The House met at 2 p.m.
CORRECTION OF NEWS REPORT
Mr. Ruston: Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of personal privilege due to a remark made on CBC radio in Windsor on March 11. A commentator stated that I was in Florida studying drainage ditches in February on behalf of the government of Ontario.
I want to assure the honourable members of this House that I never have been on any drainage committee during my term in the Legislature. I have always understood that water runs downhill, so I am not charging for my services.
STATEMENTS BY THE MINISTRY
FRENCH-LANGUAGE SCHOOL IN PENETANGUISHENE
Hon. Mr. Davis: I am pleased, Mr. Speaker, to inform the House that an agreement has been reached on the question of the Penetanguishene school situation.
The proposal agreed to calls for a separate French-language secondary unit to be established at the site of the Penetanguishene secondary school. This arrangement provides for both a sharing of some facilities in the existing high school building and the preservation of a culturally secure educational environment for the French-speaking minority as per the ministry’s statement on March 6, 1980.
The facility to be constructed is a high-quality modular structure which is used by many school boards across the province. It will be ready for September 1980. The Simcoe County Board of Education will assume the full responsibility for administering the school, which will have a separate French-speaking staff and administration as per the government’s original proposal.
The French Language Advisory Committee and the Simcoe board have passed resolutions agreeing in principle. The French Language Advisory Committee will meet with parents this evening to confirm this commitment. To advance the development of the new facilities and subsequent arrangements, it has been agreed that a working party consisting of members appointed by the board, the French Language Advisory Committee and the ministry, and chaired by ministry representatives, will be established immediately.
The Simcoe county board and the French-speaking and English-speaking communities of Penetanguishene have shown considerable restraint and care through what has been a difficult period for all of us. They have throughout shown a genuine interest in reaching an equitable resolution of the previous impasse. I should like to say a word about the Minister of Education (Miss Stephenson). Her dedication and determination to find a fair solution that respected local taxpayers’ rights, the integrity of our education system and minority language education rights is a tribute not only to this province but, if I may say so, to Canada.
To the Simcoe county board and the people of Penetanguishene I offer my personal gratitude. There has been some unpleasantness and difficulty to be sure. There has also been much more common sense and understanding, qualities still of significant importance to the future of this country and basic to this government’s overall approach on matters of this nature.
Mr. Cassidy: On a point of privilege, Mr. Speaker: While it is not normal to comment on statements by the government, I would like to welcome, on the part of our party, the fact ‘that the Penetanguishene school situation has now been resolved to the satisfaction of the people involved.
Mr. Speaker: You are quite right. It really is not a point of order or a point of privilege.
DEATH OF R. W. MCPHEE
Hon. Mr. Baetz: Mr. Speaker, it is my sad duty to inform this House that early today Mr. Robert William McPhee passed away as a result of injuries he suffered in a traffic accident last week.
Bob McPhee served Her Majesty and his fellow men with deep compassion and unfailing integrity. Since March 1976 he had been the executive director of the citizenship division of the Ministry of Culture and Recreation. In that position he was a principal architect of government policies and programs designed to help foster greater human harmony. He devoted his life to that mission as a United Church minister, as a high school teacher, as an officer of the Ontario Human Rights Commission, as adviser on Indian affairs to a federal cabinet minister and, finally, as a senior provincial official.
In a letter to the Ontario Human Rights Commission in 1966 he wrote the following, and I quote: “As a Christian minister I have but one creed. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed.” Bob McPhee lived that creed and I know all honourable members will want to join me in conveying to Mrs. McPhee and the four McPhee children the deepest sympathy of this House.
Mr. O’Neil: Mr. Speaker, as the critic for culture and recreation I would also like to express, on behalf of our leader, the members of our party and those in our research staff, our deepest sympathy at the death of Mr. McPhee. I have been associated with him for the last year or so, and on the many occasions I have met with him he has been very helpful. I also know of his deep interest in the province and the people whom the minister mentioned. We would also like to add our words of sympathy to his wife and his children.
Mr. Grande: Mr. Speaker, I would like to add to the remarks made by the Minister of Culture and Recreation (Mr. Baetz) and the Liberal critic, and to give, on behalf of the New Democratic Party and as a member of this Legislature who knew Mr. McPhee well, our deep-felt condolences to his family. Mr. McPhee was really and truly a devoted civil servant in this province. I would also like to make the comment that, knowing Mr. McPhee well, we had our differences but always those differences were respected by himself and ourselves on this side of the House because we knew that those differences came from very strong convictions that he maintained throughout his life.
CHARGES AGAINST COMPANY OFFICIALS
Hon. Mr. Drea: Mr. Speaker, investigations conducted by the Ontario Securities Commission, assisted by the Ontario Provincial Police and the Niagara Regional Police, have resulted in Criminal Code charges against Carlo A. Montemurro and Sandra Barmstone of Niagara Falls and John Bentz of Millgrove, Ontario.
The charges allege that the three defrauded or stole or conspired to defraud or steal approximately $3.8 million invested by the public in C and M Financial Consultants Limited, a Niagara Falls-based mortgage broker. Charges have also been laid against Montemurro under the Securities Act.
Mr. Montemurro was the president of C and M Financial Consultants Limited, Re-Mor Investment Management Corporation and Cana Management Corporation Limited. Until recently he was the president and chief executive officer of Astra Trust, a Niagara Falls-based federally incorporated trust company with branch offices in Welland, St. Catharines, Burlington, Hamilton and Waterloo. He resigned from that position at the end of March 1980. Ms. Barmstone was an executive secretary employed in some of the Montemurro enterprises. Mr. Bentz was formerly manager of Astra Trust’s Burlington branch office.
The federal regulatory authorities have been and continue to be monitoring closely the activities of Astra Trust for the protection of its depositors. I am informed by the government of Canada that the assets of Astra Trust are sufficient to enable it to meet its obligations to its depositors.
Re-Mor Investment Management Corporation appears to have been dealing in mortgages, which are securities, without the necessity of registration within the existing exemptions under the Securities Act. Cana Management Corporation Limited has the power to trade through the same exemption in the Securities Act.
In light of the extensive evidence developed by its staff concerning the activities of Mr. Montemurro, the Ontario Securities Commission has deemed it in the public interest to issue a temporary order removing this exemption from registration to both Re-Mor and Cana. In addition, a temporary order directs that all trading in the securities of Re-Mor and Cana shall cease. These orders are for 15 days, within which time hearings must be convened.
Ontario Provincial Police investigations into these matters and related companies are continuing.
MUNICIPAL TERM OF OFFICE
Hon. Mr. Wells: Mr. Speaker, I wish to report to the House today on a municipal matter of general interest -- the term of office of municipal councils.
In the course of our review of municipal election procedures and our consideration of major local government reviews, such as the one for Metropolitan Toronto, the municipal term of office has emerged as an issue of widespread concern.
In the past several years many municipalities and municipal associations have requested an extension of the present uniform two-year term. At the same time, other municipalities and expressions by the public have urged the government to retain biennial elections.
Those who favour a longer term have argued that the issues confronting municipalities today are increasingly complex and that councils require more time in which to develop and execute long term policies. Emphasis has been placed on the costs of elections -- running for them and the running of them.
On the other hand, those who have endorsed the present term have consistently stressed the importance of the principle of accountability of our local government institutions. There is a general appreciation of the fundamental difference in the nature of our provincial and federal governing bodies, which are held accountable by the cabinet system and the presence of a formal opposition, and of our local governments, which are held responsible primarily through the electorate’s recourse at the polls. The frequency with which citizens can express an evaluation of their local representatives through the polls is thereby of crucial importance to the health of our municipal institutions.
The government has weighed these issues very carefully over the past several months. We continue to believe that the present term is adequate for all municipal councils to execute their responsibilities and to serve the needs and interests of their constituents. We have concluded further that the municipal electorate deserves the continued right to evaluate the responsiveness and effectiveness of their local representatives at a reasonable interval. Therefore, for the present the government has decided to retain the uniform two-year term of office for all municipalities in Ontario.
I might add that we also believe, and the position of the government is, that two-year terms should not be achieved by municipalities through the use of private bills in this Legislature.
ANSWERS TO QUESTIONS ON NOTICE PAPER
Mr. Mancini: Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of personal privilege.
On March 24 I tabled in the Legislature questions 38 to 42, inclusive, to the Ministry of Natural Resources. I had hoped to have had this information prior to April 18, as it was a very important matter concerning my riding.
On April 2 I received from the Minister of Natural Resources (Mr. Auld) a letter that stated: “Because of the volume of the material involved in preparation of answers to questions 38 to 42, we will require additional time to submit our response. The final answer will he ready on or before April 18.”
On April 22 I received the responses to questions 38 to 42. However, I found it very strange to see, under the name of the deputy minister, J. K. Reynolds, the date of April 1, 1980. It appears to me that this information was available and was prepared to be tabled in the House by April 1, 1980, as this dated document shows.
I feel my privileges have been abused because I was unable to give my constituents this very important information before the very important day of April 18. I would ask you, sir, if you would have a look at these documents to see if the dates can be verified and to see if my privileges and the privileges of my constituents were abused.
Mr. Speaker: I will have a look at them.
CABLE TV EXPERIMENT
Mr. Speaker: Before we go on to question period I would like to advise all honourable members of the House that Canadian Cable- systems Limited are conducting an experiment on our behalf. We have a lot of, I think they call it, extra foot-candles of power, much more than what we are used to, and more heat. It is strictly an experiment. The question period today and tomorrow will be going out live. They will be videotaping the leadoff of the official opposition and the lead-off of the New Democratic Party on the budget debate, and the Confederation debate. So we ask for your indulgence and your perseverance while we are conducting this experiment.
AID TO PENSIONERS
Mr. S. Smith: Mr. Speaker, could the Treasurer (Mr. F. S. Miller) explain why this government has introduced a program which ostensibly is to help pensioners but which penalizes people who are at the very bottom of the income scale? I refer, for instance, to people who might be renting a room or premises for $75 a month and might have no taxable income, having only their pension to live on. Why will they now be receiving about $120 less than in the previous system, whereas the honourable member for Stormont-Dundas-Glengarry (Mr. Villeneuve), for instance, will be receiving $500 more than under the previous system?
Hon. Mr. Norton: How about the member for Grey-Bruce (Mr. Sargent)?
Hon. Mr. Davis: They both need it, and so does the member for Yorkview (Mr. Young). They all need it.
Mr. S. Smith: How did the Treasurer come up with the idea of a system that puts extra money into the program that penalizes the people at the bottom of the income ladder who are trying to get along on a meagre pension in rented premises and helps those at the top of the income ladder?
Hon. F. S. Miller: Mr. Speaker, the program is quite specific in that it is trying, as it should, to keep senior citizens in their own or rented premises in this province rather than forcing them to go into institutional care or subsidized housing of some kind or other. Also, the program we delivered before did not quite properly target on the tax side.
We took measures that I believe most people in this province would support. As a matter of fact, I am almost tempted to suggest to my colleagues that we be absent next Thursday night to let the members find out just how well we are supported by the average Ontario citizen.
Mr. S. Smith: Since the Treasurer did not deign to answer the question as to why he has helped the people at the top of the income ladder at the expense of people at the bottom of the income ladder, perhaps he will consider answering that question when he rises to answer the supplementary, assuming he deigns to rise to answer the supplementary.
Mr. S. Smith: I am sorry, I seem to be bothering the Premier (Mr. Davis) in this regard. I did not think he was yet getting the $500, Mr. Speaker. Let him be patient; the Premier’s time will come.
Let me ask a question on behalf of those who are in rented premises and who want to know why they should receive less money now than the people who may be earning $30,000 or $40,000 or more. Can the Treasurer tell us how much more it is going to cost the people of Ontario to pay for the administration of the program so these cheques can be sent out from the provincial government twice a year? What is the additional administrative cost over the existing program?
Hon. F. S. Miller: Is the Leader of the Opposition opposed to it? I wonder. I bet he is not. Tuesday night he said I seas going to keep him in power. One of the advantages of the extra foot-candles in here is perhaps it will make the honourable members over there look brighter than they otherwise arc.
Mr. S. Smith: If we waited for the Treasurer to illuminate us, it would take a lot longer.
Hon. F. S. Miller: We broke the components of the Ontario tax credit into three distinct separate programs. One is assistance to renters and home owners, not just home owners. The renters get 20 per cent of their rental value up to a maximum of $500. It’s not just the home owners. The second is a $50 per capita direct grant in addition to that to help defray sales tax. Third, if they are on low income, they get a supplement of $10 per person per month across the year under the guaranteed annual income system, so that we are able to adjust the program to each kind of need.
There are a lot of hardworking citizens who have retired in this province, who have met their bills all their lives, who have a tiny pension and who feel they too are entitled to Ontario tax credits and we are going to help them.
Mr. Cassidy: Mr. Speaker, as a supplementary, is the Treasurer aware that there is a group of senior citizens in this province who will not be entitled to the new property tax and rental grants because they do not happen to have been entitled to the old age security? Is the Treasurer prepared to ensure that the new property tax grants will be made available to those old people who come from countries such as Portugal, the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, the Scandinavian countries and Holland, in order that they too may be able to get the benefits which will be given to other senior citizens in this province?
Hon. F. S. Miller: Mr. Speaker, it is my understanding that one of the assumptions that is made -- I double-checked this -- is that these people would receive nothing. They will receive the standard Ontario tax credit but they don’t get the $110 senior citizen bonus if they are not qualified for the old age security. I think one could argue just the same --
Mr. Laughren: That’s wrong.
Hon. F. S. Miller: Is the honourable member saying I am wrong?
I don’t think so, Mr. Speaker. One starts on the assumption that there are certain qualifying requirements even for an old age security pension in this province, and there are in this country, and also that there are certain benefits that accrue from having been a citizen of this country for a long time. We have allowed the federal government to set those standards and we have followed them, but if these people live in this province and are entitled as owners or renters of land and property to have any Ontario tax credit, they remain qualified for that under our present plan. The whole difference is they wouldn’t get the $110 age differential that used to exist in the old package.
Mr. Peterson: A supplementary question, Mr. Speaker: Stripped of all the rhetoric, would the Treasurer not agree that in his program, in the name of universality, the low-income, poor pensioner will get nothing more, or marginally more, or even less in a number of circumstances? Would he agree that what he has done in the name of getting the grant checked out twice a year, is make an unnaturally large transfer to the wealthier pensioners? Those are the principal beneficiaries of the Treasurer’s program. Is that not what it is all about?
Hon. F. S. Miller: Mr. Speaker, I am sure, arithmetic being what it is, that one can come up with examples where there is a decline. We checked that very carefully and that is why the Gains route was taken. However, I have to tell you, Mr. Speaker, there are a lot of people who will be getting a lot more, because, as the honourable member knows, in sum total I am paying $75 million more. He knows that.
Mr. S. Smith: The E. P. Taylors and Osie Villeneuves do not make less than $20,000 a year income.
Hon. F. S. Miller: Fine. I happen to believe that the E. P. Taylors or the Eddie Sargents of this world do pay a pretty fair share of tax through the normal routes.
Mr. Di Santo: Mr. Speaker, a supplementary question, if I can have the Treasurer’s attention: There is an obvious discrimination in the property tax grant between those immigrants who come from countries that have agreements with Canada, such as Italy and France, who qualify immediately for the old age supplement, and immigrants who come from countries that do not have agreements with Canada and do not qualify for OAS except after 10 years of residence. Since the first group will be eligible for the tax grant and the second group will not be eligible, will the Treasurer change the legislation so that all senior citizens resident in Ontario will be treated the same way?
Hon. F. S. Miller: Mr. Speaker, I tried to explain they are not being rendered ineligible for Ontario tax credit grants but only for the part that was related to age. I know the member is not criticizing my understanding of it. I am only saying to him that there has been a whole series of other federally administered and Gains grant assistance programs that also were related to those agreements.
We have allowed the federal government to make what we thought was a reasonably fair decision as to that eligibility and have followed it in this program, knowing full well that the old broad stroke approach had left a number of people with very serious problems in the province. We have a much enriched and much better program in general and we are maintaining the basic tax credit for those people currently eligible for it.
SUDBURY TEACHERS’ STRIKE
Mr. S. Smith: Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Education’s (Miss Stephenson) statement to the House some time ago on the Sudbury strike indicated she had set herself some kind of mental deadline. In view of the frustration in virtually every segment of the Sudbury community, shown by the support given to the students who occupied the civic centre and even by comments of the United Steelworkers of America union that their support for the teachers is wearing paper thin, does the minister not feel the time has finally come to take action to end this strike by compulsory arbitration?
Hon. Miss Stephenson: Mr. Speaker, as I said the other day I have set a date in my own mind. When that date arrives I shall notify the parties. There are negotiations resuming this afternoon in Sudbury between the board and the teachers. I believe there is a real possibility of a settlement in that strike which can be achieved by negotiation. That is the best kind of settlement in any labour-management dispute.
The Education Relations Commission has expert assistance ready and available for both parties and they will work through the night or day in order to achieve a settlement. However, as I said, my patience is even thinner, I gather, than the steelworkers’ union. The date that I have set is still there.
Mr. S. Smith: I am sure the parties are very concerned about this imaginary date that the minister has in her own mind but will not tell to anybody.
