The House met at 1330.
OCCUPATIONAL HEALTH AND SAFETY
Mr Mackenzie: On 1 May, Larry Newfeld, an employee of Canadian Pacific Forest Products in Dryden and a member of Canadian Paperworkers Union Local 1323, was killed on the job. This was the third death of a member of the Canadian Paperworkers Union on the job in 11 days, the 10th death in less than the last two years. It underlines an appalling and totally inadequate record of this Minister of Labour (Mr Sorbara) as far as health and safety in the workplace is concerned.
The Canadian Paperworkers Union has asked for an urgent meeting with the Minister of Labour and representatives of the health and safety branch. They have specifically asked the minister to immediately set up a public task force to conduct an investigation into the occupational health and safety procedures in the pulp and paper industry with an early date to report back. If this minister gives a darn about the workers, he will respond positively and forthwith. He has not as yet responded to the wire of a number of days ago requesting this meeting as the result of the rash of deaths that have occurred in the industry. Surely enough is enough in terms of death in the workplace in Ontario.
Mr Eves: I would like to rise today and comment on a situation with respect to Highway 69 from Waubaushene to Sudbury, Ontario, and the four- laning of the same. We had a delegation -- the member for Nickel Belt (Mr Laughren) attended and the member for Muskoka-Georgian Bay (Mr Black) was invited -- with the minister on 9 January 1989.
Municipal leaders and provincial representatives sat down with the Minister of Transportation (Mr Fulton) and impressed upon him the need to do something about four-laning Highway 69, not only from an economy standpoint but, more important, from a safety standpoint. Everybody at the meeting was left with the impression that the minister was going to get back to us in due course with a proposed phase-in program of four-laning Highway 69.
Needless to say, I was somewhat surprised when a representative from the Ministry of Transportation appeared at the District of Parry Sound Municipal Association meeting on 10 April 1989 and informed us that there were no immediate plans with respect to Highway 69, despite the fact that the minister had told us that it was “a high priority” with him and his ministry.
I think this type of double standard certainly does not serve the people of northern Ontario, not just the people in the riding of Parry Sound, very well. I urge the minister to reconsider or clear up the inconsistencies between what he has to say and what representatives of his ministry have to say.
SCARBOROUGH GENERAL HOSPITAL CHAIRMAN’S AWARDS
Miss Nicholas: It seems appropriate that during Nurses Week I have an opportunity to recognize three winners of the Scarborough General Hospital’s Chairman’s Awards, presented to individuals who have made outstanding contributions to the hospital’s growth and development.
This year, more than 150 nominations were received for the awards. Chosen were nurse Joyce Hird, Allan Greve and Dr David Naiberg.
Nurse Joyce Hird is the manager of nursing practice for special clinic services. She has worked at Scarborough General Hospital since 1966 and has dedicated many hours to providing excellent patient care. Allan Greve has been the hospital’s executive director for the past five years. Dr David Naiberg is chief of ear, nose and throat specialists and director of the hospital’s ear institute. He is credited with developing Canada’s first telephone hearing screening test, a free public service that has already been used by more than 45,000 people.
All three are dedicated to providing superb health care, but there are many more nurses and doctors who are contributing time and effort to the success of our health care system.
This week being Nurses Week, I urge members to reflect on the nurses who have made a valuable contribution to their lives. They should just think of the role of a nurse, those who have made a difference when they have been sick, those who have looked after their friends and family, or members of their families who are nurses.
I thank the nurses for their hard work.
Miss Martel: Further to the announcement made by the Minister of Health (Mrs Caplan) in Sudbury on Monday, I want to express my grave concern that nothing has been done to address the present recruitment problem facing Laurentian Hospital’s oncology department.
Any announcement relating to the cancer treatment centre, especially one reannounced in Sudbury, should have dealt positively with the issue of foreign-trained graduates. It is incomprehensible to me that the Minister of Health has neglected to act on this matter.
The situation regarding Dr Anthony Ho is well known to the Minister of Health. Dr Ho, a clinical scientist, is an ideal candidate to head the research centre in Sudbury. He was the only applicant who responded when this position was advertised across Canada in September 1987. The oncology program will be dealt a severe blow if the barriers established by the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario are not removed to allow Dr Ho a temporary licence to practise here.
Under section 3 of the Health Disciplines Act, “It is the duty of the minister to ensure that the activities of health disciplines are effectively regulated and co-ordinated in the public interest.” The minister has the power to ensure Dr Ho does not have to endure all of the hoops set out by the college. Unless this is done, the research centre will go nowhere and the morale within the oncology department will go downhill. The minister must respond immediately to this situation.
PENETANGUISHENE MENTAL HEALTH CENTRE
Mr McLean: My statement is for the Minister of Health. Approximately 15 months ago, she stood up in this Legislature and said the complete redevelopment of the Oak Ridge division of the Penetanguishene Mental Health Centre was a priority with her and her ministry.
This facility was built on a prison model in 1933, when this province’s mentally ill were tucked away, out of sight and out of mind. We are supposed to be treating these people now, but this facility has not kept up with this philosophy. An eight-year, $3.2-million renovation program that got under way in 1987 will not make a hospital out of a jail by putting new plaster on the walls, new curtains on the windows or new carpets on the floors. This is only a Band-Aid renovation; it is only a stopgap measure to hold this antiquated facility together until a new 300-bed Oak Ridge is built.
The minister recently made a commitment to build a new Oak Ridge. It took a work-to-rule campaign by Oak Ridge staff to prompt her into making this commitment, but she failed to tell anyone when construction will get under way. I am afraid this promise will end up on the growing list of broken promises from her government. That list includes increased education funding, lower automobile insurance rates and maintaining a common pause day. I guess we can add Oak Ridge to the list.
BOB RUMBALL CENTRE FOR THE DEAF
Mr J. B. Nixon: I rise today to officially recognize the 10th anniversary of the Bob Rumball Centre for the Deaf, which is located in the riding of York Mills at 2395 Bayview Avenue. The centre was officially opened 5 April 1979 and at that time the cost was $7.3 million, funded by the government of Ontario, the deaf themselves and donations from churches, service clubs, corporations, charitable foundations and concerned citizens.
Bob Rumball has dedicated his life to serving the needs of the deaf. I recently toured the Bob Rumball Centre for the Deaf and was very impressed with the variety of services and facilities, including housing, which are available. The centre’s comprehensive facility is unique within the western world.
Today, with our emphasis on multiculturalism, we sometimes forget that the deaf themselves are a unique community. Lack of communication in a hearing society creates serious problems for many deaf people. It can mean the loss of social interaction and isolation from information, education, recreation, vocational rehabilitation and human contact. Their skills all too often remain undeveloped and their contribution to society untapped, largely because of the lack of understanding by the hearing community of the unique problems, attributes and nature of the deaf community.
The Bob Rumball Centre for the Deaf provides an opportunity for the deaf and professionally trained people to work together to bridge the gap and open doors of opportunity to a fuller life. I congratulate all who have been involved with the Bob Rumball Centre for the Deaf upon its 10th anniversary.
Mr Allen: For almost a month now, the staff at the children’s aid society and the Catholic children’s aid society in Hamilton have been on strike. I appreciate the minister’s desire to keep strikes in the agencies at arm’s length, yet at the same time he is always the hidden presence, as is the Treasurer (Mr R. F. Nixon), at the bargaining table.
The major problem faced in both these CASs is that the staffing capacity, as a result of the budgets, is such that, for example, a staff person writes, “Members already work a lot of hours and are expected to fill emergency after-hours service on a rotating basis, which means one week you are working 24 hours a day from Monday to Friday.”
It is that kind of overwork -- overtime, extended hours -- that creates the stress that has put the pressure on these workers and forced them to go out on strike. I ask the minister and the government to look closely at their funding transfers, which are the root of this problem.
The Speaker: That completes the allotted time for members’ statements. Just before I recognize another member, I would like to inform the House that today we have Ramon Menezes, the international secretary of the FSLN of Nicaragua, in the lower gallery. Please welcome Mr Menezes.
ISRAEL’S INDEPENDENCE DAY
Mr Offer: Mr Speaker, I request unanimous approval to recognize Israel’s Independence Day.
Mr Offer: I rise today to acknowledge a special anniversary; 41 years ago, on 14 May 1948, the modern state of Israel was established. While small in size, Israel’s place in the world is of great significance, and today, as Jewish people around the world mark this day, we are all reminded of how this country represents freedom and democracy.
I would like to draw the members’ attention to the gallery, where leaders of our Jewish community are present today. I would like to especially acknowledge Benjamin Abileah, the consul general of Israel.
This day is of added significance to this Legislature, as we have a committee on the issue of Soviet Jewry. This all-party committee is co-chaired by myself, the member for Markham (Mr Cousens) and the member for Hamilton West (Mr Allen), and is one supported by this Legislature. Our purpose is to bring forward the plight of the Soviet Jew, who does not have the freedom which we in this province and country all too often just take for granted in our ordinary way of life. We work together to bring this issue to light and work with many others to pave the way for the emigration of the Soviet Jew.
This issue is important and vital. It is important and vital that we have a state of Israel which is independent to serve as a home to these persons and others persons around the world.
I have the great honour and it gives me great pleasure to read a proclamation signed by the Premier (Mr Peterson) and the minister responsible for multiculturalism (Mr Phillips). It reads as follows:
“Whereas the province of Ontario and the Canadian nation have prospered through the courage, dedication and industry of many people of many nationalities and religions who have come to this land in search of freedom and opportunity; and
“Whereas we especially value the important contributions made by our citizens of Jewish heritage since first arriving in Canada in 1759; and
“Whereas the free, united, independent and democratic state of Israel was established 41 years ago on 14 May 1948; and
“Whereas it is imperative for Canadians to remember the price of our precious freedom is eternal vigilance; and
“Whereas the observance of this anniversary fosters within us a deeper appreciation of freedom, liberty and democratic ideals in our multicultural society;
“Therefore, on behalf of the people of Ontario, we are pleased to recognize 10 May 1989 as Israeli Independence Day, and we commend its observance to all the people of this province.”
Mr B. Rae: I am delighted to be able to rise in my place and celebrate, together with all the members of this assembly, this day which rings with such significance for the Israeli people and indeed for the Jewish community in the Diaspora around the world.
This year, like every other year since 1948, is a year that is full of both peril and opportunity for the people of Israel and for the state of Israel. We celebrate today not only the independence of Israel but the friendship between our people, the Canadian people, and the Israeli people. We celebrate, as well, Canada’s involvement with peacekeeping as a member of the United Nations and the fact that there are so many bonds between our two countries.
Of course, on this day, we celebrate the remarkable contribution of the Jewish people to the life of our country and of our province and the community which with its richness, its diversity, its vibrancy has added so much to the culture, the way of life, the happiness and wellbeing and sense of justice of this country of ours. And so on this day, it is indeed a celebration, even as we recognize the tremendous challenges facing all of us as we struggle to find peace in the Middle East.
Peace with security has to be a common objective which we hope will unite all governments, indeed all peoples who live in the Middle East, and it is important for us to reflect on that even as we celebrate today the commemoration of 14 May 1948 in the presence of Mr Abileah and members of the Jewish community who are here today.
Mr Cousens: I am pleased to rise on behalf of our party, on behalf of our leader and as one of the co-chairmen of the Soviet Jewry committee of the Ontario Legislature, to speak on this very important day.
It marks the 41st anniversary of the founding of the state of Israel. Following the Second World War and the horrors of the Holocaust, the centuries-old dream of a Jewish state came true and Israel became a reality.
We reflect on the difficulties which Israel has endured over the past 40 years in order to maintain its identity. The country’s strength has been in the commitment of its people to build a secure future, and its strength relies as well upon the continuing support of all of us who recognize Israel’s continuing contribution to freedom and to history.
May is both a month of celebration and a month of solemn remembrance for the Jewish people; 2 May was Holocaust Remembrance Day commemorating the more than six million Jews who perished under the Nazi regime in the Second World War. Today is an enjoyable and happy occasion, but those who did not survive to see the establishment of a Jewish homeland must not be forgotten. May they be commemorated by the ancient Jewish Passover greeting: Next year in Jerusalem.
STATEMENT BY THE MINISTRY
Hon Mrs Caplan: I am pleased to inform the House that today I am announcing the second in a series of steps in our province-wide action plan for specialty health care. As outlined in the recent throne speech, we believe that everyone in Ontario is entitled to quality health care, regardless of his ability to pay. We are committed to this objective.
Cardiovascular care is one of several areas identified in the throne speech on which the ministry is concentrating its resources. The other areas are cancer care, emergency and trauma services, dialysis and lithotripsy, AIDS and care for mothers and newborn infants. I announced an expansion of cancer services in the form of a province-wide breast screening program on Monday.
Today’s announcements are part of the initiatives to strengthen the province-wide cardiac care network being developed in response to the recommendations contained in the St Michael’s Hospital report.
In order to strengthen cardiac services for residents of northern Ontario, I am announcing today that Sudbury Memorial Hospital, the province’s northeastern centre for cardiac care, will receive $2 million. This money will be used to expand its diagnostic facilities and enable it to handle an increased case load.
Sunnybrook Medical Centre in Toronto will receive $1.5 million in operating funds for the cardiovascular unit being developed there.
I am also pleased to announce that my ministry will provide $250,000 for the province-wide working group on cardiovascular care, $160,000 for computerization of the Metropolitan Toronto cardiovascular triage and registry program and $300,000 for development of the registry province-wide.
Earlier today in London, I also announced the following increases in funding: University Hospital in London will receive $2.3 million to fund an expansion of services, enabling more procedures to be carried out; Victoria Hospital in London will receive $1 million to increase angioplasties and paediatric heart surgery cases.
Hospitals, of course, can fulfil only so many needs, and that is why health promotion and disease prevention are so very important as a part of our program. One of our most successful initiatives in this area is the health promotion grants program. Therefore, I am pleased to announce that we will spend an additional $1 million for health promotion grants, of which $500,000 will be specifically directed towards cardiovascular health.
Before closing, I want to acknowledge my colleague the Minister of Industry, Trade and Technology (Mr Kwinter) and his announcement yesterday that the Premier’s Council technology fund will provide $2.8 million to the Ottawa Heart Institute. This is a generous and welcome contribution to heart research in Ontario. I am confident it will make a major contribution to heart expertise and knowledge in this province.
In the weeks ahead, I will be outlining further details of my ministry’s specialty care plan: a plan that will reflect the goals recommended by the Premier’s Council on Health Strategy and adopted by our government; a plan that, I am confident, will ensure that Ontarians have effective quality health care as close to home as possible.
Mr Reville: Cardiovascular care is one of several areas identified by the Office of the Premier as a political problem for the Liberal government. The government believes that everyone in Ontario is entitled to quality health care regardless of his ability to pay, as long as he can afford to wait.
Mr Faubert: Have a little heart.
Mr Reville: Right on. This is the second of an expected series of six propaganda announcements. If one listens closely to what the Minister of Health (Mrs Caplan) has to say today, one may be forgiven for having a sense of déjà vu because virtually every one of these announcements is beginning to become decrepit with age.
For instance, we have already heard about expansion programs at Victoria Hospital and University Hospital, and, of course, in the fancy shell game the minister is playing, it is difficult to tell what the new money is here.
We have already had an expansion at the Sudbury Memorial Hospital. This appears to be an additional expansion. One is sure that that expansion will be welcomed, but let’s remember that the other shoe dropped in June 1988.
The Sunnybrook Medical Centre expansion was supposed to be operational at the end of 1988. Operational funds are now being flowed, but it is May 1989 and we still do not know whether it is really up and running or whether this is just an announcement.
There is some talk about this wonderful computer system. That was the wonderful computer system that was announced in June 1988 and we will be glad to know that the computers are going to be able to start printing things out.
The minister does not deal with any predictions about what will happen to the waiting lists, but last January, we had 150 people on a waiting list in Hamilton; 200 at the Ottawa Civic Hospital; 228 at the Victoria Hospital in London, and 95 at the University Hospital in London. How is the minister going to deal with those waiting lists? Will this program do it or will it not?
We noticed that the minister made a special point of highlighting the health promotion aspects of her cardiovascular response. One is pleased that she made a special point of noting it, because, clearly, that is the area in which the most useful initiatives can be taken by this government. But when she talks about $1 million additional for health promotion grants, we should keep in mind how that compares to what is already being spent on fixing people after they become sick.
In fact, this $1 million compares to $1 spent in the institutional system, it is one sixtieth of a cent spent on trying to prevent people from becoming sick in the first place. That is a shockingly inadequate response from this government and it makes one wonder how long this government is going to have the nerve to stand up on its hind legs and boast about shifting the balance of this system.
Finally, there is not one word in the minister’s statement today about the nursing shortage, and unless the minister begins to deal with the problem so carefully identified by nurses and others and members of this opposition, the people who have to care for people getting cardiovascular surgery will not be in place.
If the minister thinks that her one initiative in respect to nursing, that is getting nurses involved in the management of hospitals, is enough to solve the nursing crisis, she is dead wrong. The second of the minister’s propaganda announcements makes one want to laugh -- mirthlessly.
Mr Eves: First, those of us on this side of the House are rather surprised that the Minister of the Environment (Mr Bradley) was not rising in his place this afternoon to make another statement, but perhaps that will come in another day or so.
With respect to the announcement made today by the Minister of Health, I would like to point out that for over a year members of the opposition have been asking her about the problems in cardiovascular surgery in the province. Her initial response was that there was no problem.
To use her phraseology, every person who needed emergency heart surgery in Ontario was being adequately dealt with and looked after, and the government would not get involved in “politicizing,” as she put it, waiting lists and who needed surgery and who did not.
So, first, there was no problem. Then after the heat became too great out in the public on 9 June 1988 -- today is 10 May 1989, almost a year later --
Mr Bailinger: Thank you for that information.
Mr Eves: I am glad the member for Durham-York knows that, because the Minister of Health does not know that.
On 9 June 1988, the minister stood in her place in this chamber and said there was no problem, that the cardiovascular surgery unit at Sunnybrook Medical Centre would be up and running almost immediately. “Almost immediately,” in her definition, I guess, means 18 months later, because we now know that it will not be up and running until the end of 1989, although the announcement was made halfway through 1988.
When we on this side of the House pointed out to the minister about the St Michael’s Hospital report and its scheduling for heart surgery and we quoted to the minister from page 74 of that report, she became very obstinate. The report said: “If Ontario does not devise a system to monitor and manage change, the province’s health care system will go from crisis to crisis and public confidence will continue to be eroded.”
That was an independent report. The minister stood in her place at that time and disputed that there was a crisis. There was no need to address these problems, which she is now, after the fact, starting to address. She is singing out the other side of her mouth today in this Legislature.
She has gone from crisis to crisis, treating this on an ad hoc basis. When public criticism of the system becomes so great that she has nothing else left to do, she responds to the crisis; unfortunately, a year or 18 months too late.
The member for London North (Mrs Cunningham) is well acquainted with the situation at Victoria Hospital. That hospital is now in the process of considering closing 60 beds because of lack of funding. I am sure the minister’s talk about expansion of cardiovascular surgery procedures at Victoria Hospital in London will be well received by that hospital, but the basic problem remains there that it does not have the basic budget to provide nursing staff, other facilities that are needed, the number of beds that are needed.
Does this just mean that we are going to have more technology? The minister blamed technology before for the waiting lists growing longer and longer. Now we are going to have more technology, more up-to-date services available. Does that mean the waiting lists are going to grow longer and longer? Are the waiting periods going to grow longer and longer?
