32nd Parliament, 1st Session























The House met at 10 a.m.



Mr. Smith: Mr. Speaker, a point of privilege: Over the last few days we have been asking a series of questions on the split jurisdiction in the matter of fire safety in hotels, the jurisdiction being split between the Liquor Licence Board of Ontario and the fire marshal's office. I am concerned about the way in which the House is being treated by the Solicitor General (Mr. McMurtry), who, within the confines of this House, answered the questions in one way and then stepped right outside the door and answered the same questions to the press in quite another way.

I believe both the privileges of the members of this House and the conduct of business of the public in this House are undermined to some extent when a senior minister of the Crown does this sort of thing. I simply point out that we have been asking questions for several days on this topic, and on May 5, the Solicitor General's answer was: "There are distinct advantages in having the inspectors who are responsible for licensed premises, who are there on a regular basis, carrying out fire inspections."

He then walked right out of the door and said to a reporter for the Globe and Mail: "The split jurisdiction has concerned the government for some time, and we are obviously going to have to rethink some of this."

The next sitting day, on May 7, he said in the House in answer to a question from the member for Huron-Bruce (Mr. Elston): "I do not think it can be dealt with simply on the basis of yes or no. Come and talk in our Solicitor General's estimates. I am sure you can go down there and discuss it," and so on. He walked right out of the door of the House and said, "I think there is a great deal of wisdom in that recommendation for the split jurisdiction. My own personal inclination at the present time is to separate those two functions" -- the exact opposite of what he had said two days earlier in the House.

I do not take issue with the answer that the Solicitor General gave to the reporters, but I do think we are entitled to the same answers within the House as he felt free to give outside the confines of this chamber.

Hon. Mr. McMurtry: Mr. Speaker, to respond briefly, I only heard the tail-end of the Leader of the Opposition's comments. I just want to point out that the inquest jury came down with its verdict. I think it did so yesterday morning, although I am not sure. I first saw the recommendations just before I entered the House yesterday afternoon.

Given the thorough, conscientious and wise approach to a very complex issue adopted by the inquest jury, it certainly helped fortify my personal view that it would probably be in the public interest to have the liquor inspectors, who are doing the fire inspections as agents for the fire marshal, operate directly under the jurisdiction of the fire marshal, while making it clear I still want to give an opportunity for the views of the office of the fire marshal to be heard.

The Ministry of Consumer and Commercial Relations may have observations pertinent to the issue. The matter is still under discussion. I want to say emphatically that nothing I said yesterday was in any way inconsistent with what I said in the Legislature on Tuesday and the Leader of the Opposition really does know that.

Mr. Smith: As to that last comment, Mr. Speaker, about the Leader of the Opposition knowing that, I must rise and speak to the same point of privilege and simply say that you, Mr. Speaker, were in the House when all of these questions were asked and you yourself will judge, as will others, both the tone and the nature of the comments made by the Solicitor General in the House with regard to the matter of split jurisdiction and the fact that, on both occasions -- not just after the report, but two days earlier as well -- he took a very different tone and said different things outside this House.

In my view, without debating the issue itself because this is not the time for it, those who were present for those debates will realize that both the tone and the substance were different. I believe the House is entitled to the same consideration the Solicitor General gives to reporters who interview him in the corridors.

Mr. Speaker: The Leader of the Opposition's point of privilege is well taken. Because the matter has not been finalized and is still under discussion, it would seem to me that some of the answer contained a personal opinion rather than a straight, factual answer.


Mr. Van Horne: Mr. Speaker, on a point of privilege: Yesterday, in response to a question placed by the member for Parkdale (Mr. Ruprecht), the Minister of Health (Mr. Timbrell) said in part, "Why is it there are more horses' asses in the world than there are horses' asses every time I listen to that honourable member?"

The standing orders, the rules of procedure which we try to follow in this House, state clearly under the rules of debate, section 19(d)(11):

"In debate, a member shall be called to order by the Speaker if he: Uses abusive or insulting language of a nature likely to create disorder." Goodness knows, there is enough disorder in this place but I find it repugnant to have the minister be allowed to get away with what I consider to be a very abusive term. I think he should be called to order and asked to remove that remark.

Mr. Speaker: The minister is not in the House and unfortunately I did not hear the remark. However, when he comes in I will have him reply to your point.

Mr. Renwick: Mr. Speaker, if you recall, the member for Port Arthur (Mr. Foulds), the deputy House leader for this party, raised that matter yesterday and asked that the remark be withdrawn as unparliamentary. Perhaps you would recall that interjection on the matter by my colleague.

Mr. Speaker: The member for Riverdale is right and we will wait until the minister comes to the House.



Hon. Mr. Snow: Mr. Speaker, I would like to announce today the formation of the Public Commercial Vehicles Act review committee, a committee charged with the specific task of laying the groundwork for developing a new Highway Transport Act to regulate Ontario's trucking industry.

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As honourable members know, the government is committed to regulation of this important industry to ensure the continuance of effective competition within a positive business environment suited to the 1980s and the foreseeable future. My ministry has already taken some detailed steps in this direction but, as recommended by the select committee on the highway transportation of goods, we now intend to address the need to revamp the entire PCV Act and formulate a new philosophical basis for regulation of the shipping and trucking industry in Ontario.

The turn of recent economic factors alone would justify such a review, yet also note that my ministry has been dissatisfied with certain aspects of the existing regulations for some time. More importantly, some operators have taken leave to circumvent some of the existing regulations, and this cannot be allowed to continue.

As a result, Ontario shippers, truckers and the public in general are not being well served by the present regulatory framework. Thus, it is our intent that legislation based on a new set of principles will help to eliminate abuse while making the industry more efficient.

Participants invited to sit on the PCV Act review committee represent a cross-section of business and public interests from across the province, including experts like Stephen Flott, executive vice-president and general manager of the Ontario Trucking Association, along with Bruce Alexander, chairman of the Ontario Highway Transport Board, for example. Senior staff from my ministry, of course, will be available to give support and act in a liaison role.

The committee's terms of reference include present and future economic factors, as I mentioned earlier; future needs of the shipping public and carriers; technological advances such as electronic data transmission; and prosecution and penalties for contravention of the regulations, just to name a few areas where attention will be focused.

The main PCV Act review committee has the flexibility and leeway to appoint subcommittees or to engage consultants to carry out in-depth examination of specific topics related to formulation of the new legislation. The ministry will reimburse committee members only for out of pocket expenses, such as meals, travel expenses and accommodation while serving. I anticipate that my ministry will be in a position to prepare legislative proposals by the fall of 1982.

Once again I would like to emphasize that the review committee is broadly based, including representatives from all sectors and interest groups from different regions in the province.

In conclusion, I would like to read out a list of committee members and the organizations they represent. Besides Mr. Flott and Mr. Alexander, whom I mentioned earlier, they include Mr. Cam Carruth, Alltrans Express; Mr. Andy Frazer, Bulk Carriers; Mr. Bill Morris, Imperial Oil Limited; Mr. Rod Taylor, Canadian Manufacturers' Association; Mr. Fred Loftin, United Co-operatives of Ontario; Mr. Ernie Barber, Northern Telecom; Mr. Dave McCalden, Sears Limited; and Mr. Hudson Janisch, University of Toronto, plus nominees from the Canadian Bankers' Association, Motor Vehicle Manufacturers' Association, Insurance Bureau of Canada, Teamsters' Union, the owner-operators, a northern Ontario municipality and selected private-sector interests.

From the Ministry of Transportation and Communications there will be Mr. Mark Larratt-Smith, assistant deputy minister, transportation regulations; Mr. Jeff McCombe, MTC's director, legal services; Mr. Charles Wilmot, MTC's executive director, driver and vehicle regional operations division; and Mr. Robin Summerley, co-ordinator, truck transportation office.


Hon. Mr. Walker: Mr. Speaker, I have a statement to make about automobile insurance surcharges to the elderly. It has been brought to my attention by the superintendent of insurance that he is still receiving complaints from elderly drivers who are claim and accident-free that they are being surcharged or refused renewal of their car insurance by some insurance companies after they pass an arbitrary age, usually 65 or older. In some cases the premium increase has been as high as 100 per cent. In other cases, elderly drivers in good health have been asked to submit to a medical examination before their coverage will be renewed, solely because they have passed a certain age.

Mr. Speaker, I find this situation totally unacceptable. These practices must stop unless there is some justification based on specific medical impairment, driver conviction or accident record. I am not aware of any justification for regarding all elderly drivers, as a class, as uninsurable.

I am aware that the Insurance Bureau of Canada is currently undertaking a study into the complexities of changing the age, sex and marital status system used for rating automobile premiums for drivers under 25, but this is separate from the action I want to announce today.

I want the House to know that we will not tolerate such unfair practices by automobile insurers. As a demonstration of that commitment, we will be conducting our own inquiry into those companies about whom we have received complaints concerning their treatment of elderly drivers. I should mention that the superintendent of insurance has made our plans for this inquiry known to the Insurance Bureau of Canada.

If our preliminary investigation reveals sufficient grounds, the superintendent of insurance will hold a hearing under section 391 of the Insurance Act to determine whether to make an order that these unfair practices be stopped. Our investigation will start immediately under the authority granted in section 390 of the Insurance Act. Investigators will visit three companies and examine their operating and instruction manuals: Commercial Union Assurance Company of Canada, Constitution Insurance Company of Canada and the Home Insurance Company.

Let me also say, most emphatically, that we will also investigate any other insurance company which is reported to us to be engaging in similar unfair practices.


Hon. Mr. McMurtry: Mr. Speaker, I wish today to bring members of the Legislature up to date in relation to the progress being made towards equipping Ontario police officers with protective vests. Members will recall the government commitment earlier this year to purchase the vests for Ontario Provincial Police officers and the further commitment to assume 50 per cent of the costs to provide similar protection for municipal and regional police forces.

The next step was to form a committee to ensure the maximum standards of safety and comfort. That committee included representatives of the police chiefs, the police associations, police governing authorities, the Ontario Police Commission and the ministry's Centre of Forensic Science.

The working committee moved quickly to establish a set of standards. The Ontario Police Commission followed up on that initiative by sending questionnaires to all municipal and regional forces. The questionnaires were designed to determine how many of the protective vests would be needed and whether or not it would be beneficial for the provincial government to assume a central purchasing role.

Results of the survey indicate that approximately 9,600 of the protective vests will be purchased for municipal and regional police officers, as well as an additional 4,000 vests for members of the OPP. The survey also indicated that municipal and regional forces are overwhelmingly in favour of a central purchasing plan for the equipment. Accordingly, very soon, the government will call for tenders on the purchase of the protective vests in an effort to expedite their delivery to our police forces.


Hon. Mr. McMurtry: Also, Mr. Speaker, I would like to draw to the honourable members' attention that next week is Canadian Police Week. I am sure that all the members of this Legislature are as gratified as I am that those men and women who serve us as police officers continue to enjoy such a high level of confidence from our citizens. I am also sure that all honourable members of this Legislature will join me in saying to all of those dedicated officers around the province, "Thank you for a job well done."



Mr. Smith: Mr. Speaker, may I inquire of the Premier; in view of his understandable desire to have a first ministers' meeting on the subject of inflation and, in particular, given the incredibly rapid rise in interest rates and the devastating impact this can have on various segments of Ontario's economy, may I ask the first minister of Ontario, as the representative of Canada's largest province, what he will be presenting as Ontario's view on the subject of these high interest rates?

Is it Ontario's view that these rates should be reduced and divorced totally from the American rates? Is it his view that the rates have to be, roughly speaking, where they are? What will he be saying at a first ministers' meeting?

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Hon. Mr. Davis: Mr. Speaker, I have learned through some few years of experience not to predict what I might say at a first ministers' meeting. I think it is fair to state that if a first --

Mr. Peterson: What?

Hon. Mr. Davis: I do not predict what I might say. I sometimes say something I did not predict I was going to say at a first ministers' meeting. I would say to the member for London Centre I probably will not say anything with which he would agree.

Part of what I would say, I think, at a first ministers' meeting is that the government of Canada has partially created this situation by continued overspending and deficits, which has led to a weakened Canadian dollar, which has in turn forced the government of Canada to increase interest rates to make sure there is no flow of Canadian investment funds heading south of the border.

The member for London Centre knows full well that part of the problem relates to the monetary and fiscal policies of the Liberal government in the nation's capital. He knows that, and he can tell his brother that. He can tell any member of his family that. It happens to be true.

Mr. Peterson: I am telling my father-in-law to make it the Premier's problem too.

Hon. Mr. Davis: I am not going to talk about the member's father-in-law today, unless he provokes me.