I would ask another supplementary on this matter. Is the minister familiar with section 66(1) of the School Boards and Teachers’ Collective Negotiations Act, which states: “The federation shall not, and no affiliate or branch affiliate shall call or authorize or threaten to call or authorize an unlawful strike”? If she is familiar with that section, in which light does she regard the resolution by the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation threatening illegal study sessions in the event that this House were to bring an end to the strike, and certain statements by members of the OSSTF and Ontario Teachers Federation? Does she not see those as threats to call unlawful strikes? If she does, what is she going to do about it?
Hon. Miss Stephenson: The answer to the first question is yes, I am. The answer to the second question is “with grave concern.” The answer to the third question is I do believe what the honourable leader says is so, that it is a threat that has to be considered very seriously, and that is precisely what I am doing at the present time.
Mr. Laughren: Mr. Speaker, I wonder if the minister would take the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. S. Smith) aside and explain very slowly and carefully to him that every time the issue is raised in this chamber it reduces the chances of a negotiated settlement in Sudbury, which everybody wants.
Hon. Miss Stephenson: Mr. Speaker, I am not sure that I should answer that question.
Mr. S. Smith: By way of supplementary, and expressing, as I must, a certain degree of surprise that after some 50 days during which the children are without education, their education is being jeopardized and they may not be able to get on to higher education, finally we have heard from a member from Sudbury on this matter; I certainly congratulate him for learning that there is a strike in the area --
Mr. Speaker: Do you have a question?
Mr. S. Smith: Mr. Speaker, my question is what precisely -- since we know what my friend from Sudbury would have said if management had somehow transgressed the act -- does the minister intend to do about what appears to be a transgression of the act by the teachers’ federation?
Hon. Miss Stephenson: I intend to follow the law as it is at present established.
Mr. Cunningham: A final supplementary question, Mr. Speaker: I would like to ask the minister how it is that we can be required to legislate a conclusion to the Toronto strike after 38 days of missed classes when in this instance 50 days have been missed and nothing is being done?
Hon. Miss Stephenson: Mr. Speaker, I am sorry. I really cannot provide a logical answer to that question since I was not minister at the time that strike took place.
Mr. Cassidy: Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the Treasurer (Mr. F. S. Miller) arising out of the budget on Tuesday night. In the section of the budget that dealt with the problems of home owners facing mortgage renewals this year the Treasurer said, and I quote, “With the co-operation of all members and the federal government, I am confident that we can effectively come to grips with this issue.” Would the Treasurer not agree that the group of home owners to whom mortgage assistance should be primarily directed is those with a family income of less than $25,000 a year and, in particular, the home owners in this group who are having to pay more than 30 per cent of their income in mortgage payments as a result of renewals?
Hon. F. S. Miller: Mr. Speaker, I cannot disagree with the comments the honourable member has made, that is that we need a selective group of people for whom the burden of mortgage interest is greater than a percentage of their income, I cannot qualify that as exactly $25,000 a year, or necessarily 30 per cent. The 30 per cent has been pretty well accepted as the maximum a family can afford for the total occupancy cost, so I have no quarrel with that statistic.
Mr. Cassidy: A supplementary question, Mr. Speaker: In the budget section on interest rates and farmers, the government indicated it is prepared to take independent action, if necessary, to assist the farming community in Ontario to overcome its problems with the increases in interest rates. Is the government also prepared to undertake independent action, if necessary, to help home owners who are facing hardships because of mortgage renewals in Ontario?
Hon. F. S. Miller: Mr. Speaker, first, we never said we were not; we simply said that problem should be tackled by the federal government, and we were getting our facts ready.
The reason for differentiating the farm community was that if one looks across Canada one will see there is a whole series of programs for farm assistance at the provincial level, which is why we needed to take a look at the comparability of Ontario’s programs with others, to see if they could be differentiated.
Mr. Sargent: The Premier (Mr. Davis) has directed me to make sure the questions are penetrating questions. Mr. Speaker, a supplementary question regarding the interest payments. I asked the Premier the other day if he would grant a $339-million interest-free loan to the home owners, the small businessmen and the farmers of Ontario on the same terms as he gave it to Denison Mines Limited and Preston Mines Limited -- a $339-million interest-free loan over 40 years. Would the Treasurer and Minister of Economics tell us why in his budget he cannot give them the same treatment?
Hon. F. S. Miller: We have never said what we will not do. I think that is clear. It is a little frustrating to have seen this province go through five years of belt-tightening to bring our whole budgetary spending side into some kind of order and to watch the senior level of government totally ignore the realities of the marketplace, and then not be able to. My friend, who stood on the platform and supported them is the first to duck for cover and he is doing it now, trying to cut the umbilical cord that attaches him to his federal leader. And he knows it.
Mr. Cassidy: I think the Treasurer is suggesting that the leader of the Liberal Party of Ontario should talk to his federal colleagues and tell them to take action on interest rates.
My supplementary is directed to the Treasurer of Ontario. In meeting with the Ontario Federation of Agriculture yesterday, we understand that the federation was told that the cabinet would meet again with the federation next Tuesday and that action would be forthcoming to help farmers affected by the increase in interest rates. Are the Treasurer and the government prepared to act with equal urgency with respect to the problem faced by home owners whose mortgages are being renewed at this time?
Hon. F. S. Miller: I think there were a couple of extensions of fact there, not necessarily --
Mr. Breithaupt: Be careful or you’ll lose the support of your friends.
Hon. F. S. Miller: I wouldn’t lose them. You couldn’t lose them. They are really loyal friends.
Mr. Breithaupt: The member for Windsor-Riverside (Mr. Cooke) isn’t your friend. He’ll vote for you, but he doesn’t have to like you.
Hon. Mr. Davis: I have got more hawks than doves buttons here. Who is for what today? I have had it on official notice that the member for London North (Mr. Van Horne) is a dove.
Mr. Speaker: Meanwhile, back to the question period.
Hon. F. S. Miller: I would like to point out that what was said yesterday -- and I think it was quoted accurately in the Globe and Mail today -- was that no promises were made at that meeting. But we showed real concern and a willingness to work as fast as possible, probably in advance of the date, May 15, because of the particular problems of spring planting as they affect the farm community.
The meeting the member is talking about was not with cabinet. It was at the request of the Minister of Agriculture and Food (Mr. Henderson), who offered to meet with the Ontario Federation of Agriculture at 9 a.m. on Tuesday, and he invited me to be there if I could. I have to tell the members opposite we are doing our best to have more up-to-date information. I asked several questions of them yesterday. In their opinion, should a program be universal? Should there be some kind of qualification in terms of the needs? Should it be age-weighted? Should it be for all farmers or only those making food? If it is for food farmers, should it be only for those who are not in marketing boards? Those kinds of questions I think are valid questions, and I think we can learn from the experience.
Mr. Peterson: Mr. Speaker, in view of the fact that interest rates probably are declining, and we see some evidence of that, is it the minister’s strategy to wait until this problem solves itself, in the meantime leaving behind it a trail of foreclosed mortgages, bankrupt businesses and deserted farms? Is that his strategy: wait and let it go away of its own accord?
Hon. F. S. Miller: Mr. Speaker, is the member for London North talking for the family business when he says that? He is not doing that to his friends.
No, this government is not, but I think one also has to recognize, and I am sure my colleagues opposite are aware of, the implications of an open-ended interest support program. It can virtually bankrupt not only a province, but also a country. One of the interesting things that was said at the federal level is “first-in, never-out.” That was the way the member’s federal Liberal colleagues defined the mortgage interest program.
BILINGUAL KINDERGARTEN PROGRAMS
Mr. Cassidy: Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the Minister of Education (Miss Stephenson). Is she in the wings? If so, I will wait for a second until she comes.
Mr. Speaker: You can only ask questions of ministers who are present.
Mr. Cassidy: I never knew the Minister of Education could actually disappear like that.
Mr. Speaker: Do you have a question for a minister who is present?
Mr. Cassidy: I do, Mr. Speaker. I will ask the question of the Premier (Mr. Davis).
Now that the Premier and the cabinet clearly have stepped in and overruled the Minister of Education and thereby ensured a settlement -- which we welcome -- of the secondary school situation for the Franco-Ontarian community at Penetanguishene, would the Premier likewise undertake to step in with regard to the situation of full-day kindergarten programs which are threatened with closure in September because of grant regulations being enforced by the Minister of Education?
Given the specific fact that in Ottawa-Carleton a full-day kindergarten program in the Ottawa Roman Catholic Separate School Board is a vital first step towards the most successful program of bilingual education anywhere in Canada, would the government ensure that full-day program will be continued and other full-day programs like it will be continued as another of Ontario’s contributions to the cause of national unity?
Hon. Mr. Davis: Mr. Speaker, just to set the record straight: While I am never prepared to --
Mr. Swart: They got the Premier’s interpretation.
Hon. Mr. Davis: Certainly, it is my interpretation. I have news for the member for Welland-Thorold (Mr. Swart). My interpretation is usually far more accurate than his in nine cases out of 10, mainly because I am usually there and he is not.
In answer to the rather negative and, I say with respect, somewhat cynical preamble to the question --
Ms. Gigantes: Answer the question.
Hon. Mr. Davis: I can understand the growing interest of the member for Carleton East (Ms. Gigantes) in all-day kindergartens and day-care centres. I congratulate her. I only wish more of her colleagues --
Mr. Speaker: What has that got to do with the question?
Hon. Mr. Davis: Mr. Speaker, there is no question the member for Carleton East is going to have an interest in all-day kindergartens.
Mr. Speaker: I don’t think that has anything to do with the original question.
Ms. Gigantes: On a point of personal privilege, Mr. Speaker: I have always been interested in full-day kindergarten programs.
Hon. Mr. Davis: Mr. Speaker, so have I -- but five times more than the honourable member.
Mr. Peterson: When is the Premier giving birth to his sixth? His vest is getting a little tight.
Hon Mr. Davis: The member for London Centre told me the other day it was getting loose.
Mr. Speaker, I want to make this quite clear: I know we play a few games in this House, but the cabinet in this province did not overrule the Minister of Education. With respect to the discussions in Penetanguishene, she has been responsible for a number of suggestions. We are all very thankful for her leadership and commitment to this. Last evening the proposal which was put, and incidentally accepted by the board and the French Language Advisory Committee, will provide a workable solution.
With respect to the question of all-day kindergartens, I will wait until the Minister of Education returns and refer that question to her.
Mr. Cassidy: Could the Premier possibly explain how it is that the government intends to carry out a study of full-day kindergartens to see whether it is justified to have them when there will be no full-day kindergartens in the Ontario environment to study while the study is going on, because before the study is undertaken the government has withdrawn the funding and therefore they will have to be shut?
Hon. Mr. Davis: I can answer that question very easily. We have done a number of studies on potential programs or on alterations to programs in the educational field when those programs did not exist. Heavens above, we studied the community college program for two or three years. We were not studying any prototypes here in this province.
Hon. Mr. Davis: The Leader of the opposition is interrupting again, Mr. Speaker. Am I to ignore him?
Mr. Speaker: Yes.
Hon. Mr. Davis: That is not bad advice.
I would say that does not appear to me to be a technical problem. I also suspect there will be kindergartens which will be available for study.
Mr. Sweeney: Mr. Speaker, can the Premier tell me if his government is bound by a commitment made by a minister of the government which was stated in these terms:
“A total immersion kindergarten program, full-day, would be viewed differently. That would not be viewed as part of this general program I am talking about. We would not impose a limitation on a person wanting to start an all-day French immersion kindergarten as part of an immersion program in French as a second language ... ” That commitment was made by the then Minister of Education (Mr. Wells) on May 3, 1978. Is this government bound by that commitment or is it not?
Hon. Mr. Davis: Mr. Speaker, I would reply to the honourable member by asking, are the Liberal members bound by the things they say? If they are, they apparently have every right to change their minds on just about every policy they enunciate. Certainly government has the right to change a point of view in general terms. I am not referring to that specific matter. The member is asking me if government has the right to change its mind or its point of view. The answer to that is yes. We do not have nearly as much experience at that as the Liberal members have on every single policy issue they enunciate.
Mr. Cassidy: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order: The Minister of Education came in at a time when it was not possible to redirect to her. Is it possible to redirect a supplementary to her now that she is here?
Mr. Speaker: No. You had an opportunity to raise the matter with the Premier, who was here.
ACCESS TO WATERFRONT
Mr. Haggerty: Mr. Speaker, I would like to direct a question to the Minister of Natural Resources (Mr. Auld). It has been indicated in the daily newspapers that the Ministry of Natural Resources will be introducing a new policy that will allow lakefront cottage owners in Ontario to purchase road allowances on open shoreline in front of their cottages. Is the minister aware that the implementation of this unjust and discriminating policy would deprive every Ontario citizen of access to lakes and rivers in Ontario? Will the Legislature have the opportunity to debate the minister’s policies?
Hon. Mr. Auld: Mr. Speaker, I should point out first that in about two thirds of southern Ontario there is no such reservation around the borders of lakes. It is only in those areas surveyed after 1870, I believe it was, that this allowance was kept.
There are two matters of concern. One is the allowances around the perimeter of the lake, and the other is the allowances that lead to the water. To have some sort of equity around the province, for years the ministry opposed the closing of those perimeter allowances where they existed. In those areas where they did not exist there was no problem. The problem as set out in the press release is that many people have constructed on these allowances. We are prepared to sell those that are on crown land to them for a fixed fee on the cost of survey. Those in organized municipalities actually are the property of those municipalities. What we have said is that we will no longer oppose their closing if the municipality in its wisdom feels that they should he closed and the property sold to the person who was occupying the adjacent property. The road allowances to the lakes will still exist; so there will be access.
Mr. Breithaupt: Mr. Speaker, since the Canadian Press dispatch of the interview with Mr. Morton was fairly well publicized across the province and contained a lot of detailed information that may have been somewhat confusing in its entirety to the average reader, would the minister make available to members of the House a copy of whatever the proposed framework might be so that we will be able to respond to questions from our constituents which I am quite sure nearly all of us will be receiving? I have received two in the last two days alone.
Hon. Mr. Auld: I will be happy to do that Mr. Speaker, and I would suggest, because I believe it was both in the release and in the press statement, that for detailed information we suggest the people go to the ministry district office that covers the area in question where full details will be available and we will be delighted to assist.
JOB CREATION PROJECTS
Mr. Laughren: Mr. Speaker, I have a question of the Treasurer, concerning his budget.
Since the Treasurer himself predicts that there is only going to be 0.3 per cent real growth and unemployment is going to go up to more than seven per cent this year, and since there are more than 20,000 people out of work in the auto industry alone, why did the Treasurer not include in his budget any full-time job-creation projects?
Hon. F. S. Miller: Mr. Speaker, I think we did have some full-time job-creation projects, in the sense that the Employment Development Fund is doing just that.
Let us understand the difference between a provincial role and a federal role in the question of the job market. In the one case, the federal government has the responsibility, in the main, for the short-term assistance of people who are out of work and who have earned, through the unemployment insurance system, the right to certain benefits. Failing those, the province and the municipalities have a responsibility. That does not in any way lessen our concern.
Our job is to try to encourage the overall growth of employment in the province. We thought we did it in the budget by a lot of assistance ‘to small business, which in our opinion is creating a very large percentage of the total new jobs created in this province, through $50 million worth of assistance to those small industries. Secondly, we did this by having an Employment Development Fund to assist in the establishment of new enterprises or the improvement of existing ones. Lastly, and perhaps most important of all, we did this by having an attitude and an environment in Ontario that make people trust this as a place to locate.
Mr. Laughren: Did the Treasurer read reports of the remarks of the president of Ford Motor Company of Canada Limited, Mr. Bennett, that full employment would not return to the auto industry for between one and two years? Is the Treasurer prepared to sit there, with 20,000 people out of work in the auto industry, to wait for those one to two years and to do nothing but write letters to the federal government?
Hon. F. S. Miller: No. In fact, I am satisfied we will see a number of areas where there will be job opportunities as well. I think we both accept the fact that the only solution to the auto trade problem right now is sales. There are other areas in which I think Ontario has many opportunities.
For example, in the $2 billion stimulated so far in investment in Ontario because of the Employment Development Fund, the Ministry of Industry and Tourism has carefully pursued Canadian content to make sure that Canadian content is purchased in Ontario. I think the success rate is in the 85 to 95 per cent range with the pulp and paper procurement. That is a great deal. That, to me, is a very important part of job stimulation.
I would hope we will see other industries, such as the aircraft industry, being stimulated by the F-18 contract; in fact, Ontario is going to benefit handsomely from that. I would hope we would make sure the people of this province are ready for that opportunity, and we would work with anyone who wants us to establish that.
In addition, I think we are standing at the threshold of a whole series of new opportunities in new technology -- fibre optics, for example, and telecommunications -- things where in many instances this province and people in this province lead in technology. Those are areas we have to work on too.
Mr. Sweeney: Mr. Speaker, in the light of the unemployment situation in this province, how does the Treasurer reconcile the contradiction in his budget statement, which says on page five, “In light of the success of the [Employment Development Fund] in its first year of operation, I intend to continue this program,” and on page six, where he indicates he is going to spend $5 million less this year than he did last year?
