The Third Session of the 32nd Parliament of the province of Ontario opened at 3 p.m. for the dispatch of business pursuant to a proclamation of the Honourable J. B. Aird, Lieutenant Governor of the province.
The Honourable the Lieutenant Governor, having entered the chamber and being seated upon the throne, was pleased to open the session with the following gracious speech.
SPEECH FROM THE THRONE
Hon. Mr. Aird: Pray be seated.
Mr. Speaker and members of the Legislative Assembly, Ontario is now emerging from a period that has proven to be difficult for all jurisdictions within the industrial western world. The economic setbacks experienced in 1982 were, beyond doubt, more severe than any public or private observers had foreseen. For the first time since 1975, real output for the industrialized economies as a whole declined; and, more disturbing, unemployment rose to unprecedented post-war heights. Clearly, steps must be taken to overcome this situation.
It is gratifying to be able to report to this Legislature, therefore, that we are now witnessing several positive signs, both in the resumption of economic activity with increased employment as well as in the fight against inflation. The restoration of confidence has begun.
The personal economic outlook for many Ontarians, however, will remain challenging. My government is well aware of the hardships imposed by current high levels of unemployment. These hardships have been borne by men and women in all regions and from all walks of life. The lessening of these difficulties will continue to head the list of matters requiring the full attention of this Legislature.
It is obvious that no single province has at its disposal the means to solve all of the problems resulting from current economic conditions. However, the government of Ontario will continue to give the highest priority towards the fashioning of initiatives designed to provide badly needed job opportunities.
The last provincial budget outlined a number of such initiatives. The job creation program which was announced at that time created some 40,290 jobs at a cost of $176 million. An additional $150 million was later provided for direct job creation projects and for co-operative programs with the government of Canada. Funding for employment programs for young people, who have experienced higher unemployment levels than the rest of the work force, has been increased to $120 million. Through these and other measures, the government has endeavoured to assist in creating conditions conducive to economic recovery. In recent months there have been indications that additional developments have occurred which should aid in this process.
For example, there has been a significant slowdown in inflation. Consumer price increases in Canada have declined from an annual rate of 12.5 per cent in 1981 to the six per cent range during the last few months. Moderation of unit labour cost increases and the favourable outlook for food and energy prices will both contribute to continued dampening of overall price increases in the year ahead.
Trends in wage and salary settlements have also contributed to the growing confidence in our ability to cope with inflation. In the public sector many jurisdictions in Canada, including Ontario, have demonstrated a commitment to ending the inflationary environment through the implementation of public sector wage and price restraint, and in the private sector there is evidence that major wage settlements are also moderating.
Concurrently in this country and in the United States there are signs that economic activity is increasing. Interest rates have declined substantially. In specific sectors -- housing, appliances, autos -- there has been a perceptible quickening in the pace of activity. Recent reports reveal that consumer confidence has increased significantly, and nothing will offer a surer sign of improving economic conditions than a decision by individual consumers to enter the marketplace.
The stage now appears set, therefore, for an enduring economic recovery in Ontario and Canada. The evidence is clear that such recovery and the increased employment opportunities that will result from it will centre primarily on the private sector. The responsibility of government, including that of Ontario, will be to create the proper climate for the private sector to foster that economic growth, to complement the efforts of business and industry through appropriate plans and programs, and to assist directly and in a variety of ways those citizens who, for whatever reasons, require help, including assistance in finding appropriate job opportunities, within the work force.
The importance of a well-trained labour force for economic recovery is obvious. Ontario possesses one of the most highly developed systems for manpower training in North America, delivered in the main through its community college network. Last summer my government took the lead in developing, with the government of Canada, a new national training program which will further institutional training and at the same time give significant additional financial support for training within industrial settings. As the economy improves, it is equally important for employers to fulfil their training obligations by increasing their commitment to and participation in these programs.
While job training will demand particular attention during this period in which industrial requirements and the technology that supports them are changing so rapidly, we cannot lose sight of the need to continue to provide high-quality programs of all types within our educational system. This will require constant examination of school organization and curriculum content as has been evidenced by the recent secondary education review project. Further, to ensure the most effective results for the resources available, new developments, both in terms of programs and facilities, will of necessity be approved on a priority basis.
