The House met at 2 p.m.
STATEMENTS BY THE MINISTRY
Hon. Miss Stephenson: Mr. Speaker, in recent months, several meetings have been held with the members and representatives of Executive Heads of Ontario Universities to discuss the future role of the universities in Ontario.
The future holds many challenges and opportunities for universities here and around the world. As we approach a period of protracted decline in the traditional university population, aged 18 to 24, there is great uncertainty about enrolment. On the other hand, one can see many opportunities for the universities to contribute to society through research, community services in responding to rising skill requirements in the labour force and in meeting the needs of nontraditional client groups.
Last Friday, November 14, the Premier (Mr. Davis) and I met with representatives of Executive Heads of Ontario Universities. They presented a brief entitled, The Situation of Ontario Universities. This was prepared in response to the Premier’s request for their view on future direction for Ontario universities.
In its brief, the executive heads suggested there should be a study of the role of Ontario universities and of the relationship between the universities, the Council of Ontario Universities the Ontario Council on University Affairs and the government.
I am pleased to report that the government has agreed to this suggestion and that a broadly based committee will be struck to study the role of the universities in Ontario. Within the next few days I will inform the House about the terms of reference of the study and the makeup of this committee.
Hon. Mr. Baetz: Mr. Speaker, several days ago I told this House I was actively considering the expansion of the outstanding service of TVOntario. This afternoon it is my pleasure to inform honourable members that, beginning immediately, we are undertaking a major extension of the TVOntario network into the Parry Sound-Nipissing district, the Timmins area and the Grey-Bruce area.
Mr. Sargent: Hurrah. Where were you this morning? You didn’t come to Owen Sound this morning.
Hon. Mr. Baetz: I was up in Owen Sound this morning.
TVOntario is applying for licences from the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission. We are negotiating for land in Parry Sound and Grey-Bruce. We are negotiating co-site arrangements with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation in Timmins. If everything goes according to plan, TVOntario’s full service off air should be available in the three areas in about 14 months.
In total, the network expansion into these areas will raise by approximately 271,000 the number of people who will be able to receive all of TVOntario’s programming directly off air. In Parry Sound-Nipissing, 75,000 will be added to the service; in Timmins, 64,000; in Grey-Bruce, 132,000.
Mr. Sargent: That is more like it.
Hon. Mr. Baetz: It is very good, Eddie.
In the Timmins district, the range of the signal will be Driftwood in the north, Matachewan in the south, east to Matheson and just short of Palomar in the west. The North Bay signal will reach viewers north to Martin River, Melissa in the south, Mattawa in the east and west to Sudbury. The Owen Sound signal will reach people living in Lions Head in the north, Palmerston and Wingham in the south, east to Thornbury and west to Kincardine, including Chester and Hanover.
I would point out that a very large majority of these people live in rural areas which are not served by cable today and which do not appear likely to be served by cable in the near future. In other words, if they were not able to get TVOntario off air they would likely not be able to get it at all.
I estimate that the capital cost of all this important activity will be approximately $3.5 million -- $1,245,000 in Parry Sound-Nipissing; $1,015,000 in Timmins and $1,150,000 in Grey-Bruce. Using today’s technology, the expansion will mean an increase in annual operating costs of about $700,000. This operating money will come from tax-generated revenues. The capital financing will come from the proceeds of the Lottario lottery.
As honourable members know, the Ontario Lottery Corporation Act dedicates Lottario proceeds to cultural and recreational activities and facilities. This is the very first Lottario allocation that has been made. Frankly, I cannot think of a more useful way to spend the money. I would emphasize that only the one-time capital investment in this extension is coming from lottery proceeds. We will not be depending on lottery proceeds for the continuing operation of the new facilities.
I had the pleasure of visiting the three new TVOntario areas yesterday and this morning. Members will not be surprised when I tell them that the news of TVOntario’s expansion was greeted with tremendous enthusiasm. They will not be surprised because they know the service is an excellent one that a lot of people want. We decided to go into these three new areas at the same time because each of them was able to claim similar priority.
I know members on all sides of the House represent regions which equally want to receive TVOntario’s signal off air. I can tell them here today that nobody, but nobody, is being ignored. For the moment, however, the three areas I have announced today represent the most compelling cases for immediate expansion. Each has shown unusually active interest in getting TVOntario’s signal. Each has a substantial rural population that cannot be reached by cable and each has a regular VHF channel open. As honourable members know, this type of channel is the easiest for people to receive in their homes and offers the widest conventional coverage at the lowest cost.
I know all members will want to join with me in celebrating this major expansion of the TVOntario network on the occasion of TVOntario’s tenth birthday. I think the expansion is a great birthday present for both TVO and the people of Ontario.
Mr. Sargent: Can the minister tell us why we are the last one to get it and why it took five years?
Hon. Mr. Elgie: You are taking time off the question period, are you, Mr. Speaker?
Hon. Mr. Elgie: Mr. Speaker, as members may recall, in January of this year I appointed Professor Paul C. Weiler as my special adviser to undertake a comprehensive study of Ontario’s workers’ compensation system and to make recommendations on possible changes to existing substantive and administrative arrangements. At the same time, I tabled a discussion paper which suggested areas of possible reform.
I have distributed to each member, and will be tabling later today, the first of two reports of Professor Weiler. The first report deals with four main issues: The philosophy of workers’ compensation, the structure of benefits, financing arrangements and the decision-making process from primary claims through final appeals. I hope members will agree, when they have had an opportunity to study this first report, that it is one of the most significant and constructive contributions to the analysis of this critical topic ever made. I do not wish to embarrass the author, Mr. Weiler, who is with us in the gallery today, but it is in my view an extraordinarily perceptive and compelling piece of work.
I would like to say a word or two about the process which Mr. Weiler has followed. As the report indicates, he has met and I conferred with virtually every person or organization with an interest in workers’ compensation in Ontario, including members of both opposition parties. In addition to consultations with officials and experts in Ontario, in other provinces and in the United States, he received more than 50 written briefs and I held over 75 meetings. The emphasis throughout was on informality and the free and candid expression of facts, opinions and insights by persons and organizations with interest in and knowledge of the topic. As he says in his report, this was deliberately not a public inquisition on how the Workmen’s Compensation Board handled specific cases in the past. Rather, it was an informal yet detailed probing aimed at recommending solutions to real and pressing problems which, in the author’s view, require early attention. I think this first report fully justifies the informal investigative approach which has been followed.
While I wish to refer briefly to some of the key recommendations contained in the report, I do so with a word of caution. There are hazards in attempting to evaluate individual recommendations in the abstract without the benefit of the analysis and reasoning upon which those recommendations are based. Moreover, the recommendations are presented as a package and the totality of the package, with its internal balance, should be considered as a whole.
With these caveats, let me turn to the highlights of the report. As to total disability, temporary or permanent, Mr. Weiler would replace the existing formula -- that is, 75 per cent of the pre-accident gross earnings -- with a new one, namely, 90 per cent of pre-accident net disposable income up to an earning ceiling of 250 per cent or $40,000 at current levels of the average industrial wage. In addition, he proposes that an injured worker should have necessary fringe benefits maintained during periods of disability; that workers’ compensation should be integrated with other systems of income maintenance and that compensation should ensure against loss of normal retirement income.
As to fatal injuries, he recommends that all surviving spouses receive a lump sum equal to the income ceiling of the program. In addition, those surviving spouses and children who are dependent in the true sense of the term as defined in the report, should receive a pension related to the pre-accident net disposable income of the deceased worker.
As to permanent partial disability, the report recommends that all permanently disabled workers -- and that means total or partial -- should receive a lump sum payment determined by the degree of physical impairment and the age of the worker at the time of the injury. In addition, compensation should be paid to replace 90 per cent of the net disposable income actually lost by the worker as a result of the injury, that is, 90 per cent of the difference between pre-accident and post-accident net disposable income. Recommendations are also made to encourage disabled workers to return to suitable available employment and to encourage employers to make such alternative employment available.
As to inflation adjustments, Mr. Weiler recommends that income ceilings and other criteria for current compensation claims should be determined in relation to the average industrial wage, so that the amounts payable for future claims will adjust automatically to wage inflation, while the assessment of employer payrolls will generate the necessary corresponding revenues. As to the method of financing benefit payments, the report recommends that a mandatory plan for experience rating of individual employers be instituted. It further recommends that the board be empowered to recover the unfunded liability of an employer for its employees’ injuries if that employer goes out of business.
Finally, as to the structure of decision making, the report recommends the establishment of a new independent tripartite workmen’s compensation appeals tribunal as the final appeal authority over compensation claims. In addition, Mr. Weiler recommends the establishment of independent medical review panels to reach final determinations on disputed medical claims. He advocates the establishment of a new corporate board, with final authority for general policy making, composed of the chairman of the board, the vice-chairman of administration and the chairman of the appeals tribunal, as well as outside directors drawn from the ranks of labour and business and other disciplines and areas of expertise, including medicine, economics, vocational rehabilitation and occupational health and safety.
These are but a few of the highlights of the report. As I indicated previously, any summary does not do it justice, and I commend the full text of the report to all members. I intend to see that it is widely circulated to the business and labour communities across the province and I look forward to receiving responses as soon as possible so that I may make the appropriate submissions and recommendations to my cabinet colleagues.
Finally, I wish to remind members that this report covers the first phase of a two-phase procedure. The second report, which Professor Weiler intends to complete next summer, will deal with the relationship between the system for compensating injured workers and programs for improving safety in the work place; the emerging notion that workers’ compensation might be folded into a broader system for protecting everyone against income loss due to personal injuries, however caused; and, finally, the important topic of industrial disease and its treatment by workers’ compensation boards.
MUNICIPAL BOUNDARY NEGOTIATIONS LEGISLATION
Hon. Mr. Wells: Mr. Speaker, today I will be introducing a bill which will assist municipalities to resolve boundary and boundary-related issues. This bill represents two years of consultation and work with Ontario’s municipal leaders. In September 1978, urban and rural municipalities called for an alternative to bitter and costly confrontations at the Ontario Municipal Board on matters of annexations and amalgamations. In August 1979, the government presented a proposal for a new process modelled on labour-management negotiating techniques. The process was then tested in the Brantford-Brant area, where a comprehensive agreement was reached in the spring of this year and represented a mutually agreed-to legislated conclusion to years of discussions and controversy.
Earlier this fall I released a position paper setting out a refined version of the new process. This paper was prepared in consultation with a working group representing Ontario’s three municipal associations. The paper has subsequently been endorsed by the boards of directors of the Association of Municipalities of Ontario and the Rural Ontario Municipal Association. The board of directors of the Association of Counties and Regions of Ontario has not yet had a chance to consider the paper, but ACRO has, of course, played a key role in the development of this new process.
Section 2 of the legislation to implement the position paper would authorize a municipality wanting to resolve an intermunicipal boundary or boundary-related issue to apply to the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs rather than to the Ontario Municipal Board. A fact-finder would be appointed under section 4 of the act to look into the application. If necessary, direct, face-to-face negotiations between the municipalities would follow. These, I hope, would lead to an agreement as they did in Brantford-Brant. If so, the agreement could be implemented either through legislation or, in certain circumstances, through an order in council issued under section 14 of the act.
If, however, there were no agreement, we would have a number of options, one of which would be allowing the matter to go before the Ontario Municipal Board. The bill would amend the Municipal Act so as to limit annexation and amalgamation applications to the OMB to those involving unorganized territory and those authorized following proceedings under this new legislation.
It is my hope that this legislation to make the Brantford-Brant process, as it has become known, available to other parts of the province will receive a broad measure of support so that we can have the necessary legal and administrative framework in place by early in the new year.
HALTON FINANCIAL DEFICIT
Hon. Mr. Wells: Mr. Speaker, I have a further statement in answer to a question from the member for Halton-Burlington (Mr. J. Reed).
Mr. Speaker, I would like to answer questions asked on Monday, November 3, and Tuesday, November 4, by the member for Halton-Burlington.
Mr. J. Reed: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order: Will the answer to this question be allowed to result in a supplementary?
Mr. Speaker: Not at this time.
Mr. J. Reed: Will the minister be prepared to answer it during question period?
Hon. Mr. Wells: Mr. Speaker, I am prepared to answer any question. Since this will take a few minutes, it should be made as a statement.
On November 3, the member transmitted a petition containing 167 signatures from residents of the regional municipality of Halton which requested me to set up a commission of inquiry into the financial management of the region. The next day he gave me a second petition from a different group of residents from the region of Halton also asking for a commission of inquiry. The petitioners cited the existence of a large deficit as the primary cause of their concern.
After carefully reviewing the present situation, I would like to tell the House that the situation does not appear to warrant a formal inquiry. Our ministry has been aware of the difficulties in the financial affairs of Halton since this summer. My staff has been in close communication with officials and elected representatives of the region to determine what is being done about the problems. The regional representatives have not remained idle and have reacted quickly to find the cause of the problem and, we believe, to correct it. The region is undertaking a thorough review of its internal control systems and is now preparing a plan to deal with its accumulated deficit. It is also my understanding that council is contemplating the hiring or, indeed, has already hired a firm of management consultants to devise ways to improve its administrative practices.
In these circumstances, I am sure honourable members will agree the council is taking steps to investigate and correct the situation. I believe this is at this time a much more effective way of dealing with the situation than setting up a commission of inquiry. My staff is, of course, monitoring this situation closely and will offer such advice and assistance as may be required.
I might remind the House we have six criteria which we use to determine the need for a formal commission of inquiry. One or more of these criteria must be met. First, is there evidence of such maladministration on the part of municipal officials as to prejudice local government? Second, have criminal proceedings been undertaken? Third, we ask if such a commission might make recommendations of such a general nature as to benefit municipal governments throughout the province. Fourth, is there evidence the cost to the municipality of holding an inquiry, which we estimate at about $2,000 a day, is justified by the nature of the problem? Fifth, a commission may be set up if the municipality itself cannot or will not institute corrective measures on its own. Finally, a commission of inquiry may be required if the facts cannot be ascertained in any other way.
While in Halton’s case there is little doubt the systems of internal financial controls require improvements, I am of the opinion none of the above criteria has been met and that a commission of inquiry is not the appropriate vehicle to use at this time and in this particular case.
Mr. Mancini: Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of personal privilege in order to correct the record.
Mr. Speaker: It is either one or the other.
Mr. Mancini: Mr. Speaker, I rose the other day on a point of privilege and you informed me that was to correct the record so I can see some basis for using both comments today.
I would like to start off by saying that the leader of the third party has once again misinformed the House and has given incorrect information to the Legislature. He was speaking yesterday concerning the matter of hothouse tomatoes which are produced in Ontario.
The information provided to the Legislature was basically concerning the matter, and I quote, “Hothouse tomatoes which have been coming to market for the last two months have been kept off the shelves of the supermarkets in the Loblaw chain -- ”
Mr. Cassidy: Just Loblaws?
Mr. Martel: Are you the spokesman for Loblaws?
Mr. Mancini: Just a second, hang on, it is coming --
“And have been appearing only irregularly in other supermarkets across the province and why as a consequence consumers have had no choice in many cases but to buy imported tomatoes.”
The leader of the third party does not understand the greenhouse industry or the marketing procedures used. It is also evident that he does not understand the matter of crop production. The vast majority of crops are produced in the spring, when the average yield is 12.1 pounds of tomatoes per plant. This crop is marketed readily to Ontario, Quebec and the Maritimes. The biggest market is in Quebec, where two thirds of all the greenhouse tomatoes are sold. In the fall the farmers are able to produce only 3.41 pounds per plant.
Mr. Foulds: What personal privilege has been violated?
Mr. M. N. Davison: Which side of the House do you think you’re on?
Mr. Mancini: I can see those members are really interested in the greenhouse farmers.
Therefore, the quantity of tomatoes available for market is much less. The federal government, in recognizing this, has a 15 per cent duty on imported tomatoes running from April 1 until November 1. After November 1 the duty is removed. This was done with the consent of the greenhouse marketing board.
