the effects upon the workers is almost similar to the invisible hazards of radiation that one obtains in certain sectors of certain industries. But in the grain industry, in the wood industry, in road construction where there are heavy concentrations of suspended particles in the air, while they can see them they just sort of think that they’re there and that they’re really not doing any harm, even if they go home and they’re coughing and the mucous that is ejected is black and filthy. We have to ensure that those people will have the same rights to object to their work environment and to ensure that it be cleaned up -- that they are protected and their families are protected on their behalf.
I think too that we have to address ourselves to the situation where particles can be transmitted from the work place to the residence of the worker. For instance, there’s a circumstance in my riding where a wafer-board plant, after initial startup, required its workers to change clothing and to shower before going home, thereby keeping all the contaminants -- the wood dust -- in the plant. I was very frustrated to learn that about six months ago they instructed their employees to discontinue that practice, with no justification at all. I think that we have to look at the work place and the home in terms of what goes from the work place to the place of residence and what effect it has on the families of the workers.
Last spring I raised a number of issues by letter and in this House related to suspended air particles, particularly with reference to the rate of respiratory diseases in the Thunder Bay area. I think that they exemplify the kind of problems that exist in our industries. As you know, because the information actually relates to your riding as much as it does to mine and to that of the member for Port Arthur, there were 37 per cent more deaths in Thunder Bay due to acute respiratory infection than the provincial average. Twice as many people suffering from acute respiratory infections were admitted to Thunder Bay district hospital than the provincial average.
Since that time I have received correspondence from Lynn R. Munro, executive officer, I assume, to the Minister of Health, with two documents. One has “the total separations from the district of Thunder Bay and the province of Ontario discharged with a primary diagnosis from the section diseases of the respiratory system and malignant neoplasm of trachea, bronchis and lung, 1975.” The separations for the diseases of the respiratory system, the rate per thousand population in Thunder Bay district is 26.4.
Mr. Deputy Speaker: I think that information would be more properly brought to the attention to the Minister of Health (Mr. F. S. Miller), rather than the Minister of Labour.
Mr. Angus: I appreciate the comments, but I’m speaking to the principle of the bill and relating to situations that do exist. What I was going to do after I provided two more basic items was to relate it to the need for all-encompassing research into the areas of occupational health and to point out that there is material available from the Ministry of Health that can point to regional differences, particularly in reference to respiratory diseases as well as situations regarding admissions for disc problems and so on.
The comment I was going to make was that there are 244 per cent more admissions in Thunder Bay district than in the province of Ontario for diseases of the respiratory system and 100 per cent more for malignant neoplasm of trachea, bronchis and lung. This is a situation which I find quite disturbing and I think the sooner we toughen up this bill to ensure the kind of things that we in the NDP have been talking about over the last two days, the better it will be for the workers, not only in the Thunder Bay district but all over the province.
I have a final concern, and that is the interpretation of hazards and what really constitutes hazards. How many of the decisions will be made like the decisions of the Workmen’s Compensation Board? Have no fear, I’m not going to say any more about that, other than that the benefit of doubt always goes to the companies; it never seems to go to the workers. I hope this does not occur with this bill.
I’m pleased to see the bill. I am hopeful that the minister and the Conservative government will accept the amendments that we will be presenting. They are amendments which we believe will strengthen the rights of workers and ensure that they can continue to work in a safe, healthy environment.
Mr. Ferris: Mr. Speaker, it’s a pleasure to join in this debate on this bill. I sincerely believe that we, as members of the Liberal Party, have a great pleasure in endorsing the intent of the bill that is before us, the Employees’ Health and Safety Act. There is one problem, however. I think the NDP sincerely believe that they invented the worker; I’m not sure that’s really true.
Mr. Cassidy: You sure didn’t.
Mr. Ferris: Well, I’ve got to tell my hon. friend that half of the people who work in the Ford plant at Talbotville --
Mr. Davidson: You’d better rehearse.
Mr. Ferris: -- which is a very large group, do live in the constituency of London South; those people talk to me and I think I understand their problems --
Mr. Bain: You never do anything for them, though.
Mr. Ferris: -- and I think they are very happy to see this kind of legislation come forward. Whether my friends have been sitting on their proverbial posteriors for some time and have not been ready to accept some of these things previously, be that as it may. I think that the prime important thing here is --
Mr. Davidson: You weren’t here.
Mr. Ferris: I know. Neither were you.
Mr. Deans: The difference is, he will be back.
Mr. Ferris: The difference is that the workers in London South constituency don’t believe that the NDP will solve their problem either.
