32nd Parliament, 1st Session

















The House met at 10 a.m.




Mr. Smith: Before I ask any questions, Mr. Speaker, may I ask the government House leader whether he expects some members of the ministry to be present this morning?

The Deputy Speaker: Is that the first question?

Mr. Smith: No, it is not the first question, but it is a fairly serious question. The ministers are obviously responsible individuals. I would hope a number of them will be here. At the moment, out of 27 ministers there are eight in the House, so less than a third of the ministry is here. Is there any chance we could --


The Deputy Speaker: Mr. Smith, I would suggest under the circumstances that we extend oral questions by one minute, which might give ministers an opportunity to enter the chamber. Is that agreeable?

One minute has expired. I would like to call on the Minister of Revenue for an answer to a previous question.


Hon. Mr. Ashe: Mr. Speaker, in reply to questions earlier this week I would like to assure the member for London Centre (Mr. Peterson), who unfortunately is not in his place as yet, that my staff has been investigating the conduct of the London-based small business development corporations and is continuing to do so. This is being done in co-operation with professional advisers representing the corporations, with whom meetings have been held and who are conducting the investigation on behalf of the shareholders.

Since the investigation is ongoing and nearing completion it would be premature for me to comment further on the member's questions at this time. I would remind honourable members of the confidentiality aspects of information about the corporations' affairs. However, I will report further at a later date to the extent that I am able to do so under the secrecy provision of the Small Business Development Corporations Act.


Mr. Smith: In the absence of the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations (Mr. Walker), I will address to the government House leader my question on the Astra/Re-Mor matter and how we are to proceed. Given that many people in Ontario believe there has been at the very least negligence on the part of certain members of the ministry in handing out licences, and also on the part of the Ontario Securities Commission in its dealings with Astra, Re-Mor and related companies, and possibly even wrongdoing on the part of individuals within those organizations; given that the government has a majority both in the House and on the justice committee and can effectively block any investigation into the role played by the ministry and/or the Ontario Securities Commission; and given that the majority can also block, and so far has blocked, any judicial inquiry into this matter --

The Deputy Speaker: The question is coming, is it?

Mr. Smith: It is an important preamble, Mr. Speaker. Can the minister advise the House what he believes is the means by which the role of the ministry and the OSC in these matters can be examined in public view in Ontario?

Hon. Mr. Wells: Mr. Speaker, I think the answer to that question should quite appropriately be given by the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations. I think he has answered questions very similar to that many times. I indicated when this House opened that he would make a statement about the Re-Mor matter, as we call it. He made that statement. The justice committee has had several discussions about it, and it is my understanding that the matter is proceeding as it should.

10:10 a.m.

Mr. Smith: I ask the minister, as one of the reasonable members of the cabinet, when he gives an answer of this kind, to consider that the answer given by the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations was that the matter was before the committee and also before the courts. Given that the committee, which also has a majority under government direction, has decided not to allow either an outside inquiry or an inside inquiry, and that the minister still seems to feel the courts are of some importance in this matter, is the minister unaware that the courts can deal only with two aspects? The first is whether Mr. Montemurro is a crook, and that has nothing to do with how the OSC and the ministry have functioned; and the second is the matter of negligence. I wish the minister would pay attention. I am attempting to make a serious point.

The Deputy Speaker: Dr. Smith, is that your question?

Mr. Smith: I did not get to the question part, Mr. Speaker. The minister is not attending to the key elements.

The two elements in front of the courts are, first, any criminality on the part of Montemurro. That is not an issue, as the minister knows, in the justice committee. That is not being considered. It is the role of the government ministry and the OSC that is being considered. The other matter in front of the courts is the civil suit against the government. In that case, examining the matter here can prejudice no interest except the government's interest, and it is not the job of the government to protect its interest by blocking an investigation. Under these circumstances, will the government House leader please tell us where the matter can be looked at publicly and whether the OSC and the government will ever answer to anybody on their functioning in this matter?

Hon. Mr. Wells: Mr. Speaker, I just want to reiterate what I said a few minutes ago. If my friend would put that question to my colleague the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations, he can fully explain that. It has been indicated time and time again that the commitments of the Premier (Mr. Davis) will be followed through on, and I think the people of this province and the people concerned in the Re-Mor matter know of those commitments. There is no attempt to hide this matter under any rug or in any way deal with it in the manner he would have us believe. I believe it is being dealt with in a compassionate and concerned manner, but perhaps not in a spectacular manner, as he would wish it to be dealt with.

I believe the member can get the answers he wants from the minister when he is here. I believe the committee has heard those questions and answers have been put to them. I guess the problem is that the answers and the course of action do not quite mesh with the way he thinks the course of action should go.

Mr. Swan: Supplementary, Mr. Speaker: Given the minister's statement that the Premier will keep his promise on this matter, given that the Premier committed himself to compensating the victims of Re-Mor if government negligence was proved in the licensing of Re-Mor -- a statement made on several occasions, particularly in St. Catharines -- and recognizing now that the Conservative majority in the justice committee has blocked the attempt of the opposition parties to have this matter referred to the courts under the constitutional powers that the government has to fully determine if there was government negligence -- the government House leader will know that the cases before the courts are not related to government negligence but to government liability, and there is a substantial difference -- will the minister now assure this House that there will be a court ruling on the issue of government negligence so that the Premier can keep his promise?

Hon. Mr. Wells: Mr. Speaker, I do not think I can add anything to the answer I have already given. I was very clear. The Premier's commitment was that if government negligence was found, the claims would be paid.

Mr. Nixon: Supplementary, Mr. Speaker: Would the House leader give consideration to bringing forward the report of the justice committee that was presented to the Clerk of the House just before the dissolution of the previous Legislature? The minister is aware that other such reports have been brought forward for debate in the House. As a matter of fact, I understand we will be doing one on Thursday of next week. Why can't that Re-Mor report come before the whole House? While it would not satisfy the opposition entirely -- far from it -- at least that kind of debate would give it a thorough airing in this chamber.

Hon. Mr. Wells: Mr. Speaker, my friend was at the meeting of the House leaders when we discussed this. I indicated in my statement on opening day that the committee itself would consider how it would wish to handle the Re-Mor matter. It is my understanding that the justice committee has made certain determinations. I think they have spent something like six hours discussing this particular point now. I can see no indication in those discussions that anyone is trying to sweep this thing under the carpet or get it out of the way.

It has been made very clear that certain things have to take place. I suspect that at some time in the future that committee will be fully discussing this matter again.

Mr. Cassidy: Supplementary, Mr. Speaker: Who will determine negligence? Is it the government's intention that there will be a determination of negligence, after which the Premier's commitment to compensate if negligence is proved will be carried out; or has the government erected a catch-22 situation where it promises to compensate in the event of negligence but blocks all efforts to determine whether or not negligence took place?

Hon. Mr. Wells: I am not a lawyer, nor is my friend a lawyer. In very simple terms, I have always believed the courts eventually decided on negligence and I would believe in this particular case, at some point in time, the courts will be deciding on that matter.


Mr. Smith: I have a question for the Minister of Energy. Does the minister agree with the radio and television advertising that is being sponsored by the Electrical and Electronic Manufacturers Association of Canada, with one Kate Reid generally speaking expounding the virtues of electrical energy as allegedly made here in Ontario as opposed to other forms of energy that she refers to as imported forms of energy, which includes natural gas? Does the minister agree with that advertising? Does he not feel that those ads are somewhat misleading and seriously anti-Canadian?

Hon. Mr. Welch: Mr. Speaker, I think the organization that is sponsoring those particular ads has a definite point of view that it is sharing with the listening and reading public of Ontario. They are inviting them to consider the electrical option. Indeed, the emphasis with respect to electricity and the place it will play in ensuring the energy future of Ontario is part of government policy as well, as the honourable member knows.

Mr. Smith: I would hope the minister at some point would take his courage in his hands and state whether he agrees with the primary theme of those ads or not. As he knows, they include the clear and bald statement that if people heat with anything other than electricity they will risk interruption of supply. Furthermore, they make the statement that apart from electricity, which is allegedly home grown in Ontario, other forms of energy are imported.

Is the minister familiar with Darcy McKeough's view about this? Mr. McKeough has said that these statements are un-Canadian and totally misleading. Is the minister aware that the ad says electric heating is made totally in Ontario, when in fact electric heating of homes requires the peaking of generating stations that are run by coal, most of which is imported?

Does the minister not feel therefore that anything that says to Ontario people that they cannot rely on natural gas from Alberta and tells them electricity is all home grown, when the coal is from Pennsylvania or Michigan, is, as Darcy McKeough says, seriously misleading advertising?

Hon. Mr. Welch: Mr. Speaker, the honourable member and other members of the House know that government policy is to endorse enthusiastically the off-oil emphasis of the national energy program. Details of that program have been announced in the past two or three days.

10:20 a.m.

The emphasis is to get Canada in a position of self-sufficiency with respect to crude oil in 10 years. Very important aspects of that are conservation -- a message the member quite effectively underlined yesterday in his own resolution -- and the whole area of substitution.

We are anxious to ensure in this jurisdiction that the consumer has all the information he or she needs with respect to the implications of converting from oil to other fuels to be able to make an intelligent decision with respect to them. The fact that some organization with a particular interest is bringing that emphasis into its advertisements is another matter. If there are those who suggest some aspects of those advertisements are incorrect or misleading, I assume there are routes which can be taken with respect to what may be the code of advertising regulations. They might want to take advantage of that.

As far as the people of Ontario are concerned, the important point is for us in this Legislature to know that we have a valuable contribution to make towards the whole question of self-sufficiency and that the off-oil program includes conversions to natural gas, electricity and solar power. There are a number of combinations. The important point is to make sure people have the advice they need to make an intelligent choice.

Mr. J. A. Reed: Supplementary, Mr. Speaker: Will the minister undertake to place on other options an emphasis equal to that being placed on electric power at the present time; and will his ministry's publications begin to tell the truth and not publish half-truths? In one specific instance, the numbers were extended on the increase in relative fuels but were not extended to the cost per BTU when the cost of natural gas, by the government's own calculations if one extended the figures, would be one third of the price of electric power. Yet the publication was intended to show that somehow natural gas was increasing at such a great rate it would soon exceed the price of electric power. Will the minister undertake to see that publications from his ministry are balanced and tell the whole story?

Hon. Mr. Welch: I am just as sensitive as the honourable member to the principle of accuracy. If the member could provide me with specific information as to inaccuracies in any publication of the Ministry of Energy, I would be grateful. Subject to it being checked out, I would make any corrections or changes. I hope the member would be specific with respect to both the publication and the information in it.

I repeat what I said to the Leader of the Opposition. The important information which the consumers of Ontario require is all the facts and figures with respect to the various options. I am not aware of any information, and the member will find nothing I have said in the way of speeches, which does not speak of all the possible options available to consumers as we encourage them to get off oil.

Mr. Cassidy: Supplementary, Mr. Speaker: The capital cost to expand a nuclear power plant for one 1,000-watt heater is about $2,000 and the capital cost to expand a nuclear power plant to heat a home electrically is maybe 10 or 12 times that, or $20,000 to $25,000. Would the minister undertake to table in this House a study of the costs of expanding nuclear power capacity in Ontario for electric heating needs on the basis of the added cost per average home that is heated electrically, to show how costly this capital program would be and why we need to look for alternatives to get us not only off oil but also off electricity?

Hon. Mr. Welch: Mr. Speaker, the honourable member knows there are many vehicles available to him to obtain this type of information or any information, by tabling a question in the House or putting a question on the Order Paper. If there is some specific information he would like to have in order to fully appreciate what the various options are, I would be very happy to see that information is provided.

I think the emphasis has to be, once again, on the national goal of self-sufficiency as far as Canada is concerned related to oil. The member, his friends and all the public of Ontario should have all of the information required to make an intelligent decision with respect to the route they go for conversion. If the member requires any further information, if he would simply table those questions I would be happy to get whatever information is available.


Mr. Cassidy: Mr. Speaker, I have a new question of the Minister of Labour, responsible for collective bargaining and the state of labour relations in the province. The minister is undoubtedly aware that on Monday at 11 o'clock in the town of Kenora at the Kenricia Hotel, representatives of the federal and provincial governments will be on hand to announce a $12 million federal-provincial grant to the Boise Cascade company for its pulp and paper operations in northwestern Ontario. The grant will be under the Board of Industrial Leadership and Development program, as far as Ontario is concerned.

It will be a grant which we understand will lead to the elimination of 372 jobs, or about $35,000 in grants for each lost job. Was the minister consulted about that grant? Did he approve that grant? Could he explain why it is the government of Ontario is giving a multi-million dollar grant to Boise Cascade at a time when a legal strike by the Lumber and Sawmill Workers Union is still in progress against that corporation? It is therefore at a time when a grant means the government is no longer neutral in a very difficult and long-standing labour dispute.

Hon. Mr. Elgie: Mr. Speaker, I will not reiterate the numerous statements that have been made by members of this government with regard to the granting of joint federal-provincial funds to upgrade the pulp and paper facilities in this province. The members well know those arguments. I take it from the member's remarks he is totally opposed to the giving of this grant to the Kenora group in order to upgrade that mill to secure long-term employability for those employees who will remain. So we can take that as a first assumption -- that the member disagrees with the government for trying to facilitate long-term and continuous employment of those employees in that mill.