In the early fall when many of our home-grown field tomatoes are going to market, this is also another consequence of competition for the greenhouse grower. However, for the months of October and November --
Mr. Speaker: The honourable member rose, as is his right, to correct something he felt was misleading the House. I am not going to permit the honourable member to get up and make a budget speech. If there was an incorrect impression left, I wish he would bring his remarks to a close as quickly as possible.
Mr. Mancini: I would like to apologize to the House, Mr. Speaker, for the length of the comment but so little is understood, especially by the members to the left, about the greenhouse industry.
Mr. Speaker: Correct the record as you perceive it and then we will get on to the regular business of the House.
Mr. Mancini: More specifically on the matter of shelf space, Mr. Speaker, this morning I had the opportunity of speaking with the chairman of the greenhouse marketing board --
Mr. Speaker: The honourable member can table the remainder of it with the Clerk and everybody can read it. I think I have been more than tolerant with the honourable member. He makes his point; if he wants to elaborate further, he can table it with the Clerk.
Mr. Speaker: Order. Order. The Leader of the Opposition, with oral questions.
Mr. S. Smith: It might be more profitable, Mr. Speaker, to direct the questions to this side of the House instead of the other.
Mr. S. Smith: Mr. Speaker, a question for the Minister of Community and Social Services regarding the matter of day care, particularly in the Ottawa-Carleton area.
An hon. member: There is a by-election on there.
Hon. Mr. Baetz: You have never been interested in Carleton before. You wouldn’t know where it is.
Mr. S. Smith: The members opposite seem to express a lot of incredulity. Ottawa-Carleton is toward the east end of the province. It is sort of by the river. You remember where it is.
Hon. Mr. Pope: After Thursday you will never want to see it again.
Mr. Speaker: Order. The question period started one minute ago.
Mr. S. Smith: Would the minister confirm for this House the information which he provided in the answer to questions on the Order Paper at one time, that with his vaunted help to Ottawa-Carleton, with their $120,000 overrun in the day care budget, the grand total contributed by this level of government is $22,500, roughly the salary of one of his office assistants in the ministry, and that is the total he has contributed to the cost overrun this year in the Ottawa-Carleton day care situation?
Hon. Mr. Norton: I am sorry, Mr. Speaker. Could I ask if the member might repeat the latter part of that question? Did he say that is the total we have contributed this year?
Mr. S. Smith: Yes, towards the overrun.
Hon. Mr. Norton: I cannot recall offhand the precise dollar figure. I can indicate that the --
Mr. S. Smith: It was $22,500.
Hon. Mr. Norton: No, I do not believe the honourable member is correct. If he will just be patient for a moment, I will give him the percentage breakdown. I believe the first $51,000 was cost shared on the regular basis, 80-20, with 30 per cent coming from the provincial government, 50 from the federal and 20 from the municipality. On the balance, or the difference between $52,000 and the total amount of their overrun, it was cost shared as between us and the municipality at 50-50, but our 50 per cent was also cost shared by the provincial government. It was not strictly a pass-through of federal funds, if that is the point the member is trying to get at.
Mr. S. Smith: Since on page 4198 of Hansard it will be very clear that the total provincial government contribution was $22,500, I ask the minister to look up his own answers, which he has provided.
More importantly, could I ask the minister whether he could give me some advice to pass on to a lady who lives in Kanata, a Mrs. Hover of Salter Crescent, who is a mother alone with two children, aged five and a half and eight and a half? At present, she has just recovered from an illness, has been off work for a year and has a new job. She has a student who comes in, but comes in after her younger child arrives home, and it costs her $30 a week. She earns $9,360 a year, and she has determined that with transportation and baby-sitting and other associated costs she would be much better off on welfare. She has now been on the day care waiting list for approximately four months, and she has not moved at all, not at all, on that waiting list.
Can the minister tell me what advice I should give to Mrs. Hover in Kanata when in point of fact all he is able to do is contribute such a very measly amount to the problems in Ottawa-Carleton?
Hon. Mr. Norton: I can’t respond on the basis of the specific figures that the member has given me. I have always been rather good in mathematics, but I won’t rely upon my mental calculations as he relates those figures across the House.
I will say this in general terms: The allocation of the available subsidies and spaces is a matter that is within the jurisdiction of the municipalities under the administration of our day care policy in this province. I would reiterate once again it is my conviction -- in spite of the protests that I know the honourable members from the Ottawa area have raised in the House when I have brought this to their attention -- that there is a substantial amount of the subsidy money in the Ottawa-Carleton area which is presently going to sort of top-end subsidies by placing ceilings on day care rates or contributions that are chargeable to parents. I think this is having the effect of depriving lower income families in many instances and keeping them on waiting lists.
I have discussed this on numerous occasion with the officials from Ottawa-Carleton and I can assure the honourable member that in private conversations they agree that is one of the effects, regardless of the protests that I have to deal with in this House.
The only additional thing I can suggest is that, as members know from the budgetary statements of the Treasurer (Mr. F. S. Miller) last week, I will very shortly be announcing some expansion in the balance of this fiscal year in terms of subsidized day care spaces which will be allocated across the province. I hope it will be part of a larger package of announcements that I will be making in the very near future. Ottawa-Carleton, along with other municipalities in this province, will benefit from that and I would hope the particular individual to whom the member referred might benefit at that time, if not before.
Mr. Cassidy: Supplementary, Mr. Speaker: Could the minister let the people in Ottawa-Carleton know how far he expects that $1 million additional spending on day care to go when there are 1,000 people on the waiting list looking for day care for their kids in the Ottawa-Carleton region, and the most generous estimate for the $1 million proposed by the Treasurer is that it will provide 500 additional spaces for day care to cover the entire province?
Hon. Mr. Norton: The honourable member either did not listen to the Treasurer or did not read the Treasurer’s statement, because the $1 million figure to which he is referring -- and I think his critic understands; at least I thought I communicated that across the House to him on the evening of the Treasurer’s statement -- relates to the last three months of this fiscal year and is not the annualized figure. As a consequence, when one translates that into spaces -- although I will be making that part of my announcement, I am not going to indicate the specific number of spaces or their allocation at this point -- it will be very substantially more than the number of spaces the honourable member referred to.
ST. MICHAEL’S COLLEGE LAND
Mr. S. Smith: Mr. Speaker, I have a question of the Premier regarding the matter of the St. Michael’s College land in the city of Toronto. The Premier will be aware that it is the desire of the city of Toronto and has been voted unanimously by city council, if I am not mistaken, to use the St. Michael’s lands for park land purposes. The Premier will be aware that the Ontario Municipal Board has recently overturned this unanimous decision on the part of the city of Toronto.
Given the fact that the OMB appears to have, in the first place, imputed false motives to the city of Toronto and in the second place has not addressed all the evidence presented at the hearing, will the Premier assure this House it is the intention of cabinet to overturn the decision of the OMB and restore the decision of the city of Toronto?
Hon. Mr. Davis: Mr. Speaker, I am sure the Leader of the Opposition, on sober reflection, might rephrase the question. I know he understands how the OMB works and that this is really a quasi-judicial matter where an appeal has been filed with the cabinet. The material has not yet been assessed by the legislative committee of cabinet, at least not to my knowledge, and certainly it has not been considered by the full cabinet.
Really, what the Leader of the Opposition is asking is that I commit the government to a decision based on a recommendation or judgement from a quasi-judicial group without even hearing or reading the material that has been presented by either the persons appealing, or by the church, or those in support of the development on that particular site. I am sure the Leader of the Opposition, really, if he thought this through carefully, would not presume to ask the head of government to make a decision here publicly prior to the process being followed.
Mr. S. Smith: I apologize for the assumption that the Premier had already read the salient matters, since it was published in the newspaper.
It was stated in the Ontario Municipal Board decision that it was the opinion of the hearing officer the city was trying to down-zone the lands, and the city should have expropriated the lands if it wanted them. However, it did not have the right to expropriate the land since it belonged to St. Michael’s College in this instance. Furthermore, the hearing officer said the city should have bought the lands but Cadillac Fairview had the option to buy.
Will the Premier not agree that, on the face of it, at the very least there is a plain misunderstanding on the part of the hearing officer who, in addition, decided not to hear and consider all the evidence? Therefore, once he has had time to reflect on it, to read the material and familiarize himself with it, will the Premier not agree that there are good grounds for overturning that decision?
Hon. Mr. Davis: Once again, I realize the Leader of the Opposition gains most of his relevant information from the newspapers, and I am not being critical of that. I can always predict with some accuracy what the questions will be from the Leader of the Opposition based on his hasty reading.
Mr. T. P. Reid: The Premier gets all his information from polls.
Hon. Mr. Davis: The member for Rainy River is not around enough to know how many polls his own party does on government trunk lines. Where does it get its information? He was away for that debate.
I repeat to the Leader of the Opposition that unlike him I do not, nor does cabinet, make judgements based on newspaper reports. I am not being critical of the reports, but the documentation involved is somewhat more extensive than what he has read in the paper. I am not going to argue for a moment whether the city of Toronto had the right to expropriate the lands from St. Michael’s College. However, I know enough about the history, having been Minister of Education when St. Michael’s College was involved in another matter with Metro, to know that the municipality certainly has the right to purchase from St. Michael’s College if it wishes to do so.
Mr. S. Smith: Cadillac Fairview, I believe, had the option.
Hon. Mr. Davis: I will not get into a debate on the facts, but I think the honourable member should have some concern as to the economic welfare of St. Michael’s College. He may not, but as a part of cabinet’s considerations we cannot neglect that side of the discussion either. I know he does not, except when he is meeting with the bishops, but he does have a concern on other issues. I know what he discusses with them.
DISPOSAL OF PCBS
Mr. Cassidy: Mr. Speaker, I have a new question of the Premier. Does he recall the assurances we had from his Minister of the Environment (Mr. Parrott) about a year ago that the government was opposed to the disposal of hazardous wastes at sea by burning them on ships? In the light of that statement of a year ago, has the Premier made himself aware of the fact that Willinger Systems, which until a year ago was a part of the Walker Brothers Quarries group in Thorold, is proposing to bring together polychlorinated biphenyls at a site in southern Ontario and ship them to Czechoslovakia for ultimate disposal? Has the government changed its policy, or will it undertake not to foist Ontario’s PCBs either on the unsuspecting oceans or on the unsuspecting Czechs?
Hon. Mr. Davis: Mr. Speaker, I must confess to the honourable member I am not familiar with this discussion. I will be delighted to have the minister reply to him on Thursday. I would be very surprised if any country were as unsuspecting as the honourable member suggests.
Mr. Cassidy: Will the Premier undertake to have this House fully informed about the hazards entailed in assembling PCBs from the entire province and then shipping PCBs, with all the hazards they carry with them, along the St. Lawrence Seaway for a distance of a couple of thousand miles before they ultimately cross the Atlantic Ocean and go to another country?
Will the Premier undertake that in future Ontario will not try to export our hazardous waste problems to other countries, just as we should not seek to import hazardous waste problems from other countries into Ontario?
Hon. Mr. Davis: I will be delighted to have the minister reply to as much of that as possible. He has always fully informed the members of the House. I think he has some doubts on some days as to how much of that information has been properly assimilated by some members of the House. But certainly he will inform members.
Mr. Sargent: Supplementary, Mr. Speaker: Will the Premier advise the House -- if he does not know, he can ask the Minister of Energy (Mr. Welch) -- whether the government is still making plutonium shipments to France from Douglas Point?
Hon. Mr. Davis: Mr. Speaker, I do not know if that is really a supplementary. I do not have the answer to that, but I will consult the Minister of Energy. I am not sure it is a supplementary.
I was going to say something about hazardous wastes and their exports, but I would not do that to the member for Grey-Bruce. If he would like me to redirect his question to the Minister of Energy, I am sure if he has the information he will be delighted to share it with the member.
Mr. Sargent: Why don’t you ask him right now?
Hon. Mr. Davis: No. I want him to have the opportunity, if he has the information, to reply to the member directly.
Mr. Sargent: Mr. Speaker, I will redirect the question, then.
Mr. Speaker: That’s not your option. If the Premier wishes to do so, he can do so.
Mr. Swart: Supplementary, Mr. Speaker: When the Premier is discussing this with the Minister of the Environment, in view of the close connection between Willinger Systems and Walker Brothers, will he remind the minister of the deplorable track record of Walker Brothers in the violation of their certificate and suggest to him that they should not be given a permit to carry out this proposal with PCBs?
Will the Premier also remind the Minister of the Environment that the Walker Brothers site is located only 1.5 kilometres from the urban district of Thorold and that in no way should there be any PCB storage area there?
Hon. Mr. Davis: Mr. Speaker, knowing the hobby of the Minister of the Environment, there are very few members who are better able to determine track records on anything --
Mr. Swart: He may determine it but he ignores it.
Hon. Mr. Davis: The minister’s track record is an awful lot better than that of the member over the years. I make that brief observation.
Mr. Foulds: Name one area.
Mr. Cassidy: Mr. Speaker, I have another question for the Premier. Since we will both be in the Ottawa area in the near future with respect to certain political events, my question to the Premier concerns markets in Ontario for the microelectronics industry, which is becoming increasingly important, particularly because of its growth in Ottawa-Carleton.
Can the Premier say what the government is doing to stop the transfer of data processing by Ontario corporations to the United States, such as the recent announcement by Graham Cable TV in Toronto that it is shifting its computerized data processing for 74,000 subscribers to a California company? Can the Premier say how we can have jobs for microelectronics firms in Ontario if the data processing continues to be shifted to the United States?
Hon. Mr. Davis: Mr. Speaker, the data processing is not being shipped to the United States.
I can assure the honourable member I expect to be in the Ottawa area, as he does and the Leader of the Opposition does. I am not even in Carleton tonight; I expect to be at a nominating convention where we have a great candidate, sought after I am sure by others, who will upset that delightful young lady who is not here this afternoon, whenever the next general election is. That is the political event I am going to.
I also make it very clear that over the objections of both opposition parties, the New Democratic Party and the Liberal Party, we are the ones who are supporting the electronics industry in the Ottawa Valley. We are doing it over the objections of the members opposite, who are opposed to Marconi, the multinationals and all the nonsense raised during the course of the by-election.
It is really intriguing to me that the leader of the third party comes here to ask me what we are doing to protect the market at the same time that the NDP and the Liberal Party of this province are making it difficult for the electronics industry to expand in the Ottawa Valley.
Mr. Cassidy: I remind the Premier that Mitel, a Canadian company in Ottawa-Carleton, has been trying for two and a half years to get its systems attached to Bell Canada here in Ontario, and there has not been a peep from the government to defend the right of that Canadian company to market here in Ontario.
Is the Premier not concerned that we are already importing more than $300 million worth of data processing services from the United States, which is already costing us 10,000 jobs, and the federal Department of Communications estimates that by 1985 we are going to be importing so much data processing from the United States that we will have lost 23,000 jobs that we could have had here in Canada? What steps does the government intend to take to stop this outflow of data processing, which should take place in Ontario or Canada and which would create jobs for tens of thousands of Canadians?
Hon. Mr. Davis: With great respect, I think the honourable member grossly exaggerates the situation. There is some data processing work being done south of the border; there is a certain amount being done here. This government, through the assistance to the electronics industry, has made it possible for us to be in the forefront of many of these new developments, in spite of the objections from the members opposite, and that will continue to be the policy.
Mr. Roy: Mr. Speaker, a supplementary: Considering the Premier’s recent conversion and his interest in the high-technology industry in the Ottawa area, when is he going to wake up his government and Minister of Education (Miss Stephenson) to provide adequate funds so we can get the specialized workers necessary to supply that industry?
Hon. Mr. Davis: Mr. Speaker, I have made it abundantly clear that, when the post-secondary institutions and the industry itself determine for the government what kind of personnel they require, we can educate them. In fact, we are in the process of doing it. We are holding discussions with some of the employers -- and the member should spend a little time with them; instead of calling them the crummiest in the world, he should talk to some of these people who are involved in the process.
