The House met at 1330.
Mr Farnan: Let us consider the case of the escalating auto insurance premium and the charge that the Premier (Mr Peterson) is guilty of breaking yet another 1987 election promise. The chief witness in this incident is a Cambridge man. Imagine the dialogue between the defence counsel and the chief witness.
“Are you saying the Premier lied to the people of Ontario about auto insurance rates?” defence counsel asks the witness. “I didn’t say he lied,” the man replies. “I just said I suspected him of doing it.” “Now we’re getting to it,” the lawyer declares. “What made you suspect my client?”
“Well,” said the man slowly, “first, just three days before the last provincial election, I was present at the rally in Cambridge at which the Premier said, ‘I have a very specific plan to reduce auto insurance premiums’; second, the Premier’s government proceeded to introduce two 4.5 per cent increases when its auto insurance review board was being set up; third, the review board’s recommendations to jack up auto insurance premiums were partially accepted by the government, and fourth, I’m now paying 17 per cent more in auto insurance than before the Premier made his promise.” “No more questions,” snapped the defence lawyer.
Mr Cousens: Last fall I called upon the Attorney General (Mr Scott) to improve the air quality and heating conditions in the provincial courthouse in Richmond Hill. Today I bring to the attention of this House another example of neglect and disregard for the staff and public at the north Metro provincial courts in North York.
For years staff have complained that the ventilation is extremely poor and that the building is subject to drastic temperature changes. In fact, last month I witnessed first hand the stale and stuffy conditions in the holding cells, where there are 17 staff members and where up to 50 prisoners can be kept. The environment is stifling. Depending upon the weather conditions on any given day, the temperature can be very hot or very cold; there is no way of adjusting the heat. On a number of occasions, staff have been let off early due to illness caused by these conditions.
It is totally unacceptable that this government on the one hand demands greater standards in air quality by preventing smoking in the workplace, while on the other hand it continues to ignore these conditions in our provincial courtrooms.
What will it take for the Attorney General to act on these injustices? Must I continue to rise in this House every few months to report on the latest occurrence in our provincial courthouses? Let’s see that he gets on and does something about it. The circumstances right now are unacceptable and it is unfair and is not right that our government allows this to continue in the Metro north courthouse.
Mrs LeBourdais: Having recently attended the ceremony this past Sunday at the St Lawrence Hall to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Komagata Maru, I rise today to join with Ontario’s Sikh community in recognition of this event, which marred Canada’s human rights reputation.
On 23 May 1914, the Japanese passenger ship Komagata Maru arrived at Burrard Inlet, Vancouver, carrying 376 Indians, 346 of whom were Sikhs. Although these prospective immigrants were British subjects, the Komagata Maru was refused permission to dock and was surrounded by armed guards by order of the government of British Columbia.
Acting in conjunction with federal legislation that retarded the efforts of would-be immigrants, BC officials, in order to ban the landing, found nonexistent diseases among the passengers. Replenishment of food and water was denied. Appeals for intervention to the King of England, the Viceroy of India and the Canadian federal government all were turned down.
The ship was ordered to return home and two months later, in July 1914, the Royal Canadian Navy escorted it out of Vancouver into the Pacific. On arrival, at Calcutta in September, it was met by a large contingent of police. A riot followed when the passengers disembarked. The police opened fire, killing 18 men and wounding another 25.
The intense racial prejudice of that period serves to remind us of the necessity of developing a multicultural society that provides economic, social and political opportunities for all Ontarians.
Mr Wildman: It has come to my attention that the Ministry of Natural Resources is reducing the number of available positions in the Junior Ranger program. In 1988, 1,400 positions were offered. In 1989, 900 positions only will be offered; 500 positions have been lost.
This is completely unacceptable. This reduction represents 20,000 less person-days of work in the public sector of our natural resources in the summer of 1989. This labour will be sorely missed in the stewardship of the natural resources of the people of Ontario,
The Wawa district has had three Junior Ranger camps close since 1983. Beaver Rock Junior Ranger camp and Lake Superior Provincial Park will be closed in 1989. The only camp left will be White Lake Junior Ranger camp in White Lake Provincial Park.
Even more important, this reduction represents a loss of 500 future foresters, tourists, recreationists and environmentally aware citizens. The program is an excellent way of introducing youth to an educational and work experience that remains with them for the rest of their lives. There are many in the resource-based industry and in the Ministry of Natural Resources who had their interest sparked through participation in the Junior Ranger program.
For the benefit of our present resource environment and in future and for the benefit of our youth and the future stewards of our natural resources, the Junior Ranger program should not be reduced. It should be maintained and strongly promoted.
Mr McLean: My statement concerns a private member’s bill I introduced last week, As members are no doubt aware, An Act respecting Heritage Day was introduced by me on 4 May. If passed, this bill would result in the third Monday in February being proclaimed as a public holiday and named Heritage Day.
On a number of occasions in the past, I introduced similar bills aimed at the creation of a public holiday in February, but failed to get the support of the majority of my colleagues here in the Legislature and my bills died. That is why I was pleased to hear my colleague the member for High Park-Swansea (Mr Fleet) introduce a bill similar to mine on 4 May. I look forward to working with the member and would appreciate it if he could use his influence on his colleagues to ensure that my private member’s bill passes and we celebrate Heritage Day on the third Monday in February 1990.
I think it is important for all of us to have one day of the year set aside for us to reflect on our past, present and future. That is what Ontario’s heritage is all about. It is about the kind of province and the quality of the lives we will have in the future.
Mr Ballinger: As the provincial member for the riding of Durham-York, I am again pleased to rise on the rump side of the House and pay tribute to the 30th anniversary of the Uxbridge Cottage Hospital. Last Saturday afternoon, I had the honour and the pleasure along with many other dignitaries and several hundred citizens of welcoming His Honour the Lieutenant Governor, Lincoln Alexander, to Uxbridge and to officially participate in the cottage hospital’s 30th anniversary celebrations.
Since its official opening in 1959, this practical hospital facility has been providing excellent personal health care services for Uxbridge and area residents. The large turnout of children, parents, seniors, doctors, nurses, hospital staff and former patients in attendance was a wonderful indication of the love and tremendous support Uxbridge has for its own Cottage Hospital.
As former editor Leila Avidsten wrote in an editorial for the Uxbridge Times Journal over 30 years ago, “Few dreams are realized by mere dreaming.” And so it was with this hospital. That quote, I believe, pays tribute to the countless volunteers then and now who have made the Cottage Hospital the most respected community facility in all of Uxbridge.
Mr Morin-Strom: I rise to express concern on behalf of the residents of Sault Ste Marie and the district of Algoma with respect to the attitude this government is taking to the local university, Algoma College.
Two weeks ago, the Minister of Colleges and Universities (Mrs McLeod) came into Sault Ste Marie to release a major study completed by the Ontario Council on University Affairs with respect to the ongoing operation of that affiliate of Laurentian University. In its recommendations, this council, instead of expanding the mandate of that college to serve the needs of the district of Algoma, has provided a standstill recommendation recommending the continuation of the affiliation agreement with Laurentian University.
The minister proposes to put the college further under the thumb of the financial control of Laurentian University, an action which certainly will not be in the best interests of the people of Sault Ste Marie. I ask the minister again, as I wrote to her just one month ago, that she release the report prepared by Dr Meincke on Algoma College. Let’s get the true story as to what the real future for that university should be.
Le Vice-Président : Ceci complète la période de temps pour les déclarations des députés.
STATEMENT BY THE MINISTRY
Hon Mr Kwinter: On behalf of my ministry, I would like to inform the House that the Premier’s Council technology fund is financing an important medical project by the Ottawa Heart Institute. As my colleague the Minister of Health (Mrs Caplan) has noted, we must use new medical technology as one of the tools to help us achieve a healthier Ontario.
The technology fund is contributing $2.8 million over five years towards the project, which is worth $22.3 million. The project focuses on the development of an electrohydraulic ventricular assist device, or EVAD, a device for implantation into people who suffer from heart disease. The device will help establish normal blood pressure levels. The project is considered the first stage in the development of a totally artificial heart that does not require the patient to be hooked up to equipment.
Dr Keon of the Ottawa Heart Institute is heading the research team, which also includes scientists from the University of Utah, the University of Ottawa’s electrochemical science and technology centre and faculty of engineering and the National Research Council of Canada as well as Canadian and international industrial partners.
The search for a method to augment or replace the pumping action of the human heart has been going on for decades, but the process has been slowed down by problems related to infection and other side-effects. The EVAD project brings together the necessary talent to bring about this much-needed medical innovation.
Ontario’s contribution to this project represents an investment in the Canadian biomedical industry, a $1.3-billion market. Of this spending, 90 per cent goes to imports. The EVAD project is an opportunity to produce in Ontario the medical equipment we need. The project will also create potential spinoff markets as a result of the electromechanical expertise that will be gained. Opportunities exist in the areas of chemotherapy infusion pumps and drug delivery systems as well as nonmedical applications, such as very small, high-reliability, rechargeable batteries.
The Premier’s Council’s contribution to this project through the technology fund fits into Ontario’s long-term strategies for economic development. A vital component of these strategies is the need to focus on research and technological advancement as a way of increasing our global competitiveness.
The Deputy Speaker: Any other ministerial statements? If not, la réponse de l’opposition. Le député de Sault-Sainte-Marie.
Mr Morin-Strom: As the critic for Industry, Trade and Technology, I would in general like to commend the minister on this initiative. It is one that appears certainly to be worth while. Medical research is an area in which Ontario should have a much greater presence. We know of the escalating costs of health care and the fact that so much of that health care is going into new equipment. Many of those funds are going out of the province in order to purchase that equipment and bring it in for the service of our health care professions in Ontario.
I think it is about time we made major new initiatives in the area of health services in terms of the development of technologies here in Ontario. Initiatives like this hopefully will spur an industry which not only will allow us to supply our doctors and hospitals with the equipment we need for the residents of Ontario but will enable us to get into the production of new medical technology and the supply of that technology to other countries and other provinces. I look forward to reviewing this proposal in greater detail and thank the minister for his announcement.
Mr Eves: It is my pleasure to respond to the statement made by the minister in the House this afternoon. It is a welcome announcement by the ministry. However, on this side of the House we have to view these announcements with some sort of cynicism, in view of the fact that the Minister of Health (Mrs Caplan) has said in this House on numerous occasions that one of the reasons we have longer waiting lists for heart surgery in Ontario and one of the reasons the waiting time is 200 per cent longer than it was in 1985 when they assumed power is because of rapid advances in medical technology: they cannot keep up.
We applaud these advances in medical technology, we applaud the fact that it is being done here, but the minister is going to use this as just another excuse for why the waiting lists are growing longer and longer and the time is longer and longer. It also just happens to be a coincidence, I suppose -- this technology fund has been in place since 1985 -- that the Premier (Mr Peterson) is going to be at the Ottawa Heart Institute on Thursday. Talk about self-serving political hay out of what should be a serious announcement: here it is.
The Deputy Speaker: Order, please.
Mr Sterling: I would like to say that I am pleased the government is recognizing Dr Keon, who happens to be a constituent of mine, for his contribution to medicine and to the whole area of heart research. I know my colleague’s feeling with regard to the whole matter and the fact that access to heart operations is becoming more and more of a problem.
However, on the other hand, Dr Keon and his efforts deserve to be rewarded, and I am happy to see this announcement, effectively giving support to a constituent of an opposition riding.
The Deputy Speaker: Thank you. Other statements?
Sinon, ceci complète la période des déclarations ministérielles et des réponses de l’opposition.
LANGUAGE OF DEBATE / LANGUES UTILISÉES DANS LES DÉBATS
Mr Cousens: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I appreciate that there is a large movement towards recognition of all languages and heritages in the province but I question the position the Speaker is taking. I mean there are many people who are watching this. Are we becoming a total --
Hon Mr Sorbara: You’re not serious.
Mr Cousens: I am serious. I thought that this was primarily an English-speaking province and I am just --
Mr B. Rae: That is completely outrageous.
Mr Cousens: The member can call it outrageous. I am just saying, what is the precedent for it on an ongoing basis?
The Deputy Speaker: Order, please. The government House leader.
Hon Mr Conway: I just want to say, Mr Speaker, while having great personal regard for my colleague the member for Markham (Mr Cousens), speaking on behalf of the government, we are absolutely delighted at the position that you have taken. This Legislature recognizes quite properly two official languages.
As I said to you earlier today, Mr Speaker, I have been particularly pleased by the way in which you have been conducting yourself here over the last few days by introducing French as the first language on a number of occasions. Speaking from the government’s point of view, we are absolutely in support of that, because it recognizes a central reality of this country.
M. B. Rae: Monsieur le Président, c’est avec un sens, je dirais même -- Je ne comprends pas, franchement, comment, à cette époque de l’histoire de notre pays et de notre province, il est possible qu’un député conservateur puisse dire au président de la Chambre qu’il ne peut pas parler français.
Moi, je vous félicite, monsieur le Président, d’avoir parlé votre langue maternelle. Je veux dire, au nom de mon parti, que nous vous appuyons, ainsi que tous les députés qui veulent s’exprimer dans leur langue maternelle, une des langues officielles du Canada.
Le député qui vient de parler devrait avoir honte de la position qu’il a prise dans cette Chambre.
Mr Cousens: Mr Speaker, I would like to apologize to you and to anyone else who misunderstands my point and I --
Mr Cousens: Please, I think I have offended honourable members of this House and I would like to just be very clear that I have the highest regard and respect for you, Mr Speaker, and all francophones in Canada and Ontario.
Mr Cousens: Please, I gave full attention to other members when they were speaking, including the member of the opposition. I would like to say that I withdraw my point inasmuch as I have a sensitivity that is maybe just very much my own that says --
Hon R. F. Nixon: Call it prejudice.
Mr Cousens: Excuse me. The honourable Treasurer calls it prejudice. If it is prejudice, I again would like to stand up before this House and all people of Ontario and say I hope it is not prejudice. What I see happening in this fair province of ours -- I want to make sure that we respect all cultures, all nationalities and all peoples. I have a sense that there is a movement towards making Ontario an officially bilingual province and --
Hon R. F. Nixon: This is a speech.
Mr Cousens: Excuse me. That is the basis upon which my concern was expressed, and therefore I respect the fact that the honourable Speaker, in the spirit of good communication, is trying to do it. I just sit and watch. I hope that Ontario continues to have respect for all nationalities and all peoples, English and French.
Mr Cousens: No, but I am not being -- I am finding the outbursts from other members saying that I am a bigot or I am prejudiced or other things, and that is not the spirit in which I said it, because even yesterday in my own riding, we had a group of students from Strasbourg, France --
The Deputy Speaker: Order, please. Are you still addressing a point of order?
Mr Cousens: I am saying I spoke in French and I was pleased to welcome them, promoting the spirit of friendship. I have some concerns that, in fact, there is a movement that is going to take Ontario into an official bilingual position and I just hope that there would be some discussion about it in this House and it would be considered more seriously. So I withdraw my concern about your statement.
The Deputy Speaker: May I remind the members that the standing orders allow all members of the House to speak in English and French. For those of you, including the people from the public gallery and the media, who have difficulty understanding one or the other, there are simultaneous interpretation and translation devices available to everybody in the House. I mean no offence and I thank the members for their support.
Mr B. Rae: I have a question for the Premier today. On Friday, 5 May, the Globe and Mail quotes his Minister without Portfolio responsible for disabled persons (Mr Mancini) -- the minister is not in the House -- as follows: “Mr Mancini ruled out any prospect for employment equity legislation as a means of improving the situation.” He was referring, of course, to the very serious problems of unemployment that face members of the disabled community.
I wonder if the Premier can tell us how he squares that statement that there would be no legislation from the Ontario government with respect to employment equity with the commitment that the Premier personally made to me before he was Premier, which is contained in the accord which we signed this month four years ago, where he stated very clearly on behalf of the Liberal Party that it was in fact committed to mandatory affirmative action in the private and public sectors and that that involved passing laws to that effect.
Hon Mr Peterson: The government has undertaken a number of steps in that regard, which my honourable friend will be aware of. I was not aware of the comments of my colleague in the cabinet but I can tell you that we have taken a number of steps in the public sector and we will continue in that regard.
Mr B. Rae: There is a book about the civil service which is called When in Doubt, Mumble. Whenever I watch the Premier in action, I always know we have hit something of a payload when he starts to mumble as badly as he just did, I wonder if he could tell us today or simply try to answer the question. The Treasurer (Mr R. F. Nixon) is laughing so hard, he has turned around. I wonder if the Premier --
Hon R. F. Nixon: My colleague said obviously you are never in doubt.
Mr D. S. Cooke: Your colleague is perceptive.
Mr B. Rae: I want to ask the Premier if he could tell us quite simply this: Is the government planning to introduce a law regarding employment equity or not?
Hon Mr Peterson: I can tell my honourable friend that these matters are always under review. We started in the public sector, as I told my honourable friend, and we have made considerable progress in that regard.
Mr B. Rae: I have a copy of a cabinet document, dated 8 December and 30 December 1988. It is a cabinet submission with regard to the question of employment equity. It is a devastating indictment of the failure of the current program. It outlines the fact that the Liberals are on record back in 1985 in their accord with the New Democrats, in the 1986 throne speech and in a race relations policy statement -- it says that the government’s commitment, which has not been matched to date by any action, is a political embarrassment and it states that the approach so far endorsed by the government, which the Premier repeated again today, is “ineffective, results in limited progress and in minimal gains.”
It is obvious from the statement made by the Minister without Portfolio responsible for disabled persons -- which the Premier did not deny or refute when I gave him an opportunity to do so in answer to the first question -- that the government has rejected the recommendation of the Minister of Citizenship (Mr Phillips) with respect to employment equity and that it plans no such legislation as recommended specifically in the cabinet document which I have.
Can the Premier tell us why he has rejected the recommendations made to him with regard to a legislated program and why he continues to dither when the evidence, even in his own cabinet document, is simply overwhelming that the current system is not working and that the price for discrimination is being paid by women, by the disabled, by visible minorities and by our native people right across the province?
Hon Mr Peterson: I cannot comment on some cabinet submission my honourable friend has or may think is accurate; it may not be. There are many cabinet documents floating around. The member from time to time comes into possession of them and that is fine. That is no problem to me. Let me tell the member that we have, in our view, made progress in this regard. We will continue to honour our commitments and I think my honourable friend can rest assured that that is the case.
Mr B. Rae: Another question to the Premier, this time in the absence of the Minister of the Environment (Mr Bradley), known affectionately now to all and sundry as Bingo Bradley. Apparently Bingo was aware for several months of the fact that tainted fuel was being sold widely in this province -- when I say tainted, I mean effectively poisoned with polychlorinated biphenyls and other hazardous wastes -- and that this has been under investigation for several months, according to the statements that the minister made outside the House yesterday.
I want to ask the Premier how he squares that statement by his own minister with his government’s obligation to the public health of the people of this province. Is he not in fact telling us that this government has known for months that drivers have been filling their tanks with poisoned fuel, that people have been exposed to this stuff for months on end and that his government did not have the courage and decency to tell either the federal government, according to the federal minister, or more important, the people of this province with regard to a major public health problem?
