L009 - Tue 12 May 1987 / Mar 12 mai 1987
The House met at 1:30 p.m.
TABLING OF INFORMATION
Mr. Wiseman: I rise on a point of personal privilege pursuant to standing order 88(d). Last October 15, I submitted a question in writing to the government and was promised an answer on January 5 and again on February 26. Seven months have gone by. I am a patient person, but does it really take the government that long or does it intend to answer at all?
Mr. Speaker: I would like to inform the member it is not a point of privilege; it is a point of order. I am sure the government House leader will take note of your comment.
MEMBER FOR DUFFERIN-SIMCOE
Mr. Harris: I rise to correct the record. Today, the official release mechanism for the government indicated the member for Dufferin-Simcoe (Mr. McCague) would not be seeking re-election. In fact, I just got off the phone with the member. He was quite incensed that the official government publication would indicate that. There is a nomination meeting scheduled for next Thursday, at which the member for Dufferin-Simcoe has every intention of seeking the nomination and hopes to be representing that great riding again. I would like the record to be corrected.
Hon. Mr. Nixon: Speaking to the point of order, I welcome the comment by the honourable member, but I think it should be made clear, in case everybody's sense of humour is not as finely tuned as his, that this information was not printed or reproduced in any official government publication.
NIAGARA POWERMATIC CARWASH
Mr. Partington: I wrote to the Minister for Consumer and Commercial Relations (Mr. Kwinter) a year ago concerning the destruction on October 25, 1985, of the nine-bay Niagara Powermatic Carwash in St. Catharines, caused by excavations under its foundation wall and footings by Liquor Control Board of Ontario contractors.
The minister, in reply, stated, "The LCBO is continuing to urge its insurers to arrive at some form of settlement as quickly as possible, in order to put Niagara Powermatic back in business and to mitigate any further damages."
One year and seven months after the destruction, one year after the minister's letter, the Kobryns, once debt-free and mortgage-free, now have bank debts and mortgage loans totalling $335,000. They cannot afford any more delays and expense. The all-powerful LCBO and insurance companies have unwittingly conspired to destroy the Kobryns. The insurance companies fight against each other, each denying blame. The LCBO sits by and does nothing. Unless the minister intervenes and instructs the LCBO to settle and pressures the insurance companies to act out of fairness and justice, the Kobryns will be brought to their knees and ruined financially and the minister and his government will be responsible.
ANNOUNCEMENTS OF GRANTS
Mr. Wildman: Not long after the change of government, the new member of the cabinet for the Ministry of Transportation and Communications (Mr. Fulton) instituted what I thought, and I am sure other members of the House would agree, was a very enlightened practice: when the Ministry of Transportation and Communications was going to provide additional grants over and above the normal municipal subsidies for road-building and so on, his office transmitted the information to the individual members, with a suggestion that the individual constituency member make the public announcement to the press in his or her riding.
Last week I received another one of these pieces of information and was about to make the press release as proposed by the minister's office when I received a copy of a periodical from my riding, called the North Shore Sentinel, published in Thessalon. Included on the third page is a release by the local Algoma Liberal Association president, Gary McMillan, in which he makes the announcement I was supposed to be making, according to the minister's office. I realize the minister is ill and I am sure there has been some sort of confusion, but this should not go on.
Mr. Bossy: I would like to take this opportunity to welcome to the Legislature today Kellie Watson and her husband, Rob, of Wallaceburg. Kellie is the winner of the Name the Dome contest and won tickets for life to every event at the SkyDome.
I want to wish them many years of good health so they can enjoy their good fortune. There will soon be another addition to the family so it is quite apparent that if Kellie or Rob cannot attend an event, they will have two replacements to attend the Blue Jays games or the Argonauts games.
Again, I want to congratulate my two constituents from Chatham-Kent for their good fortune and hope their stays in Toronto now and in the future will be pleasant ones.
Mr. Harris: It is with a sense of deep anger that I rise in my place today to defend one of the finest men this Legislature has ever known. I will, with great distaste, read into the record the comic comments made yesterday by the Premier at the ceremony to name the domed stadium.
The Premier said that when he was Leader of the Opposition, he suggested the dome be named the Bill Davis Dome. He told the audience yesterday he had changed his mind. "If we named it after him and he subsequently committed some kind of criminal impropriety, we would have the dome named after a criminal." He then added, "Knowing Davis as I do, there is that very real possibility."
No one who has sat in this House set a higher standard of personal conduct than William Davis. He spent over two decades of his life serving the people of Ontario and was the Premier of this province for 12 years. It is a disgrace that the current Premier would refer to Mr. Davis in this fashion, in a public place, in the presence of the former Premier himself.
It is possible the Premier thought he was making a joke. We are reminded of his reaction when the Solicitor General (Mr. Keyes) made his reference to skin colour. At that time, the Premier said such remarks were wrong. They still are.
We sat in this House last week and watched the current government award the Order of Ontario to our former Premier. We applauded that, and rightfully so.
Hon. Mr. Nixon: That's what we think of him.
Mr. Harris: He is a great man who has given much to Ontario. To have the current leader of Ontario make such statements less than a week later is an insult to this House, to the office of Premier, to Mr. Davis, and an insult to the people of Ontario.
Mr. Swart: The crisis in auto insurance is now more than matched by the crisis in the credibility of the minister in charge. Day after day, he contradicts what he said previously.
He had said for 18 months that the marketplace will determine it and can handle the problems. Then he proposed massive controls. On April 23 he announced reforms to reduce rates which will, in fact, increase them. He said the rate review board will control general insurance rates, but then in the next voice he said it would not.
Yesterday he hit a new high, an about-face in two hours. "The rate review board will make recommendations to the government, and we will act on them." Next, "The Ontario cabinet will not overrule decisions of the rate review board."
It is bad enough for the minister to deny and distort his own comments, but when he starts doing it about other governments and their insurance systems, it goes beyond the bounds.
Yesterday, in reply to my question on auto insurance, he said, "The Manitoba system is in deficit to the tune of about $53 million, including its reinsurance obligations." The minister knows very well that has nothing whatsoever to do with the auto insurance system there. They have a surplus of $54 million and reserves of $321 million.
I suggest it is these kinds of things that cause the minister to refuse to debate the issue with me, because he knows they will not stand up in the open air.
Ms. Caplan: Last evening I attended a very important information meeting in my old stomping grounds at North York council chambers. The meeting was called to discuss a matter of great importance to my constituents as well as all the people of North York and Metropolitan Toronto. They were discussing the Sheppard subway line.
Rated number one priority for Metropolitan Toronto, Sheppard Avenue is one of the most heavily travelled routes in Metro and the province. Future development studies indicate that this rapid transit need will only become more urgent in the future. Four consecutive reports since 1980 have identified Sheppard as its top priority, and Metro council, in Project 2011, has already approved its share of funding for the line's construction and operation. The project, however, is on hold pending provincial funding.
After last night's meeting, the expectations of residents are very high, and I brought a gift for the Treasurer (Mr. Nixon) from those attending last evening's meeting. The T-shirt sports their message, "The Sheppard subway -- I need it now." They hope the Treasurer will find it comfortable enough to wear while putting together the final touches on his budget.
Mr. Brandt: In January --
Mr. Brandt: May I be allowed the additional time? My time was taken up by the Treasurer and his antics. Can I have the time turned back?
Mr. Speaker: Actually, the time is going on now.
Mr. Brandt: Thank you very much.
DELEGATION FROM SARNIA
Mr. Brandt: In January 1987, in response to a question I raised in this House, the Premier (Mr. Peterson) indicated that he would be willing to meet with a delegation from Sarnia, headed by the mayor, in order to discuss some of the problems in my riding. The Premier indicated in the affirmative at that time when I raised the question, and subsequently I reminded him of that commitment by way of letter.
In discussions with the Premier's office, I now understand that he is not prepared to meet with the Sarnia delegation within the next month or at any time in the foreseeable future. Constantly, the Premier of this province stands up and makes commitments in this House which he fails to follow through on, Mr. Speaker, and I request that your office bring to his attention that when he makes commitments in this House, he has a responsibility to fulfil those commitments.
Thank you for the additional time, sir.
Mr. Speaker: I thought I would be generous because I knew you would take it anyway. That completes members' statements.
STATEMENTS BY THE MINISTRY
Hon. Mr. Wrye: I rise to report to the House on recent decisions and initiatives that will help to improve employee and employer contact with the workers' compensation system in our province. As honourable members may know, about four million workers are covered by the system and approximately 187,000 employers pay premiums to it under the Workers' Compensation Act.
While the Workers' Compensation Board itself is the focal institution in the system, three other provincial agencies that were created through the major reform of the act in 1985 provide important programs at arm's length from the WCB. The Workers' Compensation Appeals Tribunal hears both employee and employer appeals of WCB compensation decisions, the office of the worker adviser provides advice and assistance to workers in their dealings with both the board and the tribunal and the office of the employer adviser provides such advice to employers.
In the 18 months since the offices of the worker adviser and employer adviser have been open, the value and popularity of their services have become evident. In that context, today I am pleased to tell the House that two new offices of the worker adviser, one in Timmins and one in Saint Ste. Marie, will be opened in late summer. In addition, a new office of the employer adviser in Hamilton is scheduled to open later this year. Beyond that, as the WCB's chairman, Dr. Elgie, announced last Tuesday, the board is establishing a regional office in Windsor that is scheduled to open early next year.
The establishment of the two new offices of the worker adviser will increase to 12 its number of locations in the province. In the financial year that has just ended, the OWA dealt with 14,000 cases. When it was originally established in the fall of 1985, it was anticipated that 6,000 workers would be served in the first year of operation.
The interest in the service provided by the office of the employer adviser has been equally impressive. The new OEA facilities opening this year expand to six the number of its locations throughout the province. Last year, the office served nearly 4,000 employers. In the current year, it is projecting a service load of 7,000 employers, which it estimates will include more than 5,000 new clients.
I think members will be particularly interested to know that three quarters of this new client group consists of businesses that employ fewer than 50 workers. So the office is clearly having positive implications for smaller business.
Finally, I note that the new regional office of the Workers' Compensation Board in Windsor, like other regional offices, will provide a full range of WCB services. These services will be directed not only to residents of the city but also to residents of Kent and Essex counties. In addition, the coverage area of the London regional office is being extended to serve Lambton county, including the city of Sarnia.
In announcing the establishment of the Windsor office, Dr. Elgie said WCB staff who live and work in the area are better attuned to both the needs and the resources of their community. That is undoubtedly the case for worker and employer advisers as well, and I look for the regionalization of these operations to continue providing enhanced and more effective services to workers and employers.
Hon. Mr. Scott: I would like to advise the House that on April 30, 1987, the executive council referred to the Court of Appeal a question concerning the constitutional authority of this House to legislate in relation to intraprovincial gas pipelines.
Under the Constitution Act, 1867, constitutional authority to legislate in relation to pipelines is divided. The Parliament of Canada may enact laws regulating intraprovincial and international pipelines and has done so in the National Energy Board Act, which gives the National Energy Board regulatory control over such pipelines. The legislatures of the provinces have legislative authority over intraprovincial pipelines and, in Ontario, legislation has been enacted which gives the Ontario Energy Board regulatory authority over those pipelines. Under this legislation, the Ontario Energy Board regulates the local distribution companies, such as Consumers' Gas Co., Union Gas Co. and ICG Utilities (Ontario) Ltd., which distribute gas from intraprovincial and international pipelines to end users in the province.
In 1985, a company created by an end user in Ontario, Cyanamid Canada Pipeline Inc., applied to the National Energy Board for permission to build a bypass pipeline, situated wholly in Ontario, which would transport gas directly from an intraprovincial pipeline to the end user's factory. Questions were raised before the National Energy Board concerning its constitutional authority over this bypass pipeline, and in a decision released in December 1986, the National Energy Board found that it -- that is, the federal power -- had jurisdiction.
In 1986, the Ontario Energy Board conducted hearings into contract carriage arrangements. In the course of these hearings the Ontario Energy Board determined that it was necessary to decide the question of constitutional authority over bypass pipelines because of the impact that the existence of such bypass pipelines could have on rates. It therefore stated a case for the opinion of the Divisional Court, the Supreme Court of Ontario, pursuant to section 31 of the Ontario Energy Board Act. The stated case described a "typical" bypass pipeline. The Cyanamid proposal was an example of a "typical" bypass pipeline. On March 18, 1987, the Divisional Court gave its opinion that "typical" bypass pipelines were within the exclusive jurisdiction of the Ontario Energy Board.
Cyanamid had attempted unsuccessfully to quash the stated case and has applied to the Court of Appeal for leave to appeal the decision of the Divisional Court that it had jurisdiction to decide the question.
The Attorney General of Canada has applied to the Court of Appeal for leave to appeal the opinion of the Divisional Court on the stated case.
There is, however, some doubt as to whether there is an appeal to the Court of Appeal from the opinion of the Divisional Court in the stated case and further doubt as to whether the Attorney General of Canada, whose lawyers did not show up, not having participated in the Divisional Court proceedings, had a right of appeal on the constitutional issue.
It is extremely important -- indeed, our whole legislation depends on it -- and it is additionally important to the public interest in the supply and cost of natural gas in Ontario to clarify the jurisdiction of the Ontario Energy Board and the authority of this assembly to pass laws with respect to bypass pipelines. As the Ontario Energy Board stated in its written reasons:
"Bypass candidates are typically large-volume, high-load-factor users, which are located close to the TCPL (TransCanada Pipelines Ltd.) or an international pipeline. These customers are excellent load for the LDCs [local distribution companies]. The existence of these loads assists the local distribution companies to minimize gas purchase and system operating costs. If such loads leave the LDC, the LDCs could face much lower load factors, seasonal loads, increased costs and decreased system efficiency. In other words, the conditions necessary for a death spiral" -- and a death spiral, by the way, for the consumer -- "may result."
It is essential, therefore, in the public interest that the issues raised concerning the legislative authority of the province in relation to bypass pipelines be settled authoritatively as soon as possible.
Therefore, pursuant to section 19 of the Courts of Justice Act, the Lieutenant Governor in Council has asked for the opinion of the Court of Appeal on the question of whether the Legislative Assembly of the province of Ontario has the authority, exclusive or otherwise, to pass laws in relation to the approval and regulation of the construction and operation of "typical" bypass pipelines. The hearing of the reference is likely to occur in early October of this year.
Mr. R. F. Johnston: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order: I thought it was the custom here that all statements should be given in either English or French.
Mr. Speaker: Order.
Mr. Gordon: I would like to respond to the statement of the Minister of Labour (Mr. Wrye) in the House today.
While we welcome the decentralization of further offices into the north, we are also concerned about the bureaucracy that seems to be involved now with hearings before these boards. At the present time, in my office and in the offices of other MPPs, we find that the number of Workers' Compensation Board cases we are dealing with has not gone down; as a matter of fact, it has increased. We are also being told by workers who go to the worker advisers that the worker advisers are backed up for months. Also, we are waiting for the so-called precedent-setting cases to be established, and then they will be hearing other cases.
I would think too that with the number of employers seeking advice from the employer adviser, what it all points to is that the whole WCB system is breaking down. We on this side of the House believe the government should establish a royal commission to look at the WCB. It is completely out of hand and is becoming increasingly bureaucratic every day. It is not serving the workers in Ontario; neither is it serving the employers.
Mr. Andrewes: I want to thank the Attorney General (Mr. Scott) for his lecture and historical update on how his government proposes to bypass gas. We had anticipated he might rise in his place and deal with the matter of conflict of interest for the member for Cochrane North (Mr. Fontaine), as he had committed himself to do yesterday. That obviously was not his choice today.
It does give me an opportunity to raise one other issue; that is the ambiguity of this government and the whole question of energy policy on the natural gas commodity. The Minister of Energy (Mr. Kerrio), through the Ontario Energy Board, sent a very clear message to gas consumers in this province that by using brokers and by taking advantage of that decision by the Ontario Energy Board, they would be able to avail themselves of cheaper natural gas and thereby increase their productivity, increase the inherent value of their product and assist the economy of the province.
The authority of these agents would be to act on behalf of major buyers like school boards, hospitals and other major institutions in Ontario. The confusing part about this statement and the ambiguity of the government's program arises from the visit of the Premier (Mr. Peterson) to western Canada, during which he clearly stated to Alberta gas producers that this perhaps was not a good idea and that this perhaps was not in the best interests of Alberta and the gas producers in Alberta. It was in the best interests of Ontario consumers but might not be in the best interests of Alberta gas producers.
He suggested that the government might review the decision of the Ontario Energy Board and step back from this decision. The ambiguity is confusing. I ask that the government clearly state whether or not it thinks Ontarians are paying too little for western gas.
Mr. Morin-Strom: I would like to congratulate the government on finally making the announcement that worker adviser offices are being located in the communities of Sault Ste. Marie and Timmins. This is certainly an office we have advocated for a period of nearly a year now and have worked very hard to get located in the area of Sault Ste. Marie. Thanks have to go to the Steelworkers, particularly in Sault Ste. Marie, and many of the other worker advocates who have been working so hard to get that office established in the Sault.
The office is of extreme benefit to the workers because the bureaucracy they face in having to deal with the Workers' Compensation Board is an immense problem for all injured workers in this province. While they have been providing good service in Sudbury, we will very much appreciate their locating in Sault Ste. Marie and getting workers' advisers located in our community.
Mr. D. S. Cooke: I also would like to respond very briefly to the statement by the Minister of Labour (Mr. Wrye). I think we are into a new process now. Last week, we had the announcement of the regional office in Windsor. Today, we have the reannouncement of the office in Windsor. Some time in the future, we might have a sod turning for a facility in Windsor, and after that we could have a ribbon cutting.
We should be very clear that the announcement of the regional office of the Workers' Compensation Board in Windsor is not for May 1987; it is for some time in 1988. I suggest that the announcement was made last week for one reason, and that is because we are in a pre-election period and the minister wanted to make sure he had announced the regional office before the election.
I am appreciative that we are going to have a regional office, but the reason we are going to have that regional office is not because of the Minister of Labour. The reality is that when the Hamilton office and other regional offices were announced, the Minister of Labour said our case load in Windsor was too small. We are getting a regional office in Windsor because the Minister of Labour has felt the heat from the labour community, my colleague the member for Essex North (Mr. Hayes) and myself.
We are thankful we are going to get that office, and we are going to turn up the heat on further reforms of the Workers' Compensation Board so that people do not get the kinds of hassles they have been getting in this province for years under Tory rule and now under Liberal rule when they are trying to get workers' compensation benefits.
Mr. Wildman: Like my colleague the member for Sault Ste. Marie (Mr. Morin-Strom), I welcome the establishment of the workers' adviser office in the Sault, but I want to point out to the minister that the distances between Sault Ste. Marie and Sudbury are just as great for people trying to contact the Workers' Compensation Board office in Sudbury, and I hope he will finally move to establish a regional workers' compensation office in Sault Ste. Marie, as well as the workers' adviser office, so we can at least have injured workers able to contact the local office rather than have to travel halfway across the province in order to get their problems dealt with.
Mr. Rae: I want to reply briefly to the statement by the Attorney General (Mr. Scott) and say that it is not simply a legal problem; there is also a problem of policy. I say to the Minister of Natural Resources (Mr. Kerrio) that the government of Ontario has to make up its mind with respect to which consumers are going to benefit, how are they going to benefit from lower gas prices and how much lower does Ontario want gas prices to be in the light of its very legitimate feelings with respect to our long-term relationship with Alberta. That is the ambiguity, the problem and the contusion.
Yes, there is a jurisdictional problem, a constitutional problem and a legal one, the question of who will regulate. Once we have determined who will regulate, we still have to hear from the government as to how it will regulate, because it is not simply Consumers' Gas and other gas companies whose interests are affected; it is also the ordinary consumers of Ontario who, I dare say to the minister, have yet to benefit as dramatically as many of us feel they should be benefiting from the decline in gas prices around the world.