I just say to the honourable member, when he is talking about high technology, we are making some real progress in the electronics field in the Ottawa Valley -- but the Ottawa Valley also extends to Kingston. If the Leader of the Opposition and the critic over there would be a little more understanding and supportive of the Urban Transportation Development Corporation -- understanding that there is high technology developed in Ontario which is going to operate in Hamilton, and has bids in with Detroit, Los Angeles and Miami -- then I would believe the member when he makes some of his observations about high technology. He does not like it because this government has done it; that’s why.
OTTAWA HEALTH CLINIC
Mr. Roy: Mr. Speaker, considering that of recent date the Premier is interested in Ottawa problems and considering that he is spending some time there, will he look into the question of the establishment of the 24-hour health clinic in the old Ottawa General Hospital which, as the Premier knows, has been replaced by the new Ottawa General Hospital? How does the Premier expect that clinic to be able to justify its existence if his Ministry of Health does not allow the clinic to advertise on radio, television or in newspapers that they are in existence and offering an essential service? Does the Premier want the clinic to work or does he want it to fail?
Hon. Mr. Davis: Mr. Speaker, of course that is not right. I say to the honourable member that my interest in Ottawa has been for years far greater than his. When I visit Ottawa, when I am in that community, I do not spend all my spare time in the courts, as he does when he is in his constituency. That is all he does up there.
Mr. Speaker: Order.
Mr. Roy: Mr. Speaker, when it comes to believing people, I will believe Sister Paquette before I will believe the Premier, I will tell him that. Why does he not want Joe Clark in that riding?
I would like to ask the Premier whether he is prepared to prevail upon the Minister of Health (Mr. Timbrell) to extend the date for assessment of this clinic past November 27; and can he tell me what kind of government he is leading when it will not allow a clinic to advertise an essential service at the same time he is spending millions telling the public of Ontario how great he is?
Hon. Mr. Davis: I do not happen to be in the medical profession, but I know of a number of clinics and my recollection is that clinics do not advertise. I also say to the honourable member, who was not at the opening, I do not know of many communities that have received more assistance and support in terms of health services than the great Ottawa-Carleton region.
Mr. Roy: Fifteen years behind everybody else.
Hon. Mr. Davis: We are way ahead. I understand the Liberal candidate has been taking some exception to where the chronic care facility is going to be, but memory serves me very correctly that he was a member of the health council when that decision was made.
Mr. Cassidy: A supplementary, Mr. Speaker: Since the Premier appears to have forgotten that Ottawa-Carleton consistently has been at the tail of the line-up in getting capital assistance for health facilities, a process that has gone on for the past 15 years, will the Premier explain why, even when there is a by-election on, the government is not prepared to come up with a plan to wipe out the $500,000 deficit currently being experienced by the Queensway-Carleton Hospital in the heart of the riding of Carleton?
Hon. Mr. Davis: I am delighted the member for Ottawa Centre is at long last taking a modest interest in his own general area. Does he ever get back there except during by-elections?
I say to the honourable member, we are solving these problems, not only in Ottawa-Carleton but also right across the province. Ottawa has not been at the bottom end of the list. In terms of capital allocation, it has done remarkably well. I just wish the member had been with me at the opening of the new hospital the other day. Why did he not come there and see what the government and the people of that community provided -- one of the first-rate hospitals in North America, right there in the Ottawa-Carleton region. Why was he not there?
Mr. Speaker: Order. There are other places in the province than Ottawa-Carleton.
SALES TAX ON CARPETS
Mr. Samis: Mr. Speaker, I have a quiet, nonpartisan, non Ottawa question for the Minister of Revenue. Can the minister explain to the House why carpets were excluded from the list of household items eligible for the sales tax rebate when we have two major carpet producers closing down their plants in Cornwall and Lindsay this month and when the stated purpose of the mini-budget was to create jobs and stimulate the economy of Ontario?
Hon. Mr. Maeck: Mr. Speaker, first of all, the decision as to what would and what would not be exempted was taken by the Treasurer (Mr. F. S. Miller) and not by the Minister of Revenue.
I understand floor coverings of any type, including floor tile and even hardwood floor coverings, were not included. There was a limit to the amount of dollars the province could afford in this program and that was where the line was drawn.
Mr. Samis: Mr. Speaker, I wonder if I might redirect that question to the Premier, since the minister admits he was not part of the decision-making process.
Hon. Mr. Davis: Mr. Speaker, these matters of course are determined solely by the Treasurer; there is a great history and great tradition in this process. I am sure there are honourable members opposite who could add any one of a dozen items to the list of exemptions. The decision was made not to include floor coverings in the exemptions, based on the amount of money the Treasurer felt would be available in terms of stimulation. As I say to the honourable member, I can think of another half dozen a lot of us would like to see included, but one has to draw a line somewhere and that is where the line was drawn.
Mr. O’Neil: Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the Minister of Labour. Can the minister bring this Legislature up to date on the status of the serious strike at the Bata shoe company’s locations at both Batawa and Trenton, and can he report on events that took place over the weekend where several people were injured, some with concussions and one with broken hones, and tell us what action is being taken to settle this strike?
Hon. Mr. Elgie: Mr. Speaker, mediators from the Ministry of Labour met with the parties in mediation on October 22 and again on November 7. They have been in constant contact with the parties and, as soon as there is any indication given to them that there is a reason to gather the parties together again, they will do it.
As to events that took place over the weekend, I have no information about them. The honourable member may wish to refer that question to the Attorney General (Mr. McMurtry) when he arrives.
Mr. Lupusella: Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the Minister of Labour. Now that the Weiler report has been tabled in the Legislature, can the minister state when he expects business and labour to respond and, therefore when we can expect retroactivity of legislation for current pensioners? When will the increases in rates occur so that inflation is compensated for to all injured workers across Ontario?
Hon. Mr. Elgie: Mr. Speaker, I will be tabling that report shortly today. Members have copies of it already. I have drafted a letter to be sent to all those who contributed briefs or who contributed in any other way to the process, as well as to a variety of representatives from business and from labour. I have requested responses to the briefs by the end of December so that I can get on with preparing recommendations for my colleagues.
Mr. Lupusella: Can the minister give us a clear commitment today that the new legislation he is planning to introduce in the near future will cover past injured workers who are currently receiving a partial permanent pension and those who are receiving temporary total disability benefits?
Hon. Mr. Elgie: I can tell the member that as soon as responses are in to the report and as soon as I present recommendations to my colleagues -- I have already asked Professor Weiler whether he will review interim and transitional arrangements with regard to pensioners who are on existing pensions -- on the basis of that information, the government will proceed.
Mr. Mancini: Supplementary, Mr. Speaker: I would like to ask the Minister of Labour whether it is true that Mr. Weiler contacted all the interested parties in the province before he made his report, part of which has been tabled here in the House with the accompanying sheet? Why does the minister feel he has to contact these people all over again just to repeat the process?
Hon. Mr. Elgie: Mr. Speaker, if the member was listening to me, I said all those who were interested and submitted reports or who appeared before Mr. Weiler will be receiving a letter from me, along with a request for their remarks. In addition, documents and the request for comments will go out to various business people, various trade union movements and others for their response. In other words, there should be a public response, and I want that response by the end of December.
USE OF AMERICAN DICTIONARIES
Mr. Sweeney: Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the Minister of Education. Is the minister aware that approximately 1,000 students who are taking correspondence programs in this province are being issued American dictionaries and that this is creating a problem with Ontario teachers, who are marking their assignments and expecting them to use Canadian spelling? Does the minister approve of it and, if not, what does she intend to do about it?
Hon. Miss Stephenson: No, Mr. Speaker. As a semanticist whose Bible is the Oxford dictionary, I do not approve of American dictionaries, nor do I approve of the American spelling of a number of Anglo-Saxon and other words. I shall most certainly investigate that.
Mr. Sweeney: Will the minister, in her investigation, ask her officials why, when they are phoned by parents, parents are told this practice began in 1975, they plan to continue it to 1983, and the only reason it is being done is that the American dictionary is cheaper?
Hon. Miss Stephenson: Yes. That is interesting information.
Mr. Samis: Mr. Speaker, I have another question for the Minister of Education. Can the minister report to the House what measures her ministry has undertaken to ensure that the temporary French-language high school in Lafontaine will continue to function effectively so that whatever twisted bigot or sick person who set fire to the building will be denied the satisfaction of interrupting the students’ education?
Hon. Miss Stephenson: Mr. Speaker, the program is continuing in that school and will continue there until other premises are provided.
Mr. Samis: Can the minister give the House any idea when those students will be able to move out of the firetrap in Lafontaine and into a decent facility in Penetanguishene, as she promised last spring, and at what stage will she personally get involved to ensure that those students will be in a new facility in 1981?
Hon. Miss Stephenson: First, that building is not a firetrap. Second, it has not been condemned, as has been suggested by a number of members in the House. It is a building that has not been used by the board because of declining enrolment. However, the program is continuing in that facility and will continue until the problems related to the provision of other premises are resolved, in which I have already been personally involved.
Mr. Nixon: Mr. Speaker, I have a question I want to put to the Premier in the continuing absence of the Minister of Industry and Tourism (Mr. Grossman), pertaining to the financial situation involving Massey-Ferguson and to some extent the White Motor Corporation in Brantford.
Is the Premier aware that the Canada Development Corporation has announced that it will not be taking part in the refinancing of Massey-Ferguson? Since that announcement has been made, does he know what plans the government of Ontario, in conjunction with the government of Canada, has to see that the refinancing goes forward, that the company remains afloat and that the jobs remain viable?
Hon. Mr. Davis: Mr. Speaker, I am familiar with some of the discussions, but I say to the member that we are keeping in constant touch with the government of Canada. As soon as we have anything of a specific nature that is proper to disclose to members of the House, we will certainly do so, but I am not in a position to make any further comments today.
Mr. Nixon: Will the Premier arrange for either himself or the minister to make a statement on this matter on Thursday and, if possible, to make a statement having to do with the situation involving White Motor Corporation as well, since the proposal to buy out the parent corporation in the United States seems to be hung up on the Foreign Investment Review Agency? Really, the people involved in this way in the city of Brantford should have more information than they are getting.
Hon. Mr. Davis: I am quite prepared to give any information I will be free to give on Thursday. I do not want to give an undertaking, because I would hate to have the member move the adjournment of the House if I do not have a statement.
Mr. Makarchuk: Supplementary, Mr. Speaker: Is the Premier aware that the intended purchase is dependent on the workers taking a $3- to $4-per-hour cut in wages? If so, will the Premier do everything possible to ensure that that purchase does not go through, using FIRA if necessary?
Hon. Mr. Davis: Mr. Speaker, I think it really is unwise to debate this or to discuss it here in the House based on either rumour or non-fact.
Mr. Makarchuk: It is fact.
Hon. Mr. Davis: I am suggesting, with respect, that I am not in a position to say anything further to the House at this moment than I have already said. If I have some further information to share on Thursday, I am more than prepared to do so.
USE OF ASBESTOS IN SCHOOLS
Mr. Bounsall: Mr. Speaker, I have a question of the Minister of Labour. Why has the minister not ensured that the health and safety branch issue automatically -- it has not covered the whole province already -- to school boards and employee groups, when they start to search for the possible asbestos problems in schools, all the procedures, methods of testing and proper safety procedures which testing people should use when they are doing those inspection processes, which were patently not available to either the school board or the employee groups in Windsor this past summer when they went about their testing procedures?
Hon. Mr. Elgie: Mr. Speaker, as the member knows, the Ministry of Labour did prepare for distribution by the Ministry of Education a detailed documentation about identification of asbestos. I will have to look into the other aspect of it, but I do know that in the Windsor situation that particular school board did, as he knows, retain a physician to advise them about the procedures.
Mr. Bounsall: As one who is intimately involved with health and safety inspection, would the minister be satisfied if six or seven school boiler rooms were inspected and found to contain some asbestos and the inspector then said, “If these are the types of boiler rooms found in all the rest of the schools, I do not need to see any more”? Would the minister not expect that any inspector or consultant would inspect all the locations in all the schools in the area concerned?
Hon. Mr. Elgie: The member well knows that in the Windsor situation the Ministry of Labour did have an inspector visit the school involved. Recommendations were made and follow-ups will be carried out to see whether those recommendations have been adopted.
Mr. Speaker: The Minister of Agriculture and Food assures me he has a brief answer to a question asked yesterday.
Hon. Mr. Henderson: Yesterday, Mr. Speaker, the leader of the third party asked me a question. I am sorry he is not in the House, but I will give members the answer.
In Ontario, the production of tomatoes from our greenhouses was 24 million pounds in the spring crop. The fall crop was only two million pounds. The fall crop is available only from early October until mid-November, an insufficient supply to fill the needs of the supermarket chains. They are sold mostly through the small stores.
California produced an excellent crop of large, very high-quality tomatoes this fall. It was a bumper crop and they moved’ into the Ontario market at a very cheap price -- from 25 to 40 cents a pound in Toronto -- around the beginning of November.
Our greenhouse tomato season normally ends in mid-November. In view of the high quality, low price and heavy supplies of tomatoes from the United States, the greenhouse board advised Ontario growers to remove the tail end of their crop a week to 10 days early to save costs and fuel. Some growers did; others are trying to continue to harvest and sell.
Ontario quality normally starts to drop at this time of the year. The price dropped in the past two weeks from 50 cents a pound to less than 30 cents. The large retailers tend not to purchase fall-crop greenhouse tomatoes because of the very short availability period of six weeks. The inconsistency or lack of supply and the higher price are due to energy costs.
In the past, some growers sold directly to one large chain, Dominion. Once the chain converted completely to central warehousing, this was no longer possible. The chain now tends to purchase US tomatoes because of the price.
Loblaws seldom buys Ontario greenhouse tomatoes, especially if US imports are lower in price.
At present, the reason for not purchasing is the low quality of the Ontario greenhouse tomatoes. The quality has dropped because it is the end of the season and the heat has been cut back.
The House should be aware that the normal acre of greenhouse produces about $75,000 worth of products a year. If they continue producing through this period, it costs them about half that for energy alone. That is the reason our greenhouse operators cannot compete.
The only way this will be corrected is by a form of embargo.
I have a short letter here, Mr. Speaker, from one of the chain stores.
Mr. Speaker: You can table it or make it a ministerial statement. I wish you would emulate the precedent established by the government House leader (Mr. Wells), who gave a detailed answer by way of a ministerial statement.
Mr. Cassidy: Mr. Speaker, can the minister explain two things that were not covered in his statement?
In the first place, why is it that throughout the Ontario greenhouse tomato season this fall, Loblaws in Toronto has not once had those green house tomatoes available even when the quality, according to him, was better than it is at the end of the season?
Second, if the imported tomatoes are cheaper to the supermarkets, can the minister explain why none of the benefit is being felt by the consumers? The imports are being priced at the same price as the Ontario product, yielding windfall profits to the supermarkets and no benefits to the consumers.
Hon. Mr. Henderson: I did answer the honourable member’s question. If he had listened to my statement, there was a clear answer --
Mr. Cassidy: The minister apologized for Loblaws. That is what he did.
Hon. Mr. Henderson: There are no apologies in this statement whatsoever. Loblaws seldom buy Ontario greenhouse tomatoes, especially if US imports are lower-priced. I have answered the question.
Hon. Mr. Henderson: Mr. Speaker, again I say to you and to the honourable member that the greenhouse tomatoes in Ontario were withdrawn at the request of the producers’ organization.
Mr. Bradley: Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the Provincial Secretary for Social Development regarding nursing homes and their inspection.
