The House met at 10 a.m.
MEMBER-ELECT FOR CARLETON
Hon. Mr. Davis: Mr. Speaker, on a matter of personal privilege: I would like to draw the attention of the members of the House to the presence of a distinguished public servant sitting in your gallery. He is Mr. Robert Mitchell, a former deputy reeve of Carleton and a public servant in the Department of National Defence for some two decades. In case some members opposite do not recall, he is here at the request of the voters of the great riding of Carleton who dispatched him here in our democratic process last evening to represent the interests of all of the people of that constituency and the people of this province.
I would like to make the day for the acting leader of the Liberal Party this morning by saying, as I look at the figures, the Liberal candidate did better in 1975 than he did in 1980.
Mr. Nixon: Before you start the clock on the question period, Mr. Speaker, I want to join with the Premier in congratulating Mr. Mitchell. I hope he will have a pleasant six months here until the general election. He looks like he will fit right in, so when the writs are returned we will see what he can do for the people. He will have the same opportunity as the rest of the back-benchers to influence policy.
NORFOLK TEACHERS’ DISPUTE
Mr. Nixon: Mr. Speaker, I would like to put a question to the Minister of Education. Did she by any chance see a letter written by Mrs. Jackie McMann to the editor of the Port Dover Maple Leaf, dated November 14? I quote the second-last paragraph:
“I would like to know exactly when, in your opinion, does the continuance of a strike place in jeopardy the successful completion of courses of study by the students affected by the strike? Obviously, not even the Sudbury strike, which lasted over three months, jeopardized anyone’s education. They were all given their credits. Great system we have.”
Since that reflects the view that I myself have put to the minister, would she not feel that since the strikes in Norfolk and in Bruce county are now going into their eighth week she should be prepared to make a statement to the House as to how this is going to be brought to an end and what in her view constitutes jeopardy, other than a reference to her commission which under the law has to advise her when the students’ education is in jeopardy? That is something which they have never seen fit to do.
Hon. Miss Stephenson: Mr. Speaker, I think the honourable member is wrong in that final statement, because I do believe such a decision was made by the Education Relations Commission in 1976. I am sorry, but I have not seen the Port Dover newspaper and I have not seen that particular letter to the editor.
Mr. Sweeney: Doesn’t the minister read that newspaper?
Hon. Miss Stephenson: I am sorry, I have not received a copy of the Port Dover Maple Leaf. I gather that is what it is called. I would be very pleased to see the newspaper, but it is a little difficult to see it if it is not delivered.
It is fortunate that the honourable member has raised this today, because there are things happening in both the Bruce and Norfolk areas at this time. Negotiations are being pursued in Bruce right now which I think will have a potentially happy outcome in the relatively near future. In Norfolk, I am aware that there has been a great deal of discussion this week and I am optimistic there will be a reasonably negotiated settlement in that situation as well.
The definition of jeopardy is one which I suppose is rather difficult to make because it depends on one’s assessment of the length of time of separation from the school system that a student may undergo. There are those who believe that one day’s absence may be jeopardy. There are obviously those who believe that a longer period of time can be compensated for through intensive effort on the part of teachers, principals and students after even a relatively prolonged period.
I wish I did have an easy definition. I do not, but it is something we must consider very seriously in our review of the responses to the Bill 100 external review committee.
Mr. Nixon: Could the minister he clearer as to what steps are being taken to bring this matter to a successful conclusion bearing in mind that having had the schools closed for seven weeks, the people in the community are feeling that these extraordinary steps might very well have been taken during the first week, since the employees of the ministry are using their undoubted persuasive efforts to have both sides leave their communities, at least in the one instance, and settle down and try to come to some conclusion?
Why should this be treated just. like any other strike rather than bearing the interests of the community and the children in mind? Why does it have to be allowed to go on to the point where even the minister is saying that the students’ education may be in jeopardy?
Hon. Miss Stephenson: I am not sure how the honourable member, who obviously must have had some experience, having been in this Legislature for such a long time, would determine that the labour-management relationships within a school board situation should be treated differently from any other public service situation, or indeed from any other labour-management dispute. It would appear that the appropriate mechanisms that are undertaken within such disputes have been pursued in this one. They have been pursued vigorously and appear at this point, at the beginning, I believe, of the thirty-seventh day of one of the strikes, likely to bear fruit in the near future.
I would hope the member would understand that for the benefit of the students there can be no doubt that a settlement which is negotiated amicably between the two parties is by far the best solution in any such situation. One which is imposed is less than likely to provide for the kind of atmosphere which will he conducive to the continuing education process of the students.
Mr. Laughren: Supplementary, Mr. Speaker: Can the minister assure me, as a member who lives in a community that experienced a long strike in Sudbury earlier this year, that she has a strong mediation team at work in those communities? Further, does she think that threats of a legislated return to work, as implied by the question from the Liberal House leader, aid in the process of a negotiated settlement or just encourage the two parties to dig in and wait for that inevitable date which the Liberals would impose on the settlement?
Hon. Miss Stephenson: Mr. Speaker, the answer to the first question is yes, we do. The answer to the second question is I think that is a debatable point. I really fully believe there are those who probably would be extremely happy if they felt the Legislature was going to impose a settlement because it would absolve those negotiators, those members of the groups, of any responsibility which they have both demanded and both assumed under Bill 100, which I would remind the members was not something which was inimical to the member for Brant-Oxford-Norfolk (Mr. Nixon). It is my understanding that he was supportive of this when that legislation was introduced. The results of that legislation have been that there has been a reduced number of disputes within the educational system. Unfortunately, they seem to have been prolonged in a way which I find unsatisfactory.
Mr. G. I. Miller: Supplementary, Mr. Speaker: Why is it that young students who want to take correspondence courses find they cannot because they are registered in school?
Hon. Miss Stephenson: Mr. Speaker, I am sorry, I could not hear that question.
Mr. Speaker: Other members were interrupting their own colleague. Would you please repeat the question?
Mr. G. I. Miller: Mr. Speaker, why is it that students who want to take correspondence courses are finding out they cannot take those courses because they are registered in school?
Hon. Miss Stephenson: Mr. Speaker, correspondence courses are provided for students who are registered in the schools if the program is one which cannot be delivered within the school in which they are registered and if the principal agrees they should have the benefit of the correspondence course in addition to their school program.
These students are registered, and it has been the policy when there is a strike that the correspondence mechanism is one which is less than appropriate for the maintenance of the educational program of those students. This is something, however, which I believe has to be reconsidered.
Mr. Nixon: Mr. Speaker, I would like to direct a question to the Premier to give him an opportunity to expand in his usual Friday morning manner. Now that the federal government has indicated it has no plan to participate in a shared-cost program with this province or other provinces in an energy tax credit program and since the mini-budget indicated clearly that the province was going to go ahead by itself if it did not get this co-operation, can the Premier indicate what the plans are for such a program? Will it be available for this heating season and what will be our cost involvement, approximately?
Hon. Mr. Davis: Mr. Speaker, the Treasurer (Mr. F. S. Miller) has been away for the past few days. I will be discussing this with him next week, but we have not really given up in our efforts to persuade the government of Canada to show a more enlightened approach to this situation. I really think, given some time, the government of Canada might not be as adamant. To me, it is a very logical and realistic approach to the situation. With the increased flow of revenue to the government of Canada, primarily from the energy field, we feel this is as legitimate a use of those funds as many other programs they have suggested.
I can assure the members of the House that the Treasurer, when he returns, and perhaps even myself, will be discussing this further with the government of Canada, because I really think to share with the provinces this sort of credit for people in terms of home heating fuels is a logical position for them to take.
Mr. Nixon: Recognizing the government of Canada owes the Premier of Ontario and his government a considerable amount of gratitude for their continuing support of its position, will he still not recognize that the federal Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources has flatly refused to participate in such a program, and might it not be realistic for this government to expect the undoubted persuasive, powers of the Premier to be successful in this one instance? If that is so, might we expect the time table enunciated by the Treasurer that the first payments in such an energy assistance program would be due in the spring of 1982 will continue to be the government’s program and, in fact, nothing will be done until that time?
Hon. Mr. Davis: I think, as the Treasurer explained and the Minister of Energy (Mr. Welch) would explain, the more significant impact of the increase, in say home heating oil, will actually take place in the winter or spring of 1981. I think if one looks at it on the basis of a tax credit, it would be on the basis of expenditures in that period, but the credit then would take effect in the year 1982. I think a taxpayer would be able to calculate what might be anticipated, as he can with other parts of the credit system.
I want to assure the House we have not given up in our suggestions to the national government, but if the decision is to move ahead on our own, the program could be announced and in place. I want to make it clear the credit, because of the nature of the taxation year, would appear in 1982 but the home owners would, in fact, know in 1961 just what degree of credit they would be receiving, as they do with property tax credit and other matters.
I am delighted the acting leader of the Liberal Party really was this morning -- I say this quite objectively -- far more gracious in his reception and acceptance of the results yesterday than was his leader. I really want to thank him for that here this morning.
Mr. Laughren: Supplementary, Mr. Speaker: Will the Premier assure us any energy tax credit program which comes in to ease the cost of home heating fuel will be related to not only consumption but will also be related to income so those people who need the help the most will receive it?
Hon. Mr. Davis: I seem to recall that most of the tax credits are related to income.
EXTRA BILLING BY PHYSICIANS
Mr. Cassidy: Mr. Speaker, I had a question for the Minister of Culture and Recreation (Mr. Baetz) but he seems to have disappeared for a minute. I hope he could be found and could come back.
I have a question for the Minister of Health arising out of the commitment he made last year, in an agreement reached with the doctors of the province, which indicated that in future in every public hospital in Ontario the patient would have a choice of access to physician services at Ontario health insurance plan rates.
Will the minister examine the pamphlet I am sending to him which is currently being used by the anaesthetists at St. Michael’s Hospital and which informs patients getting elective surgery in that hospital they will be extra-billed while making no mention of the patient’s right to receive services at opted-in rates? Is it the minister’s position such prior notification complies’ with the 1979 agreement when it makes no indication of the patient’s right to receive the care at the OHIP rate, and is it his view that acceptance of that pamphlet constitutes agreement by the patient to pay the anaesthetist’s opted-out rates?
Hon. Mr. Timbrell: Mr. Speaker, if one looks at the bottom part, it says, “Accordingly a bill may be sent to you.” I think it is well known generally by the public that the services are available. I remember an instance of a hospital in downtown Toronto a year ago when one of the members got up and talked about the fact that all of the anaesthetists were opted out. When we checked into it we found 70 per cent of their bills are opted in. I will check this with Sister Mary, the administrator of St. Michael’s, but I would think if the member looks at it carefully, It makes it clear that it is not a universal thing with every patient.
Mr. Cassidy: Is the minister saying it is not the responsibility of the opted-out doctors to indicate clearly that people have the choice? Does he expect that people who are sick will know automatically that when they go to hospital they have to ask and they have to insist? Is that the position he is taking?
Can he tell the House how his alternative of getting anaesthetists on some kind of a direct payment plan is going to work when all of the anaesthetists are currently opted out in hospitals like St. Michael’s? Through the Ontario Medical Association’s fee committee they are now being told to consult the OMA before agreeing to any plan such as the minister is proposing. They are also being warned that their committee does not believe physicians are prepared to give up their economic freedom as that kind of plan would cause them to.
Hon. Mr. Timbrell: First of all, I would ask the member to look again at what he just sent me. It points out that in most cases the patient will be visited beforehand, and it is at that point the discussion usually takes place about the billing. It goes on to point out the use of words --
Mr. Nixon: But they are sedated.
Hon. Mr. Timbrell: No, before surgery. Not like Friday morning in the Legislature, sedated. It says a bill “may” be sent.
With respect to the question of the alternative mechanism, we are in discussion with a couple of groups on that. We already have one group at the Northwestern General Hospital who are on the alternative payment mechanism for anaesthetic services.
Third, I would remind the member that less than eight per cent of the physicians’ services in this province are currently extra-billed, a significant drop from where it was a year and a half ago.
Fourth, I would remind the member that one of the ways we brought that about was in the last round of negotiations with the medical association. In those we paid particular attention to a number of specialties, especially family practice where their increase was in the order of 15 or 16 per cent. I think anaesthesia clearly has to be one of our primary focuses in the next round of negotiations which are about to begin in the next month or so.
Mr. Nixon: Supplementary: Can the minister assure the House that anaesthetic services are available at OHIP rates in every public hospital in Ontario?
Hon. Mr. Timbrell: I believe I can, Mr. Speaker. I have the co-operation of the boards of the hospitals and the medical staffs that nobody will be denied these services by reason of the physician being nominally opted out. Again, I would point out the example -- I guess it was the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. S. Smith) who raised it a year or two ago -- I think it was the Toronto Western Hospital where he --
Mr. Nixon: We are not talking about charity cases.
Hon. Mr. Timbrell: I am not talking about that either. He was pointing out that 100 per cent of the anaesthetists were opted out in that hospital, as the member for Ottawa Centre is trying to say about St. Michael’s. When we checked into that case, we found they opt in 70 per cent of their business.
Mr. Warner: Mr. Speaker, I have a supplementary question regarding the phantom agreement and whether or not the minister intends to enforce the so-called agreement -- an agreement which, by the way, we have never had tabled in this Legislature.