I would say to the Leader of the Opposition that the Treasury people and others are developing what we hope are some constructive ideas. I think it would be unrealistic to say that this country can totally divorce itself from what is happening in the United States. But at the same time, we have always argued that we do not have to go lockstep with the American fiscal or monetary decisions.

There is no question that the government in Washington is committed to the supply side of economic analysis, and that it is in the process of reducing money supply. No one is arguing whether it should or should not. The problem we face traditionally in this country is the determination by the government of Canada and the Bank of Canada, for a variety of reasons, to move more or less lockstep with the American financial policies.

Our views are that part of what should be done at this time with respect to inflation is educational. When I say educational, I do not mean pamphlets or communications to the schools, but a recognition by all citizens of this province and of this country that to a certain extent we have to reduce our demands. We have to understand that inflation is eroding not only the incomes of those people on fixed incomes but the incomes of a lot of others. An educational or an understanding process, I think, would be helpful.

I think it is fair to state, and the Leader of the Opposition could accurately predict, that part of our submission to the government of Canada is that governments at all levels have to reduce their rates of expenditure. There is no question that this government, in spite of criticism from the members opposite, has taken a very significant step in the past four to five years to reduce our level of expenditure as it relates to the gross provincial product growth. And I think we have probably had more success than any other government in this country.

If, in fact, there is a first ministers' meeting, Ontario will go with many constructive suggestions. We are not suggesting it is any government's fault. There is no way one can assess this as being the responsibility of any single level of government, and it would be unrealistic to say that the solution lies in the hands of government alone. It is a much broader issue, one that concerns me very deeply.

While I am on my feet, before the Leader of Opposition asks a supplementary -- I am trespassing on the rules of the House -- I would like to introduce to the members of this Legislature two distinguished guests in the gallery: One, an employee of the public sector in Washington, the other, of the city of Chicago in the state of Illinois, Mr. Mackay and Mr. Larson. Incidentally, they happen to be my brothers-in-law who are in this community for another event later on today.

Mr. Smith: Supplementary, Mr. Speaker: If that dissertation is what will be presented at the first ministers' conference, the Premier might not be surprised if such a conference is not called too rapidly.

May I ask the Premier, specifically, what he would propose for the small business sector in Ontario? When interest rates go up so rapidly, the large businesses are paying, effectively, half the interest rates, since their profits are such that they pay 50 per cent taxation in corporate taxes, but the small businesses, which are rarely at that taxation level, have to absorb the entire increase in interest rates, usually to the point where they cannot survive.

What specific measures will the Premier propose for Ontario's small business sector, which in many ways is, after all, the backbone of our economy, to help that sector resist the otherwise inexorable competition from the large business sector, which benefits during a time of high interest rates?

Hon. Mr. Davis: Mr. Speaker, I think we could have a lengthy discussion on this subject. It is perhaps unwise for the Leader of the Opposition to say that all people participating in the larger corporations are the beneficiaries of high interest rates. I question whether that is valid.

Mr. Smith: Compared to the small businessmen --

Hon. Mr. Davis: That is not what the member said. He said they were the beneficiaries. I really question whether that is the case.

In terms of the small business sector, once again I think it is fair to state that there are a number of "small businesses" which in fact are at that higher tax rate. Where the small business community is affected is in those areas where they have inventory or where they are operating as sole proprietors, and where it is very difficult for them to pass on the increased cost of the high interest rates to the consumers.

But I think it is very unwise to lump all small business into that category. It has an impact in varying degrees on the whole business community, on the farm community, on everyone. It is unwise to single out any particular sector.

Mr. Smith: They are going bankrupt.

Hon. Mr. Davis: With great respect, some are in very real difficulty. We do not minimize it. But I would say to the Leader of the Opposition, the main responsibility for interest policy is with the national government. It is with the government of Canada. I do not want to be provocative on this day in particular, but the member knows full well who runs the government of Canada. It is not the party with which I am associated. It is the party with which the member is associated; even though he did not bother to have the Prime Minister to breakfast during his campaign.

Mr. Cassidy: Supplementary, Mr. Speaker: The governor of the Bank of Canada and the federal Minister of Finance have both indicated in the last couple of days that they strongly support the policy of using high interest rates to fight inflation. Given the fact that the federal government is clearly stalling a first ministers' conference until after the economic summit in July, which will confirm that policy and lock it into the point where there is no way that any province can make a change in this country, is the Premier not contributing to this tactic by refusing to set out clearly the alternatives Ontario has to offer?

Does the Premier really have alternatives to offer, or is he just part of a tag team in Pierre Trudeau's wrestling match with inflation?

Hon. Mr. Davis: I will leave the wrestling up to the leader of the New Democratic Party. He has demonstrated so well how effective he is. I would only say to him that if there is a first ministers' meeting, Ontario will participate in a very constructive way.

I am not in a position to say to the leader of the New Democratic Party whether in fact there will be a first ministers' meeting. I have asked for it on two or three occasions, and so far have had no response.

Mr. Peterson: Supplementary, Mr. Speaker: Everyone recognizes that the harsh interest rate policy is a federal matter and that some of the recipients of that policy are in Ontario. The Premier has intervened before -- for example, in the farm sector to some extent -- to provide some relief for those people who have been hit so hard.

Given, in my judgement and other people's judgement, the emergency situation we are facing today with record high interest rates, why would the Premier not set aside a targeted emergency fund of a specified amount of money to help people who are having serious difficulty in renewing their mortgages and in small business? Why would he not set this aside on a short-term emergency basis because that is the nature of the dilemma we are in today? That is the nature of the crisis. The government has money for other things; it has money for pulp and paper. Surely a $50 million or $75 million or $25 million fund at this time in history is their responsibility.

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Those people who are being hurt are here in this province. Surely, the government should do something now in the short term, recognizing, of course, that if these high interest rates are structural, if we are going to have to live with them for the next few years, we will all have to adjust to that. In the short term now, over this summer, since it looks like an emergency, why can the government not do something? It is not that much money.

Mr. Cassidy: Talk to Pierre.

Mr. Peterson: Oh, shut up.

Hon. Mr. Davis: Mr. Speaker, I think the last part of the member's question was probably the most relevant part. I couldn't hear it from over here; I can only guess what was said.

I think the member for London Centre, perhaps more than some, has an understanding of interest rate subsidy policies, and of the potential inequities that would be created if we started moving into short-term policies of this nature.

Take the mortgage field, for instance. We introduce mortgage interest subsidies; for what period of time? Three months, four months? If we say to the lending institutions, "You will only lend for a year," what happens if there are rate changes in that period of time? What happens to those people who are taxpayers who ultimately have to pay for these subsidies?

I think there are some very real problems even in the business community. What has to be done in my view is to find ways and means of forcing or persuading the government of Canada to move on a national basis. I think it would be irresponsible for a single provincial government, for instance, to move across the board with respect to interest rates.

This Premier, before others, has registered concerns about inflation, which includes interest rates. We will continue to do so but we are not going to embark upon any sort of Band-Aid or ad hoc situation in order to resolve this problem.


Mr. Smith: Mr. Speaker, a question for the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations: He made a statement today about consumer protection for the elderly. I wonder if he is aware that one of the services required most frequently by the elderly, often in a very emotional situation, is nursing home service.

Elderly people frequently have to be in nursing homes. Their relatives have to arrange nursing home care for them. Is the minister, as a consumer protector in the government, satisfied with the situation where it is absolutely impossible for the consumer or the potential consumer of that service to obtain information about the nursing home in question where he might wish to send the relative?

Is he satisfied with the situation where, for instance, the inspection reports on nursing homes in Ontario are kept secret? Not even a member of the Legislature is allowed to look at the inspection reports done by civil servants in Ontario. There is no rating system for nursing homes, no public information given out, and the consumers must act totally blindly and simply choose at random whatever nursing home happens to be willing to take the relative in. Is the minister satisfied with that situation?

Hon. Mr. Walker: Mr. Speaker, in the time that I have been minister in this department and, in fact, in the eight years that I have been a member of the Legislature, I have never been asked for an inspection report about any particular nursing home from any constituent. Frankly, it seems to me it is a problem that most people can resolve on their own. Most people can see what they are getting. Most people go and see the actual facility, and one of the fortunate things in our society is that our nursing homes are wide open. All the people have to do is to go and visit them and they will see what they will get.

That seems to me to be one of the best measures of whether or not we have a properly operating nursing home. If the member was to come to my riding, I would simply take him around to each of the nursing homes. Indeed, during the election, I went through each one of them, room by room. I can tell him that the nursing homes in my riding are great. I suspect that if the Minister of Health were here today he would tell the Leader of the Opposition that, by and large, nursing homes in Ontario offer and afford a very good service to the elderly of this province. I do not think he should be criticizing the service in that way.

Mr. Smith: Is the minister unaware of the reports that have appeared monthly in the public press, detailing horror stories in various nursing homes? Has he ever tried to place relatives in nursing homes in various parts of Ontario?

Is he aware that just walking into a nursing home and looking around can hardly tell anyone what the level of care is or the competence of the employees, such as whether the employees are there at night or whether medicine happens to be left on bedside tables where people might take it inadvertently?

Simply walking in and looking around a nursing home hardly constitutes an inspection that tells one whether his relative is safe in such a home or whether there are qualified inspectors who inspect these homes twice a year.

Can the minister give a single, solitary reason why nursing home inspection reports in Ontario should remain a state secret unavailable either to consumers or to the members of this Legislature?

Hon. Mr. Walker: I can tell the Leader of the Opposition there are 367 nursing homes in this province, most of them operated by private enterprise and most of them doing a fine job. All one has to do is go and take a look at some of them. I think in this province we have a very good level of health care delivered to our elderly through the nursing homes.

He asks whether I have tried to get someone into a home. Of course I have. We all have had to try to get someone into a home and, by and large, most have been placed within a relatively reasonable period of time, given that sometimes lists are created that are not pure lists.

In spite of that, I think we can say that nursing homes in this province offer a level of care that would be the envy of jurisdictions throughout North America.

Mr. Cooke: Supplementary, Mr. Speaker: I am sure the minister understands -- perhaps he does not, since the Liberal Party did not understand either a year ago, when I introduced my private member's bill to make nursing homes nonprofit, charitable organizations -- that the basic problem with nursing homes in this province is the fact they are in the private sector. It is the only area where we provide health care to our elderly, and we do it for a profit instead of putting care before service.

Since the minister and his government insist on keeping them in the private sector, and insist that competition is useful in the nursing home sector, I ask the minister how people can possibly shop around for the best nursing home and prove that competition does exist when they are not even allowed to look at the records to find out what staffing infractions there have been, to find out what infractions there have been for food supplies, and to find out what kind of recreation, social programs and physical rehabilitation is provided.

The minister has provided us with no rational reason why these reports should not be provided publicly, something my former colleague David Warner demanded for three years.

Hon. Mr. Walker: Mr. Speaker, why does the honourable member think he needs to have a report to go in and take a look at a place? If he has two eyes, if he can see lightning and hear thunder. It seems to me one can go in, look at a nursing home and see whether the floors are clean, whether the level of care is valid and whether the conduct and care is proper.

All one has to do is talk to some of the people in the nursing homes. I do not think there is one of the 367 nursing homes that would not admit one in a minute. I think even the member would be able to come out of one and figure out whether it was a pretty good place.

Mr. Cassidy: Mr. Speaker, if I can stand aside from the usual tone of this place, I think all members of the House will want to join me in congratulating the Premier on the event that I understand is to take place today and will join with me in wishing well to his daughter and her new husband on the occasion of their wedding. [Applause.]

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Mr. Cassidy: Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the Premier with respect to interest rates and with respect to the policies announced and reiterated again, by both the federal Minister of Finance and the governor of the Bank of Canada, that they see high interest rates as the major tool to fight inflation.

Does the Premier endorse that policy on behalf of the federal government? Will the Premier indicate clearly, here in this House, that Ontario is fundamentally opposed to that suicidal, interest-rate policy, which is going to bankrupt our province if it is kept in force?

Hon. Mr. Davis: Mr. Speaker, I do not purport to be an economist. The Treasurer (Mr. F. S. Miller) has said, and I have said on a number of occasions, that we are not persuaded that the government of Canada and the Bank of Canada must of necessity follow the interest rate policies of the United States.

I am not going to argue in this House about the interest rate being the main tool in terms of money supplied. I do not think there is any question that this country, the United States and many other countries are faced with some very tough decisions about their economies at this moment. None of us should minimize the economic situation.

We in this government have never argued, though, that interest rates per se or tight money necessarily resolve the problem. On some occasions we see it as being somewhat counterproductive in that when you decrease money supply, you reduce consumer demand. Reduction of consumer demand then can have an impact on unemployment and that, to us, establishes a cycle that perhaps is not legitimate.