Hon Mr Peterson: I think my honourable friend will recognize that our Minister of the Environment has been very proactive in these matters. I think that he will recognize that the minister has moved and promised tough enforcement in this regard and is carrying through. He is, I am told, in Ottawa today discussing this matter and others with the federal Minister of the Environment because there is a question of shared jurisdiction. I think the member can rest assured that he is on top of this matter and doing everything that can be done.
Mr B. Rae: Perhaps I can ask the Premier then: When did he discover that there were in fact tainted fuels being sold in Ontario? Can he tell us that?
Hon Mr Peterson: I have no knowledge other than what I read of tainted fuels being sold.
Mr B. Rae: So the minister never told the Premier, the minister never told the cabinet, he never told the federal Minister of the Environment who reported yesterday in the House of Commons that he was not aware of anything until he read about it in the newspaper, and he never told the people of Ontario. He never told one single citizen that he has been aware for months of an investigation affecting the public health of the people of this province.
Again I put my question to the Premier: Does he not think the minister owed it to the people of this province to tell them that there was poisoned fuel being sold at pumps right across this province and that their health was at risk because of what was going on? Does the Premier not think he owed that to the people of Ontario?
Hon Mr Peterson: I cannot speak to what level of knowledge was held by the minister or by the people in the ministry.
Mr B. Rae: You heard yesterday.
Hon Mr Peterson: I heard it yesterday and the member heard it yesterday.
Mr B. Rae: That is right. What are you going to do about it?
Hon Mr Peterson: I can ask my honourable friend, if he knew all about it, why he did not stand up in this House and mention it six weeks ago or six months ago.
The Deputy Speaker: Order, please.
Hon Mr Peterson: I say to the member that the minister is on top of the situation. I think the member can rest assured of that.
Mr Brandt: My question on the same subject is to the Solicitor General. I understand that the minister stated this morning that the Ontario Provincial Police have been involved in the investigation of toxic fuel that was transported from New York state and sold in Ontario.
The minister would also be aware that a meeting was held in Oshawa on 20 April of this year between federal and provincial revenue officials. The purpose of that particular meeting was to continue co-operative efforts to uncover and to prosecute actions in the petroleum industry with respect to the transportation of these fuels across the border.
Can the minister assure this House that at that particular meeting, which was held with the federal government, the question of the transportation of illegal toxic chemicals being blended with fuel oils was in fact discussed, as well as the issue of the lost revenue, which we understand amounts to some $100 million annually? Can the minister advise the House of that, please?
Hon Mrs Smith: The member for Sarnia was misinformed if he was informed that I stated we were involved in the investigation of the present tainted fuel. The investigation which the member referred to laterally in his question was raised at the time of the Provincial Auditor’s report, the question of fuels going back and forth across the border without appropriate taxes being paid. This is in truth being investigated and that investigation is ongoing.
As far as the present situation is concerned, the OPP have made themselves available to the Ministry of the Environment, but as of my last checking on the matter, the Ministry of the Environment was conducting its own investigation without the assistance of the OPP.
Mr Brandt: I am advised that the minister is involving the OPP in the investigation. Through a discussion I held with federal officials this morning, I have been advised by them that at no time were they told by the province of Ontario, either by the OPP or by the Ministry of the Environment, that there was a traffic that was occurring with respect to the shipment of toxic fuel.
The federal customs officials, who do come under the OPP investigation as it relates to revenue, were also not informed, to the best of my knowledge. The federal Minister of the Environment stood up in the House yesterday and indicated that he was totally unaware of the fact that these toxic contaminated fuels were being shipped from the United States into Canada.
Given those facts and given the fact that the minister is responsible for the OPP, which has been involved at least peripherally in some of these questions, why would her government choose to wait until today, according to the Premier, when his Minister of the Environment is now consulting with Environment Canada? Why would she not have exchanged this information in any way, even as it relates to revenue losses that are occurring if not the toxic contaminant problem we are getting to, with the federal officials? Why is there not more of a co-operative undertaking between the two levels of government in a matter this serious?
Hon Mrs Smith: The member for Sarnia constantly through his question mixes in the investigation of revenue with the investigation of toxic materials. This must be confusing to the public. It certainly is not confusing to me, because I have a very clear distinction in my mind between the two investigations.
One has to do with provincial revenue and is being carried on in an ongoing way by the OPP. We would be glad to share the information with anybody who wants it; that is ongoing. Of course, investigations themselves are carried on appropriately by the police in a confidential way. As for the toxic matter, it is a completely separate matter and the OPP have not been involved.
Mr Brandt: Some months ago, the Minister of the Environment indicated, he was aware of the illegal shipment of these blended fuels containing toxic contaminants. I am in fact putting together the question of revenue as well as the shipment of these toxic contaminants, because they may well involve the self-same transporters of these goods.
It would only appear to be logical that if in fact these same individuals are shipping this material into Canada and evading certain taxes, which heaven only knows our Treasurer (Mr R. F. Nixon) needs so badly, it would follow that the minister’s OPP investigating unit, which is dealing with the question of revenue, would put together the issue of the toxic contaminant transportation with the Minister of the Environment and share this information with their federal colleagues so that they too can be aware of the severity of this particular problem.
Why would the minister not at least advise the RCMP or why would she not involve any of the federal authorities in connection with the direct and very specific responsibilities of the OPP in connection with this case?
Hon Mrs Smith: I would repeat that the OPP were investigating a revenue matter and they had not made any connection between this and any other matter. It may well be that as this new investigation gets under way, they will look to see if there is any overlap in persons or in dealers. Since they were looking into one matter and did not know the other existed, how could they be reporting on the other to anybody? They were not looking at the other and had not discovered toxic matters. The reporting of it would remain -- the OPP were not aware, as they investigated the revenue matter, of any further problem. They were investigating a revenue matter and dealing with it at that level. What happens from here on in remains to be seen.
ONTARIO HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION
Mrs Marland: My question is to the Minister of Citizenship.
The Ontario Human Rights Commission is presently under a very dark cloud, a position I hope the minister does not want to continue. Just yesterday, further allegations reported to my staff revealed Mr Schreiter, the director of compliance and investigation for Ontario at the commission, was flown to Toronto three times from the Yukon for job interviews at the expense of the commission, given the job and then had relocation expenses paid. All this was done while other qualified, visible-minority-group applicants in Ontario were rejected.
The minister admitted yesterday that Mr Anand was the only minority-group member in a management position. Will the minister admit today that both funds and hiring practices have been suspect at the commission over the past few years?
Hon Mr Phillips: I think we must remember the Ontario Human Rights Commission is embarking on some substantial change, designed to make it a more effective human rights commission. In the last week, we have added, I think, $3 million worth of resources. The commission is following the consultants’ reports we had prepared about a year and a half ago, all designed to help to make it more effective.
In terms of looking at the staffing of the commission, as I think the member knows there are throughout the commission roughly 40 per cent women at each level and roughly 25 per cent from the visible minority community. In terms of the seven people who were recruited most recently, they are all qualified individuals, extremely competent, and the process that was followed in the recruiting, I am told, followed the public service guidelines.
I am satisfied on two fronts. One is that our chief commissioner is moving to substantially improve and enhance the commission’s ability to carry out the enforcement of our code. I am also satisfied the commissioner has recruited good people. He has followed the procedures that have been outlined by the government. In that respect, on both of those counts, I am satisfied.
Mrs Marland: The people in the minority groups are not satisfied. When the minister says the commission has been under substantial change, he is right, but it is not a change in the direction of which I would be proud as minister.
Given the fact there is some real evidence and there are questions being asked about the suspect hiring practices and financial dealings of the Ontario Human Rights Commission, will the minister agree to a review by the standing committee on public accounts, on a priority basis, to deal immediately with this very serious matter?
Hon Mr Phillips: The chief commissioner -- and, incidentally, an individual whom, when his appointment was announced, I think all three parties strongly supported, because of his exceptional record in this area -- has made it known on many occasions that he would be happy, indeed he would welcome an opportunity, to meet with the appropriate committee of the Legislature to review what is happening at the commission, to review its priorities, to review its plans. He has made this point in the past. I am sure the chief commissioner, if the appropriate committee of the Legislature wanted to have him appear before the committee, to review what is going on at the commission, review its priorities and policies, would welcome that opportunity, as he has in the past.
Mrs Marland: That is really encouraging, because if the commissioner has offered that opportunity, then I would assume the member, as the minister, would be totally in agreement with the public accounts committee reviewing the Ontario Human Rights Commission immediately on a priority basis. That is the only answer I can extract from the minister’s reply and that is encouraging.
As a further supplementary, I want to ask the minister, if the commission must be a flagship in terms of hiring practices in every possible, equitable way for visible minorities in the province, would the minister agree that the commission must not only protect those minorities from discrimination in workplaces throughout Ontario, but also must ensure that its public practices are impeccable in terms of government organizations?
The minister has said he is satisfied in terms of their existing practices, but if the perception out there is that there is something to be questioned, then is it good enough for him that the public has lost confidence in the commission and that minority group leaders are calling for this investigation? Because it is his own ministerial constituency, could we look to him for the direction and leadership to arrange immediately for that hearing to go before the public accounts committee?
Hon Mr Phillips: There are several questions there. I will repeat what I said earlier, and that is that the chief commissioner has said on several occasions that he would be happy to appear before the appropriate legislative committee. I think that it would be a matter of which is the appropriate committee, to be dealt with by the House leaders.
I think it is a big mistake, frankly, to prejudge the commission and its practices. I am satisfied it followed sensible practices. I think as we look throughout the commission we see -- and I repeat -- at every level women strongly represented for good reason; at every level the visible community strongly represented for good reason.
The progress the commission is making is substantial. I repeat: The commissioner has said on many occasions that he would be happy to appear before the appropriate legislative committee. I think that is the process that should be followed. I repeat myself: I am satisfied that our commissioner is making good progress for ensuring that we have a substantially enhanced human rights commission.
Mrs Grier: My question is for the Minister of Municipal Affairs, who, we were told, would be here today. Can I ask if he is expected back? If so, I will stand down.
Hon Mr Conway: The minister is here. He will be here shortly.
The Deputy Speaker: The minister for Scarborough West. I mean the member.
Mr R. F. Johnston: The minister for Scarborough West is probably as close as I will get to being a minister. I will accept that, Mr Speaker. I have a question for the Treasurer who never thought he would be Treasurer, so anything is possible.
Mr R. F. Johnston: In the Treasurer’s list of sins in the federal budget, regarding education he has talked about the failure to transfer funds as we had expected them to be transferred under established programs financing, but he has not talked at all about the problems that those institutions, and boards of educations as far as that goes, are going to suffer because of the rises in the unemployment insurance rates this year. I have heard from the University of Toronto that it is anticipating an extra cost to its budget of $800,000 this year just for UIC increases, and that the Metropolitan Toronto School Board is estimating a $3-million raise in its cost for UIC. Is the Treasurer willing at this stage to guarantee that they will not be stuck for those extra costs and that he will make sure the province provides if the federal government refuses?
Hon R. F. Nixon: I cannot make that guarantee, but I naturally have a good deal of sympathy, particularly in the case of the universities that do not have access to ready additional revenues on their own behest. Certainly when we are considering grants for a future year, matters like that would have to be taken in consideration, but I am not in a position at this stage to make additional payments for this purpose.
What other governments do by way of tax changes, really, we cannot always guard against. In this connection, as I am sure the member is aware, the government of Canada is contemplating a new sales tax, and how that would affect the various agencies and emanations of government or those responsibilities in the community that depend on government for most of their financing is very much a matter of concern to me.
Mr R. F. Johnston: It is also difficult to know just how a payroll tax might affect these institutions in terms of extra burden. I wanted to let the minister know that I have heard from the York Region Board of Education that it anticipates its costs this year would go up an extra $600,000. This would cause them to raise the mill rate, to raise this kind of money, they have to do it by one half of one per cent.
Does the Treasurer have any idea at this stage of the extent of the problem? Has his ministry investigated the kind of costs that are now going to be put on to these provincial institutions, causing them burdens which may affect the delivery of program and other kinds of decisions?
Hon R. F. Nixon: The estimate of the costs has not been given to me in specific dollars, but we know in general what the additional responsibility is, since the government of Canada has said that for unemployment insurance the costs must be entirely borne by employers and employees, and that the government of Canada will make no contribution at all. So in essence it is sort of like a payroll tax in that it is based on the size of the payroll, with both employers and employees contributing.
Mr Brandt: My question is to the Premier. I had intended to ask this question of the Minister of the Environment (Mr Bradley). However, in his absence, since he is belatedly sharing with the federal government his awareness of the shipment of illegal toxic fuels from the United States and because this question has some emergency related to it, I will ask the question of the Premier.
Tonight there is a meeting in Pickering with respect to the matter of the greater Toronto area’s proposing Pickering as a potential site for municipal waste from the GTA municipalities. There is some concern on their behalf that this government may attempt to bypass its own environmental protection legislation by moving to the Environmental Protection Act, as opposed to a full-fledged and complete environmental assessment, with respect to any proposed new site.
Since this meeting is being held this evening and since these particular constituents are extremely concerned about what this government may do relative to a proposed landfill site, can the Premier give the assurance to this House, and therefore to the people of the Pickering area, that any new site will, in fact, require that the full Environmental Assessment Act be applied to that proposed site?
Hon Mr Peterson: The Minister of the Environment answered that question, I think, two or three weeks ago. My answer is the very same as his. That is the answer.
Mr Brandt: This is going to look particularly revealing to the people of Pickering who, when looking very carefully at the answer of the Minister of the Environment, will have extreme difficulty in interpreting the convoluted way in which he said, “Perhaps, maybe, but I’m not sure.” That is about the answer that we got.
We are talking about millions of tons of municipal waste that are going to be disposed of, on an annual basis, for some long number of years in some proposed site. In the GTA document that was, in fact, accepted by those municipalities, there was a small and sometimes overlooked caveat in that particular document which stated very clearly that in the case of an “emergency,” there may be some necessity to bypass the normal environmental approval process which is the Environmental Assessment Act.
With due respect, I ask very specifically -- that is all I want to know -- is this government prepared to require that the Environmental Assessment Act be applied to a new site, or conversely is it prepared to say it is going to go to some other watered-down version, such as the Environmental Protection Act? What is this government going to do? Will the Premier give us a straight answer, please.
Hon Mr Peterson: Members have the straight answer, they got it from the minister two or three weeks ago. We all understand it on this side of the House. My honourable friend cannot understand it. I can tell him that it washes completely. My honourable friend should know that it is the view of the government that the fullest, most stringent environmental principles will attach to any hearing.
MOBILE HOME PARK
Mr Owen: I have a question for the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations. Church’s mobile home park in Barrie consists of 65 mobile homes which are owned by the occupants, but they lease the land on which they are located. The owner, Mr Church, is now nearly 90 years of age and has decided he is going to sell the land. Some 40 years ago when he first developed the property it was on the outskirts of Barrie, but now it is completely surrounded by a developed city environment.
Of course he is entitled to sell his property, but we find that the people who are living there and who own their homes in some cases have their complete investment of a lifetime invested in those homes. They are facing the prospect of having to move off this land and they do not know where they are going to go.
I am wondering if the minister can offer any hope or protection to these people who are caught in this unfortunate predicament.
Hon Mr Wrye: The honourable member and I have had an exchange in this House before on this issue, which I know is affecting a number of his constituents in more than one mobile home park, and he has raised that privately with me on a number of occasions as well.
I can tell the honourable member that as the laws now exist, the home owners can protect their interest, in the situation where Mr Church might sell his property, by registering their lease at a land registry office. That would, of course, protect them only for the term of their lease.
If that is long term, obviously that would put them in a fairly good situation for the years to come. I am sympathetic to the honourable member’s problem and to the fact he has raised it with a number of local municipalities.
Mr Owen: The leases involved are all short-term leases, unfortunately for the people who are occupying them. I have taken it upon myself to contact other ministries of this government. I have contacted umpteen municipalities, including Barrie, Innisfil, West Gwillimbury, Vespra, Essa, Sunnidale, Oro and on, trying to find out if there was some way in which the more rural areas would be able to accommodate the needs of these people.
What concerns me is the needs of these people, but also the needs of other people who are going to be facing this across the province, because what we are facing in Barrie is going to be duplicated many times across Ontario in the near future.
I am wondering if the minister can suggest if there is any protection to the future problems of the people in these types of home settings that can be accommodating to their dilemma and maybe avoid a similar fate or future.
Hon Mr Wrye: I cannot help. It is regrettable that the leases in the Church’s home park situation are short-term leases. I cannot suggest any further solution to the honourable member for that immediate situation, other than the one that I have. I certainly appreciate that he has been attempting to bring the municipalities together to see if they can work out some solution. I would certainly encourage him to continue along that line as really being the only other alternative.
In the longer term, we are currently looking at a number of options as we review the Condominium Act, and we have been having discussions with the Minister of Housing (Ms Hošek). We are looking at a number of current land development methods and seeing if we can develop alternatives and options which we will be able to put in place to --
Mr Runciman: He is putting us all to sleep, Mr Speaker.
Hon Mr Wrye: I am sorry that my friend the member for Leeds-Grenville (Mr Runciman) is not interested in this question. It is a very important question in the Barrie area. I would have thought he would allow my colleague a chance to ask his questions in the House --
The Deputy Speaker: Thank you.
Hon Mr Wrye: If I might conclude briefly: As we review the Condominium Act, I am hopeful that we will be able to bring forward a number of alternatives to the kind of traditional proposals which will allow this kind of problem and others to be solved in the future.
Mr Mackenzie: In the absence of the Minister of Transportation (Mr Fulton), I have a question for the Treasurer of the province.
His colleague, the Minister of Transportation, has sent a letter to the regional chairman in Hamilton-Wentworth in just recent days, which has caused some concern. In one of the paragraphs in the letter, one sentence says: “With the current situation, there does not appear to be justification to apply a preferential 90 per cent subsidy to trolley expenditures.”
Why would this government and the minister discriminate against Hamilton by clearly threatening to renege on the 90 per cent subsidy for electrically propelled transit while all electrically propelled transit in the city of Toronto is subsidized at the 90 per cent rate?
Hon R. F. Nixon: I certainly agree with the honourable member that we ought to be treating municipalities in a fair and equitable manner. I do not know any justification for not doing so, but if my colleague has said so I will certainly discuss it with him, because probably there is good reason; he is a very fair and equitable person. The fact that the honourable member has raised it here in his absence really means that all I can say in response to the question is that I will speak to him about it.
Mr Allen: Hamilton has good reason to be concerned because it has proceeded with costly expenditures to its transit system based on that preferred subsidy rate and based on proceeding with trolley buses as a major solution to the transportation problem. Why would the minister, in the Treasurer’s opinion, reverse that direction, considering the environmental issues concerned, when considerable cost would be attached to Hamilton by reducing the subsidy?
As a matter almost of separate concern, the minister appears to be manipulating Hamilton, our city, by using cost figures derived from an attempt by Daytona to scuttle a trolley bus system by ordering dual-service vehicles that would cost half a million dollars, which the minister now is citing as a normal cost for a trolley bus system. Does the Treasurer agree with those tactics?