As the member knows, I am not part of that committee that had to do with the granting of the money but I was consulted with regard to the manpower adjustment program.

Mr. McClellan: You're becoming pretty superfluous over there.

Hon. Mr. Elgie: If the member can hang on a minute he will get the answer.

I was consulted about the manpower adjustment program. In the light of the fact it was deemed to be very necessary to the long-term survival of that industry in that community, and in view of the fact the company had committed itself to a variety of steps in order to make the manpower adjustment process as good as possible, I do think the grant was justified. I think the company is endeavouring to make every effort possible to ensure a successful adjustment of those employees.

To facilitate that, there is a manpower adjustment committee in place with representatives from all the unions involved, and I understand it is proceeding.

Mr. Cassidy: Supplementary, Mr. Speaker, since the minister did not answer the major part of my question: On Monday as well, also in the town of Kenora, a dozen of the workers from the Lumber and Sawmill Workers Union are to be arraigned in court as part of the legal harassment the government of Ontario has carried out against that union over the course of the last few months. Could the minister explain how he, as the Minister of Labour, can continue to form part of a government which on the one hand is prepared to take sides by giving major grants to corporations that are still involved in a labour dispute and, on the other hand, continues the legal harassment of those workers who simply fought for collective bargaining rights that are meant to be guaranteed under the Labour Relations Act?

Hon. Mr. Elgie: Mr. Speaker, first of all I would suggest the member has no facts at all on which to base his charge of harassment. If he does, let him put the question directly to the Attorney General (Mr. McMurtry), who has responded to that previously in this House and in committee. He has clearly indicated that to his knowledge and following his investigation there is no suggestion of harassment. So that is kind of a pretty loose and frivolous accusation.

Let it also be clear that this Minister of Labour, as the member well knows, is always very actively interested in the rights of employees of any institution wherever they be. It was my obligation to make sure that the commitments in this agreement were firmly recorded. I personally met with the president of the company to be sure of his commitment, so let there be no doubt about my role in this.

10:30 a.m.

Mr. Cassidy: The minister surely is aware that at the beginning, just before the election was called in January, there was what can only be described as harassment, where workers were picked up by the Ontario Provincial Police, were not even allowed to speak to their wives or pick up their wallets to have a bit of money, and were taken from as far away as Thunder Bay to Kenora in order to be arraigned. They were put out on the streets and had to make their way home over a distance of some 300 miles without money, without being offered a lift back. If that is not harassment, I do not know what is.

Would the minister come to grips with the main question? Why is it that the government is taking sides in this particular question by being part of a $12 million grant to Boise at a time when there is still a legal labour dispute outstanding? Why was he not prepared to insist that Boise settle the labour relations problem first before they line up and put their hand out in order to get federal-provincial funds?

Hon. Mr. Elgie: Just so we understand very clearly, I know many of those people who have been charged and I happen to have a great deal of respect for most of them, but for the member to say, in the absence of a court hearing over the issue that is involved, that there has been harassment, I think is a little premature and immature.

He also knows very well the very active involvement that I had in the lumber and sawmill strike. He knows very well that Stephen Lewis and Bob Joyce were appointed to the disputes advisory committees to try to resolve that. It was impossible to reach a resolution and that is now over three years ago. Let there be no doubt in this House that this minister has actively reviewed the manpower adjustment program and has personally met with the president to get an assurance of his commitment.

Mr. Cassidy: Mr. Speaker, I was going to say that since the Minister of Agriculture and Food (Mr. Henderson) said he stood for the farmers, I have a question for the Minister of Labour to see whether or not the Minister of Labour stands for the workers, but the answer to the last question indicates --

The Deputy Speaker: Let's get on with the question.

Hon. Mr. Elgie: Mr. Speaker, on a point of personal privilege: I resent that remark and ask the member to withdraw it.

The Deputy Speaker: Mr. Cassidy, a new question please. No preamble please, just go to the question.


Mr. Cassidy: I will address my question to the Minister of Labour. My question is this: Given that the Minister of Agriculture and Food takes his responsibilities to farmers so far that he has characterized efforts by the Canadian Farm Workers' Union to organize the farms of Ontario as interference with the right of farmers to run their own affairs, will the Minister of Labour repudiate that statement by the Minister of Agriculture and Food and will he tell this House what is the government's policy with respect to ensuring that farm workers have the same collective bargaining rights as other workers in Ontario and therefore the right to seek and to get collective contracts?

Hon. Mr. Elgie: Mr. Speaker, this government has always taken the position that farming has its own particular characteristics, and that by and large, even though there may be family incorporations, farming was a family type of business and there are other aspects of it that did not lend themselves readily to collective bargaining.

For instance, there is the short nature of the season. There is the perishable nature of the crops. There is the fluctuating nature of the work force. There are great variations in the hours that one can work. For those reasons, this government has always felt that farming had to be given some special consideration.

I am surprised at the member asking this question when his colleague the member for Hamilton East (Mr. Mackenzie) has repeatedly introduced a bill which adopts those sorts of concepts. Let me read that bill to him, Bill 103 this year, which excludes persons employed in agriculture on a farm by a farmer. I have to tell him that when he asks me that question, his own members recognize there are certain aspects of farming that are not adaptable to other forms of collective bargaining.

Mr. Cassidy: Is the Minister of Labour aware of the threats and the inflammatory statements that have been put forward by some farmers who have said for example, to quote Mr. Bosnjak, "I am really afraid there could be very bad violence," and that response by farmers to the efforts of the farm workers' union to begin to organize in Ontario is a result of there being no legal framework for farm workers to organize in Ontario because of their exclusion from the Labour Relations Act?

Does the minister not feel that if the farm workers decide to organize it is better that they do so under the orderly provisions that are laid out in the Labour Relations Act than for the minister and the government to perpetuate a system of anarchy -- a system where there are no rules and, therefore, where the kinds of actions that Mr. Bosnjak speaks about would not be prohibited and where that could lead to equally difficult actions by the farm workers who also have no legal rights to seek certification?

Rather than having those kinds of confrontation, will the minister not undertake to have the government give legal organizing rights to farm workers so that their right to organize can be exercised in an orderly fashion?

Hon. Mr. Elgie: Mr. Speaker, I think I have already indicated the government position. I have also indicated to the leader of the third party that one of his members has repeatedly introduced a bill that recognized at least the principles upon which the government had based its previous positions in the past.

Mr. Mackenzie: Supplementary, Mr. Speaker: I ask the minister not to make this kind of selective use. He knows I also have a bill in to cover farm workers. He also knows that the amendment, or the wording he is talking about, was designed to --

The Deputy Speaker: Is the question coming?

Mr. Mackenzie: Does the minister not know that what we were trying to do was to be responsible enough to cover a situation like the mushroom farms and nothing else? Even where there is a factory, he will not do it. His use of that bloody bill is dishonest.

Hon. Mr. Elgie: Mr. Speaker, the bill is there for people to read, and it confirms the social principles and approaches I have spoken about.

Mr. Cassidy: Will the minister agree that it is unfair to farm workers that they should also be excluded in Ontario from both health and safety legislation and large parts of the Employment Standards Act? Will the minister not undertake on behalf of the government now to treat farm workers on a basis of equality with other workers in Ontario by extending the protection of those acts to them so that the situations that would provoke a need to organize can be resolved by treating farm workers like everybody else?

Hon. Mr. Elgie: As the leader of the third party knows, when the occupational health and safety bill, Bill 70, was debated in this House, I indicated that farming operations were being excluded, and I may say that the official opposition agreed with that point of view.

It also was put in the legislation that farming operations from time to time could be included by regulation. There is at present, and has been now for the past year, an ad hoc joint committee with farmers and government reviewing the problem of what approaches might be taken with regard to health and safety in farming operations.

But the member well knows there is already other legislation, such as the Pesticides Act, which deals with some aspects of farming operations. It is not an easy matter to deal with, but we are facing it and we are having discussions about it now.

The Employment Standards Act has not applied directly to farming operations in the past, again for the very reasons I gave before -- the changing nature of the work force, the need to change the hours of work depending upon the circumstances and the perishable nature of the crop. Let me tell the member that on a contractual basis the employment standards branch is entitled to, and does, collect unpaid wages and other benefits that are part of a contract.


Mr. G. I. Miller: Mr. Speaker, I have a question of the Minister of the Environment (Mr. Norton), but in view of the fact he is not here this morning I will ask the Provincial Secretary for Resources Development.

Is the minister considering setting a date for an All-Ontario Pitch-In Day similar to that held on June 7, 1980, when citizens all over Ontario participated in an environmental blitz?

Hon. Mr. Ramsay: Mr. Speaker, I am not aware of any plans by the minister to do that, but I will be happy to check with him upon his return.

Mr. G. I. Miller: As this bill was accepted by the Minister of the Environment in 1979 to have an All-Ontario Pitch-In Day, will the minister consider extending it to include the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Transportation and Communications, to add to the success of this project?

Hon. Mr. Ramsay: I am really not familiar with the subject the member has brought up; there is no sense in trying to pretend that I am. I will have to take it up with the minister.

10:40 a.m.


Mr. Mackenzie: Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the Minister of Health.

Is the minister aware of the information I have been given by local health officers that the equipment they have to test the urea- formaldehyde foam insulation will not test in most cases below 0.5 parts per million and the sensitivity level -- this I get from the local health officer -- is between 0.01 and 0.05?

Is he also aware that the cost now to do a test, if it is requested, is at least $200 and therefore, I am told, they cannot do any testing, at least in the Hamilton-Wentworth area?

How can we assure that people who want to have their homes tested -- and I certainly have a number coming into my office -- can get a proper test of the sensitivity levels of the urea-formaldehyde foam insulation?

Hon. Mr. Timbrell: Mr. Speaker, I am not only aware of it; I have said here at least three or four times that we do not have -- and I pointed this out repeatedly to the federal minister -- all the personnel or equipment we need to carry out the work that is necessary.

I have indicated repeatedly to the federal minister that we are prepared to make available to her and her officials the equipment and personnel we do have as part of the follow-up work to the report that she tabled a number of weeks ago and based on which she instituted the ban on this commodity, which they had approved for use in the Canadian home insulation program and which we had never approved in our building code in this province.

Yes, I am aware of it. That is why -- and I hope with the member's active support -- I am keeping the pressure on the federal government to do that which is necessary to clean up this problem. I understand that yesterday we had a call from her office that a response was on its way. That call crossed a telex from my office demanding a meeting because we have had no response to date. But I hope we are going to get one soon.

Mr. Mackenzie: I was under the impression -- perhaps mistaken -- that the minister was responsible for public health when there was a request. I am not really sure he can fob it off on the federal authorities that way.

What happens when a citizen, whether in Hamilton or any other city in Ontario, wants to have his home tested because there are some indications he is suffering as a result?

Hon. Mr. Timbrell: Again, I talked at least three or four times previously with the member in attendance. I have said that we indicated to the medical officers of health in a letter to them in February -- I think it was the 20th or 23rd -- that technical assistance was available to them from the Ministry of Labour. In addition, a number of the health units have been making use of the services of the Enersave advisory program, which is an arm of the federal Department of Energy, Mines and Resources and which has been giving them assistance. So technical assistance is available to the local health units if they need it.

As the member knows, in the report -- and I hope he has read it -- they state that they cannot specify any particular level at which this material is or is not a hazard. That is the whole point of this survey that we have been urging the federal government to make and which I am now told they have begun. Again, their report recommended, and we are pressing them to institute, a program of assistance to home owners for any necessary retrofit work.

Mr. Mackenzie: Can I be assured that if a worried citizen does want the test he can approach the Ministry of Labour? Is that what the minister is telling me?

Also, from his discussions with the federal minister, can the minister tell me why the local health boards have not been able to get a list of houses where the insulation was put in, where there was a subsidy to put it in? The argument they are getting from the federal people is that there may be some matter of confidentiality. How can we check the safety of the people involved?

Hon. Mr. Timbrell: First of all, I did not say the individual should approach the Ministry of Labour. The approach should still be to the local health unit, one of the 43 health units in the province. What I said was that we informed them that if they needed technical assistance it was available to them from the Ministry of Labour. In addition, as I said, they are making use of this federal office.

I have not heard previously of any indication that the federal people were not giving them lists. I do not know what they would do with the lists necessarily at this point because, again, if the member is suggesting -- as he and his colleague the member for Welland-Thorold (Mr. Swart) apparently have been suggesting in some of their interviews -- that somehow it would be possible to do an overnight survey of the whole problem, that is physically impossible. There are not enough bodies; there are not enough of these machines in the world to do it overnight.


Ms. Copps: Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the Minister of Labour. In view of the fact that this is the International Year of Disabled Persons and this government's Bill 7 will guarantee equal treatment and accommodation for handicapped people, can this minister explain why his colleague the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations (Mr. Walker) has introduced an amendment to the Ontario Building Code which would deny accessibility to the physically handicapped in housing units and would allow accessibility only in lobbies and public areas in apartment buildings?

Hon. Mr. Elgie: Mr. Speaker, with the greatest of respect, I think the question should have been directed to another minister. The member well knows what this bill contains and the commitment it has to the rights of the handicapped. She knows the building code has been revised from time to time. There has been a recent revision and the minister has given firm assurances that further consideration of other revisions is still open to discussion.

