The House resumed at 8 p.m.
House in committee of supply.
ESTIMATES, MINISTRY OF NORTHERN AFFAIRS
Hon. Mr. Bernier: Mr. Chairman, may I open my remarks by saying what a pleasure and honour it is to introduce the estimates of the Ministry of Northern Affairs for the second time. As you know, we have just completed our first year of full operation. I am sure that when the members have heard what I have to say tonight and what I will outline to them, they will agree that we have had a very successful year.
In the first year of operation the staff of the Ministry of Northern Affairs has worked very closely with the people of northern Ontario to identify, and then to begin to work on, priorities for the development of the north. Today, and over the next few weeks, my ministry will be asking the House to vote well over $100 million so that we may continue to work on these priorities.
The estimates review presents us with the opportunity to indicate to the House what we would like to achieve for this fiscal year, as well as the opportunity to ask your advice and your support for the work we are doing. I welcome the contribution of all members of the House, and especially those members from northern Ontario, to the discussion of the estimates of my ministry for the year 1978-79.
The estimates will reflect the priorities we have identified. These include the need for specific improvements to the air, road and rail transportation systems; the need to offset the shortfall in municipal services of certain communities to enable them to accommodate their development potential; the need to respond to local initiatives intended to improve the economy and the quality of life of communities and regions; the need for programs to encourage more mining exploration; the special importance of tourism to the economy of the north, and the need for short and medium term steps to assist local regions to develop this particular activity; the special needs of isolated communities for improved services in health, fire protection and other related fields.
We have initiated or supported many programs related to these problems, and I believe it will be useful to describe some of these programs to the honourable members.
The Ministry of Northern Affairs has a special responsibility to improve access to all government programs, especially in smaller communities in the north. That is why one of our priorities was to expand the coverage of the Northern Affairs offices. We now have 28 offices throughout the north and 70 per cent of our staff are located in the north. We will open our 29th office in Iroquois Falls later this month.
One of the primary rules of our staff in the north is to become involved with the concerns of the people so that we as a ministry may better identify the real needs and, where possible, support local initiatives designed to meet local priorities. I believe the ministry’s activities in the Regional Municipality of Sudbury are good examples of the support of local initiatives.
The regional municipality of Sudbury, in co-operation with our Sudbury office, worked out an economic development strategy in an attempt to expand secondary manufacturing and agricultural opportunities. They were looking for ways to diversify the Sudbury region economy and to provide job opportunities, particularly for young people and for women. As a result, we signed an agreement with the regional municipality of Sudbury to provide up to $300,000 for special studies. One will identify manufactured products which can be produced and sold locally, with an eye to possible national and international distribution. The second is an agricultural revitalization study.
Income from agriculture could be significantly increased if farm production is directed towards local retail sales. Moreover, this increased agricultural income can create additional jobs in Sudbury’s commercial sector, because farmers would have more income to spend locally.
Another example of a local initiative which we want to support is the Sudbury 2001 project. This project was organised by labour, the business community, local groups and the regional and municipal governments of Sudbury to look at ways in which Sudbury’s economy might be diversified, in order to prevent a recurrence of the serious human and economic problems that resulted when there were cutbacks by the major mining employers in the area.
The conference delegates asked us to support a proposed Sudbury conference board. The board would have representation from all sectors of the community. Its purpose would be to bring a total community effort towards the task of diversifying the economy of that region.
We were asked to provide seed funding on a descending scale over three years to allow the board to develop local support and sources for continuing funding. We agreed to provide $600,000 over the three-year period.
The board will be working alongside the economic development agencies of the regional municipality of Sudbury to promote, for example, the application of appropriate technology to the particular circumstances of the north. This is an experiment and, as with any experiment, there is a certain amount of risk. However, the local determination and the commitment have been so strong that we are willing to take a bit of risk ourselves on what we think is a worthwhile attempt at self-help. As the Premier (Mr. Davis) said in Sudbury, if it succeeds, I believe it can serve as a model of civic cooperation and commitment to other communities which may experience similar problems.
Another example I would like to bring to the attention of members is the proposal for the economic development of the English-Wabigoon river system. My ministry has received cabinet approval for three interrelated programs that we hope will generate employment and permit increased commercial use of the area’s natural resources.
The first proposal is that two wild rice harvesters be purchased for use by the native people to improve the crop yield. It has been estimated by the Ministry of Natural Resources that there is considerable potential for increased wild rice production, and this would provide significant benefits to northwestern Ontario residents. The harvesters will be retained by the Ministry of Natural Resources and will be loaned as requested to any band holding a licence to harvest wild rice.
The second plan is to pay an employment subsidy to hunting, and fishing lodges to enable them to hire additional staff from these two communities over and above their normal requirements. About 100 additional native people will be hired, and 50 per cent of their salaries will be paid by the Ministry of Northern Affairs.
The third plan is to subsidize a partial reopening of commercial fishing on the English-Wabigoon river system. The fish caught by the two bands will be bought by a plant in Minnesota and processed into plant food. My ministry will pay a subsidy towards the purchase price for the first 120,000 pounds of fish.
Also, I understand that the two bands have decided to renew their licences with the Ministry of Natural Resources for fishing whitefish. The mercury content in whitefish is below the acceptable level of one half part per million.
We believe that these three programs will create job opportunities, stimulate the wild rice and commercial fishing and tourist industries and, as a consequence, reduce the serious social and economic problems of the Indian bands in the area. The total cost of these programs is estimated at $143,000. I would like to point out that these programs were introduced with the complete co-operation and at the initiative of the local bands of the native people themselves.
I would also like to mention two specific projects funded through the regional priorities budget. As the honourable members will recall, the regional priority budget was established in 1973 to provide financing for projects with a high regional significance or urgency over and above normal ministerial budgets. When the Ministry of Northern Affairs was established, it took over this fund from the Ministry of Treasury, Economics and Intergovernmental Affairs. The budget started as a small fund of $2.4 million. The budget for 1978-79 is $65 million.
The programs funded through this budget play a significant role in reducing regional disparities in northern Ontario. The two specific projects I would like to mention are also in response to community initiatives. These are examples of the variety of approaches that we will have to take to respond to the different economic situations across northern Ontario.
The first is tourism development. The James Bay Frontier Tourist Association has been concerned about improving the attractiveness of the northeast corridor as a tourist destination. Last January they arranged a tourism development conference in Timmins. At that time a number of excellent proposals for tourist attractions were put forward by various communities.
We were advised that the two most important tourist development projects for the region should be the upgrading of the tourist facilities at Moosonee-Moose Factory and the restoration of a silver mine at Cobalt. We were told that the promotion of these two operations would bring economic benefits to the whole area.
As a result of the conference, we gave the James Bay Frontier Tourist Association a commitment of $250,000 to work on the priorities that were established. The commitment includes some technical support staff. Since then, we have also authorized the Ontario Northland Transportation Commission to spend $130,000 to renovate Moosonee Lodge. We have hired a firm of recreational resource planners to prepare an information package for tourists to the area. The Ministry of Industry and Tourism will co-ordinate an advertising program.
Representatives of the St. Lawrence Parks Commission and the Niagara Parks Commission have agreed to help the James Bay region and to make available members of their staff for the training of tour guides and for other projects. The Ministry of Northern Affairs will hire a number of students this summer to act as tour guides for the Polar Bear Express, the Chi-Cheemaun ferry and the Chief Commanda cruise ship.
We are also providing funds to the Moosonee area to upgrade sewer and water facilities.
As for the mine project, an official of our ministry was in Cobalt a few weeks ago to look at possible development options for the site. Local officials are proposing a development of about $100,000. We will be working closely on this project with the Ministry of Industry and Tourism and the Ontario Heritage Foundation.
Another important request from the Timmins conference was for more advertising about the north. This has also been a concern of my colleague the Minister of Industry and Tourism (Mr. Rhodes). As a result, our two ministries are now working on a stepped-up travel campaign aimed at residents of southern Ontario. It will encourage people to take vacations in northern Ontario.
As part of this effort, we have produced two promotional films on northern Ontario. Both films make frequent reference to air, rail and ferry services which are available. The films were shown continuously throughout the 10 days of the Sportsmens’ Shows in Toronto in March and in Milwaukee and Minneapolis in February. These shows attracted huge audiences from Canada and the United States.
The second project is the Manitoulin Economic Development Association. We are committed to providing this organization with $225,00 over the next five years to strengthen the economy of the island and to improve employment opportunities.
The agency is now operational. In includes representatives of nine municipalities and several smaller communities on the island. It will work with existing businesses to provide management advice, accounting services and promotion of island products. It will also be responsible for promotional campaigns aimed at attracting new businesses to Manitoulin Island. The chairman of the organization is Richard Stephens of Providence Bay.
The idea of the association came from the islanders themselves. More specifically, it came from Don Ridley, former clerk of Howland township. Mr. Ridley is now Northern Affairs officer for Manitoulin Island.
As you know, the Municipal Act states that communities of fewer than 5,000 people cannot set up industrial commissions. The biggest place on Manitoulin Island is a village called Little Current, with a population of less than 2,000 people. Mr. Ridley realized that if the communities on the island banded together they could set up an industrial commission. He convinced them to do so, and they came to us for help to get started.
This project is another experiment in self-help, although on a smaller scale than the projects I outlined for a large employment region such as Sudbury. However, I don’t think we are going to regret it; the agency has already attracted two commercial ventures which appear to be very good prospects. One is a wood-chip plant; the location has been determined, the financing has been arranged and it is expected to be operational this year. The other is a plant for the production of ornamental iron; it is expected to be operational in June and will employ between six and 10 people.
The agency is investigating three more ventures and has another 25 speculative projects on file. These include a plant for plastic, wood and metal ornaments, a solar energy fish farm and greenhouse, expansion of an apiary, and expansion of a mill.
The ministry was very interested in becoming involved in this project because we must not ignore the opportunities that exist for small-scale development. These proposed ventures are certainly not as dramatic as the opening of a major new mine but, over the long term, small-scale industry can help give northern Ontario the diversification it needs for a more stable economic base. These projects are a departure from the ministry’s more traditional programming activities, such as upgrading sewer and water treatment facilities or roads and airstrips or access roads and other basic services necessary to encourage development in the north.
The major expenditures in our budget during our first year of operation have been for those types of projects that will build a broader and more solid economic base in northern Ontario. We have followed the same plan for this fiscal year. Resources for priorities have been broken down as follows: $47 million for new road construction, $36 million for community services and $7.5 million for the northern Ontario resource access roads program. We are continuing with our commitment to widen secondary highways from 20 to 22 feet. For example, 44 miles of Highway 105 between Ear Falls and Vermilion Bay will be widened this year.
In addition, we will be spending $10 million for northern rail and ferry services, $10 million for telecommunications, $2 million for air services, $2 million for the remote air strips program, $500,000 for northern agricultural development and $600,000 to the isolated communities assistance fund. This fund helps remote unorganized settlements obtain such essentials as safer water supplies and fire protection. I might mention that norOntair, which we subsidize, now has seven planes serving 17 communities. It handles close to 100,000 passengers a year.
Another regional priority project I would like to mention is the three-year, $2.5 million program to stimulate mining exploration in northern Ontario. This program will augment mineral development and exploration activities of the Ministry of Natural Resources. Among the places to be surveyed are the James Bay lowlands and the New Liskeard, Thunder Bay, Red Lake and Marshall Lake areas.
I would also like to refer to the services which are funded through the isolated communities assistance fund. Specifically, I would like to mention the special fire protection and prevention program. The loss of life and property as a result of fire in any home continues to be a tragic aspect of life in many isolated northern communities. I know the members from the north are familiar with areas where residents have developed cooperative programs to deal with fire hazards. However, many settlements lack minimal protection from the threat of fire. Our ministry has developed a program in co-operation with the Unorganized Communities Association of Ontario and the office of the fire marshal to assist residents of unorganized communities to combat the hazards of fire.
I know that some members are familiar with the grants that we provided last year to assist UCANO to sell smoke detectors at a reduced price of permanent residents of unorganized communities.
Mr. Laughren: They don’t have a fire truck.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: This year we increased our subsidies and sponsored newspaper, radio and television advertisements throughout the north to promote the smoke detectors. They are available from UCANO East and UCANO West and from our communities service offices all across the north for only $19.90. At the same time, we have been working directly with the office of the fire marshal on a public education campaign, emphasizing the particular problems in isolated areas so that residents will be letter equipped to recognize hazardous conditions in their homes. We have two films on fire protection and fire detection which will be shown in schools and community meetings by representatives of UCANO and by Northern Affairs officers and by the fire marshal’s staff working in the north.
Mr. Laughren: A fire truck would be better.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: We’ve got fire trucks too, as the member for Algoma (Mr. Wildman) will know.
Mr. Wildman: Yes, he does.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: Hawk Junction, I might say, was the first recipient of our fire truck. I hope we will have the opportunity of discussing that very positive program as we go through the estimates later this evening.
Mr. Laughren: Gogama is next.
Mr. Wildman: We need another one for Batchawana too.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: Batchawana, yes.
Mr. Laughren: Do you need the names of all the towns that need them?
Hon. Mr. Bernier: I’ve got them right here.