Hon R. F. Nixon: I do not know anything about what the honourable member is talking about. I know the honourable member my colleague the minister is very knowledgeable on this matter. But speaking for me, whenever the province is in a program where it is subsidizing 90 per cent of a service for Hamilton, it might possibly be that it should be looked at. That is pretty rich.
The Deputy Speaker: Order. It is the members’ time for question period.
Mr Harris: To the Treasurer: Yesterday l asked the Minister of Housing (Ms Hošek) if her ministry, being responsible for housing in the province, had done any impact studies on the impact of lot levies and other provincial taxes on the cost of affordable housing in Ontario. I was a little astounded that the Minister of Housing had not done any impact studies and washed her hands of the whole matter.
But she did make a suggestion, and that suggestion was that I should ask the Treasurer. I am taking the minister up on that suggestion, and at the risk of asking the inmate to run the prison, I ask the Treasurer whether in fact he has done any impact studies of the effect on the affordable housing question in this province of the imposition of the new lot levies he is proposing?
Hon R. F. Nixon: I think the government has been well informed about that impact. The honourable member would know we tabled a green paper with a number of proposed policy alternatives. I believe that was in December. Since that time, my colleague the honourable member for York East (Ms Hart) has chaired a committee of parliamentary assistants. I have met a number of groups from the community as well as other ministers directly concerned. We have heard the views of members of the homebuilders’ association who very properly are deeply concerned about the high price of housing in Ontario, and who in recent years have regularly expressed their concern in that regard.
Among other things, they have brought clearly to our attention what they consider to be the impact of lot levies on those prices.
It is necessary, as I am sure the honourable member would know, that we balance the information that comes directly from the home builders and those who sell the homes with the necessity of having adequate capital to provide schools in the rapidly expanding communities, particularly around Toronto and in some other centres. That is the information upon which we are contemplating the possibility of moving towards lot levies.
Mr Harris: I appreciate the Treasurer does need new money. After all, he is dealing with a Premier (Mr Peterson) and a cabinet that are increasing spending in this province the likes of which we have not seen since Pierre Trudeau hit the federal scene. I appreciate that, but want to --
The Deputy Speaker: Order.
Mr Harris: The Treasurer indicates he is going to sell the new Nipissing courthouse. I do not put it past the Treasurer. I do not think anything is free from being studied by this Treasurer.
The industry has indicated that for every $100 million in lot levies he is going to bring in, he will impact on housing somewhere in the order of $5 billion to $6 billion, the affordability of the existing stock included. That has been the industry study, but the Treasurer in his answer said he feels that study may be somewhat biased from its point of view.
I ask the Treasurer this: Has he or his government -- I am astounded the Ministry of Housing has not -- has he as Treasurer or the Ministry of Revenue done any impact studies on increasing taxation in this area; and if he has not, why not?
Hon R. F. Nixon: The honourable member prefaced his question by saying I obviously need more money for school capital. I am not sure that is correct. The honourable member knows that in the last year he was in government, and that was just four years ago, school capital was under $80 million for the whole of the province; about $74 million. We have raised this to $300 million each year, and in fact the additional capital is needed by the communities which under our statutes have the responsibility to provide for school-building accommodation.
We are providing $300 million and we are providing, at least in our policy paper proposals, for alternatives of beyond just the mill rate to pay for the local share. We think it is appropriate that this flexibility might very well be considered to assist rapidly growing communities.
Mr Dietsch: I have a question for the minister responsible for women’s issues. On 2 May, the minister announced an additional $5.4 million for wife assault prevention programs to maintain safety and protect the quality of life. The new allocation of funding, with the cost-of-living increase of $500,000, brings the commitment for wife assault to $40 million, a 17 per cent increase over 1988, yet some have responded that shelter beds in the province are still 700. A number suggest this has had no increase since 1985.
There seems to be a great deal of confusion and I would like the minister to alleviate that confusion. Has there been an increase in shelter beds available to the victims of family violence since 1985 or not?
Hon Mr Sorbara: I appreciate the question from my friend the member for St Catharines-Brock, particularly because, as he suggested in the prelude to the question, there were some people in the Legislature --
Mr B. Rae: Why are you looking down at the answer? Look up. Don’t look at the answer.
Hon Mr Sorbara: There were some people, I tell the Leader of the Opposition who does not want to hear the answer -- I invite him to do so -- who had been suggesting that the number of shelter beds in the province had remained at some 700. The fact is that there are now some 1,290 beds operating within some 79 shelters in the province and there has been an increase of over 100 new beds in the province during the past four years.
Probably even more important than that, the funding he refers to has stabilized a movement that is so very vital to women who are subject to threats of, or who are the victims of, violence within a domestic context.
Mr Dietsch: My supplementary is about some of the minister’s specific initiatives. He has referred to a study dealing with violence against women with disabilities, as well as making shelters more accessible for women with disabilities. I am concerned: Will these initiatives benefit those women most affected by this problem of family violence?
Hon Mr Sorbara: My friend refers to an allocation that was made during the course of those announcements of $50,000, accompanied with matching funds of some $50,000, for a study of the particular needs of women with disabilities who are the victims of domestic violence. It is crucial that we get on with that study for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is that women with disabilities are often at a further disadvantage. They are doubly disadvantaged in that context.
We do not have a good sense of what services ought to be provided and how shelters ought to respond to the particular needs of women with disabilities. This study, with the full support of DAWN, which is the Disabled Women’s Network, in Ontario, will begin to show us the way we should be moving to respond to women in those particular situations.
Mr Farnan: To the Minister of Correctional Services: Our prisons are overcrowded. We have double-bunking and triple-bunking. We have relocations of inmates considerable distances from their homes.
At the same time, the ministry has had two small fine options projects, in Hamilton and Niagara, for the past several years. Little wonder that members of the bench are refusing to incarcerate individuals for nonpayment of fines, as Ontario continues to fail to provide a broadly based fine options program to pay off one’s fine through community service.
My question is, when will the minister end the façade and recognize that after several years he cannot hide behind two small fine options programs in Hamilton and Niagara? When will he end the discrimination by extending this program across the entire province?
Hon Mr Ramsay: I would like to thank the member for the question because I agree with him that the fine options programs we have had operating in the Niagara Peninsula as pilots have been very successful. I will be making some announcements very soon about expansion of those programs.
Mr Farnan: This has been going on for many years. Provincial Court Judge John Smith has criticized the government, saying it is using the court system as a collection agency to wring money from those who can least afford it. In refusing to incarcerate an individual for nonpayment of a fine, Judge John Smith, in his judgement on a recent case, said:
“The fine options program cannot be done in Ontario because our government will not fund it. The politicians appear not to care. I have been hammering this thing, trying to get the government, for years, to make the law equal for the rich and the poor.”
How does the minister respond to Judge Smith, and to Donald Page, one of his own Correctional Services officials, who said, “The main problem is we have not got final approval and we have not got funding”? Is it not about time? Is this not too late?
Hon Mr Ramsay: I would have thought the member would have been satisfied with my initial response that I was going to respond to his demand. I am a minister and we have a ministry that does care. I think community service orders, restitution and other sanctions like that are more appropriate than incarceration in lieu of payment of fines. As I said before, we will be responding in the near future.
Mrs Cunningham: My question is for the Minister of Skills Development. The federal government announced in its budget of February 1986 that it planned to make available to the provinces a joint program to assist older workers affected by major, permanent layoffs. The program for older worker adjustment calls on the federal government to pay 70 per cent of the assistance given to older workers aged 55 to 64, those people who have suffered a permanent job loss, have no prospects for re-employment and no realistic opportunities to go back to work.
Given the fact that the Premier’s Council has urged an examination of “the subsequent economic fortunes of workers displaced by industry restructurings,” will the minister please explain why his government is one of only two provinces that have not joined this particular program?
Hon Mr Curling: I was just about getting excited to answer the question, but the matter belongs to the Minister of Labour. I will ask the Minister of Labour to respond.
Mrs Cunningham: I knew you wouldn’t be responsible for this, Alvin. I knew it wouldn’t be your fault.
The Deputy Speaker: Order, please.
Hon Mr Sorbara: I wonder why the member for London North is shaking her finger at the Minister of Skills Development simply by virtue of the fact that he points out to my good friend that POWA happens to be within the jurisdiction of the Minister of Labour. Surely the member for London North, doing a little bit of research, would have known that. A simple phone call would have indicated to her that the appropriate place to pose that question would be to the Minister of Labour.
I want to tell her the reason Ontario has not yet entered into a POWA agreement with the federal government. The answer is simple: It is that the federal government, in its wisdom, has changed the rules applicable to POWA on a variety of occasions.
It has recently announced changes that now make it of interest for Ontario to enter into negotiations. I would expect, if the federal government sticks to the position it has now adopted, that in the fullness of time, not very late in the future, we will have a POWA agreement to benefit older workers in this province.
Mrs Cunningham: I find it most interesting that the minister makes excuses for this particular provincial government. All we hear is moaning and how the feds do not help this government out. This program has been on the books since 1986. Eight other provinces figured out a way to join. Eight other provinces are helping out their older workers. I do not accept the answer.
The Deputy Speaker: Order, please. The supplementary question is?
Mrs Cunningham: Mr Speaker, I do not have a supplementary question.
SOUTH MUSKOKA MEMORIAL HOSPITAL
Mr Black: My question is to the Minister of Health. She will be aware that South Muskoka Memorial Hospital has the opportunity to add a new medical specialty in obstetrics and gynaecology to the staff, and that the implementation of that service will require some additional funding from her ministry. That request has been made. Could the minister tell this House the status of the request at the present time?
Hon Mrs Caplan: I am aware of this situation and of the member’s interest. It is important to note that the Treasurer (Mr R. F. Nixon) announced an 8.1 per cent transfer payment to the hospitals of this province. As the member knows, we are in the stage of developing a transitional funding formula. Our goal is to see that hospitals are fairly and appropriately funded for the services they provide. We know how important it is for hospitals to do appropriate manpower planning and establish their priorities within their global budget to meet the real and changing needs of their communities.
I said to the member when he discussed this with me that I would encourage the hospital to meet with other hospitals in the area to discuss, on a regional basis, manpower planning and the opportunity to realize services, to meet the desire for a new program in the region.
Mr Black: If the minister is unable to announce the funding for this program today, I understand a request has been made that she meet with representatives of that hospital board. Can she tell us whether she will be holding such a meeting?
Hon Mrs Caplan: I would say to the member we recognize that not all hospitals can or should attempt to provide every specialty service and that planning on a regional basis is particularly important. I have said to the member that I would be pleased to meet with representatives of all the hospitals in the region and district health council members to discuss how they could proceed to plan appropriately for human resources on a regional basis, to meet the real and changing needs of the community within available resources within the region.
SHOAL LAKE WATER QUALITY
Mrs Grier: My question is for the Premier. The Premier, I am sure, is aware that the city of Winnipeg gets its drinking water from Shoal Lake in northwestern Ontario. Yesterday, Consolidated Professor Mines applied to the Ontario government for permission to develop a gold mine on Stevens Island in Shoal Lake. Today, the government of Manitoba has asked that all documentation associated with the application be forwarded to it, that it be given ample time to review the material, and in particular that there be public hearings on the proposal.
Can the Premier assure the people of Winnipeg that nothing will happen in that lake that might affect the quality of their drinking water without ample opportunity for public participation?
Hon Mr Peterson: May I say at the outset that I am very glad I stayed to receive this question. I appreciate my honourable friend telling me about this; I was not aware of this situation. I am sure we will work closely with the people of Winnipeg to make sure they have quality water, as we have very close relationships, as she knows, with that province and will continue to do so.
I cannot tell my honourable friend everything that is happening with respect to that particular application, but I can assure her that the Minister of the Environment (Mr Bradley) will handle that with the sensitivity and judgement with which he handles all matters of this type.
Mr Hampton: I think we had ample evidence yesterday that hazardous materials and pollution do not respect boundaries; they do not respect international boundaries and they may not respect interprovincial boundaries.
What the people of Manitoba and the government of Manitoba are asking is something that I think is a very simple request. There is already a memorandum of understanding between Ontario and Manitoba to preserve the water quality of Shoal Lake. It is a memorandum that has been there for sometime. All they are asking is that the government of Ontario share whatever information is available regarding this mining project and that public hearings be held.
Finally, I would ask the Premier to make one further commitment: that if we really care about the environment and we recognize that pollutants can move across boundaries, public hearings be held in Winnipeg so that those people can be assured that no water-quality damage will occur. Can he make those simple commitments?
Hon Mr Peterson: I think we all do understand, as my friend has said, that pollutants do not respect national or provincial boundaries. I do not think there is anything particularly profound in that particular observation.
I am not aware of any official request by the city of Winnipeg or the government of Manitoba with respect to the position my honourable friends have put forward. They may have asked the members to do something officially on their behalf, but they have not asked us. They may have had these discussions with the Minister of the Environment; I do not know. I will discuss it with the Minister of the Environment and we will obviously co-operate with our sister province in every way that is reasonable.
With respect to the question of having public hearings in another province, I am not sure I can give my honourable friend that commitment. I am not sure that is the appropriate thing to do in the circumstances. Obviously, however, we will respect our traditional friendships, and they will our very strong commitment to the environment.
So I will discuss it with the minister, and if there is anything we can do to improve the situation, obviously we will.
RETAIL SALES TAX
M. Vllleneuve : En l’absence du ministre du Revenu (M. Grandmaître), j’aimerais adresser ma question au Trésorier.
Would the Treasurer remain in his seat? The Treasurer probably knows that Quebec does not tax purchases of furniture for residential dwellings, which include big-ticket items such as kitchen and bedroom furniture, stoves, etc, nor are Ontario residents taxed for Quebec purchases.
From my riding up through Prescott and Russell, Ottawa, Vanier and up the valley, furniture and appliance stores have lost a great deal of business, because people can make identical purchases in Quebec for a lot less.
Does the minister have any estimate as to how many jobs and how much money this has cost the government of Ontario and our retailers in eastern Ontario?
Hon R. F. Nixon: No, but I do know that people who might otherwise go to la belle province for other purchases have to pay a full additional one per cent on those purchases in Quebec. Of course, they do have other taxes that balance it up in general. The fact that they do not tax furniture may be somewhat of a dislocation, as the honourable member indicated, but we do tax it in Ontario.
Mr Villeneuve: Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry, Prescott and Russell, Vanier, all of the Ottawa ridings and up the valley are all subject to this and the retailers in that area are suffering a great deal. Even though Ontario residents are supposed to report their purchases in order to pay Ontario sales tax, we know that this hardly happens at all. The Quebec tax exemption has been in place for some time and has caused Ontario stores to lose a great deal of business.
Does the minister support proposals for a similar tax exemption in Ontario, or is he going to allow for fair competition for our Ontario retailers in that area?
Hon R. F. Nixon: I do not support the exemption, and I know that the retailers in that area have certain other obvious advantages in living in this jurisdiction which the honourable member would be aware of.
Mr Campbell: I have a question for the Minister of Northern Development. Could the minister comment generally on how the relocation plans are going in northern Ontario?
Hon Mr Fontaine: I thank the member for the question. First, the relocation in general is going very well. Everything is on schedule. In my ministry, for the building in Sudbury -- I guess the member knows where it is -- as the member knows, the contract was given last fall and we anticipate that we shall occupy this building in July 1990. For the Ministry of Mines building, the tender will be awarded in stages commencing 1 July 1989. Some 40 of my employees have already moved to the Vanguard building, and I will move another 10 to Timmins. Instead of leaving the regional office in Sudbury, I moved the regional office to Timmins.
SCHOOL OPENING AND CLOSING EXERCISES
Mr Pollock: I have a petition, signed by 198 people, which reads as follows:
“To the Honourable the Lieutenant Governor and the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:
“We, the undersigned, beg leave to petition the Parliament of Ontario as follows:
“Whereas we believe the amendment to regulation 262 relating to ‘the collective recitation’ of the Lord’s Prayer in opening or closing exercises in public schools deprives many Ontario citizens of their established freedom, we therefore object to the loss of this freedom.”
It is signed by myself.
The Deputy Speaker: May I call the members to order, please? There are many private conversations which make it very difficult to hear the petitions.
Mr Jackson: I wish to present a petition. “To the Honourable the Lieutenant Governor and the members of the Legislative Assembly of
“We, the undersigned, beg leave to petition the government of Ontario as follows:
“We, the taxpayers of Halton, are alarmed that the government of Ontario continues to decrease its share of the cost of public school funding which is clearly contrary to the government’s guarantee that Bill 30 would not be implemented at the expense of the public school system and which is contrary to its election promise to restore the previous contribution towards education to 60 per cent of the total cost.
“We call upon the Premier and the government of Ontario to take immediate action to address this situation and to honour the commitment to return to a 60 per cent level of government funding for public education.”
The petition has my support and signature.
Mr Jackson: I have a second petition. I
“To the Honourable the Lieutenant Governor and the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:
“We, the undersigned, beg leave to petition the Parliament of Ontario as follows:
“We, the teachers in Simcoe county, wish to inform the Legislature of the concern that negotiations on pension matters within the biennial review between the Ontario government and the Ontario Teachers’ Federation have been terminated.
“We submit to you our 2,049 signatures/letters in the fervent hope that the government of Ontario will return to the bargaining table forthwith until such time as a mutually agreeable solution is reached.”
These letters are submitted. It has my signature and support.
Mr Wiseman: I have a petition signed by 857 constituents in the riding of Lanark-Renfrew. It reads:
“To the Honourable the Lieutenant Governor and the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:
“We, the undersigned, beg leave to petition the Parliament of Ontario as follows:
“Hold the line on tobacco tax in Ontario.”
I have added my name to this petition; as a nonsmoker, too, I might say.
Mr Wiseman: I have a second petition signed by 100 constituents in the riding of Lanark-Renfrew which reads:
“To the Honourable the Lieutenant Governor and the Legislative Assembly of Ontario.
“We, the undersigned, beg leave to petition the parliament of Ontario as follows:
“We urge you to amend the Teachers’ Superannuation Act, 1983, in order that the teachers who retired prior to 31 May 1982 have their pensions recalculated on the best five years rather than the present seven or 10 years.
“This proposed amendment would make the five-year criteria applicable to all retired teachers and would eliminate the present inequitable treatment.”
I have signed my name to this petition as well.
INTRODUCTION OF BILL
MADAWASKA CLUB LIMITED ACT, 1989
Mr Black moved first reading of Bill Pr12, An Act respecting the Madawaska Club Ltd.
Motion agreed to.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
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 Owen: Yesterday I was about to comment on a visit I made to Innisdale Secondary School in Barre about two weeks ago. At that time, I was asking the students why they were choosing to go on into professional careers and why they were choosing to go to university rather than go in the direction of trades and industry.
In a jocular manner, one of the boys in the class replied that he did not want to do that because he did not want to dirty his hands. He was being humorous and facetious, but at the same time he was identifying an attitudinal problem on the part of parents today in our province because so often the parents want their children to grow up to be doctors or lawyers or teachers, but they are reluctant to see them go on into trades and industry.
