32nd Parliament, 1st Session



The House resumed at 8:02 p.m.

House in committee of supply.


On vote 201, Office of the Premier program, and vote 301, Cabinet Office program:

Mr. Cassidy: Mr. Chairman, I have a slightly long series of questions. I do not get the chance to put these to the Premier (Mr. Davis) from time to time. He seems to take three or four a day and that is all. He asked me for some questions and, rather than putting them into writing, I thought I might put them on the record. If he can answer a few of them now, that is fine.

In view of the pledge of openness that he gave prior to six o'clock -- I trust I have not misinterpreted what he said -- I would expect full, frank and complete answers to the questions, the requests for answers to which we have been totally frustrated in over the course of the last few months. Even the Premier will understand that sentence, because the grammar was taken directly from the model he has been providing for this province for the last few years.

The questions go like this:

What data does the Premier have to support the contention, which was made at the time of the Suncor purchase, that there will be a 15 per cent return on investment? How much of this is it anticipated will be in earnings, how much in terms of expected capital, appreciation of the assets or of the oil in the ground?

What profit projections does the Premier have for Suncor, and what would be the indicated dividends at these profit levels?

Does the government expect that Suncor's dividend policy will correspond to that of the industry, as suggested by the Price Waterhouse expert, Mr. Brown?

Can the government provide, year by year, the estimated profit figures for Suncor and what proportion it expects to be paid out in dividends?

I bear in mind that while Suncor had an excellent profit in 1980, a very high profit compared with that of any previous year, it has plummeted to almost zero over two or three of the quarters of this year, and has only just begun to recover.

What impact will the national energy program have on the profits of Suncor once the company is Canadianized? What will be the impact of the national energy program on the profits of Suncor prior to the company becoming Canadianized, since that is a process that may not take place for several years?

Has the government any commitments from the parent American company with respect to what dividend policy it proposes to carry out for Suncor? Will there be any change in the dividend policy or the no-dividend policy which has been followed in the past? What are those commitments?

The profits of Suncor are most directly related to the price level set for synthetic crude. What are the estimates of price for synthetic crude which the government set out in deciding whether to take on Suncor?

If Suncor makes the profits anticipated, plus pays the dividends that are anticipated, will Sun Company in the United States not be better off than it was before, despite giving up 25 per cent of the company to the Ontario government? Who gets the better part of the deal, Sun Company or the Ontario government? Why?

It is proposed to set up a sidecar company for exploration which would have to be 75 per cent Canadian-owned to get the full benefits under the national energy program. What cash commitment will the Ontario Energy Corporation have to make to this company? What commitments will Sun make? Are those commitments laid down in an agreement as a consequence, or a result, or in connection with the sale?

My next question -- I forget whether it is the ninth or tenth.

Hon. Mr. Davis: It does not matter.

Mr. Cassidy: It does not matter? I hope the Premier is taking this seriously. I do not entirely expect him to, because he has not done so since October 13 up until now. But these were a few things that happened to be on our minds, so much so I did not have to go out and prepare these questions. I was able to have supper with my family and take my youngest son and his nephew to the hockey rink before coming back to join the Premier here.

Hon. Mr. Davis: Your youngest son and his nephew?

Mr. Cassidy: No. It is my nephew, actually.

Hon. Mr. Davis: That is what you said.

Mr. Cassidy: I meant his cousin.

Hon. Mr. Davis: That's your problem. You often say things you do not mean.

Mr. Cassidy: That is very seldom true, as a matter of fact.

Hon. Mr. Davis: And he is doing it.

Mr. Cassidy: The Premier may suffer from that. He does not suffer from foot in mouth, but he certainly suffers from a certain dissimulation from time to time. Can I say that the Premier dissembles? Anyway, my nephew has been in England for the past five years and has only just arrived back with us.

This is important, I say to the Premier. My nephew only just arrived back in Canada a week ago Saturday. I am just getting used to the family relationship of having a new relative around the house for a few days, and a great pleasure it is.

Within what kind of time frame is it assumed the sidecar company will begin to be profitable, and what is the basis for that data? How much will the sidecar company be expected to invest in James Bay, in Hudson's Bay or in other territories either on Ontario soil or contiguous to Ontario? Did the government study the possibilities of having the Ontario Energy Corporation enter into that exploration in or around Ontario without the need to buy Suncor?

What proportion of the equipment purchases for the retooling of the Sarnia refinery will be made in Canada? What proportion will be made in Ontario? What agreements, if any, have been made with Sun about where the equipment purchases will be made? What proportion of the equipment required for the tar sands plant expansion will be placed in Ontario?

What commitments -- I think this is number 14 -- has Sun or Suncor made to Ontario, or is it now anticipated Suncor will make, with respect to job creation in Ontario, with respect to the increase, if any, of research and development in Ontario, with respect to commitments regarding the purchase of equipment and supplies in Ontario, and with respect to future exploration for oil, gas or minerals in Ontario? All of the above are in connection with the Ontario purchase of 25 per cent of Suncor.

Was the government aware that Ontario would be considered to be a passive partner as far as Sun Company is concerned? They made that very clear, as has the president of Suncor. Why was the government prepared to accept that position? Has it studied the advantages and disadvantages of being a passive, minority partner as opposed to control, and will it table any studies it has made in that direction?

8:10 p.m.

Finally, and this is the last question I have, at least on this list. I will give the Premier some more, though, if he likes; I will work on a few while we are thinking about the response here. Will the government indicate whether a price has been suggested or what agreements there are that touch on any price that would be paid for the further shares of Suncor on which Ontario has got an option, the two further blocks of 13 per cent, if Ontario chooses to take that option in the future? What specific agreements exist for the further purchase of shares?

I expect the Premier will likely tell me that everything I have asked is confidential. I specifically want to pursue one or two of those questions, but perhaps the Premier can exist -- I mean perhaps he can indicate; the Premier does exist. I sometimes feel unhappy about it, but I have to deal with this reality, this adamantine blue reality over on that side of the floor.

Perhaps the Premier can indicate whether he believes he will be able either to table answers to those questions or else to file answers with the Clerk and make them public, perhaps towards the end of this month or in early January, or whether he intends to hide behind the cloak of confidentiality and not answer these questions, as he and his government have done for everything else asked about Suncor.

Hon. Mr. Davis: Mr. Chairman, I assure the honourable member that anything we are able to tell him related to those questions, we shall do.

Mr. Cassidy: Can the Premier be a shade more explicit? He indicated before supper that he was prepared to reveal all. Will the Premier, now that he is obviously qualifying that commitment made in a certain Christmas generosity of spirit that clearly did not survive the supper hour, indicate whether he is prepared to attempt to provide answers to the vast bulk of those questions?

Hon. Mr. Davis: I will repeat what I said before the supper hour. Any information that is not covered by the agreement on confidentiality I will be delighted to share.

Mr. Cassidy: Has the Premier discussed in his meetings with his Minister of Energy and the people from the Ontario Energy Corporation the nature of the confidentiality agreement and whether it would be possible to amend it? Or has he had the temerity to call up the president of Suncor or the principals of Sun Oil and ask them whether, now that they are dealing with a public shareholder, a government shareholder, they would be prepared to perhaps share a bit of that information with the public -- for example, the amount of information that would have to be shared and made public according to the stock exchange rules if a major acquisition were made in the public share market, in which case there would have to be a great deal of it revealed that has been kept concealed in this case?

Hon. Mr. Davis: I reiterate once again what I said before dinner. Any matters not covered under the commitment of confidentiality, we are quite anxious to share. I might say, with respect, that I think the Minister of Energy (Mr. Welch) had asked for specific questions. The honourable member may have already given the Minister of Energy that list. It is relatively new to me, but perhaps he has already given it to him. If so, I will be able to discuss it with him more expeditiously. I assume I will not have to wait for the Instant Hansard and the member will send me that list over before too many minutes go by and we will take a look at it.

Mr. Cassidy: Does the Premier really want me to go and excerpt this from other things? I prefer that he takes it from Instant Hansard, simply because there were other questions on my list that I had the sense of restraint not to ask in addition. If he would like me to add a few questions to those I have already asked, I would not hesitate.

Hon. Mr. Davis: Never let it be said that I would limit the member.

Mr. Cassidy: The fact is that the confidentiality is being used to cloak this particular deal and therefore to make it impossible for anyone, apart from four ministers, to actually judge whether it is a good deal or not. Since the jury there was divided three to one, one has to question the basis on which this was entered into.

Perhaps I could ask this of the Premier: Who in government, among his officials or the officials of the energy corporation, was asked to judge whether and to what degree this was a good deal? Who provided that advice to the committee of four ministers who eventually said, "We are going to do it"?

Hon. Mr. Davis: I think I would phrase it this way: It was a collective or co-operative decision.

Mr. Cassidy: Specifically, was there a project team or a study group in the Ontario Energy Corporation, the Ministry of Energy or within the Premier's own staff that sought to do their own number-crunching and all the other things they do in these cases to see whether they thought the deal made sense for Ontario, fitted into public objectives and was a useful and justifiable expense of public funds? Did somebody do that? Who did that kind of in-house study in the government?

Hon. Mr. Davis: I do not quite understand the phrase "number-crunching" but, apart from that lack of knowledge on my part, I say to the leader of the New Democratic Party that there were a number of people who worked on this. A number of them made the final recommendation, some of whom he has already met and some of whom he has not.

Mr. Cassidy: Perhaps I could ask who in government? Who were the officials who provided the advice? Did they simply look over the material prepared by McLeod Young Weir, or was there some independent cross-checking and work done by them prior to saying: "Yes, we think it is okay. Go ahead, Bill"?

Hon. Mr. Davis: None of them said, "Go ahead, Bill."

Mr. Cassidy: I suppose they called him "Premier."

Mr. Nixon: Mr. Bill.

Mr. Cassidy: Yes, that is coming back in vogue now, is it not? I hear that Saturday Night Live is back on the air as well.

This is completely out of context from what we have been talking about, but has the Premier ever thought of telling Paul Godfrey that if he insists on putting those ads in, we will make his office into an elected office so that the Metro chairman has to be a member of Metro council, elected to Metro council, before he can take that office? Would that not be a radical reform? Why does the Premier not answer him that way rather than taking those snide ads that are coming from the Metro chairman, paid for with public money? The Premier can answer that before I go on.

Hon. Mr. Davis: I am not sure that ad campaign is a part of my estimates. I indicated, as I have always done, that I am very flexible and I will endeavour to answer any issues the honourable member may wish to raise. I do not think the ad campaign by the Metropolitan Toronto council is part of the estimates. The member might raise this with the minister during the debate on second reading. With maturity and experience in political life, I have learned that sometimes one just ignores things of that nature. Sometimes that is the best approach to take.

If the honourable member wants to make a public statement tomorrow, if he wants to say to the chairman of Metro that if he were Premier -- that is how his colleague used to phrase it -- he would see that he was now elected to office and he would find some way to kick him out of office; if the member wants to say that tomorrow, be my guest. However, at this moment and in these estimates, when we are not even debating second reading, the member will understand if I do not follow the advice he has given.

The Deputy Chairman: I ask the member for Ottawa Centre to allow the questions to rotate a bit, because we have 17 minutes or so.

Mr. Cassidy: I am within a very few minutes of finishing my line of questioning, Mr. Chairman, and I will be happy to give up the rest of the time to other colleagues in both opposition parties.

On the subject the Premier got into, thanks to the House leader of the Liberal Party, I think Paul Godfrey's misuse of public funds is almost as bad as the government's misuse of public funds in the "Preserve it; conserve it" advertising.

I want to ask about that sidecar company. How much money will go into that for exploration from the government of Ontario? Was the government acquainted with what the cost implications would be in addition to the $650 million?

