The House met at 2 p.m.
DEATH OF JACK SIMONETT
Hon. Mr. Norton: Mr. Speaker, it is with regret that I rise to inform the members of the Legislature of the death yesterday of Mr. Jack Simonett, who for 12 years served in this Legislature as the member for the riding of Frontenac-Addington from the time of his election in 1959 until his retirement in 1971.
During his service in this Legislature, he also served as a member of this government as Minister without Portfolio, Minister of Energy and Resources Development, and Minister of Public Works. Following his retirement, Jack continued an active involvement in his community and maintained a vital interest in the affairs of this province that he had served for so many years.
Jack's counsel will be missed by many people of all political persuasions because, in addition to the many active interests he maintained in his retirement, he always maintained an accessibility to those seeking the benefit of his advice and his experience.
I am sure that members of this Legislature, particularly those who have served with him, will join with me not only in acknowledging the contribution he made in service to the people of this province but also in extending our heartfelt sympathy to the members of the Simonett family.
AMATEUR ATHLETE OF THE YEAR
Hon. Mr. Baetz: Mr. Speaker, I rise on a matter of great pride in the sports development of Ontario. This morning I had the pleasure of announcing the outstanding amateur athlete of the year for Ontario during 1982. We had a very long list of deserving candidates. Among the 14 athletes given final consideration for this award, this province had no fewer than eight world champions in their respective events.
I am proud to announce to the Legislature today that the Ontario amateur athlete of the year is Milt Ottey of Scarborough. Milt won the gold medal at the Commonwealth Games in Australia in the high jump event and was recently named the world's top high jumper in 1982. Milt is in your gallery, sir, and for Ontario, I would like to convey my sincere congratulations and wish him, on behalf of us all, best wishes on his road to the 1984 Olympics.
Mr. R. F. Johnston: Mr. Speaker, as the member for Scarborough West, I would like to state the pride that people in my riding feel about Milt's accomplishments over the past number of years and especially this past year. It should be noted that he is only slightly taller than some members of this Legislature here on my left, yet he has been able to jump higher than anybody else in the world this year, and I think he is to be congratulated. I just wanted to join in.
Hon. Mr. Wiseman: Mr. Speaker, as most of the members are probably aware, this morning at approximately 10 a.m., an explosion occurred in the Whitney Block in the No. 2 boiler. As a result of the explosion, there was an escape of steam and oil disrupting the operation of the boilers. There was no personal injury as a result of the explosion; however, one employee working in the boiler room at the time was shaken up by the occurrence.
The incident activated the fire alarm system and the staff located in the building responded and followed the fire and safety evacuation procedures in an orderly manner. The staff of the property management division of the Ministry of Government Services responded immediately, as did the police department and the Metro fire department. I am sure members would like me to thank the members of the fire department and the police department, as well as the people who organized that evacuation and did it in such an orderly manner. As members are aware, we have a fair number of handicapped people in that building and they were the first ones to be evacuated.
Due to the explosion, there has been a disruption in the heating system, affecting the buildings in the Queen's Park complex, as well as St. Joseph's school, Surrey Place and the Banting and Best Institute. The staff in the Whitney Block were evacuated, as I said, immediately and they have been allowed to go home, if they want to. We will keep members informed of further developments.
Just before I came over here, we did check. There are three boilers in there, and the No. 1 boiler was damaged a little more than the No. 3 boiler. We hope to have the No. 3 boiler going late this afternoon, but I cannot promise any heat until about five or six tonight. We are working through the Toronto steam heat people with whom we were not supposed to connect up until June of this year. If we can get it in place overnight, we will have business as usual tomorrow morning.
RESPONSE TO WRITTEN QUESTIONS
Mr. Laughren: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker: I am sure you will recall before the Christmas break you sympathized with my predicament when I raised the point that the Minister of Natural Resources (Mr. Pope) was refusing to answer questions on the Order Paper that he had indicated he would answer by December 17. It is now a month later and the minister still has not responded. I recall that you said you assumed the minister would take note of the fact that he had not lived up to his duties and would respond accordingly, and I knew that you would want to know he had not yet done so.
Mr. Speaker: I am always sympathetic to the needs of members, and I am sure the minister is going to respond right now.
Hon. Mr. Pope: Mr. Speaker, I signed a letter filing the documents with the Clerk yesterday. They may not have been delivered yet, but they are somewhere in the process.
Mr. Bradley: Mr. Speaker, I just wanted to ask whether there might be a statement from the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations (Mr. Elgie). Those who sit in on the committee would recognize that, I believe, boilers and valves are under his jurisdiction. I wondered if he had a statement to make on this in the House today.
Mr. Speaker: I think that question could be put at a more appropriate time.
Mr. Mancini: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker: Concerning the statement made by the Minister of Government Services (Mr. Wiseman), I wonder if he would be prepared to instruct the two Ministers without Portfolio, who really do not have anything to do, to call their limos and have themselves driven over to the premises where the boiler has exploded and review personally what is going on there, so they will have something to do and something to report to the Legislature.
Mr. Speaker: I really do not think that is a point of order.
STATEMENT BY THE MINISTRY
Hon. Mr. Elgie: Mr. Speaker, as I reported yesterday, the federal Minister of Finance has increased the deposit insurance for chartered banks and trust companies from $20,000 to $60,000. As members know, the deposits of credit unions and caisses populaires in Ontario are insured by the Ontario Share and Deposit Insurance Corp.
I wish to advise members that I will be bringing forward legislation for their consideration that will enable the Ontario Share and Deposit Insurance Corp. to insure depositors of credit unions and caisses populaires to the $60,000 level. The legislation will provide for deposit insurance at the new level to be effective as of today. This statement is made simply to bring the caisses populaires and credit unions deposit insurance level to the federal government level and not for any other reason.
Mr. Peterson: Mr. Speaker, it is good to see the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations on the job. I have a question for him. In his statement yesterday the minister said there was a deficiency in the security underlying the investments of Crown Trust of approximately $130 million. Obviously before such an estimate could be made, a substantial investigation of the investments of Crown Trust had to be made. I think that is a reasonable deduction.
According to the minister, we know that Crown Trust provided $56 million in third mortgages for the Cadillac Fairview building flips. That leaves $74 million of presumably weakly secured assets. Will the minister explain what the $74-million investments were? Did Crown Trust invest more than earlier reported in the Cadillac Fairview mortgages? Did it buy any dubious mortgages from Greymac Trust, Greymac Mortgage or Seaway Trust? What explanation can he offer for the figure he has given us?
Hon. Mr. Elgie: Mr. Speaker, I really do not want this House to feel that I am in any way withholding information. I have provided the information that is available to me in the detail in which it is available to me, and the information that the Leader of the Opposition quotes is from a summary of information given to us by Woods Gordon.
When I have further information to provide to the House on the exact nature of those deficiencies I will be pleased to do so, but I can reassure him that there were no further mortgage arrangements with respect to Crown Trust and the Cadillac Fairview transaction and that the two other trust companies he mentioned were not involved in any other mortgages.
Mr. Peterson: Do I understand by what the minister is saying now that he is dissociating himself from the statement he gave yesterday, that Woods Gordon figures are only a summary in his hands and he is not prepared to stand by those figures? That is what I infer from what he is saying. Clearly there is $74 million somewhere or other that we cannot account for. How does the minister account for that? Where is that money?
Hon. Mr. Elgie: Certainly if I did not stand by the interim report given to me I would not have made the statement. As I have indicated very clearly, whenever information is forthcoming to me for the information of this House I will be delivering it, and when I have that information it will be provided. It is not that there is an unwillingness to provide information, because I have already committed to this House to report on a regular basis as information is available and can be released.
Mr. Rae: Mr. Speaker, the minister's statement yesterday showed that within the space of a very few months -- that is to say, from September 1982 until January 7, 1983 -- it was possible for Crown Trust to be short $130 million. In view of the very short space of time in which it appears to be possible for these kinds of moneys to go missing, can the minister tell us whether he is satisfied that he and the regulatory agencies for which he has responsibility have sufficient powers to make sure this does not happen over the next few months with respect to other trust companies?
Hon. Mr. Elgie: Mr. Speaker, as you know, the amendments to the legislation that were passed in this Legislature on December 21, I feel, and members will agree, give the government and the registrar fairly extensive powers with respect to the gathering of information, with respect to the transfer of ownership and with respect to the operations of trust companies.
It is my view that we do have certain powers in the act that allow us some access to the information needed, perhaps enough. But I have indicated very clearly that the issue of the act itself is one that is going to be prepared as a matter of priority for a white paper consideration following the release of the draft bill by my predecessor one year ago. That will be a matter for discussion and debate by this House as to what new steps must be taken, if they need to be taken, with respect to regulatory activity in the financial institutions area.
Mr. Peterson: I have to remind the minister that he is the one who gave us the figures. We did not give them to him, and presumably he understands what they are and has to stand by them.
I want to ask the minister another question with respect thereto. Can he indicate when, or at least over what period of time, those poorly secured investments of Crown Trust that are not tied to the Cadillac Fairview mortgages were made? Do they involve only mortgages or do they include commercial loans, commercial investments or other types of assets?
Hon. Mr. Elgie: As I reported in my statement yesterday, "The company's lending practices since September 1982 have departed from the conservatism practised prior to that date and have resulted in serious deficiencies now apparent in the security underlying approximately $130 million of its investments."
When I have the information provided and it is available for presentation to the House in greater detail, I will be doing so. I know it is rather repetitious to say it, but that is the position I am taking, and I think it is a logical position to report facts and information as they become available to me.
Mr. Peterson: It is three months now and the minister has always been a little bit late. That is the problem.
Mr. Speaker: Question, please.
Mr. Peterson: I have another question for the minister. He said in his statement yesterday that neither Seaway nor Greymac has any borrowing base to support its deposits. In addition -- this is a little bit technical -- with regard to the mortgage loans to Kilderkin, which account for about $229 million of the $465 million of combined mortgage loan portfolios of these two companies, the minister states that most, if not all, of these mortgages are in excess of the 75 per cent of the value of the property mortgaged, as permitted by the Loan and Trust Corporations Act. This represents fully half of the total mortgage loans of these two companies.
Can the minister indicate how long such a deplorable state of affairs has existed in these two companies and why the ministry investigators were unaware of the situation?
Hon. Mr. Elgie: The Leader of the Opposition is making assumptions, and I am not certain he has facts to support those assumptions. I have indicated very clearly to this Legislature that I have requested and ordered an internal review of the administrative practice and, indeed, a review of the adequacy of resources in that division. I assured the House as well that if an external review by a person or persons knowledgeable in financial institutions was indicated, it would be carried out. I will be reporting the results of those endeavours to this House and at that time there will be an opportunity for a full review of the situation.
Mr. Peterson: That is about as reassuring as Arthur Maloney saying he has reviewed the Reid Scott case and everything is just fine.
Putting aside for the moment the Cadillac Fairview deal and the mortgages advanced on that transaction by Greymac Trust and Seaway, it still means that Greymac Trust had $58 million, or 30 per cent of its mortgage portfolio, advanced or related to Kilderkin in deals other than the Cadillac Fairview deal that were, according to the minister, in violation of the act. It still means that Seaway Trust had $75 million, or 27 per cent of its mortgage portfolio, advanced or related to Kilderkin that was, according to the minister, in violation of the act.
Can the minister tell us how long the mortgage portfolios of these trust companies had been in such a poor condition and how long the books of these corporations had been in such poor shape as he reported yesterday?
Hon. Mr. Elgie: I have indicated very clearly to the House, and again I know it is repetitious, that as information on the investigations and examinations becomes available to me -- and recall that we have Mr. Morrison carrying out his special examination and we have the registrar in occupation of the three trust companies, reviewing the practices of those companies -- as information comes from those various sources and is made available to the House, that is exactly what the Leader of the Opposition should expect to get, and I would expect that is what he would expect me to report on.
Mr. Rae: I am concerned about the liability of the directors of the companies involved towards the pattern of behaviour that appears to have existed for some time. For example, I would like to ask the minister whether Mr. Morrison or anybody else under his charge has considered section 68 of the Loan and Trust Corporations Act, which states, "The directors shall not declare or pay any dividend or bonus when the corporation is insolvent, or that renders the corporation insolvent or diminishes its capital."
Is the minister aware of any payment of dividends in the case of either Seaway, Greymac or Crown Trust that had the effect of diminishing capital and the liability of the directors thereto?
Hon. Mr. Elgie: The issue of liabilities of directors, as the leader of the third party knows, is a matter that will be up to lawyers to resolve. But in answer to his specific question as to whether I know personally of any declaration of dividends in any of the companies, I do know, as all members know because it was published in the newspaper on December 23, that on Wednesday, December 22, I believe, the president of Seaway Trust declared a dividend to himself of something in the neighbourhood of $1.2 or $1.3 million.
Mr. Peterson: I have a two-part supplementary. Is the minister aware of any of the directors filing notice under section 193 of the Loan and Trust Corporations Act that there were any untoward transactions or violations of section 191, which describes the kind of investment that they had? Is he aware of any notices to the registrar or anyone else from any directors attempting to absolve themselves of liabilities if in fact there was a violation of section 191? That is the first part of my supplementary.
Second, is the minister aware that on January 22 and September 27, 1982, Seaway sought and received cabinet approval to increase its authorized share capital? I want to know what examination the minister or his inspectors made of Seaway's books at that time. Was the minister aware at that time that the books were messy and inadequate and not up to date? What reports did the registrar make to him or to cabinet with respect to the internal affairs of this company at those times?
Hon. Mr. Elgie: No, I am not personally aware of any notices from any of the directors of those three trust companies, but if there were any they will be reported to me. In the absence of that knowledge at the present time, I can only answer that I do not know of any.
With respect to cabinet approval regarding Seaway and Greymac, the member knows that when borrowings by trust companies reach a certain level the registrar has certain options. One option is to increase the borrowing level, which he did not recommend. The other is to allow an increased infusion of capital by the owners of the trust company in order to improve its borrowing base, which he did recommend to us; and on his recommendation, that was approved.
REGULATION OF TRUST COMPANIES
Mr. Rae: Mr. Speaker, my first question is to the Premier. I would like to ask the Premier whether he would like to reconsider some remarks he made yesterday when he compared the investment, or deposit, in a trust company by analogy, saying that the next thing that would be suggested is that the government guarantee investments on the stock market.
Would the Premier not agree there is a major difference between a depositor taking out a guaranteed investment certificate in a trust company and someone simply speculating on the stock market? Does the Premier not think there is a very real difference between those two activities?
Hon. Mr. Davis: Mr. Speaker, not being involved in the latter practice in any way, without any hesitation I agree totally. As I discussed with the press afterwards, because the former Leader of the Opposition -- we were discussing another issue -- suggested the government should be guaranteeing matters of this nature almost totally, I mentioned that perhaps the present Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Peterson) would be suggesting we guarantee many other things. There is a very real distinction.
I made the other point to the press yesterday because we were making some analogies with respect to shareholders in trust companies. I would make the argument that somebody buying shares in a trust company probably should have no greater protection than somebody buying shares in Bell Canada or some other public company. In other words, if one is going to invest as a shareholder, that is distinct from buying a GIC at a trust company that might be located in Brampton. There is a very real distinction.
Mr. Rae: Quite apart from wherever in Ontario trust companies may be located, and they are located all over the province, I would simply ask the Premier, how can he justify the government's position in agreeing to and acquiescing in an artificial limit of $60,000 when there are many investors with more than $60,000 in some of these companies?
How can he justify that limitation when the problems are associated with the pattern of regulation and the breakdown of the regulatory process in this province with respect to these trust companies?
How can the Premier justify setting artificial limits for trust companies when he is aware that the Province of Ontario Savings Offices across this province, or the few that remain open, guarantee all investments in provincial savings offices?
Hon. Mr. Davis: The answer to that is fairly simple. It has not been the policy of the government, or of very many governments, to insure investments in their totality whether they be in a trust company or some other form of investment.
It was this government that, some years ago, initiated the concept of the insurance program that exists in this country. It was because of the activities of the present Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations (Mr. Elgie) in this province that the government of Canada was encouraged to authorize the extension of that to $60,000. I say that after some discussions with the minister in the latter part of last week, and knowing he communicated this to the minister responsible at the government of Canada level over the weekend.