I would suggest that this is a problem which we have to address in this Legislature. The attitude is one of error on the part of so many of these parents. Today, industry and the trades offer exciting challenges. We are today in a time when we have rapidly changing machinery and skills have to be changed to accommodate these rapid changes. Today the trades afford very, very high incomes. There was a time, possibly, when industries paid the lower scale, but that is not the case any more. I feel we should get this message out to the public, to the parents and to the students that they should accept these challenges.
This, then, is a government which is trying to address the present and anticipated shortages of skilled workers. Unless we do that, we will not be able to meet the challenges of international trade.
The second direction which the throne speech indicated was that we would be looking at a purposeful and relevant education system and that this would be the key to realizing both the economic potential of our province and the individual potential of our people.
Along that line, we have seen the commitment of this province. We have, in fact, met the earlier commitment of smaller classes in grades 1 and 2. We have gone the direction and the route of increased computer education in the elementary as well as the secondary schools. We have indicated that we will be working towards revitalizing the curriculum from grades 1 to 6 by focusing on the development of literacy and analytical and communications skills and we have indicated that we will resolve the issue of specialization, hopefully once and for all, and that we will be looking at specialization in the area of grades 10 to 12.
How are we going to pay for these new directions? This has been a question which has been raised in the Legislature by way of opposition. I would like to address a number of those things which are under consideration.
For example, one of the suggestions made in this Legislature is that we look at the pooling of industrial and commercial taxes.
Approximately two months ago, the director of our public school board in our county asked if he could sit down and talk to me about a number of problems. He and a number of his staff and some of his trustees came to the constituency office and they sat down and they said, “What are you trying to do with regard to the pooling of industrial and commercial taxes?”
I pointed out to them that while I have only sat in this Legislature but two years, I have been involved in provincial matters for in excess of 20 years. One of the concerns I have always heard about the provincial field is the inequities of funding of different boards in different parts of this province. That has been a criticism which has been there for decades and decades.
One of the suggestions which has been made to this government to address this problem is that if we pooled the industrial and the commercial taxes and then distributed them equally on a per capita basis of need across the province, we would be trying to tear down that inequality which exists.
For example, in Ontario we know that in the area of Markham we have very rich industries located there. We also know that the rich industries produce rich residences for the people who live in the houses in that area. We know that in certain areas of our province, whether it be in eastern Ontario or certain parts of the counties of Grey and Bruce, sometimes they have not had the same opportunities of raising resources for their children’s education because they have not had the same industrial base.
This has been a proposal made to us, that we can finally address the inequality, and we have said, as I said to the director as he visited with me, “If you think that there’s another solution to this problem which is better than this, then let’s hear it and we will look at it, but if you cannot think of another alternative or a better solution, then if this is possibly going to do the job, let’s get on with it and try it.”
I have not heard of any alternative proposal from that school board, and hopefully this might be the answer to trying to afford equal opportunities for quality education for all students of this province.
I have had the question raised of lot levies. A few weeks ago, the Greater Barrie Chamber of Commerce asked if I would attend a breakfast meeting with its members. There were the developers in our community and there were the lawyers for the developers from our community, and they said: “What are you trying to do? Lot levies will only increase the costs of a home.”
I gave them the example I had used earlier with some others of a couple who in January 1988 put in an offer of $190,000 on a home in Barrie. When the transaction was closing in June 1988, the same house plan in the same subdivision, with the same lot costs, the same costs of labour, because it had already been contracted, the same costs of materials, because they had already been contracted, the same house that this couple was paying $190,000 for was selling for $240,000.
I said to the developers who were meeting at that breakfast: “When the house was originally contracted for sale in January the builder was making a good profit. He was then making another $50,000 on the same house by the time the same house plan was being sold to others, a matter of four months later. What is determining the value of what you are seeking and asking for your house sales?”
One of the most successful developers in our community replied: “Supply and demand.” I said: “That is correct. It is supply and demand. It used to be in Barrie, and still is throughout most of Ontario, that the builder figures out his costs and adds a little profit and he sells his house. But in the growth areas such as around Metro and Durham and Peel and in our part of Simcoe county, it is supply and demand.”
I pointed out to them that if the school is not there, they do not have the demand and I pointed out that they would not think twice about the extra $5,000 or whatever the school board might put on to that house to help pay for the school in that plan. I pointed out also that I was well aware that they would probably be selling the house saying they were going to be asking another $5,000 of the purchaser, but that I knew and they knew that they did not have to ask for another penny because they were already well looked after in their profits. It was interesting that all of the developers and all of the lawyers for the developers backed off. I pointed out to them that we have had huge numbers of new millionaires in our community every year over the past several years and all of them through real estate. I do not begrudge them their millions. I do not begrudge them their success but I do say that they have to help pay their way with the needs of the communities. They have to help come up with the money towards the schools which are having to be built to meet the needs of the people to whom they are selling their homes.
So I am saying that as we are facing these problems of growth in certain areas of this province, we as a government must continuously come up with new and innovative ways of dealing with these demands and with these problems. I would submit that we are doing that with some of these proposals.
Another problem that has concerned me in education and I trust we will be facing and coming to grips with is that I see that in the lower grades, all through elementary school, the girls are probably involved in math and science to an even greater extent than are the boys. Yet somehow as soon as we reach grade 9 and certainly by grade 10, the girls start to drop the studies of math and science.
In our area, it would appear that while the girls make up probably 52 per cent of those studying math and science in elementary school, by the time we are into grades 10, 11 and 12, girls make up less than 40 per cent of those studying math and science. By doing this, by making these choices, the girls are in fact cheating themselves not only of educational opportunities but also of future job opportunities. Somehow we have to get this message through to the parents and through to these schools and to the students themselves that they are shortchanging themselves.
Just a matter of days ago, I was at a science fair for the county of Simcoe and I asked if those in charge of it would let me know of the numbers of those who were participating who were girls and who were boys. It turned out that the ones who were excelling and who had their exhibits in the final competition for the elementary school were mainly girls, but by the time we hit the competitions in the high school level suddenly it was about three or four to one for boys having their exhibits in this fair as opposed to girls. So I hope we will address this problem as well.
I know that one of the issues with regard to the construction of new schools across this province has aroused some criticism and fanned some of the coals, which I thought were dead, with regard to the separate school issue. I point out that the Ministry of Education follows criteria in establishing where the new schools are going to be built. The first question or criterion is, is the enrolment already present and growing? Second, is there space available in adjacent schools? Third, can the needs be met by other methods, such as additional portable classrooms or busing to another area? Fourth, will the school be needed in the area in the foreseeable future?
I have heard some criticism in our county, for example, that this year’s announcements had a considerable number of approvals of construction in the separate school area and not as many in the public school area. But I point out that the ministry goes by the figures; it goes by the numbers.
I would like to point out, for example, that in the county of Simcoe, in 1985, the public schools had a total elementary and secondary enrolment of 39,476. The projected 1989 student enrolment figure is 41,737, which means a growth of student enrolment in that county in that period of 2,261.
Let’s look over at the separate school enrolment in the same county. In 1985, the total enrolment was 7,401; this year it is 12,351. That means the separate school enrolment has grown, in that same period of time, by 4,950. In other words, there is a growth of students in the public school system of a couple of thousand as opposed to a growth of 5,000 in the separate schools. Of course, the government must meet the needs. We simply must identify where the growth is and try to work towards resolving that growth.
For example, in the south end of my riding, Holy Trinity High School received approval for an addition to the school. At the present time there are 16 portables silting out on the grounds of that particular school. They do not have room for lockers. They have no gym; they have no cafeteria. Now with this approval, we are going to be able to try to reach out and meet that particular need.
I will then move on to the third long-term direction that has been identified in this throne speech. That, of course, is to try to identify the problem of poverty that we have in this province and what we can do to try to break the cycle of poverty which encompasses so many families. In my 30 years of practising law in Barrie and dealing with various charitable organizations that have been trying to deal with the problems of poverty, I have seen, again and again, that poverty repeats itself. Unfortunately, the children I have seen who were struggling with poverty with their families are now grown up and they are still caught by that web of that poverty. Their children are reaching maturity and I see that they, the third generation, are still caught by the unfortunate chain reaction of this monster of poverty.
We know that poverty leads to poor health, a shorter life span and lower educational achievements. We know that a number of answers are required, and I am happy to advise that only a matter of days ago we were able to announce that the Canadian Association for Community Living in the south part of our county was to receive more than $125,000 in grants to establish a supported employment program in the area from the town of Bradford over to the town of Alliston, to serve adults with developmental handicaps.
The idea is that it will provide programming, planning and development of the purchase of equipment and supplies. We will provide annual funding to cover the operating costs. We are hoping that individuals can plan for employment with the emphasis on the interests and strengths that they have, rather than on the handicaps which afflict them. The establishment is part of the association’s plan to downsize sheltered workshops in the south end of our county by offering alternatives in the community for adults who are developmentally handicapped.
This is the 70th anniversary of the election to Premier of the only person who has ever served as Premier and who has come out of our county of Simcoe. I know that earlier last week reference was made to the fact that this person represented Halton in this Legislature, but he actually farmed and grew up in Simcoe county. I am referring to Ernest Drury.
The United Farmers of Ontario party was elected in 1919. It did not have a leader. Mr Drury did not even run in that election. He had run in 1917 federally as a Liberal and he later ran as a Liberal in the 1920s federally, but he never succeeded in being elected, except that here he agreed to serve as leader and as Premier of the United Farmers of Ontario in 1919.
One of the significant things about Mr Drury’s career in this Legislature is that he introduced the first mother’s allowance program anywhere in North America. Mr Drury was a man of high quality. He was educated. He had tremendous eloquence. He had a voice that if he whispered it would fill this room. But he also had a conscience and a commitment to serve his fellow man. He was a very high conscience Methodist who felt that he had to do for other people.
I am happy to see that we are following and pursuing that particular type of program in Ontario in these years that our particular government is serving Ontario. I have been able to make frequent announcements for improved day care with regard to our riding.
Some opposition people have said there is no mention of housing in the throne speech, but I would like to point out that we have been a government of action with regard to meeting problems of housing. I would like to point out that up until now, until the most recent announcements regarding affordable housing and nonprofit housing, there have been several hundred units built in Barrie alone. For example, one of the first was called Southfields, located in the south end of Barrie, with 67 units of a three-storey walkup apartment building.
Last year I was able to attend the opening of Cundles Terrace, which had 50 units in two three-storey apartment buildings. Another is under construction, Timbercrest, with 50 more units in two- and three-storey walkup apartments. We have more in the planning stage and under construction.
The Barrie Nonprofit Housing Authority has done a tremendous job, with volunteers, of getting more and more housing on side, The air force veterans in our community have worked towards more housing projects, and in February the Minister of Housing (Ms Hošek) was able to announce a project of $2 billion of affordable housing across the province.
I was very pleased that she identified 650 new family and senior housing units for Barrie out of that program. I am pleased that it is meeting the needs of all sorts of families: the families who have children, the single mothers with children and the seniors as well. I commend the aggressiveness shown by the various organizations in my riding working towards supplying this much needed affordable housing.
We have talked about another direction in the throne speech, that is, to maintain a sense of safety and security in our communities and how critical that is to the future wellbeing and development of our province. The Premier (Mr Peterson) himself has many times suggested that we must accommodate the new peoples who are moving into our province, that it is a changing province.
In the last week, I have met with a number of schools. To give members an idea of how we are changing even in Simcoe county, I would like to point out that when I was meeting with grade 7 students from Minesing Central public school, I talked about the fact that the three leaders of our three parties in this Legislature all come from different backgrounds. I identified the Scandinavian background of the Premier, the background of the NDP leader, the leader of the official opposition and the background of the acting leader of the Progressive Conservative Party.
I said to the students, “No matter what your background, no matter whether you were born here or your parents were born here, third generation or first generation in this province, you can aspire to and attain public office and there is no limit to what the opportunities are.”
I asked in that class if there were any students who were born outside of Canada. There was only one student, who was born in the United States, I asked if there were any parents of those students who were born outside of Canada and three children had parents who were born outside of Canada: The one American had American parents and two others had parents born in Britain.
The next day, I met with grade 8 students at Pope John Paul II elementary school and I asked the same question after the same discussion. There were 10 children born outside of this country and half of the students had parents who were born out of this country. Our community is changing.
The next day, I met with grade 10 students from Holy Trinity High School in Bradford. There were a couple of classes there, and out of the entire group of grade 10 students there were 10 students only who were born in this country and only one child had parents born in this country, which shows the changing population we have, not just in what we normally think of as the Metropolitan Toronto area but extending into the counties around the Metro area.
It shows the tremendous opportunities we have for accommodating these new languages, these new cultures, these new skills and traditions and enriching our entire province.
I know that one of the criticisms I hear of our system in our area is of the inadequacies of the present federal Young Offenders Act, and I commend the Attorney General (Mr Scott) for the position he has taken on this matter and for the concern he has shown in addressing some of these problems. I know he has discussed the matter with his federal and other provincial counterparts and I sincerely hope adjustments will be made there.
I also know that it is through education and prevention programs that we will be able to try to ensure that the quality of life we have and enjoy in this province will be continued.
The fifth direction the throne speech offered was accessibility to quality health care for every person in this province regardless of his ability to pay, that this will remain a fundamental value and principle of our society.
In my riding, we have had the opportunity of seeing the commitment to quality health care proceed with this government’s various programs. The Ministry of Health was spending just under $4 billion 10 years ago. This year the budget is estimated at $12.7 billion for health care. A decade ago, health care allocations in Ontario accounted for 27 per cent of all provincial spending. Today, Health ministry expenditures represent fully one third of our entire provincial budget. That is the equivalent of $1.4 million each and every hour. There are still some people who feel that is not enough, that we are underfunded, but I suggest to this Legislature that the problem is not underfunding, but different funding.
I would like to point out some of the things that have been done in my area, for example. Over the last six years, the Royal Victoria Hospital in Barrie received total increases in allocations of $14 million, from $19.7 million in 1983-84 to $33.7 million in 1988-89, for a total increase in those six years of 71.3 per cent. The RVH will also receive $458,800 in additional growth funding for 1988-89. In July 1987, it was announced that the Royal Victoria Hospital would receive $60 million to build a new 363-bed acute care hospital and redevelop and expand its existing Ross Street premises for 140 chronic care bed accommodations.
In recent years, we have witnessed what can only be described as a massive technological explosion in the health care sciences. We have seen major breakthroughs in drug therapies and surgical procedures, we have witnessed a revolution in diagnostic services and equipment and we now have at our disposal sophisticated new techniques in patient care and assessment.
Only a matter of months ago, approval was given by the Health ministry of this province to the Royal Victoria Hospital to acquire a computerized axial tomography scanner. The ministry will provide $150,000 in annual operating costs and the hospital will be able to bill the province thousands of dollars annually for its use. The CAT scanner will provide an important diagnostic tool for doctors in the entire region and will help reduce the length of time patients must stay in hospital.
We must manage technology so that the outcome is better quality care. Unmanaged technology might simply mean an increase in the quantity but not the quality of services, and that is an outcome we cannot afford in either financial, or more important, human terms.
Other health expenditures in my riding over the past two years include an additional $85,000 for every year to hire four more staff at Lewis Ambulance service in Bradford to provide 24-hour service seven days a week by that ambulance service. The Royal Victoria Hospital ambulance service got an additional $176,000 annually to hire five new driver-attendants so that the service will have four fully staffed ambulances at Barrie station on weekdays and three during the day on weekends. Service from St Paul’s ambulance station, which is in the very south end of Barrie, was expanded to around-the-clock service.
Mental Health Barrie, a branch of the Canadian Mental Health Association, received $69,800 in annual funding to run a five-bed home for the psychiatrically disabled. In April of last year, Simcoe Outreach Services in Barrie received $186,650 in annual operating funds and a one-time capital grant of $21,000 to set up an alcohol treatment and counselling program for young people. Towards the end of last year, the Simcoe county health unit received $70,000 for a project aimed at preventing cardiovascular disease.
Today, many chronic patients must turn to the hospital system for care and treatment because that is the only option they have. The high-technology, high-cost acute care provided in the hospital setting is not always the best alternative, nor is it always necessary. One of our most prestigious needs, therefore, is for a new network of community-based services and programs to meet health needs in circumstances that do not require institutional care.
Only a matter of weeks ago, I was able to announce $128,000 in funding for a new community health centre in Barrie. The nonprofit citizens’ committee will be setting up the centre and its primary focus will be services for approximately 9,600 people in Barrie over the age of 55, although patients of other age groups will also be served. Of the $128,000, $96,000 was the initial startup cost and $32,000 will cover initial operating costs.
It will provide general medical care, rehabilitation and health promotion and information services. Once it is fully operational, it will have a full-time and a part-time physician, nurse, physiotherapist, nutritionist, health educator and special worker as well as administrative staff. Once it is fully operational, its annual operating budget is expected to be $721,047.
I commend the volunteers who were involved in proposing this to the ministry and who gathered together the data that made this a successful proposal. It is hoped this will open in June or July this year. I would like to point out it is a recognition by the ministry of what is required in each individual community.
In Barrie, for example, our new hospital is not built as yet and we have a tremendous crush of needs at our emergency and other services. This should help to relieve some of that stress on the present facility. We also happen to have a larger number of seniors in our community than is the average across the province. Again, the ministry recognized this.
I commend the people who worked towards this health centre and I also commend the ministry for recognizing the need.
Again, only a number of weeks ago, I was able to announce the new Alzheimer’s program to be operated by the Victorian Order of Nurses in our community. A $115,000 annual operating fund was established for this. This program will provide personal care and support on a home-visiting basis to people with Alzheimer’s disease. It will enable family care givers or individuals with Alzheimer’s to experience a period of relief and time for themselves.
It will provide information and training to the care givers in the management of persons with dementia due to Alzheimer’s. It will provide a standardized regime of care and stimulation to people with Alzheimer’s disease by employing trained auxiliary health care workers to help the VON. It will provide knowledgeable, trained, professional supervisory staff who can monitor and direct the home support services offered and facilitate the introduction to family care givers of additional community resources and support networks.
I was also able to announce recently a new program for hearing-impaired seniors in the Barrie area. The aim of this outreach was to provide information about the nature of hearing loss and the problems it causes and how the problems can be solved. This information will be provided to senior citizens, as well as to appropriate medical and paramedical personnel who deal with the seniors. It will be assisting in the organization of aural rehabilitation to help people use their hearing aids effectively, to improve lip-reading skills, to develop coping strategies and to learn about assistive devices.
You will see, Mr Speaker, that we have been moving strongly and forcefully in the health direction for the province and in all of the ridings, and I can certainly speak for my own riding.
The sixth long-term direction the throne speech identified was working towards a clean and safe environment and to make it one of the cornerstones of promoting better health. We have indicated our leadership in the past in environmental protection and wish to indicate our commitment to ensuring the quality of air, water and food in the future.
Only a matter of days ago, we were able to announce that there would be a program provided to the Barrie Public Utilities Commission under the LifeLines infrastructure renewal program. A $125,000 grant was initiated to pay for half of a $250,000 study to identify deficiencies in the existing water distribution system.
