L010 - Wed 13 May 1987 / Mer 13 mai 1987
The House met at 1:30 p.m.
Mr. Mitchell: During the past year, I have raised a number of environmental issues that are occurring in the Ottawa-Carleton region, about which the Ministry of the Environment apparently shares no concern whatsoever. The most recent one, which I raised in the ministry offices and to this day have received no response or any acknowledgement about, concerns a proposal by an operation known as Sanitech-Lamarche to begin trucking waste from the Outaouais regional community and the regional municipality of Ottawa-Carleton to Bristol Mines, Quebec. The difficult part of this is that although they say they propose to filter the leachate, they intend to pump the leachate out into the middle of the Ottawa River.
I have raised this issue with staff in the minister's office. They acknowledged it could be a problem and agreed to get back to me. I have heard nothing about it. Is this typical of the answers given by the local Ottawa office? When they dealt with the oil spill of the National Capital Commission, they said, "It is none of our concern." This is a boundary river. They are going to pump leachate out into the middle of the Ottawa River where Ottawa and the region get their drinking water.
I suggest the Ministry of the Environment is showing very little or token responsibility to the Ottawa-Carleton area. I request an immediate response to this. I wish to know the ministry's involvement and to know it is on top of it.
Mr. Breaugh: I know members want to be kept informed on the Memorial Cup playdowns, and they will all be happy that a good plan is coming together. Oshawa will be in the finals on Saturday afternoon representing the Ontario Junior Hockey League.
I think it is worth reporting too that last night I watched 60 minutes of about the finest hockey I have ever seen--and there were no fights at all--in a hockey game at the Civic Auditorium.
I want to give members the opportunity, because I know they will want to join me, to congratulate those who have put together such a fine hockey team. John Humphries is the owner. The only mistake I can think of that he has made recently is that he occasionally associates with the wrong political party, but we forgive him these days. The manager, Sherry Bassin, has certainly put together a collection of very fine young hockey players. The coach, Paul Theriault, has really got them working well. We have what I think will be a very fine Memorial Cup final this Saturday afternoon.
The other two teams are still playing off. Oshawa, of course, has beaten both of them in the series so far, so they are in a two-game total goal playoff to see who gets to play the Oshawa Generals. The Hulkster was right: If you work out every day, if you take your vitamins every day and if you say your prayers every day, it is all coming together for Saturday afternoon.
Finally, if I am a little late Monday it is only because I hate to leave a good party early, and there will be a good party on Saturday.
Mr. Newman: I rise to bring to the members' attention the visit to Toronto of Leszek Moczulski. Mr. Moczulski is the chairman of the Confederacy of Independent Poland, known as the KPN.
The KPN was formed on September 1, 1979, in Warsaw, Poland, in opposition to the Communist government. KPN was one of the main opposition forces which largely influenced the formation of Solidarity.
Mr. Moczulski was imprisoned three weeks after the creation of Solidarity and spent almost six years in prison in Poland. He was released, thanks to western protests, on September 13, 1986. Following his release from Poland, Mr. Moczulski left Poland for medical treatment in Britain. He has subsequently travelled to the United States for further medical care.
Leszek Moczulski is in Canada to share his experiences and views about present-day Poland. I ask the members to join with me in extending a warm welcome to Mr. Moczulski.
Mr. Harris: In this House yesterday, we expressed our anger with the Premier (Mr. Peterson) concerning comments regarding former Premier William Davis. We see it as another example of the kind of man the Premier is.
What kind of man is he? He is the kind of man who, at a dinner function, makes a degrading remark about the mentally handicapped of this province.
What kind of man is he? He is the kind of man who, when asked about a tough nomination fight, says, "lt is inevitable when people of different ethnic backgrounds run against each other."
What kind of man is he? He is the kind of man who will call a senior member of the press gallery senile, the kind of man who will suggest people take an airsickness bag along with them if there are not roadside toilets and the kind of man who will call a member of this Legislature who has close ties to the eastern European community, Ivan the Terrible. He is the kind of man who considers it beneath him to stand in line at the London airport on a Friday night.
Without his writers, without his coaches, without his tutors and without his advisers relocated from Ottawa, this is the kind of man he is. I ask members to contrast that with the man whose reputation he besmirched only two days ago. What a contrast to the standards that Ontarians deserve.
Mr. D. S. Cooke: Late in April, the Minister of Health (Mr. Elston) announced $51.9 million for St. Joseph's Hospital in Guelph. At the same time, Guelph General Hospital will receive $6.7 million for minor renovations.
The decision by the minister comes after years of discussion which was to lead to rationalization. Rationalization plans fell apart because of the therapeutic abortion issue. The minister says the maintenance of two acute care hospitals in Guelph will not be a precedent for many other communities that are considering rationalization. The reality is that this is very much a precedent that all communities are watching very closely.
The message from the Minister of Health out of this decision is that rationalization of health care services in Ontario is not a top priority. Guelph was very much a divided community, and what was needed was leadership from the Minister of Health. However, the Minister of Health and the local member failed to provide the leadership.
What we require in this province is a new approach to amalgamation of hospitals and rationalization. We need to develop a health care and hospital system in this province that makes boards of hospitals more accountable to the communities. In my view, that means hospital boards should he elected by the public.
Mr. D. R. Cooke: I rise in some sorrow concerning the name of the new Toronto domed stadium. Members are aware that the federal government is currently negotiating a free trade agreement with the United States. Next to investment, the most important issue to the Americans in this negotiation is what they call "intellectual property," which basically means they do not want us stealing any of their ideas, which of course they consider to be the best in the world. This in turn means that if such an agreement is signed, no doubt the famous Toronto SkyDome will have to bow to the J. Lawrence Walkup Skydome at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff.
I see this as a vivid example of a problem of an uneven playing field, and I ask why it is that if Americans are potentially irritating Canadians, such as in the case of countervail on softwood lumber, we are told to knuckle under and negotiate an agreement so it will not happen in the future; but if Canadians are potentially irritating Americans, such as considering the possible abortion of the Dome Petroleum sale to Amoco, they are not told to knuckle under and negotiate an agreement so it will not happen in the future, but rather we are told to lay low so as not to upset the volatile US Congress. Some level playing field.
Mr. Cousens: I spent the morning picking up letters from people in south York region, and I am presenting them now to the Premier (Mr. Peterson) to read as an example of the problems we are having in south York region.
George Crothers probably said it best of all: "It is almost 25 years since we first acquired property here in Vaughan, and although there has been a lot of industry fill in the farm land, nothing much has happened to the road system. We really have outgrown the sheep and goats that wandered around here in 1961. The same holds true for the highway."
Mr. Speaker: That completes the allotted time for members' statements.
Mr. Shymko: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker: I understand there had been agreement of all three House leaders that we would be allowed to comment, following the remarks of the member for Windsor-Walkerville (Mr. Newman), prior to ministerial statements, on the presence today of Leszek Moczulski.
Mr. Speaker: That may be a point of order. There certainly has been no mention made of it in the House.
Mr. Harris: Mr. Speaker, I wonder if we could have the agreement of the House to allow all three parties a couple of moments to comment before ministerial statements.
Mr. Speaker: Is it agreed? For up to two minutes?
Mr. Shymko: On behalf of all my colleagues in Her Majesty's official opposition, I am honoured and privileged to welcome a very distinguished fighter for liberty and democracy, not only for his persecuted Polish nation but also for all freedom-loving peoples of the world. Leszek Moczulski, recently released from a Polish prison after almost seven years of incarceration, since 1980.
Mr. Moczulski is the founder and chairman of the Confederacy of Independent Poland, the first political opposition party which was formed after the Second World War by a declaration on September 1, 1979, in Warsaw.
This year marks the 40th tragic anniversary of the total destruction and crushing of all political opposition by the Soviet occupation forces and its puppet regime, the Communist regime, which rules to the present day, set up in 1947.
Because this act by Mr. Moczulski and his colleagues constituted the first open political opposition to the Communist regime, Mr. Moczulski was arrested on September 23, 1980, three weeks after the creation of Solidarity, and sentenced to a seven-year prison term.
His party, the KPN, considers the Communist regime in Poland as illegitimate. It is the main political opposition force which largely influenced and continues to influence Solidarity. Following his arrest, countless other leaders of his party were sentenced to long prison terms. Because of constant persecution, torture and harassment, he suffered three heart attacks in prison and was denied medical treatment at all times.
Fearing his death a few months ago, the present government released him in late 1986. So we welcome him and Mrs. Moczulski, accompanied today by Stan Orlowski, the national president of the Canadian Polish Congress; George Burski, the national vice-president of the Canadian Polish Congress; and Stan Sadowski, the president of the Toronto branch of the Canadian Polish Congress. Could they please all stand so that we, as members of the Legislature, may greet them.
Mr. Speaker, with your permission and that of the House--it is very rare--I will say a few words in Polish, his native language, if I may just conclude with a sentence. Your permission and that of my honourable colleagues has been granted occasionally.
Mr. Speaker: Is there permission?
Mr. Shymko: [Remarks in Polish]
Mr. Speaker: Because there have been many requests by the member who has just spoken that such words be printed in Hansard, I think it only fair that I inform the House they will not be printed in Hansard.
Mr. Rae: I appreciate the opportunity to speak to this occasion and, on behalf of the New Democratic Party, want to welcome Mr. Moczulski to this assembly. I think it fair to say that the assembly here will form a rather striking contrast to the political life that exists today and has existed for many years in Poland. l must say it is a source of pride to us to be able to welcome Mr. Moczulski here. We are a province which believes strongly in freedom, the principle of free trade unions, the principle of political freedom and economic freedom, a freedom which for too long has been impossible in Poland and which has been systematically repressed and oppressed by the one-party system which exists in that country.
I want to welcome Mr. Moczulski here on behalf of my colleagues, members of the New Democratic Party. We have, from the earliest days of our party, been involved directly in so many ways in the life of Poland. I think of the fact that one of the leaders of our national party was born in Poland. His family came here in order to find freedom some 80 years ago, and I think it is worth recalling the number of great members of all political parties who have been so proud of their Polish heritage, so proud of their roots in that part of the world that has known freedom for so little time.
It is with great pride that I take part in this occasion and welcome Mr. Moczulski here.
In response to the remarks by the member for High Park-Swansea (Mr. Shymko), the last sentence that he read into the record was one of the few statements he has made in the House that all of us on this side have been able to agree with 100 per cent.
STATEMENTS BY THE MINISTRY
FACILITIES FOR YOUNG OFFENDERS
Hon. Mr. Sweeney: I wish to give this House today details of a new and more enlightened system for delivering secure custody and detention services to Ontario's young offenders who commit offences between the ages of 12 and 15.
The Young Offenders Act and the Child and Family Services Act set out three main principles: first, the right of society to be protected from the illegal behaviour of young persons; second, the need for those young persons to be accountable for their actions; third, the rights and needs of the young people themselves.
Those needs include retaining close family ties and living near home, and the benefits of supportive counselling and community activities that can result, in most cases, in these youngsters leading productive and useful lives.
As the recent speech from the throne indicated, the government will ensure that "programs and services will be made available on a decentralized basis, close at hand and easy to find."
That is the foundation and the background for our new direction on young offenders.
In the past, secure custody for young offenders in the ministry's care has been provided mainly by training schools, many of them at a considerable distance from the offender's home and community.
Three of my ministry's training schools, Sprucedale in Simcoe, Brookside in Cobourg and Cecil Facer in Sudbury, were transferred on April 1 to the Ministry of Correctional Services. These schools provided a total of 212 spaces that will no longer be available to my ministry's young offender clients.
We plan to replace these schools by developing a network of smaller and more numerous secure custody facilities. These will be located in the north, southeast and southwest of the province. Some of these facilities will be new; other facilities will be renovated or upgraded.
The province has allotted capital grants of $16.6 million for these new accommodations. We expect the number of secure spaces to fall from the present 415 to approximately 286, a number that reflects the 20 per cent decline in secure care requirements for 12-year-olds to 15-year-olds since the Young Offenders Act came into effect.
Including existing facilities, there will be 17 smaller secure custody and detention facilities. Of these, 12 will each have 20 or fewer spaces. My ministry will provide four facilities that can accommodate between 22 and 30 young offenders, and we will retain the Syl Apps facility in Oakville with 42 spaces.
The use of small, scattered facilities will improve the emotional and social wellbeing of the young offenders, who will have regular access to their families. Specialized programs, requiring community-based services, will be made available.
Also, there can be maximum interaction between the offender and the community, individually monitored, which augurs well for the young person's future rehabilitation and reacceptance into the community--surely the ultimate goal of everyone's efforts.
As a further part of this more personal and individual network system of custody and support, I am also announcing today two pilot projects of community support services. A $1.8-million project will be based in northern Ontario and a $1.2-million project will be based in southeastern Ontario. We hope to introduce similar services throughout the whole province based on the experience gained from these initial projects.
Because the new networks will offer fewer spaces than our previous and more rigid system, we need to establish intensive community support services as an essential part of our province's youth justice system. These services will include functions such as assessment, bail supervision, crisis intervention, life skills counselling, drug and alcohol counselling and training for agencies. The services will reflect local needs.
Details of the timing, location and acquisition of suitable premises are being worked out with our partners in the various communities.
I am confident that agreements will be reached as quickly as possible, so that we may shortly begin to offer these sensitive and supportive services to troubled youngsters in Ontario.
Hon. Mr. Scott: I am pleased to present to the assembly the report of the Task Force on the Law concerning Trespass to Publicly Used Property as it Affects Youth and Minorities, which was prepared for us by a task force chaired by Raj Anand of Toronto.
In this clear and forceful report, copies of which will be made available to members of the assembly, Mr. Anand has reviewed the use of the Trespass to Property Act to regulate entry and activities on publicly used property, particularly the common areas of shopping malls and plazas. He has found that the ways in which the act is used have caused serious, although generally unintended, discrimination against youth and minorities.
Mr. Anand finds that the absolute discretion given to the occupiers of publicly used property under the act is out of step with current public perceptions. That perception, which is fostered by owner groups, is that common areas of many malls are the modern equivalent of the city square, in which people enter freely, walk around and converse with others.
Providing facilities for casual recreation of this type is a major function these days of urban and town planning. Shopping mall owners have willingly, and for good commercial reasons in many instances, taken over the role of providing the town or city square in their community. In many areas, the malls are the only places for people to get together casually. Therefore, among other things, Mr. Anand recommends that the trespass law, as it applies to shopping malls and other publicly used property, be amended to reflect the public nature of these common areas during the hours they are open to the public.
The report sets out two main approaches that could be taken to discourage and prevent the discriminatory enforcement of trespass laws against, for example, youth and minorities. First, owners of such premises could be required to have cause before ejecting someone or charging him with trespassing. The reasonableness of that cause would be subject in the ordinary way to review by the courts. Alternatively, the quasi-public nature of some malls could be recognized by eliminating the application of the law of trespass to them, leaving the Criminal Code and other laws of general application to protect order.
My ministry looks forward to receiving extensive public comment and comment from the other political parties on this report and will be evaluating the benefits of the report's proposal in the light of that comment.
Pending the receipt of public comment and decisions on government action, I would like to highlight one of Mr. Anand's findings. He discovered that most mall owners intend to exercise the Trespass to Property Act in a nondiscriminatory way; however, that intention frequently fails to be transmitted through the chain of command to those responsible for maintaining order in the mall itself. Indeed, contradictory messages may be received by security guards and others involved in enforcing the act. This problem can be remedied if mall owners take steps to convey clear instructions, with written guidelines, to their front-line staff.
Mr. Anand has made a valuable contribution to our understanding of the proper application of trespass legislation in this generation. I congratulate him on his thorough analysis and well-thought-out proposals, which I hope will be the subject of widespread debate and extensive comment.
Mr. Anand is in the gallery. I ask him to stand so that he can be welcomed and thanked by the assembly.
Mr. Speaker: Are there any other ministerial statements? The Minister of Transportation and Communications.
Mr. Sargent: It is nice to have the minister back.
Hon. Mr. Fulton: It is nice to be back. As my colleague the member for York North (Mr. Sorbara) said, "It is all downhill from here."
TORONTO AREA TRANSPORTATION
Hon. Mr. Fulton: In the past year, this government has undertaken extensive consultation with municipalities in the greater Toronto area and throughout the province in an effort to better co-ordinate provincial investment in our road and transit network.
Discussions with the greater Toronto area municipalities of York, Durham, Peel and Metropolitan Toronto were prompted by a number of factors. A large backlog of unmet needs, pressures in high-growth areas and a wide range of high-cost, long-term proposals compelled us to look at transportation in the GTA from a broad regional perspective for the first time in many years.
Many in this House will already be aware of some of the longer-term proposals put forth by the regions and the province. They include, among others: the Network 2011 proposal, including the Sheppard Avenue subway line, the Mississauga busway, Highway 407 and the Front Street extension in Metro. It goes without saying that all of these projects entail significant financial commitments from the province stretching over many years. The Network 2011 project alone, for instance, would cost more than $2.8 billion.
The mandate of the provincial government obliges us to ensure that these and other projects fit into a workable, fair and efficient transportation network for the greater Toronto area. The system must provide for the movement of both people and goods. It must respond to and encourage the economic development of the entire region. In achieving this, this province must ensure a fair distribution of provincial transportation dollars among all affected regions.
Our consultations established agreement on the need to protect the investment already made in our transportation network through proper maintenance and rehabilitation, to obtain maximum use of these systems and to invest in those transportation facilities needed for the economic development of the greater Toronto area.
As a result, we are moving ahead with a major new transportation investment strategy supporting this economic growth. An additional $130 million in new dollars will be spent in the greater Toronto area over the next three years.
The municipalities have identified several projects requiring urgent attention. Among those are the Front Street extension in Metro, Eglinton Avenue widening in Peel, 16th Avenue in York, the Steeles-Tauton Road connection in Durham and a number of other proposals. This funding will allow municipalities to proceed with their priority projects. We will begin working closely with the municipalities immediately to finalize an implementation strategy addressing the renewal of existing systems and the addition of vital new provincial and municipal projects.
Metropolitan Toronto has one of the finest public transportation systems in North America and we must build on this success in planning for the future. At the same time, population and employment patterns are changing. Future planning must respond to these changes and must do so from a truly regional perspective.
In the course of our discussions, it became clear that transit planning for Metro cannot be viewed in isolation from transportation issues in the greater Toronto area. Many of the planning issues which must be faced go beyond the purview of the Network 2011 study. As a government, we believe all these proposals require further examination.
There are many examples, including fare integration and better service co-ordination of Toronto Transit Commission and GO Transit services, so that transit users can more easily move between these systems.
There is also an opportunity for greater use of existing rail lines through high-congestion areas, particularly in the northwestern and northeastern areas of Metropolitan Toronto.
Municipal planners from all regions agreed that there is strong potential to develop a system of gateways. Gateways will bring together all modes of transportation to allow people to move from cars to buses or from buses to higher-speed transit. These gateways will better co-ordinate transportation services and reduce congestion in and around Metropolitan Toronto.
These consultations also clearly outlined that transportation requirements for the disabled demand immediate attention.
Consequently, our next step will be to initiate a joint review of Network 2011 with the affected municipalities and operators in the greater Toronto area. The review will consider new opportunities identified through our consultations as well as lower-cost options and alternative technologies to meet the varied transportation needs.
