L007 - Thu 7 May 1987 / Jeu 7 mai 1987
The House met at 10 a.m. Prayers.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
PRIVATE MEMBERS' PUBLIC BUSINESS
ONTARIO ENVIRONMENTAL RIGHTS ACT
Mrs. Grier moved second reading of Bill 9, An Act respecting Environmental Rights in Ontario.
The Deputy Speaker: The honourable member has up to 20 minutes for her presentation and she may reserve any portion of it for the windup.
Mrs. Grier: It is with some pride that I move second reading of this bill and join this debate. I would like to thank the many individuals and environmental groups that have indicated support for the principles of this bill. I do not imagine there will be any objections. I cannot see how there possibly could be, but just on the off-chance that there are I will reserve some time at the end to rebut any arguments.
This is not the first time that bills giving environmental rights have been debated in this House, but I think this debate is occurring at a time when public concern about the environment has never been higher. With that increased public concern and heightened public awareness has come an increasing desire on the part of the public to be part of the process. As citizens become worried about what is happening to their environment, they find that they have very little access to the system and that they have no environmental rights. They find frustration at every turn when they seek to play their part.
They have an increasing desire to play that part and to do their bit to keep their environment clean. The question I am most frequently asked by people is: "What can I do? What can individuals do?" There is a willingness to assume responsibility to keep the environment clean and this bill allows people to do that and to play their own part.
I have called this an environmental bill of rights. In 1980, my colleague the member for Beaches-Woodbine (Ms. Bryden) introduced an environmental Magna Carta. The purpose is very similar and is very clearly spelled out in section 2 of the bill:
"2(1) The people of Ontario have a right to clean air, pure water and the preservation of the natural scenic, historic and aesthetic values of the environment.
"(2) Ontario's public lands, waters and natural resources are the common property of all the people, including generations yet to come, and, as trustee of those lands, waters and resources, the government of Ontario shall conserve and maintain them for the benefit of present and future generations.
"(3) It is hereby declared that it is in the public interest to provide every person with an adequate remedy to protect and conserve the environment and the public trust therein from contamination and degradation."
Simply put, this bill establishes the right to a clean environment and makes citizens participants in maintaining that environment and gives them the tools to do the job. It gives citizens the right to go to court to protect the environment where damage is being done. It allows citizens to ensure that decisions are not made or approvals granted without notifying the community and without people having the right to a public hearing. It guarantees people access to information relating to environmental issues, such as the toxicity of chemicals. It sets up funding for interveners where there is a hearing before an administrative tribunal. Finally, it protects workers who report acts of pollution from reprisals from their employers.
I think it is important also to say what it does not do. It does not take away from the minister any of his responsibilities to maintain the environment. In fact, it supplements the role of the minister and the role of the government. Our legislation in this province gives the government the power to act to protect the environment but it does not give it the duty to do so. This bill ensures that if the government fails to act, citizens can.
Unfortunately for all of us, pollution control in Ontario is a history of regulations written and violated and of compliance deadlines extended and postponed. It is a history of negotiated deals from which the public has been excluded, but it is the public that has been put at risk. In any risk analysis, we seem to have three sides. We have those who create the risk, those who regulate the risk and those who experience the risk. In our system, the risk makers and the regulators have had all the power and the risk takers have had none. This bill attempts to redress that balance.
I am not sure whether members of the government party are going to support this bill. Their comments in the press have indicated they perhaps feel much that what this bill does has already been accomplished. I hope that is not going to be their position today because it would be unfortunate if the government reacted defensively to what I am suggesting. There is no doubt that this government has been more open than its predecessors with respect to allowing access to the decision-making process. It has provided ad hoc funding for intervener groups. We have had improved fines and penalties legislation. We have had Countdown Acid Rain and the municipal-industrial strategy for abatement. But none of these moves has put citizens on the level playing field. This heightened public awareness can be expressed not only by pressure on the government to do things for them. The public is not only saying, "Do it for us." It also is saying, "Let us play our part." That is what this bill does.
The environmental problems that we face today are so numerous and so complex that I hope the government will be willing to have this army of citizens anxious to play their part, citizens who are ready and willing to monitor the environment, inspect the environment and report on violations of environmental legislation. I hope the government will support arming those citizens to do the job because it is no good admitting citizens to the process if they do not have the price of admission. If they are not armed with the tools to do the job themselves, their participation has to be less than complete.
If you have to go cap in hand for intervener funding or to argue for months that you are entitled to intervener funding, as did the citizens of Haldimand when they were fighting Consumers' Gas and its liquefied natural gas project; if you have to prove before the courts your right to standing as are the citizens of the city of Toronto and the Canadian Environmental Law Association in the case against Toronto Refiners and Smelters; if you have to worry that you may lose your job because you have reported that your employer has been violating the environmental legislation; if you have to do these things, then you are not able to play your role. It is like sitting at the bargaining table without having the right to strike.
This bill gives citizens the right to go to court and this gives citizens some clout. If this statement gives rise to the fear that somehow the bill opens the door to a whole series of lawsuits and a great deal of frivolous action or delaying tactics, let me reassure the members. Section 5 of this bill clearly states that it is possible to have security posted for costs if a citizen takes an action.
In addition, there are the very natural safety valves that are provided by the onerous task of even going to court. Going to court is always an act of last resort. The costs of doing so, the time involved in doing so and the effort of doing so are indeed daunting.
Other jurisdictions have legislation similar to this. In Michigan, a bill was introduced and passed in 1971, and in Minnesota in 1973. In neither of those situations has there been an avalanche of court cases that has clogged up the already busy courts. In fact, when legislation was introduced in Quebec in 1978 to allow class actions, there were so few cases that the government had to set up a fund to encourage people to take advantage of the legislation.
This government likes to boast of its leadership on environmental issues. Support for this bill gives it an opportunity to demonstrate that leadership. If this bill is supported today and goes to committee, we will have an opportunity for public hearings. The public can come before a committee of this Legislature and say quite clearly what its concerns are about the environment and what it thinks we in this House ought to be doing about it.
By supporting this bill, we have an opportunity to open up the decision-making process and to allow the public access to the judicial system as well as access to the regulation-making process.
A government that is truly anxious to achieve a clean environment must surely welcome this initiative. After all, if the job our government is doing is as great as it likes us to believe, then it has absolutely nothing to fear. If it and the citizens can work together, it is ensuring that we not only have the right to clean air and water but in fact possess clean air and clean water to bequeath to further generations. That is what this bill will help us to do and that is why I hope today it will have support from all sides of this House.
The Deputy Speaker: The member is reserving nine minutes and 40 seconds for her wrapup.
Mr. Knight: At the outset, I want to mention to the House that I certainly support an environmental bill of rights in principle. I believe that the citizens of Ontario should be able to enjoy and protect a clean environment. Indeed, they should have the right to a clean environment for themselves and for future generations so that we can have future generations.
I notice, however, that Bill 9, which was originally proposed by the member for Huron-Bruce (Mr. Elston) and now is being introduced by the member for Lakeshore (Mrs. Grier) has been overtaken by events since its first introduction in 1979 by the then Leader of the Opposition, Mr. Smith. I notice that the member for Beaches-Woodbine is here today. I understand she spoke in support of the bill at that time. I am sure she will take an interest in the proceedings this morning.
Some aspects of the bill that is being introduced today have been acted upon since the Liberal government assumed power in June 1985, and one was even acted upon by the previous government.
I wish to take a few minutes to review some of these points.
Bill 9 contains measures authorizing public interest funding. Under Bill 9, public interest funding would be provided from an environmental hearing assistance fund to participants appearing "before any board, tribunal, commission or court, or any appeal or review thereof."
The throne speech of April 1986 committed the government to ensuring that groups and individuals seeking to intervene in the public interest before administrative tribunals would be assisted. In conformity with this, the Ministry of the Environment has continued to make funds available on a case by case basis for interveners and proceedings that take place pursuant to Ministry of the Environment legislation.
The minister has expanded the funding for public groups wishing to participate in environmental hearings. Groups appearing before the Tricil Sarnia landfill, the 3M London energy-from-waste facility, the Consumers' Gas liquid natural gas storage proposal in Cobourg, the Ministry of Transportation and Communications' Highway 416 project in Ottawa, and one that is of special interest to me, the Halton regional landfill, were provided with intervener funding. Funding will be provided to groups wishing to appear at the Ontario Waste Management Corp.'s West Lincoln landfill hearings.
This policy of funding citizens' participation in environmental hearings results in better, more democratic decision-making and will be actively continued. The government is committed to a progressive approach to intervener funding that would apply to other ministries and their agencies, boards and commissions as well as the Ministry of the Environment hearings.
However, intervener funding raises a question as to who should pay, the proponent or the government. I believe the principle that those who profit from an undertaking should pay for all of its associated costs means the proponent should be responsible for the funding. This government supports the fundamental concept of public interest funding and will continue providing funds on a case by case basis until the legislative proposal being developed by the Attorney General (Mr. Scott) is approved by the Legislative Assembly.
The Liberal government is firmly committed to full, public participation in environmental matters. Here are some examples.
In July 1985, it was announced that the Ontario Waste Management Corp. would be subject to the full requirements of the Environmental Assessment Act. It was exempted by the previous government by order in council. In July 1985, the ministry announced the creation of a spills regulation advisory panel to conduct a public review of the spills bill regulations that were proclaimed on November 29, 1985.
In September 1985, it was announced that mobile polychlorinated biphenyl destruction facilities would be subject to full hearings under the Environmental Protection Act. In January 1987, the ministry released a report on public responses to the municipal-industrial strategy for abatement, MISA, white paper tabled in the Legislature in June 1986 and the ministry's responses to the public comments. More than 100 public interest groups, municipalities, industries, industrial associations and individuals participated in the 70-day public review period.
The recycling advisory committee was created in December 1985 to advise the minister on the new program to promote the establishment of the multimaterial source separation program on material use.
Returning for a minute to the funding issue, the ministry is increasing the amount of funding it gives to environmental interest groups. In the 1986-87 fiscal year, $631,914 was given as 34 grants paid to 30 environmental interest groups. This is up from 20 grants amounting to $406,000 that was paid to 17 environmental groups in 1985-86. The funding given to environmental groups in the 1984-85 fiscal year was $255,000 to 11 groups.
The environmental bill of rights also increases public access to environmental information. Public access under Bill 9 would be available to government information concerning emissions, most government licences, permits, approvals and orders, including applications therefor, and to any government reports on inspections and analyses. The minister could refuse access where it would hinder law enforcement, reveal personal information or disclose trade secrets. Such a refusal would be subject to appeal to an environmental assessment board, with a subsequent appeal to the Divisional Court on a point of law or jurisdiction.
Bill 34, An Act to provide for Freedom of Information and Protection of Individual Privacy, was introduced in the Legislature by this government and obtained first reading on July 12, 1985. It has since obtained second reading and has been referred to a committee. The environmental bill of rights devotes one section to access to environmental information. Bill 34, in 60-odd sections, presents a comprehensive, up-to-date view of the public's right to government information of all sorts, balanced with numerous provisions to protect the privacy of individuals.
In addition to the provision of access to environmental information, environmental concerns are singled out for special treatment in section 11, which obliges a minister to make public, as soon as practical, information revealing a grave environmental health or safety hazard to the public. Provision is made for the appointment of an information and privacy commissioner to whom appeals will be made. The decision of the commissioner is final.
The Minister of the Environment (Mr. Bradley) has shown his support for Bill 34 and since becoming minister has ensured that the Ministry of the Environment practises open government. All reports are promptly released, including several that for one reason or another had been gathering dust on some bookshelf in the ministry. The minister believes strongly in freedom of information and that an informed public is a strong advocate for environmental protection. His consistent policy has been to provide freedom of information at the Environment ministry and he has delivered on that policy.
Bill 9 would also make it an offence for an employer to dismiss or otherwise harass an employee for reporting environmental contamination. The 1983 amendments to the Environmental Protection Act introduced by the then Minister of the Environment, the member for Sarnia (Mr. Brandt), gave an employee who is dismissed or otherwise harassed the right to a remedy before the Ontario Labour Relations Board. It is also implicit in the 1983 amendments that it is an offence to intimidate an employee. Therefore, this section of Bill 9 is already in place.
At the outset, I indicated my support for an environmental bill of rights in principle. I have indicated a couple of the things that have been ongoing since this government has taken office to implement some of the concerns addressed in this bill, and some had already been introduced. Although the bill of the member for Lakeshore contains some things that have already come to pass, it is a start. The province should have a right to a clean environment, and I will be voting for the bill and would like to see it referred to committee.
Mr. Gillies: I do not want to sound as if I am repeating everything that has been said, but as Environment critic for our party, I am very pleased to indicate that we will be supporting Bill 172 --
Mr. Laughren: Could you repeat that?
Mr. Gillies: My friend the member for Nickel Belt (Mr. Laughren) is having trouble hearing. Perhaps the speaker system could be adjusted to meet his requirements.
Mr. Laughren: No; comprehending, not hearing.
Mr. Reycraft: He has trouble believing. He can hear but cannot believe.
Mr. Laughren: Who said, "Once a Tory always a Tory"? It is not true.
Mr. Gillies: Mr. Speaker, I am being harassed from the left flank.
The Deputy Speaker: The member for Nickel Belt will please constrain himself.
Mr. Gillies: You know how easily I am distracted, Mr. Speaker.
I want to congratulate the member for Lakeshore for bringing this bill forward. The history of the bill has been discussed already, and I will touch on that, but I particularly value this opportunity, my first as Environment critic for the official opposition, to speak for a few moments this morning about some of these issues here in the Legislature.
Through the first couple of questions I have asked during question period and through the position we are taking this morning, I hope to be sending out a very important signal. The signal I wish to send out is that there is a very strong concern within our caucus and within our party on questions relating to the environment, that it is my intention to be perhaps even more aggressive and diligent in the pursuit of these issues and that we believe it a basic Conservative principle that we would wish to join with people of goodwill of whatever political stripe in the conservation of a clean and healthy ecology within our province. We see that as part of our mission as a party, and I intend to be pursuing these issues very aggressively.
I would say also, just by the by, that in the first few days of assuming this responsibility I have had the opportunity of having a number of discussions with the minister. I believe we share a number of concerns and will be able to co-operate in a number of measures. I have also thus far enjoyed a very good relationship with my counterpart in the New Democratic Party, somebody of whom I would say -- at the risk of having this quoted back in an election brochure -- I have an extremely high regard and whom I believe I would be able to work with on a co-operative basis on a number of issues.
I guess what I am saying is this. This bill would have passed anyway with the support of the two opposition parties, but I am very pleased to hear that the Liberal Party will also be supporting the legislation and that it will pass unanimously. That having been said and with my assumption or understanding that this bill will pass this morning, perhaps we should look beyond that as to what will happen next.
We have had several private members' bills come out of this chamber in recent months that have gone either to the committee stage or even to third reading and have demonstrated the power of private members' hour to influence the course of legislation and the course of policymaking in this province. I urge the government and government caucus members here present to support the immediate referral of this bill to a committee -- the select committee on the environment might be as good a forum as any, I suggest -- and during the long tenure of this Legislature we could even see it called for third reading and passed into law.
Mr. Philip: Liberals do not call opposition bills for third reading; they have shown that.
Mr. Gillies: I am hearing misgivings expressed in this regard by my friend the member for Etobicoke (Mr. Philip). It is very easy for all of us to stand on a Thursday morning with all the pious hopes we have for a clean environment and for the rights of citizens with regard to their environment; it is all very well for us to mouth these truths if the next step is not taken and we do not see the legislative changes made that we would wish. I leave that as the responsibility of the government to call the bill as soon as possible.
As has been mentioned already, this bill is back in a third incarnation, having first been introduced in 1979 by the then Leader of the Opposition, Dr. Smith, as Bill 185. The bill came in again when the opposition critic of the day, the member for Huron-Bruce, now the Minister of Health, brought it back in. I want to quote because I think the Minister of Health cited the case as well as anyone. In speaking to his own bill on June 1, 1982, and I quote from Hansard, he said:
"Citizen groups in Ontario spend as much time and money fighting the Ministry of the Environment as they do fighting polluters....These obstacles to fighting a court battle against a polluter, coupled with the recognition of the legal fees involved and the fear of having court costs awarded against the plaintiff if the case is lost, are enough to cause even the most ardent environmentalist to back off."
Clearly, one of the most important features of the bill before us is this right, the right of people to access public hearings on major projects and to receive intervener funding to assist with that venture. I want to make a point on this, and I hope the Minister of the Environment will either hear or see these remarks.
Under the minister's regime, there has been an ad hoc application of intervener funding, but I do not consider that to be sufficient. It came as a surprise to me on assuming my critic's responsibilities to find that there is no policy per se, at least none that I could detect, on the question of intervener funding. It has been the right, the prerogative and the judgement of the minister to determine what group will receive intervening funding with regard to what project. That is not sufficient. It leaves too much discretion in the hands of the minister to determine who is worthy of this funding and who is not. It leaves room for a minister, not necessarily this one, to fund those groups with whom the minister of the day agrees but to prevent intervener funding from flowing to those who are in opposition to the minister's point of view. We need a policy that guarantees free and equal access to this for all of our citizens who wish to make points on environmental projects. That is a very salient and a very appropriate feature of the bill of the member for Lakeshore.
Frankly, several features of this bill are implicit in legislation anyway, but I believe the bill of rights is a good step because for the first time it will assure the right, not the privilege or the hope, but the right of our citizens to a clean environment. It will assure them of the right to make their point of view known to the courts, to the ministry or to society if they feel that right is being trampled upon.
As a member who has worked extensively in the labour area of late, I am intrigued by the proposal that there will be some protection against reprisal for workers if they see fit to report to the appropriate officials should there be a pollution situation going on through their employer, perhaps covertly or otherwise. I read that section very carefully and I believe it is an appropriate feature of the bill. We are not talking about an employee having the right to shut down a business, even on a temporary basis, because of some problem he or she has detected. That is not what I read here; what we are seeing is simply the right of workers to be protected against reprisal should he or she report it to the appropriate officials. That should be the right of any citizen within our society, whether an employee or not.
Access to information is an important feature of the bill. Based on my first couple of weeks' work in this area, I fear we may be seeing more verbiage and rhetoric from the minister on the question of openness and flow of information than we are seeing in fact. I may bring to the attention of the House in coming days a situation that has been brought to my attention where a serious pollution problem occurred in one of our constituencies and was not reported by the ministry to appropriate officials; in fact, the particular problem I am being briefed on was not made public. I will not bore members with the details now, except to say we are not getting a full public airing of all the environmental problems and environmental challenges we face as I believe we should.
I am very pleased that we will be supporting this bill. I am pleased that the member saw fit to bring it forward. Again, I urge the government members to take the next very important step and see it referred to committee and for third reading and passage by this House.
Mr. Charlton: I too rise to support Bill 9 from my colleague the member for Lakeshore. It is a bill which I think goes in a direction that this Legislature has not chosen to follow on any issue that relates to people, human health and the environment. It is a bill which addresses a problem that exists across a whole range of areas we have discussed on a rather lengthy and frequent basis in this House.
I start out by saying that we appreciate the support of the member for Brantford (Mr. Gillies) and presumably his colleagues; and that of the member for Halton-Burlington (Mr. Knight) and presumably his colleagues as well. Having said that, I listened carefully to the member for Halton-Burlington and his comments on the bill, and in spite of his support he does not appear to fully understand the importance of what this bill is about or the importance of the kinds of problems, as I said across a whole range of areas not just the environment, that have to be addressed in terms of rights for people.
The member for Halton-Burlington mentioned that the government had significantly expanded the expenditure on intervener funding. As the member of Brantford said, there appears to be no clear policy on intervener funding. I think that is a fair comment. Even if there were a clear policy, policies are things that can be changed from year to year or withdrawn without reference to this Legislature in the future. The right to intervener funding is what we have to address here in this debate today; not whether intervener funding exists or whether dollars have been expanded over the last two years from $200,000 to $700,000, or whatever the numbers were, but whether the availability of that funding may disappear after an election when the government gets a majority or with a change of party in power. What we have to address here is whether the people of this province have the right to intervener funding, a right that has to be enshrined in legislation.
The member also made reference to the fact that we have a piece of freedom of information legislation in the works. That is fine. We hope it will pass, but again that is not the point. The point is that freedom of information legislation will be incomplete because it is universal and general and there are some areas where there are greater requirements for withholding information than there are in others. It is our contention that in the case of the environment, in the case of occupational health and safety and in the case of a number of other areas like that where human life is at risk, we have to have maximized access to information. That may not be true in terms of Treasury documents about future tax increases, but it has to be true in cases where human life and human health are involved. Whether or not that freedom of information legislation passes, we need the toughest standard when it relates to the environment.
There is another aspect of the question of freedom of information, or access to information, which is irrelevant to whether or not there is good, tough general legislation in place. One of the biggest failings in terms of this Legislature and the laws we turn out is that because freedom of information is in one act and this is in another act, and a right is over here, it becomes very unclear to the general public how those pieces of legislation fit together. Perhaps the government members can tell us in their next round of comments, if they are committed to freedom of information, what is wrong with saying that in a number of pieces of legislation, so that when it comes to environmental rights or occupational health and safety, it is clear that freedom of information applies.
What has to be said here today is that above all the questions that have been discussed by the member for Halton-Burlington and the number of issues that are addressed in this bill, such as freedom of information, intervener funding and access to hearings, the most important aspect of this legislation is the right of individual people and groups of people to have a mechanism to protect themselves and their environment above all else, to seek redress when the Ministry of the Environment does not act or in their view acts inappropriately. That is the most important aspect of this bill.
We have seen and we credit the present minister and his ministry with having taken actions against some polluters against whom the previous government failed to act. We have also seen many cases that we have raised in this House where there continues to be inaction. In some cases, that inaction drags on for a year or two years; in some cases, it drags on for 10 and 15 years. The people of this province have to have the right to find redress when their government fails them.
One of the other things that is going on in the area of the environment when it comes to setting standards, emission limits, exposure limits or any number of other aspects of the environmental discussions we have had, both around the environment and around occupational health and safety, is that we have scientists, bureaucrats and politicians setting those standards and, in so doing, assessing what they like to call "acceptable risk." No matter what one defines as "acceptable risk," the fact that the word "risk" is involved in that definition means that there is some level of risk involved in the standard that has been set. The standard has not eliminated risk.
Citizens have the right to know what is going on in that process, what the politicians, the bureaucrats and the scientists are deciding is an acceptable risk, a risk that they, as citizens, are going to be exposed to. They have to have the right to challenge that acceptable risk if they feel that the acceptable level of risk which has been chosen by the politicians or the bureaucrats is not an acceptable level for them, because they happen to live downwind from the plant in question or because their exposure over a shorter period may not be as much of a problem as it is going to be for their children.
With all the unknowns we know exist in environmental decisions, most of the environmental decisions we make relate to the short term and not to the long term. The citizens of Ontario in a democratic society, in what we all like to call a free society, have to have the right to challenge and to fight for themselves, their families, their neighbours and their friends when they feel the government has made a bad decision, when they feel the information has changed the circumstance and the government is not acting to make that change or when they feel the government has failed to proceed in prosecutions.
We need these rights, and I urge all members to support this bill.
Mr. South: It is an honour for me to rise today to support, in principle, Bill 9, an environment bill of rights first introduced by the Liberals in 1979. This is beginning to sound like, "Always a bridesmaid, never a bride."
The underlying principles of the bill are ones that must be supported by anyone who cares about the environment we live in and the legacy that we will leave to our children. However, the bill, in its present form, like any bill at this stage, can be improved. Parts of the bill would require co-ordinated action by several ministries for two reasons. First, because the bill applies to public lands, water and natural resources and to forms of use apart from pollution which are regulated by other ministries; second, because the rights and procedures set out in the bill apply to statutes such as the Conservation Authorities Act, the Planning Act and the Drainage Act, administered by other ministries, as well as to statutes administered by the Ministry of the Environment.
In addition, there are several matters which may be more effectively addressed in statutes of general application because the issues raised are of importance not only in the environmental context but also in the context of civil liberties, consumer protection and human rights. These issues include access to government information, class action and locus standi or standing.
I would like to focus my remarks today on two fundamental points expressed by Bill 9: standing and the right to a clean environment. The word "standing" refers to the right to pursue remedies in the courts and to appear before administrative tribunals. With certain exceptions, our legislation does not create any rights to environmental quality; instead it imposes obligations and duties on operators of facilities capable of causing pollution and gives power to government officials to enforce those obligations. Standing must be viewed in the context of the administration of those obligations and duties.
The bill creates a right to a clean environment and provides standing to sue for that right. At present, in the context of our legislation, the ministry has the standing to issue or refuse to issue licences, permits and certificates of approval. However, if the applicant appeals a refusal or imposition of condition or conditions, the applicant and the ministry have standing before the Environmental Appeal Board but the neighbours of the facility or other concerned parties do not unless the board, in its discretion, grants this standing.
Traditionally, members of the public had no right to challenge government action or legislation even if it were unlawful, unless they could show they had a special interest in the matter. Moreover, of direct interest in the environmental context was the fact that members of the public concerned about public nuisance, that is the pollution of public resources such as air, water, fisheries, public highways and public parks, had no right to take action to stop the nuisance without the consent of the Attorney General. This naturally has been subject to criticism because it precludes access to the courts, not on the basis that no law is being broken but on the basis of who the person is, and, in effect, it sanctions law-breaking.
Standing is an issue in our legislation in two areas. First, only the Attorney General or the Minister of the Environment has standing to seek injunctions of violations of the environmental protection legislation administered by this minister; second, standing to appear before the Environmental Assessment Board and the Environmental Appeal Board is not clearly spelled out.
I support amending the environmental legislation to provide specifically for standing of others before the Environmental Assessment Board. Environmental groups have asked for this over the years and, in this regard, we have the support of the chairman of the Environmental Assessment Board.
In regard to the right to a clean environment, failure to comply with an approval, order or other statutory duties is an offence. Every member of the public has standing to prosecute under our statutes. There is no barrier to private prosecution. The ministry has always supported private prosecution, including a statement to this effect in our abatement policy.
In summary, I support this bill in principle. I think it is very worth while. In spite of what we may do in this House, our environment is affected very much today not only by what our neighbours to the south do but also by what happens on a global basis. We are affected not only by the fact that there are coal-fired generators in the Ohio valley which create much of our acid rain problem in Ontario, but also by the fact of what happens to the rain forest in the Congo.
We must, as we always have in this political jurisdiction of Ontario, trail-blaze. I believe we have the best environmental legislation anywhere in the world and we have the best technical staff for ensuring that people in this area comply with it. What we must do is sell the message to our neighbours to the south and to the world at large.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Morin): The member for Lakeshore.
Mrs. Grier: Mr. Speaker, the member for Brock is going to take five minutes of my remaining time.
Mr. Partington: I would like to thank the member for Lakeshore for permitting me to join in this debate. I am pleased to join in this debate in support of Bill 9, An Act respecting Environmental Rights in Ontario. As I read that, I hoped that the word "respecting" not only meant "about" but also meant "pay tribute to," "focus on," "enshrine."
I looked at section 2 of the proposed bill, subsections (1), (2) and (3), and thought how important those sections are, how necessary the thoughts and the principles contained in them are to the future of our society. Subsection 2(1) says: "The people of Ontario have a right to clean air, pure water and the preservation of the natural, scenic, historic and aesthetic values of the environment."