Mr. Laughren: That need them?
Hon. Mr. Bernier: No, the ones that were given to me.
Mr. Laughren: There is a difference, Leo.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: They will eventually get them.
Mr. Laughren: Name one.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: Thirdly, we are working in co-operation with the fire marshal with some larger and geographically-centred municipalities, such as Vermilion Bay, Sturgeon Falls and Chapleau, to develop a new program to help these communities to provide fire protection for their neighbours living in unorganized areas. Our ministry is prepared to supply certain equipment. The residents of unorganized areas will be expected to provide local assistance and to share the ongoing cost of such fire protection services.
However, a number of other communities are too scattered or too remote from organized municipalities to benefit from shared services, and in these cases we will help them to provide community fire protection.
Mr. Laughren: Name one.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: Okay. In co-operation with the fire marshal and my colleague the Solicitor General (Mr. Kerr), we are assessing the unorganized communities to determine the appropriate type of equipment and assistance. This assessment is based on factors such as isolation, residential buildings, road conditions, community commitment, existing fire protection services and the availability of water.
Mr. Haggerty: It has been asked about for seven years.
Mr. Laughren: What about water trucks?
Hon. Mr. Bernier: Initially, we have purchased six fully-equipped pumper trucks and a number of packages of firefighting equipment.
Mr. Haggerty: You don’t believe that, do you?
Mr. Chairman: Order.
Mr. Haggerty: You’re not believing that, are you?
Hon. Mr. Bernier: The trucks are specifically designed for community firefighting and are equipped with a front-end mounted pump and hoses, axes, lights, extinguishers, ice augers and other equipment.
Generally speaking, the trucks are more appropriate to larger communities which have a population in the order of 500 fulltime residents in the service area, and where they have already demonstrated a commitment to fire protection by undergoing training and by acquiring facilities to provide suitable accommodation for a truck. The pumpers will be provided to residents of Batchawana Bay, Gogama, Hudson --
Mr. Laughren: Hudson? Hudson?
Hon. B. Stephenson: I think that’s pretty reasonable.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: -- Vermilion Bay and Whitefish Falls and those will be provided this spring.
Mr. Laughren: What’s the population of Hudson, Leo?
Hon. Mr. Bernier: I think it’s 562, or 563.
Hon. B. Stephenson: It’s 563 as of last weekend.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: Yes, 563 after last week.
Mr. Laughren: I see. Just made it.
Mr. Haggerty: It’s going to be Canadian. It was a good day too.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: Hawk Junction has already received its truck. I can tell you, and I’m sure the member for Algoma will attest to the fact that when that truck arrived, as one old gentleman said, “The whole community has gone bananas.”
Mr. Laughren: He was talking about the minister.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: They were very excited about it.
Mr. Wildman: It was a good day. They know how to celebrate in Hawk.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: They certainly do.
Hon. B. Stephenson: Bud was up there celebrating with them.
Mr. Chairman: Order. The honourable minister has the floor.
Mr. Laughren: He is being provocative.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: Packages of equipment will be supplied to residents of Dawson township, Dinorwic, Kenabeek, Kormak, Longbow Lake, Mills township, Mine Centre, Miscampbell, Missanabie, Montreal River Harbour, Niobe Lake, North Watten, Ophir, Phelps township, Rossport, Sesekinika and Sultan. A number of these communities have already received their equipment.
Mr. Laughren: Oh, very good.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: Most of these communities have already organized a volunteer firefighting group. The packages, which can be transported by a light truck or trailer, include portable pumps, hoses, axes, extinguishers, lights, flares, ice augers and other equipment.
A training program funded by the Ministry of Northern Affairs and staffed by the fire marshal has been instituted for these volunteers. The first training sessions were held in April in Timmins and Thunder Bay. Northern Affairs will arrange for workmen’s compensation coverage in case of injury while on duty. That’s all looked after.
There are also some very small settlements such as Shining Tree and Island Lake where we have provided grants from the isolated communities assistance fund to allow them to buy some specific firefighting equipment.
With these initiatives, I believe we are helping residents of a wide variety of isolated communities to deal with the threat of fire to their lives and, of course, to their property. We intend to provide additional trucks and packages each year until we have basic fire protection available to communities across the north where residents are prepared to participate. I welcome suggestions from the northern members on all aspects of this program and look forward to their support in implementing it.
To improve medical services in the north, we have provided funding to the Kenora-Rainy River district health council to conduct a study of the dental needs in that district and to implement pilot projects. A major element in this program is the purchase by Northern Affairs of five new dental coaches at a cost of $250,000 for use by Ministry of Health dentists in underserviced communities. One coach is now located at Ignace and new ones are being outfitted for use at Elk Lake, Beardmore, Hornepayne and Matheson.
We have also approved a grant of up to $95,000 to establish a permanent dental clinic at Ignace. We have budgeted another $130,000 to provide facilities at Pickle Lake for conversion into a medical centre, and other projects are at the discussion stage.
Mr. Laughren: How about Hudson?
Hon. Mr. Bernier: Just a truck. Just a truck for Hudson.
Finally, the Ministry of Northern Affairs has been given responsibility for the review, co-ordination and application of all government programs and services related to northern Ontario. For example, we’ve been assigned the lead role in working with a number of other ministries to help Atikokan deal with the problems related to the closing of the iron mines there. We will also be taking the lead in drawing up a plan for the assumption of sewer and water services in Pickle Lake and to determine ways of overcoming the local operating deficits.
This has been a brief summary, Mr. Chairman, of the different types of projects that we are involved in to bring about a better, more stable standard of living to the people of northern Ontario.
Mr. Laughren: Tell us about the economic development of the north.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: As I mentioned at the beginning, I welcome suggestions. I hope the members will have some, particularly suggestions relating to the priorities that we have identified during the course of the examination of my ministry’s estimates.
Mr. Bolan: I would like to make some remarks to the statement presented to this committee by the Minister of Northern Affairs. Unfortunately, I don’t have a 30-page statement to read like the minister. He reads very well.
Mr. Haggerty: He’s had six years to gather it, Mike.
Mr. Bolan: Being from northern Ontario, and having been born and raised in northern Ontario, I am not privy to the luxuries of large staffs which put together this kind of a report.
Mr. Laughren: Stop apologizing for your own presentation. Why are you apologizing before you start?
Hon. B. Stephenson: Do you want a towel, Mike, to cry into?
Mr. Bolan: In any event, I would just like point out certain things which I have read in his statement and which, incidentally, was finally delivered to me. I left my office around 5:45 and I didn’t have it then, so presumably it arrived between then and 7:30. I realize of course that the minister was hard at work with his staff putting it together -- for the third time, I believe. Eventually we received it.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: They work 15 hours a day.
Mr. Bolan: I understand that certain changes had to be made as a result of the announcement made today by the Premier with respect to the wild rice harvesting. I suspect that had something to do with it. Again, it really shows how much leverage this ministry has --
Hon. Mr. Bernier: That is not true.
Mr. Bolan: -- on the government when the Premier has to make an announcement in the House this afternoon with respect to wild rice harvesting and then, coincidentally, the Minister of Northern Affairs slips into his statement something about the purchase of two rice harvesting machines. It’s very nice juggling.
Mr. Laughren: Tell us about your regional priorities. Your property budget too.
Mr. Bolan: In any event, I debated the creation of this ministry last July. I believe it came into effect on July 23, if I’m not mistaken.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: It was July 12, Orangemen’s day.
Mr. Bolan: Was it July 12? I watched its performance over the past nine or 10 months, and frankly, I have to say that I am somewhat disappointed in its performance, not only that of the ministry but of the minister. I feel that with this ministry, you had the authority to do something for northern Ontario and --
Mr. Laughren: He is still a minister without portfolio.
Mr. Bolan: -- what you’ve really done is do nothing more than rubber-stamp decisions of the other ministries. You can see this very easily by going through the estimates you’ve tabled, and you see the obvious transfers of funds from other ministries to this ministry. So I have to say that as far as this ministry being a constructive ministry for northern Ontario is concerned, I cannot accept that. As I say, it’s nothing more, even at this juncture, than a rubber-stamp for the other ministries.
It’s very easy to see what you do. You go to the Ministry of Transportation and Communications and you find out from him what is his budget for roads in northern Ontario and then you conveniently slip this into the Ministry of Northern Affairs. Of course, the idea is to create the impression that it’s the Ministry of Northern Affairs which is creating this budget, when actually it is not. So, that is what I mean when I speak of a rubber-stamping procedure. With the staff that the minister has, I thought his ministry would have applied itself, at least at this stage -- I realize it has been in existence for only a year -- to starting to come up with some kind of industrial plan for northern Ontario. Instead of wandering around northern Ontario, giving out handouts -- and that’s what the ministry is doing -- it should be doing something more creative for northern Ontario. As I say, with the staff that the minister has at his disposal, it would be convenient for them, for the ministry and for the people of northern Ontario to create some kind of strategy for the development of northern Ontario.
One of the most significant parts of his ministry is the regional priorities budget, and I would like to deal with that for one moment. At page 10 of his statement, the minister said: “As the honourable members will recall, the regional priority budget was established in 1973 to provide financing for projects with a high regional significance or urgency, over and above normal ministerial budgets.” And then he went on: “When the Ministry of Northern Affairs was established, it took over this fund from the Ministry of Treasury, Economics and Intergovernmental Affairs.”
We know that is not true. We know that the budget, with respect to that portion of the moneys that are allocated to this ministry, is controlled strictly by the Treasurer of Ontario. It is wrong for the ministry to say that it has control over the expenditures of this fund, I suggest. I further suggest that it shows once again the actual lack of control that this ministry has over the expenditures of funds.
When we get into the estimates, I will deal specifically with one item having to do with my particular area as an example of how much control the Treasurer has over the expenditure of cost-sharing DREE funds as compared to the control this minister has over it. The information I have, and I will be talking to the minister about it at that time, clearly indicates that he has no control whatever over that budget. No matter how many letters the minister may write to the federal government about that particular matter, it’s the Treasurer who has the final say. I will be very pleased to hear what the minister has to say about that.
As a result of the government withdrawing its OHIP tax increase, some $9 million was cut from the regional priorities budget. It has not been explained in the minister’s statement what portion of the budget would be cut. I presume the minister will have some information for us on this. I would have thought there would have been something in his statement in that regard. However, as I say, I expect him to be able to give us some answer on that.
Mr. Germa: Mr. Chairman, it is in a sort of a fantasy land that we are dealing with the Ministry of Northern Affairs budget. We have a budget here in the amount of $139 million which is to deal with 90 per cent of the land mass in Ontario, a land mass twice as big as France.
We are expected to believe that the expenditure of $139 million out of a $4-billion budget is in some way going to make a difference to the lifestyle and delivery of services to the people of northern Ontario. This was precisely the statement the minister made approximately a year or so ago when the ministry was set up. He was going to be the saviour of northern Ontario; we would just make him the minister of the north and, consequently, all our problems would go away.
The problem facing northern Ontario is so deeply rooted and embedded in lack of government policy over the past 75 years that a minor expenditure such as is enunciated in the budget just cannot and will not meet the needs of the province of Ontario. I think the attitude of the government of Ontario came to light just the other day when the Treasurer, (Mr. McKeough), who, of course, is the man who controls the budget, was speaking to the Northwestern Ontario Municipal Association -- and regardless of what the minister says Mr. McKeough is the boy who we really have to talk to. As reported in the Sudbury Star of May 13, 1978: “McKeough ruled out any type of tax credit system to counter rising energy costs, particularly in gasoline and home heating oil.”
That is just one of the particular problems that we in northern Ontario have been facing for lo, these many years. I don’t know how often we have stood in our place here and brought to the attention of the government, that because of the environment, because of the mileage travelled, because of the hilly terrain, our energy needs are probably double those of anyone else in the southern part of Ontario. We did bring this to the government’s attention time and time again.
Not only are our energy costs extremely high compared to those of most people in Ontario, our food costs are higher. Our cost of manufactured goods is higher. Yet the government has not put into place a system whereby there is some equity between the purchasing power of the people in the north and the purchasing power of the people in the southern part of the province. I think that’s where the original problem lies and the sensitivity of the people of the north comes from -- this lack of regard for the economic factors which have plagued us for so many years.
Believe me, lest anyone think that there are not hard feelings in the north, I would tell you that the Ontario Heritage Party has recently won recognition before the electoral expenses committee. Now they are a registered party, their leader has put together 10,000 signatures, he has himself registered, and he is an official political party as far as the Election Finances Act is concerned in the province of Ontario.
In no way can I be construed as a separatist in that I want the northern part of the province to separate from the south, but this is particularly why the Ontario Heritage Party is in place. Yet this government goes blithely on its way, allowing this kind of discontent to torment the people of northern Ontario. It’s not a new issue. The issue has been with us since the early days. It was in 1921 that the separatist party in northern Ontario first raised its ugly head. Premier Ferguson dealt with that effectively, and it died away for some 30 or 40 years.
But here we are. Because of neglect by this government, we have this ugly monster of separatism facing us again and diffusing the issues in the northern part of the province.
Mr. Lupusella: It’s a Tory responsibility.