We are not going to be put in the position of endorsing the government of Canada's monetary policy. At the same time, I am not here to give any simplistic sort of answer as to how the situation might be resolved. If there is a meeting, we will have some constructive suggestions to offer, as I said at the outset.

While I am on my feet, and in the sort of magnanimous spirit of the day, may I say many happy returns to the leader of the New Democratic Party on his birthday, which is on Sunday, as I understand it.

Mr. Cassidy: I thank the Premier for his good wishes, but I would hate to see us stand too far aside from some of the things that have to be raised in this House.

If the Premier will not endorse the policy of the federal government with respect to interest rates, will he now repudiate that policy and indicate clearly that as far as Ontario is concerned the high interest rate policy is destructive in terms of the economy of this province?

The excess economic growth that the governor of the Bank of Canada keeps on talking about is not a reality in this province, and we will not be able to grow, to look after the people of this province or to finance needed social and public services unless Canada and Ontario turn clearly away from the ruinous interest rate policy that the federal government is now imposing on us.

Hon. Mr. Davis: I will make my answer very brief. We recognize that the high interest rate policy is having a negative effect on a large number of people in this province, yes.

But, while I am on my feet, I must also say one should not always look at the gloomy side during this period of high interest rate policies. The figures were out yesterday. The labour force in this province is up over that of April 1980 by some 87,000 people, which is very close to the 100,000 that we always keep using. Our unemployment rate is down. Seasonally adjusted, it is now down to 6.2 per cent, which is some 1.4 per cent below the national level.

I just thought, in case the member missed the figures yesterday, he would like an update as to the economic situation here in Ontario.

Mr. Mancini: Supplementary, Mr. Speaker: How can the Premier stand in this House and make these appalling and hypocritical statements, that he and his government can do absolutely nothing to relieve the plight of small businessmen, and especially that of home owners now facing the difficulties of renewing their mortgages, by saying that he and his government can do nothing for them, when back on September 11, 1975, he stated very clearly that he and his government had a policy to help home owners to keep their homes by an interest subsidy program that was outlined on that day in a very lengthy speech? Why can he not implement the program, which has been ready since 1975?

Hon. Mr. Davis: Mr. Speaker, I must compliment the honourable member. He obviously pays a lot of attention to the speeches I make.

I happen to have a copy of the same speech. I remember it, of course, without a copy of the speech, but in case I have forgotten, it reads: "If, however, the federal government fails to respond within 30 days, Ontario will have no option but to act once again in our own best interests."

I think it is fair to state that it extends a little bit beyond the 30 days but, in response to our suggestions and as a result of this, in 1975 the federal government of Canada introduced the modified assisted home ownership program. The member may be too young to remember it, but they did. The federal government also introduced the assisted home rental program, it extended capital cost allowances to the end of 1977, and it included a land incentive grant. All were parts of the amendment to the National Housing Act in 1975 which came about as a direct result of the speech I made and the member is now reading so carefully some six years later.


Mr. Cassidy: Mr. Speaker, I have a new question to the Premier which relates to what Ontario can do to affect one group who were particularly hard hit by the combined impact of the increase in mortgage interest rates and the increase in speculation that is taking place in housing across the province right now.

I draw to the Premier's attention a couple of recent examples from the Metropolitan Toronto area: a home on Spruce Street which rose by $33,000 in the course of six months, and a home on Montrose Avenue which rose by $18,500 in five months, both of them increasing in price at the rate of 66 per cent per annum.

Since this is within Ontario's competence, will the Premier now undertake to protect legitimate home buyers who simply want shelter and a roof over their heads by bringing in a land speculation tax that will drive out the speculators and the speculative activity in the market so that people who want to have a roof over their head for shelter will be able to get it and not be priced out of the market?

Hon. Mr. Davis: Mr. Speaker, I know the member from Ottawa Centre is disappointed that the minister of municipal affairs and housing is not here to give him a reply. However, I will try to recall what the Minister of Housing said to the leader of the third party in relation to the same question yesterday. If the leader of the third party wants to ask it again, I will repeat it.

The Minister of Housing made it abundantly clear that there are many communities where affordable housing is available. I happen to live in one where there are some. If the leader of the third party wants to come out this weekend -- not tonight, but some time Saturday or Sunday -- I will take him around to show him some of those homes. They are great homes that are available at figures we believe are affordable.

I think it is also fair to state that, in terms of the interest rate policy which we object to, one of the ironies may be that it may dampen speculation in the housing industry. I do not think there is any question but that will be one of the impacts. I am not saying it is justified because of that, but there is no question that will take some of the heat out of the speculation that may be going on.

I should also point out to the honourable member that we had a land speculation tax at one point. I think it is fair to state that in terms of some areas of speculation, particularly on those fringe areas where development was taking place, it had perhaps a short-term effect; it is very hard to measure. The problem that confronts government is that if you introduce a land speculation tax related only to residential housing, say, I think that would be unfair to a lot of people who are making a legitimate capital appreciation related to the rate of inflation.

I think to move in because -- I believe this -- there is a short-term speculative market in some areas is really no solution. To make it very clear, the government at this moment really is not contemplating a land speculation tax as it would relate to residential accommodation.

Mr. Cassidy: Given the number of voices saying, in response to the suggestions for a land speculation tax, that a speculation tax would deaden or dampen the market and therefore would not be good for their kind of business, is it not true that what the government is really saying is that when it comes to choosing between the people who are involved in speculation, the people in real estate industry, and the interests of ordinary citizens who want to have a home, the Premier has lined up with the speculators and against the interests of people who want to have a home of their own?

Hon. Mr. Davis: I know it is lovely rhetoric for the leader of the New Democratic Party to use, but he does not believe it himself. I think it is fair to state that very recently it has been demonstrated conclusively that one reason this party did so well, one reason we are here and they are over there, is that we have never aligned ourselves with any particular group, unlike them. The ordinary people voted for this party on March 19. They will vote for it again four years hence because of the sensitivity of this government.

Mr. Ruprecht: Supplementary, Mr. Speaker: The Premier has said something very interesting in terms of how to fight inflation and high interest rates. He indicated that the way to do it was to have an education policy established in this province. He said earlier that we should tell our people how to spend their pennies. Is this going to be government policy, or does the Premier have something else in mind? Is he going to go around personally from school to school and tell us how to spend our money? What precisely is he going to do, as he indicated earlier?

10:50 a.m.

Hon. Mr. Davis: Mr. Speaker, I think the Minister of Health (Mr. Timbrell) was right in his assessment of the new member for Parkdale, who asks such a simplistic and rather facetious and satirical question. That is not what I said. He knows it and can smile in the back row, but I have a little friendly advice for him: if he really wants to contribute in a meaningful sense, he should ask a positive, construction question and I will give him a positive, constructive answer.

The reality is that no one ever contemplated going around to the schools, although I take great delight in it. I would be delighted to hear from the Liberal Party of Ontario as they develop their new policies for the 1980s, as they become more "liberal," as I read in one publication.

How do you become more liberal? The honourable members over there tried to convince the Globe and Mail they were becoming more conservative; now they are trying to convince others they are becoming more liberal. I will be delighted to see whatever policy emerges, knowing full well that whatever it is next week, it will be different four weeks later.


Mr. Peterson: I have a question for the Premier, Mr. Speaker. The Premier will recall that in 1977 the federal government proposed the child-rearing dropout provision for the Canada pension plan, which, to refresh his memory, would have allowed women to drop out of the labour force for a period of up to seven years to raise their children so they would not lose any pension benefits. It has been estimated that the absence of that provision costs women up to 22 per cent of their pension benefits later on.

Ontario vetoed that suggestion. Subsequent to that, Quebec and seven other provinces agreed to include the so-called child-rearing dropout provision. The Premier's response then was that he would wait for the report of the Haley commission. The Haley commission report is down now and it says very clearly: "The government of Ontario should approve the amendment of the CPP for the child-rearing dropout provision as now legislated to take effect without delay."

Why does the Premier not institute that today? It would be good for all the women of this province, including his daughter, who is getting married today, and she would celebrate this great event with him.

Hon. Mr. Davis: Mr. Speaker, I am not sure that my daughter at this moment in time is totally aware of the provisions of the pension programs in this province.

The Haley report is a matter that will be discussed, I hope with some degree of thoroughness and interest, by members of this House. There may be some recommendations the government may decide to move on in the interim, but I would really like to reserve that until the select committee is appointed and it starts it work. I am fully aware of the recommendation in the report.

Mr. Peterson: There are a number of provisions in the Haley report that do not need a select committee to look at them. Obviously there are a number of complicated questions. But surely this is one, and an important one; it is an important symbol to the other provinces. If the Premier effectively held up the veto across this country, he would affect women not only here but also right across this country.

It can be done today. It is simple and all it needs is for the Premier to say, "Yes." Why does he not do that now? It is an important start towards pension reform, which we all recognize is a massive problem for this country. Start there now.

Hon. Mr. Davis: I appreciate the views from the member for London Centre, and I have certainly filed them away. I understand what he is saying.

Mr. Cassidy: Supplementary, Mr. Speaker: Is it not true that the reason the government resisted that amendment to the Canada pension plan in 1977, and the reason it continues to resist it, is that the Conservative Party of Ontario has yet to understand that women want economic equality in Ontario, that they are in the work place to stay and that they should be treated as such, rather than being relegated to the kitchen?

Hon. Mr. Davis: Mr. Speaker, I think the leader of the New Democratic Party was totally unsuccessful in trying to inspire some provocative debate here this morning. This party fully understands all of those realities and has been supportive of them --

Mr. Smith: You vetoed it.

Hon. Mr. Davis: We did not agree to go along with it at that point. We did not veto it.

Mr. Speaker: May I interrupt question period for a moment and ask all members to join me in welcoming to this House the chairman of the public accounts committee of South Australia, Mr. Heini Becker.



Mr. R. F. Johnston: Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the Minister of Labour. The minister is no doubt aware of the rumours of the impending closure of the Johns-Manville plant in Scarborough and the cloud of fear that is therefore hanging over the workers there. My question concerns the present and future widows of Johns-Manville who live under this cloud.

The minister will recall that too many months passed before Mrs. John Dodds finally received support, even though the immediate cause of death was not the asbestosis that crippled Mr. Dodds. How is it then that the widow of Mr. Herb Barney, another asbestosis victim, who received compensation when alive, has received no support even though Mr. Barney died in October 1980?

Is the minister convinced that settlement of cases of this kind is being carried out expeditiously, sensitively and generously?

Hon. Mr. Elgie: Mr. Speaker, I must tell the member in all honesty that I am not personally aware of any impending closure of the Johns-Manville plant but, if it is so, I will be glad to explore that. Nor am I aware of the particular case the member has told me about, but I think he will agree that the ultimate decision reached by the appeal board in the John Dodds case reflects the capacity to evaluate problems fairly and equitably.

Mr. R. F. Johnston: I hope it will also be a matter of precedent. We dealt with that one behind the scenes. I think it is time we got this issue out in the public.

How does the minister explain what has gone on in this case, that Dr. Ritchie has not yet filed his report on the causes of Mr. Barney's death after eight months? What kind of sensitivity has been shown by Workmen's Compensation Board workers who one week sent a letter to me as Mrs. Barney's representative telling me that Dr. Ritchie's report was in and there was no connection in the death; then a week later sent me another letter telling me, "We have made a slight error; that report is not in, so we are unable to tell you." And now, a month and a half later, I have still not received a report on the results of Dr. Ritchie's report?

Hon. Mr. Elgie: Mr. Speaker, and I say this with the greatest of respect, if members intend to put questions seriously and want a serious response, I suggest they let me know ahead of time. The member knows very well that I have no information available about that specific case. So if the member means it, will he let me know about it and we can have a meaningful discussion; otherwise, I say to him, do not do that stuff.


Ms. Copps: Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the Minister of Transportation and Communications. Is the minister aware that an Oakville-based company by the name of Connor Development Services Limited has just resigned and given up a $140,000 contract with a subsidiary of Urban Transportation Development Corporation? The reason for the resignation is, and I quote: "We can no longer continue with a project which does not do justice to the people of Hamilton and the region and to principles of sound public participation."

Is the minister aware of the resignation, and can he explain why the position of Connor Development Services Limited was reiterated by Ainslie Hector, the co-chairman of the community advisory committee on the UTDC project in Hamilton, who says, "We are just sick to lose Mr. Connor, but it is something that had to be said."

Hon. Mr. Snow: No, Mr. Speaker, I am not aware of any such resignation. I will look into the matter and get an explanation of the reason.

Ms. Copps: If, as is stated in the Hamilton Spectator of yesterday, Connor Development Services Limited -- an Oakville-based company, I would add -- has completed successfully and with no problems three other major transportation studies in Hamilton, why is there a problem with this study?

