The House met at 10 am.
STATEMENTS BY THE MINISTRY
CENTRES OF APPLIED TECHNOLOGY
Hon. Mr. Walker: Mr. Speaker, I would like to bring members up to date on the progress being made by Ontario's six centres of applied technology. Members will recall that all six centres opened recently to a most enthusiastic reception from the private sector.
While the centres, funded by the Board of Industrial Leadership and Development, are in various phases of development, they are all up and running and doing business. Collectively, they constitute a major accomplishment for this province. So far this year, the centres have been inundated by literally thousands of calls from manufacturing firms and service companies keen to discover how they can improve their productivity, competitiveness and profitability through the application of proven technology.
The Ontario Centre for Advanced Manufacturing has now well established its technological competence. A staff of 35 technicians and professionals has been recruited to counsel firms on the effective use of computer-aided design and computer-aided manufacturing systems as well as robotics.
In the Cambridge facility, three demonstration CAD/CAM systems have been installed. In the Peterborough facility, seven industrial robots are being put in place. In both locations, manufacturers from throughout the province can see firsthand what they can achieve in terms of productivity and competitiveness gains from adapting their operations to these processes.
The Centre for Advanced Manufacturing has held six seminars for manufacturers and has scheduled about three per month for some time to come. These seminars will focus on specific industrial sectors to demonstrate how CAD/CAM and robotics can be successfully applied.
We are finding that firms contacting the centre range from small shops employing as few as three people to large industrial corporations seeking impartial advice from qualified professionals with a broad applied technology expertise. The centre has completed 12 consulting assignments at fees of $400 to $600 per man-day and has several others under active consideration.
The Ontario Centre for Microelectronics in Ottawa is staffed up and has installed a computer system that gives it a world-class design capability for custom and semi-custom integrated circuits. This state-of-the-art competence in chip design has been functional for three months.
The Ottawa centre has handled a flood of inquiries from manufacturers as well as service firms. Five contracts will have been completed by the end of this month with firms seeking advice on microelectronic applications that improve their operations or product quality. The centre also has more than 20 contract proposals under consideration.
The microelectronics centre has had a hectic schedule of seminars. Since October, more than 170 people have participated in seminars directed at providing business owners and top executives with an understanding of microelectronics. Between now and the end of the fiscal year, a further 1,100 top management people will have attended these seminars being held throughout the province. In addition, a separate series of seminars was launched this month for technical managers in the private sector.
The Ontario Centre for Farm Equipment and Food Processing Technology in Chatham is in the final phase of hiring consulting staff and should be fully operational by fall. However, the centre has already assembled a data base on the availability of technologies applicable to Ontario's agribusiness, and several consulting assignments have been initiated or completed.
For example, the centre has retained a specialist to recommend a special peanut harvester. In Georgia, peanuts are harvested in two phases: in pulling them out of the ground, where they are left to dry, and then in collecting them. Ontario's damp climate suggests the need for a one-phase harvester. That is just one machinery innovation the centre is looking at.
In Sudbury, the Ontario Centre for Resource Machinery has hired its core staff of 10 specialists, nine of whom are local people with mining and forestry experience.
The centre is currently considering 37 private sector proposals for assistance in creating innovative products. In fact, several proposals offer technological breakthroughs in the development of resource machinery. One proposal involves the manufacture under licence of a German product for application not only in the mining and forestry industries but also in other industrial sectors. This import replacement proposal also holds out the hope of major job creation potential.
Finally, the Ontario Centre for Automotive Parts Technology in St. Catharines has generated a very positive response from parts manufacturers. The centre has 15 people on staff and should have a complement of 20 people by year-end. The centre has so far held five seminars with more than 800 in attendance; these have included sessions on productivity, quality control, inventory management, exporting and the aftermarket. It will begin a monthly series of seminars starting this fall.
Three projects are under way to assist client companies with manufacturing processes and product quality improvements. A further half-dozen projects are currently under consideration. A major project involves the manufacture of three prototype vehicles by an electrical products company. The project is being funded by the federal and Ontario governments. Buyer-supplier liaison programs are also being negotiated and should commence this fall.
Ontario's six centres of applied technology are responding to a genuine and urgent need by business for guidance and assistance on the dramatic changes taking place in the way products are made. It is encouraging to witness the determination of even small firms to learn about and apply technologies that greatly enhance their competitive performance. There are close to a million jobs at stake in Ontario's manufacturing sectors. We are committed to working with the private sector to modernize that manufacturing base so it can continue to survive, prosper and employ.
Ontario has taken a leadership position in providing private enterprise with access to the most competent experts and more advanced state-of-the-art technologies available. To ensure that this leadership is responsive and on top of technological change, an information network is being created to link the six centres. The presidents of the centres and the Ontario Research Foundation meet monthly to swap information, and a computer bank and word processing hookup is planned to strengthen and facilitate technical information exchange.
Finally, I am pleased to report that the technology centres have a close working relationship with the colleges, universities and federal and provincial research agencies. This sharing of technological data underpins the public-private partnership in strengthening the innovative and competitive base of Ontario's economy.
In summary, all six centres are functioning smoothly in the manner we envisioned -- independently, under their own managements, working in partnership with the industries they serve. They are proof today that we are well on the road to meeting the mightiest challenge of all: the productivity challenge of the 1980s.
PREFERENTIAL HIRING RIGHTS
Hon. Mr. Ramsay: Mr. Speaker, later this morning I will be tabling a discussion paper on preferential hiring rights when businesses are relocated or closed.
We are all familiar with the serious social and economic impact that such relocations and closures have on workers who are displaced when businesses relocate or are closed. The legal protections that are afforded focus on financial compensation, such as severance pay, or the provision of advance notice to allow time for adjustment. Important as these protections are, however, they do not comprise a substitute for alternative employment.
Many employers do, as a matter of corporate policy, provide some right of preferential hiring, either at a facility to which operations are being transferred or at some other similar business operation. I have found from personal experience in many such instances that there is general acceptance that such policies are part of good corporate citizenship.
Unfortunately, however, not all employers adopt this approach. In the past few years, there have been situations in which job transfers or preferential hiring rights have been withheld, even though opportunities have existed. This has been a source of concern to the government and the public at large.
The discussion paper I will table today sets forth a proposal for establishing preferential hiring rights by law in certain defined circumstances. The proposal applies to workers with five years' service who lose their jobs as a result of the permanent closure or relocation of a business.
While the principle embodied in the discussion paper is simple to describe, its implementation has important and rather complex ramifications, both in respect of the existing provisions of the Employment Standards Act and in respect of collective agreement rights and obligations.
In the draft legislation appended to the discussion paper, I believe we have set out a workable scheme wherein various conflicting interests are sensibly reconciled. Nevertheless, it is a unique proposal for which there is no precedent in any other jurisdiction.
Because of this I have concluded it is essential that the labour-management community has full opportunity to examine the initiative and comment on it. I know there is a great deal of interest and concern in this area, and I have every confidence that the submissions made to me will he positive, thoughtful and helpful.
SALES TAX EXEMPTION EXTENSION
Hon. F. S. Miller: Mr. Speaker, members will recall that in my May 10 budget I announced a 90-day exemption from retail sales tax on purchases of new household furniture and appliances. I said then that this tax relief was designed to prompt consumers to accelerate spending decisions and so assist important sectors of the economy.
I am pleased to report to the House today that the public response has been positive; in fact, it has been positive to the extent that the appliance industry does not have the inventory on hand to meet the demand. I have therefore decided to extend the delivery date for appliances that can be purchased, free of sales tax, until August 8. The new delivery deadline will he November 7, 1983.
Mr. Peterson: Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the Deputy Premier, the Minister of Energy and the Minister responsible for Women's Issues in his second incarnation as the Minister of Energy.
The minister will be aware, in his capacity as Minister of Energy, of the long string of broken promises from Ontario Hydro with respect to the acid rain question, scrubbing the scrubbers and a variety of other problems. He will also he aware that Hydro is the second largest point-source emitter of acid rain in this country.
Why has Hydro refused to appear before the federal committee next week to discuss the acid rain question, its contribution to the acid rain problem and what its plans are to reduce acid rain emissions in this province? Why has Hydro refused to appear?
Hon. Mr. Welch: Mr. Speaker, I wonder if I might have the opportunity to correct one or two things in the preamble to the question.
Mr. Speaker: Briefly.
Hon. Mr. Welch: I think it is very irresponsible on the part of the leader of Her Majesty's loyal opposition to suggest that Hydro is the author of a whole string of unfulfilled promises. It is completely irresponsible of the leader as he directs those comments towards that great public utility which serves the electricity customers of this province so well.
The commitment of Ontario Hydro with respect to the reduction of those emissions stands on the record --
Hon. Mr. Welch: I beg your pardon?
Mr. Speaker: Never mind the interjections, please.
Hon. Mr. Welch: Is this not a democratic Legislature? Does a minister not have the right to respond to a question without having some irresponsible back-bencher wanting to deny him the right of free speech?
Mr. Speaker: Order. Would the minister please address himself briefly to the question?
Hon. Mr. Welch: Mr. Speaker, I was provoked a bit.
The commitment of Ontario Hydro to reduce these emissions is on the record; Hydro volunteered to reduce them by 50 per cent. I ask the honourable member to compare this record with that of any public utility anywhere in North America. That is something he has to keep in mind.
Furthermore, just in case the member thinks I have been avoiding the question, Hydro will be appearing before that committee.
Mr. Peterson: I am delighted Hydro has changed its mind.
With respect to the minister's answer to the preamble of my question, Ontario Hydro chairman Hugh Macaulay announced on January 26, 1981, "The most significant component in our program will be the design and construction of two sulphur dioxide scrubbers by 1987." Is the minister aware of that statement?
Is he aware that Mr. Macaulay wrote a letter, dated February 19, 1982, to Ron Irwin, the chairman of the same federal subcommittee on acid rain? That letter stated: "But we will have scrubbers too. As part of our comprehensive program, Hydro will be designing and retrofitting scrubbers on two 500-megawatt generating units."
Does the minister recall that Mr. Macaulay made a speech to the Ontario Municipal Electric Association on March 1, 1982? In it he said, "Scrubbers are a valuable control device. In fact. Ontario Hydro will be building two of them as part of our emissions reduction program."
Mr. Speaker: Question, please.
Mr. Peterson: Is the minister aware that the throne speech of March 9, 1982, stated, "These steps will include designing and retrofitting scrubbers ..."?
The minister has no credibility with his own federal colleagues, with people like Mr. Tom McMillan, the federal Environment critic, who suspects Hydro was --
Mr. Speaker: Order, please. Would the honourable member please put his question?
Mr. Peterson: Given the fact that Mr. McMillan said Hydro --
Mr. Speaker: I think you have referred to enough background material. Put your question, please.
Mr. Peterson: I am putting the question, but it takes a lot of explanation to these birds.
Mr. Speaker: Right, now put your question, please.
Mr. Peterson: Mr. Speaker, I appreciate your advice and I will try to he thoughtful with respect to it. However, if one does not put the facts to these birds, they will deny them. They have to be clearly faced with what is going on.
Now that Hydro has agreed, presumably in the past day or so, to appear before the federal committee -- I am glad to see there has been a change of heart in that respect -- will the minister be telling that committee why he has refused to honour his commitment to install those scrubbers?
Hon. Mr. Welch: The Leader of the Opposition has a preoccupation with the means to an end and the technology to be employed, and he avoids mentioning what has happened in the past several months with respect to coal-fired generation in this province.
I remind him not to overlook an announcement just two or three days ago concerning the reduction of the amount of coal-fired generation in the province. Nor should he overlook how the whole matter is being recast in the light of new demand requirements. The goal, the end, the objective, is still in mind. That goal is the reduction of those emissions by 50 per cent. We have to give the Hydro board some latitude for management decisions with respect to that, faced as they may he with changing circumstances.
Perhaps it would be commendable in these circumstances if the member paid tribute to what the public utility was doing in a leadership role to accomplish that goal and invite others to emulate that throughout the continent. I hope his voice will join with others in paying credit where credit is due to the decision of the public utility to accomplish that objective.
