L005 - Tue 5 May 1987 / Mar 5 mai 1987
The House met at 1:30 p.m.
Hon. Mr. Kerrio: Mr. Speaker, may I have the concurrence of the House to bring to its attention the death of a former member?
Hon. Mr. Kerrio: I wish to bring to the attention of the Legislature the death of a former member, a Niagara Falls politician and a long-time personal friend.
George Bukator, who died last week at the age of 74, enthusiastically served his province and his community for many years. He represented the former riding of Niagara in this Legislature from 1959 to 1971. He served as a councillor and reeve in the village of Chippewa before entering provincial politics. When he left the Legislature, he continued his distinguished political career by serving as mayor of Niagara Falls from 1973 to 1978. He also served as vice-president of the Association of Municipalities of Ontario and as Ontario director of the Association of Mayors and Reeves. In addition, he served for six years on the Niagara Parks Commission.
These accomplishments are ones for which George Bukator is best known outside Niagara Falls, but in my city, his name is also synonymous with dedication to the good of our community. His contributions to the community were honoured with the dedication of the George Bukator Park and the George Bukator Swimming Pool at the boys' club. That club held a special place in George Bukator's heart. An excellent swimmer himself, his fund-raising efforts in the club swimathon resulted in his being awarded a life membership.
Many other organizations and worthy causes benefited from the efforts of George Bukator over the years. For instance, Nancy Reynolds, writing in the Niagara Falls Review, notes that he was awarded the Carnegie medal for saving three lives in near drownings in the Niagara and Welland rivers. He also received the Bicentennial medal and was an honorary member of branch 396, Royal Canadian Legion.
I have known the Bukator family for many years, and it is with deep personal sadness that I extend the sympathy of this Legislature to his wife, Bernice, and his daughters, Yvonne, Karen and Nancy.
Mr. Partington: I would like to join with the member for Niagara Falls (Mr. Kerrio) in expressing the tribute he paid to the late Mr. Bukator. On behalf of my party, I would like to honour the high regard in which Mr. Bukator was held by all the citizens of not only Niagara Falls but indeed of the Niagara area as well. Clearly, his reputation was one of an outstanding politician, an excellent mayor and a good citizen of Niagara. We would also join in expressing to his family our sorrow in his passing.
Mr. Swart: On behalf of myself and my party, I also would like to pay tribute to Mr. Bukator. I knew him well from being on county council with him for a number of years. In fact, I was one of those who was instrumental in helping to get him elected warden there by a very narrow margin. I want to say that he brought a period of reform to that county council and had the respect of the members and the public in Welland county.
It has been mentioned that he was a brave man and that he saved, at great risk to himself, three lives in the Niagara River. Certainly in his service on council he was respected. He practised openness. He had a rapport with the public and endeavoured to serve the people of his municipality. Though I did not sit here in the Legislature with him, I assume that he practised that same kind of public service here.
I join with all other members of the Legislature in expressing sympathy to the family and acknowledgement of the tremendous service that George Bukator gave to his own municipality and to this province.
Mr. Speaker: I will make certain that a copy of this Hansard is sent to the Bukator family showing your expression of sympathy.
Mr. Harris: Northerners continue to suffer. The Premier (Mr. Peterson), who once described northerners as a bunch of whiners and complainers, now says he will take great delight in receiving northern solutions to northern problems. There are many northern solutions to northern problems, and we do not begin the search for them today.
The people of Nipissing have had a plan to address local health concerns. This plan was unfolding well before this government took office. Yet this Liberal administration responds by delaying new north-based joint hospital projects by two years so far.
Our community has a plan to address a serious environmental concern, the Nipissing watershed. It has been in the works for years. This Liberal administration responds by delaying the creation of a single watershed flood control body by more than two years.
It has failed to support plans by the major employer in Sturgeon Falls to reduce a flood threat that could close the mill, that of excavation of the tailrace obstructions below the power dam, which has been delayed by one year.
We have a plan to address winter tourism and development, brought forth by northerners to create more jobs. This Liberal administration responds by delaying the major ski development at Mount Antoine by more than a year so far.
Northerners have had a plan to address transportation concerns. This Liberal administration responds by delaying Highway 11 four-laning by two years so far.
It refused to lower gasoline prices, as was promised in 1985, which are clearly detrimental to all northern Ontario residents. In fact, the only elected voice from the north opposes lowered northern gas prices.
Mr. Speaker: Order. The member's time has expired.
ROOMERS, BOARDERS AND LODGERS
Mr. Reville: What about the commitment of this government to roomers? Time is running out. It is not an amusing situation for the people who have eight days of security left. On May 13, the people at 433 Ontario Street will join hundreds of other roomers in this province whom this government has left totally unprotected by the Landlord and Tenant Act.
These are not just numbers. It is very interesting that today at the Toronto regional conference on homelessness the Minister of Housing (Mr. Curling) talked about the interest of this government in doing something about homelessness. One of the things that could be done very quickly and very easily would be to prevent people from becoming homeless by being evicted without cause from their rooming houses, so that Al Maddox, Gary Costello, Karen St. Germain, Ken Austin, Larry Schaeffer and at least 120 other people I know of who are facing eviction at this moment will have the same kind of protection that every other tenant in this province has, and that is something this government has known about since it took office. It should move today to solve that problem.
Mr. O'Connor: I would like to address the $240,000, or less than two per cent, response of the Minister of Education (Mr. Conway) to the Halton Board of Education's $16-million needs.
His press release announcing this grossly inadequate funding boldly stated this was "proof of the commitment of this government to the importance and priority we place on education." His only commitment in Halton is to gasoline and buses instead of bricks and mortar.
Oakville desperately needs three new schools. We are experiencing areas of rapid, almost unprecedented growth. The prime concern of any family moving into a new neighbourhood is its school. It is the one institution that brings a neighbourhood together and creates a sense of community.
Yes, we are educating our 42,000 students, but what is the quality of that education when they are bused to school and taught in portables and are unable to participate in any extracurricular activities? We owe them an education in an environment that is conducive to learning.
We are the 10th largest school board in this province. How can the minister totally disregard the legitimate needs of our students? The message he has sent is loud and clear: less than two per cent funding, regardless of the actual needs or the rhetoric of his press release. We need those schools; we must have funding approval for them. If there is any commitment by this government to educating Halton's students, the minister must reverse this disgraceful decision.
NIAGARA REGIONAL GOVERNMENT
Mr. Swart: Today, I will be tabling a petition containing 8,868 names which calls on this government to do a comprehensive examination of local government in the Niagara region. The intent is that the Niagara regional government should be substantially revised or an alternative provided or abandoned entirely.
This request has great validity. There is substantial evidence that total municipal taxation is much higher in communities inside regional governments than elsewhere in Ontario. There was great hope that the Niagara regional government planning would preserve our fruit lands and other prime farm land. In fact, it has been an exercise in futility.
One only needs to drive from Toronto to Niagara Falls to realize that the bulk of the urban development in this province is still taking place on our best land, particularly in the Niagara region. Problems of the Niagara Regional Police demonstrate that regionalism has not convinced the Niagara Citizens' Committee that policing has been improved.
Simply, Niagara regional government is too big and unaccountable. Perhaps if my original proposals had been accepted, for two smaller regional governments in Niagara instead of the huge one, and governments with less power at the upper level and an elected chairman, these problems would not be so severe.
Simply, the comprehensive review is needed. It must look at all matters in principle and in detail. There can be no sacred cows or vested interest. I call on the government to carry out the wishes of the citizens' committee of Niagara.
Mr. Ferraro: I have one message and a commercial to give to the House today.
The first message is a sincere thank-you from the people of my riding to the Minister of Agriculture and Food (Mr. Riddell), the Treasurer (Mr. Nixon) and indeed the Premier (Mr. Peterson) and cabinet for their wise decision to transfer the Ministry of Agriculture and Food to the city of Guelph.
It makes all the sense in the world. Perhaps I should add that while admittedly I had very limited involvement with that decision I am fully prepared to take all the credit, for very selfish reasons.
GUELPH SPRING FESTIVAL
Mr. Ferraro: I should point out to the House as well that Guelph is not only famous for agriculture. This is the 20th year of the Guelph Spring Festival, which most members of the House will know --
Mr. Ferraro: They are criticizing my tie, Mr. Speaker. I want you to know it matches the flamingos in my front yard.
It is the 20th year of the Guelph Spring Festival, one of the world's up-and-coming and most famous cultural festivals and indeed something we are extremely proud of in the city of Guelph. I point out to the members of the House and all the people of Ontario that the festival will run until May 15. As much as I hate to admit it, a lot of the members of this House need some culture. I strongly invite them to the Guelph Spring Festival.
Mr. Pope: On February 10 and 11, 1987, the Minister of Tourism and Recreation (Mr. Eakins) and I had a difference of opinion on the reduction of government funding to amateur sports and sports organizations in this province. Since that time, unsolicited, I have received a letter from the Iroquois Falls Secondary School, signed by David Misener, which was sent to the minister personally with a copy to myself; and a letter directly from Sister Fay Edmonds, principal at O'Gorman High School. In both cases, they are complaining about the same thing.
I will quote two paragraphs from Sister Fay Edmonds's letter.
"Schools in northern Ontario must spend large sums to participate in their own associations due to the distance between communities. Most Ontario Federation of School Athletic Associations championships are held in southern Ontario, which is an added financial burden to qualifying northern Ontario schools. In the past, the grants covered 50 per cent of travel costs. This has been reduced to 25 per cent now.
"It is my hope that you will study the situation and recommend changes to the grant structure so that more Wintario grants will be made available to OFSAA."
Who is right and who is wrong?
DENTAL HYGIENE PROGRAM
Mr. Warner: Like many other people in the community that is served by the Durham College, I am asking the Minister of Colleges and Universities (Mr. Sorbara) to do something which is quite uncharacteristic of him, and that is to show some leadership and to help prevent the cancellation of the dental hygiene course.
As Dr. Douglas Smith writes:
"If you cancel this course you will be failing to fill your mandate to the community. If this course is cancelled at Durham College it will make it very difficult for the dental profession to meet the requirements of their patients and the public at large. The dental community can react on your behalf. Simply let us know what you need and give us an opportunity to help us to meet those needs." Do not cancel the program.
STATEMENTS BY THE MINISTRY
JUSTICES OF THE PEACE
Hon. Mr. Scott: Later today, I will be introducing a bill which effects a complete revision of the Justices of the Peace Act.
Ontario's existing justices of the peace legislation has developed over the years in a piecemeal, haphazard manner. The bill I am introducing today represents for the first time since Confederation, I think, a fundamental rethinking and restructuring of the system.
Justices of the peace have often been called the front-line troops of the criminal justice system. It is through them that many Ontario citizens have their first contact with the system.
As most members are aware, justices of the peace perform a wide variety of functions, including receiving informations and issuing process in criminal proceedings, issuing search warrants, conducting bail hearings and presiding over trials of provincial offences.
Several years ago, Professor Alan Mewett of the faculty of law in the University of Toronto conducted a study of the justices of the peace system in Ontario. The recommendations in his report, long on the shelf, form the basis for much of the bill I will be introducing today.
A major structural change recommended by Professor Mewett was that a provincial judge should be appointed to the position of coordinator of justices of the peace, with specific responsibility for the supervision, assignment and organization of justices throughout the province. The bill implements this proposal. Provincial co-ordination will promote the effective provision of justice of the peace services in all areas of the province where these services are required. The co-ordinator will also be responsible for the development and delivery of educational programs designed to enhance further and maintain the high standards of competence.
Another major provision of the bill will abolish the archaic system of paying many justices of the peace by fee. My ministry has had grave concerns with this system of compensation since the advent of the Charter of Rights and its guarantee of independence for judicial officers. Although the Ontario Court of Appeal has ruled that safeguards included in the existing legislation permit the fee system to be used without contravening the Charter of Rights, I am of the firm view that reform of the system is nevertheless desirable, if not essential. Justice must be seen to be done. This bill will provide that instead of individual fees for each service, a part-time justice of the peace will be paid a fixed, proportional salary based on the co-ordinator's determination of the justice's work load.
The genesis of this bill lies in the work of Professor Mewett and I again wish to acknowledge our debt and the debt of the province to him. Without his report, I expect we would still be struggling with some of the issues that are now addressed in this legislation.
The legislation also establishes a system of appointing justices and reviewing their conduct similar to the system that has long been in place with respect to provincial judges. The restructured Justices of the Peace Review Council will consider and report on all proposed appointments of justices and will conduct investigations of complaints according to the same procedures that apply to the Judicial Council for Provincial Judges. The Justices of the Peace Review Council will for the first time include a justice of the peace, as well as representatives of the public. Moreover, a justice will no longer be subject to removal from office as a result of a review council investigation without a public inquiry first being conducted.
I believe this legislation represents one more step towards the goal of greater access to the judicial system. I know the bill will receive careful consideration by my colleagues in the House, by the justices themselves -- with whom it has been broadly discussed -- by the legal profession and by the general public. I look forward to receiving their suggestions and to discussing the bill with each of them in the near future.
ONTARIO FAMILY FARM INTEREST RATE REDUCTION PROGRAM
Hon. Mr. Riddell: I would like to inform the honourable members that a very important deadline is approaching.
Hon. Mr. Riddell: Should I tell them, Premier?
May 18 is the last day for farmers to apply for the Ontario family farm interest rate reduction program for the current year. We call this program OFFIRR Plus for short and it has been a real success story right from the start.
It is a four-year program to help farmers who have been hurt by low commodity prices and high interest rates. Since its inception in 1985, the Ontario family farm interest rate reduction program paid out close to $85 million to over 11,000 farmers. Thousands of applications are still being processed and we expect another flood of applications before the May 18 deadline. Applications must be postmarked by Monday, May 18, 1987, in order to be eligible for assistance under this program.
We are doing our utmost to ensure that farm families in Ontario who need this program and who want to take part in it have every opportunity to do so.
I urge all rural members to ensure that farmers in their areas get their applications in before the deadline in order to qualify for interest rate assistance under the program. May 18 is the deadline. Members should let their farmers know.
Hon. Mr. Nixon: I would like to advise the House that I hope to read the 1987 budget to the Legislature on Wednesday, May 20, at four o'clock in the afternoon.
Mr. Harris: I am pleased to respond to the Treasurer's statement and to indicate that it is the Treasurer's and the government's prerogative when they want to introduce the budget. We, of course, will be fully co-operative in ensuring that there will be no problems with the May 20 date.
I know how important this day is for a Treasurer and the planning and what not that go into an event of this significance and magnitude, and the security and all the preparations. As well, we look forward to a significant reduction in the tremendous tax burden that Ontarians now bear.
Hon. Mr. Nixon: Of course, on the other hand, if you want to go on May 14 --
Mr. Speaker: Order.
ONTARIO FAMILY FARM INTEREST RATE REDUCTION PROGRAM
Mr. Andrewes: I want to respond briefly to the paid political announcement of the Minister of Agriculture and Food (Mr. Riddell). The minister chooses to treat the Legislature somewhat cynically in terms of using it to produce yet another Liberal commercial.
This program, of course, is not news. It is a rehash and a retelling of an existing program in order to keep the Liberal press machine going. Perhaps the minister could be as punctual in asking his colleague the Minister of Municipal Affairs (Mr. Grandmaître) to get out applications for the farm tax rebate program as he is in reminding members to remind others of his own programs.
This is a rehash of an existing program. It comes from a minister who is somewhat embarrassed about the speech from the throne that the government produced last week, a throne speech that offered nothing new to farmers who are facing some of the most severe economic conditions they have faced since the Great Depression. What does he offer as a solution? He will move his ministry to Guelph.
Perhaps that is helpful to the local member, whose accoutrements today are fading from red to some other colour, perhaps in contrast to the redness of his face. Although this movement of the ministry from Toronto to Guelph fulfils a dream, no doubt spawned in the Ministry of Agriculture and Food, to create a Cornell of the north, it certainly takes away from a very important facet of that ministry's function; that is, the interface between urban and rural people. That interface now will be sheltered in a smaller community. It is removed from the business sector. It comes at a very bad time. It could not come at a worse time for him, his government and the agricultural producers of this province.
Mr. Villeneuve: I too want to reply to the Minister of Agriculture and Food. The Ontario family farm interest rate reduction program is a very important program to agriculture. Why is it that in certain instances farmers are denied rebates on interest rates just because they happen to do a capital expenditure on their houses? I have had a number of farmers come to me and say, "Because some money was spent on my house, that particular portion of the interest rate is not being allowed."
I think it is very unfair to the farmers of Ontario. It is calling them second-class citizens because they effected needed repairs to their homes, which were part of their family farms. A billion dollars of federal money came to the coffers of farmers in Canada through the federal government. Some of it came to Ontario.
Never has agriculture faced such a difficult time. We have never had the United States farm bill to face. We do not know what the repercussions and ramifications of that US farm bill will be.
Farmers are putting in a grain crop right now. They are just reducing their losses. We are not talking profit, we are talking reducing losses; and the minister moves his ministry -- his kingdom -- to Guelph. I must ask the minister to think about agriculture. It is the most important sector of Ontario's economy. It directly and indirectly affects some 25 per cent of the population in the province. When farmers have money, they spend it. Whenever they are really facing a very bleak situation, as they are with the crop going in right now, much more must be done for agriculture.
Mr. McClellan: I would like to reply briefly to the statement of the Treasurer (Mr. Nixon) that the budget will be delivered on Wednesday, May 20. I am sure most members have noticed the level of petulance from the government over the course of the last week, and I just wanted to make sure it was clear on the record that standing order 46 is a mandatory requirement that the throne speech debate be concluded before the Treasurer brings in his budget. So it is, and was, necessary for the Treasurer to negotiate with the other parties and come to an amicable solution.
The reason the government got itself into this jackpot in the first place was that we were supposed to come back on April 21 and have enough time for a throne speech debate and the presentation of the budget in early May; but the Premier (Mr. Peterson) wanted to go somewhere so he could get a nice tan and we did not come back until April 28. That is why things got all bunched up together.
But I am sure all members are grateful that the spirit of conciliation and compromise has prevailed yet again, that minority government continues to work successfully and that we will give our unanimous consent to the Treasurer to deliver his budget on May 20.
ONTARIO FAMILY FARM INTEREST RATE REDUCTION PROGRAM
Mr. Hayes: I want to respond to the Minister of Agriculture and Food (Mr. Riddell). I want to thank him for giving us that valuable information. But I must say I am very disappointed that the minister has not got up in this House now and let us know he is going to make improvements to or amend the Ontario family farm interest rate reduction program. It is very unfortunate that many farmers have to take off-farm jobs to supplement and keep their farms going. Now, today, these people are being told, "Sorry, your farm is not viable, will not feed a family; therefore, you are disqualified."
I see the trend here. If this government keeps going the way it is with some of these programs and making the criteria so hard for many farmers to meet, the trend of going for larger and less farms in this province and across this country is going to go that much faster.
Many of these people have been very good managers. They have been efficient and productive. In many cases, through no fault of their own, because of low commodity prices, high interest rates and what have you, these people find themselves in a position where they need financial assistance from this government and too many of them are being disqualified.
I hope the Minister of Agriculture and Food will take a very serious look at this and amend the OFFIRR program so all farmers who are in need will get the financial assistance that is required to make them viable again.
MEMBER FOR KENORA
Hon. Mr. Nixon: Mr. Speaker, before you call the next order, I wonder if we might have unanimous consent for the honourable members to respond to the statement made in Kenora by the honourable member for that area?
Mr. Speaker: Is there unanimous consent?
Hon. Mr. Nixon: I was tempted to raise the matter yesterday, but the honourable member had not returned from northwestern Ontario.
I think the responses by political leaders and others are a clear indication of the high regard in which the member for Kenora (Mr. Bernier) is held by members on all sides of the House.
From my particular position, I suppose I can be particularly frank, as I can recall his first campaign, which was not as successful as his latter ones. In the good old days when the members of the Legislature were invited by the then Minister of Natural Resources -- or Lands and Forests, as I think the name of the ministry was -- to tour the north with the ministers and the Premier of the day himself, we had an opportunity to go through the town of Hudson.
In those days, under Tory rule, the main street was not even paved, and across the main street there was a very large banner, with the member for Kenora holding on to the string, saying, I think, "Premier and Members of the Legislature, Hudson Needs Housing."