Hon. Mr. Davis: I thought they didn’t want us to spend any.
Hon. F. S. Miller: Yes. It is curious, is it not? Mr. Speaker, the leader of the Liberal Party has been lambasting me for weeks, telling me I was giving away money for no benefit. The member for Kitchener-Wilmot (Mr. Sweeney) now is telling me I am not spending enough money.
The fact remains that when I brought out the program last year I said it was a one-year program. It took some time for the industries of this province to gear up to apply for it. Therefore, obviously, the money could not be disbursed in the first year, even though we made commitments and payments of close to $170 million in the course of the year. If I recall the figures, there are $42.5 million of commitments already made that will be disbursed in the present fiscal year. Is that correct? Does the member not get that figure?
Mr. Sweeney: No.
Hon. F. S. Miller: Well, that is so. The money disbursed last year, $130 million, plus the $40 million carried forward, were commitments for what was to be a one-year program.
The economy dictates that we carry it on, and we are doing so. Frankly, we will see now jobs created immediately in the construction phase and, in the long term, in the manufacturing phase.
USE OF CEMETERIES
Mr. J. Johnson: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations. Recent press reports regarding the proposed changes to the Cemeteries Act have caused deep concern to many of my constituents. They are very strongly opposed to cemeteries being used for any purpose other than that for which they were originally planned.
In view of the concern expressed by my constituents, would the minister please assure me that cemeteries will not be used for recreational purposes?
Hon. Mr. Drea: Mr. Speaker, last year when the Ontario Association of Cemeteries asked me to update and modernize the Cemeteries Act, a request was put forward by them that some of the restrictive regulations governing cemeteries be eased. There was a concern that cemeteries had become somewhat isolated from the rest of the community and were in a rather static land-use situation.
I would impress upon the House that this is a very sensitive area. At that time I suppose I paid the penalty for being my usual nice self. I said, “All right.” I agreed that there would be changes in any updating of the Cemeteries Act that would ease those all-too-restrictive regulations. Unfortunately, there were some whimsical newspaper stories written and the impression was given that the fifth race at Greenwood was going to be run across the cemeteries every afternoon. I have written many letters. Some of the people giggling and so forth today are people who asked me somewhat anxiously a couple of months ago to write to their constituents and to their cemetery boards that there would be no change in the all-inclusive prohibition against recreational uses in cemeteries in this province.
Mr. Hodgson: Mr. Speaker, some weeks back I had delegations in from the monument manufacturers and dealers, and the florists, in regard to the change they thought was coming in the new Cemeteries Act amendments. They felt it was very unfair that they would have to pay taxes and the cemetery boards would not have to. Is the minister going to make those changes?
Hon. Mr. Drea: Mr. Speaker, it is my understanding that there was some concern in the regulatory operations that we intended to license or restrict the operations of monument dealers, florists or others associated with the funeral industry. That was never the case. The prohibition in the Cemeteries Act is that the cemetery cannot insist upon other services -- monuments, floral decorations, et cetera -- as a condition prior to obtaining a plot. The act is very specific. When one goes to buy a plot in a cemetery, ancillaries cannot be put in as prerequisites for buying a plot.
The business of cemetery operators is the provision of plots. If they provide additional services, that is something that is within the discretion of the customer to buy or not to buy. The prohibition is very specific. When one goes to buy a grave site, he cannot be told if he wants to have a grave site he must do the following one through 10. Either they offer for sale a grave site or we will close up the cemetery.
Mr. Blundy: Mr. Speaker, am I to take it from the remarks that the Minister for Consumer and Commercial Relations made initially on the first question that section 61(1)(c) is going to be deleted or it is not going to be deleted? Is that clause going to be changed?
Hon. Mr. Drea: Mr. Speaker, I thought I made that clear. The sanctions in the existing Cemeteries Act will be included in any new Cemeteries Act. There will be no deletions, no change, nothing.
Mr. Ruston: Mr. Speaker, I have a question of the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs. Is the minister aware that officials of the Ontario Development Corporation now have met with business people in the town of Essex with regard to their financial losses from the February natural gas explosion and that they advised the merchants they could only provide money at 11.5 per cent interest? They also advised merchants that unless the area was designated a disaster area they could not allow them the six per cent rate. In other words, their information is that unless it is designated ODC would have to charge them the full interest rate.
Hon. Mr. Wells: Mr. Speaker, I am aware of that. That was the decision I indicated to my friends here in the House last week when the question was asked. The Ontario Development Corporation was to talk to the people who were having some difficulties in Essex and see what arrangements could be made. They have made what are, I guess in their view, the normal arrangements that could be made there. I really cannot add anything more to that.
Mr. Ruston: Maybe the Minister of Industry and Tourism (Mr. Grossman) might be able to help us on this. Is the minister aware that one quarter of the town businesses are completely out, not operating and are blown up, and that until these business places can be rebuilt the whole town is suffering considerably? If they could obtain money at a lower interest rate at least to build their buildings, they could then get back into business.
Hon. Mr. Wells: I am aware of all that, of course. There is a lot of insurance involved in this particular area. I would believe that in some of these cases the insurance company, as well as reimbursing for the losses, perhaps would include the amount of interest that has to be paid for quick availability of money.
Maybe that is a possibility. We do not really know; so we asked the Ontario Development Corporation people to go in and talk to those people. They are going to make a report to my colleague the Minister of Industry and Tourism. Based upon what he decides from that report, he will make up his mind whether that is all that can be suggested for this area. At this point, that is all we have decided upon. There are no low-interest loans available.
Mr. Swart: Mr. Speaker, I would like to put a question to the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations (Mr. Drea). I do not see him in the wings; so I will put it to the Premier (Mr. Davis). My question concerns the continuing ripoff of the consumers on bathroom tissue -- and that is not only when it is perforated, I might say.
Does the Premier know that his Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations, under questioning by my colleague the member for Riverdale (Mr. Renwick) and myself last October 31, said, and I quote from page J-334 of the justice committee Hansard:
“Mr. Swart, in order to clear the air on toilet tissue, which seems to vary from day to day, I will have our chief economist complete an in-depth investigation. It will take some time but I will send you the results of that before the next session commences, Mr. Swart.”
Then, when I asked that he consult me, he said yes, the economist would consult me on this matter.
Perhaps the Premier would explain why the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations has broken that commitment. He has made no report, and he has not even contacted me. Does the Premier not think that if he did any investigation it would perhaps justify the charge of ripoffs?
Hon. Mr. Davis: Mr. Speaker, I will not touch that question. 1 will refer it to the minister, who has returned, and I am sure he will have a very excellent answer for the honourable member.
Mr. Swart: Perhaps by way of supplementary to the minister concerned, if I can redirect it, Mr. Speaker -- I hope he did hear the original question.
Mr. Speaker: Order. The original question was in four parts. The Premier said he would be happy to refer it to the appropriate minister. Is the member interested in getting a response to it or isn’t he?
Mr. Swart: Yes, Mr. Speaker.
Hon. Mr. Drea: Mr. Speaker, I understood that report had been conveyed to the member. I will check. It is my understanding that it had been done. I know I have read the report. I will make sure it is in his hands.
Mr. Swart: Will the minister do an investigation to explain why this four-pack of toilet tissue costs $1.47 here in Toronto and elsewhere in Ontario and why this other four-pack of toilet tissue sells for 99 cents to $1.09 in the United States? Both packs of toilet tissue are made by the E.B. Eddy Company of Canada Limited, and both are of the same quality.
With forest product industry profits 60 per cent higher than they were last year, and profits of the supermarkets are up sharply too, how can he justify a 13 per cent increase in the retail price of the bathroom tissue in Ontario in the last nine months?
Is he aware that not only has the price risen substantially, but also the weight of tissue in the E.B. Eddy packages is less now than it was nine months ago?
Does he not think that all these things combined ought to make him give some real protection to the consumers? If he does not, he ought to be flushed out of office.
Hon. Mr. Drea: I will look into the matter, as I did last year.
On the question of protecting the consumer in the province, I realize it is Thursday and the honourable member usually pulls these stunts on Fridays to get his picture in the paper. But last Saturday, because of a stunt that was pulled in here without any adequate preparation, virtually the entire annual conference of the Consumers’ Association of Canada-Ontario, was very badly disrupted by the stance of the member for Welland-Thorold (Mr. Swart) on the question of enforcement of standards, which were under the jurisdiction of the federal government until some court cases raised some doubt.
I do not mind answering the member for Welland-Thorold -- in fact, I have told him on many occasions that I welcome any queries about consumer products and so forth -- and I am perfectly prepared to reply to him. But when we get into the area of consumer protection, particularly when this province has the backing of the consumers’ association, not just of Ontario, but of Canada, which are very gravely concerned about the stance of the member for Welland-Thorold, at a time when there is a grey area in this, I would hope the questions involving consumer products are brought forward with the best of intentions so the consumer market will remain an orderly and a fair one.
TOWNSEND SITE DEVELOPMENT
Mr. G. I. Miller: Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the Minister of Housing (Mr. Bennett). In view of the fact that housing is moving very slowly in the region of Haldimand-Norfolk, particularly in the city of Nanticoke, and in view of the fact that the Stelco Incorporated development now is almost on stream, would the minister consider reviewing the pace at which the Townsend town site might proceed? Only this morning I had a call from a developer, indicating he had 425 homes at 12.5 per cent mortgages and was only moving one or two every other week.
Hon. Mr. Bennett: Mr. Speaker, the Ministry of Housing, through the Ontario Land Corporation, has the development of Townsend under constant review. Just a day or two ago I responded to the former Liberal leader’s question that was put on the Order Paper regarding the number of lots that we will bring on stream over the next 18 months or thereabouts. If there is an indication that some of the things are in a downside in the Nanticoke area, we will review it. But we have inquiries from at least 20 or 30 individual developers in that area in anticipation of purchasing some of the lots that will be brought on stream.
Mr. G. I. Miller: Would the minister give serious consideration to making a priority of installing the water line into Jarvis and Hagersville, where it is very badly needed?
Hon. Mr. Bennett: We indicated very clearly to the regional council in that area the exact time frame in which we intended to install the water lines to the other adjacent communities. I see no reason to advance that at this time because of some planning problems -- as the honourable member knows, some of them are environmental. We will bring them on stream at the time we indicated.
Mr. Nixon: Mr. Speaker, can the minister tell us, even though those lots in the Townsend area apparently are subsidized how many have been sold?
Hon. Mr. Bennett: Mr. Speaker, I would have to get that information. I do not have the letter with me.
Mr. Nixon: Are any sold?
Hon. Mr. Bennett: Yes, some have been sold.
Mr. Breaugh: Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the Minister of Health. Will the ministry be participating in the Ontario Medical Association nonparticipating physicians’ section seminar this Saturday at the Westbury Hotel on the successful opted-out practice? Is the minister pleased with the content of that seminar, which will cover the collection of accounts, billing systems, personnel policies, scheduling of appointments, control of telephone time and the prevention of embezzlement?
Hon. Mr. Timbrell: Mr. Speaker, I think the member read very well from the latest edition of the Ontario Medical Review.
Mr. Breaugh: I appreciate the comment. I do read reasonably well. I do not think the question of whether or not the ministry was participating was a particularly difficult one, but I accept that the minister had a problem with it.
Is the minister pleased that the keynote speaker is from the American Medical Association and that the head of the nonparticipating physicians’ section estimates that he hopes to get at least 100 physicians to that particular seminar?
Hon. Mr. Timbrell: It is a matter for the individual physicians who participate in any such seminar. It is no different from the honourable member bringing somebody from the British Labour Party to speak to one of his conferences.
FRENCH-LANGUAGE SCHOOL IN PENETANGUISHENE
Mr. G. Taylor: Mr. Speaker, I have a question of the Minister of Education (Miss Stephenson). Considering the statement made by the Premier (Mr. Davis) today on the Penetanguishene school question, in the proposal and the agreement will there be consideration of construction of a permanent structure at a later date, if sufficient students arrive at the French-language instructional units to use these quality modular structures over the next few years?
Hon. Miss Stephenson: Mr. Speaker, part of the basis upon which the agreement was reached last night was our commitment to an assessment of the requirements of the students attending at that school in two years’ time. That commitment will be carried out.
FISH STOCKING PROGRAM
Mr. Gaunt: Mr. Speaker, I have a question of the Minister of Natural Resources (Mr. Auld). Is the minister still in a position to fulfil the promise he gave at Owen Sound a few months ago to stock Georgian Bay and part of Lake Huron with 100,000 brown trout, which is certainly needed and is central to the re-establishment of the sport-fishing industry in that part of the province?
Hon Mr. Auld: Mr. Speaker, my recollection of that meeting in Owen Sound is that I said we were going to do it but that it would be in about two years because we were waiting for another hatchery to get into production.
Mr. Gaunt: Has that hatchery come on stream? Where is the minister going to get the disease-free stock if he does not get that hatchery on stream in this province or, indeed, in this country?
Hon. Mr. Auld: My information is that the hatchery that will be producing the brown trout will be producing the additional amount by, I think, 1982.
Mr. Wildman: Mr. Speaker: Does this announcement and commitment by the minister indicate he is changing the stated position of the ministry? Does it still intend to go ahead with the splake program in Georgian Bay and Lake Huron, or is he changing that?
Hon. Mr. Auld: There is no change in that program, Mr. Speaker. I said we were hoping to produce more brown trout. We have a small production at present. When this comes into effect, and assuming all goes well, we will be putting additional brown trout in Georgian Bay.
FOREST MANAGEMENT AGREEMENTS
Mr. Foulds: Mr. Speaker, I have a new question for the Minister of Natural Resources. Does the minister recall his predecessor in the spring of 1978 and himself, last spring, announcing they were hoping to get forest management agreements with private companies by April 1 of that year? Does he recall making statements in March of this year saying that agreements with three companies were being prepared to take effect April 1? Does he recall saying one month later, on April 18, that “there will be announcements of the first of such agreements within weeks?” Can he tell us when his government is finally going to be able to announce that it has a forest management agreement with a private company in Ontario?
Hon. Mr. Auld: Mr. Speaker, assuming that all goes well, we will be signing the first one at 9:30 a.m. on Monday.
NOTICE OF DISSATISFACTION
Mr. Speaker: I want to advise members that the member for Downsview (Mr. Di Santo) has expressed his dissatisfaction with the answer to a question by the Treasurer (Mr. F. S. Miller) regarding grants to pensioners. This will be debated at 10:30 this evening.
GO TRAIN EXTENSION
Mr. Cureatz: I have a petition signed by 21,800 people from Durham East and surrounding areas which states: “We, the undersigned, beg leave to petition the parliament of Ontario as follows: That we support the GO train being extended to Ajax, Whitby, Oshawa and Bowmanville.
PRIVATE MEMBERS’ PUBLIC BUSINESS
Hon. Mr. Wells moved that private members’ ballot item number 22 standing in the name of Mr. Kennedy be debated on May 29 and such remaining ballot items standing in the name of a member of the Progressive Conservative caucus be similarly advanced by one place in their turn.
Motion agreed to.
Hon. Mr. Wells moved that Mr. MacBeth be added as a member of the standing committee on public accounts.
Motion agreed to.
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS
TERRITORIAL DIVISION AMENDMENT ACT
Hon. Mr. Walker, on behalf of Hon. Mr. McMurtry, moved first reading of Bill 56, An Act to amend the Territorial Division Act.
Motion agreed to.
Hon. Mr. Walker: Mr. Speaker, this bill would create a new judicial district comprising the regional municipality of York, severing that municipality for judicial purposes from the municipality of Metropolitan Toronto.
The new judicial district would offer a complete range of legal services, including its own county court, small claims court sheriff and crown attorney, operating out of the new courthouse located in Newmarket which is scheduled to open very shortly.
Because it is not feasible to realign the boundaries of our land registry offices immediately to coincide with the boundaries of the new judicial district, the bill contains transitional provisions to protect the interests of judgement creditors against land in either the new judicial district of York region or the old judicial district of York.
The bill is a recognition of the growth that has taken place in the regional municipality of York in recent years and is an effort on the part of the government to bring legal services closer to home for the benefit of the population of that region.
I trust we can count on the co-operation of all members of the House in getting quick approval of the legislation to create the new judicial district of York region.
JOHN MADRONICH LIMITED ACT
Mr. Rowe, on behalf of Mr. Kerr, moved first reading of Bill Pr9, An Act to revive John Madronich Limited.
Motion agreed to.
HAMILTON FOUNDATION ACT
Mr. S. Smith moved first reading of Bill Pr25, An Act respecting the Hamilton Foundation.
Motion agreed to.
KNOX PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH, OTTAWA, ACT
Mr. Cassidy moved first reading of Bill Pr23, An Act to incorporate Knox Presbyterian Church, Ottawa.
Motion agreed to.
Mr. Cassidy: Mr. Speaker, I have been in this House for eight and a half years and have never had a bill passed yet. I have a chance now to get in practice for after the election.
BOROUGH OF SCARBOROUGH ACT
Mr. Williams moved first reading of Bill Pr24, An Act respecting the Borough of Scarborough.
Motion agreed to.