It is clear too that as new technology takes hold, traditional job patterns will change and, in some cases, disappear. This in turn will give rise to significant changes in the style and nature of life for many Ontario citizens. Rather than wait and react to these events as they unfold, my government intends to undertake an extensive and serious study of these projected developments so that we are in the strongest possible position to assist Ontarians to adjust to the changing circumstances within our industrial and business sectors.
In times such as these organized labour plays a vital role, not only in representing the interests of individual members but also in working together with business and the government to find practical solutions to our common difficulties. It has, for example, undertaken constructive co-operation with management in the introduction of pilot projects in quality of working life across the province. These efforts will be extended and enhanced in coming months as a further example of what can be achieved through co-operative efforts involving labour, business and government.
Further, sustaining the turnaround in economic activity will require a continuing commitment by all parts of our society to act responsibly. For both those in the private and public sector, this will mean continuing the trend towards moderation in the demands placed on the economy -- in wage and salary settlements and in the movement of prices. Failure to achieve such restraint will shatter the growth of confidence and slow the momentum of economic expansion.
Constructive intergovernmental co-operation is also critical to economic recovery and the restoration of public confidence, and it is with this in mind that my government once again calls upon the Prime Minister of Canada to convene a first ministers' meeting on the economy at an early date. Such a meeting could serve to chart the course of a broadly based economic recovery during the remainder of this decade. We must build and give impetus to the emerging climate of optimism. Our citizens deserve no less. While the recently established federal Royal Commission on the Economic Union and Development Prospects for Canada was a welcome initiative, we cannot rely solely on this longer-term process to spur lasting economic recovery. Enhanced federal-provincial co-operation is required now.
For its part, the government of Ontario is resolved to bear its full share of responsibility and to continue to provide leadership in the weeks and months ahead. My ministers, therefore, in their several responsibilities, will be placing before you, in this session, components of a clearly defined three-part program. Measures will be introduced to contribute to an enduring economic recovery which will create the jobs necessary to allow all Ontarians to lead productive lives; to strengthen the management of the province's affairs; and to respond to the critical concerns and needs of Ontarians, in all areas of their lives, through this adjustment period.
The budget, to be presented in May, will form a key element of this program. It will address the broad directions the government will take in meeting the fiscal and economic policy challenges facing Ontario today. Emphasis will be placed on strengthening the province's longer-term economic potential.
In the coming year, the government will continue to set priorities and co-ordinate economic initiatives to ensure that our province is able to take full advantage of the many resource and technological opportunities that will be available in the future. Many initiatives already in place will demand further fiscal resources and strategic guidance.
While continuing this work, we will strive constantly to seek out new initiatives. Specifically, we can expect new projects and programs in such fields as fusion fuel technology, interregional transit, assistance to single-industry communities in northern Ontario, development and marketing of pollution abatement equipment, development of a Canadian school microcomputer and educational software, and tourism.
These initiatives will be supplemented further in the coming 12 months by a number of new measures. My government's goal is to promote and encourage the development of internationally competitive industries, including the agricultural sector, which will result in the creation of new jobs and increases in real incomes, both corporate and personal. Our goals, for which policies and programs will be outlined, are: to stimulate business investment significantly over the next two years; to double foreign trade over the next five years; to increase domestic market expansion; to increase the productivity and entrepreneurship of small and medium-sized businesses; and to increase innovation in all sectors of our economy.
Of particular importance to economic recovery and growth in Ontario is the state of the automotive industry. For this reason, during the past year Ontario has pursued discussions with the government of Canada and business and labour leaders to promote its revitalization and future development. In this regard, as a short-term measure, we continue to advocate, in the strongest possible terms, restriction in the number of imported cars to allow the domestic industry time to adjust to the new circumstances and, more important, to permit time to obtain agreement from foreign manufacturers to increase significantly Canadian content in their products. Since we are not satisfied that federal officials are acting vigorously enough on this matter, we intend to increase our own efforts.