Is the provincial secretary aware that in Ontario, specifically in the city of St. Catharines, two private homes have denied access to a five-member public institutions inspection panel, which replaces the old grand jury for the purpose of inspecting these facilities for which the citizens of this province and the Ministry of Health pay some of the shot, in the form of Ontario health insurance plan premiums, for those who are in there? Is the minister aware that these people have been denied access for inspection purposes and, if so, what action is she prepared to take to ensure these facilities will be open to inspection?
Hon. Mrs. Birch: No, Mr. Speaker, I am not aware of that. I think the question should be more properly addressed to the Attorney General (Mr. McMurtry).
Mr. Bradley: Mr. Speaker, may I direct a supplementary question then to the Provincial Secretary for Justice, since it appears to be in that particular field? Will the Provincial Secretary for Justice inform the House whether it is his view that these nursing homes and rest homes, which indirectly are publicly supported, should submit themselves to inspection by a publicly appointed and provincially sanctioned inspection panel?
Hon. Mr. Walker: Mr. Speaker, I certainly have no objection to seeing the public institutions inspection panel do an appropriate review and check of various institutions, including the rest homes. I have no doubt whatsoever it is an appropriate step to ensure this happens.
I will bring the matter to the attention of the appropriate minister and I am sure he will develop a policy on it, if there is not one already.
INVESTMENT COMPANIES’ FAILURE
Mr. M. N. Davison: Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations. Is the minister prepared to table all the files being held in his ministry and its component agencies, boards and commissions which deal with Re-Mor Investment Management Corporation, Astra Trust Company and Mr. Carlo Montemurro so that members of the assembly finally can be privy to some information that might explain his negligence in registering Re-Mor and permitting it to rip off so many people in the province?
Hon. Mr. Drea: Mr. Speaker, I was asked substantially the same question last Thursday by the member for Kitchener (Mr. Breithaupt). I had wanted that member to be here when I responded, but, since somebody else is trying to get on his coat-tails, I will give that answer now.
On Thursday last, the member for Kitchener asked me to inform the House if at the time of the Re-Mor application the registrar of mortgage brokers was aware of the judge’s comments and the evidence tendered by the Ontario Securities Commission in the receivership application against C and M. In a supplementary question, he asked me to table certain documents.
I sought advice on these matters from the crown law office. I have been advised by the crown law office that the matters raised in that question and the supplementary question are directly in issue on the ongoing civil litigation. Anything I say in response to the questions or table in the House could prejudice a fair trial of the issue.
Mr. Speaker: Is the honourable minister saying anything of that nature is sub judice?
Hon. Mr. Drea: Mr. Speaker, the question that was asked by the member for Kitchener, while not as broad in scope as the one asked today, dealt particularly with the file.
I repeat, I sought advice from the crown law office and was advised that the matters raised in that question and the supplementary question, and obviously because of its scope in the ensuing question by someone else, are directly at issue in the ongoing civil litigation. Anything I say in response to the questions or table in the House, and that includes the file, could prejudice a fair trial of the issues. That is the advice I received from the Ministry of the Attorney General.
Mr. Renwick: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order: Will the Speaker take under advisement the statement made by the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations and decide, for the purposes of the rules of this House, whether the matter is or is not sub judice?
Mr. Speaker: No, I cannot undertake to do that, because I do not know what is before the courts. Of my own knowledge, I do not know what information may prejudice the case. I will have to leave that to the discretion of the minister or the person answering the question.
Mr. Nixon: Mr. Speaker, on the point of order: It would seem you are simply accepting the minister’s explanation that he considers the matter sub judice as sufficient reason not to answer the question. It would be sufficient then for the minister simply to say he refuses to answer the question on the basis of his own misgivings.
I bring to your attention, sir, that it may well be this matter will be directed to one of the committees for review. Frankly, I believe it should be and will be. The fact that the minister is refusing to answer the question surely does not mean the whole matter can no longer he discussed by this House or its committees. I would hope, sir, your ruling would not in any way indicate the matter should not be discussed.
Mr. Speaker: I did not make a ruling.
Hon. Mr. Davis: Mr. Speaker, on the point of order: I want to make it very clear that the minister did not refuse. He gave the member the information and advice he had received from the law officer of the crown. That is what he said on that basis.
Mr. M. N. Davison: Mr. Speaker, I cannot understand any reason why the minister is hiding this information from the House, but I have a supplementary question. If the minister will not provide the House with this information on which we could make some judgements and have some understanding, will he tell us whether he is aware of any activity or action of any sort undertaken by Mr. Carlo Montemurro that would lead the minister and his staff to believe Mr. Montemurro could have been expected to have been financially responsible or to carry on his business with integrity and honesty in accordance with the laws required by the legislation of the Mortgage Brokers Act? Can he provide us with a single example of such an action or activity by Mr. Montemurro that would excuse his negligence in this matter?
Hon. Mr. Drea: Mr. Speaker, I want to make it very plain that I am not hiding anything. I would be delighted to table that file, because that would hit it right out of the ball park. I have been advised by the crown law office that I cannot table that file or answer those questions without prejudicing a fair trial on the issue. That was not my judgement. I sought the advice of the Ministry of the Attorney General. That was the advice I received. I have conveyed that to the House.
As far as the question of the member for Hamilton Centre is concerned, I have answered that question before.
Mr. M. N. Davison: Give us one example.
Mr. S. Smith: By way of supplementary, Mr. Speaker --
Mr. Speaker: No. A new question.
Mr. S. Smith: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker: The minister is saying the reason he has not been able to comply with the promise he made to table certain information is the advice he was given by the law officers of the crown. What I think is out of order is that we in the opposition are left in this situation with no way of taking anything other than the minister’s word. For instance, all that has been filed is a notice of claim. There is no civil litigation; there is only a notice of claim that has been filed. Therefore, at the very least we ought to know what the basis is for the alleged opinion the minister has allegedly received from the law officers of the crown which prevents him from tabling the information he promised us.
Hon. Mr. Drea: Mr. Speaker, I sought the advice of the Ministry of the Attorney General, of the crown law office. This is the advice I was given. I am conveying it to the House.
Mr. S. Smith: Table the basis of the report.
Hon. Mr. Drea: It is right here. This was the advice. If the honourable member wants another report from the crown law office, I will be delighted to table that.
Mr. S. Smith: There is no civil litigation.
Hon. Mr. Drea: That is nonsense. There is a statement of claim and everything else.
Mr. Sargent: Mr. Speaker, I have a question to the Premier. In view of the unbelievable tragedy facing this province, based on a report that some 2,000 to 4,000 lakes in Ontario will disappear because of acid rain, and in view of the fact that someone has to take the responsibility to call a crash conference of all adjacent state governors, along with US President-elect, Mr. Reagan, I think it is on the Premier’s shoulders to start carrying the ball immediately and to contact the President-elect and all adjacent state governors to call a conference. We are the main province affected.
I want to ask the Premier why he cannot forget all this nonsense about amending formulae and constitutional reform and do something that is relatively important to us here in Ontario.
Hon. Mr. Davis: Mr. Speaker, I think the honourable member has at least approached part of the real difficulty here that perhaps was not highlighted in the discussions at the press conference yesterday; that is, a good part of the difficulty exists with our neighbours to the south.
The honourable member is quite right in saying that the states bordering the Great Lakes have a responsibility, but I must say to him that I believe the overriding responsibility belongs to the government of the United States.
In assessing some of the information from the news stories, I was intrigued by the suggestion that some of the American electrical plants were operating at better levels than those of Ontario Hydro. The facts do not support that. In fact, only about three per cent of the energy facilities or utilities that would impact upon southern Ontario have that kind of technology available to them.
I think the Minister of the Environment has been talking to Mr. Roberts about this. I myself have raised the matter with the Prime Minister of this country, and I hope that one of the very early priorities for Mr. Roberts and the Prime Minister of Canada when Mr. Reagan assumes office will be to establish immediately some form of contact, some form of policy development whereby our American neighbours will move with the same alacrity and will join in solving a problem that really does cross the border between our country and theirs.
To get the President-elect committed at this stage is somewhat premature. But certainly, in terms of getting the new administration’s involvement and commitment to this, that is something this government will be pursuing.
Mr. Sargent: I say respectfully that I do not think it is up to the Premier to pigeon-hole this to a minister. I think it is important that the first minister of this province go to bat, put the thing on track, put the President-elect on the spot and get the thing in motion now, rather than letting someone else pigeon-hole it.
Hon. Mr. Davis: I remind the honourable member, if he will go back in history a little bit to a matter that was the same sort of issue as acid rain, that he will find it was the Premier of this province who lit a bit of a fire under the then and present Prime Minister, who in turn had some modest success with the President of the United States three times removed.
If the member will recall, the Premier of this province was quite directly involved with respect to the water quality agreement that was executed between the United States and Canada. If memory serves me correctly -- and the honourable member may check this -- in terms of Ontario’s performance and Canada’s performance, we met it here in this province.
If the member finds out in his research that the Nixon administration in the latter stages of its activities started, because of restraint or whatever, to diminish its commitment in terms of water quality, that has nothing to do with the commitment of this province. So we were, in fact, successful in doing it on that occasion.
HALTON FINANCIAL DEFICIT
Mr. J. Reed: Mr. Speaker, I have a petition to the Honourable the Lieutenant Governor and the Legislative Assembly of Ontario as follows:
“We, the undersigned, request that a commission of inquiry be recommended into the administrative and fiscal affairs of the regional municipality of Halton pursuant to section 121 of the Regional Municipalities of Halton Act.”
I have a further petition to the Honourable the Lieutenant Governor and the Legislative Assembly of Ontario as follows:
“We, the undersigned, respectfully petition the Honourable the Lieutenant Governor to issue a commission of inquiry into the fiscal management and administrative practices of the regional municipality of Halton arising out of the deficit of $1.2 million over a period of two years, 1978-80, pursuant to section 323(2) of the Municipal Act of Ontario.”
ANNUAL REPORT, MINISTRY OF CONSUMER AND COMMERCIAL RELATIONS
Mr. Bradley: Pursuant to standing order 33(b), the undersigned members of the Legislature hereby petition that the annual report of the Ministry of Consumer and Commercial Relations for the year ending March 31, 1980, tabled in the Legislature on October 6, 1980, be referred to the standing committee on administration of justice for immediate and urgent consideration.
STANDING COMMITTEE ON SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT
Mr. Gaunt from the standing committee on social development presented the following report and moved its adoption:
Your committee begs to report the following bill without amendment:
Bill 167, An Act to amend the Chiropody Act.
Ordered for third reading.
PRIVATE MEMBERS’ PUBLIC BUSINESS
Hon. Mr. Wells moved, notwithstanding standing order 63(d), that Mr. Warner and Mr. Cooke exchange positions in the order of precedence.
Motion agreed to.
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS
MUNICIPAL BOUNDARY NEGOTIATIONS ACT
Hon. Mr. Wells moved first reading of Bill 197, An Act to facilitate the Negotiation and Resolution of Municipal Boundary and Boundary-related Issues.
Motion agreed to.
CITY OF TORONTO ACT
Mr. Renwick moved first reading of Bill Pr44, An Act respecting the City of Toronto.
Motion agreed to.
GRADORE MINES LIMITED ACT
Mr. Ramsay moved first reading of Bill Pr49, An Act to revive Gradore Mines Limited.
Motion agreed to.
RESIDENTIAL TENANCIES AMENDMENT ACT
Mr. Philip moved first reading of Bill 198, An Act to amend the Residential Tenancies Act, 1979.
Motion agreed to.
Mr. Philip: Mr. Speaker, the purpose of this bill is to provide a procedure for the Residential Tenancy Commission to review rent increases allowed by the commission for the purpose of financing major repairs by the landlord. If the commission determines that a landlord has not carried out the repairs, or that the cost of repairs is less than the cost forecast by the landlord, the commission may order a reduction in the rent increase.
ANSWERS TO QUESTIONS ON NOTICE PAPER
Hon. Mr. Wells: Mr. Speaker, I wish to table the answers to the following questions standing on the Notice Paper: 384, 392 and 395. (See appendix, page 4411.)
Mr. Isaacs: Mr. Speaker, I have a point of order relating to question No. 381 which was tabled on October 28, 1980: Standing order 81(d) requires the minister to answer within 14 days. Twenty-one days have now passed without my receiving an answer to that question. Surely there should be some mechanism to impose a penalty upon ministers who do not reply to written questions as required by standing order.
Mr. Speaker: There are no provisions for any penalties, not even flogging with a wet noodle. The minister can answer in any way he chooses. It is probably an oversight. I am sure the government House leader will bring it to the attention of the minister in question.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
House in committee of the whole.
EDUCATION AMENDMENT ACT
Consideration of Bill 82, An Act to amend the Education Act.
On section 1:
Mr. McClellan: Mr. Chairman, I wanted to point out to my colleagues just how important this section is for everything else we will be doing during the course of the afternoon and for however long the debate on Bill 82 takes. I refer to section 1(1), the definition of “exceptional pupil.” Much of the rest of what we do this afternoon will hinge on what we are doing in this subsection.
In this definition section we are conferring the statutory power of decision upon the placement committee of the local board of education. We are saying to the local board of education, “We, the Legislative Assembly of Ontario, are delegating the power upon you to decide the fate of the students within your school board. We are giving you the power to decide who of the pupils in your school system are exceptional pupils and who are not. We are giving you the power to determine which students within the school system will receive special education program services and which students will not.”
The power under this subsection is such that the local placement committee of a board of education will decide who is an exceptional pupil. In order to qualify for special education programs and special education services, a child has to be so classified as an exceptional pupil. If a child is not designated an exceptional pupil, that child is not eligible for special education programs or services. So we are giving a twofold power to the local placement committee, first, the power to decide who is an exceptional pupil, that is, who is eligible for the benefits and programs; and second, the power to decide what kind of benefits and programs the children will receive, where a particular student will go and what particular program and services he or she will receive.
I wanted to stress that, Mr. Chairman, to you, to the minister and to my colleagues in the Liberal Party because at this time we are dealing with an amended bill which provides a means of appeal against the decision-making power of the local placement committee of a local board of education. None of the amendments that have been introduced either by the Minister of Education or by the Liberal Party speaks to the need to have an appeal system with respect to those two statutory powers of decision: the power of the local board to decide who is and who is not an exceptional pupil, and, following upon that decision, what kind of special education programs and services the child will receive.
If we are to be faithful to the principles of the McRuer report, written in the 1960s, we, as a Legislature, will enshrine in this statute a means of appeal against that particular statutory power of decision. We will get to that in the fullness of time and we will debate what the appeal process ought to look like when we get to section 7. But it is section 1(1), clause 20a, which vests this enormous power to determine life and death decisions in terms of access to educational services.
At this time, we have put an appeal procedure into the bill and others are trying to take it out. I want to argue over the course of this debate as strenuously as I possibly can that we have an obligation, if we are going to confer those kinds of powers on somebody else to make such fundamentally important decisions about the lives of the children of this province, to provide an appeal against those decisions.
There should be a chance for a second look at what a local board of education and what a local placement committee has in its wisdom decided. Unless we put that right of appeal in, first, with respect to the designation of exceptional pupils and second, with respect to the adequacy of a special education service and program, we are betraying the needs and aspirations of many thousands of people in this province.
I believe that very deeply. There have been many hundreds of people who have communicated that feeling to us as members of the assembly over the course of the last month. I would start this debate by making an appeal to the other two parties to come to grips with the challenge posed to us through the delegation of these important statutory powers to the local placement committees.
Mr. Sweeney: Mr. Chairman, I would like to speak very briefly to what has just been said. I would draw the committee’s attention to one sentence in the opening statement of the minister on May 23 of this year. She said: “But until today it cannot be said that the law clearly and unequivocally obliged the publicly supported system to provide appropriate forms of education for all students who could potentially benefit. Today’s bill closes the small gap,” and it goes on.
I want to start from that point by making the observations I agree with what has been said in that. The law until today did not, and the law at the present time does not, guarantee every student in this province the kind of education he or she needs.