Hon. Mr. Davis: I have put that on the list.

Mr. Cassidy: The Premier does not intend to answer that now.

I have no further questions. I simply say that I see the Liberals, who were so anxious to get information about this, are now happy to see the questioning stop. That suggests a certain inconsistency on their part, but even the Premier --

Mr. Boudria: Talk about being inconsistent!

Mr. Nixon: They were supporting the policy until the provincial council this weekend. That scared the wits out of them.

Mr. Boudria: They are the only people who can be for and against something simultaneously.

8:20 p.m.

Mr. Cassidy: Oh no. Remember what the Premier had to say a week ago Monday? Well, let us not go further into that one. I do not know whether the Premier is a crypto-socialist at heart or whether what is really happening deep down here in Ontario is that the Premier and three of his colleagues staged a kind of a covert coup d'etat in which they betrayed every principle of conservatism. Look around this chamber; the seats are all blue. The Tories have been in power for 38 years, and here they are seeking to bastardize New Democratic policies and adopt them as their own.

I regret the fact that the Premier lacks the commitment to openness that we have tried to make in government and that we believe Ontario should make. And I regret the fact that, he knows and I know, he is going to come up in the end and say, "Well, this information is all confidential." I regret the fact that, as he made clear, he will not take control, that he does not believe in public ownership.

Therefore, what he is doing is speculating in public funds with no indication to the public, and perhaps not to himself, of what the costs or the benefits of this scheme will be. He has not got the temerity to stand up to Suncor and Sun Oil and say, "Look, we are prepared to put this money in to meet your needs, but these are the conditions we expect you to follow." Those are the kinds of things that should be said.

My friend the member for Lake Nipigon (Mr. Stokes) points out that for far less than what is being spent now we could have a major industry gasifying peat in northern Ontario and providing another indigenous power resource to the people of Ontario. There are so many opportunities in Ontario that we should be looking at. And we should look very seriously at the use of public control -- not speculation, but public control -- in the resource sector, particularly with respect to resources that belong to us or that used to belong to us in Ontario.

He takes our lignite up in Onakawana, gives it to Manalta Coal and tells them they have first option rather than the people of Ontario. He stands to one side and leaves the profits in uranium to be made by Denison Mines and Rio Algom on the basis of interest-free loans from the people of Ontario. Then he turns around and plunges with respect to western oil.

It is inconsistent, it is puzzling and it is perplexing. At a time when this province is facing severe economic distress, I almost wonder whether we should not be using that money, which is put off on a speculative flyer by the Premier, the Minister of Industry and Tourism (Mr. Grossman, the Minister of Energy (Mr. Welch) and, rather reluctantly, by the Treasurer (Mr. F. S. Miller), for job-creating investments in Ontario at a time that we are facing the worst depression that this province has had, certainly in 20 years and quite possibly since the 1930s.

Mr. Nixon: Mr. Chairman, I have four specific things that I want to put to the Premier, of varying orders of importance.

I certainly do agree with the last comment by the leader of the New Democratic Party. We in this House probably face greater challenges than we ever have had in the 20 years I have been here, or the 39 years the Premier has been there.

Hon. Mr. Davis: Well now, just a minute.

Mr. Nixon: It just seems like that. But as we see the economic situation worsening day by day, I am sure the Premier and his colleagues must be as concerned as all of us. It is difficult for us to come up with the kinds of solutions that are expected even of oppositionists. It concerns me that in the year that lies ahead, maybe more than a single year that lies ahead, we are going to be hard pressed to meet our responsibilities.

I am feeling quite distressed at the attitudes of some of my constituents from the farm and elsewhere. They seem to approach the situation with a quiet desperation that deeply concerns me, because I do not see too many good things happening in the immediate future. I hope to be more optimistic about those things, but at present I am not.

The four things I want to raise with the Premier, as I say, are of different orders of importance. I do believe that we have somehow got ourselves involved in paying our senior civil servants too much money. We always compare with Alberta or some place else. Like everyone else who is trying to get their pay up, even members of the Legislature, we tend to compare ourselves with some distant jurisdiction that somehow has made a great breakthrough.

When I was a teacher, we always compared Brantford with Burlington, because they were ahead of us and we would try to ratchet ourselves up. There is nothing wrong with that. But somehow or other or at some time, the boss has to take a careful look, because I think there is getting to be an inordinately large number of public servants working for Ontario, municipalities and school boards who are earning more than the Premier. I mean, that has happened in the past; even back in Les Frost's time, or anybody else's, there were public servants who earned more than the chief executive officer. But somehow or other we have got ourselves into some sort of a machine where the ratchets are so complex and so secure that it really is raising people above what tile taxpayers can reasonably be expected to support.

In connection with that, I have said many times -- and the Premier, I know, will smile -- that I think we are giving too many cars away to people who should be prepared at least to pay, for their own automobile. If they have to go on gruelling trips and speaking engagements, particularly civil servants, then we have somebody assist them in that connection. When all the cabinet ministers, parliamentary assistants, deputies and others either have a car provided for their full-time use or have one made available to them, I think perhaps we are getting a little out of line.

I can see in the next couple of years that we are going to be looking for places where we can reduce the costs of government and be seen to be reducing the costs of government. I just tell the Premier, I really think that it is getting out of control. Other levels look to us. School boards, all of the directors and many of the assistant directors of education which we in this House in our wisdom established, even to the surprise of the then Minister of Education, as I recall, are getting as much or more than our very senior civil servants and maybe the Premier himself in some jurisdictions. The special assistants to the mayors of various cities and the people who have responsibility for public utilities are getting well up into the $60,000 to $70,000 bracket. I think it is ridiculous.

The second point: The Premier is receiving, and has received in the last few months, applications from his friends and others who want the QC designation in his New Year's list. Once again, I want to suggest to the Premier that as we approach the dying weeks or years of his regime, one little thing he could do to sort of break with the old grey tradition -- which he is fitting into more and more these days -- would be perhaps to reform that system for the good of the legal profession and for the good of those who consume or use the advice.

The Premier, being secure in his own QC, is amused at this. But I should just tell him that if we had any kind of consumer legislation to protect the public that had teeth and sense to it, then certainly it would attack the QC designation ahead of anything else. I believe it is misleading to the consuming public. I should tell him that one of his senior officials, a person for whom he has the greatest regard and who has recently retired, responded to a question that I put to him about why he had not advised various Attorneys General and others to reform this thing. He said he always had done so; his advice was to abolish QC once and for all.

It could be replaced by a designation, which would be awarded by some sort of a committee, known as senior Ontario barrister. It would fulfil all of the requirements of the lawyer himself in its long form, and in its short form it would warn the public. I really recommend it to the Premier. If he does not use that particular solution, he might use the one that was recommended by the good friend of all of us, Vern Singer, QC, who indicated that when he became Attorney General he was going to publish a list of those from whom the QC was removed year by year.

I am not sure I would want that left to his tender mercies, but it was at least a way to improve the situation which at present is ridiculous. The list that comes out with one or two Liberal nuggets strategically implanted is really ridiculous, and it always amazes me that right- thinking lawyers who really want to serve the public can even be bothered sending in their application.

Two other points: The Premier, who no doubt listens carefully to the squawk-box in his office and if he misses anything reads the debates carefully, might have heard me mention that I was present on the Six Nations Indian Reserve for the opening of an outstanding medical centre, paid from first dollar to last dollar by the taxpayers of Canada.

8:30 p.m.

In talking to some of the officials, both of the Six Nations Indian Reserve and of the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and the Department of National Health and Welfare, I pointed out to them that in the Six Nations reserve in my constituency, which is the largest in Canada, there are 9,000 people on the band councils. It is, by far, the most populated in Canada. They are not well served in the areas of care for chronic patients, senior citizens, and nursing home facilities. They are using an old building called the Lady Willingdon Hospital, which was named after the wife of a former Governor General. Opened about 1922, it was always an active treatment hospital. Now the Indian community is served by the hospitals in Brantford and other larger centres, such as Hamilton, but they do have to have chronic care.

They are using this old hospital. The staff is well trained. The place is kept immaculate. The people I visit there are content and happy. But I would say to you, Mr. Chairman -- and one should be careful when using a phrase like this -- that the place presents a certain fire hazard. As I say, it is well kept. It does not come under the supervision of the fire marshal of the province of Ontario, as far as I know. The people there are aware of that and have expressed their concern.

When I raised this with the federal authorities, they said they had provided the medical centre with its doctors, dentists and facilities, which are the best I have seen anywhere in my constituency. I said, "How about a nursing home?" They said that is a provincial responsibility. When I spoke to officials in the Ministry of Health, including the minister, they said: "We do not build those on Indian reserves." This is a type of catch-22 situation that we must do something about.

I have recently written to Monique Bégin and the provincial Minister of Health (Mr. Timbrell), drawing this situation to their attention. The band council is not bereft of funds, and certainly they are well led; they have an excellent elected council. Things are moving down there. As a matter of fact, the Ministry of Transportation and Communications is co-operating with the government of Canada to build a new bridge. And we do fund children's aid facilities right on the reserve.

About 25 or 30 years ago, in Leslie Frost's time, it was agreed that the province would pay the first and last dollar for a road that went right through the reserve. It is still an excellent road. The Indians there know that it came from the Legislature of Ontario by special arrangement.

I put it to the Premier that somebody or other has to think about this besides me. It could be that we do not have to provide all the money for this, but we can sit down with the representatives of that reserve and of others that may require similar assistance, along with the representatives of the government of Canada, to work this thing out.

Once again, if I may say so, it would be a feather in the cap of the provincial politician, the Minister of Health, the Premier, or somebody, who gives a bit of initiative to this in support of the Indian community.

The last thing I want to say has to do with the same area of jurisdiction. The Premier can well recall the discussions with his fellow first ministers leading up to the constitutional agreement in which aboriginal rights were very much on our minds. It was decided that we would not proceed, even in the constitutional resolution. Instead, since we were not sure what they were, we put aboriginal rights aside, with the commitment to the Indian community that there would be a first ministers' conference without delay, in which we would come to grips with this.

Then, because of very proper pressure from the Indian community and others, it was agreed that the phrase "existing Indian rights" would be included in the resolution. Nobody knows what those existing Indian rights are. The Indians firmly believe that they know. Certain politicians may believe that they know. But from our own point of view, and from discussions in this Legislature over the years, I submit that we do not.

It is far from being a joke on the Indian community, and I am not suggesting that it is a joke here in the Legislature, but it is not treated as seriously as it should be.

There have been various initiatives of the government of Ontario -- Maple Mountain is one that comes to mind -- in which the residual Indian rights to the property have held up the development. We have simply backed away from it, thinking that at some time we will come to grips with this. I submit that we have to come to grips with it in the foreseeable future.

I hold in my hand a report of the last select committee of this House that dealt with the rights of Indians in Ontario. We often feel that we have no responsibility in this connection, Mr. Chairman, but I can assure you we do. We collect taxes from the Indians, except for the income they receive or the purchases they make on the reserve. The Indian community pays taxes to a great degree, at least in the normal course of their lives and we have the responsibility to provide or assist in the provision of certain basic facilities and to safeguard certain rights.

I am suggesting to the Premier that some time in the next little while we have to come to grips with this. We should have a select committee that goes out from this House to the Indian community itself, both in the northern and southern parts of the province, sits down with the chiefs in their council chambers, whether elected or hereditary, and discusses with them what they consider their rights in the evolution of the new constitution of Canada.