Will the minister come back to this House with assurances that the UTDC is not going to be another project swept under the rug or given to Hamilton as a guinea pig?

Hon. Mr. Snow: I have no idea where the honourable member would get information that would give her any grounds to make such a ridiculous statement. I have to admit that the Hamilton Spectator is not usually my favourite reading, but I will try to get hold of a copy. I do not happen to be familiar with the firm the member has mentioned as being a firm from my constituency, but I will become more familiar with it.

11 a.m.


Mr. Renwick: Mr. Speaker, I have a positive and constructive question for the Premier which relates to a little unfinished business.

On April 6, the Supreme Court of Canada denied the appeals of Harold McNamara and Sidney Cooper with respect to their conviction in the harbour dredging case. The Premier will undoubtedly recall a statement that he made in the House on July 8, 1977:

"I must say, Mr. Speaker, that I am looking forward to the opportunity of sharing the contents of Mr. Justice Campbell Grant's report with the members opposite on the first occasion that it is available to me as Premier of this province. I intend to share that information with all of those honourable members who are interested."

I want the Premier to know of my continuing interest. May we have the report?

Hon. Mr. Davis: Mr. Speaker, I will discuss it with the Attorney General (Mr. McMurtry). There may still be some legal problems. But I note the honourable member's interest.


Mr. Mancini: Mr. Speaker, I wish to direct a question to the Minister of Transportation and Communications. Has the minister taken the time to review the report of the Ontario Task Force on Provincial Rail Policy? If so, has he decided which of the nearly 200 recommendations are going to be given priority status, what the time frame for implementation will be and what the cost to the Ontario taxpayers will amount to?

Hon. Mr. Snow: Mr. Speaker, as you and the member well know, the task force report, which is excellent and went into great depth in looking at all matters relating to rail transportation in the province, was presented to me about a week ago. The complete report is being assessed and reviewed by the senior officials in my ministry. As I believe I said in a statement a week ago, I will be reporting back to the House in due course on the action we intend to take on the many recommendations.

As the honourable member knows, some of the recommendations in that report fall under provincial jurisdiction, but many do not. We wanted that information so that we could make representations to the other jurisdictions.

Mr. Mancini: Why does the minister feel that the senior people in his ministry have to review the task force report, when it states very clearly in the first few pages that his deputy minister, Mr. Gilbert, was a member of the task force? Does the minister not feel that when the cabinet commissions a $300,000 report, it should list, in priority fashion, what needs to be done and what the cost will be?

Hon. Mr. Snow: I am well aware that my deputy minister was a member of that task force; so were other deputy ministers from the government and some very knowledgeable outside people.

As I said, the report has been received. I find from experience that when one gets a report that has a large number of recommendations, the recommendations can usually be sorted out into about three groups: those that can be implemented quickly and without too much difficulty; those that take additional study, research and costing; and there is usually a group of recommendations that are not acceptable to the government.

We are following the same procedure that we followed with regard to the reports of the select committee on highway safety, the select committee on highway transportation of goods and many other such reports.

We are in the process of reviewing the report at this time. The fact that my deputy minister was a member of the task force does not make the total report a fait accompli. We do not automatically say we are going to do everything that is recommended.


Mr. Philip: Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations. is the minister aware of a Bermuda-based company named Coastal International, whose shares are traded on the Toronto Stock Exchange? Is he aware that the prospectus for this company states the success of the company depends on its ability to deal with suppliers that other companies are precluded from dealing with because of US anti-boycott legislation?

Does the minister feel that, even though we introduced our own anti-boycott legislation in Ontario in 1978, the Discriminatory Business Practices Act, this company should be allowed by the Ontario Securities Commission to sell its shares to Canadian shareholders?

Hon. Mr. Walker: Mr. Speaker, I am aware of the matter involving Coastal International, which is a Bermuda-based company. That company has been before the Ontario Securities Commission with its prospectus. The Ontario Securities Commission has given an opinion on the specific clause that restricts sales to American citizens. They have ruled on that clause and said it does not actually contravene the provisions of the Discriminatory Business Practices Act.

As well, some concerns have been expressed by a number of solicitors in Toronto who have brought the matter directly to the attention of the Ontario Securities Commission. Its chairman, Mr. H. J. Knowles, has replied to one of them that he would be prepared, under section 63 of the act, to conduct a public hearing on the matter as a question of public interest. All the particular lawyers need do is make application to him and that matter will be decided by the Ontario Securities Commission. However, its specific view was that it did not contravene the Discriminatory Business Practices Act.

There is provision under the act for the argument raised by these lawyers that the matter should be addressed as being contrary to the public interest of the citizens of Ontario. The OSC is prepared, under that act, to address the matter on the question of public interest.

Mr. Philip: Since the minister mentioned opinions expressed by certain lawyers, does he agree with the opinion expressed to him by one lawyer, Mr. Irv Kumer, a person who until recently held a high office in his ministry, who stated in a letter to him that Ontario could become a haven to evade the US anti-boycott legislation? What is the minister prepared to do to avoid a discriminatory company of that type operating in this province?

Did I hear the minister suggest public hearings would be held by the Ontario Securities Commission to see whether it was in the public interest to have this company trading on the Toronto Stock Exchange? In the common interest the government or the Ontario Securities Commission already could have ceased trading under section 61, 62 or 63, I believe, of the act.

Hon. Mr. Walker: I gave the wrong number of the section of the act. It is section 123. That is a question of whether there should be a cease and desist order issued to Coastal International in respect of trading on the Toronto Stock Exchange. Mr. Knowles, the chairman, has indicated he is prepared to hold a hearing on the public interest section to determine that.

It is rather interesting that under the American boycott legislation, which is far more severe than the Ontario act, the Securities and Exchange Commission itself has ruled that specific section does not contravene its particular act. If the Americans do not consider it contravenes their act, when they have a somewhat toothier piece of legislation, I wonder if we would have the same view.


I am prepared to read a letter. I think it is appropriate and will answer many of the member's concerns. Perhaps I can put this on the record. It is a letter addressed to Mr. Norman May, a lawyer with the Toronto law firm of Gordon, Traub and Rotenburg, and is dated April 21,1981. It is from the vice-chairman of the Ontario Securities Commission and specifically addresses that question. It reads:

"Dear Mr. May:

"Re: Coastal International Limited

"In the absence of the chairman, I have for acknowledgement your letter of April 16, 1981. I am familiar with the matter. Your request was considered today by a panel of the commission. We have been unable to conclude on the basis of your letter that any ground exists for the commission to initiate action of its own accord under the Securities Act.

"The concerns expressed by you appear to be based on the extensive disclosure made in the prospectus that this Bermuda company, Coastal International, was organized to engage in certain business activities which were unavailable to its promoter, the Coastal Corporation, because of United States anti-boycott legislation. Similar disclosure has been made in a prospectus filed with the United States Securities and Exchange Commission, through which the shares of Coastal International were distributed, as dividends, to the United States shareholders of the Coastal Corporation. Despite the proposed activities of Coastal International, this distribution was not prohibited or prevented by the SEC nor, so far as we are aware, by any other US regulatory authority.

"Under the circumstances, since the United States had not objected to the distribution of securities of Coastal International to its citizens, there appears to have been no grounds for the director or his staff to refuse to issue a receipt for the prospectus on public policy grounds.

"Turning to the point raised through (c) in your letter, we find it difficult to accept the suggestion that the Discriminatory Business Practices Act is intended to require underwriters to sell securities other than in compliance with applicable laws. For instance, as you are no doubt aware, it is common practice to restrict the distribution of securities to residents of those jurisdictions where they may lawfully be offered for sale, frequently to Canadian residents only and not to residents of the United States.

"I would repeat the chairman's earlier invitation to make an application under the Securities Act if you deem such an application appropriate."

It is signed H. S. Bray, QC, vice-chairman of the Ontario Securities Commission. I think that addresses the question the honourable member has raised.

Mr. Renwick: Supplementary, Mr. Speaker: Since the administration of the Discriminatory Business Practices Act does not fall under the Ontario Securities Commission, will the minister direct the question to the Attorney General (Mr. McMurtry), who has a personal and specific interest in the Discriminatory Business Practices Act, to ask him for his opinion on the very question on which this whole question hinges, with the request that if, in the opinion of the Attorney General, it does not preclude the filing of that prospectus here, will the Attorney General or the Minister of Consumer and Corporate Relations introduce legislation to ensure that it will?

Hon. Mr. Walker: Mr. Speaker, the Discriminatory Business Practices Act, 1978, falls within my jurisdiction, and not within the jurisdiction of the Attorney General. The Attorney General may have an opinion on it. The member for Riverdale will have to ask him that.


Mr. G. I. Miller: Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the Premier. Is the Premier aware that the land where the proposed industrial waste site has been proposed is class one and class two land? If he is not, I would like to send him my copy from the University of Guelph indicating that.

Now that a panel has been established for preliminary hearings, and the minister has indicated that this will guarantee an even fuller opportunity for examination of the safety of this site and the technology than might be possible under the Environmental Assessment Act, and since this act has been set aside to protect all the people of Ontario, will he include in the criteria for that panel to look at other sites around Ontario that were established by the MacLaren report back in July 1980?

Thirdly, when they are advertising for the hearing that is going to be held in Dunnville on May 28, will he include the local press so that the local people will be aware of the hearing procedure?

Hon. Mr. Davis: Mr. Speaker, I think there were three questions. The first was whether I was aware of something. If the honourable member wishes to send me his communication from the University of Guelph, I will pass it on to the Minister of the Environment (Mr. Norton).

The second question, which was really the third, was whether we would advertise in the local paper. I think that could be accommodated.

The remaining question was whether we would be prepared to investigate several other sites. I think the honourable member knows that this is one of the problems in the legislation, and that we are going to have a hearing related to this particular site.

The member for Huron-Middlesex (Mr. Riddell) indicated on his return from an instructive visit around the world to investigate similar facilities that he would be delighted to have it in his riding; at least, that is the report I got. None the less, in spite of that offer, the hearing will proceed with respect to that particular site.

Mr. G. I. Miller: Is the Premier aware that Alberta, in a similar situation, gave the people of Alberta the opportunity of input by looking at many sites around the province before making a decision? That might be a worthwhile practice.

I will send over three copies of the land classification for the area: one for the Premier himself, one for the Minister of Agriculture and Food (Mr. Henderson) and one for the Minister of the Environment. I will also invite the Minister of the Environment to come down and acquaint himself with the area so that he will know exactly what he is talking about.

My leader and the leader of the third party took the opportunity of coming down to the site, but I do not believe the Premier or the Minister of the Environment ever had the opportunity of looking at the site.

Mr. Speaker: Does the member have a question?

Mr. G. I. Miller: Yes. Will the Premier or the minister visit the site?

Hon. Mr. Davis: Ask the minister.

Ms. Bryden: Supplementary, Mr. Speaker: I want to ask the Premier whether, before the May 28 hearings start on the South Cayuga site, he will consider changing the order in council setting up the hearings, because of the unsatisfactory arrangement whereby the Ontario Waste Management Corporation is both the proponent and the judge in the case. It seems to me that is a very unsatisfactory kind of hearing.

Hon. Mr. Davis: Mr. Speaker, these matters are very complex. The government will make sure the hearing is conducted in such a way that the citizens in that part of the province will know that it is being properly held, that the information is there and that it is understood. With great respect, I doubt that there will be any change in the order in council.


Mr. Swart: Mr. Speaker, in the absence of the Minister of Natural Resources (Mr. Pope), perhaps I can direct my question to the Provincial Secretary for Resources Development.

Can he tell me whether the Minister of Natural Resources is planning to reintroduce Bill 127 or some other form of comprehensive pits and quarries bill that would give adequate environment protection and provide for rehabilitation revenue to prevent the continuation of the tremendous damage that has been done to this province by the aggregate producers?

Secondly, can he tell me whether this government will respect the recommendation made by the standing committee on resources development last fall not to proceed with the notorious resources planning policy of the cabinet, which would have given the province away to the aggregate industry?

Hon. Mr. Ramsay: Mr. Speaker, in answer to the honourable member's first question, it is my understanding that the Minister of Natural Resources is reviewing Bill 127.

With respect to the member's second question, I would have to review the minutes of that resources development committee. I will do that and get back to him the first of the week.

Mr. Swart: The provincial secretary did not state whether Bill 127, the comprehensive bill, will be reintroduced. May I ask if he has any knowledge whether the bill will be one that will merely amend the Band-Aid bill to the present pits and quarries act? And can I remind him of the devastating condemnation of his government, with regard to the operation of the pits and quarries and the inadequacy of the act, which was contained in the report of the Ontario Mineral Aggregate Working Party of Ontario when it reported that, owing to the lack of specifications and regulations and other omissions in drafting, the act is difficult --

11:20 a.m.