A constituent of mine was extra-billed. When she inquired she was told by Dr. Lamont, who was speaking on behalf of a group of Scarborough anaesthetists, and I quote from his letter, “At present it is ethical and perfectly legal for doctors to charge the OMA tariff without prior notification of patients.” I ask the minister again, will he make sure that the agreement is upheld? If it seems, as it would appear, that either there is no such agreement or that the OMA chooses not to honour the agreement, will he stop the charade and end the extra billing in this province?
Hon. Mr. Timbrell: Mr. Speaker, I would say on the whole the agreement and the understanding between the ministry and the medical association is working very well. There are cases from time to time -- I think in the last year maybe six cases have come to my attention -- where, for one reason or another, there have been difficulties. On the whole, we have been able to get those resolved.
I think I know the case the member is talking about where unfortunately we were not able to get it resolved, even using the good offices of the Ontario Medical Association. There are bound to be some exceptions from time to time, but when you consider that by the time today is out, 250,000 claims will be filed on the health insurance plan for services rendered to the people of Ontario, the incidence of nonadherence to the agreement is extremely rare.
Mr. Warner: So you will not enforce the agreement; is that what you are saying?
Hon. Mr. Timbrell: The honourable member is darned right. I am not going to follow his policies, which would destroy our system.
Mr. Speaker: A new question, the member for Ottawa Centre.
Mr. Cassidy: I would like to say, Mr. Speaker, in welcoming my former colleague from the Ottawa regional council, that things are a good’ deal more heated up here than they were in the regional council. I suspect Mr. Mitchell may find after a few months here that he wonders why he came down, particularly given the frustration that those of us who are Ottawa members have always had trying to get any action from the government which he intends to support for a while.
At any rate, I welcome him here and congratulate him on his victory. Maybe it is something to do with the ministers from the Ottawa area, so maybe Mr. Mitchell could --
Mr. Speaker: Do you have a question? Please put it.
Mr. Cassidy: Yes, Mr. Speaker. I have a question for the Minister of Culture and Recreation arising out of the continuing hard line which is being taken by the members of the board of the Stratford Festival and the indications that they are not bucking away at all from the choice of John Dexter and, consequently, are continuing to precipitate a boycott which may well keep the plays off the boards at Stratford next season.
The minister is aware that the festival board indicated it could not find a qualified Canadian to take over from the four in whom it had apparently lost confidence. Is he aware that John Hirsch, who is one of the most eminent Canadian theatre directors we have in the country, has now notified Equity by telegram that he has at no time received any official or unofficial communication from the board on any matter in the last five years? How can the festival board claim it was looking for a Canadian director if it had not even taken the opportunity to talk to John Hirsch, whose experience certainly would have enabled him to take over the artistic directorship of the Stratford Festival?
Hon. Mr. Baetz: Mr. Speaker, obviously I have been following the events of the last few weeks very closely with Stratford and Canadian Actors’ Equity, and we will continue, as we have in the past, to work through the Ontario Arts Council to enter the negotiations with Stratford and with Canadian Actors’ Equity.
I am aware that this telegram was sent. I was advised of this by the Ontario Arts Council. But I just want to assure the member for Ottawa Centre and all members of this House that the policy of my ministry and of our government will continue to be to rely on the Ontario Arts Council to serve as our agent in the negotiations that will take place.
I know this is probably contrary to the cradle-to-grave government intervention mentality of the member for Ottawa Centre, who would like to see me jump in and muscle aside all those institutions which are set up to carry out this work. I will simply not do that. I remain highly confident that Stratford, Equity, the Canada Council, the Ontario Arts Council and all the key actors in all of this are going to end up in a very suitable settlement. That is all I am prepared to say at this time.
Mr. Cassidy: The minister has certainly retreated a long way from a week ago when he said something is rotten in the festival up at Stratford. Now he is saying he is not going to get involved himself. He says he expects there will be some form of compromise. In fact, the arts council expected there would be some form of compromise. But then we learned to the contrary that since they met with the festival on Wednesday of this week the arts council is frustrated, the members of Equity now find there is absolutely no give from the festival board, and they have therefore reconfirmed their boycott; and since we now face a major economic loss to southwestern Ontario and thousands of jobs will be affected by the failure of the festival to go forward, is it not time for the minister and the government to look for a new initiative which will help to find a compromise and get Stratford back on the boards?
Hon. Mr. Baetz: Mr. Speaker, the member for Ottawa Centre has drawn many conclusions here and has created a scenario in which it would appear we are at a total stalemate, which is simply not the case. The various sides have taken rather firm positions but the bargaining and negotiations continue. I am still confident the plays will go on in Stratford next summer.
I want to reiterate I am not prepared at this time, nor is my federal counterpart, nor is the Minister of Employment and Immigration, Mr. Axworthy, to jump in as the member would have us do and have government take over, intervene and come up with all the right solutions. We are not prepared to do that and we will not be drawn into it at all at this particular time.
PUBLIC OPINION POLLS
Mr. T. P. Reid: Mr. Speaker, I have a question of the Premier regarding our ongoing battle in relation to public opinion polls. In the Premier’s answer, I hope he will not fuzz the issue as he usually does by talking about the polls this party or the NDP takes. We are talking about public opinion polls taken at taxpayers’ expense.
In view of the report of the freedom of information committee, will the Premier now give us a policy statement in the Legislature to make public the public opinion polls taken by his government -- I will be flexible -- a week or two after he has had them, read them and sucked them dry? Will he make them public and table them in this Legislature because they are taken with public funds?
Hon. Mr. Davis: Mr. Speaker, I will be delighted to give that matter some very careful consideration and contemplate giving a reply to the member some time between now and December 12. I do not say it is an unreasonable question to ask.
Mr. T. P. Reid: I have only asked it a dozen times.
Hon. Mr. Davis: Seek and you shall find; ask and you may get an answer. I certainly will not cloud the issue by suggesting the polls the opposition took at one point in time were, in fact, at taxpayers’ expense.
Mr. T. P. Reid: They were not.
Hon. Mr. Davis: Oh, you used the trunk lines. That is as fuzzy a position as any the opposition has taken.
Hon. Mr. Davis: I have it here. “Chretien won’t release details of $61,000.” Why does the member not ask Jean to release that poll? I would be kind of interested in seeing it myself.
Mr. Ruston: Why don’t you ask him yourself? You are in bed with them in Ottawa.
Hon. Mr. Davis: I have to tell the member for Essex North the only poll that counts was the one that was counted at seven o’clock last night. That was the poll that counted. Does the member know what his Liberal leader said about that? He said, “If we do not win it, it will be a disaster.” Obviously, the disaster has struck. Where is the Leader of the Opposition this morning? Do members of his party know what I think he has done? I suspect he is applying for the job as artistic director in Stratford as we sit here this morning.
Mr. T. P. Reid: I appreciate that the Premier is going to give me a definitive answer by December 12. In the meantime, would he consider tabling next week the polls that were taken in the last year, particularly last spring and summer, in regard to constitutional matters and the feelings of the people of Ontario in regard to those matters?
Hon. Mr. Davis: These questions have all been on the Order Paper. We have tabled a number of polls. I will certainly consider this. I am not personally familiar with any specific polls in this regard, but there may be some. I will give it some thought.
Mr. Makarchuk: Supplementary, Mr. Speaker: In view of the fact it became quite obvious in the public accounts committee that public funds were used to obtain polls which could have been used for political purposes or partisan purposes, does it not bother the Premier that he is indulging in what is essentially a sleazy practice?
Hon. Mr. Davis: I would not want to say the member for Brantford was reflecting what might be his own approach if given public responsibility. I would not make that observation except that I am always concerned when people make that sort of statement to me. I have never tried to hide the fact that as a political party we conduct some polls. They are more extensive on some things than on others. I suggest the member’s own party does the same thing. Maybe they even use the telephones.
But I make this statement, and I make it categorically: Everything we do as politicians is political, but the polls we conduct for government are not done for partisan purposes, and they are not used for partisan purposes. That is the very real distinction.
Mr. Dukszta: Mr. Speaker, I have a question of the Minister of Culture and Recreation. I realize the Stratford Festival board is semi-autonomous, and I realize that the Ontario Arts Council is semi-autonomous, but as the Minister of Culture and Recreation, he is the major paymaster. I would like to know his attitude towards this major Canadian festival, whether he believes the festival should be run by Canadians, and if he believes that not only the actors but also the directors should be Canadians?
He has never specified whether he actually believes that the director of the Stratford Festival should be a Canadian. If he does, what is he doing, secretly or otherwise, to make it certain?
Hon. Mr. Baetz: Mr. Speaker, I can only repeat what I said earlier. The agency that operates with the Stratford Festival is the Ontario Arts Council.
Mr. Dukszta: May I ask very specifically what the minister believes, what is his attitude towards having a Canadian director for a Canadian festival?
Hon. Mr. Baetz: I may have a personal attitude on this, but I do not think the minister or the government at this particular time should say they are either all for Mr. Dexter or all opposed to him. The minute we state that, we are doing exactly the kind of thing the member for Ottawa Centre would want us to do, and I think that would be a very inappropriate stance to take at this time. I will not be drawn into that kind of a controversy.
Mr. Cassidy: Supplementary, Mr. Speaker --
Mr. Speaker: The Minister of Transportation and Communications --
Mr. Cassidy: Supplementary, Mr. Speaker --
Mr. Speaker: This question is going nowhere. The Minister of Transportation and Communications has the answer to a question asked previously.
WELLAND CANAL BRIDGE
Hon. Mr. Snow: Mr. Speaker, yesterday the member for Erie (Mr. Haggerty) asked me a question regarding the scheduling of the construction of the third bridge at Port Colborne. I have checked into this and I am pleased to advise that as far as we know, this contract, which is a federal contract being carried out by the federal government through the St. Lawrence Seaway Authority and being shared on a 50-50 basis with the province, has been awarded. As far as we know, the intention is to have it completed and opened next year.
My staff is still attempting to check final details with federal officials to determine if any changes in the schedule are anticipated.
The approach roads to each side of the new bridge are being constructed under a contract by the regional municipality of Niagara at provincial expense, and these approach roads are substantially completed at the present time.
GO TRAIN FIRE
Hon. Mr. Snow: Mr. Speaker, I also had a question yesterday from the member -- my member -- for Halton-Burlington (Mr. J. Reed), who is obviously not here today. I would like to say that his question was regarding what he termed a fire on the Go train coming into the Port Credit station.
On Wednesday evening, November 19, the crew of an eastbound GO Transit train of empty equipment being returned to the Willowbrook maintenance facility was advised by radio from a passing westbound train that an abnormally heavy amount of smoke was visible from the running gear. You will know all about this, Mr. Speaker, being an old railroader.
Hon. Mr. Davis: Well, not an old railroader. A young railroader.
Hon. Mr. Snow: A young railroader.
Mr. Speaker: A knowledgeable railroader. A railroader on leave of absence.
Hon. Mr. Snow: A knowledgeable railroader on leave of absence. The crew of the equipment train had already noted the situation and attributed it to brakeshoe smoke. On receipt of the report from the other train, they decided to stop at the Port Credit station at 5:55 p.m. for a more thorough investigation. The inspection confirmed that the smoke was, indeed, caused by the heat buildup between the brakeshoe and the wheels which occurs normally as a result of brake application. Occasionally, oil or grease on the wheel surface will give rise to heavier than normal smoke during braking, as was the case in this instance.
There was never any suggestion that there was a fire or a hazard to persons close to the train. The final passengers on the westbound train were leaving the platform at the time the eastbound train arrived. In fact, to have stopped the train at a remote location, as the member for Halton-Burlington suggested, would have obliged the crew to perform an inspection on the uncertain footing of the railway ballast, and in the dark immediately adjacent to the other mainline track where trains could pass at a high speed at any time.
By deciding to move the train to Port Credit station where a proper platform and lighting were available, the crew recognized that a safer and more thorough inspection could be made. We are satisfied that the matter was handled safely and competently by the train crews involved.
PUBLIC SERVICE GRIEVANCES
Mr. Van Horne: Mr. Speaker, I have a question to the Chairman of Management Board of Cabinet. Is the minister aware that public servants must wait for excessive periods -- over a year and a half in one particular case that has just been brought to my attention -- before they can have grievances heard by the Crown Employee’s Grievance Settlement Board? Would the minister not agree that justice delayed this long is obviously akin to justice denied, and would he take steps to expedite the hearing of these grievances?
Hon. Mr. McCague: Yes, Mr. Speaker, that action has already been taken. As the honourable member probably knows, we were without a chairman for a period of time. There was one appointed back in August. There is quite a backlog. We and the union are working to clean up that backlog, and I believe there will be some 200 scheduled for hearings in January, February, March and April.
Mr. Van Horne: A supplementary: Given the phone call that was made very recently to the Grievance Settlement Board indicating that the backlog would demand extra staff beyond the chairman, is the minister planning to add staff to accommodate that huge backlog?
Hon. Mr. McCague: We have already gone from eight to 26. I think that should take care of it.
LIQUID INDUSTRIAL WASTE
Mr. Swart: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of the Environment. First, I would like to send him 30 letters from a school in Thorold expressing the opinions of the students there relative to the proposed solidification plant.
