The House met at 10:03 a.m.
ACCESS TO REHABILITATION CENTRE
Mr. Laughren: Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of personal privilege.
Mr. Speaker: The member for Nickel Belt on a point of privilege.
Mr. Laughren: Yes, I believe that my rights as a member of this chamber have been abused this morning, in view of the fact that when we tried to arrange for my legislative assistant to visit the Downsview Rehabilitation Centre to talk to a constituent who is having problems with his compensation case, my assistant was refused admission to the Downsview centre by officials at the Workmen’s Compensation Board. I believe that is a right of members in this chamber, and indeed a right of injured workers to be represented by members or their representatives.
Mr. Deans: Mr. Speaker, do you intend to deal with this?
Mr. Speaker: I am not going to deal with it now. I will look into it.
Hon. Mr. Elgie: I regret that earlier at the beginning of question period I was not here when the member for Nickel Belt raised the question of privilege. I would like to thank him for coming over and indicating to me the matter he was concerned about. I would first of all give some information to him that I have obtained from the board about the particular incident and then I would like to make my own comments on it.
I am advised that the member’s legislative assistant spoke to a Mr. Hutchinson who is the claims co-ordinator at Downsview Hospital. She indicated she wished to interview three people. I am advised he asked her for the names and claim numbers of the people and why she wished to see them.
I am also told she didn’t have such names or claim numbers, at which point she was told arrangements for the visits would have to be made through the general administration office of the hospital. According to the board she was never told she could not visit the hospital, just that it had to be cleared with the administration office.
In addition to that I would however like to tell the member that I personally cannot see any reason why a patient at Downsview Hospital should not have the right to see visitors of his or her choice whenever he or she wishes, so long as it does not interfere with the rehabilitation program that’s taking place at that hospital. I will make sure it doesn’t happen in those circumstances.
Mr. Laughren: Point of privilege, Mr. Speaker, if I might. First of all, my information is different from the minister’s, but we can clarify that, I’m sure. Secondly, I would agree with the minister that Downsview Rehabilitation Centre is a rehabilitation centre, not a jail in which people are prevented from seeing people who want to visit them. As a matter of fact, it might very well aid in the rehabilitation process to have people such as MPPs and their representatives visit and talk to some of the people in the centre.
Finally, I would hope the Minister of Labour would make a general ruling, a directive, to the compensation board that this should not be treated as an isolated case. The entire policy should be changed so that the members’ privileges and the privileges of injured workers do not continue to be abused.
Hon. Mr. Elgie: I will ascertain if there is any policy such as the one the member referred to. I would like to reiterate to him there is no reason I can possibly conceive of why a patient in any hospital should not have the right to see a visitor of his choice, so long as it doesn’t interfere with his treatment program or his rehabilitation.
RULES OF THE HOUSE
Mr. Deans: Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I wonder, sir, if I might ask for your assistance?
You recall that yesterday I raised some matters on a point of order pertaining to the rules as they were being applied to the private members’ hour and the use of the opportunity to block the passage of a bill.
I wonder, in the light of the controversy which is ongoing as it applies to the private members’ hour and the use of the blocking mechanism, and in the light of the ambiguity between various sections of the rules, if you would consider, with the support of the House, referring that matter to the procedural affairs committee? This would be not only for consideration in the fullness of time but as a matter of some priority. Perhaps they might report back to the House on whether or not the rules are as they are being interpreted, and therefore the way in which yesterday’s debate was concluded, was correct.
They could also make recommendations as to how the rules might be changed in order to facilitate the desire of members to reach different conclusions on private members’ hours and determine whether or not there is any conflict between various sections of the rules as they are applied to both the private members’ hour and to other business before the House. Maybe they could report hack before the end of this session in order that we can determine what course of action might be followed for any future session of the Legislature.
Mr. Speaker: I must remind the honourable member that there is an ongoing review at the present time. All I can say to the honourable member is all of the rules are already there. It’s an ongoing process. It’s my understanding they meet twice a week. As a matter of fact, I attended last Monday evening myself. It’s an all-party committee. It’s a very active committee. I think they are attacking the problem very, very diligently and I will be as anxious as the honourable member to see what kind of recommendations they bring in to the House.
Mr. MacDonald: On the point of order, Mr. Speaker: I hope I am correct in the statement that we were informed at the procedural affairs committee it was the government’s position that if a private member’s bill did not conform with government policy they, as a practice, blocked it. There is a certain rationale to that. The thing that has me completely puzzled about procedures yesterday was that the bill did conform with government policy, if you take into account the amendment which was laid on the table. Therefore there appears to be some misunderstanding as to what is the government’s approach. If a private member’s bill is not in conflict with government policy presumably it can go through.
Mr. Rotenberg: What does that have to do with the point of order?
Mr. MacDonald: It has to do with the point of order in that we are referring it to the procedural affairs committee. If the procedural affairs committee has no guidance as to when a bill is blocked from the government’s side then we are not in a position to operate. And we were told that it was blocked only if it was in conflict with government policy.
Mr. Rotenberg: That’s not procedure. That is a matter of government policy.
Mr. Mackenzie: A question of integrity of this chamber -- that’s what it is.
Mr. Speaker: Order. I don’t want to get into any detail, but as I recall the debate yesterday the bill that the House had to deal with seemed to be deficient in at least one particular and that would have required it to go to committee. I have to deal with what is before the House and, of course, it didn’t come to a vote. That is something the procedural affairs committee will have to take into consideration and bring back for recommendation to this House.
STATEMENT BY THE MINISTRY
Hon. Mr. Drea: Mr. Speaker, officials of my ministry have now completed a thorough review of beef prices in Ontario and I have the full details to report to the Legislature. That review was dictated by questions by the leader of the New Democratic Party on October 26 and by the House leader on November 9.
During 1975 and 1976 the retail price of beef in Toronto was relatively stable while the spread between wholesale and retail prices fluctuated between 12 and 31 cents per pound. The Toronto spread was the narrowest of major Canadian cities. In the second quarter of 1977, consumers benefited when highly competitive market conditions and supermarket price wars reduced the spread to a low of 11 cents. At that point supermarkets weren’t even covering the cost of their beef operations.
The subsidization of beef costs by other meat products or operations could not continue for long. Through the latter part of 1977 and into 1978 the spread started to widen. This move coincided with the rise in beef prices at the producer’s level, resulting in a dramatic rise in prices at the retail counter. In June 1978 the Ontario price for a reconstituted carcass peaked at $2.26 per pound and the spread widened to 52 cents, about double the 1975-76 average spread. In subsequent months, however, consumer resistance effected a modest decline, but still above the 30 cent spread which is considered sufficient to cover operating costs.
Our review of 1978 prices in Ontario at the producer, processor and retailer levels shows that the largest dollar increases occurred at the producer level. This rise was prompted by the sharply rising cost of animal production which, according to the Statistics Canada index, rose from 174.8 to 199.2 between the first and second quarters of 1978 in eastern Canada. For example, the cost of a calf to the farmer doubled from 1977. In fact, there is a short supply of cattle and it will take almost two years to restore the depleted supply.
Although the Toronto market experienced a greater divergence in spread than elsewhere, it remained the lowest in Canada. A price survey of five cities conducted by the ministry over the past two years, which is corroborated by CPI figures for urban centres, shows that Toronto beef prices are consistently lower than, or as low as, those of other Canadian cities.
Comprehensive data is not available to determine the profitability or lack of it of meat departments in food chain stores. The Retail Council of Canada provided us with a sample of a typical store, constructed from data obtained from food chain companies. The sample store operated at a gross margin of 21.6 per cent of sales and after-tax profit of 0.7 per cent of sales. Within this store, the meat department operated at a net loss of 7.6 per cent of sales due to the cost of equipment, high wages paid for skilled labour and low margins.
Although some chains have a province-wide pricing policy, while others use regional pricing, surveys in other Canadian cities between April and June 1978 indicate that beef prices followed the Toronto trend.
Our review of price increases in Ontario does not point to profiteering by any sector in the beef process. Nevertheless, the combination of external factors, such as the drop in value of the Canadian dollar, and internal factors, such as the rise in operation costs, resulted in a 45 per cent increase in price for the consumer between June 1977 and June 1978. Yet Ontario consumers should also be made aware that in relation to disposable income, they are paying equivalent beef prices to those of 1975.
I think our review shows that consumer resistance definitely does affect prices. I do not believe it is the government’s role to fix prices of beef, turkey or any other food item, but I do believe that outside of the framework of a collectivized society, the balance in an orderly, fair marketplace depends upon a well-informed consumer. That is government’s role when it comes to food prices. We will give consumers the facts they need to affect prices and we will also monitor the pricing of major food items to prevent the possibility of consumer exploitation.
Before closing, I don’t like to give free plugs to newspapers; I gave one yesterday. I would commend you, Mr. Speaker, to read the fact that beef prices are coming down.
Hon. Mr. Auld: I should like to advise the House as to Ontario’s position on the natural gas incentive pricing agreement which is reported to have been made between the federal government and Alberta.
While the details of the agreement are sketchy, we understand the agreement includes the following: A block of gas over and above present sales will be made available at an incentive price; no volume on this block has been suggested. Alberta would retain the 85 per cent index to crude oil for gas presently being sold in Canada and would price the incremental gas at 75 per cent of crude oil. The incentive pricing would be available for a period of three to five years, probably five years; this period has not yet been determined. Alberta would impose no conditions as to how the gas should be priced beyond the Alberta border.
Ontario favours lower natural gas prices and is encouraged by the initiatives currently under way. We must be cautious, however, because of some of the implications of what is being proposed.
It would, for example, appear from newspaper accounts that the federal government and Alberta have established a joint working group to “press ahead with the expansion of the natural gas pipeline from western Canada which now ends at Montreal.” What that means we don’t know, but I have made it very clear to both the federal and Alberta Ministers of Energy that Ontario expects to be involved in any discussions on matters which might impinge on the interests of the consumers in this province.
Further, it seems very strange to us that at the very time there is a National Energy Board hearing into natural gas supply and demand which is looking at such matters as the security of supply for existing natural gas customers, the federal government would appear to be ignoring the deliberations of its own board and pressing ahead regardless.
Ontario does not believe that natural gas should be priced differently to different markets, customers, or regions. In other words, we subscribe to the principle of a single Alberta border price. Each market should bear an appropriate cost for transportation.
A corollary to this, of course, is our firm belief that energy policy generally, and policy related to natural gas transportation projects specifically, should address economic realities, not political expediencies. This, of course, refers specifically to current proposals that would extend natural gas service to those parts of eastern Canada not now served.
Clearly, Ontario has no wish to deny any part of Canada the benefits of natural gas. Having said that, we do not believe it is appropriate for those who would promote the expansion of natural gas eastward to sell Canadians on projects which are clearly uneconomic.
It is acknowledged that a pipeline extension eastward would not be economic. As a result, various schemes are proposed to cushion the burden of the construction and, presumably, the transportation costs.
Even if one bought the idea that a pipeline to eastern Canada is desirable the question is:
Who should subsidize such a venture? There are three obvious sources. It would either be: all Canadians, from the federal government’s tax revenue; the natural gas producers, as a result of lower net-backs for the natural gas sold --
Mr. Martel: And then sell it as we did last time.
Hon. Mr. Auld: -- or existing customers, mainly in Ontario, through their paying higher transportation charges and, therefore, higher natural gas rates, or some combination of these. We do not believe existing customers should be asked to pay higher and inequitable transportation charges.
There are a number of principles any incentive pricing scheme must be measured against, including: it must be equitable to existing customers; it must not detract from the security of supply of existing customers; it must be equitable as between consuming provinces and regions; it must be simple to administer; and it must not be used to subsidize uneconomic ventures.
I would like to assure members that my ministry is very much aware of the implications and will be working with the Alberta and federal governments to ensure that the interests of Ontario’s consumers are protected.
ONTARIO SCIENCE CENTRE
Hon. Miss Stephenson: Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to inform the members of the Legislature that one of Ontario’s most innovative and successful educational programs has recorded yet another milestone.
On November 29, Lori Morris became the two millionth student to visit the Ontario Science Centre during the past nine years under the centre’s school visit program. To commemorate the event, Miss Morris was given a 10-year pass to the centre and also an aluminium bottle which was produced on the centre’s computer-controlled lathe. The member for Mississauga South (Mr. Kennedy), parliamentary assistant to the Minister of Education, presented the mementos to Miss Morris, who is a grade 13 student at the Kenner Collegiate and Vocational Institute in Peterborough.
Mr. Nixon: The minister has been aching to make a speech all week and now she has finally got a goodie.
Hon. Miss Stephenson: In fact, about one third of the two million students who have visited the centre are secondary school students, indicating the serious educational value of the science centre school visit program.
Mr. Deans: This indicates the irrelevancy of the statements.
Hon. Miss Stephenson: For instance, the Kenner students had come to the science centre for a program on electron microscopy, just one of the more than 100 special educational programs offered in Toronto and 150 other locations throughout the province.
Further, staff of the centre conduct professional development day seminars and this year alone they helped about 4,500 teachers to teach science courses in this province.
In total, about 15 million persons have benefited from science centre programs. Twelve million have attended the centre itself, and another three million have visited one of the four travelling exhibitions.
On behalf of those children, their teachers and school trustees, I should like to express my appreciation to the Minister of Culture and Recreation (Mr. Baetz) and that ministry for making a unique educational resource available to the school children of this province.
Mr. Deans: Come on. Quit patting each other on the back. What a lot of nonsense. What an abuse of time. I’d like to get up and thank my colleagues.
Mr. Martel: A point of order, Mr. Speaker. That was such an important statement and I haven’t received a copy of it. Would the minister be so kind as to give me one. I would not want to go without having one.
Mr. Speaker: That is a point of order?
Mr. Martel: It certainly is. I need a copy of that report.
Hon. Miss Stephenson: You will get one.
Hon. Mr. Davis: On the condition you read it,
Mr. Martel: It is so important I would put it on the wall.
Mr. Deans: I wish I could make a statement about something important.
Hon. Miss Stephenson: You didn’t listen yesterday.
Mr. Deans: I listen every day; I even listened today.
Mr. S. Smith: I would like to direct a question to the Minister of Transportation and Communications. Did I disturb the minister’s morning nap? Forgive me.
Would the minister please inform the Legislature as to what discussions are under way or are planned with Metro Toronto and the TTC regarding the question of fare increases?
Hon. Mr. Snow: My ministry officials received their first submission from the municipality of Metro Toronto and the TTC, I believe, just before noon on Tuesday of this week. This is the first financial submission we have received from the TTC for the 1979 year.
Consequently, we have bad very little time to assess the submission, but I believe the first meeting was held yesterday afternoon between senior officials from the ministry and officials from Metro. I have had a very brief report on that meeting this morning but I have not had a full report on it. And, of course, that was only the first preliminary meeting.
