The House resumed at 8 p.m.
House in committee of supply.
ESTIMATES, MINISTRY OF NORTHERN AFFAIRS (CONCLUDED)
On vote 702, project development and community relations program; item 2, project development and implementation:
Mr. Deputy Chairman: The member for Algoma.
Mr. Wildman: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. If I could be given the same indulgence the minister was given the other night, I would like to have the members join with me in welcoming to the Legislature a group of students from the north. The students in the gallery are from the community of Bruce Mines. I’d like to welcome them.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: Are they assisted by the Young Voyageurs Program?
Mr. Wildman: Yes, the Young Voyageurs Program is a very good one because my area is just short of one day’s travel away.
Mr. B. Newman: They may not want to go home now they have seen Toronto.
Mr. Deputy Chairman: Do you think they recognized their member.
Mr. Wildman: They thought I was a bit light headed.
I would like to raise with the minister under this vote matters regarding the function of working in concert with municipalities and other ministries in developing plans to improve northern community conditions in responding to local needs.
As the minister will recall, he said earlier during the debate in these estimates he thought he might have something to announce in regard to Blind River and the need for upgrading the sewage system there in order to allow the town to expand in the face of the spin-off from Elliot Lake and the tremendous expansion taking place there. I hope the minister might be able to bring us up to date on that.
I want to go into more detail in regard to one of the other communities in my area, since I think it exemplifies what we were discussing yesterday in the estimates with regard to one-industry towns in northern Ontario. That’s specifically White River. As the minister knows, White River is in the far north end of Algoma riding and it’s a community that traditionally was a railroad community and now has become largely a lumber community dependent upon the new Abitibi mill. The minister also knows White River has just experienced a serious flood, one of the many floods in the north this year, and residents are just now recovering from that. They are awaiting word from the cabinet as to whether or not they will have final confirmation on assistance for that community.
Even prior to the flood, there were some serious difficulties in keeping young people in White River, even though there is now an opportunity for employment there. For many years White River experienced a drop in population because the CPR had cut its running trades working out of that community and there just wasn’t much opportunity for young people to have employment. Now with the new Abitibi mill being established and expanding its operations, they run into other problems because the mill workers are moving into town. The company intends to bring a large number of bucherons or cutters into the area, largely from the Gaspé and other parts of Quebec, and perhaps New Brunswick, as well as other parts of Ontario.
A lot of the young people from White River itself, have got jobs in the mill, but we have had this influx of people into the community. That led to a number of problems. For a long time they didn’t have adequate sewage facilities. That meant they couldn’t provide housing for the people who were willing to move to White River. The Ministry of the Environment did agree a few years ago to give assistance, along with the federal government through DREE, to provide a sewage treatment plant and a new sewage system for the new development but not for the old.
As a result, they have been able to build a subdivision in that community. They have built an apartment building and there is a mobile-home park. Even with that they have had upwards of a 200 per cent turnover in workers at the mill because there is a lack of other amenities.
There just isn’t much choice in shopping. Prices are high in White River for everyday goods, such as groceries, clothing, furniture and those kinds of things. There is not much choice. They can go to Wawa or Marathon or Manitouwadge, or Thunder Bay or the Sault, but those centres are quite distant.
More than that, there aren’t many amenities there. There is not a recreation centre. The community is now moving towards the setting up of a recreation centre. That is very costly for a small community such as White River, even though they qualify for Wintario, the Community Recreation Centres Act grants and so on.
With this kind of turnover you can see the problems they have. In housing, they have had serious problems with the subdivisions. There have been complaints to the Housing and Urban Development Association of Canada, to Central Mortgage and Housing Corporation and to the company, but they don’t seem to be getting too far. The developer claims he has done what he should have done.
There have been complaints about the conditions and rules in the apartment building. There have also been complaints about the attitude of the operators of the mobile-home park. What it really boils down to is the fact that the cost of housing is very high, as well as everything else. There is the extra cost of fuel because it is so cold in the winter. As you know, White River is famous for its claim to be the coldest place in Canada.
To give them their due, officials of the company did say they would subsidize their workers if they wanted to buy a house by providing up to $2,000 toward the cost of the house. Basically all that did was raise the cost of every house by $2000.
I wonder what this ministry is doing if anything, in getting involved in White River with the improvement district board, with the company, with the unions and the business people of White River to try to bring them together to deal with these very serious problems that have led to a lot of complaints, unhappiness and division in the community which, hopefully has dissipated as a result of the tragedy they have recently had to endure where people have come together and worked together. I think this might be a beginning to try to bring people together to try to deal with some of these problems.
What would probably bring down the cost of housing and what I am leading to is if there could be some competition and if some more land could be made available for housing. We have a tremendous amount of crown land all around the community but it is not available. The municipality has been negotiating with Marathon Realty, that is the realty section of the CPR, for some land that they own so that can establish a municipal subdivision. If that municipal subdivision had been available at the time the other subdivision was going in perhaps there would have been more competition and the price would not have been so high. But it wasn’t in operation; it still isn’t and it isn’t going to be now for some time.
Are you doing anything to try to speed up the negotiations with the CPR and the approvals of the various authorities -- the Ministry of Housing and so on -- for the municipal subdivision? What, if anything, is the ministry doing? I know it has been very much involved in Hornepayne; we have had discussions about Hornepayne, the other most northerly community in my riding. I would like to see the same kind of operation in White River that the ministry has had up there, and perhaps in Atikokan and other places.
If the minister could give me some indication on Blind River and tell me what role, if any, his ministry has had in White River -- or, if it has not had any, what role it intends to have in White River -- I would appreciate it.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: Mr. Chairman, before I begin my remarks, I want to join the member for Algoma in welcoming the group from Bruce Mines. In fact, Bruce Mines sticks in my mind as a very popular place, because a former federal candidate in my riding came from Bruce Mines. She is now living in Sioux Lookout, the wife of a very prominent doctor, and constantly speaks of her childhood days at Bruce Mines. It is a real pleasure to join the honourable member in welcoming this northern group to the Legislature this evening.
I hope they will not look at the attendance here tonight as any indication of the interest in the estimates of the Ministry of Northern Affairs.
Mr. Makarchuk: There’s a chiropractors’ dinner that is just winding down.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: I see; the chiropractors have taken over.
Mr. Chairman, it was my understanding that, if we went on with our estimates tonight, the estimates would be deemed to be completed at the hour of 10:30. Is that the understanding?
Mr. Wildman: That’s right.
Mr. Foulds: Quit stalling; get on with it.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: When I look at the order paper, I see there are three hours left, and there are only two and a half hours tonight. But as long as we are agreed that when the hour of 10:30 arrives --
Mr. Wildman: If we hurry along, we will get three hours work done in two and a half hours.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: Fine. I agree 100 per cent.
Mr. Deputy Chairman: Mr. Minister, you are on vote 702, item 2.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. If I may respond to the honourable member in connection with his inquiry regarding Blind River, I am sure he is aware that the environmental assessment report was just released the other day. It looks at the entire problem of development at Elliott Lake, and in the short term it gives us encouragement that we can move ahead with development there. The report does not have the answers to the long-term possible problems because of the time factor, which was clearly spelled out in that report. The report will be very carefully looked at by my staff as it relates to Blind River and the surrounding area and what will happen and what we can encourage at Elliot Lake vis-à-vis the development that should occur at Blind River.
While I do not have any answers at my fingertips, I want to assure the member that the Blind River issue is one of the problems that is first and foremost in the minds of my ministry, along with Sturgeon Falls, Longlac and a few others across northern Ontario which we hope to deal with in the next short period.
I suppose White River does not really have the same problems as other municipalities, but it has similar problems. These arise when a new industry is established in a community that has been relatively dormant for a number of years; when one gets a large company like Abitibi moving in there, and there is an influx of new workers -- and it had difficulty with the mill in terms of getting employees there; we are all aware of that.
I am pleased to say that the Ontario-Department of Regional Economic Expansion agreement that brought in a further development of the sewer and water facilities was one of the first I signed as Minister of Northern Affairs. So White River is very familiar to me.
We have to accept the fact that there is a supply and demand problem as it relates to lots. In many instances I do not think northerners have really accepted all the facts about the cost of putting in infrastructure. We who live there look at the massive amounts of land and we say to ourselves, “All we have to do it get a surveyor, make sure we have access to a public road, put in a septic tank, and the land should be relatively cheap.” But when one starts developing it, putting in the necessary amenities to which the honourable member refers, then of course the price does go up.
In fact, in my own riding a subdivision was planned in Red Lake. When they finished all the surveys, cost factors and the engineering reports, the lots were $27,000. They had open ditches; not even the storm sewers were in place. That is the kind of problem we are faced with.
We have not been directly involved in a co-ordinating role with White River. To my knowledge, we haven’t been asked. We would like to think that the local authorities, I believe theirs is an improvement district --
Mr. Wildman: They are going to become a township.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: That’s a major step forward. But the local autonomy is there. If they required our assistance we would be glad to move in but we certainly don’t want to move in and take over, usurping their authority.
We do take a leading role in other communities, such as Atikokan which has peculiar problems with regard to its future economy. The townsite of Pickle Lake was a development project in which we accepted a lead ministry role because we were asked to do so by that community. It is an improvement district, I might say, but they had little experience dealing with government and really needed and appreciated the role taken by the Ministry of Northern Affairs in moving in and giving them their sole contact with a provincial department.
Another area under this vote in which we are directly involved is the English-Wabigoon employment strategy, where we are assisting the native people on the English-Wabigoon River system to become directly involved in commercial fishing and in co-operation with the tourist industry we are working out an excellent employment program.
The public service advisory board, both in the northeast and the northwest, also comes under this particular vote. The Moosonee tourism development project, the Manitoulin Island development agency, and the Parry Sound federal-provincial manpower projects come under this vote. All our DREE projects and agreements are under this vote, as is the Sault Ste. Marie economic opportunities project.
Those are just a few of the areas in which we are involved. When municipalities ask us to play that role we try to coordinate, co-operate and do all we can on their behalf.
I was looking at the figures for White River. Last year we spent close to $600,000 in the sewer and water development projects; this year we will wind down that project. I think it is now completed, with just the funding still to go through. About $448,000 is in this year’s estimates for payment on the White River services. Next year, 1980-81, we have projected $30,000; so that should wind down.
I share your concern with regard to the lack of lots. I would hope, as I said earlier, that the municipalities could work something out with Marathon Realty Company Limited. I don’t see why they can’t. Barring that, there is sufficient crown land around White River that could be developed. Thank God, there’s lots of land in northern Ontario and surely there is no shortage around White River. However, there may be some shortage in the exact location as it relates to their infrastructure. If they require some assistance from my ministry we will be glad to sit down with them and do everything we can.
Mr. Wildman: One of the serious difficulties they have had with getting the mill and getting the people in there is the cost of housing. Because of the lack of competition, people who aren’t directly involved in the mill operation face tremendously high costs. People like teachers, people in the service area and so on who want to come in are not given any subsidy in a subdivision for instance, yet they face these very high costs because of the subsidies given to others.
That is a major problem, and I think this is the kind of thing we should be looking at in terms of assistance. I will certainly pass your comments along to the local authorities to see if they are interested.
Another thing you should look at is the tremendous length of time it has taken since the government made its decision to change its position on the sale of crown lots to appraise them and determine their value. Also, there is the question of whether or not they are going to make crown lots available to provide permanent residences for people who live in the north in places like White River and Missanabie. They’re ready to give cottage lots to people from southern Ontario, but we’ve got people living in the area or wanting to live and work in the area who can’t get lots.
I’m a little unhappy it’s taken so long for the Ministry of Natural Resources to deal with this kind of problem. There are people in Missanabie, for instance, who applied for lots last year and they still haven’t been answered. I think that’s a problem in other areas. I’ve had complaints in the southern part of my riding and in other ridings as well. That’s one solution that might help to bring down the costs in these isolated communities.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: Mr. Chairman, in responding to the honourable member I must point out that while the cost of housing may appear exorbitant in some of these small northern communities, I think one of the real dangers and the real fears of a prospective home owner is the resale potential. That is the key. To put out $40,000 or $50,000 for a home in Toronto is nothing. It’s easy to get a mortgage, it’s no problem. The down payment is relatively low; but the resale value is there, the market is there. When you start applying that to places like White River, and even towns like Sioux Lookout and Hudson are typical examples, the resale value is not there.
Mr. Wildman: That’s why they don’t want to pay the high cost of housing.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: Yes. There is fear of loss on investment by the potential home owner.
The problem with crown land adjacent to organized municipalities and the desire of those municipalities to expand is one we’re starting to move in on. There are problems, as the member is very much aware.
