The House met at 2 p.m.
STATEMENTS BY THE MINISTRY
NORTHERN ONTARIO ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT
Hon. Mr. Bernier: Mr. Speaker, in the recent speech from the throne, reference was made to a program that would provide assistance to single-industry communities in northern Ontario. Today I would like to provide for the honourable members, details of this program.
An important component of my ministry's mandate is to assist the north in matters of economic development. Basically we have attempted to do this in two ways.
First, we provide support for programs aimed at strengthening our major resource industries. These include resource access projects such as the Detour Lake road, town-site development and geological surveys and mapping.
Second, we have been greatly involved over the ministry's six years in providing assistance for what might be called the hard services: transportation and sewer and water projects. Our aim here has been to provide the essential infrastructure without which economic development in northern Ontario cannot take place.
Complementing these programs has been our support for health services, such as the air ambulances and the medical and dental clinics, and for cultural initiatives, such as the TVOntario extension program, which is bringing Ontario's educational channel by satellite to over 50 small, remote northern Ontario communities.
The progress that the ministry has been able to make, working with our fellow agencies and the north's municipalities, has helped to reduce many of the disparities that had existed between north and south. Good transportation, modern health and social services, expanded sewer and water systems and new industrial parks have all helped to make many of our northern communities attractive places in which to live, to work and to invest, by anyone's standards.
With this development has come a growing sensitivity on the part of the north's municipalities to the needs and the opportunities that exist for economic diversification and the extent to which the municipalities themselves can act as facilitators in this process. Communities such as Sudbury, Timmins, North Bay, Thunder Bay and Atikokan have demonstrated a sound practical knowledge of the importance of the municipal role in local economic development.
For our part we have been exploring different approaches to local economic development with individual communities on a case-by-case basis. The government has encouraged the diversification of our major resource industries through such initiatives as the Ontario Centre for Resource Machinery in Sudbury. But it is clear that a great deal more can be achieved by encouraging the creation and the expansion of the small and medium-sized businesses that create over half of all the new jobs in Ontario each year.
Recognizing this, and based on our experience with the assistance to communities on a spot basis, we are now prepared to expand our activities, using additional funds to cover all of northern Ontario.
The community economic development program we are introducing today is one more step in this process of helping northern communities to help themselves. Specifically, it will focus on providing assistance to communities for researching, planning and organizing local economic development initiatives. Our professional staff will help communities become aware and get in touch with other government agencies that provide specific industrial development support programs.
While we have been doing a lot of this until now on an ad hoc basis, these activities will be given priority across the north under the new program. In addition, an appropriate level of funding will be made available to support this new thrust. This year, three quarters of a million dollars will be included in my ministry's budget for the community economic development program.
My ministry's assistance will include the following elements: community awareness programs including economic development seminars; investigation of the community's potential for new economic development; identification of new economic opportunities and assessment of their feasibility, and the development of promotional materials. Where consultants are employed on approved projects, the ministry will reimburse up to 75 per cent of cost.
I should point out that quite apart from this new program, my ministry will continue to provide special capital development assistance for programs and projects related to local economic development where funds are not normally available from either the public or the private sector.
A number of communities in the north have already received approval for assistance under the northern community economic development program.
The community economic development program recognizes that the private entrepreneur is really the engine that powers the economic development and diversification in most of our northern communities. It also recognizes that government, at the local and provincial levels, can act effectively as a facilitator in this process. Finally, it provides a comprehensive structure through which three players can work together towards a commonly held goal of locally based economic development and diversification in the single-industry communities in northern Ontario.
Mr. Speaker: I would ask the co-operation of all honourable members in limiting their private conversations, please.
TREASURY BILLS ISSUE
Hon. F. S. Miller: Mr. Speaker, as I have already indicated in my 1983 budget and in the discussions on the 1983 Ontario Loan Act, the province will be financing its net requirements in part through the issue of Ontario treasury bills.
The members may recall that Ontario has issued treasury bills periodically in the past. The last time was in 1979 when $325 million was outstanding in 91-day bills on the basis of a $25-million weekly tender.
I plan to reactivate the weekly tender program for the issue of Ontario's 91-day treasury bills effective Tuesday, June 21, to raise $950 million over a 13-week period. Each of the first three weekly tenders will be for $150 million, and thereafter the weekly tender will be for $50 million.
These funds are required to finance cash flow requirements over the near term. The 91-day treasury bill is a cost-effective financing vehicle which provides flexibility while budget performance and economic conditions unfold.
Hon. Mr. Drea: Mr. Speaker, when I spoke to the standing committee on social development when that committee was dealing with family violence and child abuse earlier this year, I promised to take a look at assisting women who have been victims of this tragedy.
Mr. Rae: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker: We do not have copies of the statement.
Mr. Speaker: Apparently copies of the statement have not been distributed.
Hon. Mr. Drea: They should be over there, Mr. Speaker.
If they do not have them, we will save the statement for a couple of days.
Mr. Speaker: Do you have copies of the statement?
Hon. Mr. Drea: They were supposed to be here. There are other statements by other ministers. I can make mine later.
POLICY STATEMENT ON RACE RELATIONS
Hon. Mr. McMurtry: Mr. Speaker, I rise to inform all members of the House of a very significant ceremony which will be taking place in this building at 3:30 p.m. today. At that time, the Premier (Mr. Davis) will unveil a formal display of the government's policy statement on race relations. This vitally important document will be on permanent display just outside the main entrance to this chamber.
The members will recall that last December 10, the Premier made a statement concerning this policy statement. He noted that the statement sets out our belief in the goodwill of the vast majority of the citizens of this province, while making clear our commitment to protecting those who may suffer disadvantage because of their race.
As chairman of the cabinet committee on race relations which developed this policy statement, I am particularly proud that the statement will occupy a prominent place in the building. I am firmly convinced that open, frank, public discussion of race relations is essential to the maintenance of the civility and humanity of this province.
It is our hope that the displaying of this policy statement in a prominent place in the Legislature, coupled with the extensive distribution which has already taken place, will advance the cause of harmonious race relations.
I am also very mindful that the policy statement made by the Premier last December 10 was enthusiastically endorsed by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Peterson) and by the leader of the New Democratic Party (Mr. Rae). I believe the policy set out therein reflects the views of all members of the assembly and I invite them to join the Premier in the brief ceremony at which the display will be unveiled.
EMPLOYMENT STANDARDS BILL
Hon. Mr. Ramsay: Mr. Speaker, this afternoon I shall be introducing for first reading a bill to amend the Employment Standards Act. The purpose of the bill is to prohibit the use of lie detector tests as a personnel screening device.
As the honourable members will recall, several of my colleagues, including the Attorney General (Mr. McMurtry), have expressed their disapproval of such tests, as have several members opposite. In the government's view the use of lie detector tests in the employment context is unwarranted. Not only are they scientifically invalid and inaccurate, but they constitute an invasion of privacy and engender a sense of fear in the work place.
The bill prohibits employers from requiring employees to take a lie detector test and gives employees the right to refuse to take such a test. The communication of test results is also prohibited.
The term "lie detector test" is broadly defined to include polygraphs and psychological stress evaluators; the term "employer" is defined to include a prospective employer, and the term "employee" is defined to include an applicant for employment.
The use of lie detector tests in the employment context is more widespread in the United States then in Canada, but is becoming more common in Ontario. The passage of this bill will make Ontario the first Canadian jurisdiction to provide particular statutory protection against lie detector testing and will enable us to avoid the problems that have been experienced in other jurisdictions.
Mr. Peterson: Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the Attorney General with respect to his statement today and with respect to the government of Ontario's policy statement on race relations. I refer him particularly to section 6 where it says, "Racially motivated offences will be met with the full force of the law to ensure the protection of the personal safety and dignity of all persons in Ontario."
Given that policy statement, I want to refer the Attorney General to a fact I am sure he is aware of. Ontario has the reputation, at least in isolated areas, of being the home of some of the most vicious anti-Semitic literature in this country. Because of his extensive contacts, I know he is also aware of the problems that have gone on recently with respect to the defacing of synagogues and cemeteries, and some of the problems on campuses that have gone on in the last year.
The minister knows, for example, that in Flesherton, Ontario, Mr. Ron Gostick is running an organization which ironically calls itself the Canadian League of Rights but disseminates hate literature country-wide; and in Toronto, Mr. Ernst Zundel and his company, Samisdat Publishing Ltd., have been described as one of the world's big purveyors of Nazi propaganda. Given that he has the right under the Criminal Code to prosecute in these matters, does the minister not feel he should show his leadership in these areas and institute proceedings under the Criminal Code against some of these people?
Hon. Mr. McMurtry: Mr. Speaker, I will certainly continue to demonstrate our commitment to this very important cause. I would like to remind the Leader of the Opposition of some of the matters that have gone on in the past that I think indicate our determination to eradicate -- to the extent that the law can eradicate it -- this sick type of behaviour.
The member will recall that the Western Guard was very active, in Metropolitan Toronto in particular, in disseminating anti-Semitic literature and defacing synagogues. The leader of the Western Guard was sentenced to a penitentiary term after a very vigorous prosecution.
The Western Guard was succeeded by the Ku Klux Klan, which undoubtedly involved many of the same people. The leaders of that organization were successfully prosecuted, and many of them are in jail.
Fortunately, these two organizations have, at least for the present time, disappeared from the surface.
The federal government, at my personal request, amended its Human Rights Code to provide for a mechanism to prosecute people who disseminate this type of material over the telephone system, and as a result there has been one well-known, celebrated successful prosecution.
We are, of course, aware of Mr. Zundel's activities. Our investigation of his activities has gone beyond this province -- indeed, has involved meetings with German officials, because we know a lot of the material comes, unfortunately, from West Germany. I have a committee of lawyers in the ministry who review all this material, and we have been very vigorous -- with the co-operation and assistance of the police, of course -- in following up any leads.
I can assure the Leader of the Opposition that if we have evidence on which we have a reasonable chance of a successful prosecution of Mr. Zundel, whom we do believe to be behind a lot of the very vicious material that has been disseminated, we will certainly encourage the laying of charges and there will be a very vigorous prosecution.
Mr. Peterson: The Attorney General will be aware, I am sure, that the Western Guard prosecution was not under section 281, the hate literature section of the Criminal Code. This is the point of my question to him.
I wonder if he will follow up on some of the other initiatives he has made with a prosecution under section 281. Even if, as he says, it is sometimes difficult to get the evidence to make that prosecution stick, at least it would point out the inadequacy in the law in the federal Criminal Code. That being the case, would the minister not agree with me that it would show his determination to stamp out this kind of hate literature if in fact he proceeded with a prosecution under that section? Would he not consider his options in that regard and proceed, as has been recommended by a number of bodies, including the B'nai B'rith?
Hon. Mr. McMurtry: Obviously, the Leader of the Opposition recognizes two fundamental principles. I assume first of all that there have to be reasonable and probable grounds for the laying of a charge. Second, he recognizes the complexities and difficulties with the present federal legislation, which he describes as inadequate; and I do not quarrel with him in that description.
But I just would like to caution the Leader of the Opposition on encouraging a prosecution about which in effect he is saying to me: "Okay, if it fails, so it fails. It will therefore simply demonstrate the inadequacies of the federal legislation and will, we hope, motivate some change."
I personally am of the view that we should not prosecute until we are satisfied that there are, first, reasonable and probable grounds and, second, a reasonable likelihood of success, because if a prosecution is bound to failure, unfortunately it would only serve as an encouragement to other like-minded people -- other lunatics, but very dangerous lunatics -- who want to attack the relatively fragile social fabric of our community by engaging in this type of activity. Surely the Leader of the Opposition can appreciate the wisdom of only proceeding with a prosecution that has a reasonable likelihood of success.
Mr. Rae: Mr. Speaker, what I hear the Attorney General saying, and I hope he will not take exception to what I am saying, is that because there is a very real difficulty in prosecuting under the hate literature section of the Criminal Code, he is keeping an eye on the activities of Mr. Zundel and others, but he is not prepared to prosecute.
Supplementary to the questions from the leader of the Liberal Party, I would like to ask the minister if is he not concerned with the literature that is currently being produced and spread about the country. Is he prepared to say he does not at the moment have adequate powers under the Criminal Code to deal with and prosecute perpetrators of hate who threaten the very fabric of civil liberties and civility in our society?
Hon. Mr. McMurtry: Mr. Speaker, I will reiterate that if we have the evidentiary base for a prosecution, we will prosecute; that is clear. I do not want the leader of the New Democratic Party to get away with attempting to twist my response into suggesting there is any reluctance on my part to prosecute; certainly the history of my role in this office would indicate otherwise. I am sufficiently aware of the problem to appreciate the wisdom of not proceeding with a prosecution that is bound to fail for the reasons I have already outlined.
Mr. Peterson: I assume from what the minister is saying that he does not believe there are reasonable and probable grounds to make a prosecution stick, and therefore he is not prepared to proceed. That being said, obviously he feels the Criminal Code is inadequate --
Mr. Speaker: Question, please.
Mr. Peterson: What specific recommendations has the minister made to his colleague, the federal Minister of Justice, with respect to changing section 281 of the Criminal Code so that it would be easier for him to discharge his responsibilities to prosecute literature which he has just said is vicious, mean-spirited trash, and which we all recognize is a social evil that should be expunged?
Hon. Mr. McMurtry: I have had a number of discussions with at least five federal Ministers of Justice about this problem. At the same time, we concede there is no easy solution with respect to amendments to the federal Criminal Code. We have discussed possible amendments, but one of the problems is not to cast a much broader net than was intended, particularly with our concern to allow a reasonable level of freedom of expression, which is now part of the Constitution of our country.
I would be the first one to concede the appropriate amendments to that very difficult section are not easily found. While they have been the subject of considerable discussion over a number of years during which I have had the privilege of serving in this office, I would be the first to concede there is no easy solution.
Mr. Peterson: Mr. Speaker, may I ask a question of the Premier with respect to the jurisdiction of the Ontario Board of Censors or the Ontario film review board, as it may be named in new legislation?
I am sure the Premier is sensitive to the discussion we have been having in this House with a number of his ministers; he will recognize that the jurisdiction with respect to the pornography issue is split among several of his ministries. I know the Premier will be concerned about this issue and aware of some of the statements made by the Solicitor General (Mr. G. W. Taylor) and a number of others.
Is it the government's view and would the Premier agree to giving the new film review board, the Ontario censor board, or whatever one wants to call it, jurisdiction over commercially produced videotapes? I am sure the Premier is aware they have brought an explosion of new forms of violent pornography that are socially offensive in every way.
Hon. Mr. Davis: Mr. Speaker, I think the minister has already made some comment on this. I am just looking for my notes to remind the Leader of the Opposition of the position of the Liberal Party of Ontario on the whole question of censorship, although that might provoke him on this pleasant Tuesday afternoon. The former leader of the Liberal Party, and the present leader has never contradicted him, indicated censorship was unnecessary. He said we were antiquated, the Premier came from a rural community and we were not sophisticated.
Speaking as one who has always been in support of something of this nature, I would say to the Leader of the Opposition that I now welcome him in his support for us on this issue. It took us a while, several months, perhaps two or three years. While I share the member's concern with respect to videotapes, etc., as I recall the discussion, there is some question of jurisdiction.
I want to make a very simple statement that, when it comes to matters of this kind, I am always appreciative of the support of the Leader of the Opposition, including that of his colleague to the right who used to make fun of me because I still advocated the use of the Lord's Prayer in the classrooms of this province. Perhaps, some day in the future he may even support that.
Mr. Roy: We love the family. We will say the Lord's Prayer.
Mr. Peterson: It is not only the member to my right who makes fun of the Premier. Everybody makes fun of him; that is not the point.
Mr. Speaker: Question, please.
Mr. Peterson: If the Premier wants to speak about what my predecessor did, he is quite entitled to do so, but I am asking him a very specific question. As the leader of the government, will the Premier contemplate a new initiative that would give the Ontario film review board jurisdiction in this matter? Is he considering it, is he not considering it or would he consider it? That specifically is my question.
