The House met at 1330.
Mr Allen: The vigil for the full implementation of the first-stage reforms of the Transitions report on social assistance continues today at Queen’s Park. Members of the Interfaith Social Assistance Review Committee, representing 14 different faith groups, do not believe that the measures contained in the speech from the throne are sufficient to begin to break the cycle of poverty which traps people on social assistance.
The benefits proposed do not assure recipients of 100 per cent of shelter costs. The employability proposals will be ineffective without measures to improve the lot of the working poor, such as a large improvement in the minimum wage and/or medical-dental benefits. The child benefit reference is too vague even to be commented upon.
Missing are such first-stage Transitions proposals as lifting the assets ceilings, standardizing the delivery of social services in all municipalities so that there is equal and accessible service for all, reducing social work case loads and eliminating much of the discretion allowed workers, which creates both discrimination and confusion in service delivery.
The vigil is looking to the Treasurer (Mr R. F. Nixon) to make good these failures of the throne speech and to announce the full package of the key reforms proposed in the Transitions report. I join them in their urgent prayers and requests to that gentleman.
Mr Eves: It gives me pleasure to rise in the House and comment on Nurses Week, which started yesterday and runs through 13 May. I think all of us in society have come to appreciate more and more, especially in recent years, the great contribution that these health care professionals make to our health care system, not only here in Ontario but indeed throughout the country and worldwide.
I think it is very appropriate that in the last few years nurses are finally starting to get some respect in the health care field. Unfortunately, part of this has come because of increased stresses on them in their day-to-day workplace and the shortage of nurses, especially the shortage of specialized nurses, staff nurses, that we see throughout our health care system in Ontario and elsewhere today.
I am pleased to see that the minister has addressed some of the problems with respect to the nursing shortage in Ontario, most particularly those of ensuring that staff nurses have appropriate representation on hospital committees, especially with respect to matters such as finance and the like.
However, those of us on this side of the Legislature are still awaiting some more positive steps from the Ministry of Health with respect to the 13 or 14 other recommendations that have been in four separate nursing shortage reports -- I should put it that way, I suppose -- that the minister has in her possession. We look forward to her taking the appropriate measures with respect to them as well.
ROYAL CANADIAN SEA CADET CORPS
Mr Tatham: This is the stuff that builds a community. It is hard work and discipline. I was impressed: awards for the most improved cadet, the best guardsman, the best marksman, most tiddly. What does “most tiddly” mean? That means the most immaculate uniform and appearance on a year-round basis. These were some of the awards presented at the 49th annual inspection of the Royal Canadian Sea Cadet Corps, Woodstock.
It was an excellent presentation, a show involving teenagers who work hard to learn their drills and share the camaraderie of a ship’s company. The band was superb. The drill team presentation represented many weeks of practice. The shear-legs demonstration with ropes and pulleys was completed in just over five minutes, a record for sea cadets.
I congratulate the families, I congratulate the staff and I say to the young sailors that they are contributing to their own development and the future of our country. Well done.
PUBLIC SECTOR PENSION PLANS
Mr Hampton: For some months now both the government’s own employees who are represented by the Ontario Public Service Employees Union and the teachers of the province have been asking the provincial government to bargain seriously on the issue of their pension plans. The main issue for both the teachers of the province and provincial employees is to have an equal voice in the investment and other decisions affecting their pension plans.
This is not a radical or revolutionary idea in a democratic jurisdiction. If anything, the position of the province’s public employees and teachers is most democratic, and one would think that the government, a government that portrays itself as being open and consultative, would look favourably upon this position. But for some reason, the government has not. One would also hope that the government would want to be a leading and progressive force in the pension debates in our society, but again, it is not.
One would also expect that the government would take heed of the recent Ontario Hydro decision and realize that time is moving forward in our society, that even the courts now recognize that the employees ought to have an equal say in their pension plan. But alas, the government is not even listening to the courts. The government seems to have its mind stuck in the past on this issue.
NATIONAL FOREST WEEK
Mr Pollock: This week has been declared National Forest Week. It gives us an opportunity to consider the vital importance of our forests to life on earth. Our forests are being destroyed around the world. The rain forests of South America and Indonesia are being destroyed at an alarming rate. In Africa, for every tree that is planted, 29 are cut down. It is clear that every time a tree is cut down and not replaced, the world moves closer to an environmental disaster.
To prevent this greenhouse effect from advancing, we must protect our forests. In our province, we should consider the importance of the forest industry to the economy of Ontario. Over 75 percent of Ontario is covered with trees. More than 250,000 people depend on the forest industry for their livelihoods. Exports of forest products from Ontario were valued at $3.5 billion last year. If we want to continue to reap the benefits, we must replant.
I am sad to say that in David Peterson’s Ontario, reforestation is not a priority. There has been no leadership in this area of forest management, and a weak commitment to protect the future and health of our forest industry. If the Liberals are sincere about reforestation, they should spend the $35 million raised under the softwood lumber tax on reforestation and on forest-related research. This would show Ontario can be proven to be a leader to the world in protecting our forests.
Mr Faubert: I rise today to inform the members of this House and consumers across this province of a sequence of events which illustrates the limitations of putting a stop on a cheque as well as apparent inequities in the federal Bills of Exchange Act.
Mr and Mrs Mojsovki, former residents of my riding, wrote a post-dated cheque for $45,000 to be invested in First Grelor Financial Ltd, owned by one Gregory Kostoff. When documentation was not forthcoming, they demanded their cheque back, put a stop on the cheque at their bank four full days prior to its due date and advised Mr Kostoff. Mr Kostoff then proceeded to deposit the stopped cheque into his account at the National Bank. He returned later and was able to obtain a $30,000 certified cheque from the National Bank. It was apparent that the National Bank had neglected to clear the Mojsovkis’ cheque prior to crediting the funds to Kostoff’s account.
When the National Bank discovered that the cheque had been stopped, it was able to recover all but $16,000 from Mr Kostoff, who subsequently left the country. The Mojsovkis were contacted by the National Bank two years later and informed they were liable for the $16,000 and the bank was taking action to secure that amount. This was later upheld in a district court ruling under the provisions of the federal Bills of Exchange Act and a judgement secured against their house.
Clearly this was and is inequitable, and I call on all members of this House to make consumers in their ridings aware of the limitations of a stopped cheque. I call on the federal government to review and amend the Bills of Exchange Act to provide better protection for all consumers in Ontario.
PENETANGUISHENE MENTAL HEALTH CENTRE
Mr Reville: Back in 1986 when the standing committee on social development took the opportunity to review the estimates for the Ministry of Health, the then Minister of Health acknowledged that the facility for the criminally insane called Oak Ridge in Penetanguishene should be replaced. It is 1989 now and this is what the administrator of the hospital is saying: “Some time in the next decade, we would hope some sort of decision would be made. We are keeping our fingers crossed.” Thousands of people in Ontario are keeping their fingers crossed waiting for this government to get on with the things it has promised to do.
STATEMENTS BY THE MINISTRY
Hon Mrs Caplan: Beginning today and over the coming weeks and months, I will be making a series of announcements on a number of specific issues related to the provision of health services in our province.
In the recent throne speech, our government reaffirmed its belief that everyone in Ontario is entitled to access to quality health care regardless of ability to pay. As a government, we are prepared to protect that principle and take every step possible to maintain and strengthen it.
Furthermore, we understand that the health of our society rests on more than an effective health care system. We know that the health of individuals is tied to a number of factors, including education, literacy, employment, housing, our physical and work environments, as well as a host of other key influences that fundamentally affect the health and wellbeing of people.
To begin responding to this new understanding of health, my ministry recently identified six areas for promoting change and renewal within our health care system: We want to see better-informed consumers of health care; we want to see a true network of community-based health care in the province; we want to see our hospitals properly funded and well managed; we want to build beneficial relationships with the private sector; we want to see a new emphasis on quality assurance in patient care and treatment, and we want to clarify and promote effective working relationships among health care professionals.
As we move to achieve these goals, we recognize that short-term pressures must also be addressed. I have therefore asked my ministry staff to identify and bring forward an action plan for specialty care, an action plan that will respond to the needs in several key areas: cancer care, cardiovascular services, emergency and trauma care, maternal and newborn health, AIDS, kidney dialysis and lithotripsy.
This morning at the Toronto Bayview Regional Cancer Centre, I was pleased to announce the start of a new province-wide screening program for breast cancer. As members are aware, breast cancer is the leading cause of cancer-related deaths among women between the ages of 50 and 64 in our province. This screening program will encourage women in this age group to attend cancer screening clinics every two years for a physical examination, mammogram and instruction in breast self-examination.
By 1995, we want to have at least 36 centres established across the province. The cost of the program, while significant, is not our principal concern. The organizational structure, the mix of health professionals, the necessary data and information systems and women educated and knowledgeable about the service are the factors that will make the breast screening program a success.
When the screening program is fully implemented, we expect more than 300,000 women to use it. Experts tell us that with good screening, breast cancer deaths for women in the 50 to 64 age group can be reduced by up to 40 per cent.
The screening program will be administered by the Ontario Cancer Treatment and Research Foundation. Representatives from its eight regional treatment centres will work with members of district health councils, health care professionals and consumers to ensure that the program is implemented in the most effective manner. To support the work of the centres, the OCTRF will develop an education program aimed at women and health professionals which emphasizes early detection and the benefits of breast screening.
I am also announcing today the appointment of Dr Aileen Clarke as the Ministry of Health’s new cancer program co-ordinator. Dr Clarke is currently chief of epidemiology and statistics for the Ontario Cancer Treatment and Research Foundation.
In addition to these province-wide initiatives, I am pleased to announce that my ministry has increased its funding commitment to the northeastern Ontario regional cancer treatment centre to $16.8 million. This money will be used for the final phase of construction of the new centre at Sudbury’s Laurentian Hospital. It includes additional new funding of $3.3 million for up-to-date, state-of-the-art radiation therapy equipment. Later today, I will be in Sudbury and I look forward to visiting the centre and touring the new site.
When completed, the northeastern Ontario regional cancer treatment centre will provide a comprehensive range of care and treatment, including chemotherapy and radiation therapy, to residents living in northeastern Ontario. The new cancer centre reflects the growing capability of northern Ontario health services, a capability reflected in the appointment of Vickie Kaminski, assistant executive director of nursing at Sudbury Memorial Hospital, to head the investigative team at Toronto’s St Michael’s Hospital earlier this year.
While on this point, I wish to remind members that this is Nurses Week throughout Canada. I want to pay tribute to Ontario nurses for the tremendous job they do. Without question, nurses are one of our most important partners in health care. Their dedication, professionalism and concern for their patients’ wellbeing permeate every aspect of health care in this province.
The new breast screening program and expansion of services in Sudbury, as well as the other announcements which will follow shortly, are all in keeping with the health goals recommended by the Premier’s Council on Health Strategy and adopted by the government, including shifting the emphasis from treatment after the fact to health promotion and disease prevention, increasing the number of years of good health for Ontarians by reducing illness, disability and premature death and providing accessible, appropriate health services for all.
What we have built and achieved in health care in Ontario is extremely good; we are proud of it and, by working together with all our partners in health, will make it even better. We will rely not only on new technology, but also on health promotion and disease prevention, to progressively improve our health status. Our overriding goal is to achieve a healthier future for all Ontarians.
In the weeks ahead, I will be announcing further details of my ministry’s specialty care plan, a plan that will reflect the health goals of this government, a plan that, I am confident, will ensure that Ontarians have effective, quality health care as close to home as possible.
Hon Mr Fontaine: I am pleased to announce today a $1-million grant to the northeastern Ontario oncology program to establish a cancer research centre in Sudbury. This centre, the first of its kind in northeastern Ontario, will have laboratory facilities at Laurentian University and at the northeastern Ontario regional cancer centre at Laurentian Hospital, which is scheduled to open next summer, as referred to by my colleague the Minister of Health (Mrs Caplan).
The northeastern Ontario oncology program is affiliated with the faculty of medicine at the University of Ottawa and is collaborating with the Ontario Cancer Treatment and Research Foundation, Laurentian University and the research division of Inco Ltd.
The new research facility would enable Sudbury, now designated as a health referral centre for residents of northern Ontario, to attract greater expertise and provide a wider range of health and health-related services.
The funding of the research centre will be provided in instalments over a five-year period, with an initial capital grant of $250,000 for startup equipment. The Sudbury centre will complement the network of other such centres located throughout the province, bringing the total number to eight.
My ministry welcomes the opportunity to support Dr Robert Corringham, the director of the northeastern Ontario oncology program, in his efforts to initiate collaborative research focusing on cancer prevention and on the environmental factors which may be related to cancer and which are unique to the north.
I am confident the research centre will aid Dr Corringham’s efforts to recruit specialized staff and ultimately enhance the quality of health care to northern Ontario residents.
Funding for the northeastern Ontario regional cancer centre and the cancer research centre reflects our commitment to provide effective health care programs and services for northerners as close to their homes as possible.
Hon Mr O’Neil: I rise to inform honourable members of the second round of grants my ministry is providing to municipalities and community groups under the new recreation facilities and capital conservation programs for the 1989-90 fiscal year.
Members will recall that I announced phase 1 of this year’s series in January. I am happy to announce today that a further $7 million of lottery funding is being made available for a further 152 projects. This will bring the total number of projects assisted this year to 424, at a total cost of almost $28 million.
In keeping with the long-term health care directions this government articulated in the recent throne speech, I wish to note that these projects will greatly enhance the health and lifestyle choices of all Ontarians.
Recreation is a key to wellness and an essential part of a healthy, fulfilling lifestyle. One quarter of Ontario’s health care budget is spent treating preventable, lifestyle-related diseases; high quality recreation programs have been shown to reduce these costs by half.
These projects are helping our communities to build and maintain the recreational infrastructure that the people of Ontario depend upon.
These are the places where Ontario’s future Olympians will begin their development. Above all, these recreation centres, swimming pools and hockey rinks are at the heart of any community. It is here young Ontarians build sportsmanship, character and the future of Ontario.
I am honoured that the Ministry of Tourism and Recreation is able to play a role in shaping that future.
As we become an increasingly active society, these facilities are becoming ever more important to the lives and health of the people of the towns and cities across the province.
Mr Laughren: I am pleased to respond to the minister’s announcement about the $1 million for the cancer research centre in Sudbury.
The job of heading up that research centre was advertised all across Canada and there were no applications in this country. At the same time, recruiting was being done at the University of Heidelberg in West Germany. A very qualified person, Dr Ho, was found, who indicated an interest in coming to Sudbury and has been stymied by the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario. The Minister of Health (Mrs Caplan), despite the fact that existing legislation would allow her to intervene and accredit Dr Ho from the University of Heidelberg, has refused to do so.
While we appreciate the $1 million for the cancer research centre, it is terribly important that a research director be found who wants to come to Sudbury, has the credentials to do the job and whom the people in Sudbury want to have in place at that research centre. It is time the minister got into the game and approved Dr Ho’s credentials to practise and direct the research centre in Sudbury.
Miss Martel: I want to follow up on what my colleague the member for Nickel Belt has said concerning the situation in Sudbury. Both my colleague and I have met with Dr Corringham. I know the minister herself has as well. He is greatly concerned that the program of oncology and the program of research in Sudbury will be for nought if they cannot have Dr Ho come to Sudbury to set up that system there.
They have repeatedly approached her ministry and asked for aid with the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario to use her power under the act to allow him entrance here. It is ridiculous that we have had no applications across Canada and that we have a highly qualified applicant who wants to come and cannot because of the restrictions placed by the college. It is imperative her ministry do something about that in the very near future.
Just following up on the second announcement that was made concerning the $3.3 million for up-to-date, state-of-the-art equipment, I want to thank the minister for her generosity in that regard. I am surprised there has been no announcement regarding the 60 chronic care beds that were announced for the same hospital over three years ago. She will know well that the hospital is concerned that without those beds, there will not be any efficient expansion of the oncology program that is required.
Mr Reville: I am responding to the Minister of Health’s statement today. I am prepared to predict that we will see the Minister of Health frequently in ministerial statements as she attempts to convince the people of Ontario that she is indeed in command of the health care system.
In terms of the new breast screening program, I think it is important for people to realize what the program is and what it is not. What it clearly is not is health promotion and disease prevention; it is an early detection system. The minister will know, I am sure, that breast cancer is associated with high fat diets and the consumption of alcohol. Unless those dietary and lifestyle problems are addressed, we will continue to detect high levels of breast cancer in women.
The other thing that should be noted is that the mortality rates in terms of breast cancer have not changed in the last 35 years. Another point that has to be looked at with great concern is whether we are going to be sentencing a lot of women aged 50 to 64 to radical mastectomies, because we know that the practice patterns of our surgeons are to rely far too heavily on radical surgery instead of the more, in quotes, conservative kind of surgery.
I think we need to look carefully at these announcements. The minister is trying to suggest she is moving to illness prevention and health promotion. She is not doing it with this announcement and I think it is wrong for her to be trying to trick us into believing that she is.
Mr Farnan: In response to the Minister of Tourism and Recreation (Mr O’Neil), there was some embarrassment on the minister’s part in his announcement today, and little wonder. While he announced some projects, we all know there are many worthwhile projects not funded by his ministry. I would like to know when he is going to recognize this in the House.
It is embarrassing for the minister that he leads a ministry lacking in courage to make tough decisions. He has done nothing on rails-to-trails. He is talking about preventive health care, but on the big issues that demand tough decisions, an area where he can go in and say to the municipalities, “We need co-operation and therefore we are going to give provincial leadership to have continuous trails,” we are not getting that kind of leadership from this ministry. This odd announcement, worthwhile as it is, is really a recognition that there are some projects, but many more are not being funded.
Mr Eves: I rise to comment on both the statement by the Minister of Health (Mrs Caplan) and the statement by the Minister of Northern Development (Mr Fontaine) this afternoon.
First, on the statement by the Minister of Health, although it is a welcome initiative, I believe the focus she is placing on mammography in Ontario may be somewhat misguided. I would like to quote a few facts, first of all from the Canadian Cancer Foundation. The Canadian Cancer Foundation states: “Breast cancer kills 3,500 Canadians a year and is the major cause of cancer deaths among women. It is the leading cause of death in women from all causes between the ages of 35 and 54 years of age.”
I also want to quote from the Canadian Women’s Breast Cancer Foundation, which states that nowadays mammography uses very small amounts of radiation, making testing very safe, as opposed to what perhaps was the case in the past. It is recommending base line testing for all women between the ages of 35 and 40 years of age so that they can have later comparison tests, and that women between 40 and 49 should have a test every one to three years, depending on their relative risk of developing the disease.
I would also like to refer the minister to a recent publication, the New England Journal of Medicine, dated 30 March 1989. They too come to the same conclusions as these two other bodies, that testing in younger women certainly should take place and should not be restricted to women in the 50-year-old to 64-year-old age group.
If the minister will look at the chart, with which I am sure she is very familiar this being a national cancer survey, in the United States per 100,000 population the graph rises very dramatically for women between the ages of 35 and 50. In fact, that is perhaps the most dramatic rise on the graph, as opposed to women over 50 years of age. That is not saying they do not have a serious problem. They certainly do and I will come to that in a minute, but I do not think the minister should be excluding younger women from this program.
Nor should she be excluding older women from the program. Statistics provided by the Ontario Cancer Treatment and Research Foundation show that in the minister’s target group that she has announced today for testing, 50-year-old to 64-year-old women, the mortality rate for breast cancer in this sample year, which was 1986, represented 34.2 per cent of the deaths. However, women 65 years of age and over represented 49.49 per cent mortality with respect to breast cancer being the cause of death.
I ask the minister to rethink her program a bit. I appreciate the work she is doing, but I hope I am not correct in assuming she is doing this particular group because of financial considerations as opposed to health considerations. I think it is very important that younger women be provided this base line testing as well, and I think it is just as important, as she will see from the mortality rate, that older women have this opportunity also.
If I may now address the statement made by the Minister of Northern Development this afternoon, this indeed is a welcome announcement, but it is an announcement that has already been made. The people in northeastern Ontario and the Sudbury area have known about this $1-million funding from the Ministry of Northern Development for some period of time.
The minister shakes his head, but I can tell him that we were there. Our caucus was in Sudbury from 3 to 5 April. It certainly was public knowledge long before our visit there that this $1-million funding was coming.
I think the problem we have is exactly the problem that has been stated by the members who spoke before me, the problem I pointed out to the Minister of Health several weeks ago in the Legislature. Dr Corringham is very concerned that if the minister does not intervene and either bring pressure to bear, or exercise the authority she has under section 3 of the Health Disciplines Act to make the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario give the necessary accreditation that is due, and I believe deserved, to Dr Ho and to Dr Bozek, who I understand has now left this country and gone back to England because he could not get certification here, this funding will mean absolutely nothing; that is if there are no people there to head the research foundation at the oncology clinic for northeastern Ontario.
Again, we ask the minister to use her good offices to intervene and see to it that Dr Ho and Dr Bozek can be accredited so that the cancer treatment centre for northeastern Ontario can indeed become a reality.
Mr B. Rae: The Treasurer himself has contributed to an enormous amount of speculation this weekend with respect to the budget plans he has for next week; in particular, the statements he made with respect to a tax on payroll to replace and indeed even add more revenues to the Ontario revenue system than would otherwise be the case from Ontario health insurance plan premiums.
