L006 - Wed 6 May 1987 / Mer 6 mai 1987
The House met at 3:02 p.m.
ORDER OF ONTARIO
Mr. Harris: Today marks the first presentation of the Order of Ontario, an award established in the 1986 speech from the throne. Twenty outstanding Ontarians, out of 400 nominations, have been honoured today and members on this side of the House are pleased to have the opportunity to congratulate them for their achievements. The Order of Ontario gives us all a chance to thank them for their unique achievements, for the richness they have added to the life of our province and to show our pride in calling them Ontarians.
Achievers, whether in business, industry, science, the arts or as a volunteer to community services, are people who create the heart and spirit of a society. Twenty people are being recognized today, but they are not the only winners. Because of their dedication, their effort and their work, all Ontarians, indeed, are winners as well.
We are proud of all the recipients of the Order of Ontario. Obviously, we are especially proud of William Davis of Brampton, who has been included to be among the first to win this award. For a quarter of a century, this Legislature was witness to the dedication, energy and zeal of this remarkable Ontarian. William Davis once remarked that Ontario has never been spoiled by perfect government, but few would deny his genuine and sincere efforts to provide opportunity and a chance for success for all who make Ontario their home.
Ms. Gigantes: Last night, I attended a forum on day care sponsored by the Hamilton and District Labour Council, and I want to put on record a conversation I heard between two profit-making day care operators. The man had evidently been in business some time and inquired of the newer enterpriser, a woman, how things were going in her operation.
"I guess things are still shaking down at your place," he said. "Yes," she said. "Staff?" he asked. "Oh, no, no. I am fine with staff; no problems. It is some of those parents." "Oh, I know what you mean," he empathized. She went on: "But I think it is all sorted out now. I just said to them, `Look, if you do not like the service we provide, go find yourself another day care centre.' That quieted them down pretty fast, let me tell you."
There are thousands of Ontario families who know that line. They are families who have tried to make sure an aged father or mother, aunt or uncle, get decent care, decent food and decent living conditions in the profit-making nursing homes of Ontario. We put almost $300 million of public money into nursing homes last year and, try as we may, we cannot guarantee the quality of that service in the profit-making homes.
If we put public money into direct grants to profit-making day care, we are supporting day care service which is not accountable to the general public and not accountable to the users of the service, the families of Ontario. Child care should not be provided on the profit motive, and no public money should go into promoting the care of children through the profit-making system.
Mr. Callahan: I rise to thank the Minister of Education (Mr. Conway) for the recognition that Peel region is one of the fastest growing regions in Ontario. As a result of inactivity in the past years, the school system worked around a lot of portables. The Minister of Education, with his gracious gift of some $52 million through the Treasurer (Mr. Nixon), will go some way towards alleviating those difficulties.
I hear shouting from the other side. All they ever did was shout. They should have been around when Brampton was growing. They would have realized things were changing.
I want to thank the Treasurer for the generous gift and I am sure there will be future rectifications of the inactivity of the past government.
Mr. Gordon: I want to speak on behalf of ordinary northerners, northerners who today are angered at this government's decision not to have a debate tomorrow on the equalization of gas prices between north and south. The official opposition and the New Democrats have agreed to this debate, but this government, with one decision, has told northerners it does not care. It does not care about ordinary northerners, pensioners, small business people, people on fixed incomes or the workers.
Every time northerners pay more for gasoline, the government is taking food out of their mouths. The government is making it harder for them to survive. Northerners make less per capita than people in southern Ontario. Having gas prices that are higher in the north than in the south is just like an extra tax on people who live in the north.
I think this government is unfair. It is a government that does not realize that northerners are not prepared to put up with this kind of activity any longer. Two years ago, this government promised it was going to equalize gas prices between north and south. What has it done? Instead, it would not allow a debate on this issue tomorrow.
This government told all of these northerners who wrote to me, all of them who sent me petitions, all of the people who indicated they wanted their voice to be heard in this Legislature tomorrow morning: "No way. We are not going to listen to the people from the north." It is not fair.
OCCUPATIONAL HEALTH AND SAFETY
Mr. Martel: The Ontario Nurses' Association, which represents some 45,000 nurses in Ontario, met with the officials of the Ministry of Labour on April 10, 1987, to discuss the minister's proposed amendments to the Occupational Health and Safety Act.
I must say they have joined with the Provincial Auditor, the unions, the Ontario Law Reform Commission and the minister's own advisory council which, in fact, indicates that this act does not work.
Let me quote from the ONA letter to the Minister of Labour (Mr. Wrye).
"We reject categorically the conclusions of the McKenzie-Laskin report and strongly question the premise upon which it appears to be based. We urge you, as minister, to address the failure of the `internal responsibility system,' and to develop further amendments to the act which will promote effective improvements in health and safety in the work place.
"ONA proposes that more power be vested with the joint health and safety committee allowing it the right to require monitoring in the work place, and the right to shut down unsafe operations."
This is just another group of the many which continue to say that the Minister of Labour does not know what he is doing. He has chosen to ignore his own advisory council which, on March 25, said: "The thing is in a mess. Let us have hearings." The minister is trying to kill those hearings.
Mr. McGuigan: On January 13, I asked the Solicitor General (Mr. Keyes) if he could set up a system of coding cartons of chemicals so that stolen chemicals could be traced. The Solicitor General set up a group called Agri Chem Security `87. The program involves a coding system, an educational program co-ordinated by the Ontario Provincial Police and an increased emphasis on warehouse security systems.
Agri Chem Security `87 chairman Jim Edwards chaired a meeting in Chatham on April 22 attended by farm dealers, distributors and the Solicitor General. It appears that this proactive program of crime prevention has reversed the trend of farm chemical thefts.
Thefts in 1986 totalled $116,000, a 300 per cent increase over 1985. Since the March 10 inauguration of the program, chemical thefts have been reduced to $45,000 with an average of $22,500 per theft. Ag dealers have upgraded their security facilities by installing alarms and other security systems.
Management is more aware of what has to be done to prevent thefts. Farmers have become more aware that they might purchase stolen chemicals. I would ask that all members from rural ridings alert their ag chemical dealers of the merits of this program.
Mr. Harris: I also want to talk today about an unprecedented action by the Liberal caucus. My colleague the member for Sudbury (Mr. Gordon) had planned to debate the issue of northern Ontario gas prices during the time provided for private members tomorrow. The New Democratic Party was very receptive of that, thought it was an issue that should be debated tomorrow and one that deserved debate.
The Liberal caucus said no. This is the first time I can remember, since being House leader, that there has not been co-operation in what we will debate at private members' time.
One of the reasons it is important is that the only answer we have heard is from the member for Cochrane North (Mr. Fontaine), that great spokesman for the north. He said: "No, we do not agree. Take that money we are ripping off from ourselves and put it into roads."
Mr. Speaker: The member's time has expired.
Mr. Harris: It is a sad day when we have to pave our own roads in northern Ontario with the money that we rip ourselves off with in gas prices.
Mr. Speaker: I would like to inform members that the rules state that interjections are out of order.
STATEMENT BY THE MINISTRY
Hon. Mr. Kerrio: I would like to take this opportunity to update the members of the House about the serious forest fire situation we have throughout parts of northern Ontario and the effect this is having on our timber operations in the area.
At the moment, there are 45 fires burning in the province, 10 of which are causing us grave concern. Twenty-two of those fires started yesterday. The four largest are burning in the Fort Frances, Red Lake, Chapleau and Gogama areas.
As members may know, conditions in many forest areas are extremely hazardous. In fact, the forest fire hazard is high to extreme in most of the province, and there is little relief in sight for the next four to five days. The situation is so bad that we have instances where heavy machinery being driven over rocky areas is kicking up sparks and igniting small fires.
Because of this situation, the Ministry of Natural Resources has declared a restricted fire zone in parts of the northwestern region from May I to May 15 and in the ministry's north-central administrative region from May 7 to May 31.
A restricted fire zone means there is a ban on all open fires, except fires in containers such as barbecues, and the suspension of all burning permits.
As an added cautionary measure, modified work schedules for the forest industry have been implemented in both those regions. Forest operations are now starting earlier in the morning, when the hazard is lower, and concluding by noon each day. I might say that MNR staff in the northern region have told forest industry representatives to prepare to implement modified work schedules on an ad hoc basis if the situation does not improve in the next couple of days.
As a result of this ban, several companies have announced temporary layoffs, effective today. Great Lakes Forest Products has laid off 500 workers, while Abitibi-Price has laid off 250 workers. I understand another company, Buchanan Forest Products, may shut down bush operations later this week if there is no rain.
In both regions, there are still more than 3,000 workers on the job in the bush. Timber harvesting operations have been restricted to lowland areas where, because of moisture, the risk of fire is lower.
I am proud to say we are receiving tremendous support from the forest industry, whose companies realize this is a situation where we have to give a little to save a lot. The companies have even set up their own patrols in areas where cutting operations are under way so that they can spot any new fire outbreaks. This co-operation helps minimize greatly the potential for more serious fires.
I will keep the House advised of this most serious forest fire situation.
Mr. Bernier: I am pleased to respond to the Minister of Natural Resources and I appreciate being brought up to date on the forest fire situation in northern Ontario, as do, I am sure, all other members of the House. Going home every weekend, I am very familiar with the situation, so I welcome the thrust the minister is putting into this new effort to control the forest fires. It is serious; there is no question about it.
I am pleased to see that the minister and the ministry are using the local people more than they have in the past. I think it is fair to say there was some reluctance in the past to use some of the pulp operators and the people who work in the forests, such as prospectors and others, in helping the ministry fight forest fires and do protective work. The minister's thrust in this direction must be applauded, and I would encourage him to encourage the use of those people, who know that area like the backs of their hands and can be very helpful to the ministry.
I want to remind the minister that this is not new to us in northern Ontario; we have been through this before. This type of statement and the advertising that will go right across the province spills over into the United States. May 16 is the start of the pickerel season in northwestern Ontario. It is the start of a new tourist season, one we are looking forward to with a great deal of anticipation, because we expect an increase of five per cent to seven per cent in the tourist business in northwestern Ontario.
I encourage the minister to request the Minister of Tourism and Recreation (Mr. Eakins) to consider the possibility of an advertising program such as we had a few years ago directed towards the Minneapolis area or the Chicago area to remind the American tourists there that it is business as usual in northwestern Ontario, with tighter controls. They will not be able to have open fires, but they can come up and enjoy the excellent tourist facilities we have in northwestern Ontario. Then we can get the best of both worlds; we can get our forest fires under control and still have a good tourist season.
Mr. Harris: While we are talking about fire protection and the aircraft and what not in that report, I am a little surprised that the minister has not made any mention of the lack of aircraft for the spraying program.
For the second year in a row, the minister has completely -- I am not sure of the right words; I guess "fouled up" would be the kindest words we can have -- the whole spraying program, the tendering process, all the operators who are involved --
Hon. Mr. Kerrio: We sprayed more by mistake than you sprayed on purpose.
Mr. Harris: -- whether bird-dogging of the forest fires or in spraying programs, are upset. Now we hear they cannot get insurance; now we hear that the licensing procedures are being violated; now we hear that American airplanes are again being used. We brought this up last year, the tendering process and the irregularities that were going on there. We now see it is even worse this year.
We hear from operator after operator that the tendering practices have been violated. We hear from operator after operator that he was told he had to have a certain licence, and then, when a lower tender came in with a lesser licence, that aircraft was accepted, most of them from Quebec and from the United States. Now we hear that because they do not have the proper licence, they cannot get liability insurance.
I am shocked that we have not had a statement from the minister on the irregularities in that tendering process and what is happening with that program here in Ontario this year.
Mr. Speaker: Order.
Mr. Wildman: It is obvious from the comments of the member for Nipissing (Mr. Harris) that we can speak on anything that has anything to do with forestry in response to this statement.
I welcome the comments of the minister with regard to his efforts and the efforts of the ministry to minimize the forest fire danger in the northwest. As a result of the mild winter with low precipitation and the lack of precipitation this spring, we do have a very serious danger rating in the north, and we risk having a very serious situation this summer unless all of us, not just the ministry but all the users of the forest, are vigilant to ensure we do not cause fires that could otherwise be avoided.
Having said that, I hope the minister can explain further at some other time what efforts are being made to supplement the efforts of the fire centre in the Sault with regard to aircraft and whether or not he anticipates that we will be needing assistance from other jurisdictions this summer if the fire danger remains as serious as it is now and increases.
I note the efforts that are being made by the various companies mentioned by the minister, and I welcome them. I hope the minister will take as seriously the concerns for the workers in the bush as he has those for the trees and will respond to the very serious charges laid by the member for Lake Nipigon (Mr. Pouliot) earlier in this session with regard to Buchanan Forest Products and its operations; the fact it appears to have more vice-presidents than it has cutters and in fact is avoiding, or apparently avoiding, paying the proper assessment to the Workers' Compensation Board on behalf of its employees. If Buchanan can respond to this kind of danger, surely he can live up to his obligations to the Workers' Compensation Board if he is to continue to have cutting licences and permits in this province.