The minister knows, does he not, that there was a closed meeting held between the principals of Walker Brothers and the chairman of Niagara region and, subsequent to that, there was another closed meeting held between four mayors of the area and Walker Brothers? The city of Thorold has now learned from the minister’s office that he is meeting with the principals of Walker Brothers on Monday. Will the minister tell this House whether that meeting with Walker Brothers will be open to the media, and what will be discussed between him and Walker Brothers?
Hon. Mr. Parrott: No, Mr. Speaker, it will not be open to the media and I will make the appropriate announcement at the appropriate time.
Mr. Swart: The minister also has a request from the city of Thorold for a meeting with him before he makes his statement on Tuesday. I understand they have not had an answer to date but it was stated by the minister’s staff that he probably will not have time. Would it not show a very high degree of distortion of priorities if the minister met with the representatives of Walker Brothers, which has grossly violated the environmental laws, and then did not meet with the elected representatives of the city of Thorold? Will the minister meet with them prior to next Tuesday, when he is going to announce his decision?
Hon. Mr. Parrott: No, I am afraid I will not be able to meet with them before Tuesday. I am more than pleased to meet with them. I also want to put it on the record that I think it is rather important to bear in mind that it is all right for the member to pass a judgement of guilt or no guilt in this House. He can get away with that. I am afraid he might not have that same privilege outside the House. He is fortunate to be doing that in the House. But I will let him worry about that. He can look after his own bailiwick.
SEX AND VIOLENCE ON TV
Mr. McGuigan: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Solicitor General. Is he aware of the various studies in Canada and other countries that show the depiction of violent sex has a significant antisocial effect on the attitudes of the viewer? Has the Solicitor General advised his officials to lay charges under the Criminal Code of Canada against television stations that broadcast obscene films? I am speaking specifically of a film called Prime Cut, shown on CFPL-TV London at 11:45 p.m. on Friday, October 31.
Hon. Mr. McMurtry: Mr. Speaker, I am not familiar with the film the honourable member mentioned. I think many of us are familiar with the studies that have been done which indicate violence as entertainment is a very significant problem with respect to crime in society generally. The late Judy LaMarsh headed a commission dealing with violence in the entertainment industry. The studies the Royal Commission on Violence in the Communications Industry did would indicate this is an issue about which all society should be concerned. When we look at the rising crime rates, particularly in relation to violence and young people, there is no question violence as entertainment is something our society has not shown a great deal of responsibility about in continuing to tolerate it to the extent we do.
For example, while I do not have any particular views with respect to films dealing with explicit sex as such, I do not happen to think it is nearly the problem that violence is as entertainment. I am advised that in Europe most of the people in positions of responsibility are very concerned and much tougher than we are in relation to the whole matter of violence as entertainment, as opposed to portrayals of explicit sex.
As far as prosecutions are concerned for any offences related to the Criminal Code, this is a matter for local police authorities and, in our system of justice, individual citizens also have the opportunity at least to attempt to prefer charges if they are of the view the Criminal Code has been breached.
Mr. McGuigan: Would the minister have his authorities review that film? I would point out that in the film a scene of cattle pens was clearly shown. I thought this would be very interesting to show how a modern cattle pen operates. I was amazed to find they were not selling cattle in those pens; they were selling women. Also, two gangs were warring against one another in the film. One gang member was made into sausages. These sausages were presumably sold as human food. How can we stomach such a thing?
Mr. McGuigan: There was no marketing board involved either. Would the Solicitor General have his officers request a viewing of that film and if they feel as I do, lay charges?
Hon. Mr. McMurtry: I will be happy to bring the member’s concerns to the attention of the proper authorities.
UNICEF CHRISTMAS CARDS
Ms. Bryden: Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the Minister of Revenue. Is it true that the retail sales tax is applicable to handling, shipping and postal charges for Unicef Christmas cards as is indicated on the order forms sent out by Unicef this year?
Hon. Mr. Maeck: Mr. Speaker, I have no knowledge of it. I will certainly look into it and get back to the members.
Ms. Bryden: Supplementary --
Mr. Speaker: The question has been taken as notice. When the minister responds there may be time for a supplementary.
REFILLABLE MILK CONTAINERS
Mr. Gaunt: Mr. Speaker, I have a question of the Minister of the Environment. Could the minister state why he directed the waste management advisory board, through its chairman, to inform the president of the Ontario Dairy Council that the introduction of a multitude of refillable milk containers in Ontario, in different shapes and sizes, will be allowed?
Since this action comes before the final decision has been made by the industry task force on fluid milk containers in Ontario, would the minister not consider this action inappropriate? Would he not also consider reversing that advice to the dairy council, at least until the task force has reported?
Hon. Mr. Parrott: Mr. Speaker, I do not recall offhand having so directed in a formal communication, but I could be in error on that. I am not saying I did not.
Mr. Gaunt: It was a letter dated November 5, actually.
Hon. Mr. Parrott: All right. I would like to look at that if I might and have an update on it before I respond to the question.
Mr. Gaunt: I can certainly provide the minister with the communication. Would the minister not consider that action inappropriate since we have been trying to encourage uniformity in pop bottles and avoid a proliferation of various types of pop bottles? Why would the same not apply to milk containers?
Hon. Mr. Parrott: I think to a marked degree it does. At the same time I think the member, knowing of his great interest in the dairy community, wants to be very sure that the best beverage in the world -- agreed? --
Mr. Gaunt: Agreed.
Hon. Mr. Parrott: -- is in the most environmentally sound containers. We must be very careful that we deal with both issues, namely, the sanitation of the product and the maintenance of the quality of that product, plus the impact on the environment if inappropriate containers are used.
I will be glad to take another look at that. But I hope we would agree the maintenance of the product itself is of paramount importance.
WINDSOR HOUSING AUTHORITY
Mr. Bounsall: I have a question of the Minister of Housing. Having created the situation with the Windsor housing authority board which led to the resignations of six persons because of the minister’s appointment of a chairman who had no previous experience with that board, what is he doing to resolve that situation?
Hon. Mr. Bennett: Mr. Speaker, I have received two out of four resignations so far which have been submitted to the Ontario Housing Corporation. To answer the question very simply, I am in the process of making some new appointments.
Mr. Bounsall: Since it is quite important that the board be able to meet in the next few months because of the economic and unemployment situation in Windsor and the increased need for geared-to-income housing, has the minister contacted the federal and municipal governments, requesting them to fill their vacant appointment positions as soon as possible, and what date is he looking towards to having all those vacancies filled so that board may function properly?
Hon. Mr. Bennett: There are no municipal vacancies on that particular board to the best of my knowledge. The vacancies that occurred were those of the federal representation and one provincial appointment, the chairman, whose term had expired.
I made the selection of a new provincial member and I also selected him as the individual to chair that particular board. I want to indicate to this House that we have selected many individuals who have been appointed chairmen the first time they served on a board. The new chairman of Ontario Housing Corporation is a gentleman who had not served on previous boards. We appointed him to the board and made him chairman at the same time. I think we pick people with the competence, understanding and capabilities of one who is trying to direct a housing authority, whether in Windsor, Ottawa-Carleton or anywhere else.
I have already made one provincial appointment in the last few days. Going to the cabinet in the next few days will be the additional appointments as far as the province is concerned. I await the recommendations for appointments from the federal government, which we have already notified of those vacancies.
NURSING HOME INSPECTIONS
Mr. Bradley: Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the Minister of Health concerning nursing home inspections. As the minister is aware, two nursing homes within the city of St. Catharines, Tufford Rest Home and Chatelaine Villa Convalescent and Nursing Centre, denied access to a public inspection panel, not from the ministry. This right to refuse the inspection was upheld by Judge Kovacs on Tuesday in St. Catharines. Since these homes are indirectly supported by the Ministry of Health through OHIP payments, which are heavily subsidized through government funds, is the minister contemplating a change in legislation which would bring about the kind of definition which would compel homes of this nature to accept public inspections?
Hon. Mr. Timbrell: Mr. Speaker, the legislation under which these grand juries operate does not come under the Ministry of Health, as I think the member acknowledged. I am not sure whether it comes under the Solicitor General or Attorney General.
Secondly, even with those institutions which are subject to and are regularly visited by these public inspection panels that regularity is once every few years. It is not any more frequent than that. The inspections which are carried out by my staff in the inspection branch of the Ministry of Health are very frequent. Certainly they are all inspected annually with respect to environmental safety, fire safety, nursing, nutrition and the like.
Every complaint we receive, be it from a patient or a family member, is followed up by an inspection as well on that particular complaint. I do not know that there is the need to amend that legislation. I think we have an adequate number of inspectors and an inspection process including, as the member may know, team inspections, which I instituted a couple of years ago, in the case of homes about which we are receiving an inordinate number of complaints. We go in as a team to see what the problems are and get them cleaned up.
Mr. Bradley: Since other institutions are subjected to inspections by the public inspection panels, despite the fact they are inspected by ministry inspectors, does the minister not feel it would still be an advantage to give them the right to go into those institutions, as average citizens, to do an inspection, as the minister says, on an infrequent basis?
Hon. Mr. Timbrell: Mr. Speaker, the public inspection panels go into public hospitals which are totally funded from the public purse, but we in the ministry do not inspect the public hospitals. There is not the same inspection process for the public hospitals that exists for the nursing homes. It is a totally different situation. In addition, the nursing homes, like the hospitals, are subject to inspection by the local fire departments and by the public health departments with respect to infection control, so that by comparison on balance I would have to submit to the members that the nursing homes are inspected more frequently and more intensively.
Mr. Speaker: The honourable the Premier has the answer to a question asked previously.
Mr. T. P. Reid: He has a reply, not an answer.
Hon. Mr. Davis: I do, I have an answer.
SOUTH CAYUGA LAND DRAINAGE
Hon. Mr. Davis: Mr. Speaker, on November 7 the member for Haldimand-Norfolk (Mr. G. I. Miller) asked me a question regarding some test drilling which was being carried out on properties in the South Cayuga area: I apologize, I was here a couple of times with the answer and other matters intervened.
I have been advised that the test drilling in question is being carried out by the Ministry of Government Services for the purpose of refining the Ontario Land Corporation’s knowledge of the hydrogeological nature of the site. That is a very definitive answer. I have been informed that all affected residents in the area were notified that this drilling would be taking place, and also of the reason for the drilling. In fact, the member sent me a photocopy of a letter sent to a resident from the supervisor of western town sites providing to the resident -- and to the member, incidentally -- the information I have just presented to the House: a hydrogeological study to determine the hydrogeological nature of the site. How can one be more definitive than that?
Mr. G. I. Miller: I did ask the Premier a supplementary question also, pointing out that it is class one and two land. What is the policy of his government as far as the use of that land is concerned?
Hon. Mr. Davis: I think they are two separate questions. One is the question of the land use, the second is why was the drilling and why is the drilling taking place.
Mr. Nixon: Because it is being associated with using it as a dump site for the Ministry of the Environment.
Hon. Mr. Davis: No one is suggesting in any way that there are no surveys going on in many parts of the province; but the honourable member asked me what the purpose of the drilling was, and the purpose of the drilling is to determine the hydrogeological nature of the soil.
HAMILTON COURT FACILITIES
Mr. Mackenzie: Mr. Speaker, I have a question of the Attorney General. Can he tell this House why, in spite of his own admission that we have a serious problem in terms of delays in the courts in Hamilton
-- which is adversely affecting the administration of justice in that city and in that area -- absolutely nothing has been done about a situation which he himself admits is a serious one; and why, when the other Hamilton members and I met him today for the second time in five weeks, he could not give us an update on the Turner situation when we had specifically requested such information be part of the information available to us at the second meeting?
Hon. Mr. McMurtry: I think there may be a misunderstanding between myself and the honourable member, Mr. Speaker, as to precisely what the nature of the conversation was going to be today. I indicated I did not have a recent update of the Turner investigation. But with respect to the matter of trial delays and court facilities respecting the administration of justice in Hamilton, it is quite true that we are very concerned about the problems in that area.
I do not think it is fair to say that nothing has been done about it, because it has been the subject matter of frequent discussions with our members of crown attorney staff in that area as well as with the court administrators and the local police department, to expedite the trial of some of these matters. While we have not come up with any totally satisfactory solutions, I think we have made some modest progress at least. But I am of the view that additional resources, both judicial court and crown attorney resources, are required in relation to the administration of justice in Hamilton. We are hoping to be in a position to provide them.
Mr. M. N. Davison: Supplementary, Mr. Speaker: In view of the fact that the Attorney General has been expressing deep concern over this matter since he arrived in the Legislature five years ago, and in view of the fact that, clearly, the time for an expression of his deep concern has long since passed and the time for action has arrived, will he not give a guarantee to this House to get the city of Hamilton two more courts as quickly as possible so that we can do something to deal with this backlog that has been the creation of his inability to administer the justice system in the city to the benefit of the people?
Hon. Mr. McMurtry: Mr. Speaker, additional resources have been added during my tenure as Attorney General for this province and the situation has been improved somewhat. As I indicated to the honourable members from the NDP caucus this morning, we are looking for additional courtroom space.
Mr. M. N. Davison: Let’s have a guarantee.
Hon. Mr. McMurtry: Of course, I can give no guarantees in relation to the additional courtrooms about which I spoke. It is our expectation and certainly our desire to acquire those additional resources.
Mr. Speaker: The time for oral questions has expired.
Mr. Nixon: Mr. Speaker, I thought this might be an appropriate time to bring to your attention and to the attention of other members, the presence in the gallery of the former member for Hamilton Centre, Mr. Norman Davison, with his grandson, another Mr. Davison.