Ms. Copps: Can the minister guarantee this House that, when Bill 7 is adopted as law, its requirements for nondiscrimination against the handicapped will apply and will supersede the recent building code amendment? Will they override the building code amendment and will all buildings, including housing and apartment units, be accessible to the disabled?

Hon. Mr. Elgie: The member knows I cannot do that, because the primacy section of the bill clearly says the government, if it deems necessary, may say the Ontario Human Rights Code does not apply. She knows that very well.

Mr. McClellan: Supplementary, Mr. Speaker: The question should have been redirected to the Provincial Secretary for Social Development (Mrs. Birch), but it was not; so I will ask the minister whether he can explain why the recommendations of the Ontario Advisory Council on the Physically Handicapped, which were accepted by the Provincial Secretary for Social Development, were subsequently repudiated by the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations.

Is the minister aware that there appears to have been an attempt to force the advisory council to knuckle under and to accede to the recommendations of the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations? Is he not embarrassed that this travesty by the building code coincides with his legislation?

Hon. Mr. Elgie: Mr. Speaker, I will be glad to bring the member's question to the attention of the minister and have him reply.

Ms. Copps: Is the minister telling this House that, even if and when we adopt Bill 7 to prohibit discrimination against the physically handicapped, this government can choose at any time to override the requirements of the new human rights code and apply selective discrimination against the physically handicapped?

Hon. Mr. Elgie: Mr. Speaker, I realize it is the honourable member's first session, but she should not start using loose language such as the government being involved in discrimination.

Every primacy section of every human rights code specifically says that the Legislature -- that is subject to debate in this Legislature and to public scrutiny -- may from time to time deem that certain matters should not come within the scope of a human rights code. That is universal, and the honourable member should understand that before she makes statements which are inaccurate.


Mr. R. F. Johnston: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Community and Social Services. Yesterday the executive director of the Children's Aid Society of Metropolitan Toronto said, "Child welfare in Ontario is being set back nearly 20 years."

Will the minister comment on Mr. Douglas Barr's assertion that sub-inflation increases from his ministry have left the society unable to cope with the increase in mandatory protection cases that has followed the deinstitutionalization policies of the government and has forced the society systematically to withdraw from preventive case work?

Is the minister going to continue dismantling the child welfare system, or will he adjust the funding formula, which is so dramatically hurting societies in Toronto, Windsor, London, Ottawa and northern Ontario by basing it on the number of children in need and not on the number of children in the population at large?

10:50 a.m.

Hon. Mr. Drea: Mr. Speaker, there are really two questions there. Let us deal with the first one. How in the world an organization can say it is hard done by when it earned a surplus on its funding in the past year is beyond my credibility. One cannot be hard done by and pick up a surplus over a year --

Mr. R. F. Johnston: That was because the minister changed the formula. It was arbitrary; 35 per cent on top of that.

Hon. Mr. Drea: Well, it is the formula he is objecting to.

The Deputy Speaker: Carry on with the answer.

Hon. Mr. Drea: I have come back to it. How you can be hard done by under the first year of a new formula when you earn a surplus is beyond me.

Mr. Wildman: The formula is inadequate. You are silly.

Hon. Mr. Drea: I can hardly be called silly by pointing out that during the first year under the formula this organization was so hard done by that it came up with a six-figure surplus.

The Deputy Speaker: Carry on with the second answer.

Hon. Mr. Drea: In terms of the second question, which is really an allegation that we are systematically dismantling et cetera, the formula for funding that was arrived at was concurred in by most of the children's aid societies across Ontario. The member who asked the question knows full well that officially their main organization supported it.

There is no question the formula did raise concerns in northern Ontario and for the Metro children's aid society. I think it is significant that it did not raise concerns for the Metro Catholic children's aid society.

If the new formula is providing proven hardships or difficulties, we are prepared to negotiate or to amend it; so we are therefore not systematically dismantling anything.

What fascinates me is that the allegation by the director of the Metro children's aid society is that he is being forced to handle a lower case load. Is he being forced to handle a lower case load because people now exercise their right to say, "We choose to have the court decide rather than you," or with a surplus in the last year is he turning away clients? The member should ask him.

Mr. R. F. Johnston: The minister well knows that, without the supposed cushion they were given, their increase should have been only 4.5 per cent this year. He can deny that if he wishes. It has been stated as an allegation --

The Deputy Speaker: Are you coming to a question?

Mr. R. F. Johnston: Does the minister not also realize that they are not turning away mandatory cases but that their case load is increased in that area? No one said they were decreasing the number of mandatory cases, but because they have so many mandatory cases they are unable to deal with preventive care cases. Does the minister claim it is only the Metro children's aid society that is involved when the chairman of the Ontario association, Mr. Caldwell, calls the formula detrimental at this point?

The Deputy Speaker: What is the question, Mr. Johnston?

Mr. R. F. Johnston: Just to sum up, if I may, Mr. Speaker, I realize last night I may have caused you some aggravation, and I apologize for that, but the minister knows the extra money he supposedly now can give cannot go to preventive care cases but can only go to mandatory cases. Does the minister not believe that the formula needs to be redone? It is just not working.

Hon. Mr. Drea: I pointed out that not only is the formula working well but it is also being applauded in most areas across the province. If the member wanted to get out of Metropolitan Toronto, I would suggest he might see what the region of Peel is doing or what they are doing in Hamilton.

If the allegation is that the mandatory case load is now so high that they are having to move resources over into that and cannot do prevention, obviously we can make adjustments to cushion their costs on the mandatory case load.

The Deputy Speaker: Is this all part of the answer?

Hon. Mr. Drea: Yes. He asked 10 questions. If you want simple ones, you tell them yes for one, two, three, four, five. He even has to sum up on his questions.

I am not looking for a confrontation, as somebody has said, with the largest group. In fact, I am being very peaceful. But day after day -- yesterday was Thursday, they were groaning again; today is Friday, they have another thing on about group homes. I am not looking for a confrontation. I think I am being remarkably restrained.

For the past month they have been doing their labour relations. The member raised the question about the surplus. Everybody knew about the surplus. The union has raised some very significant points: If they are so hard done by on their funding, how do they get this cushion and, indeed, share it with us, which was what was done?

Mr. Ruprecht: A supplementary, Mr. Speaker?

The Deputy Speaker: No, I do not think so. We have extended this area of questioning long enough. A new question, Mr. Ruprecht. Maybe you could work it in.

Mr. Ruprecht: Thank you very much for trusting me with the ability to combine a question for the Minister of Industry and Tourism with one for the previous minister.

The Deputy Speaker: Well, try.

Mr. Ruprecht: I will not attempt that, Mr. Speaker, but thank you very much for recognizing a new question anyway.


Mr. Ruprecht: In 1974, the government promised to build a magnetic levitation transit line on the grounds of the Canadian National Exhibition. Under the BILD program -- I will not spell it out -- the government has promised a $90-million intermediate-capacity transit system along the Toronto waterfront. What steps has the minister taken on this new transit proposal up to this point?

Hon. Mr. Grossman: We have had discussions with the Urban Transportation Development Corporation and preliminary discussions with Metropolitan Toronto with regard to working out the various levels of participation in that very major project. We are rather hopeful the project will get under way in the next year or so.

Mr. Ruprecht: Does the minister realize that a lot of the waterfront property is owned by the city of Toronto? I have written to the commissioner of the city of Toronto responsible for building and development. He tells me, and I quote: "There has been no formal consultation with the city as yet in terms of working out arrangements that will look at the transit lines."

On the one hand, the minister is telling this House that preliminary communications have been taking place with the Metropolitan Toronto area. Yet, on the other hand, the city, which has most of a stake in that kind of transit line, has not even been approached. Can the minister explain that to this House?

Hon. Mr. Grossman: Sure. Just go back to our experience on the Toronto convention centre, which I believe the member supported when he was on Metro council and city council. It would have done nothing but hold up the project had we decided to go through extensive zoning discussions with the city of Toronto in regard to the various sites being considered.

When the member gets on to the transit system he is talking about, obviously there are many permutations and combinations in terms of the exact siting of the track and the lines. To conduct extensive negotiations with the city of Toronto in regard to the siting of the line and other related matters, prior to getting the commitment by other levels of government towards the funding and the agreement -- for example, of Harbourfront to their level of participation in it and what they would like to see go in it -- would just be fruitless spinning of the wheels.

The businesslike way to go about it is to put together the funding, as we did in the matter of the Toronto convention centre, and then to get down to the specifics of where it should go and what the exact configuration should be.

Mr. R. F. Johnston: Supplementary, Mr. Speaker: Will the minister inform the House whether he has any projections on possible deficits from this line and how they would be picked up by the government?

Hon. Mr. Grossman: Mr. Speaker, that comprises part of the discussions going on right now, but I am fairly confident, considering the number of attractions that will be served by this particular line -- ultimately a revamped CNE, Ontario Place, the Harbour Castle facilities, all the Harbourfront facilities and the convention centre -- and the fact that we expect it will hook into the Toronto Transit Commission system and perhaps have access to people coming in on the GO system, that it would actually have a fairly good chance of turning a profit right from day one.

11 a.m.

Mr. Ruprecht: I do not want to spell BILD for the minister. The government's program called BILD is really spelled BILKED, but I will not repeat that in this House.

I find it utterly amazing that the minister can stand up in this House and tell us that communication with the city of Toronto is holding up the project. I have never heard anything like this before. The first thing the minister ought to do is get in touch with the city of Toronto to discuss the waterfront.

The Deputy Speaker: Question, please.

Mr. Ruprecht: My question to the minister is very simple.

The Deputy Speaker: Good.

Mr. Ruprecht: When will he start these negotiations with the city of Toronto so the city will not be in the dark and will be able to plan in terms of how to interconnect the transportation line with other projects? When will the minister start to discuss that with the city of Toronto? The sooner the better.

Hon. Mr. Grossman: Mr. Speaker, I should not be this presumptuous, but the member may recall from his days on city council that any interconnects will be with the TTC. Therefore, Toronto city council will not be the first line of attack in terms of discussing interconnects.

If the member thinks that his former colleagues on Toronto city council do not communicate with us or with the chairman of the municipality of Metropolitan Toronto, or that there are not open lines of communication through which they can convey their lack of support for the project, if that is the case -- or his lack of support, if that is the case -- then either he never learned anything on city council or he has forgotten what he did learn.

Our experience on the Toronto convention centre, in terms of our success after many years in which the city of Toronto --

Mr. Cunningham: It will not go around corners.

Hon. Mr. Grossman: Around corners? The member's party is expert at that. They go around corners and get right back to where they started with the same number of seats.

If the member will recall what we did on the convention centre, we got all the pieces in place. Metro knew and was part of the operation. The city of Toronto indicated support, and in fact it arrived at Toronto city council at a point when all the other pieces had been put in place. Because we knew the city was supportive, it was able to --

Ms. Copps: Steamroller.

Hon. Mr. Grossman: Unbelievable.

It was able to get done after many years of discussion at the municipal level. It is because of the leadership of this government that this happened and that the next stage will happen.


Mr. Philip: Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the Minister of Government Services. This being the International Year of Disabled Persons, will the minister assure the House that he will have a ramp constructed at the front entrance of the Legislative Building so that the many disabled who will be in front of this building on July 1 can enter their building through the front door?

Hon. Mr. Wiseman: Mr. Speaker, we are trying to build ramps in all our government buildings, particularly the new ones, and to find other ways to make them more accessible to the handicapped. We are making renovations to our existing buildings, but I am told this was tried in a building similar to this and it was not feasible. We will look into the member's suggestion and see what we can come up with.

Mr. Philip: Inasmuch as we have enabled disabled people to enter by the back door of the building and inasmuch as July 1 is only about a month away, can the minister tell us in specific terms what is being done to provide the service so disabled people in the International Year of Disabled Persons can enter their Legislative Building by the front door and give us the assurance that the ramp will be constructed by July 1?

Hon. Mr. Wiseman: I think the honourable member knows the renovations we have done, with the help of the former Speaker, the member for Lake Nipigon (Mr. Stokes), who is sitting in front of him, to make access by wheelchair possible to this chamber and to the members' offices when it is not easy to get there by using the elevators and so on. We have access from the parking lot, as was mentioned. We will look into the possibility of what could be done at the front entrance. I have been told it was tried with a building similar to this one and it was not feasible. We will look into it. I am sure the honourable member knows we have been doing this wherever possible.


Hon. Mr. Wells: Mr. Speaker, I wish to table the answers to questions 66 and 72 and the interim answers to questions 95 and 97 standing on the Notice Paper.



Resuming the adjourned debate on the amendment to the amendment to the motion that this House approves in general the budgetary policy of the government.

Mr. Charlton: Mr. Speaker, it is a great pleasure to have the opportunity to take some time today to speak about this year's budget. I would like to start by making a few comments about your appointment as Deputy Speaker. You are probably going to be unique in that position. It is probably the first time we have had a CBer for Deputy Speaker.

An hon. member: What is your handle?

The Deputy Speaker: A CBer.

Mr. Charlton: We are going to work on coming up with a good handle for you, sir.

The budget which the Treasurer (Mr. F. S. Miller) brought down on May 19 is one that I think is reflective of the attitude of this government and of its inability, with its mad lust for balancing the budget, to deal positively and efficiently. It is evident that over the past week both the Treasurer and the Premier (Mr. Davis) have been extremely defensive about those aspects of the budget which are contradictory in terms of many of the other things they and their federal colleagues have said about inflation in this province and in this country. I will get into that a little later on.

