L064 - Mon 17 Nov 1986 / Lun 17 nov 1986
The House met at 1:30 p.m.
Mr. Speaker: I ask all members to join me in welcoming the second group of legislative pages to serve in the fall sitting of the second session of the 33rd Parliament.
They are Kristjan Ahronson, Renfrew North; Isabel Burns, Oshawa; Jennifer Bruno, Oriole; Katherine Dowse, Ottawa South; Joseph Fidilio, Scarborough West; Sharon Gordon, Sudbury East; Christopher Hess, Windsor-Walkerville; Treasa Levasseur, Nipissing; Gregory MacDonald, London North; Heather McGhee, York West; Allison Menzies, Humber; James Morgan, York North; Tracy Morkin, Lambton; Corinne Muccilli, Dovercourt; Mark Nasmith, Northumberland; Kathleen O'Neill, Sault Ste. Marie; Jackie Osmond, Mississauga East; Trevor Peterson, Durham West; Tracy Pratt, Oxford; Mark Smith, Frontenac-Addington; Marc Steyn, Kent-Elgin; Jeramie Whalen, Hamilton Centre, and Paul Yaroshak, Sudbury.
Please join me in welcoming our pages.
LABOUR RELATIONS LEGISLATION
Mr. Barlow: As many members of this Legislature will recall, I introduced a private member's bill last June, which the members of the Liberal and New Democratic parties chose to defeat. Bill 45 was a proposed amendment to the Labour Relations Act that would have required a secret ballot vote for certification of a trade union when at least 45 per cent of the employees of the bargaining unit became members of the union. This would have freed employers, employees and the union from possible intimidation, coercion or interference.
If the Minister of Labour (Mr. Wrye) and his parliamentary assistant, the member for Yorkview (Mr. Polsinelli), who spoke on his behalf at that time, had not chosen to vote against this reform, the taxpayers of Ontario would not have to go to the expense of a hearing for Cambridge Canadian Foods. This hearing is as a result of the registered objections of many of this firm's employees, who claimed they were coerced into union membership, while those in charge of unionization charged the employer with interference.
I do not know the cost of these hearings to the Ontario taxpayers, but I do know the dissenting employees have had to hire legal counsel and that the employer's legal bill is estimated to go as high as $25,000.
AID TO DISABLED
Mr. R. F. Johnston: I rise to inform the House that I have done something rather extraordinary, and that is that as the critic, for the first time ever I have walked out of the estimates debate for the Office Responsible for Disabled Persons.
After the few hours I spent there, I realized that it was nothing but a hollow public relations function allowing the minister to get around and visit as many parties as possible and to send out as many pictures of himself as possible in a short period of time. However, he was incapable -- not unwilling, but incapable -- of answering basic questions about what was going on around the various ministries in respect of the disabled.
For instance, a major overhaul of vocational rehabilitation is being considered in the Ministry of Community and Social Services, and he knew nothing about what was going on, even though thousands of people who are disabled go through that program. He was not involved in the process and he said he was happy to wait until there was a report and, like any other minister, then have a look at it.
The member for York Centre (Mr. Cousens) then raised some questions about transportation, the answers to which showed that the minister knew little about what was going on in that area as well. I then asked him and his ministry staff whether they knew anything about Advocacy Ontario, which my leader had raised in the House as a leadoff question that day. He knew nothing about that or about a bill the Attorney General (Mr. Scott) is trying to produce, which I have seen and have a copy of.
He is powerless to act. He is just a sham. If the Premier (Mr. Peterson) is serious about the disabled, he will give the portfolio to one of his heavy hitters, not to the member for Parkdale (Mr. Ruprecht), or he will give the member line ministry responsibility for some of the things he wants to change. Otherwise, he is useless to us all.
Mr. Ferraro: It is my privilege to introduce to the House today a very important delegation, specifically, a trade mission from the state of Florida. We all remember Florida. That is the place where we all wish to be, come January, February or March.
The trade mission is headed by Glenda Hood, the commissioner for the city of Orlando, and I would ask Miss Hood to please stand up. As well, we have Carolyn Fenell, director of the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority, and Tom Slattery from the Bureau of International Trade and Development of the state of Florida.
I know the delegation will find our province very accommodating. It is a pleasure, on behalf of the government and the whole House, to welcome them to Ontario.
DEATH OF FORMER MEMBER
Mr. Rowe: I rise today to pay tribute to a former member of the Legislature, Thomas Ray Connell, who passed away Friday last. Mr. Connell was successfully elected to this Legislature on five consecutive occasions, beginning in 1951. He served as Minister of Public Works from 1958 to 1969, retiring from politics in 1971.
Upon retiring from politics, he turned to his lifelong love of horse racing and was a key player in founding Flamboro Downs Harness Racetrack, a first-class racetrack near Dundas, Ontario. Ray, as he was affectionately known in the racing world, was a gentleman in every meaning of the word, a great sportsman, a true politician and a very caring human being.
I am sure all members will join with me in expressing our deepest sympathy to Ray's wife Irene, his son Allan and his daughter Brenda.
Hon. Mr. Nixon: Mr. Speaker, I wonder whether it would be permissible for other members to say a word or two about Ray Connell at this time.
Mr. Speaker: I am certain we could get unanimous consent.
Hon. Mr. Nixon: I want to join with the honourable member who has brought this to the attention of the House. Ray Connell was a long-serving member. I believe he was first elected in 1955, or perhaps earlier than that. He was a farm neighbour of ours; so I knew him, and my father before me, of course, knew him, as did most of the farm community in southwestern Ontario. Long before he became actively involved in politics, he had established a remarkable reputation as a leading farmer, and he and his family were highly respected and much loved.
I found him to be completely fair as a politician and nonpartisan in a healthy sense. He could always defend the good old Tory party, but when it came to dealing with issues, he always did it on the basis of fairness, which sometimes meant he was not four-square with his Tory pals. As a new member myself, I found him to be remarkably helpful, when he was substantially senior and a long-serving member of the government of the day.
When he decided to go into the racing business he was very hospitable to many of us, and we had an opportunity to go down to see the fine facility that is extremely important in the racing industry of southwestern Ontario and heavily patronized.
He will be missed. He was much loved by everyone who knew him. I join with the member in extending our condolences to Mrs. Connell and the family.
Mr. Martel: I guess I was one of those who first got to know Ray Connell. He had been here a number of years by the time I arrived, but as one of the senior ministers of the crown, he was always of tremendous assistance to new members. He was always accessible and, as my friend the member for Brant-Oxford-Norfolk (Mr. Nixon) just said, always fair and always helpful.
I can recall long chats with him. Those were the days when we used to sit half the night. In some fit of silliness, we would sit until two or three o'clock in the morning. It gave an opportunity for members to get to know each other better. That occurred on many a late night here.
Ray Connell was there. He loved to talk about the nags. I should not call them nags; I understand his horses were well above and beyond that terminology. He and my Conservative friend's grandfather, I believe, had a great deal in common about the nags. I also knew my friend's grandfather.
We got to know Ray Connell. We liked him because he was honest, straightforward and fair. He will be deeply missed by anyone who knew him. On behalf of our party, I would like to join my two colleagues in extending our sympathy to the family.
Ms. Caplan: I would also like to address a few remarks to the Connell family. I met Mr. Connell when I was at the very young age of 21. It was the first time I had the opportunity to exercise my vote. It was before I realized I was a large-L as well as a small-l Liberal and, in fact, I voted for Mr. Connell when I was in his riding.
He was a fine gentleman, and I echo the words of our House leader as I express to this House my own regret at his passing and share with members on all sides of the House the condolences and deep respect I felt for Mr. Connell, who was my member.
Mr. D. S. Cooke: I rise to defend the privileges not only of myself as a member from the community of Windsor, but also of my colleague the member for Windsor-Walkerville (Mr. Newman).
Last week the Minister of Labour (Mr. Wrye) and the Minister of Housing (Mr. Curling) decided to fly down to Windsor after a cabinet meeting. During that cabinet meeting, approval was given to a land transfer that will result in the removal of the tracks in Windsor, with park land replacing them.
I would like to point out to the House and the Speaker that, if my understanding is correct, the member for Windsor-Walkerville was not invited to travel down for that major announcement even though the tracks are in his riding. The major land parcel that is being transferred to Canadian National is in my riding, and I was not informed either. I had to find out through the press.
The member for Windsor-Sandwich, who is the Minister of Labour, used to get up on his feet quite often when he was in opposition and complain about how Tories made these kinds of announcements without talking to local members. He should have presented a better example to members of his cabinet and to the House in sharing this grand announcement for our community, which all of us have worked on, some of us, myself included, long before the member for Windsor-Sandwich was even elected. The member for Windsor-Walkerville worked on this matter for years, long before the Minister of Labour even lived in Windsor.
I thought it was my obligation to bring this matter to the attention of the House.
RECOGNITION OF DISABLED ATHLETE
Mr. Reycraft: We were all recently honoured and privileged to have Rick Hansen with us in the Ontario Legislature. I know all of us were touched by his enthusiasm, goodwill and determination.
Today I would like to honour a young man from Middlesex, whom I believe demonstrates all that Rick Hansen exemplifies. Christopher Daw from Strathroy is 16 years old and suffers from a rare congenital disease. Because there is a complete absence of muscle in Chris's legs, he is unable to walk. However, his accomplishments far surpass those of most of us.
Chris's athletic achievements include establishing numerous Ontario records and being selected as the Canadian team captain at the first world games for disabled youth, which were held in England in August.
Earlier this month, Chris participated in the eighth Pan-Am Wheelchair Games in Aguadilla, Puerto Rico. He was the youngest athlete on the Canadian team. In Aguadilla, Chris earned three gold and two silver medals in addition to placing well in several other events.
Chris is looking forward to wheeling with Rick Hansen next Saturday, November 22, from Chatham to Wallaceburg during Rick Hansen's Man in Motion tour. Christopher is a fine example of what the disabled are capable of. We look to him, not in terms of what he is unable to do, but in terms of the tremendous things he can do. His accomplishments and spirit provide a great source of inspiration to all he has touched.
Mr. Bernier: Last week the Attorney General announced there would be a full review of the courtroom facilities in 20 judicial districts of Ontario. I invite the review committee to visit the Kenora riding and to look at the courtroom facilities in the towns of Sioux Lookout and Ear Falls.
For members' information, the current courtroom facility in Sioux Lookout is the main hall of the Royal Canadian Legion with no separate room for consultation. Everyone is put in one particular room. The dignity of a court is certainly not upheld.
In the town of Ear Falls, which has nine police officers for a population of 2,300, there are no courtroom facilities. Court is held in the town of Red Lake, some 45 miles away, two days every two weeks. This means the Ontario Provincial Police officers, those charged and the witnesses must travel that distance over that long period and stay in the community while court is being held. It is very inefficient and costly and does not give any dignity to the court, which should be exemplary all across this province and particularly in northern Ontario.
STATEMENT BY THE MINISTRY AND RESPONSES
Hon. Ms. Munro: It is with great pride that I rise today to share with my colleagues news of a singular honour that has come to the people of Canada.
Last Thursday evening, I had the privilege of attending a ceremony at which Governor General Jeanne Sauvé accepted the Nansen Medal on behalf of the people of Canada. Since 1954, the Nansen Medal has been awarded by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees for outstanding services to the cause of refugees. In receiving this award, the Canadian people take their place alongside other winners such as Eleanor Roosevelt, Queen Juliana of the Netherlands and King Olav V of Norway.
This year marks the first time the Nansen Medal was awarded to an entire nation and its people. At the ceremony, Jean-Pierre Hocke, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, said the award recognized the "major and sustained contribution" by Canadians to the cause of refugees.
Ontarians can take a special pride in this award. More than half of all refugees coming to Canada settle in Ontario. Ontario offers hope to those seeking freedom from fear and help for those seeking a life with meaning.
The people of Ontario must be congratulated and thanked for the humanitarianism which they have shown unfailingly to newcomers to this province. Their willingness to help refugees settle here has undoubtedly in part contributed to Canada's winning this award.
Mr. Grossman: With some pride, I join the minister and all the people of Ontario in sharing this award. As the member for a riding that has traditionally welcomed a large number of people who have immigrated to Canada as refugees or otherwise, I would like to take the liberty to point out, as would my colleague the member for Bellwoods (Mr. McClellan), a little of the full background, which is often misunderstood.
I take particular pride that just outside this assembly, the Hungarian community has erected a plaque commemorating their refugee plight in 1956 and especially recognizing the contributions of the then member for St. Andrew riding, as it was then my father, and the contributions of the then member for Bellwoods, the Honourable John Yaremko.
Those two people led the way here and in other places when it was not as politically popular to endorse these causes. There certainly was not the degree of infrastructure of government activities in place, such as Welcome Houses and other programs assisted by significant government funds. Thus, it is with particular pride that I acknowledge this award to all Canadians and all Ontarians. I would also like to acknowledge the small role played by members of my party in allowing that process to unfold as it should.
I wish the minister had found time this afternoon to acknowledge some of the other efforts. It would be unfair to accept this without recognizing not only the Hungarian refugee situation in 1956 but also, among others, the most recent large-scale example: the flight from Vietnam and other places in southeast Asia, which resulted in the massive movement to this country of the refugees known as the boat people. The role played by the then federal minister, the Honourable Ron Atkey, despite pressure and criticism, stands as a beacon for those things that have always represented the very best of what Canadians have believed concerning those refugee situations.
This afternoon, as we acknowledge the receipt of this award, I would like to remind all those present that people such as my father, John Yaremko and Ron Atkey sometimes faced more than a little bit of scepticism and criticism for the significant efforts they were mounting, but they and others like them did absolutely the right thing in laying the groundwork for the entry of refugees into this country.
Those efforts stand in remarkable and important contrast to the treatment afforded by the federal government during the Second World War, which resulted in thousands of Jewish refugees being specifically excluded -- not inadvertently and not as part of an overall rule -- from the opportunity to immigrate or flee to Canada as refugees and thus to save their lives.
If we have come a long way since those years, the progress is the result of the efforts of the people who played a special role; most important, it is the result of Canadians standing by those few brave political leaders who had the courage to fight public opinion, to turn it around and to hang tough in allowing that refugee flight to occur.
Happily, as a result, the situation in 1986 is remarkably different from the one that caused part of the horrible tragedies we faced from 1940 to 1945 as a result of the intransigence of the then government in Ottawa in not allowing a large group of refugees to save their lives by fleeing.
On this occasion, I join the minister in acknowledging receipt of this award and congratulating all Canadians, but I also want to remind the minister and others of a little of that history. Very much of that history had a whole lot to do with members of the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario and of Canada.
Mr. Rae: I cannot for the life of me see the point in trying to turn this into a partisan exercise. Of course, we share the pride of the Governor General in accepting on behalf of the people of Canada an award given to the people of Canada, and it is in that spirit that the award was given. I do not think it is appropriate for the government of Ontario or for the minister to try to associate themselves with Eleanor Roosevelt, Queen Juliana of the Netherlands or even King Olaf V of Norway. The award was given to all the people of Canada.
In that spirit, I would like to respond to the comments made by the minister as well as to the statement made by the leader of the Progressive Conservative Party, who quite rightly focused a bit of attention on the history of immigration and refugees and their relationship to this country. As he pointed out quite rightly, those of us who look back and share experiences with a great many people who are now here have to ask ourselves some very serious questions.
The leader of the Conservative Party mentioned the systematic rejection of those Jews in central Europe, Germany, Poland, Czechoslovakia and Hungary who were attempting to get out of Europe in the 1930s and 1940s and found the Canadian door was shut. It is worth remembering that Chinese immigration to this country was illegal for decades before 1948. It is worth pointing out that family reunification for those Chinese who came to Canada in the 1880s was illegal and made impossible.
In a spirit of pride, the people of Canada recognize that we have learned from that history of discrimination and that we are now attempting to right some historical wrongs. That attempt on our part has been recognized by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, something in which we can all as a nation take a certain pride. However, let it not be complacency. Let us not forget there are literally tens of thousands of family members overseas who still cannot be reunited with their families here in Canada.
Let us not forget the federal government imposed visa requirements on those attempting to come out of many countries in Central America and Latin America. As politically oppressed as they are, they are unable to come to this country and claim refugee status without a great deal of difficulty. Let us not forget there are still refugee camps in Hong Kong and in many other parts of the world where people still cannot get entry into this country.
So yes, as Canadians -- not for a moment as members of a government or an opposition -- we look with pride upon the fact that the Governor General has accepted on behalf of all the people of our country the Nansen medal, but let us not accept this medal with any sense of complacency. Let us see it as a recognition of what we are doing, but let us also see it as a goad for us to do so much more in recognizing the needs of those in the world who would like to make Canada their home but who cannot do so because of the practices of governments that fail to recognize those needs.
