The House resumed at 8 p.m.
THRONE SPEECH DEBATE (CONTINUED)
Resuming the debate on the amendment to the motion for an address in reply to the speech of the Honourable the Lieutenant Governor at the opening of the session.
Hon. Mr. Wells: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to take part in the throne speech debate tonight because I think this session and this speech from the throne will be looked upon historically as a very important event. We are now in a period when we are witnessing a turnaround in events. A restoration of confidence in the economy and in the life of this country has begun.
After a period of time historians will probably say was the worst, or at least equal to that experienced by this country in the 1930s, I think we are now on the verge of a recovery period.
As the speech from the throne said, and as I would say on every occasion, the restoration of confidence has begun. People are beginning to feel things are starting to happen. The positive signs are out there and those positive signs were indicated in the speech from the throne at this third session of this Legislature and Parliament.
What are those positive signs? They are signs such as the fact that we are now in a period when the consumer price index has declined in a year from somewhere around 12 per cent to between six and seven per cent. Inflation is being brought under control.
We are seeing a decrease in interest rates and because of this we are seeing greatly increased activity in the housing market. Houses are beginning to sell. Houses are beginning to be built.
I am always amazed when I hear people talk about there not being any houses built, that there are no housing starts going on. Then I look around my riding of Scarborough North and all I see are sewers being laid, roads being built, houses going up and condominiums and apartments being built in a whole variety of price ranges; and that activity has accelerated in the last three or four months because interest rates are lower, people are now buying and confidence is beginning to be felt again in this province, in this country and in our economy.
There is no question that unemployment is still too high; we all accept that. This speech from the throne accepts the fact that the emphasis today as we enter this period of confidence must be on the creation of jobs. As I read the federal budget presented by Mr. Lalonde, this is what he emphasizes: that this country must create jobs. that we must help the unemployed; and the measures that will do that are there. I think that will be the kind of direction our budget will take when the Treasurer (Mr. F. S. Miller) presents it on May 10.
Mr. Stokes: Watch those leaks now.
Hon. Mr. Wells: No, I am not going to say any more about the budget, of course; the budget will speak for itself. As the speech from the throne said, one of the major thrusts because of this period we are in now will be the budget, but coupled with the budget will be the initiatives this government takes in a number of other areas, and one of the areas I am most impressed with is that of the creation of increased markets in international trade.
The initiatives being taken by the Ministry of Industry and Trade today are exemplary. They have set for themselves, for this province and on behalf of this government as policy of this government, goals to stimulate business investment over the next two years, to double our foreign trade over the next five years, to increase the domestic market so it will expand and to increase the productivity and entrepreneurship of small and medium-sized businesses so they can build in this province and add to the economic growth and life of this province. These kinds of initiatives are the things that are going to be necessary to bring about the stimulation that will create jobs in this province.
I have always been impressed when people want to talk about what is the philosophy and role of a government such as ours in this province. We have debated many times various actions of this government. Our friends across the way have been critical of our involvement in Suncor, they have been critical of the things we have done in relation to trust companies and they have been critical of some other initiatives we have taken from time to time.
But like my friend the member for Riverdale (Mr. Renwick) and others in this House, I am one who believes that we have to learn from history, and in order to chart the course we want to go in the future we also look at what has happened in the past. Usually the historic routes of a political party and the history of its actions provide a pretty good guideline for the kind of actions one should take in the future.
In this regard I was very interested to read in the Toronto Star on the weekend an article by Peter Oliver, who is a history professor at York University. I want to quote a couple of paragraphs from this article because --
Mr. Stokes: Is that the one on the interventionist Tories?
Hon. Mr. Wells: That is right. I do not know whether everyone believes this article, but for me this represents the kind of policy that has built this province and it also represents the kind of policy that has allowed a Progressive Conservative government to be the government of this province for 64 years in this century.
Mr. Kerrio: Your record is nearly as good as Franco's in Spain.
Hon. Mr. Wells: Think of that. For 64 of the 82 years of this century the people of this province have put their faith in Conservative government, and if you read back in --
Mr. Ruston: They were not all Conservative.
Hon. Mr. Wells: Oh yes, that is where my friend is wrong. They are really Conservative governments. If one reads some of the writings of Disraeli, one will find that a Conservative government preserves the good that is in the past and takes those good new ideas that are needed and brings those into play too.
A Conservative government believes that the initiative of the individual and the initiative of the private market sector can bring about real economic growth in a country and in a province, but it also believes that where government initiative and support is needed, government initiative and support should be available. That is the kind of philosophy we have always believed in.
I was just reading on the weekend some of the battles of Sir James Whitney when he won the election in 1905. When he won that election, he promised that one of the main platforms would be to create the Hydroelectric Power Commission of Ontario so that Ontario could have cheap power, because he knew that would be the way this province could grow and develop. Sir James Whitney faced the united attack of a lot of big businessmen and he wrapped himself in the Union Jack and he rode right over their heads to the people of urban Ontario. He won the elections and he laid the groundwork for this party's future successes in this province.
I am certainly not an expert on Hydro, as the former member for York South, Mr. MacDonald, and others in this House are, but when one thinks of what Sir James Whitney and Sir Adam Beck did in creating Hydro, and when one looks at the history of Hydro throughout the 84 years in this province, I think it shows a bit why this government has been able to remain the government and others have not, because some of the big issues and big political divisions occurred around Hydro. The first one was when the interests tried to stop Sir Adam Beck and Sir James Whitney in the development of Ontario Hydro.
Then we come up to the years of the 1930s and the early 1940s, when Mitchell Hepburn said, "Oh, we don't need any more power in this province." He cut off contracts and interfered with things concerning Hydro, and George Drew was re-elected to get those Hydro contracts going again and to get power into this province. Then he won an election on the conversion from 25 to 60 cycles. The affairs of Hydro have been woven through the political life of this province and this government has always believed we should be forward-sighted, we should know cheap power is the one thing that can build the economic life of this province and can also guarantee the quality of life for the people of this province.
Perhaps we are seeing a rerun of that again. We are in the position today where Ontario Hydro at the present time is being criticized because it had the foresight to realize that (a) this province had to have at least some nuclear power development, and (b) it had to have lots of power, so that when the growth period begins power will be here and we will have our own energy source. We do not have oil, we do not have natural gas, as do other provinces, but we have a great natural resource in the kind of electric power that can be produced in this province.
It may be that historians will look back and say we are again at another watershed when those opposite continually want to attack Hydro. They want to attack the fact that we have nuclear power in this province, they want to attack the men who were not completely infallible but who looked ahead and said we had to prepare for the future and we had to have lots of power in this province.
We may have overbuilt a little, but I would rather be a little overbuilt than have to go back to those periods after Mitchell Hepburn when I never knew whether the lights were going to stay on in my house or not.
Mr. Speaker: Order, please. I am sure you are all going to get a chance to make your views known at the appropriate time.
Mr. Stokes: No, we are not. It is over next Thursday.
Mr. Speaker: If I may make an observation, you are sure making up for it now. Having said that, the member for Scarborough North has the floor.
Hon. Mr. Wells: I just again recalled one of the statements my friend and former chairman of Hydro Hugh Macaulay made when people talked about the installation of scrubbers at various coal-fired plants, something which Hydro is moving ahead with and which takes a lot of time and costs a lot of money. He always said, 'You know, the best scrubbers we have got in this province are our nuclear power plants."
I think there is some concern about nuclear power development in this province; sure there is. We have to be concerned about accidents and about where the nuclear waste can be put. If there is anyone in this House who is concerned and worried about where nuclear waste can be put it is myself. I still have some soil in my riding that we will be glad to put in the riding of anybody who would like to have it.
I have to believe that in this day and age we have (a) the scientific expertise and brains that will be able to solve the danger problems that may occur at nuclear power stations and in nuclear developments, and (b) the power and the will to be able to dispose properly of nuclear waste so that all the people of this province will be able to benefit from this power development. I really think historians will look on the history of this province and what goes on now as one of those watersheds where the development of nuclear power and the development of this resource for the ongoing economic life of this province is crucial.
I just used Hydro as an example because it comes up time and time again, from Sir Adam Beck's time right up until now, as one of those issues that has been woven into the economic life and development of this province and the philosophies of political parties. I am proud to say I am a member of a party that I think has always been on the right side of that issue.
Mr. Stokes: You told me you were going to speak for only five minutes.
Hon. Mr. Wells: I have two more things I want to say, though. I think this article expresses so well my philosophy as a Conservative, as someone who joined the Conservative Party at age 15 and who has never belonged to any other party. This represents my philosophy and that of this party.
Peter Oliver -- said and I am not going to read the whole article because I would not presume to. I am not even sure that all my colleagues here will agree with this article, but --
Mr. Stokes: Come on, read it all.
Hon. Mr. Wells: He said: "Given the reality of the Suncor purchase and the raw exercise of provincial power and cavalier interference with private property demonstrated by the trust company affair, the concerns of businessmen and neo-conservatives alike is understandable. Yet the actions of the Davis government, while undeniably bold and forceful, did not really represent a significant departure from economic policies followed by previous administrations.
"Indeed, Davis and his colleagues, whether consciously or not, were drawing on deeply rooted Ontario traditions and values which have existed since the province's earliest origins and have shaped the economic policies of every Ontario government" -- get this -- "every Ontario government whatever its political complexion. Throughout the province's history, governments have never hesitated to assert the absolute priority in economic life of public rights over private privileges, and at times those governments have been none too tender in their attitude to the claims of private property and business."
Then he goes on to say: "Examples of the province's powerful statist tradition could easily be multiplied. Seen in this light, the activities of the Davis government in the Suncor and trust company affairs are neither extreme nor unusual, although only time will determine whether the Suncor purchase was economically astute."
I digress here. This is not Peter Oliver speaking. I am now saying I happen to believe the future will show the Suncor purchase was both economical and very astute. It will serve the people of Ontario well.