A number of things have occurred so far in the debate on this budget which I found particularly significant. On Monday of this week when the Liberal Treasury critic made his response to the budget, it was significant to note the government benches did not seem to respond at all to the things he was saying. That points clearly to the way in which this government feels defensive about the budget.

It was also significant to note that when my colleague the member for Algoma (Mr. Wildman) responded to the budget on Tuesday of this week the government benches were very active, defensive and vocal as a result of their defensive feelings. In terms of the budget and the government's defensive feelings about it, and in terms of real alternatives and opposition to that budget, this party has been saying that is what the government is really wary and afraid of attempting to deal with publicly.

11:10 a.m.

It was also significant to note last evening during the comments by my colleague from Nickel Belt (Mr. Laughren), that members on the government benches got very defensive in terms of his references to Saskatchewan, in terms of his discussion about resource taxes in Saskatchewan and a number of other items that he raised. Just for the benefit of the government members, I want to deal with a couple of other things that relate to Saskatchewan and to the budgetary approach this government is taking in Ontario.

As I suggested at the outset, this government has been obsessed for some five or six years now with that whole theme of balancing the budget. Unfortunately for the people of Ontario they have been unable to accomplish that. They set out in late 1975 or early 1976 on their balance-the-budget railroad. In order to try to accomplish that, we went through a series of layoffs, hospital closings and cutbacks in a number of ministries. The main areas of concern to the public who were affected by those cutbacks and layoffs is that they were in the areas of community and social services. I might add they were services to people in Ontario who were the least able to fend for themselves, and to defend themselves against those cutbacks. We also saw serious cutbacks in the Ministry of Health.

Whether the Minister of Health (Mr. Timbrell) or the Ministry of Health would like to admit it or not, we have been through a process over the past five years of repeatedly hearing complaints from the public and from health care workers about the level of service, about patient loads and about bed shortages. But through all that process of cutbacks and layoffs the government was not able to deal with getting at the root of the deficit, of balancing the budget.

So now we see a new tack. If they cannot get at balancing the budget by cutting back, then they attempt to get at balancing the budget by raising new revenues. This budget is probably the most cynical budget in 20 years, and probably the most damaging budget in 20 years. I know the Treasurer is not going to agree with me, but I listened to this Treasurer and former Treasurer McKeough over the last five years talking about all the reasons why they had to hold the line on taxes in this province. Some, not all, of those arguments were valid. Those that were valid in 1977, 1978 and 1979 are still just as valid today.

That points directly to the contradiction in this budget, the contradiction in Tory terms, not even in the terms of this party but in the terms of the Tory party and the Tory government of this province.

We have seen a new approach to this obsession with balancing the budget. I am going to get into talking about the specific taxes and the specific problems that will cause for people as I go along, but I wanted to make some reference to Saskatchewan and perhaps to the absent Liberal Party on my right.

Saskatchewan has a balanced budget. Not only does it have a balanced budget, but Saskatchewan had to face deficit financing and debt as well, the same as the Treasurer faces in this province.

I would like to point out that in 1964, when the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation government was defeated in Saskatchewan, there was no deficit in the budget and there was no debt in Saskatchewan either. Unfortunately for Saskatchewan, although they learned fairly quickly, through the term of the Liberal government in Saskatchewan from 1964 to 1972 under Mr. Ross Thatcher -- probably some distant cousin of Hacker Thatcher in Westminster --

Mr. Martel: Does the Treasurer know her?

Hon. F. S. Miller: She is my mother.

Mr. Charlton: During the term of office of that Thatcher government in Saskatchewan the province unfortunately incurred a debt and a deficit in its annual budget, and when the New Democratic Party was re-elected in 1972 that is what it was faced with: a deficit budget, much like that in Ontario, and debt in the province of Saskatchewan.

That government, without cutting any social services, without cutting health care, without having to jack up health insurance plan premiums -- because it does not have any -- has dealt with the operation of the civil service in that province in a civilized, straightforward fashion that does not contradict the approaches to services to people that it expresses in its throne speeches and in its election campaigns. They have balanced the budget. The debt that was run up during the Liberal administration and the early years of the NDP administration has not been totally wiped out yet, but they are well on their way to doing that.

The important thing is that that budget has been balanced. It has been balanced by good money management, not by cutbacks and not by massive tax increases. I think it is just about time that, instead of being so partisan and so political that they have to make digs about things that go on in Saskatchewan, the Treasurer and the Premier of this province should sit down and carefully look at the things that go on in Saskatchewan and the ways in which they can learn about good management from the people in Saskatchewan.

It is also significant to note that, as my colleague from Nickel Belt stated last night, it is time the Treasurer of this province took a serious look at some of the tax policies in Saskatchewan. I will not reiterate all of those figures. They are on the record for the Treasurer, and he knows them well anyway. But my reference to the tax policies in Saskatchewan was to bring in the point that in this budget we find ourselves opposed to the increase in the personal income tax which the Treasurer has included in that budget.

We as a party have always said that the income tax was more progressive than most of the other taxes in the province, and it is still true. I want to suggest to the Treasurer that we would probably not find ourselves opposed to this personal income tax increase except for the fact of the cynical, contradictory way in which it was done. If this budget also included some increase in corporate tax and resource tax, if this budget included a decrease in OHIP premiums, working towards the eventual elimination of OHIP premiums, this party would probably not be opposing the income tax increase. But we as a party are not prepared to support this government in increasing personal income taxes while leaving the corporate sector alone; while shifting additional burden in the overall tax structure to the individual in order to try and cover up its inefficiency and its bad management in its efforts to balance its budget.

11:20 a.m.

The day that the Treasurer of this province comes in with a budget that includes a logical mix of taxes that are in the best interests of all of the people of Ontario, he will not find opposition from this party.

I want to refer to a comment that the Premier made last Thursday in response to a question in this House. I believe the question was from the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Smith), regarding the ad valorem nature of the tax increase on gasoline in this budget. The Premier responded by asking why shouldn't Ontario have ad valorem taxes on gasoline, since almost all the other provinces do.

I want to suggest to the Premier and the Treasurer that this party, and I would imagine the other opposition party too, would not be so upset about the ad valorem nature of the gas tax if the Premier and the Treasurer were providing us in this budget with some of the other things that some of the other provinces that he is talking about have, such as some of the references we have made to resource taxes or some of the references we have made to OHIP premiums. If there had been an increase in corporate taxes to go along with the income tax increase or if there had been a reduction in OHIP premiums, we would not be so upset.

The Premier and the Treasurer cannot have it both ways. They cannot deny the rightness, the usefulness, the sanity of what other provinces are doing. They do that regularly and then applaud them when it serves their purposes. I suppose what I am saying is if the Premier and the Treasurer want to refer to tax measures that have been taken by the other provinces, in the same way that they say to us regularly that we cannot discuss one of the taxes in a budget here in isolation because it is part of a taxation package and philosophy, the same is true in all of the other provinces. The same is true in Alberta, Saskatchewan or British Columbia. It does not matter what province one wants to talk about. The Treasurer of those provinces works out a tax package and one cannot discuss any of the tax measures that they take in isolation one from the other.

Obviously, when we talk about the resource taxes in Saskatchewan, that is part of a tax package and that is why the income tax in that province is at a particular level and the corporate tax is at a particular level and the health premiums in that province are at a particular level as well. In the same way that the Treasurer of this province tries to cover part of his total expenditure need by the use of OHIP premiums, the Treasurers of other provinces deal with their need for revenue as part of a package. It does not make sense for the Premier and the Treasurer of this province to be saying, "We want ad valorem taxes on gasoline because all the rest of the provinces have them," if they are not prepared to deal with some of the other things that those other provinces provide.

I want to talk for a few minutes about the income tax increase, a nine per cent increase. The Treasurer will say, "Well that is below the inflation rate." On the other hand, I listened to the Treasurer of this province, both the present one and the former one, repeatedly -- time after time -- bragging about the 44 per cent level of income tax in Ontario; bragging that they had not had to raise it; bragging that it was the lowest in Canada. Now they brag that it is almost the lowest in Canada.

Mr. Speaker, you know as well as I know that just is not true. You know full well, when the Treasurer of this province says that OHIP premiums are not a tax, that is a joke in terms of talking honestly to the people of Ontario about the levels of taxation they pay. It is a very sick joke when we know that seven out of the 10 provinces have no health insurance premiums at all and that they pay for their health care system totally out of the tax structure. To say that in Ontario OHIP premiums are not a tax and, at the same time, to say we have one of the lowest income tax rates in Canada now, with this increase, is a very terrible joke.

The other problem we find, again, with this income tax increase in isolation, because there is no added increase for the corporate sector, is the shift in tax burden that it causes in Ontario. In the same way we worry about shifts in tax burden when we talk about property taxes, we also have to worry about who is paying what share of the total tax burden in Ontario. This increase, without an increase for the corporate sector, is this year reducing the corporate sector share because they will be paying only 12 per cent of the total tax load. Last year, for every dollar the corporate sector paid in taxes, private citizens in Ontario paid $2.56. This year, under this budget, for every dollar the corporations of this province pay in taxation, individuals will pay $2.89. That is a shift in tax burden that we in this party cannot accept.

Over the past 20 years there has been a gradual but steady process of reducing the burden the corporate and business sector pay of the total tax load and continually increasing the share that individuals pay through their personal income taxes. That is not an acceptable approach, especially in the light of the economic situation in this province where individuals, especially low and middle income individuals, are the hardest hit by inflation and interest rates.

I want to say a few words about the OHIP premium increase as well. The Treasurer can say that the income tax increase is well below the rate of inflation, but the increase in OHIP premiums is 15 per cent. That is in addition to an increase two years ago of 17.75 per cent and an increase two years prior to that of 45 per cent. The reality is that in the last five years OHIP premiums in Ontario have gone up by more than 75 per cent. That is not acceptable either. We even now have the Treasurer of this province admitting, not fully, but admitting he is prepared to look at other ways of funding health care in Ontario. He has suggested he is at least prepared to look at an employment tax. That is an admission on the part of the Treasurer for the first time, even if indirectly and offhandedly, that OHIP premiums are a regressive form of taxation.

To take one of the most regressive forms of taxation and increase it by 75 per cent or 80 per cent over a five-year period is just not acceptable in this day and age; just not acceptable in a province that likes to brag about its social programs and the accessible nature of its health care system.

11:30 a.m.

When one takes that OHIP increase and the OHIP premiums in total in Ontario and adds them to the income tax rate, it becomes clear that all the rhetoric that comes from the Treasurer, the Premier and the government of this province about the acceptable nature of their tax rates is just that, nothing but hollow rhetoric.

We have a situation where, with this OHIP increase, the premiums for a family in Ontario will now actually be higher than the income tax that same family would pay in Ontario. That is not an acceptable situation. It puts Ontario in a category where, taking Ontario income tax and OHIP premiums, people in the province earning $25,000 a year or less find themselves in the position of being the most highly taxed people in this country.

Ontario is not the best or even among the best any more. It is the worst in terms of its tax treatment of individuals. That is not an acceptable situation. It is not acceptable to hear the Treasurer and the Premier saying things look bright for the future when we find ourselves in the position of being, for all our average and low income people, the most highly taxed group in the country.

The Premier was asked a question last week about a promise he may or may not have made during the course of the campaign about holding the line on taxes. The Premier at this point is denying he ever promised to keep taxes down and to stave off any tax increases. He is denying he ever promised that. Unfortunately, not all of us could follow the Premier around this province everywhere he went, but whether or not he said anything during the course of the campaign about no tax increases, there is certainly a large number of candidates for his party who did precisely that.

The Conservative candidate in my riding has run in three elections in the past two years.

Mr. Wildman: Who was that?

Mr. Charlton: His name is Duncan Beattie. He ran in the federal elections of 1979 and 1980. In 1979, he was elected after a campaign based almost exclusively not just on no tax increases, but on tax reductions, tax credits on mortgage interest and tax credits on property taxes. He campaigned around reduction in the federal income tax. He did that again in the federal campaign in 1980.

Mr. Wildman: Did he win that one?

Mr. Charlton: No, he did not win that campaign because the short-lived Tory government in Ottawa failed totally to deliver on its promises of tax cuts and mortgage interest credit. It failed totally to deliver on its promise to do something about interest rates.

Mr. Wildman: Then we got a Liberal government that did almost the same thing as the federal Tories.

Mr. Charlton: That is very true. The Liberals have not been a whole lot better. The former federal member who ran against me this spring in the provincial election went through another campaign of promising not no tax increases, but tax cuts.

Mr. J. A. Reed: That was a double negative.

Mr. Wildman: The candidate was a double negative.

Mr. Charlton: Yes, the candidate was a double negative. The member for Brant-Oxford-Norfolk (Mr. Nixon) is, as usual, a bit confused. I can recall a number of occasions in this House when he chased around the bush after me about the way in which the property taxes went up on his farm as a result of the assessments I did. But I just want to repeat something I said to that member on a number of occasions: he should be directing his problems across the floor.

Mr. Nixon: But the member for Hamilton Mountain listens more sympathetically.

Mr. Charlton: That is very true. I am always more sympathetic than those across the way.