Mr. Bounsall: Name me the plant.
Mr. Ferris: I think that what is really important here is that we have given the workers the opportunity to take the initiative, to refuse to work in conditions where they feel it’s unsafe. We have given the ability to investigate and we have forced upon the employer the necessity to investigate --
Mr. Wildman: Why don’t they have worker auditors as suggested in the Ham report?
Mr. Ferris: Well, the NDP would like to have everybody as a shop steward. Hell, let’s face it.
Mr. Bain: What do you have against shop stewards?
Mr. Davidson: Do you know what a shop steward is?
Mr. Ferris: Yes, I do.
Mr. Davidson: Do you?
Mr. Ferris: I’ve worked. I’ve built barrels, I’ve driven trucks and things like this, so don’t worry about it.
An hon. member: He’s a work freak. You’re going to have a work freak.
Mr. Ferris: I think there is a slight problem that the minister has not attacked properly in that there should not necessarily be a commitment to meet once a month. I think there’s a necessity for a meeting whenever the situation arises. I think that must be changed.
In actual fact, though, I think the whole Act must be looked at as a general agreement that both sides must act in good faith. There are very obvious ways in which either side could have a detrimental effect and obviously kill the good that could be brought forward by this bill. But I would hope that this is what would happen in the carrying out of this legislation.
As a member of our caucus stated this afternoon, I believe that perhaps there should be some regulations -- and I think this is something the minister is probably quite willing to do -- to communicate in various languages the hazards and problems that exist in these very large plants so that the people in ethnic communities and groups can understand and be appreciative of what the conditions are and what their rights are. I think that’s an important fact and I think that it must be looked after.
Mr. Davidson: You don’t need language to tell you what you’re dying from.
Mr. Ferris: Well, my friend might wish to die sooner than I do. Mr. Speaker, I will not continue, because I would hope the minister might at least get started on her reply tonight. I think it is very important that we do go forward with this. I think it is something that has been long overdue, and I would sincerely appreciate the ministry attacking this problem with the greatest vigour to see the culmination of this Act. However, there are some questions that will come up in the committee sessions, I’m sure, and there are some amendments we might wish to make.
Mr. Samis: In the brief amount of time available, I’ll see if I can squeeze in the remarks I have to make. I realize at this stage of the debates some of it is a bit repetitious.
Hon. B. Stephenson: A bit?
Mr. Kerrio: Let’s go.
Mr. Samis: Let me say that the workers of the community of Cornwall have every right to be heard through their member as the member for Huron-Middlesex (Mr. Riddell) has. If the attitude of the member for Huron-Middlesex is typical of the Ontario Liberal Party, then the Ontario Liberal Party will end up the same as the Quebec Liberal Party did last night. If there’s any arrogance in that, the federal Liberals will end up the same way.
Mr. Breithaupt: There weren’t too many New Democrats elected, as I recall.
Hon. Mr. Kerr: Up the Union Nationale.
Mr. Riddell: You are leading the workers down the garden path and the workers know it.
Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order, please. We’re dealing with Bill 139 and the member for Cornwall has the floor. We’re on the principles.
Mr. Samis: Speaking to the principles of the bill, let me say that in general I would regard them as praiseworthy and a step in the right direction. The principles of the bill are so basic and so fundamental that the essential question I wonder about is why are we dealing with it in 1976? What took so long?
Mr. Riddell: We have been dealing with it since 1970.
Mr. Samis: Why did this government wait so long to bring in this bill? I would submit the main reason for the delay in this bill being presented to us is the lack of leadership, the indifference and the apathy of the government toward the basic problems of occupational health and safety, specifically, the Ministry of Natural Resources.
An hon. member: Read the bill again.
Mr. Samis: I exempt the present Minister of Labour (B. Stephenson) from this charge, but the Ministry of Natural Resources in this province has a sordid record of neglect and apathy on the whole question of problems of workers in the mines.
Hon. Mr. Kerr: Perish the thought.
Mr. Samis: If I ask why do we have this bill here before us now and why did we have the Ham report -- and I realize I am obviously susceptible to the charge of being partisan -- let me suggest that if it weren’t for the efforts, if it weren’t for the investigation, if it weren’t for the disclosures and if it weren’t for the questions in the Legislature and the constant prodding of the government by the member for Sudbury (Mr. Germa), by the member for Sudbury East (Mr. Martel) --
Mr. B. Newman: By the member for Erie (Mr. Haggerty).