NUCLEAR POWER PLANT
Mr. Grossman: I thought I had best return to the chamber before the member for Fort William (Mr. Hennessy) took my job and my seat, as he was threatening to do.
I have a question for the Minister of Energy. The minister is aware that the chairman of Ontario Hydro, a person this government has endorsed as a good chairman of Hydro, has indicated a new plant will have to be decided upon within two years. He also knows his Premier (Mr. Peterson) is quoted in today's Toronto Star as saying: "There is no crisis looming on the horizon. There is a lot of lead time. We will be discussing it over the next few years, but no immediate decisions have to be made."
On the other hand, the minister is quoted in today's paper, in the same edition, as saying he tends to agree with Tom Campbell's assessment of Ontario's power needs and it is a very important matter requiring study by the government.
Can the minister tell us whether he still tends to agree with Mr. Campbell's assessment or with the Premier's assessment that no decision has to be made?
Hon. Mr. Kerrio: On the whole aspect of providing power to the people of Ontario, my message was very clear and the honourable member has not seen fit to repeat it here. It was that as long as we are going to complete Darlington, we have a great deal of breathing space, but we should look at what has to be done for the future. Darlington looks as if it is going to take us to the 1990s or somewhat beyond. That was very clear in the article. If he wants to read selectively from an interview in which many questions were posed, I suppose that is his prerogative.
Mr. Grossman: I remind the minister that Mr. Campbell was dealing with Darlington, and he said that notwithstanding Darlington, a decision was going to have to be made in the next two years with regard to building another plant. There is nothing selective about what I have read. Mr. Campbell says we have two years with Darlington. The Premier says we have a lot more than two years with Darlington. In the paper today, the minister said he tends to agree with Mr. Campbell. It is fair for us in this Legislature to ask which view the minister endorses, Mr. Campbell's or the Premier's, because they cannot be reconciled.
Hon. Mr. Kerrio: I think I answered the question. I suggest to the member that we have a fair amount of breathing space to make a very important decision about the future power requirements of this province. I do not think that is hard to understand. It is going to go on. There are many options and I have spoken about many of them.
Mr. Grossman: I invite the minister to remember the recommendations of the select committee dealing with Hydro, which suggested Hydro ought to be made more accountable. I refer him to his own response, and I quote directly, "They" -- being conservation -- "are very high on my list of priorities and we are hoping we can convince Hydro that they should be on theirs."
We have here some of the previous statements the minister made when he was opposition critic. "Liberal Seminar Slams Hydro's Nuclear Policies." We have a press release he put out in July 1982 calling Hydro a "Goliath out of control." We have December 30, 1984, where he says, "Ontario Hydro is Called a Monster on the Loose." He says here: "We put them in charge of conservation. That is a joke." Finally, he says, "Ontario Hydro needs a full overhaul," including a new chairman instead of Mr. Campbell.
Mr. Speaker: Question.
Mr. Grossman: How does he reconcile all those brave words he once uttered with his very weak-kneed, almost pleading request that he is hoping he can convince Hydro that conservation ought to be on its list of priorities?
Hon. Mr. Kerrio: Ontario Hydro happens to have some of the finest people in the utility business --
Hon. Mr. Kerrio: I should start again.
Ontario Hydro has some of the finest people in the utility business in the world. We are talking about the redirection of Hydro, conservation, maximizing hydraulic and doing many things, and Mr. Campbell readily accepts that. We are having the kind of co-operation that is going to be needed to go forward from the position of Ontario Hydro in a conservation, energy-efficient way. I am very confident that is going to happen.
Mr. Grossman: He is confident, but he will do nothing about it.
Mr. Speaker: New question.
Mr. Grossman: All those people he has said were incompetent and insensitive before he took office.
Mr. Grossman: My second question is for the Treasurer and Minister of Revenue. He will recall he said specifically on October 26 that he would not release the impact study on market value assessment in Metropolitan Toronto until Metro endorsed market value assessment. Subsequently, on October 28, two days later, Metro not only did exactly that but also requested the release of those data.
Can the minister explain why he believes it is better to leave Toronto taxpayers in the dark until they are surprised with new assessment bills than to be free and open and tell them what their new charges might be?
Hon. Mr. Nixon: The honourable member is aware that the resolution from Metropolitan Toronto does not call for reassessment until 1988, or perhaps even 1989. There will be at least two taxation years before that, in which assessment might be appealed under the old system. It is the judgement of the officials in the Ministry of Revenue that it is not in the best interests of either the taxpayers or the municipalities that the information be made public.
The Leader of the Opposition is aware that my predecessor as Minister of Revenue, the member for Durham West (Mr. Ashe), his own colleague in the House, agreed with that assessment.
Mr. Grossman: I remind the Treasurer of his leader's undertaking that this would be a government without walls or barriers and that all things would be open. I remind him that Metro council, I believe on a motion by councillor June Rowlands -- someone who will be well known to the Treasurer but never in this House -- passed the motion requesting the information.
Metro council is prepared to have this information released publicly. It is prepared to suffer whatever impacts flow from assessment appeals. It is Metro council's judgement that it should proceed in a couple of years, that the information should be available and that whatever flows to the taxpayers out of the appeals should flow. Why is the Treasurer playing Big Brother and telling the municipalities they cannot share potential taxation with their taxpayers?
Hon. Mr. Nixon: I think it is for the same reason that the member for Durham West, my Conservative predecessor, felt the information should not be made public. I repeat an answer I gave last week, and that is that the officials of the Ministry of Revenue are consulting with the people in the Metro chairman's office about this matter. We do not want to keep from the officials of Metro Toronto any information they feel would be helpful, but we want to point out the difficulties they may experience in this regard.
Mr. Grossman: It is a remarkable circumstance when the Treasurer's only answer is to hide behind the statements made by one of my colleagues. The Treasurer is in office now. He answers for what he wants to do.
Hon. Mr. Nixon: He is a very knowledgeable person.
Mr. Grossman: That is the first accurate thing the Treasurer has said, by the way.
I had a chance to read the Treasurer's comments when he responded to my colleague the member for Mississauga East (Mr. Gregory) last week on this very topic, and it dawned on me that the Treasurer's response was very interesting. In essence, the Treasurer is saying he fears that between now and 1989 there may be too many taxpayers' appeals looking for lower tax rates.
Does the Treasurer not realize he is saying he does not want to give tens of thousands of Metro Toronto property owners the opportunity to get lower taxes by actually appealing what may be unfair assessments? How can he justify hiding information and standing in the way of the right of thousands of people to get lower taxes, taxes to which they may be entitled?
Hon. Mr. Nixon: Mr. Speaker, I know it is obvious to you, if not to all the members in the House, that if market value assessment were to go forward this year, of course this information would be made public. If it is not going to go forward for two years, then anybody who might have a lower assessment would receive that, but anybody who might have a higher assessment would not get it.
In fact, this is a matter of concern to the municipalities specifically and not basically to us. We are interested in fairness and equity for everybody, both those who should have a lower assessment and those who should have a higher assessment. On this basis, we are trying to assist Metropolitan Toronto in every way we can.
Mr. Speaker: I remind the member for Scarborough Centre (Mr. Davis) that he is not the member for Brantford (Mr. Gillies).
NUCLEAR POWER PLANT
Mr. Rae: I have a question for the talking furnace, the Minister of Energy.
Mr. Rae: I am surprised at the number of people who looked my way, Mr. Speaker.
In answering questions earlier, the minister said he thought there was breathing space with respect to future plants. Can he tell us how much breathing space he thinks Ontario has with respect to a new power station?
Hon. Mr. Kerrio: We have had very good advice from the select committee on energy and it is going to play a major role in where we are going. Everyone in this House has to be somewhat concerned about where the whole process is going to end. We are going to do our safety study and many things to produce power for this province. It is fortunate that it is well in hand.
Mr. Rae: We are getting a different story, not only every day but in practically every answer. Since the minister is responsible for Ontario Hydro in this Legislature, can he explain the difference between the forecasts Mr. Campbell was making over the weekend and the forecasts Hydro was making as recently as eight months ago to the select committee, of which the minister has just spoken so well.
Hydro told the select committee that by December 2004 its generating capacity would still be matching demand; yet now it is saying there is going to be a crisis by the mid-to-late 1990s. What has happened at Ontario Hydro in the last eight months to so change its statements? What has happened to its forecasts? What is the minister doing to exercise some kind of control over Hydro so that we do not continue to get the same kind of upping the ante we have had over the last 10 to 20 years with respect to expansion from Hydro?
Hon. Mr. Kerrio: The Ministry of Energy has been very involved in load demands and projections. In many instances, those have been quite accurate. I am not going to quarrel with numbers that come forward until I am given some opportunity to study those numbers and decide whether they have validity or not. I said I am very willing to examine the whole scenario and find out how those numbers were developed and where they are going to take us.
Mr. Rae: We have a Minister of Energy who does not know what Hydro has been saying and who is not prepared to answer for Hydro in this Legislature with respect to the major statements it is making about the future.
I have a picture here from the minister's latest annual report. It is a picture of the deputy minister in the company of Dudley the Dragon, the lovable, sneaker-clad star of the conserving kingdom. I gather Dudley the Dragon is the ministry's lovable mascot. It is perfectly clear what has happened. The barking dog, the lovable mascot Dudley the Dragon and the minister have all been eaten alive by the talking furnace over at Ontario Hydro.
The minister has nothing to say when it comes to basic questions. Why is he not leading and showing the way with respect to Hydro, finally reining it in and telling it what to do rather than simply responding the way he has in the House today every time it ups the ante?
Hon. Mr. Kerrio: The fact that we are here and they are over there shows that the people of Ontario trust us to do what needs to be done to provide the manufacturing centre of Canada here in Ontario with reliable power for jobs for our future, for heating and for doing all of those things we do with a power base that is indigenous to Ontario.
Mr. Martel: They have him kowtowing.
Mr. Rae: It is going to make Invasion of the Body Snatchers look like a tea party. That is what has happened over there. The minister has just been captured. We wish him well as he sinks.
Mr. Speaker: Question.
Mr. Rae: In the absence of the Minister of Health (Mr. Elston), I have a question for the Premier. Can he tell us how many of the 9,802 violations of the Nursing Homes Act regulations that have been cited recently in a government report have led to charges and convictions?
Hon. Mr. Peterson: The answer to the member's question is no, I cannot.
Mr. Rae: Unfortunately, neither could any of his predecessors. The answer to the question, since the Premier does not appear to know it and needs some explanation as to how it could have happened, is that there have been four -- that is four convictions, and there have been a total of 86 charges.
Will the Premier tell us how it is that all the charges that have not led to convictions now have been delayed? The trials have been delayed for more than a year. The major bone of contention is regulations that have been thrown out by the courts in the Elm Tree case, of which the Premier is aware. That happened 13 months ago. Why has the government done nothing in the past 13 months to update and change the regulations and change the act so that it will be possible to get charges and convictions under the Nursing Homes Act in this province?
Hon. Mr. Peterson: If my honourable friend knew the answer, why did he ask me in the first place? I cannot imagine that the member could be sinking into a mentality where he would try to embarrass the government when he already knew the answer. Why does he not ask me things he does not know? Perhaps I could then help him out in that respect.
With respect to his second question, I assume he knows the answer to it as well. I can tell the member that the minister is currently working on changes to the act. I expect he will see them reasonably shortly. I assume they will probably please the member.
Mr. Rae: I wanted to see whether the Premier knew what was going on in the ministry, which at one time he said was a problem he wanted to do something about. It is perfectly apparent now that neither he nor the Minister of Health wants to do anything about this problem. They have been in power for 15 months and have done absolutely nothing to deal with it.
When there was a problem with the Ark Eden Nursing Home in 1983, as he will be aware it took only 11 days for this House to agree on legislation under which eventual charges could be laid. Can he tell us why it took only 11 days for the House to deal with that issue and it now has taken 13 months for the government to respond to a court decision with respect to the Elm Tree Nursing Home, which has led to delays and no action with respect to all the outstanding charges against several nursing homes in the province? If it was possible in 1983, can he explain why it is not possible to do something with respect to the act in 1986?
Hon. Mr. Peterson: I apologize to my friend. I am not in a position to answer his question in detail. I will obviously bring it to the attention of the minister. I assume he will be here tomorrow. He can respond and share the information with him. As I said to the member, the minister is currently looking at changes to the Nursing Homes Act that will rectify a number of these matters.
Mr. Gordon: I have a question for the Minister of Housing. He has been the minister for about a year and a half, yet we have seen vacancy rates in the province go down and further down. The vacancy rate in the city of Toronto right now is one tenth of one per cent. What is he going to do about it?
Hon. Mr. Curling: I thought I had answered the honourable member's question on a number of occasions. The report he is referring to is on a six-month lag. In the last six months, I have been busy opening and turning the sod on new projects we have put forward. As a matter of fact, I will offer some of the jobs to him to go out and turn some sods for me. In the last 15 months, we have had 16,000 approvals of nonprofit rental housing. We know this is not sufficient to meet the backlog that was created. Furthermore, we have 3,000 more to house hard-to-house individuals.
Mr. Gordon: We know the minister is putting out approvals, but we also know there is not the building going on in this province that there should be, given the kinds of vacancy rates we are seeing. Let us be specific. In the city of London in the first half of 1986, the population of 260,000 has more units going up than in Metro Toronto. Can he tell us in this House why he cannot seem to build anything in Metro Toronto? When is he going to take care of the people in this part of the province? People now are paying key money. People now are facing all kinds of hardships. We have more people dying in cold and freezing conditions. When is he going to do something about it?
Hon. Mr. Curling: If I am hearing the member correctly, is he saying those units I put up in the north should not be there? There are conditions of terrible neglect in Sudbury and in Thunder Bay, and we have put units there. Is he saying we should take them from there and put them in Toronto? I can tell him the people in Toronto are very pleased with what we are doing with the backlog of neglect that was there. We will continue to address the north, the west, London and Toronto.
Mr. Charlton: I have a question for the Minister of Energy. The minister announced on August 20, 1986, that the government had decided to accept the recommendation of the select committee on energy that the Minister of Energy should appoint an independent panel of internationally recognized experts to review, on a priority basis, the safety of the design, operating procedures and emergency plans associated with Ontario Hydro's Candu nuclear generating plants. The panel was to prepare a report to the minister. He also went on to announce that the panel would start its work this fall.
Can the minister tell us when he intends to announce the appointment of that panel and the commencement of its work?
Hon. Mr. Kerrio: In the light of the incidents that led to the whole situation that would have us examine the safety of the Candu reactors, we responded in turn to the committee's report and suggested we were very willing to have our reactors examined by world-class scientists. We also were taking into account the federal government's participation. I am not suggesting this held it up in any way, but I am pleased to report that the honourable minister, Marcel Masse, has agreed that the federal government is very willing to participate in this whole operation.
I would like to share with the House and with the member who posed the question that this is ongoing, we have names presented, we are in the process of choosing the panel at this time, and when we said this fall, of course, it is in the immediate future.
Mr. Charlton: In the light of the other questions that have been put to the minister today and the fact that he would not say exactly what amount of breathing space we have in terms of our electrical energy planning process in Ontario, will he assure this House in absolute terms that there will be no major decisions made with regard to any further expansion of our nuclear generating program until that nuclear safety study is completed?
Hon. Mr. Kerrio: I have undertaken a study that is going to be very important and significant. I have also put before the House many initiatives we are looking at that have to do with future power generation in Ontario, and the list is growing. It has to do with increased system load factor, operating at a reduced margin, operating closer to the limit of the 20 per cent surplus, talking about additional hydraulic capacity, cogeneration and conservation. All of those things are being taken into account simultaneously with the examination of the Candu reactors.
In fact, I am pleased that the honourable leader of the third party thinks it is significant enough to bring these questions to the Legislature. We will be very pleased to share with him any of the information we have as it develops.
Mr. Cousens: I have a question for the Minister of Housing on the hostel situation. On March 22, 1986, the Minister of Housing declared in a Toronto Star article that he would solve the housing crisis for the people who were in need, especially for hostels and that kind of shelter, by the end of this year.
Since then, he has created something like 3,000 units, but this does not begin to address the needs in Metro Toronto alone, where there is a 30 per cent to 35 per cent increase in the number of men using hostels, so that there are between 12,000 and 14,000 in this city alone. However, it is not just Toronto. We are seeing it in London, Ontario, where there is a 30 per cent to 35 per cent increase in the use of hostels. We are seeing it in Ottawa, where they are at 100 per cent capacity for women who are staying in hostels. We are seeing it in many of the cities.
What is the minister doing to alleviate this crisis?
