L029 - Wed 17 Jun 1987 / Mer 17 jun 1987
The House met at 1:30 p.m.
MUNICIPAL PARKS AND RECREATION
Mr. Rowe: I want to take this opportunity to express my grave concern over the failure of the Minister of Tourism and Recreation (Mr. Eakins) to respond to the needs of municipal recreation departments across this province. He has in fact completely ignored virtually all the critical issues they have raised with him on many occasions since his appointment as the minister of this important portfolio almost two years ago.
For example, the minister has failed to respond to their calls for a review of regulation 517. He has failed to amend to provide any funding for them under the Community Recreation Centres Act. He has failed to respond to their concerns about the cost and erosion of the tax-based funding. He has failed to take any steps to put an end to their growing dependency on lottery funds. Worse still, he has threatened to withdraw this lottery funding under Bill 38, An Act to amend the Ontario Lottery Corporation Act. He has failed to respond to their very real concerns about the six-week turnaround time for applications under his capital grants program, and he has failed to honour his commitment to permit parks and recreation officials to review the capital strategic plan.
In short, the minister has failed to live up to his obligations to Ontario's parks and recreation officials. I want to take this opportunity to urge the minister to hold a series of in-depth discussions with parks and recreation officials in all Ontario municipalities over the summer months. The sound counsel and advice we will obtain through such a consultative process will enable all members of the House to help the minister clean up the mess at the Ministry of Tourism and Recreation.
MARKET VALUE ASSESSMENT
Mr. McClellan: For the past two years the Liberal government and our Treasurer (Mr. Nixon) have been encouraging the imposition of a market value assessment scheme on Metropolitan Toronto. I want to speak about the impact that such a market value assessment scheme would have on my own community of ward 3 in west Toronto, which is a blue-collar neighbourhood with the second-lowest average family income in all of Metro.
We have had two impact studies: the first based on 1980 market values, and the most recent based on 1984 market values. The 1980 market value study for ward 3 shows that 1,584 home owners would have a property tax increase if market value were in place. The most recent study, based on 1984 market values, shows that the number of houses facing a property tax increase if 1984 market values were in place has tripled to 3,657.
As members know, the Liberal scheme is based on a readjustment of the market value base every three years. It is clear from the comparison of these two studies, taken before the latest price spiral of 91 per cent over the last two years, that a market value assessment scheme introduced into the skyrocketing Metro housing market will create an ever-increasing spiral of property tax increases for more and more and more home owners.
I call again on the Treasurer to honour the commitment he made to this House on June 5, 1986, not to unilaterally impose such a scheme or permit it to be imposed on any individual municipality.
ORGAN DONOR AWARENESS WEEK
Mr. D. R. Cooke: I wish to raise a subject that should have been raised here last week but regrettably was not. Last week was national Organ Donor Awareness Week. I believe this subject is too important to let pass. Although beyond most of our imaginations, medicine has enabled us to save and improve lives through donation of our organs. From death, each and every one of us has the capacity to give life, no matter our age.
A few weeks ago an eight-month-old London baby boy, Jason Dick, died while awaiting a liver transplant. This need not have occurred. Perhaps many of us feel that we tempt fate by signing organ donor cards or that respect for the dead precludes violating the sanctity of a body. When I hear of the Jason Dicks, I say these taboos must go. We all know the Monty Python wail, "I'm not dead yet," but the commitment to donate organs has to be made while alive.
One person, in death, has the potential to benefit 10 of the living by donating a liver, kidney, cornea, lung, pancreas, etc. At any time, 2,500 people await kidney transplants, yet only 325 became available last year. We must raise this awareness, so I invite all members to join me in signing their organ donor cards.
Mr. Partington: On June 4, the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations (Mr. Kwinter) announced increased subsidies for nonprofit day care in Ontario. By neglecting to provide support for private centres, this government initiative discriminates against them. Unable to compete, many licensed private facilities will be forced out of business and much-needed spaces will be lost.
Lynda Klassen-Ralph operates the Infant Toddler Day Nursery in St. Catharines. Parents of the 45 children in this centre choose to pay for the fine care she offers. They realize this alternative is in jeopardy and fear the centre may soon close. They will then add their names to a growing list of parents competing for publicly funded day care spaces.
No one questions the need for more day care in Ontario. What is in question is the means by which the minister plans to provide the required spaces. Destroying one sector of this industry to improve the other will leave us with a net gain of zero. I sincerely hope we can do better than that.
Mr. Swart: The Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations (Mr. Kwinter) will know that in early May, Hamilton Funeral Homes Ltd., in which Arbour Capital Corp. has dominant ownership and is the parent of Memorial Gardens, was found guilty under the Combines Investigation Act and fined $200,000. The court noted that within three weeks of final acquisition, funeral prices had soared from $1,000 to $1,600.
The crux of this issue is the ongoing takeover of the whole bereavement sector by the commercial cemeteries and corporate funeral chains, with inevitable increases in cost to the consumers. In addition are the unscrupulous business practices of certain commercial cemeteries. The minister knows all this from the report of Tom Turner, which he refuses to release.
For a year, the monument builders have been warning the minister about what is taking place and the dangers in it. The senior citizens and the Consumers' Association of Canada are now vigorously asking for legislative action to prevent these anticonsumer, damaging, corporate vertical and horizontal integrations.
The minister has the necessary power to bring in amending legislation to fully effect the separation of the three sectors of the bereavement industry. He has been stalling for a year. Time is running out. The pace of takeovers by the commercial cemeteries is increasing. The minister must act quickly. I urge him to give immediately a commitment that the legislation will be forthcoming in this session.
Mr. Sargent: Last week, the Toronto Star featured the passing of a Royal Canadian Air Force pilot, Wally McCabe, which showed a picture of him being held by his captors, the Germans, after being shot down in France in 1942. Wally was a pilot in a strafing mission two days before the Dieppe raid. His whole crew was killed, but he survived and spent the balance of the war in a German prison camp, Stalag 8B.
After the war, he became a safe-driving expert with Ontario's Ministry of Transportation and Communications in charge of driver control. He was an Owen Sound boy and my friend. We were so very proud of him. His death is a great loss to his mother and family.
I thank the House for this chance to pay tribute to a great Canadian war hero.
Mr. Harris: I would like to bring to the attention of the Minister of Tourism and Recreation (Mr. Eakins) a letter from Irene Dinel, who inquired about information. She addresses her letter "Ontario-Incredible!"
"Incredible indeed is the misinformation available from the main travel information centre toll-free number, Toronto. My inquiry last week was about Deep River.... The statements made by the official were `incredible.'
I see the Minister of Education (Mr. Conway) is not here.
"`Deep River? Never heard of it. Is it in Ontario? Are you sure? I'll check with other people in the office. No one here seems to have heard of it.'
"After explaining that I had visited Deep River not long ago, so it could not possibly be a figment of my imagination, he followed his previous statements with even more misinformation."
Travel centre: "There is no travel information centre in Deep River."
Mrs. Dinel: "They have a beautiful facility... which I have visited."
"Oh, I don't think so, we can't find anything on it."
Mrs. Dinel: "It's listed on page 4, Ontario Travellers' Encyclopaedia, 1986."
"`Oh! Well, they don't have a mailing address, sorry.'
"Persons paid with public funds to provide information about Ontario should be required to learn something about our wonderful province.... It is appalling to speculate on the misinformation being provided to those who may call your toll-free number," particularly in the last two years.
STATEMENT BY THE MINISTRY
ROOMERS, BOARDERS AND LODGERS
Hon. Mr. Scott: Today I will introduce for first reading, An Act to amend the Landlord and Tenant Act. The purpose of the amendment is to provide roomers and boarders with the kinds of safeguards tenants currently enjoy under the Landlord and Tenant Act.
The goal of equal protection for roomers and boarders was advocated by the Ontario Task Force on Roomers, Boarders and Lodgers, which reported to the Minister of Housing (Mr. Curling) in December 1986, and by the Minister of Housing's Advisory Committee on Roomers, Boarders and Lodgers, which reported in March 1987.
The government made a commitment in the throne speech to introduce measures to improve the conditions of roomers and boarders. The legislation I will be introducing today fulfils that commitment.
The principle of the legislation is clear: Roomers and boarders should not be denied the protection available to other tenants simply because of the technical legal distinction between tenants and licensees.
Most notably, roomers and boarders need protection against arbitrary eviction from their homes and they need remedies when a landlord has not adequately maintained the premises. These fundamental protections are currently available to tenants under the Landlord and Tenant Act.
The legislation I will be introducing ensures that the Landlord and Tenant Act will apply only to true rooming and boarding houses but not to analogous types of accommodation whose nature and purpose makes security of tenure inappropriate.
Therefore, the legislation I am introducing will specifically exempt: accommodation provided to travellers and vacationers in hotels and other tourist establishments; short-term accommodation provided as emergency shelter; shared accommodation provided by educational institutions to students or staff, where the residents are under 18 or where a residents' council is consulted on decisions affecting the accommodation; separately regulated accommodation provided in nursing homes or homes for the aged, for example; and accommodation occupied for penal, correctional, rehabilitative or therapeutic purposes or for the purpose of receiving care, the same category exempt from rent review.
The Legislature has long recognized the special circumstances of renting out part of a private home in which the landlord shares facilities with the tenants. Therefore, this legislation will also exempt from the Landlord and Tenant Act accommodation provided to a person who shares bathroom or kitchen facilities with the landlord. In my view, the complexities of the Landlord and Tenant Act are not appropriate for the types of accommodation I have described as exemptions.
The bill I will introduce today also deals with some procedural issues, such as reducing the length of notice the landlords must give to terminate weekly tenancies for nonpayment of rent from 20 to seven days.
In short, I believe the legislation meets the government's commitment to improve the conditions facing roomers and boarders by providing them with equal protection to that currently enjoyed by tenants under the Landlord and Tenant Act.
ROOMERS, BOARDERS AND LODGERS
Mr. Jackson: I wish to rise today to respond to the announcement by the Attorney General (Mr. Scott), albeit short-circuited from the Minister of Housing (Mr. Curling). I am concerned that the Attorney General has at this late and 11th hour decided he is now going to become part of the ball game with respect to resolving the issue of roomers and boarders and protection for Ontario.
The Attorney General has taken this issue and made a political football out of it because there were two teams in this Legislature already working on this issue. The recommended bill of the member for Riverdale (Mr. Reville), Bill 10, and my own bill on behalf of the official opposition, Bill 59, address substantively most of the points contained in the Attorney General's announcement. Instead of joining the two teams that are currently working on this bill, the minister has called the game off for lack of Liberal publicity.
The minister knows full well that groups have been picketing his offices and his constituency office for several months asking him to react and respond in a responsible manner. The Dale Bairstow report, started a year ago, made clear recommendations for this government to act; it set a clear track based on consensus. The Advisory Committee on Roomers, Boarders and Lodgers again made those recommendations and made them available to the Minister of Housing on March 20, 1987. But the Liberal government sat in deaf silence during debate in private members' time in this House. In fact, there were speakers who rose and spoke against the concept of providing protection for roomers and boarders in Ontario.
Why did they say, "We do not want to participate in a bill that is currently before the standing committee on administration of justice in this very building"? The minister had every opportunity to participate in the spirit of the Legislature, and we could have resolved this matter expeditiously within a couple of weeks. His 11th-hour announcement in this House will undoubtedly delay the passage of the bill which is basically put together in committee. It will delay that through the summer and well into the fall.
If the minister had not been boycotting those public hearings -- the Attorney General's department has been boycotting these meetings, as has the Minister of Housing -- he would have been privy to additional information that is being provided by deputant after deputant coming forward with substantive information about the implications of this bill. The bill is deficient with respect to certain exemptions where there is consensus in committee now, and the minister has bypassed that.
Hon. Mr. Scott: We haven't seen it.
Mr. Jackson: Of course the Attorney General has not seen it, because he has chosen not to participate.
Of the many deputations that committee has heard, I wish to quote from only one statement, that of Barbara Hall, the alderman for ward 7, who stated:
"The Attorney General has told roomers that they would receive protection very soon. If the government has plans to improve the lot of roomers, then I challenge you to table those plans as amendments before this committee. I urge you not to make this a paper process by defeating Bill 10" and Bill 59 "and introducing your own legislation at a later date. Roomers can't afford to wait. They've already waited too long" under this government.
This bill has so much of an impact for roomers and boarders, particularly in the Toronto area, and the Attorney General sets himself up as a representative legislator of that constituency in the city of Toronto, yet he has delayed this. Now, with his announcement, he has in fact put off a final decision on this bill which could have been resolved in the next week.
It is unfortunate that instead of participating in this House on this bill, the minister has chosen to deny the legislative process with committee. He has said publicly that there is insufficient publicity for the government in this regard. If that is the minister's response, he has created a delay, and that has been done to the detriment of the roomers and boarders. He has addressed the issue on behalf of landlords, to compress the time for eviction, but nowhere in his report do we see the concept of risk situations where a tenant can be protected from other problems by virtue of his living in close proximity to other tenants.
Mr. Speaker: The member's time has expired.
Mr. Jackson: I ask the minister to pass the bill immediately.
Mr. Rae: Of all the cynical, manipulative announcements made by the Attorney General since he has arrived in this House as the Attorney General, this one takes the cake. The Attorney General does not mention in his statement today -- and I know what the headlines in some of our newspapers are going to be, but for the satisfaction of members and for the satisfaction of the Attorney General's colleagues, I want to say just how cynical this manipulation is.
The Attorney General knows full well there are private members' bills that are now the subject of discussion in the standing committee on administration of justice. He does not mention those private members' bills once. Why? Because they are not moved by members of his own party, because he will not get credit for them if they are passed, because the Liberal Party's name will not be on them and because his picture will not be in the newspapers when they get through. That is the only reason the Attorney General has moved this piece of legislation today.
If he has any amendments to move with respect to the bills that are now in committee, he can move them as soon as this week or indeed on Tuesday. If he wanted to move amendments on Tuesday, they could be moved on Tuesday and the bill could be law next week, if he was interested in doing it and if he wanted to do it.
Instead of doing that, what has the Attorney General done? He has come in here and has made a statement with respect to the work of his colleague the Minister of Housing, whom he has praised. He has praised the 162nd task force which has been established since he has become the Attorney General, with respect to the question of roomers and boarders.
But has he mentioned a word about the work of this Legislature? Has he said a word about the work of the justice committee, which he occasionally deigns to attend? Every once in a while, when he has to, he falls from the sky, drops in occasionally; otherwise he is never there. Has he mentioned any of that? No. Has he mentioned any other member of the House who has taken an interest in this matter from a party other than the Liberal Party of Ontario?
We should not be surprised, because those of us who are opposed to the Attorney General in our political lives have become used to this cynicism -- and there is no other word for it -- the most cynical manipulation of headlines, the most cynical manipulation of issues and indeed, when you come to the problem, the most cynical manipulation of some of the most vulnerable citizens in our province, those who are roomers and boarders.
That is what makes this exercise on the part of the Attorney General so distasteful, that instead of addressing this issue in a constructive way -- instead of saying, "There are members from other parties, not my own, who have chosen to move on this issue and we are going to be supporting them and we have some amendments to make," instead of choosing to go that route -- he says, "I, the Attorney General, am going to provide the salvation to this problem," when in fact the way in which the Attorney General has intended to move is only going to delay the solution to this problem.
I would like the House to be aware of these facts and I would like the Attorney General to know that he may be able to fool some of the people some of the time, but that number is quickly being reduced the more announcements like this he makes.
Mr. Reville: The announcement by the Attorney General today makes me wonder what time zone he inhabits.
On May 15, Bill 10, which I was pleased to place before the Legislature, passed second reading. The hearings concluded just yesterday in the administration of justice committee, and I am amazed that throughout those hearings we did not hear helpful comments from members of the Attorney General's party who sat on that committee.
Referring to a statement in this document, which comes to my house frequently -- because, until a happy day, I live in St. George-St. David or wherever it is -- the Attorney General said three weeks ago, "We have also moved to give roomers, boarders and lodgers legal protection." In an atmosphere where some of us have doubts about the absolute veracity of things that are said in this House, it is no wonder why we have such doubts.
Mr. Speaker: Order. We will now head into a quiet, orderly question period.
Mr. Gillies: I have a question for the acting Minister of Government Services (Mr. Conway), who must be out practicing his rhetoric on some poor soul, so I will stand it down, if that is all right.
Mr. Speaker: Is there agreement of the House to stand down the acting leader's first question? Agreed.