I expect this review will be concluded by the end of this year. The results will provide us with sound direction for future transit investments so critical to the continued success of the greater Toronto area and the entire provincial economy.
We also recognize the need for new, improved and better-maintained transportation facilities throughout all of Ontario. The Treasurer (Mr. Nixon) shares this awareness, and major new funding commitments will be further outlined shortly.
Hon. Mr. Kerrio: One week ago I stood here and told the House about the serious forest fire situation in northern Ontario. Unfortunately, I have to tell the members that the continuing good weather means the fire hazard is now extreme. Yesterday, 38 new fires started in the province. There are 87 fires now burning, covering 13,000 hectares. Of those, 22 are out of control and seven of them are major.
Because of the very dry conditions and the serious fire hazard over large parts of Ontario, I announced this morning that my ministry is imposing a total ban on all open fires throughout the province's forest fire regions. That ban includes all of northern Ontario. It also includes such holiday areas as Algonquin Park, the Bruce Peninsula, the Muskoka, Haliburton and Tweed areas and northern Lanark county. The fire restrictions begin at midnight tonight and will extend until at least May 31.
In effect, this ban means absolutely no open fires are allowed. It means all permits for burning debris are suspended and it also means people should not be using fire to destroy clusters of insects such as forest tent caterpillars. Unfortunately, despite the upcoming holiday weekend, fireworks are not permitted.
I would stress that we have not imposed travel restrictions. People who planned to go north for the weekend do not have to stay home. They can still have barbecues. They can still cook meals on portable stoves or on charcoal burners. The difference is that these fires are well-contained.
My ministry is making every effort to inform the public of these important fire restrictions. People who are not sure whether their area is included should contact any Ministry of Natural Resources office for information. I cannot emphasize enough how important it is that these restrictions be followed.
I received a message this morning from the Ontario Forest Industries Association calling the restricted fire zone a wise move and giving us its full support.
Ontario has about 750 people actively committed to fire duties and 800 more on standby, in reserve for initial attack operations or assisting in some other capacity. Our air fleet includes some 65 helicopters and 14 heavy water bombers.
I was in northwestern Ontario and met with firefighters last Friday at one of the base camps. At that time, I congratulated them on their efforts and I would like to do that again today. I want to assure this House that every effort is being made to contain these fires. We are doing our best, but nature can be a ferocious opponent. We are asking for the co-operation of the public in helping us to protect public safety, private property and our valuable resources.
Mr. Speaker: I gather the minister has a statement. Is it longer than 45 seconds?
Hon. Mr. Kwinter: Perhaps I can ask for unanimous consent to furnish a very brief statement.
FIRE AT CONSTRUCTION SITE
Hon. Mr. Kwinter: I am sure all members of this House are aware of the devastating fire that destroyed more than 100 unfinished homes in a Markham subdivision yesterday. I would like to express our sincere sympathy to the purchasers involved, who through no fault of their own may be put to inconvenience. I want to assure the House that steps are being taken to set up a meeting with the builder, Canada Homes, with a view to getting information out to the home owners as quickly as possible on the builder's plans for reconstruction.
I remind the members that if the builder is unable to complete the project, buyer deposits up to $20,000 are fully covered by the Ontario New Home Warranty Program. I am also informed that the Ontario fire marshal's office is investigating the incident and the reported water supply problems at the construction site. I add that the fire marshal is today directing all fire departments in Ontario to inspect local residential construction sites to check for violations under the Fire Marshals Act. The fire marshal will also be convening a meeting with the Toronto Home Builders' Association and the Ministry of Housing to co-ordinate fire prevention measures and to review safety programs and initiatives.
The Ministry of Municipal Affairs will also be working closely with the town of Markham to provide any assistance that may be needed in the town's own investigation of yesterday's events.
FACILITIES FOR YOUNG OFFENDERS
Mr. O'Connor: Might I just say to the Minister of Community and Social Services (Mr. Sweeney) that while decentralization of secure facilities--jails, in other words--for young offenders is a good, albeit expensive, step to be taking for young offenders, the government continues to miss the boat with young offenders.
It has failed again to take the opportunity to get in step with the rest of the country by its failure to adopt an alternative measures program. The system of alternative measures, which is provided for in the federal Young Offenders Act and which has been adopted by every other province in the country except Ontario, offers a less severe method of dealing with children and young offenders by redirecting them out of the court system, by relieving them of the requirement to attend before a court to plead guilty and be stigmatized with a criminal record and by allowing them to admit their guilt and to receive counselling and training in methods other than the strict court system.
The government has missed that boat. I do not know why. We have been urging it for some considerable time to consider what the rest of the country has adopted. Perhaps in due course the minister can tell us why, and when the government will get in step with the rest of the country.
TORONTO AREA TRANSPORTATION
Mr. Gregory: May I begin by being very genuine in welcoming the Minister of Transportation and Communications (Mr. Fulton) back from his illness and I hope he continues in good health.
Having said that, I think the minister might well have taken another few weeks for his convalescence because what he said today has determined that nothing is happening today. He made a statement about an additional $130 million in new money over three years, or $40 million a year, none of which is really new money. A lot of it has already been announced.
The member for Mississauga North (Mr. Offer) has already announced to the press the $1.5 million for widening Eglinton Avenue in Mississauga, without the benefit of even notifying the mayor or anybody else. What the minister has said today is that he has made no decision or his staff has made no decision on doing anything, but he is proposing a joint review. That is study 365 for the Liberal government. It means there is absolutely no decision on Highway 407, the Sheppard subway or the Mississauga busway. There has been no decision whatsoever except a review that possibly is going to end before the end of the year; I suppose it will be after the next election is over and he will not have to worry about it, so he has actually said nothing.
However, he says there will be major new financial commitments made in due course. That means to me that as the election goes along day by day, perhaps there will be major new commitments moneywise. He certainly has the money and no reason not to announce it today. Why can he not just come out and say, "We will go with Highway 407 now"?
FIRE AT CONSTRUCTION SITE
Mr. Cousens: I know that with that minister back we will get Highway 407 far more quickly than if he is on a sickbed, so I say to him, get well and get it for us.
The Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations (Mr. Kwinter) might as well take a leave of absence. The Toronto Home Builders' Association has asked for some kind of review of fire regulations, and nothing has been done by this government. Perhaps there could be some kind of firebreak as a built-in standard in these new subdivisions, say between every six houses, because they had to bulldoze new homes yesterday to keep the fire from spreading.
The other thing is that we are dealing with a very reputable builder with Canada Homes. They go out of their way to try to solve problems for their buyers.
I had a fire in my riding on Saturday where 10 homes went up in smoke. There have been fires in Etobicoke. There have been fires in Vaughan. What are we going to do to protect the new home buyers, who can be faced with additional costs when they go to buy their homes because of the changes that take place? What about the additional time that is going to be spent to build their homes?
I do not think the government has begun to address the problems of the new home industry. We have responsible builders who will do their best, but what is the minister doing? I think he is irresponsible in just coming along and having a statement here that says, "Oh, we have sincere sympathy."
Do something more than have sympathy. We want action. We want to have action that is going to start saying we are going to have fire rules, we are going to have some new regulations, we are going to implement them all the time.
Here the minister is saying, "Oh well, we are going to send the fire marshals out to look around." Is that not done all the time?
Come on; let us get on with it. We have a responsibility to see the citizens of Ontario served, not just talked to all the time.
FACILITIES FOR YOUNG OFFENDERS
Mr. R. F. Johnston: I rise to respond to the announcement by the Minister of Community and Social Services (Mr. Sweeney) today in terms of a further attempt to reduce the number of large institutions for young offenders, which of course we welcome, but I want to draw to the attention of the House that it is basically a papering over of a very fundamental problem we have in Ontario with young offenders. It is good that the great civil libertarian, the Attorney General (Mr. Scott), the chief law officer, and the Premier (Mr. Peterson) are here to hear this.
Although it is true that there is an attempt in the Ministry of Community and Social Services to deal with the under-15s in a more humane fashion, we have two ministries in this province that deal with young offenders. Although the federal Young Offenders Act wanted to make sure all young offenders were dealt with in the same way, in this province they are dealt with dramatically differently. In the courts they are sentenced differently.
This minister gets up and says there is a 20 per cent decline in the numbers of kids who are sent into secure custody. That is true for the under-15s, but why do we not hear today about what the situation is for the 16- to 18-year-olds? It is up significantly in this province.
What is the minister doing? He is basically transferring his remaining training schools that were not transferred before over to this minister to incarcerate 16- to 18-year-olds when he deinstitutionalizes the 15-year-olds and under. That is what is going on here, while we have the great civil libertarian, the Attorney General here, presiding as our chief law officer over our totally inconsistent system of justice to young kids in this province.
In the Ministry of Correctional Services there is even an attempt to bring for-profit services into the care of young juvenile offenders.
I say to the minister that if this government were serious about justice for young kids, there would have been a co-ordinated statement brought in today that the responsibility for those kids would be taken away from the Minister of Correctional Services (Mr. Keyes) and given solely to the Ministry of Community and Social Services, so that we have one consistent means of dealing with young offenders in Ontario.
Mr. Wildman: Briefly, I want to say that we in northern Ontario are happy to hear the comments of the Minister of Natural Resources (Mr. Kerrio) with regard to the grave fire hazard we are facing. We want to congratulate the officials and the personnel of the ministry who are on guard and fighting those fires, across the northwest particularly but also in the northeast. We are pleased that there is the co-operation of the forest industry and of the bûcherons, the cutters and the skidders in the bush who are in fact on guard as well and working to try to deal with the fire hazard.
We hope that the weather will change and that we will have a lot of rain on this long weekend. In the meantime, we appreciate the efforts of the ministry.
TORONTO AREA TRANSPORTATION
Mr. Reville: It is good to see the Minister of Transportation and Communications (Mr. Fulton). Welcome back, minister; there is lots to do.
On behalf of the member for Lake Nipigon (Mr. Pouliot), I would like to say it is not a question of paving just the shoulders in that part of the country; it is the space in between the shoulders that needs attention. This talks about the mess in Toronto that has been caused by the foolishness of Mayor Eggleton and the pro-development council there, but there are ministries across here that have abdicated their responsibilities for planning in the Metro region while the Premier (Mr. Peterson) talks a lot of foolish guff about waterfront czars.
We need to do some serious work on transportation planning in Metro. I regret to say that $130 million is a tiny drop in a very big bucket. Let us get on with real transportation planning.
FIRE AT CONSTRUCTION SITE
Mr. Swart: I want to say to the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations (Mr. Kwinter) that the measures he has announced today relative to the massive fire in Markham are appropriate, but I guess it is reasonable to ask why the action that he proposes now was not taken previously. Markham had two serious fires immediately preceding this one. What was done then by his ministry? Obviously nothing, or he would have announced it.
The minister must know that new housing construction, given the dry wood content, the work being carried out and the proximity of the houses one to another, is extremely fire-prone. This latest multimillion-dollar fire is a reflection of the inadequacy of the previous action on the part of the fire marshal, a department of his ministry.
RETAIL STORE HOURS
Mr. O'Connor: On a point of privilege, Mr. Speaker: Today I received a letter, I presume in my capacity as chairman of the select committee on retail store hours, from Timothy S. B. Danson, counsel to Paul Magder. If I may read one paragraph to the House, the letter said in part:
"I can only say this: your report must not be released until the decision in our case is released, likely June. Any attempt to indirectly influence the judicial decision will be dealt with accordingly."
I ask that you investigate whether that statement, and other statements in the letter, might possibly constitute a breach of my privileges, the privileges of the members of the select committee on retail store hours and, indeed, the privileges of all the members of this House.
For that purpose, I am prepared to table a copy of this letter and ask that the investigation be undertaken and referred, possibly, to the standing committee on the Legislative Assembly.
Mr. Speaker: I thank the member for drawing it to my attention. I feel it would only be responsible for me, because it is up to me to decide whether it is a prima facie case of privilege, to ask that the House allow me to reserve on this, and I hope to report to the House tomorrow.
Hon. Mr. Nixon: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker: May I attempt to correct the record. This morning the Globe and Mail referred to the Treasurer of Ontario as Richard Nixon.
Mr. Speaker: Order. The member has a point to make. I hope we are allowed to hear him.
Hon. Mr. Nixon: As the honourable members know, Richard Nixon said, "I am not a crook," so it could not possibly have been him. I want to make that perfectly clear.
Mr. Reville: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker: I am sure the House would like to give its condolences to the government House leader. It seems he has an easier time passing 50-pound notes than legislation.
Mr. Speaker: I am glad all members have read the press today.
Mr. Grossman: My question is to the Premier. We discovered yesterday, after several calls to the Ministry of Education, that the government has decided in the capital allocations to give the public schools 15 per cent of the ministry-approved expenditure needs and the separate schools 29 per cent. I wonder if the Premier could explain to the public how we can draw any other conclusion but that he has chosen to provide capital to the separate schools at the expense of the public school system?
Hon. Mr. Peterson: I will refer that to the Minister of Education.
Mr. Speaker: Order. I understand it has been referred to the Minister of Education.
Hon. Mr. Conway: Quite frankly, I share some of the observations that are attaching to the response given to the question by the Leader of the Opposition, but I do appreciate again the opportunity today to address this question.
Let me just use one statistic. Of the $226.4 million announced recently by this government for capital purposes, some $97 million was made available to the public schools alone. That $97 million is almost $25 million more than this man gave to the entire system two and a half years ago.
Mr. Grossman: Perhaps the minister would like to address the question we have been asking now for two days without an answer. Let us put it another way. The $97 million that the minister boasts so strongly of amounts to 15 per cent of the approved expenditures, amounting to $630 million, which his ministry has acknowledged as educationally necessary, needed by the public schools boards. So, out of $630 million acknowledged by his ministry to be needed by the public schools, he gave $97 million or 15 per cent.
Given the fact that we have only today been able to pry from his ministry the information that $57.4 million is on account of Bill 30, my simple question to the minister is, had Bill 30 not been passed, would he have turned that $57 million back to the Treasurer (Mr. Nixon) and still have given the public schools only $97 million?
Hon. Mr. Conway: It was once written that politics is the most noble of the arts and the most soiled of professions. There is no nobility in this kind of questioning.
The Leader of the Opposition is confusing board requests with ministry approvals. I want to say as well that we have offered some $250 million to the schools of this province. It is true that as we make that capital allocation, we take into account such things as enrolment growth and pressure. By and large, there has been much greater enrolment growth in a number of the separate boards, particularly at the elementary level. All the Leader of the Opposition has to do is to talk to the member for York Centre (Mr. Cousens), for example, or he might want to talk to the member for Brantford (Mr. Gillies), who quite rightly points out to me the concerns of his separate school community which have not been addressed in this allocation.
I am proud to stand on the record we have constructed in this connection. It is true we have not solved all the problems, but our response to the needs of the public school community is vastly greater and better than anything the Leader of the Opposition ever did as either minister or Treasurer.
Mr. Grossman: All the minister's partisan rhetoric is not going to allow him to escape from answering this question. We are going to continue to put it until we get an answer.
Just to get the minister's facts right, we have not confused board requests with ministry-approved, needed expenditures. These are figures we got from the capital grants architectural services section of his ministry, from Theo Grootenboer, who gave us these figures with regard to the ministry-approved, needed expenditures by the two boards: public, $630 million, of which the ministry gave $97 million; separate $440 million--less--of which the ministry gave $129 million, which is more.
Had Bill 30 not been passed, would the minister still have given the public school boards only 15 per cent of what his ministry says they need? Yes or no?
Hon. Mr. Conway: Bill 30 was passed because this government, unlike that Leader of the Opposition, had the guts to proceed with it. Unlike his most unheroic questioning, I am not for a moment ashamed of what this government, under the leadership of this Premier (Mr. Peterson), has done in this connection.
Let me say to this Leader of the Opposition, who is learning well his new role, that we have a capital allocation process that takes into account a number of factors. I mentioned earlier that enrolment growth is one of the main determinants in terms of who gets what. I mentioned also the rate of grant. The reality is that the separate boards have a higher rate of grant because they do not have access to as large a share of the industrial and commercial assessment. It is no surprise that when one takes into account enrolment growth and rate of grant, the separate community would receive slightly more in this connection.
I repeat that $97 million to the public school community is about $25 million more than this Leader of the Opposition gave the whole school community but two and a half years ago.
Mr. Grossman: The minister seems unusually perturbed by having to answer some of these questions.
Hon. Mr. Bradley: We know what you are trying to do.
Mr. Grossman: I am just trying to get the minister to answer a question, which he refuses to do.
MARKET VALUE ASSESSMENT
Mr. Grossman: My question is of the Premier once again. The Premier will know that last evening Metropolitan council released some information with regard to assessments in Metropolitan Toronto, which his government was covering up and refusing to release to the people of Metropolitan Toronto.
Mr. Grossman: He had every opportunity to do so. We invited him to release it and he refused.
Will the Premier be kind enough today to instruct the Treasurer (Mr. Nixon) to release all the background data which will indicate which of the 83,095 people in Metropolitan Toronto will have their property taxes go up, so they can make their own judgements as to whether market value assessment will proceed? Will he release the information today?
Hon. Mr. Peterson: I will refer this to the Treasurer.
Mr. Speaker: It is referred to the Minister of Revenue.
Hon. Mr. Nixon: I think the Leader of the Opposition is aware that Metro council requested the impact study so that the figures would be upgraded to 1984 statistics. This was prepared for the task force that was considering this matter. In response to a question from the Leader of the Opposition's colleague the member for Eglinton (Mr. McFadden), I believe I said earlier this week that it would be sent soon to the Metropolitan government.
It was presented to them last night. It was not covered up. It was sent as soon as it was available, with the understanding that it is their report and that they have made it public. That is an appropriate way to proceed. It is totally democratic and fair to all concerned.
Mr. Grossman: I want to remind the Minister of Revenue that when he was in opposition he took great delight in pointing out to the government that property tax assessment had been taken over by the government of Ontario and was totally the responsibility of the Ministry of Revenue, which he now heads. This information is the sole and total property of the Ministry of Revenue. The minister has every authority to give out this information. Candidly, he has refused to give out this information because he is afraid to give it out.
The minister has the information in his ministry which indicates 83,095 people in the city of Toronto will have their property taxes go up if market value assessment is implemented. Those people are entitled to know who they are and how much their taxes will go up. In the name of open government with no walls or barriers, will he stop covering up these data and release them to the 83,000 people today?
Hon. Mr. Nixon: Let me assure the member that no information is being covered up. The report was prepared at the request of the metropolitan council. It has been delivered to them and they have made it public. That is exactly the way the process should proceed.
When the Leader of the Opposition compares the policy now with what it was before, he should recall it was his government that covered up the reports. When I became the minister, I made those reports public. The honourable member would certainly know that. The information has been given to the municipal council which is responsible for it.
Mr. Grossman: I am not sure what point the Minister of Revenue is making. The statement he has made comparing the practices is not factually accurate. He has followed a process of handing this material over to the municipalities, which was always the agreed-upon process.
I will tell him this from my time in government: over here, we all know that his ministry has the house-by-house breakdown of the 83,000 homes whose taxes will go up and by how much, and of the 64,000 homes whose taxes will go down. We know that is in his ministry. He has not shipped that anywhere and he has not made that public.
The people in this city are entitled to know whether they are part of the 64,000 people whose taxes will go down or the 83,000 whose taxes will go up. The only reason they do not have that information is that the minister is covering it up and does not want to face the music of telling them the information they are entitled to. He should hand over the information now.