Hon. Mr. Curling: The honourable member knows my ministry addresses permanent housing needs. Concerning the 3,000 units he mentioned, we know that all the units we put in place in 1986 and 1987 will never satisfy the backlog for permanent housing needs in this province. While we are addressing those things, my honourable colleague here is looking after the hostel part of that situation. If the member wants to direct his question to him, he can tell the member opposite about the exciting programs he has in that area.
Mr. Cousens: At one point, the minister says in this article that he wants shelter for all by the end of 1987. Now he is passing the buck to the Minister of Community and Social Services (Mr. Sweeney), who cannot do it alone. He requires the support of his committee members and the support of cabinet.
The problem is especially bad because we are laying the load on our volunteer agencies, which are having to provide the services that would otherwise be done by a responsible government. What is the minister doing to come forward with a comprehensive program to help the homeless?
Hon. Mr. Curling: The member asks what I am doing regarding housing. As he knows, the first comprehensive housing policy that ever addressed this province was done by this ministry. If that is not the right direction, I do not know what is. I do not know what the ad hoc situation is.
As well, my honourable colleague has programs that address those homeless needs. We do have --
Mr. Cousens: He said he needed you to help.
Hon. Mr. Curling: Of course we do. We work in concert with the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Community and Social Services and the Ministry of Housing to address those needs. We have done much more. As a matter of fact, we are able to work together much better than all the member's group there, which had a much larger mandate and was unable to address those needs. We are doing something.
Mr. Cousens: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker: He did not answer the question. He never does.
Mr. Speaker: I do not know where that comes under the standing orders.
Mr. McClellan: I have a question for the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations. I am sure he is aware that in October of this year, 144 millworkers at Smooth Rock Falls were laid off by Abitibi, effective December. This is their 1986 Christmas present. The minister will remember I asked him a question about Abitibi earlier in this session.
In view of the fact that Abitibi has diverted $10 million in so-called surplus pension funds to cover the cost of its current yearly pension contributions while the employees have had to pay five per cent of their wages by way of pension contributions, what advice does the minister have to the 144 millworkers who were laid off, whose money was taken out of the pension fund and for whom Abitibi is refusing to do anything by way of a decent cushion or early retirement or decent severance pay?
Hon. Mr. Kwinter: The member will know that before anything can be done to anyone's pension plan, application must be made to the Pension Commission of Ontario. That has been done. The pension commission examines the facts in the case, notice is given, under our direction since last March, that any removals have to be done, and the workers have the option of raising the question and taking it to court.
Mr. McClellan: I am sure the minister did not intend to give us such incorrect information, but surely even he knows that if the company diverts money from the pension fund to cover the workers' service contribution, it does not even have to apply to the pension commission; they just do it, and that is exactly what they have done in this case.
As a supplementary, in view of the fact that the cabinet spent a whole day on this question yesterday and Orders and Notices is larded with such important pieces of legislation as the Oleomargarine Act, the Brucellosis Act, the Off-Road Vehicles Act and the Upholstered and Stuffed Articles Act, can the minister tell us how much longer he intends to watch the House misusing time, wasting time, marking time, delaying and doing relatively inconsequential things? When is he going to bring in this legislation so that, if he will not do it, at least the two opposition parties can move amendments to put an end to the legalized theft of workers' pension fund moneys?
Hon. Mr. Kwinter: The member will know that if there were a deficit in the plan, the company would have to make that up. He will also know that no funds were taken out of the plan. The funds stayed in the plan, and that is quite in keeping with the Pension Benefits Act.
To answer his supplementary question, we will be bringing that bill forward very shortly.
Mr. Dean: I have a question for the Minister of Community and Social Services. I am sure the minister knows that the care of the victims of Alzheimer's disease is placing a tremendous burden on the province's nursing homes, which cannot cope with the 24-hour supervision and care these people require. The minister also knows that in major cities such as Toronto, there are no centres for Alzheimer's victims and very few day programs.
Given the need for improved services in this area, why will the minister not adopt this party's recommendation and immediately commit $15 million towards the care of Alzheimer's victims and the development of programs to assist them?
Hon. Mr. Sweeney: This government has allocated $4 million in the past 12 months for a number of pilot programs in various communities across the province designed to discover the best way we can work with families of Alzheimer's victims and to create very small community-based models to house and to provide supportive service to Alzheimer's victims.
The member might also be aware that some of the homes for the aged around the province -- for example, Providence Villa right here in Metropolitan Toronto -- have a special unit just for Alzheimer's victims. In fact, we are moving in that direction right now.
Mr. Dean: In spite of what the minister has just recounted as his small program in this direction, I want to know what action his government has taken to follow through on the recommendations of the Nursing Home Residents' Complaints Committee that the Ministry of Health set up a demonstration project for the care of Alzheimer's victims.
Hon. Mr. Sweeney: Surely the member is aware that our ministry is not responsible for the operation of nursing homes. I am quite sure my colleague the Minister of Health (Mr. Elston) is working on that end from his perspective. I am responsible for the operation of homes for the aged, for community-based projects and for group home projects. In all three of the areas for which this ministry is responsible, we are doing something.
The second point I make to the member is that even the medical people who are most closely associated with victims of Alzheimer's disease agree there is a tremendous lack of knowledge as to exactly how best to provide service to this group of people. They were therefore most appreciative and very much welcomed the $4 million that is available for the first time in the province for a range of community-based projects to assist families and individual victims of Alzheimer's disease. We are making some important initial moves.
RESIDENTIAL RENT REGULATION LEGISLATION
Mr. R. F. Johnston: My question is to the Minister of Housing. Although he has backed away officially from the four per cent guarantee in the accord on rent review, the minister has continually said he expects the average rent increases to be only in that four per cent range.
What does he say to the tenants of Keewatin Management Corp. on Pharmacy Avenue, in one of the largest high-rise developments in my riding? They recently received letters encouraging them to pay an increase of six per cent, effective January 1, 1987, which they presume will be based on a calculation of the inflationary index through the minister's Bill 51.
Hon. Mr. Curling: I do not know whether those buildings are post-1975 or pre-1976 buildings, but in Bill 51 we are asking that --
Mr. R. F. Johnston: Pre-1976.
Hon. Mr. Curling: If they are pre-1976, the member knows there is a guideline of four per cent. If the increase is beyond that, I presume the honourable members will be giving us their co-operation so we can put Bill 51 in place in time so they will be protected. If the landlord is asking for an increase beyond the guideline, he has to justify it before the Rent Review Hearings Board.
Mr. Reville: The minister will have met today, as I did, tenants from the Millside Towers in Milton who were unfortunate enough to inhabit a Bill Player, Saturday-night-special building. They have been dunned for 15 per cent increases all the while they have been expecting the government to deliver the four per cent it promised. Did the minister acknowledge to those tenants today that it is unlikely they will get back the difference between the 15 per cent they are now paying and the four per cent he promised?
Hon. Mr. Curling: When I met with members of the Millside Tenants' Association I assured them that with the co-operation of my friend the member for Riverdale (Mr. Reville) and that of the official opposition, the four per cent for that building will be retroactive to August 1, 1985, if we get that bill through, and I am confident it will go through.
The notice to that group was given in July or something like that, and it takes 90 days to be effective; so it will go beyond August 1, 1985. I can reassure those tenants that the four per cent will be effective. If the landlord is seeking more than the four per cent, he will have to come before the Rent Review Hearings Board.
Mr. Gordon: I have a question for the Solicitor General. On Friday the Sudbury Star, our daily newspaper, reported that Sudbury grocers were going to stay open on Sunday, and that is what they did. A & P and Loblaws were open, and Food City representatives have said it will be open next weekend. I would like to quote something the president of Loblaws said in a news release. "The absence of political and judicial leadership on this issue has opened the floodgates...."
Is the minister going to stand up for those constituents of mine, the retail employees and the people in the Sudbury region who believe Sunday is a day of rest and a day for families and worship? Is he going to put some teeth in the Retail Business Holidays Act to make it financially a disincentive for these types of businesses to stay open on Sunday?
Hon. Mr. Keyes: The disincentive is there at the moment. As members know, we are awaiting that much-talked-about Supreme Court hearing. The three named stores opened in many centres yesterday in many parts of the province, including my own city. If the member checks, he will find charges were laid in a majority of the centres across the province, as is appropriate. We uphold the law as it stands today. Until the Supreme Court rules otherwise, we will continue to ask that charges be laid against all offenders. I for one hope that when it comes back supporting it, a rash of court cases will bring back those fines of $10,000 a day for being open.
Mr. Gordon: Yesterday I received a call from a woman who was very upset. She works for a retail food store that is staying open. She asked me: "Is this not a provincial law? Am I not protected by a provincial law? If I do not go to work next Sunday because I believe Sunday is a day of worship, does the law protect me?"
Is the minister prepared --
Mr. Speaker: Minister.
Mr. Gordon: Mr. Speaker, I am waiting for the voices to go down so I can finish my question.
Mr. Speaker: I thought you asked it.
Mr. Gordon: No, I have not asked the question.
Mr. Speaker: Your constituent asked whether the law protects her.
Mr. Gordon: No.
Mr. Speaker: Quickly.
Mr. Gordon: Is the minister prepared to accept the recommendation of --
Mr. Speaker: Order. It may be best if I wait until everyone stops, and then the member for Sudbury will quickly put that question.
Mr. Gordon: As the minister is aware, it was the recommendation of our task force on extended shopping hours that, as part of being hired, an employee of a retail store would be protected from loss of a job if he or she did not go to work because of his or her beliefs about worship. Is the minister prepared to stand behind those employees and give them a day of rest, a day of worship, a day for the family?
Hon. Mr. Keyes: It is pretty obvious that what I stand for is the support of the laws as currently written. Until such time as some other higher court strikes it down, I have insisted that this be enforced and that charges be laid. As soon as the answer comes back, if it is in the positive, which I personally believe it will be, we will refer the issue to an all-party committee and get representation from the public. Until that court responds or until there are additional reasons to change, the law will be upheld as it is.
ENERGY FROM WASTE PLANT
Mrs. Grier: I have a question for the Minister of the Environment. It concerns the proposal by Trintek Systems Inc. to build an energy-from-waste facility in the city of Toronto. Can the minister give us one of his famous yes-or-no answers and tell us whether he intends to designate this proposal under the Environmental Assessment Act, thereby ensuring a full environmental assessment hearing?
Hon. Mr. Bradley: I know the member would not want me to give a simple answer to a very complex question. The member knows there are many aspects to this question that should be addressed. I can inform the member that I am taking into consideration all the factors related to this decision. One of the reasons is that there has been some additional concern expressed about energy-from-waste facilities in that one always has to look at the kinds of materials that might be incinerated in such a facility, the source of those materials and the kind of anticipated technology that would be used.
Mr. O'Connor: You haven't heard of this proposal, have you?
Hon. Mr. Bradley: I have indeed heard of it on many occasions, and I am giving it ongoing consideration. Even the member for Oakville (Mr. O'Connor) has an interest.
I am giving consideration to the matter the member has raised in the House today. I have been doing so for some time, and I expect there will be a decision in the very near future.
Mrs. Grier: It is a very simple question. This is a facility that we know will burn municipal solid waste. It is within a mile of Queen's Park; so we will all be within the dioxin plume.
How can the minister reconcile his reluctance to make a quick and simple decision on this facility and the need for a hearing with his past statements about the need for the best available technology? How can he legitimately oppose an incinerator in the city of Detroit and require scrubber bag houses on it if he is not prepared to ensure a hearing so we will have the best available technology for a facility here in the city of Toronto?
Hon. Mr. Bradley: I think the member will agree there is a substantial difference between conducting a specific hearing and ensuring that the best available technology is placed on any incinerator that is permitted to be used in Ontario.
I can assure the member, first of all, that when we allow an energy-from-waste incinerator to be created in this province, it is always the case that we use the best available technology, not the technology that will be used in the Detroit incinerator, which the member knows is burning all kinds of municipal garbage. That is the purpose of it: burning municipal garbage of different kinds, some of it wet, some of it dry. There are many concerns raised about that.
This is a different proposal that is coming forward. First, the best available technology will be used in all these incinerators. Second, an appropriate hearing will be held. I have no reluctance in dealing with it in this manner. I want to ensure that the best opportunity is available to those who will be looking at opposition to this concern. Those who are making the proposal will have to substantiate their case, and if they cannot do so before the board, the board will turn it down.
Mr. McLean: I have a question for the Minister of the Environment. The Tiny township landfill site has been ordered closed in 1987. This will leave the township without a viable means of disposal of its waste. At this time, I am unaware of any alternatives that have been presented to meet this problem. What plans does the minister have in mind for the citizens of Tiny township and area?
Hon. Mr. Bradley: As the member knows, a waste advisory committee has been established in that area to look at all the potential options that might be available for use in that part of the province. The member will recall the unfortunate circumstance that existed previously with the site that was there and the concerns expressed by the people immediately adjacent to it. Those concerns were based on the hydrogeology of the site and the fact that there was dissatisfaction that some of the materials were moving away from that site.
We want to ensure that when a new site or a new method of disposing of garbage is selected, all possible options are extensively canvassed. As a result, consultants have been hired and reports have been forthcoming. I expect the advisory committee in Simcoe will report at an appropriate time and will come forward with viable options to which we will give consideration.
Mr. McLean: I have heard the background of this many times. I would like the minister to provide us with some explanation of his policy, according to which he can close and put restrictions on that site, but not give any alternatives at the same time. Many sites have been looked at. Every time the ministry slows it down because it does not feel it meets its criteria. The minister's criteria are so strong that I would like him to tell us how a site is ever going to be established in that area in Tiny township.
Hon. Mr. Bradley: I agree with the honourable member when he says our regulations and controls are very strong. I know the member wants them to be strong to ensure we do not have the problems that existed in the past, problems that as minister I must deal with on a remedial basis. I know he wants to ensure that all future sites that might be selected or future methods of disposing of garbage will be environmentally safe and sound. This places an additional requirement on municipalities and makes it more difficult to find suitable sites because, as he knows, very often -- I say this is in a generic as opposed to a specific sense -- it is often the wont of a particular municipality or group of municipalities to select the site that is politically most acceptable instead of the one that is environmentally most acceptable.
I assure the member that officials of the Ministry of the Environment are prepared to assist the local municipalities in terms of advice provided. They provide suggestions to the waste management commissions and committees that are set up to determine the most appropriate answers to these questions.
Mr. Allen: I have a question for the Minister of Education. The minister will know that last week Mathew Gallagher, who is legally blind and deaf and has cerebral palsy, was integrated into a classroom in a regular school in Brantford. That was turned into a minor triumph by virtue of the teachers and the children involved. The minister also knows that the parents went through two years of extreme ugliness at the hands of the chairman of the board, the trustees and local parents. Since these actions are taken under a mandated program from his ministry, will the minister please tell us what he is doing so that parents seeking the integration of learning-disabled children in the regular schools and classrooms of Ontario do not have to go through the exquisite torture that seems to be reserved for them?
Hon. Mr. Conway: I am aware of the situation to which the honourable member makes reference. Incidentally, as I recall, we have discussed this in the last little while. We have legislation that provides for the special education needs of exceptional students in Ontario. It gives or affords local boards a range of local options that boards have taken advantage of. I think he is aware of that. The member will know as well that we are at present reviewing that special ed legislation on the basis of five years' experience to see how it might be improved. I hope to be back in this Legislature in the not-too-distant future with improvements to that very important legislation.
Mr. Allen: In response to this kind of circumstance, will the minister undertake the following three suggestions? First, since I know he is still somewhat uneasy with this issue, will he join me in a tour of the successful integration that takes place at both boards in Hamilton and get a firsthand feeling for the way in which it happens and the happy success it can have? Second, will the minister develop some audiovisual materials that vividly portray these successes and that can be used among boards, trustees and parents to familiarize them with this and neutralize some of their anxieties? Third, will he establish an office of mediation so that before these encounters get too far down the road in terms of litigation and conflict between parents and boards, there may be some intervention that nips these situations in the bud and brings some happy results out of these circumstances?
Hon. Mr. Conway: The honourable member knows that the legislation provides processes that include dispute resolution mechanisms. I am quite aware that they are not perfect and we will have to find ways of improving them. I very much value the member's insight and advice on these matters. I will be very anxious to engage him in the debate at such time in the future when the proposals I will bring forward are before this assembly or one of its committees.
I recognize the member's interest in and concern for some of these issues, and at the appropriate time in the near future, we will see what we can do together to address these and other issues that have arisen over the five or six years since Bill 82 was implemented.
Mr. Cousens: I have a question for the Minister of Community and Social Services pertaining to women who are on federal programs and who go from the family benefits allowance to the spouse's allowance. When they move from one program to the other, there is no provision for vision, drug, dental or medical benefits. What is the ministry's position on this situation?