Hon. Mr. Wells moved that the estimates of Management Board be referred to the standing committee on general government for consideration, following the estimates of the Ministry of Housing.
Motion agreed to.
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS
ONTARIO UNCONDITIONAL GRANTS AMENDMENT ACT
Hon. Mr. Wells moved first reading of Bill 199, An Act to amend the Ontario Unconditional Grants Act, 1975.
Motion agreed to.
Hon. Mr. Wells: Mr. Speaker, this bill will amend the Ontario Unconditional Grants Act. It revises the current provisions relating to special assistance in order to enable the ministry to provide assistance in circumstances which would result in an undue increase in property taxes in certain municipalities.
In addition, it contains measures which serve to complement the proposed Municipal Boundaries Negotiation Act. More specifically, it generalizes the circumstances in which the ministry could provide financial assistance related to municipal annexations or amalgamations. It also provides authority for the ministry to phase in the areas affected by reorganization towards a common municipal mill rate.
REGIONAL MUNICIPALITY OF PEEL AMENDMENT ACT
Hon. Mr. Wells moved first reading of Bill 200, An Act to amend the Regional Municipality of Peel Act, 1973.
Motion agreed to.
Hon. Mr. Wells: Mr. Speaker, this bill has two amendments. The first would effect a minor boundary alteration in the mutual boundary of the cities of Brampton and Mississauga at the request of the two cities in the regional municipality of Peel. The amendment draws the boundary to coincide with the southerly limit of the northern link of the parkway belt west design area.
The second amendment would permit the region of Peel to establish a special transportation system for the handicapped without jeopardizing the right of area municipalities in the region to continue to operate public transportation systems. At present, the act provides generally that if the region establishes a transportation system, no area municipality shall establish such a system.
LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY AMENDMENT ACT
Hon. Mr. Wells moved first reading of Bill 201, An Act to amend the Legislative Assembly Act.
Motion agreed to.
Hon. Mr. Wells: Mr. Speaker, this bill provides that the differential in accommodation allowance for the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. S. Smith) and the leader of the third party (Mr. Cassidy) will be maintained. It makes some minor changes in the way the accommodation allowance will be calculated.
EXECUTIVE COUNCIL AMENDMENT ACT
Hon. Mr. Wells moved first reading of Bill 204, An Act to amend the Executive Council Act.
Motion agreed to.
Hon. Mr. Wells: Mr. Speaker, this bill provides the same differential in accommodation allowance that I just indicated would apply to the Leader of the Opposition and the leader of the third party, for members of the executive council who reside outside of Metropolitan Toronto.
DENTURE THERAPISTS AMENDMENT ACT
Hon. Mr. Timbrell moved first reading of Bill 205, An Act to amend the Denture Therapists Act, 1974.
Motion agreed to.
Hon. Mr. Timbrell: Mr. Speaker, as the honourable members are aware, denture therapy is a relatively new practice that is governed by an appointed board. However, there are several members on the board who are coming to the end of their appointments. Under the Denture Therapists Act, 1974, they cannot be reappointed because of a six-year membership restriction.
Since the present members are so familiar with the issues that affect the practice of denture therapy, I am introducing an amendment to the act to permit members to serve for more than six consecutive years and be reappointed for one, two and three-year terms. We believe this amendment will enable the board of denture therapists to continue to discharge its responsibilities in an effective and knowledgeable manner.
REDEEMER COLLEGE ACT
Mr. J. Johnson, on behalf of Mr. Ashe, moved first reading of Bill Pr48, An Act to incorporate Redeemer College.
Motion agreed to.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
House in committee of supply.
ESTIMATES, MINISTRY OF NORTHERN AFFAIRS (CONCLUDED)
On vote 704, regional priorities and development program:
Mr. Bolan: Mr. Chairman, I would like to take up the matter of regional priorities with the ministry. Under the heading “tourism development,” he lists a number of activities his ministry has considered or is considering. I would like to speak for a few minutes about the ski agency that has been developed in the North Bay area.
I think the minister is familiar with it. En fact, he and I cut a ribbon last year. His presence was quite suspicious on that day because it was the first day we had sufficient snow to ski. However, his largess with respect to the falling of snow did not last very long; we had one of the more miserable winters as far as ski conditions were concerned. I hope that is not a reflection on his ministry.
In any event, as the minister knows, for two years in a row his ministry has provided seed money for the maintenance of trails, which have grown to have international recognition. In fact this year during the Christmas festivities we have some charter flights coming in from South America, as well as from Europe, which will be spending one week to 10 days using the trails. Perhaps the minister would like to come into my area at that time and bring with him the same good luck we had last year with respect to snowfall.
I point this out to the minister to show him how important it is to look at the programs, and how important it is for the government to get involved in them. When he considers the amount of money his ministry did put into the ski agency, it really is relatively small when one considers the tremendous benefits the entire region obtains from it.
My purpose in raising the matter of the ski agency with the minister is that as a result of the tremendous traffic that has come about, the local roads board in the township of Phelps has been under tremendous pressure to maintain the road that leads from Highway 69 into the ski agency area.
The local roads board has only so many dollars to maintain the road, and there was tremendous pressure put on it by the city of North Bay, by the residents in the area, and by the ski agency as well to keep that road in good condition, particularly on the weekends when the traffic is most heavy.
The attitude of the local roads board -- and it is the proper attitude -- has been that we simply do not have the funds to expend to better the facilities for the ski agency. There is such a tremendous usage of it, it requires much more funding than is made available to it.
I had several people from southern Ontario who spent considerable time and money coming up there to ski only to have their charter bus go off the road. The next 24 hours were spent in frustration, getting tow trucks and pulling the bus out. We did manage to solve some of the problems, but nevertheless I think it is an area the Ministry of Northern Affairs should look into.
I would ask ministry officials to contact the local roads board of the township of Phelps with a view to coming to some agreement with it to provide additional funding for the maintenance of that road. I don’t know how the ministry would do this, but I leave it in the minister’s good hands. I am sure he has a sufficient number of competent administrators in his ministry. A relatively small amount of money would be involved to assist the local roads board In providing better service for the people of southern Ontario.
They are the ones who are coming up weekend after weekend. If we are not going to have good access for them to get to the ski site once they arrive at North Bay, then they are not going to come back. It is going to be sour grapes and that is very poor advertising. I put that to the minister, as the member for that riding as well as a person who is very much interested in the development of what I think is a tremendous idea, a tremendous agency. Believe me, the north is really benefiting from it.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: Mr. Chairman, if I could respond to the member for Nipissing, I would first express my appreciation for his very complimentary remarks in respect to our efforts to promote tourism in the North Bay area.
I, too, was most impressed with the attitude of the young people who had taken on that responsibility, the accomplishments of the community college itself, Canadore College in North Bay, and the efforts they went through to really get something going in the North Bay area that was the continuation of a good summer tourism economy into a winter tourism economy.
I am sure the people who read our comments and maybe those people in the gallery who want to do some cross-country skiing will look to North Bay as one of the finer places in northern Ontario to enjoy that kind of recreational experience. I must say I was most impressed to learn that X number of miles of the cross-country ski routes were lit by night. That was a very impressive sight and certainly those people in charge were to be and are to be complimented because they are fulfilling a need for something we can do up there. Certainly, I appreciate the member’s remarks.
We will be following their successes very closely. We are prepared to co-operate with them right to the fullest because I think we have something going that we should continue. Following on that it is obvious, in response to the member’s concern about the roads and access roads into those areas, that they must be maintained. It seems a little ridiculous to promote something and then not be able to get to it. I am going to ask my staff to meet with the local roads board and to meet with the tourism promotion people in North Bay to see if there is some way we can help.
I think there is. We have done it in the past. We have the regional priority budget designed for that type of assistance where it does not fall into a regular, normal program -- it falls in between the slots, so to speak. We can come along, with the co-operation of the local services board, and I can assure the honourable member that we will look at that problem.
Mr. Wildman: Mr. Chairman, in that vein, I had not intended to raise this but I am glad to hear the minister make those comments because, as he may know, I sent him a letter -- I do not know whether he has received it as yet -- regarding the question of infrastructure for the King Mountain project.
Obviously, there is a possibility of a great influx of people if that project goes ahead, and there is some concern in that area on the part of the local roads board and some of the local people about first, how the infrastructure could be provided and upgraded, and second, how it could be maintained subsequent to the project being completed.
I would like to know if the minister could respond to whether or not that kind of funding is being looked at by his ministry. If so, is it independent from or is it related to the current discussions with the federal government with regard to the Department of Regional Economic Expansion subagreement on tourism?
The particular issue I wanted to raise this morning, however, deals with developments in Blind River. As the minister knows, related to the expansion at Elliot Lake, Blind River has become a bit of a boom town, which is quite a change from what it was a few years ago. There is a tremendous amount of expansion going on -- residential, to be sure -- with people commuting back and forth to the mines in Elliot Lake, but it is not only residential.
There has been a spurt of commercial development, tourist-related, service-related and small-retail-related. The municipality is very anxious to attract small secondary industry so that it will not be just a bedroom community but a community with diversification of employment opportunities within its boundaries.
On the whole issue of Granary Lake Road, one of the reasons the government has said it does not wish to go ahead with that construction at this time is related to cost, of course, but also it does not want Blind River to be a bedroom community. If that is the case, I would think the ministry would be doing all it can to ensure there is a possibility for the development of other types of small industry and business in the community to provide employment opportunities. In that regard, the municipality has had discussions with the Ministry of Northern Affairs, the Ministry of the Environment, the Ministry of Housing and the Ministry of Industry and Tourism for assistance in the expansion of an industrial park.
I understand the minister wrote to the municipality just last month, after his discussions with the other ministries of the government, indicating the provincial government would not be providing additional assistance for the rehabilitation of the sanitary sewer system and the provision of services in the industrial park area. Municipal officials were most disappointed with the response. Apparently, the main reason for the denial of funding was that municipal service charges in Blind River are lower than in a number of other northern communities with similar population and assessment; in a way, this seems to be saying that if the municipality does well fiscally it will be penalized, in that it will not be able to get special funding when faced with a great deal of expansion and it has to expand services. We have the unfortunate example of some other communities in northern Ontario which have not done well fiscally, and the provincial government had to come in and bail them out and provide the necessary funding to enable the community to provide the services it needs without greatly increasing the mill rate and taxes for local residents.
I wonder if the minister is prepared to meet with representatives of the municipality again to discuss this very important matter and to hear their views. In a way, it seems he is denying his policy of not wanting Blind River simply to be a residential area with commuters. I hope the minister is prepared to meet with the municipal officials, who indicate they would like to arrange a meeting convenient to him. I hope I can get a response and that the government will take another look at assisting Blind River. After all, extensive assistance is being provided to Elliot Lake, and it is largely the same expansion that is leading to the need for expansion of services in Blind River.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: Mr. Chairman, replying to the question of the member for Algoma regarding the infrastructure for the possible King Mountain development, it is certainly obvious to the government -- and I say that in a general way, because we are strongly sympathetic to that development -- that it would be an economic development for the northeastern part of the province, an area that really needs it from the point of view of economic activity and, I suppose, the magnetic attraction for tourists from the United States would be outstanding.
I know the member for Sault Ste. Marie (Mr. Ramsay) has been vocal on this issue. I had the privilege of flying with him in a helicopter about a month and a half ago during the height of the fall season when the colour was at its best. I guess the most beautiful colour on the North American continent is around Sault Ste. Marie in the fall. It was beautiful to see. To look at King Mountain at that point in the season and that time of the year was a real experience.
The location, as far as I am concerned from a layman’s point of view, is an excellent one. The hills are great. The countryside is just gorgeous. It is untouched. It has reasonably good access. The member is quite right in saying the infrastructure requirements would be rather significant -- roads, sewers, water and that type of thing. That would be part of the Ontario government’s interest if we moved with the King Mountain development.
It is, as the member knows, a major private development. Until the Ontario-DREE tourism package is finalized or at least some direction is given to that package, I suppose we will have to do it as one big unit, but I can assure the member that is one area we will be sympathetic to.
The town of Blind River, as the honourable member correctly points out, has had an economic lift with the Eldorado refining facility being moved from Port Hope to northern Ontario, where I suppose it lends itself to the development very handsomely, as uranium is mined 40 minutes away from Blind River now. Is Elliot Lake about 40 minutes away from Blind River?
Mr. Wildman: It is 40 minutes to an hour depending on the weather.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: Yes, it depends on the weather. The whole Blind River area is going through some real upheavals and changes now. We have been active in the Blind River area with the assistance we have given out of the regional priority budget. We have put up $1 million for their treatment plant. They have had some real infiltration problems, as we are all aware.
I think the community is aware that, when we put the money into the treatment plant, the agreement was they would look after their own upgrading. I understand they have been doing that very well this year with their own forces. For that they are to be complimented.
The question of the industrial park is still around. I met with Mayor Gallagher. He was in about a week or 10 days ago. We discussed that problem in the east lobby of the main building here. We indicated to him at that time that he should go back to the Ministry of Industry and Tourism with respect to that request because the whole question of industrial parks is now under active review by that ministry. It is standing back and looking at its accomplishments, seeing how they are funded and the results of the efforts to date. It would be very timely if he went to Industry and Tourism with that formal request for some enlargement and improvements to his own industrial park. He said he certainly would do that.