Given that there is a general consensus in Ontario that OHIP premiums are extremely regressive, I wonder why the Treasurer would be contemplating the introduction of a tax at this stage of the business cycle, when he himself has said we are in danger of heading into a recession, when there is very substantial evidence that a tax on payroll of 1.5 per cent, 2 per cent or 2.5 per cent would be an incentive for employers not to hire and not to pay their employees any more money. Why would he be contemplating that kind of tax?
Hon R. F. Nixon: I hope the honourable member is aware that the comments made in response to questions from the media were not an indication of anything that is in the budget. They were in response to questions put to me; for example, about the commitment this party has made for a number of years now. We do agree that the approach to funding medicare from premiums is regressive and we have indicated that when we feel we can we will phase them down and eliminate them. In each of the previous four budgets, when asked about that promise, we have said the promise stands and that we will fulfil it when we feel we can.
This has led a number of thoughtful media people to say: ‘If you’re going to do it, what about increases in personal income tax? What about an increase in corporation tax? What about a new lottery?” -- I thought that was a very interesting suggestion -- “What about a payroll tax?” since I have already indicated Mr Wilson will not provide any flexibility in the personal income tax collection agreement, a matter the honourable member raised in question period last week.
Mr B. Rae: This is not an academic discussion. Is the Treasurer telling us he is going to give us an assurance today that he is not contemplating the introduction of a payroll tax?
Hon R. F. Nixon: No.
Mr B. Rae: Let me try again then. There are studies available saying that a payroll tax of the size that, in response to questions, is apparently being contemplated will increase unemployment and is not a progressive tax as it will affect the take-home pay of many employees and employers will be reluctant to offer their employees any more money in bargaining because they are going to get taxed on it.
I wonder if the Treasurer could at least give us this assurance: Mr Wilson let the banks off free and Mr Wilson let the speculators off free. Instead of toying around with a payroll tax on small business in this province, I wonder why the Treasurer is not looking at a tax on speculation and why he is not looking at a tax on our financial institutions in order to get him off this OHIP premium roulette wheel.
Hon R. F. Nixon: Although I find it a contrary indication, one of the pieces of paper that might be associated with such a review is the fact that the New Democratic Party government in Manitoba used this as an innovative way to pay for its costs of government.
The Deputy Speaker: New question.
The Deputy Speaker: Order. Question.
Mr B. Rae: I was only going to say, “Don’t cry for me, Manitoba,” Mr Speaker.
Mr B. Rae: My question is for the Premier in the absence of the Minister of Transportation (Mr Fulton). The Premier will no doubt have seen, or if he has not seen it I will inform him about it, a very disturbing article in the Toronto Star today in which a senior member of the Ministry of Transportation is quoted, as is a recently retired member of the public service, Ken Kleinsteiber.
Mr Kleinsteiber is quoted as saying that there are several bridges, indeed dozens of bridges, in the province that are in dangerously bad repair. The article says, “’Some bridges are so weak they legally shouldn’t even have school buses crossing them,’ Kleinsteiber said, ‘but in some cases, I’d have to say they are (being used by school buses).’”
I wonder if the Premier can explain how this disastrous state of affairs could have happened in the province.
Hon Mr Peterson: I will advise my honourable colleague of the member’s questions in this regard and I am sure he will be happy to make a full report to him.
Mr B. Rae: The evidence that is given, again not by members of the New Democratic Party in particular but indeed by senior public servants, is that, quoting again from the article, “the problem bridges have been caught short by provincial limits on road and bridge repair subsidies, Holowka said.” Mr Holowka is now the Ministry of Transportation’s head of bridge approval.
Can the Premier explain why he would have brought in a policy of cutbacks? He turns around and blames the feds for their cutbacks; before they even do that, he does exactly the same thing to municipalities. The evidence now from his own staff and from retired members of the public service is that this is not simply something which is saving money to the province; it is something threatening the health and safety of the people of this province, because of the threat to the infrastructure and to bridges which people have to travel over.
Hon Mr Peterson: I think my honourable friend’s facts are wrong with respect to the transfers and with respect to the support for roads, bridges and infrastructure. As I said, I will tell my honourable colleague of his concerns and he will report to him fully.
Mr B. Rae: If I could just recount the absurdity of this situation. Leroy Smith, who lives in Elgin county, had an accident back in 1981 and had to set up a business in his own home. He then found that the Tates Bridge, which was right next to his house and which in fact was the access to his house, had to be closed because it was no longer safe for travel. Mr Smith is now facing a situation where half of his business has been cut off. He is a disabled person in his own home. Half of his own business has been cut off. People have to travel an extra 30 or 40 miles to get to his home.
I wonder if the Premier would care to comment on this kind of situation in Elgin county. The situation is occurring throughout southwestern Ontario, as the Premier may or may not be aware. It is a very serious situation. It affects people’s incomes. It affects people’s livelihood. It also affects people’s health and safety. That is the impact of the freeze, which he imposed well before Michael Wilson did anything up in Ottawa.
Hon Mr Peterson: The member for Middlesex (Mr Reycraft) tells me that this bridge is jointly owned by the counties of Middlesex and Elgin and that it was condemned, I gather, by the local county engineers.
As I said, I will take my honourable friend’s comments and refer them to the minister. I will tell him of his desire to increase spending and cut taxes all at the same time.
Mr Brandt: My question is to the Minister of the Environment. The minister will be aware that in an article that appeared today in the Globe and Mail a statement was made to the effect that hazardous toxic waste was being blended with fuel oil and sold illegally in Ontario. Last month, the Ministry of the Environment staff conducted a series of what were called crackdowns on illegal waste at various border points between Canada and the United States. I wonder if the minister can tell us if his staff were checking for the illegal shipments of this kind of blended toxic fuel; and if they were not checking for it why they were not checking for it.
Hon Mr Bradley: The staff of our investigation and enforcement branch, of course, has been conducting investigations for some period of time now. I know the member would not want me to go into the intricate detail of those investigations because, having been a minister, he will know he does not want to adversely impact upon those investigations. But I can tell him that at the border raids and at previous border checks we had looked at a variety of problems that we anticipated. For instance, involved in these checks was primarily the Ministry of the Environment investigations and enforcement branch, but also the Ontario Provincial Police was involved.
In addition to that, we had co-operation from the American authorities on both sides of the border; when we did it with New York state, for instance, and when we did it with Michigan as well, we had co-operation from them. We funnelled information to all relevant departments of government related to that which was being checked. I can say in a general sense to the member that we looked at virtually every possible violation that could be occurring upon the crossing of a border.
Mr Brandt: I too am aware of the fact that there have been co-operative undertakings between the OPP and the Environmental Protection Agency in the United States as well as his own ministry, but as the minister is probably aware, it has been suggested that these particular shipments have been going on for some time now.
The burning of this particular type of blended fuel, when mixed with the toxic contaminants that are contained in that particular fuel, does emit dioxins and furans. It is extremely dangerous. Why was there never any word from his ministry with respect to this matter, any checks that have been made or any investigation that has been carried out? And why did it have to take a Globe and Mail reporter to identify this entire matter having taken place between the United States and Canada? Why was his ministry not up on it?
Hon Mr Bradley: The member would know, in fact, that there had been some considerable public interest in both the checks that took place in the member’s own riding, Sarnia, and Port Huron, Windsor and Detroit; then along the Niagara River and the St Lawrence River, and that there was a revelation of what we were looking for. Of course, the desire is to build that kind of deterrent effect that I know the member himself would want to see.
I can tell him that the most recent investigations took place on 11 April to 13 April at all the Niagara River crossings, and on 18 and 20 April at the St Lawrence River crossings. We checked 383 trucks. There were, first of all, over 40 enforcement officers on the site involved in the operation. We checked the trucks for waste and fuel haulers. I think that gets into the general area the member was interested in. We took 113 samples for more detailed analysis, which we thought would be important. The first results of the more detailed analysis are now coming in.
For instance, I was at the Queenston one. I was looking at a steel hauler coming across the border, and at the time where there was steel one could see some liquid coming out of the bottom. It must have been liquid steel that the person was bringing across the border. That is one where we have found, in fact, that some material has been identified. Similarly, the Michigan check last year identified some of those problems.
I can tell the member that there were 18 charges laid on the spot for environmental offences. In addition to that, because it is interested in the condition of the vehicles, the OPP laid a number of charges as to transportation as per the Dangerous Goods Transportation Act. I know that at Gananoque, for instance, two trucks were turned around and sent back because they did not have the proper papers to come across the border.
I know the member is particularly interested in all of these; and in his area he would be because it is a crossing point, and in all of Ontario he would be. We have in fact been investigating this for some period of time. We believe that we are building the kind of case which is going to be a very powerful case once we get to the courts.
Mr Brandt: Recently the minister issued a press release indicating that two shipments of pathological waste were in fact stopped at the border and were refused entry into Ontario. Pathological waste, in my view, is somewhat less severe than this type of toxic, contaminated blended gasoline and other fuel oils that appear to have been coming into Ontario, in that the long-term effects can be far more hazardous from this type of load.
I noticed nothing in the minister’s statement, in the earlier press release, that indicated he had stopped this type of shipment. Now the minister is aware that there are thousands of dollars in profitability to anyone who wants to illegally engage in this kind of activity. The number of barrels of this type of contaminated oil that can be blended in with a truckload of oil or gasoline coming into Canada can produce a tremendously hazardous kind of substance.
It appears that either the ministry was asleep at the switch or the type of investigation the minister has been assuring us has been carried out has in fact not been carried out. We would not have known about this other than for a Globe and Mail story. What is his ministry planning on doing about it, and is he going to lay all of the necessary charges to all of the individuals involved in these cases?
Hon Mr Bradley: First of all, I should address the comment the member made about pathological waste. I think there are a lot of people in this province and in this country who would think that pathological waste is indeed a serious matter when it is crossing the border. I do not think we should downplay that -- I do not think the member was attempting to downplay it, quite frankly -- but I want to assure people that we consider that to be an important waste as well.
I want to tell the member that we are of course in the process of an investigation. You do not tell the people you are investigating that you are investigating them. But people were aware, in fact, of the border checks that took place last year along the St Clair River crossing, the Detroit Rivet crossing and along the St Lawrence River and the Niagara River. Certainly there was considerable public interest and media interest in those. They are aware of some of the charges that were forthcoming from that and some of the further investigative work that is being done.
I can assure the member that, on an international basis, the co-operation of Michigan and New York has been very significant in terms of tracing the problems.
We will be in a situation where we will have people being checked at the border in some cases, checked at the truck stops where they must stop to be weighed, the weigh stations, and checked again at the places where they are bringing the stuff with which they are crossing the border.
We believe that a lot of the investigative work our investigations and enforcement branch is doing, along with a lot of other enforcement agencies, is going to pay off and the member will see that very soon.
Mr Brandt: I want to get back to the Treasurer and the possibility of a payroll tax. The Treasurer did say in response to a media question, and I quote him directly, “We’ve talked about the possibility,” as it relates to this payroll tax. Since the Treasurer indicated that “We’ve talked about the possibility” and that it is at least a matter under consideration by him and his ministry for inclusion in either this or an upcoming budget at some future point, knowing how carefully he reviews all of the matters and the details that are included in his budget, would he share with this House any studies he has taken on what the impact would be of the inclusion of this two per cent or more payroll tax he is now speculating about?
Hon Mr Kerrio: Do you have a fishing licence, Andy?
Hon R. F. Nixon: I appreciate the interjection from my honourable friend, which is much more useful than what is passing through my own mind.
I think the honourable member indicated in his question quite clearly that I had said we had talked about the tax. We do not keep tapes for publication of our discussions around the boardroom table, but I can assure the member that any public documents that are now available or might possibly be available in the future will be public documents.
Mr Brandt: I want, hopefully with this question, to dissuade the Treasurer from even considering this type of regressive tax. I would like to share with the Treasurer the fact that 92 per cent of all new businesses are made up of groups that have under 20 employees in total. Of all the jobs created in Ontario, as the Minister of Industry, Trade and Technology (Mr Kwinter) is so well aware, 60 per cent are created by these small businesses that have under 20 employees. By definition, they are very small firms indeed.
These 372,000 small businesses would have to pay for this new payroll tax, if the Treasurer decides to introduce it. I am suggesting, by way of this question, that he should not decide to introduce it. Many of those 372,000 businesses are not profitable. They do not make a profit now. They would lose even more money under his proposal to bring in any form of payroll tax.
The Deputy Speaker: The question is?
Mr Brandt: I am glad you asked me, Mr Speaker, because I was just getting to it. Has the Treasurer considered the impact that such a payroll tax would have on marginal small businesses in Ontario?
Hon R. F. Nixon: We have also considered the difficulty in financing an expanded requirement for medicare, which the honourable member and all members support. They realize that the residents of Ontario require and very properly demand a high level of service from their medical practitioners and hospitals.
The honourable member will also be aware that, under the policy of the Progressive Conservative government of Canada, our revenue from federal Treasury sources has been substantially reduced in its rate of growth over the last few years and that we are close to $1.1 billion short of the money we normally would have had in support of this rapidly growing program.
The Minister of Health (Mrs Caplan) does, as the member would agree, an exemplary job of administering our medicare program in the most efficient and practical way. But even under those circumstances, it is growing at a rate of 10 to 11 percent on a base that is close to $14 billion.
The honourable member, day by day, brings to the attention of the Minister of Health the inadequacies of funding. I agree that we should, and must, have in the future a stronger basis for that kind of financing. We know what Michael Wilson has done to us, we know the rate of growth of our requirements for medical service, and so I think the honourable member might give us some concrete proposals as to how we could improve the financing of medicare. He has indicated how we should not do it.
Mr Brandt: The Treasurer points out that there is a slowdown in the transfer grants from the federal government to the provincial government. I would point out to the Treasurer that a good portion of the money that he claims to have lost from the federal government he has made up as a direct result of no transfers to municipalities in certain categories. They have been able to determine that some $700 million in shortfalls has taken place as a result of zero increases in categories like the unconditional grant program.
I would like to say to the Treasurer that at the very time when most of the economic prognostications would point to somewhat slower economic growth for Ontario and for Canada, at least over the short term, and that this impact will have a very direct relationship to the level of consumer spending that will take place in the economy over the next while, does he not see the relationship between his proposed tax -- if he does bring it in in his budget -- and the problems that industries and businesses are already going to have with the slowdown in the economy? Can he not see that those two factors will work to create shutdowns, job losses and an acceleration in the slowdown of the economy as a result of that?
Hon R. F. Nixon: The honourable member certainly makes a good point, and that is the sort of thing that has to be considered by the Treasurer and the people who advise him, whether it is myself or another person. It is simply difficult to know how to fund the programs in a jurisdiction like Ontario, where there is rapidly expanding requirement and cost even for the programs that are established now, without moving into an area of new and alternative processes.
It is a matter of judgment, and there are many alternatives that could be used. We could even increase the premiums themselves. Other jurisdictions have done that. But in a previous exchange with the Leader of the Opposition (Mr B. Rae), I agreed with him that the premiums themselves are regressive. Of course, the commitment made by our party on the formation of the government stands, and we have never indicated that we do not intend to keep it.
Miss Martel: I have a question for the Minister of Labour concerning Bill 162. Mrs Desjardin appeared in Windsor before the standing committee on resources development and told this story. She was hurt in 1985 at Dainty Foods while lifting a 50-pound bag of rice. After three wrist operations, doctors at Downsview Rehabilitation Centre told her there was nothing more that could be done and she was awarded a 14 percent pension, which equals $140 a month.
While at Downsview, she received a vocational assessment and was told she was good working with numbers. Having no money except for her monthly pension, she applied to the Workers’ Compensation Board for a supplement to make up her lost wages. She was told she could be a bookkeeper and earn $337 a week. As this was more than the $230 a week she had earned while at Dainty Foods, she was not given any money at all from the Workers’ Compensation Board, nor was she retrained in order to become a bookkeeper.
I would like to ask the minister how Bill 162 will protect Mrs Desjardin and others who suffer under this current practice of deeming at the board?
Hon Mr Sorbara: I think my friend the member for Sudbury East will realize that the example that she raised here in question period is probably one that we will be able to discuss and expand on as we move through clause-by-clause consideration of Bill 162, but I could just give her a foretaste of the discussions as I think they are going to unfold.
In the bill as it is currently drafted, the requirement of the board is to ensure that considerations of ability to earn post-injury are based on the suitability and availability of employment. I think we are going to have good discussions on how we can refine those words to ensure that the board uses good judgement rather than simply arbitrarily considering that a worker is able to earn so much money at such-and-such a job.
In that regard, I want to tell my friend the member for Sudbury East that those determinations, as they are set out in the current act, allow the policy simply to be determined by the board. In Bill 162, as it is currently constituted, the parameters within which the board would work, the context in which it would exercise its judgment, would be set out in regulations which would be passed by the government and subject to the scrutiny of this Parliament.
Miss Martel: We will be raising other cases besides Mrs Desjardin’s during the course of this sitting.
Let me say that when questioned, groups from the labour movement, the injured workers groups and the legal clinics said, first, that the current practice of deeming is enshrined in this bill, giving it the stamp of approval from the government. Second, there are no protections at all in the current bill to stop the practice. Third, when told that the protections from workers would come via the regulations written by the board, none of those groups was very happy or comfortable. They said that all that would do would be to expand the process and the current practice of deeming even further.
The Deputy Speaker: And the question is?
Miss Martel: Why is the minister so intent on putting in place this unfair and unjust system, as it now currently works at the board, which will only be given the stamp of approval under his new bill?
Hon Mr Sorbara: If the member is suggesting that we are putting into place a system which will allow what she refers to as deeming, I simply want to tell her that I believe she is wrong and I look forward to discussing the particular provisions in committee. I said at the outset that if we need to refine the language, I look forward to that process in committee.
As to her question of why we are proceeding, it is for the very same reason that the New Democratic government in Saskatchewan proceeded in 1979. It is for the very same reason that some five years ago, the government in Quebec instituted a dual award system and that other governments in Canada have done that, with the sole difference that the bill here in Ontario is far more generous and far more responsive to the needs of injured workers than any legislation that stands as a precedent.
Mr Harris: I have a question for the Minister of Housing. Last December, I asked the minister what impact a proposed lot levy tax would have on housing in Ontario. She was unable to provide me with an answer at that time because, incredibly, no impact analysis had been done when the discussion paper was released.
It is now pretty clear that the Treasurer (Mr R. F. Nixon) is going to go ahead with this housing tax. Given the time that has gone by and the obvious commitment of this government to proceed, I again ask the minister if an impact analysis has been done and, if so, if she is prepared to share that analysis with this House.
Hon Ms Hošek: The member opposite knows that this entire question is being considered by the Treasurer and Minister of Economics, and I suggest that the member ask him that question.
Mr Harris: Since the minister does not particularly want to redirect the question, I will come back with a supplementary to the minister, because I am absolutely astounded that, as the ministry responsible for housing, her ministry is not doing impact studies on this or has no knowledge of impact studies being done.
This new housing supply tax is expected to be about $165 million next year. Given the 50-to-1 ratio of existing homes to new ones -- I have checked these figures with the industry -- if the $165-million figure is the right one, it will now add $8 billion to the affordability of the existing stock of housing in this province.
Again, I would ask the minister why, if she has not done an impact study for the Treasurer, with her vested interest in housing she has not undertaken a study of what this tax means to housing affordability.
Hon Ms Hošek: The member opposite knows very well the concern I have about housing affordability in this province and the variety of policy levers and others that we have undertaken to address it. What I said in the first question was that this work is being done. All questions of taxation are being done by the Ministry of Treasury and Economies, as is appropriate. I think it is inappropriate for the member opposite to assume that all of us in this cabinet are not concerned about every major decision that is made in this province and its impact on all the people of the province.
I understand the member opposite was for a while a member of cabinet and does understand something about cabinet government. What we have done in the province is made sure that many of the sources of power we have to make sure that people have housing choices are being used, and I think the member opposite should ask this question of the Ministry of Treasury and Economics.
Ms Poole: My question is for the Minister of Community and Social Services, concerning child care in Metropolitan Toronto. As the minister is aware, Metro council estimated there would be a $28.4-million shortfall this year in funding for new day care centres, because of higher costs in the Metro area. Council has reacted by approving a rate increase of only four per cent to day care operators, rather than the 10 percent they originally deemed necessary.
Advocates and parents alike fear that the latest decision will further threaten the supply of affordable child care in Metro Toronto. May I ask the minister how Metro Toronto’s decision will impact the province’s ability to meet the targets set under New Directions for Child Care?
Hon Mr Sweeney: The targets we set two years ago, which are now in the third year of implementation, have not only been met but in fact have been exceeded, and that is right across the province, including here in Metro Toronto. I would draw to the honourable member’s attention that with the additional 1,000 subsidized spaces which Metro has agreed to accept from the province this year, its total number of subsidized spaces since 1985 has grown from roughly 10,000 up to 19,000. That is almost a doubling.
I would also point out to the honourable member that the total amount of dollars which we have flowed to Metro in terms of increases for this year would be in the neighbourhood of 4 per cent to 4.5 per cent. So I can only presume that Metro is realizing, as the province has realized, that it has to manage with the resources that are available for it. It simply cannot go out and accept higher and higher costs when it does not have the resources to meet those higher and higher costs.
Ms Poole: I have a supplementary about the rate increases. In 1988 and 1989, Metro asked for rate increases in purchase-of-service centres that are much greater than the cost-of-living increases provided by the province. The reason given was the need to raise the salaries of day care teachers.
While I am very sympathetic to that cause, does the minister feel that Metro’s position is justified, given the other enormous pressures we have on day care in Toronto?