Mr. Peterson: Mr. Speaker, the record will show that the Premier has shown wonderful leadership on this issue, no question about it.
Even though the Canada Deposit Insurance Corp. has increased its limits and is now prepared to guarantee up to $60,000, I understand the Premier is not prepared to guarantee anything over that even if he is negligent, as it certainly appears he has been. What is he going to tell those --
Mr. Peterson: Well, we will wait and see. Just watch the lawsuits.
What is the Premier going to tell those municipal agencies and boards of education that have money invested in Crown Trust at the present time and cannot get it out? What is he going to tell those taxpayers whose money is invested there? Is he going to say, "Go back and tax them more, because we cannot get it out of Crown Trust"?
Hon. Mr. Davis: Mr. Speaker, I understand the rather sarcastic and facetious nature of the preamble to the honourable member's question, which I guess is really in keeping with the quote in a column in the Toronto Sun yesterday morning that questioned my parentage.
As I said to the member when he phoned to apologize, I was really delighted to see that quote in the paper because, in my constituency at least, it assures me of another several hundred traditionally Liberal votes. I am never critical of anyone who questions my own competence, but I do take exception when somebody questions my parentage.
Hon. Mr. Davis: The member said it. It was there in print.
Hon. Mr. Davis: That is right.
I thought I made it fairly clear --
Mr. Peterson: At the time I regretted it, but I'm not sure I do now.
Mr. Speaker: Order.
Hon. Mr. Davis: I know the member regretted it the moment he said it. One of his great problems is that he says too much too rapidly and lives to regret many of the things he does say. That will not change.
I would just give the member a little word of caution. We disagree philosophically with the New Democratic Party left, right and centre, but they have been far more reasonable and responsible on this issue than the Leader of the Opposition or his party.
Mr. Speaker: Order. Order.
Mr. Martel: Take it back.
Hon. Mr. Davis: I didn't say anything offensive.
Mr. Peterson: On a point of privilege, Mr. Speaker: The Premier is absolutely correct. He does have a lot in common with the NDP, because neither of them knows anything about it.
Mr. Speaker: Of course that is not a point of privilege, as you well know.
Mr. Breithaupt: Now back to the answer.
Hon. Mr. Davis: I know the member for Kitchener, being the kind of stable, sensitive soul he is, is embarrassed by some of his leader's observations. I understand that.
Mr. Breithaupt: I am more embarrassed by what I see over there.
Hon. Mr. Davis: Oh, I do not think so. I know that member too well.
Mr. Conway: He beat the Rosenbergs.
Hon. Mr. Davis: That was an unfortunate statement.
Yes, I would say to the member for Renfrew North (Mr. Conway) -- who also has the habit of putting his foot in his mouth -- that not only did he beat the Rosenbergs but his leader beat him. But I do not think he is any less a person for it.
Mr. Speaker: Order. Never mind the personal interjections.
Mr. Rae: Mr. Speaker, I wonder if the Premier can tell us in all seriousness and in all fairness why individual investors and depositors should be required to take the government to court to determine liability. Why does the Premier not see it as an act of fairness and justice on the part of his government to guarantee all depositors in these three companies, given the very serious admissions that have been made by the minister with respect to previous regulatory practice in the province?
Does the Premier not recognize the minister yesterday stated that for a number of years it has clearly been a problem and the government has not been able to keep an eye on Seaway Trust and Greymac?
Hon. Mr. Davis: Mr. Speaker, I am just putting this as a hypothetical question. If somebody from the corporate community were one of those depositors with, say, a $2-million or $3-million deposit from a company, a private sector organization as distinct from individuals, would the member have the same point of view?
In other words, if one financial institution were to have put money on deposit in a trust company that was offering more by way of return, and the sole reason for that was to get a little better rate of return, would the member be as enthusiastic about this government's guaranteeing, on behalf of the public, that corporation investment?
Mr. Rae: I think that is what is called a blue herring.
Hon. Mr. Eaton: Come on.
Mr. Rae: It has nothing to do with the question.
Mr. Speaker: New question, please.
Mr. Rae: Mr. Speaker, the fact is that innocent depositors are going to suffer --
Mr. Speaker: Order. New question, please.
Mr. Rae: Mr. Speaker, my second question is to the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations and relates to the question of Kilderkin Investments.
The minister will know that Kilderkin Investments has been the central player in this whole Cadillac Fairview transaction. Kilderkin, which set up the numbered companies, arranged the flip and negotiated the management agreements and leasebacks, appears to have ended up with the bulk of the profits, and now holds the wraparound mortgages on the properties. Given this company and its central role, I wonder if the minister can tell us what action the government has taken to bring Kilderkin into the investigation and to act on its involvement?
Hon. Mr. Elgie: Mr. Speaker, Mr. Morrison's inquiry has, of course, involved persons from Kilderkin. Since those persons are at stages with respect to being examined under oath, I am not prepared to comment further at this time.
Mr. Rae: Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask the minister, given that the inquiry was set up on November 10 -- at least, that is the date on which the minister became aware of the deal -- why has it taken all this time to get at the linchpin of this whole deal, the Kilderkin company? It has taken the minister a very long time indeed to get at what is the central player in this whole series of transactions. We still do not know who the numbered companies are or the exact nature of the transactions. Does the minister not think it has gone on long enough?
Hon. Mr. Elgie: Mr. Speaker, it is an assumption that Mr. Morrison has not been seeking out information with respect to Kilderkin and the numbered companies, because indeed he has been doing so for some considerable length of time. If at the end of his endeavours he indicates any gap in his information base, then clearly that is a matter we will have to address.
Mr. Peterson: Mr. Speaker, I asked this question yesterday but did not receive a satisfactory answer. The minister is no doubt aware that Mr. Player now controls more than 20,000 apartment units in this city and other places. He is also aware that he cannot bank and is aware of the problems that are conspiring against that set of companies at the present time.
My sympathy does not go to Mr. Player, but what contingency plans does the government have if perchance there is a financial collapse of Kilderkin? What will the minister and the government do if they cannot honour their financial responsibilities and if these apartments end up without an owner who is financially responsible? That is going to come back on the minister's head somehow or other. What contingency plans does he have to protect those tenants?
Hon. Mr. Elgie: That really is a hypothetical question at this time. As the member knows full well, Mr. Player, through Kilderkin, did pay the interest on the first and second mortgages that was due yesterday.
Mr. Rae: In the light of the action taken with respect to the trust companies, I wonder whether the minister would not consider taking some action with respect to Kilderkin, such as having the rents of these buildings paid into a trust fund controlled by the government. Would he consider taking over the management of the buildings by taking control of Maysfield Property Management?
The minister must know he is going to have to act at some point with respect to Kilderkin. Surely he must have plans available in order to act and to give the tenants some guarantee of security that they are not simply going to be left out in the cold or in the situation of the complete unknown, given the problems facing the three trust companies and the problems we know must be facing Kilderkin.
Hon. Mr. Elgie: We went through this yesterday. So that nobody in this chamber and none of the public is under any misunderstanding, the tenants in these issues and in others have been protected by legislation which places a cap on the amount of rent increase relating to financing costs. The Residential Tenancy Commission has also instituted new guidelines that gives it the option of limiting the pass-through of financing costs on sales and resales in a way that will not affect tenants. Therefore, I think it is inappropriate to suggest it will, no matter what is going on here. I hope no one is misled about that.
Let me also repeat that the Morrison examination has been in the process of interviewing parties in the Kilderkin empire, if I can call it that. Those examinations are taking place under oath and they are not yet complete. When they are complete and when Mr. Morrison forwards me information, and if that information indicates a gap in the information base, we will address that issue.
ASSISTANCE TO THE BLIND
Mr. Boudria: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Community and Social Services and it concerns the inadequacies of services for the low-visioned in Ontario.
Is the minister aware that some 80 per cent of the 14,000 legally blind in Ontario have partial sight, which can be enhanced if aided by devices like these and also these, which fit on a pair of glasses?
Unfortunately, very few people with low vision know of these devices, and they learn of them only by word of mouth. One such person is the president of the Low Vision Association of Ontario, Mr. Bill Carroll, who, with the white cane, is seated over there in the gallery. Although blind, he can see the minister's face, and with the device he is wearing he can see just as well as the minister and I.
Given that Mr. Carroll on his own initiative has invested his time and money in founding the Low Vision Association of Ontario so that others can be sighted again, why has the ministry refused funding for 1982-83 and again for 1983-84 for this important association, which, incidentally, is now on the verge of collapse? Why does he not recognize the needs of the low-visioned, a full 80 per cent of the legally blind in Ontario?
Hon. Mr. Drea: Mr. Speaker, I will take that question as notice and I will read a written reply either tonight, if my concurrences go tonight in view of the circumstances, or on Thursday.
Mr. Boudria: I would appreciate it if the minister looks at that and can get a reply for us tonight.
Is he also aware that Mr. William Hunter, an ophthalmologist at the Canadian National Institute for the Blind, and Jode Feldman, who is also here as senior education counsellor at CNIB, agree that the low-vision services in Ontario are markedly inadequate and that an association for low vision should be established? According to the same group, the same services in Quebec are far better than they are in this province.
Can the minister look at that at the same time and see what he can offer those people? They are requesting only $150,000 over two years, which was refused by his ministry -- and this, of course, is an advocacy group. They would like to inform their members of the availability of these prosthetic devices, which can help the low-visioned regain vision.
Hon. Mr. Drea: I said I would, but I defy the member to find one government program in Quebec that is superior to one here.
Mr. Speaker: Order.
Mr. R. F. Johnston: Mr. Speaker, I would appreciate it if the minister would also look into whether or not these devices are covered under prosthetic devices assistance and to what degree and report back to the House during concurrences.
Hon. Mr. Drea: Mr. Speaker, I would have to get that, in fairness, from the Ministry of Health. The minister is not here. It might take somewhat longer, but I will be glad to do it.
Mr. McClellan: He has 10,000 employees.
Hon. Mr. Drea: Mr. Speaker, I resent the last remark.
Mr. Speaker: Order.
INVESTIGATION OF TRUST COMPANIES
Mr. Renwick: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Solicitor General, and I refer to the statement made yesterday by his colleague the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations (Mr. Elgie).
The statement made allegations with respect to irregularities, if not illegalities and possible fraud. In view of the seriousness of these allegations, would the minister please advise this House whether there is any police investigation now under way against any one or more of the three trust companies -- Crown Trust, Greymac Trust and Seaway Trust -- or against any of their officers or directors?
Hon. G. W. Taylor: Mr. Speaker, an investigation into the matter is being conducted by the Ontario Provincial Police. My colleague the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations has not commented on this since there is an ongoing investigation. In the same way, the extent of my comments on the matter at this time is to say there is an investigation going on.
Mr. Renwick: Mr. Speaker, would the minister advise the House when the investigation commenced, who is in charge of the investigation and, specifically, whether it covers one or more or all of the three trust companies and their directors and officers?
Hon. G. W. Taylor: Mr. Speaker, I will take that question and get what information I can give to the member as to the exact commencement date. It has been going on for some period of time, but I will get the exact date for him.
As to the individuals and companies, the investigation covers all the matters that may be of significance in this situation.
Mr. Breithaupt: Can the Solicitor General advise us if the Ontario Provincial Police also are involved either on their own or in support of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police investigation with respect to the two federally chartered mortgage companies that are involved in these circumstances? Is this a separate investigation, or are both police forces involved in a similar and concurrent investigation of all five companies?
Hon. G. W. Taylor: Yes, the matter is being looked at by the RCMP and the Ontario Provincial Police in conjunction with each other. It is usual in matters of this nature for pieces of information and knowledge to be passed back and forth between the two forces and this matter is no different. There is nothing unusual in the matter. Since they do involve both provincially and federally incorporated companies and firms, the information is being passed back and forth between the two forces.
Hon. Mr. Elgie: Mr. Speaker, I have the answer to two previously asked questions. Yesterday, the leader of the third party (Mr. Rae), raised a matter relating to the cashing of monthly interest cheques from guaranteed investment certificates in the case of an Ottawa couple, and stated that no one would cash their monthly interest cheques from Seaway Trust.
I would like to report to the House that my ministry officials have had and continue to have discussions with the banking community in order to minimize any inconvenience to the general public resulting from the government's takeover of Seaway Trust, Greymac Trust and Crown Trust. I want to make it clear the banks are not refusing to cash interest cheques. However, before crediting accounts, they are waiting until the cheques have cleared.
Since the change in the deposit insurance announced yesterday by the federal government, my officials have been discussing with Canada Deposit Insurance Corp., ways in which inconveniences such as this could be minimized.
Yesterday, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Peterson) cited, as an example of the failure to restore confidence re the Crown Trust situation, a licensing procedure of the Ministry of Agriculture and Food. The company involved was stated as Bright Veal Meat Packers Ltd., and the ministry action was stated as refusing to accept a $500,000 Crown Trust GIC as collateral for a $280,000 financial security requirement. A complete review of our dealings in this case reveals that the facts cited by the Leader of the Opposition are erroneous.
First, the financial security requested of Bright Veal Meat Packers is $198,000, not $280,000. This is well documented in a letter dated December 13, 1982.
Second, the 10 employees involved in the beef financial protection program have all denied having any conversation with this company since December 2, 1982. Moreover, none of these people is aware of an offer from Bright Veal Meat Packers to provide security in the form of a GIC from any trust company in any amount.
Third, since August 31, more than 540 applicants have been licensed under this program, some 68 of which have posted collateral in various forms, but none of them in the form of a GIC.
Fourth, the administrator of the program, Mr. John Batt, has declared unequivocally that before my announcement of January 17, 1983, he would have considered a GIC from any trust company as satisfactory collateral.
Fifth, the principal of Bright Veal Meat Packers, Mr. Pat DiBiase, was contacted on January 18 to request his approval to release information in his file to the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food. During the telephone conversation he stated, "It was the bank which refused to accept the Crown Trust GIC."
Mr. Rae: Mr. Speaker, I wonder if the minister can tell us when he is going to be in a position to answer the question I raised yesterday with respect to the conversations he held with trust company officials? I refer to the possibility they may have used that information in order to withdraw certain moneys from Crown Trust and possibly other trust companies. Can he tell us when he will be in a position to make that statement?
Hon. Mr. Elgie: Mr. Speaker, yesterday afternoon my deputy spoke to representatives of the Trust Companies Association of Canada and to representatives of Guaranty Trust. This morning I spoke directly to the chief executive officer of Guaranty Trust, Mr. Alan Marchment, and to Mr. William Potter, the administrator of the trust companies association. Both of them have indicated they will be forwarding information to me. I expected it today, but it has not yet arrived. As soon as it arrives I will make a statement to the House to clear up that matter completely.
Mr. Peterson: Mr. Speaker, to clear something up, is the minister telling people now that anyone who has entitlement can withdraw up to $60,000? In his original statement he said they could withdraw up to $20,000 whenever the entitlement was due. Is he now prepared to honour $60,000?
Hon. Mr. Elgie: Mr. Speaker, I will quote again what I said quite directly: "Since the change in the deposit insurance announced yesterday by the federal government, my officials have commenced discussions with Canada Deposit Insurance Corp. as to ways in which this inconvenience could be minimized."
Mr. Peterson: Mr. Speaker, on a point of privilege: The minister rose with great glee to suggest that some of my facts were wrong; I just want to correct the record and make sure he fully understands what he is getting involved in. He will want to go back and check with the officials who gave him the statement.
The reality is that a direction was given to Crown Trust to pay to the livestock commission assets that were in the guaranteed investment certificate for $500,000 to cover certain purchases made by Bright Veal Meat Packers. Crown refused to acknowledge that direction; and of course to be legally operative that direction must be acknowledged. The agent refusing it was one Lisa King, who was an agent for Woods Gordon -- acting, I assume, under the authority of perhaps the minister or of Woods Gordon at the time.
Without the acknowledgement, the livestock commission refused to accept that GIC. It was at that point, and only at that point, with the refusal of the acceptance of the security of Crown Trust, that Bright Veal Packers went to the banks and that bank security was given on the basis of other assets of those particular people; it had nothing to do with the original Crown GIC.
The amount originally requested by the livestock commission was $280,000. It was negotiated down to $190,000 because of anticipated fewer purchases in the future. Those are the facts.