Mr. S. Smith: A supplementary: would the minister not agree that the continuing decline in ridership might only be further aggravated by an increase in fare and would he not believe it would be wise to take immediate steps both to freeze fares and to develop a different funding policy? Does he feel that a fare freeze at this time, at least for one year, might well be at least a partial solution towards this very serious decline and very alarming decline in ridership?
Hon. Mr. Snow: I realize there is some decline in ridership and projected ridership. I don’t know whether this is as serious as the Leader of the Opposition would imply by the tone of his voice.
As the members know, a few years ago this government did freeze transit fares for a number of years. It was government policy at that time -- a policy of the former Treasurer, I believe -- and it was a decision that transit fares would be kept at a stable level for a period of time. The financial implications of that decision were such that neither the province nor the municipalities could live with it on an ongoing basis and a change in policy had to be brought about.
Certainly, my officials are meeting with Metro Toronto and TTC at this moment. In fact, we are taking a look at the overall seriousness of the transit financing, not only in Metro Toronto, because I don’t happen to feel that is the only place in Ontario. I have to be responsible for taking a look at this type of situation for all transit systems, and not just in Metro, in which the Leader of the Opposition is interested.
Mr. Philip: Supplementary, Mr. Speaker: Since transportation over the last few years has accounted for a decreasing proportion of the total budget, does the minister not feel that he can get together with his colleagues and, in the light of all of these recent savings, examine the possibility that perhaps more money could be put into the transportation budget and, therefore, that extra subsidies to transportation in Toronto could be given via that route?
Hon. Mr. Snow: Mr. Speaker, immediately, as soon as I obtain the Hansard report of the honourable member’s statement, I will have Xerox copies made and deliver them personally to the Premier and the Treasurer. I thank him for his backing for what I have been trying to do for the last six months.
Mr. Gaunt: Now we know what the problem is.
Hon. Mr. Davis: If there’s any other ministry you want to lobby for --
Mr. Cunningham: Supplementary, Mr. Speaker: Recognizing that we have some very serious fiscal restraint programs at the moment and that moneys for transit are somewhat limited, would the minister not agree that perhaps now is the time to devote more money --
Mr. Speaker: That question has just been asked.
Mr. Cunningham: -- to conventional means as opposed to the Urban Transportation Development Corporation and the Tom Swift type of developments that they have been embarking on the last three or four years?
Hon. Mr. Snow: No, Mr. Speaker. I think the answer to that is obvious.
Mr. S. Smith: We need a CNE track more than we need a fare freeze, I suppose.
Hon. Mr. Snow: Hamilton is going to be interested in the intermediate-capacity transit system program.
DEATH OF JENNIFER MCGILL
Mr. S. Smith: Mr. Speaker, the other question I had would have been for the Attorney General, but I would like to ask it of the Provincial Secretary for Justice.
I would like to ask, regarding the matter of the death of Jennifer McGill, whether the Provincial Secretary for Justice does not see the potential here for a certain conflict between the Attorney General role and the Solicitor General role.
I would ask him specifically to address himself to the comments made by the Attorney General after the question period last Tuesday. At that time the Attorney General indicated no charges were laid in the death of Jennifer McGill even though, after two months of police work, a recommendation had been made by an assistant crown attorney that charges be laid, but that assistant crown changed his mind a week later and then no charges were laid because the police evidence apparently was not sufficient.
Could the provincial secretary comment on this situation in which, on the one hand, the police investigation may not have been sufficient and, on the other hand, the crown declined to lay charges in what is a very important and very concerning matter? Does he not see some potential for conflict? And what is going to happen in this ease?
Hon. Mr. Welch: Mr. Speaker, there would not appear to be any conflict on the basis of the question that has just been directed to me, but I would like to take the question as notice and to have the opportunity to review it with my colleagues.
Mr. S. Smith: By way of supplementary:
While that matter is being reviewed, could the minister find out, first of all, on what basis did the assistant crown, after two months of police work, say that charges should be laid?
Then on what basis did he say a week later that they should not be laid? The minister said that it had to do with the cause of death. I would have thought that was an issue about which there was no doubt whatsoever, given the pathological evidence.
Finally, why was the coroner not told of the decision not to lay charges? Why did it take some several months after that before the coroner had to write to ask, “What’s going on in this case?” What was the reason for that delay?
Hon. Mr. Welch: I will raise these concerns with my colleague the Solicitor General (Mr. McMurtry), and then we will report back to the House.
Mr. Deans: Supplementary, Mr. Speaker: While the provincial secretary is raising those matters with the Attorney General, I wonder if he would inquire whether in fact the Attorney General has reviewed the evidence that was placed before the assistant crown attorney, upon which he made his initial decision and upon which he made his subsequent decision, which was entirely different. If he has not, would he then undertake to review all that evidence and report to the House why he decided there was no reason to pursue that matter further?
Hon. Mr. Welch: Mr. Speaker, I will draw those concerns to the attention of the Attorney General as well.
Mr. Martel: I have a question for the Premier: In view of the fact that the population decline in the Sudbury basin has been 4,865 since the layoffs last year; and that since the strike the rate of dropout of school children has been 100 a month in the separate school system and about 90 with the board of education; and because of yesterday’s announcement that the federal authorities would not proceed with the Burwash development, which means the possibility of 200 jobs coming to the area has been lost; and the federal authorities’ decision not to proceed with the data centre --
Mr. Speaker: Question.
Mr. Martel: -- can the Premier indicate now if he is prepared to table the Dillon report on the multi-use concept for Burwash?
Hon. Mr. Davis: Mr. Speaker, the honourable member really has sent me two or three notes -- I forget how many -- as to whether or not I could make the Dillon report available to him. I will take another look at it and perhaps share it with him, or table it here.
The report contains some recommendations which I think are acceptable to this government. But as the honourable members knows, they do involve the activities of the government of Canada. The announcements yesterday that certain things may not proceed, of course, are a part -- as I recall I don’t have the exact number of recommendations with me -- of the Dillon report. Certainly I will take a look at it and see whether it would be helpful to table it or to have some discussion here.
I apologize to the honourable member, because I have been away and got the note I think last Thursday or Friday. I shall get back at it this afternoon.
Mr. Martel: Could the Premier indicate -- I’m sure he has seen the document, and the cabinet has had an opportunity to look at it -- what recommendations, if any, the province is prepared to undertake, to provide not only services but much-needed jobs, because the facilities are already there?
Hon. Mr. Davis: As I tried to state to the honourable member, the decision, hopefully short term, of the government of Canada affects those parts of the report where we would also be involved; I don’t honestly recall, but I think there were some recommendations where we could, and I think are prepared to move ahead on our own initiative. When I say our initiative, it may be the regional municipality of Sudbury as well.
I will have those early in the week.
Mr. Laughren: Does the Premier recall his 1975 pre-election promise to establish in the Sudbury basin a Workmen’s Compensation Board rehabilitation centre; and does he not think that the Burwash location, with the facilities that are there already in place, would be an ideal place for such a centre? Further, would he ensure this time that when he makes such a promise he consults, first of all, with the Workmen’s Compensation Board and the Minister of Labour, which he didn’t do last time; and secondly, that he keeps his promise?
Hon. Mr. Davis: Mr. Speaker, I always endeavour to keep my promises and I find it is a little easier in this party to do that. The member’s party makes a lot of promises which, fortunately for the people of Ontario, it is never in a position to have to keep. Thank heaven for that. I can think of some of the promises the member’s party made over the years; they are horrendous.
Mr. Speaker: That was not the question.
Hon. Mr. Davis: No, it wasn’t really, was it, Mr. Speaker? I will take a look at that.
Mr. Mattel: Mr. Speaker, while on my feet and seeing that the Minister of Education (Miss Stephenson) has set the stage, I should congratulate my colleague from Cambridge (Mr. M. Davidson) on his excellent bill yesterday.
Hon. Mr. Davis: This is the morning for congratulations.
Mr. Mattel: It is contagious.
Mr. Speaker: New question.
Hon. Mr. Davis: Mr. Speaker, if the members are getting a contagious disease of wanting to communicate good news to the people of this province, I think it is great.
Mr. Laughren: If they would pass the bill it would be better news.
Mr. Mattel: Yes, that’s right.
Mr. Deans: It is not a contagious disease.
Mr. Martel: I would like to ask the Treasurer, since the Minister of Revenue (Mr. Maeck) is not here, is it the province’s intention to pass on the $20 a month in OAS-GIS to our senior citizens by increasing the ceiling on GAINS?
Hon. F. S. Miller: Yes, it will be passed through.
Mr. Martel: Supplementary: The increase by the federal government will bring the single pensioner to an income of $4,800 a year, which is about $800 less than what Statistics Canada defines the poverty level to be. What action is the province prepared to undertake on its own to make up the $800 difference so that senior single citizens at least have an income equivalent to the poverty line?
Hon. F. S. Miller: Since this decision was just recently made by cabinet, I’d like the opportunity for either the Minister of Revenue or myself to prepare a statement that will give members details.
Mr. Deans: I have a question for the Minister of Energy. I listened with interest and read his statement with regard to the recent gas incentive pricing agreement. Forgive me, as I’m still a little confused.
The minister indicated he’d like to advise the House as to Ontario’s position. In reading the statement, I can’t find Ontario’s position.
Does the minister understand that the incentive pricing policy being introduced is, in fact, a volume sales policy which will encourage the further use of natural gas? Is he prepared to put before the federal government fairly firmly the position that we in Ontario do not want to encourage the further exploitation of natural gas or any other energy resources until such time as there is a clear understandable policy on the use of all energy?
This can only mean that in some point in the future we will have used up the natural gas and will be again in the position that we’re in with Ontario Hydro and many others of frying to find far more costly alternatives to replace that which we’ve already brought to people’s attention and made them more --
Mr. Speaker: The question has been asked.
Mr. Deans: -- that makes -- eliminates the use of it. I’m sorry, I got muddled up in handling that.
Mr. Hennessy: In everything.
Mr. S. Smith: Longheed wants to export the stuff. It’s better to use it here.
Hon. Mr. Auld: My statement was simply to indicate that there are a lot of questions for which we would like answers. There are a number of questions as yet unanswered.
Mr. S. Smith: This is one more.
Hon. Mr. Auld: Our position is that we would like to know what the plan is and who is going to pay for any uneconomic expansion, and, secondly, as I indicated about reserves, whether this is going to affect the long-term supply for existing users.
Mr. Deans: Supplementary: Can the minister help me? Am I correct in my interpretation on point one in the statement, which said that a block of gas over and above present sales will be made available at an incentive price? What I believe that means in effect is that anything over and above what they currently sell will be made available at a cheaper price. That means that they’re going to encourage the volume use of natural gas.
Mr. S. Smith: No. They’re mixing it in.
Mr. Deans: That natural gas is ultimately going to be depleted.
Mr. S. Smith: They’ll mix it in with the existing price and blend it so everybody will get it cheaper.
Hon. Mr. Auld: That’s correct, but who is going to pay the difference?
BOISE CASCADE DISPUTE
Mr. T. P. Reid: I have a question of the Minister of Labour in regard to the strike situation at Kenora and Fort Frances. In view of the severity of the events there, can the minister indicate when Mr. Joyce and Mr. Lewis will be reporting back to him? Can he indicate whether these gentlemen have now met with both management and the union side?
Hon. Mr. Elgie: I want to thank the member for the conversations we frequently have about the concerns that he and members of all parties share about the Boise Cascade problem. Because of the concern about the potentially volatile nature of the problem in the north, I met with both parties. Then we appointed a disputes advisory committee, as the member mentioned, with Stephen Lewis and Robert Joyce as members.
I’ve been in touch with both of the dispute advisory members. One has just returned from the north. I understand from him and from the other member they’re prepared now to proceed with more intensive discussions next week with the parties. I hope that will bring about some resolution in the very near future.
Mr. T. P. Reid: May I ask, by way of supplementary, were these gentlemen optimistic that a voluntary solution could be found? Has the minister put any time limit on their reporting to him, on giving him a final report as to their disposition of the problem?
Hon. Mr. Elgie: I’ve indicated there is an imperative sense of urgency about dealing with the matter, but have not set time limits. I don’t think it would be appropriate to do that. I don’t think that’s the nature of the process.
The urgency of the matter has been made clear.
Although I would like to get into greater detail about the nature of the conversations I have had with the parties, I honestly don’t feel it would be productive to the negotiation process to get into that in the House today.
I hope the member will understand that.
Mr. M. Davidson: I have a question of the Deputy Premier. Can the Deputy Premier, in his role as House leader, advise us as to whether or not he has had the opportunity to consult with the Solicitor General with regard to the introduction of Bill 186? If he has done so, can he tell us whether Bill 186 will be introduced into the House some time next week?
Hon. Mr. Welch: It is our intention to proceed with Bill 186. The actual day for second reading discussion and final disposition of the bill awaits my discussion with the Solicitor General. He is out of the province today and I haven’t had a chance to speak to him since we discussed this matter yesterday. But it is our intention to proceed with Bill 186.
Mr. M. Davidson: Supplementary: Could I have the House leader’s assurance that Bill 186 will go forward next week?
Hon. Mr. Welch: As I’ve just explained to you, if the Solicitor General is available next week, it will go through next week. It certainly will be completed before prorogation.
Mr. Kennedy: I have a question of the Minister of Labour about the Texaco layoffs in Port Credit. In view of the reduction in employment, the loss of 160 jobs at Texaco, Port Credit, where there is going to be a cutback from 250 jobs to only 90 jobs, and although the company has contingency plans, counselling services and is going to do what it can to help place these persons who will lose jobs, would the minister communicate with Texaco, Port Credit, and offer whatever services he can to assist in this unfortunate situation?
Hon. Mr. Elgie: I would like to assure the member that we will indeed be in communication with the company, if members of my staff have not already been.
I would like to point out, as I’m sure the member knows, that I’m told the company is going to considerable effort to try and help the situation. It’s canvassing the area to see what alternative employment might be available and is trying to help place displaced workers. It is setting up a voluntary assistance, early retirement program for workers who are 55 years or older, which will provide benefits other than those in the regular pension scheme. In addition, it is setting up an employee counselling service to make sure everyone is aware of his benefits.
Above and beyond that, we’re certainly more than willing and anxious to assist in any relocation process.
MANAGEMENT SYSTEMS BRANCH
Mr. Pep: I have a question of the Minister of Housing: Did the Minister of Housing receive a letter dated October 12, 1978, purporting to be from a former employee, which made certain allegations and drew the minister’s attention to matters relating to the management systems branch? If so, what action has the minister taken with regard to matters mentioned in that letter?
Hon. Mr. Bennett: I’m not aware of the letter that was sent, whether it was sent to me directly or to the ministry’s office. If the member wishes to give me a copy, if he has one, I would be glad to review it and report hack.
Mr. Epp: I understand the letter was addressed to the Minister of Housing. If the minister is able to find the letter, will the minister table the letter?
Hon. Mr. Bennett: I certainly would not take that position this morning until I see exactly what is in the letter and what the information happens to be. The member might appreciate that I have no responsibility for the Canadian postal service whether it gets to the member’s office faster than it does to mine, I have no reason to say that it is not coming to my office. At the moment it is not with me. I don’t intend to table it until I know exactly what it includes.