The second point I would make is that since May of last year we have come a long way. The minister will recall that one of the first and most critical comments made to her by a number of members, particularly on this side of the House, was the need for an appeal mechanism because the original version of the bill, as presented to us, did not have what we deemed to be an adequate appeal mechanism.
There have been a number of amendments presented which gradually and slowly have closed the gap between what was offered and what is deemed to be needed. It will be my intention today to try to close that gap a little further. I would accept the premise the minister has come a long way, but the way that still needs to be gone though small, is critically important. It is on that point I want to indicate to the minister as clearly as I can that I will be making amendments to her amendments.
We have come a long way with respect to the principle of exclusion. In the original legislation it was made clear that in our judgement there was no place in this kind of statute, in this kind of legislative provision, for an exclusion principle. We have once again gradually, slowly but effectively, closed the door. We have just a narrow little crack there that still has to be closed with respect to whether potentially in practice, although not in word, there may be an exclusion principle still in this bill. We are going to speak to that in terms of the definition of a special education program and when we come to some other definition sections in this bill.
I would also draw to the attention of the minister and my colleagues something which is well-known to many of them, that there is a strong difference of opinion outside this House as to how we should deal with legislation like this. Many of the school boards and some of the teachers’ federations of the province are concerned that the bill, as at present written, is too rigid and could lead to complicating problems which would mean the services that children should have will not be received by them. That is one side.
The other side is contacts from many parents of children who have already experienced some rather negative effects of the special education services that are offered in this province at the present time. They want, and it is understandable they would want, a bill that is as tight, as restricted and as rigid as possible so there will be no loopholes. Our job surely is to try to balance these two. That will be part of the attempt I will speak to as we deal with the various sections of the bill.
Finally, I would draw particularly to the minister’s attention that, if we had in place in Ontario now sufficient facilities to meet the greatly varying needs of many of our children who have special needs, we would not be dealing with many of the problems in this legislation. All we would have to do then is decide who was going to pay for it and which one of those facilities the children were going to go to. That would be the only decision open to us. It would be the only decision over which we would have to spend much time. The unfortunate fact is that the need for this legislation is that for the past decade and beyond we have not had a sufficient number of qualified teachers to meet the greatly varied needs of the special education pupils in this province. We have to begin to move on that. It is certainly the purpose of this legislation and it is a goal I endorse.
The best information I have is that there are between 80,000 and 100,000 students in this province who still need special education. They still need the kind of attention they have not been getting for the past number of years and probably will not get if we do not do an adequate job with this legislation. It is those children, who have been identified by their parents and in many cases by the school boards that are now responsible for them, whose needs we have to meet. We also have to recognize the kind of experiences that parents and children in this province have undergone. I recognize we cannot be omnipotent here, but we must produce a piece of legislation that is most likely to meet the needs of every single child in this province who has a special need.
I would certainly hope that in the process of doing that we can put aside some of our own personal ambitions in dealing with this -- let me put it that way -- and I am speaking for myself as well as anyone else in this Legislature. I hope we will keep in mind the only ones we are here to serve are the children who have special needs and the parents of those children who are trying desperately to do the best they can to meet the needs of their children across this province.
In that light I am willing to work with the minister and with my colleagues in the New Democratic Party to produce the best piece of legislation we can.
Hon. Miss Stephenson: Mr. Chairman, this bill has had a long and interesting history. I believe it was approximately seven years ago that work was begun on the drafting of what might be considered legislation in order to ensure that all the exceptional children in this province would receive the benefit of an educational program designed to help them meet their full potential.
In January 1979, we had completed the draft of proposed legislation that was widely distributed throughout the province to all the parent interest groups, the special education interest groups and the educational community interest groups in order to achieve their reactions. We received those reactions in comprehensive form, in brief form and in verbal form. All of those reactions were collated and brought together and the draft proposals were modified in order to accommodate the concerns that were expressed. We carried on with the help of an advisory council on special education that has been in existence now for at least three years and that has diligently addressed itself to the problem of legislation in this area and with the assistance of a multipartite committee made up of representatives of the school system itself -- trustees, education administration officers and teachers. We went through the procedure of making the modifications to the draft legislation that culminated in Bill 82.
In all of this, the motivating force was the concern to provide an educational program for children. We have had no other goal in mind. That goal remains dominant today. However, in this province the structure of education is such that one must rely upon the goodwill, the co-operation and the thoughtful input of not just parents and those who are concerned about the children. I refer also to those who were given the responsibility under legislation for designing programs, for looking after children’s educational needs, for delivering educational programs and for providing the facilities in which that occurs.
No bill can hope to be successful in this very sensitive area unless that kind of cooperation, that kind of concern and that kind of support are forthcoming from the educational community. Therefore, I welcome the remarks of my colleague the member for Kitchener-Wilmot (Mr. Sweeney) that a balance must be struck. And that balance must be struck in favour of the children. We must ensure that the program is made available to the children; that those children with needs who are designated exceptional receive that program; that there are methods of monitoring and methods of ensuring that program is being delivered; and that those children are being assessed.
In the hearings of the committee, the opinions which were expressed provided an excellent range of background information for all members of the committee to examine the bill and to make modifications to it. During those hearings and clause-by-clause examination, several modifications, which are entirely acceptable, were made. There were, however, two that were made that produced a reaction within a very wide-ranging group within our society which I think we cannot afford to overlook.
There were amendments related to section 1 which I believe now are probably appropriate. I am perfectly willing at this point to withdraw the amendments which I was proposing to that amendment and I would leave section 1(1) as it is in the bill.
In certain other areas of the bill, concerns have been expressed by people who have a great deal of knowledge, a great deal of experience and a good deal of concern about the provision of programs for exceptional children. One of these was an unsolicited letter received from Dr. Frederick Weintraub who was the prime mover of Bill 94-142 in the United States, a bill which has had some effect upon the thinking of not only those who are proponents of the amendments which the opposition party supported, but also those who are opposed to those amendments.
I should like this House to know what Dr. Weintraub has suggested in specific areas related to those amendments. Dr. Weintraub expressed some very real concern about an excessive concentration upon the development of what is called in the United States an individual educational plan which must be filed in that country and must be perused on a regular basis. His concern is based upon the fact that he believes IEPs, as he calls them, have become instructional tools, with teachers spending an inordinate amount of time doing clerical and paperwork, rather than devoting their time to the role they fill best, which is teaching. He has suggested very strongly that we not move in that direction.
In addition to that, he has suggested that we are wrong, or at least erroneous or perhaps misguided, in attempting to introduce into a piece of legislation the statement that we would be designing a plan that “meets the needs,” of exceptional pupils because he feels very strongly that the appropriate phrase should be “designed to meet the needs.” From his experience, he suggests that the needs of exceptional pupils are extremely difficult to define in the light of our current, somewhat circumscribed knowledge; that as we advance in our knowledge we shall be able to do that better, but at the present time we are suggesting, through that kind of wording, that we shall be able to do something he does not believe we can do.
This is a man who has had a tremendous amount of experience in this area. He was the prime mover of the legislation in the United States and actually shepherded it through the legislative process there. He feels very strongly that the failure to meet the needs may be in a number of areas which have nothing to do with education. He suggests very strongly that the educators should deal with education rather than with other matters.
He is concerned about our use of the word “appropriate.” While I share that concern, I also understand the concern of parents in this area and feel it is probably better to leave that kind of definition in the legislation than to remove it because it gives us a goal towards which we can work with the co-operation and the support, I hope, of all of those who will be responsible for delivering programming.
Dr. Weintraub was particularly concerned about the establishment of what was called in the amendment Ontario’s special education board. He recognized, appreciated and agreed with the need for parents to be able to appeal the decisions of placement committees and suggested this should be done, as we have attempted to do. He felt very strongly, however, that one could not, on the one hand, hold education officials accountable and responsible for the education of exceptional children and, at the same time, remove from those individuals the total responsibility for decision-making in that area. He felt we should modify very dramatically the structure and function of that board as it was defined in the amendments. We have attempted to do that.
He also suggested it was not reasonable at all to anticipate that a board such as that would be able to devote the time that would be necessary to handle the appeals. He suggested it would be important to recognize that if we moved in that direction we would probably be establishing another major bureaucracy with perhaps the experience they have had in the United States that this consumes not just a great deal of time and effort but much of the cerebral activity of those who should be using that power in other directions on behalf of children.
In addition to that, we have received communications from the Council for Exceptional Children in this province, which very strongly disapproved of those amendments but which, having had in a small group an opportunity to look at the amendments which we had proposed related to section 34, suggested it could support the amendments which we were suggesting.
We have had tremendous communication from a number of areas within and outside of the educational system, expressing support for the concept of Bill 82, expressing very real concern about some of the portions within that bill and asking us to move in the direction of ensuring that the bill does what we had suggested earlier in all of this procedure, that is, meet the need of children without exposing the children, the system and the educational program unduly to a litigation process that would be both time- consuming and destructive. We have tried to take into account all of the expressions of concern which we have heard from all sides. We have provided some amendments which I think are reasonable and meet the requirements.
I would remind the members that in committee the member for Mississauga South (Mr. Kennedy), who was representing me on a day I could not be present, introduced an amendment which ensures that the minister has responsibility for establishing an appeal mechanism in respect of placements of exceptional pupils and would be responsible for procedures with respect to parents’ and guardians’ participation in that. Those regulations are in the process of being drafted at this point to ensure there will at the time of designation, initial placement and further placement be a time, a place and the appropriate kind of participation on behalf of parents or guardians in support of the students for which they have concern and responsibility.
No one recognizes more than I, as a parent who has had personal experience in this area, that the responsibility of the province and government of Ontario is to try to ensure that all exceptional pupils will be well served in this province. That was the purpose of the legislation. In our consultations, when we discovered there were limitations within our capabilities at this point, we accepted the requirement that this needed to be a phase-in program. The first and most important phase of that program is being carried out right now.
It was begun on September 11, 1980, with the inauguration of pilot projects in the 21 participating boards. The initiating teams and the implementation teams functioned in conjunction with those boards in making an acute, critical and careful assessment of all the requirements and needs of exceptional pupils in those jurisdictions, an assessment of all the resources available and an estimate, as accurate as possible, of the resources necessary to provide the full range of special education programs in support of these children.
Probably by the end of the third year of the phase-in program this jurisdiction will have more accurate information about the requirements and the services which need to be provided for exceptional children than any other jurisdiction on this planet. I believe that is a goal for which we should strive diligently.
We know at this point our knowledge is circumscribed and that we are not, as my friend from Kitchener-Wilmot (Mr. Sweeney) suggested, either omnipotent or omniscient. Thus we feel we must at this time introduce legislation which provides us with opportunity to meet the requirements as carefully as we can and which also gives us the chance to modify those requirements as our knowledge increases and as we become more experienced in the totality of ensuring educational programs for all exceptional children.
I believe the bill we introduced, the amendments which we have accepted and those amendments which we are proposing today will allow us to move in that direction responsibly in order to ensure that our children are well served in the province. I would ask that the members of this House consider seriously the amendments we have provided today and the objective we are attempting to meet and support us in that activity which will allow this legislation to pass as we propose to amend it.
Mr. McClellan: I want to be sure I understood the minister, Mr. Chairman. The minister will not be proceeding with her amendment to section 1(1). Is that correct?
Hon. Miss Stephenson: Mr. Chairman, given the concern which had been expressed about the amendment we had proposed, I suggested we will agree to accept the amendment that was accepted in committee. Therefore, we will not propose an amendment to section 1(1).
Mr. McClellan: That’s certainly fine with us. We are quite comfortable, as in so much else, with the language of the bill as it reads now.
I would like to ask the minister one other question. It is my understanding that there may be some additional amendments coming from the minister. If there are, perhaps the minister could share those or, if not, indicate to us that we have the complete package of ministerial amendments with us now.
Mr. Chairman: This might be the appropriate time to remind the members of the committee of standing order 58: “When time permits, amendments proposed to be moved to bills in any committee shall be filed with the Clerk of the House at least two hours before the bill is to be considered and copies of such proposed amendments shall be distributed to all parties.”
Hon. Miss Stephenson: Mr. Chairman, I believe our amendments were filed with the Clerk of the House and were distributed. Is that not so? I’m sorry, that commitment was made this morning. Do the members not have them?
Mr. Chairman: I believe the table received amendments from two members of the committee just as we were starting the bill, but that is all that has been received. The minister’s amendments have now been received here.
Mr. McClellan: We are in something of a difficult situation. We can’t really proceed until we ‘have the complete package of amendments from the Minister of Education.
Hon. Miss Stephenson: Mr. Chairman, the complete package of amendments, save for one paragraph, was in the hands of the two critics for the past 72 hours, as a matter of fact. But there is one paragraph of addendum which I had notified at least the critic for the NDP about, and I believe the member for Kitchener-Wilmot (Mr. Sweeney) also has them.
Mr. Chairman: I will ask the question again. Are there any comments, questions or amendments to section 1 of the bill?
Mr. Warner: Yes, Mr. Chairman. Before I begin, while the critic may have received the amendments, I would assume that properly they should be tabled with the clerk before we can proceed to any other amendments.
I have some concerns about the definition section. I am certainly pleased to learn that the minister has agreed to withdraw a previously considered amendment which she had. It indicates a good spirit with which to begin the deliberations of this afternoon and possibly this evening in an attempt to come through with an extremely important piece of legislation.
I start from the premise that our educational system should be designed in such a way as to meet the individual educational need of each student; that is a goal. As the minister knows, for far too long that goal has not been realized. In fact, over the past too many years, there has not been the kind of dedicated effort from this government which is needed. We need only remind ourselves, with respect to children with learning disabilities, a number of years ago the mentally retarded children and the parents of those children had a terrible time when attempting to get proper education for their children -- the kind of educational program that would meet the needs of that child. We have a long way to go.
The progressive amendments that were spearheaded by the member for Bellwoods (Mr. McClellan) go a long way to assist. Where the minister has indicated a spirit of co-operation in taking a second or third look at Bill 82 and in trying to come up with something which will be agreeable to all --
Hon. Miss Stephenson: It would be more appropriate to say a 102nd or a 103rd look.
Mr. Warner: Several looks. That is certainly welcome. There is no doubt in my mind, as the minister is certainly aware, that there are a lot of parents in this province who are a bit nervous about whether or not they will have a direct voice in the educational future of their children.
Like other members, I have had phone calls within the last few days from parents and educators who are anxious to know what is happening. I have some specific concerns, one of which touches on the definition itself.
In our area, as the minister may be aware, we have a program for gifted children. The Scarborough Board of Education started it a while ago, and that program is running very smoothly and nicely. I think it is doing a first-rate job in meeting the needs of those children who are classified as gifted.
The concern raised to me -- and this is why I raise it with the minister -- is whether or not the definition, particularly as indicated on page 1, under 62(a), would ensure that a program for gifted children is included in the definition and could not in any way be excluded. While it may not be ultimately of any consequence for the Scarborough Board of Education, since it has already made a commitment to run such a program and to continue such a program, I raise it because there may be other boards that do not have such a program. I want to be assured that the parents in that area could then very logically and reasonably approach the board and ask it to begin such a program. That is why I am wondering whether gifted children would be included in that definition.
I also want to be assured that children with learning disabilities are included in that definition because, as the minister knows, the fight on behalf of those children against this government has gone on far too long. Like other members, I do not believe I should have to fight on a regular basis the government of Ontario in order to get children who live in my riding the appropriate course here in Ontario, nor do I think that in 1980 children should have to attend schools outside of the province or outside of the country.
Hon. Miss Stephenson: Have you read the bill? That is what it is about.
Mr. Warner: I have read the bill and I do not want any loopholes left. With respect, I would like a commitment that children with learning disabilities and gifted children cannot in any way be excluded from the definition. In my experience, definition sections of bills are extremely important. They can be the loophole under which a board or any other authority can say, “It does not fit the definition. I am sorry, you lose.” Those two particular areas are a deep concern to me.