Hon. Mr. Davis: I am delighted the honourable member thinks a number of people share things with us in a humorous sense; they may even laugh at some of the things I say or do. I can assure the Leader of the Opposition that people will not laugh at what he says; they have a certain measure of sympathy for him and we understand why. Anybody who gets up and says the reason he cannot raise as much money as the Tories is because he has a larger deficit makes it quite obvious why he has never been able to comment in any critical sense on the Treasurer's (Mr. F. S. Miller) budget year after year.
Mr. Conway: Are you listening to this, Mr. Speaker? If you allow this kind of crap, then there is no order in this place.
Mr. Speaker: Order. I would remind the member for Renfrew North (Mr. Conway) that the standing orders have not been violated, nor am I going to take direction from him.
Hon. Mr. Davis: If the Leader of the Opposition were to check with some of his constitutional advisers, he would find out there is a modest jurisdictional problem relating to the question of whether tapes are used for public use rather than for private showings. I doubt we have jurisdiction as a province over the private use of this kind of material. I can assure him this government is as sensitive to, and probably far more concerned about, this issue than he or his colleagues are.
Mr. Renwick: Mr. Speaker, without getting into the jurisdictional question, because of the seriousness of the distribution of pornographic material by way of videotapes, will the Premier consider the introduction of a licensing system in Ontario for persons who distribute videotapes commercially, with provision for the suspension or cancellation of a licence if there is a conviction under the Criminal Code for obscenity or an offence related to those particular videotapes?
Hon. Mr. Davis: Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the constructive nature of the honourable member's remarks. I guess the government is concerned about --
Mr. Speaker: Order.
Hon. Mr. Davis: You guys are just beginning to sense the importance of this issue; I am sorry, you guys and the one lady.
Mr. Speaker: Back to the question, please.
Hon. Mr. Davis: I think if the minister concerned were asked to comment, he would have some concern about a licensing process. I think the question would also be raised as to whether in material of this nature, licensing a distributor would necessarily stop the sale. I am not an expert in the field, I confess, but I will certainly pass that suggestion on to the minister.
Mr. Peterson: Mr. Speaker, everyone's understanding is that the province does have power over the licensing and distribution, which is one possible solution.
Given the extraordinarily complex question of the definition of community standards, which all those who want to do something on this issue deal with, and given the problem we have had in the Supreme Court with respect to who is responsible for drawing up those community standards, whether it is a bunch of bureaucrats or how those standards should be incorporated in legislation or regulation, will the Premier as the head of Her Majesty's government give consideration to the formation of a select committee this summer of members of all parties of this House to give some thought to the definition of those community standards and put that responsibility clearly where it belongs, which is not in the hands of some regulators, but in the hands of politicians, who presumably will be the most sensitive in defining those community standards? Would the Premier not agree to that suggestion?
Hon. Mr. Davis: I just want to quote: "I think the censor board should be liberalized; there is no doubt about it. The Tories don't get the sophisticated voters anyhow. They get the people who think the world is changing much too quickly."
Mr. Bradley: Gee, has Judi McLeod seen this?
Hon. Mr. Davis: I'm just quoting what was your party policy.
Mr. Bradley: Did Judi McLeod see that?
Hon. Mr. Davis: Oh, this is what Stuart Smith said.
Mr. Speaker: Order.
Mr. Speaker: Order. Now back to the question, please.
Hon. Mr. Davis: There is another great quote on "community standards."
I do not reject the idea of having select committees for a number of subjects. We have had many over the years, quite often over the objection of the former leader of the party, who is the opposition House leader. He usually comes around when we do appoint them, depending on the nature of the select committee. He has made some great speeches about why we should not have as many.
I have not consulted with the minister as to whether this would be an appropriate select committee and whether it could deal with this very complex issue, but I will certainly discuss it with him.
LANDLORD AND TENANT LEGISLATION
Mr. Rae: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Premier (Mr. Davis), and it concerns a number of loopholes in a number of pieces of legislation -- the Planning Act, the Residential Tenancies Act, the Landlord and Tenant Act, the Mortgages Act and the Judicature Act -- all of which are affecting the rights of tenants. It is because it involves a number of ministries and a number of pieces of legislation that I am addressing this question to the Premier.
The Premier may or may not be aware of an attempted eviction of tenants of a six-unit building at 5 Bater Avenue in East York that was begun by Greymac Mortgage Co., who were the mortgagors, because the mortgagee had defaulted. Is the Premier prepared to look at the attempted evictions taking place under different pieces of legislation, such as the Landlord and Tenant Act, the Mortgages Act and other legislation, which are causing a great deal of concern to tenants and are resulting in real insecurity in a number of places not only in Toronto, but in the rest of Ontario?
Is he prepared to call the ministers in question together to look at those loopholes in legislation that are now being used by unscrupulous landlords and mortgagors and deal with this issue since it is affecting the security of so many people?
Hon. Mr. Davis: Mr. Speaker, I would be quite delighted to discuss that with the responsible ministers.
Mr. Rae: We have raised the question of the conversions -- for example, from apartments into hotels -- on a number of occasions.
Mr. Speaker: Question, please.
Mr. Rae: Specifically with respect to the conversions from apartments to hotels, is the Premier prepared to sit down with the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing (Mr. Bennett) and close the loophole in the Planning Act to give municipalities the power to stop conversions, which are affecting literally hundreds of tenants throughout Ontario?
Hon. Mr. Davis: I really do not know how many apartment units are being converted into hotels. I know how well this province is doing in the tourist industry and the demand for hotel accommodation, because of that enthusiasm, tends to increase. I think the leader of the New Democratic Party is not so much of a theologian and so attracted to the total state domination of property ownership that he wants to preclude the rights of certain people who own land from considering having some greater use for that land if it makes economic and planning sense to do so.
With the greatest of respect, if he is talking about the Planning Act, it is really a vehicle to determine effective planning within a community. I think one might question whether or not the act should be amended to prohibit the conversion of a particular piece of property into a hotel if, in a planning sense, a hotel makes sense.
I would say to the leader of the opposition, while I know that his party does not like to see tourism expand, he does not like to see the hospitality industry increase and he does not like that dynamic in Ontario society. I am not really sure that I am quite prepared to follow the direction of his question.
Mr. Ruprecht: Mr. Speaker, the Premier will realize that in the Parkdale community, on Jameson Avenue, there are over 500 units affected. He will further realize that there are hundreds of units in Mississauga, Scarborough and North York. What I am really objecting to -- and this will be in the form of a question -- is will the Premier not undertake at least to give us a guarantee that he is prepared to push with the responsible ministers -- they are the Minister of Tourism and Recreation (Mr. Baetz), the Attorney General (Mr. McMurtry) and the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations (Mr. Elgie) -- to plug the loophole in this situation, namely the loophole which exists in three different kinds of areas? It certainly exists in the Parkdale community and other areas. We would like to get this undertaking that the Premier will stand up and tell us he is prepared to do something about this now.
Hon. Mr. Davis: I must confess I was aware of one matter of some public discussion; I think it was the Colonnade where some discussion is taking place with respect to the conversion into a hotel. I must confess that I am not as close to Mississauga as I used to be, although geographically I am very close. I really was not aware of hundreds of apartment units being converted into some large new hotel in Mississauga and I certainly am not aware that he is planning a large new hotel in the Parkdale area.
If the member is talking about conversions into some other form of residential accommodation, such as condominiums, I would say with respect that is a totally separate issue from the question of converting into a hotel. As I say, I was not familiar that the member was planning a hotel in Parkdale.
Mr. Ruprecht: I am not planning one.
Hon. Mr. Davis: I am just saying that in the broad sense of the word. The member is so close to his constituency, I thought he might be part of the process.
I am quite prepared to discuss these matters with the responsible ministers, but I do point out that this government still believes, in spite of the fact that some members do not, that owners do have some rights too. I think that is the balance we must maintain. I look at the member from Waterloo who has been trying to persuade this House for some months that there are property rights and that individual property owners do have certain rights.
Hon. Mr. Davis: If the member would talk to the member for Parkdale, he might understand.
Mr. Rae: I say to the Premier if he thinks that the conversion of apartments in Parkdale and Scarborough has anything to do with tourism, then he is even more out of touch than I thought previously.
Mr. Speaker: Question, please.
Mr. Rae: I would like to ask the Premier, how does he feel about the property rights of those apartment dwellers who are having their property taken away from them by the kind of phoney conversion that is going on, not only in Metro Toronto but in other parts of the province?
Specifically, I would like to ask the Premier, with respect to the request that has come repeatedly from the city of Toronto requesting permission from the government to control the demolition of residential property, is the government now prepared to drop its procedural roadblocks in the way of consideration of the private member's bill standing in the name of my colleague, the member for Etobicoke (Mr. Philip)? This would allow municipalities to demand some degree of responsibility from owners of apartment buildings and would recognize the rights of property and security of people who live in apartments, as much as of people who own apartments.
Hon. Mr. Davis: In spite of the tactics used by the member's predecessor, in spite of the sort of fear campaigns his party loves to conduct with some tenants' associations -- and he knows the party does it, I am very aware of it; I know what his former leader did some 20 days before the people made their determinations in 1981, and the member knows how successful it was: the party got zip as a result of it.
I would say to the leader of the New Democratic Party that this government has recognized its responsibility to the tenants of this province. Not only have we recognized it, we have done something about it. They have respected it, and the results of the last election show they respect us and trust us far more than they ever will the NDP.
Mr. Rae: I can understand why the Premier wants to go back to 1981, 1980 or 1970. Let us talk about 1983 and the future; that is what we are really concerned about. I would like to ask the Premier --
Mr. Speaker: Order. New question.
Mr. Rae: Mr. Speaker, I want to ask the Premier about the future of a very important industry in this province, and that is the automobile industry. The Premier will be aware that the federal task force reported several weeks ago, and that report appears to have fallen on deaf ears in Liberal Ottawa.
I would like to ask the Premier what steps he plans to take to regain the initiative on this question and to guarantee that those who want to sell thousands of cars in Ontario and elsewhere will at least be required to start investing in jobs in this province, so we can have a real future for the automotive industry. What initiatives does the Premier have in mind to create a real future for that industry in this province?
Hon. Mr. Davis: Mr. Speaker, I am glad the leader of the New Democratic Party asked me that question, because all of us on this side of the House took a significant step late Saturday to change Liberal Ottawa to Tory Ottawa, and that will be one of the significant fruits of it.
That may take another 12 or 18 months; I acknowledge that. It is not a process that will happen overnight.
Mr. Speaker: Now to the question, please.
Mr. Sargent: Where was the Premier then?
Hon. Mr. Welch: He was there.
Hon. Mr. Davis: I was there, in living colour. If the member had been staying home watching television, he would have seen us.
Mr. Kerrio: The Premier didn't play any politics.
Mr. Speaker: Order.
Hon. Mr. Davis: No politics at all. The honourable member raises, I think, a very important question; a question that was addressed, as he will recall, in the speech from the throne. We have had the task force now for roughly three weeks and have had, as we sense it, no constructive response yet from the government of Canada.
I was really intrigued by the task force report because I thought when the task force originally started its considerations that the likelihood of finding a consensus amongst the manufacturers, the parts people, the United Auto Workers and so on, was unlikely. I think it did represent a possible approach to this particular question.
When we talk about the auto industry, it is necessary that we understand the standpoint of the government of Canada. It does have some problems, and I acknowledge them. I acknowledge the fact that related to Japan, we still probably have something of a trade surplus -- or at least we did until the recent economic situation -- which makes it more difficult for the federal government in terms of our relationships with that country.
At the same time, I found it intriguing that in the European community, Australia and other countries, where they have trading relations with other nations, including Japan, they have been able to either restrict or demand a domestic quota.
We are in support of either having investment by manufacturers offshore in this country or of having a Canadian content policy. It is a policy we are pursuing in terms of what we may be able to do as a provincial jurisdiction. I should remind the honourable member, that while we support this in principle, it is very difficult to achieve in terms of either provincial legislation or provincial policy, because it really does come into the area of international agreements, treaties or understandings.
Mr. Rae: There is no disagreement about what is happening in Europe. There is no disagreement about what is happening in Australia. There is no disagreement about the need for an investment policy here in Canada and Ontario.
Mr. Speaker: Question, please.
Mr. Rae: The question I am asking the Premier is, will he consider an all-party initiative from this Legislature with respect to automobile content? The precedent exists with respect to the auto pact and American manufacturers.
Is the Premier prepared to initiate -- we are prepared to join in it and I am sure the members of the Liberal Party are as well -- an all-party resolution and initiative from this Legislature with respect to an industry whose future is absolutely vital to the future of employment in Ontario?
Hon. Mr. Davis: As one who has made as many if not more speeches about the vital nature of the auto sector in Ontario, the member does not really have to persuade me. If he checks the record carefully, he may find I have been making speeches on this subject even before he became leader of the provincial New Democratic Party.
I am checking out very carefully how many speeches he made on this subject in the same tenor and in the same direction while a member of the House of Commons. Our research is exhaustive but so far we have not found any. The member can correct our research. We do not have as many talented people doing research as the member does. He can tell me --
Mr. Speaker: Order.
Hon. Mr. Davis: Will the member please send me some of his speeches in the House of Commons on this subject? I know I made speeches before he came here.
I say to the leader of the NDP that I really do not think there is need for an all-party resolution because, first, I am not sure whether the Liberals would support such a resolution. I have had no indication of that. Second, I think the government of Canada is very aware of the views of this government. While I know it would be helpful to have the views of the New Democrats and the Liberals attached to it, I do not think they are oblivious to our concerns and our desire to see them take some initiatives.
Mr. Peterson: Mr. Speaker, on a point of privilege, if I may: Because I know the Premier only shows up here rarely these days, if he had showed up here he would have been aware that we are clearly in support, and indicated that they could count on our support.
Mr. Speaker: Order.
Mr. Sweeney: Mr. Speaker, the Premier will be well aware that the co-chairmen of this report, Mr. Pat Lavelle and Mr. Bob White, are both stationed in Ontario and have met with him and his colleagues numerous times, primarily because about 80 per cent of the automotive business in Canada, in manufacturing that is, is located in Ontario. The Premier will also be aware that some of the key components for the success of our competitors are such things as advanced research and development, good labour management relations and quality control.
Mr. Speaker: Question, please.
Mr. Sweeney: All of these things come under the jurisdiction of this government in this province. Let us just forget for a minute some of the relations outside.
Mr. Speaker: Question, please.
Mr. Sweeney: What is the Premier's government doing in Ontario about such things as quality control, research and development and labour management relations which will put us back in a competitive position in this province as far as the rest of the world is concerned?
Hon. Mr. Davis: If the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Peterson) checks his attendance carefully he will find he is running second, which is very typical of the political scene generally, except in a personal way he is running third. I know that is what is upsetting him. I say that very kindly, very constructively but very factually.
I ask the member for Kitchener-Wilmot where he has been for the last several months? Was he not there when the Ontario Centre for Automotive Parts Technology was opened? If he was not, I can tell him the gentleman on his left was there. He saw the initiative that was being taken.
I would say that, if he takes every single category with respect to "labour relations or union management relations", I think the legislation in this province is as good as, if not better than, most jurisdictions in the world. If the member analysed the situation carefully, I would say he would not find as the basic reason for the differential the question of "union-management relationships." There is no question: the auto worker in Japan is earning less money. There is no question about that whatsoever. The elected members in Japan are earning less than the member. That even applies to ministers of the crown and to premiers or prime ministers. There is no question there is that differential.
If the member looks at it in terms of quality control, if he checks with most of the recent publications in the auto sector, he will find that most analysts are giving North American-produced vehicles excellent ratings with respect to quality, a very appreciable change over the past two or three years. If he looks at it as a question of design, he will find the same analysts are now giving credit to the North American car industry.