Mains are like arteries: They start to clog up as they get older and you either clean them out or replace them. We are identifying what the needs are in the city of Barrie with regard to this problem. We do not expect that the study or any subsequent work will affect the quality of drinking water, but we are saying that we will improve the situation. In addition to this 50 per cent funding on the study, eligible corrective work will receive 33 per cent provincial funding under the LifeLines program. This year’s allocation for the water distribution needs study is $56,250, with the rest to follow.
The province has spent $330 million on the LifeLines program and it will be prompting work of a remedial nature probably in the vicinity of $1 billion.
We have a Minister of the Environment (Mr Bradley) who has been recognized across North America as being at the thrust and forefront of identifying and dealing with the problems of the environment. We are very pleased that the educational centres across the province are behind him and are co-operating in the introduction of programs to help students develop a greater sense of personal responsibility for environmental protection. I am delighted that in the last number of months more and more of the communities in my area have been joining the Blue Box program.
I know we have had considerable second thoughts about where we are going with the throne speech and how it will be paid for in light of a budget that came out of Ottawa a couple of days after the throne speech. We are concerned that the universality of Canada’s social programs may be winding down as a result of that federal budget.
It would appear that starting this year, the rich will have all of their family allowance and old age pension benefits taxed away, and henceforth the federal government will not be contributing to unemployment insurance. It is silly to hear the argument that programs that eliminate all benefits to some are still universal. It is as silly as saying federally that the reversal of universality will help the poor; that is equally silly. It does not help the poor at all. The poor do not get any more; it is simply that the government is paying less.
We ask ourselves, in light of these cutbacks, what is going to happen to the present child care programs we have in this province and other child care programs we were hoping to introduce. What will happen to our health care programs, to our educational programs and to our road programs? We have a federal government that is now taking more tax out of gasoline than the province and contributing not one penny towards highway construction or repair.
But I have faith in the commitment of this government. It has its priorities. The Treasurer (Mr R. F. Nixon) has a commitment to fiscal responsibility, but he also has a commitment to caring for the needs and problems of the people of this province. I know that a week tomorrow we will have our moment of truth when the Treasurer introduces his budget, but I have every confidence he will find ways, maybe in an innovative manner, to support the ongoing thrust of this throne speech and the commitment of this government to look after the needs of Ontario.
The Acting Speaker (Mr M. C. Ray): Are there any comments or questions?
Mr Neumann: I would like to commend the member for his fine speech and his outline of the various programs contained within the speech from the throne. I would like to commend him for the obvious amount of work he has been doing in promoting government programs within his riding. As he detailed program after program and announcement after announcement, it is obvious to me, and I am sure to all members in this House, that he has been doing a great deal of work in making sure his area benefits from the very fine programs fleshed out during the last session of the Legislature. I am sure that over the coming two or three years, his area will continue to benefit from the kinds of programs outlined in the speech from the throne.
Mr Elliot: I would like to make a few comments of commendation as well about the member for Simcoe Centre’s fine address with respect to the thrust of the speech from the throne. He and I go a long way back. I recall the day I met him back in 1971 when he was running for the Liberal Party for the second time and I was running for it for the first time. We were in adjacent ridings at that point in time.
I would like to accentuate the comments made by my colleague the member for Brantford (Mr Neumann) by commenting that the number of times the member for Simcoe Centre has run and the years he has kept active are paying off now for the good citizens of Barrie and the surrounding county of Simcoe.
The strong economic forecast we can look to, because of the type of initiatives that are coming along in the speech from the throne, indicates that for a good number of years he will be able to stand up, and year after year announce more commitments to that fine part of Ontario. It is obvious that the educational field, the health field and the social service field are being well addressed in that area, and obviously a strong economy is necessary for that.
As well, in his concluding remarks he accentuated the fact that we have a fine Minister of the Environment in Ontario at the present time, a leader in that field, in the world really, and he acknowledged that the number of initiatives in that area the minister has been able to put in place over the last period of time is quite commendable. To see that translated into a specific riding has been gratifying, so I would like to conclude by commending him on his address again.
Mr Farnan: In replying to the speech from the throne, I want to focus attention on the continuing crisis in our health care system. The government has attempted in the throne speech to divert attention away from health and housing because it has failed miserably over four years to adequately address these problem areas.
As members of Her Majesty’s loyal opposition, we are duty-bound to keep the government focused on the issues of primary concern to the people of Ontario. The government may indeed wish to run away from these troublesome questions, lacking as it is in both vision and political will; but we would indeed be negligent in our responsibilities if we were to permit the government to take such a devious course unchallenged or if we were to fail to insist that the government come to terms with the malaise that exists within the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Housing.
I have already spoken at length on the housing crisis during the course of the estimates debates on the Ministry of Consumer and Commercial Relations, particularly the extraordinary need to bring on stream decent, affordable housing, so today I intend to place my emphasis on the problems that beset our health care system, to examine the critical role that nurses play in the delivery of quality health care, to review the role of our nursing professionals, the registered nurses and the registered nursing assistants, and how they are perceived by the user group, the people of Ontario, and finally, to look at some recommendations which, if implemented, would help in addressing the crisis in health care.
During the month of February, I communicated with the residents of the great riding of Cambridge on the issue of medical care in Ontario. The letter I addressed to the people of Cambridge was entitled “Your Health and the Nursing Crisis.” It is my conviction that nurses are the front-line providers of health care, and if we can take any pride in our health care system, much of that credit must go to our nurses. In recognizing the contribution of nurses, I want to make it clear that when I refer to nurses, I include both RNs and RNAs.
It is appropriate in responding to the throne speech at this time, this being Nurses Week in Ontario, that we recognize the key role that nurses have played and continue to play in providing us with quality health care.
I attached to the letter I sent to my constituents a mail-back questionnaire, the results of which I would like to share with all members of the House today. To date, I have had 882 replies. Many of these were from practising nurses, nurses who have left the profession in frustration and aspiring nurses who are questioning their career choice or wondering why jobs are not available if indeed there is a shortage of nurses. For sure, all of the respondents have had experience with the health care system as patients. I can honestly say I have never received so many lengthy letters on any single issue.
What I will present to the House today is the judgement of a well-informed cross-section of the Cambridge community, and I venture to suggest that the overall evaluation of the Cambridge survey reflects the views of the province as a whole.
The following figures represent the statistical response to the critical question, “Do you agree that it is time for the Liberal government to take action in support of our nurses?” Yes: 835, 94 per cent; no: 23, three per cent; undecided: 23, three per cent.
Very clearly, I say to the members of the House, it is the view of the citizens of Cambridge and by extension, I project, the view of the people of Ontario, that there is a need for government action to support our nurses, and the overwhelming opinion condemns the lack of such action on the part of this Liberal government.
I have taken a selection of quotations from the many comments made by my constituents. These comments are representative of the respondents as a whole, and they reflect the main themes and concerns expressed by those who replied to my survey:
“It may be doctors and administrators who make the decisions, but it is the nurses who keep you alive” -- BQ, Stewart Avenue.
“Nurses are the unsung heroes of our health system” -- BG, Angela Crescent.
“Cambridge is lucky to have so many caring nurses” -- Mr and Mrs IB, Ravine Drive.
However, there is also a recognition that these caring professionals are working in a very demanding situation:
“Nurses do a wonderful job under adverse conditions” -- JS, West River Road.
“As a volunteer at CMH, I see the utter dedication of nurses who are struggling to keep up the high standards of their honourable profession” -- CMH volunteer.
It appears that our health care system is surviving because of the extraordinary dedication of our nurses.
“As a full-time RN, I have seen an incredible increase in our workload, additional responsibilities with no gratification or recognition for a job well done. There are definite high expectations from the public as well as the hospital administration. These stresses are becoming overwhelming” -- Cambridge nurse.
“I have been in the nursing profession a relatively short time and already I have had to deal with giving less than adequate care due to shortages of staff” -- Cambridge nurse.
“I don’t think the average person knows the frustrations of not being able to give the proper kind of care and time to patients because of shortness of staff’ -- DL, Hopeton Street,
One resident summed up the comments of many others with this brief statement:
“Fact: Nurses are overworked. Fact: Nurses are taken for granted. Fact: Nurses are unappreciated by some doctors. Fact: Nurses are underpaid” -- RC, Norfolk Avenue.
I should point out that while many constituents support increased salaries for nurses, the nurses themselves see remuneration as only one of their concerns, albeit an important concern. Many nurses stressed they wanted to work in an environment with nurse-patient ratios that would allow them to provide quality care:
“All most of us want is more respect and a share in decision-making”--Cambridge nurse.
“I don’t enjoy being short-staffed and working in unsafe conditions. It’s not just the nurses who suffer from the ministry cutbacks but also the patients who aren’t receiving adequate care because we don’t have the time to spend with them” -- Cambridge nurse.
“The nursing crisis is not about money; it is about stress, responsibility, dignity, respect and the ability to do our jobs safely and competently” -- Cambridge nurse.
These comments should not surprise us, for increasingly nurses are expected to do not only their job but the jobs previously assigned to clerks, secretaries and orderlies. They are expected to work overtime after an already stressful 12-hour shift. They never know in advance whether they will be working with a regular complement of co-workers or whether they will be expected to do the work of two or three. They are given few opportunities for advancement, no financial remuneration for years of experience and have little to say in shift schedules.
There was no doubt that the nurses also see remuneration as a matter that needs to be addressed. It is certainly one of the factors that is causing nurses to reflect upon their continuation in the profession. It is significant, however, that not one of the many nurses who replied raised the issue of wages in isolation. But we must be careful. In a society that recognizes the importance and value of an individual’s contribution by the salary earned, we would be foolish not to recognize the need to better compensate our nurses.
“I left the nursing profession 15 years ago. No amount of money would tempt me to return to hospital-based work” -- AM, Cooper Street.
“I plan to work here in southern Ontario, but if the situation worsens, I am going to the States” -- Cambridge nurse.
“I’m an RN and a single mother. It’s very difficult looking after a home and raising two children on a nurse’s salary. I enjoy my job and believe in what I am doing. Show me a man with a university education who makes what I do” -- Cambridge nurse.
I would suggest to the Minister of Health (Mrs Caplan) that we do not take our nurses for granted. Both RNs and RNAs must be given the assurance that their importance and significant contribution is appreciated. Certainly this demands increased respect, but it also demands recognition in a very practical manner by improving the financial remuneration for their essential service,
Very simply, I say to the minister and to this government, the time is long overdue to show the nurses that we mean what we say when we sing their praises. We can do this by increasing their wages.
Inadequate funding is identified by many as a root cause of the problem, and the belief exists that the government does not allow for changes that are occurring in our area of the province; that is, areas of rapid growth.
“Communities in southern Ontario have been expanding rapidly in recent years. Hospitals and schools have not been keeping pace with this growth” -- RS, Pine Street.
“I would like to know how we can live in an area, Cambridge, that has seen its population increase by thousands in the past few years but whose hospital has been told that it must cut back on its budget” -- RG, Chestnut Street.
“I believe the issue does not lie solely with the shortage of nurses but has to do with the budget constraints by the Ministry of Health” -- NV, Lowrey Avenue.
While a very large number of residents commented on the professionalism and dedication of our Cambridge nurses, I did receive a considerable number of replies outlining their dissatisfaction and concern with the system. In the letter to my constituents, I raised the issue of prolonged and repeated delays of constituents waiting for emergency surgery, and it was obvious from the replies that I received that Emilie LeBlanc of Kitchener, Hugh Allen of Kitchener and Fernando Frazao of Cambridge were not isolated cases.
“My next-door neighbour’s operation for heart surgery was postponed three times. He died. It’s getting to be a disgusting situation” -- resident, First Avenue.
“I’ve been exposed to the waiting game for hospital beds for what they call elective surgery. I was told to avoid stress, yet had two postponements of surgery. If this delay is not a cause of stress, then I don’t know what is” -- JR, Hepel Avenue.
“It’s a ridiculous situation when a critically ill person has to go to the USA for a life-threatening operation. I think this government should shape up or ship out” -- JN, Tracy Court.
“It seems a shame that there are two levels of health care: one for the rich and one for the poor. I am sure if Mr Peterson or Mrs Caplan required an emergency bypass operation, they would not be dying before they were booked for the operation” -- RB, Regent Street.
“Because of fear of being bumped down the list, many patients and their families do not go public with their case. My father-in-law waited from April to October last year for triple-bypass surgery. It seems there is a quota on how many people with possibly fatal problems will be dealt with because of the cost” -- name withheld, Cambridge resident.
To exemplify the continuation of this unacceptable situation, I want to read into the record two cases that were brought to my attention in the last couple of weeks. The first case is that of Frank H. Schaller. I read the following letter from Mr Schaller addressed to the Minister of Health:
“Dear Mrs Caplan:
“My name is Frank Schaller, 29 years of age, and I am writing you due to the nature of my past, present and future health. On 17 September 1984 at the KW hospital I had a malignant brain tumour, astrocytomos, removed. Following that, I was moved to Victoria Hospital cancer clinic for radiation and chemotherapy treatment.
“Since my recovery of cancer in September 1986, I have suffered many side-effects. My major problem is the seizures I experience on a daily basis. In order to control these seizures, I must take a great deal of medication” -- and he enumerates Dilantin, fluorazepam, Phenobarbitol – “all on a daily basis.”
“This medication has also caused numerous side-effects that cause me problems in my daily life, memory loss being the most significant. As a result of my limited short-term memory, I have faced problems obtaining secure employment and I find I have problems in my social life with both friends and family. I am eager to once again lead a healthy, fulfilling life.
“Recently I met with specialists in epilepsy. Dr Girvin and Dr Lowney, at the University Hospital in London, Ontario. Through X-rays and a series of tests, these doctors are confident with an 85 to 99 per cent success rate and a recovery period of five to seven days. This would also mean an elimination of the medication and a return of my memory.
“I am writing to you for assistance. Obviously I am very eager to have this surgery as soon as possible. However, the doctors have informed me of extensive waiting lists because of a lack of funding. The sooner I have this surgery, the sooner I can get on with the rest of my life. I hope you will give serious consideration to my request to have this surgery as soon as possible.”
It is signed by Frank Schaller.
Frank is one of the finest young men you could possibly meet. Just a few short years ago he was a member of the Canadian wrestling team and a physical education student at a university. Because of his ill health and his memory loss, he has had to withdraw from that career. Here is an operation about which the doctors say has an 85 to 99 per cent success rate and a recovery period of five to seven days, and would mean elimination of the medication and the return of Frank’s memory. Surely to goodness this is a condemnation of a health care system. I urge the minister to address this particular case and to address it promptly.
The second case I wish to draw to the attention of the House is a letter from the Kitchener-Waterloo Hospital, addressed to Mr Himes, dated 27 April 1989. It is under the signature of S. R. Iwan, MD, vice-president, medical services.
“It is with regret that I inform you that your lens implant surgery scheduled at Kitchener-Waterloo Hospital on 16 May 1989 has been cancelled. Effective immediately, the Kitchener-Waterloo Hospital is having to discontinue all lens implants procedures.
“As you are undoubtedly aware, hospitals have been plagued over the last few years with increasing financial difficulties as a result of the limited funding available to health care. This year’s Ministry of Health allocation to hospitals represents a four per cent increase over last year. This level of increase simply does not meet the costs of running the hospital’s present services. As a result, we have had to implement serious cutbacks in a number of areas of the hospital.
“I would like to assure you that the decision to discontinue the lens implant procedures and to reduce other hospital services has not been made lightly. This decision is a result of many months of deliberations and consultation between the hospital administration and medical staff.
“I apologize for the inconvenience I am sure this will cause you and your family. Please contact your doctor as soon as possible to have your surgery rebooked elsewhere and to resume your appropriate treatment program.”
Again, this is a very tragic reflection of the state of health care in Ontario. I would appeal to the Minister of Health to demonstrate some generosity of spirit and ensure that these cases and other similar cases be addressed. It is simply unacceptable when we have people waiting months for emergency surgery and hundreds of hospital beds closed because of a lack of qualified nurses. Sadly, it is often not until a health care emergency hits someone in our own family that we notice the serious decline in health care services.
The government, however, cannot claim ignorance of the reasons for the nursing shortage. I and my fellow New Democrats here at Queen’s Park have been hammering this home to this government for many months. I suspect my constituents in Cambridge are correct and that a relative of the Minister of Health, of the Premier (Mr Peterson) or of any cabinet minister would not be subjected to the same long delays.
I do not want to be raising some tragic case in this Legislature and blasting the Minister of Health for her lack of action on this issue. Nor, do I suspect, any other members of this assembly, whatever side of the House they sit on. However, I want nurses to be encouraged to remain in their chosen profession. I want them to have an active role in health care policy development.
I want to see support staff made available so that nurses can do the work they were trained for, which is caring for the ill and not doing cleaning, heavy lifting and clerical tasks. It is time for decisive action on the part of this government.
I believe that the response of the residents of Cambridge reflects that expressed in a Globe and Mail editorial on 16 September 1988 which read:
“Nurses enjoy a lot of respect among Canadians, especially among those who have been patients in a hospital. But nurses themselves do not feel they enjoy much respect within the medical system. The unhappy state of nursing is among the compelling problems in our hospitals, and it must be addressed if the medical system is to function as it should.”
The Minister of Health has repeatedly assured us that the nursing shortage is a cyclical problem and that there are no quick and easy solutions. She is wrong. It is not that we do not have enough nurses, but rather that they are voting with their feet. Nurses are leaving, hospital beds are closing and we are all at risk.
The real issue is one of burnout, stress and lack of support for nurses in the very difficult task of caring for the ill. I would direct the Minister of Health and this government to the report of the Registered Nurses Association of Ontario and to other reports by nursing groups from the Ontario Nurses’ Association.
These reports identified burnout, poor pay, lack of respect and lack of decision-making authority as among the most common complaints made by nurses. They also put the finger on the root of the problem, namely, the nursing profession’s relative lowly status within the power structure of health care bureaucracies. As a result, nursing services are the first to be put on the chopping block. One does not have to be a genius to understand that when you cut nurses, you reduce the quality of patient care.
New Democrats have thoroughly examined the situation, and we have clearly articulated where the New Democratic Party stands with regard to enhancing the salaries of nurses and to empowering nurses within the decision-making boards of hospitals and the health care system.
I invite all members of this House, particularly the Liberal backbench members, to get up to speed on this issue. I encourage them to meet and discuss the nursing situation with those nurses who work in hospitals in their ridings. I encourage the backbench Liberal members to go out and talk to the user group, their constituents, about what happens to the quality of health care when nursing positions are cut and the remaining staff must spread themselves too thinly.
It is very clear that the Minister of Health is wearing blinkers and refuses, for whatever reason, to ignore the crisis in nursing. I say to the Liberal backbenchers that they have a responsibility to become informed and to pass on the facts about the real world to the Minister of Health.
How sad it was today that the Liberal backbench member for Simcoe Centre (Mr Owen), in his review of health care within his riding, did so completely without reference to the unacceptable situation of nurses. He talked about this grant and that grant, but he failed to recognize the fundamental problem that must be addressed, namely, the unacceptable conditions in which nurses work and the lack of proper remuneration.