Mr. Germa: The minister, of course, has sprinkled a few dollars here and there. He has put in a dental car in a few of the towns. He has started up a couple of clinics. But that in no way brings health care services to the people of northern Ontario in a fashion I think they deserve. Make no mistake about it, the people in the north pay the same premium for health delivery services as the people in the south and yet in many instances they are 300, 400, and 500 miles away from services. I will just bring to the attention of the minister the particular problem of a cancer clinic in northeastern Ontario.
We know that in the catchment basin of Sudbury, North Bay, Kirkland Lake, Timmins and Sault Ste. Marie, we have 600 cancer patients per year. If you look at the facts you will see that in order to have a viable cancer treatment clinic you need approximately 500 patients per year. Here we are. We are over the amount necessary to support a cancer treatment clinic yet 600 people per year have to journey from Sudbury, from North Bay, from Sault Ste. Marie, from Kirkland Lake and from Timmins down here to Princess Margaret Hospital for cancer treatment.
I don’t know how many people have faced this, but I meet residents of my city, be they husband or be they wife, and when one is confined to Princess Margaret Hospital over a three- or four-week period of time not only do they have the problem and the emotional turmoil of knowing there is a serious ailment in the household, there’s also the financial problem of being faced with trying to visit their kith and kin.
I brought this to the attention of the government some several years ago, but they rejected me out of hand and they go ahead and they’re putting about $21 million into expansion at Princess Margaret Hospital. I think the $21 million they’re putting down here in Toronto would be better used and better spent to serve the people of northern Ontario.
I would ask the minister to take a look at the delivery of services for people in the northeastern part of Ontario who have cancer. I’m sure the minister, with his former post as Minister of Natural Resources, knows very well the high rate of cancer which has developed in the mining communities of northern Ontario.
We know about the Elliot Lake disaster. I don’t want to go through that again. We know about the sinter plant disaster in Sudbury. I don’t want to go through that again. This same kind of problem is throughout all the mining community of northern Ontario.
In the case of Elliot Lake, the incidence of cancer was four times higher than the national average for Canada. I just don’t know what the figure is for the city of Sudbury, but I know that in almost every mining community where you have these hazardous occupational problems that the incidence of cancer is quite high.
Another problem the minister failed to mention was the problem of the former Burwash prison farm. We know we have 35,000 acres of prime forest land and farm land that has been abandoned by the province. It is costing the taxpayers of Ontario some $300,000 a year at last report just to main I am the property. To this point in time the government has not put into place a viable alternative plan for the use of these lands, other than the original plan, which was to sell it off to the private entrepreneur and let him go in and rape the lumber out of it and then we would inherit the denuded area.
Through stiff opposition from the opposition side this plan was abandoned and at least we still hold this township and a half in public hands and I’ve been waiting patiently for the past three years for the government and the Minister of Northern Affairs to come through with an alternative plan.
Another responsibility granted the minister was industrial development in the north. I would venture a guess that since he took office as the Minister of Northern Affairs the labour force in northern Ontario has probably shrunk, when I take into consideration the major layoffs which took place in the city of Sudbury in Inco and Falconbridge nickel mines over the past six months.
Mr. Wildman: Even before that the population was dropping.
Mr. Germa: I don’t hear any long-range plan or strategy that the minister is thinking about. Part of his budget is for research and development, yet he speaks of these highly political things, these high profile things such as a dental car, on which he is spending money.
It’s all well and good and we need those kinds of things but you should, as the minister responsible for the long term benefits of northern Ontario, have an industrial strategy which will guarantee the viability of northern Ontario, especially when we know these resources which are not renewable must some day come to an end.
I know we’ve neglected putting in an infrastructure of secondary industry over the past 70 years, but it is my belief that there is still enough wealth in the ground, if some of that wealth were tapped and put into an infrastructure to support a secondary industry, that once the ore bodies are depleted we could be viable.
The minister did speak about his participation in the 2001 conference held in the city of Sudbury just six or eight weeks ago and we appreciate the $15,000 gift the minister gave to sponsor the project. There were 1,000 interested citizens at the project. It was our first go-around, but I can say without fear of contradiction no concrete suggestion came out of the conference for the start-up of a secondary industry. The only concrete thing that came out of that was to fund the Sudbury Conference Board, which to some degree is a duplication of the services supplied by the Sudbury development board, financed by the regional municipality of Sudbury.
What we have now in the city of Sudbury is two agencies overlapping one another, both of them interested in development of industry in the municipality. Maybe the minister would see fit to clear up my mind as far as these two organizations are concerned, the Sudbury District Development Board and the Sudbury Conference Board.
Another reason I’m looking for some long-range strategy from the minister is the threat of sea-bed mining. I think all of the bumps we’ve seen in the past in the mining industry are going to be overshadowed by the bump we get when nickel, manganese and cobalt from sea-bed mining comes on the market. We know that the Law of the Sea conference has been running for some five or six years in an effort to try to get international agreement on the exploitation of deep-sea nodules.
The Law of the Sea conference is sitting today and has been sitting since March and there is still no resolution of the problem. The United States is quite anxious to get going on mining of deep-sea nodules, not so much for the nickel, even though it is only 10 per cent self-sufficient in nickel supply, but for the cobalt. The United States is presently getting about 90 per cent of its cobalt from Zaire. Given the instability of Zaire, the United States Defence Department is getting quite reckless and quite anxious to the degree that a bill passed by the Senate of the United States would grant unilateral power to any American corporation to go into sea-bed mining without international agreement. The law of the high seas will prevail and there will be no agreement on production.
I can very well see that production of land-based supplies of nickel could shrink very drastically without any planning. We know at this point in time there are three communities in Canada solely dependent on production of land-based nickel, that is, Port Colborne, Sudbury and Thompson, Manitoba. Ontario is the major supplier. It should be a prime concern of the minister to plan ahead for the day and have input into decisions made as they relate to deep-sea mining.
We proposed last year when the bill was going through the House that there should be a northern Ontario heritage fund which would trap profits from the extraction of the resource industries somewhat like the Alberta government has done in trapping profits from the depletion of their oil resources. These moneys then could be put into place to create the infrastructure that I spoke of earlier.
I think one of the major problems which has been holding back northern Ontario was the government’s economic strategy as indicated in the Toronto-centred region plan. They came to the impression that northern Ontario was a distant, ice-covered, frozen land, good for nothing else other than supplying the Toronto-centred region with the natural raw products that would provide the fuel and the wherewithal for the manufacturing sector in the southern part of the province and in the United States.
It was this attitude, I think, that kept northern Ontario in sort of its colonial status. They didn’t have to develop an infrastructure; it was good enough for us fellows up north to dig our ore and cut down our trees, ship them down south, and they would look after it forevermore and reap the benefits therefrom.
It was indicated quite clearly that the people of northern Ontario are expendable when we got into the crunch just a few weeks ago and the Treasurer, in an effort to stave off the fury of the opposition relating to OHIP, went into the minister’s budget and slashed $9 million from his regional priorities vote. That indicates to me just what the attitude of the government is. Of all times, when our mining industry is in the downturn, this is the time that the government of Ontario should be pumping public funds into northern Ontario to keep us viable. But, no, we are the first ones to feel the Treasurer’s knife. I resent very strongly that the minister has allowed that to happen.
If one wants to get a real, up-to-date picture of northern Ontario, one only has to go through the report of the Royal Commission on the Northern Environment, tabled recently by Mr. Justice Patrick Hartt. I believe the reason Mr. Justice Hartt threw up his hands was that he just couldn’t cope with the misery and deprivation he saw in northern Ontario. To read that report is just a clear condemnation of the government. This is new information. We had hoped that, with the ministry in place since about a year ago, some of these hardships would have disappeared by now. But some of the words used by Mr. Justice Hartt as recently as a month ago, are simply heart-rending. The misery, the deprivation and the low living standards that he encountered in his tour across northern Ontario were such that they overwhelmed the man. He made certain recommendations that three other commissions should he set up to take a look at these horrendous problems which have accumulated as a result of the neglect of the past 50 years.
The government of Ontario -- and maybe I should not be talking about legislation on the order paper, the mining tax legislation -- is going to give further breaks to the mining companies of Ontario, most of which are in the northern part of the province. More write-offs are planned for the mining companies when we know bloody well that these write-offs and incentives have done nothing over the past years to promote mining in Ontario. We have had plenty of write-offs and incentives but, despite all of them, the mining industry is still going down the pipe.
It is terrible to think that the government of Ontario, through its mining tax, collects only $19 million out of a production of minerals valued at $2 billion a year.
The forest industry has been depleted over the past 50 years. I am not sure; I can’t put the figures together to even determine whether the licensing revenue and the fees even cover the cost of forest management or fire protection. I have been trying to put together, but the things are so confused. I think we are in a deficit position, because what we are doing is paying people to cut down our trees instead of them paying us.
Mr. Wildman: That’s right.
Mr. Germa: Another sellout going on just recently -- and the minister does not speak of it, is the sale of crown land in cottage lots. There was a reason why the government of Ontario went into the lease business in 1970, I believe it was. Up until that point in time, cottage lots were sold off to the highest bidder. For some reason, I don t know why, the government came to the position that crown lands for cottage purposes should be only leased for 30 years on the first lease and 10 years for the second lease. Surely that’s enough time to accommodate any man. I agreed with that position. I still agree with that position.
I resent it that the government is going to give up title to all of these lots. Certainly for the first year it’s going to go to Canadians in Ontario, for the second year certainly they are going to go to Canadians outside of Ontario and the third year foreigners can buy them. But there is nothing in the regulations I have heard coming out of the Ministry of Natural Resources that a Canadian in Ontario couldn’t buy that lot and then transfer it to an American one month later at a good profit. I think you are opening up the door for some very violent speculation in crown land in northern Ontario.
Mr. Haggerty: Going back to like it was in 1970, Leo.
Mr. Germa: Another item the minister didn’t remind us of was the special cabinet committees --
Mr. Haggerty: Outsiders will be buying it all.
Mr. Germa: -- chaired by the Minister of Natural Resources (Mr. F. S. Miller), when the kerfuffle was going on regarding the Sudbury layoffs. I don’t know whether the government was serious about this but the Premier did say that he was going to set up a special cabinet committee chaired by the Minister of Natural Resources and they were going to look into the problem of layoffs in the mining community, particularly in Sudbury. I haven’t heard anything from the committee and that’s some four or five months down the road.
Mr. Haggerty: The Hartt commission should be after that too.
Mr. Germa: As for the mining exploration, $2.5 million, I don’t know how the minister is going to put that money into place. We have suggested that a crown corporation should be set up and should do exploration on a proper basis so we would know what we are talking about. Is the minister talking about subsidizing prospectors? Is he going to subsidize Inco again to go out and find these ore bodies which in the long run belong to us? I don’t know -- there are so many unanswered questions that will have to be answered as we go through the minister’s expenditures.
With that, Mr. Chairman, I will sit down and look forward to questioning the minister as each vote comes to the fore.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: Mr. Chairman, if I could respond. Certainly I want to express my appreciation to both of those northern members for their input as we start the examination of the estimates of the Ministry of Northern Affairs. I couldn’t help but think, as the member for Nipissing (Mr. Bolan) spoke of the lack of research that he put into his effort tonight, I would have hoped that it would have been much broader, more constructive, have more suggestions.
Mr. Laughren: Nobody is more destructive than you.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: If there is one thing that we in this ministry have asked for from day one is input, suggestions --
Mr. Bolan: You never listen. What’s the sense of telling you anyway?
Mr. Laughren: You are the former Minister of Natural Resources and you talk about being constructive.
Mr. Bolan: You don’t do a thing about it anyhow.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: -- a positive attitude to the development of northern Ontario.
Mr. Laughren: You’ve been destructive ever since you became the minister.
Mr. Bolan: We’ve been giving you suggestions for years and you never listen to them.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: I have to say to him that his comments about the change to my speech this afternoon were not related to the Premier’s comments earlier today concerning the wild rice situation. If he had been around here last week he would have learned that those two wild rice harvesters were purchased then --
Mr. Haggerty: Where were they purchased, in Japan?
Hon. Mr. Bernier: They were purchased by the Ministry of Northern Affairs and handed over to the Ministry of Natural Resources to help our native people in Northern Ontario.
Mr. Haggerty: Were they purchased in Japan?
Hon. Mr. Bernier: They were purchased up in northern Ontario. That’s the only place they are made. There is no place else they can be made. So these are positive things that we are doing.
I can’t help but think of the member’s attitude towards the new ministry. In fact, I don’t think it reflects his community because the member for Sudbury made mention of it when his own community, the community of North Bay, has been an advocate of a separate party, the Ontario Heritage Party. That separatist idea originated in North Bay. Certainly with the creation --
Mr. Wildman: Are you really a separatist, Leo?
Hon. Mr. Bernier: -- of this new ministry if there is support coming it is coming from the city of North Bay, Ed Diebel included. So I don’t think the member for Nipissing has his ear to the ground back home.
Mr. Wildman: Ed Diebel is a Tory front.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: He must be speaking to the wrong people because we do have the support and the encouragement of that community.