ANSWERS TO QUESTIONS ON NOTICE PAPER
Hon. Mr. Wells: Mr. Speaker, I would like to table the answers to questions 111 to 114, 116 and 117 and the interim answer to question 119 on the Notice Paper.
Mr. Wildman: Mr. Speaker, am I to understand that the questions that were tabled were numbered 111 onward? If so, there was a question numbered 110, which was tabled April 10, and according to my understanding of standing order 81, at least the interim answer to that question should have been tabled today.
Mr. Speaker: We will have the table officers look into that.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
PRIVATE MEMBERS’ PUBLIC BUSINESS
ELECTORAL SYSTEM FOR METROPOLITAN TORONTO
Mr. R. F. Johnston moved resolution 12:
That in the opinion of this House the government of Ontario should introduce legislation to amend the Municipality of Metropolitan Toronto Act for the purpose of implementing electoral reform of the metropolitan council and that such legislation should include the following provisions: (1) that all councillors, excepting the mayors, be directly elected representing Metro constituencies; (2) that councillors be elected for three-year terms; (3) that the chairperson be a councillor, other than a mayor, elected by council at its inaugural meeting; (4) that an election expenses procedure incorporating expenditure limits, full disclosure and a political contribution tax credit be established.
Mr. R. F. Johnston: Mr. Speaker, it is somewhat strange to be introducing a resolution and having to be on the defensive. The minister must have wanted at least 40 minutes to speak on this matter because on April 7, when he first caught wind of the fact that this was coming forward, he managed to leak to the press his position on direct election. As of today, he managed to leak out his position on the three-year terms. In both cases, he has obviously failed to get any movement or change in cabinet and has had to come back with the status quo. But at least I have been able to establish some public debate on this matter, and I hope we will be able to continue the debate today in the House and try to deal with this matter, which I think is very important.
I produced this as a resolution, and not as a private members’ bill, for a number of reasons. I wanted to introduce a package of electoral reforms, and not one or two simple amendments, and therefore to open the whole discussion in terms of electoral reform in Metro. I did not want to try to be all-inclusive. I did not want to try to cut off aspects which might have ramifications, but rather I wanted to open up the discussion, because we have not had a major discussion on this matter for some time.
I also wanted to allow the government flexibility -- flexibility to work out things like ward boundaries, the numbers of representatives at Metro and that sort of thing, and I did not want to try to limit them. Unfortunately, what we have received so far on two of the points has been a very regressive statement of inaction, and that’s all we have received.
What I am talking about today is not an isolated resolution; it is something that has been part of a process over the last 20-odd years. In 1950-51, the Cummings report was brought forward which recommended the establishment of a Metropolitan Toronto government. In January 1954, Metro was actually formed with 13 municipalities. There were very few changes from then until the mid-1900s, when there was another major report, the Goldenberg report, which was instituted to reflect some of the changes that had happened to Metropolitan Toronto in that period. As a result, the 13 municipalities were moved down to six, although Goldenberg only recommended four municipalities.
There have been a number of changes. A three-year term was introduced in 1967 for a brief period, being withdrawn in 1972. Some budgetary changes occurred in 1973 and 1976. Metro planning was abolished and given over to council in 1974. In 1975, there was an increase in the number of representatives on Metro council to 37. It has been an ongoing process of change of Metro to reflect the changing needs of Metro and its component parts.
It was in 1974 that the Robarts commission was established. The commission was given a very broad mandate on September 10, 1974. It was not limited in any way in its scope. It was allowed to look at the election side of things. It was allowed to look at ward boundaries. It was allowed to look at financing. It had a very broad scope.
It was understood at that time that there had been enormous changes over the 20 years and that it was necessary to have a major review.
There was recognition by the former Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs of the importance of what they came up with at that time. It is disappointing to see today, some six years afterwards, that the present Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs (Mr. Wells) does not feel the recommendations brought forward by that group at that time need to be instituted.
The Robarts report was also a reflection of the mandate of this government. It was the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs at that time who stated that it is the provincial government’s constitutional responsibility for the definition of local government. The Robarts commission was an example of the government taking its responsibilities seriously at that time.
The commission accepted voluminous submissions. The commission surveyed council members in existing councils around Metro. It even travelled to Europe and to Winnipeg to look at other metropolitan federalist examples. During the process it produced a publication called Update, in which it kept people advised of the information they were getting and where they were going. It was an excellent process.
It cost us as taxpayers $1 million, plus an undefined amount at this point, and on top of that about one quarter of the budget of the local government branch of the then Ministry of Treasury, Economics, and Intergovernmental Affairs during that period. It was, therefore, something that should have been taken very seriously.
In coming to grips with its mandate, the commission established four objectives in its report. One was equality of representation around Metro; there is great divergency at this point in terms of the type of representation. Greater equality in representativeness was another of its major recommendations. Clarity and accountability and effective government were the other recommendations.
In making its recommendations it tried to speak to those four different points. I am hoping my resolution, with its four major points -- namely, that there be direct election to Metro council; that the chairman must be an elected member of that council; that there should be three-year terms; and that there should be the ability to have an election expenses act covering municipal politics -- meets those very same objectives and that it will be seen in a positive light.
They accepted those objectives in terms of five major assumptions, only one of which I think has changed at all since that time.
One assumption was that federal-provincial powers having to do with municipalities would not have changed. That is the case.
The second assumption is the one that has changed a bit. It was that there would still be a major focus of power in central Ontario, in terms of economic power. We have seen some erosion of that, in favour of the west, but Ontario is still very much the centre of economic power.
The other assumption was that the population of central Ontario would remain moderate and would not expand. That has become the case; we have had some decrease in population in Metro.
They also assumed that the external boundaries of Metro would not change. That has stayed the same.
The fifth assumption was that the demand for citizen participation in government in Metro would continue to grow.
I believe all those assumptions still hold and that the objectives are still the proper objectives. The minister’s lack of action on direct election, announced last week, and his unwillingness to move on the two-year term in conjunction with that move to direct election, have to be seen to be a failure of the government to take necessary action. To fall back on the excuse that there is not a consensus locally on how to do this is totally wrong. In the past we have never had to depend on consensus.
Those other reports were picked up by an aggressive government, which maybe had a majority and felt it could act more positively. Who knows? But they went ahead with it, although there was no consensus locally.
The minister spoke about there being no crying need at the moment. I would like to quote the ex-Premier, John Robarts, from his report on that matter. “The absence of a crisis should not be taken to mean that the metropolitan system has no problems that require attention. The system’s inadequacies -- lack of clarity, insufficient accountability, less than fair representation and obstacles to economic and effective government” are still there, he said. “Unless rectified, these inadequacies will inhibit the ability of the system to cope with Metropolitan Toronto’s present and future circumstances.” He is, therefore, saying that there is an essential need to act.
Why is direct election to Metro council so important? I believe it is the touchstone of the four points I have made. Without direct election being accepted, the other points lose some meaning. I would hate to see any one of these things introduced without its being a package.
The council, as we have it today, has powers in the areas of social service policy, policing, the Toronto Transit Commission and other matters which are very expensive and vital services to people in Metropolitan Toronto. There are billions of dollars’ worth of expenditures, and larger than those of a lot of provinces in those terms, and yet the council is not directly elected and not directly accountable. Before we make any changes in the rest of the Metropolitan Toronto scene in terms of school boards and local councils, we have to focus in on Metro council in making it more accountable.
In his commission, Mr. Robarts reported the following of Metro Toronto.
It has a population five times greater than that of any other municipality in Ontario. It has a greater population than that of seven out of the 10 provinces in Canada. It is a single, integrated urban area, and yet the supposedly most powerful body representing the needs of people in that integrated area is not directly elected.
The other thing that is very important to note here is that it need not apply elsewhere. We do not have to look at what I am suggesting here as something that should go across the whole of Ontario. Mr. Robarts and everyone else have recognized that Metro is a very special case for the reasons I have mentioned above.
Because no one is directly elected solely to deal with these issues, we have a problem of lack of credibility at Metro council and a lack of concentration at Metro council, in my view. I would like to quote Mr. Roberts again, if I can. He said: “Once in office, Metro councillors must divide their time and interests. Two out of three of them sit on local councils, local committees and on local executive committees as well as doing their duty at Metro council.”
What is disturbing about that is that the Metro executive in its entirety sits on all those other bodies as well. How can they possibly concentrate on the issues that are important to Metro, which I have outlined, if they have only that much time to give?
When they were surveyed by the commission’s staff, it was shown that two thirds of their time was spent on local issues in their local boroughs and only one third of their time on Metro. I don’t think that is appropriate. If we go back to the very beginnings of responsible government at local levels in Ontario, the Baldwin Act of 1849, one finds the principle that those people should be directly responsible to their community was established, but it has not been fulfilled.
There is great confusion on the part of voters when they go to the polls in terms of whom they are electing and why they are electing them. The Robarts report lists 189 positions to be filled at that time. The number that exists to be elected is above that figure now in Metro. He mentions how confusing the ballot is and how difficult it is for people to determine what exactly they are buying. The solution presented by the minister in his statement on April 8 is ludicrous.
He said: “Thus it is proposed also that each municipality in Metro post notices in the polling places indicating in straightforward language the way in which its Metro council representation is determined. It is hoped that these provisions will heighten interest and awareness of the responsible politicians on Metro council.”
It will do nothing but add confusion to the process when people go into those polls. It is absolutely ludicrous that that is going to help anybody to decide when they are voting for a mayoral candidate as to whether they are looking for the chief executive officer in their community -- and that is their major concern -- or whether they want that person to represent them as well as Metro council.
The same applies to the city of Toronto where there are two aldermen. How does one know which one of those he is going to vote for is actually going to represent him on Metro council? How does a voter decide how much of what they are going to be talking about is appropriate to one in making his decision about the metropolitan side of things and how much of what they are saying is appropriate to him in terms of what they are doing locally? It is an untenable position.
The Toronto Star editorial of April 7, which indicated I was introducing this resolution and then stirred up the activity by the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, stated the following: “Instead of being a government, Metro council has become a committee that meets twice a month to look after housekeeping details and does little else.”
This happens at a time when the economy in Metro needs tight scrutiny from the local political level, when police issues need to be taken in hand and dealt with strongly and firmly by local politicians responsible to their local community, when energy and pollution matters need to be confronted and when public transportation and other transportation concerns need to be looked upon by responsible, elected and accountable politicians. We are not getting that.
It is my contention, and that of Robarts, and that of the past Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, Mr. McKeough, that it is vital that direct election be followed and I say it is only fear that is stopping the Tory government from instituting it.
Mr. M. N. Davison: A lack of courage is nothing unusual with the Tories.
Mr. Rotenberg: Some people have the courage to do what is right, and not just change for the sake of change.
Mr. M. N. Davison: Courage? The honourable member doesn’t even have fear.
Mr. R. F. Johnston: I note the member for Wilson Heights (Mr. Rotenberg) is attacking the past Premier of the province and his approach to things, and is not accepting responsibility. Let me tell you, Mr. Speaker, what the past Minister of Inter-provincial Affairs said in terms of this. He said, “People should not be governed in our local communities through remote and confused realms of responsibility that would frustrate effective assessment of responsibility and action taken.” That is what he said, and he was dead right in that circumstance.
The present Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs (Mr. Wells) has thrown up another red herring in terms of opposing that; that is, the Robarts report and recommendation on direct election was totally contingent upon changing all the boundaries in Metro, and we haven’t been able to find a means of changing those boundaries in Metro and, therefore, we can’t do anything with it.
If that is the case, why did the last Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs not say so? Why did he not hold that view? He believed, as I believe, that one can work out something temporary which will bring more equity to representation. One can have more wards closer to an average size than we have at this point without changing boundaries, and that can be done at another stage, but surely at this point it is important to have those people directly elected.
It is a total red herring and an indication that the minister has no commitment to real electoral change in Metro and has moved away from the idea that there should be responsible government at all levels. The specious idea that this is not a level of government at this point is one that has to be thrown out totally. This is a level of government, and it is indirectly elected and totally unaccountable.
The other matter the minister raises is the idea that 20 of these 37 people are already double directly elected -- I think that is the way he put it, coining a new phrase -- and he is talking about the mayors, the controllers, et cetera. Those people are elected on several mandates and I submit people are confused when they make their decisions about exactly where they are placing their priorities. Those are exactly the people who have the least time to give at Metro at this point, and in no way can they be seen to be full-time, directly elected representatives of that scale.
There is another vital reason why we need to improve the representativeness at Metro council -- and the only way to do that is by direct election by wards -- and that is that there are whole sections of Metropolitan Toronto and socio-economic groups in Metropolitan Toronto that are not effectively represented by Metro council.
Mr. Deputy Speaker: The honourable member has only three minutes left.
Mr. R. F. Johnston: Of my 20? Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Then I will continue, rather than having any summary at the end.
What I want to come down to is the political reality of why the Tories are not doing anything, and that is the fact that they are afraid of what real political representation from the Jane-Finch area, from my area, Scarborough, and from other areas of Metro would do to their power base in Metro. That is what they are basically afraid of.
The political realities, if we had a ward system, would bring back to the Metropolitan Toronto area exactly the kind of representation we have now, which is to say 14 in the House here; 14 members elected by the NDP provincially, 14 members by the Tories and one Liberal. That is exactly the kind of representation we would get as a reflection of the socio-economic groups we tend to represent. We would see that at council, and that is what they are afraid of.
That is why the minister will continue to allow the most powerful position in Metropolitan Toronto, perhaps the most powerful position outside of the Premier, to be held by a non-elected individual -- as a buffer, a means by which the Tories here control that council. That is totally inappropriate. Even Mr. Robarts mentioned that there was a disproportionately high number of self-employed business and professional people elected, representing those very interests -- I would submit representing those development interests at Metro council. That would change if we changed the political system in Metro to have direct election.
The government is effectively inserting itself between the rights of the people in Metropolitan Toronto to have a responsible elected government. As a democrat, I am offended by an insertion of what I am hearing here. All that is right indicates we must have those people elected and responsible to the local people, even if it takes away from the government’s power and even if it took away from our power if we were the party in power provincially. It was dead wrong for the government to insert itself in that position.
The three-year term is an essential part of opening up the representation we get at Metro. It is important because of the debt consideration. It is a good economic measure because of the cost of having so many quick elections. It also is important in managing that entity at Metro which has such a huge budget. It would allow a lot of lower-income people to be represented on council, rather than the types who are getting elected. It would allow them time to pay off their election debts. It would join with my idea of having an election expenses procedure which would allow them to run and participate without fear of running into too many debts. Mr. Robarts said participation in local government is more extensive, more direct and a realistic possibility for more citizens than participation in any other level of government.
Mr. Deputy Speaker: The honourable member’s time has now expired.
Mr. R. F. Johnston: In conclusion, I would say what John Stuart Mill said: “We do not learn to read or write, to ride or to swim by merely being told how to do it, but by doing it. It is only by practising popular government on a limited scale that people will ever learn to exercise it on a larger scale,” and therefore help us by being well- informed electors.
Mr. McClellan: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order: I realize the Liberal Party have a very marginal interest in things Metro but, just to ensure that they may have a few members here for a Metro debate, I am going to call for a quorum.
Mr. Deputy Speaker called for the quorum bells.
Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. There is a quorum.
Mr. Leluk: Mr. Speaker, I welcome the opportunity to add my views in opposing the revolution -- the resolution which is now before the House.
Mr. M. Davidson: Revolution?
Mr. Leluk: It sounds like a revolution from across the House.
Since the adoption of the two-tier system in 1953, Metro council has developed an excellent spirit of co-operation among the six municipalities. Metropolitan Toronto has one of the finest infrastructures in North America and is one of the safest and cleanest cities in the world, thanks largely to the efforts of Metro council.
The present two-tier system employed by Metro Toronto has attained that fine balance between local concerns and Metro-wide issues. As a result, Metro Toronto has not inherited the distressing economic and social problems facing many cities of comparable size throughout North America.
This government has carefully examined the responses to the white paper submitted by each of the six municipal councils, as well as those from Metro, the individual mayors, aldermen and ratepayer groups. A number of municipal councillors and mayors reject the allegation that Metro Toronto is suffering because council members are only interested in local issues.
I happen to know that few, if any, feel that the council tends to delay dealing with Metrowide issues. In addition, Metro councillors and officials of three of the boroughs support the present system of electing the Metro chairman.
I do not support the view advocated by the opposition and the press that direct elections would somehow guarantee that Metro council would develop a Metro-wide view of issues. Each member of council would continue to be elected and supported on a local constituency level, as are members of all forms of government. As a result, Metro representatives would continue to focus their attention on both local and Metro-wide issues.
At present, 30 out of the 38 Metro councillors are directly elected. A more elaborate and costly electoral system would not be warranted for the election of eight members of council. Every politician is, and should be, accountable to the voters by the very fact of being elected to any governmental position.
The major items before Metro council are usually circulated to the local council for comment before a decision is made. Interested councillors have an opportunity for input through the local councils, and they can appear before committees of council to speak on issues. Accountability of Metro councillors is there if we are willing to admit it.
One argument supporting direct elections is the increasing size of Metro’s budget and that a full-time council is needed to administer the funds. The present budget is approximately $700 million. This sounds impressive, but the budget size is not due to Metro’s involvement in any additional large expenditures. The fact remains that, owing to inflation, what once cost $400 million to $500 million a few years ago now costs $700 million. The bulk of the funding goes to the ongoing support by Metro of various boards and commissions such as the Toronto Transit Commission, Metro police and the library and zoo facilities. There is very little money left for a full-time, enlarged level of government to administer.