Mr. Rae: Mr. Speaker, the minister should know that Hydro's example is indeed being emulated throughout the continent.
Mr. Speaker: Question, please.
Mr. Rae: Many private utilities in the United States are looking at Hydro and saying, "Why should we do something that the Ontario government is not even prepared to order its own public utility to do?"
Mr. Speaker: Question, please.
Mr. Rae: Is the minister seriously denying that the installation of two scrubbers would have the effect of reducing acid rain in the province?
Hon. Mr. Welch: Mr. Speaker, the short answer to that question is no.
I want to put on the record the fact that Hydro was not ordered by the government, but volunteered to try for that objective with respect to those emissions. No one is denying the effectiveness of that technology as opposed to other procedures. I do not think we should get preoccupied with the means; we should be emphasizing the objective. That objective stands in place, and Hydro will be before the committee in Ottawa to share that information.
Mr. Peterson: The minister will be aware that the failure to honour the commitment has been bandied about the United States by, for one, our ambassador, which failure the Premier (Mr. Davis) would not admit in a previous discussion.
The ambassador in a speech referred to "the absence of scrubbers on a single power plant in Canada, notwithstanding that the few in the eastern provinces do not burn high-sulphur coal. In the same vein, the twin cancellation of Hydro's tentative contract to sell coal-generated power to a US utility and its related intention to begin using scrubbers has been criticized as a backdown for installing scrubbers ... "
Is the minister saying now that his colleague Mr. Macaulay, and the Lieutenant Governor in his throne speech, were speaking, and I quote the Minister of Education (Miss Stephenson) now, with "a forked tongue" when they were making those promises? Is he saying now that the promises will not be kept?
Hon. Mr. Welch: May I try just once more? The important commitment is the reduction by 50 per cent. According to the timetable, that is the commitment of the utility. I want the member to think in terms of when that commitment was made and to look at the mix with respect to generation in this province and the contribution that the burning of coal is making for that generation.
If he had read Hydro's statement carefully within the past two or three days, he would have seen that what now represents about one third of our electricity generated through the burning of coal will be substantially reduced, and the amount of coal-fired generation will be substantially reduced during the same time frame. The most effective scrubbers we have in this province right now are our nuclear plants because we are moving away from the burning of coal, which is contributing to the --
Mr. Foulds: We are exchanging one environmental problem for another.
Hon. Mr. Welch: The member has to realize that all these things are part of the management and expansion plan of Ontario Hydro. The commitment is still there. We are reducing the amount of these emissions and responding in a very positive way to the environmental concerns of this continent.
Mr. Peterson: The minister is better than the Premier. Does he know that? He really is.
Mr. Speaker: Question, please.
UPPER OTTAWA STREET LANDFILL SITE
Mr. Peterson: Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the Minister of the Environment. The minister will be aware that the lack of proper regulation of dump sites in this province in the past 10 years has contributed to some extremely serious problems, which everyone is wrestling with now to clean up in the most efficient and best way we possibly can in the circumstances.
Will the minister tell this House his reaction to the committee report on the Upper Ottawa Street dump in Hamilton with respect to its suggestion of installing a collection system and flare-off system for the gases coming out of the Upper Ottawa Street dump? Is he now prepared to respond to the requests, I gather from the region as well, that we proceed immediately with the implementation of the recommendations of that report to try to clean up the situation as best we can in the circumstances?
Hon. Mr. Norton: First, Mr. Speaker, if the Leader of the Opposition is going to ask a question, I wish he would not always preface it with a preamble that builds in totally incorrect information. It really does make him look as if he does not know what he is talking about.
Hon. Mr. Eaton: He does not.
Hon. Mr. Norton: That is correct. There are times when he works from such a poor and unreliable information base, I am not even sure I should distinguish the question by answering it.
Mr. Speaker: Now to the question, please.
Hon. Mr. Norton: The suggestion that the problems that exist with a few landfill sites with which we have been dealing in this province are related to lack of supervision in the last few years is totally incorrect. Those are historic problems with which we are coping. He goes up and starts playing around with grey sludge and kicking at it, and he then wonders why he cannot pump it out of a lagoon.
The problem at that landfill site, and in Pauzé for example, is not something that happened just recently. It is something that occurred a long time ago before that was even under the jurisdiction of the provincial government.
With regard to the specific question the member asked -- which was based, I presume, upon his research or at least on taking a cursory look at the report -- the answer is we are certainly prepared to look at that, but there are some problems related to flaring that have to be assessed. For example, we do not know for sure, nor do the people who propose that technology, what products might be produced by the combustion that would result from flaring. Those kinds of things have to be examined before we proceed. I have had some very preliminary discussions with the officials in Hamilton on that.
Mr. Peterson: Would the minister support a similar independent kind of study into the problems at Perkinsfield at the present time? Given the fact that the plume is growing and given the fact there is a great deal of concern in that area as it is getting close to the creeks draining into the bay, would the minister support a similar kind of study in that area, not only into the public health effects but also the effects on drinking water and the effects on the residents of the beach, so we can get a clear view of what is happening there?
Hon. Mr. Norton: I am not sure that any effort on the part of this government or any independent agency would help the honourable member to have a clearer view of anything. I do not think he wants a clear view.
The fact of the matter is, and the member knows it, that what is going on in Perkinsfield right now is precisely the kind of thing he is talking about. The work that is being undertaken by private consultants, albeit they are funded by us, is designed to determine the characteristics of that plume, the direction in which it is moving, the rate at which it is moving and so on. To suggest that some alternative to that ought to he established to work in parallel or whatever, seems to me to he utter nonsense.
With regard to the testing of the water in the area, that is an ongoing program and we are doing it in consultation with the citizens. The citizens have participated in selecting the wells that are being done. I want to point out that it is being done by the very best laboratory in North America and probably the best in the world, which is operated by my ministry.
Mr. Speaker: Proceed, please.
Mr. Charlton: Mr. Speaker, to go back to the original question for a moment, Dr. Bourns and the committee in Hamilton-Wentworth have suggested as a starting point, in terms of a collection and flaring system, that several months of testing be done on burning gases from the dump and analysing whatever residues there may be, so we can determine as quickly as possible the problems which the minister suggested in his answer. Can the minister give us a time frame in terms of what he is prepared to do in getting those test flares done so that we can get on with the installation of whatever technology is necessary to deal with the gases emanating from the Upper Ottawa Street site?
Hon. Mr. Norton: Frankly, Mr. Speaker, I do not know how quickly that can be done, but I can assure the member that people who are much better informed than he and I are looking at that question.
Mr. Elston: Mr. Speaker. since the minister raised the question of the grey sludge and since the original Pauzé landfill site at Perkinsfield was not allowed to accept the type of sludge that was dumped there in trenches by the Rolland Paper company, why is he now allowing that sludge, mixed as it is with other chemicals, to be taken and dumped in that licensed portion of the landfill site at Perkinsfield? Is he not concerned that his own ministry is violating the certificate of approval that was originally issued to the landfill operator?
Hon. Mr. Norton: Mr. Speaker, as I am sure the member is aware, we have done tests on the grey sludge and its content. The tests that have been performed include tests on wet samples, on a wet sample that has been dried through exposure to the air, and on a sample of the original material from Rolland Paper.
A general analysis was performed on all three samples. The sample from the paper company was 80 per cent china clay that contained calcium stearate, calcium carbonate and an organic binder. The wet sample from the site did contain some hydrocarbons, xylenes and toluenes. That is what is believed to tie it in with the belatedly reported illegal dump that the member referred to in earlier questions, going back several years, which we were unaware of prior to a deposition more recently.
Mr. Speaker: That was a good answer. Thank you very much.
Hon. Mr. Norton: Mr. Speaker, I have not had a chance to answer the question.
Mr. Speaker: I thought you had.
Hon. Mr. Norton: No. He raised a question relating the grey sludge and why it as placed in the site. I am about to tell him, on the basis of important information, why that is being done.
Mr. Speaker: I thought you had answered it. Time is running on. We will have a new question.
Hon. Mr. Norton: I will comply with your request, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Speaker: Order. Will security please remove that man from the gallery?
Mr. Speaker: Order. Will security please clear the galleries on the east side?
Mr. Speaker: Order. This House will adjourn for 10 minutes.
Mr. Speaker suspended the proceedings of the House at 10:33 am.
Mr. Speaker: Now, resuming at the point at which we were interrupted.
REPLY TO QUESTION
Hon. G. W. Taylor: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order: I know that you conduct the operations of this House in the best way you can, and I have no quarrel with it at most times. However, I was keenly interested in the reply that was potentially going to be given by the Minister of the Environment (Mr. Norton) on a matter that I have a great concern about in my riding, and I think that when a member asks a question, be he the Leader of the Opposition or another member, it deserves a full and complete answer. It is indeed a very complicated problem and one that needs an exacting answer, and I would like you to allow the Minister of the Environment to continue and complete his answer.
Mr. Speaker: Order, please. I would just direct the attention of all honourable members to the clock. We have had only two questions and there are 38 minutes left. In the interest of time, if the member would like to gain a fuller explanation, I think he could request the Minister of the Environment to table a statement, make a statement, write a letter or whatever.
DISRUPTION OF HOUSE
Hon. Mr. Ashe: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order: This is not on the same issue but on the disruption in the House proceedings that just took place. I suggest that perhaps it is now appropriate for you, sir, to look at the people who have been camping outside. I think you will find, with investigation, that the people involved in the disorder in this House are quite probably all part of the group that was outside. Perhaps their tenure on the front lawn has outlived its usefulness.
Mr. Rae: Do you know that? This is disgraceful. You don't know that.
Hon. Mr. Ashe: I said "following investigation." Why don't you listen? Listen for a change. You never do.
Mr. Rae: You said "probably." You don't know what you are talking about.
Hon. Mr. Ashe: That is right; probably. Why don't you clean up those things?
Mr. Speaker: Order, I would point out to all honourable members that this is beyond my jurisdiction and authority and falls under the authority of the Minister of Government Services (Mr. Wiseman).
PRIVATE NURSING HOMES
Mr. Rae: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Health. I would like to ask the minister for an explanation. Hospitals are required each year to submit a budget proposal that is scrutinized by an area team from the Ministry of Health, consisting of a senior administrative consultant, a financial consultant, a nursing administrative consultant, an administrative consultant and a secretary.
Chronic care hospitals go through the same process with respect to their budgets, which are then approved by the Assistant Deputy Minister of Health for institutions. Psychiatric hospitals have to go through the same process with respect to the approval of their budgets. Homes for the aged, if municipally operated, have to submit a financial statement and a budget proposal to the municipality, which is scrutinized very carefully both by municipal officials and by the council and then goes through a similar process with the Ministry of Community and Social Services. For homes for the aged run by charities, financial statements and budgets are submitted to one of the four area teams in the Ministry of Community and Social Services.
In each of these areas -- homes for the aged. psychiatric hospitals, chronic care hospitals and hospitals -- there is an intensive process of public scrutiny with respect to financial accountability. Why is the situation so totally different for one set of institutions alone: the private-profit nursing homes?
Hon. Mr. Grossman: Mr. Speaker, I am going to deal only with those institutions that report to the Ministry of Health, and those are acute, chronic care and psychiatric hospitals. In the case of psychiatric hospitals, we run them directly so the member would not expect us to operate them on any other basis than the basis outlined by him. They are run directly by the ministry. The member ought to know that.
In the case of acute and chronic care hospitals, the answer is very simple. When they run deficits, it has rightly or wrongly been the tradition of those institutions to look to the Ministry of Health to pay off their deficits since they essentially deem themselves to be public institutions, and they are public institutions with the exception of the private hospitals in the system. That is the simple answer.
When it comes to nursing homes, they get the revenue, they are stuck with the loss, and they can keep whatever profit ensues. The case of the public institutions is dramatically different; the member knows that.