What we have not yet been able to face is the fact that imported vehicles have penetrated the market. There is a tendency on the part of consumers to have some loyalty to the product. Sometimes when they buy -- I will not give a brand name -- a particular brand of automobile, there is a tendency to buy a second car of that same brand if they are satisfied with it.
Mr. Sweeney: Why?
Hon. Mr. Davis: Why? Because they like it, the same way people buy General Motors a second time. A lot of people buy American Motors, the finest car produced in Brampton, without any question.
The member's problem is he oversimplifies the problem. He thinks it can be solved by some legislative means. If he studied it carefully, he would find out that is factually not true.
Mr. Cooke: Mr. Speaker, perhaps the next time the member for Kitchener-Wilmot (Mr. Sweeney) gets up, he can explain why he drives a German car.
Mr. Speaker: Order.
Mr. Cooke: When there is a problem in the energy industry, Mr. Lougheed speaks out for the province of Alberta, or when there is a problem in the fisheries industry, Premier Peckford speaks out for the people of Newfoundland. I would like to ask the Premier what new initiatives this province intends to take to force the federal government to adopt changes in its policies on content legislation so that we in Ontario can have growth in the most important industry we have, the auto industry?
Hon. Mr. Davis: There is a tendency to oversimplify this issue. This government has made clear its concern with respect to the North American auto industry. That is really what we are talking about; it is not just the Canadian auto industry.
The reality is we are in an agreement with our friends to the south. The member does not like the agreement much and he does not like our neighbours much, but we happen to like our neighbours and we think the agreement, on balance, has been beneficial. The member cannot just isolate the auto sector in terms of this country's international relationships with other nations.
I would also say this government is considering that report very carefully. I was asked earlier f I knew Mr. Lavelle was a resident of this province. I am very familiar with the fact he is a resident of this province. He was an employee of the government of Ontario in the Paris office for some two years. We know him rather well. He is a very intelligent fellow.
Mr. Ruston: Oh, is that what he is?
Hon. Mr. Davis: He happens to be --
Mr. Speaker: Never mind the interjection.
Hon. Mr. Davis: He is misguided philosophically. He happens to be a Liberal who says so publicly. There are not many of them left.
I would say to the member, in order not to prolong the discussion, that we are assessing the report.
Mr. Speaker: The member for Ottawa East (Mr. Roy).
Mr. Speaker: Order. It must surely be the heat. The member for Ottawa East.
Mr. Roy: What do you want me to do, Mr. Speaker? I cannot help this spontaneous response.
Mr. Speaker: Ask a question, please.
Mr. Roy: I want to tell members, I have been in Ottawa keeping an eye on that gang over there.
Ms. Copps: The member for Ottawa East has been collecting the knives.
Hon. Miss Stephenson: On whom is he going to use them?
Mr. Breithaupt: He got a matched set.
Mr. T. P. Reid: We got an order from the member for Don Mills (Mr. Timbrell) and the member for St. Andrew-St. Patrick (Mr. Grossman) for all we can gather up.
Mr. Speaker: Order. The member for Sudbury East (Mr. Martel), a question -- Ottawa East, I am sorry.
Mr. Martel: I think you should withdraw that, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Speaker: Your point of order is well taken.
Mr. Roy: Mr. Speaker, I can tell you I am more insulted than he is.
CROWN EMPLOYEE AT CONSERVATIVE CONVENTION
Mr. Roy: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Premier and deals with the federal leadership convention in Ottawa. Is the Premier going to fire Roger Régimbal, a senior crown employee, chairman and president of the Council for Franco-Ontarian Affairs, who attended that convention as a delegate, took a position on behalf of a particular candidate, was seen on television, and was quoted in the press?
I will quote just a headline. I am translating, be patient with me. He said, "Mulroney est un candidat séduisant" which is, "Mulroney is a seductive candidate but I am supporting Joe Clark." That is what he said.
Mr. Speaker: I am waiting for the question.
Mr. Roy: My question very simply is --
An hon. member: Are you going to fire him?
Mr. Roy: Yes, that was the original question.
Would the Premier explain how a senior crown employee can participate in such a partisan political activity and be in breach of the Public Service Act? Clause 12(1)(c) of that act states he cannot "associate his position in the service of the crown with any political activity." Would the Premier tell us if he is going to be fired?
Hon. Mr. Davis: Mr. Speaker, I am sure the honourable member knew the answer before he asked it, but in case he did not know the answer before he asked it, and I know how he respects Mr. Régimbal as well, the answer is no.
Mr. Roy: Would the Premier explain the contradiction in the position of this government, which at one time tried to fire one of our colleagues, the member for Hamilton Mountain (Mr. Charlton), who apparently, while in the assessment office, had been involved with a political party? Would the Premier explain why it was, for instance, that the campaign manager for Mr. Crosbie, Mr. Laschinger, was asked to resign if he wanted to get involved politically?
Would the Premier explain to us how the public of this province is supposed to have confidence in the impartiality of the civil service if he allows such people as the most senior civil servant dealing with Franco-Ontarians in this province to be involved in a partisan political activity such as he was?
Would the Premier explain, if this man is still a member and participating -- for instance, I am advised that this man participated in the executive council meeting of the Conservative Party on Sunday morning -- how he can possibly justify that kind of partisan political activity on behalf of a public servant of this province?
Hon. Mr. Davis: I know it upsets the honourable member to have such a distinguished francophone representing the --
Mr. Roy: You are damned right I am upset.
Hon. Mr. Davis: Of course, the member is upset. He was upset when somebody was appointed to Brussels too. I just wish he would get upset more at the activities of people in his own party and some of the patronage things they do.
If the member will check very carefully, he will find that Roger is, in fact, appointed by order in council. I believe it is a three-year appointment. He does not fall into the same category whatsoever. The member should check it out and see.
Mr. Rae: Mr. Speaker, on this question, I would like to remind the Premier that Donald MacAlpine was fired because he spoke his mind and it ran against government policy. The concern of all of us is that there is a double standard at work in Ontario with respect to public employees.
We are not interested in anyone's head, we are simply interested in seeing that fairness applies and that there is no double standard.
Is the Premier prepared to inquire as to exactly what happened? Is he prepared to bring down guidelines for all employees of the government, whether they are under the Crown Employees Collective Bargaining Act, the Public Service Act, or order in council, in order that there will be a single standard that will apply to all people working in the public service of Ontario with respect to political activities?
Hon. Mr. Davis: Mr. Speaker, this government is very sensitive to the issue and sensitive in terms of the fact equity is being done. We are so sensitive we appointed one of the New Democratic Party leader's predecessors, twice removed, to important positions, but not as a civil servant. That is a distinction the member cannot understand.
I would say to the member, because I want the record established clearly, that John Laschinger was not asked to resign at all.
Mr. Roy: He should have been.
Hon. Mr. Davis: With great respect, if the member for Ottawa East would pay attention and listen, Mr. Laschinger came to me and said very simply: "Mr. Premier, I have appreciated the opportunity in the government of Ontario. I am resigning because I intend to conduct Mr. Crosbie's campaign." It was a simple as that.
Mr. Roy: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker, I want to advise the House that I find the Premier's answer totally inadequate and I intend to raise the matter under standing order 28 at the adjournment of the House.
Mr. Speaker: The member for Brantford (Mr. Gillies) will please restrain himself. That will be the last caution.
FATALITY AT STANROCK MINES
Mr. Wildman: Mr. Speaker, I have a serious question for the Minister of Labour regarding the recommendations of the coroner's inquest, which came down June 2, into the February 20 fatality at Stanrock mines at Elliot Lake. Claude Lecourz, a contract worker employed by Canadian Mine Enterprises, was killed when he was crushed between two scoop trams in February.
Does the minister intend to order the implementation of the following recommendations of the coroner's jury: specifically that all underground equipment operators be in direct communication with one another; that if all operators do not have visual contact with the leader, a second point man be brought in for the particular operation; and that underground towing procedures be developed and followed by all mine operators?
Hon. Mr. Ramsay: Mr. Speaker, I am well aware of that very tragic accident but thus far I have not had an opportunity to study the coroner's report. Once I have done that, and I assure the member I will do it at the earliest opportunity, I will be able to respond to him in more detail.
Mr. Wildman: While the minister is investigating, could he find out, and explain to the House, why his ministry did not act on a recommendation of a company union report on unusual occurrences in September 1982 that involved an accident when towing was being done, which stated that there should be development of a towing procedure policy and that all workers involved in such procedures be notified and trained?
This recommendation was made a full five months before Mr. Lecourz's tragic accident. Basically, why did the ministry not intervene after that report, rather than waiting until after a fatal accident? Could Mr. Lecourz's accident not have been prevented?
Hon. Mr. Ramsay: The member is making a rather serious allegation. I would like to have an opportunity to look into it further and respond in complete detail because, as I say, it is an allegation that on the surface I am not prepared to accept.
ASSISTANCE TO FARMERS
Mr. Watson: Mr. Speaker, I have a question of the Minister of Agriculture and Food. In view of the budget announcement by the Treasurer (Mr. F. S. Miller) of the beginning farmers program, would the minister advise the Legislature of the status of this program?
Hon. Mr. Timbrell: Mr. Speaker, I had hoped to announce all of the details of the program within the last week. There have been some last-minute hitches in finalizing the details, but I can tell the member the program will be effective from the date of the budget. A number of members have asked me about it and I can assure them it will be effective on deals closed on or after May 10, 1983, the date of the budget. I will announce all of the details as soon as possible.
Mr. Riddell: Mr. Speaker, has the minister revealed any information at all on this proposal of his? If not, how is it that the Farm Credit Corp. is advising farmers now that they either would qualify or would not qualify as a beginning farmer? In other words, some of the young fellows who have been renting land and who are now in the process of closing the deal with Farm Credit Corp. are being advised by the corporation that they will not qualify for the program by virtue of the fact that they happened to rent a little land last year or the year before. How are the FCC getting information and we are not getting it in this House?
Hon. Mr. Timbrell: Certainly, Mr. Speaker, we have been having discussions with the Farm Credit Corp., but nobody is authorized to give details to anybody at this point until it is announced by me.
Mr. Swart: Mr. Speaker, recognizing the delay in the announcement of this program for more than a year now, will the minister give us an assurance that he will make the full details available to this House before it rises?
Hon. Mr. Timbrell: Mr. Speaker, that is not entirely in my hands. I need the co-operation of another gentleman in another place. Assuming I get that, I will give out those details as soon as possible, hopefully before the House rises.
FIGHTING ISLAND RECLAMATION PROJECT
Mr. Elston: Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the Minister of the Environment concerning the Fighting Island reclamation tests. His ministry issued two permits in August 1981 to Snell Environmental Group allowing 600 tons of Detroit sludge to be transported to Fighting Island for the purpose of a pilot project to assess the use of between 80 and 270 tons per day of Detroit sludge to grow vegetation on the island.
What factors did the ministry consider when issuing the permit? Does the minister feel the pilot project will be sufficient to provide him with information adequate enough to go through the environmental assessment process?
Hon. Mr. Norton: Mr. Speaker, it seems to me that is a very strange question. It is not what I would regard as a substantive question, but rather one which just asks me to stand here and speculate. I am not prepared to do that. How could I possibly know whether the pilot project which is being conducted to determine the viability or feasibility of the project will be sufficient'? I do not know that. That is why it is being done -- to try to determine that.
As far as the specific considerations that were brought to bear by the technical staff of my ministry in deciding to approve the project, again I could get information for the member as to how the assessment was done and relate that to him, but I do not have it at my fingertips.
Mr. Elston: You will know, Mr. Speaker, that the Minister of the Environment has agreed to consider the acceptance of US sludge on Fighting Island. I want to advise the minister that the people from Environment Canada in Ottawa have indicated that the pilot project by Snell appears to be too simplistic to come up with the information.
Mr. Speaker: Question, please.
Mr. Elston: How is the minister going to resolve the sort of problem set out by Environment Canada officials who say the program is not sophisticated enough to provide the adequate data so that he will be assured adequate information is available to ensure a sensible decision is made with respect to the assessment program?
Hon. Mr. Norton: The staff from Environment Canada are in regular communication with the staff of my ministry on an ongoing basis. It would seem to me, if that is the case and if they have not already done so, the responsible thing to do would be to communicate that information to my staff or, if they choose, directly to the city of Detroit or its consultants or whoever is directly conducting the assessment of that project in order to ensure that whatever modifications they are recommending be taken into consideration before the pilot project is completed.
Mr. Di Santo: Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the Minister of Energy. Why did the government disregard the opinion of the Ontario Energy Board which in 1982 concurred with Donald Rogers, the board's legal counsel, and questioned the fact that the system expansion is excluded from the rate reference in the annual review of the rates, in view of the fact that the system expansion has a direct impact on the revenue requirement as well as on the cost allowance and the rate that creates? Can he explain why the government has totally disregarded the advice of the Ontario Energy Board?
Hon. Mr. Welch: Mr. Speaker, the Ontario Energy Board is at present hearing the application of Ontario Hydro with respect to its requirements in order to establish the bulk rate for 1984. I am not sure I really understand whether or not the member feels somewhat limited in what he -- is he planning to make some representations before the board?
Mr. Di Santo: I would like to refer the minister to the report of the Ontario Energy Board in 1982, and bring to his attention that the Ontario Energy Board says the capital expansion should be reviewed annually before the rates are reviewed at regular hearings because there is a direct impact on the rates that are set.
In view of the fact the government has disregarded what the Ontario Energy Board suggested, can the minister at least tell us that in future there will be separate hearings on the capital expansion of Ontario Hydro, as the board recommends, so that when we have the annual hearings for the rates we will know what the impact will be of the capital costs on the rates that are set? Many citizens know their rates are increased, but they do not know that much of that increase is the result of mismanagement and the expansion of Ontario Hydro over which, I think, not even the government has control.
Hon. Mr. Welch: Perhaps I have a better idea of the question. That whole matter with respect to its capital expansion and the future development is left with the board, to respond to its mandate with respect to the provision. The Ontario Energy Board Act itself makes reference to those issues which go before the board for public review.
Mr. Kerrio: Mr. Speaker, Ontario Hydro does not have to go through the environmental hearings and when there was province-wide bargaining it did not have to go through the same process as private contractors. In many other instances, Ontario Hydro is not subject to the same rules as private companies.
In view of this, when are the minister and the government going to insist that when Ontario Hydro appears before the Ontario Energy Board it will have to comply with anything the energy board asks for and, in the final analysis, also stay within whatever the energy board decides would be a reasonable increase in its rates?
Hon. Mr. Welch: Mr. Speaker, I do not think the member has been very accurate in the preamble. The private sector is not obliged to go through environmental assessment, as the member knows; Ontario Hydro is, unless otherwise exempted. There are environmental assessments going on with respect to a number of matters, unless it is otherwise exempted.
The member also knows the ultimate decision with respect to the establishment of the rates rests with Hydro. Its obligation is to provide electricity to its customers in this province at the lowest possible cost consistent with good business practice. However, by the amendment to the act, the government has made it necessary for Hydro to have its revenue requirements publicly reviewed. That is the process now, with the ultimate decision still resting with Hydro.
NOTICE OF DISSATISFACTION
Mr. Speaker: I would like to advise all members that the member for Ottawa East (Mr. Roy) has given notice of his dissatisfaction with the answer given by the Premier (Mr. Davis) to a question concerning the political activities of Mr. Régimbal. This matter will be debated at 10:30 this evening.
CLOSURE OF FACILITIES FOR DEVELOPMENTALLY HANDICAPPED
Mr. Riddell: Mr. Speaker, I wish to present a petition to the Lieutenant Governor on behalf of hundreds of people who are very much concerned about the government's proposal to close the centres for the developmentally handicapped. The petition reads:
"We the undersigned, as taxpayers and concerned citizens of the counties of Huron, Elgin, Oxford and Middlesex, call upon the government of this province to rescind the closures of Bluewater, Goderich and the St. Thomas Adult Rehabilitation and Training Centre. The closure of these centres will destroy all hope of recovery and assimilation into the community for the many developmentally handicapped individuals who are totally dependent upon these facilities' care and assistance for their every need and want.