Mr. Swart: I have a question of the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations. In view of the report of the Centre for the Study of Inflation and Productivity that part of the blame for the rapid increase in food prices is the soaring profits of food and beverage manufacturers, and in view of the minister’s outspoken condemnation of the coffee companies a year ago when he agreed with my colleague from Etobicoke and myself --
Hon. Mr. Drea: I never agreed with the member in my life.
Mr. Swart: -- that there was a ripoff in coffee prices, what steps has he taken to reduce those ripoff prices since he’s been Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations?
An hon. member: Nothing.
Mr. Conway: Tell them to drink something else. Tell them to drink water.
Hon. Mr. Drea: Once again I guess I live right. On Monday the member who just asked that question produced a press release in Sault Ste. Marie about the prices.
He didn’t even have the courtesy to give it to me.
Mr. Handleman: He never did.
Hon. Mr. Drea: My economist was very upset on Monday. She couldn’t understand why a member would do that. He wasn’t in the House. He made announcements outside the door.
Mr. Martel: He was in Sault Ste. Marie. How can he be in both places at the same time?
Hon Mr. Drea: My economist was upset on Monday. She couldn’t understand how somebody could do that.
Mr. Conway: We’ll have to talk to that economist.
Hon. Mr. Drea: When we looked at the prices on Tuesday, I found out why he didn’t want to show them to me because the prices he was quoting in the Sault were cockeyed.
They were as of Tuesday, Monday and everything else.
What am I doing about the prices of coffee? I have taken kind of direction action. My wife went to the store last week and bought Chase and Sanborn at $2.88 a pound. If the member for Welland-Thorold will look at that price and figure out the discount on the Canadian dollar -- I realize he has some reluctance about going over the border -- he will see that my wife took some rather direct action and bought Chase and Sanborn coffee cheaper than one can buy it in Buffalo. The issue is over and done with.
Mr. Swart: By way of supplementary, would the minister not agree that there is some responsibility on him as the new minister to look into these coffee prices after the statements which he has made?
In view of his statement that there is no ripoff in coffee prices, can he explain to me why Valuplus coffee bought in Lewiston sells for $2.39? I’m not going to send them across the floor because the former Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations kept them the last time I did so. May I tell him that last evening I bought the same coffee at Loblaws at $3.99 or 67 per cent higher?
Mr. Swart: May I also tell him --
Mr. Speaker: I would prefer you to ask a question rather than tell him something.
Mr. Swart: Isn’t that a question, Mr. Speaker? Does he not realize that the Canadian Press food basket shows that the average price of coffee is $3.60 and, comparing that to the green bean price, the markup now is as great as it was a year ago?
Is he telling this House that we are to understand that he will not as Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations with the consumer protection bureau do anything further in this matter?
Hon. Mr. Drea: Mr. Speaker, if I can draw your attention to a little bit of comparative shopping, I don’t know where the member shops. I’m rather surprised that he paid the 50 cents --
Mr. Swart: It’s from the Canadian Press food basket.
Hon. Mr. Drea: The member was outside the door on Monday and he wouldn’t even give me a copy of his silly little thing because his figures were cockeyed. Now listen to me.
Mr. Swart: They’re not cockeyed. Those figures are from the Canadian Press food basket.
Hon. Mr. Drea: As of today, the member can buy Chase and Sanborn coffee anywhere across Ontario, particularly in Dominion Stores at $2.99 a pound. When he takes into account the discount on the Canadian dollar, he is just about at par even with his favourites in Buffalo or in Lewiston. By the same token you can buy anywhere in the province of Ontario, including the north, Maxwell House coffee at $3.59. I don’t know what your Valuplus is and I don’t particularly care about the brand or anything else. The simple truth of the matter is that Canadian coffee prices are determined on the New York commodity board.
Mr. Swart: The green bean. Not the retail price.
Hon. Mr. Drea: No, the commodity board.
Mr. Swart: You don’t know what you are talking about.
Hon. Mr. Drea: Take it easy. The member has a former colleague who used to sit in his party’s front benches and when I used to talk about the New York commodity board --
Mr. Deans: He never sat on the front benches.
Hon. Mr. Drea: I’m sorry, the second row. He used to abuse me and the House leader of the Liberal Party. We said it was a gambling game.
The coffee used in Canada is bought out of New York city. It is based upon commodity futures, which is a gambling game. The members opposite know it and I know it.
Mr. Martel: What has that got to do with the price of coffee today?
Hon. Mr. Drea: American coffee is bought direct from the producer, in Brazil or Colombia or wherever it is, because their market is large enough. If one takes into account that the Canadian dollar has skidded from the time a first report was made a year ago -- from $1.01 American down to 85 cents -- and based upon the fact that Canadian coffee grinders or processors have to buy it at the fixed price in New York in American dollars, I am very much surprised today honestly that the price of coffee is as low as it is in Ontario.
Mr. McGuigan: Supplementary, Mr. Speaker: Does the minister not recall, I think last spring, his predecessor giving an answer that the reason the coffee prices were so high was because of high-priced stocks that were bought at the peak of the market? Doesn’t he realize that the commodity exchange, if properly used, is not a gambling procedure? I would refer him to the federal Minister of Agriculture and to one of the very able people on the staff of the Department of Agriculture who teaches farmers how to properly use the commodities exchange as a means of hedging their position in the market. It is a legitimate use of that system that should be carried out by coffee importers to protect the Canadian public. Doesn’t the minister realize that?
Hon. Mr. Drea: This is going to get me into a lot of difficulty over at 10 Wellesley Street East where the securities commission is, because very shortly we are going into the commodities field ourselves. I said more than two or three years ago and I believe the House leader of the Liberal Party at that time did as well -- we certainly collaborated --
Mr. Nixon: Never.
Hon. Mr. Drea: As far as I am concerned, and nothing is going to ever change my mind, the commodities exchange has about as much relevance to setting prices as shooting dice.
Mr. Philip: Mr. Speaker, a question of the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations: Since the previous minister preferred to have the coffee companies do his research for him, and since the present minister seems to prefer to have his wife do his research for him, would the minister care to table any research that he has done on coffee prices and to state the sources of this research?
Hon. Mr. Drea: Mr. Speaker, I don’t feel I have to apologize for my wife buying coffee at the exact price -- and I am damned well not going to!
I will table whatever the honourable member wants, but the figures I have given come from our chief economist, who happens to be a woman as well -- I suppose he will question that; her name happens to be Mrs. Dagmar Stall.
Mr. Philip: By way of supplementary: Since the minister has not answered the question of whether he will give us the sources of that information and table all the research he has done, will the minister at least explain to us, since the exchange rate on the dollar seems to be a key in his argument, how that can have any effect on anything other than the green bean price, which has been constant over the last six months at roughly US $1.55?
Hon. Mr. Drea: About one half of the price differential between coffee in Ontario and coffee in New York state, or in any other part of the United States, is determined by the fact that you buy in New York city, in American dollars. One half of the price differential, quite frankly, is accountable by the fact that the Canadian dollar is not where it was a year ago.
Once again, if the honourable member wants the source, it comes from a very distinguished civil servant, the chief economist of the Ministry of Consumer and Commercial Relations, Mrs. Stall.
FINANCIAL PROTECTION FOR FARMERS
Mr. McKessock: I have a question for the Minister of Agriculture and Food: I want to ask if the minister was paying strict attention to the problems we have when we have to import food? Along that line, does he agree with the statement made by the president of the Ontario Federation of Agriculture this week at the convention in Hamilton that if steps aren’t taken to protect farmers from losing their land and resources to other segments of society, the Ontario farmer may well be going the route of the buffalo and become extinct?
Hon. W. Newman: Let me first inform the honourable member I am fully aware of what the president of the federation of agriculture said. By the way, I didn’t realize the member’s sister was an NDP candidate in the last election either. I will answer the question.
Hon. Mr. Davis: Tell us it is not true.
Mr. Deans: The wrong member of the family got elected.
Hon. W. Newman: I am sorry about that. Ninety per cent of the farms in the province of Ontario are still operated by the family farm. Six per cent are operated by fathers and sons, or a corporation sort of thing, and less than one per cent is owned by the outside people at this point in time. Even so, with that small amount, we still have the food land guidelines; their effectiveness will be shown in the final figures, which will be tabled in the House very shortly.
I am always concerned about agricultural land that disappears, but we live in a society where we have to have houses for people; and other things too. It would be great if we could preserve every inch of agricultural land, but you have to be practical in this world which is more than I can say about one of the fellows over there.
You have to be practical in this world and realize that other things have to happen. We want to preserve the best agricultural land in this province, and that is what we are working towards.
Mr. McKessock: Supplementary, Mr. Speaker: In view of the fact that Mr. Hannam states that the government has been extremely generous in handing out subsidies to automobile manufacturers to build new plants, and to the book publishing industry, but at the same time the budget of the Ministry of Agriculture and Food has increased so little that it has meant severe cutbacks, does the minister agree that we must have a realignment of government priorities, because thriving agriculture means more jobs, and has he got this point across to the cabinet so that agriculture will get its share of the next budget in the amount that it deserves?
Hon. W. Newman: Mr. Speaker, I always welcome a question like that.
Mr. MacDonald: Send a copy of it to the Premier.
Hon. W. Newman: And I appreciate the fact of what the honourable member is saying, that we always need more money for agriculture. I hope he will ask his question of the Treasurer.
OIL AND GAS PRICES
Hon. Mr. Auld: Mr. Speaker, on November 27, the leader of the New Democratic Party asked, “Will the minister table for the House the calculations that were prepared by his ministry for the minister when he went to Quebec City, to show exactly what would be the impact of the prices in Canada and in Chicago, depending on different exchange rates for the Canadian dollar, as of December 31, 1978.”
As I said at the time, I would be delighted to table such calculations, and I am doing so today.
If one uses an exchange rate of the Canadian dollar at $1 to the United States dollar at 86 cents, there would be a differential of C$1.29 to C$1.47 per barrel between the Alberta crude price at Toronto and the average Chicago price. These ranges occur because the transportation costs of moving the average US barrel to Chicago is not precisely known.
So there can be no misunderstanding, I would like to repeat that it has always been Ontario’s position that the amount of so-called headroom between the Toronto price and the Chicago price is not a reason for increasing the price of Canadian crude. While it is our position that the Canadian price at Toronto should not exceed the Chicago price, equally we do not believe that the Chicago price should become a minimum target towards which we take aim on the way to the federal government’s objective of world price.
BOISE CASCADE DISPUTE; INCO SHUTDOWN
Mr. Hennessy: In view of the fact that 80 provincial policemen have been called into the Kenora district today and 25 Kenora policemen are already there; and in view of the fact that 12 people have already been charged, six with major offences and six with minor charges; and in view of the fact [that in :order to reach the approximately 200 employees who are in the plant now a helicopter is being used to fly in food and supplies, I would like to ask the Minister of Labour what steps he is prepared to take to curb the threatened violence on the striking lumber and sawmill workers’ picket line at Boise Cascade Limited, and also, as a little supplementary, in the Inco situation?
Hon. Mr. Elgie: Mr. Speaker, he is hard to ignore. I don’t know how you could wait so long.
With regard to the Boise Cascade problem, as I mentioned earlier in response to a question from the member for Rainy River, I think the ministry has been exceptionally active in frying to help the parties resolve that dispute. I’m sure the member for Fort William appreciates the efforts being made by Mr. Lewis and Mr. Joyce. Indeed, as I understand it, he had the opportunity of having a long discussion with Mr. Lewis about it yesterday when they came down on the same plane from Thunder Bay.
With regard to my ministry’s involvement in the strike process up there, I can only again reassert our interest and involvement and continuing concern about that strike situation.
Regarding the police who have been sent to Kenora, they have arrived at the request of the municipality. The municipality asked for assistance. I had a conversation with the commissioner of police earlier this morning and I understood from the Solicitor General that he was acting in response to a request from the municipality. I would like to assure the member that I can think of no other efforts that can be taken at the present time, (a) to deal with the dispute, or (b) to make sure that there is no undue violence, other than those steps that have been taken, hut I would certainly value recommendations or suggestions from other members.
Mr. Hennessy: The minister did not answer the question with regard to the Inco situation. I’d like to have an answer please.
Hon. Mr. Elgie: This morning I received a copy of a letter sent from Inco Metals Limited to Mr. G. H. Gilchrist, area supervisor, United Steelworkers of America, in Sudbury. I will quote the first sentence of the last paragraph: “If you and the members of your committee are prepared, as we are, to review our differences in the light of the Falconbridge settlement, would you please write or phone me to discuss arrangements for the resumption of our discussions.”
I hope as a result of this action negotiations will resume very shortly.
Mr. Martel: Supplementary on the Inco matter: From the content of that letter that the Minister of Labour has just quoted, am I to assume that Inco is prepared to drop all of the non-monetary items which, in fact, created the strike and which had nothing to do with the original offer which they made?
Hon. Mr. Elgie: I will be glad to discuss the details of the letter with the member at the end of question period, but I have read the relevant portion and that is that Inco has suggested that they meet “to review our differences in the light of the Falconbridge settlement,” and they are awaiting word from the union representatives.
GLANBROOK LANDFILL SITE
Mr. C. I. Miller: I have a question, I guess I should direct to the Minister of Agriculture and Food since the Minister of the Environment (Mr. Parrott) is not here.
On November 3 I asked the Minister of Agriculture and Food a question in regard to the Glanbrook landfill site which was then before the OMB. Since that time, I think on November 22, it has been approved by the OMB. I was wondering what the minister is doing in regard to protecting good agricultural areas, such as this area where the landfill site is being designated, to direct this type of facility to areas where it is not so important to the economy of the country?
Hon. W. Newman: That question should be more appropriately put to the Minister of the Environment, but I would only comment that the Ontario Municipal Board has made a decision under the Environmental Assessment Act; there has been an appropriate hearing, and there is an appropriate procedure to take beyond that point if necessary.
Mr. C. I. Miller: Why wouldn’t it be in the best public interest to direct it to some worked-out stone quarries -- and I believe there are some in the Hamilton-Wentworth region -- and utilize these quarries to recycle the land rather than using good agricultural land?
Hon. W. Newman: We don’t want to use good agricultural land any more than we have to, but I also happen to know from my past experience that many landfill sites that look suitable are not suitable. That is why the Ministry of the Environment checks out those sites. I have some landfill sites in my own area and I know some of them are not satisfactory because of leachate problems and other problems.
Mr. Deans: I wonder if the minister can indicate to the House whether or not his ministry is going to prepare a brief to submit to the environmental board hearing with regard to the appropriateness of the use that is being proposed as it affects farm land in the area?
Hon. W. Newman: Our policy has always been that at any sort of a hearing, an Environmental Assessment Board hearing or an Ontario Municipal Board hearing, our staff is available for comment on the agricultural viability of lands.