Mr. Rae: That is a terrific answer. Can the minister confirm that the Ministry of Health spends over 200 million in terms of extended care contributions, or whatever he wants to call them, to the private-profit nursing sector, and can he confirm that the negotiations that take place between the Ministry of Health and the Ontario Nursing Homes Association are not dependent on the tabling of either financial or operating data? Can the minister confirm those two things?
Hon. Mr. Grossman: If the member is suggesting that we pay the private nursing homes too much, which is the only inference one could draw --
Mr. McClellan: Answer the question.
Hon. Mr. Grossman: I will answer it the way I want to. The member's leader begins with all sorts of silly speeches that have nothing whatever to do with the question. I will answer the question whichever way I want; I will.
The point the member is trying to make, of course, is that we should somehow have more information than he believes we have -- which is wrong -- when we make that settlement. If he is suggesting that with more information -- which can only be what he is suggesting -- we would be paying less, why does he not stand up and say he believes the $42.35 we are paying to nursing homes is too much? Then on Monday he can stand up and suggest that the amount of money they are spending on food, for example, is inadequate. I will remind him on Monday of what he said on Friday.
Mr. Rae: The minister has not answered the questions I asked him. I would like to ask him one more question and try to find out if he is capable of answering this question. It deals with a contract between the Northwestern General Hospital, the Harold and Grace Baker Centre and Bestview Holdings Ltd., which contract, when finalized, will be held by the Harold and Grace Baker Centre.
Can the minister confirm that yet another private-profit nursing operation -- that is to say, Bestview Holdings Ltd. -- will be operating a nursing home that is connected to a hospital, the Northwestern General Hospital? Can he confirm that the board of the hospital did not invite tenders for formal applications for this contract? Can he confirm that the contract covers a total package of care, food, laundry and housekeeping? Can he confirm this relationship and explain why this kind of contracting out to private-profit nursing operations is now being subsidized by the taxpayers of this province not only in one hospital now but in other hospitals across the province? Can he justify this kind of contracting out to private-profit operators?
Hon. Mr. Grossman: That is really one of the most contradictory and silly questions the member has asked since he has been here, and he has some way to go to do that.
There was a proposal call in Metropolitan Toronto for private nursing home beds. I know that is enough to keep him awake at night, but that is what it was: private nursing home beds in Metropolitan Toronto. We had all sorts of submissions back a year or so for those private nursing home beds. Among the submissions --
Mr. McClellan: A year or so goes back three years.
Hon. Mr. Grossman: The relief pitcher is getting into it. I know the member is in trouble now.
An hon. member: What relief pitcher?
Hon. Mr. Grossman: The member for Bellwoods.
Among the submissions that came in were a number of pure, private sector bids. That is always the case. Among them was an excellent proposal by Northwestern General Hospital in conjunction with Bestview. Let me say that Bestview is perhaps the finest nursing home operator in the province, at least as good as one or two others, and is providing literally superb care. The name of Bestview has not turned up even in the member's inaccurate buckshot approach of making wild accusations about standards in nursing homes. They are first class.
Mr. McClellan: That is why we will be dealing with new legislation on Monday. That is why we will have a new bill on Monday.
Hon. Mr. Grossman: The reliever is in town, yes.
If the member is suggesting it was somehow improper or wrong of the ministry to reject all the pure private sector proposals and instead accept one that puts the nursing home on the grounds of and connected to a public general hospital with the full support of the public general hospital, with the board of the hospital saying they would prefer it there so they can have a continuum of care between the hospital, the nursing home and some private senior citizen facilities of another 120 beds on the same site, then I would have to say that the member is totally contradicting everything he has said in the last few weeks about preferring public versus private, because this has a very close and intimate connection with the public general hospital.
I would also have to say that if he reads back on the remarks made by his relief pitcher, the member for Bellwoods, he will find out that the continuum of care we will now he providing at the northwestern site, among three facilities instead of one, is exactly the kind of thing that he and others before him have been advocating for very many years.
If the member is opposed to the Northwestern-Bestview concept, he is contradicting his relief pitcher; he is being contradictory to his own statements in the past couple of weeks saying we should do all these things in a public sphere. This is one large step closer to the public sphere, and the board of the hospital will have a lot of say over what goes on in the nursing home. The member should he consistent.
Mr. Rae: I appreciate the charm and the fairness of the minister's reply.
Mr. Rae: Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask a question of the Deputy Premier and Minister of Energy. It has to do with Ontario Hydro and the loss of jobs at Hydro that has taken place over the last few months.
The minister will know that there have been 400 Canadian Union of Public Employees jobs lost since October 1982 in the reorganization of the regional offices. There has been the moth-balling of the J. Clark Keith plant in Windsor, the mothballing of one unit of the Hearn generating station in Toronto and, on June 15, the announcement with respect to the mothballing of two units at Lakeview and two more at Hearn.
We are beginning to see the nature of the contradiction in the government's policy and relate it to the questions asked by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Peterson) about acid rain. It is clear that instead of installing scrubbers in order to reduce the SO2 emissions, all Hydro is doing is moving away from its coal-fired generating stations with a loss of several hundred jobs. I mentioned the 400 CUPE jobs. There are also 300 International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers jobs that are being lost as a result of the changes with respect to the work on construction and transmission lines.
How can the minister justify decisions by Hydro that will have the impact of losing several hundred jobs -- they have already lost several hundred jobs -- when an alternative strategy with respect to the installation of scrubbers not only would create jobs but would also have the impact of reducing the SO2 emissions?
Hon. Mr. Welch: Mr. Speaker, I can understand the concern that any member of the House would have with respect to people having to be either relocated or laid off. In all fairness, the member has to understand that the public utility has as its mandate the provision of its services at the least possible cost; it has to respond to the demand situation. I am sure the leader of the New Democratic Party would be the first to point out that in all the announcements Hydro has made with respect to its reorganization or mothballing it has had as its top priority the future of those employees who would be affected.
Not to take too long by way of reply, I have the breakdown in all those areas, which shows the number of people who have been relocated internally within the system, those who could not be accommodated and what the recall arrangements are and so on. Whatever the demand for electricity is, has to be reflected in the organization. It is a bit of a fallacious argument to suggest that if we built scrubbers we could keep plants operating that are not needed, which is what the member is suggesting, and therefore have the electricity customers pay that extra cost. Let us keep things separate.
I repeat, as I did to the Leader of the Opposition, that Hydro will meet its commitment with respect to that environmental concern. One of the ways is the reduction in the amount of coal being burned to generate electricity. I would assume the leader of the third party would agree that this is not a bad result.
On the other matter, as we try to accommodate in an organizational way and Hydro responds in a management way to its concerns with respect to reduction in demand, there are people implications. They attach a very high priority to relocating these people within the system and providing arrangements for them. Those two things should be seen in that light.
Mr. Rae: I do not understand. If the preoccupation in Hydro and the minister's preoccupation is with the falloff of demand, why is he going ahead with the construction at Darlington, which in respect to the creation of jobs per dollar spent is a totally inefficient way of carrying on? What is the logic here?
Mr. Speaker: Question, please.
Mr. Rae: What is the logic of carrying on with Darlington if the minister's concern is with the falloff in demand?
Hon. Mr. Welch: If one is going to he engaged in an exchange of questions on logic, to follow the member's question to its logical conclusion would be to stop all the construction going on at Darlington and abandon all those construction jobs. If he wants to understand, he knows that in the announcements on Hearn and Lakeview we indicated that we are changing the mix; that is, the amount of electricity through coal-fired generation is going to be substantially reduced.
The member is talking about plants whose age is such that very serious consideration has to be given to the question of their updating, refurbishing and maintenance. All these matters have to be taken into account. They are all management decisions.
Now that the hearings are on, the member is among the group who will be challenging Hydro's revenue requirements with respect to electricity at the Ontario Energy Board and checking how they will be reflected in the rates. As we move to uranium and use that particular electricity more and more, it will ultimately be reflected in the rates because we are talking about a cheaper and more efficient method of generation.
Mr. Peterson: Mr. Speaker, when we come down to it, the issue is a completely overbuilt system that the minister is working very hard to salvage. How many billions of dollars of capital expenditure has the minister closed up to date and how many is he planning to close up in the future in order to justify the building of Darlington and this massive overbuilding of the system?
Hon. Mr. Welch: As the Leader of the Opposition will recall, the select committee on Hydro studied that company's capital and expansion programs. That has not changed except by way of reduction. That was a very thorough review by an all-party committee of this House with respect to Hydro's capital projections.
Hon. Mr. Welch: I did not suggest approval, I suggested review.
Hon. Mr. Welch: I did not use the word "approval." Let the record speak for itself.
Mr. Speaker: Never mind the interjections, please.
Hon. Mr. Welch: I said the select committee reviewed the capital program, and since that time there have been reductions in that program. It is there for anyone to examine.
Mr. Rae: No matter how the minister cuts it, the strategy -- if I may use this word in its most generous sense -- that the government appears to be adopting is one that is capital intensive to the umpteenth degree in terms of billions of dollars spent with very little job return in contrast to a strategy that would be much more job related.
Mr. Speaker: Question, please.
Mr. Rae: Is the minister prepared to table estimates before this House of how many jobs are going to be lost with this shift from both hydraulic generation and coal generation towards nuclear'? Can he tell us how many jobs are going to be lost in that area and how many are going to be created in what is now planned at Darlington? Let us have those figures on the table.
Hon. Mr. Welch: I think, in fairness, the honourable member will allow me to go back to my answer to his first supplementary. There is no question that Hydro's expansion plans were thoroughly reviewed. Again I underline the word "reviewed." There has been a reduction with respect to that program, which was reviewed by the committee at that time. Hydro's intentions with respect to its future plans were therefore quite clearly known.
Ultimately, we will have a change in the mix between hydraulic, coal and uranium, and the end result will, I hope, be the security of electrical supply, which has to be seen in this province as one of its strengths. Indeed, the Board of Industrial Leadership and Development program is predicated on the very strong electrical capacity of this province in the future.
Mr. Bradley: Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the Minister of Industry and Trade regarding his judgement in the hiring practices at the Ontario Centre for Automotive Parts Technology.
I was informed that the minister recently hired one George Potton as education liaison at the new Ontario Centre for Automotive Parts Technology in St. Catharines. Can the minister please tell me if this individual is the same George Potton who was employed by Ontario Place from 1970 to 1973; left Ontario Place in late 1973 to become central Ontario organizer for the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party through the 1975 election; subsequently became special assistant to the then Minister of Housing, John Rhodes; was charged in December 1976 and pleaded guilty in 1977 to defrauding Ontario Place of $43,000; and was sentenced in county court to one year definite and nine months indeterminate in reformatory?
Is this the same person who was chosen out of all the people who applied for this position?
Hon. Mr. Walker: Mr. Speaker, yes.
Mr. Bradley: The other individuals charged in the Ontario Place affair have at least made partial restitution of the funds they absconded with. George Potton has never paid back one cent. The Attorney General (Mr. McMurtry) launched a civil Suit in 1979 to recover the outstanding amounts. Four years later the suit has yet to reach even the initial stage of exchanging discoveries.
Mr. Potton testified in criminal court that he used the money he procured for expenditures related to a new car and house in Mississauga. Now he is back on the public payroll. Presumably the taxpayers are still out the amount of money.
In a time of restraint when all hiring is to be conducted within the public service whenever possible, and even if it is conducted outside the public service, could the minister not find a qualified, nonpartisan individual to fill a position for which so many qualified people applied? Or are the tech centres to become a repository for Tory partisans regardless of their personal circumstances?
Hon. Mr. Walker: I am very sorry that the member has chosen to raise this issue.
Mr. Bradley: I'm sorry I asked as well.
Hon. Mr. Walker: I think the member should be. It is about the first time any contrition has been shown
Mr. Speaker: Now to the question, please.
Hon. Mr. Walker: Mr. Speaker, let me review this rather serious matter raised by the member and indicate the recruiting process that occurred to assure the member that the individual involved was recruited on a very fair basis.