I hope the minister can explain to the House and to the people of this province what efforts he is going to make to ensure that there are enough aircraft available and that there will be enough forest firefighters available throughout the north this summer and what efforts he is making to ensure that all the users of the forest are co-operating so we avoid a very serious situation.
Mr. Grossman: My question is for the Premier. In light of the Premier's comments yesterday and our desire to be able to get sufficient details to participate and assist in the constitutional accord, could he repeat or perhaps clarify for this House his reasons for refusing to allow a committee of this Legislature to have open public hearings for a short time on the impact of the new accord?
Hon. Mr. Peterson: I thought we discussed this matter yesterday. It is the same question as the Leader of the Opposition asked yesterday, but I will be happy to discuss it.
As he knows, at the moment we do not have a draft of the final constitutional language. I cannot tell my honourable friend what the time frame will be between the receipt of that language as it is constructed after the drafting instructions were issued by the first ministers and the Prime Minister calling a formal meeting to discuss that situation.
At the moment, as I said, we do not have that wording. I would be very happy to share that wording as it becomes available from the federal government, presumably with agreement from the provinces that would be arbitrated and worked out over time. I would be happy to share that wording with the Leader of the Opposition. If he has any advice or concerns he wishes to raise, I will be very happy to discuss them with him.
As he knows, a number of constitutional experts will be looking at the matter, as they have already. There have been a variety of opinions on the matter already, and I would be very happy to have the member's advice on it. I point out to my honourable friend as well that I expect a very full debate in this House. He will have an opportunity to apply his highly trained legal mind to the subject, as will other members of the House.
Mr. Grossman: As the Premier may know, the Premier of Manitoba has confirmed that there will be public hearings in Manitoba prior to him agreeing on the final wording. As well, his friend and colleague Premier Bourassa indicated yesterday that he would agree to two weeks of public hearings before a specially struck committee of the Quebec National Assembly.
Given the Premier's oft-repeated assurance that everything is open for discussion and that he welcomes advice from all sides, why in this particular instance, which surely is as of major import as many of the other rather routine things that are sent out for public hearings here, would he refuse to do what his colleague the Premier of Quebec has undertaken to do, which is to allow the public to come in, look at the draft wording, give some advice and share its thoughts on the agreement?
In view of the fact of public hearings in both Manitoba and Quebec, would the Premier reconsider his position and perhaps provide as open a forum here as the people of Quebec and Manitoba now have?
Hon. Mr. Peterson: I think the forum is completely open. After all, we are all elected to represent people across this province. We are happy to have those debates in this Legislature, all open and nothing to hide. Indeed, the Leader of the Opposition is entitled to express his opinion. Contrary to the view of some others, I think he is quite competent to express opinions on this particular matter.
With respect to the Manitoba situation, it has a unique agreement. I understand it is an agreement as opposed to a piece of legislation, relating back to some of the difficulties it had over the French-language programs in that province, to agree to that kind of thing.
I think each province is unique in that regard. I have said the time frame is something I do not know the details of at this moment. The Prime Minister perhaps knows; if he does, he has not shared it with me.
I think a full parliamentary debate in this House, as long as it takes, is going to be a very constructive way to put the input into the discussion.
Let me answer one other question. The member gave the impression in his remarks that someone would come in and give an idea to some committee to change the wording. Can he imagine the strange situation that would develop into? If some province has a hearing and somebody has an idea to change the wording, it comes back, brokered through the House presumably, and then goes to the other first ministers. We would be for ever bringing Quebec into the Constitution.
As much as I am in favour of open hearings on these matters and letting everybody share what we have -- and, as I said, I will give the member the information when we have it -- I think our approach to bring Quebec into the Constitution is a very constructive one. I think it is better to move ahead than to delay for ever.
Mr. Grossman: With respect, the Premier is trying to suggest I said things that I did not say. I am just eager to have the opportunity for the public to come in and hear the deal, study the draft wording and comment upon it. He is the one designated to respond to that public input. He can choose to go to Ottawa after that and try to amend the wording, or he can say he heard the input here and rejected it. We all respect his right to do that, and we do not challenge his right to do that.
All we suggest is that the people of Quebec will have a chance to comment themselves, be it immigration people, the day care coalition, the constitutional experts or, yes, the average person in Quebec. They will have the opportunity to come in and address their elected members before their Premier goes back to meet with his colleagues and the Prime Minister to finalize the draft wording and turn it into an accord which can then be taken back to the provinces. He continues to deny that opportunity to the people of Ontario.
Mr. Speaker: And the supplementary question?
Mr. Grossman: My final supplementary to the Premier is this. First, he has indicated there will be a full parliamentary debate. Could he therefore give us an undertaking this afternoon that at the very minimum there will be an extensive parliamentary debate of several days' duration before he returns to finalize and sign the accord in Ottawa? Second, will he give us in Ontario what the people of Quebec now have, which is an opportunity to allow the public to offer its comments and advice on this most crucial document?
Hon. Mr. Peterson: I invite the public to give its comments and advice on this matter. They have been doing it the last few days. I have received calls, as I am sure the honourable member has, and I think that is quite legitimate. I am not insensitive to opinion on this matter, as I am sure he is not. He can come to the House, and the people who have any ideas can express them to him or to any other member.
I believe we should have a full discussion in this House. In my opinion, it is a historic discussion. I remember our past constitutional discussions. I think they were very significant in terms of the building of this country, so I think we should have a very full discussion in this House.
As the member knows, nothing will happen -- Ontario cannot be in -- unless there is a resolution of this House approving any constitutional amendment. Members will have the opportunity to accept it or reject it at that time. If the majority of the House rejects it, obviously nothing will happen. If they accept it, if the wording is worked out and shared all along the way, then I believe it will be a glorious day for Canada when Quebec joins the Constitution.
Mr. Grossman: We still have not received an assurance from the Premier that he will not go back to Ottawa to finalize that accord without first having had public hearings --
Mr. Speaker: Second question?
Mr. Grossman: -- or even a direct assurance that there will be an extensive parliamentary debate.
Mr. Speaker: Is this your second question?
Mr. Grossman: I hope the Premier will offer that assurance quickly.
Mr. Speaker: Order. Second question?
Mr. Grossman: My second question has to do with the situation which still remains unaddressed in the auto insurance industry. My question is to the Premier. It is now two weeks since the announcement was made with regard to the new system he and his minister appear to want to put in place. In these two weeks, has the Premier concluded with the minister just what level of profit the auto insurance companies will be permitted?
Hon. Mr. Peterson: I will refer that to the honourable minister.
Hon. Mr. Kwinter: In response to the honourable Leader of the Opposition, when this independent, permanent rate review board establishes itself, it will make all these determinations. This will be an independent board; it will be made up of a permanent chairman and part-time participants, and they will make all those determinations.
Mr. Grossman: The minister will recall that in the rent control legislation, it has historically been the fact that whichever government was in office set out the rent review guidelines, the profit margins, if any, and the formula to be applied by the rent control boards in reviewing allowable rent increases. He can hardly take the position that he has done anything for insurance companies if he and his colleagues, as a government, pretend there is going to be any kind of control put on it and then abandon to someone else a determination of what the acceptable level of profit might be.
Therefore, if in fact insurance companies are losing money on the auto insurance business they write, as he has said they are --
Mr. Grossman: That is what the minister says; that is his evidence.
If the insurance companies are losing money on auto, as he says they are, and if he is going to prohibit them from increasing rates to break even, say, then how does he justify a circumstance where the insurance companies will be permitted to increase rates on theft, fire insurance, home owners' insurance and general liability insurance to make up what they allege they are losing on auto? What is he going to do about the increasing rates that result on that side?
Hon. Mr. Kwinter: All those issues will be addressed by the committee, which will then come up with its determination.
Mr. Grossman: Do I understand from the minister that this rate review committee, which is reviewing auto insurance rates, is now going to determine what insurance companies should do for home owner insurance, fire insurance or theft insurance? That is the answer the minister just gave me. He said the committee will deal with that problem. This afternoon, two weeks after the announcement was made, with no bill introduced into this House -- it was so urgent, but two weeks later there has been no bill introduced into this House -- is the minister now making another announcement that his new board is going to deal with insurance rates and premiums for home owners, fire insurance and theft?
Hon. Mr. Kwinter: The independent review board will deal with insurance rates. This is something that has been advocated by the member's party. The member for Welland-Thorold (Mr. Swart) introduced a private member's bill. He has been calling for implementation of section 371 of the Insurance Act. We are doing all that. That committee will function in its proper role.
Mr. Speaker: Order.
Mr. Rae: I am sure the Premier will be aware -- at least I hope he will have been informed by now and is aware -- that four charges of criminal negligence causing death have been laid against an individual worker who was apparently involved or working at Inco at the time of the most recent tragic accident.
My question to the Premier is this. Can he tell us why these charges were laid when the government is surely aware of the fact that the laying of those very serious charges against one worker effectively precludes any other form of independent inquiry or inquest into those same events? Would the Premier not agree that is extremely unusual and indeed quite contrary to normal practice with respect to most situations where inquests are held and if there are any charges that flow from those inquests, they are then laid?
Hon. Mr. Peterson: I just got a note with respect to that. I apologize to my honourable friend, but I am not familiar with all the details. The point he raises may be quite valid. I am sorry I cannot tell him any more than that, but the Attorney General (Mr. Scott) or the Minister of Labour (Mr. Wrye) may be able to add a little more to this. I know the member is genuinely interested in an answer on this question. If he will give me the liberty, I can refer it to either of those gentlemen and they can tell him everything they know at the present time. If I could have the indulgence to so do, perhaps the Minister of Labour could help and then the Attorney General as well.
Mr. Speaker: Does the House wish that question to be referred to the Minister of Labour, because an answer was given?
Hon. Mr. Wrye: I am not sure I will be able to be too much more forthcoming. I understand that at noon hour today four charges were laid. As the leader of the third party has pointed out, informations were laid by the police, who have been conducting an investigation into the Levack tragedy since just after the tragedy occurred. There have been a number of concurrent investigations, including an investigation which was ongoing by officials of the mining branch of the Ministry of Labour. However, the police, as is their discretionary right, have been conducting their independent investigation and the charges were laid around noon hour today, as the honourable member points out. Beyond that, since these charges have been laid, I think any further comment would probably be inappropriate.
Mr. Rae: I will have to go back to the Minister of Labour, since he has responded to the question. Does the minister not appreciate the impact of this kind of decision by the police? I gather from what he is saying it was a decision by the police alone, I presume after discussions with the crown attorneys and the local crown law officers in Sudbury; I do not know whether there were any discussions with people in Toronto.
Does the minister not appreciate, in the light of his responsibilities for occupational health and safety, the impact that this kind of charge against an individual worker has, not only on that worker and his family but also on all those others involved who want some other answers, which answers cannot now be found precisely because a criminal charge has been laid prior to any other form of inquiry or investigation being completed?
Can the minister explain how that has been allowed to happen, in the light of the fact that the Premier himself stated there would be a full inquiry and in the light of the fact that the minister himself told my colleague the member for Sudbury East (Mr. Martel) that is precisely what would happen? That is now made impossible by the decision to lay the criminal charge against that one individual worker.
Hon. Mr. Wrye: I readily acknowledge a number of the points the leader of the third party has made, including the fact that the inquest which had been scheduled to be held -- indeed, a coroner was in place -- will now not be held. I acknowledge that.
I can only say, and I am sure my honourable friend would agree, that the police have conducted an independent investigation on their own. I am not aware and have not had a chance to check, nor have my colleagues, to see whether there was any discussion with the crown law office or anyone else. I am simply advised that charges were laid today. I understand the point the honourable member makes, but I think the independence of the police to conduct this kind of an investigation is important.
Mr. Rae: It is not simply a question of the independence of the police. It is a question of what happens to working people when there is an accident and it is a question of what happens with respect to a full inquiry into all the circumstances surrounding that accident; that is what is at stake here.
I ask again, how is it possible, in an industrial accident of this importance and of this significance in terms of the Sudbury community and in terms of the mining industry, that a criminal charge was laid against an individual worker before any kind of inquest was held or before any kind of general analysis was made with respect to what took place and what did not take place? Can the minister explain that?
Can he confirm in this House that the effect of the criminal charge is that the activities of the company -- the responsibilities, generally speaking, within the mining industry and practices throughout the industry -- will now not be the subject of an investigation or of an inquiry and that those are effectively precluded by the laying of a very serious criminal charge against one individual worker?
Hon. Mr. Wrye: I think the honourable gentleman would acknowledge and agree with me that at this stage -- and he himself has acknowledged that very serious charges have been laid --the right of the individual involved to a fair trial and to the presumption of innocence and all of the safeguards that we have is paramount, and that anything further I can say would not be useful and might indeed jeopardize that individual's rights.