Hon Mr Sweeney: The honourable member will be aware of the fact that day care advocates in the various municipalities came to us a few years ago and indicated to us the dilemma between the need to raise the incomes of day care workers and the impact that would have, the increase in fees to parents who would be unable to afford them. On the basis of that, this government decided in 1988 to allocate across Ontario $60 million in direct grants to day care centres. Of that, $16 million went to Metro and that $16 million resulted in an average increase to day care workers of $3,500 annually.
That still means we have a way to go, but that was a very significant increase in one year. That same amount of money will flow this year with a cost-of-living increase, and the whole intent of that was to enable the day care centres in Metro to raise their salaries without impacting upon the fees to parents. If they choose to raise them even more beyond that, then that is something they are going to have to find in terms of those resources.
Mr Pouliot: My question is to the Minister of Municipal Affairs. The minister will be aware that on 12 December 1988 his government opted to freeze the grants to Ontario municipalities at their 1988 level; in other words, no increase on unconditional grants to municipalities across Ontario for 1989. The minister should be cognizant that while hurting all municipalities in Ontario, that kind of impact is more severely felt up north, where people are talking now in terms of $80 per household in municipal taxes just to cover the rate of some 4.6 per cent inflation.
Will the minister make the commitment that he will hand the tools over, in other words adjust the unconditional grants so that the municipalities can provide in a more fair and equitable fashion the essential services that are so badly needed, especially in the northern part of the province?
Hon Mr Eakins: I think we have pointed out on a number of occasions that the unconditional grants are simply one form of helping municipalities. There are many other ways of assisting municipalities. My colleague the Minister of Tourism and Recreation (Mr O’Neil) announced another $7 million today.
The unconditional grants have been held at the same; they have not been reduced. The member must remember that the conditional grants have been increased generally across the province by some 5.4 percent.
I would say to the member that we have also set up with the Association of Municipalities of Ontario a means of reviewing the conditional and unconditional grants, taking into consideration the remarks the Provincial Auditor made in his report.
Mr Pouliot: When the minister mentions so candidly that those unconditional grants represent only a portion, surely he must be aware that they represent a larger portion than what he has in mind. We are talking here about 20.8 percent of the cost of operating a municipality for general purposes.
Consequently, the people of the north are getting a little tired of being the fall guys on the basis that the government is not honouring its commitment. What we are asking the minister to do is just to come across clean and say, “Yes, I will do what is right and I will increase those unconditional grants by the rate of inflation every year.”
Hon Mr Eakins: The honourable member knows that I have visited the north many times. I was there last weekend, and I am sure he was there. I will be there this weekend. I am delighted to see also that this weekend the Provincial Auditor is on the program at the meeting of the Federation of Northern Ontario Municipalities in Blind River.
The member will remember too that in reviewing our grants we have to consider some of the areas that the auditor pointed out to us. For instance, the auditor said that too many municipalities received the resource equalization grant and therefore should be re-examined. He also pointed out, and this is one of the reasons he is going to be in Blind River this weekend, that the northern support grant warrants reassessment.
We believe that the north requires the 18 per cent assistance that is received from this government, and even though the auditor has asked that this be reviewed, I can assure the honourable member that in meeting with the people, we are considering many of the concerns they have raised and we are going to make sure that the northern people are looked after as well as anywhere else. I can assure the member of that.
INSURANCE COMPANY BANKRUPTCY
Mr Runciman: I have a question for the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations about the Guardall bankruptcy. I asked the Minister of Financial Institutions (Mr Elston) last week, but he professed ignorance and fobbed it off on the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations, indicating that he was carrying out a complete investigation of this matter.
The Deputy Speaker: Question?
Mr Runciman: Undoubtedly the minister is aware that the demise of this company has left thousands and thousands of Ontario motorists out in the cold. They purchased extended warranty contracts, something his ministry encourages consumers to do, and now those contracts are useless.
Will the minister tell the House why his government waited until March to shut down Guardall, since it had suspended the licence of Guardall’s underwriting insurance company almost two months beforehand?
Hon Mr Wrye: That is a question on insurance, and I will refer it to the Minister of Financial Institutions.
Hon Mr Elston: First of all, I thank the honourable member for addressing the question in the way he did, because it gives me a chance, of course, to say he was wrong in indicating that I fobbed it off on anybody. I stood up and I indicated what had gone on.
I will tell the member again that with respect to his particular question, he would want to know that there was a different insurance company that was carrying on the sureties activities as of 1 January 1989. It was not Ontario General Insurance Co that was particularly writing new business at that time. That provides the member with at least a partial answer to his current question. I would ask him to have a little more precision in his preamble to his supplementary.
Mr Runciman: That kind of response is not going to provide much solace for the thousands of Ontario consumers who have lost millions of dollars over this fiasco.
Since the minister is now responding, we can deal with the insurance company angle of this. His ministry was notified by the president of Symons General Insurance twice when Mr Ravinsky took over the books and control of that company, a gentleman with no experience in operations of an insurance company, a man who, just four years previous to buying this company, had gone personally bankrupt, and I have some other questions with respect to his personal history which I will not get into this afternoon.
The minister allowed this gentleman to buy the company and that is open to question, but the failure to monitor its operations following his purchase defies explanation. The trustee says that $12 million has been improperly removed from this company and thousands of consumers, people his colleague is supposed to protect, were left out in the cold. It seems to me the government was negligent if not incompetent in respect to this. There is some degree of responsibility upon the minister’s shoulders.
I am just wondering if the government is considering participating in any compensation to the thousands of consumers who have lost money in this fiasco.
Hon Mr Elston: The honourable gentleman should know, if he does not already know, that the department of insurance does not have a veto on who purchases insurance companies on the basis of the sort of background material he has provided.
We do take a look at the material that has an ongoing effect on the operation of the company. I can tell the honourable gentleman, if he and his colleagues care to listen, that there was a five-year management deal that had been worked out by a company which manages not only the insurance company that was subject to winding up, but also other ongoing insurance companies.
Mr Runciman: They left in 1987 and notified your ministry twice and you didn’t do anything about it.
Hon Mr Elston: I can tell the honourable gentleman that from my point of view he is not accurate when he says that there was negligence on the part of the insurance people in the Ministry of Financial Institutions.
The short answer to the question about who is compensating is that the honourable gentleman would like to know that the activities of the receiver who has been appointed are ongoing and that he is looking to the assets as to sufficiency with respect to meeting the ongoing needs of the company. The member is obviously trying to stir up problems before there are indications that problems are actually in existence.
WORKPLACE HAZARDOUS MATERIALS INFORMATION SYSTEM
Mr Elliot: My question is to the Minister of Labour. In the latter part of last year this government introduced the workplace hazardous materials information system or, as it is better known, WHMIS.
The backbone of this legislation was the recognition of the worker’s right to know what types of materials he or she was dealing with and what to do if there was a problem. In order to comply with the worker’s right to know, a key component of the WHMIS legislation involved the production and distribution of educational materials that were paid for by the Ministry of Labour. As I understand it, these materials were developed to ensure that workers recognized and understood what WHMIS meant to them.
Would the minister please clarify for this House what the role of his ministry was in the production of these materials, and does he consider that money well spent?
Hon Mr Sorbara: I want to thank the member for Halton North who, as a distinguished educator, takes an interest in the WHMIS program and I want to thank him for advising me that he was going to raise this matter in the House.
I think his question really is twofold. The first is. how were funds provided? What role did the Ministry of Labour play in the development of the WHMIS package?
What we did, I tell my friend the member for Halton North, is provide a grant to the Occupational Health and Safety Education Authority of the Workers’ Compensation Board. The reason we did that is because that board is really a tripartite body made up of representatives from labour, business and the workers’ compensation system. So it has all the stakeholders in the workplace there.
The development of those materials has been a phenomenal success. They have been made available to large and small businesses. Some of the largest enterprises in Ontario have used these materials for the delivery of the WHMIS program in their workplaces. Indeed, there are businesses from all over Canada -- WHMIS is really a Canadian initiative -- that are now asking Ontario to use these materials, so they have been in big businesses, small businesses, community projects. They really have been everywhere.
By the way, I should add that the grant, which if memory serves me well was about $400,000, has provided as well for the training of instructors who are available to small businesses to implement WHMIS, the workplace hazardous materials information system.
Mr Elliot: I have a supplementary. I also understand these educational materials have sold very well indeed and have in fact become very popular with manufacturers, as the minister just said, despite the presence of alternative educational programs available from the private sector.
Would the minister tell this House what the ministry plans to do with the excess funds generated by the surprising popularity of these materials? Will it use these funds to provide further training in either related or separate areas of occupational health and safety, which is so urgently needed by the working people of Ontario?
Hon Mr Sorbara: The member for Halton North points out that this is really very good news for the government, because having made this investment in producing materials for educational purposes and providing them to workplace parties at a very low cost, we have actually made a substantial profit.
I want to point out that the profit is not directly the property of the Ministry of Labour. As I said, we provided a grant to the Occupational Health and Safety Education Authority, and now the authority, which is made up of representatives of labour and management, is considering how it can utilize these funds and leverage these funds to enhance even further the WHMIS training package.
They are thinking of things like the generation of third-language training materials and the use of programming on TVOntario to deliver the safety message of WHMIS even further. There are a variety of other things, but suffice it to say that it will be an administrative decision of the health and safety authority of the board that will be the final determiner of how those moneys are used.
Mr D. S. Cooke: I have a question for the Minister of Community and Social Services regarding the outreach and attendant care program funded by his ministry.
I would like to ask the minister about two specific cases. Rita Dupuis of my riding has had multiple sclerosis for 15 years. For 10 of those years she has been in a wheelchair. She was recently in the hospital and released from hospital after rehabilitation on the understanding that she would have home support programs through the outreach program run by the Cerebral Palsy Association of Windsor and Essex County.
Scott Mikec is age 18. He is quadriplegic. He was in hospital for a year receiving rehab, and was released and went home on the condition that he would receive assistance at home so he could get ready to go to school.
Both of these people are at home now and they are on a waiting list for the outreach program. They have been on the waiting list for several months. It looks like they are going to be on the waiting list for several more months, since no new additional money has been added to this program by the ministry.
What can we make of the minister’s commitment to home support programs when people like this, hundreds of them, are in need of service and the ministry will not provide it?
Hon Mr Sweeney: I would like to make one correction to the member’s comment. The outreach program in his area began, I believe, in 1986, with an initial grant of about $40,000. The money flowing to that same agency two years later, this immediate past fiscal year, was $149,000.I suggest that is pretty close to a fourfold increase in dollars.
As the honourable member knows, the individual agency is responsible for taking those dollars and deciding where they are best allocated. That is not my decision to make. It is incorrect to say that no new money has gone. A very significant amount of new money has gone.
Mr D. S. Cooke: The minister did not answer the question at all. He can throw out his figure of $149,000, but the fact of the matter is that if Scott were back in the hospital and if Rita were back in the hospital, the cost to this government to keep only these two people in an institution would be more than the entire budget for this outreach program at the Cerebral Palsy Association of Windsor and Essex County.
I would simply like to ask the minister how anyone in this province can believe his government has a commitment to community-based home support programs to keep people out of institutions when deserving people like this are on waiting lists for years and have no prospect of getting assistance. The fact of the matter is that in this program alone more people are on the waiting list than are being served.
Hon Mr Sweeney: I would suggest to the honourable member that when he talks about waiting lists for years, that is a slight exaggeration. He suggested himself that we are talking of a couple of months. I would also draw to the member’s attention that when the agency indicated to us it had some priority cases, we gave it in addition to the money I spoke of before an additional $20,000 to deal with its priority list. It is up to them to decide how to allocate that priority list for an additional $20,000.
ST LAWRENCE SQUARE
Mr Harris: I have another question for the Minister of Housing concerning the St Lawrence Square housing development. Given the minister’s stated goal of 6,000 to 7,000 units and having units ready by 1990 -- this was when she made the splashy announcement about a year ago -- I wonder if the minister could update us today vis-à-vis the status of this project on the environmental cleanup and vis-à-vis the total cost per unit of those 6,000 to 7,000 units in that area.
Hon Ms Hošek: I am glad the member opposite is interested in that particular development. I think everybody in the province was interested and continues to be. The commitment we made at the time of announcing the provincial role in that project was that we would not allow any housing to be built on land that was not environmentally safe. As a result, there is a commitment to make sure the environmental cleanup will take place. Whatever is required to be done to make that a very safe location for housing will be completed.
In order to do that, we estimated the costs involved in the environmental work on that site. The city is overseeing that entire process, while the province has promised the resources in the form of a loan guarantee to allow that cleanup and also for the entire project to continue.
Mr Harris: The question was, what impact will that have on the total cost per unit? One of the things we have concerns about is that these announcements the minister makes make for good headlines, but they are made in isolation of the total overall planning that should be going on and the cost-effectiveness of what she is doing.
I will ask the minister again whether she has an update as to what the per unit cost is proposed to be there. If she is doing any kind of planning at all, given that she must now have some idea what that per unit cost is, can the minister tell us what degree of subsidization will be required to ensure that her goal of 60 per cent of those units being affordable is in fact going to be realized?
Hon Ms Hošek: The member should know that when that project was put together, it involved an enormous amount of very careful work on the part of a large number of ministries, including of course the Ministry of the Environment. It is impossible for us to estimate the actual cost of building because it will take place in stages. However, the development has been proposed on a break-even basis using existing government programs. This government has made a commitment through the nonprofit housing program, and that commitment represents $215 million from nonprofit housing for subsidies in that project over a long period of time.
The member opposite can rest assured that our commitment to making sure housing gets built is very solid and clear. We are going to continue to work together with the municipality to make sure that housing gets built. It is going to involve continuous work. It is already taking place right now. Let me assure the honourable member, since I know he is really concerned about this question, that this land will be environmentally clean and safe when the housing gets built.
HEALTH AND PHYSICAL EDUCATION
Mr Adams: My question is for the Minister of Education. Fitness levels seem to be improving in Ontario, but I am concerned about the health and fitness of our young people. Is his ministry doing enough to improve the health of students in Ontario?
Hon Mr Ward: I want to thank the honourable member for his question on this very important matter. The member will know that currently the new curriculum guideline on health and physical education is undergoing the final stages of validation. We expect that will be completed in the very near future and made available for use in our schools beginning next fall.
The member will also know that the guidelines for the primary and junior divisions make health and physical education mandatory. In addition, in the intermediate division in grades 7 and 8, 80 hours of physical education per year are mandatory as well. It is true, though, that boards do have the opportunity in terms of specific time allotments during the primary and junior divisions, and frankly the emphasis is very much on individual wellness, on encouraging students to make the right choices for a healthy lifestyle. We do recognize the importance of quality physical education in our schools for all age groups.
Mr Adams: I thank the minister for that comprehensive reply. It seems that frequency of exercise is important. It is often suggested that exercise three times each week is necessary for cardiovascular fitness. Does the ministry take frequency of exercise into account?
Hon Mr Ward: The ministry, through the guidelines, certainly encourages establishing an appropriate regimen for each child. In fact, it identifies that a regimen of at least three times a week is the most appropriate. Many boards in this province, the Wentworth County Board of Education for instance, have quality physical education daily. Certainly, that is an approach that is very much encouraged.
Mr B. Rae: I have a question for the Minister of Natural Resources. Together with a lot of other people, I am sure, I was expecting him to make a statement today on the evacuation of two communities on the banks of the Albany River, the communities of Fort Albany and Kashechewan. I want to ask the minister exactly what is going on in these communities. How many people have been moved out and how long does he expect they will be away from their communities?
Hon Mr Kerrio: I certainly would have made a statement if there were grave danger or the need to declare it some kind of emergency. The fact of the matter is that the past Saturday they evacuated some 1,000 people. They have been transferred to Moosonee and Moose Factory. There are about 100 left in the two communities.
I think everything is well under control. We will be monitoring that whole evacuation and when it is appropriate to move people back. I am very pleased if the Leader of the Opposition, having visited the north, has that kind of concern. We have been very much involved in the past. Witness the kind of record this government has with this situation. We moved a whole village and rebuilt a village upstream where they no longer have the kind of risks that exist here.
I want to tell the honourable member that we are monitoring it carefully. At this point in time, there is no great danger. A little bit of colder air swept in that tightened up the situation a little so that the flooding was held to somewhat of a minimum over the past 24 hours.
The Deputy Speaker: Thank you.
Hon Mr Kerrio: If there is an event that should be shared with honourable members here, I will be very pleased to do it.
The Deputy Speaker: Thank you.
Mr B. Rae: I want to say to the minister that if there had been 1,000 people moved out of any other part of Ontario, he would have been on his feet at 1:30 o’clock this afternoon with a statement in this House. That is where he would have been.
I say to the minister, on behalf of the opposition parties, that I expect him to have a statement here tomorrow telling us exactly what the situation is, how many people have been moved out, what the conditions are in those communities, how bad the flooding is and what his plans are to make sure people do not have to be moved 200 or 300 miles in order to deal with a situation that should be dealt with. Flooding ought to be able to be controlled. As I say, if it took place in any other community in this province, he would have been on his feet making that kind of statement and he knows it.
Hon Mr Kerrio: I reject those comments categorically. The member does not know what he is talking about. That watershed on the Albany River is a watershed that neither the member nor anyone else can control. It is flat and when the ice moves in and stops the discharge of the water -- these things happen very regularly in that environment.
Certainly, I would make some comment if it was 1,000 people who were moved for the first time. This is not the case. We are very careful to protect our natives when there is fire, when there are floods and when there is a need to evacuate them, but the member should not tell me that I am doing something quite different from the norm because I will not accept that.
The Deputy Speaker: Order, please. There are a lot of private conversations. The House is still going on.
Miss Martel: I have a petition addressed to the Honourable the Lieutenant Governor and the Legislative Assembly of Ontario and it reads as follows:
“We, the undersigned, petition the government of Ontario to reform the workers’ compensation system in Ontario so that people injured at work get decent pensions, rehabilitation and jobs when they are able.”
It is signed by 66 people from the Canadian Union of Public Employees, Local 24. I have affixed my signature to it and I agree with them entirely.
The Deputy Speaker: There are still many private conversations.
Mr McLean: I have a petition from the Victorian Order of Nurses, Simcoe county branch, and it is addressed to the Lieutenant Governor and the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:
“We, the undersigned, beg leave to petition the Parliament of Ontario as follows:
“We support the expansion of home care and visiting nurses services as the most cost-efficient mode of health care delivery and we therefore want our government to adequately fund the Victorian Order of Nurses.”
I have spoken to the chap who took up the petition. He was well aware of the announcement on Friday, but he wants further funding.
PRIVATE MEMBERS’ PUBLIC BUSINESS
Hon Mr Conway moved that Mr Miclash and Mr Owen, Mr Dietsch and Mr Matrundola, and Mr Pouliot and Mrs Grier exchange places respectively in the order of precedence for private members’ public business.
Motion agreed to.
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS
CITY OF WINDSOR ACT, 1989
Mr D. S. Cooke moved first reading of Bill Pr9, An Act respecting the City of Windsor.
Motion agreed to.
CITY OF WINDSOR ACT, 1989
Mr D. S. Cooke moved first reading of Bill Pr11, An Act respecting the City of Windsor.
Motion agreed to.
MOTOR BOAT OPERATORS’ LICENSING ACT, 1989
Mr McLean moved first reading of Bill 8, An Act to provide for the Licensing of Motor Boat Operators.
Motion agreed to.
Mr McLean: I have an explanatory note with regard to the bill. The bill, which applies only with respect to motor boats propelled by engines of at least 25 horsepower, prohibits the operation of such motor boats by any person who does not have a motor boat operator’s licence.
The bill requires every person to carry a motor boat operator’s licence while operating a motor boat to which the bill applies and to produce it when requested to do so by a police officer. If unable or unwilling to produce the licence, the motor boat operator is required to give the police officer his or her correct name and address.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Hon Mr Conway moved resolution 1.
Reading dispensed with [see Votes and Proceedings].
Motion agreed to.
Hon Mr Conway moved resolution 2.
Reading dispensed with [see Votes and Proceedings].
Motion agreed to.
THRONE SPEECH DEBATE (CONTINUED)
Resuming the adjourned debate on the amendment to the amendment to the motion for an address in reply to the speech of His Honour the Lieutenant Governor at the opening of the session.
Mr Mackenzie: I am pleased to participate in the debate on the government’s throne speech. I guess I should start by simply saying I always have difficulty figuring just exactly what the throne speech is worth and how important it is in this Legislature. My own experience is that if there is a general debate that has a little more meaning and merit, it is the budget debate that will follow the Treasurer (Mr R. F. Nixon) bringing down his budget in another two or three weeks’ time.
My feeling on the throne speech is mixed, mainly because I am not sure it means a heck of a lot. This time around in particular I was more than a little taken aback that this government did not use the occasion to lay out a clear direction, a clear set of policies that it intended to follow and answer some of the criticisms being made of the government at this point in time.
The few measures contained in the speech are no big deal really. What is astounding is that after 19 months of what some would call drift, the government has so little to say, either regarding its own agenda or certainly regarding the needs of ordinary people and their families. We are sort of used to a government that talks a good line. Once again, I really think the Tories probably did a better job in the throne speech than this government has done.
They certainly have not responded, whether it is to injured workers seeking fairer treatment, teachers concerned with their pensions or municipalities facing immense challenges like garbage. This majority government has ignored the problem, it seems, and almost looks as though it is blaming the victim. I think there is an inadequate course being followed today.
The Liberals say they will reform social assistance, but what they have proposed is much less than the first phase of the Thomson report recommendations. Even here, they have hedged the commitment. They say progress will require cooperation from all three levels of government. Just exactly what does that mean? If we do not get it, is the first phase of the Thomson commission report down the drain or are parts of it down the drain?