With regard to the Granary Lake road, there is no change on the Granary Lake road. I think it is fair to say the feeling now is they are 40 minutes away from Elliot Lake by a fairly good road and that is sufficient for their immediate requirements. The expenditure of $12 million or $14 million -- I am sure it is up to that now -- to shorten the distance between Blind River and Elliot Lake would mean maybe five or 10 minutes in travelling time.
Mr. Wildman: I will come back to that when we get to northern roads.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: Okay, but it was very difficult. There has been no change. I do not think there is that much demand. Mayor Gallagher did not make it an issue when we met with him last week.
Mr. Wildman: The Elliot Lake chamber of commerce wants it, but that is a different vote.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: I have not heard from them.
You questioned our decision with respect to some assistance to Blind River and our examination of their local tax load. I think in all the assistance we give on the regional priority budget, that’s one area we do look at. I think it would be unfair if the local taxpayers were not carrying their full equitable responsibility as it relates to adjacent communities.
The mayor or the reeve and the council of that community may say: “We will have a very low tax burden here and we will go after the federal and provincial governments to take our responsibility,” which, by right, is theirs. So we look at that comparison and we point out they are lower than other areas and that to be fair and equitable to the other communities they may want to raise some additional funds, which would improve their borrowing capacity.
I think, Mr. Chairman, that responds to the inquiries of the member for Algoma. If there are any further questions I will be glad to assist.
Mr. Kerrio: Mr. Chairman, the minister is carrying a very heavy burden over there all by himself.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: Oh, I’ve got some good staff over here with me.
Mr. Kerrio: Mr. Minister, I have a genuine interest in this area we are discussing as it relates to the tourist aspect of northern Ontario. I come from a very successful part of Ontario, Niagara Falls. We happen to be within reach of many people who visit our area -- some 15 million every year -- so that transportation is really left up to the individual. The very successful people in the area do a great deal of advertising, as does the Minister of Industry and Tourism (Mr. Grossman), which actually reflects on the kind of business that happens down there.
The reason I wanted to talk on this subject today was because I have had firsthand experience. I spend a good deal of my leisure time in the north. I have taken on myself the task of representing our party in the north from time to time and so I know of what I speak.
I have a concern, and the concern is shared by the government, that transportation is very difficult in the north -- and that’s proven. The government has reacted on licence fees and in keeping gasoline at an equitable price with southern Ontario so that northerners can avail themselves of a bit of advantage to get from place to place.
My concern is that unless we provide some really meaningful transportation to the north, we are going to have difficulty getting people interested in spending time there. The reason I pose the question is because I have taken the Ontario Northland Railway from Toronto right through to Moosonee to hunt geese on James Bay at the Harricanaw camp, which is run by the Ontario Northland. I find this is a unique experience.
The train itself is one of the finest modes of transportation you will find on rails anywhere in the world. The difficulty I have with it is that very often on a weekend you cannot be accommodated on that train. If that is the case, without putting forward any new initiatives to get more people to travel, unless we have a more flexible means of handling the Ontario Northland Railway, unless we can add a considerable number of cars or more facilities, we will never expand that mode of transportation.
As I have suggested before, I know personally some of the people who are involved in the operation. I am very pleased about the functioning of the railway but the limits of it are obvious. Unless you take the initiative, there is little point in doing some of the things I would suggest should be ongoing in the northern parts of Ontario, such as preferential reforestation that has consideration for the animals as well as the pulp and paper mills up north. We should consider stocking our northern lakes, where the lakes are considered safe, so that our young people and our residents, as well as visitors from south of the border, can be assured they are going to come into northern Ontario and expect good fishing.
Doing things on the ski slopes and all over northern Ontario that will encourage people to travel there will all be for naught, unless we can prove we have the necessary kind of transportation. I mean an advanced thinking in transportation; I do not mean to keep pace with some other jurisdiction. I mean to take the initiative and say, “You can come to Ontario and leave your car parked. We will take care of you from point A to anywhere you want to travel for whatever you might like to do in northern Ontario.”
A high priority in your responsibility as Minister of Northern Affairs is to encourage that railway to put forward a two-year, three-year or four-year plan that will ultimately say we have a tourist attraction where one can leave one’s car at home and save fuel and go into the far reaches of the north, come snow or what have you. In the case of places as remote as Minaki or Moosonee, places that everyone in this great country of ours should be able to travel to, I do not think we will be able to exploit those visitors and give them the exposure they need unless transportation becomes a very high priority in the ministry’s involvement in northern Ontario.
Mr. Chairman: I believe the member slipped down into item 4.
Hon. Ms. Bernier: Mr. Chairman, I appreciate the involvement of the member for Niagara Falls in these estimates. I am very familiar with his love of the north and his desire to spend more time up there. I would extend a very warm welcome to him to visit us on a regular basis in all seasons -- spring, summer, fall and winter. There are glorious opportunities to enjoy the things that many people in southern Ontario do not have the opportunity to do and to really get a feel for what is happening up there, not only for the wilderness aspect of northern Ontario, but the beautiful urban areas we have.
We have a beautiful city called Sudbury. I would encourage you to visit that beautiful city because there is a new mood in Sudbury. Recent ads have come out that they want to develop a new convention centre.
Mr. Kerrio: The only problem you have in the north is some of the members.
Hon. Ms. Bernier: I will get to that point next spring. First things first. I was interested in the comments from Sudbury about their community and how proud they are. They want a new convention centre established in Sudbury. They want to change the attitude of people in southern Ontario towards that particular area. It is most encouraging to go into Sudbury and see the greening of the rocks now coming on. I know the member for Nickel Belt (Mr. Laughren) is anxious to get into the estimates, to elaborate on the developments going on in the Sudbury area and to tell us about the great things that have happened in his particular community.
Getting back to transportation, I just want to tell the member that we have some excellent services into the northeastern Ontario corridor per se with the Northland train and the Northlander, to which you made reference, with Air Canada making regular trips into North Bay, Sudbury and Timmins and with the excellent sleeper bus service we have now which operates in that entire corridor. You can leave Toronto, go up to Tobermory, get on one of the most modern auto ferries anywhere in the North American continent, take a nice trip across to South Baymouth on Manitoulin Island and continue on up to northern Ontario.
I think you touched on a very sensitive area when you mentioned Minaki Lodge. I am sensitive about the way the rail transportation facilities into that particular area are regulated by the federal government and the CNR, which goes through there. We have a lot of work to do with the CNR because the attitudes to which you refer are not showing up in the Via Rail operations as much as I would like them to come forth. They do a lot of talking about getting people back on the rails, but in my estimation they have not made any great strides or changes. I know it takes time and I am one of those who are willing to wait until they can get their house in order, get new equipment and get on with the job of bringing people back to the rails. That is the way it has to go.
I want to compliment my colleague, the member for St. David (Mrs. Scrivener). As you know, she is chairing a rail task force. The interim report has just come down and my own deputy minister, Mr. Herridge, has literally spent hours working with that committee. I hope you have had the opportunity to read the interim report. I understand in her final report, or at least the report with all the recommendations as it relates to rail service in this province, she has gone beyond the provincial responsibility, which was part of her terms of reference, to look at the province as a whole and the need to improve rail services in this province. With the energy problem we have now, it is obvious that is the route we have to move in.
I encourage honourable members to read the interim report of that task force and to digest in great detail the recommendations when they come out later next year, because I think it will have some real effect on what the future holds for us in northern Ontario.
I am particularly proud of our services on the Ontario Northland Transportation Commission, and I want to touch on the norOntair operation. When you get to North Bay, you can jump on the greatest little airline on the North American continent, the norOntair operation.
Mr. Kerrio: I have to get to North Bay first.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: Well, we have excellent service to North Bay. Right now we are serving 21 communities. Just last week we added Cochrane and we hope to add another four or five in the next short period. We also hope to add to our fleet. As the member knows, we have put in the first orders for two Dash-8s -- I get mixed up between the Dash-7s and the Dash-8s; I think it is the Dash-8. It is a 30-passenger, twin-engine aircraft --
Hon. Miss Stephenson: And started the flood of orders.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: And started the flood of orders, certainly. The orders are up to about 100 now that de Havilland will build.
The transportation requirements of northern Ontario have been addressed in the past five or 10 years as they have never been addressed before. The highway construction program, which I am sure we will get into, has enabled you to drive across northern Ontario now. The passing lanes, the paved shoulder program and the improvements to the main highway are things that we, as northerners, expect, and rightly so. We are not asking for anything we are not entitled to, but that has been accelerated.
This year alone, with the funds that will flow out of our construction program, about $55 million, and what we add from this particular vote, the regional priorities budget, along with what we bring into our access road program, the Ontario North and Transportation Commission’s budget and the forest access program, which flows through the whole package, all that comes to about $92 million. That is a big increase, and much of it comes from this regional priorities budget, which was established to look after the very special needs of northern Ontario where there are vast distances and usually high costs that we don’t encounter here in southern Ontario.
We are very cognizant of the transportation needs of northern Ontario. it is something we are not going to relax on; I can assure the honourable member of that. I appreciate his sincerity and his desire to improve transportation, and I can assure him I share that feeling and I intend to go that way.
Mr. Laughren: Mr. Chairman, in the hour or so remaining, I want to divide my remarks into things that the Ontario government is doing well in the north and things it is not doing well. I think the norOntair service is a very nice service for the north. The one thing I like very much is the norOntair service for the small communities. Now I would like to get on to the things the government is not doing very well.
Mr. Chairman, a mini-budget was brought down very recently in this province. There was a day when no budget, mini or otherwise, would have been brought down without some reference to the north and its particular needs. I do not think the recent mini-budget mentioned the word “north” once in its entirety. It is an indication of the shifting priorities of this government and the lack of status which the Ministry of Northern Affairs has held in that cabinet. There was a day 10 years ago, perhaps beyond that and even a couple of years since then, when it was understood by cabinet that they had to address the particular problems of the north.
That is no longer the case. We never hear this government talking about the particular needs of the north except when the Minister of Northern Affairs cuts a ribbon or hands out a grant. Much of the money in the regional priorities budget, as the minister knows full well, is from other ministries, and that money would be there anyway. There are all sorts of examples in which the presence of the Minister of Northern Affairs has done nothing but clutter up the process. He has become a barrier in many cases to the proper functioning of the other ministries. There is no better example of that than with the Ministry of Transportation and Communications.
I invite you, Mr. Chairman, to talk to the people in the Ministry of Transportation and Communications and to ask them what they think of the role of the Ministry of Northern Affairs in the apportioning of the budget in northern Ontario. They will look at you and the first thing they will ask you is whether their remarks are on or off the record. They are very unhappy with what this minister has done.
I invite you to come to Sudbury, Mr. Chairman, and ask the people of Sudbury what they think of the Minister of Transportation and Communications (Mr. Snow). They will say to you: “I think he is a good fellow. We have had a fair number of new roads in the Sudbury basin in the last few years.” Then you will say, “What about the Minister of Northern Affairs?” They will say, “Well, everything the Minister of Transportation and Communications has done, the Minister of Northern Affairs is trying to undo.”
I will give you a very specific example from his regional priorities budget. The Minister of Transportation and Communications approved a northeast bypass which would join up Highway 11, west of Sudbury, and Highway 144, north of Sudbury. That bypass was promised by the Minister of Transportation and Communications as a result of public hearings. It was promised because the majority of the business people in that area did not want the bypass; they wanted an expansion of the existing route. I happened to support the bypass. To the credit of the former Minister of Transportation and Communications, I believe he listened to the public at large and did the right thing; he built the bypass.
But one of the things that was promised to the people in that community, to the business community in particular, was, “Support us on building the bypass, and we will put a link over to Highway 144 so the traffic will come over this way coming down from Timmins to Toronto, and going from Toronto up to Timmins or from the Sault up to the Timmins area.” That promise was made to the community, that they would proceed with that bypass, that link between the two roads, with some dispatch.
In the community the municipal councils and regional councils were proceeding on the assumption that, as Highway 17 was expanded to four lanes and the bypass built, the link would then fall into place. We were given every reason to believe that. Then, suddenly this fall, the Minister of Northern Affairs descended out of the far north into Sudbury and said: “Maybe priorities have shifted. We need an updating of the data.” What a lot of nonsense! There is no updating required. The promise was made.
Another reason the minister said they would build a bypass there is that at the present time there is no link between those two roads except to go into Sudbury. We were pressing to have another road. From each highway a road went part way in but they were not joined. There is a private road, owned by Falconbridge, called the Lockerby Mine Road. The minister said, “No, we are not going to join that and make a bypass through there, because we are building a link over the bypass in question, the link between Highway 17 and 144.” So people, including me, said: “All right, we agree with you. Build that link between the two highways and then we will not push for this other road to be joined up, because it makes more sense to have a proper link.”
There were all sorts of holdups with such things as building a shopping centre, until an exact route at the intersection of Highway 144 was determined, and so forth. Then the Minister of Northern Affairs in his wisdom shifted priorities around. Perhaps he could tell us today what became a higher priority. Was it Ontario North Now, down at Ontario Place? Is that where the funds went? Did it go to the northwest? Where did those funds go? Those funds were committed. There is no doubt about that.
The Minister of Northern Affairs had best not show his comely features in Sudbury these days or, if he does, he had better have the Minister of Transportation and Communications with him as a bodyguard, because he is going to need one.