While I’m speaking about the problems of North Bay, the member is quite right in talking about the lack of federal participation through the DREE program as to the improvements we’d like to do in the city of North Bay. He is very much aware of the situation, because I have personally discussed it with him. He is well aware of the fact -- and I’m sure the honourable members would like to know this -- that there is a $14-million program that this province wants to get on with in the city of North Bay.
Mr. Bolan: Why don’t you take the $10.8 million one right now?
Hon. Mr. Bernier: A $14 million program; it was an agreement that we would share on a 50-50 basis.
Mr. Bolan: In fact, you’ve got the agreement on your desk right now.
Mr. Deputy Chairman: Order.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: His counterparts in Ottawa came back to us and said, “We don’t want to go for the full package. We just want to go for $10 million. That’s all we’re prepared to do. You carry the balance.”
Mr. Bolan: It’s $10.8 million. Why don’t you take that now? Because the Treasurer (Mr. McKeough) says you can’t; that’s why.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: I have appealed to the honourable gentleman to go to his counterpart, the Honourable J-J. Blais, lay it on Mr. Lessard’s desk and say, “Here we have the province willing to do something for the north. Co-operate with them as you would with other provinces.” We’re putting the heat on the feds. We firmly believe we are right --
Mr. Bolan: You’re going to lose the whole package. That’s what’s going to happen to you.
Mr. Deputy Chairman: Order.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: We believe we are right in asking for our fair share of those federal dollars for the development that we want to see down in North Bay.
Mr. Laughren: You’re in bed with them, Leo. You wouldn’t put the heat on anyone you’re in bed with.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: I would ask the honourable member to support us in that effort.
Mr. Bolan: I am supporting you.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: Why go for $10 million when we can get it for $14 million? Wouldn’t he like to see a $14-million development in his community?
Mr. Bolan: You’ve got the $10 million right now. Take it now and go after the $14 million later on. The Treasurer says you can’t get it; that’s why you won’t take it.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: There’s not a person in North Bay who wouldn’t want to see the whole works.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: That’s right. Most of it’s going to other provinces. But the honourable member hasn’t supported me in my efforts to gain a bigger package for his community.
Mr. Bolan: I have supported you constantly on that.
Mr. Laughren: That’s the Liberals for you.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: I’m disappointed. Nevertheless, we will continue to fight for the north.
Mr. Laughren: When are you going to start?
Hon. Mr. Bernier: We have been doing it and we will continue that particular effort.
Mr. Bolan: Leo, you fight them; you don’t fight for them.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: One point I want to make is that as I travel in northern Ontario and as I attended the many conferences to get northern Ontario input -- it’s something the members touched on lightly but I think they are beginning to recognize -- there is a new mood developing in northern Ontario. It’s a mood of self-determination, a mood that they want to become more involved in the decisions that are being made as they affect them on a day-to-day basis.
Mr. Haggerty: It is long overdue.
Mr. Renwick: You are unbelievable. Do you mean you just discovered that?
Hon. Mr. Bernier: I can relate to the members the conferences that we have been to. The Quetico conference --
Mr. Wildman: It has always been there, Leo.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: We’ve encouraged it. We’ve been encouraging it all along.
Mr. Renwick: It has been there all the time.
Mr. Bolan: Did you just discover it?
Hon. Mr. Bernier: It’s starting to surface.
Mr. Renwick: Starting to surface, my foot; you started to surface, that’s your problem.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: In fact, the member for Sudbury (Mr. Germa) touched on it at the 2001 conference. He knows there is a new mood in Sudbury. There’s a whole new attitude in Sudbury. The community is heading in one direction. They’re pulling together.
Mr. Wildman: You’d better read his words.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: I would hope that the doom-and-gloom attitude that he’s expounding tonight about northern Ontario would be set aside.
Mr. Wildman: Oh, come on.
Mr. Laughren: You’ve been spreading it around for 35 years up there.
Mr. Renwick: I hope you get around to answering him.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: Put that attitude aside for a change. Let’s get on with the job of building northern Ontario.
Mr. Renwick: Listen to this.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: Take the mood of the 2001 conference, I say to the member for Sudbury and the member for Nickel Belt (Mr. Laughren). Take the mood of the Sudbury conference --
Hon. B. Stephenson: And the member for Riverdale. When was the last time you were in northern Ontario, James?
Hon. Mr. Bernier: Take that mood that was developed by 1,000 local people --
Mr. Laughren: You keep undermining us, Leo.
Mr. Renwick: So does the member for York Mills, (B. Stephenson) who thinks she is part of Northern Affairs.
Mr. Deputy Chairman: Order.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: One thousand local Sudbury citizens banded together for two full days to see what they could do for themselves, with the support and co-operation of this government and the federal government.
Mr. Laughren: Is he allowed to be provocative, Mr. Chairman?
Hon. Mr. Bernier: There’s a whole new attitude, a real attitude that is encouraging to this government.
Mr. Renwick: Will you answer my colleague from Sudbury?
Mr. Deputy Chairman: Order.
Mr. Laughren: He is being provocative. Come on --
Mr. Deputy Chairman: Order, order.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: I’m not being provocative. I’m being very positive.
Mr. Renwick: Cut the rhetoric.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: The members opposite will not destroy what was started in Sudbury three or four weeks ago. I say that to them with a great deal of sincerity.
Hon. B. Stephenson: There’s no hope they will understand.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: I just want to touch on the budget, on the $9 million cut that we received.
Mr. Renwick: Listen to this. He won’t even answer.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: I have to lay that at the feet of the two opposition parties.
Mr. Wildman: Oh, come on. Lay it at the feet of the Treasurer.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: They have to accept that responsibility.
Mr. Bolan: You couldn’t protect it in front of the Treasurer. You couldn’t protect the $9 million, that’s why you lost it.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: This government budgeted $140 million for the Ministry of Northern Affairs. The members opposite held a gun to the Treasurer’s head.
Mr. Bolan: What did you do to defend it?
Hon. Mr. Bernier: He had no choice.
Mr. Bolan: Did you do anything to defend the $9 million?
Hon. Mr. Bernier: We worked since last August to bring our own budget into shape for a balanced provincial budget in 1981. Other ministries had to cut back, but look at the Ministry of Northern Affairs --
Mr. Lupusella: What are you talking about?
Hon. Mr. Bernier: I ask the members to look at the budget of the Ministry of Northern Affairs. When we came into being a little more than a year ago, the program that we pulled together for our ministry totalled $99 million.
Mr. Renwick: Of course -- patronage.
Hon. B. Stephenson: Oh, James.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: You call it patronage? Tell those fellows from northern Ontario that it’s patronage; they’ll run you out.
Mr. Renwick: This is the ministry that divided the north for the Conservative Party.
Mr. Deputy Chairman: Order, please. Can I ask the member for Riverdale to please wait his turn to speak.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: You’re still smarting over the last election, Jim.
An hon. member: He still hasn’t been north of Bloor.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: But I say to honourable members that when we brought the programs together, those programs totalled $99 million.
Mr. Laughren: Wow.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: Last year, if you’ll recall, I came before this committee and asked for approval for a budget in excess of $120 million.
Mr. Laughren: Wow.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: This year, two years later, I’m asking for support for $140 million. I ask you, is that not recognition of the north, a 40 per cent increase in two years? I will defy you to find another ministry that has had greater recognition by the Treasurer of this province than the Ministry of Northern Affairs.
Mr. Germa: Just a passthrough from another ministry.
Mr. Laughren: It would have been there anyway.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: I defy you. But I can’t accept the condemnation that you are heaping on the Treasurer.
Mr. Renwick: It is a mere shin plaster. You should be asking for 10 times that amount.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: But then you fellows come along, after all our work in puffing that budget together -- $140 million -- you forced the Treasurer to take $9 million away from northern Ontario.
Mr. Laughren: Sit down while you’re only losing.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: You must accept the responsibility.
Mr. Laughren: Who did?
Hon. Mr. Bernier: You fellows did. The people of northern Ontario will hear about it because I will personally tell them.
Mr. Bolan: Is that the best you can do?
Hon. Mr. Bernier: I will do that. Yes, I will. You won’t accept that responsibility; but we had it in the budget, it’s printed right in the budget -- $140 million.
Mr. Grande: The people aren’t as simple as that.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: Now we’re $9 million short because of your action.
Mr. Bolan: Where did you get it from?
Mr. Deputy Chairman: Order.
Mr. Renwick: Because you’ve got no clout with the Treasurer, that is why.
Mr. Dolan: You have no clout with the Treasurer at all.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: We had to pare our budget. We’re reducing the community priority budget by $5 million, the regional priority budget by $3 million and the northern roads program by $1 million for a total of $9 million.
Mr. Renwick: You ought to be ashamed of yourself for permitting that to happen.
Hon. B. Stephenson: You should be ashamed of yourself for forcing it to happen.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: It was tough to do, there is no question about it.
Mr. Renwick: You ought to be in tears.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: You supported them. Yes, you did.
Mr. Bolan: You’re a lot nicer when you give out fire trucks to the north.
Hon. B. Stephenson: You’re a hypocrite through and through.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: When I hear about the gloom and doom of northern Ontario, I just can’t help but smile to myself as I read my daily mail. When I hear about how bad things are in northern Ontario -- when I get letters from Pembroke, when I get letters from Whitney, from Barry’s Bay pleading with me to take them into our jurisdiction.
Mr. Laughren: Mr. Yakabuski wrote them both. Were they signed by Paul Yakabuski?
Hon. Mr. Bernier: They said: “Please, we want to be part of northern Ontario. We know of the special concessions that northerners are getting: the $10 licence plates; the special municipal grant of 18 per cent; special road subsidies; even our universities are getting special northern Ontario grants; the young travellers program is all designed for northern Ontario.”
Mr. Haggerty: It sounds like you are buying votes, Leo.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: Those people in southern Ontario want to be a part of the north.
Mr. Renwick: They will take you for all they can get and then kick you out of office, that is what they will do.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: I tell you, there’s a change coming. I get letters every day appealing to this ministry to take them under our wing because things are happening in northern Ontario.
Mr. Renwick: They know they have called your bluff.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: It’s being recognized, I have to say that to you.
Mr. Lupusella: Since when?
Mr. Renwick: They will turn your pockets inside out and then they will throw you out.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: Mr. Chairman, the member for Sudbury asked if I would explain the two specific grants and the two specific projects that are going on in the city of Sudbury now. One had been funded by the Ministry of Northern Affairs. The first is a project to gain insight into the economic base of Sudbury through investigation of import substitution and agricultural revitalization. That’s one specific program. We’re dealing with the regional municipality of Sudbury on that program. The grant issue will be $200,000 and $90,000 next year.
The next specific grant will look at the ways of encouraging the activity of economic development, growth, and also diversification in the Sudbury Basin. That’s a $600,000 program spread over the next three years, with $300,000 being granted this year, $200,000 next year and $100,000 the year after.
That is being funded directly to the 2001 conference board. it will be a phased-down program -- one which they hope will take off after the three-year period with the community support and with the involvement of the entire society, be it labour or business and what have you. Both of those particular programs are in place; and quite frankly, as the Premier (Mr. Davis) stated at the conference and I mentioned it tonight, there is certainly a bit of a risk; but I think when we are dealing with northern Ontario, we have to take that risk, there’s no question about that. There’s no question in my mind, and I am prepared to recommend to the government that we do that.
Mr. Renwick: What a risk.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: The comments with regard to summer cottage lots is something I just can’t accept from the member for Sudbury, I suppose because of our different political philosophy.
Mr. Germa: Why did you do it in 1970 then?
Hon. Mr. Bernier: I think that is the crux of it. The program that the Minister of Natural Resources (Mr. F. S. Miller) has announced is an exciting one, one that will produce 1,000 new summer cottage lots per year north of the French River.
Mr. Laughren: How come Frank Miller just dozed off then?
Hon. Mr. Bernier: What we have done, and what he has announced is that those people who are buying those lots will have to spend, within a two-year period, in excess of $7,500 to get title to that particular land. Now that will provide X number of jobs and certainly an economic activity that we have never seen before.
Mr. Laughren: There are no lots available. What are you talking about?
An hon. member: And then they sell it to Americans.
Mr. Renwick: That is about as accurate as you have ever been on your job production programs -- X number of jobs.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: And if you look at $7,500 right across northern Ontario, and the desire of Ontario residents and Canadian residents to own their own summer recreational lot is something that we as residents of this province really want and appreciate.
Mr. Laughren: Like Manitoulin Island, eh, Leo? Like Manitoulin Island?
Hon. Mr. Bernier: I am sure that there is acceptance right across the north. In fact, the Minister of Natural Resources told me that in the first 10 days after the announcement in the throne speech, over 5,000 calls were received in his office -- over 5,000 calls.
Mr. Laughren: How many lots were there?
Hon. Mr. Bernier: That was the reaction up in the north, and this government responds to that action. We don’t go on with our merry old political philosophy and ignore what the people of northern Ontario want. We try to respond to that desire.
Mr. Laughren: Like you did in the mining industry, eh Leo?
Hon. Mr. Bernier: This is our whole attitude.
Mr. Laughren: Like you did in the mining industry?
Hon. Mr. Bernier: Yes, we have. We have --
Mr. Laughren: You sure have.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: -- to the benefit of the people in Sudbury too; to the benefit, yes.