Hon. Mr. Nixon: I do not know whether there was a question there or just another tirade, but I can assure the member that the information I have put before the House in response to the question is correct.
Mr. Speaker: With respect, would all members allow other members to ask questions?
Mr. Rae: I have a question for the Minister of Labour. It is about cancer. The minister will know that he was responsible for suppressing for several years a report that documented the extent of the undercompensation of occupational disease--in particular, occupational cancer--in Ontario.
This report, which is known by the name of its author as the Yassi report, which I have here in my hand, was relied upon heavily by Professor Paul Weiler in the work he did for both the Liberal and Tory governments. On page 156 of this document, it states: "Only 3.3 per cent of the estimated number of occupational lung cancer deaths in Ontario are currently being compensated. The data indicate that only 13.5 per cent are even reported." That is the Yassi report, which categorizes the extent of the problem and the extent of undercompensation.
In response to that problem with respect to mining, there is now a panel which has come up with a set of criteria so bizarre and so inadequate that it is quite possible the only people who could qualify under the criteria established are dead. It is quite possible that under the scheme that has been established by the panel, set up by the ministry and set up by the Workers' Compensation Board, the only people who can qualify are dead.
How can the minister accept a situation where we are now into a brave new world of setting standards for application for pension for occupational disease which will continue to ignore 95 per cent to 97 per cent of the people who deserve to get compensation from the government of Ontario for their occupational disease?
Hon. Mr. Wrye: I find this whole line of questioning rather surprising. Apparently the honourable gentleman has not read section 86p of the Workers' Compensation Act, an act which was passed when he was a member of the Legislature, and he has been well aware of this matter for a very long time. The panel is now, in terms of the gold miners, simply following the procedures set out in section 86p. I refer the honourable gentleman to subsection 86p(7) of the act, which indicates the functions of the panel, including "to investigate possible industrial diseases," "to make findings" and "to advise the Workers' Compensation Board] on eligibility rules regarding compensation for claims respecting industrial diseases."
What follows after that in subsections 86p(10) and (11) of the act--and the honourable leader of the third party ought to know it--is a process by which those findings are published and comment is invited. That comment is now being heard. At the conclusion of that, the board of directors of the Workers' Compensation Board will receive a recommendation and will make judgements in this matter. That is a new, independent process and yet the honourable member wants me to interfere with it.
Mr. Rae: The minister has not interfered in anything since he was appointed. He is the most pathetic substitute for a Minister of Labour anybody in this House has ever seen. That is the reality. I do not recall a minister ever abandoning responsibility for workers' compensation more categorically than the minister who represents the riding of Windsor-Sandwich in this House today. I cannot recall it.
What is the minister's response to a report which establishes a precedent which clearly states, in quite categorical terms, that the benefit of the doubt will not fall to the worker, that the benefit of the doubt will go entirely to the Workers' Compensation Board, because the criteria have been established in such a way that it is quite possible that any of the people who qualify are dead? That is the reality. What the hell kind of standard is it that the only people who qualify are dead? That is the question for the minister. Just what kind of standard is that?
Hon. Mr. Wrye: I will ignore the continued cheap personal invective from the leader of the third party--the party of deep compassion--as far as I can.
We have set up a scientific panel headed by an eminent gentleman by the name of Dr. James Ham. We have a number of other eminent individuals, men and women, on the panel. It is a well-balanced panel. They have provided a report which I readily acknowledge was a report in which there was a division, there was a dissenting opinion. That report of the independent panel will now go to the Workers' Compensation Board and there is a process to judge that report. Indeed, the participation and the submissions of the public are invited. That is exactly what is contemplated by the act. It is exactly what was contemplated when this Legislature decided in this area to start taking politics out of workers' compensation. That is what the member wanted to do. Now that we have attempted to take politics out of workers' compensation, he is asking to put it right back in.
Mr. Martel: It says in a report prepared by Dr. Muller, "Both early start of underground work in Ontario gold mines and years of dust exposure in these mines prior to 1945 are associated with increased lung cancer risk." Now the weasel words, "Later exposure contributes only very little to risk," after 1945.
Can the minister tell me whether in fact all gold mines in Ontario after 1945 had mechanical ventilation and secondary ventilation in them? Can the minister further tell me whether tests were conducted as late as 1953 in the gold mines where the test results were so high they could not be calculated? If those facts are correct, he had better throw out the Muller report and in addition the criteria that were established by that committee that in fact would like to dump Linda Jolley if it could get its way.
Hon. Mr. Wrye: Obviously, my friend has an opinion about one of the eminent members of the committee. It is not an opinion that the Lieutenant Governor in Council shares. We appointed Ms. Jolley. We think that her contribution will be a positive one over the term of the council. There will be times when we will--
Mr. Speaker: Order. Will the member for Sudbury East (Mr. Martel) take his seat. Has the member cooled down?
Mr. Rae: I have a question for the Minister of Community and Social Services. It is about child care. It is about the question of where Ontario's money is going to go.
The minister will no doubt recall that roughly 16 years ago, this Legislature had to make a decision with respect to nursing home operations and the expansion of nursing home care in Ontario. He will no doubt be aware that in that year, 1971-72, nursing home subsidies cost the government of Ontario $30 million. They now cost more than $260 million, which is more than a 700 per cent increase compared to roughly a 350 per cent increase in terms of public expenditure generally in that time.
We are on the verge of as crucial a decision being made by the government of Ontario with respect to child care as was made with nursing home care 16 years ago. Given the experience of this province with quality of care, with financial accountability, with ability to deal with corporate concentration, with the incredible way in which cash flow has been used to expand operations, and with the way in which chains now have expanded in ways we predicted 16 years ago but which the government of the time refused to accept, can the minister tell us why, given the totality of that experience, it continues in the folly of proceeding with the funding of commercial child care in Ontario?
Hon. Mr. Sweeney: There is a significant difference in the two kinds of operations the leader refers to. First, in Ontario, 85 per cent of the privately run day care centres are run by small independents. They are not run by chains in any way, shape or form. Second, I have said very clearly on a number of occasions that the funding that will flow to the private centres will flow only to those in existence now. It will not flow to any others that start up at a later date. All new initiative money and all incentives for further growth in the system will go only to the nonprofit centres, so I do not see the comparison the honourable member makes.
Mr. Rae: Let me put it to the minister that if he were to do a survey of the structure of ownership of nursing homes in 1971, he would find a lot of very small operations. He would find a lot of very small operators that, faced with the brave new world of the Extendicares and the Bestviews, were swallowed up.
If he looks at the history of the last 16 years, that history has been one of cash flow guaranteed, which has extended the power of large corporations and has extended the power of chains at the expense of smaller proprietor-owned operations in the nursing home field. Precisely the same practices will prevail with respect to child care. He can bet his money on it. The only problem is that the money we are betting on it is ours, that of the taxpayers of Ontario. That is the problem.
Given the resistance of the commercial operators in the nursing home field to financial accountability, given the extent of expansion, consolidation and cash flow at the expense of service, how can the minister accept a situation where Ontario is going to be making precisely the same mistake in 1987 as it made in 1971?
Hon. Mr. Sweeney: Again, I do not buy the honourable member's conclusion. As I have indicated before in response to another member's question in the House, we have said very clearly that the flow of the additional funds will be for two purposes only: to increase the wages of the day care workers and to reduce the fees paid by parents. The only way those funds will flow is if the private operators are prepared to open their books so we can confirm that is what the money is being used for. Again, I do not think the comparison is apt.
Mr. Rae: It is all beginning to emerge bit by bit. It is interesting to notice that Jeff Smith, the president of the Association of Day Care Operators of Ontario said, in response to a question about whether he would object to having to post profit and loss statements and make them available to the public, "As far as posting them publicly, quite frankly, I do not feel that it is the public's right to know how a centre is operated."
That is the philosophy that is at stake in the commercial day care operations, and we have heard that philosophy expressed very directly by the nursing home operators. Can the minister tell us what he is going to do to stop the sale and purchase of day care centres by existing licence holders under the scheme he is proposing?
Hon. Mr. Sweeney: The point I indicated with reference to the member's comment was that the private operators, quite frankly, will not get the money if they are not prepared to open their books to my ministry's officials. That is it in black and white.
With respect to the transfer of licences, the member is well aware of the fact that that is under the complete control of our ministry. No one has an automatic right to a licence. They have to qualify for that licence. We have made it very clear that we are not prepared to entertain chains operating day care centres in this province.
TARIFFS ON SOFTWOOD LUMBER
Mr. Pope: My question is to the Premier on softwood lumber, his first test as Premier on international trade matters. There are many hundreds of workers in northern Ontario out of work right now. Their families are suffering. Communities like Hornepayne and Nakina are suffering a devastating effect from the imposition of the softwood lumber export tax.
The Premier of this province is responsible. He has shirked his responsibility by blaming the federal government. He started that tack with an interview given to the Globe and Mail and adopted the strategy that was further adopted by the Minister of Industry, Trade and Technology (Mr. O'Neil) and the Minister of Natural Resources (Mr. Kerrio).
I am entitled to an answer, and so are the hundreds of workers who are out of work now because of his involvement in this issue. In the light of the statements that the Minister of Natural Resources made to Jeff Nash of the Enterprise newspaper in Iroquois Falls, we are entitled to know whether the Premier's statements reported in the October 21, 1986, edition of the Globe and Mail are true; that is, that his government had not realized Ottawa's intentions to increase lumber industry fees until it read about in the newspaper and that his government had no prior knowledge of Pat Carney's announcement in October.
Hon. Mr. Peterson: We have gone through this I am not sure how many times. As I understand it, it is an identical question to the one the member asked yesterday and identical to ones he has asked before. I do not know if he has some fixation about this, and he may want to talk about it to his friend Miss Carney, with whom I know he has a close relationship, but the answer is the very same as it was yesterday.
Mr. Pope: This Premier does not care about the hundreds of workers in northern Ontario who are out of work. He is denying his responsibility by saying Pat Carney acted unilaterally and alone and he knew about it only afterwards.
Can the Premier explain the existence of a letter from Mary Mogford, the Deputy Minister of Natural Resources, agreeing to a negotiated settlement, agreeing to increase the taxes on the lumber industry, a move that his minister said would cost jobs? This letter is dated September 26, 1986, five days before the Carney announcement. Can he explain the lies that have been going on in the Legislature over this?
Hon. Mr. Peterson: My honourable friend is becoming a one-note Johnny on this issue and is going to go on flogging and flogging and flogging it. I do not mind discussing it with my honourable friend.
As the member knows, the resolution was made during the federal-provincial conference that took place in Vancouver. Miss Carney wanted to go ahead with a 15 per cent settlement, and I disagreed with that. As the member knows, others put pressure on her, and I wish my honourable friend would use some of his great persuasive skills and the great charm that he employs in this House on his federal colleagues, his kissing cousins Miss Carney and the Prime Minister. He might be more persuasive there.
Mr. Pope: On a point of privilege, Mr. Speaker: The Premier agreed to it in writing before it happened. He has now misinformed the House again.
Mr. Speaker: Order, the member for Cochrane South (Mr. Pope) and the member for Burlington South (Mr. Jackson).
Mr. Wildman: I have a question of the Minister of Natural Resources. I would like to give the minister an opportunity to make a commitment to the maintenance of the provincial park system in this province by asking him if he is prepared to expand the current environmental assessment into the Red Squirrel Road near Lady Evelyn Smoothwater Park to include the approved road extension in the Obabika Lake area.
Hon. Mr. Kerrio: This particular road met all the obligations of the Environmental Assessment Act, in the sense that there was a group put into place to examine the ramifications of that road. That was all done in keeping with putting that road in.
In a sense, the problem we have with some of the actions the member would have us take would be to put a stop to those things that have gone through the proper channels. What we are looking at also is getting some of that material to the mills in the areas I am very concerned about.
Certainly, we are examining new ways of doing the environmental assessments that need to be done, as we are in Lady Evelyn on the Red Squirrel Road, and certainly we will take it into account, but I think this one has met all the obligations to this point, and I do not know that we should not leave it to the committee to see it through.
Mr. Wildman: I take from that that the answer is no and that we do not have a commitment from the minister.
Can the minister explain how, if his ministry is approving this particular road leading into the same area for forestry harvesting, it is not, in fact, undermining the environmental assessment on the Red Squirrel Road? He is having an environmental assessment with regard to one road that leads into that area, but apparently he is not prepared to expand it to include the other road. Why have one at all? It is a farce.
Hon. Mr. Kerrio: This is not in the park, and the member knows that. This particular road is not in the park, and there is a great deal of pressure on two of the mills in the area to keep their jobs going, and this is one way to relieve that pressure from the Red Squirrel Road a little bit.
An advisory committee has been put in place that is going to report to the district manager in that area. This one has been handled according to the way it should be, and the fact of the matter is that we are attempting in every way to look at the uses that are going to take place in that park, with the recreational uses and with the maintenance of the jobs in that area. The member cannot stand up and tell us that we are impacting on the jobs in northern Ontario and then ask us to close some other areas down. That is impossible.
Mr. Wildman: I did not ask the minister to close it. I asked him to have an environmental assessment.
Hon. Mr. Kerrio: It is a good thing I am representing northern Ontario.
Mr. Warner: Maybe the squirrels will understand you.
Mr. Gillies: Speaking of red squirrels.
Mr. Speaker: Order. We will just wait if the members want to waste the time so that other members cannot ask questions.
Mr. Callahan: The former government made a decision that the Ontario Provincial Police headquarters would be moved to the great riding of Brampton. A couple of times in the House, I have asked the Solicitor General whether consideration has been given to maintaining that headquarters transfer to Brampton. I would like to ask the minister at this time whether that position continues and when we can expect that the transfer will take place.
Hon. Mr. Keyes: I know this is of interest to many members on both sides of the House. I can assure them that the relocation team has been very hard at work determining all the needs for the new headquarters. I suggest that the major response is simply the requirement of timing, the funding required for it and the other pressures of development that take place in Toronto. Teams have been looking very carefully at alternative sites since the original announcement, but no final decision has been made on this.
Mr. Jackson: I have a question for the Minister of Housing. It has been six months since the minister's new Residential Rent Regulation Act, Bill 51, was passed, yet there has not been a single processed application heard in Ontario. If the minister checks with the Toronto offices of his ministry, he will learn that there are 18,000 landlord applications outstanding. In the Mississauga office, there are 4,423; and in Hamilton, there are 2,120 outstanding applications. The backlog is so bad that the minister's own staff is referring to it as horrifying.
Will the minister please advise this House how many applications are outstanding in his field offices in Ontario today?
Hon. Mr. Curling: Let me take this opportunity to congratulate the honourable member for being the new critic for Housing. I look forward to some intelligent questions, much more so than what was coming before. The member participated very well in Bill 51. As a matter of fact, I think his leader has given him that position because he will come to learn and respect the protection of tenants, which was very much required in the past.
I would like to tell the member that the operation of the system is in full gear and there are many applications.
Mr. Speaker: Order.
Hon. Mr. Curling: That is why they do not learn anything. They never listen.
Mr. Speaker: Order. I gather the members do not want an answer and, therefore, they are not getting an answer. How can they ask a supplementary?
Mr. Jackson: The minister has before him in his briefing book the actual numbers I am requesting. He knows that as a fact because his staff has been preparing them for him for more than two months. These outstanding applications are a significant bureaucratic nightmare across Ontario.
If he will just look at what his own ministry is recommending, it recommends that one application should be done during one day's work by a rent administrator in Ontario. If he looks at the 2,120 applications that are on file in the Hamilton office, with only two rent administrators in that location, if they both work with perfect attendance on working days with his ministry, a total of 225 days in a year, it will take more than four years for the minister to clear out the backlog of rental applications that are sitting in just one office in Ontario.
Is the minister going to let the tenants of Ontario live with this kind of administrative nightmare and this type of time line, putting those thousands of tenants in Ontario at risk of suffering with retroactive pay increases to landlords in the thousands of dollars?
Mr. Speaker: The question has certainly been asked.
Hon. Mr. Curling: I am extremely impressed by the member with his statistics. Mr. Speaker, I know you were not in that committee hearing, but I think the statistic the member just quoted of 18,000 is not only Toronto but the entire province.
There were 10,000 applicants in those post-1975 buildings who did not have any way to redress their concerns. Today, I am very happy to know that he has learned so fast that these tenants need protection. He was one of the members who voted against that bill. We knew that there were 10,000 people out there who needed their concerns to be addressed. We have a guideline in place so they are protected.
I know the member is anxious for all people to be addressed in that light; the process is in place and it is working very effectively.
CONVERSION OF RENTAL ACCOMMODATION
Mr. Grande: My question is also to the Minister of Housing. The minister knows that, two days ago, the Ontario Municipal Board released its decision on 400 Walmer Road, the 575 units that the city of York wanted to convert to condominiums. The minister knows that the OMB decided that those units should stay as rental units, as opposed to being changed to condominiums. The minister also knows that Susan Taylor, the co-ordinator for the rental housing protection branch of his ministry, did not support the conversion.
Given all that, can the minister make a commitment today to those tenants of 400 Walmer, who for the past months have been fearful as to whether they could live there or not, that should an appeal be made to cabinet now, the cabinet will stand behind the OMB decision and behind affordable housing in Ontario?
Hon. Mr. Curling: The honourable member is recognizing a victory for this government that has protected those tenants who were being put out of their building because of conversions, demolitions or other little attitudes that would not protect rental property. The member made mention of the Walmer Road situation where the OMB has ruled in our favour that we should protect those rental properties.
Now the member is asking me whether I am going to endorse the OMB. I am not aware of any appeal at all. Why does he want to anticipate my decisions?
Mr. Grande: Obviously, the Minister of Housing is not ready to say that, as Minister of Housing, he supports Bill 11, a bill which this government supposedly brought in to protect affordable housing in the province.
Since one of the problems the Ontario Municipal Board found with Bill 11 was the fact that, as it states on page 7 of that decision, "No statutory definition or guidelines are provided to assist in determining what is meant by `affordable rental housing,'" and since the city of York in this case was completely confused in knowing what the provisions in the act are all about, or if there were any provisions, could the minister make a commitment to strengthen Bill 11 so there is a clear guideline of at least a four per cent vacancy rate before a municipality can approve a conversion?
Instead of leaving that decision in the hands of the bureaucracy, he should make a policy decision.
Hon. Mr. Curling: If I understand the honourable member correctly, he just stated that Bill 11 is working very well. He stated that in that situation the courts have ruled the tenants have a right in that building and it would not be converted to condominiums. But he is asking me to strengthen the bill. I think the bill is working very well, as he can see from the decision made by the Ontario Municipal Board.
Mr. Jackson: I have a further question for the Minister of Housing. It is true that I voted against this bill because I told the minister in committee and I told him in this House the bill would not work. He had the nerve to stand in this House and tell us he would have it in place within two months, by mid-February. I tell the minister it is already May.
Mr. Speaker: The question is?
Mr. Jackson: As you well know, Mr. Speaker, the guidelines for this new Bill 51 have gone from four per cent up to 5.2 per cent. The minister is well aware that all over Ontario there are increases of 33 per cent and as high as 40 per cent. Will the minister please tell this House the total number of applications in this province for increases that are in excess of 10 per cent or 12 per cent? Does he have an average increase this bill is creating for the tenants in Ontario?