That was really my first introduction to the member from the north who has served so well during these many years. It was a little hard to get annoyed with him even during the time when he had, more or less, an undedicated northern budget that could be distributed from the back of one of the planes as he flew across the territory, but it was a very impressive example for the democratic process.
Having said that, I do not think I would find very many taxpayers or people in the north who have not expressed publicly and privately their admiration for the honourable member's ability, his motives and his astuteness when it comes to politics but more than anything else the high regard with which he is held by members on all sides.
I do not want him to reconsider his decision, but I wish him well. Now that the Premier (Mr. Peterson) and the Attorney General (Mr. Scott) have negotiated an input in the naming of senators and judges and the like, we would be glad to talk to the honourable member and even the member for Muskoka (Mr. F. S. Miller) if he is over here on business from time to time selling us tickets.
Mr. Martel: I recall just about 21 years ago going to Kenora, long before I considered entering this place, to fight in a by-election against the "king of the north." I have to say he out-New-Democratted us up there. I mean he made us look like absolute pikers in what the Tory government was doing to the people of that part of the province. I guess he has been trying to make up for it ever since. I recall that week and a half up there well.
The member for Kenora and I were known to have our differences, but one of the things I appreciated was a major debate we once had over the dinner hour; he left, he was Minister of Mines at the time, and I was sitting with Stephen Lewis, and he came back in at eight o'clock and he said, "I have ordered a royal commission to look into the health and safety of workers in the province." I want to say to the workers of the province, we are not there yet, but it was a significant step forward. I think the member for Kenora will be fondly remembered for that royal commission and ultimately the legislation that finally gave workers some protection.
We all have high regard but, like my friend, we do not want to coax him back, do we? I mean there are all kinds of people leaving this place and we do not want to urge them back.
Some hon. members: Hear, hear.
Mr. Martel: It is always the member's friends he has to watch, not his enemies.
I want to join with my friend from across the way, the member for Brant-Oxford-Norfolk and other sundry places, in wishing our friend well in the years ahead.
Mr. F. S. Miller: As one of those who, like the member for whatever area our buddy comes from, is leaving this place, I want to join with the others in talking about the member for Kenora.
I came after him. Most of us came after him. He seems to have been here for ever and yet he is so young. He is younger than me. Any of us who dared get into the north as ministers quickly learned it was the member's preserve. I recall going there on May 30, 1974, when I was a brand-new minister and he sent me to Atikokan. Before the morning was over, they had a new hospital. My staff quietly told me I had no such authority as a minister to make a new hospital, which the member told me they needed, but they got it anyway. One learned that the member always got ministers to the points where they needed to be whenever a decision --
Hon. Mr. Nixon: More success with that than closing hospitals.
Mr. F. S. Miller: Yes. The member, as Treasurer, would have enjoyed having him as Minister of Northern Affairs. Where he managed to get the money to do the things he did, I will never know. I did not even know there was a program for nursing home beds in the north until, by mistake, he came before Management Board one day on the rare occasion when I was there --
An hon. member: To look for more.
Mr. F. S. Miller: To look for more. Absolutely. One went by Minaki from time to time.
Mr. F. S. Miller: I think it was May 30, 1974, when he took eight or 10 ministers to Minaki and convinced us all of the rightness of that decision. He convinced us we should build new roads all around Kenora and to Minaki and taught us how to fish in the English-Wabigoon river system.
His annual picnic was, I guess, the biggest event in the north. In Toronto, in southern Ontario or even in Muskoka, people will consider driving 30 minutes to an event. When they go to the member for Kenora's picnic, they have driven from Thunder Bay and back the same afternoon. They have driven from all over the place; one person said five hours. He got more members, more municipal politicians and more people out to his picnics than anyone I ever saw. I believe I won the horseshoe pitching contest one year at that event.
Hon. Mr. Kerrio: That is not what you were pitching.
Mr. F. S. Miller: I was pitching horseshoes then. I did not become Minister of Natural Resources until later.
The fact is that the member for Kenora, both physically and politically, towered over the north. He was in every part of the north. Every riding in the north looked towards him for guidance and for respect, and in large measure the north owed a great debt to him personally for his interest in the north and for the wellbeing he brought to it.
We on our side love him. As somebody said, "He isn't a Leo; he's a pussycat."
Mr. Bernier: Thank you very much. If I may, I will first express my appreciation to the member for Brant-Oxford-Norfolk, the member for Sudbury East, the member for Muskoka and all the members of the House for their kind words and kind expressions.
I have to admit I really never thought this day would ever come. I never looked forward to it. I have to tell you the decision was one of the most difficult decisions I have ever made in my life, because the work here, the friends I have made, the challenges and the satisfying results of being a member of this Legislature are things that go through your mind when you have to make that decision.
Marj and I spent literally months and weeks thinking about it. We looked at all aspects of it. I think there comes a time in each of our lives when we say to ourselves, "The time really has come to move on, to look for a different career." Because of the distance I have had to travel over the last 21 years, I want to spend a little more time with Marj in northern Ontario. I certainly intend, when the day comes, to live in northern Ontario; it has been home for me and my family. I have enjoyed doing all the things I was able to do.
I want to say how honoured I was, not only to work in this Legislature but also to be under the leadership of great statesmen such as Premier John Robarts, Bill Davis, the member for Muskoka and now working with our leader, the member for St. Andrew-St. Patrick (Mr. Grossman). I can tell you that, from my point of view, it has been an experience I will never forget. It has been satisfying and, I think, most rewarding.
I would have to admit the great speeches -- and I can well recall coming into the Legislature back in 1966 when the member for Sudbury East was up in the by-election -- and he left early; he did not tell you that, but he gave up the sponge. He said there was no way we could beat this guy. He went back home to Sudbury; he left early. Does he remember that? Anyway, we were successful, after I guess 15 years in the political wilderness in that riding; it was the domain of the Liberal-Labour Party, Albert Wren and Bob Gibson, who are well known to the Treasurer.
To come into the Legislature with really no experience in political life of this nature and to recall the speeches of Farquhar Oliver, who I think the Treasurer will agree with me was a great orator, and then to listen to the late Elmer Sopha -- the Treasurer will remember those great speeches he used to make about wolves. He made two speeches in the Legislature: one on wolves and, later on in the session, he would remake the Ontario cabinet. Those were two great moments in this Legislature in those days. Every member of the Legislature would show up for Elmer Sopha's speeches on those two subjects. They were humorous and colourful. He would stand in his place and make up the language. I am sure the Hansard girls did not even know some of the words he was saying, but he would spell out the words to the Hansard girls to make sure they got his phrases right. It was absolutely unreal.
Then to be around for the orators in our own party -- I recall Bobby Welch, a great winder-upper of the throne debate or the budget debate, who would have everyone in stitches. He would have that side, because we were on that side for a long time, up and supporting him on every word.
The 21 years is something I will remember for a long time. I said to the press that one of the proudest moments I was given was to work with my colleagues René Brunelle, the late John Rhodes and the member for Algoma-Manitoulin (Mr. Lane) to set up the Ministry of Northern Affairs, a ministry that would have sole and unique responsibility for the vast area of this province I love so well, for which I fought so hard over those years. To see that pulled into reality, to sit with those gentlemen and work out terms of reference was an experience I will never forget. I will cherish that for a long time.
The 21 years have gone by relatively fast. It is hard to believe I have been around for 21 years. I am sure the member for Elgin (Mr. McNeil) will know they go by very fast. Certainly, the friendships and the camaraderie that exist in this great hall are things that are cherished by all. I have to say with sincerity that I will miss this House. I will miss standing in my place and being part of the process. It has been a great 21 years, and I thank you for your friendliness and your advice.
Mr. Speaker: Now we will continue with routine procedures in an orderly fashion.
Mr. Grossman: I am sure the member for Kenora (Mr. Bernier) will think about those kind words during the remaining two years in his term of office in this Legislature.
My question is to the Premier. Yesterday, we were discussing the serious questions relating to the accord reached last Thursday at Meech Lake. I wonder if today he might be able to share with us his understanding of just how the immigration part of that agreement will be implemented, particularly whether that provision will restrict who can settle in certain provinces on the basis of language or any other criteria.
Hon. Mr. Peterson: My understanding of it goes as follows. The member knows that Quebec has had a special relationship with the federal government with respect to immigration, codified in a document called the Cullen-Couture agreement, that allowed Quebec to make a certain input with respect to immigration into that province. Obviously, the reason for that was the fact that Quebec did worry about assimilation at some point in the future. The theoretical possibility, and it is completely theoretical, is that five million anglophone immigrants could come into Quebec and swamp that province, so Quebec arranged certain controls and an accord with the federal government.
As a result of this constitutional amendment, that will now be constitutionalized. Although it does not set the overall quotas and it has to fit inside the overall federal immigration policy, it allows people to make their quotas with respect to francophones and French-speaking people. I am told that agreement works extremely well; it in no way restricts mobility inside the country. As I recall one of the questions the member raised yesterday, it does not prevent someone from moving to Quebec, to Ontario or back and forth and that kind of thing but only assists at the original stage in settling those new immigrants into the country.
The second point I will make is that this agreement will be constitutionalized. There is nothing new there. What has been operating and practised for several years will just become part of the Constitution. If in fact another province wanted to do the same kind of thing with the federal government, that could be constitutionalized as well. I should tell the honourable member, to the best of my knowledge I am not aware of any other province that wants to go into that kind of agreement at the present time, but it is a theoretical possibility and could be contemplated under the Constitution; so everyone would have equal treatment.
Mr. Grossman: It appears that the immigration provision is a fairly important one to Quebec. I must say it is new information to this House. I should just like the Premier to confirm with a supplementary that it is his understanding and the basis upon which he entered into the accord that this adds nothing new to Quebec's immigration authorities or procedures, save for the five per cent addition, than was already the case prior to Meech Lake last Thursday. Is it the Premier's view that it does nothing but codify the current state of affairs?
Hon. Mr. Peterson: As I said, in practical terms, this accord had been worked out over some period of time and was in fact happening. As I understand it, in practical terms, there is nothing new being added here except that it will be constitutionalized.
Mr. Grossman: Given the reactions of Quebec, at least from the distance -- and I will admit it is a distance -- we have observed them, and given the degree of importance in which it has held up the immigration breakthrough, as many have called it, the Premier will understand our concern at this stage that he has an interpretation which seems somewhat at variance with the interpretation of the impact of the new immigration agreement being understood in Quebec.
Given that and given the various other questions that have been raised in this House by the opposition here and in the federal House by the Liberal and New Democratic Party opposition there, I wonder if the Premier would agree today, in the spirit of openness and consultation, that prior to the signing of the final accord he might make appropriate arrangements, together with the House leaders in the other two parties, to ensure that there is an opportunity for public input and discussion in front of a committee of the Legislature, say for one week, prior to the signing of that agreement. I think that would be helpful to the process, allow all of us to understand it better and certainly allow a lot of groups that might have some comments on this to participate in the process in a free and democratic way. Would the Premier give that undertaking today?
Hon. Mr. Peterson: First of all, may I say the Leader of the Opposition has every right to raise these questions and interpretations. As he knows, others have their own interpretations of this matter. Indeed, the experts are looking at it and the fine print as it develops -- people such as Senator Eugene Forsey and other acknowledged constitutional experts, who are giving their interpretations.
Being a lawyer, the honourable member will be aware that when we put our intentions into words, they will be interpreted by courts at various times in the future, depending on the longevity of this Constitution, and constitutions tend to last a fairly long time. I am anxious to get his advice and any concerns he has. I can tell the honourable member that the concerns he expressed yesterday and today were discussed by the first ministers. Indeed, we had advice from a number of our advisers, and there was a great array of constitutional experts assembled from all across the country. All of us had advice on those particular matters and drew the conclusions that I am sharing with my honourable friend opposite.
As he knows, it is our intention to have a major debate in this House with respect to any changes in the Constitution, and that will be an opportunity that obviously the House will speak on -- and I hope all members will take the opportunity to participate and share their views -- on the new accord. I suspect that is an appropriate way to move on the matter at this time. I certainly want the advice of the member opposite and I want to sort of quell any fears he may have about the situation.
I did ask the Attorney General (Mr. Scott), on Thursday night last, to phone the member and the leader of the third party to make sure they knew what we were doing at all times. I tell my friend opposite that this is a matter for every member of this Legislature. It is not a partisan issue. I want to share every piece of information we have with them. I will share the drafts as they come through, and anything that is negotiated, and get their advice on them. I would hope we would have an opportunity to debate this collectively in this House as soon as possible.
Mr. Speaker: New question.
Mr. Grossman: The bottom line is that the Premier will not undertake to allow the public to participate in this discussion through a committee of the Legislature. We disagree with that point of view. We think this is such an important document for the people that the experts and others should have an opportunity to come in and speak on this issue --
Mr. Speaker: New question.
Mr. Grossman: -- before this parliament is asked to vote on it and before the Premier signs the agreement. He and I disagree on that.
TRADE WITH UNITED STATES
Mr. Grossman: My second question is for the Premier on the freer trade issue. He has had a lot to say about the freer trade issue, including a passing nod in the throne speech. After the extensive work the Premier and his people are alleged to have done, I wonder whether today the Premier might be able to tell us precisely what sectors in Ontario might stand to benefit a great deal from a freer trade arrangement with the Americans.
Hon. Mr. Peterson: It obviously depends on what the honourable member is talking about by freer trade. Is he talking about a completely open border? Is he talking about some limited access? Is he talking about some new devices to control things that previously have been controlled by contingency protection? I will give him a theoretical example. The steel industry would probably do better. As he knows, our steel industry is quite competitive. It has been existing under a number of, shall we say, self-imposed quotas and monitoring over the last period of time, so presumably the steel industry would do better.
We have done work on a variety of industries and we could share that information, industry by industry, with the honourable member. Some would probably do less well. It really depends on what set of operating premises he is using. We do not have any fix from the federal government on what operating premises it is using. The big sawoffs and the big tradeoffs have not been established at this point. There has been lots of discussion about the details, but at this point we still do not know what Ambassador Reisman has in mind, what he really wants and what he is prepared to give up.
Mr. Grossman: I must say I am a little mystified by that. The Premier and his government are getting regular briefings on the freer trade negotiations. Simon Reisman is quite available to the Premier's officials in terms of continuing dialogue, as the Minister of Industry, Trade and Technology (Mr. O'Neil) has pointed out to us on many occasions. There was the famous leaked memo reflecting the views of one of the not most senior people, let us say, in the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Technology indicating ongoing dialogue. The Minister of Agriculture and Food (Mr. Riddell) and his people have had extensive discussions and briefings sector by sector in the agricultural industry on a regular basis, monthly if not weekly, with the federal officials. It is inconceivable that after this long period of time the Premier should be contradicting the evidence given by his own colleagues and the firm position taken by the federal negotiators, the ministers, Mr. Hockin, Mr. Reisman and others, that Ontario and all the provinces have been kept fully informed of all the operating premises to this date.
Given all that, the Premier said in his first response that he could share the information with us. I know he has talked significantly on this issue.
Mr. Speaker: The question is?
Mr. Grossman: I wonder whether right now, in response to this question, he can share with us perhaps five or six other sectors such as steel that could benefit dramatically from a freer trade arrangement.
Hon. Mr. Peterson: As I told my friend, it depends on the set of operating premises. He quotes some of the experts on it. To the best of my knowledge, Mr. Hockin has not been involved in this at all. A different set of cabinet ministers is responsible for this. I know he spoke at the member's own seminar on this matter, but he has not been a major player in this discussion.
There have been lots of discussions back and forth about positions and various views on various subjects, but I repeat to my friend that the overall shape of this deal has not been put forward. I know the various hopes and aspirations of some of the players. It is not unlike a constitutional deal. I know what some of the people wanted going in, but the question is what comes out at the other end. We also do not know what will wash in the United States.
I take the member's example of steel. I would love to see more access to the United States for steel, but what if Senator Heinz, for example, who runs the steel caucus in the US, mounts some kind of lobby and that is excluded from the deal? My friend does not know that and I do not know that and Ambassador Reisman does not know that. It has to wash through a number of levels, not only the administrative level but also the congressional level et al. I assume the negotiators, Mr. Murphy and Ambassador Reisman, are going to be putting forward a deal they think they can sell.
Mr. Grossman: May I remind the Premier that the first time he heard Senator Heinz's name was when we raised it in the House and asked him what action he was taking with regard to the Heinz legislation. He did not even know what sector we were talking about, let alone who Senator Heinz was.
Consistent with that, the Premier has told this House today that he knows hardly anything about the status of negotiations. That dramatically contradicts all the information available from the federal government with regard to the degree of sharing of information that has gone on between the federal and provincial governments.
Therefore, my question to the Premier is, if he cannot today, after two years of this debate, lay out for us his understanding of the sectors that may be winners in a freer trade negotiation; and if he today, after two years of discussions, does not know what are the operating premises -- his term -- of the federal negotiations, will he undertake today to put in the appropriate phone call or arrange the appropriate meeting with the federal officials who have said many times they are more than willing to share that information with him, so that he can finally get off the fence and become an active participant on behalf of the people of Ontario in fighting for a good freer trade arrangement for the people of Ontario? Will he make those arrangements?
Hon. Mr. Peterson: I want to try to be helpful in this debate. My honourable friend stands in this House and takes credit for introducing the name of Senator Heinz to me and to this Legislature. I guess he is not informed of the fact that I had met with Senator Heinz a year before my friend even mentioned his name. We met in Washington. I use that as an example of my honourable friend's lack of information with respect to this particular discussion.
I am sure my friend saw the interview quite recently with Premier Bourassa on this issue, knowing how closely he follows the media. His reaction was very similar to mine. As he said, and as I say, we have not seen any documentation on the shape of the final deal. Indeed, it may be only a gleam in Ambassador Reisman's eye.
Who knows what will wash with Mr. Murphy? We are happy to share that information with the member as it progresses, just as I am happy that he is sharing his view with me. I have been tracking his view on this subject for the last several years and it has changed almost as many times as some people change shoes.
Mr. Laughren: I have a question of the Treasurer. I know he would not want to reveal any specifics in his forthcoming budget, but what we are seeking are some commitments in principle.
The Treasurer may recall that about a year ago he stated: "I wish the tax reduction program could have been richer. I wish it could have been more, but in my judgement that was what we could afford at this time."
Now the Treasurer has more money in his pocket. At the same time, a family of four at the poverty level, as established by Statistics Canada, of around $21,700 has just paid approximately $909 to the Ontario Treasury, not to mention $1,800 to the federal Treasury.
In view of the fact that a single person earning the minimum wage in Ontario continues to pay taxes of $262 to the provincial Treasury and $532 to the federal Treasury, would the Treasurer make a commitment to put his money where his mouth was a year ago and, in the interest of fairness, relieve Ontario's 300,000 working poor from paying taxes in the province?
Hon. Mr. Nixon: I appreciate the advice from the honourable member, who is the newly-named budget critic of the New Democratic Party. He was good enough to send me an annotated copy of his press release from a few days ago, which was also appreciated.
I am sure he is aware -- and actually his comments reflect that he is -- that in both budgets of the Liberal government we have put substantial funds -- although we would both agree not enough money -- in the tax reduction program that removed from the tax rolls for personal income tax many thousands of the working people in Ontario.
I simply ask the supporters of the Progressive Conservative Party to compare that with the initiative at the federal level, which was just the opposite. The honourable leader has tried to defend the situation involving the decisions taken in Ottawa at the federal level where the tax reduction program was moved in the opposite direction, while a $500,000 exemption for capital gains was added to the top.
We have also taken the initiative of adding a three per cent surtax on incomes over $50,000. Once again, we feel this is an appropriate initiative, which was part of the expansion of the revenue base the honourable member was good enough to support at the time it was before the Legislature, and I certainly am cognizant of that.
Mr. Laughren: If I can continue on the theme of fairness in taxation in Ontario, the Treasurer might know, if I can be very specific for the moment, that a home at 209 Canton Street in the city of Toronto was bought in June 1986 for $360,000 and in March 1987 was sold for $465,000, for a profit of $105,000 on which no tax was paid. At a second location at 228 De Grassi Street, a home was bought in the spring of 1986 for $124,000 and in the winter of 1987 sold for $167,500, for a profit of $43,500 on which no tax was paid.