Hon. Mr. Sweeney: When this was first announced by the federal government, we indicated that those people who were then on our family benefits program and who would be moving immediately into the spouse's allowance would be allowed to keep their benefits. However, that was only for the group in that situation at that moment. The member is probably aware that there is a significant financial gain in moving from one to the other. I believe it is in the neighbourhood of $130 a month. Therefore, it is definitely offset.
In those situations where there are medical needs above and beyond even that difference of $130, there may be an application made to the social service agency within a particular community for additional medical assistance. Where there is a very significant personal situation -- and we have had a few of those -- there can be an application for an independent order in council, in which case we are able to put the people concerned on family benefits at a very minimal amount so that they can qualify for the benefits. There are about three different ways to go at present.
Mr. Cousens: Is the minister then indicating that there are no people who are not suffering at present for lack of those benefits and those concerns? The process has become very difficult for them to receive all this approval, and there may be a number who are being disadvantaged. I realize the extra dollars are there, but I also realize that for some of them it seems as though obstacles are being put in their path so they cannot get their feet on the ground and face the future with some confidence. Is there not an easier way of proceeding so that people do not see it as a series of obstacles?
Hon. Mr. Sweeney: If the member is referring to the same program that I am, then we are talking of those people who turned 60. It is not likely they are going to re-establish themselves in the working world or in any type of financially independent situation.
I could not say there is no one who is financially disadvantaged by this switch. There may very well be. What I am suggesting to the member is that there are mechanisms in place to look at individual situations. Overall, more people are at a financial advantage rather than a disadvantage. Where there are individual cases, we are quite prepared to take a look at them.
Mr. D. S. Cooke: I have a question for the Minister of Housing. Why did his government in cabinet last week approve a land swap involving the city of Windsor, with 500 acres of property going to Canadian National with absolutely no guarantee that any of the housing it will build on that land will be for low-income families? On the weekend, CN announced that all the land would be used for luxury housing.
Hon. Mr. Curling: The land negotiations conducted with the Ontario Land Corp. and Windsor are to facilitate Windsor's development of its area. With regard to CN and the municipality, it is they who will do the negotiations. I have no other deal with CN and Windsor authorities.
Ms. Bryden: I have a petition opposing Sunday racing at Greenwood Race Track. It is signed by 42 persons in my riding and reads as follows:
"To the Honourable the Lieutenant Governor and the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:
"We, the undersigned, beg leave to petition the parliament of Ontario as follows:
"Whereas the Ontario Racing Commission in its hearing into the Ontario Jockey Club application for Sunday racing at Greenwood Race Track has ruled that it does not have the jurisdiction to hear the concerns of residents surrounding the aforesaid racetrack:
"And whereas many residents have shown their concern with the impact of Sunday racing at Greenwood Race Track on their neighbourhood and have indicated their wish to voice that concern;
"That the government amend the Racing Commission Act to ensure that the rights and concerns of residents in the neighbourhood of the racetrack and in the surrounding community be considered and protected by the Ontario Racing Commission in setting racing dates, times and schedules;
"Further, that the legislation provide that the long tradition of no Sunday racing at Greenwood Race Track be maintained."
I support this petition.
Mr. Epp: I have a petition, which reads as follows:
"To the Lieutenant Governor and the Legislative Assembly of the province of Ontario:
"We, the undersigned, beg leave to petition the parliament of Ontario as follows:
"Whereas it is our constitutional right to have available and to choose the health care system of our preference;
"And whereas naturopathy has had self-governing status in Ontario for more than 42 years;
"We petition the Ontario Legislature to call on the government to introduce legislation that would guarantee naturopaths the right to practise their art and science to the fullest without prejudice or harassment."
INTRODUCTION OF BILL
REPRESENTATION AMENDMENT ACT
Mr. Villeneuve moved first reading of Bill 148, An Act to amend the Representation Act.
Motion agreed to.
Mr. Villeneuve: This bill would effectively change the name of the great riding of Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry to include the eastern half of the county of Grenville, which will be part of the riding once it is expanded. In order to be fair to all of the people in that constituency, we ask that it be known henceforth as the riding of Stormont, Dundas, Glengarry and East Grenville.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
House in committee of supply.
ESTIMATES, MINISTRY OF TREASURY AND ECONOMICS (CONTINUED)
On vote 1001, ministry administration program:
Mr. Barlow: I have a couple of questions I would like to ask the Treasurer (Mr. Nixon). In the most recent edition of Ontario Finances -- I thought I had my copy of that with me, but I do not have it -- there is a comment that a part of the increased expenditures for the year were for the Toyota infrastructure in the great riding of Cambridge. I think $39 million was allowed for that and a couple of other things. I am sorry I do not have my copy of Ontario Finances here with me. Oh, here comes a copy rushing up right now.
Under "Expenditure" it talks, among other things, of capital funding for infrastructure services for the Toyota assembly plant, for GO Transit and the General Motors-Suzuki assembly plant. Can the minister tell me how much of these increased expenditures really are going for the Toyota infrastructure? Does he have that figure handy?
Hon. Mr. Nixon: The negotiations with Toyota and the municipality were carried on by the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Technology, essentially with, I believe, representation from the Office of the Premier. In many respects, the Treasury role in this was to be kept informed and, I suppose, consulted about what the limits of the expenditures might be. As Treasurer, I had some personal input to that extent.
The agreement was entered into with Toyota after the formal allocations for this year's budget were established and, for that reason, it is reported in Ontario Finances as an extrabudgetary expenditure, if I may use that adjective.
A large proportion of that money is going for special instruction and educational programs that will assist Toyota in training the people who will be hired there in the next months and years in a method of manufacture for automobiles and automobile parts that is a substantial departure, I am informed, from the traditional procedures that have been used in North America. We are informed that the cost of this training and upgrading with Toyota, just as it is with other car manufacturers, is a substantial ongoing cost, and it was deemed by the province that this was something to which we could make a contribution.
The member is also aware that the servicing of that area which lies directly to the east of his own municipality of Cambridge, formerly Galt, was quite a large amount of money. I understand the municipality and the province are co-operating to provide service for an area larger than that which will be used by Toyota.
There was a time two or three months ago when I was very familiar with the acreages involved. I seem to recall that as much as 800 acres, in addition to what is used by Toyota, will be serviced and will be available to the regional government or the municipality for additional expansion in the future.
Mr. Barlow: I know the announcement for the Toyota plant was made back in December 1985, and I would have thought that the budgeting would have been in the previous budget. No, I guess it would not have been; it will still be in this budget, because that was between budgets.
The Ontario Land Corp. holdings in that area were something like 3,000 acres all together. I am not sure how many are in this phase of industrial development over and above Toyota's requirements. Toyota's requirements were something like 400 acres, I believe.
I was interested in what numbers of dollars were going to that out of the total increased expenditure that was going to service the Toyota lands.
I have other questions, but perhaps as time goes on I can get my notes together. I came in here in a hurry; I was not quite prepared to jump up, but nobody else seemed to be moving, so I thought I would help the Treasurer out, because I knew he did not want this to be cut off too early.
Hon. Mr. Nixon: I appreciate the thoughtfulness of the honourable member, but if the estimates were to be carried before the time elapsed, it would not break my heart. I should say that although the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Technology had been negotiating with the municipality and Toyota, it had not brought a submission to Management Board and it had not been approved in all its detail before the allocations through the budget were completed. That is why it appears in Ontario Finances as a special in-year financing item, using up some of the famous surplus that caused so much comment a week ago.
In that connection, I would like to say -- I appreciate the honourable member is aware of this, and he was suffering no misapprehension in that regard -- there is some misunderstanding about the allocation of the additional revenues I announced a week ago.
They have normally, I guess, been called by most people a windfall of about $400 million. About $300 million of that windfall came from the government of Canada, when it told us our revenues for personal income tax, which it collects, would be higher than projected at the time of the budget. The member for Dufferin-Simcoe (Mr. McCague) will recall, because a year ago he was asking me questions about it, there was a similar windfall from the federal government a year ago because our revenues of personal income tax were higher than had been projected. We used the same projections then that had been established by the previous government.
It is interesting that the year before that, if we can go back into history, in the last quarterly report put to the Legislature by the previous government, by the member for York Mills (Miss Stephenson), my predecessor, the projection from the federal government had been seriously in the other direction and the member had to announce that revenues would be about $600 million lower than anticipated. I mention this simply because the federal government, although it does its best, and it did its best with the previous government there as well, is never right on the nose. Although its projections are the best available, as the in-year experience goes forward it has to amend them from time to time so we are kept up to date with that information.
I should say, though, our own projections were also somewhat low. Revenues from the lotteries, for example, were more than $50 million higher than the increased revenues we had projected. The same is true for our sales tax, corporations tax, mining tax and certain other revenues. In all, we are expecting an in-year increase in our revenues of about $400 million. Those moneys are already assigned to programs of the type the member for Cambridge (Mr. Barlow) has been referring to; that is, the special payments for Toyota, and Suzuki is a similar one. The money was also spent in unexpected requirements for the Ontario health insurance plan, the Ontario drug benefit program, extra firefighting and so on. The list is there in Ontario Finances and takes up the $400 million, including a $100-million reduction in our cash requirements.
The part that concerned me a little about the news reports last week, although generally I had no objection to the tenor of those reports, was that there was confusion in the minds of those people observing the Legislature who associated that $400 million with the additional transfers announced to our transfer partners, the municipalities, the school boards, the post-secondary education institutions and the hospitals. The increased transfers announced, which begin only next fiscal year, will be an additional payment of $930 million, more than double the amount of the so-called windfall.
I do not know whether these comments have straightened it out in the minds of any of the honourable members who are paying attention so closely to my words, but at least I have had the satisfaction of presenting that clarification to the House. I do not have any complaint about the coverage, although I probably could express a complaint with the attention the press gallery has given this debate, but they got it wrong. Even Canada's national newspaper, the newspaper of record, got those two areas confused.
The Deputy Chairman: Is the member for Cambridge satisfied with the answer?
Mr. Barlow: I guess I am satisfied with that lengthy explanation. While the minister was assisting me with that answer, I found some of the notes I wanted to talk about on the Toyota situation.
In the centre-fold of Ontario Finances, where it gives the explanation of the expenditures, there is a statement that $39 million was the net increase in expenditures to provide for General Motors, Suzuki and GO Transit as well as services at the Toyota assembly plant. What I was getting at and wanted to establish was how much of the $39 million was for the services at the Toyota assembly plant and how much of the total expenditure for Toyota would have been in the initial budget papers back in May 1986.
I can help the minister out on how much Cambridge expected to receive, after having negotiated with the province. In phase 1, there was a total of $16,307,300 for the servicing of the Toyota lands, and in phase 2, $11,640,000, for a total figure of $27,947,000, almost $28 million. I do not think that included the $15 million that was projected for training through the Ministry of Skills Development. I believe that was extra.
Was there any money in the original budget of 1986-87 that related to service work at Toyota?
Hon. Mr. Nixon: There may have been what the deputy minister refers to as a place holder; that is, an amount indicating the budget was designed to provide the financing required, but the actual amount was not known at that time. I will undertake to give the honourable member a full accounting of what we expect to pay out and what has been paid out. I will see he gets that.
Mr. McClellan: I want to raise an issue with the Treasurer, who is responsible for pension policy for the Ontario government with respect to the changes to the Canada pension plan that are coming in January 1987. The Treasurer will know the federal government initiated last week a series of television ads advising Canadians that as of January 1, 1987, there will be some major changes to the Canada pension plan, including the opportunity to take voluntary early retirement.
This is one of those historic moments that cries out to the Ontario government to show some real leadership. This is an important initiative that has been undertaken in Ottawa. It gives workers an opportunity to choose whether to continue to work until age 65 or whether to retire at age 60. It is an important issue in terms of quality of life for people, and it provides an opportunity to create job openings in the economy. Every time somebody retires, that opens up a job for a younger worker or a first-time worker, some young person seeking entry into the economy.
There is only one problem, and I am sure this has occurred to the Treasurer, who will know that the monthly average of new benefits under the Canada pension plan in Ontario, as of June 1986, is only $335.64 a month. That is the average payout to new Canada pension benefit recipients. Full benefits are in the vicinity of $460, although I do not have the exact figure. A reduced benefit at age 60 would give a retiree a 30 per cent reduction. If you retire at age 60 under these new provisions of the Canada pension plan, your benefit is reduced by 30 per cent.
This is the figure I am coming to after all this verbiage. The average benefit in Ontario for somebody who takes advantage of early retirement under the Canada pension plan would be the magnificent sum of $2,814 a year. That is what the average entitlement would be in Ontario. The maximum entitlement -- the most anyone in Ontario could get -- would be $4,083.
I realize the underlying structural problems of the Canada pension plan are not problems the Treasurer can solve unless he does the right thing, runs for federal office and some day becomes the federal Minister of Finance. There is a role here -- it seems to me a historic moment -- for Ontario to show the same kind of leadership that British Columbia, for example, showed by bringing in its guaranteed annual income concept for senior citizens in the 1970s, which we have copied with our guaranteed annual income system.
There is a role for Ontario to make voluntary early retirement a reality for our people through the establishment of a provincial early retirement program and an Ontario early retirement pension fund, which would make it possible for our citizens to take advantage of the early retirement provisions of the Canada pension plan.
I met with some members of the Canadian Auto Workers union this morning. Those workers have a good union with a strong collective agreement. It provides them with supplementary benefits that permit a very fortunate though small minority to take advantage of the CPP early retirement provisions, because they have benefits that can top up the Canada pension plan. Probably 90 per cent to 95 per cent of the people in Ontario do not have these kinds of private pension plan arrangements, however.
I am getting to my question to the Treasurer. Is he prepared to bring in programs that would provide provincial supplementary benefits to people in order that they would be able to take advantage of these CPP provisions, or is this simply going to be a dead letter?
Are we going to say that anybody who wants to can retire at age 60 as long as he can live on $2,814 a year or even $4,083 a year, or are we going to be realistic and give the social leadership this country should expect from its richest industrial province and say that those who wish to retire at age 60 should be entitled to a pension of at least 50 per cent of the average industrial wage, something in the vicinity of $11,000 a year? Ontario could set up a plan of this kind and perhaps finance it on the basis of a payroll tax.
We have some specific proposals we have been putting forward for the past few months. I am sure the Treasurer is familiar with them. I would like to know what plans the government has to respond to the opportunity that will be presented on January 1, 1987, to make voluntary early retirement a possibility.
Hon. Mr. Nixon: I have followed the pronouncements of the New Democratic Party in this important matter very carefully, and the member will be glad to know that Treasury has provided me with an assessment of the costs associated with the matters he has put forward.
The costs of retirement have been very much on our minds over the past few months and years since we have provided an early retirement window for secondary school teachers, which drew on the secondary school teachers' retirement fund or the teachers' superannuation fund to the extent of just less than $400 million. There have been other decisions associated with retirement, at least pending, that have been even richer.
The member and his party have put forward the important concept of allowing early retirement for a broad range of Ontario residents with particular emphasis on those working in heavy industry. I believe the age range would involve about 60,000 people. At present, the average industry wage he is referring to is estimated to be about $27,000; so financing would be based on whatever percentage of that the possible policy might recognize.
Whenever the Premier (Mr. Peterson) and myself have been meeting our opposite numbers -- in his case first ministers, and in my case the treasurers across the country -- we have indicated, usually in conjunction with discussions on tax reform, that we consider a revision of our social policy and social programs to be an important ingredient in tax reform.
We have referred repeatedly to an improvement of the financing of child care programs but also to an acceptance of the concept of the guaranteed annual income, which the member referred to in conjunction with the policy of the government of British Columbia.
We are a long way from getting that effectively accepted by the other provinces but no one rejects it out of hand, other than the quite expected remarks from provinces that may be under more fiscal pressure than we are that it is very difficult for them to contemplate expensive new programs when they are having such great difficulty in financing the basic programs they now have.
The equalization responsibility under the Constitution of the government of Canada would mean that if this were decided to be an acceptable modern and emerging alternative, which should be carefully and positively considered, the government of Canada would have to arrange the financing at a much higher level for those provinces that do not have the resources and the wherewithal that the richer provinces, such as Ontario, are fortunate enough to command.
The member might be interested in an excerpt from a briefing paper that I have. It is not definitive in any way, but it gives an indication of some of the costs we would be contemplating. I quote from the briefing paper, which has to do with the extension of provincial and federal elderly benefits to the 60 to 64 age group:
"Federal and provincial elderly benefits, such as guaranteed income supplement" -- which is a federal program -- "Gains" -- which is provincial -- "and OHIP premium waiver, the Ontario tax grants and other unspecified programs would be extended to persons aged 60 to 64. It is unclear whether these additional benefits would be extended to only the 60,000 people mentioned in the news release" -- it is referring to the NDP release -- "or to all persons between 60 and 64 who have retired.