Mr. Grossman: I have a question for the Premier. I wonder if the Premier could explain to this House why, in allocating the funding for this year, he authorized an expenditure of capital in the education area to the public schools somewhat less than the allocation to the separate schools. Why would he have used public school funding and shifted it over to support the separate schools? That was not the deal.
Hon. Mr. Peterson: I will refer that to the Minister of Education.
Hon. Mr. Conway: I am delighted to have the opportunity to respond to the Leader of the Opposition because, as the statement made in this House some seven or eight days ago made clear, our most recent capital allocation to school boards in this province is the largest in recent memory as I recall it. The allocation of $226.4 million is the largest capital allocation since the early 1970s. We have tripled the allocation provided during my friend's last year in office. While we have not addressed all the concerns in the school community, with this allocation we have moved forward very significantly by addressing some 360 projects in some 110 to 115 school jurisdictions.
Mr. Grossman: Perhaps the Minister of Education did not hear the question while he was explaining to the Premier how the Premier might explain having called the former Premier a potential criminal in this province, so I will come back and repeat the question for the Minister of Education.
We have been trying to get from the minister for some weeks a division of the $226 million he announced a couple of weeks ago. Only after extensive calls to his ministry were we able finally to get them to agree to share with us the figures that the minister should have made available right from the start. Those figures indicate that the public school system will get in capital not $226 million but $97 million only, and that the separate school system will get $30 million more, that is $129 million, for capital.
With the majority of money going to the separate school system and with so many public school children still going to school in portables and not getting any of this assistance until 1988, how can anyone escape the conclusion that the government has simply moved money from the public school system over to the separate school system?
Hon. Mr. Conway: I find it interesting that the Leader of the Opposition, who tolerated some 4,000 portables while he was Minister of Education, would complain. I find it strange that this man who did so little while he was Treasurer, while he turned the screws on the school community, would complain about this government's very considerable advance in its first two years of office to address the decade of neglect that the previous administration left for it to face.
Specifically, I want to say to my friend the Leader of the Opposition that we have a process that is fair to both public and separate school systems. It is no secret, as my friend the member for York Centre (Mr. Cousens) might tell the Leader of the Opposition, that boards such as the York Region Roman Catholic Separate School Board are undergoing some of the most dramatic enrolment growth anywhere in the country, and to some degree it has to be understood that the capital dollars will follow that growth. By and large, there has been more significant growth in a number of the separate school jurisdictions than in the corresponding public boards.
I want to add again that we have provided vastly more money to the public school system through this capital allocation than the niggardly, miserable underfunding provided by the Leader of the Opposition.
Mr. Grossman: This government chose to bring in 19 tax increases which, together with growth in the economy, have produced for this government $4.75 billion in additional revenue in the two years it has been in office. With that $4.75 billion in additional resources at hand, it has chosen not to meet the public demand of $630 million on the public school side but instead only $97 million, while it has devoted $129 million to the separate schools.
We know the minister has more money at hand and we know he has spent more money at hand. My simple question to him is, why did he choose to take money which otherwise might have been available to eliminate the portables in the public school system and shift it over to the separate side, instead of putting adequate money into both? That is what he has done.
Hon. Mr. Conway: It is hard to understand the calisthenics of the Leader of the Opposition, who has given opposition economics a new lease on life that I would not have imagined possible, given his long and distinguished career on the Treasury bench. I want to say to the Leader of the Opposition that we as a government have moved forward to provide substantially --
Hon. Mr. Conway: I say to my friend the Minister of the Environment (Mr. Bradley), I hear the member for Scarborough Centre (Mr. Davis) is out knocking on doors. It is obvious that the doors are knocking back at him. I want to say to the Leader of the Opposition that we have responded with very significant capital allocations, but we are also prudent managers. We are not going to throw money around with reckless abandon.
Mr. Grossman: The minister has broken faith with the public school system and the public school boards across this province.
Mr. Grossman: My question is to the Premier. In his absence yesterday, while he was announcing the name for the new domed stadium and calling the former Premier of this province a potential criminal, we were here in this Legislature talking about insurance rates and other more important matters.
One of those things was a continuation of instant policy development by the Minister of Financial Institutions (Mr. Kwinter). While the Premier is with us today, we thought he might help us sort out a contradiction yet again.
The minister said yesterday, and I quote, "When the rate review board is set up, and when it reports, we will deal with its recommendations." That was in response to a question from me as to whether the government will have the power to overrule the rate review board. The minister said, "we will deal with its recommendations."
In answer to a supplementary he said, "It will make its recommendations to the government and we will act on them."
Subsequently, this morning we were surprised to read the following quote offered to a Globe and Mail reporter --
Mr. Speaker: By way of question, I hope.
Mr. Grossman: Does the Premier endorse the statement made in the house yesterday by his minister or does he endorse the statement made to the Globe and Mail by the same minister which indicates that if the rate review board rules on a rate and the applicant is unhappy with it, he has access to judicial review but that it would not be reviewed by the government? Does the Premier support the statement made in the House by the minister yesterday afternoon or the minister's quote in the Globe and Mail this morning?
Hon. Mr. Peterson: I have every confidence in the minister. I will refer the question to the honourable minister.
Hon. Mr. Kwinter: On April 23, I made an announcement that this would be an independent rate review board. That is the case. It will make its determinations and anyone who objects to them will have access to judicial review.
Mr. Grossman: I take it then that the minister's answer here yesterday afternoon, which indicated that the government would deal with the recommendations of the rate review board, was, with respect, yet another answer which was, shall we say kindly, either ill-thought-out or not so accurate as to reflect the government's plans.
That being the case, let me take him back to where this debate began, and that is to the simple question: If the formula that the minister himself talked about, of allowing the insurance companies to move to a break-even situation and perhaps make as much as three per cent return on investment, is applied and the rate review board thus kicks out an average increase in insurance rates of 4.4 to 7.5 per cent, do I take it from his answer that this will become the rate review board approved rate and that he will do nothing about it?
Hon. Mr. Kwinter: I replied to the Leader of the Opposition yesterday and I will repeat it today. There are many components in rate setting. This is one in a series of things we are addressing. We are going to look at no-fault insurance, at automobile repairs and at tort reform. We are going to look at all the components that make up that premium and it is our hope and expectation that rates will come down as a result of this.
Mr. Grossman: The minister made an announcement several weeks ago of urgent changes he was going to bring in. He indicated that the legislation was going to be introduced this month -- we have not seen it yet -- and that he hoped it would be passed this session. All that will occur before the Osborne report is in to deal with no-fault insurance itself. How can he suggest to the House this afternoon that no-fault insurance and a variety of other things he just rhymed off are going to form part of the rate review board's determination when it is his announced intention to have the rate review board up and running and in place long before he has even had the report, let alone acted on it?
What is his government's policy? Is it or is it not the case that if the rate review board finds that insurance companies are losing money now and allows them to break even or make a Monte Kwinter-approved profit, he will authorize and allow the rate review board to approve an increase in insurance rates?
Mr. Speaker: The minister.
Mr. Grossman: Do not fog it up with no-fault insurance. He said he would have the board in first.
Mr. Speaker: Order; the minister.
Mr. Grossman: He should step up and explain what his policy is.
Hon. Mr. Kwinter: We have never promised a quick fix; never. The member has suddenly discovered the issue. For a year, he has sat on his rear end and watched the play go on. He now has discovered the issue. I ask him a question: where does he stand on this issue? Is he in favour of or opposed to a rate review board?
Mr. Speaker: Order. The Leader of the Opposition has asked his questions. The member for York South with a new question.
Mr. Rae: If the minister stole his program from the Tory party, all I can say is that it is theft under $200.
The Minister of Financial Institutions on April 23 at 4 o'clock in the afternoon announced a cap that was then reported as a freeze. Can he comment on the situation affecting George Hughes, a retired Toronto Transit Commission driver who heard about the minister's announcement?
He is living on a pension that went up four per cent this past year. He has a clean driving record. Scottish and York is his insurance company. It sent him a renewal notice for June 1, which is some time after the minister's famous freezing announcement when he took on the insurance companies and brought them to their knees. He has found that his renewal notice has increased his premium from $359 to $556, which we calculate to be a 55 per cent increase.
Can the minister comment on Mr. Hughes's situation and explain how he could have received a 55 per cent increase when the minister was supposed to have capped those premiums on April 23?
Hon. Mr. Kwinter: The leader of the third party has, as usual, indicated that he does not understand how the insurance industry works.
On April 23, we froze the insurance rate as of April 23. If someone had a premium due on April 22, that would not impact on it. If he had a premium due on April 25, that did not mean we froze the insurance rates for everybody for a year prior to it. It was April 23.
I do not know the exact details of the case history the member just mentioned, but if it was after a year the individual would expect whatever increase was accumulated over that year. I also do not know if there was any change in his driving record. The member would have to send me the case and we will look at it, but that is the basis. On April 23, the rates were capped, not a year before April 23.
Mr. Rae: I want the minister to know that any time he wants to go to the public and ask the question, "Who understands insurance, Monte Kwinter or the people on the street who are being shafted by the insurance companies of this province?" I will take the people over the Minister of Financial Institutions any day of the week.
Here is another case. They are streaming in, and I say to the minister that the increases have not stopped as a result of his announcement. Mr. Cohen lives in Scarborough, and the insurance for him and his wife jumped from $1,500 to $2,400. That was again an increase announcement that took place after the minister's so-called freeze. People are getting jerked around.
Precisely what instructions has the minister issued to the insurance companies with respect to the kind of increases that are being permitted after his announcement on April 23? What written instructions has he given to the insurance companies with respect to increases that are going on right now?
Hon. Mr. Kwinter: I will repeat again that the rates in Ontario for automobile insurance have been capped as of April 23. That means whatever rate was in effect on April 23, 1987, it cannot be increased. That does not prevent someone from being put into another category if he had many accidents or if he had traffic tickets. We are not going to cap people back a year prior to that date. April 23 is the effective date.
Mr. Swart: It is perfectly obvious that the minister has not sent out any instructions whatsoever to the insurance companies.
I want to bring to the minister's attention another case, that of Art Whitaker, 260 Wellesley Street East, who had a 32 per cent increase on his insurance rate when he renewed it on May 8. In 19 years of driving, he never had an accident or lost a point. When the insurance company refused to reduce the premium, he called the office of the superintendent of insurance and he was told to pay it and that the rate review board might order it refunded at some future date.
How can the minister condone that kind of action by his officials? Why does he not just admit that his whole statement was a sham for political purposes before an election and has no meaning whatsoever?
Hon. Mr. Kwinter: The member for Welland-Thorold, in his usual blustery way, is trying to cover up what is going to provide a reasonable, fair system for the people of Ontario. We will have an insurance advocate who will be able to make representations on the part of those people who feel they have been unjustly treated; we are going to have a rate review board; we are looking at tort reform; we are looking at automobile repairs; we are looking at all the things that make up insurance rates.
I can tell the member that this government is concerned about the problem. We are addressing it in a reasonable way. If he feels we are not moving quickly enough, that is something he is going to have to deal with. We are working in a responsible way.
Mr. Rae: I want to go back to the Minister of Labour about the report yesterday with respect to gold miners and the relationship between mining and lung cancer. Dr. Ham's report is extremely important because it sets a precedent for a number of workers who are exposed to substances.
As the minister will know, it is the general consensus, and indeed the minister is quoted as saying at a number of meetings I know he has had, that he regards the question of occupational disease as being a ticking time bomb.
If the minister really feels it is a ticking time bomb, is he satisfied with the precedent set by this initial report, which makes it virtually impossible for anyone alive today, or a survivor of a miner, to get any kind of compensation? This puts all the burden on the individual worker and on the family and not on the Workers' Compensation Board. It reverses the whole theory of the fact that the burden of proof is supposed to be with the board and not with the worker. Is the minister satisfied the right precedent is being set by this particular report with respect to lung cancer and mining?
Hon. Mr. Wrye: I think the honourable member will want to acknowledge that this is the initial effort by the Industrial Disease Standards Panel. It is the first time a scientific body such as this has attempted in a scientific way and, I might add, in an independent way, to offer advice to the Workers' Compensation Board. The makeup of the IDSP includes academics, scientists, members of the business community and members of the trade union movement. I think it is an excellent panel.
I am disappointed that the honourable gentleman is apparently not willing to allow the process to work its way through the system. There is a process in place. It seems to me the IDSP has made a first scientific finding on this matter and we should now wait until the Workers' Compensation Board makes its determination, based on the findings of the panel and the additional help that Dr. Muller provided in his report to the WCB.
The member raises the issue of benefit of the doubt. Certainly, the board may decide, notwithstanding the views of the panel, to extend a greater provision of benefit of the doubt.
Mr. Rae: I am going to be blunt with the minister. What the hell kind of science is it that says on the one hand there is a relationship between working as a miner and lung cancer and says on the other hand, "But we are not going to be able to provide compensation to anybody because we are going to create rules that are so utterly ridiculous and fantastic that no individual can actually apply and get any kind of benefit"? What kind of science is that?
Is the Minister of Labour standing in his place saying he approves of a report which has the effect of transferring the entire burden of proof on to the family, makes it impossible for that family to ever get compensation and which leaves widows and orphans and children and families out in the cold while the minister stands behind this so-called science? This is not science. This is absolute bunk when it comes to protecting working people. The minister ought to know that if he is in the business of protecting working people in this province.
Hon. Mr. Wrye: I am sorry the honourable gentleman feels the work of a panel which is headed by as eminent a gentleman as Dr. James Ham, who is one of the authors of the majority report, is bunk. That is the opinion of the leader of the third party; it is clearly not the opinion of Dr. Ham or of some of the other signatories of the majority report. I say to my honourable friend that those individual members of the panel have just a touch more scientific founding than either he or I.
Mr. Pouliot: I have worked 20 years in a mine. Twice I have suffered cyanide poisoning. Not unlike Methuselah, I should have worked an additional 40 years. I really cannot believe this. More important, I am speaking here on behalf of my colleagues who are extracting minerals all across this province. What the minister is telling them -- and I could not care less, with due respect, about the kind of expertise he has summoned -- is that they would need 60 years of occupational exposure to establish recognition. It does not make any sense under any science.
One last time, I am asking the minister if he will dissociate himself from these kinds of criteria, which are not enforceable. It does not make any sense to expect someone to work 60 years in order to be compensable. Will he come to his senses and give us something that is logical, that has clout and that we can individually and collectively live with?
Hon. Mr. Wrye: I would say to the honourable gentleman, who I know feels very strongly on this issue, that the Industrial Disease Standards Panel was set up to offer independent advice to the Workers' Compensation Board. I think the honourable member would agree with me that in its makeup, the panel has a good balance between the various interests in this area. At the end of its deliberations on this matter, the panel has provided independent advice for the Workers' Compensation Board. The board can choose to accept or reject any or all of that advice.
We have in place a process of independent review, and now the honourable gentleman stands in his place and says there ought to be political interference. I wonder whether he would be so quick to suggest political interference had the advice been in the other direction. I think it is wise to allow this independent process to work and to allow the Workers' Compensation Board to make the determination that it will make later this summer.
Mr. Pouliot: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker: I have been quoted in error by the minister. With respect, all I was referring to was the eligibility rules that are not applicable. I never once mentioned political interference, patronage or any such thing. He owes me an apology. He has quoted me in error.
Mr. Speaker: New question.
Mr. Gillies: I have a question of the Minister for the Environment. He has now had an opportunity to review the report of the select committee on the environment, particularly with regard to the Ontario Hydro banking provisions.
For some months, the minister has stood behind the committee report, saying he would not act on the question of Hydro banking, its right to emit hydrocarbon emissions in excess of the regulation, until he had the committee report. He now has the report. Will he agree with the unanimous report and scrap that provision of his acid rain program?
Hon. Mr. Bradley: I have had an opportunity to have a first glance at the report, and I think some of the suggestions that are found in it are very helpful. I think it speaks well of -- the member alludes to this -- the three-party input.
I indicated yesterday in the House, in answer to questions from the leader of the third party and the member for Lakeshore (Mrs. Grier), that I would be looking at it myself, that I would be discussing it with the officials of the Ministry of the Environment and that I would discuss it with my cabinet colleagues to look at the ramifications of each one of the recommendations, keeping in mind, as I know the member will, that the program as it stands at present has an absolute cut of 67 per cent of the emissions from the four major polluters in the province and 60 per cent overall from all sources in Ontario.
I suggested yesterday in the House that if there were ways in which the regulation could be improved, I was willing to consider those, and I want to assure the member that I and my officials and others are looking at the provisions of the report with a view to improving it, if that can be done.
Mr. Gillies: I want to direct the minister specifically to the question of banking emissions for Hydro. Will the minister consider that some of his regulations are being met in this regard simply because production is down? It is down at Inco and with some of the other emitters, when in fact if full production were going on some of these sources would be emitting more than the regulation allows.
Now he has the opportunity, with one government-controlled agency, to eliminate a provision which we believe hurts the minister's credibility in dealing with the Americans on the question of acid rain. It is an all-party report; it is unanimous. The minister knows that the Hydro banking provision was wrong. Will he now correct the mistake he made and remove regulation 662/85 immediately?
Hon. Mr. Bradley: First of all, I find it passing interesting that a member of that political party could be lecturing the government on the manner in which it has handled acid rain. I have sat in this Legislature for 10 years and I have watched the way that party dealt with acid rain. I watched how they did not have an acid rain program to bring before the Legislative Assembly. Now we have an acid rain program in effect which, when it is discussed with others outside of this jurisdiction, they refer to as a very good program, a program which I have pointed out to the member has an absolute reduction of 67 per cent for those four major polluters that his party would not touch.
Mr. Gillies: What about Congressman Dingell? He says you are all talk and no action.
Hon. Mr. Bradley: If the member wishes to ally himself with that particular individual on the issue of acid rain, he can go ahead.
Mr. Speaker: Order. If the members would allow it, other members would like to ask questions. New question, the member for Riverdale.
Mr. Reville: I have a question for the Minister of Housing. On December 16, 1985, the government promised "a much more effective system of rent review." Let us take a look. As of April 30, 1987, there were 18,532 applications for rent review on file, 10,475 of which were applications for retroactive justification of 1985 and 1986 increases. Not one application has been processed. Incredibly, the CRS-1 forms, the cost-revenue statement forms, were received only this week.
Will the minister kindly tell tenants waiting for rebates on rents they paid almost two years ago just how his new system is so much more effective?
Hon. Mr. Curling: As usual, the New Democratic Party's statistics are completely way out of whack. The honourable member said the process came into being in December and then he said people are waiting two years for rebates. Can you imagine, Mr. Speaker: from December to now is about five months if you calculate it, yet the member said these folks are waiting two years for rebates.
There was no system in place two years ago. We acted very aggressively, with purpose and deliberation, to bring a program into being. As we move very quickly to bring this process into being, all the forms are now in place; and as the member said, we have had all these appeals. In the past, there were no provisions for tenants living in post-1975 buildings to make their positions before a board. This is being done, and we are moving as quickly as we can.
Mr. Speaker: Order.
Mr. Reville: The figures I am quoting were provided by the rent review services office, but there is more. The government promised a maintenance board, but no appointments have been made. The government promised a rent registry, but it will not work until the end of the summer. The government promised to crack down on key money, but the government has one, count him, inspector policing key money. When can tenants expect to get more from this minister than hot air and jokes with no punch line?
Hon. Mr. Curling: If there is one thing the NDP itself is consistent about, it is rhetoric and nice lines. If there is one thing the Liberal government can do, it is deliver -- and we can do that very well -- on all the commitments we have promised in throne speeches or in policies themselves.