To use that same $43,500 on which no tax was paid on a house sale, a family of four with an income of that same amount of money would pay taxes in total, provincially $3,300 and federally $6,800, for over $10,000 in taxes. Does the Treasurer think that is fair and why does he think that a tax on the speculation and the flipping of homes is so unworkable?
Hon. Mr. Nixon: I gather that is applause for the well-known efficient research department of the New Democratic Party and there is no doubt this is right on the money, so to speak.
The honourable member will know there has been a tremendous escalation in the price of housing; not just in Toronto, I expect it would be in Sudbury. I went to New Liskeard and found it there. In South Dumfries, the price of homes has escalated at almost the same rate; in Brantford, Windsor, any place in the province or, as a matter of fact, in Canada or North America. If the honourable member has had an opportunity to travel abroad, then he is aware the same thing is happening under those circumstances. This is not precisely a phenomenon that is restricted to Ontario.
So far, the Income Tax Act of Canada, which we in Ontario parallel very closely, does not levy a capital gains tax on the sale of a person's home. The so-called speculation tax that was brought in, in circumstances where the economy was just as heated some years ago, was tried by the previous government with not much success. As a matter of fact, there was so much criticism of it that there was a royal commission investigating certain exemptions that were made. I remember the royal commission very well since I was a witness before it, having been one of the principal critics of the decisions taken at the time.
I am not interested in getting involved in such a mishmash as that. It appears that the market is starting to correct itself and we are watching it very closely.
Mr. Laughren: I remind the Treasurer that we are not talking about inflationary prices. We are talking about speculation on the sale of homes where people hold them for one or two months and in some cases sell before the deal is even closed; so the Treasurer is talking through his hat, so to speak.
I was glad to hear the Treasurer comment on the minimum personal income tax that has been established by the federal regime. Can the Treasurer tell me if he thinks it is appropriate that in Ontario, the last time we checked, there were about 40,000 corporations that had book profits but paid absolutely no corporation income taxes?
Does the Treasurer think that is fair? Will he introduce some kind of minimum corporate tax, which he supports so readily at the personal level but so far has not come to that position with corporations? Why will he not do that?
Hon. Mr. Nixon: I know the member is aware that we also have a capital tax payable in Ontario, which means that most corporations have to make at least some contribution to the revenues on that basis. If they do not have a profit upon which the tax can be levied, then we are not in a position to apply a tax.
The idea that the honourable member has put forward for a minimum corporation tax is a very interesting one. It is not good, but it is an interesting one. I would say that it is also not new. I do not want to dismiss it out of hand because maybe this is something that should be done in the future, and while we have the extra week to contemplate our budgetary decisions, I can assure him that all these matters are under some consideration.
Mr. Rowe: Have you bought your new Guccis yet?
Hon. Mr. Nixon: I am going to get some used ones from Ottawa.
Mr. Speaker: Order.
Mr. R. F. Johnston: My question is for the Premier. The Premier brought in a speech from the throne recently that was the longest I have seen in the eight years I have been here. At a time when there is a billion-dollar windfall in profits for the Treasury of the province, somehow he did not mention those people who have been left out of the prosperity of Peterson's Ontario.
The only allusion to people on social assistance is that he is going to wait for the Social Assistance Review Committee to report. We know that the report will probably not be written until late fall, that it will probably not be in his hands in printed form until the end of the year and that we are not going to see legislation to change things significantly for probably another year, given that we have to have more public input when it gets to this level.
Why is it that there was no mention of food banks? Why is it, out of all the promises that were made in that throne speech, that there was no mention of things the government was going to do specifically for people on social assistance this year, now?
Hon. Mr. Peterson: The member answered his own question in his own preamble.
Mr. R. F. Johnston: I presume the Premier is telling me that people can wait two years and, in the meantime, those people who are living in poverty and going to food banks should depend on them.
I am going to send over to the Premier some statistics which, as he knows, I gather out of the welfare statistics for Ontario, which this government still does not publish on a regular basis. Does he realize that over the last five years, the employables on welfare in Ottawa have gone up 132 per cent? In Toronto it is 94 per cent, in Sault Ste. Marie it is 173 per cent and in Thunder Bay it is 108 per cent. It has not got better since he has been in government.
Of the 14 municipalities I survey, only four have gone down. In Metropolitan Toronto alone there are now 5,000 more cases this March than there were last March.
Mr. Speaker: Question.
Mr. R. F. Johnston: Why was there no program announced in the speech from the throne for direct programs to assist those people who want employment to get employment?
Hon. Mr. Peterson: I need not remind my honourable friend that we are now enjoying the lowest unemployment rate in the country. I believe some 200,000 jobs have been created in the last couple of years in Ontario. The Treasurer (Mr. Nixon) tells me I am right.
We recognize that there are still people in need of social assistance, and the member's point is quite right in that regard. One of the phenomena I am sure he will be aware of is the massive migration into Ontario in the last little while. There are people coming here to find jobs, to find employment, and, of course, we welcome them and work with them.
I say to my honourable friend that I think we are dealing with these things in an evenhanded way. As he knows, we are looking thoroughly at the entire system and hope to be back much quicker. If my friend moves things a little faster in this House and does not delay and indulge in obstructionist tactics, we can move much quicker on these things.
Mr. R. F. Johnston: It is a preposterous notion -- because the Premier announced nothing in the throne speech -- that any tactics we might have may delay something that he is not planning anyhow.
There is a real question of fairness in terms of the way he has meted out his pot-pourri of promises in this throne speech while ignoring the poorest and probably the least politically influential people in this province. How does he consider it fair that over the last two years, by his minister's own admission, the increases in social assistance have essentially amounted to less than $40 per beneficiary in Ontario? At the same time, he has robbed, stolen, from Canada pension plan disability people this January and taken back federal government money that was rightfully theirs. When is he going to make this a priority?
Hon. Mr. Peterson: I do not agree with my honourable friend. My friend attacks us, on the one hand, for addressing too many problems in the throne speech and, on the other hand, for not doing enough. But if he looks at the thrust of the throne speech, the things we are doing with respect to the disabled, the elderly and others, and looks at the budget that will be coming forward, I think he will see a very compassionate government that is dealing with these problems in a very significant way, underneath an umbrella of fiscal health of the province, that is working with people to retrain them to get them jobs, working into our system. I think if he would take the sum total of those programs, he would see not only one of the most effective but also one of the most compassionate governments in this country today.
Mr. Gillies: I have a question for the Attorney General regarding the Exploracom mess and the victims of that mess, the 43 former employees.
The Attorney General will remember that it is about one year ago now that the Premier (Mr. Peterson) sent a letter to Mr. Schwartz announcing the funding for this project, a letter which makes no mention whatsoever of conditionality, but leaving rather the implication that the money would flow regardless of the performance of the project.
I have sent the Attorney General a copy of a letter that Mr. Marshall in his office has sent to the former employees' lawyer. I quote from that letter. Mr. Marshall says, "I attempted to explain to you that Mr. Schwartz's conduct and, in particular, what representations he made to each employee in light of his specific knowledge seemed to be matters of some significance."
The clear implication of this letter is that the Attorney General's office is saying Mr. Schwartz misled the former employees and that in fact he had firsthand knowledge of conditions being put on that $17.5-million grant. If that is the position of the Ministry of the Attorney General, would he care to tell the House what evidence he has of that accusation?
Hon. Mr. Scott: I do not read the letter in the way my honourable friend reads it. I do not draw the conclusion from it that he draws and I do not think anybody else would.
Mr. Gillies: The Attorney General is dead wrong because that is exactly the way the former employees are reading it. In the news conference they had yesterday, they were saying that, in effect, the government will not talk to them about any sort of reasonable settlement for the disruption that he caused their lives. Two of those 43 families are now on welfare. I quote from their release, "The litigation required to straighten this matter out is going to cost taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars, it is going to force the former employees to seek legal aid and it will allow David Peterson to evade accountability by hiding behind the courts."
In view of the fact that the settlement requested by these people seems, to any casual observer, to be fair and modest, why should the Attorney General not avoid all kinds of expensive litigation on the part of those people, who have already had a lot of disruption caused in their lives, and offer them some sort of reasonable settlement?
Hon. Mr. Scott: The first thing the member overlooks, because it does not suit the case he proposes to make out of this plot, is paragraph 3, in which a senior counsel in my ministry concludes there is no liability on the part of the government as the result of the Exploracom affair. He says, "I advised you that I have not completed my investigations but that I was of the view that no liability could be based on some generalized claim couched in vague terms such as you repeat in your present letter."
He then goes on to explain that if the employees of Exploracom or Mr. Schwartz want to advance more particulars of their claim, he will be glad to receive it and form an opinion based on that.
In my respectful view, that is precisely how counsel to any party in litigation is expected to behave. Frankly, I am quite satisfied with the position Mr. Marshall has taken in this case.
Mr. McClellan: I have a question of the Premier. The Premier will be aware that on May 31, this month, a total of 1,557 Goodyear Canada tire workers will lose their jobs. The tragedy is compounded by the fact that a group of 300 of those workers will not get the benefits of reforms to the Pension Benefits Act unless some action is taken by the government.
I am appealing to the Premier to review with his minister the possibility of using the example of the rent review legislation -- where the government gave an effective date of August 1985, even though it was not passed until the fall of 1986 -- and proclaiming an effective date for the legislation as of May 15, 1987, so this group of 300 Goodyear workers get the benefits of pensions upon the loss of their jobs.
Hon. Mr. Peterson: I appreciate the honourable member's question and his advice on this matter. My understanding is that the minister responsible for pensions is looking into this matter, and I will certainly discuss the member's suggestion with him.
Mr. McClellan: Further to that, I would ask the Premier if he and the minister would take this matter to cabinet as quickly as possible and issue a statement of government policy setting the effective date clearly in public in advance of May 31 and instruct the Pension Commission of Ontario to make sure that Goodyear does not run off with the pension funds and that the money is available to pay the 300 workers.
We will try to schedule passage of the bill as quickly as possible and have already eliminated the committee stage in the general committee, so we have only committee of the whole to do here in the House. I ask the Premier, in the light of that, to make a commitment now to report back to the House as quickly as possible with a decision on this matter.
Hon. Mr. Peterson: I appreciate the member's constructive view with respect to the movement of legislation through this House and, again, I will take up his constructive idea with the minister responsible. I understand the minister is looking at it, and we will see if there is anything we can do with regard to the member's suggestion.
Mr. Pope: My question is to the Attorney General. In early April, Detective Inspector Ron Collins of the Ontario Provincial Police told a Toronto newspaper -- this was before the investigation into the Vaughan land sale was complete -- that the report was going to be sent not to a crown attorney but to the Attorney General of the province.
That point of view is the same point of view as that of the Solicitor General (Mr. Keyes) given in this House last Thursday and again yesterday. It is in direct variance with what the Attorney General told the House yesterday as to the process to be used. It is obvious the minister has injected himself into the process of deciding whether criminal charges will be laid in the Vaughan land sale. Will he tell us where that report is and why the laying of criminal charges is being held up?
Hon. Mr. Scott: As I understand the matter, notwithstanding every effort to inject innuendo into it, the OPP is conducting an investigation. I have not had any contact with them at all. When the investigation is complete and meets their standards, I have no doubt they will deliver the report in the normal way.
Mr. Pope: There is no innuendo. I am quoting directly from Inspector Collins. He made the statement -- I did not -- that they would be reporting to the Attorney General. It is not a decision that is being made in the normal course. It is not the normal course for the Attorney General to be handed OPP reports personally before charges are laid. The minister himself said that yesterday. Obviously, he is involved in this process.
We have a right to know. This is public knowledge; that statement of Inspector Collins is public knowledge. The police are publicly saying that the Attorney General is going to be involved in making a decision on a matter involving members of his own party. Where is that report and when are the charges going to be laid?
Hon. Mr. Scott: We have been through this before. The government invited the OPP to make an investigation. Indeed, I believe the investigation was requested by my honourable friend, among others. The OPP is making that investigation and, as far as my office is concerned, the OPP is not being interfered with or impeded. Indeed, we are not entering into any communication with them at all on the subject. When they make a report to the chief law officer of the crown, we will determine to what extent we should report to the House, if it is a public matter, or to what extent the matter should proceed in the courts.
Mrs. Grier: Last Thursday, I asked the Minister of the Environment about the lack of drinking water standards in this province and received in reply not an answer but a rather wordy description of the world-class monitoring programs that his ministry was conducting. The minister will know that the more you monitor, the more you find. In Metropolitan Toronto, we are finding such things in the treated drinking water as toluene, dichlorobenzenes and methylene chloride. Can the minister explain why he has not used the results of his monitoring programs to develop standards for drinking water in this province that are legally enforceable?
Hon. Mr. Bradley: I think the member will know that with the program we have that I described to her -- as she said in a lengthy sense last Thursday; I thought I was just trying to be comprehensive in my reply -- I described the very extensive program of surveillance of water supplies in Ontario, an ever-expanding program that gathers together the results. We will continue to report as we gather this information together. By and large, they have indicated that the drinking water in Ontario is of good quality. I indicated to the member that we always want to improve that. Along with the federal government, we utilize that information to look at guidelines and eventually standards that can be utilized.
I guess I have concentrated most of my effort on ensuring that we get at some of the sources of pollution to ensure that the raw water supply we draw from is of high quality. In addition, the member will be aware that we have a plant optimization program under way at the present time in various municipalities where we are looking at the plants that are there now to see how well they are operated in terms of the training that takes place for the employees, the specific equipment that is used and the processes that are used. I can say that it is always improving the water quality in this province. I am pleased to have the member's support in that regard.
Mrs. Grier: I had a feeling the minister might refer to sources. While obviously his concern about sources is commendable, I am sure the minister, with all his knowledge and experience, knows that the sources of drinking water in this province are not only sources in Ontario; there is the possibility of spills and there are sources in the United States.
Prior to the last election, the minister and his leader both responded to an environmental questionnaire by saying they supported the establishment of safe drinking water legislation. He is now talking about standards eventually. Can the minister perhaps answer very directly whether he intends to introduce safe drinking water standards in this session of the Legislature?
Hon. Mr. Bradley: As to making that determination, I am not aware how long this session of the Legislature will last. I have a note here that reminds me that we have a Public Interest Liaison Committee on Drinking Water Issues that is giving advice and developing that process to set the standards. I think that is a significant step forward in the development of those standards.
I want to indicate to the member as well that we are certainly moving in that direction. The number of initiatives we are undertaking as a ministry is extremely significant. It is difficult to move as quickly as we would like on all fronts, but I can tell the member that with this Public Interest Liaison Committee on Drinking Water Issues and the other initiatives we are taking, we are working towards improving the quality of the water and attempting to set those standards.
I do not like saying this because it sounds like one is bragging it up, but the member for Sarnia (Mr. Brandt) will tell the member that he often said that when you compare the drinking water in this province with that in other jurisdictions, it is second to none in the world. I say it is of very good quality but we are always striving to improve it more significantly, moving in the direction the member is discussing.
ONTARIO LOTTERY CORP.
Mr. Rowe: I have a question for the Minister of Tourism and Recreation. The government House leader agreed to postpone the introduction of Bill 115 for third reading last February to give the Minister of Tourism and Recreation time to reflect on the serious impact this bill will have on the lives of 1,000 Ontarians. Today, I would like to ask the Minister of Tourism and Recreation whether he took advantage of this opportunity to obtain a legal opinion from the Attorney General (Mr. Scott) on the validity of this proposed legislation that will affect so many people?
Hon. Mr. Eakins: Yes, we have taken the opportunity. It is my understanding that the Conservatives want to debate third reading of the bill. If that is so, we will be delighted to present all the information we have at that time.
Mr. Rowe: I am pleased to learn that the minister has sought the advice of the Attorney General on the proposed legislation. Given that, to date, Bill 115 has already cost Ontario 80 jobs and $20 million due to the reallocation of six Ontario firms to British Columbia, Alberta and Manitoba, why has the minister not shared this important information with the members of the House? The people he is putting out of work have a right to know. Why has he not shared it with us?
Hon. Mr. Eakins: The credibility of the Ontario Lottery Corp. is most important. That is the reason we have Bill 115, to make sure that the people of this province, through the Ontario Lottery Corp., are in charge of the lotteries of this province.
Mr. D. S. Cooke: I have a question of the Minister of Education. It deals with the capital announcements that were made last week for the province as a whole and the individual capital allocations for each board of education.
Why was it announced by his ministry and, in particular, by the local member -- I believe the member for Windsor-Sandwich (Mr. Wrye) made the official announcement for the Windsor Board of Education -- that we would be getting $1,012,000 in capital grants? The reality is that $724,600 of that was already allocated because of the transfer of a high school from the public board to the separate board and another $250,000 was allocated from the ministry equity reserve fund from the sale of a school site, for a total of $974,000, so the net capital grant from the ministry was $38,000.
Hon. Mr. Conway: Because I indicated some time ago in those regulations to which the honourable member made reference with respect to leasing and sharing of space, as was the case in Windsor where there were property transfers, that would be a credit to the next capital allocation. I did precisely what I said I would do.
Mr. D. S. Cooke: I think the community has read this quite differently, and so do I. The ministry and the government have tried to make it look as though they are doing a lot more for capital in the education system than they really are doing. How many other boards of education and how much of his $226 million has been covered with other boards in exactly the same way that he deceived the Windsor Board of Education in our community?
Mr. Laughren: Con man.
Mr. Speaker: Order. Would the honourable member withdraw the word "deceived"?
Mr. D. S. Cooke: Rather than argue, I will withdraw the word "deceived" and I will let the people of our community judge for themselves.
Mr. Speaker: You withdraw it? Fine. Thank you.
Hon. Mr. Conway: I will be quite happy to supply the member with the information he has requested. There have been a number of school transfers under the provisions of the new regulations, and I will be quite happy to supply my friend from Windsor with that information.
I want to make it very clear that we have tried to be as even-handed as possible in the allocation of these funds. We have as well in this capital announcement very considerably improved the overall allocation. I regret my honourable colleague's feelings in this respect, but I want to say again that when the regulations were changed some months ago, I thought I had made it clear that there would be a credit to the capital allocation of the next year for any transfers that took place under the arrangements to which I made reference.
MARKET VALUE ASSESSMENT
Mr. McFadden: I have a question of the Minister of Revenue. When will he be releasing his ministry's study of the impact of market value assessment on property taxes in Metropolitan Toronto?
Hon. Mr. Nixon: Very soon.
Mr. McFadden: I would like to ask the minister what he means by "soon." By "soon," does he also mean he will be releasing that study both to this House and to the general public for its perusal?
Hon. Mr. Nixon: The report was requested by Metropolitan council. It will be up to them to decide its disposition. The report will be made available to them when it is available to us.
ROOMERS, BOARDERS AND LODGERS
Mr. Reville: I have a question for the Minister of Housing, to continue a conversation we were having earlier today at the Toronto regional International Year of Shelter for the Homeless workshop. I observed to the minister that one of the ways to reduce homelessness was to protect rooming house tenants. I raised this issue last week and I got a confused reply.
I want to tell the minister that since last week, another 20 roomers are facing eviction, those at 185 Canton and 17 Homewood. I would like to ask the minister to answer the question clearly. Is he prepared to stand up for the roomers of Ontario and provide them with the protection that every other tenant has by supporting my private bill; and if not, will he then introduce a bill of his own that will bring roomers under the Landlord and Tenant Act before they are all gone?
Hon. Mr. Curling: I saw my honourable colleague at the workshop. I am glad he is participating in our International Year of Shelter for the Homeless.
We are taking a tremendous amount of initiatives and seeing my colleague participating tells us they are in the right direction. One of the efforts we are making is to address the problems of people who are roomers, boarders and lodgers who do not have any tenure and to make the public aware of this. The Lieutenant Governor announced in our throne speech that we will do all we can to protect those tenants who do not have tenure. The commitment is there, and we will follow through with it.
Mr. Reville: Those are brave words, but they will be of no comfort to the 160 people who reside in the area that the Attorney General (Mr. Scott) seeks to represent. They will be evicted. Will the government now admit it has no intention of amending the Landlord and Tenant Act, but it is going to leave those roomers to be evicted without cause, day after day, in a city where speculation is rampant?