"To economize at the direct expense of those who are unable to speak for themselves is cruel and heartless and we call upon Mr. Davis and Mr. Drea to reconsider."
This petition was signed by 1,018 people, bringing the total number of people signing petitions from this area to 9,777.
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS
EMPLOYMENT STANDARDS AMENDMENT ACT
Hon. Mr. Ramsay moved, seconded by Hon. G. W. Taylor, first reading of Bill 68, An Act to amend the Employment Standards Act.
Motion agreed to.
Hon. Mr. Ramsay: Mr. Speaker, any introductory remarks I would care to make were already made in my statement before question period.
INCO LIMITED ACQUISITION ACT
Mr. Martel moved, seconded by Mr. Foulds, first reading of Bill 69, An Act to Acquire the Assets of Inco Ltd.
Motion agreed to.
Mr. Martel: Mr. Speaker, I tried to get the Treasurer (Mr. F. S. Miller) to second this bill because he is in the habit of purchasing things. I thought he should join with me since he bought Suncor and Minaki.
Mr. Rotenberg: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order: Can we consider a bill to spend money that does not come with the support of the Lieutenant Governor in Council? Is that bill not out of order coming from someone who is not a minister?
Mr. Speaker: That does not have anything to do with the bill.
Mr. Martel: It is time the member learned the rules. We are not debating it yet.
The purpose of the bill is to vest the title and control of the assets situated in Inco Ltd. in a crown corporation, the Ontario Nickel Corp. If compensation cannot be agreed upon, provision is made for arbitration. The object of the Ontario Nickel Corp. includes the task of operating and maintaining the assets of Inco Ltd. so as to provide employment and other economic benefits to Ontario.
An hon. member: With the member for Sudbury East as president.
Mr. Martel: I have just become president.
EDUCATION AMENDMENT ACT
Mr. Martel moved, seconded by Mr. Foulds, first reading of Bill 70, An Act to amend the Education Act.
Mr. Rotenberg: Are you going to nationalize the schools too?
Mr. Martel: No, we have already done that.
Motion agreed to.
Mr. Martel: Mr. Speaker, I hope I can get the attention of the Minister of Education (Miss Stephenson) with respect to the purpose of this bill. Its purpose is to authorize the apportionment of school rates between public and separate schools in the case of a mixed marriage where the husband and wife own or lease rateable property jointly.
ORDER OF BUSINESS
Hon. Mr. Wells: Mr. Speaker, I would like to indicate to the House that there has been a change in the order for today.
We will proceed first with Bill 58 and then this afternoon go to Bill 66, An Act to amend the Workers' Compensation Act, the reason being that the standing committee on resources development is meeting tonight to consider the Weiler report. Therefore, it would not be appropriate to do the Workers' Compensation Board bill in the House tonight. Tonight we will do Bill 62, An Act to amend the Labour Relations Act.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
MUNICIPAL AMENDMENT ACT
Hon. Mr. Bennett moved second reading of Bill 58, An Act to amend the Municipal Act.
Hon. Mr. Bennett: Mr. Speaker, this bill will make changes to the parking, traffic and mobile sign provisions of the Municipal Act that relate to handicapped persons. Under the existing legislation, municipalities are able to issue permits to handicapped persons or persons who transport the handicapped and to confer special stopping, standing and parking privileges for handicapped persons. Municipalities are also able to require owners of parking lots to provide space for the handicapped.
The bill will entitle the holder of a provincial disabled symbol licence plate to the same parking and traffic privileges as a person with a municipal permit. In addition, the bill will enable the municipalities to recognize the handicapped permits of other jurisdictions.
These amendments are in response to requests from handicapped individuals and associations and follow the introduction of the provincial disabled symbol licence plate that is now issued upon request to the disabled driver or persons transporting physically disabled passengers.
The second issue dealt with in this bill is the regulation of mobile signs and the companies providing them. Under the bill, municipalities will be given the authority to license, regulate and govern persons carrying on the business of leasing mobile signs. This licensing authority would be similar to the licensing authority municipalities already have over other businesses specified in the Municipal Act.
I wish to indicate that the Association of Municipalities of Ontario has had an opportunity to review both sections of this act and is in agreement with them.
Mr. Epp: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to be able to speak to this bill and to indicate from the outset that our party will be supporting it. Before I get into the bill, I want to commend the minister for being here today to deal with this bill during second reading. I think it is the first time in some years that he has been here for second reading of a bill.
Hon. Mr. Bennett: Where were you the other night?
Mr. Epp: Was the minister here the other night? I am sorry, I missed that. I guess that was put on the agenda at the last minute for the minister's convenience and so I missed it. Obviously I did not have the opportunity to commend him at that time for being present and I surely would not want to miss this opportunity today.
Hon. Mr. Bennett: That is great. I am delighted the member is here today too.
Mr. Epp: It is a mutual admiration society obviously.
As I indicated, we do want to support this bill, but we feel it does not go far enough. We notice the bill indicates that the municipalities that have passed the bylaw will then have to honour those permits, licence plates or whatever from other parts of the province when handicapped people come in to use those facilities.
However, it is my feeling and that of my colleagues that there should be some obligation on the part of the municipalities to provide parking for the handicapped when they come into the municipalities.
As we know, this bylaw has been passed by a number of municipalities across the province and they do make facilities available, as my own municipality and a lot of others do. But there are still hundreds of municipalities that do not make handicapped parking available, and it is our feeling that everyone who has to avail himself of parking in an area, and then has to transport himself some distance to where he really wants to go, is in a most unfortunate situation, particularly where he has to go upstairs and so forth.
So if the city or the municipality, whether it is a village, a town or whatever it may be, were to make sufficient spots available at crucial places where there is a lot of parking taking place, and where individuals may have to go into a plaza or something of this nature, I think they would appreciate it.
Later on we will be introducing an amendment to this bill which I hope the government will accept. I will send a copy to the minister and to the third party so they can take a look at it. We will address that point a little later when the bill goes into committee of the whole.
There has been a lot of confusion with respect to the mobile signs, particularly for the municipalities which have had to pass different bylaws in order to accommodate them. As we know, the mobile sign companies have worked with the municipalities to work out the bug, so to speak, to avoid blocking traffic. These various signs are put on main streets, sometimes at busy intersections, and they often distract people when they are driving down the street.
In fact, there have been occasions when accidents have occurred because mobile signs were in very inopportune places. With the introduction of this legislation the municipalities will now be able to pass the necessary amendments so they can more closely regulate mobile signs, and I think this is a step in the right direction.
We support the legislation both with respect to handicapped people and with respect to signs, but we do not think the legislation with respect to the handicapped goes far enough and we will be introducing an amendment to make it, we hope, more acceptable to the members of this Legislature and to the public generally.
Mr. Breaugh: Mr. Speaker, we will support the bill. It is a bit of a tragedy, though, that on something on which I thought there would be ready agreement, such as trying to provide some parking for handicapped people that makes it a little more possible for them to use facilities such as shopping centres, libraries and other public and private buildings, it has been such an awkward route for the government to follow to make it actually happen.
Members are aware that this government has moved with glacial speed to take a very simple concept, which is to make it more convenient for someone who is handicapped and makes use of institutions and buildings of different kinds to have access to them. The simple concept is that perhaps someone could recognize that this vehicle is transporting someone who is handicapped, and it should not be too difficult to set aside some parking spaces that might be close to a ramp, exit or entrance and designate them as such.
But it has taken, if my memory serves me correctly, something like four or five years to get this government to respond in some concrete way, and I wish I could say that this bill will now make it happen. Unfortunately, it will not, and it is to the discredit of some different levels of government.
For example, here the Minister of Transportation and Communications (Mr. Snow) finally gets around to figuring out how he will put a little marker on a licence plate that designates something as a vehicle that is being used by the handicapped. Other levels of government are not too sure whether they can figure out if that really is a vehicle that should use a parking space designated for a handicapped person's vehicle. With all the talent and resources that governments have these days, these simple notions seem to elude them, and elude them with great regularity.
In this instance of trying to provide some reasonable access to public and private buildings for people who are being transported about in vehicles, it is not so difficult that I cannot recognize there is some designation that handicapped people use that vehicle. It seems to me to be a relatively simple thing. There are a number of techniques that are used. The argument, again, is whose designation is going to be the official designation. I hope all that stupidity will cease.
I think there is a relatively simple, sane concept at work here. The fact that governments have fallen all over themselves trying to implement it for a three-year or four-year period should really be to the shame of all levels of government; that it would take all those bureaucrats who work for various levels of government that long to screw up thoroughly a very simple and sane notion. I hope we will deal with this bill this afternoon rather quickly, that we will come to agreement on it in short order and it will be supported.
The second part of the bill deals with something we have seen before. I think I would be remiss this afternoon if I did not mention the ill-fated Bill 11, the great licensing bill, another example of stupidity in government, which rolled through the Association of Municipalities of Ontario, through this Legislature and part way through a committee of the Legislature, looking at the question of the ability of municipalities to license.
We are seeing this afternoon a couple of the bits and pieces of that ability to license, to designate, to regulate. We are not seeing Bill 11, which finally addressed itself to the concept of whether a municipality could license something like a mobile sign business, whether it could make bylaws and regulations about setback, size and what kind of mobile sign there could be. We went through this exercise once before, and came to the conclusion that we ought to straighten out the whole field of what a municipality can license or regulate; in particular, what kind of business it can regulate.
It seems to me I heard in the debate, when Bill 11 was going through here, that the time had come to end the stupidity about saying that municipalities could license certain kinds of business but not others; that every time a new type of business was formed and became public in a community, give it two or three years and the Legislature of Ontario would get around to saying that the municipality could legislate; in this case, not against, but legislate to regulate a mobile sign business.
In the meantime -- I suppose this phenomenon has gone on for another four or five years in Ontario -- a new venture crops up and becomes public in most of our communities. Most of our people on municipal councils have pointed out that it is a business like any other, that nobody has any great objection to mobile signs but problems occur when somebody sticks a four-by-eight illuminated sign on a busy intersection and drivers of vehicles going in each direction cannot see each other, when it obliterates stop signs and traffic signals, when it goes across a sidewalk; in other words, where a new industry creeps up and not everybody uses a great deal of good, old-fashioned common sense.
Municipalities have tried to find some means of getting some fairness into the industry, and some common sense into the process itself. This bill will provide municipalities with the clear, legal opportunity to do that. In our discussions on Bill 11, for example, people -- there is not one great mobile sign organization, but there is a group of people within that industry who have formed a bit of an organization -- came before the committee and made a very logical and lucid argument that they were business people and were asking for regulation.
It is a little unusual to have business people come before a committee of the Legislature and beg for legislation that will allow someone to set up more laws and regulations about their industry. Most businessmen, such as one would normally find at a chamber of commerce meeting, would be quick off the mark to say there is too much regulation. Yet it seems every time we turn around there is another business group in here saying, as these people did: "We are a new business. If some order is not put into the business environment, we are all going to go nuts. We will all go out of business."
These mobile sign operators were before a committee of the Legislature and said: "We need a little hit of regulation here. We need to have some guidelines so that we can operate a reasonable business." They were, in fact, begging that committee to support Bill 11 to see that some sanity was put into the marketplace.
Again, I do not think we can take a whole lot of credit because that exercise took place here last year and, for the better part of a year, absolutely nothing has happened. It is rather a condemnation of the government process in Ontario that it has taken us the better part of a year.
I will bet there is not a member of the Legislature here who is going to stand up this afternoon and give a great counter-argument against this part of this bill. I would think that if not all, then at least the vast majority of the members here recognize this as the sensible thing to do, just as we recognized it more than a year ago when we had second reading debate on Bill 11. It has taken the government almost the better part of a year to do anything about it.
We will support both ideas that are contained in Bill 58. I will be interested to see the amendment proposed by the Liberal Party. It would have been nice to see it before we began the debate. Although the rules of the House do not exactly specify that, a little bit of common politeness would indicate that if a member was placing an amendment, he would like someone else to vote for or against it. It would be nifty, if I can put it that way, if we could all see exactly what the amendment is before the debate began.
Mr. Kennedy: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak for a moment on this bill, which I am very happy to support. As the members know, I have had during a couple of sessions a private member's bill advocating parking for the handicapped on a universal basis. The bill I have in place now, Bill 22, goes considerably further than this bill before us.
The bill proposed by the minister is certainly heading in the right direction. It deals with a couple of specific points. Mine, in effect, departs from the principle of this one, and goes much further. Basically, it provides that we have mandatory parking facilities for the handicapped across the province.
I appreciate receiving the comments of the members opposite here today. As well, I listened to the comments of the member for Waterloo North (Mr. Epp), who spoke about a month ago. The member for Halton-Burlington (Mr. J. A. Reed) also made some reference to this need.
I think the bill proposes a very efficient way to have a handicapped person's vehicle identified. It will have this added power attached that will allow a car with that designation to park in certain places. There is a problem, though, if a nonhandicapped person takes a handicapped person to shop, to a medical centre or to an area where parking is needed for whatever reason. Then, of course, that person's car would not have that designation on it.
One of the points in the bill I proposed that I hope could be addressed further down the road, and indeed this could complement or supplement what is proposed in this bill, is that the nonhandicapped person could be issued by the municipality with a plastic card of some description that would identify that the person being conveyed, regardless of the conveyance, is a handicapped person and needs this easy access.
With those few remarks, I am certainly in support of this bill. I know those who are affected will most definitely be pleased that this gives some added weight to their ability to park. We could round this out by ensuring there is an identification of some sort that could go to the handicapped person, whereby that person could be conveyed to the place he or she may wish to go and ensure there is convenient access. It would make all the difference in the world if that person were able to enjoy the authority that could be granted through that method.
I commend that to the minister. It may not fall within this ministry to do that but, on the other hand, maybe it would. I am not concerned where it comes from, but I advocate strongly that further steps be taken to accommodate handicapped persons.
Mr. Kerrio: Mr. Speaker, I rise to support the bill. I just have one concern in relation to it. Before I put that on the record, I would like to say it is a nice feeling to participate in this kind of bill with all members, of course, supporting the bill to be of service to the handicapped. I hear on all sides a willingness to improve the bill to make it more practical so we can convenience people who have a handicap.
In that vein, I have one concern. Many times I have seen, and I am sure many members of the Legislature have also seen, places that have been designated for handicapped persons not being available to the handicapped. It is really disturbing to go into a supermarket or hospital parking lot, wherever there are handicapped-designated parking places, and find people who are perfectly capable of parking somewhere else taking those places.
I therefore recommend to the minister that somehow we make certain that the places designated are available to the individuals, and that there is some deterrent for anyone who violates such a place. It may be we should go on a basis of very personal involvement with people who would abuse that privilege, and have them be of some service to the handicapped for a while to see the great distress caused to those people who cannot park in places designated for their use.
With that one thought in mind which concerns me, I hope the minister might consider it and make certain those places are available to handicapped persons.
Mr. Samis: Mr. Speaker, I want to speak briefly in support of the bill. I am rather disappointed the minister would have to resort to such legislation. The rather excessive, petty and parochial attitude of certain municipalities is almost staggering.
I remember when the bill was originally introduced by the Minister of Transportation and Communications, we all thought it was a solution to the problem and everybody would automatically and immediately, without question, recognize its jurisdiction and its authority. Then all these problems started cropping up in Metropolitan Toronto and in different municipalities.
I am amazed that municipal figures could not overcome their petty parochialism and recognize the jurisdiction of the provincial licence plates. Obviously that has not worked out, so I congratulate the minister for introducing this piece of legislation.
I only had a glance at the amendment presented by the member for Waterloo North and I am not sure I am convinced. It strikes me as being somewhat bizarre. I have not had a chance to read it in detail, but my first impression is we have to go beyond this.