That is one area in which the Ontario government and the Ministry of Northern Affairs are failing to do their job in northern Ontario.
A few moments ago, the minister talked about rail service. There is what is called the Budd car service, which runs between Sudbury and White River and back, It is a neat service that stops at all the small communities along the line. Hunters can throw a moose on and can send packages in and out. It is a boon for the tourist operators and the people who live in the communities. I use it myself to go to some of the more remote communities. I used to be able to go in the morning and come out in the afternoon.
Within six months of every federal member elected in northern Ontario being a Liberal, the Canadian Transport Commission cancelled the Budd car service. The people in northeastern Ontario are not missing that message one iota, not a bit. They cancelled the service for the Budd car, imposing a hardship on those communities.
I wrote to the Minister of Northern Affairs and said:
“Dear Mr. Minister: In view of the fact that the CTC is being so insensitive to the needs of the northeast, and in view of the fact that you are the Minister of Northern Affairs, why don’t you join with us in battle and get the CTC to reverse that incredible decision?”
The minister said. “I agree with you we shouldn’t cancel it.” I said to him: “That’s not much of a commitment. If the CTC persists, why don’t we get the Ontario Northland Railway to operate the Budd car services?” “Oh no,” said the minister, “that is a federal responsibility.”
That is some commitment to northern Ontario. Thanks to the pressure of everybody except this minister, the CTC has now agreed to hold public hearings in some of the communities.
Mr. Wildman: He wrote them a letter.
Mr. Laughren: Yes, the minister wrote a letter. Now isn’t that a major commitment on behalf of the people of northeastern Ontario?
I ask the minister to read the latest headline in the Chapleau Sentinel which explains why there are now going to be public hearings, whereas there were none before. The proper credit is given in that story.
There were two basic reasons. My federal colleague in the House of Commons, the member for Regina West, Mr. Les Benjamin, has done a truly excellent job. He is a member from Regina and he is doing more to preserve rail service in northeastern Ontario than the Minister of Northern Affairs has even attempted to do. The member for Regina West pointed out to the CTC there are two basic reasons why the Budd car service should be maintained.
He said: “Cross-Canada travellers cannot be adequately served if the train is stopping to do local work. It makes more sense to supplement the Transcontinental with a local train than to stop a 16-car train every four or five miles to pick up a trapper or drop off a parcel.”
The second reason is: “The Canadian transcontinental train will not carry express. Of the 19 express stations currently served by the Budd car, two will be served by interline truck, six will be served once a week by way freight, and 11 are left with no confirmation of service.”
Perhaps I can expand on a couple of those points. It is so stupid to ask a transcontinental service to go from coast to coast and stop at communities every four or five miles apart -- that is no exaggeration -- communities some of which have 10 people, some 50 people and some 200 people. It is simply outrageous.
How can we ever have a crack transcontinental service if these trains are stopping at all these small communities? It is absolutely stupid.
Secondly, the Canadian will not carry express. Do members know what the CTC told us? It said: “Your concern regarding the service changes impact on Chapleau’s fur, tourist, and mineral exploration industries is appreciated.” And here comes a critical sentence. “However, please be assured that the CTC has ordered Via to provide the same service on the Transcontinental as was formerly offered by trains 185 and 186. In that respect, all freight responsibilities previously provided by trains 185 and 186 in transporting supplies in and out of Chapleau will now be carried out by the Transcontinental during the off-peak months. The only exception to this will be hunters’ game, which will be transported by a Canadian Pacific truck express service.”
I ask the minister, how is a truck going to get into these remote communities, the only access to which is rail, and carry out the moose? I hope every hunter up there who shoots a moose waves down the Transcontinental and lugs his moose on to one of the passenger cars. Those are the kinds of silly statements that are coming out of the CTC. The Minister of Northern Affairs should have been involved in this issue. He sits there like a pussy cat and writes a letter to the CTC, telling them he thinks that is not a very nice thing to do.
I know the minister is very happy to have federal Liberal members representing northern Ontario. It makes him feel nice and comfortable and he can then blame them for the problems in northern Ontario. But he has an obligation to do something about their stupidity. He sits there and does virtually nothing about it. The whole thing has become absolutely ludicrous. All I can say is, thank goodness, my colleague Mr. Benjamin was able to prevail upon them to hold a public meeting.
They talk about express service. The express costs for shipping in and out of Chapleau by truck have doubled. Mr. Peter Gjoni owns Northern Pottery up there, a very nice and successful operation. He has received assistance from this government in the past. He knows from experience that his costs for shipping out are double. That is not going to make him nearly as competitive as he once was. We should be encouraging those kinds of businesses in northern Ontario. What is the minister doing? Not very much.
The CTC says they must provide the same service. Not too long ago someone went into the station in Chapleau and said, “I would like to ship this plywood to mile so and so up the track.” He was told: “Oh, no, we won’t accept that. You have to ship it by truck.” As I said earlier, there is no road to that community, yet there is the CTC assuring us that the service will be provided to the same degree as was provided by the Budd car service. That is total nonsense.
I hope that as the public hearings take place we will see the Minister of Northern Affairs there making the case for Ontario and for those small communities in northeastern Ontario. Do I have that commitment from the minister?
Mr. Wildman: He will be there but he will say he will live with whatever they say.
Mr. Laughren: Yes. I hope the minister is unequivocal in his position at those hearings, and not like he was in his letter to me, where he was more or less shrugging his shoulders and saying that is a federal responsibility. I do hope I have made some impression upon the minister about the need to maintain the Budd car service.
Another area that bothers me, when I think of the minister’s responsibilities under the regional priorities budget, is the need to create new jobs and maintain existing jobs in the north. It is not too long ago since I spent a day at Jarvis Clark, a very aggressive, healthy mining machinery company in North Bay owned by CIL. They are expanding into world markets and are really flexing their muscles. They have the money behind them to do it.
I went there because I had heard a rumour that Jarvis Clark was expanding its operations in southern Ontario. Sure enough, they are. They have bought a plant in Burlington for warehousing purposes and God only knows what else down the road. When I went to visit Jarvis Clark and spent some time there, touring their plant, meeting the president and so forth, they impressed on me a couple of things. First, there is a shortage of skilled tradespeople they need there. I do not know why they would need skilled tradespeople in a warehouse; nevertheless, that was a problem, they said. Secondly, they were going into export markets and they wanted to be down here.
More fundamental than that is that the company has no sense of obligation to expand in the north. The reason they have no sense of obligation is that, although they know they started there and that is where they became healthy, there is no regional plan into which they can plug. There is nothing. The company in northern Ontario operates, makes a profit, does its thing; they don’t feel part of any northern Ontario strategy.
That is part of what I was talking about at the beginning when I said there was a day when no budget would have been brought down here without talking about regional development in northern Ontario. Communities in northern Ontario have no reason to stay in the north and expand if it is more convenient for them to do so in southern Ontario. That is the responsibility of the Minister of Northern Affairs. I would have thought that is why he has a regional priorities budget, yet it is as though there were no regional priorities.
Falconbridge Nickel Mines in Sudbury is another example. They have been there almost 50 years. To this day they have no refinery. They do the dirty and dangerous work in Sudbury, namely, the digging out of the ore and the smelting, and they ship the ore to Norway for processing. The minister was formerly Minister of Natural Resources; he knows the story well. To this day not only is Falconbridge allowed to ship its ore to Norway but, to add insult to injury, it can also write off the processing costs in Norway against its operating profits in Ontario. That is a crazy policy on the part of this government. Creating a refinery there would create jobs and give us something to which we are entitled. That is not a favour; we are entitled to it.
I never hear the Minister of Northern Affairs talking about freight rates in northern Ontario. We know that is a deterrent to the development of the north. If this government were as angry about things on which they disagree with the federal Liberals as they are cozy with items and issues on which they agree, we might accomplish something in this province. When this government agrees with the Prime Minister, my goodness, the embrace is something to behold; but when they disagree, they are a bunch of pussycats. That is what has to change. The government has to say, “We agree with the federal government on certain issues and support you there, but when we disagree, we are going to make it very uncomfortable for you.” The Minister of Northern Affairs has not made it uncomfortable for the federal government in northern Ontario. The federal Liberals have done virtually nothing for northern Ontario all the time they have been in power. Does the minister agree with me? Of course he does. He is nodding his head. Yet I never hear him saying that.
Mr. Laughren: That’s right, but Mr. Rodriguez is not there any more. When Rodriguez was there he got public hearings when they tried to cut back the service of the CN. Now Rodriguez isn’t there, the federal Liberals are saying nothing. They are mute on issues in northern Ontario that are important.
Mr. Nixon: The Minister of State for Mines, Judy Erola, is a northerner.
Mr. Laughren: That’s right.
Mr. Nixon: And she’s a great minister.
Mr. Laughren: She has done nothing. She has no mines either. She is known as the mineless minister.
There is another issue the Minister of Northern Affairs was strangely silent on, and that had to do with the iron ore mines. National Steel in Capreol, north of Sudbury, was closing down. They made $6 million the previous year -- a profitable operation -- and they closed down. The minister looked the other way, embarrassed, and said virtually nothing. There was no reason for that closing at all.
I think of this minister’s potential to develop northern Ontario and compare that to what he is doing and it riles me. There are some other examples I want to mention to the minister. They are not as sweeping as the ones I have talked about so far, but one is the whole question of a little community called Gogama. Gogama is a nice little community. Citizens have formed themselves into different organizations. They have raised money locally; they have taken a real interest in making that a better community in which to live. They are in the process of forming a local services board now, one of the first in the province.
I hope the minister has noticed that two of the first service boards in the province are in the riding of Nickel Belt and the very first one was in the riding of Nickel Belt.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: And you weren’t there to honour the event. Very nice.
Mr. Laughren: Foleyet, yes. The night that local service board was honoured by the minister -- and I was really glad he was able to go there and do that -- was the same night they brought down the mini-budget. I regret very much I could not be there.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: A funny coincidence.
Mr. Laughren: I do not really think they, knowing I am the treasury critic, did it that way on purpose. I am not paranoid, but even paranoids have enemies.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: They are going to remember that.
Mr. Laughren: They may remember it.
To get back to Gogama: People there have really worked hard to make their community a better place in which to live. They applied last year for a grant. They built a firehall. They have an ambulance and a fire truck there. The Sudbury District Health Unit says: “This is a public place. You wash your vehicles in there. You hold public meetings in there. You had better have washroom facilities.” So they apply for a grant for building washroom facilities to help them out with the field grant and so forth. Northern Affairs told them it was okay to go right ahead. The grant is $8,303. They are given every reason to believe they would get that grant. I was given every reason to believe it. I phoned the minister’s executive assistant, who said: “It looks like that grant is going to go through. There is just a holdup here; I will straighten that out.”
It was straightened out all right: They were told they were not going to get the grant. I think that was handled in a very shabby way. Now the people in Gogama are being told the application goes beyond the provisions of basic community services. Isn’t that beautiful? The facilities in this public building go beyond the basic community services. I think the minister should reassess the rejection of that grant application for some $8,000. The community was prepared to put some money of its own in as well.
I should remind him it was the Ministry of Natural Resources which originally approved it. There was a freeze on the lot; they approved taking the freeze off to allow the building to be built in the first place. So I think there is an obligation on the part of the Minister of Northern Affairs to review the rejection of that grant application. I think it was not done in a very nice way.
If the minister wants to make it clear to all communities that a grant like that is not appropriate, then he should send out some kind of notice to all the local service boards and the community organizations so they know. They did not know that. They were given every reason to believe, and they proceeded under the belief, that they were going to get their money. That may not seem much to the minister when he is talking about $90 million for his regional priorities budget, but $8,300 to a small community like Gogama really does mean something.
The last point I want to raise has to do with the Chapleau airport. I do not know whether the minister has been involved in this dispute yet. Chapleau is under supervision and, as such, all expenditures must be approved by the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs (Mr. Wells).
They applied to have an airport manager. The airport there is served by norOntair and there are quite a few small private planes in the Chapleau area owned by tourist operators, the lumber barons in the area and so forth. They applied to hire an airport manager and were turned down by the Ministry of Intergovernmental Affairs. The airport commission feels very strongly that the manager should be hired, because they can no longer run it like a shoestring operation. There is the sale of fuel to worry about, ticket sales, clearance of the runway and weather forecasting. All those things are going on there, and it should not be run by a part-time person any more. It has become too sophisticated, and there is an obligation on the part of the Ministry of Northern Affairs to help out there. in his response, I hope the minister will tell me whether other municipalities have airport managers in small communities. Quite frankly, I do not know. If so, will he tell me roughly what kind of salary are they receiving, what are their duties and why is he not -- or maybe he is -- prepared to move in and help out Chapleau in hiring an airport manager and talking to the Ministry of Intergovernmental Affairs? Because they are under supervision does not mean they do not have to get on with the daily business of running a community and a local airport. I would hope the minister will respond to some of the points I have raised.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: Mr. Chairman, I welcome the honourable member’s contribution to the examination of the estimates of this ministry.
Mr. Laughren: I did say something good, too.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: Yes, he said a little more than he did a few years ago. There has been a slight improvement. When I first came to Queen’s Park several years ago as a novice, as one from the backwoods of northwestern Ontario -- I was elected in a by-election in 1966 -- I sat here that first year -- because there was a general election in 1967 -- and I listened to the member for Nickel Belt at that time --
Mr. Laughren: I was not here then.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: His attitude was the same.