CLOSURE OF FACILITIES FOR THE MENTALLY RETARDED
Mr. Riddell: Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the Minister of Community and Social Services.
Perhaps the minister has been following some of the reports about his announced five-year plan to close centres for the developmentally handicapped. One of the reports is from no less a person than Glen Drover, a former policy co-ordinator with the Ministry of Community and Social Services and now associate professor at the school of social work, Carleton University. A very simple question would be, is he now prepared to abandon his five-year plan?
Anticipating his response, I must question him on his plan to close these centres. There are a lot of mentally retarded people and concerned citizens who probably did not have the happy Christmas the Premier (Mr. Davis) did over the announcement of the closing of these centres in communities in which these people are --
Mr. Speaker: Order. I recognized the honourable member to ask a question. I would ask him to place his question forthwith.
Mr. Riddell: I am trying my best, Mr. Speaker.
On October 28 the minister announced the creation of 1,444 new beds for the developmentally handicapped in the community. Can he tell this House how many developmentally handicapped adults and children are on waiting lists to get into the community-based residences right now before any facilities are closed?
Like the minister, I have received many letters from concerned parents who feel they can no longer give their grown children adequate treatment at home and yet cannot find a place for those children in group homes because there simply are not enough of them. How many of these people are on waiting lists?
Hon. Mr. Drea: Mr. Speaker, I do not know the number because those waiting lists are usually in the hands of the local working groups of the Ontario Association for the Mentally Retarded.
My answer to the first part is exactly what the member assumed: it is no. But since the honourable member has brought up the article that was in the newspaper yesterday, I would like to point out for the sake of the record -- because that man cannot add; maybe that is why he is writing for a newspaper now -- 750 supervised community --
Mr. Speaker: Order.
Hon. Mr. Drea: Mr. Speaker, just to clarify the remark, he was a great researcher. He is not a journalist; he writes, on space rates, for a newspaper. He is not one of the regular reporters; they can add.
There are in my statement --
Mr. Speaker: Order.
Hon. Mr. Drea: I was there a long time and I could add; and those people up there can add. It is the dilettantes who have been moving in, on space rates, who have difficulty, especially when they leave government service.
Mr. Speaker, there will be 750 supervised community-living spaces and 1,000 places in family support programs. The latter means that many of those children -- or adults, depending upon their ages -- will not have to go to any kind of place outside of their own homes because of the extra assistance we are providing there. There are also 244 group home places, 200 beds for severely handicapped children and 250 places for severely handicapped adults.
I think it is only fair to say, since remarks were made about me by the member, that I have had the greatest of difficulty, since I read the London Free Press of October 19, finding out where the member stands on this matter.
I will quote some remarks made by the member for Huron-Middlesex when he said that some centres were down to a quarter of their original patient complement:
"There is no question about it that the ministry is trying to reduce the number of the centres. The ministry is determined to get more of the people into group homes, that kind of thing. There are also fewer people requiring this type of institutional care."
The honourable member continued:
"Indeed, if there is less requirement for these facilities, then it is my feeling that perhaps now is the time to be looking down the road. The alternative would be an abrupt closing and no one wants that."
I would like to know what has happened since October 19 to produce the kind of questions today.
Mr. Riddell: The alternative, of course, is to have the support services in place in the community, and that is what the minister does not have.
Mr. Speaker: Question, please.
Mr. Riddell: If the minister does not know --
Mr. Speaker: Order.
Mr. Riddell: I am on my supplementary.
Mr. Breithaupt: He is answering the question.
Mr. Speaker: No, that is not the way it works.
Supplementary, please, the member for Huron-Middlesex.
Mr. Riddell: Mr. Speaker, if the minister does not know how many mentally retarded people are on waiting lists to get into the group homes, how can he responsibly plan for these people? Is that not an indication he has not consulted the local associations for the mentally retarded or even the Ontario Association for the Mentally Retarded?
I understand from the ministry official responsible for the closing of the schedule 1 facilities that the minister plans to enforce a new policy of filling new community beds. It provides that for every former institutionalized patient filling a community bed there will be one bed left to be filled by a mentally retarded person, supported privately by his or her family.
For every one he is going to take out of the institutions, the minister is going to provide one who is on this so-called waiting list. Since 989 mentally retarded people will be deinstitutionalized as a result of the closing, and there are at least that number in private homes needing community beds, is he not prepared to admit that he is not creating nearly enough beds? If he adheres to his 50-50 community bed allocation between those being deinstitutionalized and those now on waiting lists, and if he adheres to the 1,444 new beds, then patients in institutions slated for entrance into the community simply will be transferred to another institution.
Mr. Speaker: We are waiting patiently for the supplementary.
Mr. Riddell: In this case, will part of the $33 million slated for community care be used, instead, to help those institutions accommodate these transfer patients? Why does the minister not fess up and admit that he has an ill-conceived program? And why does he not come to Goderich with me on Thursday night and meet with the concerned citizens and the town council, as they have requested ever since he made his announcement?
Hon. Mr. Drea: Mr. Speaker, I would like to go through the list of allegations made by the honourable member, because he is factually incorrect.
First of all, I would point out that since the first day of any deinstitutionalization or any community program in this ministry -- indeed, if the member had ever visited one of these centres other than to address a labour meeting or an election meeting, he would have known this -- the arrangement has always been that we wanted a 50-50 relationship in the community: 50 per cent of the community residences for children who had never been to an institution and 50 per cent for adults who had been properly trained in an institution or a facility.
That has always been the goal. Where it broke down was that the community residences were almost entirely for children or people who had never been in facilities, and that is why we developed the five-year plan.
With respect to the severely handicapped, the member will notice in the numbers I read him that there are in that program 200 beds for severely handicapped children and 250 beds for severely handicapped adults.
The very simple truth of the matter is that before anybody is put back into the community there will be a complete support service for that individual, just as there has always been. In the course of the five-year program, the savings that will be generated from the closing of the six facilities will not go to other facilities; that money will go into community residences.
This is not an ill-conceived program. It is so well conceived that the member endorsed it and then for purely political reasons decided to change his mind. Mr Speaker, I read you what he said on October 19.
Mr. R. F. Johnston: Mr. Speaker, given the process that has been involved in this and given the lack of consultation, I would like the minister's response to a resolution I am tabling in the House today.
In my resolution I suggest that we should establish an all-party committee of this Legislature to hold public meetings in the localities affected and here at the Legislature for three purposes: (1) to examine the specific plans for alternative community-based accommodation and support services for the affected residents; (2) to assure all interested parties that there will be no deterioration in the quality of care for the residents in these institutions; and (3) to ensure that the specially trained workers now employed in those institutions will not be lost to the care system in any deinstitutionalization that may take place.
Will the minister allow us to have that kind of process established here?
Hon. Mr. Drea: Mr. Speaker, I find it very intriguing that this honourable member talks about consultation. We had fully intended to have consultation. It was the member for Scarborough West who ran around the halls of this Legislature outside a committee room waving a purloined document and saying: "Here it is. Read it, folks." That was the member for Scarborough West.
Mr. R. F. Johnston: Your process was to talk to them after the fact, and you know it. You even said you would talk about it afterwards. What garbage!
Hon. Mr. Drea: You had yourself photographed out there doing it. You delighted in it. You waved it around.
Mr. Speaker: Order. Now, would the minister address himself to the question, please.
Hon. Mr. Drea: Mr. Speaker, the member has put forward a resolution. I think it is premature. However, when we have finished phasing out Brockville -- that will be very shortly, and we can show the member what happened to each and every one of the residents in Brockville -- I will tell him what I will do: I will show that to the member, and then he can decide whether he still wants his all-party committee.
ONTARIO HYDRO REGIONAL OFFICE CLOSURE
Mr. Mackenzie: Mr. Speaker, I have a question of the Minister of Energy. Can the minister justify to the House the timing of the Ontario Hydro closure of the Hamilton regional office, announced yesterday, given the current high unemployment rate in Hamilton? Can he tell us how many of the employees will be relocated in view of the current surplus of employees in that area? Will they suffer any loss of earnings? How realistic is the offer of alternative employment to female clerical staff, who are well established in the community and who make up half of the 115 employees who will be involved in this closure?
Hon. Mr. Welch: Mr. Speaker, in addition to the information that was contained in the release on this subject yesterday following the Hydro board meeting, the honourable member can be assured that a combination of events -- that is, the provision for early retirement and the opportunity to accommodate the balance of the employees not able to take advantage of the early retirement plan in other parts of the system -- has been the top priority of the Hydro board.
Over the past several months, the board has been faced with finding ways in which they can effect some economies. It felt that the rationalization of this particular regional office as part of the overall system, and taking the balance of this year to look after the employees to whom the member has made reference, would help meet some of this objective.
Mr. Mackenzie: Can the minister explain his priorities to this House? To date, we have spent $1.5 billion on the Darlington operation, which is a continuing project and which is something we do not need. It now bears a price tag of more than $10 billion. Yet we sacrifice 115 employees in Hamilton -- because that is what is going to happen to most of them -- for a saving of $3 million.
Can the minister tell us whether this is yet another example of the security of tenure of public sector employees that this Tory government promised during our recent debate on Bill 179?
Hon. Mr. Welch: I think it is very unfortunate for the member to assume that anyone is being sacrificed as a result of this move. On the one hand, we have pressure being placed on the public utility to effect economies and to provide its service in the most economical way. The member has been given the assurance, in so far as this particular decision is concerned, that the employees will be looked after in a combination of ways to which I have already made reference.
It would be very unfortunate to leave the impression today that there has not been a very concerted effort and that there will not continue to be a concerted effort on the part of the public utility to look after the employees affected by this decision.
Mr. Cunningham: Mr. Speaker, why would the minister not consider reducing some of the 112 staff across the street who are involved in a high-priced public relations program, rather than getting rid of people in the Hamilton office?
Hon. Mr. Welch: Mr. Speaker, I do not think there is any particular restriction with respect to where the board is looking for economies. Indeed, the board is reviewing all its operations. I think the honourable member will know that this has been under consideration for some time.
PAROLE BOARD DECISIONS
Hon. Mr. Leluk: Mr. Speaker, on December 6, 1982, the member for Victoria-Haliburton (Mr. Eakins) directed certain questions to me concerning the Ontario Board of Parole. I indicated that I would make some inquiries and get back to him.
Between July 1981 and approximately mid-March 1982, the Ontario Board of Parole was faced with the situation that its case load had reached a point where it was placing great strains on available resources. The board was confronted with the prospect of delaying or postponing hearings and the unfortunate consequences or hardships that would arise from such situations. The alternative of two-member boards was considered as a possible solution.
A practice was developed whereby two members would conduct normal hearings, with a third member available in the event of a disagreement. I am advised that the incidence of such disagreement was rare and that this practice permitted the board to fulfil its responsibilities to provide parole hearings to eligible inmates for the period in question.
It is important to state that no inmate or former inmate has complained about these procedures. No legal challenge has been made, nor do we expect one, because the practice of using two-member hearings did not affect the outcome of these parole decisions. If a legal challenge is made, the ministry would defend the legal propriety of the procedures followed. I am advised that the ministry would rely upon the provisions of the Interpretation Act, which permits a simple majority of the board to perform the duties of the entire board.
During the past several months the board has been able to revert to the practice of three-member hearings, except in unusual individual cases caused by unavoidable circumstances. The ministry and the board are currently reviewing the financial, legal and operational issues involved in the quorum question and the possibility of legislative amendment. Until such decisions are made, three-member hearings will continue.
Mr. Eakins: Mr. Speaker, was the minister informed by the board before this decision was taken to deal with the question of parole by a two-member board, and was that decision made by the chairman of the board to save money rather than the case load?
Hon. Mr. Leluk: Yes, this matter was discussed with me, and I was fully informed before the decision was taken.
MOTORCYCLE TESTING STANDARDS
Mr. Cunningham: Mr. Speaker, I have a question of the Minister of Transportation and Communications. Against the advice of professional motorcycle instructors, his ministry removed the licence requirement for a driving skill test earlier this year. According to statistics by his ministry yet to be made public, fatalities for motorcycle operators are up 18 per cent over the same period last year and more than 80 per cent for passengers, while in the same period there has been a reduction for passenger vehicles of 29.5 per cent.
Will the minister now admit that his decision to reduce the standards for motorcycle testing was ill advised? And will he implement a meaningful, practical testing program immediately?
Hon. Mr. Snow: Mr. Speaker, I believe I got the same correspondence the honourable member did. I have been concerned about the motorcycle situation for a number of years. We have been looking at a number of different options. I believe the skill test which the member refers to as having been removed has been reimplemented. I cannot give him the exact date, but I can get it for him.
I know we have looked at alternative training and testing sessions. I have received recommendations from a number of motorcycle groups. I have met with groups representing both the motorcycle industry and the cycling community. We have discussed possible amendments to regulations, such as limiting the size of vehicles for a period of time for the new operator. As I say, I am very concerned with the whole problem of motorcycle safety.
I do not have the exact figures. The latest figures I have are as of the end of August, and the number of deaths for the period is up from 64 in 1981 to 70 in 1982. The total number of fatal accidents and deaths in the overall summary is down by about 27 per cent, while at the same time the motorcycle number is up.
There is, I believe, greatly increased use of motorcycles and an increased number of motorcyclists, but it is still of great concern to me and is something we are working on right now.
Mr. Cunningham: Perhaps I can send over to the minister the latest statistics, which are good until the end of September, so he will be aware of what is going on in his ministry. The reality is that motorcycle drivers account for two per cent of the driving public but 15 per cent of the fatalities.
Will he not make a commitment today that rather than just adding two pylons to the testing procedure, which in fact is what his officials are doing, he will consider implementing a meaningful, comprehensive, practical driving test so that the kind of carnage I have just referred to will be reduced?
His overall statistics indicate that passenger vehicle fatalities are down; I commend him for that. But during the same period, fatalities for the operators of motorcycles are up 18 per cent and for passengers they are up 80 per cent. Is he going to get with it?
By the way, will he distribute the pamphlet his ministry prepared three years ago, the 20,000 that he has never chosen to distribute?
Hon. Mr. Snow: I thank the member for his sarcastic remarks. The answer to his one question is no, I am not going to give him any commitment here today. I have stated the fact that this whole matter of motorcycle safety is of concern to me. I have discussed it with the people involved and we are working on solutions.
STANDING COMMITTEE ON REGULATIONS AND OTHER STATUTORY INSTRUMENTS
Hon. Mr. Wells moved that standing order 72(a) respecting notice of committee hearings be suspended for the consideration of Bill Pr50, An Act respecting the Certified General Accountants Association of Ontario, by the standing committee on regulations and other statutory instruments on Thursday, January 20, 1983.
Motion agreed to.
Hon. Mr. Wells: Mr. Speaker, before calling the orders of the day, I should indicate that there has been a change in the orders from what is shown on the Order Paper. We are going to deal this afternoon with concurrences in supply for the Ministry of the Environment, and when they are completed we will move to the Ministry of Community and Social Services, followed by the Ministry of Correctional Services and the Provincial Secretariat for Justice.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
CONCURRENCE IN SUPPLY, MINISTRY OF THE ENVIRONMENT
Mr. Elston: Mr. Speaker, is the minister going to make any statements before we commence? If not, I will just bring to his attention a few concerns I have about the operation of the ministry which I think reflect quite well what is happening inside that ministry and perhaps what is happening in Ontario with respect to the environment it is supposed to be looking after.
I want to start off by getting back to a couple of comments I made in the House after we finished our estimates; those were with respect to the timing of the minister's announcement of the reorganization, which was made the day after we closed our estimates. I know he tried to explain it in terms of his not having had the go-ahead from the cabinet to conduct that sort of reorganization fully, but I want to bring to the members' attention the difficulty we as opposition members have in conducting a thorough analysis of the financial situation of any ministry when it is not undergoing these massive reorganizations, let alone how we are supposed to organize our comments when several things are being done that quite rightly might affect the allocation of resources that is being planned.
Mr. Speaker, there are a number of people who wish to conduct conversations, but I feel there are important matters to be discussed with the Minister of the Environment (Mr. Norton).
Mr. Speaker: The member for Hamilton Mountain (Mr. Charlton).
I wonder if we could have the co-operation of all honourable members in limiting their private conversations, please.
Mr. Elston: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker: I had no intention of relinquishing the floor. I was asking if you might notice there was so much noise that I could not present my comments on the Ministry of the Environment.