Very shortly -- as a matter of fact, in days -- I will be announcing the maintenance board members, and the member will be very pleased to know the kind of calibre we have attracted because of our commitment to that maintenance board. The member also will be extremely impressed at the kind of recommendations we got and the type of policy we have put in place. We are working very well.
As a matter of fact, I want to thank the member for asking me the question. For a moment, I thought that I was the Maytag repairman, that they would not ask about our policy. But things are working very well.
Mr. Speaker: The Attorney General has a response to a question previously asked by the member for York South (Mr. Rae).
Hon. Mr. Scott: On May 6, the leader of the third party asked me if I would give consideration to staying a charge that has been laid under the Criminal Code against a citizen of Sudbury as a result of the mine cave-in. The following day, his colleague the member for Nickel Belt (Mr. Laughren) asked me if I would consider withdrawing that charge. As a result of those two inquiries, which I undertook to look into, the officials of my department have met with the Sudbury police and other persons who have been investigating the matter.
I should tell the House that in my answer the other day, I indicated I would have made a determination about whether a stay or a withdrawal should occur by this week. I do not think I will be able to do that. There are in fact a number of other witnesses who I believe should be interviewed. It is my present direction that those interviews should be conducted as quickly but as thoroughly as possible. I anticipate that I will be able to report to the House about the request the two honourable members have made either at the end of next week or early the following week.
Mr. Rae: I am troubled, because the implication of what the Attorney General is saying -- and I do not want to be unfair to anybody in the circumstances -- is that there are people who have information relevant to a very serious charge under the Criminal Code who were not interviewed, and yet a charge was laid.
In particular, I wonder if the Attorney General can tell us whether sufficiently senior officials knowledgeable of mining practices across the province were interviewed by the police carrying out the investigation prior to the charge being laid so that some determination could have been made as to whether there was a common understanding as to what the standard of practice was across the province before a charge of this importance was laid against the individual involved. I am sure the Attorney General will appreciate that this kind of charge has an extremely serious impact on the individual involved and on his family. We are entitled to know whether the people who should have been interviewed have yet been interviewed.
Hon. Mr. Scott: The honourable member is of course right. The charge is a very serious one, one of the most serious ones under the Criminal Code. To lay it was a responsibility that was taken very seriously by the police in the city of Sudbury. At the moment, I have no complaint of their conduct, in legal terms. I was asked to review it to see if I would exercise a judicial responsibility -- which is not a political responsibility -- either to stay it or to withdraw it. That is an equally serious thing to do. I simply say to the honourable member that before undertaking either to do it or not to do it and reporting to the House, I regard it as critical that everybody who may have something useful to add to the matter should be interviewed and heard. It is with that in mind that I have asked these other interviews to be conducted.
Mr. Gordon: My question is to the Attorney General. Certainly none of us in this House, nor the public, is going to say that the charges are not serious and that this is not a serious matter. At the same time, the facts of the matter are that charges were laid before a public inquest was held. If we had had that public inquest, of course we would know more about the facts and some of the things that could be done in the future to avoid an accident such as the one that happened.
What I want to ask the Attorney General is whether it is not true that in a case like this, where he is laying the blame on a worker before a public inquest is held, he is shifting the responsibility for what happens in that work place, in that environment where workers have very little control, on to the workers, and that in actual fact, if he does not stay this charge, what he is going to be doing is taking away the burden of responsibility that should also lie on the backs of employers.
Hon. Mr. Scott: Frankly, I do not accept the premise behind the honourable member's question. The presumption of innocence is real. This accused, like any other accused, simply faces the assertion of the police and perhaps the crown attorney that they believe they can prove a conviction, but he is presumed to be innocent in the eyes of all honourable members and of the general public until that evidence is led and a judge or a jury makes a finding on it. That is point one.
Point two is that the member is quite wrong. It is usual to lay criminal charges before an inquest if there is sufficient evidence. The reason for that historically is to protect the accused person from the atmosphere that may be created in a community by the occurrence of an inquest at which evidence is led, including his own evidence --because he can be called to give evidence at an inquest -- which may affect a subsequent trial. It is for that reason that the best practice, if the evidence exists, is to lay the charge and proceed with it first.
Mr. Gordon: Certainly, no one is going to deny the seriousness or the gravity of this matter. At the same time, there is an opinion out there that what is happening here by not staying those charges is that the blame is going to be laid on the backs of workers across Ontario whenever an accident occurs in the work place. Workers are going to bear the responsibility, no matter what, for the environment, for the type of equipment they work with and for the variety of other areas whereby accidents can happen.
This is a really serious concern. I think it has been pointed out in the House the number of times workers have been charged in this province. I think there is only one other instance. Is the minister prepared to stay those charges?
Hon. Mr. Scott: We will not make politics of this, I am certain. As the member knows and has emphasized, to lay a charge as the police do when they swear an information is a critically important matter. To withdraw a charge is an equally important matter. Whether the police proceeded appropriately or not, at this stage I cannot say. What I do say is that I am going to proceed as carefully and as prudently as I can before I take the important step of withdrawing a charge.
As much as I would like to curry favour with the honourable member and do something to suit him right today, I am not going to. I am going to take the time to make sure that this decision is as right and as just as we can make it.
Mr. Charlton: I have a question for the Premier. He and his colleagues have repeatedly stated over the years in this House the need to bring Ontario Hydro under control and to make Ontario Hydro accountable to this Legislature.
On March 26, 1984, the Premier said: "That same accountability runs through Ontario Hydro. We have been very specific in this House about how we would bring Ontario Hydro back into a system of accountability to this House." He seemed at that time to be very clear in his mind about what needed to be done. Could the Premier tell us what changes his government has made in its relationship with Ontario Hydro, in Hydro structures and in the Power Corporation Act to bring Hydro back into this system of accountability that he talked about?
Hon. Mr. Peterson: The honourable member is quite right. We have not brought the Power Corporation Act into this House. One of the reasons, among others, is that the House agenda is now so crowded that it is very difficult to do the things we have introduced, even last year. That is the reality of the situation. We are having emergency debates almost every day. We have throne speeches, budgets delayed and that kind of thing.
Mr. Davis: I am prepared to sit all summer to get the agenda done.
Hon. Mr. Bradley: I bet you are.
Mr. Speaker: Order.
Hon. Mr. Peterson: I think that if my honourable friend would look at the substance of what has happened with Ontario Hydro, he would find some very significant changes in policy with respect to cogeneration, smaller-scale hydraulic development and many others that I think have put a major stamp on the new direction of Ontario Hydro.
Mr. Charlton: We have heard about the policy changes which the Premier referred to in terms of rhetoric, but we have seen little of them in terms of actual implemented policy. Last July, the select committee on energy tabled its report in this House and made more than 20 recommendations, the bulk of which dealt with the structure of Ontario Hydro, the relationship of Hydro to government and the regulation of Hydro by the Ontario Energy Board. The government has not even had the policy clarity to comment on those recommendations, let alone bring in legislation to make the changes. When can we expect to hear the government's position on the select committee's recommendations?
Hon. Mr. Peterson: Let me say to my honourable friend that I do not think he has been observing it that closely if that is the conclusion he has come to. If he looks at the substance of the changes at Ontario Hydro, he will agree that there have been a number of very significant changes in policy direction. Obviously, there are more things left to do, but I do not think my friend's characterization is either accurate or charitable in the circumstances. The minister has made major changes, and I think the member would want to stand in this House and give him credit for so doing.
TIMBER CUTTING LICENCE
Hon. Mr. Scott: Yesterday, the member for Oakville (Mr. O'Connor) asked about the extent to which the issuance of a timber cutting licence under the Hearst forest management agreement would be in breach of the proposed legislation introduced to the House by the government to regulate conflict of interest. I think the point to be noted about this is that the FMA was authorized some time ago by cabinet and was approved by a committee composed of Wilfrid Spooner, whose name must reverberate across this House, and Professor Baskerville of the University of New Brunswick.
After reviewing all the facts, which included the fact that United Sawmill, a company in which a member of this House had an interest, would be a participant in the FMA, Mr. Spooner, out of his wealth of experience, and Professor Baskerville said: "Further delay in signing this technically sound document is likely to result in some loss of commitment to forest management on the part of all players, some loss of credibility of the ministry, and more significantly, in the loss of an operating year in coming to grips with serious local wood supply problems. We therefore recommend that the Hearst FMA be signed as quickly as possible." It was and the leases were issued.
Mr. O'Connor: Those facts are completely incorrect. The awarding of the FMA was made within the past several weeks, as was announced by the government in the paper over the past two weeks. I have sent over to the Attorney General a copy of his own legislation, Bill 23, and I refer him to clause 6(1)(a) which indicates that, "The executive council...shall not knowingly, (a) award or approve a contract...to, a former member of the executive council" within 12 months of his having sat as a member of the executive council.
The member for Cochrane North (Mr. Fontaine) was a member of the executive council until the end of June 1986. The contract was formally awarded to him within the past three weeks, well within that 12-month period. How does the Attorney General possibly get around his own guidelines, his own legislation, clause 6(1)(a)?
Hon. Mr. Scott: Now we should come to the matter. The honourable member will know that if the Members' Conflict of Interest Act we have proposed is passed -- we cannot get to it because of the obfuscation going on here -- there will then be in this Legislature two acts that deal with conflict of interest and that are designed to work together, side by side. The first will be the conflict of interest act, which will make certain things unlawful. The second is the Legislative Assembly Act, the cornerstone of this Legislature, which makes other acts unlawful.
As the member will know, there is nothing in either act that prevents the entry into this contract. The member refers to section 6 of the conflict of interest act. If he refers to subsection 6(3), he will see that covers this very point, but the interesting thing is that if he looks at the Legislative Assembly Act, he will see by section 11 that this very contract is contemplated because it permits a member of the Legislature to sit, notwithstanding that he holds a licensed permit or permission for cutting timber. That not only provides the answer to the member; it makes it clear that the Legislative Assembly Act contemplates the very thing that happened.
Mr. Speaker: Order. We are getting into a debate.
TARIFFS ON SOFTWOOD LUMBER
Mr. Pope: My question is of the Premier about a matter affecting hundreds of jobs in northern Ontario, that is, the softwood lumber issue.
Last October, the Premier was interviewed by Robert Sheppard and Kimberley Noble for the Globe and Mail. That story appeared in the Tuesday, October 21, 1986, edition of the Globe. There are two statements attributed to the Premier in that article: first, "Premier David Peterson said his government had not realized Ottawa's intention to increase lumber industry fees until `we read about in the newspaper'"; second, "Both Mr. Peterson and industry minister Hugh O'Neil said in the Legislature that the announcement was made without the prior knowledge of the Ontario government."
Are those statements true?
Hon. Mr. Peterson: I am not sure exactly what horse, alive or dead, my honourable friend is flogging at the moment. It seems to me that we have gone through this at great length. With his selective editing, I cannot comment on the situation. We have discussed this issue interminably in the House, and I am prepared to go through and discuss it again if he would like to do so.
We have discussed how Miss Carnie and Mr. Vander Zalm became involved in issuing a statement with respect to the original situation on softwood, that there was a reluctant agreement and then the 15 per cent came along and we had real problems with that. I am not sure whether my friend needs more explanation of that.
Mr. Pope: I thought it was a rather straightforward answer from a Premier who does not want to give straightforward answers. Yes or no? Is it true or not?
Let us presume that the Premier said his words were true, that he told the truth last October. Can he explain the fact that the Minister of Natural Resources (Mr. Kerrio) is reported in the Iroquois Falls Enterprise as telling Jeff Nash, the reporter and editor, that he ordered the lumber tax to be imposed on Ontario industries? Can the Premier explain that, in the light of his comments last October 20? Are his comments true or not, in the light of what the minister said in Iroquois Falls?
Hon. Mr. Peterson: I have not read that particular newspaper. I do not know what its comments are. Why does the member not ask the minister what he said? The member knows what I have said consistently throughout. He can ask the minister any time he would like to do so.
TIMBER SCALING PRACTICES
Mr. Pouliot: I have a question of the Minister of Natural Resources. The minister will recall that on April 30, I rose in this House and asked that something be done to regulate the antics of one Ken Buchanan. As of last Monday, yesterday, we now have 100 workers from Caramat and Manitouwadge, my own town, who are taking on an illegal strike. What is at issue is scaling, measuring wood. The discrepancy between Buchanan's scaler and a scaler with 30 years' experience hired by the workers is somewhere between 30 per cent and 50 per cent.
The minister's duty is to collect stumpage on every cord of wood that is cut in Ontario. In order to defuse tension and resolve the dispute, will he commission government scalers to be on the site tomorrow, or at his earliest convenience, so we can find out who is telling the truth in this affair, Buchanan or the workers?
Hon. Mr. Kerrio: Certainly, I am prepared to address the problem. One of the very first initiatives that I, as minister, had to take was when I inherited the planting program from the former government and found that some of our planters were not paid for their work. I took the initiative immediately, particularly to protect those young people and guarantee their wages.
The other thing I want to bring into account here is the fact that I am very much willing to examine those things where there is some discrepancy about the wood that is cut, how it is measured and how we have to relate to the workers on that end of it. Yes, I am prepared to examine it immediately and get back to the member on that issue.
Mr. Pouliot: I certainly appreciate the commitment from the minister. While I am at it, the Minister of Transportation and Communications (Mr. Fulton) is not here, but we want to wish him well. The Minister of Labour (Mr. Wrye) has left the chamber. Last week, I was talking about workers' compensation arrears of $2 million. We have some 200 infractions. I am still talking about Ken Buchanan. Under MTC we know what is going on within an hour. What we do not know, and we are beginning to be suspicious about, is who is protecting whom. That language is not too strong.
By way of a supplementary, will the Minister of Natural Resources commission an inquiry to be conducted so that these kinds of people, the likes of Mr. Buchanan, will no longer be given the opportunity to bypass almost every rule in the book to exploit people? He is doing nothing short of that. We want to know who is boss in this affair. Does he control crown land or does the minister?
Hon. Mr. Kerrio: I have given the member the undertaking that I will examine this issue immediately. It is one that I am not prepared to live with. I want to protect the foresters right through the whole program from planting to harvesting. I think the point is well made. I shall address myself to the question and get back to the member.
MARKET VALUE ASSESSMENT
Mr. McFadden: In response to my question on Monday, the Minister of Revenue stated, in reference to the market value assessment study that has been carried out by his ministry officials, "It is an excellent report." On the basis of that response, could the minister confirm whether he has read the report?
Hon. Mr. Nixon: I have the greatest confidence in the people who did the work. As far as I am concerned, their assessments of property are infallible and among the best one can reach anywhere.
I see the honourable member has finally put his question about the number of people involved in Orders and Notices. I believe the assessors were brought in from Hamilton and a couple of other centres to assist the head office authorities, and that particular material has been forwarded to the Metropolitan council government.
I have not read the report because it would not make any sense to me. I am talking about the qualifications of those who prepared it.
Mr. McFadden: In regard to the meaning of the words "excellent report," in clarification of the meaning of the minister's comment yesterday, he was referring to excellent in terms of what he assumed his staff was doing rather than excellent in terms of the result for the taxpayers of Metropolitan Toronto or his conclusions about that result. Is that correct?
Hon. Mr. Nixon: The decisions in that regard still lie with the Metropolitan council. They, too, are elected and they requested the report. The report was prepared in good time, precisely along the outlines they requested, and it is now in their hands.
Mr. McClellan: I have a question for the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations in the remaining 35 seconds. The minister will be aware that despite the moratorium he imposed earlier this year on the theft of so-called surplus pension funds from pension plans, Ontario Hydro has been allowed by the Supreme Court to withdraw $73.5 million from the so-called surplus accounts of the Hydro workers by writing it off against their 1986 pension contributions.
Can the minister tell me why he allowed this major loophole which has permitted $73.5 million to be taken away from the Hydro workers? Why did his moratorium have this huge loophole in it?
Hon. Mr. Kwinter: The member will know that under certain provisions of the federal tax act companies are obliged to take a contribution holiday once their surpluses reach a certain level. I do not imagine that the member is suggesting I overrule the Supreme Court.
DRINKING AND DRIVING
Mr. Ward: I have a petition on behalf of Carol Orchard and 5,000 other people which reads as follows:
"We, the undersigned, beg leave to petition the Legislature of Ontario as follows:
"We demand that the law be enforced and that drivers who are apprehended while impaired be subject to more severe penalties. On January 16, 1987, a local man was sentenced to two years less one day after pleading guilty to criminal negligence causing death, when the maximum penalty is life imprisonment with lifetime prohibition from driving.
"We demand that minimum sentences be introduced to the Criminal Code of Canada where only maximum penalties exist.
"We demand that the licence suspension should concurrently follow the incarceration period.
"We demand that rehabilitation should be a mandatory, enforced portion of the sentence.
"We petition the Ontario government to enforce the laws now in place in order to force drinking and driving to become socially unacceptable."
Mr. Speaker: I remind all members that the House has not recessed or adjourned. There are quite a number of private conversations. It is difficult to hear. Could all members pay attention?
HOMEMAKERS' RATE OF PAY
Mr. Gregory: I have a petition to the Lieutenant Governor and the Legislative Assembly of Ontario. It is signed by 63 homemakers and reads as follows:
"We experienced Red Cross homemakers bring to your attention an important issue that is causing much friction. The Department of Employment and Immigration has initiated a program in co-operation with the Red Cross for training new homemakers in our community. Homemakers in this program are earning $6 per hour. Our current rate of pay is from $4.60 per hour starting to $5.60 maximum per hour. These circumstances violate the spirit of equal pay for equal work.
"We understand from our supervisor that all attempts to improve funding at the provincial level have failed. We, as homemakers, request additional funding so that there can be a better rate of pay for homemakers, who are an important part of the home care team in Ontario. We are confident that you will intervene and resolve our issue."
So much for Liberal open government.
Mr. Warner: Mr. Speaker, I bet you are wondering what today's total is. 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."
This is signed by 80 persons. Today's total is 1,556.
EDUCATION AMENDMENT ACT
Mr. Reville: I have a petition in both English and Chinese. It is signed by 30 residents and says:
"Keep the multicultural promise. Bring forward Bill 80."
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS
OPERATING ENGINEERS AMENDMENT ACT
Hon. Mr. Kwinter moved first reading of Bill 47, An Act to amend the Operating Engineers Act.
Motion agreed to.
Hon. Mr. Kwinter: Today I am reintroducing the Operating Engineers Amendment Act which will allow engineers certified by other Canadian provinces to apply for an Ontario certificate at their current levels of education and experience.
Under the present act, engineers certified elsewhere in Canada qualify only for an Ontario certificate at one grade below their existing class. In addition, the current requirement that engineers first apply for a one-year provisional certificate before being eligible for permanent certification will be abolished. These changes will make it easier for Ontario employers who must look outside the province to staff their plants with qualified engineers.
TRAVEL INDUSTRY AMENDMENT ACT
Hon. Mr. Kwinter moved first reading of Bill 48, An Act to amend the Travel Industry Act.
Motion agreed to.
Hon. Mr. Kwinter: I am pleased to reintroduce today the Travel Industry Amendment Act. As you are aware from the last session, Mr. Speaker, the bill includes a number of amendments to ensure the best possible protection for the Ontario travelling public and to facilitate the ministry's dealing with failed or failing companies.
In addition to certain housekeeping changes and clarifications, the Travel Industry Amendment Act will allow the director of the consumer protection division to apply to court for direction on disposition of the frozen assets of the failing registrant and for an order to appoint a receiver and manager.
UPHOLSTERED AND STUFFED ARTICLES AMENDMENT ACT
Hon. Mr. Kwinter moved first reading of Bill 49, An Act to amend the Upholstered and Stuffed Articles Act.
Motion agreed to.