I am now back to quoting Peter Oliver: "Most assuredly, neither of these initiatives" -- that is Suncor or our trust company bills that were recently brought in -- "would have surprised, much less shocked, such great Tories of yesteryear as John Beverley Robinson, Adam Beck, James Whitney or even Leslie Frost. In Ontario, governments, whether Conservative or Liberal, have seldom shied away from strong interventions in the provincial economy. In doing so, they have drawn on statist traditions and practices dating back to the province's Loyalist origins and sustained and reinforced throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries.
"When private and public interests have come into conflict, this statist ideology has determined that private interests frequently suffer. To date the Ontario electorate has never expressed disapproval of governments which embody and express the traditions of the positive state."
To me, that has been the whole tradition of this party, a party which has believed in the people of Ontario. in their innate freedom and individuality and in the enterprise of the people and of business in this province. It has given them full scope to develop, both the people and business, but we have never shied away from intervening, helping, assisting or doing something when the collective interests of the private sector could not do that.
Having said that, I think the important thing today is to look at that background so that it can help us map out what should be done in the future. Looking at what has to be done in the future, and remembering that we are now in this period of the beginning of confidence, the restoration of confidence as we again begin to pick up economically, it is clear that at the present time the responsibility of governments all over, Canadian and Ontario, is to create the proper climate at this time for the private sector to foster growth.
It is for us to complement the efforts of business and industry through appropriate plans and programs. We have to look at the kind of intervention we have done in the past and we have to be sure we do those things that will now allow the private sector, the individual and the small businessman to move ahead, to capture this period now and develop jobs.
Mr. Stokes: It is called the mixed economy.
Hon. Mr. Wells: It is called a mixed economy; that is right. We have always had a mixed economy in this province.
Let me conclude by referring to one other thing that was in the speech from the throne, something which I think is very important. That is the announcement of the bicentennial in this province. Next year, 1984, we will be celebrating 200 years since those first Loyalist settlements were established in 1784 along the St. Lawrence River. While there were certainly other people in the province to a very limited degree before that and, of course, the native peoples had been here for many years before, one has to pick some time to say, "When did all this begin in this province?"
Next year we begin by celebrating the event that occurred in 1784. In 1784, a group of United Empire Loyalists came and they joined with a number of traders, francophone people from Lower Canada who had established settlements here, and the native peoples; together, they began to build this province.
The theme of the bicentennial is "Celebrating together." That means we are not celebrating that one event that occurred in 1784, we are celebrating 200 years of history. We are celebrating those people who came and all the people who have come to this province since then.
We all know there have been a myriad of people from many lands, people who have seen this as the one land in the world where they wanted to come. It was the place where they knew they could have freedom, they could come, establish a home and grow, and that it would be a great place for their children and their children's children.
That is what the bicentennial is all about. It is about celebrating together the fact that all of us have built this province in these last 200 years.
Mr. Riddell: Has an invitation been sent to the Queen yet?
Hon. Mr. Wells: Oh, yes, I would presume so. We do not send the invitations, the federal government does. We hope that the Queen will come.
We all know the many people who came here. My father came to Ontario about 1912. Many of our parents came here, many of our friends came from all different countries.
What I wanted to draw to the House's attention tonight, as I close, is the fact that we have a special group of people in the galleries tonight. These are people who will be celebrating next year with us. They have just recently come to make a life in this province. They are already making a tremendous contribution.
This is April 28. Two days from now these people will be looking at what was a very horrendous event for them. It was April 30, 1975, the day of the fall of South Vietnam.
These people remember well that force was used by the North Vietnamese to invade their country, to break a peace accord that was signed in Paris that was supposed to bring an end to a very tragic war. They saw that the real victor in that was the communist government of North Vietnam. They saw that government and those troops march into their country. The victory of the communists in the Vietnam war is not only a great tragedy, they believe, for the 25 million people in South Vietnam, but also for the full 50 million people in their country.
I talked to a number of these people. A number of them live in many different members' ridings. I talked to one who lives in my riding. He told me that the great tragedy for the Vietnamese people was that after the communists took over in 1975 that thousands and thousands of people, officers, civil servants, former government people, were all put in prison or in places called re-education camps.
I draw this to the House's attention because we hear a lot about different celebrations where events that we all know so well are recorded. I do not think enough has been said about some of the tragedies of the invasion of South Vietnam. We all talk about the tragedy of the war and some of the occurrences that took place and all the things connected with that very unfortunate war.
But we forget the fact that when the North Vietnamese marched into South Vietnam they imprisoned a number of people, they put them in re-education camps, and my friend tells me that there are still 60,000 there in jail for political reasons. The living conditions in these camps are very poor. They have no medicine. They do not have enough food. They have to work very hard, prisoners are dying of malnutrition and those who are in jail are not in very good health.
The reason I was so keen to want to invite these people here to see our Legislative Assembly was that they want us to remember what happened there. They want us to support requests to the Vietnamese government, the communist government of Vietnam, that it will respect the human rights of those people in prison for political reasons, and that they will release these people.
It is a great tragedy for the Vietnamese people, because under the present regime in Vietnam these people have no freedom, they have no freedom of speech, they have no freedom of religion, they have no freedom of trade. They are living under a regime that they do not respect and that they do not want and which has denied them all these freedoms.
We all know that because of this lack of freedom, these terrible conditions and the imprisonment, hundreds of thousands of people risked their lives by getting into boats and taking to the high seas where many of them died in their attempt to reach freedom. Luckily, those who did not die made it to the refugee camps. Many of them have come to this country because of our federal government's policy to accept these refugees and because of the activities of many private agencies.
It is one of the marvels of our time that churches and groups have adopted Vietnamese boat people and really helped them to establish themselves in this country. It is one of the marvellous indications of nongovernmental involvement in a very serious problem.
There were two reasons these people left their country and went through terrible hardship to get here. First was the political reason. They just did not want to be under the communist regime; they did not believe in it. They wanted to live in a democracy. They wanted the freedom of democracy.
The second reason was that they had a real concern for the future of their children. They felt their children had absolutely no hope if they were brought up under a communist regime. The standard of living is low. They were being educated in a Marxist doctrine, and they would have no chance to develop as they believed their children should develop.
They went through great deprivation and hardship, and they are now living in this province and in many other areas of the world. I understand there are approximately 22,000 Vietnamese refugees in Ontario, about 19,000 of them here in Toronto. They are hard-working. They want to integrate into our way of life. They want to make a real contribution.
From what have seen, they are making a real contribution. They are working in the factories and in the offices. Their children are going to our schools. They are learning English quickly. They are making a contribution, and they are enjoying the freedom, democracy and the kindness of all the people they meet here in this province.
It is for this reason, on this night when we are debating the throne speech and talking about our bicentennial when we will be celebrating together, that I wanted to be sure a number of these people came down to join us to see where our democracy begins in this assembly and from which flows the freedom and kind of life we have in this province.
In closing, I would like to say how pleased I am that all the Vietnamese people of Toronto who were able to come tonight have come here, and I am sure all the members of this House would like to welcome them here.
Mr. Stokes: Mr. Speaker, this is the throne debate but since the government House leader (Mr. Wells) has chosen to direct his remarks to special guests in the gallery, you might permit a representative of each of the two opposition parties to join with him in welcoming our visitors to the gallery this evening and to empathize with them in the very tragic and trying times they have experienced, not only prior to 1975 but also after 1975 with the communist takeover of South Vietnam.
We in Ontario and Canada know, and perhaps all too often take for granted, that we do have the liberties and freedoms so many people throughout the world community of nations are denied. In support of what the government House leader has said, I would just like to say to our visitors in the gallery -- as part of the 20,000 people who have chosen Canada and Ontario as their home -- that we are very pleased they have done so. I am sure every member of this Legislature would welcome them, wish them well and thank them very much for choosing to become Canadians.
Mr. Boudria: Mr. Speaker, if you will allow me just briefly to make a few comments. I was one of the fortunate people in the late 1970s who had the opportunity, along with others, of sponsoring a family that came from Laos to our small community of Sarsfield. The process was arranged when I was the deputy reeve of the township of Cumberland.
At that time, together with a church volunteer group, we sponsored a family which arrived in the month of December. It was just a few days before Christmas when the family finally got off the bus in the city of Ottawa and came to us. At that time, I guess they had rehearsed a little sentence to say to us, and the only words they knew in English were: "Very pleased to meet you." All three of them, including the two-year-old child, knew how to say, "Very pleased to meet you."
One year later, the father and the mother knew the English language very well and it would be appropriate to say that the little child, who was then three, spoke Laotian, English and French at the age of three. I found it absolutely remarkable that after one year in our country, somebody had learned so much of our culture. It was really most rewarding, and I feel very fortunate to have had the opportunity to participate in that kind of thing. So I would also like to welcome our visitors.
Mr. Speaker: On behalf of all members of the Legislature, I would like to echo the sentiments and thoughts that have been expressed. We who have been fortunate enough to have lived all our lives here perhaps do not really understand the true meaning of freedom which you people have chosen to share in your life with us. Thank you very much.
Mr. McGuigan: Mr. Speaker, before proceeding with the throne debate, I too would like to welcome the visitors in the gallery and join with all others who have spoken so eloquently about the contribution these people will make to Canada and how much we appreciate them here.
The closest I can come to a personal experience was when I travelled to Hong Kong and then to mainland China in 1975, just two years after relations were opened with mainland China and two years after President Nixon's visit. We were shown part of the crown colony called the New Territories, It looks across a river to a part of mainland China which is heavily fortified with machine-gun nests and various other fortifications. In spite of that, they told us people risked their lives daily to cross that river to get to Hong Kong where they would receive a different measure of freedom than existed under those conditions.
When we got out of the train to cross into mainland China, we had to give up our passports. I wish to share with others what an experience of apprehension and trepidation one feels when giving up that British passport. One feels one has given up one's rights, freedoms and perhaps the chance of coming home.
Having given up our passports, we got out of the train because the train did not cross the bridge into mainland China. We walked across the bridge. Of course, the bridge was heavily guarded by soldiers who were carrying rifles with bare bayonets. One does not often see bare bayonets on rifles, nevertheless it was a common sight there to see a bare bayonet on the rifle. I suppose it was a method of intimidating and casting fear into the hearts of all those people who see that.