First, the recruiting process started last fall with the contracts being tendered to recruitment firms on a competition basis. The choice of president of the technology centre was established on the basis of a recruiting firm and the board of directors, which has on it a very broad membership, including many individuals the member would recognize; many from his own community are on that board.
Following that, there was a second phase for the recruitment of the senior management of the centres. In each case the candidate search was carried out by a reputable recruitment firm working in conjunction with the president and his board of directors. Applications received were sent on to the recruiting firms for consideration; they were forwarded to the consultants for review.
The consultants then provided the president with the assessment of the candidates and recommended several candidates for the positions concerned. All the candidates went through an initial screening process with the consultants before a second interview was held with the consultants. As members know, Mr. George Lacy was the president and has been the president chosen for the Ontario Centre for Automotive Parts Technology.
Mr. Potton's application or résumé was forwarded to the consultants. The interviews were held by the consultants and subsequently through the president of the centre. The result of the interview was that Mr. Lacy, the president of the auto parts technology centre, felt that this individual did not qualify for the job that he was specifically --
An hon. member: Why not?
Mr. Speaker: Order. Proceed, please.
Hon. Mr. Walker: -- did not qualify for the specific job that was being applied for, but he did qualify for the role of co-ordinator of education and training. This view has subsequently proven to be correct. Mr. Potton has exceeded the expectations of Mr. Lacy in carrying out the duties that have been assigned to him.
At the time, Mr. Potton had a certain background. That information was brought to the attention of Mr. Lacy. I was also aware of the situation.
In this case it can be said that Mr. Potton has paid the debt that was obliged to be paid to society. We are getting into a very --
Mr. Speaker: It is a very complete answer, and time is running on.
Hon. Mr. Walker: Sir, I think an individual's reputation is being put on the line here.
Mr. Speaker: I think you have responded fully.
NIAGARA ESCARPMENT COMMISSION REPORT
Mr. Swart: Mr. Speaker, in the absence of the Provincial Secretary for Resources Development (Mr. Henderson) and the Premier (Mr. Davis) perhaps I could have the attention of the Deputy Premier and put a question to him.
Mr. Speaker: Question, please.
Mr. Swart: It concerns the government's intentions in dealing with the hearing officers' report on the Niagara Escarpment Commission, which was tabled earlier this year, and the commission's comments on it, which are expected to he tabled at the end of this month. The minister will be aware, of course, that the hearing officers recommendations virtually destroyed the proposal of the preservation plan designed by the commission by allowing wholesale development and the operation of pits and quarries throughout the length and breadth of the escarpment.
Is the Deputy Premier aware that the Coalition on the Niagara Escarpment, through the Canadian Environmental Law Association, is filing for a judicial review to require the rewriting of certain sections of the hearing officers' report? They submit that the report did not meet the requirements of the act with respect to summaries, with respect to the reasons for their recommendations and through the inclusion of misleading statements.
Is he further aware that, by letter of May 16, CONE has asked for the postponement of consideration of the reports until CONE's case is dealt with by the courts? Not only has the Provincial Secretary for Resources Development not replied, but he has refused to meet with CONE to discuss this matter.
Mr. Speaker: Question, please.
Mr. Swart: Does the Deputy Premier not think the postponement of consideration would be reasonable under these circumstances? Will he recommend that to the minister'?
Hon. Mr. Welch: Mr. Speaker, I am sure the honourable member will understand that, like him and, I am sure, like many of us who share constituencies along the escarpment, I have met with a number of people who have expressed some concerns. Indeed, I have been getting copies of letters that have been exchanged, so there is obviously a fair amount of interest in this subject.
Now that the question is on the record, the specific question is with respect to some postponement in carrying out the various steps in the procedure pending the outcome of some judicial application. I will have to consult with my colleague the Provincial Secretary for Resources Development to he brought up to date with respect to that.
Mr. Swart: When he is discussing this matter with the minister and giving the argument for postponing consideration, will the Deputy Premier remind him of the section of the hearing officers' report dealing with the proposed large development, Epping Commons in the Beaver Valley? The summary in their report recorded at great length the arguments put forward by the pro-development people, but does not even mention any opposition, as is required in the summary by the act. It does not even mention the opposition from CONE and the evidence given by ecological experts. Will he draw that to his attention?
Will he also remind the minister of the principles of the act, which are to provide for the maintenance of the Niagara Escarpment and lands in its vicinity substantially as a continuous natural environment and to ensure that only such development occurs as is compatible with the natural environment?
Hon. Mr. Welch: There are two parts. I do not think my colleague will have to be reminded of the principles of the act; he is fully conversant with them, and the steps that the act presupposes will be taken before the finalization of the plan.
To go back to the main question, I take it the member wants those steps held up in some way pending the outcome of the litigation or the application. I will draw this to his attention and I will also include in my conversation with him the concerns that the honourable member has highlighted in his supplementary.
Mr. J. A. Reed: Mr. Speaker, will the Deputy Premier also convey to the minister the fact that the hearing officers advocated a gravel overlay on the escarpment based on a 10-point aggregate policy that was never approved by cabinet and in fact has since been replaced? The hearings officers considered that 10-point policy in their report as being mandatory.
Will he convey to the minister the fact that the 10-point policy was never officially approved by cabinet and now no longer exists? Therefore, any recommendation regarding a gravel overlay would have to be completely reviewed.
Hon. Mr. Welch: Mr. Speaker, I will include that in our conversation. Just so I have not misunderstood, the honourable member is suggesting that the assumption of the hearing officers with respect to government policy is not correct and he wants this drawn to the minister's attention.
CONVERSION OF RENTAL UNITS
Mr. Ruprecht: Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations. On June 6, I introduced Bill 59 and Bill 60, two bills that would amend the Landlord and Tenant Act and the Residential Tenancies Act. The effect would be to quash any efforts to carve loopholes in the legislation for the purpose of converting apartments into hotel-like units.
The minister is aware that Toronto Apartment Building Co. has been exploiting the legislation for more than a year now. To bring the matter to an end once and for all, will the minister support my amendments to the legislation? They have the support of the Federation of Metro Tenants' Associations.
Hon. Mr. Elgie: Mr. Speaker, under the appeal decision with respect to Toronto Apartment Building Co. and premises on Jameson Avenue, the properties were held not to be exempt properties and the increase of more than eight per cent previously awarded on those properties and units was to be maintained.
I had thought the honourable member would be rising today to say the decision was commendable. It was exactly what the all-party committee in the minority Legislature foresaw as the appropriate way to deal with the great number of variations that would occur in clause 4(a). It was exactly what all the members in this House, including both opposition parties, foresaw as the appropriate way to deal with that issue.
The section introduced by the Minister of Community and Social Services (Mr. Drea), who was then the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations, did not include the section or the portion relating to other similar accommodation. That section was added by others in this House because it was felt that issues should be dealt with on a case-by-case basis by a commission, taking into account the particular circumstances in each case.
The member has risen on this point on many occasions. He has been giving tenants advice that did not relate to the issues but to some philosophical approach he has to it. The end result is that the Residential Tenancy Commission on appeal upheld the original decision which said the rents imposed would stay and are legal.
Mr. Ruprecht: The minister knows full well that this decision can be appealed and most likely will be appealed. He further knows that this is only one decision, by one set of commissioners, and may be changed tomorrow. That is why we need to plug this loophole.
Is the minister aware that even after the historic decision he mentions, 200 Jameson Avenue residents are not receiving their mail through the federal postal service'? Is he aware the owners have called Queen Street post office and said, "Please do not deliver the mail to the tenants because now" -- after the decision -- "this building is a hotel"? That is only one of the points the minister should be aware of.
Second, is the minister also not aware --
Mr. Speaker: Question, please.
Mr. Ruprecht: I am asking my question, Mr. Speaker. Is the minister also not aware that there is a proliferation of rental companies after the decision? Finally, is he not aware that these hotel conversion companies now are trespassing? They are going to all the cars around the hotels and putting little pieces of paper on the windshields which ask the owners not to go to the hotels but rather to these converted units.
Will the minister therefore not agree that he should act, as proposed by the Federation of Metro Tenants' Associations, to plug the loophole through this legislation and agree with the two bills I have introduced?
Hon. Mr. Elgie: Let me just get something very clearly and concisely on the record. The question of a loophole in that act was raised by the leader of the third party the other day in a question to the Premier (Mr. Davis), and it is now raised by the member for Parkdale. That was not a loophole. It was a deliberate amendment to the act imposed upon the then minister. It was felt by opposition parties that these issues were subject to so much variation they should be dealt with on a case-by-case basis.
Can the member get it through his mind that there was no loophole? A conscious decision was made, in a minority government, with an amendment proposed by opposition parties. The aim was that there should be fairness in dealing with individual situations. The minister to my left, the then minister, raised his concerns about the possibilities that might arise from that. Nevertheless, that was passed because of what I think have to be legitimate concerns that they should be dealt with on a case-by-case basis.
The member should stop bringing up this business about a loophole. There was no loophole. There was a deliberate insertion by opposition parties because they felt there should be consideration on a case-by-case basis. We understand that; so he should not keep pretending some disastrous thing was imposed by the government. It was a thoughtful amendment proposed by the opposition parties in a minority government situation.
I do look upon the decision of the Residential Tenancy Commission appeal board as an important decision because, to my mind, it tends to confirm at least some of the statements that were made in that committee by opposition parties, when all parties supported that amendment. Certainly I recognize that there may always be problems with any section in the act.
Mr. Ruprecht: This is a problem.
Mr. Speaker: Order.
Hon. Mr. Elgie: What in the world does the member think the Thom commission has been appointed for? To look at the ceiling? No. It was appointed to look at the issues, and that is exactly what it is doing.
Mr. Di Santo: Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask the minister whether he is aware that conversions are happening in a number of apartments that were built for specific reasons, such as an apartment in Dorado Court in my riding which has a limited dividend program and where the tenants received notice to vacate the building because of extensive renovations. The final result is that the tenants, who have been in that building for many years. now are put in a situation where they have to vacate the building. They have made a number of allegations that I will bring to the minister's attention later on.
Mr. Speaker: Question, please.
Mr. Di Santo: They are without any guarantee that they will get back into the same apartments with the same rents. Actually they fear, and rightly so, that their rents will he jacked up and the low-rent concept will be totally destroyed by the renovations. Does the minister not think these people need some protection? Will he inquire into it? Will he tell us what recourse they have other than hiring a lawyer and fighting the landlord in court?
Hon. Mr. Elgie: Mr. Speaker, with respect, I am not sure that question is related to the issue of conversion of apartment units to partial hotel units. I would say that the issue of eviction, for whatever purpose, falls under the Landlord and Tenant Act.
LOGGING TRUCK FATALITIES
Mr. Foulds: Mr. Speaker, I have a question of the Minister of Transportation and Communications. How many deaths have to occur on the highways of northwestern Ontario before his ministry implements the coroner's jury recommendations following the death of James Gabrielson on Highway 105 some three years ago and the coroners' jury recommendations following the deaths of Robert Madder and Blair McDonald just this year, because of accidents involving pulp log trucks?
Can he tell us why the report of the ad hoc committee on transportation of pulp logs has not yet been made public when the Minister of Northern Affairs (Mr. Bernier) and I had hoped it would have been completed by the end of May?
Hon. Mr. Snow: To answer the first question, Mr. Speaker, I hope there will he none. I am as concerned as the honourable member is over the deaths that have been caused. I know the great concern of the people of northwestern Ontario in particular, as well as the concern of the people in all of Ontario, about safety matters related to log hauling.
We have just recently received one of the coroner's reports the member has referred to. I am not familiar with the one of three or four years ago, but no doubt we received that too. The Minister of Northern Affairs and I have been discussing this matter. We have appointed an ad hoc committee to work with industry. We do not really want to stop the woods industry of northwestern Ontario dead while we try to improve the safety aspects. We have had a great deal of co-operation from the industries involved. I am convinced they are taking it seriously.