The taxes in some of these small communities are relatively low so you get a lot of vacant land, and there is no real filling in on the lots. If they’re not filled it spreads the community up and down the highway. Then they come along and they want sewer and water services that are spread out a great distance and the cost is exorbitant. Other problems follow, such as the extension of electric services and school bus stopping: all these things create further problems. There has to be some reasonable, orderly development to the extension of further subdivisions in those areas, but that’s an area we will be looking at very carefully with the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Ministry of Housing.
I’ve already had discussions with the Minister of Housing (Mr. Bennett) in connection with the future role of the Planning Act, as it was going through its stages of redesign I suppose we might say. In fact the Minister of Housing will be in Dryden in the middle of June to have one of his public participation exercises as it relates to the Planning Act.
I’ve encouraged my people in that area to come out and to express the point of view you’ve just announced and elaborated on, that we have crown land, we have lots of land available. Sometimes I think we’re using our crown land in the opposite direction. Sometimes it’s a liability instead of being an asset to us. I personally feel more of this crown land should be passed out to the private sector. We can tax them sufficiently and get a return to those municipalities so they can provide the necessary services, such as recreational centres and the amenities of life we want in northern Ontario. If they can’t get the land, how can they pay the taxes and how can they develop it and improve the area?
I can assure the member that’s one area we will be moving in on.
Mr. Bolan: Mr. Chairman, what I have to say on this item deals with the question of the work of the ministry in concert with other ministries. In this particular instance I’m thinking of the Ministry of Community and Social Services. What I’d like to know is what you are going to do and what you are going to say about the completely intemperate remarks made yesterday afternoon by the Minister of Community and Social Services when he labelled northern Ontario a work camp for delinquent fathers.
Is that the general attitude of your government? Is that the insensitivity, or does it typify the insensitivity which your government shows towards northern Ontario? I know it certainly is not your view because I know you are sensitive to the issues of northern Ontario and you are sensitive about northern Ontario.
I think this has been clearly demonstrated by your knowledge of your ministry during the debate on the estimates. However, for a minister of the crown to give to the press yesterday afternoon his remarks about northern Ontario being a large work camp, or a labour camp, or a slave camp, if that’s what he wants to call it, and comparing it to Siberia -- part of another country which is well known -- I think is disgraceful. The least he could have done today was to apologize to this House. He did not see fit to do so when I gave him every opportunity.
I would hope, Mr. Minister, when you have your cabinet meeting tomorrow, that you’re going to wring his ears and you’re going to tell him, “Look, lay off northern Ontario. Northern Ontario is not a cesspool for the scum of southern Ontario.”
Mr. Wildman: That’s right.
Mr. Bolan: We don’t want those people up there and I’m sure you don’t want them either. After all, there are other ways of dealing with them. If they want to stay in southern Ontario, if you want to develop labour camps or work camps in southern Ontario, then go ahead and do so. But would you please tell him to lay off northern Ontario?
What I’d like to know, Mr. Minister, is what are you going to do? What are you going to say about these intemperate remarks of his?
Mr. Deputy Chairman: I don’t know how that fits into item 2, Mr. Minister, but go ahead.
Mr. Roy: Right on, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Deputy Chairman: It’s project development implementation.
Mr. Wildman: His project is work camps.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: I was not privy to the honourable minister’s comments. He’s a very able minister, one that is very sensitive to human needs.
Mr. Roy: He’s misguided as hell though.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: I’m sure he will be able to respond himself. He doesn’t need me, certainly.
Mr. Foulds: Do you agree with him?
Hon. Mr. Bernier: I don’t know what he said. I’m just taking in what you have said.
Mr. Roy: Don’t you read the press?
Hon. Mr. Bernier: If anybody said that and it’s correct, then I have to agree with you that we are not a Siberia. We are not a work camp area.
Mr. Roy: Right, then tell him that.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: We hope we’re a resource development area, but I’m sure he will be looking after his own comments and will be able to respond very ably.
Mr. Roy: You’re big enough, Leo. Take him aside; take him to the woodshed, Leo.
Mr. Wildman: I was just wondering if the minister may have been referring to Minaki when he was talking about work camps. Maybe this is one solution for the difficulty the ministry is having in dealing with Minaki and trying to find some use for it, since they have been taking so long to negotiate with the private sector to take it over.
Mr. Haggerty: I thought it was a governor’s mansion.
Mr. Wildman: The only thing I don’t understand is his comparing it to Siberia. It seems to me Minaki would be a rather comfortable Siberia. I wonder if that was what he was getting at, that he was going to use Minaki for something like sending all of these delinquent fathers up there to think about --
Mr. Roy: But would you trust them in Minaki?
Mr. Wildman: Who knows.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: I will not comment on the member’s remarks. The former leader of that party knows very well the attitude of the town of Minaki.
Mr. Wildman: They don’t want the southerners either.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: I will let your words stand on the record to further supplement what your former leader has tried to do through the town of Minaki.
Mr. Deputy Chairman: The member for Port Arthur has further remarks.
Mr. Foulds: I would like to shift topics considerably and discuss with the minister what role he sees his ministry playing in the extension of highway facilities. I refer specifically, having had some correspondence with the minister and with the Ministry of Transportation and Communications, to the matter of highway 589 north to Dawn Lake. Just let me remind the minister briefly in case he doesn’t have the material at hand. Highway 589 is the secondary highway for approximately three miles north of highway 591, north of Lappe junction. We will be talking about Lappe later in the estimates this evening. Then it becomes the jurisdiction for a couple of miles of the Jacques roads board, and then it just becomes a trap or a private road.
I have had considerable correspondence with MTC trying to persuade them to push the highway all the way north another three miles in fact, and incorporate it into the secondary road system of the ministry.
The MTC has not been too encouraging. I think it was on March 9 I wrote to this minister. Unfortunately, he hasn’t had time to reply. I have just written again the other day giving further information that I had from MTC on the matter.
The point I want to make is it does seem from the strict standard of MTC that highway 589 doesn’t fall into its criteria in terms of traffic volumes to justify upgrading it to a secondary highway, although I find that argument a little hard to accept when they have extended part of the highway north of 591 where it is largely for local use for summer cottages and others. It goes to Surprise Lake Narrows as a secondary highway.
It does seem to me that Dog Lake would be the natural terminal of such a highway. It also seems to me in terms of potential development, both of a present tourist resort and, other possible resort development on Dog Lake, it would make sense for this ministry to give positive consideration to extending that road as a development road.
I was wondering whether the ministry or any officials have responded to my correspondence internally and whether or not the minister might give favourable consideration to that extent.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: Mr. Chairman, I will get some answers.
Mr. Foulds: While you are getting some answers, one of the other members of the Legislature could change topics.
Mr. Martel: While the answer is being prepared, I want to talk to the minister. I overheard him on my squawk box talking about the sale of crown land and I can’t understand what the government is doing.
On May 4, 1978, a resolution by his colleague, the member for Timiskaming (Mr. Havrot) was almost unanimously accepted in this House that we wouldn’t sell crown land to Americans or nonresidents; it would be sold only to landed immigrants and Canadian citizens. The people who spoke in that debate were the members for Nipissing (Mr. Bolan), Middlesex (Mr. Eaton), Algoma (Mr. Wildman). Carleton-Grenville (Mr. Sterling), Rainy River (Mr. T. P. Reid) and Beaches-Woodbine (Ms. Bryden) and I.
Mr. Roy: What does the member for Carleton-Grenville know about northern Ontario?
Mr. Martel: Only the member for Middlesex and, interestingly enough, the member for Rainy River spoke against that resolution.
Mr. Roy: We allow freedom in this party.
Mr. Martel: Yes, I know. That is why your colleague today moved the bill with respect to the sale of agricultural land to non-Canadian. You can’t have it both ways.
Mr. Roy: There is no problem.
Mr. Martel: What bothers me is there is a funny history going here on what we intend to do in this province with respect to crown land in northern Ontario.
In 1973, an all-party committee proposed that future land transactions be limited to Canadians and landed immigrants. This report, by the way, was signed by the present Minister of Agriculture and Food. He knows well what the member for Huron-Middlesex (Mr. Riddell) speaks of because as a backbencher in those days he opposed the sale of crown land and also agricultural land. He signed that report. In 1974, contrary to the select committee report, the government brought in a 20 per cent land transfer tax. In 1976, two years later, the government decided this was no longer a problem. In 1977, in the spring, the government lifted the 20 per cent tax, despite the fact the government had not determined the extent to which foreign ownership had become a problem.
We studied it for 18 months. When you were minister of Natural Resources, your legal staff provided us with some of the background which led the select committee to make the type of recommendation it did. Then on March 2, 1978, the then minister, who is now the Treasurer (Mr. F. S. Miller), announced a new government policy. It said that in the first year only residents of Ontario could buy, in the second year residents of Canada could also buy or lease, and in the third year nonresidents were allowed only to lease.
The minister himself is opposed because on February 28, 1978, he was apparently at odds with the present Treasurer who was then the Minister of Natural Resources. About two months later, on May 4, his colleague the member for Timiskaming introduced a resolution in this Legislature. I will read it for the minister: “Resolved: That in the opinion of this House the government should give consideration to legislation that would prohibit the transfer of leased crown lots in the province of Ontario to anyone other than Canadian citizens.”
That vote carried. In the face of that vote, the government went its merry way as though the Legislature had not spoken at all. I can no longer understand what votes mean in this House when it is so flagrant that the minister’s own colleague, the member for Timiskaming, gets a resolution through the House, and then the government says: “To hell with it. It doesn’t matter what the House has said. We’ll go our merry way." The then minister used some cockeyed excuse that we will get more development in the north if we sell the land. But that’s not a factor. The minister and I both know that as soon as lots become available on a lake they are grabbed up, by lease or any other way.
There’s no problem? Well, there were fewer than 200, and they were up in Polar Bear Park, or near it. But the land around the city of Sudbury, the land in the minister’s area, as quickly as it came up for lease, was being taken up.
Mr. Wildman: There weren’t enough lots.
Mr. Martel: That is the key problem facing us in the north. There are not enough cottage lots available.
An hon. member: What’s the member’s position?
Mr. Martel: Mine?
Hon. Mr. Bernier: Talk to your colleague behind you; get in step with him. You’re both out of step.
Mr. Martel: My colleague and I, and my colleague from Sudbury (Mr. Germa), sat on one of the committees which, when the minister was Minister of Natural Resources, he had in the various areas. We got a motion through that we would not build all around a lake but we would create subdivisions with the proper type of environmental controls and leave the lakefront for the people.
The problem is not one of selling land so that we encourage cottage development; the problem is insufficient land.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: Oh!
Mr. Martel: Coming on stream from the Ministry of Natural Resources? There is not nearly enough. Anything the ministry could churn out in the Sudbury area would be grabbed up so quickly it is not even funny.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: You’re not a northerner when you talk like that. You talk like you’re from southern Ontario.
Mr. Foulds: How many cottage lots does the government have available?
Mr. Martel: In the Sudbury district there are 25 or 30 lots coming out this year. The problem is not what the then minister, now the Treasurer, said. He said we did not have construction because people would not take leased land to put a cottage on. That is not the case at all; the minister knows it and I know it. To refresh his memory, the minister himself, on February 28, 1978, opposed that position taken by the then Minister of Natural Resources, now the Treasurer. It indicated to me how much clout the minister has as the minister responsible for northern Ontario when the line minister was able to beat him down.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: No way.
Mr. Martel: The minister opposed his colleague’s proposals. On February 28, 1978, he indicated he did not agree with the then Minister of Natural Resources.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: For selling land?
Mr. Martel: Yes. The minister was prepared to lease it.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: You are entirely wrong; you are off base.
Mr. Foulds: You were misquoted before you made that statement, were you?
Mr. Martel: Was the minister misquoted?
Hon. Mr. Bernier: I have always been in favour of the sale of cottage lots.
Mr. Martel: The minister changed his mind again, but that is not unusual.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: I haven’t changed my mind.
Mr. Martel: The important matter is that this House voted against that and voted to support the minister’s colleague’s resolution. My question is: Where does the cabinet get off in going against the majority of this House? Let me tell you who was in the House when we voted on that. We know from their interjections -- they didn’t take part -- but we know from their interjections that there were quite a number of cabinet ministers here; Baetz, Miller, Norton, my friend the late John Rhodes, Bob Welch, they were here. You just look at the interjections when that debate was going on and you know they were in the House. How do you do it? Does this Legislature and what it passes mean nothing?
Mr. Roy: I guess not.
Mr. Martel: The government simply says, “We don’t care what the house voted; we are simply going to proceed anyway.”