Mr. Deans: Is the minister actually going to make a submission?
Ms. Bryden: I have a question for the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relation, although it has some relevance to the previous one that we might not need the landfill sites if the action I am suggesting is carried out.
When the Waste Management Board appeared before the procedural affairs committee on October 5, they stated that a program to get liquor and wine bottles back to the liquor stores for recycling by the glass companies through its deposit system was ready to roll, but two months later we have heard nothing further about this either from the liquor board, the Ministry of Consumer and Commercial Relations or the Ministry of the Environment.
This very necessary measure would reduce solid waste which is now filling up our landfill sites. Can the minister tell us where the holdup is on this long overdue program? Is it in his ministry or the liquor board?
Hon. Mr. Drea: I don’t know who informed the honourable member or who talked to that committee, but they didn’t know what they were talking about.
There is no question that the matter of solid waste disposal in connection with bottles used for spirits or for wine is being looked at and is being very actively looked at, but it is a long way from one month or two months away.
There are some very fundamental questions that have to be considered, both by the Ministry of the Environment aid by the Liquor Control Board of Ontario, not the least of which is are they going to be used just as ground up glass or are the bottles to be recycled? Secondly, will it be possible to charge the same deposit on a bottle of Ontario wine and on a foreign wine? Thirdly, because wine and spirit bottles are in rather peculiar sizes, what type of discount is to be given? Who is going to take them back? Quite frankly, we have only begun to scratch the surface.
There is no question that there is an agreement in principle that as rapidly as possible these bottles will no longer constitute a significant part of solid waste. But for anyone to say it is a month or two away, it is just not there. It will be many months before there will be even a practical suggestion as to how to handle it.
Ms. Bryden: Supplementary: Is the minister not aware that the glass bottlers’ association already has a program called the Glass Gobbler program which picks up used soft drink containers? It could just as easily pick up liquor and wine containers. It seems to me that with the festive season coming on, this would have been an excellent time to inaugurate such a program.
Hon. Mr. Drea: In reply to the honourable member, yes, I am aware of that. I am aware of the great advances that are taking place in the soft drink industry. As a matter of fact, the present chairman of the Liquor Control Board of Ontario was one of the pioneers in the recycling of bottles in the soft drink industry.
We are fully aware of all of those programs but there are a great many difficulties. There are a great many problems. There is virtually a full-time task force within the Liquor Control Board of Ontario and presumably within the Ministry of the Environment.
I will tell the member it is not as simple as snapping one’s thumb and putting a bin outside of a liquor store. If it was, it would have been done. It is a very complicated matter. In the final analysis it is going to have to involve the co-operation of several foreign governments. Not everybody does their duty in Ontario and drinks the product from St. Catharines.
It’s very difficult and it’s going to take some time. It will be done. It is being pursued very actively but I would love to know who told the member it would be done in 60 days.
Mrs. Campbell: My question is to the Minister of Labour. In view of the fact the minister has to date ignored the recommendations of the Ombudsman committee flowing from the Ombudsman’s recommendations, and in view of the fact he was not even in the House when this report was debated the other night, although he was among the majority of the ministers in that position, would he not believe it would be an impertinence to continue with the appointment of a person of the stature of Mr. Justice Morand so long as this government is so disinterested in the work of this office?
Hon. Mr. Davis: Are you opposing his appointment?
Mrs. Campbell: I am opposing --
An hon. member: You may be surprised.
Mrs. Campbell: Mr. Speaker, I don’t know whether I’m here to answer questions. There is no opposition to the person, but there is an opposition to the timing, until this government is prepared to give some commitment to the office. I am asking the question of the Minister of Labour. May I have his answer please?
Mr. S. Smith: That’s right. He has just been ignoring the report.
Mr. Speaker: Order, order. The Minister of Labour has the floor.
Mr. Martel: You have more nerve than a canal horse.
Hon. Mr. Elgie: Mr. Speaker, first of all the member for St. George has quite properly pointed out I was not here on Monday night. I would apologize to her and to the members. I was attending the East York Mental Health Association meeting that night and I felt that was a pretty good reason to not attend on that particular evening.
Mr. S. Smith: With great respect, it was not a good reason.
An hon. member: There are always good reasons.
Hon. Mr. Elgie: We all have our own reasons. Some are in Sault Ste. Marie and others are other places.
Mr. McClellan: Some of us were in the House.
Mr. Speaker: Order.
Hon. Mr. Elgie: With regard to my interest in the Ombudsman’s committee and its activity, the member for St. George knows very well the interest and the attendance record I showed when I was on that committee.
Mrs. Campbell: That’s why I cannot understand government policy.
Hon. Mr. Elgie: She knows very well that I have an exceptionally strong interest in the activities of the Ombudsman’s committee and I want to assure her the recommendations that were in the committee’s report will not go unnoticed by this ministry.
COMMERCIAL FISHING BAN
Mr. B. Newman: Mr. Speaker, I have a question of the Minister of Natural Resources. Now that commercial fishing has been banned in Lake St. Clair for some eight years, what plans does the ministry have for the use of the lake? Does the minister contemplate making the ban permanent so that the sports fishermen would have the sole use of the lake?
Hon. Mr. Auld: Mr. Speaker, I do not have an up-to-date statement to make on that. The ban, of course, is on the basis of contamination in the fish. The pattern there is the same, I believe, as in Lake Erie; that is, it is gradually reducing. I would assume that commercial fishing may start again when the level gets below the permitted level. At the moment I can’t answer more fully. I will see if there is an answer that I can give the member which is a little more definite than that.
HAMILTON HOSPITAL FACILITIES
Mr. Deans: Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the Minister of Health. Is the minister aware of the controversy that is raging in Hamilton with regard to the report of the subcommittee of the district health council as it affects both the rebuilding of the Hamilton General Hospital and the location of the east-end hospital?
Has the minister had an opportunity, first of all, to review the recommendations that were made by the subcommittee? Is the minister in a position to indicate to the House whether he concurs with or is in opposition to the position being put forward, which appears to be valid, that the expenditure of such large sums of money in the rebuilding of the General in its present location may well not be the most satisfactory use of the funds, and that the building of another facility further east may prove to be more beneficial in the long run?
Hon. Mr. Timbrell: Mr. Speaker, there have been several meetings in recent weeks with respect to this matter. My deputy minister met with a delegation from the Committee of Concerned Citizens for Health-Care Needs in Hamilton and Stoney Creek. As a matter of fact, just last evening I was going through my mail and came across a letter from a Mr. Phoenix, which I believe is the name of the chairman of that organization, indicating that not only was that meeting with my deputy minister a satisfactory one, but also that subsequent to that there has been a very satisfactory meeting with the chairman and other representatives of the district health council who are in the process of reviewing that subcommittee report and having further meetings with the local people.
I am aware of the report; I have seen it. At this point I have left it in the hands of the health council, which quite properly is the adviser in that area. I think some earlier misunderstandings between the health council and some of the local people have been cleared up and that all are satisfied that theft concerns will be properly aired before the health council arrives at its final conclusions and delivers to me its recommendations as to how the health needs of the east end can best he met.
Mr. Sweeney: I have a question for the Minister of Colleges and Universities, Mr. Speaker. Is the minister concerned that she had to be advised of the most serious revelations about the Ontario Student Assistance Program by the university awards officers, rather than by her own officials? That that caught her so much off guard?
Hon. Miss Stephenson: Mr. Speaker I was not caught off guard by this at all.
Mr. McClellan: No, no. Absolutely not.
Hon. Miss Stephenson: As I stated, the letter from the chairman of the committee of university awards officers was the first direct communication of any kind which I had received from that group. My concern was that they had not attempted, by telephone or by any other means of communication, to inform me that they had specific concerns.
Mr. McClellan: Is this the sixth or seventh version?
Hon. Miss Stephenson: I was aware of the problems that were inherent within the system this year. I was aware of the attempts that were being made to solve those problems. But I was not aware of the student awards officers’ view of those problems. This is what was communicated to me by that group in its letter, which was my first communication of any kind with that group specifically.
Mr. Sweeney: Supplementary: Given that the minister said in her statement yesterday that the problems can be traced to changes made last spring, and given that the officials of her ministry told the social development committee in June that there would be no problems, how can the minister express the kind of confidence she has that there will be no problems in 1979?
Hon. Miss Stephenson: I certainly didn’t say there would be no problems in 1979. What I said was we were going to work very hard to ensure there would be minimal problems or no problems in 1979 and that is precisely what we will be doing.
Mr. McClellan: Misquoted again, a miracle.
Hon. Miss Stephenson: I am still optimistic that if indeed we control the number of changes made to the program, the structure and the organization and the administration of the program will in fact be permitted to improve effectively next year.
Mr. Cooke: Mr. Speaker, I’m very confused again after the minister’s statement today.
Hon. Mr. Norton: You mean still.
Mr. Laughren: She keeps changing her story, that’s why.
Mr. Cooke: The minister states that the awards officers never communicated in writing or never communicated in any way that they were upset with the program before they directly communicated with her by letter. I asked this question on Tuesday --
Hon. Miss Stephenson: That isn’t what I said.
Mr. Cooke: -- and I’ll ask her again -- why did Mr. Clarkson and other ministry officials not communicate directly to her, since they were aware of the problem through weekly newsletters and weekly meetings with the awards officers? There must be a problem in her ministry that she does not communicate with her top advisers. That’s obvious.
Hon. Miss Stephenson: Mr. Speaker, the honourable member is obviously totally confused.
Mr. Foulds: You are.
Mr. Cooke: You are changing your story.
Mr. McClellan: If you told the same story twice in a row we wouldn’t be so confused.
Hon. Miss Stephenson: There are regular communications sent out by the officials of the Ontario student awards program to the student awards officers giving them definitions of policy, definitions of statements, and solving problems for them. That is a one-way communication.
However, I do know that on October 12 a meeting was held at the request of the staff of the student awards branch with a committee of the student awards officers.
Mr. Cooke: There are weekly meetings between Clarkson and Butler.
Hon. Miss Stephenson: There are not weekly meetings.
Mr. Cooke: There are so.
Hon. Miss Stephenson: Unfortunately, the poor member is totally confused and I would respectfully --
Mr. Cooke: The minister knows what is going on in her ministry. It’s a coverup.
Hon. Miss Stephenson: -- suggest to him that he needs to have some assistance. There have not been weekly meetings with the staff of the student awards program, but there have been communications sent out. They are in daily contact by telephone, because there are so many errors which come in with the applications that indeed the officers within the branch of the student awards program must communicate on an almost daily basis with most of the student awards officers.
Mr. McClellan: So it is daily, not weekly. They never informed you.
Mr. Cooke: But you don’t know anything about it.
Hon. Miss Stephenson: What I said was I had never had any communication from the Association of Student Awards Officers of Ontario until that letter. That is the truth.
Mr. McClellan: What that ministry needs is a minister.
Mr. Cooke: They don’t talk to you. They talk to Clarkson. You are a disgrace. You know as well as I do --
Hon. Miss Stephenson: You know nothing I
Mr. Cooke: You’re a disgrace.
Hon. Miss Stephenson: You should resign. You are the disgrace.
Mr. McClellan: You have wrecked three ministries now.
Hon. Mr. Welch moved that the following substitution be made: on the procedural affairs committee, Mr. Ruston for Mr. Bolan.
Motion agreed to.
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS
EXECUTIVE COUNCIL AMENDMENT ACT
Hon. Mr. Welch moved first reading of Bill 191, An Act to amend the Executive Council Act.
Motion agreed to.
LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY AMENDMENT ACT
Hon. Mr. Welch moved first reading of Bill 192, An Act to amend the Legislative Assembly Act.
Motion agreed to.
ONTARIO SCHOOL TRUSTEES’ COUNCIL ACT
Hon. Miss Stephenson moved first reading of Bill 193, An Act to revise the Ontario School Trustees’ Council Act.
Motion agreed to.
Hon. Miss Stephenson: This is an act which revises the structure of the Ontario School Trustees’ Council. I would like the honourable members to know the entire act was written by the school trustees’ council. It is in language which they can all understand and I can understand and I think it’s an improvement over the old act.
MINISTRY OF AGRICULTURE AND FOOD STATUTE LAW AMENDMENT AND REPEAL ACT
Hon. W. Newman moved first reading of Bill 194, An Act to amend and repeal certain acts administered by the Ministry of Agriculture and Food.
Motion agreed to.
Hon. W. Newman: I am pleased to introduce a bill to reorganize various aspects of the Ministry of Agriculture and Food, including several boards and commissions.
Section 1 of the act establishes a new board to be called the Agricultural Licensing and Registration Review Board. The board will consist of five or more appointed members and will replace boards which currently operate under 13 separate pieces of legislation. The selection of the boards affected includes those dealing with tile drainage, artificial insemination, meat inspection and riding-horse establishments.
Section 1 also establishes a body to be known as the Farm Products Appeal Tribunal. The tribunal will consist of at least five or more appointed members and will have assured the appeal functions of both the Farm Products Marketing Board and the Milk Commission of Ontario. This provision will separate the regulatory function from the appeal function. The proposed amendments in this act will abolish the legislation under which the Ontario Food Council Act was established.
I’m sure members will recall that I announced my intention of establishing a food market development branch to operate in the area of marketing and promotion. The power of the food council as it relates to trade practices will be transferred to the Ministry of Consumer and Commercial Relations, which already has similar authority with respect to other products. Two other matters of a similar nature contained in this act are a minor amendment to the Seed Potatoes Act and the Pregnant Mare Urine Farms Act is to be repealed.
Mr. Nixon: Who is going to look after the pregnant mares?
Hon. W. Newman: As members can see, the purpose of this bill is twofold. First, in accordance with the recommendations of the agency review committee chaired by the Minister without Portfolio (Mr. Wiseman), a significant number of boards have been abolished to be replaced by a single licensing body.
Mr. Nixon: Is his name Yaremko?
Hon. W. Newman: Secondly, the marketing operations have been streamlined and rationalized. The changes in this area are designed to help my ministry pursue the aggressive marketing programs on which we embarked about two years ago. A further administrative alteration in this bill will be the merger of the milk industry branch and the farm products marketing inspection branch under the quality control branch.
ANSWERS TO QUESTIONS ON NOTICE PAPER
Hon. Mr. Welch: Mr. Speaker, before the orders of the day I wish to table the interim answer to question 149 standing on the Notice Paper and the answers to questions 150, 151, 152 and 153 standing on the Notice Paper.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
House in committee of supply.
ESTIMATES, MINISTRY OF TREASURY AND ECONOMICS (CONTINUED FROM NOVEMBER 24)
Mr. Peterson: Let me say at the outset, Mr. Chairman, I am very happy to see the Treasurer here for a refreshing change. I want to start off today just telling him how very difficult he has made this Treasury procedure for not only myself but for colleagues in the third party, particularly the member for Nickel Belt; it has been a very complicated procedure for all of us. I don’t mean to speak for him, because he has his own views on the subject, but my understanding is that he is fairly disgruntled, as am I.