Mr. Bill Neilipovitz of my ministry is heading up the ad hoc committee. I am to get the briefing on that report from the ad hoc committee next Monday morning. As of now I do not have, nor have I seen, the report that has just been completed. I hope to be able to meet with the Minister of Northern Affairs and other ministers next week. The Solicitor General (Mr. G. W. Taylor) will be involved with the safety aspects. I hope to be able to make that report public just as soon as I possibly can. I hope it will be before the end of the session.
CANADA HEALTH ACT
Mr. Hennessy: Mr. Speaker. I have a petition:
"The registered nurses, along with the concerned citizens (consumers) are very concerned that the provisions of the Canada Health Act as currently drafted in the white paper, draft two, will seriously erode the principles of medicare in Canada.
"Medicare is one of our most valued and necessary social programs. The abovenoted persons endorse and strongly support the recommendations made by the Canadian Nurses Association, the Registered Nurses' Association of Ontario and the Ontario Health Coalition in their respective briefs to the Honourable Monique Bégin, Minister of National Health and Welfare.
"On behalf of the health status of all Canadians, we urge you to make every effort to ensure the preservation and strengthening of medicare before the draft legislation is presented to parliament.
"Your response is requested and will be communicated to the Canadian health consumers."
Mr. Di Santo: Mr. Speaker, this petition is from the residents of 2 Dorado Court, Downsview, Ontario:
" ... In the opinion of the undersigned tenants, the current owners of 2 Dorado Court have and are continuing to operate the trust given to them by Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. in an illegal and/or unjust manner.
"(1) The owners purchased 2 Dorado Court contrary to the intent of the operating agreement with CMHC.
"(2) The owner has never operated the building within the limited dividend program intended, and has neglected to maintain or sign any new tenant leases as he is obliged to do under the operating agreement with CMHC.
"(3) The owner has neglected the maintenance of the building; indeed, he has actively pursued a policy of encouraging the decline of the building to justify his unwarranted efforts to destroy the limited income reason for this building's existence.
"(4) The owner has most recently embarked upon a policy designed to clear the building of all existing tenants. The reason is clear and has nothing whatsoever to do with renovations, substantial or otherwise. Even now he is charging tenants in the building illegally high rents. (Talk to the tenants in …) They clearly intend to leave the building vacant long enough to allow them to get away with cosmetic, cheap improvements and double the rent.
"(5) They are persistent in using tactics clearly labelled as harassment in the Landlord and Tenant Act when they give out eviction notices for 'nonpayment of rent' to tenants who have paid their rent and have receipts to prove it.
"(6) They fully intend to rerent the apartments vacated by long-standing tenants to 'fly-by-nighters' who will further reduce the building's standards,
"For all of the above ... reasons, we, the undersigned current tenants, believe action should be taken by the authorities who are involved, including CMHC, the city of North York, the landlord and tenants association, the hoard of education and, above all, the tenants of 2 Dorado Court, Downsview, Ontario."
Mr. Speaker: That was rather a lengthy epistle.
INTRODUCTION OF BILL
EXPROPRIATIONS AMENDMEN1 ACT
Hon. Mr. McMurtry moved, seconded by Hon. Mr. Wells, first reading of Bill 72, An Act to amend the Expropriations Act.
Motion agreed to.
Hon. Mr. McMurtry: Mr. Speaker, in October 1981, all members of the Land Compensation Board were appointed to the Ontario Municipal Board, and similarly all Ontario Municipal Board members were appointed to the Land Compensation Board.
With these cross-appointments, there is no longer any need for two separate tribunals. The Expropriations Amendment Act would formally transfer the Land Compensation Board's duties to the Ontario Municipal Board.
Mr. Speaker: Just before proceeding with the next item, I think it is rather Interesting for all honourable members to know that there was a group of exchange students in the west gallery this morning from Japan who were accompanied or sponsored by the Rotary Club of Peel. It is interesting to know these people are coming from other countries to observe what we are doing here.
Mr. Nixon: Were they interjecting. Mr. Speaker?
Mr. Speaker: No. They were very quiet and orderly.
Hon. Mr. Wells: Mr. Speaker, just before I call the orders of the day, I would like to remind the House that there has been agreement that if there are any votes on the bill that is being called today, they are being stacked until 10:15 p.m. on Monday next.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
WORKERS' COMPENSATION AMENDMENT ACT (CONCLUDED)
Resuming the adjourned debate on the motion for second reading of Bill 66, An Act to amend the Workers' Compensation Act.
Mr. Di Santo: Mr. Speaker, in resuming the debate today, I must confess that last Tuesday the minister got really upset at my remarks. I pointed out to him that there was nothing personal against him but, rather, it was the fact that I think this bill does not respond to the requests that have been made by this caucus in the past and by injured workers throughout the province. For the reasons I outlined, it was to be considered as a slap in the face of people who were waiting for some kind of justice from this Legislature and this government.
This bill is not An Act to amend the Workers' Compensation Act. Technically, it is an amendment of the act, but in effect it should be called the bill that increases the pensions by five per cent, because that is what it is. I was offended because some of the figures in this bill are totally misleading. I refer particularly to subsection 42(7), which states that except for those injured workers who are in new accidents, of all the injured workers who have been in accidents in the preceding years, not one will receive an increase, because to receive an increase an injured worker must have received total temporary disability benefits for the immediate preceding 48 months.
I do not want to use common sense, because common sense may not apply in some cases; people on the opposite benches may not understand common sense. If we look at the figures supplied by the Workers' Compensation Board, it will be realized that there are only a few, if any, people who have been on total temporary compensation for 48 months, which is a long time.
Last week, when we issued the figures, the percentage of those who had been on compensation for more than three years was minimal, less than one per cent. That means that section was introduced only because the government in the past four years has been gradually reducing the rights of people on total temporary compensation. In 1982, to qualify to receive the increase, an injured worker should have been on total temporary benefits for three years. In 1981, he should have been on total temporary benefits for two years, and in 1980, for one year, which means --
Mr. Speaker: Order, please. I would point out to the member that I have listened very carefully and attentively to his submissions and his remarks and I would suggest to him that the points he is making now were made earlier and have been made. I would suggest to him he is being repetitious, in contravention of the standing orders. I see he obviously does not agree. I would just point out to him that instead of going over the points he has already made, rather than be repetitious, he could move along on to new ground.
Mr. Di Santo: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, for your observation but --
Mr. Piché: We should also add that what he is doing right now is an abuse of the Legislature.
Mr. Di Santo: Mr. Speaker, I am absolutely shocked at
Mr. Speaker: The member for Downsview will please never mind the interjections.
Mr. Di Santo: -- at the member for Cochrane North (Mr. Piché) who never contributes at all to any debate in this Legislature and sits down like a duck, talking of abuse of the Legislature.
The fact of the matter is we are very concerned about this bill and we feel very strongly, because I have been involved many years in dealing with workers' compensation cases. Therefore, I think I have a right to express my anger and to be the spokesman of all those injured workers who do not have a chance to be here in the Legislature and talk.
Those injured workers are not represented by the member for Cochrane North, because I have never heard him raising these issues even though he represents industrial workers who certainly are and have been in industrial accidents, as I know from our friends in the trade unions who represent the industrial workers in his riding. He knows that, but he has been involved with the Smoky Line excursion train and all his fancy projects; he does not understand this issue.
I would like to tell the minister that this bill has been seen and has been viewed by the injured workers as an insult because it is based on a false comparison with Bill 179. The Minister of Revenue (Mr. Ashe) interjected the other night that the base for this bill is Bill 179, which is a comparison that does not hold.
This bill has been based, according to the minister, on the rate of inflation. I want to submit that comparison does not hold. This bill should have been based on the real needs of the injured worker. It should have been based on the fact that the injured workers, for the last several years and as late as last December, have been sacrificed to a logic that does not hold because it does not take into account what their wages were before the accident; what their wages would have been if they had not been in an accident; what their lives would be now in the absence of an accident; and above all, what loss they suffered in financial terms, economic terms and in their lives in general terms and their family life. I have mentioned several examples of injured workers who had their lives destroyed because of industrial accidents.
I do not want my participation in this debate to be construed as an attempt to stall the debate or to put the government against the wall. That is far from my mind. The purpose of my intervention and what I am really asking the minister -- and I cannot find the words to ask; I do not know how to convince him -- to stand up in this Legislature and say: "Okay, I heard the arguments, I heard the people making representations, the press, the Toronto Star, the Globe and Mail, that bastion of progressive thinking --
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Cousens): If the member for Downsview could only respect the Speaker's point and address the bill in the time that is available, the House is most confident that you will try to bring up new points in the debate. That is the opportunity you have.
Mr. Foulds: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order: Surely my colleague the member for Downsview was illustrating his points with direct reference to new material he had not used previously in the debate.
The Acting Speaker: The point is that the member for Downsview was just saying that he could not find words to say it any more. I was trying to underline the very important words of the Speaker, "Please do not be repetitious and deal with the issue at hand." He has that opportunity. All I am saying is that the House is anxious that the debate proceed and each member he given his opportunity.
Mr. Di Santo: Mr. Speaker, on the point of order, I said I could not find words to use with the minister, how to plead with him, and I was mentioning that there have been two recent articles, one in the Toronto Star and one in the Globe and Mail, two editorials that address this issue. The Speaker has no right whatsoever to censor what I am going to express in this chamber. If the Speaker thinks I am repetitious he should say it when I am addressing the issue about which I am going to speak shortly. I am not going to be long, but that is my choice and my privilege as a member of this Legislature. If I am subjected to provocation, then I will speak endlessly.
I want to go hack to the bill. I want to conclude my remarks. I said the minister would do the right thing if he listened to all the presentations made by various groups outside this Legislature, by the two major newspapers in Metropolitan Toronto, including the Toronto Star, which has the largest circulation in Canada. He should do the honourable thing and say, "Let us take into account all the circumstances;" not only the rate of inflation or Bill 179, because they have nothing to do with the injured workers, and come back with a decent increase. We do not want to subvert the system, but an injured worker called me this morning and told me: "I am now receiving $137, a 10 per cent pension. With this increase, I will receive a $7 increase. How can I survive?" That is the real issue we are talking about.
I hope the minister is not blinded by the circumstances he mentioned, but that he is open to receive the suggestions coming not only from myself but also from my colleague the member for Dovercourt (Mr. Lupusella), the Liberal members and the injured workers. I hope he accepts our amendment because it is only a minimum measure of basic social justice. By not accepting our amendment, the minister will do what the injured workers said he is doing. He is slapping them in the face.
Mr. Haggerty: Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to speak on second reading of Bill 66, An Act to amend the Workers' Compensation Act, and to share my concerns with other members. I do share the concerns of the member for Downsview. Perhaps he was speaking at some length but if one has to get the message across to the members on the other side, one has to speak at some length to make sure they get the points a member is trying to raise.
The Minister of Labour (Mr. Ramsay) is not in his seat at the moment but I want to commend him for introducing the bill to upgrade the benefits for injured workers with some degree of financial assistance. Perhaps some members can be critical of the Minister of Labour, but this is the second bill he has introduced in the last six months to improve the benefits of the Workers' Compensation Act.
I also want to commend the minister. If he was in his seat, I would commend him for the new legislation he is putting forward in the House. In many cases, they are rather important pieces of labour legislation. I am thinking of the white paper he introduced this morning on hiring practices and the rights of persons who are being transferred from one job to another within that industry. I am also thinking of the legislation he has introduced to put a ban on the use of lie detectors and the fact that employers cannot use discriminatory practices. There is also the matter of removing the professional strikebreaker from picket lines.
These are matters that have been raised by opposition members for a number of years. I commend the Minister of Labour for taking these steps. I do not think there is another minister who has done so much in such a short period of time. The government is finally moving in this direction to give some recognition to labour problems that are facing Ontario.
The minister deals with other important matters such as human resources. This is a key to the economic prosperity of this province, that we have harmony within our labour force.
Mr. Wrye: Do not be too nice or he will be in trouble.
Mr. Haggerty: That is right.