It is only a short time ago that people settled in North America in the Great Lakes basin because of an abundance of good land, plenty of wood, unlimited quantities of fresh water and a very moderate climate. The Great Lakes area and its people prospered and grew in numbers and strength as a result of that. But that very prosperity, that very growth has undermined and weakened the very reason for its being.
We have attacked the environment; we have laid waste our pure water and our clean air. We read daily of the polluting of our environment, be it the poisoning of our soils, the degradation of our water or the attack on the very air we breathe, as we have recently learned with respect to the acid rain threat to us all. Only this morning, in the Globe and Mail, we see a headline, "Mist of Niagara Falls Carries Toxic Chemicals, U of T Researchers Say."
The mighty Niagara River, once a symbol of greatness, energy, strength and certainly nature's magnificence, has become, in a short time, an example of our folly, our environmental destruction, wantonly and with disregard to the safety and the livelihood of us all. Some day, we may through our concentration change that and make Niagara River a hope; may reverse the destruction of nature we have gone about.
I would like to say with respect to this bill and how important it is to us, that John Jackson and Tim Eder of Great Lakes United's Water Quality Task Force, in a summary they did of the water quality agreement, state, "The Great Lakes residents insist on being much more directly involved in decision-making that affects the quality of the lakes and the quality of their lives."
In another brief to a federal water inquiry, it has been indicated that there is an immediate concern for health in the face of increasing pollution and insidious toxic contaminants in drinking water. There is concern about the waste treatment and cleanup for our cities, our farms and industries; others worry about impact on fish and wildlife. Truly, the people of North America, the people of the world, are concerned as never before about environmental concerns.
The bill that the member for Lakeshore introduces today goes a long way to ensuring that we recognize those rights to clean air and a clean environment as fundamental, not only to good living but also to survival. It guarantees that the people of Ontario and, hopefully, others will take a lead, that they have a direct right to interfere. They do not need to leave it to others or to government; they can interfere in court action.
Clearly, given the reference to intervener funding, they do not have to come to the government and hope that they might get money to intervene and represent the citizens. There will be a fund and a board set up, and they will have a right to go there, provided that they bring to the hearing a focus in the interest of all. Money will be awarded so that they can clearly represent their interests and the interests of the people they support.
I think this bill is essential for Ontario today and for the citizens of Ontario. I am very happy to support it.
Mrs. Grier: I would like to thank most sincerely the members who have participated in this debate today, not only for their participation but also for their support of the legislation. I truly feel that we can move on and perhaps see enshrined in legislation the kinds of rights this bill envisages. That is the important thing.
While it has been pointed out that some of the aspects of the bill may be appearing in other legislation or may already exist in some form in other places in our law, what this bill does is establish the fundamental right of the people of the province to a clean environment. I have certainly found that people are very surprised to discover that they do not already have that right, that nowhere is it said, "You have the right to a clean Ontario." I am sure that many members of this Legislature will be supporting, and have been approached about the issue of enshrining property rights in legislation. How much more important it is to enshrine environmental rights. That is what I welcome the support for doing, and I hope we can proceed.
The member for Frontenac-Addington (Mr. South) has pointed out the need for co-ordination and the diverse places in which environmental legislation is found. That is one reason we need a bill like this that will pull together all the various environmental rights and privileges and access and participation and mechanisms that people need. By having it in one piece of legislation, we will have certainty and we will have a mechanism.
The member for Halton-Burlington points out, quite rightly, that this government has provided intervener funding and has been more open to access and has provided more money to groups who want to participate in the process; but they have not set down any guidelines, they have not enunciated a mechanism and they have not given groups the certainty that they will have funding available to them if they want to participate.
When you embark on opposition or on participation in some hearing and you do not know whether you are going to be funded, it severely limits your ability to participate. A true environmental funding policy would lay down the rules, let you know where you stood, what you were going to get, when you were going to get it and you could plan your activities based on that certainty. As the member for Brantford pointed out, in the absence of that certainty and in the absence of those rules, we might be subject to the whim of the government as to what group it was going to fund and what group it was not going to fund.
I have raised this matter of intervener funding at question period on many occasions in this House, and I am surprised, once again, to hear from the member for Halton-Burlington that we are awaiting legislative proposals from the Attorney General. When I last raised the issue with the Attorney General, I pointed out there was a very clear set of guidelines for intervener funding that he himself had enunciated during the hearings into the Mackenzie Valley pipeline. I do not know what we are waiting for and why we cannot put those in place and at least do that.
I urge the members of the government not to delay other pieces of intervention in proceeding towards an environmental bill of rights, merely because this bill today has passed second reading. There is a lot to be done. If they can proceed with intervener funding, if they can proceed with access to information, I am not for a moment suggesting that they slow down that process. What I am saying is, let us put it all together, let us enshrine our right to a clean environment.
I urge the members to support sending this out to a committee. I urge the government to allow us to have hearings early and quickly into the actual sections of the bill and then to call the bill for third reading so that we can say that this minority Legislature has truly accomplished something for the environment.
Mr. Jackson moved resolution 1:
That, in the opinion of this House, recognizing municipalities have vital concerns with the movement of dangerous goods within their boundaries and that Ontario is the only province or territory in Canada that has not taken steps to control the movement of dangerous goods within municipalities, the Ministry of Transportation and Communications, in consultation with the Ministry of the Environment, with the technical and public input from affected municipalities, enact specific legislation to control the types of hazardous goods and routes within municipal boundaries.
Mr. Jackson: I am both pleased and honoured to place before this assembly this resolution which would call upon the Ministry of Transportation and Communications in consultation with the Ministry of the Environment and with input from the affected municipalities, to enact specific Ontario legislation to control the types of hazardous goods and their routes within municipal boundaries in Ontario.
In recent years municipal councils and the public at large have been made increasingly aware of the potential for major disasters within our municipalities resulting from the transportation of dangerous goods and materials by road and by rail. This new awareness has led to the expectation that the flow of dangerous goods through urban municipalities should be regulated in order to minimize the potential for such incidents resulting in the loss of life and property. Indeed, action has been taken in all provinces but Ontario to establish some form of dangerous goods truck routes.
At present Ontario municipalities can regulate heavy truck routes within their boundaries, but the Ministry of Transportation and Communications has repeatedly stated, as it did to the city of Burlington on December 2, 1985: "Ontario currently allows municipalities to pass bylaws establishing routes for trucks under the Municipal Act. This bylaw-making power refers to any commercial vehicle and is not commodity specific."
In that correspondence from the manager of the operation, policy and standards office with the MTC, Mr. Brennan stated further: "To date there has been a reluctance to approve commodity specific routing since the government does not want to economically hinder the movement of goods any more than is necessary as long as public safety does not suffer. Any extension of the present bylaw powers should have to take into account economic factors such as local pickup/delivery patterns, connecting routes between municipalities and between the highway and other modes of transport, as well as connections with federal properties. These economic factors would have to be weighed against the object of public safety."
I suggest that the movement of pressurized hydrogen or chlorine or radioactive materials through a municipality are in fact issues of public safety that should be addressed by this Legislature, even if the Ontario Ministry of Transportation and Communications is unwilling.
If a truckload of milk overturns outside a hospital or in a densely populated residential area there will be traffic lineups as a result, but if a truckload of pressurized hydrogen overturns in the same spot there are substantial risks presented; yet truck routes under current legislation do not treat one any differently than the other.
It was the early morning of October 18, 1985, when a truckload of pressurized hydrogen overturned on Lakeshore Road in Burlington. There were 140,000 cubic feet of hydrogen in that truck in 12 cylinders, and one of them split. It forced the evacuation of many residents in east Burlington. Had the truck been half a block further down the road it would have been in one of the most densely populated areas of my community. That truck should not have been there. The driver was lost. Yet he was there and the area had to be evacuated.
As Burlington Fire Chief Warren Corp pointed out to the city council, it was, in his opinion, the unsuitability of the route for the transportation of dangerous goods that needed to be looked at. Fire Chief Corp was concerned because there was a growing incidence of these kinds of situations, some of them occurring in very crowded, densely populated areas.
The aldermen, primarily Alderman Barry Quinn and Alderman Jim Ryan, were quite disturbed to learn that at that point there was no authority with the municipality or with the province to regulate in such an instance. So Burlington council agreed on March 10, 1986, to send a resolution to the municipalities of Ontario and to this Legislature. That resolution stated:
"That the Association of Municipalities of Ontario be requested to petition the government of Ontario to reconsider its position on the transportation of hazardous goods and to enact specific legislation enabling municipalities to control the types of hazardous goods and routes that these goods take within municipal boundaries."
The government should have listened to Burlington council because there is a growing support among municipalities across Ontario for the need to act on this vital issue. The councils of Oakville, Markham, Mississauga, St. Catharines -- the home of our Minister of the Environment (Mr. Bradley) -- Toronto -- the home of our Minister of Transportation and Communications (Mr. Fulton) -- and the regions of Halton and York have endorsed this resolution. Indeed, the Association of Municipalities of Ontario has endorsed this resolution, as amended in its operating paragraphs, and I quote briefly:
"That the Association of Municipalities of Ontario be requested to petition the Ontario government to reconsider its position on the transportation of hazardous goods and to enact specific legislation to control the types of hazardous goods and routes."
Indeed, the Ontario Traffic Conference, after consultation with municipal delegates, completed a final report with their position on dangerous goods truck routes in September 1986 and filed the following resolution:
"That the province establish guidelines for the control and movement of dangerous goods on public roadways; and that with both technical and public input from the affected municipalities, the provincial government designate dangerous goods routes through and around municipalities, using a permissive system, which regulates but does not prohibit the movement of dangerous goods to any area within the municipality."
Also, the council of the Municipality of Metro Toronto endorsed the position adopted by the Ontario Traffic Conference on September 30, 1986. There seems to be a common concern across Ontario that this province finally establish guidelines for the control and movement of dangerous goods on public roads. The case for a routing control to ensure greater public safety is a compelling one and it makes good common sense.
For example, dangerous goods routes would make it easier for our officials concerned with safety and emergency procedures to plan responses to possible accidents which could be very serious and require immediate action. As many traffic hazards as possible could be eliminated from the planned routes. For example, level crossings, limited manoeuvring room such as tight turns and narrow bridges, excessive pedestrian traffic, or subways or tunnels where gases collect, present extra hazards in the transportation of dangerous goods.
Preplanned routes would facilitate policing of the regulation as all of the traffic would be more easily identified in accordance with the limited regulations under the Dangerous Goods Transportation Act. Preplanned routes could be designated to direct dangerous-goods traffic away from emergency resources centres, such as our hospitals, fire stations, police stations and other emergency facilities that would be necessary to control and to respond to those kinds of accidents. This response would be greatly inhibited if the facility itself was actually involved in the incident.
Also, preplanned routes could be designed to direct dangerous-goods traffic away from heavy density institutions such as schools, plazas, commercial areas, hospitals and nursing homes. Preplanned routes could make it easier for our planning departments to plan use of the community with the knowledge of where these materials would be travelling. For example, industrial zoning could be encouraged on hazardous-goods routes and institutional uses discouraged.
Clearly, it should be realized that the lack of dangerous-goods truck routes in Ontario is a growing problem. Not only are hazardous chemicals a growing problem, but also hazardous biological material and, yes, nuclear waste.
Currently, notification of routes for some highly dangerous radioactive materials to local emergency planning authorities is required. However, these officials, our fire and our police chiefs, have no input as to what routes would provide the least risk to life and property. It is completely unacceptable, but unfortunately sometimes true, that they have been notified after the radioactive materials have passed through their communities. This is a growing problem that requires our immediate attention as legislators.
The issue of the concentration of chemicals or hazardous goods corridors should also be mentioned at this point. In September 1985 the Ontario Waste Management Corp. selected as its preferred site the township of west Lincoln in beautiful Niagara Peninsula. Although this site may not be operational for several years, plans call for an annual treatment and disposal capacity of over 300,000 tons of toxic material per year.
The Queen Elizabeth Way will become a toxic waste freeway. The increased concentration of hazardous waste traffic will present a significant and greater risk to communities like Mississauga, Oakville and Burlington as traffic proceeds over the Skyway bridge and on to Stoney Creek, Saltfleet and then Grimsby.
A comprehensive set of regulations governing the transportation of dangerous goods must be implemented here in Ontario before that Ontario Waste Management Corp. site becomes a reality. The provincial government has the authority to implement this resolution in the interests of public safety and in response to the very legitimate concerns being raised by our municipal leaders across Ontario.
My resolution calls upon the provincial government to enact specific legislation. It calls for consultations and municipal input. I ask all members to join me in support of this resolution. The issue today for us as legislators is not who controls this regulating authority. The issue today is that we agree that regulations are required and are approved for a safer tomorrow.
The Deputy Speaker: The member has reserved seven minutes and 50 seconds for the windup.
Mr. Charlton: I rise in support of the resolution of the member for Burlington South (Mr. Jackson). I think it is appropriate that this debate occurs immediately after the debate on Bill 9 which we dealt with earlier this morning because they are issues that are directly connected.
The member for Burlington South made it clear that what he wants this morning is support for this resolution and not for the specifics of who should have the control and the regulatory authority ultimately. His resolution is silent on that matter. His resolution calls for the need for legislation.
However, in terms of my comments, I want to insert into the debate some aspects of this situation which go beyond those which have been raised by the member for Burlington South. I will start that out by saying that I happen to agree with the member for Burlington South that preplanned hazardous waste or hazardous substance routes are a useful approach for part of the problem because those preplanned routes can then be policed in a way that we cannot now police the movement of hazardous substances.
What we have at present is a situation where, although there are some regulations around the types of equipment and containers in which hazardous substances will be moved, there is virtually total freedom of movement of hazardous substances. The member mentioned that municipalities have the right to designate truck routes through their municipality, but they do not have the right to regulate use of those routes. Even more than that, they do not even have the right to know what substances are ultimately using those routes.
I do not mean to belittle the member for Burlington South but I want to tell him that Highway 401 north of Toronto and the Queen Elizabeth Way from Toronto to Buffalo are already a hazardous substances freeway, and have been for many years now.
We have a situation where hazardous substances can go virtually anywhere. There is no advance notification. There is no ability on the part of the local authorities to be prepared for the kind of accident the member described in his own riding. There is no knowledge on the part of the local council, or more important on the part of the local citizenry, of the contents of those vehicles transporting hazardous substances.
This is where the connection comes between the previous debate this morning and the debate we are having now. Even the establishment of preplanned hazardous substances routes will only deal with part of the problem. Because of the ineffective way we have done our development planning over the course of the last 100 years, we have industrial complexes and in many cases individual industries isolated in inappropriate communities where, in order to get their hazardous substances to the plant or out of the plant, they are going to have to take routes that are inappropriate as preplanned hazardous substances routes because they are going through residential communities to get to the designated highway or whatever the case happens to be.
Because of that and in that context, we have to insert into this debate the question of environmental rights that we talked about in the last debate. We have to start informing municipalities, whether it is the province that ultimately regulates or whether it is the municipality that ultimately regulates. We also have to start informing citizens, because regulatory bodies in making their judgements in terms of regulating the movement of hazardous substances are going to make decisions, decisions which inevitably are going to contain an assessment of risk. The way in which they have approached that assessment of risk is something that has to become public knowledge, and the public ultimately has a right to respond to it.
I guess what I am saying is that not only does the movement of hazardous substances have to be regulated, but also ultimately we have to give the right to municipalities and communities within municipalities to fight to stop the movement of a particular hazardous substance through their community when it feels it has not been fairly dealt with in terms of the determination of what is an acceptable risk.
Many would say that kind of process could throw all kinds of economic consequences into the industrial arena in southern Ontario. I spent four years as the environment critic for this caucus, and I want to tell the members those four years became the most intensive learning experience of my life. I learned a lot of things about a lot of dangerous substances, but I also learned a lot of things about the need to use those dangerous substances.
There have been a number of studies done around the world, in North America, and by organizations right here in Toronto, about pollution, hazardous waste and the need for pollution and hazardous waste; and even about making profits from pollution prevention. The studies show that in most cases the hazardous substances that are taken into a plant and then removed from that plant in a dirty state can be recycled, reused and cleaned by the addition of certain processes in the plant itself to reduce or eliminate the need to move that hazardous substance in and out of the plant on a regular basis.
It has also been shown that the additional technologies to make those kinds of things happen can often produce a profit. We find a number of things happening. Sometimes hazardous substances are shipped in and out because of habit, because the operator of the industry does not know there is a cost-efficient process for cleaning and reusing that substance. Often, the operator is using a particularly toxic or hazardous substance because it is slightly cheaper than a less dangerous alternative. Often you have combinations of both, where a change in process and a change in the substance you use can resolve the problem of the need to transport those dangerous substances right from the outset.
The ability of the public -- the individuals past whose homes these hazardous substances are being moved, the risk-takers in this society: the people who work in the plants, the people who live on the routes where the substances are transported -- to bring pressure to bear to stop the movement of that hazardous substance can be resolved in a number of ways.
It can be resolved by finding alternative routes; it can be resolved by finding an alternative substance; or it can be resolved by forcing the industry to look at an alternative process in the plant itself. The solutions are not simple, but if we do not give the public the right to bring that kind of pressure to bear, old habits, old routines and the urge to reduce costs between a more hazardous substance and a less hazardous substance will ultimately leave us in the lurch. We have to deal with those questions in the legislation the member is talking about.
Mr. Haggerty: I wish to join in the debate this morning dealing with the resolution of the member for Burlington South, particularly on the matter of who has responsibility and authority in directing the movement of hazardous goods through a municipality. I concur with the previous speakers on the matter, because it is a serious problem out there in the municipalities.
I represent the area of Erie, which has a number of trucks carrying radioactive waste from the American side on through to Detroit. I always understood that when these particular trucks would move through a community the municipality was notified of the movement of that hazardous material.
Sometimes, some place along the line, somebody forgets to notify the local emergency task force, such as the fire department, in the municipality. That is a great concern when we put all the responsibility upon municipalities, particularly fire departments and those who are in the emergency task force in a community.
There is often a cost to bear. I think in his comments the member for Burlington South mentioned the Ontario Waste Management Corp. locating in west Lincoln. There have been reports to say that about every three minutes there will be a truck going through the little village of Vineland, a quiet community there. That is through the day, I understand from what they tell me, and I suppose if we look at that we could have a backlog of trucks from the site all the way right through to the Queen Elizabeth Way. They could be parked on every street in those communities without some rules that apply to say, "We want to reduce the possibility of an event, an accident or even the potential risk of an accident."
I am concerned about that; but then again, when I look at the regulations we do have, the Dangerous Goods Transportation Act for the province that parallels federal legislation, and then we come in with deregulation of the trucking industry from the American side that is supposed to parallel federal legislation on the American side, then we can come back and take a look at the spills bill act. Just take a look at it though; I am trying to bring a point home here.
Take a look at all those laws, acts, legislation and regulations that somebody back in a municipality has to be concerned about. I suggest that a number of members visit local fire departments and see what efforts they are trying to make to catalogue all the toxic chemicals that may be transported on our highways and even through the Welland canal, because it is an area that they really cannot cope with, yet we are willing to shove more responsibilities on municipalities.
The member for Hamilton Mountain (Mr. Charlton) mentioned recycling as an area the government should be moving into to neutralize some of the toxic chemical waste of these plants. Often, the argument comes forward on the matter of trucking, and even the matter of locating the Ontario Waste Management Corp. in the Niagara region.
The reason it is located there is that it is central. It will cost too much to move it to some remote area in Ontario. "You have to put in the cost factor," that is what they tell us, which I cannot agree with; but I am suggesting to members, although there are regulations under section 210 of the Municipal Act, they can do that.
Of course, I give credit to the local politicians. They are clever enough to say: "Yes, we know there is hazardous material here. We can designate that as a truck route." For example, in the former county of Welland, the Webber Road going through Vineland and into Welland was there to generate the truck route into the heavy industrial sector; the Niagara region, we might say -- Niagara south.
But I want members to take a look at a bill that perhaps many of us have forgotten. This followed the derailment that took place in Mississauga. It is the Emergency Plans Act. This was put forth by the Solicitor General at that time, Mr. Taylor.
He said, "Municipalities, of course, have initial responsibility for responding to an emergency situation. They have hospital, ambulance, fire, police and other essential services located within their boundaries."
I thought one particular paragraph in there should be of interest to all of us. He said:
"I believe this is a valuable piece of legislation which will assist municipalities in making immediate and effective response to emergencies. I also wish to mention that the bill complements the laws regulating the transportation of dangerous goods and the program in place to protect the environment from adverse effects of spills and other accidents."
When I take a look at that bill, what he is saying, the intent of that bill, is that the municipalities have a right to designate a preplanned route for moving hazardous materials or goods in municipalities.
The whole point is, if we keep on bringing in more legislation and more legislation, by the time those who have to respond to that crisis or that event look down to see what action they should be taking, the response time could be delayed considerably.
I agree with the intent of this, and that is more initiatives should be given to the emergency plans of the municipalities.
This afternoon I will be introducing my own bill, the Good Samaritan Act, An Act to relieve Persons from Liability in respect of Voluntary Emergency Medical First Aid Services. If we are going to have such plans as are already on the books and if we want to complete a sound emergency plan, then we are going to have to give relief in other areas.
When you get an event of the nature of what happened in Mississauga, if you have an accident of that nature -- and a spill of toxic chemicals could happen again anyplace -- you have to muster every human resource that is available in a community or municipality to be able to respond to that event. For example, we have to look to St. John Ambulance to respond. We should be looking for nurses, people who are well qualified in medical first aid treatment and our hospitals to respond. Until we get into an area to say that we want a complete emergency plan in an event, the government of the day -- and the government of the past should have done so -- should come in with a Good Samaritan Act so we can put all our resources together in the event of a spill or an accident. I suggest that legislation is there now if we want to respond to it.
I know the Ministry of the Environment and the Ministry of Transportation and Communications are always reviewing the transportation of dangerous goods throughout Ontario. I suppose when one looks at that, they are going to be coming up with some new ideas, new programs or new plans. I think one of the areas they should be looking at is designating a truck route that can carry hazardous materials. I suggest the more deeply we get into this thing, we see that recycling is something that perhaps should be looked at in some areas. The government should be moving in that area.
I think of the Ontario Waste Management Corp. locating in the peninsula between two large bodies of water. Just think of what the consequences would be if there was ever a spill, an accident or an event occurring there. It could get into either of those lakes. We talk about the serious problem on the Niagara River and the pollution in that area; just think of what could happen there.
I believe there is enough legislation under Bill 2, the Emergency Plans Act, 1983, that the municipalities can move in that area to control the movement of hazardous materials.
Mr. Gregory: I am very pleased to stand and speak in favour of the resolution of my colleague the member for Burlington South. He has read the resolution. I want to touch for a minute on the real dangers we face and some of the results we have had from toxic waste spills.
I recall very clearly the evening of November 10, 1979. I had the pleasure to speak in St. Catharines at a nonpartisan meeting, and I was the designated speaker. I left for home shortly after 11, between 11 and 12, and driving home from St. Catharines on the Queen Elizabeth Way, my daughter, who was with me, and I spotted across the lake a very bright light.
From that distance, my first reaction was that this was the burnoff from the petroleum storage area down in Clarkson. Of course, as we got a little closer driving along the highway and kept seeing flashes, this got larger and larger. We started speculating with some trepidation about what this was. The immediate reaction we both had was that surely a jet had crashed at the airport, which is just north of my riding.
Naturally, as we got closer and closer to the area and kept seeing these flames getting higher and higher, we began to get very concerned. It was not until we got home and caught some newscasts that we began to get little glimpses of what it was. This, of course, was the infamous Mississauga rail disaster. This has nothing to do with roads, but it does not much matter when you are in a situation like that whether it is a railway tank car or a truck tanker exploding. The results can be just the same.
In this particular instance, what happened was that the tankers derailed and some exploded. As a matter of fact, I found out the next day that some tank cars were blown 200 yards through the air, if one can imagine this, into adjacent fields. That is a long way for a tanker to have gone sailing through the air, farther than most of us can hit a golf ball.
We have quite often heard Mayor McCallion refer to the Mississauga miracle. Perhaps that language is a little strong, but when one considers that had the chlorine gas escaped -- chlorine gas was used during the First World War because it clings to the earth and travels with the earth and goes down with the valleys into the shell holes and that sort of thing -- with the wind patterns in Mississauga the wind would have blown the gas directly and primarily in a southeast direction and the gas would have covered the Queen Elizabeth Way.
It is a proven fact that when automobiles drive through chlorine gas, the chlorine stops the automobile. In other words, it comes to a stop. I do not know the mechanics or the chemistry of that, but that is exactly what happens. One can imagine that had that chlorine gas covered the Queen Elizabeth Way going through Mississauga, with the many thousands of cars that would travel late Saturday night -- most of us have driven at some time on Saturday night and we know what it can be like -- one can imagine the horror of that happening or the horror if the gas had blown towards the residential areas, which were not too far from it.
My friend the member for Erie (Mr. Haggerty) mentioned the Emergency Plans Act that was brought in by the former Solicitor General. One example of the success of that occurred during the hurricane in Barrie. They give credit to that act in the setting up of an emergency plans committee for the control of the disaster, the saving of lives and that sort of thing.
We did not have that sort of thing enacted at the time of the Mississauga disaster, but between the Peel Regional Police and the Mississauga Fire Department, with a lot of help from surrounding communities' police forces and fire departments; and with very active leadership from the Attorney General at that time, Roy McMurtry, from her worship the mayor, the chief of police of Mississauga and the chief of the fire department, the result was not one loss of life; not one person lost his life as a direct result. I believe there was one as a result of some senior citizen being moved, but that had no direct relationship to it.
The miracle that caused that was that when the tank car exploded the majority of the chlorine gas was blown into the air. I do not know but I guess chlorine dissipates in the air, and I do not think there were any bad results from that. Rather than spreading along the ground in every direction imaginable, it blew up into the air so that the risk of that chlorine gas was removed.
One cannot imagine the psychological feeling on Sunday morning, which was the first opportunity I had to go to the site to see it, and then coming home about an hour and a half later to find that my whole district had been evacuated. As I drove along the street and attempted to turn into my subdivision, I was stopped by a police officer. I was able to prove who I was and ask, if the area was evacuated, that I at least be given the opportunity to evacuate my family, which I had to do.
A hundred thousand people were evacuated from Mississauga that day. They were placed in school gymnasiums, in community centres, in what hotel space there was available, and it was very difficult to do. I was fortunate I have my parents in Toronto and I was able to move my family there. I am not trying to relive that, because we all heard about it. In fact, it made Mississauga famous and certainly did not do Mayor McCallion any harm either.
The fact of the matter is it became a very well known city, ironically because of a disaster. The point of the whole exercise is that whether it is a railway tanker or a truck tanker that goes up, the results can be basically the same. When we see these tankers going around, in the few instances that my friend the member for Burlington mentioned about actual happenings, about spills, we realize this could happen in just the wrong area.
If the Mississauga disaster had been planned, it could not have been planned better, because it happened in an area that was approximately two miles from the nearest housing subdivision. There was room even for the tanker car to blow 200 yards and land in the middle of a field and for the gas to be blown upwards so that it did not affect the community. It truly was a miracle. We cannot count on this happening again. If a tanker truck full of chlorine gas were to have an accident in the middle of a subdivision somewhere, could we hope for a second miracle? I think not. It becomes a matter of time.