The minister has shown a spirit of cooperation this afternoon, and I do not wish to destroy that spirit. But I must say, in the light of my experience in this Legislature, too often my faith has been misplaced in legislation I thought was going to help solve a problem. So if she will forgive me, I want to nail down every possible loophole this afternoon before this bill becomes law. That is why I raise both those matters with the minister and I would appreciate her response.
Hon. Miss Stephenson: Mr. Chairman, I am delighted with the expression, “nail down the loophole.” I find that a little difficult to do. None the less, had the member attended any of the committee hearings, he would know that under section 2 of this bill the minister is responsible for defining the exceptionalities. I can tell him that those exceptionality definitions include both dyslexic and gifted children specifically. The list is available. It was made available to the members of the committee at the time of the committee hearings.
Mr. Warner: I am fully aware of that, which is why I raised it. It is all very nice to have it appended. We are not discussing section 2. We are discussing section 1, the definition section. I want to ensure the definition of “special education program” includes gifted children and children with learning disabilities.
Hon. Miss Stephenson: I just said it did.
Mr. Warner: With respect, Mr. Chairman, in responding to my question about section 1, I understood the minister to give an answer related to section 2. I want to know that the definition of special education program in section 1 includes gifted children and children with learning disabilities. That is what I want on the record.
Hon. Miss Stephenson: Mr. Chairman, it does. I do have an amendment to section 1(2). I note on page two of the amended act under section 1(2)66 it states: “‘trainable retarded child’ or ‘trainable retarded pupil’ means a pupil who is six or more years of age, but less than 21 years of age.” I would like to move an amendment.
The Deputy Chairman: Before we get there, I wonder if there is anything else in section 1(1)?
Mr. Grande: Mr. Chairman, I am dealing with the exceptional pupil and the definition of an exceptional pupil. That is in section 1. I want to go back briefly to the minister’s intent in the Legislature on May 23 on the introduction of this bill. The minister at that time talked about principles, about universal access to education and about children having a right to an education, exceptionalities notwithstanding.
What I would like to ask the minister, in terms of the amended bill before us, is did not the standing committee on social development respond to the minister’s intention of a right to a public education for exceptional children? I think we have a bill which, as the saying goes, has teeth in it. What is happening, of course, is that whenever one has a piece of legislation with teeth in it there are certain interest groups that don’t like any legislation with teeth in it and don’t like the fact that the exceptional child has a right to an education because that child was born.
In other words, it’s a birthright to have educational opportunities in this province and the Minister of Education proudly said so in so many words on May 23. It is a right, and this bill is going to provide the opportunities and those rights for those children. Then we found in the first bill which was introduced an hour later, from the statements of the minister made on May 23 to the time the minister tabled the first reading of that bill, that really the children do not have rights any longer.
As a matter of fact, in that particular bill there was originally an exclusion clause. We talked about this famous exclusion clause forever and a day in the social development committee. I am glad we were able finally to persuade the minister that exclusion clause should have no part in that bill if the minister firmly believes children ought to have educational programs by right.
Different people and different groups have different estimates, but the one I have seen constantly is there are about 200,000 children with learning disabilities in this province -- in other words, exceptional pupils. Once the minister makes the commitment that the child should have access to public education by right, the minister must admit there has to be a safeguard for that right to be exercised. There has to be some kind of mechanism whereby the parents can say, “The right of my child has not been protected and I have a way of redress.” Once a placement committee of a board makes a decision under this bill, it should be able to say that those children have a right to an education. The placement committee should be able to say: “Yes, you have a right to a special education program. That’s where you are going to be in that special education program.” What can a parent do who sees his or her child slowly or rapidly deteriorating in terms of intellectual ability and educational growth? Very little.
The social development committee spent a whole week and a day over amendments. With both opposition parties firmly in agreement, the committee said in effect there has to be an appeal procedure and an appeal procedure worth its name. On September 30 the Liberals did support the New Democratic Party and the immense work the member for Bellwoods (Mr. McClellan) and many other people have been doing in this province for a lot of time.
What has taken place? My suspicion is -- and I certainly hope I am wrong, because 200,000 kids out there in this province demand, by right, that at this particular time, in terms of what I am going to be saying, I be wrong. I certainly hope that the Liberal Party is still consistent with the kinds of things it said in the social development committee about having the right of appeal to any decision that a placement committee might be making.
As a legislator and as a person who has taught for 10 years in this province, I do not want to see a child who vegetates because of a lack of services or because of a lack of programming. That is not an extreme position. Because I taught special education for two years, I know what I am talking about. I know some of those children I taught should not have been in that particular classroom; they should have specialized help.
Yet those children could not get that program. The reason goes back to the famous year of 1972 when special education programs were going well -- at least we were beginning to see some movement -- and then down came the ceilings from this provincial government which totally crippled that development in the schools.
I can understand why boards of education are upset about this bill as the social development committee has amended it. I can understand it, because in essence it says to the boards of education and not necessarily to those -- shall I put the word? -- enlightened boards that have in the past 10 years moved in that direction, but some of the boards across this province, as the minister ought to know --
Mr. Deputy Chairman: I wonder if I could interrupt the member for Oakwood for a moment. It seems to me that you are speaking pretty generally to the whole philosophy of the bill rather than dealing with some section. I have been quite tolerant, trying to find what section or subsection here you are talking about. It seems to me you are rehashing the philosophy that was done on second reading. I wish you would bring my attention to the particular item in subsection 1 that you think should be changed, or to which you wish to speak.
Mr. Foulds: On a point of order, Mr. Chairman, the member for Oakwood is, in fact, speaking on the definition section of the bill. I would suggest to you with great respect that when one is talking about the exceptional pupil, special education program, special education services and the trainable retarded child, all of the points my colleague was making with regard to education for those people in that kind of a program are relevant.
The Deputy Chairman: I realize he is tying it in and that the whole bill deals with exceptional children in one way or another, hut I do not know whether you are recommending a change in here, speaking to an amendment or just what the point is you are trying to make.
Mr. Grande: The point I am trying to make is that inherent in that definition of exceptional pupil everything else flows in this bill.
The Deputy Chairman: Are you proposing an amendment?
Mr. Grande: What I am talking about, Mr. Chairman, is the definition of exceptional pupil. I am attempting to give my input to this Legislature in terms of the exceptional student in this province, and how those particular needs of the exceptional pupil have been addressed in the past and are going to be addressed by this particular bill before us.
The Deputy Chairman: As I say, I am trying to be tolerant, but would you make your point briefly rather than speaking to the whole principle of the bill, which has been discussed on many occasions. If you have an amendment to propose, I would ask you to put it before the chair.
Mr. Foulds: Mr. Chairman, on a point of order, it has been the tradition in this House that one can speak on every section of every bill when it is in committee. There need not be an amendment to a section to speak to it.
The Deputy Chairman: The speaking must be relevant to the section. I am trying to find out how what the member for Oakwood is saying is particularly relevant to section 1(1).
Mr. Foulds: With great respect, he is speaking about exceptional pupils, and that is what is in section 1(1), paragraph 20a.
The Deputy Chairman: Committee study does not permit you to ramble and redo the speech that was done on second reading of the bill. I do not want to be short with the member for Oakwood, but I would ask him to save the House a little time and come to the point he is making.
Mr. Grande: Mr. Chairman, with due respect, I am attempting to save the House time. I am also attempting in the best way I know how to deal with this particular section before us now, namely the definition of exceptional pupil. I can only deal with that definition in terms of programs and lack of programs being offered right now in this province. Unless we begin from that definition and talk about programs, we have a definition in a total vacuum. That is what I am attempting to do.
The definition of exceptional pupil in this bill, as far as it goes, is perhaps a good definition. However, the programs that flow from that definition are really the pits. If we do not have the programs in place to look after the very specific and important needs of the exceptional pupil, then I think this bill will amount to nought. If the boards of education are saying in essence they do not want their hands tied by legislation in order to provide the programs, then I must say to you, Mr. Chairman, we will be going on in this province for the next 10 or 15 years without proper educational services being provided to the exceptional pupil or student.
This is what I am addressing to the minister. Since the minister has asked us to take a look at her amendments once again, I would like to suggest she take a look at the good, solid, fundamental amendments that the social development committee has brought forward to amend this legislation. I would say to my Liberal friends on that side, “Take a look at it very carefully, because if you do not what is going to happen is that the 199,998 children who need special education services in this province will not get them.”
Mr. Stong: On a point of order, Mr. Chairman, I want to assure my friend from Oakwood that we Liberals have indeed looked at the amendments. There are no amendments on section 1. As a matter of fact, this was okayed by the committee. It is here without amendment at this time. My privileges as a member of this House are being breached by this waste of time in speaking to the principle.
I would like to get to the meat of the amendments before us and have some votes on the rights to appeal that are not even involved in this section. Let us not waste time; let us get to the vote that is required instead of speaking to principle; then members will see that the Liberals are consistent.
The Deputy Chairman: As I said earlier, I am trying to be tolerant with the member for Oakwood. I am going to allow him a few more minutes to try to bring the chair’s attention to the point he is making on section 1(1). That is the point in issue at the present time. We are looking at section 1(1) of the bill.
I know you are speaking about exceptional children, but I have not found anything in what you have to say that is drawing my attention to any change you want to make there or any proposed amendment to it. Are you asking any questions of the minister? If you would, please do that so we can get on with the work of the House.
Mr. Grande: I certainly would not want my Liberal friend to be upset about what I am saying. All I am saying to him is let us be serious about this legislation, let us remain consistent with what we decided in the social development committee because this legislation is indeed one of the most important pieces of educational legislation we have had in this province for a long time.
Mr. M. N. Davison: Mr. Chairman, for the first and quite possibly the last time in my five years in the House, I would like to commend the Minister of Education on something she has done today. I assure you it won’t become a tradition with me. I want to commend her on withdrawing or not placing her amendment to section 1(1) and leaving this section of the bill as it came back from the social development committee. I think that it is a good principle that she should recognize as this debate progresses, that much -- as a matter of fact, almost every thing -- that the social development committee did in terms of innovation is good. I know the minister has a number of other amendments which she intends to place and I hope she reconsiders them.
I think what has happened in section 1(1) is important. The government has an obligation to realize it has a record that is not all that very good in terms of special education. This is really the first time the government has moved so far by way of legislation.
Hon. Miss Stephenson: Name me a government with a record that is better.
Mr. M. N. Davison: I am sorry, what did the minister have to say?
Hon. Miss Stephenson: It is all right. I am not going to interrupt.
The Deputy Chairman: The member for Hamilton Centre has the floor.
Mr. M. N. Davison: I welcome an interjection from the minister if she wants to bring something to my attention, although just because she does that is no guarantee I will accept it, as I have done this.
Like all members of the assembly, I had a lot of mail on this section and other sections of the bill and in it were compelling arguments made by parents in terms of the definitions and the other parts of the bill that were changed by the social development committee. I think the minister should listen and reconsider those other ones as she has in this case by not moving ahead with amendments to undo the work of the social development committee.
I don’t know if this is true of all the members of the House, but I am one of the members of the House who can speak about special education from a personal point of view. I have a retarded sister who was denied any right whatsoever to a decent education in Ontario. I know what it is like for a family when the government will not permit one of its kids to have access to decent education. That was done by a Tory government, so I know a lot personally about the record of this Tory government.
Hon. Miss Stephenson: It is hyperbole to suggest it was all done by a Tory government.
Mr. M. N. Davison: When my sister tried to get an education in this province, this government did not give a damn and denied her access to a proper education, as it did in many cases, so don’t tell me about it.
I would hope the Tories would finally understand that they don’t have a record they can be proud of in special ed; that they will accept the arguments that have been put to them by parents in this province; and that this will not be the only time today the minister refuses to bring forward one of her amendments to undo the work of the social development committee.
I think the committee did a fine job and I do not think the minister should stand in the way of the important changes it has made to the bill.
Mr. Foulds: Mr. Chairman, I have two or three points I want to make on this section because, as some of my colleagues have mentioned, the rest of the bill hinges on the definition section. We have seen that time and time again when it comes to legislation or regulations that are devolved out of legislation.
There are two basic principles in this section. Like my colleague, the member for Hamilton Centre (Mr. M. N. Davison), I must initially commend the minister for her graciousness and her ability in accepting the section as it is printed and defined. That is very important for the children whose needs we are trying to meet with this legislation, and it is very important for the province as a whole.
One of the important things, and one of the principles that we must keep in mind when discussing this particular section of the bill, is that, several years ago a Minister of Education in this province made a commitment that there would be equality of access to education across the province and that there would no longer be a balkanization of education in this province. That Minister of Education later became the Premier of this province. For a while it was pretty hard for a Minister of Education not to become Premier of this province eventually.
Hon. Miss Stephenson: Thank goodness that has changed.
Mr. Foulds: That certainly has changed. If the Liberals support the present Minister of Education for Premier, that would be the kiss of death. They can be assured of that.
Where is the member for London Centre (Mr. Peterson) going? Now I am off the section, I admit, Mr. Chairman. I am amazed you have not called me to order.
The Deputy Chairman: As I said before, I am trying to be very tolerant. That tolerance still exists.
Mr. Foulds: The important principle in this section, and the important principle that we face as we go through this bill clause by clause, is that we must at all costs avoid balkanization of education for children with special needs in this province. We must ensure that the principles which apply to education generally, the principles of universality and access, are maintained in this bill.
That is one of the reasons why I commend the minister for this section. It is obvious that this section, her acceptance of it and our endorsement of it indicate that the minister, and I hope also all of the Legislature when debating the rest of the sections of this bill, will decide that if there is a balance to be struck between the competing and conflicting interests in education, the balance must always be tipped in favour of the child because it is the child the educational system is designed to serve. In terms of this bill, it is the exceptional pupil whom the boards of education are there to serve; it is the exceptional pupil whom the teachers of this province are there to serve. I, for one, have objected, more strenuously in a personal way than I can express, to the lobbying, to which I have been subjected by people in the boards of education sector and the teaching sector of education, against the amendments put forward by this bill. It is their job, and the job of us in this Legislature, to serve those needs.
Contrary to one of the things my colleague from Oakwood (Mr. Grande) said, the children of this province do not demand special education. I know several children who have exceptional needs. I know children with learning disabilities. I have a child with a learning disability. They are not demanding special education because they do not yet know and are not yet cognizant of the fact they have rights in this province. Those of us who are their guardians, those of us who are legislators, must demand them on their behalf.
Mr. Laughren: Mr. Chairman, I want to speak very briefly to this section. It has occurred to me when I have looked at the educational system -- and I spent some time in it myself -- that it reflects the kind of society we have built, not just in Ontario but elsewhere. We have built a society designed for the young and the swift, whether we are talking physically or mentally. That is the problem with our educational system.
If I were to start all over again, I think I would design a system that said to the people who ran it: “We will teach the people who are young and swift how to learn; we will teach the rest of the people we describe as exceptional pupils. We will teach the others how to learn, and they will get about the process of learning primarily on their own. The exceptional pupils who have problems need the majority of the resources to teach them.” For the first time, this bill seems to understand, or go part way, to resolving that problem.
I can think of a situation in Sudbury which is very bad. If a person has a speech problem that affects his or her learning, and such a person could certainly be described as an exceptional pupil under this section of the bill, if the student is of pre-school age he or she is referred to the Sudbury Algoma Sanatorium. If the person is of school age, that person is referred to the school system, the school board, which does not have speech therapists. It has itinerant speech teachers. It does not have the facilities to deal with the problem adequately.
I too have been lobbied in the last few days by school boards and by teachers. I find it pretty upsetting to be lobbied by those people who are supposed to be carrying out their mandate of educating the children of this province and who are saying that this problem, in effect, is too big. One person from a school board said to me: “We can’t deal with this problem; we are not a social agency. We cannot deliver social programs, and that is what you’re talking about in this bill.”