That is the good news. The bad news is that I find some difficulty in accepting the amendments proposed in Bill 66. Like other members, I find it rather offensive that for the second time in six months the minister would bring in a bill that provides an increase of five per cent across the board to injured workers. It was not much higher last December and, of course, it was retroactive for the past 18 months. However, it does indicate that somebody in the cabinet is listening to the Minister of Labour. He can apply some degree of pressure to bring forward legislation that will provide some assistance, meagre though it may be.
Without prolonging the debate too long, I can say I have had a number of experiences in the Legislature in the past dealing with the Workers' Compensation Act and I asked the government to bring forward some progressive legislation in this area.
Looking at the burial increase in section 1 of the bill, it has been increased by $100 from a year ago to $1,400. The average burial cost today is about $3,000, so $1,400 is rather a shortfall.
It has been the practice of this government and the Workers' Compensation Board in particular to piggyback on the benefits that may come forward through the Canada Pension Plan Act. I bring that to members' attention because the board is piggybacking upon Canada pension as it relates to a persons disability. One can he completely disabled and receive full benefits from the Canada pension plan, yet one would not receive the same degree of flexibility or assistance from the Workers' Compensation Board.
I often question the procedures followed by the Workers' Compensation Board when arriving at a certain degree of injury, whether it is 15 per cent, 20 per cent or five per cent. Sometimes I think the actuaries at the board should have their heads re-examined. They should be sticking to the principles established. In an automobile accident, for example, the courts handle the matter in a better manner than the Workers' Compensation Board. For injury in an automobile accident and through the actuarial figures that are supplied in a case of that nature, there is a higher award.
I mentioned this at the time the bill was introduced last year. Under survivor's benefits, the widow will now receive a maximum of $564 a month. She might as well be receiving old age pension, because that is just about the amount a person would receive under this act. Many of them are young widows who have to carry heavy payments on a mortgage to pay off their home, there may be a car debt, there may be other debts that have to be looked after and $564 is insufficient to meet the requirements to maintain the standard of family living, the upkeep of the home and perhaps the use of an automobile and other amenities required in life. It is just sheer nonsense to bring in a bill of this nature with an increase of five per cent to $564.
I raised another matter last year. With the amendments to the act coming forward this year, I thought perhaps there would be something conclusive, that we would see a move in the right direction. I am talking about the survivor's benefits. Often the actuary will decide that the degree of disability is a 15 or 20 per cent award. I suppose in the long run there is an assessment applied to industry saying: "Because of the injuries, you are assessed at $25,000 or $30,000. We are putting that into trust for that injured worker or for his family."
That person may pass on and the death may be related to the injury. There is nothing here about that funding or that assessment sitting in trust being passed on to the survivor. I have raised this matter for a number of years. I was hoping to see progressive legislation in the area of compensation for the widow, that the money left in trust be passed on to the survivor.
In the 15 years I have been in the Legislature, it has been difficult to follow some of the procedures taken by the Workers' Compensation Board. In their little blue book, for example, on occupational diseases -- I will just read this:
"General medical considerations: Organic or inorganic chemical poison can affect one of several of the body's systems with resulting symptoms which may not fit a specific disease pattern. While occupational health physicians will be familiar with the hazards of a particular industry, a general physician may easily overlook industrial poisoning as the cause and symptoms because of its relative rarity."
One wonders, on reading that paragraph, what the Workers' Compensation Board has actually done in the area of preventing accidents, and in particular in occupational health. I have a number of appeals now awaiting the board. I will cite one example where the person has died of silicosis. Members should try to establish a claim in this area.
He worked in that environment for 20 years and to my knowledge there has been no occupational health inspection done in that factory -- not until the recent occupational health and safety bill had been passed. I cannot recall, in the information passed on to me, that the Workers' Compensation Board had been in to see there were no problems or that the health hazards were reduced to acceptable levels. There is nothing there.
It goes on to say here: "It is therefore helpful if workers are aware of any specific hazards"
-- in the past workers were not aware of any specific hazard because no one had informed them, neither the board nor the Ministry of Labour -- "they may encounter at work and can inform their personal physician. Physicians should include occupational data, including exposure to hazardous substances, in patient medical records." I bring that matter up because it is time the Workers' Compensation Board under the Occupational Health and Safety Act had some definite directions in this area, to say that regardless of what the industry is the worker should be aware of all toxic substances. Even yet there is no check under the Occupational Health and Safety Act.
Here is another one: respiratory disease. This one bothers me to such a degree that sometimes when I am at the board I would like to lose my Irish temper and go after them in a more forceful manner.
"Respiratory diseases: Exposure to dust, fumes and gases can cause both acute and chronic diseases of respiratory tract and lungs. Exposure to fumes in welding, smelting or other irritant gases may produce metal fume fever, acute bronchial irritation or even pneumonia. The chronic disease known as pneumoconiosis occurs in miners, sandblasters and asbestos workers exposed to coal dust, silica, asbestos, dust from mouldy plant materials such as grain, wood produce. Diseases of the lungs called alveolitis; by a somewhat different mechanism, chronic bronchitis and emphysema."
If one tries to establish a claim down at the Workers' Compensation Board based on a medical term called "emphysema" as it relates to grain dust workers, he will have one of the most difficult times establishing a claim there because they will always come up with some other information that is not related to the particular job or employment.
Hon. Miss Stephenson: Oh no.
Mr. Haggerty: The honourable member did not do much in that, either, when she was Minister of Labour. She sat idle over there for years when she was Minister of Labour.
Mr. Grande: Three years.
Mr. Haggerty: As an example, I have sent samples of grain dust taken off ships carrying grain for winter storage from Fort William down to Port Colborne to the Minister of the Environment (Mr. Norton). There were chemicals found in there, and I suppose I will have to have further analysis taken to find out what criteria will be established for claiming compensation. In fact, one of the seamen ended up in the hospital in Spaniard's Bay, Newfoundland, with silicosis. Of course, I do not have to tell members that one can get silicosis working around grain dust.
I do suggest to the former Minister of Labour that she has done very little in this area to protect the workers in industry.
I draw to the attention of members these areas that I thought would be coming forward in the new amendments to the Workers' Compensation Act, but there are areas in this particular bill that do very little to assist the injured worker. There is nothing in the bill that says we are going to give any credits or additional funding for disposable income lost over the years by the injured persons. Many of those persons have been injured for some five, 10, 15 or 20 years, and they base it on the assessment given at that time. Earnings are based on the time of the accident.
Those persons are walking the streets, if they can walk at all. Many of them come into my riding office with a degree of disability. They have been unemployed for a number of years and have been given a pension by the Workers' Compensation Board of 20 per cent, maybe $242 a month. The board says, "Here, this is the best we can do." Yet the industry that employed them will not hire them back for a light, modified job.
I do not have to tell the Minister of Labour about the situation today in employment in Ontario. A person has got to be in top, healthy condition to be employed today because of the improved productivity and the cost factor involved. Industry today cannot have somebody sitting half idle on the assembly line or someplace else in the plant doing a light, modified job.
When employees who work in that industry even have to compete with the robots on the assembly line, through the new technology that is applied in this area, it means that more persons with a degree of disability will never be employed. It is difficult when those persons are placed in this category and told: "Apply for Canada pension." The Workers' Compensation Board is piggybacking on the Canada pension scheme, and it should not be. The responsibility lies with the industry and the Workers' Compensation Board to see that these persons are compensated for that degree of injury.
It is difficult. The attitude taken at the board seems to be that they just do not seem to care very much about the injured worker any more. They feel the award they are giving is reasonable and fair. I do not think it is fair. There are a number of persons whom I have been in contact with over the years who have been put on a pension of $246 a month. Probably the average benefit paid out in the workers' compensation -- I am just quoting a figure off the top of my -- head is about $300 a month. Five per cent of that is not enough.
When I talk about disposable income, they should be taken back and given an assessment saying, "Yes, you were injured 15 years ago; sure, your income may have been $7,000." But today the average worker from one industry in my area earns $28,000 for 40 hours a week. The amount in the bill does not even go that high; it goes to $25,000. If a person is working in that industry, for example, if I interpret the act correctly, he is allowed to go to a maximum of only $25,000 in disposable income. He has already lost $4,000 or $5,000 at the top.
If a policeman or a fireman were injured today, with their salaries of around $30,000 to $32,000, and if the maximum is set at only $25,000, there is about a $7,000 spread. It is a great deal to say, "Here is 75 per cent nontaxable." That may be fair in one area, but not in two areas. Someone with a family of four or five children who suffers such a loss of disposable income is being penalized. A single person may be able to get by with that amount with no tax on it, but not the other person who has lost 25 per cent. The study of workmen's compensation for Ontario, the Weiler report, suggested that 90 per cent be the factor.
Members on the standing committee on resources development have pretty well agreed that this is the approach that should be taken. In this area I suggest there is no consideration being given to loss of disposable income to those persons who were injured 10 to 15 years ago. If they were working in the work place today, they could be generating or earning an income of $18,000 to $30,000 a year, not the $7,000 they earned at the time of the accident. That is where the board is incorrect, or the minister is incorrect, in taking this approach. It should be based on the loss of disposable income due to the injury.
I come back again to the automobile accidents and the claims and settlements that are being made today. Sure, some of them are rather high claims -- $1 million and so on -- but they are looking at the long term, the loss of disposable income for a period of 20 or 30 years. Nothing in this act goes in that direction, except five per cent.
It is shameful that we should he moving in that direction today. No wonder there are people out on the doorstep here. I believe it was in 1967 -- and my colleague the member for Essex North (Mr. Ruston) perhaps can recall this -- at the opening of the session when Al Balding, as I think his name was, came charging in here and his back was in a cast. They threw him out almost and roughed him up a little getting him out of here. Later on, the then Minister of Labour remarked that it was nothing but a fake; that it was, in a sense, all a put-on.
That man was injured in an accident where a crane upset on him, fracturing his back. It was Al Balding, I think, who was responsible for establishing or founding the injured workers' group, which is a good group. I have had some good dialogue with Mr. Balding over the years when I was critic of the Labour ministry. I remember seeing him about seven or eight years ago; and I will tell the members, with that degree of injury to his back, he was almost bent over touching the floor. He was given a position with this government on the board of review, on the issue of fishing licences for Lake Erie. That would supplement his income.
This man came charging in here, and as I said all the reports were that there was nothing wrong with him. I will say this: if any member had a back like his, that member would not be sitting in the House today. He opened the door at that time by saying that changes should be made in what was then called the Workmen's Compensation Act.
I have thought that in the 15 years I have been here perhaps changes would come forward. They have: five per cent across the board. My colleague the member for Windsor-Sandwich (Mr. Wrye) has introduced an amendment to the worker's compensation to move the increase up to 10 per cent. That may help a little bit, but, of course, we on this side of the House do not have much say. We can be critical of the government and raise our concerns, but I guess when the final vote comes it will be five per cent whether we like it or not.
Under today's circumstances, in the economic climate, the member for Downsview (Mr. Di Santo) was right when the Minister of Revenue (Mr. Ashe), interjecting on a point of order the other night, said, "It is in line with our restraint program, Bill 179." if one looks at Bill 179, it was flexible enough that the government had provided some measures of relief to those persons at the bottom of the totem pole, those in the lower income bracket. The government should have had something like that in this bill. There should be some flexibility in the five per cent increase across the board. There are persons who have been injured and who are receiving a permanent partial disability award but are still working and receiving a pretty good source of income on top of their pensions.
As I look at it, if a person is fortunate enough to be working, then there should be some adjustment on a sliding scale basis for those at the bottom of the totem pole who are getting a meagre pension of $160 or $180 a month and have no job. For those who will never be able to work again there should be some consideration given in this area. There should be an escalating clause to give flexibility so that a person could at least have the minimum standard of living, the basic income that is required. I do not know what that is today. It is estimated at about $11,000, but the way it is now it is a long way from that.