We have supported, in recent months, the establishment of the Task Force on Canadian Motor Vehicles and Automotive Parts Strategy and look forward to the release of its report. Without prejudging the findings of this report, we believe that the continued viability of the Canadian automotive industry will only be ensured in the longer term by requiring all vehicle manufacturers sharing the Canadian market to operate under the same requirements as those mandated under the 1965 Canada- United States automotive products trade agreement. The importance of the automotive industry to our overall economic good health requires no less.
The problems that have shadowed the world economy over the past few years have taken a particularly heavy toll in the farm community. Farmers have been hit financially by high interest rates and further squeezed by low commodity prices. The government acted to alleviate this situation by providing a temporary bridging to improved economic times.
Originally, the Ontario farm adjustment assistance program was scheduled to expire on December 31, 1982. In light of the current economic situation and the unlikely prospects of significant improvement in commodity prices, the program has been extended. In addition, Ontario, in co-operation with Saskatchewan, has taken the lead in designing a national tripartite stabilization program to insure producers against volatile commodity prices in the future.
The ministry will reinforce its efforts in the area of financial counselling, designed to assist producers in optimizing their business decisions. Initiatives will also be taken to support the long-term development of our northern Ontario agricultural resources.
In addition, no farmer should fear the loss of his product through the failure of another business or misrepresentation of a buyer. Complementing the livestock financial protection program, successfully introduced for beef producers last year, it is our objective to expand this type of protection. For example, the Grain Elevator Storage Act, currently under review, will be updated to provide better protection for farmers who store their grain in elevators.
In order to remain competitive, Ontario agriculture requires a continuous stream of young, highly qualified entrants to carry on in this vitally important sector of the economy. The government recognizes the many problems faced today by young farmers. Accordingly, we shall be proposing measures to assist young people entering agriculture for the first time to get a fair start.
My government will continue the programs established to reduce potential and actual pollution of our air and water by international sources and will continue, by means of consultation and, if necessary, by intervention, to represent Ontario's interests and to ensure that the wellbeing of our people is taken into account in the formulation of remedial measures.
The people of Ontario enjoy a quality of housing second to none in the world. We plan to maintain this standard with programs designed to stimulate housing construction both to meet the shelter needs of home owners and tenants and to provide employment in the construction industry and the many related industries which ebb and flow with the housing market.
It is our intention in designing and executing these programs to work closely with our partner governments at the national and municipal levels. This partnership will yield maximum efficiency in creating programs to meet our housing needs community by community. Such a partnership will provide continuing sensitivity to the changing needs of senior citizens, the single-parent family, the disabled and other special needs groups.
My government believes that there is a need to accelerate progress in the area of women's issues, and while considerable advancement has been made in recent years to enhance opportunities for the women of Ontario, much remains to be done. To ensure, therefore, that women's essential contribution to the social and economic wellbeing of the province receives further support, my government will move to name a senior minister who will be responsible for women's issues with a complete mandate to review, initiate, direct and promote policies favourable to and in support of women in Ontario society.
This minister will have wide-ranging responsibility for providing a focus for the government and the public on concerns that affect 52.4 per cent of our population and for taking steps to close the gap in wages that has too long existed between men and women as well as the proportion of women who are clustered in particular areas of employment.
Ontario is widely envied throughout the world on many counts, not the least of which is the sound conduct of its financial and administrative affairs. In five out of the last seven years, my government has held its expenditure growth below the rate of inflation, freeing available resources for the private sector and for budgetary stabilization initiatives. Further evidence of this can be noted in the fact that, were our financial affairs in the same situation as those of our national government, the provincial deficit would be four times that currently projected. During this same seven-year period, Ontario's public service employment has decreased by 6.1 per cent, leaving Ontario with the fewest public servants, as measured on a per capita basis, of all Canadian provinces. It is a testimonial to our employees that this has been accomplished while maintaining the quality of our services to the public.