Mr. Speaker: Mr. Swart, is that part of your question?

Mr. Swart: Yes, it is part of my question.

Mr. Speaker: Will you state it that way?

Mr. Swart: Will the provincial secretary remind the minister of this report so that we will have an adequate bill introduced to deal with a very serious problem that exists in this province?

Mr. Speaker: The time for oral questions has expired.

Mr. Swart: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker: Will you take into consideration allowing ministers to reply to any questions or supplementaries that are asked? It was the practice of the previous Speaker to do that, even though it may have gone a minute or two over the question period. There is not much point in asking a supplementary or a question if an answer is not going to be permitted. Will you take that under advisement?

Mr. Speaker: The honourable member will remember what I said yesterday about extending the question period. And I just draw to the attention of all honourable members that if they are going to ask a question they should make it brief and to the point; they should ask the minister specifically what they want to know, and not make a speech. For all the members' information, this morning the question period has gone over by a full two minutes.

Mr. Mancini: That is because the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations (Mr. Walker) was so long in one of his answers. You didn't chastise him for his answer.

Mr. Speaker: Order, please. I am not chastising anybody. I am just bringing it to the attention of the honourable members that I am indeed being extremely fair in allowing the questions to be asked.



Resumption of the adjourned debate on the amendment to the amendment to the motion for an address in reply to the speech of the Honourable the Lieutenant Governor at the opening of the session.

Mr. Charlton: Mr. Speaker, I want to start out by passing my congratulations and best wishes to you in your new role as Speaker as well as to the new Deputy Speaker and the new deputy chairman of the committee of the whole House. I wish you all the best in your endeavours in trying to control this quite often unruly crowd. I hope you will consult with the procedural affairs committee, which has been a very active committee of this Legislature over the last four or five years, concerning problems that you may encounter.

I want to start out today by spending a few minutes talking about the campaign, as a number of others have done in their comments on the throne speech. I have noticed in a number of people's comments from the other side that new members, back-benchers, have taken offence at the comments from this side of the House, both from the Liberal Party and from this party, about the arrogance that is being displayed on the part of that government.

Some of the speakers have made an effort to try to say that there is no arrogance on the back benches, and that may very well be true. It certainly does not relate to the difference between the kind of government we had when the governing party on that side of the House was in a minority, where they were forced to sit down and talk reasonably about issues, and the kind of attitude that is displayed at present. I do not see any other way to define that kind of attitude except as arrogance, and I will talk about a number of aspects of that just briefly.

In my riding the campaign on the part of the government was very negative and very destructive in a number of ways. One of the approaches that the Tory candidate took in my riding was to say to the people of the riding: "Look, if you want to get anything for Hamilton, if you want to get anything for the riding, you have to have a government member. If you want to get patted on the back, if you want favours, you have to have somebody on the government side of the House or you will not get anything."

That is a very negative approach. It is a slur, in fact, on the whole democratic process, because in this parliamentary system the democratic process is made up of government and opposition, as you well know, Mr. Speaker. Both sides of the House, both the government party and the opposition parties, are a valid, integral and important part of the whole democratic process. You obviously understand that much better than did the government party candidate in my riding.

What that comment really means is that, if any riding in the province has other than a member of the government party, that riding cannot expect to be dealt with fairly, honestly and straightforwardly by the governing party. That is just not acceptable in the political democratic process that we are supposed to represent.

What that whole process reflects is a very cynical view of the political process by the Premier (Mr. Davis) and by the members of the government party -- perhaps not all of them, but at least those who are seasoned campaigning Tories. What it really reflects is an ability on the part of this government to trade on and promote the kind of cynicism out there in the public about politicians that has been growing fairly rapidly over the last 10 or 15 years. It is an inability on the part of the government to understand why that cynicism is developing.

By that process of attempting to blackmail voters into voting for the government to protect their own interests in a pork-barrel kind of environment, the government is feeding a cynicism and a misunderstanding on the part of the public about the real reason we are here and what we are supposed to be accomplishing.

The funny part of the whole process, if there is any funny part in it at all, is that the Tory candidate in my riding was wrong. We watched the Premier and cabinet ministers of the government run around the province making promises and writing cheques in ridings. A number of other members, both in the Liberal Party and in my own party, have talked about that. But the reality is that, instead of proving what the Tory candidate in my riding suggested, that you must have a government member to get anything for your riding, the process worked in reverse.

For the most part, the promises that were made and the cheques that the Premier and the cabinet ministers wrote, the goodies that were handed out during the campaign, were handed out in areas or ridings where the government did not hold the seats. The government was there trying to buy those seats back by promising or handing to the people of those areas something that the government felt was significant enough to warrant or attract support in those areas, as opposed to overall provincial programs, which I think most of us would much prefer to see in the way of election promises during a campaign.

Strangely, the people in those areas of the province that have been staunchly and solidly Tory for ever and ever got very little in the way of promises and handouts during the campaign. The people who benefited the most were those in the areas where the government felt it had a chance of winning opposition seats. In some cases, obviously, they accomplished that. But it is a very cynical and negative process, and it certainly does not serve the democracy that we are supposed to represent and that we are supposed to attempt to keep vibrant and viable in Ontario.

11:30 a.m.

Mr. Speaker, I hope through you to suggest to the members of the government party, and perhaps even to the Premier, that in future the government party take a little more positive approach to government versus opposition and to recognize and admit publicly the necessity of having two sides in the parliamentary process and to try to help us and the members of the other opposition party to diminish that cynicism, that disbelief in the political process that is growing out there in the public.

The Liberal candidate in my riding was a very good, honest and straightforward gentleman who tried to fight the election on issues for the most part. I congratulate him on the straightforward nature of his campaign, even though we disagreed on a number of the issues that we discussed.

But the government candidate did not seem to want to deal with issues very much at all. In fact, on one occasion during the campaign he went so far as to accuse one of the organizers of an all-candidates meeting of attempting to blackmail him because he did not want to attend the meeting, because the issues that were going to be discussed were issues he did not want to have to confront. He actually accused this person of blackmail because she said the press was going to be there and they wanted him there in order to represent the government's view.

That does not seem to me to be blackmail. It seems to me to be a perfectly legitimate request from voters in the constituency that the representative of all the parties make themselves available for comments. It was a very negative and, again, cynical response on the part of the government candidate to label this as blackmail and fly off the handle just because he did not want to deal with the specific issue that was at question at that public meeting.

I am not sure what the reasons were, but for whatever reasons the government candidate in my riding decided that he could not attack me and he could not attack issues in our campaign so he chose instead, along with many of the people who worked in this campaign, to stomp around the riding making ridiculous comments like: "You cannot vote for Mr. Charlton. His leader, Mr. Cassidy, is a loser just like Joe Clark." That became the standing joke of the campaign in my riding. It seemed almost unbelievable that a former Conservative federal member who served under Mr. Clark could take that kind of an approach to campaigning in an election campaign.

I want to tell you, Mr. Speaker -- I am not sure because I have never worked with Joe Clark; Mr. Beatty may have been correct -- Joe Clark may, in fact, be a loser, but I want members to understand clearly that there is no member of this caucus and especially not the member for Ottawa Centre (Mr. Cassidy) who can ever be compared in any way to Mr. Clark and his problems.

I want to talk today, Mr. Speaker, about two basic areas which have now become my responsibility as a critic for this caucus. I want to talk a bit in the area of the environment, I want to talk a bit in the area of the Ministry of Revenue.

I will start out in the Ministry of the Environment. There are basically three things I have chosen to talk about here. I have chosen these three because each of them demonstrates something a little different in terms of this government's approach to the environment in Ontario. Each of them demonstrates something important in terms of some of the lacks, some of the inabilities on the part of this government to deal with the environment in the province.

I want to start out with a subject that relates to the Keating Channel right here in Toronto and to a question I asked in the House yesterday of the Minister of the Environment (Mr. Norton) -- a question to which I got a very confusing and unacceptable answer.

The situation is that the Keating Channel is presently being dredged, allegedly in order to avoid flooding on the Don River. There is very serious concern out there about the sediments on the bottom of the Keating Channel that have accumulated over a number of years. Those sediments contain, and are fairly heavily contaminated with, heavy metals, oil, grease, PCBs and a number of other toxic substances, the kind of substances we have read about in the media fairly regularly over the past four or five years and which we have debated fairly regularly over the past four or five years. They are substances that all of us have come to know and to fear and to work hard to find a way to avoid or dispose of properly.

We are in a situation with the Keating Channel where this contaminated muck on the bottom of the channel, some say, has to be removed in order to avoid flooding. Others say it is dangerous to remove it, to stir it up at all. The government has agreed to an environmental assessment under the Environmental Assessment Act. Unfortunately, they have decided to allow the dredging to continue while the environmental assessment goes on.

After the issue was raised here last fall and after a rather hectic debate in this House and in the media and at city council and at the Metro level in Toronto, the Premier agreed, as a result of a letter written to him by Dr. Chant -- a gentleman who is now involved with the South Cayuga situation, but who at that time was on the committee that dealt with the Environmental Assessment Act. He wrote to the Premier saying it was imperative -- maybe I had better quote him exactly instead of paraphrasing him:

"It is imperative that a hearing of this specific issue should be held as soon as possible and before any irrevocable approvals are given to the request for exemptions under the Environmental Assessment and Environmental Protection acts."

He asked the Premier for a public hearing so that the issue of allowing the dredging to continue while the environmental assessment was going on could be publicly dealt with and the problems associated with allowing that dredging to continue could be dealt with publicly and the pros and cons aired. At this point we are not even sure what all the dangers involved are. No one is sure, including the Ministry of the Environment and the government. Dr. Chant made that recommendation. The Premier said, "I concur with Dr. Chant's recommendations and I will ensure that an inquiry comes about."

Now we find that an inquiry commissioner has been appointed and an inquiry will occur -- a private one, though -- where the conservation authority and the harbour commission will be the proponents of the dredging, and the opponents out there will be allowed to make submissions to the commissioner as well. But they will not be in a position to know what the harbour commission or the conservation authority have said in support of the proposal. They will not be able to cross-examine and they will not be able to respond effectively to whatever is being said by the proponents.

That seems to me to be an absolutely ludicrous situation in the light of the comments that have been made here in the last few days about openness and public information. We are in a situation where, by the time the environmental assessment is finished, if the dredging is allowed to continue, somewhere between two thirds and three quarters of the job will be completed.

11:40 a.m.

None of us knows at this point what the environmental assessment will conclude. If that assessment concludes the dredging should not be done, that environmental damage may come from dredging, both to the channel itself and to the Toronto harbour where the filth is going to be dumped, with the possibility of affecting the city's drinking water; if it concludes -- and none of us knows at this point what it will conclude -- that the environmental damage from that process is too risky, or possibly too damaging, the damage will already have been done to the greatest degree because between two thirds and three quarters of the dredging will already have been completed.

We have had a number of back-bench members from that party speaking to this House in this debate in the last few days talking about the serious commitment on the part of this government to continue to look after the best interests of the people of Ontario. Does the process I have just described sound like a government that is serious about protecting the best interests of the people in Toronto? It certainly does not to me.

Yesterday afternoon and last evening in his response to the throne speech, the member for Parry Sound (Mr. Eves) gave a very good speech. I think it was a little naive, but it was very good none the less. He went on at some length concerning the issue of acid rain. The views he expressed in terms of the problem and the views he expressed in terms of what has to be done to solve the problem were for the most part positive and supportable.

Unfortunately, in his efforts as a member who was not here through all the debates we had in this House, I think he was a little naive in his approach to defending the government's record on acid rain and cleaning up the acid rain mess in Ontario. I want to take a few minutes to run through some of that and perhaps, Mr. Speaker, since he is not here this morning, you can refer him to Hansard so he can sit and think a little more seriously about the government's record and, perhaps, instead of finding himself an entirely frustrated and disillusioned member of the government party a year from now down the road, he can sit down and see what has gone on in the past.

Perhaps because he is a member of the government party he can fight within the party's structure to see that, in terms of acid rain, things happen a little more positively on that side of the House instead of the kind of lack-lustre, negative approach that has gone on over there.

It may be true that in some ways Ontario is better off than some other jurisdictions, but that is in no way an excuse for the kinds of things that have happened in Ontario, the kinds of things that potentially still will happen. The comment has been made a number of times, and the member for Parry Sound made the comment again yesterday, that we cannot solve our own acid rain problem because so much of the problem comes from south of the border.

That may well be true in scientific terms and in terms of fact, but I recall in 1979 when the then Minister of the Environment of Ontario, Mr. Parrott, said the fight against acid rain will fail if we try to take on that fight alone. That comment was repeated again yesterday by the member in question.