The resolution is an intelligent one. This matter has been approached before and previous Ministers of Transportation and Communications have said they could not do that. In the two years since there has been a new government nothing has been done either, so I do not think it is a matter of casting blame for its not being done. I think it is time it was done. I really feel it is important, because I do not think we can generally give every municipality the right, the authority to set those routes for hazardous trucks.
I think we have to be very careful. For example, we cannot give the council of the village of Podunk, wherever that is, or Pumpkin Corners, which sits on the Trans-Canada Highway, the right to reroute transport trucks off the Trans-Canada Highway, around the village and back on to it again. I think that would be carrying things too far. However, with some discretion, the Minister of the Environment and the Minister of Transportation and Communications can, on a selective basis, give municipalities that right, and this is precisely what this resolution is directed at.
Mr. Speaker, I think my time has run out. Thank you very much.
Mr. Reville: I am delighted to rise to speak in support of this resolution. I do so with a great deal of history behind my wish to support this resolution, because as an alderman in the city of Toronto I had cause to be concerned about the transportation of dangerous materials.
I am sure there has been much discussion of the Mississauga disaster. I can think of a disaster in my own ward, when I was an alderman, which, thankfully, was not a fatal occurrence. It related to the transportation of nitrocellulose between two warehouses. Unbelievably, there was an entrepreneur who was speculating in nitrocellulose, which is the main ingredient of dynamite.
Somewhat more than 100 drums of this material were transported from one warehouse to another, where subsequently they caught fire. The whole southern portion of what are currently the ridings of St. David and Riverdale were evacuated. The firefighters were particularly concerned that there might be loss of life, not only of residents but also of firefighters. It was a very serious situation that points up the pressing need for mechanisms to regulate the transport and, indeed, the storage of hazardous materials.
I remember a very urgent conversation I had with the fire chief at that time, who was obviously worried that many of his firefighters might lose their lives in that situation. I think it is even more important when we are thinking of volunteer fire departments, because they do not have access to the kind of database that a Toronto fire department might have with its computers and what not. We are sending out volunteers to deal with situations they may not have any information about at all. There are placarding systems and routing systems that could deal with many of these very grave dangers.
I must say that both the current and previous governments at the provincial level and at the federal level have been derelict in their responsibilities of protecting the safety and lives of not only innocent passersby but also those whose job it is to go into hazardous situations day by day. There is, indeed, a federal responsibility in this regard, and I hope that should the resolution pass, which I assume it will, the mover of the resolution will want to include consultation with the federal authorities, because they have jurisdiction in the transportation of goods across provincial boundaries.
One of the things I think the resolution points to quite sharply, and I am sorry it has not been mentioned, is the failure of both the current government and the previous government to deal seriously with the whole question of right to know. I am talking about not only the right to know in the work place, so that workers know what kinds of hazards they are exposed to, but also the right to know in the community, so that people who live around industry to which dangerous goods will be transported and in which dangerous goods will be stored and processed can know what kinds of dangers they are exposed to and appropriate measures can be taken to prevent not only worker injury but also threat and injury to the community.
I think it is absolutely shocking that our Minister of Labour (Mr. Wrye), in this as in so many other regards, has been foot-dragging shamefully, has been goofing around with work place hazard management information systems, which really does not tell anybody much about anything, rather than serious right-to-know legislation, rather than a labelling kind of approach.
There is a whole question of toxicology that needs to be addressed seriously if there is a spill of naphtha on Highway 401. What is that going to do if there is a chemical cocktail, as often happens when particular chemicals are exposed to other chemicals or to the elements? What kind of hazards are we as residents of Ontario, and as police officers and firefighters, going to be exposed to?
When I was still an apprentice plumber, I had an employer who sent me out to deal with a drainage problem in a public housing project. This points up two problems. One is the way in which public housing projects are constructed and the other is the way in which employers treat their employees.
I was sent out with this material to try to unclog the drainage system. I put the recommended amount into the drain and immediately got a 40-foot cloud of vapour and poison. I still have scars on me today. I was given no protective equipment whatsoever --
Mr. Haggerty: You did not read the label.
Mr. Reville: It was quite interesting; the label said absolutely nothing. The label said: "Do not eat this. It has MSG in it." I did not eat any.
Mr. Haggerty: I thought that was the position you were in. You did not know what you were doing. You were not an expert.
Mr. Reville: We are getting some good advice from across the hall from a person who has absolutely no knowledge of the subject. That is fairly typical and I do not find it unusual at all.
I find it regrettable that it is well known that many of the products we are able to create in our society come without instructions that even a simple apprentice could understand. In some cases, apprentices are more simple than others, but they deserve to be protected from the known effects of substances, as do all the people who abut highways. The communities through which the highways unravel should be protected.
I am delighted to see the resolution by the member for Burlington South. I presume one of the reasons the resolution is before us is that there are a number of high-traffic roadways that go over the bridges and down the lanes in that area of the country. For any of us in Ontario and in the rest of the country for that matter, we need to be really serious about the transportation of dangerous materials. We need to embark on the consultation process that has been recommended here. I believe there is much we can learn from the residents of the municipalities and the local representatives of municipal councils and township councils who have to deal daily with the concerns of their constituents about what may be lumbering through and what those spooky signs mean on the backs of various kinds of tankers and other vehicles.
There are a number of issues. I think the issues have been well canvassed here today. Let us get on with the real work that would flow from this resolution. I urge other members of this Legislature to support it, notwithstanding that I have accused both the Liberals and the Tories of dragging their feet on it. Now is the time for them to stop dragging their feet. The New Democrats, I believe, will be cheerful to support this kind of initiative.
Mr. Jackson: At the outset, I would like to thank my colleagues from the third party, the member for Riverdale (Mr. Reville) and the member for Hamilton Mountain, for their kind and generous comments of concern with respect to the safe passage of this resolution.
It was particularly appropriate today when we have also had on the morning's agenda the bill of the member for Lakeshore (Mrs. Grier). I believe there is a connection between the two. In fact, the whole area of right-to-know legislation, of responsibility to inform our citizens, particularly of problems with the transportation of nuclear waste, is an issue I am pleased to see has not escaped the attention and concern of all the members of this House.
I want to thank my colleague the member for Erie for what I guess I should stylize as his cautious and somewhat conditional support for the resolution.
I note with interest that the member for Scarborough East who is the Minister of Transportation and Communications is unable to be with us in the House today. He is recovering from a very serious illness and I know all members of the House will join me with wishes for his safe and complete recovery. I know he would be in the House today to listen to this rather important resolution affecting his ministry. However, I am disappointed the member for St. Catharines (Mr. Bradley) was unable or unwilling to be here to respond to both of these resolutions.
The member for Erie briefly mentioned the spills bill. I have to remind the member that it is not a document that at least the official opposition felt was the proactive type of legislation required for Ontario in the 1980s and the 1990s. That bill only lays blame. It only fixes liability. In fact, it only allows our police chiefs and fire chiefs to be able to respond to the media and say, "That is who is to blame." In no way does it address the requirements in Ontario to be proactive to reduce the incidence of spills. I think this resolution should be considered seriously by the government because of its proactive approach.
The member talked about the Emergency Plans Act. It is a rare moment in this House when we have members of the governing party crediting the former government for any piece of legislation. I thank him for his kind support for the previous Attorneys General.
Still, that bill should go further. What we are hearing is that the police chiefs, particularly my police chief and fire chief to whom I talked yesterday, indicate they want dangerous goods routes designated in their communities so that they can co-ordinate and plan response times and not have to deal with the point the member raised about the gap of having to react after having found out all the facts involved in a specific case.
I cannot help but highlight one point. It has to do with the whole issue of substance control and this new government. I find it rather odd that this government has expressed open willingness to let municipalities decide on whether beer and wine should be sold in local corner stores, and yet there appears to be a reluctance to let municipalities decide on dangerous goods routes. That form of contradiction on substance control is a matter of public record and I hope it will be corrected soon.
It is clear that there are definitely preferred routes for the movement of dangerous goods throughout Ontario municipalities. Each municipality has unique characteristics, as has been stated by the members of this House speaking to the resolution. In particular, I want to mention my colleague the member for Mississauga East (Mr. Gregory) who eloquently advised us of the unique circumstances of a rather hazardous spill that occurred in his riding.
I ask that all members of this House approve this resolution for a safer Ontario.
Mr. Speaker: This completes the debate. However, the standing orders state very clearly that the vote must be taken at 12 of the clock.
Mr. Gillies: It has to be that, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Pierce: Ad lib it for a while.
Mr. Speaker: Really? Perhaps I can have the agreement of all members.
ONTARIO ENVIRONMENTAL RIGHTS ACT
Mr. Speaker: Mrs. Grier has moved second reading of Bill 9.
Motion agreed to.
Mrs. Grier: May I ask that the bill be referred to the standing committee on resources development for hearings and discussions.
Hon. Mr. Nixon: Does the member not want it to go to the environment committee?
Mrs. Grier: That is a select committee. I want it to go to a standing committee.
Mr. Speaker: Is there agreement? Generally it goes to committee of the whole House, but if there is unanimous agreement it is perfectly in order.
Mr. Speaker: Mr. Jackson has moved resolution 1.
Motion agreed to.
Mr. Jackson: May I ask that the resolution be referred to the standing committee on resources development.
Mr. Speaker: The member can ask anything he wants. To my knowledge that has not been done in the past. It is not the usual procedure. If it is a bill, it is fine. There is no objection to asking but there is nothing in the rules that says it has to go.
Hon. Mr. Nixon: We are not in favour of that occurring.
The House recessed at 12 noon.
The House resumed at 1:30 p.m.
MENTAL HEALTH SERVICES
Mr. McLean: I have a statement for the Minister of Health (Mr. Elston). As he knows, both the Oak Ridge steering committee and the mental health centre's advisory board committee have brought to his attention the critical shortage of clinical, research and support staff required for providing adequate treatment services to patients at the Penetanguishene facility. In total, approximately 90 additional staff members are required to meet the day-to-day needs at Oak Ridge.
I am seriously concerned over the recent reports from the mental health division that additional funding for the province's psychiatric hospitals will not be forthcoming. The hiring of additional staff cannot occur if funding is held at current levels. The funding restrictions have placed the senior administration at Oak Ridge in the untenable position of being expected to make improvements at a time when the minister has tightened his purse-strings. A great deal of enthusiasm has been generated within Oak Ridge over the positive steps that have been taken to improve treatment services for the patients, and I hope this momentum continues to the hiring of additional staff.
Will the minister instruct his officials to review the steering committee report and immediately improve additional funding for Oak Ridge? On April 7, I sent the minister a letter requesting a clarification of a statement he made with regard to closing Oak Ridge, and as yet I have not received a reply. Will a new facility be built on the same property?
Mr. Martel: Today I received a call from the Minister of Labour (Mr. Wrye) suggesting that my colleagues and I meet with him to discuss the matters that were raised in the Legislature yesterday. My colleague and I refused because we did not want to be precluded from raising matters we might learn about. We passed that information on to the Minister of Labour and got a later call indicating that everything we would discuss would be on the table, at which point I suggested the minister should make a full and complete statement in this Legislature.
I smell a rat in this situation. The night that the Premier (Mr. Peterson), the Minister of Labour and my colleagues from the Sudbury area met at the Levack mine, the first thing the company told us was that there was a man working in a place where he should not have been working. My antenna went up right away, because that was dwelt on in a great deal of the discussion.
I turned to the Minister of Labour and said: "I want you to find out what the practice is. Do not tell me about the policy of the company. I want to know what is the practice of having workers working above where other workers are in a shaft."
I was never more shocked than to learn yesterday that criminal charges had been laid, which would preclude an inquest. Members have to understand that in all situations involving mining fatalities an inquest is compulsory, and that precludes it.
Mr. Mancini: Yesterday a question was asked of my colleague the Minister of Natural Resources (Mr. Kerrio) concerning Holiday Beach Provincial Park in the riding of Essex South. I just want to let the House know that a number of years ago, under the Conservative government, the park was put into private hands against the wishes of the local member. Since that time, the park went into complete disrepair and it was probably in the worst condition of any provincial park in Ontario.
After the Liberals assumed the government, I approached the minister with the same proposition I had made to the Conservative government, to turn the park over to a public body such as the Essex Region Conservation Authority, and the minister did. We made a public announcement in the riding, we worked along with the local municipalities, and now the park has been improved substantially and its usage has gone up.
While there was a technical error made in not notifying the Ministry of the Environment 30 days prior to the change, the park in fact has been upgraded. It is in the hands of a public institution, and this government has done something I asked it to do when the previous government would not even acknowledge my request.
Mr. Warner: Only Liberals can lose an entire park.
Mr. McClellan: They lost a whole park.
Mr. Speaker: Order. The member for Cochrane South.
Mr. Pope: Yesterday the minister did not even know where it was.
CITY OF TIMMINS
Mr. Pope: This is the 75th anniversary of the city of Timmins. There has been delivered to each member's mailbox, or there will be within the next day, a calendar of events issued by the municipality, Mayor Vic Power and the chairman of the 75th anniversary, Bill Boychuk. This calendar of events indicates the kinds and wide diversity of events that will be taking place over the summer months.
I urge all members to attend the city of Timmins during the 75th anniversary, and while they are in the great riding of Cochrane South, it is the 75th anniversary of the establishment of Abitibi-Price and therefore of the beginnings of the community of Iroquois Falls. Summerfest `87 is on from July 22 to July 27.
It is also the 75th anniversary of the establishment of Matheson in the great riding of Cochrane South, and the Matheson Agricultural Society is planning a number of events to honour that anniversary.
If members come to the great riding of Cochrane South, to which they are all invited, partially at my expense and partially at their own expense, there is a wide variety of events and features to be offered to them and their families.
Mr. Warner: It seems that the Minister of Health (Mr. Elston) has decided he is going to elevate delay and indecision to an art form. It has now been four years since Scarborough General Hospital, in consultation with the other public hospitals in Scarborough, determined there was a need for a renal dialysis unit to serve our community, and yet there is no decision, no action on behalf of the government.
Every time I raise it, the answer I get from the Minister of Health is, "Well, we are making progress." A centipede with fallen arches moves more quickly than this government. We are tired of waiting.
But more than that, the minister will know, as other members sadly know, that a young Scarborough man died last year simply because he was on a waiting list for a renal dialysis program. That tragic event could be repeated unless this government shows some leadership -- which is uncharacteristic of the government, of course -- and releases the money needed so that we in Scarborough can benefit from a renal dialysis program.
Mr. McLean: I would like to bring to the attention of the Minister of Agriculture and Food (Mr. Riddell) the great problem that many farmers are having across this province with regard to farm help. I know the pools he has established are supposed to be helping the farmers across the province to get help, and I know of many farmers in my area, including my son as one, who cannot hire farm help.
I wonder what the minister is doing to promote the agricultural offices, the Kemptville College of Agricultural Technology and the different schools to try to encourage young people to be involved in the agricultural industry and to try to help these farmers who are badly in need of farm help.
I do not know whether the labour pools across the province are doing their job fully, but I would appreciate it if the minister would look into it and try to establish a system whereby the people in this province, the farmers who are being successful, can get help.
Mr. Reville: I would like to address this statement to the parsimonious member for Brant-Oxford-Norfolk (Mr. Nixon), who, in his crossing of the divide between this side and that side of the House, forgot that a speculation tax used to appeal to him a lot but now does not seem to.
I think particularly of Yorkville-by-the-Water, which in other terms is Harbourfront, where people are making down payments for stuff that does not even exist and may not exist. In fact, units in one project started at $90,000 and are now being sold for $180,000. If that is not speculation, I do not know what is.
I think this government should move on it and bring back some of the ideas it thought were so lovely while in opposition to protect home buyers so they can get a place to live in this province.
STATEMENT BY THE MINISTRY
PROVINCIAL-MUNICIPAL SOCIAL SERVICES REVIEW COMMITTEE
Hon. Mr. Sweeney: As the recent speech from the throne indicated, "We recognize that individuals, neighbourhoods and communities best know their own needs, and we will involve them in planning and choosing the services they require."
Today I wish to announce an initiative which is designed to improve social services right at the grass-roots level. We want to improve and clarify the joint roles and responsibilities for social services shared by the province and Ontario's municipalities.
To that end, I have appointed the Provincial-Municipal Social Services Review Committee. The committee will examine current provincial and municipal roles and funding responsibilities for social services and make recommendations for a more rational, co-ordinated and comprehensive approach.
We will be facing a number of difficult issues and attempting to answer some thorny questions, which will include: What are the strengths and weaknesses, on a program-by-program basis, of the existing service delivery and cost-sharing relationships? How should the respective responsibilities of the province and municipalities for the delivery of social services be reconciled? Should municipalities be given more or less responsibility for the delivery of social services?
There are three partners in this review: the Association of Municipalities of Ontario, the Ontario Municipal Social Services Association and my ministry.
The committee will be jointly chaired by Ron Book, representative of the Association of Municipalities of Ontario and chairman of the social services committee for the regional municipality of Niagara, and by Colin Evans, executive director of strategic planning and intergovernmental relations for my ministry.
Also representing the Association of Municipalities of Ontario are Nancy Smith, a city of Ottawa alderman and chairman of the social services committee of the regional municipality of Ottawa-Carleton; Roger Taylor, mayor of the town of Elliot Lake, and Dick Picherak, commissioner of community services for Metropolitan Toronto.
The committee has three representatives from the Ontario Municipal Social Services Association: Phil Johnston, commissioner of social services for the regional municipality of Waterloo; John MacKinnon, administrator of social services for Huron county, and Alan Wells, commissioner of social services for the regional municipality of York.
Finally, three senior officials of my ministry, two of them assistant deputy ministers, have agreed to serve on this committee.
The recommendations of this 11-member committee will shape the basis for provincial-municipal relations in social-service delivery and cost sharing for the next decade.
The committee's report will be ready within 18 months. At that time, we will act decisively on the recommendations it contains. This government is committed to continuing to work in partnership with the province's municipalities to ensure our system of social services is the best it can possibly be.
PROVINCIAL-MUNICIPAL SOCIAL SERVICES REVIEW COMMITTEE
Mr. Andrewes: I am pleased to be able to respond to the statement of the Minister of Community and Social Services, in which he, of course, announced yet another government review, another committee to put forward suggestions for his ministry.
I want to congratulate the minister particularly on his choice of Ron Book, regional councillor for the town of Grimsby at the Niagara regional council level, as joint chairman. Ron Book has for a long time taken a very strong interest in the social services field, has distinguished himself in that field and has brought to the Niagara region a perspective on social services that lends itself to his role in this committee. He is also known to have great foresight and to champion certain political causes and was seen at a particular nomination meeting last week supporting a candidate of his choice.
The minister has alluded in his statement to the challenges that face this committee and the challenges of the inequities in the social services field. Those inequities that exist between communities across the province are indeed severe. The committee's role is to identify some of these inequities. I hope it will reach some conclusions that will allow it to make recommendations to the minister that will attempt to balance the haves with the have-nots across this province. That is the role of the provincial government. Certainly, the municipalities in the past have sought great direction from the government in trying to balance that situation.
As it identifies the shortfalls in the system, I do not want this committee to forget some real concerns that exist in my own region and right across the province -- concerns such as children's mental health, speech therapy and the continued deinstitutionalization of developmentally handicapped people in our communities. These are challenges that are challenges today, and I am sure and confident the committee will be addressing them.
Mr. R. F. Johnston: It often amazes me the time we spend on statements by ministers when other gaps are left yawning. I would have thought the statement for today would have been from the Minister of Labour around the matter that was raised yesterday about the laying of charges. I cannot believe that has not come forward.
Instead, what we have is the production of a new committee to study and not to report for at least 18 months, according to what the minister is telling us, with a very confused mandate.
What is the present role of the Social Assistance Review Committee? Is it not to look at some of these issues as well within its parameters? The answer is yes.
Is this committee supposed to wait to do anything until it sees what Judge Thomson says, and are his recommendations to wait until this committee has had a chance to review them in the future?
There are some very good people involved in this, I will admit -- some wonderful people from the various municipalities -- who will come and sit down and discuss things. Phil Johnston will be pleased to be on this again after he finishes with the Social Assistance Review Committee this fall some time, or perhaps the minister expects him to do both things at once in the interim.
When the minister is talking about actually co-ordinating social services delivery and how the funding of that should take place and about how the delivery mechanisms should be headed, is it not kind of strange that he would come through with something that has no connection with the Ministry of Health? How is it that he is going to start talking about the delivery of social services to the elderly in municipalities around Ontario and how that should be done when he does not have anybody from the Ministry of Health or the health sector on this thing? It is absurd.
When the minister is dealing with youth, how can he possibly talk about social services delivery to youth in Ontario without involving the Minister of Education (Mr. Conway) or people from boards of education around Ontario? They are not involved. That is also preposterous.
I suggest that the minister also needs to be involved in the correctional side of things and young offenders questions, if he is going to be dealing with a review of social assistance in Ontario. All he has created is an excuse for inaction by himself for another 18 months, to use it, as he is using Judge Thomson's committee, as an excuse not to do anything for the disadvantaged in our society.
This is not a necessary formalized committee. This will be a good working group to work with an interministerial committee here at the Legislature, but, in my view, it is muddle-headed. It is another excuse for delay by a government that knows not what it should do towards the poor and disadvantaged in this province.
Mr. Harris: I have a question to the Minister of Financial Institutions. It was two weeks ago today that he called his news conference to announce his intention to cap auto insurance rates. At that news conference, from sheets I have here, it was specified that the mandate of the rate review board was "to set ranges for all types of motor vehicle insurance." Yesterday in this House, the minister said the rate review board will determine all insurance rates, including fire, home owner and theft. Can the minister tell us today which of his two statements was correct?
Hon. Mr. Kwinter: Yesterday, I was responding to a hypothetical question placed by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Grossman) as to what would happen if rates went up in other lines of insurance, based on the cap or the rate review board we had for auto insurance. I was saying that when it examines automobile rates, the rate review board will take into consideration all factors that may influence those automobile insurance rates.
Mr. Harris: Given the continuing confusion surrounding this issue, I suggest the minister may want to check the Hansard and some of the comments he made outside the Legislature. I do not think that is what he said at all. In fact, it appears as though he is perhaps calling the plays here from the line of scrimmage on this issue. I might add that as he is calling these audibles and the automatic plays, one would wonder whether they are even in the playbook of the Premier (Mr. Peterson) to start with.
None the less, the minister will acknowledge the amount of confusion he has created with two different statements. Until yesterday, the discussion was only on auto insurance premiums. If he wants to check the Toronto Star of this morning, he is quoted as saying, "Our rate review board is meaningless, if it just sets a rate for autos." That is his opinion.
Mr. Speaker: And the supplementary question is?
Mr. Harris: Can we ask the minister why he has not been straightforward from the beginning on his true intentions for the auto insurance industry?
Hon. Mr. Kwinter: The intention of this government is to provide rate review for automobile insurance. Having said that, we want to make sure that there is not any cross-subsidization, that the industry does not decide that if it cannot do it in auto insurance, it is going to raise rates in all the other sectors of personal line insurance. We are going to make sure that the rate review board and the insurance advocate monitor those rates to make sure they are not being adversely affected by what the companies are doing with auto insurance.
Mr. Harris: Now that we have established that the minister does not appear to be any less confusing on this issue today than he was yesterday or in the past two weeks, perhaps I could go back to his original news conference and subsequent statements in the House where the minister has said that public auto insurance has not been ruled out.
Given his expansion yesterday of the mandate of the rate review board, perhaps he would clarify this statement for us and confirm that, in fact, the government of Ontario has not ruled out public auto insurance and is considering a complete takeover of the entire insurance industry.
Hon. Mr. Kwinter: This government has said all along and I as a minister have said that I do not prefer government auto insurance. Having said that, I have Justice Coulter Osborne looking at the whole area of no-fault insurance. He is looking at who should be delivering it, whether it should be the private sector or the government sector. If it can be shown that is the only route this government can go, we would have no choice but to examine it. That is what I was saying then and I am saying it now.
Mr. Speaker: Order. I am certain there is a member who would like to ask a question.
Mr. Rowe: I have a question of the Minister of Health. As the minister will know, I have raised the question of the government funding for a new hospital in Barrie on many occasions in this House. Instead of responding to these legitimate inquiries, the minister accused me of failing to understand the priority-setting procedures of the ministry. While the minister may enjoy this game, he simply is putting the lives of many seriously ill patients at risk. Why does the minister continue to play politics with the residents of my riding instead of getting on with the job of health care?
Hon. Mr. Elston: We are not making any type of game out of funding our health care system. Our system is being planned. The programs that should have been done many years ago now have to be put in the framework of our fiscal abilities. We plan to provide the services that are available for all of us to look at.
Mr. Speaker, I cannot tell you how outraged I am at this gentleman standing up and accusing us of playing politics with a health care facility. That does not occur; it will not occur. He should know better.
Mr. Rowe: I have in my hand two letters to me from the minister, one he intended me to receive and one he clearly did not intend me to see. In the latter, the passage that is scratched out by the minister's own pen reads as follows: "I expect to make a public announcement regarding this matter in the very near future."
Clearly, the minister is in a position to announce funding for the new hospital today. Why is the minister withholding critically needed health care services from the people in my riding for his crass political gain?
Hon. Mr. Elston: There is no such thing occurring. The honourable gentleman wishes us to make statements and announcements at all turns. He will know, as everybody else in this world will know, that all our decisions must be made on the basis of fiscal planning along with everything else. We have several priorities that we are examining even now.
Mr. Speaker: Order.
Hon. Mr. Elston: I would love to make announcements every day of the week. I must do the planning that is required, and it has to be done in a reasonable process. We will do that when we are able to come up with conclusions which provide us with the ability to find the funds that are available to make the facilities workable for all the people there in Barrie and area.
Mr. Andrewes: I want to remind the minister that it was one year ago that we asked the Premier (Mr. Peterson) about the Royal Victoria Hospital in Barrie, after the death of a woman in the corridor of that hospital. I also want to remind him about other projects we have spoken about in Orangeville; in Dufferin and Peel; in North Bay, where he put a two-year delay on announcements for that facility, and in Timmins where he has delayed the announcement for two years.
Now we have an errant letter, dated one month ago, in which he clearly indicated his intent to hold off making these announcements until it was politically propitious for him to do that. Are people in need of health care in this province to wait until the Premier calls a provincial election before they get health care services?
Hon. Mr. Elston: Throughout the process of almost two years of our mandate, we have been making the announcements as the planning has been completed. That gentleman will know that there were a number of projects on which his group of people -- he was a cabinet minister -- made announcements for which they had absolutely no planning put in place at all. He did not have the allocations and yet those people opposite went ahead and made a plethora of announcements for which there was no planning or allocations in place.
Mr. Speaker: Order. I will ask all members to control their feelings, thoughts and comments. I ask them to be reasonable.
OCCUPATIONAL HEALTH AND SAFETY
Mr. Martel: I have a question of the Minister of Labour. Alan Douglas Brown died on September 6, 1985. He was a Ministry of Transportation and Communications employee working over a culvert when he fell into a flooded creek. He was not provided with a lifejacket.
I raised this matter with the minister on May 7, 1986, and charges were laid against three ministry officials in June 1986. The trial was held on April 25, 1987, in Peterborough, where the case was thrown out, due to the fact that the statute of limitations was exceeded. Under the Public Authorities Protection Act, subsection 11(1), the limitation for prosecution is six months.
Can the minister tell me why it took him six months-plus even to lay a charge and the statute of limitations was exceeded, yet he fairly panted yesterday laying charges three weeks after a fatality in Sudbury? What the hell gives?