In the coming year this tradition of sound management will be continued. Renewed emphasis will be placed on value-for-money auditing and the examination of all ongoing programs to determine that they continue to serve the purposes for which they were intended and that the benefits are commensurate with the costs. The government's capital construction program for public sector requirements will aim at saving tax dollars in high-cost leasing areas. Finally, a number of government regulatory functions, such as the building and fire code regulations and the Mining Act, will be reformed and streamlined.
My government will strive to provide an equality of services across Ontario. The one- window approach will be expanded to allow more Ontarians to deal with their government more directly and more simply on a face-to-face basis throughout the province.
Further, my government recognizes that the retirement income system can be improved at both the national and provincial levels. Last December the government of Canada created a special parliamentary task force to develop recommendations for achieving such improvements. We will urge this task force to proceed with its deliberations as quickly as possible so that needed reforms can be recommended and adopted. To assist in this process, my government will seek to present its views to the government of Canada later this year. These views will emphasize the importance of freedom of choice for individuals in preparing for retirement and the need to provide more adequate retirement income protection for many members of our society.
The Public Service Superannuation Act will be amended to eliminate the unfair practice of discontinuing a survivor's pension upon remarriage. This change will apply retroactively to those individuals, mostly women, who have been inadvertently penalized by the current provisions.
Trust companies perform a vital role in Ontario as deposit-taking institutions and as administrators of estates and trusts. They also provide a major source of residential mortgage loans. It is my government's belief that public confidence in the trust industry of this province should be unquestioned. In furtherance of this objective, the Loan and Trust Corporations Amendment Act was passed in the previous session and a white paper will be tabled outlining a form of regulation that will address the need to maintain the public's confidence and also enable the trust industry to develop and maintain itself in these changing economic times.
Changes in the demographic composition of Ontario's population are constantly creating new challenges. Currently 10 per cent of the provincial population is over the age of 65. In less than 10 years, the number of those over 85 will increase by nearly 50 per cent. These changes will necessitate enhancement of existing services and the development of new and innovative approaches to meet evolving needs.
In order to ensure a comprehensive approach to the needs of the elderly in the years ahead, my government has completed a major review of programs and services to the elderly. While a number of initiatives will be proposed with respect to institutional and community health services, particular emphasis will be placed upon the support services in related programs which will enable elderly citizens to continue to live independently in the community.
Mon gouvernement est fier, et à juste titre, des progrès qu'il a accomplis dans la prestation des services a la population francophone de la province, en particulier dans le domaine de l'éducation. Cette année, la population scolaire de langue française comprend environ 93,706 élèves inscrits dans 276 écoles séparées catholiques, 13 écoles élémentaires publiques et 65 écoles secondaires de langue française ou mixtes. En fait, environ 96 pour cent de la population scolaire de langue française dans la province bénéficie actuellement de l'enseignement en français, en tout ou en partie.
Dans la poursuite de nos efforts pour assurer l'égalité des chances en éducation à tous les élèves de la province, nous présenterons, après avoir consulté le public, des amendements à la Loi sur l'éducation dans le but de:
Reconnaître le droit de chaque élève francophone de faire ses études en français;
Veiller à ce que les conseils de l'éducation établissent, dans certaines conditions, des sections de langue minoritaire composées de conseillers scolaires élus par les électeurs du groupe linguistique minoritaire, lors des élections de 1985;
Permettre au ministre de l'Education de résoudre les différends entre les conseils scolaires et la Commission des langues d'enseignement de l'Ontario quant aux mesures à prendre.
Il convient de noter que toutes ces dispositions s'appliqueront également aux Ontariens anglophones dans les circonscriptions scolaires où ils se trouvent en minorité.
My government is justifiably proud of the progress it has made in providing services to our province's French-speaking population, particularly in the field of education. This year the French-language school population comprises approximately 93,706 pupils registered in 276 Roman Catholic separate schools, 13 public elementary schools and 65 French or mixed secondary schools. In effect, approximately 96 per cent of the French-speaking school age population of this province currently receives its education, in whole or in part, in French.