The then Minister of the Environment said again in October 1979 he would not push the fight against acid rain because he felt it was unfair to make demands of industry in Ontario when it would not solve the problem anyway. When various reports were released on the extent of the damage being done by acid rain, in almost every instance this government and its Environment minister would start out by denying the results of the report. Then, as other experts confirmed what the report was saying, the government would finally sit down and admit that perhaps there was something in that report.

One of the reports in question was released in the fall of 1979. For the first time, it said that, yes, a lot of our acid rain pollution comes from the United States, but that a lot of it is generated right here at home. Significantly, that was one of the things that the member for Parry Sound missed yesterday in his speech.

If he thinks the government of Ontario's record on the fight against acid rain is a good one, then I suggest that he go upstairs to the library and go through some of the press reports and the Hansards to see what is going on in this House. When there are headlines like, "8,000 Lakes Dying As Ontario Stalls," that is not a good record. That is not an indication that this government has taken a positive and aggressive approach in the fight against acid rain.

The whole debate about whether or not we can solve the problem in Ontario is an effort to sidetrack the issue. How can the federal government of this country expect to convince the Americans that they should clean up their act if we have not been effective with the major polluters in this province, such as Inco, Ontario Hydro and some of the steel mills? How can we ever hope to convince anyone elsewhere that they should do something we are not prepared to do ourselves? The whole idea that we cannot solve the problem by ourselves is a red herring, and I am becoming extremely tired of it.

We have admitted that acid rain is a serious problem; that it has killed thousand of lakes and is going to kill thousands more; that most recent reports state that it has started to affect the vegetation in some areas of this province. If we are really serious when we admit those things are happening and say that the federal government has to negotiate some kind of substantive agreement with the United States, then we have to be serious about dealing with the problem of acid rain right here in Ontario.

I seriously hope the member for Parry Sound, who spent a considerable amount of time dealing with that question in his speech yesterday, will think a little more seriously about the kind of attitude this government has displayed.

The government has prepared ads dedicated to the clean water aspect of Ontario. Those ads are almost a total denial of the things this government has admitted in this House concerning the extent of the problem of acid rain. They are an attempt on the part of the government to dupe the public and do not accurately portray the reality the people of Ontario are confronted with. Those ads suggest, "Where else could you find a clean lake like this?"

Why don't those ads talk about the real situation, about the damage that has been done to thousands of lakes and the thousands of lakes in this province that are now considered dead, with virtually no marine life at all? Those ads should clearly state that we are going to have to start some head knocking and spending of money to clean up the mess. The people of this province should understand what they are confronted with and in what direction we will have to go in order to solve those problems.

The Minister of the Environment can attend conferences around this country and admit the seriousness of the problem, and he can admit it here in the House, but when the government issues this kind of advertising to the public, repeatedly, on their radios and televisions, how can you expect them to get upset about the problem? How can you expect the public to understand the need to expend moneys, both public and private, to solve the problem, because they have been misled and they do not understand the extent of the reality of the problem?

11:50 a.m.

So we have talked about the Keating Channel and we have talked about acid rain, and I have tried to point out two major lacks in the approach this government takes to environmental protection in the province. On the one hand they set up laws that create a process to protect the environment and then they continually go out to find ways to circumvent the law. On the one hand they admit a serious environmental problem, but for some magic reason they determine that, "Well, even if we clean up our own backyards we are still not going to have totally solved the problem," and that they do not have to do anything.

I want to go on now to my third example, because it is probably the most despicable example of environmental neglect in the province of Ontario. That is the whole case around the proposed liquid waste disposal facility at South Cayuga. It is an example of manipulation; it is an example of opportunism.

They did a study on South Cayuga, called the MacLaren report, that was not intended to say anything about South Cayuga. It was a study created to find the best site in Ontario for a liquid industrial waste, toxic waste, disposal site. That study group considered the South Cayuga site and rejected it, and then, at the urging of the minister of this government, pulled that site back into the study. Even in the study's final report, under the 19 different criteria they looked at, that site was not the best site, not the safest site, not the most appropriate site environmentally for the project the government is proposing. And yet the former minister chose that site, and the present minister continues to defend that site in spite of all the things that have happened since.

The announcement came last fall. The minister was strident, he was hard, he was firm. But over the course of about a month and a half, in a minority situation, he started to back down. He agreed that a number of things would happen; he agreed that the new waste management firm would conduct its own study -- its own environmental assessment, if you like -- and he agreed that a committee of this Legislature would also study the problem. And those hearings were just barely started before the election was called.

That committee of this Legislature was going to see and hear hundreds of witnesses. But if the members across the way want to understand why we can get so negative and so cynical about the motives on that side of the House, that committee was stopped by an election, and there has not been a single word from that side of the House about renewing and continuing that process.

Obviously if it was legitimate to set it up in the first place it should be legitimate to continue it now. But there has not been a single word -- not in the throne speech, not in ministerial statements -- not a comment about the possibilities of continuing that legislative committee on the appropriateness or inappropriateness of South Cayuga as a liquid waste disposal site.

Those fears were expressed by a number of members of this Legislature when the election was called, and those fears have come true. The members across the way ask us why we are so negative. We are so negative because we have learned through the years we have been here quite frequently we cannot believe the things we are told from across the way.

The former Minister of the Environment said the public was going to play a major role in the decisions about South Cayuga. Then just a week later he said in absolute terms that project would go ahead. I ask you, Mr. Speaker, how can a minister on the one hand say that the public is going to play a major role -- this was just before the election as well -- in determining whether or not that site at South Cayuga is developed as a liquid waste disposal site, and just one week later say in unequivocal terms that project will go ahead bar nothing? It makes an absolute joke out of listening to some of the statements which come from that side of the House from time to time.

A number of experts in this province have said South Cayuga is clearly the wrong place to put this site. I grant that the experts do not always agree with each other, and in this case there are some experts who are saying that it is the right place to put the site. But certainly, when there is that kind of disagreement amongst those who are supposed to be the most knowledgeable in terms of this kind of a facility, then that situation should definitely warrant a full assessment under the Environmental Assessment Act.

If the experts who are supposed to be the most knowledgeable are that split, and serious questions are raised, instead of the minor secondary kind of assessment of the situation we are going to get in this particular instance the full public environmental assessment process should be put in place.

Those were laws which were created by the government of this province, that party across the way there. The promises which were made to us when those pieces of legislation, the Environmental Assessment Act and the Environmental Protection Act, were put into place -- the promises which were made to us and to the people of this province were that we will never again allow the mistakes to be made that we have seen made in the past and that have caused us to bring this legislation in. Yet we may very well be making the same mistake again.

I have listened very carefully, Mr. Speaker, to the protest groups from the Dunnville and from the South Cayuga areas. On no occasion have the demands of the protesters been unreasonable. On no occasion have the protesters suggested that the dump absolutely should not go in South Cayuga. All those people have asked for is that a full assessment be held under the Environmental Assessment Act, a law created by the government of this province, the same government we are now talking about -- supported in large part by the opposition parties. They have not been unreasonable.

The government response to that has been no one wants the dump in their backyard. No one wants the dump; that is a reflection of the attitude on the part of that government. It is the old divide and conquer theory. Set municipality off against municipality, community off against community. Then when you do the people of South Cayuga in, when you dump them because you dump on them, what other municipality, what other community in the province will really get upset about it, because they did not want it in their backyard either?

That is the old divide and conquer theory. It does not work and it is wrong. It is the wrong approach to dealing with the environment in this province. It is the wrong approach because it never leads to full solutions to the problems that face us. It always leads to half solutions. The government thinks, "If we dump in South Cayuga, we won't win that seat. But it doesn't matter because everyone else in the seats we hold is saying 'Whew." That is not the proper approach.

12 noon

The evidence is being ignored by the government. It is the government in this case that is being unreasonable, not the people out there. The people out there, whom the government is accusing of saying, "We don't want that dump in our backyard," are not saying that.

The people in South Cayuga are not as negative as the government is, and they are not as negative as the government accuses them of being. All they want is to see the laws applied. All they want is to see they get a full hearing, so they know when that hearing is over whatever processes are put into place in South Cayuga will be safe, will protect their water tables and their families.

I had to laugh during the course of the campaign when the stories hit the press about the flooding. It was occurring right on the proposed site, and the Premier and the Minister of the Environment were jumping up and down saying, "It isn't flooding; it's melting snow." We did not have any bloody snow this year. I sat and talked to a gentleman who cranked his way back and forth across that melted snow in a boat. As two people who had never been out to that site, the Premier and the minister were fools. This whole process is foolish. It is the third example of the major lack in this government's approach to environmental protection in Ontario. It is that negative split of community against community.

We went through the same process in Hamilton-Wentworth when the pressure to close the Upper Ottawa Street dump grew so great they had to start to take action. They waited far too long as it was. They had to go looking for another landfill site because they still had not dealt with the abilities that exist in this world to move to other technologies for waste disposal.

They started surveying in the township of Glanbrook and this government and its agents -- the regional government of Hamilton-Wentworth was involved in the process as well -- intentionally went out and set two communities against each other. They used those communities against each other in an environmental assessment hearing.

That is another example of the negative divide and conquer approach this government uses. It does not solve anything. Of course people do not want dumps in their backyards.

To intentionally set community against community like that and end up using them in a process of law in this province is just not acceptable.

I say seriously and clearly to the new members of the Conservative Party in this House that this government's record on environmental protection is not the worst in the world, that is true, but -- and I have to give a fair share of the credit to the Liberal Party because they have become fairly involved in raising environmental issues in this House -- time and time again the opposition parties in this House have had to force the government to stand up and even admit the problem, let alone start moving towards possible solutions to it.

I would like to move on to the Ministry of Revenue for a few minutes. The Minister of Revenue (Mr. Ashe) is not here now but I welcome him to his new job in the Ministry of Revenue. I want to tell him seriously -- because I have debated with him a couple of times in this House over tax issues and specifically over property taxes in Ontario -- that if the attitudes he reflected in a couple of those debates continue now he is minister, he is going to have a rough time in this House, because the attitudes he expressed in some of those debates were just totally unacceptable.

I would like to take a moment to say to the new minister that he is going to have to go a long way to fill the shoes of the minister he is replacing, Lorne Maeck, the former member for Parry Sound. Perhaps the member for Parry Sound should take note of this as well, because Mr. Maeck was probably the most progressive, understanding, flexible, well-liked minister -- or member for that matter -- on that side of the House.

He was probably the only minister who was honestly prepared to sit down and try to work out some solutions. In fact, on occasion we did in my former days as the revenue critic when he was the minister.

It is going to be very difficult for the new minister to fill those shoes because of the very inflexible, strident stands he takes occasionally. We may sound strident over here from time to time, but we are prepared to sit down and work out solutions to the problems we see. I would like to see some more of the ministers follow the example set by the former member for Parry Sound in implementing some of the solutions that are negotiable.

I want to talk about a number of the programs in that ministry, and I will not be too long. My colleague from Scarborough West (Mr. R. F. Johnston) and a number of my other colleagues, and probably a couple of Liberal members as well, have raised the problems that have evolved around this new approach to senior citizens, and tax grants for senior citizens, over the last year.

Yesterday we asked the minister a question, saying: "In this crazy situation, Mr. Minister, you promised us that because mistakes were made by the computer, because we did not have the time to sort out the computer tapes, those seniors would not be harassed or pressured."

My colleague asked him yesterday, "What do you call it when all of a sudden auditors show up at a senior citizen's door, unannounced, to start going through his financial records?"

I do not know about him, but I call that harassment. I can see myself being a little bit frightened by that, never mind someone who is a little unsure about what the process is all about.

When that program was implemented there were some negative comments from this side of the House about Tory election ploys and buying seniors' votes. Perhaps we sometimes get a little overly negative, but the government's position last spring and last fall, when they were having problems with the program, and again this spring, is inflexible.

Periodically this government seems to have an inability to admit mistakes and to make an honest effort to correct them. Eventually, perhaps, they have been corrected, but sometimes the admission of the mistake speeds up the process of correcting it, simply because it gets the tension out of the air, both for the minister and for the critic, and also for the employees who end up coming under fire when this kind of stupidity goes on.

When the government set up this program, it was doing it for, as I recall, two or three reasons. One was to give some seniors in this province more in a property tax grant than they received in the past. True, some got more. Unfortunately, a lot got less and some got none at all.

Let us not get into that debate today, because we can have that debate again, perhaps, under the budget speech.

There were supposedly several other reasons for setting up these new grants. It would be much simpler for senior citizens; if they did not have any taxable income, they would not have to fill out income tax forms to send off to Ottawa; they would be able to get these grants at a time when they could use them to pay their property taxes or their rent.

12:10 p.m.