We have changed the days many times. We were supposed to sit last night and didn’t. We were supposed to sit Monday night and didn’t. We have both had to change a substantial number of our personal obligations and look at our itinerary almost on a daily basis. You have made it very difficult for us and I just pass this on to you, Mr. Minister, and I hope this doesn’t happen again.
We have tried to be accommodating. We understand that you had to be at the first ministers’ conference. We all recognize the great role that you played there, albeit a little different from the Premier’s (Mr. Davis). However, you have made our life very difficult. We want to be accommodating and we want to work things out as best we can, but we both think that we have been somewhat taken advantage of in this particular go-around and I just want to pass that on to you. If you want to respond to that you can respond to it before I get into picking lip some of the remarks I was making at the last sitting.
Hon. F. S. Miller: Can I simply answer that? First, I do apologize to the House. The conference of the first ministers obviously was one beyond my control. In the second case, I’m sure that you and I both face the same kinds of problems some days in that we often accept obligations many months in advance of a given date and these obligations had been accepted by my staff.
I’ve had a very strong feeling that ministers, once they have agreed to appear in a public forum, should be there when they can. Yet I had hoped the changes had been made with your acceptance. I must say I would have to put the work in this House first and I take quite seriously the comments you have made and would not be prepared to see this kind of thing happen again. The House leader has been very accommodating to me and my staff to allow me to maintain these commitments that were made in advance. Unfortunately, he was not aware of them at the time the times were chosen.
Mr. Peterson: In response I recognize you are a busy man and you have many demands on your time, but to some extent at least so do the member for Nickel Belt (Mr. Laughren) and myself. We have been most accommodating. I take the view very frankly that when we have estimates for which I am responsible for our party my principal obligation is here. I think perhaps the mentality reflected -- and I am only being mildly critical here -- is somewhat of an indication of how seriously estimates are taken by this House and by the government. I am one who is very concerned about the general deterioration of this entire procedure -- and for want of a better word, a great waste of time. That’s not your fault, but I really believe the procedures committee of this House or the House leaders or someone should be looking very hard at this whole estimates procedure. Mr. Deputy Chairman: We are in committee to discuss the estimates. Probably we should get down to it.
Mr. Peterson: I appreciate that, Mr. Chairman, but I think it’s an important point.
Hon. Mr. Welch: We are in the hands of the opposition with regard to the style of questions. The approach to estimates is principally in the hands of the opposition.
Ms. Peterson: We are very unhappy about the quality of some of the answers we have got out of this thing too. It’s become just a general sort of gabfest and we have extracted very little specific information.
Hon. Mr. Welch: Ask questions.
Mr. Peterson: I’m going to ask some questions right now.
As you recall, as we were winding up the last time, we were into the matter of financing some of the public debt. We recognize that your principal obligation is to oversee the repayment of the debt. Out of a budget of a $1.6 billion about $1.4 billion is going toward repaying debts from the past.
Just to recap in brief, I think you and your staff agreed in general that we are going to be running into a negative cash flow position starting in the early 1980s with CPP. We are going to have to start repaying in about 1985 principal amounts in the order of about $1 billion a year for about 10 years. Then there is the additional fact that you have stated you are now going to balance your budget in 1984, a questionable proposition at best, particularly from one who believes that one has to be a bit crazy to fry to predict into the 1980s.
But I want your very specific comments, because we are all forced collectively into a much longer period of planning than we had been in the past. How are you going to handle this? What are your current plans on how you are going to finance, even if you don’t run any deficits at that time? That is a great question mark: How do you intend to finance the repayment, particularly to the Canada Pension Plan, but also the various pension plans from which you have borrowed this $10 billion or so dollars? At least by that time it will be that amount. I would like to hear your answers in detail if I may.
Hon. F. S. Miller: You may recall we were talking about the Canada Pension Plan last Friday morning. I thought we had a very useful discussion last Friday morning, by the way. I hope you felt that too. We were agreeing with each other and agreeing upon the importance of proper funding of that plan. I think I mentioned I asked that it be discussed at the meeting of ministers of finance in early November and had, not some hope, but some reason to believe it may be alluded to at the first ministers’ meeting. It was not discussed at either meeting.
However I did receive -- I saw it just yesterday -- a letter from Mr. Chretien responding to my requests for discussion on the Canada Pension Plan. He said he had a report looking into the flows of cash in and out of the plan. This most-recent report showed that the date at which the interest payments and benefits would equal the total collections in a given year had now, through increased revenues I suppose and through decreased demands, been extended to about 1985. To me, that is encouraging, but it is not solving the problem; it is simply moving it down the road a little farther than the original estimates which were, as the honourable member said, in the early 1980s.
In terms of the repayment of the debt, I don’t know that that is the issue. The question is, are we able to maintain interest on the debt and therefore fulfil the obligation to pay the benefits without resorting to other means of taxation? Really, that is the issue. I think my friend would find that would be the process. I would like to think that the overall plan would stabilize to a degree and that we would be able, through general revenues, to pay the interest each year and maintain the debt at something like a constant level over a period of time.
Mr. Peterson: In a sense the minister is confusing the federal government’s responsibility with his own responsibility. The province is the debtor. At that point we will owe them, almost on a call basis, about $10 billion. Obviously when the fund runs out, we are collectively going to have to think as a nation of how we are going to fund these kinds of pension plans if, in fact, we want them. But the Treasurer’s responsibility is going to be when they start calling that money.
I see only three choices for the Treasurer; and I want to know what his thoughts are. One, he can dramatically cut expenditures so as to generate a surplus in order to pay back that money. Two, we raise taxes ourselves and I am talking exclusively about the province of Ontario -- to repay those funds. Or, three, we roll them over, refinance, or go to the public markets, or use some other device. I want to know what the Treasurer’s thoughts are.
Hon. F. S. Miller: I don’t think I am confused; honestly. I suspect there are two issues in what we are talking about. The one is whether the pension fund itself is collecting enough money from the contributors to pay the eventual benefits. That we discussed last Friday.
Mr. Peterson: It is not. We have established that.
Hon. F. S. Miller: Yes, we have established that. But, of course, that aggravates the second problem; that is, the point at which the fund runs out -- now estimated to be in the early 2000s -- or the point at which the fund stabilizes.
The other issue is entirely one of what happens to the moneys collected for the eventual payment to the beneficiaries. I think that is the issue the honourable member is attacking today: Does the province need to borrow it for its own purposes, or should it be available to be used by other borrowers in the marketplace?
Mr. Peterson: I want to isolate this just so we have a total understanding of each other’s points. There are many issues, and the Treasurer is talking about ones that I haven’t been addressing just now. My question is simply this: What are his plans for paying back the $10 billion we will owe them at that point? That is the specific question. I am not concerned about the funding. I am not concerned about the plan. I am not concerned about some of the other issues in this question. I only want to know, from Ontario’s point of view -- take a minute and talk to Randall and George, because they have got us into this problem; they should have a way out for us.
Hon. F. S. Miller: I did think I had answered that question. I checked with my staff to see if they thought I had too, and they believe I did. In a sense, I said the $10 billion would be rolled over.
Mr. Peterson: Rolled over to what?
Hon. F. S. Miller: Continued in place. In other words, interest would be paid upon it to the fund to generate some of the moneys for the benefits.
Some future Treasurer, or some future set of conditions in the province -- the honourable member has already implied I shouldn’t guess past 1980 --
Mr. Peterson: The Treasurer is the one who said that; and then he guessed past that time.
Mr. Chairman: Order.
Hon. F. S. Miller: Of course we do. And I have to qualify that even guessing -- if that is the word -- or making economic prognostications, is fraught with risk. I know my friend appreciates that fact. That does not stop us from making the best possible predictions, based upon current --
Mr. Peterson: When it is self-serving.
Hon. F. S. Miller: No; for any purpose. If the honourable member were sitting in my chair -- he may some day; and I may be sitting in his -- I am sure if our positions were reversed, he would be doing the same thing. He would be taking the best possible advice economists could give him on the way they see the future, knowing full well it is subject to all kinds of sudden change -- sometimes from Canadian factors, sometimes from foreign factors -- and doing his best to predict a likely course of action.
Mr. Laughren: Liberals don’t even listen to good advice.
Hon. F. S. Miller: Getting back to the point the honourable member makes: That money is on call, but you have to understand it’s on call, I believe, to pay benefits to the people who are enrolled in the plan. It would seem to me, then, that it’s not like a normal demand note at the bank where the bank may suddenly decide your credit worthiness isn’t good enough and wants to pull it on a number of days’ notice, It would be pulled to make up for deficiencies, obviously.
Future Treasurers in more buoyant years may decide they want to retire Ontario’s share of that debt. If they do, I would suspect the federal government, or whoever is holding those funds in trust for the future beneficiaries, would have to find alternative borrowers. I think Mr. McKeough would have said, when he announced a year or so ago that our general policy was to stop borrowing from nonpublic sources, that we should in fact do just that, we should allow those moneys to become available as time goes on. That doesn’t mean a diminution of the current $10 billion necessarily, but hopefully not a continued growth in the outstanding balance.
Mr. Peterson: It could be I’m not very bright -- and I don’t pretend to be all that smart -- but I still don’t think you have answered my question. Are your advisers telling you that you are going to continue to roll that over, assuming the figure is $10 billion, and never really have to come clean on it? I’m suggesting to you you’re going to have to. I’m telling you over a 10-to-15-year period between about 1985 and the year 2000, the capital amount is going to have to be paid back to that fund, that’s what I’m telling you. That’s going to have to be paid back, do you agree with that?
Hon. F. S. Miller: I agree with you on one basis.
Mr. Peterson: Barring a change of contribution rate.
Mr. Chairman: The minister has the floor.
Hon. F. S. Miller: If no changes were made in the contribution rates obviously there would be a demand for capital in order to sustain benefits, that’s predictable. That is why Ontario, through its royal commission and through other sources, is looking at the general funding of public pension plans to make sure that kind of problem, where you start eating up your capital, doesn’t occur. I think you’d agree it’s not a desirable circumstance,
Mr. Peterson: That’s my entire point. Barring an increase in contribution rates we’re going to have to pay back that capital amount over a 10-to-15-year period. Even if we increase contribution rates, which I think is a real possibility, there will be profound ramifications throughout society and the entire tax system, and how we handle these funds, but that’s a question for another discussion.
Failing that, you are going to be called upon to repay that principal. Even if we do increase the contribution rate all we’re really doing, if we carry on with current practice, is defer the problem for another 10 years or so. We aren’t really in a sense solving the problem; we are only buying ourselves a little more time.
My question to you is -- and I still haven’t got an answer that satisfies me, maybe I’m crazy -- what are your thoughts about how you are going to repay that principal amount of about $10 billion over a 10-to-15-year period? I have not heard an answer to that question.
Hon. F. S. Miller: That’s a pretty hypothetical question at the moment, because it’s assumed there will be no change in the rates of contribution. I don’t think that is a safe assumption, because the federal government and the provinces will have to reach some kind of an agreement, assuming we have that right under our present agreements. I understand we have the right of veto but not the right to demand something happen; certainly we have the right and duty to recommend certain things should happen.
Obviously, if the conditions were such that the capital started to become eroded and is called back, the province of Ontario would seem to me to have only one of two options. One option would be to raise taxes to cover the repayment of that capital; the second would be to borrow money from sources other than the Canada Pension Plan to replace the money. Those seem to be the only two options to me.
Mr. Peterson: I agree with you. Do you have a policy on this matter yet? Are you in the process of developing one? Are you at the point yet where you could go to a federal-provincial conference on this matter -- which I think you should take the initiative in creating, I really do. I will even go with you, if you want; and probably see most of the issues the same way as you will.
Have you developed a policy position yet that you can take to the federal government, to a conference, and assert that policy on behalf of all of the people in this country, because the issue is certainly bigger and extends beyond our borders.
Hon. F. S. Miller: My deputy at this point was speaking to me on the same matter and I may have lost some of your question, but it is my understanding there will be such a meeting automatically to look at the very factors we are talking about once the next round comes up.
This is a letter I got from Mr. Chretien, dated November 21, which was received on November 27 while I was in Ottawa. I only saw it yesterday. It says: “The next meeting of the Canada Pension Plan subcommittee will also be able to discuss completed background papers in respect of stage two of the report. This stage will examine the major alternatives to the present structures and examine their implications.
“One background study of funding concepts has already been distributed to the provincial representatives and their comments are being awaited. Another background study on funding alternatives should also be completed for early consideration by the sub-committee, perhaps by December. This is an important study since it will be used as the basis of other studies in this part of the report.”
It goes on to say that they have bad problems with the models they had and so on.
Mr. Peterson: I would be most grateful if you could give me copies of that. I don’t know if you are in a position to or not, but I would be very interested in that and I can’t see any particular reason why it would be private. Is it private?
Hon. F. S. Miller: My deputy is pointing out that he has given me information in the letter that is on a confidential basis. I probably can’t give you a copy of the letter, but I could perhaps make you aware of those parts of the letter that I just covered a moment or two ago that are not private.
Mr. Peterson: If you are getting reports from them on the funding of it and if you feel you can show them to me without embarrassing yourself, I would be most grateful to see those reports, because my concerns are probably the same as yours. I think I have a greater sense of urgency about it than you have. One of the things I have been trying to do in these estimates is impart that sense of urgency to you, because I see it as very profound.
Let me ask you something before I pass this over to my colleague. Did you have any discussions in the last week, as did Mr. Buchanan, with the Premier of Alberta about borrowing money in Alberta; for Hydro or something like that? They have an embarrassing amount of money. Have you had any discussions on that or are we too proud?
Hon. F. S. Miller: No, we are not. There may be people who think they are too proud. I would suggest to you if the province of Ontario is issuing a debenture we could go directly to Alberta; or we could do it in the normal fashion, that is to bundle it through our underwriters, I think that would be the proper term. If Alberta was interested in purchasing at the price we can get, then fine.
I was not an intermediary but I certainly was discussing the Nova Scotia loan with their Premier before it was completed. I think it was announced in the paper today, wasn’t it? It was $100 million at 10.16 per cent.
Mr. Peterson: And they saved $1 million worth of brokerage fees.
Hon. F. S. Miller: It was certainly very impressive. That is one of the spinoffs of that kind of meeting, because as you know that was obviously done on a personal negotiation basis at that time, and was very pleasing to see.
Mind you, on the opening day of the first ministers’ conference Ontario -- I think rightly so and I hope you would agree with it -- tackled the Alberta heritage fund, pointing out that of the $3.7 billion or thereabouts -- and going up to past $4 billion very shortly -- over half of that money was sitting in short-term deposits or instruments.
Mr. Peterson: May I say something? If you recall, three weeks ago I brought that up in the House and urged you to take the same posture. I have exactly the same opinion, that that fund is not administered, in my opinion, for the benefit of this country. When they have this God-given heritage, then they have a greater obligation to the collective financial health of this country than they have demonstrated. I quite agree with the Treasurer’s position, and I hope to see him get tough on it.