Hon. Mr. Curling: The honourable member has before him the statistics my staff worked so closely with him to provide. He knows about our open government, that anyone who needs those statistics can have them.
He asked about tenants living in post-1975 buildings. Previously they had no protection, so the rents used to increase at random, and as many times as the landlord saw fit.
He asks for statistics. In the post-1975 buildings, we have 10,000 applications to date. He asks too, how many are in excess. We have 4,662 applications asking for over 10 per cent. They are requesting those increases; it does not mean they will get them. They must come to the Rent Review Hearings Board before any approval of such could be given.
If I can correct the honourable member, the guideline did not move from four per cent to 5.2 per cent. When it was set, it was set at 5.2 per cent; that is the only time a guideline was set for post-1975 buildings.
Mr. Jackson: What I am hearing from the minister is that he is unwilling or he is not forthcoming with respect to what the average increase is on file with his ministry. To try to suggest to this House that he does not have those statistics--I would ask one of the legislative pages to take this document over to the minister, please.
Mr. Speaker: Is this leading to a supplementary?
Mr. Jackson: Yes, Mr. Speaker.
This is a document from his ministerial field staff, as requested by him. This document reads and is headed: "A request for an increase for 10.4 per cent and more under the Residential Rent Regulation Act," etc. It sets out a case in St. Catharines, in the riding of the Minister of the Environment (Mr. Bradley), of a 40 per cent increase for a property on Carlton Street.
For the minister's benefit, it goes on to explain the background and--this is wonderful; it already provides the minister's response in case there is a question from the Environment minister in this House about this increase.
Mr. Speaker: I hope there is a question.
Mr. Jackson: The question is, given that the minister has not been forthcoming with the fact that he has been tabulating this information, will he now table in this House what the average increase is that has been called for in all the applications currently before his ministry? The minister has that information; let him provide it to this House.
Hon. Mr. Curling: I would like the House to know that these are not the average increases but the requests that have been asked for. At one stage, the honourable member was stating to me that the process is not in place, and in the meantime, he is saying to me that I must give him the average increase. The fact is that the applications are before us and they are requests for increases. I do not see what use it would be to give the member the figures. Of course, we have the figures. We estimate the average will be less than five per cent when all the cases have been heard.
ST. CLAIR RIVER WATER QUALITY
Mrs. Grier: I have a question for the Minister of the Environment. In August 1985, I revealed the presence of a blob of poisons on the bed of the St. Clair River. For a while thereafter, a great deal of attention was paid to that area. That attention seems to have faded.
I am sure the minister's copious briefing notes contain the same information that the Wallaceburg Citizens' Clean Water Coalition has given to me: namely, since the discovery of the blob, there have been almost 200 spills into the St. Clair River from the industries of Chemical Valley. This means the communities that draw their drinking water from the St. Clair are still at risk and are still the victims of chemical pollution. The question is very simple: can the minister explain why he has been unable to prevent the continual contamination of the St. Clair River?
Hon. Mr. Bradley: The main difference, which the honourable member will be aware of, is that the spills get reported now. That is the basic difference. What used to happen, of course, was that we did not have extensive reporting of the spills that took place. Now the most minor of spills into any waterway in Ontario, particularly in this area that has received so much attention, receives that kind of attention.
I have been to the area myself. I have inspected some of the work that is taking place. As a result of the attention and the increased activities of the Ministry of the Environment in the area, the industries along there have certainly undertaken a lot of activities designed to prevent those kinds of spills.
It is interesting the member mentions that, because I mentioned it, for instance, to Henry Williams in New York state; he noted a similar situation. Now the reporting requirements are such that each and every spill of any kind, air emission or water emission, is reported regardless of how large it is. I suspect we have considerably fewer spills taking place at the present time. When there are none we will all be happy. It is a matter of the reporting having increased tremendously.
Mrs. Grier: The reporting has not increased or improved all that much. Of the 197 spills that the citizens' coalition has documented since August 1985, in comparing the reports from Environment Canada with those of the Ministry of the Environment, it finds that 20 of them did not show up in the ministry's reporting. I do not think falling back on saying, "We know more about it," is an adequate answer.
Mr. Speaker: And the question is?
Mrs. Grier: What the people of the area want to know and what we want to know from the minister is what he is going to do about the fact. He has not built the pipeline the Wallaceburg people want built. He has not cleaned up the river. He has not done anything about putting in legal drinking water standards so that if they know about a spill they also know what it means for the drinking water.
Hon. Mr. Bradley: I will try to remember all the questions the member asked. She asked a multiplicity of questions. The first comment, in regard to the pipeline, is that as she knows, I have indicated the allocation of funds for that pipeline. In other words, it is proceeding as it should. The necessary engineering studies and so on are proceeding through the normal process. We have to go through everything that fits in with the Manual of Administration when we are doing these things. I know the member for Etobicoke (Mr. Philip), who is very cognizant of the Manual of Administration, would not want to see us deviate from that.
In addition to that, the industries along there, under the guidance of the Ministry of the Environment, which now has a much-increased staff at the Sarnia office, for instance, are undertaking the kinds of activities designed to reduce the number of spills in that area.
We have had ongoing monitoring of the water supplies for all the downstream communities and so on, which have indicated that they are within the requirements, generally speaking, of the Ministry of the Environment. We are always improving in that area. I know that when the municipal-industrial strategy for abatement program is in full effect, of course, one of the first industries which will be hit by that will be the petroleum refining industry.
Mr. Speaker: Order. Perhaps the minister could put it in writing at a later time
ASSISTANCE FOR THE DISABLED
Mr. Grossman: I have a question for the Minister of Community and Social Services. He will recall last session we were discussing his refusal to pass on the $150 a month to the disabled that was being made available by the federal government. At that time, he chose to hide behind some federal restrictions, while other provinces chose not to do that and instead passed on the money.
He will be aware, no doubt, that the Minister of National Health and Welfare indicated on Monday evening last that he planned to write a letter to his provincial counterparts removing the restriction which our minister has been hiding behind. With the removal of that restriction, will he therefore undertake today to pass on the money to the disabled people in Ontario?
Hon. Mr. Sweeney: I am not aware of that comment by Mr. Epp. I certainly would be prepared to receive it and take a look at it. I would point out to the member that my understanding of the arrangement between the federal and provincial governments is that if a benefit were given to the 13,000 specifically referred to, then the other 70,000 in the province would have to be given the same benefit.
If something has changed, we are prepared to take a look at it.
Mr. Grossman: My question was not whether the minister would be prepared to look at it. We know he would be prepared to look at it; that is his job. The issue is a very simple one. He gave one simple explanation for his refusal to pass on $150 a month to the disabled. The only reason he gave was not that he did not have the money and not that he was diverting it--and he was diverting it--but simply that there was a federal restriction which he chose to hide behind.
Monday night, in estimates in Ottawa, the minister indicated he was sending a letter to his provincial counterparts to remove that restriction. Given the fact that the minister held out that restriction as the sole reason he held $150 month out and away from 13,000 disabled people, my question is not whether he will look at it and consider it but, if the restriction has been removed, will he pass that money on to the disabled as soon as he gets the letter?
Hon. Mr. Sweeney: My recollection of that discussion a number of months back indicates the decision was based on more than just that one point. It was based on the fact that there was an agreement between the federal and provincial governments. It was also based on the fact that our program in Ontario, as in other parts of the country, is a top-up program, not a replacement program. It was also based on the fact of equity among all 83,000 disabled, not just the 13,000.
I repeat that I am prepared to receive the minister's correspondence and to review it at that time. I cannot give that answer now, because there are other factors involved. It was not just a single factor. I invite the member to go back and check the record.
Mr. R. F. Johnston: My question, in the absence of the Premier (Mr. Peterson), is to the chief law officer of the crown, the Attorney General, going back to this question of young offenders in Ontario.
Has there been any study initiated by the Attorney General or the Premier about the way young offenders are dealt with under the two ministries that have responsibility for them in terms of the differences between how youth court and adult court deal with them, and in terms of the kinds of secure custody that is available and the kind of sentencing that is taking place?
If that review has taken place, has he made any recommendations to the Premier about melding this operation into one ministry so there would be one coherent policy in Ontario to deal with young offenders, as the federal act requires?
Hon. Mr. Scott: As the honourable member knows, the question of the disposition that is made under the Young Offenders Act by the judges is variable, bearing in mind the provisions of the Young Offenders Act that provide alternative measures, which we in Ontario have, at conclusion of the process.
A number of studies have been done to illustrate to what extent the judges have been selecting one disposition technique or another in cases where a disposition is required, and that is the kind of material I would be glad to try to collect for him, showing what the judges have been doing with their new powers under the act.
Of course, when the judges order a secure disposition, it is because of the divided responsibility, which the member has referred to, by either one ministry or the other. I have had occasion from time to time to talk to both my colleagues about this matter. We discuss fully the extent to which the disposition systems existing in the province are appropriate.
A case can be made, and I think it is made, that the Ministry of Correctional Services has had significant experience with mature young offenders--that is, 16 and over--whereas the Ministry of Community and Social Services has had a traditional experience with people younger than that, who are in fact children. That is the justification for the situation that presently exists in Ontario.
Mr. Warner: Mr. Speaker, I know you will be waiting to learn of today's new total.
Mr. Morin-Strom: What is it?
Mr. Warner: The member is going to have to wait until I read this.
"To the Honourable the Lieutenant Governor and the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:
"We, the undersigned, beg leave to petition the parliament of Ontario as follows:
"That the Ministry of Health respond to the need for a renal dialysis unit at Scarborough General Hospital, since no such unit exists between the city of Toronto and the city of Kingston."
It is signed by 112 persons, bringing the total now to 1,668, with more to come.
Ms. Gigantes: I have two petitions. The first is from 228 taxi drivers in the Ottawa area who are calling upon the government to bring in a driver-owned public auto insurance system in Ontario.
Ms. Gigantes: The second comes from a group of certified general accountants in Ontario who petition the government to give them the right to practise public accounting in Ontario. It is signed by 152, most of whom are certified general accountants.
DRUG WHOLESALER DISTRIBUTION ALLOWANCE
Mr. McGuigan: I have a petition from six constituents to accommodate a drug wholesaler's distribution allowance.
REPORT BY COMMITTEE
STANDING COMMITTEE ON THE LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY
Mr. Breaugh from the standing committee on the Legislature Assembly presented the following report and moved its adoption:
Your committee begs to report the following bill as amended:
Bill 34, An Act to provide for Freedom of Information and Protection of Individual Privacy.
Motion agreed to.
Bill ordered for committee of the whole House.
INTRODUCTION OF BILL
TEACHERS' SUPERANNUATION AMENDMENT ACT
Hon. Mr. Conway moved first reading of Bill 55, An Act to amend the Teachers' Superannuation Act.
Motion agreed to.
Hon. Mr. Conway: I am pleased to introduce today this bill to amend the Teachers' Superannuation Act to allow teachers with 35 years of service and who have not attained the age of 65 to retire without penalty for a period of three years.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
THRONE SPEECH DEBATE (CONTINUED)
Resuming the adjourned debate on the motion for an address in reply to the speech of the Honourable the Lieutenant Governor at the opening of the session.
Mr. Breaugh: I had begun the other day to list some of the things I very much wanted to see in this throne speech and which really were not there. I want to comment a little on what was there and the style and the format, because if there is anything to be learned from the throne speech, it probably is that there is now a government attempting to put forward its face, to try to establish its identity. In many respects, as some members have observed, this is kind of our first venture into yuppie land here.
I do not know who wrote this throne speech. If I did I probably would not admit to it, but I do think whoever wrote it was listening to Paul Simon's new record. There is a sense that they are--or they think they are--going into their form of Graceland, their Mecca, their kind of plastic Taj Mahal, where they will sell their little version of the picket fence. There are a lot of strains as it goes through that.
As I listened to the songs again this morning, I could detect a certain liberalism in there. I recall one lyric, where they talk about Fat Charlie the Archangel who was filing for a divorce. He has no opinion on this and he has no opinion on that. It seems to me that theme is an integral part of the throne speech. There is a lot of touching of many groups here.
Hon. Mr. Nixon: Did you say Fat Charlie the Archangel?
Mr. Breaugh: Fat Charlie the Archangel is filing for divorce. I did not write the song. I just repeat the lyrics. I do not even try to attribute who Fat Charlie might be, either.
Hon. Mr. Nixon: I could never understand the words. I just tap my hands to the music.
Mr. Breaugh: There is nothing in the record about Fat Charlie going around spending phoney 50-pound notes, so I assume the Treasurer is off the hook on that.
The record is an interesting one. I listened to some of the discussion and the controversy about this record put together by Paul Simon, about many people feeling that it was not really true to its nature. For some reason the reputation had grown that this was a recording about African music. Of course, as you listen to it, it is not. It has very little to do with that. It is about American music and it is about an American person, Paul Simon, and all the things that have fused into his musical background, all the things that he understands. It is very much about that fusion of cultures, songs and lyrics that are the United States. It has nothing to do with Africa, except perhaps that some of the music and some of the musicians who recorded the album were African.
In many ways, the thing is something like the throne speech. It is mythical. There is a little touching, a grabbing, a fusing of all different kinds of streams and cultures and trying to jam them into something. So the throne speech is in large measure an attempt to get a new government in place. It is a decidedly upwardly mobile government. We have all noticed that. It is why one will pick out the immediate conflicts of a throne speech that talks about moderation, all things to all people, almost a classic Liberal theme at work here. They expound upon that at a great length.
They try to put together, to mould something which cannot be seen by anyone as controversial. It avoided at great length any pitfalls of actually doing anything. The backbone and the thrust of the throne speech is to make sure they cannot be accused of doing the wrong thing. They do that simply by not doing anything. That is in large measure, I suppose from the government side of the House, a great strength. Nobody can accuse them of being bad for being in favour of literacy. I understand that. I think we had looked for and had anticipated more than that, and it is certainly not there.
There is a lot of election fever around this place these days and a lot of chit-chat about the end of the accord, the deal is over, the honeymoon is over and all of that. I want to speak briefly about that process, because I do think it needs to be put on the record that those of us who were participants in negotiating this historic agreement understood the pitfalls as we went through.
There were very few people who had no knowledge of the legislative process involved in that. So we did understand that the accord would not produce legislation that we liked. It will cause an initiative, it will cause the legislative process to start up; but it does not necessarily mean that at the end of that process we will get a law written in the way we want it. We understood that, where perhaps others did not.
I believe this legislative flow is important. I also believe it is not yet completed, and for those who are entertaining thoughts of exploiting current popularity in the polls, I caution them very seriously that there is work to be done and there will be a very heavy price paid by those who seek to exploit something without getting their jobs done.
I think all members in this House made a commitment to certain types of legislation. We have spent a long time working on that legislation. Not to go through with that would be ludicrous at this state.
I want to pick a couple of examples that I think are particularly critical.
Mr. D. R. Cooke: Emergency debates.
Mr. Breaugh: If people are so upset that they do not want to have an emergency debate in here, they should move to change the rules so that we can never have one. If the member is so upset that one or two afternoons are set aside to deal with business that members on this side think is important, then he has a complete misunderstanding of the parliamentary process.
The process is here, the rules are here, and not just for the convenience of the government. They are here for everybody. There are those who will say that some intervention in the process, like emergency debates, is all wrong; that the opposition members should have no rights, ever, to put forward items they think are important. I do not subscribe to that. I do not subscribe for a moment to any contemplation that there has been any gross interruption of the legislative process here. There has not.
I will not listen to that kind of garbage very much longer. There has not been. There has been inconvenience to the government; okay, I will accept that. The government's pacing has been upset; I will accept that. Somebody is barracking about the sad and terrible fact that the Treasurer (Mr. Nixon) had to wait an extra legislative day to introduce his budget. Give me a break. Help us to understand, dear Lord, this kind of foolishness. This is nonsensical; absolutely, totally nonsensical .
I understand the process. I have been around here long enough to know that it is the government House leader's job now to break this ground, to find occasions during the course of our legislative weeks when he could say, "Oh, the opposition is obstructing; it is doing bad things." He knows that at some point, if the Premier (Mr. Peterson) decides to have an election, somebody has to plow up those furrows. One cannot wake up one morning and decide we are being obstructionist over here. One has to say that 20,000 or 30,000 times and work that into one's daily routine so that by the time one actually decides to have an election, one will have covered that ground a little bit.
We all understand that process. But one does not serve any useful purpose by all of that. As members of the Legislature, we are supposed to understand those games, because that is precisely what they are: they are games.
I want to touch on a couple of pieces of legislation that I think are really important before the members seriously contemplate having elections.
Finally, this morning in committee, after more than a year's work, we took the freedom of information bill to the next step and reported it this afternoon. That is a bill which, to be blunt about it, is most likely to come out of a minority government only. No government with a majority, in its right mind probably, would pass a freedom of information bill. We have watched the previous government struggle its way through minorities and avoid that pitfall, but when it had majorities it had absolutely no interest in freedom of information. It did not truly believe it was in its self-interest to release public documents on a regular basis. It always wanted to control the flow of information as much as it could. It struggled very hard with that.
If we are to do a service to the people of Ontario, I would say that before we start thinking about elections we ought to deal with that legislation. We know that in this day and age it is important. We know it is a concept which is workable. The federal government in Canada does it. Many jurisdictions in the US do it.
The freedom of information bill is not the panacea for anything. What we have begun here is simply to start a process, and the process is, very simply put, that the people who pay the bills have a right to know how the bills were incurred. I believe that is a pretty valid principle, and because I believe in that I was happy to spend more than a year in my own committee plugging away at how we would do this; because it is going to be, and we all admit it, a very complicated, difficult thing to implement, but not impossible. Others have done it and so can we, and so should we.
That bill, as it goes through its final legislative phases, is one which I think needs to be dealt with by this Legislature.
There are other bills. The conflict of interest bill has been reintroduced. I would contend, quite frankly, that in this day and age, when the political process is being challenged so regularly, conflict of interest legislation which is understandable, I suppose by the general population and by the members, is something that really has to happen.
I am not a big fan of the current legislative proposals that have been put forward by the Attorney General (Mr. Scott) for this simple reason: they are written almost from a lawyer's perspective. They have to do with the filing of documents, shuffling around pieces of paper, seeking legal advice. I admit that is part of a conflict of interest act, one cannot avoid it; but the critical point is, does the public believe that by means of this legislation you have taken away as much as you can by a legislative tool the conflicts that have been so apparent in our own federal government and that have plagued the political process for a long time now?
I am using perhaps somewhat extreme language, but I do believe that is true. There was a time when people really believed almost anything politicians told them. No matter how cockamamy a story it was, they had a tendency to believe that. I believe that in this day and age, because they watch us as we go through the legislative process in a much different way, they know the process is not nearly as perfect as it was once thought to be, and the process itself is in some disrepute.
In some measure, it is our fault. In some measure, it is the media's fault. In some measure, I suppose, it is the public's fault. One goes back to the old maxim that the public gets the kind of government it deserves in the end, and perhaps that is true.
I want to pick a couple of examples of things that I think are unfortunate. An American example is Gary Hart, perhaps a politician who got what he deserved; I do not know, I do not even know him. But I do know that some remarkable things happen around somebody who is running for the presidential nomination of a big political party in the US.