Quebec has done quite a bit. They were forced to do so because of the development of the area around Baie James. We have not been forced to come to grips with this. Our Indian communities in many respects are well-treated by the government of Canada and yet they feel dissatisfied. They feel they are still not in sufficient control of their own affairs. We cannot dictate to the government of Canada what it should do, but we should be sure our own house is in order. This is the time we should come to grips with the problems and come up with the best solutions we can for our time.

Hon. Mr. Davis: Replying to the four points, I will take point number two first. Usually there are more than just two.

Mr. Nixon: Cars, QC, chronic care on the reserve and Indian committee.

Hon. Mr. Davis: No. I am taking number two. I was just going to say there are usually more than two Liberals on the QC list.

Mr. Nixon: I did not say two. I said a few nuggets.

Hon. Mr. Davis: I thought you said two nuggets.

Mr. Nixon: A few.

Hon. Mr. Davis: Oh, a few nuggets; that is better.

Mr. Nixon: There is usually the one in the headline and a couple one has to be among the cognoscenti to pick out.

Hon. Mr. Davis: Listen, we have given QCs to all your caucus colleagues who were eligible. None of them have said "nay." None of them have given it back. None of them will.

Mr. Nixon: The flesh is weak.

Hon. Mr. Davis: I might be prepared to make a deal. If you can persuade those cabinet colleagues of yours who at present have their QCs --

Mr. Nixon: What do you mean, cabinet colleagues?

Hon. Mr. Davis: -- on their own volition to give it up, we might review the policy.

Mr. Nixon: That is not fair.

Hon. Mr. Davis: However, I have noted your observations and coming from one who is so well qualified in another profession where they do not get QCs I can understand the point of view. I cannot guarantee it will change this year.

Mr. Nixon: I have an LLD. I will give that back.

Hon. Mr. Davis: Was that an earned one?

Mr. Nixon: The same as yours.

Hon. Mr. Davis: There are some days I think those are harder to get than the others. They are harder to get than the others. I just got a note here. Do you know a Mark Lefebvre --

Mr. Nixon: Fine fellow.

Hon. Mr. Davis: -- of Brant county, a good Liberal?

Mr. Nixon: What creep would pass that on?

Hon. Mr. Davis: Recommended by Robert Nixon.

Mr. Nixon: I didn't get it.

Hon. Mr. Davis: I only guessed at the latter.

Mr. Nixon: I do not believe any of my recommendations have ever been acted upon. I don't really expect this one to be acted upon.

Hon. Mr. Davis: Dealing with the civil servants, I do not distinguish, in discussing this issue, because the very distinguished member has raised this as it relates to directors of school boards and so on where we might come to some closer agreement. My concern is with the senior public service, the direct employees of this government. One should not go by comparisons, but I am in a position where we can have senior staff recruited to Alberta, perhaps traditionally more so to the government of Canada.

I would argue rather strenuously that our senior public servants, our deputy ministers, require as much talent and as much experience. I have found them in my own knowledge of it to be every bit as able as the federal public service. There is still a wide gap between what a deputy minister in this province is getting and what a deputy minister is getting in Ottawa.

I am not saying there should not be some gap, but the differential at the moment is fairly significant. It is hard to equate senior public servants with the private sector. We make some effort to do so. The comparisons are not always easily made, because the kind of work is different and people argue the degree of security you have if you are a public servant. Those things cannot be ignored. But I do not know if I would agree with the honourable member that our senior public servants are getting too much, that they are being overpaid. I am not looking at any of the ones under the gallery. I'd have to say that compared with other governments in comparable positions, the Ontario public service is not overpaid; rather it is somewhat underpaid.

8:40 p.m.

Mr. Kerrio: You're talking parity now.

Hon. Mr. Davis: We are not talking parity. We have discussed our own modest honorariums, compared with other provinces.

I was familiar with the one question you raised on the nursing home. I will pursue that with the minister. I will take it under advisement in a very positive way. I am not sure a select committee would necessarily be the best route. I really have not thought this through. I know your own reluctance to have select committees on some subjects.

Mr. Nixon: That northern royal commission isn't a good example.

Hon. Mr. Davis: No, I am not going to argue it is either, although we must recall the enthusiastic support it received in a lot of circles when it was initially appointed. I will not quote you chapter and verse, but I have a fairly good memory.

As a government we are concerned, and not only because of the constitutional discussions. We have been pursuing this quite actively. It is a very complex area as the honourable member knows full well. I can assure him his observations will not be neglected.

Mr. Haggerty: Mr. Chairman, I want to make a few comments on the Premier's estimates and relate them to his visit to Fort Erie back in the early part of February, I guess it was, where the --

Hon. Mr. Davis: It was snowing and blowing.

Mr. Haggerty: You were well-received that day.

Hon. Mr. Davis: I certainly saw your signs all over the place.

Mr. Haggerty: There were quite a few of them, were there not? They were very interesting, weren't they? I know they did not discourage the Premier from coming in. He came in and brought along with him --

Mr. Kerrio: He got a better reception in Niagara Falls.

Mr. Haggerty: He came into Fort Erie anyway with a promise of a million bucks to feed industries and everybody thought this was a great boost to the community. I thought it might assist them too, but apparently it is not going to fulfil its purpose of creating the 400 new jobs it was supposed to create. I understand there is a possibility another 150 to 200 will be laid off from Fleet Industries in January. So instead of creating new jobs they are backsliding and going back to the level of employment of some two years ago. I regret this is happening to the aircraft industry there.

He came into the Niagara Peninsula and made another announcement -- I think it was in St. Catharines or Niagara Falls -- a promise that the auto technical centre would be built in the peninsula. I know it is difficult for the Premier to make that decision, because he made it in about four or five different centres. It reminds me of all the promises that were made in the Brampton charter. But I suggest the Niagara Peninsula has much to offer for this centre, being close to Brock University and the Niagara College of Applied Arts and Technology. The member for Welland-Thorold (Mr. Swart) suggested it should be located in Thorold. I am a little concerned about that because if it were located on top of the escarpment it would be on choice agricultural land. I would not want to see that happen -- taking choice agricultural land out of production again for an auto centre there.

The Treasurer was in the city of Port Colborne about a month ago and came in with another goody. It was well-received by the city of Port Colborne, a $1 million grant for a new industrial park to provide services there. This is a community like every other in Ontario that lacks full employment and there is always a good opportunity to consider the city of Port Colborne for that $1 million grant to help fulfil this industrial park.

There are advantages in this area. It is close to Page-Hersey which manufactures pipe for the transmissions and other parts of the automobile. At the present time, there is the P.C. Drop Forgings in the city of Welland that is building or manufacturing auto components. There is Atlas Steels with its special alloys that go into the production of gears and special steels for that and the transmission parts such as the crankshaft. So the area would be close to the centre of supply.

I am thinking of a report done in the United States for a committee, which is now before the Congress of the United States, that deals with the difficulties the auto industry is having in that country. It reflects back over on this side. One of the studies was a comparison with Japan. One of the problems with the United States is that they have too much of their production for automobile parts too far away from the assembly plant. This adds to the cost and means that instead of an eight-hour inventory supply, they have to go to about an 18-day supply.

I suggest if you are going to put this auto technology centre someplace in the province, I hope in the peninsula, that is an area to consider. I wish you would branch it out further than that to take in the area of the agricultural sector of the province which needs some assistance with technology and research. You should include this package with it.

I am concerned about our American counterparts in the Canada-US auto pact. They are making deals now to bring in cars from Japan and sell them under the Ford name or the General Motors name or whatever. This may cause some problems here in Canada because it is going to open the door for them to bring in another special line of cars from offshore. If we are going to have this auto technology and research centre it is time, with the grants given to the automobile industry, we should be looking for an all Canadian car.

Perhaps the Board of Industrial Leadership and Development program can provide the leadership in this area to create our own cars here in Ontario. We have the skilled trades in the area of almost every community in Ontario. It is an area worth looking at.

My other area of concern relates to a promise made by this government and your predecessor back in 1968, 1965 and 1964 -- that there was consideration to purchase a provincial park along the shores of Lake Erie. I do not have to remind the Premier of the difficulties down there with the fences up along the shore of Lake Erie. You can travel all along Lake Huron and with all the provincial parks there nobody has fences up telling the public to stay off.

There are problems in Fort Erie and I think there is court action taking place now. It is crown land, but for some unknown reason the people fronting that lake have put up barriers denying the public access to it. There has been property for sale and the government has said they will consider mini-parks. That was one of the policies.

There is a site of 75 acres fronting the shoreline of Lake Erie, about 800 feet of beach property, east of Crystal Beach -- Ridgeway -- that is close to the Niagara Parks system. If the government does not move to take this piece of property now it is going to be developed and it will lose its last chance to maintain public access to almost any shore line along Lake Erie.

I am sending this over to the Premier. I said to the Minister of Natural Resources (Mr. Pope) and the Minister of Northern Affairs (Mr. Bernier) if they would buy this park for this area, I may consider retiring from politics. You could not get a better deal than that. I wish you would take that offer up.

It is a serious problem and this is the last chance to do something for the public down in that area. As close as we are to the American border there, and the thousands of tourists who do come over, there still must be a site for Canadians to have access to the lake front. It has a nine-hole golf course. It could be part of the Niagara Parks system.

I think of the grand old man of reforestation in Ontario, Dr. Edmund Zavitz. You may recall that name. It would be just a great thing if you could purchase this park and name it after him and say: "We appreciate what you have done in the area of reforestation in Ontario." I am here to help you keep that promise.

8:50 p.m.

Mr. Conway: Mr. Chairman, I would like to ask a series of questions on one subject. I believe we are doing both the cabinet office and the Premier's office together. I know if my colleague from Rainy River (Mr. T. P. Reid) was here he would be anxious to join in this discussion. It is really more a matter of information than anything else.

Can the Premier indicate to me in the cabinet office vote which is where the item I am looking for would be located -- I just have this document, I do not have the more in-depth briefing book which I believe is available. Perhaps the Premier can supply me with the information today or if not today at an early opportunity.

My question concerns polling done by outside polling groups. I am particularly interested to know about Decima Research Limited, the Allan Gregg group. Can the Premier indicate in these estimates how much money will be allocated for polls, who will be doing those polls and on what subject matters those poll interventions will be made. Can he indicate these estimates for both the fiscal year 1981-82 and for 1980-81, because my concern is equally as keen for the fiscal year we are just leaving. What amount of polling was done by the cabinet office? Who did it? On what subject matter was that polling activity concerned?

I have a supplementary to that -- perhaps he can supply me with some of that information forthwith?

Hon. Mr. Davis: Mr. Chairman, I cannot give the details of that information. Quite seriously I would be delighted to get it. You raise the name of one firm. I think I can assure you that Decima Research Limited has not done any, and I do not believe we have done any polling through the cabinet offices in this current fiscal year, but I will confirm that.

Mr. Conway: I would appreciate that very much because I am interested to know whether in the period from 1980 onward the Decima group has polled. But quite frankly I am interested in what other groups have and what the breakdown is going to total for these estimates going into this next fiscal year, the one we are now in.

Another point the Premier has probably dealt with elsewhere: can he indicate what the policy of his office is with respect to the release of the information of any polling that might have been done by his office or the cabinet office?

Hon. Mr. Davis: Mr. Chairman, I think the policy generally has been to give to the individual ministries who did some polling the responsibility for the release of that material. I think in the past year we have not done any -- not in this current fiscal year. The bulk of it, and there has not been that much done for cabinet office, has been done by the Goldfarb firm. That is the only firm whose name I am aware of.

Mr. Conway: I take it then you are going to supply this information within a relatively few days if that is possible. I would certainly appreciate it by the week's end.

Mr. Nixon: Goldfarb told the Liberals that Coutts couldn't lose.