Whether or not the Premier made promises about holding the line on taxes, whether or not he made promises about tax cuts, candidates who ran for that government party did. The candidate in my riding did. And that raises the question of this budget. Is that what this government thinks about when they use the phrase "Keeping the promise"? There were Tories right across this province who were promising tax restraint specifically.

It is significant again to note that just about a week and a half ago in a speech in the federal House that dealt with interest rates and inflation the federal Tory finance critic -- I think my colleague from Algoma made reference to him in his response to the budget the other day --

Mr. Wildman: He said he commiserated with the people of Ontario over the budget.

Mr. Charlton: Not only did Mr. Crosbie commiserate, but he said quite clearly that inflation was the chief enemy among our economic problems. He said that in order to deal with the economic problems in Canada -- and that refers to Ontario as well as the rest of Canada -- we had to mount an effective fight against inflation.

We have heard this on many occasions in the past right here in this House from the Premier and from the Treasurers, both present and former. Yet we end up with a budget that, because of this government's obsession with balancing the budget -- an obsession and a goal they will probably never reach because of the way they go about it -- is in itself inflationary in the worst way, simply because it affects those in this province who are least able to deal with the costs involved, least able to defend themselves or effectively find ways of overcoming the costs in this budget through collective bargaining or whatever.

We have a budget with a 15 per cent increase in OHIP premiums, a nine per cent increase in income tax and a 21.7 per cent increase in the gas tax. As has been suggested by a number of members, we have not only a 21.7 per cent increase in the gas tax but a change in the nature of the gas tax in Ontario to ad valorem. So now we are in a situation where every year the gasoline tax in the province is going to go up, once every quarter. If this budget was not so offensive, it could almost make one chuckle.

11:40 a.m.

I think back to the fall of 1979 when the Minister of Energy (Mr. Welch) in this province released a paper on Ontario's position in the national energy situation. One of the things stressed very strongly in that paper was the problem this government was supposedly having with the cost of energy, oil and gas in Canada. Less than two years ago this government attempted to take what appeared to be, and what they wanted the public to think was, a strong position against rapid increases in the cost of energy. In that white paper, or whatever it was called, they made comments about the fact that they realized energy prices had to go up because of the world situation and so on, but they strongly opposed any rapid increases in energy costs in Canada. That same government has now turned around and tacked on a 21.7 per cent increase in the gasoline tax in Ontario. On top of that it has ensured that every quarter from this point on that tax will go up again.

This budget is not a budget of which this government should be proud. It is not a budget the people of this province are very happy about and it certainly is not a budget that reflects the theme this government has used over the past two or three years and during the course of the election campaign in terms of its approach to running the province.

It is a budget that is inflationary. It is a budget that hurts low and middle income people and does not touch the corporate sector. It is a budget that does not deal with most of the major problems in our economy in the manufacturing sector. It does not deal with the question of interest rates at all. It does not provide any effective assistance to home owners, small business, or farmers who are faced with both short-term and long-term problems in relation to interest rates. In fact, the only thing this budget deals with is this government's seemingly growing obsession with balancing the budget -- but balancing the budget for what reason, at what cost and to whom?

We find ourselves in the position where we cannot support this budget. We cannot support most of the tax increases that are proposed in this budget. For those reasons we have already had speeches from a number of my colleagues and the motion of no confidence over the budget moved, which will be voted on next December, and a debate next Monday on a no-confidence motion over the increase in Ontario health insurance plan premiums.

In closing, I want to say that the comments relating to this budget both from the media and from the people in the real world outside of this place have been strong and critical. They have reflected the real sense of cynicism, disbelief and dishonesty for the way in which this government got itself a majority and then turned around and presented this budget. Over the course of the next few months and years, I think the members of the government party, the Premier (Mr. Davis) and the Treasurer (Mr. F. S. Miller) are going to feel pressure increasing very substantially from the public -- and perhaps from the opposition parties as well -- from those people whose trust they have betrayed as a result of this kind of action.

Mr. Nixon: I want to congratulate you, Mr. Speaker, on your appointment to the high and important office you now hold. You, the Speaker himself, and the chairman of the committee of the whole have to maintain a position of equality with regard to the three parties in this House. As I am sure you have already found, you have to spend more hours listening to the excellent speeches delivered in this House than most of the honourable members do. In many respects, this is a great advantage you have, yet perhaps, to be completely honest, we all have some sympathy for that special responsibility you bear.

I should also say in passing that I want to extend my particular thanks and recognition to the accomplishments of your predecessor, the member for Lake Nipigon (Mr. Stokes), who occupied the position of Speaker for a number of years during the minority parliament. I felt he did an outstanding job representing fairness and justice in this House and his rulings went a great distance towards safeguarding the rights of all private members, including those in the opposition.

I was delighted to be present last night for the traditional unveiling of the Speaker's portrait. While my view may not reflect the view of everyone in the House, I have now come to the conclusion that it is an outstandingly good portrait. I must say when it was first unveiled it rather took my breath away, but as I came up the stairs this morning to come into the Legislature, perhaps in my subconscious there had been a review based on my almost unlimited knowledge of fine art. I came to the conclusion that it was an outstanding piece of art work. Frankly, I am delighted that it is not just in the standard tradition where all the warts and blemishes are brushed out with "rosy glow No. 9" or whatever it is that artists use. There we have the member for Lake Nipigon with all his personality for all time.

I have a feeling that for many years to come school children will be marched down to one of the inaccessible recesses of this building where the portrait will be put on display and told, "There is the Honourable Jack Stokes. He was the Speaker." I also believe that it is a work of art, and I think we should be proud of the fact that it is there for all time. Here comes the honourable gentleman himself. I should say that as far as an attractive piece of horseflesh walking around is concerned, Jack Stokes looks far better than the picture does. Still, it is a work of art.

I also want to extend my welcome and greetings to the long line of new members in the back row. Just recently they have become so acclimatized and perhaps awash with verbal advice that they have followed the example of some of their masters in the lower rows and taken to sitting out in the lobby and drinking coffee for most of the speeches. However, four of the 22 managed to come in. Of the four, I can only identify one as a definite former Liberal, but we never know. Actually, it is a little embarrassing to keep talking about that. It simply means that while we can attract them in their idealistic years, when they move on to the realism of power politics in Ontario, somehow their judgement gets deflected. We cannot help that. I understand one of our Liberals is thinking of moving to the New Democratic Party by virtue of his vote last week. I have the papers here to sign if they want to pursue that further.

11:50 a.m.

I am very glad, however, that in the relative calm of this formal debate, a member such as myself can put on the famous record, which only my mother and not even my wife reads, on behalf of myself as the member for Brant-Oxford-Norfolk and the people in my area to be able to bring to the attention of the members of the government certain shortcomings that we find in the leadership they are giving, particularly in a financial way.

Before I leave my comments about the boys and the girl in the back row, I should say from my experience in watching the people filter down from the back to the front, as yea the Minister of Correctional Services (Mr. Leluk) has finally done, there are a number of ways of doing it. I would not quite advise the procedure the member for York West (Mr. Leluk) used. However, I will give the new members the recipe in detail and in confidence if they want.

Mr. Kells: Give it in a confidential envelope.

Mr. Nixon: For example, the Minister of Industry and Tourism (Mr. Grossman), who is very much a front-row person, is insatiable. Once in the front row, he has to move towards the centre. He was teetering on the end at one time but now he is definitely moving towards the centre; he has his eyes on the Treasurer's chair. Stranger things could happen. But he did not achieve that high position by simply polishing up the handle on the big front door, or whatever it is that back-bench members do.

I think there is a mistake there. The people in the back row have to remember that. They have to bring themselves to the attention of the big cheese by some way other than simply saying, "Good morning, Mr. Davis," or holding the door and saying, "That was your best speech, Mr. Davis." That is not the way to do it. Actually, a few years ago the Minister of Health announced that he was closing Doctors Hospital in the constituency of none other than the Minister of Industry and Tourism.

Mr. J. A. Reed: Larry the Lip.

Mr. Nixon: Larry the Lip? Mr. Grossman, I know the Doctors Hospital very well. In its earlier incarnation, when it was established in an old house, my number one son was born there. If I had more time I would tell the House some very interesting anecdotes associated with that.

But the Minister of Industry and Tourism, instead of standing up and saying, "It has to be. The decision has been made by the Minister of Health and by the Treasurer;" said, "We are not going to close the Doctors Hospital." And by God, it was not closed. It did not interfere with his progress in the power hierarchy of the government or the party. That was not the only example. He has been playing hardball with the Toronto Islands, as members may recall. Once again, he has said, "We are not going to allow that community to be shoved off into the water simply because some third-rate municipal politicians feel it should be a park." There were all sorts of arguments there but he won his case.

Even the honourable Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs (Mr. Wells) himself, that great cornerstone of solidity and stolidity and all of those things that are good for Tories, has had to move. He came up with all the compromises but the Minister of Industry and Tourism did not compromise. We now find we are to be presented with a bill that will maintain the Toronto Islands as they should be. I do not give the credit to that minister; I give the credit to myself. Going back many years to my previous incarnation as leader of the official opposition -- and that does go back quite a way indeed -- I was the one who led the fight for the maintenance of the community. I am glad to see, Mr. Speaker, you are nodding as you should.

The lesson to the new members is do not be too cautious. Step on a few toes. Pick the members whose toes one can step on. Members can step on the toes of the Provincial Secretary for Social Development (Mrs. Birch); she is very nice, she even attends opposition speeches. Even cross the Premier occasionally and I assure the back-bench members they will go into the cabinet.

I will not spend too long on this. I can remember when the previous Premier, John Robarts, was sitting over there with his political empire falling into ruins around him. The only time I ever saw him nonplussed -- I mean it -- was when the infamous police bill, Bill 100, as it was then called, was before the House. I saw Al Lawrence, that paragon of support, come down. As a lip-reader I could almost understand him saying, "John, you either withdraw that bill or I resign." John Robarts went even several more shades of green and the bill was withdrawn. By golly, Al Lawrence was on his way to the very peak. Now he is on his way to the very depth, but that is --

Mr. MacDonald: There are two errors there. It was Bill 99 not Bill 100, and it wasn't withdrawn; it was sent out on my motion to have the offending clause taken out. Let's keep the record straight.

Mr. Nixon: Oh, Bill 99. The member is right. I hope he will agree with me there were not many occasions when we saw John Robarts white-lipped and trembling. At the very worst moment, it was Allan Lawrence who came down along the back stairs of the benches, the way people tend to do, and we could see the ultimatum being given.

So we welcome those friends of ours in the back row. Actually, I listened to a number of their speeches and I thought most of them were extremely interesting and very good. We look forward to seeing them in action, and it will be interesting to see which one gets preferment and why. Will it be geography? Will it be religion? Will it be stepping on toes? Will it be ability? It remains to be seen.

Hon. Mr. Grossman: By the same token the member for Grey-Bruce (Mr. Sargent) should be in the Liberal front row very shortly.

Mr. Nixon: He has been in our first row and in our third row. He is now in our second row, so we change around here. There is a certain kind of consistency that perhaps the member opposite would not understand entirely.

As the clock moves on, I want to say something specifically about the budget, which concerns me very deeply. I have heard repeatedly interjections from the government side based on the fact that Ontario pays more than its just share to the budget of the government of Canada, and we do not get our just returns.

One of the greatest problems I have had, as a student of democracy and a person who participates in the work here in the House on a regular basis, is that the people opposite, with a budget now close to $20 billion, go about the province doing good works. They build schools, sometimes highways and bridges. They clean up rivers. They make jobs. They do all of those things. But the major part of the bill is paid by the government in Ottawa. I am very concerned that democracy does not work in a healthy way when the government that provides the service is not called upon to levy the taxes to support those services.

Just look at the figures on page 12 of the tables of the budget. Personal income tax is going to net us in the coming year $4.4 billion. We know that is a provincial tax. But if we go down the street and ask any 10 people whether it is a federal or provincial tax they all know it is federal. That is where they send their money. The debates in the House of Commons are associated with personal income tax while we levy the tax here.

The government is now insisting that it be increased by seven per cent. It is, in the minds of the taxpaying public, definitely Mr. Trudeau and Mr. MacEachen who are squeezing this money out of them. The money goes to Ottawa and then it comes back in enormous quantities, just like a fire hose -- in this instance $4.4 billion -- without any strings attached, because the government in Ottawa knows we in this House have levied the tax at a certain proportion of the federal tax. So while we can argue, and do argue, that this is a provincial tax, and any knowledgeable person should know it, the taxpayers do not know it. It is considered a federal tax.

In addition, on the same table, payments from the federal government amount to $3.3 billion. These are for programs for which the government of Canada has some supervisory responsibility but in which, more and more as the programs become designated as established programs, the money comes back here with practically no direction, no strings attached. It is money to support our post-secondary education, including half the cost of grade 13, a very large proportion of our welfare program, half the costs of medicare, and so on. That is not an exhaustive list of all these moneys. That is about $7.6 billion, and in rough figures, it amounts to something close to 40 per cent of our budget.