Mr. Speaker: I did indeed notice it. I am sorry; if you are not finished, carry on.
Mr. Nixon: You are sorry that he is not finished?
Mr. Speaker: I do not want that to be misinterpreted. I am not sorry that you are not finished.
Mr. Elston: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I know that in many situations the allocation of resources in this province somehow has become a bit of a joke, but I do not see that as a responsibility of the opposition. We are always trying to bring to everybody's attention the difficulties under which we labour in examining these ministries thoroughly.
While we are dealing with these concurrences, I want the minister to present to the Legislature a very thorough analysis of the reorganization, to bring us up to date on exactly where it stands and to give us the details we were probably entitled to many months ago when we actually looked at the estimates themselves. I think at this point he owes us an in-depth explanation of exactly what has gone on; a full report that will advise us how that reorganization is going to affect the money that has been allocated under these estimates.
There are several other areas that are also of prime concern. Specifically, I think we should look to the joint federal-provincial report that was just released before this House adjourned at Christmas. We ought to have an explanation at this time as to where the report places the ministry with respect to its control orders and the actions it will be contemplating with respect to the funds that are allocated to the problem of acid rain in this province. It is a serious problem and we have been pounding away at it; in fact, in the estimates we spent a considerable amount of time on it.
We discussed with the minister the ramifications of several deals that were being contemplated by Ontario Hydro which might or might not add to the problem of acid rain in the province. I would like the minister to comment on the present situation and to advise us whether Ontario Hydro will implement programs that will go towards immediately reducing sulphur dioxide emissions, such as going to more high-quality coal, washing the coal and taking similar steps to help us keep up to the Tennessee Valley Authority, which has announced that it is planning a 50 per cent reduction in emissions very soon.
I hope the minister will comment on the report I mentioned earlier, in which Inco and Falconbridge were considered and which contained suggestions about the technical possibilities for reduction of emissions. I hope he will tell us whether he intends to take positive steps to have his ministry put those limits in the form of an order so that they must be met by Inco and Falconbridge.
I believe there was another major announcement made by the minister, some time after we finished the estimates, that involved the blueprint which he said would be developed over the next few months. I wonder whether we might have an update on what is happening there.
In terms of that blueprint, I wonder whether we might have a statement from the minister as to how the funds that are allocated through the estimates with respect to these concurrences and otherwise will be affected by that blueprint situation. I do not really understand how he is going to work all the resources into his budget without causing some problems with the very essential programs we talked about during our estimates time.
It is interesting to note that when the minister announced this program, the drawing up of a blueprint for his ministry, various very responsible organizations were not advised that this announcement was even coming out. I am thrilled, however, to hear that the Ontario Waste Management Corp. will be making presentations to the minister with respect to that aspect of waste disposal. I suppose that even though they were not specifically notified or aware when the announcement was made, since their mandate is to deal with that problem and to provide a solution for the minister, they were really in place to act quickly once the announcement was made.
While I am speaking about the Ontario Waste Management Corp., I might also ask the minister to comment at this time on the process that has taken place so far with respect to phases 1 and 2 of their study and the determination of finding a spot for dealing with the special wastes problem. We have had a lengthy public input session, and I might also -- well, if the minister does not want to listen, he can always take a vacation in Florida; he is not nearly bronzed enough.
Hon. Mr. Norton: Never in Florida; I represent Kingston and the Islands.
Mr. Elston: Yes, but the islands are not that far south.
I would like to ask the minister to comment on the process that has taken place so far and on whether the determinations that were made by the Ontario Waste Management Corp. are going to have any impact on his blueprint that is being drafted. I would also like to ask him to provide us with an update on his blueprint as to when we can expect the final report and whether the study being done is on the time schedule originally announced.
At this time there is one matter that has concerned me a great deal since the fall. I wrote to the minister some time ago about the establishment of landfill sites, particularly those in my area. I had asked him to look into the problem, and I know he has probably done so but has not yet had time to get back to me.
I have gone over the experiences of a number of municipalities in my area wherein they have been the recipients of grants of up to $4,000 to provide engineering study funds for local municipalities wanting to establish dump sites or to have them licensed, and I can say that the experiences of those I contacted have been, without exception, the same.
I suppose the situation in my riding is an example of the problems that the Ontario Ministry of the Environment has had for a good number of years, and that is one of public relations and of trying to work positively with the citizens of this province, in particular with the elected citizens of this province who sit on the various councils all over Ontario.
As I described the situation to the minister earlier, a series of letters has been sent out by his ministry at the district level to municipalities to request information on whether they wished to be involved in the $4,000 grant program to help them study their landfill sites; then, once enrolled in that program, there is almost a never-ending series of tests, more tests and new tests that is required by his ministry to come up with the final determination as to whether the licence will be granted.
I have found that in at least a couple of cases there has been a great deal of money expended over and above the $4,000 that the ministry said would be available. I should say that the program provides that the ministry will pay up to 50 per cent of the cost of these studies, up to a maximum of $4,000. I know of one township that has expended almost $12,000 and has no hope of recovering 50 per cent of the material cost. As yet, the tests have not been finalized.
I wrote to the minister some time ago and he replied by sending me the form letter that is sent out to everyone, which really did not answer the problem. He had assured me that no particular problems should develop and that his ministry was very open to reports from individual consultants. That still is not happening.
I did bring to the minister's attention what was described to me as a form letter which had been sent to the municipalities in my area and which threatened to fine the municipalities which were burning refuse in their landfill sites. The letter began with this threat and asked further on whether or not the municipalities were in fact burning any refuse.
Hon. Mr. Norton: I read that letter and that is not what it said.
Mr. Elston: That is what it suggests to me.
Hon. Mr. Norton: I requested copies of it from the regional office and that is not what it said.
Mr. Elston: I will get the letter and go over it with the minister, because that is what it suggested to the people involved. That is what happened.
Hon. Mr. Norton: It might upset your father for some reason or other but most --
Mr. Elston: It upset every municipality in the area and also the engineers who were involved in the process up there.
The Deputy Speaker: All right. The member for Huron-Bruce.
Mr. Elston: Mr. Speaker, the information which I had about the reaction of the municipalities to this particular letter did not originate with my father, who happens to be the reeve of the township of Morrison; and there has been a great deal of activity between the Ministry of the Environment and that township. It did not come to me from that source. It came to me from several other municipalities with whose reeves, clerks and officials I have no personal relationship.
I can tell the minister, the people up there do not share the minister's view of that letter. I can tell him, whatever his view of that letter is, the problem is one of the perception of the Ministry of the Environment by the public of this province. It is a serious problem which has existed for a long time; and the types of form letters that are sent out will never help the minister to restore public confidence in his ministry. That is one of the tasks that he as minister should be looking at very seriously.
I want to receive his comments on this sort of process specifically. If he read the letter and went through it, I simply have to ask the minister why he did not have the courtesy to reply to me. I do not think that is unusual. He obviously likes to take a lot of time before he gets back to people who want to help with these issues. I did not raise this matter lightly. I did a lot of extra work in connection with it. I asked him to advise me, which he now does by way of interjection. I do not think that helps the situation at all.
Next, I would like to hear from the minister about the special environmental assessment advisory group that he is setting up. Earlier in the estimates, he told us the Premier (Mr. Davis) would be setting it up. All of us now understand that the Premier does not want to do that and has given it back to the Minister of the Environment. Since that is the case, I would like to know what effect that will have with respect to the allocation of resources through this ministry.
I also want to know who will be appointed to that advisory group. He advised us before Christmas that it would not be very long before it would be set up. I had hoped we would have had an announcement from him soon after we came back here as to not only the composition of that board but also to outline the responsibilities and duties of that board.
I think he is placing that board under a serious handicap if he follows the suggestions that have come out previously that they will act only on those matters that are specifically referred to them. At the time a previous question was answered, the Minister of the Environment would not even guarantee that notice of all applications would be sent to these people. I think he really ought to take some time today, or if he wishes in a statement in this House, to specifically outline the duties and the responsibilities of this agency, this advisory board to the government, to delineate very specifically the types of cases that will be referred to it.
I have a question as to whether or not the people who will be requested to sit on this board are going to feel comfortable sitting on a board when they know they will have only a very few handpicked items come in front of them. I think we have to be very sure, if we are going to set up an advisory board, that it has full scope to actually advise the government with respect to these environmental issues, particularly in a field where, as with the Environmental Assessment Act, a great number of us have seen it actually operating as an environmental exemption act.
It is no wonder that public confidence in the ministry is waning, and I think the minister owes it to us as the elected officials from around the province to come to us and present the material on the development of these various agencies and boards.
I suppose there are many other items with respect to this board that I could ask the minister to comment on, but I would like him, if he could, to provide a commitment to us that the mandate of that board will be much broader than just to have authority to look into those items that are specifically referred to it by him, the Premier or other ministers of the crown.
In addition to that particular board, I wonder if the minister might also, as he discusses his ministry with us this afternoon, look at some other problems that surround the publication of material for the public of this province with respect to areas that have handled in the past what Dr. Chant has called special wastes, those chemicals that have heretofore been dumped willy-nilly around the province without having been detected adequately by the Ministry of the Environment.
I wonder if he can report to us whether he has developed an inventory of the areas in which these chemicals have been placed, whether or not he will be taking special action to ensure that their presence in those locations is retained and whether or not he will be doing anything to make sure there are no leaks of those chemicals into the surrounding environment.
What specifically comes to mind right now is the current situation in Tiny township, about which there was a large meeting last evening, as I understand. In addition, I guess it reflects very much on the happenings at Stouffville as well, where public concerns are running very high and where I think probably emotions have caused a great number of the people out in that area to lose faith in the Ministry of the Environment.
I had some other comments to make on the operations of the ministry, but I want to keep my remarks brief so the minister can give us full reports. I would just like, as a matter of information, to find out whether or not the minister has instituted any special programs since we did his estimates that would be related to monitoring the Sudbury area, for instance since its shutdown, to determine what effect that is having on the area. I know his officials have been quite active in the past, when shutdowns have hit the area, to determine what effect they have in that part of the province, and I think it would be interesting to know if there are special or any stepped-up activities.
When he goes over the special programs he has announced since that time, he might also advise us if he has been able to put together any sort of team that might inspect the site in the Detroit River at Fighting Island with respect to any of the fish reports, which we had hoped to receive before Christmas. In fact, I had been advised by the minister at one point that I would receive a copy of the test results on the fish, and I had understood as well that they were --
Hon. Mr. Norton: They were sent.
Mr. Elston: No. The report was sent to my office, and before I could get back to my office it was retrieved by a messenger and it has not come back to my office.
Hon. Mr. Norton: That is not my information.
Mr. Elston: The minister has not come clean with the province and he is not coming clean with us now, because we do not have the report.
Mr. Charlton: I had already opened mine, so I kept a copy of it.
Mr. Elston: But I was not in my office. His messenger delivered it and then came back, picked it up and took it away before I even had a chance to look at it. I still have not received a copy of it, and I think it is a breach of my privileges when somebody can deliver something and then run in and take it away again.
Hon. Mr. Norton: I do not know why that happened. You could always pick up the telephone and call me if you are so upset about it. I am as close as your finger on a touch-tone dial.
The Deputy Speaker: The minister should not be interjecting, at least with his microphone on.
Mr. Elston: The minister does not give us that access to his office; why should he have that access to my office? That is the question.
In any event, I would like him to comment on those and to determine what special programs he has with respect to this ministry and what special action he has taken to regain the confidence of the public in a ministry that has not enjoyed that confidence for a good number of years.
Mr. Charlton: Mr. Speaker, I assume the minister will be responding to the things we raise at some point. I have no preference as to how he decides to do that, whether it is before these concurrences are concluded or by way of a statement at some point. The honourable member has raised a number of issues, and I have what I consider a fairly large number of very serious concerns to raise with the minister.
I will start with a few general comments, one of which, I suppose -- just to keep the minister smiling for a few moments -- reflects the difference between the minister and myself in our approach to most things we do. The member for Huron-Bruce made reference to the tan the minister received on his vacation, and I would like to point out to the minister that I too took a very short vacation during the Christmas break. The difference is that I spent my vacation in Kingston, not down south somewhere.
Mr. Kerrio: Did you get time off for good behaviour?
Mr. Charlton: I think that reflects somewhat the kind of difference in attitude and approach to --
Mr. Charlton: What was I doing in Kingston? Yes, that's right. That is where I spent my vacation. Actually, I was going to crash the minister's New Year's Eve party, but when I got there I found he wasn't having one.
The member for Huron-Bruce also mentioned -- and it is something I have discussed at length with the minister during the course of the last two sets of estimates -- the question of the lack of public confidence in the Ministry of the Environment. Not only is there a significant lack of confidence in the ministry by the public, but that lack of confidence over the course of the last year has grown rather dramatically. I think during the course of my comments today that that will become very clear, just based on public perceptions and the number of public comments which have been made around the province in recent months in relation to a whole range of environmental issues.
But that lack of public confidence which I am concerned about, which the member for Huron-Bruce is concerned about and which the minister has said in the past he is concerned about, does not seem to be improving but rather declining.
There is a serious lack of confidence in the ministry's responsiveness to communities and their concerns and to that whole range of problems that become isolated local issues. Although they may get provincial press, the people in distant communities -- and they may say he is not that terrible -- do not have the same kind of concern or involvement that an affected community has. There is a feeling growing in Ontario that the Ministry of the Environment is not there to deal with community concerns or to deal in an upfront way with the right of a community to take part in deciding its future. That is the major area where public confidence in the ministry, which has been bad in the past, is still declining dramatically.
The member for Huron-Bruce also mentioned the Environmental Assessment Act and the exemptions. The comments I have had from people in a whole range of communities across this province give the feeling that the act has become an environmental exemption act, not an assessment act; that exemption is the rule and assessment is the exception to the rule.
There is also a serious lack of public confidence in the ministry in terms of progress around the major and most publicized environmental issues in this province. I am not just talking about individual community problems, although they have had a high profile over the last several years. I am also talking about the global problems, the acid rain problem, the toxic waste problem in terms of the Niagara River, our disposal methods in Ontario and in terms of drinking water. There is a serious decline in public confidence in terms of a perspective on whether there has been any progress at all and whether things are getting worse instead of better.
The public sense has reached the stage where people in communities are starting, in a way that I have never seen before in this province, to latch on to issues from other, quite distant communities. In many cases that I have been involved in over the course of the last year, they have taken the time to travel considerable distances, in some cases several hundred miles, to attend a public meeting or a demonstration around an environmental issue. I have seen --
Hon. Mr. Norton: More often demonstrations.
Mr. Charlton: It is entirely possible that more people will turn out for an organized demonstration, but I have been at several public meetings over the course of the last year.
Hon. Mr. Norton: Including some to which the member was not invited even by the people who were holding them.
Mr. Charlton: When have I ever gone to something to which I have not been invited?
Hon. Mr. Norton: Does the member want me to give him a list?
Mr. Charlton: Yes, I would absolutely love to have a list, because in the case of every meeting I have been to --
Hon. Mr. Norton: I have some friends in citizens' groups too.
The Deputy Speaker: All right.
Mr. Charlton: In every case of every demonstration and every meeting that I have been to over the course of the last two years while I have been the Environment critic, I have been invited by the citizens of the community involved.
Later on in the course of my comments I will deal with one of those issues that the minister raised in the House a month or six weeks ago. I did not bother to respond to it at the time it was raised because it was so silly and aside from the issue that was being raised here, but I want to deal with it today because I am trying to make a different point about the attitude and about the public perspective that results from some of the things that go on.
But let me assure the minister that I have gone to no function uninvited. I may not have been invited by the staff of the Ministry of the Environment, but I have gone to no function uninvited by the citizens who were involved in that function. As a matter of fact I was at a meeting last night, as the minister probably well knows, in Perkinsfield, and I assure the member for Grey-Bruce (Mr. Sargent) that in fact that meeting did occur. It was a fairly large public meeting.
I had agreed some two weeks ago to attend that meeting, and then I had to cancel because there was a possibility that these concurrences would be on in the House last night. I made the decision only at about 3:30 yesterday afternoon, when it was clear that the emergency debate would proceed and that the Ministry of Community and Social Services would get bumped into last evening, that I would attend. But I did go at the urging of the citizens and for no other reason.