What is the purpose of our educational system? I look around me in the Sudbury basin, as an example, where we do not have anyone who is co-ordinating things properly. At one point, it appeared there was going to be a social services commissioner in the basin who would try to co-ordinate educational needs, health needs and social services needs so there would not be overlapping and there would not be people in the system falling between the stools. But that has not come to fruition.
When the board of education says this bill just will not work because it is a social services problem, not an educational one, I wonder what the educational system is supposed to be doing for people with learning disabilities. When I think of the children in the province who really need the extra help, I wonder if the minister is going to say to the boards across the province, “We are no longer going to give you a formula; we are going to provide the assistance required to help people who are defined as exceptional pupils.” That is one of the things that is bothering the school boards.
Where is the money going to come from to look after these programs? It is now going to be right for these exceptional students to have an education, to have a program designed for these needs? I can see why the school boards are very nervous. They are very nervous that this minister and her government are not going to provide the necessary funds. It would not be the first time.
I would expect the minister would have some very precise things to say today about making a commitment to provide an adequate level of funding to make sure the school boards are not only given the responsibility of implementing this bill, but are also given adequate funding to do it properly. I can understand why the school boards are nervous. They simply do not trust the minister to come through with an adequate level of funding. They have every right to be nervous.
Hon. Miss Stephenson: On what?
Mr. Warner: On funding for education. It continues to erode each year. It dropped from 60 per cent to almost 50 per cent, and she knows it.
The Deputy Chairman: The member for Nickel Belt has the floor. Will he proceed please?
Mr. Laughren: The minister surely would not disagree that the property taxpayers are picking up an increased proportion of the educational costs, as compared with the province, through general revenues. I would simply urge the minister to make a commitment that, whatever level of funding is required to implement these programs, it simply be done.
Mr. Bounsall: Mr. Chairman, I want to compliment the minister on trying to simplify things this afternoon --
Hon. Miss Stephenson: I did not succeed, did I?
Mr. Bounsall: -- by not proceeding with her amendment on section 1. I would sympathize with the minister’s feelings at this point in that what looked like a simplification is becoming a major debate. I think we should move on to another section.
I would like to say at this point that I missed very much being on the social development committee this summer because of having to serve on the Hydro affairs committee. I find myself in a more and more frustrating position over the last couple of weeks in dealing with constituents over the problems involved with the definition section. It was difficult trying to keep straight which version of the bill they were talking to, whether it was the original one or the one amended by the social development committee.
Then we had the minister tabling her amendment here, new calls coming in over the weekend and submissions being sent to us which were written over the weekend. At this point, it is very difficult to tell, unless their letters were very specific, which amendments they are talking about -- those brought forward by the social development committee even in this section or those brought forward by the minister.
As I tried today to sort through some of the letters of objections and phone calls I received over the weekend, after having taken the minister’s amendments home with me I found myself and the person who was talking getting more and more frustrated as we tried to determine which set of amendments we were talking about.
I know it is not possible now, but would it not have been more profitable if at this point we could have sent the minister’s amendments to a committee outside the House? There it could be made very clear what was being asked of us by the various groups that were contacting us and whether it was the minister’s amendments or the social development committee’s amendments the various groups were concerned about.
I received a communication from the Federation of Women Teachers’ Associations of Ontario and some of their remarks looked very reasonable. They are concerned with some of the remarks the minister made in quoting the author of American Public Law 94-142, that we do not zero in on a plan, and the plan and the program themselves become the be-all and end-all. To quote them, “We should be looking at the result which is forthcoming.” And we should have a phrase, which in their opinion, “in accordance with the best possible educational practices,” coming in to achieve their ends, as the best way to achieve their objectives.
As I read through that paragraph, I have a great desire to sit down outside the Legislature with the people who have contacted us so that we could have a clear understanding of exactly what it is they wish to achieve. But here we are going through these various amendments and we will probably reach a point which is very much more frustrating to all concerned than it has been so far. I just regret there isn’t a route open to us to allow a situation which would be a little less frustrating than the situation we have to deal with here.
I won’t make the same speech I gave on second reading on definitions of exceptional students and their needs. I am glad we have reached agreement on the wording of section 1 that came from the social development committee and that we can go on to some of the other sections.
Mr. Chairman: Hon. Miss Stephenson moves that paragraph 68 of section 1(1) of the ‘act as set out in section 1(2) of the bill be amended by striking out “a pupil who is six or more years of age but less than 21 years of age” in the second and third lines and inserting in lieu thereof “an exceptional pupil.”
Mr. Sweeney: Mr. Chairman, given the fact we have made so many amendments, and amendments to amendments in some cases, although it looks very obvious I think it is important that the minister would indicate to us the precise reason for introducing the change. I think I know what it is, but we have tripped over so many amendments to amendments to amendments that we can lose the thread of what we are trying to do here.
Hon. Miss Stephenson: The purpose of the amendment is to reduce the age requirement to attain the status of a trainable mentally retarded pupil from six down to four in order to accommodate those people at an earlier age than at present in the act.
Mr. Nixon: How about those over 21?
Hon. Miss Stephenson: As you know, under the act at the present time they are the responsibility of the educational program until the age of 21. We are also looking at that. Specifically at this point, it is to reduce the admission age.
Mr. Sweeney: There are boards in this province taking even younger children than you have just described under their jurisdiction and providing a program for children who are hard of hearing. Are we speaking to this, or is that something different again?
Hon. Miss Stephenson: That is something else again. The trainable mentally retarded is the only group addressed in this amendment.
Mr. McClellan: Mr. Chairman, I want to be sure I understand the purpose of the amendment. First, from what the minister has said, age six is eliminated in order that children can be accommodated in the program who are younger than six. Is there a provision elsewhere in the bill or in the act so that the age can be extended at the other end to beyond age 18?
Hon. Miss Stephenson: Under the Education Act at the present time, the trainable mentally retarded child is the responsibility of that educational program until the age of 21.
Mr. McClellan: Under what section of the act?
Hon. Miss Stephenson: Section 571(1).
Mr. McClellan: I don’t understand what section you are talking about.
Hon. Miss Stephenson: I am sorry, It is section 71(1) of the Education Act.
Mr. McClellan: Right. I didn’t think that was correct because there are only 200 sections in the Education Act. There’s nothing in section 71(1) about increasing the age from 18 to 21. The reason I want to raise it is that it is an important consideration. It is something that was raised in committee during the hearings. A number of witnesses who were advocating on behalf of mentally retarded children or on behalf of the association were commending the ministry on the extension of the eligible age from 18 to 21. I think your amendment is taking 21 out of the act. I want to know precisely where it is in the existing act or in the regulations. As I read section 71(1), it is not there.
Hon. Miss Stephenson: Try section 32.
Mr. McClellan: I will try section 32 If you will bear with me, I will stay on my feet. Section 32 has four subsections. Which subsection?
Hon. Miss Stephenson: One, right to attend.
Mr. McClellan: Perhaps the minister could explain that section to me because I don’t understand it.
Hon. Miss Stephenson: It says, “Subject to sections 34, 35 and 42, a person who attains the age of six years in any year is, after the first day of September in such year, qualified to be a resident pupil in respect of a school section until the last school day in June in the year in which he attains the age of 21 years,” and then the qualifications follow.
Mr. McClellan: Where are the qualifications that relate this to a trainable retarded child?
Mr. Foulds: That is a particularly important question in view of some of the exclusions in section 34.
Mr. McClellan: I don’t mean to bring things to a halt but we can’t proceed on the amendment until we have a clear understanding of where the authority is to extend the eligible age for trainable retarded children to 21 years and we haven’t found it yet.
Mr. Foulds: With great respect, I think the minister is trying to find an answer and I believe she thinks the section covers the concern expressed by my colleague the member for Bellwoods (Mr. McClellan). However, we are concerned because section 32(1) starts out with the simple words, “Subject to sections 34, 35 and 42,” and then gives the right to attend and includes the age 21. However, section 34(1), which section 32 is subject to, reads: “A person is not qualified to be a resident pupil in respect of an elementary school if he is unable by reason of mental or physical handicap to profit by instruction in an elementary school.”
We feel that unless it is clearly explained or embedded in this piece of legislation there is no provision for the act dealing with the problems we have before us in this bill, namely, ensuring that trainable retarded children will be eligible for school until the physical age of 21.
Hon. Miss Stephenson: Under the existing definition of trainable retarded child, a child is defined as someone under the age of 18. The amendment is intended to remove that upper limit of 18 and permit the current practice, which is that those young people will be a part of the educational program until the age of 21 as other pupils may be.
Mr. McClellan: The minister has referred to another section and I don’t know where it is. Perhaps she could tell us where the definition of trainable retarded child appears.
Mr. Stong: Mr. Chairman, it has been pointed out to me that section 12 of Bill 82 in its amended form may address the problem my friend is having. I am referring to section 71 of the act being repealed and substituted by section 12, which probably answers the member’s question. I thank my informant in the gallery.
Mr. McClellan: Perhaps my colleagues will pursue that while I pursue another concern in the same subsection.
This subsection has caused me some concern because, to put it bluntly, it skirts around the issue of whether or not the child is able to profit from instruction. I can’t tell from this section dealing with a trainable retarded child whether or not there will be special education programs for trainable retarded children.
What this subsection does is separate the so-called educable retarded pupil from the so-called trainable retarded pupil. It states that a trainable retarded child is a pupil who cannot profit from a special education program for educable retarded pupils. I am not quite sure what that means. Perhaps the minister could give us some clarification on that. Then I have another question.
Hon. Miss Stephenson: An educable retarded pupil is one who can profit from a special education program designed to meet the requirements of the intellectual capacity of that child. A trainable retarded pupil is one whose intellectual capacity is considered by all methods of assessment to be below the level of educability. Professional definitions have been developed. I have limited knowledge of them but certainly specialists in psychometrics, psychological assessment and those teachers who have been responsible for the development of the program have made that definition and it is a definition which functions at the present time.
Mr. McClellan: If a trainable retarded child is not eligible for a special education program for educable retarded pupils, is there such a thing as a special education program for a trainable retarded child?
Hon. Miss Stephenson: Yes.
Mr. McClellan: Will that be defined pursuant to your regulation authority under section (2b) or 3?
Hon. Miss Stephenson: It can be included there. The purpose of including it in this act is because of the action that has taken place under the act that provides the responsibility to separate school boards for the provision of educational programs for the trainable retarded child. There is already a definition of that kind of program because it has been in place for some time under the Education Act.
Mr. McClellan: Why is it necessary to continue to use the term, “trainable retarded child,” on the one hand, and “educable retarded child,” on the other? Why is it necessary to maintain that distinction between these so-called classes of retarded children?
Hon. Miss Stephenson: I shall be pleased to take that matter up with those professionals whose expertise has defined the difference between the two groups of individuals over the past several years. It is a matter of practice at the present time and it has some basis in valid, scientific assessment which has been accepted within the educational community and certainly within the psychological community.
Mr. McClellan: I want to be absolutely clear on this. Where does an educable retarded pupil receive his or her special education program?
Hon. Miss Stephenson: Within the school system.
Mr. McClellan: I had assumed it was within the school system. I did not think it would be at the corner grocery store.
If it is not too much trouble, perhaps the minister could explain to this House which programs within the school system are particularly designed for educable retarded pupils and where they would be accommodated in some way different from programs for trainable retarded children.
Hon. Miss Stephenson: The educable retarded have most certainly been educated within the school system for many years. Those children are children who can learn, probably to a lesser degree than those who are within the so-called normal range, but who do have the capacity to learn within the structure of the educational program provided. They have certainly been dealt with in many fashions during the past decades through programs designed specifically to help a group that in some instances have been called slow learners. In some instances in the past, they have been given the perhaps unfortunate name of opportunity classes, or other kinds of designations. They are instructed through special education programs within the school system at the present time.
Mr. McClellan: Trainable retarded children, then, are in an entirely different stream?
Hon. Miss Stephenson: In some instances many of the trainable mentally retarded, while they may have some of their program in an entirely different stream, are integrated into certain of the classes, depending on the philosophy of the program that is provided and the experience of the board, the supervisors, the teachers and the parents with those children. In many instances they believe that mainstreaming or integrating those children in certain of the classes is helpful to them.
Mr. McClellan: It is clearly the intention of the minister that all trainable retarded children -- and it is an unfortunate phrase which we are forced to use, because it is the language of the statute -- will have a program made available to them by the time the bill matures in 1985.
I have a concern, however, as to the number of so-called trainable retarded children who will be designated as hard-to-serve children. In the past, the two terms were synonymous. In the past we did not use the exact language, “hard-to-serve children”; we talked in section 34 about children unable to profit by instruction; under section 34 we simply excluded them entirely from the school system. Some of them remained at home, some of them remained in institutions, some of them were in nursing homes, some of them were in homes for special care, and many hundreds of them did not receive an education of any kind.
We have had a great deal of debate in the committee about the notion of exclusion and, as we stand here today, at least one thing all three parties are agreed on is that the word “exclusion” will no longer appear in the bill when it is finally passed. I think that is a major achievement.
Nevertheless, we still have the designation, “hard-to-serve pupil” --
Hon. Miss Stephenson: It is not in this section.
Mr. McClellan: No, it is not in this section, but if I can just finish the sentence: we have the definition of a hard-to-serve child in a subsequent sentence as a child who is unable to profit by instruction. My question is, how many of these children will be de facto trainable retarded children for whom no program is available?
I think in particular of what we discovered after a number of years of questioning of successive ministers of Health and ministers of Community and Social Services with respect to the number of retarded children who were in homes for special care without any programs. We finally found out, after being given varying figures by the Ministry of Health, that approximately 400 children with developmental handicaps are in homes for special care and not getting any education program at all.
You will forgive us, Mr. Chairman, if we are a little bit cautious about this particular issue. I do not know whether the minister is willing or able to speculate with respect to the number of trainable retarded children who are likely to end up categorized as hard-to-serve children unable to profit by instruction. But I think we know from past experience that it is the trainable retarded child about whom we have been talking when we have discussed the application of the principle of exclusion under either section 34 or another section that serve to do the same thing.
In fact, the process of exclusion is simply a de facto process, which says, “No, you can- not come.” They do not have to formally invoke either section 34 or section 75 to achieve a de facto segregation. I am raising this point more as a point of concern. I do not know whether the minister is able to give reassurances on whether the hard-to-serve child unable to profit by instruction is liable to be the trainable retarded child and whether the very sad patterns of the past may continue into the future.
Hon. Miss Stephenson: The very purpose of this piece of legislation is to ensure that the responsibility for providing a program for all children within the province will be assumed by all of the boards of this province. There is no child at the present time who cannot be admitted to the educational system with the passage of this bill.
The purpose of the specific change within the definition under subsection 2 was to ensure that the word “child” was defined as something other than the usual definition -- that a trainable retarded pupil is one who does not fall into the classification of “child”-- in the traditional sense of that definition -- and would be expanded to permit the pupil in that classification both to receive an earlier program through the education system than the ordinary child would, and to have that extended to the age of 21 years in all instances. In almost all instances for the trainable mentally retarded, that is a very appropriate extension to help them to learn a skill or at least to become more self-satisfied in their educational experience.
I have no means of defining the numbers of pupils within this category who might be classified as hard to serve. Although the member for Bellwoods (Mr. McClellan) continues to raise the matter of the mentally retarded young people who are within certain kinds of institutions, he is acutely aware that the three ministries involved are actively participating in a program to assess the educational requirements of all those children in all those institutions so that we may meet their educational needs. It is the intent of this bill to ensure that all children in the province, regardless of their circumstances, will have an opportunity to have their educational needs met appropriately within the school system.
Mr. Foulds: I have a question of clarification here. I assume that the minister’s amendment and her explanation referring to the new section 71, which is section 12 of the bill, are still subject to section 75 as it is printed in the act?
Hon. Miss Stephenson: Section 75 was revoked.
Mr. Foulds: Where is section 75 revoked?