I will not spend any time talking about China but, on leaving it, one of the observations we made there was that the airplanes in China apparently are flown by inexperienced pilots. It is much easier to land your plane at a high rate of speed; in other words, flying them into the ground. The planes we were travelling on were very modern planes in 1975 -- they were British Tridents, I think -- but every tire on every plane had the rubber worn off to the point where there were two or three plies of the fabric showing. Anyone would know that was a rather dangerous situation. Certainly one would not find an aircraft flying in this part of the world with every tire on the plane showing two or three layers of fabric.
When I looked at those tires and then looked around at the prospects of staying in China, I decided that even if the plane had no tires at all, I would take my chances on that plane rather than spend the rest of my days in that country. In spite of the fact that we were treated very well by our hosts, it was a great feeling to get back and to get those British passports once more in our hands.
We are talking tonight about the throne speech. I want to begin with my complimentary remarks about the throne speech. I want to compliment the government on the fact that they did not spend about three quarters of an hour, as they did last year, lambasting the federal government. That is not to say the federal government is perfect in every respect. They have the faults of all governments that are in power, wherever they are.
Nevertheless, just as a personal matter, it is particularly offensive to me to find that the government escapes a good deal of the honest criticism that is levelled from this side of the throne of the Legislature, a duty which the people of Ontario elected us to carry out. They escape that criticism by attacking the federal government.
In the United States we find that elections there are fought by attacking the government of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. Very seldom does the President of the United States really answer to the people of the United States, except to say there is a missile gap or there is a catch-up to be done and his party is going to catch up better than the other parties. The people in the USSR do not have elections, but they maintain themselves in office by verbally attacking the United States.
We in Canada worry about when that attack will become more than verbal and become an actuality, about the fate that we and the whole world would suffer because governments avoid their responsibilities in answering their honest critics and they attack a critic who cannot talk back to them.
Tonight I was beginning to think the government House leader (Mr. Wells) had decided to change his tactics and was going back to attacking a former leader of this party, Mitch Hepburn, who has been mouldering in his grave these many years. Perhaps he was just being philosophical rather than attacking that gentleman.
I can say from the two occasions when I heard Mitch Hepburn speak -- I guess this would be back in the mid-1930s; I am not sure of the dates -- and I think anyone who has read about him or heard him would know that he was one of the finest speakers this province has ever produced. One of the rather bold things he did, since the government House leader was talking about boldness, was to bring about pasteurization of milk. In those days something like 30 per cent of the population of Ontario were farmers and almost all of them had a few cows on the premises.
Mr. Stokes: I thought that was Louis Pasteur.
Mr. McGuigan: He invented the process, but it was Mitch Hepburn who brought it into effect.
However, that really ends my complimentary remarks when I compliment the government for not spending the time talking about the throne speech.
I would like to talk about a matter that has been thrust upon me, not by particular choice but by events in my riding which affect people there very severely. They also affect people, particularly the farm sector, throughout Ontario. I refer to the lack of financial protection for farmers when receivers of farm products go bankrupt.
My interest was first brought to this three years ago when the Tilbury Farmers' Co-operative, a grain handling co-op, declared bankruptcy, leaving a good many of the farmers in the area holding worthless cheques or unpaid for their produce. It is rather interesting that the event that triggered the passage of the Grain Elevator Storage Act, which supposedly was to protect farmers in situations like this, also was a Kent county event that happened some time in the 1960s when a private grain company went bankrupt, leaving a number of people high and dry.
The Grain Elevator Storage Act was passed, I believe in 1975, and after that a good many people wrongly assumed they had protection and were being guarded by this government, which is so famous for its good management. I think they shared some thoughts in common with the people who invested in trust companies.
They have learned, to their chagrin and very much to their financial ruin in some cases, that the act offers them very little protection. All the act really did was to say that for receipts that were issued for storage there must be grain in that particular elevator or in a similar terminal elevator operated by the federal government. It said nothing about what would happen in the case of an operator who misappropriated that grain and sold it to his own account. It did lay out a $1,000 fine for the first offence and a $5,000 fine for the second offence, but that is rather small comfort to the farmer whose grain has been lost.
I just want to go over the reasons a grain company goes bankrupt. Number one would be that it was probably a high-cost facility. It may not have had volume enough to justify an operation, and I suppose you could say it might have had poor management. But in the event of a company going broke under those circumstances it would be a gradual erosion of the equity of the company; certainly the bankers, the managers and the shareholders would have ample opportunity to see what was happening to their business, because it was going broke slowly over a period of time, and they could take corrective action either in closing down the business or in adding machinery and facilities to make it a viable enterprise.
Usually the companies that go bankrupt do so because of the financial pressures that are brought about by the situation I have described; but, unlike the case I have just cited, they decide then to try to make up for their shortcomings in the operation by going into the marketplace and gambling on the future market.
There is nothing very wrong with gambling on the future market if you are using your own money. I explained in another instance that it does serve a commercial purpose in providing liquidity to the grain marketing system. But there is something very wrong when an operator uses other people's money to gamble. About 70 per cent, I think, is the figure that is used: 70 per cent of the people who go into that market lose; only 30 per cent win.
I am not going to say very much about the reasons that the Tilbury Farmers Co-operative went under, because I understand there is litigation going on; it will probably go on for some time. But I do say in a very general way that if you examine most of these farm elevator bankruptcies, you will find that they happen because they have really not followed the rules of the game and have gone into a situation where they were gambling either their money or the farmers' money, or at least money that they did not have and that was eventually required to pay off producers.
Just to go over the methods that are open to these people when they are engaged in the grain trade, I will use a hypothetical case in which an elevator operator decided there was a great future in some foreign market, a premium market, two or three months down the road; so he stepped out and bought grain from the farmers at a premium price. Not having that backed up with a firm contract, when the time period ran out when he expected to pick up his contract, he found he did not have one. He had paid a premium price, had given away free storage and generally had put the company in a very bad position.
If an operator did have such a sale, there is a method whereby he can cover that situation. He takes his contract, whether it is a buy or sell contract -- that is, in the cash market -- and he offsets that with a paper sale on the Chicago Board of Trade or the Winnipeg Grain Exchange.
From that point on it really does not matter to his operation whether the price of grain goes up or down; his profit will be locked in in a handling charge. That handling charge would have been taken into consideration when he took his position in the market. It would not matter to him from that point on what happened in the fluctuation of the cash grain market, because whatever he lost in one transaction he would regain in the other, or whatever he gained in one transaction he would lose in the other.
What we really need in this province is a system of regulating small grain operators so they abide by the rules of the game. There are no official rules of the game as far as the province is concerned.
If one looks at the big grain companies, like Master Feeds, and the big co-operatives, like United Co-operatives of Ontario, one finds in their branch plants that they have a system whereby their auditors will go into a branch plant on a particular day and audit the position of that branch plant as far as its buying and selling is concerned.
The two positions must match one another very closely. They cannot come out to the last bushel, because grain contracts in most cases are handled in 5,000-bushel contracts. So there could be something less than 5,000 bushels in an exposed position. If there is any more than 5,000 bushels in an exposed position, the manager of that company would be in a very serious situation. It is not unlike the banking situation when bank inspectors come in unannounced. They inspect the books and find out whether a particular branch of the bank is following all the rules.
I suggest that this provincial government has not been hold. It has avoided these situations because there might be some political fallout from them, and it has allowed people to suffer.
I bring up this subject today because this past Tuesday I was at a meeting in Chatham of 15 farmers who have recently suffered through the receivership of Southland Canning Ltd. of Wheatley. This company is only two years old. It suffered unusually bad luck. It started operating in 1981, canning tomatoes. It began with a $350,000 Board of Industrial Leadership and Development grant to enable it to produce paste tomatoes. It had the fine objective of creating another 2,000 acres of process tomatoes, which normally are a valuable and profitable crop to the farmer.
However, in 1981 that part of Ontario suffered very had weather and the company received only about 50 per cent of its pack, which meant all the costs of startup and operation had to be borne by half the pack. As the members can appreciate, it was an unprofitable year.
Then in 1982 there was a bumper crop. There was beautiful weather in Kent county. We did not have it so good in Elgin. They had a huge pack. The people who put up these whole-pack tomatoes -- they are tomatoes that are peeled and put in a can in whole condition -- packed 20 per cent of an overpack.
There is a provision in the contracts of all growers that they can only deliver 20 tons to the acre; in other words, a quota provision. Some of the bigger companies that were not concerned about whole-pack tomatoes released their growers from their contracts. I guess probably thousands of tons of those tomatoes ended up amongst a number of small companies that pack whole-pack tomatoes, each operating in what appeared to be the best interests of that individual company. Nevertheless, it contributed to a very had oversupply on the market.
To add to the woes of the company, subsidized whole-pack tomatoes from the European Economic Community came in and further eroded the market, although we are told the greatest damage to the market came from the overproduction here in Ontario.
This has led to the company going into receivership. As one might expect, if one knows something about Ontario agriculture, the very last person in the chain of succession in that receivership is the producer who made the whole thing possible in the first place. Were it not for these producers, there would be no factory, there would be no canning company, there would be no workers in that factory and there would be no suppliers. The producer stands at the end of the list of receivers.
You would have shed a tear, Mr. Speaker, if you had been at that meeting. These were largely new producers, younger producers, who wanted to get into the area of producing canning crops. They could not get a contract at Heinz, Campbell Soup or some of the major canners where one would not expect a bankruptcy situation to appear; so they took a chance on this smaller company.
In a great many cases they were backed by their parents, and at this moment they are going to get only about 25 per cent of the money that is owing to them. That may not seem too bad if they are only going to lose 75 per cent but, when one looks at the figures that are involved, many of these young fellows will still be left with debts owing to them of $30,000, $40,000 and $50,000.