Anybody, of course, who has followed the debate on this issue knows it has a life almost of its own. As important as all five phases are, we simply have to get on with the first phase, which sets the groundwork for improving people’s lot in life in this province.
Coming just a couple of days before the federal budget and on the heels of a financial squeeze on municipalities, this throne speech really is a truly remarkable statement. The freeze on unconditional grants is only the most visible aspect of the fiscal squeeze imposed by the province. Others include the shifting of court security costs on to municipalities, underfunding of child care, freezing of road grants and a declining level of provincial support for education. The result is higher property taxes and a growing share of local revenues based on regressive taxes. That seems to be this province’s contribution to tax justice, although of course we will not know finally until we actually see the budget.
On pollution, this government seems to have abandoned a polluter-pay policy in favour of a lottery. How symbolic of this government’s record: Environmental cleanup in Liberal Ontario is now part of a game of chance. As somebody has said, the scratch-and-sniff lottery, or there is another joke going the rounds of this place, that the prize you win is a dirty industry, if you win a Cleantario in the deal.
Liberals say that education is among their six priorities. Yet the latest figures show that the provincial share of education funding is at an historic low. Liberals say they will revitalize the elementary curriculum and restructure the secondary school program this session. The select committee on education made it clear that such measures are costly and require new money for class size, teacher retraining and improved counselling supports. Without the money, these can be empty gestures.
The Liberals say they will support apprenticeship and other training arrangements, to help workers overcome barriers to training and employment and to assist the re-employment efforts of workers affected by layoffs and plant closures. I think if we check this against reality, we will see that plants have closed because of the free trade agreement, and there will be more. Yet even with the federal government cutting a billion dollars from unemployment insurance benefits, Ontario has still not pledged an additional dime for retraining. Its only move has been in the workers’ compensation and that has been all bad, a money-pinching scheme that will deprive thousands of workers of permanent pensions.
What was not even mentioned in this throne speech we went through? Car insurance, home care, housing, energy, the nursing shortage, the teacher shortage, post-secondary education, employment equity, the north, health and safety, pensions, employment standards; we could go on and on. We really have to wonder why there were so many things left out of it and so little in general or specific terms raised on the issues that are covered.
It seems to me that if we take a look at the priority area, economic development, the “primary emphasis” is defined as “improving education, training and adjustment programs.” The specific objectives, and I think there were eight of them, are: pursuing new markets; targeting support to industries; supporting the growth of Ontario-based companies in the global economy; fostering an entrepreneurial culture; supporting apprenticeship and other training that combines education and on-the-job training; helping workers overcome barriers to training and employment; assisting the re-employment efforts of workers, especially those affected by plant closures and layoffs -- forgive my cynicism on that one -- and addressing present and anticipated shortages of skilled workers.
The first four are standard Liberal rhetoric, and they reflect the view of successive throne speeches, the centres of excellence program, the work for the Premier’s council. It is rather ironic that two world-class Ontario companies, Connaught Laboratories and Lumonics Software, are about to be taken over by foreign companies and without one single peep by this Peterson government. The last four items on this list, I suggest, are nothing but megahypocrisy.
The trade union movement and educators have been screaming about shortages of skilled workers and the inadequacy of apprenticeship and other job-related training for a decade. So far, this government has done little more than publish documents on the problem. There has certainly been no concerted effort to change things. As for assisting laid-off workers, check against delivery. When the federal government announced a billion-dollar cut in unemployment insurance benefits, most of which flows to workers in Ontario, this government had nothing to say.
Last session, when we pushed them specifically on assistance to workers facing job losses as a result of the free trade agreement, the Premier (Mr Peterson) said it was the federal government’s problem and responsibility. During the last provincial election, they introduced Transitions, for old or laid-off workers, and to date it has been a monumental failure.
Plant closures are now occurring at an increasing rate and are as high now as at any time since the recession. There is not a day that I do not pick up the paper and find a new plant that is closing or thinking of closing in the province.
We have heard nothing from the industrial restructuring commissioner, even though this office was created by this Premier more than a year ago. The proportion of jobs in Ontario paying at or near the minimum wage has increased by more than 15 per cent since 1981. I have to seriously question the comments that have been made.
There are a number of other points in the throne speech that do not match up and could be criticized on a point-by-point basis, but I want to deal with a few other issues first.
I was pleased to see the deficit of the Victorian Order of Nurses picked up. I think this is one of the areas where -- well, I guess there are several areas -- the demographics of our province are clear. We have a rapidly growing older population in Ontario and that should give us some clear directions in terms of health care, of the need for home care and homemakers, of the need for Meals on Wheels and of the need for assistance to keep our older people in their homes as long as possible. I do not think it takes any particular brains to realize clearly that has to be a major focus of the government’s direction.
Do we see it in terms of some of the social services that are provided? I do not think we would find the Red Cross saying it really sees it, and there are certainly a number of other organizations, one of them being the VON.
As happy as I am to see their deficit picked up, I note that that is all that was picked up. It does nothing with the ongoing funding problems they are going to have. With an annual budget of $80 million, I think we can see the size and the scope of the VON operation and the need to make sure that this organization is able to move ahead.
If we want to shift the health care system away from institutions and towards community-based care, it has to be more than just rhetoric and it has to be the ongoing funding, not just getting an organization such as the VON out of an immediate hole of a $2.5-million or $3-million shortfall or deficit in its funding. I think we have simply got to see a response that has a heck of a lot more meat in it than that.
I could not help but be impressed by a letter I received just this past week from a gentleman who had really taken a serious look at the financial problems of the VON. He wrote a letter to me that I think says most of it. This gentleman is a prominent citizen in my riding, a QC, and he wrote the following letter to the Premier and sent a copy of it to me.
“Recently, I have discovered the ongoing situation financially with the Victorian Order of Nurses, Hamilton-Wentworth branch and the Ontario branch. It has been my privilege for the last 50 years to have been a member of all of the boards of the Hamilton-Wentworth branch, provincial branch and the Victorian Order of Nurses for Canada, having served in many offices and being a life member of both the Victorian Order of Nurses, Hamilton-Wentworth branch and a founding member of the Victorian Order of Nurses for Ontario.
“I hold this office in addition to a number of other offices within the community and feel compelled to express my feelings, both as a citizen of the province of Ontario but also because of the services which have been rendered to my wife through the past two years by the Hamilton-Wentworth branch.
“When I was a founding member of the Victorian Order of Nurses, Ontario branch, I attended, on behalf of the then existing branch, on the departments in an effort to obtain assistance for the needs of what was then a very active and growing branch of the national office. It was my experience, along with the superintendent of the Ontario branch, to attend before the ministry and to request funds to assist the extension of the service.
“Ironically, at that time the government felt that $10,000 was enough money to be given to the 52 then existing branches in Ontario and, as treasurer of the body, it was my duty to calculate the distribution of the $10,000 among the then existing 52 branches. Needless to say, the amount allocated to each of the branches was very minimal.
“Through the years, the need of the Victorian Order of Nurses has grown and has relieved the hospital care of many patients, particularly after a protracted illness in hospital. Home care has entered into the picture to a great extent and the rendering of service of inestimable value.
“Personally, from my own experience, my wife suffered a very severe stay in the hospital over six weeks and then received nursing service for another two to three months upon her return home. She would have been one of those who would have had to attend outpatient attendance three or four times a week. Needless to say, such attendance would not only be expensive in so far as hospital care and attention was concerned but also expensive and difficult on her personally.
“The nurses who attended our home were understanding, capable and were evidence of the need for health service during the period of recovery. Personally, I cannot speak too highly of the service rendered, and this had been the first personal occasion for my having to call upon the VON in all of the years that I have served as a member of the board.
“With the greatest of respect, I would humbly submit that the government does not seem to see that VON is a service which might be called ‘a hospital without walls’. The hospitals are a necessity for immediate care of ill patients, but VON is a hospital the cost of which when compared to hospital care and the lack of beds is beyond comprehension. It would appear that the department of health does not realize the true significance of the role that VON is playing and how many elderly citizens are being cared for in their homes who ordinarily would be filling hospital beds.
“The services, in case you are not aware of them, in the particular branch to which I have the honour of being a member of the board of governors and life member, and an active member and also honorary solicitor, render not only nursing care, home care, home visiting, volunteer care, day care and many other services, as well as being a valuable go-between between the needy patient, who incidentally is never turned down for lack of money, and as an advertisement for care which the government is attempting, through some media, to illustrate cannot be replaced.
“I feel there is a misunderstanding on the part of the department of health in not supporting the needs of VON. As I understand it, at the present moment there is only provision for four per cent for the year 1988-89, whereas our request was for a seven per cent increase. Surely someone with an analytical mind can see that the VON cannot continuously have a deficit, which at the present moment is well in excess of $2 million and will continue to grow.
“The ordinary patient cannot continue to pay greater fees than those that are being charged, and I would respectfully submit that there is a degree of indifference existing, and certainly not a realistic approach to a need that is so great, so money-saving to the government, and yet is not being recognized. It would appear that other sections of the country from time to time are receiving assistance via the various routes, department of highways, sports, even the dome stadium.
“If the health department wishes to practice what it preaches, particularly with various conditions existing at the present time such as AIDS, smoking, heart and lung disease and the multitude of other conditions, many of which are in fact being attended to under the aegis of the Victorian Order of Nurses and its various branches throughout the Dominion of Canada.
“Sir, you have been”--this is, of course, a letter directed to the Premier -- “a resident of London, Ontario for many years and must have some knowledge of the work being carried on by the order there. If you would not, I would respectfully suggest that maybe it would be a good time to have a review of the situation as applicable to the London branch, keeping in mind the number of branches existing throughout the province for which you, sir, are the Premier and, I would hope, an advocate of health, not only through the medium of the department of health of the province of Ontario but through its extended interests.
“There is possibly another factor of which you are not aware, but many of the senior citizens of Ontario are being served in their homes, whereas if there were not any nursing service, they would all be confined to nursing homes, which as you are aware, likewise are almost unavailable in many instances.
“As a practising solicitor, it is interesting to note in checking the columns of the Hamilton Spectator and the Globe that there are three times as many death notices contained in the Spectator and the Globe on an ordinary day as opposed to births. This should be some indication of the need for the elderly as well, and let us, with all sincerity, approach the future knowing full well that the people who have maintained the province of Ontario are now the senior citizens who need tender loving care and attention such as that given by the Victorian Order of Nurses.
“I am sure, from my own knowledge, that my grandchildren feel exactly the same way and that the senior citizens should be given the attention so badly required. We all realize there are certain limitations, but those limitations should be sorted out, and the ones that are really the major ones should not be limited.
“I realize this note has been much longer than I intended it to be, but I would ask you, sir, that you would personally consider the matter, and I would even deem it a privilege to receive your personal reply.”
It seems to me that letter from a very prominent citizen in our community, and one who has all his life been involved, written to the Premier with an awful lot of feeling, is an indication of how most of the citizens in this province feel. Certainly the feeling is that we simply have to change our priorities. This throne speech certainly does not set that direction. I am not sure what we will see in the budget speech.
As well, I want to deal with the St Peter’s Hospital issue in my constituency. Folks at St Peter’s had a study done by the ministry that verified their argument that it is receiving less per capita than comparable hospitals in Ontario. It is an institution that is extremely well thought of in our community.
They waited a long time, trying to get a meeting with the Minister of Health (Mrs Caplan) and an even longer time trying to argue out the needs they had to meet the requirements of St Peter’s Hospital in Hamilton and to upgrade the standards in the work they are doing, which is rather remarkable. Their request was for $2.6 million. They were a long, long time in getting a response. They actually got 19 per cent of this $2.6 million in each of two years. The funding is simply not enough.
In 1987, when the request for enhanced funding was first initiated, comparable facilities in Ontario were funded at a level to provide the equivalent of 60 minutes’ more services per patient per day. The increased funding awarded St Peter’s will allow only 10 minutes’ additional therapy and services per patient per day each year over the next two years.
On 28 April, the hospital wrote to the Minister of Health stating quite clearly that the amount of enhanced funding was inadequate and reiterated the need for the full $2.6 million. I am hoping that request is going to be looked at.
I could get into the study that was done, the verification of the case that was made by St Peter’s, but I will not; instead -- I do not often use editorials out of the Hamilton Spectator -- I am going to use an article out of the Hamilton Spectator, an editorial of May 6. It says:
“At St Peter’s, the wrong decision.” I think we have made too many wrong decisions in our direction in this province in the past while, but the editorial in the Hamilton Spectator of 6 May says it very effectively.
“By shortchanging Hamilton’s St Peter’s Hospital. the province missed an opportunity to better achieve its goal of providing more care for the elderly in their homes and communities as opposed to institutions.
“St Peter’s, one of the most innovative geriatric care facilities in Ontario, deserves more than it was given by the Health ministry. Only $1.01 million of a $2.6-million request for additional staff and supplies at St Peter’s was approved.
“The hospital was denied its full request even though the ministry’s own consultants acknowledged a year ago that more staff was needed to enable St Peter’s to provide the same level of service provided for chronic care patients in other parts of Ontario.
“Health Minister Elinor Caplan recognizes the value of St Peter’s, but indicates the province can’t do more, given available resources. This comes from a government that evidently has the resources to launch a highly questionable expansion of kindergarten, for which there hasn’t been great demand.
“St Peter’s is a far cry from the traditional image of a chronic care hospital. It is not a virtual warehouse of beds where older patients with varying health problems slowly deteriorate, with little hope of regaining some activities of daily living and a measure of independence.
“St Peter’s has developed an array of high-calibre therapeutic programs and services which help patients regain lost capabilities. A typical success is a woman who was admitted after suffering a stroke at age 70.
“The patient had lost the power of speech and movement, but made a remarkable recovery after a year of intensive therapy in the hospital’s reactivation program. At 71, she was able to go home again.
“Case histories like these illustrate the importance of St Peter’s to this community. The hospital needs 40 additional staff members to ensure that adequate time and attention can be spent on each patient, to help them to return to the community earlier, and to reduce waiting lists at a time of growing demand.
“St Peter’s officials point out their hospital has always balanced its budget, whereas other hospitals have chalked up deficits and been bailed out by the province. Understandably, they feel as if they are being penalized.
“Surely, it’s as important for the ministry to provide financial incentives to hospitals which keep their houses in order, as it is to come to the rescue of those which have overspent. Trying to save dollars at the expense of St Peter’s is not only unfair but shortsighted, given the ageing of the population.
“The ministry contradicted itself by rejecting more than half the funding St Peter’s needs to better deliver the quality of care which the government ostensibly believes in. Its tightfisted answer should not be accepted as final.”
I would like to underline that. They have kept within their budget. They are getting less than comparable hospitals right across Ontario. They made their case, and the ministry’s own investigators who were sent in made the case effectively, that the figures and what they were saying were accurate and that they had lived within their budget and not built up deficits from which there was a request to bail them out. For this, they are being penalized. Is that the message that is clearly going out in Ontario to a very respected institution like St Peter’s? I have to tell members that is the message that s being taken in the city of Hamilton.
Let me deal with one or two other areas. I was going to go into the problems at Chedoke-McMaster Hospitals and the cutbacks that are required in another area dealing with rehabilitation and the needs of people. I will not because one of my colleagues in this House, the member for Burlington South (Mr Jackson), I believe, asked some specific questions on the extent of the cutback and just what it was going to do in terms of the needs of people in our community.
What the kinds of cutbacks there -- the kind of drop in the number of people who will be treated -- for certain services are going to do mean larger costs down the road and more institutionalization. We are simply not addressing that problem.
But the problems cover a lot of other areas as well. A piece out of the 3 May copy of the Hamilton Spectator states: “Funding to Prevent Wife Abuse Criticized. Women’s shelter group says $5.4 million just a token. Battered women’s shelters have attacked the Ontario government’s $5.4-million increase in funding for wife assault prevention programs as a token gesture.” It goes on. I will not go into all the details in this particular story. Most members, I suspect, have had similar experiences in their own communities.
I do know that I have assisted the board of one institution in our town. I have worked with some of the others such as the interval houses, and I can tell members that they are not happy. They are not meeting the need. They are not beginning to meet the need. They are not breaking the backlog in an area where we are saying all of a sudden, “Hey, this is one of our priority areas and this kind of mistreatment and abuse of women must end.” We are not going ahead. We are not increasing the budgets to the percentages at all. As the publicity is out, there is more awareness now of the needs and of what can be done, but once again this government does not seem to be moving in the direction of assisting in that area.
It strikes me that all of these also add up as a small part, although many of them are separate, in the first phase of the Thomson report. If, as I fear, we also are not going to see the complete action of the Thomson report, one has to ask the question of just exactly what has happened to our priorities.
Has this government reached a pretty firm decision that we are not our brother’s keeper? It is an old saw. Maybe it is an old saw that was more used in socialist circles than some others, but one of the things that has kept me going as long as I have been in the political field is that I may not do the right thing at all times, but I have a firm belief that we are our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers, that this all-right-Jack society we are part of today is not a good direction to be heading in and that we are not meeting the challenge of being our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers in this society.
I do not think that is just a saying and that it is trite, small or something that somebody will wear a halo trying to say. I think it is an obligation of all elected members in Ontario. I have to tell members I do not see that happening.
I wonder sometimes just whom the government is listening to. I am not going to give it much attention, but I could not help but get a little chuckle -- it was the only thing that was worth doing -- out of a recent memo the National Citizens’ Coalition sent around. Some members probably have read it. It attacks funding and says this is the reason for all our troubles in this country, for feminist groups, the National Action Committee on the Status of Women which they say is a left-wing think tank or whose political agenda is indistinguishable from the New Democratic Party according to Mr Somerville’s comments.
The Ministry of Labour, for example, has supposedly given $10 million to the Canadian Labour Congress to train union organizers. My understanding is it is for the training of safety and health people in programs, but I guess you can play fast and loose with the facts in a document like this. The NCC says a disarmament fund has given millions of our tax dollars to groups which work to render Canada defenceless. It goes on to talk about the “deep-sixing of the Nielsen task force recommendations for government spending cuts in 1985. Remember the shelving of the Forget commission, reform proposals for unemployment insurance?” They wanted it cut long before we saw this current cut. They talk about a number of other services to people, which they call left-wing pressure groups, always appearing in the newspapers and on talk shows; they ask us to consider our taxes and tell these groups that the tax trough is not the way to go.
The interesting thing is that every single one of them is a group that has something to do or something to say about the needs of ordinary people, the various programs such as wife abuse, some of the programs I have been talking about.
Are these the people, is it Mr Somerville and the National Citizens’ Coalition, that this government is listening to? I hope not.
In terms of most members, I do not think that is who they are listening to, but certainly if you read their ideas and their diatribe, and it is a rather sick diatribe against the needs of ordinary people, you would have to wonder, because some of what they are saying in terms of the restraint and the cutbacks we are seeing today is showing itself in the throne speech. I just hope to heaven it does not show itself in the budget as well.
I think also that we have seen little in the way of improvements for working people in this province or for improving working people’s standards. I know that is not popular with a number of members in this House, but I think it is further evidence of the direction we should be going and of a civilized society.
I think it is worth mentioning some of the bills we have moved in this House, and from time to time others have moved in committee or at one level or another have been discussed, none of which has seen the light of day. The Pension Benefits Act to prevent employers from removing funds from a pension plan: that particular bill was almost prophetic. It was Bill 30, I think, the last time I moved it in this House.
Certainly, while the defenders will say, “Oh, it is not the definitive answer yet,” the Ontario Hydro pension rulings of the court clearly suggest that the fight we have been carrying on for a good many years in Ontario, that pension funds and surpluses building up in pension funds are in lieu of wages and belong to the workers involved and should be used to enhance, improve or index their pension plans, and that companies being able to remove excess amounts from these pension plans was, as far as we were concerned, as we have stated in this House, little more than theft -- it seems to me that court ruling has gone a long way to say, “Hey, you folks were right.” When are we going to stop?
We froze for a while the companies’ taking out excess, over and above what was needed to cover the actual terms of the pension. We froze the ability of the companies to take the money out, to add it, if you like, into the corporate treasury or the general revenue of the corporation. What we did not stop -- I ask members of this House how it is any different -- was the right of the same company, where it could not go in and pick up $20 million that was surplus in that fund, to decide that for the next year, two years or three years, it was not going to make the payments, usually by contract, into the fund. All of a sudden, it is okay; you cannot directly lift it or steal it any more, but you can sure as heck get it by the back door simply by not making your contributions for a period of time.
Of course, that is what had been happening at Hydro and we now have the court ruling on it. I think that is going to lead to litigation and challenges right across Ontario, but I am saying to members of this House that I do not know how there could have been a more effective case made for our argument that surpluses in those pension funds belong to the workers and should be used, one way or another, for enhancing their pension plans. I think that case is absolute.
I think one of the promises made by this government during the accord period, one of four it did not carry out, although it established a committee to look at it, was the indexing of private pensions. We are no nearer to it today. What we do see is indexing in the future and indexing at a percentage even less than some of the recommendations made by some of the committees. Once again, it clearly does not give us any confidence that this government is moving in a direction that is really going to benefit ordinary workers in the province.
There are a number of other bills I would commend to the House again, such as the one to amend the Employment Standards Act to provide a public audit board to require plant closure justification. I know that is too much interference with business for the Tories. They have never bought it. There was at least discussion of that with the Liberals. That also was another of the four of the 22 accord items, with the signature of the Premier on it, to be looked at, on which we have not, as far as I know, seen a single, solitary move since 1985. What is it now, 1989? That is four years.