Mr. Martel: I want to ask a question of the Minister of Labour. The minister will recall that he, the Premier and my colleagues the member for Sudbury (Mr. Gordon) and the member for Nickel Belt (Mr. Laughren) were there, and we immediately heard how the worker might have been in a place that was improper. I turned to the minister and the Premier and I said, "Would you make sure that we know what the practices are" -- not the policy -- "not only in this mine but also in the rest of Inco's mines and provincewide, concerning workers working above men who are down below?" Here we have a charge that will now prevent that from coming to light.
I hate to say it, but I think there is a snow job here and the miner is getting shafted. I ask that something be done to produce any study that the minister has ordered, and I know he ordered one. I ask whether he is prepared to share with the House the results of that study now, because I want to know what Inco's practices are under those conditions.
Hon. Mr. Wrye: I do not have the answer with me, but the honourable gentleman is correct. Indeed, in our discussions and my discussions with the three local members and the Premier on the day of the tragedy, we made a commitment to investigate the procedures immediately, not only at other Inco operations but indeed at all operations involving mines where there were loading pockets, whence came the rock in this particular tragedy. We have had inspectors out. I do not have a full and final report, but I can assure the honourable member that I will immediately compile all the data and I can share them with the House as early as tomorrow.
Mr. Laughren: The minister may recall that last August an Inco miner, Dick Kerr, was killed after he was sent into a very dangerous work place. No charges were laid at that time or have been yet. In my 15-plus years here, I have never been so disgusted with the system of so-called justice in this province. Would the Minister of Labour encourage our call for a dropping of the criminal charges against this Inco worker?
Hon. Mr. Wrye: I have indicated before that the police have conducted an independent investigation. I think at this time any activity by this government would not be useful and, indeed, in our criminal justice system I do not believe would be appropriate.
Mr. Martel: My colleague raised the question of Dick Kerr's death. I raise the question of Robin Comba, killed at Falconbridge when he was not provided with the proper mask. When he inhaled all the material, his lungs cooked. No charges have been laid yet.
Mr. Perron in Elliot Lake, who reported an accident, who reported that the gate was broken on four occasions, was ultimately killed. There were no repairs. Criminal charges were laid against the worker in that instance, because this ministry failed to investigate or to lay charges within the appropriate time.
What is going on when we have 200 cases in this province of people killed last year and the charges are against the workers? What the hell is going on?
Mr. Martel: Is there something wrong? Do not give me that sanctimony about the justice system. These are ordinary people getting killed. The Attorney General could not care less.
Mr. Speaker: Order, order.
Hon. Mr. Wrye: I will attempt to ignore some of the comments about anyone on this side or, indeed, anyone in this Legislature not caring less.
If I can explain to the Legislature, the ministry has in place for fatalities a very thorough procedure by which not only are these matters investigated and recommendations made at the local level, but also in the case of fatalities and critical injuries, all recommendations, whether they are to prosecute or not to prosecute, are sent to the senior officials of the ministry, to the senior officials of the legal branch and, indeed, go as high as the deputy minister and the senior officials in the occupational health and safety division.
I can assure the House and I can assure the workers of Ontario, in spite of what is suggested over there, that these matters are taken with the utmost seriousness and that in all cases where charges ought to be laid, charges are laid.
Mr. Gillies: I have a question for the Minister of Energy regarding the Countdown Acid Rain program. The minister will know that under regulations put in place by his government, Ontario Hydro facilities are allowed to exceed emission levels through the now-infamous banking provision.
In view of the wide public concern about this provision and in view of the fact that it is almost certainly weakening Canada's case before the United States in terms of reducing hydrocarbon emissions, will the minister, as minister responsible for reporting to this House on behalf of Ontario Hydro, admit that the inclusion of this provision was a mistake and will he recommend to cabinet that the regulation be struck down?
Hon. Mr. Kerrio: Of course, I am very much concerned about other jurisdictions and how they relate to our initiatives in Ontario regarding gas emissions. We have a record here that is very good. The banking part of the control of Ontario Hydro was one that was put in place to respond to breakdowns or situations beyond anyone's control.
The fact that Ontario Hydro has cut emissions much more than any jurisdiction in the United States is an indication that we are taking that role very seriously. The fact that the banking provision is grossly misunderstood is causing it to be dealt with right now by the Minister of the Environment (Mr. Bradley) and myself. I cannot share too much about what is going on as it relates to our negotiations but, again, I think everyone in Ontario is going to be very pleased, particularly the people on the other benches, when we make a decision in the immediate future.
Mr. Gillies: I would take the minister somewhat more seriously if Hydro had moved at all on the questions of high-sulphur coal, substitution of low-sulphur fuels, scrubbers and improved coal washing. In view of the fact that all his colleague the Minister of the Environment can do is set acceptable levels and regulations, which are of very little use if the emissions are not being cut down at source -- and that is Hydro's responsibility -- what we want to know from the minister is, will he go to cabinet and tell cabinet that the banking provision was a mistake, that we have to get it out of there so that Hydro will meet the very standards which we believe the government wants it to meet through the emission standards?
Hon. Mr. Kerrio: As I said before, I certainly am not in a position to be an apologist for Ontario Hydro because the records speak for themselves.
They have done more in Ontario to reduce emissions than anyone else on this continent; and we are going to do a great deal more.
To bring that other situation into focus, to even talk about bringing coal from Western Canada, the fact is that is grossly misunderstood. We are burning three million tonnes of western coal right mow. We are treating the producing provinces in western Canada like a true part of Canada. We have negotiations and a rapport now that the previous government never had for four years. The Premier (Mr. Peterson) has made an agreement with the minister in Alberta. We are talking about doing mutual research on how we can burn more low-sulphur coal. Indeed, we have the whole situation well in hand, and members are going to be very pleased at the results.
Mr. Rae: In the light of the answers I have received from the Premier (Mr. Peterson) and the Minister of Labour (Mr. Wrye), I would like to address a question to the Attorney General. The Attorney General will know that he has a general power under the Criminal Code to stay proceedings. This is a general power that is given to the Attorney General, and his discretion can be exercised for a number of reasons.
I am not asking him to make a definitive statement today, but I am asking him if he would look at the entire file, at the entire nature of the industrial justice system, and consider looking at all the circumstances in this particular case -- in the light of the overwhelming need, which I hope he would recognize, for some kind of inquiry or inquest to be held that can look at the general circumstances rather than simply one individual charge -- and consider staying the proceedings with respect to the charges of criminal negligence against Mr. Kuhle.
Hon. Mr. Scott: The honourable member is right; I have that power in this office. I would be prepared to do what the member suggests. I think it is the appropriate thing. I have one reservation at the moment: the note I have is that the investigation is not complete and that other charges may be laid.
What I would prefer to do, although I will be guided by the member's concern, is to consider that request when it is apparent that all charges have been laid or when the police investigation is completed. I anticipate that will be very shortly, and I will be glad to consider doing what the member has suggested.
Mr. Rae: I hope that is the course the Attorney General follows. I hope the Attorney General will understand that none of us on this side of the House wants to politicize the decisions that are made with respect to the administration of justice, but at some point some discretion has to be exercised to see that some broader interests are satisfied with respect to a complete investigation.
Since the Attorney General has told us that the police have said the investigation is still continuing -- our information is that in fact may not be the case; this charge may be the only charge that the police intend laying -- can he at least indicate to the House today that he will be making a statement as soon as possible, indicating when he thinks that investigation will be completed?
Hon. Mr. Scott: I should tell the honourable member that my note that the investigation is not complete is fragmentary and the honourable member may be right. I will look into that first. If the investigation is not completed and other charges are to be laid, I would like to defer consideration of the matter until such time as all charges have been laid.
If we are now at the stage where all charges have been laid that are proposed to be laid by the police out of this investigation, I am quite conscious of the member's concern and the concern his colleagues in the House have expressed. I will be delighted to examine the file carefully in the way he suggested to see what the appropriate course will be in the interest of the community and report to the House as quickly as possible on that matter.
ONTARIO ENERGY BOARD
Mr. Harris: I have a question to the Minister of Energy concerning Bill 142, the Ontario Energy Board Amendment Act. The minister has deep-sixed this bill for close to a year now, ever since our party indicated it would move an amendment to give the Ontario Energy Board the power to regulate Ontario Hydro's rates. Will the Minister of Energy not agree that "it is clear we must expand the mandate of the Ontario Energy Board to give the OEB the power to regulate Hydro rates"?
Hon. Mr. Kerrio: The reason the bill was set aside was just as the member has described it. The bill was brought forward for an entirely different purpose. The bill was brought forward to put a fence around the gas distribution people so they could not speculate with people's money in the distribution of gas and so there would be a picket fence built around it so we could control that particular aspect of distributing natural gas brought in from western Canada.
Deregulation has been undertaken by the federal government and the producing provinces and this province responded to that immediately, more quickly than any other province, for distribution and all those other things. The purpose for which we put the bill was to address that problem, and if it was going to be used for something else I was prepared to hold it until such time as I could examine the other aspect the member was proposing.
Mr. Harris: It is very clear, then, that for some reason or other the minister does not agree and that is the reason he has been holding this bill for close to a year now. Does he agree the quote I gave him is his, September 1984?
I will give him another quote and ask him to comment, the member for London Centre (Mr. Peterson), September 1984: "The Ontario Energy Board has not been given the appropriate powers it requires." David Peterson, after the election of 1985, said he wanted "an approval system for setting Hydro rates because the recommendations are not binding and Hydro has ignored them in the past."
At a time when he is prepared to regulate the private sector totally in rents, doctors, pharmacists and insurance companies, why has he flip-flopped on this? Why do they refuse to regulate themselves; an obvious government monopoly, Ontario Hydro?
Hon. Mr. Kerrio: There are other situations that are very important in this whole issue. I am sure the member is not aware of them and I should explain them at this time. There now is a question, and I think it is a very valid question, of whether, if the Ontario Energy Board participates in setting the rates for Ontario Hydro, Ontario Hydro's rates could be countervailable and we would have a very difficult situation in relation to the international market. It opens up implications we were not aware of before. As a good government we are going to make absolutely certain we protect the integrity of the system for the users in all of Ontario. It is a very important energy source. That is exactly the reason, and if they do not understand it, I will take a little time at their convenience to explain it to all of them.
Mr. Martel: I have a question for the Minister of Labour. Can the minister indicate to the House precisely what investigations his staff conducted on the matter of the Inco accidents? What number of them have been completed to this time? Is he prepared to table the results of any of the investigations at this time? Finally, can the minister tell me why it is that when something occurred at 12 o'clock, with the number of staff he has in Sudbury, no one had even advised him as minister that the charges had been laid some three hours after it happened?
Hon. Mr. Wrye: To answer the last question first: my staff, who came up here for briefing shortly after I ran into the honourable gentleman at the reception, had been advised shortly thereafter and were in a position to advise me well before question period. All details were not available. As the honourable gentleman notices, all of us are working to some degree on fragmentary information.
I can say to the honourable member that two investigators from the mining health and safety branch have conducted a thorough investigation and indeed, until today, the investigation into the accident at Levack had been continuing and had not been completed.
I can check in terms of the concerns I would have about reporting anything that might be prejudicial if charges are not stayed and see whether there is material we can share with him. If we can, we will. I give him that commitment.
I have as deep a concern about the tragedy at Levack as does the honourable gentleman. It is the kind of thing all of us hope will not happen any longer in Ontario. We thought we were beyond that in terms of bringing about safety in the mines of Ontario. Clearly, that is why we have had such a thorough investigation.
Mr. Laughren: Does the Minister of Labour not find it strange that it took only a couple of weeks for the police to lay charges against the worker in this case and that it takes months and months to lay charges whenever it happens against an employer? Why is the Minister of Labour, who is responsible for health and safety on the job, not standing in his place -- instead of having the opposition, the Attorney General (Mr. Scott) and the Premier (Mr. Peterson) do it -- calling for a stay of proceedings in this matter?
Hon. Mr. Wrye: Very clearly, the Attorney General, who has some carriage in this matter given the nature of the charge, has made a commitment on his behalf and that of the government. I share the honourable gentleman's concern about the length of time it takes to lay charges. In the last year, we have tripled the size of the legal services branch. Certainly it is my view that where charges are laid -- and as the honourable member knows, over 750 were laid in the last year, double the previous year -- they ought to be laid in a much more timely fashion than they have been in the past.
MARKET VALUE ASSESSMENT
Mr. McFadden: I have a question of the Minister of Revenue. I wonder whether the Minister of Revenue would indicate to the House how many employees of his ministry were brought into Metropolitan Toronto especially to carry out the market value assessment study of property taxes in the city, which we understand has recently been completed by his ministry.
Hon. Mr. Nixon: I can get the specific numbers for the honourable member. There were some employees -- and I have no idea what the number is -- brought in from outside jurisdictions. They completed the impact study well in advance of their timetable. They have gone back to their ordinary duties. The statistics and the compilation have taken place and will be ready to hand to the Metro council soon.