ONTARIO HYDRO PLANNING
Mr. Andrewes: I have a question for the Minister of Energy. I wonder whether the minister has heard these quotes and whether he agrees with them.
The first one is, "The Demand-Supply Options Study is one of the most important pieces of planning ever undertaken by Ontario Hydro." That is a quote from Tom Campbell, the chairman of Hydro.
"The Demand-Supply Options Study is essentially a framework that will guide future decision-making." That is a quote from Lorne McConnell before the select committee on energy about a year and a half ago.
I wonder if the minister would agree with those statements and if he would report to us on the status of Hydro's Demand-Supply Options Study.
Hon. Mr. Kerrio: Certainly I have heard those comments by Hydro and those people who are interested. It does not necessarily follow that I agree with what Ontario Hydro says.
The fact of the matter is that we have an agenda that is very important. It has to do with many other options, and we are going to pursue those options in the best interests of the people of Ontario.
Mr. Andrewes: Obviously, the minister does not know the status of Hydro's Demand-Supply Options Study, something that Ontario Hydro and the minister have touted as being the most open and effective planning process ever undertaken by Ontario Hydro.
Since the study has now been in progress for some period of time -- I believe about three years -- can the minister confirm that the decision to reopen the Lennox generating plant and the statements of Sam Horton, the vice-president of Ontario Hydro, that Ontario needs more nuclear plants to meet its electricity needs sooner or later, are consistent with the thrust of Hydro's Demand-Supply Options Study?
Hon. Mr. Kerrio: The honourable member does not even know that the Ontario Hydro chairman does not agree with the interpretation he has just read into the record. Certainly we are looking at all the other options and building another nuclear plant is not a high priority. As far as opening the Lennox plant is concerned, the member knows the very reason we opened it is that we need about 25 or 30 days of power from that plant to maintain the voltage in that area because we have a difficult situation.
I am pleased to say that the honourable member from the area supported the government in reopening Lennox. It is going to provide jobs in the area. I am very surprised and disappointed that members over there cannot get their act together and come with one voice. It makes it difficult to respond to their questions.
Mr. Andrewes: Late last fall, the chairman of Ontario Hydro indicated that the decision on a new nuclear plant must be made within the next two years. The Premier (Mr. Peterson) at the time, following questions by the Toronto Star, said: "There is no crisis looming on the horizon. There is lots of lead time." In the same article, the Minister of Energy appeared to agree with Mr. Campbell's assessment.
Who are we to believe? Do we believe the minister? Do we believe the Premier? Do we believe Mr. Horton or Mr. Campbell and the statements they are making, all of which seem to be pre-empting what Ontario Hydro has touted, what the minister has touted and what his officials in testimony before the select committee touted as being one of the most open, long-term, effective energy planning policies ever undertaken by Ontario Hydro? Who are we to believe?
Hon. Mr. Kerrio: It is quite obvious that the new thrust from that party is to attack individuals and try to talk about their credibility. What I am telling the member is that we are deciding on the agenda for the future energy needs of this province. We are looking at all kinds of options, as is Ontario Hydro. It has agreed and is in fact co-operating with us to a degree that it never has before. We are looking at sources that those members did not bring on stream. We are bringing them on stream. I suppose that if I were still sitting over there on those benches, I might be upset at the initiatives this government is taking on behalf of the people of Ontario.
CONVERSION OF RENTAL ACCOMMODATION
Mr. Rae: My question is to the Minister of Housing. I would like to ask the minister a question in relation to some of the answers he gave to the House yesterday. The minister stated that I was wrong when I told the House the government was subsidizing the construction of condominiums.
If the government of Ontario makes an interest-free loan to a developer, whoever it may be; if that developer uses the interest-free money for a period of two, three or four years for construction of a series of apartments under the Renterprise program; and if he then proceeds to register those apartments for condominiums and indicates they are going to be used as condominiums and as a result of that gives back the money, which he has had use of interest-free for two, three or four years; can the minister tell me why that is not in fact and in effect a subsidy by Ontario to developers for the construction of condominiums?
Hon. Mr. Curling: The honourable leader of the third party made mention of the Renterprise program, which is a rental unit development program not a condominium program. If the condition changes to condominium, as I have stated to the leader of the third party, all money that flowed to that developer must be returned.
Mr. Rae: I do not want to be rude to the minister but I do want to say to him that we have had the Ontario rental construction loan program under the Tories, the so-called Canada-Ontario rental supply program under the Tories and the Renterprise program from the minister's party. They are all exactly the same: interest-free loans. I do not know about the minister but when I go to the bank I get charged interest for the money I borrow. Most people get charged interest for the money they borrow. If they do not pay interest, it is a subsidy.
Would the minister not agree that if somebody is using money interest free and then giving it back, the use of that money still represents a subsidy? What is he doing subsidizing the developers of this province in the construction of condominiums when the purpose of the Renterprise program is to provide affordable housing for people who cannot get housing right now and who need that housing and are being denied that housing because of his hopeless, pathetic, rich man's policy, which is a policy he is supporting?
Hon. Mr. Curling: I do not think a shouting match will help in that respect.
It has been the position of the third party all along that we should not involve the private sector in any way in rental supplies. We have different programs. When the member becomes the Premier of this province, which I do not think he ever will, and has the jurisdiction to bring in his own housing policy, he may then bring his program in. Our program is to encourage the private sector to build rental units. We also have our social housing units built by the nonprofit organizations. But I am not here to espouse the member's philosophy. Our philosophy is to involve the private sector as well as the nonprofit organizations.
Mr. Rae: The minister is taxing the patience, not only of the House but of those people looking for a place to live; that is the problem. Does he not understand that, just like the ORCL program, I can show him the list of all the corporations that are converting to condominiums? The information comes from his own ministry. It comes from his own officials. We can show him the list of the companies that did the same thing under the ORCL program, which my colleague the member for Bellwoods (Mr. McClellan) clearly established as a classic Tory ripoff in the last days of Pompeii when the member for Ottawa South (Mr. Bennett) was the Minister of Housing. It was exactly the same thing.
Let me give the minister an example. If Bellcroft Construction, which is building 714 units in Scarborough, has use of interest-free money under a so-called Renterprise program which is supposed to be for renters and in fact is using that interest-free money in order to build a condominium, would the minister not agree that what Ontario is doing is giving that interest-free money for a period of time to a developer who is making condominiums and not making affordable housing for working people? That is the issue. Does he not understand that issue? What is he going to do to stop it?
Hon. Mr. Curling: The honourable leader has given the impression that these units are not affordable. They are being rented out, and a rent-geared-to-income policy is applied to those clients who are being accessed to those units.
The program is one to encourage the private sector to be involved in the rental market; also, to provide units for people who cannot afford them, with assistance through our rent-geared-to-income policy.
Mr. Speaker: I see the acting Minister of Government Services has returned.
Mr. Gillies: I would like to ask the minister, now that he has had a chance to review the question I asked him the day before yesterday, if he would confirm, in terms of the computer contracts let out by the Ministry of Government Services, for which he is responsible, that over 50 per cent of those contracts in 1985-86 were not tendered; also, that a further 31 per cent of the contracts let out by the Ministry of Education, for which he is also responsible, were untendered, for a total of over $10 million in untendered contracts. Can he explain that to the House?
Hon. Mr. Conway: I would be delighted, because I was anxious to share the information with the honourable member yesterday. If I could, because I have prepared an answer to a question previously put in this connection by the member for Brantford (Mr. Gillies), I will take this opportunity to address both issues raised by him in his question two days ago.
On that occasion, he asked if I could "tell him a bit" about a contract involving a company called CCA Canada and the Ontario Ministry of Government Services, a contract he indicated had been concluded on July 17, 1985.
I can tell him that my research, which has been very carefully undertaken, indicates that particular contract was part of a larger arrangement that was begun by the Tory government in Ontario in February 1985. The member for Brantford was very anxious --
Mr. Speaker: Order.
Hon. Mr. Conway: The question also asked about the involvement of Abe Schwartz. I am pleased to tell my friend the member for Brantford that the person in question had severed his relationship in June 1985 from the company, but the evidence suggests that Abe Schwartz had been doing a lot of business with the Tories in office, beginning, as I recall, in July 1983. I want to satisfy the member's concern that somehow Mr. Schwartz had not been involved with his own government.
Mr. Gillies: That answer from the minister was as close to a load of tripe as I have ever heard from him. I caution the minister that every time one of his colleagues played basketball with the truth yesterday, we lost a member out of here. The way he is going, we could lose a quorum very rapidly.
Mr. Speaker: Supplementary.
Mr. Gillies: Would the minister confirm, in response to the substantive question, that one half of the computer contracts let by his two ministries in 1985-86, a total more than $10 million in contracts, were not tendered? Would he confirm that the contract in question to the company that Mr. Schwartz had been a party to was let on July 17, 1985, which was during his term as minister and was at the selfsame time that Mr. Schwartz was in his ministry advising him on the question of computer contracts?
Hon. Mr. Conway: No, no, a thousand times, no. Where do I begin to tell the story of yet another Tory misadventure, a Tory misunderstanding and a misrepresentation? Let me try.
I became the acting Minister of Government Services in June 1986, not in June or July 1985. Mr. Schwartz came to my office in the Ministry of Education as an unpaid adviser on matters relating to computers in education in September 1985, months after the contracting question had been concluded.
About the contracting question with CCA Canada, the billing date to the Ministry of Government Services, interestingly, is June 26, 1985. On this particular contract, the evidence is everywhere and abundantly clear that the deal was begun and consummated by those rascals over there. If the member for Brantford has a complaint, he has the complaint with his friends the member for Durham West (Mr. Ashe) and the member for Leeds (Mr. Runciman), who struck the dastardly deed and who made the arrangement with the famous Abe Schwartz.
Mr. Gillies: The minister is giving us a dazzling display of dancing, but he has failed to acknowledge to this House that all the contracts about which we are talking were tendered under this administration and that over $10 million worth of these contracts were not tendered. The minister has not answered that question.
In answering, I wonder if the minister would tell us about a further two contracts given out to the Polaris company, another Graham-Schwartz company, in the amount of $49,000. In telling us about the $55,000 to CCA, the $49,000 to Polaris and the $10 million he has given away without tender, I wonder if the minister would reflect for a moment and tell us a bit about all those contracts.
Hon. Mr. Nixon: Be gentle, Sean, be gentle.
Hon. Mr. Conway: It is so difficult. The poor man is so wrong that he well qualifies to sit beside the member for St. Andrew-St. Patrick (Mr. Grossman).
The poor member for Brantford completely misunderstands what the Manual of Administration allows. He thinks, poor man, that all contracts have to be tendered. It is quite clear from the Manual of Administration that is not so. There are provisions in the manual that allow Management Board to provide an exemption. There are provisions in the manual that allow the deputy minister to give his approval for contracts under $20,000. There are provisions in the manual for officials to approve if the amount is below $10,000. The honourable member just does not seem to understand what the Manual of Administration provides.
The many abuses in this area in which no less a person than the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Grossman) happily engaged, with two contracts in June 1985, in the dying days of Pompeii, those practices that caused me so much concern and about which the honourable member should be concerned, I have moved to correct in Government Services and in Education.
There is much more. Please ask me.
Hon. Mr. Conway: There is a chronology that I would like the honourable member to have.
Mr. Reville: While we are on about people who are so wrong, it may be appropriate to address a question to the Minister of Housing. Building condominiums is in fact different from building rental accommodation.
Yesterday, I mentioned to the minister that there was a tenant facing the horrendous prospect of a 100 per cent rent increase. The minister has told the Toronto Star he does not think it is possible. On the other hand, his director of rent review policy, Dr. Patrick Laverty, has said it is possible.
I have sent the minister a copy of the bill. I want to point out that it has his name on it, not mine. Would it be asking too much for him to turn to page 42 in answering this question, reflect on the contents of subsection 80(2) and answer: is it possible to have a 100 per cent increase or is it not?
Hon. Mr. Curling: With respect to the question the member asked yesterday and in connection with the article in the Toronto Star that asked is it possible: in the past, in the post-1975 buildings it was possible that people would have a 100 per cent or 200 per cent increase. The implication here, or the impression that one is giving, is that it was not possible to do so. It was possible, but what happened in the past was that individuals did not have any way to redress their concerns, whether they had an increase of 200 per cent or 300 per cent. What has happened now is that the provisions of Bill 51 give redress to those tenants to bring those under the review process. Should a request of 100 per cent be asked, they can go through that process.
In response to what I stated in the Toronto Star, when they asked me I said the worst-case scenario presented to me at the time the bill was being heard was that 20 or 25 per cent was a possibility that could happen in those instances. Dr. Laverty, and I think this is very important --
Mr. Speaker: Order. It may be important. I am sure there will be a supplementary and you may be able to get it in then.
Mr. Reville: I wonder whether the minister can tell us what possible social benefit there may be to having subsection 80(2) in tenant protection legislation if, as the minister seems to be saying although it is a bit difficult to tell, a 100 per cent rent increase would be possible. Why ever did he allow himself to be talked into thinking 30 per cent was the top when in fact he now is saying 100 per cent is the top? What is the section for?
Hon. Mr. Curling: Further to that question, Dr. Laverty from the ministry had shown that theoretically it is quite possible for someone to apply for a 100 per cent increase. Whether that is happening in reality is another matter. To say I have been talked into 25 per cent or 30 per cent is wrong; I have not been talked into it. I just stated that those were the examples that were before us that my staff had shown me. Of course, while things may seem impossible, it is probably quite practical.
Mr. Reville: The mind boggles. Let me suggest to the minister by way of supplementary that the explanation given by his staff for this section was to create incentives for people to build new buildings and to give a bonus -- the very words -- to those landlords who own buildings that were going to be taken under rent review for the first time.
Is it not the case that this section allows an economic loss to be claimed by a landlord over and over again on every resale, thus creating an endless succession of 100 per cent rent increases for the unfortunate tenants of this province? Is that not the case?
Hon. Mr. Curling: To use an example such as that is not even practical. As a matter of fact, to pursue that kind of example is to give the wrong impression to the public, that someone will constantly be buying a unit for a continuous loss as we have new owners. I think that is the wrong impression to give the public.
Mr. Gillies: I have a further question for the acting Minister of Government Services, who appears to have absented himself again.
Mr. O'Connor: Ran away.
Ms. Fish: Fled the chamber.
Hon. Mr. Nixon: Perhaps another member of the official opposition might ask a question.
Ms. Fish: Here he comes. Here he is.
Mr. Speaker: Order.
Mr. Gillies: The minister, in all his polemics, has continually failed to answer the main thrust of the question. I will ask it again.
Computer contracts within the government are supposed to be tendered according to the Manual of Administration, unless they are of very small value in terms of the transaction or if there is a single-source supplier. All the ministries of the government rank up such that, apart from those ministries for which this minister is responsible, only the Ministry of Natural Resources approached 26 per cent in untendered contracts.
Of the two ministries for which this minister is responsible, the Ministry of Education had 31 per cent of its computer contracts untendered and the Ministry of Government Services had fully 50.4 per cent. Is the minister telling this House that of all the computer software and hardware his ministry uses, fully 50 per cent of it is either in terms of tiny, small contracts or in contracts for which there is only one source in the whole province? Is that what he is telling the House?
Hon. Mr. Conway: I cannot tell the honourable member how much I appreciate the opportunity to walk with him once again down this happy path. I want to tell the honourable member that the Manual of Administration states that contracts can be let in four ways: first, by competitive tender; second, with Management Board approval when the amount in question is more than $20,000 and it is demonstrated that no alternative supplier exists; third, with the deputy minister's approval when the amount is under $20,000; and fourth, with the approval of ministry officials for small-value amounts, which in MGS are usually about $1,000.
The honourable member seems to be confused in thinking there is only the competitive tender process. What the honourable member suggests is true; in some areas, particularly computer software, we are often dealing with only one supplier. It is also true that in certain aspects in the past in the Ministry of Education, there were certain areas of confusion. There must have been, otherwise the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Grossman) would not have presided over the letting of two contracts for nearly $200,000 in June 1985, in this particular connection.
I came to office and I recognized that some people obviously were having some difficulty with how the manual applied, particularly in the area where there was only one supplier in computer software. I have moved to clarify that, and I point out that since taking office at Government Services a year ago --
Mr. Speaker: Order.
Mr. Gillies: The very, very lame excuse offered by this government for the $5 million it sank into and lost with the Graham Software company is that the government wanted to encourage the development of the software industry in this province, particularly in terms of wholesaling and the development of new sources. Anyone in the software business will tell you he would have no way of knowing whether he can prepare software programs for the ministry's use unless he is given the opportunity to either tender or prepare proposals.