Hon. Mr. Curling: Lest the member did not understand, I will read from the throne speech again. We went further than that, actually, in that commitment. It said we "will introduce measures this session to improve conditions for roomers, boarders and lodgers." Not only are we going to protect them, but also we will build new supplies in order to accommodate those who will be faced with any action that will be taken.
Mr. Callahan: I have a question for the Treasurer. The people in my riding of Brampton were very impressed with a lot of the promises in the throne speech. Being the new boy on the block, I would like to inquire of the Treasurer whether the effect of the opposition blocking the introduction of the budget until May 20 means that any or all the promises in the throne speech are blocked until then or for quite some time after that. Is there any way they can be introduced in the meantime?
Hon. Mr. Nixon: I consider it my responsibility as Treasurer to indicate in the budget, whenever it is read, how we expect to fund the programs that are new and those that are old, and expanded programs that were referred to in the speech from the throne. I can assure my honourable friend that, even though there is this rather inconvenient delay that makes some people think the Legislature is not working as efficiently as it should, his constituents will not suffer because of the intransigence and obstructionist attitudes taken by the House leader of the New Democratic Party particularly.
Mr. Cousens: I have a question for the Minister of Health. He may be aware, or I hope this question will make him aware, that there is a crisis in confidence in Richmond Hill on the nursing home needs of that community.
There are two nursing homes in Richmond Hill. The Mariann Home, which has a three-year waiting list and has had a request in for additional nursing home beds, is about to be sold and could be closed down. The second is Country Place Nursing Home. The ministry took it over in February 1987. It took 60 patients and put them in North York General Hospital and moved another 20 patients to other places around Toronto; we do not know where. What are the minister's plans to look after nursing home needs in Richmond Hill?
Hon. Mr. Elston: The honourable gentleman is almost right. He is not quite right because the residents who were at Country Place were placed in many homes, some of them even closer to their own residences than Country Place, but there were a number of residents who agreed that they would prefer to be at the North York Seniors Health Centre which is sponsored by the hospital he mentioned.
We are quite well aware of the needs of the people in that area. In fact, one of the reasons we moved was that we were disturbed by the quality of care that was being provided. I am sure that during his supplementary the honourable gentleman would like to stand to applaud our action. I can tell the gentleman we are very aware of the need to look at what may be available for nursing home facilities in Richmond Hill. I am keeping my eye very closely on that situation, but we have not yet made a final resolution of how we would prefer to proceed.
Mr. Cousens: I think some members had a good laugh at the question. They would not be laughing if they were seniors in Richmond Hill looking for a place to go.
Mr. Speaker: Does the member have a supplementary?
Mr. Cousens: All that is serious. I think you should call them to order, Mr. Speaker, because this is a serious problem.
Mr. Speaker: Do you have a supplementary?
Mr. Cousens: The minister has still not addressed the question, which has to do with these seniors, and there are some 20 of them. I do not know where they are. I am sure the families know where they are, but where are they located? What is being done with them? He has closed down a nursing home for just cause and that is under review.
What happens back in our community? We need people to stay in their own communities to be serviced, to be looked after and to be comfortable. He has moved out one nursing home. He has no plans to come back into Richmond Hill. I would like to know specifically what he is going to do about those people in Richmond Hill who are looking for nursing home care. Will he bring back the 100 or so places from Country Place Nursing Home or does he have any plans at all?
Hon. Mr. Elston: To repeat what I said before, we have not yet come up with a final resolution of exactly how we are going to proceed in the Richmond Hill area but we recognize there is a need for beds.
I have some other information for the gentleman, and that is that he was part of the administration that provided us with long lists of seniors in this province who had no options whatsoever. What we are doing as a government is not merely building more beds, putting more beds out so that people can be institutionalized, we are also providing other options for those people, such as taking advantage of home care programs and of integrated homemaking programs that would allow people some choice other than to look for a bed in a nursing home or an extended care facility. We think they should have the opportunity of staying in their own homes, of being independent and of being part of the communities in which they grew up.
I think the gentleman, although he was unable to congratulate us on the move to protect the seniors in his area, would like at some future point to congratulate us on providing the seniors of this province with great opportunities to stay as independent and active members of their community, not only in Richmond Hill but also right around the province.
NIAGARA REGIONAL GOVERNMENT
Mr. Swart: In the absence of the Minister of Municipal Affairs (Mr. Grandmaître), I would like to put a question to the Premier. He probably knows that the chairperson, Mrs. Clark, and 40 members of the Niagara Citizens' Committee are in the gallery today and he probably knows that they are calling on the government to revise substantially, provide an alternative or abolish the Niagara regional government. Given that the Liberal members from that area expressed similar views while they were in opposition and given that the Niagara regional council requested this external review, will the Premier now give a commitment that such a comprehensive review of Niagara regional government will be undertaken by his government?
Hon. Mr. Peterson: I am not sure I heard the question. Did the member say Mrs. Clark's committee was there to abolish regional government in the Niagara region or to abolish the member from Welland? I am not sure, but let me respond to the question.
Mr. Swart: I know that is a task you are taking on.
Mr. Speaker: Order.
Hon. Mr. Peterson: I am honoured that the honourable member asked me a question and I am delighted it was not on insurance. Do the members opposite have insurance by the way? I recommend it to them.
I welcome the constructive ideas of Mrs. Clark and her committee. As the member knows, we are looking at regional government across the province. I can assure him that the serious recommendations put forward by the concerned committee will be taken into account by the minister. He has demonstrated an open mind to reviewing these situations in a sense, going on one by one. By virtue of the fact that the group is here today with its constructive ideas, I will share that with the minister. I am sure he will be prepared to look at this with an open mind.
Mr. Swart: I am not sure I heard any flat commitment in that. I would like to ask, by way of supplementary, whether the Premier will give a commitment that any study will be comprehensive and will cover such things as the structure of the police force, for instance, where there has been a lot of problems, what services could be delivered better at the local level and whether it is not more democratic to elect the single most important person in regional government, the regional chairman, rather than have him appointed. Will the Premier give a commitment that those things at least will be investigated by any study that is done?
Hon. Mr. Peterson: I think this government has demonstrated its leadership in looking at the question of regional government as it applies to various regions across the province. As the member knows, we have moved in some regards in that area. I will say to the member, and through him to his friends in the gallery, that I would like to look very seriously at the petition. I gather they have developed the ideas they have put forward. I will discuss them with the minister.
I can say in general terms that this government and the ministry have a very open mind on reassessing these institutions. If they are not working well and effectively, we are looking for creative, new ideas to make them work well. Obviously, there are a number of people involved in these determinations, but I take the member's suggestion, and through him those of Mrs. Clark and her committee, as being very constructive in reviewing that institution of government. I can assure them it will get the attention of the minister.
CONTROL OF SMOKING
Mr. Sterling: I would like to ask a question of the Attorney General. Earlier this year, I congratulated him on his move to ban smoking from the courthouses of our province. Evidently, however, even though no-smoking signs have been put up in many of the courthouses, including our beautiful new courthouse in Ottawa that cost some $50 million to the taxpayers of this province, no one seems to be paying any attention to the no-smoking signs. When asked in the courthouse, his sheriff indicated that there is no enforcement mechanism in place.
Is the Attorney General serious or is his government serious about attacking this health hazard, as we have seen exhibited by the federal government, or is he just doing a number of things in terms of announcements, tokens or whatever? I want to see some real action on this and I want to see his commitment, which I believe he wants to do.
Hon. Mr. Scott: As the honourable member knows, the enforcement of these matters is a matter in every case for the local police who investigate if a complaint is made and lay a charge. We are anxious that should be done in the appropriate instances.
I have recently come to adopt the views of my honourable friend on the smoking issue. He will be interested to hear that in the office of the Attorney General a vote was held just the other day about whether smoking should be permitted. Smoking was rejected for the work force 32 to 3. If he wants to see a commitment, there it is.
NIAGARA REGIONAL GOVERNMENT
Mr. Swart: I have here not only one of the largest petitions I have ever presented in this House and one of the most worthy petitions, but also one of the best-bound petitions. It reads:
"To the Lieutenant Governor in Council and the members of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:
"We, the undersigned, submit that the Niagara regional government is excessively costly and needlessly overlaps local municipal government and is lacking in accountability to the public. We therefore beseech the government of Ontario to authorize the Minister of Municipal Affairs to make substantial reforms, provide an alternative or abolish it altogether."
This is signed by 8,868 residents of the regional municipality of Niagara and is submitted under the Regional Municipality of Niagara Act, chapter 438, subsection 166(2), Revised Statutes of Ontario, 1980.
Mr. Speaker: Did the member for Welland-Thorold (Mr. Swart) count that to make sure?
Mr. Swart: Yes, I did.
Mr. Andrewes: I have a petition that reads as follows:
"To the Lieutenant Governor and the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:
"We, the undersigned, beg leave to petition the parliament of Ontario as follows:
"Whereas it is my constitutional right to have available and to choose the health care system of my 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."
There are some 80 names on this petition.
Mr. Warner: In the continuing saga, I have a petition:
"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:
"That the government of Ontario provide the funds needed to build a 10-bed renal dialysis unit at Scarborough General Hospital to serve patients in the Scarborough area."
There are 112 signatures, bringing the total so far to 1,070. I ask the members to stay tuned for more.
Mr. Cureatz: I have a petition from constituents in Durham East to introduce legislation that would guarantee naturopaths the right to practise their art and science to the fullest without prejudice or harassment.
That petition bears 250 names.
Mr. Hayes: I have a petition signed by 20 people in my riding:
"We, the undersigned, beg leave to petition the parliament of Ontario as follows:
"Whereas it is my constitutional right to have available and to choose the health care system of my 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."
Mr. Villeneuve: I have a petition that was circulated throughout my riding and is signed by 1,132 very concerned residents. It reads as follows:
"To the Honourable the Lieutenant Governor and the Legislature of the province of Ontario: "We, the undersigned, do hereby petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to reject the recommendations of the Powell study. We understand that this study recommends the opening of government-run abortion clinics. We believe that there are already too many abortions in Ontario, which totalled 27,000 in 1986, and would like to see access restricted and not made easier."
Mr. Pierce: I have a petition that reads as follows:
"To the honourable Legislature of Ontario in parliament assembled:
"The petition of the undersigned residents of Ontario, who now avail themselves of their ancient and undoubted right thus to present a grievance common to your petitioners in the certain assurance that your honourable Legislature will therefore provide a remedy;
"Humbly sheweth: The operation of the Morgentaler and Scott abortuaries violate the intent of federal legislation and are in direct violation of the Criminal Code of Canada;
"Wherefore, we, the undersigned, ask the Legislature to enforce the law and to seek bail conditions for the abortionists involved in the illegal abortuaries."
It is signed by 24 petitioners.
Mr. Pierce: I have two other petitions: "Mr. Speaker, members of the Legislature: "We are writing to express our objections to the implementation of the recommendations contained in the Powell study on access to abortion in the province of Ontario.
"We do not support the establishment of hospital-affiliated abortion clinics, nor will we support any candidate for office in the next provincial election who agrees with this proposal."
I have one other petition, which reads as follows:
"To the honourable Legislature of Ontario in parliament assembled:
"The petition of the undersigned residents of Ontario, who now avail themselves of their ancient and undoubted right thus to present a grievance common to your petitioners in the certain assurance that your honourable Legislature will therefore provide a remedy;
"Humbly sheweth: The Marion Powell report on abortions is biased, unbalanced and not in the best interests of the people;
"Wherefore, we, the undersigned, ask the Legislature to reject the Powell report and its recommendations in total."
It is signed by 21 members of the community.
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS
MEMBERS' CONFLICT OF INTEREST ACT / LOI DE 1987 SUR LES CONFLITS D'INTÉRÊTS DES MEMBRES DE L'ASSEMBLÉE
Hon. Mr. Scott moved first reading of Bill 23, An Act to provide for Greater Certainty in the Reconciliation of the Personal Interests of Members of the Assembly and the Executive Council with their Duties of Office.
L'hon. M. Scott propose la première lecture du projet de loi 23, Loi assurant une plus grande certitude quant au rapprochement des intérêts personelles des membres de l'Assemblée et du Conseil des ministres avec les devoirs de leurs fonctions.
Motion agreed to.
La motion est adoptée.
Hon. Mr. Scott: I paused in the introduction of that bill because I did not recognize it by its long title. Its short title, for those who remember it from the last session when it was differently entitled, then was the Members' Standard of Office Act.
It is precisely the same as the act that was introduced in the last session, with one exception. The Billy Joe MacLean case in Nova Scotia has brought to our attention the fact that in certain circumstances, disqualification on future membership in the assembly is probably an unsustainable limit on an individual's rights under section 3 of the Charter of Rights. Accordingly, the provision for disqualification from future membership has been deleted.
The enactment of this legislation continues to be a priority of the government and we look forward to the support of all members for it.
JUSTICES OF THE PEACE ACT / LOI DE 1987 SUR LES JUGES DE PAIX
Hon. Mr. Scott moved first reading of Bill 24, An Act to revise the Justices of the Peace Act.
L'hon. M. Scott propose la première lecture du projet de loi 24, Loi révisant la Loi sur les juges de paix.
Motion agreed to.
La motion est adoptée.
Hon. Mr. Scott: I made an opening statement this afternoon.
INSTITUTE OF MUNICIPAL ASSESSORS ACT
Mr. Cousens moved first reading of Bill Pr63, An Act respecting the Institute of Municipal Assessors of Ontario.
Motion agreed to.
CITY OF LONDON ACT
Ms. E. J. Smith moved first reading of Bill Pr51, An Act respecting the City of London.
Motion agreed to.
QUETICO FOUNDATION ACT
Mr. Bernier moved, seconded by Mr. Pierce, first reading of Bill Pr11, An Act to revive the Quetico Foundation.
Motion agreed to.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
THRONE SPEECH DEBATE (CONTINUED)
Resuming the adjourned debate on the motion for an address in reply to the speech of the Honourable the Lieutenant Governor at the opening of the session.
Mr. Rae: It is with a considerable degree of pleasure that I rise in my place to put forward the initial response of the New Democratic Party to the speech from the throne that was read by His Honour last week.
I must say that when listening to the last two speeches from the throne and when listening to the comments that were made by the Premier (Mr. Peterson) in the very first week of the formation of the government in 1985, I could not resist noting that the government was pretending as if it were somehow the product of some sort of immaculate conception, that it simply fell from the sky.
Hon. Mr. Nixon: Wait a minute. I am sorry; that is a mixed metaphor.
Mr. Rae: The Treasurer is looking uncomfortable because he was very much involved in the process that led up to the formation of the government.
I must also say that while I look with interest, read with interest and listen with interest to speeches from the throne, in the last two that have been delivered, the one last year and the one this year -- I am going to have something to say about both of them -- I think the government is simply kidding itself and is trying to kid the people of Ontario.
We all know it is a matter of historical fact, although never acknowledged publicly by the Premier and never acknowledged in this place by the Treasurer -- perhaps for him because of his involvement in the negotiations that led up to the formation of the government -- that there was a very elaborate process after the last election that established an agenda for reform and that established an agreement for a reform minority parliament, which agreement was signed on May 28, 1985, by the member for London Centre (Mr. Peterson), leader of the Ontario Liberal Party, and by myself, the leader of the Ontario New Democratic Party. It is right here. Perhaps the camera can take a little time to focus on it. The Premier's signature is right here at the bottom of the page: "David Peterson, leader, Ontario Liberal Party, dated at Toronto, May 28, 1985."
I have verified this signature with others signed by the Premier. I have a letter I will be reading into the record later, addressed to the president of the Ontario Federation of Labour, in which the Premier explains why he has not been able to make up his mind on the question of free trade. It is a very interesting letter. But I just want to say that from my correspondence with the Premier, which is not particularly extensive over the years, I have become familiar with his particular script and his signature. I have never seen it at the bottom of a cheque but I have seen it at the bottom of a letter. I am satisfied on the basis of other signatures I have seen that this is indeed the signature of the member for London Centre, the leader of the Ontario Liberal Party.
It is worth while at this time when there is so much speculation as to what might or might not happen this spring, and when we are presented with a --
Hon. Mr. Nixon: All of it from your House leader, who is round the bend on this matter.
Mr. Rae: The Treasurer's uneasiness and his uncharacteristic grumpy aggressiveness, which he has demonstrated over the last few days, as I think most people who are observers of human behaviour will agree, is the product of an extreme defensiveness. What is the cause of this defensiveness? On the basis of my analysis and observation, I would say it is stress because he was involved in this document and actually believes in the process that led up to it and because frankly, even though the definition of a Liberal is someone who does not know how to be embarrassed, the Treasurer does feel a little embarrassed by what has taken place.
Let me read into the record what this document that was signed by the Premier says. I think it is worth recalling what it says, because what it says is very clear. What it says, it seems to me, should put an end to any question about what is the origin of the basic reform agenda. Also, it establishes very clearly just how much there still is to be done and how this document itself contemplates that period to complete the agenda which we negotiated at that time.
Hon. Mr. Nixon: You not only sound like Neville Chamberlain; you look like him.
Mr. Rae: If I am Neville Chamberlain, who are you? You drew the comparison, Treasurer; I did not. I wish you would do that again. Will you please stay for the whole afternoon?
"On May 2, 1985, the people of Ontario created an opportunity for change after 42 years of Conservative government."
I am reading this because I think it is important that we recall just what happened and what our origins are as a parliament with respect to the agenda we are discussing.
"We are determined to accept responsibility for bringing about that change." "We" refers to David Peterson and Bob Rae. "During the election campaign, both the Liberal and New Democratic parties advanced significant public policy and legislative reform proposals. These proposals contained many elements in common, which are outlined in the attached documents.
"In the interests of making minority government work, we are committed to a program of public policy reforms which will improve the quality of life for everyone in this province. We are also committed to legislative reforms designed to improve public access to and information about the legislative process in Ontario.
"It will take time to achieve these objectives. We have agreed on the need for a period of stability during which this program can proceed.
"Should the Lieutenant Governor invite the leader of the Liberal Party to form a government" -- I want to repeat this -- "Should the Lieutenant Governor invite the leader of the Liberal Party to form a government, this agreement will be for two years from the day that the leader of the Liberal Party assumes the office of Premier."
There is no ambiguity. June 26, 1985, was the date upon which the Premier assumed office, and two years from then is June 26, 1987.
"It is understood that the traditions, practices and precedents of the Ontario Legislature are that individual bills are not considered matters of confidence unless so designated by the government.
"We undertake the following," with signatures specifically signed:
"1. The leader of the Liberal Party will not request a dissolution of the Legislature during the term of this agreement, except following defeat on a specifically-framed motion of nonconfidence."
Hon. Mr. Nixon: Or delay in the business of the House.
Mr. Rae: I see the Treasurer is adding new terms. He is shouting out some new concepts which are flowing to his mind, but it is here in our own writing. It is signed; it has been done. It has been signed, sealed and delivered. That is the nature of the agreement that has been made.
You do not see the Premier saying, when he comes away from Meech Lake, "Oh, that is not what I meant." You do not see him suddenly emerging from the accord which was signed at Meech Lake, to which I presume he affixed a signature, or perhaps he just initialled it, and saying: "It is not a legally binding document; it is just an agreement among politicians. We just gave our word. It does not mean anything."
I want to say to the Treasurer and to the Minister of Education (Mr. Conway), who is here, and to other members of the cabinet, let the Premier break his word. Let him not simply break his word in terms of the length of this agreement; let him break his word in terms of the things that remain to be done that he said would be done. Then let him go to the people and explain why the Liberal Party, of which he is the leader, should ever be trusted by the people of Ontario again to do anything. Let him do that and let that be the message.
To conclude: "While individual bills, including budget bills, will not be treated or designated as matters of confidence, the overall budgetary policy of the government, including the votes on supply, will be treated as a matter of confidence."
I want to state categorically that I do not intend in any way, shape or form to play any games.
I notice with interest that the leader of the Conservative Party did not move a motion of no confidence yesterday, which is unusual. I think it is fair to say that in the normal course of events, in a throne speech response there is a motion of no confidence that, in turn, in a majority parliament is usually amended in various ways and there are votes and it proceeds. He did not do so. Let me make it very clear. I do not intend to move a motion of no confidence, and we intend to continue to maintain the integrity of this accord, the integrity of this document, because I happen to think integrity in political life means something.