Hon. F. S. Miller: To digress a wee bit, in talking about the conference and that fund, my deputy was pointing out to me that one of the ideas behind the Alberta heritage fund’s percentage that is allocated for the loans to other provinces was the fact that they would be paying a slightly premium rate because their credit ratings were not as good as, say, Ontario’s.
If you look down the list, although Alberta technically doesn’t have a triple-A rating, I am sure it has one; it just hasn’t had to use it lately and therefore one hasn’t been established for it. Ontario did have to use it; and I can’t recall what Nova Scotia’s rating is on the list I have seen from the various appraisers.
The great beauty of this was that a province that doesn’t have the ability to borrow at the lower interest rates at which Ontario can borrow in the marketplace has access to some Canadian money at the going rate, I guess it was; but at least they could get it.
The other thing, getting back to that heritage fund for a second, is that I don’t know what percentage of it came from Ontario, but I would guess 60 per cent or 70 per cent is from Ontario. As the honourable member knows, the heritage fund is only 30 per cent of the oil revenue, to begin with; so when one takes the tremendous inflow of eastern capital into the western provinces -- I don’t begrudge it, don’t misunderstand me; I just want to make sure it comes back into circulation in Canada.
One of the things we tried to point was that while Canada, in the words of Quebec yesterday -- and they quoted Sir John A. Macdonald -- is the triumph of politics over geography; while we do have these tremendous regional disparities and we therefore have areas like southern Ontario with the best industrial conditions for certain kinds of manufacturing, it can also be recognized that the forest industries, the fishing industries and the mining industries obviously have natural geographic spots where they can do their best.
One of our concerns about this fund, and we expressed it, was that by withdrawing all that capital from circulation and reinvestment in Canada and, secondly, by a federal program of trying to put industries where they didn’t have a natural reason to exist, has probably diluted our ability to support those where they can compete. Whether it’s in British Columbia or Nova Scotia doesn’t matter. We are simply saying that in a country as big as ours, with dollar resources so relatively small, we can’t afford to try to create industries that don’t have a good economic reason for being in a particular area and still expect to have the ones that can continue to survive.
Sure, it’s an Ontario-first attitude in many ways. Obviously the facts are that parts of Ontario, particularly the part the honourable member comes from and this immediate area we are in right now, do have market advantages, skills and investments; and they are perhaps most suitably situated relative to the American markets to take advantage of them. So obviously, if our argument is accepted, certain investments will have to occur in Ontario which will be resented by other provinces; and yet, in the interests of Canada, seriously -- and not just Ontario’s -- they do need a solid industrial core here, just as we need a supply of oil from the west, if this country is going to be able to maintain its competitive position and have a reasonable chance to close the export-import imbalance.
Mr. Peterson: Just in answer to my question: I gather there was no particular discussion about direct borrowing for Hydro or something like that from the Alberta heritage fund; and the Treasurer at this point doesn’t anticipate making those kinds of direct approaches. Is that correct?
Hon. F. S. Miller: I can assure my friend that, at least to my knowledge, there have not been any approaches to them -- not by me, certainly. In Canada, the honourable member will understand, Ontario Hydro borrows itself.
Mr. Peterson: But we guarantee the loans.
Hon. F. S. Miller: Sure, we guarantee the loans. If the honourable member looks at the lists of the moneys that are outstanding, I think there is $6.1 billion in contingencies in Canada for Hydro’s loans.
Yes, we do guarantee them, but Hydro generally negotiates in Canadian dollars. On the other hand, when we go into the US market, normally it has been Ontario which has borrowed on behalf of Hydro. I’m sure you are aware of that, too.
Mr. Peterson: But one phone call from the Treasurer of this province and they will do exactly what you tell them to do; and that’s the way it should be.
Mr. Laughren: Not with this Treasurer.
Mr. Peterson: if you had access to cheaper money, you might be able to prevail upon them for cheaper money without the vicissitudes of international exchange rates, and it would not be entirely a stupid approach, in my opinion.
Hon. F. S. Miller: I wouldn’t argue with that.
Mr. Peterson: I am suggesting to you, positively, that you should be expanding in that direction. When you happen to know the Treasurer of Alberta, whoever it is -- who is the Treasurer of Alberta?
Hon. F. S. Miller: My deputy pointed out to me that there are, as I recall, three sections to the Heritage fund in Alberta.
Hon. F. S. Miller: But they are limited to 15 per cent of the total moneys that they can allow outside of Alberta.
Mr. Peterson: They have $550 million and they’ve only used up about $150 million so far, and now they have used another $100 million. That’s on a sliding ratio and it will be more next year. I think I gave you all those numbers the other day. I’m quite familiar with the plan; but I am just saying there is room to move, they haven’t used it all.
I am saying if I was Treasurer of this province, let me tell you what I’d do. I’d phone up my good friend, the Treasurer of Alberta, with whom I just spent three days at the Rideau Club and at the Chateau Laurier, and I’d say, “Jack --
Hon. F. S. Miller: The wrong hotel and the wrong club.
Mr. Peterson: All right, wrong clubs.
Hon. F. S. Miller: McDonald’s hamburgers.
Mr. T. P. Reid: You must have been paying.
Mr. Peterson: The Bide-a-Wee Motel outside of Ottawa, or whatever it was. And I would say -- who is the Treasurer of Alberta?
Hon. F. S. Miller: Men Leach.
Mr. Peterson: I would say, “Men’, my friend, it’s Frank calling, if you have got a little spare dough -- “; “Frank who?”
Fair enough, I could see that possibly happening. But then you would say: “Look, we’re in the market and you’ve got a little bit of money; and you’re getting a lot of pressure from a lot of people about not being a very good Canadian. You and I, between us, can negotiate a decent line here at a respectable market rate. Look at all the brokerage fees we would save --”
Mr. Laughren: Like you do with oil.
Mr. Peterson: “Why don’t you send me a cheque in the mail for a hundred or a couple of hundred million, because we are going to the US next week and look at all the drain-off that comes in our financing of that order.”
Mr. Laughren: You know how they listened to your every word on the oil price increase.
Mr. Peterson: I think it’s not a stupid approach. I think you should take the initiative, because whether you like it or not, you are responsible for all of Hydro’s debt. Because Hydro finances are such an integral part of our total borrowing capacity in this province you have to consider every move they make before you can make a move; in fact you direct them. All the cutbacks in Hydro have been a function of directives from the Treasury.
We understand that, that’s fair enough; you should have those rights and prerogatives, but I am just saying you could probably be a little more creative.
Hon. F. 5. Miller: Mr. Chairman, I would agree that those are all good approaches. But currently, with about $250 million to $300 million available, and with some of the have-not provinces now taking some interest in borrowing that, I am wondering what the profile of Ontario would be with our sister provinces who do have trouble entering the marketplace if Ontario took it.
This month’s issue in the United States for Hydro alone was US$250 million; it yielded somewhere around $290-odd million Canadian at a 9.375 per cent coupon. That is compared to 10.16 per cent for the borrowing that was just done from Alberta by Nova Scotia. It shows the difference. There is some currency risk -- incidentally the risk may in this case be a negative risk as you know --
Mr. Peterson: McDonald’s hamburgers; and you were staying where? The fly-by-night -- in anything you borrow in other than Canadian dollars. The Canadian dollar had to sink, if I recall, at least 3.5 points before we really were paying as much as we would have paid in Canada for the same money. I would say, if I were gambling, the odds are that over the next three or four years -- in fact to the maturity of that loan because that’s the only time it matters, except for interest payments -- that we will probably see a firming of the Canadian dollar relative to the American dollar.
Mr. Peterson: Just one last question. You were quoted in the paper as saying you were very disappointed with the federal-provincial conference. That is a little different point of view than the Premier (Mr. Davis) has, hut of course he’s been around a long time I guess and maybe you get to be patient or you get pretty --
Mr. Laughren: Different expectations.
Mr. Peterson: You have different expectations after you’ve gone to those things for a while. I can certainly understand your frustration.
You said, as I recall the quote, “Ontario’s going to have to go it alone,” on job creation programs and industrial policy -- industrial strategy, for want of a better word.
Mr. Laughren: This I’ve got to see.
Mr. Peterson: Was that the quotation in the paper?
Mr. Laughren: More or less.
Mr. Peterson: Would you just please be so good as to outline your thoughts on that matter now? My colleague has certainly been expressing his ideas on this. I have been expressing our ideas for two years on this subject. There’s lots of stuff in Hansard, lots of stuff in print that we believe; lots of stuff in Hansard and in print that he believes; and precious little that you believe or your government believes in. Maybe you could sort of fill us in on what your current thoughts are and what plan of action you’ve laid out for yourself.
Hon. F. S. Miller: One of the reasons for delaying any Ontario economic stimulation package, for want of a better term, until the first ministers’ conference had passed, was that we wanted to see whether any concrete suggestions were made at that conference. Whether I ever said Ontario will “go it alone,” I’m not going to argue about, because I think it basically was the gist of what I said. You know how hard it is a day after you’ve said something to say “these are exactly the words I used.” The import is correct anyway, in that Ontario had an obligation after that conference to come back to this province and in fact --
Mr. Peterson: The Minister of Colleges and Universities has problems that way.
Hon. F. S. Miller: -- tackle certain of the select problems we have in terms of stimulating investment and job creation. We have obviously been thinking about it; it’s not something we suddenly realized in the middle of that conference.
What we did hope was that certain measures would come forward -- and by the way some have come forward in the last three months. We were waiting for more; for specific creation of jobs and perhaps for unemployment insurance fund benefits to be rechanneled to better use.
Mr. Peterson: We were happy to supply you with that idea.
Hon. F. S. Miller: Again, I don’t have a monopoly on good ideas. You’ll discover that when you and I debate things.
Mr Peterson: Give our leader credit for that.
Hon. F. S. Miller: I’m not sure he should get any more credit than we should get. I’m simply saying when something is correct, often more than one person understands it, okay?
The fact remains we will --
Mr. Peterson: The facts don’t always bear that out.
Hon. F. S. Miller: Other critics have found -- including I think the gentleman who’s occupying the front bench with you now and holding up the rest of the Liberal Party at this moment --
Mr. T. P. Reid: Liberal Labour Party.
Hon. F. S. Miller: -- whose brother I welcomed into his new position last week. I understand, in fact, the member for Rainy River was recently offered a position in the federal government by his brother. He felt his career was in some jeopardy in Ontario and perhaps he should accept the position as executive assistant, is that correct?
Mr. T. P. Reid: Not that I’m aware of.
Mr. Peterson: He’s got a better chance if he stays here.
Mr. Laughren: He is working on it and he will take any help he can get.
Hon. F. S. Miller: I suppose either you or your brother has interpreted --
Mr. T. P. Reid: I will tell you it pays a lot more.
Hon. F. S. Miller: In any case, I would think because he has been a critic of mine in the past, and I think other members of your caucus have been, he realizes I take very seriously the positive comments that are made, either on my legislation or in my estimates, by critics who are taking a serious approach to things.
I’d suggest most days you do. I think there are days we all, as politicians, are not quite as serious as we’d like to sound, but on those days when positive flows are even coming from the NDP --
Mr. Laughren: What do you mean “even?”
Hon. Miss Stephenson: “Even”; that’s the right word.
Mr. Laughren: Your economic policies are bankrupt and you say “even” of the NDP? Good heavens.
Hon. F. S. Miller: There you see, you and I can probably share a certain degree of agreement.
Mr. Peterson: It is an incestuous relationship, that’s what it is.
Hon. F. S. Miller: Yes, it is. We’re trying to lure them over bit by bit.
Mr. Peterson: Frank, just don’t agree with them at all.
Mr. Chairman: Order.
Hon. F. S. Miller: You’d feel a lot better if I disagreed with you?
Mr. Laughren: Yes.
Hon. F. S. Miller: No, I don’t think that’s true, it’s not my style; and while you will all complain about my style in this Legislature --
Mr. T. P. Reid: Mostly it’s your clothes, Frank. I haven’t detected any style.
Hon. F. S. Miller: We’ll talk only about my style of discussing business.
Mr. T. P. Reid: Your style is not to answer my critic’s questions.
Mr. Chairman: Order, order.
Hon. F. S. Miller: What I’m trying to say is that I always welcome, and am not embarrassed to accept, useful assistance from opposition members.
Mr. Laughren: You need help wherever you can get it, Frank.
Mr. Peterson: That is probably the most unsatisfactory answer to my question that I could possibly imagine. However, I’ve taken enough time in the last couple of days; perhaps I should pass over to my colleagues in the New Democratic Party. I’ll be back at the Treasurer.
Ms. Bryden: It seems to me in the exchanges between the minister and the member for London Centre there has been a lot of discussion about reviewing the terms of the Canada Pension Plan under his questions. It seems appropriate at this time to complete that discussion.
Perhaps I could ask the question, which I fried to ask under vote 1, about the Canada Pension Plan with regard to the proposed amendment, which would permit women who drop out of the work force to raise children to ignore those years in calculating their Canada pension so they would not be discriminated against for performing the very important function of child rearing. If I may carry on and complete that item under this vote, it seems more appropriate than under fiscal policy.
I would like to point out that Ontario does have a veto power for changes in the Canada Pension Plan; for various historical reasons we obtained that veto power. Since we do have it, we should exercise it very responsibly; I think we should be very careful that we are exercising it in the interests of all the people of Canada.
Mr. T. P. Reid: Just the most important.
Ms. Bryden: I would like to ask the minister if he thinks it is responsible to exercise it against the wishes of every other province and the federal government, against the wishes of every status of women council across the country, against the wishes of a great many women’s organizations and other organizations which have written to the minister or to his predecessor on this account? Is it contributing to Canadian unity to use our veto power against the wishes of such a great majority of Canadians?
The proposed amendment would possibly raise the pension entitlement of women who raise children by 16 per cent or 20 per cent. Right now they are suffering discrimination in that amount.
It would not really cost the province of Ontario any money, except as an employer, if contributions are raised in the future. We have just heard that the whole question of contributions will have to be reviewed in the future, and certainly the building in of discrimination is not something we want to see continued in any review of the contributions system.
I would like to have a commitment from the minister as to whether he is going to depart from his predecessor’s policy on this and end this discrimination against women.
Hon. F. S. Miller: I don’t like to get into an argument that implies it’s a pro or anti female argument; I don’t think that’s the issue at all.
The member for Beaches-Woodbine and I seem to meet quite often in the estimates. Of all the people to whom I speak I suppose there is no single person who can spark my right wing leanings more; I suspect, in return I inflame her left wing leanings. We usually end up discussing pure ideology rather than anything else; it comes up whether we’re talking about cottage lots in Natural Resources or whether we’re talking about this kind of matter. I just don’t want to see this issue construed as pro or anti female.
I suspect that the issue of allowing people to drop out of the work force, and in effect have their benefits accrue while they’re out of it -- I understand that’s the principle -- was vetoed by Ontario, by my predecessor, not on any basis except that it is not in keeping with the principles of a plan that is based upon contributions, and benefits related to contributions and should be “actuarially sound.
