The House met at 1330.
Mr Mackenzie: Workers at the Kendall Canada plant on Curity Avenue in Toronto are now in the process of losing their jobs as a result of the sale of part of the operation and the move of the remainder of the operation to Peterborough.
Both I and the union, the United Steelworkers of America, have written to the Minister of Labour (Mr Sorbara) and the Premier (Mr Peterson) over the cavalier treatment of the workers and their pension fund. Workers were not given the option of moving to the new plant. The company also wants to use surplus funds in the pension plan to cover employees not in the plan.
In a letter to me dated 28 March 1989, the Minister of Labour stated, “I am advised that the union apparently did not at any point formally propose that current employees in Toronto enjoy transfer rights to the Peterborough location.”
The response from the union to this stupid statement is as follows: “I don’t know where Sorbara is getting his information from, but most of his reply is fiction, not fact.”
The company made it very clear from day one that they had no intention of taking any present employees, including salaried personnel, to the new location.
It gets even worse, and the minister has been informed. Where does this Minister of Labour get his information? What hope do these and other workers have, facing closures with a minister and a government that refuse any help and do not honour their commitment to plant closure legislation in the province of Ontario?
Mr Villeneuve: As recent events have again demonstrated, the government which promised us no walls and barriers has proven to be a government without standards and credibility.
Since 1985, we have witnessed the steady erosion of the government’s standards of accountability and responsibility. Beginning with the infamous Liberal Economic Advisory Forum, better known as LEAF, this House has heard numerous complaints about the tollgating practices of this administration.
Since 1985, we have witnessed the resignation of four cabinet ministers: two because of conflict of interest and two because of conduct unacceptable to either this House or the people of this province. We have seen this government pass a conflict-of-interest law which the Premier (Mr Peterson) likes to boast about but which is nothing more than a public disclosure requirement substantially weakening previous conflict-of-interest guidelines.
When the opposition finds this government’s conduct unacceptable, when the opposition is provoked by the government’s indifference and complacency to use the parliamentary tools available to it to force the government into some semblance of appropriate action, then the government falls into a petulant sulk, pouts about the hijacking in the process and threatens to change the rules.
If this administration would simply change the way it manages its own house and practise what it preaches, it would not have to worry at all about the rules of this House.
Mr Dietsch: It gives me great pleasure to inform the honourable members of this House of recent awards received by two wineries in my riding of St Catharines-Brock.
Konzelmann Estate Winery won a gold and a bronze medal at the recent Intervin wine competition, which is a world wine competition. Their gold winner was the 1987 icewine, while the popular 1986 Gewürztraminer white wine took the bronze.
Hillebrand Estates Winery, which also took part in the competition, received a gold medal for its 1987 icewine, silver for its 1987 Collectors’ Choice Chardonnay and 1987 Late Harvest Vidal. The bronze medal went to their 1988 Riesling Classic, 1988 Limited Edition Barrel Fermented Chardonnay and their 1987 Riesling Cuvée.
The marking for a wine is based on 18 criteria and scored out of 100. Wines scoring 85 or more win a gold, 77 to 84 win a silver, while 70 to 77 win a bronze.
I hope that my colleagues in this Legislature will join with me in congratulating both Konzelmann and Hillebrand wineries on their recent success and, of course, support the excellent products of Ontario wineries, perhaps by picking up a bottle.
SENIOR CITIZENS MONTH
Ms Bryden: June is Senior Citizens Month. In order to give some meaning to this annual gesture of recognition to our seniors, I would like to urge the government to make commitments in four important areas for action this month. By so doing, it will show that its concern for seniors is not merely lip service.
First, bring in a provincial dental health plan for seniors, so they do not continue to lose their teeth and suffer loss of dignity and alienation. The government has been promising this since the 1985 election.
Second, bring in an amendment to the Residential Rent Regulation Act, 1986, to make it clear that rent review applies to retirement homes and retirement communities operated in the private sector.
Third, bring in an amendment to the Landlord and Tenant Act to ban no-pets clauses in tenancy agreements. Unscrupulous landlords are using such clauses to evict responsible pet owners. The present act provides adequate remedies for landlords facing irresponsible pet owners. Many seniors rely on their pets for companionship.
Fourth, provide extra funding to homes for the aged and nursing homes to install air conditioning or better ventilation to prevent a recurrence of last summer’s deaths, some of which appeared to be due to the heat wave. I think action is needed before the long, hot summer comes this year.
CONDUCT OF CABINET MINISTERS
Mr Pope: I just want to follow up on the comments of the member for Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry (Mr Villeneuve), while the Treasurer (Mr R. F. Nixon) is fanning himself with the product of his labours.
It is our feeling that this government, internally and for the benefit of the public of Ontario, should seriously address the issue that we attempted to question the Premier (Mr Peterson) on yesterday, which was the standards of conduct that will be provided to his cabinet ministers and letting the people of the province know what those standards are.
It appears clear there has been confusion in the mind of the Premier and confusion in this government over the handling of the sad events of the past two weeks. The Premier indicated at the beginning that he saw nothing wrong with the conduct of the former Solicitor General, the member for London South (Mrs Smith), and then finally, after constant questioning over a period of two weeks, admitted that her conduct amounted to a mistake, a mistake in judgement for which she had to resign. Then, of course, the Premier added to the media outside this chamber that he spent hours trying to convince her not to resign. Clearly, we are getting mixed signals from this government and from this Premier.
The Premier indicated yesterday that perhaps he was implementing the former Davis guidelines, but pointed to his legislation. Clearly, we need a direct, coherent, comprehensive statement of guidelines for the ministers of this government, and we want to ensure that the ministers are adhering to those guidelines.
Mr Tatham: In Los Angeles, the 17-mile Century Freeway project was allowed to proceed at $100 million per mile.
Here is an Aesop’s fable, The Cat and the Fox. Fox was boasting to a cat one day about how clever he was. “Why, I have a whole bag of tricks,” he bragged. “For instance, I know of at least 100 different ways of escaping my enemies, the dogs.”
“How remarkable,” said the cat. “As for me, I have only one trick, though I usually make it work. I wish you could teach me some of yours.”
“Well, some time when I have nothing else to do,” said the fox, “I might teach you one or two of my easier ones.”
Just at that moment, they heard the yelping of a pack of hounds. They were coining straight towards the spot where the cat and fox stood. Like a flash, the cat scampered up a tree and disappeared in the foliage. “This is the trick I told you about,” she called down to the fox. “It’s my only one. Which trick are you going to use?”
The fox sat there trying to decide which of his many tricks he was going to employ. Nearer and nearer came the hounds. When it was quite too late, the fox decided to run for it. But even before he started, the dogs were upon him, and that was the end of the fox, bagful of tricks and all.
Could we find a courageous, persevering young Genoese like Captain Christopher Columbus to discover America beyond stop, go, stop, stop, Metro? Contest closes October 12, 1992. That is the 500th anniversary of finding San Salvador.
Maybe high-speed rail might be part of that discovery. What do you say, Captain Columbus?
ONTARIO NORTH NOW
Mr Laughren: In years gone by, the northern Ontario pavilion called Ontario North Now at Ontario Place sold goods made in northern Ontario only. That was a policy of the previous government and the early days of this government.
For the last year or so, though, this government, for some reason known only to itself -- and I am glad the minister is here -- contracted out the operation of the gift shop there to International Cigars Stores, which in its wisdom decided that it would just as soon sell goods from around the world, and so much for the northern Ontario preference.
It makes absolutely no sense. There are thousands of gift shops in this province and this city. Surely to goodness, the pavilion at Ontario Place called Ontario North Now could be set aside to sell only products made in northern Ontario.
STATEMENTS BY THE MINISTRY
Hon Mr Sweeney: My statement today deals with long-term care for our elderly people and people with disabilities.
In the speech from the throne, the government promised the leadership necessary to chart a course for securing a better future for the people of Ontario.
Today, in partnership with my colleagues the Minister of Health (Mrs Caplan), the Minister without Portfolio responsible for senior citizens’ affairs (Mrs Wilson) and the Minister without Portfolio responsible for disabled persons (Mr Mancini), I want to reaffirm that leadership and outline the approach we are taking to achieve a fundamental change for people who need long-term care in Ontario.
As members will know, long-term care means personal health and social services delivered over an extended period of time to people who are either elderly or have physical disabilities.
Long-term care also means support for all those many hundreds of thousands of people throughout Ontario who devote so much time to assisting seniors and people with physical disabilities. We are talking about a system which involves and affects a great number of people.
The growing number of senior citizens and people with disabilities challenges us to rethink the way we serve people. We must develop a system that better integrates individual independence, family and care-giver support, in-home services and long-term care beds.
By early 1990, we will produce a plan to implement comprehensive reform of long-term care, with change beginning in the 1990-91 fiscal year. To this end, a special interministry task force, which my ministry is pleased to lead, has already commenced its work.
As we proceed along our course, we will be holding discussions with those groups that are most directly affected. Of course, I can assure all those in need throughout the province that the services they are now receiving will remain fully in place throughout this process.
Some months ago, we developed seven basic principles which are now being used to guide the comprehensive reform. These principles are being distributed along with this statement. Briefly, the principles are: to reform the funding system to emphasize individual needs; to support care givers; to encourage use of the most appropriate, cost-effective service; to emphasize services in people’s own homes; to establish a single, integrated admissions process; to strengthen the role of the local community and to ensure affordability and appropriate sharing of costs.
These principles are designed to maintain the independence of Ontario’s seniors and people with disabilities and support their family care givers. They will also strengthen community ability to plan and manage responsible health and social services within a provincial policy framework. This reform will ensure that the system is accessible and affordable, with costs shared appropriately among governments and the individuals affected.