Hon. Mr. Wrye: I am well aware of the results of the trial in Peterborough in the charges that arose out of the Alan Douglas Brown fatality. I can inform the honourable member and the House that the ministry plans an appeal to the decision of the judge in the case.
Mr. Martel: That is helpful. The question was why they were so anxious to lay charges yesterday, three weeks after, yet they spent seven or eight months, after being prompted in this Legislature, on another fatality.
I have another supplementary on laying charges. I raised the matter of Allied Heat Treat in this House in November 1985. In March 1987, 16 months later, I got a report that told me the following: "There was inadequate ventilation. There was no protection over the salt bath which caused the roof to corrode. There was inadequate protective equipment provided to the workers. The noise levels were exceeded. No data sheets were provided. No health and safety committee was in place. There were hazards of lead and potassium cyanide." Tell me why this company did not have charges laid against it.
Hon. Mr. Wrye: My friend the member for Sudbury East (Mr. Martel) will be aware that a complete and thorough investigation was carried out regarding all the concerns that were raised. Indeed, he has alluded to the letter I wrote to him on March 30 this year.
I want to say to him and to the House that a complete and thorough investigation cannot always be completed and compliance achieved overnight. We wanted to assure ourselves that this was done. I want to emphasize to the honourable gentleman that all orders issued to the company were complied with by April 1986. The orders, I am advised, were issued to promote good engineering practice, not because of any high levels of a substance, as air quality tests did not indicate levels above the acceptable standards under our regulations.
Any consideration of a prosecution and charges in this matter would have been carried out by the appropriate ministry officials, and I am just a little shocked that my friends over there seem to suggest that perhaps there ought to be continuing ministerial, political interference in that process.
Mr. Martel: I think the minister has responsibility for this act. That is what he is supposed to be there for. Did nobody tell him that yet? Somebody should. He has only been there two years.
Let me ask him another question about his legal branch. Last year, as a result of 13 inquests, charges were laid in eight cases. The judge threw out charges on eight cases. His ministry withdrew charges against supervision in eight cases. In the five cases in which the ministry proceeded, the average fine for a fatality was $3,540. Life is pretty cheap: $3,540 is the average fine.
Against the company, they lay charges under the Occupational Health and Safety Act. Against the worker, somebody from the Ministry of the Attorney General allows charges of criminal negligence. He should tell me what is wrong in that crazy legal system those people are trying to run over there. Workers are the guinea pigs in a place where management has the responsibility under the act and all the power in the act.
Hon. Mr. Wrye: I am not going to comment on the specific situation that occurred at Levack, but I must say I find it almost incredible when we have a judicial system in place in this country and in this province in which, as I understand it as a nonlawyer, we expect a degree of independence will be provided to certain individuals and to the police
Mr. Martel: Before the inquest. Do not be a clown. There is an automatic inquest.
Hon. Mr. Wrye: My friend who is continuing to interrupt --
Mr. Speaker: Order. Will the minister take his seat, please. New question.
Mr. Laughren: I too have a question for the Minister of Labour concerning the deaths of the four miners in the Levack mine in my constituency. The minister now has had a day to reflect on the actions taken by the Attorney General (Mr. Scott) in complicity with his ministry. Can the minister tell us whether officials of his ministry were consulted by the police before the charges of criminal negligence were laid? Were the minister or his officials consulted before or when those charges were laid by the Attorney General? If so, why would he allow that to happen, given the fact that it eliminates the possibility of an inquest that could bring out a lot more details before charges would be laid?
Hon. Mr. Wrye: The answer is no.
Mr. Laughren: Despite the fact the minister is responsible for occupational health and safety in this province, the police laid a charge without any consultation with officials of the Ministry of Labour. Despite the fact they were there during all the investigation, the police had no consultation with the Ministry of Labour officials. That is fascinating indeed.
In view of the fact certain things have transpired that prevent facts from coming to light, I would like to point out a couple of things to the Minister of Labour.
Mr. Speaker: By way of a question, I hope.
Mr. Laughren: Yes, by way of a question. Has the Minister of Labour heard, or does he understand yet, that at that mine site, the site of the accident, wire mesh screen was reported missing to the company two weeks before the accident and was not replaced, and a valve was missing on the air-lock gate and it had been out of order for two to three months? The work had been shifted to the day shift from the midnight shift, when mining does not occur. It does occur, of course, on the day shift. A hose was leaking water into that ore, which added both weight and mobility to the ore.
Given these facts, can the minister tell us why, in the name of heaven -- why, in the name of anything that is decent or fair -- would he sit by and allow that to happen: to have criminal charges laid against the worker when no charges are laid against the company?
Mr. Speaker: Order. The question was asked, finally.
Hon. Mr. Wrye: If I might, since this does not fall under my ministry, I would like to refer this matter to the Attorney General.
Mr. Speaker: Order. I understand that to be referred to the Attorney General.
Hon. Mr. Scott: As I indicated to the leader of the third party yesterday, as a result of his request, I have asked our officials to commence a review, which will be conducted at our office, to determine what investigation took place on the part of the police, the nature of the investigation and who, if any, had parts to play in the decision that was made to lay the charges. I do all that not because I suspect any impropriety but in order to respond to the request the leader of the third party made, that a stay should be issued so the inquest could now proceed in advance of the criminal charges.
I hope to have a complete statement about the result of that investigation, which will at least assure that the House has all the facts, at the earliest possible time next week.
Mr. Laughren: I find it truly beyond belief that the Minister of Labour was not consulted before these charges were laid. I have a question back to the Minister of Labour, if I might, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Speaker: I am sure the honourable member is aware that the question or supplementary question must flow out of the response. We have discussed this. I would ask the member to place his supplementary to the Attorney General.
Mr. Laughren: I will ask it to the Attorney General then. I assume the Attorney General knows the history of laying criminal charges for industrial accidents or mining accidents. As far as we know, there has been only one time when this has occurred in the province, and it was not successful. The charges ended up being withdrawn or thrown out of court, whatever.
I am wondering if the Attorney General could, for once in his life, put aside his legal mumbo-jumbo and do what is decent and what is fair and withdraw the charges against Mr. Kuhle?
Hon. Mr. Scott: I cannot withdraw any charges in that sense. What I can do is stay them. As the leader of the third party indicated yesterday, he wanted me to consider doing that, and I indicated that I am prepared to do that. I think it would be an interference with the administration of justice. My friend may regard it as mumbo-jumbo if I made determinations about the propriety of the charge before the evidence has been heard.
Mr. Martel: They did that too. They laid the charges that way.
Hon. Mr. Scott: The honourable member will know that under our system the police, for better or for worse, have a responsibility, and the whole purpose of the development of our law system, which the member may not find acceptable, is to separate the police, in so far as possible, from political control.
The political control that is permissible under the Criminal Code is a control that takes its form through the stay that an Attorney General can issue. As I indicated yesterday, I am prepared to consider, because the leader of the third party asked for it, a thorough review to determine whether this is an appropriate case for that to be done, but frankly, I do not have an answer on that matter for the honourable member today.
I recognize the very great priority that should attach to it and I hope to have an answer as soon as possible early next week.
Mr. Pope: When it came to Wyda Systems, LSI Applications and the Vaughan land sale, the Solicitor General (Mr. Keyes) gave directly the opposite answer.
Mr. Speaker: Of which minister is the question?
UNEMPLOYMENT IN NORTHERN ONTARIO
Mr. Pope: In the absence of the Premier (Mr. Peterson), the Minister of Natural Resources (Mr. Kerrio) and the Minister of Industry, Trade and Technology (Mr. O'Neil), my question is of the Treasurer, the Deputy Premier (Mr. Nixon).
By the government's own statistics, layoffs in northwestern Ontario in 1986 increased over 1985 by 250 per cent. Layoffs in northeastern Ontario increased by 48 per cent in 1986 over 1985. With the government's bungling of the softwood lumber issue, layoffs have, if anything, accelerated rapidly over the past few weeks in northern Ontario.
Over the past year and a half, we have asked specific questions about what policies and programs the government was putting in place to help these workers, their families and the communities in which they live. Over 12 months after we started this process, I now go back to the original question. What programs and what policies has the government put into place that will put the laid-off steelworkers in Algoma Steel back to work; the iron ore workers in Wawa back to work; the forest products workers in Nakina back to work; the laid-off workers in
Mr. Speaker: Order. Would the honourable member take his seat?
Hon. Mr. Nixon: I understand there may be an opportunity to discuss this matter more fully later this afternoon. If I were to list the variety of programs that have been initiated by this government over the last year to attempt, at least, to alleviate the difficult situation which the honourable member has described, I would be far beyond the time limit Mr. Speaker would award me.
In my opinion, one of the most effective initiatives taken by the government of the day has been to move a number of ministries to the north.
Mr. Ashe: The Ontario Lottery Corp.
Hon. Mr. Nixon: That is right. As a matter of fact, it is more than 1,200 jobs, with a payroll of well over $40 million. No one would suggest that this is going to put all the laid-off steelworkers, lumber workers or miners back to work, but we have a variety of programs that are intended to stimulate the economy of the province, to assist renewal of economic growth that suffered so tremendously over the last five years and to get on with the sort of development that members on all sides of this House would certainly support.
Mr. Pope: The government's own statistics prove that it is a lack of economic growth since this government came to power that is the problem in northern Ontario. That has caused the acceleration of layoffs. It has been since this government came to power. There have been no initiatives to employ laid-off workers in northern Ontario. Section 38 funding is at an all-time low. I repeat, what programs and projects does the government have to put these laid-off workers back to work, not the generalized mumbo-jumbo the Minister of Industry, Trade and Technology has given us for a year? What programs does it have to put the laid-off workers in the resource sector back to work? What are they?
Hon. Mr. Nixon: I suppose one of our aims is to try to depoliticize the rhetoric that tends to surround a difficult situation. The honourable member, being a northerner himself, must surely realize that while there may be an attempt to win some votes on his part, his concepts and content do not assist the northerners in any real way.
He has accused me of generalizations, and I have specifically referred to the 1,250 jobs that have been announced by a variety of ministers on this side, which is an extension of the responsibility of this government to decentralize the responsibilities of government into the north. There have been many years when, as a senior minister, the honourable member had a chance to do that, and he failed.
Mr. Martel: I have a question of the Attorney General. I want to go back to yesterday's announcement of the charges being laid. Is it not a fact that, in this province, there is automatically an inquest into mining fatalities? If that is the case, can the minister tell me if the regional police contacted Hervé Sauvé, the crown attorney in Sudbury, and did the crown attorney contact the minister's office to get approval or to discuss the possibility of laying the serious criminal charge against the one worker in Sudbury, and if there was approval given, can he tell me why?
Hon. Mr. Scott: To answer the honourable member's first question, as I understand it, there are a number of instances where fatalities occur that inquests are mandatory. I think of certain deaths in hospitals, for example, as one such case; and though I do not have the Mining Act, it may very well be that in mining circumstances a death triggers an automatic inquest. That is my understanding as to the first question.
With respect to the second question, my present advice is that my office was not contacted prior to the charges being laid. I hope to have a full report about that matter next week, when I respond to the request that the honourable leader of the third party has made.
Mr. Laughren: Given the seriousness of the charges and how outrageous they are, given the fact that the laying of the criminal charges immediately meant there would be no inquest, does the Attorney General not think it was fundamentally wrong for those charges to have been laid without consultation?
Hon. Mr. Scott: Frankly, I cannot say that. As the honourable member knows, there are two persons whose support is required for the laying of a charge. First is an informant who will make an oath; normally a police officer, but quite often an ordinary citizen. Second is a justice of the peace, who will accept the information and issue a warrant or effect an arrest on the basis of it. So anybody can lay a charge if he is prepared to make the oath and if he can find a justice of the peace who will issue a warrant on the oath.
A police officer, or indeed any other person, is entitled to obtain legal advice, if he wants it, before he proceeds to the justice of the peace to ask for the issuance of a warrant. In certain cases, it is normal for the police to ask the crown attorney to determine whether the evidence on which they propose to act is adequate for the purposes of the Criminal Code. One of the things we are inquiring about is whether that took place in this case and what considerations were brought to bear when that inquiry was made.
Mr. Andrewes: My question is to the Minister of Health. The minister will have seen the ads placed by the Ontario Nursing Home Association in daily papers which suggest that old people living in nursing homes in Ontario funded by the Ministry of Health are receiving less care and attention than those living in other institutions.
I wonder if the minister might comment on the differential in funding between Ontario nursing homes and municipally run homes for the aged.
Hon. Mr. Elston: I think the member has narrowed the comparison which was originally made in those advertisements. He has now narrowed the comparison to municipal homes for the aged and nursing homes. I do know that there is a differential in funding, and it has arisen largely because of the historical nature of the facilities which developed to provide care for our seniors over a long period of time. It is no secret that in this province the Minister without Portfolio responsible for senior citizens' affairs (Mr. Van Horne) is looking very aggressively at how we can rationalize the extended care system around Ontario to try to deal with any questions of differentials in funding with respect to care for our seniors.
I can tell the honourable gentleman that work is proceeding and that in the meantime, our speech from the throne makes commitments to assist in terms of staffing. We will proceed to do the correct planning to put that into place. Of course, we also have to wait for things like budgets and other items to be determined and finalized so we can proceed to deal with all questions of policy that are brought up and that are of an important nature for us here in this House.
Mr. Andrewes: These advertisements allege discrimination in the care of elderly people in the province; discrimination that stems from a differential in the funding mechanism. Are the ads factually correct? If they are, is the minister going to continue to tolerate that differential and that form of discrimination, or is he going to wait for a provincial election to resolve it?
Hon. Mr. Elston: We have the speech from the throne, which clearly indicates that we are moving to address the questions of funding and staffing levels. It has been no secret that the hearings on the Nursing Homes Amendment Act indicated that people wished us to place more emphasis on staffing. We know that there is a requirement for a different style of care now in our long-term facilities.
The honourable member will know that the statistics that are quoted there do not reflect the status of every not-for-profit home in Ontario. It is a generalized statistic, which can tend to reflect not quite accurately the true state of affairs in the not-for-profit extended care section of the ministry of my colleague the Minister of Community and Social Services (Mr. Sweeney). I think we would all have to note that if we wished to move ahead with addressing problems in not being able to provide care in certain facilities -- and we are doing that. Working with his help, I know that when the amendments come before us, we will put an act in place that will assist us to develop a certain philosophy.
I also might say that Deer Park Villa, which we opened in Grimsby yesterday, is another way of addressing it.
Mr. Speaker: Order. I think that is a fairly complete response.
BEEF CATTLE MARKETING
Mr. Hayes: My question is to the Minister of Agriculture and Food. The minister has indicated that he is prepared to make changes to the Ontario Beef Cattle Marketing Act. One of those changes would be to allow a nonrefundable checkoff for the Ontario Cattlemen's Association.
Will the minister assure this House that he will not proceed with the changes to the Ontario Beef Cattle Marketing Act until the total beef industry is given time to review the facts and also have input into this proposed change?
Hon. Mr. Riddell: The beef industry has had an opportunity to make input into the decision reached by the Ontario Cattlemen's Association at a vote that it had at its convention last year that there be a nonrefundable checkoff. At that time, I informed the Ontario Cattlemen's Association that I wanted all the beef producers apprised of the action that I was prepared to take, but that the association had to make every effort to inform all beef producers to get out to the meetings and to express their views on a nonrefundable checkoff.
That was done. Every county association had a meeting and took a vote on whether it wanted a nonrefundable checkoff. I have to say that a majority of the counties voted, with a large majority in every county, for a nonrefundable checkoff. Then I spoke to them at their convention and told them the conditions I expected of the Ontario Cattlemen's Association before I introduced an amendment to the Ontario Beef Cattle Marketing Act. If they are prepared to meet those conditions, I am certainly prepared to come into this House with amendments to the act.
Mr. Hayes: I just want to make one thing clear to the minister. The Ontario Beef Producers for Change are not objecting to a nonrefundable checkoff. What they do object to is giving that total power to an organization that does not represent the interests of all the beet producers in Ontario. When is the minister going to stop bowing to the special interests of one group and stop continuing to ignore the concerns of all the beef producers in Ontario? That is exactly what he is doing.
Hon. Mr. Riddell: The Ontario Cattlemen's Association is the only association that is recognized under the Beef Cattle Marketing Act and as the agricultural association, so it is the body that speaks for the cattlemen. The Ontario Cattlemen's Association pays out about half of what it receives by way of a checkoff towards advertising. The rest of the money is used to put out information to the beef producers and to put out a newsletter. All beef producers in this province are benefiting from the advertising and the information that the Ontario Cattlemen's Association sends out.
If the Beef Producers for Change want a different marketing structure established, they know the procedure they have to follow. They go to the Farm Products Marketing Board with a petition. The Farm Products Marketing Board then contacts me and I then will go to the county with a plebiscite to get the views of all cattlemen on what kind of marketing system they want.
Mr. Harris: I have some questions for the Minister of the Environment. Many North Bay residents are concerned about the health effects as a result of suspected emissions and odours from the neighbouring Reichhold chemical plant. Complaint after complaint of nausea, sickness, headaches and other ailments have been documented and forwarded to his ministry over the past year. I see the minister flipping through his books, so he is well aware of the problem. Can the minister explain why he and his ministry have failed to submit an air quality report to the area medical officer of health for interpretation, a report that the minister personally promised me in writing would be provided to all parties concerned, including me, by February?
Hon. Mr. Bradley: I cannot give a specific answer to the member other than that it is a very busy ministry in that particular department of putting together materials because of the number of demands we have on the ministry. I think he draws a legitimate concern to my attention. I know it is not a new problem at all, as he has clearly indicated. It is a problem where there have been considerable complaints. I will be happy to gather the necessary information for him and report back to him. It concerns me when he says February; we now are into May. I understand that he would legitimately want to have that information and I will do my best to get it for him.
Mr. Harris: I guess I could question the minister's sense of priorities in that ministry. I understand it is busy but we are dealing here with a health problem. We are dealing with the local medical officer of health, who is concerned, and with people who are getting sick. They want to know.
The minister has taken sample after sample. In fact, last November, his ministry brought in the famous million-dollar machine to take the tests. They were done last November. The results have been kept secret. The citizens have tried to find out the results. Health has been trying to find out the results. Reichhold, the company itself, has been demanding information month after month. They write a letter a month to the ministry saying, "Please give us the results so we can do what we can to help solve this problem."
Why is the minister or his ministry keeping the results secret? They were taken last year. When is he going to start acting to correct the problem instead of secretly going around collecting all this information for who knows what?
Hon. Mr. Bradley: It is ironic that someone from that side of the House and from that party would lecture me or this government on secrets and keeping secrets in the field of the Ministry of the Environment.
I want to indicate to the member, because I think he has brought a legitimate concern to my attention, that he will recognize that when tests are taken, they are taken across Ontario in many situations such as he has described. Those tests are then analysed and the report is put together and released. We do not keep secrets from the member in that regard, but I want to tell him that the problems are mammoth.
The people of Ontario know they have a government now that is prepared to investigate all these problems and is prepared to do all this testing and to go looking for problems. Of course, we have a much greater volume of work within the ministry but that does not alleviate the specific concern the member has, as all of us have in these circumstances. As I said, I will be quite pleased to investigate this matter and report back to him.
Mr. Martel: I have a question for the Minister of Labour. Can he give this House any information with respect to the latest fatality that occurred just this afternoon at Onaping mine, a holding of Falconbridge? I understand there will be a press conference at three o'clock. Can the minister indicate whether he knows of that fatality and, if he does, why he did not bother announcing it to this House?
Hon. Mr. Wrye: I am aware of this and I understand that my staff made the member's party, either the member himself or the member for Nickel Belt (Mr. Laughren), aware of this. I was so informed before I came to the House today.
I assume the member is talking about the fatality at Strathcona mine. The worker, who was a diamond driller, was found at about 10:45 this morning. I have very fragmentary information other than that the worker was apparently strangled by a metal cable while working on the surface. Our officials are on the scene investigating. I did not raise the matter in the House because, as the member knows, it is not customary, certainly since I have been in this Legislature on both sides of the aisle, for a Minister of Labour to stand up and announce fatalities. We certainly regret this latest fatality and we are investigating it.
Mr. Martel: There have been eight people killed in my riding or my colleague's riding in less than eight months, starting with Dick Kerr and Robin Comba. I called a fellow the other night to talk to him, and he has been unconscious for a month. When is the slaughter of mining people and people involved in the mining industry going to stop? Hopefully, the minister will make sure that any investigation and any involvement of the police this time will result in a co-ordinated effort and not somebody running off ahead of time trying to win a kudo for himself by laying charges against a worker, as in the case of the four people killed at Levack.
Hon. Mr. Wrye: I am not sure I heard a question. I think the honourable gentleman knows that if there is a police investigation, and they investigate at their discretion, it will be conducted separately from any ministry investigation. Our investigation is already under way and will be a full and thorough one.
I share the gentleman's concern about the number of fatalities. One fatality is one too many and certainly we have had a very regrettably large number in the last short while. I do not want to leave the impression, in spite of these very serious incidents and indeed fatalities, that the situation in the mining sector is all bad. The member will know that last year in the mining sector, based on a figure of hundreds of thousands of person-hours worked, both the injury frequency and the injury severity were the lowest in the history of the mining sector. There are some very real improvements. Regrettably, we have not yet reached the stage where those improvements stop fatalities such as the one today and the others. We can only continue to try to seek that kind of improvement.
Mr. Martel: On a point of privilege, Mr. Speaker: A few moments ago, you heard the Minister of Labour (Mr. Wrye) indicate to this House that his ministry had contacted my office and that of my colleague with respect to the latest fatality in the Sudbury area. To correct the record, I have to indicate to the House that this just is not the case. Neither his office nor my office were contacted by the Minister of Labour.
Mr. Speaker: That is not a point of privilege.
Mr. Speaker: Order.
Mr. Polsinelli: I have a question of the Minister of the Environment, if he will take his seat. We seem to have been hearing lately about the problem of garbage disposal. Garbage disposal seems to be a problem throughout this whole province, but particularly in the large urban centres such as Metropolitan Toronto. It seems to me one of the practical ways of tackling the problem would be through the process of recycling. Is the minister able to tell us what his ministry is doing in terms of recycling?
Mr. Jackson: He is recycling that question.
Hon. Mr. Bradley: It is a good question.
Mr. Andrewes: They have been doing it in Grimsby for two years.
Hon. Mr. Bradley: As the member who represents Grimsby points out, for two years now we have had a recycling program there, and in Pelham and other municipalities. The Ministry of the Environment is actively encouraging recycling in Ontario. The members will recall that when we came into office, about $800,000 a year was being spent on the promotion of recycling. That was immediately put up to $2 million and last year there was $4 million dedicated specifically to encouraging recycling through capital grants, through some assistance in operations, through processes and through helping them to advertise their programs.
As a matter of fact, yesterday I just happened to be in Guelph, and when I was in Guelph I was announcing some assistance and officially opening its recycling program at its request. I believe all municipalities in Ontario should take advantage of the considerable amount of money that is available. OMMRI, Ontario Multi Material Recycling Inc., has announced $20 million from the private sector as well to go into recycling. It is really taking off in Ontario and offers people an opportunity to avoid putting those substances in the landfills.
Mr. Polsinelli: I thank the minister for his response. It seems his ministry is moving ahead in this area. As a supplementary, I would like to know whether he has any programs that are targeted to the large urban areas. I am particularly referring to Metropolitan Toronto.
Hon. Mr. Bradley: On public occasions, through speeches to various organizations, including those organizations that have a direct interest in recycling in Ontario, I have certainly encouraged municipalities at all times, and I encourage Metropolitan Toronto and its various boroughs, cities and municipalities, to become deeply involved, as Mississauga now has, as the city of Kitchener has now, as Pelham has, so they can in effect direct those substances away from landfills.
If people would only consider, for instance, how many trees can be saved in Ontario by recycling paper, I would say they would want to look at that as one of the preferred options as opposed to always moving to other options that might be available.
Mr. Speaker: Order. I thank all the members for all their assistance in the last few minutes. However, I keep track of the time and I try to be as fair as possible.
Mr. Gillies: It must be hard, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Speaker: Sometimes it is, I will say directly to the member for Brantford. New question, the member for Sudbury.
Mr. Gordon: The member for Brampton (Mr. Callahan) must be out being recycled; otherwise he would have put that last question.
Mr. Gordon: I have a question for the Treasurer. Government reports show that northerners pay as much as four cents more a litre for gasoline, but my recent survey showed that in Sudbury the lowest price was 45.3 cents a litre. In Toronto, there are places where you can find it for as little as 39.1 cents a litre. In Chatham, you can find it at 40 cents a litre. Does the Treasurer think it is fair that northerners have to pay exorbitant amounts of money for gasoline?
Hon. Mr. Nixon: I know there is a great deal of concern about gasoline tax levels in the north and elsewhere. I know that the honourable member, who has paid so much attention to this issue recently, will be aware that Ontario pays the third-lowest gasoline prices in Canada. I have been concerned about the level of tax.
Mr. Jackson: Earl's Shell?
Hon. Mr. Nixon: The honourable member is wondering what is the source. If he looks at the Toronto Star, that well-known independent, international newspaper of record, for Friday, April 10, 1987, he will see that is where those independent statistics come from.
The revenues from gasoline tax since the government took office have been relatively static. I regret to report to the member that as a matter of fact, our revenues from gasoline tax this year are somewhat lower than I projected in the budget last June, mostly because with the buoyant economy more people have been able to buy up-to-date cars with more efficient engines, and unfortunately for the Minister of Revenue less gas has been used.
Perhaps we can go on to the supplementary.
Mr. Gordon: It is always a pleasure to ask the Treasurer of Ontario a supplementary, particularly on a subject such as this.
Mr. Gordon: He was talking about gas, was he not?
I understand that at one time the Treasurer lived in Sault Ste. Marie, so he should have some empathy with northern people, the distances they travel and the amount of money it takes out of their pockets every time they go to those pumps. Will the Treasurer commit himself now in this House to lower the provincial sales tax in northern Ontario in the coming budget to provide northerners with more money in their pockets for food, shelter and the necessities of life?
Hon. Mr. Nixon: The member will know that unless he is recommending the government take over the actual control of these prices, and perhaps he wants to recommend that, lowering the gas tax would simply reduce the public revenue and leave the price the way it is or reduce it minimally. If the member were to look at the record in Alberta, at gas prices in Alberta, where there was practically no tax until recently, no tax at all, he would find that the price is the same there as it is in Ontario.
The fact that really concerns me is that the member, being a Progressive Conservative, would come on so strong on this issue when he will know that under Liberal leadership in this matter, the revenues have increased minimally during the years we have had the responsibility, at the highest 3.7 per cent. If he wants to look at the big tax grabs from gasoline tax, he has to go back to 1983-84 when the member for St. Andrew-St. Patrick (Mr. Grossman) was the Treasurer and the revenue increased by a clear, cool 10 per cent. We are pikers compared to what the Conservatives did in those unhappy days before Ontario came into the land of fair and equitable tax policy.
Mr. Gordon: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Speaker: What is your point of order?
Mr. Gordon: My point is, how does he explain that northerners are wearing these on all their cars?
Mr. Speaker: Order. Will the honourable member take his seat?
Hon. Mr. Nixon: May I respond to the point of order? I am sure the Commission on Election Finances would like to know who is footing the bill for those bumper stickers.
Mr. Speaker: Order. I am sure the member for Sudbury would like to know he did not have a point of order.