Hon. Mr. Davis: That is why you should never rely on polls.

Mr. Conway: I just want to be clear on this undertaking: The Premier would then provide for me as soon as he can any and all polling that has been done in the past fiscal year for either the Premier's office or the cabinet office. He will try as well to provide me with information as it might relate to these estimates with respect to any polling contracts that are intended or are in any way spoken to for this set of votes?

Mr. Cassidy: I would like to pursue that a bit further. I heard the Premier say the policy with respect to polls done for individual ministries is left to those ministries. I wonder if the Premier could explain that a bit further. It seems to me when we had the release of polls about a year and a half ago a number of those were done through various ministries and some were done for the cabinet office and the Premier's office.

I was recalling that brief glimpse of what the government guides its actions by the other day. Those were all released in a piece because of pressure coming from the Legislature. Can we not have a commitment from the Premier that this policy of openness will not be a one-time event, but on a regular basis, perhaps every month or two or even stretching it to three months? After the relevant poll has been utilized within the ministry it would be tabled in the Legislature and therefore made available to members and the public. The public after all paid for those polls, and I think they would have some interest in knowing what is in them.

Hon. Mr. Davis: Mr. Chairman, as I recall the discussion I think the honourable member saw the polls. I do not say he was disappointed in their contents but perhaps there was some modest awareness at least that the polling was not done with political motivation. I guess it is natural to suspect that the government --

Mr. Nixon: We did not get them all, did we?

Hon. Mr. Davis: I do not know whether you got them all; you got most of them. Because they are not all taken at the same time, we have told the ministries to release them. We have given them that responsibility.

Mr. Nixon: The argument is not very devastating unless we get them all.

Hon. Mr. Davis: I see. But when that massive release was made I gained the impression the member was -- disappointed is not the proper word -- surprised at the lack of political input into the polls themselves.

Getting back to the question from the member for Renfrew North, I will give him what information we have relative to what polls were taken or projected in 1981-82 and the names of those firms who have done any polling for us. I think I am right in saying there are not any in 1981-82 but I will confirm that.

Mr. Conway: Just to complete my interest in the point, do I take it from the previous responses that this minister, with respect to his departments, has no objection to the release of polling data that has been paid for through the public treasury at some time, I hope not too far from the production of the poll, to the public domain?

Do I take it from his answer he does not have any difficulty with the concept that the results of these polls should be released to the Legislature and the public? If the polls are paid for by the public treasury for presumably very important public purposes, at a certain point down the road -- I believe the third party mentioned two or three months -- I take it the Premier has no difficulty with the concept that those be released to the Legislature and possibly the community as a matter of rule and routine? The polls are made available to the departments and the Premier of course is head of his department and the cabinet office as well.

Hon. Mr. Davis: Mr. Chairman, I would say as a matter of principle, I do not have any difficulty with that concept. There may be the odd poll that could be quite sensitive and in our view -- and I say this quite sincerely -- might not be in the public interest to make public. I have some modest experience with polls and I can tell members what they reflect today may not be the realities of three months or six months from now. I can visualize the odd circumstance where it would not be in the public interest. I do not say that would happen on too many occasions. So in general terms, yes, I would agree that after a period of time, these polls could be routinely released. There may be some exceptions to that.

Mr. Conway: The Premier has twigged my interest yet again. I can imagine in the national jurisdiction how things like national security could certainly be very sensitive in polling as in many other areas. Since he did raise the subject, I would like to pursue with him the class of polls that might be sufficiently sensitive to justify their retention within the private confines of the executive branch. Drawing upon his very considerable experience as leader of the government and minister of the crown, can he indicate specifically what might be in that category? Since sitting here these brief moments I can't visualize what those polls might be at the provincial level. Perhaps you can help me with that.

9 p.m.

Hon. Mr. Davis: We are speculating a little bit here, Mr. Chairman, but I could visualize this government feeling that an example might be some polling of public attitudes relative to the constitution, some of the sensitive issues that were part of that or even flowing from that. I am perhaps expressing this in a rather clumsy way, but sometimes those poll results may not reflect attitudes. They are done from a limited sample. I do not say we have had this happen, but I can think of the possibility of polls on issues that, while they are done here in the province, might have some sort of national impact and relevance.

Even the government of Canada has said it felt -- Chrétien, I know, has said this on a couple of occasions -- it would not be in the public interest to release some of those polls. They are not statistical in the sense of the word, and they cannot be measured other than by the opinions of those people who express them to a group of pollsters. They are not totally accurate -- I can give you that from my experience -- and they do change. They change with some rapidity on some issues. I can agree with the honourable member in terms of principle, but I cannot guarantee him that every single poll would necessarily be made public. It is something you look at as you go through them.

Mr. Conway: As a regular reader of the Metropolitan Toronto press and particularly the daily Toronto Star, it seems on a weekly basis to bombard its readership, on the page opposite the editorial page, with Gallup testing on what seem to me to be a range of often controversial, sometimes explosive, issues. I wonder to what degree that has not sensitized the population at large to the kinds of things the Premier has just mentioned.

I would imagine that some years ago when, perhaps, we were less sensitized to the kinds of issues that now seem to preoccupy much of the public domain, that kind of caveat at the provincial level might have been really understandable. I think I can imagine what some of the issues on that shopping list of potential controversy might be. But I cannot imagine, in most cases, they have not been widely and regularly ventilated by our public press in a way that would make the community at large rather agreeable to the receipt of additional information from a government.

I do not want to make too much of this, but looking particularly at the political literature of recent years one of the reasons I mentioned the Decima group is that Jeff Simpson's marvellous book, The Discipline of Power, sets a very fascinating relationship between government and that polling organization.

Mr. Cassidy: Almost like your party and Goldfarb.

Mr. Conway: Indeed. I do not disagree with that at all.

I just have not seen a recent account that was quite as specific, definitive and, from my point of view, endlessly fascinating. I rather thought in the parliamentary context different sorts of inputs finally decided things. Certainly, Simpson's thesis would caution one against believing too much of that old school argument.

This weekend I was rather amused by what was coming out of Quebec. That government and that party were polling madly in the course of the last 10 days apparently to get their message across to the French-speaking part of Quebec, particularly as to where it is alleged to stand on the important issues of the constitutional debate, and whether the majority of the population was in favour of the provincial position as taken by the Lévesque government or as taken by the national government.

I just want to say in conclusion I feel very strongly about this subject. I can understand why it is that governments in a modern world want to do polling. That is not a real problem for me. But a number of the line ministries are going into areas and sampling at great length, getting the widespread support and participation of that community and then saying: "I am sorry. You cannot have the results of what you have told us and what we have put together, because we do not think it is in your best interests."

It is extremely difficult to persuade the person who is not only being sampled but who is also paying the piper that he can do those first two functions well but he is not mature enough, he is not able enough to accept and to interpret the finished product.

I would strongly encourage the Premier, not only as head of these departments but also as leader of the government, to undertake a regularized policy which would see the release of all information at a conveniently early time upon the conclusion of the date of gathering and its digestion by the department and/or the government at large.

I really hope we have reached the stage where -- recent speeches in Belleville notwithstanding -- freedom of information and a more open concept by all governments can be achieved by the implementation of what I think is a relatively sensible course of action, particularly on the basis that the people who are being sampled and the people who are being asked to pay for this are, in the final analysis, not privy to the information that is forthcoming.

Mr. Cassidy: Mr. Chairman, I want to pursue this. I trust I have heard the Premier correctly. If I heard him correctly, the representations that have been made by my colleague the member for Renfrew North are accepted by the Premier. So I will ask the question specifically: Did I understand correctly that the Premier is prepared to ensure that with the limited exceptions he spoke of -- and we can quibble about those, I do not think I agree with the Premier about them -- polls made not only by his department or the cabinet office, but for or by the various ministries will be released here on a regular basis within a short period of time after they have been prepared and made available to the department? Is that what the Premier is now saying?

Hon. Mr. Davis: No, Mr. Chairman, I do not think that is exactly what I said. I think I said to the honourable member that in principle I did not quarrel with the statement he was making. I said the practice has been for individual ministries to determine those polls. There are not nearly as many as people always suggest are there somewhere. From my perspective, as a matter of principle, I tended to agree.

I did put in a caveat, which perhaps we could discuss at greater length on some occasion, that there could be those polls government might judge would not be in the public interest. That is a judgement call and it is one that is not always easy to make. But I did agree in principle. I cannot argue against it in principle.

I cannot guarantee we will have a policy starting in the coming year that, three months after a poll is taken, a ministry will automatically table that poll. It may be three months is not sufficient time for digestion or an appropriate time to elapse before it is released. But I am not taking exception to the principle of this being done. I cannot guarantee you. I have not discussed it with my colleagues. It is something we would have to develop as a matter of practice.

Mr. Cassidy: Perhaps I can pursue this. What commitment is the Premier prepared to make? Simply saying he accepts it in principle does not get us very far, in the first place, quite apart from the fact that it can be used as a means of escaping responsibility. I am not trying to push a partisan line like that.

Perhaps I can point out to the Premier, who reminds us from time to time like this afternoon that he has been a departmental minister as well, that civil servants, not only in Ontario but also at the federal government level, in Washington, in Whitehall and probably even in Saskatchewan would prefer, if they could, not to release information which they would prefer to keep on a confidential, in-house basis.

I am afraid ministers have also sometimes shown themselves, in the absence of a policy and of a deliberate decision developed to do otherwise, to be somewhat jealous about maintaining information of their own rather than making it public. That occurs elsewhere. It is not just endemic with this government although sometimes we think this government is particularly prone to it. Perhaps it is something to do with being in power for so long.

9:10 p.m.

But given the fact that the natural tendency, therefore, will be not to implement the principle the Premier has talked about, what action would he be prepared to offer in order to turn principle into practice? I say that accepting, albeit grudgingly, there will be a caveat in that he is saying he might feel he had to hold back some of the things -- he indicates a limited amount of the material -- because in his judgement they are not in the public interest.

I would like to see it established as a general matter of practice that within a few months of polls being taken they are made public. Is he prepared to offer that? What is he prepared to do in order to make that principle into a practising reality within the government?

Hon. Mr. Davis: Mr. Chairman, the honourable member has endeavoured to get me to be definitive or commit policy during the course of these estimates. He may make instant policy. I consider these matters very carefully. I have listened to what the member for Renfrew North has said and I have listened to this member's observations. I would just remind him of the existing practice. Members put questions on the Order Paper and they get the lists of the number of polls, the figures, the ministries, and a goodly number of those polls have been tabled.

I make it quite clear we are talking here in terms of the principle of it. I cannot tell the member we will have a policy next week, because we have a few other things to consider, or that three months after a poll is finalized and the ministry has had an opportunity to assess it it will automatically be tabled. I cannot give him that sort of commitment. I know he rushes into things. He makes up his mind very rapidly. He does it without any thought or consultation. We try to handle things a little more logically on this side of the House, because we have to assume responsibility for it.

Mr. Cassidy: I have to assume responsibility for what I and my party do as well. I assure the Premier we know how to consult as well.

Hon. Mr. Davis: This is not a party thing. We are the government.

Mr. Cassidy: That is right. You have been the government for 38 years.

What I would like to ask the Premier for though -- again without, as he says, him making instant policy, which is fair enough -- is an undertaking to have this matter studied within the cabinet office, for which he is responsible, and perhaps that he engages in some of the consultation with his colleagues he talks about and brings back a report -- he is getting his orders from the member for Carleton-Grenville (Mr. Sterling).

Will the Premier undertake to come back with a statement of policy or a decision when this House resumes some time, I hope, in February but more likely, given the habit, in the latter part of March, in order that there can be either a policy or an established practice that everybody agrees on, understands and can work by after that time? Will he have it studied and come back with a report when the House resumes?