A key decision reflected in these principles is to fund long-term care beds by using a levels-of-care approach. We will move to a system of funding that will be based primarily on the care required by each individual. The necessary services will be made available whether the individual lives at home, in a community home or in an institution. This is in keeping with our philosophy of making services fit people rather than forcing people to fit the services.
In addition, the reforms will establish a single admissions process for both formal community care services and long-term care beds. The reforms will reinforce our community care services to ensure that they really work as a reliable alternative to institutionalization. Indeed, appropriate care in the community will be the preferred approach in the system, just as it is the preference of Ontario’s citizens.
Services that help families and friends continue as care givers will be recognized as a fundamental part of the system. We must remember that most of the people who need long-term care will continue to be looked after at home by their families. Support for families to strengthen their ability to provide care is crucial in all our planning.
Comprehensive reform will address the needs of expansion of community services and improved support for these services. The wider scope for the reform process will incorporate the principle of one-stop access in the province-wide implementation of comprehensive reform.
Our approach builds on the extensive work that already has been initiated under A New Agenda to develop and test concepts to improve the organization of and access to our services. We will utilize the consultation experience of the past few years, including the analysis of extended care and legislation issues carried out by the minister responsible for senior citizens’ affairs.
As we move towards implementation, the mandate will be shared and the scope broadened to complement the government’s health policies and the strategies and directions set out by the Premier’s Council on Health Strategy.
With respect to the government’s health strategy, the recent announcement by my colleague the Minister of Health in which she launched a public education and discussion process on health care outlines the need to create a balanced continuum of long-term care, including home care, community care and extended care.
We therefore recognize the essential role that the long-term care system plays in overall health and social services. Comprehensive reform will position the long-term care system to match individual needs with appropriate services so that we can reduce unnecessary use of acute care beds and avoid overwhelming growth in the number of extended care and chronic care beds.
So that we produce the best reform possible, throughout the next months we will seek advice from groups affected by these proposed reforms. My colleagues the Minister of Health, the minister responsible for disabled persons and the minister responsible for senior citizens’ affairs and I are charged with the responsibility of enhancing and maintaining the health and social wellbeing of all the people of our province. We welcome this challenge and opportunity for reform.
HOUSING FOR THE DISABLED
Hon Mr Mancini: Many disabled adults and children living in Ontario today have special housing needs. As a government, we are working to help meet those needs. We must ensure equal access and equal opportunity so that all Ontarians may reach their full potential. That is the message we are highlighting this week during National Access Awareness Week.
The full integration of disabled persons into the social and economic life of this province must begin at home. The government of Ontario therefore recognizes this important priority. Over the next two years, we will add an additional $10 million to the Ontario home renewal program for disabled persons.
The Ministry of Housing will make these funds available to assist disabled home owners or home owners who have dependants or family members living with them to make suitable modifications to their homes. This program offers forgivable loans of up to $15,000 for home owners who earn up to a maximum of $60,000 per year. This additional funding means that about 1,000 more homes across the province will be made accessible for persons with disabilities.
Under this program, which began in 1987, funding to more than 750 home owners has been committed for such basic necessities as wheelchair ramps, stair glides and other permanent fixtures. This is not the only commitment being made. My colleague the Minister of Housing (Ms Hošek) oversees a broad range of programs that have built-in design and funding components to help meet the special housing needs of persons with disabilities.
The Ontario Housing Corp is also involved in an ongoing retrofit program. Local housing authorities are making modifications of apartments where necessary to assist tenants with disabilities. The Metropolitan Toronto Housing Authority is leading the way. The Metropolitan Toronto Housing Authority unveiled the first of two wheelchair-accessible model apartments at its Moss Park development. This year, MTHA plans to modify 53 specially equipped units in 31 high-rise buildings for tenants who are wheelchair users. MTHA has allocated an initial $1.5 million this year for the program and will be setting aside a similar amount for 1990.
These programs and the sensitivities of the people who make them work underline this government’s commitment to providing opportunities for persons with disabilities. The Ministry of Housing is acting on the message that persons with disabilities need and want equal access, and this is a message that should echo loud and clear to all of us here in Ontario.
EVACUATION OF ONTARIANS FROM CHINA
Hon Mr Wong: I would like to bring to the attention of this House the steps that are being taken by the Ontario government to ensure the safety of Ontarians who are leaving China in view of the deterioration of the situation since last weekend.
The federal government is arranging the evacuation operations, particularly from Beijing, for any Canadians wishing to leave, including Ontarians. However, because a number of Ontarians were outside of Beijing in the province of Jiangsu as a result of Ontario exchange programs, Ontario officials in Tokyo, Hong Kong, Nanjing and Toronto have been working continuously in co-operation with the Canadian embassy in Beijing and the consulate in Shanghai to locate and provide safe transportation out of China for Ontarians wishing to leave.
They include Ontario exchange participants in programs sponsored by the Ministry of Colleges and Universities -- the Ontario-Jiangsu education exchange; the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Technology -- the Tradewinds program; the Ministry of Tourism and Recreation -- the Ontario-Jiangsu sports exchange; and also the Ontario staff of the Ontario-Jiangsu Science and Technology Centre in Nanjing.
The one Ontario exchange participant in Beijing has arrived in Tokyo today on the flight from Beijing as part of the evacuation organized by the Canadian embassy. Also on that flight was an Ontario student who had been studying in Jiangsu, who was on a trip to Beijing. Through the Ontario-Jiangsu Science and Technology Centre in Nanjing, the Ontarians in Jiangsu are preparing to leave immediately. The seven who are at Suzhou University are now at the Sheraton Hotel in Shanghai with an official of the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Technology, expecting to leave for Hong Kong on a Qantas flight today or leave on a Canadian International or United Airlines flight tomorrow.
The Ontarians in Nanjing, including students, teachers and coaches, are with an official of the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Technology at the Dingshan Hotel in Nanjing. They are expected to depart Nanjing for Hong Kong either on a flight chartered by Ontario on Thursday, 8 June or on a commercial flight on Friday, 9 June on which 17 seats are confirmed.
An Ontario teacher in Wuxi is travelling by car tomorrow morning to Nanjing in order to join the group in Nanjing for their flight to Hong Kong on Thursday or Friday.
I can assure members that all the Ontario officials in Tokyo, Hong Kong, Nanjing and Queen’s Park who have been working on these measures will continue their efforts to ensure safe transportation out of China for all Ontario exchange participants wishing to leave. While our immediate concern has been for the safety of Ontarians now in China, our thoughts remain with the Chinese people, and especially those grieving for family and friends.
HOUSING FOR THE DISABLED
Mr Allen: I guess I am not really in the mood today for these kinds of announcements. The announcement of the Minister without Portfolio responsible for disabled persons (Mr Mancini) appears to be suggesting that there is some additional money going into housing and equipping houses for accessibility. That is well and good, but I think one remembers what happened under Project 2000, the way the moneys were diluted and the time extended. It looked as if it was a good thing when it was announced, but when we looked at it, it really did not amount to a great deal. In fact, it was a step down from what was available previously for those with special needs.
I am not really going to say very much about the honourable minister’s announcement because I think it bears some analysis, to look at the actual need that is out there, seeing how far it goes and how many years will have to be in the process before we make all those homes and all those facilities available for the disabled.
Mr Allen: When I come to the announcement of the Minister of Community and Social Services (Mr Sweeney) with respect to his new program of community-based, family-oriented, cost-effective services to look after the disabled and the elderly, I have to wonder where it is coming from.
Is this coming from the Price Waterhouse studies that were a belated study of the integrated homemakers’ service and the home care service out there? Is this a response to the three-year interministerial study of the homemakers’ service that went on for so long and yielded nothing a year ago in terms of any observable results?
The minister suggests in his very fine words that this is “to establish a single, integrated admissions process; to strengthen the role of the local community,” and that “this is in keeping with our philosophy of making services fit people, rather than forcing people to fit into services.”
The last time the minister went out with that philosophy was with the integrated homemakers’ program and it was a total mess. If the minister does it on that loose basis, obviously he is going to have to do it without very strict guidelines. What they found out was that the takeup was so heavy they could not manage it, either in their administration, in their funding or anything else. We have not had a resolution to that problem to date. Is this a response to that problem and that unresolved issue? I do not know. The minister does not say.
Certainly there is no dollar sign attached. Is this more commitment than we would have had under the integrated homemakers’ program, had it expanded? We do not know, All we know is that under the integrated homemakers’ program, the result was that prior to the last election we had an announcement. There was going to be an expansion of 20 new centres in the integrated homemakers’ program.
What happened was that within a month there was evidence the system was collapsing. A month later, the deputy minister was telling us that the whole system was on hold, that it was capped. A few months later, we learned that services were going into massive deficit. Then we virtually had a major strike of the Red Cross homemakers’ organization and ancillary services.
There are a lot of words in this announcement and a lot of them are very nice, but I must say that this is a way of backing up the system once more on to families who will remain hard pressed. We know there are waiting lists upon waiting lists for services of all kinds for these people out there, whether one is talking about nursing homes, options for nursing homes, chronic care or all the rest of it.
Perhaps it is my mood, but I really think we deserve something more explicit, something more precise, something more with dollar signs attached, something that tells us where this actually came from in terms of the ongoing administration and development of services for the elderly and for the disabled in our community.
EVACUATION OF ONTARIANS FROM CHINA
Mr Reville: I want to thank the Minister of Energy (Mr Wong) for his statement today in which he discusses the measures being taken to ensure the safety of Ontarians in China. I know they and their loved ones will be reassured by the efforts the government is taking.