Hon. Mr. Kwinter: I would like to reintroduce amendments today to the Upholstered and Stuffed Articles Act. In addition to a few minor housekeeping changes, as you may recall from the last session, Mr. Speaker, the amendments include a substantial increase in penalties that may be levied for contravention of the act's registration, labelling and other requirements.
THEATRES AMENDMENT ACT
Hon. Mr. Kwinter moved first reading of Bill 50, An Act to amend the Theatres Act.
Motion agreed to.
Hon. Mr. Kwinter: The proposed legislation I am reintroducing today will bring the management structure of the Ontario Film Review Board in line with other public agencies, boards and commissions.
Under this amendment to the Theatres Act, the chairman will be appointed by an order in council rather than being a civil servant. Administrative and support services will become the responsibility of the director of the theatres branch.
GOOD SAMARITAN ACT
Mr. Haggerty moved first reading of Bill 51, An Act to Relieve Persons from Liability in respect of Voluntary Emergency Medical and First Aid Services.
Motion agreed to.
Mr. Haggerty: The purpose of the bill is to relieve persons from liability with respect to voluntary emergency first-aid assistance or medical services rendered at or near the scene of an accident or other sudden emergency.
This bill has been in the House for a number of years now and has been supported by all parties. As the provincial government moves in the direction of putting more responsibility upon local municipalities, it is time that the bill be put forward and carried.
Mr. Speaker: The member will have time, maybe, to debate that at some further time.
PUBLIC SERVICE SUPERANNUATION AMENDMENT ACT
Mr. McLean moved first reading of Bill 53, An Act to amend the Public Service Superannuation Amendment Act.
Motion agreed to.
Mr. McLean: The purpose of the bill is to suspend the superannuation allowances while a person entitled thereto is receiving any salary, fee or compensation from the province of Ontario.
LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY RETIREMENT ALLOWANCES AMENDMENT ACT
Mr. McLean moved first reading of Bill 54, An Act to amend the Legislative Assembly Retirement Allowances Act.
Motion agreed to.
Mr. McLean: The purpose of the bill is to suspend retirement allowances while a person entitled thereto is receiving compensation for acting as a member of a board, commission or other body holding office at the nomination of the Lieutenant Governor in Council.
MOTION TO SET ASIDE ORDINARY BUSINESS
Mr. Swart moved that, pursuant to standing order 37, the ordinary business of the House be set aside to discuss a matter of urgent public importance; namely, the government's failure to take effective action to protect Ontario drivers from the rate-gouging of the private insurance industry, as evidenced by its increasingly incoherent and incomprehensible policy announcements, the increasing numbers of drivers receiving staggeringly high insurance renewal notices and the massive body of unjust industry practices, which are coming to light more and more each day.
Mr. Speaker: Notice of this motion was received in time -- in fact, at 10:32 this morning -- and it is in order. I will listen to the honourable member for up to five minutes, as well as to representatives of each other party, in order that they might make arguments for or against this motion.
Mr. Swart: We are moving for this special debate because of the injustices in our private insurance system. Instead of getting fewer, they are expanding. They are massive. They are hurting hundreds of thousands of people.
I have to say I was somewhat surprised to hear the Premier (Mr. Peterson) make some comments today deriding these special debates. If the Premier and his government do not realize the concern and the anger of the public out there about insurance rates, then they are out of touch with the public of this province.
I think that a call I received and checked out just yesterday says it all pretty well. This call was from Lauren Mitchell of 7 Romfield Circuit, Thornhill, Ontario. She had been accident-free for a decade, with no lost points until April 1985 when she had a small at-fault accident, doing approximately $500 damage to her car and $1,000 to the other car. One month later she was involved in an accident with an illegally parked bus. The bus driver was fined for being illegally parked. On August 7, 1985, she was rear-ended by another driver who was at fault. It was a serious accident and she was injured in that accident, but there was no blame attached to her.
In November 1984, before she was involved in these accidents, she paid $624 for insurance. In November 1985 it went up to $1,850, and then in November 1986 it went up to $1,980. She changed to Royal Facility and got it for $652 in January 1987 but, of course, coverage was reduced and there was no collision coverage.
In January 1987 her son, Wayne Fairless, who had lived in Manitoba for nine years, moved in with them. At 20 years of age, he was paying $250 in Manitoba for his insurance.
Hon. Mr. Nixon: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker: I really do hate to interrupt the honourable member in full flow --
Mr. McClellan: Then do not do it.
Hon. Mr. Nixon: Why not do it? Why set aside the rules of this august chamber to hear about Mrs. Betty Smith's insurance? All we are doing is deciding whether we should have a debate. If he wants to give us that palaver later, let him do so, but why does he not look at the rules and abide by them? What is his House leader doing here?
Mr. Swart: I am surprised, Mr. Speaker, that you let him interrupt in that manner. They will have five minutes over there. I think it is perfectly appropriate for me to give the reasons and to give examples of the injustices that exist in this province today on the insurance issue.
Hon. Mr. Nixon: He is simply thumbing his nose at the rules of the House and somebody should stop him.
Mr. Speaker: I do not like anyone thumbing his nose and I tried to make it very clear at the beginning that members would have up to five minutes to express their views as to why we should or should not debate this particular motion.
The member for Welland-Thorold now has one minute and 22 seconds left.
Mr. Swart: I should have some time reinstated far the interruption. I think it is perfectly reasonable for me to point out the kind of horrendous injustices that exist in this province. This is one of the very serious ones that exist here and that the government has taken no action to correct.
Hon. Mr. Nixon: That is not true.
Mr. Swart: It certainly is true.
This takes place two and a half years after we have had the insurance crisis and almost two years since the present minister has been in power. He does not even pretend to have made a single change to protect the motorist since he has been in office. This takes place three weeks after the minister announced what he would like to call reform measures.
That is another reason we need this debate, because the minister's reform measures, as he announced them, are a con job on this Legislature and the people of this province.
Mr. Ashe: Are we to conclude that the government does not have a response? I thought the order went in that way.
Hon. Mr. Nixon: Mr. Speaker, I bring to your attention the wording of rule 37(a). "Following the routine proceedings and before the orders of the day on an afternoon sitting, any member may move to set aside the ordinary business of the House to discuss a matter of urgent public importance requiring immediate consideration."
I submit to you the motion is out of order on that basic premise, that we have been discussing this for many years. We have been discussing it more immediately for many weeks and the honourable member for Welland-Thorold has been discussing it at the top of his voice and using his undoubted histrionic capabilities for many days.
The ordinary business of the House today --
Mr. McClellan: The standing order does not require a determination as to whether the motion is in order. It requires a determination as to whether it is an emergency. The government House leader is, for whatever purpose, completely distorting the nature of the question that is being put before the House.
Hon. Mr. Nixon: Mr. Speaker, if it is not an emergency, it is not in order. I submit to you, sir, that it certainly is not. It is a matter that is before the community. In many respects it is a response to initiatives taken by the honourable member who is even now waiting to go down to be a witness and participant in the standing committee dealing with other important matters, but his attendance, of course, is required here.
I submit to you, Mr. Speaker, that under our rules, we should go ahead with the ordinary business of the day, which would permit the honourable member for Welland-Thorold, if he has not already spoken, to unload his views, which are extremely interesting -- he is one of the best speakers in the House in his own way -- and I would look forward to hearing them.
For us to set aside a third day for a so-called emergency debate does not make that much difference as the universe unfolds, but I will tell you it is an indication that this House is not abiding by the agreed rules. I would suggest to you, sir, that this debate should not proceed for those obvious and rational reasons.
Mr. Ashe: Mr. Speaker, I am glad we got it clarified that, in effect, the government House leader was really challenging your ruling. He did not so indicate, but you had already ruled, in my view, that this motion was in order. The only thing we had to decide was whether an emergency existed that would then prompt the debate to continue.
I rise to indicate support for the motion put forth by the member for Welland-Thorold today. There is no doubt that this issue is important. In our view, it is urgent. I think one of the reasons it has been made urgent is that it seems very evident that the government, through the minister and others, is setting policy that changes from day to day. I think because this is an urgent issue that affects so many people in Ontario --
Mr. Speaker: Order.
Mr. Ashe: I think we had better throw them a fish, Mr. Speaker, especially the Minister of Natural Resources (Mr. Kerrio). Does he want a live one or a dead one?
Hon. Mr. Kerrio: Give us a motion on that.
Mr. Speaker: Order. I think maybe we had better subdue our language.
Mr. Ashe: Because of the urgency of this issue which affects so many people of this province, we have to put where we stand very clearly on the record. This can be done and should be done today. It is going to be very nice to hear, clearly and succinctly, what the government really means in this policy, and I think that is what makes the issue important.
We will, at the appropriate time, be making the position of this party, which does not necessarily agree with the mover of the motion, very clear. I think where the issue is of importance right now is that the drivers, the consumers, the taxpayers of Ontario deserve to know where the three parties in this Legislature sit, and which of --
Mr. Speaker: Order.
Mr. Ashe: Rather than starting all over again, I will wind up. I do think it is of urgent public importance for us to hear clearly and possibly distinctly, if that is at all possible, what the government's position is today, not what it was yesterday or the day before.
Mr. Harris: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker: I would like to bring to your attention standing order 37. The government House leader has, in effect, as my colleague the member for Durham West indicated, challenged the ruling of the Speaker. The standing order reads: "(b) The Speaker shall then rule whether or not the motion is in order based on the following criteria," and it goes through paragraphs i, ii iii, iv, v and vi. I am not going to read them all, but, Mr. Speaker, you ruled that it was in order and therefore you ruled, sir, and we respect your ruling, that it was indeed an emergency, that it was indeed in order based on those criteria.
Mr. Polsinelli: He did not rule that it was an emergency; he ruled that it was in order.
Mr. Harris: That is exactly what he ruled, if the member will read --
Mr. Speaker: Order. The member for Nipissing on this important point of order.
Mr. Harris: To clarify it then, I will read them.
"(b) The Speaker shall then rule whether or not the motion is in order based on the following criteria:
"(i) the member proposing the motion shall give written notice..." That was done.
"(ii) not more than one such motion..." That is in order for that reason.
"(iii) not more than one matter may be discussed..." It is in order for that reason.
"(iv) the motion must not revive discussion..." It is in order for that reason.
"(v) the motion must not raise a question of privilege..." It is in order for that reason.
"(vi) the discussion under the motion must not raise any question that, according to the standing orders of the House, can only be debated on a distinct motion under notice."
Standing order 37(a) says, "Following the routine proceedings...any member may move to set aside the ordinary business of the House to discuss a matter of urgent public importance."
The Speaker rules whether it is of urgent public importance and whether it is in order. He ruled, we accepted that ruling and the only drivel we heard from the government House leader was, "I disagree with the Speaker." That is totally out of order and should not be allowed in debate in this House. I bring it up because he interrupted the speech of my colleague and very good friend the member for Welland-Thorold.
Now the question before us -- it is an emergency, it is in order -- is, shall we proceed?
Mr. Speaker: Order. I hope all members have read standing order 37 very carefully.
Mr. Ferraro: Every night.
Mr. Speaker: Then they will be very much aware that 37(a) says that any member may place a motion before this House and that member has to decide, himself or herself, whether it is a matter of urgent public importance. Then it goes on, under (b), to say how the Speaker will decide whether it is in order on the criteria set out.
Three members have now had an opportunity to discuss this matter and to try to dissuade or persuade members to vote on the motion, which I will now put, according to standing order 37(d). 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. Rae: I rise to take part in this debate. The government may not regard as a matter of urgent importance the fact that there are tens of thousands of people who are getting rate increases of 20 per cent, 30 per cent, 40 per cent and 50 per cent day after day in this province, but we happen to think it is a matter --
Mr. Rae: The Treasurer (Mr. Nixon) said it is a yawn. Let that be the epitaph of the Liberal Party of this province when it comes to car insurance. They regard it as a yawn, they regard it as a bore, they would rather not deal with it, and it is not a matter of urgent importance.
I find it ironic that late on a Thursday afternoon, prior to the calling back of the House, it was an issue of sufficient importance that the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations (Mr. Kwinter), the best friend the insurance industry has ever had in government in Ontario, held a press conference to announce the urgent action he was taking. When all the dust had cleared, all the smoke had dissipated and all the fluff and flurry of the minister's rhetoric was suddenly open to examination, we saw precisely what urgent action the Liberal Party had taken.
The next day, the headlines stated that the Liberal Party was going to freeze insurance rates. They did no such thing. They said they were going to put a cap on premium rates. They did no such thing. They said there was going to be a rollback. There has been no such thing. The things that the minister said he was going to do have not been done. The drivers of this province continue to be gouged, taken advantage of and jerked around by insurance companies after April 23, just the way they were before April 23, and the situation is just as urgent today as it was when the minister made his phoney announcement a few weeks ago.
I cannot imagine an issue that has so angered and annoyed the driving public. They are faced with rate increases which have no logic, rhyme or reason to them, which have no relationship to their driving experience, which have no relationship to their overall experience as drivers over the last 20 and 30 years, and which simply reflect an industry that has taken advantage of the fact that we have a compulsory insurance system in the province which has an exclusive private-profit monopoly as the way to deliver it.
I have been listening carefully over the last number of weeks and months to the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations and to the Premier (Mr. Peterson). My mind went back to the great debate which took place in this province 20 years ago on the subject of health insurance. At that time we had a Premier from London, John P. Robarts. I understand Mr. Peterson likes to think of himself as being a successor to John Robarts. He described medicare as a machiavellian scheme foisted on the people of this province.
Do members know what final compromise Robarts wanted with respect to health insurance? Coming from London, one can perhaps understand it. The Robarts compromise on health insurance was, "Okay, we will accept compulsory insurance." The political drive coming out of Saskatchewan and then adopted by a minority government in Ottawa was sufficiently strong that the Tories finally realized they could not withstand the logic and the public demand for quality health care, at rates people could afford, that would be publicly accessible and publicly controlled. But the Robarts compromise, which was ultimately withdrawn because they could not make it work and they could not sell it, was, "We will have compulsory insurance, but we will give a monopoly on the delivery of that compulsory insurance to the private sector companies" that were providing it at that time.
Twenty years have passed. We now have a Premier from London. He considers himself to be the successor to John P. Robarts. What is the David Peterson-John P. Robarts look-alike contest award for insurance for cars in Ontario? It is compulsory insurance, but it is compulsory insurance delivered by the private sector monopoly which continues to operate in this province.
Insurance will be a kind of cash cow. When one gives that cash cow the stability which the minister talked about on the radio the other morning -- the stability which he talks about, the stability for the insurance industry -- then we have a cash cow which will be underwritten in perpetuity by a government-appointed board, which will guarantee the insurance companies a return on profit in this province and will guarantee, not that rates will go down but that rates will go up under the Monte Kwinter-John P. Robarts-David Peterson scheme in Ontario, and that is what is wrong with it.
We have been speaking in this House of two things. We have been speaking about a rate structure that is too high. It is increasingly unaffordable for a great many drivers. Some people are spending more for their insurance than their cars are worth, even when they do not have any collision. I know a lot of drivers who have no collision insurance at all on their own car and who are still paying more for their insurance for personal liability and for third-party liability than their car is actually worth. That is the first problem.
The second problem is a rate structure and an industry that, frankly, sees the system as a cash cow and that sees the way it operates not as a system of justice or a system of service but as a system of punishment.
There is one simple, rational, intelligent solution to this question. We all agree there should be compulsory insurance. If there is compulsory insurance, why do we not deliver it ourselves? Why do we not take care of it ourselves? Why not have the kind of cooperative, efficient, fair public service they have in Manitoba, Saskatchewan and British Columbia?
I find it fascinating. The minister found the time to go to Zurich, he found the time to go to France, he found the time to go to London during the break; he travelled the world. There were only three places in the entire globe that he did not visit to study insurance during the break that we had. Manitoba, Saskatchewan and British Columbia were the only three places in the world he did not deem it worthy to draw from the experience of.
I think the issue is very clear. I think the issue is extremely clear. We have a government that is not interested in protecting the consumer. To borrow a phrase of my friend the member for Welland-Thorold (Mr. Swart), who has been such an outstanding crusader on behalf of the people of this province, and he said it himself so clearly and so categorically and it is so true, the Liberal Party, in its most cynical moment -- and let me tell you, Mr. Speaker, when the Liberal Party gets cynical, we are talking real cynical -- said, "We can not solve the problem of the consumer; we can solve a political problem."
The political problem the Liberal Party has is that this issue is not going to go away and the public is not going to be satisfied with phoney solutions. The public is not going to be put off by solutions that only end up increasing their rates and increasing the profits of the insurance companies at the same time.
The people can see through that kind of phoney solution and they can see that, in fact, there is a rational way to go and it is the way the minister has not been able to convince cabinet to move towards. That system is, if I can be simple about it, a driver-owned public plan, paid for by premiums, which ensures that premiums stay in the province, that they are used not to pay off shareholders, not to pay ridiculous salaries to insurance company executives, but that they are used for the benefit of drivers in this province and for nobody else.
Mr. Callahan: Put all those people out of work.
Mr. Rae: I hear the Liberals heckling me and I am delighted. If the member for Brampton wants to have a campaign on this question of car insurance, I will take him on in Brampton, I will take the Liberals on in the good riding of St. Catharines and anywhere in this province on the question of car insurance, because they know perfectly well the drivers of this province are fighting mad and are not going to put up with a second-rate system any more. They want a first-rate system, an efficient system and not the kind of falderal they have been getting from the Liberal Party up until now.
Mr. Ashe: It is very interesting to note that the government does not have anything to say on this issue. I hope, before the debate ends this afternoon, we will try to clarify something. That is one of the reasons I spoke on behalf of my party to suggest this was an emergency. There is no doubt at all this has been an ongoing issue that has caused great consternation and concern to the people of Ontario, the taxpayers of Ontario and the consumers of Ontario.
Therein lies the difference between the position of this party and the third party. We agree the perception of the insurance industry has not been the best. Nobody can deny that. We can have differences of opinion as to why. I think they have not done a good public relations job over the years, to say the least. There is no doubt that the member for Welland-Thorold gets on his soapbox from time to time, but there is a problem there. I feel and my party feels this problem can be addressed with reasonable and rational government legislation, while keeping the system run by the private sector.
I know the socialists to the left think everything and anything is run better by the government. I do not agree with that. I do not agree with some of the fudged numbers they bring forth from the three western provinces. I do not agree, based on letters and correspondence I have had from people in those provinces that suggest it is not all they paint it out to be. I have had people who work in the system in those provinces write to me. I have had people who have experience dealing with the system in those provinces who have written to us. It is not quite all roses, as they would paint it.
They also do not really point out the direct and, more important, the indirect contribution by the taxpayers in some of those provinces to get the system going and then to keep it afloat from time to time.
The problem with auto insurance, particularly in Ontario, is that we have a significant population, with the bulk of automobiles, based in a relatively small geographic area. Unfortunately, they have been involved in more accidents, on average, than in less populated areas of this country. Therein lies the problem. There have been too many claims, too many court actions, too much involvement by counsel in arguing these things. In fact, the insurance companies over the last number of years, rightly or wrongly, have been paying out more than they take in.
I do not know how the third party picks out of the air these great indications of gross profits that have been made, ripping off, etc. Frankly, I do not fully agree with the underwriting policies that have been adhered to in the last number of years, and in my view and my party's view this is where the government quite rightly has a role. Obviously, the insurance industry is now taking notice of the issue and is prepared to put its house in order in that regard to make it appear to be fairer than it has been, and therein is the issue.
This party supports the establishment of a rate review tribunal. I would like to put it in the same context as the Ontario Energy Board, which has the opportunity on an annual basis, and more often if it sees fit -- and I think that is very important -- to bring forward the gas companies to justify rate changes. If at any time the energy board feels, "Hey, we are not too happy about what is going on out there with the XYZ Co. and we want them to come in and answer some questions for us," it has that opportunity.