Some reporters took him up on his invitation to follow him around about his personal life. It would appear to me from the newspaper reports I read that they did not do much of a job of reporting, to the extent that they were not quite sure whether there was a front door and a back door to the house where this incident was to have occurred. They did not do a good reporting job, but it was enough that the innuendo that this man was some kind of a womanizer stuck, and stuck to the degree that he stopped being a nominee for his party. He quit.
That is a new wrinkle in the political process, and we have some here in Canada which would follow a similar analogy. Having read all the political opinions and the columnists and those who appear on television talk shows and followed this discussion for the last little while, I really do not know whether we are better off having a political process which is dominated about a politician's private life. I do not know what is to be served by that. I suppose that, in some measure, the politicians themselves invite that. They invite that every time they put a picture of their family on a newsletter or on an election campaign pamphlet.
I suppose we invite people into our private lives a lot, but I want to draw this line. There has to be a place where the public person stops and the private person is still allowed to survive, or the process itself will become such a phoney, transparent process it will serve no value. We are here in this Legislature not to be superperfect people. We are here to represent the population, warts and all; and that means, in my book, that we will have the faults and the virtues that are all around us in our society, that we will be susceptible to all the problems our society is having, that people in the political process will not have the same kind of marriages, I suppose, as everybody in our society once had and thought perhaps they could still retain. That will change as the society changes.
In this respect, I am probably a very old-fashioned person, but I do not know that the public political process is served very well by intense scrutiny of a politician's personal life. I am grappling with that. I understand the fascination with all this. As a matter of fact, when the Gary Hart story broke in the US, I must admit I am cynical enough to have thought for a moment that somebody in a back room somewhere thought his candidate, Gary Hart, was having problems getting known by the American public and thought that perhaps this might be a really jazzy way to get him on the front pages. It certainly did that. I am not sure the plan exactly worked as promised, but it certainly did do that. That again is the knowledge that you can exploit the media by offering them something that is sensational. I understand all this, but I really rue that day.
To come back to my original point, we now have to address conflict of interest laws in legislation. I wish we did not, in a sense, but I understand that we must. I understand that the old gambit that we were all honourable members and no one would ever do that is not going to work any more. There is now a need for more than guidelines, but a law. It must be a law that is understandable by the general public. I would hope, and this is one of my concerns, it is not something that is going to drive people in the political process crazy. I hope that is not the end result of the exercise, but it may be.
The people on my committee and I have had an opportunity to look at legislation of this kind in other jurisdictions, and I must say that if I were running for public office in the US and I was faced with the disclosure, the inquiries and the invasion of my privacy that are suggested in many American jurisdictions, I would have second thoughts. I am not so sure I would want complete police investigations of not only my background but of the background of all my family and virtually everybody with whom I am associated as well. I am not so sure I would be prepared to do that. In many American jurisdictions they are. I am not terribly convinced that every cent that is owned by me or any member of my family has to be a matter of public record. In some American jurisdictions it is.
I want to point out an example of where I think this is really going to go flooey. I believe that concept is based on the premise that the only people who will be in public office are married men, and they will be older married men as well. Those laws are written in that way. What I think is wrong about that is, what if it is the wife who is the elected person? The laws are skewed so that puts not only the wife in a difficult position but the husband in a difficult position, the daughter in a difficult position and the son in a difficult position as well. We may be writing laws here that mean people cannot run for public office.
I think we have to address that when we go through our own legislative process on this, because that is not my intention and I do not think it is the intention of the members of the public at large. What they want is some openness to the process. They want to be able to ensure that if we do something wrong, it will be breaking the law. I think that is simply what they seek. They do not want an apology; they do not want us to say: "It is okay. That is the way we have always done things." If we have done something wrong, we have broken the law just as they would have if they had been stopped for speeding on their way home that night. That is another bill that I think has to be done.
Here is another one. We have a bill before us regarding pensions. Before anybody starts thinking about elections around here, that bill has to go through the legislative process as well. There are people whom I know who are living on pensions that are really sad; very difficult. I will go further than that. I know people who have come out of well-organized industrial trade union plants who thought they had a really good, negotiated private pension, and it has not stood the test of time particularly well at all. I would make an argument that pension reform is a matter this Legislature has to deal with.
Let me give one other example and then try to work this into when we might contemplate an election. We have gone through the agony, and I use that word carefully, of the discussions around equal pay for work of equal value. How silly it would be at this time to drop that process on the vague hope that we might begin the process again at some later date. We have gone through the public hearing sessions. We have gone through discussions of pay equity in the private sector and in the public sector. We have negotiated with everybody we can think of around that matter. We are near the point when the legislative process is actually liable to do something.
I believe that is incredibly important to a large number of women and families in our society, because one of the things that concerns me is laws, written from one perspective, that do not apply any more. Again, I think all our laws around how we pay people were basically on the proviso, for example, that a minimum wage was a wage that would probably go to a part-time worker and were probably written with the thought in mind that this was a high school kid who would get a job for a couple of hours after school.
The sad thing is that the employment trends are in the exact opposite direction. More and more people are falling into those service sector jobs, many of them part-time, a few full-time, but at minimum wage or just barely above that. That is hitting more and more people. More and more of that group are having to support an entire family. I believe that pay equity laws, in whatever version comes through the hoop at the end, are matters that this parliament must deal with.
Those are four areas that I believe make up my personal list. I suspect there will be other members who will have laws that they just have to have too. If I put my mind to it, I could probably double or triple the number. The point is that if this parliament is to serve any useful purpose in the history of mankind, it has to have done something other than try to look good. It has to have had a legislative agenda.
For me, to tell you the truth, it does not matter whether it comes out of the accord or elsewhere, but I believe this parliament has an obligation to do something, not to take something part-way through the process. Those four bills I mentioned are matters that have been introduced. Some have gone through committee, some have had very long hearings and some are down to the final amendments and when they will be put. I think it is incumbent on us to complete that work and a good deal more.
I heard the Premier say today that the legislative agenda is jammed. Yes, it is. There is no question that in the last two years we have been very busy little legislators. We have been doing the legislative process and we have tried to deal with all the interventions that none of us count on, but that is what politics is about. You have to set aside one agenda and pick up another.
In the end people will judge us, I hope, on whether this parliament served a useful purpose. There is little value in saying it put a new government, another political party, in power after 42 years. I suppose there is a little balancing of the democratic process that has been redressed there. More than that, the people have a right to expect that we have been here for a couple of years doing some legislation and that the legislation addresses some very real human needs.
In my book, there are those bills and others that do just that. I would like to be able to go around during the course of the next election campaign saying: "Here is what we would like to do in the future, but here is also what we have done in the past. Here is a record of what we tried to accomplish in a minority government. Here are the things we actually did accomplish." The matters I and others talked about are things that are not theoretical victories; they are of real practical assistance to the people we represent. l believe that is important.
Let me offer another little scenario of what I think will probably happen here. I believe the game plan, although this could get upset at any time, is probably not a bad one. We complete the spring session of the Legislature; we get as much of the legislation processed as we can. I believe that in the next week or so we will see a very attractive budget.
I have no objection to that, although I understand in his first little trip around England trying to give out money, the Treasurer of Ontario did run into some difficulties. l suspect he will overcome those when he is back at home with real Canadian money in his hand. He will understand the process a little better and he will know the difference between a phoney 50-pound note and a real cheque for $50,000. He will be on firmer ground.
I think the Treasurer has to come in with a budget which is realistic. We all know he has a budget which is going to have a whole lot of money, a billion dollars or so, that he did not anticipate in revenue. He knows what the needs are in Ontario, and I hope he addresses those. I hope he does not forget--and before he tables his budget, this is a concern of mine--there is a tendency to say the poor do not need our attention any more. I do not understand why, in the midst of a booming economy here in southern Ontario, we have food banks that are so busy they cannot handle their work load. We have not seen that kind of process here in the southern part of the province since the Great Depression, and we are supposed to be in economic boom times.
In a community like mine, with the automotive industry kind of thumping along these days, there are supposed to be very low unemployment rates; there is supposed to be an economic boom under way; there is supposed to be a rosy future for almost everybody. But the reality is--and people who are members perhaps know this a little better than others--that for some people there is no boom here, there is a bust under way.
In many parts of the northern part of our province there is a real depression taking hold; because in many of those northern communities it is not a loss of jobs. In my community, for example, we have become painfully accustomed to the idea of plant closures; although we hope that a year from now another plant will open up and somebody else will do something; at least we have some options.
In many parts of the north there are no options. If the mill closes, that is it for that community, and the whole thing folds and goes away and never comes back. The north is full of communities that at one time were bright, vibrant places to live, with a good future, a good paycheque and a chance to raise a family with some hope for the future. They are now ghost towns, places with houses and no people, people with mills, mines and factories that have been empty for a long time. We need to address those needs as well.
I believe the approach will probably fall something like this: a budget that begins to go at that, I hope; and then, when we have adjourned for the summer, the Premier and the cabinet and everybody else they can think of will hit the road with their chequebooks in hand. I do not know whether that is exactly what will happen, but I suspect it will, because it sure has been happening a lot in my area lately.
Mr. Mancini: Just the regular operations of the government, that is all.
Mr. Breaugh: Listen, I do not mind this. They can come to Oshawa any time they want as long as they bring their chequebooks. Just fill in the bottom and I will fill in the top, and we will all be happy. They do not even have to invite me.
The member for Durham West (Mr. Ashe) was incensed that the member for Middlesex (Mr. Reycraft), who is parliamentary assistant to the Minister of Education, came to Oshawa and held a press conference and invited the local Liberal candidate and did not invite any of us. I do not care. If he brings the cheque, he can have anything he wants in my riding. If he gives somebody in Oshawa some money to do something good, I will gladly stay away from it. He does not have to invite me. I will not abuse him; I will not criticize his efforts.
If he comes to town and all he gives them is a line of malarkey and no money, I am going to abuse him about that; but if he comes to my community and he gives somebody in Oshawa a whole lot of money, I am happy. I do not care whether I am there or not. It seems to me a little stupid on the member's part that he does not invite the local member to these things. In my opinion, and I am an expert on this, I believe that is simply rude behaviour, that is all.
I believe that is simply bad manners, and I do not think anybody wins when he displays bad manners. If he came to my home, I would expect him to tell me he was coming and I would try to welcome him and assist him in any way I could. If he comes to my riding and he tells me he is coming, I will try to welcome him and I will try to introduce him to people in my community who are active people, who will do good things for him and who can assist him a lot.
I must say that although the practice has been a bit spotty, for the most part it has been my experience in the last couple of years that the ministers of the crown do that. I congratulate them on having the good, plain common sense and decency to do that. There have been a few who have not. They did not gain very much by doing that.
In a strange way, when a member comes to Oshawa, if he does not invite the local member to come to events, our people say, "Why were you so ignorant as not to ask the local member to attend?" When he asks the local member to attend, I hope he will find that, unfailingly, I or any of the other local members will say: "Here is a good person who is trying to do something for you, folks. Give him a chance, listen to what he has to say and accept his advice, his guidance, his money and anything else he has got."
My advice to the government is, where it has been faithful about informing local members about events or things that it is going to do, to continue that practice. I think that makes eminent good sense in a very real way. As members of this Legislature, we do have some role to play in representing our own constituencies. Every time we do something that enhances that role, we enhance the whole political process. Every time we do something that cheapens that role, that cheapens the entire process as well. The choice is the member's. l can have it either way; it does not really bother me a whole lot.
If someone wants to come to my town and take cheap shots at me, I suspect he will pay a price for that. If someone wants to come to my town and asks me to participate in whatever he is doing, I think he will benefit by that. I really do not care, because I think the purpose of the exercise is not for the government's advantage or my advantage. The purpose of the exercise ought to be to solve some problems, to provide some funding to a group that deserves some funding or to provide some new programs. If the government does those things, we will all be happy about it.
I believe the process itself is enhanced when the government does that and I believe the process is really cheapened every time somebody takes cheap shots at somebody else. There is truth to the old maxim that every time you throw a little muck at somebody, you cannot keep your hands clean, some of it sticks to you. Every time you cheapen the political process some of that sticks to you as well; you cheapen yourself.
I will talk about one or two other matters that I think are important to us and that have come up in the last little while. There has been a fair amount of discussion in our federal parliament--I think they concluded a day's debate yesterday, and there has certainly been a lot of media analysis--about the Meech Lake accord. I want to touch on that a bit, not that we in this House are ready to have a full-fledged debate about that, although I hope we will. Some groundwork needs to be laid.
For example, I believe that it would be good advice to this government to say to the standing committee on the Legislative Assembly, or some other committee that the members prefer, that we need a process whereby the people in Ontario can voice their opinions. I do not think this has to be a big deal. I do not think there are a whole lot of folks in this province who want to put together a big discussion paper around constitutional reform, reform of the Senate or anything else, but I do know there are some.
There are some learned people in Ontario who could provide the members of this Legislature with some very good advice. I know they will have an opportunity to write me a letter. There is a difference between writing me a personal letter, or writing a letter to the Premier or anybody else in here, and having the opportunity to appear before a committee of the Legislature to present a position. There is a distinction to be made. We would all be well served by a process of that kind.
I am not advocating a long series of hearings, but I do think that we could set aside a couple of weeks of our time over the course of the summer or in the month of June and have one of our committees provide that vehicle for the public. I believe it would be useful just to hear what people who are interested in that field have to say.
The critical point of the Meech Lake accord, as I see it, lies not with the detail of its work, but with the recognition that that accord, while it may bring the province of Quebec into Canada, it may reform the Senate and it may do a whole lot of other things, is a turning point in the history of the country. Canada will never be quite the same place once that accord is put into place. It is a substantive change that is being talked about. I believe there are some matters in there that have to be fully understood before they are agreed to. I am a little bit concerned that some people who have made observations about it are correct.
I do not know why it was possible to do in a short period of time what has eluded us for so long, but it is apparent to me that the Prime Minister of Canada desperately wanted a significant political victory on constitutional matters. He desperately needed to establish his credentials and his ability to do that, and he had to do it now. In crass political terms, he is having continued difficulties--let me be polite about it--governing the country. He needed some historic agreement to be signed about something, and it did not matter a lot what it was or what it said, as long as he accomplished something. That is my concern.
I have read the newspaper analysis of it and read what there is of the Meech Lake accord. I am happy in the sense that we have come to an agreement. That is good news, real good news. It seems to me there are not insurmountable problems raised, but in the response to it, it is also clear to me that there could be some dandy problems on the horizon. Unless everybody decides to get agreeable all the time from here on in, there are going to be some real impasses. We may have resolved one problem and created several others.
That may not be the case. The wording of the agreement is not done yet. The nuances of what the agreement means are not all clearly understood by all sides. But there is a need now to take a little bit of time: to pause, to analyse, to understand and to draft into the formal agreement, as clearly as we can, precisely what we mean; to listen to those who are not a party to this accord, and to be particularly mindful of the bitter paradox that is there when you look at the struggle native people had in this country to become part of the Constitution, to achieve their reforms, to establish their needs, to make good the payment on agreements that were struck some many years ago.
The political leadership in Canada was unable to reach agreement on that. I would have said, quite frankly, that their case was well put. It is certainly well understood. It has been around a long time. No agreement was possible there. The stark comparison between what was not possible for our native people and what was possible in the Meech Lake accord just cannot go away from my mind. I think we have to resolve that. It has to be resolved.
If some who have read it say the Meech Lake accord basically means all the players are in now and they have the opportunity to blackball anybody else who might come in later, whether that is native people or new provinces from the Northwest Territories or the Yukon or wherever, I think that would be another matter entirely and that has to be carefully thought through.
I want to conclude by saying that in the budget and in the throne speech, I have some hopes. I have some hopes that the government will now begin to respond to those whom I represent in my own constituency and across the province, working people who have some real needs. I understand that often their needs are not--how shall I put this?--high on the political hit list. They very often need things which cost a lot of money and do not have much political bang to them, like a decent pension.
I understand that, and I understand that the tendency on the part of the Treasurer, when he announces his budget and proceeds through the pre-election period, will be to do the traditional means of gathering votes. You pick up education and you hit on that for a while, you pick up health and you hit on that for a while, and you pick up things like roads and you hit on them for a while. You are mindful that the cheap part is to build a new wing on a hospital; the expensive part is to operate that wing for 20 or 30 or 50 years. The cheap part is to build a new school or add a classroom on a school; the expensive part is to keep the school in operation for as long as it is needed. The cheap part is to build the road in the first place.
The previous government became a master at this. They understood how to get the most political bang for the tax dollar. They knew how to put up the big signs. They would always announce. If they were building a new road, they would announce it eight or nine times before they would actually do it.
The GO train to Oshawa is perhaps the most poignant example I can think of. The thing has been around for a decade. It has been announced 25 times. It is always announced just before the next provincial election. There is always a new signboard going up announcing that Ontario is extending GO trains to Oshawa.
It has got to the point where I do not even listen to the announcements any more. What I do is I drive on Highway 401 and I look over to the construction site. If there are people working over there, I am happy the thing is going along. When I do not see any construction going on, I get concerned that nothing is happening. It is almost at the point where you cannot believe the political announcements any more.
The previous government was really good at this. Members may recall that Bill Davis became a very successful politician in this province by building the education system. He gave us all kinds of regional schoolboards, new composite high schools and all that stuff. But he took it to the point where he knew that the most political advantage was gained by building the school, cutting the ribbon and then getting away from that. They built the schools, they cut the ribbons and then they lowered their support for education generally. They wanted to step back from that.
I see some signs that this government is playing that same song. They want to open up some classrooms and cut some ribbons, but they do not want the long-term financial commitment that is necessary to operate schools according to the needs of students. There are some really silly things going on in education these days, and there are also some real critical needs that have to be addressed.
I think they may exhibit a tendency to open up some new wings on hospitals somewhere without addressing the real health needs that are just below the surface and perhaps not so identifiable. Maybe it will not be quite so dramatic when the government brings in a proper nursing home program. Maybe it will not be quite so dramatic when they address themselves to the matter of proper child care. Maybe they are, in their early statements now about things such as that, exploring the whole option of how we could put a little money in at the front end and grab the most political credit without getting sucked into long-term financial commitments to really doing things.
I hope they do not do that. I hope they do not decide that the world consists of all those who are listening to Paul Simon's tunes these days; all the kinds of uptown yuppies who are around. Some of them are doing well. Some of them have two incomes, two cars and take regular vacations. There are also a lot of folks in my riding--and this is not news to the Legislature--who have no place to live. That is really dumb. In a place such as Oshawa that is supposedly booming economically, why are there no places for the poor to live? And it is true that there are not.
They come to see me and I say, "Well, we have a housing authority and we will try to get you on the waiting list there, but there are no units available." We are building a few new units, that is true, but this summer in Oshawa, in the midst of all this economic boom, there are still going to be people sleeping on the streets and they will be off in the parks with their pup tents again this summer. That is really, in my view, a crime. One does not have to leave the legislative grounds to find these folks. They are around here, they are certainly evident in the city of Toronto and they are evident in every community to some degree or other.
The poor still have their problems and I would really like to see this bright, young government pause for a moment in the midst of all the hyperbole that is in the speech from the throne and come at us in the budget and say. "There are all these wonderful things we would really like to do, but there are also some real needs that have to be addressed over here." Maybe they are not really dramatic--they are not nearly as dramatic as building a domed stadium--but they are the reasons we need governments to do certain things.