We’ve discussed the weaknesses in the actuarial part of it. Earlier they applied to all people within the Canada Pension Plan, but simply to allow people to drop out for any reason and re-enter later for any reason, and have the population at large pay that benefit in the name of a pension, is not correct.
If benefits should accrue for any good reason, they should not be masked by a plan that we’re expecting to be sound. We should not turn it into an insurance plan; we should keep on remembering it’s a plan where your benefits relate to your contributions, and that’s all.
We have a veto power in Ontario because there wouldn’t be a plan without Ontario. I got into that earlier. If Quebec was a member I suppose things might be a little different, but it is not. Ontario, therefore, has the major responsibility.
If you’ve been a municipal official as almost all of us in this room at some time have been, most of us found it very convenient to have a province to blame. If you’re a provincial official, it’s very convenient to have a federal government to blame. I don’t know who the federal government blames except the US and God.
The fact remains that the provinces that know Ontario has to finally take the one veto power it has, can quite safely say they would not have done it, knowing Ontario will; that’s the great beauty of that right, that ability to fade into the background and say: “If we’d had our way that wouldn’t have happened.”
We have never tried to say it’s a pro or anti female argument; we have simply said it is not justifiable in a plan that is aimed at being sound.
Ms. Bryden: I would like to point out to the minister that the amendment would apply equally to men and women, because it is quite possible that men may drop out of the work force to raise the young children in the home. The question really is does the minister think that child rearing is an important function which really should be remunerated, but which our society does not remunerate except indirectly through tax deductions for the married spouse. If it is an important function that should be remunerated, it should certainly be covered by Canada Pension Plan arrangements, which as you say are based mainly on earnings.
This is an area where society has failed to remunerate people who are making a very genuine contribution to society; therefore a discrimination exists in the granting of pensions. It seems to me that Ontario is developing an image, as a result of this veto, of being a fat-cat, arrogant province that doesn’t care what the rest of Canada thinks and which isn’t interested in recognizing the importance of child rearing and of recognizing the question of a genuine discrimination against the person who does stay out of the work force to engage in that important function.
Hon. F. S. Miller: I guess I can look at one set of facts and come to one conclusion, and you can look at them and come to another. I wouldn’t have jumped to those conclusions. Do I think that childbearing and raising is an honourable estate? I certainly do. I think it’s perhaps the most rewarding experience for husband and wife that there is in life. I have to say, looking back across my years, all the things that I thought were important when I started out in life as a relatively poor kid were the acquisition of worldly goods, the good life, whatever it was.
Mr. Laughren: Now you have got them they are not important.
Hon. F. S. Miller: Exactly, that’s an interesting thing.
Mr. Laughren: I see.
Hon. F. S. Miller: You know when I was 44 -- you will soon be there, Floyd -- I must admit that as a capitalist-oriented, profit-oriented person, I did have a very real change in my evaluation of the factors that matter in life. That’s the year I became a politician. I would say it was a slow and subtle change from about 38 to 44, but in those years, very consciously, during an illness and secondly in a more gradual form, I began to realize the importance of the things you are talking about. I’m not sure I did before that. I have to say in retrospect there is nothing more important and nothing more satisfying, but please don’t trap me.
Ms. Bryden: Unpaid work.
Hon. F. S. Miller: Unpaid, oh my God.
Mr. Nixon: I thought you got that way when you built Santa’s Village.
Hon. F. S. Miller: I didn’t build it, Bob Boyer did.
Mr. Nixon: Bob Boyer? The original Santa Claus.
Hon. F. S. Miller: He was the first president of Santa’s Village and I am carrying on the tradition. The member for Muskoka is Santa Claus in the truest possible sense, as Treasurer of this province, as Minister of Natural Resources.
Mr. Laughren: You are Scrooge.
Mr. Nixon: Four-lane highways.
Mr. Laughren: Scrooge all year round.
Hon. F. S. Miller: Scrooge at budget time, but Santa Claus the rest of the time.
No, I just can’t, and don’t want to get into the argument. I think there’s a better time and place to argue whether one should be paid in currency for being a housewife. I don’t know how to fight that one without saying things that could easily be misconstrued.
We just aren’t geared up that way in society. There are alternatives. There are conscious decisions each person makes during their lifetime as to whether they value the close proximity of their children versus remaining in the work force. Those remain alternatives; I suggest they should remain individual alternatives and the state should stay out of it.
Mr. Laughren: I wanted to make a few remarks on this vote. The Treasurer has been making noises in the last week or so about Alberta’s heritage fund. I think it takes a lot of nerve for the Treasurer of the province of Ontario to complain about the way Alberta disposes of its heritage fund, because Ontario has had its equivalent of a heritage fund for a 100 years. We’ve been the industrial manufacturing centre of this country, and if anybody had the capacity to build for the future, to put away for the future, to ensure we had a continuing healthy economy, it’s been the province of Ontario. For you now to aft in your place and say Alberta is not being fair takes a great deal of nerve.
Hon. F. S. Miller: May I rise on that point for a second. I appreciate your right to jump back up in a second but you’re not right. One has to go back to the fact that in this year alone, $2 billion more will go to the federal government from Ontario than will return to Ontario from the federal government. Ontario consciously, across the years, has been a constant positive supporter of equalization payments to the other provinces, believing that regional expansion had to take place, believing that the assets created in this province had to be distributed to the other provinces in our own interest and in Canada’s interest. To imply that we didn’t play that role I don’t think is fair.
Mr. Laughren: In the first place, that is not what I was talking about. The minister simply used the opportunity, I think he abused the opportunity of privilege, to make a statement. What I said was Ontario has had the capacity to guarantee a good economic future for this province, and by doing that in large part for the rest Of Canada, because, as he knows this is the industrial heartland of Canada. That is Ontario’s role traditionally, and I assume that it will continue to be.
What I said was that now, when Alberta is using its funds from its resources, he says he has the right to step in and tell them how they should do it. I hope, too, that Alberta uses it for investment purposes that build the economy and does not just put it into bonds and so forth that don’t industrialize Alberta or the rest of Canada, I happen to believe that as well.
What I am saying is the province of Ontario, through a succession of Tory Treasurers, has failed to do that themselves. We had it here; we had the capacity. What you have done is preside over the winding down of our industrial capacity.
The Treasurer can frown if he likes, but if he listened at all during these estimates he would know from the statistics on manufacturing and electrical goods, and on the auto trade, that the whole industrial and manufacturing sector is in trouble. There has been a winding down, both as a proportion of our economic activity and in absolute numbers, of employment in the province of Ontario. You have presided over that, and that is what I am talking about when I say we had the capacity and you have not presided over it the way you should have.
We have had resources. For example who would question the value of the resources in the province of Ontario? Mineral resources alone will take out more than $2 billion a year, they have for several years now. Yet we haven’t built the infrastructure in northern Ontario, we haven’t used those resources to diversify and industrialize the north of this province.
I know what the Treasurer says. He says:
“You have to go where the industry would normally go. You feed the golden goose rather than the lame duck.” I think that was the expression he used.
Isn’t that colourful. The point remains that we end up with one-industry communities like the city of Sudbury, where we all end up paying a price; and the province of Ontario ends up paying a price through its taxpayers as well because of the problems that are now inherent in the Sudbury basin.
You should take no pride in the bankruptcy of your policies on resources. There were days when we had our hands on the handles of resources in the Sudbury basin. You blew it, quite frankly; you simply blew it. When we had upwards of 85 or 90 per cent of the nickel supply in the free world, you didn’t take advantage of that. Now you complain when other provinces attempt to do it. We are reaping the rewards of your resource policies now in northern Ontario. It is an absolute disgrace. The fact that we have now 5,000 people fewer in the city of Sudbury than we had a year ago is a tribute to the kind of system that you have established and maintained.
We hear some strange comments from the Treasurer. I want to support my colleague from London Centre when he talks about the scheduling of these estimates. It is very difficult to have any sense of continuity when we are jumping all over the map with liming. It is becoming increasingly difficult to schedule our own days and nights. We too have responsibilities. I know that the Treasurer has many responsibilities, but as private members we have them as well. When we are a long way from Queen’s Park, it isn’t always as easy to shift our schedules as the Treasurer might think it is.
One of the things the minister does when we ask him specific questions, particularly in this party, is he replies with an ideological rant. I know of no other way to put it. That is avoiding the question of course, It is a very silly way of avoiding the question. I would ask that he refrain from doing that and engage us in a serious debate.
What we have always said on this side of the House is that if we are going to have a healthy economy -- and make no mistake about it, when the New Democrats form the government in Ontario some day, we are going to encourage a healthy private sector. For any party to think it could form a government and institute programs that we talk tout and are so proud of without a healthy private sector out there is not to live in the real world. What we say is that there are certain elements in the economy out there that are not behaving in our best interests, and those we would deal with.
For the Treasurer to imply in his remarks that we don’t understand what makes the economy tick simply doesn’t make any sense at all. We know that there is a certain part of the economy that creates wealth and there is a certain part of the economy that absorbs wealth. We know that without that wealth-creating aspect growing and thriving, whether it is in the private sector or the public sector, without that wealth-creating sector being there and being healthy, the wealth-absorbing sector simply has not resources from which to draw.
We understand that very clearly. What we say to you is that for example -- I don’t want to get into this debate all over again -- if the mineral resources of this province were in the public sector we would have had a lot more wealth creation than we have seen from the private sector, We would also have seen better procurement policies, or what the economists like to call forward and backward linkages from these resources. That’s were your resources policy is so bankrupt.
I really wanted to set the record straight on that. We know you need to create wealth in order to redistribute it properly. What has happened in our society is that we end up gearing ourselves to two people in the family working. If two people in the family don’t work, then it’s very difficult, and for those who are disadvantaged, it’s almost impossible. Neither have you succeeded in giving us a healthy wealth-producing sector in order to build a different kind of equitable society, nor have you distributed properly the wealth that is here. I’ll talk more about distribution later; I don’t believe it belongs in this vote though, Mr. Chairman.
The Treasurer is somewhat schizophrenic when he talks about economic policy, and it’s very hard to know which direction he’s going to come from next. One minute I think he’s supporting his federal leader, Joe Clark, when he talks about selling off Petrocan, for example. The Premier replied in a strange kind of way to a question from, I think, the member for London Centre about whether or not he believed Petrocan should be sold. I listened to him very carefully and I don’t think we got a straight answer from the Premier. I don’t think he knows what he would do with Petrocan.
What your federal leader said was: “Sell off Petrocan. Sell off crown agencies in order to provide more for the aged.” Isn’t that a nice politically expedient thing to say. What will you have then? Sure, you could sell off all the crown assets in this country and you could give the old age pensioners an increase today, but make it 10 times as difficult for the people in the generations to come.
I don’t know what further evidence you need. It’s already been happening, as we become deindustrialized. To do that again, to accelerate that process by selling off crown assets is sheer stupidity. I can’t understand how anybody out there will give any credence at all to the economic policies of the federal Conservatives. It’s selling it to the highest bidder.
I wonder if the Treasurer has done any work within his ministry on the cost of that whole program of deducting mortgage rates from income tax. What would that mean to Ontario? We’re interested in knowing whether or not you’re monitoring what’s going on out there. I suspect it would have a substantial effect in Ontario.
The Treasurer simply refuses to deal with the serious problems we’ve got. I tabled a couple of questions with the Clerk this morning. I’m sure the Treasurer hasn’t had an opportunity to see them and I don’t have them in front of me, but they ask the Treasurer about some projections. I hope he will respond because I would like to know what he thinks is going to happen if the present trends continue. By trends, I mean the whole question of the trade deficit. What does he think is going to happen? Can those trends continue? My own view is that they can’t. We simply can’t allow them to continue. If you take the projected figures, such as some of the economists are doing, they are simply unacceptable. We would have to intervene to ensure those things didn’t happen.
I worry about the Treasurer’s reliance on the devalued dollar. I did some very superficial arithmetic with a number of the sectors in our economy. The Premier said it the other day. He said: “Our hope is to increase exports.” That was the way he was going to turn it around -- increase exports. That should be part of the program, of course, but what about our imports? Does he think that by increasing exports, import replacement will solve the problem? You’ve got to have the capacity here to do those things. We don’t have it. We are becoming deindustrialized.
When I think of the devalued dollar, I think, of course, of our goods being more attractive to other jurisdictions hut I also look at the four sectors I was thinking about. If you add together the deficits -- these are Canadian figures, of course, but Ontario, as I say, represents the biggest portion of them -- auto deficits, electrical products deficits, machinery deficits and clothing and textile footwear deficits, you will get a total of about $5 billion in trade deficits in every recent year. If we look at that $5 billion, those are goods we import, and you take a 15 per cent devalued dollar, you have a penalty of three quarters of a billion dollars we are paying right there on the devalued dollar because of the imports we have.
Something the Treasurer doesn’t seem to think about, is all the deficit on manufactured goods and end products which is a very substantial deficit. I believe it is about $11 billion federally. Our devalued dollar hurts us tremendously with all our imports. The Treasurer tends just to ignore that, and puts on his rose-coloured glasses and talks about the devalued dollar increasing our exports. That is not good enough. It just won’t turn it around. Something has to be done about that.
Look at the foreign ownership of our economy. That is one of the major problems and the Treasurer never talks about it. There was a select committee of this Legislature which did a major report on the foreign ownership of our economy. It was a good report. I never hear the Treasurer talking about any of the recommendations in that report. We have simply got to start dealing with it.
One of the things I will mention very briefly, because I don’t think this is the place to go into it, is Ontario’s position on the Reisman report That is public policy and it is something the Treasurer can’t shrug off to the Minister of Industry and Tourism (Mr. Grossman). It is too important to the economy. The Treasurer must go to the Minister of Industry and Tourism and say to him, “Look, you cannot accept the Reisman report. It doesn’t deal with the problem.” The real problem is trade in parts between Canada and the US. It is not third-country trade. That is not the problem. There is $20 billion worth of trade between us and the US and less than $2 billion with third countries and a lot of that is by the big four.
The Treasurer has simply got to talk to the Ministry of industry and Tourism and say the Reisman report recommendations, by and large, are unacceptable to us. We have got to sit down in a very hardnosed, eyeball-to-eyeball confrontation with the federal government because that deficit is serious. Three billion dollars in auto parts alone is simply unacceptable to us. The Treasurer should be playing a role in those whole negotiations as well.
The other thing I mentioned very briefly to the Minister of Industry and Tourism, and I am very surprised he didn’t understand, was the relationship between the Ontario government and the federal investment review agency, FIRA. FIRA tells us Ontario has considerable input into all decisions that affect the jurisdiction of Ontario. I assume the Minister of Industry and Tourism would have some input into that but I also assume the Ministry of Treasury and Economics would have some input there.