Is the minister saying that on the one hand his government wants to say, "We want to develop the software industry in this province," and that on the other hand the Minister of Government Services is saying, "For 50 per cent-plus of our contracts, only one source is available"? Does the minister really want the House to believe that?
Hon. Mr. Conway: It is not as the honourable member describes. Let us not forget where the honourable member began a few days ago. He was trying to create the impression that somehow Abe Schwartz had some kind of good deal in the very early days of this government. The evidence which I have uncovered, the material which I have supplied today, shows that the particular contract in question was negotiated almost entirely by the Tories in office and, perhaps more important, that Abe Schwartz and Polaris were doing very, very well, thank you very much, since at least 1983, with the Ontario Tories. I think that is the salient reality to which we want to turn our minds today.
Mr. Charlton: I have a question for the Minister of Housing. For some time now, the minister has been hiding behind the court challenge by the Reesor Road residents about the use of that Reesor Road site for the disposal of the McClure Crescent contaminated soil from Malvern. As that excuse is no longer in place -- the Reesor Road residents have lost their challenge in court -- is the minister prepared today to tell us of his plans to remove the contaminated soil from McClure Crescent?
Hon. Mr. Curling: Let me just bring the member up to date about that. I am the member for the great riding of Scarborough North, of course, and the Minister of Housing, but the responsibility for moving that soil does not fall under either the member for Scarborough North or the Minister of Housing.
Mr. Charlton: Perhaps the minister, also being the member for the affected area, can take the position that his party took when in opposition and talk to the Minister of the Environment (Mr. Bradley) and the Minister of Energy (Mr. Kerrio) about making a better decision than the bad deal negotiated by the former government with the federal government to move the soil to Reesor Road and opt instead for a better solution: to move that soil to either the Bruce nuclear site or to Chalk River, where we have licensed disposal facilities.
Hon. Mr. Curling: I appreciate the comments made by the honourable member. Of course, I need the soil to be moved as fast as possible. I will be speaking to the Minister of the Environment on that matter and taking the member's suggestion to him.
Mr. Mancini: I have a question for the Minister of the Environment. I am sure the minister will know that a few weeks ago the Federation of Canadian Municipalities met in Ottawa and put forward a scheme whereby it asked the government of Canada to share with the Ontario government and itself the high cost of rebuilding the infrastructure that is needed in our province and in all the other provinces of Canada. They asked the government of Canada for a $5-billion proposal which would then be shared by the two other levels of government.
Could the Minister of the Environment bring us up to date as to whether he is aware of this proposal or whether he intends to share in such a proposal?
Hon. Mr. Bradley: I think the issue that is identified by the member is one that is relevant to all members of the Legislature. The member may not be aware of it, but at the annual meeting of the Canadian Council of Resource and Environment Ministers which was held in Alberta this year, I raised that issue with the federal minister. Interestingly enough, and this is not always the case with issues of federal-provincial jurisdiction, there seemed to be unanimous agreement by the provincial environment ministers that indeed the federal government has a significant financial role to play in infrastructure renewal.
I think all the provincial ministers -- and I certainly advocate this position -- said they were interested in that and that they were prepared to come forward with an infrastructure renewal program. For it to be a success -- that is, for it to be a comprehensive enough program, a widespread enough program -- and for it to move as rapidly as I think many of us who represent municipalities across this province would like, it would really take a situation where the federal government were to get back into the business.
My friend the member for Sarnia (Mr. Brandt), who is quite familiar with this situation, was a person who I think advocated and was successful at one point in regard to the Niagara Falls sewage treatment plant in securing the kind of funding, approximately one third, one third, one third, which was very helpful in solving that problem. Like the municipalities right across Canada, I would like to see that program implemented across this country.
Mr. Mancini: I am sure that all members of the Legislature have a number of projects in their constituencies that will not be able to go forward because of the demands on the Ministry of the Environment, even though the budget of the Ministry of the Environment has been substantially increased.
I would like to know from the minister just how far back the nonparticipation of the government of Canada will put Ontario in rebuilding the massive infrastructure that we so desperately need.
Hon. Mr. Bradley: Members who have been familiar with these problems, and I know everybody in the House has them, would know that we would like to move forward with a number of projects for which there are proposals put forward. My friend the member for Fort William (Mr. Hennessy) knows they have some interesting projects in the Thunder Bay area they would like to see moving quickly --
Mr. Pierce: That is because of --
Hon. Mr. Bradley: --and my friend the member for Rainy River (Mr. Pierce).
If there were federal funding available in addition to the provincial funding and the municipal funding, I think we could see several projects accelerated by a number of years in the speed with which they are implemented. I think we could do a greater number of communities than is the situation should we have only a provincial program with municipal participation. In this case, I know on this issue I could probably count on the support, and I have already read it publicly, of my friend the member for Sarnia, who indicated he was in favour of that. I appreciate that kind of support and that nonpartisan stature, and I know members of the third party who would be pleased to see this kind of support.
So, yes, I will continue to press this. I think it is good, not only for the renewal of the infrastructure that is there but also for the side effect of producing many thousands of jobs across this country and revenues for government.
Mr. O'Connor: A question to the Minister of Health: the Princess Margaret Hospital and the Ontario Cancer Institute were told on August 5, 1986, that they were to receive funding to be rebuilt on a new site, with a completion date of 1995.
Can the minister inform the House as to the location that has been chosen between the two sites that are competing? If not, could he advise us as to when that announcement might be made ?
Hon. Mr. Elston: The honourable gentleman knows that in fact there are a number of competing sites, not just two. There were a number of resolutions passed, even by the OCI, in which they indicated they had changed their minds with respect to the location of the rebuilt facility. As a result of that, as he knows, we instituted a study to weigh the relative merits with respect to a number of sites, not just two.
That report has been made, and we continue to examine the ramifications of the decision to move to any particular site or to remain at the current location. When we have resolved the difficulties that come out of the considerations of site location for the redevelopment, we will then be in a position to make an announcement.
Mr. O'Connor: As the minister well knows, the hospital is now treating some 7,000 new patients a year. It was built to handle 4,500 new patients a year. The lineups are getting longer. I can tell him from personal experience that the clinics are crowded and people are often sent away and told to come back the next day, which makes the lineup problem even longer. The electrical system in the building is inadequate to handle the electrical equipment for treatment of these patients.
On August 5, 1986, the minister unequivocally and clearly said a decision would be made within three months. I think he will agree with that; he is nodding in the affirmative. It is now 10 months later. The situation is desperate. Can he tell us when the decision will be made?
Hon. Mr. Elston: I will repeat again for the honourable gentleman something I said in answer to his first question. There was a change of opinion by the OCI with respect to where it would like to build. The member knows that; I know that; the world knows that.
Mr. O'Connor: They always wanted to go to University Avenue. They never changed their minds at all.
Hon. Mr. Elston: No, that is not so. The honourable gentleman knows that is not the case. It is obvious that he has not followed with the degree of -- what will we say -- exactitude that was required, the questions that were raised about where this facility might be located. There were questions about rebuilding on the same site, rebuilding at Sherbourne Street, rebuilding at the Toronto General Hospital location, rebuilding at Sunnybrook and rebuilding on University Avenue. He knows that; I know that; and there was some concern about the change of opinion with respect to the board's decisions.
I had to go back through that and weigh the relative merits. We have indications about the relative merits of each site. There are certain implications for all those decisions being made. We are examining those. The honourable gentleman knows that the failure to address at a much earlier date the concerns raised and reports, beginning as early as 1973, about the need for renewal of that particular facility, has caused us some degree of difficulty. I appreciate that; he appreciates that; and no one wishes to have lineups at our cancer treatment facilities.
The truth of the matter is that in contrast to former delay in coming forward with an aggressive program to renew our capital structure, the adequate funding provided by our friend the Treasurer (Mr. Nixon) is allowing us now to move forward to make final decisions.
Mr. Hayes: My question is to the Minister of Agriculture and Food.
The Ontario Vegetable Growers' Marketing Board presented a proposal to the Ministry of Agriculture and Food near the end of March requesting a vote to change its marketing plan to re-establish the integrity of the orderly marketing system, because the rules of the system are being broken, prices are being discounted and growers are being intimidated. The vegetable growers met with the deputy minister on April 1, the Ontario Farm Products Marketing Board on April 8, and they also had a joint meeting on May 20 with the Ontario Farm Products Marketing Board and the processors on this particular issue.
Can the minister tell us why, after three months, the Ontario Vegetable Growers' Marketing Board has not received a response from his ministry?
Hon. Mr. Riddell: There have been a number of meetings with the Ontario Farm Products Marketing Board, the Ontario Vegetable Growers' Marketing Board and the Ontario Food Processors Association. It was not just one meeting. They have met several times. The Ontario Farm Products Marketing Board made its recommendations to me about two days ago. I have called for a meeting of the vegetable growers' marketing board to discuss these recommendations. I also will be meeting with the food processors association to discuss the recommendations of the farm products marketing board, after which time I will be in a position to make a decision.
Mr. Hayes: Several times the Minister of Agriculture and Food has stood up in this House and said that if any of these various farm groups or commodity groups wanted to change anything in their marketing systems, all they would have to do is go to the Ontario Farm Products Marketing Board and they would get it because it is up to them to make the decision. Yet, after three months, the minister is going to make the decision for them.
Will the minister give them the right to have the vote so they can make their decisions on what type of marketing system they want?
Hon. Mr. Riddell: Obviously, the honourable member does not understand the procedure. The Ontario Farm Products Marketing Board does not make the decision: the board makes recommendations to the Minister of Agriculture and Food and the minister then makes the decision. Whatever decision I make, after I discuss it further with the vegetable growers and the food processors association, I will, in all probability, go to the vegetable growers for a vote.
FISHING LICENCE REVENUES
Mr. Ward: I have a question for the Minister of Natural Resources.
Some months ago when I purchased my fishing licence I received this pamphlet, entitled the New Ontario Residents' Sport Fishing Licence, which indicates: "Your licence dollars are working right now to improve fisheries management in Ontario. They are being used, for example, to expand the popular community fisheries program, improve fisheries habitat, culture Atlantic salmon and steelhead trout for stocking in the Great Lakes and to hire more conservation officers and fisheries technicians across the province."
I note the pamphlet is dated February and I would like to ask the minister whether this pamphlet received widespread distribution, particularly in the Timmins area.
Hon. Mr. Kerrio: I am very pleased to respond to that question. I do not have to have any concern that the member might have to leave the House during the exchange. Having said that, I think it is very important to get on the record again, after some of the comments that were made, that in the very early stages in proposing such a fee to the users in Ontario, we said back in January 1986 -- it is in Hansard and I would like to put it on the record again:
"I would like to say that the benefit of this" -- we are talking about the licence -- "is that our fisheries management programs will be better geared to the needs of the resource user. We believe the majority of anglers support the concept of a resident fishing licence as a means of helping to pay for the following: protection, maintenance and rebuilding of the resource they all use."
I have to tell members that also, when we decided in January there would be a user fee -- I like to think of it as a user fee, because when people hunt and when they do those other things, they are charged a fee to do so -- I asked the people who pursue the sport of angling in the province to support a user fee. I am looking for the co-operation of the honourable members, who had the sort of discourse yesterday I was not too pleased about, because what we are going to do is put this money to good use, as has been described in the pamphlet.
Mr. Speaker: New question, the member for Sarnia.
Mr. Brandt: I was almost certain there would have to be a supplementary following that very probing question.
Mr. Brandt: I have a question to the acting Minister of Government Services. As the minister is well aware, a series of rotating strikes is presently under way in Canada, related to the Canada Post situation. Could the minister share with this House any contingency plans the government has with respect to the delivery of cheques during a time when there may be some disruption in the mail service?
Hon. Mr. Conway: Yes, and I very much appreciate the honourable member's concern about a subject that I know will be on the minds of a good number of residents in the province and all members of this assembly. We have in place a contingency plan that will ensure that for government mail, government cheques particularly, those entitled to those transfers will be able to receive them.
Specifically, we will be using all government offices across the province, individual ministries such as the Ministry of Community and Social Services and the Ministry of Revenue, to name two. We will be advertising throughout all the media, particularly the 43 daily newspapers of the province, to make very clear to people in Sarnia and Lambton where it is they will go to receive their particular cheques or where they might leave mail destined for the government.
We recognize as well that these are rotating strikes. Ontario has not yet -- at least at my last information -- been struck, but we may have to take additional measures. We will assess that at that particular point in time.
Mr. Brandt: As the minister is well aware, the needy, elderly and disabled are going to be in need of those particular cheques. I appreciate the fact that the government has already sent some cheques out early in anticipation of some disruption of service, but I would urge the government -- and perhaps the minister may wish to respond to this -- to advise the members of this House specifically of the plans in a more detailed and more focused way than the minister has just shared with me now.
I simply want the government to be aware of the fact that a disruption is imminent and is highly likely in the light of the rotating strikes, and these individuals are going to be requiring payment of their particular cheques.
Hon. Mr. Conway: Again, I think the honourable member makes a very good point. I want to agree with him. A communication is now being circulated to all members. I want to indicate again that a plan is in place for all Community and Social Services cheques, for example, to be delivered to the local Community and Social Services office. Then specific further plans will be in place so that the individuals or their families can come and receive those; and where they cannot, we will as a government ensure that a delivery is made.
I want to assure all honourable members today -- and I will through a communication they should have in their hands within the next very few days; hopefully within the next very few hours -- how specific ministries are going to be proceeding. I want the member to know as well that we will have an advertising campaign that will make clear to people living in Sarnia, Lambton or anywhere else in the province how they can expect to receive materials and how they can transmit back to government.
FISHING LICENCE REVENUES
Mr. Wildman: With as much restraint as I can muster, I would like to place a question to the Minister of Natural Resources. The minister made
a statement in January 1986 in this House, in which he said: "This ministry, through the community fisheries involvement program, is doing good things right now in this province to improve the
habitat, to build hatcheries and to provide fishing for the people of Ontario....I am going to use the money"
-- that is, the money from the sale of fishing licences -- "for that cause."
Since the minister has admitted that despite his statement he intends to use some of this revenue from the sale of fishing licences to subsidize the ongoing operations of his ministry, to hire more personnel, can he inform the House of the total number of conservation officers he has hired, how many more he intends to hire and what percentage of the fishing licence revenue will be used for this purpose?
Hon. Mr. Kerrio: I certainly want to respond to the member, because I am hoping I can convince him that he should help with this initiative.
When I accepted this ministry, there were many problems that we had to cope with. The forests were somewhat depleted, moose were depleted to the point where there were less than 60,000 in the herd and a lottery system had been set up to be able to accommodate people who would hunt them. We also had our deer depleted. I want to tell the member that those other involvements paid for a licence to pursue those particular hobbies.
What I am saying now is that the fisheries were depleted as well. We are prepared to move forward to address all these problems. Last year, we spent $30 million to spray our forests to protect them. We are doing things that have brought the moose herds back to 100,000 animals. We need conservation officers to do this. What surprises me is that the other day the member asked a question about conservation officers. The member should make up his mind. Does he want them or does he not?
Mr. Wildman: It might be helpful to us all if the minister would plant some fish instead of planting questions with his back-benchers.
I want to point out that this pamphlet simply confirms that the minister was going back on his commitment to the anglers in this province even earlier than he did in this House.
The minister did not answer the question. Can the minister confirm that he is hiring only two, or three at the maximum, more conservation officers, that one is going to be located in Terrace Bay and one in Chatham and that, besides that, he intends to have five split positions, conservation officers and fisheries technicians of some sort?
If that is the case, can he tell us what percentage of the time that these officers are going to be working they will be working in fisheries management? Overall, will he tell us when he intends to appoint the fisheries advisory committee he promised would monitor the use of the revenue from the sale of the fish licences to ensure that it is used for fisheries management and not these other things he seems to want to use it for?
Hon. Mr. Kerrio: It is very difficult to respond to a question like that, but I will try. The fact of the matter is that the member stood in his place two days ago and was questioning why we should not have more conservation officers. Now he is standing here today and saying we should not have any more conservation officers. The member is going to have to make up his mind which it is, and then I will respond.
But I want to share something with the member. We have some 238 conservation officers across this province. They are spread out in a way that they can react to the areas that require the most conservation officers. I would like to share a number with the member that is very important. We are not dedicating and committing some $8 million this year to the fisheries; we are going to commit the $8 million we get from the fishing licences plus $4 million. We are going to put in $12 million to enhance the fisheries in Ontario, and some of that is going to be for conservation officers.