Mr. McFadden: In order for this particular project to be carried out, I know the province had to cover the accommodation and other costs associated with bringing the officials into Toronto from other parts of the province. I understand space had to be rented in order to complete the study, and other costs were incurred. Would the minister be able to provide information to the House as to how much this particular study of market value assessment cost the taxpayers of Ontario?
Hon. Mr. Nixon: I suggest the honourable member could put the question on Orders and Notices since it requires a statistical answer. I believe assessors were brought into Mississauga; I believe they were brought into Sudbury. They were brought into a number of fairly large jurisdictions where the regular assessment staff was not large enough to give a rapid enough impact study for the benefit of the local municipalities.
Mr. Wildman: I have a question of the Minister of Natural Resources. On Monday, when I asked the minister about the 51 new provincial parks the Premier (Mr. Peterson) had promised during the last election would be designated, the 51 parks we are still waiting for, the minister said that creating new parks "is not as easy as he" -- meaning me -- "chooses to make it." In view of that, if creating more parks is more difficult than I choose to make it, can the minister explain why, with regard to Holiday Beach Provincial Park on Lake Erie, getting rid of provincial parks is as easy as the minister has chosen to make it?
Hon. Mr. Kerrio: I do not know the details of that particular park. Of course, I will not attempt to answer the question until I get the information, which I am prepared to do.
Mr. Wildman: When the minister is trying to find out about this situation, can he find out how it was that this park was removed from the provincial park system without any public announcement, without a press release, without even notifying the Ministry of the Environment as is required by the exemption of the provincial parks under the Environmental Assessment Act; and apparently without even the minister knowing about it?
Hon. Mr. Kerrio: I do not see anything humorous about the fact that the member of the area knows a good deal more about that park than I do. What is wrong with that? I am prepared to accept that at any time.
Mr. Speaker: Order.
Hon. Mr. Kerrio: The fact of the matter, if I could have the attention of the honourable members over there, is that as long as we are talking about parks and a dedication to bringing parks into the system, the members are looking at the minister who agreed with the federal government to set aside one of the finest and largest tracts of land in the Bruce Peninsula for a new national park, one of the first in this province in many years.
Mr. Dean: I have a question for the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations. I am sure the minister is aware that for some time now, the regional municipalities of Ontario have been seeking revisions to the Registry Act and to the Land Titles Act that would provide for the preservation of municipal underground easements that have either not been registered on title or are not able to be located but have been in continuous use. Will the minister give us his assurance that he will bring forward the necessary amendments this spring?
Hon. Mr. Kwinter: Unfortunately, I do not have control of the legislative agenda. The issue the honourable member raises is one we are working on, and we will bring it forward as soon as we can, subject to the House leaders' decisions as to when that legislation can come forward.
Mr. Dean: I wish to remind the minister, although I presume he knows, that he has been aware of this situation for almost a year now. So far, he does not seem to have taken any action. In fact, he wrote a letter last summer to one of the interested municipalities, saying the proposed amendments are "a fair solution to this longstanding problem" and that he hoped to bring forward the requested amendments in last fall's session. The minister having failed to deliver in the fall, I would like to have something more than just a pious hope that they will take action this spring.
Hon. Mr. Kwinter: I repeat to the member that I have every desire to bring it forward. The member will know that this particular ministry has a lot of legislation on Orders and Notices, and it really is a matter of getting legislative time to do it. We will bring it forward as soon as we can.
OVERCROWDING IN SCHOOLS
Mr. McClellan: I have a question for the Minister of Education. He will recall that on April 15 more than 300 parents from Bishop Francis Marrocco Catholic Secondary School demonstrated in front of the Legislature in a candlelight vigil making, I think, the very unusual request to have a school building for the 400 students who will be enrolled in that school this September. We are now in May. There are not even portables. They are crowded into the second floor of an elementary school. This is our west end Toronto high school.
I want to ask the minister, since it is now May, four months away from the day after Labour Day, if he can give us an update on this situation -- I know the minister is deeply involved -- and if can he tell us what action he can take to make sure a high school is available for the day after Labour Day 1987.
Hon. Mr. Conway: I want to thank the honourable member for his question. I am aware of the situation, and I very much share the member's concern about the situation at Bishop Francis Marrocco Secondary School. I can tell the member it is one of those situations in this city that concerns me as Minister of Education.
We have said repeatedly that we are very anxious to encourage the construction of new school space where it is necessary to accomplish a successful extension of the separate school system through to the end of the secondary panel, but we also want to see the very best possible use made of available space within the current school jurisdictions.
The member should know that the two school boards in question have been meeting through the joint committee process to see what they might arrive at. He should know as well that the Planning and Implementation Commission has been involved, and quite frankly, I am expecting a report from that commission very shortly, which recommendations I am quite anxious to receive and share with my honourable friend the member for Bellwoods.
Mr. McClellan: I am sure every member in the House agrees with me that the passage of Bill 30 by all three parties signalled a new day in which the Catholic community was no longer second-class in terms of the provision of school facilities and educational opportunities in this province. I think everybody agrees that was the significance of the bill we all unanimously supported.
I want to ask the minister if he can quite simply guarantee to the House and to the residents of west Toronto his own assurance that a solution will be found, either through the mediation process or through the negotiation process or out of the $220 million allocated in the budget for capital expenditures this year, for the day after Labour Day 1987.
Hon. Mr. Conway: I will give the member the guarantee that I will do all within my power to ensure that those students at Bishop Marrocco are provided for in September 1987. I can say as well that I will obviously need the co-operation of the local Toronto school community to accomplish that. I am confident that duly elected trustees here in Toronto are going to recognize the situation to which the member has made reference, and I am very hopeful that, working together as a ministry and as a Toronto school community, we are going to be able to address in a satisfactory way the very serious and legitimate concern that once again my friend the member for Bellwoods has brought to my attention.
FACILITY FOR YOUNG OFFENDERS
Mr. Hennessy: My question is to the Minister of Correctional Services. It is regarding the Kairos centre being used for young offenders. While the government is quick to talk about its open-door policy, its regional manager seems to be insensitive to the concerns of the citizens in the area. Will the minister admit to the people of Thunder Bay that young offenders have been housed at the facility while our community was negotiating with his ministry on whether or not young offenders would be housed at the Kairos centre?
Hon. Mr. Keyes: I appreciate the question from the member for Fort William. The Kairos facility in Thunder Bay is one that has had contracts with our ministry for 11 years now and was acting as an adult community resource centre. At the time it served as an adult centre, prior to the Young Offenders Act, it contained a number of people who were 16 and 17 years of age.
At the request of Kairos, it is being changed over. I signed a paper authorizing it last December, and at the end of April it was ceasing to function as an adult centre. Unfortunately, there has been some concern raised by the people. I am quite happy to review the matter very thoroughly with my ministry as well as with the regional officials to see if any of the problems connected with Kairos and the neighbourhood can be amicably resolved.
Mr. Hennessy: Will the minister play fair ball with the residents around the Kairos facility and consider leaving the centre as an adult centre and placing young offenders in a different location?
Hon. Mr. Keyes: We will certainly take that under consideration as we review the situation with them, because we do want the parents of the area and the neighbours to be good neighbours, as we have had great success across the province, in Toronto and other areas, in establishing such facilities. The goodwill of the public is most essential if these young offenders are to be returned to society in somewhat of a rehabilitated sense. I will gladly take it under advisement.
Mr. Swart: I have a question for the Minister of Financial Institutions. He will recall that on March 7 I challenged him to a public debate with me on Ontario's private auto insurance system versus the driver-owned public system in Manitoba. After telling the Toronto Sun he would be glad to accept my challenge and debate it with me, he subsequently refused that debate.
Given that he is going to be in Welland on May 26 and given that the Liberal association there wants to make it an insurance event, I reissue my challenge to debate the issue publicly with me there on a one-to-one basis. Will he accept?
Hon. Mr. Kwinter: When the member for Welland-Thorold issued the challenge, I said I would do it. I did not subsequently back down; but what I felt was that if we are going to have a debate, let us have all the players debating. Let us have a representative of the Conservative Party so we know where it stands. Let us have a representative of the insurance industry. Let us have some consumer representation. Let us have some representation from the bar association. Let us have a full debate.
Mr. Speaker: Order. Perhaps we could have one member speaking at a time.
Mr. Swart: It is not the insurance companies, the Progressive Conservatives, the consumers' association or the law society, but the minister and his government alone who are responsible for the insurance system in this province. He has the power to change it any way he wants at any time he wants. Given that I and my party are promoting the Manitoba public insurance system, what is preventing him from accepting the one-on-one debate between him and I on the two systems, except the weakness of his case and his cowardice in defending the Ontario system?
Hon. Mr. Kwinter: We have a situation where we have two elected representatives in this House. That member can debate with me every single day in this House. He has an opportunity, as he has now, one hour every day from now until the end of this session. Any time he wants to debate with me, this is the forum and let us do it.
Mr. Speaker: Order. There are other members who would like to ask questions.
Mr. Gordon: I would like to ask the Minister of Labour a question about what has transpired today in Sudbury. The Minister of Labour, along with the Premier (Mr. Peterson), was at the mine site on the day that accident took place. I am sure the minister remembers, as I and my colleagues from Sudbury do, the nature of the conversation that took place in that room, that a full investigation would be undertaken by his ministry and that he would look to an inquest, of course, for the results that would take place. Is he prepared today to tell this House that he thinks a police investigation and the laying of charges as such should take precedence over the regulations and the law by which his ministry works for workers in this province?
Hon. Mr. Wrye: I will refer that to the Attorney General.
Hon. Mr. Scott: The question of whether a criminal charge should take precedence over another investigation is essentially the question that the honourable leader of the third party asked me to consider in respect of a determination that a stay should be issued. I undertook to him to do so and I will do so.
Mr. Gordon: I think the Minister of Labour is dodging his primary responsibility, which is to stand up for the workers of this province. I do not see how the workers of this province could feel comfortable knowing that the Minister of Labour is not prepared to say that in industrial accidents those workers should be protected by full inquests in every respect. Is the minister prepared to do that?
Hon. Mr. Scott: I have answered the question. It is only appropriate to observe that the question the member has asked was the question about whether the criminal process should be deferred to another investigation. That is a legal question. It is not a question for any other minister; it is a question for the Attorney General alone, not for his cabinet colleagues.
I conclude the member was not present when the leader of the third party asked precisely that question. He asked if the Attorney General would consider exercising his stay powers. I responded as fully as I could at the present time by saying I would get the complete dossier and review it in order to determine whether that was the appropriate course and report to the House as soon as I could.
Mr. Martel: Could I ask the Attorney General a question about criminal charges? Can he tell me whether there is any instance of criminal charges of this nature involving industrial accidents being laid against employers? To his knowledge, have any been laid in the province?
Hon. Mr. Scott: I honestly do not know the answer to that question, although I will attempt to find out if the member wants that information. I think I can say that as a matter of practice, the view traditionally has been -- and this view has been fortified fairly recently by a decision in the Supreme Court of Canada -- that in a case where the evidence for a criminal charge is available, fairness dictates that the charge should be laid first and then proceed.
The member will perhaps be familiar with a murder charge recently completed in Ottawa which arose out of the murder of a young woman who was on the staff of a John Howard Society home. He will recall that in that case the criminal charge, which led to a conviction by the way, preceded the inquiry, the coroner's inquest, which is only now taking place. That would not always be the case but that is a relatively routine proceeding, the theory being that the coroner's inquest, because of the publicity that attaches to it, may do some unfairness to the course of the criminal trial.
I do not believe there is any inflexible rule about what is appropriate. I am very sensitive to the observations the leader of the third party made about the proprieties. We all want, both in the criminal system and in the mining safety system, that not only should the just result be achieved but also it should appear to be an appropriate and plausible way of dealing with the matters. It is with that in mind that I think I owe an obligation to the House to look seriously at the question that was raised here and respond to it at the earliest possible time.
PRIVATE MEMBERS' PUBLIC BUSINESS
Mr. Harris: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker: It concerns an item in the order of business. I bring it up at this time and ask that you may reflect on it. There has been some indication that at private members' time tomorrow the Liberal caucus will not allow the resolution of the member for Burlington South (Mr. Jackson) to go ahead and be debated if he is not here to move the resolution. We have been trying to get some interpretation on this. There is some opinion that it requires unanimous consent and, therefore, one of the members of the Liberal caucus could block the proceeding of this resolution tomorrow.
On the other hand, I have taken a thorough look at it, as has my colleague from the New Democratic Party, who would very much like to debate this as well. We can find nothing in the standing orders that would require unanimous consent for somebody other than the member for Burlington South to move his resolution. In view of the fact that this is coming up tomorrow, I wonder whether the Speaker could look into that and report back to us.
Hon. Mr. Nixon: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker: The Liberal caucus has no objection to the resolution in the name of the member for Burlington South proceeding, in his absence or in his presence.
Mr. McClellan: It would be useful to have the matter clarified by you, Mr. Speaker. There seems to be some difference of opinion as to whether a private member's bill or motion requires the presence of the sponsor of the bill in whose name the bill is listed in Orders and Notices. From a reading of standing order 71, it does not appear that is a correct interpretation.