The conclusions of the St Michael’s report, which the minister has not addressed in her statement in the chamber here today, include a significant shortage of qualified critical care nurses, especially in Toronto, without a well-enunciated plan by the government to cure it. That is probably first and foremost. There was no mention of it in the statement today.
The nursing shortage problem has been compounded by budget restraints imposed by the province and has forced hospitals to end the use of agency nurses who cost, on an average, $10 more per hour than staff nurses. There is a major shortage of technicians who operate heart pump machines during surgery.
A reduction in cardiovascular surgery residency training positions, together with an expansion of cardiovascular surgical resources, has resulted in the lack of trained medical assistants for surgeons during operations.
There has been a decrease in the number of heart patients in Toronto, from 2,709 in 1985 to 2,687 procedures done in 1986, and we know that number is down to just over 2,500 in 1988.
All these problems exist. The minister is starting to address some of the problems, but only starting to address them, and she is addressing them 18 months after members in this Legislature and people in the medical field have made these problems well known to her and her staff at the Ministry of Health. What about the major recommendations and the major problems with respect to staffing, especially with respect to nursing staffing in Ontario?
Mr B. Rae: I have some questions today for the Minister of the Environment. I might say we are expecting him to make a statement today to clear up the incredible confusion which has surrounded his responses to questions over the last two days.
I would like to ask the minister very directly this simple question: Exactly when did his ministry know or suspect that toxic substances like polychlorinated biphenyls were being mixed with fuel oil and then transported into Ontario?
Hon Mr Bradley: Our ministry, of course, through the investigations and enforcement branch, has been conducting an ongoing investigation for some period of time into allegations which have been made from sources that it has available to it, allegations which have been made about this practice and other practices as they relate to the transportation of waste, whether it is in the province or across borders into the province.
They have not concluded those investigations yet. They are gathering the hard forensic evidence which is required, first, to confirm allegations and, second, to build a court case so that they can put illegal waste haulers out of business.
Mr B. Rae: The minister cannot get away with that kind of answer in this House. I asked him a very specific question and we are entitled to a very specific answer. His executive assistant is quoted in the Toronto Star on 10 May as saying they have known “for about a decade ... suspected toxic waste was being mixed with waste ‘crankcase oil’ from the US.”
The Speaker: Order.
Mr B. Rae: In the Toronto Sun on 10 May, “Bradley ... admitted Monday his ministry knew since last fall about the waste.” Then Steven Naum is quoted in the Financial Post on 10 May -- and Mr Naum is a special agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigations -- as saying that he informed the Ontario Ministry of the Environment early last year.
I asked the minister a very specific question and I am entitled to a very specific answer. I want to know when his ministry learned of specific allegations with respect to the mixing of poisonous substances with fuel oil being transported into Ontario, when he learned about this and why he is not willing to tell us when this investigation --
Hon Mr Bradley: As I very clearly indicated to the leader of the official opposition, our ministry has had an ongoing investigation for a number of months at the present time into all waste practices, including this waste practice. The member will recall that we undertook border checks in April of this year. I think the dates were 11 to 13 April of this year and again the week after that, both at the Niagara crossings and the St Lawrence River crossings.
The purpose of those checks, which included our ministry examining trucks that were coming across, was looking for ways in which people could disguise waste, determining what was on the manifest and what in fact was crossing the river and seeing that everything that was on the paperwork was corresponding to what was reality.
As a result of that, we had examined some 383 trucks, and from those we took some additional samples; some 113 samples that we took went back to the laboratory for further detailed analysis. The member may know that we laid 18 charges of an environmental nature at that time and that we have 23 follow-up investigations which have been launched.
All of that information is derived --
The Speaker: Order.
Mr B. Rae: The minister has still not answered my question and I will put it to him again, and I will put it to him until hell freezes over if that is what it takes to get an answer. My question is simply this, and it is a very specific question: He has this information right in front of him. Why is he not sharing it with the people of Ontario, whose health is at risk because he has refused to tell them? I want him to answer very specifically. When did his ministry learn of specific allegations with respect to toxic substances and when did he personally know about it? Answer that question.
Hon Mr Bradley: As I have indicated to the member, we have an ongoing investigation of this. From time to time, the Ministry of the Environment receives information from members of the Legislature or the general public or from any other source and it follows up on that in terms of a lengthy investigation. The purpose of the investigation is to confirm whether or not these allegations can be confirmed using the hard evidence which is available.
The member may know that there has been discussion of, for instance, crankcase oil and the contamination of crankcase oil which was used to spread on roads as a dust suppressant in years gone by. For that reason, we announced a ban of road oiling because there was a determination that in fact that was happening, and the member may recall --
The Speaker: Thank you. Order. New question, and to which minister?
Mr B. Rae: The same minister, Mr Speaker. The minister will surely realize that hospitals burn fuel oil, that people who have homes burn fuel oil and that greenhouses burn fuel oil. Fuel oil is used throughout the province. If it is giving off poisonous gases 25 to 50 times the allowable, permissible amounts in the province, and the evidence is that is precisely what is happening in terms of these substances, people’s health is at risk.
When the minister knew and what he did about it is the most important question he has had to answer since he became Minister of the Environment. Why the hell can he not answer that question?
Hon Mr Bradley: The member, I know, is annoyed because the investigations and enforcement branch has been on top of this problem and has been investigating this problem. That is why he is annoyed. He is annoyed because the investigations and enforcement branch is an agency that has been on top of this and has been conducting an investigation.
They get tips from time to time, as I say, from the public and from others as to what might be happening. They have to investigate those to determine whether or not they can be confirmed. When they conduct an investigation such as the border check that took place in April of this year, just last month, and when the results of those tests are forthcoming -- I expect them from our laboratory soon -- of course we will then be able to determine whether the allegations are accurate or not.
Mr B. Rae: The minister does not seem to understand his obligations to the people of this province. A federal Minister of the Environment resigned, not because tuna was poisoned and not because it was dangerous to people’s health but because it smelled bad. The economy of Chile was shut down for two weeks by the federal government and by the American government because of three grapes that were filled with poisonous junk.
We have cars, trucks, hospitals and greenhouses. We have people who may have been breathing this stuff for years on end for all we know and the minister is not telling us what he knew, when he knew it and what information he has been hiding and keeping from the people of this province.
I want to ask the minister to answer this specific question: When did he know about these allegations and why did he not tell a single citizen, before the Globe and Mail story broke on Monday, that there was a health risk and a public health problem involved in this?
Hon Mr Bradley: As I indicated to the member and will indicate to him again, the Ministry of the Environment has information that comes to its attention from time to time. I indicated that the Ministry of the Environment has been investigating this for a number of months to look into several places: first of all, what possibly could be crossing the border, the receiving places for it and other material that might come to their attention.
They have been investigating this for a number of months, but they must have the evidence. The member, I think, would agree. The member is a lawyer and he would agree that you have to have the evidence to present to people to confirm rumours. We get all kinds of allegations that come to the attention of the Ministry of the Environment from time to time and we have to confirm those.
That is exactly what we have been doing, an investigation to determine whether the allegations can be confirmed; and second, if they can be, the court case that can be built from that.
Mr B. Rae: I say to the minister that another interpretation of what has happened is that he has been sitting on this information so that he could turn himself into some kind of a hero, which is what he tried to do on Monday, what he tried to do on Tuesday and what he tried to do this morning. He is doing that at the expense of the public health of the people of this province. He has been sitting on this information. There are people who do not know about it. Can the minister tell us why he has not submitted his resignation today to the Premier (Mr Peterson).
Hon Mr Bradley: I am actually surprised -- I should not be, I suppose -- to hear the tone the member has adopted and the kinds of allegations based on such flimsiness as the member has presented here today. There are many people who are very pleased to see the kind of investigation that our branch, which is the largest branch in Canada, has been conducting on this matter and on other matters related to environmental violations.
It is unfortunate the Leader of the Opposition does not appreciate that kind of effort on the part of the Ministry of the Environment to do that kind of investigation, to gain the co-operation of people on the other side of the border in the Department of Environmental Conservation in New York state, as we have, and to undertake these kinds of border checks, which were all very public.
People were aware of the border check that took place. They took the photographs. They did all these things designed to ensure that anything coming across the border was going to be tested to determine what problems there might be with waste. Our ministry has been on top of that. Our ministry --
The Speaker: Thank you.
Mr Brandt: My question as well is for the Minister of the Environment. I have heard of stonewalling an answer, but I have seen with my own eyes and heard with my own ears today stonewalling with a wall of words from the Minister of the Environment, who refuses to respond very directly to a question addressed to him with respect to a very simple piece of information that I think he has an obligation to share with this House; namely, when did he know?
Hon Mr Bradley: I say to the member, as I have said to the Leader of the Opposition, that our ministry has for a number of months been conducting investigations about allegations that concern a number of ways in which people are mishandling waste.
The member would know that when we conducted these border checks in the month of April, on two different occasions, one in the Niagara Peninsula along the Niagara River and one along the St Lawrence River, at that time we were attempting to confirm allegations that had been forthcoming and information that would indicate there would be a problem with waste that would be crossing the border into Ontario, and for that matter, waste in Ontario. Our ministry, through the investigations and enforcement branch, has had a lengthy investigation of this. I can say to the member as well, as he would know, that the Ontario Provincial Police --
The Speaker: Thank you.
Mr Brandt: When did the minister know?
Hon Mr Bradley: I will come back to the same answer I have just given the member, and that is that over the last several months the investigations and enforcement branch of the Ministry of the Environment has been investigating this matter as it relates to waste being transported in Ontario and crossing the border of Ontario. When they had the allegations come forward, they were prepared then to conduct the kind of investigation that is necessary to determine whether those allegations were accurate or not.
The member is a former Minister of the Environment. He knows that the investigations and enforcement branch, or whatever it was called when he was Minister of the Environment, is in a position to have to gather evidence before it can make its accusations, and that is what the Ministry of the Environment investigations and enforcement branch has been doing. The member knows that.
Mr Brandt: My final supplementary is to the minister as well. By actual count, six questions from the Leader of the Opposition and two questions from myself, eight in total, have asked a very simple, straight, direct, easy question: When did the minister know?
Hon Mr Bradley: The member wishes to ask the same question. I am going to provide him with the answer, with the knowledge. That answer is, as I indicated earlier this week and as I indicate in the House again today, that over the past several months the Ministry of the Environment has been investigating allegations that have been forthcoming about waste management practices in Ontario.
In addition to that, we conducted our investigation by having border checks. As to the trucks that are coming either across the border from New York state, for instance, or from Ontario into New York state -- we had the co-operation of people on both sides of the border -- those people co-operated with us to ensure that any problems that might exist, whether it is the gasoline-blending problem or any other problem that existed, could be investigated --
The Speaker: Thank you. New question.
Mr Brandt: We know there was an investigation undertaken by his ministry at border crossing points, 11 to 13 April. We know he has an investigative department that is looking into this matter. We know that he was in Ottawa yesterday talking to the Minister of the Environment at the federal level. We know as well that some of his department heads have admitted that for some months at the very least -- the period of time is yet indeterminate in terms of its specifics -- and some have suggested for as long as a decade, there may have been information available to him to the effect that he was aware of some problems with respect --
Hon Mr Elston: When did you know?
Mr Brandt: I will answer the question.
The Speaker: Order.
Hon Mr Kerrio: When did you know, Andy?
Mr Carrothers: When did you know?
Hon Mr Scott: When did you know five guys were after your job? Tell us, when did you first figure that out?
The Speaker: Order.
Hon Mr Scott: Five guys and one woman.
Hon R. F. Nixon: Two; don’t leave Margaret out.
Hon Mr Kerrio: You had four ministers who knew about it.
The Speaker: Order.
Mr Brandt: I want to say to members of the government that any time they want to ask me a question in this House or outside of this chamber, I would be more than happy to respond.
The Speaker: Order. Do you have a question?
Mr Brandt: May I have an opportunity to address my supplementary --
The Speaker: Please place your question.
Mr Brandt: We have heard the minister take the opportunity to run through a long litany of the activities surrounding this particular issue. There is one fundamental question, however, that the people of Ontario are waiting with some interest to hear from the minister about, and that question is, when did he know?
Hon Mr Bradley: I say to the member for Sarnia who asks this question and uses various time frames -- he used the time frame of some 10 years. I wonder, if he has used the time frame of 10 years, whether he was or was not the Minister of the Environment at that time, whether he had any information that was available and whether he initiated any investigations, or were there no investigations taking place in those days? I do not know whether those investigations took place in his day.
As I have indicated to the member, over the past several months the Ministry of the Environment has been involved in an investigation of this matter. Our people have gathered evidence since that time. When they receive an allegation, when they receive a tip of some kind, their responsibility is to begin to gather the evidence. In fact, they began to gather the evidence. That is ongoing. Some of that evidence is at the laboratory at the present time. When that laboratory analysis is complete, we will then have the evidence, which perhaps will be useful in court, but it certainly will be able to confirm or not confirm the allegations that have been made.
Mr Brandt: The minister raises the question whether a former minister, namely myself, was aware 10 years ago that there was contaminated waste being shipped across the border. I am pleased to respond that I had no knowledge whatever 10 years ago.
If the minister wants to, he too can respond very specifically to a very easy question. It has now been asked, and this will be by actual count, six times on behalf of the Leader of the Opposition, and I have asked the question five times, which is 11. For the 12th time, the people of Ontario have a right to know when the minister knew.
That is the very simple question -- and he has a moral obligation, in fact he has a legal obligation, to respond to the public of this province with respect to hazardous contaminants that are being shipped across that border, if he had knowledge of them in advance of the release of the information in the Globe and Mail. My question once again, with respect, is, when did he know?
Hon Mr Bradley: I am going to outline for the member again what takes place when an allegation comes in, what takes place when information is provided to the Minister of the Environment, what takes place when any department of the Ministry of the Environment gets information, whether it is from a member of the Legislative Assembly, a member of the public or others.
It is our obligation to investigate when we have received these allegations. The investigation and enforcement branch has in fact been investigating. As I indicated in my earlier answer, the member will recall, when we determined there was a problem, for instance with crankcase oil, we were able to ban using it as a dust suppressant --
Hon Mr Bradley: The member is not listening right now -- using it as a dust suppressant in Ontario, when we had that information available. When we have information that is confirmed by the Ministry of the Environment, through the lab analysis, the kind of evidence that is determined, forensic evidence --
The Speaker: Thank you. Final supplementary, the member for Cochrane South.
Mr Pope: When did the minister know’?
Hon Mr Bradley: I will answer the question of the member for Cochrane South as I have been, by saying that over the past several months there have been investigations going on by the Ministry of the Environment investigations and enforcement branch. It has been gathering evidence by border checks and by other means to determine the veracity of those allegations.
Mrs Grier: Let me preface my question to the Minister of the Environment by reminding him that when contaminated oil is burned in home furnaces, hospital boilers and greenhouses, the health of the public of this province is at risk. I want to ask the minister, when did he know the health of the people of the province was at risk through contaminated oil being burned?
Hon Mr Bradley: I will be in a position to know that when the member will be in a position to know that. When the laboratory analysis of the evidence we have gathered from our checks and when the investigation has been proceeded with and completed, I will then be in a position to determine the veracity of those allegations.
The Speaker: Supplementary.
Mrs Grier: Mr Speaker, I have no supplementary and I see no point in continuing this charade. Thank you very much.
The Speaker: Order.
ACADEMIC STANDARDS / PROGRAMMES SCOLAIRES
M. Daigeler: Contrairement à la position du député conservateur de Markham (M. Cousens), il me fait plaisir de m’adresser à la Chambre dans la langue des Franco-Ontariens et des Franco-Ontariennes.
Ma question s’adresse au ministre de l’Éducation. Le Ministre sait probablement que la semaine dernière, il y a eu une conférence très importante à Montréal sur le développement des programmes scolaires. D’après les rapports que j’ai lus dans les journaux, une question qui a été soulevée concerne la création d’un conseil fédéral pour le développement des programmes scolaires.
D’après la position du professeur David Pratt, de l’Université Queen’s, il est faux et il est maintenant impropre d’utiliser la constitution canadienne pour garder dix ou douze systèmes scolaires distincts. Je me demande quelle est la position du Ministre sur cette idée et s’il est prêt à appuyer la création d’un conseil national pour le développement des programmes scolaires?
Hon Mr Ward: The member raises a very important question, one which was raised during a recent conference held in Montreal and sponsored by the Council of Ministers of Education, Canada. I should point out that the council is chaired this year by my colleague the Minister of Colleges and Universities (Mrs McLeod). It was organized to bring together interested parties in the delivery of education throughout Canada to raise very important issues, issues relating to such things as national standards and the need for some consistency in curriculum.
During the course of that conference I believe a speech was given by a Professor Pratt, who questioned the usefulness of the current provisions of the Constitution which give provinces the responsibility for elementary and secondary education and the usefulness of maintaining 10 or 12 distinct educational systems.
I think it is important that we recognize and understand the tradition that is contained in our Constitution, which provides each province with the opportunity to structure its systems in a way that is consistent with the needs, the aspirations and the wishes of local communities throughout this vast country. Therefore, I would say the notion that we should have a single education system structured on a national scale would be very inconsistent with a tradition that is not only useful but very important to the citizens and the communities in this province.
Mr Daigeler: I appreciate the position the minister is taking, but I think, at the same time, what is being proposed is the establishment of a council that will look into perhaps a more uniform development of curriculum across this country. I wonder whether perhaps that is something that we should continue to look at with a positive kind of orientation, in terms of co-ordinating the type of work that rightfully is done by the individual provinces.
At the same conference, another very important matter, in my opinion, was raised which I think unfortunately is often overlooked. According to the secretary general of the World Confederation of the Organizations of Teaching Professions, there is an alarming trend in industrialized countries to teach students practical skills and to ignore culture and ethics. He was quoted as saying that ethical responsibilities must be the central concern of education today.
The Speaker: Do you have a question?
Mr Daigeler: My supplementary question is to ask how the minister looks at this kind of position and how his ministry is working to teach young people moral responsibility.
Hon Mr Ward: If I can make a few brief comments relating to the member’s preamble, I would point out that this whole issue of the need for some consistency in standard in fact has been raised in many, many forums. It has been raised certainly by the business and industry community in this province and by educators throughout Canada.
It was that very reason that brought us to recommend, at the last annual meeting of the ministers’ council, that we establish a system of evaluation of student performance in key areas, an evaluation system that was consistent and would indicate some sort of national standard. I want to stress that although we believe very much in the vitality and the diversity of provincial education systems, we are very much aware of the need to ensure some consistency of standard as well. That work is, of course, ongoing.
The second point that the member raises, though, I think is one that is very important, and that is the notion that our schools do not exist just to promote basic learning skills but increasingly are being called upon to play a very important role in the development of attitudes and values in our young people. The fact of the matter is that our schools do indeed exist to serve both of those purposes.
Certainly over time, as our society becomes more and more complex, as we develop our problems just as any other society does, most people recognize that education can make a difference. That is what leads us to involve ourselves in issues such as drug abuse and health promotion, and that is as it should be.
The Speaker: Thank you. There are other members who would like to ask questions. There might be; I am not sure.
AMALGAMATION OF MUNICIPALITIES
Mrs Fawcett: My question is for the Minister of Municipal Affairs. I am sure that the minister is aware that for several months now the town of Cobourg and Hamilton township have been involved in amalgamation talks and that his ministry was invited to partake in these discussions. Could the minister advise us as to the ministry’s role and involvement in these talks?