Mr. Samis: -- by the member for Nickel Belt (Mr. Laughren), by the member for Cochrane South (Mr. Ferrier) and most of all by the member for Scarborough West (Mr. Lewis), if it weren’t for their efforts -- not some Mickey Mouse private member’s bill -- and their constant prodding of the government --
Mr. Breithaupt: This is not being excessively partisan.
Mr. Samis: -- we wouldn’t have this bill tonight, and the minister knows it.
Mr. Samis: If you’re a Liberal and if you’re in opposition, this government doesn’t move till it’s prodded and pushed and kicked. Look at the record in Hansard of who’s done that job in the Legislature on this topic.
Mr. Riddell: All you people ever do is prod and kick.
Mr. Warner: You guys couldn’t run Disneyland.
Mr. Samis: Let me suggest that the results of those efforts are this bill and this legislation. And that speaks for itself.
Hon. Mr. Kerr: That is the Minister of Labour’s bill and the credit for it is hers, nobody else’s.
Mr. Samis: In the very brief amount of time left let me suggest that the member for Nickel Belt has an excellent amendment that he has proposed, namely, the idea of making this mandatory for any enterprise of 10 or more employees. Possibly it should be even less than 10, because even the member for Scarborough Centre (Mr. Drea) mentioned some problems in smaller enterprises. The key thing is that if this bill is going to mean something, it’s got to have teeth, and the amendment offered does give it added teeth.
I see the general spirit of section 9 as protecting the rights of employees, but I have a concern that 65 per cent of the employees in this province do not belong to a union. When one takes the case of a small factory, a small business, or a small industry -- and I don’t mean this in any derogatory sense -- where people maybe take the job for secondary income in that family, where they may be a little bit insecure about losing a job because in an area of high unemployment that may be the only job they can get --
Mr. Deputy Speaker: We have now reached the time.
Mr. Samis: I’ll move the adjournment then. Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Warner: Why don’t we stay?
Mr. Samis moved the adjournment of the debate.
Motion agreed to.
Mr. Deputy Speaker: I now deem a motion to adjourn to have been made. I now recognize the hon. member for Ottawa Centre (Mr. Cassidy) for five minutes.
Mr. Cassidy: Mr. Speaker, I asked for this debate on the adjournment because of the problem of short leases which was raised last Wednesday by the member for Wentworth (Mr. Deans) on behalf of the New Democratic Party. Mr. Deans pointed out that in his area there were problems of landlords now giving short leases, taking effect in early 1977 and to expire on August 1. Clearly those landlords intended to raise rents again, and therefore flout the intentions of the Rent Review Act. That is also the case in Toronto where the big corporate landlords such as Cadillac Fairview are doing the same thing.
To summarize our interchange, Mr. Speaker, the hon. minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations (Mr. Handleman) said in his reply, “Nobody can increase their rent eight per cent now and eight per cent six months from now. The Act does not permit it.”
And then when he was pressed again, when I asked him who will protect the tenants after July 31 next year when they face another rent increase -- that is, after a short lease -- he said, “The law will protect the tenants.”
Both of those statements, Mr. Speaker, are wrong. They require retraction before thousands of tenants are misled and I would like to go into the details because I would like to get the record straight. I hope the minister would then, in a generous way, retract.
The section which is relevant is section 2(a) of the bill which was the section introduced in amendments last spring to The Residential Premises Rent Review Act. The intention was to stop short leases in the spring of 1976, but it did not go beyond that. And that section said: “Where no order of a rent review officer is in effect, no increase permitted under subsection 2” -- that is, during the 12 months ending July 31, 1977 “ -- shall be charged to take effect within one year after the latest date upon which an increase within the limit prescribed by subsection 1 takes effect except upon the order of a rent review officer applied for under subsection 3.”
There is no dispute between the minister and myself that if in January or February of 1977 a rent review officer orders a rent increase, that that order is effective for a full year. We are talking of increases of eight per cent or less on short leases being introduced for early in the year, and the section in question says that within a year after an increase prescribed by subsection 1 takes effect. But it doesn’t refer to any duration of the increase that takes effect during this, the second year of rent review. The limit prescribed by subsection 1 specifically refers to an eight per cent maximum of above August, 1975, and that increase can take effect no later than August 1 of 1976.
I hope I make myself clear, Mr. Speaker, that this subsection 2(a), on which the minister is hanging his hat, only refers to short leases that were taking effect over the first few months of 1976, and it does not apply to short leases taking effect for the beginning of 1977.
I would suggest that either the minister is ignorant and doesn’t know about the law, in which case it’s a problem we have experienced often in the past with rent review; or he is stubborn; that is a problem we have also experienced in the past with this minister. Or he is setting out to mislead tenants because he sympathizes with landlords, or because he so desperately wants to be relieved of the responsibility of rent review.