The direct election of a separate Metro council would undoubtedly lead to the demand by the council for separate office space, additional secretaries, research and support staff and increased salaries, which at present are set at $7,230 per annum. There would be a need for new facilities to accommodate not only the new offices, but also the increase that is bound to occur in departmental staff.
I do not believe that the people of Metro are prepared to pay more taxes for the operation of Metro when there is clearly little new for it to do. An additional full-time level of government would not improve the services or welfare of the taxpayers enough to justify the increased expenditure.
The bulk of Metro Toronto’s land area now is urbanized, and moat of its costly physical infrastructure is in place. Metro council will simply continue to maintain and monitor the smooth operation that is already in place. The white paper of Metropolitan Toronto clearly based the concept of direct elections on the premise that a major reorganization of the municipal boundaries and the composition of the constituent municipalities must be carried out first. Direct election could not provide fair and equal representation with the present disparities and ward sizes and the number of elected officials from each area.
In Etobicoke, for example, the wards range in size of population from 40,000 to 77,800. These changes would have to be rectified prior to any type of Metro-wide election. There is not the time available to implement the proposed ward changes. Other issues, such as the number of representatives from each municipality and municipal boundary changes, could not possibly be resolved before the next municipal election in November. The people of Metro have totally rejected the white paper’s proposal to alter Metro’s municipal boundaries as extremely costly, unnecessary and undesirable.
More problems would be created than the reorganization could possibly expect to solve. The already low support at the local levels would be further reduced by the increased confusion over new boundaries within Metro. I believe that direct elections would create a climate more conducive to confrontation between the two separate levels of government, and they could lead to a complete breakdown of co-operation at the Metro level. The mayors of three municipalities support this government in its decision not to proceed with direct elections, fearing Metro council would become completely separate instead of a part of a two-level system.
The ultimate fear of direct election is that this is simply the first step towards the amalgamation of the municipalities within Metro. The next logical step after direct elections would be a four-city structure in Metro, with York and East York joining the city of Toronto. Within 10 years this would lead to total amalgamation and the creation of one large city. The people of Metro are not prepared to accept such a form of government, which would be very remote and powerful. It could totally ignore very important local concerns, and lower-tier councils would be reduced to a symbolic role.
Mr. M. N. Davison: Is Paul Godfrey a Conservative?
Mr. Rotenberg: Is the sky blue?
Mr. Leluk: He wouldn’t know.
This scenario is not totally unrealistic. Direct elections and the amalgamation of the smaller municipalities would eventually lead to the introduction of political parties at the local level. To encourage this, which direct election does, would destroy a system of government which has been very successful and has worked well in Ontario.
Mr. R. F. Johnston: There has been implicit party politics anyhow. It’s how you stay in power here.
Mr. Leluk: The members opposite would destroy a good system and have the taxpayers foot the bill for it.
I believe I have the support of my constituents, the Etobicoke council, many of the mayors and municipal officials and certainly the people of Toronto in opposing direct election and in opposing the eventual destruction of the excellent two-tier system of government we have in Toronto.
Mr. Epp: Mr. Speaker, at the outset I want to remind the members that only a year ago on June 14, 1979 -- I introduced a private member’s bill which in many respects is similar to the resolution introduced today. At that time, I introduced the three-year term for councillors and school board officials across the province. I also introduced in my private member’s bill the suggestion that the chairman be elected in a ward and then go directly to the Metro council.
I would like to say the Ontario Liberal Party can support the last three points proposed by the member for Scarborough West in his resolution but cannot support the first provision in favour of direct election of Metro councillors. Members of this House will remember it was almost six years ago, in September 1974, that the Robarts commission was established to assess the political system of Metropolitan Toronto. The commission’s efforts were extensive, involving more than two and a half years of work, two sets of hearings, a total of 227 briefs, and the expenditure of about $1.5 million tax dollars. Considering the tremendous time and effort that was put into the Robarts report, I believe this government’s response is a gross insult.
The white paper was very shallow and simplistic and did not take into account some of the very important proposals in that report, particularly recommendations that legislation be amended with respect to Metro and the area municipalities to provide general power to legislate with respect to local affairs, general power to delegate responsibility and authority for all special-purpose bodies.
The minister’s statement on the electoral system for Metropolitan Toronto, issued on April 8, 1980, is equally simplistic. Is the minister serious when he suggests that Metro Toronto has been free of confrontation and that the system is working well? His statement that “Metro does have a form of direct election, a kind of double-direct election” is really absurd. The minister appears to be hanging the credibility of his government’s approach to Metro on the obsolete and inappropriate board of control system which has been almost entirely eliminated in Ontario. Boards of control now exist in London, Hamilton and Ottawa. In Hamilton they are in the process of eliminating it, and in Ottawa they have eliminated it. That means it exists only in London, outside of the four municipalities in Toronto.
Since the government is convinced the Metro system is working well and that 25 years’ experience proves it is very successful, I would like to ask why it bothered with the $1.5-million Robarts study? That commission identified a number of weaknesses of the Metro Toronto system. One was a lack of clarity in the system, notable by the very complicated arrangements which now exist for selecting members of Metro council, whereby some get to sit on Metro council because they are mayors or controllers, some get to sit on Metro by virtue of their election to senior aldermanic positions in their wards and still others get to sit on Metro because they are chosen to do so by their local council.
A second major concern, and one which is growing in importance as the budget now has grown to a size of more than $800 million, is a lack of accountability. Under the current system, Metro council is directly accountable neither to the electorate nor to the area municipal councils. Since Metro spends most of the money and is responsible for such major functions as police, transit and social services, this is a serious problem in the view of our party.
A third concern identified by that report was a lack of effectiveness at the Metro level, the inability to govern. However, the report pointed to a number of factors contributing to this ineffectiveness, such as the reduced scope of municipal policy discretion because of provincial control and a lack of financial autonomy. Another factor highlighted in the report is that power at the local level is fragmented among many local special-purpose bodies which act like little governments in themselves without being answerable to the elected councils. The work load at the Metro level would seem to be another problem that is reducing the efficiency and effectiveness of Metro government.
The minister has seen fit to ignore all those concerns and to assert that the system is working so well that no changes are needed. The Ontario Liberal Party does not agree. We do, of course, accept the continuation of the two-tier system for Metro Toronto. However, we have proposed and still support the following changes.
There should be only one alderman per ward to eliminate unhealthy rivalry and expensive duplication of service. Boards of control should be eliminated and replaced by executive committees. The Metro chairman should be elected by and from the members of Metro council. In other words, he should be locally elected. Mayors would continue to be elected at large.
Municipal councils should have increased control over special-purpose bodies, such as the Toronto Transit Commission and Metropolitan Toronto Library Board at the Metro level, and public health, planning, library boards and hydroelectric commissions at the local level.
There should be a three-year term, since the present two-year term obviously limits the ability of local politicians to plan and implement programs and contributes to apathy in local elections. We were impressed by the fact that in 227 briefs received by the Robarts commission, there was almost unanimous support for reinstatement of the three-year term.
With respect to the selection of Metro councillors, we would agree that the problem of accountability needs to be addressed. This House will recall that when the Robarts commission recommended direct election of Metro councillors it did so within the context of increased municipal autonomy, and direct election was part of a package.
The commission had proposed increasing power at the municipal level at the expense of the province and at the expense of all special-purpose bodies, except for school boards. However, the resolution proposed by the member for Scarborough West (Mr. R. F. Johnston) proposes direct election in isolation. I believe that direct election of Metro councillors, without increased powers from both Metro and the area municipalities, would shift the balance of power towards Metro council and centralize power within the federation. I feel that direct election in this context will be a step towards amalgamation.
At the same time, the accountability problem must be dealt with. The present means of selecting the members of Metro council is not acceptable. Our party has proposed that Metro councillors be elected by and from their local councils. This approach would satisfy the principle of accountability and make the electoral system clear and more consistent. It would also overcome some of the concerns about workload, since local councillors presumably would not send executive committee members to Metro to do double and triple duty as they now do, although mayors would sit on Metro council.
To sum up, I believe the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs (Mr. Wells) has done a disservice to the people of Metropolitan Toronto by his very glib dismissal of the issues raised by the Robarts report.
I support three of the provisions of the member for Scarborough West’s resolution, but I am unable to support it because of the first recommendation, namely, that calling for direct election.
I would urge the government to act on those matters for which there is a clear consensus, namely, the provision of a three-year term for Metro, and, I would add, for cities within regions as well as separated cities within counties. I would urge the government to act for legislation to ensure that the chairperson be a councillor elected by and from the members of Metro council and for the creation of an election expenses procedure.
Ms. Bryden: Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs’ (Mr. Wells) statement today, rejecting the three-year term for all municipalities, was most reprehensible. He was obviously trying to influence the debate on a private member’s resolution which he knew was coming up for discussion today, and possibly attempting to grab a headline without even having to participate in the debate.
The minister may argue that he was simply indicating that government members intend to block a vote on this resolution. If he was so indicating, he was contributing to the government’s continued policy of making a sham of private members’ hour by indicating in advance that the debate would be futile.
Perhaps he was indicating to the House, indirectly, his obvious discomfort at having to admit there are many arguments on both sides of this question. This would seem to indicate that there is a real split in the cabinet on the subject and that perhaps the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs did not get the side adopted that he preferred.
At any rate, we can only speculate, since he is not here to participate in the debate.
I would like to point out that we are not discussing today the question of whether there should be a two-year or three-year term for all municipal councils. We are discussing whether there should b a certain amount of electoral reform for the municipality of Metropolitan Toronto.
The municipality of Metropolitan Toronto, as we all know, operates under its own legislation, and any change in its system of government would affect only the municipality of Metropolitan Toronto. Therefore, we are discussing only whether the electoral reforms listed in the resolution are suitable for the municipality of Metropolitan Toronto.
I submit that this is quite a different question from the topic of whether we should have a two-year or three-year term for all municipal councils. Therefore, the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs’ intervention by his statements in the House today was completely inappropriate for this debate.
Mr. Speaker has ruled that the resolution is in order. Therefore, I think we should discuss it seriously.
We all know that John Robarts was appointed a royal commissioner to review the municipality of Metropolitan Toronto legislation. He took three years on the job. He heard a great many briefs, he did a great amount of research, and he came up with a report in 1977 that did include some very fundamental recommendations for change in the electoral system.
The report included three of the four recommendations in my colleague’s resolution. It included the direct election of councillors to Metro council. They would be elected from their own wards, which would be about the size of three of the present wards. It included the three-year term. It included that the chairman should be chosen from the other councillors and that he himself should be an elected councillor and not a mayor. It included a reform which Mr. Robarts did not deal with very specifically; that is, the need for an election expenses act in the municipal area similar to the provincial Election Finances Reform Act. Mr. Robarts did recognize that elections were costly and that the cost did have an effect on the people who presented themselves.
Since my time is limited, I am going to speak mainly about the arguments for the three-year term in Metropolitan Toronto. We did have a three-year term from 1966 to 1972, and the roof did not fall in. In fact, one could argue that we had very good government in that period. But we have had a two-year term since 1972. Let me read what John Robarts said about the term of office on page 53:
“A two-year term of office is too short to permit adequate planning and policy-making by the elected representatives or informed assessment of their performance by the voters.” On page 37 he said: “With a two-year term of office, local politicians in this large and complex government system are never far from an election and have little incentive, or indeed opportunity, to take a longer view or to make and implement long-range policies.”
Clearly, Mr. Robarts favoured a three-year term. He touched on the main arguments for the longer term, namely, the complexity of metropolitan government, involving 2.2 million people and a very large budget, a budget larger than some provinces in this country. He also touched on the problems of dealing with a large police force, the Toronto Transit Commission, a network of major roads and a network of social services. He mentioned that one needs time to plan and to implement long-range policies.
The main argument that seems to be put up against the longer term is the question of accountability. Are people accountable on a two-year term at the municipal level but on a four- or five-year term at the federal or provincial level? It seems to me that if accountability applies to us, it would also apply to local councillors.
The minister mentions that there is no cabinet system in the municipal field and that perhaps makes a difference. I would hope if we had longer terms and adequate electoral reform we might develop a cabinet system at the local level. But I think it is completely unacceptable and illogical to say we are more accountable on a four- or five- year term, while they are not accountable unless they have a two-year term.
Some of the other arguments are that with a longer term councillors would have time to gain more knowledge, be more independent of the permanent officials and be able to rely on their own judgement, rather than having to take as much advice from people who obviously have had much more time to learn the facts and situations. They would have time to analyse the efficiency of the delivery of services and to institute reorganizations. It would save money on elections but, outside of the money, there would be a great improvement in efficiency. Decisions would not be delayed because an election was imminent.
The arguments are overwhelming for a municipality of the size of the municipality of Metropolitan Toronto. The only reason I can see that the government is opposing it is that it is afraid to let the municipality out of short pants. They are afraid that it might challenge their power. They are afraid to give the citizens of Metropolitan Toronto efficient government. That is why they are opposed to electoral reform. We cannot let them get away with this.
I as a resident of Metropolitan Toronto, and we as legislators responsible for the legislation under which Metropolitan Toronto operates, must see it operates in the most efficient way and delivers the services to those 2.2 million people in the best way and with members who are accountable.
I cannot see there is any need to consider that we have to have a uniform election date across the province for all municipalities. What goes on in the municipality of Metropolitan Toronto is completely its own concern, and the date of the election in some other municipality has no effect at all on what the voters in Metropolitan Toronto decide.
Mr. Rotenberg: Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member for Scarborough West (Mr. R. F. Johnston) for the motion and to welcome him as his party’s critic on Metropolitan Toronto matters. I welcome the motions, I welcome the point of view he and his party have brought forward and I welcome the debate and the dialogue on this very important matter. However, I am indicating at the outset that I will not be supporting the motion.
The strength of metropolitan council, the strength of the Metropolitan Toronto system of government, is that it is a federation of a number of municipalities, and the strength is that the members of metropolitan council are members who sit on both the metropolitan council and the local council. Part of the job for which they were elected, part of the job for which they ran, is to sit on the Metro council as well as local council -- not all of them, but many of them.
It is a matter of the philosophy one has of the metropolitan system of government. Are the Metro and the local governments two separate governments? Or are we to have a two-tier system of municipal government which is somewhat integrated? The member for Scarborough West was not totally clear on what he was saying, but I gathered from his remarks that he really favours and opts for two entirely separate governments.
Mr. R. F. Johnston: The mayor sits on both councils.
Mr. Rotenberg: The correction is that the mayor sits on both councils. I must disagree with that point of view. I also disagree with the proposals that the member for Waterloo North (Mr. Epp) seemed to be bringing forward.
There is no question the present system of metropolitan government is not perfect. No system of government anywhere is perfect; the system we have here certainly is not perfect. But I would submit that the system in Metropolitan Toronto is working reasonably well. The changes, particularly those in the electoral system which have been proposed here today, will not make the system work better. In my opinion, the system will not work as well under the proposals as it does now.
I do not favour change simply for the sake of change. I would submit that the councillors at present are accountable, and there is no evidence whatsoever that councils will be any more accountable under a different system of election that they are today. I think a totally separate government with a totally separate ballot and separate elections in the way that has been proposed will tend more to confuse the voters than to enlighten them as to what they are voting for.
The question really is, does the present system work? It is very easy for us to sit up here in Queen’s Park and tell someone else what they should do. We should ask those who have been there and those who are there. There are four members of this House who have been members of the metropolitan council: the member for Humber (Mr. MacBeth), the member for Oriole (Mr. Williams), the member for St. George (Mrs. Campbell) and myself. I am sorry the member for St. George isn’t speaking here today -- and I stress I am not criticizing her; I know she has committee duties elsewhere -- because she served many years in the metropolitan council, and her views would b interesting.
Those of us who have served there will say the work load, by serving on both councils, is not too heavy. Anyone who is properly qualified to serve on a council can do the job, can sit on those various committees, can sit on the two councils and do the job properly. They have done it, and most of the members there are still doing it.
What the member for Scarborough West is trying to get is a change in the function of the members of the Metro council -- but not totally. He seems to be tending towards what was the Winnipeg system, which was two totally separate councils. The members of the Winnipeg Metro council and of the regional councils were elected separately or elected directly, and there was no liaison between the two councils. I, for one, having been there, say that simply will not work. The reason the present system does work is that it is a two-tier municipal system, not two separate governments, and those who serve on both councils are well able to integrate the whole municipal government system.
If one is talking about changes in the way the members are chosen to sit on both councils, as they do now, that has some possibilities. I stress again, it has been mentioned that at least 20 of the 37 members are not only elected directly, but also have indicated that in the office for which they run they will be sitting on the Metropolitan Toronto council. As the minister announced several weeks ago, we will be bringing forward legislation recommending that the ballot in December indicate the mayors and controllers who are running for those offices and for Metro council.
The 11 aldermen in the city of Toronto who get the most votes are elected for that office and are elected to Metro council. I ran for that office a number of times and was elected. If the member doesn’t think it is an election, let me tell him it is tough not only to be elected as alderman, but also to come first.