Hon Mr Eakins: In June 1988 the town of Cobourg and the township of Hamilton approached our ministry and requested a study of amalgamation of those two municipalities. The study was presented to all council members for both municipalities, I believe, on 15 March of this year, to inform them of the contents of the report. During the second week of April, the Cobourg town council voted to accept the study as an appropriate course of action for its area. Hamilton township, it is my understanding, has yet to deal with that report.
Mrs Fawcett: Over the past few days there have been suggestions that the Ministry of Municipal Affairs is trying to force amalgamation upon these municipalities. Would the minister care to comment on these suggestions of forced amalgamation?
Hon Mr Eakins: I firmly believe that a local solution is the best solution. After all, the study was requested by both municipalities. It is my belief that the leadership exists in those two communities to meet together, to arrive at a compromise and to advise us of how they feel the growth of those particular communities should take place. I am very optimistic that a solution can be arrived at and I urge them to continue in that leadership role.
Mr Fleet: My question is for the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations. Recently the minister announced certain unnumbered bills concerning the bereavement sector. This is an area that has been of interest to a number of my constituents. Certainly questions have arisen from time to time and there is obviously a rather long-standing need for reform in this area. I am wondering if the minister might inform the House of the current status of those unnumbered bills.
Hon Mr Wrye: The honourable member has expressed his interest to me on this subject on a number of occasions. He will know, as I indicated in the House in March, that we will introduce, as soon as the legislative language is in place, two unnumbered bills, one involving funeral establishments and the other involving extensive reform of the Cemeteries Act.
Since the release of those unnumbered bills in early April, we have had intensive discussions with the various groups involved in this whole sector. We have clarified some of the issues for them and we have indeed shared with them our view as to the meaning of some of the language in those bills. It is my understanding from my officials that the consultation is now complete and that some final determinations will be coming to me.
I expect that the bills will be presented in a numbered official form in this House, hopefully by the end of the month. Of course, cabinet will want to have a look at the legislative language before we do so, but I can indicate to the member that our consultations have been very positive.
Mr Fleet: The various interest groups involved, cemetery groups, people with interests in funeral homes, monument builders, churches and consumers, all had a fairly heated debate prior to the introduction or, more accurately, the announcement of the unnumbered bills, and there was really a wide range of changes that were advocated, very heatedly at times, by various groups.
As a result of the additional consultation that has taken place, I wonder whether the minister can indicate if it is going to be possible for those reforms to proceed in a way which is going to leave each of these sectors either intact or improved so that all of the various economic interests will be attended to in an equitable manner.
Hon Mr Wrye: The honourable member raises a good question and makes a good point. Certainly, in my time in this Legislature and especially as Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations, I have rarely seen an issue which appeared to be on the surface so divisive and in which the parties appeared to approach the solutions with such a lack of common interest.
However, after the discussions which went on for the best part of three years, the presentation of the statement on the unnumbered bills and indeed the announcement of the government’s policy decisions, appear to have been greeted with a very positive point of view by that very diverse sector.
We have been continuing to work with them to see whether there are further improvements we can make without in any way, of course, changing the principles that were enunciated in this House in March. I must say that I find the views of the very diverse --
The Speaker: Thank you. You have made a fairly lengthy, comprehensive answer.
AIR AMBULANCE SERVICES
Mr D. R. Cooke: My question is to the Minister of Health. As the minister is aware, the Kitchener area is the largest population centre in Ontario without a medical school or without a teaching hospital, and sometimes specialists are scarce in our area.
The minister will also be aware that the area needs a proper heliport where air ambulances can pick up critically ill patients. The federal government recently decided that the heliport at the Uniroyal Goodrich site would not have its licence renewed, because that particular pad is no longer safe.
I am asking the minister what action has been taken to help resolve this current situation.
Hon Mrs Caplan: I would like to thank the member for his interest in this particular question. In fact, the Kitchener area is well served by excellent community hospitals and very fine facilities, of which I am extremely proud and I know that he is justifiably proud.
He would be interested to know that Ministry of Health officials have been working with local officials from those hospitals as well as with the city to find a location for a new heliport. I believe this form of regional co-operative planning will lead to a resolution of the current situation in the very near future.
Mr D. R. Cooke: Could the minister be specific and perhaps commit to funding on this project, once a decision has been made with regard to an appropriate site?
Hon Mrs Caplan: Again, I want to acknowledge the member’s interest in this important issue in his constituency. With the help of the local police and fire departments, I understand that a couple of potential sites have already been identified. As the member would know, emergency and trauma services are a priority for the Ministry of Health. Once a decision has been made, I want to assure him that if the site is approved we will be funding it appropriately.
Mr Callahan: I have a question to the Minister of Health. I understand that today or yesterday an inquest into the death of a person as a result of cardiac arrest suggested or recommended that cardiopulmonary resuscitation be made a mandatory subject in the high school system.
Recognizing the fact that very often young people are both physically able to perform CPR and are often around and very available if an elderly person or a person suffers a heart attack, would the minister consider looking into this and perhaps looking into it in conjunction with her colleague the Minister of Education (Mr Ward) in terms of whether that might be an appropriate course that might be taught to people in high school?
Hon Mrs Caplan: I want to thank the member for the question and for bringing this matter to my attention as well as to the attention of the Minister of Education. The member would know that we believe health is more than the treatment of illness and in fact is giving people the information they need to be well. The Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Education work together co-operatively to advise on school health curriculum. I want to thank the member for this suggestion and to assure him that I will ask ministry officials to consider it.
Mr Callahan: It was considered in terms of how much time it would take. Apparently the information provided by St John Ambulance is that the total course would take no more than four hours and perhaps could be fitted into a physical education program in the high schools.
Hon Mrs Caplan: I want to thank the member for the information. I know that St John Ambulance as well as numerous municipalities through their parks and recreation departments, some school boards and a number of community colleges offer these kinds of courses around our province. His suggestion is a creative and innovative one. It is something we are always interested in reviewing, and I thank him for giving me the idea.
Mr Kozyra: My question is to the Minister of Tourism and Recreation. A couple of weeks ago, the minister and I had the benefit of participating in a pilot project and the unveiling of a very special machine in the rehabilitation centre of St Joseph’s General Hospital. This was a computerized machine assisting in the rehabilitation of quadriplegics and paraplegics, specifically through an electrode-induced electrical stimulus. It would stimulate arm and leg muscles and help develop them.
We saw an example by the American demonstrator, and it had tremendous benefits. I am wondering, since this was the first such machine in Ontario and was obtained through Wintario funding, whether the ministry is considering additional purchases with the use of these funds.
Hon Mr O’Neil: I would like to thank the member for Port Arthur for his question, because indeed I think that event we did in Port Arthur together was one of the best I have ever seen as far as where Wintario funding is going. I appreciate the suggestion the member has made and I can tell him that we will certainly look into that because it is indeed a very worthy cause.
Mr Kozyra: This supplementary is in the way of a suggestion, because I know that from time to time on the Wintario draw programs certain features of communities are publicized. This struck me as an extremely positive and beneficial aspect, and I would think this might be publicized so that other communities are aware of it. It might increase the demand for these machines and I think that would be a good idea. Would the minister consider that?
Hon Mr O’Neil: Again, I think that is an ideal suggestion. As was mentioned, I believe this was the first machine that has been purchased in Canada. The Canadian Paraplegic Association in Thunder Bay was very pleased with it, and after the demonstration that we saw I was very impressed with it. I like the suggestion that maybe we could have it on one of our Wintario shows so that other associations across not only Ontario but other parts of Canada would be aware of what the machine is able to do and how it would be so much of an assistance to people in this category.
TUITION FEES FOR REFUGEE CLAIMANTS
Mrs LeBourdais: My question is for the Minister of Colleges and Universities. Her ministry has recently decided to waive differential fees for some refugee claimants. Could she provide some details regarding the policy change and why this action has been undertaken?
Hon Mrs McLeod: I should first explain that foreign students attending colleges and universities in Ontario are required to pay a differential fee which is considerably larger than the fee that Ontario or Canadian citizens pay. We have made a policy decision to waive that differential fee for refugee claimants who have been resident since prior to January of this year. I think it is important to recognize that, of course, those students would still have to qualify for positions in a college or university and would still pay the regular tuition fee.
We were concerned about these refugee claimants because these are people who have been waiting for a hearing for periods of as long as two to four years. We are all aware of the backlog that has built over time in hearing those claims. We believe, from our information from the federal immigration department, that it could be as long as two years before this backlog is cleared. We felt this was an unduly long time to have people waiting and still having to pay that differential fee.
Mrs LeBourdais: By way of supplementary, some reports indicate that federal immigration officials are surprised at this recent decision. Is our policy consistent with the federal direction as we know it?
Hon Mrs McLeod: In fact there is a federal immigration official in Kitchener who has indicated some surprise with our change in policy. Certainly our understanding, and it has been reaffirmed this week, is that this is not a policy of the federal immigration department, but they are not surprised or dismayed at the policy direction we have taken.
Again, our information is that with new refugee claimants, the federal policies, the new direction will allow them to move very quickly to deal with claimants and that we will not experience a buildup of backlog again, so our current policies can remain in place for new refugee claimants. It is only for those who have been here since prior to 1 January that we have had to change our policy.
OAKVILLE-TRAFALGAR MEMORIAL HOSPITAL
Mr Carrothers: My question is for the Minister of Health. In the spring of 1987, the then Minister of Health announced funding for the expansion of the Oakville-Trafalgar Memorial Hospital. To date, that project has not been finalized and construction has not commenced. Could the minister advise the House of the status of that project?
Hon Mrs Caplan: I want to thank the member for his question. I am aware of the press release from the hospital and also the work that the hospital has been doing. As the member knows, I met with them in December and encouraged them to be innovative and creative and to look at focusing on the needs of their community, not only today but in the future. I can tell him that we have not received their proposal but that we are anxious to receive it because we have been encouraging innovation, creativity and good planning in this province.
Mr Carrothers: Given the interest of the ministry in innovation and finding new ways of providing health services to our communities and since I know that the hospital has reworked its plan and come up with some very new and innovative ways of providing services to the Oakville community, would the minister then be in a position to give this project expeditious consideration when their plan comes forward, which I understand will be very shortly?
Hon Mrs Caplan: Let me say to the member that, in fact, I am anxious for the ministry to have an opportunity to review the proposal. I can say to him, without having seen it, that we are very supportive of innovation and do consider opportunities to support communities in good planning in asking them to look at new information to ensure that before we put the shovel in the ground we are meeting the real and changing needs of the community and acknowledging how technology is allowing us to provide services in alternative ways. I can say to him that I am looking forward to receiving the proposal from the Oakville-Trafalgar Memorial Hospital as soon as they are able to submit it to the ministry.
Mr Callahan: I have a question for the Attorney General. Yesterday or the day before, I read in the press that British Columbia has apparently adopted the single-court system for criminal services, I believe. Recognizing that the Attorney General had made announcements in the House earlier with reference to a two-stage program for dealing with that, can I inquire whether the British Columbia process has gotten to the stage where it perhaps is receiving some form of federal support with reference to its judges becoming section 96 judges?
Hon Mr Scott: I would like to thank the honourable member for the interesting question. If he read the same press report I did, and I believe he did, it discloses an error, because it suggests that British Columbia has announced that it will move from a two-tier hierarchy to a single hierarchy. In fact, British Columbia at present, like Ontario, has a three-tier hierarchy and will be moving to a two-tier hierarchy, which is an adoption, if I can flatter ourselves by calling it that, of phase 1 of the program we announced last week.
British Columbia has not indicated it will adopt our phase 2, though at the attorney generals’ conference I have no doubt the issue will be listed, and when we return from Anne of Green Gables for the serious meetings in Prince Edward Island, we will canvass with them the possibility of their emulating our program in that province as well.
Mr Callahan: I wonder if I can inquire if there are any provinces within Canada that presently have a system whereby there is contribution or payment by the federal government for what is the equivalent of section 96 judges there but perhaps would not be section 96 judges within Ontario?
Hon Mr Scott: As the honourable member knows, we have a unified family court in the city of Hamilton in which joint appointments are made by the federal and provincial governments; the cost of those appointments is funded by the federal government though the province provides the support services.
There is ample precedent in Ontario for the province making contribution in respect of section 96 judicial work. For example, in the Supreme Court of Ontario, the establishment of the masters’ office and the family law commissioners; those offices, as the honourable member knows from his practical experience, are offices that are discharging section 96 functions though they are funded by the province in every respect. So when we come to discuss these questions with the federal Attorney General, who has expressed his interest in our proposal, there will be much to be said on both sides with respect to a co-operative financial arrangement.
Mr Pelissero: I have a question for the Minister of Health. Just recently I met with a group of optometrists from my riding. I was wondering if the minister could advise the House of the status of the negotiations between the Ministry of Health and the optometrists?
Hon Mrs Caplan: I know of the member’s interest in this particular issue and I am pleased to advise him that cabinet has approved a new fee schedule for Ontario health insurance plan insured optometry services, The new fee schedule is fair and equitable and in fact provides for equity with ophthalmology, as requested by optometrists.
Mr Pelissero: I was wondering if there are any outstanding issues from the negotiations that are to be resolved?
Hon Mrs Caplan: I want to thank the member for the supplementary, because in fact as we work together with the many health professionals across this province, there are always ongoing issues and negotiations which are continuing and must, of course, in the future be resolved. I look forward to working with representatives from optometry as we move into the future in a spirit of co-operation as we seek to resolve the issues as they present themselves in an atmosphere which I believe is very positive.
Mr McGuigan: My question is for the Minister of Agriculture and Food. I have been speaking to food processors in southwestern Ontario, those involved particularly in vegetables. They are making the complaint that now that we have the free trade agreement, they are at some disadvantage. They want to purchase their raw products on the same basis as the United States prices and quality. I wonder what we are doing to meet those complaints?
Hon Mr Riddell: The second report of the Premier’s Council devoted a whole chapter to the food industry and indicated that, because of the free trade agreement, the food industry was going to have to make some dramatic changes if it was going to compete with the industry in the United States.
One of the points raised was that raw product pricing is putting our food industry in an uncompetitive situation. As a result of the information that we have received to this point in time, the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Technology and the Ministry of Agriculture and Food have developed a food industry strategy. One of the first things we did was establish a Food Industry Advisory Committee. This committee has been meeting now for the last two months, I would say, and it has had fairly widespread discussions on raw product pricing and the effect that it has on the food industry.
When we look at it, raw product pricing is maybe only a small contributor to the uncompetitive situation the food processors are in. You have to take a look at other things, such as the labour unions. You have to look at salaries and wages, the cost of packaging, the cost of marketing, all of which are much higher than in the United States. So, raw product pricing is not the culprit that we may think it is.
Mr McGuigan: Specifically with regard to the tomato processing industry, I wonder if the minister could comment on some of the discussions that are taking place between the board and the processors.
Hon Mr Riddell: As I indicated, they had quite an elaborate discussion on raw product pricing, and I think afterwards the food processors had a better understanding of how marketing boards operate. We have something like 26 marketing boards in this province, and they all operate in a different way. Some negotiate price, others set price, others market by way of auction.
I think the food processors were somewhat satisfied that we do have a fair system from the standpoint of raw product pricing in this province, but what they also recognized is that they have a higher-quality product to process, the product grown in this province, than they do in the United States. So we are looking at tomatoes from Canadian plants; we are looking at quality.
All of these things taken into consideration, I think the processors are satisfied that the product we grow here in Ontario is probably the best product you will get anywhere.
NURSES’ PARTICIPATION IN HOSPITAL MANAGEMENT
Mr Neumann: My question is to the Minister of Health. This being Nurses Week, I am going to ask a question related to her initiatives to give nurses more of a say in the operation of hospitals, more involvement in the decision-making within hospitals.
Recently, the executive director of the Brantford General Hospital came out publicly opposed to nurses being involved as members of the board of hospitals. He indicated that there was a problem with conflict of interest. Does the minister see this as a problem? If so, what is she doing about it?
Hon Mrs Caplan: As the member knows, nurses are very important partners in the delivery of health services in this province. We are committed to seeing that nurses have a greater say in participating on hospital committees right across this province. That is why we brought forward new regulations mandating the participation of both staff nurses and nurse managers.
The issue of board governance is one which will be discussed as we review the new Public Hospitals Act. In fact, there will be much discussion about who should be represented on those boards, and issues such as conflict of interest -- participation on the board of an institution of which you are a member -- will all have to be discussed thoroughly at that time.
I thank the member for his interest and also for his appreciation of the role that nurses play in this province.
Mr Cleary: I have a petition to His Honour the Lieutenant Governor and the Legislative Assembly of Ontario from some 472 residents of my riding, asking that the Parliament of Ontario implement the recommendations of the Thomson report so that greater social justice can be created in Ontario.
I have also endorsed the petition.
Mr Reycraft: I have a petition to the Honourable the Lieutenant Governor and the Legislative Assembly of Ontario which reads as follows:
“We, the undersigned, beg leave to petition the Parliament of Ontario as follows:
“To amend the Teachers’ Superannuation Act, 1983, in order that all teachers who retired prior to 31 May 1982 have their pensions recalculated on the best five years rather than at the present seven or 10 years.
“The proposed amendment would make the five-year criteria applicable to all retired teachers and would eliminate the present inequitable treatment.”
The petition is signed by 230 teachers from the riding of Renfrew North, one of whom is a Mrs Mary A. Conway, who I understand is an aunt of the government House leader. I have affixed my signature.
I have another petition addressed to the Honourable the Lieutenant Governor and the Legislative Assembly of Ontario which reads as follows:
“We, the undersigned, beg leave to petition of Ontario as follows:”
The wording is the same as the last petition which I submitted. It is signed by 10 people from the riding of Niagara Falls and I have affixed my signature to it.
Mr Reycraft: I have a third petition addressed to the Lieutenant Governor and the Legislative Assembly of the province of Ontario which reads as follows:
“We, the undersigned, beg leave to petition the Parliament of Ontario as follows:
“Whereas it is my constitutional right to have available and to choose the health care system of my preference;
“And whereas naturopathy has had self-governing status in Ontario for more than 42 years;
“We petition the Ontario Legislature to call on the government to introduce legislation that would guarantee naturopaths the right to practise their art and science to the fullest without prejudice or harassment.”
It is signed by 10 people from the riding of Scarborough North and I have affixed my signature.
Mr Morin-Strom: I have a petition signed by 679 residents of my community, Sault Ste. Marie. I have about 50 petitions here. They read 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:
“To amend the Teachers’ Superannuation Act, 1983, in order that all teachers who retired prior to 31 May 1982 have their pensions recalculated on the best five years rather than at 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 endorse this petition and ask that the government act upon it.
REPORT BY COMMITTEE
STANDING COMMITTEE ON GOVERNMENT AGENCIES
Mr McLean from the standing committee on government agencies presented the committee’s Report on Agencies, Boards and Commissions (No 15) and moved its adoption.
Mr McLean: Under standing order 90(f), the standing committee on government agencies was given the mandate to review the operations of all agencies, boards and commissions of the government of Ontario. The committee is empowered to make recommendations on such matters as redundancy of agencies, their accountability, whether they should be submitted and whether their mandate roles should be revised.
In accordance with the terms of reference, the committee decided to review the operation of the following agencies: Advisory Committee on Occupational Health and Occupational Safety, Ontario Waste Management Corp and the St Lawrence Parks Commission. During August and September 1988, the committee conducted public hearings with respect to these agencies and heard testimony from the representatives of the agencies, and in one case from community representatives.