We have been told by various observers at different times that perhaps there would be ways of changing the agreement; perhaps it is something that might not have been the wisest course to follow. I do not accept that, but let me say this: Having taken our party and caucus through that process of negotiation, having negotiated the very specific areas of reform I am now going to outline, and having not simply done that but having said to the people of Ontario, "We are prepared to change from 42 years of Tory rule, but we are prepared to do so only under certain agreements between political parties with respect to stability in a minority parliament," I want to state categorically that my word -- Bob Rae's word -- and the word of the New Democratic Party mean something.
Let us wait and see whether the word of the Premier and the Liberal Party of Ontario mean something. Only time will tell.
Let us also look at what this legislative reform is, because the package of reform that is the accord is in fact the basis, not of a wish list but of what this Legislative Assembly has been doing for the past two years. There are some exceptions, such as the motion that was moved by my colleague the member for Ottawa Centre (Ms. Gigantes) with respect to human rights and sexual orientation. It is fair to say that took up a fair amount of time for a period and focused the attention of the House. I am proud of the role my colleague played in that regard.
It is also true to say that we spent a considerable amount of time in question period dealing with the question of car insurance, and the government has now told us it is going to be responding to that part of the agenda and is going to be doing something about that.
I do not mind saying that, apart from a few deviations, which I think on the whole can be shown to be pretty minor in terms of the direction of this government -- and it is not something the Liberal Party likes; it is not something I expect it ever to say; it is not something I await on the edge of my chair saying, "I wonder when the Premier or any of the members of the cabinet are going to recognize that when they talk about moving child care to becoming a public service and not a form of welfare, they are borrowing directly from the wording of the accord itself."
I do not expect them to admit it, but let us just state as a matter of fact, because I think it is important for us to have some respect for facts, that the fact of the matter is that the reform agenda that has been the agenda of this Legislative Assembly has been the agenda of the accord -- not lived up to all the time, not in a perfect way, not in the way we would have liked in all circumstances.
I will be going into some areas we think are inadequate, but the direction, the agenda, however poorly or inadequately it may have been addressed by the Liberal Party, has been the agenda of the accord, not these 50-page or 60-page pieces of general wafflegab and bafflegab, not the one last year, whose only new takeoff point -- and I was having difficulty remembering until a member of the gallery reminded me -- was the high-tech fund in the Premier's Council, which has been such a tremendous source of bamboozlement and glee for those of us watching the way in which governments can sometimes misspend and badly spend public dollars. No, this is not the agenda of this session.
When people ask me what I think of the speech from the throne, and I will be coming to it in a moment, I must say it really is of no importance in comparison to what we are all about as a Legislature. What we have been about, as a matter of fact, as a Legislature, is the agenda established in the accord. As a matter of historical fact, it is important for us to recall that for a moment and not to pretend it is anything else.
Look at the bills that are matters of priority which were put through and dealt with by the assembly as recently as this last break.
Nursing home reform: a cause that has been espoused by my party for the past 20 years and with which all of us have been involved -- I look around at my colleagues and know that all of us have been involved -- in some way, shape or form in shaping and directing. How proud we are that our colleague the member for Windsor-Riverside (Mr. D. S. Cooke) was finally able to convince the government to accept in the legislation amendments with respect to a bill of rights for nursing home residents. We do not expect the government to admit that is where the piece of advice came from; we do not expect it to say that, but again let us establish it as a matter of historical fact.
Pension reform, which my colleague the member for Bellwoods (Mr. McClellan) has been championing so effectively: again, an issue which we as New Democrats championed through the whole array of special committees it went through. Again, that is on the agenda because of the work that has been done by the New Democratic Party and because it has been specifically laid out here as being an area that will be addressed in that two-year period. We have yet to complete that work.
Equal pay: here because we have a commitment from the two parties that there would be an introduction of legislation for equal pay for work of equal value in both the public and the private sectors. It has been a long haul. We are not there yet. The legislation can still use a great deal of improvement before it becomes law, in my view and in our view, but let us be under no illusion; it is there because it was put there in the accord.
That accord was signed by two people who had a sense at that time that it was a golden opportunity in terms of a movement for reform, for us to move, to make things happen in this province in ways they had not happened before. As I say, I do not expect the government to admit it, but I think it is important that as a matter of historical record we get some of those things on the record and clearly establish without any illusion where these ideas came from. They did not fall from the sky. They are not the product of something that emerged whole from the head of anyone in the Premier's office. Speeches from the throne did; the Premier's office can have this one.
This four-page, simple document has laid out the pattern of reform that we have injected into this legislative session and that we intend to keep pushing and pressing for because we think it is what the people of this province want. It is worth recalling that it has proved to be a very popular agenda. It is a populist agenda. It is a people's agenda that has made a difference. Whenever the government has deviated from the people's agenda, it has given people an indication as to what kind of party it really is on its own. I think that is something that is becoming clearer and clearer for us.
I do not normally want to do this, but because I have the opportunity and a bit of time, I want to go over the groundwork again and remind people precisely what that document called for, how much progress we have made and where we have not made progress. It may take a little bit of time, but I know, Mr. Speaker, you will bear with me as we go through it.
Legislation on freedom of information and the protection of privacy has been in committee. Coming out, we are still facing a battle as to what extent the government is going to accept amendments that are coming forward from the New Democratic Party and the other party.
Reform of the House: We have come some way in that regard, not as far as we would like. Changes to broadening the powers of the public accounts committee and the Provincial Auditor: We have made some progress in that regard.
Select committees are meeting right now -- that is why my colleagues are not here -- on the commercialization of health and social services, and to study and report on bilateral environmental issues affecting Ontario.
We did not establish a standing committee on energy to oversee Ontario Hydro, but we did have the continuing work of the special committee.
We had the establishment of a committee on procedures for appointments in the public sector but the government has not accepted the recommendations of the committee, so we are still stuck in the old days of patronage. The government has said it is going to endeavour to make them as representative as possible, but I still think most of us are very suspicious as to why the government would not have accepted the very wise recommendations that were made by the standing committee of which my friend the member for Oshawa (Mr. Breaugh) is the very able, indeed brilliant and wise, chairman.
Election financing reform: We have done it. We have set limits. For years we tried to get the Tories to accept the principle that one should not be able to buy one's way into public life in this province. We finally have legislation that I think compares to most other legislation in the western world with respect to financing reform. Redefinition and broadening of the rights of public service workers to participation in political activity: We have not yet achieved that. We have had a report from Mr. Breithaupt. We have had no indication of legislation from the Attorney General (Mr. Scott).
Electronic Hansard: We have it and I think it is a good thing we do, too. It allows the public to see what is going on and allows a relative equality and democracy in terms of the way in which the participation of all members is perceived.
Then we turn the page to some areas not simply of electoral reform and what we called at that time the kind of Vatican II reforms with respect to making this Legislature work better; we then move into the substantive policy areas.
Implementation of separate school funding: Done.
Introduce programs to create employment and training opportunities for young people: The Futures program, an inadequate concept, is something that, as my colleague the member for Scarborough-Ellesmere (Mr. Warner) has so effectively pointed out, is a sense of beginning that leaves so many people left out. There is a great deal to do there.
Ban extra billing by medical doctors: It has happened, except we now see this new range of new charges that we have to deal with.
The sections of the Environmental Protection Act dealing with spills have been proclaimed. We have new rent review legislation, but the Liberals broke their word on four per cent review. I want to tell the Minister of Housing (Mr. Curling), who is here in the House, that I would like him to come into my riding during the election campaign and explain to the tenants in the Jane-Woolner estate and in so many other estates, who are now getting bills of 10, 11 and 12 per cent and seeing them approved, just how much the Liberals have done with respect to breaking that basic commitment.
Equal pay I have touched on.
First-contract law we now have.
Reforms to the Occupational Health and Safety Act: One of the great sadnesses of this two-year period, in my judgement, has been the fact that despite the eloquent work of my colleague the member for Sudbury East (Mr. Martel) we have yet to get the government to move in this area.
There is much to be done. Reporters ask me how I feel about the throne speech response in terms of new health and safety legislation, and all I can say is: "It is in the accord. We do not need another written declaration that this is what they intend to do. We want to have it happen."
The prebudget freeze on the ad valorem gas tax and the inquiry into gas price differentials: This is a battle yet to be won. We are going to be debating it again here on Thursday. In fact, the issue has gone so far that even the Tories now have been converted. On that great highway to the north, they have somehow been converted, but I remind our friends in the Conservative Party that when we proposed legislation from the New Democratic Party, it was the Tories who defeated that legislation with respect to removing gas price differentials between north and south.
We have wound up the Royal Commission on the Northern Environment, but the Liberals have established more than 20 other special task forces, special little groups, special studies and special commissions, so the tendency to royal commissionify everything has not been eliminated.
Provide full coverage of medically necessary travel under the Ontario health insurance plan: Coverage, yes. Full? There are still arguments in debate. My colleague the member for Lake Nipigon (Mr. Pouliot) has raised many examples in our own caucus of where the program is still inadequate.
Then we have the other areas that are to be addressed, and the record is less good there.
Affirmative action and employment equity for women, minorities and the handicapped: Nothing; not a word. Nothing even in the throne speech. I must say that I was expecting something in the throne speech. There is not even a mention of the results of the eye count survey; we are still waiting for that. I see a comment coming from a Liberal member saying, "Perhaps soon." I hope soon, and I hope that when it comes soon, we will in fact begin to see legislation, because I say to members of this House, there is an enormous sense of frustration among many people working in the public sector and the private sector that this problem has simply not been addressed, that it has not been addressed with the same degree of force and focus as other issues have been addressed. I think it is time we did address it.
The speech from the throne mentions the disabled and I am going to be coming to that when I have an opportunity. It talks about that a bit but it does not mention the specific commitment with respect to affirmative action and employment equity.
The housing program: Yes, we have made a start, but how much more do we have to do? I will be coming to that in a moment.
Mechanisms for the control of pollution to enable Ontario to deal effectively with acid rain and to establish the principle that the polluter pays: We have made a little progress but we are not there yet.
Reform of services for the elderly to provide alternatives to institutional care and a reform of the present nursing home licensing and inspection system: I am going to be coming back to this question but we are not there yet. The verbal promises have been repeated two years later but we are still not there.
Listen to this one: Reform of job security legislation, including notice and justification of layoffs and plant shutdowns, and improved severance legislation. Zero. No progress at all in that regard, and in particular, not even a mention in a throne speech that mentions every subject from soup to nuts, that touches everything that moves in the province. They manage to ignore entirely the questions of severance pay, job security legislation and justification for plant shutdowns and layoffs.
Farm financing reform, including low-interest loans for farmers: Ontario remains the only province in Confederation that does not have a decent long-term program with respect to farm finance.
Workers' compensation reform: Zero, apart from the reluctant and tardy acceptance by the Liberals of our amendment with respect to the question of the cost-of-living index to be tied to pensions. We are battling about private pension reform now.
Reform of day care policy and funding to recognize child care as a basic public service and not a form of welfare: We are battling about that now.
An independent audit of Ontario's forest resources, and additional programs to provide for the ongoing regeneration of Ontario's forests: We are scarcely there.
What I am trying to say is not that this agenda has been lived up to, because it has not; what I am saying is that this is the agenda the government has had to address, not all the fluff and falderal that comes out of the various wish lists and ideas that stem from speeches from the throne. That has not been the work of this Legislative Assembly and I dare say it will not be the work of this Legislative Assembly for the next two months or six or eight months or indeed the next year, because to be blunt about it, it has taken the Liberal Party longer to deal with some of these questions than we had -- I cannot say expected, but certainly longer than we had ever hoped.
I want to say to the Minister of Education, who is looking with such interest at participating in this debate -- I will have some comments to make about the brave new world of education he is planning for my kids with respect to the future -- that if one has to look at the facts with respect to the agenda, this is where one needs to go. This is it. There is nothing else in terms of what the real agenda has been for the past two years.
However inadequately, however ineptly, however partially, however reluctantly, however haphazardly, however intermittently it has been addressed, it has been the agenda of reform for the people of Ontario and that is a fact no one can deny and no one will deny.
There have been some deviations -- free trade, to mention one -- that I will be coming to in a moment. There is the Premier's Council, the experiment with high technology that has been a tremendous disaster for this government. There is car insurance, the issue that we understand from reading the columns of James Coutts and others causes Liberals to wake up in the middle of the night and say: "Oh, my goodness, we had better deal with this one. We had better try to put this one to sleep. Everything else seems to be okay out there, but I do not know what to do about this one. We have to deal with this one." Then there are of course the other deviations contained in this recent throne speech.
Because it is so completely incoherent and in comparison with "An Agenda for Reform" lacks any sense of direction of where it is going, how it is going to be done or what the legislative agenda is going to be, with some considerable reluctance I have to address, as my friend and colleague the leader of the Progressive Conservative Party addressed yesterday, this framework for a world-class 21st century that was presented to us, the 50-page document that I gather was written by Scoop Golombek, the speechwriter and chief thinker. Scoop Golombek, the major brains trust for the Liberal Party at the moment, was the chief draftsman for this. Scoop covered me a while on the last campaign trail. Then he went off to work for the Liberals.
Mr. McClellan: Along with about a hundred other people.
Mr. Rae: Along with everybody else, but that was after the election. They left afterwards.
It is a document I do not quite know how to summarize. In fact, that is obviously the problem they had too when they came to write it. It was very difficult to find the focus.
I find it ironic that, when all of us in the business and world of politics are being told to focus, concentrate and simplify our message; to KISS -- "Keep it simple, stupid"; the basic piece of advice we all receive as we head into the various forums and arenas of battle we undertake -- this one certainly has not kept it simple. This one has in a sense touched every base without actually saying anything at all of any significance about any of them.
It has established as a slogan a principle I had to write down and think about: "The government which governs best is the government which reaches out to the greatest number of people." That is an interesting slogan and since it appears to be the one slogan that the government hopes is going to be picked up, I want to address that one very directly because it is an interesting concept of government.
It is sort of government as mindless octopus, a government that attempts to touch everyone, if only a little bit; not to do anything for them, not actually to change anything, but simply to reach out and somehow touch all those bases, to sort of stroke everyone who seems to have a problem and to touch everyone who has a concern. If somebody from whatever community -- whether it is the disabled, northern Ontario, eastern Ontario or whatever group it may happen to be that is raising concerns -- is saying something, make sure you mention them in the throne speech and be open and accessible or at least appear to be.
It reaches very much to the heart and the core, as I have tried to understand it, of the style of the Premier and of this Liberal government. They have received very clear media advice from people: "It does not matter what you do. It is designed for this media world that we are in. It does not matter what you do. The substance of what you do or what you stand for does not matter. What matters is that you appear to be open and accessible."
I watch and I quite marvel at the Premier, who receives all kinds of petitions and advice. On every occasion he says, "I appreciate your advice." Occasionally, if he is in one of his grumpy moods, if he has had a bad day or if he is off to a bad start, he will get snippy, raise his elbows a bit and respond in ways that he learns to regret. He will say, as we all say from time to time, things we wish had not been said.
Basically, the script -- not the script that the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations (Mr. Kwinter) reads out, but the other script, because that is the script I want to come to; central casting breaks down when we deal with the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations. When he answers questions, I can see them tearing their hair out, saying, "No, do not answer that one" -- the script the Premier has is to say: "I am easy. I am open. I am accessible. I have no position on this. We have no real position on this. We are open. We will touch everyone. We will touch every base. Reach out and touch someone. I will touch someone. You touch me and I will touch you."
It is sort of corporate Fritz Perls; it is a sort of Gestalt therapy theory of government. It does not address anything. It is designed to make everybody feel better. It is designed to be a kind of Dr. Feelgood approach to government. It is not intended to deal with difficult, tough questions. I must confess it is not a style I find particularly appealing. If I am dealing with government, I must confess I much prefer a government that says: "This is what we are going to do. We cannot do this because we do not have the money, because we do not believe in it, because we think it is a bad idea," whatever it may be. Then at least you know where you are.
The Liberal Party's approach is to say: "We will reach out and touch you. We will reach out and we will give you a massage. We will reach out and make you feel better." It is a sort of a laying-on-of-hands approach to government. I do not think it works. I do not think it is an approach that does justice to what the people of Ontario need. I might also say that I do not think it is an approach that deals with the fundamental questions we face. It is an approach that avoids difficulty. It avoids the necessary confrontations of life, because to deal with those is to deal with some of the necessary choices that are there.
When I hear things such as, "Excellence must begin early," who am I to say that it should not? Who among us in this House is going to say, "No, excellence must begin late, not early"? It is a world of such fatuousness that it is scary to think of who, apart from Scoop, actually inhabits this world. Who is it who inhabits this world? "Excellence must begin early."
We find, for example, that when dealing with the question of the drop-out rate, the government's response is to list a number of things it is doing, and there are three things. The third thing is, "We are going to co-ordinate existing activities." Who among us is to say, "No, you must not co-ordinate existing activities"?
Mr. McClellan: Tony Ruprecht would say that.
Mr. Rae: Well, there are members who would say, "No, we will not do that," but there is a test that I try to apply to a lot of sentences that even I myself occasionally say. Who is going to disagree with this? What is being said?
"We must improve Ontario's competitive position." "No, we want Ontario's competitive position to deteriorate." It is a ludicrous statement.
"We want to create full opportunity for women." "No, we do not."
One can go down the list and say that the statement of objectives is such fluff.
Hon. Mr. Curling: Positive.
Mr. Rae: The Minister of Housing says it is positive. I want to say to the minister that I do not think it is positive to state fatuous truisms and pass them off as policy analysis. I do not think that is positive. I think that ultimately does the people of the province a disservice. What should have been said is: "We all agree on these objectives. How are we going to get there and what are the choices that will make that happen?" Here are some favourites of mine:
"The rekindling of the entrepreneurial spirit." Presumably the Liberals are talking about commercial day care there. I do not know what they are talking about.
"People have higher standards of performance for themselves and for their children." I do not know whether I have higher standards for my kids than my father and mother had for me. I have no idea. I think they had pretty high standards, if I remember correctly. When I used to come home with my report card, I seem to remember that standards were pretty high in those days.
"We will act to encourage moderation in alcohol consumption." That is my favourite. "No, we are going to encourage dissolution, dissolute behaviour and alcohol abuse in everyone over the age of 18, and even for those under the age of 18."
We will put two things together: the Liberal Party policy and the Liberal Party sentence. "We will act to encourage moderation in alcohol consumption," and then add the next phrase, "by making beer and wine available in every corner store in the province of Ontario." That is how one puts the lie to the general gist and to the general nonsense. This is where we find Liberals cannot have it both ways. If you deal with the fundamentals and if you deal with the very basic questions that are there, the Liberals have consistently avoided the difficult issues, the difficult choices and the difficult questions.
When I read this speech, I first thought there were nine priorities because those were the ones that were listed at the beginning. Then, as the speech continued, there were not just nine; it went on and on. There were dozens more that followed. I do not intend to get into every one of them because there are limits to the capacity of the mind to deal with these questions.
What I do want to say is that if we look at some of the fundamental questions -- trade, and I will touch on that; the environment; health and safety; the future of our health care system, just to mention some -- as well as the importance of looking at affirmative action as the next agenda that will have to be addressed not only in terms of women but also in terms of our disabled population and many of our visible minorities who have this sense of frustration about not being able to participate fully in this province, in each one of these questions the Liberals really have told us nothing.
On the matter of trade, the Liberals have told us nothing about where they stand on the most important question facing this province. To read the document, one would scarcely know that we are in the middle of what is perhaps one of the most important historic national debates with respect to the future of our economy and our country. Anyone reading this document would not realize that the federal government is engaged in a major adventure, which I happen to think is folly, attempting to further integrate our economy into the American economy as a solution to our problems, and that the debate in a sense should be joined across the country.
Look back at 1911 and 1948. Look back at the 1880s when the national policy was first devised. The question of our relationship in trading terms with the United States has been one of the continuing and most fundamental questions affecting Canadians' view of themselves, their economy, their identity and who they are. We are now in the middle of yet another stage in that debate, but where is Ontario? I will tell you where Ontario is; it is absolutely nowhere.