Mr. Laughren: To the benefit of Inco, not the workers.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: You know as well as I do that the actions the Treasurer took were the right ones. They were the actions that the people of northern Ontario were asking for right across the community.
Mr. Laughren: They asked for the layoffs of 4,000? Did they ask for the layoffs?
Hon. Mr. Bernier: He responded to that. We are sensitive on this side, we are sensitive of those people’s needs.
Mr. Renwick: They wanted that?
Hon. Mr. Bernier: Mr. Chairman, as I wind up in my response to the members, I would just say that the encouragement we have for the mining exploration program is a direct grant or direct assistance to the Ministry of Natural Resources to undertake some major mapping programs in northern Ontario. I believe I mentioned them in my opening remarks. That’s where the funds will be used, so that we can provide industry, and even provide the public, with increased and improved information on the mineral potential of these very specific areas. It’s something that’s needed. It’s something that other provinces have done. I am particularly pleased, of course, to be able to assist in this very positive way to encourage and to try to reactivate mining activity in northern Ontario.
I believe I have responded to most of the questions raised by the members and if I haven’t, I would only be too pleased to follow up.
Mr. Renwick: You didn’t answer my colleague from Sudbury.
Mr. Laughren: I find the remarks of the minister strange indeed. I think it was last year I referred to the minister as “staggering across northern Ontario like a wounded moose in a snowstorm,” and now I can see that --
Hon. Mr. Bernier: I went to Chapleau about a month ago, too.
Mr. Laughren: -- I was being too kind to him when I described him that way. Because I will tell you something, Mr. Chairman, this minister has not served the north very well. When it came time for the Treasurer of Ontario to find places to cut the budget in order to pay for the OHP fees, he wouldn’t listen to us. We told him there were progressive ways in which you could pay for the reduced OHIP premiums. Oh no, he wouldn’t listen to us. He turned to his free enterprise friends in the Liberal Party and said: “Let’s cut back on another 5,000 or 6,000 jobs to show the people of Ontario we know what job creation is in the province.” That’s what he said, that’s what he said; and guess where the Treasurer looked first. He looked to the Minister of Northern Affairs, because he said, “That minister has no teeth, so we cut his budget.”
Mr. Renwick: He’s the weakest link in the chain.
Mr. Laughren: That’s exactly what he said. The Minister of Northern Affairs is indeed the weakest link in that chain. He is trying to recapture past glories when he was minister of the most important ministry in that government, the Ministry of Natural Resources. It is some comedown, I know.
Mr. Bolan: That’s a sunset law.
Mr. Laughren: As a matter of fact, if this minister was really concerned about the economic development of the north, he would at least show that symbolically he recognized the need and he would establish the head office of the Ministry of Northern Affairs in the city of Sudbury or in some other major municipality in northern Ontario. He won’t even take that symbolic step.
Mr. Renwick: He likes it in Toronto too much. He spends too much time in Toronto. He’s down here all the time.
Mr. Laughren: Tell me how you justify having the Ministry of Northern Affairs located in Toronto.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: On a point of privilege, Mr. Chairman: I would like to correct the honourable member. He speaks about the minister’s office being located in Toronto. This ministry is the only ministry in the Ontario government that has offices outside of this city. We have a minister’s office in Kenora and a minister’s office in Sudbury. Seventy per cent of the staff of this ministry are located north of the French River.
Mr. Renwick: Where does the minister sit?
Hon. Mr. Bernier: Do you see me here?
Mr. Renwick: Where do you go now that the Swiss Bear is closed?
Mr. Deputy Chairman: It’s not a point of privilege. You may continue.
Mr. Laughren: I don’t care if 70 per cent of the staff are in northern Ontario. The point is that 30 per cent are down here and the head office is here. The minister is here and the deputy minister is here. That is fundamentally wrong for a Ministry of Northern Affairs.
As a matter of fact, the Ministry of Natural Resources should also be in northern Ontario. You really have no commitment to northern Ontario.
Mr. Renwick: That’s right.
Mr. Laughren: You go across northern Ontario with cheques signed by other ministers and you hand them out. That’s really where it’s all at, isn’t it? It’s like the Minister of Culture and Recreation (Mr. Welch) signing Wintario cheques on funds that have been brought in by people buying tickets. In your case, you are asking all the other ministers to sign cheques and you hand them out.
Mr. Bolan: It’s called pork-barreling.
Mr. Laughren: That’s a very demeaning exercise for a once-powerful minister in the government of Ontario; that really is a pathetic comedown.
Mr. Renwick: If it weren’t him, we would be sad.
Mr. Laughren: Not only will the minister not locate the Ministry of Northern Affairs in northern Ontario, he sits idly and silently by while his colleague the Minister of Natural Resources shut down offices in northern Ontario. I could give you two examples that I know of very well. As a matter of fact, there is even an office in the Minister of Natural Resources’ own riding which he shut down, a Ministry of Natural Resources office, all for the sake of centralization. You guys frighten me with your fetish for centralization and control, that really is frightening.
If you had your way, you would have everything controlled here in Toronto by one person, the Treasurer. Is that what you’d like?
Mr. Bradley: That’s the way it is now.
Mr. Laughren: Let the record show that the minister is smiling. He wouldn’t like to see the Treasurer controlling it, but he really has no commitment to small communities in the north when he allows offices to close down. It may not seem much to shut down a Natural Resources complex in Foleyet or in Sultan and have two, three, four or five employees get transferred to a larger community like Chapleau, but it does a great deal of damage to those small communities and it indicates a lack of commitment on your part to fight for the economic viability of those towns. They are in sad shape to start with in terms of employment in the local area. Then you add insult to injury by pulling out government offices.
I know you can justify it in terms of what you would call efficiency through centralized control of the area, but it is not worth the tradeoff. You are trading off the economic viability of a small community. The people in Ontario were very happy to use those small communities when the economic development of the north was important. Now, when those communities are in economic trouble, you turn your back on them. Worse than that, you pull out offices that are there already. That’s simply not fair.
You were very happy to use them when they were booming railroad and resource communities. When it was in the interests of fire fighting, you were happy to use them. Now, when you have airplanes circling the forests of northern Ontario you say “We don’t need those communities any more, we’ll shut them down.” You don’t seem to think very seriously about what it does to those small communities of 500, 600, 700 or 800 people. It is a serious blow to them. More than that, it’s symbolically important that they’ve been abandoned by their government. You should really think about that and you should speak to the Minister of Natural Resources.
You talk about the unorganized communities, about a fire truck here and a fire truck there. I want to tell you that the people in those small communities know full well that for many years they’ve been paying the same sales tax, the same OHIP premium, the same gasoline tax and the same income tax as you have or I have who live in larger communities -- at least as I do. I live in a larger community, I guess you don’t. I refer to people in Toronto.
You say to them: “We are giving you something.” They’re only getting something for which they’ve been paying for many years. The minister need not sit there or stand in his place and pretend the government of Ontario is giving these people something they haven’t paid for because they’ve paid for it many times. It doesn’t make sense for the minister to pretend he’s doing something for the small communities they haven’t paid for.
The whole question of northern Ontario is one we’ve talked about and addressed ourselves to many times. Probably there’s no centre in northern Ontario which is so symbolically indicative of what’s wrong up there as the regional municipality of Sudbury, the Sudbury area. I’m glad the minister mentioned the 2001 conference. He also referred to a new mood of self-determination. He said there’s a new mood in Sudbury and that the elected members from Sudbury should stop this gloom and doom they talk about all the time. We’ve heard that for a long time. The Conservative candidates up there always try to run on that platform. It hasn’t been too successful, because if it hadn’t been for the voices of the Sudbury basin complaining about the pollution in the area we wouldn’t even have a superstack now.
Mr. Renwick: That’s right; they are the voices of reason.
Mr. Laughren: If it hadn’t been for the voices up there that complained about the pollution, we wouldn’t have things like the greening of the area now which the companies have been pressured into doing. We wouldn’t have things like creeks covered to prevent fog-causing accidents and so forth. It was because of the voices that were raised, by and large down here in this chamber, that some of those corrections were made. If you want to say we were wrong to do those things and that we were preaching gloom and doom by saying those things, why don’t you say that? Why don’t you say it was not our job to raise those issues in This chamber? You wouldn’t say that because you know that is our responsibility.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: I’m very sensitive about those things.
Mr. Laughren: If you were honest -- and this is a big if -- you would admit that those things needed to be changed. You would admit that the health and safety conditions in the mining industry were bad. You can’t admit that because you presided over that, I understand that.
You’ve got a long way to go before you can sell yourself as the white knight of northern Ontario or as the saviour of the north, given what you did to the north when you were Minister of Natural Resources.
Mr. Renwick: The white knight is an upended moose.
Mr. Laughren: The people of northern Ontario feel that very strongly as well. You will never ever lose the image you so rightfully gained when you were Minister of Natural Resources. You cannot take that back, you can never shed that image.
Mr. Renwick: You’ve got to him.
Mr. Laughren: When the 2001 conference was on, there was a great deal of talk about changing the image of Sudbury. It seems to me if we want to change the image of Sudbury we change the real thing and the image will change by itself. If we make Sudbury an attractive place environmentally, the image will change as well. We shouldn’t pretend there are not environmental problems in the Sudbury area. They’re there and they’re still very serious.
About two weeks ago I flew to Sudbury in the afternoon. I got on the airport bus that goes in from the airport to Sudbury and I sat beside a young man. All the way in from the airport, he kept making these disparaging remarks about the environment he was seeing as we drove in. Finally, I said to him, as we approached the city, “You’ve got it all wrong, that’s just the image, that’s not the real Sudbury.” To someone who drives through or visits, there is nothing else. I don’t have to be convinced the people in Sudbury are good people, I don’t have to be convinced Sudbury is a good place to live; I went to Sudbury by choice.
Mr. Mancini: You are part of the problem in the north, Floyd.
Mr. Laughren: I want to tell you something, I wasn’t born in Sudbury, I went there by choice and I stayed there. I want to stay there because I know it’s a good community in which to live. If you want to talk about image, then you’ve got to understand what image is. If we’re going to make that a better place to live and have a better image, then you’ll have to improve the actual thing. The environment has to be improved, and it doesn’t make sense just to talk about improving it.
You know the other thing the minister says is, “Well, we are doing a lot for the north.” He talks about the young travellers program where students come from all across northern Ontario to Toronto. That is a good thing and I’m very happy that’s there; I encourage all of the students and the schools in the north to use that program. A lot of them do. But that’s not there because of any great charity on the part of the government. It’s there because the amenities that are here in the south are not in the north, that’s why it’s there.
We have not done enough in that respect either. Down here we have Ontario Place, we have the Royal Ontario Museum, the Science Centre; and I could go on and on. There is no reason why some of those facilities could not be moved across the north; not in total duplication, of course. There has been some of that I know, but not nearly enough. Obviously, you can’t move the entire Ontario Place or the entire Science Centre to northern Ontario, but you can take exhibits across the north more than you do.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: Will you support us?
Mr. Laughren: Listen, will I support you? I even suggested that the Royal Ontario Museum should take exhibits across the north and they could call it art in a cart.
Hon. B. Stephenson: The art gallery does now. The art gallery has travelling shows. Don’t you go and see that?
Mr. Laughren: Yes; I’m trying to be constructive. Yes, I know they do, I understand that; but there needs to be more of that.
The point is the minister should not stand in his place and say this is a great thing we’re doing for northern Ontario. If the children of the north do not come down here to the young travellers program, they won’t see a lot of those amenities. I met some students from the riding I represent down here one day and I said “What was the thing that impressed you the most?” They said: “The elevators! They had never seen an elevator before. I’m not suggesting you package an elevator and take it across northern Ontario, but nevertheless it is a different life here and you have an obligation to take some of that to northern Ontario.
The other thing I wanted to mention briefly was the crown lots issue, because the Minister of Natural Resources made a statement on it today. I couldn’t agree more with my colleague from Sudbury, because nothing has changed since 1970 or 1911 when that policy was originated. I don’t know what’s changed. You talk about economic stimulation by the sale of lots. I’m not surprised that they receive 5,000 phone calls or letters. You cannot meet the demand now, there is a much greater demand for crown lots than there is a supply.
Mr. Wildman: For leased lots.
Mr. Laughren: It’s not as though you could stimulate and have a huge increase in sales, because you don’t have the subdivision plans on the lakes now to meet the demands for the lots. That’s a silly argument to make.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: We will have.
Mr. Laughren: You don’t have. You have been saying that for years, and every time you put lots on a lake up for option or for draw you get a much greater demand than there is a supply of them. To talk about economic stimulation is, well, as I say, downright silly. Do you want to turn all of northern Ontario into a Manitoulin Island situation, where it is non-residents who own it? That’s not what you want, surely. I understand the Minister of Northern Affairs didn’t like that whole idea anyway, when it was first announced by the Minister of Natural Resources.
Mr. Wildman: Neither did most of the Ministry of Natural Resources employees.
Mr. Laughren: What made you change your mind to support the Minister of Natural Resources? Cabinet solidarity? Come on, is that another example of how they can ride roughshod over you as Minister of Northern Affairs?
Mr. Bolan: Sure it is.