I am a little disappointed he did not respond to the suggestions I made yesterday, which the Premier (Mr Peterson) thought were good ideas, about organizational leadership for assistance to people in China and about compassionate relief for Chinese nationals studying in Ontario. There is an additional concern that I have just learned about. There is some concern that the exchange program may be cancelled. I believe it would be wrong to punish the program for the errors of the Chinese government.
HOUSING FOR THE DISABLED
Mrs Cunningham: I would like, first of all, to respond to the statement by the Minister without Portfolio responsible for disabled persons (Mr Mancini). I am going to look at this extremely optimistically because anything we do to ensure accessibility for people in their own homes or outside of their homes is very important.
I suppose the thing we are most concerned about is the fact that although we are looking at an additional $10 million, we are really only looking at helping some 1,000 more disabled people. I would hope the minister would be most efficient in the administration of these dollars, because we all know that we have one million disabled people living in our province at this time. That is a very large number. To stand here today and say we are going to help 1,000 more people is a step certainly in the right direction.
I suppose what I would really like to be able to do within the next few months is take a look at how the program has been administered and hope that even more than 1,000 individuals could be helped with this very small amount of money.
We in this party are interested in looking at progress and that is what we hope we are looking at today in the announcement from the Minister without Portfolio responsible for disabled persons.
Mrs Cunningham: In response to the Minister of Community and Social Services (Mr Sweeney), I suppose we have a number of comments to make. First of all, again we think we are looking at a move in the right direction. We are looking at it rather guardedly because we are looking at an interministerial committee. That we approve of. We have always been arguing and been very much concerned about whose responsibility it really is when we come to senior citizens’ affairs and taking care of disabled seniors.
Right now, we are looking at this task force that will work together to be more efficient, again, in providing services for disabled seniors, seniors who are in need of health care and people who need long-term care, either in their own homes, in our communities or in institutions. For that, we say it is a good move in the right direction.
We are most concerned about the cost-sharing. We hope that during the consultations the municipalities and families will be very seriously listened to, because we know in these very difficult times that we will be looking at different ways of funding these programs, I am sure. What we really want is a commitment from the municipalities and from the families so that all of us are working very carefully together.
The last point I would like to make is that the services were promised in the past and we are now talking about only 16 of 38 centres being available for the public when it comes to integrated homemakers’ services. That was a promise that was made some three years ago. Really, what I hope is happening today is that we are looking at a promise that will (1) be acted upon and (2) be kept. The minister has a good reputation for responding to the province with intentions, and over the next short period of time we will be looking for some very serious results.
The last point I would like to make on this particular statement with regard to long-term care is that we are very happy to see the Minister of Health (Mrs Caplan) involved, because we know the hospital costs and the costs of health care have to be managed more efficiently. We hope that where hospital beds are now used inappropriately, this task force can look at a better way of not only serving individuals, which the minister underlined and which we think is very important, but serving individuals in a setting that is a happier place for both themselves and their families.
We wish the minister the very best. We want to work with him, with all of them, in this initiative. We will be hoping that we will move very quickly on public input. We will be hoping the minister will get the kind of support all of us need on the cost-sharing. In the end, we hope this will not be just a promise but a very true reality for people who are desperately waiting for these kinds of services -- yesterday -- and we hope we can provide them in the very near future.
CONDUCT OF CABINET MINISTERS
Mr Reville: My questions are for the Premier. I fear that standards of conduct for cabinet ministers remain in doubt. Yesterday, the Premier told the House his government has embraced the Davis 1978 standards for ministerial conduct relating to communication with police. He said, “There are several levels of, shall we say, enforcement.” Would the Premier kindly tell the House now how, as first minister, he ensures compliance with these guidelines?
Hon Mr Peterson: As the member knows, they are guidelines, as stated. They are not a law. There is not an independent enforcement agency. Like any other standard guidelines with respect to behaviour, it is not referred to the court. So ultimately the first minister interprets -- there is no question about that -- those guidelines. I do not think that should be any surprise to my honourable friend.
Mr Reville: The Premier will remember from his law school days something about the length of the chancellor’s foot. According to the media, the former Solicitor General --
Hon R. F. Nixon: What?
Hon Mr Sorbara: What?
Mr Reville: Well, come on. Read a book.
The former Solicitor General may be returned to the cabinet despite her resignation. This seems to me to be a very curious remark. The Premier yesterday, for the first time in two months, acknowledged that she had made a mistake, that it was wrong for her to intervene. He says as well that he embraces the toughest standards anywhere. How close is that embrace and how tough are those standards?
Hon Mr Bradley: Very dramatically put.
Hon Mr Peterson: As my friend says, dramatically put, but I think my honourable friend understands this. He can continue to ask questions about those standards. He can continue to ask questions about the judgements we make. It is all there for all members to see. My honourable friend may feel he does not make mistakes. My guess is that if you trace back his career, he has made quite a few. I will have to make judgements based on the facts as I know them, and I have done that and they are all there for members to see.
Mr Reville: The Premier will find that concerns about my mistakes are of less interest to the public than concerns about his judgement.
My second supplementary relates to ministerial conduct again. Yesterday, in Hansard it says, “I should tell my honourable friend that the public trustee is looking into this entire matter,” meaning, I believe, the Patti Starr affair. “He is going to report some time in the not-too-distant future, so I am told.” My question to the Premier is, who told him? Who in his office, or did he himself, contact the public trustee for that information?
Hon Mr Peterson: No, I did not contact the public trustee. I have not talked to him. I think I read it in the newspaper, where the member probably read it.
Mr Reville: My questions are to the same Premier.
Hon Mr Conway: We are worried about the duality of your leadership.
Mr Reville: I thought he was actually wanting a job as some kind of a talk show host.
USE OF CHARITABLE FOUNDATION’S FUNDS
Mr Reville: My next questions are about the Pattigate affair. The Premier yesterday revealed a piece of information that we ordinary mortals are not privy to. He said, about the many allegations of improper conduct by Mrs Starr, “Frankly, some aren’t correct but perhaps some are.”
This is the second time in recent memory that the Premier has had information that is apparently not available to other members of this assembly. Could he share with us which of the allegations are correct and which of the allegations are not correct?
Hon Mr Peterson: There were allegations made in newspapers about somebody’s being a major Liberal fund-raiser. I had never heard of the chap until this whole discussion started. Those kinds of things frequently are things that are written, as my honourable friend knows. Some are correct and some are not correct, but it is in the hands of the trustee and the Commission on Election Finances, who are going to look into the matter, I gather, to assess all of the facts therein.
Mr Reville: The Premier says, “as the honourable member knows.” I know no such thing, and that is the problem. The Premier will be aware that one of the Pattigate allegations concerns Dino Chiesa. He worked as a fund-raiser, I understand, for the member for Oakwood (Ms Hošek). The Premier says he did not. Maybe he has too many fund-raisers. Since 1 May he has been special adviser to the Deputy Minister of Housing. The allegation in that case is that he got $10,000 from Patti Starr for “consulting work” relating to his activities on behalf of the member for Oakwood. Apparently the money was paid back.
The Premier will be aware that if this allegation were true, it would have very serious legal consequences for a member of this government and a member of cabinet. What efforts has the Premier made to ensure himself that these allegations are unfounded and that this minister is not complicit in a violation?
Hon Mr Peterson: I take it there is an allegation that this was a Liberal fund-raiser. I was asked yesterday by one member when I had heard of this chap. I never met the chap. I had never heard of him until somebody told me he had been hired in the Ministry of Housing to do some special work because, as the member knows, it is the government’s view that we should get more housing on the market. They went through an interview process and the deputy minister conducted the entire thing.
What I am telling the member is that some of those allegations were untrue. Now I have told my honourable friend that the public trustee is investigating all of the allegations and there will be an objective report on all of that matter. How can I be more open than that?
Mr Reville: The Premier has not indicated that he lodged a complaint with the Commission on Election Finances, for instance. Because he has noted that he reads this stuff in the papers, the Premier will also be aware that the mother of the member for Hamilton Centre (Ms Oddie Munro) has admitted receiving $5,000 from Patti Starr for a housing survey in Hamilton. The member is quoted as saying she was retained to mail the survey because of a conversation between her daughter and Mrs Starr, in which Mrs Starr asked her daughter if she knew anyone who might be interested in doing the work.
I am sure many people would be interested in taking things to the post office at $5,000 a crack. They might be curious as to how to get on the minister’s list of referrals. But that is not my question. My question is, has he spoken to the member for Hamilton Centre and other members of the cabinet to indicate they should not be steering these kinds of sweetheart deals to members of their families?
Hon Mr Peterson: The member is making certain allegations. Let me tell him, if he suggests that there is any conflict of interest by any member of the cabinet, he has every right to refer that to the conflict-of-interest commissioner. I can assure my honourable friend of that; and if he thinks there is anything untoward, he should stand up and say so.
HIRING OF HOUSING CONSULTANT
Mr Harris: I would like to go back to the Premier about the question that I asked yesterday, which the Premier at that time referred to the Minister of Housing (Ms Hošek), concerning the $250,000 housing contract given to Dino Chiesa. This is one of the minister’s election workers who made a substantial donation to the minister’s campaign.
Yesterday I asked the Premier and he referred the question to the Minister of Housing. Neither one of them had an answer for me. The simple question at that time was: Why was this contract of such a substantial nature not tendered or even advertised? The minister did not have an answer to that question yesterday. The Premier did not have an answer. I would ask him, on reflection -- I am sure it is in his briefing book and I am sure he has looked into it overnight -- has he determined why this contract was not tendered, not advertised, and is he satisfied with that?