I have had meetings with representatives of the Ontario Nurses’ Association and the Registered Nurses Association of Ontario. I have examined and studied their detailed reports as well as those prepared by the Ontario Association of Registered Nursing Assistants. I have talked to many registered nurses and registered nursing assistants as I researched this issue and I can assure the members that as legislators, we had better listen to those front line professionals.
It is the nurses and the recommendations emanating from the various nursing associations that provide our best hope for resolving the crisis in health care.
Various reports of the Ontario Nurses’ Association, the Registered Nurses Association of Ontario and the OARNA identified the increasing shortage of nurses and demonstrated how the remaining nurses are left in a situation of salary compression, lack of economic incentive to work in specialty areas and are being asked to perform tasks that should be more appropriately assigned to support services.
I quote directly from the report which suggests that the situation had reached “explosive proportions” as of November 1988:
“While ‘crisis’ is an overworked word in the liturgy of health care system politics, it is the most appropriate term to describe today’s nursing shortage, and the quality of patient care is at a very serious risk today as a direct result of the nursing shortages that have occurred because nurses are fed up with their working conditions, compensation and quality of working life.”
Surely that has to be clear enough for us to understand, as legislators.
“We believe that our first priority should be to provide a package of incentives and enhanced status to nurses in order to attract more nurses back into the profession and to attract part-time nurses back to full-time staff positions and to retain nurses already in the system. Such a strategy is both prudent, since it can be implemented quickly, and cost-effective, since it will cost our society at least $28,000 to replace each existing nurse through education programs.
“Our health care system has a clear choice: We can spend $168 million over the next 10 years replacing the estimated 6,000 additional nurses who will leave the profession or we can implement appropriate and less costly reforms and incentives to retain them within the system.”
They urge hospital boards and other health facilities and services to establish nursing resource policy committees with representatives from the nursing team and that these committees would recommend appropriate changes to the board.
It is cost-effective for us, as legislators, to provide an environment, to provide salaries for our nurses, to provide a climate in which nurses have respect and dignity and a share in the decision-making process. It is cheaper to do that than it is to see nurses drained away from a profession and then to have to train their replacements at great expense to the taxpayer. That is very simple.
The reports of the associations representing nurses have provided very specific recommendations, and the government should listen to these recommendations and should act promptly to implement them:
Adopt premium pay; adopt premium pay scales to attract nurses to difficult-to-staff units; increase the range between the starting salary and the maximum rate on the nurse pay scales; increase the current shift differential pay rates for evenings, nights and weekend work; introduce pay bonuses to nurses for the acquisition of additional skills and knowledge obtained through continuing education courses; introduce flexibility that would allow full-time nurses to opt for cash in lieu of benefits for individuals who would prefer that option.
As we readjust the remuneration of our registered nurses, it is imperative that the wages of registered nursing assistants should be similarly adjusted. We must always remember that RNs and RNAs complement each other. They are partners in the delivery of quality health care and together RNs and RNAs make up the nursing team that provides us with health needs.
It is also extremely important that the role of nurses be empowered, by giving nurses a greater voice in the decision-making process. How else, I ask members, can we expect to instil and renew a sense of dignity and worth among the nursing professionals who represent the heart and soul of our health care delivery system? I urge hospital boards to establish a nursing resource policy committee that will, as part of its mandate, examine the concept of self-scheduling and introduce it at the institution if there is consensus among the nurses that such a change would be an improvement over the existing system.
I urge that these committees undertake a review of the staffing complements in order to maximize the skills of the nurses in their employ, that these committees recommend to hospital boards an official policy on continuing education for nurses at every level, that these committees also examine appropriate ways to empower nurses to have a meaningful voice in the policy development process within their institutions as well as appropriate steps to enhance the quality of working life of all nurses and, finally, that the government of Ontario amend the Public Hospitals Act to transform the existing medical advisory committees into professional advisory committees with nursing representation.
Again, I underscore the fact that as we rejuvenate the status of nursing we are mindful to incorporate the very significant contribution not only of RNs but also of RNAs and that the voice of RNAs is worthy of being heard also. Let us never forget that a worker who is a professional, such as an RNA, and who is dedicated to providing quality service is not simply someone we move around and slot here and there. They are individuals with dignity, skill, competence, knowledge, dedication and commitment, and it is incumbent upon this government to ensure that hospital boards bring forward from the nurses and provide for all of our nurses the opportunity to be empowered within the health care system.
An article in the Toronto Star of 18 September 1988 quotes Gwen Borden, a former staff nurse at Toronto’s Sunnybrook Medical Centre: “It is not going to be safe for someone to get sick because there isn’t going to be anyone there to take care of them. A lot of nurses in the hospital think it is ludicrous. We can barely look after them now.” This is the story we have heard time and again from the nurses of this province. I hope all members of this House will join me in insisting on action from the Minister of Health.
It was impossible to include the comments of all my constituents who submitted interesting anecdotes, experiences and concerns. However, I do want to thank everyone who replied to my survey. As a result of the input from, my constituents, I am certainly better informed, and I trust that as a result of my comments today, the members of this House, the Minister of Health and the government will also be better informed.
My hope, of course, is that the government will take to heart the views of the people of Cambridge and, I suspect, the views of the people of Ontario, and most important, that the government will take serious notice of what the nurses of Ontario have to say. It is my hope that the government will set about addressing the very positive and constructive recommendations I have made today, which essentially are the recommendations that have come forward from the nursing associations. I might add that these recommendations would have the support of the people of Ontario,
Let me say in conclusion that the overwhelming opinion of Cambridge residents, as expressed to me through the replies of my constituents, is summed up in this one comment:
“Yes, the nurses in our hospitals need our support to encourage them to stay with their profession and to reimburse them with adequate pay for their services to our friends, families and ourselves. Sooner or later, most of us are going to require their services. We need them and they need our full support.
“A. McG, Vine Street.”
The Deputy Speaker: Are there any questions and comments on the member’s statement?
Mr Wildman: I would just like to congratulate my colleague the member for Cambridge on his excellent presentation and to commend him for bringing forward to the House particularly the deficiencies in the throne speech with regard to health care and the position of nurses in our health care system.
I think it is most unfortunate that we would have a throne speech presented to this House that purports to deal with the issues of health, but as my colleague said, does not make any mention of the terrible crisis we have in the shortage of nurses and what effect that has on our hospital care and the care of patients across Ontario. I hope the government will heed the comments my colleague the member for Cambridge has made.
Mr Villeneuve: I too want to compliment the member for Cambridge for touching on a subject that is very near to the people of Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry, and indeed to myself as the representative of that area.
The nursing profession is getting shortchanged; there is no doubt about it. I think he outlined very eloquently the problems faced by this particular profession. In many instances, we have hospital space but we are short of nurses. We know that we have a large number of trained nurses throughout the province, but something slightly more, in numbers, than 50 per cent practise their profession on an ongoing full-time basis. I think that says a great deal about the problems being faced at present by the health services and by our trained nurses in this province.
I think this government has undertaken in many instances to polarize people. I think Bill 94 brought the doctors to their knees, and of course the public of Ontario applauded at that time. We now have the dilemma faced by insurance companies, insurance agents and the public of Ontario. I think they have polarized that situation. It cost $7 million to bring in a report. That does not include the many millions of dollars that were spent by both insurance companies and insurance agents to get ready to implement the report of the commission.
Unilaterally, overnight, the minister in charge decided to come around completely, to go totally against what he had told this Legislature on numerous occasions, and to unilaterally impose a 7.6 per cent increase.
lndeed, the polarization is on. We are not quite sure what will happen in this instance, but very much in the same light as was explained on the nursing profession, we have the polarization of different groups. This will be ongoing. I think we can notice in many instances that this government seems to promote polarization and then the war is on. That is the concern I have.
Mr Neumann: I just want to comment briefly on the speech of the member for Cambridge. He certainly played the opposition role of criticizing the government’s position in a number of areas with respect to health care.
I would like to point out, however, that this government has made a strong commitment to health in previous budgets and in this throne speech. Increased spending in the area of health care: It has gone up quite dramatically. Increased transfer payments to hospitals have been significant. We have a Minister of Health who is dedicated to the role of nurses and has done a great deal through consultation with nurses at a variety of levels in giving nurses a say on hospital boards right across Ontario, making them feel part of the decision-making process in health care.
I think some of the positive things with respect to the government’s involvement in health care need to be said. I understand the role the member for Cambridge plays; however, the government itself has shown great leadership in this area. Certainly, all the problems have not been solved. There are many players in this field. There are many interest groups involved in health care throughout our province.
But the consultation process is in place, the leadership is there, the dedication of the Minister of Health is unquestionable and we, as a government and as legislators, must ensure that the tremendous amount of money spent in this field is spent effectively and wisely, and that we not only look at meeting the needs of the people of the province in such a way that health care is fully accessible to people, but that we plan for the future in an effective manner and encourage, in a positive way, healthy lifestyles and the avoidance of disease and illness, as well as meeting the needs of people directly.
Mr Farnan: I want to respond to the member for Brantford (Mr Neumann) who is totally out of touch with the nurses in Brantford. He is totally out of touch with the situation.
Mr Neumann: You are responsible for Cambridge.
Mr Farnan: He talked about responsibility. The nurses have very clearly put forward a situation that says it is cheaper to provide nurses with the proper kind of remuneration, to provide them with the proper kind of environment in which to do their work, than simply to pay the top price to retrain nurses who are leaving the profession.
This member for Brantford has tried to gloss over the problem by saying, “We spent this amount of money.” Simply throwing money at a problem might be a Liberal way of addressing a situation, but it is what you do with the money you spend. The nurses are saying to the member for Brantford that if we spend the money properly, we can give them their proper remuneration and actually save money.
The problem is that since the Liberal government came in, it has failed to do what the New Democrats have been suggesting to it for years, to invest in preventive health care, to put its money up front and stop people from getting sick.
It is taking money away from sports and culture. We have said to them as a government that if we have a healthy body and healthy mind, we are going to have a healthy society. What this government is doing is taking money out of preventive health care, taking that lottery fund and saying, “We’ll use it at the other end of the scale.”
The government’s record is a sad one and a misguided one. It is absolutely wrong. Talk to the nurses in Brantford; they will set the government straight. Talk to the nurses in Brantford and they will say what the situation is. Talk to the nurses in Brantford and find out what the real world is like.
Mr Harris: I am indeed pleased to have this opportunity to respond to the speech from the throne. I want to tell the Premier (Mr Peterson) that my first response upon reading the government’s priority agenda was shock. It did not seem possible to me that a government could be this out of touch with what is happening in Ontario, that a government could be this oblivious to crisis all around it, that a government could be so totally devoid of direction and solutions.
It struck me how different the tone of this throne speech was from the last one. Gone are the boasts of world-class this and world-class that, if the members will recall the last throne speech we heard from this government. The reality is this government has never delivered on any of those boasts. lt has not even come close. In fact, whether it is health care, education, transportation or housing, the infrastructure across this provinces our treasured institutions are indeed deteriorating.
The only thing world-class about the Peterson administration has been its mismanagement and its lack of direction. This is a government that has been wishy-washy, evasive at best, when it comes to handling important issues, issues like Sunday shopping and waste disposal. Whenever this government has been forced to make a tough decision, it looks for somebody else to make it for it. That way, it will have somebody else to blame.
On the rare occasions when they have attempted their own decisions, it really has been nothing short of disaster. It has already cost taxpayers some $7 million to find out that the Premier’s infamous Ontario Automobile Insurance Board has no business setting insurance rates. Voters are paying the price today for the Premier’s, in quotes, specific plan to lower auto insurance rates. Consumers are paying for the $60 million to $70 million the industry estimates it spent to comply with what the government told it was going to be the new auto insurance plan.
It helps explain why the Peterson administration, as many of its own cabinet ministers and senior civil servants were quick to point out to an independent consultant, is indeed in a state of paralysis. It is hesitant to make decisions. It is jumping from crisis to crisis. It moves from impending issue to issue. Indeed, this is a government without solutions, without direction, without vision, and I say to members, is a government without leadership.
In short, it is a government that operates on simplistic solutions, on the spur of the moment, to complex problems that require a thought-out vision of where we want to go as a province and the step-by-step policies that can take us there. It is what I call the ready-fire-aim approach to policy, the kind we find throughout this speech from the throne.
Perhaps I should begin today by directing my remarks not so much at what the throne speech contained but at what it did not contain, because if the throne speech reflects the government’s agenda it also reflects an attitude.
I am sure it will not surprise members of this assembly that failure to make regional development a priority has been greeted with dismay by the people of northern Ontario. The north in fact did not even rate a single mention in the entire document. As my party’s Northern Development critic and one who has represented northerners at Queen’s Park since 1981, I really shared with my fellow northerners their astonishment at this fact.
Ontario has indeed prospered greatly over the past seven years, yet the people of northern Ontario have not shared in this prosperity. Judging by the speech from the throne, the Peterson Liberals do not seem to think there is a problem, or they do not know or they do not care. Perhaps they do recognize it, but this omission in this document is a flat admission that they have thrown up their hands in the air. They do not know what to do about it so they are not going to do anything about it.
On the other hand, if you take any issue that is mentioned as a government priority in the throne speech and apply it to the north, I say you will find that the problem is worse. That is because northern needs are different from those in the south. The people are different, the geography is different and the history is different; so southern solutions, Toronto solutions, do not work in the north. What may be appropriate for the Premier’s street in Rosedale may not be appropriate, and indeed will not be, on my street in North Bay, or in Thunder Bay or Kenora.
The government should not try to tell me it has addressed northern educational concerns by talking about a new kindergarten initiative. They should not tell me they have addressed northern social needs by talking about shelter needs in Toronto. They should not tell me they have addressed northern health care needs when there are places in northern Ontario that have no doctors, that need more nurses and that do not even have a building in which to treat patients. Northern Ontario is indeed different.
While I am confident and northerners are confident that the challenges can be met, I am convinced more than ever that they will continue to be ignored as long as this government and this Premier fail to come to grips with some sense of northern understanding.
To ignore the north is inexcusable; to argue that it has not been ignored is unforgivable. That was perhaps highlighted at the recent meeting of the northeastern Ontario mayors and reeves when they passed a resolution, not in jest, suggesting that they pool their resources and establish a consulate, if you like, an embassy in Toronto. This is how out of touch they feel the Premier and this government are with northern Ontario: They think they should spend money to set up an embassy here in Toronto to be able to lobby this government.
There are a number of areas that were not mentioned in the throne speech, not the least of which is housing. For some strange, and I suggest perverted reason, the Peterson administration is the only entity in the province that does not recognize housing as a priority. I will be the first one to admit that when this government came to power, there were the beginnings of a serious housing problem. Today, after four years of meddling, intervention and dealing with the symptoms instead of that problem, we now have a full-blown crisis on our hands.
This is a result of another Liberal approach to policy development, and it is one they share with the NDP: If it moves, you tax it. If it keeps moving, you regulate it. If by some strange coincidence you have not stopped it altogether and it is still moving, you tax it some more and then you regulate it some more. When you finally stop it, you announce a big program that you are going to subsidize it. That is how you treat symptoms instead of the problem.
Surely the cheaper, more logical solution is not to create the problem in the first place. The acceptable vacancy rate for rental units in a healthy society is about three per cent. In David Peterson’s Ontario it is less than one per cent. In Metropolitan Toronto and countless other communities, it is less than 0.1 per cent. Average rental prices in Metropolitan Toronto are the second highest in the world, yet we have people making $100,000 a year and more in rent-controlled units. In fact, we know that in Metro, 51 per cent of all people making more than $40,000 a year pay less than 15 per cent of their income on rent. That figure is increasing every year that this government is in office.
At one time, 80 per cent of rental housing in Ontario was built by the private sector at no cost to the government, at no cost to the taxpayers. Thanks to this government’s Bill 51, thanks to this government’s Bill 11 and its successor bills, thanks to a bureaucracy, to more red tape, to intervention after intervention, thanks to the taxes and even more regulation and now the threat of even more regulation, less than 20 per cent of rental units are now constructed by the rental sector. It has gone from 80 per cent to 20 per cent.
They have regulated it. They have taxed it. They still have a little way to go to shut down the final 20 per cent, but now they will have to subsidize it all. The government spends in excess of $40 million per year to administer rent review that everybody -- tenants and landlords, everybody except the minister -- acknowledges is getting worse every day and is not working. Four years ago, it spent less than $8 million.
Even though the rent review system is not working, it is even harder to get into home ownership. Only four per cent of Metro tenants can ever dream of affording to own a home anywhere in this area at current prices. Housing prices in Metro, the highest in Canada, have risen more than 141 per cent in the last four years. Why? It now takes from three to seven years for developers to get through the red tape imposed by government before they can even start to build. When they do build, home buyers must pay in the order of $500 million in land transfer taxes imposed by this Liberal Treasurer (Mr R. F. Nixon).
That is not enough, though, for the Premier. In the midst of the worst affordable housing crisis in Ontario history, he is planning to introduce a new lot levy tax on housing, which we estimate will be in the range of $165 million a year, which the industry estimates will add over $8 billion to all the existing housing stock. Increase the affordability problem by $8 billion to get $165 million. Does that make sense?
Where do the Liberals stand on housing? It is not in the throne speech. The Liberal Minister of Housing (Ms Hošek) refuses to say one word against land transfer taxes or the new lot levy proposals. She will not even commission an impact analysis to help her have the ammunition she requires to share with her Premier, her Treasurer and her cabinet colleagues, to point out how misguided this proposal is. No. they are going to plod along. They are going to jump from crisis to crisis; they are going to jump from problem to problem. They are going to try to legislate away the symptoms of an ever-growing mess.
Some day a new government is going to have to clean up this mess and it is not going to be easy. I do not believe it is impossible. In fact, I do not believe it is that difficult if a government applies the kind of vision and planning and is honest with the people and has the common sense that is so lacking under the current administration. It will begin, that new government, with the speech from the throne.
I want to talk a bit about social assistance. I am delighted that the minister is here reading Age Wave. The Minister of Community and Social Services (Mr Sweeney) is, in my view, and in the view, I think, of most who know him, a decent and caring man. I know he wants to reform social assistance in this province. Like all members of this House, I know he wants to see an end to poverty.
For that reason, it must pain the minister to see the last line in the social assistance section of the throne speech, the copout line, what we have come to expect from this government, what this government has become indeed famous for. The last line reads, “Progress in this area will require the financial support and co-operation of all levels of government and the community at large.” I want to translate that line. In other words, this government has no intention whatsoever of improving the situation for those on social assistance or of taking the necessary steps needed to help prevent people from getting on social assistance in the first place.
Of course, it is not their fault. This copout clause is so very convenient. The government is hoping that will allow it to maintain a posture of wanting to reform social assistance, of having the document there, of espousing the desire, but not being able to because it will be able to claim that other levels of government were not co-operating with it.
I say to the Minister of Community and Social Services and to the Premier that I am sure they think that this tactic is a good one, that politically it is clever, it is smart. Once again, they think they have found yet another way to get around making a tough decision, to get around showing true leadership, but this time I believe they are dead wrong, because this answer is not good enough for the people of Ontario. The people of Ontario are seeing through these types of answers.