Mr. Roy: I guess we know who the boss is.
Mr. Martel: What kind of hypocrisy is that? That is too much, and I want to tell the minister, it would do him the world of good to go back to the Ministry of Natural Resources and find out what the opinion is over there because there was almost a bloodletting at that time going on in there. The civil servants, to their credit, did not want to proceed with this.
Mr. Wildman: That is right.
Mr. Martel: They didn’t, because they could see that the material that your friend was bringing forth was total nonsense. If you want to say, “We simply believe in the sale of crown land,” that is fine, but I remind you that it was your government that set up the select committee to study these problems, and your colleague who sits to your immediate left signed that.
I can’t see how you can play around with everything that says that to the south of us, within 100 miles of our border, there are roughly 100 million Americans looking for land. They have also got more disposable income than we have, so that in fact they can come up here and buy land. They are driving up the price of land.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: They are only leasing.
Mr. Martel: They are leasing. You can’t even stop that. Have you looked at what is happening to the lease of crown land, the proportions it is reaching now? It costs $500 and $600 a year to lease a piece of property. Do you know what that means to the average worker who tries to lease land at that price? It is nuts. You are simply taking Canadians and Ontarians out of the realm of even getting a cottage, and the more you allow this to continue the worse it is going to become.
I think it is time the minister, who talks about protecting us in northern Ontario, did something about it and I think it is time he looked at that resolution and took this House seriously, because he can’t have it both ways.
Mr. Laughren: You are making a lot of sense.
Mr. Martel: Thank you. My friend -- from what riding? Thank you.
Mr. Laughren: Socialists make a lot of sense.
Mr. Lane: It’s hard to detect sometimes, though.
Mr. Martel: Where did you vote on that resolution? If I recall correctly, you supported that resolution.
Mr. Lane: I voted the right way.
Mr. Martel: You supported that resolution on that occasion.
Mr. Roy: You don’t have to compromise yourself, John.
Mr. Martel: Right. You supported your colleague’s resolution.
Mr. Roy: Take the fifth amendment,
Hon. Mr. Bernier: We believe in ownership on this side.
Mr. Martel: But you didn’t vote that way.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: Yes, I did.
Mr. Martel: No, you didn’t. No. That minister was misquoted then on February 28, 1978. You are always misquoted, Leo; you are always in a fog even when you are fogged in.
But, I just tell you that the government has changed its position with respect to crown land in northern Ontario in 1973, 1974, 1976, 1977 and 1978. What goes on over there? That is six changes of position from 1973 to 1978.
Mr. Foulds: You would think Stuart Smith was in the cabinet.
Mr. Martel: You would think it was a Liberal cabinet.
Mr. Roy: Hell, we are consistent compared to that.
Mr. Martel: Yes, you only change once a day.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: You said that. I didn’t.
Mr. Martel: It really bothers me that you pay no attention to what the needs are. I would think the minister in fact, should he honouring that resolution and be working to get subdivisions somewhat a little back from the waterfront, so that we could provide the services which would prevent the waterways from becoming polluted, and that would lead to the type of financial development we want in terms of small businesses both selling and building some cottages for people in northern Ontario. If the government proceeded in that we would have that type of economy which would help northern Ontario.
By restricting the number of lots that come on stream and by opening them up to other than Canadians, the government is making it impossible for Canadians to be in the ball game. The minister should go back and read the select committee’s report because it was relevant in 1974 and it is still relevant today. The minister who is leading the way should get on the ball and do something about it.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: Mr. Chairman, if I may respond to the member for Port Arthur, with respect to highway 589, we do not have the details of that access road with us at the present time, but I will get the answers to the member’s inquiry and report back to him directly.
Mr. Foulds: I think the important thing for his ministry to keep in mind, in considering the development of a road such as this, is not merely the present traffic flow, which is the framework within which the Ministry of Transportation and Communications has to operate, but it should look at that in terms of the potential of developing the road to a good standard for tourism, for local use and for any other possible development. I don’t know what other possible development there might be, but I think it does make some sense in the case of a three-mile stretch of road, of which there is already a base, to use that as a possibility for a modest northern development road.
I put it to the minister in these terms. I thought I had put it to him in those terms in my letter in March. I have obtained additional information from MTC, which I have forwarded to the ministry within the last week or so. I would like them to look at that and to look at what MTC is doing, along with the local roads board, to see if there is some kind of arrangement that can be made that would make that a sensible project.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: I would be glad to do that. In reply to the member for Sudbury East, it seems to me I have heard his speech on crown lands so many times now I am confused. I don’t know whether he is in right field or left field or far-left field or in the ballpark at all.
Mr. Martel: I haven’t changed my position at all.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: He is crossing back and forth all the time.
Mr. Martel: I have never changed my position -- not once.
Mr. Foulds: You can say many things about the member for Sudbury East but you can’t say that.
Mr. Chairman: Order.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: I must say my position has not changed. I think crown cottage lots should be sold to Ontario residents first, Canadian residents second and leased to nonresidents. I think that is a very fair and positive policy and one that will allow Ontarians to own a summer cottage. Ownership is the key. That is the difference in our political philosophies.
Mr. Martel: You are going to eat some of your words.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: The members of the third party want big government to hang on. Ninety per cent of the land mass and 10 per cent of the population are north of the French River, and you do not want to give up any bit of it. If you were the government, you wouldn’t give up anything; you would own everything.
Mr. Foulds: That is just not true. It is complete balderdash. You might even be misleading the House.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: We don’t believe that. We believe in encouraging private initiative, individual initiative and pride in ownership. The members of the third party like to own their own homes in their communities. They like to own their own cars. They like their ownership. They take pride in that. Why shouldn’t somebody having a summer cottage do the same thing? Don’t worry about the pollution because the Ministry of the Environment has all the rules and regulations.
Mr. Foulds: The minister knows that is not right.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: The health unit is there and is controlling those septic tanks.
Mr. Foulds: You don’t have enough lots because you can’t meet their standards, minimum as they are.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: They are all in place. Don’t come around here and say we shouldn’t be doing these things. If we are going to do something for northern Ontario, there is nothing better and there is no simpler way of creating development and economic movement than to encourage development of summer cottage lots.
If the member for Sudbury East, as a northerner, really moves around the north and talks to northerners, what is the second thing they want besides their home?
Mr. Mattel: A cottage.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: Exactly right, they want a cottage. They want to own a summer cottage beside the lake.
Mr. Bradley: They want a change of government.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: There are 250,000 lakes in northern Ontario and the members opposite want us to preserve them and not to touch them.
Mr. Foulds: How many cottage lots have you got?
Hon. Mr. Bernier: It’s the law of supply and demand.
Mr. Foulds: Oh no.
Mr. Martel: Baloney.
Mr. Foulds: What’s the supply? Have you forgotten so quickly since you left Natural Resources?
Hon. Mr. Bernier: We have made it very clear to the Ministry of Natural Resources that if they required extra funds, we as the ministry would provide them. We have been providing them with extra funds for cottage road development, for surveying of subdivisions in northern Ontario and we will continue to do that to meet the supply and demand. It has to be there. I would like to see that program accelerated. I think it is a good program and it has to be accelerated to meet the demands of northerners.
My God, we live up there, and if you and I as northerners can’t own a summer cottage lot, then we might as well move down to southern Ontario. That’s one of the amenities we have as northerners, to own a summer cottage lot, and I see nothing wrong with that.
The policy this government has is a fair and just one for today’s society and for future generations.
Mr. Martel: Oh, yes. With respect to this big platitude about the difference between us and the minister over there, let me quote from the 1971 throne speech. He supported that. Now listen to what it says with respect to the matter.
“To further preserve our heritage, crown lands will henceforth be made available only on lease basis.” That was in the 1971 throne speech. Does the minister recall it? Don’t tell me about the difference between you and us. That’s your throne speech.
Mr. Foulds: Who was the Premier then?
Mr. Martel: Let me go on.
Mr. Foulds: That was Davis’s first throne speech.
Mr. Mattel: The minister supported the budget speech of 1974.
Mr. Laughren: So did the Liberal Party.
Mr. Mattel: It says, “In examining the rapidly rising prices for real property in Ontario, it has become increasingly apparent that large-scale acquisition of land by nonresidents of Canada is a significant factor.” I didn’t say that, the Premier wrote that speech --
Mr. Foulds: No, no, it was the Treasurer.
Mr. Martel: -- in conjunction with the Treasurer. And they got somebody to read it. The Treasurer didn’t write it. He just went along with it.
Mr. Foulds: It’s Claire Hoy.
Mr. Martel: That was the budget in 1974. But if that isn’t enough, let’s try the “Duke of Kent.” In 1976, Mr. McKeough made an inspiring statement. Listen to what the duke said then, in spite of an announcement in October: “would develop a monitoring system which will regularly produce a complete list of land ownership in Ontario.” And that hasn’t been done.
The minister gets up here with all of that claptrap he just went through a few minutes ago: yet those are the different positions taken by his government to determine what was happening to land. In fact, they said that to retain our heritage, we would have to lease the land. Then they reinforced it. They said it had now become apparent that too much land was being purchased by other than Canadians or landed immigrants. Two years later, the government is going to set up a monitoring system to determine where the land is going and who is buying it. It hasn’t been done.
Then he has the effrontery to stand up there and spout that claptrap and say that’s the difference between him and us. Can he tell me what changed his mind on all those occasions? How can he move tweedledum, tweedledee and back to tweedledum whenever it is convenient? Tonight he gets up and says, “It’s a case of supply and demand.” I want to tell you, Mr. Chairman, the problem of getting cottage land in Ontario isn’t a case of leasing, it’s a case of not enough being prepared to put on the market. You know it and I know it.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: You said that.
Mr. Martel: No. no. The minister said we would put some more on. He said, the “pride of ownership.” As quickly as he puts land on the market for sale people are lining up and are still lining up to buy it and put their cottages on it. What has changed?
Mr. Foulds: You can’t even put on 500 a year. and you know it.
Mr. Martel: What has changed the government’s mind after those types of statements in two throne speeches and the budget speech? They want it every way, but they can’t have it. They always come back to that line, “Well, the difference between us and you is that you want big government.”
Who has been in power all these years? The minister says we want big government. If the government has a lot of problems, they have been the authors. They have been in power all those years.
Mr. Foulds: Who created big government? You’re the biggest one of them all.
Mr. Martel: They created a whole ministry for him.
Mr. Laughren: That’s big government.
Mr. Martel: It’s big government that can afford to create a ministry to be a PR agency for the line ministries. And the minister gets up here with this nonsense. But tell me why, all of a sudden, these things which were said and announced don’t matter anymore.
Does the minister know where the land is going? Does he know who’s getting the leases --
Mr. Laughren: That’s business.
Mr. Martel: -- or how they’re being transferred from a citizen of Ontario to an American after a year or two? Does he have any monitoring systems?
We paid over $2 million for a select committee on economic nationalism and it included a land study. The government hasn’t paid one iota of recognition to the work done by that select committee. Nothing. It’s just ignored it. In fact, if one listens to the Minister of Industry and Tourism as he gives the bundle away, he flies in the face of the four-year study which says all they want is a portfolio investment, not equity.
There are 21 reports which say that and they’re not all done by the select committee; nine of them were done by Kates, Peat, Marwick.
The government is undercutting any proper development of this province and that’s why we have 325,000 people unemployed; that’s why we have trade deficits galore; that’s why we’re in the lousy mess we’re in.
Mr. Laughren: Put on your clown suit, Leo.
Mr. Martel: I tell the minister he will get up there --
Mr. Laughren: Put on your clown suit, Leo.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: You guys are a bunch of phonies.
Mr. Martel: Phonies? Look at the deficits. Look at the deficits in every field, whether it’s mining equipment, you name it.
Mr. Laughren: You and your wild rice.
Mr. Martel: Whatever field you look at, Mr. Chairman, there’s a trade deficit. And now it’s land. There’s a shortage of land. We knew it in 1971. The thing that led to that study was that the minister couldn’t get a piece of land on Lake Erie --
Hon. Mr. Bernier: Get with reality.
Mr. Martel: -- and he still can’t. We did four years of study, we had all these grand pronouncements and finally, a resolution from the member for Timiskaming. Why didn’t the minister turn around and tell him that he’s in favour of big government? Or his colleague for Algoma-Manitoulin who voted for it? Was he in favour of big government?
Mr. Wildman: Do they not agree with your philosophy?
Mr. Martel: The minister just rambles all over the place. The trouble with engaging in a debate with him is his only argument is a simplistic one. He gets up and says: “All you want is big government. And we have a different philosophy.”