Evidently the government of Canada is getting sick of doing this. As the spokesman for the government party has said repeatedly, the finances of the government of Canada are not in admirable shape. Its deficits are appalling; in fact, frightening. In more cases than one, when we talk about the high deficits in Ontario, the best defence the Tories here have is: "Look at your friends in Ottawa. Their deficit position is even worse." One reason for that deficit position is that it is responsible for 40 per cent of the budget of the revenue of Ontario. According to statements made by the government of Canada, it is going to withdraw from that position by reducing its transfer payments by $500 million in this coming fiscal year and $1 billion in the following year.

12 noon

That has tremendous ramifications for us and, in one of the important budget papers, the Treasurer or those people who advise him have set out the arguments why no change should be made -- or, if any change at all is made, federal transfers should be increased.

One can read all of the reams of material prepared. Of course the government of Ontario wants more money from Ottawa. It makes its political and administrative task easier if somebody else pays the bills.

At the other end of the problem is what is happening for this government in its treatment of the junior levels of government -- at least on one list of priorities -- the municipalities and the school boards. I have a letter here dated May 12, 1981, signed by the director of education for the county of Brant. Among other things, he points out the level of support from the province for education in Brant county has fallen from a high of 61.4 per cent in 1975 to the most recent figure for 1980, 50.2 per cent, a drop of 11.2 per cent in five years.

It is difficult once one gets into statistics to keep them orderly in one's mind or to convey an orderly argument, but please think of this, Mr. Speaker. The money is coming from Ottawa to Toronto and funding, at least in one argument, 40 per cent of our budget. The government of Canada is saying it is going to cut back and we in the province say, "No, you must not," for a variety of reasons but basically for political reasons. We want the money without the political responsibility. At the same time, the government of Ontario is turning to the municipalities and school boards and is in every way restricting its level of support.

I will only spend a moment to say that of course the numbers of absolute dollars go up as the inflation rate for the costs of education and municipal government go up even faster than the inflation rate associated with the cost of living for us as consumers. The rate of increase for those costs is above 12 per cent in many areas so I will not spend a lot of time talking about the basic argument that we are giving them more this year than we gave them last year.

I have heard the Provincial Secretary for Social Development and others make the argument. It is an argument that does not hold much water when it actually applies to covering the costs of the programs concerned. The percentage figures tell us that in the last five years support for education from the government of Ontario to the county of Brant has been reduced by 11.2 per cent.

All they can do in Brant county is try to cut costs and turn to the property tax base and hit us very hard. That is what they are doing. They have no alternative because in many respects they have little control over their costs. It is the government of Ontario that imposed the county system many years ago. It is that government which imposed the elaborate administrative superstructure we all know about and which is needlessly costly. The local boards had nothing to do with that.

As a matter of fact, the then Minister of Education insisted on the appointment of this hierarchically-controlled mechanism. It even had to okay the credentials of the appointees and it even approved the salaries. At the time, many of those people who took on the duties of directors of education were employees of the Ministry of Education who moved from the ministry back to the counties with, at that time, an astronomical pay increase of 10 per cent across the board. It was an almost unbelievable increase. Now we give everybody around here a 13.8 per cent increase and never bat an eyelash but that is more or less a comment on the times.

The local boards have little or no control over the costs. The government refuses to remove the right to strike for the teachers. The secondary school teachers are now getting an average of just under $30,000 a year and that is as of September, 1980. The most recent negotiations have moved them far above that.

The administrators, even in small counties such as Brant, are paid well in excess of $50,000. They are extremely well qualified and naturally they, like most other people in positions like that -- positions that we share to some extent even here -- spend at least part of their time maximizing the importance of their positions by requiring more staff and so on. It is natural. It does not happen just at education; it happens everywhere. But the administrative costs that were dictated by this government have become a terrible drain on the taxpayers, particularly in these days when support from the centre is decreasing.

At the same time, this government -- in fact, this Legislature -- is imposing new and increased education costs. Bill 82, which I for one support, is going to carry additional costs that will not entirely be carried by additional funds from the provincial Treasury; there is no way they will be. I see that my good friend the Provincial Secretary for Social Development (Mrs. Birch) is frowning at me, but I am quite sure that when the figures are added up there definitely will be an additional cost at the local level.

Many of the school boards, in negotiating over the years with their teachers, have built in costs that now are of substantial concern. For example, many of my friends in teaching, people my age, are looking forward to retiring in the next three or four years, well before the age of 60. The argument they give is that teaching is not much fun any more. I do not know whether that is a function of their age or of a change in the realities of education.

A good many of my friends in teaching that I talk to who are fairly senior in administrative positions say, "There is no way I am staying until 65." The magic number of 90 years of service plus age, or whatever it is, is going to be achieved, and they will retire with an indexed pension plus a gratuity of half a year of their salaries, which in most cases are well over $40,000.

Any of those friends who read my remarks may want to take a shot at me. I cannot be personally critical of any of them, because we have certainly done the same thing here. In our own rather tenuous occupancy of these jobs, we want a severance clause that will give us half a year's pay and so on. It is a natural thing. But the point is that these costs are built in and particularly --


Mr. Nixon: Well, one receives the severance if one is beaten or quits. You get three months' salary at present. The member should think about it.

Mr. MacDonald: I am aware of that. Is it six now, or three?

Mr. Nixon: It is going to be six, we think.

Mr. MacDonald: I was asking if it was a reality yet. I know that the honourable member is on the inside.

Mr. Nixon: Oh. I see. All right.

Mr. Wildman: It is not something the member for York South (Mr. MacDonald) will have to worry about.

Mr. Nixon: I know that the last thing in the honourable member's mind would be a requirement of any sort of severance assistance. I am very glad to hear that too.

One of the problems is that these senior teachers, when they really come into their full powers of ability and strength and energy based on real, practical experience, are simply saying: "That is enough for me. I am going to take my indexed pension and my half-year severance, and either I am going to have a new career or I am going to grow gladioli," or whatever it is they really want to do. It is a marvellous thing.

They are not very senior by way of age. I used to think 58 or 59 was a pretty ripe old age, but I now realize it is not; and I know that the member for York South will agree with me there as well, though not the Provincial Secretary for Social Development.

One of the problems, besides the loss of dollars, is the loss of good teaching ability. The quality of education is a matter that must concern us very much indeed.

I want to say, just in passing, that I deeply disapprove of the process brought about by the Minister of Education whereby she continues to divide elementary and secondary education into two mutually exclusive panels. It might be convenient to do this for accounting purposes, but to have the kind of thoroughgoing and expensive review of education quality that separates the elementary grades, kindergarten to grade eight, from the secondary, grades nine to 13, perpetuates one of the illnesses in our education system.

12:10 p.m.

We cannot even get the teachers at the two levels to come together in one professional organization. I deeply hope that can be achieved in the future. I feel it is a very serious mistake for teachers to divide themselves as to men and women at the elementary panel, elementary from secondary and Catholic as opposed to public.

I feel these divisions should be phased out and the importance of the Ontario Teachers' Federation emphasized. It could then act in the best interests of the teachers. I suppose, number one, it could act as a union function, but its professional function could then be strengthened in a way that I feel has been sadly lacking in the last decade.

I want to turn to a second item of great importance in our area. Once again, I appreciate very much that the Provincial Secretary for Social Development is good enough to be here. The Minister of Health (Mr. Timbrell) was here a few moments ago, but I raised the matter privately with him.

The second item deals with the Willett Hospital in Paris in my constituency. I have raised this repeatedly, but it is almost a characteristic problem associated with the way this government deals with community matters of this type.

Without spending too much time on it, I simply say to the honourable members that the Willett Hospital was a typical high-quality operation in a small community population. In Paris, there are 6,000 to 7,000 people. It is named for the Willett family, which provided the land. The community provided all the funds to build the hospital and has had outstanding active treatment care for more than 60 years in that community.

With the encroachment of the Ministry of Health and our health services -- hospital, medicare and so on -- the government has gradually taken over 100 per cent of the control of the operation of the hospital. Naturally, it has its own board and administrators, and I would be the first to say that they are doing an outstanding job in very difficult circumstances.

The Treasurer, who was here a few moments ago, would recall that one of his responsibilities as Minister of Health was to travel to Paris and call together a group of people to announce the hospital was going to be closed. It must have been a traumatic experience for him, particularly the aftermath, because the public pressure forced the government to withdraw from the decision to close those hospitals.

As a matter of fact, in the heat of one of the exchanges last week, the Treasurer -- who was then the Minister of Health -- said that the pressures caused his heart attack. I felt that he said that seriously; he was not kidding. I can understand why that was so, because it was a terrible experience for him. It was worse for the community to think that some politician from miles away would simply arrive in a big shiny car one day and say; "Your hospital is closed," and that is that. Thank God for the sensitivities remaining in the democratic process that caused that decision to be reversed.

Since then we have been living in the most dislocating situation as far as hospital services are concerned. We have gone through a series of supposed rationalizations, where they would take the obstetrics in the hospitals of the county and centralize them in one area; they would close the emergency ward and centralize it in one of the hospitals. In each instance, the Willett Hospital, being a smaller one in a smaller community, had to give up the service. On more than one occasion it was -- I would not even call it the good sense -- the willingness of the hospital board to co-operate that saved the so-called rationalizing arguments and continuing discussion.

Halfway through, the Brant County Health Council was imposed on us. I do not want to spend a good deal of time on that. I have said before that I felt this was really a device whereby in these bad times, in these times of retrenchment, the Minister of Health did not have to make the serious and retrograde announcements in the local community. He would leave that for the local health council.

In our instance, as in others, the council is made up of outstandingly capable people who do not have the powers they should have; in fact, they have to carry the opprobrium of making decisions, which the local community seem to be against, about the continuation of the quality of health services.

They finally achieved a rationalization agreement that would take active treatment out of the town of Paris and expand the Willett Hospital as a chronic care facility. Incidentally, it would make it the largest employer in the town, and many people, including myself, were very concerned that we lost the active treatment capacity.

There was a certain give and take in that the ministry agreed there should be a new emergency service. There would be certain holding beds there so that active treatment could be continued pending the transfer of patients to Brantford or, in the instance of certain other problems, to our main hospital at the McMaster University Medical Centre.

The problems arose when we started to implement the rationalization agreement. Once again, I feel the board of the Willett Hospital bent over backwards to be co-operative. They could have stopped the process and raised the devil and said, "You are not going to do this to us," and it would have been another of those confrontation businesses, but they chose not to do that. In the long run, I believe they conducted themselves very well and certainly deserve a good deal of credit.

There was supposed to be sufficient savings to pay for the capital cost of the changes. In reviews of the costs, it appeared that this would be possible. Then it appeared that $325,000 would have to be found by the board of the Willett Hospital, in addition to the money coming from Toronto, to accomplish the change. The board even undertook to do that. They went to the corporation of the town of Paris in the county of Brant and got their agreement that there would be additional taxation to pay the $325,000.

These officials from Toronto working for the ministry came up to review these things and look at the plans, and it soon became apparent that the $325,000 was just a wild guess. When they actually made the plans, with the delays that are built into the bureaucracy associated with the Ministry of Health, it now appears they are going to have to find more than $800,000. This is an impossible amount of money to be raised under these circumstances. It is simply impossible.

The community has been sensitized to the extent that as soon as it appears once again that the situation is breaking down, everybody just rises in anger. That is what is happening right now.

I received a call from the mayor of Paris this morning, I have heard from the administrator of the hospital, and the chairman of the board has written me a number of letters. In each instance, I try to do what I consider my duty as the member for the area and contact the Minister of Health. I have a high regard for the Minister of Health. I feel, in general, he has coped with a very difficult situation of ponderous bureaucracy with too much inertia and with problems controlling their budget. He has coped with it quite well.

In the past I have always had a good response from him for individual problems, such as the Willett Hospital, where he would take some personal interest and have another look at it. In this instance, my letters, the most recent of which go back into April, have not elicited the response I have previously come to expect.

I do not suppose it is unfair to say that in personal conversations recently he has indicated they are looking at it and they hope to be able to come up with a program that is going to be acceptable. He knows that the $800,000-plus program is not acceptable. He has now agreed that his officials will undertake a special exchange of information meeting with the mayor and the officials of the hospital.

I hate to take the time of the whole House talking about one hospital, but it is very much a classic example of the inadequacies of the leadership of this government over a number of years. They enter into Draconian decisions, ill thought-out, which have to be withdrawn, then try to compensate for that bad judgement and, I suppose, the political embarrassment of having to change their minds, with a series of nonproductive meetings not substantiated by proper factual material and the imposition of a health council from which all the medical services in Brant county have been withdrawn now for a number of years -- the doctors do not participate as a professional organization -- resulting in something that has approached chaos in the provision of health services.

So that I am not misunderstood, I have to say that the hospitals have continued to function very well indeed. There have been a few complaints about inadequacies in facilities, but nothing as dramatic as some people had expected. Surely all this process should be giving us better service for less money. In fact, the service has deteriorated, certainly in Paris, and is costing us hundreds of thousands of dollars more.

12:20 p.m.

This is not just a normal inflation problem. It was poorly conceived, poorly thought out, and the leadership from the ministry was inadequate. They said they must move to restore confidence not only in the health services in the Brant community but also in the ministry itself. As I say, meetings have been arranged, but I wanted to bring this to the attention of the House since it is a matter of grave importance in my own area.

The next thing I want to talk about has a more general importance. It is quite an interesting issue since it was dealt with by the standing committee on public accounts as recently as a few months ago. I refer to the commitment by the government of Ontario to the acquisition of lands in my constituency and partly in the constituency of Haldimand-Norfolk to develop a new town called Townsend.