I think this would be appropriate for the industry. It would be able to publicly, if you will, wash out its linen, show where it is having the problems and have to justify in the minds of that agency, and then ultimately to the public through the media coverage of its deliberations, the rates it is proposing to charge. In that sense, we agree.
There is no doubt where we have been going in the ongoing look at no-fault insurance, modified no-fault insurance and the tort approach. There is a role to try to cut down on the amount of time and expense that is maintained over claims and litigation, particularly on some claims that we would classify as being small. Again, we support that reform.
We do not support taking away completely the right of somebody who is seriously injured or, in fact, killed in a traffic accident to further recourse through the legal system. We do not agree that one just goes to the system again. Members in this Legislature have not been too happy with the so-called meat chart approach of the Workers' Compensation Board and we would not support going completely to that idea.
We also support the concept of a form of Ombudsman who would be there to protect the consumer and be the go-between when a consumer feels he has been dealt with unjustly.
I suppose it is really there that we depart from both of the other two parties. The new philosophy and direction that should be given to the industry, if it is not prepared to accept it, is that it should be going about its underwriting practices on the basis of a common law philosophy; that is to say, a person is innocent until he is shown to be guilty.
In car underwriting philosophy, that says that if you happen to be 22 and have not had any accidents, traffic violations of any significance or lost points, you are still innocent, even though actuarially and statistically you are in a group that has been shown to be more costly than others in the way of claims, etc. That is one area that goes along the common law principle that you are innocent until you are shown to be otherwise.
With that kind of carrot to drivers out there, particularly to the young drivers, this would be a strong incentive to maintain that record, which undoubtedly would help us on the road as well.
Of course, we have to make sure that insurance is available at all times. It is funny, but I have heard that in one or two of the socialist provinces that had a strike, people who had claims and things to be done over a period of several months could not deal with anybody. Is that great service? I suppose it is one way to postpone liability of claims, but I am not quite sure it is the answer.
If we now have problems with the government, they have been the ridiculous statement by the minister, since changed a few times -- I hope he will take the opportunity today to clarify the government position -- this ridiculous pronouncement, I believe it was on April 23, to talk about a freeze on that particular day and a 10 per cent rollback in certain categories. That is not good enough. That was a knee-jerk political reaction to the issue of the day. That is not good enough for the people of Ontario.
We do not subscribe at all to cross-subsidization in the context of the taxpayer being involved in the system by government-run insurance, but we also do not agree that is the answer. If the insurance companies are not taking in sufficient revenue to pay the claims satisfactorily, how are they going to do it under that kind of system? We would suggest that a 10 per cent rollback for a young person is nothing, but if the underwriting principle of innocent before one is accused of being guilty is the way possibly to cut rates in half, by two thirds or by one third, that is the logical approach.
One attacks where the problem is. The car repair suggestions of the minister are a good area, and I applaud him for those, but let us get at some of these issues. Let us get at them now. The government should bring in the legislation. Let us make it work. Let us make it work on behalf of the drivers of Ontario and, most important, the consumers of Ontario and the taxpayers of Ontario, because I do not in any way subscribe to the fact that if government does it, it will do it better and do it cheaper. That is not what the record shows, and the reference to health insurance, in my view, is an excellent example of that.
Yes, we have a good service, but we are sure paying for it, both as taxpayers and as consumers.
Mr. Hayes: I appreciate the opportunity to speak on this very important issue of auto insurance. Even though I said I appreciate the opportunity, this debate would not be necessary if the Minister of Financial Institutions and his party were half as concerned about the welfare of the drivers in Ontario as they are about the financial interest of the private insurance companies.
As my colleague the member for Welland-Thorold has stated, the government has failed to take effective action to protect Ontario drivers from the rate gouging of the private insurance industry.
It is most important that we debate this issue today because there are too many people driving on the roads in Ontario without insurance because they cannot afford it. There are people who have lost their jobs because the insurance costs more than what their vehicles cost. They have had to park those cars because they could not afford to drive them.
All members of the household are penalized because one person has an accident or a speeding ticket. Small business people have laid workers off because they have not been able to afford the insurance. The list goes on and on, and the Minister of Financial Institutions continues to be the spokesperson for the insurance industry. He also continues to refuse even to consider public auto plans like they have in Manitoba, Saskatchewan and British Columbia.
I want to relate a couple of cases I have in my own riding, some of my own constituents. Let us take a look at Joe Lester. He is a taxicab driver in the town of Essex. He has been driving for 26 years. He has been in the cab business for 26 years. He has not had one claim in all that time. In 1983 he paid around $900 a year for his insurance. In 1986 his insurance increased by approximately $1,500 and again in 1987 by another $2,000. He is now paying $5,200 for insurance for one taxicab and, I repeat, there were no claims in 26 years. I asked Joe, "How can you keep in business?" He said, "I am losing money, but this is my community, and at my age there are no other jobs I can go to." That individual is losing money, and if something does not happen very soon, that small town of Essex will be without the services of a taxi.
I would like to read a couple of letters from my constituents. One says:
"I would like to say that five members of my family voted for you after many years of voting for Liberals. We felt that it was time for a big change in our government. I would like to tell you what happened to me in the insurance industry.
"I moved from Woodslee to Windsor. When I reported my change of address to Windsor, the insurance company charged me $60 more" -- that does not sound like very much, but - "because of the new area. They said Windsor is a dangerous area for accidents. They did not take into account the fact that I am now driving 200 miles a week less. I never had an accident or a claim in my life. It is nothing but a big ripoff.
Another one reads:
"Dear Mr. Hayes,
"I wish to extend my heartfelt thanks in the pursuit of an Ontario provincial auto insurance that you and the New Democratic Party are pursuing. My own insurance has increased a little more than $100, and neither my wife nor I have had so much as a parking ticket.
"When the insurance corporations do well, they invest their millions in office complexes, shopping centres, apartment buildings and hotels-their profits, their empires. When the industry has a difficult year, they complacently and simply say that for a mere 50-cent increase per day, they can easily return to profitability. Where are the rebates for the policyholders during a good year? There are none. The funds are given in shares or dividends to the shareholders.
"The industry is running full-page ads, no less. There are lots of funds to run ads in every medium but no attempt to help keep the increases lower. The only reason the insurance industry is showing some concern is because a $2-billion prize is at stake, something they took for granted, something that is going to slip through their fingers. As ( said in my opening sentence, please keep the pressure on. Keep up the good work.
There are many letters here. Here is one from Maidstone:
"Dear Mr. Hayes,
"I agree with you. The insurance is too costly. My son, who is 18, was involved in an accident in Essex, but his car was not involved. He was going to make a left-hand turn, saw the car and knew he could not make the turn. So he stopped. The other car was coming too fast, lost control and hit a tree.
"My son's car insurance went from $1,400 to $3,500. He was not charged at the accident for anything. We cannot find out why it went up this high. They" -- probably meaning the insurance company -- "will not give us any information.
"For this reason, I am very displeased with the auto insurance in our province.
"Mrs. Avis Weston."
This government continually puts down the public auto insurance plans in the western provinces, but I got a call from a friend just today. Rick Byrne, who lived in Ontario, moved to Saskatchewan about a year and a half or two years ago. His wife, Doris, who had a medium-sized, four-cylinder car, was paying $680 for insurance in Ontario. They moved to Saskatchewan, and she is now paying $300 a year for insurance, and that includes the insurance and the licence for the car.
Rick's insurance -- maybe the members will be interested in this one -- in Ontario was $1,600. He moved to Saskatchewan and his insurance and his licence total $508. That is quite a bit of difference.
Mr. Callahan: Is that a leased vehicle?
Mr. Hayes: If it was leased there it is probably still leased here, so it really does not matter.
The fact of the matter is that the insurance industry in this province is ripping off the drivers, and the Minister of Financial Institutions certainly supports it.
The point is it is proven that those provinces are more concerned about the drivers and the public out there. They are just as concerned about them as they are about the insurance industry and they protect their workers from insurance companies gouging them and cancelling their insurance for no reason.
If the Minister of Financial institutions really wants to do something for the people of Ontario, he should support this one great idea of the New Democratic Party and put in driver-owned public auto insurance. If he really wants to do something, that is what he can do.
Hon. Mr. Kwinter: As members know, on April 23 I announced several government initiatives intended to bring fundamental fairness to the automobile insurance system for consumers. The April 23 initiatives are just part of our overall approach to this issue. On that date, I ordered that the rates for all automobile insurance categories be capped. It is important that members understand that when we talk about "capped," we talk about the levels in force on that date.
The current caps are to remain in effect until an independent rate review board reviews classification of rates and orders appropriate adjustments. The cap provides that the rate related to a specific class or factor used to set premiums by individual insurance companies cannot increase beyond its level at April 23. It is not a freeze; it is a cap. All auto insurance companies were immediately required to file rate information on April 23 in order to ensure compliance.
The cap prevents an increase in anticipation of rate control and stops any increases that would have been made after April 23. It applies to all components of automobile insurance, liability insurance, collision and comprehensive insurance, accident benefits, special perils and policy endorsements. Consumers facing renewals during the next few months may experience an increase in their premiums, but the highest possible rate they will have to pay will be that which was in place for their classification on April 23.
On that date, I also ordered a 10 per cent rate reduction for two groups which experience particularly serious rate increases. These include male drivers under age 25 and taxicabs insured through the Facility Association. Those young male drivers facing renewals may experience an increase resulting from their previous year's driving experience, but the highest possible rate they will have to pay will be the capped amount in place on April 23 minus 10 per cent. For those taxis not in the Facility Association, insurance companies will be prohibited from charging more than Facility Association rates.
The reduced rates are to remain in effect until reviewed by the rate review board, and when a policyholder is entitled to a reduction, the insurer will be required to offer the option of a cash rebate.
In respect to the motion now being debated, I would point out to the members that the initiatives announced on April 23 already ensure that no increase in auto insurance premiums subsequent to April 23 will be permitted to occur without full determination and approval. What is more, rates for some groups will be reduced by 10 per cent.
During the current session of the Legislature, I will be introducing legislation to control all automobile insurance premiums in Ontario through an independent rate review board with powers to approve, adjust or roll back rates and to order rebates to policyholders. We intend to establish a permanent independent rate review board which will be led by a full-time chairperson and a panel of part-time members. The board will be supported by a secretariat which will maintain public information on rates and administer the public hearing process.
There have been many questions on how the board works and what facts it will be considering. Members of the rate review board will be appointed by order in council following consultation with groups such as automobile associations, consumer groups, insurance companies, insurance agents, brokers and adjusters, professional organizations, commercial consumers of insurance and municipal transit authorities. The mandate of the board will be to set rate ranges for all types of motor vehicle insurance, to review rates that were capped or reduced on April 23 and to hold public hearings on insurance rates, inviting representations by all concerned parties.
Once the board carries out its initial review of rates, it will conduct subsequent reviews on a periodic basis and on its own initiative or on the request of government. In making its rulings, the board will take into account public policy guidelines issued by the government. Consumer groups, individuals and the government will be able to appear and make representations during public hearings conducted by the board.
We are also moving to establish a consumer insurance bureau, headed by an insurance advocate who will provide information and assist consumers. Legislation will be introduced to ensure that the advocate has the power to investigate and publish complaint records of companies. In addition to the current power to initiate proceedings against insurance companies, we will introduce legislation to provide for enhanced penalties and administrative actions.
Further legislation will be introduced to address specific consumer protection issues, which include the following: requiring insurers to provide 45 days' written notice of intention not to renew an automobile insurance contract or to adjust the premium at the end of the term; requiring insurers to offer the insured the option of buying a policy which would exclude named drivers within a household, which addresses the situation in which good drivers are penalized because they have a high-risk driver in their home; prohibiting insurers from charging a higher premium solely on the grounds that the individual who is a qualified driver was not continuously a named insured during his or her driving career; and requiring insurers to disclose the insured's rate classification, the specific premium rate and a breakdown of the premium.
We are also dealing with the issue of rate classification in order to prohibit age, sex, marital status and other objectionable criteria being used as rating categories for automobile insurance in Ontario. The government will in future provide a rating classification system with greater equity. Once again, I would point out that this previously announced initiative also directly addresses the motion before the House. We intend to provide a uniform, understandable and risk-related classification system. Classes will be based on such risk-related factors as number of kilometres driven per year, use and type of vehicle and personal driving record. The rate review board will set related rate ranges for these classes, and insurance companies will be required to use the prescribed classes.
I have no reason to believe the insurance industry would take actions to attempt to avoid the automobile rate review legislation. Nevertheless, concern has been expressed that rate review on auto premiums will lead to artificial inflation of premiums for other insurance coverage. In response to these concerns, I have stated before, and I state again, we intend to make sure there is no cross-subsidization between automobile insurance lines and other lines of personal insurance.
The rate review board will have the power to investigate fully all aspects of the automobile insurance business, including overhead expenses, investment income and any other information relevant to the setting of automobile insurance rates. Premiums that are fair and equitable will incorporate reasonable expenses for providing that coverage. The rate review board will be examining these expense levels, and in so doing will be ensuring that no expenditures unrelated to the provision of auto insurance are approved.
The initiatives I announced on April 23 are designed to ensure that the auto insurance premiums are fair, equitable, based on actuarially sound figures and subject to a review process that is open and public. We believe these measures will bring long-term stability to the auto insurance market and deliver a system of fair and reasonable insurance premiums to the consumer. I would remind the members that these initiatives are one part of a total approach to consumer protection.
We are also looking at no-fault insurance through the inquiry headed by Mr. Justice Coulter Osborne, which will report by November 1. The Ontario Law Reform Commission is also examining several issues, and as I announced on April 23, we will be introducing a consumer protection law in the automobile repair industry.
My announcements on April 23 were several in a long series of reforms which the government has announced and will continue to work towards. It is this government's intention to take whatever action is necessary to ensure that consumers receive fair and equitable insurance coverage at a fair and reasonable price.
Mr. Grossman: I rise to participate in this emergency debate and begin by pointing out what the real emergency is. The emergency is not simply the issue which, to be candid, the New Democratic Party has been working hard to put on the front pages over the last little while; rather, it is the total chaos which has been created in the insurance industry by this government on and since April 23, 1987.
The confusion now ranges throughout the industry. At first, we thought it was confined to the auto insurance industry, which was neither consulted nor understood the steps taken suddenly, out of the blue, on April 23, 1987, by the minister. But now, pursuant to the questions we raised last week in the House, the industry found out with us, as policy was made on the go by the minister, that somehow the rate review board now is going to have some authority -- the minister really does not know how much authority -- over all insurance companies of all natures -- general, household, fire and liability -- throughout the province. Talk about chaos.
After April 23, one would have thought that when the House resumed short days later to deal with an announcement which obviously the minister thought could not wait another five or six days, we would have seen the legislation tabled. But no, we have not seen the legislation tabled.
Chaos in the industry? We wondered whether the rate review board would allow profits to be passed through, thus ending up in a circumstance where not only would we have rate increases but also the only new thing added to it, government-approved rate increases.
We asked the minister whether he was going to be in a position to dictate how much profit would be allowed the insurance companies; and in the Legislature, on the record, he said no, that was up to the rate review board. That did not ring right to me, so I went back and looked at what the minister said at his press conference. It turned out I was correct; I did remember the minister saying he was going to exercise that control, and I will read it into the record.
Question from the media: "Are you essentially going to determine what type of profits insurance companies will make?" The minister's answer: "Yes, that is correct." Question: "Well, how much profit?" The minister then changed his mind. He said: "Let me tell you about a system they have in Switzerland. They have built in a maximum cap on profit at three per cent. We have not set any kind of rate and that is something the rate review board will have to do. But what happens is this, there is nothing to say that - " He is interrupted by a question: "You will determine how much profit insurance companies can make, essentially?" Answer: "Yes."
That was on April 23. The minister was going to determine what profit margins were allowed to the industry. When we got into the House short days later, the minister was running scared from that hastily devised policy and said it would be up to the rate review board to determine what the rate of return was.
We asked him yesterday whether he would have the power to overrule the board. Yesterday he did; this morning he did not.
We asked him what is going to happen to the rate increases if he allows them to break even and thus make a profit, which would indicate an increase of 4.4 per cent to 7.5 per cent. The minister then began to become vague, but the bottom line on all of that is we are going to see those rate increases. There is no cap. The rates are not frozen as of April 23. The rates are going to go up.
The emergency we are dealing with this afternoon is that the industry has been moved from the problems outlined effectively, I will say, by the New Democratic Party -- I do not deny that for a second -- to a situation where we have total chaos: no rules, no regulations; an industry which, in the chaos and vacuum that now have been created, is likely to respond in some very predictable ways.
This afternoon the minister was at pains to point out there is nothing to prohibit the insurance companies from moving people from one rating category to the other. Chaos. That was not happening on a large scale before April 23, but why will they not begin to do it today?
We all saw what happened in this House when the first words were spoken of rent controls in 1975. As soon as the spectre was created, all of a sudden, all the rents were moved up to create a big base from which the landlords would operate after rent controls came in. We now have an equivalent situation. The minister cannot control what is possible to be a switching of people into new categories because they are temporarily capped.
Mr. Swart: Or refusing to insure.
Mr. Grossman: That is exactly the next point. The next point was raised quietly to me in the House this afternoon by my colleague the member for Sarnia (Mr. Brandt). He pointed out to me that he has now been contacted by people who have had their insurance cancelled or not renewed by an insurance company because the company wanted to raise the rate, could not temporarily, and simply chose to leave that previously insured driver uninsured, thanks to the April 23 instant-dinner solution of the Minister of Financial Institutions.
What we have here is an industry in total chaos. We have consumers out there, some of whom think they are going to get a deal but none of whom has any real protection today. We have the insurance companies that are still free to move rates around but this time moving people around to the rates instead of the rates around to the people. We have the government totally confused as to whether it has any control over the circumstance. The minister is at great pains to point out that he does not have control over the circumstance. He says he will not determine the profit margin and he will not overrule the rate review board.
What have we ended up with? A long-term freeze or cap? No, we have not. We do not have the purity of a simple, consistent and, in my view, silly government-run scheme; I would totally oppose that, but at least we would know whom to look to. We do not have the values inherent in a classic private enterprise system with an appropriate amount of government supervision. We now have a Kwinter hybrid.
To make it all the more foolish, the minister now says this afternoon that the rate review board is going to consider the no-fault insurance option. I thought Coulter Osborne was doing that and that he was going to report this fall. Is the minister trying to tell us the legislation that I thought was going to be dealt with in this House this spring, and which we would all be happy to see in this House this spring, is not going to be here this spring? Is he trying to tell us it will not be here next spring? Is he trying to tell us that it was simply an announcement made on April 23 to give the impression of action in the industry when in fact it has done nothing of the sort?
Simply, we should not be confused or surprised at the chaos that now prevails. Let me quote the minister. On January 26, he said, "I would suggest that when it comes to the industry, it is a free market." He went on to say on April 26, suddenly, "What we are questioning is the arbitrariness of how they are setting some of their insurance rate premiums."
On January 26, he said, "When it comes to underwriting profit, the insurance companies still pay out more in claims than they take in as premiums." On April 23, he said, "While overall profitability increases" -- remember, in January he thought they were losing money - "some consumers continue to pay unjustifiably higher premium rates with no recourse."
He said on April 12: "I believe, personally, that government cannot run anything better than the private sector. My reading of the Ontario population is that there is not much support for government-run insurance." At the press conference, the minister was at great pains to say he had kept totally open the government-run auto insurance option for his government. We can only conclude that the message he is sending out by saying that is that if it becomes politically attractive to make a sudden, quick hit to implement government-run automobile insurance in this province, he will adopt that.