Mr. Laughren: When are you going to stand up and fight for the north instead of acquiescing and giving in to the other ministers in cabinet all the time? When are you going to do that?
You wilted pretty quickly when the Treasurer wanted $9 million --
Hon. Mr. Bernier: You are really off base.
Hon. B. Stephenson: Your crystal ball is cloudy.
Mr. Bradley: We know who’s the boss over there.
Mr. Laughren: -- to pay for the reduced OHIP premiums, you either volunteered it and said, “Here Darcy, take $9 million out of my budget, it is just the north,” or he said it to you. Now which was it?
Mr. Bradley: You’re the whipping boy.
Mr. Grande: So you could go out and play your games.
Mr. Laughren: Which was it? Did he clobber you and take it, or did you volunteer it? Which was it, tell us?
Hon. Mr. Bernier: How silly can you get.
Mr. Laughren: Well, tell me how the $9 million came out of your ministry then? Either you volunteered it or he took it, which was it?
Mr. Grande: It was a present.
Mr. Laughren: You won’t answer that question. I know; I know how it works over there.
Hon. B. Stephenson: Do you?
Mr. Laughren: Yes, I do. I have seen this minister in operation before, just as I have seen you in operation with the Workmen’s Compensation Board. Do you want to talk about the compensation board?
Mr. Chairman: Order.
Hon. B. Stephenson: Do you want to? Tonight? Go ahead, be my guest.
Mr. Laughren: I would like to. There is a final point, and I do want to move on: the whole question of the mining industry in northern Ontario. I find it almost mindboggling that in the province of Ontario --
Hon. B. Stephenson: All right, your mind boggles easily.
Mr. Laughren: You are not sure of that now. My colleague from Parkdale, who is a psychiatrist tells me that my mind does not boggle easily. So who are you, as a GP, to say that it does?
Hon. B. Stephenson: As a physician who has done some practice, I have a little more knowledge than he has.
Mr. Germa: Heal thyself.
Ms. Gigantes: Heal thyself.
Mr. Laughren: My colleague from Parkdale has more opportunity to practice psychiatry in this caucus than you do GP over there.
Hon. B. Stephenson: You need more psychiatric care than this side does.
Mr. Laughren: That is what I said.
Mr. Chairman: Order. Could we return to vote 901?
Mr. Laughren: Yes, if only the Minister of Labour would stop being provocative.
What I started to say, Mr. Chairman, was that in Ontario we extract from our natural resources approximately $2 billion worth of minerals a year, in excess of $2 billion, give or take the odd hundred million. Do you know what the province of Ontario is going to realize in mining profits tax this year? Mr. Chairman, you would be appalled. Around $19 million or $20 million, out of $20 billion worth of minerals.
I call that disastrous mineral management; yet the Minister of Northern Affairs can say, “Well, don’t talk to me about that, talk to my colleague in Natural Resources”.
Well there sits, in the chair of the Ministry of Northern Affairs, the architect of our present system; because if anyone is responsible for the decline of the mining Industry in northern Ontario it is the present Minister of Northern Affairs. He instituted policies which not only eroded our revenues but did nothing to create a healthy mining environment in northern Ontario. Now it takes some kind of magician to do both things.
You would think that if you maximized your revenue, certainly the Minister of Northern Affairs would argue this way, you might cut down on the profits and the investments of the mining industry. On the other hand, you might say, if you minimize the revenues to the province, you would have a thriving mineral industry. But no, no; neither case. We have minimized our revenues to the province of Ontario from the mining industry and we have a sick mining industry in northern Ontario.
I wouldn’t say for a minute that it is entirely the responsibility of the province, we know that there are things such as world market conditions which have a bearing on it, but when Inco and Falconbridge appeared before the select committee on the Inco and Falconbridge layoffs, they indicated to us that the level of taxation was not the problem in the mining industry, it was to have some sense of a long term direction, some security of knowing what the level of taxation would be, not the level of taxation per se.
Mr. Bradley: There goes another Tory member.
Mr. Laughren: So that the minister and his colleagues have succeeded, in a strange way, in making everyone unhappy. They have minimized the returns to the province; and they have an industry that is unhappy with the way the tax system is set up.
Mr. Haggerty: There’s 35 to 70 per cent variation.
Mr. Laughren: It’s very difficult to accomplish both those things, but you have succeeded. We have virtually no exploration and development. There have been no new mines opening up in northern Ontario in recent years. It’s your policies; it’s not our policies. You tend to point your finger at us and say it’s all your talk over there that’s hurting the mining industry. We are not in government, we don’t establish the taxation policies of the government; you do that and you must take responsibility for it. All I hear are apologies over there on behalf of the mining industry.
That’s simply got to change, if we are going to use the resources of the north to benefit all the people of this province. We’ve never said the resources of northern Ontario should only be used for the people of the north. If we received the maximum potential benefits from those resources, there would be enough to benefit the people of all of this province. When you think that 20 to 25 years ago we supplied about 90 per cent of the western world’s supply of nickel, now it’s down to around 40 per cent. When you think of the potential we bad to create secondary manufacturing -- fabricating and processing, think of the jobs that would have meant. It would have made a different kind of province.
Falconbridge for 45 years has been shipping nickel to Norway to be refined. You’ve allowed Inco not to process and make finished products in the area. You haven’t required that there be further processing by the private sector in the Sudbury basin. How does the minister explain the fact that we are number three in the world in mining behind the USSR and the United States and that this country has a deficit on mining machinery equipment of about three quarters of a billion dollars a year?
How is it that this government would not have said to itself and to its economic advisers, that this doesn’t make sense arid how can we establish mining machinery equipment manufacture in northern Ontario?
We were in the debates of the Ministry of Natural Resources the other day and I had great difficulty getting through to the Minister of Natural Resources. He was either preoccupied or he is a doctrinaire free enterpriser. I don’t know which it was, because the arguments I was making to him were so logical and made such good sense that you would think he would have been converted immediately.
Hon. B. Stephenson: In whose opinion?
Mr. Grande: That’s the trouble, you don’t listen to good sense.
Hon. B. Stephenson: I am always delighted to listen to any good sense.
Mr. Laughren: If the Minister of Natural Resources was more open-minded he would have been persuaded by my arguments.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: That is the same philosophy you were advocating in Manitoba. Look what happened to them.
Mr. Laughren: Is their mining industry in worse shape than Ontario’s? Is it?
Mr. Grande: That is simplistic thinking. That is what you guys indulge yourselves in.
Mr. Laughren: You have a lot of nerve sitting there, when Inco and Falconbridge have announced 4,000 layoffs in the Sudbury basin, and saying that some other province has poor mineral management policies. What are you doing for us? You can say that it’s a world supply problem if you want, but while your party has been the government there hasn’t been a world supply problem until very recently. What happened 20 years ago; or 15, 10 or five years ago? Where were you then? Why were we not maximizing the benefits of the industry for the people of Ontario in those years?
Mr. Wildman: They were maximizing profit.
Mr. Laughren: I don’t know what your plan is for the future. I suppose that as the years go by you will just keep whittling away until that $19 million or $20 million you receive now will be even lower.
Mr. Renwick: They will be opening a nickel mine as a tourist attraction.
Mr. Laughren: Yes. That really is symbolically important. Will that be the attraction in Sudbury? I hope not.
Hon. B. Stephenson: Are you going to be a guide?
Mr. Laughren: That’s a pretty sad commentary on what once was an extremely important Ontario industry, to open up a mine as a tourist attraction. I just say to the minister, before you go across northern Ontario extolling your own virtues, you might very well ask yourself whether or not you are giving anything to the people of the north which they have not paid for many times over in years gone by.
Mr. Haggerty: I would like to direct a question to the minister for clarification. This relates to the selling of crown lots in northern Ontario. My main concern is that when you permit the sale of such crown lots, are you going to provide any protective measure that will protect the public in the future? What I’m getting at is, you can take a small lake and you can have it surrounded by lots, and it can almost become a closed-off lake, a private lake. Are you going to have any measures such as a right of way around the lake to protect it for the public -- say in the case of fire, so that the firemen can get down with equipment?
I wouldn’t want to see the same situation as has taken place along the shores of Lake Erie. I don’t have to go into detail to tell the minister the problems there. We have had persons who have obtained the rights through court action, I believe it would be, in decisions of the Supreme Court of Canada, that permit them to put fences out along the waterway prohibiting access by the public to use the lake. I hope by selling the crown lots in northern Ontario that this does not happen, that we do have some means to protect the public so that anybody has the right to come down to the beach if it’s necessary -- for boating purposes, for example.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: I would like to respond briefly to both of the members. I am glad the member for Nickel Belt is still here. I want to thank him for his renewed support, or his reinterest in our fire protection for the small isolated communities of northern Ontario. I recall very vividly when the estimates of this ministry were debated last year how the honourable member stood and condemned that particular program; laughed at it, jeered at it. said it was ineffective and would never work, it was hodgepodge.
Mr. Haggerty: Not from this side.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: No, not from that side.
Mr. Wildman: He was talking about smoke detectors.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: I think it’s fair to say that he has seen the light, he has seen what’s happened.
Mr. Laughren: Point of privilege: Far be it from me to accuse the minister of deliberately misleading the House. I think the members here will draw that conclusion themselves. The program to which the minister refers was when the minister was providing smoke detectors as a means of fire prevention and fire fighting. I indicated at the time that you could not substitute a smoke detector for a fire truck. That was the substance of my remarks.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: Yes, Mr. Chairman, that’s the area to which I referred. I remember very vividly how he condemned that particular program. I couldn’t help but think of the disastrous fire that happened just here in the city of Toronto, where that mother and six children were burned to death in a city that has all the fire protection you could dream of. What did the fire chief say? If that home had been equipped with smoke detectors --
Mr. Laughren: There are also fire trucks in Toronto.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: If that home had been equipped with smoke detectors --
Mr. Laughren: Yes, but they have fire trucks, too.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: -- there’s a good possibility that disaster wouldn’t have happened.
Mr. Laughren: They have water and fire trucks as well.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: I would hope the member would change his attitude.
Mr. Haggerty: It should be changed to a fire alarm system.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: When I hear the fire chief in Toronto, a major city, advocate that all new buildings under the new building code should have smoke detectors installed --
Mr. Laughren: Leo, you haven’t changed. You are still as dishonest as you ever were.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: I give credit to my staff and those people who work in the ministry for detecting this as a priority area. There’s no question about it, we embarked on a very ambitious program, as I said in my opening remarks. We now sell them for $19.90 and they’re being accepted very well.
The member for Nickel Belt made mention of the desire to have tourist destination centres developed in northern Ontario, a concept which we in Northern Affairs, and also the Ministry of Industry and Tourism, fully support. We would like to see major destination areas established -- like Cobalt, which we are embarking on now; like Moosonee; like King Mountain, which is under study right now.
Mr. Laughren: Maple Mountain?
Hon. Mr. Bernier: I said King Mountain.
Mr. Laughren: You didn’t say Maple Mountain?
Hon. Mr. Bernier: Like Old Fort William, to which that party was violently opposed. Minaki is another example that will be a magnet --
Mr. Laughren: You are using Minaki as an example?
Hon. Mr. Bernier: -- to move tourists and people across this province to visit major recreational and tourist destination centres.
Mr. Wildman: I thought it was going to be a health spa.
Mr. Laughren: Tell us about Minaki.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: You mentioned activities here in southern Ontario; the Ontario Science Centre, Ontario Place, the Royal Ontario Museum, the St. Clair Parkway Commission, the St. Lawrence Parks Commission, Niagara Falls -- those are destination areas. Our thrust is to go that same route in northern Ontario, and I appreciate your support. I know the Minister of Industry and Tourism (Mr. Rhodes), as he enters the chamber, will nod with full approval to that particular desire of this government.
I want to talk about the summer cottage lot programs to which you refer. You were concerned about the lack of resources to get a significant program moving in northern Ontario. Additional funds have been provided by the Ministry of Natural Resources this year. I think you’ve found that out in the examination of those estimates. We’re supplementing that program, the Ministry of Northern Affairs to Natural Resources, by $144,000 to get on with the job of making subdivisions and putting roads into those areas and into those lakes that have been properly planned. I want to mention this to the member for Erie.
Mr. Laughren: Leo, would $144,000 build one road?
Hon. Mr. Bernier: No, but it will certainly help. We’re just cranking up the program. This is the first year of a major program. The lots will be developed on a very carefully planned basis, as the minister said in the House today --
Mr. Germa: That’s what you said a year ago.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: -- involving only those lakes that have undergone very extensive lake plan surveys by the Ministry of Natural Resources which show they can support X number of cottages.
Mr. Laughren: So they should.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: Of course, in the Public Lands Act it clearly stipulates that 25 per cent of the usable shoreline must be retained for public use and in the crown’s possession so there is no real danger now of having a Lake Simcoe situation or a Lake Erie situation develop in northern Ontario.
Mr. Laughren: Just Manitoulin Island.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: I’m all over the north, as the member for Nickel Belt knows, and I flew from Kirkland Lake to Kenora a couple of weeks ago. When I came back that week I had a phone call from a person in Toronto who asked me about the new summer cottage lot program. She said, “Mr. Bernier, is there any crown land left in northern Ontario?”