These are people who bought land in a high-priced market in the past two or three years. They were suffering already from the downturn in most commodity prices, and only by dint of the fact that probably the wife worked or they worked off the farm in their off-time, and because they had gone into canning crop production rather than grain, corn or beans, was there any chance of them succeeding in the first place. I do not wish to assume to know what is going to happen to those people, but I think it is fair to say some of them will have to cease their operations completely.
If they do continue operating as farmers, they will place their parents in an untenable situation, because they have already backed them in their initial enterprise in going into farming. They are going to have to back them further to cover the big losses that have been brought about by this case. If there is no turnaround in the agricultural economy of Ontario, it could be the straw that breaks the backs of these older people.
People often say to us, "Why cry for the young farmer? The young farmer can quit, he can go into another form of enterprise, he can take a job, he can start life anew." As hard as that is, there is a certain amount of truth in it. But when these young farmers drag down their parents, I can tell you there is not very much room for those parents to start life anew, to try and regain their position.
It was a rather sad meeting I attended. At this particular meeting, just as a matter of interest, the federal government, through the Agricultural Products Board was making an offer to purchase 540,000 cases of whole packed tomatoes and they were offering the premium price. The receiver has allowed the premium price to pass through the bankruptcy and go to the farmers.
This is really a situation that should exist in all of these bankruptcy situations. I wish to point out that it does exist in the United States, in the legislation they have in that country. For many years, the livestock people in the United States operated under their Packers and Stockyard Act which has two main provisions in it. One is that animals had to be paid for within 24 hours of being received. There was a very practical reason for that. Most animals shed their skin within 24 hours of reaching the gates of the packing plant. Of course, the identification is on the hide and it is because of that particular circumstance that it was written into the law that the producers had to be paid within 24 hours. That takes care of the day-to-day operations of a packing plant and guarantees that a farmer could not be any worse off than not being paid for the products he has delivered within 24 hours.
In the event of a bankruptcy, the producers there are further protected by the fact that all the moneys received for meat products from that packing plant or stockyard go into a trust fund and those funds can only go out of that trust to producers. They cannot go to anyone else. So when there is a bankruptcy in the United States -- unless there are bankruptcies all along the line, going right back to the consumer -- the producer would be paid.
I bring this up because at the present moment there is a movement in the United States under the Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act, which is an act that governs the sale and terms of sale for fresh fruits and vegetables. Under that particular act, farmers must be paid within 10 days. The practical reason is that for many of the shipping areas in the United States the time involved really requires about 10 days for produce to arrive. Yet in Canada, if one looks in the present situation here in Ontario, one will find that most shippers of those commodities probably will be lucky if they are paid within 30 days and many times it stretches out to 60 days.
Also, in that country at the present moment, there is a great debate going on among members of the United Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Growers. I guess this is the equivalent of our Canadian Horticultural Council or our Ontario Fruit and Vegetable Growers. They have put forward a proposal that a trust situation be enacted by an amendment to the PACA law that would create a trust situation in the event of a bankruptcy for a receiver of fresh fruits and vegetables.
This proposal brought a great deal of opposition when it was first brought upon the industry because people saw themselves setting up a set of hooks within their set of books which would cause a great deal of difficulty. However, they have examined this very closely and have determined that under the law they would not have to change their bookkeeping situation and that the trust provision would only come into effect if and when a bankruptcy occurred.
In the case of the Southland Canning, when they were forced into bankruptcy, the stock on hand, the inventory, the accounts that were owing to them would go into a trust that would go to the farmers.
Another event that happened in the last two or three years in my riding was the bankruptcy of a cattle yard that has cost producers upwards of $4 million. The figure really is not known because those matters are also before the courts and some lawsuits are being carried on, so I certainly do not wish to get into the details of it.
Mr. Stokes: Tell us how the Thompsons are doing in Blenheim.
Mr. McGuigan: I do not think those people are in any danger of going bankrupt, and I do not think I care to comment.
But there is a case of one family in my riding where a father and son are now trying to make that intergeneration change, passing down the farm from father to son. The father is perhaps 60 or 70 years old. This is a difficult enough situation as it is, trying to provide adequate funds for the parents to live their retirement days in comfort and at the same time not putting a burden on the son beyond his ability to carry.
Add to that a $60,000 dead loss -- he did get a few thousand dollars, $13,000 out of it -- or let us say with a $50,000 dead loss to add on to that situation, it really becomes a question of whether or not the proposal will fly.
I know from my own family operation, when one is hit by bad weather or circumstances, those losses are very difficult, if not impossible, to make up. For some time afterwards, we do not make that purchase that we should make in order to keep the farm modern, to keep up with the competition. We try to cut corners this way and that way, but really we cannot cut corners with Mother Nature. Eventually we pay for having cut those corners. This puts a terrible burden on those people who are making an intergenerational change.
This puts a burden on anybody, at any time, to suffer such losses. I would point out that one of the reasons this is so critical today, and why I keep bringing this point up, is to try to impress upon the government the fact that farmers do accept the risks of the marketplace. They try to offset those risks as best they can. Some of them use the futures market, they use forward contracting, they try to some extent to diversify their production so they do not have all their eggs in the proverbial basket.
Nevertheless, with specialization, which is the key to economical production, they find themselves limited to very few operations. They find themselves limited to just a few sales in the course of the year. In fact, it is not unknown for a grain farmer to sell his entire year's production in one sale. A cattle producer could maybe sell a quarter of his year's production in one transaction.
So it is not a case of a farmer losing half a dozen head of cattle on a particular sale and then having his chickens, sheep, milk cows, grain crops and his garden crop to fall back on. He has very little to fall back on. This government has been derelict in its duty and has not shown very much of the boldness that the House leader spoke about and Peter Oliver talked about in the article which the House leader referred to so many times.
They have not shown that boldness. They have waited until these events occur and then, spurred on by the trauma of the situation, they have moved in and brought about some changes.
Following the bankruptcy of McIntyre cattle sales, they did move in and implemented the Farm Products Payments Act, which has been on the books for many years. They set up an insurance fund that from here on guarantees to pay producers for their cattle in such a situation.
That did nothing for the people who really triggered off that particular action, the people who really became the sacrificial lambs. They laid down their economic life in order, not voluntarily mind you, that others would benefit.
In spite of the fact the major farm organizations have endorsed the principle that these producers be paid retroactively when funds in the insurance build up to the point where payments could be made without borrowing, in spite of the fact that other farmers have supported them in their hour of need, the government stands by and says: "That is only a few. They are not going to affect us very much electorally."
It was their fault, too, in some instances. I do not think they have said that in the case of these people affected by the bankruptcies, but we do find in other instances that people who represent themselves in speaking for this government, although they are not elected to that position, try to divide and conquer the farmers by saying: "It is all your fault." That is a tactic that I deplore.
I am not going to get down in the gutter and use the kind of language the civil servant used to a group of farmers, at least as it was reported in the press. I do not know where people get the notion that when they come out to talk to farmers that somehow or other they have to use foul language.
Having attended farm meetings from the time when I was about 10 years old, nothing upset me more than when a speaker would come in and make the assumption he had a bunch of dumb farmers and had to start off the meeting by telling some dirty stories. I can tell the members that some of those stories I heard were filthy, dirty stories. They were usually to the degradation of somebody's mother. They always offended me. Even today they offend a lot of farm people. They make the farmers' wives absolutely furious.
I have seen it happen at farm meetings where a voice has been given to that offence and people have been made to apologize. I am telling you this from the bottom of my heart. Perhaps some of these farm people are in dire straits through their own fault, perhaps they made the wrong move, perhaps they were guilty of putting faith in this government, perhaps they answered the call that has been coming from our colleges, universities and from our farm advisers to specialize, to expand and to move out into that market and become a big operator, maybe that is all they are guilty of.
But they do not need to be talked down to, they do not need to be treated like dirt and they do not need to be hurt in their hour of real trauma.
One of the things I learned as a student in agriculture was from a chap called Dr. Raymond, who was our English professor and who turned out to be a psychologist.
One of the things he told us was about the love that a farmer has for his land. This really goes back to the fact that homo sapiens are territorial animals -- the same as most animals of this world are territorial. We look upon Mother Earth as a suckling child would look at its mother's breast, as the source of all life. That is their contact with the good things of this world. When they are in danger of losing that land; whether it is through omissions they may have made themselves, or whether it is simply that they believed in government or whether it is just a matter of circumstances -- they happened to start farming at the wrong time, they happened to move into it just at the wrong time -- whatever the circumstances, I can tell you those people feel a terrible hurt.
But on top of that, they do not need a provincial civil servant using foul language at them. They do not need to be caught in bankruptcies that add to the other economic woes they have and the problems they are willing to face within the marketplace. They do not need those.
This government sits back and waits for these events to happen. Reluctantly and slowly, they move in. The Minister of Agriculture and Food (Mr. Timbrell) has said in the throne speech that he is going to move on the Grain Elevator Storage Act and is going to bring about some measure which will ensure that grain placed in storage, given to the trust of that operator, remains his until it is actually paid for. We all want to see that. We applaud that, but we do wonder what particular measures he is going to bring about to accomplish that.
Because when that grain moves out of the elevator and goes to a breakfast food company or a feed company or a distillery, if that grain is misappropriated, if it were taken out of the elevator without the authority of the farmer, that receiver might find himself in the same position that you or I might find ourselves in when we buy a car that has a lien on it. We might have to pay for that grain twice.
Two of the ways of handling this situation I have already described are the ones used in the United States. If the minister has another alternative method, all fine and dandy. Of course there are a number of methods that are available to him. One is the insurance fund that he has already brought in for cattle producers.
The government has stood back in the past and said: "Well, you have your Farm Products Marketing Act. You have these things all within your control. It is up to you to look after yourself." There is some measure of truth in that. But when one examines the practical situation, one finds the people who are elected to these various marketing boards are usually the well-established people, the people who sell their goods, in the case of canning crops, to Heinz or Libby McNeill and Libby of Canada, or they will sell them to Campbell Soups and they will not be very much concerned about the possibility, as far as they are personally concerned, of that company going broke.