Hon Mr Peterson: I am assured by the deputy minister that every routine procedure was in fact followed, that he wanted to employ a certain kind of expertise, that they interviewed a number of people and they selected this particular person. I am told that this person has 10 or 15 years’ experience in public housing, working with the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. He worked in the private sector as well and brought a certain kind of expertise into the Ministry of Housing.
At any time my honourable friend can ask the deputy minister who made these decisions from a bureaucratic point of view of the kind of help he wanted, and that was it; so there is nothing strange or untoward about this. My honourable friend may want to suggest that there is, and he continues to suggest that there is, but he is wrong, I say with respect.
Mr Harris: Does it not concern the Premier at all that last September -- since he gets all his information from the newspaper -- in the Globe and Mail, in an article by Michael Valpy, it was stated, “There are rumours within the development industry that Mr Chiesa. . .is about to go to work for Ms Hošek as an adviser”? That article was written nine months ago. We are talking about a contract that was awarded this spring and became effective in May.
Does it not concern the Premier at all that nine months ago the development industry knew her friend was going to get the job? Is he satisfied and not at all concerned about the lack of tendering, about the lack of advertising for this position and that in a sensitive job there is absolutely no perception -- at least perception -- that something went wrong here?
Hon Mr Peterson: I am telling the member that the Manual of Administration was followed in every detail, so I am told by the deputy minister who made the decision. I understand that the member would like to draw a different perception on the matter, but that is not the perception I have or that I think other fair-minded people who know the facts have.
Mr Pope: Blame the deputy.
Mr Harris: That is right. The Premier has to find somebody to blame, I suppose. I do not know what happened to ministerial responsibility.
It was rumoured in the development industry and reported in the media nine months ago that it was a friend of the minister who was going to get the job, then we go through some sort of process.
I would ask the Premier if he would ensure a number of things, given the sensitivity and the important nature of this very lucrative contract and the sensitivity of the job, which is to bring the private sector and the public sector together, ie, what developers will get land, money, rezoning; a very, very sensitive issue, an important one, we acknowledge, but very sensitive. Surely, the Premier would want to be satisfied that out there in the development industry there is no perception of wrongdoing.
I would ask the Premier if he would determine a number of things and give us answers to a number of questions --
The Speaker: Order. You have already placed the question.
Mr Harris: No, I have not. I have pointed out the hypocrisy of what is going on around here; I have not asked the question --
The Speaker: Order. Premier.
Mr Harris: I am sorry, Mr Speaker, but I have not asked the question yet.
I would like to ask the Premier if he will provide us with the list of people who were given this special invitation to bid for the job and, second, if he will provide us with the contract that was awarded. If we cannot get those answers, will he have the matter referred to the standing committee on public accounts, so the Provincial Auditor could look --
The Speaker: Order.
Hon Mr Peterson: I have no problem. I gather his contract is all public. The member can look at it, it deals with all of these matters. Second, I am not sure of the practices referring to people who applied for this particular position, but I can assure my --
Mr Harris: Nobody applied. It was not advertised.
Hon Mr Peterson: My honourable friend stands up and says things in this House that are not factually correct, and keeps repeating himself. He thinks that makes an impression and it does not. I think my honourable friend would have to make sure that he is on top of his facts in this matter. He is wrong.
I have no problem with this matter being discussed with the deputy minister who made the decision and with the contract being made public. If it is not unfair to the various other people who applied for the job, I have no problem with their names being released; I would not want to embarrass them in any way. The member would not mind, but I would not want to do that.
But I can assure my honourable friend that it was the kind of expertise that we want. He is the one standing in this House all the time saying that we have to do more in terms of housing. I can tell my honourable friend we are doing that and we are doing that in a fair way. We think we are avoiding any conflicts and I think my honourable friend cannot have it both ways, as he constantly tries to do.
EMPLOYER HEALTH LEVY
Mr Brandt: My question is for the Treasurer. I want to bring to the Treasurer’s attention the fact that a recent survey printed in today’s Globe and Mail indicates that close to 50 per cent of executives indicate that there is going to be a significant slowdown in the economy; the survey also indicates that business confidence in Ontario is at its lowest level since 1982. Given that background, in his recent budget the Treasurer introduced a payroll tax, which is a tax not on profit but on the gross payroll of every employer in this province.
I wonder if the Treasurer could indicate whether he took any surveys or had any kind of studies done by his ministry officials with respect to the number of jobs that will be lost as a direct result of the introduction of this new tax.
Hon R. F. Nixon: We do not believe that jobs will be lost as a result of the new tax. We believe the projections that we made and that were announced in the budget of a growth of about 2.8 per cent will be fulfilled. This is a reduced rate of economic growth, but we view it as a sustainable rate and a rate which will allow the province to continue to maintain the lowest unemployment rate in Canada, and also to see that the commitments made by our manufacturers, entrepreneurs and people who are leaders in all aspects of business and the professions will continue to increase levels of employment.
Mr Brandt: I would remind the Treasurer that he inherited the lowest unemployment rate in the country. The fact of the matter is that there are only two other provinces in all of Canada that have a payroll tax comparable to the one the Treasurer introduced. One of them, Manitoba, has in its recent budget exempted some 1,400 companies and reduced the payroll tax in the case of 900 others.
Manitoba’s Deputy Minister of Finance has indicated, “The employer tends to do without some employees because they cannot afford the tax.” That was the justification that was given for the reduction or the complete exemption of that tax as it impacts on the corporate and business community.
I ask the Treasurer again, is he prepared to table in this House any impact studies that he may have within his ministry relative to job losses that are directly associated with the introduction of this new and, I might add, very unattractive tax?
Hon R. F. Nixon: Since the honourable member is comparing Ontario with Manitoba it might be useful if he were also to provide a comparison with Quebec, which has had a similar method of financing at least part of its medicare for many years. The honourable member will know that, rather than damning it as a silent killer of jobs or whatever dramatic quote might be applied by the honourable member and his friends, the Treasurer in Quebec has in fact increased the payroll tax because he feels it is a fair and equitable way to finance at least a part of the expanding costs of medicare.
The honourable member will know that in this province the costs of medicare are just slightly below $14 billion; at least that is the commitment through the Ministry of Health. Employers, through the employer health levy, will be paying just 16 per cent of those costs.
We feel it is distributed in a fair and equitable way. We have a half rate for employers with small payrolls and we think that this way the risks are adequately and fairly distributed.
Mr Brandt: I still have not had my question answered with respect to the tabling of any impact studies the Treasurer may have.
I would like to point out to the Treasurer again, if I might, that a recent consultant’s study for an employee earning $50,000 a year indicates that the current Ontario health insurance plan charges to that particular employee, which are paid for by the employer, are some $360. The new payroll tax the Treasurer has introduced will increase the cost of that employee to the employer by some $600 or more to $975.
This rather dramatic shift in the costs of maintaining employees in certain businesses is of concern to the members of this party. We believe it is going to cost jobs. The Treasurer can call it a silent killer of jobs if he likes.
Hon R. F. Nixon: You Tories call it that.
Mr Brandt: I am quoting the Treasurer because that is, in effect, what we believe is going to happen as a result of the impact of this particular tax.
Will the Treasurer table in this House any studies he has with respect to the impact of this tax on the economy of Ontario?
Hon R. F. Nixon: The honourable member would be aware that the employer health levy is designed to be approximately the same producer of revenue that will be allocated to health services as the insurance premiums the previous government used to depend on.
As a matter of fact, his figures are based on most extreme circumstances. For a person who is married, with present OHIP premiums of about $715 a year payable, the honourable member, using good old Lambton county arithmetic, would know that about $35,000 to $36,000 a year is the salary which is roughly equivalent.
So if employers have many employees who are paid more than $36,000, it will cost them more. If, on the other hand, they have employees who are paid less, there will be a certain saving. So it really depends upon the class of the employer. If it is somebody, let’s say, running a business with a very large proportion of people at high levels, then it may cost more.
But this is a decision we are prepared to put to the Legislature. I hope I can be confident that the reasonable members of the Legislature, in assessing these arguments, will support me. We feel it is a fair and equitable way for the expanding costs of medicare at a time when the government of Canada is reducing its share of these costs. We must return to the people --
The Speaker: New question, the member for Hamilton East.
Mr Mackenzie: I have a question of the Minister of Labour. Yesterday the Minister of Labour, in trying to get off the hook, in an obvious coverup of the injustice done to female workers suffering from cancer as a result of workplace exposure at the old Canadian General Electric plant on Dufferin Street in Toronto, used the word “misportrayed” to describe my question. The word was accurate but maybe aimed at the wrong person; it should have been himself.
Does this minister now understand that neither the union nor my colleague Elie Martel was given the information the ministry had that thorium dust was present in the coil and wire drawing department where double and triple rates of cancer were occurring among the women workers? Had this information been available, the workers might not have suffered the results and may very well have had their claims established today.
Hon Mr Sorbara: I do not want to be uncharitable to my friend the member for Hamilton East, and particularly because I think that as a matter of fundamentals, both of us are extremely concerned about the circumstances of some 14 women who suffer and have suffered for a number of years and who have claims still outstanding before the Workers’ Compensation Board.
My dilemma yesterday was that in his question he suggested that somehow, immediately after assuming the role of Minister, I became involved in some sort of coverup of something that happened in the Ministry of Labour under a different government and a different party some seven years ago. That is absolute nonsense.
I just want to tell my friend the member for Hamilton East this: on 19 May, that is, about three weeks ago, representatives of the union and the Ontario Federation of Labour came to my office and suggested to me -- and this was the first time I heard it -- that there was information they should have had in 1982 which they did not have.
At that time, I undertook to provide for the union any information it ought to have had at that time which it did not have. That represents a careful scrutiny of files going back some seven years, but my commitment to the union and to the OFL stands.