Mr. Laughren: We’re laughing at you, Leo.
Mr. Martel: Why doesn’t he get up and talk about the issues, tell me about these statements and what has changed, and tell me about why he spouts off that it’s just this side of the House when the resolution came from the member for Timiskaming?
Mr. Laughren: That’s right.
Mr. Martel: Tell me about that. Why did the member for Timiskaming move it? Why did the member for Algoma-Manitoulin support it? Because they see the sale of crown land. The member for Algoma-Manitoulin is much closer to the border than the minister is and I suspect now he sees it because his island is predominantly owned by other than Canadians.
Mr. Laughren: He’s nodding in agreement.
Mr. Martel: He understands that and he agrees with the resolution moved by his colleague, the member for Timiskaming. But the minister should tell them, too, that they just think in terms of big government, that there’s a difference between us and them. The minister believes in ownership. Why did they vote for it? Why did they move it?
Why doesn’t he talk about the issue instead of the blustering he always does? I go back a long way with him.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: Who is blustering? Look in the mirror and see who is blustering.
Mr. Martel: I remember talking to him about the whole field of mining and he told me I was all wet. But the Ham commission didn’t say I was all wet, did it? The minister was the only blind one and he continues to be.
Mr. Laughren: Go back to the Ham commission, Leo.
Mr. Martel: Yes, go back.
Mr. Laughren: Hide your head.
Mr. Martel: We’ve always heard --
Mr. Laughren: Go hide your head in shame.
Mr. Martel: -- we’ve always heard his blustering.
Mr. Laughren: You set it up because you were forced to set it up. You were embarrassed into it. You were ashamed.
Mr. Martel: Right. The minister had no option.
Mr. Laughren: You were stunned.
Mr. Martel: And he told me I was all wrong about hearing. The Minister of Labour has now established a committee to look into the whole hearing problem, but I was all wrong.
Interestingly enough, it was a hearing specialist who prepared most of my material. I didn’t know what I was talking about but the hearing specialist did. And how he blustered, “You don’t know what you’re talking about.”
Now there’s a committee doing it. The minister should talk to the issues, tell us about why he’s changed and never mind the blustering about my political philosophy, because it was his colleagues who moved it. And tell me why he’s gone against the vote of this Legislature. Just for once, talk to the issue.
Mr. Laughren: Tell the truth, Leo.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: It’s very simple. The government, in its wisdom, has decided this is the route we’re going to go. This is a responsible government. We’ve decided that a summer cottage lot, which is nothing comparable to the huge landholdings of the member for Algoma-Manitoulin, or the Algoma Central Railroad, it’s nothing compared with that --
Mr. Martel: We’re not talking about that.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: That’s what you’re comparing it with.
Mr. Martel: No, I’m not.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: That’s what you’re comparing it with. That’s what you’re talking about. That’s the fear you’ve got. You would deny an Ontario resident, a Canadian resident, ownership to a summer cottage lot. You would. That’s what you’re doing. You would deny that simple right of an Ontario resident. The government in its wisdom has seen fit and that’s it.
Mr. Martel: They moved it.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: It’s plain and simple. It’s been documented and the route we’re going was in the throne speech. We’re going in that direction because we think it’s the right way. It’s the way to go, too, if you’re going to provide development in northern Ontario and do the things we want in northern Ontario. People would sell their homes before they would sell their summer cottage lots in northern Ontario.
Mr. Laughren: We’re not asking them to.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: It’s there. It’s in place and I think ownership is the right way to go, particularly as it relates to a small summer cottage lot. I’m sure the members sitting behind you agree with that philosophy and not with yours.
Mr. Wildman: I just want to raise one very important matter. The member who sits behind the minister introduced the resolution and the minister is rejecting that.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: Are you against ownership of the summer cottage lots?
Mr. Wildman: I raised with you permanent residence lots and it seems to me ridiculous for you to be selling cottage lots when permanent residents can’t get any residence lots in my area. When you can deal with that, then I’ll talk about cottage lots.
The one problem with what you’re doing with cottage lots and why the ministry was opposed to what the present Treasurer was introducing, is that two years after you sell the lots to the Ontario or Canadian residents, you have absolutely no control over what they do with it. All that has to happen is for some American developer to come in and buy up a whole lot of these lots, develop them, sell them as condominiums or something to nonresidents, and there is nothing you can do about it. If there is something you can do about it, tell me. Tell me how you’re monitoring what is happening with the lots being sold? Are you monitoring?
Hon. Mr. Bernier: The member is totally missing the point. When those summer cottage lots are sold to an Ontario resident, there are certain requirements he must live up to and one is he must expend a certain amount of funds to develop that. That is the economic development and stimulus we want in northern Ontario.
Mr. Wildman: That was also required when you leased it.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: We believe ownership should be supreme, there should be no encumbrances or no encroachments or attachments to that ownership at all.
Mr. Martel: And after two years?
Hon. Mr. Bernier: The Ontario government has always prided itself that when it gives ownership it’s ownership in fee simple. It’s there to use any way you see fit. That’s the type of freedom we look to on this side of the House.
Mr. Martel: You voted for it.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: I’m not answering for them. Let them answer for themselves. They’re big enough to answer for themselves.
Mr. Chairman: Order.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: I’m not going to sit here and answer for them. I’m telling you what the government policy is today. That’s what it is and it’s the right one. You’ll be on the bandwagon in a short period of time supporting that policy.
Mr. Martel: No. I won’t.
Mr. Laughren: Perhaps we should put it in a little bit of perspective. We had a policy in Ontario that was working and that policy was people would lease cottage land, would lease lakefront land. It was working.
Mr. Wildman: It’s just that you weren’t putting enough lots on the market
Mr. Laughren: At the present time, and even in those days, whatever number of lots the Ministry of Natural Resources in northern Ontario put on the market were gobbled up faster than the ministry would put them on the market. There was no question there were not enough lots being sold. There was a lineup. Every time a subdivision on a lake was developed, every time it went to auction. or whatever, the lineup was much greater than the availability of lots. The minister can’t deny that.
Mr. Wildman: They had to have lotteries.
Mr. Laughren: That’s why they had to have lotteries as to who would buy the lots, as to who would get the lots. The minister can’t deny that. If the minister denies that, he is, quite frankly, lying. Everyone knows there are not enough lakefront lots available in northern Ontario to supply the demand by Ontario residents.
Given that, how does the minister justify putting lots on the market that can be sold to nonresidents if there are not enough lots available for Ontario Canadian residents? I don’t know how the minister can justify that. We had a system that made sense.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: It didn’t make sense.
Mr. Laughren: Perhaps the minister could tell us why it didn’t make sense. There was control over the development of lakes. There were not enough lake lots available for Ontario or for any Canadian residents. Yet now the minister is saying we are going to sell them. By doing that -- this is what the minister is saying -- he is admitting he will sell them to Canadian residents who will in turn be free to sell them to American residents. That is what the minister is saying, as though there was not enough demand by Ontario residents for those same lots.
Is he really trying to tell us there are not enough Ontario and Canadian residents who want to buy lakefront lots in Ontario? If he is not saying that, then I wonder what --
Mr. Lane: A point of order, Mr. Chairman: I don’t think cottage lots come under the Minister of Northern Affairs or this vote.
Mr. Laughren: Well, project development.
Mr. Martel: Project development.
Mr. Lane: I don’t think the Ham commission comes under this vote or this ministry either. I would like to know how a minority on the opposite side of the House can force a majority government into bringing in the Ham report.
Mr. Roy: Is he the minister of northern Ontario or is he not?
Hon. Mr. Bernier: Good point.
Mr. Lane: What is wrong? Are there not enough things the Minister of Northern Affairs is responsible for that you can talk to him throughout the evening about his ministry? I think the whole thing is out of order, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Wildman: It says here in the briefing notes under “Project development and implementation” -- 702, item 2 -- that this ministry: “negotiates with other ministries and other levels of government various programs in their cost sharing.” If this is not a government program carried out by another ministry, I don’t know what is. So this should apply here. We can discuss this as a government program and it has been carried out by another ministry.
Mr. Roy: Right. You don’t need a haircut, Bud.
Mr. Laughren: The last thing the member for Algoma needs today is a haircut.
Mr. Lane: I asked for his barber’s name so I wouldn’t go to the same one, but he wouldn’t give me his name.
Mr. Martel: He might take your moustache, John.
Mr. Laughren: It really was unusual for the member for Algoma-Manitoulin, who supported the bill of the member for Timiskaming, to get up and defend the minister who is in trouble on this issue.
The minister had to distort the debate, didn’t he? He is having problems responding to the points made by the opposition.
Mr. Lane: Why don’t we talk about that in Natural Resources when it comes up? I want to talk about that under the proper ministry when it comes up.
Mr. Laughren: This is the proper ministry.
Mr. Chairman: Perhaps the member for Nickel Belt, if he wants to continue, would address his remarks through the chair?
Mr. Laughren: Thank you, Mr. Chairman, I will do that. I would just say the member for Algoma-Manitoulin surely was being facetious when he said the government in a majority situation would not have set up the Ham commission because of pressure by the opposition.
Perhaps the member for Algoma-Manitoulin is feeling somewhat guilty about his own role in the plight of miners of Elliot Lake, because that happens to be in his riding. He should hide his head in shame, and so should the Minister of Northern Affairs. You both played roles shameful for a member of the government, and you know it. That is why you brought in the Ham commission, and you know it.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: You have stopped more jobs in northern Ontario, that gang of yours --
Mr. Laughren: We have saved more lives too.
Mr. Foulds: What jobs have you created? Name one that we stopped. Name one.
Mr. Chairman: Order. Order. Could the honourable minister and the member for Port Arthur contain themselves and listen to the member for Nickel Belt?
Mr. Laughren: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Perhaps in your role as chairman, you could tell us first of all which party has formed the government for the last 35 years. Secondly, could you say what number of those years there’s been a minority government and how it is that the minister can blame a minority situation -- particularly the third party -- for costing jobs in northern Ontario when it’s his government that’s the architect of misfortune in northern Ontario? As a matter of fact the chamber of commerce in Sudbury put it all together when they described the role of this government as a profile in failure.
If anybody personifies that, it’s the Minister of Northern Affairs, formerly Minister of Natural Resources. The Minister of Northern Affairs is not serving northern Ontario well, and he is not serving the province as a whole well, when he will take a program that is --
Mr. Lane: That’s not a fact and you know it.
Mr. Laughren: He is the minister of red tape for northern Ontario. That’s all he is.
Mr. Lane: That party is always crying about what it didn’t get and it wants a good piece of Northern Affairs, and it is getting a good piece of --
Mr. Chairman: Order, order.
Mr. Lane: I raised a point of order a while ago saying this is not the vote we’re on and it’s not the minister we’re on. Are you going to rule on it or not?
Mr. Chairman: Order, order.
Mr. Lane: Are you going to rule on the point of order or not?
Mr. Chairman: Order, order.
Mr. Roy: You’re very close to contempt, John.
Mr. Chairman: I appreciate the comment made by the honourable member and the point of order. We are now doing the estimates of the Ministry of Northern Affairs, item 702-2, project development and implementation. I believe if the minister in reply wishes to state that he has nothing to do with it, I’d be very happy to hear that.
Mr. Bolan: Wait your turn, John.
Mr. Laughren: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Perhaps the next time the member for Algoma-Manitoulin feels the need to intervene he could tell us why he supported the bill by the member for Timiskaming in the first place.
Mr. Chairman: Perhaps the honourable member would return to the estimates.
Mr. Laughren: Yes, Mr. Chairman, I am asking you if you could ask the member for Algoma-Manitoulin if he could explain to the Legislature why it is that he felt compelled to support the member for Timiskaming --
Mr. Lane: I’m going to talk about that in the Ministry of Natural Resources.
Mr. Laughren: -- because it is a policy that affects northern Ontario in particular, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Lane: I’m going to talk about it when the proper ministry is before us.
Mr. Foulds: You’re in good form tonight.
Mr. Laughren: It’s with a great deal of restraint that I confine my remarks and make them as brief as I have.
The Minister of Northern Affairs has not done his job. He is supposed to be a coordinating ministry. When we as sitting members talk to the other ministries of the government and we mention Northern Affairs to them, they all shrivel up and --
Mr. Roy: Do they smile?
Mr. Laughren: They either laugh or they shrivel up.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: You would like to believe that.
Mr. Laughren: The other ministries just feel that the Ministry of Northern Affairs is nothing but an impediment to the development of northern Ontario.
Mr. Roy: And they say, “ah yes, sure.”
Mr. Laughren: Because quite frankly, all of the policies over which the Minister of Northern Affairs has any kind of say are already in place in other ministries of the government.