The are not concerned as directors -- or at least they put into the background their duty as directors -- to enter into this particular area of the contract because they go into Heinz or whatever company it may be to negotiate the very best possible price they can negotiate for those growers. So, they are reluctant to bring up the business of providing for a check-off that would provide for money to be set aside in an insurance fund to largely protect the producers who are growing for the competitors of these main companies. It is quite understandable that the mainline companies are not anxious to put themselves to extra bookkeeping trouble and to take off a fee which they probably fear, and perhaps rightly so, may become negotiated into the price another year so that it becomes an added cost to them.
The result of all these economic and psychological things as far as marketing is concerned is that not very much attention is paid to the matter of financial integrity for producers of farm crops. One may very well argue that, if some of these measures are brought in, especially the matter of putting funds into a trust fund, banks would be a little more cautious in lending money to processors. I think that is probably true. They would be more cautious, and well they might be more cautious. Under the present circumstances, they do not have to be cautious at all. They do not have to worry about putting money into a processing plant as far as the interest of the bank is concerned, because they simply know that, if they wait until the proper seasonal day when most of the produce of that season has been deposited with the company, there will be all kinds of money there for them to grab. Being the secured creditors that they are, they grab those products.
I personally suffered under one of these bankruptcies quite a number of years ago. There was a small canner to whom I was delivering peaches. My account was not a great one, although the account would have bought me a new car. At the time, I was driving an old clunker and for the next four or five years, every time I got into that old beast, I muttered under my breath at that canning company and that bank for doing me out of the price of a new car.
The interesting point about this case was that a neighbouring farmer who had about 10 times as much money involved as I did and who was getting concerned about the safety of delivering his product to the canner had written to the bank asking them for an opinion as to the safety of his delivery. He got a very nice letter back from the bank saying he had nothing to worry about, this company was in good financial shape, and he should continue to deliver his peaches. On the very day the contract ended -- I suppose September 25 would be the last day of the contract; we will say for arguments sake it was September 25 -- the bank moved in and seized all the pack. They got paid off at four cents on the dollar. I got a cheque for $64. So one can imagine what happened to the chap who had delivered 10 times the amount of product I had to that company.
The point is that the banks under these circumstances can seize goods that may legally belong to them but certainly morally do not belong to them. That product we have delivered to our receiver is the product of our labour. It is just as much a product of labour as the people who work in that particular factory are labour. I am not an expert on labour law, but I do understand that labour comes quite high on the list of people who receive money in the case of bankruptcy. At least if there is any money there, they are certainly at the top level, whereas those of us who put our labour into these situations in the form of goods are at the very bottom of that list.
I think it is morally wrong and just plain bad business to have such a cushion under the banks that they really do not have to be very careful about the situation. One could argue that this would cut off some small people from starting in business.
I should tell members that under this United States legislation they do have provision that when a producer wants to take the chance or wants to sign a waiver saying that he will give up his right to the products he delivers and he knowingly goes in -- and it cannot be a verbal contract; it has to be in writing -- or he determines that he wants to take such a chance or is financially in a position to take such a chance, he can do it. It has to be known and it has to be up front. It has to be known by the regulatory bodies that govern the legislation, and it has to be in writing.
I submit that there are many ways in which this situation can be cleaned up. I accuse the government of lacking boldness and lacking a real commitment to this. They only act under duress. The last speaker was talking about the boldness of this government and why they have stayed in power these many years. One of the reasons, I would submit, is their lack of boldness. The boldness we have seen in this country, in the form of crop insurance, in the form of marketing legislation, in the form of most -- something like 95 per cent -- most of the stabilization, the good social legislation we have in Canada in medicare and unemployment insurance: those have been the result of Liberal governments, provincially and federally. It is a long time since we have had them provincially, but the marketing legislation we have in this province was brought about by a provincial Liberal government.
Mr. McGuigan: The member for Middlesex (Mr. Eaton) has pointed out that it is really the government system of gradualism, and it is that system of gradualism that has kept them in power; they have built on that very farm legislation.
But I give them full credit. I give credit especially to the member sitting beside him for the wise counsel he has given over the years in his position as assistant to a number of Ministers of Agriculture and Food. They have been building on that base, and gradually we have a good system; that question has never been under attack. But it does have the one weakness that I pointed out: the people who administer it, for very logical reasons that one can understand, have stayed away from that area of financial protection.
As the government House leader has said, it is government's duty to step in and do those things for people that they cannot do for themselves. The people who are suffering today are going to be affected for years and years to come, and it should not have happened. It was predictable; anybody who saw these downturns in the economy starting about 1979 would have known that we were going to be faced with bankruptcies. I am concerned because I know we are going to be faced with more bankruptcies, not just the three that have occurred.
Certainly I will speak about this time and time again until I see some movement on the part of this government. They have made some great promises in the throne speech. We stand here prepared to offer suggestions. We are going to give them positive criticisms of whatever they bring up, and we are going to be as shrill as an opposition can be that whatever legislation is brought in will be just, will be workable and will give some protection to the primary producers of this province.
There are a number of other items that I could talk about, but I wanted to limit myself to this one area because it has been so prevalent in my riding during the last three years. It is a personal concern.
I see further farm bankruptcies coming down the line as we go about the major restructuring spoken about at the outlook conference the minister had a few days ago, when he had the discourtesy not to invite some of us who could at least have been observers if not active participants. I do not think we have been known for showing misbehaviour or discourtesy at such meetings. We could have been there. It could have been a service we could have rendered back to our constitutents, the people who elected us, who have faith in us and who look to us for guidance.
At that very meeting, it was pointed out we are going through major restructuring and there are going to be a great many painful situations we will have to face in the future. Face these situations we will, but we want to face them with whatever civility, dignity and human compassion we can offer to people who find themselves caught in these terrible situations.
We are believers in the free enterprise system. The free enterprise system has winners and it has losers. At least we could give those losers the best legislation to ease the situation to let them go out with a bit of dignity, as is being attempted at the present moment by our federal colleague from Lambton-Middlesex.
I find it sad that the government opposite has taken exception to that act and is opposing it. It is knuckling down to the threats coming from the bankers. The bankers are saying: "If you pass this act, we are really going to get you guys. We are going to withdraw from agricultural financing." They say, "We withdrew following the passage of the act in 1934 and we will withdraw again."
If one goes back to the literature and reads the accounts of what happened, one will find the banks withdrew in 1931, three years before that act was passed. They have been withdrawing for at least a year in the present situation and since that act has been introduced they have been soft-pedalling their situation.
The farmers of Ontario should not be intimidated by such talk. Agriculture is still one of the safest places one can put money in a free enterprise system. It is recognized by the people of Europe. It is recognized by the people of North America. They are rushing to bring their money over here to put it in agriculture because they realize that while the returns may not be as great as they could get in other ventures nevertheless it is a safe place for their money. When all else fails the land will still be there, it will offer safe haven for them.
I feel sorry this government has not seen fit to act, that it is not showing a bit of humanity in these situations and is not supporting the Ontario farmer to the extent it should in his hour of need.
Mr. Cousens: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to participate in this throne speech debate. I think a tremendous amount has been said already in a number of areas. The member for Sarnia (Mr. Brandt) spoke about technology and the things that are happening there. The member for Lakeshore (Mr. Kolyn) talked about the needs of the auto pact. There is the heart shown by the member for Kent-Elgin (Mr. McGuigan). The concern he is showing for the farmers is concern we all have to be involved with.
If we look at what is happening in our economy, we see a sense of optimism developing out of the throne speech. There is a sense of movement, a sense the economy is going to improve and a sense of hope. We certainly know the past year has been a difficult one, but we also know the future is starting to augur well for many people.
Yet I do not think any of us wants to forget about the hardships many people have endured over the past year. It has been difficult for many: the unemployed, the very young, the disadvantaged, the handicapped, the infirm and the old. There are very many people in this province who have not had an easy time.
Tonight in my presentation I would like to speak on the subject of the concern that our government is showing towards people. As one who comes out of the field of industry, I feel many of those areas have already been addressed, but I would like also to give an emphasis that is present within this government, this House, for those people who are pulling through and can look forward to better times. I can look with pride at the kind of thing our government has done --
Mr. Cousens: All that member can do is talk. He has never been able to do anything except criticize. Why does he not listen the way we try to listen to him? Our government wants to do something and he does not even want to listen.
Mr. Speaker: Order. The member for Ottawa Centre (Mr. Cassidy) is not even in his proper seat. Therefore, you should not pay any attention to his interjections.
Mr. Cousens: Within our government we have in place now for Ontarians the financial and social nets that were not there during the Depression years when things were very tough. There have been many things that our government has done over the last many years that have helped relieve some of the discomfort that would otherwise have been there, to help individuals and families during these difficult economic times of social stress.
At the beginning of a new session of the Legislature, at a time when there is increasing hope, I am proud the speech from the throne confirms our government's continued commitment to the wellbeing of the citizens of this province. During the Depression -- I was born in the latter part of it -- there was an absence of social programs. There was a lack of comprehensive family and social services. It meant that untold numbers of people suffered far more.
Today, what we have in Ontario is a depth of social services. You just have to look around the world, and where would you rather live? There is no other place I would rather be than in Ontario. Yet to hear some others talk, one would think they would rather be somewhere else. Maybe if they were, it would be comforting for some of us to see them move.
Approximately two thirds of Ontario's spending goes to support social programs. This amounts to some $13,929,000,000 in the fiscal year 1982-83. Those moneys are going to support the needs of people in this province. These are not recent innovations --
Mr. Cousens: The member does not know what he is talking about. Our province goes back over 20 years in developing social programs. It has developed them. It introduced medicare --
Mr. Speaker: Order. The honourable member for York Centre has the floor. The member for Ottawa Centre or any of his colleagues had the opportunity to have the floor prior to that. They chose not to, for whatever reason, and I would ask them please not to interject and allow the member for York Centre to continue.
Mr. Cousens: Thank you. It must be very difficult for certain members to control themselves. There is another point of view. The point of view I am trying to present is certainly one that stands on the evidence that people have across this province who know that this province has something that is worth while. That is, there are programs and services and there is a commitment.