Mr Mackenzie: Well, we are waiting. The McMaster study back in 1982 clearly identified a probable workplace-related cause of the cancer the women were suffering. There was no benefit of the doubt given to these workers, and it was not allowed because the Industrial Disease Standards Panel demands absolute proof; it rejected the evidence of the McMaster study on a split vote, I might say. Had the truth been known and the thorium dust in this particular department identified, there is little doubt that the claims would have had a much better chance of being allowed and, as I said, maybe we would not have had some of the illness we have to this day.
Is the minister now prepared to move immediately to correct this gross and unfortunate injustice that has been done to these women suffering from cancer?
Hon Mr Sorbara: Around here we have been talking about the question of interfering in due process for quite a few days. Given that there is a clear process which is right now unfolding, that is, that the Industrial Disease Standards Panel, having submitted a report to the Workers’ Compensation Board and the trade unions involved, and the Ontario Federation of Labour and some five other groups having made submissions to the board arguing, very forcefully, I agree, that the Industrial Disease Standards Panel is wrong, for my friend to suggest that I now intervene and tell the board it should eliminate this process which exists under statute, under the authority of law, and say, “I have decided, based on questions from the member for Hamilton East, that there shall be compensation,” is simply a gross disregard for process.
The Speaker: Order.
CHAIRMAN OF ONTARIO PLACE CORP
Mr McLean: My question is to the Minister of Tourism and Recreation. Is Patricia Starr, the chairman of Ontario Place who is now on leave of absence, still on the payroll?
Hon Mr O’Neil: As the member mentioned, the chairman is on a leave of absence. It is my understanding that there are no payments being made to her at this point at all. I might also tell the member that in the past, very little has been paid to the chairman in the way of even a per diem rate.
Mr McLean: The minister is well aware of what has taken place with regard to the situation around the Patti Starr affair, with regard to the charitable funds, with regard to the payments made to members of the Liberal Party. Now the election commission is looking into it. Are these the standards the minister likes to see in employees of his government? If they are not the standards, then why does he not do the decent thing and have her replaced? The summer is coming, it is busy and he needs a full-time chairman there. Why does he not replace her?
Hon Mr O’Nell: As I have mentioned to the member, and have mentioned in the past, the chairman of Ontario Place is on a leave of absence. A lot of these comments that have been made at this point are only allegations. We are waiting for the report to come in.
POLICIES ON ALCOHOLIC BEVERAGES
Mr Fleet: My question is for the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations. The minister recently announced a comprehensive series of liquor licensing reforms in Ontario. I am pleased that these reforms are founded on the principles of encouraging responsible drinking behaviour and a healthy lifestyle.
As the minister is aware from our many prior conversations, a portion of the riding of High Park-Swansea is a dry area. Several plebiscites, two in recent years, have strongly asserted the community’s democratic decision to remain dry. Will the minister please confirm that, with the latest announcement, dry areas remain dry and that the rules for holding plebiscites will not be altered?
Hon Mr Wrye: I know the honourable member’s constituents are concerned about it, because there has been a vote on the issue on a number of occasions in recent years. I can confirm to the member that there will be no change in the current wet and dry status. I can also confirm for those areas that are so-called damp areas -- that is, some licensed establishments with limited use are allowed, but it is very limited -- those existing areas will be allowed to continue. In the future there will be no damp areas allowed.
I can also say to the member that other than one minor modification, the way plebiscites have been dealt with in the past will continue to be the way in the future.
Mr Fleet: The announced government changes simplify many bewildering and archaic liquor regulations such as reducing the number of licence categories from 11 to 3. The changes also better enable the Liquor Licence Board of Ontario to revoke permits of licensees who permit illegal activities to occur on the premises.
The Speaker: Order.
Mr Fleet: Would the minister please advise how these new provisions will be applied?
Hon Mr Wrye: The members of the third party were yelling, so I could not hear everything. Apparently, they thought that would be useful since they never brought any of these administrative and important reforms forward when they were the government.
But I can say to my friend that we on this side believe and the government believes that the reduction in the number of licences and other administrative reforms will make the powers of enforcement even easier. The government believes that the fact that there will be, in some of these reforms, an appeal only from the decision of the liquor licence board to Divisional Court and not an appeal to the Commercial Registration Appeal Tribunal will also help the enforcement.
Finally, I can say to the honourable member that in those cases where underage drinking does occur in facilities, the licence suspension will be an automatic seven days, and that is a change from the previous situation.
Mrs Grier: My question is for the Minister of Municipal Affairs, and it concerns the Niagara Escarpment. Last April, Grey county took the rather unusual step of publishing notices to the effect that the county would no longer deal with severance applications because, as it was put in its advertisements, “of the Ministry of Municipal Affairs’ lack of action ... and the Niagara Escarpment Commission’s inconsistent approach to appeals to severances.”
Instead of the minister telling Grey county to live up to its responsibilities under the Planning Act, the minister caved in to this pressure and directed his staff to prepare ministerial orders to delete local official plan coverage within that part of Grey county covered by the Niagara Escarpment plan.
Can the minister explain to the Legislature this scandalous abdication of his responsibility to uphold the Niagara Escarpment plan and to invite public comment when changes are made to the plan?
Hon Mr Eakins: There was some concern expressed, some difference between the commission and Grey county. The people in Grey county have met with the commission. I understand that they are resolving it mutually together.
Mrs Grier: They may be resolving it, but they are certainly not protecting and preserving the escarpment, which is the minister’s responsibility.
I want to remind the minister that also within the Niagara Escarpment plan is reference to the Food Land Guidelines. In fact, there is a very specific directive that development and creation of new lots should comply with the requirements of the Food Land Guidelines.
At the next meeting of the commission on 15 June, the commission will be considering a number of applications for severance which the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food has said do not comply with the Food Land Guidelines. Can the minister assure us that he is prepared to support the decision of the Niagara Escarpment Commission if it refuses these severances within Grey county?
Hon Mr Eakins: I think what is very important is consultation. There has been excellent consultation with the commission. I recently met with the commission in Niagara Falls. I am prepared to meet with them whenever it is appropriate. I feel that my responsibility is a broad policy area. It is up to the commission, in consultation with others which they are doing, to look after the things the member is talking about, and they are doing it very well indeed. Consultation is what it is all about, and that is taking place.
Mr Pollock: I have a question for the Minister of Natural Resources. As I am sure the minister is well aware, there has been tremendous damage done to apple orchards by deer. In fact, it costs approximately $10,000 to set out a young orchard. I would like to present the minister with an apple tree that has been killed by deer. Would a page please take that over to the Minister of Natural Resources?
What is the minister going to do about this?
Hon Mr Kerrio: This looks like a bare-root tree, of which we plant 163 million in the Ministry of Natural Resources. It will green up if I send it back to the member, and he plants it and nurtures it for awhile. I guess, to answer the member’s question, and it is a reasonable question, my responsibility is to take care of the deer herds and moose herds in Ontario. I want to tell him that we have been so successful that the end result is visible here, where we have these many deer.
Not that long ago, when they were not managed well, our moose herds had been reduced to some 60,000 and our deer herds were depleted. I am sorry, in fact, that we have been so successful in bringing back wildlife in Ontario that we now have to address the kind of question the member raises. Having raised it, I will examine how we can do something about it, but I am quite proud that we have returned wildlife to the province like never before.
Mr Pollock: I think it was the buck law that was brought out with the previous government that brought back the deer herds in Ontario. We are talking about something different here. In this particular orchard in Prince Edward county, it has been counted by some of the minister’s staff that 89.7 percent of the trees have been damaged by deer. Out of that 89.7 per cent, 20 of them have been mutilated, one of which the minister has already received. People cannot stand this cost. Once again, what is the minister going to do about it?
Hon Mr Kerrio: This is not an unusual situation. The Canadian wildlife minister is having the same problem on some of the areas in Lake Erie, and there is great concern, from two different views on this matter, whether those deer should be hunted and shot or whether they should be culled in another way. There are many factions out there now that have different ideas about what the minister should do to control this kind of impact on farmers. I certainly am not going to respond immediately that we are going to take initiatives that would not be well accepted across the broader interest in Ontario. While the member appears to bring forward a reasonable sort of problem, I am very much willing to examine it to see what should be done under the circumstances, but certainly he has to take into account that we are victims of our own success. There has never been, in the last many years, this kind of resurgence in fish and wildlife, that I am very proud of.
Mr Tatham: My question is for the Minister of Energy. For a number of years I have been interested in the field of energy conservation. I believe we can and should do more as a society to use our energy resources wisely, to ensure that we can meet our future needs. The budget item containing a tax levied on new fuel-inefficient cars sold in Ontario is an excellent step in the right direction. How are the Ministry of Energy and Ontario Hydro encouraging the people of Ontario to conserve energy through improved energy efficiency?
Hon Mr Wong: I would like to indicate to the honourable member for Oxford that the government has been moving on four fronts: policy, legislation, regulation and program areas. Let me just give the member a few brief examples and highlights.
In the policy area, of course, the honourable member will know it is the government’s first priority to encourage energy efficiency and conservation.
In the legislative area, the government has introduced the Power Corporation Amendment Act. In particular, it will enable Ontario Hydro to offer incentives for conservation.
In the regulatory area, as promised in the throne speech of 1987, last year the government passed the Energy Efficiency Act. I am pleased to indicate that the first regulations for setting the minimum efficiency level for electric hot water heaters and ground source heat pumps is imminent.
In the program area, the honourable member will be aware of the municipal street lighting pilot program and the municipal buildings energy efficiency program.
Last, but not least, let me mention that in the case of Ontario Hydro, it will be beginning major programs of conservation --
The Speaker: Thank you. Maybe you could save some of it for the supplementary.