I not only suggest asking those of us here who have been there, but also it would b interesting to see what the present Metro councillors think of direct election. There is no groundswell for change by any of the members of council. I point out to the member for Scarborough West, who has brought forward this motion that the Scarborough council has not recently brought in any motions like this. The ward two alderman, who shares the area the member represents and who is a member of the New Democratic Party, from my understanding has not brought forward any resolutions asking for this.
People are confused as to what direct election is. East York has passed a form of direct election that is undefined as they talked about it. This may be getting to what the member for Waterloo North suggested about boards o control. The North York council now has before it a resolution which is supported by the New Democratic Party members of that council. In effect it calls for the abolition of the board o control and for a system similar to that of the city of Toronto -- two aldermen per ward, with the senior alderman going to Metropolitan Toronto council.
That system is available to the borough of North York. I sat in on some of their meetings. From a somewhat neutral position, I advised those on both sides of the issue how they could go about it. I pointed out that the borough of North York can institute that system without reference to further legislation. The borough of Scarborough can do it if it wishes, without further legislation. That will solve the alleged problem that certain parts of the boroughs do not have proper representation on the Metro council.
The member for Waterloo North mentioned one alderman per ward. I recall that the member for St. George, when we served on city council together, brought forward a motion that city council should have only one alderman per ward. I supported that motion. I think it has some merit. I point out again that if the city wants to go to one alderman per ward it is at liberty to do so without legislation.
I would like to spend a few minutes on the other parts of the resolution of the member’s for Scarborough West. The matter of the three-year term was adequately dealt with by the minister earlier this afternoon.
On the matter of the chairman being elected, under our present system of government being chairman of Metropolitan Toronto is a full-time job. A member of a local council sitting on Metro council also has a full-time job. A person cannot do both jobs. It is not like the parallel of a Premier or cabinet minister running his constituency, because the member does serve on two councils. Aside from the time element, it is my submission that, as long as we keep the present system, the chairman of Metro council should be somewhat neutral as between municipalities and should not serve on a local council.
I also put it that two of the four Metro chairmen have been Liberals and not Tories. It isn’t just a Tory situation.
The Metro chairman is really a city manager with only a casting vote. He does not vote regularly on the council, but only when there is a tied vote. Talking about accountability, it would be difficult for a Metro chairman to go back and run in a ward, or to run for a board of control, and be elected again -- he cannot fulfil his function and cannot be accountable.
The last part of the motion, as far as election expenses are concerned, is really a three-part motion. The motion is asking for permission for an election expenses procedure incorporating full disclosure. I would point out to the members of the House that already in the Municipal Elections Act, section 121, “The council of a municipality may by bylaw provide for limitations on election expenditures by or on behalf of a candidate and require the disclosure by a candidate of all election contributions to his campaign in excess of $100 in the form of money and goods and services.” If a municipality now wishes to pass a disclosure situation, it can do it.
As far as limitations on expenses are concerned, I do not favour limitations on expenses any more than I would favour limitations on the number of signs, the number of election workers or the number of phone calls. A person who runs for office should be able to marshal whatever resources he wishes to in order to go forward and get elected.
As for establishing a tax credit, the federal government has a system of tax credits. If one contributes to a federal party or a federal candidate of one’s choice, that is deducted only from the federal income tax, not the total tax. If one contributes to a provincial candidate or a provincial party, that is deducted from the provincial tax.
It would seem to be logical, if the municipalities wish to have some sort of system to aid themselves or others in running for office, it should be deducted from the municipal tax. There is no reason why, in my opinion, the provincial government or the provincial Treasury -- I do not favour this altogether, personally; it is bad enough they are subsidizing all the provincial candidates
-- should, in effect, subsidize all the municipal candidates for municipal elections in 850 districts.
I welcome the debate, but cannot support the motion.
Mr. Ruston: I will be very brief, Mr. Speaker. The problem I have with the resolution in regard to the election of Metro council is that I would have great reservations that it might lead eventually to single-tier government. If that is what we are heading for and what the motion intends to bring on at some time, that is a new light on it, but that is the way I would look at it. In our own area we have two-tier government which is, in effect, the same as Metro council. We have a number of different councils in county council, and the councillors serve on both. This is the same thing, only it covers a much larger area, of course, with much heavier population. I have a feeling if that were instigated it could very well disrupt the present system considerably.
As far as a three-year term is concerned, I have no objection to that. I feel that should be the prerogative of municipalities in Ontario. I know some of the smaller municipalities are quite happy with a two-year term, but it should be allowed if the municipality so desires. I would have no objection to that part. As for the chairman being appointed -- other than the mayor elected by council -- I would have no objection to that either.
The previous speaker said the municipalities could put through an election expenses procedure but, since the municipalities are the creatures of the province, I think that is getting a little far out. I am pretty sure the member for Wilson Heights (Mr. Rotenberg) is a little off there when he says they can claim on their property taxes. That is getting a little ridiculous. I would say this matter should be allowed at the instigation of the province since the municipalities are the creatures of the province.
Mr. Warner: Mr. Speaker, I am extremely disappointed with the contribution from the Conservative Party when I think back through the entire process, with the very thorough Robarts investigation and the tabling of an excellent document which many members of this House, myself included, went through with a fine-tooth comb; it was taken seriously, not only by this party, but also by elected members throughout the boroughs.
I held meetings in every borough and the city of Toronto at the time the report came out. We had an overwhelming response from the elected people. It seemed quite clear to me that there was a responsibility for this government to bring in some electoral reform -- that is what that report screamed for, electoral reform -- but we have nothing, absolutely nothing. We had nothing but a bill for $1 million -- $1 million spent on that study and no reform.
The very least the government could have done was to ensure that there would be full disclosure of political contributions. Surely there isn’t a member in this House who would disagree that people who receive money to run a campaign should disclose the source of that donation, but there is not even that. Surely there isn’t a member of this House who believes that a position of influence and responsibility to the people should not be elected. In the second most powerful position in Ontario we have a non-elected person. I think that’s a disgrace.
The member for Wilson Heights (Mr. Rotenberg) talked about the issue of the Metro chairman because he knows full well that, while his responsibility is to chair a meeting, he is a political creature and he uses his position and his power to line up the votes on the issues. He does that extremely well on behalf of the Conservative Party. It’s no wonder he doesn’t want him accountable to the people of Toronto. He would be tossed out of office, and he knows it.
Mr. Acting Speaker: The member’s time has expired.
Mr. Warner: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Acting Speaker: The time for debating this item has also expired. It will be voted on later.
INTERIM COMPENSATION FOR WCB CLAIMANTS
Mr. Turner moved resolution 10:
That in the opinion of this House, the government of Ontario consider the need for procedures under the Workmen’s Compensation Act whereby, in cases of demonstrated real need, provision is made for interim compensation for necessary living expenditures incurred by claimants while the Workmen’s Compensation Board determines whether compensation is payable under the act and that, if compensation is determined to be payable, such interim payments be considered part of the compensation and if compensation is determined not to be payable such payments be recoverable by the board.
Mr. Turner: Mr. Speaker, in presenting this resolution, I am addressing a problem which I believe is shared by all members of this House. In each of our rulings we will find families and individuals who, for various reasons, may not share the economic security that is enjoyed by a majority of the residents of this province.
I have introduced this resolution to deal with one situation in which individuals are unnecessarily forced to face severe financial hardship. In my offices, both at Queen’s Park and in Peterborough, I have notices from many of my constituents who have thought to advise me that their claim of injury to the Workmen’s Compensation Board for various reasons has not been settled. These letters come from individuals with a variety of employment backgrounds and physical complaints. All have been examined as required by a physician and have submitted the required proof of such examinations to the board. For reasons that are not clear, action on their claims has not been taken.
As all members are aware, until the claims are settled the Workmen’s Compensation Board does not pay any compensation. One of my constituents, and I use this as an example, has been unable to work since last October and has heard nothing about the adjudication of her claim. Her sources of support are extremely limited and she, and many like her, have no income during this waiting period. We are dealing in many cases with cases of families who, for reason of physical injury, are unable to work and are left with no way of meeting their necessary living expenses. We provide no bridge mechanism until their claim is settled.
This resolution is addressing the plight of individuals who are in real need of income to pay their rent and their mortgages and to put food on the table. I might point out it is not the intention of this resolution to ensure that injured workers not be without a steady income. It is my intention today to call to the attention of all members that there is a need for economic reform in this area.
I would like to reflect on the kinds of choices or options open to an injured worker in financial distress whose claim is not expediently settled. The first choice is to go out and borrow money at the best deal he can make. Interest rates today are prohibitive. Another choice is to apply for unemployment insurance benefits. These moneys may be obtained, to he repaid after the claim has been settled. I feel it imperative to bring to your attention, Mr. Speaker, that this bridge mechanism from a federal program is tacitly accepted as a solution to a problem that is defined within provincial jurisdiction. I find the solution unacceptable. As elected representatives to this government we would seem to condone this option by our silence.
It is imperative to look beyond the context and array of options open to the individual facing this dilemma and to appraise the response of the Workmen’s Compensation Board. It is interesting to note that last year the board accepted almost 461,000 claims for compensation for injuries incurred while on the job. Of these claims 60 per cent required medical aid only. The remaining 40 per cent involved payment for loss of time on the job as well as compensation for medical expenses.
The record of the Workmen’s Compensation Board is generally good regarding the haste with which the board dispatches the payment of the claim. Last year, 92 per cent of compensation claims were paid within three days.
Mr. Lupusella: Why are you presenting this resolution, then?
Ms. Turner: I’ll come to that.
Expanding the time frame to five days, 96 per cent of the claimants received payment. The cases of the remaining four per cent are somewhat more complicated, but 75 per cent of these are settled within 30 working days. It is clear from these figures that the problem we debate today specifically relates to special cases that are relatively few in number.
I would like to make very clear that I am not introducing this resolution, this concern, to the members of this Legislature in criticism of the activities and effectiveness of the Workmen’s Compensation Board, but quite the opposite. As the above mentioned figures reflect, its record appears to be impressive indeed. I am also aware the board has introduced initiatives and programs specifically to enhance its effectiveness with regard to claim adjudication. I will mention a few of these now. The quality of staff performance has been enhanced through quarterly reviews of the case load of each member and work inspection programs introduced to help staff make decisions about new claims as well as to ensure the proper management of prolonged disability claims.
The recent appointment of Lincoln Alexander, a former federal colleague, will also undoubtedly bring progressive results. I would like to extend my personal best wishes to him in the task ahead of him. Despite the quality of the board’s workmanship, we do need a bridge mechanism to ensure that the welfare of each and every person in this province is taken into consideration. Despite the impressive record of claim adjudication by the board, there remain individuals and families awaiting their claims who are financially and economically very vulnerable. I am sure this kind of stress does little to aid the necessary physical and emotional processes of convalescence and the return to health and the work place.
The quality of our working life is poor indeed if we refuse to admit and take some responsibility for this action. More field workers and adjudicating staff have been hired to reduce the case load and to provide better and prompter service to injured workers. A continuing training program has been offered to enable adjudicators to gain invaluable experience and to deal with the more complex cases. In effect, a major ongoing objective of the Workmen’s Compensation Board has been to enhance the quality of their work.
Recent announcements by our Minister of Labour (Mr. Elgie) reflect the promise of progressive change. Next summer a comprehensive study of possible advancements in the calculation and implementation of benefits will be heard. This examination is being conducted by Mr. Paul Weiler, whose broad-based knowledge and ability are well known and well respected.
The quality of working life has long been an important consideration for this government. The Workmen’s Compensation Act was passed in 1914. It contained measures which assured workmen the right to compensation for an injury, for the term of disability, and assured that compensation would be paid whether or not negligence contributed to the accident. For employers the option to finance the compensation scheme under the collective liability principle ensured that they would not be individually liable for each accident on the job site. The adversary system of the courts was replaced by the creation of an independent commission or board to administrate the Workmen’s Compensation Act and all claims to compensation. Ontario’s reform was used, as I have no doubt members are aware, as a model for similar legislation in all the other provinces of this great country. We are all aware of the extensive range of problems; the programs the Workmen’s Compensation Board of Ontario has created and of the many ways the board has contributed to the wellbeing of the residents of Ontario.
Ontario workers disabled by work-related accidents or diseases are compensated for the disability, and in severe cases the workers and their families are provided with pensions. An extensive range of medical services is offered, including assessment treatment, research services and all-important prevention programs. Through vocational rehabilitation services, an injured worker is given emotional support and guidance as well as the retraining so necessary to his emotional and financial re-establishment.
The task of the Workmen’s Compensation Board of Ontario is to provide members of the work force in Ontario with the assurance and the action that their health and wellbeing will not be hampered by their participation in the work force without due compensation for any injuries that arise. It is the mandate of the board and this government to provide the people of Ontario with the services and legislation which assure our rights to fully participate in the process of the work force.
Recently the board increased the ceiling on 75 per cent earnings from $16,000 to $18,500.
Mr. Lupusella: We all know the story. Come to the point.
Mr. Turner: I am getting there. That became effective in July of last year. This action and other actions, such as the reciprocal agreement with Italy regarding compensation for injuries to workers incurred in other lands, are statements of the Ministry of Labour’s and the board’s intention to provide workers the necessary means to answer their immediate needs and promote their rehabilitation. This objective cannot be obtained without a commitment by this government and all of us in this assembly to adapt to changing situations and institute reform where reform is necessary. The history of the Workmen’s Compensation Board and the programs created by this government provide the people of Ontario with an illustration of this objective.
We are here today to debate the resolution of a problem that I have seen fit to bring to the attention of this assembly. It is the assigned task of all of us, no matter where we sit, to examine the problems experienced by the people of this province and to work together towards a solution. This hour gives all of us the opportunity to work together, to collaborate our talents and to debate in good spirit the solution to this problem. Today we are looking at a situation that threatens a number of individuals and families in Ontario with severe economic hardship.
My resolution does not provide us with a perfect solution, but that is not the intention. The crux of this issue is to answer a real need of the injured worker before the adjudication of his claim. We will need to construct a guideline or mechanism to assess this need. I firmly believe this is a problem that will demand the talents and expertise of my colleague the Minister of Labour and his staff. It also demands the input of all members present. It is indeed necessary for any resident of Ontario to be in a position where he is able to meet necessary living expenditures for food and rent.
I am confident that each one of us in this assembly today recognizes this fact. I am also confident that we can establish a process whereby expenses such as allowances can be recoverable by the Workmen’s Compensation Board in the event that compensation payments are found to be out of order.
It is not only our task to present legislation to this House to foster the social and economic growth and development of opportunities for the people of Ontario; we must also raise the difficulties that each of us sees hampering the wellbeing of any of the residents of this great province.
While we may sometimes feel that solving these problems might be very difficult, this in no way should deter us from considering the solution.
Each of us has a mandate to represent the needs and the interests of the people of Ontario, and I am confident that today we can discuss the manner of making interim payments to the injured worker whose financial situation is desperate, before the adjudication of his claim is settled.
Mr. Deputy Speaker: Does the honourable member wish to reserve any of his remaining seven minutes?
Mr. Turner: Yes, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Van Horne: Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to join in this debate concerning a topic with which we are all very familiar. I am rather surprised to note that the resolution comes from a member of the government party. He indicated in his remarks that he was bringing something to our attention. That comment is almost a little redundant, because we are all very much aware of this. To the best of my recollection, this theme has been discussed on more than one occasion in relation to the Workmen’s Compensation Board and the estimates of the Ministry of Labour.
I would ask my colleague the member for Peterborough (Mr. Turner) if this matter is being taken very seriously by the government, given that this is private members’ hour. To my way of thinking, when a topic of import comes on stream for us to debate one would think that the minister responsible would take the opportunity to make himself present to listen to the debate. For all of us, as far as I am concerned, this is a very important topic.
I do not think one has to look very long or deeply into other areas to find other indications of the seriousness of matters related to the Workmen’s Compensation Board. One only has to dwell for a moment on the recent appointment of Mr. Alexander, as my colleague from Peterborough mentioned a few moments ago an appointment that has pleased some but upset many others. Beyond that, reference was made to the appointment of Professor Paul Weiler, again an indication of the concern of matters related to the Workmen’s Compensation Board.
It would be reasonable to assume, given all this concern, that the minister would be able to find time from his busy schedule to attend a brief debate on a topic that touches every single member of this House. I am very disappointed that he is not here.
The member for Peterborough indicated, regarding the people who would be affected if this resolution came to pass, that there were very few claimants in the province whose claim is not satisfied or determined within a matter of three days. I think he mentioned 92 per cent. That may be true in his area, but I am not sure it is a universal figure. In the last three hours I contacted the regional office in London to double check the percentages to date. The percentage given to me from London is slightly different.
I would submit, from the figures I have, that 26 per cent of those who apply have to wait longer than 10 days. That is a far different number from what was given to us earlier. That is a very significant number. That is one out of four. When I asked about the delay, the reason I was given for the delay for such a large number was twofold: either the report was wrong or the claim was a very complicated one. In either case, let me submit that, if 26 per cent of claimants have to wait longer than 10 days, it is far too long. That point alone would make this resolution acceptable to each and every one of us.