Certainly, if we accept the fact, and I think even the Treasurer would accept the fact, that that is one of the problems of the economy, I would be very interested in knowing what guidelines the Treasurer has in dealing with recommendations to FIRA. What are the guidelines when a recommendation or when something comes to his attention, just to use the current example of the Simpson-Sears/Simpson’s proposal. What does the Treasurer say? Does he have a set of guidelines which guides him on that individual takeover proposals? Does he just play it by ear? Who does it? Does it come to his attention? Do the people of the ministry do it? I would be very interested in knowing how that works?
I was very disappointed that the Minister of Industry and Tourism didn’t seem to know anything about it. I still haven’t received a reply from him, although I do understand one is forthcoming. It would be very interesting to know just what role Ontario plays because we are quite worried that if the federal government, the review agency, doesn’t get any kind of flak from Ontario it just assumes that everything is all right.
By the way, they did say that 85 per cent of their decisions are agreed with by the provinces concerned. They certainly indicated to us that there was no problem in getting the provinces to go along with their decisions. I am not at all convinced that the decisions are always in the best interest of Ontario.
The final thing I wanted to talk about briefly was relationship, which the Treasurer talked about himself, between the Ministry of Treasury and Economics and Ontario Hydro borrowing. When I look at the projections on borrowing, I am flabbergasted at the size of the borrowings that are anticipated.
According to the charts and information done by the Ministry of Treasury and Economics itself, by about 1981-82, and you can even extend it to 1983, there’s going to be a shortage of capital available to Ontario Hydro in North America.
At the bottom of your chart, you say, “Hydro strains our borrowing capacity.” By guaranteeing Hydra’s loans, first of all, that is a form of subsidy and, secondly, if they are straining our borrowing capacity, it surely is a subsidy on the part of the people of Ontario for Hydro’s borrowing plans. It’s not enough to stand up and say, as the Premier did the other day, that that’s to finance things that are already under way and so forth. It’s not that simple.
What we are talking about is the whole energy program. The Treasurer can say that belongs to the Ministry of Energy, if he wants, but when we are talking about the kind of borrowing that is going to be required, we are no longer talking about the problems of any one particular ministry such as Energy; we are talking about problems that the Treasurer simply has to be concerned about.
Very recently, the debenture that was issued totalled $250 million. If my arithmetic is correct, the interest on that 30-year debenture is going to be $703 million. I believe that’s US dollars. The Treasurer can say if he likes that it’s a safe gamble but it’s a gamble.
By the way, there are certainly people predicting an 80-cent dollar as well as those predicting a 90-cent dollar. That’s a lot of money. The Treasurer doesn’t seem to be terribly concerned about it. If he is, I wish he would share his concerns with us.
I was looking at some figures indicating exactly how much money Ontario Hydro was going to require. I believe by 1985 that it is going to need about $17 billion in borrowing. I don’t have those figures in front of me, but I think that that’s correct. I would like to know from the Treasurer where he sees the whole thing coming from. Where are we going to get the capacity? Where’s the borrowing coming from, if his own charts are correct? I would like to know what the costs of that are going to be in the long run.
Doesn’t he think as well that if we had a better mix instead of this total capitulation to nuclear power that we would have a better province? There are things that could be done. There are massive insulation programs. There’s the whole question of marginal pricing, which I am sure the minister’s familiar with. Primarily, it will require keeping down the nuclear component of our energy mix policy. That’s what’s going to have to be required because what makes nuclear power so terribly expensive is that it needs to operate at such high capacity because of the fantastic capital costs. That’s something that the Treasurer is going to have to deal with.
It’s fine for the Treasurer to say we are not going to public markets. There’s a mighty fine line between the Treasurer’s not going to the market for money and guaranteeing Ontario Hydro loans to the tune of $17 billion by 1985. That’s simply not right.
As a matter of fact, the Porter commission said something on this.
Porter was talking about possible solutions to this capital crunch that is coming in the early 1980s. He said: “Possible solutions include making some of the over $1 billion per annum from the various pension plan moneys available to Ontario Hydro; conservation or load-management programs aimed at reducing the expansion program, especially the nuclear component; or increasing power rates.”
I wonder if the Treasurer could comment as to his views on Ontario Hydro’s proposals to finance all this (a) by increased rates; (b) from general taxation; or (c) by dipping into the public pension funds in the province for some of this borrowing. We can’t drift on it; it is something we are going to have to deal with. By the early 1980s that is going to be a problem. I would be very interested in knowing what the Treasurer’s plans are.
Hon. F. S. Miller: The critic has touched on a number of important areas. I think he started by discussing the Alberta heritage fund, and I responded briefly. The implication was somehow that Ontario had piddled away its future. I hardly think so. I would suggest to him that, through those equalization payments we made -- which, had we been a tremendously selfish province, I am sure we could have found some way to avoid -- we saw that many dollars that could have been used for the taxpayers of Ontario were made available for benefits elsewhere in Canada.
For example, the per-capita payment to the province of Newfoundland on the equalization grants alone next year is $500. If one took that kind of figure and applied it to Ontario, we would receive, theoretically, more than $4 billion. So one can see how relatively important that grant is there. And that’s just one of many. Because when it comes to Department of Regional Economic Expansion programs, the cost-sharing ratios in Ontario will be, say, 50-50; in Newfoundland, I am not sure but I believe it is about 90-10.
Again, I am not disagreeing. What I would say, and what we tried to say in Ottawa last week, is that all too often the political needs of regionalization, as demonstrated through the programs, whether they were DREE or others, did not create any benefit for the recipient and they weakened the donors. That was the message we tried to give.
No one has any argument about helping. I think the honourable member and I, as Ontario citizens, should both be concerned, just as people should in British Columbia and Alberta, to make sure that the moneys we flow to other provinces are used for useful purposes. Even Premier Moores of Newfoundland in his opening remarks said just that: Recognize that transfer payments are simply transfer payments. Don’t try to assume they help regional development. I think it was a brave statement for a person who depends so heavily upon assistance from the rest of Canada.
We both recognize the need for a private, or productive, sector of the economy. I know that the honourable member and I could argue for a long time and we would not agree on the form of ownership of that private sector, or whether Ontario has done a good job. What I truly believe he does not understand, as a function of his own political belief -- and I respect this; I just don’t agree with it, if he understands me -- is just how difficult it is to have viable industries not running on the profit basis.
Mr. Laughren: Like Inco and Falcon bridge.
Hon. F. S. Miller: I don’t care which company my friend names. I am only trying to tell him that the great socialistic ideal --
Mr. Laughren: There you go again.
Hon. F. S. Miller: -- that ownership of an asset should be vested in the state, whether it is Petrocan or whether it is anybody else --
Mr. Laughren: Do you think Petrocan should be sold?
Hon. F. S. Miller: I didn’t say anything about that. I am just saying that the belief that ownership by the state somehow guarantees the citizens a share of the productivity of that corporation is baloney.
Mr. Laughren: They couldn’t get less than Inco gives us.
Hon. F. S. Miller: Absolutely total baloney.
Mr. Laughren: That’s what you are talking about.
Hon. F. S. Miller: Traditionally, as they have in almost every country where that has been practised, the efficiency and the --
Mr. Laughren: What an apologist you are for Inco and Falconbridge.
Hon. F. S. Miller: -- management of those companies goes downhill and the thin line between profitability and unprofitability passes --
Mr. Laughren: Sophomoric.
Hon. F. S. Miller: I’m not. I am stating absolute fact. Because you don’t like it, because you disagree with it, doesn’t make me wrong.
Mr. Laughren: I will listen to good reasoning.
Hon. F. S. Miller: That is reasoning. You’d better listen to it because it’s factual.
Mr. Laughren: I have listened to it, but it’s wrong.
Hon. F. S. Miller: Explain to me then why almost every industry in Great Britain is in the trouble it’s in. Tell me if there is any other reason than public ownership and the continuation of political decision making in trying to support non-profitable, mismanaged, government-owned things like British Steel, like British Railways, like British Coal --
Mr. Laughren: We’re talking about resources.
Hon. F. S. Miller: Like British Coal.
Mr. Laughren: And you think Inco and Falconbridge haven’t been?
Hon. F. S. Miller: Those are resources and they’ve been so badly mismanaged by the state that the country there is paying 63 per cent of its gross product to manage the state.
Mr. Laughren: Talk about this jurisdiction; talk about nickel.
Hon. F. S. Miller: I am only saying to you thank God we haven’t followed, as fast as we might have, the path that was followed there. That’s going to be a difference that will exist between you and I as long as we sit in this House. I think it’s a fair difference as long -- I am not going to accept your arguments. I don’t expect you to accept mine, but I have every bit as much right to suck to mine as you do to yours. I happen to be the Treasurer, as you told me one day, and I’m the only one you’ve got.
Mr. Laughren: Don’t rub it in, Frank.
Hon. F. S. Miller: Trade deficit -- you talked about it. I’m very concerned about it. I’ve listened to interesting arguments by people as to which is the more important, a trade deficit or a budget deficit. There are sharp differences.
Mr. Laughren: They are not totally mutually exclusive, you know.
Hon. F. S. Miller: No, not necessarily, but I think one can manage one versus the other in one’s overall management of an economy. I have listened to good reasons on both sides of that argument. I don’t pretend I’ve necessarily dropped to a final conclusion on the trade deficit side. I certainly believe that a budget should be brought down to a zero deficit or as close to a zero deficit as quickly as possible.
No one would say the Canadian dollar and its relatively low value should be used as a permanent basis for Canadian trade. If it is going to last the four or five years that currently are predicted, perhaps we need to look at mechanisms that give businessmen courage enough to make forward contracts. One businessman said to me the other day, “My big fear is if I’m only making a four or five per cent gross margin that I’ll accept the contract on an 85-cent dollar and deliver on a 80-cent dollar. I will have made my investment and I will be wiped out.” I think that’s a pretty good argument and that argues for stability in the price of a dollar, something I think we’re beginning to see.
But we have said it’s an opportunity and that opportunity should be taken to strengthen the very kinds of problems, the structural problems, that you talk about quite properly.
You mentioned the parts deficit of $3 billion-odd. I think that’s got to be balanced partly against the surplus in assembly of $2 billion, which gives us a $1.2 billion overall deficit. Not good enough. Again, I tend to agree with you on this: we need to strengthen the parts industry in Ontario and in Canada. No argument. I think we may just have to differ a bit on how we do it, but we do need to do it.
We need to get the high-skill jobs that are part of the parts industry, the greater Canadian ownership that is part of the parts industry, the innovation that will come with it, the strengthening of development and some research that is always a part of independent small companies. In other words, they are only going to get ahead if they are able, either through dedicated research or simply the skills of the owners or staff to create and become competitive. I have great confidence in Canadians’ ability to do those things given the environment that brings out those.
We do, I’m told, make comments to FIRA via MIT. I have heard a lot of argument against getting rid of FIRA. My personal impression would be I'm not that impressed with it. I think it’s seen by foreign investors as much more of a barrier than it really is. I am not as worried about foreign investment as you are in the sense I believe there are ways to repurchase Canadian equity as time goes on. Often foreign capital is the seed money that’s required.
I don’t want to get into an argument on that today. We’re going to run out of time very shortly.
In the case of Hydro, you asked me how we should be financing expansion. I suggest to you the present 80-20 per cent debt ratio is a relatively high ratio, probably brought about by the relatively low rates Hydro has charged. I’m not talking about relative to what they were in Ontario, but relative to the costs of production and relatively low compared to other jurisdictions.
I think you would both agree that with the exception of maybe BC and Quebec, in Canada and in North America Ontario has the best blend of rates.
Mr. Laughren: That is the public sector, thank you, Frank.
Hon. F. S. Miller: Water power, my friend. I suspect if it were done by somebody else it would have been cheaper.
Mr. Laughren: Like nickel power.
Hon. F. S. Miller: Hydraulic last year was 29.4 per cent of our total generating capacity; thermal-fossil fuel was 52 per cent; nuclear fuel was 16.7 per cent; and purchases, 1.5 per cent.
Predicting right across to 1987: the hydraulic drops to 18.7 per cent -- it will probably increase in absolute terms slightly, but reduce relatively; thermal-fossil goes to 43.4 per cent; nuclear-thermal goes up to 37.2 per cent; and we estimate 0.7 per cent purchase, giving us the prediction for the future.
There’s been almost a two to one ratio of thermal-fossil versus thermal-nuclear in the past. I’m told the best production costs come with nuclear.
I think we have to be very proud of Canada’s generating capabilities.
With that, I’d like to sit down and hope that possibly vote 1102A could pass.
Mr. Laughren: Tell us about the money. Where are you going to get the money from?
Hon. F. S. Miller: The money should not come from the tax base. It must come from the rates. The rates will be lower if the 80-20 ratio is reduced. The method of doing that is to have enough in today’s rates to be setting aside some capital. If they don’t set aside some of their capital, they’ll be going to the market and they’ll either be increasing that ratio or adding to the eventual cost as they build those nuclear plants.
It’s in the interest of the user of hydro in Ontario that rates be properly chosen to have an element of savings for the new installed capacity.
Mr. Laughren: I assume your figures -- and they are Treasury figures I’m quoting -- anticipated the rate structure would be such that you would be able to do this kind of thing. On top of that, you will still need $17 billion for 1985. That’s what I’m asking you. Where are you getting that? I’m assuming you’ll have the rate structure.
Hon. F. S. Miller: One of the reasons we want to balance our budget in Ontario, obviously, is to maintain the capital markets in a state able to produce money required for Hydro.
I think everyone here would like to make sure we keep the tremendously good reserves and the tremendously dependable system Ontario has relative to most jurisdictions around us. That will require a continuation, in spite of reduced demand, down the road of 4.5 per cent per year. In spite of that drop, we will have to keep on investing.
I’m sure there will be some tapering off if the demand trends stay the way they are. All those things you’ve talked about are worthwhile -- the saving side. Obviously, we should save power in today’s world, no matter what, the best we can. As the cost goes up there is more incentive to do it.
Item 1 agreed to.
Mr. Deputy Chairman: Shall item 2 carry as well?
Hon. F. S. Miller moves the committee rise and report.
Mr. Laughren: On a point of order, before the motion to rise and report is put: We are assuming, are we not, that vote 1102A, item 1, was agreed to, not item 2?
Mr. Deputy Chairman: I called item 2.
Mr. Laughren: No, no. We weren’t debating item 2. We were debating item 1.
Hon. F. S. Miller: I thought we passed both. I don’t care. I have only got 15 hours.
Mr. Nixon: It makes no difference what happens.
Mr. Laughren: We understand that.
Mr. Deputy Chairman: I put the motion “shall item 2 carry?” Do you object to it carrying?
Mr. Laughren: Yes, I do. On a point of order, Mr. Chairman --
Mr. Deputy Chairman: There is no need for a point of order. If it doesn’t carry, I will not put it. We’ll carry on with vote 1102A, item 2.
On motion by Hon. F. S. Miller, the committee of supply reported certain resolutions.
On motion by Hon. F. S. Miller, the House adjourned at 1 p.m.