I said to her, “I flew home on the weekend. It took four and a half hours from Kirkland Lake to Kenora and I was over crown land all the way.” There are millions and millions of acres of crown land available. They are undeveloped areas.
Mr. Wildman: A lot of that is on lakes that should never be developed though.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: Maybe there is, and that will be a part of the plan. There’s no question about it. In the Lake of the Woods area --
Mr. Wildman: It’s too shallow.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: -- the Ministry of Natural Resources has completed a very large land-use plan of that particular area and they’ve allocated 700 summer cottage lots in the Lake of the Woods area above the 12,000 that are there now that will give us the wilderness aspect, preserve certain areas for wilderness that are sensitive and delicate, so the plan is well ahead.
Mr. Laughren: Do you really think it should be called SLUP?
Hon. Mr. Bernier: The strategic land use plan? The strategic land use plan is the official title of it and it has been well accepted.
Mr. Wildman: It should be called “Slurp.”
Hon. B. Stephenson: SLUP is fine.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: I just want to point out to the member for Erie that there is no danger if you follow the present plan of the Ministry of Natural Resources now, as we develop summer cottage lots across northern Ontario, that the entire areas of the shorelines of lakes will be completely left to private ownership. In fact, if memory serves me correctly, I believe some of the plans call for cluster developments, where we have just one access to the lake and a number of cottagers using the areas behind the lake. That’s basically not right on the lakeshore but clustered in a circle around one dock or one entrance to the lake. So there will be that kind of development also to take the pressure off the shoreline.
There are a number of concepts they have in mind and, as I said earlier, the acceptance of the program right across northern Ontario is just tremendous. There’s no question about it. I’m confident that as we gear up and put the program into place we will be able to satisfy the needs of northerners.
Let’s be honest, many people have told me that they would sooner sell their home in northern Ontario than sell their summer cottage lot. That’s the attitude they take. The ownership of that lot is their pride and joy. It’s something they can build on over the years, make an investment on a gradual basis and then pass it on to their families, relatives and friends.
Mr. Laughren: How many of those calls were from Americans?
Hon. Mr. Bernier: There wasn’t that many.
Mr. Laughren: No, that is right. That is the point, isn’t it? Why open it up then?
Mr. Chairman: Order.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: I’m not concerned about what you’re concerned about, really I’m not. Because I know Canadians will buy those lots and keep them for themselves.
Mr. Laughren: You know what happened to Manitoulin Island?
Hon. Mr. Bernier: It will be a single-ownership aspect. In other words as an individual you won’t be allowed to go out and buy 10 lots. You will only be allowed to have one lot.
Mr. Laughren: No, but I can buy a lot and sell a lot.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: I am sure as a true northerner you will want to develop that lot for your own interest and your own benefit.
Mr. Laughren: But what would stop me from buying it and selling it?
Hon. Mr. Bernier: Nothing.
Mr. Germa: Mr. Chairman, when I was making my opening remarks, I deliberately stayed away from vote-catching and accusing the minister of doing things for political gain. Yet when he gets up to respond, what does he do? He starts dragging us down through the political field again. He said he’s going to go across northern Ontario and tell everybody that $9 million was cut out of his budget because of the opposition. He cannot put in a policy without counting the votes that are involved, and that’s why he’s getting himself into trouble all the time.
I know that this whole ministry was a political ploy, we know that. We know that the $10 licence fee in northern Ontario was a political ploy. I didn’t say it though, I was trying to keep this on the level that you had asked for in your opening remarks; but no, the minister has to deteriorate to the political level, and I am sure that’s why this cottage lot business is in place.
Sure there’s a demand. People like to speculate on cottage lots and that’s why you are putting it into private hands after putting it on the lease basis. You know what the situation was? In 1970 those people with the fat purses were outbidding the average working man in northern Ontario and that’s why the lease and the lottery system was put into place. Yet the minister stands there today and says the lots will be sold on an auction basis. The highest bidder will get the lots. He said it, I was sitting here when he said it.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: No he didn’t, that was wrong.
Mr. Germa: Yes, that’s how he did it.
An hon. member: It is one of the options.
Mr. Germa: One of the options was an auction. That’s going to cut a whole lot of people out of the marketplace altogether; and that’s what I see it’s going to deteriorate into. We’ll be at the same place we were in 1970 when the only guys who could put up the big bucks were the doctors and the lawyers and the presidents of the corporations in northern Ontario. An ordinary guy like myself wasn’t in the league at all. So don’t tell me about cottage lots in northern Ontario. I never could afford one as an ordinary worker, I couldn’t match the buck that those guys have.
You know that; and here you have gone 10 years backwards. That’s what you have done in this program. As far as keeping 25 per cent of the shoreline in public ownership, I have seen that kind of program too. You know the piece that’s in public ownership? It goes straight up out of the water for 75 feet. Just try to launch a boat from the public shoreline in some of those lakes when it’s straight down for 75 feet. You have to make provision for public access on these lakes taking into account there’s only a certain percentage of the shoreline which is usable. You have to make provision that there is public access on a stretch of the shoreline which is usable and don’t put that 25 per cent on the precipices or the cliffs which are there now.
Mr. Haggerty: It’s like establishing a beach-head at some spots.
Mr. Germa: Yes; you have to be a Swiss mountain climber to use some of the public access area right now.
Mr. Wildman: I couldn’t let this vote pass without making some comment on this ministry. As the minister and his officials know, I have watched with some interest and been involved in a number of discussions with the development of the program since the ministry was first talked about.
I would like to know a number of things: First, I think in last year’s estimates I asked how many people employed by the ministry were people who had knowledge of northern Ontario. The minister replied at that time that there was a very high percentage who had either been born in the north or worked in the north for some time. He assured us that the members of his ministry had a great deal of knowledge about the north.
I took that as a matter of faith and I have tried to work, and I have worked, with a number of members of the ministry, especially in his northeastern Ontario regional office in Sault Ste. Marie. But then I was struck recently by an article in the Sault Star, and I dug it out to refer to it this evening for the minister’s benefit. This is an article about Elliot Lake, concerning a Northern Affairs officer being moved, I believe from Manitoulin Island to Elliot Lake. It appeared in the Sault Star on Saturday, April 8 -- last month.
In that article they were talking about a new officer coming. There was a gentleman named Roland St-Onge, whom I have met. I believe I met him when I was with the minister in Wawa and in Hawk Junction. He is quoted, and I hope he is misquoted. Here is an individual stationed, I believe in Sault Ste. Marie, who is supposed to be knowledgeable about the area. I will read from the article written by reporter Catherine Dixon.
“Asked where Mr. Stiles” -- that is the new Northern Affairs officer -- “would be living, Mr. St-Onge expressed surprise that there was a housing shortage in Elliot Lake. ‘We haven’t had a report on that yet,’ he said. When contacted in Mindemoya, Mr. Stiles, however, was well aware of the housing crisis.” Of course, he had lived in the area for a while.
I am just wondering, was Mr. St-Onge being facetious when he said that he wasn’t aware of a housing shortage in Elliot Lake? Was it that the minister’s parliamentary assistant hadn’t been talking to him? Frankly, I find it inconceivable that an official of the northeastern office of Northern Affairs, stationed in Sault Ste. Marie, would not know about the fact that there is a housing shortage in Elliot Lake. I would think that almost every member of this Legislature, many of whom have hardly ever been in northern Ontario, and most of whom have never been to Elliot Lake, knows that there is a housing shortage in Elliot Lake.
Mr. Laughren: Name them.
Mr. Wildman: I see some individuals over there under the gallery, whom I have met, finding this rather amusing. I must admit I found it rather amusing when I first read this. I am wondering, have you now received any reports about the housing shortage in Elliot Lake and are you investigating to see if they have any basis in fact? I think you will find that they do. I hope the minister can indicate that this isn’t a true indication of the knowledge the ministry staff has of the problems of the north.
I would like to go on a little bit to talk about the ministry role as the co-ordinator, as it is described, or the ministry that is responsible for co-ordination of the government’s policies in northern Ontario and for analysing and evaluating government programs in the north. I was going to talk at length about the cottage lot situation, but since it has been raised here and responded to, I won’t say anything more than that. I am quite disappointed this government, in spite of the fact it appears that a large majority, or a very significant number of the people who work for the Ministry of Natural Resources oppose this policy, is bringing in a policy now of selling cottage lots. I have situations in my riding, such as in Missanabie, where people who live and work there, and have done for many years, many have grown up there, cannot obtain crown land either through leasing or sale for permanent houses. There isn’t land available and crown land isn’t being made available.
They live and work there. They are Canadian citizens. Some of them may be landed immigrants, but most of them are Canadian citizens. Many of them were born there, but they can’t find lots on which to build houses to live in and continue to work there; yet in the very same area, the Missanabie area, the Wawa district of Natural Resources is surveying lakes for cottage lots for sale under this program.
I hope you, as Minister of Northern Affairs, will not abide that kind of situation and will not put up with that sort of thing. It doesn’t seem sensible to me that we could be making recreational land available for sale to people from southern Ontario, or even for the large cities of the north, much less people from outside Canada, when the people who live and work in the very area can’t find lots for their own homes. That’s something I find completely inconceivable.
I contacted the Ministry of Natural Resources, the Ministry of Housing and even the Ministry of Revenue, about this problem because I thought that maybe by tax sales there might be something that could be done. They all keep passing the buck. I hope that as it’s your job to co-ordinate the attitudes and policies of the government in the north that you would certainly look into that kind of situation. I’m sure it’s not an isolated one. In a lot of the rail towns and lumber towns across the north, you’ve got this very same problem of lots not being available, either for lease or sale, for people who wish to build permanent houses in order to make a community and make a life for themselves in the area where they work.
I was interested in the comments made by the minister regarding the industrial commission for Manitoulin Island. I’m wondering if this is a pilot project. If it is, does the minister see this kind of approach being expanded? I’ve advocated with the Ministry of Industry and Tourism that small communities in northern Ontario should try to work to attract industry and development on a group basis, or regional basis, because most of them as individual communities do not have the expertise, the financial resources, or the human resources, the manpower resources, to do it.
I know there’s been an effort along the north channel, led largely by the community of Blind River, to try to organize a regional industrial commission there. If this is the kind of approach the ministry is taking, it would have my support. Perhaps I shouldn’t have centred out Mr. St-Onge, but I hope that whoever handles it knows a little bit more about the north shore than was demonstrated in that article.
There’s been a lot of comment here about the isolated communities assistance fund. The minister knows I’ve been involved with that. I went with him to the opening at Hawk Junction. I think the article written in the local paper afterwards said that both the minister and myself seemed as ecstatic -- I think that was the word they used -- ecstatic about the fact that the first truck was going there as were the people who lived in Hawk Junction. I think that was true, I think both of us felt that way. I welcomed that, especially since I had spent some hours talking to some individuals who were in TEIGA then, who I think are now in your ministry, arguing about whether Hawk Junction was eligible for that program.
I noticed in your opening statement, in the list of communities involved, you don’t mention Searchmont, which is a place in my community. I was just wondering if that was an omission or what’s happening there. I have some correspondence on that. I won’t go into that in detail here. I’ll wait until the particular vote.
There’s just one general matter I’d like to raise under that. I was happy to see the statement by the minister regarding Workmen’s Compensation Board benefits. I’d like to know if there will be any recognition of volunteer fire brigades under the isolated communities assistance program, or under the Highway Traffic Act or the Fire Marshals Act, which would make it possible for them to have the same protection as an emergency unit from an organized community while travelling on the highway on the way to an emergency. If there’s an accident, or if somebody might be considered to be negligent in that kind of situation, would there be some kind of provision made for special protection? I don’t know whether that’s possible. I was just wondering if that’s been considered by the ministry. I know I’ve raised it with the ministry a number of times.
There are a number of particular cases I want to raise, but I just want to point to a number of things in the ministry’s role as co-ordinator of ministry policies. I raised the question in the House yesterday regarding the King Mountain project to which the minister referred in passing. I know Mr. Ormerod made some statements to the press recently. They are followed up by a more extensive statement by the Minister of Industry and Tourism in Sault Ste. Marie, who indicated that his ministry and the Ministry of Northern Affairs between them would be committing $66,000 towards a $100,000 marketing study for a King Mountain recreational centre.
My office talked to Mr. Ormerod recently and he indicated that the minister would be making some major statement today, or this week. I was hoping that he would be doing that; apparently he isn’t. But I would hope that he would indicate what is actually happening there so we could get the thing straightened out.
I would also hope that he would indicate to the officials of the Ministry of Industry and Tourism that this is not a constituency matter for the Minister of Industry and Tourism. I would just like to point out that King Mountain is in Algoma riding, not in Sault Ste. Marie, although it would have certain effects all over.
I would like to know whether this ministry is the lead ministry in this project or is it the Ministry of Industry and Tourism? What exactly is happening with that ministry?
Also, can the minister indicate what, if anything, is happening -- this is something that wasn’t in your leadoff statement -- with the study on communications in the north, which I believe is being carried out by his ministry in conjunction with the Ministry of Transportation and Communications? I know that in Wawa the minister referred to some letters I had sent to him and in response to the reeve. He referred to the feasibility study being carried out this spring for improved television service along the northeastern shore of Lake Superior. The minister didn’t mention that in his leadoff statement, and I wonder if he can indicate what, if anything, the government is going to do in these kinds of things.