There does not seem to be a requirement in the standing order that the sponsor of the bill in whose name the bill is listed in the ballot item and in Orders and Notices actually be present, and there is nothing to prevent another member from moving somebody else's private ballot item, in the absence of the sponsor. Since there has been some controversy about this, I think it would be appreciated by the opposition parties if the Speaker would study the matter, take advice and advise the House.
Mr. Speaker: I have listened very carefully to the three members who have spoken. If I might, I would like to inform the House that I did look into this matter approximately a year ago. I believe there was a private member's bill that came up and a member could not be here, and another member wanted to move that second reading.
On other occasions, some members have participated on behalf of other members' motions or bills, and it was done at that time by motion of the government House leader. So there are two precedents in this House. One is on motion of the government House leader; the other is by unanimous consent. I hope you understand that.
Mr. McClellan: Sure, but if one Liberal wants to block it, he can do it. That is exactly what you are saying, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Speaker: No, I am not saying that, and I am not here to argue. I am just here to say that the precedents of this House, as I have checked them in the past -- and I would be glad to look at them further -- I have learned that the precedent here is by unanimous consent or by motion of the government House leader.
Hon. Mr. Nixon: In this specific case, may I just indicate that we have no objection to the resolution proceeding in the absence of the honourable member. He spoke to me about that earlier, and I might have misunderstood his intention, but we are prepared to debate that resolution. I think it would be preferable if we could undertake that business, and we are not prepared to block it.
Mr. Runciman: I have a petition signed by approximately 500 residents of my riding expressing concern regarding the conditions of Highway 2 between Gananoque and Long Beach and calling on the government to carry out repairs as expeditiously as possible.
Mr. Warner: I have a petition which 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:
"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."
This is signed by 133 persons, bringing the total to 1,203. I ask that the members stay tuned for more.
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS
WINE CONTENT AMENDMENT ACT
Hon. Mr. Kwinter moved first reading of Bill 25, An Act to amend the Wine Content Act.
Motion agreed to.
Hon. Mr. Kwinter: I am pleased to introduce for first reading the Wine Content Amendment Act, 1987. The purpose of this act is to extend for a period of one year existing legislation which allows the limited use of non-Ontario grapes and wines in Ontario wine production. I am asking the members' support for this initiative, which has the full backing of both the Ontario Grape Growers' Marketing Board and the Wine Council of Ontario.
RESIDENTIAL RENT REGULATION AMENDMENT ACT
Ms. Bryden moved first reading of Bill 26, An Act to amend the Residential Rent Regulation Act, 1986.
Motion agreed to.
Ms. Bryden: The purpose of this bill is to amend the exemption provision in the Residential Rent Regulation Act, 1986, which discriminates against tenants in the 1,000-unit Main Square apartment building in my riding because they are not under provincial rent review. It is the same as the bill I introduced during the last session.
PUBLIC VEHICLES AMENDMENT ACT
Mr. Mackenzie moved first reading of Bill 27, An Act to amend the Public Vehicles Act.
Motion agreed to.
Mr. Mackenzie: This bill would prohibit passengers from occupying the part of a bus or streetcar to the immediate right of the driver's seat after the driver has asked them to clear that area. It is a health and safety matter of some concern.
LABOUR RELATIONS AMENDMENT ACT
Mr. Mackenzie moved first reading of Bill 28, An Act to amend the Labour Relations Act.
Motion agreed to.
Mr. Mackenzie: The purpose of the bill is to clarify that the Labour Relations Act applies to employees who are engaged in agricultural employment in an industrial or factory setting. Section 2 of the act currently states that the act does not apply to a person employed in agriculture. This provision has been interpreted broadly by the Ontario Labour Relations Board to exclude from the act persons whose employment relates to agriculture but who are employed by organizations that resemble industrial plants.
EMPLOYMENT STANDARDS AMENDMENT ACT
Mr. Mackenzie moved first reading of Bill 29, An Act to amend the Employment Standards Act.
Motion agreed to.
Mr. Mackenzie: The proposed new section 29 increases the vacation period to which an employee is entitled under the act. Currently, the act provides for each employee a two-week vacation period that does not vary with the amount of employment service. Under this bill, the vacation periods would increase to three, four and five weeks, depending on the years of service.
LABOUR RELATIONS AMENDMENT ACT
Mr. Mackenzie moved first reading of Bill 30, An Act to amend the Labour Relations Act.
Motion agreed to.
Mr. Mackenzie: The purpose of the bill is to repeal a provision of the act that prohibits the inclusion of security guards in a bargaining unit. The repeal of this provision would permit security guards to join or to establish an association or union for collective bargaining purposes.
LABOUR RELATIONS AMENDMENT ACT
Mr. Mackenzie moved first reading of Bill 31, An Act to amend the Labour Relations Act.
Motion agreed to.
Mr. Mackenzie: The purpose of the bill is to prevent the hiring of strikebreakers and to control access to a work premise that is affected by a strike or lockout. The bill prohibits an employer from hiring or using the service of a person to do the work of an employee who is on strike or locked out unless that person is specifically authorized to do so. Similarly, when a picket line is established at a place of access to a work premise, access is limited to persons authorized specifically by the bill. The bill repeals a provision of the act dealing with professional strikebreakers and strike-related misconduct.
EMPLOYMENT STANDARDS AMENDMENT ACT
Mr. Mackenzie moved first reading of Bill 32, An Act to amend the Employment Standards Act.
Motion agreed to.
Mr. Mackenzie: The purpose of the bill is to require an employer to provide a leave of absence to any employee who has been elected to provincial or municipal office so that the employee may be able to carry out the duties of an elected official.
EMPLOYMENT STANDARDS AMENDMENT ACT
Mr. Mackenzie moved first reading of Bill 33, An Act to amend the Employment Standards Act.
Motion agreed to.
Mr. Mackenzie: The purpose of the bill is to reduce the standard work week from 48 hours to 40 hours and to require employers to pay overtime for work done in excess of 40 hours per week in Ontario.
PUBLIC SERVANTS' POLITICAL RIGHTS ACT
Mr. Mackenzie moved first reading of Bill 35, An Act to provide Political Rights for Civil Servants.
Motion agreed to.
Mr. Mackenzie: The bill is designed to give public servants the same political rights all other citizens in Ontario enjoy. It covers civil servants, crown employees, employees at community colleges, people working for agencies such as Ontario Hydro, the Workers' Compensation Board and the Ontario Northland Transportation Commission, but excludes deputy ministers, officers of similar status in crown agencies and other senior policy-making officials. It goes on to outline their right to speak, contribute to and work for a political party of their choice.
EMPLOYMENT STANDARDS AMENDMENT ACT
Mr. Mackenzie moved first reading of Bill 36, An Act to amend the Employment Standards Act.
Motion agreed to.
Mr. Mackenzie: This bill adds three holidays to the definition of public holiday in Ontario. They are Easter Monday, the first Monday in August and Boxing Day, and bring us from just about last place in Canada to somewhere well up the list in terms of statutory holidays.
DISABLED PERSONS EMPLOYMENT ACT
Mr. Mackenzie moved first reading of Bill 37, An Act to provide for the Employment of Disabled Persons.
Motion agreed to.
Mr. Mackenzie: The purpose of the bill is to provide employment opportunities for disabled persons. The bill requires that employers hire disabled persons to constitute at least three per cent of the employer's work force. The bill permits the minister to vary this percentage requirement in cases where the minister considers another quota to be more suitable. In addition, the minister may exempt an employer or class of employers from the operation of the statute. The bill establishes a register of employable disabled persons to be maintained by the ministry for the purpose of facilitating efforts by the employers to meet the quota establishment of the bill.
PENSION BENEFITS AMENDMENT ACT
Mr. Mackenzie moved first reading of Bill 38, An Act to amend the Pension Benefits Act.
Motion agreed to.
Mr. Mackenzie: The new section prevents an employer from taking money out of a pension plan or discontinuing payments into the plan where there is a surplus of money in the fund.
We will have some more tomorrow.
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. R. F. Johnston: It is a pleasure to join in the debate of the throne speech. It has been eight years since I was elected.
Mr. Mancini: Too long, too long.
Mr. R. F. Johnston: The people of Scarborough West will decide that, not the member for Essex South (Mr. Mancini). I hope they do not believe it has been too long. I have no doubt that within the foreseeable future they will be given yet another chance to decide whether they like the kind of representation they have had.
It has been an interesting number of years. There have been times in this career so far when it has felt much longer than eight years and there have been times when it feels like it has slipped by with virtually no change. When one looks at this new throne speech, there is a sense of déjà vu, a sense of having been there before and that plus ça change is in effect again in this province.
I have tried in my career not to be restricted only to local concerns, not to be a parochial member of this House, but to use local issues to make larger political statements about problems that affect people across the province. Lately, as the members may know, I have also been involved in international affairs, trying to draw linkages and connections between our roles as legislators here, our roles in our ridings and the way we interconnect throughout the global village. It has often been a frustrating experience and had often been a very gratifying experience.
Members who have been here longer than I and those who have been here since I have been here will remember some of the issues that have come from my riding to this House. They have been matched, often paralleled, by things that have happened in their own ridings. I think of the contracting out of nursing home workers and that whole problem that started in Kennedy Lodge, spread around the province and finally, we hope, has had an end put to it.
Listening to the member for Hamilton East (Mr. Mackenzie) introduce the kind of changes to the Employment Standards Act that we should have seen long before now by the present Minister of Labour (Mr. Wrye), I think of the antistrike-breaking legislation he was speaking about, which in my view should be entitled the Claude Dougdeen act. For those members who were not here, Mr. Dougdeen was killed, run over by a truck that was running through a picket line at Alcan Building Products Ltd. in my riding. He died because of the regressive labour legislation we have in this province.
My riding, an older part of Scarborough, suffered very largely by the recession that took place in recent years with the closing of plants, such as Canadian General Electric and SKF Canada Ltd., and with runaway plants like the battery plant that went off for tax breaks elsewhere in Ontario. Those issues then found themselves on the floor, raised by me and raised by my colleagues as things such as that happened in their ridings.
One that the members may not remember came back to me today in terms of labour legislation. It is the fact that the whole question of the use of lie detector tests for employees started because of a woman in my riding who had to take one to work for a firm called Coinamatic Canada Ltd. This became an issue that, luckily, a year and a half or so afterwards, was actually resolved by the government of that time.
I like to think the kinds of issues I have been able to concentrate on speak to a coherence of policy and philosophy that is very much the hallmark of this party. When I think back to the two years since the accord was signed and since we set the agenda for the government of Ontario with that accord, there was coherence there. There was philosophy that was easily earmarked as giving power to the average working person, showing that a government can respond to their day-to-day concerns and can do it in ways that are very progressive and would open this place in a way that would make it more a people's place and less just a private men's club, as it has been for too long in my view.
I look back at the initiatives around ending extra billing, about equal pay for work of equal value, moving towards universal access to day care and getting away from welfare dependence on that, pension reform, all the component parts of the accord that were written by us, were negotiated by the mastermind the member for Bellwoods (Mr. McClellan), who now is standing to take a bow and whose exalted presence is recognized by all of us in the House. It reflected an attitude that is very much the essence of this party in that it tried to speak to concerns that affect ordinary people in this province in a way that would make them understand that their rights and privileges are as great as those with other power in the society.
It is within that context that I want to attack the speech from the throne today as being the Liberals' attempt at establishing an agenda as they come to the end of our accord period. What a failure it is in terms of any coherence of thought. I think one of the largest failings in that throne speech is the absence of discussion of the rights of workers in the province, the rights of unionized workers in the province -- now that the Minister of Labour is back in here -- a real sense that all of a sudden the kinds of things that we have put on the agenda in terms of first-contract legislation and other pieces of legislation are no longer priorities of this government.
It is somewhat ironic, when it was going to be my focus today, that I walked into the House to learn that a miner has been charged in Sudbury for the deaths that have taken place there. This cannot be seen in an absence of context, which is the history of many, many years when workers have been the ones who have been victimized at both ends of the accident, the person who dies in the accident and the person usually against whom a charge is laid in terms of the government response.
Time and time again the member for Sudbury East (Mr. Martel) has raised the failure to prosecute; the incapacity of the swamp, as he calls the Ministry of Labour, to respond to the needs of those workers and to speak effectively on their behalf. Here we have a celebrated case that can only make you angrily cynical that the Minister of Labour and the Premier (Mr. Peterson), for the first time I have ever known them to do it, rushed off to the scene of an accident after first holding a briefing with the press to say that the Premier was rushing off to the scene of an accident in Sudbury. We would not want that to go unnoticed. There was great fanfare about their concern about it and about their involvement in it.
Today we hear from my colleagues in the Sudbury basin that there were discussions with the minister and the Premier about their concerns that there not just be a charge laid against an individual but also that this be dealt with in the context of how Inco operates and the practices in those mines. What do we hear today? We hear that the natural process of a further investigation, the natural process of an inquest being held, etc., is all interrupted because the police have laid a charge against one man.