I do want to make a point: If we pass the bill as is, some provision should be made for some form of public education once it is passed so people will recognize and respect that designation. My colleague the member for Niagara Falls (Mr. Kerrio) has related the aggravation involved when one sees somebody using these spots improperly. Although clearly designated for somebody who has the proper licence plate, some people muscle in on them.
I hope the municipalities, along with the province, will embark upon some sort of public education to make the nonhandicapped, the privileged, realize what that licence plate means, what rights are attached to that designation, and to respect them fully.
Beyond that, I will support the bill.
Mr. Newman: Mr. Speaker, I rise to support the bill. I can recall raising this issue in this Legislature well over 10 years ago. I suggested to the ministry, and it happened to be the Ministry of Transportation and Communications at that time, that there should be some identification with which a vehicle transporting a handicapped person could be marked, and selected parking locations for that vehicle, so the driver of the vehicle would not have to transport a handicapped individual too great a distance.
I have noticed that many of the jurisdictions in the United States do have that provision: I have seen that myself in some of the states. I think it is a forward step on the part of government today to be implementing a procedure to assist the handicapped. I just wonder why it took so long for the government to act in this instance. It certainly does leave me with the impression that the government was not as concerned as it could have been in the past, but I will let bygones be bygones.
I am pleased we now have this legislation that will permit the handicapped a little easier access to the places to which they want to be transported.
Mr. G. I. Miller: Mr. Speaker, I too would like to speak in favour of the bill that is being brought forward. I would like to mention an example I have had in respect to a handicapped person in my riding. He came to me with a ticket he had received for parking in Hamilton; he resided in Dunnville. Because he used a space for the handicapped in Hamilton, he received a parking ticket. I was amazed to find that out. I thought parking spots for the handicapped were for any handicapped persons in Ontario regardless of where they came from, but apparently that is not so.
I hope this bill will correct that so that anyone who is handicapped can utilize parking spaces for the handicapped without fear of receiving parking violation tickets. Perhaps the minister can clarify if that will be so when this bill comes into effect.
Mr. Bradley: Mr. Speaker, when we see legislation such as this come to the Ontario Legislature, as a result no doubt of inquiries and complaints that are received, it is an indication of a response of the government to the kinds of representations it gets from these groups.
Some of us live in municipalities that have had this problem for some time. I recall back in the days when I was an alderman on St. Catharines city council, the members of council frowned a little even on such things as cutting down the curbs a bit so people could go from sidewalk to sidewalk. It was felt by some in the engineering department of various municipalities across this province that if the curbs were cut down, it would be easier for vehicles to jump them and more dangerous for the handicapped and others.
Most of us have put aside those concerns. It is amazing, when talking to a particular group or audience, the number of people who have some physical handicap and who require some special designation in terms of licence plates and stickers.
The movement on the part of many municipalities, businesses and shopping plazas towards providing special spaces is something very few in this province would quarrel with. This bill is a further extension of that because we are finding now, with this more enlightened attitude, with some technical innovations taking place. more and more people with a physical handicap are travelling, not just within their own municipalities but independently from municipality to municipality. It seems very sensible that we recognize those designated licence plates -- and I think the designation of the licence plate is a very positive step -- as a permit from one municipality to another.
This is the kind of legislation that deserves the rapid approval of members of this House, and I think the amendment that the member for Waterloo North, the Liberal critic of Municipal Affairs and Housing, is going to place will strengthen the bill further. I hope the minister will evaluate it carefully and will be prepared to give consideration to the implementation of that amendment.
I strongly support this bill. I think that, more and more, we have to look for ways in which we can assist those who are physically handicapped, who start out with a strike against them in competition in our society. Many of them would not look at it this way, but they have that disadvantage. When we think of the number of people in our society who are assisted and whom taxpayers in the province feel should not be assisted, in other words, those for whom it is difficult to muster much sympathy because they are able-bodied and have the wherewithal to compete successfully in our society but do not do so, we find a lot of resentment among taxpayers at assisting those people.
We find absolutely no resentment at the kind of assistance that is provided in the form of sensible legislation to assist the physically and mentally handicapped, and I commend to the members of the Legislature the support of this bill and any amendments that might improve it.
Mr. Conway: Is Bradley looking for something in St. Catharines?
Hon. Mr. Bennett: He must be. Maybe a new court, named for himself.
Mr. Speaker, I want first of all to say to all members who have addressed themselves to Bill 58 that I appreciate their interest and concern for the handicapped in this province, as does the government.
I should respond, first of all, to the situation the member for Haldimand-Norfolk (Mr. G. I. Miller) spoke of. If the bill passes, if the community an individual comes from has a handicapped person's permit or if an individual has a licence plate from the province indicating that his vehicle is used for the transportation of the handicapped, and if he is in a community where parking privileges are extended to the handicapped, then that vehicle would be permitted to park without penalty, regardless of where it happens to come from.
The first thing in the bill is the fact that we are encouraging municipalities to act, and I want to say to the member for Waterloo North that it has not been our intention to try to come down with an iron hand. I believe members elected at the municipal level are as sensitive to this issue as are the people in this Legislature; I have no doubt about that. Many municipalities have already implemented bylaws to provide privileges to the handicapped for parking and in other areas where vehicles are entertained.
I suggest to the member for Waterloo North that what he really says in the amendment he is offering is that he does not have much faith that municipalities will follow the course of action this province is indicating, that they will have some resistance. If the member looks at the municipalities that have already implemented provisions for handicapped parking, they are rather numerous; indeed, they are the major metropolitan or municipal areas in the province.
I have a feeling, as the member for Cornwall (Mr. Samis) has said, that there are opportunities for us through the Association of Municipalities of Ontario, through the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing and with the municipalities themselves -- indeed, it could even be in conjunction with the organizations for the handicapped -- to promote the wisdom of bringing forward bylaws at the municipal level to provide parking privileges for the handicapped.
I also think it is important not only that the privileges be extended but also that we try to indicate clearly to people travelling into a community that the privileges are there, that there are provisions for the handicapped in that community and they should keep their eyes peeled for those facilities.
The member for Niagara Falls raises a very good point. I do not think anybody can deny that he has been in a shopping plaza or in other public places where parking spots for the handicapped are located and has seen a vehicle that is not marked with a local permit providing for parking for the handicapped or indicating a handicapped person is parked there. I suggest to the members that one can go only so far in designating spots for the handicapped.
I think it would be wrong for this province to try to implement some kind of penalty, although I would not hesitate to say to municipalities -- and I am sure some of them have implemented it -- that there are penalties to be paid by individuals who abuse the privilege we are extending to handicapped people. If they do not abide by the rules and regulations, it is not any different in this case than it would be in any other case where they are forbidden to park, and the penalty should be paid. Whether we can get into the service to the community through the handicapped association or some of those other things is something I think is a little beyond the jurisdiction of a legislature; indeed, it would be that of a court system and not of this area of responsibility.
I emphasize once again that we have tried to approach it very sensibly, in conjunction with the Association of Municipalities of Ontario and others. As members will recall, when the Minister of Transportation and Communications introduced the bill relating to the handicapped licence plate he said we would impress its importance upon municipalities. At that time the minister did send out to every municipality a model bylaw to facilitate the provision of parking spaces for the handicapped in their communities.
It is my intention in the passing of this bill to do several things. First, we will write to municipalities to indicate that we have had a further extension of the legislation, describing exactly what it will do. Any municipality that has handicapped privileges now must honour other jurisdictions or municipalities that have also extended the same privileges to the handicapped in their community.
Mr. Newman: Including Americans?
Hon. Mr. Bennett: At the moment, sir, we only have the legislative power, I believe, to deal with --
Mr. Newman: At least extend that courtesy to the Americans.
Hon. Mr. Bennett: I suppose the provision of a permit, that is, a sticker or a symbol, that indicates the vehicle is transporting handicapped persons can be extended.
The second important thing we want to look at is, if the province issues a licence plate indicating that a vehicle is for handicapped persons, that privilege must be honoured in every municipality that has provisions for the handicapped.
Third, and I want to repeat myself on this particular situation, we want to indicate that municipalities should get on with the drafting of their bylaw, and we will indicate what we think is a model bylaw they should have.
Fourth, there is the opportunity to make people coming into a community aware of the provisions there are in that community, and that is very important.
I say again to the member for Waterloo North that I have a great deal of faith that the municipalities, upon being presented with the passing of this bill and the various other things that have happened, will take it upon themselves. I believe, and I think the member would have to agree, municipal councillors are as knowledgeable as people in this Legislature and are likely closer to the subject on a day-to-day basis. Indeed, I think they will move very quickly to make sure the bylaws are in place.
Obviously, in some communities it will not be necessary, because there are no provisions or regulations relating to parking anyway. But in those communities that do have provisions for parking, where it is not permitted or provided, I am sure they will move very quickly to honour the responsibilities they have at the municipal level.
I really do not believe, if I can speak just for a moment to the amendment, that it is essential to go through the process of the provisions of the amendment offered by the member for Waterloo North and put a further obligation on the municipal board to get into the position of drafting bylaws for municipalities to make certain things happen. I really have great confidence that the municipal people in this province know what is truly a responsibility. As long as this government communicates to them what has happened in this Legislature as to the provisions, I believe they will take that responsibility seriously and move to find an opportunity to put the bylaw in place.
Let me speak for a moment on the second part of Bill 58 which relates to mobile signs. I think the member for Oshawa (Mr. Breaugh) has clearly indicated there had to be some provision for licensing, basically because they can put some regulations in place. Until now, there seemed to be constant argument between the Sign Association of Canada and various municipalities, some doubting very much whether the municipality had the legal right to restrict the placement of mobile signs. Some municipalities that allowed for mobile signs were not quite sure they really had the legal right to allow them to be placed on boulevards, strips and various other locations.
Some municipalities found no provisions to restrict the unsafe location of these mobile signs, which the member for Waterloo North (Mr. Epp) and others referred to this afternoon. With the licensing provisions provided here, they will be able to regulate the location of mobile signs. It is a business like any other. I do not disagree with the member for Oshawa, save and except there is a slight difference in as much as the product they have is moved from location to location and we are not always able to control the exact point at which they are going to place them on the property to which the advertisement relates.
We have reviewed this bill with the Association of Municipalities of Ontario and various others. It would appear to fill both their requirements and those of the Sign Association of Canada. I move second reading of Bill 58 and thank the members for their support. I trust it will serve the handicapped of this province well.
Motion agreed to.
Bill ordered for committee of the whole House.
House in committee of the whole.
MUNICIPAL AMENDMENT ACT
Consideration of Bill 58, An Act to amend the Municipal Act.
The Deputy Chairman: What section should we begin with?
Mr. Epp: Why don't we try section 1?
Mr. Martel: We could do it backwards.
The Deputy Chairman: We could begin at the back, but we will begin at the front.
The Deputy Chairman: It is not a convention for a bunch of politicians.
Mr. Kerrio: Did you hear what the Speaker said about the heat?
The Deputy Chairman: I did not mention any partisan politics, any political conventions. Let us proceed.
On section 1:
Mr. Epp: Mr. Chairman, I am cognizant of what the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing has said, and I respectfully disagree with him when it comes to a number of matters, as I disagree with him on the need for this amendment. He is as much aware as I and other members of the Legislature are of the fact I have often championed the autonomy of municipalities, and I continue to do so.
If he really believed totally in the autonomy of municipalities, he would let them do whatever they wished to do whenever they wished to do it, and that would be it. He does not do that. He introduces legislation in this Legislature from time to time which restricts the actions of municipalities. He sees that as being a necessary matter and we see it as being necessary from time to time. This is one of the times it might be helpful to introduce an amendment to section 1, providing we are going to take section 1 first, then section 2 and section 3.
In introducing this amendment, I want to remind the minister of Bill 22 which is under the name of the member for Mississauga South (Mr. Kennedy) which deals with this amendment and which essentially proposes what I have proposed. I do not think I have yet seen the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing come into this Legislature and block a private member's bill that has been introduced by one of his colleagues. I do not even recall him voting against a bill that has been introduced by one of his colleagues.
If he agrees with the bill his colleague from Mississauga South introduced on April 26, 1983, if he is going to carry out what he has just said and if he is going to be true to himself in that respect, then when Bill 22 comes forward he will either play hookey that day, which is most likely, or he will come in and vote for the bill. Using his prerogative as a member of this Legislature, I doubt very much he would stand up in this House and speak against that provision of the bill introduced by the member for Mississauga South.
The Deputy Chairman: Perhaps the honourable member should move the amendment, then we will know what he is speaking to.
Mr. Epp: I will move the amendment.
The Deputy Chairman: Mr. Epp moves that section 1 of the bill be amended by adding thereto the following subsection:
(3) The said paragraph 119 is further amended by adding thereto the following clause:
(c) Where, upon the application of a physically handicapped person, a municipality refuses or neglects to pass a bylaw under this paragraph or paragraph 150 within 90 days of the receipt of the application by the clerk of the municipality, the applicant may appeal to the Ontario Municipal Board and the board shall hear the appeal and dismiss the same or direct that the bylaw be passed, with or without amendments, in accordance with its order and, in considering an appeal under this paragraph, the board shall consider as relevant factors: (1) the needs of the physically handicapped person; (2) the availability of off-street parking; (3) the safety of other users of the highways; and (4) such other matters as the board considers relevant.
Mr. Epp further moves that subsection 1(3) of the bill be renumbered as subsection 1(4).
Mr. Breaugh: Mr. Chairman, on a point of order before we get too far into this debate: I have had an opportunity now to read the amendment as proposed. I am having a little difficulty in seeing how this amendment fits into this bill. I would appreciate it if the chair would give us some guidance as to whether or not the amendment is in order.
The Deputy Chairman: I will do some more reading while the member for Waterloo speaks.
Mr. Breaugh: I would appreciate it if you would do that.
There is another thing which struck me as being a bit of a problem. I am aware that, on a number of occasions, municipalities can have their bylaws appealed, or whatever they do, to the OMB. This is one of the few cases I have heard of an appeal being caused over something municipalities did not do. I would appreciate some guidance from the chair as to whether that is in order.
The Deputy Chairman: What does the member see as being the matter with this amendment? Just say it again.
Mr. Breaugh: I think there are two problems with the amendment. One is that I am not quite sure how the amendment fits into this bill and I would appreciate it if the chair would consider that.
Second, this is one of the few occasions when a municipality can have its lack of action be subject to an appeal to the OMB. I am not terribly certain that aspect of the proposed amendment is in order either.
I would appreciate if the chair would give us a ruling on those two matters.
The Deputy Chairman: I will consider that as I allow the member for Waterloo North to continue and give me some rationalization.
Mr. Epp: Mr. Chairman, I presume you do not want me to speak on the point of order but rather on the merit of the amendment.
As far as we on this side of the House are concerned this is an important amendment. Under the new Bill 58, as proposed, we are concerned about the attitude of many municipalities -- and I am not saying the majority because a lot of municipalities are very sensitive to the needs of handicapped persons. As has been pointed out by previous speakers, handicapped people have a particular problem. Why should we accentuate that problem by not providing them with parking at strategic areas of a municipality?
As much as I respect municipal autonomy, it is my contention that a lot of municipalities will go ahead and pass the necessary bylaws but there are a lot that may not pass it. This would give some kind of guidance and uniformity to all those municipalities across the province.
Let us not be misled by the municipalities. We are not for a moment talking about 30, 40 or 50 municipalities. This province has 838 municipalities, including the regions, and that is a lot of municipalities and a lot of them might not provide for --
The Deputy Chairman: Just to interrupt you, and then you can get on your main theme: I am going to allow the amendment to stand, to overrule the point of order. I appreciate the member raising it as he did and now I ask you to speak to your amendment.
Mr. Epp: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
With respect to the specific amendment, we find that the handicapped person would go to a municipality and within 90 days, if notice were given and handicapped parking was not provided, then this notice would go to the Ontario Municipal Board; they could appeal to the municipal board and the municipal board would then have a hearing.