The reason I am raising these things is because, as my colleague from Nickel Belt pointed out, I don’t believe that the ministry -- I want to be very careful here, because I’m not trying to be negative; and I’m not even going to say “but.” I do believe that northerners deserve better service and if this ministry will provide them better service, all well and good. But, and this is a “but,” I’m just a little worried that we might come to the position where this ministry simply becomes one that hands out programs or pieces of hardware to various communities, without any overall co-ordination and planning, which is supposed to be the role of the ministry in various areas such as communications, amenities for communities and economic development.
I want to know if the minister can describe to us what his ministry’s role is in these various areas and perhaps give us some examples of what things it is doing in terms of improving the amenities and the economic viability of communities and in terms of forward economic planning for those communities in things like communications.
Also, I would like to know what the ministry is doing in terms of health; there’s another one. I noticed the minister mentioned that Hornepayne is going to get a dental van. That’s great. I have a letter here from the doctor in Hornepayne complaining about the fact that there isn’t a dentist in Hornepayne and all the health problems that result from that. There’s certainly no question that this is a major problem.
I know that the ministry sent a dental van to White River last year. It didn’t stay long enough. It left too early because the dentist that was in it was afraid of vandalism; so he left early and went to Dubreuilville. Dubreuilville needed the dental van, and it was a good thing, but now it’s got to go back to White River next year. I hope the ministry is going to do that and I hope it will have somebody there who can look after the kids so that he’s not worried about vandalism and leaves before he is finished.
That’s great, but what is the minister doing overall to bring more doctors and dentists into the north? What is being done in the underserviced areas program of the Ministry of Health? What is this ministry’s role in that? Maybe the best example of the ministry’s role in the overall co-ordination and planning of community development, amenities, economic development and so on would be if the minister could report to us on the status of the Hornepayne Town Centre, which was touted during the election campaign as the pilot project for northern Ontario, an example in relation to -- was it Maple in Manitoba? The kind of project that would be done as an example of what this ministry and the government in general would be doing for northern Ontario. I know that the studies have been dragging out for that. Really, what is your role in it and where are we at?
That is a long list of things but I hope that the minister can bring that into some context of his role as a co-ordinator in charge of analysis and evaluation and development of government programs for northern Ontario.
Mr. Bolan: I have a question for the minister. This has to do with the statement made by one of your ministry officials last week in North Bay. I believe it was Ormerod, who is the director of one of the branches of your ministry.
In the text he was delivering there was a sentence to the effect that your ministry was looking at the possibility of a four-seasons tourist complex.
Mr. Wildman: That was the King Mountain project.
Mr. Bolan: It was never mentioned specifically whether it was the King Mountain project. Is the minister now saying that the project referred to in North Bay was in fact the King Mountain project?
You are nodding. I presume that that is the one.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: Do you want me to answer?
Mr. Bolan: Yes, please.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: Mr. Chairman, yes, the quote in the press -- the North Bay press, I believe -- that was sent to me from our Thunder Bay office was rather striking in that it led the public to believe that a study was going on in relation to Maple Mountain. This is not correct. Mr. Ormerod made a statement at some association meeting; he made no reference to Maple Mountain. In fact, I saw the text of his comments; they were very general; they were very brief. He mentioned that we were studying, in co-operation with the private sector and the Ministry of Industry and Tourism, the possibility of a four-season development, period, in northeastern Ontario. I think he left it at that.
My colleague, Mr. Rhodes, elaborated on that statement last Friday, where he indicated to the press in Sault Ste. Marie that his ministry was the lead ministry in this feasibility study -- it’s about a $100,000 feasibility study -- in co-operation with the private --
Mr. Wildman: He said it wasn’t a feasibility study; he said it was a marketing study.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: A marketing study, yes, in co-operation with private developers who, if it goes ahead, are prepared to put millions of dollars into this particular development, this four-season development. There has been no commitment at all with regard to any further provincial involvement but we felt, to give encouragement to the private sector, that we would assist them with this market study to see if it is feasible. The information that is gathered will be made available to the public and will be available to this government should that private developer not proceed.
So we have a small stake in it. The plans are very encouraging, very interesting to say the least. Certainly, when you think of the large population that funnels up through Sault Ste. Marie and the terrain that they are looking at with relation to King Mountain. It is about 23 miles from Sault Ste. Marie, I believe.
Mr. Wildman: Thirty-two kilometres.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: It has a tremendous potential, there is no question about it.
Mr. Chairman, if I could just go on -- does the member want to speak?
Mr. Bolan: Just on another matter and this is something I raised at the last estimates which were so short, you may recall; I think it lasted all of one afternoon, if I am not mistaken. In any event, I remember the deputy minister making a note of it at that time.
What it had to do with was transportation for elderly citizens who reside in isolated communities, transportation for them from these isolated communities to a larger community, like North Bay, for example, for purposes of medical attention.
I am not talking about a hospital case or a situation which requires an ambulance or anything like that. But about 40 miles from North Bay towards the Quebec border we have small communities called Eldee and Thorne. Mostly senior citizens reside there.
I raised with your ministry last year the problems they have in getting into the area to see a doctor at least once a week or whatever the case may be. There are no proper facilities for transportation. I do remember the deputy minister having made some notes about it at that time. I would hope that possibly later on during the estimates you would have some reply.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: If I could respond to the hon. member for Algoma in connection with his remarks. I think it is fair to state he raised a broad range of issues, and that certainly is indicative of the areas in which the Ministry of Northern Affairs is involved.
Mr. Wildman: In my riding too.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: Yes, in your riding. There’s no question about it, we have a very broad mandate. It’s quite obvious that he has recognized this in bringing forward the many positive programs we are involved in.
If I might just go over the list of issues he brought forward, I would first point out to him that Mr. St-Onge is from Sudbury. He is relatively new on the job. While I will make no comment with regard to a newspaper report, I just want to point out to the honourable member that we have a substantial sum earmarked for housing assistance and servicing in the town of Elliot Lake when we get the environmental issues set aside. In fact we have been dealing very closely with the mayor of that particular community because we are as anxious as he is to get servicing provided in Elliot Lake for the many miners who will be flooding in there.
Mr. Wildman: A positive New Democrat.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: Yes. I will not elaborate on that. Housing lots are of concern to us. I think it is fair to say we have already embarked, in a very preliminary way, on looking at the situation to which you refer. Already it has surfaced that in many of these small townsites there are numerous lots vacant because of the low taxation rate. People say: “It’s ridiculous to sell that particular vacant lot for $300 or $400. It only costs me X number of dollars to keep it. I might want to give it to my children later on. I am just not interested in selling it.”
So we find we have a lot of in-filling that could be embarked upon. That forces the Ministry of Natural Resources to go outside that townsite and set up a further new subdivision, which seems a little ridiculous when there are vacant lots available in the community that would keep a nice tight planning area intact. Sooner or later, as you well know, other services will be required. Somebody is going to put in a well or somebody is going to want sewer and water services. They’ll want fire protection. It’s bad to have them scattered.
I’m very familiar with the situation living in an unorganized area. People don’t like being plugged into a townsite. They want to be half a mile down the road where they’ve got a nice spot there overlooking a hill or maybe close to a lake. They find it very upsetting when they can’t get a half-acre beside a road that gives them good access, has possible water facilities and lends itself well to a septic tank installation. They just don’t accept it until you have to point out to them that you have to extend hydro out there, and you have to extend telephone service.
Mr. Wildman: Many times they can’t even get those services in the townsite.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: Yes. The school bus will have to go out there a few years from now. The fire protection is not there. The police protection that is provided is not available when they are spread across various areas of unorganized territory. The desire of the ministry is to bring as close as it can into an unorganized township some resemblance that it will develop into a community. It is not an easy situation to resolve, certainly knowing northerners as I do. Nevertheless, we intend to look further at it. We think in working with the Ministry of Natural Resources we can assist them in resolving some of those problems.
I don’t have the information at my fingertips with regard to Searchmont but we will get that information for you. I think I have answered the question with regard to King Mountain. I hope I have answered all your points.
The development association on Manitoulin Island is definitely a pilot project. As I pointed out in my opening remarks, it was the bringing together of a number of smaller communities, which, one might say have contributed very handsomely through their own tax dollars for this particular project. It’s not a program that’s totally funded by the Ministry of Northern Affairs. There is that self-determination and self-help to which I referred, where they are putting up so many dollars on a per capita basis to one organization that will help all those small businesses on the island. We’re going to monitor that very closely and give them all the help we can to make sure that it is successful. Hopefully, it will be.
If it is, we’re prepared to look at other areas of northern Ontario to which you refer, where we can band together a region, and give them the expertise that many of our small northern Ontario communities really need. They are experts with their hands, but they don’t have the advertising capability, they don’t have the marketing expertise. With the help of an expert in their midst who has a personal interest in their product we think that we can stimulate economic activity to a point.
On the question of Hornepayne I would point out to the member for Algoma that the bids have been called for a second time. I think he’s aware of that. The Ministry of Northern Affairs is the lead ministry. In fact, I can state to you that the bids on the second time around have been received. I am told the bids are quite high and are now being reviewed by the CNR, by Hallmark Hotels and by my government with the contractors to see if we can bring them down to a figure that was previously agreed upon, or at least something close. Of course we can’t, and neither can the private sector, extend ourselves overly with regard to this particular development.
Mr. Wildman: You said that in December. When is it expected?
Hon. Mr. Bernier: We called it a second time. In fact, I think the tenders just closed a week or two ago. When you’re looking at a project in excess of $10 million it takes some time to reassess and to re-examine all those bids that did come in. I have just been informed that Searchmont did receive $15,000 last year --
Mr. Wildman: I know that.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: -- and an agreement that the fire marshal would go into their community and work out a fire protection program for them.
Mr. Wildman: We’ll get back to that.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: We have responded to that request and we will press the fire marshal’s office to get in there as quickly as possible to work out a program with that community.
Here again, it shows the enthusiasm and the desire we have in the Ministry of Northern Affairs to get on with that program. We gave them the money before they had the program in place.
Mr. Wildman: They raised $10,000 on their own.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: Yes; that shows you the interest that we have. I don’t know of any other points that I have missed.
Mr. Wildman: The underserviced areas program of the Ministry of Health.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: Oh yes. As you mentioned in your remarks, the broad mandate we have and the areas of involvement are right across the spectrum practically with regard to community development, industrial development, the social problems and social activities. We have an interest in all those as they relate to the specific and unique problems of northern Ontario. It’s our responsibility to bring these special needs and desires and problems to the attention of line ministries.
We did this with the dental program. Our staff quickly identified this as being a priority in northern Ontario, so we went to the Ministry of Health and pointed it out to them again. They were very cognizant of it, there’s no question about that, but funds weren’t available within their ministry, so we took funds from the regional priorities budget and purchased those dental units. We’ll continue to do that until we get a good program established in northern Ontario.
I might say that providing professional people to go into northern Ontario is something we’re in the midst of looking at now with the Ministry of Health. It’s not an easy situation. I think it was brought forcefully to our attention, as an example, that there is an overabundant number of dentists in the city of Peterborough, but how do you get those people to move up to northern Ontario? It’s the will and the desire of the individual. But we do think there may be some way to entice graduates to go into northern Ontario, if only on a limited time basis, through a system of incentives.
We have begun discussions with the Ministry of Health in this particular field but they are very informal and they’re just getting started at the present time. But we are very much aware of the requirement to get dentists and, of course, doctors into many of our smaller communities of northern Ontario. We have not let that slip by.
At the opening of our next session, I will read into the record the role of the ministry. I think this is something you’ve touched on. It’s quite lengthy, but maybe I’ll save that until the next session of the examination of the estimates.
Mr. Wildman: What about communications and TV?
Hon. Mr. Bernier: Oh yes, communications. We are working very closely, as you know, with the Ministry of Transportation and Communications in looking at the delivery of television services particularly across northern Ontario. We strongly feel, in our ministry, that we should have the same level of service at the same cost as they do in southern Ontario. That means we should have as a minimum two off-air channels in northern Ontario in those communities. In some cases, of course, we’d like to have three. We’re not excited about assisting with public dollars the development of cable television in those areas because that increases the financial burden to the residents in those smaller communities, which they can’t afford. But we’re pressing the Ministry of Transportation and Communications and working very closely with them in designing a plan that we hope we can move on in the not too distant future. We’re also, of course, working very closely with the federal government, because they have a real involvement in the areas of communication, particularly off-air.
I might say that we’re not standing idly by either as it relates to the Ontario educational communications system, because we’re looking at the possibility of assisting them in getting off-air services from theft present system that’s now moving across northern Ontario to the many small areas of northern Ontario. This again would be an off-air setup, so we’re not burdening our northern residents with the cost of putting in cable. So we have those areas that we’re actually engaged in; those studies and discussions are very active, I can say that.
On motion by Hon. Mr. Bernier, the committee of supply reported progress.
On motion by Hon. Mr. Wells, the House adjourned at 10:30 p.m.