The honourable member also mentioned alternatives to people who are less well off financially than are the rest of us. What alternatives are open to them? Reference was made to borrowing. Precious few would have the ability to borrow significant funds to keep them going to pay mortgage or car payments, buy food and do the other things that workers have to do. That alternative is really not too satisfactory, if not almost unrealistic.
Other alternatives that would seem to be open are welfare, with the assignment involved that in the event funds are forthcoming the money has to be put back to the people in the welfare office. Aside from not being very satisfactory, for many people that too is very humiliating, if not degrading. One could argue that if the compensation board has a way of providing funds, as suggested in this resolution, then that would be much the better way than having an injured worker go through the further humiliation of applying for welfare.
I do not think there is any doubt in the minds of any member that the lion’s share of our constituency work seems to be directly or indirectly through our assistants in the office. When one takes a look at the relative amounts of money paid through workmen’s compensation to individual injured workers, compared to other amounts that might be available from such things as unemployment insurance or sickness and accident funds or any other supplementary unemployment insurance, the one observation that comes through time and time again is that workmen’s compensation generally has been not quite enough. It is always a little bit wanting.
I grant that the minister or board, or a combination of the two, has attempted recently to increase the benefits. We have all received copies of these brochures within the last little while indicating amendments to the Workmen’s Compensation Act and the change in benefits payable. Even with that, I would submit what the injured workers are getting is not quite adequate. If the government was going to go to the trouble to make changes within this past year, as it has done, would it not seem reasonable that it could have slipped in one more little clause, one more little change, that change which has just been suggested by the member for Peterborough?
In conclusion, I submit that this resolution is acceptable and is overdue. I am pleased to support it.
Mr. M. Davidson: Mr. Speaker, I want to make it very clear right at the beginning that, although I believe the intent of the resolution has some merit, I and, I am sure, my colleagues will not be supporting it for one very simple reason: The last part says “if compensation is determined not to be payable such payments be recoverable by the board.” I don’t know whether the member for Peterborough has given that much consideration in terms of what that could mean to an injured worker who has received interim payments over the time he has waited for the board to adjudicate his claim.
For years on this side of the House, at least within the New Democratic Party, both through the critics we now have and the previous critics, the member for Downsview (Mr. Di Santo), the member for Doveroourt (Mr. Lupusella), the member for Bellwoods (Mr. McClellan), the member for Sudbury East (Mr. Martel) and the member for Nickel Belt (Mr. Laughren), we have constantly raised this and many similar issues regarding the injured workers in Ontario.
I can agree with the member for London North (Mr. Van Horne). I am a little suspicions as to the kind of support this resolution will get from the government benches, given that this has been a problem that has existed in this province for many years. It has been brought to the attention of this government time after time for many years, and today we have it in front of us, not as a government bill, but as a private member’s bill. I would like to give some idea of the difficulties I can see the passage of this resolution creating for some of the injured workers. I went into my own files and dragged out two cases. I won’t name the names of the constituents involved, but I will give some idea as to what would happen in a case where a person received interim payment and the board eventually came to the conclusion that he was not eligible to receive compensation from the board.
We had a case where the commencement of the claim was September 27, 1978. The decision of the claims review branch was handed down on May 11, 1979. It was a case we appealed. The appeal date was set for February 5, 1980, and the decision of the adjudicator was handed down on February 25, 1980. We won that case, fortunately. and we were able to get some $17,000 for the claimant. What kind of a position would we have put this person in had he received that $17,000 while he was waiting for the claim to be adjudicated and then the board had turned around and said, “No, we don’t believe you are entitled to any claim”?
Mr. Turner: That is not what the resolution says either.
Mr. M. Davidson: The resolution does say that. It says, “in cases of demonstrated real need.” I don’t know many workers who live in Peterborough who, if they are out of work, don’t have a demonstrated real need. The majority of people in this province who work for a living do not have large bank accounts they can go to. I would suggest that, if a worker is off work for even one pay period, he or she could automatically demonstrate real need.
What the honourable member is saying, in effect, is that almost every injured worker who has cause to wait for the board to adjudicate or bring down a decision on his case within a matter of weeks would be able to demonstrate real need.
We had another case, involving a young lady. The commencement of her claim was January 1979. Her first appeal was held in August 1979, and her second appeal was handed down in December 1979. The decision on that case was received in January 1980. We weren’t able to convince the board that lady was entitled to benefits, and the case now is before the Ombudsman. I ask again what kind of a situation would the member’s resolution have put this person in had she collected interim benefits for a period of a year, only to find that the board ruled against her? She would then be sitting with somewhere in the neighbourhood of $10,000 or $11,000 repayable to the board, according to his resolution.
I know the system as it exists regarding payment to claimants is not what we on this side of the House would like to see. I think the member for Nickel Belt has advocated time and time again that this government implement the kind of universal plan we on this side of the House in the New Democratic Party would introduce if and when we become the government.
Under that plan, there would be no problem such as we have here before us today. I am sure when the member for Peterborough introduced this resolution he did so because he felt there was a need for something to be done. I am a little concerned that during his presentation he spent more time apologizing on behalf of the Workmen’s Compensation Board than he did outlining the real need of the people, which is what we are discussing today.
It is not unusual. He mentioned some figures, as did the member for London North (Mr. Van Horne). If we follow the board, as he did, if we take the board’s figures in 1979, there were 460,972 incidents reported to the board as being work- related injuries. Of those, 35,562 were rejected immediately, which left 425,410 cases that were actually processed by the board. Using the board’s own figure, that 95 per cent of the cases are processed in an expedient fashion, but taking the five per cent of claimants that have to go out and fight to get some justice from the board, we are talking of more than 21,000 people in this province who find it necessary to take action against the board to get justice.
If we are talking in terms of putting forward a position of making sure these people are paid, I can understand that. But from the manner in which this resolution is worded, by passing it -- and perhaps it may get passed through the government introducing such a provision -- I am concerned that we are going to be leaving large numbers of people out there with a very large amount of debt hanging over their heads. The member shakes his head to indicate no.
I am not talking in terms of just 20,000. If we have even 1,000 people hung up for $17,000 who are injured workers in this province, then to me that is 1,000 people too many. It may not be 1,000; it may be only 500. Even that is too many to harness with this great burden of debt we are going to hang around their neck if the board decides they are not entitled to compensation.
I don’t know whether the member intended that in his resolution as such or whether he had given that matter consideration. I certainly hope he has done. I myself and I am sure other members in the New Democratic Party, don’t want to put working people in this province in that kind of a position. If the man had no money to begin with and we are going to give him interim payments, as the member suggests, to put a roof over his head and feed his family, where in God’s earth does he get $17,000, as would have been the case in this one case I had? Where does he find the money to pay that back? What happens to him if he can’t pay it back?
There is no provision there to say it will be written off if he is not able to repay it. It just says it shall be recoverable by the board. Knowing the board with all of the justice it provides, we would probably be starting a debtors’ prison all over again, and we don’t want to see that in this province. Certainly we do not want to see the board taking legal action against claimants because they are not able to repay the interim funds that were handed to them.
These are the concerns that I and some of my colleagues have about the type of provision that the member is advocating here.
I, for one, will not be supporting this resolution, for the reasons that have been outlined.
Mr. Hennessy: Mr. Speaker, I am strongly in favour of anything this government can do to help our workers. They are the backbone of this province. Without them, where would we be?
I think we took a big step forward when we started a quality of working life centre a couple of years ago. I am sure it will help a lot of our workers.
In particular, its work will lead to improvements in the atmosphere in a lot of our factories and other places of work.
Also, I think the Occupational Health and Safety Act this government passed last year is one of the best. We care about our workers. This has been demonstrated in many ways. That must be one of the reasons why we have a far better record of man-days lost in strikes than most other places.
Mr. McClellan: Has the member read this before?
Mr. Hennessy: I’ll leave it up to the member. He is smarter than I am. He has a bigger mouth, anyway.
I think the relations between labour and management and government are in pretty good shape, but as time passes more and more things come to light, there is always something more we can do to help our citizens. That is the spirit behind the good news our senior citizens got the other night in the budget presented by the Treasurer (Mr. F. S. Miller). I believe this government is doing a good job of balancing these needs with the available resources. We cannot go on expecting people to pay more and more in taxes and other ways. At some point there has to be a balance, and this government has a good record of finding and keeping that balance.
Naturally, many of the tasks our workers perform involve an element of risk. Sometimes it is necessary to perform dangerous activities. Take the police, for example. Constable Michael Sweet died a noble death in serving his community. He fell in the line of duty. In other ways, workers in construction, in mines and on farms all face hazards. This is why the province developed the Workmen’s Compensation Board in the first place. It was truly one of the first, and it remains one of the finest services of its type anywhere.
I could not count the number of families I have personally tried to help, people who depend on some form of help to tide them over a rough period when the breadwinner gets injured on the job. I fully support the resolution presented by my colleague from Peterborough (Mr. Turner). I have seen many families go through a very tough time immediately following this type of injury or setback. Many times I have sat in homes where the family was pretty worried about meeting the next mortgage payment, or even about where the next dollar or two would come from to put some food on the table. While they wait for workmen’s compensation to be settled, many families go through a very long and tense period.
Often the churches can step in and help, as can the family benefits agency and relatives. I am always amazed at the way people can jump in and help those in need, but there are cases where people do not have these resources. In the mining towns and those sorts of places, and even in the big cities, there are many families who have moved around a lot and left their relatives behind in other areas, maybe in other countries. There are people who for one reason or another cannot claim other sources of benefits. Maybe they do not know who to contact. Maybe their English is not very good, or they are French in those areas of this province where French is the language of work. So there is fear and insecurity instead of moral support for the person suffering the injury.
If we permitted the WCB to make interim payments in such cases of hardship, the personnel officer of the plant could help. He or she would know what resources were available and could probably talk to the family and help them get organized. I know we have to be very careful about how we dole out money, particularly in a time of restraint, but let us not be too afraid to reach out and help. This government has an excellent record of concern about the workers; it should not be afraid to think about going one more step.
The previous speaker mentioned the question of interim payments, and it’s a good point to some extent. But for every five people who apply, four may suffer because one wants to beat the system. Are we going to deprive four people who really need help just because somebody is trying to beat the system? We have to look at that aspect too.
My support was stated in the caucus as well as here. I said the same thing in caucus I am saying here, that I fully support helping the injured workers. If the gentlemen and lady of the New Democratic Party would check my record in Thunder Bay with the injured workers, they would find it’s an excellent record. They know themselves. To be honest, they did approach me to run for their party at one time; so they shouldn’t be too smart about it. I know as much about the working man as they will ever know, because I am a working man myself. I wasn’t born a millionaire. I have worked for a living all my life. They should not think they have cornered the market on the motherhood issue of taking care of the workers, because I take care of the workers in my area as well as any NDP member ever did.
Mr. Haggerty: Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak on resolution 10 put forward by the member for Peterborough (Mr. Turner) as it relates to proposed amendments to the Workmen’s Compensation Act. I was interested in the part of the resolution which says, starting in the third line, “whereby, in cases of demonstrated real need, provision is made for interim compensation for necessary living expenditures incurred by claimants ... ” In almost every case I have dealt with at the Workmen’s Compensation Board, there is a demonstrated need for financial assistance. In a number of cases it takes a rather lengthy time -- up to six months -- to establish a claim.
There are reasons why there should be some changes made. The intent of the Workmen’s Compensation Act is to deal with “disablement arising in the course of employment”. Often I use that paragraph when making appeals to the Workmen’s Compensation Board. If I understand it correctly, a person who is injured should be entitled to compensation. Someone at the board may misinterpret the act. Maybe we should change that section of the act to a broader wording that is more clearly understood. I understand it very well, but sometimes I question whether the members of the board follow that principle.
I find some difficulty where a person has been injured in industry but has received medical treatment and has remained at work with that injury. He could have received treatment in the first-aid facility of some industries, or he could have received medical treatment from his family doctor. He returns to work for a period of three to four days, or even longer, with some degree of difficulty in trying to accomplish his work chores, and eventually it is necessary for him to leave work for a period of two to four weeks or longer, still continuing with medical treatment.
When a claim finally is filed with the Workmen’s Compensation Board, there is some question as to whether the injury happened in the place of employment. I think that’s a problem. I suggest there should be a different method of reporting an injury. I think the worker who is injured should receive a copy of that accident report so that he has it with him all the time. Sometimes a person can have a serious fall and injure his back and his shoulder; there may be abrasions that indicate the injuries to his back, but he can still have shoulder difficulties. Later on, when he is off work with shoulder difficulties, they say the shoulder injury is not related to the accident of such and such a date.
I find difficulty with another area which I think should be improved. It is where a person has recurrence of an accident. This is causing me some difficulties, because a field worker from the Workmen’s Compensation Board will visit the person who has been injured. What they are trying to do is to relate it back to the first injury. It takes three or four months to settle that dispute.
If one has to initiate an appeal today to the Workmen’s Compensation Board, one is looking at almost six months before getting to the final appeal stage. There has to be some way to speed that up. The question of where the injury happened has merit, but it doesn’t go far enough; nor is it strong enough for the board, because I don’t think it is listening half the time to what particular legislation goes on.
In the short time I have, I can say I support the bill in principle, but it is not strong enough for me. I spend much of my time at the board. My constituency office people and my secretary here spend all their time talking to the Workmen’s Compensation Board. There is something odd about the way they respond. If an inquiry comes from a member, he gets action. Rehabilitation officers are out in the area, but sometimes I question that because at times they are more of a hindrance than they are any good.
I have cases I could go into in detail where a particular person has been injured and has gone on company sickness and accident insurance; three or four years later, when the person is really disabled with a back injury, how does he establish a claim then? What is lacking in the province is a comprehensive compensation act where, regardless of where the accident happened, a person would be covered. I have home liability, and I am covered for sickness and accident there.
Mr. Turner: You are not covered here.
Mr. Haggerty: No, I am not covered here. There is automobile insurance with a certain amount of coverage. There are all kinds of insurance coverage. There are about eight or nine different ones. Isn’t it about time we started to look again at a comprehensive plan of compensation that would include spouses? It is difficult for the average person today to be paying into so many schemes and then to have so many problems in trying to establish a claim in any of them. I suggest it is time this government looked at a new compensation act to include spouses. It is time to move in that direction.
Another difficulty is that when one makes an appeal to the Workmen’s Compensation Board, a rehabilitation officer comes along and in a slight whisper says “How about the Canada Pension Act? Maybe that will get you off the hook for a while.”
Mr. Ruston: That’s another way -- that and sending the person to welfare.
Mr. Haggerty: Yes. One can go down to the board room and argue this point with them. Under the Canada Pension Act, a person has to be considered totally disabled, but the same rules don’t apply as with workmen’s compensation. If the member for Peterborough’s colleagues can’t bring something forward, I suggest this party will be bringing in such a program. One is needed. The working man can’t be paying into all these schemes and end up with peanuts. That’s about the size of it.
Sometimes I feel rather bitter about this and I had better watch my tongue. There has to be a change of heart down at that board. Maybe there will be with a new chairman. I don’t know. I had great hopes for Michael Starr. One just sits back and looks at the appointments made by the government. As the member for Riverdale (Mr. Renwick) said the other day in committee: “The provincial Tories do have a senate here. They look after their people.” That is about the size of it.
Let us hope this new chairman will sit down and revamp the Workmen’s Compensation Board, because it needs it. If not, I suggest that as soon as we can get the board before a committee of this Legislature, the better off all the members will be, because we will have ample time to get down to the nuts and bolts of the problems affecting injured workers in Ontario.
Mr. Bounsall: Mr. Speaker, there are two very serious flaws in the resolution presented by the member for Peterborough (Mr. Turner) which would certainly ensure that my colleagues and I on this side of the House cannot support it. There are the two phrases in it which refer to “in cases of demonstrated real need” and “if compensation is determined not to be payable such payments will be recoverable.” We certainly appreciate and understand -- we have run into it time and time again -- this one particular problem among many problems which the WCB has, which the member has isolated and brought before us in this resolution.
I recall -- I think it was in 1972; it might have been 1973 -- there were three cases, two in late August and one in early September. In each of those three cases, about the second week in October, these injured workers came to me and said, “Why haven’t we been paid?” I started working on it, and finally in each and every case it turned out there had been no reason at all for the delay. All the medical reports had gone in right from the very day of the accident in each case.
Finally, I phoned the board on the Monday prior to Christmas and said, “I will be down tomorrow to pick up handwritten cheques for those three workers.” All of them had been off work, since the first week in September in one case and the last week in August in the other two cases, and not one of those cheques was for less than $3,000; they were all for more than $3,000. We are all very familiar with the problem of delays at the board in turning out those cheques. In those three cases there was no excuse whatsoever. I know of no cases at all in my riding in which, when a pay cheque is missed, there is not demonstrated need.
When a claim is entered to the board and goes beyond the waiting period for normal compensation, those cheques should flow automatically. The determination of whether they receive compensation should be done as soon as possible. If it is determined that compensation is not payable, then it should not be recovered in any way.