CLOSING OF REGIONAL OFFICE
Mr. Harris: I wonder whether the Minister of Tourism and Recreation can explain the closing of the North Bay Ministry of Tourism and Recreation office and the elimination of four more government jobs in North Bay, a move that has been described by one ministry official as a new corporate approach in the ministry. Will the minister tell me two things? One, how will this assist with the delivery of recreational services in our northern community? Two, can the minister tell us why his government is secretly closing this office and eliminating jobs in North Bay with no public announcements or involvement?
Hon. Mr. Eakins: I am pleased to reply to that. The move is part of the evolutionary process of the ministry since its formation in 1982. The member for Nipissing will know that the decision to relocate the northeastern regional office was discussed with him in 1983 and that he agreed that Sudbury was the best location for a regional office for a number of reasons.
Mr. Harris: I would be interested in seeing where the minister got that stupid lie from, but let me carry on.
Mr. Speaker: Order. Will the member withdraw that word "lie"?
Mr. Harris: Yes, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Speaker: You will withdraw?
Mr. Harris: If it offends you, yes, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Speaker: Will you withdraw?
Mr. Harris: I did, Mr. Speaker. I said, yes, if it offends you.
Mr. Speaker: It does.
Mr. Harris: If it does not offend you, no.
Mr. Speaker: Order. Does the member have a supplementary?
Mr. Harris: The minister obviously knows little about what is happening. This is the third time in the past year that government operations have been secretly closed in North Bay. We had the Ombudsman to Toronto, the Ministry of Revenue with two jobs to Oshawa and now Tourism and Recreation.
Since the minister does not know what is going on in northern Ontario, the reality of what is happening is that the regional director was originally hired to work out of North Bay, but he would not move to North Bay because he wanted to keep his home and commute from Sudbury. Now he wants to move the whole management team from North Bay to Sudbury because he does not want to move.
Will the minister not agree that it makes more sense to move one person to North Bay, where he was supposed to be in the first place and where he was hired to work, rather than move the whole division to satisfy the wishes of one of the ministry officials, who I admit has been fighting since 1983 to get everything where he wants to live?
Hon. Mr. Eakins: I simply point out again that the Sudbury location was approved by the previous government.
Mr. Harris: Wrong. No, it was not.
Hon. Mr. Eakins: Yes, the Ministry of Natural Resources, the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines and the Ministry of Citizenship and Culture all have regional offices in Sudbury. Sudbury is central to the region and there will be no lessening of service to the total area. Some of our staff are still in North Bay.
Mr. Harris: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order --
Mr. Speaker: Order.
Mr. Harris: -- that is not true. You know it is not true. You are moving people --
Mr. Speaker: Order. Will the member take his seat. I would like to remind all members that they are responsible for the standing orders. They approved them, and I wish all members would maintain those standing orders.
PUBLIC EDUCATION TAXES
Mr. Pouliot: I have a petition signed by some residents of Nicol Island, Whitesand Lake and Rossport in the great riding of Lake Nipigon. They are asking the Ontario government to investigate the interpretation of representation of unorganized towns during the arbitration process for the purpose of assessing public education taxes.
Mr. Speaker: I ask all members to reduce their private conversations. Some members wish to present petitions.
Mr. D. R. Cooke: I have a petition signed by 96 constituents of my riding and the riding of Kitchener-Wilmot, asking that the government place sound barriers on the Conestoga Parkway between the Courtland Avenue and King Street interchanges, indicating that this area should receive priority in view of the fact that it has one of the highest noise levels in the province, with decibel ratings of 66.9, almost as high as in this chamber.
Mr. Speaker: Order. I wonder whether the member for York Centre (Mr. Cousens) and the member for Durham East (Mr. Cureatz) would --
Mr. D. R. Cooke: There is apparently a noise decibel level of 66.9 at that point on the Conestoga Parkway. Many of the signatories indicate that this results in loss of sleep, loss of recreational use of the backyards, the irritation of vibrating windows and fixtures, as well as lost trees and scrubs through road salt damage.
INTRODUCTION OF BILL
LANDLORD AND TENANT AMENDMENT ACT
Hon. Mr. Scott moved first reading of Bill 87, An Act to amend the Landlord and Tenant Act.
Motion agreed to.
Mr. Speaker: Any further explanations?
Hon. Mr. Scott: No, Mr. Speaker.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
AUTOMOBILE INSURANCE ACT (CONTINUED)
Resuming the adjourned debate on the motion for second reading of Bill 56, An Act to control temporarily Automobile Insurance Rates in Ontario.
Mr. Morin-Strom: I appreciate the opportunity to continue the address I was making late yesterday. I got about 10 minutes into this bill and I would like to continue from that point.
We are addressing Bill 56, which has quite an odd title, An Act to control temporarily Automobile Insurance Rates in Ontario. One has to wonder why the word "temporarily" is in there. Of course, all the indications are that not only will it not control the rates but also there is no real intention of the government of Ontario to address this issue, which is one that is of such serious concern to so many people across Ontario.
The debate on high auto insurance rates continues to grow. That is because the rates we are paying continue to go up. We have had premium increases in Ontario of at least 45 per cent over the last three years. My community of Sault Ste. Marie is no different than other communities across this province. My office has been receiving many calls from Sault residents who are facing outrageous increases in their auto insurance rates.
I recently talked to a small business owner in the Sault who stated a serious insurance problem. His 1985 insurance premium was about $12,000 for his trucking business, which employs eight people. This year, the cheapest rate he could find for that same coverage is over $33,000, and he has been told that next year that amount may double. This would put him out of business and also put another eight people out of work in my community.
Cars and trucks are not luxuries in Sault Ste. Marie; they are a necessity. Many residents have told me of insurance companies cancelling or refusing to renew insurance policies. They have told me about discriminatory rate increases. I have heard about long delays in receiving compensation, and there have been far too many unfair settlements for accident victims. It truly is highway robbery.
Private insurance companies say they must increase rates so that they can recover their lost profits. The truth is that their profits have never been greater. Last year, the private insurance companies in Canada recorded a net profit of over $1 billion, their highest ever. The biggest portion of that business is the auto insurance business and, in fact, most of it is in Ontario, because we know that auto insurance is not in the hands of the private insurers in the three western provinces.
I and my colleagues in this Legislature have been urging the government, and we want to continue to urge it, to set up a driver-owned auto insurance plan in Ontario. They continue to refuse to even study the possibility. They are willing to travel around the world to Switzerland and other sites in western Europe, but they refuse to go to the western provinces to see a plan that truly does reduce the rates compared to what we are paying in Ontario. You would save anywhere from 20 per cent to 75 per cent on your premium if Ontario had a driver-owned auto insurance plan. It is the real low-cost alternative to private insurance highway robbery.
The driver-owned public auto insurance plans introduced by New Democratic governments in British Columbia, Saskatchewan and Manitoba have rates far lower than those charged by private insurers in Ontario. Here are some typical savings: $1,500 for a good male driver aged 21, $500 for a 40-year-old who has had a minor accident; $300 for a 21-year-old woman with a small car, $150 for a man aged 30 who has a new car; and $100 for a woman in her 60s who drives an older car.
Over the last three years, premiums in British Columbia have not changed; in Manitoba, they have gone up by a total of six per cent; and in Saskatchewan, premiums have actually fallen by seven per cent over the three years. But in Ontario premiums have increased by, on average, 45 per cent over the same period.
Driver-owned insurance has proved to be more efficient than private auto insurance. For instance, driver-owned plans spend only 21 per cent of premiums on administration costs. Private insurance companies spend 41 per cent, double the administrative costs of the government plans in the western provinces.
How insurance premiums paid by Ontario motorists are used is determined mainly by foreign companies. Not only would a driver-owned plan leave more money in our pockets because of lower rates, but it would also keep our premiums working for us right here in Ontario. The government opposes a driver-owned auto insurance plan, so we have to keep fighting for such a plan. From what the people of Ontario have been telling me about their increasing insurance rates, the need has never been greater.
Yesterday, I talked briefly about the responses I have gotten from recent questionnaires on the issue of auto insurance. I mentioned the fact that on the most recent one I have had nearly three times as many returns of questionnaires compared to any previous questionnaire I had sent out to my constituents in Sault Ste. Marie, a total of more than 2,000 returns.
Of those, more than 1,500 requested that we send more information on this issue of auto insurance and how the plans would work in Ontario if we adopted the kind of system that currently exists in British Columbia, Saskatchewan or Manitoba. I had the opportunity to read a few of the comments of some of the individuals of my community and I would like to go through a few others. They illustrate the kind of reaction we, as members of this Legislature, are getting on this important issue and why it is such a high priority that we will continue to pursue it within the New Democratic Party, and we would strongly advise the minister to look at it seriously for a change.
I have a note here from Pauline Tomas: "I do not know what a driver-owned auto insurance plan would consist of. Please send information. I do know that auto insurance rates are ridiculous," with emphasis on "ridiculous."
From Ronald Roussel: "Keep up the good work, and please keep on pushing to get the car insurance rates down. In Ontario, as you know, it is against the law to drive without insurance. The insurance companies have taken advantage of the situation and have been killing us with their high rates ever since."
From Mario Caruso, "I personally believe that the government should run both pensions and auto insurance."
From Mr. Zulak, "I am from the west and would like to see government insurance at a reasonable rate that people can afford."
From Michael Waddell, "How long would it take before the driver-owned auto insurance plan is implemented in Ontario?" It would not take very long under New Democratic government administration, but I do not know when this minister is going to open his eyes and look at the true situation in this country and where reasonable rates can be found.
From Mr. St-Jules, "It would be a blessing to get driver-owned insurance to be law."
From John Gorges: "I would like to see government insurance. The present system is like dictatorship. Ask Gilles Pouliot" -- my colleague -- "about my case. I believe Kwinter and Weir just cater to the big companies. To me, it is contrary to what I spent five years fighting for."
From Mr. Daoust: "Let's get some action on this driver-owned insurance program."
From Mr. Borgogelli: "I am very concerned about the rapid increase in insurance rates."
From Marco Bressar: "I am definitely sure that Ontario should have driver-owned auto insurance. I am 19 years of age and I own my own car and I am paying extremely high insurance premiums. I do not understand why, because I have a clean record. So I would like to see a change in insurance."
One of the most disgusting practices in the insurance business in Ontario is the age discrimination factor. There is absolutely no justification for discriminating insurance rates based on age, sex or marital status. The only issue that should be addressed is a driver's record. It is understood that a driver who has a bad driving record and has had convictions of either causing accidents or getting driving infractions and points against his driver's record should be paying a premium on his insurance, but for a person with a clean driving record, there is absolutely no justification for rates three, four and five times as high as what a driver would pay if he were over age 25 compared to under age 25.
Another comment, from Theresa Wing: "Car insurance is out of this world$ They have something out west that seems to work for all who own cars and trucks."
From Christiane Veldt: "I would like very much to see the driver-owned auto insurance, because as you have said, it is much cheaper. It would help tremendously on families who have a hard time making ends meet."
The cost of insurance is truly a significant one. We have talked many times about the discrimination in terms of gasoline prices in northern Ontario and the higher costs of operating a vehicle in the north compared to southern Ontario because of those high gasoline prices, but in fact for many the premium they are paying for auto insurance is even greater than that.
For families with young drivers, in many cases paying premiums of over $2,000 a year, they are paying the equivalent of $40 a week just for their auto insurance. A worker who needs his car to get to work every day is paying $8 a day in his auto insurance premium just to be able to drive his car to work; in other words, $1 an hour. Out of the wage he is making, $1 an hour may be going simply for the purpose of insurance on the vehicle he is driving in order to get back and forth to work. I think that is truly outrageous.
I have many more comments here as well, one in terms of a specific figure from Mr. and Mrs. McCaig: "Something has to be done regarding car insurance. Ours has gone up approximately $175 in one year, same coverage, no accidents or fines. This is a big ripoff and we are just making people rich."
Another one, from Jerry Lorenzo: "It's a shame to pay the high prices for auto insurance. These companies are ripping off every person that drives in Ontario. We have two cars, which is a must, as both my wife and myself work. We are paying over $1,100 for coverage (no tickets and no claims). This is absurd! Keep up the good work....Please feel free to put up an NDP sign on my property for any election."
We are getting to them. Those guys had better get on side on this thing as well, if they know what is good for them.
We have comments that go on and on about this issue. Most recently, I sent out another newsletter in which I asked people to send back examples of cases where they have been ripped off. We have received very few of them back so far. I understand there are hundreds of them down in the post office here at Queen's Park. The staff is having some difficulty in sorting through the number of returns. I look forward to seeing those as well, but I have received several of them to this point.
This one is from a Mrs. Spina: "Have had no claims, still I had to pay nearly $50 more for the next six months." That is a case where the legislation that we are addressing today is supposed to be putting a freeze on the rates; but we know there is no freeze, the rates are still going up.
This legislation is totally ineffectual. We have the proclaimed freeze, which is not a freeze; we have the proclamation from the minister of a cap on rates, which is in fact no cap whatsoever; and we have the proclamation of rollbacks of 10 per cent on rates for certain types of drivers, which in fact has not happened. There is no rollback going on. The drivers have been finding out as they have been getting their insurance renewed over the last couple of months that in fact the actions being taken by this government have no effect in reality and that the drivers are not benefiting. In fact, the initiative of the government is hurting them much more than it has helped them.
I have another example here: "If I have two cars, my son can be insured for $700 per year. If he was to get his own car in his name, the insurance would start at $1,200 per year. He also has driver education. The insurance companies are forcing people to be deceitful in their dealings, with the child's car being put in the parent's name. I feel there should be breaks for good driving without punishing the younger drivers so drastically."
Another specific example: "In 1985, September, I hit a parked truck avoiding some children. There was no damage to the truck, only to my car. The woman called the cops. I was charged with careless driving, plus a $150 fine. I have never had a parking ticket, accident or any other driving violation. I am 33 years old and I have been driving since I was 17.
"My insurance went from $300 a year to $2,000. I am in the same insurance bracket as drunks, dangerous drivers and those with bad records. I don't feel that I should have to pay this kind of insurance for a first offence that was truly unavoidable. Please look into the government insurance on my behalf as well as the others who are getting `ripped off.'"
With that final comment, I hope we will take action on this bill to ensure that it is either changed drastically or withdrawn by the minister so we can in fact implement something that will truly work in this province and benefit all the drivers of Ontario. The minister would be wise to look seriously at what he is proposing and to go back and redraft something that has some teeth in it and will provide some benefits for the people of this province.
Mr. Ashe: I find it difficult to actually say anything very positive about this piece of legislation other than to initially, of course, indicate that personally I do not, and this party does not, subscribe to the government-can-do-everything-better principle as espoused by the socialist party.
We all know that in the long term, the short term, or the medium term, that is not true. There is no doubt you can pick out specific, isolated, narrow, pointed examples of places and particular situations where an insurance policy out west can be cheaper than in Ontario. There is no doubt about that at all.
The long and the short of it is those of us who have been around here or have been involved in any level of government long enough know that in the long haul government can do very little -- very little -- cheaper and more economically than the private sector can with the competitive situation out there.
There is no doubt the insurance industry has a problem -- a perception problem, as much as anything -- in the last few years. To be very honest, they have created part of that problem themselves, so I guess to some degree they have to get out of it. They have an image problem and they have not been able to get across the facts. The facts, as the New Democratic Party sees them, are obviously quite a bit different from the real facts.
I do not know how any so-called honourable members can stand up in this chamber and spout some of the numbers they spout about the profits made by the insurance business in Canada, let alone in Ontario, in the last few years, when the honourable members must know, if they have got even an ounce, a quarter ounce of a brain, that they are putting out numbers that at the very least are tainted, are twisted and are inaccurate.
I would never use the words that would get me moved out of here, Mr. Speaker, but I think you know what I am saying even though I put it in an appropriate way.
Having said that I do not agree with government insurance, I do agree that something has to be done. I think one of the suggestions already put forth by this party even before the minister talked about it, of having a rate review agency, an approval agency, is appropriate. I think all parts of the equation will be better served by that kind of situation, where the companies will have to come forth to a tribunal and board to justify any change in their rates. From their point of view, they will be able to have audited by that board whether they are making money and the areas in which they are or are not making money. I think it will clear the air for the consumer, to know that is the case. Obviously and ultimately, hopefully everybody will be better served.
The other issues being investigated and looked into at this time, the tort system, etc., hopefully will all be part of the solution. If I have a criticism of this government and of this minister in that regard, it is the time it has taken. We have been pointing out for the last year and a half that there were issues and problems in the general overall liability field, which included, of course, insurance liability.