It hearkens back to the difference between the Liberals and the New Democrats on extra billing. I applaud my colleagues to the left. They believed in a ban on extra billing, philosophically and emotionally. They fundamentally believed it was important to ban extra billing. I disagree with them, but they approached it from that philosophical standpoint.
The Liberals, short years ago, agreed totally with extra billing. During the extra billing debate, the Premier himself talked about having people pay direct for extra health care. They had no philosophical or policy commitment to it; they had a political commitment to it. We are seeing exactly the same thing on auto insurance. It is not a government concerned about auto rates, about gouging or about the rating system. It is not a government concerned at all about equity or apportionment of risk.
The New Democrats approach it at least from a philosophical position which I disagree with but which is consistent with their policy; it is an approach, a single approach, to solving a problem. I do not think it will work. But across the way, as on extra billing and so many issues, the Liberal government addresses this issue from a political standpoint only because it is a short-term political problem, with no philosophical approach, no policy direction and, in this case, not even legislation or a policy -- simply political cosmetics. The emergency we face today is chaos caused by the Minister of Financial Institutions.
Mr. Swart: I knew there would be some difference of opinion in the debate here. What I did not expect was the attempt by the Liberals to frustrate this debate and even to frustrate my remarks when I introduced the motion. I know they do not want to discuss this issue. They have made it clear. They are tremendously indifferent; they are even passing up their turns today to debate it. That is their indifference to this issue. They know the trouble their party is in and they know they cannot defend their minister. That is what is in fact taking place on that side of the House.
They have the right to believe that, because -- let us make no mistake about it -- it is the government of this day and the insurance companies that are directly responsible for the injustices and the horrendous rates now being perpetrated against the people of this province. Nobody else is running the store. The Liberal government and the insurance companies have had absolute and total power to do what they like over the last two years. The problems that we have are directly accountable to them.
The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Grossman) has pointed up, rightly so, the ineffectiveness and the convoluted and changing policies of the government on this issue. Nobody who has observed this House in the last three weeks could come to any other conclusion.
It is even worse than that. I do not like to say this when the minister is not in the House, but it not only is a crash program with nothing being thought out; there is also no sincerity on the minister's part and on the part of the government in wanting to do anything about this crisis.
What the minister is proposing is all down the road. He says he is going to bring in legislation that is going to be effective. When is that legislation going to come in? When it does come in, how long is it going to be debated? When is it going to be proclaimed? When is the rate board going to come in? Nothing is taking place now to resolve the problems of this province.
If he and the government had been sincere, they would have proclaimed subsection 317(1) of the Insurance Act, which is already in the act, and they could have proclaimed it on an hour's notice or on a day's notice. Let me read that section, which has never been proclaimed in 50 years:
"It is the duty of the superintendent, after due notice and a hearing before him, to order an adjustment of the rates for automobile insurance whenever it is found by him that any such rates are excessive, inadequate, unfairly discriminatory or otherwise unreasonable."
He had the tool to use to take immediate action. He deliberately used another tool that will bring about no resolution of the problems before the next provincial election takes place. I say in this House, and I am saying it across this province, if you give those Liberals a majority in the next provincial election, nothing will happen at any time. This statement of the minister's on April 23 is nothing but a political manoeuvre to get them past the next provincial election. That is all it is.
If it was anything else, they would have proclaimed section 371 of the Insurance Act. By doing so, they could have taken action immediately to eliminate the discrimination against the under-25 males and against two or three people in a house who are being penalized because of one driver's record. No, the minister and the Liberal government do not want to take action. What they have effectively done is they have postponed their decision until after the election.
The crisis we have is really quite horrendous. The House leader of the Liberal Party deliberately tried to prevent me from finishing an example I wanted to give of these horrendous injustices, Lauren Mitchell of 7 Romfield Circuit in Thornhill, who called me just yesterday to tell me all about this.
She had not had an accident for decades; a perfect driving record. In April 1985 she had a small at-fault accident doing approximately $500 damage to her car and $1,000 damage to the other car. As I stated before, one month later she was involved in an accident with an illegally parked bus. The bus driver was fined. On August 7, 1985, she was rear-ended by another driver, who was at fault -- a serious accident; she was rather seriously injured.
She had only one accident where she was at fault, and it was a very small accident. While she paid $624 in November 1984 for insurance, in November 1985 it went up to $1,850, almost three times as much, to $1,980 in 1986. She changed her insurance company to get a reduction, but she had a reduction in coverage as well and paid $1,652.
Then in January 1987 her son, Wayne Fairliss, who had lived in Manitoba for nine years, moved in with her and her husband. At 20 years of age, he was paying $250 for his insurance in Virden, Manitoba. Before coming to Ontario, he had a perfect four-year driving record. When he came here, he had to pay $3,000 for his insurance for the same car -- from $250 to $3,000.
One day he drove his mother's car and was involved in an accident, just last Friday, in fact, on May 8. There was considerable damage to the cars, but now he is going to have to pay -- he has already been informed -- $4,500 when his premium comes due; but the mother's insurance goes up from $1,600 to $3,600.
It so happened that the father in that family had a car of his own which he had not been driving. They had just been using one car. He thought he would put his car on the road and go out and get insurance. He searched all over. The lowest premium he could get was $3,000 because his wife had had these accidents and she has to turn in her driver's licence if he is going to get insurance at anything less than that.
The son is going back to Manitoba, he is so fed up with the insurance system in this province.
That is an example. There are hundreds of thousands just like that in this province, and we have a minister now who is standing up to say, "Well, we will take action some time down the road."
The crisis we have here has not happened in Manitoba, Saskatchewan and British Columbia. Even the president of the Insurance Bureau of Canada said he cannot argue with these rates we have developed through our research department. The average rate paid last year in Ontario was $605, in British Columbia $395, in Manitoba $324 and in Saskatchewan $228. None of the injustices that exist here are prevalent in those three provinces.
The member for Durham West (Mr. Ashe) says, as the insurance companies are all saying, of course, they do not have the density of cars out there. Does he know the proportion of accidents in those western provinces is substantially higher than it is here? He is listening too much to the insurance companies' rhetoric and that of the Minister of Financial Institutions.
The simple fact is that in those three western provinces combined, the frequency of accidents over the last five years per 100 cars is 40 per cent higher than it is here. That is not the reason that the rates are cheaper out there; nor is it because of subsidization that the rates are cheaper out there. It is simply that they have a system that is far more efficient, where all the interest on investment is returned to the system and where it is a nonprofit system. Those three things are the reason.
Even though this House passed a resolution which the Conservatives supported, the Minister of Financial Institutions has refused to investigate because he does not want to know. He could not get up and make a lot of those statements if he had a report that showed the benefits of the public plans in the west.
We are going to keep fighting for the only real alternative to what we have in this province: a driver-owned public insurance plan which can solve our problems.
Mr. Offer: I have read in part some of the motion of the member for Welland-Thorold, and there are a couple of points that he brings out. He talks about "failure to take effective action" and about "incoherent and incomprehensible policy." If I might, I would like to take the time allotted to me to bring to you, Mr. Speaker, the effective action that the government has taken and the coherent and comprehensible policies that this government is following.
I know I have spoken before on insurance and other matters the member for Welland-Thorold has brought to this House, and have spoken with respect to general liability insurance. We have spoken on the issue of general liability and on the singular efforts of the Minister of Financial Institutions in this government and his pronouncements and policy decisions to address those particular problems. We have spoken previously about reciprocals and telephone assist programs and export pools.
I bring this out because the member for Welland-Thorold -- and I think this is a fair statement -- has basically made the same allegations with respect to general liability insurance and the problems that arose with respect to the general liability insurance system as he does today. The efforts and actions by this minister and this government have in large measure come to grips with those problems and have provided real solutions in a meaningful way.
I would like to continue with respect to the auto insurance initiatives that this minister has announced. Over the past year, we know the consumer confidence and trust in the auto insurance industry have faltered, and for many months the government has been closely monitoring automobile insurance rates and the underwriting practices of the auto insurance industry to determine whether there is fundamental fairness for the consumer.
A review of the numerous consumer complaints received by the ministry indicates that too many of their complaints are valid. For example, under the same classification, rates can vary by more than 100 per cent from company to company. There have also been refusals to insure drivers, the dumping of drivers into the Facility Association where the highest rates are charged and the penalizing of good drivers because of the driving record of another member of the household. Consumers are demanding fair coverage at a fair price and we believe their demands are justified, particularly in a system where automobile insurance is compulsory.
We have given the insurance industry the time and opportunity to improve market fairness. The minister has repeatedly urged the industry to improve its practices voluntarily. The industry has been urged to prepare for nondiscriminatory rating practices, and nothing has come about. Instead, much effort has been expended by the industry in defending current practices.
In view of these circumstances, it was necessary to take immediate steps to protect Ontario consumers, but before describing those initiatives, I want to address that part of the motion that talks about incoherency and incomprehensibility, because I want to point out that those initiatives are but one part of our overall approach to the insurance issue.
As members know, Mr. Justice Coulter Osborne is examining the long-term savings and benefits which might result from a no-fault insurance system, whether private or state-owned, and is expected to report in November.
These new initiatives of April 23 are in no way meant to pre-empt the Osborne recommendations. Indeed, it may be necessary to make some adjustments in these recent initiatives once the Osborne commission reports. In the meantime, however, we have taken some necessary steps to protect consumers. That addresses the question with respect to coherency and comprehensibility.
I would now like to talk about effective action. As at April 23 of this year, rates with respect to insurance for all types of motor vehicles are capped, including those in the Facility Association. The cap provides that the rate related to a specific class or factor used to set premiums by individual insurance companies cannot increase beyond its level on April 23. It is not a freeze on premiums. The cap prevents increases in anticipation of rate control and stops any increases that would have been made after April 23. It applies to liability insurance, collision and comprehensive insurance, accident benefits, special perils and policy endorsements. Consumers facing renewals may experience an increase in their premiums, but the highest possible rate they will have to pay will be what was in place for their classification as at April 23, 1987.
Again addressing the question of effective action, I talk about the rate reduction effective April 23, which was ordered for two rating classifications in which increases have been subject to particularly serious impact. Rates for all male drivers under age 25 will be reduced by 10 per cent and rates for taxi cabs insured through the Facility Association will be cut by 10 per cent. Those young male drivers facing renewals may experience an increase, but the highest possible rate they will have to pay will be the capped amount as at April 23, minus the 10 per cent.
For those taxis not in the Facility Association, insurance companies will be prohibited from charging more than the Facility Association rates. When a policyholder is entitled to a reduction, the insurer will be required to offer the option of a cash rebate.
Again with respect to effective action, it has been mentioned that legislation will be introduced to control all automobile insurance premiums in Ontario through an independent rate review board with powers to approve, adjust or roll back rates and order rebates to policyholders. Current caps will remain in effect until the rate review board approves new rates.
We intend to establish a permanent, independent rate review board which will be led by a full-time chairperson and a panel of part-time members. The board will be supported by a secretariat which will maintain public information on rates and administer the public hearing process. Members of the rate review board will be appointed by order in council following consultation with groups such as automobile associations, consumer groups, insurance companies, insurance agents, brokers and adjusters, professional organizations, commercial consumers of insurance and municipal transit authorities.
The mandate of the board will be to set rate ranges for all types of motor vehicle insurance, to review rates that were capped or reduced on April 23 and to hold public hearings on insurance rates, inviting representations by all concerned parties. In making its rulings, the board will take into account public policy guidelines issued by the government. For the first time, consumer groups, individuals and the government will be able to appear and make representations during public hearings conducted by the board. Premium rates will no longer be determined in isolation by vested business interests.
Again, with respect to effective action, I talk about the government moving immediately to establish a consumer insurance bureau headed by an insurance advocate who will provide information and assist consumers. Legislation will be introduced to ensure that the advocate has the power to investigate and publish complaint records of companies.
We are addressing effective action in initiating procedures against insurance companies, introducing legislation to provide for enhanced penalties and administrative actions, requiring insurers to provide 45 days' written notice of intention, prohibiting insurers from charging a higher premium solely on the ground that an individual who is a qualified driver was not continuously a named insured during his or her --
Mr. Speaker: The member's time has expired.
Mr. Offer: This minister and this government have provided effective, comprehensive, understandable policy for the first time in this province.
Mr. Swart: Premiums will be up eight per cent to 39 per cent with the rate review board.
Mr. Offer: The member may not agree with that, but he cannot deny this is an effective action program.
Mr. Speaker: Order. Will the honourable member take his seat? I hope the member for Welland-Thorold will control himself.
Mr. Swart: Of course.
Mr. Speaker: If that is the case, I will now recognize the member for Mississauga East.
Mr. Gregory: I hesitate to get in between the bedmates of the accord in this lovers' quarrel.
Mr. Speaker: The member for Mississauga North (Mr. Offer) and the member for Etobicoke (Mr. Philip), are you finished?
Mr. Philip: Yes.
Mr. Offer: I cannot say yes for sure.
Mr. Speaker: Fine.
Mr. Gregory: Mr. Speaker, when you said, "Are you finished?" that was probably an understatement. I truly believe both parties are finished, the way they are handling this particular matter.
I find it quite amusing. As a person who has spent the greater part of my life in the insurance business, when I hear the rhetoric coming from both sides in this place, it is quite astounding to me.
Mr. Swart: Of course, you are totally unbiased.
Mr. Gregory: The member for Welland-Thorold has a great deal to say. For a person who has never ever sold or written an insurance policy in his life, he seems to know an inordinate amount about it. As a matter of fact, he knows nothing about it. The only person who knows less about it is the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations. He totally confuses me by what he is doing to the disturbed insurance market of Ontario. No matter how bad it is and no matter how bad it needs revising, the minister has not really added one thing to the debate that would comfort anybody that anything good is going to happen in this business. As a former insurance agent, I find that very distressing.
We hear conflicting statements. For example, on January 9, the minister said: "Whether the government should be in the insurance business is a decision that has to be made. If the task force says that is the solution, then I will look at it and address it." In other words, he was going to give serious consideration to state-run insurance.
On February 4, which by my calculations is about 26 days later, the Treasurer said: "The last thing the insurance industry wants is for government to get into the insurance business. We certainly do not want to get into it."
I am wondering if any of those over there in cabinet talk to one another. Do they have any kind of dialogue at all that would indicate they have a common front coming out of that cabinet? Right now, the statements that are being made regarding the insurance business are certainly confusing, to say the least.
At least my friend the member for Welland-Thorold will know that I am the last person in the world who would agree on the position he has taken -- and that is a given -- but still and all, even he is beginning to make sense to me on this subject. I find that a little frightening. When the member for Welland-Thorold is making sense, I think it is time I changed my position.
However, we seem to have some sort of competition between the government party and the New Democratic Party about which is going to come down the hardest on the insurance industry. From my standpoint, I am beginning to wonder, is this really what we are trying to do? Do we want to completely destroy the insurance industry? I do not know that this is a very desirable thing for Ontario.
l believe the insurance industry has on the whole been of great benefit to this province. We have a temporary crisis we are going through, and I realize there are problems there; but it has to be fixed, it does not have to be kicked to death.
Certainly, neither solution I have heard is going to do a thing. On this side, to my left, the party of last resort is saying we should get rid of it all and have a state-run insurance program; while my friends in the government party across the way are saying: "We will study it to death. We are going to have yet another task force and we are going to study it." I think that makes 362 task forces on the government side in the last two years. They are waiting for reports and nobody seems to be able to make a decision; except when the heat gets on the honourable Minister of Financial Institutions suddenly, arbitrarily, out of the blue, picks a figure and says, "We are going to freeze rates and we are going to reduce two categories by 10 per cent: the young drivers and the taxi drivers."
I have, Lord knows, nothing against either group. I know some of each. They are the highest-risk categories. How can we suddenly, out of the blue, say there will be a reduction of 10 per cent for the worst categories? The main thing is that it is not fair. It is not fair to the people who are not in high-risk categories who will be subsidizing these two categories.
Surely that is not the way to address these things. These Band-Aid approaches to the problems we are having in the insurance industry have not gone far enough. Is it not time we had some sort of meaningful dialogue between the minister and the insurance industry itself? If the insurance industry wants to continue to service Ontario, I feel it should be willing, and I believe it is willing, to sit down with the minister and have some meaningful dialogue on this, instead of the government commissioning yet another study.
This board they were talking about which will have the right to freeze or roll back rates but will not necessarily have the right to freeze or roll back rates: we do not seem to have an answer on what rights it is going to have, but we will play it by the day. l see no value at all in having a board if we cannot give it some terms of reference by which it can operate intelligently. I believe we have time to do this.
My friend the member for Essex North (Mr. Hayes) read two or three letters from people in his riding complaining about excessive rates, and probably these people are being gouged, but any day of the week in my riding, which at present has about 115,000 people, if I cannot get 10 letters complaining in writing about something it is a bad day.
This does not necessarily mean it reflects the feelings of everybody in that riding. Before we get up on our high horse and charge off into the night, tilting at windmills, with instant solutions and freezing rates or creating a government body -- I think the brightest thing the minister said was that if one likes the post office one will love government-run insurance. That is probably the most intelligent statement he has made in this whole debate. I do not think we can afford to be doing that. We have to think in terms of some sort of negotiated settlement, and I believe insurance companies are only too willing to do this. Certainly, insurance agents are.
One of the problems I see -- and my friend the member for Mississauga North touched on this -- is the speed with which the insurance companies or insurance agents refer cases to the Facility Association. This has become the biggest scam of all, to my way of thinking.
We have seen it happen where someone makes an application for insurance and for some reason --perhaps the insurance agent's portfolio is too full of a particular risk -- rather than sending him on even to another broker who might handle him, he refers him immediately to the Facility Association. That means he can be charged any amount the Facility Association wants. That means the Facility Association will take him, but surely the minister can negotiate some rule whereby it eliminates the power of insurance companies and agents to send these cases arbitrarily to the Facility Association.
Maybe insurance companies should be required to accept the risks. They are not going to get all the high risks. They are going to get their share. I do not think there is too much wrong with that. Everybody should take a share of the risk in that business, but when we start talking about sending everything to the Facility Association when there is the slightest risk the company does not want to take, that is totally ridiculous. I suspect that a lot of the letters we get and that my friend the member for Essex North got were probably from someone who had been referred to the Facility Association.
My friend the member for Welland-Thorold referred to a case that went from $300 up to $3,000. There is no doubt in my mind and there should not be any doubt in his that this was a Facility Association case. It would have to be. I do not think you can blame the insurance company or the insurance agent for this; perhaps the insurance agent because he did not want to add this high risk to his personal portfolio. Maybe that was his problem. That is selfish. Maybe the system is wrong and maybe it needs something, but I do not think you throw out the baby with the bath water. You do not throw out the whole system simply because we can come up with some instances and testimonials of somebody getting hit. I just find it a little frightening to think in terms of going from one to the other.
There is all kinds of evidence that insurance run by government is not too accurate. For example, last December, John Bucklaschuk, minister responsible for the Manitoba Public Insurance Corp., appeared at Queen's Park as a guest of the member for Welland-Thorold and praised the virtues of state insurance. He did not say anything about the fact that at that moment Gary Filmon was securing him for potential losses of $36.7 million in that insurance industry in that province.
Mr. Wildman: I have listened to this debate this afternoon to try to determine what is in fact happening with insurance, what the government intends to do and what the position of the official opposition is. Frankly, I have not found it very enlightening.
I am disappointed that the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations and Minister of Financial Institutions is not in the House to listen to the debate. I think that is an indication of his concern about insurance and his realization of the problems consumers are facing across this province. He contributed to the debate earlier and then left. I think it is most unfortunate that he did not listen to what has been said in the rest of the debate.
I have listened to what the members of the official opposition have had to say and I think they are having the problems of the proverbial man who stands with one foot on each side of a picket fence.