The committee wishes to express its appreciation to all the witnesses who presented their views. The committee wishes to acknowledge the co-operation of the officials of the various ministries of the government of Ontario and the agencies themselves. In addition, the committee urges ministers under whom these agencies fall to give serious and thoughtful consideration to the committee’s recommendations.
The committee wishes to express its appreciation to the clerks of the committee and the research officers for their assistance and dedication to the work of the committee.
The recommendation contained in this report represents a consensus of opinion, rather than complete agreement on every issue that was before the committee. While each member of the committee may not agree with every recommendation, your committee is pleased to present a report that each member can support.
On motion by Mr McLean, the debate was adjourned.
INTRODUCTION OF BILL
PUBLIC HOLIDAYS STATUTE LAW AMENDMENT ACT, 1989
Mr Fleet moved first reading of Bill 9, An Act to amend certain Statutes to create Heritage Day and Civic Holiday as Public Holidays.
Motion agreed to.
The Speaker: Does the member wish to enlighten us on the purpose of the bill?
Mr Fleet: This bill is a technical correction to Bill 6, which I introduced last Thursday. It is intended to correct an oversight that left out a provision for an existing holiday, namely, Boxing Day. As I proposed last week, I would like to reiterate that it is certainly time we had both the Civic Holiday and Heritage Day as public holidays in Ontario.
MOTION TO SET ASIDE ORDINARY BUSINESS
Mr B. Rae, in the absence of Mrs Grier, moved that pursuant to standing order 37(a), the ordinary business of the House be set aside, Wednesday, 10 May 1989, to discuss a matter of urgent and pressing concern; namely, the public health threat that exists in Ontario as a result of the illegal distribution and sale of contaminated fuels and the failure of the Minister of the Environment to move to protect public health, although knowing of this threat for several months.
The Speaker: The member has placed a motion. However, I believe it should have been the proper procedure to ask for permission of the House to move the motion in place of another member. I believe we have done that in the past. Would the member ask for unanimous consent? Is there agreement?
The Speaker: Members have heard the motion. I must inform the members that notice was received at 9:45 am. I also received another notice for a similar motion, I believe, at 10:05 am. However, I have ruled in the past that the one received first would be considered first. Therefore, I will listen to the Leader of the Opposition and representatives from the other parties for up to five minutes on why this matter should be discussed.
Mr B. Rae: Canadians across the country, and in particular in this province, became aware of a problem, with respect to the contamination of fuel being used for home heating purposes, as diesel fuel in trucks and cars and across the range of things people use gasoline and fuel for, on Monday of this week in a story that ran in the Globe and Mail.
We have been trying on a number of occasions to get the Minister of the Environment (Mr Bradley) in this province to answer a very direct question. That question is simply this: Exactly what did he know about this information and when did he know it? That is not a difficult question. It is a very direct question and it is one that was put to him on this day some 13 times. In his absence yesterday, we put similar questions to the Premier (Mr Peterson). The Premier’s response was that he did not know, as Premier of the province, anything about this until he read about it in the paper on Monday.
This, of course, is an issue that has been debated in the House of Commons as well and there has been a variety of answers from different ministers, federal and provincial, with respect to what they knew.
The reason this matters is not because of some terribly complicated or arcane parliamentary reason, but simply because the public health of this province is one of the critical responsibilities of all the ministers of the crown, and in particular it is the responsibility of the Minister of the Environment.
Our view is very clear. If the Ministry of the Environment had information with respect to the contamination of fuel being sold in Ontario with substances that are toxic, that are poisonous and that are potentially carcinogenic, the Ministry of the Environment and the minister personally had the obligation to tell the people of Ontario about that risk and about that fact.
Si le ministre de l’Environnement (M. Bradley) a l’information sur la toxicité du carburant vendu partout dans la province, il a l’obligation claire et nette de partager cette information avec le public en Ontario. C’est ce qu’il doit faire.
That is what he must do.
It was interesting to watch the response of the Minister of the Environment over the last few days. As opposed to his federal counterpart, who insisted on Monday that he did not know about this, that he had just read about it and that he was going to do what he could to find out about it, what was the reaction of our own Minister of the Environment?
In a series of obfuscatory responses he gave to my colleague the leader of the Progressive Conservative Party, and outside this chamber, he said, “We’ve been carrying on an investigation for a number of months.” Nothing can surprise our Bingo. He knew all about it. He was in charge. He was there. He had his people on top of it. He was going to get the big guys and he was going to nail them to the wall.
Then we asked the question, “What about the OPP?” If you are really going to go after organized crime, Mr Speaker, which the minister mentioned today on Canada AM, what would you do? Would you send the minister down to Queenston Heights to have a look at trucks crossing the border and ask people, “Say, are any of you fellows involved with organized crime?” No, you would have the police, the OPP, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the Federal Bureau of Investigation; you would have a major police investigation on both sides of the border.
The Solicitor General (Mrs Smith) said yesterday she did not know anything about it, that she was involved on the revenue side, that she had nothing to do with contaminated fuel.
We have a series of very different answers to very basic and important questions, but I come back to the foundation. The foundation of what we have been about today is to get the minister -- we asked him 13 times. Bingo’s number came up 13 times and Bingo never answered. He had a chance to answer a very simple question: When did he know there was a problem? When did he know about the possibility of contamination? If he knew and did nothing, if he knew and failed to tell the public of Ontario about a potential danger, that minister should be gone, that minister should resign, because he has failed his most fundamental obligations.
Mrs Marland: In rising to speak to this motion, I want to say at the outset that I recognize I am not the most experienced member of this Legislature, but I have experienced this afternoon something I hope I will never have to experience again. I have been here four short years and this afternoon, when the Minister of the Environment was being questioned on the very essence of a problem affecting and putting at risk the health of the people of Ontario, throughout all those questions he absolutely refused to answer, we experienced the Premier of this province sitting in his seat smiling and laughing. If that is the degree of seriousness with which this Liberal government takes this serious subject, then I have to tell members that we are in worse trouble than I thought.
For those members who are at this moment defending that kind of attitude of the Liberal government, I say to them that if I had the time, I would read their ridings into the record, because we are dealing with one of the most serious problems that has faced this province in a large number of years. The degree of seriousness is demonstrated by us, the two opposition parties, because right now in this Legislature we do not even have the Minister of the Environment in his seat. We do not even have the parliamentary assistant to the Minister of the Environment, the member for Brampton North (Mr McClelland), in his seat. Is it not interesting that this is the degree of seriousness with which this matter is held in the opinions and the mind of the Liberal government?
I want to say that we are dealing with something that obviously changes as time goes by. Obviously, standards change depending which side of the House people sit on. I want to refer to Hansard of 3 May 1983 when a “Mr Peterson” -- unfortunately, Hansard does not recall his riding and I do not have that reference before me -- said, “I have a question for the Minister of the Environment relating to the matter of Swaru, the solid waste reduction unit, and the emissions of dioxins and furan from that plant.”
He goes on further to say, and I quote: “Surely the minister’s responsibility is to move ahead of time, not after the fact. His entire approach seems to be that we will wait until someone gets very ill or until there is evidence, and then we will move on the situation.”
How interesting that this same Mr Peterson then continues to say:
“I am back to the Minister of the Environment on this matter, with whose approach I fundamentally disagree. He is waiting for evidence of major health problems before he is prepared to move, and by that time it is going to be too late.”
How interesting that this same Mr Peterson is today the Premier of Ontario. He is the same person who in 1983 was concerned about risk to human health in this province. However, today we not only have him laughing and smiling throughout those questions that were repeatedly asked of this minister, but we also have a situation where on Monday of this week the Premier’s Minister of the Environment said the Ontario Provincial Police were involved in this matter this resolution addresses.
How interesting that the next day the Solicitor General says, “the OPP have not been involved.” If I had had an opportunity this afternoon, I would have asked the Premier of this province which of his ministers speaks for his Liberal government. Who is telling the truth of the facts of this very serious concern to the public in Ontario? This debate is necessary this afternoon and is an emergency, because as of today no one can get to the truth of the matter either through the Minister of the Environment or the Solicitor General. I am sorry the parliamentary events of this afternoon have been reduced to this level.
Hon Mr Conway: Mr Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to have a few moments to respond on behalf of the government to the notice of motion standing in the name of the Leader of the Opposition and one that has been offered as well by the leader of the third party, both of which were received by your office midmorning today.
I must say that upon the receipt of those notices of motion you have quite properly ruled to be in order under the provisions of standing order 37, I came this afternoon to this House expecting that we would be setting aside the ordinary business of the Legislature today to deal with a matter that I do believe to be of some importance, and quite frankly, speaking on behalf of the government, I am quite prepared to see three hours of time dedicated to the debate. Let me put that before my colleagues at the first instance.
Unlike a number of the other motions that have been offered, I happen to believe that the two that were offered today come closer to the requirement of standing order 37 than many of the others I might imagine. Having said that --
Mr Brandt: You’re not in opposition.
Hon Mr Conway: I want to say to the leader of the third party that I listened with real interest to the previous two speakers, and I have been there. I have said this many times before. What we see in here today is a very important part of our parliamentary dialectic. We see an opposition doing what an opposition must do.
I get exercised when I hear the previous speaker, who can be, to put it as felicitously as I can, as vigorous a partisan as can be found in this chamber or as vigorous a partisan as I can ever recall this chamber having had in the 14 years I have had the pleasure to serve in here. And when I hear the member for Mississauga South (Mrs Marland) say, as she just did, that she would have liked to have had the opportunity to ask the leader of the government some questions here today, who is she kidding? Does she really think there is someone in this room who honestly believes that anything other than her own political imperative prevented her from asking the question she laments not being able to ask today?
I want to say that the Minister of the Environment is not here because he is preparing for this debate. I assume he is out meeting the press, a press that has been well primed by our friends in the opposition.
I repeat, for the benefit, I suppose, of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr B. Rae), that I recognize what an opposition has to do. I have done it, and that is very fundamental to our system.
I absolutely reject the analysis the Leader of the Opposition has offered with respect to how the Minister of the Environment has met his responsibilities. I say very clearly in this chamber what I believe the Premier said outside the chamber a few moments ago; that is, we believe the Minister of the Environment has acted very, very responsibly in this matter, as he has in all other matters. I am sure he will be joining us shortly to participate in this debate.
Hon Mr Conway: I want to say to my friend the member for Lanark-Renfrew (Mr Wiseman) and others that we, as a government, take some real pride in what the Ministry of the Environment has done over four years to address the whole area of environmental protection. We do not claim perfection. Of course we have more to do and we intend to do it, but I think it must be said, if not to honourable members of the opposition who have the very important imperatives of a parliamentary opposition role to meet, at least to the public watching this debate this afternoon that we have, in government, certain responsibilities about public safety that must be met.
We believe that under the leadership of the Minister of the Environment --
Mr Eves: He won’t even tell us when he first knew about it.
Hon Mr Conway: -- we have taken all responsible measures to meet that requirement, and we are quite prepared to tell the member for Parry Sound (Mr Eves) and anyone else how we have gone about that responsibility. Of course, we are quite prepared to be judged by fair-minded people in the public --
Mrs Marland: You will be. Don’t worry.
Hon Mr Conway: -- if not by our friend the member for Mississauga South and others, whose imperatives may be of another kind. We are quite prepared to debate this issue today and to be judged on what we have done by the public of Ontario. I say let us get on with this debate at the present moment.
The Speaker: We have now completed the business under standing order 37(a), (b) and (c). We have come to standing order 37(d), which means I must put the question, shall the debate proceed?
The Speaker: The debate will proceed and I remind members that they may speak for up to 10 minutes. The debate may continue until we have run out of speakers or the clock strikes six.
Mr B. Rae: I have already outlined, I hope as clearly as I can, the variety of stories that are now floating around in the name of the Minister of the Environment (Mr Bradley) and in the name of the Solicitor General (Mrs Smith) and in the name of the Premier (Mr Peterson) about exactly who knew what and who said what to whom and who is in fact in charge of the investigation into the contamination of Ontario’s fuel oil.
But I want to simply recount the variety of answers which we have had from the minister and from the federal ministers and from various people about exactly who knew what. Gary Gallon, who we all know is the executive assistant to the minister, is quoted in the Toronto Star as saying that there has been a suspicion for sometime, in fact for a decade, about the mixing of suspected toxic waste with waste crankcase oil.
The minister then admitted on Monday to the Toronto Sun: “His ministry knew since last fall about the waste. But he said he didn’t want to blow the investigation into the source.”
Then we have a story from the Financial Post dated 10 May where a special agent by the name of Steven Naum has told the Financial Post:
“Ontario’s Environment ministry was told early last year the US Federal Bureau of Investigation was investigating shipments of contaminated fuel into Canada, an FBI officer in Buffalo says.
“Special agent Steven Naum said the ministry was informed last spring the FBI was looking into a Buffalo company suspected of blending toxic waste into fuel bound for Canada.
“‘The Canadian authorities were aware of our investigation.’”
In responding to questions in this House, the Minister of the Environment has always given the following answer, and he gave it not once but 13 times today.
All he says is that there is currently an investigation going on and, “It has been going on”
-- l am using his words -- “for some period of time now.” That is all he has been prepared to say publicly.
But he went on Canada AM this morning, and I could see the minister visibly puffing himself up as he said this. He said his interest was in the kingpins and not in the small fry. He went on to say that the kingpins might well be connected to organized crime, and he also promised -- and you can almost hear the background music: dum de dum dum -- a long, hot summer for wrongdoers and that he personally would nail them to the wall.
That is the effort by the Minister of the Environment to show that he in fact has been on top of this from the very beginning, that he has known all about it and that there were no surprises in the Globe and Mail story. It might have been a surprise to Lucien Bouchard. It might have been a surprise to the Solicitor General. It might have been a surprise to the Premier of Ontario. It might have been a surprise to every single citizen in Ontario. It might have been a surprise to the entire federal cabinet, the RCMP and the federal Department of the Environment, but it was not a surprise to the Minister of the Environment in Ontario. He knew all about it.
There are no surprises for the Minister of the Environment. He knows all about everything. He has been in charge of this thing from the beginning. He is on top of the situation. How often have I heard the Premier make that comment? “Is there going to be an environmental assessment for the people who are about to get dumped on in Durham?” “Don’t worry. The minister is on top of that.” Ask him any question and he will say, “We all know the minister is on top of that.”
I am here to call the minister’s bluff. We are all here to call the minister’s bluff. If he is so smart, if he is so good and he has been in charge and on top of all this information, why in the name of goodness has he not shared it with the people whose health is at risk because of what this information is? Why?
Before I come back to that point, because that really is the central question, I also want to raise some other fundamentals, because this is an angle that of course is going to be explored for some time to come. If organized crime is involved and if there are “kingpins” involved, let me put the most plausible question to you, Mr Speaker.
Do you not think that when the Solicitor General was asked a question yesterday about whether she was involved and the Ontario Provincial Police were involved in the question of the tainting of fuel, she would have said: “Of course. Not only is Jim on top of it. I am on top of it too. We are all on top of it in Ontario”?
That was not her answer. What was her answer? “Any questions about tainted fuel are being handled by the Minister of the Environment. The only thing I am dealing with is the question of the revenue scam. That is the only part that I am dealing with. That is the only part that I am concerned about.”
She did not say anything to me about kingpins yesterday. She did not say anything about: “We are going to nail the kingpins to the wall and we don’t care about the small fry. We want to go after organized crime. We want to go after the syndicate or the Mafia or whoever it may be and we are going to get those people.” She did not have those illusions of what was going on. Only the Minister of the Environment did.
Mr Speaker, if you are dealing with the syndicate, if you are dealing with organized crime or you are dealing with the Mafia, do you really think that a Ministry of the Environment inspector standing at a border site is going to be the way to deal with it? Do you really think you are going to send the Minister of the Environment down there in a trench coat at three o’clock in the morning and deal with that problem? Do not be absurd.
Only in the fantasies of a Walter Mitty character like the Minister of the Environment would we have this kind of a scenario being displayed. It is only being displayed in his own mind. In this quest for the big hit and in his determination to convince the people of Ontario that he knows all about everything that is going on and he really is aware of it all, he has missed the boat on the fundamental obligation of the Minister of the Environment.
Let me put this to him and let me put this to you, Mr Speaker: If he ever suspected that this fuel oil was being sold in this province, had information that that was the case, suspected that that information was accurate, suspected that it was not a crank call and suspected that it was true, what would we expect of the Minister of the Environment?
I would expect him to come into this House and make a statement. If the House is not sitting, I would expect him to hold a press conference. I would expect him to tell the people of Ontario exactly what the nature of the information is that he has. I would expect him to say to the citizens of Ontario: “This is a problem. We must all be aware of it and we must take steps to deal with it.”
Mr Speaker, if there are discount sellers, bootleg sellers, whatever name you want to use, that are out there selling tainted fuel oil or even suspected of selling tainted fuel oil, would you not phone up every single major industrial purchaser? Would you not phone up every single hospital, every single school board, every single major purchaser and say, “Whatever you do, do not buy this stuff”? Would you not tell the home owners of the province? Would you not tell my colleague the member for Riverdale (Mr Reville) who has asked the question: “What do I do with my lawn mower on Saturday morning? Do I put gasoline into it or not?” How do we know?
Could the minister stand up in the House today and answer the very simple question asked by my colleague the member for Etobicoke-Lakeshore (Mrs Grier): “Can he give us the guarantee, the assurance, that the fuel oil that is being sold today in the province is not contaminated? Are home owners today safe?”
We have David Oved, another one of the minister’s executive assistants, whom we have all come to know over many years in another capacity, saying proudly that there were three sites that were being investigated in Ontario. He said that yesterday, quoted in the Globe and Mail. How about the people who live near those three sites? How about the kids who are going to school next to those three sites? I do not know where the three sites are. Does anybody here know where they are? Has anybody been informed of where they are?
Perhaps the Minister of the Environment knows. If he knows, he is not telling us. We have all joked over the years about how the minister stonewalls. We have compared him with ministers in the past in the Tory party who were so apparently effective at defusing questions by refusing to answer them. The joke is over. The stonewalling has to stop.
The critical issue that has to be there that he has to answer very clearly and categorically to the members of this House is when he knew, what he knew and why he did not tell the people of Ontario when he knew it. Those are the questions he has failed to answer.
M. Pope: C’est un plaisir pour moi de me joindre à ce débat sur la question de responsabilité du ministre de l’Environnement. C’est une question très importante pour le public de l’Ontario.
Why are we here today in this emergency debate? I think it is important for the people of this province who are watching or who may hear of this debate to understand that there have been reports in the media of the city of Toronto and throughout this great province, and indeed throughout the country and the United States, that shipments of gasoline and fuel oil products from New York state were mixed with and contained contaminants, namely, polychlorinated biphenyls, and that the result of that is very serious for the health and safety of the people of Ontario.
We know that this gas and fuel oil so contaminated was widely distributed and presumably widely used by trucking companies, sand and gravel companies, home owners and gas stations throughout southern Ontario and presumably perhaps throughout the rest of Ontario as well, a very important health and safety hazard that has been recognized for years as requiring urgent government action.
Here we have a Minister of the Environment and before him the Premier and the Solicitor General of this government who now since the beginning of the week have been unable or unwilling to answer the questions that the opposition have a responsibility to put to them in order to assure the people of Ontario that their health and safety are being protected by their provincial government.