All of us are familiar with the actions of the municipal board. In this case they would have to deal with four particular items: the needs of the physically handicapped person -- and I do not think there is any question as to their giving some kind of judgement on that aspect; the availability of off-street parking -- we would want them to be able to deal with that matter; the safety of other users of the highway -- for instance, what they could do is provide a parking spot on Highway 401 for the handicapped if a municipality were particularly cantankerous. I do not expect municipalities would act that way; I have a lot of regard for them. Therefore, the only reason this is put in is to give them additional guidance. Finally, "such other matters as the board considers relevant" -- gives them the kind of leeway they have had in the past in dealing with other matters.
I do not find any problem with this amendment. It does facilitate the provision of parking for handicapped persons in all municipalities in the province where parking has not been provided and where handicapped persons have wanted to take the initiative to have that done. Being a fairly objective and competent board, I am sure the OMB would be able to deal with this very important matter.
Mr. Breaugh: Mr. Chairman, speaking to the amendment, I confess I have a bit of difficulty. I am not sure how grateful anybody would be to have a provision in this law which would allow one to go to the municipal board over something that a municipality has not done. In particular, in the light of the fact that there are 67,000 other cases ahead of them before the municipal board, I am not convinced that we have provided them with an expedient means of resolving a difficulty.
It does seem to me to put the thing in perhaps its most awkward way. For example, I can think of techniques which I assume are at the disposal of handicapped people these days, of being able to go before the Ontario Human Rights Commission and say, "There is a problem here with this provision for handicapped people and we would appreciate your support in getting the municipalities to pass the standard bylaw." In its ultimate form I suppose we would say that each municipality must by provincial legislation provide such a bylaw, though there would be some small difficulty with that.
In short, I appreciate the intention of what the member has put forward, which I think is a supportable notion. That is, an individual has some redress. In other words, I am aware that handicapped individuals and groups around Ontario are doing just this. They are going before their municipal councils and making an argument that it would be appropriate in their municipality to have a bylaw which provides some space for what we now call handicapped parking.
I have no difficulty with the intent, as I think the member expressed it originally. My problem is that from a very pragmatic point of view, I am not sure we are doing anything about it.
This would allow someone to have some redress to the Ontario Municipal Board. Many of us who are familiar with the workings of the municipal board know what is being suggested here is not a quick and easy process. It is often a very long and awkward one and in some instances, I suppose, if the municipality became really obstinate about it, it could turn out to be a rather expensive process as well.
We would be happy to support the intention behind this particular amendment; I have no problem with that at all, although I just wish it had been put in a more practical manner. If perhaps the member moving the amendment can come up with some resolution to the kinds of nuts-and-bolts problems I have addressed, we could have something which was a little better.
I take it from the response of the minister on second reading that he is not exactly overly enthused about this amendment at any rate, so perhaps it is being put rather for the rhetorical purposes of debate this afternoon.
If that is the case, I would want to say very simply I agree with the intention the member has put forward here. It would be useful to have some means of redress for a handicapped group or individual appearing before a local council which sees fit not to take any action. It would be useful for the handicapped to have some alternative but it seems to me the Human Rights Commission or an appeal to the ministry, or some mechanism other than going before the Ontario Municipal Board, would be a more appropriate means of providing some redress.
Mr. Riddell: Mr. Chairman, when I suggested to the minister this was a good amendment and one he might well consider, he responded by saying he had more faith in the decisions made by local municipalities than I did and that he was a strong supporter of local autonomy. I want to tell the minister I too have a lot of faith in the decisions made by local municipalities and I am a great believer in local autonomy.
I do find it rather ironic that we have one minister of the crown who is very considerate of handicapped people and is introducing legislation which will provide parking spaces for the handicapped while, on the other hand, we have another minister of the crown who has put in a policy of taking away accommodation from developmentally handicapped people. I do not understand that kind of dichotomy existing over there.
As far as this amendment is concerned, I hark back to the so-called agricultural code of practice which this government tried to encourage the local municipalities to incorporate into their planning process. Some of the municipalities did this. For example, some request a certificate of compliance from a farmer before he can put in a manure storage facility or build within a certain distance of a neighbouring house, and all this kind of thing.
There are some townships that are pretty stringent; others do not pay any attention to the agricultural code of practice, so there is no uniformity. Farmers in one township cannot understand why farmers in another township are allowed to get away with some of the things they do.
I say the same thing applies here. There may be some townships that will pass bylaws and make parking spaces available for handicapped people, and there will be other townships that maybe will not do it. For the sake of uniformity, we should make it universal. That is what this amendment is all about.
Mr. Newman: Mr. Chairman, I do not know if I could actually make my suggestion relevant to this bill, but it could possibly apply in the regulations that may be involved later. To encourage tourism and especially to encourage tourists who are handicapped and who have identifying licence plates -- because many of the jurisdictions in the United States already use the symbol we are adopting -- I am just wondering if the minister could amend the act or the regulations so he could suggest through his legislation that they recognize a vehicle from other jurisdictions that has the identifying label, that is, the wheelchair. It would encourage tourism, it would encourage the handicapped to come to our area and I think it would be a humanitarian approach to the whole problem.
Mr. Samis: Very briefly, Mr. Chairman, I can support the intent of the amendment but I think it would just produce an endless round of bureaucracy and would commit the greatest sin of all; it would mean more business for the lawyers of the province and it is the people of the province who will pay for it. On that basis alone, I cannot support the amendment.
The Deputy Chairman: I thank the honourable member, for his speech, not for the point of view.
Hon. Mr. Bennett: Mr. Chairman, I believe I indicated my intentions, or my views, during the second reading debate. I really have to say again to the member for Waterloo North (Mr. Epp) that in going through this process, and I am in full agreement with the member for Cornwall in this respect, I think what he is trying to do now is get us into an argumentative position.
I say to the member for Huron-Middlesex (Mr. Riddell) that I have great faith that members of municipal councils understand this problem just as well as he, I and every other member of this Legislature. I think, with a little encouragement from their MPPs, they might well find the capacity to go back and get along with the job of producing a bylaw to provide for handicapped citizens.
I do not see, in any way, that going to the Ontario Municipal Board under these conditions is going to do anything else but aggravate the situation. If a municipality does not accept this action with concern and understanding, it certainly is not going to breed a friendly relationship in any way, shape or form. If it is not their intention to support it, I think they will find ways to frustrate it regardless of whether they go to an OMB situation or not. Uniformity is not the whole call of the day either, let me suggest to the member.
Let me answer the question of the member for Windsor-Walkerville (Mr. Newman) in relation to other jurisdictions beyond the borders of Ontario. It is entirely within the scope of this act, and within municipal jurisdiction, to indicate they will recognize plates from other jurisdictions.
As I have indicated, the provincial plate is a mandatory requirement for any municipality that at present has or will have -- I am sure that over the next period of time they will all, with the member's encouragement and the encouragement of the government, get on with producing a bylaw.
I am going to say again I do not believe this is the correct action for the OMB. I believe there has to be a better understanding at the municipal level. We are not dealing with zoning bylaws. We are dealing with a clear-cut issue in trying to facilitate the movement of the handicapped of any given community. I want to repeat that I have the greatest faith that municipal leaders understand the problems of the handicapped just as well as we do.
With the result of this amendment to the act, as well as the provisions I indicated a few minutes ago by the Minister of Transportation and Communications (Mr. Snow) on the availability of the handicapped licence plate, I really cannot believe there is any municipality which has restrictions on parking or causes parking charges, and so on, that will not try to produce a bylaw to facilitate those individuals.
I submit to the members of this House that if they become aware of a municipality that is offering penalties to the handicapped and is not moving in this direction through encouragement, as the government would like it to, then I suggest they get back to this minister. I also suggest they might like to have a little chat with the warden, the reeve, the mayor or whoever happens to be in charge about being a little logical about it.
I do not think we accomplish a thing by trying to put an iron fist on a municipality by saying, "You are all going to do it because Metropolitan Toronto, the city of Ottawa or somewhere else has it." I think logic, common sense, decency and appreciation for the disabilities of those handicapped people have to be recognized without the enforcement of legislation. The provisions of the legislation are what is essential.
I do not accept the amendment offered by the member for Waterloo North (Mr. Epp).
The Deputy Chairman: All those in favour of Mr. Epp's amendment to section 1 will please say "aye."
All those opposed will please say "nay."
In my opinion the nays have it.
Mr. Epp: I thought the ayes had it.
The Deputy Chairman: My right ear is very fair.
Section 1 agreed to.
Sections 2 to 4, inclusive, agreed to.
Bill ordered to be reported.
On motion by Hon. Mr. Norton, the committee of the whole House reported one bill without amendment.
WORKERS' COMPENSATION AMENDMENT ACT
Hon. Mr. Ramsay moved second reading of Bill 66, An Act to amend the Workers' Compensation Act.
Hon. Mr. Ramsay: Mr. Speaker, this bill to amend the Workers' Compensation Act provides for an increase in workers' compensation benefits of five per cent effective July 1, 1983.
The previous increase in benefits amounting to nine per cent was announced in December 1982 with retroactive application on July 1 of that year.
Over the past few years it has become standard practice to relate increases in workers' compensation payments to July 1 in each case. In deciding on the appropriate level of increase for 1983, the government has had regard to the recent experience with the annual rate of inflation and to the continued operation of its restraint program.
The latest year-over-year inflation rate, as measured by the consumer price index, was 6.6 per cent in April of this year. However, this figure tends to conceal the dramatic moderation in inflation over the last few months.
In the 10-month period following the effective date of the 1982 workers' compensation benefit increase, the consumer price index rose by only 4.1 per cent. Recent month-to-month movements in the index have been very small, suggesting that the year-over-year inflation rate will be very close to five per cent by the time the new benefit increases become effective.
I submit that the proposed five per cent increase in benefit levels is both fair and reasonable in present economic circumstances. As I have stated, it basically matches the increase in the consumer price index since the date that the last workers' compensation amendment took effect. It will therefore ensure that the real value of the benefits levels established at that time will be maintained and that the recipients will not suffer as a result of the inflation which has occurred in the intervening period.
In fact, application of the five per cent amendment across the board will result in an increase of slightly more than five per cent in some of the dollar levels built into the workers' compensation benefits schedules as a result of rounding out the new figures.
The ceiling on covered earnings will rise to $25,500, which actually represents an increase of almost 5.4 per cent, over the present figure of $24,200. As a result, the maximum weekly benefit rises to $367.79 from $349.04, also a 5.4 per cent increase.
The minimum permanent total disability pension rises to $786 per month from $748. The minimum weekly temporary total disability benefit rises to $179 from $170.
The dependent spouse's pension rises to $564 per month from $537. The dependent child's pension rises to $157 per month from $149. The dependent orphan's pension rises to $176 per month from $167.
The annual allowance for the repair and replacement of clothing worn or damaged by a lower artificial limb or back brace rises to $332 from $316, and by an upper artificial limb to $166 from $158.
Both the burial allowance and the lump sum payment to a widow or widower rise to $1,400 from $1,300. This represents an increase of 7.7 per cent.
No doubt there are members who would seek to read some significance into an announcement regarding workers' compensation benefits increases almost on the eve of the long-awaited standing committee report on the proposed reform stemming from the Weiler inquiry. I can assure the members that the sole reason for the timing of the present amendment is to ensure that benefit recipients obtain their increases at the earliest possible date.
Naturally, I look forward to receiving the committee's recommendations in the very near future. In the meantime, however, I believe it would be unfair to delay making a decision on the new benefits increases immediately.
Passage of this amendment bill now, before the end of the current session and in advance of its July 1 implementation date, will ensure that those workers who receive compensation benefits will be spared the lengthy wait which would otherwise occur before the amendments could be introduced in the next legislative session.
Mr. Wrye: Mr. Speaker, at the outset, I will pass along to the minister a bouquet, which is that I believe, to the limited extent of the changes proposed, he has been responsive to the requests of the several thousand injured workers who a couple of weeks ago demonstrated their real needs in front of this building, asking that this year's increases he brought in now and the bill passed so that they could be in place before July 1.
In that respect he has been responsive to those requests and to the requests of my colleagues in both opposition parties and myself, as stated in the standing committee on resources development. As the minister knows, we proposed to write an interim report asking him to do at least what he has done in so far as bringing the amendments forward are concerned.
We in this party will support this legislation on second reading, or approval in principle. We would be negligent if we did not support any changes to improve the lot of injured workers in this province, be they on temporary benefits or on fixed permanent pensions.
However, as the minister knows, we will be proposing in committee a series of amendments which would have the effect of doing that which our amendment in the resources development committee would have done; that is, bring about a real increase, a real hope for injured workers by proposing a 10 per cent increase across the board.
I want to speak a little bit about that and about why we will propose that in terms of our overall approach in this matter.
First, we all understand our increases will be pretty well 10 per cent across the board. We will not attempt to play around with the ceilings in insurable earnings because we understand as a party and I understand as a member of the resources committee that the moment is near when we will finally be able to put a report in the hands of the minister. Perhaps legislation will follow in the fall session.
It is very clear, and the minister has in a sense reiterated today, that injured workers in this province continue to lose ground to inflation and continue to lose ground very severely. I would remind the minister that last December when he brought in his belated Christmas present for injured workers the level of increase he proposed was nine per cent, in spite of the fact the inflation rate over the period of time for which the money was being adjusted had been 10.8 per cent.
That was for injured workers, and particularly for the vast majority of injured workers who were at the lower end of the scale because of their level of temporary benefits, or more particularly because of their permanent disability; indeed, in the very sad cases of those dependent spouses' pensions -- which are a meagre $537 and which the minister proposes to raise to $564 -- these are the people who, in the opinion of this party, can least afford to lose ground to inflation.
It seems rather ironic that the government party which absolutely refused to act to limit doctors' increases this year -- those in society who can most afford to show a little restraint -- now talks about asking injured workers and spouses who are earning the grand total of less than $600 a month to bear the burden. I find that very disturbing.
The minister states his five per cent increase this year is going to be very close to the real rate of inflation. He points out he has very generously rounded off a few figures to add an extra dollar here and there. I would point out to the minister that the rate of inflation as of April, and he made mention of it in his speech, was 6.6 per cent. If I am not mistaken, part of the reason inflation slowed in the last couple of months and had decreased dramatically was as a result of a gas price war and thus lower transportation costs.
Another reason inflation had slowed was because of the very slow housing market, a housing market which does show -- I am sure the minister would agree in virtually every city in Ontario and across the country -- some indication of beginning to pick up. I am not certain or as confident as this minister that when we get the year-to-year figures to June 30, 1983, we are going to see an inflation rate close to five per cent; indeed, I think it is going to be closer to 6.5 per cent.
That will mean that over the last two years injured workers in Ontario will have lost three or four per cent to inflation. Again I remind the minister and the government members that these are the people who can least afford to lose ground to inflation.
I could go on and detail the individual changes but suffice it to say that when we get into committee our party will be proposing increases which would not add five per cent to the various benefit levels for injured workers but will add 10 per cent and in a few cases a little more, one of those cases for example being, as the minister knows, the burial expense which is currently $1,300 and which will be allowed to rise a grand total of $100. We in this party think $1,300 is grossly inadequate and we propose to increase that single area by dramatically more than 10 per cent to $1,800.
I want to speak of something that bothers me in this whole five per cent approach and in the nine per cent approach last year. This gets us into the kind of problem the standing committee on resources development is wrestling with as we look at the Weiler report and the white paper on workers' compensation reform. It is the proposal that is embodied in principle 8 of the white paper and is found in section 33 of the legislation, which once again leaves the power to adjust injured workers' benefits -- at least for those receiving permanent awards; certainly the power has been taken out for the temporary ones by tying them to the average industrial wage -- with respect to wage loss and a number of other areas to the governing party and thus leaves it in the political arena.