That all sounded very nice, but, unfortunately, none of it has come about. It is not a simpler process for senior citizens. It is true that they do not have to fill out income tax returns any more, but some of them were confused and still did it anyway. And they still have to fill out the forms this government sends them. They still come to our constituency offices for assistance with them.

Then they go through the hassle of spending up to three or four months trying to get through to the ministry on the telephone. It is a good thing there was a toll free line, because it would have cost some of them a fortune for the number of times they had to call to try to find out what happened to their application and the reason for the holdup. The bureaucracy created by this new program did not simplify anything; it just created something worse than they had before.

Since the minister is not here, Mr. Speaker, I would like it if you or one of his colleagues could bring this to the minister's attention. Perhaps the minister and the government would consider how they can change the program to accomplish the original intent. Or perhaps they will scrap the program and get on with the process of upgrading the Ontario tax credit program to deal with the problems that senior citizens have. The fact is that the process was much simpler under the old system, although it needed serious upgrading in terms of the benefits provided.

That brings me to another issue in the Ministry of Revenue. It has been said many times in this House that although the Ministry of Revenue administers the provincial property assessment program, it is not completely responsible because policy is set by the Treasurer. Now I suppose that some of the policy in relation to the municipal aspects of finance at present in the Ministry of Intergovernmental Affairs will, presumably, be moved to the Ministry of Housing.

Property taxation in Ontario is the major failing of this government. There are a lot of areas where it has failed to reach their total objective, but this is the only area where the government of this province has totally failed, not only in terms of the objectives it set out in 1969, but in terms of interim objectives that have been set repeatedly during the course of the 1970s and even into this year.

It was probably the most frequently mentioned issue in three ridings in Hamilton, and I understand it was also the most frequently mentioned issue in a number of ridings here in Metro. Those were the ridings where the Conservatives did not quite manage to defeat us, perhaps because we were talking to the issue that most concerned the people in those ridings. I think it is time this government took the project off the shelf, dusted it off and had a serious look at getting on with the job of property tax reform.

I do not want to get into all the specifics here today, but the problems out there are huge. There are the little people who have been run out of their homes just because they are on fixed incomes while property taxes continue to escalate year after year; or people who are not even on fixed incomes, just average working people who have had the unfortunate luck, or lack of it, to live in a municipality where the government has carried out one of its halfway measures, the section 86 equalization program. They bought a house 30 years ago on a 2.5- or three-acre parcel in the fringe area of a municipality like the city of Hamilton.

This government is intent on trying to use the property tax system to deal with speculators and land speculation, but these little home owners are not speculators. Most of them do not have a clue what their property might be worth today. They know they bought it 20 years ago for $25,000, and they know it is all they can do just to keep it up -- to keep the roof on it, to keep the little bit longer than normal driveway in fairly good shape, and to keep the grass cut and seed it so it is not a mess this year. They are not speculators.

This government has been so intent on trying to deal with, catch and punish land speculators through the property tax process that in areas where section 86 has been carried out or where the government has gone on the market value approach to assessment, as it has in a number of municipalities in this province, the government has literally destroyed little people in the process -- average people, average home owners. That government over there continues to ignore that problem and continues to work through the process.

I think we have some of the answers, but I do not want to suggest that our answers are the only answers. There are a number of different approaches that could be taken to solve the problems in the property tax structure. It seems to me that the best approach to take is a package approach, such as we attempted to do in the white paper we put out last year. It does not have to be the same package we suggested, but it should be a package approach that deals with the questions of property taxation and property assessment, the grant structure in municipal finance, the educational system and educational costs in Ontario, and the Ontario tax credit system.

Whether the government takes the suggestions we have made or any one of three or four other options that exist and it knows about -- and about which I hope the minister knows about; the former minister did at least -- in a package that deals with all those issues, all the problems that confront property taxpayers in this province can be dealt with effectively.

We can create a situation where senior citizens who have no taxable income will not have to pay any property taxes. We have gone halfway there; let us deal with the whole problem. The government gave seniors $500 in a tax grant, some of whom do not need it, but that $500 tax grant is still only half or less than half of what senior citizens need in terms of the amount of property taxes they are paying today.

I think even the members on that side of the House understand that any person living on an income level where he has absolutely no taxable income, if he wants to be able to maintain and keep his home, cannot afford to pay one penny of property taxes. I think that is understood.

What I am saying to the government, and to the minister specifically, is that all those problems can be dealt with, can be resolved, can be handled -- and I think even handled co-operatively in this House with a committee of this House -- if we sit down and hammer out a package and make some compromises. We all want to see those problems solved.

What bothers me at this point is that in the throne speech, and in the comments that have gone on in this House just before the election and since, there has not been a single mention of what used to be one of the key programs this government was involved in, province-wide property tax reform. That seriously distresses me.

12:20 p.m.

Without going on any longer, that is a fairly concise summary with some specific examples that have pointed out a number of different aspects of it. That is why the parties on this side of the House get so negative. That is why they have difficulty believing what the government is saying. That is why the parties on this side of the House get so upset when they see the government, in order to accomplish its own purposes, trying to bend the rules -- rules that in many cases it set itself.

The Premier made some comments this morning about positive questioning. I want to suggest that, if we had some positive and honest approaches and initiatives in this House on the part of the government to deal with the problems we are faced with in this province -- my colleagues and I have talked about some of them -- honest and positive approaches to ask the members of all three parties to sit down in committee or in the House to work on some of these problems, which are not even ideological in nature, and work out compromises and solutions, then the Premier would find himself getting more positive responses and approaches from this side of the House.

Mr. Kells: Before I begin, Mr. Speaker, I want to congratulate the Deputy Speaker and the new Speaker on their appointments.

I recall well that the new Speaker and I were first-time candidates on behalf of our party back in 1971. It is gratifying to me to see how he has advanced in his political life. Unlike some others here, I have had the experience of meeting him under different circumstances, particularly when I used to bring my lacrosse team into his riding of Peterborough on an almost weekly basis every summer.

It also pleases me that his appointment is not only a reflection of his ability and contribution to the proceedings of this chamber but also another significant achievement for the town of Peterborough in having one of its own in such a distinguished position.

Today I want to talk not only about the throne speech but also about what I believe to be some of the most serious concerns affecting the riding of Humber, concerns that no doubt will be debated in this House over the next few years. They are issues that could be considered only urban subjects, although I am confident they are the type of subject matter that will eventually impact on rural areas also.

Prior to getting into these areas, I want to talk a little about my political background and the route that led me to my nomination and election in Humber riding. Some of the opposition members appear to believe that Tory backbenchers somehow evolve out of thin air and arrive at this assembly to be programmed to perform by government whips and cabinet ministers.

If I may, I want to go all the way back to the provincial campaign of 1948. Some in this House may recall that it was the election in which the old Co-operative Commonwealth Federation under E. B. Jolliffe did very well in Metropolitan Toronto and in Ontario, taking 21 seats altogether and becoming the opposition. I was 12 years old at the time and worked on Mr. Jolliffe's campaign in York South. York South was much larger then and was considered a strong working-man's riding. Even today it continues to send members of the opposition to Queen's Park.

One of the controversial issues at that time was the fact that there were two well-known Communist candidates running in Toronto in the persons of Joe Salsberg and Walter Macleod. The Co-operative Commonwealth Federation campaign of Mr. Jolliffe in particular took great pains to make sure that the public did not associate the CCF party with the two Communist candidates, and of course the Tories tried to imply that they were closely associated.

I recall well the night of jubilation at the CCF headquarters on Oakwood Avenue and how surprised I was when Mr. Salsberg and Mr. Macleod, who also won, arrived to join the party. It was on that occasion that I began to question political rhetoric.

My next close relationship with political parties began when I went to work for the old Toronto Telegram in 1958 at the age of 22. I reported news on what was then the radio and television desk, and I watched the many campaigns of the day. As part of my duties at the Telegram, I developed a practitioner's expertise on radio and TV news, which was then in its infancy, and for that reason I was approached by MacLaren Advertising to help in the federal Liberal campaign of 1962. I set up a political radio news bureau for the Ontario part of the campaign.

In essence, I used to work at the Telegram throughout the day and on the Liberal campaign in the evening, taping speeches of Liberal cabinet minister hopefuls and pumping them down the telephone line to the radio station to be used on the day of the speech.

In the course of doing this work I had occasion to meet and tape people like the honourable Jack Pickersgill, the honourable Paul Hellyer, the honourable Donald MacDonald, the honourable Mitchell Sharp, and Red Kelly of hockey fame, among others. As you know, Mr. Speaker, Red Kelly was about to take York West for the Liberals at that time. You might say that I had the opportunity to evaluate new and old Liberal candidates on a one-on-one basis, and it was a revealing experience. I grew through this exposure to have a more precise understanding of the political campaign process.

Honourable members may recall that the result of that election was indecisive, and it was not long before Mr. Pearson and Mr. Diefenbaker were at it again. This time I was approached by Ted Rogers, who had just purchased radio station CHFI. He asked me to provide a similar service for the federal Progressive Conservative Party, using his station facilities; so I repeated the exercise, only this time I became more familiar with the personalities in the Conservative cabinet.

One might say that through this extracurricular activity I began to develop a keen awareness of politicians and their campaign messages and styles. Also during this time, as part of my job at the Telegram, I attended the leadership convention that selected John Robarts as Progressive Conservative leader and witnessed the ritual that takes place when a party selects its leader in a convention atmosphere.

Finally, in 1964, I left the Telegram and joined MacLaren Advertising, which was very active in the federal and provincial Liberal Party politics of the day. As a result of this change of location, I became involved in the Liberal convention for Ontario leader on behalf of the member for Brant-Oxford-Norfolk (Mr. Nixon) and, as you will recall, the Liberal Party saw fit at that time to elect Andrew Thompson. It would not be the last time for me to be on the losing side.

A short time after this, in the federal election of 1965, I was sent to Nova Scotia as MacLaren's contribution to the campaign of the honourable Allan MacEachen and to be of help throughout the province.

I only take honourable members through this little tour to illustrate that I was given the opportunity back then and for a number of years to see political parties at work and to watch the deliberations and decisions that were made and, of course, the results when the public finally made their feelings known.

Shortly after the 1965 election, I joined the telecast crew of Hockey Night in Canada, where I spent the next five years happily involved in helping to bring hockey games to the public and put my political interest and aspirations behind me.

However, my interest in political life never waned, basically because I came from what might be called an old Ontario family. Our roots go back to the Waverley area of Ontario, which lies in the riding of my colleague the member for Simcoe East (Mr. McLean). As a youngster, I had many a lively discussion with my Tory grandmother and my great aunts. I used to take great joy in criticizing the political decisions of George Drew and later Leslie Frost. I might say I am happy to see that Simcoe East remains a Conservative stronghold and has done so for the past 70 years.

12:30 p.m.

I take great pride in my family background and roots in this regard. In 1975, I organized a family reunion in Simcoe East and wrote a family history which I have taken the liberty of giving to the new member so that he will have a detailed understanding of why I have such a high regard for the area he represents.

As a result of my rural raising and the opportunities I have had to get to know the inner workings of the political system, I developed a strong appreciation for the principles and policies of the Progressive Conservative Party and, as a result, found it easy and satisfying to make the decision to become an active Progressive Conservative.

Having grown up as a teenager in the Lakeshore part of Metropolitan Toronto, I became interested in the welfare of our party in that riding and successfully stood for the PC nomination there in 1970. As you know, Mr. Speaker, our leader, Premier John Robarts, retired that same year. The leadership convention was held in March, and once again I had the pleasure of attending the political renewing of the faith. In the course of events, the Lakeshore delegation and I supported the Premier (Mr. Davis) as leader, and the past decade has certainly vindicated our judgement in that regard.

In the election that took place that fall, I lost in a close battle to the New Democratic Party incumbent, Pat Lawlor, but I gained a tremendous amount of experience as an active campaigner and made a commitment to the political process in a permanent fashion. As most members of this House will recall, our party gained a substantial majority and I joined the Honourable James Auld as his executive assistant.

For three years, I watched with admiration the daily workings of the House. I gained through experience and I developed an even greater appreciation of our political system as it allows for debate, discussion and finally produces legislation that governs our everyday lives here in Ontario. At that time, I determined that when the opportunity came along I would again stand for office, and I was confident that some day I would have the opportunity to participate as a member of the government party.

As most members may appreciate, there are any number of routes available and none more immediate than the area of municipal politics. At this point, I want to observe how pleased I am to have read the background of the 21 other new Tory members and to find what a plethora of municipal experience comes with the Tory class of 1981. As a matter of fact, among us, we have 133 years of municipal political experience, not counting trustee experience, and this is both in rural and urban areas. I believe this type of representation by the government allows Ontarians in all areas and all walks of life the availability of a direct line to the government caucus.