There has been some angry debating here about public auto insurance and the insurance companies. I really do not have much time for theoretical politics. It has never been my strong point. I have virtually no interest in it. What I am interested in is when a guy comes to me and he is 82 years old and some insurance company wants $2,000 to insure his car. That is morally wrong; that is really what it is. In the old days, they would have called that usury.
If the insurance companies do not want a publicly-run auto insurance plan, there is a really simple way for them to avoid it: lower the rates and stop ripping off folks. If they do that, then people will look at all our arguments about public auto insurance being a wonderful thing and say: "Well, it is a wonderful thing, but we do not need it. Forget that one. Go on to something else."
The reason it is here now and staying as a political issue is that the insurance companies have not learned. I do not care how much money they spend on television ads about why car insurance costs are up; if they keep mailing those little premium notices that say the premiums have gone from $400 to $800 a month, their television spots do not work. When they drive by the Co-Operators on Bloor Street and they see the big downtown Toronto office building with the big grey stretch limousine in front, they understand a little bit about the insurance companies' high overhead, but it does not strike a very sympathetic chord.
I talked to a young guy in Gravenhurst last week. He bought a new truck that cost him $9,000, and his insurance is going to cost him $4,000. This is obscenity. That is what it is. That is why this government, whether it wants to do it or not, is going to have to respond in a real way to that problem, and there is a host of others.
I will conclude by saying that the speech from the throne does not give one a whole lot to talk about in specific terms. It talks in generalities, and that is fine. I thought it was a great day until we moved inside. I liked the new uniforms on the guards outside, back to the air force blue. I think that is swell. They fired off the cannons in the back lot and nobody got hurt. I am always grateful for that. I thought the bands were wonderful. I thought the Lieutenant Governor did his job the way it is supposed to be done until he read the speech.
The speech was a bit unfortunate. There was not really very much there that would establish anything that one could put a handle on except that this is a new government struggling with its image. That is fine; the government has a right to try to mould a new image for itself. But it also has an obligation not to leave it at the image stage. It should do something substantial for the people whose needs are real. It has a legislative program which is well under way and which we ought to complete before people start living out their fantasies about elections.
I will put this cheap political advice to the government before I conclude. All the polls I read tell me that this government is very strongly identified with one person. This has been true in many ways in Ontario politics for the last long period of time. The Premier is immensely popular right now; but I will put this caution to the government and it can listen to it if it wants or forget about it, it does not matter much to me.
Whenever the government is hung so closely to one person, that person had better be infallible. If that person thinks he can go for a lengthy period of time and not get caught saying the wrong thing or doing the wrong thing, that person had better be without any problems whatsoever.
I contend that the Premier could use a little more seasoning. I would put to the government that the Premier would be well served by having a legislative record that is substantial, because if this government thinks it can go through the elective process dealing only with images, I caution that it will never make it through.
To back up my point, I will point to two recent political memories in Canada. One is a guy named John Turner, who started off an election campaign very high in the poll. There are those who were accurately saying that 25 political appointments made by the previous Prime Minister put him in a hole he never got out of. That is a lesson people ought to learn.
The previous Conservative government began an election campaign very high in the polls and watched it all dissipate during the course of one electoral period. That can happen again; I believe that will happen again.
My advice to the government in a response to the speech from the throne is that it is fine; now let us set that aside and get the budget in place. Let us complete the commitment we have made to the people of Ontario of a legislative program that addresses some of their needs; not all, but some. Then, when we have done that, let the government fantasize all it wants about elections and call all the elections it wants. Nobody on this side will object.
For me personally, the government can call the election now if it wants. I do not care. I had my little election planning committee in Oshawa together for a couple of meetings in the last few weeks. They are a little tired, they would rather go fishing and there are a whole lot of things they would rather do; but they are ready, as they always are. They are a tough, mean bunch of people, and advertising programs will not shake them. They will hit the streets and be real mean and nasty, because that is the kind of politics they understand. They are serious about it.
I caution the government not to fantasize, to get the work load done and then decide when it would be appropriate to have an election. I think the throne speech is supportable because I too am strongly in favour of literacy, moderation and all those things.
Mr. D. R. Cooke: I would like first to compliment the member for Oshawa (Mr. Breaugh), because he strikes me as one of the more level-headed members of this assembly and indeed his is a very reasonable approach to politics. While I would hope the government does not take all the advice he handed out to heart, some of it is very interesting and well-meaning indeed.
To take a more objective example, I would be surprised myself if the suggestion he made that the planning of the exposure of the personal life of Gary Hart was done within his own campaign quarters is accurate. I suppose a certain amount of cynicism has come out of the member for Oshawa's views that I do not necessarily share. In any event, it is a level-headed approach to politics that he always brings and I compliment him for it.
That has not necessarily been the case so far in the debate on this throne speech, nor in the emergency debates which have been interrupting the throne speech. I am quite serious when I suggest there has been a lot of lallygagging in this assembly, and the people who are watching this process on cable television may have reason to be not that happy generally with what they are seeing.
Frankly, I would fault the Conservatives in particular--not the one Conservative who is in the House at the moment, but some of the Conservatives seem to be spinning their wheels in debate. They seem to be prolonging the business of this House unnecessarily with long-winded and unnecessary speeches, perhaps in the hope that something will happen to turn the tide of public opinion in their favour, perhaps in some cases just to prolong their paycheques a few more weeks before they are terminated.
I am reminded of the comment in the Koran, the Islamic holy book, "The harshest sound in nature is the braying of an ass."
I do want to remind the public that a lot of good work is going on in this Legislature right now, at least in committees. For instance, the committee which I chair, the standing committee on finance and economic affairs, is sitting unsung at this moment, members of all three political parties working together, co-operating on a very complicated piece of legislation, Bill 116, which is an act completely revising the Loan and Trust Corporations Act. In the future this province will be able to control loan and trust corporations and deal with them in confidence so that the scandals and frauds which may have occurred in the past will never occur again.
In so doing, we are dealing in a clause-by-clause way--and I can say there is a great deal of co-operation going on between all three parties in this regard--with what I understand to be one of the longest bills, if not the longest bill, in the history of our Legislature. It is the first corporate commercial bill to be dealt with in both official languages. All is not just hot air in the work of this Legislature.
I would like to spend a few minutes in this historic debate on a few matters that concern me. It is difficult now, in the spring of 1987, to be less than enthusiastic about Ontario, about our hopes for the future, about our relative satisfaction, subject always to the possibility of bettering the lives our people have and what is going on.
I believe His Honour's speech correctly reflects the concerns, the beliefs and the dreams of most Ontarians and, if I may say so as their representative, most Kitchenerites. It sets a new agenda for the government, yet one that builds upon earlier commitments, a new agenda for facing up to the social and economic implications of changing demographics. In that regard, I would correct the member for Oshawa in that I think there is a great deal of reflection on some of the concerns we have.
There are indeed pockets of poor in this province. They are in all the cities of this province. The throne speech does reflect that. It reflects the need for better day care. It reflects the need for greater payments to welfare. It also reflects the meeting of challenges of an increasingly competitive international environment that we have to face up to in order to continue the strength which exists in the province today. It reflects the need to restore excellence by returning to the basics in our education system.
The current economic buoyancy is the result of many factors. We are not suggesting--and the Treasurer and the Premier have not suggested--that we should take all the credit for that buoyancy. Not the least of the reasons for the buoyancy is Ontario's favourable place in the world economy and the leading thrust given in the transportation equipment industry, which has an anticipated real output increase for 1987 in the nature of about five per cent. The bustle is continuing with the $2-billion General Motors project, the new AMC plant in Brampton, GM-Suzuki in Ingersoll, Toyota in Cambridge, Honda in Alliston and the Chrysler mini-van plant in Windsor.
As well, though Ontario is buoyant today, because we have a strong and reputable government with a frugal and reputable Treasurer, who has managed this buoyancy with skill, dedication and fiscal sagacity, the result is that our debt is under control. The result is that our deficit is reasonable, and Ontario is now the only province left in Canada with a triple-A credit rating, rated by Moody's Investors Service in the United States.
The thrust of the speech from the throne is the same as the thrust of the unanimous report from all three parties of the standing committee on finance and economic affairs as to what it recommended should be in the budget: namely, that the primary goal of government today should be to repair the damaged infrastructure of the economy, by investing in primary, secondary or post-secondary education, most particularly in research areas; through working to maintain full employment and addressing the pockets of unemployment in the north; through improving our quality of life by addressing the availability of and carrying out the initiatives of the Minister of Community and Social Services (Mr. Sweeney).
One of the concerns which this speech addressed and which this member applauds is the development of a community-based health care system emphasizing prevention of illness and promotion of healthy living. In the last 10 years, health care has jumped from 27 per cent to 32 per cent of the provincial budget. We have to address that fact.
In the short term, that fact can be addressed with sufficient funding and institutional management incentives. This is an example of a clear rebuilding of the infrastructure, and I am reminded of the situation in my community where two hospitals laboured for years not having enough funds to operate efficiently. Much time was wasted with bureaucratic wrangling, and today with an improved funding base and with added funding available to them, there is new excitement in both our hospitals.
In an attempt to make things work efficiently with this assistance, for example, the Kitchener-Waterloo Hospital is now using paper plates in the cafeteria where it used to use china. Every worker in the hospital has been asked to participate in money-saving ideas, and this is admirable. It is also necessary in the long run to seek viable well-care alternatives in the community, and this too requires funding in the long run.
If I may turn to the area of mental health, we have virtually emptied our mental hospitals, and we are just beginning to show real community support for our mentally ill. Currently, community health care programs receive only six per cent of the mental health budget. I would like to see the government aiming at increasing this percentage.
Some states in the United States have reallocated funds from hospital to community programs. It obviously fits that when we have so many mental patients out of the hospital, more money should be going into these community programs. It should be done in a planned and deliberate manner. Wisconsin is a good example of a way in which that has been done, and we could learn from their experience.
In order to enjoy Ontario's buoyant economy fully, continuing housing shortages, which go hand in hand with buoyancy, must be overcome. I come from an area not dissimilar to that of the member who spoke previously, where the economy is booming, but there is a low vacancy rate in housing and that, in fact, creates an acute problem.
The initiatives of the Minister of Housing (Mr. Curling), as outlined in the speech from the throne, deserve active support from this Legislature. Since coming to office, this government has envisioned affordable, quality housing for all Ontarians and the throne speech initiatives, like a housing-first policy, are designed to meet this future head on.
In my area, I have seen how government-supported private sector initiatives have provided new housing opportunities for families. We have had a lot of them. We appreciate them. More is needed. I am confident the throne speech is the proper blueprint for the future of housing.
I would also like to take this opportunity to endorse the proposal put forward by my colleague the Minister of Housing to the effect that boarders in commercially-oriented units receive the same rights as tenants have under the Landlord and Tenant Act. This is the civil thing to do, as boarders have little protection at the moment and few rights in the face of wrongful eviction by an owner. I have known people to be ordered out of their residence with no recourse, in cases where the Landlord and Tenant Act does not apply to them. I am confident this House will see the justice of such a proposal once it is brought forth.
Another area in which the infrastructure needs to be strengthened is intercity transportation. I wish to compliment the Minister of Transportation and Communications (Mr. Fulton). It was a real delight to see him back in the House today. The minister has been sensitive and responsive in our community in endorsing a new transit terminal. This intermodal terminal will serve not only the residents of Kitchener-Waterloo, but will also be integrated with intercity bus and rail lines.
This brings me to a sensitive area, when we talk about the rail system, which is presently inadequate and is now facing further cutbacks by the federal government. A rapidly growing area such as Guelph, the Waterloo region and Stratford should not be abandoned, as Via Rail now seems to be doing. I would like to go further and suggest it might be an area GO Transit could move into, but I realize there could be serious problems there, in that the track belongs to the federal government and there would have to be a lot of co-operation.
Another matter crucial to the future of my region is the plan to develop new sources of water supply. By 1991, the Waterloo region is projected to suffer serious water shortages, and that year is only four years away. Current plans call for the development of a recharge aquifer in the Grand River, but it is apparent this plan is not sufficient to meet the needs of the booming region.
At this time, I wish to express my support for a study which would look again at a plan previously rejected, at the whole concept of a pipeline from one of the Great Lakes into our area. Five years ago, this concept was rejected as economically unfeasible and virtually impracticable. Estimates in 1982 predicted a minimum price tag of $250 million, in comparison to a cost of about $150 million for what we are calling the Grand River-Mannheim recharge project.
Times have changed. New technologies and new materials have been made for this pipeline proposal. It is now economically feasible and socially justifiable, and in the long run, over a long period of time, it is the case that it will eventually be cheaper. Roughly, in economic terms, the cost of the proposed pipeline has been reduced to somewhere in the general vicinity of between $147 million and $200 million. Some would say this current amount is too costly; but in the long term, I would argue, it is cheaper.
A pipeline allows for long-term industrial population. It allows for population expansion to be satisfied at a much grander rate than would be the case if we were to depend on aquifers; aquifers basically being, as I understand it, taking the water we use, pumping it back into the water table in the area and then repurifying it and using it again.
It strikes me that a pipeline provides much more flexibility. Other areas in the province might well be serviced by it, including Brantford, Guelph or Stratford, but an aquifer project, if set up for the region of Waterloo, cannot go beyond the Waterloo region.
Over the next 50 years, we require a large, secure, stable supply of water to meet these growing needs. A pipeline responds to these needs. Infrastructure for this project--a treatment plant, pumping stations and so on--can be completed within a 12-month to 18-month period, while the laying down of pipe could all occur within one summer season; a pipeline could easily be achieved by the critical 1991 target date from any one of Lake Erie, Lake Huron or Georgian Bay.
I am concerned as well about a comparative evaluation of drinking water sources which has been prepared by CanTox Inc., consultants in technology, which says, among other things--I am reading from page 9 -- "With the exception of polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons in the Kitchener-Waterloo area, none of the chemicals identified at any of these sites was at levels of concern regarding public health and safety."
The exception is there, and the indication is there that any one of the Great Lakes might be a safer source of water supply than would an aquifer coming from the ground water in our area, which of course is fed by, among other things, the runoff of fertilizer and detergent from nearby farm land.
Despite its initial cost, the proposed pipeline eventually would run at a more efficient rate than the current proposal. Concerns about initial heavy industrial costs to taxpayers can therefore, I would suggest, be allayed. I am simply saying, let us look into the feasibility of this before we reject it out of hand.
These are a few of the examples of some of the needs that I would suggest should be looked at a little more closely in addressing the rebuilding of our provincial infrastructure. I hope it can be done, as the standing committee on finance and economic affairs unanimously hopes, in a manner that approaches balancing total current revenues with total current expenditures.
It was interesting when our committee was meeting that we had no particular briefs--and we certainly heard from a number of economists and a number of chambers of commerce and the Board of Trade of Metropolitan Toronto--for across-the-board tax cuts. We had concern expressed for the size of the deficit. We had concern expressed in greater volume for the need to redress the infrastructure, but there was no suggestion from any source that there be across-the-board tax cuts. That idea is the figment of the imagination of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Grossman) alone. If there is an issue in this regard, I suggest it is not the case that a tax cut should be considered.
There has been a lot of suggestion, particularly from the third party, to the effect that we are on a bent towards an election. The Premier has rather humbly acknowledged that our government is here, to some extent, by accident. With the exception of Arthur Meighen in 1926, whose government lasted only a few weeks, I know of no other government in Canadian history that has governed without first being elected. I can understand the concern of the members opposite that surely the time is fast approaching when it may be appropriate to ask the electorate whether it endorses the initiatives of this government, whether it endorses this new agenda.
I understand this clamouring from members opposite in view of the fact that we were not formally elected and came into power essentially by accident. A consultation with the electorate must soon be in order so that we can clear the way, have a mandate and carry forward with this new agenda.
Mr. J. M. Johnson: I would first like to comment on the observations of the member for Kitchener (Mr. D. R. Cooke) about the Conservative members wasting time in debate by taking too much time in their individual talks. The member should be aware that eight days are allocated for the throne speech debate, whether two, five or 20 members use it up.
I would also like to thank the member for Kitchener, the chairman of the standing committee on finance and economic affairs, for inviting me a few months ago to attend a meeting in Washington with his finance committee. He offered me the position of one of the Liberal members who could not attend. I was very interested in attending but felt that I could not join the Liberal caucus even for a short interval. I am pleased to have the opportunity to rise in response to the speech from the throne. I intend, as always, to be fair in my comments, to offer credit where it is deserved, to be critical where necessary but in a constructive way, and to express my concerns in areas where I feel the government is not doing enough or indeed is doing the wrong thing. Unfortunately, there are many of both. Any government that makes 157 promises in 30 different areas is either very inexperienced or has no intention of keeping its promises. I can attest to their inexperience but only time will tell if they are honest.
I will work my way through the 49 pages of this magnificent document of promises and comment on some that have aroused my interest. I will start with tourism on page 3. It states in the speech from the throne, "We must compete by attracting new investment and more visitors." What is the government doing to attract new visitors? I would like to read from a letter I received from a constituent who just returned from a trip to Washington:
"We have heard quite a lot recently about the Ontario government's initiatives to promote the tourist industry in this province: Ontario Incredible! Incredible it was on Sunday, May 3, upon a return from a visit south of the border via the Ambassador Bridge between Detroit and Windsor. After crossing the border into Canada some time in the early afternoon, we were greeted first of all by nonfunctioning traffic lights along the short stretch of Highway 3, which runs from the bridge to Highway 401. Nowhere in sight was there a police officer to assist in the confusion which certainly occurs in such circumstance.
"We stopped for lunch at the first service centre on Highway 401, just past Tilbury, and were we American tourists entering Canada, we most certainly would have been tempted to turn around and go back home. The condition of the restaurant, the standard of service, the type and quality of food, the lack of cleanliness, the unfriendly and almost hostile attitude of the waitress made us ashamed, and we were embarrassed citizens of this province and country. After waiting for quite some time to be served, we finally gave up and decided to try the next service centre.
"Our experience there proved equally unpleasant. The restaurant was in the process of being renovated to accommodate a Wendy's and Tim Horton doughnut shop. The food being offered was meagre and the atmosphere bleak and uninviting."
This is an example of the type of welcome Ontario is offering to its American visitors who spend millions of dollars a year in our province and country. It is truly incredible. To make it even more incredible is the government's major tourism thrust to date, namely, the promised toilets along the 401. These were announced in last year's throne speech and still are not completed, but the Premier did make a helpful suggestion to our new tourists, "Take an airsickness bag with you in the meantime." This is truly incredible.
This would be a golden opportunity for the government to do something, something big and earth-shattering, like building some world-class service centres and installing some state-of-the-art toilets.
I have had many constituents express concern about the speech pathologists and many other social and health services that are provided in our cities but not in rural Ontario. This is in relation to the promise on page 4: "We will extend the hand of opportunity and social justice to all Ontarians, and assist those who are unable to grasp it on their own.
"We will develop a system of flexible, community-based programs and services to respond to changing social and economic needs. We recognize that individuals, neighbourhoods and communities best know their own needs, and we will involve them in planning and choosing the services they require.
"Programs and services will be made available on a decentralized basis--close at hand and easy to find."
I fully support that concept. I take this offer of the government to extend the hand of opportunity and social justice to all Ontarians and call on it to assist my constituents in acquiring the services they require, close at hand and easy to find.
I would like to move on to the deficit. "We will seek to attain these goals in a fiscally responsible manner, because the people of Ontario wish to leave their children with the flexibility they will need to meet the challenges of tomorrow."