I want the people who are watching and who may read the Hansard report of this debate to understand that 13 times today the Minister of the Environment was asked “When did he know?” The Leader of the Opposition (Mr B. Rae), who just spoke, himself personally asked the question six times, my leader asked the question five times, I asked it once, the member for Etobicoke-Lakeshore asked it once, and on each occasion we got gibberish and nonsense from the Minister of the Environment and a refusal to answer the basic question “When did he know?”
Why is that question important? It is important because there are reports, as the Leader of the Opposition said, from various news sources that this government may have known months ago, if not last year, if not years ago, that this potential danger to the public existed. It is important for us to know whether or not the Minister of the Environment, bearing in mind the health and safety of the public, the people of this province, promptly acted as he was responsible to do under the existing legislation to take care of this environmental problem, this hazard that could affect thousands of people across the province.
We have a responsibility to ask those questions and, more important, the Minister of the Environment has a responsibility to answer those questions. When a minister is asked 13 straight times the question of when he personally knew and refuses to answer to the general applause of his Liberal cabinet colleagues, to the smiles of the Premier, to the approbation of the Attorney General (Mr Scott), who is responsible for justice in this province, we have a right to do what we did today, and that is to leave question period as a show of protest against this minister who refuses to answer the most basic of all questions on this issue affecting the health and safety of thousands of the people of this province.
What the viewers did not necessarily see today, may not have seen as they viewed this debate was that the combined opposition left the chamber during question period in protest against a Minister of the Environment who refuses to tell us when he personally knew about this very hazardous situation existing in Ontario.
Now we are faced, in the first opening comments of the government House leader, the member for Renfrew North (Mr Conway), representing the Liberal government, with the fact that he says the minister acted responsibly, that he is proud of what has happened, that the minister is prepared to tell all.
If the minister is prepared to tell all, why did he not tell us the 13 times he was asked in question period when he knew about this situation? If he is prepared to tell, why has he not told us and the people of Ontario about his involvement and his so-called leadership in resolving this potentially hazardous situation?
If the government House leader is so proud of the Minister of the Environment, why did he not take the opportunity to stand up and tell us when the Minister of the Environment, the Ministry of the Environment and the government knew about this hazardous situation? If the government House leader thinks his minister acted responsibly, can he tell us why he has not answered the questions the opposition has about this government’s performance in this whole matter?
We are entitled and the people are entitled to know when the minister knew. He has refused to tell us. Once we have that information, we are entitled to know when the officials of the Ministry of the Environment knew. We are entitled to know what the Minister of the Environment did when he first knew. We are entitled to know what his officials did when they first knew.
We are entitled to know why we are facing this incredible delay of weeks if not months in advising the people of this province of this serious threat to their health and safety. We are getting no answers. We have yet to have an answer today or yesterday or the day before from this government on this serious issue.
I am now advised that the Minister of the Environment has told the media outside but not us in the Legislature that he knew from January, that in January he knew of this hazardous situation. I think, therefore, we are entitled to know why he waited from January until the story appeared in the Globe and Mail this week, why he waited those four and a half months before advising the people of Ontario of this hazardous situation that could affect their health and their lives.
We are entitled to know why he did not immediately have testing done at the border in January, why he did not have the chemical analysis done within days and why he did not immediately go public and warn the people, particularly the sand and gravel companies, the gasoline stations, the trucking companies and people who may have consumed these products in their homes.
We are entitled to know why the minister waited from January until today when the opposition is forcing him now to answer these questions.
Mr Pope: It is not a question, as the Minister of Natural Resources (Mr Kerrio) interjected, of not wanting to alert the crooks. We are talking about the safety and health of the people of Ontario. We have a waybill system. We have ways of tracking back these shipments. The Minister of the Environment has a primary obligation in law and under the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act to immediately make public to the people any information which may affect their health and safety.
He has violated his own laws and we are entitled to know why he deliberately violated the laws of this province and put at risk the health and safety of the people of Ontario. We are entitled to those answers and we cannot even get to first base with this Minister of the Environment.
I guess he is too busy in Washington, DC, taking on the ghost of Ronald Reagan. I guess he is too busy in Buffalo, New York, filing petitions personally with the New York Supreme Court. I guess he is too busy in Detroit making some submission to the Detroit city council about its incinerator.
But what about we in Ontario when our health and safety is at risk and he is off on foreign shores fighting battles that will earn him headlines? What about our health and safety? What about his primary responsibility here in Ontario to protect us?
Then he refuses 13 times in this Legislature today to even start the dialogue which will reveal his conduct and his sense of priorities as the Minister of the Environment on this most important issue affecting the health and safety of the people of Ontario.
Being a minister is more than getting headlines; being a minister is more than picking a fight with the Americans or the people of Detroit. It is more than taking media tours of Buffalo, New York. It is more than going to Ottawa and attacking the federal government.
The Deputy Speaker: Thank you. The member’s time is up.
Mr Pope: It has to do with ministerial responsibility to the people of Ontario.
Mrs Sullivan: I am pleased to participate in this debate. I believe this is a matter of serious concern.
The Deputy Speaker: Order, please.
Mrs Sullivan: I understand the issues that have been raised by the members of the opposition in terms of this debate as being serious. I believe the matter of discussion before us today is not only a matter for debate in this House at this time on this day, but a matter that will be before us in the future and in the future of our children.
I think one of the issues that has not been explored adequately so far in the discussion is that there is an investigation and that investigation is not yet complete. I believe it is also important to know that those investigations are part of a multiorganizational, a calculated and co-ordinated effort to stop toxic waste haulers bringing materials into Ontario.
The Leader of the Opposition earlier said that if it were true that the minister suspected that toxic waste was being hauled into Ontario, he should have immediately come to the House, he should have made statements to auto owners, home owners, people who mow lawns and so on about his suspicions. In my view, the responsibility of the minister was to get at the truth before coming into the House with those kinds of suspicions, with information that had come to him in any way.
I believe that it was important for him, before coming to the House on the basis of suspicions, to have launched investigations and to have ensured that those investigations were taken forward in the fullest, most responsible manner possible. I believe that is what the minister is doing and what his ministry is doing. I think it is important that the minister be seen, following adequate information as a result of raids which were conducted in April in Niagara and St Lawrence, to be investigating and determining full investigations.
We know that already there have been three investigations of Ontario facilities following the April raids. We know that if it is warranted after those investigations, charges will be laid under the Environmental Protection Act. I think we should also remember that in December 1986 the EPA was strengthened, and that means that if charges are laid, if prosecutions are found to be valid, fines and jail sentences will follow. I think it is also important that ministry officials work with cross-border agencies to ensure that prosecutions of haulers will be pursued to the maximum, and already 23 investigations of haulers have been launched as a result of the April border raids.
The Deputy Speaker: Order, please.
Mrs Sullivan: Once again, our ministry officials will be working to ensure that prosecutions will be pursued to the maximum, not only in our jurisdiction but in theirs. When those investigations are complete, when the information is full, when we know what threats exist, when we know what guilt exists, that is when charges will be laid and that is when the minister indeed should be speaking to the people of Ontario about what to put in their lawn mowers.
I want to talk a bit about action for the future. The government had decided earlier this year, members will recall from further discussions, to outfit a mobile toxic waste unit, an investigations field unit, if you like. That unit will include officials from the investigation and enforcement branch of the ministry with a special mobilized van with highly technical equipment which is now being outfitted, to pursue on our roads at way stations, at the plant gates of processors and waste handlers, trucks hauling material that might include illegal waste. That special weapons and tactical team will be on the roads of Ontario this summer and that SWAT team, that investigations field unit, will be in addition to ongoing border checks that will continue as a matter of course in co-operation with other jurisdictions.
I believe that kind of action for the future will be very important in assisting to come to terms with the kinds of information which has come to this House and which the minister’s officials have been dealing with within their own investigations opportunities. It will provide them with an additional method of dealing with the situation.
I think that, as I have indicated, the issues that have been brought to the House and the way they have been brought are of concern. I believe, however, that the minister is proceeding in the most appropriate way by conducting full investigations and by being prepared to bring charges when the investigations prove that those charges are justified.
Mrs Grier: I think the last participant in this debate has, in her final sentence, homed in on the nub of the issue that is before this House today and which has certainly concerned us on this side; and that is the most appropriate way of dealing with an issue.
There is no dispute about the fact that the Minister of the Environment has been aware, from our information, probably for the last five months or six months of the fact that great quantities of contaminated oil have been coming across the border, were being sold at outlets across southern Ontario and were therefore being used.
The minister made a decision that it was important to investigate, to nail down the kingpins, to have proof of criminal charges and then, presumably, we would have a large announcement and a lot of good publicity and the minister would once again be a hero,
But that was not the only course open to him, because the problem he was faced with and the problem where he made the judgement that he would keep it under wraps -- What was at risk was the health of the people of this province. He had to weigh whether the risk to the health of the people of this province was greater than the desirability of keeping the investigation under wraps. We on this side think that when human health is at risk, that has to be the top priority. That is what it is about. The whole debate and our action at question period is because we disagree fundamentally with the judgement made by this minister when faced with that choice. We think that error in judgement he made put at risk the health of the people of this province.
He laid charges after the spot-checks that were done some months ago. He took samples after those spot-checks. If, as a result of that sampling, he found any evidence at all that there were polychlorinated biphenyls in that contaminated oil, he had a duty to tell the people of this province that there was a possibility their health might be at risk. Surely the minister does not deny that when PCBs and the other substances that are in that oil are burned, they present a considerable problem.
If he needed evidence of judgement that it was in fact the case, surely the dramatic action that was taken after the fire in St-Basile-le-Grand is an example of what action is taken when there is the slightest risk. Much of the material that was at St-Basile was probably smuggled in illegally; it certainly did not have waybills. It is probably the case that much of the material smuggled into this province is stored improperly and stored illegally somewhere and, therefore, the very fact that it is there poses a risk of a similar fire taking place somewhere in Ontario.
Even if it is not burned inadvertently, it is burned daily. It is burned in furnaces, in homes, in industries, in offices, in apartment buildings, and if any of those furnaces leak, then the fumes of that improperly burned material are ingested by human beings.
It is burned in vehicles, which puts at risk those of us who are subject to the emissions from those vehicles, and we know the minister does not check emission controls on vehicles very well. It puts at risk the workers who may be dealing with those combustion engines.
Contaminated oil is burned in greenhouses. What does that do to the products of those greenhouses? It is burned in hospitals. It is burned in industries. The exposure is very great.
Lest the minister try to argue that we do not know what the exposure is and that it is limited, let me remind him of reports that were put out by the International Joint Commission just last year talking about the airborne substances that are deposited in our lakes, on our farm land and in our cities all the time. Let me remind him that those studies found that even though PCBs have been out of production since 1970, 2,500 kilograms of PCBs a year are deposited in the Great Lakes and at least 50 per cent of those are expected to come from atmospheric sources, so those PCBs that are coming out of the contaminated oil that the minister is allowing to be burned in our automobiles are landing on our lakes and ending up in our sediments, ending up in the fish, ending up in the wildlife and perhaps ending up in our water.
Certainly in our conversations today with representatives of the Environmental Protection Agency in the United States and its chemical assessment group, we had unquestioned confirmation that the burning of the substances in this contaminated oil, which they recognize is a major problem in the United States and which they have known about for some time, is a health risk. They also pointed out to us that in the United States there is strict regulation of home heating oil, something that we have not heard in this province.
The error in judgement was in not weighing significantly in the balance the human health risks. The other error in judgement was in not affording sufficient importance to this particular risk.
I think back to the occasions when the minister has deemed that there has been a significant risk and therefore action needed to be taken. He phased out the spraying of roads with contaminated oil. He lauded himself earlier today for having done that. Obviously, he recognized there was a risk. There was a risk from this contaminated oil which he has known for several months is coming into the province, so he phased out spraying it on the roads.
Is there not also a risk when that oil is used in other ways, and why did he not recognize that particular risk?
He says he needs to have proof and he needs to lay charges. I would remind him, as I have many times, that when there are leaks into the St Clair River, he frequently does not lay charges and he often does not have proof of the amount or the nature of the leak, but he closes the water intake pipes in Wallaceburg and Walpole Island because he knows there may be a risk to the health of those people who drink that drinking water.
Hon Mr Bradley: They are reported spills.
Mrs Grier: A reported spill? Does the minister mean that he is denying that there was reported contaminated oil? He knew in his checks in April. There were 118 checks done and samples taken. If the minister, when he participates in this debate -- and we have all been waiting all day to hear him say something of substance -- is going to tell us that it is only an allegation and that there is no contaminated oil in this province, then why on earth has he not said so before? He certainly has not said so up to this point.
The third error in judgement that I think this minister has made is in the allocation of ministry resources when he knew there was a problem. Has he had enough investigators to do the job I am sure he is going to tell us needs to be done? If the investigation has taken this long and he is still unsure that there is proof of contaminated oil, why has he not allocated the total resources of his ministry to investigating this problem and to coming up with the proof, or in reassuring the people of this province that there was not in fact a risk?
We have an allocation of resources so frequently by this government on things that it deems to be important. We have, as someone has said, two chemical wars being fought in this province. We have the war against chemical substances and drug dependency, and we seem to have unlimited resources to put up against that particular fight. We have announcements periodically of what is being done to fight drugs when they are coming in with criminal associations and when they are being used by our young people in this province. Surely, the chemicals that are being put illegally, and maybe by the kingpins to whom the minister refers, into oil that is being burnt all across southern Ontario justifies just the same allocation of resources, justifies being accorded just the same degree of importance and, much more important, justifies action and information from the Minister of the Environment so that we the people of the province can make a determination of what the risk is.
We can decide where we want to buy our gasoline. We can decide where we want to buy our home heating oil. This minister has not even shared with us the names of the companies whose trucks he investigated at his checkpoints and from which he took samples which he found to be contaminated.
The people of this province deserve better from the minister. They deserve to know the risks to which they are being put and they need some full information. They need to know, above all, when the minister knew that this was a problem. That is the answer we are still waiting for, the question we are going to ask again and the question that we think it is about time the minister answered.
Mrs Marland: In rising to discuss this matter of urgent and pressing concern, namely, the public health threat that exists in Ontario as a result of the illegal distribution and sale of contaminated fuels and the failure of the Minister of the Environment to move to protect public health although knowing of the threats for several months, may I say at the outset that we should be very clear about what this emergency debate is about.
I was astounded a few minutes ago to hear the House leader for this Liberal government stand in this House and say that the Minister of the Environment has acted very responsibly. I hope the House leader will not be proven as wrong as he may be. I hope, when this government House leader says that the government will be judged by the public --
Mrs Marland: -- that he recognizes very well that we in the opposition parties of this Legislature know that, yes, the Liberal government of Ontario will be judged by the public. When that judgement comes, fortunately, those members who are at this point interjecting my speech will be gone. The reason they interject is always the same: As soon as you hit home with the truth, they have to run to the defence of their Liberal members.
In case we are in doubt as to the subject that we are dealing with today, I would like at the outset to refer to the Facts publication of the Ministry of the Environment. The Facts publication says, in fact, under the subject of polychlorinated biphenyls, namely PCBs:
“In Ontario, PCBs are carefully controlled and supervised. Detailed advice on handling, control and emergency action is provided by the ministries of Labour and the Environment to protect workers and the public.”
If PCBs do not put workers and the public at risk, then why is that description presented in the Facts publication of the Ministry of the Environment?
Why does the member for Halton Centre (Mrs Sullivan) stand up and say there is an investigation? Why does she stand up and say, in her view, the minister is right to get at the truth before coming to the House with suspicions? Why does she refer to the April raids that were in fact advertised by this Minister of the Environment by his comments on radio and television so that when the raids took place to investigate this subject, everybody was well-warned and well-prepared?
It is very interesting to think about when this kind of information should be brought to the public. It is very interesting to note that if there is any other risk to the public -- I might give as an example if there is just a suspicion of a bomb risk -- do we wait until it is proven? No, we do not. We evacuate aircraft, airports and in fact whole sections of communities if there is a suspicion. If it is suspected the public is at risk, normally a responsible government will protect that public.
It is not as though we are dealing with the Minister of Transportation or the Minister of Municipal Affairs. We are dealing with the Minister of the Environment, the very person whose mandate it is to protect the environment and those of us who live in it. Lest we have any doubts about polychlorinated biphenyls, I also want to quote from another government publication: “PCBs have been shown to cause brain, nerve, liver and skin disorders in humans and cancer in lab animals. Furans and dioxins are produced when PCBs are incompletely burned and are even more dangerous.”
If the government itself says that furans and dioxins are produced when PCBs are burned incompletely and are then even more dangerous, how is it that we have a Minister of the Environment who sees fit not to answer questions even today in this House? This Minister of the Environment was asked 13 times how long he had known of this risk, how long he had known these facts that may be putting the public of Ontario at risk.
Since he will not give the facts, perhaps it falls upon us to do that. We know the Environment minister was told early last year by the US Federal Bureau of Investigation that contaminated fuel shipments into Canada were being investigated. We also know the Buffalo police, who specialize in organized crime, had been investigating toxic fuel sales for two months. The Minister of the Environment boasted in this House on Monday that he had been tackling this crime secretly for several months. He also said in this Legislature on Monday that the Ontario Provincial Police were involved.
This Minister of the Environment was so secret that the Solicitor General told the Legislature yesterday, Tuesday, that the Ontario Provincial Police were not involved in any investigation regarding tainted fuel, and also that Canada customs was not aware that the Ontario government had suspected for more than four months that toxic-waste-laced fuel was crossing the border. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police was apparently also in the dark and have now been called into the investigation.
I cannot accept what has gone on in this Legislature this week, the fact that on Monday the Minister of the Environment says the Ontario Provincial Police are involved, that on Tuesday the Solicitor General stands in this House and says the OPP are not involved and that today when we ask the Minister of the Environment the very simple question of how long he has known of this risk and this problem, he will not answer the question.
I am quoting from Hansard of Monday and Tuesday of this week. If anybody wants to check my quotations they are welcome to do so. The truth of the matter is that we in this Legislature are being pushed around like children in kindergarten. We in this Legislature are not being treated equally or fairly. Worst of all, the people of Ontario are not being given information they have a right to. The people in Ontario have a right to know what is going on and we are their advocates. It is we who are asking the questions and it is this Liberal government that chooses not to inform the public of Ontario.
The fact is that this minister has engaged in the worst kind of political heroism imaginable. To gain some kind of recognition for his police work, the minister has put his political ambitions above the health and safety of the community. Knowing that the health and safety of the people were being put at risk, the minister chose personally not to inform the public. This is totally inexcusable and totally unacceptable.
If the Minister of the Environment does not advocate for the people in this province in terms of health and safety related to the environment, then I have to ask who does. Certainly not the Premier of this province who laughed and smiled all through the 13 questions that were asked in this Legislature this afternoon. That will never be shown on television, but those of us who sit on this side of the House during those 13 questions witnessed at first hand the concern of the Premier of this Liberal government in Ontario today.
This is unacceptable to me, to the Progressive Conservative caucus in this Legislature and to the people of Ontario and I call on the Minister of the Environment to tender his resignation immediately.
The Acting Speaker (Mr M. C. Ray): Order, please. I remind all honourable members that there is ample time for all views to get expressed here in accordance with the rules. We have ten-minute speeches lasting from now until 6 pm. I am sure the persons with the floor would very much appreciate the attention of the House while they speak.
Mr McClelland: I am delighted to join in this debate of very serious consequence this afternoon, offer my comments and offer comments on behalf of my government today.