Once upon a time several years ago when I was Education critic for this party I went through this whole act and that was one of the parts of the maze that escaped us. We do not want it to escape us this time.
Hon. Miss Stephenson: Section 75 and 76 of the said act are repealed at section 14 in this act.
Mr. Isaacs: I have some concern when a bill of this nature has been dealt with by a committee, the committee has brought forward its recommendations, and the minister comes into the committee of the whole House with an amendment that appears innocuous and even desirable, but with explanations that somehow are not completely satisfying.
I appreciate the minister’s saying it is the intent of the bill that education shall be provided to all children across the province. Unfortunately, decisions about these things tend to be made outside of this House, and outside of the ministry -- in the courts. If we are not very careful with the wording, we are going to find a situation where someone uses something as a way of getting around doing something.
I want to raise one more point on this amendment. The minister is replacing the words “a pupil who is six or more years of age but less than 21 years of age” with the words “an exceptional pupil” -- not a person, or something like that, but the specific phrase, “an exceptional pupil.” As soon as that is used, we have to go back to section 1(1), or the revised section 20a of the act, where “exceptional pupil” is defined. But the definition of “exceptional pupil” does not encompass all the children of this province.
It seems to me, at least, there are children in this province who could be excluded because they are not resident pupils in a particular board area, because they are not being admitted under an agreement, or because they do not fall under the clause that says, “to which the cost of education in respect of the pupil is payable by the minister.”
It seems to me those children might include children who are at present in special education programs in the United States and whose costs are being paid by the Ministry of Community and Social Services. I wonder how those children, who may also be trainable retarded, can be brought into this section as the minister is revising it, when section 1(1) does not appear to me to include those pupils.
I wonder why we take out the generalization of a pupil with an age description and replace it with an “exceptional pupil,” which means something very specific. Why do we not take out the age wording and say it means the pupil whose intellectual functioning is below the level et cetera?
I would appreciate some clarification of those matters.
Hon. Miss Stephenson: I understand the concern of the honourable member, which has to be based on a very malevolent kind of misanthropic attitude. I feel strongly he has to understand that much of the wording that is drafted into a bill is a result of requirements established by the legislative counsel in terms of definitions that have already been established, are already used in the Education Act and must be reused to avoid confusion.
The purpose of this amendment to this section is to ensure that all pupils who could be classified as trainable mentally retarded will be dealt with in this act in the definition of the function of the school system on behalf of the trainable mentally retarded. It also is an attempt to provide for flexibility for those specific pupils, recognizing they require an educational program or a training program that may be significantly longer than that which is necessary even for some exceptional children.
I have to tell the member the child he is talking about would be included in the group of which he is a resident pupil. As long as his parents remain within the jurisdiction of a school board, he remains a resident pupil.
Motion agreed to.
Section 1, as amended, agreed to.
On section 2:
Hon. Miss Stephenson: Mr. Chairman, I have an amendment to section 2(1a) which I believe must be introduced at this time to ensure that the appropriateness of the legislation is maintained.
The general statement at the beginning of section 2(1a) is a preamble statement which I believe I spelled out fairly clearly in the Education Act and requires no specific redefinition in this area, in an act that is specifically designed to be of assistance to exceptional pupils. The concentration in this area on all children I think dilutes the kind of attention we were attempting to provide for exceptional pupils in this legislation.
I would therefore recommend this amendment to the House.
Mr. Chairman: Hon. Miss Stephenson moves that section 8(1a) of the act, as set out in section 2 of the bill, be amended by striking out “children in Ontario have available to them a free and appropriate public education that for exceptional children, emphasizes special education programs and services that meet their unique needs, and that the rights of exceptional children and their parents or guardians are protected” in the first, second, third, fourth and fifth lines and inserting in lieu thereof “exceptional pupils in Ontario have available to them, in accordance with this act and the regulations, special education programs and special education services.”
Hon. Miss Stephenson: Mr. Chairman, as I said earlier, our concern was that this legislation concentrate upon exceptional pupils, and this reference is to all pupils in the portion of the bill that was included by amendment.
“Children” is not defined in the Education Act. It could mean only those under the age of 18 and it could mean those from the age of one day up. “Free and appropriate public education” is an American term from the American federal legislation, Bill 94-142, and each word is specifically defined within that bill. If the member wants that phrase defined, I think that would have to be an activity carried out by this House.
As it is used in this phrase, clause and section, the word “free” would be open to varying interpretations because it is not defined. The Education Act in Ontario for more than 100 years has made provision for all pupils to attend schools within the public system without payment of fees. I suppose that is one definition of a free educational program. But the Education Act already specifies that it is appropriately set out in the Education Act and is inappropriately added in this one.
The other thing that concerns me is that “the rights of exceptional children” has no definitive meaning in this legislation because we do not have a children’s bill of rights in this province. If there were such a piece of legislation, then that might be appropriate wording. At the present time it would appear to dangle in mid-air without being tied to anything except for definitions as may be established by the courts from time to time.
The rights of due process for parents and children are already outlined in regulation 704 and they are strengthened by the provisions of the amendment in this act, which was made by the government member during the committee hearings and was supported by both members of the opposition parties who were present at that time.
Mr. Sweeney: Mr. Chairman, this is one area where I am prepared to understand the change the minister is making. In the initial amendment we were referring to all the children in the provincial schools and yet, on further reflection, I realize the purpose of this bill is to speak to exceptional children.
I would refer once again to the minister’s opening statement of May 23, in which she said, “The concept is simply that an educational system which is supported by the taxation of all citizens has an obligation to be of service to all children, exceptionalities notwithstanding.” We are dealing here with those children in the system who have exceptional or special needs, and for that reason I am prepared to accept the first part of the amendment.
But I have three changes which I would introduce at this time. The first is that we should change the word “pupils” to “children,” leaving the word “exceptional,” so we will not in any way negate the offering of some place to a child in this province, in some kind of institution and under some kind of special care in this province, who may not fit the definition of pupil. I want to use the word “children” rather than --
Mr. Foulds: On a point of order, Mr. Chairman: I do not want to unduly interrupt the flow of the member speaking but, if he intends to move amendments to the amendments, perhaps we should have those in front of us first so all the members of the Legislature can understand what is being talked about.
The Deputy Chairman: I agree. I was going to let him complete his explanation first. Does be have those amendments with him?
Mr. Sweeney: Mr. Chairman, I had prepared amendments to the minister’s amendments as I understood they were coming up. However, the minister has withdrawn one of her amendments, and that creates some problem for us, because now we are going to have to include the intent of some of our original amendments some place else. Obviously there is no way I can know in advance what amendments the minister is going to leave on the table or withdraw.
Hon. Miss Stephenson: I have withdrawn the only one I am going to withdraw.
Mr. Sweeney: Then I would put it to you this way, Mr. Chairman: Until this point I did not know that. When I came into the Legislature this afternoon I had no way of knowing the minister had decided to withdraw her first amendment. Therefore, for the balance of this afternoon and perhaps even into this evening, I am going to be faced with having to put amendments in places they would have fitted otherwise. I have on the table before you an amendment that will match the first request I am making but will not tie into the next two I am making. They would have been fitted into the first one, which is no longer there.
Mr. Chairman, I checked with your predecessor and was advised that when I am making an amendment to the minister’s amendment, it is not appropriate for me to make it until the minister places it. Therefore, I cannot give it to you in advance.
The Deputy Chairman: I understand the problem you are faced with but, at the same time, amendments must be in writing. I do not know whether you wish to stand this section aside for a moment. I realize you are in some difficulty because of the minister’s amendment.
Mr. Sweeney: Mr. Chairman, I can either speak to the amendment I want to make at this time, or I can write it out and give it to you, whichever you direct.
The Deputy Chairman: Will it take long to write out? Perhaps you can do that.
Mr. Sweeney: For the members who are in the Legislature I can identify the two simple changes I am going to request. I think they can write it on their own. If they choose to force me to do otherwise, I will do that.
The Deputy Chairman: The rule provides that it shall be in writing.
Mr. Sweeney: I will take a minute to write it then, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. McClellan: While the honourable member is drafting his flip-flop, let me speak to the amendment that is before us. In many respects, I regard this as the most significant amendment achieved during the deliberations of the social development committee in the summer and fall of this year. What this amendment does is broaden and extend the traditional rights provision under the Education Act of Ontario.
Until section 2 of this bill was passed, resident pupils in Ontario had the right to be physically present in a classroom, to sit in a chair within a school building. That was the beginning and the end of their right. It was an important right to be physically present, nothing else, but in the nineteenth century it was a significant right.
We stand here a century later and it is time to extend the provision of statutory right beyond what was appropriate in Egerton Ryerson’s day. What we have done is to say in the statute that all children in Ontario have available to them a free and appropriate public education that meets their unique needs. In addition, the Minister of Education shall ensure that shall take place. I cannot think of a more significant amendment.
During International Year of the Child, when I moved the children’s bill of rights, it contained a provision virtually identical to this section. I remind my friends in the Liberal Party that they supported it then. I remind you, Mr. Chairman, when we were in the social development committee, the Liberal Party supported this rights provision without equivocation. I make the appeal to them now, while it is still possible, to stay with the decision they made when the children’s bill of rights was before us and stay with the decision they made when we were in the social development committee.
Mr. Stong: The social development committee made a mistake.
Mr. McClellan: I say to the member for York Centre, the social development committee did not make a mistake. The member is making a mistake today, and I want to tell him the nature of that mistake. His party wants to limit the ministerial responsibility to ensuring educational service for exceptional pupils. It wants to limit the statutory provision to exceptional pupils. I go back to the remarks I made when I first stood up this afternoon.
We have defined “exceptional student” in this statute as the only child who is eligible for special education programs and special education services. If a child is not so fortunate as to be designated an exceptional pupil, that child is not entitled to special education programs or special education services. We have given the local placement committee of the boards of education the power to make that life-or-death decision, and yet the Minister of Education and the Liberal Party are not willing at this point in time to grant a right of appeal against the designation of exceptional pupils. It is not in there.
I remind the minister that Chief Justice McRuer said appeal rights cannot be enshrined by regulation. It is the obligation of the Legislature to put appeal provisions and appeal rights into statutes and the minister can’t shirk it. It is not proper to shirk it. The minister knows that and members of the government know that because they have followed many of Chief Justice McRuer’s recommendations very faithfully over the years. The Provincial Secretary for Social Development (Mrs. Birch) knows that because the social assistance legislation and the social services legislation of this province have been amended to conform with the recommendations of the McRuer report. When decisions are made with respect to the awarding of benefits or services and when decisions are made as to who is entitled to receive services from the government, there are rights of appeal, whether in the Family Benefits Act or the Vocational Rehabilitation Services Act or the General Welfare Assistance Act or the Workmen’s Compensation Act or any of a dozen other statutes in this province.
For some reason, education is not regarded as a service or a benefit like the others. In fact, it is and it needs to be defined in that way. There need to be rights of entitlement put into this statute and a right of appeal against the decisions on who is eligible for the service and what kind of service they are going to get. Unless we have a clear and unequivocal statutory provision of right, as we have now in the bill as amended, then whatever right of appeal is set up will be a travesty and a sham.
The provision in the statute as it reads now sets a benchmark for all children in this province, whether or not they have been so fortunate to have been designated as exceptional pupils or not. It says to each and every child in this province they have a right to an education based on their own unique needs, that they are not ciphers, that all children aren’t the same, that children are not a series of identical, infinitely multiple twins, and that we are not talking about a bunch of under-aged social insurance numbers. We are talking about living individual children, all with their own unique personalities, their own unique experiences and their own unique learning needs. We are saying as a province we are going to tailor our education system to provide service on the basis of the uniqueness of each and every child’s own individual humanity.
The minister talks about this provision somehow diluting service to the exceptional pupil. Of course, exactly the opposite is true. What the minister is trying to do is water down a very strong rights provision. It is beyond my comprehension how the members of the Liberal Party, who participated in the debate in the social development committee, and who supported this statutory provision in the social development committee, can now come into this House and do a complete about-face. I think it is shameful. There is no other way to describe it. We have achieved something of significance in this statute that is unparalleled in this country, and we are forced now to watch as our friends once again backslide away from a significant decision.
Mr. Stong: Vote for our amendment.
Mr. McClellan: There is still time before we come to the vote. The kind of amendment proposed by the minister limits her responsibility to making sure that the act and the regulations are followed out. That is all she is saying. The minister will do what is required to be done in the act. I thank her very much. That is awfully generous of her. But that is not a rights provision; that has nothing to do with a statutory rights provision. If my friends in the Liberal Party cannot see that, it is because they choose not to see that.
Mr. Stong: Address the bill.
Mr. McClellan: I am addressing the bill and the Liberal Party’s attempts to undermine the bill. The bill is tough and will guarantee that all children will have a basis for having their rights upheld. If there is no rights provision, there is no entitlement. It is as simple as that, is it not?
Hon. Miss Stephenson: That is not true.
Mr. McClellan: It is true. If there is no rights provision in the statute, there is no entitlement. If it did not say, I think in section 32 --
Hon. Miss Stephenson: What country does he live in?
Mr. McClellan: The minister is beginning to froth.
Hon. Miss Stephenson: No. It is astonishing that I am not, but I am not.
Mr. McClellan: Bear with us for another 10 minutes before you begin to froth.
I believe it is section 32 that guarantees the right of the child to be physically present in the classroom, if that section was not in the bill, there would be no right for a child to be physically present in the classroom. Is that so hard to understand? Each and every child in this province now has the right to attend school. Why? Not because we are sweet, because we are just oozing benevolence, because all of our administrators are so full of the milk of human kindness that they let all these children into our schools. No. The reason that children have a right to go to school is that it says so in the Education Act. It is right here in the statute. If we want to say that children have a right to an appropriate education based on their unique need, that has to be in the statute too. If it is not in the statute, it does not exist as a right and it will not happen. It is as simple as that.
Over the course of the last three weeks I am sure all members who have been involved with this bill have been receiving a flood of correspondence from parents in the communities. All of those letters have said substantially the same thing, that they are aware of the changes that were made to the Education Act in the social development committee. They are aware that the new statute provides, for the first time in our history as a province, that all children have the right to a free and appropriate education based on their unique needs.
Virtually all of those letters called upon us to preserve and protect those victories won in the social development committee. I, for one, intend to honour what I read in those letters to be a very heartfelt plea. Those were not letters from the kind of people who usually write us letters -- professionals, business people, trade unionists, each with his own set of organizational interests to put forward. Those were letters from parents with children with learning disabilities.
Virtually all of the letters talked about the kinds of problems they had experienced themselves, because of the failure to get service from the education system in Ontario, and the kind of agony they had gone through or the kind of anguish that the denial of an appropriate education had meant for them and their family.
Those of us who are legislators are not charged with the administration of the school system. That is the responsibility of the minister and her officials. But as legislators we are charged with a sacred responsibility to make sure the legislation is as good as it is humanly possible to devise. I say to all members that we have taken a giant step forward through the introduction and passage of a statutory right to an appropriate education. It will be a sad day if that victory is taken away by the shortsightedness of people here in this assembly today.
Mr. Sweeney: Mr. Chairman, I indicated a few minutes ago that I had what I considered to be three important amendments to this particular section that will parallel some of the amendments I had intended to introduce to the minister’s first amendment that has now been withdrawn.
The first one would be to change the word “pupils” in the first line to “children.” I have already indicated the reason for doing that. It has been brought to our attention that there are some children in this province, again going back to the minister’s opening statement where it says, “All children, exceptionalities notwithstanding -- “
The Deputy Chairman: Let me just explain to the House that the amendment was written out, but it was not written heavily enough for the photocopy machine to bring it forward.
Mr. McClellan: Maybe it was invisible ink.
The Deputy Chairman: It is not invisible but very close to invisible. Unless somebody else wants to speak to the minister’s original amendment, I am wondering whether we should not rise at this point and let this be properly typed so that all members of the House can see it.
The House recessed at 5:54 p.m.