Hon. Mr. Davis: I am not sure about the non sequitur of my habit of coming back in the latter part of March. We have been back here in the early part of March, as I recall, more often than not in the past 10 years, if the member checks the records very carefully. Listen, if he wants to come back in February in the midst of his convention, we might be persuaded to do that, if that is what he would like.

Mr. Cassidy: I have no problem with that all. I would be quite happy to be here.

Hon. Mr. Davis: No, I know you won't. Are you giving the valedictory address?

Mr. Cassidy: A few of my friends may be otherwise occupied.

Hon. Mr. Davis: I understand that. I am not going to give a commitment tonight that I am going to come here on whatever date in February or March and that I will have all this resolved and make a policy statement the member will find totally acceptable. I am quite prepared to consider it in the interim and have something to say about it.

Mr. Conway: I want to take up the point the Premier mentioned, because there is a standard response from the executive table to an inquiring Legislature about the courses of action we can undertake to get information. That is good political science. It makes eminently good sense, and every textbook I can point to will print it out very nicely.

But there are times when one gets a shocking indication that is not so. I am not going to recite chapter and verse of the cases in modern history in this political culture where there have been some unfortunate deviations, although I can cite one in my own case that was very important and, in my view, very serious. It made me a lot more sceptical and, quite frankly, infinitely more cynical than I ever was prior to its occurrence.

It involved the social development committee in 1978 and had to do with information that we had asked for concerning the debate on the premium increase and the whole premium tax principle. We had asked for a certain amount of information that was important, vital at the time, and it came forward. I will never forget the now minister, who was the then minister in his place, trying to be very helpful, defending what was at the time the crucial matter, the government justification prior to the budget of the whole premium business.

It happened to be Darcy McKeough's March 14, 1978, letter to the Globe and Mail, which seemed to some of us a little strange, but made much more strange when the Deputy Minister of Health, sitting in his place, simply pulled out of his pocket for the minister's survey what proved to be a devastating piece of information that was not contained within and which was a sharp and stinging contradiction for not only what the Treasurer was saying in his remarks, but also in all that had gone before. It was, for me at least, a clear indication that we had been given very selective information.

So I hope the Premier, who has been blessed, I suppose, by the good fortune of having spent 22 1/2 years of his public service in the province on the government side and most of it in the cabinet confines, will understand how it is others might be a little less enamoured with some of the obligations which press so deeply, so immediately and so often upon himself. Unlike others in this House, quite frankly, I think the Liberals will be winning Carleton-Grenville before we get a freedom of information policy from this government. That is about the level of my expectation with respect to that process.

I have surrendered any hope that I once had in that connection, but I do hope we can have at least a partial admission that these are important public documents in almost all cases. I am not persuaded; I would certainly be delighted to have written communication from the Premier or his senior staff setting out the caveats, the reasons, the places and the circumstances, whereby the public, which is being sampled, which is paying for all of this, ought not to know what its collective mood is on a given subject.

I have great respect for the polling agencies. I do not share the scepticism of some of my friends to the immediate right of the chamber. I do not have any worry at all about their ability to do a good job and an accurate job. Certainly, the sample at a given time changes from time to time. When one reads the Jeffrey Simpson book, The Discipline of Power, one understands only too well how the winds of change blow across the political floor on which we walk. But I think it is important that those polls be made available, in almost all cases, in the interests of the public's right to pay and to know.

Mr. Cassidy: Is the Premier going to reply to all of these things said to him?

Hon. Mr. Davis: I spent half a day replying to what you said.

Mr. Kerrio: Mr. Chairman, I am not sure it is not a fact that the Premier enjoys my company, or for whatever reason, I have been listening with rapt attention and I have not heard him respond to my questions.

I understand why he has something in common with the NDP and why he would relate so much to them, because having sponsored them with the extra funds for research that they so direly needed, he would have to address himself to that gentleman on our extreme left and acknowledge the fact that he happens to be there after such an expenditure on the part of the government to justify their existence. But I thought the question that I raised, as it relates to the auto pact --

Hon. Mr. Davis: I have got it here.

Mr. Kerrio: Thank you very much.

Hon. Mr. Davis: Mr. Chairman, I assume there are just two matters that I wanted to refer back to, one raised by the member for York South and then the member for Niagara Falls. Perhaps I will deal with him first in that he is here. He raised three issues with me, as I recall. One was the auto pact, where I can assure the honourable member we share his concern with respect to the equity of the auto pact. We have made representations to the government of Canada, and we will continue to do so, to correct the imbalance that exists, particularly in the parts sector. We share the concerns the member has expressed to me, and they are being pursued.

9:20 p.m.

The member raised the question about the geographic location of the auto parts technology centre and I realize he was supporting the concept of its being in Fort Erie or somewhere --

Mr. Kerrio: Nearby.

Hon. Mr. Davis: Nearby. His colleague was sitting right beside him and I knew the member for Niagara Falls was supporting what the member for Erie (Mr. Haggerty) was saying because he supported that member. I got that message.

I also appreciated the member reading my letter to his newspaper on UNICEF and I can assure the member that with respect to the water qualities of the Niagara River, Lake Ontario and those other tributaries, we share his concern. We may differ as to the method or the approach the ministry or the minister is taking, but I think the member is fully aware of the minister's concern, his commitment to putting our point of view across, his involvement with the state authorities in New York, and my willingness to meet with the governor of that state. We are still pursuing it and I would hope that meeting will come to pass in the not too far distant future.

The governor was not available when I met with other governors of the Great Lakes states, not about the Niagara River but water quality and air quality in Washington, which I think received, on the part of some at least, a very positive type of response. I feel quite optimistic that Governor Carey will show the same concern and the same measure of co-operation.

As I recall, those were the three items raised by the member for Niagara Falls. If I have neglected any, he should send me a note and I will get back to him. I would deal with the --

Mr. Cassidy: The same way he dealt with my questions.

Hon. Mr. Davis: I asked the member for Ottawa Centre to get the questions over the supper hour and I would do my best. I always do my best. It may not be adequate; it may not be sufficient --

Mr. Cassidy: The Premier's best is always inadequate.

Hon. Mr. Davis: I know the member's assessment of my best is inadequacy. I will always accept his judgement, but I prefer to accept the judgement of 8.5 million other people who, when they tested our adequacies, made their determination. I am always prepared to accept that judgement, no matter how it turns out. I always feel they exercise that judgement intelligently. That is rather fundamental.

The member's colleague the member for York South --


Hon. Mr. Davis: I understand. I will deal with one issue the member's colleague raised, which he perhaps did not hear, just to set the record straight. While it is in the past, I do not want there to be any misunderstanding. I heard some of the member for York South's observations about the constitutional discussions, which he discussed for some 38 to 40 minutes.

Very appropriately, on balance, he appeared to become just a little defensive with respect to the position of the New Democratic Party, the fact there was some division within the party, which should not surprise anyone -- I do not know why he should bother to apologize or explain it -- and also to present the point of view that in some way I or the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs (Mr. Wells) or this government had singled out the Premier of Saskatchewan in terms of part of this debate.

I say to the member for Ottawa Centre that if he looks at the Hansards and correctly traces the chronology of this he may find it was his own intervention, his own unfortunate way of presenting these issues on occasion, that led to some of this discussion.

As I recall it, the member was putting the onus on this government, on me, for why certain things were not happening or were not included and I made it abundantly clear what my position was. I do not think I offended the Premier of Saskatchewan when I indicated what his position was. The reality was this province was in favour of their inclusion, some other provinces were not. That was the sum and substance of it.

He is not going to find me, on the issue of the constitution, saying any less than positive things about the Premier of Saskatchewan. He has played a very important, very meaningful role. He just happened to take a different point of view. No one needs to become defensive about that as long as the facts are there and it is clearly understood. I hope the member conveys that to the member for York South because I would not want any misunderstanding on that issue.

Mr. Cassidy: I will be happy to convey those opinions to the member for York South, but I would remind the Premier that on two specific occasions when he had the ability to concur with the federal government's proposals, those questions about the recognition of the rights of native peoples and of the basic equality of the sexes were left out; were not even thought to be worth mentioning, as far as the Premier of Ontario was concerned.

The first time they certainly could not maintain it was because of opposition of other provinces, because at the time the original proposals were put together by the federal government, and concurred in only by New Brunswick and by Ontario and no other provinces, there was no reference at that point to native peoples' rights, nor was there reference to the basic equality of men and women under the constitution, which eventually has now found its way back. At that time -- and that was one of the points the member for York South was making -- Ontario could, and was, in a position to have provided leadership on those issues and did not.

The second time was when the negotiations were going on and when the Premiers finally came together. At that time he was suggesting Ontario had perhaps been remiss in not insisting that the clauses on native peoples' rights and women's rights -- which by then had been put in because of the intervention of the very active participation of Ed Broadbent and the federal New Democratic Party caucus -- were tossed aside with barely a second thought. He was suggesting that Ontario could, at that point, have dug its heels in and insisted that what was done later should have been done at that time.

Those are the criticisms being made by the member for York South in commenting on those two particular issues. As the Premier says, later on as the pressure mounted, my friend and colleague from Saskatchewan, Allan Blakeney, was a bit slower than some of the other provinces to recognize that both the questions of native peoples' and women's rights had to be comprised in the new constitution. He had some valid points in terms of the working of the ultimate package, but those were points which should, and could, have been raised at some other time, an earlier time, in order to have them ironed out.

At that time, it was a question of whether we put equality for men and women in the constitution or not; and whether we leave it subject to an override or not. That is the position he eventually took, but long before that, before any of the gang of eight were even considering being on board with the charter of rights, the Premier had the opportunity to stand up for native people's rights. If he did, it certainly did not come out in public, in terms of his disappointment that they did not come in, or by being included in the package that was agreed to by the federal government.

Mr. Conway: Mr. Chairman, I did not realize there were so many other members here tonight who wanted to participate. I know there are only a couple of minutes left in the estimates time, so I am going to expand my list of interests to a couple of other things. I sat earlier this afternoon listening to other members talk about other issues, but there are a few observations I would like to share, since I have some views on a couple of subjects. I will not be long on the three or four subjects that I want to comment upon.

Much has been made in this session about the Board of Industrial Leadership and Development, and the Premier and his office has had a real interest in and involvement with that particular program. I was looking the other day at the correspondence with the Civil Service Commission on one of the questions that I think is central to, if not this House at least another future generation of academics, and that is the degree to which that marvellous panoply of public relations on February 1, or January 28, whenever it was, on the eve of the provincial election, whether or not that was a case study to point out the too close relationship that exists between a long established party in power and the public service.

I happen to think, more from my private conversations with people within the Ministry of Treasury and Economics than that rather obscene display at the Macdonald Block that day, that in fact it is. It really was quite an abuse of the public service to involve them to the degree they were necessarily involved in the production. I understand, from my sources, which I have to think are reliable, that there were more than a few people who told Hugh Segal when he called -- what is it Johnny Paycheck's song title has to say? -- basically, "We find you have made an unfair request and we are not going to do it so find someone else." But certainly when I read the letters of Mr. Waldrum and others, I certainly had the feeling that this was not the view of the Civil Service Commission.

9:30 p.m.

Certainly as one member and one citizen in the province, I saw it rather differently. When I see the Premier's deputy sitting quietly under the press gallery over there, I am reminded, as well, on this subject, about a film that I think about often in this connection. That is Peter Raymond's The Art of the Possible. If I ever get to the point of teaching a class, there are going to be parts of that film I will use to deal with that particular point because of the people involved.