I want to say at the outset to my friend the member for Mississauga South (Mrs Marland), whom I hold in great personal admiration, that the Premier of this province takes environmental concerns and the issues facing us in this House today very seriously. Indeed, that seriousness and the priority he places on the issue of environmental concerns is demonstrated by the minister he has charged with the responsibility of fulfilling that responsibility in his government. I would say to my friend from Mississauga South that there is no Minister of the Environment in this country, either currently or previously, who has demonstrated the commitment as an environmentalist, the concern and consistent standards for the environment as has the current minister.
When I reflect on the poor state of the Ontario Ministry of the Environment just a few years ago, when we took over in 1985, and look at the excellent job that has been done from 1985 until the present time, tackling major concerns, including this one and many others, about environmental problems throughout Ontario, I think the record will speak for itself.
I have every confidence -- I say this to my friend -- that the people of this province will judge our government, not only on this but on other matters but most certainly on this matter, on the way we have addressed environmental concerns, on the way we have placed them as priority items, and on the way we have moved the Ministry of the Environment into a top ministry in priorities and planning and made it a senior ministry for the first time in the history of this province. When the appropriate time comes, I have no doubt the people of this province will remember and reflect very favourably not only on the government generally, but on the minister who is fulfilling those responsibilities today.
When I listen to the criticism that is so loosely thrown about -- if I might say, liberally thrown about -- by the member for Mississauga South, I think we should not forget that prior to 1985 the previous government either flat-lined, or in fact from time to time reduced, the budget at the Ministry of the Environment. We are in the process right now of doubling the investigations and enforcement branch.
Miss Martel: Talk about the health and safety concerns before us.
Mr Wiseman: Are you concerned at all?
Mr McClelland: I want to say to my friends opposite who are trying to make their comments heard, and they too will have their opportunity, that 15 people were employed in the investigations and enforcement branch only four years ago. We now have 96 people in that branch, and I want to say that we are in the process of doubling that to deal with some of the serious issues we have in terms of investigation and enforcement.
We have some of the toughest laws in this province. We demonstrated that by raising the fines from $10,000 to a maximum now of up to $500,000 for the most serious offences.
I want to say to my friends opposite, who are very quick to come up with questions about judgement, that it seems to me that in dealing with something of this severity, it should be handled in a careful, prudent, thoughtful manner. Investigations of a criminal nature that are as serious as they are must be dealt with appropriately.
I want to say to the members and to the people of this province that the Ontario government is doing all it can within its jurisdiction. This government notified Environment Canada. I think my friend should know that, in spite of what he said on the record, I say this to him with respect, that he should perhaps check his facts a little more clearly.
Our government notified Environment Canada. Our government notified customs officials. In fact, customs allowed the Ministry of the Environment of this province to use its facilities in the border areas. The federal government has major responsibility under the Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act. They were advised and they co-operated in our efforts and our undertaking.
I think my friend has a curious version of the facts, I say to my friend the member for Mississauga South. Border raids were not advertised. It is inevitable that from time to time when border raids are undertaken they become known. They become known to truckers. They do have communication. In fact, that is one of the difficulties in an investigation of this nature. It is because of this that a systematic, well-thought-out, well-planned investigation was undertaken and continues to proceed at the present time.
Let me also say that inevitably, as these things become public knowledge, they act as a significant deterrent. I do not think that fact would be lost on my friend. As it becomes known that border raids are being conducted, that is a deterrent. Certainly, that is one positive step that can be and was taken to curtail the flow of contaminated fuels in dealing with those allegations we heard.
If allegations are present, it seems that the prudent course of action is to act on those allegations, to investigate, to gather the data and to proceed in a wise fashion to the ultimate conclusion, to deal with the issue in a substantive and complete manner.
I noted in today’s Toronto Star the headline, and I have it here: “Customs Officials Surprised to Learn of Toxic Fuel Probe.” The newspaper states that Steve Sloan, chief of investigation for Revenue Canada, which oversees customs, said that he was unaware of the allegations. He may very well have been unaware, but I want to tell members and the people of this province what in fact happened.
We know the customs officials on the border in 1988 and again in 1989 not only knew about our efforts, but co-operated and assisted us. They knew and wanted to help us to track all kinds of wastes and their illegal movements. They provided facilities and space on their property to do so. To say the least, and I say this charitably, we find it unusual that customs for Revenue Canada was unaware of Ontario’s attempts to stop the international trade in illegal chemicals. In fact, they assisted us in our investigations.
Let us place this, then, in the context of the situation that we have currently in the debate before the House today. We, as the Liberal government, have made a systematic effort to build upon the capacity we have at the Ministry of the Environment, not only to catch polluters and stop polluters at their source but to also deal with them in appropriate prosecutions. In stopping toxic waste haulers, we want to provide a model in this province. Our efforts, I think, will be seen to be a model of how to deal with it in terms of the border.
Mr Wildman: You are talking about waste haulers rather than fuel haulers.
Mr McClelland: I say to my friend the member for Algoma that as he would be well aware, as we look at things that are crossing the border and materials that cross border points, we do a general investigation.
It seems to me we have a responsibility that goes beyond just this one issue, although this is a very important issue. We will continue to deal with all materials coming across the border and we will continue to do that in a systematic way. We will continue to ensure that our investigations and enforcement branch is in place, properly equipped and properly trained to handle those problems.
We have built that capacity and we will continue to build that capacity out of the dust of the days of the provincial Tories, who did not support enforcement investigation. I say with some regret that these efforts were not supported by equal federal efforts. I ask my friends opposite to talk to their federal friends, to ask them to look at the kind of work we are doing and to continue to co-operate and help us with that.
I have a challenge to put to my friends opposite. Instead of criticizing at every turn and instead of from time to time standing back with great piety and talking about the failures they perceive, knowing full well that a systematic, strong investigative procedure is under way and will be followed through to its conclusion, I ask them to back up a little bit, to look at the efforts and to really put the environmental concerns of the people of this province at the fore, and to help and support the initiatives of this government, initiatives that, I say to my friends, are unparalleled in the history of this province, in this country and I would suggest, in North America. I think we can be very proud.
Mr Brandt: Oh no, the world. World-class, isn’t it?
Mr McClelland: I say to the leader of the third party that it is indeed world-class and very appropriate for him to say that. I thank him for recognizing that and drawing to the attention of the people of this province the outstanding job that is being done by this ministry. I ask our friends in the third party to convey to their counterparts in Ottawa the importance of joining Ontario’s efforts in catching any polluters and preventing any contamination of our fuels and environment from illegal activity in this province.
As this matter goes through a debate today and we are given an opportunity to hear various views expressed in this House, I am confident that the record of our government will prove, not only to members here today but also to the people of Ontario, to be one we can be proud of. I am proud of our minister and proud of the job we are doing and will continue to do to ensure the safety of the people of this province through the Ministry of the Environment.
The Acting Speaker: The next speaker with a right to address the assembly without interruption is the member for Hamilton Mountain.
Mr Charlton: Everybody who has got up so far this afternoon has referred to the importance of the issue being debated here today. I want to refocus somewhat and re-emphasize the importance of this issue. I listened carefully, for example, to the member for Brampton North (Mr McClelland) who just spoke. I want him, as the parliamentary assistant to the Minister of the Environment, to perhaps return the courtesy and I ask him to listen very carefully to what I have to say this afternoon.
The Minister of the Environment and the officials in his ministry have either been totally irresponsible and negligent in the handling of this affair or they have been plain outright stupid. This situation is a prime example of what we have all complained about for 100 years, of one department of government not knowing what the other is doing and nobody gleaning any benefit from the other public expenditures that are going on.
Let’s start at the beginning of this issue. We have contaminants being brought into Ontario in diesel oil and heating oil. Why are they mixing contaminants with those two particular kinds of oil? It is very simple. If you have ever had a leak in your furnace, you know that home heating oil stinks. So too does diesel oil. They are very good commodities for masking the existence of other things that have been added. Also, though, they are much easier to trace if you are investigating than any number of other substances that could be and are smuggled into this country.
The minister and the member for Brampton North have talked to us about the random border checks they did last month after supposedly having learned of this potential scam in January, and there is nothing wrong with the random border checks. At some point in this issue, we are going to have to cut off the source of supply of contaminated oil.
But we have all referred in this debate this afternoon, including the member for Brampton North, to the potential dangers to residents of Ontario from the use of this contaminated oil in the province. Have they told us in one line anywhere, in anything they have said to us today, what they have done to try to locate the supply that already exists in this province? They are not going to locate it at the border; it is already here.
What should the Minister of the Environment have done in January, when he learned about this contaminated oil scam?
First, in every major urban centre in this province, we have segments of an organized crime task force, organized crime task forces that are made up locality by locality by members of the local police force, members of the OPP and members of the RCMP. Those organized crime task forces are working on a full-time, permanent basis, investigating the operations of organized crime in Ontario.
The minister himself has told us clearly that organized crime is involved in this operation in terms of both importing and distributing contaminated oil in Ontario. The very first place the minister and his officials should have gone, even before they dreamed about border checks, was to the organized crime task forces in this province to find out what they knew, what names they could provide, what company names they could provide, what locations might be checked out by ministry checkers, in terms of sampling supplies in depots. None of that was done. None of that was done. None of that was done.
Mr McClelland: Do you know that?
Mr Charlton: I repeated it three times because I know that. When the government is prepared to stand up and give us the facts to the contrary, we will be happy to listen.
But this government has ignored, as the Solicitor General told us clearly in this House yesterday, this minister and his ministry have ignored an apparatus which is sitting out there available for their use and, as a result, have or may have put the health of any number of Ontario citizens at risk.
In addition to the organized crime task forces, the Ministry of the Environment has been working for a number of years on the question of the destruction of PCBs in Ontario by incineration. The work this ministry has done, the tests it has run, the information that is available in the ministry about the problems and dangers that result from the process of incinerating PCBs, one of which is the reference that was made by the member for Mississauga South earlier in her comments, which is the conversion of PCBs through incomplete combustion to dioxins and furans -- but it is only one of the problems, as the ministry is well aware.
The ministry is fully aware of the problems, for example, of trying to burn PCB-contaminated oil in a furnace that was installed in a house in 1968, a furnace of which there are hundreds of thousands across this province, which are extremely inefficient and extremely incapable of providing the kind of safe combustion that would be required. Those furnaces not only would allow some PCBs to escape out the chimney but as well create dioxins and furans in the process.
The same is true of almost every apartment building and hospital boiler system in this province, because the vast majority of those buildings were built in the 1960s and early 1970s, before any of the present scientific knowledge was available. All of those, into which some of this contaminated oil is obviously finding its way -- these guys are not running a business for nothing -- create a substantial health risk for people in this province.
What did the ministry do -- and perhaps this is another thing it would like to relate to us before this debate is over instead of stonewalling in terms of facts -- to try to determine where the supplies went in Ontario and how they were being used?
That brings up the third part of the issue, the issue of public knowledge. The minister has taken the position that only allegations existed and therefore it was not time to create any kind of public concern, when the reality is that exactly the opposite is true. If the Ministry of the Environment had been working in conjunction with the other authorities of this government and been really interested in finding out where that oil went and how it was being used, the only way that was possible was to create public knowledge.
There are likely all kinds of users of either diesel oil or heating oil in this province who bought cheap loads unaware of what that oil contained, but certainly public knowledge of the problem, and a request to the public that anybody with any knowledge or any reason to believe that oil they had purchased might be contaminated should contact the Ministry of the Environment or the OPP, may in fact have elicited some clear information about where and how that oil was being used.
Keeping the whole thing under tight wraps just allowed the process to continue unfettered and all the ministry could find in its wealth of potential for tracing this material was the random border checks on four occasions at Niagara and the St Lawrence crossings, random checks which may or may not find anything. We agree that has to continue, but the ministry has failed to provide protection for the people of this province.
Mr Brandt: I engage in this debate this afternoon with some reluctance, although I fully recognize the importance of the motion having been brought forward and in fact my party did table a similar motion, albeit a few short minutes after the New Democratic Party had tabled its motion with the Speaker’s office.
That set aside, I think the importance of this particular issue is well known to all of the members of the House, because the matter is not only being debated here in this Legislative Assembly but is in fact being debated, as the members know, in the House of Commons in Ottawa. There are a number of questions that have to be answered. Members have been raising these questions today.
I say that I am somewhat reluctant to engage in this debate because perhaps it would not have been necessary had the Minister of the Environment simply responded directly to a series of questions in regard to the issue of when he first became informed of the matter of the contaminated oil and fuel products being shipped from New York state into Ontario.
I want to tell the members it is a little bit frustrating on this side of the House to ask what one thinks to be a responsible question, namely, when was the minister aware of the shipments being made, and to have nothing but a wall of words constructed around the minister where he does a lot of verbal gymnastics but refuses, for reasons that I am only suspicious about at the moment with respect to why he would not, to come clean with us and directly respond to those particular questions.
I have to tell the members the concern that we have in this particular party, and I believe it is shared by the other opposition party as well. We want to know how extensive these particular shipments from New York state into Ontario were; when the minister was first informed; what the level of contamination of these toxic substances is, and what has happened, I say to the members of the government, with the so-called spot checks that they were to take, according to their press release dated 20 April.
It indicates very clearly two things: number one, the kind of rhetoric we have been hearing from that side of the House, and number two, an unfulfilled commitment in this very press release, which I am going to read into the record today. This press release is on behalf of the Ministry of the Environment, presumably with the minister’s imprimatur on it.
It says: ‘“We are conducting these surprise border checks to let toxic waste haulers know that we have our eye on them and that lawbreakers will be caught and prosecuted,’ Environment minister Jim Bradley said.”
Further, if one reads this press release carefully
-- are members ready for this? -- “Samples of waste loads from liquid bulk carriers and transporters of solid and liquid waste were taken and analysed at the ministry’s mobile lab. More detailed analysis will be completed later at the ministry’s main laboratory.”
That is fine. I do not disagree with that, other than that this press release was dated 13 April.
Mr Haggerty: You know where that is.
Mr Brandt: Not only do I know where it is, but it is a ministry that I formerly had the honour of running at one particular time. I can tell my friends opposite that it does not take a month to undergo these particular types of tests and to get the results back and to share them with the people of Ontario. If in fact we are dealing with dangerous levels of contamination, which is very likely from the information we have at the moment --
An hon member: Allegations.
Mr Brandt: Allegations, certainly, but allegations supported by certain evidence that is coming forward as a result of investigative measures that have been undertaken in the state of New York. Police authorities are looking at this matter in some detail, as members know, but the issue is: How do these particular transport carriers get into Ontario rather unmolested when we have an Environment minister who has increased his staff for this particular type of policing from 18 to about 95 people?
What is the minister doing with that huge new staff? I guess they are running around issuing press releases, because the results bear no relationship to the kind of rhetoric that we see contained in these particular press releases.
Let me tell my friends the bottom line. A minister of any portfolio in the government has a responsibility to inform the people of Ontario if he or she even suspects that there is a danger to the health and safety of the citizens of this province. There is no option. That is what a responsible minister must do.
The only option available to the Minister of the Environment, if he was suspicious about contaminated loads of this particular type of blended fuel coming into Ontario, is what he did in another press release when he talked about bringing to bear the weight of the ministry on two loads of pathological waste.
It is interesting the kind of verbal games we get into in this forum, because when I raised that question with the minister I said, “You know, it is very possible that the pathological waste could be less toxic and less severe in terms of its potential impact on the environment than the types of chemical substances we are dealing with in these particular loads of fuel.” The minister in his response to my question of course picked up on that and he said, “Well, I hope the member is not suggesting that pathological waste is unimportant or is not a critical matter.” I am hoping I am paraphrasing him reasonably fairly.
The fact of the matter is that is not what I said. The point I was trying to make is that we could be dealing with a matter far more serious than pathological waste here. We certainly are dealing with a matter far more serious in terms of the tax impact, because even the Provincial Auditor has indicated that as much as $100 million annually could be lost to Ontario as a result of the way in which these particular haulers happen to be able to evade their tax responsibilities and obligations.
In addition to that, we have some of the deadliest chemicals known to mankind that could be contained in these particular shipments. For the members opposite, let me tell them, octochlorodioxins, dibenzofurans and PCBs are chemicals that have been contained in things like Agent Orange which was suspected in Vietnam as being one of the carcinogenics that has caused a number of American soldiers to come back from that particular war with very critical health problems related again directly to dioxins and furans.
How do dioxins and furans form? I am sure the members all know that it is as a result of the combustion of PCBs. When you burn PCBs, you get dioxins and furans as a direct chemical byproduct of that. It is interesting to note that this is a government which, through all of the sophistication of modern technology, through all of the knowledge that we have at the moment with respect to the disposal of PCBs, has said: “It’s not safe. We can’t incinerate it. We don’t know how to do it. We’re not going to allow it. We’re not going to legislate approval for it.”
Mr Villeneuve: What did they do?
Mr Brandt: “What did they do?” my colleague asks. They have allowed it to come across the border contained in a blended fuel product.
I only have about a minute and 20 seconds left and I want to say that what is the most astounding thing in this entire issue that has developed within the last few days is the reluctance on the part of the Minister of the Environment to even bring into his confidence the federal Minister of the Environment, Lucien Bouchard.
Mr McClelland: He did that yesterday.
Mr Brandt: He did it yesterday. I think it is an insult to my intelligence to tell me that he did it yesterday. The Minister of the Environment has known for some months about this particular contaminant coming into our jurisdiction. He knew it two months ago. He should have told the federal Minister of the Environment two months ago.
An hon member: He did.
Mr Brandt: He did not tell him two months ago.
An hon member: Read about it.
Mr Brandt: I have read the same stories the member has read. I found out today that the reading level of -- I will not get into that.
I want to say to the members opposite in the few minutes left to me that is a matter that involves the US Federal Bureau of Investigation, the RCMP and the OPP, in spite of what the Solicitor General said yesterday. The Minister of the Environment said the OPP was involved. It involves the SWAT team, if you will, of the Ministry of the Environment in Ontario. It involves other agencies as well in New York state.
We need a co-operative undertaking to stop this kind of scam immediately. Our party demands that the Minister of the Environment come clean with the information he has. Nothing less is acceptable to this party.
The Acting Speaker: The next speaker is the member for Kingston and The Islands and I hope members will listen carefully to him.
Mr Keyes: It is a pleasure for me to have an opportunity to stand on behalf of the government and be able to say that I too can applaud what has been the action taken by the minister with regard to, and may I remind all members, the alleged event that fuels contaminated with hazardous waste are being brought into Ontario.
Some of the honourable members on the opposite side of the House today have expressed, and I quote their words, “shock,” “outrage” and what have you about the reluctance of the minister to answer the question, “When did you know?” If these same honourable members from both parties on the opposite side of the House were seriously concerned about this issue on the basis of real environmental and health concerns, surely they would be more interested in knowing what the minister is doing about the allegations that fuels contaminated with hazardous waste are being smuggled into Ontario. Surely that would be there, but they are not interested in knowing what he is doing; they are only interested in knowing when he knew something.
Let me tell members that the Ministry of Health, of which I have the pleasure to be the parliamentary assistant, is concerned about the allegations that fuels contaminated with hazardous wastes are being smuggled into Ontario, because possible human exposure to toxic chemicals is a significant public health concern.
We heard a few moments ago the great concern about border checks. May I simply say that border checks are only one aspect of a much broader, far-ranging investigation into these alleged illegal practices by certain individuals. In my all-too-short period of time in another ministry responsible for many an investigation, one must remember that investigations are very broad and wide-ranging. Therefore, the border checks referred to are only one aspect of an ongoing investigation.