Anyway, I will deal with a number of those issues as I go through my comments. Perhaps with that I will leave my opening remarks and start dealing with some of the specific issues I want to raise.
The minister has made the point a number of times in this House during question period that in his opinion the members on this side, both those of the Liberal Party and I and other members of my caucus, did not seem to understand the issue or were misinterpreting a report or confusing two different reports. He has used a number of those kinds of comments, and I will concur with the minister to this extent: Some of the environmental issues are so complex that question period is not an easy forum, at least for an opposition member who gets pushed by the minister to get his question out. It is a very difficult forum in which to deal with very complex questions.
Hon. Mr. Norton: Start pushing your leader so you can get a chance to ask a question.
Mr. Charlton: We have a problem with the minister: we have to push him to stop some of his answers when in fact he has gone on for 10 minutes and not even addressed the question that has been asked.
At any rate, question period is a difficult forum for an opposition member to operate in regarding a very complex environmental issue because he has to try to make whatever he is saying very concise for the Speaker and for the observance of the rules.
Hon. Mr. Norton: That is a problem for a minister, too.
Mr. Charlton: That is a problem for a minister, too? Not anywhere near as much, though. The minister may ramble on for 10 minutes in response compared to the 30 or 45 seconds that the member gets to make his point.
The Deputy Speaker: Even I could disagree with you on those comments, but I won't.
Mr. Charlton: I hope the minister will not be gone too long. The first issue I want to deal with, and I know it is one he is very interested in, is the Whitchurch-Stouffville issue. I will start out by making a number of general comments and I will deal with some specifics when the minister comes back in.
Mr. Elston: He may never come back.
Mr. Charlton: Yes, he may never come back; but I think he will.
The Whitchurch-Stouffville issue has been an issue of concern in the township of Whitchurch-Stouffville for a full decade. Not only is it an issue that has been a public concern in Whitchurch-Stouffville for a full decade, but it is now eight years since staff of the Ministry of the Environment, at assessment hearings in 1974 on the question of expanding that dump site, admitted that the site probably should never have been made a waste disposal site in the first place. Yet, eight years later, we are still trying to resolve the question of when that site will close.
The second set of hearings ended in late June or early July 1981; I cannot remember the exact date and the report was not issued until several months afterwards. It is interesting that since the dump issue re-emerged in the media as a result of a somewhat unscientific but very frightening partial health study that was done by the citizens themselves, the minister and the ministry have made two 180-degree turns.
I see that the parliamentary assistant (Mr. Stevenson) is here. That, at least, has been accomplished.
Mr. Philip: It would be nice if the minister was here, though.
Mr. Charlton: Yes, I concur. At any rate, I want the members to note that there have been two 180-degree turns since June 1981 on the part of the minister and the ministry. I would like to take members through that process, because I think it reflects very badly on the ministry's public image.
We went through a period in the fall of 1981 and into the winter and spring of 1982 when citizens felt compelled to go out and have testing done on their own because they could not get the responses they were looking for from the ministry in terms of the specific concerns and fears that they had. That, in my opinion, was the first failure on the part of the ministry.
I have said this to the minister before but I feel compelled to repeat it now, in the course of developing these 180-degree turns made by the minister over the last year and a half.
Hon. Mr. Norton: It is the member who is going round in circles, not me.
Mr. Charlton: No, I am not. I am standing here while the minister goes round in circles. I am still looking in the same direction. I have not changed my position since June 1981 in relation to that dump site.
Mr. Charlton: The minister will probably continue to interject throughout the course of my comments. I have a lot to say to him and most likely he will attempt to respond.
I believe that was the first major failing of the ministry in the Whitchurch-Stouffville case, and it indicated the lack of response to the community. Those people had visited the ministry and had been to environmental assessment hearings to set out their concerns. But as they seemed to get no response from the ministry to satisfy those concerns, they felt compelled to go out on their own and cause testing to be done. They went through a whole series of that.
Not only were citizens having testing done, but Global Television also got involved in it. Interestingly, up to that point the ministry had categorically denied the existence of polychlorinated biphenyls on York Sanitation site No. 4.
As a result of tests that were done by Global Television just with some surface water they found outside the fence over the course of several months we managed to establish the existence of those very toxic and very dangerous chemicals on that site. But up until that point there was never any admission of even the possibility they existed there.
We went through a whole series of about 10 months of citizen tests and a couple of public meetings and a demonstration in April 1982. I cannot recall the date of that demonstration but it was on or about April 17, approximately 12 days before the minister's statement in this House.
That brings me up to the first 180-degree turn. Up to that point the minister had been very adamant there was no problem in Whitchurch-Stouffville -- that there was nothing to be concerned about. He said the dump would continue to operate. It is a matter of public record that on April 29, 1982, he announced the closing of that site in this House for June 30, 1983. At that point he still did not allow the possibility there was any contamination leaking out of the site. As a matter of fact he said he was closing the site because of the level of public concern that had grown up in the Whitchurch-Stouffville community. He said the site had to be closed so those people could have some peace of mind.
Hon. Mr. Norton: You are confusing two different things. I said that with respect to the water supply, not with respect to the closing.
Mr. Charlton: You said it also with respect to the closing. You did not put the closing down to any contaminants leaking out of that site.
Hon. Mr. Norton: That's right.
Mr. Charlton: That is correct. But that is not what some parties are saying today. Some who were taking the position that contaminants were not leaking a year ago --
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Cousens): The member for Hamilton Mountain has the floor.
Mr. Charlton: That is right. I have the floor.
The Acting Speaker: Order.
Mr. Charlton: At that time the minister made the announcement of the closing of the dump site. He very clearly set out in that statement that there was a need to create some peace of mind for the people in Whitchurch-Stouffville, and he set about making the order.
There is an appeal process; we all understand that; we are all aware of that. The company appealed the decision, which set the appeal process in motion. The appeal process never really got started, because there were a number of preliminary sessions of the appeal board. Some ground rules were set out; the parties were advised what the process would be. Then the company made advances in terms of negotiating a settlement. There is nothing illegitimate about that process on the part of the company either.
On the other hand it is my view, and I think the view of most of the citizens I have talked to in Whitchurch-Stouffville, that the ministry should not have had such a significant role to play in those negotiations. I know the minister will say -- and I concur -- that he was not a party to the negotiations. I understand that. However, that is not the perception that was left with the Concerned Citizens of Stouffville. My sense is that the ministry was acting as a facilitator in those negotiations, not as a party to them. But the citizens do not feel that way. They feel the ministry was an accomplice in what they saw as a no-win process.
Those negotiations started in late September or early October. There were a couple of months of fairly intense negotiations. In early December the parties involved in the negotiations were very close to an agreement which they have probably now reached and will be announcing shortly. Until it is announced I guess we will not know that for sure.
On December 14, in response to a question that was initially put by the member for York South (Mr. Rae), the leader of my party, with a supplementary by the member for Huron-Bruce (Mr. Elston) and a final supplementary by me, the minister took it upon himself to involve himself in something he has criticized so many of us for doing in the past. He engaged in speculation, and it was not very accurate speculation at that. As a matter of fact, if the sources he gave in his comments are any reflection of the operation of his office perhaps he should seriously consider resigning, because his sources reflected total incompetence.
I want to deal for a few moments with the comments made by the minister that day. He said, "I have also heard speculation -- and as far as I am aware, it is nothing more than that..." Why would he be raising something he clearly admitted was speculation when he has chastised us for doing that in the past? Then he proceeded to comment about what he had admitted was probably no more than speculation.
Mr. Charlton: You did not want to, or you did?
To continue, the minister said:
"...as far as I am aware, it is nothing more than that -- that the concerned citizens were perhaps motivated or influenced by certain other factors. I understand they had outside advice that had nothing to do with my ministry. I was told there was professional advice, that the proposal made good sense -- advice that in fact recommended they might accept it.
"However, before their meeting, the member for Hamilton Mountain attended a meeting of theirs..." How could I attend a meeting of theirs before their meeting? That one has bothered me ever since the minister made the statement.
Hon. Mr. Norton: You were there on Monday night.
Mr. Charlton: The general membership meeting was on Thursday. The meeting of their executive committee was on Monday night. Nevertheless, it was a meeting of the citizens' committee. It was not some clandestine thing that just happened, certainly not at my --
Hon. Mr. Norton: So far I am pretty accurate.
Mr. Charlton: It is not a question of whether I was there or not. It is a question of what the minister said went on there.
I will continue quoting the minister's remarks:
"However, before their meeting, the member for Hamilton Mountain attended a meeting of theirs, I believe, and urged them under no circumstances to entertain any such possibility of arriving at any agreement. At a meeting two or three days later they decided to withdraw as a party. One speculative version I have heard is that they made that decision to withdraw as a party because there was such division within the group as to what their common position might be. That might not be correct."
The minister will agree that is the kind of thing that should always be put on the record.
"I do not approve of the conduct of a member of this Legislature who would deliberately try to disrupt the efforts of the citizens of that community to do that very thing. I can respond to the member's latest question by saying, 'Yes, perhaps there will be no acceptance of any agreement if one individual party does not accept it.' But knowing his conduct, his first effort would be to go out to Stouffville and try to persuade one individual not to accept it to try to abort any reasonable effort to find a solution."
For the purposes of the minister's mind and conscience, I would like to set out for the House exactly what did occur in relation to the meeting referred to, or the liaison, as the minister put it, before the meeting.
The citizens' committee held an executive meeting. The executive of the citizens' committee asked me -- and I did not know the meeting was taking place -- to attend because they would be discussing their strategy and wanted my advice.
Although he clearly set out that it was pure speculation and might not be correct, the minister suggested he had been told that I had advised the committee not to settle under any circumstances. That is as far as it could be from the truth of what actually happened at that meeting.
For the minister's information, I set out a scenario at some length at that meeting in which I felt the citizens' committee could come to an agreement with the township and the company. I did suggest they not settle until such time as all the cards were on the table, including chemical, health, feasibility and water resources studies which were somewhere close to being released. Settling by the process of negotiation was the only suggestion I made to them. I did set out a process by which I thought they should approach the negotiations and a settlement when all that information was available.
As for the citizens' committee withdrawal from both the negotiations and the hearing, I advised them, in very absolute terms, against withdrawing from either. However, the minister's sources seem to have got that entirely ass-around-backwards. If the minister would like, I am sure at some point all of that could be confirmed by both the executive of the citizens' committee and by the representatives of the Canadian Environment Law Association who were present at that meeting.
I raise that issue because of what the minister in the past has referred to as irresponsibility on the part of members of both the opposition parties. I raise it also because of what happened in that citizens' group as a result of what I see as very foolish comments in this House on the part of the minister.
The Concerned Citizens of Stouffville had some serious concerns about the ministry and the minister prior to what was said in the House the afternoon of December 14. But as a result of those comments, which did not represent the reality of what occurred at that meeting, the citizens find themselves in the position of being very untrusting of anything said by the Minister of the Environment. Some of them laughed because it was so ridiculous but, when they stopped to think about it, they had to stop laughing because it was not really funny at all.
It certainly did not do the public relations of the ministry or the ministry's concerns about reaching a reasonable settlement any good whatsoever. In fact, if anything --
Hon. Mr. Norton: You know they had already withdrawn.
Mr. Charlton: The minister is correct. They had already withdrawn. On the other hand, there have been several approaches to the citizens' group since that time about the stage of the negotiations to update them. As long as the minister's staff and the township staff were still approaching the citizens, even though they had withdrawn, there was always the possibility that if a reasonable settlement had been reached, they might have decided to agree to it. On the other hand, to have their trust in the process and the minister's role in it knocked down another notch did not help that process at all -- or the possibility of that happening at all.
There are a number of other issues around the Stouffville situation I want to raise with the minister. I have referred to a couple of them -- the ministry's public image and the confidence communities like Whitchurch-Stouffville have in the approach of the minister and his ministry to the problems they perceive in relation that dump site, whether any of those problems are ever proved or not. I admit I am not expert enough to predict what might finally be the outcome of that situation. I have no corner on the market of expertise or knowledge, especially in things like chemicals, which I am fresh into and which I do not understand well, or hydrogeology -- surface and subsurface water flows and movements.
But we have a situation where the experts of the Ministry of the Environment and the minister, on record in this House time after time, disputed the concerns of the citizens of Whitchurch-Stouffville about any water flow other than southwesterly. It was the contention of the minister, his staff and York Sanitation, Waste Management Inc. or however we are referring to it nowadays, that the only major subsurface water flow out of that site was southwesterly, that the major aquaflow was in a southwest direction.
From the inception of that committee, several of the slightly more expert members, such as one who has written on a number of occasions to the minister, the Premier (Mr. Davis) and God knows who else, have suggested there were problems with water flow to the north, to the northeast and to the northwest from that site, in addition to the southerly flow. Throughout the early stages of this issue, the ministry, its staff and the companies denied that flat out.
I raised this study in a private session with the minister during the course of the summer. It had not yet been released but I knew of its existence. I knew it would be released shortly because I knew it had been completed, especially since the people in the water resources branch of his ministry told me it had been completed.
This study may not prove anything in terms of contaminants moving out of that site or the contamination of any particular well but, for the people of Whitchurch-Stouffville, it totally debunks the assurances the minister and his ministry gave year after year about both the surface and ground water flows out of that waste disposal site.
Over the course of the last few months, I raised with the minister the question of the chemical study which was done. I noted that naphthylamine had been found in two of the wells in the study. The minister pointed out at great length in this House the two wells to which I referred were background wells, control wells, the Ballantrae well and I have forgotten the other family's name. They are on Vandorf Road.
There are two points to be made. One is that this study very clearly showed an aquifer running out of the dump site in a north-northwesterly direction right through Ballantrae. This study also very clearly shows surface water runoff from that site into the Vandorf creek, which is the east branch of the Holland River and which weaves back and forth along Vandorf Road to the west past the other location which was also supposed to have been a control well.
These were wells the ministry was saying could not be affected by contamination from the site and therefore were control wells being used to determine the background levels of those contaminants in the community. As I said, this study proves nothing in terms of specific contamination of specific individual wells because it is not a chemical study. It is a water-flow study.
There were some chemical tests done around the Holland Marsh area and in some places along the east branch of the Holland River but the study was not intended to determine the effect of that dump site on the surrounding community. It clearly debunks what this ministry has said in the past about water flows and it makes the ministry's position on the testing that has been done and the use of control wells look very, very questionable. The ministry looks bad when it comes to the reasons it has used to debunk a number of test results that have occurred over the last year.
If the minister wants to talk about public confidence, those are all issues the people of Whitchurch-Stouffville picked up on their own -- not through anything this member or any other member of this Legislature has put into their heads. Virtually everything that has been raised around the Whitchurch-Stouffville problem has come from citizens, not from any of us.
Unfortunately, we do not have the staff, the time nor the ability to follow up on every single little thing that goes on, yet I have ended up with a file like this on the Whitchurch-Stouffville case. That only counts the stuff I have taken down over the phone and photocopied and so on. It does not count the official ministry studies that have been done around that area. My point is that at every single step along the way, the ability of the citizens in that community to trust, believe and have confidence in what the ministry was saying has fallen notch by notch by notch.
Perhaps the minister can comment on this because I have no absolute inside information, but the media certainly has indicated over the last few weeks that an agreement will be announced shortly between the township, the waste management company and several of the individual citizens in the area. I do not have any inside information about who will or will not sign that agreement. I have not had the opportunity to contact everybody who has been involved but that is my understanding at this point. It seems to be the understanding of several of the members of the town council with whom I have had contact that within the next few days an agreement will be announced.
The process we are going through is a negotiated agreement in relation to the eventual closing of that site. However, as I understand it, that will probably be some two and a half or three years down the road as opposed to the June 30 date the minister originally announced.
At the same time as that agreement is being announced and signed, we have the release of the feasibility study on a health study. The feasibility study did not prove anything conclusive except that there are indications. The citizens did a very unscientific study in round one. I, and I think everybody, admit it was unscientific. But now we have round two, a feasibility study that presumably had some involvement by the Ministry of the Environment -- at least in terms of whether the method was an appropriate one. I do not know whether this ministry had any involvement but certainly the Ministry of Health did.