I will not take the time of the House to review the entire background associated with the visionary concepts of the then Treasurer, John White, in buying two city sites within six miles of each other in the Haldimand-Norfolk area. That the decisions were preposterous is an argument we have made before elections and after elections for a number of years.

The land sat there without development for quite a long time until the present Minister of Housing (Mr. Bennett), soon to be minister of municipal affairs and housing, decided, probably with the concurrence of all his colleagues, that to bring some honour to the purchase of those lands one of them had to be developed. I will not list Edwardsburgh and all the rest of them or all the shenanigans that went on, but Townsend was selected as the one that was going to be nailed to the masthead and was going forward as a development, come what may.

The acquisition and interest costs have been tremendous, close to $50 million. Anyone who wants to go down there and see where our tax dollars are being spent will really find it amazing -- parkways, divided highways, bridges, ski trails and new lakes. It has all been built in the new town of Townsend, right out in the fine farm land of the former township of Townsend, now called the city of Nanticoke.

Part of the problem is that regional government was imposed on the whole area and the new town finds itself astride a strange municipal boundary. It is partly in one of two school board areas which were not put together at the time of regional government. We still have a school board for Haldimand and a school board for Norfolk, and this community find itself astride the border. The kids who will go to school from there will have to go to different school systems.

The costs have been tremendous. Right now we taxpayers, through the Ontario Land Corporation, are building a $2.2-million shopping centre right in the middle of the new shopping and commercial district of the town of Townsend.

The government is pressing in the most irresistible way for the regional municipality of Haldimand-Norfolk to build its new regional headquarters, which is estimated to cost about $2.5 million and will undoubtedly be closer to $3 million, right in the centre of the new town of Townsend. They have partial agreement from the region to go forward. One of the lower-tier municipalities has agreed not to participate, but I feel sure the government will persuade it to take part by sweetening the financial deal.

All these things are happening. The property was purchased for close to $40 million, and the interest payments have gone on. Farm prices were completely dislocated and to some extent still are. They have more than 4,000 hectares of property associated with the new community. The money has been spent, the shopping centre is being built, the school organization is established and the regional headquarters is going in. There is a new lake, ski trails, everything -- and there are only 12 houses with people living in them.

The situation is really astounding. When the decision was made almost two years ago to make this community go, come what may, the Minister of Housing authorized an elaborate advertising campaign. Four-colour brochures were inserted in all the dailies for miles around -- certainly in Hamilton, London, Brantford and so on. I doubt if it got into the Toronto papers, but it may have. They are beautiful brochures, "Come Home to Townsend," showing a nice family walking beneath the trees and by the lake. It was worthy of Cadillac Fairview -- maybe even a bit better than the kind of super world-class advertising development.

They even got the famous jingle writer, probably the guy who promoted "The Promise," to do a jingle called "Come Home to Townsend" -- a very catchy, good tune: high quality, the best money could buy. They spent about $250,000 on direct promotion of the sale of homes in this model community. This promotion has been going on for 15 months -- closer to 18 months, actually -- and there are 12 families living there.

The local paper did a review and they interviewed the families. They say, "We like it here. Everything is new. It certainly is not crowded." And they say the government has decided that Townsend is going to go, no matter what. I believe that is so. The government has just been re-elected with a majority, so there will be four years at least during which this inexorable pressure of money and policy is going to continue to be brought to bear.

Go to the towns of Jarvis, Waterford, Delhi, Simcoe or Port Dover, where there are any number of houses for sale, any number of businesses with "For Rent" in the window. The idea that there was going to be a tremendous surge in population was simply a terrible mistake by the experts advising the government some years ago. As a matter of fact the population growth has been zero, and in many areas it has been slightly less than zero.

There is no great influx into the area. People working at Stelco tend to live in Hamilton, and they can drive down to work quite readily. Many who have decided to move into the community have opted to move into the older, established communities like Port Dover right on Lake Erie -- a beautiful marina, a nice county road right over to work. Why should they be up in Townsend?

Do not misunderstand me: Townsend is beautiful farm land. Some time you should take a picnic lunch, drive up there with your kids, drive along these little country roads and see the farm houses abandoned, the barns with the boards falling off. The land is quite well farmed, because it is leased under advantageous circumstances to very competent farmers. I do not know what the answer is. The Globe, when I referred to this, said that I said the place should be abandoned. It would really be a weird thing to abandon it. You have heard of ghost towns. I do not know what you would call this.

Mr. MacDonald: You have to have a town to have a ghost.

Mr. Nixon: That is right. The town is there, but there are very few ghosts.

All I can say is that the original decision should have been to accommodate any changes in population by expanding the facilities of the surrounding towns. They already have the basic services of sewage disposal, street lighting and garbage collection. They have good schools and they have been closing schools. They closed 10 schools in Norfolk, and there is a possibility of closing one of the high schools, because the population growth has not been what was expected. There is room in the curling rinks, in the arenas, in the churches, God knows. All those facilities are there, and if it were necessary to expand the servicing to accommodate the change in population this could have and should have been done.

The mistakes have been horrendous. While I want the government to spend more money on the hospital in Willett I want it to spend less money in Townsend. I believe the money should be spent to improve the facilities of the surrounding communities. But there really comes a time when they make mistakes they cannot correct. I do not know what the answer is. I do not know what the Minister of Housing intends to do. I suppose he thinks, like Pollyanna or one of Dickens's characters, that things are going to get better. And we all hope they will.

But I think the days of fantastic population growth, where people have to be accommodated in new communities -- "Levittowns," or whatever they used to be called in the United States -- are past, and that the pressure of population growth is off. I am very much concerned that the government's decision relating to Townsend is almost an irrevocable error. I am concerned indeed about the commitment of tax moneys now amounting to close to $60 million to serve these 12 people. I do not know what the future is there, but I think we should all be aware of the error made by the government in this connection and the fact that it has to be corrected in some effective way in the near future.

12:30 p.m.

I want to close by making a direct comment about the agricultural industry. I probably represent one of the most highly intensive agricultural communities in the whole of Ontario. Other members from Oxford, Middlesex, Kent, Essex and on into the Chatham area perhaps have property that is more valuable per acre, but those members also represent some urban areas as well. I have been appalled at what has happened in recent weeks to some of the well-established farmers in our area. My colleague the member for Huron-Middlesex (Mr. Riddell) has very effectively brought the problem to the attention of the House and of the Minister of Agriculture and Food (Mr. Henderson). The minister has not responded in the way we feel he should. I want to assure you, Mr. Speaker, that my colleague has in no way exaggerated the problems faced by our farmers. These are not people who have overextended themselves in a new farming operation. In most instances, they are family farms where there has been the proper use of credit. They have been well advised by the Ministry of Agriculture and Food and their representatives to expand their facilities to raise hogs, to establish feedlots and to put up modern facilities that are labour-saving and essential if we are going to compete with producers from other provinces.

These young men -- and a couple of women -- have phoned me almost in a panic indicating that as the interest rates go up they are under heavy pressure from the banks to liquidate some of their holdings in order to reduce their debts. In more instances than I care to think about, they have actually been foreclosed. A very good friend of mine, a young man in his early thirties, was a member of the local council and an outstanding farmer. The bank came and took all his cattle away and he is out trying to sell feed to his neighbours in order to make enough money to keep his family together. I have no fear at all for the future of that individual gentleman. Whatever he does, he is going to make out all right. But there are clear instances where young farmers particularly have not had the sort of support they should have expected from the government of Ontario.

Before the election, we did have an interest assistance program. It was inadequate, but there it was, funded with $25 million. Only a small portion of that was used. Now that the Minister of Agriculture and Food is supported by a massive, and in this connection thoughtless, majority, he is stonewalling the farmers by saying this is a federal matter. This is certainly not good enough. I personally predict it will be the end of the minister politically if he does not come up with some reasonable alternative programs so that farmers, at least, are under the impression that this House is responding to the substantial needs they have.

In question period the other day, I tried as briefly as I could, and under the restrictions of the question period, to compare Ontario agricultural programs with those in Quebec. I will not take the time to describe the seven specific programs in detail other than to say in the most recent budget Ontario is committing $191 million to agriculture. This is the budgetary requirement for the furtherance and administration of our agriculture programs. Quebec is committing $342 million. They are not only committing a huge amount of money, but it services only 43,000 farms in Quebec.

In Ontario, using the same counting procedure, we are servicing 77,000 farms. This means that on a per-active-farm basis, Ontario is allocating, through the Ministry of Agriculture and Food, $2,481. That sounds like quite a lot of money. As a matter of fact, I know some farmers who would say, "Close down your offices, send me the $2,400 and I can do more with it than you can." Ontario is spending $2,481 per active farm. Quebec, on the other hand, has allocated $7,933 per active farm.

If I might simplify it for my own use, Quebec is allocating three times the number of dollars per farm more than we do in Ontario, through imaginative, modern, up-to-date programs designed to meet the needs of the farmer.

That deals right now with assistance in credit and in establishing feedlots. There is even a program whereby cattle, when they are sold, have a subsidy associated with them which improves the return to the farmer in a market that does not provide the revenue to meet the advance costs.

One of our best farmers in Brant county -- his family has been growing beef for five generations, and there is no doubt it is one of the most efficient operations in Canada or anywhere -- was talking to me about taking a load of cattle to the stockyard in Toronto.

A friend of his had gone to Quebec and established a feedlot operation there about three or four years ago. He listed the assistance the Quebec farmer got: a $40,000 grant to establish the feedlot, a no-interest establishment loan plus a low-interest, long-term loan to assist him in getting going.

But then the Quebec farmers find it useful to bring the cattle up to Toronto where the prices are comparatively good, in competition with the Ontario farmers. They compete and sell their cattle. The Quebec farmers, as soon as they sell, also get a subsidy of approximately 17 cents a pound. In the same stockyard, they turn around to buy replacement cattle at auction and, of course, those from Quebec are in a position to outbid the competition and take the cattle back home to Quebec to begin the operation over again.

This is not the first time this sort of thing has happened. Quebec, because of its government's policy, has expanded its share of the milk, chicken, egg and pork markets, and now is expanding its share of the beef market while we sat around complacently as a series of cabinet ministers, particularly the present one, indicated, "We are the best farming community and our farmers have the resources and the resiliency to maintain their markets."

That is simply not so. I do not know what we can do to convey this to the Minister of Agriculture and Food in a way that will force him to respond. I feel he simply consults with one or two of his colleagues, such as the Premier and the Treasurer, and the advice is: "Lorno, just stonewall it. We have a majority. We don't have to do anything more. That is just the opposition carping at us."

On this side we feel this is an important issue to which the government is not responding in the budget. The amount it has allocated for agriculture is exactly one per cent of the overall budget, and some of that is returned to them. The nonbudgetary part is returned; the loans given to farmers for drainage are paid back, the federal government pays part of the administrative costs of crop insurance and so on.

A good deal of the tobacco smoked in this province is grown in my constituency. The tobacco tax alone will net us $350 million this year. We are spending only $191 million on the whole agricultural situation. It is unfair. The farmers feel it is particularly unfair that a government that has just been re-elected with a majority is so insensitive to them.

Many of them support the government, not that that is relevant in this instance but it is something to bear in mind. They feel a government with the power to act should certainly not exclude the farmers at a time when their financial needs are so great and when we should be providing initiative and leadership to assist our farm community in those things that they feel are good for Ontario and for Canada.

I am glad to have had a chance to put some of these things before you, Mr. Speaker. I close by wishing you well personally in your responsibility. I am always quite interested and attracted to your --

Mr. MacDonald: Free-wheeling.

Mr. Nixon: Free-wheeling; I was going to say "casual," but it is something better than a casual approach even in this august position. I can assure you of my personal support until, of course, you do something I cannot agree with.

12:40 p.m.

The Premier (Mr. Davis) said we on this side do not understand we have been beaten. I do not look at politics as a game. In many respects we are all here as equals. It is up to us to speak for the people back home and, I suppose, to speak for ourselves as well in expressing the judgements we have on the policies of the day. We want to support our parties, and I believe we do that as effectively as we possibly can.

One of the things that the people opposite have missed for 38 years, I suppose, and they are intent on missing it longer, is an experience in opposition. Of course, there is nobody over there who has ever had that experience, and now there is nobody on our side who has had the experience in government; so in a sense there is a lack of understanding, a lack of communication.

We see these people floating around in their big cars. They are friendly. They will offer us a ride every now and then. Some of them are very friendly indeed. I have no objection to that, but there is even a feeling among the electorate that unless they are talking to a cabinet minister they really have no contact with this House.

If there is any tiny complaint I have with the electorate it is that they are overimpressed with the men and women who arrive in the government cars with a retinue of aides running along beside them saying, "Here comes a minister." Mr. Yaremko used to do it best. He almost had flags on the fenders -- not quite, but almost.

I believe that one of the things we can do is to emphasize the equality we all have basically in the electoral process. Some have been selected to advise His Honour, but that does not do anything to their IQ. It does a little bit to their bank account -- not enough, I am told, but that is another matter. They do not change because they are ministers. To be fair, most of the ministers opposite understand that. I do not believe they tend to inflate themselves unduly except when it is absolutely necessary.