I think particularly of the very distinguished deputy minister in this department. He allowed himself to be filmed in a couple of cases, quite remarkably from my point of view. That he was doing the sorts of things he was doing did not surprise me at all; that he thought it should be committed to celluloid for years to come was quite remarkable.

Mr. Cassidy: He did get his film debut in the TV ads for the Tories in the election.

Mr. Conway: That is true, but I do not remember that as well. I must say about BILD that I have a very clean remembrance. Some months before the election was to take place, I had brought to some culmination an important project in my own riding and I felt the dialogue was good and that others in the government were very sympathetic. Needless to say, I was quite shocked to see my representation, my basic idea, there in the BILD document for which others were taking great and endless credit. That told me something about the genesis of this long thought out policy position.

On a sadder note, understanding how these things come to pass, I thought in this election, in this particular document, there was sort of formalized, to me at least in a pathetic way, something that represents the old parish pump post office politics that I liked to imagine was not really what it was proven to be for 37 or 45 marvellous days in February and March.

I think particularly of the BILD document and how it set out that we want to have three or four specific undertakings and they are going to be these projects. We know we are going to have a high technology research centre or whatever. What we do not know is where it is going to be. We can tell it is either going to be in Cambridge or in Ottawa. We want to have an auto centre and we do not know where it is going to be generally, but we can tell it is going to be in either Windsor or Chatham or St. Catharines or Cornwall or whatever.

I was amused during the election at the degree to which this ploy was being very successfully played. I have come, after some short years of experience in this place, to understand that some of my good friends opposite play politics like a professional plays water polo. I am never too amazed at just how successful a modern translation of some of the more ancient practices of this business are played out now.

To see the member for Cambridge (Mr. Barlow) plaintively pleading, begging in his own private way with the minister who is going to dole out this little plum. Then to hear the member for Carleton (Mr. Mitchell) get up and bleat his endless bleat in praise of his own locale, a very good cause. I find it sad, quite frankly. I hope the day never comes when my involvement here reduces me to that kind of role.

I am speaking as just one member. I am not saying all of my colleagues would agree, but I must say I found that whole procedure deeply depressing and offensive when I really thought about it. I hope its success in the last campaign will not encourage a more resourceful use of it in future campaigns.

Briefly, on another subject, and these are not in any particular order, over the past couple of weeks I have made note on the weekend that we in the eastern part of the province have the benefit of seeing the weekend review of Parliament, as I guess you do here in Toronto and Brampton and elsewhere. In our case, we get the National Assembly review on Saturday and Sunday mornings when it is in session. Occasionally, though it is rare, we see something from Queen's Park.

That is something I find appalling. I am altogether in favour of improving the quality of television in this chamber in the interest of stopping the very poor impression of certain honourable members that is being cast across the province. If I were the leader of the third party (Mr. Cassidy), the Minister of Education (Miss Stephenson) or the Minister of Agriculture and Food (Mr. Henderson), for my own protection I would denounce the view that is left of me from the current arrangement.

I strongly encourage that television in this chamber be regularized to the point of having what is called an electronic Hansard or, if that cannot be arranged, and there may be prophets of parsimony who would argue it ought not to be arranged, then in the interest of fairness to some people, please have it removed completely. The unflattering profile it presents of some honourable members on the Treasury benches and an equal number of honourable members here is really worrisome to those of us who want to have a fair and accurate presentation.

My third point is something I talked to the Premier about in a supplementary question about a month ago. I know it occupies the interest, the attention and the research of the member for Ottawa Centre (Mr. Cassidy). It has to do with election reform. I finished my third campaign under the election expenses reform legislation of 1974 and, as I have indicated on earlier occasions, I am quite pleased with some of the significant progress that has been made.

It is positively joyful for those of us in my beloved part of the province to see some of the spirit and the letter of both the Canada Elections Act and our own provincial regulations now being complied with. As the Premier knows, we have a fairly colourful regional political culture and, having grown up in it, it is marvellous to be able to tell people now that the Canada Elections Act really means something and that certain encouragements on election day and at other times are really not proper and, of course, are not legal.

I am delighted we have moved in the direction of disclosure. I think the whole tax credit system is marvellous, having listened to my grandfather for many years talking about what it was like to raise funds to be a candidate back in the 1920s and 1930s; how the vice-president of the Conservative association was the one who put up the money for him, a Liberal candidate, to run back in the 1920s. It was a worrisome memoir I wanted to have no part of and happily, as a result of the reforms of 1974, I have not really had to worry about it.

As I told the Premier on the day earlier mentioned, there are a couple of things I find offensive about our current situation. I do not know how one goes about changing this. In my own mind, I have a firm, fixed notion that the day is now here when we ought to cap the expenditures at the riding level.

According to the returns, the Progressive Conservative candidate in my riding is now faced with a $7,000 debt, and the poor guy is out there trying to nickel and dime it out of people who do not remember as easily after it is all over. That bothers me. He ran an excellent campaign. He is a fine man who will probably be running again.

I think it was enough to ask him to participate in the process. I can well imagine it is the candidate who is left with the obligation to come up with these funds. It is sad as well because I know that, while he spent $27,000, I spent $19,000. We should both have been limited to $17,000, and we could have run perfectly adequate campaigns.

I do not believe there is anything antidemocratic about the limitation principle at that level. I do not, never have and never will accept the notion often put forward by other members that one can buy elections. I do not believe that. The spending of a lot of money at election time can be counterproductive. It sets a terrible example.

9:40 p.m.

I am embarrassed to be part of a process where every four years we throw a lot of money around, all of us, and in the meantime, particularly in these days of shrinking revenues for many people, we try to preach a lesson on the virtue of restraint. I do not know who out there ought to believe it after we finish our own self-indulgent election campaigns.

I think that, really and truly, if we set a fair and reasonable ceiling at the constituency level, we would all be forced to live within more defined guidelines. Just because we can raise the money, I do not believe there is any particular reason why we should all go out and spend it.

In my own case, I dare say that if a ceiling of about $17,000 were placed on my riding of 29,000 voters, the $4,600 subsidy the taxpayers pay to my campaign would probably be unnecessary. Quite frankly, I think that is not a bad way to go. I just think it violates the spirit of the electoral reform of the early 1970s if I am sitting there with a $5,000 surplus after all campaign expenses are paid, and the Treasurer of Ontario comes along and adds another $4,500 to that. I cannot defend that.

I say as well, when I think that, as my accountant tells me, the most attractive tax break I enjoy is my political tax credit -- it is the best of all the tax credits I have; that does not bother me. It is a fitting comment on what I think the political process ought to be. But when I realize that the moneys paid out when I make a contribution to the North Renfrew Liberal Association, and do it properly through the dictates of our legislation -- that is, if I pay provincial income tax and, given my modest honorarium, I do -- that is simply a direct drawdown from my provincial income tax payable. That is my understanding. It certainly seems to represent a tax expenditure for the Treasury of Ontario.

With these open-ended campaigns, I do not know how people spend $100,000 even in an urban riding. An urban riding was successfully won federally with the expenditure of a quarter of that amount. I am quite prepared to argue that 60 per cent of what was spent of that reasonable amount had to be wasted. I might add that I do not know of another process where there are more pressures to waste money than in an election campaign. I have great sympathy for anybody trying to hold the line in the absence of a firm cap, because you are going to be an old man or an old lady and a very tired person trying to rein in the very enthusiastic pressures that are there to spend all that is available.

When people say, "I can raise the money; why shouldn't I be able to spend it in an unrestrained way?" I say simply that all or most of the dollars you are spending are subsidized by the taxpayers, and that becomes a different matter.

I simply plead in the name of common sense and good politics: If we are going to leave the open-ended system, I hope we will come to some determination between now and the next election as to how we can control that at the local level. If we cannot, and if we are going to leave it open-ended, then please let us not, as a group of people in this place, expect Joe Q. Public, through this important, positive and, I think, necessary political tax credit system, to fund and subsidize that open-ended extravagance. That is where I have a very deep problem.

I think if we put a cap on, we will draw in the pressures, we will control them somewhat, and I hope we will find the day may come and the formula may be devised where we do not need to pay some of us the subsidy. I would certainly like to investigate that.

Finally, as mentioned by the leader of the third party about the constitutional matter, I have had a very difficult time for the last year with that situation in this place. I want to say quickly and candidly that I happened to be home in early November for a specific reason, to watch the final first ministers' gathering when the accord had been settled. As a matter of fact, I had been in Ottawa the night before, and I had been speaking to the Prime Minister's principal secretary early in the evening, when things did not look very positive.

I was expecting to be called to my television set that day to hear, "Well, they tried hard and it was almost there but it just did not come together." So it was with not a little bit of surprise that I sat there and watched the announcement of the accord. I am not going to engage in speaking on the accord, because I do not feel qualified to do so. I am pleased that the process was able to work to a point where that level of consensus was made possible.

But I want to say something personally and positively about the role that the current Premier played, at least in that session. I want to say to the Premier that I was pleased, proud and moved, for perhaps one of the first times, by his sensitivity, by his eloquence and by his emission of genuine feeling. He spoke for me that morning when he spoke as he did.

I had been angry, hurt and disappointed about the Premier's role in some of these national affairs in the national capital about 13 months ago. I had a hard time coping with that, because of my interest and involvement in politics. I certainly have no tabula rasa of virtue -- I have made my mistakes, and some of them I deeply regret now -- but I had felt and wanted to believe that a new nationalism would evolve as we moved into what I think is a critical time in our history.

I want to say, as a young Canadian, as someone proud of the achievements of this country in all its component parts has been able to achieve over all these many years, that I remain this day, December 14, 1981, in many ways deeply pessimistic about the next decade. I hope and pray that we are able to put a floor of positive and new nationalism among all Canadians.

I have said to my colleagues privately that I am surprised that on previous occasions that this Premier, when given the rare opportunity that falls to the first minister, has not seemed to want to inspire, as I want my leaders to inspire me.

As the Premier heads into the last years, and maybe these last years will be many years, I do not know, I just hope that he will think back to what he said and how he did it that morning and try to remember that there are many of us out there who can and often will set aside the partisan differences that divide us so often and so necessarily, I suppose.

I want to tell the Premier now, because I have wanted to tell him for a couple of weeks, how happy I was that morning, how I began to feel that maybe what he did in Ottawa 13 months ago was necessitated by internal pressures that I, a lowly country back-bencher for parliamentary provincial opposition, could never begin to understand.

I hope that is the case, because I will tell the Premier that to this day I hurt deeply over what went on in the Carleton by-election -- not because of the results; I campaigned early in that by-election, and I was prepared. I can tell the Premier -- and I would have told him if anybody had asked me -- that my friend from Manotick and I talked about this. It was never there for us, regrettably, and that is what made it all the more painful.

Why, I asked, in the face of these realities, is our first minister here in this national capital region weeks after the constitutional initiative announced by the Prime Minister -- one that he was prepared to associate himself with -- and why is he personally and by all reports regularly and by some reports happily prepared to indulge in the exacerbation of the ancient sore of this country?

That may be a question that we can discuss at a later date. I just do not want to make too much of it. I was proud of the Premier's presentation that morning. I thought for one of the few times -- I certainly hope not the last time -- that, as my Premier, he inspired me as his citizen. For that I was thankful.

9:50 p.m.

Mr. Chairman: There are seven minutes remaining in the time of the estimates of the Premier and Cabinet Office. Does any other member wish to participate? The member for Ottawa Centre.

Mr. Bradley: Did somebody say there were seven minutes left?

Mr. Chairman: I did.