"The cost to the federal government of extending old age security and the guaranteed income supplement to 60,000 persons would be approximately $245.8 million annually." Presumably, that is across Canada. "The cost of extending elderly benefits to all persons aged 60 to 64 would be $4.6 billion." That is across Canada.
"The cost to the Ontario government of extending Gains, the OHIP premium waiver and Ontario drug benefit plan and Ontario tax grants to 60,000 persons aged 60 to 64 would be approximately $71.3 million annually. The cost of extending provincial elderly benefits to all persons included in this age group would be $500 million."
Those figures are designed not to be precise but to give me, as Treasurer, an indication of the costs that would be involved. I know the honourable member will want to pursue this, but we have reviewed the proposal from the New Democratic Party and we have that sort of information available.
Mr. McClellan: I appreciate that the Treasurer and his officials have been studying the proposal we put forward. We put it forward as a serious proposition. It appears to be receiving at least a serious analysis, and we appreciate that.
We simply have to accept the fact that an industrial society in an industrial province such as Ontario has to adopt social policies and pension policies that meet the needs of an industrial society. Those essential social policies include the opportunity for voluntary early retirement in order that (1) we make it possible for people in heavy-duty industry to retire before their health is destroyed; and (2) we make room in the economy for the legion of unemployed young people that demands its day in the sun.
There are 109,000 unemployed youngsters in this province. Even now, during a period of relative boom, when the economy seems to be moving forward and unemployment is at its lowest level in many, many years, that group of young people still remains blocked from entry into the economy. It can be argued rationally and sensibly that there is a need for an early retirement plan, which admittedly targets selectively and says it is a plan available, at least initially, and will perhaps for the foreseeable future be targeted, to particular economic and social objectives: (1) to try to ease the burden on people in heavy-duty occupations, to protect their health and to permit them actually to enjoy some retirement years before the physical demands of their occupations destroy their health and; (2) to link it with a job-creation objective, namely, to provide an opportunity for young people to enter the work force.
We have not talked about extending the guaranteed annual income system to all people between the ages of 60 and 64. We have talked about a supplementary benefit program that would be available (1) to workers in identified heavy industry occupations, and construction workers or miners come immediately to mind; and (2) to workers in companies where their employers agree to replace the early retiree with a younger worker, perhaps a first-time worker, so that we would accomplish that social objective and the economic objective simultaneously.
We have estimated that a startup cost in the vicinity of $350 million would be necessary. This is obviously not an inexpensive program. We believe it could be financed with a 0.5 per cent payroll tax, which could be justified on the grounds that it is a program that meets important social objectives both in terms of heavy-duty workers and especially in providing job opportunities for young workers.
I hope the Treasurer will not allow the matter to be sunk in the alarming financial figures that his officials always have available to present to discredit any program that is suggested. I do not think that is what is happening here, but I have in the past seen this happen. Second, I urge the Treasurer not to rely on the outcome of a federal-provincial consultation process and the development of a federal-provincial consensus, because, quite frankly, that is not the way things get done in this country. Had we waited for a federal-provincial consensus on medicare, we would still be waiting, along with Mackenzie King. We have medicare in Canada because one of the provinces took the initiative and went ahead and did it. Once it did, the other provinces and their people insisted that there had to be a national plan, and the national plan came about.
Similarly, in the other example that I used and that the Treasurer used, the guaranteed annual income supplement for the elderly, we did not wait for a federal-provincial consensus. British Columbia brought in an income plan in the early 1970s and the other provinces followed suit.
I have absolutely no doubt that if Ontario were to show leadership in establishing an early retirement pension plan of its own, the other provinces would either establish their own plans or, more likely, would put sufficient pressure on the federal government to develop a meaningful voluntary early retirement program that would be available on a coast-to-coast basis. However, if we wait and wait for this great consensus, nothing will happen now or in our lifetime.
As a final point, this is not a great, novel, innovative suggestion I am making. The Treasurer knows most of the western European industrial democracies introduced voluntary early retirement along the lines of my suggestion, a targeted plan, as many as 20 or 25 years ago. It is part of the apparatus of a modern industrial economy to provide voluntary early retirement opportunities for people.
It cannot be done on a voluntary basis or a private sector basis; it can only be done on the basis of public plans. We are saddled with a public plan that is probably one of the most inadequate public plans in the western industrial world. We are forced to come up with adaptations and additions such as the one we are proposing because of the basic structural inadequacy of the Canada pension plan. A plan that pays a maximum of only $450 a month is a deeply flawed plan, but that is what our plan is. It is incumbent on the government of Ontario to take advantage of this window of opportunity that is opening in the new year to bring in its own program.
Hon. Mr. Nixon: I am very interested in the comments made by the honourable member. I can recall when age 70 was the standard retirement age. I well recall when, at the initiative of the government of Canada, old age security was payable not at 70 but year by year, at one year lower until it got down to 65. I can remember when my sainted father achieved age 70 and got his first old age pension cheque. Unfortunately, he did not last to receive his second, but that sometimes happens. Now it has been reduced to age 65. That was seen at the time as a very expensive and innovative program to improve retirement capability, but now it is fully accepted. At age 65, most people tend to be making plans at least to change their career if not to retire fully.
The progress in the community has continued. It did not stop with age 65. The member and other members of the House will agree that for many good reasons we ought to be looking carefully at and making plans to finance, if possible, a program that will reduce it even further. It is interesting that even for the Ontario public service the statistics indicate we are not having the influx of young people we hoped to have because of what has happened and what the member would describe as the insufficient flow-through of personnel we experienced in previous years.
The member mentioned western Europe. It is interesting that in the briefing paper that was fortunately provided to me, there is a reference to western Europe. I will read the paragraph:
"Voluntary early retirement programs in western Europe have not been effective in encouraging employers to hire young or unemployed workers. Unless employers are required to hire new workers to replace early retirees, they have tended to replace labour with capital or reduce the size of their work force."
It is true that legislation could be established that would require the hiring of new people or even first-job hirees. That is the sort of thing that would be extremely beneficial to give opportunities to the young people we are concerned about.
That is about all I can say about this right now. I am not sure whether I am prepared to table the briefing paper until I have read it a little more carefully, but it is designed to assist me, as Treasurer, to answer the questions that would come to me from people who are interested in the proposal that has been put forward by the New Democratic Party. I think everybody in the Legislature is. If we bring it forward as our own idea, we are quite prepared to defend ourselves against charges that we are stealing something else. The member is sort of saying, "Where is the leadership that brought us medicare?" Who knows where it is?
The Deputy Chairman: Does the member for Bellwoods have more questions or comments?
Mr. McClellan: No.
Mr. Philip: On the same or a related topic, I found rather interesting the answer of the Premier to a question by my colleague the member for Hamilton East (Mr. Mackenzie) the other day. A number of members have been receiving, or at least the Premier has been receiving, letters from the Ontario Public Service Employees Union that basically make the point that while the Canada pension plan retirement benefits will be available in early 1987 on a reduced basis as early as age 60, the option of early reduced benefits has been available under the Quebec pension plan since January 1, 1984. The Quebec government also passed legislation that prohibits a private pension plan from reducing a supplement or bridge benefit because a member is receiving or is eligible to receive a benefit from the Quebec pension plan before age 65.
I know OPSEU has written several letters to the Premier, but what I found interesting was that, in response to my colleague, the Premier was derogatory of the Quebec plan. Will the Treasurer be kind enough to outline for the House what he sees as the major objections to the Quebec plan?
Hon. Mr. Nixon: I am not sufficiently familiar with what the Quebec plan provides. The discussions among the provinces leading to the amendments to the Canada pension plan were ongoing. They had pretty much been accepted by all the provinces when the present Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Grossman) was Treasurer. Therefore, these discussions go back three or four years.
They are important. They are not as far-reaching as the honourable member would wish or, frankly, as I would wish, but they do permit flexibility on the retirement age, so that retirement under the Canada pension plan can begin between the ages of 60 and 70. However, for every year under 65 that retirement occurs, I believe the payout is reduced by about six per cent or seven per cent, so there is a substantial penalty. That was the basis of the criticism expressed by the House leader for the NDP.
I cannot give the member any kind of knowledgeable assessment of what they are doing in Quebec, but I can have the officials give him a written response if he does not mind waiting a little while, perhaps a couple of weeks.
Mr. Philip: Since the letters from the various locals of OPSEU were dated early October, the Premier must have responded at that time. I am wondering how he could have responded in an intelligible way without consulting the Treasurer on this important matter. Can the Treasurer inform us of whether the Premier has his own views on the Quebec pension scheme without consulting him?
Hon. Mr. Nixon: I am sure the Premier's response was knowledgeable and sensitive. I have not seen it. The honourable member can draw his own conclusions about whether the Premier feels he can respond without consulting me.
Mr. Philip: Do I take it that the Treasurer is asking for my advice on that matter, or is he simply making an observation?
Hon. Mr. Nixon: I feel sure you will give it if you choose to.
Mr. Breaugh: The answer is no.
Hon. Mr. Nixon: No.
The Deputy Chairman: Is the member for Etobicoke satisfied?
Hon. Mr. Nixon: No.
Mr. Philip: No, but I will not prolong the debate on this topic.
Mr. McCague: To the Treasurer: on the Hydro employees' pension plan, Hydro has decided not to make any contributions for a couple of years. Does the minister agree with that action?
Hon. Mr. Nixon: I have asked for some additional information about that. As I understand it, where a pension plan contains 125 per cent of the funds necessary, on an actuarial basis, to meet its requirements, Revenue Canada does not permit the payments to be made. The honourable member will be aware that under some circumstances this would not involve Hydro, but it has been possible in the past for an employer to make payments to a pension fund in excess of what was necessary, sequester the money away from taxation and remove the surplus at a later time when his own revenues might advantageously be bolstered by that additional money. In some respects, that is one of the reasons we have been plagued by the difficulties of legal surplus removals, which is one way to describe them.
Mr. Breaugh: Yes, legalized theft.
Hon. Mr. Nixon: Ah, yes, that is another.
The other problem in this is that with a buoyant economy and unnaturally but very welcome high returns on investment, the funds that are available in these pension plans are extremely productive, and they very readily move to the level of 125 per cent capability and beyond. Under the law of Ontario, anything beyond the 125 per cent requirement is eligible at least for review by the pension commission on application for withdrawal. Some of these applications have gone forward, and in many cases the surplus has been withdrawn, which is, by agreement of employees and employer, above and beyond any requirement to meet the full payout potential plus 25 per cent.
Mr. McCague: Can the Treasurer please clarify for me what the process is in the case of Ontario Hydro not making contributions for a couple of years? Is the Department of National Revenue the law or is the pension commission the law?
Hon. Mr. Nixon: The honourable member will know that the draft pension benefits act that my colleague the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations (Mr. Kwinter) has been circulating will require employers to pay 50 per cent of the cost of pensions at least. This is part of the interprovincial consensus, which is not enacted as yet but which makes it clear and will make it a part of the law that both employer and employees will have to share at least 50-50, if not better, in the provision of the basic financing of the pension program.
It seemed to me at least significant enough to trigger my inquiry that while it might be suitable for Ontario Hydro not to make contributions, since there was ample money in the fund, it might also have been considered suitable that the employees not contribute either. On the other hand, the honourable member will know that even under the very advantageous pension benefit situation we have as members of this Legislature, members who are fully paid up are still required to contribute 10 per cent of their hard-earned paycheques to the pension fund, even though there is no benefit other than to latecomers to the fund. The member might perceive a small benefit.
Mr. McCague: The Treasurer likes to refer to the pension plan in which he is involved as the norm of pension plans. I suggest it is not quite like that.
Hon. Mr. Nixon: No, no. I just did not want you to forget that everybody suffers to some extent.
Mr. McCague: That is what one suffers for staying around here too long.
I am still not clear. When Ontario Hydro made the decision not to contribute to the pension plan for a couple of years, which approvals outside their own did they need?
Hon. Mr. Nixon: None.
Mr. McCague: Does the Treasurer agree with that?
Hon. Mr. Nixon: It has been a while since I disagreed with Hydro, but I feel it coming on.
Mr. McCague: The Treasurer may want to claim he does not have any responsibility for Ontario Hydro, but in 1984 he said a few things. One of them was: "The Treasurer does not have in the statute any day-to-day responsibility for the control of Hydro. He is simply responsible for every dollar it borrows. Any time he raises his eyebrow or crooks his finger having to do with borrowed money, then Hydro had better respond, and I assure the Treasurer" -- that was the Treasurer of the day -- "it will."
In the weekend press, the expansion of the Hydro system was under discussion. The Treasurer knows full well there is or very soon will be some locked-in power in the Bruce. He is as concerned about that as I am, because lines are proposed in various parts of Ontario, and I do not think either the Treasurer's riding or my own was forgotten when those lines were being drawn around the province.
Can the Treasurer tell us what he is doing in the interests of economy to persuade Hydro to get on with the job and get that locked-in hydro out?
Hon. Mr. Nixon: Hydro is doing everything it can to get approval for the lines that will permit the power to get from the Bruce generating complex to southwestern Ontario. The additional alternative line would be across the province just south of Georgian Bay, to join with the provincial grid at Essa.
The hearings have been going on for a number of months. While I am not knowledgeable enough to predict in any authoritative way when we will hear from them, the hearing officers ought to make their pronouncements on this matter in the near future. If I were to guess, I would say that whatever they decide after these extensive hearings, the matter will be appealed to the provincial cabinet. I expect the final decision will be made by the executive council of the province anyway.
Mr. McCague: I know the Treasurer thinks it is very important to expedite the matter of the locked-in power and the cost of generation to replace it. He knows coal-fired generation is replacing what is looked in. We also have problems in the Ottawa area.
It is important that the Treasurer put economic pressure on those who are under his finger or thumb or whatever it is he said they were under. What did his statement say? "Any time he raises his eyebrow or crooks his finger...." He should keep crooking his finger and raising his eyebrows, and maybe we will get that locked-in power out. The date was October 26, 1984; it was on page 3617.
I thought the Education critic might be back to ask the Treasurer a few questions, but I think every member of this Legislature, including his own members, is aware of the situation in education funding and of the promise 15 or 18 months ago that his government would move progressively in the next five years to 60 per cent funding. Can he tell me when that might happen, and can he tell me, in percentages, what the level of funding to education in elementary and secondary is this year compared with last year?
Hon. Mr. Nixon: The percentage envisaged in the transfers announced last week is about 45 per cent. Perhaps somebody can give me the exact number, but if anything, it is about one third of a percentage point lower than it was a year ago.
Mr. McCague: The Treasurer did not answer the first part of the question. I thought there was to be a progressive move to 60 per cent in his party's first five years as the government. What happened to that commitment?
Hon. Mr. Nixon: The honourable member is as familiar with this situation as I am. I do not blame him for couching his question in that particularly awkward way.
He is talking about a percentage of a moving target. As the various school boards respond to the exigencies of increasing costs, particularly salaries, from time to time they enter into costs that are not approved by the province or envisaged in our budgetary projections. As that target moves ever upward, and our general legislative grants move up very rapidly as well, it is almost like an anti-aircraft gun trying to hit an airplane when the plane is a little too fast for it, because we are falling a bit farther behind on the basis of the numbers the member is interested in.
If, however, we look at approved costs, this year we are paying about 54 per cent to 55 per cent of those costs. If we include ancillary expenditures for education that are not directly related to the classrooms -- such as our huge contributions to the teachers' superannuation plan on behalf of the teachers because, under the law, the school boards in this regard are not the employer; the government of Ontario is the employer -- then, of course, our percentage moves up quite dramatically.
Since the member, filling a role I know so well, is indicating we are falling a bit short of the target set in the election campaign, I can tell him that we are improving our assistance for education and that in the announcements made last week our increases were something more than seven per cent at a time when the actual growth in costs, because of inflation, is more in the four to five per cent range. Thus, we are more than making up for the regular growth in costs.
The school boards of some of the major urban centres are classic cases in undertaking programs of enrichment that are not standard -- we wish they could be standard, but there is not enough money anywhere in the Treasury to support them on a standard basis -- and if some of those richer municipalities, or those with access to additional revenues, move forward, we are going to fall farther and farther behind because we are not prepared to accept those as a norm across the province.
We appreciate the leadership that some of these school boards are undertaking, and I am in no way critical of it; but they have always been well in advance of the standard level of education that we feel we can provide. This does not mean that some of the smaller boards, rural boards and some in the north, have not undertaken some interesting innovations that have had substantial impact on the quality of education, that are different and perhaps are superior to those that are part of the norm.