The provincial government is moving as quickly as it can on the leads and information it has been given. All members of this House have had an opportunity either here directly or through other media to follow the government’s action in the last few days since becoming aware of this illegal act. I know the majority of the members of this House applaud the action of this minister; that I know. Of course, there are minorities who do not, but in any issue there are minorities who do not agree with the majority.
The Deputy Speaker: Order, please.
Mr Keyes: We know, as I said in the beginning of my comments, these are only allegations to date. We have no firm confirmation on what possible health effects may be involved in this issue. We are awaiting confirmation from laboratory test results that are being conducted by the Ministry of the Environment. The environmental laboratory is now testing samples taken from trucks that entered Canada from the United States across three Niagara River bridges in mid-April. The technicians are testing for a variety of hazardous substances --
The Deputy Speaker: Order, please. May I remind all members on both sides of the House of the standing order that says we recognize one member at a time, and if members want to participate, it is one after another, not all at the same time. The member for Kingston and The Islands.
Mr Keyes: Thank you, Mr Speaker. I have been wrestling for some hours in the preparation of these comments, and as a result, I want to be sure that they are heard and listened to by all members of the House. But I can easily overlook any interjections, because they do not deter me at all from my purpose at hand.
As I was saying in the middle of my comments before, the technicians in these laboratories are testing for a variety of hazardous substances, including the polychlorinated biphenyls, the pesticides and all those fine names which I know the former Minister of the Environment has not forgotten since his days in that office.
The responsibility to investigate any effects on human health from substances like contaminated fuel is shared jointly by the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of the Environment. As members will appreciate, we cannot conduct any rational and meaningful health effects investigation until we learn what substance has come in, how much has come in, what type and what happened to it.
We in the Ministry of Health and on this side of the House are as concerned as anyone about protecting the environmental health of the people of Ontario, and that is why the Minister of the Environment is attempting to determine the nature and extent of the problem and stop it at its source. We have first to find out the concentrations of the toxins, if they were brought in and where they were dumped or where they were burned.
The Deputy Speaker: Order, please.
Mr Keyes: Obviously contaminants vary greatly in their potential effect on human health, depending on their toxicity and the route and duration of their exposure to the public. When we receive this information, I can assure the members of this House that we will endeavour to assess the effects that this alleged illegal practice has had on the health of the people of Ontario.
The Deputy Speaker: Order, please.
Mr Keyes: The public health system in Ontario has very important responsibilities in protecting the public from environmental health hazards. The Health Protection and Promotion Act of 1983 gives local medical officers of health the authority to investigate hazards under sections 11 and 12. The Ministry of Health provides funding and consultation to support these efforts.
The chief medical officer of health, under the direction of the minister, may investigate and act with regard to such hazards. The Minister of Health (Mrs Caplan) has been proactive in giving medical officers of health direction in dealing with environmental health concerns. The newly revised mandatory health program and services announced by the Minister of Health on 14 April require local boards of health to play a stronger role in this area.
The Deputy Speaker: Order, please.
Mr Keyes: The possible human exposure to toxic chemicals like polychlorinated biphenyls, dioxin and furans is a significant public health concern. The first priority has to be to stop the exposure to such elements as quickly as possible -- this is the responsibility of the Ministry of the Environment -- by stopping the shipment of potentially contaminated fuel. The responsibility to investigate any human health impact from the contaminated fuel will be a joint responsibility of the ministries of Health and the Environment.
When this information, obtained from the testing in our laboratories, is available, it may be possible to investigate whether this contaminated fuel did indeed constitute a human health hazard. When we obtain this information --
The Deputy Speaker: Order, please.
Mr Keyes: -- the Ministry of Health will conduct a thorough investigation into possible health effects, as it did in the case of contaminated wine, as it did in the case of contaminated mussels and as it did in the case of Chilean grapes. We will take action to protect the public of Ontario,
The Deputy Speaker: Before we proceed with the next member, may I remind all members again to give all other members, and especially the member addressing the House, more respect. I would appreciate that.
Mr Epp: Hear that, Andy, hear that?
The Deputy Speaker: Order. I said all members of the House without any exclusion. The member for Algoma.
Mr Wildman: Thank you, Mr Speaker. I appreciate your comments because I believe this is a very important debate and I frankly, on this occasion, agree somewhat with some of the comments made by the government House leader at the outset when the discussion was whether or not this debate should proceed.
From time to time it has been suggested that members might file motions on emergencies for debate so that the ordinary business of the House could be set aside, and many people might question from time to time whether or not all of these are indeed emergent, but there is no question today that the question before the House is indeed a matter of emergency, as the government House leader himself admitted.
Mr Speaker, we get used to some of the barracking back and forth in the House, because that is the way things operate, and I appreciate your attempts to ensure that this is limited. But on a debate of this importance, I think it is unfortunate if it degenerates to the point where it just becomes some kind of political stratagem rather than dealing with what is a matter of real import in Ontario, dealing with not only the possible environmental impacts of contaminants being burned in vehicles on our highways, in furnaces, in public buildings, in homes and in businesses, but also a possible real threat to the public health in this province.
I must admit that as I listened to the interventions of members of the government party in this debate, I got more and more confused. As I see it, there are two very important issues before the House this afternoon. The first one is, what did the minister know or suspect, when did he know it or suspect it and what did he tell other authorities that should have been informed so that the matter could be properly investigated?
The second question before the House is, how should the minister proceed in order to protect the public health in Ontario? Should the minister keep his own counsel or keep it private among investigative authorities in an attempt to determine the source of the contaminant and to capture the perpetrators of what is in fact a very serious crime; or should he inform the public so that they can protect themselves from possible adverse effects, both environmental and health?
Obviously, we on this side of the House believe that it is important to determine the source of hazardous waste and improper disposal of that waste and, if someone is breaking the law, to capture those perpetrators and bring them to justice; but it is even more important to protect the health of the public, that is what is important today in this debate,
The last speaker who participated in the debate, the member for Kingston and The Islands (Mr Keyes), made a lot of the fact that these are, in his words, only allegations. I suppose until they are proven, yes indeed they are allegations.
Mr Laughren: Serious allegations.
Mr Wildman: But they are indeed very serious allegations. I am sure if that member were responsible, as he once was, for the public safety in this province and he received information that someone had planted a bomb in a public building and it was indeed just an allegation, he would not wait until the bomb went off before telling anybody. He would evacuate the building.
He says that we should investigate the possible health effects of any of these allegations and determine whether in fact they are well-founded before warning the public. If that is the attitude that member had when he was the Solicitor General of this province, I will say that it is lucky for everyone in this province that he is no longer in that office.
Also, the approach of the member for Brampton North was “Don’t worry, we’re in charge,” the ministry was carrying out many investigations of improper disposal of hazardous waste and these investigations went back as far as 1988.
At one point he sounded as if he was alleging that the minister knew about this improper use of fuel back in 1988.
The Deputy Speaker: Order, please.
Mr Wildman: But then the member for Kingston and The Islands got up almost immediately afterwards and said, and I wrote it down as he said it, that these allegations were only made in the last few days. This is an indication of the kind of doubletalk and bafflegab we have been getting from the government on this very important issue.
At one point the minister has said, “We’ve been investigating for a long period of time.” At another point, I understand, he has said outside the House that he was first informed in January. It has also been stated by members of the government that the minister informed the federal authorities when he received the information on these allegations. However, the federal minister has said emphatically that it was indeed his department that received the first tip, from either Quebec or Switzerland, and that in fact his department informed the provincial ministry.
At the same time, the Federal Bureau of Investigation has said that it has been investigating a firm in Buffalo that has been suspected of putting hazardous waste into fuel destined for Ontario for over a year and that it informed the ministry at the time it commenced its investigation. Now the question is, and I hope the minister is going to participate in this debate, it is time for him to state in this House clearly when he knew of these allegations. Did the FBI or did the federal department inform him? Then, when he found out about these allegations, whom did he inform? Did he inform the Ontario Provincial Police if he suspected there was criminal involvement?
Mr Reville: The RCMP.
Mr Wildman: Or the RCMP. Yesterday, the Solicitor General for this province said that the OPP were not involved in the investigation of hazardous waste contaminants in fuel; rather they were concerned about revenue issues. If the Solicitor General did not know, perhaps the minister informed the commissioner who did not tell the Solicitor General. That is possible.
Mr Laughren: This is getting confusing.
Mr Wildman: It is very confusing. I think it is important for the minister to make clear here what did he know, when did he know it and whom did he inform and then to explain, beyond that, why he thought it more appropriate to carry out the investigation in hopes of catching the culprits rather than warning the members of the general public that they might be purchasing discounted but contaminated fuels for their vehicles or homes.
The other question my colleague raises is why he did not stop the shipments. We were told of these border raids that have been carried out, and I suppose the minister will argue that he could not stop the shipments until they had been tested. Well, if he was told in January of these allegations, as he said outside the House, why did the raids take place, not in February, not in March, but in April?
I do not really think the minister has taken this seriously. It is certainly an indication that the government has not taken this seriously. If the minister was hoping to catch the culprits, that is one aim that is important. But in our view it is not nearly as important as protecting the environment of this province --
The Deputy Speaker: Thank you.
Mr Wildman: -- and, even more so, the health of the people of the province, which could be exposed while he is carrying out his investigation.
The Deputy Speaker: Thank you. The member’s time is up.
Mr Sterling: I do believe that the emergency debate today was necessary. It is important for the public of Ontario and for this Legislature to consider this issue.
I hope we will not only consider this issue in the present context of this particular environmental hazard which has been allowed to remain a secret until this week; I hope we will also consider it with regard to the potential for this to be repeated in history again and that at the very least this minister and this government will learn they have a responsibility to the public to inform it when another matter like this arises.
The choice that a minister of the crown has when confronted with an issue like this is whether or not to hide behind the veil of a criminal or quasi-criminal investigation and seek enforcement of the laws of the province against those who would transport, in this case toxic material into Canada. That is one choice the minister has.
On the other hand, the minister may make a decision that the public’s interest in knowing of the potential hazards of this material is greater than his interest in enforcing that law, and that in disclosing to the public that there is a danger and that this illegal activity may be taking place he may hinder a criminal investigation that may be under way.
In my view, it appears from the facts that have been put forward to date that the minister has chosen the wrong route in this particular case. This reflects in some part this minister’s and this government’s attitude with regard to his approach to solving environmental problems in Ontario.
We have seen in the past that this minister likes to play the tough guy, the guy who increases fines in different legislation, which attracts headlines in our press. He likes to prosecute people who would break our environmental laws, and he likes to gain the headlines that he gets from that particular attitude and from that particular activity.
Quite frankly, no one in this Legislature can argue with the fact that environmental hazards and people who break the laws with regard to the environment should be prosecuted and should be fined heavily, but that should not be the only preoccupation of the Minister of the Environment.
In the past four years, we have seen far too great an amount of energy spent by him and his ministry on this aspect. A prosecution does not solve an environmental problem. It brings the perpetrator to trial and perhaps fines him for a particular activity.
What this minister should be concerned about is the health of the public and how he can prevent further environmental dangers to that public in the future.
We have asked 13 or 14 times today, “Minister, when did you know about this particular problem?” We have found now that he knew about this particular problem in January of this year. I believe he could have told the public at that point in time.
As I say, that might have hampered a criminal investigation that is now under way or has been under way for the past two months, but I believe that a warning to the public who would be using the products that may in fact contain PCBs was more important than a criminal investigation and bringing those people to trial.
Hon Mr Wrye: Was he the provincial secretary for justice? Are you serious?
Mr Sterling: I am absolutely serious. The Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations asked me if --
Hon Mr Wrye: I’ll give my list of investigations now --
The Deputy Speaker: Order, please.
Mr Sterling: I say to the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations, my priority is public safety first and the prosecution of criminals second. Those are my priorities.
The Deputy Speaker: Order, please.
Mr Sterling: My priorities are not to stand up and say, “We prosecuted criminals and we were successful in putting them behind bars.”
The Deputy Speaker: Order, please.
Mr Sterling: You are arguing in the opposite way and your Minister of the Environment has exhibited that kind of philosophy over the last four years. Quite frankly, it is losing credibility in the community and it is losing credibility with the public.
The Deputy Speaker: Will the member address his remarks through the Speaker, please?
Mr Sterling: The second point we are hearing this afternoon from the Liberal backbenchers, such as the member for Kingston and The Islands, is whether or not there really is a problem here. Is there a problem?
We are being asked whether or not this is all for nought. “We don’t think there is a problem.” The member for Kingston and The Islands was saying we have to prove the allegations. I heard a member on my left, when one of the other members of the opposition was speaking, say, and chant: “Prove it, prove it, prove it that there’s a problem here.”
We have heard before that other ministers in other governments have been willing to act when in fact the potential for damage was far less than the potential for damage that I consider possible here.
Mr Miller: Like Morley Kells?
Mr Sterling: The member across the way talks about the election of 1985 when a Minister of the Environment at that time made a poor decision in reacting to a spill of PCBs in northern Ontario. I disagreed with the Minister of the Environment at that particular time, and I thought he reacted terribly to the situation.
Mr Reycraft: Like Bill 30. He waited too long; he waited until after the election to say something.
Mr Sterling: I will tell this to the member for Middlesex (Mr Reycraft): This minister’s reaction to this is worse than the minister’s reaction in May 1985 or prior to that time. The Minister of the Environment is risking more lives and more people’s health in this province than the Minister of the Environment, Mr Kells, was in April 1985 by his reaction to the PCB spill near Kenora.
Mr Dietsch: That’s not true, and you know it. You’re grasping for straws.
The Deputy Speaker: Order, please.
Mr Sterling: The reaction of the Liberal Party during that particular debate --
Hon Mr Wrye: You just want to grandstand, Norm.
Mr Dietsch: Step up on that soapbox so everybody can see you.
The Deputy Speaker: Order, please.
Mr Sterling: The reaction of outrage by the Liberal candidates during that particular election --
Mr Villeneuve: And the leader of the Liberal party.
Mr Sterling: And the leader, the now Premier. The outrage with regard to this spill of PCBs and their saying that there should be an immediate reaction to that kind of happening in Ontario, is contrasted to what we have seen happen in this Legislature today and over the past three days, when the Minister of the Environment will not answer questions as to specifics as to when in fact he found out about this particular problem.
Hon Mr Wrye: He gave answers. You just didn’t like the answers.
The Deputy Speaker: Order, please.
Mr Sterling: He does not want to answer, we can only surmise, for two possible reasons. Number one is that maybe he did not know about this problem and it was only the officials of his staff who did know. On the other hand, if he did know, why is he refusing to tell the public when he did in fact know about this particular problem?
In the past few days we have heard a lot of rhetoric, both on the government side here and also in the federal Parliament. In the federal Parliament, it is interesting to note that once a member here, now a member there, Sheila Copps, was chastising the federal minister, Mr Bouchard, for not taking action on this matter when it is very clear now that Mr Bouchard only found out about this very recently. His ministry knew about it, but in fact he did not know about it. The minister there did not know about it; this minister did and has not taken any action.
Hon Mr Bradley: I have listened with a good deal of interest to the interventions of all members of the House this afternoon on a matter of great importance, I think, to the people of Ontario, and certainly a matter which is most appropriate to the Legislative Assembly and for discussion in the Legislative Assembly. I was supportive of the opportunity to have this matter discussed in the House.
Many of the people who have spoken on all sides of the House are people for whom I have a good deal of respect, for the opinions that they would advance on this issue or other issues and for the points of view that they happen to bring to this issue.
Members would know that we have in Ontario, among a number of the branches of the Ministry of the Environment, the investigations and enforcement branch. It is one which is growing rather rapidly and has been a very active branch in dealing with a lot of allegations and problems that have arisen.
The Ministry of the Environment’s investigations and enforcement branch has for some time, as we would expect, had concerns about all aspects of problems that might be before us, including that of waste, the transportation of waste, the disposal of waste and the misuse of waste in this province.
We are, I guess, one of the few jurisdictions where this kind of very extensive investigation, this kind of wide activity is going on in this field. It probably exists in a number of other areas where people have not devoted that much time, effort and energy to it.
Our investigations and enforcement branch decided to look at several aspects of the problem, particularly as it might relate to the transportation in and out of the province, what might originate in Ontario going to another jurisdiction or what might be coming into this province.
As a ministry, we wanted to determine the extent of the problem and who would be responsible for it, not simply those who are the immediate perpetrators of any particular crime but those who are ultimately responsible, those who are the kingpins -- I guess that is the word commonly used -- in this particular business. Our investigations and enforcement branch went out and looked at some of those problems.
I guess it was last summer that I indicated Ontario would be banning waste oil as a dust suppressant in the province. There were a lot of people who criticized that, who felt that it was an action which was taken too drastically and so on. But I can remember going up to Lake Clear at one time when there had been oil spread on a road as a dust suppressant, and I think it was identified as making its way into Lake Clear. We were concerned about that. There was some direct evidence available that in fact this had happened, and we banned waste oil on the public roads of the province.
In addition to that, we had a general concern about how waste might move across a border. I think a number of jurisdictions had that concern. We established checkpoints at the border to determine the extent of the problem. But in addition to that, our ministry wanted to ensure that there were other kinds of investigations that took place, not simply at the borders but at other places in Ontario; so it set up surveillance in many locations.
You try as well as you can in the initial stages of an investigation, I suppose, not to let people know that it is happening. Eventually that information does come out, the fact that an investigation is on, and the knowledge of that really then becomes a source of deterrence for those who might be perpetrating any particular crime of this nature.
For that reason, we did, as I say getting the information together, decide one place where we could do some rather good checking through our investigations and enforcement branch was at border points. We established checkpoints -- 11 to 13 April along the Niagara River and 18 to 20 April along the St Lawrence River -- where our people could actually do some testing to determine what the problems might be.
We looked at all aspects of waste problems. We looked particularly at what appeared on a manifest and tried to determine if what appears on the manifest is the same as what is actually in a tanker truck which would be carrying waste or another substance.
I remember in the Queenston Heights area, for instance, at the Queenston-Lewiston Bridge, I got an opportunity to be present at the conclusion of one of these checks -- it was right near the end of that particular check at that time. There was a vehicle that was supposedly carrying steel. It was leaking some kind of liquid at that time as well. Of course, we would investigate matters of that kind. We were concerned about a number of these.
The Ontario Provincial Police was there for the purpose of dealing with violations related to the vehicle itself. For instance, the former Minister of the Environment would be aware that we want to ensure that the vehicles that are carrying any of these substances have the proper signage -- that is under the Dangerous Goods Transportation Act -- and also that the vehicles are in good condition. That was part of that as well.
In addition to that, we had representation from the federal Department of the Environment at both locations and were pleased to have that. We had co-operation from the customs and excise division of the Department of National Revenue, which was very kind, particularly along the Niagara River when it allowed us to use its property for the purposes. We had some facilities there -- a computer, for instance, where you could type in the necessary information which would be on the computer sheet or the manifest to determine what the problem was.
We did these investigations, and those are ongoing. We stopped 383 trucks. I emphasize that it is only part of it, because we are looking at other parts of Ontario. We took 113 additional samples for detailed laboratory analysis, and the kind of immediate charges we were able to lay were 18. More significant charges are those that would arise from a subsequent investigation; we had about 23 follow-up investigations, I guess it was.
We believed that by gathering this information we could do two things. First of all, we could confirm any allegations or suggestions that were out there that in fact this was happening and determine to a certain extent how widespread it would be. That is one aspect of it. The second aspect, of course, is to build a case which we could take to court and prosecute.