Mr. Laughren: I was elected in 1971.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: But the attitude is the same. I would go back to my hotel room at night and I would think: “God, things are terrible in this province. They are really terrible. I cannot believe how terrible things are in this Legislature.” Yet I would go home on the weekend and people were so grateful; things were happening in northern Ontario, all over northern Ontario and all across this province.
In fact, it was so bad I said to my wife one night, “Things are so bad, this government will never get re-elected.” That was 1966. We are still around. We are still doing great things for the people of this province, from Kenora right clean through to Ottawa. I say that as a matter of interest, because the attitude is the same. I hope that the member for Nickel Belt will go to Saskatchewan and get on the government side of the House. I think he has been too long in opposition.
Mr. Laughren: I agree.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: He has become so cynical, so critical, it is built into his lifestyle. I feel sorry for him, because he is missing a way of life. There are so many great things happening around him and he has closed his eyes to them. Just last week --
Mr. Laughren: Does the minister think I have raised legitimate problems?
Hon. Mr. Bernier: Yes, but the member forgot a lot of them, though -- a lot of the good things. That is what I am saying.
Mr. Laughren: My job is to raise legitimate problems.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: I know. That is the point I am getting to. I have some sympathy for the member, and I feel sorry for him. Just last week I had to be in Ottawa; then the next day I flew to Sudbury. What a beautiful day it was. The weather was great. The attitudes were great. There we were, opening up a brand-new, $12-million provincial building. And who was there? The member for Kenora was there, the Minister of Northern Affairs was there, period.
Mr. Laughren: I rise on a point of privilege, Mr. Chairman. The minister is distorting the facts and misleading us all by saying that, because he knows full well that a plane left here in the morning with the member for Sudbury (Mr. Germa) on it, who was attempting to get there for that opening -- along with the Premier (Mr. Davis), I might add. The minister had better retract that statement.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: He did not arrive. Nobody arrived. But, as a member for northern Ontario, I have a responsibility and I made sure I was there. I made sure I was there to look after the member’s interests and the interests of this government, and it was a real pleasure and a real honour to officiate at that official opening ceremony.
Bouquets were prepared and tossed out to the Premier of this province and to the government of this province by the municipal leaders -- in fact, they had prepared texts; all the texts were prepared and written out, and they read them verbatim, It was very pleasant from my point of view and of course I thanked them profusely. They even recognized the great contribution that 2001 had made to the -- I know the member does not want to touch on that, but the mayor of Sudbury literally made reference to it; the member may want to comment on that.
Then, of course, I went on to Foleyet. I regretted that the honourable member was not there, because it was an historical occasion. As I said to the people in Foleyet, “This is the first local services board in the world.” It was a gala event. The pride displayed by the people of Foleyet was something I will long remember. It was a sight to behold. I was pleased and I made mention there of the contribution all political parties have made to the LSB bill itself -- yes, I did. In fact, it is such a good bill that all political parties want to take credit for it.
Getting back to the priority-setting for the highway construction program, I want to correct an earlier figure I gave. I said we had $92 million in road construction programs in northern Ontario in the 1980-81 budget. That figure should be $96.5 million. It is a very handsome figure, one that people in northern Ontario are very grateful for.
I went to Sudbury and had a very pleasant lunch with the regional chairman, with the mayor of Rayside-Balfour, the mayor of Walden and a couple of others. We discussed the north-south bypass. I said to them at that time, “What is all the fuss?” One of them said to me: “Look, there was a municipal election. We could not get any ink. Really we had to say something. We had to get the pot boiling a little bit.” I said: “The Minister of Transportation and Communications made the announcement. When a member of this cabinet makes a public statement, it is a commitment of this government. That commitment will be lived up to.”
Mr. Laughren: You are holding it back at least a year.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: No, we are not. The Minister of Transportation and Communications had indicated it would be in the 1982 budget.
Mr. Laughren: In 1981.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: In 1982. It is in the 1982 program, and there is no change.
Mr. Laughren: You promised 1981.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: I said I would like to see a start maybe in 1981. I said that in Sudbury. We are going to try to do something to see if we can get something going in 1981.
Mr. Laughren: That is really shabby on your part.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: No. It was announced for 1982 as part of a program that has to be examined. The land acquisition is all complete. The environmental assessment is nearing completion. The design work is practically complete. Everybody knows it was in the 1982 program. It was accepted; so I do not know what the fuss is. It is there, it is a commitment and this government honours its commitments.
Mr. Laughren: You have delayed it a year.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: No, we did not.
Mr. Laughren: You made a commitment that construction would start in 1981.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: I could not make a commitment like that. I do not even know what my 1981-82 budget will be. The Treasurer gives me my allocation and we work out the budgetary process for the next year. I said that in Sudbury. We are as anxious to get on with that access as anybody else.
Getting back to the Budd car, I was pleased the member brought that issue up because I failed to mention it in my earlier remarks. The Budd car is a burning issue with us in the Ministry of Northern Affairs. We made our feelings known to the federal government. I am pleased the member made representation to his federal Liberal colleagues, because they sat very quietly.
So often the federal government does things and we are called upon to rattle the chains and to beat the drum for northern Ontario and we are going to continue to do that. We have done it for television. We appeared at the hearings in Geraldton and the recommendations we made at the CRTC hearings in Geraldton with relation to television have been accepted by the CRTC. We are waiting for the federal government to get on with it, to accept those as recommendations that will improve that. Our presence is very real and is there. We will be at the public hearing with regard to the Budd car. I say that sincerely. We will be there and we will be as vocal as we know how because we have the responsibility, as you correctly point out, to look after the interests and the needs of that great vast area of northern Ontario.
Mr. Laughren: Why didn’t you do that with CN? You said you would accept whatever decision they made.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: No. We fought them all the way along and we will continue. We are even fighting them now with regard to Minaki, for God’s sake.
Mr. Laughren: You said you were opposed to it, but you would accept any decision they made. So they went ahead and made it.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: I will not accept anything from them. If it is a decline or a lessening of the service to the people of northern Ontario, we will be in there fighting for them. That has been our attitude. That has been the feeling of this ministry and we will continue that.
Getting on with Gogama, as the member has correctly pointed out. Gogama has applied for local services board status. That is progressing very well and it will be announced and should be in place very soon.
I am prepared to look at that isolated communities assistance fund grant again. I think our responsibility has to be to the priority requirement of the community, and possibly a washroom area for firemen may not be that, in somebody’s opinion. But I am prepared to have another look at that.
Mr. Laughren: The washroom area?
Hon. Mr. Bernier: Yes, the washroom area; we will have a look at that.
I was not aware of the problem in relation to the Chapleau airport. As you know, we have put about $1.8 million into that facility under the regional priority budget. It is an excellent airstrip; norOntair goes in there now. The Ministry of Transportation and Communications does have a program to assist municipalities in cost sharing the maintenance of the airports that are municipally owned. The town of Sioux Lookout, which is comparable in size to Chapleau -- about 2,500 people -- has an airport manager. So I think there must be a way that they could come up with some program. We really have to take a look at that.
I think, Mr. Chairman, that answers all the members’ very constructive criticism.
Mr. Laughren: Except for the regional developments in the north like Jarvis Clark.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: Mr. Chairman, the Jarvis Clark issue was one that bothered us and I would like to share that feeling with you. When we heard they were going to Burlington we made our feelings known to the Minister of Industry and Tourism. We felt very strongly that it should be an expansion to the plant in North Bay. We are very proud of that plant. It employs something like 400 people now and they are exporting mining equipment --
Mr. Bolan: There are 500 there and 100 in Sudbury.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: Yes, and they export right across the world. I understand they are getting into a different field as they come down to Burlington. As you correctly pointed out, they wanted some skilled labour; they want to be close to the market. I think one of the comments that came to me was they did not want all their eggs in one basket. That did not really wash with me. We have made our feelings known and we will continue to make that attitude known to these companies that move out of the north.
Mr. Laughren: It is always after the fact.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: No, we have been involved since day one and I can tell you right now, they are not finished yet.
Mr. Bolan: Again under the heading of tourism, there are two points I would like to raise. That should just about finish off my portion of the estimates.
I believe you sold Moosonee Lodge. Moosonee Lodge was sold in what year? The reason I am asking you is that I have a profit and loss statement for the Ontario Northland Railway operation for the period ending November 30, 1979. That would leave another three months to run on whatever their period is. On their expenditures they have Moosonee Lodge for which they had budgeted a deficit of $8,485 whereas the actual deficit, as of the end of November 1919, was $133,007. I am having some difficulty in understanding these figures. My information is that the lodge was sold before that, so why are we still carrying such a deficit of some $8,000 when as of the end of November 1979 the actual deficit was $133,000? I am sure there is an explanation for it and I would like to have it.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: They are getting the figures now.
Mr. Bolan: Fine. There are two more points I want to make. On the Ontario Northland Railway, I would like to know the monthly cost of repairs for the Northlander. I will not go into the whole history of it as you know when it was acquired. It has been with us now since June 10, 1977. I understand it ran into all kinds of difficulties during the first while with respect to maintenance and service repairs -- not just service repairs but actual mechanical breakdowns.
I would like to know if you have a figure on what the monthly repair cost is for the Northlander. When I speak of the Northlander, I mean all of the units. I believe there are four or five units. You might want to provide me with that figure as well. I am told it is as high as $125,000 or $150,000 a month. That seems astronomical. I do not know, but I want to find that out.
While those figures are being obtained, I would like to bring to the attention of the minister a petition which was forwarded for his attention a year ago. It was a petition from the River Valley Citizens’ Association to do with a road, Highway 539 and 539A. It was signed by some 250 people. Their concern was the condition of the road.
As a result of the poor condition of the road, there was a period of half-loading there. Half-loading put a major portion of the work force on unemployment or welfare for anywhere up to three months in a year. School buses, which transport the children to and from their schools, go over it twice a day. Most residents of River Valley have to travel to Sturgeon Falls for health, legal, banking and commercial services. The road in question is about 10 miles long.
You did acknowledge receipt of this petition under letter of February 13. You did say there was some construction going on to improve the road. You said: “The residents of River Valley will benefit from some improvements in the driving conditions upon the reconstruction of the bridge over McCardy Creek, five miles northwest of Field. This work, which includes reconstruction of about a half mile of road on either side of the bridge, is scheduled to take place during 1980-81.” You then said you regretted you were unable to tell them when the remainder of the road would be rebuilt.
As I say, this was six or seven months ago. I have been over that road and, believe me, it is a sad sight. These people have a very legitimate complaint. I would like to obtain from you at this time an undertaking that further road construction will be done on this highway with a view to making it easier for not only the residents of River Valley, but people who travel with logging trucks back and forth. They are running at half-loads and it costs just as much for them to run at half-loads as it does with a full or three-quarter load. The reason they have to run at half-loads is the condition of the road. Perhaps I could have some response on that as well as on the items which I raised about Moosonee Lodge and the cost of repairs on a monthly basis to the Northlander.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: Mr. Chairman, in answer to the member’s earlier inquiry with respect to the Chapleau problem of the airport, I have just been informed that my deputy, Mr. Herridge, will be in Chapleau on Tuesday. He has already had some discussions with Reeve Howard with respect to the airport itself. We have been in touch with the Ministry of Intergovernmental Affairs with regard to the financing and the airport matters. We can assure you nothing will be done that will affect or even close the airport. We want to assure you that will not happen under any circumstances. That can be passed on to them. There is no fear of that happening.
In connection with the operation of the Northlander, I would advise the member the actual operating subsidy for 1979-80 was $4,658,000, and in the 1980-81 plan it is $4,672,000. As you know the engine conversion for the Northlander was done in the North Bay shops where the very able staff of the Ontario Northland Transportation Commission installed Canadian-made diesel units in these Swiss-manufactured locomotives. The cost of that engine conversion in 1979-80 was $770,000 and in the 1980-81 plan it was $850,000.
I am just waiting for the information on the Moosonee Lodge, and on Highway 539.
Mr. Bolan: When was the lodge sold?
Hon. Mr. Bernier: The Moosonee Lodge was sold in 1979 for $133,000. I am advised the loss on disposal was approximately $90,000. That is the difference between the book value of approximately $224,000 and the amount received for the sale of the lodge, which was $133,000. Accounting rules require that this loss on disposal be shown in the financial statement. That is the figure to which the member refers.
Mr. Bolan: How was it sold? Was it sold by public tender? I see Mr. Herridge nodding.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: Yes, it was sold by public tender. The idea of selling the Moosonee Lodge had been floating around for a considerable time. It was felt it could be operated much more efficiently by the private sector.
I think the initial idea of getting it going and keeping it operational until the private sector was strong enough to take over was a valid one. Now that it has taken over, it seems to be going very well.
In connection with Highway 539-539A, the member correctly points out that the work that was promised was done. McCardy Creek bridge will be advertised for tender on January 21, 1981. We will be calling tenders for the construction of that bridge in January for completion in the summer of 1981.
Mr. Bolan: What about the rest of the road?
Hon. Mr. Bernier: I will get the information on that for the member. I do not have it right at my fingertips. If I don’t get it before the estimates are over, I will make sure the member gets it in the mail.