Mr. McCague: When the Treasurer is given the challenge, he sure can dance. Some of those arguments are not new, but there is one there that is new and that the Treasurer has thought up in the past few months. However, I suggest to him that he will not fool the public with that. What he said to the public during the election campaign was that he would move to 60 per cent. The public understands 60 per cent versus 45 per cent. They do not understand all this fancy dancing he just did for me when I asked him the question. I think he is going to have to improve that.
As he knows, the elementary schools have been complaining about the widening of the gap between what they get per pupil and what the secondary schools get per pupil. I do not think there is any doubt in the world that at some time he is going to have to address that and apply a bigger percentage to the elementary than he does to the secondary. Perhaps he could apply the same percentage to the secondary and increase the elementary considerably; I think there is a need for that.
Hon. Mr. Nixon: I say -- probably I should not -- there was a time, going back a few years, when I was advocating that the province pay 80 per cent of the cost of education.
Mr. McCague: What do you think of that now?
Hon. Mr. Nixon: I can remember the arguments made by a predecessor, going back three or four Treasurers, about the difficulties in financing education and we had some useful discussions in that regard. But we are quite proud of what has been achieved in the education system over the years.
The honourable member supported strongly and enthusiastically the extension of secondary education in the separate system. While it was a matter of policy, which we have been very careful to follow, this did not detract from the dollars available to the public system. Still, he will know there has been a substantial additional commitment to education. Our teachers normally consider themselves well paid. I believe they normally consider that they have reasonably good working conditions, although both the pay scales and the working conditions can undoubtedly be improved.
I am not sure what the averages are at present, but a few months ago when I inquired, I believe the average salary of teachers across the province was somewhat more than $40,000.
Mr. Ashe: What was it when you were teaching?
Hon. Mr. Nixon: The honourable member is good enough to laugh. As a matter of fact, when I left teaching to come into the Legislature I think my pay was $4,800. I came here when the indemnity was $5,000. There was a move even then to raise the indemnity, and I could not support it because I did not know what I would do with the extra money. I may not have that exactly right, but it was something such as that.
The school system is generally accepted as a good and progressive one. The teachers, through their professional organizations, are also aggressive in their efforts to improve it. I believe the Minister of Education (Mr. Conway), with his fresh and knowledgeable approach in these matters, is seen to be doing a good job for the taxpayers, the students and the professionals involved.
Mr. McCague: I noticed an interesting part of these estimates. The Treasurer said in his budget last year that he was going to -- and he did, as I understand it -- disband the Ontario Economic Council. But he still funds the Conference Board of Canada. Why would he disband the one and fund the other?
Hon. Mr. Nixon: At the time, my thinking was that a number of good independent economic groups were offering public advice to governments at all levels. We felt this sort of advice, on a broad basis from different sources in Canada and some from outside Canada, would be as useful as having an in-house council that had certain specific responsibilities.
The decision was not uniformly greeted as a good one, but I felt I would prefer to use a lower number of dollars to support these independent groups, which have competent economists and independent leadership and which are going to offer advice and projections that are independent of the government that receives them. My own view at the time was that this was a good way to use our rather scarce resources and to provide the independent information, which is always valuable.
At the same time, I would say we have a staff of in-house economists, led by Dr. Bryne Purchase, who are well recognized in Canada and elsewhere as having an excellent record in their projections and in whom I have a great deal of confidence. However, it is always valuable for any organization, business or otherwise, to expose itself, if I may use that verb, to independent economic information. I believe we are not missing out on anything in this regard and we are saving about $1.5 million.
Mr. McCague: Since I have never heard the Treasurer say anything negative about the conference board, and I have never heard him be very complimentary to the economic council, I guess we can take a little message from that. Would that be fair?
However, it seems to me, the Treasurer having said what he just said, he did not take anybody's advice about what the growth in the economy was going to be -- not Dr. Purchase's, and maybe not even his own intuition. I think he low-balled all those things even below what the conference board was telling him and probably below what our federal colleagues were telling him. Does the Treasurer want to shoot that down, or does he want to let it stand?
Hon. Mr. Nixon: I can assure the honourable member -- he may not accept it but he probably will -- that we were not low-balling the projections of growth. As a matter of fact, we had some extensive discussions about whether, for example, the projected numbers of housing starts were realistically high. Some of the more interesting discussions in the boardroom of the Treasury take place as the economic projections come forward on a regular basis, quarterly, and it is quite interesting when Dr. Purchase and his group come up with their slides and take me through these projections for an afternoon.
When the projections are for substantial real growth, it makes for an invigorating afternoon indeed. I am not looking forward to the time when I have to look at the projections that the member for St. Andrew-St. Patrick (Mr. Grossman) and the member for Muskoka (Mr. F. S. Miller) had to deal with during the early part of this decade, where all the numbers were downward to the extent that it must have been psychologically depressing as well as economically depressing.
The results for the Ontario Treasury related to other projections. My deputy minister has been good enough to put this information in front of me. For example, the projections for real growth from the banks and certain other sources are as follows. For 1986, the Ontario Treasury is projecting real growth over the year of 4.1 per cent; the Bank of Nova Scotia is projecting 3.9 per cent; the Royal Bank, four per cent; Chase Econometrics, 4.2 per cent; the conference board, 4.4 per cent; the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, 3.8 per cent; and the Toronto-Dominion Bank, five per cent.
The member can make a speech saying the Treasurer is accepting advice from within house and from outside that real growth is going to be 4.1 per cent. He is low-balling it, because Toronto-Dominion is projecting five per cent and CIBC is projecting 3.8 per cent. It is not an exact science. Our people do it independently. They do not look at what everybody else is doing, make a nice average and say, "We are going to come in here and be safe." They do it independently, and it takes quite a lot of nerve to trot that out and live by it.
I am glad it can be seen to be somewhat lower than our experience. It is beautiful to have to defend this argument. It is much more pleasant than the other one, which no doubt over the course of the next 42 years we will have to defend as the economy in its cyclical variations takes a bit of a tumble, as it surely must.
Mr. Ashe: Do not bet on the time frame.
Hon. Mr. Nixon: We are doing our best.
The member will also notice that the conference board is a bit more optimistic than we are. I can remember when the present Leader of the Opposition was Treasurer and much concerned that the conference board was indicating a much lower rate of real growth than he was projecting as Treasurer. Unfortunately, the conference board was a little closer to the truth at that time.
We were making similar speeches to the one the member is making, from the other side of the coin. I even remember chiding the Treasurer, who was very uncomplimentary about the conference board being made up of a bunch of Conservatives -- I think that is the way he described them -- because he was paying them $100,000 a year for the advice. He was also paying his own Ontario Economic Council $1.5 million for its useful reports, which were tabled from time to time. We are not doing it in exactly the same way. I think some of the same criticism can be levelled.
I want to mention something I have been mentioning ever since my return from the trade journey with the Premier to China and Japan. I was very much struck that some of these major countries employ soothsayers to advise their officials. As I look at the success these countries have experienced, I am thinking of taking a course in reading entrails to assist Dr. Purchase in his projections.
Mr. McCague: The only comment I can make is that if the Conference Board of Canada is worth $108,000, maybe its projection of 4.4 per cent is worth the taking. However, we will see what happens with that a little later on.
Hon. Mr. Nixon: I hope they are right.
Mr. McCague: I hope they are too. We need some schools in Dufferin-Simcoe.
It is only fair that we raise with the Treasurer the very high levels that the salaries of ministers' staffs seem to be at. They are probably 20 per cent higher than was the case 18 months ago and are considerably more in some cases than -- I was going to say the Treasurer and I make; they are quite a bit more than I make and than he used to make before he got this cushy job. He often refers to them as people who carry his suitcase and his briefing books. Does he not think these rates are a bit high?
Hon. Mr. Nixon: I do not even know what they are, but the honourable members and his colleagues have questions in Orders and Notices asking for the total complement by name and the salaries. I believe I have signed that answer, and it should be available soon. So that the member who was talking about what those numbers and salaries were 18 months ago will know for sure what they were, I am going to provide the complete list with salaries for that period so that everybody will know the facts. I wish I had it here and could read it off.
My own feeling is that the complement has not been enlarged, and I doubt the salaries have increased in any unconscionable way. I might as well be frank and tell the member that when I look at the ministers' staffs as they were two years ago for the Treasurer, the Minister of Revenue, the House leader and the Chairman of Management Board, I can assure him the numbers are lower now and the all-in costs are substantially lower now than they were then. We are going to have these figures for the member. If I had had my wits about me, I would have had them here because this is a subject of great interest and is totally attractive for opposition members. I understand that.
Mr. McCague: Does the Treasurer intend to provide these figures for his other colleagues too?
Hon. Mr. Nixon: Yes.
Mr. McCague: We will look forward to that information. I know he is setting an example, but I am sure some of them are getting away on him.
Hon. Mr. Nixon: The one thing that concerns me a little is that I believe that in showing salaries, the answer shows the range. If you want, you can say, "Everybody is at the top range." My own feeling, and I do not win this argument all the time, is that if a question is asked about a person's specific salary, it ought to be a knowable commodity. There is some concern about the privacy of these matters. The general policy that we inherited and that continues is that we report salaries in ranges.
Mr. Mackenzie: I have a brief question of the Treasurer. I listened with interest earlier to some of the questions and debate over pension plans and what happens to the money. I also listened when he responded to one of my colleagues or to the official opposition on the large sums of dollars the government is putting into the teachers' superannuation fund "on behalf of the teachers," I think were the words he used.
Hon. Mr. Nixon: On behalf of the employer.
Mr. Mackenzie: I think he said teachers. We will have to check Hansard on that. In the Treasurer's opinion, are pension contributions deferred wages?
Hon. Mr. Nixon: That matter has not been definitely decided. My own feeling is that in the situation involving pensions in general, if there is a clear commitment to pay a defined benefit, the employer has the responsibility to pay his negotiated share of that, and under the law, to maintain an additional 25 per cent.
The honourable member will recall many circumstances, including that of the teachers, when the economy of the community, nation and province was not so buoyant and employers were required to make substantial additional payments. Even in the instance of the province, we used to make regular transfers of blocks of cash, usually of about $200 million, that did not do away with the actuarial deficit but were an indication of our good faith in that we accepted it as our responsibility.
The actuarial surplus, as recently calculated, is about $350 million, but that is a moveable amount, depending on the economy, the general inflationary levels of salaries being paid and so on. In this connection, the honourable member will know many private pension plans do have surpluses, and the government is about to introduce legislation for first reading which indicates our considered view on these matters. The Legislature will then deal with it as it sees fit.
Mr. Mackenzie: In his response, the Treasurer has taken us back about 10 or 15 years. Where there was an actuarial deficit, the goal was always to make it up, as the Treasurer knows, whether it was a private plan or government plans. He will also remember sitting in on some of the hearings of the select committee on pensions in Ontario, where efforts were made to improve and modernize private pension plans, and the argument we always got in terms of indexing or some other improvements was the additional cost that could not be handled.
I am going back to 1978 and 1979 and then to 1981, when we had the select committee on pensions. One of the arguments presented, and I thought almost accepted by the insurance industry during the course of those hearings, was that it had not done the best job it should have done in upgrading the plans. In that committee, one of the things we decided we would take a serious look at was indexing some of the surpluses, if not additional benefits for those receiving pensions.
Coupled with the fact that 10 years ago I am pretty doggoned sure the Treasurer would not have gotten an argument in this province that pension payments were not deferred wages, that makes me wonder why, with the surpluses, we can all of a sudden say this issue is one we have to decide and those are no longer necessarily workers' moneys in those pensions plans. It seems to me the Treasurer is taking us back 10 years in the answer he gave us, and we have not yet had a defined answer on that. I suggest those moneys do belong to the workers, and that should be part of the reform he is looking at.
Hon. Mr. Nixon: I am familiar with the honourable member's argument in this case. It is one I have heard from his party and have heard put forward very strenuously in the community.
One of the concerns the member must appreciate, although it does not fit in with his argument exactly, is that we do not have a mandatory private pension program in the province. He sat on the select committee, and it made a recommendation that we should proceed at least to consider a pension plan that would be ancillary to the Canada pension plan. They even had a very attractive acronym, PURSE. I am darned if I can tell the member what those letters stood for, but it is rather catchy. I do not think any government so far has seriously considered enacting the concept of PURSE, and even the NDP is not seriously putting that forward.
We have to remember, though, that our private pension system is not mandatory. If it is established on a basis such that the employers find it basically unfair and moneys they thought would be available to them might be locked in in the future, they have the alternative of winding down those programs, paying out the employees and that is the end of it.
The other problem is encouraging companies to establish new pension plans. This is something everybody wants to encourage. The idea of defined benefits rather than defined contributions is one we want to emphasize. If an employee is involved in one of these plans, whatever happens to the economy, he knows in the long run what his benefits will be. It is not like a person buying a mutual fund, where he may end up a very rich person or, God forbid, with even his own contributions not being found in the residue when it comes time to cash it.
A defined benefit is an important provision. The employer has the responsibility to provide his share, which should be no less than half under our new legislation or at least under the draft legislation that has been circulated. Whatever happens to the economy, the benefit must be paid. On the other hand, if the economy works in the other direction for a few years -- and there is no reason to believe it will continue to be as buoyant as it is at present, although we hope it will -- those surpluses should be available for removal if they are above and beyond 125 per cent of the commitment to the benefit that is agreed on.
If for some reason it is thought that the pension plan ought to be like a mutual fund and both people contribute to it and you invest it to the best of your ability, it could be that it would be extremely advantageous. If the agreement is understood and signed by both sides, including either the individual employee or his union, then those provisions must be enforced by the Pension Commission of Ontario. Among the many alternatives we are reviewing is a series of alternatives that would tighten up the role of the pension commission in assisting both sides to see that justice, equity and fairness are provided.
The argument on the other side of what the honourable member put forward so forcefully, although he has not used the legalized theft argument yet -- that will probably come in his next question --
Mr. Martel: I am glad you recognize that as a problem.
Hon. Mr. Nixon: Yes. Using the phrase is a problem --
Mr. Martel: No, legalized theft.
Hon. Mr. Nixon: -- because it means any rational discussion of the matter is at an end. The member must realize our private plans are not compulsory. We want to encourage business to establish defined benefit plans that come under the rules of the province, that are portable, that are fair and that will be seen to be advantageous and attractive to employers. Otherwise, they do not have to enter into them, but they do have to participate in the Canada pension plan.
My own feeling is that rather than go for a compulsory provincial program, although that may be in the cards some time, or for this elaborate business the member recommended when he was a member of the select committee, I would like to concentrate on the improvement of the Canada pension plan in quite a significant way.
Mr. Mackenzie: I do not want to prolong this, so I will speak only once more briefly on the same topic to the Treasurer. He will have agreement from us that the real answer should be in the improvements to the Canada pension plan. During the select committee hearings, we made that argument as strongly as we could.
The Treasurer is also well aware that there is massive opposition, both from old-party governments in this country of ours and from the insurance and pension industries, to turning that kind of additional money and responsibility over to a national pension plan. It would be the fairest way, there is no question about that, but inasmuch as we do not have that drive or initiative going on at the moment, I have to come back to what I know to be a fact in terms of negotiations.
Going back five or 10 years ago -- and it is the change of attitude in the recent time frame that bothers me -- when you negotiated, it was a hard question. Quite often, the companies would rather put the cents per hour into wages. In some cases, it was the union's case, depending on whether it had a younger work force in the plant that wanted to see the money in its pockets right away. However, there was no question in those negotiations, not even on the part of most companies, that whatever that payment was, and regardless of what may now happen in terms of how it was invested, it was deferred wages or in lieu of wages. That principle was clearly there. and I suspect many companies did not even question that.
In my opinion, the lax way in which the pension commission has allowed employers to dip into those funds where there is a surplus has led almost to a change in the attack on pension plans. Now it is up for question, whereas it had been pretty well decided it was something workers had finally won in this province 10 years ago. That is my concern with what is happening and why I think there is a responsibility to use those funds for the betterment of workers' plans or for indexing and not to allow companies to dip in and take that money out.
Mr. Ashe: One of the points I wanted to discuss with the Treasurer (Mr. Nixon) was brought up by my colleague. I just want to reinforce the fact that during the recent deliberations on another issue, I asked questions about the minister's offices, costs and staff costs. We will keep our fingers crossed in anticipation that this is coming momentarily.
Hon. Mr. Nixon: I have a note from one of the officials that the answer should be available by the end of the week. I hope to be able to table it on Monday.
Mr. Ashe: Thank you. We are looking forward to that, although I look upon it with a little trepidation when the Treasurer starts talking about ranges and what have you. We know the volatility of some of those ranges where they say, "It is $30,000 to $50,000" and that type of thing; one can speculate whether it is $31,000 or $49,000. I appreciate I may be stretching it a little, but I will bet those ranges are as much as $10,000 and $12,000. That makes a significant difference to the point we are making.