That feasibility study did not prove anything conclusive, but it gave clear indication that certain disease types there were substantially above the levels in a similar test group in a nearby community. There were enough indications at least to warrant the recommendation that a full health study be proceeded with.
Although I have had no official confirmation of this, my understanding is the Ministry of Health is not averse to proceeding with the full health study. That will take some three to four years as I understand it, and I think it is very important it be done. On the other hand I see it setting out a number of problems. I am not aware of the total content of the proposed agreement, but certainly the waste company is going to want something out of it. There was one indication last week of what it wants out of that agreement, even though signing of the agreement has not been publicly announced.
Last week ministry staff went around to 15 families on the hill closest to the dump with documents relating to an alternative water supply. They wanted the primary representatives of the 15 families to sign the documents. Unfortunately I do not have a copy of one of the documents, but I have talked to a couple of those people on the phone and I have had parts of the agreement read to me. The minister can correct me if I am wrong, and I certainly would like to know if I am wrong; but I would also like him to confirm this if it is correct, because I have some serious concerns about it.
I am not sure any more whether we are now talking about York Sanitation or whether we are talking about the parent company, Waste Management Inc. However, my understanding is that although the waste management company will put in the facility to provide alternative water, the 15 families involved will have to pay an annual fee to the township water department for that water which is replacing water they got for free out of their wells. The only costs they had prior to the situation they are in now were the costs of maintaining their wells and the electricity to run their pumps; now they are going to be charged for water from the township. This is one of the things I have been led to believe by my contacts in Whitchurch-Stouffville.
The other thing is that the agreement requires those citizens to sign away their rights to any future legal action against the company. I do not know, Mr. Speaker, whether you understand what that means; that is retroactive and for the future as well. It is retroactive in the sense that if any of those families at some time in the future find they are ill with cancer, some kind of bladder problem, thyroid problem or any of the other diseases speculated as possible from contamination at that site, if they find they are diseased at some time in the future as a result of consumption of that water at some time in the past, they will have signed away their rights to go after any damages.
The minister can shake his head, but that is the impression of the people who received the document. Again, the public relations message to those people has not been clear, because that is the very clear message I got. I did not go up there spying on ministry staff who were handing out that stuff, following them to doors and asking: "What was that they just brought to your house?" Those people called me and raised the issue with me. I did not go after them to dig out the issue.
I am simply passing along the impression that has been left with at least some of them. There may be some of the 15 families -- I have not talked to all the families -- who are clear as to the correct situation, but the impression of the two families that called me was that they would be signing away their future rights to take legal action against the waste management company. It did not seem, from the reading I got over the phone, to preclude either the past or the future.
That is just another example of the bad taste which the ministry leaves in people's mouths. The ministry is stuck in a situation where it almost seems compelled to create an atmosphere of this nature instead of providing good advice to the public up front. For example, the ministry could call a public meeting and sort out the confusion that exists and even see that citizens get some free legal advice. Some of them felt they were going to have to go to a lawyer before they signed those documents, because they wanted to know the full extent of their legal rights and what they would be signing away. That is the kind of thing that gets left in the laps of the citizens of a community, and it all has to do with what I am talking about in terms of this ministry's image before the public and in particular in communities in which it has become involved in local situations.
We will have something more about the 15 families, but the full citizens' committee is also not happy with the process that has gone on this winter. The minister may want to blame that on me, but I want to assure him that if I had not been involved the position would have been no different in terms of the citizens' committee. They did not take my advice; they did not follow the route I suggested to them. They made their own decisions, and they have arrived where they are now as a result of that. However, they now feel betrayed not only by the ministry but also by their town council.
The town council, on the other hand, had some serious and legitimate concerns. If not the whole town council, at least some of its members feel compelled to negotiate and sign an agreement with the waste management company because of two or three issues with which the ministry has been unwilling to deal, and one of them is the alternative water supply.
The minister has said on a number of occasions in this House that he was not prepared to deal with that question until the appeal was over. The town was very much afraid of that appeal process dragging on for some considerable time. There was legitimate concern on the part of the town council. It wanted to see alternative water supplied to as many families as it could arrange it for as quickly as possible. That was one of the concerns the town council had in terms of feeling compelled to negotiate some kind of agreement.
Second, the town council felt an absolute need to set out guarantees in black and white around the monitoring program at that site and to make it to its satisfaction. It could not get that commitment out of the ministry; so it felt compelled to negotiate that.
It also wanted a clear commitment in black and white that there would be an absolutely supreme effort to identify a plume of pollution, whether it be down under the site or whether it be moved outside the site somewhere, that everybody, including ministry staff, now agrees exists somewhere.
The minister may or may not be aware, but a number of us have seen some of the documents which his ministry staff would have been presenting to that appeal hearing if it had proceeded, which it did not. Even though the minister is still saying there is no contamination problem from the site, and he repeated earlier that he would still say that, a number of his staff do not feel the same way. They were prepared to present that at the appeal hearing. Unfortunately, it appears that the appeal is not going to proceed.
There is a very clear indication now that there is a contamination problem related to that site. Whether there is a problem in anybody's well has still to be established, and whether the site is secure is another issue altogether.
Hon. Mr. Norton: Just don't distort what I have said. Are you deliberately distorting what I have said?
Mr. Elston: I agree. Don't distort what the minister says. He does a good enough job for everybody.
Mr. Charlton: The minister will have all the opportunity he wants to respond.
Hon. Mr. Norton: Mr. Speaker, on a point of privilege, or whatever.
Mr. Stokes: The minister must have a reason for standing.
Hon. Mr. Norton: I must have. Yes, I have. I want to say something.
Mr. Stokes: What is it?
Hon. Mr. Norton: I want to say something.
Mr. Stokes: You want to correct the record. One does not just interrupt members without a reason.
Hon. Mr. Norton: Mr. Speaker, the honourable member should just wait and hear what I have to say.
The member is alleging that I have said there is no contamination. I admit there is contamination of some sort at every land fill site. It depends on what one is talking about.
My comments have been in reference to the well water. I do not know whether the member is deliberately distorting what I have said, or whether it is that he has not listened or that he does not understand the distinction, but he clearly is not representing anything that I have said in this House, outside this House or anywhere else. I think it is important. I am willing to sit and listen to him go into flights of fancy to his heart's content but, in fairness, I do think he should at least try to be reasonably accurate when he is attributing statements to me.
Mr. Charlton: Mr. Speaker, I will deal with that matter which the minister has just raised as soon as I find a couple of quotes which I can read into the record. I will carry on while I am looking for the documents, because I do not want to unduly waste the time of the House.
Hon. Mr. Norton: Then the member should be a little bit more incisive in his language, precise, and accurate.
Mr. Charlton: Again, the minister likes to change his stories from time to time. Perhaps he would also like to dispute the comments he made in the House last year about the water flow directions at the site and what the study released in December now shows.
The minister has suggested that I am distorting the facts; he may have done so deliberately, or perhaps inadvertently, but none the less he has suggested that such is the case. The minister should understand that the period we are dealing with was some considerable time ago, June 1981, if this is the correct passage I am thinking of. No, it is not. I am sorry; I will continue with my other remarks and will deal with the passage at some point when I can find it. That was a question for the Minister of Health (Mr. Timbrell).
The minister can contend that I am distorting, but he has said a number of times in the past that there is nothing the people of Whitchurch-Stouffville need to be concerned about in terms of their well water. That is not now the feeling of his staff. As I suggested, we have copies of documents which his staff were prepared to present to the appeal hearing which, unfortunately, it would appear will not now proceed.
We are coming very close to an agreement between the township, the company and perhaps some of the individual citizens; I am not aware at this point of who may or may not be signing that agreement. But, on the other side of the fence, we have a preliminary health study that suggests there is a need for a full health study.
At the same time as this minister is allowing a process to go on which will negotiate an extended life for this site and perhaps an increased long-term hazard for the community of Whitchurch-Stouffville -- again, nobody knows for sure -- we have the Ministry of Health agreeing that a full health study should proceed because there are enough indications of problems to warrant a full health study. The disease levels that were looked for and established in that study indicate substantially increased levels in many cases over a comparable community just down the road and a comparable sample of people in terms of age, sex and so on.
We have a situation which for the people in the community is a very clear contradiction in terms; they do not understand how both can go on at the same time. They can understand that nobody, including the minister, is going to admit anything in terms of existing health problems in the community and the relationship between those health problems and the dump site until there is absolute proof. But they cannot understand how the Minister of the Environment can allow a negotiation process to go on to extend the life of that dump site while a preliminary health study indicates something is wrong in that community.
The only thing the community can see as a possible source of something wrong is the dump site. They do not do anything any differently from anybody else. They do not do anything differently from people in East Gwillimbury, the comparable community that was tested. They have the same kind of water source. They have the same kind of lifestyle. They have the same kind of age categories. They have the same kind of sex relationships. They have the same kind of family status. They do not see that they are doing anything differently from the people in that other community, except for the existence of that landfill site to which they are all proximate.
There is a serious lack of community confidence in the area of Whitchurch-Stouffville.
Mr. Hodgson: That is not right.
Mr. Charlton: That is correct.
Mr. Hodgson: It is not.
Mr. Charlton: It is very correct. The honourable member may learn something about --
Mr. Hodgson: Just when you go up there uninvited to spread the good news.
Mr. Charlton: Perhaps the member can tell me when I have been in Whitchurch-Stouffville uninvited.
Mr. Hodgson: Mr. Speaker, on a point of privilege: I met the head of the concerned citizens committee, Fran Sutton, a week ago tonight and she says she never invited the member. He came up there on his own. Somebody else in the community may have invited him.
Mr. Charlton: For the information of the member, I have been up to Stouffville on several occasions, including the occasion of a demonstration last April which the member for Huron-Bruce (Mr. Elston) and the leader of my party attended. I was invited by the Suttons to that demonstration.
I was there again in the first week of August 1982. I do not recall the exact date, but I think it was August 4. That was at the invitation of the chairman or president of the Concerned Citizens of Stouffville. I am not sure which title they use, but the title is the same none the less.
Mr. Stokes: Is the member for York North (Mr. Hodgson) saying that Mrs. Sutton lied?
Mr. Charlton: I think Mrs. Sutton probably did not say what the member suggested she said. But I was not there; so I cannot confirm that.
I went to Whitchurch-Stouffville on August 4 at the invitation of the chairman or president of the concerned citizens' group, with the full knowledge of Mrs. Sutton. She is not the chairman of that group. She may be one of its public spokesmen, but she is not the chairman or president, whatever the title may be.
Mr. Hodgson: Who is the chairman?
Mr. Charlton: It is a woman named Mrs. Debbie Mitchell.
The Deputy Speaker: We are not supposed to have an ongoing dialogue.
Mr. Charlton: It might behoove the member for York North to have enough contact with that citizens' group to know who the chairman is. Mrs. Sutton happens to be one of the key spokesmen for the group.
Mr. Hodgson: You must have been with another group.
Mr. Stokes: You are out of touch.
Mr. Charlton: Totally out of touch. Perhaps the member would like me to read a letter from the chairman of the concerned citizens' group.
Mr. Hodgson: You don't need to read letters.
Mr. Stokes: You should go back and read the hour-long speech you gave here about a year ago.
Mr. Hodgson: Regardless of the fact that the member from the mountain came up there, we are getting things settled satisfactorily. He should slip up there tonight.
Mr. Charlton: Here is all the official correspondence from the Concerned Citizens of Stouffville, on its letterhead, from Mrs. Debbie Mitchell, who is the chairman or president of the Concerned Citizens of Stouffville. She has held that position since at least last summer.
Mr. Hodgson: She might have been president at the time you got the letter.
Mr. Charlton: It is time the member for York North got back in touch with what is going on in that community.
I was in Whitchurch-Stouffville last April and again on August 4, I believe, at the invitation of the citizens' group. I was also at an executive meeting of that group, by invitation of its chairman, in early December 1982. I do not recall the exact date. If the minister is correct, it was a Monday and it was probably the first Monday in December.
Mr. Hodgson: It doesn't make any difference to us. They didn't listen to you.
Mr. Charlton: I was there at the invitation of that group, and the unfortunate member --
The Deputy Speaker: Order. I do not want to interrupt, but I want to bring to all members' attention that we are not to have an ongoing dialogue across the floor. The member for Hamilton Mountain does have the floor, discussing these concurrences. I ask him to continue more or less uninterrupted.
Hon. Mr. Norton: Nonprovocatively.
The Deputy Speaker: Nonprovocatively, if possible. However, that is up to his discretion and the Speaker's.
An hon. member: How much longer?
Mr. Charlton: In terms of how much longer is a good question. I suppose that depends on how much longer those across the way continue to interrupt and draw out the proceedings.
At any rate, public confidence in Whitchurch-Stouffville has declined to a level -- in spite of the objections of the member for York North -- where the citizens' group felt it was necessary, whether or not they support the negotiated settlement which the media has been speculating about over the course of the past few weeks, to go to the town council and ask for a plebiscite on the issue. Unfortunately, they were turned down by the town council so they now feel they are in the situation of having to try to run that plebiscite on their own by running an ad with a tear-off in newspapers.
I suppose the member for York North will tell me this indicates the group is satisfied with the process that has gone on up to this point and that it is satisfied the agreement -- or the speculated agreement, as the minister would like to call it, because it has not been confirmed yet -- is going to be acceptable to it.
I did not advocate the expenditure of funds on a newspaper tear-off campaign to that citizens' committee, nor did I suggest to them the approach to the town council about a plebiscite, but it indicates a lack of confidence in the whole process that has gone on to this point and a total mistrust of the company, the ministry and now, to some extent, their town council as well, although I think they understand something of the bind the town council felt it was in, of having to find a way to provide what it did not appear to be able to get out of the ministry.
It is no different from a number of other issues around this province. I want to deal with a couple of those as well.
Earlier, we talked briefly about the Pauzé landfill site in Tiny township, which in terms of what is known is much different from the Stouffville situation but no less a frustrating situation for the local residents.
In the Pauzé case there is no question that serious amounts of contaminants have migrated out of the Pauzé landfill site. That has been confirmed by all parties involved: the citizens, the town, the ministry and the operator of the site through the study which he commissioned at the direction of the ministry. There are a number of outstanding contentious issues, though.
Although they have identified a number of wells contaminated with trichlorethylene, up until this point at least, the minister and the ministry have maintained there is no proof that contamination comes from the dump site. That is basically and factually correct. There is no absolute proof that the contamination in question comes from the dump site.
On the other hand, if one looks at the map that was handed out by ministry staff at the meeting in Perkinsfield last night -- admittedly it is a hand-drawn map, but none the less it is a map that was handed out by ministry staff and it shows the plume as it was set out in the Morrison Beatty study, which I repeat was a study that was commissioned by the site operator -- it is interesting to note that the four wells that have been confirmed to be contaminated with trichloroethylene, while not all on the same side of the plume, all sit just outside the perimeter of the plume as it was defined by the Morrison Beatty study.
There is no other conclusion that any logical and reasonable person could come to but that the plume is in fact larger than what the Morrison Beatty study shows, and there is no logical or reasonable person who can but conclude that the source of contamination in those wells is any other than the landfill site.
The minister and his staff have raised speculation that the contamination of the wells perhaps is coming from illegal dumping at other than the landfill site -- perhaps in a ditch along the side of the road, or perhaps in the middle of a field; I do not think that has been clearly defined.
If that is the case, either the illegal dumping is going on in a lot of different places in that township or the contaminants from the illegal dumping are moving faster than the plume of pollution from the dump site, because they would have had to have been dumped on one side or the other of the plume of pollution and moved entirely around it, because we are talking about wells on two different sides of the plume which are contaminated.
The citizens are left with a situation where they just cannot believe what the ministry staff are telling them. Last night at the public meeting in Perkinsfield, they challenged the minister's staff, saying: "How can any logical and reasonable person say to us" -- and there were 200 to 300 citizens at the meeting -- "that you can't establish the source of that contamination? How can you say to us that it is likely a result of illegal dumping when all the clear indications are that it comes from no other source than the landfill site?"
The minister has said basically the same thing here in this House when we have raised it with him. His staff last night were under exceeding pressure from citizens of that community. His staff said they were not in a position to say they could absolutely prove the source of that contamination. But Mr. Embree said -- I believe it was Mr. Embree, but the minister can stand and correct me at some point in the future if I am incorrect; and this is not an exact quote but a very clear sense of what one of the ministry's experts said -- "If I were a betting man, I would bet that the source of the contamination was the dump sites; but I cannot prove it."