Mr. R. F. Johnston: Mr. Chairman, it may seem strange for the member for Scarborough West to be getting up on something that has to do with the Ministry of Northern Affairs. It is because of the close relationship I have with Mr. Wildman. We have considered swapping our jurisdictions, one of the reasons being that the encroachment by Northern Affairs into Metro -- which is my responsibility -- has become obvious of late with Ontario North Now coming into Ontario Place. It is to do with Ontario North Now that I wanted to ask a couple of questions of the minister.
I visited the exhibition at Ontario Place for the first time this summer with a friend of mine from France who is a unilingual francophone. He is a forestry student in France, by the way. We went there because I thought the forestry side of things would interest him and I also thought this would be a way of showing him part of the French culture of Ontario and part of the role francophones have played in opening up Ontario and in developing the north.
I presumed this would be one area in the whole of Ontario Place where I might be able to find something he would be able to understand in French, maybe even be able to hear a slide show in French. I thought he would at least be able to have some comprehension that this province is not just made up of Anglophones and that a special part of our province has been opened up in a great many respects by francophones and Franco-Ontarians.
I was very disappointed to see not one word of French in the whole place. There was mention, certainly, of the French community but it was mentioned in English. In the slide show, there was not one word of French involved. There were many displays with many plaques on the walls, all in English. There was a major pamphlet display at the very end with information on all the northern municipalities, put together, as I understand it, by the northern mayors. There was not one word of French, not one pamphlet in French in the whole place.
I became very upset about this and wrote to the Premier asking why this had occurred. His response to me indicated that the reasons, outside of oversight -- to which he did not admit -- were lack of time, lack of money and a lack of space in the exhibit.
Mr. Wildman: Aurele Gervais was involved in that -- a francophone himself.
Mr. R. F. Johnston: That is right.
I was very upset to see that. I asked for some action and I know that there is more than this ministry involved; the Ministry of Industry and Tourism is involved. I have had a reply from Omer Deslauriers to say that he has raised this with the mayors of the northern municipalities and he is hopeful that some action will be taken in the coming year.
I would like to know from the minister’s point of view -- I think the minister was present at the opening, the ministry was certainly involved in the development of this project -- why it was that such an important showcase was not developed with some francophone inclusion, with some French somewhere in the whole place.
It is important for Franco-Ontarians to feel that they are recognized for their role in northern Ontario, and this was certainly the place to do that, to show them off, to show the kinds of things that had been done in the mining industry, the pulp and paper industry and in plain pioneering through the clay belt by Ontario francophones. It was not done. There was a huge opportunity there to do it.
Aside from those people, there are a large number of people who go to Ontario Place who do speak French, not just my friend from France -- which would be kind of unique, I would presume -- but a number of Quebecois go there. There are 100,000 French-speaking people in this city who go there, I would presume, on a regular basis. What an opportunity to miss. I find it shameful that that is the case. This is at a time when our country is going through all sorts of turmoil.
It is not a matter of forced bilingualism, by any means. Even the Premier might have trouble stretching that one, I would think, to say that this would be shoving French down people’s throats. This was the perfect time to take some action, to show that Ontario thinks as immediately of its French-speaking population as it does of its English-speaking population. Instead, what gets reflected is that they are not thought of, that it is bypassed. Somehow, a lack of money, in terms of having two languages on a sign, or of space, in terms of thinking of that as part of the design, are just not valid reasons to hold up to people in this province.
I would very much like to hear the minister’s comments about why that occurred, number one; and number two, can we expect some very quick action so that by next season that is rectified and they are given their proper place in that spectacle?
Hon. Mr. Bernier: Mr. Chairman, I want to thank the member for his contribution and his interest in and awareness of the northern Ontario showcase at Ontario Place. I am pleased that he took the time to bring his people down there to show what the north is all about and to share with us, in northern Ontario, a real northern experience.
I want to point out that the concept of Ontario North Now is one that has been accepted right across northern Ontario and across this province; that is, that we would have a northern Ontario showcase right here in the heart of the most populated area of this province.
Mr. Laughren: Who were the architects?
Hon. Mr. Bernier: We asked for tenders from five. We got five proposals and the Association of District Municipalities are the ones who selected the architects.
Before I answer your question, I want to put on the record that we built a very unique showcase at Ontario Place, one which had the involvement of this province, this government, and the municipalities, not in a way that their local taxes were reflected in that development, but the involvement and direction of the displays themselves in the nine pavilions was the responsibility of the Association of District Municipalities. That takes in all the municipalities from Kenora to North Bay, headed by Aurele Gervais of Iroquois Falls, assisted by Tommy Jones of Dryden. The involvement of the municipalities was very real. It was there because we strongly felt we did not want to take the route on our own. We did not want it to appear to be another government initiative taking something away from the municipalities or regions. They had to be involved to get the real flavour of northern Ontario.
In addition to that, we strongly felt the industries -- the private sector -- in northern Ontario had a responsibility. They wanted to show their industries off in a light that was complimentary to what they were doing in northern Ontario. They were very co-operative and contributed handsomely. In excess of $700,000 came from the private sector for the displays which are located in Ontario North Now. All this was done in a very short time frame of about nine months. Many people said it could not be done. It was done and I think the staff of the Ministry of Northern Affairs, particularly Sheila Willis, with Don Obosawin’s assistance in the latter part of the program, did a fantastic job in going across northern Ontario getting the interest and support which was really required to make the thing a success. It is in place. It will be a permanent showcase for northern Ontario. The member points out some of the weaknesses which I am very much aware of and which I accept.
During the course of the three-week entertainment period many French-Canadian groups from northern Ontario were present. In fact, opening night we had two French groups, one from Hearst, I recall quite well because it was an excellent group. The guides were all selected from northern Ontario. Many were chosen because they were bilingual.
Mr. R. F. Johnston: There wasn’t one the day I was there.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: There should have been, because they were selected with that in mind. In connection with our native culture, we made sure the native people were present to provide the native flavour we are so familiar with in northern Ontario. They did it exceptionally well. They too were directly involved.
Through the Ontario Arts Council we made inquiries right across northern Ontario for groups to give us information about the francophone community. Regretfully, it was not forthcoming. We have had meetings since the closure of Ontario North Now with the various francophone groups and we have their assurance they will be there in full force next year. Some of the weaknesses in our signing will be corrected so I think the concerns you have expressed will be rectified. We will make sure all those things are done when the pavilion opens up this spring.
Mr. Wildman: Would it be in order for us to pass this vote and go on to northern roads?
Mr. Chairman: Shall item 1 carry?
Mr. Bolan: Do you have an answer to those other matters I asked about?
Hon. Mr. Bernier: I thought I gave that to you. The operating subsidy in 1979-80 was $4,658,000 and in 1980-81 it was $4,672,000. The engine conversion cost was $770,000 in 1979-80 and in 1980-81 it was 850,000. That is where we actually changed the diesel units in the Northlander trains at the North Bay shops. We put in Canadian-made diesel units as they had been the European type. We must compliment the staff of the Ontario Northland Railway for doing an exceptionally good job.
Mr. Wildman: I would like to raise a number of things in terms of northern roads budget. The minister mentioned briefly, in response to my earlier comments, his views on the Granary Lake road and the lack of necessity to spend the dollars to make a shorter, more direct route between Blind River and Elliot Lake.
I just want to point out two things to him. With the construction of Eldorado on the west side of Blind River, the minister may be aware -- I think I have written to him about it -- that Eldorado sends waste acid which is moderately radioactive to Rio Algom for reprocessing. As it looks now, that acid is going to be transported right through the middle of Blind River and up Highway 17 to Highway 108 and then up to Elliot Lake and right through Elliot Lake to Rio Algom.
I just wonder if it is worth looking at, in relation to the Granary Lake road, the development of some kind of bypass system where you are not going to be trucking this stuff right through these two communities. We have had spills in the area. Just a few weeks ago there was a major oil spill on Highway 108. These are dangerous materials arid I think we should be looking seriously at doing something about it, especially when you consider the weather conditions that we have in northern Ontario.
One of the long-standing arguments against this road is that you did not have the agreement of both communities. I am looking at an article that appeared in the Elliot Lake Standard on October 8, where it states, “The Elliot Lake and District Chamber of Commerce says construction of a road between the uranium capital and Blind River should be given top priority.” The reason for that is that with the expansion of residential development in Blind River I guess a lot of the business men in Elliot Lake are hoping to be able to have those people travel easily to Elliot Lake to shop.
There are two other highways in my own area I would like the minister to give me some indication about when they might be going ahead. We have had extensive discussions and correspondence about the Searchmont highway. That is even more important now when you consider that one of the main reasons for Searchmont is the ski bill. If the King Mountain project does go ahead they are going to have some competition there. It would seem to me if we are going to put provincial money into the King Mountain project we should be doing all we can to ensure that the access to Searchmont is as good a road as possible so that they will be able to compete. There are new owners for the ski operation in Searchmont now and they have done all they could to make that a more competitive operation.
The last one is Highway 631 between Hornepayne and Highway 11 which is in terrible shape. There have been a number of accidents there. The Ministry of Transportation and Communications, on that highway as well as the Searchmont road, is carrying out what they call aggressive maintenance, whatever that is. I would like to see this aggressive maintenance turn into aggressive reconstruction.
To finish off the estimates, I do not like to finish off on a negative note, but I want to give the- minister the opportunity to respond to this. The minister may have seen an editorial that appeared in the Thunder Bay Times-News on Tuesday, November 4. It is entitled, “And This is Dedicated To -- ”
It says: “Provincial Tories engaged in a heap more of tacky campaigning when they flurried into Ear Falls last week for a round of ribbon cutting, beaming in the spotlight and claiming credit for bringing goodies to the north. Transportation minister James Snow and Northern Affairs minister Leo Bernier flew in and were greeted by a throng of 500 residents and school children out early for the occasion and doubtless herded to the site by party organizers.
“The ministers first shared in slicing a ribbon to pieces as part of a six-member official cutting team dedicating a $1 million airport paid for by the people of Ontario. Then came the speeches, and Snow outdid his mossbacked cronies, who, after decades of government in this province, have grown very accustomed to the role. He urged the crowd to acclaim Bernier in the next election and turning to pal Leo, remarked, ‘After all you have done for the Kenora area, Leo, I think they should call you king of Kenora.’ Then they go on, ‘Thanks, Jim, we will stick to regular elections for now.’
“Then the party unveiled a plaque on the wall of a mobile home being used temporarily as a terminal building. A mobile home as a terminal building? Looking closely, one might have seen the ministers jotting reminders to have an opening later for a permanent building, and maybe a closing for the temporary one, too. Then they were off to unveil a monument commemorating last year’s area rocket launchings for a solar eclipse study. Then they were away to a fire hydrant where apparently Bernier helped to turn a wrench to spout out some water for a post signalling extension of the community’s water supply, thanks to a $78,000 boost from the people of Ontario.
“Such horn-blowing forays are outdated and wasteful. If our high-priced elected representatives can’t confine themselves to more productive activities for the people of Ontario, perhaps it’s time some guidelines were established.”
I hope the minister will take this to heart and will look at the particular projects I have raised with him and not look at them in the way of more of this outdated horn-blowing but rather as a way of serving the needs of the people of the north.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: Mr. Chairman, I am sure that if we accomplished all the things in his riding the member for Algoma would like, he would join me with enthusiasm at every ribbon-cutting ceremony. He was disappointed he could not be at Hornepayne, Wawa and Blind River on the same day, three major accomplishments in his riding. He chose to go to Blind River which was the largest one, I admit. I say to the member, when we open up the Hornepayne town centre complex he will not be in Wawa or in his home town. He will be there with me and the Premier. He will be there with the Premier and he will be taking the glory like all the other politicians who have been involved in that project.
But I share the humour the member advances. I think it is right that members of this House recognize the accomplishments in those small communities. I think they like to see one up there to share with them the joy and the pride of moving ahead and improving the quality of life in northern Ontario. The things you recited are all part of the things we enjoy doing on this side of the House and we invite you to share with us the joy and pride of opening up those facilities.
Mr. Wildman: I would like to join you in opening up the Granary Lake road.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: Okay. In connection with the problem of dangerous waste, this is a concern to us in the ministry because of the great distances and, in many instances, the main highway goes through the centres of those small communities. Bill 189, the Dangerous Goods Transportation Act, 1980, which my colleague the Minister of Transportation and Communications now has before the House will, I hope, address some of those problems in a regulatory manner along with the federal authorities. It had not been known, let’s be honest, but since the Mississauga issue that need has arisen in a very real way and I would hope it will address some of the concerns you have. We obviously won’t be able to put a bypass around every community for the hauling of waste but I hope these regulations will be tight enough to alleviate any concerns.
In connection with your inquiry about the highway programming, I will be meeting with my own staff and the MTC staff within the next two or three weeks to set the priorities for next year’s highway construction program and I will certainly make it a point and a commitment to get back to you in writing on those two projects.
Vote 704 agreed to.
Mr. Chairman: That completes the estimates of the Ministry of Northern Affairs.
Hon. Mr. Bernier: Mr. Chairman, I will just take a moment to thank my critics on the other side of the House in both the Liberal Party and the New Democratic Party for the constructive criticism they advanced during the course of the examination of my estimates and the co-operation they have shown in passing these votes within a time frame that will allow us to get on to other things in the Legislature. I appreciate it very much.
On motion by Hon. Mr. Bernier, the committee reported certain resolutions.
The House adjourned at 1:01 p.m.