Mr. Mackenzie: I have a question for the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations. The minister has introduced a moratorium on the withdrawal of surplus funds from ongoing pension plans. Nevertheless, the Oshawa Group Ltd. is using a surplus in the employees' pension fund to make its required contribution of $3.4 million for this year. This is absolutely no different than if the company had applied to the Pension Commission of Ontario to remove $3.9 million from the pension plan, except in this case such action is prohibited.
The 700 members of Teamsters Local 419 are being forced out on strike on May 16 over this pension issue in order to prevent the Oshawa Group from using the workers' money to make its corporate contribution to their pension plan. When will this minister amend his legislation to ensure that these surplus withdrawals by the back door are also prohibited and thus avoid the prospect of costly strikes and court battles?
Hon. Mr. Kwinter: I thank the member for the question. First, he should realize that those workers are fully protected. Before any surplus withdrawal, which is under moratorium, or pension contribution holiday is allowed, there must be 125 per cent full funding of all the obligations in that plan. I do not know the specific details of that plan, but I am sure the member knows that in some circumstances under the federal Income Tax Act, companies are compelled to have a contribution moratorium.
I would be delighted to look into that area and see what the situation is. But I should tell the member that there is no delay. Bill 170 has gone through two stages of reading. It has gone through the public hearings. We have a group looking at the whole area of surplus withdrawal and indexing, and a contribution holiday is part and parcel of that whole process.
CLOSING OF ROAD
Mr. Pope: I have a petition signed by approximately 500 residents of the municipalities of Iroquois Falls, Matheson, Val Gagné, Timmins and Cochrane, which reads as follows:
"We the undersigned strongly protest the decision to close the Pierre Lake road from May 8 to June 30. The reasons outlined by the district biologist could be applied to any road, lake or river in this northern area. We question how valid these reasons are. The decision to close this road for any period discriminates against the public who have been using it since 1962. Therefore, we request the Minister of Natural Resources to consider revoking their decision immediately. This would allow for further study, while still allowing public access on this road."
That was presented to me yesterday by Ray Corcoran in Iroquois Falls.
Mr. Warner: I wish to table a petition which reads:
"To the Lieutenant Governor and the Legislative Assembly of the province of Ontario:
"We, the undersigned, beg leave to petition the parliament of Ontario as follows:
"That the government of Ontario provide the funds needed to build a 10-bed renal dialysis unit at Scarborough General Hospital to serve patients in the Scarborough area."
It is signed by 132 persons, bringing the total now to 1,335, with more to come.
EDUCATION AMENDMENT ACT
Mr. Reville: I have a petition in both English and Chinese from 30 residents of Toronto which says: "Bring forward Bill 80" and "Keep the Multicultural Promise."
Mr. Swart: I have a petition which reads as follows:
"We the undersigned...believe that currently automobile insurance in Ontario has reached a completely unacceptable level and that insurance companies are practising discriminatory policies against young people and in particular single males under the age of 25.
"We also believe that the only solution to this problem is the establishment of a publicly owned and administered no-fault insurance plan. We urge you to take measures appropriate to rectify this situation."
The letter which was sent to me said there are 825 people's signatures and that staunch Liberals and even Progressive Conservatives signed this petition.
Hon. Mr. Nixon moved that Mr. Newman be substituted for Mr. Mancini on the standing committee on the Ombudsman.
Motion agreed to.
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS
MINISTRY OF FINANCIAL INSTITUTIONS ACT / LOI DE 1986 SUR LE MINISTÈRE DES INSTITUTIONS FINANCIÈRES
Hon. Mr. Kwinter moved first reading of Bill 39, An Act to establish the Ministry of Financial Institutions.
L'hon. M. Kwinter propose la première lecture du projet de loi 39, Loi portant création du ministère des Institutions financières.
Motion agreed to.
La motion est adoptée.
Hon. Mr. Kwinter: I wish to reintroduce the Ministry of Financial Institutions Act, Loi de 1986 sur le ministère des Institutions financières. As members know, this act was first introduced on December 17, 1986. Unfortunately, it did not reach second reading before the House prorogued last February.
The Ministry of Financial Institutions was created in recognition of the need for a strong, centralized responsibility for financial institutions and private pensions in Ontario. This was necessary to address new developments in the financial systems both here and abroad and to implement a strong and enhanced regulatory environment for the protection of pensioners, depositors, policyholders and investors.
The act I am reintroducing today provides the legislative framework the ministry requires to meet all its goals and to fulfil its mandate in an effective and efficient manner.
VICTIMS OF CRIME BILL OF RIGHTS
Mr. O'Connor moved first reading of Bill 40, An Act to recognize and provide for the Needs of Victims of Crime.
Motion agreed to.
Mr. O'Connor: This bill provides that a victim of crime has the right to be treated with courtesy and respect for privacy by law enforcement personnel and the media, the right to be provided with information relating to the prosecution of the crime for which he or she was the victim and the right to consult with the crown prosecutor concerning submissions on bail and sentencing of the accused. It also provides for the prompt return of the victim's property at no charge to the victim.
CLEAN WATER ACT
Mrs. Marland moved first reading of Bill 41, An Act to encourage the Rehabilitation of Water Delivery Systems in Ontario.
Motion agreed to.
Mrs. Marland: The purpose of this bill is to ensure a clean water supply by promoting and assisting in the rehabilitation of water delivery systems throughout the province.
EMPLOYMENT STANDARDS AMENDMENT ACT
Mr. Mackenzie moved first reading of Bill 43, An Act to amend the Employment Standards Act.
Motion agreed to.
Mr. Mackenzie: The purpose of the bill is to protect employees where persons contract out work or services so that the employees can maintain their seniority, wages, benefits and other rights they had before the work or services were contracted out. This bill deals with the terrible situation that cleaners and other service workers have faced in Ontario and is not a repeat of Bill 132. It is a bill that meets some of the objections the government held at the time.
LABOUR RELATIONS AMENDMENT ACT
Mr. Mackenzie moved first reading of Bill 44, An Act to amend the Labour Relations Act. Motion agreed to.
Mr. Mackenzie: The section being added to the act by this bill deals with various situations where there is an attempt to replace union employees or prospective union employees with nonunion employees or to replace an employer who is party to a contract or a prospective contract. It is a companion piece to the other bill that deals with the situation we have had with regard to the rights of cleaners being removed.
ONTARIO INSTITUTE OF THE PURCHASING MANAGEMENT ASSOCIATION OF CANADA INC. ACT
Mr. McFadden moved first reading of Bill Pr65, An Act respecting the Ontario Institute of the Purchasing Management Association of Canada Inc.
Motion agreed to.
MOTION TO SET ASIDE ORDINARY BUSINESS
Mr. Harris moved, pursuant to standing order 37(a), that the business of the House be set aside so that the House might debate a matter of urgent public importance, that being the government's failure, at a time when provincial revenues are at unprecedented levels, to address the problems faced by the citizens of northern Ontario, and specifically:
1. The government's failure to propose, in its speech from the throne, any solutions to deal with the serious problems of unemployment;
2. The government's failure to deal with the problems of the forest products industry;
3. The government's failure to provide direction to the northern regional development councils or to ensure their accountability;
4. The government's failure to follow through on its promise to equalize gasoline prices between northern and southern Ontario;
5. The government's suspension of plans to create four-lane highways in the north;
6. The government's failure to follow through on its election promise of a $100 rebate to northern taxpayers; and
7. The government's continued delay in providing equitable health care for northern Ontario, so that the views of this House can be made known to the Treasurer prior to the introduction of his budget.
Mr. Speaker: In accordance with standing order 37, I have examined this motion, which was submitted to my office at 11:28 this morning. While the motion seems to meet most of the criteria in standing order 37, I feel I must bring to the attention of the House the difficulty I have in applying standing order 37(b)(iii), which states that "not more than one matter may be discussed on the same motion."
On the other hand, I do appreciate that the seven items in the motion might be interpreted to read as examples of items to be raised in the debate. As I am just not clear, I would like to ask the member for Nipissing (Mr. Harris) to address this problem during the presentation of his arguments as to why this debate should go forward according to standing order 37.
I will allow members from each party to address this matter for up to five minutes.
Mr. Harris: Mr. Speaker, you have obviously taken the correct interpretation that would allow this motion to proceed. The seven points -- and there are considerably more than the seven -- are examples. I congratulate you on finding the interpretation that will allow you to find the resolution in order, and I concur with it.
In the very few brief minutes that are available to me to speak in support of the motion that we do indeed debate this matter and debate it at this particular time, let me also talk about some of the points mentioned that I believe support my contention.
We have a budget coming up in a couple of weeks. We had a budget a year ago that failed to address those concerns in northern Ontario in any appreciable manner. We had a throne speech a year ago that dilly-dallied and made some references, did a few things here and there, but really failed to address it.
We had a throne speech recently that we believe is an insult to northerners. We have our last chance -- our last hope -- with this government. I suggest that perhaps the last hope for this government is shortly coming up in the budget of the Treasurer (Mr. Nixon). That is why it is urgent that these matters be addressed today while there is still plenty of opportunity for the Treasurer to address them.
In addition to that, we have a grave concern in northern Ontario that the government really does not understand northern issues. The only answer we ever hear is that it is moving 1,200 civil servants to northern Ontario. Quite frankly, nobody disagrees with that. If you check over the record of the previous government, you will see that more and more civil servants were continually being moved to northern Ontario. Nobody disagrees with that. I do not think that is at issue here.
To sit back and say, "That is the answer for northern Ontario," without addressing many of the fundamental problems and difficulties we are experiencing, really starts to make you wonder whether they do indeed understand the north.
I want to remind the House, and I remind the members right now, of the lack of understanding that apparently is there and of why it is important that we bring that understanding to the House today. "A bunch of whiners and complainers" is what the Premier (Mr. Peterson) calls us in northern Ontario.
When the Liberals finally go up to have a conference and get some input, what do they do? They hire a southern Ontario consultant to prepare a report. They have not acted on a single recommendation they heard in Sault Ste. Marie as a result of that.
The Solicitor General (Mr. Keyes) says impaired driving rates are higher in the north because northerners have nothing better to do than drink and drive. That is his understanding of northern Ontario.
As well, we get a little offended when the only elected Liberal from the north in cabinet -- formerly in cabinet -- defends his personal problems by saying, "We have different morals up here in northern Ontario." We do not have different morals up there in northern Ontario. That is probably the unkindest cut of all when it comes to the Liberal understanding of what life is like in northern Ontario and the problems we are facing in northern Ontario.
The government has a budget coming up where it can address a number of things it says in the throne speech. The Premier says that if we are going to solve the problems of the north, the solutions are going to have to come from the north. That is his statement, after two years. Northerners have been proposing solutions over the past two years that have gone ignored.
In fact, all three parties -- and this government talked about the equalizing of gasoline prices. Now, one party may want to regulate gas prices, which we disagree with. We do not agree with that and we have been criticized for saying so. We have been asked, "Why did you not agree to regulate it 42 years ago?" We did not agree with regulating it then and we do not agree with it now. When the differential was 10 cents a gallon, we did bring in a lower northern licence plate. We did start to address some of those problems.
Now, when we have a little more money in the bank accounts and the differential is anywhere from 25 cents to 50 cents a gallon, we are saying more has to be done. We do not apologize for the past, we do not apologize for all those things, but now is the opportunity to address those problems of today. The Liberals promised that two years ago in the campaign. We agreed it was a good idea. It was getting to be serious and needed to be addressed.
I see my five minutes are running out. This is just a taste of the hundreds of other items we plan to bring forward today for the consideration of the Treasurer.
Mr. Wildman: Mr. Speaker, we support the motion for an emergency debate, and I hope you will find it in order. When reading this motion presented by the official opposition, I read the seven listed matters as examples of the failure of the government in its throne speech to meet the problems facing northern Ontario. They are indeed serious and emergent.
I hope the House will find that it is in order for this debate to proceed, so that members of the House can provide proposals for dealing with the serious economic problems that we face in northern Ontario, since the government could not bring itself to bring forward anything in its throne speech that would address those problems.
Mr. Speaker, in trying to indicate to you why we believe this debate should proceed, I am going to use my time to deal with one of the problems facing us in northern Ontario that is not addressed in the throne speech, that is, the effects in northern Ontario of the tax that has been imposed on softwood lumber as a result of the agreement between the federal government and the government of the United States which was acceded to by this provincial government, along with the other provinces.
In northern Ontario, we make about 10 per cent of the exports in softwood from this country. Unlike in British Columbia, in northern Ontario most of our softwood lumber producers are small, independent companies. Those companies cannot absorb this 15 per cent export tax as the larger companies in BC can. The situation in British Columbia is probably what led to the American disagreement with our system and the demand for the imposition of a tax, since the stumpage tees in that province are lower than in Ontario generally. But the effects of this imposition of the tax are only now being felt in the economy of the lumber towns across northern Ontario.
During the first quarter, most of those lumber towns did rather well, considering the imposition of this tax, largely because of the construction boom in the US. But as the demand begins to decline in the United States, in relation to the changes in interest rates in that country, we are going to see more and more layoffs in northern Ontario. I am also concerned that large companies involved in the export of softwood lumber, such as Kimberly-Clark in Kapuskasing, appear to be using the export tax as an excuse for speeding up plans they had to rationalize and to lay off workers.
Already, in the last three months, in direct relation to the imposition of the export tax across northern Ontario, we have seen approximately 400 jobs lost and we have hundreds and thousands more threatened. Yet we have nothing in the throne speech presented by this government that deals with that. The Minister of Natural Resources (Mr. Kerrio) has said that the government would use the revenue from the tax to minimize the disruptions that lumber towns are going to face across northern Ontario.
We have also had the Premier state that the northern Ontario fund, which was announced in the throne speech, would be funded by the revenue from that tax. We in the north resent that a great deal, particularly those of us who have been fighting for a northern Ontario fund for many years. We believe that the fund should be funded through the revenues that accrue to this government, not hived off from a tax that is not really imposed by this government, and that the fund should be used to deal specifically with the problems of the lumber communities.
Frankly, the fund that is being proposed by this government is inadequate. They are talking about something like $40 million a year when the layoffs in Sault Ste. Marie are going to take just that amount out of the economy of that one community in payroll per annum. Yet this fund is supposed to respond to all the problems related to the lumber layoffs and all the other layoffs that we are facing in northern Ontario.
It is completely inadequate and it is an indication of the inability of this government to deal with the problems of the north and the lack of political will for it to respond in anything like an adequate way to the serious economic problems we face in the north.
We hope, Mr. Speaker, that you will find that the motion is in order and that the House will agree to let the debate proceed so that we can have some ideas about what to do about northern problems.
Hon. Mr. Nixon: I appreciate that the member for Algoma (Mr. Wildman) referred in his five-minute comment to the speech from the throne at least three times. As the honourable member knows, the order of business for this afternoon is a general debate on the initiatives put forward by the government in the speech from the throne, including those initiatives for the north. The fact that we on this side think they are not only adequate and imaginative but also very much in order and fair as far as the needs of the north are concerned, does not mean that we expect everybody to support it, even though any rational person looking at the facts would do so.
I simply point this out to indicate that it is not necessary to set aside the ordinary business of the day to have this important debate on northern matters. It is simply an indication of the desperation of the official opposition, and particularly the member for Nipissing (Mr. Harris), to get into the act. In the last three days, the New Democratic Party members have simply outshone them completely. They have taken the initiatives in some of the most important and, in some instances, I regret to say, tragic situations.
The member for Sudbury (Mr. Gordon) is left yammering about gasoline tax even though it is clear that the biggest increases in gasoline tax were undertaken by the government when nobody other than the member for St. Andrew-St. Patrick (Mr. Grossman) was Treasurer. It is totally irresponsible of the official opposition to bring forward this particular motion at this time. I understand their sensitivity. Their situation is crumbling as member after member has announced he is not going to be prepared to face the music in the coming election, whenever that may be.
Now, I do not want to make too much of a point of this because I know about, and frankly I fear, the wrath of the member for Nipissing. Here is the man who is bringing this motion forward and, Mr. Speaker, you know that he, personally, has opened one of the largest and finest courthouses, built in his constituency, anywhere in Canada. He also has a firm commitment from the government to move one of the most important and productive ministries, a whole ministry, the Ministry of Correctional Services, right into the downtown of his own community.
The headquarters of the Ontario Northland Railway is in his backyard, together with the elaborate, beautiful headquarters there, and that is just a beginning of the list of the recognition that the government of Ontario has made of the needs of the people in Nipissing alone, that one constituency. I have not even referred to the tremendous commitments to the Ontario hospital in that area and the leadership that the Ministry of Health is giving in moving towards the provision of even better services.
The whole thing is somewhat irrational and it smacks of the kind of panic that has been the earmark of the initiatives taken by the official opposition in the last few days. Listen, I know the way they feel. I have felt that way in the past, and I have a lot of sympathy. If this is the way he wants to try to maintain the competition with the third party, that is all right.
In fact, the debate this afternoon is going to be one of a general nature and, if the emphasis is going to be on northern development by the decision of the two opposition parties, I guess we will have to live with that. We have learned to do that and the compensations, while they are very small, are there all the same.
Mr. Speaker, I am glad you pointed out that under any kind of a reasonable reading of rule 37, this would be dismissed out of hand. The thing I really regret is that rule 37 is there so that the House can, in matters of emergency and special importance, set aside the business to undertake a debate on an emergency basis. The amendment the member has put forward is just the usual, run-of-the-mill, political hocus-pocus.
We will, of course, participate in the debate, but I wish we had the strength and the numbers simply to say that the House should proceed with its regular business, which would give every member an equal and fair opportunity to debate the contents of the speech from the throne, to support it or to criticize it, if there was anybody with that sort of erring judgement. As far as we on this side are concerned, we are opposed to the motion. We feel a debate should not proceed under these circumstances.
Mr. Speaker: I am certain that all members are aware of provisional standing order 37. In this particular case, because of the manner in which this motion came to my office and was placed before the House, I felt I should draw to the attention of the members, particularly with the first comments made by the member for Nipissing -- I think he probably did not hear my comments correctly; however, I felt he may have somewhat compounded the problem I had by adding many more items.
I simply say for the future that members could be a little more careful in framing their motions. I will not say how this one should have been done, but I ask that all members be more careful in the framing of their motions so that they would be within the content of section 37.
According to subsection 37(d), there is nothing left for the Speaker to do but ask, shall the debate proceed?
All those in favour will say "aye."
All those opposed will say "nay."
In my opinion the ayes have it.
Motion agreed to.
Mr. Speaker: The debate will proceed. The member for Nipissing. I would like to inform you that all members have up to 10 minutes to participate.
Hon. Mr. Nixon: You do not have to use it all.
Mr. Harris: Starting now. He just gave me the floor.
Mr. Speaker, as I read the rules, once you asked me to speak for five minutes, I assumed you had determined that the way we were going was in order. I apologize for the phrasing of the motion. I guess I could have had one item with little subsections; however, I appreciate your concern and I will bear it in mind in the future.
I am delighted to start this debate on behalf of my party and particularly on behalf of northern Ontario. I regret the Treasurer's comments in that he seems to feel there is some partisan aspect to the debate. Let me tell him that northern Ontario is probably the least partisan area of the province that I know.
It is an area where members of all political parties and all political philosophies get together, work together on projects, councils and school boards and, after elections are over, live and work together as one, speaking on behalf of northern Ontario. I mention that as another example of how the Treasurer, representing his party in his comments, has absolutely no concept, no idea of what life is like in northern Ontario.
As well, I guess I should not be surprised, but I am somewhat astounded that the spokesman for the Liberal Party would espouse today that Liberals do not feel there is a problem in northern Ontario, that northern Ontario is not having a problem and there is no reason why we should have this debate, that there is nothing of special importance up there; life is rosy and the money is rolling in in southern Ontario, so out of sight, out of mind.
Of course, for most of their members that is true. I really do strongly suspect that it will be out of sight and out of mind for all Liberal members after their next consultation with the people. I cannot imagine anybody in northern Ontario thinking that the Liberal Party, with the statements the Premier makes, that -- I do not know what to call the member for Cochrane North (Mr. Fontaine) any more, but whatever the heck he is called -- and the other cabinet members, and now of course the Treasurer, in any way come close to understanding the problems in northern Ontario.
I was interested in the Treasurer's comments on the gasoline tax. I want to mention it only briefly. As members know, it is a main concern of mine at this time. The Treasurer keeps referring to who hiked the gas tax the most. That is not the issue. The issue is not how much tax is on gasoline. That is a separate issue, which I am sure is of concern to everybody. The issue is the differential between southern Ontario and northern Ontario. That is the issue the Treasurer does not understand and the government does not seem to understand.
Come election time -- two years ago, they promised they would do something about equalizing gasoline prices. Quite frankly, we do not care how they do it but we say it should be addressed. I have given the Treasurer one solution. I took the study his own government did. That has been their only response to their promise in the campaign of 1985. They did a study and thought the problem would go away
The study proved beyond any doubt that prices were higher; on average, four cents a litre. Obviously, in many communities, as I am sure my friend from Algoma will talk about, it is much higher than four cents a litre. We are saying, at the very least, the Treasurer can reduce the tax in northern Ontario by four cents a litre and monitor the oil companies to make sure that is reflected at the pumps, that the prices do come down four cents and any increases or decreases across the province reflect that four-cent differential.
That is not a difficult concept to understand, but even today, the Treasurer talks about "Grossman did this and some Treasurer did that." That is not the issue. It is the differential. That differential has been growing and, in fact, going out of sight over the last couple of years in particular.
The differential between economic activity and opportunities in southern and northern Ontario has also been growing alarmingly over the last couple of years. Quite frankly, during what is referred to as the recession around here, 1981, 1982, 1983 -- "Woe is us, there is a great recession on" -- there was not a recession in Sault Ste. Marie. Sault Ste. Marie did quite well through those years, in the early years. Let me tell you as well that some other areas of northern Ontario were doing all right. Some were suffering, but the general level of economic downturn was fairly consistent across the province, so that a solution to a problem for Ontario helped both the north and the south.
Now you have economic recovery and a big boom here in southern Ontario, and the recession is far worse in many areas of northern Ontario, but they do not think that is an emergency. They do not think that is important. That is just fine, because most of the seats are bloody well down here in Metropolitan Toronto anyway, so who cares about the north? Solve the problems in Toronto; solve them in Ottawa; solve them in London; solve them in the big cities. That has been their political agenda for the last two years.
Throw a few civil servants up in northern Ontario and then forget the rest. Forget the fundamental structures of northern Ontario; forget the fundamental problems.
There is a northern heritage fund of $40 million. My colleague from Algoma pointed out that $40 million is being ripped off from the companies in northern Ontario, the lumber companies in that softwood industry. This government went along with that. This government proposed it. When the 15 per cent tariff was announced, the Minister of Natural Resources said, "Hey, good news, boys: 15 per cent; lucky us." Sure, lucky in Hamilton or Niagara Falls -- things are rosy there -- but not so lucky in northern Ontario. There is a total lack of understanding of what is happening throughout the north. This government has had two years.
Again, this throne speech talked about health care. Two and a half or three years ago, the former Minister of Health announced the associated hospitals program for liaison between northern hospitals and southern hospitals. He put that program into place and started having agreements. What did this government do? It cancelled it. Two years later, it is announced in the throne speech. Is the government going to do the program? No, it is going to study it now. It was cancelled once. Now it is going to be studied. That is a cruel joke, and we in northern Ontario do not appreciate it.
Let me give some examples from my own riding. The combined hospital is to go ahead in North Bay. It was ready to go two years ago -- in fact, three years ago. I was disappointed; it should probably have been under construction two years ago. What has happened in those two years? Nothing. Nobody can arrange a meeting. Sure, there has been the odd meeting here and there, but it took two years to get a meeting with the minister to finalize the final negotiations that had to be put in place. That is what the government inherited -- one more meeting to say, "Yes, let us go; here is the package." Of course, it took two years to get that meeting. This government has set back health care in North Bay by two years.
Another example is the four-laning of highways. There was an allusion to that in the throne speech. There is a place where the government can help northern Ontario with a few paltry dollars, compared to all the money spent down here on subway systems and on these wonderful transit systems throughout southern Ontario. With a fraction of the money, the government can put into place a continuation of the four-laning programs. I guess what bothers me is that the only two years in which there has not been planning for more four-laning projects are the two years the Liberals have been in government. This year the final project on Highway 11, one that started four years ago, will be finished.
Hon. Mr. Nixon: Not the one to North Bay.
Mr. Harris: The one to North Bay.
Hon. Mr. Nixon: Oh, there is a gap in there?
Mr. Harris: That is right, between North Bay and Toronto; they kept moving up from Gravenhurst and then they started coming down from North Bay. There has been no planning; so now if the government makes an announcement, there is a two-year gap. There will be no construction going on for two years.
Quite frankly, the Treasurer has not been planning for the future very well anywhere in Ontario. It has not shown so much in the south where things are rosy, but it is showing in the north: the lack of planning, the two-year delay in doing anything up there and some big throne speech where the government thinks we should be happy with putting back some of those programs.
The Deputy Speaker: Order. Thank you; your time has expired.
Mr. Harris: Did you want my attention, Mr. Speaker?
The Deputy Speaker: Yes, your time has expired.
Mr. Harris: I am glad my time has expired, because I know there are many other members here who want to speak, but the Treasurer has two weeks to bring down his budget and I remind him that people in the north will be watching.
The Deputy Speaker: Order.
Mr. Wildman: As I listened to the member for Nipissing, I was reminded of comments made in the past by the member for Kenora (Mr. Bernier) and, I suppose, even by the member for Cochrane South (Mr. Pope). When those kinds of comments were directed at them when they were on that side of the House, they were characterized as gloom and doom. I wonder how the perspective changes when one crosses the door.
I do not think the problems are any less important now than they were then, and I am glad that a transfer from one side of the House to the other has led the members of the Progressive Conservative Party to recognize some of the problems we have in northern Ontario. Some of the potential we have could be used to resolve those problems. I regret very much that this Liberal government in its speech from the throne failed to take advantage of the potential we have to try to address some of the very serious problems that we have now, that are getting worse, that have worsened since 1982, and in the past two years have continued to worsen, but have been of long standing in northern Ontario.
As I said earlier, in the throne speech there was mention of the northern Ontario heritage fund. Apparently, it has now suddenly become fashionable for all parties to talk about a fund for northern Ontario, so I suppose we should be happy in this party at having finally won over so many people to the concept of actually returning some of the wealth that is generated in northern Ontario to the north, to help to provide diversification of the economy and jobs in the hard-hit communities throughout our part of the province.
As I said earlier, though, I am very disappointed in the descriptions, made outside of the House by the Premier, of how this fund would be provided for and the total amount that was possible; it really is a paltry sum. I reiterate that the $30 million to $40 million that would accrue from the collection of the 15 per cent export tax would only be equivalent to the cost to one community of a major layoff in Sault Ste. Marie, and it certainly would not be sufficient to resolve or to respond to the needs of all of northern Ontario and the need for stimulus of our economy.
We believe the fund should be established through a consolidation of the existing northern development funds and programs and with an additional earmarked percentage of the provincial revenue from the resource industry taxation in order to provide the kind of capital infusion into the northern economy that we believe is necessary. This government is not providing for this fund any of the resource revenue it collects; it appears it is simply going to use the softwood lumber export tax, which is an imposition on northern Ontario and not something that is going to help it.
We believe, though, that capital is not by itself going to resolve the problems of the north and make it more competitive in our economy. We must have diversification, and this must be based on priorities established by northerners themselves.