Mr Tatham: I understand that Ontario Hydro set a target of 4,500 megawatts of demand management by the year 2000. What does the minister think of this number and how does he think we can be doing more?
Hon Mr Wong: The 4,500-megawatt target by the year 2000 is more credible and comprehensible when it is broken down into its component parts: a 2,000-megawatt target for incentive-driven conservation, 1,500 megawatts for information-driven conservation and 1,000 megawatts for load shifting. Let me say that the combined conservation targets aim to capture a substantial proportion of the economic technical potential. I believe that the target set by Ontario Hydro will be a significant challenge and I am pressing it to do more.
The Speaker: New question. The member for Hamilton West.
Mr Allen: The member for Burlington South (Mr Jackson) is doing his best, but we will bear with him.
Mr Allen: I have a question for the Minister of Community and Social Services. For eight weeks now and going into the ninth, my community has, in effect, been deprived of the services of the children’s aid society. Some 120 workers who service 600 foster children and their families and are responsible for investigations into children at risk in the community and providing emergency services have not been there to meet the need.
The workers met with the minister in Oakville and he suggested that he would be able to facilitate a meeting with some of his staff. I asked him two weeks ago to respond to a particular proposition that I had as to some way in which assistance might be provided to the agencies to respond to the workers’ needs. To date, neither of us has heard back. I wonder if the minister has something to tell us as to how he can involve himself in this situation helpfully in order to see that this impasse comes to an end.
Hon Mr Sweeney: The honourable member will recall that when he did raise this with me, I pointed out to him that when I met with the workers in Oakville I indicated that if they had any evidence whatsoever, as they had suggested to me, that there was mismanagement at that particular agency, then they certainly could discuss it with my staff, but I also made it very clear to them that this would not be part of the ongoing negotiations. I made a clear separation between those two issues.
With respect to the proposal the honourable member made to me, my recollection was that while I could not provide extra money for them this fiscal year, perhaps I could give some kind of three-year commitment. I did discuss that with my staff and it was pointed out to me that I have no way of knowing the kinds of funds that are going to flow to my ministry from the Treasury as a whole next year or the year after. Therefore, it would not be possible for me to give that kind of three-year commitment. I wish I could, but quite frankly I cannot. In my ministry, the only place that I can give that, because I have support of government to do it, is in long-term capital projects, but I cannot do that in operations costing for any agency of the government.
Mr Allen: None the less, with respect to directly funded agencies, the minister does have to comply with arbitrated settlements and somehow that money does come from somewhere. The minister surely must recognize that he is the one who sets the terms of reference and is responsible for the legislation which requires that services be in place. He is the one who provides the funding to see that those services are delivered in an appropriate fashion so they can have some stability and ongoing character. He is the phantom at the bargaining table whenever these parties sit down to discuss their future contracts.
Yet the agencies are unable even to maintain purchasing power in salaries, provide adequate legal protection for their workers, maintain recognition for experience to avoid the 65 per cent turnover in staff which is an impossible situation for children at risk to work with. Surely the minister, if he can do it for directly funded agencies, must have some way in which he can flow funding to other transfer agencies like the children’s aid society in order to enable them to meet their legitimate needs and responsibilities of their staff.
Hon Mr Sweeney: That is not quite the way the system works. As the honourable member knows, there are two kinds of programs that are offered by children’s aid societies: those which are mandated by legislation and those which the society chooses to take on on its own, the board of directors of the society obviously having a large say in that. While we are obligated by legislation to ensure that the society has sufficient funds to meet its mandated programs, we are not obligated by legislation to guarantee funding for its optional programs.
The member would well know that at the end of each year, any society can request an exceptional circumstances review and if it can demonstrate that its mandated costs have increased beyond what we have allocated to it, then I am obligated as the minister to find money somewhere within my budget to cover that, but I am not obligated for the nonmandated costs.
With respect to the increasing salary bills, I can point out to the member that within my ministry, as within all ministries of government, we have been allocated this year an increase of 3.5 per cent. That is in the direct operation of my ministry, not the agencies; they have been given more than that.
Mr Jackson: I have a question for the Premier. He will perhaps be familiar with an article which appeared in the Globe and Mail on 31 May written by the government member for Ottawa South (Mr McGuinty). The article dealt with university funding and was entitled: “Why Don’t Universities Stop Griping and Find Some Answers?”
In that article, the Liberal member suggested several things. He said, “Many students in universities should not be there.” He went on to suggest that costs students now pay are “clearly inadequate.” Also, he went on to say that students are “a heavily subsidized minority” and, “Why not levy an education-cost rebate tax after they graduate?”
My question to the Premier is: Could he tell this House today if he agrees with these suggestions by a member of his own caucus?
Hon Mr Peterson: Of course government policy is government policy. The member knows what it is, and it is articulated by the minister. So the answer to the member’s question is that it is not. Now he is asking me the question: Does the member for Ottawa South have the right to write as he did, to speak as he does, to contribute ideas as he did? The answer is, of course he does. He is contributing to a very worthwhile debate. Frankly, he has a lot better ideas than the member ever had on the subject.
Mr Jackson: Perhaps the Premier might check the article in terms of the thrust and the direction the member takes and some of the assumptions he makes about university funding from this government, which in the past two years has declined as a percentage of the total allocations for the Ministry of Colleges and Universities; has been in decline over the previous year.
But on this point about students’ right to access, this government and the Premier in particular before the last election in June 1987 said, “Every qualified student will find a place in a post-secondary institution in the province this fall .” After the election, he modified that statement, in response to a question I raised, to say, “The government is committed to the maximum number of young people receiving post-secondary education.”
Now we get a concept from his own government benches --
The Speaker: The question would be?
Mr Jackson: -- that perhaps all students should not be entitled to attend university.
The Speaker: Your question?
Mr Jackson: Could the Premier please assure this House, the university students and the high school students who aspire to university education in this province that his government is not considering this kind of an education toll tax against students?
The Speaker: Thank you.
Mr Jackson: Would he please assure the House that he is not considering these suggestions by the member for Ottawa South?
Hon Mr Peterson: To help my honourable friend, I think the transfers to universities went up some 7.4 per cent, as I recall. The Treasurer (Mr R. F. Nixon) will help me out if I am wrong. I think the transfer is some $2.7 billion. It did not drop and my friend’s facts are wrong.
The Speaker: Order.
Hon Mr Peterson: I say as kindly as I possibly can, we believe there is space in the post-secondary institutions, colleges and universities, for all qualified young people -- this is not absolutely a place they would like to be as a matter of first priority.
But what we are engaged in now is a debate and a discussion about post-secondary education. Everybody can make a contribution. I remember the member’s former leader, one Mr Grossman, arguing that they should deregulate the fees, that they should, as I recall, cut the number of students and change it quite dramatically.
The Speaker: Order.
Hon Mr Peterson: I say to my honourable friend, if he has any constructive ideas, let us know. But when he looks at the transfers to post-secondary education, starting when we came in in 1985 when we started the excellence funds, when we started the faculty renewal funds, when he looks at the money that is going in through the centres of excellence and the high-technology research, when we have increased the high-technology research and development budget by 10 per cent alone through the Premier’s Council, I say to my friend I will compare our record to his. He, under his regime, would have turned this entire province into intellectual pygmies.
Mr McGuigan: My question is to the Minister of Health. The mayor of the town of Tilbury, Charles Carrick, and his council are concerned about the fact that they have only two doctors in town. Tilbury is a town of approximately 5,000 people. It is about 30 kilometres from Chatham and 50 kilometres from Windsor. I wonder if the minister can tell us what help we might be able to give the town of Tilbury in this matter.
Hon Mrs Caplan: I would like to thank the member for his question. I know of his interest in appropriate manpower planning, not only for the communities in his constituency but also for the people right across the province.
As he knows, one of the challenges of human resource planning is to make sure that in fact we can meet the needs which are appropriate to communities in rural parts or small towns of this province. I would say to him that what we are attempting to do is encourage communities to focus on the kinds of services, particularly primary care services, which are appropriate in the community.
Given these times of rapidly changing technology, we know that often it is in the interests of quality care in that community for people to go to a larger centre 30 or 50 miles away to seek more highly specialized care. I would say to him that as they have these discussions in their community, it is very important to focus on the impact of new technology and what kinds of services will yield effective quality care in the community.
Ms Bryden: I have a question for the Minister of Transportation. As the minister knows, the Toronto Transit Commission is considering hefty increases in fares on 1 January, 1990. A large part of the increase in costs anticipated by the TTC will be due to the new payroll tax in the provincial budget and to the new commercial concentration tax on parking lots and parking garages in the greater Toronto area.
Will the minister sit down with the TTC and Metro officials as soon as possible to review the current fund-sharing arrangements which leave the fare box and the riders bearing 68 per cent of TTC operating costs and the province bearing only 16 per cent?
Hon Mr Fulton: I would be only too happy to sit down with Mr Leach and others from the TTC. I meet with them on a regular basis. I met with Mr Leach earlier this week. I met with the vice-chairman as recently as yesterday.
Ms Bryden: We have been waiting ever since the TTC rumours came out over a month ago for some sort of an indication of more provincial funding. If the minister is really interested in ending traffic congestion and getting people out of their cars on to public transit, does he think a large fare increase is going to contribute to that? Is it not good business to keep fares low and to improve TTC services instead of leaving the situation as it is now?
Hon Mr Sorbara: She has not been on that streetcar in years.
Hon Mr Fulton: My colleague is reminding me that the member for Beaches-Woodbine (Ms Bryden) has not been on the streetcar in years. Notwithstanding that, the member would be very much aware of the enormous investments that have been made in public transit in both the TTC --
The Speaker: Order.