Unfortunately, the minister took an awfully long time to act and to start looking into the issue. I cannot understand, for example, why we have not already got legislation before us to consider, setting up the board that will look at and examine rates.
I think there are other issues and other problems that can be resolved in a rational way by the private sector. I think it is true they have to re-examine the whole principle of how underwriting takes place. I do agree that not all drivers, just because they are under 25 years of age, are bad drivers. Unfortunately, in a statistical sense, the industry can say: "But look at the claims we pay out in that group. Look at the amount of tickets and traffic incidents they are involved in, in that group." Statistically, there is no doubt they are right.
I think we have to change the whole principle of how underwriting is done on that group of people or, as far as that goes, on any group of citizens which takes the opportunity and the privilege -- and it is a privilege -- to drive an automobile. It is not a right, it is a privilege; because there are a lot of lives involved besides the driver's; and of course the liability question and the cost of any accident, etc., are borne ultimately by all. When one thinks of the cost of the health care system that we all pay for, it is not a right, it is a privilege.
Mr. McClellan: It is a privilege?
Mr. Ashe: Do I hear an echo down there? It seems to me that we were rather quiet when we heard some of the diatribe coming from them before. I wish they would offer the same courtesy for a change.
In any event, part of the problem and part of the principle that has to be changed on the part of the insurance companies is not presuming that people are bad drivers just because they fall into a particular category. I think we have to get back to the straight principle of common law that suggests you are innocent until it is shown by your driving record that you are in fact guilty. In that way, there can be an enticement and an encouragement for drivers of all ages possibly to respect the law more in terms of their driving habits and hopefully to become better drivers.
I know part of the argument the other way when you discuss the pros and cons of no-fault. Those who are opposed to it suggest that with no-fault people will not care. If you have the other opportunity, of presuming innocence until guilt is shown in driving records or in accident records, I think there is a lot of enticement there. Similarly, I personally do not subscribe to the meat chart principle that a complete no-fault would put into effect. In my view, a partial no-fault with limits and so on and still with the opportunity for recourse to the courts is the way to go.
Back more specifically to Bill 56, if there is one initial problem right on the cover of this bill, it is probably the title. I would like to give it a new title. I would enact Bill 56 to read as follows, "An Act to give the Impression that Automobile Insurance Rates are Frozen, at least until after the Next Election." As proposed by the Minister of Financial Institutions (Mr. Kwinter), effectively that is what this charade is all about.
I have tried to make it abundantly clear that I do not think the answer to our problem is that which is espoused by the third party, but this is not the answer either. This has tried to give the impression to people, to electors, consumers and drivers, that any bill they received on or after April 23, 1987, would be no higher than before. That is the general impression it was meant to give.
Frankly, that is the impression that is out there. All you have to do is go to your constituency office each day and see the queries about it. All you have to do is touch base with any of the brokers or insurance companies that are direct underwriters and they will tell you that is what their consumers think this bill is all about.
In fact, we know that is not what it is all about at all. To freeze the rates as of April 23 and give the impression that this is what it is, is a charade. This bill is suggesting that companies cannot further raise their categorized rates after April 23, with the full knowledge that most companies had a rate change effective in January for policies coming due early in the year. In February, most of the board companies that underwrite most of the automobile insurance in this province set their rate categories for most of the rest of the year 1987.
It really did not make any difference at all whether your premium came due in January, March or July. If the category you fall into was raised 15 per cent by a decision made by the board companies in February, the 15 per cent increase goes ahead. All this says is that on or after April 24, they cannot decide to add on another five per cent.
That is an absolute joke because it does not happen that much in any year. I think there have been occasions where there have been small further adjustments laid on in the year. I suppose you could say that this may be some small sampling of a savings for some drivers. This bill has done nothing except cause an awful lot more contacts by letter and by telephone at our constituency offices, and that is going to continue to grow as the year goes on, as people get their renewals and find they are higher than last year. That is not what the bill says, but there is no doubt that was the implication of what it meant and that is not what it says at all.
As far as the two categories that were particularly identified are concerned, males under 25 and taxi drivers, to give them a 10 per cent discount is again a joke. You have a situation where these two categories had rate increases that were already approved early in the year. I suggest that probably nine times out of 10, with the 10 per cent rate reduction they would still end up with an actual rate increase on the premium renewal in 1987.
I suppose the one consolation in this bill is that if it drags on long enough, maybe it will be repealed before it happens. If we look at section 9, this act is repealed on the earlier of December 31, 1987, and a day to be named by proclamation of the Lieutenant Governor. I presume that date of proclamation by the Lieutenant Governor, clause 9(b), will become appropriate and effective if the minister ever gets around to setting up his insurance rate review board and gets it operative. Then this bill could be repealed.
To have it go into force is really a misdirection of justice. To not have it go into force -- I am not quite sure which is worse, frankly. It does not do anything. I do not know that it does any great harm but it does not do anything. Once again, I think the answers are out there to solve the problems. It will not happen overnight. Insurance companies, rightly or wrongly, for all the right or wrong reasons that we can debate another day, have been losing money in the auto business, particularly in Ontario. We have to get at the source of these problems, and this so-called freeze is not getting at the source of these problems at all.
Again, it is an act to give the impression that automobile insurance rates are frozen, at least until after the next election. Seeing that we did not have a spring election, which was undoubtedly anticipated by the minister when he introduced this bill, hopefully this will die a death all by itself before it ever becomes law.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Polsinelli): Questions or comments on remarks of the member for Durham West?
Mr. McClellan: The member for Durham West described the bill as a charade. He said the title of the bill should be changed. I believe he said this was an act to create the impression of controlling temporarily. He described it as a hoax. He implied that it was a fraud and a fake, that its simple and sole exclusive purpose was not to protect consumers but to protect the Liberal Party until such time as it can get past an election, that it will not cap automobile premiums, that it will not protect consumers, that it will not do anything the Liberal Party says it will do and that it is a cynical exercise in pre-election manipulation of the voters.
My question to the member for Durham West is this: since I agree with everything he said in his description of the bill, that it is a fraud, that it is a fake, that it is a hoax and that it is designed to permit the Liberal Party to get through an election with a minimum of damage, why on earth is the Conservative Party prepared to vote for this bill?
Mr. D. S. Cooke: I would like to add just one additional question to that of my colleague the member for Bellwoods (Mr. McClellan). In addition to why the member for Durham West is voting for the bill, I would like to know why his leader took credit for announcing or demanding this type of legislation or this bill two weeks before the government announced this policy.
Mr. Morin-Strom: I would like to know why the member for Durham West contends that the cases where the insurance rates would be lower under a public plan compared to here are only isolated cases when the governments in two of the provinces -- they are not New Democratic governments at this time, but the Conservative and Social Credit governments in Saskatchewan and British Columbia -- have been in power for a good period of time but have taken no action whatsoever to change back to a private insurance operation in those provinces. If the benefits are only isolated cases, and not for the general public as a whole as our evidence shows they are, why have those governments not abandoned their public auto insurance plans and gone back to the private insurance industry that the member wants to continue to live with?
Mr. Ashe: I do not back down from any of the descriptions I have given of this bill. That is for sure. Why would we support it? I also ended up by saying I do not think it really does any harm, even though I do not think it does anything, period. If anything happens on it, even if it is only minute, it is better than nothing.
As to what our leader suggested two weeks before, I think two issues are being confused here. Before this piece of legislation was introduced, we did suggest the establishment of the rate review process, the rate review board, but it had nothing to do with what has come out in this legislation, the so-called rate freeze.
As far as the western provinces are concerned, frankly, once you have spent a pile of money to set something up, there is no doubt it is a lot more difficult to get out of something than it is to get into it. I presume that is part of the answer out west.
When I say individual and isolated instances, I am not saying that they are not cumulatively somewhat substantive in nature. What I am saying is that overall, if somebody benefits, somebody still ends up having to pay somewhere along the line. Whether it is the consumer in his rates or, directly or indirectly, the taxpayer at large, the moneys have to come from somewhere. Somewhere along the line that includes paying the deficits that happen to be accruing, even in the past year, to one or more of those situations out west. Dollars still have to come from somewhere and if the consumer does not pay the consolidated revenue fund pays. That in itself is a charade on the taxpayers.
The Acting Speaker: Further debate?
Mr. Mackenzie: My remarks on this topic will be brief, but I do want to indicate very clearly that I do not and we will not support Bill 56, the minister's bill. I really wonder why the minister brought it in. It is little more than a bit of a con job because it does not do what he says it will do.
Most people will not see any kind of control on their rates. There will be the two per cent increase in the period allowed that my colleague has outlined forcibly and effectively in this House. It is not doing a job in terms of the 10 per cent reduction for most of the young drivers or cabbies. It is simply an excuse to try to stall off the inevitable or maybe get the minister over a period of time until he sees whether he can go to the public and put down this upstart of public auto insurance altogether.
I do not want to spend a lot of time responding to my colleague on the Tory bench but he knows it is not accurate in terms of the subsidization of the plans out west. He knows that very clearly; I do not know why he keeps repeating it.
Few issues have received as much public reaction in the past year, I guess, as the issue of automobile insurance. It is coming not only from the people who are getting hit with substantial increases in their premiums, but also from a number of other organizations; and it is coming, surprisingly enough, from a number of the brokers. Some information that I am sure has caused some concern if it has not embarrassed the minister in this House is information that comes to me now about every second week, in the proverbial brown paper bag, and I know who it is coming from: some well-respected brokers who have been in the business in my town for more than 25 years. It is where we got the letter that went out outlining some of the grey areas.
I took the trouble to go and visit with some of these brokers. I found out they themselves were discouraged, disheartened and perturbed at the action of the insurance companies and the instructions they were getting as to what they could and could not place with the insurance companies in terms of auto insurance.
One of the things that really got me was a list of the reasons why you would go to the Facility Association or why you would not get a preferred rate or why the companies did not want to take it. It is not only the young drivers; it is also people, as has been pointed out in this House, who have not driven for two years and people who have not had an accident but have had as few as three minor traffic violations.
To this day, the one that still gets me, and the one that disturbed a couple of the brokers I talked to, was that heaven help you if you happen to be living common law, unless you have been living common law for more than five years and have a child. Then I guess you are responsible enough to get your insurance at whatever the so-called marketplace rate is. Otherwise, you are Facility insurance.
I do not know why we have put up with this kind of dishonesty as long as we have. I think the auto insurance industry has been one of the most dishonest industries in this country. It seems to me we have to accept that what is really at stake, and I do not think there is any question about it, is the large amount of capital that is involved in the premiums, the investment income and the control of it and what you can do with that income.
I say to my Conservative colleagues that it is very clear that whether or not you like the idea of public auto insurance or driver-owned auto insurance in principle, in the provinces that have it you can get a much better answer in a public plan where they have to produce the results and where you can get the figures each and every year. You can see what they are doing with the money and how they use the investment capital in terms of the plan. That is what it is for, not to line somebody's pocket or to cover something else.
The other thing that bothers me about this issue and the kind of stalling tactics the minister is using with his bill -- as I said, in my opinion, it is a very misleading if not dishonest bill -- is what it is doing and what is happening as well in the insurance industry in terms of people's claims.
How many times has the minister had people tell him over the past few months that the smartest thing to do -- many of the insurance companies are doing this as well -- is not to report an accident? "Unless the figures are astronomical, cover it yourself. Do not go the route of reporting it because you know what it is going to cost you." What is happening is that it is undermining the very principle of insurance, which is one I do not reject on any philosophical grounds. I do not know how many people I have had tell me in the last couple of years that they had an accident where normally they would have gone to the insurance company, but instead they tried to work out some kind of deal. Yet they all feel, as I think all of us do, that they have to carry insurance on their automobiles, as they carry other kinds of insurance, because of the potential costs to them.
So here we have people buying and paying for a product and then being led into the belief, widespread now in Ontario, that if there is any way they can cover that cost -- you continue paying your premiums, of course, but you cover the cost of the accident in some private deal. Better still, you do not let the authorities know because it might get back to somebody and you would pay the price of it. I think this is one of the most dangerous and dishonest things that is happening in Ontario.
I noticed with interest in a letter from
Co-operators -- I just have a couple of more remarks -- that in part of its campaign it was talking about a questionnaire it was sending out to people and how marvellous it was that it had received over 2,700 coupons back to date. That is going back a couple of months. They may be up to 5,000 or 10,000 by now; I do not know. I want the members to know that in my riding we raised it in a questionnaire. I have never had more than 1,100 responses; 1,131 is the highest in 12 years in this House. I am now past 2,600, very close to 2,700, and they are still coming in. There are a few more here today. I want the minister to know that the comments have been precise and strong and 87.7 per cent have said, "Go with the public plan." Only 5.6 per cent said no.
I grant the inaccuracy of private polls but the question was very clear, "What do you want?" They know darned well what they do not want. Only 6.7 per cent suggested they did not know. We might even have broken a few of those. I suggest to the minister that 90 per cent of the people of Ontario are saying this is the kind of answer they want.
I reject totally, as do all my colleagues, the comments we occasionally get from the Liberal side, and from the Tory benches as well, about these untrue horror stories. I am not going to go into them. I have used some case examples in previous debate in this House. I took out the past four months; there are case sheets. All members of this House know in detail what they are about, some of the more obvious and outlandish problems people in my riding are having with insurance. These are just in the past few months. As I say, it does not just include calls.
I pulled out as well -- I did not count them; there are probably 40 or 50 in that pile alone -- a few of the letters about auto insurance people attached to the 2,600 responses I am telling the minister I have had in my riding. They are here. He should read some of the responses about auto insurance, what people are paying and the rip-off it is in Ontario.
I am simply saying to the minister very clearly that his bill should be withdrawn. If it is not, it should be defeated in this House and I hope there is enough guts in the Tory party to stand up with us and see that it is defeated. What he should bring in is proper driver-owned automobile insurance in Ontario, which is long overdue and which he is not going to be able to stop.
Mr. Wildman: I enter this debate with the knowledge that this is one of the leading issues, if not the leading issue, in Ontario today. Like my friend the member for Hamilton East (Mr. Mackenzie), I sent out a questionnaire recently. I think members realize that my riding is not a large one in population. It is large in area but in population it is one of the smallest in Ontario. Normally from my questionnaires, I get in the range of between 300 and 500 returns. This time I received between 1,000 and 1,500 returns and they are still coming in.
Well over 1,200 indicated they were dissatisfied with the current insurance system for automobiles in this province and that they wished to have a driver-owned plan or a plan that would be operated in the public sector and would eliminate a number of the problems and difficulties people face with the current private auto insurance industry and also make it difficult for people to be able to afford to obtain the insurance we all recognize we need.
I would like to go into some of the problems that have been raised with me by people in my constituency; but before I do, I want to say quite clearly that I cannot accept the approach of this minister in saying, basically, that he wants some sort of regulatory system that would make it possible for people to appeal when they feel they have been unjustly treated and that would somehow try to control, in a haphazard way, the cost of insurance premiums.
When the minister first made his statement this spring, the impression was given that we were going to have a freeze on insurance premiums in this province. The minister made it quite clear subsequently that he did not really mean a freeze. First we had a freeze and then we did not have a freeze. He later said that he was trying to cap insurance rates. In other words, when he said that, it seemed that as of the date -- I think it was April 23 when he made his statement -- the rates current at that time would be capped and no one would have to pay more than the rate as of that date. If a person renewed his or her insurance last year, say in May 1986, and thus had to renew again this year in May 1987, he would have to pay the increase from May 1986 to April 23, 1987, but it would be capped at that.
Subsequently, the minister admitted in the House he was not really talking about a cap for individual drivers on their individual premiums but rather a cap on the class of driver or the group of driver. It became evident that we no longer had a cap, that in fact people would be paying substantially more even with his so-called cap than they would have had to pay if there had been a freeze.
Also, the minister indicated he was calling for a rollback of 10 per cent on the premiums paid by young people and people who drive taxicabs. Obviously, the people who are suffering the most in the current system are those people who are under the age of 25, male and unmarried, and those people who are in the commercial sector and who are driving cabs, limos, buses and so on. It is obvious that something should have been done to alleviate the problems those drivers are facing.
When we started to analyse what this so-called rollback meant, we found that in fact it was not a rollback. Just as it has not been a freeze or a cap, it was not a rollback. What it meant was that once the premiums were levelled as of April 23, 1987, the insurance company would have to calculate the increase from the previous year's renewal till April 23, 1987. Then the insurance company would be able to refund to the young driver or the taxicab driver 10 per cent of the increase -- not 10 per cent of the premium he had paid before, but 10 per cent of the increased premium, the overall cost of the new higher-cost premium. In fact, it was not a rollback; it was simply a slightly lower increase in the premium.