Our government has shown that commitment to maintain these services, as we go to try to help those children who are disturbed, as we go into the communities and help those communities that have special needs, as we go and help the aged with their special programs. There are so many areas in which our government has gone to work to help these people. In 1973 --
Mr. Cooke: Don't be silly.
Mr. Cousens: The member is being silly when he does not acknowledge what we have.
The other thing that stands forward is that our government continues in the face of a tough economy to maintain its commitment to these genuine areas.
Mr. Cooke: Come to my home town.
Mr. Cousens: Those are not just words; we are talking significant dollars.
Mr. Speaker: Will the member for York Centre please address his remarks to the Speaker and not to the individual members?
Mr. Cousens: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. It is very difficult when other honourable members do not fully appreciate --
Mr. Cassidy: On a point of order: I just want to say that with the magnanimity of experience around here, I am prepared to accept that some good things have occasionally come from the government; but in the face of the worst crisis this province has had for 40 years, this is the most abysmal throne speech in 40 years.
Mr. Speaker: Order. Having said that, I do not know what it has to do with order.
Mr. Cousens: Mr. Speaker, I certainly appreciate your intervention at this point because, as one who is concerned about the future of this province, I know the future is based on the solid foundation that has been built over a number of years.
When we look at the kinds of things our government has done, we saw in 1973 the establishment of the Provincial Secretariat for Social Development. This was something that began to co-ordinate even more Ontario's social programs for social development. Since then, policies have been directed towards the consolidation and co-ordination of social services and towards reducing government bureaucracy in the delivery of these services. In fact, if one looks at the ratio of our cost of delivery to the services presented, it is the best of any province in this country.
In recent years, changing social conditions and changing population trends have had a profound effect on government social programs in that more emphasis has been directed towards helping families in such areas as provision of day care for both the young and the elderly, counselling services for young mothers and parents, and aid for the handicapped. Let me just touch this evening on some of the areas where our government has done something in support of children's services.
Mr. Cousens: At your request, Mr. Speaker, I am trying to ignore these interjections, which do not really assist anyone in understanding what is going on. Some people have to listen and learn, and I see they have trouble in doing that.
What I would like to touch on, first of all, is something of the services in support of children in this province. Substantial improvements have taken place over the last decade in programs for children, day care and community support services for the developmentally handicapped. Expenditures in the children's services program in 1982 and 1983 approximate $399 million. During the past year, additional funds were utilized to improve child abuse programs and foster care.
The government expects to expend in excess of $500 million in 1983-84 on children's services, and $354.5 million was allocated in 1982-83 for programs for developmentally handicapped children and individuals. This is a significant amount of care and concern our government has shown. Let us not take it for granted. Here in this country and in this province we have 17 government-operated facilities, 10 community-operated facilities and four diagnostic and treatment centres. These provide care and treatment and training for about 7,000 developmentally handicapped persons.
In the spring of this year, the standing committee on social development investigated the problems of child abuse in Ontario. The committee's recommendations urged more legislative and administrative support for abused children. They suggested certain changes in children's aid societies, in the courts, and discussed the need for more effort in the areas of education and research in child abuse.
Responding to the committee's concern, the Minister of Community and Social Services (Mr. Drea) announced in March that the first child abuse treatment centre in Ontario will be established in Metro by the end of this year.
The minister also agreed with the committee that the definition of child abuse should be expanded to include emotional and social abuse, not just physical and sexual abuse. The minister has said that if the changes cannot be included in the new Children's Act he will amend the existing children's welfare legislation as soon as possible. In that regard, work is proceeding with the new Children's Act, a piece of legislation designed to consolidate and improve upon the present multitude of diverse and disparate laws relating to children.
When we look at the province we see a tremendous group of services to assist those in social need. We have general welfare assistance in this province for those who are unemployed and have a difficult time handling their own economy. There is also the family benefits assistance. Last year, special recession funds involving $52 million were provided for both those funds.
There is a work incentive program that was set up to assist recipients of the family benefits allowance who wanted to return to full-time or part-time work. Up to March 1981, 2,440 recipients were involved in this program. Other provincial social welfare support is provided through the property and sales tax credits and also through shelter allowances.
The Ontario government also extends assistance to the working poor. These are individuals and families who are primarily dependent on employment rather than social assistance and transfer payments, but whose earnings are inadequate. There are four major assistance programs for the working poor: the Ontario tax credit, Ontario health insurance plan premium assistance, rent-geared-to-income housing and subsidized day care. These are all important programs for those people who otherwise would have an even more difficult struggle.
But our government has shown the kind of concern it should in these fundamental areas and has made the commitment to retain and continue to support them. Not only is our government interested in youth, social and welfare programs, but there is a genuine and sincere commitment by the government to the needs of the elderly.
The whole area of the elderly, with their needs, is a matter of great significance. Seniors have made vast contributions to our communities throughout their lives; they have made a great contribution to the economy of this province and to our country. Therefore, it is essential we recognize their effort and the problems they are having now in coping with these uncertain times.
Universal assistance to our seniors is largely a federal responsibility, but, as we are already witnessing, universal social programs are easy targets for the federal government in its drive slowly to recapture its funds and control of its budget by removing the expenditure of those funds in this needy area.
Already the federal government has taken steps in this direction by cutting back on its share of transfer payments to the province. Such cutbacks affect provincial social service capabilities, but of all people, the elderly should be the last to be the victims of squabbles between two levels of government. Even though the basic responsibility for helping seniors lies with the federal government, Ontario has stepped in where Ottawa has hesitated.
The support offered by the Ontario government to its seniors includes the property tax credit, temporary assistance to reduce home heating costs and the sales tax rebate program. Pensioners are eligible for the guaranteed annual income system, which is a payment to supplement their income. They are entitled to free OHIP. They are covered by free prescriptions, the Ontario dental/drug benefit plan. Elderly persons in need of income support for themselves or their dependants, and who are not eligible for old age security and guaranteed income supplements, can receive provincial assistance through the family benefits program or the general assistance program.
Ontario also tries to help seniors through cost-share programs with the municipalities. Two of the financial assistance programs that help many are the supplementary aid for seniors program and the assistance to Ontario senior citizens of the rental housing program. For those less able to cope on their own, the province, in co-operation with the municipalities, supports the Ontario charitable homes for the aged and the Ontario municipal homes for the aged. Municipal homes provide extended care services.
I am proud of the many things our province does in support of its seniors. Other health care programs are also available to our seniors. The Ontario nursing program is certainly one of them, for we are able to give them extra care and attention.
A few days ago when the member for York South Mr. Rae) was making his presentation, although I have always had a great respect for him and always will, I am sure, because of his leadership ability and his intelligence, when I saw him making his presentation, I had a different vision of him as leader. I saw him as something of a painter. Instead of a pallet and a fine brush for painting, he really had in his hand a pail of black paint and a wide brush, and it was his job to paint everything black. That is the kind of thing we really must beware of, a black bias that takes things to one direction without seeing a perspective to it.
I do not want to take the other side and say we are whitewashing things, and I do not want to say we are taking too much of an extreme. However, in this whole area there is a sense of balance that we should maintain, and when he started the kind of comments about nursing home care being run by a private sector and that is bad, or someone making a profit on it and that being bad, I began to wonder where it really is they are coming from. In fact, the concern of so many in nursing home care is that of the patient and those who need that care.
We see that as a very important and fundamental service in this province, that we continue to provide excellent nursing home care to those who need it. In fact, we see that in this province, where we have the Ontario Nursing Home Association working closely with the Minister of Health and senior health officials, discussing common concerns and working towards a better system.
This is a people industry, with a quarter of a billion hours of care being given each year to those who need it. Problems can enter, not only in government-run nursing care centres but also in privately run centres, and they always will because there are people there making judgements. Nonprofit does not mean there are no problems, and that is the bottom line that is offered in this black picture that is painted by the member for York South.
We often hear, as we did the other day, the negatives. There were a number of letters read about people who had complaints about nursing home care. I wonder where all those other letters are that people have written to the administrators and others, saying how happy they were with the care they were receiving. What about the relatives who know there is something very worth while happening. This was not mentioned in that speech.
There is a concern about a monopoly somewhere in running nursing homes. I happen to believe that in the nursing homes I have seen that are run by hospitals and by municipalities, and also by the private sector, there is something very worth while going on. In fact as I have visited the nursing homes in my riding, there has been a changing need in those homes over the last number of years. Ten years ago one in particular had the average age of its residents as 71; the average age now, 10 years later, is 81 years of age.
So there is an increasing need to improve and modify those services to meet the needs of those patients who are becoming more elderly.
There was some concern in that honourable member's speech about people being drugged. I suggest that is not a problem in the nursing homes; it is a problem, if someone has one, with the doctors who prescribe the drugs, because it is not the nursing home which prescribes medicine. It is either the patient's own doctor or the nursing home doctor.
The suggestion really gives the impression that the nursing homes want to have more power and more problems. The fact is that what I see happening in those nursing homes in my riding is a sense of support and concern and care for those who need it. I also wondered, when the painter was painting his black picture, about those nursing homes that are run by union employees, who also have a very genuine concern for the residents and the people they are serving. I wondered if they too were being painted by the same black brush.
I listened to the speech and I have a sense of concern. If we are going to be successful in this province it will not be by just giving everything to the government to run; it is up to the family and the community also to get involved to support the needs of these homes and these residents as they become older. Sometimes there is a problem of people abdicating their responsibility and maybe we should be doing more to encourage more community involvement in these programs.
I also heard the honourable member make great criticism of one particular company that has a nursing home near my riding with Extendicare. I can just say that the member failed to appreciate the fact that, when he was indicating that Extendicare owned so many homes -- it owned 16 -- one of them in my riding is a beautiful facility providing excellent care. So I would beware, and ask others to beware of broad generalizations that really do not lead anyone anywhere.