What good was that promise worth in the accord? It was clearly there: justification, improvement, severance, the works in terms of plant closures. We have seen no move on it whatsoever. I would predict now, much as I hate to, that we will not see any move on it by this particular government. I think that is a sellout of the hopes people had. I think it is a clear indication that the company rules: “We cannot require justification. Somehow or other we might see a loss of investment or additional jobs in this province.”
Create the Disabled Persons Employment Act: It was a percentage basis, true. It was not, I say to many of my colleagues on both sides of the House, because I was enamoured of percentages. But the figures have not changed. Back in 1976, I think, which was the first year I asked questions about the percentage of disabled and handicapped people who were working, it was something like 15 per cent; 85 per cent were not working. The figures just last year were almost identical.
Year after year as we would ask this question in the Labour estimates, we would find that the figures were not changing. It was not because a quota system was the answer, although a lot of countries have it. But I have been asking that question in the Labour estimates for 10 or 11 years without a percentage, real improvement in the situation. I think it says that we have to look at something else.
Maybe it should be, subject to additional taxes, that if you have any kind of exemption because of the nature of your business, companies should be required to employ one, two or three per cent of the disabled and handicapped people across Ontario. It is much better for their peace of mind, for their mental health, for the status of our community and for the way we look at and treat people if these people are working. It is where they are able to work that I am talking about now, or do something, rather than not being able to work.
It is surprising how wide that net is. It is surprising the number of people with minor cases such as petit mal epilepsy who can make 30, 40 and 50 job searches. I had one young chap who had done something like 160 job searches and did not get hired because of an epileptic condition. In his case, it was not even a serious one, but the minute it was reported, that was the end of his chances. I am simply saying that particular young man would have been an excellent employee, in my opinion. We sure tried. We got a number of interim jobs, but almost always at the very lowest end of the pay scale. It seems to me that we have not come to grips with the needs and hopes of disabled people in our society.
Amend the Education Act to allow local boards to provide medical and insurance benefits to retired employees: The recent changes did not cover this specific request from some of the education union people.
Amend the Employment Standards Act to provide a leave of absence clause for employees elected to political office: It does not apply across the board on a provincial basis and it should.
Amend the Public Commercial Vehicles Act to improve safety by clearing the area in front of the white line on buses and streetcars: I have been arguing that case. It was argued very strongly by the transit drivers here in Toronto who can attribute at least a couple of deaths and several injuries to the fact that trolleys and buses had to pull away from the curb. They could not see because people were crowded right up to the door, whereas in most cities in Ontario, you are required to step back of the white line opposite the driver’s seat in the vehicle.
When this government was first elected as a minority, I went to the Minister of Transportation (Mr Fulton), told him of my concern, showed him a copy of the bill I had already moved for a number of years and suggested he meet with the transit union people. He did; it took some time, but right after that he also met with the Toronto Transit Commission. The transit union people thought that maybe they had made the case and that the pushing we had done for years was going to get us somewhere. But the Minister of Transportation had only one meeting with the transit commission and my, how his attitude changed.
If he were here, I suspect he would admit -- I presume he is an honourable man -- what he told me when I first brought the bill to him: “It is a health and safety matter. That does make sense. I’m interested. We’ll see what we can do.” I could raise it with him now and I would get a laugh; it is dead. This is three or four years after. Why is it dead? It is dead because the transit commission says, “Oh, well, if you force us to do that, even though it is in place in a number of other cities in the province of Ontario, we’re going to have to put so many more vehicles on in the immediate rush hour and there’s so much more cost.”
Cost obviously carried the day, in the arguments of the transit commission. It sure as blazes was not the arguments of safety or of the transit drivers or, indirectly, I would suggest, of the public in the city of Toronto when that bill went down the drain.
Create political rights for public servants; amend the Labour Relations Act to include security guards in the same bargaining unit as the employees in the plant they are in: amend the Labour Relations Act to deal with attempts to replace union or progressive union employees with nonunion employees -- part of the contracting out battle we have in so many establishments -- who are mostly women, mostly immigrant, mostly new citizens, whether it is cleaning or food services operations; amend the Labour Relations Act to provide coverage for agricultural employees in an industrial or factory setting, and I want to deal with that one in a little more detail in just a moment; amend the Labour Relations Act to prevent the hiring of strikebreakers; amend the Employment Standards Act to provide three additional public holidays; amend the Employment Standards Act to provide additional vacation time based on length of service.
Incidentally, those are not wild, pie-in-the-sky suggestions. Ontario is not leading the field in statutory holidays today. You would think our province probably should be one of the leaders in stat holidays, but it is not. It is also not leading the field in terms of paid vacation. I guess we have used it so often that nobody listens any more, but after a year’s service you are now entitled to six weeks’ vacation with pay in Sweden. Very few union contracts have to include vacation in them any more. We have two here, and it is not total, and we have not moved. There are provinces that have three weeks. We do not do very well compared to most of western Europe in this province of ours, but we sure have not moved in an awful lot of years in terms of updating our statutory holidays and vacations with pay act.
Employment Standards Act amendments to protect workers in contracting out and amend the Employment Standards Act to reduce the workweek here in Ontario.
There are a number of others I could mention, but I am going to deal with one only -- once again, it has been a long while since we last dealt with it -- and that is, amend the Labour Relations Act to provide coverage for agricultural employees in an industrial or factory setting.
I went back to the bill, which has been re-moved year after year and which we will do again this year. Bill 39 was the last time we moved it. Let me read the members a description of the bill and then the shortcomings of our present system.
“The purpose of the bill is to clarify that the Labour Relations Act applies to employees who are engaged in agricultural employment in an industrial or factory setting.” That was done purposely to try to remove some of the fears that we were constantly getting from our farm community and our farmers.
“Clause 2(b) of the act currently states that the act does not apply ‘to a person employed in agriculture.’ This provision has been interpreted broadly by the Ontario Labour Relations Board to exclude from the act persons whose employment relates to agriculture but who are employed in organizations that resemble industrial plants.”
How did that particular bill of mine come about? It came about as a result of some 100-odd workers in Picton, I think it was, organizing in a mushroom farm or factory -- take your choice. There was a Campbell Soup plant across the road from them that was organized. These workers signed up; over 70 per cent attempted to get certification and were denied it because they were agricultural workers as it is classed in the Labour Relations Act.
When we brought the case before this House 10 or 11 years ago, what were we able to tell the members? We were able to tell them that (1) the 100-odd employees
worked three eight-hour shifts
-- it was an around-the-clock operation, (2) they punched in -- a factory clock setting -- and punched out and (3) they worked on a moving assembly line production. It was as close to a factory setting as you could get and not one of them actually had anything to do with farming, but they were denied their rights because they were classed as agricultural employees.
It seems to me that was stretching it, and we have not seen this government -- even though we have re-moved that every year or the Minister of Labour has taken a look at whether or not it has not taken it too far.
Why have I raised it again? Why have I singled it out? There are more important private bills there in the lot that I have raised with you. Well, I guess it is because of a case that my colleague the member for Windsor-Riverside (Mr D. S. Cooke) raised in the House the other day, and that is the unfortunate death, once again on a corporate mushroom farm, Highline Produce, near Windsor, just a short period of time ago.
Letters on this have gone to the Solicitor General (Mrs Smith) and to the Minister of Labour (Mr Sorbara). There are a number up here; I am just trying to pick out the one which best states the case, and I may not have the very best one. This is to the Minister of Labour.
“Dear Mr Minister:
“On March 1, I wrote requesting that you seriously consider extending the health and safety legislation afforded most workers in Ontario to farm workers in light of the recent accident in my region that took the life of Ms Chou Ngoy Kim.
“There now appears to be a very good chance that Chou Ngoy Kim’s accident will never be given the thorough public review that it clearly deserves. Coroner Dr Maurice Bull has decided against an inquest into this death. And since your ministry cannot investigate the unsafe conditions which led to Kim’s death, it will not be investigated to ensure this kind of accident does not happen again.
“Recent reports in the Windsor Star about workers’ fears for their safety at the mushroom operation clearly indicate the need for investigation and action. As Minister of Labour, I believe you would want to ensure that an unsafe work environment, regardless as to whether it is covered by legislation or not, is made safe for 55 workers.
“To this end I am calling on you to prevail upon the Solicitor General to ensure a coroner’s inquest is held into the death of Chou Ngoy Kim.
“Of course, the real answer to helping to ensure safety in the agricultural workplace is by extending Ontario’s health and safety legislation. However, I trust you will agree that the death at Highline mushroom farm deserves to be investigated by a coroner so recommendations can be made to improve the safety at this plant.”
Those workers are not covered under the industrial health and safety deal, just as they are not covered under the Labour Relations Act. Can any member in this House sitting here honestly justify that and not only the fact that will there be no inquest as we understand it but also the fact that they have no coverage, and that the Ministry of Labour, because they are not covered, cannot enter into the case? I do not how one would justify it. One would have to use some twisted logic, as far as I am concerned, to justify that lack of basic coverage.
I was particularly disappointed in the throne speech as well because it simply did not give any clear direction in terms of the housing problem that exists in the province. There are so many issues in terms of housing that I could raise, but suffice for the moment to go with one. It is a letter I wrote back in March to the Minister of Housing (Ms Hošek). It concerns the tenants at 2520 Barton Street East and 45 Barlake Avenue in Hamilton.
“These 200 tenant families have had to suffer through seven delays over the past two years in order to recover the illegal rents charged since 1985 by their landlord, 457012 Ontario Ltd. Some tenants are owed up to $1,900, but still another appeal hearing set for March 30, 1989, has been given to this landlord, who has constantly avoided submitting the necessary documents for a decision to be made.
“There have now been two official rulings to grant the tenants their deserved rebates, but another appeal is still being allowed. Dr Ratna Ray, chair of the Rent Review Hearings Board, has described this situation as ‘No more than a farce.’
“Does the minister agree with her own chairperson that the situation, where the landlord is able to avoid paying back illegal rent increases for two years by endlessly delaying the appeal system, shows that this rent review system is no more than a farce? Will the minister take action to end this abuse of the appeal hearings system so that the tenants of 2520 Barton Street East and 45 Barlake Avenue in Hamilton can immediately get the rent rebates that are owed to them?”
Over a number of years, there have been rulings that they have to be paid. On one occasion the chairman of the board, the same Dr Ratna Ray, said that the landlord should either come in at the next hearing with all of the documents or that was it. The landlord’s lawyer came back in at the next hearing, the third or fourth hearing, without any of the documents and they were granted yet a further extension.
I guess what I am saying to the minister is, forgive us for saying in this House again and again that something stinks in terms of the Ministry of Housing and the rent review process.
Another letter I got from a lady in my constituency, dated 4 May, asks questions that are difficult to answer. It is a short letter and she writes to me as follows:
“Dear Mr Mackenzie:
“I purchased a condominium at the above address. I have paid a $20,000 deposit. I have also been paying $850 rent from 6 January. I was told I would pay two months’ rent as the building would be registered 1 March. I was told this by Effort Trust Real Estate. I am due to pay another month’s rent 6 May. That will be five months now.
“As far as I know, there have been people living in the building since November and the building still has not been registered. My lawyer called the lawyer for the building and was told it is in the hands of Queen’s Park. My lawyer has told me to hold back the 6 May rent. I have the money in the bank to pay off the balance of the condominium, but if it goes on like this for much longer, I won’t have it.
“We are paying all this money and they don’t even have a superintendent in the building. I would appreciate it, sir, if you could help me in this matter by finding out what is really going on.
“Yours truly,” and she has signed her name to it.
Quite frankly, even from the answers to the questions, and we have asked some pretty specific ones in this House, I do not know what is going on. I do not think any of us do. If the Liberal members do, then maybe out of decency they should tell us. I do not think the minister knows what is going on either in terms of the housing problem here in Ontario.
Let me deal with another one that really does upset me. We raised it in the House just the other day. I am now entering into the field of health and safety and talking about the Dome Mines accident. This is a little better than a year ago now, but we are still waiting for the inquest that will be held. I think this is one of the most devastating indictments of the Ministry of Labour that I have seen in the 13 1/2 or 14 years I have been in this House.
I am going to read into the record -- it is three and a quarter pages -- a letter to “Mr P. Kovisto, PEng, Director, Mining Health and Safety Branch, Ministry of Labour, 144 Pine Street, Third Floor, Sudbury, Ontario.”
The letter is from Norm Carriere, who happens to be the co-ordinator, occupational health and safety, senior staff person, United Steelworkers of America, operating out of the office here in Toronto; an ex-employee, I might say, of the Sudbury region.
This, to me at least, is a real indictment of this ministry and of our approach to health and safety in Ontario. Members opposite may not agree with me -- I know partisanship plays a role in this House -- but I think they are going to have difficulty in answering the questions asked and the issues raised in this letter. What does it say?
“Re Dome Mines Ltd fatal accident 20 February 1989.
“I have reviewed the written report from our health and safety representative who investigated the accident which resulted in the death of three of our members. It is hard to believe that after all the attention given to safety in Ontario mines in the last 15 years, starting with the Ham commission, that such an accident was allowed to happen.
“It is a well-known fact that a large percentage of mining fatalities are attributed to fall of ground. The Burkett inquiry in 1980 confirmed that fall of ground was a major cause of fatalities and lost-time accidents in the mining industry. In 1984, following a major rockburst at a Falconbridge mine, where four miners were killed, the government appointed the provincial committee of inquiry into ground control and emergency preparedness in Ontario mines. The committee found that in the 20-year period ending in 1984, there were 82 deaths attributable to falls of ground, which represented about one third of all underground fatalities. Surely we have learned enough about the damages of poor ground condition and loose in a mine to know that mining areas where bad ground exists or where ground movement occurs are always potential hazards.
“Special attention must be given to such areas to make sure that the mining is always done according to the plans that every precaution possible is taken to protect workers from exposure to loose and that the regulations are complied with. The accident occurred in the same stope where a miner was killed in 1981 from falling ground while he was scaling.
“On 20 October 1981, after the fatality, the company submitted a mining plan for the purpose of continuing to mine this dangerous area referred to as 1081 number 6 stope. In the plan, under the heading of ground control, the company submitted that eight-foot rock bolts would be used rather than six-foot bolts. This plan was submitted to the mining health and safety branch in Timmins. My guess is that the plan was prepared by a professional engineer and that the reasons for the use of eight-foot bolts and 1081 number 6 stope were because of the unusually bad ground conditions in that stope.
“The 1081 number 6 work area had an access raise which workers used to enter the stope and could travel from the access raise to a mill hole and manway which were in an easterly direction. The crew” -- this, I think, is where, to me, and I know the union’s position, it is simply nothing short of criminal -- “had shown concerns about the ground conditions in this stope on February 17 and had requested the advice of rock mechanics. When the shift boss and the company rock mechanic visited the stope, they concluded that there was a slip in the back, located in the travelway between the access raise and the mill hole and manway. The shift boss referred to this as a wedge. They also found that the back where the slip was located was drumming,” which is just a condition for unsafe rock, “which can only indicate that it was loose and potentially hazardous.
“The rock mechanic concluded that it was potentially hazardous, that two members of the crew were aware of the potential danger of this wedge falling. The rock mechanic also stated that he and the shift boss” -- listen to this -- “walked under this area at least a couple of times.”
They did not say anything to the crew that was there while they were doing it, but the message that was clearly taken by the workers was that if the rock mechanic and the shift boss can walk under this loose area, it cannot be that bad.
“The crew had only used six-foot bolts in this area and there were no eight-foot bolts in the stope or on the level. The rock mechanic suggested eight-foot bolts to make sure they would go through the loose and anchor in solid ground.
“When the shift boss and rock mechanic were inspecting the loose, only two crew members were in the stope. Two other workers had gone down to work on the mill hole, which was hung up. The only orders they gave the crew were that they were to bolt from the access raise side of the stope and use eight-foot roof bolts and six-foot split bolts, that they should use posts when roof-bolting.”
Then there is reference to the sections of the regulations that I read into the record. These are the direct regulations as a result of the 1980, 1981 and 1984 meetings that clearly decided anew that loose was the chief killer in mines and what had to be done.
“Subsection 63(2) of the regulation states, ‘Where a ground condition indicates that a rockburst or uncontrollable fall of ground may occur, the condition shall be recorded in writing by the supervisor on the work shift and signed by him, and the record shall describe the state of corrective measures taken.’
“The shift boss recorded sealing raise and bolting posts, secure back. Nothing to indicate that a fall of ground may occur. The only corrective action taken from his report was to secure back, and no orders or measures to ensure that no one walks under the unsafe ground until the securing of the back was complete.
“Even more important, section 65 of the regulations clearly states that ‘Where there is a danger or hazard to a worker, the same shall be
‘(a) closed by barricades, fencing or other suitable means; and
‘(b) warning signs shall be posted.’
“Any competent supervisor or rock mechanic would know that travelling under this location was hazardous and should have ordered the area closed until it was made safe. Had section 65 of the regulations been complied with, the crew would have been ordered to work from good ground, which was on the access raised side of the stope. Barricades would have been installed with signs across the travelway on the mill hole side of the stope and clear instructions should have been given to the two crew member workers on the mill hole not to use the travelway under the loose until it was secured.”
Had this been followed, we would not have had three miners killed on 20 February 1989; I remind members this was three days after they had raised this dangerous condition with the supervisor and rock mechanic. Incidentally, the ministry people were subsequently informed as well.
“What I conclude” -- and I am reading Mr Carriere’s letter now – “from reading the initial report on this fatality is that both the supervisor and rock mechanic gambled that the loose would not fall and elected to put production ahead of safety. Clearly, by closing the travelway to the mill hole, they would have made it impossible for the crew to continue mucking in the event that the mill hole was cleared until after the loose back was secured.
“The clear message both the work mechanic and the shift boss was giving to the workers by continuing to walk under the loose area was that although they should take precautionary measures, bolting the loose,” -- the eight-foot instead of six-foot bolts -- “travelling under the loose was not a concern.
“I am aware that an inquest will be held in this case and that all relevant facts relating to this accident will be brought out. I do believe, however, that there was sufficient information available from the initial investigation to show that there was clearly violation of the regulations in this case and that action should have been taken immediately to ensure that a similar accident will not be allowed to happen again.
“Could you therefore advise me what action you have taken to date against this company by way of orders and/or prosecutions, and why your inspectors have allowed this stope to be mined without the eight-foot bolts as required in the company’s mining plan?
“Awaiting your reply ....”
I could read members -- it is one of the strongest letters I have ever sent in this House -- the letter I sent to the minister. I will not, but I simply want to point out that those three workers are dead because the clear regulations, totally unenforced three days before that mine fall, killed those three workers in the Dome mine in Timmins. There is no question in any of the miners’ or the union’s position on that or in the evidence that has so far come out from their investigation.
Maybe the inquest will say: “It was wrong. They were not even bolting with the eight-foot bolts up until the day they raised the complaint.” That may happen. I am simply saying to this House that is simply not good enough. We are having too many of these.
I am trying to restrain myself today, but when we asked questions of the minister on this, he danced around whether or not he was aware that those two regulations had not been met in this particular case. But then in a statement the very next day, obviously in response to the question we asked in this House and the pressure that I know was coming from the workers in the Dome mine in Timmins, he said they now had a team which was putting together -- what were his exact words? I do not have his release in front of me -- the kind of regulations that were necessary to make sure this did not happen.
That is a pile of baloney. Even if he is doing it. the regulations are there as a result of deaths in 1980, 1981 and 1984. They say very clearly that when you have drummy and loose rock, you fence it off and you work from the opposite side of the stope, if that is possible, and that you do not work until either the bolting or even scaling and bolting have been done.
Regulations 63(2) and 65 are as clear as a bell and they were not enforced by this government and this ministry. Let me tell members that in a number of the other deaths over just the last two or three months in the mines, it is loose again and, as I understand it at the moment, in four others that are being investigated, in three of which loose was the concern, they already know things that were not done that should have been done.
I am simply saying to this House that as far as I am concerned, yes, on the safety and health stuff I can get angry and this government is not living up to any real commitment in terms of making sure that workers do not have to die like the Dome miners did in Sudbury.
The Ontario Public Service Employees Union has a number of cases that really make one wonder. I will not get into details on them. I want to raise another old one in which I simply cannot understand what is happening. I should have brought in the tragic deaths of two Canadian paper workers just two or three weeks ago in northern Ontario as well. The deaths were not from rockfalls, but there were some serious questions in the deaths of those two workers as well. Incidentally, as most members probably know, we are up to 94 deaths so far this year in industrial accidents in Ontario.
I have a letter that was sent to me -- and I will not go into all of the details on it -- once again by Norm Carriere. It is a short letter. I will read it, but when I say that we seem to take so long getting through some thick skulls somewhere in this province -- it is an inquest into the fatality of Mr Marcelin at a plant in Hawkesbury:
“I received a copy of your letter to Mr Martin Denis, United Steelworkers of America representative, advising him that an inquest will be held into this fatality.
“The United Steelworkers of America are the bargaining agent for all employees in the workplace where the accident occurred and has requested standing at the inquest. I am surprised that you are not prepared to grant standing without first hearing arguments in court prior to the inquest. Your position on this matter reminds me of the 1950s and 1960s when inquests into workplace fatalities were designed to make companies’ safety programs look good and always put the blame on the worker for violating company safety rules. The only people who gave evidence were company officials and company-owned police departments.