In short, I believe one of the reasons our party has been so successful in receiving mandates to govern is the fact that our individual members, through their endeavours, have gained continuing and constant support from the people in their respective ridings.

I am sure my own case is duplicated many times over. In 1976, I became an alderman in ward one in Etobicoke, which takes in a good portion of Humber riding. I became a controller and a Metropolitan Toronto councillor in the election of 1978. Running against the incumbent in the mayoral campaign of 1980, I finished second. As you know, Mr. Speaker, there is only one mayor; so I turned briefly once more to the private sector.

It was only in January 1981 that I learned of the impending retirement of the Honourable John MacBeth. At this juncture and on behalf of the people of Humber riding, I wish to express our appreciation for the service and dedication of Mr. MacBeth. I know that most of the members in this chamber have at one time or another had the opportunity to work with John, and I am aware of the high regard and esteem in which he is held by the members today. I am proud to be the successor to such a fine gentleman, and I accept the challenge to try to serve Humber's constituents as faithfully and as well.

I suspect that everyone in the Legislature has vivid recollections of their first nomination meeting, and I am no exception. In a hard-fought contest, I received the Humber nomination. In the March 19 election, I was gratified to receive more than 60 per cent of the votes cast in my riding and to receive a plurality of almost 11,000 votes.

I want to talk a little about Humber riding where I live and have reared and educated my four children. It is a great place in which to reside. Geographically, it is centrally located in relation to Toronto and is well served by highways, subway, other forms of transit and arterial roads. It is a mature urban area with a solid mix of single-family homes and multiple dwellings. It could be said that we have an ageing population and, in general, that Humber is a riding with very few problems. However, that is not exactly the case.

Populations might remain quietly in place, and neighbourhoods mature majestically, but vast changes take place in other areas that impact strongly on the population. This is the case in Humber. We are vulnerable to inflation, traffic increases, environmental noise and all the other daily problems that affect any urban area in North America. Ageing often equates with loneliness, inflation tears at fixed incomes, old houses need maintenance, chronic care beds are a desperate need, and increased taxes of all kinds have to be borne.

Humber looks to this government for direction and guidance, and it is my firm commitment to play a role in helping to deliver on the promise, the promise of prosperity and wellbeing that the majority of my constituents have enjoyed and grown to equate with the Progressive Conservative government.

During the course of the recent election the subject of school closures became a rather controversial subject in my riding, as indeed it would in any constituency currently facing the dilemma. Added to this situation is the concern about Don Bosco Separate School located in Humber; it has 27 portable classrooms in use. Over the winter months this produced intolerable conditions for the students involved.

The combination of impending closures of elementary and secondary schools and the proliferation of portable classrooms in the separate school system is impacting to produce the potential for extreme tensions in neighbourhoods that have always in the past been very compatible and tranquil.

In my campaign literature I reiterated the position of the Minister of Education (Miss Stephenson) in relation to the Don Bosco solution. I am pleased to be able to say that the minister is determined to have this commitment carried out. The point that I want to make is that the Don Bosco situation is one that is unfortunate at the least, but that it should not be taken in unison with any school closure review that may currently be taking place.

I also wish to point out that to date the Minister of Education has not received any correspondence from either the Etobicoke Board of Education or the Metropolitan Toronto Separate School Board since the public letter of March 4 on the subject. Needless to say, I am concerned and will be waiting to learn of any decisions that may have been made that will shed new light on the specifics of the solution to be reached to ensure that the Don Bosco school students' plight is not allowed to continue.

However, these facts are clear: The Etobicoke Board of Education was formed in 1949, and its total pupil enrolment was 4,667. By 1968, enrolment in 74 elementary schools was more than 41,000. This increase was due in part to the amalgamation of the Etobicoke board and the Lakeshore Board of Education in 1967; however, most of it was due to the rapid development of residential land. By January 1979, enrolment was 26,536, a drop of 35 per cent. The board estimates a continuing decline until 1986, when enrolment will reach 18,000 pupils in the public elementary schools.

12:40 p.m.

Further, in the general area of school closures I am pleased to learn that the Ministry of Education has issued instructions to directors of education regarding school closure policy for school boards. It is to be hoped that these new instructions will work to help clear up any misunderstanding that may have resulted from the recent events surrounding the closure situation at Keiller MacKay Collegiate in Humber riding. One could even hope that there may be solutions other than closures, and I am sure this will be debated in detail as this unfortunate situation evolves.

I quote: "It is now expected by the ministry that all school boards will prepare, approve and publicize, for the electorate of the board, a definitive policy on procedures to be followed in considering whether or not a school should be closed. This policy will contain the following elements:

"Procedures will be applied to identify when and how a school will be considered for closure and to enable citizens who may be concerned over the general social and economic effects on the community to make their views known to the board prior to any decision to close the school. There will be established a minimum time period between the identification of a school as a candidate for closure and the final decision of the board.

"There will be requirement for the presentation to the board, in public session, of reports on the effects of closure on community activities of a social, educational, cultural or recreational nature which take place on the school premises and on the effects of closure of a specific school on the attendance area defined for that school, attendance at other schools, and the need and extent of bussing.

"There will also be a report analysis of the implications for the program for students both in the school under consideration for closing and in the school or schools where programs may be affected by the school closing. A report will be made on the financial effects of closing or not closing the school, including any capital implications. Finally, there will be a report indicating the possible alternative use or disposition of the school if it is closed.

"The school closure policy approved by the board shall be filed with the regional office of the ministry at the earliest possible date and will apply to those schools of the board where the resolution to close a school is passed after June 30, 1981. The ministry shall be advised of any changes in policy approved by the board after the date of initial filing. School boards with established closure policies are requested to review these policies against the criteria set out before filing with the ministry."

In essence, the subject of school closing is the most sensitive of issues. It is an area that has all the potential for exploitation in a political sense and for comprehensive negotiation in a practical way.

I have the utmost confidence in the Minister of Education, and I sincerely believe that the Etobicoke Board of Education will work diligently and faithfully to abide by the new school closure policy, while at the same time taking into consideration the other exigencies caused by the parallel but opposite events taking place in the separate school system.

Finally, I trust and hope that the Metropolitan Separate School Board will be just as cognizant of the difficulties being borne in the area of school closures in this public school system.

Another subject that is very dear to my heart, and one that is being addressed by the government at present, is the area of municipal government and its relations with the province. The integration of the policies and programs of the Ministry of Housing with those operations of the Ministry of Intergovernmental Affairs that relate to municipal matters is a decision that I applaud. The new ministry will be known as the ministry of municipal affairs and housing, and it will reflect and strengthen this government's commitments to the municipal level of government.

During my tenure on Etobicoke and Metropolitan Toronto councils, there were a number of subjects that were debated and discussed, and from them there developed a feeling by a number of my former colleagues that sufficient concern and understanding was not being exhibited by the senior level of government. To be more precise, there are a multitude of issues that have been debated at the Metropolitan Toronto level, all of which ultimately have to be resolved permanently or temporarily by decisions that will be implemented in this House.

Rightly or wrongly, the feeling is growing among my former colleagues that a low level of consultation seems to be taking place. In reality, the senior level of government is proceeding with or without input from Metropolitan Toronto and its member municipalities.

This is not the time to discuss this perception. Instead, let me list the current subjects of concern from the municipal point of view. Possibly this situation has come about because times have changed dramatically. Back in the 1950s, any major area of controversy between Metropolitan Toronto and the provincial government likely would have been solved by Metro Chairman Fred Gardiner telephoning Premier Leslie Frost and working out the solution over lunch.

It appears this type of local statesmanship that led to formal agreements is a thing of the past. Out in Humber riding, we view these current concerns from the parochial point of view. In the case of group homes, for example, during my time on Etobicoke council we had to put up with situations that have given local politicians proven reasons for concern.

We had situations where we changed our zoning to accommodate group home activities that proved unsuccessful, causing great concern and anguish in the neighbourhood. Neither the municipality nor the province was able to rectify the situation. I know most members in this chamber recognize that municipalities rise or fall on the basis of their zoning bylaws and work diligently to implement good planning procedures under the Planning Act. It would appear this is a municipality's last line of defence.

I recall a situation last year involving a request for a group home on Dixon Road in Humber riding which was to be used for women inmates as a place to help their re-entry into outside society. In the course of our hearings in relation to the zoning change it was learned that, although the applicant had good intentions, the need or urgency for this type of facility was certainly not proven by the evidence.

As a matter of fact, in the latest provincial allocation of group home needs in the borough of Etobicoke, this type of group home was not even indicated. It is a feeling of municipal politicians that neighbourhood rights should remain jealously guarded under the planning process and that any legislation should not march ahead of public acceptance.

Most of the problems at the municipal level come down to funding programs. In the United States, the federal government directs money to cities and metropolitan governments to implement rapid transit services and to alleviate social ills. This is not the case in this country, where we have the provincial government acting as an intermediary. More important, one has a situation where most immediate problems are in the municipal area with only a property tax base for revenue. It appears that municipalities quite often are caught in the arguments of the day between the province and the federal government, with severe funding shortages as a result of policy changes.

I want to mention other areas of concern that flow from the squeeze on tax revenues. It is the contention of the municipalities that make up Metropolitan Toronto that the formula used to arrive at health grant totals, for example, discriminates against the large communities, which carry a heavy load in this regard.

In the same vein, in the area of rapid transit the challenges and the new pressures of Metropolitan Toronto are extreme, particularly in comparison to smaller communities. It shows up more dramatically in the area of policing, where municipalities receive funding on a per capita grant basis, and the cost of policing and crime prevention in the large urban areas in proportion to lesser populated cities is increasing daily.

It is also the belief of Metropolitan Toronto that a great deal of the police cost could almost be described as social work, and possibly extra funding should be received because of this. The same point could be made in the area of cultural grants as the demands and responsibilities in this regard increase yearly.

I am pleased to see in the throne speech that the government is considering building a light rail transit line from Union Station to serve the new convention centre and terminating at the Canadian National Exhibition and Ontario Place.

This decision will have a great impact on any future development that may be considered in that area.

I suspect that out of the current review of CNE operations by the committee composed of the Canadian National Exhibition Association, Metropolitan Toronto and Ontario will come a brand-new scheme that will exploit the natural geographical advantages of this area and may even include a new trade centre. I eagerly await developments in this regard.

12:50 p.m.

I do not have to remind most members that immigration during the 1970s served to increase pressures severely in the areas of social planning and increased substantially the moneys that must be raised from the property tax base. If one is familiar with and agrees with the Social Planning Council of Metropolitan Toronto report on this subject, one will conclude this is an area that needs a great deal of attention and major funding in the years ahead. As a matter of fact, editorials in the Toronto Star have been publicizing this concern in a major way for at least the last two years.

All this adds up to an urgent need in this great community of Metropolitan Toronto for more recreational facilities, which, of course, means more park land. Nothing crystallizes the arguments between governments more than the Toronto Islands issue. Although there are certainly two sides to the argument, and these are well vocalized in our new caucus, it appears that somehow a lack of communication and understanding of this subject has grown up over the last decade.

Many politicians on Metropolitan Toronto council believe, since their position has always been upheld by the courts, that they are right in questioning the actions of the provincial government. Even though the list of subjects that need immediate attention is long, the areas of mutual co-operation and achievement is even more impressive.

I am confident that creation of the new ministry of housing and municipal affairs indicates that my government is aware of, and more than willing to address itself to some solution of, the complex issues of the day, not only between large regional governments but also in our smaller cities, towns, villages and communities throughout this great province.

In closing, I wish to respond to a point made by the member for Oshawa (Mr. Breaugh) two Tuesday evenings ago. I want to say at the beginning that I realize the spirit of goodwill in which his remarks were intended, and I appreciate the gist of his comments. However, one thing came through to me strongly: I believe the member was earnest in his belief that the new crop of Progressive Conservative back-benchers might not understand that they have, or should attempt to play, a meaningful role in the day-to-day deliberations of this House.

May I assure him in my own case -- and I attempted to trace my political background in some detail -- that this new crop of members is willing and able to participate in the formulation of the government's position and enactment of new legislation.

It might appear, particularly from his side of the House, that we are somewhat excess baggage to this government. The best way I can alleviate his concern is to point out to him that when I first arrived here as an aide, back in 1971, there were more PCs than now, and that, to my knowledge, there are only three members, including the Premier, still active in the cabinet. No fewer than 25 new members of the class of 1971, or later, are currently, or have been, cabinet members. I believe this constant evolution of back-benchers to front-benchers has gone on and is continually going on.

I have the greatest confidence that our group of newcomers will in time make a constant and strong contribution to the daily activities of the Legislature. In fact, I believe the honourable members will come to know us quite well indeed.

On motion by Mr. Ruprecht, the debate was adjourned.

The House adjourned at 12:55 p.m.