The Premier has just written a letter to Mr. Wilson, the president of the Ontario Federation of Labour. Mr. Wilson was writing him with respect to concerns that the OFL has about the federal negotiations with respect to the United States relating to free trade.
The first thing the Premier does is to say, "I understand and appreciate your concerns and I am glad to have this expression of your views." That is touching. He is reaching out and he is touching Gord Wilson. He is saying: "Gord, I hear you. I know where you are coming from and I am listening to you. I am touching you, Gord. Come in and see me some time. Let us talk about this over coffee, because I am listening and I am hearing what you are saying. I am open to whatever it is that you are up to, Gord, and I really hear your concerns."
The Premier goes on to say, "You may be assured that I have no intention of buying a pig in a poke." That is refreshing. He could have said, "You may be assured that I have every intention of buying a pig in a poke." At least he did not say that.
"As you know, I have been very cautious on this issue" -- Lord knows he has been cautious on this issue -- "and have been anxious to ensure that all aspects are taken fully into account." That is certainly true enough.
"The prospect of a major liberalization of trade between Canada and the United States would bring with it difficult problems of adjustment. I am very conscious of the adjustment problems faced by the Ontario economy as a result of the intense international competition, even without the added complexity of further trade liberalization."
At the same time he goes on to say: "Ontario has major interests in trade with the United States. I am concerned that we should find a better way of managing the trading relationship in order to safeguard and promote this mutually advantageous trade."
Having touched him and stroked him, he then proceeds to say: "I am very cautious." Here is a little bit for you on the plus side and here is a little bit for you on the minus side.
He then says, "For these reasons, I am not in a position to take an unqualified view for or against the trade negotiations currently under way."
I want to read that one again: "For these reasons, I am not in a position to take an unqualified view for or against the trade negotiations currently under way."
The date of the letter is April 23, 1987. When it comes to the speech from the throne, which was April 28, he said that Ontario is going to "voice its strong concerns about the potential impact an unfavourable agreement could have on all Canadians."
What the heck else would one expect from any government than that it would simply do its job in voicing concerns about an unfavourable agreement? That is not the issue; that is not what is at stake here. What is at stake here is whether the government of Canada should be involved in attempting to establish a comprehensive free trade relationship with the United States. That is what is at issue.
From the very beginning of those negotiations, all the New Democratic Party of Ontario and the New Democratic Party of Canada have been asking is that the government simply recognize that that kind of negotiation is a mistake. What we have been asking the Premier to say is that the search for a comprehensive, integrated relationship with the United States can bring only harm to our sense of what it means to be Canadians.
I speak very directly about this. If we have a comprehensive trade agreement with the United States, it will restrict the ability of governments to deal with economic problems on both sides of the border. It will limit the ability of our government, as well as the ability of democratically elected governments in the United States, to deal with problems that are there, and it will further integrate our economy directly into the American economy. We will be for all time a branch plant of the United States, and that is a status I do not consider a vision for the 21st century when it comes to Canada. That is what it is all about.
If we are going to address some of the problems my colleagues the member for Nickel Belt (Mr. Laughren) and the member for Sudbury East and so many others have been raising over the years in this House, if we are going to address the fact that our manufacturing base is being steadily eroded as we continue to import more and more finished goods into the country and export fewer and fewer finished goods and provide for fewer and fewer of our own needs from our own capacities and abilities as an industrial country, then the road to the future is not very difficult to mark.
Our prosperity will depend entirely on what takes place in the American economy. Whether we live and grow or whether we contract will depend entirely on our cousins in the United States. It will depend entirely on what head office says and does in the United States, not on what decisions are made in Canada.
I do not think the Premier has played his cards right. There are those who say the Premier has been very canny by sitting on the fence, and quite determinedly so too. He seems to have been sitting there so long his numbness has given him almost a sense of pleasure, but from the point of view of the real interests of the people of Ontario and indeed of Canada, I do not think we have been well served. Once that train has left the station, once the momentum for a deal has been established, Ontario has put itself in a position where it has basically said, "We have no veto."
The Premier talks boldly about a veto. The time to exercise it, if there is one, is when it is a political one, not a legal one, and that is one you exercise at the very beginning.
He says to the government of Canada, "Get off that train." He says to the government of Canada: "We are not going to have a so-called big agreement. We are simply going to have discussions" -- if we have discussions -- "which focus on the question of resolving our trade disputes and nothing else." If he attempts to establish some ground rules early on in the game and attempts to use his influence to do that, he can have some effect. That is what the Premier has chosen not to do.
There are those who say, "Given the way in which public opinion shifts back and forth, he has been canny." I have no idea whether that is canny or not in that sense, and frankly I really think that is of less interest than the substance of the question. The question is not whether the Liberal Party survives for another three or four years; the question is what happens to Canada. If the question is what happens to Canada, you do not wait for a poll to come out and say: "We had better get on this one. That is where it is going."
If you believe intellectually -- and I do not know whether anybody over there does or not; I have no idea, but I certainly believe in my heart -- that if we have a comprehensive trade agreement with the United States, it means the end of an independent Canada as far as our economy is concerned and that our other institutions will follow as surely as night follows day. That is not my vision of the future; that is not what our Fathers of Confederation talked about in 1867; that has not been the dream of social reform in this country for the last 120 years.
The dream has been for us to build on this side of the 49th parallel a country, a community, which believes in itself, which has enough self-confidence to provide jobs for its citizens and which has enough self-confidence and belief in its own vision and its own destiny to stand alone in a community of nations and with other nations, not huddled under the protective wing of one particular country in the world, the United States of America.
I disagree profoundly with the Premier. I have no idea whether he is going to break his word and call an election before June 26 or whether he is going to wait until the summer or the fall or whenever it may happen to be; I do not know that. I do not know whether his timing decisions depend on whether an agreement will be drafted in June or whether something will come in September. I do not know whether he plans to say something about an agreement sooner or later.
All I know, and I say this to this group here because I believe it so profoundly, is that I believe Ontario has been poorly served. I believe Canada has been poorly served by the failure of Ontario to launch a national debate on the question of free trade. The time to start that debate was as soon as Brian Mulroney decided he would initiate such a discussion without any form of political mandate for the people of Canada to do that. But that is not the Premier's style. The Premier's style is to wait. His style is to wait and see which way the wind blows, to let the negotiations proceed.
I must confess I know many of the players, and as I discuss with them and with people who are negotiating what the position is Ontario is taking in these negotiations, I say, "Do you think that David Peterson is really opposed to free trade?" The answer comes back almost chuckling, a deep laugh from whomever it is I am asking. The answer is, "No way."
He is not saying the things behind closed doors that he is saying when he comes outside. His negotiators are not raising the concerns with Ottawa they say they are raising when they come into this Legislature. We are not getting the same message with respect to what is going on with free trade. The basic message that is coming out, and it is coming out in the civil service, it is coming out in the Ottawa civil service and the Quebec civil service and wherever it is across the country where these discussions are held, is that Ontario thinks the deal is there. The only question is how do we adjust to the deal that is basically in the works? That is the position of the Premier of Ontario.
As I say, I could not care less about how it affects Gallup or Goldfarb. The issue is how it affects Canada. I do not think we as Canadians have been well served, and I certainly do not think we are well served by the remarks that are contained in the throne speech with respect to this question.
I do not intend to go on at any great length about all the other issues that are touched on.
We are all in favour of education. Everybody believes in literacy. The issue is, how do we do it? How much money are we prepared to spend to do it? How much are we prepared to change curricula in order to give some assistance to kids?
The one point I would make in response to a lot of the focus on education which is coming from the government at the moment is twofold.
First, the statement is made that the drop-out rate is going to be cut by one third within the next five years. I cannot imagine a more modest and frankly half-hearted objective than that. At the close of the debate on Bill 30, I said if you come into my constituency the real question is whether kids are going to be able to drop out of grade 10 in a separate school or in a public school; that issue has to be addressed by governments, and it has yet to be. The Liberals' response is to give George Radwanski another job. We wish him well -- his drop-out problem has certainly been solved -- but to talk about co-ordinating existing government initiatives and to set themselves a target that can only be described as inadequate or half-hearted is a dream and a vision which I think would discourage virtually anybody working in the system or living in the education system.
One fact the government did not recognize and deal with, and this is where I must say the focus on excellence and competition and entrepreneurial spirit really misses the point, is that we all want excellence for our kids, but not everybody is going to be a grade A student, and it is a terrible illusion and a terrible unfairness to those children to assume and to allege or to predict that if we have a better system, that is what will happen.
The real challenge for the school system is not the Ontario Schools, Intermediate and Senior Divisions curriculum guidelines and how we deal with making the system more accessible to the more academically gifted kids, which has been the thrust of government policy for so many years. The real challenge of our school system is how to provide a real education and a real sense of challenge and involvement for those kids who are turned off the first day they arrive in a classroom. They are bewildered and do not know where to go, and they never feel at home and never feel comfortable.
I do not claim to be an educational expert. I have received a fair amount of formal and informal education in my lifetime and I have some very strong feelings about it, but my one basic gut hunch about all the facts and statistics you are going to find is that if you trace the career of somebody who drops out in grade 9 or grade 10, you can see the problem from a very early age.
We hear all this talk about excellence, competition and entrepreneurialism. You can have all the junior chamber of commerce classes that you want in grade 3 and teach Johnny how to go out and establish a commercial day care centre as soon as he leaves high school, but that is not going to address the problem of the vast majority of children who are in our system and who are still not getting the maximum benefit from it.
Not once has the government addressed the question of class size. Not once has the government said, "Class sizes for some kids are too large and we know that if we can get those sizes down, we are going to be able to do something for those children." Not once has it dealt with something as direct and as real as that. That is real.
We do not ask this document or the Liberal Party to talk about anything real. It is far better that it talks about visions and chairs and entrepreneurship in our universities and about injecting entrepreneurial values into grade 1. I am not making that up. It is right in here. My colleague the member for Riverdale (Mr. Reville) says it will teach the kids how to flip their lunches. I thought that was pretty good.
I think the principle has to be established that we are not simply cynical about education and using education as some sort of political football in the most general sense. Sure there are problems -- no party has raised these more consistently than our own -- but there are choices to be made and real decisions to be made in dealing with those problems. They are not vague. They are not generalities. They are real.
I have listened to the speech from the throne. I have also listened to the comments of the leader of the Progressive Conservative Party. You could go over the list. It is so unfocused that in a sense your own speech begins to reflect a bit of that if you follow it too closely, and so I do not intend to.
I could go over all the areas. The Minister of Community and Social Services (Mr. Sweeney) is here. I could say to him that what he has said in this speech is exactly the same as what Frank Drea used to say five years ago, and nothing has changed. The government of Ontario has done nothing to deal with the basic bureaucratic screw-up in the delivery of care to our elderly and our disabled or with the problem with our health care system. When the present Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Grossman) was the Minister of Health, he said exactly the same things. I am sorry to say that nothing has changed in the rhetoric that is coming out of Queen's Park. The objectives are bold: community health care and more healthy lifestyles. It is all there. Who among us is going to argue for a more bloated, unhealthy and obesity-ridden lifestyle? None of us here.
That is not the issue. The question is, and I think this is the question, why have neither the Liberals nor the Tories been able to deal with that bureaucratic mass, with the sense of disorganization and with the refusal to organize and deliver care that takes place in the Ministry of Community and Social Services and the Ministry of Health, or with the conflict between those two? Why has it taken so long? That is the question that the throne speech should address, and that is the question that has not been addressed.
What we need in this province is not just another throne speech; what we need in this province is not entrepreneurship. What we need is justice.
We have a problem. We have two economies working side by side. We have a productive economy that wants to grow and that is looking for the opportunity to grow, and we have a casino economy that, like a cancer, is taking over that productive economy. I mean that quite literally.
If you open up and look at every business page in the province today, you will find stories not of new products, new inventions and new partnerships in terms of workers and management working together and finding new ways to create; what you will find is stories of people from overseas or Canadians or Americans buying up other companies and finding ways to flip quickly.
You will find a speculative housing market in Toronto, which is starting to cool off marginally from the superheated form it was in, that makes average house values of $150,000, $200,000 and $250,000 the rule rather than the exception. You have an industrial working class, if I can be so bold as to use that expression in this House, that, coming out of wartime, saw that it could afford to buy a house and that it would have a steady job in an industry that was growing. Today, you have two-income families that cannot afford to buy a house and that are faced with the prospect of renting for ages and ages or else are limited to the very margins of the housing market, completely insecure as to whether their jobs will be there in a week or 10 days or two weeks or five weeks, or whether they will be bought up and thrown out by a Conrad Black or a Sir James Goldsmith or whoever it may happen to be.
So we have that conflict between a productive economy and a casino economy. We have had in the province -- there is really no mention of this in the speech; I do not think I am alone in this and I do not think one has to be a socialist to see it and feel it -- a sense that so much of the wealth being created today is created so quickly and in a sense so artificially that it seems almost to evaporate in paper and in paper hands. It is a paper kind of economy.
Contrast that with the statements expressed in this House even today by my colleague the member for Scarborough West (Mr. R. F. Johnston) and the nitty-gritty reality that we all live with in our constituency offices. I have a housing case load up to here that I cannot solve. I have people up to here in my office who are looking for affordable housing and it has not stopped.
I know the unemployment rate is relatively low in Metropolitan Toronto, but I still find myself talking to 52-year-old women who have been laid off after 25 years. I say, "Have you tried looking for a job?" They just smile and say, "Mr. Rae, have you been out there lately, if you are a little bit older?" There are young people who still cannot find that place, that first job, that ability to get trained.
What they get is a government that wants to reach out and touch them, so the government will put out ads. The government of Ontario's solution to the problem of seniors is to put out some new ads on television. Zippity-do-dah. That is exactly the approach I suggest the member for London North (Mr. Van Horne) would have had a field day with when he used to sit on this side of the House. He knows that. He knows that is not what seniors want. He knows that is not the way to make the changes happen.
This contrast between the productive economy and the casino economy has many manifestations. It manifests itself in poverty. It manifests itself in farmers being driven off the land for the 10th year in a row. We all learned about the cycle in economics 101, that in some years it would be down and in some it would be up -- I remember those classes so vividly -- but now you see a 10-year trough and it is not getting any better.
The government response is to do exactly the same thing, to continue with the process and pretend it is not happening. We find it in terms of the hard poverty and welfare statistics that build up and that are frightening in their implication. We find it in the fact that there are food banks opening up in Metropolitan Toronto, even now when our unemployment rate is at five per cent. Perhaps the government should be thinking about why there are food banks when unemployment is at five per cent. We did not even have food banks during the Diefenbaker recession in 1958, and now we do.
Why is that? Does it not mean that somehow this wealth has just not been shared and distributed? Does it not mean that somehow there is a productive and wealthy economy out there? There are more Jaguars on the road than I have ever seen before, just by observation as I drive. I am astonished at the number of Jaguars and expensive cars, just astonished. Occasionally, I go walking away from Queen's Park and up to Bloor Street. I look in the boutiques and I cannot believe my eyes at the prices that are being asked and the sense of wealth that is there.
I was waiting for my Toronto Star newspaper on Saturday and I got a copy of a new, quality, lifestyle publication called Elegance with a picture of a cheery fellow who is among the many Torontonians who have their own private wine cellar. It comes out of 1 Yonge Street. I do not know any more about it than that. It introduces the reader to "our advisory board" and it says:
"These are the people who by class, style and involvement have established Toronto as one of the world's leading cities. They will advise and inform Elegance on the parties, the balls and the fund-raising events that make this a caring city." Is that not a wonderful expression? I love that. I am going to read that again. "They will advise and inform Elegance on the parties, the balls and the fund-raising events that make this a caring city."
Some of the articles are: "Nectar of the Gods," which is about wine; "Condos of the Rich and Famous," which is about Ivan Fleischmann; "Seeking Sondra," which is about Sondra Gotlieb; "Jewelled Footnotes," which I presume is about jewellery; and so on. What I find intriguing is that this stuff is catering to people out there. There is obviously a market for this stuff. What I find ironic and tragic is that this is the focus now of the lifestyles of the rich and famous.
The Premier is in here. He has his tuxedo on. He puts one on every day now these days. Here he is talking with the editor of the Toronto Sun. "Publisher Paul Godfrey is caught talking politics with Premier David Peterson in the Sheraton Centre ballroom." They are at some event or another.
Even tomorrow night, the government is sponsoring a black-tie dinner. They invited me to invite 12 people from my constituency to attend a black-tie dinner. I want to say to the people in this House that I wrote back to them and I said: "I am sorry, if I ask my constituents to go to a black-tie dinner, it is going to cost them too much money because they will all have to go out and rent tuxedos. I do not intend to put them through that cost."
That is the mentality that has taken over at the same time as the number of cases of people who are having difficulty, facing hardship, who cannot even get a place to live, facing homelessness, struggling by on a minimum wage, single mothers -- I could go through the list -- plus the dilemma of south versus north and of visible minorities versus others. That is the reality of the Ontario economy. It is not the glitz, the showbiz and who can wear his tuxedo six days a week instead of seven days a week. That is not what is important in Ontario today.
What is important is not simply reaching out and touching someone. The Liberal Party had its own charitable fund-raising event and it sent all the proceeds down to a food bank. For all I know, it was a black-tie affair. I do not know, but what I do know is that view of the world -- reach out and touch someone -- when you put it in its true political and social context, is that of a government that is, frankly, neglecting some of the basic problems.
We do not just need entrepreneurship taught at grade 1; we need compassion. We need a party, a government, a society that understands the meaning of justice and that understands we are not always going to have great good times and that the important thing to do when the times are good is to make sure that money is distributed in a way that is fair and to make sure opportunities are built in there for the future and that we can look with pride on a productive economy that rewards work; not cleverness, not wealth, not advantage, but work.
I think of the people in my constituency as I talk now. I think of the men and women who have worked very hard since they left school when they were 13 or 14 or 15. I think of the people who came from Italy and from Portugal to make this their home and may have left school when they were 12 or 13. They have worked hard. They have built this city; they have built the sewers; they have built the roads. They have built this city and made it what it is today. l think of the women who have worked in the needle trades hard, long hours, 10 and 12 hours a day, and they make $150, $200 or $225 a week.
If one thing goes wrong in their lives, if one of them gets cancer, if one of them gets injured on the job, if one little thing goes out -- pow, on the poverty line. If they cannot pay their property tax for a year in the city of York, they come into my office and ask: "What can I do? Can you help me?" They have worked hard. Work has been the meaning of their lives. It has been the one thing which gives them a sense of pride and which they try to instil in their children.
When I look at the lifestyles, the condos of the rich and famous, and I look at Elegance magazine and think of what is happening in this province of ours, I say to myself, "Something is wrong with a society that lets that kind of thing just go on." I say it is not government that reaches out to the greatest number, because that is utterly fatuous and meaningless. It does not mean anything. You can reach out to Elegance magazine and reach out with a little welfare cheque here and say, "I have done it all now, I have done my bit, I have reached out," to which we can only say, "You have not dealt with the problem."
The poet Eliot asks the question, and he puts in this way, "When the stranger asks, "What is the meaning of this city?" what will we answer? We huddle together to make money from each other, or this is a community?" To me, that has always been one of the most eloquent expressions of the contrast between the society that is and the one my party was established to try to build. The government which governs best is the government which best strengthens the bonds of fellowship and community and which best advances the interests of ordinary people. That is my definition of a government that governs best. It may not be Scoop's, but it is mine.
When the stranger asks, "What is the meaning of this city?" are we simply here to make money from each other? If one listens to the throne speech, one would have that impression. The foundation of the throne speech is still: "Go out and make money. Entrepreneurialism, we will teach that in the schools. We will instil that as the fundamental value in our school system. That will be the spiritual education we will provide. That will be the moral and spiritual basis of our educational system." It is a sort of Max Weber view of the foundation of capitalism.
I cannot think of a narrower, more cramped, basically more Babbitt-like vision for the future of this country. It is a vision which may have some plausibility, but it is one that, frankly, does not do anything for me, and I do not think it does anything for a great many people in this province who see a different challenge and a different set of choices. If we believe that we are not huddling together because we want to make money off each other, but because we are trying to establish a community, then government will take a different course. Government would certainly take a different course from the one it has set out in the speech from the throne.