Mr. Cassidy: I am sure that in seven minutes the Premier can at least give us some answers on the two questions raised by my colleague. One was the question of the limitation of election expenses. It strikes me that this is not a bad idea. We have suggested it on numerous occasions. In my own riding the Conservatives actually had to get a candidate from Gatineau; they had to bring him back across the river because they could not find one in Ontario. But, apart from that, Mr. Chairman, the imbalance in terms of spending is not good for democracy in this province. I would like the Premier to respond on that one.

The other point that was raised by my colleague the member for Renfrew North was the question of some adequate facilities for television in this chamber. I was in the House of Commons about a month and a half ago and had a chance to look at how the system has evolved there. In each corner and opposite the two benches they have robot television cameras. They are very small and very unobtrusive. They fit into the background and they do the job. They provide a feed which the television networks can offer.

The Premier's trouble is the number of cameras up there. There are seven or eight -- I do not know how many, but there are an awful lot now. In fact, before long we will get cameras from one end to the other expressing the interest that the television media has got. This is a matter that I think one of the committees should look at, having been a member of the Camp commission which looked at this and made the original recommendations. That got TV in the door, but somehow the door has not widened any further in the past five or six years. Surely it is time now.

I would like to hear some positive and supportive comments from the Premier about that, because I think we could get on with the job. Some time within the next six months we could ensure a modernization of TV access so that we have much better television access and a system into which the networks could plug, a system that would flatter the Premier -- let me appeal to his vanity -- in terms of camera angles.

Hon. Mr. Davis: There you made a mistake.

Mr. Cassidy: Maybe I made a mistake. I have no vanity to flatter on this. I will not be in this position by the time the cameras come to their new positions. But I do suggest that to the Premier, and I would like his answers on both of those questions.

Mr. Chairman: Mr. Premier, you have four minutes.

Hon. Mr. Davis: Mr. Chairman, I want to make it abundantly clear that any decision that is made on television will not be to reflect upon my vanity, either the lack of it or concern about it. I just wanted to make that abundantly clear. Members are dealing with a person who does not worry about vanity. I do not care where the cameras are.

Mr. Cassidy: He says in a vain fashion.

Hon. Mr. Davis: No. That is one thing that my friend may suffer from, but I do not. I am delighted to consider it.

Mr. Bradley: That is not what Darcy says.

Hon. Mr. Davis: The member always likes to chime in with irrelevancies.

Mr. Cassidy: No. He got a gas company; you got an oil company.

Hon. Mr. Davis: No, no. I meant the member for St. Catharines (Mr. Bradley). We will deal with two or three matters that were raised.


Hon. Mr. Davis: Oh, he did not go for gas at all; Darcy went to the private sector.

Mr. Conway: What was it that Norm Atkins said about the --

Hon. Mr. Davis: No. that was Alan Eagleson: and my friend is far too young to remember it. It did not upset me; it upset my wife a little bit, because he made some comments.

Mr. Conway: I just know that you dress differently from the way you did then.

Hon. Mr. Davis: That is right.

Just to deal very briefly with the Board of Industrial Leadership and Development program, I would say in the spirit of the contribution of the member for Renfrew North that I urge him to reflect on the timing of BILD. I know some members of this House might consider it to have been a somewhat politically inspired document. I do not know why they would think that.

It is interesting. I found very few people in the private sector who are not part of the political process who have suggested it. It has been very well received, not only in the communities that are being impacted but also by the private sector itself. When the BILD document was produced -- and I read about a lot of stuff that never happened -- there was no decision to have the election shortly thereafter. There was every possibility.

The months of May and June were being explored because, I must confess, I prefer the warmer to the colder weather. The timing of it was not as politically motivated as I am sure you in your own way suspect it was. I assure you it was not the case. I will not convince you and I will not waste any time trying. I am just telling you factually it was not so.

I listened carefully not only to my own colleagues but to the -- and I do not call them pleas -- suggestions from the member for Niagara Falls (Mr. Kerrio) and the member for Erie (Mr. Haggerty) with respect to the location of certain things in their ridings. If I could share a little experience, I think that even if one is in this profession a long time, one should never be reluctant to plead the cause of one's constituency. I do not think one should be reluctant to express in a public way that one would like to see a government policy that would have a positive impact on one's community.

I would give some advice. I have been in it now for 20-some years. I would not hesitate to stand up in this House and say to the Minister of Industry and Tourism (Mr. Grossman): "I would like to have that in Brampton, Mr. Minister. Will you consider it?"

Mr. Cassidy: You never do. You never hesitate.

Hon. Mr. Davis: I have news for you. If I said that to him, chances are he would consider it seriously. I say this kindly to the honourable member. You should not be reluctant. You should not be sort of consoling the members you referred to. I do not blame the member for Cambridge (Mr. Barlow) getting up. If I were the member for Cambridge I would get up. I would say to the minister, "I want consideration."

Mr. Nixon: Oh, oh.

Hon. Mr. Davis: Certainly he should. But that should not surprise you. Those are what our responsibilities are and you should not be reluctant to do it.

Mr. Conway: That's not the point at all.

Hon. Mr. Davis: I know the point you were making.

Mr. Conway: Hoisting these two poor, unfortunate souls on their own petards.

Hon. Mr. Davis: I can assure you I know them both very well and they do not consider themselves as unfortunate souls. They are here to do a job as you are here to do a job. I feel a little better tonight because I thought you had taken a pledge of silence for this whole session. I have heard more from you tonight than I have heard in the past several weeks, and I am delighted.

Mr. Chairman: Speaking of unfortunate situations, Mr. Premier --

Hon. Mr. Davis: Am I prolonging it?

Mr. Chairman: -- guess what?

Mr. Cassidy: Maybe he is appalled by the people running to replace his leader.

Hon. Mr. Davis: I am surprised, quite frankly, that the member for Renfrew North has not entered the lists. He might be my second choice after the member for Brant, Haldimand, Norfolk, Oxford and all those other places he purports to represent.

I am delighted we have exhausted the clock and that I have received so many constructive suggestions from the members opposite. I say that genuinely. I may or may not be able to accommodate all the things they have raised in questions. I am also delighted, and I say this on behalf of Kathleen, five children and two dogs, that you have not, to this moment, decided to lower my salary to $1 because I would be in serious trouble if that were to be contemplated by members opposite.

Vote 201 agreed to.

Vote 301 agreed to.

Mr. Chairman: This concludes the estimates of the Premier, Cabinet Office and the Lieutenant Governor.

Hon. Mr. Wells: Mr. Chairman, we have two other items in committee of supply, the supplementary estimates for the office of the Assembly and the office of the Ombudsman. I did not know whether my friends might want to proceed with those now or would they like to leave them?

Mr. Cassidy: I do not have them in front of me and I am not sure what they are but I certainly think I would like a chance for one or two other members of my party to have a look at them. I do not think we can agree to that now.

Mr. Conway: I might feel a speech coming on.

Hon. Mr. Wells: I draw to my friend's attention there will be plenty of time in the concurrences for the office of the assembly and the office of the Ombudsman to bring on many speeches.

On motion by Hon. Mr. Wells, the committee of supply reported certain resolutions.

10 p.m.


Hon. Mr. Walker moved second reading of Bill 151, An Act to amend the Credit Unions and Caisses Populaires Act.

Hon. Mr. Walker: Mr. Speaker, in the light of the time this evening and the fact we will be moving into committee of the whole House at some point to discuss an amendment I will be proposing -- a copy of which has been delivered to the honourable members and is somewhat substantial -- and in the light of amendments that are being proposed by members of both opposition parties, my comments will be necessarily brief.

The bill has been necessitated by various events that have occurred throughout this province and every other province of Canada, and indeed throughout the states of the union. There have been a number of problems involving the matching of moneys and hence the need to ensure that there is a measure of protection for the benefit of those people who have deposited money in their local credit unions. Consequently the act was brought forward and it is relatively straightforward.

Some changes are proposed. In section 2, for instance, there will be a number of changes made to the actual composition of the board of the Ontario Share and Deposit Insurance Corporation and to the capacity of the Lieutenant Governor in Council to be able to remove directors from OSDIC, as the case may be. This is necessitated by virtue of the fact that OSDIC itself is made up of people who are from the league and from the federation and from provincial appointments, in the form of three each. As a consequence of that, it would be incorrect if we did not have the capacity to vary that accordingly, should it be necessary to become directly involved with member unions or with the league.

The amendment that will be before us, copies of which have been distributed to members of the opposition, is substantial in the sense that it allows for the creation of a mandatory liquidity pool. Normally, we would not be inclined to do that sort of thing unless there was a spontaneous reaction from within the member unions themselves. It is fair to say that a spontaneous reaction has come forward. We have the request of the special task force that was set up on November 7 by the Credit Union Central of Ontario -- at least by the member leagues of Central -- who gathered for the purposes of a special meeting to discuss some of the concerns they had at the time.

The member unions created the special task force. That special task force has been meeting in the interim with a view to establishing its future course. Having resolved on a future course that included a requirement of a mandatory liquidity pool, that has now been submitted to us, and we did the drafting of the request for a mandatory liquidity pool. The request came forward in a very strong and very supportive way from the member unions. It is fair to say there is definite support in writing from something in the range of 80 to 85 per cent of the 100 largest credit unions among the 840 credit unions that belong to Central. Of the 100, they represent something like 80 per cent of the assets. So members can see there is a substantial acceptance of it, as they feel this is the best and most direct approach to resolving some of the concerns they have today.

With that, I would like to end my opening statement, because I fear we will be getting into clause-by-clause discussion of it and the amendments as well. Perhaps it is better left until that point to discuss in more detail what has arisen.

Mr. Bradley: Mr. Speaker. I rise to indicate to the House that we will be proposing some amendments of our own, but we certainly accept the principle of this bill and the necessity for it, particularly in light of the economic times we find ourselves in now, and in light of the circumstances that are facing some of the credit unions across this province.

I am sure the provincial government was not simply looking for a piece of legislation to bring forward. It has sufficient work on its plate. A lot of the initiative for this came not from the government itself but from the credit unions and the caisse populaires across the province who recognize their own vulnerability in view of such things as happened with Astra Trust and Re-Mor.

I do not wish to draw a parallel except to say that during the time the justice committee was discussing it, one of the things that concerned the managers who operate credit unions was the fact that because of the publicity that surrounded Astra Trust and Re-Mor and its accompanying companies, they were starting to feel the pinch, in terms of people starting to wonder if there was anything safe in this country except one of the banks, unpopular as they might be with those who owe them money.

There were many who were starting to come to the conclusion that was the only safe investment to be made. This was a concern expressed to me by certain managers of credit unions. It is very understandable they would want to see the provincial government enact such legislation as would have the effect of maintaining the kind of confidence the public has had over the years in credit unions.

We in this House recognize the need for stability and for that kind of confidence in our financial institutions, the credit unions and caisse populaires being an important part of that community.

The credit unions themselves recognized there is a certain sacrifice to be made of the independence they enjoyed and the ability to govern themselves completely. In order to maintain the confidence in them through legislation, it was necessary that the minister bring forward this bill. They sacrificed their independence to a certain extent. They sacrificed the freedom of action they might have had in the best of times when confidence was there without any government movement or legislation.

In recognition of this they are prepared to accept that adverse effect on them. They are prepared to accept the fact they will not have the ability to make the kind of decisions they have been able to make by themselves in the past. The minister certainly would not be proceeding with this bill at this time in the Legislature, unless he was reasonably certain that he had the support of caisse populaires and credit unions across this province. He would not be proceeding with it unless they had come to his ministry to say they were concerned and wanted to see something that would help the movement as a whole.

We, in the opposition, in the justice committee, in the House, and in other forums, have called for a greater monitoring by the provincial government of financial institutions. We have even been prepared to accept restrictions that would be designed to ensure the financial stability of these institutions. Once again, I use the word to maintain some kind of confidence in them.