There are other areas in the bill where one could get into more detail on the matter, but I will raise only those questions. It seems that this government has inherited paralysis when it comes to workers' compensation. It seems to be at a standstill when year after year it gives out only five per cent. In the good years in the early 1970s, when wages were going up by 30 per cent, everything was geared to inflation. Certain industries had indexing, but none of this applied to the Workers' Compensation Act. They still get far less than any other person in society.
I suggest that the committee dealing with reshaping the act, working on the white paper, should come forward with strong recommendations for a new act that will bring some justice and equity to our system for taking care of injured workers.
In listening to the member for Downsview I noted he was a little critical of the latest Weiler report and the Wyatt report. Both were begun in 1978. I was the member who moved in committee that a new study be made and a new --
Hon. Miss Stephenson: The Wyatt report was in 1976.
Mr. Haggerty: Was it back that far? I am wrong, then. It was in 1976 that I made a motion in committee. I remember I received your notice on the --
Hon. Miss Stephenson: It was done in 1976. The report was later.
Mr. Haggerty: It was in 1977 or 1978 or in there, then. Anyway, the beginning of it was in 1976. I recall that the member for Algoma-Manitoulin (Mr. Lane) was on that committee and supported it. He suggested that we needed a new Workers' Compensation Act that would give a fair deal to injured workers.
I hope we will see a new Workers' Compensation Act coming from this committee. It might consider other pensions, such as the Canada pension, but we should ensure that a person who is injured and his family do not have to suffer financially. His compensation should he based on the degree of injury and the loss of disposable income. It is most degrading for an injured person to be placed in that area. In the majority of cases he becomes indigent and has to go to general welfare to make up for that loss of income. Many of them are young people.
I suggest that major changes should be brought forth. I thought they would be brought forth in the bill before us today, but they have not been. However, I have no choice but to support the bill in principle.
I hope the government will support the amendment proposed by the member for Windsor- Sandwich to raise the increase to 10 per cent. I do not think that would break the government or the Workers' Compensation Board. I think we have an obligation as legislators to bring about a fair deal in the Workers' Compensation Act.
Mr. Grande: Mr. Speaker, I am not going to be very long. However, I firmly believe it is incumbent upon me to put on the record a few thoughts I have regarding this legislation.
This legislation deals with a five per cent increase for injured workers. Let me tell the members and the minister that as far as the five per cent increase is concerned, the member for Downsview (Mr. Di Santo) and the member for Dovercourt (Mr. Lupusella) called it a slap in the face to injured workers; what I call it is a slow starvation diet.
The former Minister of Labour, the member for York Mills (Miss Stephenson), starved injured workers in this province for two years before increases were brought before the Legislature. The present Minister of Labour (Mr. Ramsay) has made a commitment to bring in changes and legislation every year. The timing of the legislation, of course, is always in debate, always in question: near the end of the session, etc. However, that is not the important aspect. The important aspect is that increases to injured workers are brought in.
What we are talking about and what we should be talking about are increases that are consistent with whatever the cost of living is. I understand that the Minister of Labour in his opening remarks did go quite a way to point out that the five per cent increase closely relates to the standard of living increases. He says himself that the latest year-over-year inflation rate as mentioned by the consumer price index was 6.6 per cent in April of this year. Then he goes on to mention that during the last few months inflation has really dropped. So by whatever kind of logic he uses in his introductory remarks he wants to suggest to us and to injured workers that five per cent is adequate.
Let me say to the minister that five per cent is not adequate to meet the needs for this particular year. Five per cent is not adequate to redress the past injustices in increases to injured workers in the last many years.
The member for Downsview and the member for Dovercourt, by the way, have both made excellent contributions to this debate, and I applaud them. The reason we have to stand up in this Legislature and speak for two and a half to three hours on a piece of legislation that is basically a simple piece of legislation by any standard -- there is nothing complicated about it -- is that we represent injured workers in this House, and day in and day out we have lived and breathed injured workers and their concerns and their problems. Their problems stem, of course, from a Workers' Compensation Act that does not meet the needs of workers who are injured.
Of course, the minister, kind-hearted as he is, makes some attempt to deal with these things, but the way or the amount he can go is limited, perhaps not by him but by the Workers' Compensation Board, which says basically: "Absolutely not. You cannot give them any more than that." Of course, a willing government in the past two to three years is using the biggest and heaviest club to beat up the people in our society who do not speak with an organized voice and who are the weakest in terms of commanding the kind of benefits and wealth that Ontario supposedly has. They are in the bottom 20 per cent of the scale, who command five per cent of the wealth in this province. Those are the people the government is talking about.
Those are the people this government in the past three years has been attacking in an organized, methodical, cold-blooded way, whether they be injured workers or people who get their money through the social assistance programs in this province or seniors or handicapped people. Those are the people this government has singled out to be punished. It sees them as the people through whom the inflation battle has to he fought, on whose shoulders the burden of inflation is to he settled.
As an individual member of this Legislature, I resent that approach, and I am totally opposed to it. I say to the Minister of Labour, please stop playing games with the weakest people in our society. As a minister of this government, please stop using the less fortunate people in our society as scapegoats for the problems Ontario is experiencing at this time. The injured workers are not the ones who have taken amounts of money from provincial coffers and prevented the province from raising the amount of revenue the government, in its habit of taking as much as it possibly can, requires. Those people are not the ones who have reduced the amounts of revenue into the government.
Anyway, what does this government have to do with payments to workers in this province? As I understand it, the Workers' Compensation Board gets its money from the employers. The Treasury does not pay out one cent in workers' benefits. Yet this government every year is in the habit of deciding, of making up its mind, and playing God with the benefits to injured workers. When one comes down to it, the government really has no business to do that, because government does not put any money whatsoever into the Workers' Compensation Board in terms of benefits.
The Workers' Compensation Board invests the great sums of money that come in on a yearly basis. However it invests the money, it invests it to get interest from that money the employers put into it. Supposedly that interest, received on a yearly basis, should be given out to injured workers in this province. We know that is not the case. We know the reason the Workers Compensation Board makes these investments is in order that the premiums, the rates that employers pay, become less and less as times goes on. The statistics show that and the Minister of Labour knows that.
Let us stop punishing people who through no fault of their own get involved in an accident on the job and as a result can no longer bring in the livelihood for their families that they were accustomed to. Let us stop cutting their benefits and let us stop this meagreness, this miserly five per cent increase.
If we take a look at the kind of wage loss the injured workers have experienced, we know the amount of money they receive today is more than likely about 40 per cent less in value than the amount of money they received back in 1971. The minister is trying to tell us through this bill that the five per cent increase is adequate. It is really a bunch of nonsense. The government has no business putting injured workers under the Inflation Restraint Board, in the Bill 179 mode. It has no business whatsoever doing that.
As I mentioned before, in his address at the introduction of this bill, the minister went to great pains in that three- or four-page presentation to show that the five per cent is adequate, that it meets the cost of living and that it meets inflation. Can I ask him the question: what is his concern and what is his problem if he wants the injured workers' increases to meet the cost of living? Why does he not index those benefits so injured workers do not have to rely on the goodness of the kind-hearted government to bring in those benefits? Why does he not do it so it becomes automatic and, as of July 1 of every year, injured workers get their increases to meet the cost of living by indexing? Why is he opposed to that principle when, in effect, his statement says he is attempting to do that through this five per cent bill?
I ask the minister about his own logic in the presentation of this bill. The introduction to this bill says, in effect, "Yes, I agree with the principle that injured workers ought to be compensated for the cost of living." If he agrees with that in principle, then I say to him, index it. Do it so it becomes automatic. Do it so that injured workers do not have to come to the steps of this Legislature year in and year out to protest. Do it so people do not have to come 2,000 or 3,000 strong to the standing committee on resources development on Weiler to tell the minister, the other people on that committee and the Legislature as a whole of their plight, of their concerns and of the fact they cannot make do with the pensions and benefits they have.
It is a process that ought to be alien to Ontario in 1983. It is a process that is reminiscent of the turn of the century. The people have to come cap in hand to a government and pressure their government to take a look at the benefits they receive and to make sure the benefits they receive do not go backwards or diminish in real value. The government can say it is giving them a five per cent increase, and yet the cost of living increase of six or seven per cent means, in real effect, those injured workers will have two per cent less this year than they had last year
It makes abundant common sense. Other governments in this land have seen fit to index pensions for senior citizens and other pensions in this country. Why is it that the injured workers cannot have the same benefits in terms of their benefits being indexed? What is the value in the confrontation tactics that have to be used to bring a government to understand the needs of injured workers, working people and the poor in this province? Why do we have to go through this? There is no need.
As a final point, I want to read into the record from page 5 of the minister's remarks, because it shows a minister who takes a very defensive stance. I am going to be quoting his own words. It is a minister who knows and understands that the five per cent increase to injured workers is inadequate. He says:
"While no doubt there are members who would seek to read some significance into an announcement regarding workers' compensation benefit increases almost on the eve of a long-awaited standing committee report on the proposed reforms stemming from the Weiler inquiry, I can assure the honourable members the sole reason for the timing of the present amendment is to ensure the benefit recipients obtain their increases at the earliest possible date."
I concur with the last two lines of that paragraph. These benefits should be indexed. Therefore, we do not have to worry about whether the Legislature or the government in its wisdom makes a decision to increase those benefits. But why is the minister so defensive in stating there are members who would seek to read some significance into the announcement? Why should people not read some significance into any remarks that a minister of the crown makes?
Why is it that the Minister of Labour, a week before he introduced his bill, got up in this Legislature and said, "No, it is not customary that every year we bring in a bill;" and left the Legislature, by inference, thinking that this is another year of the member for York Mills' style of confrontation politics in this province in terms of injured workers? We were left with the inference that the bill would not have come in, and yet the minister did bring it in. Therefore, there have to be reasons above the minister's concern about the recipients obtaining their increases at the earliest possible date, which I share with him.
Might the reason be the pressure the 2,000 or 3,000 injured workers put on before the resources development committee? Might the reason be that the injured workers through their briefs are starting to penetrate the iron wall of consciousness of this government? Are they beginning to do that? It makes one think that one week the minister will not bring in the legislation and that a week later he will bring it in.
Is he trying to throw the crumbs to the injured workers so they will not continue the organizing and the pressuring in terms of the kinds of regressive reforms the minister wants to bring in through his white paper. They are regressive reforms. There is a contradiction in terms there because what the minister calls reforms take us back 10 or 15 years in terms of the benefits to injured workers in this province.
The minister is throwing crumbs to injured workers. Injured workers organizations are solidly in opposition to the white paper at this time. Perhaps I should not even suggest this, but might it be the minister is trying to get to some of those groups and get them to support the regressive reforms he wants to bring in?
Or does the five per cent generosity have to do with the fact that once he brings in his reforms the 50,000 injured workers across this province who are receiving benefits and pensions at this time are not going to get any further increases if they decide to stay within the old system instead of opting into the new system? Is this the five per cent generosity?
I want to say lastly, and I mean lastly, we are going support this legislation, not because the five per cent is adequate but because we on this side of the House are not the ones to be accused of taking bread out of the mouths of injured workers' children. The five per cent is inadequate, and through our amendments we are going to attempt to get the minister and the government to understand the real needs of injured workers. We are going to put in amendments to increase those benefits. None the less, we are not the ones to take bread out of their children's mouths.
While this party will oppose moves made by this government, we are not going to oppose these increases. However, I certainly hope that between now and the time we deal with the amendments the minister will take a look at the injustice this five per cent increase will continue to inflict on injured workers and will accept our amendments.
Mr. Sweeney: Mr. Speaker, I have just about completed a year of public hearings. Granted, there were some lapses in between, a few weeks here, a few weeks there and a few weeks some place else, but it has happened over a period of a year. The minister will be well aware of that. We have had an opportunity to hear literally hundreds of people who came before us. I know it is in excess of 100 because I counted it up a couple of weeks ago. They have come before us to indicate the concerns facing the injured workers of this province.
The minister will probably he aware we had one meeting that was so large there was not a room within the vicinity of this building in which we could hold those people. Our chairman, the member for Cambridge (Mr. Barlow), was very quick on his feet to decide that perhaps we ought to hold it on the front lawn. I do not know whether anyone has checked this, but I believe that is the first committee hearing in the history of this Legislature that was ever held on the front lawn of the Legislative Building.