I would like to make reference very briefly to a Windsor person who has recently been informed that he had an overpayment of $13,022. With a total income of $492.50 a month, virtually all from compensation, he is expected to pay back $13,022. There is no way this person can pay that money back. The ironical thing is, when he got the lump sum payments for the loss of a left arm at the elbow and paralysis of three fingers on his right hand, he queried the amount and said he thought it was too much. Two people at the WCB assured him that was the correct figure. They now come back after he has spent virtually all of it and say, “We want $13,022 of that $22,225 back from you,” He just does not have it. If the board makes mistakes like that, it is going to have to live with them.
Mr. Turner: In fact, they excused that. They did not collect and are not going to.
Mr. Bounsall: They say they are not going to. Why is the member placing in legislation the very thing that would encourage the board to do exactly that, namely when compensation is determined not to be payable, it is going to be recoverable by the board? If the members of the House are concerned about that, as the mover is, there are going to be many instances of compensation determined not to be payable and, as the mover says, collectable. That will encourage the board to make their decisions quickly to save money on behalf of the employers of this province. It seems to be their determined course of action to do so in virtually every case.
Also, it will cause certain companies not to delay proceedings. There is a personnel officer charged with dealing with compensation in one large company in the city of Windsor who states to anybody who wants to listen, “I might not be able finally to prevent somebody from getting compensation, but I see my role as delaying it as long as possible.” That kind of action would cease if the company were going to be assessed anyway until the compensation due in that case was determined to be legitimate. Those workers who have always waited for months over the years would automatically get from that company compensation and would have their decisions much sooner.
Unfortunately, the member in this resolution is simply tinkering with only one of the many problems that exist in regard to the WCB. As critic responsible for the Workmen’s Compensation Board for the New Democratic Party for five out of the almost nine years I have been in this House, I have concluded, as other critics have concluded and as the members of our caucus have concluded, that when we come to power there is no way we can patch up the Workmen’s Compensation Board. We would have to start from scratch and completely revamp the system of compensation in this province. We cannot do it by a series of private members’ bills or a series of moves or adjustments. We have seen how the WCB far too often operates. The system of attitudes and methods of operation are far too entrenched. We would have to start over.
We have long proposed and would put in force the New Zealand type of accident insurance. When a person is not on the job because of an accident, irrespective of how that accident occurred -- at work or otherwise -- that person would receive income maintenance to replace the loss of earnings in the work place, with three sources of income for the fund in order to make it operable.
One source would be the employers. We would have to retain in this province the employer assessment group, or one similar to it that already exists in the board, so that those work-related accidents are collectible from the companies.
I could go on about the problems of the board which cannot be redressed by one isolated resolution. We have determined that we would have to change the board completely.
I would like to say a word or two about the chairman of the Workmen’s Compensation Board. The reason given for the appointment of the new chairman, Lincoln Alexander, is that it needed a “name person.” The Workmen’s Compensation Board in no way needs a “name person.” A performer, not a name, is needed at the Workmen’s Compensation Board -- someone who speaks for and has concern for the injured workers in this province. This province does not need another former Minister of Labour from the federal jurisdiction who did not distinguish himself as a Minister of Labour, let alone know anything about the WCB in Ontario -- which this new chairman at least had the grace to admit.
We need someone who will initiate legislative changes. We did not get them from the last chairman, and I doubt we will get them from this one. We need someone who will involve himself directly in the day-to-day administration of the board and see that decisions are expedited.
On the many changes required to have the board operate properly, one almost doesn’t know where to begin. Certainly, compensation benefits in this province should be geared totally to the employability of the person, not to counting the number of joints that have been lost or disabled as a result of a work injury.
We have argued for years in this House that the compensation and benefits should be 100 per cent non-taxable. Pensions should be fully adjusted, not to the cost of living, but to the percentage increase in salaries and wages in this province, a factor which is for most years somewhat higher. Claimants should be able to change doctors -- a hassle which most claimants run into. The story goes on and on about the very necessary changes which must be made in the board. One would think it was its own money it was protecting.
I get the odd call from employers who want to appeal the assessment the board is making on them. I ask them how much it is, go into the story with them, and say: “How many injured workers have you had over the last year?” They give a certain real number, not just one or two. Then I put the question to them: “Would you rather pay that much assessment to the Workmen’s Compensation Board or go back to the old system of being sued by the injured worker?”
When I finally bring them back to why the board was established, they say: “We would sooner have this system so we can understand the assessment.”
In conclusion, I cannot support the resolution, and I doubt if anyone in my caucus could.
Mr. Havrot: Mr. Speaker, I am very happy to speak in this debate today. At the outset, I would like to express my support for the resolution put forward by my colleague from Peterborough.
This is a resolution which asks the government to consider possible solutions to a problem which I am sure is recognized by every member of this House. The problem in question is one that affects a very small portion of our workers. I think it is important that we keep this fact in mind during our debate today.
On average, 60 per cent of all Workmen’s Compensation Board claims require medical aid only and as such do not result in any time loss at work. The remaining 40 per cent do result in time loss. Furthermore, of all claims submitted to the WCB in 1979 -- and the total, by the way, was 460,972 -- 92 per cent were paid within three working days. Within five working days 96 per cent of all claims were paid. The remaining four per cent were complicated claims requiring intensive investigation by the board. Of these, 75 per cent were paid within 30 working days. At best then, we are talking about 25 per cent of four per cent of the total submitted claims which may require interim financial assistance.
It must also be kept in mind that the resolution does not ask that living expenses be covered by interim payments, but that advanced compensation be available to meet necessary expenses in cases of demonstrated real need. This would apply to such things as food, rent or mortgage payments.
There is some difficulty as to what mechanism would be appropriate to ensure the recovery of such interim payments in the event that the claimant is later found not to be eligible for any compensation award. This is an inevitable problem in any financial benefit scheme and one which is dealt with regularly by the Unemployment Insurance Commission and by the Ministry of Community and Social Services.
I have every confidence that a mechanism could be adopted to deal with the extremely small number of people who would fall into this bracket.
Last December, the Minister of Labour (Mr. Elgie) announced an increase in the WCB ceiling from $16,200 annually to $18,500 annually, making the maximum weekly rate $266.83. At that time, he informed this House that major changes are necessary in the operation of workmen’s compensation.
In February 1980, the minister appointed Paul Weiler to head a committee which will consider and make recommendations on changes to the Workmen’s Compensation Board. The committee’s mandate is as follows: “To study and make recommendations on the decision-making procedure of the WCB; the review of board decisions by external tribunals, courts or the Ombudsman; the scheme of compensating injured workmen and their dependants; the method of periodic revision of compensation; the appropriate method of financing compensation and funding in a way which will promote occupational health and safety by employers; the relationship between WCB and the occupational health and safety division of the ministry; and the role of work advisers.”
The target date for completion of this report is the summer of 1981. I am confident that, within their mandate, the committee will see fit to study the issue addressed by this resolution.
In any program as immensely complex and detailed as workmen’s compensation, continuous revision and streamlining is imperative. This is the record of the workmen’s compensation in Ontario. There exists the continuous need to balance the needs of working people to those of the industry. At present, I would suggest that benefit levels are not a concern. They are, in fact, double the level for UIC and amount to 75 per cent of a worker’s average gross pay.
WCB benefits are not taxable. If benefit levels are permitted to become too high, two problems surface. First, benefits would exceed regular take-home pay, thereby providing a disincentive to return to work. Secondly, increased overhead costs to the industry which are passed onto the consumer would have an impact on the cost of Ontario goods and services and, in turn, the relative competitiveness of Ontario goods.
Legislation governing the Workmen’s Compensation Board is complex and detailed and requires that the board, in adjudicating every claim, balance the need for certain equitable compensation with promptness, while ensuring that all provisions of the act are met.
As I mentioned earlier, the majority of cases are processed very quickly. There are a number of provisions designed to encourage this efficiency. First, legislation requires that employers notify the board within three days of any accident, and those who are late in submitting reports incur penalties.
In addition to incentives to encourage prompt reporting, the WCB has taken a number of internal initiatives with the goal of efficiency. The number of field investigations has increased by some 27 per cent, bringing the total to more than 10,000. Eighteen additional adjudicators have been hired in the last year to reduce the case load of each, and training programs are ongoing to help adjudicators gain the experience necessary to deal with complicated cases more quickly.
The Ministry of Labour and the Workmen’s Compensation Board have long acted on the premise that accident prevention is the first and best line of defence. The WCB safety education division works in co-operation with nine safety associations which comprise the WCB-supported council of safety associations, which works to encourage all major industries to provide a safe work place. Of course, we also have outstanding benchmark legislation in the Occupational Health and Safety Act, which covers the majority of workers in this province.
There is not one member in this House who does not recognise the immeasurable benefits incurred by improving the safety and quality of the work place. To mention but a few, such initiatives contribute to increasing productivity, reduced labour-management disputes and reduced absenteeism.
Mr. Speaker: I don’t like to interrupt the member for Timiskaming, but the member for Peterborough (Mr. Turner) has reserved seven minutes and, if he is going to use it all, we should turn the floor over to him.
Mr. Havrot: I just have half a paragraph here, Mr. Speaker, thank you.
I urge all members to support this resolution, and in doing so to help foster a working environment that will ensure Ontario’s continued economic expansion in the 1980s.
Mr. Turner: Mr. Speaker, it was interesting to hear the comments and some objections of the various members, and I would like to deal with some of them, if I may.
First of all, I would like to thank the member for London North (Mr. Van Horne) and the member for Erie (Mr. Haggerty) for their rather tacit support.
I would also like to draw your attention, Mr. Speaker, to something I may be confused about. All the members opposite, expressed surprise that a government party member was presenting this resolution.
I was under the impression that this period, this very afternoon, was devoted to private members and, as private members, I think we have the right to bring our concerns and the concerns of our constituents before this assembly to focus attention on those areas of concern which may be redressed through the assembly. I want to make that point, because I think it is a valid point.
I am also very surprised, frankly, that both the member for Cambridge (Mr. M. Davidson) and the member for Windsor-Sandwich (Mr. Bounsall) have seen fit not to support the resolution. I think they used rather flimsy reasons or excuses. Perhaps they object to the terminology. Frankly, I had some serious thoughts about the last sentence in the resolution, but it is there for a purpose. It is there because I wanted to build in a safeguard and not to open the door of the treasury, so to speak, so the program could be abused in the manner in which some other programs are. I give the unemployment insurance plan as an example.
It doesn’t present any great problem to me. There are means and methods open to appeal and get redress if a hardship does exist.
It was also rather interesting to see that the member for Cambridge used rather exaggerated examples to make his point. I would ask both those members and all the members opposite to rethink their positions and support this resolution because I tell them, and I say so very frankly, it is an area of concern to me and to my constituents. I bring it forward to this assembly at the request of many of my constituents in order to redress a problem which many of them are faced with.
Mr. O’Neil: Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate the member for bringing in this resolution. I don’t think there is a member in this Legislature who hasn’t had a problem at one time or another with the Workmen’s Compensation Board. I know I have cases similar to those the member for Erie mentioned.
Mr. Grande: Eleven in the past three years.
Mr. O’Neil: The member didn’t let me finish. He is always opening his mouth before people are finished. He should learn to wait. I have seen him in committee too. Once he opens his mouth, he is in trouble. Give me a minute, and I will try to finish what I was saying.
What I was going to say before I was so rudely interrupted was that there isn’t one of us who doesn’t have a case every week. I have 10 or 15 cases on my desk. If we looked around here this afternoon when the member brought in this resolution there wasn’t one person from the Workmen’s Compensation Board here to hear this resolution and some of the comments that have been made. I think that is a real shame. In the cases that come across my desk, some of these people are kept waiting for weeks and months before their cases are dealt with. They are having some of the hardships the member and other members of this Legislature have related.
I intend to support this resolution, and I would ask the member to see that the Hansard report of this debate goes over to the Workmen’s Compensation Board so that it is aware of some of the comments made here this afternoon by all the members.
Mr. Speaker: There is one minute left for any member who wants to contribute something.
Mr. McClellan: Let me list my four objections, Mr. Speaker. There are four pieces to this resolution. The member wants to turn the workmen’s compensation program from an insurance program into a welfare program. No, thank you. He wants to have some bureaucrats determining whether anybody is in need. Is he going to administer a means test? Isn’t it humiliating enough for injured workers without turning it into a welfare program?
Then there are the catch-22 proposals. If they get an interim payment, how are they supposed to live on their pension if they have already received an interim payment? How are they supposed to pay back the compensation board if it finally turns down their claim? It is absolutely nuts.
The problem is that the compensation board is a mess. The government refuses to clean it up, but brings in this kind of nonsense as a sop to cover its own inadequacies in the administration of the Workmen’s Compensation Board. They couldn’t find anybody decent in the entire country to come in and clean up the Workmen’s Compensation Board, even though they looked for more than a year. They had to go to another Tory hack. Nobody else would take the job.
Mr. Speaker: The honourable member’s time has expired.
ELECTORAL SYSTEM FOR METROPOLITAN TORONTO
The House divided on Mr. R. F. Johnston’s motion of resolution 12, which was negatived on the following vote:
Bounsall, Breaugh, Bryden, Cassidy, Charlton, Cooke, Davidson M., Davison, M. N., Di Santo, Dukszta, Germa, Gigantes, Grande, Hodgson, Isaacs, Johnston, R. F.
Laughren, Lawlor, Lupusella, MacDonald, Mackenzie, Makarchuk, Martel, McClellan, Philip, Reid, T. P., Renwick, Swart, Warner, Wildman, Young, Ziemba.
Auld, Baetz, Belanger, Bernier, Blundy, Bradley, Brunelle, Conway, Drea, Edighoffer, Epp, Gaunt, Gregory, Haggerty, Hall, Havrot, Hennessy, Johnson, J., Kerr, Kerrio.
Lane, Leluk, MacBeth, Maeck, Mancini, McCaffrey, McCague, McKessock, Miller, G. I., Newman, B., Newman, W., Nixon, Norton, O’Neil, Peterson, Ramsay, Reed, J.
Riddell, Rollins, Rotenberg, Rowe, Roy, Ruston, Smith, G. E., Sweeney, Taylor, G., Timbrell, Turner, Van Horne, Villeneuve, Walker, Watson, Welch, Wells, Williams, Worton.
Ayes 32; nays 56.
INTERIM COMPENSATION FOR WCB CLAIMANTS
The House divided on Mr. Turner’s motion of resolution 10, which was agreed to on the following vote:
Auld, Baetz, Belanger, Bernier, Blundy, Brunelle, Drea, Edighoffer, Epp, Gaunt, Haggerty, Hall, Havrot, Hennessy, Hodgson, Johnson, J., Kerr, Kerrio, Lane.
Leluk, MacBeth, McCaffrey, McCague, McKessock, Miller, C. I., Newman B.. Newman, W., Nixon, O’Neil, Peterson, Ramsay, Reed, J., Reid, T. P., Riddell.
Rollins, Rowe, Roy, Smith, G. E., Sweeney, Taylor, G., Timbrell, Turner, Van Horne, Villeneuve, Walker, Watson, Welch, Wells.
Bounsall, Bradley, Breaugh, Bryden, Cassidy, Charlton, Conway, Cooke, Davidson, M., Davison, M. N., Di Santo, Dukszta, Germa, Gigantes, Grande, Gregory, Isaacs, Johnston, R. F.
Laughren, Lawlor, Lupusella, MacDonald, Mackenzie, Maeck, Makarchuk, Mancini, Martel, McClellan, Norton, Philip, Renwick, Rotenberg, Ruston, Swart, Warner, Wildman, Villeneuve, Worton, Young, Ziemba.
Ayes 48; nays 40.
BUSINESS OF THE HOUSE
Hon. Mr. Wells: Mr. Speaker, I would like to indicate to the House the business for the rest of this week and next week.
Tonight we will be dealing with the second report of the standing committee on procedural affairs which concerns agencies, boards and commissions.
Tomorrow we will deal with the supplementary estimates for 1979-80, those remaining for the Ministry of Health, followed by a supply bill to cover supplementary estimates that have been passed by the House, if we finish the Ministry of Health supplementary estimates.
On Monday, April 28, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. S. Smith) will reply to the budget. Following his address, as time permits, we will deal with Bill 32, Bill 33 and Bill 34, the second reading of Bill 38, and the committee stage of Bill 31.
On Tuesday, April 29, in the afternoon the leader of the New Democratic Party (Mr. Cassidy) will reply to the budget. When his address is completed, we will continue with budget debate. We will also continue with budget debate in the evening of Tuesday, April 29.
Mr. Cassidy: I am going to entrust our reply to our critic.
Hon. Mr. Wells: I’m sorry; the critic. Excuse me; the critic, the member for Nickel Belt (Mr. Laughren).
On Wednesday, April 30, the resources development, general government and justice committees may meet in the morning.
On Thursday, May 1, in the afternoon we will have private members’ public business ballot items 11 and 12. In the evening, this House will consider the no-confidence motion standing in the name of the member for Hamilton West (Mr. S. Smith). I should point out to the House that, as provided in the standing orders, there is a five-minute hell for debates of this nature and the bells will start ringing at 10:20 p.m.
On May 2, this government continuing to have the confidence of the House, as I assume it will, we will continue the budget debate.
On Monday, May 5, and for the next week, we will have the Confederation debate.
The House adjourned at 6:07 p.m.