“I really thought that those days were over and that coroners today were more interested in hearing the interested parties to ensure that all relevant facts are known and that, hopefully, recommendations are made to prevent similar fatal accidents from reoccurring.
“For your information, I enclose a memorandum dated December 10, 1984, from the chief coroner, Dr Ross C. Bennett, to all coroners on this very issue. It advises that the union representing the workers should be granted standing as a general rule. Could you, therefore, advise Mr Martin Denis and myself as soon as possible why you want arguments as to why we should get standing in the case of Mr Marcelin’s fatality?”
He has here the letter -- and it is very firm; take my word for it. I will show it to anyone; I will not try to read it. It is a fairly long letter from the coroner, Dr Bennett, that the union representing the workers in the case of an industrial death is to be given standing. It is automatic in northern Ontario now. They had to fight for it. In Sudbury, the union is automatically notified and automatically has standing at the inquest into the death of a miner.
Here we have Hawkesbury -- are there different rules for eastern Ontario? -- where the coroner involved says: “Hey. You can’t be here to represent the worker that you legally have to represent as the union that has certified the bargaining for him. Before we are going to give you standing into what happened in his death, we say you have to go to court and make the arguments to see if you can convince us that you have standing.” A direct violation, I might say, of the orders -- I am not sure what authority he has -- given by the chief coroner of Ontario, Dr Bennett.
I am simply saying once again: What in blazes is it that the union has to go after the minister, and they have been after him on this one, to rectify a situation that, once again, was supposed to have been rectified in 1984? Maybe if we had it automatically -- we cannot say that it would cut down some of the deaths, but there is experience on the part of the inquest committees that the union has that represent workers in fatalities, and questions that can be asked that will not come out otherwise, from a number of inquests that I am aware of, and that certainly expose unsafe and hazardous conditions in the workplace.
I guess it just follows up the terrible letter from the Dome mining deaths. It is a lesser problem maybe. This one is just an inquest into some worker who has already been killed, but his representatives, who know what they are doing in this, cannot be entitled, even though the order was given out by the chief coroner in 1984 that they were to automatically have standing.
What is so difficult about resolving a problem like that and why should it take a bunch of letters to the minister? Why should it not be done with a simple phone call and the record set straight and another copy of Dr. Bennett’s instructions sent out to all coroners in Ontario?
Under the safety and health heading, I was going to but I will not spend some time on, I think, a very good letter to the Minister of Health that has been sent out by Dr Mary Wynne Ashford, president of the Canadian Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War. It has to do with the sale of tritium by Ontario Hydro and it has been sent to all members of cabinet and the government of Ontario. I found it extremely useful.
She makes the case that there is more than just a minor health and safety question involved here, let alone the abhorrence I at least have of the potential sale of tritium to any power on the face of this earth. I hope that the issue is taken to heart by members of the government and the cabinet and that they do deal with it.
I guess the other question I have is, where is Bill 208? What is going on with Bill 208? If anybody is taking a major step forward, and I guess a major risk, it is the labour movement, because it becomes part of a bipartite body that will be responsible not only for the training of safety and health workers on both sides, together with the management and company side, but also for programs that are put in place, the kind of training that is needed and for making some hard decisions, but making them only with the certified health and safety representative. They have indicated they are willing to take this gamble. It means they have got to put their money and their position where their mouths are. They have got to say: “Hey, we accept one of the few times that there clearly is a responsibility on us as well as on the companies.”
Yet because of an overwhelming reaction, mostly from smaller businesses, and I have probably received more letters on this than any other such issue -- l guess I expect it from the Somervilles and the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce and some of them, but I am a little surprised by some of the other companies -- we see this tremendous lobby going on with the Premier. We see him making comments, which the Minister of Labour now tells us were not accurate, saying that they might not be able to proceed with this particular piece of legislation.
I want to tell the government members that this is a challenge to the companies, to the unions, to the whole province of Ontario and is a vital next step in ensuring a much safer and healthier workplace and taking responsibility for that workplace. If this government decides to back off on that, its credibility, which has suffered a bit in the last short while in any event, will really be skewered.
I hope that that is not the position of this government, but once again, I looked in the throne speech for a word on the health and safety issues, for a word on Bill 208 which the minister himself -- I do not have his comments in front of me, but when he introduced it in this House, he said that it was one of the most important and fundamental steps that had to be taken. There is sure no assurance when reading that throne speech that we are on the road to seeing Bill 208 brought into this House.
I think I would be remiss if I did not mention a few of the long-standing strikes and the unfortunate one, the Dow Chemical strike in Sarnia which is now darned near a year old, where there has been a direct attempt, I think, to intimidate. I understand he has just been moved out. That may be one of the first hopes. Shortly before this strike started, an American manager was brought in who had quite a history of breaking strikes in American plants in the United States. He was sent in for that one purpose only.
That is a strike situation which has been a tough one and where the union has worked overtime to keep control of the picket lines in spite of deliberate provocations. Once again, I raised them in this House: trucks that came in and out again and did not even load and cameras on construction booms that were brought in alongside the gates and moved up as soon as these trucks went in or out and started filming all the workers on the picket line; obvious direct intimidation or efforts to provoke something happening on that picket line. They made sure it did not happen, but as I say, our best efforts have not been able to break that deadlock and it is almost a year old.
Another tragic strike is that of the Canadian Medical Laboratories workers in my own town and in the town of Simcoe. There is no question in my mind that Starr and Dr Mull set out to make sure they broke that union. I do not know whether they will succeed or not. There are a lot of guts there, but they have been out about eight months now. They are decent, well-trained people, highly qualified, and I think it is a shame to find labour relations in Ontario allowing what is going on there to continue.
We have the situation in a recent strike -- the only reason I raise this one is because it is so similar to so many public sector strikes: I am talking now about the strike that has just started in the past few weeks, the children’s aid society workers in my town.
We have the children’s aid society out right now, not the Catholic branch, the Children’s Aid Society of Hamilton-Wentworth. What is the situation? The situation is, once again, the silent partner at the bargaining table, because most of the funding is from the province. Yet the province says it has no responsibility and: “You have to settle it. It’s a collective bargaining, face-to-face situation.”
Once again, the social workers involved in this strike and the foster care placement workers involved in this strike are serious, sincere and pretty decent people. They are more than a little frustrated by the fact that the ministry cannot seem to see the benefits of the kind of work they do, as against institutionalization, which is one of the things that will happen if they are not doing the work they are doing with the children’s aid society.
They are concerned about one other item. I have not normally been critical of the board and I am not launching into an attack on them now. I think the government is as responsible as the board in this case. But I want to make it clear that it is difficult for the workers, who are experienced and trained -- there are very few with short service in this situation -- to be told they cannot get a work plan that gives some recognition to their years of experience and their seniority and some recognition of the kind of legal threats they face in the difficult job they are in, over a four- or five-year plan period. Yet just 10 or 11 days before the strike started, we saw some hefty raises, admittedly over a period of time, to the management people on that board.
The union claimed that some of the percentages for the jobs were as high as 18, 20 and 22 per cent. In fact, I do not think most of them got more than a 7.6 per cent increase, but I think a couple of the top officials were moved $8,000 or $9,000 in one move. What they did get was the assurance and the outline of their salary, the progression they would make -- I am talking about the senior people now -- over the next four or five years. The ministry had to have been aware of it. Whether they were party to it or not does not matter; it was done less than two weeks before the strike started.
What kind of a message do members think that sends out to the line social workers and child care workers? They are in a situation where they are now being told: “No, you can’t have that. You can’t have some of the other things you’re asking for. Your request to know what the plan is, the progression is, over four or five years, or even the idea of some remuneration for the seniority and service you’ve put in, can’t be considered.” Yet they just did it with management on that board.
If the ministry was aware, then somebody was awfully careless in how he handled the setup to that particular strike situation. It concerns me those workers should be in that position. It concerns me that the workers at the Orenda Division of Hawker Siddeley Canada feel their strike here in Toronto is one that is designed to close down their particular plant. I hope they are not right. I have real concerns myself.
But certainly it is not really a question of money and certainly there is no movement and no attempt to move. Basically they were after, more than anything else, the question of some security and knowledge of what was going to be the future of their jobs in that particular case.
I want to leave the ongoing strike situations -- we have had worse years, although some of these ones should disturb us all -- and deal for a moment with Bill 162. I will not take a lot of time on this, because I am sure my colleague the member for Sudbury East (Miss Martel) will be dealing with this or has dealt with some of it.
But I do want to say that, having travelled part of the time around this province -- I was not on the committee full-time -- I still cannot understand why there was the hardline position on the part of this government that we would not hear all of the groups that wanted to be heard and almost half of those that asked to be heard, some major players. I think the most obvious probably were the large number of uranium workers at Elliot Lake. I do not understand why these workers were not heard.
I know the argument is, “Oh, we get enough of a cross-section view by the ones that we’ve picked in the hearings”; hearings, incidentally, which the government did not want in the first place and which probably were more brought about not even by our questions, although we certainly were after them, but by a demonstration of injured workers in the lobby of this building.
I do not know why the position would be so tough on what, in my honest opinion, is the second worst bill I have seen in my 13 and a half years in this House; why the position would be so hardline in not allowing everybody to have a say, when it is going to affect literally hundreds of thousands of workers in this province.
We said very clearly -- and, sure, we were needling this government a bit when we did it -- that when the hearings were on in extra billing, it was the Liberals who stood up in committee and insisted that every single doctor who wanted to have a say would have a say. The Liberals insisted that every single doctor would have a say in that committee. Are doctors that much more important to the Liberal Party than the workers who are involved, injured workers? Maybe they do not have quite as much clout or quite as much money, but I will tell the Liberals I think they were wrong on that one.
I think they were wrong in the statements that have been made by the Minister of Labour in this province that he was going to proceed regardless, and his comments about the ne’er-do-wells and so on who were raising opposition to this particular bill. That will come back to haunt them, I will tell them right now. How much effect these things have for ever, I do not know, but it will haunt them right through until the next election.
Then there were the comments of Raj Anand, the Ontario human rights commissioner, who clearly indicated that this bill could and would be challenged in court. That has already been clearly indicated as a direction of some of the unions that appeared before the committee.
Bill 162 is, in my opinion, the lousiest bill next to the wage control bill we have seen, as far as I am concerned, in this particular Legislature.
My colleague today raised a very good case of deeming. It was the case that caused the member for Norfolk (Mr Miller) some agitation, and some words that should not have been said were said during the committee hearings.
When the young woman who was cited today raised her concerns over deeming in this legislation, what was the answer that came from one of the Liberal members sitting in on the committee? He said: “What are you raising this deeming issue for? Why are you complaining? That’s what this bill does. It corrects it.” Obviously, the Liberal member filling in for that one day on that committee had never read the bill and did not have the foggiest idea of what the bill said, because it does not do that. The bill does, as has been said, institutionalize deeming very clearly.
We have about eight of the most outstanding cases one would ever want where that is clearly the case, the decisions already, and we will be moving those in this House on a weekly basis as we did today, to clearly indicate that that is exactly what this bill does.
At a meeting with the Minister of Labour just last week, a number of the people who are responsible for Bill 162 and how it is handled and what we try to do to fight the bill met with the Minister of Labour. One of the things they raised with him was a case that had come before the committee in northwestern Ontario.
I was not at this meeting. This was a meeting between the minister and some of his staff, some of the Workers’ Compensation Board people and four people, I believe, from the Ontario Federation of Labour. They said to him:
“We’re going to show you how this bill doesn’t work. Let us give you a recent real-life example of our concerns. Last year, one of our members, a 26-year-old woman, suffered a horrifying accident as she worked alone at night. Her leg was caught in an auger” -- this was at a sawmill up in northwestern Ontario -- “which shredded it as it ripped it away from the rest of her body. Somehow she managed to crawl off the platform and over 100 feet through the dirt and muck until she collapsed. Fortunately, she was discovered before she bled to death and she survived.”
I know that I do not have to fuel the members’ imaginations about the incredible trauma experienced by this woman and the effect it has had on her personal life. Suffice to say that it has been bad; very bad. But thank God this did happen to her before Bill 162. Under the existing act, we calculate that this young woman will receive permanent compensation.
Incidentally, I should say she has made a rather remarkable recovery and she is going to, I think, get her job back. The union went to work for her. The machine can be slightly modified. The artificial leg is now being fitted and she has healed. She showed an awful lot of gumption once she survived. She will probably get back to a job at close to the same salary.
But her permanent compensation would be about $20 per day for the loss of her leg. Every time she adjusts her artificial leg or tries to hide it, or withdraw from some otherwise normal life activity because of it, she will have at least the $20 a day, indexed so that it does not lose its value, as her compensation. Is there anyone here who would exchange a leg for $20 per day? How about $100 per day? How much would be fair compensation for her leg?
Under the current act, she gets $400 or a couple of dollars over $400 a month, and she gets that for life; that is the current act. What will she get under the new act? I want to tell members that it works out to $2 a day. She will get a lump sum of $16,000 and that will end at retirement.
How is this new bill going to help workers? Tell me whether that woman should not get it because she might be able to go back to work. For the rest of her life she will suffer with that artificial leg, and the $400-a-month pension she would have had for the rest of her life will, at 28 years of age, be a one-time lump sum payment of $16,000.
I do not know if any of the members can justify it; the minister could not. It is second hand -- he might deny it -- but I am told that at the meeting his question to his staff was: “Well, those figures can’t be right. That is not really the way it is, is it?” His staff had to verify that the case that was put to him was exactly right.
I am simply telling members that this bill is a cost-cutting measure and not one that is going to help workers. Whether it is rehabilitation or whether it is in terms of the pensions they get, the effect it will have on them will be for the rest of their lives. As I said, it is just simply a lousy, unfair bill taking away from workers. For God’s sake, I hope the members in this House will have second thoughts about Bill 162.
I have gone on a little longer than I intended to. I was going to go into some of the minister’s comments on Bill 162. I think they are a perversity of justice. I think they are uncalled for and indicate he is not listening. Why the heck were we going through the hearings? Was it because they were forced into them? There is nothing else, anyhow, if they were not going to mean anything. He clearly stated in some of his speeches that they were going to proceed regardless of the weight of evidence that was heard by the committee.
I think there are a number of other things that are worth saying. I am a little bit disturbed that we have not had any indication of direction. I was pleased to see the comments from the member for Wentworth East (Ms Collins) that maybe we were finally going ahead with the east-end clinic. That has been a long battle for a lot of people and that is welcome news.
I was really upset that we did not see any action or any direction in terms of environmental problems; not enough, in any event, other than the Cleantario lottery. I wonder what this government’s intention is in terms of the Lax property. Is the Ministry of the Environment going to provide any funding to help clean up that property or is that outside its jurisdiction?
On that waterfront development, I think that is a legitimate request and will have a lot to do with just how much people have an incentive to try to clean up the water in Hamilton harbour and that end of Lake Ontario. So far, the local people have not even been able to arrange a meeting with the minister to find out exactly what the bottom line is going to be on the cleanup of that property. I am sure there are people here who should be able to arrange it.
I think there are questions that could be asked about the importance of the reactor at McMaster University. I think it would be a crime -- there was another excellent editorial in the Hamilton Spectator just last week -- if that reactor were not continued for research purposes. Our party has taken a tough position, and I have no hesitation with that tough position in terms of nuclear energy and nuclear weapons. We have never said there is no real merit -- not even on the Ottawa River and the small plant there, Rolphton -- it should be continued in terms of medical use or research, or research that may be of assistance to industry. I think the McMaster reactor is one of the most important research facilities we have in this province of ours and in this country. It would be a shame in my view if they were not able to continue and be relieved of the fear, almost from month to month, whether the funding will be there to continue that research.
I was going to deal with it at the end. I started at the beginning with Ontario Hydro and the pension issue. I hope that message is clearly looked at and listened to by members of this House.
I want to raise an issue, but I do not have all the details yet. I have a fax in front of me but I have not been able to take a real look at it. I am informed by some people in Hamilton and a young lawyer that they got a totally unexpected letter from the Minister of Transportation, just in the last day, which simply said that he was seriously considering backing out of the 90 per cent funding that has been in place for 18 years now for electrical transportation, the trolley buses and what have you in our city. I know there was a meeting in Hamilton at 11 o’clock this morning and that there were an awful lot of angry people at that meeting. I know a submission was made in opposition to this government move.
I want to say that if the government is thinking of reneging on that commitment, it had better think very carefully because when the issue was raised back in 1985-86, I believe there was a close to unanimous vote against doing away with this in the city of Hamilton. The quid pro quo was that there would be updating and expenditures made on the overhead because they were in bad repair; the electrical system, the trolleys and so on that were used in our community.
I want to tell members that literally millions have been spent in the last three or four years on that upgrading. If all of a sudden they are now faced with the threat that the government may back out, after they have spent the money and done the upgrading of this system, I think the government is asking for a real uproar. I understand that was what was going on at the meeting this morning with the people in the city of Hamilton, who I do not think want to see, with all the problems there may be with it, the elimination of what is certainly an environmentally cleaner method of transit, as long as it still can be shown to be effective at all.
I think that is an issue we will probably be hearing about over the next couple of days in this House. I hope the government is not so insensitive, although unfortunately it has been on a number of other issues, to move so quickly. Certainly, I am told by my contacts in Hamilton today that the letter they got from the minister was a total surprise.
I want to conclude with what I opened with. The government may get a few things off its mind in the throne speech, but I do not think it is really a very important part of the deliberations of this House. It could be. I would be much happier if it were laid out as a real blueprint that the government meant as to what it was going to do and try to do, and not have it as superficial and lacking in some of the important issues as this particular throne speech is.
But I recognize the budget is the real indicator of where the government is going. It is something we will be watching very closely. I hope some of the arguments we have been raising in this House about the unfairness of taxes in this province and this country, about the fact that even with this new federal budget we have 87,000 major money-making corporations that are not paying a cent of taxes -- I forget the number over $50,000, but all 40 families in Canada that make more than $250,000 were not paying a cent of taxes. I do not know how the government justifies that. I certainly cannot and I do not think the ordinary public can justify it.
It seems to me that whether it is speculation taxes to cool down the price of housing, which this government obviously does not like: whether it is fairer ways of dealing with our Ontario health insurance plan premiums; whether it is taking a look at the companies and individuals making a lot of money who are not paying a fair share of taxes; whether it is the banks, financial institutions and trust companies, almost everybody for the first time -- even the chamber, I am told -- expected to see some tax increases in the federal budget and did not get them. I do not have the figures now. I have had them, but we are one of the lowest countries in the world in terms of the percentage rate we are taxing the financial institutions. They are really getting a free ride.
Whether we take a look at some of those means of raising fairer taxes in this province or not, I think the tax approach the Treasurer takes in the coming budget to be presented very shortly, along with whether or not he heeds one other appeal that was made in the committee hearings that dealt with the Thomson committee report and the prebudget hearings that the standing committee on finance and economic affairs of this Legislature had, whether he takes it to heart -- let’s for the first time in Ontario try to marry what we really want to do in terms of people, in terms of direction, in terms of priority, in terms of how well our economy is really performing.
Is it cutting down unemployment? Is it meeting the challenge of handicapped and disabled people’? Is it meeting the challenge of safety and health problems in our community? Is it meeting the challenge of the all too large percentage of people who are poor in our province?
I would like to see the budget lay out the social challenges and the budgetary direction. I think the two have to be married. I think it cannot be a budget in isolation. That is where maybe a role could have been played as a starting measure in the throne speech, which certainly was not played, but I hope that when the budget comes down, it does deal in tax fairness and does not deal with the usual, mostly regressive methods whereby we have usually raised a pile of money in Ontario, and that whatever it says in the way of taxes is done in the context of what is our social program and social direction in the province. I think we might start seriously to deal with the fact that we are and should be our brother’s and sister’s keepers in this province.
The Deputy Speaker: Are there any questions and comments on the member’s statement?
Mr D. R. Cooke: I found the member’s comments very useful, as I always do, and I think a lot of them can be taken to heart. I did not hear everything he said, but I think I heard about 90 per cent of it.
I was waiting for some comments from the member for Hamilton East on the suggestion that is being ruminated in the media right now about a payroll tax. It is something he has raised in the past and I am just wondering whether he is still endorsing it.
The Deputy Speaker: Are there other comments from other members? If not, does the member wish to respond?
Mr Mackenzie: If I were being the least bit unkind, I would think that the member of the committee, who knows the comments I have made on this, was trying to put me on the spot and say, “Hey, aren’t you agreeing with your leader?”
I do not agree with the payroll tax as a major item, and I am talking about the funding of our Ontario health insurance plan. The proposal for payroll tax that I do endorse that was specifically made to our committee, because it meets an issue we have not been able to resolve in Ontario, is the issue of the benefits of workers in terms of plant closures, bankruptcies and the resulting loss of work and jobs.
The federation came in -- it was not our proposal originally, but I think it makes some sense -- with a proposal that said, “You need some kind of scheme.” It seems difficult to lay out just what kind of an insurance scheme you might have, but they suggested a payroll tax. It would be a very small payroll tax in their method but would still raise a considerable amount of money that could be earmarked. I also know the government does not like earmarking. Massey, I guess, is one of the classic cases of workers who have lost their jobs and benefits and in some cases what used to be their pensions as well. There is some protection against that now, not everything we need but some protection, and the kind of medical and insurance coverage they have could be covered out of this specific allocation of funds.
Their proposal was one that I think is worth taking to heart. I can see it being a potential working one. I am open if there is a better suggestion than that, but it was designed for a specific problem that, once again, we have raised in this House -- I personally have raised it -- the fact that if we cannot reach an agreement with the feds, who are usually the holdup or cited as the holdup to this, we should be setting up some kind of provincial plan to deal with workers who lose their money, their benefits, their severance and a number of things in a bankruptcy case or even in some of the plant closure cases that are not necessarily related to bankruptcy.