I agreed with the Treasurer's comments before. As a matter of fact, I am going to go so far as to say we are going to insist that is public information. Whether we like it or not -- and I do not always think it is fair either to the employee, to be very frank -- we know about those things when we choose to belong to the public service. Whether we are public servants in the context of elected or in the context of civil servants, that is the way the cookie crumbles. It is on the public record if somebody asks.
We are going to be asking for the specifics because we are fully aware that at the senior staff level and in the minister's offices, the salaries for special assistants, executive assistants, administrative assistants, or whatever title he managed to put on them, are significantly higher than under the previous administration. Those are taxpayers' dollars, 100 cents.
In the meantime, I have a couple of other areas. Knowing the Treasurer as a man who was always known previously as somewhat of a fiscal conservative --
Hon. Mr. Nixon: I am listening.
Mr. Rae: I am just giving him his instructions.
Mr. Ashe: Fine. It is nice to see the leader of the third party has some pictures that are more important than the Treasurer's estimates.
Again, getting back to the compliments, we know the Treasurer was known as a fiscal conservative, and I use that in the sense of a small-c conservative, even though he could challenge whether it was small or big from time to time. In any event, his whole, lifetime pattern, the feedback from the garage in downtown St. George would indicate that was his philosophy.
On that basis, how can the Treasurer justify that when he has a windfall -- which we said he would have, by the way, within $5 million; we said $8 million for the year, and I suggest it will be higher than that, keeping in mind that many sources of revenue normally are higher in the second half than in the first half, such as sales tax. He has a $405-million surplus in revenues in the first half of the fiscal year, and yet as a fiscal conservative he can put only about a quarter of the additional revenue towards reducing his cash requirements, because he literally blew $300 million or so of that. How can he justify still being in the red in his current account?
I know the Treasurer knows what I am talking about. I realize that, but for those who may not, what I am talking about is that the current cash flow needs for current account purposes, not for capital purposes, are still several hundred million dollars in the red. That is something that has been done very seldom even in the lowest days of a poor economy a number of years ago. In most of those years, the current account was in balance.
Hon. Mr. Nixon: The ordinary or current account was certainly not in balance two years ago. In the budget statement in May, I indicated I was accepting as a major challenge the concept of balancing the current account. I am prepared to argue, as I have in the past, that for capital purposes, I believe that going into a deficit situation can be justified since the generations to come will benefit from the university buildings and roads built on a basis of capital expenditure and commitment.
The current account situation showed a substantial improvement in the quarterly report I tabled last week. I should be able to tell the member exactly what it is, but I believe it improved by at least $100 million or more, and we are probably in deficit about $170 million, which is the number I remember.
I am not an authority on this, as the member knows, but in the projection we made of the additional $400 million, that is now what the additional revenue for the entire fiscal year is expected to be. It is not for a half year with an additional half to come, although I expect that as the economy continues to burgeon the revenue projections will improve somewhat.
I have just been handed a sheet which shows the operating deficit of Ontario was $1.2 billion in 1982, $1.2 billion in 1983, $615 million in 1984 and a projected $405 million at the time of the budget this year. We have reduced that substantially with the improved performance of our revenue apparatus.
Mr. Harris: I appreciate the Treasurer's convoluted explanation, but his increased revenues were more than enough to wipe out the current account deficit. We agree roughly on how much the $400 million has been reduced, by about $100 million, but that still leaves much more than the $170 million the Treasurer referred to. The projected current account deficit is still closer to $300 million.
What is the Treasurer going to do when the economy is not quite as strong as it is now, a situation he acknowledged might happen a few short moments ago in responding to another question? We all hope it will carry on indefinitely, but in realistic and historical terms we know that is not going to happen. The Treasurer has to recognize at some time that one cannot keep spending revenue in additional great gobs when it comes in.
Going to the next part, which is an exact opposite, the Treasurer has the problem of answering it, not me. We have raised this issue before too. About 18 months ago, he and his colleagues and the Premier (Mr. Peterson) were going around the province and suggesting that as soon as they became the government, the sales tax exemption limit on takeout and fast foods would be $4.
We had $1, and some day we will have $2, albeit that is part of the extra cash flow right there. When the $2 limit comes into effect, it will practically be the end of the fiscal year anyway; so the Treasurer has an extra bonanza in that regard. If the Treasurer was not going to use most of his additional $400 million to bring the current account into balance, why did he not use it at least to fulfil the election commitment to increase the sales tax exemption to $4?
Hon. Mr. Nixon: Unfortunately, we had other pressing matters that had to be seen to; they had been neglected. The member may have his copy of Ontario Finances there. Under the heading "Expenditure" -- that is, in-year increases in expenditure -- we have quite an impressive list, including an additional $54 million for agriculture support payments. That had to be paid because of the unnaturally low level of grain prices. We have legislation here that tops up the federal support payments from 90 per cent of the average price over the past five years to 95 per cent. This is an Ontario improvement that is expected to cost us an unexpected $54 million, if I have not mixed my metaphors.
The member knows that when he was in office, we experienced a rather protracted community college strike. It was decided we should force the teachers back to work -- I am not sure that was the smart thing to do -- and we gave the situation to an arbitrator, who found we had to pay an extra $60 million. Somebody had to write a cheque for that. I approved it. I did not like it.
Because of increased case load, the Ministry of Community and Social Services required an additional $10 million. It is interesting that the welfare case load is increasing at a time when our unemployment levels are not at a historic low but are at a very low level compared with the past decade. The explanation is that people from other parts of Canada are coming to Ontario to seek additional opportunities, and for a time until they find their feet, they are costing us some money. The additional $10 million we have put into that is not going to pay the bill for the whole year.
The Ontario health insurance plan payments required an additional $70 million above and beyond what we budgeted. The actual uptake and utilization through doctors' services was $70 million above the $4.5 billion we had already allocated. I am not sure that number is right on. That is a huge amount to begin with, and while $70 million is a very large sum of money in absolute terms, it is not that large compared with the overall cost.
We had to spend an additional $13 million in the Ministry of Housing. An additional $40 million in the year was supplied for the Toyota assembly plant, to General Motors-Suzuki and for certain other programs we have already discussed in these estimates.
Mr. Martel: It is too bad you do not do anything in Sudbury.
Hon. Mr. Nixon: I have an extensive list of additional expenditures associated with northern initiatives; these were unexpected additional costs that made the member look good. Anybody in the House who knows the member knows it takes a lot of money to make him look good.
The list goes on with an additional $17 million for fighting forest fires, increased employer contributions of $12 million to the teachers' superannuation fund -- which the member is deeply involved in -- and so on. It was very difficult for me to snatch $100 million out of this and apply it to the deficit, but I insisted on it and we did.
Mr. Ashe: There should have been a lot more than $100 million. I do not know how the Treasurer spent an extra $17 million fighting forest fires when it rained all summer. He had perhaps better look into that one. It may have been raining money up there instead of raining rain to put out forest fires. Something does not add up on that one.
There is one more area I want to deal with before passing to somebody else. I wonder what the Treasurer, as the keeper of the public purse, is going to say when the municipality of Metropolitan Toronto comes to him somewhere along the line and says to him, as he wears the hat of the Minister of Revenue: "Have we got a deal for you. We are going to put in that market value assessment you have been telling us is a good thing for so long. You said you were going to force us to do that if we had not done it by September 1986, but you are now hedging on that. We are going to do it, but this is what it is going to cost you when we do it. We know Big Daddy should take care of all those swings and take care of everybody who is below a certain level and what these swings are from the highest to the lowest."
The municipality says all that to the Minister of Revenue. Then the minister will have to change his hat and say he is the Treasurer. He is the keeper of the pot; he raises the money and what have you. What will the Treasurer say then about how much money he is going to put in the coffers of Metropolitan Toronto, which he has done in no other place in the province, with the exception of a rather unique situation in Sudbury? What is he going to tell them? How much is he going to give them?
Hon. Mr. Nixon: I am going to tell them that the policy of the government is the same as it has been in the past. The member will know that better than anybody. We are not going to make special grants to assist in reassessment that are payable in only a single municipality or a selected group of municipalities.
The mayor of Mississauga would shoot me out of the water -- and she may anyway -- if I were to do that without taking a busload of money to her council. We have mentioned before that the mayor and council of Mississauga, very properly but with great courage, moved forward for section 63 reassessment of that major city. It was the largest one that was done, and it was done quite well. There have been some complaints, but in general it would seem to have been done very well.
We do not know when it will happen in Metropolitan Toronto. The member can understand that the timing of this is rather delicate. As well, he knows the resolution that called in a general way for market value reassessment across the board in Metro had five or six clauses in it.
Mr. Ashe: And it cost a pile of money.
Hon. Mr. Nixon: Yes. However, as I read it, it does not call for special money for Metropolitan Toronto only.
In my view, the property tax grants for senior citizens and the property tax credits for everybody else who pays tax in the province are very generous. When you think that they have not been significantly adjusted for five or six years, you can understand how, relatively, they were even more generous in those days. The member and his colleagues deserve a good deal of credit for their generosity -- or perhaps there is some other adjective; for their judgement -- in that connection.
They are there to be increased, presumably, if the resources and decision of the executive council are such that they could be increased. We are not going to do this for Toronto, but we could contemplate doing it for the taxpayers of Ontario. That might be seen by the people of Toronto and even the elected municipal politicians as an indication of our good faith and our concern that local property taxes are a substantial and growing proportion of these costs and that we ought to pay attention to their adjustment. It is a very expensive program now, and any significant upward adjustment would require quite a lot of money for it to be discerned as being significant. That is what bothers me.
In answer to the former minister's question, it is not my intention to make any special payments. Goodness only knows what the future holds. Obviously, it would be unacceptable to all other municipalities, large and small, that have undertaken reassessment on the basis of their own good and were not simply allured into it by extra dough.
The Deputy Chairman: Does the member have any further questions?
Mr. Ashe: No. I will pass now.
Mr. Warner: I have three items I wish to draw to the attention of the Treasurer. The first item concerns the term used by the courts, "corporate piracy," with respect to certain funds that have been removed from workers' pensions and, in particular, a very troublesome case which the Pension Commission of Ontario attempted to deal with and where it found it was unable to solve the problem. The company in question was M. A. N. Lepper. It was purchased by a Mr. Sinclair, who sold it one day later. After having owned the company for one day, he laid claim to a $1,012,000 surplus.
The employees, naturally, opposed what he was attempting to do and the matter went before the pension commission. Basically, the commission said: "The law is deficient. There is nothing we can do." The best they could come up with then was to suggest that there be negotiations between the owner and the employees and that if those negotiations were unsuccessful, the matter would be referred to the courts.
Since any reasonable person would realize that Mr. Sinclair is not entitled to the $1 million for owning the company for one day, one can assume that the so-called negotiations will be unsuccessful and that the matter ultimately will end up in the courts. A question flows from that. If the law is deficient -- and I and the pension commission believe it is -- then what is the Treasurer inclined to do to repair the damage? How will he address the deficient law so that this type of perverse action cannot recur?
It really is quite obscene to think someone could own a company for a day and claim $1 million against some of the employees who were there for 30 years and who helped to create that surplus. This was a pension that was contributed to by both the employer and the employees in equal amounts. Does the Treasurer want to deal with that question first? Okay.
Hon. Mr. Nixon: I would prefer to deal with it, not that I have the kind of answer the honourable member is going to think is good, but it helps me keep it straight in my mind. For one thing, on the basis of who owns that money, I believe the draft legislation indicates that any contribution by the employee plus interest is undoubtedly part of the permanent fund. That does not deal with the broader problem: what about the employer's contribution and the interest it earns? If that is deemed to be forgone wages, that is one thing. If it is deemed to be, as under the present law, the responsibility of the employer to meet the defined payout requirement plus 25 per cent, then anything over that obviously belongs to the company.
In this instance, the surplus in the fund would be seen by the pension commission under our present laws to belong to the owner, just as the bank account of the company belongs to the owner, as long as all of the requirements or payouts and safeguards are met.
The member might not agree with that because, as he says, Mr. Sinclair owned it for a day instead of 40 years. I think in that instance, aside from the perversity of it, it is quite legal.
Mr. Warner: It is legal. That is the problem. It is legal because the law is deficient. That is why I raise it. I want to know how we are going to change the law to protect people against this kind of piracy. It will go to court and my guess is that the employees will win in court. But why on earth should they have to go through that and incur legal bills of probably in the neighbourhood of $30,000 in order to retrieve what is rightfully theirs? That is why I raise the question.
The second issue is one on which I have received a number of letters, and no doubt the Treasurer has as well, and I would like to read this because I think it capsulizes the issue:
"In 1983, the Teachers' Superannuation Act was amended to change the basis of calculation of pensions from the best seven years of service to the best five. This was to commence on September 1, 1984, and was made retroactive for those teachers who retired between May 1982 and August 31, 1984.
"The superannuated teachers of Ontario made a request to the biennial review committee that this change apply to all teachers who retired before 1982 and that their pensions be recalculated accordingly. The civil servants of the Ontario government on this committee turned down the request.
"As a result, the superannuated teachers feel that other avenues must be explored to achieve the result. As a member of that group, I would like to point out the following: (a) This change would not cost the taxpayer of Ontario because the moneys are already available in the fund; (b) The estimated cost to the fund is $65 million; (c) The 1984 valuation of the fund shows a surplus of $693 million; (d) This surplus was achieved partly because of high interest rates during earlier years; (e) This interest was on moneys, some of which were our payments to the fund before retirement; (f) This request is based on fairness, not need.
"In the light of the above and other considerations, I ask that you give this request any support possible."
That is from a constituent. No doubt the Treasurer has received similar letters. I must confess that the situation seems to me to be patently unfair. How does the Treasurer intend to respond to the people who are the recipients of this unfairness?
Hon. Mr. Nixon: We have received about 500 letters. The superannuated teachers' organization is supporting this and is persuading its members to send appropriate letters. I am not sure whether it is unfair to say that the teachers' professional organizations themselves have not as yet indicated their support or otherwise in this matter.
It is a little more complicated than the very well worded letter that the honourable member read into the record would indicate. Essentially, however, the facts are correct that the most recent actuarial review indicates a surplus of just under $700 million. It is also true that by raising all superannuated teachers to a pension payment based on their best five years rather than their best seven would cost $65 million extra a year.
The part where we have some difficulty is that, as I understand it and as has been traditional in these improvements, they are not paid out of that actuarial surplus. The people who are currently able to retire on the best five both now and in the future are paying 6.9 per cent of their salary as their contribution. The people who retired on the basis of the best seven years paid six per cent, almost a full per cent less, over their whole career.
For that reason, while they certainly did pay into the fund, their contribution was statistically and actuarially based on the best seven years. If we are going to enrich it, that $65 million would be taken out of the consolidated revenue fund and not from the surplus. This is a tradition.
Mr. Warner: I am just wondering why.
Hon. Mr. Nixon: This is the way it works. It is really an enrichment for people who are already retired. We have done this going back to 1962 when I was first elected. The then Minister of Education, John Robarts, decided it was necessary to improve the low teachers' pension for people who had retired some years before when many of the salaries were under $1,000 or $1,200. The pension fund did not have the resources to pay it and it came out of the consolidated revenue fund.
There have been regular improvements. The most recent was to set a minimum pension of about $8,000. A number of retired teachers are receiving pensions lower than that and we decided we should not be paying pensions lower than $8,000. That itself is a number that one could make quite a speech about. The additional money for that, which was not insignificant, had to be paid from the consolidated revenue fund, not from the teachers' fund, because that is there, on an actuarial basis, to pay the pensions -- which, by the way, are indexed -- for the people who are teaching now and who are earning an average of about $45,000.
If we start increasing, even at four per cent, pensions based on $45,000, we are into big bucks. Therefore, if we are going to do that, it has to be done not on a basis of justice but on a basis of -- and I hesitate to use the word -- charity.
There are some charity cases, and I have had them in my constituency office, one in particular over this weekend. He was a gentleman who had entered the teaching profession rather late in his working career, having come out of industry. He did not have a very long period of time to contribute, and already he has a reduced pension and got caught in all the difficulties of high inflation at a time when he was purchasing his house and had a second mortgage of 23 per cent, etc., a story that members know about.
Most of the teachers who have written me have done so on the basis that they want justice for the teachers who are retiring now. Of course, their contributions were one per cent lower. That does not sound like very much, but over a career it is a substantial amount of money. The actuarial surplus exists, but under our understanding of the law we cannot dip into that; it belongs to the teachers who are going to be superannuated. One can argue that, but the tradition is that these additional payments come out of the consolidated revenue fund, and that is $65 million a year, which we are not prepared to undertake at this time.