There’s no better example of how this minister is selling out northern Ontario than in his policy with lots on lakefronts. He sold out the mineral and lumber resources of northern Ontario and now he has moved into a position where he can sell out the lakefront lots of northern Ontario.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: Mr. Chairman, I’ve said it before, and I’m going to say it again about the attitude of the member for Nickel Belt, the bell rings loud and clear. It’s been ringing that way since the last election.
Mr. Laughren: Put on your clown suit, Leo.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: Northern Ontario was the playground of the NDP. It was their bastion, it was their political base in northern Ontario.
Mr. Wildman: The bell tolls for the Conservative government.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: They said, “We have things under control; they’re all socialists up in northern Ontario; they belong to us; they belong to the NDP; we’re going to take over and we’re going to form the government from that northern Ontario base.” Right?
Mr. Laughren: Answer the questions.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: That’s what you thought. What happened after the last election? The government formed the Ministry of Northern Affairs.
Mr. Roy: What do you mean?
Hon. Mr. Bernier: We took some action. We answered the needs of northern Ontario. We got input from northerners; we responded to their requests. We came back with three seats.
Mr. Bolan: I represent two.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: You are not. I can tell you right now that you will lose two more seats in northern Ontario at the next election.
Mr. Martel: Oh, yes.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: I won’t tell you. You know.
Mr. Foulds: Do you want to place a little bet on that?
Hon. Mr. Bernier: No. The Liberal Party now has two seats and I think we will leave them with two. We should have a little opposition, but you will lose two more.
Mr. Roy: We’re going to get more, when we’ve got quality members like we’ve got.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: The base is gone. You know it and I know it.
Mr. Laughren: Answer the question. Always the clown.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: The old political base, that old attitude that you people had about northern Ontario being in your hip pocket, is not there any more, fellows, it is gone.
Mr. Foulds: It is not in your hip pocket, either.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: No, it is not in mine. It is gone.
Mr. Chairman: Order, order. I would like to remind the members --
Hon. Mr. Bernier: You’re going to bleed a lot more before we are finished with you.
Mr. Chairman: I would like to remind the members that we have an hour and 15 minutes.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: I just want to say what our role is -- pardon me?
Mr. Martel: Back to the issue now. It’s crown land, if you’ve forgotten.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: You had to hear that; you wanted to hear that.
Mr. Ashe: Tell him for 15 minutes and call it a night.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: Our role is simply to co-ordinate and to bring to the attention of other ministries the specific needs, the unique needs of northern Ontario residents. Certainly our efforts in working very closely with the Ministry of Natural Resources as it relates to the development of summer cottage lots won’t be all on the waterfront. They won’t be all on the waterfront. They can’t be.
Mr. Laughren: Why sell to the Americans then?
Hon. Mr. Bernier: We believe in your concept of cluster development I think that makes sense. No question about that. We will provide funds from our budget for the development of properly planned summer cottage subdivisions that relate to the lake, after a lake survey has been taken.
We are not going to repeat the problems of Lake Simcoe or Lake Erie in northern Ontario -- not at all; we don’t intend to do that. But there is still lots of room for development of summer cottage lots --
Mr. Martel: We are not saying there isn’t.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: -- and selling them to residents of Ontario and residents of Canada.
Mr. Laughren: Oh, that’s a red herring. That’s not what you are selling to the Americans.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: There is no problem with that. I have no difficulty living with it and neither do the residents of northern Ontario.
Mr. Haggerty: I want to address myself to vote 702, item 2. The explanatory note says: “The activities include the financial and program planning branch in Toronto and the regional and community development branches in Sudbury and Thunder Bay that perform the following functions,” and it gives six or seven items there.
My concern is about the first sentence I quoted here, “The activities include the financial and program planning branch in Toronto.” That doesn’t leave much for the northern communities to have some voice in the directions in which these communities want to grow and develop, and particularly as it relates, as the member for Nickel Belt said, to job creation.
It goes on to say about one of the other areas “to explore and undertake, where feasible, projects relating to the expansion of the economic base of the region.”
For some time now, Mr. Chairman, I have directed questions to the Ministry of Industry and Tourism and the Ministry of Natural Resources, trying to get some definite answer in the matter of the Ministry of Natural Resources’ report called A Nickel Policy for Ontario. There have been a number of proposals in that study and recommendation. One was to encourage the importation of Inco subsidiaries’ technical and nickel manufacturing expertise acquired through recent diversifications and not now employed in Canada, for the purpose of creating new industry and employment in Sudbury and perhaps in other areas throughout northwestern Ontario.
Just what steps has the ministry taken in this particular area to diversify the industry in the Sudbury basin and other nickel towns in Ontario, as to what directions have you given to Inco. and perhaps even to Falconbridge, to say that they must take further steps to refine or process other precious metals that arise out of the mining operations in the Sudbury basin?
This is a matter that was discussed I think in some detail during the select committee dealing with the Inco layoff. With the present situation as it is up in the Sudbury basin now, I thought perhaps the ministry had ample time to come through with an economic study of that particular area, as it relates to the present labour dispute that has continued for some nine months. This, I suppose, should never have happened in the first place, but I don’t think the government or even the Ministry of Labour has been very effective in getting a settlement to that labour dispute.
Surely, now, there should be an economic study made in the Sudbury basin as to what impact the strike has had on that community and what impact this proposed nickel policy will have on communities in northern Ontario. I think it is long overdue in this particular area.
We, on this side, would like to know just what direction this government is proposing to take in this area of encouraging further mining processing in Ontario. It has been an issue that has been kicked around here for a number of years and I think it is time for this government to state in which direction they are heading; what new employment we can expect in northern Ontario. Could the minister reply to some of those questions and perhaps give us some clearcut direction as to which way the government is moving?
Hon. Mr. Bernier: Mr. Chairman, I might say this matter has been discussed at some length in the earlier part of the examination of my ministry’s estimates. But I would be glad to review some of the things we are doing in the Sudbury area.
Just to review: The 2001 conference that followed the layoffs at the Inco plant last fall was by local initiative, with representatives brought together at the local level, whereby they would look at some diversification of their economic base. They required a certain amount of seed money. The member will recall the Premier himself went to Sudbury and met with delegates of the 2001 conference. I think it was a two- or three-day conference held at the university. I was pleased to attend the conference with the Premier. At that time he announced $600,000 would be allocated over a three-year period for that local group to look at their problems, to bring the community together, in one direction and try to work on some diversification of their economic base. That is moving ahead.
In fact, the member for Sudbury and my colleague, the Minister of Government Services (Mr. Henderson) have just returned from the Sudbury basin where they were looking at the Burwash site for a development that may occur as a spinoff from the 2001 conference and that could employ up to 200 people in a field other than mining. That is well underway, that is moving ahead.
We are subsidizing the development of an industrial park in the Sudbury basin known as the Walden Industrial Park. In previous years we have invested well over S2 million in it; this year $752,000 is allocated in these estimates for the further development of Walden Industrial Park.
In addition to that we have commissioned a study, again working with the people of the regional municipality of Sudbury, to look at import substitution. The local people felt there were many products and items being used in the Sudbury basin and that whole general area, that could be grown or manufactured right in their area. That study is moving ahead right now. We think there is good potential, because of the large population in the Sudbury area, to diversify the economic base. I must say that I am confident, with local involvement and local initiative, we will achieve some goals there.
In connection with the controls of the export of raw ores, we have, under section 13 of the Mining Act, if I recall correctly, certain restrictions as to what one can export, where one can export --
Mr. Haggerty: Exemptions, too.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: Yes, certain exemptions are allowed after very careful examination, of course, of that application. Also, of course, the member is very much aware of the 30 per cent incentive under the Mining Tax Act that saw the development of Texasgulf at Timmins. He will recall very vividly the former member for Cochrane South standing up and going counter to his own colleagues on that particular issue. He wanted it; he knew what it meant to have that massive development by Texasgulf.
Mr. Foulds: That’s one seat we’re going to win back next time, too. Your member isn’t going to hold it.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: We have fun kidding him about that. Every time I see him I remind him of it. It depends where you’re sitting, but he felt very uncomfortable during those discussions. Nevertheless, Texasgulf is going there and putting in further diversification of the development to refine it’s ores in the Timmins area. The steel-rolling mill in Sudbury is also moving ahead; Inco is developing one there.
To go back to my earlier comments, the free enterprise system is at work. If there is a dollar to be made, if there is profit to be made as it compares to other world manufacturers, I am sure we will get them there, through tax incentives and other incentives. Now that my colleague the Ministry of Industry and Tourism has come forward with the Employment Development Fund, I think we will see further activity in northern Ontario to broaden and diversify our economic base there.
Mr. Haggerty: Mr. Chairman, I appreciate the minister’s comments. But the question I was directing to him was about the nickel policy. One of the recommendations by the minister’s task force was that there should be a platinum refinery in Canada or in Ontario, and that relates to precious metals. Has the minister had any discussion with Inco or Falconbridge to tell them that they must manufacture more of their finished products here in Canada?
In Huntington, Virginia, Inco has a large research centre. Inco also has a battery company in the United States. We did not derive much benefit from the capital that left Canada to help purchase that battery company. We did not gain any jobs out of that; they all occurred in the United States.
All I am trying to convey to the minister is that it is time he sat down with Inco, or with any of the nickel companies in Ontario, and started to lay down some policy to them; to tell them that they must create additional jobs here in Ontario. I am sure we are going to find out, after the strike is settled, that Inco is not going to employ the 12,000 workers it had prior to the strike.
Mr. Bolan: It is going to go down to 9,000.
Mr. Haggerty: Yes. They will end up with about 9,000. A similar situation has occurred at Port Colborne, where they have had labour disputes over the years; employment has dropped considerably. I suggest to the minister that we are going to have problems in the Sudbury area. One can see it coming; if one follows all the testimony before the select committee, one can see that what the company wanted originally was a reduction in manpower there.
I can pretty well guess that what is going to ‘happen after the labour dispute in Sudbury is settled is that there will not be 12,000 employees there, but 9,000. I think the company has got what it wanted from this strike. I hope it does not happen, but it is almost a sure thing, if I correctly interpret the testimony before the committee. I suggest to the minister that it is time somebody gave some direction to Inco. They cannot call all the shots here. Government is going to have to take some action in this particular area.
The minister’s report is called A Nickel Policy for Ontario, and I would like to see something definite come out of that. The people in that area are looking for some direction from the government. I suppose that was their hope, that the government was working in this area.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: Mr. Chairman, A Nickel Policy for Ontario is a Ministry of Natural Resources document. I am not aware where it stands at this time as to being totally accepted by the government. The member might direct that question to the Minister of Natural Resources (Mr. Auld).
Mr. Haggerty: You’re the policy man there.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: No, I’m not a policy man, no, it’s a co-ordinating ministry; I’m not setting policy. I want to make that very, very clear. We don’t set government policy. We do it as a government.
Mr. Haggerty: Are you a consultant, Leo?
Hon. Mr. Bernier: Very much so. I had discussions with the Inco people and the Falconbridge people when I had responsibility for the Ministry of Natural Resources. I had discussions with them on a very regular basis, doing just what you’re suggesting, trying to lean on them as strongly as we could to have them refine -- of course, they are refining -- and maybe even fabricate more ores in Ontario.
But I have to say to you -- and I’ve said it before -- that the world is getting smaller and smaller and smaller. As the Third World becomes more developed, as more of the technology and the expertise has become known to them, competition increases. I personally have certain reservations as to what will happen when the 700 million people in China start looking around their backyard when it comes to the development of their country. And it’s going to happen. There’s just no question.
We’ve seen what’s happened in Guatemala. We’ve seen what’s happened in Australia, in South America -- all these places where they have large, rich mineral deposits are now being developed. We’re producing the same amount of nickel as we were several years ago. At that time we had 95 per cent of the world production.
Mr. Wildman: Except that Inco is developing those ore deposits.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: But what’s happened is now the world is using more nickel and they’re getting that nickel from some other place.
Mr. Foulds: Developed at our expense.
Mr. Wildman: With our taxpayers’ money.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: That’s the worldwide situation. We can’t bury our heads in the sand and say, “We’re rich in resources: you’ve got to come to us for those resources.” They don’t have to come to us any more. There are resources all around the world.
Mr. Foulds: That’s because of 35 years of your government.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: Japan has proved that. They don’t have to come to Canada to get their nickel supply.
Mr. Foulds: They go to Inco in other places.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: I think we have to broaden our outlook. I think we have to become specialists in certain fields. I have a certain amount of feeling for the member for Sudbury East when he says we should be specialists, say, in mining equipment development. I have to agree with that. I don’t argue with that. I think that’s the kind of thing we should become specialists in.