I think there is merit in that specific suggestion. I do not see it as a major fund-raising deal, including OHIP, which is one of the major costs in our society.
Mr J. M. Johnson: I am very pleased to have the opportunity to participate in this debate. Hopefully, my comments will be accepted in the same positive and constructive way that has always been my way in this assembly. I would like to do something very strange: I would like to concentrate on the throne speech and what was in it.
While the throne speech mentions “Economic Development,” “Education,” “Social Assistance,” “Safe and Secure Communities,” “Health” and “Environment” as the government’s priorities for this session of Parliament, there is little of substance contained under these very broad headings, “Education” perhaps being the exception.
Here the government proposes to ensure that all school boards offer half-day junior kindergarten for four-year-olds, and in addition states that it will provide funding for school boards to offer full-day senior kindergarten programs where classroom space permits. While there is certainly merit in this proposal, nothing has been said about how the government intends to implement or finance these initiatives, and offering senior kindergarten programs only where classroom space is available creates an unfair situation for those areas where space is not available.
The government’s commitment to “accessibility to quality health care for every Ontarian” has been restated, while the waiting lists for people requiring surgery in hospitals continues to mount, bringing into question the government’s definition of “accessibility.” I intend to deal with this issue in more detail in a few minutes.
On the environmental front, leadership in the area of protection of the environment is again promised. To finance the cost, the government intends to set up a new lottery fund, Cleantario. Surely, protection of our environment should not be dependent upon the proceeds of a lottery. A far more serious commitment is needed.
There is not a great deal that can be said about the initiatives contained in the speech from the throne for the second session of the 34th Parliament. Of more significance perhaps is what it does not contain: failure to include, among its immediate priorities, the crisis in housing, the elderly, the disabled, the workers, and the urgent need to improve Ontario’s deteriorating road system and municipal sewage and water systems. Nothing has been said about agriculture or pension reform. While these have not necessarily disappeared from the government’s agenda, they certainly no longer appear to be priorities.
I would like to start with education. The Minister of Education (Mr Ward) was in the House a few minutes ago and that is why I felt that education would be important to start with.
The throne speech’s number two priority is, “Education: A Springboard to Opportunity.” It goes on to state that in the last session the government “provided significant new funding to reduce class sizes in grades 1 and 2.” This sounds like a very sensible proposal and I accept it to a degree, but surely, it makes more sense to eliminate the portables we have in so many parts of this province before we start reducing class sizes in other schools that are fortunate enough not to have portables. The new funding they have provided for this initiative could certainly have helped to eliminate some of the thousands of permanent portables in our school system.
The throne speech goes on to say, about education, “All school boards will offer half-day junior kindergarten for four-year-olds as well as half-day senior kindergarten for five-year-olds,” and will “provide funding for school boards to offer full-day senior kindergarten programs, where classroom space permits.” As I mentioned earlier, that leads to great inequity. Some boards will not have the opportunity because they do not have the space to provide that facility.
It mentions providing funding for school boards. Is that full provincial funding or is it merely partial funding at a decreasing percentage, which has been a policy of this government?
The minister goes into a great deal of fanfare to announce new programs without any consultation with the boards. He suggests programs they should be involved in, and indeed he mandates the programs, but leaves it up to the boards to pick up the cost. This is not fair. Surely they should have some input into costly programs.
An article in the Toronto Sun just a few days ago -- this is very important to the city members -- mentions the comments of councillor Tom Jakobek, “Metro council and the school boards should be given ‘an ultimatum to bring expenses down to rate of inflation.’” It goes on to say: “‘How in God’s name are people going to be able to afford the mass spending increases of different levels of government?’ North York Mayor Mel Lastman blamed the school board and Metro council for the high North York tax rate.”
For the people living in the city, they must be aware that some of these boards and municipal councils have very little control over what this government is doing.
Mr Faubert: Fourteen per cent over last year.
Mr J. M. Johnson: The school boards are mandated by the Ministry of Education to cut class sizes, start new programs and spend money without consultation. No input from the boards; then the boards are criticized for not bringing expenses down. We cannot have the two things. Surely, the former councillor from Scarborough and area would realize that this is an impossibility.
Mr Faubert: Metropolitan Toronto got 14 per cent more than it got last year.
The Deputy Speaker: Order, please. Only the member for Wellington has the floor.
Mr J. M. Johnson: I believe that, while the Minister of Education was very generous in some areas in providing capital funding this year --
Mr J. M. Johnson: When the applause dies down, I would like to mention that he also went on to state that the transfer of capital costs will be reduced from 75 per cent to 60 per cent. As I understand it, they receive 90 per cent of the 60 per cent, which translates into 52 per cent.
The minister takes credit for providing, for example, $12 million for Wellington county, of which the county has to pick up $6 million. Why does he not take credit for his $6 million and say the local taxpayers are going to have to pick up their $6 million?
Mr Villeneuve: That’s the new math, Jack.
Mr J. M. Johnson: That is the new math, my colleague says. The Speaker has indicated I should speak in his direction. I will, sir.
I might just say on the transfer payments as well that the provincial share of funding has decreased. It seemed to me that in the 1987 election, and even in the 1985 election, this Liberal Party promised to increase the provincial share of funding back up to the traditional 60 per cent. The former government was badly criticized for letting it fall to 47 per cent. Mr Speaker, you will be disappointed to know that it has now fallen to approximately 42 per cent.
Mr Villeneuve: And still in free fall.
Mr J. M. Johnson: And still in free fall.
I had the opportunity at one o’clock today to talk to one of the main people at the Wellington County Roman Catholic Separate School Board. They are very disturbed at what is going to happen to their budget. They tried their best to hold their budget at $30 million; they will possibly have to go to $31 million. They have cut out everything they could possibly cut out and they are going to end up with a deficit of over $1 million, but they will have to set their rate at 12 per cent as opposed to 20 per cent.
They just feel that 20 per cent is too high for the taxpayers to absorb, so they are going to go into a deficit financial position, in my understanding, for the first time in the history of the board. For operating costs, they are going to have to deficit-finance $1 million.
If they do that, I submit they are following along the same lines as the provincial and federal governments and will end up leaving our children with the legacy of paying for their own education. Possibly that is the intention of this government.
The Wellington County Board of Education has set its rate at 11.6 percent, the high being 22 per cent for the town of Palmerston. This means the average taxpayer will be faced with an increase of approximately $100 per house. This, along with increases in the federal budget and the certainty of an increase in the provincial budget, will mean that the taxpayers are being shafted once more.
I will now move on to section 3: The priority of this government in social assistance is moving from dependence to self-reliance. It states, “New reforms will be introduced to help individuals move from a life of dependence to a life of self-sufficiency and transform welfare cheques into paycheques.”
Just to show members how positive I am, I want to commend the initiative of this thrust and hope that the government will indeed follow through with it. It is one of the first portions of the Thomson report. Our party supports this, and I think that everybody in this assembly would certainly be supportive of the initiative of helping these people get off the social assistance programs.
I had intended to go into many details of the report, but I just want to mention a couple that bother me. After hearing from 1,500 different groups, the Social Assistance Review Committee made several recommendations. I think a few of them bother me. One is that the government is spending $2 billion a year, yet one million people in Ontario are caught in the welfare trap and 37 per cent of them are children. That is very unfortunate because these young people have no opportunity and it is certainly not their fault.
Those who use the system, those who work in it and those who pay for it all agree that it is just not working any more. As so often happens in large organizations, rules and regulations become more important than the people they were supposed to help. Just to give one example, under our present system a single mother in need of assistance is eligible for as many as 36 different rates of payment, depending on her circumstances. How in the world can anybody possibly figure that one out?
Here are some revealing figures that concern me -- l hope they concern most members and certainly the Minister of Community and Social Services (Mr Sweeney): 37 percent of recipients are children under 18 years of age; 32 per cent of recipients are disabled and average five years on assistance: 30 per cent are single parents averaging three to four years on assistance, and 14 per cent are employable but lack the skills necessary for today’s market; however, they only need help for an average of seven months, and 40 per cent are off assistance after only three months.
These are people who do not want to be on welfare. They would much rather have their dignity and be self-supporting and independent. I am sure that all the members would agree that our main goal should be getting people off welfare and into the workforce where they can contribute to society.
I will now move on to section 4: “Safe and Secure Communities.” The throne speech goes on to say, “Maintaining a sense of safety and security in our communities is critical to our province’s future wellbeing and development.” I fully support that thrust as well.
I might just mention that I had an experience a week ago tonight. I was going out to dinner with my son. As we were walking beside Allen Gardens, two young lads, one about eight and one about 10, were kibitzing, I thought, with this poor, unfortunate wino. Then it appeared that they were not kibitzing but indeed attacking him. They would leap at him with judo chops and hit him in the legs knocking him down and then proceed to kick him. I naturally told them where to go and they took off.
I was really disappointed to see this type of thing happening in the middle of an evening in downtown Toronto. I know that it happens with older children like young teenagers and that. But here are two children, one nine and one 10 or 11, practising their acts of violence on poor, defenceless people. This old wino had no recourse to self-defence. I just wonder what happens to these kids. By the time they are teenagers, are they bank robbers?
It is a very serious problem and I just would like to dwell on it for a few minutes because it very much emphasized the concern that we should all have for safe and secure communities. In this weekend’s Toronto Star edition of Friday, 5 May, there was an article by Catherine Dunphy. I will just read one section. The headline is: “Gang Violence, A Parent’s Worst Fear.”
One of the articles goes on to say that one mother of two has put her upper Beaches house up for sale, and I quote: “‘I want out of this city,’ she says. ‘If we stay here by the time my son is 14 he will be in a gang -- not one of those swarming, but in a gang for protection. What other choice will he have?’” It is very sad that young people are placed in this predicament. It is sad that families are concerned about it.
I might just mention Maclean’s magazine, 2 January edition: “A Portrait of the Nation” is how the editor refers to it. It was a poll conducted for Maclean’s about the future prospects. “By the year 2001, do you think it will be safe to walk around in cities?” That is the question that was asked. “In 10 or 11 years from now, do you think it will be safe to walk around in cities?”
Some 32 per cent of the respondents said yes: 66 per cent said no. Two out of three people fear that by the year 2001 it will not be safe to walk around in cities. That is a sad commentary on our social fabric, and it is something that we should be very concerned about and doing something to try to correct.
I might just mention on the same subject that another article appeared in the Toronto Star on the weekend. It was a letter from, I assume it was a mother but certainly a parent, to the press explaining her predicament. The heading is, “Family Broken by Truant Son, 15, Who Lies and Steals.” She goes on to describe how she has lost control of her son and she cannot do anything with him. Under the present legislation, she is practically in a straitjacket as to what she can do.
“We are concerned, caring, conscientious parents,” she says, “committed to raising loving, decent citizens and having our hands bound at every turn. We are expected to try harder, care more and seek help when he refuses to do so. Nowhere are children judged responsible for their actions as they manipulate.
“My son is well aware of the rights he has in society and under the Young Offenders Act and Child and Family Services Act. We are quickly becoming aware that he seemingly has all the rights and we have all the responsibilities. Our son is not abused in any sense of the word, but we feel helpless in this society.”
There is something wrong with a society when parents are placed in this predicament that they have literally no control of their children because the state is so dictating. These two young children I mentioned who were attacking the poor individual in the park needed a good slap on the side of something.
It goes on to state in the “Safe and Secure Communities” section of the throne speech that we need to “reform our court system to provide improved access to justice.” I support that. The courts then should much better reflect the seriousness of the crimes as well. More consideration must he given to victims of crime, improved financial compensation, guidance and counselling. We have a lot to do in the field of helping to solve the problem of maintaining secure communities.
One area of concern, and it has been addressed by the member for Muskoka-Georgian Bay (Mr Black) to a degree, is the problem relating to drugs. It is a major problem. In the Insight section of the Toronto Star on Sunday, 7 May, there is a whole section dealing with the problem of drugs. They pose the question, “Are we losing the toughest street battle of our time?”
It goes on to mention young people of nine and 10 years of age as being introduced to drugs for the first time. Crack, for instance, is a deadly, addictive drug. It is my understanding that once they are addicted to it, once they become acquainted with it, they cannot control their addiction. There are several articles on it, and they just highlight a major concern that people have with the drug problem in our society.
In the same section it mentions Dr Maris Andersons, a director of the Alliance for a Drug-Free Canada and former chief of staff at Toronto’s Donwood Institute. She says that “Crack now qualifies as an epidemic in this city. If AIDS can be considered an epidemic, then certainly crack has to be considered as one too.”
They go on to mention that while they understand the police are doing practically everything they can to solve the problem -- and I certainly support the police forces in this province, the municipal as well as provincial. I think they are doing an excellent job and I want to commend them for the work they have done and are doing, not only in the drug field but in the rest of the criminal field. They do mention in this article that all the drug officers in the world will not stop it; it is going to have to come down to education.
To go on, in another section they say: “Cocaine-crack is also cited in a phenomenal upsurge of violent crimes. A 1988 police report showed that murder, sexual assaults, robberies and other violent crimes shot up more than 92 per cent in the previous five years. In 1983 Metro residents reported 12,999 violent crimes; in 1987 the police handled 24,945 in that category,” from a little under 13,000 up to nearly 25,000. It is a tremendous increase and something we should all be concerned about.
In my opinion, education is one of the answers, if not the most important answer. As I mentioned, the member for Muskoka-Georgian Bay deserves credit for his report on this urgent issue.
Just on a personal note, one of my best friends is Bill Moody of Mount Forest. He is in charge of Lions Quest Canada, one of the best drug education programs in all of Canada. So if I am allowed to make a little plug, I would suggest that any members who do have a problem and would like information should contact their local Lions Club. I am sure they can provide some assistance.
The next item I would like to deal with is “Promoting Healthy Lifestyles and Preserving Quality Health Care.” Just to show how impartial and fairminded I am, I would like to pay tribute to the Minister of Health for her recent announcement of $5 million targeted for an attack on breast cancer. This is certainly a worthwhile program. It is an excellent initiative the minister has taken and one I can very strongly support.
It goes on to mention in the article that appeared in the Toronto Star today that hopefully: “By 1995, a total of 36 centres are to be in place, serving an estimated 300,000 women. The goal is to reduce the number of deaths by 40 per cent.” This is a very commendable proposal.
I would like to reiterate the comments made by the Health critic for our party, the member for Parry Sound (Mr Eves), who indicated to the minister that he felt the program should come into place at an earlier age and continue to a later age for women. I am not qualified to judge the medical evidence, but I do feel whatever we can do to support this initiative we should do.
I would like to make one suggestion, that these screening centres should be worked into our small-town hospitals. In the cities it could be different, but in small towns and rural Ontario we have the bases in our hospitals and hopefully it would make the hospitals more viable if we had this type of program, along with some of the other programs the minister is contemplating. I would certainly support that concept.
I had intended to be very blunt and criticize the minister very strongly on her lack of support for the Victorian Order of Nurses. I am very pleased that she did recognize the concerns that the VON has expressed and also because many of the members in this Legislature, certainly on the opposition side, have brought it to her attention. I would take this opportunity to congratulate the minister on partially looking after the problem, at least recognizing that it is a problem and providing the funding that they need at the present time. However, I would like to make a few more comments on the VON and the problems that it is encountering.
In the throne speech it mentioned being strong in support of families and communities. I would assume that the VON home care falls under that category, and rightly so.
The thing I cannot understand is that when it has been pointed out on numerous occasions, and anybody with a reasonable grasp and intelligence here, a little common sense, should understand that if you can keep someone in their own home at $40 a day rather than in a nursing home at twice or three times that or in a hospital at $400 a day, it has to make economic sense, as well as being in the best interests of the individual and the families.
It is the same old story. If you have to spend a dime and you can save a dollar, it makes sense. The government is criticizing the opposition every time we suggest that it fund the VON with a couple of million dollars. We have tried to point that the $2 million will save $10 million, $20 million or $30 million.
Ontario’s home care program is administered by 38 different agencies throughout the province and this has to create a problem, because it should be more concentrated and have a better depth of understanding of how the home care service could really support the people who need health care but do not have to be confined to hospitals. They end up in the hospitals because there is no place else for them.
It has been pointed out by several members, so I will not go into detail, but the ageing population is certainly going to create a problem and I think this would be one answer for our escalating health care costs.
As I say, I had intended to go into this in detail, but I will not except to mention that I did meet with Mrs Barbara Phillips, executive director of the VON in my area. She represents the Guelph-Wellington-Dufferin branch, so that does take in a couple of Liberal members. I will not mention the member for Guelph (Mr Ferraro) and the member for Dufferin-Peel (Mrs Wilson). I will speak on their behalf because they are not here to speak for themselves and just say that on behalf of my constituents and their constituents I would like to publicly thank Barb Phillips and the VON, because they are a dedicated and caring group of people and certainly service the needs of our citizens in those three areas. I wish her well and their endeavours to continue and I hope they do not have to come to the minister in six months or a year and request more funding, because surely the minister has seen the light of day and will have the funds available to provide to these people.
I might just mention that in 1987-88 the VON in this area made over 100,000 visits and in 1988-89 they were close to that figure, 98,306 visits. It would be my feeling that if the minister used her good sense, she would realize that the dollars she is spending on this program would cut down on the health care dollars in the hospitals and other areas. I would encourage her to try to promote more home care service and be more supportive of the VON. Instead of their having a deficit, she should give them extra funding and encourage them to increase their calls and do more work, which would eventually -- in fact, even in the short term -- save her money.
I come to a part in the speech that I am a little concerned will be misconstrued, but I intend to give it anyway. This is -- I will read from the throne speech -- the number 5 priority. I hope it is not fifth on the list, but it is number 5. It reads: “Accessibility to quality health care for every Ontarian regardless of ability to pay remains a fundamental value and principle of our society.”
Last year about this time I had to bring to the attention of the Speaker a constituent of mine, David Elgie, a disabled citizen from Fergus who needed a hip replacement. He was advised at first that his hip replacement would take approximately a year. Then it was extended to a year and a half, and then eventually to two full years. By that time, he would have been completely immobilized and not able to walk; in fact, a cripple. Fortunately, things worked around and he was able to obtain his operation. The minister certainly helped in that regard.
The problem I have -- this is on a personal note, and that is why I hesitate to mention it -- is that my wife, Mamie, falls into the same category. She had a knee-replacement operation performed in 1982 by Dr Hugh Cameron of the Orthopaedic and Arthritic Hospital on Wellesley Street. That was in 1982. The replacement joints have now started to deteriorate. She had a meeting with the doctor a couple of weeks ago and the doctor advised her that she should have an operation but unfortunately she would have to go on a waiting list. She said that she quite understood that and asked what the waiting period would be -- a year, a year and a half? He said: “I’m very sorry to tell you--in fact, I’m ashamed to tell you -- but it is three years.”
There is something drastically wrong with our health care system when an individual has to wait three years for an operation. A year ago, when I mentioned that David Elgie had to wait two years, the minister stated in her response: “We discussed this issue in the House on a number of occasions, and as the members know, I am very concerned about the length of some waiting lists at hospitals for specific procedures. We are at all times reviewing that. What it tells me is that we have to have the kind of planning process in place so that we can address where to expand services to meet those kinds of needs.”
In one year, instead of decreasing the waiting list to a year and a half or a year, which would be acceptable, it has now gone the opposite way and it is three years. I just feel that there is something the matter when an individual who is in pain and who is suffering has to wait two, three or four years for an operation. The operation is either needed or it is not. If it is needed, it should he done in a reasonable period of time. The only other course of action is, if one wants to postpone it long enough, the individual may not be around. Other than that, I cannot see any reason. If we need 1,000 operations in a year and we can only handle 500, the 500 builds up for the next year and multiplies so that in a very few years people will be five and 10 years on waiting lists. That just is not sensible.
The minister approached me on this last Tuesday and I thank her for that. She mentioned that there are other doctors and other hospitals and she would provide me with a list. When we talk about accessibility to quality health care, quality means to me that one has an opportunity to try to select a doctor and a hospital that one wants, especially in this instance where the doctor did perform the operation six or seven years ago. Surely it is only common sense that one goes back to the same doctor.
I am not pleading this case on behalf of my wife, because she does not want to be moved up on the list. She simply wants to see the list cut back so that people can have their operations in a reasonable period of time. When I read these promises of accessibility to quality health care for every Ontarian, I have a great deal of difficulty with it.
I will move on to the last item in the throne speech. “Continuing leadership in environmental protection.” It reads: “A clean and safe environment is one of the cornerstones of our effort to promote better health. Ontario will continue to demonstrate leadership in environmental protection to ensure the quality of our air, water and food.”
I certainly concur with that thought. I am pleased the Minister of the Environment (Mr Bradley) is in attendance today and I hope he will take note of some of my very positive items of constructive criticism. I mentioned earlier, and possibly the minister missed it, that I felt the environment was too important to be left to the uncertain funding of a lottery draw. I would have hoped that he only intends to gain some of his money from this. But the perception is that it is maybe not the best idea.
I think that possibly he was reading this article that appeared in Business Week, 10 April 1989. It says: “A national lottery is not such a long shot.” It goes on to say: “Imagine a tax nobody is required to pay, yet it raises billions of dollars. Imagine that people gladly stand in line to pay it, and no one considers it a burden. A fantasy? Not at all. It’s a government lottery. ‘That’s not a tax.’ you say, ‘It’s just gambling.’ Well. it is gambling, but to many economists it is also an excise tax on a commodity, a lottery ticket that happens to be supplied by a government monopoly that sets the price. This year, 28 states and the District of Columbia are running lotteries, which have been the fastest-growing source of state revenues in the 1980s. The cash-strapped federal government may soon want to follow suit.”