I have to tell members, though, that we now have a pension advisory board, which has representatives on it who are very knowledgeable in these matters. It was set up recently to assist me as Chairman of Management Board, and also, I suppose, as Treasurer, in coming to grips with these matters. It is not a board to which we are sending any difficult problem, because my letter going back to the teachers indicates that we would have difficulty justifying this. We are asking the pension advisory board to review it again and to give us a recommendation.
Mr. Warner: I appreciate the Treasurer's detailed explanation. The money will come out of the consolidated revenue fund rather than the superannuation fund. I just did not catch the date. Did he say it was for tomorrow that he was going to do this?
Hon. Mr. Nixon: I am sending the matter to the board for advice. My answer right now is that we are not going to do it, but I am asking for additional advice.
Mr. Warner: Okay. I thought he said he would do it tomorrow, on the basis of fairness. I appreciate his detailed explanation; it is very helpful.
My third and final item is also a letter. This time it is from the Scarborough Board of Education:
"On January 15, 1986, the Scarborough board adopted the following recommendation of the education committee:
"`That the board of education for the city of Scarborough add its voice to the concerns of other groups who are challenging the provincial Treasurer's cut or change in structure of the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education.'
"I understand that the general government committee has recommended that OISE remain an autonomous institution with its own board of governors that represents the educational constituencies of the province, in control of its own programs, with a stronger and clearer relationship with the faculty of education at the University of Toronto and with a long-term affiliation agreement with the University of Toronto.
"I trust that the government will accept the recommendations made by the general government committee so that OISE can continue to serve education in the province.
"C. A. Cowan,
"Director of Education."
I bring the letter to the Treasurer's attention because I support that recommendation by the board. Has the Treasurer, who has now had some reasonable opportunity to reflect upon this situation, reached a decision?
Hon. Mr. Nixon: It is interesting that another flurry of letters, mostly from school boards, has been generated, probably by letters going out from somebody else. I do not comment on that and I see nothing at all wrong with this bunch of letters coming in to me indicating that I should accept the recommendation from the committee. It is very interesting. I have read the letters carefully.
Without going through the whole sordid history of the pronouncement made by the Treasurer in his budget a year ago, although I participated in the review of the various committees and the private members' review in this House, I do not agree with the honourable member or with Mr. Cowan, who wrote on behalf of the Scarborough board. I am not in a position, however, to do anything more about it than bide my time. This does not mean in any way that at some future date my mind will not be changed.
Mr. McClellan: Or go blank entirely.
Mr. Martel: You are scrambled now.
Hon. Mr. Nixon: No, I am not. The letter indicated the long-term association of the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education with the University of Toronto, which itself has a faculty of education. It is an undergraduate faculty that provides certificates for a good many Ontario teachers.
If the teachers -- I used to be one and may, if I am lucky, be one again -- want some sort of graduate degree in pedagogy or the associated sciences and arts, they have to go to OISE to get it. It is interesting to note that the popularity of those degrees is such that most of the graduate degrees awarded by the University of Toronto are actually OISE degrees. OISE itself does not have the right to grant graduate degrees, but must return to the University of Toronto for that purpose.
A year ago, I did not think it was unreasonable to suggest that the financing of OISE should be more closely associated with that of the University of Toronto, because all its academic abilities are based on the decisions of the University of Toronto. We thought this would be a good association which would strengthen both institutions; I still believe that is the case but am not in a position to do anything about it right now.
Mr. Gregory: This morning, the member for Wellington-Dufferin-Peel (Mr. J. M. Johnson), the member for Brampton (Mr. Callahan) and I met with the chairman and some trustees of the Halton Board of Education and the Peel Board of Education, along with the director of education. The meeting was at the invitation of the board members, who wished to express some of their concerns regarding education funding this year.
In answer to an earlier question, the Treasurer stated that the funding level this year is going to be reduced from 48 per cent to 45 per cent on transfer grants. Bill 30 and its implications have caused substantial pressure on the Halton Board of Education, the Peel Board of Education and the Dufferin-Peel Roman Catholic Separate School Board.
Because of Bill 30 and the great amount of development in the Peel region, which I believe is one of the fastest-developing areas in Canada, new schools are needed every day. The public school board calculated it needs at least one new high school per year just to stand still; the Roman Catholic board of education in Dufferin-Peel has an immediate need for five secondary schools. With the discussion that has been going on about the pooling of industrial assessment, there is a great deal of concern in the Halton and Peel boards of education and in the Dufferin-Peel separate school board.
With all these extra funds he has been getting lately from the federal government, surely the Treasurer must have something up his sleeve so he can deliver on the promise he made some time ago that the boards of education would not suffer financial losses because of Bill 30. I believe he will recall when he made that statement.
I wonder whether the Treasurer can comment on what he is going to do about it and how he is going to come up with the additional funds needed to satisfy not only myself but also the member for Mississauga South (Mrs. Marland); the member for Wellington-Dufferin-Peel; the member for Brampton, a friend of his, I believe; and the member for Mississauga North (Mr. Offer), also a friend of his. We are all in trouble together. What is the Treasurer going to do to help that board?
Hon. Mr. Nixon: There are a number of important ingredients in the member's comment and question. I want to begin by saying the policy of the government, in response to the almost unanimous support of the newly elected members of the Legislature last year, is to move forward with the appropriate funding of the extension of the separate school system to completion at the secondary level.
An additional commitment is that this would not interfere with regular education spending. This was an extremely sensitive area. A lot of thoughtful people, including many public school teachers, felt that this allocation of additional funds might well be at their expense and that the quality of public education would decrease. There was some expectation that there would be a transfer of some students. Even with this expectation, the minister has been extremely careful to keep his numbers in line so he can justify his contention, which I believe to be correct, that we are not interfering with the quality of public education vis-à-vis separate education. I understand both are public in a more appropriate sense.
I have to be particularly careful with what I say, since the member for Scarborough Centre (Mr. Davis) is here and he is a well-known expert in these matters.
On a fiscal-year basis, the financing for separate school funding this year is expected to cost about $107 million, and for the next full fiscal year it will be $162.7 million. Particularly for next year, those are perhaps stated a bit more precisely than they should be, because in some communities the rate of growth is extremely high, as the member has said, and we are concerned about any dislocation that may occur as students transfer from one system to the other.
In the statement I made last week, we increased the general legislative grant by a full six per cent, which is quite a significant increase. It amounts to an allocation of $3,415,000,000.
Mr. Davis: The government dropped the provincial funding to 44 per cent.
Hon. Mr. Nixon: We went through all that before the member came in. I cannot go over it again, because I proved to the satisfaction of every reasonable member of the Legislature that our allocation of dollars in this regard is appropriate and sufficient.
In addition, the Minister of Education has expressed his concern to the Treasury and to the policy and priorities board of cabinet about the spectacular and almost unexpected rate of growth in some areas, particularly around Metropolitan Toronto. Is the member referring to north Mississauga or north Peel?
Mr. Gregory: It is the Halton-Peel area.
Hon. Mr. Nixon: Yes. I am sure that is one. My geography is a bit limited, but I think north or northeast Metro is another area where the rate of growth has been described as even greater than it was in those boom years immediately following the Second World War when we had such a problem providing educational facilities and we had portable classrooms by the hundreds being provided by the previous government.
Mr. Davis: The government is supplying them now. There are 232 in Durham.
Mr. Chairman: Order.
Hon. Mr. Nixon: I am trying to indicate to the member and to my chief critic, who has just joined the debate, that we do not want to have to depend on portables, but it has been done before. We are doing our best to provide well-qualified teachers and reasonable accommodation as these concentrations of students seem to be changing in a very rapid way.
We have allocated a pile of money for this. With the perspicacity of the Minister of Education and the assistance he has from his officials, we feel sure these young people will be properly provided for. We depend on people such as the member who has asked the question and his colleagues who have been directly affected by the problems in north Peel and the surrounding counties for their advice. That is why these discussions are valuable. I will make sure the Minister of Education is aware of the special problem the member is bringing to the attention of the House.
Mr. Chairman: The member for Scarborough East -- I am sorry; the member for Mississauga East. They are both parts of Toronto; so that is close enough.
Mr. Gregory: It gave me time to figure out "perspicacity." That is very nice; it is not a word normally used by a nescient troglodyte, I suppose.
The Treasurer has told me he is going to increase funding by six per cent. That is all well and good, but what are the school boards going to do about the loss? Better still, what is the Treasurer going to do to help them solve the problem of the loss in assessment that is going to be suffered by the public school boards through support being transferred to the separate school boards?
I had better speak specifically of Mississauga, because I am not too familiar with the tax base in Brampton or Caledon. About 60 per cent of the taxpayers' bill goes to the school board. Under Bill 30, I suspect most of the transfers will be from public to separate schools. Even though the government says they will not have as many students, they still have the physical plants that they must carry on with. There might be fewer students in them, but they still have the same physical plants. However, they will be losing the assessment from those people, which means in effect all the taxpayers will have to pick up a greater share of the overall tax bill for public school education.
The only way that can be helped is if the Treasurer, in his generosity, is able to convince his cabinet colleagues and the Minister of Education that additional grants will be required to compensate for this factor, particularly in large-growth areas.
One other factor is that in an area of Mississauga, and I will speak about my own area of Mississauga East, a very large percentage of people moving into new homes and adding assessment are separate school supporters. I am not saying they all went to separate schools, but they are separate school supporters. In other words, they are of the Roman Catholic faith. Under this new bill, they will be going to separate schools. Therefore, the new assessment that comes into Mississauga will go to the separate schools for the most part.
The problem will be with the funding. What are the public schools going to do about this? What is Peel-Halton or Peel -- I keep saying Peel-Halton, but I think the problems are not unalike -- what will the Peel Board of Education do to keep its schools going while losing all its assessment? How are the poor trustees ever going to get re-elected when they increase the taxes by 50 per cent, which they will have to do?
Hon. Mr. Nixon: I do not believe the trustees are going to be faced with that eventuality. I want to comment on this, and this is my own perception.
While we have a commitment that we will not allow the funding of the expanded separate system to interfere with the quality of public education, I do not think there is a commitment that the same number of dollars, irrespective of the number of students involved, will be paid; that is, numbers of students transfer -- and the members of the public board might not like to see this happen -- to the jurisdiction of the separate board and then the responsibilities and therefore the costs of the public board are reduced.
The honourable member makes a good point that the plant -- the numbers of buildings, the heating costs and whatever -- is still there, except that is not entirety true. As long as there is a good spirit of co-operation, it is quite possible that the growing board is going to take over some of the responsibilities of the public board, whose responsibilities are contracting; in some areas contracting or reducing quite a bit.
I have heard of some jurisdictions where the public school board has indicated it is not anxious to allow the separate school board to take over the responsibility for schools that might not be fully utilized. Unless the public boards take steps to rationalize the utilization of the schools, there is going to be a substantial problem. If they lose a significant number of their students without taking steps to see that a significant area of cost and responsibility is also reduced, then obviously there is going to be a problem that even the perspicacious Minister of Education may not be able to solve fully and to the satisfaction of all concerned.
There is no doubt, and we have said this from the beginning, which for us was 1970 and not 1983, that there has to be a substantial spirit of co-operation, with maybe even the sharing of facilities in some instances. As a matter of fact, in the Brantford area -- although this is not strictly analogous since it deals with the elementary panel to some extent -- the public and separate boards are building schools with some substantially shared recreational and I believe shop facilities, heating plant and so on.
We are not talking about everybody building new; that is the last thing we want to recommend. We want to make good use of the very good plant and established facilities we have now. We cannot afford to allow them to be largely underutilized or even wasted when the growth in the other panel and the other sector of the public system is so great.
Obviously, many communities are going to suffer a kind of dislocation that is going to be extremely difficult. It is the responsibility of the minister and the Treasurer to assist as much as we possibly can in this, as long as we can be assured, as I am sure we can be in this instance, that there is good co-operation between the two school boards in the utilization of the plant we have. Without the growth of the plant, the numbers of students remain the same. When there is substantial growth, then obviously we have to fund new schools anyway.
Mr. Gregory: I think the Treasurer told me there are not going to be any one-time grants to assist in this transformation. I believe that is what he said.
Hon. Mr. Nixon: I did not say that, because I am not sure whether there will be. I should be sure but I am not.
Mr. Gregory: With the proper persuasion, the Treasurer could be convinced there should or could be additional grants to compensate?
Hon. Mr. Nixon: I do not want to mislead the honourable member at all. I know the commitment of the government and the minister is that we want to be as helpful as possible. I do not know or recall whether there is any sort of program for adjustment in special circumstances. Quite often the member will know that there is, but I am not aware that there is. If we need one, the person to convince is not the Treasurer but the Minister of Education.
Mr. Davis: Your minister has already said he is not going to do it, but you know you need one.
Hon. Mr. Nixon: The honourable member, who has gone through many years or many months of consultation at the committee stage with the minister, knows that if the minister has said there is not one, then there is not.
Mr. Chairman: The member for Mississauga South. We are running short of time. Will members please keep it short and keep their eye on the clock?
Mrs. Marland: I have been listening to the minister describing what he understands to be the situation in the region of Peel, but I do not hear him giving answers that are a solution.
The concern I have is that the Minister of Education should acknowledge that the region of Peel in itself is different and has very special needs. It is the largest public board in Canada and it is the only board with an increasing enrolment. I am speaking now of the public board. The minister is fully aware of the problems with the Dufferin-Peel board. We have a situation requiring special funding associated not only with growth but also with the type of urban development such as inner-city schools have. I wonder whether the minister will support any request for that kind of recognition.
I realize the minister has to deal in generalities when handing out funding for education province-wide, but would he be willing to assist the Dufferin-Peel Roman Catholic Separate School Board and the Peel Board of Education because of their individuality and because of their problems associated with growth and the accompanying needs?
One such need is for the replacement of equipment, which they do not have any money for now, replacement of equipment while growing and requiring new capital equipment. Would the Treasurer consider identifying that individual need for those two boards and looking at the gap between the two panels, for example? Is that something the Treasurer will help the Minister of Education deal with in the case of the Peel board and the Dufferin-Peel board?
Hon. Mr. Nixon: I was not aware that the Peel board is the largest public board in Canada. I am very interested to know that. I drive through Mississauga twice a day and keep my eyes peeled.
The member for Mississauga South is talking about the difference in the two panels, and this is something that has historically been a problem. I recall making speeches as a teacher and as a parent, indicating that the money spent in the elementary panel was more valuable than that spent in the secondary panel and that the sensitivity of the kids at that stage and their requirement for quality was probably greater even than at the secondary level. During those years the requirements for qualification for elementary teachers changed from just a certificate and perhaps grade 12 to a university degree.
All I can say is that as Mississauga very rapidly becomes a huge board with big-city problems, I am sure the ministry will give it every consideration, as it did with Toronto during its days of rapid growth.
Mr. J. M. Johnson: In the few minutes remaining, I want to go on record as supporting the member for Mississauga East (Mr. Gregory). I sat at the same meeting as he did this morning, and the Peel Board of Education has expressed concern, as the member for Mississauga South (Mrs. Marland) has also indicated to the Treasurer.
One other concern they expressed was on Bill 82, the special education bill. The education system is now faced with the responsibility of handling a program that was formerly handled by the Ministry of Community and Social Services. Can the dollars freed up from that ministry be transferred to the Education portfolio so that it can use the same dollars?
I also want to ask for the Treasurer's consideration of the very serious financial problems that our Ontario farmers have, especially in view of the Food Security Act, the US farm bill which will be putting approximately $35 billion into the economy of the US farm community. We have to compete with that. The Treasurer must be supportive of the Minister of Agriculture and Food (Mr. Riddell) and come up with some policies, along with the federal government, to support our farmers or we are going to face some very serious problems in my part of the country and in the Treasurer's as well.
One consideration the Treasurer could look at in the future is the property tax reform that was brought in a few years ago when we increased the property tax rebate to farmers from 50 per cent to 60 per cent. Many farmers would like to see no taxes on land and farm buildings and for the taxes to go on the residential section instead of the 60-40 split we have at present.
Hon. Mr. Nixon: In the few seconds left, I agree with the member's contention about property tax reform, which was almost successfully achieved four or five years ago under the previous government. It was a good reform and one that should be given additional consideration. The member should write to my colleague the Minister of Agriculture and Food. I know he would be anxious to have the member's views.
I am glad the member also mentioned Bill 82. That is a very important and innovative piece of legislation that gives the responsibility to the local board to educate all the people in the community. This includes the whole range of special requirements involved with brilliant and handicapped children in a wide variety of situations. In this connection, I know the House is anxious that adequate funding be provided.
Votes 1001 to 1004, inclusive, agreed to.
Mr. Chairman: This completes consideration of the estimates of the Ministry of Treasury and Economics.
On motion by Hon. Mr. Nixon, the committee of supply reported certain resolutions.
The House adjourned at 5:34 p.m.