Hon Mr Fulton: Mr Speaker, I do not think the opposition really wants to hear the answer.
Mr Reville: We don’t like your answer. It’s dumb.
Mr Breaugh: It’s called quality control.
Mr Pope: We will just wait.
The Speaker: As usual. Minister, do you have a response?
Hon Mr Fulton: I tried, Mr Speaker. The Lord knows I tried.
The member would be aware of the enormous investments this government has made in public transit in Toronto and across this province. She would be aware of the budget announcement of only a couple of weeks ago. There are $400 million committed further to GO Transit, 25 per cent of whose riders are within the Metropolitan Toronto boundary.
In addition to that, there is $200 million allocated additionally to public transit, and the member would be aware of the major share that the TTC absorbs of that enormous investment. This government has done more to improve public transit in and around the greater Toronto area and beyond and across this province than any government in the history of this province.
FARM TAX REBATE
Mr Villeneuve: To the Minister of Agriculture and Food: Many farmers were not only surprised but very disappointed when the Treasurer (Mr R. F. Nixon) was musing recently, and it was reported in the press, that the farm property tax rebate would be reduced or eliminated if a person applying earned more than $40,000 from other sources, and we are not sure what those other sources might be considered as.
Can the Minister of Agriculture and Food tell the House which farm groups were advised to provide information to the Treasurer or to the Minister of Agriculture and Food regarding this very substantial cut in this very important program to agriculture?
Hon Mr Riddell: The details of the changes that will be made in the farm tax rebate have not yet been approved by cabinet, so I cannot help out the member. He feels that there are certain things in the farm tax rebate that may not be in there at all. Until I get cabinet approval on whatever changes will be brought about, I am afraid I cannot provide any details to the member.
Mr Villeneuve: The Treasurer very definitely made some statements. The figure of $40,000 is very real and reported and attributed to him. Can the minister tell us: Is this hard fact or is he going to consult? Does the Ontario agricultural community have any input into what has been the most important ongoing program, started by the former government, which has been very well received by the agricultural community in Ontario? Whom is he consulting with?
Hon Mr Riddell: We always consult with the various farm organizations. As a matter of fact, there was consultation with the Ontario Federation of Agriculture.
Mr Villeneuve: That’s not what Brigid told me on Monday.
The Speaker: Order.
Hon Mr Riddell: Well, I can go back over dates where my staff met with a Cecil Bradley of the Ontario Federation of Agriculture and discussed the changes that we were proposing for the farm tax rebate. But the details have not yet been worked out. When they are, the member will certainly be one of the first to know.
CHAIRMAN OF ONTARIO PLACE CORP
Mr McLean: I have a question for the Minister of Tourism and Recreation. I wonder if the minister could tell me how many tickets Patti Starr sold at his fund-raiser.
Hon Mr O’Neill: I believe that Mrs Starr has helped in some of the fund-raisers that I have had. At one particular fund-raiser that I can think of she sold five tickets for me.
Mr McLean: I wonder if the minister feels that it is proper or appropriate that one of the political persons he has appointed from his party would sell tickets for a fund-raiser for the Liberal Party.
Hon Mr O’Neill: I would say that not only myself but the member would be best able to judge that by looking back over his own records and records of his members to see what happened there.
Mr Tatham: “To the Honourable the Lieutenant Governor and the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:
“Whereas the government of Ontario in its discussions with the Ontario Teachers’ Federation on amendments to the Teachers’ Superannuation Act has refused to allow an equal partnership between teachers and government in management of the pension fund, establishment of an acceptable contribution increase, benefit adjustments, equitable treatment of future surpluses, and a satisfactory dispute resolution process,
“We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly to insist that the Treasurer of Ontario negotiate with the Ontario Teachers’ Federation towards an equitable settlement.”
The petition is signed by a total of 124 names, and I will affix my name to the bottom.
The Speaker: I am sorry. I will not be able to recognize any other members to present petitions until they are able to hear that I have recognized them.
OCCUPATIONAL HEALTH AND SAFETY
Mr Pope: I have a petition to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario and to the Lieutenant Governor in Council:
“As a registered nurse assistant at St Mary’s General Hospital, I must express my anger and disappointment at the Labour minister’s decision not to implement regulations to the health and safety act covering the health care sector. Our work is difficult enough without being denied the full protection under the act the regulations would provide.
“I deserve the same type of protection as any other worker in this province. I request that you immediately take this matter up with the minister and urge him to reconsider his decision.”
This petition was delivered to me by Paulette Fraser, secretary-treasurer of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union. It is signed by Cathy Pope and 149 others, and I have added my signature to it.
Mr Wildman: I have a petition signed by a number of residents of Algoma district. In line with your directives, I will not read the whereases:
“To the Honourable the Lieutenant Governor and the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:
“We, the undersigned, beg leave to petition the Parliament of Ontario as follows: we implore this House to refrain from further implementation of the French Language Services Act.”
I have signed my name.
Mr Jackson: I have a petition to the Honourable the Lieutenant Governor and the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:
“Whereas the government of Ontario in its discussions with the Ontario Teachers’ Federation on amendments to the Teachers’ Superannuation Act has refused to allow an equal partnership between teachers and government in management of the pension fund, establishment of an acceptable contribution increase, benefit adjustments, equitable treatment of future surpluses, and a satisfactory dispute resolution process,
“We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly to insist that the Treasurer of Ontario negotiate with the Ontario Teachers’ Federation towards an equitable settlement.”
This petition is signed by the staff at Kings Road Public School in the great riding of Burlington South. It has my signature and support.
Mr Morin-Strom: I have a number of petitions signed by residents of my community of Sault Ste Marie with regard to French-language services. It is similar to a number of other petitions that have been read in totality in the past by members in recent days, so I will not read all the whereases.
However, it is addressed to the Honourable the Lieutenant Governor and the Legislative Assembly of Ontario and it asks, in terms of its major point: “... we implore this House to refrain from further implementation of the French Language Services Act.”
While I myself cannot support this petition in any way, I have affixed my signature and present it on behalf of local constituents.
Mr Sterling: I am presenting a petition on behalf of Doris Sweetnam, the president of the Natural Healers Association, today.
“To the Honourable the Lieutenant Governor and the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:
“We, the undersigned, beg leave to petition the Parliament of Ontario as follows:
“Whereas it is our constitutional right to have available and to choose the health care system of our 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.”
This is signed by 112 constituents from the Ottawa-Carleton area and from other areas of Ontario and it is signed by myself.
Ms Bryden: I am pleased to present a petition on the Ontario Teachers’ Federation negotiations on the Teachers’ Superannuation Act. It is from nine members of the Ontario Teachers’ Federation in the city of Toronto and it is addressed:
“To the Honourable the Lieutenant Governor and the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:
“Whereas the government of Ontario in its discussions with the Ontario Teachers’ Federation on amendments to the Teachers’ Superannuation Act has continually refused to permit an equal partnership between teachers and government in management of the pension fund, establishment of an acceptable contribution increase, benefit adjustments, equitable treatment of future surpluses and a binding arbitration process.”
I have signed the petition. I support it and am pleased to present it.
Mrs Sullivan: I have a petition from 38 people from the Halton Centre area, addressed to the Honourable the Lieutenant Governor and the Legislative Assembly of Ontario, relating to the funding of home care and visiting nurses services, particularly the Victorian Order of Nurses.
I have affixed my signature to the petition.
Mr Laughren: I have a petition from thousands of people mostly from the Toronto area which reads as follows:
“We, the undersigned, beg leave to petition the Parliament of Ontario as follows:
“Given that property speculation in Ontario has contributed to driving up the cost of home ownership, to increasing the cost of building non-profit housing and to rent increases for tenants because speculators are rewarded under the provincial government’s rent review law, we demand that the government of Ontario impose a tax on the capital gain on nonprincipal residences and land, so that:
“100 per cent of the profit is taxed away on resales within one year;
“75 per cent of the profit is taxed away on resales within two years;
“50 per cent of the profit is taxed away on resales within three years;
“25 per cent of the profit is taxed away on resales within four years.”
There are thousands here. I have affixed my name to it because I think it is a splendid idea.
SECURITY IN PREMISES USED BY PUBLIC
Mr Sterling: I have the first petition of many that will be presented to this Legislature.
“To the Honourable the Lieutenant Governor and the Legislative Assembly of the province of Ontario:
“We, the undersigned, beg leave to petition the Parliament of Ontario as follows:
“We request that the Ministry of the Attorney General withdraw Bill 149, An Act to amend the Trespass to Property Act, which we believe is unnecessary and without mandate. While we respect the rights of minorities and youth, whom Bill 149 alleges to protect, we oppose the way in which the proposed legislation will erode the ability of owners and occupiers to provide a safe and hospitable environment for their patrons or customers.
“We are further concerned about the legislation’s potential for increasing confrontation in the already difficult process of removing individuals who create disturbances on publicly used premises.”
That is signed by 58 people from the great riding of Carleton and I have signed the petition myself.
SCHOOL OPENING AND CLOSING EXERCISES
Mr South: I have two petitions to the Lieutenant Governor and the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:
“We, the undersigned, beg leave to petition the Parliament of Ontario as follows:
“Whereas we believe the amendment to regulation 262 relating to the collective recitation of the Lord’s Prayer in opening or closing exercises in public schools deprives many Ontario citizens of an established freedom, we therefore object to the loss of this freedom.”
This is signed by a number of constituents of my riding and it is also signed and endorsed by myself.
I have a second petition in the same manner, also signed by a number of my constituents and signed by myself.