To complete our efforts of ensuring equal educational opportunity for all pupils in this province, following public consultation, amendments to the Education Act will be introduced: to recognize the right of every French-speaking pupil to an education in the French language; to ensure that boards of education, under certain conditions, establish minority language sections consisting of trustees elected by minority language electors for the 1985 elections; to enable the Minister of Education to resolve situations in which a school board or the Languages of Instruction Commission of Ontario may disagree on an appropriate course of action. It should be noted that all these provisions will apply equally to English-speaking Ontarians in those school board areas where they are in a minority position.
Ontario will fulfil the commitment it made at the meeting of first ministers and aboriginal leaders to extend the provisions of Canada's new Constitution respecting the process for identifying and defining aboriginal rights. My government has been at the forefront of constitutional discussions to guarantee equal status of native men and women, to ensure that governments consult aboriginal peoples in advance of constitutional amendments that could affect them and to entrench future constitutional discussions respecting the rights of native peoples.
In order to implement the terms of the accord signed by first ministers, this Legislature will be asked to consider and support a resolution authorizing a constitutional amendment to sections of the Constitution Act respecting an ongoing process, the equal status of native men and women, clarification of the term "treaty rights" and guaranteed consultation in event of future constitutional reform affecting native peoples.
My government has completed a systematic review of its legislation and programs as part of its commitment to the provisions of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and to the primacy provisions of the new Human Rights Code. Legislative measures will be brought forward over time to ensure that Ontario law and practice is fully consistent with the important principles expressed in the charter and the Human Rights Code.
This year, preparations will continue apace for Ontario's bicentennial in 1984. Two hundred years ago, the first large major settlements of our province were established by those who migrated from the United States, following the American Revolution, joining with the native and French population of the then Ontario to build a new community and a new future under what would become responsible parliamentary democracy. The bicentennial will be a community-based celebration responsive to the many cultures and identities that have built our province during the last two centuries and an affirmation of the common opportunity we share to build on this history for the future.
My government is particularly pleased and honoured at the prospect that our Queen, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, will be with us on this important occasion in 1984. Her presence, grace, warmth and humanity symbolize more than anything the continuity of the liberty, freedom and opportunity that our way of life sustains for Ontarians of all origins, colours and creeds. It is important that we seize this opportunity to affirm, in a modest yet inspiring fashion, that we have much of which to be proud, much for which to thank those who have preceded us and even more to which to aspire in the future.
Honourable members, the general outline I have set before you today towards the combined goals of economic recovery, sound management of our public affairs and meeting the varied needs of Ontario's people will of necessity be expanded through more detailed statements describing the specific plans and programs my government intends to introduce. You may look forward, therefore, to a series of announcements by my ministers in the weeks to come that will set before this House a variety of proposals that will ensure continued progress in these major areas.
May Divine Providence attend your deliberations. In our Sovereign's name, I thank you.
God bless the Queen and Canada.
The Honourable the Lieutenant Governor was pleased to retire from the chamber.
Mr. Peterson: Mr. Speaker, if I may rise on a point of privilege: With genuine regret, because I was not intending to rise today in my place, I thought I should bring to your attention a discourtesy by the government in not delivering the traditional copy of the throne speech to the Leader of the Opposition. This could be merely an oversight, then again it could be seen at one with other events of the day whereby access to the lockup was restricted to members of the opposition party. I commend these two occurrences to you for your investigation and would appreciate your reporting back to the House.
Mr. Speaker: I beg to inform the House that to prevent mistakes, I have obtained a copy of His Honour's speech, which I will now read.
Reading dispensed with.
INTRODUCTION OF BILL
PROVINCIAL COURTS AMENDMENT ACT
Hon. Mr. McMurtry moved, seconded by Hon. Mr. Wells, first reading of Bill 1, An Act to amend the Provincial Courts Act.
Motion agreed to.
THRONE SPEECH DEBATE
Hon. Mr. Wells moved that the speech of the Honourable the Lieutenant Governor to this House be taken into consideration tomorrow, Tuesday, April 19.
Motion agreed to.
The House adjourned at 3:41 p.m.