In conclusion, two years ago we attempted to do what I thought was, in the circumstances, the honourable thing. We made an effort to change government because I felt and our party felt that was what people had decided to do, but to change it on certain conditions. I spent some time at the beginning of this speech outlining what those conditions were. I am sorry the Premier was not here today as, in the light of the courtesies we normally exchange on these occasions, I had hoped he would be, although I noticed that he was not here today and yesterday.
I took some time at the beginning to say precisely what it is that the Premier, the leader of the Ontario Liberal Party, agreed to do two years ago. I have told the House what I believe to be true, and that is that the real agenda for this parliament remains that accord, that there is a great deal of unfinished work still to be done. It would keep us going flat out for some time to come, just on the basis of that.
In my own way, I have attempted to respond to what I think is, to put it mildly, a very inadequate, mundane, extraordinarily cautious and platitudinous view of what the realities of life are today in Ontario. I attempted to contrast that with something of the anger and frustration and, yes, love for this province that is felt by the people whom I and my colleagues represent.
I want to say this to the Premier, who is not here: If he decides that he will break his word, which he has given -- there is no ambiguity, no question about it; he is breaking his word -- and call an election before the end of the term he agreed to, I must say that is a challenge which I accept, which we accept.
He has referred to me, I presume, and to members of my party, as "frightened rats." I gather that was the expression the Premier used the other day in a press conference in London. We all use such language from time to time. If that is how he chooses to describe those of us who happen to believe that once we have given our word, it is a pretty good idea to try to keep it, let him choose to use that language.
I want to say to the Premier, as directly as I can, that we think that period of stability to achieve reform is important and has been important. But let me also say, if he wants to have an election, we will take up that challenge. We will go to every constituency and we will talk. As we talked in the last election about the agenda, we will talk about the agenda for the next campaign and we will talk about the agenda of reform that matters to the working people, the ordinary people of this province. We will talk to the family of Ontario in ways that we think will move it, in ways that we think make sense and in ways that speak to the best that is in our future. If that is the choice the Premier makes, that is a challenge we are more than ready to accept.
Mr. Epp: I would like to begin by congratulating the mover and the seconder of the speech from the throne as honourable friends and colleagues who have represented their constituents and this government most proficiently in the carrying-out of this very important honour. Indeed, the member for York East (Ms. Hart), the member for Kent-Elgin (Mr. McGuigan) and their respective constituencies are testimony to the tremendous diversity which this province enfolds and which this government embraces.
This speech from the throne is one which I too proudly endorse on behalf of both this government of which I am a member and the constituents of Waterloo North whom I represent.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Morin): Order.
Mr. Epp: They are welcome to join us. A few of them have joined us, one by one. They are welcome to come over.
In building on the previous speech from the throne introduced last year, our new agenda continues on a clear course of long-needed social and economic reform exercised in the spirit of fiscal responsibility.
Before touching on a number of aspects to this year's speech from the throne that are of particular importance to me because of their positive impacts on the region I represent, I would first like to respond to some of the comments made by the Leader of the Opposition and the leader of the third party over the past two days.
We have been told by the honest and capable members of the opposition that the speech from the throne is vague in its promises and lacking in substance. I found these comments very intriguing, to say the least. Now, I know that, traditionally, speeches from the throne are relatively general in their focus and are usually followed by budgets detailing the specifics of the ideologies and the programs put forth. However, I thought I might investigate these allegations made by the opposition by looking at what others across the province are saying after the reading of the speech from the throne just a week ago. What I found were a number of reports which, by and large, just did not jibe with the unsubstantiated criticisms put forth by the members opposite.
Let me look at a few examples. I want to quote from the London Free Press of April 29 which said, "In a speech far more specific than the usual generalities" -- usual generalities after 42 years -- "used for legislative openings, the Liberals offered specific programs for almost all segments of society." The Kitchener-Waterloo Record on April 29 said, "The speech prepared by the Liberals indicates that the province will have active government."
From the Windsor Star of the same date, it says, "As a blueprint for the future, the direction of the throne speech is admirable." From the Hamilton Spectator of the same date, "The speech was more specific than most in spelling out the government's objectives." From the Toronto Star, "This was the throne speech of a minority government that aims at being socially responsible and fiscally cautious."
Even the Sudbury Star of the same date, my colleagues, said, "The program, if backed with the necessary financial support and geared to do what the government says it intends, is ambitious."
That is what these very objective newspapers from across the province have indicated as a result of the speech from the throne offered only a week ago today, and my friend the member for Sudbury East can attest to that.
Mr. Martel: Tell me when they have been objective?
Mr. Epp: I am confident that we will follow through on our commitments and again deliver just as we did on our 1986 speech from the throne commitments.
Mr. Pollock: Tell us about the washrooms.
Mr. Epp: I am going to come to that. I am glad the member mentioned it.
I know that only yesterday the Leader of the Opposition was in a dither about the fact that all those washrooms had not been built along Highway 401, and this was the major segment of his speech yesterday. The few washrooms -- how many were they? -- 50, 100 or 200 washrooms that were going to be built along the 401 were not in place, so when he drove down the 401 he could not relieve himself at the proper time and place. I know the Leader of the Opposition devoted at least 10 minutes to this particular segment of his speech yesterday. I want to tell members that this problem will be addressed in a proper time and place.
Mr. Martel: What about unemployment in Sudbury? Talk to me about that.
Mr. Epp: As I indicated, it will be addressed. As I stated earlier, the speech from the throne built on the many reforms and initiatives already introduced by this government over the last two years. In our continued drive towards excellence on a number of fronts, I am sure my colleague the member for Wellington South (Mr. Ferraro) would agree that this government's plan to create a world-class centre for advancement of agriculture in Guelph is, indeed, an honourable intention. It will be carried out.
The cause for rejoicing should not be limited to only those in our region of the province, for our decision to move the Ministry of Agriculture and Food closer to an already well-established and excellent university, namely the University of Guelph, will eventually be of great benefit not only to those residents of Guelph but also to the residents in all parts of this province and, indeed, to other parts of the country.
Although the Leader of the Opposition chose to ignore it in his remarks yesterday, the ministry has already built a top-notch food testing laboratory in Guelph and has greatly enhanced our pesticides testing laboratory that is currently second to none.
In addition, other initiatives, such as further improvements to our successful family farm interest rate reduction program, which the Minister of Agriculture and Food (Mr. Riddell) has initiated, provide ample evidence that this government will continue to assist Ontario's agricultural sector to weather the storm of agricultural market instability currently being experienced by farmers across this province and across this country.
This throne speech also realizes the importance of converting our short-term economic strengths into long-term economic strategies. In this light, the throne speech promises to improve our ability to compete in the international marketplace.
By the way, one such avenue where we intend to achieve this is through a better-trained work force. My friend from Sudbury mentioned the unemployment they have in Sudbury, and that is the most unfortunate aspect. There are pockets of that in the province. This government is trying to address those problems but cannot address everything within a two-year period.
My colleague the Minister of Skills Development (Mr. Sorbara) will be introducing a bold new program for apprenticeship training which will address the need, long neglected by the former government, to fill the demand for many skilled positions with tradespeople of our province.
Our Premier has also shown leadership by promising to establish an industrial restructuring commissioner to assist workers and industries facing plant closures or major layoffs. This is something that was mentioned in the throne speech and which the member for York South (Mr. Rae) indicated was missing from the throne speech. There has been mention made. As members know, it is a general document not dealing with a lot of specifics, which will be coming, of course, in the budget and in other pronouncements by this government.
Again, in today's climate of increasingly volatile economic conditions, our workers must be apprised of the factors affecting their employment in advance of their occurrence, to minimize the potentially negative consequences such changes may have on them and on their families.
In recognizing the tremendous underdeveloped entrepreneurial potential throughout our province, I salute the Premier in his mission to further promote and develop our entrepreneurial talents. In this light, I look forward with anticipation to the announcement of details of a program of chairs of entrepreneurship for postsecondary institutions. Having two of these post-secondary institutions in my own riding of Waterloo North, I can fully appreciate that many positive benefits will come from this initiative.
Unlike the unrealistic and, I would say, unacceptable proposal of the member for St. Andrew-St. Patrick (Mr. Grossman) to line everybody's pockets with gold, I know the Treasurer has already been working with his federal and provincial counterparts to harmonize the federal and provincial tax systems to ensure the Ontario economy's competitiveness while maintaining our commitment to the maintenance of fundamental social programs.
As the parliamentary assistant to the Treasurer and Minister of Revenue, I fully embrace our government's commitment to continue the building of a strong tax system which supports growth. I know my colleague the Treasurer awaits the federal government's white paper on tax reform, due next month, with great anticipation. I know all of us are looking forward to receiving this document, even the "minister for resign." Is that not what they used to say? I think that is a new portfolio we created about four years ago for him.
Mr. Epp: My friends across the way are interrupting me, and they are doing a fairly good job. Nevertheless, I know they are very supportive of the tremendous document that was tabled last week, known as the throne speech, and I know they are awaiting their opportunity to speak to it.
Mr. Martel: What document? Was there a document tabled last week?
Mr. Epp: It was read. The member must have been sleeping.
Proposed changes to systems for personal income tax, corporate income tax and federal manufacturers' tax, sales tax, will be studied with close scrutiny to ensure the best interests of Ontario's taxpayers are protected.
Finally, if the leader of the official opposition wants to talk about conflicting messages with respect to trade negotiations, he can look no further than his own party's conflicting statements on the issue, and primarily his own statements. In December 1985, he supported the efforts undertaken by the Premier of this province, my leader, and the government at the conference in Halifax to ensure a fair deal for Ontario.
The leader of the official opposition stated at that time, "We have no difficulty in supporting and sharing the concerns which the Premier so forcefully and articulately expressed." That is what he said.
However, in October 1986, guess what he said? The leader of the official opposition stated: "Here in Ontario, the Premier is trying deliberately to sabotage the talks. He is using wild ideas and figures as scare tactics."
Can members believe that? Absolutely nobody believes that, not even the member for St. Andrew-St. Patrick, the leader of the official opposition.
Where is he? He is not here. But the leader of the official opposition stated: "Here in Ontario, the Premier is trying deliberately to sabotage the talks. He is using wild ideas and figures as scare tactics."
Can you imagine? The Premier uses certain figures, he understands the deliberations and the imbalances across the province and across this country, he understands the various figures involved, he has discussed the law of trade negotiations with them, and he is using scare tactics with respect to this whole matter?
The people of Ontario want to know what is going on. He is giving them a great deal of information, but certainly only what he is able to get from Mr. Mulroney and the Conservatives in Ottawa, since they are fairly tight-tipped on what is going on.
In November 1986, the Leader of the Opposition flipped again, saying that total free trade with the United States is "not a realistic option for Ontario or for Canada" and "represents a price that nobody is prepared to pay." That is what the leader of the official opposition said in November 1986. There you have it.
This government, by the way, will continue to play a forceful and constructive role in addressing all the issues involved in the United States-Canadian trade negotiations. The Premier has stated that we believe it is essential to the future of Ontario to look at the practical advantages and disadvantages to freer trade. We must look at the pros and cons of freer trade.
Mr. Warner: On a point of order, does the Speaker see a quorum?
The Acting Speaker ordered the bells rung.
The Deputy Speaker: A quorum being present, I recognize the member for Waterloo North.
Mr. Epp: The leader of the official opposition, in his infinite wisdom, suggests that we should prepare plans for an impending transition period when trade barriers begin to come down and some of our industries and regions will require adjustment assistance. US trade officials have made it perfectly clear that they seek a level playing field, one that would restrict such incentives or subsidies to specific sectors or regions. If this represents the honourable member's idea of planning for the future, then the Almighty help us all, particularly his Conservative friends in Ottawa with regard to this matter. Certainly, that is the kind of knowledgeable advice the leader of Canada does not need.
In conclusion, I congratulate the Premier and the government for introducing an ambitious new agenda for Ontario, an agenda which will revitalize our institutions and programs to serve the people of Ontario for many years. In this light, I am also confident that the members opposite will find the upcoming budget of the Treasurer an equally impressive document, should they allow us the opportunity to introduce it on the date the Treasurer has indicated.
Mr. Ashe: It is really difficult to know how to put into a relatively few words the comments about a 49-page document of diatribe, cynicism and platitudes. As a matter of fact, it would appear to me that to really do justice to that document would take considerably more time than I am prepared to invest in it.
One of the things I wanted to put on the record first -- frankly, I was not going to start this way, but the member for Waterloo North (Mr. Epp) put on the record a couple of editorials, at least selected parts of editorials, from parts of the province, where I would suggest it would be difficult to figure there would be anything other than the kind of editorial that was in place. So I dug out one that I am going to refer to in parts, as he did -- which, frankly, is not fair on my part, nor on his -- but for the matter of saving time I will just put part of it on the record.
This happens to be one from a very local newspaper, not the one that usually leaks all the government information in advance -- I acknowledge that -- but one that is very closely domiciled, not too far away from that particular one; it is called the Toronto Sun.
It starts out, "Throne Pitch." That is probably a good headline. It is a pitch; a 49-page pitch, mind, but a pitch nevertheless. "Have the Liberals ever got something for you, and you, and you....Think of it, a speech from the throne with 157 promises. And no focus." Those are the two key words: no focus. There is nothing behind it; there is no substance. There is no focus for any of the 157 promises and the other 45-odd pages, because one could have written all the promises on four.
Another selected paragraph: "We should count ourselves lucky there weren't 9.1 million promises -- one for each Ontarian." Can you imagine how long that document would have been?
Of course, this is the one that I know would touch the heart of that great socialist, the member for Niagara Falls (Mr. Kerrio), who is the Minister of Energy and Natural Resources, "There are touches of cradle-to-grave socialism." I know he is a great socialist at heart and must have felt great when he read that one.
"We really don't know what to shoot at or praise because since the kitchen sink is in there along with everything else, who could tell what they are serious about and what's window dressing?"
Indeed, those relatively few words sum up that particular document.
I know it is customary to use the throne speech debate to talk about many of the issues and problems in your own constituency -- and I will allude to a couple of those -- but frankly, I will be tying them in directly to this particular document called the speech from the throne, contrary to, I suppose, many members.
As I go along, I would like to make very specific references to some pages in this document. On page 1, "The previous throne speech set forth an agenda for the next decade." We know some of the results of that decade over the last year, and it sure leaves an awful lot for the next nine years, which I hope that government will not be in a position to have to worry about delivering.
"While our overall economic outlook is favourable, we must convert short-term economic strengths into long-term economic stability."
Read that as -- and I will read it: on the basis that we got lots of extra income, which the opposition told us last year we would have, we have been able to hand out willy-nilly, in these times, nearly $1 billion -- possibly it will be more than $1 billion by the time we hear the final fiscal year figures -- so we can build possible other longevity for this party in the future.
That is the way it really reads.
"Regardless of the outcome of bilateral trade talks with the United States, we must fortify our capacity to compete in the international marketplace." I will be referring to that particular one at a later time in this document, because there is a little more substance on the bones to that one.
It is cynical coming from a government that has done everything to undermine the freer trade talks; and a Premier who has not put the facts on the record at all or stood up to be counted on this particular issue, one of the most important issues before this country and, of course, this province today.
"My government will direct priority attention to the following areas" -- then it goes on and on -- and "we will seek to attain these goals in a fiscally responsible manner, because the people of Ontario wish to leave their children with the flexibility they will need to meet the challenges of tomorrow."
What great cynicism. There was approximately an extra $1 billion in revenue in the past year, but will the government be using that in a substantive way to cut down or even eliminate the operating deficit? Maybe it will: the operating deficit, nothing to do with the rest of the actual fiscal deficit. Even having an operating deficit at a time when the economy is strong does not leave anything for the future to take care of the challenges of tomorrow and to leave our children with flexibility.
We all know, those of us who attempt to be fiscally responsible from time to time, if we cannot set aside when things are rosy, when the rainy day comes the cup is empty. That is the way that cynical government is operating.
"In these and all matters my government is mindful of the fact that it is the servant of the people. We will continue to provide government that is as open and fair, as caring and compassionate as the people of Ontario."
Cynicism. Just in the last couple of days we have asked many questions of importance to the people of Ontario. When the Solicitor General (Mr. Keyes) was asked, when the Premier was asked, when the Attorney General was asked about documents, about investigations on some wrongdoings or alluded wrongdoings by people associated with this government, did that open government tell us anything? No. It chose not to. Yet it has the audacity to stand up and say, "We will be open and fair and caring and compassionate."
"We will be guided by the principle that the government which governs best is the government that reaches out to the greatest number of people." There is no doubt about that one at all. All things to all people: that is what this speech attempts to do. There is no doubt it is attempting to touch all people: touch them in the pocketbook, not touch them in any other way that is meaningful or caring or open at all.
I go on, to page 7: "Schools are an invaluable community resource." I do not think anybody would debate that one. That is pretty clear and I think we can all subscribe to that. "They are education and recreation facilities, child care and community centres."
I agree with the "community centres" concept. As a matter of fact, many progressive municipalities in this province have sat down with the school boards and said, "These buildings we all put our moneys into, whether as provincial taxpayers or as local property taxpayers, are not being fully utilized by the schools. They are closed an awful lot in the summer and they do not get fully utilized on the weekends; let us put them to community uses." This has been a very frugal way for two levels of government, in this case municipal government along with the elected school trustees, to get more use out of the tax dollars.
But I do not remember seeing anything in there about the schools being used as a baby-sitting service. That, frankly, is what I think is in this. I am not sure that the senior citizens in my municipality are going to be very pleased with having to provide baby-sitting services to the children of the community. That is what is suggested in here. That is cynicism. That is cynicism to the nth degree.
"My government will take steps to reduce the drop-out rate in Ontario by one third within the next five years." I know that the leader of our party and the leader of the third party made direct references to that as well, so I suppose it would have been very easy for me to pass over it. I think everyone who responds to this document will have to refer to that one. What a goal. What a goal to suggest that a 22 per cent drop-out rate is an enviable task and an enviable goal for this government. Frankly, with those kinds of goals, we do not have to worry about the results.
Imagine if they had the opportunity -- and again we hope they will not -- to look back five years from now and say: "We got that 33 per cent down to 25 per cent. We did not quite reach our goal of 22 per cent, but we got it down to 25 per cent." You should make goals that are not attainable and then you can say, "We did not quite get it down to zero, which is where we would all like it, but it is now only seven, eight or nine per cent." When you are aiming for 22 per cent and miss, what have you accomplished? Nothing at all.
"We will tailor the curriculum for students enrolled in general and basic level courses to foster a desire to stay in school...." That is like saying, "Are you or are you not in favour of motherhood?" I think we would all agree that we are. I think we want to do everything to encourage students to stay in school. If this is the total initiative of the Minister of Education to entice students to remain in school, then we will not even have to worry about his keeping at the 33 per cent level, let alone dropping down to 22 per cent.
Of course, we are also fully aware of the other initiatives he tried to put across to suggest that we have to get back to basics; that we have to have a common denominator for weighing success; that we have to upgrade the secondary students so they go into the post-secondary system, whether into community colleges or universities, at a standard and at a level that will allow them to accept that other level of education. He suggested that we are maybe going to go back to creating a common denominator; maybe to some kind of testing.
I will read another editorial. This one happens to be from the one that has all the government's leaks, the local Liberal paper entitled the Toronto Star. This is an editorial headed "Timid Response to Call for Tests."
"Education Minister Sean Conway proved himself to be a political dunce last week when he tried to convince the Legislature" -- he must have thought we were all that way rather than the author -- "that Ontario is about to institute province-wide testing of students. He has done nothing of the sort."
I could read the whole thing, because none of it is very complimentary, but I will drop down to the last paragraph, for the benefit of saving time.
"Conway's hide-and-seek style of educational leadership, particularly on the issue of testing, is inadequate. He gets an F for originality." He deserves an F for more than originality.
One of the things, though, which I will give him credit for -- more than a passing mark for -- is that he has taken a new level of whatever in announcing the capital grants the other day. We are starting now to hear from the odd member about some of those announcements. Some of them were maybe rather cynical. Some of them kind of fudged the numbers, so to speak. I will be very frank and I will put it on the record: we did not do too badly out our way.
I happen to be in one of the areas surrounding Metropolitan Toronto that has had the majority of the growth in and around Metro in the last number of years. Obviously, I am talking about Peel, York and Durham. My constituency happens to be in Durham. Probably we got our share, which is not sufficient, but I think we can all agree, regardless of where we are coming from, that there will never be enough.