There is not a heck of a lot that has changed from the old Tory Ontario to the new Liberal Ontario in that kind of attitude. When they are left to set their own agenda, rather than being under our watchful eye and directed by our priorities and the sense of social coherence in our philosophy, they end up, in the longest throne speech in our history, with an absence of any statement on the rights of workers or on the need to address any of the kinds of things that the member for Hamilton East has just enumerated in the list of 11 bills he introduced this afternoon.
Lately, I have thought about the role of our Premier in all this. On the weekend, I saw a movie that I missed many years ago called The Man Who Would Be King. I do not know whether other members have seen it. It is a wonderful Rudyard Kipling story about these two adventurers from the British army who go off to conquer a nation so that they can become kings and rule it, and their final demise. It strikes me, listening to the recent discussion of the Premier's aspirations to become the first minister of the land -- not satisfied with the mere, humble 10 million people in Ontario, he is somehow fit to lead the country -- that this throne speech puts the lie to the long-term aspirations of the Premier.
The thematic emptiness of this throne speech reflects the Premier's attitude towards politics. The only major theme he has coming out of this long, long statement of fragments of ideas is that the government that governs best is the government that reaches out to the greatest number of people. That was the philosophy of Bill Davis, ex-Premier, during the high times of Tory economic boom before the bust, that you do what the government did in its throne speech: you take your new-found wealth, surprising wealth that has come into the Treasury in the last year, and you sprinkle it on to as many groups as possible to give yourself a little political bite with each of those groups around the province to gain votes in an upcoming election.
Mr. Offer: Like schools, like hospitals.
Mr. R. F. Johnston: The member for Mississauga North (Mr. Offer) is right, the largest single amount was for education. When one starts to listen to whatever the philosophy of the Minister of Education (Mr. Conway) is, especially when one sees its total lack of context with an employment program or dealing with the poor, which I will come to in a minute, the lack of connection and the lack of context that his education initiatives are put in, one realizes that this is probably a buyout of the public education system in terms of the potential political spinoff of Bill 30. One way of quietening down the possible ramifications that might happen out there because of the underfunding of the system and because of the initiatives of Bill 30 would be to spend a lot of money building some high schools in Ontario.
At the times of bust, this philosophy of reaching out essentially becomes reaching out to put the touch on people. That is the next thing that happens when one is in a downside, and that is what I would expect to see from a large Liberal majority.
Let us look at the lack of context again in terms of poverty, which I raised yesterday with the Premier, who now may be called David "Antoinette" Peterson in terms of his notion that the poor in Ontario should eat Peterson cake until such time as the government has received the Thomson committee's report, has had time to digest it, has had time to bring forward new legislation to have the total overhaul of the system that we require, to have public debate of that legislation and then, presumably, have it passed in two years' or two and a half years' time.
Somehow, even though they had the longest speech in history, they do not have any mention in the whole length of the speech of any programs for the poor at all, and that they should wait for two years --
Ms. Gigantes: Another two years.
Mr. R. F. Johnston: Another two years that they should go through the ignominy of accepting handouts and that we should continue to see front-page stories about the charity of individual Canadians and individual Ontarians who go out and fill food banks because Ontario will not put money into the hands of the poor so that they can go out and buy their own food. For two more years that is to be acceptable. Any government that wants to wait two years when people are in such dire straits is likely to wait an awful lot longer before it does anything significant. I now begin to wonder why the Social Assistance Review Committee was established. Is it only there to buy the government time?
Clearly, they have decided they can act earlier when they are pushed, even though they have commissions in other areas. I point to car insurance. A few months ago the Minister of Financial Institutions (Mr. Kwinter) was busy saying: "It is a wonderful industry. Everything is fine. The marketplace is dandy." Then the member for Welland-Thorold (Mr. Swart) undermined him and the industry totally, almost single-handedly. All of a sudden, even though there are three commissions out there -- I cannot remember, at least two commissions into auto insurance going on -- he made announcements and pronouncements a few weeks ago because there is a possibility of an election coming up.
If that is the case, why can they not make pronouncements while the Social Assistance Review Committee is looking at the overall scene? Surely it is preposterous.
In case any members missed it yesterday, I want to read into the record what the situation is in Ontario. Over the last five years -- members may recall that 1982 was a pretty bad year in the recession -- we have had massive increases in the number of people on social assistance, specifically employables on welfare, in Ontario. In Toronto, the figure has skyrocketed from 11,000 to almost 22,000 cases on welfare -- a case reflects about 1.5 people -- an enormous increase.
The Premier will turn around and say, as he had the gall to do yesterday, that this is because we are having an in-migration of people from Alberta and other places. I suppose one could make that argument around a place like Toronto, that Toronto would be seen as a place to come for work, although I often hear people on the other side talking about this as a place to come for easy welfare. Believe me, no one travels the country because he thinks it might be easier to get welfare as a nonresident in another province; nobody picks up and does that.
Even if we were making the argument that they are coming here for work, that kind of attitude, that kind of head-in-the-clouds notion, does not hold when you start to look at places like Sault Ste. Marie, where the increase has been 173 per cent. Who is going from Alberta to Sault Ste. Marie to look for work?
Is Brockville known as a place to which people migrate from all over Canada for work? It is not. Neither is Pembroke. Neither is Ottawa, which I think most people have always presumed to be sort of immune from the ravages of downturns in the economy because of the high civil service population there. It has some of the most startling figures in the province: an increase of 132 per cent over those five years.
We have to put this into context. This is an increase of people who want to work, who have fallen through the system, who are on welfare at the very time when we have the lowest unemployment we have had in Ontario for a long, long time. To try to push that away as if somehow it is a small matter, something that does not even deserve mention or warrant discussion in a throne speech, that in fact we would rather just say it is something we can wait two years to do anything about, is a colossally arrogant notion for a government to bring forward.
I say to any of the people out there who have been thinking about the good times that are here in Liberal times and the kind of progressive changes they have noticed around here and who want to give the Liberal Party credit for that, they should look at who has established the accord and they should look at this throne speech very carefully in terms of the potential damage of an arrogant government if this government were ever to be elected as a majority in this province, because it dares to do this now while it is a minority.
I am surprised I did not hear from the Liberal government that this is something which was left it by the Conservatives in the past, something which, goodness knows, has nothing to do with its policy, and that it is doing everything it can to stop from happening.
Perhaps it was because I happened to raise the statistics for last March to this March, a full year into this Liberal government. I survey on a regular basis 14 communities and have done now for almost five years. In 10 out of 14 of those communities, year over year, there have been substantial increases.
In a place like Ottawa, we are actually looking at 1,000 cases more on welfare in March of this year than there were last year; and in the city of Toronto, an amazing 5,000 cases more. That is approximately 8,000 people who are now benefiting by the largess of our social assistance scheme, which the Premier does not think warrants a mention and does not need to be changed for a couple of years. People can continue to go to the Sally Ann, can continue to be thrown out of boarding homes without any protection and can continue to go down to FoodShare or whatever the local group is that is pulling together canned food for them. That is acceptable in Ontario at a time when we have a $1-billion surplus.
Even given the sprinkle approach that they have taken to give little goodies to the various organizations in the province, why would they ignore this group entirely? I know I am not supposed to impute motives, but perhaps it is because the poor do not vote. Perhaps it is because they are not worried about a backlash from the poor. Perhaps they are presuming that the private charity of people out there who have been giving food to those food banks will not translate during an election into political anger that these people are being left behind while the rest of us profit so well.
I think it would be wise to remember just how much this government has helped so far. In a letter to my friend the member for Scarborough-Ellesmere (Mr. Warner), the Minister of Community and Social Services (Mr. Sweeney), the minister for earnestness, included the assertion that he has announced almost $180 million in improvements in social assistance benefits over a two-year period since becoming minister. That may sound like it is an amazing response, but I remind members there is a $1.5-billion cost involved here because of the numbers involved.
Does the government realize there are 500,000 people, men, women and children, who are beneficiaries of our social assistance system out there at the moment; a bigger population than most of the cities in this province? If one divides $180 million by 500,000, one comes up with the big sum of a $36 increase over two years. That is $1.50 a month this Liberal government has given to the poorest people in our province since it has been in power, at a time when it has more money than any government ever had in Ontario. That is the sense of priorities and that is the social context in which this Liberal government operates.
I would really like to know why anybody should see this as a progressive government. Perhaps it is because the rates are so enormously high that we really do not need to bump them up very much. People go down to the food depots just to pick up white asparagus, perhaps fiddleheads and other luxury items to supplement their diets. That is all they really need. Perhaps people are doing so well on social assistance, as some people would have us believe, that they flock to Ontario to receive the amount of money they get.
Do the members realize that as a single person, employable, on welfare in Ontario, the maximum one can receive is $458? Do the members know what the rents are in the city of Toronto, Ottawa, Thunder Bay, London or Windsor? That is basically saying that any single person who happens to be unemployed for a long time should not expect to be housed in an apartment. That is out of the question. The only kind of place that is affordable in any of our major urban areas is a room. We are already saying to these people: "That is what you must expect. That is what your expectations should be from this Liberal government for at least a couple of more years. We do not intend to do anything about it because there is a group that is looking at this overall issue."
If one is a single disabled person -- the members will probably remember that I have raised this before -- one can receive as much as $300 a month less to live on in Ontario than a single senior can receive on the basic pension. The maximum one can receive as a disabled person is at least $120 below the least amount we can give to a senior citizen in this province.
As a critic in the old days, the present Minister of Labour used to say he would bring those people up to parity with senior citizens. When he was Leader of the Opposition, the Premier would stand in this House and say the Conservative government was derelict in its duty by not raising those incomes to at least a parallel.
What did they do this January when the federal government finally offered a major increase guaranteeing around a $238 increase in Canada pension benefits to disabled people? They took it back. They took almost all of it back from every one of them. They stole it right out of their pockets -- this Liberal, progressive government that we have here in Ontario. I presume they had too much and that the Premier and the minister were wrong before, that they should not receive at least the same as senior citizens receive.
I remind them about the situation for families, for the kids who are poor in this province. In theory, we are a province that cares about kids, that has an emphasis on kids; yet there is not one mention of poor kids in the throne speech.
We have a system in Ontario which provides to a welfare mother or a family benefits mother -- because it is slightly more, let us use the family benefits example -- about $125 a month on which to raise a 14-year-old child. Imagine $125 a month to clothe and feed, to get all the kinds of attention one would want and one would hope for to allow that child to participate in society to the full.
If that woman cannot handle her budget of, say, $800 a month, cannot survive on that because she is paying $600-plus for rent and just throws up her hands and says, "I cannot deal with this any more," we have a society known as the children's aid society which will come and take that child, relieve her of that child, and pay a foster parent $450 to $500 a month to look after that child. That is not because the child has extraordinary problems. If it does have behavioural problems, they get extra money to deal with that. That is the amount of money we say the middle class should be given to raise the poor people's kids.
"Let us not do anything about that now. Let us wait a couple of years. Let us not mention it in the throne speech. As good Liberals, when we are doing well in the polls, let us just throw out a few dollars here and there to voluntary groups around the province. Throw out a good argument about deinstitutionalization. Make it look as if we are doing more than we are. Shuffle the cards a bit. Have an election, get our majority and then we can settle down to being the Conservatives we actually are." That is what is going on. If they think we are going to let them get away with it, they are crazy.
I know when his chance comes, my colleague the member for Welland-Thorold will spend a good deal of it talking about auto insurance and the sham of the way the government is approaching it, so I will not touch on it much today except to say that I have cases coming out of my riding -- which he knows about, because he was at a meeting in my riding -- which its review board, if it is ever constituted, would not be able to touch. It would still leave people hurt very badly, and the only solution is going to be driver-owned public auto insurance.
My colleague the member for Nickel Belt (Mr. Laughren) has already raised with this government things that should have been mentioned around fair taxation and assistance to the working poor.
It is strange; we have this huge throne speech and there is not one mention about Ontario health insurance plan premiums. Do you remember that promise by any chance, Mr. Speaker -- I know you have a good memory about this sort of thing -- a promise in the last election that the Liberals, borrowing another New Democratic Party plank, were going to get rid of OHIP premiums? They have been in for two years; they have not reduced OHIP premiums at all, and there is no statement in this throne speech about what they are going to do about them.
We have working poor people, people on minimum wage in this province, who are paying income tax and who cannot afford it. We have seniors who have been relying on the money back from a property tax grant, which is now worth only about $230 in 1981 dollars, which established the maximum; it was $500 at that time. There is not one mention in this throne speech about what they are going to do about that.
If the government wishes to go to the people with those kinds of gaps and its little sprinkled icing approach to a throne speech, we would be delighted. We would be delighted to show up those problems.