It is not good enough for the 178,000 people in this province with disabilities who do need social assistance. It is not good enough for the 166,000 women who are single parents and who are struggling desperately to make ends meet, and for the 3,500 children who are living in poverty in a town the size of North Bay.
Maybe the Premier should tell me what I should say to Sylvie, a young woman in my riding who has been left a widow with three children under the age of eight and no family to turn to for help; or to Colleen, a woman in her mid-30s who took her three children out of a physically abusive home with nothing more than the clothes on their backs and who is now not only trying her best to cope with that situation but is currently being treated for cervical cancer.
Both of these women and their children, through no fault of their own, are forced to turn to social assistance to get by and they just barely get by with a monthly income that, once the rent is paid, gives them barely enough money to buy food that consists mainly of pastas, canned goods and potatoes. There is not enough money for fresh fruit, vegetables, milk or meat.
I ask the Premier and I ask the Minister of Community and Social Services how they would explain to Sylvie and Colleen why in the richest of all the provinces, one that has experienced an economic boom for the past five years and that saw in the last budget alone the government grab an additional $1.4 billion in tax revenue, there is not enough money available to provide proper assistance for those who desperately need it.
Maybe at the same time the Premier can explain to Sylvie and Colleen why he had $7 million to throw down the toilet with his idiotic Ontario Automobile Insurance Board at the same time as their children, out of necessity, were receiving meals at the soup kitchen in North Bay.
To me, one of the most frustrating aspects of this government has been its inability to implement any kind of long-term direction or strategy, while it is vitally important to improve the quality of life for those currently receiving social assistance. It is also imperative that the government institute a policy directed to help prevent people from needing social assistance in the first place.
Studies by the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education have shown that adolescent girls still do not expect to work for most of their adult lives and are making career and educational decisions based on the belief that their husbands will provide economically for them and for their family. Yet the reality is that most women will need to work their entire adult lives and that almost 50 per cent of all women with children will end up as the sole source of family financial support because of divorce, abuse, illness and death.
In order to deal with this, we need to look at implementing education programs in our schools that will make young girls more aware of their future family responsibilities and will provide them with the necessary skills and training to cope with what realistically lies ahead of them.
We also know that studies have shown that children of people on social assistance often themselves end up on social assistance, particularly female children. We must find an end to this cycle. The establishing of programs in schools that will identify high-risk children and that will provide them with the support and guidance necessary to keep them from repeating the family history really is an option that we must look at.
Unfortunately, I do not see anything in the throne speech that indicates to me that this government has any plans, strategy or interest in helping people avoid becoming welfare recipients in the first place, and without some strong leadership in this area the cycle of poverty will simply be allowed to continue,
I want to talk about health care. When I looked at the section of the throne speech on health care, I quickly realized that one of the reasons this government cannot come up with comprehensive policies to deal with difficult issues is that it cannot even identify the issues. It is hard to believe the Minister of Health and the Premier have not yet clued into the fact that there is a very real health care crisis in this province.
Let me help out the minister. There are endless delays in heart surgery, bed closures, transferring of patients needing special care such as neonatal to hospitals in the United States and people now planning for what they call their Mayo fund. Does the minister know what that is? That is where they set aside money not for the education of their children, not for their retirement, but for the time when they worry that they may need emergency health care. They do not believe any longer that it is going to be available for them in Ontario, so those who are fortunate to have those dollars are setting aside a nest egg so they can seek that help in the United States or some other jurisdiction.
They are all indications that there is a problem in the health care system. lf the minister were to took into these matters, she would find one recurring issue, not the only one but a recurring one with a lot of the problems. It was mentioned by a number of colleagues in their remarks on this debate, and that is the critical shortage of nurses,
It would therefore, one would think, stand to reason that before this government could make claims to preserve quality health care in this province, it had better deal with the large number of nurses leaving this country to practise elsewhere, the dwindling number of people entering the profession and the many nurses who are giving up the profession altogether and entering other fields.
If this government is going to preserve quality health care in Ontario, it must be able to provide a role for nurses in the health care system that will properly recognize their true contribution as health care professionals. This government cannot continue to ignore the tough political decisions that must be made. They cannot continue to jump from issue to issue, failing to deal with any of the real problems, glossing them over with vague policy pronouncements.
The government must remember that quality health care for many areas of this province, indeed for many areas of northern Ontario, still today is nonexistent. Distances to reach health care facilities, a lack of specialists and a lack of equipment are everyday realities in the north. This seems to be another problem that the Premier and the Minister of Health would like to forget about or gloss over. You have to wonder, I think, as you read the throne speech how these vague commitments to a number of initiatives to address certain problems in health care will, if at all, translate into actual, realistic government programs.
It cannot be very comforting for the patients and their families waiting for heart surgery to read the throne speech knowing that this government has still not been able to deliver on last year’s commitments to some very modest improvements in cardiovascular services. The plain truth of the matter is that this is a government that simply does not appear to even know where to begin to manage a health care system. One third of the provincial budget, $13 billion this year alone, is spent on health care, so the government must know, must realize the problems are not simply a matter of funding.
Mr Reycraft: And going up $1 billion a year.
Mr Harris: It is going up $1 billion a year. As long as the government looks at the structures in place, as long it has incapable managers, obviously throwing billions more into that system that is not working is not going to be the solution. It is a matter of planning, it is a matter of management, it is a matter of competency, and competency particularly is something this government is very short on.
I want to say a positive thing, that the government has at least recognized one thing, that preventive medicine is a priority. It took five years. They need to focus health care direction on promoting disease prevention and healthier lifestyles.
Mr Reycraft: From 1985 to 1989 is four. We were in opposition five years ago. You were in power.
Mr Harris: Listen, the programs the government stopped five years ago, in that five-year gap, have left us so far behind. It is painfully apparent, as you read the throne speech, that although the government has identified it, it still has no specific initiatives to accomplish this.
There is, for example, no commitment to increase health and physical education programs in the schools to ensure that young people get off on the right foot. Yet there are test results that show conclusively that the majority of our young children today are physically unfit because of a lifestyle that is increasingly sedentary with television, computers, videos and video games.
There is no funding commitment for research into areas we know are actually shortening lives, such as stress. There is no commitment for funding to allow the health care professions to institute the advances that this type of research would make possible. The throne speech is deliberately silent on key issues currently dominating the health care policy field, like the nursing shortage and inadequate health care for northern Ontario. The government is deliberately silent, I suggest, for a reason. They do not know what to do about it. They do not have any solutions.
Their plans for this session are deliberately vague with statements like, “Fostering strong and supportive families and communities.” They are going to foster that to deal with health care in this province. In truth that means absolutely nothing, nothing because this is a government that has no direction, that has no vision for the future. Whatever ministry you are talking about, it will not lay it out and will not work with those people, with the partners in delivering the programs, in a co-operative way to work out those policies to fit in with that vision.
When you do come up with one of the few parts of the throne speech that comes up with a specific announcement -- there was one; that was the Cleantario lottery to deal with the environment -- you start to realize, I think, how lucky we probably are that this government does not make many policy directions, that it does not have many and that it does not make many policy decisions. It is hard to imagine a government in this day and age -- I think it is -- that is not willing to pay for any of the pollution abatement necessary to keep Ontario clean.
They would rather try to tap into an already saturated lottery market to do the job. When the Premier was asked about the tongue-in-check suggestion that we have a Kidtario to provide lottery funds for education, the Premier said, “No, I don’t believe lottery funding should be used for education.” I guess he felt education was too important to leave to the whims of a lottery. That is what the Premier said. But he does not think the environment is that important. Does that add up? It does not add up to me.
What kind of a message is this sending out to the public? What next? If a business refuses to use equipment that is environmentally safe because of the cost, will the government offer to cut cards to see who will foot the bill? Our society must have an environmentally sound future. This means no one should do business in this province, whether it is farming, whether it is manufacturing, whether it is forestry operations or whether it is mining, at the expense of the environment.
I believe that we can no longer tolerate anything less than the absolutely best available technology. If we do not have the technology, then we must lead the way to develop it. Since this government is so devoid of ideas, let me propose to it the establishment of a board or an agency of environmental support and technology. Its mandate would be to develop and assist with the implementation of the best environmentally sound technology here in Ontario. If the best technology exists, it must be used. If it does not exist, then we must put the dollars into the research and development to make sure that it exists.
We must recognize that if we want to become the cleanest environmental jurisdiction in the world, and I would think our citizens would want to do that, the cost of using the best available technology may from time to time put us or an industry at a competitive disadvantage with other jurisdictions if they have lower environmental standards. I believe this government should have a vehicle, a fund, an agency in place, that would, on behalf of all Ontarians, assist that company to equalize the disadvantage.
It ought not to be a choice of jobs or the environment. It ought not to be a choice of shutting down a plant or the environment. It ought to be that as a government with a vision, with a policy, if in fact that industry cannot compete because another jurisdiction is not as environmentally sensitive as we are, then we as Ontarians will all assist.
There is no doubt it would require substantial public sector, perhaps even private sector, investment. Indeed it would require significant private sector investment, but I believe there are ways to pay for it. I never propose a new program or investment without telling the members how we can pay for it.
We have a large pool of industrial capital funding in place. The Ontario Development Corp, the Eastern Ontario Development Corp, the Northern Ontario Development Corp and the northern Ontario heritage fund represent an annual public sector investment of hundreds of millions of dollars, many of them wasted.
By tying environmental consideration to funding requirements, we could make millions of dollars available for competitive equalization and the development of new technology. We could indeed become the most environmentally conscious jurisdiction in the world.
We have $1 billion in the existing and useless Premier’s technology fund already linked to private-institution educational research and development. There are provincial and federal government industrial abatement programs coming on stream. These too could be designed to incorporate environmental considerations as a basis for assistance. Because we would be developing new technology, we would save on the costs of buying and importing. In fact, we would be able to sell and export our own technology.
We should be looking at being the leaders in the fastest-growing area in the whole world. Indeed, Taiwan alone -- one little country -- announced last year that in the next 10 years it was in the market to import $20 billion worth of environmental technology for sewer, water and scrubbers. That is $20 billion. Here is just one country that is telling the world: “We don’t have the expertise. We don’t have the technology. We want to buy it. We’re serving notice. Who is going to fill our orders?”
It is surely the fastest-growing area in the world, and if the government wants to tap that market, we had better be doing the research and development here in Ontario. If the government wants to tap that market, we must be known here in Ontario as the most environmentally conscious jurisdiction in the world.
When you consider the social and health costs associated with environmental damage, when you consider the economic opportunities that could be created, when you consider our obligations to our children and the next generation, it is this kind of program, with this kind of vision, that I believe we must pursue. We cannot afford a government that seems to think that cleaning up the environment is an option that we can entertain by purchasing a Cleantario ticket. This is just simply not good enough.
We can no longer afford this government’s indecisiveness with respect to the waste management crisis, another tough issue this government refuses to deal with, another issue in which this government looks for somebody else to blame. We can no longer afford to wait for this government to take the necessary steps to clean up the environment. We must have mandatory recycling.
My government, my party, brought in recycling; we brought in the 4R program. What has happened in the four years? A couple of million dollars to expand it a little bit here. The time has come and gone when recycling should be mandatory in this province. We must improve our infrastructure.
The Minister of the Environment (Mr Bradley) can repeat all the same old programs he wants, as he has done in this throne speech, but he still cannot swim at the beaches at home in St Catharines. They have been closed for some years now and remain closed. To open them would require improved, modernized infrastructure and stricter controls on industrial and municipal wastes. There is no mention of improving the infrastructure in this throne speech.
The throne speech says the Liberals “will continue to demonstrate leadership in environment protection to ensure the quality of our air, water and food.” The only leadership they have shown to date is in the quality and the quantity of their press releases. In the Environment ministry alone, Countdown Acid Rain, the municipal-industrial strategy for abatement and the ban on chlorofluorocarbons are still not in operation and will not be for several more years. In fact, the MISA program is already behind schedule, and I say to the Minister of the Environment and the Premier, this is not good enough.
I want to conclude with an item of finance, fiscal responsibility, fiscal control. In doing so, I want to read a couple of quotes. I want to read one from the chairman of the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, Donald Fullerton.
“Donald Fullerton today called for strong government action to reduce the federal deficit, declaring that the consequences of fiscal irresponsibility fall on lower- and middle-income Canadians, not on the rich. The recent strong appeals for control of government spending do not come from uncaring people; they come from people who do care, who want to ensure that the needy and the ill will be taken care of in the future, not just today.”
Fullerton also said -- I want to go to this part because I do not want to read the whole letter – “Poor people, people on fixed incomes, retired people are the ones who suffer most from irresponsible fiscal management on the part of governments. We must accept the simple truth that sound financial management which minimizes inflation is the only way that middle- and lower-income Canadians” -- in other words, the vast majority -- ”have any chance of improving their standard of living.”
Fullerton said, and I want members to listen to this, “Canadians must convey to all levels of government that they can no longer act out of short-term expediency.”
He described the national debt as the greatest challenge we have faced in the post-war era, and I agree with him. The debt at the federal level is indeed the biggest problem that Canadians face, but it is not just a Canadian problem. Indeed, as the largest province, far and away the biggest taxpayer to the federal government, this problem is Ontario’s problem.
I believe the people of Ontario are tired of having one government blame the other government. I think they are tired of the provincial government saying: “The federal government won’t do this for me” or the federal government saying, “Oh, that’s the provincial government’s responsibility.” I think they accept and realize that this federal debt and deficit is indeed the biggest problem facing them. I do not think they are particularly happy with the provincial government’s response: “We need more money from the federal government. They have to cost-share more programs. They have to be involved in this. We can’t implement the Thomson report unless the federal government pays more. We can’t deal with the infrastructure of sewer and water that is falling behind, and the roads, unless the federal government cost-shares more.”
The Ontario taxpayer says to himself: “Aren’t I the biggest contributor to the federal deficit? Don’t I pay most of that interest in this country? Why are the people in the provincial government not doing it themselves?” Surely, as an Ontario taxpayer, you have to say to yourself, “Gosh, isn’t it cheaper if we do it ourselves rather than ask the government of Canada to do it for all of Canada?” We pay the bulk of that.
There is only one person who benefits when the federal government contributes more money for programs: the Treasurer; he benefits. But the 10 million taxpayers of Ontario who pay Ontario taxes are also the biggest taxpayers of the federal government and I believe the people of Ontario and the people of this country are beginning to understand that the federal debt is indeed that problem. I think they want municipal, school board and provincial jurisdictions to begin working with that government in helping to solve that problem, not against that government; whatever political party it is, whoever is in government at the time. Whether it is a Liberal government or Conservative government or, perish the thought, a socialist government at some time at the national level, we must work together to solve that problem.
The last thing I want to say that Mr Fullerton says is --
Mr D. R. Cooke: He’s just a mouthpiece for the big banks.
Mr Harris: No, I think I am being very critical. I am going to go through the federal budget for members to show them where some of the problems are. I am saying that, as Canadians, those of here in Ontario have a vested interest in solving that problem and they are looking to us here as well to help solve that problem.
He says, “Now is the time for Canadians to demonstrate their support for government leaders who have the guts not only to tell it like it is but also to take the decisive action needed to protect the people whom they represent.”
I do not see those guts here in this government of Ontario. I do not see it here at all.
What do I see here in Ontario? I see a federal government trying to control expenditures, having great difficulty doing it, not doing as good a job as many of us would like to see, trying to wrestle this massive problem that we all share under control. What is Ontario doing at the same time? It is announcing new program after new program, new spending after new spending. It is spending double and triple the rate of inflation. It has added 9,000 civil servants.
The cost of developing and administering programs and the metamorphosis of policies does not come cheap. Salaries, wages and benefits went from $2.7 billion to $3.6 billion. That is from 1985-86 to 1988-89. So the government spending is up about $1 billion just in the cost of all these people who are dreaming up all these new ways to spend money.
I want to read to members something that I read as I flew down here on Monday. It was in the enRoute magazine that is in the Air Canada airplanes. It talks about Canada. It talks about the consequences “if Canada fails to curb its appetite for borrowing; it may overtake some of the world’s worst debtor nations.”
This is an article by Diane Francis, who goes through a scenario of what will happen in the next 10 years if the federal debt is not brought under control. I do not want to read through it. I suggest to members that they should read it, but she concludes with this little scenario. She says:
“Am I being alarmist or is this possible? We exploit our wealth and yet debts grow exponentially. In 1976, Ottawa owed the equivalent of 22.4 per cent of the gross domestic product. By 1989, we owe 54 per cent of the gross domestic product. In 1988-89, the federal and provincial levels of government posted a total deficit of $35 billion while the economy grew by $49 billion.
“Then there is the dangerous trend towards foreign borrowing. By 1988, Canadian governments and corporations owed $220 billion to foreigners. I want to put that in perspective. It is equivalent to 37.5 per cent of our gross domestic product. Brazilians, on the other hand, owed $145 billion abroad, or 37 per cent of their gross domestic product. The difference is that, so far, foreigners continue to accept Canadian dollars as payment because our ability to repay is better than Brazil’s.”
How much longer do members think that will be the case, when we are now overtaking them in some of the foreign debt statistics; when we are now overtaking them in a number of those areas? How long do members think that will last?
Mr Harris: I appreciate the interjections because they encourage me to talk a little bit about how we got into this mess and why it is indeed all our responsibility, whether we are representatives here in the Legislature of Ontario or federal representatives. It is important that we understand how we got into the mess.
In 1968, program expenditures at the federal government level -- this is the federal budget and this is one of the budget papers that I am reading. It is very appropriate to this throne speech, to this government and to the upcoming provincial budget, because we are going to see the problem they got into and how they got into it at the federal level, and we can see and equate that to what is happening here in Ontario.
Program expenditures -- this is the amount of spending that went into programs. These are the government promises: “We promise you we’ll do this and that for you; we can deliver all this” -- cost $10.8 billion. In 1984-85, 16 years later, 16 years of control, virtually uninterrupted, by Pierre Elliott Trudeau, it was $86.7 billion. It was up 800 per cent in that period of time. What else happened in that period of time? How did we get to this situation of a massive increase in the government bureaucracy, of the massive government spending of the new programs? We got into it by doing this. This is what happened in Ottawa through that period of time. I am very, very quickly going to go through the years.
Inflation from 1968 to 1969 was three per cent. This is spending just on programs, not on interest. Spending went up 13 per cent, four times the rate of inflation that year. The next year -- I am into 1970 now -- there was 2.8 per cent inflation; spending was up 12.5 per cent. The next year, inflation was 4.8 per cent; spending was up 16 per cent. The next year, inflation was 7.6 per cent; spending was up 16 per cent.
Most of us would expect government to keep pace with inflation in its programs. There could be a one per cent or two per cent growth when you average it out in the increase in the number of people and in the level of activity; but triple, quadruple, double the rate of inflation cumulatively? What happens? We will see.
Inflation was up to 10.9 per cent in 1973-74; spending was up 18 per cent, almost double the rate of inflation, in 1974-75, inflation was up 10.8 per cent; spending was up 30 per cent.