That kind of comment from the ministry staff is of no solace to the citizens of that community about where they are and what is happening to their future.
We understand the ministry is going to proceed to try to identify the real size and extent of that plume. At the same time, the ministry staff last night were telling the people of that community: "No, the site, even though it is proven that it is leaking, will not be closed. No, we have no plans at this point to clean up the plume. The site will continue to operate until the fall of 1984."
The site referred to has been very seriously mismanaged by the operator. I cannot blame all the illegal acts that have gone on in that site on the ministry, but I can certainly fault the ministry for not putting some pretty tight reins on the operator of that site, an operator it licensed.
I raised with the minister during the course of the estimates last spring an issue that was raised with me by people from Barrie or from Vespra township. I did not even know where the Tiny township dump was when I raised that issue with the minister. I had been contacted by people in Vespra township about a claim made by a Mr. Kenneth Carlson, a former employee of Chemical and Petro Waste Disposal Ltd.
The claim was set out by him in an affidavit saying that wastes from lagoons on the property of Chemical and Petro Waste Disposal Ltd., in Vespra township, had been pumped out, because those lagoons started to leak, and shipped to Peterborough where the waste material was put into oil storage tanks. Subsequently, about a month later, the company was called back to Peterborough to remove that contaminated waste from the oil storage tanks because it was eating the rivets out of the tanks. In this affidavit, which was duly notarized, Mr. Carlson claimed that on three nights that waste was moved from Peterborough to the Pauzé dump in Tiny township.
The ministry records, unfortunately, showed that the waste went to Sarnia, to Tricil, for destruction. We had an investigation as a result of the affidavit and the accusations that were made in it. What the investigation found was that the accusation contained therein was correct. The waste had not gone to Sarnia to Tricil at all. It went to the Tiny township dump, in the middle of the night, on three nights. This was waste, I remind you, Mr. Speaker, that was eating the rivets out of oil storage tanks in Peterborough.
I learned last night from one of the ministry staff in Perkinsfield, the site of the public meeting over the Pauzé dump site, that unfortunately the CPWD waste that went from Vespra township to Peterborough and to Tiny township, which the ministry thought went to Sarnia, ended up mixed with a very grey and slimy material that the ministry tells me came from a paper company.
It is a mixture of clay and paper processing waste, now mixed with what is obviously a very strong acidic and probably toxic waste that came from CPWD in Vespra township, all of which is at present sitting open in a pit at the back of the dump site, a pit which several of the local residents discovered and reported to the town council, a pit which was covered over that night after they reported it to the town council. It was covered over with a very fine layer of clean sand so that it was no longer visible.
The pit was filled with a grey, slimy, toxic mess, which made a number of other local residents, one of my staff, the staff of the Canadian Environmental Law Association, and myself feel dizzy, headachy, etc. Among other things, the ministry staff confirmed last night that, although this substance is not in the range of our really serious toxics, it is dangerous, at least in the concentrated form it is in in that pit.
They do not seem to have the concerns that I or the local residents have about how toxic it will be if and when it gets into the water table and moves out of the site as other contaminants have done. They feel it will not be very dangerous once it has been diluted, but they agree it is a dangerous substance sitting in an open pit in the back of a dump site with absolutely no fence around it.
Not only is there no fence around the site, but this pit I am referring to sits right beside a very beautiful reforestation area, a nice pine bush, the kind of place that if I was 25 years younger I would probably be every Saturday afternoon playing and hiking with my friends.
We had one resident, Mr. Les Dekany, who unfortunately walked out on to the very light sand cover which was put over that grey, slimy mess and went in up to his waist. It resulted in a very sore burn rash from his waist down on all parts of his lower extremities.
The ministry staff reported to me last night -- and I concur with their position -- that as a result of our raising the issue and as a result of their now having tested that material to confirm what it was or what it was not -- and I do not think they have finished all of the testing, but they have done enough now -- they are going to recommend its removal, which was what I suggested in a letter I sent to the minister, along with a number of other issues which I understand will take somewhat longer to answer. But I was glad to hear that from the ministry staff last night.
On the other hand, I have a serious concern about why that pit was sitting there unprotected in that kind of a condition. Last night, the minister's staff told me that most of that material was put there in 1978, both the stuff from the paper company and the stuff from Chemical and Petro Waste Disposal, and was dumped there illegally. We know the Chemical and Petro Waste Disposal stuff went in in 1978. I will take their word for it that the paper waste, the clay mixture, went in there in 1978.
So we are talking about 1982, when I saw it, and now we are into 1983. This stuff is sitting there totally open and exposed except for a light covering of sand which went on in late November 1982 -- not in 1978 or any time in between. This is waste which could kill some child who happened on it; waste which I have some concerns about getting into the water table eventually, but again I am not an expert in that field and I do not know what potential danger, on its own, that waste has.
Even if the ministry staff could convince me that the chemical content of that waste on its own may present no problem if it gets into the water table, I would still have some concerns about what happens if and when it mixes with other wastes, like the trichloroethylene, which we know exists in large amounts at that dump site, and other contaminants which we have not even identified yet that may be in the site. I have no idea what else has gone in there, nor, at this point, does the ministry staff, because most of the industrial dumping which went on there over the years is either before the ministry monitored those kinds of things or went in illegally. There is no clear record anywhere, as I understand it, of all that went into that dump site, either in the distant past or in the recent past.
We have identified some of those things because we have identified a plume and we know the major contaminants and the minor contaminants in that plume, but nobody is certain of the full extent of the problem around that site and nobody is going to easily convince those citizens they really have nothing to be concerned about. Nobody is going to convince those citizens that allowing that site to continue to operate until the fall of 1984 is not going to add to the potential problems for the future.
They know the site is leaking. They cannot prove, and neither can the ministry at this point, that what has leaked out has affected any of those wells, but they are convinced of it. I think Mr. Embree's comments last night indicate that he is convinced of it. "If I were a betting man," he said, "I would bet the dump was the source of the contamination in the wells." That is not an exact quote but that is what he said.
He also said the site cannot be closed. They have no plans for specifically cleaning up the plume. In fact, he gave an indication to the public meeting last night, which would seriously concern those people, that what would probably happen was they would provide an alternative water supply for those whose wells the plume got into but that eventually it would dilute enough that the problem would go away.
They also said at the meeting last night that there are no immediate plans for any remedial action to try to stop what obviously is a continuing problem. If stuff is leaching out it is still leaching out. I understand they are going to expand on the hydrogeologic study that was done by Morrison Beatty Ltd. I understand they are going to try to correct what they consider some of the shortcomings of that study, but the community cannot understand why there is not more decisive leadership and action from the Ministry of the Environment.
I think the press reports from last night will indicate that what I am saying is true, because I did not play any role in that meeting. I was invited to go up there and I asked one question, that is all. The only involvement I had in the meeting was that I asked one question of Mr. Gray, with whom I have had some contact before and who I have some respect for. I have set that out for the minister on another occasion.
I asked him one question in response to a question he has asked us. I did not play any other role in that meeting last night. I just sat and listened to the questions the citizens raised with the staff and I listened to the responses which came from the ministry staff.
I am not an expert in a number of the fields that were being discussed but the answers that came from the ministry staff, and I have no way of knowing in some cases whether or not they are accurate, did not come even close to satisfying the public concerns that exist in that community. From my perspective, that is another failure in terms of what one of the minister's colleagues said yesterday was his function and his role. The Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations (Mr. Elgie) said yesterday: "As a minister, I am a public servant. My job is to serve the public and its concerns." He said something along those lines.
That perception does not exist in Stouffville and it does not exist in Tiny township. The minister is aware of the other concerns I have about the Tiny township site. I have set them out in a fairly lengthy letter to him to which his staff have given an interim response.
I think it was referred to the regional staff and they are following up on some of the issues I raised. I am glad that is happening and I am glad that as a result of our raising those issues they are at least going to clean out that one pit which is sitting open and which could provide a serious hazard to some young kid or, for that matter, even some drunk wandering through in the middle of the night. He would just disappear and nobody would ever see him again.
I want to move to another situation which was brought to my attention which I want to emphasize to the minister. The member for Algoma-Manitoulin (Mr. Lane) is here as well and perhaps he can add some insight to this, because I have had some difficulty finding out exactly what the situation is. It is a situation in Howland township, which is on Manitoulin Island. I do not completely understand it and I will admit that at this point. However, I did ask some preliminary questions of the ministry staff but we have not got into a detailed discussion of this one yet. I have to do that.
There are a couple of aspects of it that bother me, and which I want to raise with the minister here today, that relate to the public relations side of the question in terms of what the public feels is happening in that situation in Howland township. The situation involves contaminated waste at a sawmill, both sawdust waste and wood waste contaminated with -- I do not even have good documentation on what the contamination is; all I know is that everybody agrees it is contaminated waste.
The problem is that the ministry has ordered the owners of the sawmill to clean up the waste around its site and find a suitable place to dispose of it. Somebody by the name of Don Eadie, who owns a parcel of land, has offered that land as a disposal site for the contaminated wood and sawdust waste from the sawmill. The sawmill is operated by Green Cedar.
I will get into the technical side of the issue with the minister's staff because I do not have good information on it at this point as the citizens are not experts, but my concerns here are with the process and with the public relations side of it, with the feeling that is left with the people involved.
I do not know if this is correct, and perhaps the minister can respond to this part of it: the citizens have the feeling that this proposed site has already been exempted by the ministry from an environmental assessment. I took a quick scan through the Ontario Gazettes I could find -- I did not have all of them unfortunately -- and I did not see this particular site mentioned, so I am of the opinion that it has probably not already been exempted, although there may have been some discussions about an exemption. I do not know. However, the people in the community are left with the impression it has already been exempted from an environmental hearing. Whether or not that is true, somebody is doing a bad PR job out there, because that is the impression of the people who live on the property right next door.
At any rate, there is an application for an approval of that site. I want to bring out a few things they did send me, which have gone out around that community through the media and so on, which the member --
Mr. Nixon: Mr. Speaker, I wonder if the member would permit a question. I would like to ask if it is possible for him to assure some of us, who have been listening to his comments with interest, that there will be time remaining before it is all used up to raise a couple of local, line-fence problems with the minister.
Mr. Charlton: I will be wrapping up very shortly.
Mr. Philip: That is on condition that member will then leave me a little bit of time for three or four minutes at the end.
Mr. Charlton: At any rate, Mr. Speaker, we have a situation where there has been some local press. Again, I do not have enough information to know whether it is just a total misunderstanding or whether some of the allegations that have been made and put to me are correct. I will have to do some follow-up on those issues with the ministry staff.
Mrs. Delabbio, a member of the family that owns the property next door, is one of the concerned citizens involved. She raised two issues that concern her very much. I am going to throw out a comment that she made to the press, just as an indication of the things I am talking about. This lady owns a vacation property on Manitoulin Island. She lives in Sudbury, Ontario. What was one of the first comments she made to the press about this issue? "We do not want another Stouffville." It is not only the perception in Stouffville that the ministry has not been relating well to the community, but that impression has spread all the way to Sudbury, or Manitoulin Island, wherever they happen to have read about the Stouffville issue.
Their concerns are twofold. There is a stream running right through the back of this property where they are proposing the landfill site, a stream which also runs across her property. She is worried about contamination from this site getting on to her property. That is a perfectly legitimate concern on her part, because she has been led to believe there will be no environmental assessment hearing at which she can be convinced there will be no problem. The minister will agree an environmental assessment is supposed to ensure that a particular proposal is necessary in the first place, that it is environmentally sound as a proposal, that it is the best alternative and that there are not some better alternatives available.
One of the other major purposes of an environmental assessment hearing can be to distil and to calm public concerns about a particular proposal. She has been led to believe there will be none. She is convinced that if there are wastes put on that property they will end up on her property through the course of that stream. She is also very concerned about what appears to be a serious contradiction -- I do not know on whose part. The ministry may have no intention of allowing this project to proceed; if they do not they certainly have not let anybody know.
In a press report back in July 1982, Mr. Sloan, a ministry staff member from the Sudbury office, is quoted as saying the company had moved some of the waste materials to a local gravel pit but were stopped from doing that because the pit did not meet the environmental requirements.
That is fine. The ministry stopped something. It was not suitable. It did not fulfil the requirements. In July 1982, Mr. Sloan went on to say there are no areas on Manitoulin that meet the requirements. Now we are proceeding with both an application for change of zoning and an application for approval as a landfill site.
What does that mean in public confidence, in the ministry's relationship with the people in the community? What kind of taste does that kind of thing leave in a citizen's mouth? That is why I am raising this issue. Ministry staff are quoted as saying there is no site on Manitoulin Island that will meet the requirements of an industrial waste disposal site, and yet we are proceeding with what appears to the citizens to be a steamroller approach to getting one put in place.
I will have to ask the staff about all the specifics, but the minister can see from the comments I have made that kind of thing should not be allowed to go on. The people in that community have to have confidence in the ministry and the officials of the ministry who are involved in that area. What is really going on has to be made very clear to everybody concerned and obviously that is not the case.
I will leave that issue for the moment and proceed to talk for a brief period about the federal-provincial joint task force on Inco and Falconbridge emissions. We in this caucus were reasonably happy with that study and report and the technical documentation that was set out therein. We were also very pleased with the way in which it was presented to us. It was probably the first time -- that I have seen anyway -- the task force took the time to set out that document in language I could understand. The member for Nickel Belt (Mr. Laughren) could understand it, and probably even a fairly large number of average citizens in the community, who might take an interest and go to the library to look through it, could understand it.
I think we were not quite so happy with the apparent recommendations of the task force. It appeared to suggest that in the case of Inco emissions should be reduced from approximately 1,950 tons per day to around 1,000 initially, and that future reductions be left in the hands of the ministry. We would much prefer to see that task force set out a proposed time period control order, a 10-year program of reduction. That is basically what we took upon ourselves to do in Sudbury a couple of weeks ago, based on the documentation set out in that report.
I understand my colleague, the member for Nickel Belt, will be coming back in to make a few comments about what we propose, so I will not deal with the specifics of our proposal at this point. If the member does not get back in time to do that, we will consult with the minister on it. There is one aspect I do want to deal with and that is the question of how we proceed from here with that report, and how do we deal with implementing some kind of pollution abatement strategy at Inco and Falconbridge. We clearly understand that neither of those companies falls under the environmental assessment legislation in this province and they are not eligible at this point for environmental assessment hearings.
However, we think we know what the opinion will be if there is no public hearing process. People will think, as they have in the past, that the ministry took the report, sat down with Inco and Falconbridge and negotiated whatever was the most acceptable approach to the two companies in question. That is not acceptable either now or in the long term.
In Ontario, and perhaps for some of our southern neighbours as well, Inco has become the symbol of the sulphur dioxide emission problem in Ontario. It is the biggest single source in the entire world. It is a symbol not only of acid rain pollution but of inaction over the last 10 years on the part of this government and this ministry in dealing with that problem. It is the symbol of the point at which this government and this ministry get very serious about dealing with the acid rain problem.
When the public of Ontario perceives a really tough, well-thought-out effort on the part of this ministry to clean up those two operations, specifically the Inco operation, then it will start to believe some of the other pronouncements that have been made by this ministry and this minister. At this stage, the public does not see that and does not yet believe what is said. It all relates to the public perception I have been talking about this afternoon. The public image of this ministry is in bad shape.
The proposal we have set out includes public hearings very quickly. It is our opinion that since it is not going to be under the Environmental Assessment Act, because the legislation does not apply, the minister could quickly set up a hearing panel that could be advertising the dates for public hearings within a couple of months. Public hearings could be held during the course of the late spring and early summer.
We could have a draft control order come out of those public hearings by this fall; or we could work the other way around, we could have a draft control order come out of the ministry now and proceed to public hearings on that. Either way would satisfy us, but if we do not have those public hearings and that public input, I do not think this party, the official opposition, the Sudbury community or the people in Timiskaming, who are seriously concerned about pollution from Inco moving north and east into the Timiskaming district and destroying its lakes, are going to be satisfied with the outcome.