With an outstanding capital request of more than $1 billion, less than $250 million still leaves a big shortfall. It is an increase but still leaves the greatest outstanding capital requirement that has ever been on the record. In case the government feels that it should stand up and take all the bows and kudos, that it has solved all the problems by a reasonable little increase in the capital funding, it still has left the largest outstanding obligation and request of school boards throughout this province in history, something approaching $800 million.
Where does he get an A? Where does he qualify for an A rather than the F given to him by the Toronto Star? I alluded to this yesterday, or attempted to do so, on a matter of privilege. Even though the Speaker, who was in the chair at the time, disagreed with my conclusion, I still feel it is a matter of privilege; not only my privilege in this case but of any and all members of this Legislature.
How were these announced? I agree that it would have been quite normal to have a representative -- the minister, I would hope, his parliamentary assistant or a senior member of the Ministry of Education -- come out to the various areas involved. We are all politicians. We know the government wants to make some hay out of this. I have no problem with that. Frankly, we did the same thing when we were the government. You go out and make these announcements and hope you get some press coverage. But I will be honest; I am sure that in our whole 42 years -- and I know for sure in the eight years I was on the government side -- we never did it in such a cynical, dishonest way.
What happened? The minister's parliamentary assistant came out to the region of Durham and had a press conference for selected media. That in itself is atrocious. I cannot prove this, but there seemed to be an indication that if there was a local paper that maybe did not go along with the government line 100 per cent, it got on the wrong list and did not get invited. Those media can speak for themselves, and I am sure in this week's paper they will do exactly that.
They were going out to talk about capital funding for school boards. Did they invite the local elected members of the Legislature in Durham? Did the New Democratic member for Oshawa or the three Conservative members in Durham get an invitation to this press conference? Again, it is fine for the government member to stand up and announce it. I have no problem with that; that is the process. No, we were not invited at all. I heard about it only from hearsay and third parties.
Seeing that they were going to announce capital construction for schools, one would think they would contact the school boards in question and, in this case, invite the senior administrative people of those two school boards; they would invite the elected trustees to come out and hear the good news. Did that happen? No. It was an announcement for capital funding for school boards; neither administrators nor the elected trustees of the school boards were invited. The local elected members of the Legislature were not invited. I presume the federal members were not invited, and quite rightly; but now we find the school boards were not even invited.
Mr. Speaker, do you know who was invited? It just so happens that there are some Liberal candidates out there who are duly nominated for the next election. Lo and behold, the Liberal candidate in my constituency, for example, happened to be front and centre right at the time the announcements were being made.
I can honestly say that in my eight years opposite we were never that cynical. Sure, we made the announcements as the government. That is the process. I have no problem with the parliamentary assistant coming out and giving the good news -- none at all. But when you get an invitation list that excludes the elected members and the school boards and includes only the nominated Liberal candidates, that is spitting in the face of the electorate in our area and indeed that abrogates all the privileges of the members of this House.
Mr. Speaker, as you can see, I feel very strongly on this issue. Frankly, I would hope that all members of this Legislature should feel very strongly about that cynicism, but there I have to give an A -- the member might feel he deserves it -- an A for political results. The media out in my area looks upon it a little differently. The people in Durham, not only in my constituency the people of Durham, are going to hear exactly what happened and I hope, eventually, will find out why it happened.
I will pass on to another issue on page 14 of this lengthy document: "My government is committed to the principle that all people in Ontario should be able to live independently for as long as possible." I know what that is suggesting and I support that principle. I think it is great if people can be maintained in their own homes as much as possible, but it is funny that out in my area -- and I think in most places in the province -- I have some people who are very young who do not have a family yet; or more important, the people I think we are talking about here, seniors who have had their families. Their families have been born and brought up; they have been educated and they are now out on their own; they have married or moved on. Frankly, this is cynicism to the nth degree.
This Legislature, sponsored by the government, passed a certain section in Bill 7 not that long ago. I will not get into all the highlights of Bill 7 today. The main one, as we all know, was the sexual orientation section, which I vehemently opposed and still to this day oppose; but there was another section in there that said that people could not have a place to live at the time when their children have gone and they might like a little freedom from having children in their building. Believe it or not, that is illegal. Even as a home owner in a condominium corporation that is illegal; and they have the audacity to even mention it, albeit indirectly.
As more and more people are aware of that section of Bill 7, I am now getting more letters and phone calls on that one. They will never total the ones I got on sexual orientation, that is for sure, but that is where I am getting them now. People in that age group are mad, and quite rightly so, at this government for that kind of a situation.
Sure, we all agree that having family housing is a necessity. There is no problem with that at all, that is a nonissue; but to suggest that it is also inappropriate for people as they get a little older -- and they do not have to be senior in the context of being 70 and 80 years old; some people whose families are grown up before they are 60 figure they have done their duty in parenting and have their right, and, in my view it is their right, to be able to have freedom in a building that is not full of children. I am speaking as a parent who had four, so I am not talking about something of which I am not fully aware. There are three still at home, I might say.
"My government will inaugurate a major campaign to promote healthy lifestyles among all Ontario citizens." That is very laudable indeed. It sure would have read funny if it had said, "My government will inaugurate a major campaign to promote unhealthy lifestyles among all Ontario citizens." I think we could all have got up in arms over that one. Again, I think we have motherhood repeated over and over again.
"We will act to encourage moderation in alcohol consumption." If there has ever been inconsistency, if there has ever been cynicism displayed, if there has ever been anything that is so completely opposite to what certain ministers of the crown get up and say on a fairly regular basis, that is it. How can one talk about acting to encourage moderation in alcohol consumption and be the party that proposed -- and I am sure it is still on the bottom end of the agenda -- beer and wine in the corner stores? How can one have a party that says it wants to encourage moderation in alcohol consumption at the same time as it is extending all the operating rules for licensed, and probably eventually unlicensed establishments? What cynicism indeed.
Here is another platitude, and we can all agree with this one too: "Safe drinking water and clean air are major and essential components of public health protection." Wow; that deserved two lines, no doubt about that at all.
We are getting there. There are only 49 pages and we are on page 26, so we have only 23 to go. "We recently announced a comprehensive package of new auto insurance legislation." I can only laugh as I read this one. "Among other provisions, the program will cap auto insurance premiums and establish a public review process under which insurance rates must be justified."
I have no problem with the last part. I think it is well past time that there be an agency -- let us use the comparison of the Ontario Energy Board -- where companies would go forward and present their reason or their substantiation of rate increases. Alternatively, that board would also have the right to call in companies to substantiate the reasoning behind their rates and would have the opportunity ultimately to say yea or nay to those rates.
But the comprehensive package of new auto insurance legislation does not do a thing. They are talking about 10 per cent rollbacks when, in fact, in some of these instances, 50 per cent rollbacks would be more in order if you looked on it in a more rational way. What this is is a knee-jerk reaction to a proposal that caught a little steam from the socialist party. I give them credit for that. I do not agree with the policy, but at least they are consistent. At least they do not react in a knee-jerk way as the minister over there did.
Mr. Warner: Calm and reason.
Mr. Ashe: It is calm and reason in the member's perspective; and I agree with that, that is fine.
I imagine on this one the minister has to feel embarrassed, because it was only a day or two before he made all these great nonannouncements that he was suggesting the free enterprise system should be able to carry on and not have government interference, let alone government insurance. Obviously, that particular announcement he had to get up and choke on was written by others and came out of the front corner office.
I am not too sure he agrees, but I know that, as part of the executive council, if he does not read those things when they are put in his hands he has an option -- which he may end up doing, by the way. I noticed he had a good tan, so maybe he was away practising more freedom by considering his resignation from the executive council.
That was a very cynical response to the socialist proposal, although I do not support in any way the idea that the government should run the auto insurance business. There are very few things, if anything -- nothing comes to mind, frankly -- that the government in the long run -- you can sure pick the particular point in time or you can pick a particular situation where you can say, "Hey, it is better or it is cheaper"; but in the long run, anything that government runs is more expensive, either in the case of rates, in this case, or on the back of the taxpayer, which is the only other alternative. You can fudge the numbers, as they have been wont to do in some other jurisdictions, or you can bury deficits, but in the real world out there it has to be paid for. There is no other way of doing it.
If we had been really realistic and not talked about this ridiculous freezing of a rate, which meant nothing -- I have had people phoning and phoning insurance agents and brokers and insurance companies and our office looking for their rebate cheques. It has nothing to do with that at all. What it says is that the rate you got when you renewed the last time around is frozen for now, even if it went into effect yesterday, and it is frozen for the next year.
But does it address the problem? If there is a problem, and frankly there is one within the underwriting procedure for automobile insurance these days, it is the fact of assuming that people are guilty before they are proved to be guilty. In other words, the companies, in my view, should be looking upon the whole underwriting of risks in the way our basic system of justice is meted out.
In my view, it is my understanding -- and I am not a lawyer, I am not as learned as the Attorney General thinks he is -- but in fact you are innocent until you are proved guilty, so why not underwrite insurance risks on that basis? Because you happen to be 23 does not necessarily suggest that you are the worst driver in the world, which is what the groups in that category come up with. That is the rational, reasonable and thought-out approach, not the knee-jerk approach that was alluded to in the throne speech.
Yes, the government has companies justify their rates. Yes, it has a type of an Ombudsman who can be the go-between for the insurance companies and the policyholder when there are problems. But more important, it sits down with the industry and says: "Hey, you have a perception problem. You are able to prove you have a financial problem. We will tackle some of those with you. We will take care of the situation of no fault, for example. We are going to continue to look at that. We will take away, we hope, some of the court costs associated with settling claims. We are going to work with you and sit down to deal with the extraordinary repair costs when they are covered by insurance companies." That is alluded to in here as well, but surely the main principle is already in law that would suggest that you are innocent until you have shown that you are no longer innocent, you have a bad driving record. In my view that is the way to solve the problem for many of those people who feel, quite rightly, they are paying an unjustifiably high premium.
Last year the government established a Premier's Council to steer Ontario into the forefront of economic leadership and technological innovation. It is pretty hard to criticize some of the people who are on that council. They are high-profile people, and that is quite right.
If I have any criticism about this particular route, it is twofold. One, it was appointed last year and I do not think it has done anything yet except spend some money on studies by, I think, an American consultant, which would seem to suggest that there are no brains left here in Canada, something I do not subscribe to at all. Two, it seems to me the cabinet, the respective ministers and the Premier are abrogating their responsibilities to setting an agenda for the needs of the future and for the betterment of this province.
Of course, with the shemozzle that came out of last year's billion-dollar nonannouncement for the high-technology sector, maybe that is why it was necessary to get some outside advice. There have been enough references to that, and the various issues that have come out of that whole sector in the past year, maybe, to prove that the government is a little thin in terms of rational specifics.
Page 31: "While reinforcing the strengths of leading sectors, such as automotive and steel, my government will continue to assist major industries that are facing serious economic pressures." That is great, except that I read into that: our position on a freer trade agreement is inconsistent and we move from day to day on what that position is, but we will talk to some of these leading sectors, such as automobile and steel; which would be two sectors, of course, that would be significantly impacted, in my view, in a positive way by a reasonably and responsibly negotiated freer trade agreement.
If I have a real concern about the dishonesty on this issue as put out by the Premier, and frankly by the third party and the union leaders throughout this province, it is suggesting that the present auto pact is something that is written in stone and that if it is put up on a pedestal the problem will go away. We can look at the other two thirds of the trade between Canada and the United States and forget about that third, because it happens to be to our benefit at the moment. In my view, where the dishonesty comes in is not putting it out freely and clearly when we are coming to that conclusion that we are not talking about something that is written in stone.
What we are talking about is an agreement that was entered into in good faith a couple of decades ago that has from time to time had advantages to both countries and, I suggest, over the total period of the auto pact has had mutual advantages to both countries on a cumulative and collective basis and that upon 12 months' notice can be cancelled or opened for renegotiation if it can be reached.
For those who put out that alternative in their view about, "Oh, do not talk about the auto pact," why do they not say that? It is fine to suggest we do not like to have to tamper with it because we are the beneficiaries of it right now and have been in the last few years. That is fine. That is a fact. But do not suggest that by having it out of the agreement it will carry on in its present form for ever, because that is not the way it is written.
I also do not think the Premier has carried on a leadership role in any way. He alludes to the freer trade and free trade discussions a couple of times throughout this document in a very loose way, but that has been the policy. It has to be loose so one can pick whatever side one happens to be on that day.
We are talking about industries. We have the greatest opportunity in the history of this country for Ontario to be the major benefactor of a freer trade agreement. We do not have an option of just walking away from the table, which is what some of the union leaders, the Ontario Federation of Labour and the New Democratic Party federally and provincially suggest: The status quo will just carry on if we walk away from the table. That is alluded to in this speech as well; being on both sides of the issue at the same time. That is not a reasonable or viable option.
When one looks at the trade problem they have in the United States with a cash deficit in the last two years of more than $300 billion, both in goods and services in their world trade, one sees that they have a problem and they have to solve that problem. Protectionism is growing. As both houses in the United States went over to the Democrats, that became an even greater issue and a more growing problem for all the trading countries that do business with the US.
When one goes and meets with these people, one realizes and understands their problem. They must and they will do something about it. They do not want to retaliate, other than a few exceptions where they have some problems with our policies, such as -- again we will get into the shingles and shakes and the softwood issue and so on. They have some problems sometimes with our steel industry, which is a very major exporter to the United States. We can compete in those industries and they do not mind competing on a level playing field. They do not really even have a problem with the differential in our dollar, as long as it sticks roughly in the present range.
When they solve their problems through legislation, we are going to be affected negatively. The only way we can avoid that is to come up with an agreement that is to our mutual advantage. The status quo is not an option. I would think that the Premier of the province that has the most to gain and the most to lose if we do not get an agreement would be standing up yelling and screaming front and centre, encouraging the negotiations and not being a hinder to those negotiations in a very negative way. He should put out the facts as they are and then stand up and be counted.
"My government will continue to play a forceful and constructive role in addressing all of the issues involved in the US-Canada trade negotiations, and voice its strong concerns about the potential impact an unfavourable agreement could have on all Canadians."
I do not think that this government and this Premier have been doing that in a very honest way. If they want to put out the issue, that is fine, but put out all the facts and all the options, including the no-free-trade-agreement option, which I suggest and emphasize can only be negative to this province.
"Ontario will establish a new trade and investment office in India to better represent our interests." Is that not a great initiative, to be able to expand our exports beyond the boundary of North America? I suggest more productive trade offices have been closed since this government came to office than will be generated in the next decade by opening a new trade and investment office in India.
I have no problem with that. Any place where we expand our operations is positive, but we should put it into the context of the total world market. We should not close offices that have proved to be very beneficial in the past just so we can make an announcement that we are going to open a new office in India. Wow; that is a real winner that one is.
There is no doubt that the constituency I represent is predominantly urban-based and growing all the time. I still have the honour and the privilege to represent an agricultural community in a significant part of my riding, both in my new one that I will be representing and in my old one that I still represent, because they are not that dissimilar.
When I read page 39 of this throne speech and get to "A Strengthened Agricultural Sector," I find that the response and the initiative are frankly laughable.
We really talk about the foundation of our whole economic system in Canada and a very important part of the economic community within Ontario -- the farmer, the agricultural community, the processing, the packaging and the delivering of goods to our various grocery stores, etc. What is the initiative of this government?
"The city of Guelph will be reinforced" -- it sure will -- "as a world-class" -- that is a good word and I think it is repeated something like 50 times in here.
Mr. Harris: Sixty-two.
Mr. Ashe: Is it 62? Pardon me; I underestimated. It will be a "world-class centre of excellence in agriculture and food, linking the best talent from private industry, government and the university sector. As part of this thrust, the Ministry of Agriculture and Food will be transferred to Guelph."
Wowee. That is the initiative of this government to help solve the problems in the agricultural community in this province. As a matter of fact, the member for Waterloo North referred to an editorial in the London Free Press and how laudatory it was relative to the throne speech. It is funny, but he did not read an editorial from that same paper a day or two later when it was suggested that the support that was given by this throne speech to the very important agricultural sector was nonexistent and they were disappointed. The reaction from the farm community and their spokespersons suggested that the response by this government was nonexistent. Of course, they were right.
"We will require the provision of child care spaces in all new schools. We will work with municipalities and encourage them to require the provision of child care facilities in new commercial buildings." Yet it seems to me that in some other part of this speech I read that "a government is for the people, and the best government interferes the least."
They can put in that kind of statement suggesting that everybody, whether in the private sector or the public sector, will have to come to government with their proposals to include day care spaces. I have no problem with children. I do not think most people have a problem with children, but there is a time and a place for government to come and suggest it is the granddaddy of everybody and knows what is right, come what may.
Some of these things, believe it or not, cost money. The Minister of Community and Social Services is quite aware that all these things cost money. I am not sure that some of my constituents, particularly the seniors in my constituency, are prepared to pay more taxes to include these needed facilities within some of those particular public buildings.
I suggest that many kinds of encouragement to the private sector, whether private in the context of profit-making, which in my view is still not a dirty word even though it is to the third party, or in the context of the nonprofit day care sector, should encourage them -- I think they can and have done a reasonably good job in the climate in which they have been operating -- to fulfil their mandate and take care of the needs in this province.
I can tell the members what has happened in many municipalities. I saw it in my own area and I am sure we can all refer to similar experiences, particularly when dealing with the competitive nature of municipally owned day care centres compared with the private sector. What would happen? You would have a proposal coming forth to the council in question for a privately operated day care centre. They hoped, had in mind that they potentially might even make -- that dirty word -- a "profit."
But you always had some members of council who would suggest: "No. They are going to compete with the municipally operated day care centre and that is where we want everybody to put their children. It has a brand-new, better building. It has a lot better toys and learning facilities; and besides that, because our members all belong to the Canadian Union of Public Employees, we pay them a lot more money so they obviously have to be better baby-sitters."
I do not think they are necessarily any better. I am sure they are no worse; I am not suggesting that. Because it is in a more costly environment, in my view does not suggest they do the job any better.
We can encourage in many ways, and I encourage the minister. I was pleased that he stood up yesterday and answered that question in a very positive way, that he still supported the principle that the private sector could take care of some of our needs -- not all; there is room for the nonprofit, for those sponsored through church organizations, etc. That is great, but I think the private sector can take care of a lot of the balance.
I do not think my taxpayers, particularly the seniors, whom we are all concerned about, should have to pay. They are concerned now about paying education taxes, period, and if they have to add to that the cost of putting day care centres in the schools so the schools can be not only educators but also baby-sitters, they are not going to be too pleased with that. I am going to make sure they understand that is the proposal of this government as to how it is going to spend their money, as it sees fit.
The throne speech talked about so-called "world-class" this and "world-class" that and how they are going to upgrade the transportation sector, etc. We had a little discussion last Thursday -- again, no specifics; I am sure as we get closer to that day, 37 days prior to a certain event, we are going to have a lot more specifics about where there is going to be a couple of more lanes here or a new highway there. I hope that will include Highway 407, to which the member for York Centre (Mr. Cousens) referred. But I am not quite sure that is fully the answer either, because even when there are announcements they are so clouded with innuendoes and fuzzy dates and nondates that they do not mean a thing.
Highway 401 in my area needs expansion from the centre of Scarborough out into Durham region. We have problems there every day now. Last year, we had the second fastest growing municipality in the province; it happened to be the town in which I live. The minister makes an announcement that he is going to start the expansion two years from now, and we can plan for the ribbon cutting just before the turn of the century -- not the decade, the century. That is not good enough. I hope we are going to see a little bit more in that regard.
I see that it is approaching six o'clock, so I would like to wind down.
Mr. Warner: Why wind down? Why do you not just resign?
Mr. Ashe: I have not heard that from you for a long time.
Mr. Warner: I have been saving it.
Mr. Ashe: I think it is very appropriate to go to the third last line of His Honour's address: "May Divine Providence attend your deliberations." Mr. Speaker, with this 49 pages, it will take more than Divine Providence, it will take divine intervention to make a lot of these come true in a fiscal and responsible manner and I do not think that government can do it.
On motion by Mr. Warner, the debate was adjourned.
The House adjourned at 6 p.m.