I think that maybe our Treasurer (Mr R. F. Nixon) has read this article and possibly in the budget speech in a few weeks we may be faced with several lotteries. I hope not.
I point out to the Minister of the Environment that it goes on to ask: “Worried about the environment? Play the Environmental Protection Agency’s green lottery.” The minister calls it Cleantario, but a green lottery sounds the same. It closes by saying, “Let the games begin.” I am not sure we are on the right track.
In the same vein, I will swing into something that was not in the speech, affordable housing, because it ties into my concern with the environment. The Minister of the Environment has a very important role to play, if not the single most important decision to make, in resolving the question of affordable housing.
In several of my municipalities, one of the major problems with providing housing stock is the difficulty they are having with his ministry in getting approvals through. In some instances it is a matter of delay. The town of Fergus last March or April requested approval for a plan that did not require any funding from his ministry. It was simply a matter of approval. They were notified that they would not receive any approval or any notification of either approval or disapproval for approximately five months. That would have put them into October or November for the approvals.
Surely there is some way the minister can speed up the process if a project is in order, so that they can get an approval in four, five or six weeks, and then can get on with the job. In municipalities that do not have the necessary municipal services of sewage and water, they cannot provide housing stock. Any of the lots they do have for sale are sold at prohibitive prices because of the very low numbers. The people who own them, and many of them are speculators and developers, force the price up.
The Minister of Housing (Ms Hošek) has indicated to all the municipalities that they should try to provide 25 per cent of their housing stock in the affordable price range. That is not a bad idea, but when you force a lot into the $50,000, $60,000 and $70,000 price range in small towns in rural Ontario, you are putting the price of the house up to $150,000 and higher.
In the last three years, the price of housing in my part of the province has doubled. The reason for most of it is the lack of housing lots. If the minister would provide the services needed or assist the municipalities in being able to put in the municipal-served water and sewage, they could open up more land, sell the lots at affordable prices and create affordable housing. The two go hand in hand.
I understand the minister does have a limit on his dollars and this should go to the Treasurer, but it would be just as well to provide money to his ministry to provide the services as to provide money to the Minister of Housing to provide nonprofit housing, affordable housing and things of this nature, because we would create the housing stock and it would be more benefit to the people in those communities in the municipalities themselves.
I have two towns and three villages that are really dependent upon the minister’s good graces in the next short while. Some of them have been waiting for some time, so I do urgently request him to give consideration. That was a pitch to the minister.
The Minister of Agriculture and Food (Mr Riddell) is not here, but I would like to just make a short comment as well on the lack of any initiative in the throne speech pertaining to agriculture. Agriculture is one of the most important industries in my riding of Wellington, and I was disappointed that there was not a single word mentioned in the throne speech. I would hope it does not indicate that agriculture is not a priority of this government, but unfortunately that is the way it appears.
Last week I read an editorial in the Erin Advocate. The heading is, “OMAF Sells Out.” It goes on to say that the Minister of Agriculture and Food failed to protect farm land in the Snelgrove area in Caledon. I am very familiar with it, because Caledon was in my old riding.
I am pleased that the minister is here now, because I wanted to address this to him. I was concerned that he was not defending the position he held earlier to defend this farm land. Maybe there are reasons he did not do so. There are always conflicting uses for land, and there always will be fights over it.
But I would have to feel that some other minister has more clout in cabinet or this minister would not lose these battles. He is too tough a minister to allow this land to go out of production unless there is a reason. I am just encouraging him to try. If the Minister of Agriculture and Food does not appear to be the leading minister to preserve farm land, then there is no ministry in the government that will care. So he does have to set an example.
I will not dwell on this, as I did mention it last week. I simply say that he does have a responsibility and he does have to preserve not only the farm land but our farms.
I am winding up very shortly. I have just a few more comments.
This government has failed, and failed badly, in one major area. It has failed to open a meaningful line of communication with the local municipal councils and school boards in this province. This is clearly highlighted by an event that occurred a month ago.
On Thursday, 30 March, the Association of Municipalities of Ontario held an emergency meeting, the first such meeting in its 90-year history, for the purpose of endorsing a resolution opposing the provincial government’s new direction to decrease financial support to municipalities.
Representatives from 700 member municipalities attended this meeting and there were also two Liberal members in attendance that I noticed. Maybe I missed a few, but I could only see two. One is here on the far side, the member for Grey (Mr Lipsett).
The underlying reason for this meeting was AMO’s concern with respect to the increased trend by the provincial government to shift additional responsibilities on to the local tax base. AMO certainly has my support in opposing the government of Ontario’s new direction with respect to provincial-municipal financial relations.
I am seriously concerned over the many recent initiatives undertaken by the government which are placing new demands on municipalities in areas which have not previously been their responsibility: courtroom security, Sunday shopping regulation, capital school construction and the municipal-industrial strategy for abatement, the Environment ministry’s program to reduce toxic contaminants and industrial municipal effluents discharged into Ontario’s waterways, to name a few.
It is becoming increasingly apparent that the government intends to adopt a policy which would require that the property taxpayer assumes a greater financial burden to offset costs in areas of provincial responsibility previously funded through the provincial revenue base.
This was singularly demonstrated by the Minister of Education in his recent meeting with the Wellington County Board of Education and the Wellington County Roman Catholic Separate School Board when he strongly recommended that the boards meet any shortfall in their capital funding requirements through the issuing of debentures. In other words, boards should make up the shortfall by borrowing the costs which will ultimately be borne by the property taxpayer.
I was very pleased to have had the opportunity to attend the AMO emergency meeting and discuss these vital issues with representatives from my 21 municipalities. As you will know, Mr Speaker, the AMO resolution was unanimously endorsed by its membership.
I sincerely hope that this meeting was not an exercise in futility and that this Liberal government will accept the good advice received from the municipal level of governments. We should all understand that our municipal politicians have a responsibility to their taxpayers, and I commend them for their initiative in this regard.
In closing, may I say quite clearly that we are not doing enough? We are failing to ensure the future wellbeing of our children and their children. As I mentioned earlier, in Maclean’s magazine’s Decima poll conducted for its 2 January 1989 edition, in an article entitled “A Portrait of the Nation,” some disturbing facts surfaced.
People were asked about future prospects. To the question, “By the year 2001, do you think average families may afford city houses?” 24 per cent said yes, 75 per cent said no. Three out of four people do not think they will ever be able to buy their own home in slightly over 10 years. So much for affordable housing.
Even more disturbing was that when asked if they felt it will be safe to walk around in cities, 32 two per cent said yes and 66 per cent said no. I mentioned that earlier, but I want to reemphasize it. Two out of three people said that in 10 years’ time they would be afraid for their safety, that our city streets would be unsafe. Yet in the throne speech, one of the six priorities, in fact the number four priority, is keeping our communities and neighbourhoods safe and secure. I truly hope we have the commitment to do so.
In the throne speech the first two priorities are, number one, building on our economic strengths to ensure tomorrow’s growth and, number two, investing in the future of our children by making our education system a more effective springboard to opportunity.
These are certainly commendable goals which we should all support, but only if we are willing to pay for them. We cannot burden our children with our debt. We do them no favours if we provide them with everything and leave them a legacy of debt. With an ageing population and a declining workforce, our young people will have enough financial problems to pay their own way without inheriting a mountain of debt from our generation. We must learn to live within our means. If we build schools for our children, surely we would not expect them to pay for those schools.
The former Prime Minister of Great Britain, Harold Macmillan, said, “History is apt to judge harshly those who sacrifice tomorrow for today.” All of us, as members of this Legislature, have a responsibility to manage the affairs of this province in the most prudent way possible, looking after the needs of the people we serve and providing for the wellbeing of the future generations that will follow us. Let us not sacrifice tomorrow for today.
Hon Mr Riddell: I listened very carefully as the honourable member talked about the Ministry of Agriculture and Food budget. He referred to an editorial that appeared in the Erin Advocate entitled “OMAF Sells Out.” With the honourable gentleman, the member for Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry (Mr Villeneuve), sitting in the Legislature, I want to put the question to the previous speaker as to whether he feels that the Minister of Agriculture and Food should freeze all agricultural land in perpetuity.
If that is his belief, has he discussed this with the honourable member for Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry, or would he rather see the guidelines recognize the planning process for permitting urban growth? Proposals for urban development are reviewed according to the criteria of the guidelines, and economic climate, which was mentioned in that editorial, is not one of the evaluation criteria. Rather the criteria deal with the need for more land to accommodate forecasted population growth.
With respect to the development proposal for Snelgrove in the town of Caledon, the criteria of the guidelines were definitely applied. The specific proposal and situation is now quite different from that of five years ago, when the development of Snelgrove was first proposed.
Mr Villeneuve: It was a different minister.
Hon Mr Riddell: My honourable friend the member for Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry should not talk too loudly, because he is the one who raises Cain whenever a severance is not granted in his area on good agricultural land. Those two had better get together and decide what it is they want the food land guidelines to do.
Mr Villeneuve: I too want to comment on the very, very eloquent presentation by my colleague the member for Wellington (Mr J. M. Johnson) on the speech from the throne. It is certainly an area where common sense has to prevail. I come from an area where we do have a lot of marginal land, as the Minister of Agriculture and Food so well knows. It is a situation where we are preventing development in a rural area, but on very marginal land. Many times, what occurs here is that we are told, because it is located in a general agricultural area, this marginal land can never do anything except grow weed. I do not think that is right.
I think the area that I represent needs to have population increases. That land is good for absolutely nothing else but growing houses. I think it is an artificial situation when the ministry representatives are calling this absolutely no development. I can cite the members an example of a spent gravel pit. I did go to 801 Bay Street and I fought the recommendations of the Ministry of Agriculture and Food. They were changed, because common sense finally did prevail.
A spent gravel pit is not class 1, 2 and 3 soil. That is the kind of thing I think should prevail when bureaucracies get involved and apply the strict rule of the law; then we have no flexibility. Of course, we do not want to see land frozen in perpetuity; what we want to see is common sense applied by the ministries.
Mr Pollock: I just want to put a few things on the record too. I have a situation in my riding along the same lines, where a land owner who owns a farm of approximately 125 acres wanted to change the zoning on that farm from agricultural to rural. When he notified all the surrounding people, there were two other farmers who were really concerned about this because there was a tile drain that went right down through this farm and that tile drain drained their lands, so they were concerned about it.
The reason I got involved was that these two farmers came to my office and said that the person in the Napanee office for the Ministry of Agriculture and Food had recommended this zoning change. These farmers said they had no problems with selling some lots out along the highway, because right along the highway there was bedrock. They had no problems with selling lots out there, but they did not want the zoning on this whole piece of property changed.
The feedback that we have had from the Ministry of Agriculture and Food staff in Napanee was that the reason they recommended the whole thing be changed was that there was some bedrock there and therefore they did not want to break it down into small pieces of property.
As far as I am concerned, there are all kinds of farms that have good land in eastern Ontario, and then maybe they have a small chunk of poor land. We should preserve the good land and let them build houses on the poor land. Those are my concerns.
Mr Tatham: I appreciate the comments made by individuals around parts of the province of Ontario, but I think we have to recognize that class 1 and class 2 land, and maybe class 3 land, should be preserved.
We also have to recognize that when we take other land out of farm production and put it into houses, we change the complex of the representation. You are representing people who are urbanites, and all of a sudden they then control township and county councils, and this reflects on what is going to take place as far as the farmers are concerned. So I think we have to be very careful when we allow severances.
In our own county of Oxford, we are very difficult as far as severances are concerned. We do not allow severances unless there are some very specific rules followed, because when you do that, you are looking for trouble. Some 83 per cent of our land is class 1 and class 2 land. We look after it. We try to keep it in perpetuity, because that is where we grow the food. We know how to grow food in Oxford county. We do a good job at it.
The Acting Speaker (Mr M. C. Ray): Does the member for Wellington care to respond?
Mr J. M. Johnson: I would like to make a couple of comments to the last speaker. The member for Oxford (Mr Tatham) should talk to the minister, if the minister heard what he was saying.
Second, in the editorial that the minister and I made reference to, “OMAF Sells Out,” the question is asked: “Why has OMAF changed its mind? It is still class 1 agricultural land.” However, the spokesman said the main reason the Ministry of Agriculture and Food is now supporting the development of land is that the economic climate in the area has changed since the ministry first opposed the proposal. It has not changed. It is the same area it was five years ago. The members know there has been very little change. The ministers have changed.
I very strongly support the comments made by my colleagues the member for Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry and the member for Hastings Peterborough (Mr Pollock). Reasonable, sensible severances are certainly acceptable.
I would give the minister one other bit of advice. There are all kinds of land up in the north, in the area of the member for Grey, that needs to be developed. There is land that is not suitable for feeding goats, and we could have development on that. Why does the ministry not encourage development into some other parts of the province and not all in Brampton?
The member from Brampton South (Mr Callahan) does not want all the growth in Brampton. Send it out to the other parts of the province. We need industrial growth. We need development in the other areas, not all in the Brampton area. The traffic is impossible now. You cannot get to the city.
Hon Mr Riddell: Did you tell the member for Grey his land was no good?
Mr J. M. Johnson: Absolutely not.
I leave the minister with the one thought that if the Minister of Agriculture and Food does not preserve and protect farm land, there is not a minister there who will. He has a responsibility to the people of this province and we will hold him to it.
Mr Owen: I am happy to speak to and also endorse the throne speech that is under discussion by the Legislature. The throne speech sometimes is sort of an eclectic grab-bag where every part of the province is to be recognized and every particular need in the province is to be recognized, identified and singled out. Sometimes there has been great to-do made if any part of the province has been neglected or forgotten, or any aspect of government was forgotten.
What we have chosen to do in this throne speech is to identify what we think are the six main thrusts of where we are going and what is most important to the progress of this province. With each of these thrusts, we can identify where we came from because we have, in various ministries, been supporting each of these identifications or directions.
The first we identified was that this province must continue to provide leadership in order to build on the economic strengths we already have in order to ensure tomorrow’s growth. We have been doing that. We have established the Ontario Training Corp. This government has allocated $50 million annually to combat illiteracy. In my own area, for example, I have been able to see that funding has gone to the Barrie Literacy Council for its worthwhile work. We also have the Laubach literacy program in our area.
For a number of years, I defended people who were charged with criminal matters. I was able to see that so often the people who were charged with serious criminal matters suffered from a lack of grasp of basic language, basic English. As I saw that they could not communicate, could not read or write properly, they became increasingly frustrated and would lash out at society for what society had done to handicap them.
In our jails in our area, as across the province, we have many volunteers going on a regular basis into the jails, working with this very serious problem and helping the accused and those serving time to learn a better grasp of the English language to better fit them for work as they progress outside the institution.
This is a government that has introduced the research and development superallowance. This is a government that has created the $360-million northern Ontario heritage fund and the six centres of entrepreneurship, and committed itself to $116 million to the industry research program.
This is a government that has implemented the centres of excellence program, but it is a government that is not theorizing only. It is a government that has been very hands-on in its programs. Let me give members an example from my own riding.
The largest industrial employer in Barrie is General Tire Canada, which is owned by Continental of Germany. We knew in Barrie that General Tire was in difficult times. It had not upgraded its equipment and machinery properly. It was still in bias ply production, rather than having switched over to radial tires. We knew they were in difficulty. A matter of weeks after the election in September 1987 I was able to sit down with the head of General Tire, Gary Pyle, and some of his staff, and the then-mayor of Barrie, Ross Archer, and some of his staff. We tried to determine what we could do to salvage the direction and viability of the General Tire plant.
We looked at the other plants that were owned by Continental of Germany. We knew they had our plant. We knew they had an investment in plants in Illinois, in North Carolina and in Mexico. We reviewed, if we were in the position of Continental, what we would do to put the thrust or the money to restore and salvage the investment. How could we make sure they would choose Barrie as the investment rather than one of the other plant locations?
We reviewed the pluses and minuses of Barrie, Illinois, North Carolina and Mexico. Once we had done that, we asked if we could meet with the Premier (Mr Peterson) here at Queen’s Park. We came down here to Queen’s Park and met with the Premier and some of his staff.
One of the major strengths of the Premier, and he has many, is that he has a knowledge of industry, production and marketing in industry. The Premier took what we presented him with and what his own staff was able to provide him with and then went to Germany in December of that year. He sat down with the executive of Continental. It came back to me by way of the executive in General Tire Canada in Barrie that Continental was very impressed with the knowledgeability of the Premier and his approach, and he did a very fine job of persuading.
So a few months ago, the Premier was able to come to Barrie and announce that his efforts had paid off and that Ontario would be sharing in a $159-million modernization and expansion of General Tire Canada, with the plant located in my riding of Simcoe Centre and in the city of Barrie.
The program, which is extended over five years in two phases, will result in the replacement of existing bias tire technology with advanced radial passenger and light truck tire production technology. Ontario has approved an $11.5-million concessional loan as well as a $2.5-million forgivable loan towards training costs.
I admit I have borne the brunt of some criticism for that investment on the part of Ontario taxpayers. But at stake were the present 800 jobs in that plant which would have been lost. At stake would have been all the feeder industries around, which number from three to five for every job in the plant in our area. At stake would have been the loss of the future 300 additional jobs that will be involved in this plant investment.
The federal government approved a duty remission order for $22.4 million, which is expected to result in a $9.3-million benefit to the company over a five-year period. Phase 1 will see the expansion of the existing 670,000-square-foot facility by 43,000 feet of equipment upgrading and the implementation of an extensive training program. By the end of 1990, production capacity will reach 12,500 tires.
Phase 2 is to commence in 1991 and will result in a further expansion of $61 million in machinery and equipment as well as implementation of additional training programs at a cost of $8.2 million. Production is expected to reach 19,000 tires per day, of which 16,750 will be radial passenger and light truck tires.
By the conclusion of phase 1 and phase 2, total employment will be around 1,100 workers in that plant alone.
This sector has been recognized as being important to Ontario’s overall competitive position in the automotive industry. Discussions with the company and industry indicate that government financial assistance was a necessary catalyst to encouraging re-investment and restructuring.
Restructuring of our major industries was recognized as an important part of Ontario’s future competitiveness in the Premier’s Council report, Competing in the New Global Economy.
I would like to spell out that it is an indication of the dedication, knowledge and commitment of the Premier and this government to see that we are there to progress. When this plant is finished it will be a state-of-the-art operation and will be able to compete with tire production anywhere in the world.
I would like to draw attention to other programs we have been introducing by way of Skills Development. Another of our plants in Barrie, Canplas Industries, which is a plastic plumbing supplies manufacturer, has received a commitment of $100,000 from the Ontario training trust fund, to match a similar amount raised by Canplas Industries itself. The money will be used to train 180 employees in areas ranging from robotics programming, service and computer skills to administration and motivation.
This plant has told me it has had difficulties getting trained people to come in to take over the jobs that need to be done in the plant. What they have done and what they have worked out with this particular ministry is a training program of the people on the job to handle the challenges that are facing them.
The Barrie and District Training Council also received a $23,180 operating grant from the Ministry of Skills Development. The community industrial training committees are autonomous organizations made up of volunteers from business, industry, labour, education and government. The committees are funded by the provincial and federal governments.
The employers are increasingly becoming aware of the fact that training and retraining the present labour force is the most efficient way to compete in this rapidly changing world economy. I am delighted that so many of our industries in my riding are taking advantage of these programs.
This government has indicated it will aggressively pursue new markets for our goods and services, and the industries in my riding are aware that is our objective and that we will be able to target support to the industries which provide maximum benefits for both the workers and the economy.
We support apprenticeship and other program training arrangements that combine education and on-the-job training. I would also like here to point out a program that was initiated in one of the high schools in Barrie, Barrie Central Collegiate Institute, and is now being expanded throughout the high schools across the entire county of Simcoe, and hopefully will be adapted and adopted across the province.
They initially called it the adopt-a-shop program. What happened was that the leaders of our industries went into the shops in our high schools and worked out their own tests of where the students were in their ability and training. After they had identified and gauged their skills, they then brought the students out of the classroom and put them actually into their industries with the up-to-date equipment available to the students.
Some 20 years ago, I recall, the government of the day began to recognize the need for updating the skills of the students in our high schools, and it put equipment into the schools. Unfortunately, what happened very quickly was that the equipment became outdated. The schools could not afford to continuously upgrade the equipment available to the students.
What we are doing with this plan is that we know the industries must compete with the other industries. We know they must have their tools and machinery right at the very peak of competitiveness. We are therefore able to bring in the students to train on the best equipment available. We have had tremendous co-operation from the Simcoe County Board of Education, the schools, the teachers, the principals and from the industry.
We are now venturing into what they are calling Skills Olympics, where the students in the schools, in the classrooms, are themselves competing with each other to get into the plants for these opportunities. Then with these skills, they are competing with each other to go on and compete with other communities, other cities and other towns to see who has the best skills. It is a competitive experience for them. It has been a sound experience for them and it has given them a feeling of achievement.
One of the difficulties I have seen as I have gone into the elementary schools is an unfortunate attitude by some parents that they do not want their children to become anything but professional people. They want them to become lawyers, doctors or whatever.
I trust we will move to adjourn the debate at this time.
On motion by Mr Owen, the debate was adjourned.
The House adjourned at 1800.