We have set out in our proposal a pretty strict application of the technology. That is set out in the report in two perspectives. One is to achieve the absolute maximum in reduction of emissions. In Inco's case, that would be from 1,950 tons a day to 43 tons a day at the end of a 10-year phase-in period, and in the case of Falconbridge from some 450 tons a day at present to 70 tons a day over the course of the 10 years. About 6,600 jobs would be created in a community that dearly needs those jobs.
We have set out some funding proposals to assist the companies in the financing of what we have proposed. It is a costly program but achieves the maximum in pollution abatement and provides the maximum number of jobs we could find set out in that report for a community which is the hardest hit community in Ontario in terms of unemployment. It is a proposal that will create a number of byproducts in secondary industry options. At the end of the 10-year period there will be a number of new industrial job creation potentials as a result of the proposals we have made.
My colleague the member for Nickel Belt had intended to come in and comment. If that happens that will be very good, and if it does not we will certainly be talking to the minister about it shortly.
Mr. Nixon: Mr. Speaker, we do not want to interfere with the minister's opportunity to reply, but I do want to bring to his attention a situation that is of serious importance to my constituency. I am the member for Brant-Oxford-Norfolk and this involves the restructured county of Oxford.
For the last number of years, under the leadership of the county council, particularly the present warden and the previous warden, a new dump site has been planned and every indication was that this was going forward. As a matter of fact, the engineers and the experts in the county of Oxford have benefited from the best advice available from the minister's staff. The minister will recall that his predecessor used to be the member from Oxford and undoubtedly was able to persuade his staff to take a close look at what was going on there.
One can imagine the county council had a certain degree of confidence after spending hundreds of thousands of dollars in the planning of the site and the acquisition of the property. It found that the local community, as is its right, had undertaken some objections which of course were expected and I believe a hearing was held by the Ontario Municipal Board. After all these careful plans, the municipal board found from the facts that were presented by the experts that the planning had been inadequate and would not permit the dump site to go forward.
I am sorry I do not have the time, nor do I have the papers with the detailed information here. I suppose this was a great victory for the people objecting and I am normally speaking in favour of that side in these arguments -- and they may be correct -- but the county was doing it in what was considered to be the official and appropriate way under the direction of the ministry officials. It looks as if almost $1 million of taxpayers' funds have been completely wasted and the county council is not even back at square one. It simply does not know what to do under these circumstances.
We have complained about many of these hearing processes in the past, and I would be the last to say that the community ought to have a dump imposed on it. Obviously it would be ridiculous for me to say that, both politically and because I am not an expert in this area so my opinion is not worth very much. Some criticism should be directed toward the ministry, however, for allowing this process to go forward in a way that led the democratically elected county council to undertake a program that was then simply shot into the corner pocket and lost entirely. This was because the leadership and the advice were seen to be inadequate and must have been incorrect.
I want to express these views as we complete these estimates. If the minister does not have a chance or is not knowledgeable enough right at this moment to respond, I look forward to hearing from him at another time.
Mr. Philip: Mr. Speaker, I want to raise a couple of issues I have become aware of. I have had a number of interesting conversations with Bob Hill, the executive secretary of the Canadian Union of United Brewery, Flour, Cereal, Soft Drink and Distillery Workers, whose union hall just happens to be in my riding. Also, I have been concerned about the environmental issues and the problem of returnables versus nonreturnables.
Many of the members of that union have the same concerns I have about what is happening in their industry. I found interesting the discussion paper the minister sent around to each of the members. I am sure it has been distributed fairly widely. I think all of us suspected some of the facts in that discussion paper which now are confirmed. I hope some of them are his concerns, because they certainly are my concerns.
In particular, the discussion paper points out that with the banning of the 1.5-litre refillable bottle in 1979, there has been a decrease in the ratio of cans to bottles. With the heavy discounting that has taken place to promote the 24-can flat, cans now are estimated to have a 50 per cent share of the market.
The paper points out on page 8 an interesting option which we in this party have supported over the years, as indeed have various ministers. I can remember having discussions with the member for Burlington South (Mr. Kerr) when he was minister, and with other ministers, about whether the government should change the legislation to strictly enforce, at least on an interim basis, the existing agreement ratio of 75-25 refillables to nonrefillables.
That makes a lot of sense. When one goes into a supermarket or gas station, one is confronted with the Coke-Pepsi fight that is going on now. It is perhaps even more violent than the fight between the New Democrats and the Conservatives and is carried on with even more enthusiasm and more advertising. The sad thing is, when one looks at it, it is always cans that are being discounted and cans that are being pushed.
I suggest to the minister that from an environmental point of view, as well as from the point of view of protecting the jobs of the people in my riding, the Ministry of the Environment has to keep some of the promises that previous ministers made. In the long run, I hope that at least in the soft drink industry one could move to a totally refillable system. If we look at what has been done in other jurisdictions, we can see this is possible.
On page 8 and the following page of the report, there is an option which is clearly identified for the minister and which has been given lip-service. I had prepared interesting quotations from four or five of the previous ministers showing that they wanted to move in that direction. Yet we find we are very slow in meeting that kind of objective of 75-25.
I ask the minister to look seriously at the problem not only from an environmental point of view but also from the point of view, as he will recognize in the literature, that moving towards the nonrefillables is actually job-creating on a long-term basis. I hope he will look at that and give us his position on that.
In view of the time, I will relinquish the floor to other members.
Mr. Laughren: Mr. Speaker, before I commence my remarks, may I assume that the Minister of the Environment has received the document which I forwarded to him a week or so ago on the emission levels from Inco and Falconbridge in the Sudbury basin? If he has not, there is something strange about the --
Hon. Mr. Norton: Do you mean your press release? Your communiqué?
Mr. Laughren: I am glad the minister has received that.
Mr. Charlton: Has he got it?
Mr. Laughren: Yes, he has it. My colleague the member for Sudbury East (Mr. Martel) and I read the federal-provincial task force report very carefully and went through all the options presented by it. The task force stated unequivocally that there must be emission reductions in Sudbury. It made some very persuasive arguments. I hope the minister takes those arguments to heart.
One of the arguments it made was that if we are to be serious about our international obligations and our negotiations in reducing acid rain, we have to do something about the number one symbol. The number one symbol in North America for acid rain is the Inco operations. We think it would help the minister if he were to take the recommendations of that task force seriously.
The task force at first blush did not do what I thought it should have done but, having read it more carefully, I think some of my original statements about the task force were somewhat hasty. They did present some options for the first time that laid before the minister, and anyone else who is interested, the different options available, the technology, the costs involved and what would happen in terms of jobs in the Sudbury basin.
This is the first time that I have ever seen anybody lay all those things out before us. In the past, there has always been the excuse that (1) the technology was not available, (2) it was too expensive or (3) it would cost too many jobs. Now, for the first time, we have available to us information that lets us make some very precise decisions knowing full well what will flow from those decisions.
I hope the minister appreciates what the task force did. Now we will see where the minister stands in this regard. Two out of three local members from the Sudbury basin, namely, the member for Sudbury East and I, have stated unequivocally where we stand on the position. I have not heard from the member for Sudbury (Mr. Gordon) yet.
The United Steelworkers of America, Local 6500, which represents the employees at Inco, has stated that it supports our position; so the minister or anyone else need not pretend that the loss of 600 jobs in the long run is reason for ignoring the recommendations of the task force or our recommendations on what should be done.
In the long run, the task force states that within the next 10 years, if they implemented our proposal, it would reduce Inco's emissions from 1,950 tons a day to 43 tons a day, and that includes the iron ore recovery plant; so it is not only the superstack at the smelter but the iron ore recovery plant stack as well.
Can members imagine what it would mean to have emissions from that operation reduced from almost 2,000 tons a day down to 43? That would be a remarkable improvement. It would be a symbol of our seriousness in reducing acid rain.
Mr. Charlton: It would make the minister world-famous.
Mr. Laughren: Yes. As a matter of fact, if the Minister of the Environment wanted to bring upon himself the mantle of the crusading Minister of the Environment, this is how he could do it.
I know that the number one problem out there is cost. That is what seemed to be the obstacle. It has been the question that has been put to us. The question that is always put to us is, what about costs? Surely Inco and Falconbridge are in a position now that they cannot afford to assume those kinds of costs.
What we are saying is that, according to the task force, there will be a cost of $524 million, I believe. Even if we inflate that to $600 million to round it off, which is a pretty luxurious rounding off -- nevertheless, just to state a figure that is not too low, let us use the figure of $600 million -- the federal Department of Energy, Mines and Resources has stated that if it were to cost $600 million to install pollution abatement equipment, the cost to Inco would be $270 million because of the tax advantages.
What we are saying is that we recognize the cash flow problems of Inco and Falconbridge. In this particular case, let us talk about Inco. Even though there is an enormous tax advantage there, one has to be earning profits to realize the tax advantage. So in these early years, when there is a very serious cash flow problem, there should be front-end-load assistance by the provincial ministry and the federal department. We do not believe that it should be in the form of grants. We believe, as the government believes, that the polluter should pay. I assume that principle has not changed since this minister assumed his responsibilities. We believe that if assistance is to be provided, it must be in the form of either loans which should be repaid, loan guarantees or equity participation in the company.
We know that the third item is probably not acceptable to this minister and this government, or perhaps even to the company. I am not sure of that, but we suspect it. Therefore, what we are saying is that this government should look at those options, because assistance is going to be required in the early years if we are going to get on with this. We are proposing it as a 10-year program, and we state unequivocally that we have opted for a long-range solution to the problem rather than a quick fix which would reduce the emissions much less.
We feel very strongly that in the long run we all will be better served if the very tough, very stringent requirements are imposed upon the company.
Finally -- and I hope the minister will listen to me for a moment rather than to the Speaker -- the minister should think very seriously that, first, a control order should be issued, not imposed. The control order should have emission levels which the minister feels everyone can live with. We have told him what we think they should be. Second, the new draft control order should be held out there for public debate, there should be public hearings held on that draft control order and then, flowing from those public hearings, a control order should be imposed upon the company.
That is what we would like to see done, and I hope there is time for the minister to respond.
The Acting Speaker: With unanimous consent, the House could continue to six o'clock to hear the response by the minister, because otherwise we have exhausted the time allowed for this concurrence. Is that agreed?
Some hon. members: Agreed.
Mr. Mancini: What was that again?
Mr. Stokes: Sit down.
The Acting Speaker: The member for Essex South, if it is not unanimous, we can adjourn. Is it unanimous?
Clerk of the House: Put the question.
The Acting Speaker: Is it agreed that the House will continue?
Some hon. members: Yes.
Clerk of the House: Put the question "Shall this resolution be concurred in?"
An hon. member: We are going to do that presently.
The Acting Speaker: I thought we would give the minister a chance to respond and then we would put the question.
Does the House agree to hear the minister? I believe it does.
Mr. Laughren: We already have.
The Acting Speaker: Then the minister may speak.
Hon. Mr. Norton: Mr. Speaker, I am overwhelmed by the generosity of the House, especially in allowing me nine minutes --
Mr. Nixon: Eight minutes.
The Acting Speaker: I will be stricter on the timing with yourself.
Hon. Mr. Norton: -- to respond to two and a half hours of provocative and, at times, insulting diatribe. Perhaps I can respond to some of it.
Obviously much of what has been raised is very complex and it is impossible to respond adequately in the few moments available to me. But there are a few things that ought to be addressed, and I will simply touch upon them in the time available.
I will go back to the opening remarks of the member for Hamilton Mountain (Mr. Charlton), and I will try to pick some from the other speakers as well. The member made the allegation, as is commonly done, that the Environmental Assessment Act is not being complied with, saying that it ought to be called the environmental exemption act and so on.
Mr. Charlton: I said that was the public perception.
Hon. Mr. Norton: Yes, and I am sure that when the member has the opportunity, he supports that perception.
The facts, though, do not bear out that allegation. We now have some figures on the past year indicating that of 90 environmental assessments that were officially submitted to the ministry, there have been 53 final decisions -- in other words, where the assessment has gone through the whole process -- 23 are still under active review and pending decision by the minister and one is pending a decision by the board. Out of the total of 90 in the past year, the number that have been submitted and exempted is eight. That is not consistent with the perception that some of the members opposite like to promote here and across the province.
If the member looks over the years, he will come up with different figures, because he has to bear in mind that during the period of the introduction and implementation of this very complex legislation there were many exemptions for those grandfathered projects that were under way and in certain stages of planning prior to the introduction of the act.
It is true that the numbers were greater in the earlier period, but to continue to propagate that misconception flies in the face of the facts. Now that he has those kinds of accurate figures, I hope he will promote the accurate perception as vociferously as he has the other in the past. I will be glad to provide the member with the necessary background material as long as he can give me the assurance that he will assist in promoting the truth across this province.
The whole question that the member raised, dealing with the perception of the ministry and the question of confidence on the part of members of the public, obviously bothers me as well as the staff of the ministry. It is not, I think, for the very reasons that he chose to cite. That is perhaps one of the things that to a greater or lesser extent, and I hope it is a lesser extent, we may have to live with for some time, partly because of the very nature of the work the ministry is engaged in.
I do not know whether there is any way in which that can be turned around short of a totalitarian society where the media become organs of the state. As long as the newspaper and electronic media industry in this country depend on promoting their sales by focusing upon the sensational things which are most saleable, obviously that perception is likely to be promoted because there are many emotional issues related to the environment, especially when there is some suspicion that it may impact upon human health.
The member has seen that. I am sure if he is honest with himself he has seen it in Stouffville where, for example, the testing was done and was discredited by the scientific community. It got much broader coverage in the media than did the constantly reliable and, in the scientific community, undisputed work and testing that was done on that water by the staff of my ministry and by other laboratories that were brought into the picture to corroborate the work being done by my staff.
There is no doubt that in the Ministry of the Environment we have, particularly in this area, the most competent people working in that field anywhere in the world. We have been at it longer than others, and our laboratory is second to none. Yet I agree the perception is not that; it is most unfortunate. The work being done by the staff of my ministry in terms of environmental protection is something that Ontarians ought to be standing up and proudly proclaiming. That is not happening because to do that we would have to either launch a multibillion-dollar advertising campaign or have some kind of control over the media which none of us would want.
I think we will reverse that over time. Over time, that will change as more of the critically sensitive and emotional situations we face are resolved and as people recognize that we have dealt with the whole thing competently, as we are doing, and when the results are there as, for example, will be the case with Stouffville, Pauzé and all the other very difficult situations we are dealing with. Give us time and the people will understand that we have dealt with those responsibly, because in the end that will be evident.
While emotion is running high, it is difficult to alter the perception especially when, and this is not intended to be a provocative statement directed at the member, there are individuals in society --
Mr. Charlton: Name one.
Hon. Mr. Norton: Some of the retreads from the 1960s. I refer to the individuals who still thrive, not on substance but on process, and on trying to seize upon the sensitivities of a community to feed their own egos and so on. That is not generally true, but it is still true of some individuals. It is a carryover, a throwback.
But, as a society, we are moving into a new era where I hope substance and accomplishment, the likes of which my ministry represents, will be seen to represent the quality and the new wave of dealing responsibly with issues rather than getting carried away with frigging around and arguing constantly over process.
The member has seen it himself even in the past year. Some of the individuals involved in particular groups -- not everybody, but some individuals -- have attacked us on both sides of the same issue. One year they attack us because we did not do what they thought we should be doing. Then, during the course of a few months or a year, the ministry takes a strong position that ought to be seen as consistent with what they were arguing for before and they attack us from the other side and say we should not be doing that.
That lack of consistency, and in some cases a lack of integrity, does not help the image of the ministry when the media seize upon it. On the other hand, one has to have some confidence in the correctness of one's judgement and stand and be accountable before the people when the time comes. I am prepared to do that. I am not going to get alarmed. I am not going to run scared because of image. Ultimately the wisdom of the people will prevail and they will see that what we are doing is right and has been the most responsible way to approach these issues.
I wish I could deal in greater depth with all the other things the member raised, but I am sure we will have other opportunities as time evolves.
Resolution concurred in.
ANSWERS TO QUESTIONS ON NOTICE PAPER
Hon. Mr. Wells: Mr. Speaker, just before we call it six of the clock, I would like to table the answers to these questions. I would also like to indicate there has been some confusion as to whether we will be sitting tonight. I am informed the heat is back on. It will be warm enough here; so the House will be sitting tonight.
The House recessed at 6 p.m.