I want to touch briefly on three other matters. One is the old question of deinstitutionalization. The other day, with great fanfare, we had an announcement by the Minister of Community and Social Services that this year the government was going to release 130 mentally retarded residents of homes for special care in Ontario to community-living options and that the government was going to spend $5 million on these 130 people to make sure they got the kind of access to the wealth of opportunities in our society that the rest of us have.
This was not only just a reannouncement of a promise made a year ago that within a year and a half the children in homes for special care would be released, but it was also a slap in the face to anybody who believes in deinstitutionalization and the philosophy of deinstitutionalization.
Tomorrow morning, the government was to announce the context into which this was going to be placed and its long-term, seven-year plan to deinstitutionalize. That press conference has been cancelled, I am told. Maybe the ministries could not get their act together even yet.
Let me take us through a little bit of the reality of homes for special care, the reality of people in institutions at the moment and the total inadequacy of the kind of piecemeal approach to dealing with those people's lives that this government has taken.
To give members an idea of the numbers: in homes for special care, which are essentially mostly nursing homes, there are around 2,000 developmentally handicapped residents, people who basically were placed in those facilities because no other options were available to the family, because for a lot of them many years ago mental retardation was something we did not want to accept in our society and it was best pushed aside. But even after we got past that stigmatization, there was nothing in place in the society so kids kept being placed there.
About half of those people are over the age of 40 and have been there an awfully long time. Half are under 40 years of age. They are living in some of the most intolerable situations one could imagine.
When we start to talk about the selective deinstitutionalization of people because of their age -- and I believe that is what the government is up to; it is going to say it is going to plan to get all the ones who are under 40 out of those institutions over the next seven years; it is going to start with the youngest; it is going to deal with the easiest to deinstitutionalize, those that have the least complications; it is going to play God with those people's lives in terms of which ones can maximize their potential and which ones cannot -- then I say this government has a social policy which is inhuman and incoherent. We all have a right to maximize our potential. Any plan that is developed must have each one of those residents in mind.
I would like to raise an example, if I might, a place called the Muskoka Centre, which I encourage any members to go and visit some day. There are two wards there, one that I want to speak about in particular. It is a sub-basement. The windows are slightly above ground level and most of the body of the room is below ground level. There are between 20 and 25 residents in that room, male adult residents, without a curtain between their beds, with a varying range of handicaps.
There is a fellow in that ward whose name is Michael David Ward. He is 37 years of age and has been in institutions since he was a young child, first the Huronia Regional Centre and then homes for special care. He is profoundly retarded. He has what is known as an individualized program, which is supposedly geared to his needs. I will talk about that in a second. He sits on a mat all day long. He seldom, if ever, leaves this one room. According to his family, he has been outside on the grounds three times in the last year and a half. He got out of the room only a handful of times this winter.
His individualized program has included such things as toilet training, speech therapy and other basic things that look pretty good on paper. Following up on what kind of help he was actually getting, the family discovered that after a week of trying, they stopped toilet training; they said there was no point in it. It is taking us longer than a week to get our two-and-a-half-year-old toilet trained, let alone somebody who is 37 years of age and has been sitting on a mat in an institution all his life. That program was dropped, and he has not had his speech therapy.
I suggest that if we take the approach the government is taking on deinstitutionalization, David will be in this kind of home for the rest of his life. By the time the seven-year plan is in place, he will be more than 40 years old. He will be too old to be considered for bringing out into the community and trying to maximize his participation. It is never going to be the kind of participation that the members of this House or I have, and I would not want to kid about that. It will be very expensive care to have him in the community, but my goodness, he has as much right to that as anybody else who has been shunted aside in our society.
It is time we really started to look at these kinds of issues in those terms. This is a life sentence. I want to contrast the amount of money that is being spent on the 130 coming out, which is a realistic amount of money, about $5 million, with the amount that is left for the 1,950 who are in there with the supposedly individualized programs. Those people are receiving, among them, $9.5 million.
What we are basically saying is that we will bring out the easy ones; we will bring out the ones who have been politically difficult -- the member for Bellwoods and I have been raising issues about kids in those places since 1978 -- but the others can stay there sitting on their mats, lying in their cribs, and we are not going to deal with them.
That is the Liberal notion of deinstitutionalization: sprinkling money instead of having a coherent philosophy about maximizing everybody's potential. It was with some alarm that I read the comments of the member for York East (Ms. Hart) about how the government's policies in the speech from the throne were maximizing what people could do in this province. It is not real. I hope to continue to put the lie to that assertion, as Liberals make it around the province.
I want to deal a little bit with day care, just a little because there is going to be much more on this. They have come up with the most preposterous position on day care that one can imagine. The position in committee and the position by the minister today is that he is in favour of expansion in only the nonprofit sector, but for the first time ever he is going to give direct grants to commercial operators in day care so they can somehow increase the quality of care they have never given in the past.
This is a change of policy. I remind members that in December, and then again in February of this year in response to my leader, the Minister of Community and Social Services indicated he would not give direct grants to the nonprofit sector without giving them to the commercial sector immediately. Now he is saying he will delay the commercial sector until he is allowed to do that, but he will give direct grants to the nonprofits right away to hold people off. He said in those days, "It would seem to us as a government that it would not be equitable, fair or just to give the additional money and have parents in half the system benefit from it and the parents in the other half of the system not be able to benefit by it." Now he has changed his position.
Because I know of her interest in day care -- I know of the work she did to help establish the day care centre here at Queen's Park, which a number of us worked on for many years unsuccessfully, so I am very appreciative of the work she did -- I ask the member for Oriole (Ms. Caplan) to join with Dianne Poole and Chaviva Hosek to meet the Minister of Community and Social Services --
Ms. Caplan: Good candidates.
Mr. R. F. Johnston: Yes; they may not even stay as candidates if the government does not change its policy. Does it know the position of Dianne Poole and that of the Women's Perspective Advisory Committee, the Liberal women's think group? I will read out their names if the government wants me to embarrass it further about this strange policy it has developed, which people like her and Chaviva Hosek and other Liberals oppose. The government has to stop this.
Does the government not understand what is going to happen if it actually gives direct money to the for-profit sector'? Does it not understand what road that leads it down? Does it not understand that it cannot be done equitably; that the argument of giving it to a range of operators, some of whom are unionized and have good staffing salaries and levels and others of whom have very lousy staffing salaries and levels, is ludicrous? The government cannot do that, and it cannot offer it out and then take it back in a few years.
The parliamentary assistant to the Minister of Community and Social Services, the member for Downsview (Mr. Cordiano), would not tell us how long it is for.
Mr. D. S. Cooke: He will figure it out.
Mr. R. F. Johnston: He said he will figure it out some time. The member for Windsor-Riverside (Mr. D. S. Cooke) asked him: "How on earth do you decide when to take this money back? Will it not raise the fees? Will it not lower the salaries when you take it back?" Now we have to ask the member for Oriole if she is in support of this process of money to the commercials. I am shocked if that is the case. I would hope she would distance herself from this kind of foolish policy.
I have gone on much longer than I meant to, but there are two other matters I want to raise because they are both very important to me. One of them is the issue of disarmament.
Clearly, I was as excited as anybody in this House last November when my resolution to make Ontario a nuclear weapons free zone was passed 61-9. I was pleased with the comments of the Premier saying he would have supported it if it had been the thing to do to be in the House. I was not even overly shocked by the fact that he said he was not sure exactly how to do it. But over the next number of months, when I started to ask him, "What action are you going to take; are you going to make this government policy, a statement that the government is going in that direction?" he would not move.
When he said I should come up with ideas for him, I did. I brought in two pieces of legislation, both totally within our jurisdiction, to deal with the whole question of putting teeth into the resolution to make Ontario a nuclear weapons free zone. Still he did not move; in fact, he laughed at it, when we were here in the Premier's estimates last year. All of a sudden, I realized he did not believe in a nuclear weapons free zone at all. He was not looking for a way to make this a reality in Ontario. It is not mentioned in the throne speech, in all the list of things he has even an intent to look into.
In his own home town, just a couple of weeks ago, General Motors announced it has taken on a contract to provide the carrier, the chassis, for the new Midgetman missile. Not only are we therefore going to be indirectly involved by having a corporation involved in something that is designed directly to go along with a nuclear warhead -- it is not a flatbed we are talking about here; we are talking about a specific chassis designed only for this specific missile -- but also the Premier does not dissociate himself from what is happening in his own backyard and say, "I had better do something soon to make sure this does not proliferate, because we have all agreed we do not want to have complicity here." He does not do that. He does not say we are going to withdraw ourselves from Varity Corp., which is making part of the missile in England and which we own shares in.
Why should anybody in this province now believe that the Premier really meant that he wanted Ontario to be a nuclear weapons free zone and that we should go around the rest of the world, as that resolution states, talking about why it is important to have nuclear weapons free zones, when in fact what we have seen is that he does not really believe in it at all? He only did it because he did not want to offend people, and when it comes to action, he is unwilling to act. The Premier should not think that is going unnoticed.
The final matter I want to raise is my international connection with Nicaragua to say formally, if I might, because this is the first time I have had a chance to do it, that it was an honour to travel with my colleagues. Six of us went to Nicaragua and we were treated magnificently. I think we all came back feeling quite humbled by the warmth of the generosity and hospitality we were given. We have come back, I hope, to provide members, in another week or two, with a request as a government and a Legislature for assistance.
As a new democracy, they are struggling to deal with political pluralism in a time of war, something we have not handled too well ourselves in past times. They have had no tradition of democracy. They have had either an American dictator -- for instance, back in the 1850s -- or their own local dictator supported by the marines or the guard trained by the marines. There has been no expression of the will of the people until this revolution. They are very new at democracy. Believe me, because of that novelty, there are things we can learn from them.
We are so caught up now in the long-time traditions of our democracy and the representational aspects of it that we have professionals ourselves who become politicians. Politics is important to people only every four years or whenever we have elections and then only for a 37-day campaign in which people are bombarded with information. They try to choose which of us will hurt them least and dissociate themselves from politics in their daily lives.
In Nicaragua, they have an earthy, day-to-day connection between politics and life, from which we could learn a lot in terms of a need to get a much more direct connection with the people and the power to those people to effect change.
One example I would leave with you is that the minister of health there told us she can have every child in Nicaragua vaccinated within a 48-hour period. That is how they wiped out polio. It is because they have young people in that society who go into the barrios; people come into their homes to be vaccinated. They do not have the incredible infrastructure we have now where only doctors can do certain things and only registered nurses can do things and the people are disconnected from health decisions.
Mr. D. S. Cooke: Dr. Stephenson is giving you the evil eye.
Mr. R. F. Johnston: I am being given the evil eye. I am not saying professionalism is bad.
Miss Stephenson: I am not giving you the evil eye. I am just being disturbed by the misinformation.
Mr. Speaker: The member for Scarborough West has the floor.
Mr. R. F. Johnston: I am sure the member and I will have a long discussion about this later over a cup of tea or something. She will educate me as I should be educated.
I would just say there is much we can learn from a new democracy, but there is much help that they need from us. There are basic things. It is having typewriters available to the opposition parties; it is a matter of having copiers they can use. They really want to be able to send some people here to learn English and to watch our committee system work to see how they can make their committee system work in Nicaragua. I see shudders by some members. Even though it is flawed -- and coming to the Legislature is certainly not the way to learn English -- I would hope that when we bring forward those recommendations from the national assembly, they will be looked at with an open and, I hope, an encouraging eye.
I cannot leave the discussion of Nicaragua without talking a little about freedom of speech. There is an awful lot of misinformation about that country here, which is really shameful and sorry. As a country at war, it is true that they have shut down one newspaper. It happens to be the case, however, that the existing newspapers on a regular basis have to carry the positions of the opposition parties, without any censorship or editing. You will get these very long diatribes. Try to imagine it. It would be like the member for Scarborough-Ellesmere (Mr. Warner) having unfettered access to the Scarborough Mirror once a month.
Mr. Warner: Better still, the Liberal Party newspaper, the Toronto Star.
Mr. R. F. Johnston: It is an incredibly dangerous kind of thing to do. But even within the war situation they are in, there is that kind of freedom of speech.
I will remind members that there is no capital punishment in Nicaragua. There is a total amnesty for all the Contra rebels who give up their weapons. They do not even require a visa for Americans to come into the country -- that is why there are so many CIA there -- and there is an openness within the society. I can only say to the members that if they go, they will see it, and I wish more of them had been able to come.
There was with us on our trip a representative of the Toronto Sun. Members may recall that while we were there, there was the death of a mercenary, a Canadian, who had gone down with the Contras and was going to file stories to the Sun upon his return. He was killed in an action against the government. The Toronto Sun person who was with us tried to assist her local paper in the filing of stories from the other side's point of view, if you will, while she was there. I think she did so as best she could, given that the body of this individual was in the hands of the Contras and the government did not know whom it had killed anyhow. That week some 200 people had already died, and why should they have noticed?
She then came back to the Toronto Sun, in this land of freedom we have here, and entered five stories and a lot of pictures about what I think was a fairly important event. It certainly was seen as an important event in Nicaraguan life that we were there, as politicians, to see what was going on and to come back and talk about it. She had, of course, been paid to come along with us, take those pictures, presumably write a story and file.