This government has established these northern development councils, but it has not really given them any kind of direction. They seem to be wandering in a wasteland of policy alternatives, without any real options that are going to seriously respond to the problems of northern Ontario being proposed.
We must have specific community resource planning agreements between the provincial government, the local communities and the resource companies that exploit our resources to ensure there will be development of local resources that benefit local communities.
This government has never been able to bring itself to the concept of resource planning in a way that will rationalize the development and end the boom-bust cycle we have experienced in northern Ontario since the first prospector arrived in our part of the country.
In my comments earlier, I talked about the forestry problems we are facing in northern Ontario. I will not reiterate my comments regarding the softwood lumber tax, but that is not the only problem facing our forest industry. We face a long-term problem of employment in that sector because of the failure to reforest the cutover areas adequately over the last number of years.
We are going to assure the future of that industry only if we ensure there is a supply of trees. We are going to protect the jobs in that industry only if we are sure we have a concerted reforestation program that will provide short-term jobs now and a long-term future for the lumber industry and the pulp and paper industry in our part of the province. As I said, there is nothing in the throne speech that indicates a commitment on the part of the government to that kind of program.
Today and over the last few days, we have heard a lot from the official opposition about gasoline prices. I find this a little funny because we have been raising this issue many times over the years. As a matter of fact, a member of that party, the member for Algoma-Manitoulin (Mr. Lane), at one time introduced in this House a bill that would have brought about uniform gasoline pricing in northern and southern Ontario, but the Conservative government at that time stopped that bill and would not even allow a vote on it, as I recall. They have suddenly become converted again on this issue.
We do have a serious problem of differentials in price between the north and the south, and that makes northern Ontario less competitive economically in trying to develop the diversification we need.
At the time of the change of government, this government agreed to institute an inquiry into the gasoline pricing practices in this province. All we got in response to that was an in-house program by the Ministry of Energy that concluded after six months or so and told us what we already knew. We did not have to pay any consultants from southern Ontario to go around and study prices in the north to be able to tell us we have longer distances in the north, we have a smaller population, we have less competition and we pay higher prices. That was the sum total of what that so-called inquiry found.
There has been no commitment by this government to do anything about gasoline prices in northern Ontario. After that so-called study was completed, the Minister of Energy said: "Perhaps we have two options. One, we could ask the oil companies to lower the prices in northern Ontario voluntarily." I wish him luck. The other suggestion he had was that he would perhaps consider lowering the tax, which is now what the official opposition is talking about.
Hon. Mr. Nixon: How is that going to lower the price?
Mr. Wildman: The problem with that -- and I agree with the Treasurer -- is that lowering the tax in northern Ontario does not guarantee a lower price at the pump. We believe this government must regulate. We believe this government should follow the example of the Conservative government of Nova Scotia, which does regulate gasoline prices.
Hon. Mr. Nixon: The price in Halifax is 53.3 cents a litre.
Mr. Wildman: That argument is a red herring. The fact is that prices are higher in Nova Scotia, but they have higher differentials between Cape Breton and Halifax. That is what we are talking about here; it is not the price of gasoline in all of Ontario but the differential between northern and southern Ontario.
We have to be competitive in the north. We have to help the small businesses of northern Ontario to compete, and unless we can do something about fuel prices and transportation costs, they are not going to be competitive.
We have also heard a lot of talk about transportation and highway links. In the speech from the throne, there was a promise that there was going to be funding for transportation links within the north with the rest of the province.
I agree with the comments that have been made that we in the north should not have to pay for those kinds of improved highways through higher gasoline prices. It is not compensation for higher gasoline prices to say we are going to fix up the roads in equivalent amounts to what northerners pay over and above what southern Ontario consumers pay.
Southern Ontario's roads are paid through the tax revenue that is paid by all Ontarians. The same should be true for the north. This government should be improving the transportation links in northern Ontario and lowering gasoline prices. It is not a choice of one or the other.
In my view, this government should approach the federal government to negotiate an agreement similar to the agreements in other provinces, such as Quebec and the Atlantic provinces, to provide for federal involvement in the four-laning of the Trans-Canada Highway. I think it is about time that the provincial government recognized this is a road of national importance and it is deteriorating. I think that is one proposal that should be followed.
Finally, with regard to health care, the speech from the throne said there will be bursaries. That is a good thing to help bring therapists to the north, but it is not going to bring doctors or specialists to northern Ontario. This government must bite the bullet and establish a teaching hospital in the north that will attract specialists and keep them in the north. It is about time we stopped having studies and actually did something about health care in northern Ontario.
Hon. Mr. Nixon: I want to assure the members of the House of the concern of the Treasurer and of all members of the Liberal Party in the matters that are under discussion this afternoon. I have already indicated that they could have been debated under the regular order of business. I am not going to go over that argument again. We lost it. But I do want to indicate that while our numbers on this side are a little thin, they are not as embarrassingly thin as they are on the official opposition side, where even the mover of the motion is no longer in his seat, with only two lone, sad Tories in that broad expanse of empty blue seats on a matter they consider of such major importance.
My colleague the Minister of Tourism and Recreation (Mr. Eakins) is in Thunder Bay right now, announcing the revamping of Old Fort William and making it accessible to the disabled. He is also addressing a chamber of commerce and opening a trade show.
My colleague the Minister of Natural Resources is in Dryden touring the critical forest fire areas. He is announcing a northern advisory committee on Ontario Hydro, something that was proposed by the New Democratic Party -- I knew there was some reason to have the democratic socialists in politics -- and he is opening two small hydro projects in Thunder Bay and Dryden.
The parliamentary assistant, the member for Timiskaming (Mr. Ramsay), is in Kirkland Lake and Kapuskasing doing what he does best. Our colleague the member for Cochrane North is also in Kapuskasing meeting with the company and the union of Spruce Falls Power and Paper.
Sometimes it is a bit of a source of merriment in this House when we talk about our whole northern caucus, but my colleagues the member for Timiskaming and the member for Cochrane North, being a mighty band of two, have worked tremendously to see that the message from the government is properly put before the people of the north, and I believe they have been very successful in that regard.
I know the member for Nipissing, who unfortunately has been briefly taken away from the debate, does not want me to talk about the movement of the ministries to the north. If I were going to do that, I would have pointed out to him that the Ministry of Correctional Services is moving its head office to North Bay, with 325 positions.
The Ontario Lottery Corp., the Ministry of Natural Resources forestry resources group and the establishment of a forensic lab will be moving to Sault Ste. Marie, with 360 positions.
The head office of the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines, the Ontario Geological Survey and the mining health and safety branch of the Ministry of Labour moves to Sudbury, with 290 jobs.
The Ministry of Consumer and Commercial Relations and the registrar general branch of that ministry and the Ministry of Colleges and Universities student award branch moves to Thunder Bay, with 230 jobs.
I would not for a moment say that is going to solve the economic problems of the north, but the northerners I know and the ones who write to me as Treasurer, say this is the most effective and useful initiative taken by a government in 46 years.
As a matter of fact, I can recall the days when I was a northerner myself and the first time I drove to my new job in Sault Ste. Marie, when the Tory government was already seven long years in office. Highway 17 was a gravel road, and they had had many opportunities to improve the north, let alone four-lane it.
Many references have already been made in this debate to what might be in the budget. It is interesting that these matters are ready for me to present to the Legislature. I would dearly love it if I could already have had an opportunity to put the budget before the House so the members would have a chance to tell me, instead of this singsong litany of complaint, the fact that we are able to come forward with the money to back up the commitments in the speech from the throne in a way that even they, as northerners, will not be able to criticize.
I predict right now, without any doubt whatsoever, that if that budget were presented now and we were voting on it this afternoon, every single member of the NDP would stand up in support of it.
Mr. McClellan: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker: At no time did the Treasurer propose to do his budget prior to May 14. Today is May 7. We were supposed to come back April 21. They are the ones responsible for the fact that the budget has not been presented, not the opposition.
Hon. Mr. Nixon: The honourable member is correct except for this: It was May 13. Also, the section on northern Ontario, being so important, has been ready to be presented to the world and the northerners for yea these many days.
Mr. McClellan: Why did they not come back earlier and give us a budget?
Hon. Mr. Nixon: It is too bad the House leader of the NDP is protesting unduly.
The Deputy Speaker: Order. That is not an appropriate point of order. The member for Cochrane South.
Mr. McClellan: He is on a point of order.
Mr. Pope: No. I am just speaking.
Hon. Mr. Nixon: It is my time that is clicking off.
The Deputy Speaker: Order. Was the Treasurer not through?
Hon. Mr. Nixon: No.
The Deputy Speaker: Carry on, please.
Hon. Mr. Nixon: Actually, the House leader of the New Democratic Party has accomplished his aim, which he always does very successfully, of interrupting my train of thought.
As well as the movement of good, solid, high-paying government jobs to the north that are going to be available to northerners --
Mr. Pope: No, they are not.
Hon. Mr. Nixon: Oh yes, they are.
Mr. Pope: No, they are not.
Hon. Mr. Nixon: We will see about that. We will see whose commitment is correct in this connection.
We have also established a $20-million program to establish northern Ontario distance education. The Ministry of Energy has committed $6 million for wood energy programs. The Ministry of Natural Resources has a program with the north that is on a funding-phased basis over a number of years: $3 million extra in 1986, $4 million extra in 1987, $5 million extra in 1988 and $6 million extra in 1989, actually adding up to $18 million in support of its initiatives.
The Ministry of Government Services has committed $6.1 million for a wide variety of new initiatives, without counting the money that is going to be spent on the new offices to accommodate the committed northerners who will be working on behalf of the public service when this program is in place. It is going forward. As a matter of fact, in that connection, the members will be interested to know that I understand northern architects have already been retained after an extensive competition for designing these buildings and we will look forward to the efficacy of their usefulness. As a matter of fact, I would not be a bit surprised if somebody in the Timmins area had retained the member from Timmins as his lawyer since he must do something up there in all the days he spends in his law practice. He probably represents a whole bunch of architects.
Anyway, I want to list --
Mr. Pope: Who got the contract and what party was he formerly a candidate for?
Hon. Mr. Nixon: When you go to the north, I find that everybody is a Liberal now with very few minor exceptions and they are all sitting down here bellyaching.
This list is so long. I do not find it as entrancing as I did when it was handed to me, but as Treasurer I will tell the members that every one of these items costs money and is put forward only after the most careful thought and planning for the benefit of the northern communities. The one thing I regret is that when I travel to Ear Falls and places I know well, Schreiber where some of my best friends live --
Mr. Pouliot: That is not what they tell me.
Hon. Mr. Nixon: If they speak differently --
Mr. Martel: Name one.
Hon. Mr. Nixon: Jack Stokes. I have already given him a job.
There is a feeling and understanding that with the initiatives taken by this new government under the leadership of the member for London Centre (Mr. Peterson) and with our whole co-operating northern caucus, we have been in a position to show the people of the north that we are not only interested in them politically, which I suspect is a charge that might be levelled at other members of the House -- if members want me to name names, I already have today -- but they also understand that this new government, which is open, which consults and which decides and commits public funds not for political gain but for the good of the community, is one that has taken admirable initiatives. We are not interested in the politics of this matter. We want to do the right thing and we submit that is just what we are doing.
Mr. Pope: I am pleased to participate in this debate, and first, to reply to the Treasurer, Deputy Premier and spokesman for the Liberal Party who thinks that the loss of jobs in northern Ontario is not only not an emergency but also is not important. If he has such great measures for northern Ontario in his budget that he is so anxious to introduce, why does he not do what every other minister in that government does, leak it to the Toronto Star ahead of time so it can be published? Everyone else does it. Why does he not join the crowd?
It is rather interesting that the Treasurer thinks that the 1,300 people who came out to the Progressive Conservative association breakfast in Cochrane South some four weeks ago were all Liberals. I am glad he has that rose-coloured perspective on things.
Hon. Mr. Nixon: They will have a chance to be put to the test.
Mr. Pope: Yes, we will have a chance. I welcome him to come to Cochrane South because with his attitude towards northern Ontario, I would appreciate that kind of help in my campaign.
My friend, there is more to running this province than he and the Premier going on their imperial tours holding $200-a-person wine and cheese parties. There is more to running this province than losing 20 pounds, trading in one's glasses for contact lenses, putting some grey in one's hair and wearing a red tie. There is more to running this province than sitting back and smirking and smiling and being a nice guy in the Legislature and with the press gallery.
As the government of all of this province, the government has an obligation that it has shirked, and laughingly shirked for the last year and a half, when it comes to northern Ontario.
I will tell members what the Treasurer of Ontario and spokesman for the Liberal Party does not think is important. He does not think it is important that 219 people are losing their jobs in Kapuskasing; 219 families with no money coming in. He does not worry about the consequences on the municipality of Kapuskasing. The Treasurer does not think it is important that virtually every contractor and bush worker in Hornepayne is out of work today because of the incompetence of this government and its failure to help northern Ontario residents.
The Treasurer of Ontario and spokesman for the Liberal Party does not care that Nakina is virtually shut down because of the incompetence and lackadaisical attitude of the Liberal government. He does not care that there is widespread unemployment in the small communities around Saint Ste. Marie, with bush workers and mill workers in the lumber industry out of work because of the government's incompetence and its lackadaisical attitude. He does not care that steelworkers are out of work in Sault Ste. Marie. It is not important; it is not an emergency; it is a laughing matter.
The Treasurer of Ontario and the spokesman for the Liberal Party does not care that jobs are being lost on an ongoing basis in Sudbury; he does not care that jobs are being lost in Iroquois Falls; he does not care that jobs are being lost at Camp Forty One near Smooth Rock Falls in the riding of Cochrane North; he does not care that jobs are being lost in Terrace Bay; he does not care that there have been four layoffs in Thunder Bay. That is not an emergency to him.
It may be important to the workers and their families, but sitting down here in Toronto with exclusive French wines, none of that is important to the Liberal government of this province. Sitting there with a red tie and attending the official openings are important to the Liberals of this province. The rhetoric is to take credit for projects that have been initiated by others. That is what is important to the Liberals of this province -- the token gestures, the imperial tours.
Mr. Speaker: Point of order, the member for Windsor-Riverside.
Mr. D. S. Cooke: I would think that with an emergency debate -- and the Conservatives called the emergency debate -- we should have a quorum. There should be more than three Tories present.
Mr. Speaker ordered the bells rung.
Mr. Pope: When the Minister of Tourism and Recreation (Mr. Eakins) is in Thunder Bay, I hope he will take time, when he has finished his exclusive reception at so many hundred dollars a person, to meet with the families and the individual workers who are unemployed, and explain to them why he does not think their situation is an emergency or important. When the Minister of Natural Resources, who fouled up the softwood lumber issue so badly at the expense of jobs in northern Ontario, is in Dryden, I hope he can meet with the bush workers and the mill workers who have been laid off because of his mishandling of the softwood lumber issue.
When the parliamentary assistant to the Minister of Northern Development and Mines is in Kirkland Lake and Kapuskasing, I hope he will take time to meet with the unemployed workers and explain to them that the Treasurer and spokesman for the Liberal Party of Ontario, does not think their situation is an emergency; it is a laughing matter. When the member for Cochrane North is in his own riding, I hope he will meet with the 219 workers at Spruce Falls and Kapuskasing, and explain to them that the Treasurer of this province, and spokesman for the Liberal Party does not think their situation is an emergency, and it is not important to them. I hope he will say the same thing to the workers at Camp Forty One, just south of Smooth Rock Falls, who lost their jobs and who did not even get severance pay under this government. I hope he will explain to them that losing their jobs is not an emergency and it is not important to the government, because that is precisely the message the spokesman for the Ontario Liberal Party has given here in the Legislature this afternoon.
Yes, it is the message. I want to talk about this government's response to the situation. It has been more than a year since we asked a series of questions of the Minister of Industry, Trade and Technology (Mr. O'Neil) about what policies and programs he had in place, and his government had in place, to employ the laid-off workers. Can he explain to me what specific programs he has in place for the laid-off steelworker in Sault Ste. Marie? Who will get first crack at the 360 jobs that are being established in Sault Ste. Marie by the movement of the Ontario Lottery Corp. and the part of the Ministry of Natural Resources? Please explain it now, because it has not been done in the nine months since he made the announcement.
If the minister can explain to me that the laid-off workers, the miners at Inco and Falconbridge, are going to get first crack at the 290 jobs with the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines, when it is established there, please do it because he has not said that yet. If he can explain to me how the laid-off mill workers in Thunder Bay are going to get first crack at the 230 jobs at the Ministry of Consumer and Commercial Relations office to be established in that city, please explain it, because he has not said it yet. Almost a year ago now we asked what plans the minister had to help the laid-off resource workers in these northern Ontario communities. We have yet to hear from him. We have heard lots of chuckles, had lots of smiles behind the hand, lots of red ties flashing around, but after a year, he has yet to name a single program that is putting these laid-off people to work. I have raised it almost every other day in the fall session and every day in the spring session but he has yet to show the members of the Legislature and myself how many of those laid-off resource workers have new jobs because of the efforts of this government. The answer is none. The answer is he does not have a program.
Sections 38 and 39 of the Unemployment Insurance Act, short-term funding for jobs in northern Ontario: The government has reduced that funding to its lowest level since it was started. It has not been increased at all. The Minister of Northern Development and Mines (Mr. Peterson), the so-called champion for the north, admitted in his ministry's estimates that for sections 38 and 39 the total number of positions filled for the short-term employment project, for all of the laid-off workers in northern Ontario, numbering over 5,000, was 28 -- from the Premier of this province, the Minister of Northern Development and Mines, the so-called champion of the north.
Sections 38 and 39, funding for short-term employment assistance. Six thousand were hired in 1983 and 1984. This minister is satisfied with 28 at a time when layoffs have increased by 250 per cent in northwestern Ontario and 48 per cent in northeastern Ontario. He sits there so self-righteous and satisfied. He thinks he is doing a good job -- 28 positions compared to 6,000.
The Treasurer, the spokesman for the Liberal Party, tries to pretend that this problem has existed for 44 years. We have fewer short-term and long-term programs now for employment and diversification in northern Ontario than we have ever had. We have a higher unemployment rate in northeastern and northwestern Ontario than we have ever had.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Morin): Your time has expired.
Mr. Pope: We have had the greatest acceleration of unemployment and layoffs that we have ever had, and these fellows do not think it is an emergency.
Mr. Martel: I guess I have been around here too long. When I read the motion for the emergency debate, I went to my office, because I knew I had raised a question about gasoline a number of times. I want to take members back to the very first time, I think it was in 1968.
I said to the minister then is the government considering discussions with the oil companies in an effort to overcome the more than five-cents-a-gallon differential being paid for gasoline by residents of northern Ontario, as compared to residents of southern Ontario?
"Second, can the minister advise the members as to the cost of transportation....?
"Third, why is there such a disparity in the cost of gasoline between the north and south?"
Old Les Rowntree got up and said, "Mr. Speaker, the officials of my department are, at present, evaluating data on this matter."
Does that not sound vaguely familiar? "We are examining it." I have heard the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations (Mr. Kwinter) tell me that a couple of times. This was in 1968, I remind members.
Rowntree goes on, "I am advised the geographical differences in price are unavoidable and exist in various regions of the province, including Metropolitan Toronto. With respect to the north, I understand that the differential has to do with the cost of freight, dealer's markup, and certain additional costs of handling."
I waited till last year, then asked the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations the same question and got virtually the same answer.
Mr. D. R. Cooke: What was the price then?
Mr. Martel: It was five cents a gallon difference then. If one translates that into litres, it has now become five cents a litre difference. I want to know why we have allowed the price of gas to increase with the differential between litres -- and it is 4.2 or 4.4 litres per gallon; it was formerly five cents per gallon, now five cents per litre. Has the cost of production of gasoline gone up that much in the past 18 years? Why, certainly, it has not, and we get ripped off in the north.
Interestingly enough, there has not been a government and there is not a government with the courage to take on the oil industry. It is as simple as that. The Liberals do not have the courage. The Tories did not either. While there is a lot of fanfare coming out of Tory members now, two years after they lost power, they were there for 42 years and would not change a thing. They were no more courageous than is the Liberal Party of Ontario in taking on the gas industry. They will bow, scrape, genuflect, do anything they can, wear the knees of their pants out humbling themselves in front of them, but they will not have the courage to say enough is enough. When they were in government, they could equalize the price of beer, but they have never been able to equalize the price of gasoline.
Let me tell members what Les Rowntree said with respect to the price of transportation per gallon. Let me tell the members what the differential is. He tells me that the differential is about a cent a gallon to transport the gas to northern Ontario. We should just think of the ripoff over all these years, particularly since we have converted to litres. The ripoff has been unimaginable. We tinker around with the provincial sales tax when we are not even prepared to deal with what these beggars are charging us in northern Ontario.
Part of the accord called for this. The government has had a phoney little House inquiry with a little group travelling around the north, giving people two days' notice that it was coming, and we have a report that is really nonexistent. This government is no different.
I will give another example of why this government is no different. In 1977, when we created the Ministry of Northern Affairs, I moved a motion calling for a tomorrow fund or a heritage fund. Members can call it whatever they want. I moved a motion in this House to establish that. Both those beggars voted against it.
Mr. D. R. Cooke: And it is time that you --
Mr. Martel: Time, yes. We have been shafted for 10 more years and it still is not in place. They both voted against it.
Mr. D. R. Cooke: It is coming.
Mr. Martel: Oh, it is coming. My God, if we get rid of enough people in the north, we will reach a point where we do not have a job shortage. All we have to do is to move all of them south. We said then what the government had to do. It was not prepared to do it then, and 10 years later, that is coming.
I will give the members another example. The Progressive Conservatives closed Burwash Correctional Centre. I am trying to get the government to open it. I tried to get the Tories to open it. It is sitting there, a brand-new 42-bed unit with gymnasium and single quarters. This government has moved the ministry to North Bay, 80 miles away but it will not reopen Burwash. For $14 million, the minister could create in Sudbury 200 new jobs for people who are now unemployed, men between the ages of 25 and 44 with families. The headquarters is 80 miles away. It is going to cost the government more than that to build a new provincial building in Sudbury. This government will bring 290 jobs north and will not create one new job for the unemployed.
For two years I have begged this government to take upon itself to reopen that institution. There is a deputy minister who is the phoniest character when dealing with Burwash because he opposed it, and that is whose advice was sought. A couple of prisons in southern Ontario are being expanded. If this government wants to create 225 new jobs, the minister knows full well it costs -- how much does it cost per job to create a new job in industry? Is it $100,000 or $125,000, in that neighbourhood? Because all the facilities are there, the only thing this government needs to spend is the money to make a new prison block. For $14 million, we could have 200 to 225 new jobs and all the spinoff that would have.
I cannot get through to the members of this government, try as I might. I have talked until I am blue in the face. If this government wants to talk about new jobs, there is the chance. The facilities are there. We need to make a prison block and that would be it, and the headquarters is 80 miles away. The citizens' group in Sudbury said, "Give us the material and let us do something with it," but the government will not do that either. It brags about relocating. We are not going to knock the jobs that are coming but they are not going to reduce unemployment. Does the government not understand that? It is nice to go around and beat your breast, but there are 8,000 to 10,000 people in Sudbury who are unemployed. We need new jobs.
It can change the Mining Act -- the Tories would not -- and make sure that all the processing of raw material goes on in the north, not off in Wales or Norway but in the Sudbury basin. It will not do that either.
The thing that most depressed me was to hear the Premier say that northerners have to pull themselves up by their bootstraps, yet in the auto industry down here, how many grants has he given? He is not prepared to make the same monetary commitment to new development in the north. He says, "You have to pull yourselves up by your bootstraps." It is really unfair to have the Premier, as he did last year in Longlac and those parts of the world, say, "Pull yourselves up by your bootstraps," and then commit money to the auto industry in the south.
What is wrong with the government? We thought we were putting it there to get rid of these beggars and that it might listen. It does not listen any better. The government members come north and say, "We are not going to put in any money." We need the commitment for money if the north is ever to have a chance.
Mr. Epp: I am pleased to be able to give a northern perspective on this matter, coming from the great riding of Waterloo North. It is something I wish the southerners would learn to appreciate. Seriously, although I do not live in the north I do appreciate the problems they have in the north. That is why I would like to take this opportunity to speak in this emergency debate today.
I am particularly sensitive to the fact that there are very few people of the official opposition, which brought about this debate, here. It is unfortunate that has occurred. I am sure it will be corrected some time in the future but it does not help us in this instance.
The other particular concern I want to mention is that although the official opposition over the period of two speakers has been dumping on the government for not doing enough, and although its members had the opportunity to do something over a period of a number of years, in the 25 minutes they have had today to address this debate they never at one instance or in one single sentence provided us with one constructive suggestion whereby --
Mr. Pope: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker: That is factually incorrect. I told them to put money back into sections 38 and 39 and not have just 28 positions.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Morin): Order.
Mr. Epp: Rather than for the Legislature and the members thereof to go away from here with a half dozen or more positive suggestions as to what could be done and what is being done, we have a number of criticisms. Maybe some of these criticisms are somewhat applicable, but certainly from a number of intelligent people one would expect more input in that regard.
The government has been addressing the unemployment situation in northern Ontario in significant ways. We recognize the drive towards competitiveness for northern Ontario investment in technology that must be matched with an investment in human capital. To this end, Ontario's Training Strategy will have a significant impact on this region of the province.
Five Ontario skills development offices have been opened in the north to provide training consulting services to employees. In addition, some $8 million in training incentives will be made annually to northern firms. In this fiscal year, the Ministry of Skills Development has allocated $34 million to support the Futures program in northern Ontario through on-the-job training and work experience. This program will assist some 10,000 young northerners who are encountering serious unemployment problems. There are 34 Futures offices in the north with more to come.
Unlike the previous government, this government has moved expeditiously and responsibly towards providing equitable health care for northern Ontario. Let me just mention a few of these. The government has established northern health travel grants to provide financial assistance for northerners who must travel more than 300 kilometres --
Mr. Wildman: Thanks to the member for Port Arthur (Mr. Foulds).
Mr. Epp: We recognized the need and once we had the opportunity we dealt with it. I am glad the official opposition and the third party recognize that. More than 300 kilometres one way from their place --
Mr. McClellan: It was in the accord. They had to do it. They had no choice.
Mr. Epp: We more than readily agreed to that in the accord. There was no problem with that, as the member knows.
The Acting Speaker: Please address your remarks to the chair.
Mr. Epp: It was in the accord because his party and our party were more than anxious to include it and to provide specialized medical treatment. That is why this program was initiated. The cost is expected to be just over $13 million per year.
Another important health care initiative is the medical specialist incentive program that provides financial incentives of up to $40,000 over four years to help specialists set up a practice in northern Ontario. Together with additional assistance in the form of capital and operating funds to help equip facilities and incentives to establish outreach programs, the medical specialist incentive program is expected to cost about $6.7 million over the period of four years.
An additional $2.5 million has been approved for prenatal services that serve high-risk pregnant women and high-risk infants at four northern hospitals.
For senior citizens in the north, the EldCap program has been extended, providing additional funds for 12 projects involving the addition of extended health care facilities to small hospitals and the upgrading of existing facilities.
This government has moved responsibly in addressing the challenges and to maintain northern Ontario's unique strength in as cost-efficient, effective and thus competitive a manner as possible. However, the minister for resignations will appreciate this --
Hon. Mr. Ruprecht: What?