Mr. Hayes: Ouch.
Mr. Wildman: Yes, ouch.
The fact is that we have presented a position in response to the crisis in insurance. It is clear. We have made proposals and all we get from the other two parties is obfuscation.
The fact is that the New Democrats are not attempting to discredit the private insurance industry. We do not have to. Those insurance companies themselves, through their practices and their advertising, are doing all that is necessary to discredit the image of the private insurance industry in the public's eyes. For instance, I will quote from an ad run by the Co-operators recently: "Rapid steps are needed to correct problems. Stop charging drivers higher rates than their experience, vehicle use and accident conviction records warrant. Stop assigning to the higher rate Facility plan drivers who do not represent a higher risk."
The New Democrats or the member for Welland-Thorold were not the ones who ran that ad. That is the Co-operators insurance company itself recognizing the kinds of things insurance companies have been doing to consumers in this province that is resulting in them paying exorbitantly high rates.
Besides that, we all know that the insurance companies' profits have gone up tremendously over the past year, something in the neighbourhood of $1 billion in total for all types of insurance. There has been a 45 per cent increase in rates over the past year and it is still going on.
We have had examples presented to us in the House. I have mentioned before the example of a 21-year-old male driver with three years of driving record who owns his own car, a 1985 Reliant, in Bruce Mines in my riding who would have to pay approximately $2,544 a year for insurance. His counterpart in Manitoba would pay something like $450 for insurance. How can any Liberal or a Progressive Conservative in this House defend that kind of disparity? It is just beyond me.
Then we had the minister get up and say he had capped the rates. He capped the rates as of April 23. When this driver in Bruce Mines has to renew his insurance, it will not be at $2,544. It will be at that rate plus something like a 30 per cent increase up until April 23. Then the minister has argued, "That kind of driver will get a 10 per cent rebate." We have no assurance that is going to happen. Apparently, it is going to be up to the insurance companies themselves to give this rebate; but even if they do, with a 10 per cent rebate on a $3,000 premium, he is still going to be paying enormously more than anybody in any of the three provinces with driver-owned insurance plans.
The fact is that the drivers in this province are being ripped off by a private insurance monopoly that has within it the seeds of its own destruction. In Manitoba, Saskatchewan and British Columbia, we have an effective system, one that is not in the red as the minister and the members of the Conservative Party would like us to believe.
Mr. Epp: Look at last year's books. You are cooking the books.
Mr. Wildman: The books have been explained. The member does not have to listen to me. He should listen to the studies that have been done by others, certainly not supporters of the New Democratic Party. The Globe and Mail did a study that found that if we had a similar plan in Ontario, it would save the drivers about 36 per cent in their premiums. That is not a New Democratic Party periodical. That is the Globe and Mail, Canada's national newspaper. The Canadian Press has estimated something like a 40 per cent savings if we went to a similar plan.
Since 1982, the rates in this province have increased 65 per cent, whereas in Manitoba and British Columbia they have gone up approximately 2.4 per cent or 2.5 per cent a year. In Saskatchewan they have actually decreased.
Despite what the member for Waterloo North (Mr. Epp) would like us to believe, not one red cent of government money has gone into the Saskatchewan auto insurance plan. It is true that the government has put money into other forms of insurance. It is true that in Manitoba they had, at least up until 1978, a two-cent-per-gallon tax that went into the insurance plan to ensure that drivers who drove long distances paid more. I do not see anything wrong with that, but it was discontinued in 1978.
The books that the member far Waterloo North refers to deal with losses in Manitoba that did not relate to the auto insurance plan but rather to the reinsurance. Perhaps they had unwise investments, but the investments were certainly not any more unwise than the investments that private industry in this province has engaged in.
We have heard from the members of the Conservative Party that the private insurers in this province are losing money on the premiums and that the rate board proposed by the minister will have to allow for increases so they can have any kind of profit. I do not claim to be a defender of the free enterprise system, but it seems to me that if a free enterprise company is losing money and has lost money over a long time, it should not be so concerned about getting out of the industry or having someone else take it over. If it is losing so much money, why is it so determined to stay in business? No one has been able to explain that to me. The Conservatives say the insurance companies are losing money. They have lost money and it is a bad business, but they want to stay in the business. They do not want someone else to operate them. It does not make sense.
I want to help out the poor investors in the auto insurance industry in this province. I want to save them from their losses. I want to help them to cut losses. I want to help them with the bottom line. I want to get rid of the private insurance monopoly and to have a public plan that will be effective and serve the drivers and will be done at cost rather than allowing for the kinds of exorbitant profits that the Leader of the Opposition wants to allow.
In fact, as has been said, accident rates are lower in this province than in the western provinces. If anything, under the private plans we have now in Ontario, we should have lower rates based on driving records and accident records, not higher rates. The reason we have higher rates is that the plans, the operations of the industry in this province, are inefficient. They duplicate; they allow for profits; they allow for reinvestment in other things rather than keeping down premiums and covering claims.
There is an option. It is a sensible option. It is one that has been tried in the western provinces, and not just by New Democrats. In every case, it has been brought in by New Democrats but in every case where New Democrats have lost power in those provinces the new government, whether it be a Social Credit, Conservative or Liberal government, has maintained it. In fact, they praise it and want to strengthen it. The reason is that it is a good plan that serves the drivers and serves the province in a way no private system could ever do.
We must do something about the kinds of rates I quoted for my constituent in Bruce Mines. Why on earth should we be spending so much on insurance to try to assist the investors in the private insurance industry, rather than ensuring that what is invested in premiums covers claims and costs in a way that is nondiscriminatory and is not based on anything but the driver's record?
We have that option but we have two parties in this House that are afraid. Their fear is so great that they cannot take the step that, once taken, would benefit all the drivers of this province. We need a public insurance plan in this province and we are going to get it.
Mr. Epp: I am pleased to enter into this debate that my friend the member for Welland-Thorold has initiated. His name is synonymous with raising issues in this Legislature, many of which have been dealt with effectively by this government over the past two years.
As my honourable colleague stated earlier in this debate, this government has moved responsibly in taking effective action to protect the consumers of Ontario from instabilities in the auto insurance field.
Mr. Swart: Moving like a snail with arthritis.
Mr. Epp: I see my friend the member for Welland-Thorold is nodding consent to this and I am glad to see that.
The measures recently announced by the minister are a first step in this government's commitment to ensuring a reliable and effective insurance market for Ontario. This legislation is designed specifically to increase the fairness of Ontario insurance rates.
With respect to the call for a no-fault system, this government considers it imperative to know whether compensation to injured victims would be paid fairly and adequately under such a plan. As a result, the government has appointed Mr. Justice Osborne to complete a thorough study of motor vehicle accident compensation in Ontario and the possible benefits of implementing some form of no-fault insurance in this province.
Mr. McClellan: As a result --
Mr. Epp: As a result, I will continue.
Unlike the very vocal members of the third party, this government believes that a reasonable and sensible approach is required in addressing this issue. In this regard, our government has made it clear that we will not implement a public auto insurance system unless we are completely satisfied that such a system will benefit the motorists of this province and unless we are satisfied that the public will benefit by it.
In this respect --
Mr. Andrewes: That is not what the Premier said at Brock University.
Mr. Wildman: Not necessarily public insurance, but public insurance if necessary.
Mr. Speaker: Order.
Mr. Epp: Mr. Speaker, the member for Algoma had his time earlier, and he noticed that I listened very attentively to what he was saying.
In this respect, in addition to the immediate measures already announced by the minister and in keeping with this government's philosophy of consultation and discussion, we will await the recommendations of this review.
We all know the current system needs improving. To quote recent correspondence from the industry itself, specifically The Co-operators insurance company, "We know that automobile insurance in Ontario is a problem begging for a solution."
We know that problems in availability of automobile insurance, sharp premium increases last year and the poor treatment policyholders sometimes receive from their insurers are all valid reasons consumers are dissatisfied. We also know that whatever further measures this government may consider to be warranted, they will not be knee-jerk reactions, as the third party suggests.
Our government is not interested in simplistic and short-term solutions. What we want, and what Ontarians want, is a made-in-Ontario solution. What we keep getting from across the way is a made-in-Manitoba solution, a made-in-Saskatchewan solution, a made-in-British Columbia, but not a made-in-Ontario solution.
Mr. Wildman: You have instituted a made-in-Quebec solution.
Mr. Speaker: The member for Algoma has already had his 10 minutes. The member for Waterloo North would like the balance of his 10 minutes now.
Mr. Epp: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. That is a very objective observation.
It is impossible to make simple comparisons between the insurance rates paid by drivers in the western provinces that have public automobile insurance and the rates paid by drivers in Ontario. In fact, we all know the statistics. We all know that Canada's private automobile insurance companies paid out almost $3.5 billion in claims in 1985, an increase of 21 per cent over 1984, and we all know that certain high-risk groups have been paying disproportionately high and unfair amounts.
Unlike the leader of the third party who pulls statistics out of a hat -- with devastating consequences for himself, I might add -- this government believes in assessing the situation in a responsible and informed manner. I ask what the member for Welland-Thorold estimates insurance rates would be if we decided to institute a publicly run system in Ontario. He has not given it to us. I would also ask the honourable member about the startup cost of such a plan or the actual reduction in premiums that drivers would have to pay and would experience.
The leader of the third party has publicly stated that he does not want to get into a numbers game in this respect. I do not blame him. It would be terribly embarrassing for him if he actually had to produce the kinds of rates he feels Ontario drivers would have to pay. No wonder he does not want to make them public. They would be embarrassing to himself and to his party. The answers to these and other questions must be addressed before changes are instituted. We cannot go on knee-jerk reaction.
I would also have expected that the third party would have done its homework better before jumping the gun on such a half-hearted and half-dreamt-up system. The New Democratic Party should have experienced better judgement before launching on its flashy, highway-robbery campaign.
This government will not allow robbery of the drivers of Ontario to occur, nor will it condone the implementation of any new system that robs from the pockets of the people of Ontario. In determining the need for change in the auto insurance industry, this government is determined to ensure that the new system will not require subsidies from the taxpayers of the province, not something that has been experienced in other provinces of this country. He knows and I know they have been subsidized in startup costs and in other ways, so to suggest that it does not occur -- members should look at the facts and look at the statistics.
I suggest that before any half-hearted, half-cooked, half-baked system -- a system, like a sieve, with many holes in it -- is adopted in this province, we have to do a thorough study. That is what has been suggested by this government, has been suggested through the Coulter Osborne study and has been suggested by other people. That is something this government is doing and it is something I am proud we are doing before coming in with the final solution to this problem.
Mrs. Marland: In rising today to speak in this emergency debate into the automobile insurance rates for the people of Ontario, the first statement I want to make is that in a province the size of ours, with the spread of the population and the spread of employment centres, we have to recognize, for the sake of our economy, that driving is not a luxury; it is a necessity. It is a necessity for in excess of six million drivers. The number of drivers who need to drive always increases in the summer, with young people with summer jobs and university students with part-time jobs.
The situation before us is one that all parties recognize is a problem. We recognize that the cost of insurance has steadily increased and, until this past year, we have experienced a rapid escalation. Nobody is saying that does not exist. What we, as representatives of the public, are saying -- because that is what the public is saying to us -- is: "Let us look at the real reasons. Let us look at the real causes. Let us find the real solutions."
It is very interesting when we hear some members of this Legislature who criticize completely the people in the industry. I would like to refer those people who make those criticisms to the industry that has provided a very real service for a great number of years. In recognizing the members of that industry, we also have to recognize that they themselves are saying today they realize changes have to be made.
The insurance brokers themselves are willing and, in fact, are looking at different combinations. They are also saying, in a release they put out on May 4, 1987 -- this is a release of the Insurance Brokers Association of Ontario -- that they do support an insurance rate review board. There is a very important sentence in the news release that I must read. It says, "The Insurance Brokers Association of Ontario welcomes the announcement that an independent automobile insurance rate review board will be established by the provincial government."
This is the part that is important:
"lf the rate review board operates without political interference, we are confident that stability will once again return to the Ontario marketplace, a stability that has long been absent. We look forward to the day when insurance prices will be determined primarily by mathematical analysis rather than the reckless marketing initiatives used previously by some irresponsible insurers. The rate review board will benefit all concerned: insurers, brokers and, most important, the consumer."
It is also on behalf of the insurer that I wish to speak today. When we look at who drives, apart from the people who drive by necessity for their employment, we must also look very closely at the people who drive for reasons of medical treatment or who drive other people who require medical treatment. Where would we be if, as an alternative, these people had to be driven to their treatment centres by ambulances, taxis or, heaven forbid, public transportation? So when we look at the survival of people in our province who need to drive or be driven, we look at very serious human needs.
It is very interesting too, whilst we talk about this debate in this Legislature, that we are not at the same time saying to the federal government, "When can we have a federal income tax amendment that deals with the lump sum settlement problem?" When we look at the reason that lump sum settlements are as high as they are, we also acknowledge the fact that 50 per cent of that settlement in most cases, right off the top, goes into the federal Treasury.
That particular process is completely wrong. If a person is disabled for life, whatever his impairment is, and he needs to be looked after for the rest of his life or his family needs to be looked after, then it would seem to me that that settlement is well due. I do not see that it is necessary for the federal Treasury to benefit from that accident or the cause of that person's disability.
It is very interesting, too, that in the free world today there exist only three government insurance schemes, those being in British Columbia, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. I understand that Switzerland and France have crown corporations; I do not have the particulars on those. However, I think it speaks for itself if we find government insurance schemes in only three provinces in Canada and nowhere else in the world. I think there must be a reason.
The other thing that is to be considered when we look at the viability of those government-run schemes in our western provinces is the fact that the governments there do not pay property taxes on their buildings and they do not pay provincial taxes, so there is a double loss there to the provincial treasuries in those provinces.
When we talk about people requiring medical treatment, we are indeed talking about a survival need. When we look at the whole subject of who needs to be an insured driver, in the past we have looked at categories in a blanket format. The insurance industry itself today is saying that it is willing to reconsider the formula. It is willing to reconsider perhaps that people are innocent until they are proven guilty. That is the position our party supports; that, for example, people under the age of 25 are not necessarily totally irresponsible, incapable drivers. Perhaps, in fact, some of the people under 25 are very capable drivers and they should not all be blanketed together in one group.
In our party, we also support the idea of an insurance Ombudsman. That way we would know that, ultimately, there was equity for everyone; both the insurance industry and the drivers. We also feel there should be a guaranteed provision of insurance so that everyone who wishes to drive can be guaranteed access to insurance. We also agree with the placement of the review board as long as the review board, as the Insurance Brokers Association of Ontario has stated, is not a political football. We also agree we should be looking at a modified no-fault program and we feel there should be a review of the tort system.
All in all, there are only three components of merit to this sensible discussion. They are: the cost of settlement; the fairness in apportionment of risk; and efficiency of the system as it serves the consumer.
It is a fervent hope of mine, as I represent consumers who require automobile insurance and who live and do business in Mississauga South, that their needs will be met equitably as drivers. I also recognize there must be equity to those people who provide the service by being in the insurance business. I hope that very soon the government of this province will come to its senses and recognize that simply freezing the insurance rates where they are at the moment provides no service whatsoever for either the driver or the industry. It is simply a mediocre, stopgap system.
Mr. Philip: I would like to start off in this debate by dealing with the distortions of the previous speaker. They are distortions which are constantly being pushed in the fancy advertising campaigns of the insurance companies and through their mouthpieces, the Conservative and Liberal parties in this Legislature.
The suggestion that all the provinces' public insurance industries do not pay taxes is a complete and absolute distortion, a complete fabrication. It is simply not true. As the member should well know, the public insurance industry in each of the three provinces pays the same kind of grants in lieu of taxes that the provincial government pays to municipalities on any of its properties or, indeed, that the federal government pays.
If we look at the nonprofit insurance companies in this province -- and there are nonprofit insurance companies even in terribly conservative Ontario; the lawyers have their own nonprofit insurance -- they do not pay any corporation taxes because they are not showing a profit; in fact, they are pouring it back to the insurers. There is absolutely no difference between what the corporations are doing either here in Ontario as nonprofit corporations or in British Columbia, Manitoba and Saskatchewan as nonprofit insurance companies.
I wish members of the Conservative Party would stop allowing the insurance companies to use them as their ventriloquists in spouting this kind of lie in the Ontario Legislature.
Mr. Speaker, if you look at some of the mail I have been receiving, I think we have the kind of problem that we are being faced with. I have a letter here from a constituent who lives on Rex Gate in Rexdale. He says: "1 am 21 years old. I drive a 1975 car, but my insurance is $1,200 per year." He goes to work in Brampton every day, and he says, "If insurance premiums keep increasing, I simply will not be able to drive a car." Knowing the transportation system which both the previous and the present provincial governments have supplied to northwest Metro and Peel, one can understand the problem this person is facing.
I heard from a gentleman the other day who wrote that his insurance had risen by over 100 per cent in one year. I have a letter here from a young woman, 23 years old: "! have been driving for three years safe and without any moving violations. For these past three years I have maintained my insurance with one company and up until now I have been pleased with their services. My insurance renewal comes due in mid-April and the quote I received from my company is $243 higher than last year's, an overall increase of some 33 per cent."
Another constituent approached me the other day. In five years he had made claims totalling a maximum of $1,000. He had been with the same insurance company for 24 years. Two of the claims were claims for damage that had been done wilfully to his car when he was not occupying it. Another was for somebody who managed to sideswipe his car while it was legally parked in front of his home. The three claims amounted to not more than $1,000 over five years, yet his insurance premiums went up $1,200 per year as a result of his being declared a risk. None of the accidents was his fault.
These are typical of the kinds of injustices created by the private insurance industry. The private insurers have taken advantage of the drivers of Ontario. The average Ontario driver pays $210 more than his British Columbia counterpart, or in other words, 53 per cent more; $281 or 87 per cent more than Manitoba; and $377 or 165 per cent more than Saskatchewan.
The Liberals and the Conservatives can argue all they want. They cannot distort those figures. They are actual. They have been shown by comparisons, not just by the previous Conservative government in its own independent study, but by the Globe and Mail and the Toronto Star and anyone else who has done an independent study.
Since 1982, premiums have gone up 65 per cent in Ontario. For the same period, the average increase in Manitoba was 2.5 per cent a year; in BC, 2.4 per cent a year; and in Saskatchewan the premiums have actually decreased.
It is fairly clear that the campaign by consumers and the New Democrats has had a sobering effect on this present government. Whereas only a few months ago the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations was arguing the line of the Conservatives, that there is no problem, now he says there is a problem and he wants to tinker with it. He is going to tinker. The difference with the Conservatives, who have been absolutely silent for two years on the subject, is that they would tinker a little less. Now he states there is a problem so he has introduced immediate steps. Depending on which day one asks the minister, he says it applies to different people in different ways; and yes, some people's insurance would still go up but the category would not go up or the categories would change.
The first is the cap on the rates which he implied would prevent premium increases between the date of his statement, April 23, and the time when he proposed rate review sets new rates. However, in his formula for capping rates, we now learn he is going to allow an increase of up to two per cent monthly between the last time drivers renewed their insurance and April 23. Thus, the premium of any motorist who renews in May can go up by 10 per cent on a six-month policy and 22 per cent on a yearly policy. In June it will be eight per cent and 20 per cent. In subsequent months, that pattern will continue.
What kind of cap is that'? If you like the minister's formula, if you like the Housing and Urban Development Association of Canada home warranty program in Ontario, you will love this. If you did not like the HUDAC home warranty program, if you were ripped off when you bought a new home, then you know the kind of self-policing this kind of system is going to have.