I have learned today that those stories will never see the light of day; the Toronto Sun, in our democracy, in our bastion of free speech, has decided the readers of the Toronto Sun do not want to know and need not know what is going on. I also understand that because all her information is the property of the Toronto Sun, nobody else can get access to it either.
I just ask the members to think, if they will, the next time they read a story about the suppression of the press in Nicaragua and the role of censorship, about the kind of distorted view of the world the Toronto Sun is now pushing in Ontario, because it wants to publish the diaries of this mercenary and not give the other side at all.
I am not suggesting at all that Miss Comeau, who is the journalist involved, is a Sandanista partisan or is an advocate, as I am, of the system in Nicaragua. She is a very good, objective journalist. But the very notion that this paper in our country will be giving us only the view of this mercenary, who went down to be what I consider part of a terrorist group of thugs, and will not allow its own reporter even to have her story show up in the paper, even if it wants to disclaim any connection with her point of view, is in my view an affront to democracy.
I did not want to sit down today without letting the members know that we are continuing to get biased reporting in Ontario; we are still getting the CIA-distorted view of what is happening in Nicaragua. I hope, on the next trip we take, that more of the members will be able to come and that when members of their assembly, from all parties, come up here to learn English, our members will understand there is real opposition in that country and see that they have an ability to express themselves and that we can learn from that and, I hope, understand that we have -- it may have seemed subtle because maybe nobody was ever going to know about this -- the same kind of and worse censorship under the guise of democracy in Canada than they do in Nicaragua.
Mr. Henderson: I rise to add my own words of appreciation and my comments to this excellent throne speech that sets forth in such an outstanding way the progressive agenda we propose to follow in Ontario.
On behalf of the ethnic, especially the Ukrainian ethnic communities of Etobicoke, and indeed on behalf of all my constituents, I want to underline certain of His Honour's remarks in this throne speech. The ethnic communities of Etobicoke, especially the Ukrainian-Canadian community of and near St. Demetrius parish in central Etobicoke, and I on their behalf, have a special reason to applaud His Honour's words.
To quote His Honour the Lieutenant Governor, "We will invite proposals to establish nursing homes specifically tailored to meet the needs of Ontario's diverse ethnic communities." Wise words indeed. His Honour goes on to say, "We will strive to ensure that seniors receiving institutional care are able to enjoy the same level of dignity as those living independently in the community." Amen to that as well. These are words that my ethnic constituents, the St. Demetrius community especially, have very good reason to applaud loudly, for they have long been striving to establish a multi-ethnic nursing home in Etobicoke for the people of Etobicoke-Humber and for our ethnic citizens.
Several years ago, Father John Tataryn and his associates Sister Rachel and Messrs. Dave Carswell, John Seychuk and Ted Woloshyn assembled, with the many excellent people of the St. Demetrius community, a request for a licence for a nursing home in the St. Demetrius residential and cultural complex. This proposal was developed and refined with the assistance of architects, planners, consultants and many long hours of planning, meeting and lobbying within and by the Ukrainian and other Etobicoke ethnic communities to bring a first-rate nursing home complex to St. Demetrius and to Etobicoke.
To those members who may be unfamiliar with St. Demetrius, I will simply say that it has a residential facility that combines sensitivity and warmth with state-of-the-art planning to provide a standard of care that truly allows its residents to enjoy a very high level of dignity indeed. However, a residential care setting is not enough. Nursing home care is required as well and St. Demetrius has amply proved its standards are second to none in the designing and operation of such facilities.
I should add that I know St. Demetrius to be first and foremost a place of worship of unparalleled magnificence and spiritual inspiration. The St. Demetrius school gives the young boys and girls of this community an outstanding educational experience in a cultural context that is rich and honourable indeed. The cultural life of the Ukrainian community of Etobicoke enriches and inspires all Etobians, ethnic or not, Ukrainian or not, and indeed is a focus of pride for all Ontario.
Who in this assembly has not been thrilled by the performances of Ukrainian-Canadian dance troupes such as the Yavir Dance Ensemble? It would surprise no one who is familiar with the excellence of the St. Demetrius community to know that many of the outstanding performers of Yavir grew up under the nurturing and the guiding hand of Father John and Sister Rachel and the fine leaders of their community.
The Yavir Dance Ensemble performed in Exhibition Park only weeks ago and I had the pleasure, along with other legislators from all three levels of government, of enjoying a truly inspiring performance. Yavir is off to the Maritimes, then to Europe and the Ukraine, where its world-class performance will show the Soviet Ukraine that Ukrainian culture and Ukrainian excellence, to which this Etobicoke Ukrainian community contributes so significantly, are alive and thriving in Etobicoke-Humber. I have seen Ukrainian dancing performed in the Soviet Union and by dance troupes from the Soviet Union in Canada, and Yavir is second to none in my estimation.
Nursing homes with an ethnic base make very good sense for scientific, as well as for cultural reasons. As a physician, I can describe a very strong medical argument in favour of the establishment of nursing homes tailored to the needs of ethnic communities and ethnic Ontarians. A very large percentage of the residents of a nursing home have mild to moderate, sometimes even rather severe, memory changes, commonly associated with senior years or with the diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease. With these changes comes a lessened capacity or perhaps a lessened wish to form new relationships, adjust to new surroundings and understand the ways and styles of communication of new people. Men and women with memory problems typically revert to their mother tongues acquired in childhood. They often lose a second language and a second cultural familiarity acquired in adult years. It is for those very reasons that we say again and again that Ontario's seniors must be cared for in their homes, in their neighbourhoods and in their communities where families and friends and surroundings are familiar and friendly, and not only in our institutions. If they ever do require institutional care, then the institution must be tailored to meet those same requirements of compassion and humanity.
As ethnic seniors reach a time of life when nursing home care becomes a necessity, for all those reasons it becomes more necessary than at any other time in their lives that they be cared for in a setting where their cultural heritage is respected and preserved. It becomes imperative as well that the care providers be fluent in a language and in a cultural idiom that those seniors so fundamentally require.
For all these reasons, I applaud very warmly indeed the initiative in this throne speech that specifies we will establish nursing homes specifically tailored to meet the needs of Ontario's diverse ethnic communities. These will be facilities where seniors receiving institutional care will be able to enjoy the same level of dignity as those living independently in their communities.
The Minister of Health (Mr. Elston) and I will shortly visit the St. Demetrius community. I will urge the minister as vigorously as l am able to, to consider the ethnic Canadian communities of Etobicoke, and especially St. Demetrius, as ideal settings for such a venture. The St. Demetrius proposal is excellent. It is multi-ethnic in focus. It has received input from state-of-the-art planners and consultants. It has been amply reviewed on many occasions by ministry personnel. Above all, I believe it is backed by a dedicated, responsive community with a proved record of community service and a proved record of planning and implementation excellence.
It is underwritten by people in a community who show that they do what they promise they will do and do it well. To paraphrase a well-known aphorism, they do it right, they do it well, they give it class and above all they do it with warmth, compassion and humanity.
There are two or three principles of good government that I hold to be very precious and that I believe are ably reflected in this throne speech. We strive for the greatest good for the greatest number and the principle, of course, of utilitarianism. It seems to me that nursing homes geared to our ethnic population will serve a badly neglected and important sector of our population. In my opinion, this proposal accords well with the utilitarian principle of the greatest good for the greatest number.
The second of those principles is that we care for those who are underprivileged or otherwise disadvantaged in society. Indeed, ethnic Ontarians have far too often fallen into that category, and it is high time we redressed that deficit. I can think of no more deserving group than the Ukrainian Canadian community, as I have come to know it, in Etobicoke.
A third principle, I believe, is that of greater freedom in our political institutions. I believe ethnic Ontarians deserve that kind of freedom to grow and to develop their potential. I believe that to facilitate their doing so will be to the ultimate benefit of all Ontarians, ethnic or otherwise, Ukrainian or otherwise; all Ontarians. It is not just an act of altruism to serve our seniors and our ethnic communities and to serve them well, but it is also an act of selfishness because all of us benefit when those groups are encouraged and facilitated in their efforts to contribute, to be creative and to take their full part in the cultural and other life of our province. Our ethnic seniors deserve the freedom to be creative and to contribute as they so richly can to our cultural life in Ontario.
My congratulations to the ethnic communities of Etobicoke and the Ukrainian-Canadians of St. Demetrius, and my urgings to my colleague the Minister of Health to consider very carefully indeed the St. Demetrius proposal for a nursing home licence as he moves to fulfil this promise in the speech from the throne for nursing homes in Ontario tailored to the needs of our ethnic communities.
Mr. Baetz: When I noted that I was being preceded here by the member for Scarborough West (Mr. R. F. Johnston), I knew I was in trouble, because when that honourable gentleman gets on his feet it appears time has no limit.
Mr. Swart: Nor his ideas.
Mr. Baetz: That is a matter of choice and taste perhaps; whether they are good ideas.
With the short time that l have available before we adjourn, I simply want to outline what I plan to talk about in my reply to the speech from the throne. I intend to restrict my replies to that part of the speech from the throne that dealt with child care and the approach the speech from the throne has taken to this subject of child care.
I will certainly be taking serious issue with the idea, as expressed in the speech from the throne, that child care is important to us for the economic realization, for the economic wellbeing of families. It sees child care as an economic issue. I will take serious objection to that because it seems to me that the question of child care today goes far beyond the economic issues. Child care today is the major social issue of our country and of our province. For the speech from the throne, which is presumed to be able to set forth the philosophy and the policy of a government, to simply confine it and relate the child care question to the economics is, of course, a bifurcated, myopic and tunnel-visioned approach to this very important subject.
As I say, child care is the social issue of the day. It illustrates in a very classic manner how social changes sometimes take place so rapidly that public policies and programs simply lag behind. We must deal with this issue, but in a far broader and more comprehensive way than the speech from the throne has suggested.
I shall be taking issue with the rather narrow approach to child care. The speech from the throne talks about child care as being simply a public service. That is what it calls it. It talks about introducing it as a public service, presumably something comparable to our educational system. That, of course, is only one aspect of child care. The care that we may be providing for children outside the parental home is only one part of the thing.
The speech from the throne does not address the question of parental responsibility at all. Surely as we move forward here in policies and programs of child care, we must address that fundamental question of where parental responsibility comes into this. Certainly, we in our party have a very clear answer to that question. I want to talk about that as well.
When we speak of the range of choices in child care, the speech from the throne seems to think that the choices are only between a profit and a nonprofit licensed day care centre out of the home. It does not talk about measures that might have to be taken, major measures that have to be given to help parents who choose to look after their children in their own home. Of course, that will mean increased subsidies to those parents through child tax credits and so on. I will be talking about that subject as well because as Dostoevski said, "Income is coined freedom."
If we want to give the parents of very young children the real choice of whether they will look after their children in their home or in fact will purchase this service outside of the home, if we are to give them some choice, then we are going to have to provide them with some assistance to make that choice realistic and feasible.
That will need to include more financial assistance directly to the families. It will include addressing the subject of extended parental leave from the place of employment and so on. We will be taking a good look at that part of the speech from the throne on that particular dimension of the question.
We will also be looking at -- and it was also addressed in that lengthy statement by the member for Scarborough West -- this whole question of whether we should continue to encourage the commercial, private sector operators in the child care field.
Certainly, the speech from the throne gives a very confused and mixed message to the commercial day care operators who have been working in the child care field and who now actually carry on about half of the licensed day care operations in this field. The question is what the approach of the government should be on that one and whether it should provide help.
As I say, the speech from the throne is very confused. At least the New Democrats are consistent in their approach. They have said in our select committee on health that the profit motive, which is to them the dirtiest six-letter word in the English language, has no place whatever in the child care field and, in fact, the commercial operators should be encouraged to get out of the field as soon as possible. I can understand that. I do not agree with that principle, and we will be saying why we do not find that acceptable.
The point is that the speech from the throne, instead of providing enlightenment in this area, creates only confusion and it will contribute to a demoralized commercial sector of the child care field. In essence, the approach that we will be taking here is that this speech from the throne really has added nothing but confusion to the child care field.
We who have been in this House for quite a long time understand, of course, that any speech from the throne is rather replete with bafflegabbery. There is always some of that and I suppose there is always more of it on the eve of an election. But this speech, particularly as it addresses the child care issue, has more than its share, and I think it is most unfortunate in that it has created a great deal of confusion.
Mr. R. F. Johnston: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker: I would like to correct the record, if I might. I made a mistake in my desire to make the Liberals seem even more miserly than they are actually. I did the fantastic thing of dropping a zero. Essentially, the increase in welfare rates to beneficiaries around the province works out to $15 a month, or 50 cents a day, that has been given per person. Unfortunately, I made it seem as if it was worse than that, if you can imagine that.
On motion by Mr. Baetz, the debate was adjourned.
The House adjourned at 6 p.m.