In the view of the electorate a cabinet minister somehow has some sort of special blessing that makes him smarter. I do not believe that is so. We have the abilities we are given. We have the other abilities to work or not to work in support of those abilities. I, for one, do not accept the Premier's dictum that we just do not know we have been beaten. We have a responsibility that is as high and important as his. I think the exchanges in this House in the future can and must reflect that.

There are things that have happened on all sides, in all parties, that perhaps we would like to do again. In the heat of an exchange, things are said on all sides that do not read very well in Hansard and do not even make sense when we think about them afterwards. But this is never going to be one of those Goody Two-Shoes places. I think it is one of the best democratic forums in Canada and I think, perhaps in many respects, it can be much better.

People are often apologizing for the way we appear to the people in the gallery. Thank God there are not too many here today. I get letters from Girl Guides and the school kids saying: "Isn't that awful? Somebody was actually reading a newspaper." They do not understand that this is not a public meeting of the type that most people attend where they go in at eight o'clock, they sing "0 Canada," the chairman gets up and does a few things and they sit there, and then when it is all over they have a cup of coffee.

This is in some respects almost like a family discussion where each person probably thinks he or she is equal to all others and, under the rules of the House, has not only the right but also the responsibility to put forward his or her views. We cannot insist that the views be listened to, but we do have the right to put them forward. In the time at my disposal during the last hour I have put forward some of the things that are of interest and importance to my constituents. I thank you, Mr. Speaker, for that opportunity.

The Deputy Speaker: Thank you, Mr. Nixon. Thank you for your flattering comments, although I have to brush up on the prayer, I found out this morning.

Mr. MacDonald: Mr. Speaker, I wish to reiterate the last speaker's best wishes to you in your position and advocate that you continue with your casual, free-wheeling approach, or whatever the appropriate adjective is for it, which is a refreshing change or addition.

One of the tragedies of these omnibus debates, the throne speech debate or the budget debate, is that they are not debates at all. They are a series of speeches that take no account of what has gone on before and are not really interested in what comes on afterwards.

I would like to comment on some of the things the member for Brant-Oxford-Norfolk (Mr. Nixon) has said, and even on occasion to challenge them, but he has left me with very little time. There are a couple of items that I do want to deal with; so I am going to forge ahead to those rather quickly.

The first item is my main responsibility as critic for the Ministry of Agriculture and Food, and on this he has done so much of the work that I am not going to repeat it. But I think it is necessary for us to emphasize the fact that this government refuses to give to the Ministry of Agriculture and Food the importance that it is worthy of in the economy of Ontario, and they are going from bad to worse.

We have heard so often, and again today, that the budget allocation for what used to be and still is the basic industry, or one of the basic industries, of the province is in the range of one per cent. In fact, if you do your calculations, and you need to have a very good computer to do them, you will find that it is fractionally down from what it was last year.

After the election, the government has its majority. It got the votes, at least in some places; so the allocation is fractionally down. In the crisis that has now come upon the agricultural industry -- centred, although not exclusively, on the interest rates -- this government has dug its heels in and in effect is insensitively saying, as Pierre Trudeau is saying in Ottawa: "People will have to look after the problem themselves. We are not going to do anything to solve it." The government's argument is that the problem of high interest rates was created in Ottawa, and it will have to be solved in Ottawa.

The crass cynicism of that is what really gets me. There was no difference a year ago. The problem was being created in Ottawa and therefore presumably should be solved in Ottawa. But it was a pre-election period and therefore this government was at least willing to acknowledge that it might have some responsibility. It allocated $25 million, which, I emphasize, was inadequate to meet the problem, but at least they allocated it. They spent only $5 million of it, and the crass cynicism of wiping out a program when the money had been allocated, because the election is over and now you can say, "Be damned. Let the industry sink or let them look after themselves," is really beyond belief, but there it is.

To get into the budget, I was interested this morning in calling up the Ministry of Agriculture and Food to get a little clearer picture of what the government is going to do about the elimination of property taxes on farm lands and buildings. We in the New Democratic Party are particularly interested in this.

At our founding convention in 1961, one of the elements of our program with regard to agriculture was that the tax on farm lands should be eliminated, because farm land is not the same as property in the normal sense of another person having property. Farm land is the tool of the trade of the farmer. He has to have farm land to be able to do his business, as the carpenter has to have tools to do his business; therefore, for farm land to be taxed as property at rates roughly comparable to what other people pay who happen to hold property is grossly unfair.

The government had to acknowledge its unfairness and it came up with an ad hoc piecemeal approach, which it has gradually built up until it is meeting 50 per cent of the tax on farm lands. But now the Liberals in Ottawa, with their monumental insensitivity, are going to tax the grants they got here. The government moves quickly; it moves so quickly that it has not worked out any of the details of the program.

This is almost as urgent and as crass an issue as that first home owners' grant a few years ago, in which the government handed out money before an election as though it was going out of style. There was ultimately about $13 million it should have but it could not reclaim.

The government does not know exactly how the program is going to be handled in terms of when it will start. In the estimates for this year, there is going to be another $50 million for the tax reduction on farm land. So presumably it is not going to start until at least the calendar year of 1982, or conceivably in the 1982-83 fiscal year.

There is no decision as to whether they are going to compensate the municipalities for the loss of taxes by a lump sum to the municipalities, which would be administratively the least costly way of doing it. I bet what they will do is send out a cheque to every little farmer. I bet they will do it that way.

12:50 p.m.

It is something that was suddenly thrust on it, and the ministry from the deputy minister down has not had a chance to discuss it and work it out. That is not the way to handle an industry as important as this with efficiency and foresight.

I cite another one, stockyards, just in passing. We have known for years it was an anomaly to have stockyards in the middle of a residential area in Metropolitan Toronto, and we know protests have been made. Some of my constituents were among the protestors with regard to the environmental degradation created, the smells that have to be lived with during the summer.

Suddenly, on the eve of the election, the stockyards are to be moved to "an optimum site." Some of the press conferences indicated the optimum site is going to be north of Toronto. There were some assurances they would meet with everyone who might be involved, presumably the packing houses which, not knowing the government had this in mind, spent millions of dollars expanding their existing facilities.

People have bought houses. They are now going to be charged more for transportation. They are going to have to travel far to wherever the stockyards are put. What is happening on it? I asked the minister. Nothing is happening on it. He has not yet had a meeting. Who he is going to meet with I do not know. It is not the way business is handled by people who claim they are businesslike and are administrative people who know how to run the store.

However, the final comment I want to make about this ministry without going into any more detail is that its main problem is its dwindling credibility. Its growing lack of credibility is centred on the minister. The Premier (Mr. Davis) and the government apparently feel they have to save face; so they are going to dig in their heels and stick.

That credibility has sunk once again because of this whole episode of rescinding the experts within the ministry with regard to what was going to happen to those 1,200 acres up in the town of Vaughan. It is ludicrous for the minister to say he does not know who the developers were. Who does he kid when he says that?

So he sends out the member for Elgin (Mr. McNeil), his parliamentary assistant, and builds him up as a graduate of the Ontario Agricultural College (Guelph) -- the mental giant sending out the mental giant to solve this problem. They had experts who assessed it in terms of the guidelines which they themselves had created and the parliamentary assistant to the Minister of Agriculture and Food (Mr. Henderson) goes out and supersedes them with a bit more wisdom. Come, come. How gullible does he think we are?

It is another blow to the credibility of this minister. Do not take my word for it. It is not only incompetence and other things that would get me into trouble if I were to add them to the incompetence. I put some of these on the record in the throne speech debate, but let me put them again.

There was the comment of Mr. Brian Crawley of the Wellington Federation of Agriculture, who moved the resolution that may be considered in July by the Ontario Federation of Agriculture calling for the minister's resignation. He said, "It reflects on the integrity of farmers to have a man of his calibre there." Quite true, it does reflect on the integrity of farmers.

Listen to the president of the Frontenac county federation: "We expect an agriculture minister to look after farmers and have some clout with the cabinet. He doesn't seem to have it or an interest in it. He doesn't seem to be interested in getting agriculture in Ontario going."

I will not repeat it, but I quoted from literally every county spokesman at the Ontario Federation of Agriculture meeting where this was being discussed. Everyone was critical.

What is the reaction of the minister when this criticism comes? This is positively Shakespearian, and the last place in the world I would expect a Shakespearian comment to come from is the Minister of Agriculture and Food. But what does he say? He says: "I am not unhappy with myself. Let them talk, the common rabble out there, the farmers. I am not unhappy with myself." The tragedy of it is that, if the Premier is unhappy with him, he is not manifesting it and therefore the whole agricultural industry is getting into deeper and deeper trouble.

I want to turn quickly to another point. I am not going to have time to deal with it to the extent I should, and would like to. We had a really ludicrous experience the day before yesterday in the standing committee on resources development.

Ontario Hydro came before the committee for two and a half hours. It was painful because it was reminiscent of those days 10 years ago when we had a standing committee on government commissions, and any government commission could be brought before that committee. Hydro was brought there once a year, and we had an hour's speech from the chairman of Hydro, whoever it might have been -- George Gathercole back in those days. After he had finished, some questions would be asked. Leading the pack would be the member for Grey-Bruce (Mr. Sargent) on the differential between rural and urban rates. After an hour or so of that we would disperse for another year.

To review the operations of Hydro under those circumstances and in that way without any staff was, I repeat, really a sad commentary on the notion -- I say to the member for Brant-Oxford-Norfolk -- that this is one of the best forums for democratic expression. He should take a look at that, and maybe he would have to qualify his enthusiasm about it, because it is absolutely shocking. Now we are back to square one: two hours, because the first half hour was taken with something else, to review Hydro. We are not going to be able to do it.

This brings me to something that I know some people will regard as something of a conflict of interest for me. I have talked with the Minister of Agriculture and Food and with a number of other people about the extreme tragedy of this government's decision, at least up until now, not to reappoint the select committee on Ontario Hydro affairs.

Let me pause right there to say that I am not arguing for an appointment to the select committee on Ontario Hydro affairs per Se. I would be the first person to concede that it would be more sensible to set up a committee on energy if we want to look at the broader picture. Even in the committee on Ontario Hydro affairs we had to look beyond the parameters of Hydro at the substitution of other fuels; so that we were considering all matters.

But we must have some sort of public forum to be able to come to grips with all the problems that flow from Hydro and other aspects of energy. It cannot be done with a few hours in the Energy estimates and, tucked into those few hours, a couple of hours of consideration of Ontario Hydro itself.

I have an editorial here. Mr. Speaker, from an area not very far away from you; so I am sure you may have seen it. It is an editorial from the Peterborough Examiner of May 13, entitled "Ugly Sounds." One of the ugly sounds from the majority government here was the word that the select committee on Ontario Hydro affairs was not going to be reappointed. The editorial makes two or three very interesting points:

"They are particularly bad in the case of the standing committee on Ontario Hydro. That is a committee that has brought Ontario Hydro closer to the customers, from which it has been steadily drawing away. In the process, a public- interest bond was formed that even Hydro officials themselves considered valuable."

One of the problems of Ontario Hydro is that people could not get at it. It was that monstrous corporation at a distance. It appeared to be insensitive; the people could not get any reaction that was satisfying to them. In the select committee on Ontario Hydro affairs we had a forum in which there was an opportunity to discuss matters, to have testimony on both sides, to have an opportunity for an outlet -- a bloodlet, if you will -- whenever it was necessary.

The incredible thing about this is that Hydro wants the committee to be continued. Hydro realizes that the committee is an advantage to it. But this government, for its own -- and forgive me -- political reasons, has decided that the committee is not going to continue. What has Hydro said? Let me read another paragraph from the editorial. Even Hydro chairman Hugh Macaulay cannot find it in his heart to approve disbanding the committee:

"'The process of public discussion of what Hydro is doing has served the people well,' he declared." Hugh Macaulay said that. Then J. E. Wilson, the utilities manager of the public hearing department, said, "I think the general consensus in Hydro has been that it has been a helpful process."

I know that is the general consensus in Hydro. I know it is the general consensus among the opposition parties. At least the member for Halton-Burlington (Mr. J. A. Reed) has indicated, and I presume he was speaking on behalf of the Liberal Party, that they would like to see it reappointed.

My time is about concluded, and I shall adjourn the debate and hope that at some time there will be an opportunity to elaborate on this. Without going into detail, there are five or six major areas of unfinished work before the select committee on Ontario Hydro affairs. Its work should be finished, in the public interest. Hydro would like to see it finished; the opposition parties would like to see it finished. May I dare to suggest and be presumptuous enough to say it would be a very important educational force for the government members to have it finished?

I place that in the full context, not just of dealing with Hydro, but the whole interrelations with the whole energy field.

Mr. Nixon: Maybe Allan Schwartz could speak to the Minister of Industry and Tourism (Mr. Grossman).

Mr. MacDonald: Maybe Allan could speak to the Minister of Industry and Tourism, but every time they have asked the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs (Mr. Wells) he has said: "Well, there is not a final decision yet. You know, we do not appoint select committees until just before the adjournment for summer."

May I quietly say to the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, to the Minister of Energy (Mr. Welch) and to the Premier (Mr. Davis), that in the government's interests, in the interests of everybody involved, including Hydro, I hope they will consider appointing that as one of the select committees so that they will have a forum to take a look at this increasingly vital and incredibly complex area of energy.

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

The House adjourned at 1:01 p.m.