We’ve seen what’s happened in Japan. They’re specialists in the electronics field, which we can’t even touch. Other nations are specialists in their field. As Canadians that’s the route we should be going, and we’re going to have to go that route.
Mr. Roy: Can I get in on this vote?
Mr. Deputy Chairman: This is in connection with vote 702, item 2.
Mr. McClellan: Ask him about the Ottawa courthouse.
Mr. Roy: Yes, Mr. Chairman. Just in case some of my colleagues think I don’t know what I’m talking about, I want to tell you that first of all --
Mr. McClellan: I’ve never heard you talk about anything else.
Mr. Roy: -- when you’re talking about the north, I come from some place in Saskatchewan that’s as far north as the communities you represent. I had the fortunate experience -- the minister will be interested in this -- as a law student to be working up in Dryden. Right in your own riding. I think I’ve talked to you about that. I worked my summers up there.
Mr. Foulds: Dryden has never recovered from it.
Mr. Roy: I stand here not to be overly political towards this minister. And I won’t make any accusations that you were named minister strictly for political reasons -- I won’t say that. I have said it on other occasions, but I won’t say it here this evening.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: What did you say? I didn’t hear that.
Mr. Roy: What I do want to discuss with the minister is an area of the north which he represents, and that’s the town of Dryden, and the unfortunate situation -- the existing situation, I suppose -- with Reed Limited.
I want to tell you while I worked in Dryden I worked in the pulp and paper plant and then I worked in the back in the chemical plant for a summer and a half. At that time -- this was back in 1964-65 -- I used to look around with a certain amount of concern. Pollution and the environment was not the issue it is today, but as we used to walk out of the plant I was aware of the smell when the wind was the wrong direction over the town of Dryden. But more important, we used to look at that pipe that was gushing out the waste into the Wabigoon River, at the suds and the colour of the water; and then you would look at the Wabigoon River and follow along and see it was dead all the way through.
Unfortunately, I suppose the blame cannot be attributed to any particular level of government because this has been going on now for a number of years. People had not realized the effects of it, but nevertheless it seems to me that certainly the people involved with Reed paper company had some knowledge of the damage they were causing.
What I want to know from the minister is, having seen the waste, having seen the pollution, and having seen over the past years the approach taken by Reed -- and we’ve seen it again recently when they were talking about the fact that if you enforced pollution controls, if you force them into a situation where they have to meet deadlines to clean up their act sort of thing, there is that threat of closing down, of shutting down the town of Dryden. There is always that implied threat: “If the criteria are too stringent we can’t operate; and if we can’t operate of course you’re leaving Dryden open, because there is very little industry that could take up the slack from Dryden.”
I want to ask the minister this, having in mind this implied threat, and having in mind that just recently the government turned down a request for funds -- I don’t know what the funds were for --
Mr. Bolan: Funny money.
Mr. Roy: Yes, we can call it funny money. Possibly we could supply it with my leader’s application form, which I thought was right on for this type of project.
Having in mind that this has been turned down, what is the situation in Dryden? I would think this would be an area that not only as the minister of the north but as a member for that area, he could tell us whether the people of Dryden are still living in fear of this plant announcing somewhere down the line that they’re shutting down operations. That’s the first thing I want to know.
Second, I want to know what steps did you take as minister of the north, and as member for that area, to attempt to diversify the economy of an area like Dryden? What alternatives have been proposed? Do you have any plans in mind about bringing other businesses or other plants or something else to replace it?
Hon. Mr. Snow: A new courthouse.
Mr. Roy: A new courthouse? Well this minister being from the south doesn’t realize that it’s not a county town, Dryden is missing that. The new courthouse is Ottawa, Jim: that’s where we need it.
So could the minister tell us if there are any plans to cushion the blow should that happen? What steps have been taken so that the people of Dryden -- and I have to say, Mr. Chairman, that they’re fine people, they’re industrious.
Hon. Mr. Snow: How would you know?
Mr. Roy: How would I know? I lived there for two summers, that’s how I know. I got to meet people there.
Hon. Mr. Snow: Did you speak frankly?
Mr. Roy: I wasn’t afraid of going up there, Jim.
Hon. Mr. Snow: They don’t call me Jacques Neige.
Mr. Roy: They don’t call you Jacques Neige? No. they wouldn’t recognize you up there. They wouldn’t recognize you. They wouldn’t know that you were a big-shot in Toronto. In Dryden they’re all the same, everybody is treated the same way.
I want to ask the minister what he can tell us. Certainly that’s part of this vote. What can you tell us about the situation in a town like Dryden? What steps did you take, first of all to assure that the implied threat by Reed paper does not unduly jeopardize the existence of that town? Second, what steps have been taken so that diversification can take place?
I understand that they’re far from the markets. I understand the problem is that you just can’t be moving a General Motors plant up there. It’s not that easy. But nevertheless Dryden is a thriving community. It’s a good area to be living in. What steps are being taken to encourage industry to locate in that area?
Hon. Mr. Bernier: I am particularly pleased the member for Ottawa East has taken such an interest in northern Ontario and in Dryden. I welcome his input and his concern. It is a real concern to me both as the Minister of Northern Affairs and the local member responsible for that area, one who has been around for many years, long enough to see the great pipe to which you refer.
I can recall when Dryden had about 2,000 people. We used to play hockey against the town of Dryden; I came from the little town of Hudson. In fact, right after the Second World War the hockey team from Hudson on occasion used to beat the hockey team from Dryden, Dryden was that small.
Mr. Roy: They used to call them the Flying Frenchmen in those days.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: When you think of it, that mill has existed since 1913; it has been in existence some 60-odd years, and I don’t think there is another pulp mill in Ontario that has had its ups and downs and financial problems. Every type of problem that can beset an industry has certainly come to that mill at Dryden.
You mentioned the Employment Development Fund being denied the Reed paper company. As the Minister of Industry and Tourism pointed out, the application they submitted did not meet the criteria and the criteria were clearly spelled out in his answer to the Legislature.
Your leader just returned from a visit to the great town of Dryden.
Mr. Foulds: Did he really?
Hon. Mr. Bernier: Yes.
Mr. Foulds: Did he get lost?
Hon. Mr. Bernier: I don’t think the honourable member has to worry about his political future if Stuart Smith goes to his riding, I can assure him of that.
Mr. Foulds: No, I didn’t even hear of the visit.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: I don’t think he made any political impact in my riding. It was a learning exercise.
Mr. Roy: Don’t be too sure. I can remember when we had a Liberal member in your riding.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: You can? Can you remember that far back?
Mr. Roy: That’s right. When I was in Dryden we had a Liberal member.
Mr. Foulds: They almost lost the federal member up there.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: There have been some good Liberal members, personal friends of mine, both of them.
I don’t think he made a great impact. In fact his suggestion was that the government should put in the pollution control equipment at the Reed paper company.
Can you imagine what that would do? Every pulp mill in the country would be lined up at Frank Miller’s door and at Harry Parrott’s door, instead of going the route the government is going, saying, “Look, meet the criteria we have laid out to you. We will give you incentives. Use your dollars for modernization; use your dollars up to a one-to-three basis for the development of pollution control measures which are required.”
Nobody has yet to my knowledge really recognized what that company has put into pollution control programs. I think it is close to $20 million in the last few years. You don’t get the fallout in Dryden that you used to get on your car. I don’t know if you remember that. You would park your car and it was all covered with snowflakes. Well, that has gone.
The smell to which you refer has been cut in half. They have worked on it. The pipe has gone from the Wabigoon River; you don’t see that any more. There is no foam on the river as there used to be. They are working on the primary settlement basin behind the plant. There is work going on but you don’t hear anything about that; that doesn’t make news; that doesn’t make a headline.
If there is one town that is down and which everyone wants to shove down further it is the town of Dryden. I think the time has come to put a stop to it. I say that in all sincerity. I don’t think the people in the town of Dryden want to hear any more about their mill. They are the most loyal employees you will find anywhere in the province.
As you correctly pointed out, they are industrious and friendly. They will always be that way. One community in my riding I love going to is the town of Dryden. They are a young group, they are vibrant. They love their community and they love their mill. Don’t ever forget that. The resources committee is going out next week and they will get that loud and clear -- that the feeling the employees have for their mill is something outstanding.
They want to do everything they can. They are aware of the pollution problems. Like everyone else they are aware there is a problem there. Like anybody else, they would like to get it cleaned up. They also realize there are certain financial problems, there are certain economic limits that must be maintained and lived up to which that company is trying to do. I am not here defending the Reed paper company, I want to make that very clear, but I will stand and defend the town of Dryden until the end.
You ask what we are doing to look to the future. We don’t think there is a crisis at stake with regard to the town of Dryden, because that mill will always operate. I am firmly convinced of that.
Mr. Roy: That’s not what Reed says.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: It’s going to operate, because if the Reed paper company doesn’t operate it somebody else will. The resources are there; all the ingredients are there to maintain that plant. They are located right in the middle of the resources -- timber limits are on the north, south, east and west. It’s ideally situated. The transportation routes are ideal. They have energy; the gas line goes right through the town of Dryden. They have electrical power from their own dam and from Ontario Hydro. Most important of all, they have a solid, sound labour force; a loyal labour force. They’ve got all the ingredients and the markets are there. You don’t have to be a mathematician or a genius to figure out that mill will operate.
I would hope the resources committee would come back and be realistic when they look at the problems facing that particular plant, given it is two or three years in a 66-year period. Is that going to stop the world? Is that going to stop the world if we allow them a little more time?
Mr. Foulds: Have you talked to your colleague, the Minister of the Environment, about that?
Hon. Mr. Bernier: Yes, I have. He knows my feelings -- and we may differ. I say that right here, we may differ. He has a job to do and I respect his responsibilities. I always will and I would not want to interfere or force him to change. But I do think in this instance we have to be very realistic and positive about it and take what you refer to as the cloud away from the town of Dryden. Let’s get on with the job.
The town of Dryden has a great future. If you know the geography of northwestern Ontario, you know Dryden is situated geographically in the heart of northwestern Ontario. It is fast becoming the hub of northwestern Ontario in the field of transportation.
The jet port is being developed. Nordair goes in there, as the Minister of Transportation and Communications points out, on a regular basis. In fact, you can leave Toronto tomorrow morning, be in Dryden all day, take a Nordair plane tomorrow evening and be back the same day. That’s excellent service and it’s because of that excellent jet port.
That airport has been developed through the initiative of the local people. They saw the opportunity, the seized the opportunity and they ran with it. They’ve done one tremendous job in developing that jet port. Thousands of people go through the Dryden airport on an annual basis. It was stunning to the Air Canada officials when they looked at the number of passengers coming to and going out of Dryden. They couldn’t believe the numbers.
Mr. Roy: What’s the flight, Toronto-Dryden-Winnipeg?
Hon. Mr. Bernier: There is one flight which is routed Toronto-Dryden-Thunder Bay-Sault Ste. Marie-Toronto. It goes right through. I think there’s another one that goes Toronto-Thunder Bay-Dryden-Winnipeg.
Mr. Roy: That’s Nordair.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: Yes, it’s Nordair. It’s excellent service and they are using 737s on a daily basis.
There are things we’ve done in the area other than the development of the jet port. Natural Resources has spent a considerable amount of money in developing a land base for their Tracker aircraft to fight forest fires in the area.
We built a new provincial building in Dryden. Those members who will go up next week will see that magnificent new provincial government edifice that houses a number of ministries and services the entire area.
We’re also going to complete and open up this year the new road that will link Fort Frances with Dryden. That again, will put another spoke into the wheel of transportation into the town of Dryden.
Dryden, of all communities in northwestern Ontario, has an extremely bright future. In fact, last year alone their building permits topped $9 million which was the highest for any community in northwestern Ontario. It’s been like that for the last two or three years. The faith of the entire area is in the town of Dryden. I think it’s up to us in the Legislature to go along with that faith and support the local people as much as we can.
So I have no qualms or fears about the future of Dryden. The plant will operate and the resources are there. Let’s get on with the job of developing and keeping those jobs in place.
Mr. Roy: I am pleased to hear of the bright prospects for the town of Dryden. Having listened to the minister, however, if what he says is a fact about the mill in Dryden, that it will continue to operate, the resources are there, the markets are there and the work force is there, then in such circumstances how is it that this company can sort of threaten the government and say, “If you try to force us too quickly with your pollution controls, we will shut down?” How can that have any impact? Doesn’t the approach taken by my leader who says, “Either we lend you the money or we put in those things and you pay for it on the long term” make sense?