Even more dangerously, in a sense, this bill does not even leave the power in the political arena since, as the minister knows, if this draft bill becomes law the changes will be made not in this Legislative Assembly where those of us who are in opposition can attempt to persuade the government to improve on its proposals, as we are trying to do today -- and I am very hopeful that the minister will see the wisdom of our arguments and will improve the proposals; and I am certainly willing to yield at any point if he wishes to do that -- but for the first time will be taken out of the legislative arena, as it properly should be; but, even more dangerously, having been taken out, it will be put in the cabinet room.
Subsection 33(2) of the draft bill says that once the government receives from the board a public report each year with its recommendation on the appropriate increase -- and I will grant that perhaps the board, through public hearings, which my colleague the member for Riverdale (Mr. Renwick) has suggested might be appropriate, and through taking into account the various factors such as the consumer price index, the average industrial wage changes and other factors, as Professor Weiler himself has suggested -- that report will reach the hands of the government, perhaps proposing an appropriate adjustment in the awards to take into account inflation and changes in the cost of living.
But then we get into the catch 22, and it is the kind of catch 22 that is embodied in this year's very stingy five per cent proposal and in last year's very stingy nine per cent proposal, and that is: "The Lieutenant Governor in Council may, by order in council, adopt or modify the recommendation made by the board, and such decision shall be effective for the next ensuing year."
So what is going to happen is that certainly we will have some standard time frame in which these changes are made, but now they are going to be made by regulation and the recommendations are not necessarily going to be adopted. The perhaps very well-reasoned report of the board is not going to be adopted; it will be left at the whim of this government to decide whether a proposal that would embody a six or a seven per cent increase will be cut down or modified.
In my short time here, and certainly in looking back at the changes that have been proposed in benefits levels for injured workers, I can rarely remember a time when I have read that a government has modified upward any recommendation that has come forward. What we have been looking at in the past have been changes in the CPI, and the government has consistently short-changed injured workers in this province in terms of movement in the CPI; and this year is no different.
It is the view of our party that the changes that are being proposed and that we will propose to this legislation in committee will be a very standard change. They will be, and we recognize them to be, simply an ad hoc change. It is not in our view appropriate at this point for us to attempt in any meaningful way to prejudge the work of the standing committee. It is precisely for that reason, and I want to put this on the record, that for example where the minister has raised the maximum earnings level to $25,500, we would simply move it to the 10 per cent level we think is more appropriate and make it $26,800.
That is not to say we do not support the proposal in the white paper for 250 per cent of the average industrial wage. Indeed, I suspect we may support a proposal that would have no ceiling at all, simply as a much smoother operation to what is now being proposed, but that is for the committee to decide.
For now, it is our view that what we need to do in recognition that these are ad hoc increases, to take into account the fact we will not have the legislation for a while, for now it is our view that we would simply try to arrive at a more reasonable level which will more reasonably take into account the problems of injured workers. While we will support the legislation in principle, I simply do not believe, and our amendments will reflect this, that a five per cent increase is an appropriate amount to give to injured workers so their real purchasing power may be maintained. Consequently, we will propose the higher figure.
As I said, for our part, this party will support the bill in principle a little reluctantly since the increases are really so very low. But we support anything that will improve the lot of those in this province who, through no fault of their own most of the time, are injured and have in many cases a very serious impairment for life -- an impairment which not only prevents them from returning to work or, if they do return to work, from gaining the kind of meaningful employment they had before their injury, but worse still, reflects upon them every day of their nonworking lives as they go about their nonworking business and recreation with an impairment which takes away from their enjoyment. We will of course support anything that will increase the return they can enjoy which will allow them to continue to care for themselves and their families decently.
I look forward to second reading of this bill and to being able to debate the appropriate levels when we get into committee of the whole.
Mr. Lupusella: Mr. Speaker, I rise with dismay in debating the amendments introduced by the Minister of Labour (Mr. Ramsay) in relation to the Workers' Compensation Amendment Act. I say dismay because we have been faced as a Legislature and as members of parliament with this situation for so many years.
With great respect, I think the five per cent increase is offensive to injured workers. I do not want to repeat what I said in my press release, along with my good friend and colleague the member for Downsview (Mr. Di Santo), on June 9, 1983, when we commented on Bill 66. We stated then that the WCB increases are a slap in the face of injured workers across the province. In fact, they are. We make the same argument year after year. We listen to public presentations. We voice the concern of injured workers across Ontario in this Legislature, and here we are faced with a government that is very insensitive to the needs of injured workers across Ontario.
The main item on the agenda for this bill is not whether the five per cent really reflects the cost of living increase. The concrete argument that must be made is how this government is dealing, and is willing to deal with the injustices faced by injured workers over the years. I do not want to get into the old scenario of pension assessments, temporary total disability pensions and weekly benefits for injured workers across Ontario, because then the debate would become very extensive and we would not be able to deal with even the five per cent increase.
I do not think the Minister of Labour (Mr. Ramsay) was correct when, in his official opening statement, he defined the five per cent increase to be fair and just. I do not think that is the name of the game when we talk about WCB changes. I am expressing my particular concern and opinion about it. I thought that, after the public outcry of injured workers in front of the Legislature before the standing committee on resources development, the government and the Minister of Labour at least had a different approach in dealing with increases.
As I stated before, I do not think the five per cent increase constitutes the basic argument of this bill. I remember when in 1975 the government decided to move to changes in benefits for injured workers and then, in after years, injured workers did not get the shortfall increase they were supposed to get as a result of the cost of living increase clause. Actually, every year a change has taken place, and injured workers across the province end up being the losers, not the winners. I do not think the Minister of Labour will be able to convince me and my colleagues, the members of my party, that the five per cent increase is reasonable, fair and just.
I dismiss this type of definition of what should be a complete reform of the level of benefits for injured workers across Ontario. I do not have to put in front of the members of this Legislature my case, and the cases of hundreds and thousands of injured workers who come into my constituency office complaining about the level of benefits and how they are affected by it. Each member of this Legislature has had ample opportunity to listen to concrete complaints about the effects on the livelihood of injured workers across Ontario as a result of an inadequate system which has now been in place for almost 70 years.
I have to tackle for a moment the implications of the white paper proposal and the Weiler report. I am sceptical about the final analysis, programs and amendments that the government is going to move in the near future, because I do not have much trust and confidence in the moves the government has been making in past years, and at the present time, to solve a critical situation which has been affecting injured workers since 1914.
I feel upset and angry when I have to tackle this serious societal problem in Ontario as a result of the insensitivity of the government and the Minister of Labour. The government has been unable to solve this problem in the past; in the standing committee on resources development, we are now faced with reshaping the Workers' Compensation Act, and I do not think this reshaping will be adequate. The Minister of Labour should at least show some goodwill as we move into the new area of reshaping the act; he should show some willingness and more generosity than the five per cent increase.
We are also not pleased with the 10 per cent the Liberals will propose. In December 1982, we introduced amendments to the minister's bill, incorporating the principle of 15 per cent. We are going to reinstate the same position and amend the Liberal amendment on that basis. Ten per cent will not be enough; even fifteen per cent is not enough to cover the shortfall injured workers suffered through the years under previous increases. We are not going to change our minds and support the 10 per cent increase to be proposed by the Liberals. Injured workers across Ontario are expecting more from this government and from each member of Parliament as we deal with the serious problem of the WCB.
The Minister of Labour stated in his opening remarks that further amendments would be introduced in the new session. If we are faced now with a five per cent increase, I really do not know what kind of amendments we are going to deal with when the House reconvenes in the autumn. As I stated before, I am quite sceptical of the proposals in the white paper. I do not know what the government is going to do; there are a lot of loopholes and deficiencies in the law, even though in general terms the purpose of the white paper and the Weiler report is to reshape and increase pensions and benefits for injured workers across Ontario.
When the new law is introduced in this Legislature, we will not be dealing with indexing injured workers' pensions to the cost of living. That is an item which is very important and very much on the minds of injured workers. These workers and the members of this assembly will be subject to the whim of the cabinet whenever it is decided to introduce amendments on the level of benefits.
I think this process should stop. We have to incorporate a permanent clause into the Workers' Compensation Act that takes into consideration this problem so that we would not have to deal with this item every year; it would be automatic. It is a process that would be carried out by the board, because it has the full mandate of the act to do so. We do not need to have a debate on that issue any more.
Again, when we are going to be faced with new legislation, old injuries and benefits of injured workers will not be taken into consideration. The idea of tying injured workers pensions to the cost of living is vital because the new legislation will not take this problem into consideration.
Last night, when Professor Paul Weiler was before the committee, I inquired about this particular issue of indexing injured workers' pensions to the cost of living by way of statute. Instead, he prefers that cabinet should have the full power to increase injured workers' pensions whenever it decides. I think that is an unfair and unreasonable approach and I told him so last night. The Minister of Labour will not serve the needs of injured workers across the province, if such an item is incorporated into the new act.
By the way, we are talking about reshaping the Workers' Compensation Act. We are not talking about restructuring the new act. Actually, it will be a change that will not be fundamental in some way, even though Professor Weiler is trying to give us the pat solution that lump sum payments and pensions are going to be very generous. But he is not willing to elaborate on how generous they are.
If the new changes are as generous as the five per cent, we are again going to be faced with the same problem. I think the Minister of Labour and this parliament have the power to correct the situation once and for all.
Here we are dealing with an important item that in some way will be rushed through before the House recesses for the summer. We were rushed to pass the nine per cent increase around Christmas, because there was another recess then. We are faced with the same situation now, because the House will recess for the summer, even though the WCB is so important and vital.
As I stated before, this will affect the socioeconomic conditions of injured workers across the province. We have a duty and obligation to make sure injured workers get the justice and benefits they deserve and have lost through the years when their pensions were assessed unfairly by the board as a result of the inefficiency of the act.
When we talk about injured workers, we cannot limit our argument just to three, four or five issues or clauses of the act, because there are several implications that will derive as a result of one amendment or one change in a particular clause of the act. I am not happy about the increases; I have stated the reasons why. Injured workers have been suffering through the years because of an unfair system that was unable to take into consideration socioeconomic conditions and their suffering as a result of an industrial accident.
For example, when we talk about clause 36(1)(c) in subsection 1(1) of the bill, which takes into consideration the pension of a dependent spouse, which is increased to $564 per month from $537 per month, we are talking about an important problem affecting a family that is not fortunate enough to have a breadwinner in their house. We are talking about $564 multiplied by 12 and we are going to arrive at an amount of money that is lower than the poverty line recognized in Ontario and across Canada.
Actually, the Minister of Labour and this government are preparing to leave these families under the poverty line and to make sure the dependent children will not have the opportunity of a good education. This because they were not so lucky as to have a breadwinner to bring home the extra income so important to family activities and education.
The additional monthly payment for a child is increased to $157 from $149. If we consider, for example, that this child is in the process of getting into the university level, this amount of money is not even enough to cover the tuition fee that he or she has to pay. Therefore, the increase from $149 to $157 leaves those children in an unfortunate situation.
When is this government, I ask the Minister of Labour, really going to be willing to resolve all these important issues affecting injured workers and their families across Ontario? I have been waiting for years, since 1975 specifically, and even before when I was helping injured workers to organize to make sure changes would take place at the legislative level. I do not want to leave politics without seeing the likes of this change that has to take place in Ontario, to make sure justice will be restored on behalf of injured workers across the province.
I have seen widows who have lost their husbands as a result of industrial accidents. As a result of that, through the years they have lost their homes because they did not have enough money to pay the mortgages. They came to me seeking assistance. Is that five per cent increase really going to restore some sort of justice'? Is the five per cent increase really going to restore all the money that families lost as a result of fatal accidents?
The simple answer is no. We have concrete figures released by the board that show every year almost 400,000 people are injured on the job. In one way or another, they are faced with the inefficiency of the system and the bureaucratic process of the board's system. They are also faced with insensitivity, which is caused by the act itself, when the benefits are cut off, when people cannot get the right rehabilitation program from the board because either it is considered they are not co-operating with the vocational rehabilitation department, or because injured workers are imposing certain restrictions and limitations on going out and looking for light jobs.
They have to go through a series of appeals to make sure they are going to make their case before an adjudicator or before the appeal board and, if the people there are quite sensitive, eventually a certain number of injured workers will be able to get the amount of money they lost as a result of the insensitivity of decisions taken at the board level.
I touched upon an important problem, the vocational rehabilitation program, which is very important in making sure that injured workers across Ontario will have some sort of income when they are faced with a partial disability pension. I would like to bring to the minister's attention a conversation that took place between an injured lady and a rehabilitation officer at the board level. I will not mention the claim number nor will I mention the name of the rehabilitation officer. I think he was completely out of touch with what he was supposed to do at that level, which is to rehabilitate injured workers to make sure that, after payment of a disability award. they will go back to the labour market and get some sort of income again.
The conversation that was reported and sent to me today through a letter -- which was not planned -- was started by the rehabilitation officer. I want to quote that:
"'You went to an MPP?' 'Yes, I had a conversation with what's his name, I always forget.' 'You want to work full time for less than $8?' 'Yes.' He checked the papers. 'I have here a job for you, far out in Scarborough, packing parcels. But I don't think that is right for you. There is a floor-cleaning job.' I do not know what he was thinking of. Floor-cleaning; with my injury I would need the cleaning lady myself.
"'When you are looking for a job, you have to go to four or five places a day. One place is not enough.' 'I cannot do that with my busted hip.' 'With your restrictions it is very hard for us to find a job for you.' 'Retrain me.'
"'Not you. Only if you had lost an arm or a leg. Why don't you appeal? What have you been doing the last two years since you were off from the Post Office?' 'I was always looking for a suitable job. I filled out an application form with Bell Canada for an operator. I went to offices to get a job as a receptionist, but I needed typing.'
"'What were you doing when you had your accident?' 'I always worked on the primary cases. I had final cases as well, but for the last few years I worked on primary. I never had to carry around heavy trays of mail. The monitor always brought the trays to us.'
"'Do you still remember the street?' 'Yes: 969 Eastern Ave.' 'There must be a union there. How long have you worked for the Post Office?' 'Eight years.' I explained the circumstances under which I was released by the Post Office."
This is a lady faced with a permanent partial disability who had been looking for light duties for the last two years. When she came to see me at my constituency office I told her she was supposed to go to the rehabilitation department to get some sort of assistance to find light duties and also to get some sort of supplemental pension, which she really deserved because she had been looking for a light job for two years.
When she went there the first time, she was completely dismissed. They said: "You do not need any retraining. You can go and look for light work wherever you want."
When I got in touch with the rehabilitation officer and explained this woman had been looking for light work on her own, the rehabilitation officer was able and willing to have an interview with her. This is the sort of conversation that took place up to the time the meeting was confirmed.
When we talk about rehabilitation and improvements in the level of benefits, in the ceiling and in patient care, we have to talk about all the consequences of those changes.
We cannot isolate one issue from the next because the debate is going to become complex for those who understand the meaning or process the injured worker goes through after being affected by either a partial or total disability as the result of an industrial accident.
I am not satisfied with the five per cent increase because this is an indication the government and the Minister of Labour are not willing to move into a new restructuring of the Workers' Compensation Act. We are just talking about reshaping, which gives me the feeling that although certain changes are going to be made, those changes will not be concrete.
When we are dealing with and talking about injured workers by making reference to the government's white paper and the Weiler report, when we are talking about improvements in the level of temporary total disability benefits, of course I agree with the Workers' Compensation Board and the minister that most injured workers are not faced with that particular problem.
I think that when the new changes are brought in, this situation will be covered by the new ceiling. Workers with a temporary disability, whether it is for one month, three months, four months or 10 months, will be able to go back to work; that situation has been improved.
What about workers who were injured in the past when the ceiling was extremely low? We have made this argument several times when other changes were introduced in this Legislature. I do not think the government is ready and willing to restore, as I said before, some sort of justice for those who have been suffering wage loss as a result of the low ceiling, as a result of the low percentage of disability assessed by the board, or as a result of the bureaucratic process which has been in place since 1914.
When injured workers appeared before the standing committee on resources development there were injured workers who were injured maybe 10 to 15 years ago. They are the ones who are expecting concrete changes in the level of benefits.