It is in the throne speech. I would hope by that statement that the government intends to balance the budget and not leave a legacy of debt for our children to inherit. Surely we should pay our own debts. Former Prime Minister of Britain Harold Macmillan said, "History is apt to judge harshly those who sacrifice tomorrow for today."
I would like to move on to the next paragraph on the same page. "In these and all matters my government is mindful of the fact that it is the servant of the people. We will continue to provide government that is...open and fair."
That is commendable. I would like to read an editorial in the Toronto Star dated April 15. The headline reads, "Paying for Access."
"This evening, Premier David Peterson and several of his cabinet colleagues are scheduled to rub elbows with some 200 businessmen at a cocktail party at the Ontario Club in Commerce Court South.
"That sounds relatively harmless, but there's a catch: the businessmen have paid $200 each for the privilege of access to the Premier and other ministers and the chance to tell them their `thoughts and concerns,' as the invitation says. For $1,000, you may join an exclusive club that gets to meet regularly with Peterson and his cabinet and discuss government policy."
The editorial also says, "Of course, if you wanted to talk to your local MP or MPP and his secretary said you would first have to contribute to his campaign fund, you might be miffed. But increasingly, it seems, that's the way political fund-raising is done these days. You have a much better chance of catching a politician's ear if you first fill his coffers."
Ms. E. J. Smith: That is what you guys used to do. It is not that way any more.
Mr. Pope: No, you have refined it to a real art.
Ms. E. J. Smith: It is not done that way, I can tell you that.
Mr. J. M. Johnson: The Liberals are the experts in fund-raising; I am not sure how it is done. It is not done that way in my party. I very much resent the fact that the Premier continuously makes promises of an open and fair government and then charges $1,000 for the privilege of talking to him. He belittles the political process and demeans the integrity of MPPs who serve all their constituents regardless of their political stripe or purse.
Mr. Speaker: The member for Wellington-Dufferin-Peel is waiting.
Mr. J. M. Johnson: I would like to refer now to the section dealing with excellence in education. It says: "We will soon announce details of a major new capital funding program to alleviate overcrowded classrooms and modernize our education facilities...lt will help ensure that people in all parts of the province have equal access to quality education, while improving our ability to meet community needs."
There is an article in the Guelph Mercury of May 1: "Wellington Denied Grants. The chairman of the board, Bill Lawless, is quite upset. Despite a $179-million boost for building new schools across the province, the Wellington County Board of Education has been snubbed. `We are not on the list,' chairman of the board Bill Lawless said Thursday, `the money has been allocated and we are not getting any of it. To say the least, I am not happy.'"
Where is the government commitment to ensure equal access to quality education to all parts of this province? Are they breaking their promises already or are they playing politics?
Dealing further with education, how does one accept the fact that this government would accept the very high drop-out rate in Ontario and work towards reducing it by one third within the next five years? That is certainly setting a fine example of excellence in governing. Aim so low that you just may achieve your goal. Surely our young people deserve better. A more determined government would have set its goal at 100 per cent. Even if it is not attainable, it should at least work towards that goal.
One of my constituents, Eric Holmes, the vice-principal of Erin District High School has made some excellent suggestions to combat this very serious problem of school drop-outs. Mr. Holmes says: "There is no doubt that many young people rank their job--`Where they pay me'--well above school where they get `hassled for no money.' It is a sad situation, and as vice-principal I see lots of it."
He goes on to say: "Let us encourage our politicians, our parents and our public to look at the attitudes which are being carelessly inculcated in the young. Let us help them to make decisions to protect our young people in the interests of giving them the time and the opportunities to become the best that each of them can be."
I fully support this type of concept and feel that we all have an obligation to do what we can to encourage our young people to stay in school.
On a personal note, I would like to express my disappointment with the Minister of Education (Mr. Conway). He is not here at this time, but I see his parliamentary assistant is arriving. Maybe he can convey my disappointment to the minister. I am disappointed with him for his actions regarding the announcement of $3 million for a new school in the town of Shelburne.
I am naturally not disappointed with the funding; I support that and commend him for granting the town of Shelburne the funding. However, as the member who has represented Shelburne for more than 11 years, I do resent the fact that the minister did not even have the common courtesy to inform me that the grant was coming through. The announcement was made by the local Liberal candidate and the member for Brampton (Mr. Callahan), the closest Liberal member. I very much feel they are playing politics with taxpayers' dollars.
I will carry on with a few more brief comments. In the throne speech, dealing with nursing homes and seniors, it says, "My government will provide additional funding to ensure the necessary staff and facilities to improve the quality of life of nursing home residents." Further, "We will strive to ensure that seniors receiving institutional care are able to enjoy the same level of dignity as those living independently in the community."
I fully accept both those comments and support them. I encourage the government to do more to ensure that these promises are kept and that this becomes a reality in all our nursing homes. The government must upgrade its inspection system and closely monitor all homes to safeguard the rights of our senior citizens receiving institutional care, so they may indeed live in dignity and comfort.
I am being very helpful to the government by supporting these initiatives.
We move on to the promotion of healthy living. The throne speech says, "We will act to encourage moderation in alcohol consumption." That sounds pretty good until we move on to page 27. It reads: "My government will also respond to consumer needs by ensuring that our laws reflect contemporary social attitudes. We will update the regulations governing the distribution and consumption of alcoholic beverages."
The government is going to increase the hours of sale, make booze more available, encourage more sale of alcohol and at the same time promote a healthier lifestyle. The government wants it both ways and it does not work that way. This government does not sit on a fence; it stands four-square on both sides of it. With 157 promises, I guess it is hard not to make conflicting promises, especially if you do not intend to follow through with most of them anyway.
Regarding a safe environment, "We will provide enriched support to help municipalities maintain and rehabilitate sewage and water distribution systems...funds will be provided for projects such as sewage systems improvements, sewer separation.... Additional assistance will also be given to larger municipalities to finance water and sewage projects of major environmental significance."
The government again makes promises that it does not intend to live up to, the promise to provide enriched support for municipalities that require sewage treatment facilities. I have three municipalities that have been trying to get assistance for the past several months. I have not been able to get any support from the Minister of the Environment (Mr. Bradley), except that he will talk to them.
The town of Fergus sent a letter I just received today. It is addressed to the Minister of the Environment and pertains to sewage system expansion. It reads:
"It was with surprise and regret that this municipality received your ministry's letter dated April 24, 1987. The situation which we are now faced with will be nothing short of devastating to our prospects for future growth. This municipality spent considerable time, effort and money to promote residential, industrial and commercial growth, and without expansion to the treatment facility for this municipality, future growth is seriously affected. Although we accept that our present system is overloaded, we also realize that all of our efforts over the years have been in vain if we cannot expand the sewage system due to lack of funding support from your ministry."
Why promise in the throne speech to provide money to support municipalities and then refuse to support them? It does not make sense. The government promised to supply more money for larger municipalities. What about rural Ontario and the small towns? They need equal consideration. They have the same problems as in the cities. Surely the minister can respond to the needs of the people who have made requests in the past before making promises to other people for the future.
Further on the safe environment, on page 25 of the throne speech: "We will introduce a new comprehensive waste management funding program, with a strong long-term emphasis on recycling. The program will support municipal initiatives to upgrade existing landfill sites and develop alternatives, and establish state-of-the-art waste management facilities."
The Minister of Energy (Mr. Kerrio) should be interested in this because I have been pleading with him to support an energy-from-waste facility in the city of Guelph to solve the waste problems of both the city and the county of Wellington. The minister has been very supportive in his initiatives and has agreed to work with the county. Unfortunately, the Minister of the Environment does not share the same compassion or understanding of the problems of the people.
It goes on to say, "My government will encourage co-operative efforts by industry, university and government researchers to ensure the rapid development, diffusion and application of new technologies for pollution control." Surely this will fall into the Minister of Energy's category. May I count on the facility in the next couple of weeks?
I have a large number of constituents in the little hamlet of Alma in the township of Peel who are very concerned. They are under pressure to accept a waste disposal site for the county of Wellington and the city of Guelph. It will mean hundreds of tons of garbage being dumped in their area, and they are very concerned about the environmental consequences of it. I would think that when the Minister of the Environment promises a safe environment, he would also take into account the concerns of these people and not impose a sanitary landfill site on a very sensitive environmental area.
I now will move on to renewed transportation infrastructure. The speech promises that funds will be provided for the rehabilitation of provincial highways and roads. I hope a fair and reasonable share of these funds will be allocated to my riding and not used for partisan political motives by this government. I receive many resolutions from my municipal councils requesting funding for highways, roads and bridges. I received a resolution from the township of Minto in the county of Wellington just last Thursday.
The resolution reads: "Be it resolved that the council of the township of Minto endorses the Ontario Good Roads Association's submission to the government of Ontario regarding increased funding for road maintenance and construction to maintain and upgrade the road system in the province of Ontario." It goes on to say that the council is spending $180,000 of 100 per cent Minto taxpayers' money because the province has fallen behind in its responsibility to assist it in this regard.
Why is the government promising more money to rehabilitate the highways and roads and not looking after the commitments it has made? Again, it is promising something for the future. Why does it not live up to its commitments in the past?
I move on to the tourist area. "A World-Class Tourist Destination: Tourism is a key source of employment and revenue for the Ontario economy. It is estimated that tourism accounts directly and indirectly for at least nine per cent of total employment in the province and six per cent of gross provincial product."
I support any government initiative to increase the revenue from tourism. This government could start by following my advice and cleaning up the service centres on our major highways and providing comfortable, well-informed tourist information centres.
I would again like to venture forth in promoting the Ontario farm vacation program. This is a tourist program I have promoted for many years, certainly during my 12 years as a member of this Legislature. The Speaker may even remember some of my speeches.
The problem with the farm vacation program is that it is being administered by the Ministry of Agriculture and Food. The Minister of Agriculture and Food (Mr. Riddell) has enough problems with the financial problems in the agricultural community without becoming involved in the tourist area. It has always been my contention that this program should be in the Ministry of Tourism and Recreation. The Minister of Tourism and Recreation (Mr. Eakins) has always shown a lot of interest in this program and I would hope the government would give consideration to transferring the farm vacation program to that ministry.
Seven years ago, we had approximately 30 members. The number now has increased to 90. It is my feeling this number could be increased to 300, 400 or 500 with very little effort because there is a need for this type of modest accommodation. When one considers the price of accommodation at the Sutton Place Hotel, which is close to $200 for two people, many tourists will not venture into Ontario because they simply cannot afford it. If we had more bed-and-breakfast and boarding homes, and more farm vacation homes, we would encourage more people to travel to this province. It is something that deserves the attention of all members of the Legislature, promoting it actively and improving the program. Ninety is a good number, but we could have far more and be beneficial to the tourist industry and the province, especially to the Treasury.
I have only a few more comments. One is on agriculture. I am a bit disappointed with the government's initiative in this. The speech from the throne reads, "A Strengthened Agriculture Sector." While it talked about strengthening the sector, it devoted less than one page in a 49-page document to agriculture.
The speech from the throne reads, "Improvements will be made in the farm tax reduction program." So it should make improvements. I thank my colleague the member for Hastings-Peterborough (Mr. Pollock) who moved a resolution on January 15, which I seconded, that read as follows, "That in the opinion of this House, the Minister of Agriculture and Food in conjunction with the Minister of Revenue should immediately move to increase the farm property tax rebate from 60 per cent to 70 per cent."
I hope the government is moving in that direction. It has promised improvements. It received the unanimous support of all members of the House. It is one of the most enriched programs in agriculture for farmers. It amounts to well more than $100 million a year.
The province's agricultural sector needs help in many areas. On top of the list is financial assistance. To survive the drafting measures of the United States farm bill, and the European Community, it is estimated that Americans will spend more than $20 billion in support of their farm program. Europe is credited with direct and indirect subsidization programs to agriculture in excess of $60 billion. Our farms need our financial support now.
Many other problems in rural Ontario could be dealt with by a reasonable and understanding government, such as land severances. Everyone should be supportive of preserving top quality agricultural land. If they are, then they should be supportive of preserving family farms. If we preserve the farmers, they will preserve the land. Let us keep our priorities in order. Many of my constituents in municipalities in the rural areas want the right to make reasonable and sensible land severances, acceptable to the local and county authorities but not subject to control by Queen's Park bureaucrats.
These decisions can and should be made at the local level by knowledgeable people who know the land and the community. I strongly support this concept of local autonomy. I quote from the speech from the throne, "We"--the government--"recognize that individuals, neighbourhoods, and communities best know their own needs, and we will involve them in planning and choosing the services they require." The same thing should apply to land severances and the use of the land.
Further on agriculture, a few minutes ago I mentioned the benefits of a viable farm vocation program to our farmers. l now would like to touch briefly on one of the most important initiatives I have taken as a member of this Legislature and, several years earlier, at the municipal level.
On Thursday, November 28, 1985, we debated in this House the resolution I had the privilege to move, a resolution that received the unanimous support of all members in this Legislature that day. The resolution reads as follows: "That in the opinion of this House, recognizing the very serious limitations based on our smaller rural municipalities in their ability to attract industrial growth, the government of Ontario should develop and implement an industrial strategy that would provide these municipalities with the much-needed expertise and financial resources necessary to enhance their position in this competitive field."
For more than 20 years, I have fought for industrial and commercial growth in rural Ontario; growth in our small towns, villages and townships; growth that would provide our people with job opportunities at home; growth that would provide off-farm income close to home to help retain that farm, and growth that would keep the social fabric of our communities intact and support our schools, churches, arenas--our way of life.
All growth does not have to centre in Metro. I applaud the government for its decision to move the Ministry of Agriculture and Food to Wellington county. This is a very wise decision to make. Guelph and Wellington county are the centre of the agricultural community for Ontario. Wellington happens to be my new riding, and I support that initiative.
Mr. Barlow: Close at hand. That is right, very good; if it ever gets moved, if it ever gets there.
Mr. J. M. Johnson: l think even the member for Cambridge would appreciate the fact that he will have the Ministry of Agriculture and Food close at hand. Over the next few years, most of the people working in this ministry will be from rural Ontario, and this will give a better perspective to a rural way of life, which is so important to the survival of our family farms.
I am sure the member for Oshawa will also appreciate the fact that the Ministry of Revenue moved to Oshawa.
Mr. J. M. Johnson: He says "so-so."
We move on to greater opportunity for women. With six grandchildren--five granddaughters and one grandson--I strongly support this initiative.
We move on to access to justice, on page 47. The government talks about fundamental principles of justice. l would like to make reference to a recent questionnaire I mailed out. The response was excellent--one of the best returns ever--2,426 responses.
I asked two questions relating to our justice system. First, "In your opinion, does our existing justice system deal appropriately with convicted criminals?" In response, 6.4 per cent said yes, 85 per cent said no, and the rest did not know. Only 156 respondents were satisfied with our present judicial system's dealings with convicted criminals, while 2,063 were not satisfied.
The second question I asked on the same topic was, "Should victims of crime be given financial compensation and restitution for injury and loss resulting from the crime?" Of the respondents, 73.2 per cent said yes, 11.1 per cent said no, and 15.7 per cent were undecided or did not respond. Only 269 said no, but 1,777 said yes, victims of crimes need more consideration.
I fully support the views of my constituents on both these issues and will inform both the federal and provincial Attorneys General of my constituents' views.
In winding up, on the last page, page 49, it states, "We will modernize and strengthen this province's physical infrastructures, including our schools, hospitals and roads, to make them serve the long-term interests of the people of Ontario."
I certainly support that initiative and once again warn this Liberal government not to play politics with the taxpayers' own dollars, penalizing some areas of the province to reward others. This government has pledged to be fair to all. Let them keep their word or pay the ultimate price for the failure to do so.
The voters in each riding will determine whether they have received their fair return on their tax dollars. Let this government have no illusions of buying votes with threats or promises, with the many millions of dollars this government has set aside. It is not the Liberal government's money; it belongs to the public. We were all elected to serve with honour, fairness and integrity. Let this government do so.
My last comments deal with the last paragraph, "We will continue to help the people of this province prepare for the 21st century." I find it is nice to prepare for the future--in fact, it is even wise--but surely this government intends to do something now, something today and tomorrow, and surely many constructive things over the next 13 years, not just plan for the 21st century.
George McLaughlin, chairman of the Ontario Farm Debt Review Board, says about one Ontario farmer in five will leave the land during the next five years. That is about 10,000 farm families. That is 10,000 farm operations closed, 10,000 farm homes lost and 10,000 farm families forced to find new employment, new homes and a new way of life. I personally cannot accept this government or this Legislature allowing such a thing to happen.
The problems go far beyond Ontario's borders. In fact, world events have caused these problems. It is incumbent upon all legislators to work together to try to alleviate some of the damage created by these world economic problems in the agricultural sector. We have to do it today, not next year or into the 21st century. This is just one example of many that needs attention today, not tomorrow.
I call upon this government to set aside its lust for power--did the member for Essex South (Mr. Mancini) hear that?--and start today to deal with the many social and economic problems that face our great province at this time. Both opposition parties have stated their desire to move ahead with meaningful legislation. Let this so-called world-class Liberal government do likewise. As our beloved Lieutenant Governor said in closing, "May Divine Providence attend your deliberations."
Ms. Bryden: I am pleased to participate in the throne speech debate. I would like to take the opportunity to compliment you, Mr. Speaker, on the performance of your duties as Speaker since the change of government. You have earned the respect of all members of the House by your even-handed conduct of the business of the House.
The throne speech we are discussing is a very great disappointment to me. Never has the speech touched so many bases without scoring a run. There are no concrete proposals for adequate layoff protection for workers affected by plant closures. In fact, all the speech says about this is on page 38, "Training support will be provided for laid-off older workers." How effective that will be in looking after the people at General Electric who now are being laid off and the rubber workers at the Goodyear plant in Etobicoke, I do not know.
There are no concrete proposals for a fairer tax system. In fact, all the speech says is, on page 40, "My government awaits with interest the introduction of tax reform measures by the federal government." They apparently have no initiatives of their own to close loopholes and make the whole tax system fairer.
Nor are there any details in the section headed "Greater Independence for the Physically Disabled." In particular, there is no promise of employment equity legislation to help them find jobs.
The same is true of the section headed "Greater Independence for Seniors." Why is there no mention of an increase in the property tax credit that seniors rely on to help them pay their municipal and school taxes when they stay in their own homes?
Nor is there any promise to index pensions or workers' compensation payments. Inflation can continue to erode these measures to the point where recipients may be reduced to poverty level.
I could go on and mention many other areas where the throne speech offers no hope of a better life for working people, retired people, disabled people and people needing better health care. However, in the time I have at my disposal I would like to zero in on three particular problems where urgent action is needed.
First, dental care for seniors. Last week I visited a group of residents at a senior citizens' apartment in my riding. Almost all of them had serious dental problems. Some had not been able to get adequate preventive dental care when growing up. Others had been unable to afford it during their working life and when they were raising their families. Now their quality of life and nutrition is gravely affected by lack of adequate dentures. Their health is also seriously affected. They find the cost of obtaining dentures is beyond their means. The emergency services provided through the welfare department or the dental school are not adequate for their needs, and they often do not qualify for them anyway.