We had a freeze that was not a freeze, we then had a cap that was not a cap and we then had a rollback that was not a rollback. In fact, this minister has attempted to respond to the very effective campaign waged by the member for Welland-Thorold (Mr. Swart) that we need to do something about the horrendous increases and the abuses drivers are facing when they have to renew their policies in this province. He has brought example after example before the House and has presented them to the minister and his officials.
This minister has said, "We have to do something." The government has said: "We had better do something about insurance. It has become a hot issue and we had better be seen to be doing something." They have made announcements and they have brought in legislation which purports to regulate and to cap, but in fact it does not change anything substantially, because the minister himself has admitted that the insurance companies need increases. He has agreed with the insurance lobby when it has said it is losing money on automobile insurance.
I find it interesting, having been in this House for some time and having observed free enterprisers on the government benches from time to time over the last number of years, that a private enterprise that is losing money in a business and says it is losing millions of dollars every year wants to remain in that business.
It does not seem to me that it is very smart business to say: "We are losing money. We are losing millions of dollars, but we want to stay in the business. We do not want anybody else to take it over. We want to keep on losing money." The minister, by proposing his legislation, has said to the private insurers: "I understand you are losing money. I understand you want to stay in the business and I am going to guarantee that you will get increases, so you will no longer be losing money."
This is a minister who claims to be the minister of consumer protection in this province. It appears from the legislation that is being proposed and the statements of the minister in this House that in fact the minister is more concerned with protecting the insurance companies than the drivers and the people who pay for the premiums in this province.
Over the last number of months, I have been contacted by many constituents about the crises they are facing with their insurance premiums and the problems they face with the insurance companies. I would just like to bring a number of those illustrations to the floor of the House today.
I have one here where a constituent from the Sault Ste. Marie area contacted me because her son was having a terrible time getting insurance. This did not just affect the son, but it affected his parents as well. The insurance company said to this family that it would not insure the son, the reason being that he had had an accident. He had hit a parked car and had been fined by the court, and the insurance company concluded he was a serious risk and did not want to insure him. Since the son had been driving the parents' car, the insurance company not only said it no longer wanted to insure him but also made it a stipulation that if it was going to continue to insure the parents on that vehicle, the son who had been involved in the accident with the family car would have to turn in his driver's licence to the Ministry of Transportation and Communications.
They would not even consider insuring him; and not only him, they would not consider insuring his parents if he did not turn in his licence. They did not just ask for a commitment that he would not drive the car -- I suppose they could have asked that he not even drive it as a casual driver -- but they also said, "He cannot even have an automobile driver's licence or we will not give him any insurance and we will not give the parents any insurance."
On top of that, the insurance company stated that if he agreed to turn in his licence, it would give insurance to the parents, but the premium was quoted at more than $2,000 a year because the vehicle had been involved in an accident. Subsequently, this family did get insurance at a much lower rate, but it was still substantially more than it paid the last year. I just raise this as an example of the kinds of things insurance companies do that hurt the consumers of this province.
I also have an example of a constituent of my colleague the member for Algoma-Manitoulin (Mr. Lane) who contacted my office. I will admit this gentleman was not an exemplary driver. He had three speeding tickets in 1986 and one speeding ticket in 1985. He drove a 1983 Firebird. I understand they are referred to as muscle cars. He had insurance rates quoted from a number of companies ranging from $1,335 to $1,800. He also owned a 1981 General Motors van and he had quotes for that vehicle ranging from $1,667 to $2,000. Last year, he paid $360 for six months' coverage for the Firebird and $430 for one year's coverage for the van, so we can see the increases he was being expected to pay because of an admittedly poor driving record.
I do not debate that an individual who has had a speeding ticket should pay more because that individual is a higher risk. There is no question about that. But I do question an increase from $430 to $2,000 or from $360 for six months to about $900 for six months. It just does not seem reasonable to me.
I was also contacted by a constituent who wrote to me in anger, anger expressed not towards me but towards the insurance situation and the problems his son was facing. His son is 22 years old. He is not an unmarried person. He is married and has a child. He has had a licence for two years with a clean record. He was quoted more than $1,000 a year for an automobile insurance premium.
The father wrote to me. He said in his letter that he did not really expect I could do anything about this situation. As a matter of fact, I think this individual even accepted the fact that unmarried males under the age of 25 might be requested to pay a lot. I do not agree with that, but this individual seemed to think that might be acceptable. But he resented the fact that his son, who is not an adolescent, who in fact is married, has a child, is working and has a clean driving record, should be required to pay $1,000 a year for insurance.
Obviously, the problem this young man faced was simply that he had only had a licence for two years even though he was 22 years old. Suppose he had gotten his licence when he was 16 and had a clean driving record for the years between age 16 and age 22; he might not have faced as high a premium. We just see these kinds of problems.
I have a number of other individual problems, but I will not bore the House with them. I would like to point out, though, it is not just individuals who face these horrendous problems and increases in insurance premiums, but also small businessmen. I have been contacted by a number of truck drivers and owners of small fleets of trucks who have faced enormous increases, somewhere in the neighbourhood of 35 per cent to 40 per cent this year, for their insurance. Again, these are individuals who have not had accidents and their drivers have not had accidents, but they are just having to pay more.
I was also contacted by a number of other types of businessmen. One is a gentleman who owns a number of school buses. This individual was faced with quotes this year of increases of approximately 64 per cent or 65 per cent from one company. The lowest quote he could obtain was in the neighbourhood of a 30 per cent increase; the highest he was quoted was 75 per cent. This is a gentleman who has operated his busing company for 15 years, never had a claim and had always been insured by the same company, until this year.
I was also contacted by an airline limousine company, I guess because from time to time I use their services to travel between Queen's Park and the airport. The gentleman was so angry he decided to call me. He pointed out that in January 1985 he paid $1,900 insurance for $1,000 deductible collision coverage, including $2 million liability. In January 1986, this gentleman, who owned a 1985 Lincoln Continental at the time, paid $2,500 for the same coverage. In January 1987, when he had purchased a 1987 Cadillac, he was quoted, and had to pay a $3,900 premium for $2,500 deductible collision coverage.
In other words, he had to pay more than double what he paid in January 1985, for less coverage. Again, this gentleman has never had an accident and has not had any speeding tickets. He says he is getting off easier. He drives about 200,000 kilometres a year, has never had any tickets, no accidents; he has pointed to a number of other limousine drivers who have less than perfect driving records who are paying from $4,900 to $5,900 annually, this year, for insurance.
We indeed have a crisis in what insurance companies are demanding that consumers pay for the protection we all recognize they need. It is unfortunate that we do not have a minister and a government prepared to meet this crisis and to do something about it. Instead, we have a government that wants to talk about it, to use rhetoric to persuade the public it is responding to what is perceived generally, by people who support all political parties, by people across the political and economic spectrum, as a crisis. They say they are responding, but how do they respond? They respond with legislation that is not going to protect the consumer, that is going to mean the consumer pays more and will continue to pay more and that is in fact going to increase the revenues going to the insurance companies.
This is unacceptable legislation. It is unfortunate that the minister has only half heard. He has heard the problems raised by the member for Welland-Thorold and he has heard the problems raised by the public in general; but he has not heard what the member for Welland-Thorold and this party have been proposing and what the people have been demanding as a solution.
We need a driver-owned insurance plan where the drivers will control the coverage and the premiums, where premiums will be based on individuals' driving records rather than their age, sex or marital status and where we will not have the profit motive resulting in a ripoff of the drivers of this province. In fact, drivers will be covered at cost and we will have decent insurance premiums with good coverage for everyone who drives in Ontario.
Mr. Philip: I rise to participate in this debate. I find it somewhat ironic that this bill is called An Act to control temporarily Automobile Insurance Rates in Ontario. For the last couple of years, we have been bringing to the minister's attention over and over again the crisis of the public at the hands of the large automobile insurance companies. What we have had is a litany of responses by the Liberal Minister of Financial Institutions, responding to all the criticisms of the high premiums charged to Ontario motorists by saying that they were in fact justified. Indeed, he insisted that the companies were actually experiencing losses.
If the minister was correct in his analysis that these poor companies were experiencing losses, then why on earth would the minister want to bring in a bureaucratic bill like this to somehow try to control the automobile insurance rates? Surely if these poor companies are losing money, why would he want to control them? If there was not a problem, as the minister said, if in fact these companies were losing money, then why is it necessary for him to try to control those rates?
Of course, the fact is that the minister is wrong; there is a problem. So he brings in a bill, the title of which is absolutely misleading. My colleague the member for Algoma (Mr. Wildman) gave a history of the litany of the various schemes the minister has proposed. He proposed the freeze that was not a freeze, he proposed controls that are not controls, and here we have in this bill an attempt, as he says, to somehow control profits, control rates of companies that are supposedly losing money by the minister's own words.
The minister tries to have it both ways. On one hand he tries to act as an apologist for the insurance companies and say these poor companies are losing money. If that is the case, why is he bringing in legislation? To help them lose more money? That just does not make any sense.
The insurance companies try to justify their increases by talking about rising claims. We have seen the ads by the Insurance Bureau of Canada running on TV at a cost of more than $7,000 a day to tell you that the cost of your insurance is driven up by what it costs to insure you and nothing more. Of course, if you look at that, you see exactly what a lie it is that the insurance companies are purporting on TV.
Indeed, when my colleague the member for Welland-Thorold asked the minister, who is also responsible for business practices and can lay charges for untruthful statements in advertising, he simply said, "It is your opinion versus theirs."
I guess you have to ask, what is the truth? Is it just claims for bodily injury and property damage that are causing higher rates? Are the insurance companies really posting losses? What is the real story on auto insurance company costs and how much are we to expect to save under public auto insurance?
First, if we look at the relationship between the claims and the premiums, we might look to British Columbia. In its latest annual information guide published in January, the Insurance Bureau of Canada noted that auto insurance claims grew much more rapidly than premiums during the year 1985. That is true, but in that year it was also true that the premiums taken in by the industry exceeded the claims it paid out by not less than $905 million. When we look a little more closely at British Columbia's program and its published figures, it is revealed that the growth of the premiums handily outstripped the growth of the claims over five years from 1981 to 1985, and that while claims grew over the whole period by $900 million, the premiums collected increased by well over $1.3 billion.
Clearly, the industry is not telling the whole truth when it highlights increased claims and yet neglects to mention increased premiums. It is spending nearly $1 million. If you look at where that $1 million is coming from, it is coming from the premiums each and every one of us in Ontario is paying for these ads that tell us how terrible it is and how much we are driving up our own auto insurance.
By the industry's own admission, the ads will cost over $650,000 and that is on top of the more than $300,000 it previously committed to newspaper ads.
Mr. Swart: That is only one set of ads.
Mr. Philip: That is only one set of ads, as my colleague the member for Welland-Thorold has pointed out.
If the companies are losing money, as the Liberal government contended until only a few months ago, why are these companies spending millions of dollars trying to defend their right to lose more money? It does not make any sense. If you owned a company, would you go out and say: "My goodness. My company is losing all kinds of money. Therefore, I should spend a lot more money to ensure that I can stay in this particular business and lose even more money." It does not make any sense whatsoever. There is a lack of logic there.
At some point, we have to look at what this government is trying to do. This bill is mistakenly called An Act to control temporarily Automobile Insurance Rates in Ontario and the word "temporarily" is the only truthful word in it. It does not control and it does not provide a freeze. It provides a cap as of April 23, 1987, but that is only in the schedule rates, not in what we will actually pay for our auto insurance after April 23, 1987. Thus, as of April 23, the increase in the rates we will pay will be whatever the insurance companies have set as an increase up until that date. We have instances of some that have gone up by as much as 50 per cent.
Based on the statement of the superintendent of insurance in the newspapers of an average of two per cent a month increase over the last year, we can reasonably estimate, if the Superintendent of Insurance is correct, that the people of Ontario will be paying over $400 million more for their insurance premiums this year, under this so-called protection the Liberals have brought in, than they did last year. Some protection.
Then what happens next year? If we look at this bill, it self-destructs in a year. Here is the Liberal government saying, "We are going to protect consumers." If there was ever something that could be examined under the Business Practices Act for false advertising, it is the name of this bill.
So we are going to so-called control. We are going to control it, so the insurance companies will only get another $400 million more from the consumers this year. Then at the end of the year the bill self-destructs. Some protection.
What happens at the end of the year? The Liberals have an answer to that. They are setting up this so-called review board. We have seen what review boards have done. I remember the federal program of so-called prices review; we saw what that did to prices. All of us who have experienced those know exactly what happened. Wages were controlled; but were prices really controlled?
So we have a bureaucratic nightmare that has been set up. Only a Liberal could design this kind of thing; there will be wall-to-wall people falling over one another. The only ones who will profit by the whole thing will be the board.
One of the Toronto Sun columnists was right to say no other government could develop a more bureaucratic, sillier sort of review than this. It will not control prices. We know that. It will create a whole series of hoops and simply cost the taxpayers more and more money in creating more and more of a bureaucracy that simply will not work.
I find it interesting that in all of the gyrations the Liberals have gone through they have refused to go out and examine what is really happening in the real world of British Columbia, Manitoba and Saskatchewan. Why is it they are willing to go to Europe to examine their systems but are not willing to go right here in our own country to examine why the systems out west are working on behalf of the consumer? One can only hypothesize that maybe the reason is they really are afraid they will find out what the answers are; that the Premier (Mr. Peterson) and his friends at the golf club in London, the insurance companies, are not going to like what the answers are; that they are not going to like the problems of the Liberals being faced with those answers.
If we look at the problems in the present insurance industry, we see the problem of discrimination based on age. We look at the arbitrary cancellation and refusal to renew policies. We look at increases for frivolous reasons. We look at the penalizing of everybody in a family for one person's driving record. We find that new drivers, regardless of their age, are being charged prohibitive premiums. I had always thought a simple rule of justice is that one is innocent until proven guilty; but of course the insurance companies seem to work in reverse. Last, we see breaks in the coverage and the insurance companies simply cutting people off.
If we look at the public companies things in British Columbia, Manitoba and Saskatchewan, we see that none of those are current problems in those systems. One has to wonder why this government is so reluctant to deal with the problem. Maybe it is that the insurance company executives will pay $1,000 a plate to dine with the Premier, whereas the average consumer who operates a tow truck or a small business in Rexdale or who is a working-class person does not have $1,000, he has paid out the $1,000 to the insurance companies, or more than that, for his premium.
I find it interesting. It is not just the consumer who is being penalized. When I talk to brokers around the province and to brokers in my own riding, I see the discontent they are having, because they are on the front line, they are getting the abuse from the consumer. The consumer calls up and says, "My goodness, what the heck are you doing to me?" It is not the broker. The broker is the poor innocent fellow who is sitting there simply having to pass on the bad information, the bad news.
I had one consumer who was rightfully quite upset. He was with the same insurance company for some 24 years. This fellow is so law-abiding he has not lost one point. He never speeded. He assures me he did not even get a parking ticket.
He made three claims in a period of five years. Two were for breaking and entering, namely, that somebody had vandalized his car. The third was a claim where someone managed to slide into his car on an icy day. His car was legally parked in front of his home. The total amount of those claims was in the vicinity of $1,000 over five years.
Suddenly, he jumps into a new category. His insurance on his two cars went up $1,200 a year. He said: "If I had known this, quite frankly, I would have paid for the damage myself. It is a lot better to pay out $1,000 over five years than have my insurance premiums go up $1,200 a year."
I have a letter here that shows exactly the kinds of problems faced, not only by me as an MPP but also by other MPPs. This is a letter addressed to the executive assistant to my colleague the member for Welland-Thorold.
"Please find enclosed a copy of a letter sent to me by one of my constituents. His insurance company is cancelling his auto insurance." The insurance company writes, "Thank you for your application to insure your vehicle with" -- the name of the company. "We have reviewed your application and find that we are unable to continue to provide insurance at the rate originally quoted. Insurance rates are based on the risk presently, and we must obtain premium equal to the risk of each policy. Coverage as presently provided will cease effective 12:01 a.m. 15 days from the day following the date this letter is received at the post office to which it is addressed. Your refund of unused premium is enclosed."
That is interesting, because it is from the Liberal member for Timiskaming (Mr. Ramsay).
Here is a member of the minister's own party who says, "There is a crisis in the auto insurance industry; one of my constituents is being ripped off," and yet the very member is not here in the House, nor have we heard any Liberal members stand up to speak in this debate.