Mr. Epp: The minister for resignations. I mentioned this the other day, but I must explain it. He is known as the minister of resignations because only a few years ago when he was here, every time he got up to ask a question, he asked everybody to resign.
However, the process of effective long-term change for northern Ontario will not be realized overnight. I want to quote from the person known as the emperor of the north, a person all of us hold in high esteem, the member for Kenora (Mr. Bernier) who indicated his resignation to the House a few days ago. I want to quote from what he said on Dateline Ontario, referring to northern Ontario and the change and the jobs: "It ain't going to happen overnight. It is a difficult problem. It is one that many of the other provinces are dealing with also. Regional disparities are difficult to overcome. There are no easy answers. It is a long-term solution."
That is what the member who is known as the emperor of the north indicated, and it is not a one-time solution. It is something this government is addressing on a long-term basis, one we have taken substantial and solid steps to address. The members of the official opposition, although they are shaking their heads otherwise, know this is the truth. That is where they are feeling their hurt. They know it is the truth and they are feeling hurt.
The previous government's ad hoc approach in the north was a failure. That is why the problems exist. Its ad hoc approach to those problems that it tried to address over 42 years was a failure. Those problems did not develop over the past two years; they have been there for ages and ages. Now they know that somebody who is responsible and in charge is going to address the problems, and that is why they want to be helpful. I appreciate their helpfulness. They can go ahead and be helpful.
The Conservative approach was to throw money where there was expansion such as the Hemlo gold fields, or where there was a depletion of the market for resources such as Atikokan. This did nothing to change the cycle of boom and bust. We continued to have the cycle of boom and bust.
This government has addressed the issue with a more realistic approach. Just ask Esther Wesley, the director of the Ojibway and Cree Cultural Centre in Timmins, who recently stated: "For the first time, the ministers and the MPPs are going up north, and that never happened before. This provincial government is showing more interest."
Mr. Gordon: We have just listened to the member opposite rewriting history. He told us a little while ago in so many words that it really was the Liberals over there who wrote the accord and that the New Democratic Party really had nothing to do with it they just happened to be along for the ride. I guess this is what they are going to be telling the people in the next election. I am sure the New Democrats are glad to hear that. It must really warm their hearts.
I notice that the Treasurer, who made quite a to-do about the fact that some of our members were not in the House at the same time he was, has now departed. I am sure he has gone to the same reception as our members. There is a reception going on down in committee room 2, where humanitarian awards are being given out. I am sure the kinds of allusions he made are not the kinds I would make. I would say he is probably at that reception, as were our members.
I am not going to get down in that political gutter with the Treasurer, nor would I accuse him of getting into a political gutter, but I do want to talk a little this afternoon about something that transpired the other day. While it was painful to me, it certainly was an insult to the people of northern Ontario.
The Liberal government here, the Liberal caucus as a matter of fact -- no doubt, Mr. Speaker, you were in the caucus room at the time, which does not take away from your impartiality now, but it makes me wonder how impartial you were there -- refused to allow a debate on my motion that would see gasoline tax and gasoline prices equalized between northern and southern Ontario. This is one of the first times in all the years I have been here, and I have been here now since 1981, that I have heard that a member bringing a resolution to this House to deal with an issue as important as this was turned down by the government side of the House.
It speaks well for the New Democrats. They see this as an issue in northern Ontario. Their members go across their ridings and listen to their people, as do we, and they know this particular issue is one that stands uppermost in many people's minds.
I want to tell the members why it is uppermost in people's minds today. It is because we went through those years in the late 1970s and 1980s when gasoline prices went through the ceiling. As gasoline prices went up, so did the cost to the ordinary consumer in our northern communities. It has got to the point now where northerners are paying too much for gasoline. Northerners are getting ripped off at the pumps and these people refuse even to debate it in this House.
One of the reasons they are here today in this emergency debate is that they were not willing to talk about northern issues. They were not listening and were not willing to listen to the people of the north. Today, they are going to have to listen to the people of the north.
As a matter of fact, I want to put on the record what some of the smaller municipalities in northern Ontario have written to me in letters. Their plaint, their cry for help is something that goes right to the heart of this issue. I would like to read into the record some of the things that have been said by northern municipalities.
Let us take the corporation of the township of McDougall, which is just outside Parry Sound. Did I not hear the Treasurer talk about how the Minister of Tourism and Recreation had gone to northwestern Ontario to announce some new tourism venture on the part of the Liberal government? Did I not hear that a few minutes ago? I think I did hear that. Let us hear what the problem is. This is what they say in McDougall township:
"We as northerners find it very disturbing to travel to the southern parts of our province and discover gasoline prices considerably below the price we are expected to pay in the Parry Sound area. Equally upsetting is the reaction of tourists to our area who complain bitterly about the price difference and suggest they may not be back in future years."
In a small municipality in northern Ontario these councillors recognize that the price of gas can be either a deterrent to future tourism or a positive measure.
Let me read another letter, another note from people in northern Ontario. This is from the village of Magnetawan. They say:
"Your government has identified the tourist industry as playing a critical role in the economy of the north and yet the price of gasoline is enough to frighten off potential vacationers. What we need are incentives to attract people, industries and jobs to the north and not deterrents."
This comes from the people of northern Ontario. These are the people this government refused to hear from yesterday when it blocked the motion to allow a debate in this House on equalizing gasoline prices between northern and southern Ontario. These are the people it refused to hear from. I want to put their views on the record right now. These people live with this problem day after day.
Here is another one, from the township of Evanturel, from Englehart. I will just read a portion:
"Many of our area residents are farmers who rely heavily on diesel fuel. They are already struggling because of low commodity prices, with no foreseeable increase in the near future. Even a small reduction in fuel price can help make northern industry more viable in an ever-competitive market."
Surely these people can see by now that this is an issue that reaches into the heart of every northerner. I recall quite well a letter that came to me from the municipality of Chapleau, which is in the riding represented by the member for Nickel Belt (Mr. Laughren). I am sure that he too, if he were to rise today to talk about this issue, would tell them. They told me that in their municipality they are paying as much as 50 cents more per gallon for gasoline in Chapleau. Can one imagine that?
Where is the rhyme or reason for this? Where is the common sense in all this? Surely, if we want to have economic development in northern Ontario and if the government is serious about tourism in the north, as it keeps saying -- the Treasurer was just bragging how the minister of tourism has gone up north to boost tourism -- then it would equalize gasoline prices between north and south. If it is serious about putting money back into the pockets of ordinary northerners, workers, people on fixed incomes and people who do not have jobs, then it will do this. This is something that is immediate; it would give purchasing power to those people, purchasing power they do not have now.
What we have here is a tax on northerners. This government is taxing northerners to live in northern Ontario. It is taking more money from northern people, money they could very well be spending on the necessities of life. It is unfair and it is unjust. I say to this government that if it really wanted to help northerners and to take that next step in giving northerners the right to choose their own destiny and to make their own decisions, it would lower the tax on gasoline. The government will say, "That is going to cost millions of dollars." Millions of dollars! This government is already taking more than $1 billion in excess taxes -- sales taxes, corporate taxes and personal taxes -- from the citizens of this province right now, at this very moment, yet it cannot return $71 million to those people.
If this government cannot give back that little bit of money and put it into the pockets of every man, woman and child in northern Ontario, then it cannot tell me it is serious. What I fear is that it is more serious about going after special interest groups, but that is not good enough. This government has to go after the ordinary people and give them a break and an opportunity.
I would like to talk much longer on this, but I see my time is running out. This government cannot fool the people of the north any longer. We have launched a campaign over the past three months in northern Ontario wherein all municipalities and citizens have had the opportunity to decide for themselves whether they are being ripped off. We are fed up with this ripoff, and we want those gasoline prices equalized.
Mr. Pouliot: Mr. Speaker, if it is in keeping with the orders, let me begin by commending you. Having served on the standing committee on the Ombudsman for a number of years, I know how difficult it is for you, being an educated person, to listen to the kind of verbiage and the kind of diatribes and half-truths that not only you and the members of the House but, more important, of course, the people of the north as well have been subjected to.
It was not too long ago, a few days back, when our patience was taxed during 49 long, endless pages under the auspices of the speech from the throne. For us northern members, it became very clear that the government of Ontario does not understand the north, does not know what to do about the north and does not want to listen.
I represent the largest riding in the province of Ontario.
Mr. Laughren: How big is it?
Mr. Pouliot: I thank the member for Nickel Belt: fully 28 per cent of the overall land mass. I live in a different world.
The Thunder Bay Times-News of last Friday, May 1, 1987 -- it is very timely, I remind members with respect, as we near the year 2000 -- reported that fully 11 per cent of the people in Lake Nipigon do not have washroom facilities. Not six or seven per cent, but 11 per cent do not have that basic, essential service. By contrast, in Markham, northeast of Toronto, 80 per cent of the people have two washrooms.
There is a parallel here. Both Markham and the riding of Lake Nipigon have a washroom problem. In Markham they have too many, and in the distant part of my riding they do not have any. When you ask government members to do something about this, they tell you it is a federal matter. This is what I will convey to Mr. Anderson, who is an elder on one of the northern reserves and who has to use those facilities when the temperature dips to 40 below zero. I will go and say, "Mr. Anderson, you do have a problem, I understand, but the people in Markham are more concerned about having the domed stadium built so that they do not get rained on."
Mr. Pierce: You ought to be ashamed of yourself.
Mr. Pouliot: Do not worry. The year 2000 is near. I appreciate what he is saying, but it is a federal matter.
The true north has twice the provincial average for unemployment. The true north pays 50 cents a gallon on the average more for gasoline. The true north pays 15 to 20 per cent more for electricity. That is what the north is, with 90 per cent of the land mass and less than 10 per cent of the population.
Our goals in life have been to feed the south with our resources. Let them eat crumbs; this is what we have received in return, and the words are not too strong. There is no acquiescence, no political will that one day we will give the northerners the chance to be like the others.
Consultants? Oh, yes. If we see one more report up north, we will literally go up the wall. The truth is we pay more for goods and services than anywhere else in Ontario. The truth is we receive less in return than anywhere else in Ontario. The government does not have the vision. It commissions another study and then it gives us a little bit to the left, a little bit to the right. It does not have the courage to interfere and to help relieve the injustice with public funds. It tells us that the marketplace always chooses better. The truth -- and we know this, we live this -- is that to compete with southern Ontario, we need the government to realize that we need help and we need it now.
The Treasurer has the opportunity, an opportunity that was seldom given before to Ontario, and I am referring specifically to the next budget, to be tabled on May 20. Ontario has been the happy recipient of a recovery in its economy that started somewhere in 1982. Consequently, the Treasurer has about $900 million of unanticipated -- des revenus non anticipés, M. le Président --revenues. What we need, and I repeat myself, since we have been studied to death, is focus. When the members of our caucus contemplated the change that was to take place some two years ago, I for one -- and I say this with all the sincerity at my command -- really believed he had the political will to do things. Timetables would be established. Specifics would be the order of the day. There would be no more studies. We would not spend taxpayers' dollars to tell us that Rossport is located on water, but we could deal specifically with measures that would enhance our lives up north and make the north a better place to live.
M. le Président, les quelques minutes qui restent à ma disposition vous permettront d'apprécier, prenant par exemple, la misère humaine. Quand je parle de misère humaine, vous savez, nous n'avons pas besoin d'aller nous promener sur les autres continents. Tout ce qu'on a à faire c'est de visiter avec nous. Nous pourrons le faire ensemble.
Se dériger vers les petites villes du Nord éparpillées un peu à gauche et à droite comme Longlac avec une main d'oeuvre sinon démunie, réduite à cause des mises à pied qui se sont produites récemment, et de là à parcourir si vous voulez peut-être 34 ou 40 kilomètres pour aller à la municipalité voisine Geraldton et apercevoir le même phénomène.
On veut bien croire les données ou le programme du gouvernement actuel. Vous savez, ça devient de plus en plus difficile, parce que de plus en plus et plus souvent qu'autrement on ne sait pas quoi et qui croire.
Les mesures précises, les mesures concrètes, M. le Président, qui n'ont pas apporté hier, mais espérons qui apporteront dans le futur la chance aux citoyens et citoyennes du Nord de vivre à juste titre dans la province de l'Ontario, on les veut maintenant. On ne veut pas plus que ça, mais demander moins que ça serait illogique.
L'opportunité sera donnée au trésorier de l'Ontario. Elle lui sera donné précisément le 20 mai. A lui de nous dire que le Nord de l'Ontario sera la première priorité dans le budget qui suivra. Je vous remercie, M. le Président.
Hon. Mr. Van Horne: It is a pleasure for me to stand in my place and participate in this emergency debate. At the outset, I would like to remind the members who were here prior to 1985 that I had the distinct pleasure of serving as our party's northern affairs critic for three years.
At that time, of course, we were the official opposition and had only one member from northern Ontario, the then member for Rainy River, who in the latter stages of the last parliament chose to resign his seat. That led to a variety of happenings, not the least of which was an increased demand on my time in northern Ontario.
I would say that never during those three years as northern affairs critic did I attempt to pass myself off as a northerner. I did, however, attempt to listen to and visit the people of the north and bring back to this chamber and to my party what I thought were the concerns and needs of the people in the north.
Now that we have had the opportunity to form the government, I would like to submit that we did listen, and we have brought on stream programs that in the past were only promises from the previous government. I do not know that there is a whole lot to be gained by being critical of events of the past. Rather, I do think it is important to point out that in the various happenings of these past two years, we have attempted on an ongoing basis to be cognizant of the needs of the north.
I can say in all sincerity that in so far as my responsibility is concerned, when I am sitting around the cabinet table, when I am in our caucus and when I am representing our party in any way, I do make every attempt to include in my comments references to the north, to the native community, to the francophones and to the remote areas of Ontario. I am constantly reminding my colleagues, both old and new, that we have a responsibility to all the areas of this province and to all the people in it.
Let me bring some proof positive, I hope, to the words I have just uttered. When the Premier appointed me to the responsibility of overseeing the affairs of senior citizens, I chose to find out where the problems in the system were and began a consultative tour in northwestern Ontario. The first community I visited in this process was Thunder Bay. I met there, not just with the providers of the service but also with the users of the service and one of the local members, the member for Fort William (Mr. Hennessy).
As an aside, I would point out that in every community I visited, I invited the local member to come with me, to listen and to be part of the exercise. Quite frankly, in virtually all the northern visits I made, the local members came and participated in those meetings with me.
Once the consultation tour was complete, we prepared a report to the Premier of about 150 pages, with almost the same number of recommendations. The process we went through for each of the areas of concern the government has -- that is the legislative involvement, the concerns for the social policy of the province, for the Treasury; whatever it is -- was that in every piece of the discussion we included in our thoughts the implications for the north.
One of the very first things that came from that exercise, even before our white paper was released, was the announcement of the integrated homemaker program. There were six communities identified for the first phase of the integrated homemaker program; three of those six were northern communities. Some would question Parry Sound, although Parry Sound is a northern community by our definition in this Legislature. The Cochrane district was the second and Thunder Bay was the third.
Beyond that, in the next group of integrated homemaker projects that we brought on stream, there were additional communities in the north involved in that list. We have not ignored the north.
Let me go for a moment to the comments of my colleague the member for Waterloo North (Mr. Epp), who made reference to some of the --
Mr. Laughren: We have a parliamentary assistant here for you.
The Deputy Speaker: Order.
Hon. Mr. Van Horne: The member for Nickel Belt would delight in putting me off track for the remaining three and a half minutes, because I am probably embarrassing some of the members opposite with the facts that I am presenting.
The member for Waterloo North made reference to some of the programs brought on through the efforts of our government and announced by my colleague the Minister of Health (Mr. Elston). What I would like to add to that is that the Minister of Health, the Minister of Community and Social Services (Mr. Sweeney) and I have had the pleasure of working together as a team on the various projects that are being brought on stream to assist seniors in our community. Again, that includes northern Ontario.
Let me read into the record some of the things my colleague the Treasurer alluded to when he had his long list in front of him and determined not to get into the specifics of it.
In the last two years, as part of our program for assisting seniors, we have introduced special initiatives in 37 remote communities to bring in Meals on Wheels, friendly visiting and other home support services in outlying districts. We have brought in Alzheimer support services in three distinct areas of the north. The home support expansion has covered nine expanded projects and 23 new projects.
I have already made reference to the integrated homemaker program. If we wanted to do so, we could get into all the detail about the 36 new acute care beds, the 176 chronic care beds, the 124 nursing home beds and the seniors housing project units, 248 of them announced in 1986 and 369 announced so far this year.
Two weeks ago, I had the pleasure of representing my colleague the Minister of Housing (Mr. Curling) in Thunder Bay, where we turned the sod on two new seniors projects, one a Royal Canadian Legion seniors' apartment complex and the other the Suomi-Koti project on the outskirts of Thunder Bay. Again, they are just part of the long list of initiatives that our government is taking.
Let me read into the record, too, that we have Alzheimer projects in Timmins, Thunder Bay and Sudbury. We have new meals assistance programs in Timmins, Gravenhurst, Huntsville, Red Lake, Sudbury, Thunder Bay, Dryden, Blind River, Earlton and Sault Ste. Marie. We have an increase in home support services in North Caribou Lake, New Liskeard, Thunder Bay, Sudbury, Sault Ste. Marie, the district of Rainy River, the district of Kenora, Cochrane, Big Trout Lake, North Bay and Englehart. We have respite care programs that are new in Sault Ste. Marie, Sudbury and Thunder Bay.
I could go on, but I will go just to the new projects that we have on the home support services, starting with Ramore and running through Moosonee, Constance Lake Indian Reserve, etc. and ending up in Gore Bay. There is a total of 22 on that list.
I think the evidence is there that our government is concerned for and about the north. We are so concerned that we are putting that concern into action. We are prepared to and have, in fact, brought on programs that assist the north of this great province of ours.
Mr. Pierce: It is a sad day when we have to take a day of the Legislature's business to talk about the problems in northern Ontario, particularly when the province is doing so well. Of course, it is doing so well in southern and southeastern Ontario only because of programs that were initiated a number of years ago.
I am especially happy to hear the member for London North (Mr. Van Horne) acknowledge that the government on that side of the House is prepared to recognize all of Parry Sound as being part of northern Ontario. I know that my colleague and friend on this side of the House has been working for some time towards getting Parry Sound recognized as part of northern Ontario.
I am sure that the people of Parry Sound will be exceedingly happy to hear today as this debate proceeds that they will now become part of the Ontario northern health travel grant program. They will also be able to make use of the Ministry of Education's three per cent grant for goods and services; and maybe -- I say only maybe -- the Minister of Natural Resources is watching TV in Dryden today and he will now know that the Ministry of Natural Resources is also responsible for things in Parry Sound as they relate to northern Ontario. I thank the member for that. If nothing else comes out of this debate today, at least we have accomplished that much.
I am also interested to hear the Treasurer today talk about the transferring of 1,200 jobs. We look at that as being a positive approach to solving some problems in northern Ontario.
There are members in this House today, some of whom have already left, and there were also members of the community, who sat on the Advisory Committee on Resource Dependent Communities in Northern Ontario. One of the recommendations that came out of that committee was that government should endeavour to relocate or move the responsibilities of government beyond the Golden Horseshoe. The recommendation was such that it said that those jobs would be new jobs and that they would not be jobs that would be taken out of one area and physically moved to another area.
I believe the government has taken that recommendation out of context, and its response, of course, has been to relocate physically 1,200 people in northern Ontario. That was never the intent of the recommendation that was put out by the single-resource community committee, sometimes called the Rosehart committee.
Mr. Ashe: How many jobs are up there now?
Mr. Pierce: Well, of course, they have not constructed the buildings and the jobs have not been relocated.
The other thing that was recommended by the single-resource communities committee and the Rosehart report was to assist in the establishment of secondary industries. There was also a strong recommendation that the Ontario government give serious consideration to removing the seven per cent Ontario sales tax on all manufactured goods for northern Ontario.
The response by the government was that that is a very expensive package and it would cost the taxpayers of Ontario a lot of money. At the same time, when they are looking at trying to solve some problems in developing industry and encouraging industry into northern Ontario, they are not prepared to do anything that may cost some money.
In remarks earlier today, there were comments made about the amount of money that has been put into the automobile industry in southern and southeastern Ontario. Nobody denies that that money is required to encourage those industries to locate in Ontario, but let us have something other than words from this government to solve some of the problems in northern Ontario as well. Let us recognize that some day, some time, we are going to have to spend some money, or at least be prepared to take less money out of the industries that are still in northern Ontario.
In many cases we talk about the high cost of gasoline and transportation. Lord only knows the members have heard enough about that today, but they have not heard enough until they are prepared to do something about it.
Not only does it cost you extra money out of your pocket when you fill up your gas tank, but also it costs you extra money out of your pocket every time you go to a grocery store, every time you go to a furniture store, every time you go to a convenience store. It costs that extra money to get those products into the north because of the high cost of transportation. It was said here earlier today that this is an extra tax on northerners. This extra tax is not only in putting gas in your car; this extra tax on fuel and gasoline is also a tax you experience in everything you do in northern Ontario.
The government talks about creating jobs, enhancing industry, doing something with cottage lots, doing something on crown lands. I have individuals with two little kids who come into my constituency office. They have an opportunity. For the last 17 years they have taken $20,000 out of a trapper's cabin, and the Ministry of Natural Resources is saying to them today: "Either you get out of that cabin or we are going to burn it to the ground. You have stayed in the cabin two weeks beyond the trappers' season, and that is a no-no."
That is the kind of creation of jobs we are doing in northern Ontario. One ministry does not complement the other when it comes to helping out people in northern Ontario. One department within a ministry does not complement the other. In this instance, the Ministry of Natural Resources, through its game and fish branch, was giving this guy a licence to trap and sell minnows from his trapper's cabin. The land branch of the Ministry of Natural Resources did not recognize it and did not want to do anything about it for 17 years.
Now, under the new Minister of Natural Resources, we have the administration going in and saying: "Look, guys, you have been here too long. We do not want you taking a living out of this lake any more. You are putting a stress on the fisheries industry. Get out or we will put you out." That is this government's response to helping out the people of northern Ontario.
Something members have not heard about today is the price of milk. How you equalize the price of gas, you also equalize the price of milk. Gasoline, like milk, and milk, like gasoline, are not products you can do without in northern Ontario. The only difference between the two of them is that you ride on one and you drink the other, but they are still the necessities of life to survive in northern Ontario. I think some day that government over there is going to have to recognize that those items are not the extras in life but the necessities. They are the necessities that everybody in this province has the right to have access to.
We talk about the educational system and how great we are doing in the educational system. At the same time, we talk about the high drop-out rates. When they have the drop-out rates that they indicated in their throne speech -- the comparison and the figures they use -- the only thing that brings that drop-out rate percentage up is the drop-out rate in northern Ontario. We can talk all we want about the skills and development and the extra training. We can train those people all we want but if there are no jobs for them, they are not going to take the training. There is no place for them to go.
Let us talk about tourism for a minute and "what a great job we are doing in promoting tourism." I am using the government's words. I can tell the members that as of today, the four-by-four wooden washrooms on the highways of northern Ontario are still blocked off by barricades because nobody should go to the washroom until May 15 when the fishing season opens. Yet there was all kinds of noise made last year about how well they were going to address the problems of travel in northern Ontario by providing great facilities along the highway.
I am afraid the members of this government have a lot to learn about northern Ontario. They are great at travelling in northern Ontario, but they should get out of their cars and their airplanes, look around, talk to the people, accept their recommendations and act on them. They should not just listen, come back and provide all kinds of nice words about how nice it was to be in northern Ontario yesterday and say: "I have talked to the people in northern Ontario. I now know the problems and I think we can work out the solutions."
Mr. Laughren: This chamber is truly a bizarre and wonderful place. I have been here for only 15 years. There are people trying to make sure that it does not go any longer than that as well. I must say it really is a bit much to sit in my seat and listen to the arguments being made by the Progressive Conservatives. It really is a bit much.
Mr. Pierce: I have been here for only two years. I have come to help you out.
Mr. Laughren: I know the member for Rainy River (Mr. Pierce) has been here for only two years.
I must say that I am pleased to support the emergency debate. There should be no doubt that it is an emergency debate because anything that takes 40 years to build up to should surely be regarded as an emergency when it happens.
Neglect does not come easily, and the Tories worked at it for a lot of years. I can look back a few years and remember the member for Algoma-Manitoulin bringing into this chamber a private member's bill to equalize the price of gas across Ontario. The opposition supported him and the Tory party voted him down; the Tories, of all people.
What do members think my constituents in Chapleau thought when they read that in the newspaper? People in Chapleau pay an outrageous price. The Liberals put on a dog and pony show to go around to check on gasoline prices in the north. They went to Chapleau and they had an open hearing.
Mr. Epp: And you attended it.
Mr. Laughren: No, I did not attend the one in Chapleau. I know where I was not. There was a public hearing. I may not know where I have been part of the time, but I know where I was not. I was not in Chapleau at that public hearing. At that public hearing there was quite a good turnout of people.
Mr. Epp: How do you know if you were not there?
Mr. Laughren: I was down here doing my job. I get regular phone calls and letters from my constituents in Chapleau and I go there frequently.
I believe that the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines and the Ministry of Energy were the ones that set up that committee. After the committee went to Chapleau, it came away expressing some dismay at the price of the gasoline there.
I am told that at that public hearing, a young man stood up and said: "There seems to be some confusion over why the price is so high, and nobody can really justify it. Why do we not boycott one of the stations and all shop at the other stations? Then that one person will have to lower the price. When he does, we will go back to him." The staff person said it would not work. End of debate. I do not know why it would not work.
Since then, the reeve of Chapleau has done a very good job of pursuing the same issue of why the prices of gasoline are so high. My colleague from Sudbury is right on. The price is 50 cents a gallon more. Why is it so high?
We get two answers back. One is that the oil companies are doing it, either through the oil company or the bulk dealer, and it is not the dealers' problem.
Then the oil company -- Esso in this case -- wrote back and said, "You are getting the wrong figures from the dealer. It is the dealer who is making the big profit." I ask members, why can we not get some straight answers on the price of gasoline in northern Ontario?
The Tories never answered the question. The Liberals do not answer the question. The Tories had a task force one time that said it was not transportation costs. They did not know what it was, but they knew it was not transportation costs. Let us face it. It is really their precious free enterprise system that exploits the marketplace as it finds it. It is nothing more, nothing less, and as long as they want to pay homage to that system, then they are going to live with this kind of exploitation of the market.
I would be willing to accept another explanation, but I do not know what it is. Let the government tell me what it is. We are dying to know. It really is ridiculous. Every time I hear someone suggest that our tax dollars should make up the difference for northerners who pay the extra gas price, I could get a little ill. That should not come out of our taxes. It is not the taxpayers who are raising the price. It is the private sector. There is a lot of hypocrisy around here.
Before I sit down, I would like the Tories to go on record at some point, telling us what they think a free trade arrangement between Canada and the United States would do for northern Ontario. I would like to know if the Tories believe that a free trade agreement would help northern Ontario, because there are some questions that need to be answered. If the Tories are so gung-ho on a free trade arrangement, I would like to know how they think it will help northern Ontario, because as soon as the government decides that there needs to be regional development program in northern Ontario, guess what that is going to mean? Screams of subsidy from south of the border. We have already had it.