If the economic future is there and if the mill is going to continue to operate viably and economically, why can’t the pollution be stopped? I appreciate that progress has been made, but you know as well as I do they have a long way to go. The disaster that has been caused in that area is probably the worst in the whole of Canada, unfortunately. I don’t say that about it gloatingly, or take any special satisfaction in saying it, but it is a fact.
Considering the pollution still going on there, how can Reed be threatening the community by saying, “If the government is too tough with us we will close down”? According to what you are saying that is a bluff. Why doesn’t the government -- and I understand the position of the Minister of the Environment -- come down a bit harder and have them meet pollution controls?
As you say, everything is there for them to continue. In the long term, the markets are there and they are going to be able to pay for it. What they are doing is trying to bluff their way out of something. I find that sad considering as you say, the future prospects of a town like Dryden.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: I want to make it very clear the present company that operates the Dryden mill has never, to my knowledge, threatened the government or the town of Dryden with closure.
Mr. Roy: What the hell did they do in committee one year ago?
Mr. Hennessy: Watch your language. That’s bad language.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: No, they did not say that.
Mr. Wildman: They said that they wanted to sell it.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: They never said they would close. They have made that statement a dozen times.
Mr. Roy: It was a very subtle threat.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: They have clearly stated they have no intention of doing that. They have never threatened the government or the town with closure. What they want is a reasonable length of time to put the pollution control equipment in place. The Minister of the Environment has said 1982. Well, 1979 has gone now, so 1982 has gone by the board.
They are saying, “Give us until 1985. We think that is a more realistic time by which we can do it and we may be able to do it with our own resources. We don’t need government resources.”
To me, it is so simple. I don’t know what the argument is about, except --
Mr. Roy: I do know. The longer they pollute, the worse it is.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: I know, but they have been there 66 years. The trouble is that it has now got into a political battle. With all due respect, I think we have to accept that once it gets into the hands of the politicians. Sometimes we all play politics, and pollution is a good issue. Inco is a good issue as it relates to pollution. Reed is a good issue as it relates to pollution. You may make some marks.
Mr. Bolan: It was the politicians who created the problem in the first place by not doing anything about it when they could have.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: It is easy to say that. With hindsight it is easy to point.
Mr. Bolan: The facts speak for themselves on that.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: I remember when I first got into politics, we had a town debate in the town of Dryden. I will tell you if you spoke against that mill you were in trouble in that community.
It has to be eased in and it has been eased in. That is the point I was trying to make. A lot of progress has been made. Even in the town of Dryden, with the new sewage treatment plant and the water treatment plant, they have been working on it. I think it is time to get off their backs. It is time to get off that community’s back --
Mr. Roy: We are not on the town’s back; we are on the mill’s back.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: -- and give them a fair length of time to do the job. That mill has been unique in Ontario in its ups and downs, to which I referred, in a number of different areas. It is so far from the markets and there are a number of problems related to it. Given a reasonable length of time, without government or taxpayers’ resources, I think they can do it themselves,
Mr. Deputy Chairman: This is item 2, vote 702. It seems to me we can probably discuss the same thing on vote 703, item 1, regardless of what it is.
Mr. Wildman: It seems to me that the minister made a number of comments just now more in his capacity as the member for the area than as a minister of the crown and Minister of Northern Affairs. What we have seen in this whole debate on Dryden. when the Minister of the Environment referred the question to the resources development committee and then appeared before the committee, as did Reed, is that the Minister of the Environment made clear that his 1982 date was predicated upon the fact that the Treasurer was making funds available. Since there were funds available, in terms of what resources the company had itself and the length of time the government was giving them, he felt he didn’t have to consider what Reed had to say. Reed was saying it could do it itself by 1985 perhaps. But the Minister of the Environment said, “That doesn’t matter. We want it done by 1982 and we don’t have to take into account your arguments because there is money available from the Treasurer’s program.”
Then Reed goes back and says, “All right, if that is the position of the government, we will make a proposal.” They make a proposal and the Minister of Industry and Tourism denies it.
What we have is two positions from the cabinet on that. We have the Minister of the Environment saying he doesn’t have to worry about the financial problems because there is money available and that he himself isn’t concerned with the criteria. Then we have the Minister of Industry and Tourism coming along and saying, “No, you can’t have the money because what you are proposing doesn’t fit into the criteria.” Now we have a third position from the member for the area, who gets up and says, “We should look at 1985 because the company says it can do it, perhaps with its own resources, by 1985. What are a few more years?”
It seems to me we have three positions from the cabinet, much less three positions in the committee, to deal with. When we get that straightened out maybe, we will get the whole matter straightened out for Dryden. Frankly, I am not sure this has anything to do with the estimates. I would like to see this vote pass.
Mr. Deputy Chairman: Let the minister reply and do his best to keep it to the point.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: In defence of the Minister of the Environment, who I am sure can defend himself very ably, the company just didn’t qualify. That is important because the Minister of Industry and Tourism is handling taxpayers’ dollars. If the ministry has established certain criteria to which companies must conform to qualify and if this company hasn’t qualified, then it is obvious there is nothing he can do but to deny that request. There is nothing that says the company can’t come back with another proposal. The Minister of the Environment is correct in saying, “There is a program in place. Qualify for it.” The Minister of Industry and Tourism says, “Look at your original application. This application, as presented to us, does not qualify. If you want to re-apply, that’s fine.”
There is no split in the thrust. There is no difference. I think we are all headed in the same direction.
Item 2 agreed to.
Vote 702 agreed to.
On vote 703, northern communities assistance program; item 1, community priorities:
Mr. Bolan: Speeding along, Mr. Chairman, as we have been for the past few days debating these estimates, I want to mention two areas. One of them is municipal infrastructure, the Sturgeon Falls water supply. Could the minister bring us up to date on that please?
He may recall that a water study was done of that area. He may also recall that we had some correspondence with him over the fact that they ran out of water this winter. He may recall when the pipes froze underneath the bridge they were out of water for some time. I must say the ministry office in North Bay was instrumental in providing immediate assistance from the armed forces, who were able to bring in the necessary pumps and what have you to try to remedy the situation. I would like to know what the minister proposes to do as far as assisting the community in these repairs.
While we are dealing with this vote, I notice “resource development,” “conservation authority,” under the heading of “list of major projects.” The minister might want to look into or consult with the Ministry of Natural Resources about setting up a conservation authority for the Sturgeon River. Did the minister know there is none? If there had been monitoring of the entire system, including the three dams that are operated by Ontario Hydro along that system, some of the damage might have been alleviated -- I am not saying it would have -- but it is definitely an area that should have that kind of authority.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: Mr. Chairman, the question of the improvement of the Sturgeon Falls water distribution system is something that is on our table at the present time. I have to say to the honourable member that the former Solicitor General of Canada’s mother, Mrs. Blais, who is an excellent councillor in Sturgeon Falls, was most adamant on the basis of information from her son that the Department of Regional Economic Expansion was going to come in and help Sturgeon Falls. She had it right from Ottawa, right from the chief himself.
We did some investigating and kept hearing that DREE was not interested in Sturgeon Falls. But Mrs. Blais kept coming around, saying, “My son said DREE was interested and would help. Jean-Jacques Blais said so.” We kept going around in circles for about six months to a year; then, finally, the information from our staff was proved to be correct in that DREE was not interested in doing anything for Sturgeon Falls.
Mr. Bolan: But you spent some money to make a study of the requirements.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: Yes, we spent some money; we have $150,000 in this year’s budget for Sturgeon Falls which I think will complete the engineering study. We are also working very closely with the Ministry of the Environment with regard to the management by results rating. Apparently their MBR rating is exceptionally low, and the Ministry of the Environment has gone back to look at their needs.
Quite frankly, in discussions with the mayor there, who is a very able fellow, he has pointed out to me his problems on a number of occasions. I am very sympathetic; he has a serious problem. If I had my druthers, of course, we would get on with it very quickly. I have indicated to him that I will be back to him within the near future as to an answer to his request in the hope that we can get something started this year.
Mr. Bolan: What about the conservation authority?
Hon. Mr. Bernier: I am glad the member mentioned that. As recently as this morning we had a meeting with the Field forest industries to discuss their future in the community of Field. The proposal that Mr. Jack Hope presented to the cabinet committee was very positive, very fair and realistic, and it will be dealt with at cabinet tomorrow.
I can give the member some assurance, from my own point of view, that that industry will remain. There will be some assistance for them. To what extent, I cannot say at this time. But the Ministry of Natural Resources has reassured them as to their timber supply. They are not interested in relocating the plant, because they think they can sustain flooding up to a certain height -- it will not interfere with their operations -- on a periodic basis. To suffer through that would be cheaper in the long run than relocating the mill entirely.
We strongly feel as a committee -- and there were four or five ministers there -- that if we are going to spend public funds in relocating the community, we have to have jobs for those people. Just like night follows day, they are needed; so there will be some positive results come out of that meeting.
One discussion that took place was about the idea of more co-ordination with regard to the watershed area. They pointed out to us that Ontario Hydro was involved, the Ministry of Natural Resources was involved, the federal government was involved in Lake Nipissing, and there was no real co-ordinating authority, and that a conservation authority might well be the vehicle for all those things. The Minister of Natural Resources has clearly indicated to them that was one area he was going to look into, because apparently a number of dams had been let deteriorate over the years and the problem may be attributed to that. That issue is right at hand.
Mr. Wildman: In relation to that, I would point out as well that the same situation exists in the Mississagi watershed and in the Goulais River as well, where there was flooding. There have been proposals made for flood control on the Goulais and co-ordination between Hydro and the Ministry of Natural Resources in the Mississagi watershed. Perhaps that’s something the minister should be looking at as well.
I would like to ask a question in relation to the list of major projects you have here in the briefing book, where it gives us specifics on most of them and with Temagami it just says “infrastructure.” Could you explain what that means?
Hon. Mr. Bernier: In these estimates there’s a figure of $280,000 to build up the water supply system. This is in co-operation with the Ministry of the Environment and it follows a report given to us by James F. MacLaren. The spring of 1979 is the period in which the plans will be finalized. The money will he used to improve the water supply problem in Temagami.
If you’ll recall that system was operated by the ONR for a number of years. We’ve long felt that was something that really was out of the realm of responsibility of the ONR, so we’ve encouraged the municipality to take over the water supply system on the condition that we would upgrade it considerably. This is what it’s for.
Mr. Wildman: Also, I would like to know, in the list of major socio-medical projects, how much you’re spending on each of those in Dryden, Red Lake and the North Shore. What does it mean in terms of “various locations”? I know what that means, but “manpower needs reviews.” What are those manpower needs reviews and how much is being spent on those three other areas -- Dryden, Red Lake and North Shore, the projects that are listed there?
Hon. Mr. Bernier: For the development of a home for the aged for the town of Dryden, in co-operation with the Ministry of Community and Social Services, there is $120,000 in these estimates.
We have a proposal from the town of Red Lake for the development of a medical centre that will house the doctors in that area. We’re working on a two thirds, one third grant. We haven’t got the exact figures but they’re looking at something around $200,000 in total. They will raise their third locally and we will assist them for the development of this medical centre to which they could attract doctors. Many of these areas have extreme difficulty in attracting doctors.
It is similar to what we were doing in Ignace. We did it in the riding of Rainy River; we assisted in the development of a medical centre there. Rainy River has come forward with a similar request.
We’ve assisted in the development of similar facilities in Nakina and in Geraldton to attract and to encourage dentists and doctors to stay in those areas.
Manpower reviews: Yes, we have a figure of $30,000 in this year’s estimates to determine the manpower needs and new programs being implemented in northern Ontario by the children’s services division. I think that announcement went out today in co-operation with the Ministry of Community and Social Services. That’s an indication of how we work with the other ministries providing the funds and doing the necessary things that should be done.
Item 1 agreed to.
On item 2, isolated communities:
Mr. Wildman: Could the minister explain the lower estimate in the 1979-80 estimates? It’s now down to $500,000 from the $630,000 in 1978-79. Can he explain the reason for that?
Hon. Mr. Bernier: We had $630,000 there last year. Quite frankly, there was a lack of applications. In fact, much of the funds were used for the purchase of fire trucks so we didn’t receive as many applications as we anticipated. We think the $500,000 figure is sufficient for this year. Many of the requirements and requests have been responded to. Something like 42 municipalities now have received some form of fire protection and assistance so the bigger ones are being looked after -- at least until we get to the sewer and water requirements. But the number of applications received was going down and we strongly felt that $500,000 would do us for this year. If we’re short, we can move to the regional priority budget and supplement the Isolated Communities Assistance Fund, if it’s necessary.