Where are the Liberal members in this debate? I guess they do not want to speak because they know what a charade this bill is. They know it is in the self-interest of the insurance companies they are protecting. That is why they are not getting up to give a speech in this House.
Usually, the Liberal back-benchers, such as the member for Mississauga North (Mr. Offer) over there, have the hacks in the Liberal back rooms prepare a written speech which they read, but they do not even consider it important enough to have at least a prepared set of apologetics for this dismal bill.
This bill does absolutely nothing for consumers. We have shown that. It is merely an attempt by the Liberals to get past the next election campaign and pretend they have done something, when they in fact have not done anything. It is a charade, but interestingly enough, as each month passes and their constituents receive their increases this year under the so-called protection of this bill, they will see what a lie this bill is and they will see the kind of charade the Liberal Party is parading in the form of so-called consumer legislation. I cannot support this kind of charade, and I certainly will not be voting for this bill which creates nothing more than a bureaucracy and certainly does not protect the consumer.
Mr. McGuigan: I am not an expert on this subject, but I look at the preamble to the act and it says it is a temporary measure pending the establishment of the new board.
Mr. Hayes: Until the election.
Mr. McGuigan: I am trying to take it as I read it, and it says, "pending the establishment of the new board."
I agree that there are many things wrong with the insurance industry and that a new board is required. I will mention some of the things the board should look into.
I too have been visited by an insurance broker, a young chap from a family of insurance brokers. They have been in the business 75 years or more. He is the third generation of a very successful insurance family. He told me he would welcome a change in insurance because of the things going on.
If I can be bold enough to analyse it, as I see it, as a noninsurance person, there are some 250 companies involved in insurance, all competing in the same market. So you really have free enterprise running wild. I know something about free enterprise running wild because all my life I have dealt with chain stores. I know something about how these things can get out of order. I will just give an example.
Remember a few years ago in the early 1970s when the automobile companies were producing performance cars, and as each succeeding model came along each car had a little higher horsepower. We got to the point where we had cars with 455-cubic-inch engines in them, bigger than most truck engines, and they had four-barrel carburetors on them. They would pass anything on the road but a gas station. They would give you six or eight miles per gallon. So we had a free enterprise system that was running wild, with companies competing in the horsepower of the engines.
When safety and fuel prices became a factor, governments came along and put limits on these automobiles; they put on standards. The Americans did it before we did; they said that by a certain date a certain average mileage had to be achieved. So we have seen a great improvement in automobiles since that time. They have downgraded the size of the motors, which were as high as 460 cubic inches. Some of them are now about 120 cubic inches. They give mileages ranging up to 40 miles per gallon, which is still pretty good performance. There is a place, and I support it, for government coming in and setting some standards. It seems to me that this board should come in and set the standards --
Mr. Philip: Like the standards that were set in Wyda, when we lost $3.5 million?
Mr. McGuigan: I am talking about new standards that are required, standards that have to be set --
Mr. McClellan: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker, if I may be excused by my colleague: Who has the carriage of this bill for the government? The minister has been absent for over an hour. Is that my understanding?
Mr. Offer: The minister has not been absent for over an hour. The minister has been called out to an important meeting at 4 p.m. and it is now 4:30 p.m. Since that time, I have had carriage of the legislation.
Mr. McGuigan: I submit that standards can be set, just as standards would have to be set in the western provinces. The insurance programs set by those governments have standards and standards can be set here. I anticipate that will be done.
I want to go back to what this young broker was telling me. I do not think anybody has mentioned this, but he talked about skimming. He said what they were doing was skimming. This meant that every company would look at a certain block of insureds it had, run these through the computer and say, "We will eliminate this high-risk group." They would cut those people off. Then some time later they would run things through the computers again and say: "Here is another group of high-risk people. We will cut those people off." We have these insurance companies competing in a system to see who can outskim the other person.
Standards have to be brought in to provide us with a decent set of insurance rules. I am assuming that when this board comes in following the report of Judge Osborne and we have all these things laid before us, these matters can be done. I am certainly assuming they will be done. As a matter of fact, I do not think anybody has absolutely ruled out that in the end we may not have a government-run program.
Mr. McClellan: Let's do it now.
Mr. McGuigan: I do not rule it out. This bill self-destructs within a year or at the end of this year. By that time we will have the report and will have studied it. We can go sensibly into a program rather than rush pell-mell without proper investigation --
Mr. D. S. Cooke: We wouldn't want to rush this.
Mr. McGuigan: It is a temporary bill. It says in the beginning that it is temporary. The fact that it self-destructs at the end of the year proves it is a temporary bill.
Mr. Philip: There will be an election next year; that's what it proves.
Mr. McGuigan: My friend does not know there is going to be an election next year for sure.
Mr. McClellan: Eight days and counting.
Mr. McGuigan: Maybe there is an election coming, but in any event I do not think this government would be wise or would be carrying out its obligations if it runs pell-mell from one bad situation to another bad situation. We want to make sure that what we do is correct.
Mr. Swart: We could have passed the bill a year ago. The situation was as bad then.
Mr. McGuigan: It was not as well known as it presently is. I have to --
Mr. Swart: Because people had blinkers on, it wasn't well known.
The Acting Speaker: Order. Members are reminded that interjections are out of order.
Mr. McGuigan: I have to give the member some credit for bringing this forward before the Legislature, but I certainly look forward to this bill as a temporary measure to cover the period when the studies are complete and a proper presentation can be made to this Legislature and we bring in a bill that corrects some very bad situations that I have been made aware of and that I want to see corrected.
Mr. Charlton: I rise to join the debate on Bill 56. Let me start by saying that one of the reasons a number of members have taken the time to point out the minister's absence in the debate on this bill, both this afternoon and yesterday afternoon, is that it is the absence of the minister from the process here and across Ontario, in terms of the public, that has caused this kind of response to be the Liberal government's approach to the auto insurance crisis.
The member for Kent-Elgin (Mr. McGuigan) is correct that the insurance problem was not as well known two years ago as it is today. The reason for that is because we had to scream at the minister from this side of the House for two years before he would respond. We have been raising it in this House ever since the crisis started two years ago.
We had the common sense, because of the kinds of calls we were getting in our constituency offices and the kind of mail we were getting here at Queen's Park, to set up a task force, because the minister would not set one up; and we went out. I was one of the fortunate or unfortunate four, depending on how you want to look at it, on the task force of the member for Welland-Thorold. We were unfortunate because we had to go out there and listen to all these sad stories, then we had to come in here and try to raise them in the House, to no avail.
We toured the province, we identified the problem and we have raised the profile of that problem to the point where the government now feels it has to respond in some fashion. But the response, let me tell members, is totally inadequate. One of the reasons the response is totally inadequate is that this government has not been out there and has not listened to the people of this province about the problems they are having with insurance, specifically auto insurance.
Mr. McGuigan: You do not want to see a well-researched response?
Mr. Charlton: Of course we do. The Liberals have had two years to do it and have sat on their hands and have done nothing. Now they have to start, so they bring in a bill that is supposed to be a freeze, that is not a freeze. But even if it were a freeze, even if this bill had real teeth to truly freeze rates, all they are freezing is two or three years of absolutely unacceptable inequities, absolutely unjustifiable increases. They freeze them in place. Is that the right answer to an inappropriate situation? Absolutely not.
We have insurance companies in this province that say this man or this woman has got a bad driving record and that is why his or her premiums have doubled or tripled or whatever the case happens to be: he or she is a bigger risk than the normal driver.
The insurance companies not only say that; they want to have it both ways. Here is a little ditty I got from one of my constituents who had been with his insurance company for more than 20 years, who had never had an accident, who had never had a speeding ticket or any other kind of traffic violation. He had an absolutely clean record.
His insurance company cancelled his insurance. Why? The constituent got in touch with the insurance company and asked why it cancelled his insurance; he had an absolutely clean record. The response of the insurance company was that by the law of averages he was due for a major one any time.
You cannot have it both ways. You cannot say on the one hand that this guy who has had three accidents is a higher risk, and on the other hand that this guy who has not had any in 26 years is due to have one soon, and charge them both a high rate. Either you are going to charge him a high rate because he is due for one soon or you give this guy a break because he has had all the accidents he is likely to have in his life. You cannot penalize them both and not expect the public response, a response that says the industry is crooked and corrupt.
You have a nice little average family of three: a husband, a wife and a son. The son goes out and has a minor accident. The insurance company drops their insurance altogether. Instead of increasing the rates, they drop the insurance. The kid was charged, he went to court and he was acquitted. The accident was not the boy's fault. The insurance company, after the acquittal, came back to the family and said: "We are prepared to work out something. We are prepared to help you to get insurance. We think we can arrange to cover all three of you for $5,000." That is what the acquittal was worth -- a 500 per cent increase in insurance rates.
Here is another one that relates to several problems that have been raised here by my colleague the member for Welland-Thorold and a number of the other members who have spoken. This is an issue that has little to do with the actual level of rates but the kinds of ways the insurance companies are now bending old, traditional rules to suit themselves to make money.
It is a case where this gentleman had his son living with him. His son had a minor accident. His son was under 20. The insurance company told him that if he wanted to continue to insure his son on his policy, it was going to cost him more than $3,000 a year. The father said: "That is fine, my son will not be driving my car any more. I will take him off my policy. I cannot afford $3,000 a year." The insurance company said: "That is fine, we will give you a reduction, then. We will reduce it to $2,000 a year." The father said: "Why? I have an absolutely clean record." "The boy is still living with you, isn't he? He still has a licence, hasn't he? He might drive that car even if you don't give him permission to; so it is going to cost you $2,000."
In order not to have to move out of the house, the son had to get in touch with the Ministry of Transportation and Communications and cancel his licence so his father could afford his insurance. The insurance companies are telling people who can live with them and who cannot.
Mr. Philip: You can't divorce a son.
Mr. Charlton: You cannot divorce a son. Talking about family, the member for Kent-Elgin would know that. You cannot divorce a son. He is there; he is yours.
The kinds of games that are going on with average people all across this province are just completely unacceptable -- ridiculous, in fact.
Here is the case of a constituent who wrote to me about his son. The father had a chance to buy a 1977 Aspen. He wanted to buy it from a neighbour for his son. His son is starting university in September in Waterloo. They had an opportunity to buy this 1977 Aspen, which was in very good condition, from a neighbour, a friend, for $500.
Unfortunately, to insure the car for his son, without collision -- just for the basic liability insurance -- it was going to cost $1,465. They had to forget the whole thing. The son will be able to use public transit, but he will not get home to see his family as often as he would if he had a car. On top of the cost of the university education and the cost of accommodation for their son in Waterloo while he is going to school there, they could not afford to pay three times the price of the car for one year's insurance.
Here is another situation. A constituent wrote to me. He has been driving since 1948 and he has never been involved in an accident, but he admits right here that in a very short period of time he did receive four tickets. Of the four tickets he received, only one was a violation where he also lost points on his licence. That gives an indication of the extent of the seriousness of those violations. He lost three points in total over four tickets, and they jacked up his insurance, but that is not what he is writing to complain to me about. He is basically saying here, "I did a bad number and I am going to have to pay."
But his wife runs a small business. It is her business, not his; he has nothing to do with the business. She has a van that she uses for the business, and she pays the insurance on the van through her business -- not out of personal chequing accounts or joint chequing accounts with her husband, but out of business accounts. The insurance company does a search, finds her husband's name and the four violations and doubles the cost of her business insurance because of his bad record.
That is the kind of impact this insurance game is having out there in the real world in terms of how average people and ordinary business people have to try to operate in this province.
I would like to end my comments by saying a couple of things that I think are important to this debate, this Legislature and, specifically, this government.
Again, the member for Kent-Elgin made comments about doing some good research and therefore ending up doing the right thing instead of doing the wrong thing. The minister has continually refused to commission a study of the four western plans to see what benefits they could or might not provide to Ontario. He has refused to do the study. He has refused to say he wants to know the right answers.
To do any study of the auto insurance problem in Ontario without looking at all the options is, as my friend the member for Welland-Thorold has said a number of times, walking with blinkers on, because the minister is not seeing or hearing all the questions and is not looking at all the possible answers.
I just have one last response from one of my constituents that I would like to read: "Mr. Charlton, please keep up the fight. As a former resident of Vancouver, BC, I paid $859 per year for coverage on my 1986 Honda Civic. To insure the same auto here in Ontario cost me $2,250, almost three times the rate in Vancouver." That is almost three times for the same driver with the same record with the same car. In fact, his car is a year older now, so it has depreciated somewhat.
Mr. Swart: In a smaller city.
Mr. Charlton: Yes, and in a smaller city than Vancouver. The city of Hamilton is certainly not a city where you are going to find a higher per capita accident rate than you do in Vancouver.
"My record, although not sterling, has been completely clean for almost three years. Prior to that, it consisted of one speeding ticket and two minor -- less than $1,000 combined -- public-damage accidents. I can't see the insurance risk in Ontario versus British Columbia being this severe. The premium I am paying is abusive. If insurance companies cannot provide service at a reasonable cost, perhaps the government can."
There are thousands upon thousands of residents of Ontario who want at least to look at the option of public auto insurance. To proceed to try to deal in a superficial way with the insurance industry problems in this province without looking at all the options, without seriously exploring the one option that thousands of residents in this province want us to look at, is in my view being negligent in terms of the responsibility this government has to the people it purports to represent. It is giving in to interests that have too loud a voice and are too often listened to in spite of the less vocal pleas of the average people of this province that we have been trying to talk about for the last two years.
We have gotten only as far as Bill 56, a bill which provides very little of any kind of protection to the auto-insurance consumers of this province.
For those reasons, we will not be supporting this bill.
The Acting Speaker: Are there any comments or questions of the member for Hamilton Mountain? If not, further debate? Does the parliamentary assistant wish to make a reply?
Mr. Offer: No. I am just going to enter into the debate if that is --
The Acting Speaker: That is fine.
Mr. McClellan: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker: There has to be somebody in here carrying the bill and the parliamentary assistant indicated he was carrying the bill. He cannot now rise and speak on the bill without terminating the debate.
Ms. E. J. Smith: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker: Would it be possible to call a 15-minute recess? We understood the New Democratic Party would be occupying the afternoon with speeches.
The Acting Speaker: It is my understanding of that point of order that the parliamentary assistant did not start the debate. Therefore, he can enter and participate in the debate.
Mr. McClellan: I do not want to take advantage of the situation. You are obviously filling in for the Speaker and his assistants, but I do not believe your ruling is correct. There has to be a minister carrying the bill. When I asked the question earlier, "Who is carrying the bill?" the parliamentary assistant indicated he was carrying the bill.
We are finished our part of the debate, and if the parliamentary assistant rises now to speak, he rises as the member of the government responsible for carriage of the debate, to conclude the debate. I invite him to do that. We are ready to come to a decision on the question, but if he rises to speak, that is it.
Ms. E. J. Smith: The government is more than happy to co-operate.
The Acting Speaker: Order. It is my understanding, after having received advice on this matter, that the parliamentary assistant will be allowed to enter into the debate as he did not commence the debate. He will, however, not be able to reply to the bill. If the parliamentary assistant, the member for Mississauga North, wishes to participate in the debate, he is free to do so.
Ms. E. J. Smith: On a point of privilege, Mr. Speaker: As this is obviously not the time for the vote bell, we can ring it until the people are assembled, correct? If it were 5:45 p.m., we would have the time for ringing of the bells. I wanted to clarify that point with the member.
The Acting Speaker: There is no time limit on the bell when the vote is called.
Mr. Offer: I will just stand to terminate the debate at this time.
The House divided on Hon. Mr. Kwinter's motion for second reading of Bill 56, which was agreed to on the following vote:
Ashe, Barlow, Bernier, Bossy, Bradley, Brandt, Callahan, Caplan, Conway, Cordiano, Cousens, Curling, Dean, Eakins, Elston, Epp, Ferraro, Fish, Fontaine, Fulton, Gillies, Gordon, Grandmaître, Gregory, Guindon, Haggerty, Harris, Hart, Henderson, Hennessy, Kerrio, Keyes, Kwinter, Lane, Lupusella;
Mancini, McFadden, McGuigan, McKessock, McNeil, Miller, G. I., Mitchell, Munro, Newman, O'Connor, Offer, O'Neil, Partington, Pierce, Poirier, Pollock,
Polsinelli, Ramsay, Ruprecht, Sargent, Smith, D. W., Smith, E. J., South, Stephenson,
B. M., Sterling, Stevenson, K. R., Sweeney, Treleaven, Turner, Van Horne, Ward.
Allen, Breaugh, Bryden, Charlton, Cooke, D. S., Foulds, Gigantes, Grande, Hayes, Johnston, R. F., Laughren, Mackenzie, Martel, McClellan, Morin-Strom, Philip, Pouliot, Reville, Swart, Warner, Wildman.