While I commend the Toronto health department for its efforts to assist them with dental problems and to provide them with preventive care if they live in a seniors' building or a geriatric home, they have still not met the need to provide these seniors with the funds to obtain the dentures they need. All the health department has been able to do so far is develop a list of dentists who will accept reduced fees from seniors who are referred to them through the Toronto health department's list. While this is helpful, it really does not solve their problems, and most of them are living on a tea-and-toast syndrome because they cannot chew more solid foods.
In fact, the Toronto health department recently did a survey of dental health for seniors in the city of Toronto. They found that more than half the 75,000 seniors had not seen a dentist in five years, even though more than 90 per cent had some form of gum disease.
Dr. Jack Lee, dental services adviser for the city of Toronto, said, "They are just not getting the proper dental care...we've seen a tea-and-toast syndrome where seniors eat only soft foods because their teeth and gums hurt so much. It's unfortunate because eating nutritional foods would improve their overall health."
The slogan of the health department's promotional campaign was that teeth are "Good For Life." It envisages good health and long life.
Dental care for seniors must become part of Ontario health insurance plan funding. It must be provided through the OHIP services. They should not have to go to hospitals simply for oral surgery to remove their teeth. The same might be said about eyeglasses and magnifying glasses for seniors. These are basic needs for most seniors and should also be covered by OHIP.
The second area I want to draw attention to is the need for the government to put more action behind its words, on page 20 of the throne speech, about community health centres. It says, "We will work towards the creation of a widely accessible, community-based health care system that emphasizes the maintenance of good health and the adoption of healthy living habits."
That sentence could have been from a quote by the Honourable Larry Grossman when he was Minister of Health back in 1982-83. Five years ago the Conservative government was saying the same thing about promoting community health centres, but in those five years the growth of community health centres has been almost minimal. A very small part of the health budget is devoted to helping develop community health centres and health service organizations, yet these kinds of organizations can reduce the cost of the delivery of health services and encourage preventive medicine.
They can also help us move away from the fee-for-service health care system. It is the best way to reduce health care costs, because it has been demonstrated that patients using this kind of health organization go to hospital less frequently, stay in hospital for shorter times, have opportunities to get special nutritional education, become part of geriatric programs to improve their lives and can also have better well-baby programs and more lifestyle health education.
If this part of the throne speech is to be anything more than a pious wish, we expect to see a beefing-up of the branch in the Ministry of Health which assists physicians and community groups to develop these kinds of health service organizations. We expect to see startup grants and help in developing community boards. With community boards, the people who use the health services can have a voice in the kind of services available, and that is the kind of health delivery we should be working towards.
The third area I want to zero in on is the whole question of the government's failure to face up to the problem of the lack of accountability of boards and commissions. Local citizens in my riding are finding that more and more of the decisions about their neighbourhoods and zoning in their commercial and residential areas are being taken out of their hands by the Liquor Licence Board of Ontario, the Ontario Municipal Board and the Ontario Racing Commission.
When the government changed two years ago, many people hoped there would be a more open government and more willingness to listen to residents' concerns. Unfortunately, nothing much has changed. The Liberal cabinet has simply continued with the OMB it inherited from the previous government, and while the Liberal government did appoint all the present members of the Ontario Racing Commission and the LLBO, the change in personnel has not resulted in any significant change in policy or attitude. If anything, the Ontario Racing Commission is even more arbitrary and unresponsive than before, as indicated by its decisions on Sunday racing.
The OMB has been approving undesirable developments such as the one at 2365 and 2371 Queen Street East over the objections of both residents and their elected provincial and municipal representatives. These developments are too large or the height is too great to fit in with the present streetscape in that area, the present parking facilities and the general nature of that neighbourhood.
The LLBO does hold public hearings, but it advertises them in local newspapers under the meaningless heading of "Notice of a Public Meeting" and does not list them according to the geographical region. So one has to search through the whole list to find applications affecting one's neighbourhood.
While the LLBO does listen to residents who come down to speak to it, the hearings are practically all held at its offices on Lakeshore Boulevard rather than anywhere in the neighbourhoods they are affecting. They are almost always held during working hours, when residents find it difficult to get there. Of course, the applicants often come with high-priced lawyers and the residents have to rely on their own resources. Usually they cannot afford a lawyer for a single hearing.
What is more, the LLBO continues to license patios very close to residences and allows transfers of licences without public hearings unless there is a 25 per cent increase in the number of seats being requested. In those ways, they are not responding to the feelings of the residents in the area. They should consider to a greater extent the effect of those sorts of changes on the community.
These boards and commissions are still appointed by the government in power without any input by citizens. There is no standard procedure for the government to seek nominations from the public nor are there any criteria as to whether the various interests affected by the decision should have representation on the boards. There is no public representation on the racetrack board outside of the chairman, who is not a member of the horse-racing fraternity; all the other members are members of that fraternity or that business.
The standing committee on procedural affairs has recommended that appointments to such boards and commissions should be subject to nomination from the public and that the appointments made should be sent to the Legislature for legislative review. In that way we would perhaps democratize those boards and give the public more of an opportunity to have its views heard, rather than just those of the industries affected.
Once these boards are appointed, and they are often appointed for periods of three years or more, the public has no way to make them answerable to it, if they do not like the decisions that are being made. The only way their method of operation can be changed is for the government to amend the law under which they operate. It has not taken that course in regard to any of these particular boards and commissions that I am discussing nor, to my knowledge, has it changed many other boards since it came to power.
The only recourse that citizens have, if they do not like the decisions of those boards, is to go to judicial review and to challenge whether the boards are operating under the legislation that governs them. As many members know, the residents around the Greenwood Race Track affected by the decisions on Sunday racing did go to judicial review. They discussed the matter with the Attorney General, who told them that was a recourse they had.
They have found that they were not able to convince the court that the mandate of the Ontario Racing Commission required it either to listen to the residents or to take their concerns into consideration. That may be a defect in the legislation, but it certainly was no recourse to the residents because they had to go to court in a David and Goliath position, and costs were awarded to the Ontario Racing Commission.
In effect, the residents who challenged the mandate of the Ontario Racing Commission by judicial review are paying the costs of the commission to defend itself. Of course, the commission has sources of revenue from its activities, whereas the residents have only their own resources.
It is really a David and Goliath situation when residents attempt to challenge these boards and commissions through judicial review. Unless there is intervener funding provided automatically for citizens' groups and the general public who wish to challenge the boards and commissions, there is really no equality of justice for them.
As the previous speaker mentioned, at page 47 of the throne speech there is the statement by the government: "Access to government goes hand in hand with access to justice. My government is committed to the fundamental principle that all citizens, regardless of their wealth or status, should have equal access to the justice system. Legal rights have meaning only if they can be exercised in a timely fashion."
Under the board and commission setup, very few residents who go to challenge in the courts the Ontario Municipal Board, the Liquor Licence Board of Ontario or the Ontario Racing Commission have equal access to judicial review. We are not going to solve the problem of citizens having any genuine input into decision-making by boards and commissions until the government changes the legislation under which these bodies operate. It must require that residents and applicants be given equal opportunities to be heard and that appointments to such bodies be subject to legislative review.
That is a very important area on which I am hoping we will have a change of policy from the government. There is no hint of it in the throne speech, except in its statement about access to justice.
I have introduced my own private member's bill to try to change the rules under which the Ontario Racing Commission operates, to require it not only to provide opportunities for public hearings on the decisions of the commission, but also to require the commission to take those concerns into consideration.
My private member's bill also calls for a change in the composition of the Ontario Racing Commission so that it ceases to be a completely one-sided board representing only the horse-racing industry. My bill would require that three representatives of people who live in the vicinity of racetracks should be added to the commission. It might be even better to have equal representation from the industry and from people who live in the vicinity of racetracks.
The only way to effect this change quickly is for the government to adopt my bill or to bring in its own. The Sunday racing situation is causing very great traffic chaos and neighbourhood disruption in my area. The people in the vicinity of the racetrack used to be able to have their friends and relatives over on Sundays without fear of a tow-away zone, but now the tow-away zone operates seven days a week and one-hour parking is the maximum allowed or you are subject to tow-away. Most of them cannot have relatives and friends over unless they can find an alternative parking space for them somewhere in the area.
Also, the bringing of anywhere from 7,000 to 10,000 extra racing fans into the area on Sundays means that the transportation facilities bringing people into the other recreational facilities, or the roads for people coming to use the beaches, the boardwalk, the yacht clubs, all the recreational facilities along the eastern beaches, are being shortchanged as far as access goes.
In many cases, the parking lots for the Woodbine bathing beach are taken up by racetrack fans before the bathers get there, because the races often start at 1:30 and people start coming about 12. Any on-street parking is fully occupied by racetrack fans long before the people who enjoy picnicking along the beaches in the afternoon arrive.
The city has invested a lot of money in those recreational facilities, not just for the east-enders in my riding, but also for the whole city of people who like to go to the beach and lie on the sand or picnic beside the lake. Those people have been using the eastern beaches as their main recreational area for a long time and have had Sunday free of other distracting competition for the parking spaces and the access to that area.
The city of Toronto is very interested in its investment in all these recreational facilities and would like to see they are preserved. So it has joined with the residents in supporting their desire that Sunday racing and intertrack betting at Greenwood Race Track be outlawed. That is a suggestion, that they would like the power to ban it, if the provincial government is not prepared to do it on its own.
The reason Greenwood Race Track should be treated differently from other racetracks is that no other racetrack is within the proximity of a large residential area similar to the one around Greenwood Race Track and, therefore, it is unique. It should have one day of respite from racetrack activity. Other racetracks are mainly out in the country and the activities there do not disrupt residential activities. They do not disrupt a lot of other recreational interests. They do not disrupt the major beaches and picnic places in the east end for thousands of Metro Toronto residents. So there is an argument for special treatment for Greenwood Race Track.
The provincial government could solve that problem by adopting my bill, which also bans Sunday racing at Greenwood Race Track only; or it could give the city of Toronto the power to regulate not only Sunday racing but also racing hours and days in the same way it regulates service station hours and days. Then the city of Toronto would have control over all the questions of whether tow-away zones are needed and whether police are sufficient to enforce tow-away zones. If they felt this was beyond their resources, they would certainly be justified in banning certain days and hours of racing to protect their ability to protect the rights of citizens and the traffic patterns and the use of the other facilities in the Beaches.
The city is ready to take on the role, but it does not have the power. It needs provincial legislation to give it the power to regulate racetrack days and hours. I think it is perfectly reasonable to move quickly on that to prevent what may be a summer of chaos in the whole east end of Toronto.
When the summer crowds come in their great numbers in July and August, some inter-track betting will still be going on and in September and October there will be live racing. All these activities will clash with each other. If we want to avoid that, we can act before this session ends in the spring to restore at least that one day for respite to the east-end residents and the users of east-end facilities.
On that note, I will conclude my speech. I hope the government will take into account the very great problems it is allowing the Ontario Racing Commission to cause in that area and do what it can to alleviate the problems.
Hon. Ms. Munro: I am very pleased to rise today as member for Hamilton Centre to speak on the throne speech, specifically on the effects the initiatives contained in the speech will have in the area of Hamilton-Wentworth.
I was happy to see that the Lieutenant Governor made reference to a great number of issues that will bear directly on Hamilton in the years ahead. The promise of new capital funding to alleviate overcrowding in school classrooms was a welcome one, as this has been a problem in Hamilton in recent years.
Programs that will reduce drop-out rates and that will introduce co-operative programs linking industry and education are also welcomed. The emphasis on basic learning skills and literacy build on the very foundation of Hamilton. I must mention that the Adult Basic Hotline from Hamilton was one of the agencies that spurred this government into looking at very clear-cut examples and models of networking in this very serious area. Likewise, Mohawk College of Applied Arts and Technology, McMaster University and various community groups have made significant inroads, especially in the area of computer literacy.
We in Hamilton have put a great priority on the establishment of post-secondary centres of excellence, so it was no surprise to any of us when McMaster University was chosen as a provincial centre for gerontological studies. This is the first such centre in Ontario and represents a landmark in the province's commitment to the care and welfare of our elderly, those people who have, indeed, helped to develop the great city of Hamilton.
I should say too that many agencies were there, present and accounted for, when the Minister without Portfolio responsible for senior citizens' affairs (Mr. Van Horne) sought participation from citizens of Hamilton.
In addition, the strengthening of the integrated homemaker's program, funds for more home support services and the promise of the establishment of nursing homes specifically geared towards diverse ethnic communities all represent significant measures in Hamilton, where we have a very large and active seniors community.
We know that Hamilton will figure prominently in any plans of expanded home support services and we look forward to the challenge of becoming a major provincial centre for research and implementation of initiatives for the elderly.
Also of great importance in the speech from the throne is the direction the province will take in the areas of environment, industry and technology. Hamilton has long relied on heavy industry for economic viability, and while the city embodies a strong entrepreneurial spirit, the direction of the speech from the throne on revitalizing industry and stressing the importance of innovation and traditional industry is most important indeed.
I see the establishment of an industrial restructuring commissioner to be a vital necessity for Hamilton. As a city, we have suffered the trauma of plant closures in the past. We realize fully the distress and upheaval this can cause, and I am proud to be a part of a government that is helping to find solutions to deal with this situation.
It is my understanding that the industrial restructuring commissioner will be responsible for assisting workers in industries facing major layoffs and plant closures and to help explore creative solutions to save jobs. In cities such as Hamilton, and throughout the province, layoffs, plant relocations and closures are not merely economic or social irritants; they serve as traumatic and potentially devastating events that can cut to the core of the economic and social life of the community.
I think of the most recent plant closure, being Otis Elevator. I certainly look forward to seeing those workers benefit from this most innovative solution. The promise to provide for creative solutions to problems is welcome, but also much-needed news.
Hamilton is rightfully proud of its entrepreneurial spirit. We are known as the ambitious city, and there are many examples of this ambition: volunteerism, social services, education, heavy industry. But the heart of that ambition is found in Hamilton's small business community, the sector responsible for the creation of the majority of new jobs over the past decade.
The fact that our government recognizes that Ontario's future economic growth depends on this entrepreneurial spirit and the importance this government attaches to the growth of entrepreneurship are marvellous news to our city. I am very happy to see that the Premier's Council will soon announce details concerning the establishment of a program of chairs of entrepreneurship for post-secondary institutions. We must ensure that the entrepreneurial spirit continues to thrive in Hamilton.
I was also delighted to see that the Lieutenant Governor made specific reference to the automotive and steel industries. Hamilton fully recognizes the historical importance of these industrial sectors to our future, and is pleased to see the government's pledge to reinforce the strength of these industries.
Hamilton takes a back seat to no community. We will embrace, indeed, all of the initiatives and will pull ourselves up by our bootstraps.
Our government's commitment to accelerating efforts to resolving the chronic housing problems in Ontario will also impact greatly on the Hamilton-Wentworth area. Like so many urban centres throughout this province, Hamilton has long felt the pressing need for more affordable housing. The commitment to provide more funds to expand the annual supply of assisted housing, the housing-first policy, measures to improve conditions for roomers, boarders and lodgers, and strengthened initiatives towards support of community living are all measures that will go a long way in easing the housing crunch in Hamilton-Wentworth. More important, however, they assure independence for each individual and allow him or her to chart his or her own course in life.
I want to refer specifically to the Ministry of Housing's trust and faith in Hamilton in the recent announcement of a fund which will go to the social planning council to hold seminars as we in Hamilton look at the significance of homelessness, especially approaching the Year of the Homeless.
Hamilton was built through the sweat and vision of working men and women. We will continue to attract people and businesses from other parts of Canada and Ontario, based on our work ethic and sense of community. The combined initiatives of the Ministry of Labour and Ministry of Skills Development are therefore welcomed and are most important to the viability of our work force.
Protective legislation and programs referred to in the speech from the throne that will provide enhanced health and safety protection, broaden workers' legal rights, including the right to refuse to work in hazardous areas, amendments to the Occupational Health and Safety Act, amendments to the Employment Standards Act, revisions to the Pension Benefits Act and opportunities for all people who wish to work, are indeed welcome.
To ensure the workers' opportunities to keep pace with technological change within existing sectors in industries and to meet the requirements of new services, high tech and small businesses, relevant training and apprenticeship and upgrading are absolutely essential. Nowhere is this more important than in the skilled trades, construction and industrial sectors. Apprenticeship and training programs must be formulated by a true partnership which involves the government, employers and employees; a partnership which draws on the skills and knowledge of colleges, universities, unions and businesses--all of this done with a clear recognition of economic planning, industrial and manpower needs, appropriate training environments and accredited or recognized training.
As the Minister of Citizenship and Culture and a member from one of the province's most diverse multicultural communities, I am especially pleased that the Lieutenant Governor has made specific references to the government introducing a comprehensive strategy on multiculturalism. Given the current patterns of immigration and our rapidly changing demographics, the decision by the government to move forward is further evidence of its commitment to the principles and ideals of a society whose values are rooted in fairness, equity and the provision of equal access and opportunity for all members of our society, regardless of cultural, religious and racial background.
I have had many opportunities, as have other members in this House, to discuss and explore with the province's multicultural communities the ways in which we as a government could best serve their needs and fulfil their expectations of us as politicians. I dare say the government's proposed thrust in this area will be well received by the province's more than 100 multicultural communities.
As honourable members here today might be aware, Ontario receives well over 40,000 newcomers each year, and in Hamilton we receive just over four per cent of that total. The contributions that newcomers have made to our city can be measured by the degree of cultural, social and economic activities that take place in Hamilton. In Hamilton, we are especially proud of our diversity. In fact, we view it as a source of great strength to our city.
As well, our pride in our own cultural industries, our individual artists, our sense of preservation of heritage and environment and our deep and abiding love of archives, library and knowledge is also very self-evident as one moves through our community.
I consider the throne speech thrust in the areas of providing and maintaining a safe environment to be perhaps the most important initiative of all. We must ensure that Ontario continues to be a world leader in environmental protection. Anyone who has lived in Hamilton, a city that has long been a home to heavy industry, understands pollution as a major issue.
The throne speech shows our government has taken significant steps to deal with this very real problem. We as Hamiltonians look forward to future announcements from the Ministry of the Environment that are based on the promise to provide enriched support to help municipalities maintain and rehabilitate sewage and water distribution systems, to protect our beaches, lakes, rivers and water supplies.
We in Hamilton know our strength comes from our industries, but we also realize the need to contain harmful and unfortunate byproducts. We look forward to the new comprehensive waste management funding program with its emphasis on recycling, and we are grateful for the province's past commitment to the cleanup of the Windermere basin. We as a society cannot stress enough the importance of protecting our environment, thereby protecting the future of our children and our children's children.
Hamilton, of course, will be reaching out in our vision of the future to attract more tourists, and we will be able to do it with a safe environment. Also, Hamilton will build on its reputation in the area of athletics and amateur sports and welcomes the initiatives of the Ministry of Tourism and Recreation.
I would like to move on to some of the--
The Deputy Speaker: There is another minute.
Hon. Ms. Munro: Okay. In the time left to me, I would like to touch briefly on some of the other initiatives.
We in Hamilton are very much aware of the rights of the physically disabled and of the developmentally handicapped and will ensure that the rights and needs of this particular group will be enshrined in all of the programs right across the government. Our emphasis on local community-based services is reflected not only in the participation of our programs but also in the action members will see coming from Hamilton-Wentworth.
I think I would like to finish tomorrow.
On motion by Ms. Munro, the debate was adjourned.
The House adjourned at 6 p. m.