I want to put these years into perspective because the 30 per cent increase in spending in one year was John Turner’s last hurrah. You can tell, when you look at these spending increases, who was Minister of Finance, in the next year, spending increased 20 per cent; inflation was 7.5 per cent.
There are three interesting years in here. Let the members tell me if they can guess who was Finance minister in these years. Inflation was eight per cent; spending was up only 7.7 per cent. Inflation was nine per cent; spending was up only 9.8 per cent. Inflation was nine per cent; spending was up only 7.7 per cent. In 1976, 1977, 1978 and 1979, who was Finance minister in those years? Donald Macdonald, the only conservative Finance minister those rascals had in Ottawa in those three years.
The only one, the one guy who said: “We’ve got a problem here. We must solve this problem. We must try and come to grips with it and if we do it now, 10 years from now it won’t be massively out of control.’
Those were the years, 1979 and 1980, and I applaud Donald Macdonald. But where is he now? The Liberals could not tolerate him. They said: “No, we’ve got to spend our way into oblivion. Out of my sight, Donald Macdonald. We don’t care to be responsible.”
Mr Smith: Michael’s increasing the deficit.
Mr Harris: I am talking about spending. I think it is important the members listen to how one gets into this problem. They might learn something and their constituents might appreciate it, because they have not demonstrated much ability to do it in their first few years here.
The Acing Speaker (Mr M. C. Ray): Order, please. It would be helpful if the members paid regard to the person who has the floor, the member for Nipissing.
Mr Harris: In 1979-80, inflation was 10 per cent and spending was only up 5.8 per cent. What happened then? Joe Clark was around then. Crosbie was around then. They brought in the spending for that year. Do members know what happened to the budget? The Liberals came in and said: “Well, we’re not going to pay for it. We’re not going to increase the taxes even to pay for that.” But that was the year that spending came down.
You had Donald Macdonald. You had, unfortunately for too short a time, a conservative who said, “We must get our spending under control.” Then we came back with a majority Liberal government with Pierre Elliott Trudeau again and what did we see happening? Inflation 12 per cent; spending 15 per cent. Inflation 10 per cent; spending 16 per cent. Inflation 5.8 per cent; spending 20 per cent. Inflation up 4.4 per cent; spending up 10 per cent. Inflation up four per cent; spending up 11 per cent.
In those five years, the debt really went out of control. They had a chance back in 1978, 1979. 1980, but in those five years inflation was up cumulatively 43 per cent and spending was up 93 per cent. It got out of control. That is what was inherited by Michael Wilson.
What has Michael Wilson done in spending in his five years? To give members the seriousness and magnitude of the problem and the debt going up every year, they must appreciate how serious this problem is. Here is what Michael Wilson did in spending in his first year: Inflation 4.1 per cent; spending down one per cent. On programs, down one per cent.
Mr Sorbara: How much did he spend?
Mr Harris: Not inflation. This is the spending: down one per cent. Add that to the amount they spent on interest, it was up, but I am talking about program spending, how you get into trouble as a government.
The next year, inflation up 4.2 per cent; he increased spending 4.5 per cent. Next year, inflation four per cent; he increased spending 7.55 per cent. I suggest, and I do not do it in a complimentary way, that it was getting closer to an election and they spent more than they should have. In 1988-89, inflation up four per cent; federal spending up 3.6 per cent; and this last budget, inflation projected at 4.6 per cent and spending up 3.6 per cent.
So in the five years previously, we had the Liberals blow it all out of proportion. They were spending double and a half the rate of inflation, and the debt in those five years doubled; it went from $44 billion to $86 billion in those five years.
This is the massive problem they inherited. You get into it by spending double and triple the rate of inflation, by promising new programs. For a year or two you can hike taxes to pay for them. For a year or two, you can borrow in the years you do not want to hike taxes; but you cannot cumulatively over 16 years or 17 years do it without leaving this legacy.
There is the Conservative government. Inflation in its five-year budgets now has been 23 per cent; it has increased spending 19 per cent; it has not kept up to the rate of inflation to try and wrestle this problem under control; it has hiked taxes to try and wrestle this problem under control. As the members are all quick to point out, it is not under control yet. The debt is still going up.
What are we doing to help? We are calling on the federal government to spend more money. What are we as a provincial government doing to help? We are saying: “You’ve got to spend more, we can’t do it.” What are we doing as a province, compared to Michael Wilson who is trying to wrestle his spending under control? In nearly five years, with inflation up 23 per cent, the federal government is spending close to 50 per cent; it is spending two, two and a half and three times the rate of inflation. As a province we cannot afford to keep these rascals around very much longer.
Not only do they not recognize the problem at the federal level; not only are they not willing to co-operate to clean up the lousy mess that was left by 17 years of Pierre Elliott Trudeau, but they in Ontario are doing the same things, starting out the same way he did 17 years ago. They have not learned. They not only are not part of a solution, they are indeed a major part of the problem.
I want to give others an opportunity to comment on this debate. I simply want to point out to the members that, on the fiscal side, in the conclusion of that part, after five years of record economic growth, people are saying to me:
“Where is the money going? We do not understand. What is happening? We know they have tons of money. Are they just lousy managers? Are they throwing it away? Are they wasting it? Is it misguided? Is it misdirected? Are they promising a whole host of new things that we cannot afford and we cannot pay for? I tell people: “Yes, all of the above.”
I also tell the members that people are sick and tired of governments’ blaming one another. They are looking to Queen’s Park because this is our jurisdiction -- they are looking to Ottawa, too -- for governments to start working together to solve the problems that we face as a country and indeed as a province.
I repeat that we in the opposition must try to get the government to change its ways in the interests of this province and this country, and we will continue to do that in a responsible fashion. We will continue to point out where the government does not have to spend all the money it is wasting; where it is wasting dollars and managing them effectively; that it has no game plan, no vision as to where it wants to go and no policies designed on how to get there. But by golly, we cannot afford to have it go on the way it has been going for another four or five years. If it does not change, we will take that message to the people at the first opportunity.
Mr Fleet: It was really quite intriguing -- interesting is the word the Treasurer frequently uses -- to hear comments from the member for Nipissing. It is really quite amazing because the deficit has been cut every single year of Liberal government in Ontario. The member for Nipissing did not focus on what we were doing in Ontario but rather on the past, where his views are firmly fixed.
We have cut the deficit regularly. We have never denied that spending has gone up. Of course there was an awful lot we had to make up for, with the years of underfunding or starvation in the fields of education, social services --
Hon Mr Riddell: Education, health and social services.
Mr Fleet: I am being assisted by the honourable Minister of Agriculture and Food and quite properly so.
The fact of the matter is that every day in the House the third party calls for more spending just about everywhere in every conceivable program, never bothering to specify what is now supposed to be cut. The problem is that we have been quite effective managers.
Moreover, in the last election -- unlike the federal Conservatives in their last election -- we did not go through and say that one issue was really important and then come out and say that something else, like a deficit, was the order of the day, in order to abandon our campaign promises. We have been fulfilling our promises. We have said there are needs and we are addressing them as best we conceivably can. In fact, that is exactly what the budget process will show again as the budget comes out in a little over a week.
What is really quite amazing, frankly, is that the hypocrisy that comes forward from the third party from time to time does not get more publicity. I guess we have been a little too kind in not drawing everyone’s attention to it, but they cannot realistically expect to call for more spending all the time, then at the same time complain we are cutting the spending and never, ever provide any specifics about anything. That is the politics of negativism. I suspect it will lead them to a third-place finish again, if they continue it.
Mr Pouliot: I am always very pleased to listen to, and I almost hang on every word put forward by, the member for Nipissing, but members will forgive me if for a moment this afternoon I thought, with high respect, that I was dealing with an impostor. The speech was made for the House of Commons. Clearly a statement of apology is to follow the headline in the business section, “Sorry For the Pain this Budget Causes.” Bad news travels quickly; people become apologists.
I would perhaps be amused if the situation were not so sad. When you notice the ping-pong, the back and forth, the acquiescing, the omissions of yesteryear, the refusal to listen to Kenneth Carter, loopholes that were created under the reign of John Turner when he was the Minister of Finance, I for one do not now begrudge the fact that our great party never got to spend any money. The future can last a long time. It usually does indeed. Maybe one day our time will come and we will be able to affect the fundamentals. Some of my distinguished colleagues, as opposed to saying “A curse on both your houses,” will restore the kind of fiscal justice that is so badly needed.
Until that time, until we affect the fundamental and create a fair system of justice whereby everyone pays his fair share of taxes, we will continue to be the victims of this kind of ping-pong game as opposed to going to where the fundamentals should be and addressing the tax system in this country.
Mr Neumann: I was not surprised, but a little disturbed, to hear the ongoing conflicting messages we hear from the third party. The member for Nipissing characteristically went on in his ideologically fixed way about cutting spending and getting the deficit down. What is surprising is that the members around him in his caucus do not seem to listen to that, because we constantly hear them day after day in this House criticizing our cabinet ministers for not spending more money in areas of health care, schools and roads. You name it, they are up on their feet asking for more money to be spent in a variety of areas. These are areas of need, areas that were neglected prior to the present government taking office in 1985. Our Treasurer has handled things in a fiscally responsible manner.
We do not have a deficit in Ontario on our operating budget. The entire cost of the goods-and-services delivery of this government is carried by the revenue coming in. We are paying the bills as we go along. Indeed, there is a surplus. Some of that surplus is used for capital expenditure on roads, schools and hospitals, which the previous government neglected. It created a deficit in facilities and infrastructure which the Liberal government is meeting with some of the surplus we create from our operating budget.
Certainly we continue to borrow money for some of that capital expenditure, but it is only to make up for the deficit in facilities and infrastructure that party created. I am tired of hearing their contradictory views, saying, “Spend more, spend less, spend more, spend less.” They should get their act together over there in the Conservative Party.
Mr Faubert: The member for Lake Nipigon (Mr Pouliot) somehow picks one aspect. I guess his strategy is that the best defence is offence. He was offensive enough in stating that somehow the statement here in the throne speech which says --
The Acting Speaker: Order, please.
Mr Pouliot: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: With a great deal of reluctance, my distinguished friend does not have the chance or the courage to get up too often, but I would like to kindly remind him that he is to answer the words of wisdom from the member for Nipissing and not to make an uncalled-for attack on the member for Lake Nipigon.
Mr Faubert: It is the member for Nipissing. My apologies to the member for Lake Nipigon.
This statement says that progress in the area will require the financial support and co-operation of all levels of government and the community at large. This is not a copout, with all due respect, and I think every member of this House knows that.
The member for Nipissing tries to use attack as the best defence, because he suddenly gets off in the area of trying to apologize for the Tory federal government’s budget, for some reason calling that an attack on the deficit. I would like to point out that the people of Ontario are actually going to feel it, because this is the heartland of Canada and this budget of the federal government is a direct attack on the lower- and middle-income earners of this good province.
I would like to point out too that not only has the federal government failed to bring in a budget that sets a fiscal example, but it is really soft on debt reduction. Indeed, the deficit does not decline and there is no impact on the budget.
Indeed, what they have done is --
The Acting Speaker: Thank you. Order, please. The member for Nipissing has two minutes to respond.
Mr Harris: Briefly, to the member for Lake Nipigon, I agree with him wholeheartedly in his comment. I do not begrudge for one instant the fact that his party has never been in power either.
To the member for High Park-Swansea (Mr Fleet) who talks about the deficit being reduced year after year, people cannot understand – I guess we are into about the seventh year of economic growth -- why the total debt is getting higher and higher here in the province each year.
For the life of me, they do not understand that. They say to me: “What happens when tougher times come along? How are we going to have the capacity for that?”
The member for Brantford (Mr Neumann) talked about how we finance all our operating. We only borrow and accumulate this massive debt for capital purposes. He does not talk about how the plant is depreciating rapidly underneath this government; significantly, I might add,
I would like to point out that members of this governing party talk about the underfunding in the past and how they have to correct this underfunding. There were far fewer portables in the past. If they were underfunded so badly, why do they tell us the problem is worse today? There were no waiting lists in the past like there are now. If the underfunding was so bad, why is the problem worse today?
Summer jobs were available for students all over the province. Home ownership was still a realistic dream for people in Ontario. Young people still had the dream that there was a future for them in Ontario. Increasingly, they are wondering and concerned about the future in David Peterson’s Ontario.
So in spite of those recessionary periods --
The Acting Speaker: Time. Thank you.
Miss Nicholas: I will begin my comments today and hopefully finish off tomorrow and have an opportunity to speak on the speech from the throne.
We have a number of good initiatives in this throne speech. I think it is a very focused agenda that we have. When I read news reports that there was not much in the throne speech and not much about anything, I went through this throne speech point by point and I considered how it affected my riding of Scarborough Centre. I was very much impressed with what I had collected as I read through it and how important it is going to be to my constituents and, in fact, to the people of Ontario. I would like to reflect over the next few minutes on how it does affect my constituents and the riding of Scarborough Centre.
I was interested the other day when I heard the member for Brantford (Mr Neumann) talk about VCR. I had only known a VCR to be a video machine that you sometimes watch in the confines of your home. You watch a movie that maybe has been rerun a few times. But he made VCR very pertinent to this agenda. He talked about vision, commitment and results.
I listened intently to him and it really struck me that that was a very true caption of this particular throne speech. I thank the member for Brantford for that very insightful alternative to the motto VCR. Now we know it means vision, commitment and results and it relates to this throne speech that we had just last week here in the Legislature.
We have six points that have been focused on for this particular throne speech, and would like to just go over each of them as it affects my riding. The first one is economic development, new markets for our goods and services being the aim of our economic development. Would it not be nice to see in Europe, everywhere around the world, the words “Made in Canada” on products and goods? Would it not be nice to be away from your home and pick up an item and think, “Isn’t that a lovely little item? Maybe I will take that home,” and notice that it says “Made in Canada”?
I think our vision of economic development is a good one. Through that, we are looking at improving education, training and adjustment programs, which means on-the-job training. I think this is absolutely fabulous. There have been many people who have come into my office and said they wish that they could get on-the-job training, that more people would offer it, because they were not in the position of being able to go back to school. They had a family, they could not get away from work and go back to school, and yet they wanted to advance within their company, within their range of possibilities, within their career choice.
On-the-job training is the way we can do that. We get training on the job. We are being paid for it and we are learning a new role and how to move up within the company or the organization in which we are working. I think we should strive to encourage on-the-job training, and that is what this throne speech does.
We are also looking at literacy, the ability to read and understand what is being read, I was surprised at the number of people in Ontario, in this fine province of ours, who are illiterate and unable to conduct business by reading and writing in the way that we consider acceptable. I know that Frontier College offers a number of these programs, and there are a number of people who are just dying to learn but are perhaps a bit embarrassed at the age of 45 or 50 to admit that they went through the school system and are still unable to read or comprehend the written language, who lack the ability to read to their children at night something other than nursery rhymes that they remembered from their own childhood.
Literacy is a very important factor, and it comes within the economic development. It is so important that we have the ability to communicate, each and every one of us in Ontario and in Canada. I think this throne speech gives the commitment to literacy for everyone in Ontario.
The second area of the throne speech was education, improving the quality of education. We have been striving for this for many years. I know in my own personal experience of going through the school system that there were many changes in my 20 years in it. I remember how structured it was from kindergarten through to grade 6. There was discipline, there were the basic learning skills and then, all of a sudden in grades 7 and 8, there was the open complex.
You were to teach yourself. You were self-instructed. It left those who were unable to learn on their own wandering. I saw that they were really disadvantaged by the new school system that was introduced. It was great for the self-learners but not so good for those who were unable to teach themselves. Then we went into the high school system, and it was closed up again.
There is a necessity to get back to the basic learning skills, the basic social skills. We have to learn how to get the basics before we can get into anything fancier and more nondirected. My father was a teacher for over 20 years and he always emphasized that the basic skills were the most important ones and that we should be emphasizing those, in the time I was at school. I know he reinforced them when I went home at night in case I had not learned them at school
The throne speech provides for funding all day -- for half-day junior kindergarten and for senior kindergarten. There are a lot of schools that do not provide that. I know I benefited from junior kindergarten and senior kindergarten, from full-time senior kindergarten as a matter of fact, so I can say in truth that I think I benefited from it and I am glad people in my constituency are going to be able to benefit from it as well.
Then there is going to be the funding for full-time, full-day senior kindergarten where classroom space permits. Whereas we see that in some of the growth regions, they do not have the classroom space available to provide that kind of alternative, there are places where there are empty classrooms and these are going to be used for students who are interested in taking full-time kindergarten.
There are many who perhaps will not want to take advantage of this. As parents, they may choose to have their children home in the afternoon or to keep them in a day care program they may feel is a little bit better for their child, but there is the opportunity, for those who wish it, to have full-time senior kindergarten, think it is a great alternative and I am sure many people will choose this as an alternative.
Many people are saying: “Oh, it is an alternative to day care. We are educating them instead of putting them in day cure.” But there was an early primary education report that said there was a necessity for providing a strong developmental foundation in the early years as a requisite for more formal schooling. It also highlighted the need for stronger linkages between day care and education. I fully support these initiatives that have been undertaken to improve the quality of education and I also very strongly support the grades 7, 8 and 9 options that there are going to be.
So often, we were forced at grade 7 to choose what it was we wanted to be when we grew up. Quite often, we may choose before we develop interests in other areas. What is it we want to do when we are five years old? I know I had a number of things on my mind, and they changed when I was 10 years old and 15 years old, and they are still changing now. I think we should give a person an opportunity to get his basic skills and then to explore the options that are open to him, very fully support getting the basics in there, not forcing our children to choose their course of employment too early in life. We can always make a decision, but we should not be forced to be make a decision sooner than we have to.
The third area in the throne speech was “Social Assistance: Moving from Dependence to Self-Reliance.” This is such an important point. I think many people have not reviewed this carefully. If they did, they would see how significant a point this is. There has been an increased need in social assistance over the last few years. They have studied the effects it has on the learning ability of children going to school when they are hungry.
I have had the opportunity to visit many of the breakfast clubs that are provided in our Metropolitan Toronto Housing Authority facilities. I have had the opportunity to fry five pounds of bacon, along with people who are providing eggs and toast and cereal, for children who otherwise would start their day hungry, who would be unable to learn throughout the day because they were too hungry, who were severely hampered by their inability to have sufficient food and cannot think throughout the day,
I think these are great initiatives, but we must do more. We have to move to self-sufficiency. They cannot depend on this forever. That is what Transitions is about and that is what the throne speech was about: supporting efforts to move to self-sufficiency.
The honourable member for Scarborough-Ellesmere (Mr Faubert) and myself just two weeks ago had an opportunity to meet with many constituents in a forum. We had the opportunity to hear their presentations about the value of the Transitions report and how it could be effective in their community and across Ontario. One such person told us about his situation, about how he went out and worked, and together with his social assistance it turned out he would lose $10 at the end of the week. There was no incentive to go out to work.
I think it is important that we reflect on this particular program and the fact that the throne speech is helping these individuals. I hate to rush this very important topic. Perhaps I could continue tomorrow.
On motion by Miss Nicholas, the debate was adjourned.
The House adjourned at 1800.