Mr. Wildman: If the minister is looking for applications, the community of Searchmont would like to get some further assistance. I mentioned that before. They need a bigger truck. The one they have now can’t make the hills in the winter time if they carry a full load of water.
Mr. Roy: That could be a problem if the truck can’t go up hills.
Mr. Wildman: If they don’t carry a full load they don’t have a large enough capacity when they go to a fire. They just get it under control when they run out of water and they have to go back and get more water. When they come back, of course, the building is burned to the ground. It is a bit of a problem.
Mr. Roy: Did you promise to give them a bigger truck, Leo?
Mr. Wildman: Good.
I’d like to know about two matters in relation to inspections. One, who is responsible for fire inspections in the unorganized communities? Two, who is responsible for enforcing the building code?
As we all know, the government came out with a revised building code a couple of years ago. They had seminars for municipal building inspectors -- they had a big fanfare with a lot of changes and very complex things. Yet, I don’t know who, if anyone, enforces this or gives advice to people with regard to the building code when they’re building their houses in unorganized areas.
As a matter of fact, we’re carrying out extensive programs, as the minister has alluded to and other members have alluded to earlier, under the OHRP program in unorganized communities. The ministry is carrying out the administrative functions of that through the ministry’s Northern Affairs officers, but I don’t think anyone is enforcing the building code.
On fire inspections, recently I had a complaint in my area from the Goulais River area about Mountainview School. A number of the parents were very concerned about the fact that an old annex -- the old one-room school -- was being used as a sort of extra classroom, rather than a portable. They were very concerned that it perhaps didn’t come up to the fire marshal’s standards. As a result they asked me if I could get an inspection done.
They had approached the nearest municipality, Sault Ste. Marie, and asked the fire chief for an inspection and he said they could do it, he supposed, but it really wasn’t under their jurisdiction. I contacted the fire marshal and they did finally make arrangements to have the Sault Ste. Marie fire department go out and inspect them.
Is that a normal situation? Is it really on an ad hoc basis? Or, if there isn’t any inspection now, is the ministry ready to make any kind of recommendation to the fire marshal’s office and to the Ministry of Housing in terms of these two codes and for the enforcement in unorganized areas?
Hon. Mr. Bernier: Mr. Chairman, the cooperation we have from the fire marshal’s office and the Solicitor General is second to none as it relates to the fire protection program in unorganized communities. In fact, we do have the resources to provide the necessary equipment, but we don’t move in until the fire marshal’s office has gone into that community, looked at it and made certain recommendations following its personal and direct review.
Even after that review is completed and the equipment is delivered, there are extensive training programs to train the people who will be using that equipment to the best of their ability. So, they not only monitor the community before to give it advice as to what equipment should go in there, but they come in after and train the individuals who will be protecting their community with the equipment we have placed there. We just couldn’t do without their co-operation, no question about it. We couldn’t put equipment in those communities without that type of training.
We would express our appreciation to the fire marshal’s office for its continued cooperation and I would like to point out, while the fire marshal does train those firemen to operate the equipment, we have not moved into the home inspection program as yet. In unorganized areas there is no authority, except on a voluntary basis, of course, for people to have their homes inspected. In that case, the volunteer fire brigade -- they are all on a volunteer basis -- would go.
With regard to public buildings, the fire marshal’s office can be requested to come in; schools, libraries, arenas, this type of thing. They will do that on request. But we have not gone into that home inspection program as yet.
The building code is another matter. The Ministry of Housing is grappling with this issue. It is a difficult one because of the vastness of northern Ontario. They have been in touch with us to get some idea of how they would administer. I think Natural Resources has been helping them also to find a solution without bringing in a large number of civil servants to walk around as policemen. It is yet to be resolved as to how that will be applied.
Because of the feelings of UCANO West and UCANO East, the local services board is getting into this type of regulatory control, planning and so on. I don’t think we have the expertise to do it, so we have shied away from that. That is why we have gone strictly to the providing of services on the local services board. We are not going to see them administer the building code in those areas. That is something the Ministry of Housing has to come to grips with and there is no question in my mind that if there were proper building codes applied many of our problems related to fire and development would not exist; in other words, there would be the prevention measures that we all want to see. I am sure, as we go down the road, the Ministry of Housing will have answers.
Item 2 agreed to.
On item 3, telecommunications facilities:
Mr. Wildman: I have the same question in relation to item 3. Could the minister explain the reason for what appears to be a steady drop in the funding under this program where we have a substantial drop from 1978-79 estimates to those of 1979-80?
Hon. Mr. Bernier: The northern communities assistance program; this relates directly to the telecommunications facilities in the far north. Those facilities are now in place. They are completed. The $345,000 is the cost which I believe you will now see on an ongoing basis for the maintenance and the operation of those services in the remote areas of northern Ontario.
Item 3 agreed to.
Vote 703 agreed to.
On vote 704, regional priorities and development program; item 1, regional priorities:
Mr. Bolan: Mr. Minister, with respect to road construction, there is one road in the northwest part of my riding about which you and I have been corresponding. It’s the road which runs from Field to River Valley. I see the minister has a map there. It would be identified on the map as highway 539. This is a road which is in very poor condition. I realize you can only do so much with the budget which you have, however, since it is your function to co-ordinate the priorities of road construction, I really would urge you to consider this in your priorities for the following year.
My reason for concern is the road is heavily used by truck operators who are in the logging business. Of course, at the worst time of year, which is the spring, the loads are cut down to sometimes one quarter. They run into some great difficulties as far as making a profitable haul when one is dealing with a quarter or half load. I am sure it’s a problem you have heard of in many communities in northern Ontario, but it is a very significant and very real problem to these people, primarily because of the big cutbacks which they have to make on the loads.
It’s not a very long road; maybe it’s 10 miles long. Basically it’s a question of rounding out some curves, shaving down some crests, and, of course, general widening and ditching.
The other road is one which goes north of there. It’s identified as highway 805. It goes from River Valley in a northerly direction towards Grassy Lake and other points up that way.
I have had several contacts with loggers who are very much concerned about the condition of this road, particularly in the winter time when they are approaching crossings. They have to cross four level crossings where they encounter considerable difficulties. in fact, there have been a couple of incidents where they nearly ran into a train on coming down hill; the crossing is there.
I’ve had some co-operation with the Ministry of Transportation and Communications in my region, however, I think it’s something which should be brought to your attention since it is your function to co-ordinate the priorities of road construction in the area. I have to say I realize there is only so much money to go around, but nevertheless, when you do consider your priorities again, I am drawing these two specific pieces of road in my riding to your attention.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: I think it’s very appropriate the honourable member should bring it up at this time because there will be great joy, I am sure, in River Valley this Saturday as the honourable member will be there with my parliamentary assistant to deliver a fire truck.
Mr. Bolan: At four o’clock in the afternoon.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: At four o’clock in the afternoon, instead of one. I’m sorry.
Mr. Roy: Have you got a parliamentary secretary?
Hon. Mr. Bernier: He is a parliamentary assistant.
Mr. Roy: Are you kidding?
Hon. Mr. Bernier: The north is so big, I tell you, I spend 50 per cent of my time there, as he does.
Mr. Chairman: I think that comes under the first vote.
Mr. Roy: Is that John Lane?
Hon. Mr. Bernier: Yes. He works up and down, bringing the good things to northern Ontario, because I’m so busy I can’t do it all myself, quite frankly. There’s so much happening up there.
River Valley will be the recipient of a fire truck on Saturday and I’m going to ask my parliamentary assistant to give me a report on road 539; we will certainly have a look at your suggestions when we move into setting our priorities for next year.
Mr. Wildman: I wonder if the minister could give us some kind of update as to what is happening with the study on the Killarney road and when he expects that might be completed, so that people who live in Killarney, the young people, won’t have to travel all the way to Sudbury to go to school so that they would have a much shorter route, so that they could attend school in Espanola. Could the minister give some indication when that study is going to be completed and when we might have some kind of government decision on that?
Hon. Mr. Bernier: I don’t have that information at my fingertips, but I will get it for the honourable member as soon as I can and forward it to you. It is one that we are anxiously awaiting, because the local member, the member for Algoma, has as you know --
Mr. Wildman: Algoma-Manitoulin.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: -- Algoma-Manitoulin -- has been most instrumental in pressing for such a development. In fact we have looked at the possibility of airstrip development at Killarney. All this hinges on that particular report that the consultants, with the co-operation of MNR, are doing. I will try to get the information for you as quickly as I can and get back to you.
Mr. Wildman: I will forgo raising the matter of the Granary Lake road once more. However, I would like the minister to consider the question of tertiary roads as well as main highways in the north, the need for upgrading of secondary and tertiary highways, which to an extent may have been put in the back seat recently because of the need, and the very serious need, for the upgrading of main highways like highway 17 and so on. If he is thinking of that perhaps the minister might look at 638 and 552 west in Algoma.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: Yes, Mr. Chairman, I will certainly take that into consideration.
Mr. Chairman: Shall vote 704 carry; or just the items? The members have sort of strayed around a little.
Items 1 to 3, inclusive, agreed to.
On item 4, rail and ferry services:
Mr. Bolan: I see the ONR boys over there; they thought they were going to get away.
I want your undertaking that you are not going to carry out the threats which are being made by the chairman of the Ontario Northland Transportation Commission and by his hatchet man up in Kapuskasing, Piche, that you are not planning the decentralization of the Ontario Northland Railway, specifically the bus passenger service, the telecommunications service, as well as the rail repair service. You know, Mr. Minister, and we have discussed this several times before, and I have raised it in the House, that these are the verbal threats, the verbal harassment, which these two members of the Ontario Northland Transportation Commission are spewing in northeastern Ontario.
Hon. Mr. Walker: I thought your party favoured decentralization.
Mr. Bolan: Keep quiet, Gordon we will get to you later. We might find a work camp for you up in northern Ontario; in fact we will build one for you.
Hon. Mr. Walker: Don’t you have nasty things to say about northern Ontario; it is a great spot.
Mr. Bolan: In any event, Mr. Minister, I want your undertaking there is nothing like that going on, because I want to be able to say to the people of northeastern Ontario tomorrow, that the ONR is owned by the people of Ontario and that it is not the private railway line of the Ontario Northland Transportation Commission.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: As the honourable member is very much aware, the commission is given the responsibility to administer the affairs of the ONR in the best interests possible of all the people. I have not heard them talking of any move related to the matters to which the honourable member refers. I see it in the newspapers.
Mr. Bolan: Oh come on now.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: I said the commission as a whole. The odd individual commissioner may be making noises or --
Mr. Bolan: Yes, but he is the chairman. Didn’t you know that?
Hon. Mr. Bernier: No, he is not.
Mr. Mathews is the chairman. I think he laid it out clearly to the chamber of commerce that there was no big move to move out of North Bay. I think that is very clear.
Mr. Bolan: That was after the minister put the whip to him.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: They have a responsibility to run an operation as efficiently and economically as possible and in the best interests of the people of northern Ontario. I am pleased to say I think they are doing that, and I am sure they will continue to do it.
Mr. Wildman: Mr. Chairman, I would like the minister to explain what he meant in his answer in the question period that the ministry and the commission have not had serious discussions with VIA Rail. What did he mean by saying that he had not had serious discussions with them?
Mr. Bolan: That is what the deputy minister said up in North Bay.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: I would be glad to answer that. We all know the federal government has passed a certain piece of legislation giving VIA the authority to control and to get into passenger railway service. We met with them in a very informal way, saying, “Look, where are we going with the VIA takeover?” if you want to call it that. They made it very clear to us: “We are not prepared even to talk to you at this point in time. We are interested in getting the transcontinental service into place. We are working with the CNR and the CPR on getting those main lines operational under the VIA umbrella. We will get back to you.” That is what I meant when I said we had not engaged in any serious discussions with VIA.
Mr. Wildman: But the minister was interested.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: We do not have any choice, quite frankly; that will be their decision. They will be looking to other provinces that have provincial railways too, I suspect, but we have had no serious discussions with them to this point in time.
Before I sit down, Mr. Chairman, I want to comment that there may be commitments I have made to the members during the course of the examination of my estimates. I am going to ask my staff, as I did last year, to review all the things we have said and the ideas we have exchanged. If I have made commitments to provide information and not fulfilled those commitments, then I will do so in writing to the individual members. I hope that will be satisfactory.
Items 4 and 5 agreed to.
Vote 704 agreed to.
Mr. Chairman: That completes the estimates of the Ministry of Northern Affairs.
On motion by hon. Mr. Grossman, the committee of supply reported certain resolutions.
The House adjourned at 10:34 p.m.