Now I know -- and I knew even before -- that the government is not willing to move in the new area to index their pensions to the cost of living increase by way of a statute and not by way of a cabinet decision, whenever it is going to be made. It may be in two years' time or in three years' time. That is what happened after 1975. The next increase took place after three years at the time when the member for York Mills (Miss Stephenson) was the Minister of Labour. The other change took place after a period of two years.
I think we have to learn now from the government and from the Minister of Labour when the next increase will take place. I am sure he is going to give an opportunity to injured workers across Ontario to gather again in one or two years to voice their concern that they are losing money as a result of the cost of living. Such a process, as I stated the case before, should be automatic and cabinet really should make up its mind to put that into the statutes in order that the increase will take place on a yearly basis. We dealt with this issue and other issues around Christmas in 1982.
I am not willing to make the same arguments which I made before because I think that injured workers deserve more and not less for the economic contributions which they have given to this province and to the country as a whole. Reshaping injured workers' benefits does not necessarily mean that we are talking about a clear restructuring of the Workers' Compensation Act.
The committee, during the summer, will sit and will make recommendations to the government. I hope that we are going to write a unanimous report, but I want to warn the Minister of Labour now that if his colleagues on this committee will not be willing to accept certain principles and new legislation, which we are going to propose as a result of the government white paper and the Weiler report, then we are going to be forced to write a minority report and we are going to do that because we really believe that injured workers deserve more and not less from this government.
Again, on Bill 66, the maximum burial expense payment will rise to $1,400 from $1,300. In other speeches, I brought to the attention of the minister and of the government that when we talk about burial expenses for ethnic people, I do not think we are talking about the right amount of money.
When a family loses the bread-winner, the main component of their family, as I stated before they want to show the greatest respect through -- and, of course, it is part of a culture which I greatly respect -- through an honorary burial ceremony which is going to take place as a result of the unfortunate incident. Families and widows have been faced with expenses which have been ranging upwards of $3,000 and even more.
The Minister of Labour should also he aware that sometimes, talking about the Italian community, they also send the body to Italy which incurs an extra expense not covered by the amount of money the minister is at present proposing. I remember in 1975 burial expenses were in the range of less than $800, if I am not mistaken. That increased cost, then, has not really been taken into consideration.
We proposed amendments to this particular section in December. I want to make the case again that the amount of money is inadequate. More important is the inadequate amount of monthly pension for a dependent spouse, which is less than the poverty line recognized in Canada and Ontario.
Professor Weiler stated in his report that when the act was introduced in 1915 injured workers across Ontario gave up the right to sue their employer. From that contract or agreement in 1915 they had the impression that as a result of giving up this important right, the government, the WCB and the full administration would restore some justice which would be fair, just and expeditious. Practice has shown us that injured workers have been the losers as a result of this deal. They will be the losers with the part of the new act which will be introduced some time in the near future.
When we questioned Professor Weiler as to the hundreds and thousands of injured workers who will not benefit at all from the new act, I asked him what he would propose on their behalf, and what the government and the committee should do. He really did not give us a clear indication of what should be done. There are different alternatives and proposals to make sure workers who were injured in the past would get some sort of relief and benefit as a result of the accidents they have faced.
He has been against the principle of a quota system, where employers across Ontario would be forced to hire a certain number of injured workers on the premises where the accidents took place. He said the employers should be lenient and favourable, but without any compulsory legislation that would force employers to make sure injured workers would get back to different types of available and suitable jobs after being faced with permanent disabilities at work.
He does not really give any guarantee that injured workers will get some sort of benefit as a result of the new law. I think the Minister of Labour and the committee, when we sit during the summer to write our report and our recommendations as a result of the white paper and the Weiler report, have to take a deep look at this situation in order that injured workers and particularly those with old injuries will benefit in one way or another by the introduction of the new law.
The other problem I would like to bring to the attention of the minister is that the government must make a commitment to reducing the number of accidents across the province. I think it should be the main goal of the government and of the minister to make sure that workers perform their duties in safety, that they go back to their families happily in the evening without the threat of getting injured because of irresponsible employers who do not want to clean up the work place.
I thought when Bill 70 was first introduced in the Legislature this was its goal, but through the years we have learned that Bill 70 is not really enforced in the work place. The Minister of Labour is reluctant to lay charges against employers, and Professor Weiler is also suggesting that employers across the province should have an incentive if their prime task and their prime goal is to clean up the work place.
Last night I said during the committee sitting that they themselves should try to convince a criminal that a crime should not be committed. The employer himself has to feel that an unsafe work place is not economical because there is a danger that his premium will be increased by the board in its assessment, and that it is not socially acceptable because there are a lot of workers who can get injured and suffer permanent disability as a result.
The Deputy Speaker: Order. The member for Sudbury East (Mr. Martel) is looking in amazement. I have been listening very closely, and for the last almost 10 minutes you have been talking about injury in the work place. The bill applies to a five per cent increase in workers' compensation.
Mr. Martel: For injury in the work place.
The Deputy Speaker: I know, but I think we should try to get back to the bill.
Mr. Lupusella: Mr. Speaker, you raise the point that I am not addressing my debate to the principle of the bill. As I stated before, when we tackle one particular section of the act, the sections are complementary to each other and you cannot deal with one issue without tackling the other issue.
The Deputy Speaker: I know, but if you could always bring in the main issue.
Mr. Lupusella: I want to give my colleagues an opportunity to enter into this important debate. I think their contribution will enlighten the Minister of Labour's mind when he introduces new legislation, and I hope he will find the time to calculate all the losses that injured workers have faced through the years, even before 1975, and then I am sure he will change his mind on the definition of Bill 66 that is fair and just, because I do not think this bill is going to come close to solving the crisis that injured workers are faced with in Ontario.
Ms. Copps: Mr. Chairman, unlike my colleague from the New Democratic Party who seemed to be waging for a moment what I thought was a one-man filibuster, I will be short and sweet and allow the --
Ms. Copps: Well short maybe, not sweet.
I know that although the amount involved in the increase is certainly not what we would liked to have seen, we would like to have an opportunity to have the bill passed in this session so we can at least get the limited five per cent increase out to the workers.
Certainly we in the Liberal Party will be supporting the minister's initiative. We are happy that he decided to come up with an increase before the prescribed one-year period. We are extremely disappointed that, even by his own admission in the House, he has not kept the workers' increases even up to the cost of living over the last number of years. We feel that in view of the desperate situations and the plight of workers, which has been amply and adequately demonstrated during the hearings period on the white paper on the Workers' Compensation Act, there is no doubt these workers have been short-changed for too long by this government and a five per cent increase will not be enough to redress what have been tremendous disparities, tremendous injustices and tremendous hardships facing those workers in the past.
I would congratulate the minister on bringing in an increase, but I ask him, as well as the members of his government, to consider the fact that when they held a public meeting to call upon workers across Ontario to voice their pleasure or displeasure with the Weiler report, the bulk of those 2,000 people who pressed into that committee room into the Macdonald Block were there not only because of their dissatisfaction with the report as tabled, but also because they are literally surviving on a shoestring in an economy in which their purchasing power is ever-shrinking.
Because the minister by his own admission has stated that the workers are not even going to be paid up to the level of inflation for the last number of years, it would seem to me it would have only been in the interest of fair play, in the interest of justice and certainly in the interest of those thousands of injured workers across Ontario who are trying to scrape out a bare existence -- many of whom are forced into applying for welfare and going on family benefits because as injured workers they are not able to contribute their own sweat and labour to the economy -- in the interests of those workers we believe the minister's five per cent increase is indeed too little, too late.
Although we will be supporting it, we will be calling upon the government as well as those members in the third party to support our initiative to see that increase at least doubled.
It is apparent to us that the five per cent being suggested in the government legislation is not sufficient to even address the problems of diminished purchasing power that every consumer faces. But if one looks at the plight of those thousands of injured workers who came to tell their personal stories to the minister, there is no doubt -- I am sure there is no doubt in his mind and no doubt in our minds -- that this legislation will do very little to redress the very serious injustices and very serious imbalances they have faced because of past inadequate legislation which will not be redressed as far as we can see by the recommendations of the Weiler report.
Mr. Di Santo: Mr. Speaker, I cannot do either of what the member for Hamilton Centre suggested: I cannot be sweet and I cannot congratulate the Minister of Labour.
Ms. Copps: Short and sweet; I didn't mean you.
The Deputy Speaker: What about being short? She said "short."
Mr. Di Santo: Actually, I am quite bitter. I am not even going to be short because, if we understand this bill, we will see it is a serious stumbling block on the way to the reform of the Workers' Compensation Board that the standing committee on resources development is studying now. Most likely the five per cent increase and the resulting benefits from this bill will be the basis upon which the Weiler report, the white paper and the draft legislation will be based. That means the injured workers of Ontario will be shafted once again.
In his introductory remarks, the minister said five per cent is the rate closest to the rate of inflation. If we want to understand this bill, we have to realize that Bill 66 is a progression of a system which is unacceptable to us and to the injured workers.
A few days ago, we saw thousands of injured workers come before the resources development committee to explain why they cannot accept this type of legislation. We saw the minister make a statement in the Legislature 10 days ago saying, "At this time, we will not introduce amendments to the Workers' Compensation Act."
Instead, on June 9 the minister introduced this Mickey Mouse bill. One wonders why the minister changed his mind in one week's time. I know why: because the way the Workers' Compensation Act operates now is totally in the hands of the government and the government can do what it wants. It can make all kinds of arbitrary decisions and we in the House are put in the position of either accepting what the government gives us or the government has the numbers to pass any bill it wants.
If the government thinks we in the New Democratic Party are going to accept this blackmail -- and that is what it is, because the injured workers will say we voted against this bill -- the minister is wrong because the injured workers understand very well that this bill is an insult to them and a slap in their faces. I could bring thousands of examples of people on pensions that are absolutely inadequate, and five per cent does not mean anything to them.
We can bring to the minister the example of those who are receiving minimum disability pensions that will be raised from $170 to $179, a grand total of $9 a month. The members know very well those pensions are not related at all to the needs of the injured workers nor to the average industrial wage. The increases the government is bringing in today are related to the rate of inflation. What does that mean for an injured worker? My colleague the member for Dovercourt (Mr. Lupusella) explained that.
Professor Weiler, while appearing before the standing committee on resources development, said he is proposing that the ceiling be increased to 250 per cent of the average industrial wage because compensation for a worker is not just an abstract figure the government can decide on the basis of what it thinks is acceptable at the moment to the Workers' Compensation Board.
Compensation should reflect several elements. One element is the loss of wages an injured worker is experiencing. Another element is the loss of enjoyment of life, which is a very ample concept. While questioning Professor Weiler the other day my friend the member for Riverdale (Mr. Renwick) explored a whole range of issues under loss of enjoyment of life, which has also been explored by the law reform committee.
The government does not take into account the average industrial wage which reflects the development of Ontario's economy. If we do not take wages into account, we are putting injured workers in a situation that with time becomes totally untenable. Before the amendment last December we pointed that out to the minister; he denied it but did not have the figures to support his point.
Since 1975 the consumer price index has increased substantially by almost 80 per cent; the average industrial wage has increased by almost 76 per cent. In the meantime, workers' compensation rates increased only 55 per cent. You know why, Mr. Speaker, because you were in the House at that time. The government found every possible excuse to stall the introduction of bills to amend the Workers' Compensation Act.
Despite pressure from members of this party, and injured workers who were forced to come before the Legislature session after session and express their disappointment and frustration, the government introduced amendments that did not reflect either the consumer price index or the average industrial wage. Last time, despite the fact that the rate of inflation, whatever that means, had been calculated at 11 per cent in 1982, the government introduced amendments that gave injured workers only a nine per cent increase. This means they were losing ground again with respect to the cost of living. They were robbed of their buying power.
Today, the Minister of Labour is asking us to pass a bill giving injured workers a five per cent increase. That is supposedly in accordance with the policy of the government, which increased the wages of public servants and public employees by nine per cent last year and five per cent this year. The comparison is totally phoney and we know that. We opposed Bill 179 because it was an unfair bill. We opposed it vehemently because we knew it isolated one group in our society without taking into account every other element of the province's economy, and it penalized public servants.
Fortunately, we were not alone. In their January pastoral letter, the Catholic bishops also condemned the federal and provincial governments for that action that singled out one group in our society, and for the implications in not taking into account the needs of the federal and provincial public and civil servants. Above all, that action did not have any similar restraint on the side of prices and profits.
At that time we fought very hard against Bill 179. I remember even the bishop of London, Ontario, was opposed to that bill. A fortiori, we are opposing this bill because the government wants to impose the same parameters on injured workers that were imposed on civil servants. We know very well when we are talking of injured workers' benefits that we are talking of something completely different from salaries of civil servants, which in many cases are high. We know very well that when we talk of injured workers, we are discussing partial benefits, pensions and permanent benefits that in the majority of cases amount to only a few hundred dollars.
In 1981, only 68 or 69 injured workers were granted 100 per cent total permanent pensions, and in 1982 only 70 people received total permanent pensions. Apart from those few injured workers who were assessed as being totally permanently disabled, the majority of the workers are receiving partial permanent disability pensions ranging from $20, $50, $60 to a few hundred dollars. For the government to tell us those people must receive only five per cent because that is the rate of inflation is a travesty and an insult to those people.
As I said before, if we consider subsection 5(1) of the bill concerning the permanent disability pension for injuries on or before June 30, 1983, the minimum permanent disability rises to $786 from $748 per month. I want members to understand we are talking about a difference of $38 a month for people who are totally disabled. That is the minimum pension in Ontario this government feels is adequate for injured workers who are 100 per cent disabled. These people were not making the minimum wage. In many cases, they have been injured for years and years.
We brought before the resources development committee examples of workers who in 1962 and 1963 were receiving the maximum wages allowed at that time. But because of the way the government has been increasing the benefits of the injured workers they have gravitated to the minimum pensions. People who 20 years ago were making wages that, in comparison with the prevailing wages in the industry, were considered high wages are now receiving $748 a month. With Bill 66, their pensions will be increased to $786 a month, a grand total of $38.
In those cases, we know very well that people who are in this condition were most likely in an accident before 1966 when the Canada pension plan was introduced. They therefore do not qualify for Canada pension disability. Actually they are people who were injured before 1971 because, as Mr. Speaker knows very well, in order to qualify for a Canada pension disability a person must have contributed to the plan for five years in the last 10 years.
That means that from 1966 to 1971 they must have contributed at least all those years in order to qualify for Canada pension disability. In effect, this means that all workers who are totally disabled, 100 per cent disabled and so recognized by the board -- as I said before they are very few in number; last year, only 70 were assessed as totally disabled -- all those people who had an accident before 1970 do not qualify for any other benefit and will receive only $786 a month after this bill is passed.
I want the minister to consider from a human point of view that, in this society, a person who has lost completely his or her ability to work will have been deprived in the majority of cases of total enjoyment of life, because we are talking of people who cannot work at all. Should those people be compensated by this government with only $786 a month? Why does it happen?
I think we have to try to understand the ideology behind this bill, otherwise a normal person could not understand why it is that in 1983 this government can introduce a bill in the Legislature telling us that a person who is totally disabled is fairly compensated by receiving $786 a month. The ideology behind the system is that the Workers' Compensation Board, whose act we are amending today, is a system of insurance for the employers. It is not a system of insurance for the workers. If that was the case, the minister would then come to us with a different bill saying, "Let us see what the needs of life of an injured worker, who is totally disabled, are in 1983 and what is the debt this society must pay to them."
Instead the minister comes to us and says: "The rate of inflation went up five per cent so the benefits will go up five per cent." What about that injured worker? What about the widow? I will talk later on about widows. They cannot live on $786. The minister says, "Tough luck, this is the system." These are the reasons a bill such as this makes us really upset and upsets the injured workers.
The Deputy Chairman: Order. Are you planning on continuing?
Mr. Di Santo: Yes.
The House recessed at 6 p.m.