I ask members to look at the positive side of things. There is not just a black side; there is a sense of momentum and movement within this whole program that has a concern for people. As we see a creditation program developing, those problems that have been addressed will be resolved, and there will be a continuing effort to clean up those little problems where they exist.
When I have seen problems I have gone to the administrator or I have gone to the Minister of Health and they have responded to them, rather than making a spectacle within the House to draw attention to a particular incident. I happen to believe there are other ways of solving the problems and that is by working with people and by promoting good things and giving an example to work towards. I see that happening through a number of developments and programs that are taking place.
There are ways we can go ahead and that is to be proactive rather than reactive. I see our Minister of Health giving the kind of leadership to these areas that we want to have within this government.
The provision of good nursing home care has always been a priority of our health care system. When at any time the ministry has reason to believe that standards are not being maintained, it has moved in swiftly to investigate the situation. When serious deficiencies have been found, it has not hesitated to close down the facility and transfer the residents to another setting, or give the nursing home operator a deadline by which he must comply with Ministry of Health standards.
During 1982, for example, of the province's 340 nursing homes which were in operation during that year, 15 were closed through ministry negotiations because they did not meet the standards set out in the regulations.
I believe all of these facts speak for themselves. Within a health care system as large and diverse as ours, we know that in Ontario, from time to time, one will be able to find problems, one will be able to isolate unique circumstances that one can blow up and make a story out of. But may I say, on the other hand, there are many good things happening within this program.
We can continue to work to make it better but we cannot paint the whole system with a black brush, as some would have us do. I do not want to paint it with a white brush, but there is a way in which we can continue to work to have a better system, and that is certainly one of our great desires.
Mr. Roy: How can he mix that white with that black paint?
Mr. Cousens: That becomes grey, and when it is grey it sort of gets to another party that is in the middle. So maybe we can have the white over here and the black somewhere else.
I do not want to be either white or black. I would like to move toward that which is best. What is happening in our province is a sincere and genuine effort by our government to move, to improve and to develop the kind of programs that mean something to people.
I think the example of the extended home care support for the elderly is an example where our government expanded services to help elderly and senior citizens to stay in their own homes longer. There are programs that people do not realize that our government supports. I would like to give credence to that. We have Meals-on-Wheels, housekeeping, home maintenance, transportation, visiting and many other kinds of valuable assistance for elderly citizens living on their own. It is another of those positive undertakings supported by our government.
The government's commitment to our senior citizens was highlighted last year by the establishment of the seniors secretariat. The government believes it is important to help Ontario's seniors maintain their independence wherever possible. To this end, it has encouraged increased emphasis on home care and home support services. Rather than institutionalized care, innovative health care such as day programs, outpatient programs, and community-based health clinics are in the process of being developed as alternatives to acute hospital health care.
There are tremendous benefits for our seniors in this province. If one talks to our seniors, one knows they appreciate the services that are available. There is not a member in this House who does not try to help the people in his or her riding by directing his or her constituents to those services so they can get the optimum advantage that is there for them. It is important for us not to take them for granted. Our government has not taken them for granted. Our government is moving to continue to improve them.
Our health care system seems to get knocked by a number of people, but the people who are the quiet majority continue to stand out there, knowing that waiting for them in case they need it is a service that is one of the best in the world -- that is the service of health care in our province.
As we look at the services, there is a changing need in our province. We see the changing need of treatment of infectious diseases being replaced with degenerative and chronic cares. Our government is trying to adjust health care policy to the new realities as we see them.
For example, we are increasing the number of facilities that offer less-intensive care. There will be more outpatient clinics and more home care programs to encourage early discharge from hospitals. Public health programs will become increasingly important to educate us as to how to eat, exercise and work.
One of the things our Minister of Health is doing is to bring together this coming May a policy conference entitled Ontario's Health Care System in the 80s and Beyond. This is an important conference, one that will bring together representatives of the Ontario Medical Association, the Ontario Hospital Association, the Registered Nurses' Association of Ontario, other health care providers, planners and members of the public. The results of this conference will provide the government with guidance on the direction for Ontario's future health care system.
Mr. Cassidy: You sure kept the unions out of that one, didn't you?
Mr. Cousens: The fact is they are represented.
Multiservice centres are one response to the fragmented service provision and the Minister of Health announced a few months ago an expansion and further development of community health centres which will provide access to a range of health --
Mr. Cassidy: After Timbrell fought them for seven years.
Mr. Cousens: The honourable member is seeing progress. He is seeing the evolution where the government is continuing --
Mr. Cassidy: Why do we have to wait while stupid ministers resist progress?
Mr. Speaker: Order. Will the honourable member please refrain --
Mr. Cassidy: It is your government. He says it is good; Timbrell says it is bad.
Mr. Kolyn: Your member talked three and a half hours.
Mr. Cassidy: Martel was talking sense.
Mr. Kolyn: Baloney.
Mr. Speaker: Order. I will not caution the member for Lakeshore (Mr. Kolyn) and the member for Ottawa Centre (Mr. Cassidy) further.
Mr. Cousens: The community health centres are an important step towards providing services today in a way in which more and more people can benefit from them. They will be funded in the same manner as hospitals rather than the present short-term contracts. The advantage of community health centres is they can perform many of the functions now handled by hospital emergency and outpatient departments.
We have a health care system in our province that is an enormous undertaking, and because there are so many different professional groups, institutions, agencies and public interest associations legitimately involved in its provision, the people of Ontario --
Mr. Kerrio: You said "we had."
Mr. Cousens: Have: it is present tense. It is the present tense and it is something that is continuing to improve.
Mr. Cousens: No, I am in this House in the company of good people. It is a relatively easy thing for someone to single out one area for criticism, but the fact is health care is one of those areas that is of significant importance to our government. It is the single biggest expenditure which is made each year by this government.
During the past fiscal year, 1982-83, health care alone accounted for S6.7 billion and represented nearly one third of the total revenues available for allocation. The health care system of our province is truly among the best that can be found anywhere in the world. The government of this province is determined to protect that tradition and that reputation.
Last year when things were tough, in response to a Health ministry request for additional funding to develop a new budgeting formula for our public general hospitals, cabinet agreed to provide the ministry with moneys totalling $110 million. This new funding adjustment has since been made in the Ontario Hospital Association, and the great majority of our individual hospitals have responded postively and enthusiastically to the new financial arrangement.
I would also like to point out that these funds were protected for the health care system during a time of economic difficulty in this province and during a time when there were numerous other worthy and important demands being made for government support. I would point out that this decision was made at a time when the federal government had seen fit to export its own deficit problems to the provinces by cutting back on the revenue guarantees of the established programs financing arrangement. Our provincial cabinet made a decision that was therefore a clear illustration of this government's commitment to preserve the excellence in health care that the people of Ontario enjoy.
In the past few months new initiatives have been undertaken in the mental health area. New community-based services are now in place for former psychiatric patients, and more are under development. Patient advocates are also being appointed to our provincial psychiatric hospitals to assist patients in their relations with the hospitals and to better understand their legal and treatment circumstances. Community advisory bodies have also been appointed to the hospitals to promote the development of better relations with their local communities and for a better understanding of local mental health needs.
Indeed, it is a well-known fact to every member of this House that the development of new mental health services is a priority of the Minister of Health and that within the next few years we will see many dramatic changes in the provision of this vital health care service. A complete review of mental health care in Ontario is now being completed, and it is expected that the final report of this exhaustive study will be ready by early this summer.
Better health services mean people are living longer, and the baby boom generation now coming to maturity means that shortly after the turn of this century we will see in Ontario a growth of nearly 58 per cent in the number of senior citizens. This group already accounts for almost one third of the demand on health care services, so it is readily apparent that the implications for our future health care system are significant.
With an eye on these strategic developments, the Health ministry is now embarking on a major expansion of home care programs to assist elderly residents to maintain an independent and productive life in their own communities. Home care is now available in some 36 out of 38 Ontario regions and districts. The two remaining regions will have home care service by the end of the current fiscal year.
We can also expect, however, on the basis of the record of this government and its commitment to health care for the people of Ontario, that any problems or difficulties will be quickly identified and the appropriate actions will be taken to maintain the excellence in health care of which we are justifiably proud.
Our government is there to continue to provide the best people services it possibly can within the financial limitations that its budget can provide. Even though we build a deficit, we continue to maintain those important fundamental services for the people of this province. Our child care, our elderly care, our social assistance, our day care, our nursing home care -- these and many programs continue to provide the kind of lifestyle that we have come to expect and take for granted.
May I say to all of us that we should not take it for granted. Like the padre at the Empire Club today, who began the luncheon with his prayer giving thanks for the bounty we have in this province and this country, maybe there should be a little bit more thankfulness for all the good things we have and --
Mr. Kerrio: There is going to be a mutiny on that Bounty, I'm telling you right now.
Mr. Speaker: Order.
Mr. Cousens: There is going to be a mutiny over there, I think.
Mr. Speaker: Order.
Mr. Bradley: What about the Albany Club?
Mr. Cousens: No, this was the Empire Club. It was simply those of all parties and all concerns having a concern about the future of our country. This to me is something that makes one proud to be part of this province.
Mr. Bradley: Who was the guest speaker?
Mr. Cousens: We had an excellent speech by the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing (Mr. Bennett), an outstanding speech, which reiterated the importance of people and the concern that government has to have for people.
There is a number of other things one could say on this throne speech, but I would like to leave a little for the other members of this party. It certainly makes me proud to be part of a government that shows such a genuine and deep concern for all its citizens.
Mr. G. I. Miller: Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to take part in the throne speech debate at the beginning of 1983. It is interesting to sit and listen to the government members trying to defend their positions and what they have done over the years, particularly the House leader when he was going over the history and how he became connected with the Conservative Party.
I would like to think that Mitch Hepburn really was the one who put hydro up and down the concessions. I remember it quite well. I believe it was 1935 when we blew out the lamp at our home and that first light bulb went on. It was like a miracle. I recall well that many good old Conservatives voted, maybe only once, but they did vote that time for Mitch Hepburn just because he was going to provide hydro to many rural areas in Ontario. I just wanted to bring the government House leader up to date.