His only other possible defence is the suggestion that Bill 60 last spring was not subject to the expiry date of the original rent review bill.
That’s hardly credible when the subsection 2(a) in question makes a specific reference to the possibility of the order of a rent review officer, and the rent review officers won’t exist after the expiry of this particular bill.
We have to start talking now about protection for tenants in August, 1977, or beyond. At that time, the rent review bill will not be in force to give them protection. The rent review bill will not give them protection if they get a short lease of eight per cent or less starting in the spring.
Mr. Speaker, we feel in this party that it’s about time the government acknowledged that, rather than misleading tenants. It’s little wonder that tenants have lost their faith in the Davis government. A minister like the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations who so openly begs to be relieved of rent review should be granted his wish now.
Mr. Deputy Speaker: I now recognize the hon. Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations for up to five minutes.
Hon. Mr. Handleman: Mr. Speaker, I am indeed pleased to hear the hon. member call for my resignation. He now joins his very distinguished counterparts in the Communist Party of Canada who have also asked for my resignation. They are the only two political parties I know of who have asked for it, but I am quite sure our friends opposite might ask for it. When we introduced Bill 60 last spring --
Mr. Wildman: The member for Scarborough-Ellesmere (Mr. Warner) will tell you to resign too.
Hon. Mr. Handleman: -- I stated at that time that an amendment clarifies the fact that a landlord who has benefited from a rent increase of up to eight per cent without a rent review may not have another such increase for a period of at least 12 months. Apparently there was no argument about that statement at that time. On April 27 when we went into second reading, I said we are trying to close what many people have conceived to be a loophole. That was the possibility of there being an eight per cent increase in July, 1976, and a consequent increase starting in August, 1976, which would total slightly over 16 per cent over a period of 13 months. There is no question about that. We were trying to do that --
Mr. Deans: That is right. We agree.
Hon. Mr. Handleman: -- and the hon. member for Ottawa Centre said, “We welcome the fact that the short term lease situation will now be definitely cured.” That was on April 27, 1976.
Mr. Deans: He was wrong.
Hon. Mr. Handleman: This is November 16. Somewhere along the line he’s had some kind of a conversion. It no longer is definitely cured because somehow or other he seems to have read some fine print.
The member for Beaches-Woodbine (Ms. Bryden) in the debate said, “There are a number of good amendments in the bill which we would like to see become law, such as it being unlawful to increase rents more than once in a 12-month period.” The member for Beaches-Woodbine seemed to feel that’s what the amendment accomplished.
Mr. Deans: Well it doesn’t.
Mr. Cassidy: It did for last spring but not beyond.
Mr. Deans: It doesn’t for next year.
Hon. Mr. Handleman: On May 18, when we were in committee, the member for Ottawa Centre said, “Perhaps I can cite the case of a tenant whose rent was increased in the last 10 or 11 months --” etc. -- “what steps does the minister propose to publicize this new amendment, and to enforce it against landlords who might otherwise be charging illegal rent increases?”
So the question was asked; they haven’t done it, that’s really what it amounts to. Amendments were moved by the member for Ottawa Centre, but there was not one word about there being any change in the wording of this Act.
In answer to his question the other day I said that nobody can raise rents six months from now, and that if he measures six months from now it will be within the currency of the Act. Nobody can raise the rent, if they’ve already had an increase. To that extent my answer is absolutely accurate. No retraction is required. Count six months from today and you’re not into August, 1977.
Mr. Cassidy: Count from August, 1977 -- that is the question.
Hon. Mr. Handleman: He asked me who would protect the tenant after August 1, 1977.
Mr. Deans: You are playing games.
Hon. Mr. Handleman: What games?
Mr. Cassidy: You are playing games.
Mr. Deans: You knew exactly what was being asked of you.
Hon. Mr. Handleman: He said he is not satisfied with my answer. That’s why we’re here at this late hour and I’m telling you I will not retract. He asked me who would protect the tenant after August 1, 1977, and I said the law will. This government is committed to the protection of the tenant. The desperation of the hon. member in trying to retrieve a constituency that he sees he is losing control of -- he’s lost in Ottawa, he’s going to lose it in Metro, he’s going to lose it everywhere in this province. The tenants know who protects them. It’s this government and we will continue to do that.
Mr. Renwick: That is not true.
Mr. Deans: What are you talking about?
Mr. Renwick: No, he is not going to lose it anywhere.
Mr. Cassidy: Resign. Do it now.
The House adjourned at 10:40 p.m.