We had very low stumpage fees in Ontario. I think they were extremely low. I may not agree with it, but I think we have the right to set those fees. What does the US government say? That is a form of subsidy. So if we decided, as a government, as a province, as a jurisdiction, that we want to have low stumpage fees in order to stimulate the forestry industry, we do not have the right to do that. If we say to Inco and Falconbridge, Falconbridge in particular, "You must process your ores in Sudbury. You can no longer ship them to Norway," does that violate a free trade agreement? It seems to me it could.
I want someone to tell me how you fit together free trade and regional development. Somebody has to tell me that, because in northern Ontario we have been staring free trade in the face for 100 years. We have had free trade in resources, and do members know what we get? Maximum exploitation of those resources; that I admit. But do you get a diversified economy? Does it allow for government intervention to right some of the historic wrongs in northern Ontario?
Au contraire: it means that anything a government does that uses tax money to prop up the economy of the north or to try to diversify the economy of the north, make it stronger, can be regarded as a subsidy by our trading partner; in this case, the US.
I never hear the Tories talking about that in northern Ontario. They talk about it down here. They talk about it in Ottawa. They talk about it out west. I never hear them talking about the free trade issue in northern Ontario.
Mr. McFadden: I did in Thunder Bay, two months ago; you should have been there.
Mr. Laughren: I did not hear the member. Was he supporting it? That is the question. Was the member for Eglinton supporting free trade in Thunder Bay?
Mr. McFadden: Absolutely, and the audience agreed.
Mr. Laughren: I see. He must have been talking to Mr. Carter of Great Lakes Forest Products.
Mr. McFadden: There were 300 people in the room.
Mr. Laughren: I see.
If we try to develop northern Ontario through a form of government subsidy, we are going to get our hide nailed to the barn door by our free-trading partner. Simply, we could not pull it off.
I suggest that while the emergency debate moved by the Tories today is appropriate -- the problem is serious in northern Ontario -- I would be much happier if I had seen a little history that indicated that the Tories really did have a firm commitment to righting the wrongs of northern Ontario. That is not the history of this place. We all remember -- or most of us do; maybe the new Tories do not remember but the rest of us certainly do. I would prefer to see a debate that centred on why the Tories did not do more than they did when they had the opportunity.
In conclusion, I am concerned about the gasoline prices in northern Ontario. I see no reason they could not be equalized across the province. Since there are about eight million people in southern Ontario and three quarters of a million in northern Ontario, how much difference would they need to alter the price down here to enable equalized prices across the entire province?
I think it would not make very much difference to the price of gasoline in southern Ontario if it was lowered in the north and had the southern price compensate for that difference in northern Ontario. I do not think the government would get complaints from people in southern Ontario either. Despite the efforts of some people to create differences between the north and the south, as long as things are being done fairly they will not get objections from the north and they will not get objections from the south.
Mr. Mancini: I join my colleagues to take part in this emergency debate. First of all, I want to say I am somewhat disappointed the Conservative Party chose to take a day out of the regular, normal proceedings of the Legislature to put forward this motion for an emergency debate. As was amply pointed out by the Treasurer, we are now in the middle of our replies to the speech from the throne.
Mr. McClellan: There was nothing there.
Mr. Gillies: How do we reply to it? There is nothing there.
Mr. Mancini: Then I say to my honourable friend across the floor, if he had any complaints about the speech from the throne, he could have spent the better part of this afternoon talking about just that. He could have had plenty of time, and my Conservative colleagues could have done the same thing.
This can only be viewed as something not more significant than some type of last gasp, political, desperate manoeuvre by the Conservative Party before something important happens, and I am not sure when that important event is going to take place.
I want to say that on one point I do agree with my colleague the member for Nickel Belt. I agree it is somewhat tiring to listen to the Conservative members of parliament stand in the Legislature and bemoan the problems that face northern Ontario, and the crocodile tears just flow. Half of that side of the Legislature is covered with crocodile tears. A party that spent more than four decades in office -- count them, more than four decades in office. Those people spent more time in office than Moses spent in the desert. They had every opportunity.
Mr. Mancini: It stings, does it not? It stings when their record can be brought up and shown to them and it hurts to look at it.
Mr. Gillies: Your record in northern Ontario is nonexistent, except for the plane tickets of the member for Cochrane North.
Mr. Mancini: I know we have struck a tender nerve. I know the record of the Conservative Party has been pretty woefully weak as far as northern Ontario is concerned. I know they do not like it brought up, but for a political party that has spent four decades in office to call an emergency debate on issues they had an opportunity to correct if they felt so at the time, if they felt that strongly about it; to interrupt the general proceedings of the House when they had every basic opportunity to take part in these same speeches, they could have given the same speeches in their reply to the speech from the throne, every single one of them could have given the same speech -- but no, they want to disrupt the Legislature. They have already.
You know, there is something I cannot understand.
The Deputy Speaker: Order.
Mr. Mancini: Mr. Speaker, the noise does not bother me.
The Deputy Speaker: It does bother me. Would the member for Sudbury East (Mr. Martel) and the member for Nickel Belt please either take their seats or remove themselves. The noise is rather deafening.
Mr. Mancini: I cannot remember a time when a party in opposition prevented a Treasurer from introducing a budget. I cannot remember a time when an opposition party postponed --
Mr. Sterling: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker: Could you clarify the standing orders and indicate to me how many times in a year an opposition party can bring forward a motion for an emergency debate? Is it not true that you can bring forward five motions for emergency debates at your particular want or request? Is that not the case?
The Deputy Speaker: There is no limit upon emergency debates as long as they are not on the same subject.
Mr. Mancini: I would have thought that a person who served as a minister of the crown would have known the answer to a simple question such as that.
Mr. Speaker, in all your generosity, will you give me back the 45 seconds that were taken away from me by the member for Carleton-Grenville (Mr. Sterling)?
It is hard to believe how sensitive that party is. As my colleague the Treasurer said earlier, he and some of us were in that party's position not so long ago. He said they were difficult times, and they were difficult times. I am sure that the cold hand that those members feel on their hearts at this time is something that some of us felt a number of years ago.
I cannot recall an opposition party delaying a budget of a government. The Conservative Party participated in delaying the introduction of the Ontario budget, the economic blueprint for our province for the next 12 months. Its members come to the Legislature and decry the problems in the north. They force the official proceedings to be backed up and, at the same time, they prevent the Treasurer from introducing his budget.
To me that is somewhat hypocritical. They want the government to take action in its budgetary matters. Every single member of the Conservative Party who spoke today said, "We have to have more money for northern Ontario." They are the same Conservative members of parliament who are delaying the announcement of the budget where we would be able to hear whether there would be more money for northern Ontario. The crocodile tears that flowed this afternoon have not helped the opposition's political fortunes one iota.
As a matter of fact, they are seen for exactly what they are; a cheap, political move obstructing the Legislature, delaying the regular procedures and almost forcing the government to call an election. That is what that party is almost doing.
I do not want to minimize in any way the problems that are facing northern Ontario residents. I have great confidence in the ministers of the Ontario government, under the leadership of the Premier, that this government will and has been able to produce a record much more significant than the previous government that sits across the floor. I have great confidence, even though we have been in office only 24 short months, that when the writ is issued and the Liberal candidates and the Liberal members of parliament seeking re-election travel the north, they will be warmly received. I have much more confidence in that than I do in what will be happening across the way.
One of the reasons their policies were such a failure in the north is that they tried to build an empire around a certain individual. Like the Shah of Iran, who indulged himself to such an extent that he was forced to flee from his gold toilet seat, the same thing is happening to our friends across the way. The people of the north realize the indulgence, the vulgar opulence, with which the Conservative Party surrounded itself, and these things will come to account in a very short time.
I say again that this party across the way could have given exactly the same speeches we heard today under the normal, regular proceedings of the House. As a matter of fact, is it not sad that we have an emergency debate, and we do not even have a vote on it? Shame on the Conservative members of the Legislature for disrupting the normal procedures of the House.
Mr. Lane: I am sure a number of my colleagues will be surprised to see me entering into the debate this afternoon, because I have not often attempted to speak in this House of late. There are two reasons for that. In the 1981 and 1985 elections, we were able to elect young, able speakers from northern Ontario who liked to speak and could speak much better than I. I enjoyed listening to them rather than trying to speak on my own behalf. Also, a couple of years ago, one of my vocal cords decided to quit working, and the doctor says it is not going to work any more. On occasion, when I am trying to speak, I get cut off in the middle of a word and I cannot carry on. It is a bit embarrassing to be caught in those circumstances, but I am going to endeavour this afternoon to say a few words, because I am a northerner first, last and always, and I am proud to be a northerner.
The Treasurer made some remarks this afternoon when we were talking about whether or not this debate should proceed. He suggested we were retiring and resigning from northern Ontario because we were afraid to face the music of what the next election might bring. I can assure him and other members of the House that I decided over a year ago that I was going to retire.
I have been here for over 15 years, and in that 15 years I have accumulated seven grandchildren who hardly know me. I feel I owe my family something. I have been away a great deal, and I have reasons to retire. I am not afraid to face the music of what the next election might bring. As a matter of fact, I would remind the members that I went five times, three times with a minority government, and I came back each time.
My friend the member for Kenora, who is not here today to speak for himself, went two or three more elections than I, and I am sure he has his own personal reasons for retiring at this point. He is not afraid to face the music either. I just want to put that straight.
My friends the member for Nickel Belt and the member for Algoma mentioned my bill of some 10 years ago. It was just 10 years ago; first reading was April 28, 1977. The bill was to require a single price for gasoline and heating oil in Ontario. Had we done it then, we would have corrected the situation.
I pointed out at that time that we in northern Ontario have two penalties. We are not complaining about the first penalty; we choose to live in northern Ontario. Because of that, we have to drive farther than we would in southern Ontario to do the same amount of business, so we burn more gasoline. It is colder up north. We have to heat our homes longer and so we burn more heating oil. We do not complain about it because we choose to be northerners. What we do complain about is having to pay more for the fuel. That is the part that is not fair. That should be corrected. It should have been corrected 10 years ago when I brought in this bill. It was not and now is another opportunity to do it.
There is another matter I would like to address in the few moments I have and that is the Northern Ontario Development Corp. It is a good program, but it could be much better for northern Ontario with some slight changes. I brought this to the attention of the officials at the standing committee on government agencies a few months ago. In many cases, when somebody applies for a loan to get into business or to build a lodge or whatever, after a year or so he or she has to have additional capital for expansion. That person has to go back a second time and maybe even a third time to get more money before the project is really off and running. The trouble seems to be that every one of those loans is negotiated individually at a rate of interest that happens to apply according to the interest of the day. We all realize that back in the early 1980s, the interest rate was 20 per cent or so.
What I would like to see happen, so that it would be more valuable to people in the north, is that if a person has to apply for a second or third loan from NODC, those loans could all be rolled into one and the interest of the day would apply to that loan. Then people would not have three or four loans outstanding at three or four rates of interest that have to be paid three or four times a year. It just does not make any sense. I think this would help NODC do a much better job in northern Ontario.
I would like to point out that there are opportunities for industry up north. As a matter of fact, on September 30, 1985, I wrote to the Minister of Natural Resources and suggested that in my riding we have a pilot project in commercial aquaculture, raising trout in cages or ponds and then supplying the market in Ontario and even exporting them.
Fresh water is a commodity and a resource we have in northern Ontario that we are not using and we should be using it. Here we are each year importing many thousands of dollars' worth of trout from Idaho and other parts of North America to Ontario to provide for the market that we ourselves could be providing for. I laid out at great length how we should do it and how we could provide a great many jobs in doing that. So far, of course, nothing has happened.
In the estimates on February 4 of this year, I debated several things with the Premier who is also Minister of Northern Development and Mines. One was the rates on the Chi-Cheemaun ferry boat going from Tobermory to Manitoulin Island. The other was the need for doctors in Elliot Lake. Then I had to point out to him that he offended me when he made his opening remarks because he said in those opening remarks that the ministry had been on stream a year and that it had X dollars of funding, etc. I had to remind him that this ministry has been on stream for 10 years. I happened to know because I had done the legwork to get the Ministry of Northern Affairs in place back in 1976. Many of my colleagues will remember those debates.
The Premier and I had an exchange on this. He said that he appreciated my bringing this back because he remembered the debate and he remembered my participating in it. He was sorry he had offended me. Of course, I said I was not seriously offended, that I just wanted to bring to his attention that it was we who brought in the Ministry of Northern Affairs and not his government. He wound up saying to me, "I did not mean that, if I said it." He then said, as a matter of fact, "I say a lot of things I have to retract." I guess our Premier is only human after all, the same as the rest of us, because that is what he said to me on February 4.
I noticed this in the throne speech: "To further promote local initiatives and self-reliance, my government will establish a northern Ontario heritage fund. The fund will be administered in close consultation with the northern development councils."
I certainly support the idea of a heritage fund. I think it probably could have been, and should have been, in place long ago, but I am a little concerned about the administration. It seems to me it is something like when my wife says to me, "What colour do you want me to buy for my new dress?" I say, "I do not care what the colour is as long as it is red." I think the same thing will apply here. The heritage fund will be administered by people appointed by the present government and there will be more concern about how many votes it will get than about how much good it will do the north.
I say that tongue in cheek to some degree. I had the experience of having a director from my area on the Northern Ontario Development Corp. who had three years left in his term. I spoke to the minister about reappointing him. He told me that he would like to reappoint him and would do what he could. About 10 days later, he got a "Dear John" letter saying, "You are no longer needed," and that was the end of it. He was a good director. Since then, we have had no one from my area on that board. That has been a loss to me and to the people of northern Ontario. So I am just a little concerned about the administration of the heritage fund.
Mr. Morin-Strom: I appreciate the opportunity to speak on this issue which is one very dear to my heart, as it is for everyone who lives in northern Ontario and for all of us in the Legislature who represent ridings in northern Ontario.
The problems we are facing have been manifest and escalating over the past few years. Unfortunately, they have been a long time in coming and have been developing over the term of the previous administration as well. I find it slightly strange that this particular resolution should come from Conservative Party members, wailing about the problems of government inaction in northern Ontario, focusing on the problems we have been facing and the lack of government initiative. Certainly, this has not been a problem just over the past two years, but over quite a protracted period of time.
When I was elected two years ago, one of the prime issues in the election campaign was the issue the member for Algoma-Manitoulin brought up just before me, and that is high gasoline prices in northern Ontario. The fact that the Conservatives now have adopted this as an issue in northern Ontario is really strange because they ignored the problem for so long and certainly ignored it in the last provincial campaign in the north.
To some extent, it was one of the issues that gained myself and other New Democrats a lot of support across northern Ontario. It is one that the people of the north feel very passionately about. It is a symbol of the kind of injustices and inequities we face in the north in terms of our cost of living and our relative competitive position when it comes to our opportunities to attract business and to have businesses expand in northern Ontario.
I appreciate and commend the member for Algoma-Manitoulin for the fact that he did come forward as a northern Ontario representative 10 years ago and present a bill on uniform gas prices to the Legislature. It was an excellent initiative. Unfortunately, while it was one our party adopted and supported, it was blocked in the Legislature by his own party and no action was ever taken on that initiative.
Mr. Wildman: It was a Conservative government, was it not?
Mr. Morin-Strom: At that time it was a Conservative government.
It is an issue on which we have to have some action now. Not only do I support that initiative, but I also think that initiative made more sense than the initiative the Treasurer has speculated on as a possibility and that the current Conservative members are talking about; that is, to try to solve the problem by creating a difference in the taxation rate in southern Ontario versus northern Ontario.
That initiative went to regulating gasoline prices and to ensuring that the same prices were in effect in all areas of the province. If a company wanted to sell oil, home heating oil or automobile gasoline in Ontario, it would have to have the same price right across the province. I think that is an approach this government should look at very seriously. If01 they know what is good for them in terms of where popular opinion is in northern Ontario and what would be of tremendous benefit to the people of northern Ontario, they would act in a like fashion.
I would like to express concern about many of the other areas in which we have seen a lack of Conservative action in the past and continued lack of action by the Liberals in the past two years. In Sault Ste. Marie, we are facing a serious crisis as a result of the massive layoffs that we have seen at Algoma Steel. Last spring, having already lost some 4,000 jobs since 1982, Algoma Steel announced another program to lay off another 1,500 workers.
The Ontario government's reaction to that has been clearly inadequate for the city of Sault Ste. Marie. The focus of its action has been the transfer of some 360 jobs that are coming to Sault Ste Marie. While that will make an important contribution, it pales in comparison with the revenues, the jobs that we have lost from Algoma Steel Corp.; not only that but also the jobs have not come yet.
The much-touted policy that the Liberal members have talked about in this debate, moving 1,200 jobs to northern Ontario and some 360 of these to Sault Ste. Marie, has not occurred. Not one of these jobs has moved yet. The only thing that has happened is they have got to the point of picking the architects for the buildings. The construction of the buildings has not started in any of the locations in northern Ontario. We do not have the construction jobs and we do not have the real jobs that have been promised. I hope this government intends to have those jobs in place in northern Ontario before it goes before the people of the north on an election call.
I also express some grave concerns about the announcement in the speech from the throne -- it was woefully inadequate in terms of initiatives for northern Ontario -- that highlighted the initiative of the northern Ontario fund. To me, the fund that was proposed was a con job. The fund has no provincial money in it whatsoever. The money is coming from the lumber industry. The federal government is taking the tax that it has imposed on the lumber industry and it is going to pass it down to the provincial government which will put it in this fund. It is not putting one cent of provincial resource into that fund. This shows the kind of commitment we have from this government to the future of northern Ontario.
That fund was committed by the federal government and the provincial government, from our understanding, to go to those communities that were to be hurt by the lumber-industry difficulties that would result from the 15 per cent duty. That action has to be taken. Those funds should be used as resources to attack the immediate problems in those communities.
The heritage fund should be a fund to look at the future, an investment in the future. It should be building capital, investing and providing resources to northern communities from the income on that fund. To do so, one needs a substantial infusion of money up front and then a regular process of funding that will ensure growth of that fund in the long run. A fund of some $30 million to $40 million is not going to produce very much in terms of income for resource development in northern Ontario.
I will also express one new concern that has not been talked about here, and that is in the environmental area. I think the Liberal government has ignored northern Ontario when it comes to the serious environmental concerns in the north. One that I want to bring to light is the issue of the low-level flight testing by US bombers over some of our major provincial parks in northern Ontario and over a major area of northern Ontario.
It was brought up in the select committee on the environment during the recess, and the Minister of the Environment (Mr. Bradley) completely stonewalled this issue. While environmental studies are ongoing in the western provinces in consultation with the provincial governments in Alberta, Saskatchewan, the Northwest Territories and British Columbia on similar flight paths, the provincial government of Ontario has completely abandoned its responsibility to do anything about ensuring the environmental integrity of northern Ontario and the protection of that environment before permitting any such flights to take place.
I would ask the provincial government to look seriously at this decision and to reflect some of the interests of those of us who live in northern Ontario. My time is up, so I thank you, Mr. Speaker, very much.
Mr. Gillies: I am very pleased to join in this debate on behalf of our party, and I want to make a few comments before getting to the specifics of the resolution and the challenge that faces us up north.
I want to say a few words about the tone of this debate and the direction it has taken, which I believe has been most unfortunate indeed at various points. I want to indicate to a few members of the governing caucus, in all their self-satisfied smugness -- which they have displayed this afternoon with an arrogance that is truly unparalleled and which I assume comes from kissing the hem of their leader, King David -- that when I hear the kind of unbased, groundless --
Mr. Epp: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker: I just want to record the fact that when the member spoke about arrogance, the members of the House broke up in a great deal of laughter because they felt it applied to that side of the House more than to this side.
Mr. Speaker: Order.
Mr. Wildman: Mr. Speaker, on the point of order: I want to say these guys were just as arrogant as those guys.
Mr. Speaker: Thank you for your point of view.
Mr. Gillies: I do not want to get into an arrogance fest with my friends opposite or to the side. I have never considered myself arrogant, but perhaps I am the last person I should be asking.
Seriously, I have heard a couple of contributions to this debate this afternoon which I feel completely miss the point. It is not a question of noblesse oblige or who feels he has the most to offer the north the closer one gets to an election, and who has done more and who was wrong and who was the minister. I really think it is unfortunate if we are going to expend the greater part of this debate on that nonsense.
I do not want to get into trading insults with my friend the member for Essex South (Mr. Mancini), but when he makes disparaging remarks about my colleague the member for Kenora, I would say to him -- he has been here a few years and he should know -- that he would have to serve in this Legislature an awfully long time before he could do a fraction of what the member for Kenora did for northern Ontario in the years he was minister. I would suggest to the government that its record in the north and, indeed, the record of the minister who succeeded the member for Kenora in his responsibilities, are not ones on which I would particularly want to hang my hat.
Our colleague, who is not here -- he is probably out flying somewhere. Perhaps for the sake of brevity, I will refer to him from here on in as Sky King. Members will recall there was a television show in the 1950s called Sky King. I see it on reruns the odd time. This man used to get into a little plane and fly from bush camp to bush camp rescuing people in distress and breaking up gunfights. He had a dog. I cannot remember the dog's name. To continue the analogy, the dog was sort of a parliamentary assistant in a fur coat.
When I think of our friend the member for Cochrane North, I think of Sky King flying across northern Ontario, community to community, handing out cheques left and right, doing the work of the Liberal Party across northern Ontario and, I would hope, incidentally doing the work of the government, although I have little confidence in that. I have to tell my friends that is not good enough.
I would also suggest to the government spokespersons from whom we heard earlier, who do not believe the economic situation in northern Ontario merits an emergency debate, that they have not paid close enough attention. Perhaps they were not, as were some of us, in the north with the standing committee on resources development when we were discussing the plant shutdowns in the resource industries. They were not in the north to hear the remarks that were made to us by the steelworkers in Sudbury, for example, who spoke to us out of the frustration of endless surveys, endless studies, endless commissions and endless visits from the member for Cochrane North and his colleagues.
Out of that frustration they told our committee, "Unless the governments of this country and province are prepared to accept the challenge and have the political will to formulate programs that address the unique problems in the north, the many task forces such as we are addressing today are simply a waste of time." One has to agree with them.
When we see the kind of vacuous and vague promises made to northern Ontario in the government's most recent throne speech, I do not think it will be getting any kudos from the steelworkers, from the regional chairman in Sudbury or from the other people who appeared before our committee with a couple of very clear messages. If we had felt that this government was receiving and acting on this message, then this emergency debate would not have been necessary.
That message is simply this: The recession is over in southern Ontario. My riding, which had unemployment of over 25 per cent at one point in 1982 and which now has an unemployment rate of about seven per cent, is doing all right. I want to tell the members on the government benches that the recession continues in northern Ontario. It is worse in northern Ontario, and they have not come close to meeting the challenge that faces us.
We were in Thunder Bay the last week in February when our resources committee was in northern Ontario. We were told that the unemployment rate in that city would be well in excess of 11 per cent or 12 per cent but that in the country surrounding the city, out in the region, the unemployment rate was probably closer to 25 per cent.
Earlier, my colleague the member for Cochrane South mentioned the increase in layoffs. We are quite willing to accept responsibility for the period during which we had the responsibility for governing this province. What frustrates us is when the Liberals refuse to take the responsibility for what they have wrought and for which they are responsible. Two years out, it is not enough.
As our friend the Minister of Industry, Trade and Technology seems to want to predicate every answer to every question in question period, "It is not enough any more to say `42 years.'" It is not enough. The Liberals have had two years.
Last year, layoffs in northwestern Ontario were up 400 per cent. Last year, layoffs in northeastern Ontario were up more than 40 per cent. The Liberals have bungled softwood lumber. They have not met the commitments they made to the people of Ontario during the election campaign in 1985.
Mr. Wildman: You never opposed what the feds were doing.
Mr. Speaker: Order.
Mr. Gillies: When the member for London Centre (Mr. Peterson), as leader of the Liberal Party, was running for the office he now holds, he said to the working people in this province, "If I become Premier of Ontario, in a Peterson-led Ontario you will not have these layoff problems."
I remember because the now Premier said it in Kitchener. He said it to the laid-off workers at Burns Meats. He said: "In a Peterson-led Ontario we will not have layoffs. We will have procedures in place to ensure that this does not happen. We will change the Employment Standards Act to make sure that more people caught in layoffs are covered." The now Premier said he was going to do all of these things.
Two years later any one of us can stand in this House, as I did in the very first question I, as Labour critic, asked the Minister of Labour (Mr. Wrye) one and a half years ago. I said to him very simply, "When are you going to close the loopholes in the severance-pay provisions of the Employment Standards Act?"
Mr. Mancini: Are you still the Labour critic?
Mr. Gillies: No, I am not the Labour critic for my party any more, but two years later I still want to know from the Minister of Labour when we are going to see action on some of these things that, in order to get power, he was so piously telling this province he was going to do.
The Liberals have power now and they are not exercising it in the interests of the north. They are not exercising it in the interests of working people. While they do not think this debate was necessary, we do.
Mr. Warner: The member for Brantford (Mr. Gillies) really has incredible nerve. The very problems he spoke about, which he thought should be solved and was so happy to attack the Premier on, are the very things he voted against as a member of the committee when he had the opportunity to support the proposal put forward by my party. He voted against them. Talk about nerve.
When I sit here and listen to the Progressive Conservative members participate in the debate, I sometimes wonder whether what we have in the Conservative Party is the largest collection of amnesia victims ever assembled in one place.
It is certainly evident to me as a member living in southern Ontario and enjoying a relatively good standard of living that in fact we have two worlds in this province; we have two economies. What southerners sometimes tend to forget is that when we extend a subway in Metropolitan Toronto, when an Ontario Place is built or when a domed stadium is built, in large measure the money to build those things comes from northern Ontario.
In southern Ontario we enjoy the benefits from the resources that have been extracted from the north. The northerners who are supplying us with the wherewithal to build the subways and the domed stadium do not get in return the kind of benefit they should derive from those resources.
This province historically, and continued by the Liberals, is quite prepared not to do anything about developing the secondary resources in the north. We are not prepared to do anything about ensuring that we build the mining machinery in the north or that we have those secondary industries related to the forest. The previous government was not prepared to exercise the kind of leadership required in that area, and neither are the Liberals.
In the last few seconds remaining, I will mention one of the anomalies I have encountered in the portfolio of looking at colleges. The government says colleges cannot have residences; in southern Ontario, especially in Metropolitan Toronto, that makes eminent good sense, but not in the north. The north has particular areas where it is important to have student residences, but the Minister of Colleges and Universities (Mr. Sorbara) treats the north just like everywhere else and does not understand that there is a difference between the world of the north and the world of the south.
The north has not been well served by the Tories; similarly, the new Tories, the ones with the red ties, are not serving the north well either.
Mr. Gordon: What a fantastic speech. Take a bow.
Mr. Warner: They said, "Encore."
Mr. Speaker: Order. The clock says six o'clock and the standing orders state that that concludes the debate.
BUSINESS OF THE HOUSE
Hon. Mr. Van Horne: I am quite pleased to be able to stand as acting House leader. I am neither the image nor likeness of the Treasurer (Mr. Nixon) or Mr. Wells, but I have the task and I will proceed.
I would like to indicate the business of the House for the coming week.
Debate on the speech from the throne will continue all next week with the exception of Thursday morning, May 14, when we will deal with private members' business standing in the names of the member for Riverdale (Mr. Reville) and a replacement for the member for York Mills (Miss Stephenson), to be identified by motion on Monday. That person may well be the member for Algoma-Manitoulin (Mr. Lane), as I understand it, but that will have to be dealt with on Monday.
That is the business of the House for next week.
The House adjourned at 6:02 p.m.