We have been critical of Ontario Hydro's spending and I think justifiably so. When we have to start mothballing plants because of overbuilding, we have to bring some sensibility to the overall expenditures everybody has to pay for. I am not critical to the point of saying Ontario Hydro is not providing a good service, because it is. It is providing much employment.
I do not know whether we should be going totally to nuclear. The member made some interesting comments about coal-fired stations. We happen to have one in Nanticoke, which is only now getting the bugs out. It is employing 500 people. It is utilizing coal, 50 per cent of which comes from Canada. If those scrubbers were applied to that plant, it would certainly create some jobs that are badly needed. It would also clean up our environment. It would set the pace for our negotiations when we are dealing with the United States. We had our American friends sitting in the gallery today. If we set them examples, I am sure they will co-operate and follow along.
On a lighter note, I would like to bring to the House's attention that we have had some success in our hockey. All the problems and unemployment make it kind of depressing when one goes back to one's riding. It is nice to know we had a Port Dover hockey team playing Norwood.
Mr. Kolyn: Sailors?
Mr. G. I. Miller: No, juveniles. It is a fantastic team; they play with lots of heart. I thought Norwood was in the Speakers riding. It is pretty close to his riding. We lost out to them in a best-of-seven series, I believe it was two games to four.
The real contest we have going is the junior teams, the Dunnville Mudcats and the Lindsay Muskies. I have a little wager with my colleague the member for Victoria-Halihurton (Mr. Eakins) that the Dunnville Mudcats are going to be too much. As a matter of fact, last Sunday they threw a mudcat on the ice just to show there are real mudcats in the Grand River. I think they lead in that series three games to two.
Mr. G. I. Miller: There are hundreds of them in there, John. You ought to come down some time.
I would like to bring to the government's attention and just put on the record some of the facts in regard to this government and the particular economic picture in Ontario.
Figures for March show unemployment is at 569,000 or 12.6 per cent of the working force. The 1982 throne speech -- and in the 1982 budget, I recall it well, the Treasurer (Mr. F. S. Miller) -- predicted an improvement in unemployment by the end of 1982 of 125,000. However, since last May we have actually seen 175,000 more people become unemployed. Present figures show 233,000 young people between the ages of 15 and 24 are out of work. This figure increased by 22,000 last month alone.
I do not know how the members on the other side of the House can be really concerned with trying to defend it, when we have unemployment rates running at that kind of figure.
In terms of the gross provincial product, Ontario is now in a position equivalent to where it was when the member for Muskoka (Mr. F. S. Miller) became Treasurer in 1977. We have fallen that quickly. Bankruptcies are at a postwar high with 3,427 firms filing for bankruptcy in 1982. One can see by that total that it certainly has added to the unemployment figure.
It was brought to my attention only last week that there are no more programs to assist small business to refinance, only through the Federal Business Development Bank. Their interest rates are 15.5 per cent. With today's economy, there is no way a small business can make that kind of profit and survive.
The throne speech did not mention the fact there was going to be assistance for small business to get some of those bankruptcies back on track again. I feel it is an area where, if the government is really sincere, it will come up with programs. I have asked the Minister of Industry and Trade (Mr. Walker), through his good offices at Kitchener, whether there are any programs available to assist small business. I find there are none.
There is funding available, if it is in the manufacturing sector, where we will provide some assistance with a lot of strings attached. There are some programs there, but when it comes down to financing small business, there are no plans available except at the federal level, and as I indicated before, at 15.5 per cent.
I would like to compare that to agriculture and some of the programs they have. The picture for Ontario farmers is similar to that of the businessman. The young farmer of Ontario has tremendous difficulty competing for markets because of long-term loan arrangements in every other province, along with interest assistance plans. The present Ontario government lacks any real commitment to the agriculture industry in this province.
In fact, agriculture budgetary expenditures have declined from 1.83 per cent in 1971 to 1.1 per cent of our total present budgetary expenditures. This for an industry that employs one of every five people in Ontario.
A farm bankruptcy occurs in Ontario every two and a half days. Although there are many and varied reasons for this, the important thing is we need to maintain farm production.
Mr. Cooke: What does Gene Whelan say?
Mr. G. I. Miller: I will get to that. He is doing something about it.
The important thing is we need to maintain farm production to feed the people of this province and country. Ontario farms could produce most of what is needed and required in food production.
I would like to point out that in our own particular area, the Ontario Federation of Agriculture has put out a 1982 edition of Agriculture and on the front page it says, "A Major Industry in Haldimand-Norfolk," and, "Farming is a Big Business." In our region of Haldimand-Norfolk, agriculture produces $280 million worth of crops, and of those crops tobacco produces almost 50 per cent.
Speaking of tobacco, when we find a farming industry that is in trouble, I think the tobacco industry sets an example second to none. As a matter of fact, they had a devastating frost on August 29, 1982, I believe, which wiped out at least 50 per cent of their crop, so this year they are negotiating for prices and markets. Because they are coming up with a production of only 210 million pounds compared to last year's 230 million, and with a short crop last year, they are not taking it sitting down; they are trying to form a national marketing agency so they can get a better share of the market in order to protect their industry.
I know some people in this House frown at the fact that tobacco is not a product that people need, but I would like to inform everyone in this Legislature that tobacco produces something like $1.5 billion in taxes at the federal and provincial levels, plus the fact that it is about a $500-million crop within the farming area itself. So I think it does contribute much to the overall economy of this country. The Ontario producers are competing successfully with world markets and are a leading force. They are quick to react and protect their own interests.
Mr. Cooke: What about Liberal interest rates? They have put farmers in trouble.
Mr. Speaker: Order.
Mr. G. I. Miller: Our friends to the left have asked what Gene Whelan is doing about assisting the farm industry. Again I would just like to comment briefly on the throne speech of 1982.
Mr. Speaker: Order. The member for Haldimand-Norfolk has the floor.
Mr. G. I. Miller: Getting back to the throne speech, in 1982 this government committed itself to protecting --
Mr. Speaker: Order. Now perhaps we can listen to the member for Haldimand-Norfolk.
Mr. Ruston: I will learn more listening to the member for Haldimand-Norfolk than I will from him.
Mr. Speaker: Then let's give him a chance to say it.
Mr. Cassidy: Sheila said a Liberal is a Liberal is a Liberal, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Speaker: Thank you.
Mr. G. I. Miller: Getting back to the throne speech of 1982, this government committed some assistance to the young farmers of Ontario with a lot of prodding from opposition members, but nothing really took place. They did bring in the Ontario farm adjustment assistance program, and by the end of 1982 interest rates were down to a level where it was not very meaningful to many of the farm producers.
The only program that is available is through the Farm Credit Corp. They have a program of assisting farmers up to $300,000 for a two-year period at 9.25 per cent. I would like to put on the record for the members to our left that some progress was made in 1982. But 1983 is a new year, and this is the throne speech we are speaking to and criticizing.
Mr. Cassidy: Forget about the past, eh?
Mr. Speaker: Never mind the interjections.
Mr. Speaker: Order. Perhaps the member for Windsor-Riverside (Mr. Cooke) would just turn his seat around a bit and face forward and listen attentively to the member for Haldimand-Norfolk.
Mr. Bradley: It is much noisier since the member for Ottawa Centre (Mr. Cassidy) was moved from the front row.
Mr. Speaker: I can tell you, you are not doing badly.
Mr. G. I. Miller: Mr. Speaker, again I would like to speak about some of the bankruptcies that are taking place at the present time because I have had three of those to deal with in my own riding, as my friend the member for Kent-Elgin (Mr. McGuigan) indicated in his address just a few minutes ago.
It is not very pleasant when one is talking to a family that has been farming for three generations in one location -- they have two sons who went to Ridgetown and got their training there, but one boy is sent home and told there is no future in farming, not to go back to the farm -- and see those people get into a financial position that they cannot really finance because of the programs this government would not provide even with the prodding that we have given it over the last four or five years.
That is why I say in my opening remarks that this government does not really care about agriculture when it is the most important item, it is the engine that makes the economy work. As I pointed out by mentioning the booklet on Haldimand-Norfolk, agriculture is big business, and when agriculture goes, industry goes.
We have a steel plant at Nanticoke providing employment for 1,300 people and running effectively. We have a farm machinery plant at Brantford, and the member for Brantford (Mr. Gillies) is sitting here tonight. They unveiled a new tractor down here in front of the Holiday Inn only yesterday, the second tractor that has been manufactured totally in Canada.
But there is White Farm Equipment. I have people in my riding asking, "What is my future? I have worked there for six or seven years. Are they going to go back to work? Are they not going to go back to work?" They are left on a teeter-totter. We have people like that. I think that is when it gets very difficult to deal with.
As I spoke to the chap with the Massey tractor sitting in front of the Holiday Inn yesterday, he said, "If we can get the farm economy going here" -- he recognizes where the needs are -- "if we get the farm economy rolling again, give the farmer a fair dollar for his corn and soybeans and his wheat and his produce, he can buy that equipment and he can get that circle rolling again." That is the key. That is what we have to try to achieve.
I spoke about agriculture's engine breaking down, and it began to break down four years ago and nobody would recognize it. I do not think our friends to the left understand that. I do not think they could survive on a farm. I cannot see anybody there who really could survive on a farm. I would challenge them to that.
Mr. Ruston: Just on the asphalt, that is all.
Mr. G. I. Miller: Asphalt farming. I am not here to defend Gene Whelan; I am here to defend the farmers I represent today, and I intend to do that.
If we do not come up with a program to refinance, if we do not get the program that has been announced in the throne speech, there are going to be a lot more sad young people out there with no place to go. They will not have a home to go to; their lifetime work will be gone; their future will be gone. We have to give them a helping hand at this particular time. That is why we have brought out a --
Mr. McLean: When was the last time you milked a cow?
Mr. G. I. Miller: This morning. When did you last milk yours?
On motion by Mr. G. I. Miller. the debate was adjourned.
The House adjourned at 10:30 p.m.