I know my friend the member for Carleton (Mr Sterling) has been critical. That is his position and I accept that. He is an honest and sincere intervener in this House at all times, and I accept his position. He believes that we have perhaps placed too much emphasis on the prosecution end of things in Ontario.
That is a judgement we have had to make, both to use that as a deterrent and to determine the extent of the problem. We have indeed increased rather significantly the investigations and enforcement branch and the resources available to it. I believe sincerely that that is an advantage to Ontario, and I hope that the member would eventually agree that it is.
I indicated as well that, as a result of some of the problems that were arising, we should continue to investigate even into the future, and I indicated some of the ways in which we could change.
The member for Sarnia (Mr Brandt) has been very interested in this matter. For instance, on a number of occasions I indicated in the House to the member that the investigations had been going on for a number of months through the Ministry of the Environment.
Certainly we looked at several aspects. As I mentioned, we looked at crankcase oil and how that might be affected as a dust suppressant. Then we looked at general problems that existed, and how we were going to undertake those investigations.
In the early part of this year, in January, our ministry decided it would look as well at the possibility of mixing waste with fuel to determine whether that was a problem. There were accusations --
Mr Brandt: It has been 47 seconds and you won’t tell us when.
Hon Mr Bradley: The member was not listening. I just gave the answer to that.
Mr Brandt: No, you did not give me the answer. When did you first know?
Hon Mr Bradley: I gave the answer a moment ago. The member should read Hansard.
What I said to the member, in fact, was that at the beginning of this year our ministry determined there could be a possibility of fuel mixing taking place. That is one of the many aspects of it.
I do not want to be the person responsible for jeopardizing a potential case before the courts and determine what could be confirmed or not confirmed. I must act on evidence that can be confirmed -- I cannot act on speculation -- and that is what our ministry has attempted to do.
Mr Mackenzie: The Minister of the Environment today gave this House and the people of Ontario a performance that as far as I am concerned was a disgrace. A better word than disgrace might be a rather sick performance in this House today.
In answer to 13 questions, the minister refused to tell us when he first knew, and that is pretty fundamental and something that affects the health of the people of Ontario. I am told -- I have not heard it -- that he went out to the scrum and said January was when he first knew. I do not know whether that is the truth or not, but I still have not heard him say that in this House.
We also were exposed to a minister who tried to puff up his own perceived importance by, I think, foolishly trying to don Inspector Clouseau’s hat and trying to turn a disaster in the province into a political Brownie point. In doing so, as far as I and most members of this House are concerned, he has dug an even bigger hole for himself and has made himself look both childish and foolish.
The bottom line is that contaminated oil containing PCBs, dioxins, furans, which are dangerous and health-threatening--anybody who has worked in terms of health and safety in the workplace knows just how seriously they take PCBs and dioxins -- have been added to supposedly clean fuel and trucked into Ontario and apparently, if the information is correct, sold to truckers, hospitals, heavy equipment dealers, greenhouses, gas stations and probably even individual houses through some of the smaller dealers.
A large number of people in Ontario have been exposed for months, as far as we know, to substances, possibly in strengths of as much as 25 times the permitted level in terms of PCBs. Some scientists, incidentally, say that we are incorrect in stating there is a permitted level of PCBs.
What is the defence we have heard in this House? The defence, not only from the minister himself but from a number of his colleagues who have talked, is that we need a further investigation, we need to nail down the criminal kingpins and nail them to the wall. I find this almost unbelievable in itself, but surely it begs the question of what is most important, the minister’s ego or the safety and health of the citizens of Ontario. When we have a leak of PCBs in a plant, let me tell the members, they evacuate that before they know who is responsible or what caused the leak.
Is it not the real responsibility and job of a minister in Ontario to see that what comes first is the safety and health of its citizens? Like others, I was appalled at the actions and body language of the Premier and the Attorney General. They certainly belittled themselves here today with their smirks, laughs and rather weak catcalls in response to the continuous and legitimate question, when did the minister know?
It is sad that the truth seems to be so difficult to get out of this government. Were the OPP involved or not? Why the different positions of the minister and the Solicitor General? Why the difference between the federal and provincial ministers? Why not, for once at least in this House, lead with the truth?
I think the people of Ontario are beginning to understand a fundamental flaw in this government. That flaw is arrogance and the huge majority they have had. It is an arrogance we saw in the remarks from the member for Kingston and The Islands, who simply said: “Hey, we’re investigating it. Trust us on the deal.” I have to tell them I do not have much trust for them.
Unless the Minister of the Environment can tell us in this House that it is not true, that the toxic substances have not been mixed and not delivered to establishments in Ontario, unless he can tell us that is not true, then he has fundamentally failed in his job, because I submit that in his job it is much more important to protect the health and safety of the people of Ontario than it is to investigate further and find out just what kinds of concentrations there are in terms of these substances in Ontario.
If he cannot tell us that this has not happened, then he should have alerted the people immediately he knew the stuff was coming in. I suggest that would have been as much a deterrent as anything they have done, rather than let them continue for months with these substances. We do not know now what the effects will be or how many people may be affected by exposure to this.
Mr Ballinger: They may not be getting toxins.
Mr Mackenzie: They may not, but we do not know that. We should have moved a heck of a lot faster. If there are dioxins, furans and polychlorinated biphenyls involved, then it is certainly a very real and very serious threat. We did not respond in a way that would take care of the interests of the people before the minister’s desire to try to look good and see what he could find out in an investigation. As I say, he put on his Inspector Clouseau hat.
I think what has happened here in this House today is a disgrace. This government is going to have to answer for it for a long time.
Mr Villeneuve: I too participate in this emergency debate with some degree of apprehension. It is rather difficult to accept that the ministry and the minister are credible when we had the kind of performance we had this afternoon during the beginning of question period.
In the speech from the throne, it was mentioned that the government plans to reduce emissions from automobiles. I am wondering now, does this simply mean that they want to reduce PCBs and other illegal toxic additives or are they going beyond that?
It is a very good question whenever the member for Kingston and The Islands says they do not really know whether PCBs, solvents, dioxins and furans are toxic. Why are we spending $70 million? Why has $70 million already been spent by the Ontario Waste Management Corp. on a facility to be built to destroy PCBs in Ontario? Would we have invested seven years of study and $70 million plus if these toxic chemicals were not very dangerous to our very existence?
Members of this government today are telling us that they want to make sure that indeed these illegal additives are harmful to our environment. It is hard to believe. The credibility of this ministry and this government --
Mr Callahan: Read the spills bill.
Mr Brandt: Bob, what’s that got to do with this?
Mr Callahan: A lot.
The Acting Speaker: Order, please. The member for Brampton South (Mr Callahan) will have an opportunity to speak in about eight minutes when the member for Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry has concluded,
Mr Villeneuve: Thank you very much, Mr Speaker. I know some of the statements that are being made today are just a little bit beyond what these members would like to hear because all of a sudden their credibility has gone down several notches. I will prove before I have finished my 10-minute presentation why some of these people are just a little bit nervous about this emergency debate.
What, for instance, Mr Speaker, do you think Domtar, when it is being charged for polluting the environment -- I agree it should be charged -- is going to tell representatives of the ministry who are doing the charging? “You people allowed PCBs, solvents and toxic materials to be burned in vehicles in the province of Ontario.” Is that not really what you and I would say? Who is calling the kettle black here?
Kraft, for instance, is processing nature’s most perfect food. Ault Foods, similarly. Both have been charged under the Environmental Protection Act. Yet the boilers where they are burning fuel are probably polluting the environment at this particular time as much as the effluent. We do not know this. This is the type of credibility, or lack thereof, that we are going to have presented to ministry officials all the time.
Mr Villeneuve: The rump just cannot stand this and I can appreciate that. They are having a great deal of difficulty.
Charlottenburgh, a municipality in eastern Ontario represented by my colleague the member for Cornwall (Mr Cleary), was charged under the Environmental Protection Act. What are Charlottenburgh residents and the municipality going to say whenever they find out this minister has allowed this to go on and he will not tell us for how long?
I thought the bomb analogy used by a couple of members here was interesting. It is like the police telling you, “There is a bank robbery in progress but we want to catch the culprits, so we will wait till they come out.” In the meantime, everybody is shot; and yes, you get them when they come out, but it does not really make any difference.
The minister in his presentation just a few moments ago said he was going to ban waste oil. It is great rhetoric to ban waste oil, but it winds up in your gas tank and you are burning it and it is polluting the atmosphere. That is what happens. The cynicism and the lipservice that is being paid by this government at this particular time is very difficult to accept and to believe.
I happen to have in my pocket a fund-raising letter from the Ontario Liberal Party. It is signed by someone who is intimately close to the Solicitor General, a fellow by the name of Don Smith. I am sure members will be interested. It reads in part, as follows:
“The Ontario Liberal Party knows that the deterioration of our environment is not invisible. It can be seen and felt daily, because when we talk about the environment we are not just talking about clean air, lakes and rivers; it is much more than that. Environmental protection goes to the very root of the way we live. It concerns our lifestyle and personal health and our continued economic prosperity.”
This comes from people who are paying lipservice to the environment. I will quote a little more, because it is most interesting whenever this government, this party, uses the environment to try and hoodwink the Ontario public into providing funds for this party. I emphasize the word “hoodwink.”
“Under the guidance of the Ontario Liberal government, our province has begun to come to grips with the critically important environmental issues facing our society.” Is that the kind of facing the problems that the minister is doing? “We intend to continue to spend the time, effort and money necessary to clean up our air, water and soil.” Does that mean burning illegal toxic materials in our gas tanks, with the minister knowing and not stopping it? Why have we spent $70 million to get rid of PCBs?
“Meeting the environmental challenge will take time and strength of purpose.” Well, well, well; how much time? The minister will not tell us how long he has known we have a very toxic situation here. “We need a committed government” -- we surely do; we do not have one right now -- “one with a proven record.” I must say that up until this particular incident, it had a reasonable record, but its notches have gone down very considerably since this news recently broke.
“Will you offer the same commitment” -- they are asking their Liberal friends -- “by sending a cheque?” To all the Liberals out in Ontario, I say: “When you consider sending a cheque, remember the emergency debate that occurred in the Legislature today and remember some of the things you thought this government was doing. You are now realizing it has led you down the garden path and it is a garden that is now polluted with PCBs, etc.”
In summation, the speech from the throne said this government wanted to reduce emissions from car exhausts. Ethanol-methanol gas will do that; not adding PCBs, solvents and whatever other toxic, illegal material. Existing gas pollutes more than EM gas. Unleaded gas currently used in Canada uses a compound called MMT to boost octane, but MMT is banned in the United States because it increases the emissions of hydrocarbons, some of which are carcinogenic. Because alcohol has proven to have oxygen in its chemical makeup, it reduces carbon monoxide emissions by up to 30 per cent. This is an important factor in urban areas.
With respect to the ozone formation, EM gas is considered neutral compared to normal gas. Our octane additives in Ontario are illegal in the United States. Quite obviously, PCBs and other toxic materials are illegal all over. This government is allowing them to be used in this province.
Mr J. B. Nixon: The motion before this Legislature, which caused the emergency debate, indeed touches upon very serious matters. The concern I have about this motion being before the Legislature is the nature of the allegations made and the justification for those allegations, as put to us by the opposition parties. In particular, I would like to note that the movers of both emergency debates are not here to debate this emergency.
Mr J. B. Nixon: The opposition parties thought this was an emergency. They brought the motions. The movers are not here.
Mrs Marland: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I understand the rules of this House require that only facts be stated, and the fact was just stated that I was not in the House as a mover of the second motion requiring this emergency debate into tainted fuel oil. Will the record show that I am indeed in the House?
Mrs Grier: The motion of the New Democratic Party stood in my name and was moved in my momentary absence after question period by the leader of my party, but the motion was filed in my name and I am here.
Mr J. B. Nixon: Let us be patently clear: The leaders of the parties who brought these motions are not present. They are not here. They thought it was an emergency. They wanted to take up the valuable House time to debate it and they are not present. The member for Mississauga South is leaving the Legislature. I tell members, these people have little, if no interest, in the matter they purported to want to debate.
I was very confused about this debate when I read the notice of motion. Let me tell members why I was confused: The debate that was purported to be taking place, according to the opposition parties, was and is a debate about the truth. I said to myself: “Let’s go back to first principles. Let’s find out what the job of the Minister of the Environment is.”
The Minister of the Environment has a public trust, not only as an elected member of this Legislature, but as a minister of the crown. The Environmental Protection Act, which he is obliged to act in accordance with, which he is obliged to administer, which no member of the opposition is obliged to administer, no member of the opposition is obliged to read or even care about, states, under section 3, that the first duty, in numerical order, of the Minister of the Environment is to “investigate problems of pollution, waste management, waste disposal, litter management and litter disposal.” That is what he is doing. That is what he has been doing. He has been doing his job.
In 1980, the former Progressive Conservative government passed a piece of legislation called the Environmental Protection Act, which said that the fines and penalties for breaching the act would be a maximum of $5,000 on the first offence and $10,000 on the second offence. If an offence has taken place in this case, if there is a successful prosecution, had we had the old legislation that the Progressive Conservatives had, the maximum fine would have been $5,000 on the first offence and $10,000 on the second offence: nothing more than a licence to pollute and a licence to violate the Environmental Protection Act.
Now, after 1986 and amendments under this Liberal government to the Environmental Protection Act, the maximum fine on the first offence is $250,000, the maximum fine on the second offence is $500,000 and there is a jail sentence to which every polluter is exposed.
The Acting Speaker: Order, please.
Mr J. B. Nixon: That is the first time in the history of Ontario that a polluter could be exposed to a jail sentence and a fine of $500,000 for each and every offence.
The parties in the opposition have engaged for at least three hours in the dubious political virtues of gossip, innuendo and rhetoric. Nothing more than that: innuendo, gossip and rhetoric. They have put no evidence before this House of an illegal transaction. They have put no evidence before this House of a polluting act having taken place. They have read newspaper headlines dealing with such comments as, “Bootleggers Making Millions.”
The sources of their allegations, the sources of their evidence, are newspaper articles which read, among other things, “One Toronto bootlegger, who was horrified to learn that he had been selling contaminated fuel, described how his business worked.” What better sources to base an emergency debate upon I cannot imagine. If they are dealing in bootleggers’ evidence and bootleggers’ allegations published in the Globe and Mail, I have to say to them they have not got a case.
What they do not understand and what they do not want to deal with is that if we have a serious problem -- and no one is suggesting here that we may not have a serious problem -- we have to deal with it with hard police work: facts, evidence, investigation, which they do not want to do because it is not sexy, it is not glamorous and it is not going to get them a headline.
The Minister of the Environment knows what his responsibility is. He has taken his responsibility seriously. He has exercised political judgement, his political judgement being quite clear that we have to get to the bottom of this, the investigation has to continue, the facts have to be determined, and they want to ignore that. The fact is that all investigations take hard police work, which they do not see and they do not talk about in their day-to-day dealings with the press or with media or in this Legislature. We cannot ignore that.
If the members opposite want him to discontinue the police investigation or if they want him to abandon an investigation, they should stand up and say so. But in the course of making an investigation, a minister has very serious responsibilities indeed, responsibilities which they would rather obscure or, I am sorry, ignore.
I find it embarrassing, as a member of this Legislature, that elected members would advocate investigation curtailment or disruption of a very serious police investigation, something that they fail to understand, and I ask the members to consider that --
Mr J. B. Nixon: I am sorry. If the members opposite do not understand what a police investigation is, I cannot help them. I really cannot help them.
Another problem I would point out to them is that they have heard from the Minister of the Environment. He has stood up and told them the extent and nature of the investigations that have taken place. He has told them about the expansion of the enforcement division of the Ministry of the Environment. They have chosen to ignore that.
They have heard that there were over 300 investigations taking place in the last month. They ignore that. They ignore the fact that he is doing his job in the most superior way, and yet the members from the third party want to quote our Ottawa brethren. I suggest to them that they listen to the words of their Ottawa brother Mr Bouchard, who says: “I don’t know everything that is going on in my department. I try to know the most I can.”
Mr Villeneuve: There is an honest minister.
Mr J. B. Nixon: An honest minister who is not doing his job. That is the fundamental difference here. We have a minister who is doing his job, a minister who has made a tough political decision to continue that investigation, as if there was any doubt.
The Acting Speaker: Thank you. The time remaining will permit another speaker. The member for Sault Ste Marie.
Mr Morin-Strom: What we are facing here today in this emergency debate is a situation which represents the most serious dereliction of duty that I have seen as a member of this Legislature.
The Minister of the Environment has not fulfilled his obligation, his position, to the people of the province of Ontario with respect to this matter. He has sat on information. He has not passed on that information. He has refused to tell what has happened to the Legislature today and, most seriously, he has refused to tell the general public of Ontario of a very serious health risk which has been facing this province for months, if not years.
The minister took a stand that he was going to be the white knight to save the province of Ontario and, as he says, get the kingpins in this operation. In order to do that, he has quite clearly suppressed information. He has not passed it on to others within his own cabinet, he has not passed it on to federal authorities and, most seriously, he has not passed it on to the general public, whose health is at risk in this particular matter.
This minister has taken actions which are really a total insult to every member of this Legislature. Today, he was asked 13 times in a row when he knew about the tainted fuels coming into the province of Ontario. He stonewalled this Legislature. He would not tell us the facts. He refused to pass on the information that he knows with respect to this very serious matter.
Beyond the timing, there is the issue of “What did he know and what did he do about it?” The fact is that nothing has been done about it. Those shipments continue to come into this province. The public has not been informed of the dangers. Why did this minister not take actions in the interest of the government of Ontario and the public?
Yesterday, we heard the Premier being asked about this matter and the Premier saying that he did not know or was not aware. The Minister of the Environment did not pass on this very serious information with respect to an investigation that he was conducting internally in his own ministry to his own Premier and his own cabinet.
If he were serious about getting the kingpins and not the small fry, as he has been quoted as saying all over the media today, surely he would not be relying on his own ministry inspectors to get what he has claimed is organized crime involvement in this action. He would have got federal authorities and the OPP involved.
We know from the answers we got yesterday from the Solicitor General that in fact she knew nothing about it. She said that her officials and the OPP were investigating solely the tax scam which obviously is associated in this matter.
Why would this minister have withheld information of such critical importance to the province of Ontario and, as he has said, involved organized crime in his effort to get the kingpins and not involved our own provincial police, the RCMP and the federal minister?
Most seriously, why has this minister neglected his duty to the people of the province, his responsibility to look out for the safety and health of our environment and general public? The minister has neglected his duty. He has refused public disclosure on this matter. He has played games with the Legislature. He has been fighting windmills in other areas, in other jurisdictions, and he has been asleep at the switch when it comes to protecting the public in Ontario.
For months he has been sitting on this, refusing to act in the interests of the people of this province. “It’s going to be a long, hot summer,” said the minister, and his long, hot summer is right now. This minister has to go; this is the end of it for this minister.
The Acting Speaker: Order, please. It now being six o’clock, this debate is adjourned and concluded.
Hon Mr Conway: Mr Speaker, if I might, I would like to seek unanimous consent to revert to motions to deal with tomorrow’s order of business.
The Acting Speaker: Do we have unanimous consent?
Hon Mr Conway: I want to thank my colleagues for that.
PRIVATE MEMBERS’ PUBLIC BUSINESS
Hon Mr Conway moved that notwithstanding the order of the House of 26 April 1989, private members’ public business shall be considered tomorrow, Thursday, 11 May 1989, at 10 am.
Motion agreed to.
The House adjourned at 1801.