One of the messages that came through loud and clear from those hearings was that we are dealing in this legislation, because we are dealing with injured workers, with a group of people who through no fault of their own are caught in a squeeze that is financial and personal, that affects their families, their own sense of dignity and their future. When I say through no fault of their own. I am simply highlighting the fact that workers' compensation by its very nature is a form of no-fault insurance.
Long ago in this province we gave up the idea of trying to pinpoint blame. Whether it was the management's fault or the worker's fault or an accident that no one could help, that is not the issue any longer. The only issue that really matters is that there is an injured worker who is paying the price.
I am very pleased the minister is bringing in this legislation at this time. He has been told frequently it is patently unfair and unjust for the injured workers of this province, as one of the groups that has to rely upon government decision-making for income maintenance, to wait every year, not knowing for sure whether or when legislation is going to be passed and when it is going to take effect. The point has been brought to the minister and to the government that in justice and in fairness it has to he done on a regular basis.
Given the timing of this legislation, it would appear that both the minister and the government have heeded that request. I want to compliment them for that. It certainly is a step in the right direction, but it is obviously not enough, as my colleague the member for Windsor-Sandwich (Mr. Wrye) has pointed out in introducing an amendment on our behalf.
The five per cent limitation in this legislation is inappropriate primarily because it affects a group of people for whom the five per cent limitation was never intended. The minister and the government will be well aware of the fact that the members of my party believe in principle there had to be some limitations on increases in income, but we also made it very clear that there had to be a sense of proportion, of justice and of fairness in the application of that principle.
When the bill was brought before us, we made it very clear that we felt people in the lower income groups should he treated significantly differently. We have since introduced a bill of our own that would indicate different ways of treating people who had circumstances that differed from the majority and the norm.
Let me just take a look at section 5 of this bill. It talks about people who are receiving a compensation disability payment of $170 a week. That is an annual average of $8,840. In the second part of that section we talk about people receiving an annual permanent total disability pension of $786 a month. That is an annual payment of $8,976. Surely the minister and the government members appreciate the fact that people earning $8,800 or $8,900 a year were never intended, even by the government, to be the kind of people who would be affected by the five per cent limitation. Even the government members could not accept that.
I well recall that Bill 179 had minimum levels before the five per cent figure would trigger in. They recognized there were people whose incomes were sufficiently low that we had to give them something above that. That is all we are asking for in our amendments. When we say it is totally inappropriate for this group of people, because of their income level, to be affected by this five per cent limitation we are only trying to reflect back to the government the very principle they themselves said they agree with.
I do not think it is something we should he ashamed of at all. It is something of which we are quite proud. The group of people we are referring to here are those who are now being faced with the possibility of supplementing their incomes by finding light work, part-time work or any kind of a job for a person who has a handicap.
It is known to all of us that there is almost no light work out there. Any member of this House who deals with constituents who are affected by workers' compensation know this. Every single one of us, as we try to counsel these people and try to help them to find part-time work or light work, knows it is simply not out there. It is not out there anywhere near to a degree that reflects the number of people who are looking for it. It just is not there. It is a totally inappropriate response.
I want to share with members, and perhaps it is not necessary because they know it themselves, that the majority of people who come before me and who are on workers' compensation are genuinely and honestly looking for work. They do not want to continue in the sense where they are dependent upon someone else for their income and for supporting their families. They do not want that. We are not talking of people who by choice or who by desire want to be receiving their income from workers' compensation. They do not want that. They want to be independent, they want to help themselves and yet they are caught in that economic bind where the job simply is not available. That is the one major point I want to make. Because of that, I believe the five per cent limitation is inappropriate.
There is a second point. We are in the process right now of revising the legislation affecting workers who have been injured. We have a whole series of recommendations coming from the government white paper. Every one of those recommendations, if we finally put them through, means that people who now receive compensation are going to be better off financially as a result of it. We are going to introduce a wage-loss system which will help the people who are partially but permanently injured, who will not be able to go back to their old job or will not be able to earn the same kind of money they earned before. They are going to be better off under that legislation.
We are talking about improving spousal pensions and allowances, where the husband or wife has died on the job or has finally died after having received compensation for a number of years. We are going to help those people and they are going to be better off under this legislation; their children are going to be better off under the new legislation.
The point I am trying to make is, we in this Legislature, and particularly the government that drafted the white paper, have already accepted the premise that injured workers in this province need to be treated better, they need an increase in their economic allowance and in their income maintenance. Therefore, what we are asking is not something that is going to disturb the coming legislation.
We are not asking that we do something today that we may have to change back three or four months or even a year from now because these people are going to end up with an improvement, we hope, months from now or a year from now anyway. All we are saying is, let us recognize what we have already agreed to anyway, and let us begin. That is all it is. It is just a beginning in putting it into place today.
Let us allow a few more months or even a year to those people who are having financial difficulties right now. It would he better for them to have this period of improved income than to wait farther down the road.
We know it is going to come anyway in one form or another; we know it is going to be an improvement, however much that still remains to be debated by this Legislature. But it is coming. Therefore, our request to increase these figures from five to 10 per cent is simply falling into line with what we are going to do anyway. We are simply saying, "Let us do it a little bit earlier."
I began my remarks by pointing out that I have had an opportunity to meet these people, to hear from them and to discover their needs at first hand on a much broader scale than I have had an opportunity to do even in my own constituency office. We are not asking for charity or special consideration here; we ask only for recognition that a number of our fellow citizens, through no fault of their own, are in need.
The proposal by the government simply is not sufficient at this time. Let us do something a little better.
Ms. Bryden: Mr. Speaker, as my colleagues have said, our party will support this bill. Even a miserly increase of five per cent is better than nothing, particularly when one is at the poverty line or very close to it.
However, like my colleagues I find it offensive that we have a bill of this sort before us. It indicates that the government still considers raises in injured workers' pensions and benefits to be a matter of whim. It indicates that the government is ready to grant increases not on the basis of justice but on the basis of when it is ready to ask its friends the employers to put up more money to increase the payments. The government seems to put the profits of employers before the standard of living of people who have been injured in industrial accidents or who suffer industrial illnesses.
For years we have been urging an end to the situation where injured workers have to beg for increases. We have urged an end to the system where they have to come time after time to the front steps of the Legislative Building in the cold and rain to present briefs in order to get attention. In the eight years I have been in the House they have sometimes waited as long as three years for an adjustment.
This disgraceful situation should be ended, and that is the kind of legislation we should be dealing with today. We suggest that pensions and benefits should be adjusted quarterly or semi-annually to keep them in step with the cost of living. It should be an automatic adjustment. This is already done for old age security and guaranteed income supplement payments.
Injured workers in effect pay twice for their injury or their illness: once with loss of earnings and pain and suffering, and again with a cut in their standard of living when their benefits do not keep up with inflation. Surely the object of workers' compensation is to compensate the worker to a level that means he does not suffer loss as a result of an injury or illness he did not seek. In many cases he made no contribution to the cause of the injury or illness.
We wonder why the government picked five per cent. It appears that they are applying the nine and five restraints to injured workers and to their families. We strongly protested against the discriminatory application of those restraints to public servants alone. They were asked under Bill 179 to shoulder the burden of the government's overblown deficit and wasteful spending; they were made the scapegoats for government mismanagement of the economy.
We equally object to injured workers being asked to shoulder the burden of the government's cash flow shortages. It is very reprehensible to impose such a burden on people who in many cases are below the poverty line. It is reprehensible to limit their increases to amounts that fail to compensate them adequately for the accidents and illnesses that occur. It is unfair to halt any catch-up for those workers whose pensions and benefits are way below what is needed for decency and a proper standard of living.
My colleagues have referred to many pensioners and widows whose payments are based on very low earnings, particularly the pensioners; their payments are based on very low earnings and low ceilings at the time of the accident. A catch-up is needed for those people, but this bill does not provide for that sort of catch-up.
In his opening statement, the minister claimed the five per cent increase in the bill is equivalent to the increase in the cost of living since last July, which he put at 4.1 per cent for the 10 months for which figures are available. The figures do not go beyond April 1983.
He forgets that the workers got only nine per cent last December and that the 1982 increase in the cost of living was almost 11 per cent, so they started with a two per cent cut in their standard of living in 1982. The 1983 increase, therefore, should have included a two per cent catch-up on 1982 plus the increase in the cost of living since July 1982.
Because of the two per cent shortfall last year, the government is really giving injured workers only three per cent this year. Is that fair? I am sure the cost of living figures for the first six months of 1983, when they come out, will show at least a five per cent increase in that period. Add the missing two per cent from last year and there should be an increase in this bill of at least seven per cent; and probably 10 per cent will be a fairer figure if we allow for catch-up. The minister's figures simply do not stand up as a justification for what he claims is a fair settlement.
I do not need to cite all the figures and to study them to know the injured workers and their families are getting a raw deal from this government. I know it from the many who come into my constituency office; I know it from their stories of hardship and inadequate income; I know it from their wives, who tell me how difficult it is to make ends meet with the money that is coming in; I know it from the fact that the partial pensions many receive are far below a living wage. Of course, they are supposed to be supplemented by light work compatible with their disabilities; but the minister knows and I know that there is no light work in many work places where the injuries occurred and there is little light work in the labour market generally.
The Workers' Compensation Board still takes little responsibility to see that there is a suitable job available for the person who is placed on partial pension. That is why I am disappointed that this bill contains no adjustment to pensions and benefits which recognizes that many injured workers cannot find supplementary work to bring their income up to a living wage, especially at this time of high unemployment, unemployment for which I think this government is to a considerable extent responsible because it has not created jobs and it has not stimulated the economy. Instead it has used things like the nine and five restraint program as a smokescreen for dealing with the economic situation.
It is reprehensible that people who have suffered industrial injuries or illness should have to go on welfare because their compensation is inadequate. That should not be part of a workers compensation system. An indication of the meanness of this bill is the picayune increase in the annual clothing allowance the board gives to injured workers whose clothes are worn out by braces and prosthetic appliances. It is a cost most of us do not have. They do provide an annual sum for new clothes, but under this bill a worker who has this problem will get $8 per year more if he has an upper-limb prosthesis, and he will get $16 more if he has a lower-limb prosthesis or a back brace. With no price control on clothing, I doubt very much if these small sums will enable him to continue to clothe himself and to keep his dignity under the allowances that are paid.
The payments to widows and to the dependent children of workers who lose their lives are still very inadequate. The $564 a month for a single person, a widow, works out to $6,768 a year. The poverty line for a single person in Toronto is at least $9,500 a year, according to Statscan and the Social Planning Council of Metropolitan Toronto. A widow with three children gets $12,420 under this bill. The poverty line for this size of family is close to $19,000 in Toronto, according to the two sets of figures I cited.
The government should realize that if it raised these pensions and other benefits to a decent level, the increase in purchasing power would give the economy of this province a big stimulus. We know that injured workers and their families would spend all that money in the marketplace and that it would increase jobs, so in effect it would be good business for the government to give them justice.
This kind of stingy legislation is a measure of the government's compassion for injured workers. It is a reflection, I can only say, of a heart of stone. It is a denial of justice to a disadvantaged group in our society. It is forcing the members of that group into an even more disadvantaged condition by failing to keep their payments up to the inflation rate. I urge the government to reconsider this bill and raise the benefits to a level that will ensure justice and a decent standard of living to injured workers.
The Deputy Speaker: Is there any other member wishing to participate in this debate? Is the minister planning on a little sum-up?
Hon. Mr. Ramsay: Mr. Speaker, I have listened with interest to the debate. I had earlier intended to try to respond to some of the points that had been made, particularly by the member for Downsview (Mr. Di Santo), but I have decided it might be in the best interests of everyone concerned if I refrain from doing so.
Motion agreed to.
Bill ordered for committee of the whole House.
The House adjourned at 1 p.m.