Ayes 66; nays 21.
Bill ordered for standing committee on general government.
BUDGET DEBATE (CONTINUED)
Resuming the adjourned debate on the motion that this House approves in general the budgetary policy of the government.
Mr. Cousens: This is a document that is worth talking about and I think there is a lot to be said that has not been said. I appreciate the opportunity to talk about this budget that is displayed with a red trillium, which I talked about the other day, the smelliest flower. What is beautiful about this is the colour. It is beautiful in looks. It is the form that the Liberal government is good at. The substance is not there but what is there is not a pleasant thing to be near.
Mr. Speaker: I am sorry to interrupt the member. I ask all members to refrain from their conversations. I am sure the member for York Centre would like to be heard.
Mr. Cousens: I have listened very carefully to what they have had to say and I know they will enjoy sharing these words.
The other day I had an opportunity, as we were looking at interim supply, to comment briefly on some of my concerns that relate to the overall budgetary policy of this government. I was looking at the failure of this government to deal with the needs of growing areas, the high-growth areas, the areas that have the potential for providing more impetus, more growth and more money to the coffers of this province. Instead, the government is concentrating on the north and on eastern Ontario. They should also look at the high-growth areas whose problems are very unique and very special and require attention. They cannot be allowed just to be put aside.
What I see happening now in York region and what I am sure is also happening in Peel and Durham is that these regions continue to grow but are not receiving their share of investment from this province to fuel that growth so that the roads are there when people need them, so that the hospitals and social services are there when people need them and so that the schools are there when our students need them.
We are still not rid of the policy of saying 80 per cent of the students have to reside in an area before a school will be built. We are seeing these communities with the children there and they wait an added length of time before schools are erected. This government has failed to address the concerns of the high-growth areas. In my remarks the other day, I tried to give some coverage of that problem.
The second area has to do with the lack of planning for the future, as this government faces the future and has an opportunity to build a stronger manufacturing sector and to allow that sector to begin to retool, regroup and invest its present successes in future successes. That is not happening.
I want to go to my third point and to spend some time on it. There are two budget documents: One is the major document that gives all the data and the economic outlook and the fiscal review of the past year; but this government also published what it calls "Highlights." There is the 1987 Ontario budget, with the name of the Treasurer (Mr. Nixon) and his smelly flower. Then he went and included in the budget "Highlights." There is nothing, absolutely nothing about the tax burden the people of Ontario are having pushed upon them by this government.
Why does it not give an honest, balanced view? Why does it not tell us what it is going to cost for all these things? Why do the people of Ontario not wise up to the fact that they are paying the bill, that the government is charging them and charging them through the nose, especially with the increased taxes?
Let us talk about that. Let us talk about the taxes the people of this province are paying. It is not covered in "Highlights" and I think it should be highlighted in such a way that all the people of Ontario would realize they are paying the bill, not this government. It takes the credit as if it were, but the hardworking, middle-class people of this province are the ones who are in fact suffering greatly.
Let us look at some of the costs we are talking about. Since assuming office, the Liberals have increased government spending by $8 billion. To finance this, personal income taxes increased 60 per cent in two years while per capita incomes rose by only 20 per cent. Personal income tax revenues have increased in this province by more than $3.7 billion or nearly 60 per cent. Further to that, total provincial revenues have increased by nearly $9 billion; 34.4 per cent. The members should listen to this: Total provincial tax revenues have increased by 48 per cent $7.3 billion in that same period of time.
I guess the people in York region are paying part of the bill as well when you realize that land transfer tax proceeds have increased by 223 per cent. Due to the booming housing market, this has been a tremendous success for this government.
Do the members know what has happened? There have been 19 different tax increases since 1985. I wish people would begin to realize who is paying for it. It is the taxpayers of this province, not some magnanimous Treasurer who is coming in with it.
Let us itemize what these additional tax bills are. We have an increased personal income tax of four per cent. This government also imposed an additional surtax. It has changed the capital cost allowance. This government has eliminated the inventory allowance, increased the alcoholic beverage markup levy and increased fees for drivers' licences and motor vehicle registration. This government raised the corporate income tax rate, increased the land transfer tax, which I just mentioned, and increased gasoline tax by going to a flat tax system. This government, not in this budget but in the last one, increased the tobacco tax. This government imposed retail sales tax on various items.
That is why we as a province are so rich and the people are so poor. This government continues to take off the cream, take off the hard work and take the money from people's pockets in a hidden way. The people of this province cannot afford or continue to afford the high taxes we are having to pay.
What is happening at the same time is that government spending is increasing at a phenomenal rate. Government spending has increased in the last two years by 30 per cent. I cannot believe it. What we are seeing is inflation going up at 4.1 per cent while last year alone the annual spending of this government was up 10 per cent.
Despite Ontario's buoyant economy, the public debt continues to stay at the same level it was at in 1982-83. The interest on the debt this government now is paying continues to be in the high figures, figures I cannot even begin to understand fully, but there it is: $3.8 billion annually.
What has happened here is that we had $8 billion in excess revenue. What has this government done with it? Not very much. That becomes the concern we have to ask.
We have a chance to build a solid economic policy. We have a chance to build a solid housing policy, a solid policy on transportation and roads. These things do not happen simply because we pay for them. They require earnest commitment, solid philosophical direction and the ability to pay as you go and to do it responsibly. This government has so squandered the economic boom it now finds itself in that the minute there is the slightest downturn in our economy, the minute the auto industry is off by 15 per cent, the minute some new trade difficulty is imposed on us, if we are not able to negotiate a freer trade agreement with the Americans, we will be in serious fiscal difficulty. What do I mean by serious fiscal difficulty? I mean a circumstance where we will be unable to find the resources necessary to meet the responsibilities an economic downturn always produces.
We have the lowest rate of unemployment in Canada today and that is one of the reasons we are going through the kind of economic boom and revenue increase our province is seeing. We have also seen the highest rate of inflation in Canada today. You and I, Mr. Speaker, along with other Conservative members of this House, know that inflation is the toughest tax on the poor, the toughest tax on senior citizens and those living on fixed incomes. It is the toughest tax on people with little or no flexibility. That inflation in Ontario is being caused in large parts in my view, by the massive increases in taxes brought about by this government and the high-spending ways it has pursued, which are essentially wasteful and not focused on investing in the future.
We are at a critical time in this province when we could do something about personal income tax and reduce it. We could do something about sales tax and reduce it. We could do something about gasoline tax in the north and reduce it. Instead of pouring more money into a health system to deal with chronic funding problems, we should have moved to reform the system and make it more community-based and reduce the massive bureaucracy.
This is a government that needs to understand that the people of this province want to have a responsible government, one that is preparing for the future and understands that everything may not continue to be as successful as it has been. That is really what we should be doing now. As a government, this government should set about developing a solid economic policy and that policy would allow us to plan for the future with confidence.
What we have in Ontario today was built over the years. It was a quality of economy, a quality of approach. It allowed for diversity in the wealth of our people. That was not the result of governments that had no direction, that had no focus or purpose. That success this government inherited was and is the result of the hard work of the people of Ontario, of their industriousness, foresight, responsibility and spirit of enterprise. That is what must be returned to the government of Ontario if we are to succeed in this generation to build effectively and responsibly for generations to come.
The Treasurer says it is all right for our kids to inherit a massive debt because they will benefit from the programs we are financing today. Is that so? Will they benefit from technology funds into which hundreds of millions of dollars are poured and from which no meaningful investments emerge in the future? Will they truly benefit from funds given to farmers to help them fix tractors while there are no programs to keep those very same farmers from having the banks repossess their farms?
Will our kids really benefit from dollars spent on lowering the tax on junk food rather than dollars spent on modernizing our educational system and giving our teachers and school boards the support necessary to give our children the best? Will our children really benefit from funding of the health care system that is essentially blind to the changes in our society, which requires a different health care system for the future? Will our children really benefit from a lack of commitment to roads and transportation here in Ontario, in Metropolitan Toronto and in other regions of the province where the neglect is becoming almost criminal? I doubt it. I doubt that our children will benefit at all. I think our primary responsibility in this generation, in our time, is to reduce the burden on our children and maximize the benefits they will receive because we as a society invested prudently, built responsibly and were sufficiently concerned and focused to do the right things for Ontario's future.
Politics in a civilized society is an argument about the future. Our vision of the future as Conservatives is one where the government that governs best is the government that knows its place, the government that understands its role is to facilitate maximum freedom of opportunity, freedom of movement, freedom of enterprise, freedom of initiative and freedom of choice and options within for a prosperous society for all our people.
We do not believe, as the Liberals believe, that the only dollar that counts is a government dollar, that the only people who count are government people and that the only programs that matter are government programs. We do not believe in increasing the size of the civil service and the bureaucratic burden on the taxpayers of this province. We do not believe in an unconscionably high tax burden, especially where there are the resources to reduce it substantially. We do not believe in government by intervention, by pilot study and by feasibility study. We believe in the sound prudence of fiscal responsibility, taxpayer protection, commitment to the future and the courage to care about what is really important.
The Liberals are shoppers. We are investors. The Liberals are wasters. We are savers. The Liberals increase our debt. We believe in paying it down. The Liberals increase the size of government. We believe in controlling its growth. The Liberals have no policy on trade. We believe in freer trade as the best guarantee of a dynamic and trading Ontario economy. The Liberals reduce funding to education. We are committed to investing heavily in education. The Liberals fund the status quo of health care. We want genuine people-oriented reform.
We are talking about the budget of Ontario. It fails to address the needs of our people. It is a dishonest statement in that it does not come back and tell the people that it is taking their money and squandering it across the province. I believe that on this case alone, this government should be defeated. This government should turn in its mandate to those who are prepared to run this economy and drive it forward so that there is success for all, so that we create an environment for success, so that we create the spirit of free enterprise and so that we in this province look after the needs of those socially responsible and those socially in need, but at the same time put together an economy that allows this province to live on in the future without incurring the debt, the load and the problems this government is bringing upon us.
Mr. Mancini: I have a couple of comments on the speech that was just read by my honourable colleague the member for York Centre (Mr. Cousens).
Miss Stephenson: Written by your honourable colleague from York Centre.
Mr. Mancini: That is debatable. Some day we will have a chance to debate items such as that.
The honourable member forgot to mention that this government had to sell Suncor and the people of Ontario had to pay for it. The honourable member forgot to mention that we have reduced the deficit to under $1 billion for the first time in seven years. The honourable member forgot to mention that we have increased the staff in psychiatric areas, correctional institutes and other important areas. I am sure they would not want to go on a platform and say that staff in those areas should be reduced.
The honourable member forgot to mention the fact that when he talks about freer trade, he does not even know what he is talking about, because the outline given to Canada by Brian Mulroney and his crew in Ottawa who want to sell and also give away Canada has not been structured in such a way that we can adequately participate in a debate.
We cannot participate in a free trade debate because all the negotiations are done in secret by Mr. Reisman and his counterpart over in Washington. Every now and then we read about secret reports that are made public, which scare the nation. We do not want truck and trade with Mr. Mulroney when he is having truck and trade in secret with his friends in the United States.
Mr. Harris: I apologize that I was not able to be here for the complete text of the speech by the member for York Centre, but I did hear some of the comments he mentioned.
The member for Essex South (Mr. Mancini) said that the member did not mention the deficit being below $1 billion. I did not hear all the remarks, but I wonder if the member for York Centre might comment on the deficit. By my calculations, it is $1.5 billion when you consider the sleight of hand with the $350 million they say they are going to find somewhere -- over the spending estimates, plus the sleight of hand on the education funding. I wonder if the member for York Centre might comment on what appears to any intelligent observer to be a deficit of $1.5 billion and a disgrace.
The member for Essex South talked about some of the other things the member did not mention. I do not know if he had commented on spending being up $8 billion or $5 billion over inflation in a little over two years in office. I wonder if the member can comment on that. I would appreciate his views on that.
I did not catch all the member's comments on free trade, but I did hear the member for Essex South's remarks on free trade. I assume the member probably read the text of the speech of the Minister of Industry, Trade and Technology (Mr. O'Neil) yesterday to the chamber. He said that the Ontario government firmly applauded the initiatives of the federal government, that the government agrees 100 per cent with the purpose and with what the federal government is doing. The member might want to comment on the comments of the Minister of Industry, Trade and Technology.
Ms. Caplan: Perhaps the member would also like to acknowledge the fact that this budget cut taxes for 1.8 million people in this province. In fact, it reduces the deficit and does not increase taxes. As well, it increases spending on the infrastructure. It seems to me that this budget is deserving of support from that party whose leader has said his party wanted to see a budget that reduced taxes, increased spending on the infrastructure and did all the things this budget is doing.
My question of the member is, why has he not acknowledged in his comments and statements on this budget the fact that this budget has done exactly the kinds of things that his party has been advocating. cutting taxes for those most needy within our society, spending on housing, spending on education, spending on health care services in this province. Not one word about the rebuilding of our roads and our infrastructure; not one word of praise in this speech for the acknowledgement of Highway 407, which this member has been advocating for so long.
I think many of the things that have been done are worthy and deserving of support from the member who just spoke -- for instance, acknowledgement that 40,000 families will have their Ontario health insurance plan premiums eliminated. Many of these kinds of initiatives deserve support from the official opposition, because this is a progressive budget which looks at treating those people fairly.
I believe the member should stand in his place and acknowledge the good things this budget does in a fiscally responsible manner, that it does cut taxes, reduce the deficit and rebuild the infrastructure that was allowed to decay. I do not blame the member opposite for that decay, because he was not here.
Mr. Speaker: Are there any other comments or questions on the comments made by the member for York Centre? If not, the member for York Centre may wish to respond for up to two minutes.
Mr. Cousens: It is very difficult to say what I want to say in two minutes, when the member for Oriole (Ms. Caplan) has made the statements she just did. I honestly can say that I do not think she knows what she said.
Miss Stephenson: Or really believes what she said.
Mr. Cousens: Or could believe what she said. If there was any cut in taxes, let her tell me where it is. What the government has done is get rich in the last few years on the backs of the middle-income earners in this province. Everybody is disgusted with what it has done as a government, because there is not any focus, no focus at all. It has done nothing to go after the deficit, only a little tiddly bit if things go the way it wants them to.
May I say it is a shock and a shame, and what we are seeing here is a massive sham. When I hear the member for Essex South coming up -- it is good to see him stand and speak because if he does I think he could put his government in so much trouble it would never see the light of day again.
Anyway, as the member went on and described what is going on, I do not think he read the same document I did. When he said it was so good, I think he was reading one of the Davis budgets or the budget of the member for St. Andrew-St. Patrick (Mr. Grossman) of a few years ago. This does not compare with the kind of focus and the kind of push we gave the economy. There is nothing here for the business people. There is nothing here for the farmers. There is nothing here for the future. What they are doing is just spreading it around and not really accomplishing anything with it.
I am proud to be able to stand up in this House and say that if I were the Treasurer I know I would do it differently. If the member for St. Andrew-St. Patrick were the Treasurer, I know he would do it differently. If the member for York Mills (Miss Stephenson) were the Treasurer, I know again it would be different. It would have a sense of being progressive, social legislation, and it would be economically Conservative. It would have the best of both worlds for this province, where we are able to plan for the future. I would say the social conscience of this party is twice theirs, if they had one.
Mr. Speaker: The member's time has now expired. Are there any other members wishing to participate in the debate?
Mrs. Marland: I am looking forward very much to participating in this debate on the interim supply bill. I am certainly --
Mr. Speaker: Actually, this is the budget debate.
Mrs. Marland: Have we changed it to the budget debate?
Mr. Speaker: No, we commenced that today.
Mrs. Marland: I see. I am sorry. It was my understanding that we were able to speak on one or the other interchangeably, but in either case I am addressing the subject of the lack of supply for the people of Ontario through the budget of this year. I will look forward to addressing that in more detail because I simply cannot deal with it in the amount of time left this afternoon in the House, namely, approximately two minutes.
With respect for the Legislature, Mr. Speaker, and your scheduling of the procedure in the House, I will look forward to expressing my very real concern for the budget of May 1987 when this House reconvenes.
On motion by Mrs. Marland, the debate was adjourned.
The House adjourned at 6 p.m.