It would be hypocritical of us at this time, and contradictory, if, having said that, we are now prepared to say we would not agree the provincial government should take the kind of action which is contemplated in this bill. It is obvious that we will be offering our support for the general principle of this bill.

There is a well-known personality in Ontario -- he is becoming more well-known, and will be known to the member for Parry Sound (Mr. Eves) because he was seven votes away from being the member of the Ontario Legislature for the provincial constituency of Parry Sound. His name is Richard Thomas, sometimes known in different media than this Legislature -- if we can call the Legislature a medium.

He is an individual who has been involved in the credit union movement at the grass-roots level, and he expressed concern, as some people did across the province, about the grand meeting that was to take place on November 7. There was a full and frank discussion -- I think that was the terminology used -- of the circumstances faced by credit unions.

He indicated to me that while there was considerable support at that meeting for the six per cent levy on credit unions that will be payable to Central, there was some disagreement with it among those who might be influential within the credit union movement. But if we were to talk to people across the province, as we have done, we get the reaction -- we got phone calls as late as 6:30 this evening from our local people involved with credit unions and caisses populaires -- indicating that despite some of the real concerns they have they are prepared to see this legislation go forward.

10:10 p.m.

Mr. Thomas did bring forward three interesting points to allow at least some freedom on the part of credit unions to redeem themselves or at least to explain themselves in difficult circumstances. There was a resolution to be presented to this meeting on November 7, but it could not be presented because the meeting was called for the specific purpose of discussing the levy. It indicated the following: "At the member credit unions' request, the board of Credit Union Central, in the name of member credit unions, to ask the honourable Gordon Walker to make the following subamendments to his amendments to the Credit Unions and Caisses Populaires Amendment Act now preparing for second reading in the Ontario Legislature." This resolution, which I am sure the minister is probably aware of from other sources, indicated three areas of concern.

First, they were concerned that the conditions would be stated under which the direction of league affairs will be returned to the league. They were hopeful of having that, and I recognize there are going to be different reasons given for different credit unions or different credit union leagues placing themselves in jeopardy as far as the government is concerned. So it is difficult to pin those down. But he was concerned about knowing those conditions under which the direction of league affairs could be returned to the leagues and that they be stated.

Second, they were concerned that prior to ordering the takeover of league affairs and property, the Lieutenant Governor in Council grant time for member credit unions to propose alternative measures to correct whatever circumstances provoked the impending takeover. My colleague the member for Prescott-Russell (Mr. Boudria) will be presenting an amendment later on during consideration of this bill, which may go some way at least to alleviating this concern.

Third, they were concerned that should the takeover occur, a series of reviews would be guaranteed that would give both Central and member credit unions the opportunity to demonstrate they can operate Central's affairs to the standards set out in the subamendment proposed -- that is, the conditions under which they could be reinstated.

So I think there are two things we are looking at. Before we take them over they want some kind of chance to explain themselves. I recognize that sometimes we have to move pretty quickly, but they would like some kind of chance to explain themselves. They would also like an opportunity to be able to get back in the good books of the government and to take over their affairs once again.

There is also some concern expressed about arbitrary appointments, as they are referred to, and whether there might not be an appeal for a person who is bounced from the board. I recognize one of the reasons for bouncing a person would be if he or she were representing one of the credit unions which was in disrepute and taken over. Then there would certainly appear to be a conflict of interest if that person were allowed to stay on. But if a person were bounced from the board for another reason, I suppose that is what they are looking at in terms of an avenue of appeal.

I think I have expressed the main concerns people have brought forward to those of us in opposition. I reiterate, generally speaking we support this legislation. We feel it is necessary at this time before we recess. For that reason, we will be as co-operative as possible in passing this. We hope the government will seriously entertain our amendments and we would like to scrutinize carefully the other amendments that are put forward by the government and the third party.

Mr. Swart: Mr. Speaker, I am rather pleased to be the critic this year for the Ministry of Consumer and Commercial Relations when this very significant bill on credit unions and caisses populaires is before us.

I spent quite a number of years as a director of the credit union in Thorold. As a matter of fact, I called the meeting to found the Thorold community credit union. We had to wait for the legislation to be changed because that was the first community credit union in any town in Ontario. I have a real interest and a warm feeling for the whole credit union movement, as does this party.

I have already mentioned that the bill we have before us is of real significance. I think we would all agree that when it first came in it was a rather simple bill although it had tremendous import. It was rather straightforward. We now have four amendments before us on the bill; the government has two, the Liberals have one and we have one. Certainly, the main government amendment is one of very significant importance. In looking it over, I think the amendment is longer than the bill itself and certainly introduces a whole new area of the bill's operation.

I want to say, as did the member for St. Catharines, that this party agrees with the government there is a necessity for the bill at this time. There is a necessity to have it passed in this session and not be left even until the last day. We will therefore be supporting this bill. Given the current circumstances in society it is necessary, or at least most of it is. It is absolutely essential to us here and I am sure to all members of this House in every party that the continued health of the credit union and caisse populaire movement in this province be maintained.

The bill as it was originally submitted did three main things. It gave the government the autocratic power to replace any member of the Ontario Share and Deposit Insurance Corporation; it gave the government the power to guarantee loans of the corporation, the credit unions and, if I remember correctly, the Ontario Credit Union League as well; and it gave the government the power to take over the management and control of the Ontario Credit Union League. Although it does not say so in so many words, it does give the power to take over OSDIC and the Ontario Credit Union League, the two major central organizations that represent the credit unions in this province. That is a pretty serious matter and it has become necessary and desirable, quite frankly, to do this.

I am not sure I would go as far as my colleague the member for St. Catharines in saying it would interfere now with the operation of the credit union league. Perhaps I have put the wrong interpretation on it. In reading this over, it seems to me it does not interfere with the operation of the credit unions per se but it certainly gives a right to intervene and interfere very dramatically in their operation.

Therefore, one might think credit unions are in a desperate situation. I want to say, from discussions with the officers of various credit unions and the Ontario Credit Union League, that this is not the case. This is not a desperate situation. This is a bill that is being brought in to provide, as we should, the ability to deal with a situation that could possibly arise at a future date.

It is as well to bring it in now rather than let what happened in Quebec happen here. There was a run of something like $150 million on the credit union. That money was taken out before the government could take the necessary action to give the assurance necessary so people would not withdraw from the credit union.

10:20 p.m.

What has taken place in this province with regard to Astra Trust and the people who had deposited there, and with regard to Re-Mor and various other organizations like this, makes the public sceptical generally about financial institutions.

This power the government is giving itself on the recommendation of the Ontario Credit Union League and most of the credit unions, therefore, is desirable. Inasmuch as many of us may not like to see the necessity for it, the bill is a further reflection on the current state of the economy. I suggest it is a condemnation of governments in this nation and in this province that these guarantees to the credit unions and to the credit union league should be necessary.

Here we have had viable, well-run financial institutions and an umbrella association. Through no fault of their own, like so many people and individuals in our society, they find themselves, looking down the road, in a position that could be very serious. In the case of the credit union league, they now find themselves in an about-turn position from one where they were increasing their assets. They are now finding they are having to pay out substantially more than they are able to take in.

When it comes right down to it, this whole thing is simply the result of the high interest rate policy of the federal government. If it had intervened six months or a year ago to reduce the interest rate, as it should have for the good of the economy generally, this kind of bill would not be necessary at this time.

The federal government has refused to intervene. I guess it is philosophical, although everyone knows it would have been tremendously beneficial for our society, whether we are looking at the farmer, at the home owner, at the small business, at the consumer who wants to purchase capital goods or, as we are concerned tonight, at the credit union movement.

It has severely damaged almost all sectors of our society. We have to have a bill like the one before us now which gives the government powers to take over the central credit union movement in this province because of the policies of government. That government across from us has never really stood up and said to the federal government, "It is time you intervene with the Bank of Canada to lower those interest rates, step by step, at least until they get down to the inflation level."

We are in this situation and we are going to be supporting this bill. Of course, there is another factor that has caused the Credit Union Central to be in the rather difficult position it is in. As we all know, they had loaned substantial funds to Ontario Hydro, I believe in the neighbourhood of about $120 million, on a long-term basis and are getting 10 per cent interest for it.

When they have to pay out interest of 18 or 20 per cent, obviously they cannot continue. One thing that could have been done would have been for Ontario Hydro to have refinanced and to have agreed to pay the going rate of interest for the money invested there by the credit union league. But they decided not to do this and an alternative then has to be for us to pass this kind of bill in this House.

It is my understanding the proposals have been made part of the whole package and accepted by most credit unions in this province who put six per cent of their assets with the Ontario Credit Union League and settled for 10 per cent interest on that so the Ontario Credit Union League will not be going further and further in the hole.

I commend those credit unions which agreed to do that. There was no other alternative, it seems to me. Those who decided not to go along with that -- I guess that was their own right to decide not to go along with it -- have perhaps done something of a disservice generally to the credit union movement across this province.

As I said, when this bill was tabled in this House it was a fairly simple bill. Now it has become much more complex because there have been amendments moved -- at least one of the government's amendments is going to change the bill dramatically and introduce a whole new concept. That amendment too, it seems to me, is a desirable amendment.

I want to do a more thorough examination of that amendment and have much broader discussions before we actually vote in favour of it in this House, as I suspect we will in the end. The fact is, of course, that because of the four amendments which we have and because it is now 10:25, we will have the opportunity to do that before we proceed further with this bill; I would anticipate tomorrow.

The setting up of the mandatory liquidity pool is certainly a major move. The credit unions that are in the league, as I understand from the bill, will be required to deposit 10 per cent of their total assets with this mandatory liquidity pool. It seems to me there may be some problems when they already have the 10 per cent deposited elsewhere under the present act to find the other 10 per cent. From members of the task force, I understand this has probably been worked out in a satisfactory manner.

However, it is my feeling that each of us should have the opportunity to have much more discussion on this before we deal with it tomorrow, as I presume we will be dealing with it then. So I welcome that additional time I will have.

Also, the amendment which has been moved by the party to my right, perhaps to soften the arbitrariness, if I may use that term, of the takeover, seems to have some merit. On the other hand, I recognize that time is often very essential in something like that. If a run should start on the credit unions, it seems to me one might have to move in very quickly. If I read their amendment properly, it provides, I think, a total of some 16 days -- two weeks and two days. In some instances, it might just be too long to take the quick action that would be required.

We dislike the necessity for this bill that we have before us. Because we do, we intend to move an amendment to provide a sunset clause to those two parts of the bill which authorize the government to, in effect, take over the operation of Ontario Share and Deposit Insurance Corporation and the operation of the Ontario Credit Union League.

I am sure the minister will be only too happy to comply with that proposal because it is government policy to put sunset clauses in their bills now, so it is necessary to renew it at two and a half years or three years time.

If it is necessary to have it, we will support that renewal. It seems to me that if things should return to normal -- and we are all beginning to wonder what normal is in the monetary field at least -- but if they should return to what we consider normal then this bill would no longer be necessary and, it seems to me, it should automatically expire. So we will be moving that sunset clause in committee of the whole House.

I see it is now 10:30 p.m., and I have just concluded all the remarks that I wanted to make on second reading of this bill. I will take my seat so that we can adjourn right on time.

Mr. Shymko: Before we adjourn, Mr. Speaker, I would like to introduce a group of concerned citizens. Since it is very unusual at this late hour to have people listening to this eloquent debate today --

Mr. Speaker: Order.

On motion by Hon. Mr. Walker, the debate was adjourned.

The House adjourned at 10:31 p.m.