The Liberals are now touting and flirting with the idea of no-fault insurance. No-fault insurance under a private insurance company, the kind of no-fault that is being advocated, simply means that in order to sue one would either have to be killed, have a permanent disability or a disfigurement. If we look at what that means, only five per cent of those who have an accident through no fault of their own and who may feel they want their day in court and want some justice would not be covered.
In other words, 95 per cent of all the claims would be decided by the private insurance companies. If you loved the HUDAC home warranty program, you will really love this. It will mean that the insurance companies decide what someone is going to get on a claim through their no-fault system. That is the direction in which the Liberals want to go. If we talk about a justice system, my goodness, what could be more unjust than that? If we think the insurance companies are ripping off the public now, give them the kind of no-fault towards which they and the Liberals seem to be headed and we will really see what they can do to us.
We talked a minute ago about that young male under 25 who is going to get this great gift from the government. Even if the 10 per cent reduction to the under-25 males was genuine, that minimum amount is really an insult to them. If we take a specific example, we see what it does.
First, if on June 23, 1986, the under-25 male paid $2,000, he will receive a 10 per cent refund on the premium for two months, which is $33. When he renews his insurance on June 23, his insurance company will be allowed its normal increased rates, from June 23 to April 23, 1987, estimated at two per cent monthly.
Thus, his premium will be 20 per cent higher than last year so he will pay $2,400, except that he will have received the 10 per cent reduction that will be applied to it. In other words, it will be $2,160. In effect, he will be paying $160 more this year than last year under the so-called cap program.
This is the kind of program on which the Liberal Party says that it is saving the taxpayers' money, that it is saving the consumers. What rubbish.
Mr. Ferraro: It is my pleasure to contribute what I can to this debate. Having listened to the debate since about 3:45 p.m., it is at moments like this that I wish the House had a retractable roof. I have heard more hot air in the last two hours than perhaps I care to remember.
Mr. Swart: Your colleagues do not like that. Neither does the minister.
Mr. Ferraro: Wait a minute. There is an old cliché in refereeing, "When in doubt, shout." Maybe that is why there is such an emotional response from the members of the New Democratic Party.
First, I should say so that the table is set, lest I be accused of being biased, that in my riding in the beautiful city of Guelph I have two insurance companies. It is the head office for the Co-operators, a very large employer and a very good company. It is also the head office for the Halwell Mutual Fire Insurance Co.
Mr. Swart: Co-Op is the best of a bad lot.
Mr. Ferraro: I would be careful before I would criticize Co-Op. One of the substantial owners of Co-Op is a number of unions. Be careful, fellows.
Mr. Swart: Name them.
Mr. Ferraro: I want to make two points. The timing of this emergency debate did not make it conducive for me to do extensive research in order to prepare myself in the fashion that certainly the member for Sudbury East (Mr. Martel) --
Mr. Ferraro: -- who I know is sitting on the edge of his seat so he can listen to me --
The Deputy Speaker: Order.
Mr. Ferraro: I hope it has nothing to do with the fact that I am speaking, but at present in the House for the emergency debate there are four Progressive Conservatives, six New Democrats and eight Liberals.
Mr. Philip: Where is your minister on this emergency debate?
Mr. Ferraro: Lest there be an inference that it is my rhetorical ability that has attracted such a sparse crowd, I want to bring it into context of the fact that this was such an emergency that we had to delay the full agenda of the House; it was of paramount necessity that the House deal with insurance.
At four o'clock, when the debate was getting under way, there were six New Democrats, three Progressive Conservatives and eight Liberals.
Mr. Philip: There are also committees sitting.
Mr. Ferraro: At 4:12, when the leader of the third party spoke, there were seven Progressive Conservatives, six Liberals and six of the NDP. When the leader of the Progressive Conservative Party spoke there were six New Democrats, six Conservatives and seven Liberals. When the outspoken critic, whom I have listened to on many occasions, with much pleasure and amusement, spoke --
Mr. Philip: Why do you not talk about insurance? You do not have anything to say on insurance, do you?
Mr. Ferraro: The members all lost sleep last night waiting in anticipation for this session to begin. It is of such paramount significance to the province that at no time did any caucus have more than 10 people in the House. We are talking of 125 members.
It is amazing too -- it never ceases to amaze me -- that when the Leader of the Opposition got up to speak, there were six PC members and, coincidentally, all six members were sitting around him. It is as if there were a magnet or something and, coincidentally, they were all sitting in that one spot. I do not know what television cameras do, but it never ceases to amaze me that the power of concentration is always around the Leader of the Opposition.
The Deputy Speaker: Order.
Mr. Ferraro: The opposition parties are critical. We voted against the debate. At least we are not hypocritical. If it was such an emergency, why is their full caucus not here, instead of six members?
The Deputy Speaker: Order.
Mr. Ferraro: They have four in opposition, and it was of such paramount significance that we had to have it.
The Deputy Speaker: Order. Perhaps if the member for Wellington South would address his remarks to the chair, there would be fewer interjections.
Mr. Ferraro: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. At least I have their attention, which is something.
Notwithstanding the hypocritical, in my view, position of the opposition parties in calling an emergency debate, the real issue is a very basic one. I can criticize as much as anybody else can, but I want to give the third party credit, in particular the member for Welland-Thorold, for bringing this issue to the fore at a greater speed perhaps than it would have been. I admit that, as an individual member.
What I really despise is the fact that, all of a sudden, the official opposition is jumping on the bandwagon. I think the third party should send them a bill; charge them rent for finding an issue for them. For the Leader of the Opposition to stand up here and say, "At least I respect the NDP, but I do not agree with what the government is doing" --was it any different, to some degree, in 1975 with rent controls? The NDP, at least, is fulfilling its mandate as opposition. I do not always agree with them -- very seldom -- but at least they bring the issue to the front, and they do not jump on the bandwagon, as the opposition does.
The issue is very basic. The issue is: Do you want government-run insurance or do you want private insurance and free enterprise? It is very basic. All the rhetoric and all the verbiage about torts and the verbiage about no-fault, smart insurance is confusing. It is confusing not only to most of the members but also to most of the people in Ontario. But what they do understand and what the third party brings to the fore very capably is, "Mr. and Mrs. Voter, Mr. and Mrs. Resident of Ontario, we can save you $400." Everybody understands that, but what they do not tell them is what it is actually going to cost them.
I want to quote from a progressive reporter by the name of Goldstein, who is quoted as saying:
"Mr. Swart will tell you that publicly run auto insurance schemes in British Columbia, Manitoba and Saskatchewan provide cheaper auto insurance rates than privately run ones in Ontario, but what he does not tell you is that in 1976 the Insurance Corp. of British Columbia went bankrupt and had to be bailed out with $181 million worth of taxpayers' money.
"He won't tell you that in 1982, Saskatchewan Government Insurance received a $72-million subsidy" --
Mr. Swart: On a point of privilege, Mr. Speaker: Subsequent to that article, Mr. Goldstein said that the NDP policy made more sense than what the Liberals proposed.
The Deputy Speaker: That is not a point of privilege.
Mr. Ferraro: I will repeat this.
"He won't tell you that in 1982, Saskatchewan Government Insurance received a $72-million subsidy. Mr. Swart won't tell you that in 1975 to 1978 the Manitoba Public Insurance Corp. received $18.6 million in gasoline tax transfers alone. He won't tell you that the British Columbia insurance company is exempt from provincial and federal taxes that private insurers must pay."
While I can say on reading Mr. Goldstein's column it is normally lethargic, I happen to agree with him on this issue.
What it does not say is exactly this: Can the government do what private enterprise, in my view, can do better? Can the government make it cheaper? I say no. Can the government give you better service? I say no. Can the government guarantee that the net outlay of taxpayers' dollars is going to be less than if it is left in the hands of private enterprise? I say unequivocally, in my view, no.
The government can do it, but at a greater cost, at the creation of a greater bureaucracy, at the creation of a type of bureaucratic arrogance -- if I can use that -- that is not appealing and conducive to the consumer. Private enterprise is much more adept at dealing with the public in general, and much more capable of dealing with the insurance problem.
In the presentation of his motion, the member for Welland-Thorold said there was concern and anger in the public. With the greatest respect to my friends in the third party, the concern and anger is with the New Democratic Party itself, because its main platform for the next election has been pulled out from under it. The government is addressing it. The government is creating a system whereby the concerns of the consumer, the small businessman, the home owner and the car owner will be more readily addressed and in a more democratic way, for lack of a better word.
Private enterprise in our province is alive and well. I would like to send some forget-me-nots or a crying towel over to the members of the third party, but I suspect they are going to carry on with this façade. Who knows, we may have another emergency meeting tomorrow afternoon on the same issue.
Mr. Baetz: The previous Liberal speaker talked about some hypocrisy in this House. Now that he has taken his seat, those Liberals who drifted over there so they could be sure the seats looked full for the cameras and our TV audience can now go back home or leave the House. For a rookie, he has caught on to one or two of the little games that go on around here. I do not think much more of him for it, I will tell him that.
I stand here too as someone who has had the extreme sting of increased automobile insurance premiums, and I speak for a riding where I have heard a lot from my constituents about that equal sting of the increased premiums. But I must say that I do not agree with our socialist friends down here to the left who, recognizing there is problem -- and there is no denying there is a problem -- put the quick fix on it. They always like to put the quick fix on it and turn it over to government. More legislation and away we go; that is the final and only solution for every single problem in this province. At least they are consistent, and we respect them for it.
Even though we do not agree with the New Democrats' position, the government's position on this is really something else; it is a hotchpotch. For weeks now, we have seen the Minister of Financial Institutions standing up here trying to tell us what his measures would do to improve the automobile insurance business. Doubletalk. I understand that our eminent minister, before he went into politics, was a manufacturer of sausage; he was a salami manufacturer, I believe. He has been trying to con us on this side into believing that you can make a bigger salami -- or a bigger bologna, I guess -- with less meat. That is what he has been trying to tell us, and really it has been very confusing.
Of course, we know where the minister gets his instructions, as every minister on that side of the House gets his instructions -- from the front office. Ministers in this government have very little to say; they get their orders from down the hall. So has the Minister of Financial Institutions, who has been very embarrassed by the whole situation, as he certainly should be. As far as the Premier and this government are concerned, they are not interested in better automobile insurance; they are interested in voter insurance, election insurance. That is their big interest here.
As an admitted and proud free-enterpriser, as one who believes that government should correct but not take over businesses that are abusing the public, I would certainly say we are here to say that no government-run automobile insurance should be enacted in this province. We do not believe in bargain-basement premiums at the cost of direct or indirect subsidy by the taxpayers, many of them nondrivers and including many senior citizens. I have many in my riding who no longer drive a car, but if we introduce a government-run insurance system here, as sure as night follows day we are going to be subsidizing that system through the tax system and there are going to be a lot of people who do not drive cars but who are going to have to pay for it. Certainly we do not believe in that kind of system at all.
We are prepared to consider reform of the no-fault automobile insurance already existing in Ontario, but we would not support legislation that unduly restricted the right of people to avail themselves of due process through the courts to seek reparation for damages sustained in automobile accidents. We think that if structured properly, extension of the present no-fault system might be helpful, but we would oppose any attempt to turn the approach to automobile insurance into that of the Workers' Compensation Board, using sort of the meat chart approach.
We believe that if the system exists to serve the consumers, and we assume that is what it is there for, then some dramatic reforms are required. We recognize that. If the product that is sold is to protect the persons and property of the citizens that the insurance industry is to serve, then we know there are weaknesses and problems in the system. However, we believe it can be reformed. There has been study after study of premium costs, compensation, settlement delays and rehabilitation, and the thorns still fester. We know there are problems, and we certainly agree there has to be some reform.
Time and time again we have heard the example of all young drivers being discriminated against in their premiums. We think that is something that has to be corrected. I suspect this is a traditional thing because at my vintage, when I first got my driver's licence at the age of 16, the way we did it in the great city of Chesley -- that is the territory of the member for Grey-Bruce (Mr. Sargent) -- I did not have one day's driving in driving school -- nothing.
I went down to Frank Murphy, who ran the local tailor shop; he also issued the licences and gave us the examination. Frank Murphy had one good way to give us the examination and the driver's licence. At that time, Chesley was a dry town; it had no pub. But Elmwood, which is five miles away, had a pub. Frank always told the young people who came to him for the driver's examination, "Take me to Elmwood." We would take him down to Elmwood and he would step in and have about four or five beers; we would bring him back home, he would give us the driver's licence and that was it.
I will admit that we, as young drivers at that time, were maybe not the best-trained drivers in the world, and perhaps we were a greater menace on the road. I will admit that, but today I have three young children, a son and two daughters, and when they got their drivers' licences, they had to go through extensive driver's training school. One failed and had to go back, but by the time they got their licences, they were probably better drivers than I was. I would never admit that to them directly, but the fact is that today we are putting on the road very excellent young drivers.
Quite frankly, I for one do not see why the insurance industry should then penalize these people and should in effect even break the basic principle of our common law that one is innocent until proven guilty. Why should my son or my two daughters have to pay a higher insurance premium -- and come to the old man to collect it, I might say, or they did anyway before they were independent -- when in fact they were better drivers than I perhaps was? They had no accident records and yet they had to pay more insurance. I think that is the kind of thing the insurance company has to look at in a more objective way. We have to make some corrections in that.
As I say, there are many other aspects of the current insurance premium rating business that have to be corrected. We know that, but we do not agree with the quick-fix approach by very honest, genuine and sincere people like my good friend and colleague the member for Welland-Thorold, who would simply turn it over to government, and everything will then fall in place. We have turned over enough things to government and know it does not work as easily as that.
One of the members here from the New Democratic Party seemed to complain that Ontario was too conservative, that it is a conservative province. I happen to think this is the greatest province in Canada. I am very proud of the fact that it is a conservative province. We have come a long way through private enterprise here, and if we get together and work with private enterprise, we too will correct what is now a not totally perfect system. We are going to do it without resorting to government. With that, Mr. Speaker, I thank you very much for the time.
Mr. Warner: I must say I am pleased to hear that the member for Ottawa West (Mr. Baetz) is no longer terrorizing the good citizens of Chesley with his driving. That is certainly an improvement for the good people of Chesley.
I suspect there must be a number of members in here who have quite deficient memories, because it was all three parties that participated in the committee which in 1977 took a look at --
Mr. Callahan: That was before our time.
Mr. Cordiano: That was prehistory.
Mr. Warner: Yes, it was before you folks, but not before all your members. There are members opposite and members from the Conservative Party who participated on that committee and took a look at car insurance plans as they were operating then and still operate today in Manitoba, Saskatchewan and British Columbia.
All three parties were told very clearly, not just by NDP governments but also by Conservative and Social Credit governments, that they were keeping the auto insurance plans because they worked better than anything else.
The Social Credit minister responsible for it said: "I would not give up this plan to the private insurance companies, because the plan works better than what the private insurance companies could deliver. It is more efficient and it is cheaper."
That was not enough for the ideologically straitjacketed members of the Conservative and Liberal parties. We then turned to the highly vaunted private sector for an evaluation and engaged the services of that very prestigious firm, Woods Gordon.
Woods Gordon examined the plans out west and, to and behold, came up with the same analysis. Woods Gordon said, "lf we had a publicly run plan in Ontario, drivers would save approximately 30 per cent on their premiums." That was in 1977 terms. Woods Gordon also said the public plans were more efficient.
That was not good enough for our friends who are so myopic in their approach to things, so we then turned to the auditors. As members know, the public auditor in each province which has a public plan is obliged to scrutinize the books. Lo and behold, when the books are scrutinized the public plan comes out ahead in every instance.
Mr. Warner: The member may wish to attack the integrity of the public auditor, but I think he is on very dangerous ground when he attempts to do that. Surely even Liberals recognize the public auditor is an honest individual whose recommendation should be taken seriously.
The public auditors say the plans work without subsidy, Woods Gordon says they are more efficient and cheaper, and Tory, Liberal and Social Credit governments have sustained the programs brought in by New Democrats.
Like other members, I have received numerous letters and complaints about the piracy that is being inflicted upon the good citizens of Ontario. I want to read members one such letter. If we want to talk about how inefficient the private insurance company is, this one is a gem. This gentleman, a constituent of mine, has been a client of Safeco Insurance Co. of America for 20 years. He returns home from Expo `86 and finds a registered letter from the company informing him his insurance had been cancelled and no reason given. I am quoting from the letter:
"I called my agent and he informed me that I had accumulated 10 points and that I was no longer a preferred risk. I asked him what I should do and he said, `Shop around.' I shopped around, as I was instructed to do, and found that in order to be insured I would have to pay at least $3,000 per year, six months at a time and payable in advance.
"The nature of my job requires me to drive, so I have to be insured. Two months later, my wife receives a call from the new broker informing her that I have another charge against me and that an additional premium of $707 is required. This information was received from Safeco which, upon my query, informed me that it must have been a misinterpretation of the numbers of the date of the charge. I personally inquired from the motor vehicles branch and found that this information given by one insurance company to another was erroneous.
"I called my new broker and was informed it was a fact and I still owed the extra premium. I called Safeco and complained that they had no right to give out wrong information, and they acknowledged that they were corrected. As of this day, it has still not been corrected.
"To complicate matters, when I was notified that I was no longer insured by Safeco, I informed my daughter and son that they should apply for insurance from another company as they were both on my insurance.
"My daughter applied for insurance with Cornhill, a company that is involved with her place of employment. Two months after being reinsured she gets a notice of cancellation because her husband has a bad driving record. This information was given by Safeco to her new company. Somewhere along the line my daughter's father became her husband, and now she has a cancellation, which means that in order to be reinsured one must pay a premium because they have been cancelled.
"My daughter is in no way a poor risk; she does not have any points against her. But because the computer or someone else involved in Safeco said she has a husband" -- and she is not married - "who has a bad driving record" -- so the company invents a husband then invents a bad driving record to go along with the fictitious husband --
Mr. Callahan: Does this have a happy ending?
Mr. Warner: It is not over -- "then she must pay a penalty; namely, being chastised for something she had nothing to do with. She has a black mark against her driving record for some ineptitude of my former insurance company. It strikes me that this is unforgivable and outrageous. How does one go about clearing one's name for something one did not do? I can only say that Safeco Insurance is at fault here and that something should be done.
"In my own case, as far as the erroneous information is concerned, I can only say I have been victimized and as I am only an ordinary citizen, it is too bad. The numbers game killed me, not my driving record. It is ironic that I am a poor risk as a driver but an insurance company will insure me as long as I pay for it. Why should my daughter have to suffer for my sins? Because an insurance company made a mistake, the computer will read out `Cancellation,' and then more bucks in the pocket of the money-hungry insurance companies. Where sits the justice? Surely not in favour of the customer."
He is one of the many victims of an insurance industry which has really gone astray. Briefly, the Maple Leaf Taxicab Co. rates: in 1984, $1,250; 1985-86, $2,500; 1986-87, $9,000 per car, an increase of $6,500 per car, a total for the fleet of a $390,000 increase, to which the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations has the nerve, the colossal gall, to suggest that there would be a decrease of 10 per cent, a saving of $39,000 out of a bill that is so astronomical as to put this company out of business.
To use the words of the man at the local garage where I take my car, after the announcement that came out from the minister, he asked me in all sincerity: "Why does the government insult my intelligence? What they have suggested will do absolutely nothing to help me. Why do they insult my intelligence?" They insult the intelligence of so many people because they are not prepared to have the political will and courage to bring in what is needed, a public car insurance plan.
Mr. Harris: Could I get into the debate?
The Deputy Speaker: No, I am sorry. The time has expired.
Mr. Harris: Maybe I could ask unanimous consent of the House to carry on for another hour or so, if nobody objects.
The Deputy Speaker: Order. Did the member for Brampton wish to --
Mr. Callahan: Yes, very briefly.
The Deputy Speaker: No.
The House adjourned at 6:01 p.m.