Mr Morin-Strom: I have another set of petitions signed by residents of Sault Ste Marie addressed to the Lieutenant Governor and the Legislative Assembly of Ontario. I will leave out the “whereases” again.
“We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly to instruct the standing committee on resources development to reschedule its public hearings on Bill 162 in order to give all deputations who wish to make presentations about the proposed changes to the workers’ compensation system an opportunity to appear before the committee and express their views.”
I heartily endorse this petition and have signed it as well, and I present it on behalf of local residents.
LANGUAGE OF DEBATE
Mr McLean: I have a petition signed by 84 people that I have been asked to present to the Legislature:
“To the Honourable the Lieutenant Governor and the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:
“We, the undersigned, beg leave to petition the Parliament of Ontario as follows:
“We do strongly oppose the Deputy Speaker, Jean Poirier, using French to conduct business in the Legislature of an English-speaking province. French is not the official language of this province.
“We also strongly object to the abuse given to Don Cousens, MPP, who, while representing his constituents, posed the pertinent question about the use of French in the Legislature.
“We strongly resent the ultimate insult to the taxpaying people of this province when the NDP leader, Bob Rae, not only attacked Mr Cousens but did it in French.”
BOUNTY ON WOLVES
Mr McLean: I have another petition that I have been asked to present to the Legislature signed b 589 people, which reads as follows:
“To the Honourable the Lieutenant Governor and the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:
“We, the undersigned, beg leave to petition the Parliament of Ontario as follows:
“We are opposed to the province eliminating the bounty system on wolves.”
Miss Martel: I have a petition addressed to the Lieutenant Governor and the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:
“We, the undersigned, beg leave to petition the Parliament of Ontario as follows:
“We urge the Liberal government to scrap Bill 162, An Act to amend the Workers’ Compensation Act:
“Because Bill 162 contains the most significant changes to the Ontario system of workers’ compensation contemplated for many years and yet, as was confirmed through the public hearings on the bill, was developed without an adequate process of public consultation with the stakeholders; and
“Because Bill 162 represents an attack on injured workers and their families and all those people who have fought over the years to achieve fairness and justice for injured workers and their families; and
“Because Bill 162 will eliminate the current lifetime pension for lifetime disability and replace it with a dual award system combining a lump sum and actual wage-loss award benefits, that has been rejected by injured workers, their advocacy groups, community legal workers and lawyers working on their behalf and by the trade union movement since it was first proposed for implementation in Ontario by the 1980 Weiler report and the Conservative government’s 1981 white paper; and
“Because Bill 162 virtually ignores the devastating critique and recommendations of the Majesky-Minna task force report on vocational rehabilitation, which was submitted to the Minister of Labour and suppressed by the Liberal government until April 1988; and
“Because Bill 162 gives legislative form to the unacceptable and reactionary policy of restricting access to supplement awards announced by the Workers’ Compensation Board in 1987; and
“Because throughout Bill 162, injured workers are made subject to increased discretionary power at the hands of the Workers’ Compensation Board and made subject to ever more intrusive and demeaning assaults on their dignity, their privacy and their right to fair and just treatment.”
This is signed by nine women who are Victims of Mining Environment in Timmins. I agree with them entirely and I have affixed my signature to it.
The Speaker: I am sorry to interrupt the House, but I might remind the member once again that other members today had informed me they had of course heeded what the Speaker had said, and I appreciate that very much. It is not necessary to place all the whereases. It is certainly necessary to place the material allegations made by the constituents and I hope all members will follow that in the future.
Mr Kormos: I have a petition addressed:
“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.
“The proposed amendment would make the five-year criteria applicable to all retired teachers and would eliminate the present inequitable treatment.”
It is signed by nine persons and by myself.
REPORT BY COMMITTEE
STANDING COMMITTEE ON REGULATIONS AND PRIVATE BILLS
Mr Furlong from the standing committee on regulations and private bills presented the following report and moved its adoption:
Your committee begs to report the following bills without amendment:
Bill Pr5, An Act respecting Certain Land in the Town Plot of Gowganda in the District of Timiskaming;
Bill Pr10, An Act to revive 561239 Ontario lnc;
Bill Pr12, An Act respecting The Madawaska Club Limited;
Bill Pr22, An Act to continue The Corporation of the Village of Killaloe Station under the name of The Corporation of the Village of Killaloe.
Your committee begs to report the following bill as amended:
Bill Pr19, An Act to revive the Port Bruce Boat Club.
Your committee further recommends that the fees, and the actual cost of printing at all stages and in the annual statutes, be remitted on Bill Pr5, An Act respecting Certain Land in the Town Plot of Gowganda in the District of Timiskaming.
Motion agreed to.
INTRODUCTION OF BILL
CITY OF KINGSTON AND TOWNSHIPS OF KINGSTON, PITTSBURGH AND ERNESTOWN ACT, 1989
Mr Keyes moved first reading of Bill Pr24, An Act respecting the City of Kingston and the townships of Kingston, Pittsburgh and Ernestown.
Motion agreed to.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
AUTOMOBILE INSURANCE RATES CONTROL ACT, 1989
Hon Mr Elston moved second reading of Bill 10, An Act to control Automobile Insurance Rates.
Hon Mr Elston: On today’s date, I finally welcome the opportunity of getting on with the legislation, if that is possible.
This is an important first step in a series we are taking now to deal with the issue of providing fair compensation to those people involved in automobile accidents. We are, as everyone knows, now expecting a report from the Ontario Automobile Insurance Board dealing with some deliberations it has had on matters of product alternatives to those we have now, in order to check into how we can provide a reasonably priced product that provides good coverage to the citizens of Ontario with respect to their insurance needs.
This particular bill, which we are about to consider on second reading and then, as I understand, move to committee for a couple of days of hearings, deals with an interim measure to provide for a capped rate of 7.6 per cent on vehicle insurance, with some minor exceptions concerning those particular vehicles that can now operate under the Highway Traffic Act without requiring permits.
I can tell the people of the province that I am exceedingly pleased to be able to move forward with this after waiting a long time to bring this into the House, but I anticipate and thank my critics for helping to expedite the discussion of this matter on second reading so that we can move to committee, bring it back and then get on with the more intense discussions that will be required as we consider product reform in the insurance industry.
I am particularly keen to do clause-by-clause analysis and do not propose to do it on second reading, other than to say that 7.6 per cent is a number with which we have associated ourselves because it represented a benchmark increase that was given under the previous series of hearings that were conducted by the automobile insurance board when they were discussing the requirements under their particular piece of legislation.
On its own, it does not represent final solutions for all ills that are associated with automobile insurance, but a very intensive study now at the board, undertaken by the Minister of Financial Institutions, I think will advance the discussion of issues other than the current capping issue.
There is no doubt that the delay in discussing this matter has caused some degree of concern because it has put into question the effect of this bill, but I can tell the people of the province that the legislation itself is designed to take effect as of 17 April 1989, when, of course, I made the original statement of the intention of the government to move forward in this way.
There are some flexible provisions in the bill that will allow the Minister of Financial Institutions and the board to make certain technical adjustments if that is required. In the short term this bill will be in place, we believe that we in fact do require the flexibility to meet particular circumstances that may be raised from time to time, which requires us to have that flexibility.
I was quite pleased to see the number of members opposite who were interested in this bill. Currently, that amounts to my colleague the member for Welland-Thorold (Mr Kormos) whose presence here is helpful, bearing in mind that if he were not here, there would be no critic available. To him may I say thank you for hanging around for the debate. Obviously, the rest are not too interested. I look forward to his comments. We have had some brief discussions prior to today, what seems like several months ago now, but was in reality only two or three weeks ago. He has raised some issues I know he will want to raise again here and which I am sure will be raised again as we go into committee to discuss the clause-by-clause content of this legislation.
I suspect as well that from time to time we will have brought to our attention specific issues around individual policies that will be raised by constituents of all the members. I might, as I have done on other occasions in this Legislative Assembly, ask for those members to bring those issues to my attention at the very earliest opportunity, so that we can seek ways of assisting their constituents in dealing with their particular problems.
With that, I think perhaps what I will do is just indicate the idea that this bill does cover all classes of automobile insurance. The rate for that is set at a 7.6 per cent increase from the last date of increase. In fact, we are in that way putting a cap temporarily on automobile insurance premiums. I will say that we are looking forward to product reform to take us much further into dealing with other issues.
We will look at those discussions to deal with what I think are found by a number of people in the province to be understandably worrisome difficulties in coming up with fair coverage under automobile insurance. If we can, for the benefit of the people of the province, get on with the discussion on second reading, the speedy assignment of this matter to committee and finally bringing it back for third reading, we can then get on with a much more major discussion of issues surrounding automobile insurance, which I think would be highly productive for all of us.
With that, Mr Speaker, I thank you for your attention and look forward to the interventions of my other colleagues.
Mr Kormos: I have, of course, as the minister indicates, discussed this with him briefly after reading this bill and he undoubtedly refers to my concern about section 8, which is the power to make regulations and indeed the areas that those regulations entail, but perhaps of even greater concern are the matters that the bill does not address; matters that are timely and certainly timely to the personnel involved in those matters.
I spoke recently with a gentleman from Scarborough, one John Mullen. This man is 57 years old. He has never had a claim on his home insurance or his car insurance. A few years ago, he changed insurance companies to Federated Insurance, a Manitoba-based company. Both his home and his car are insured with them. Within the last week or so, he received a registered letter from that insurer and in part the letter said, speaking of the cancellation of his home insurance:
“This action is a direct result of the overall adverse claims experience in the market in Toronto and the limited opportunities for improvement in the future. Thank you for having allowed us to provide you with your past insurance needs.”
They sent him a refund cheque for what they purported was the balance of his home insurance coverage. This man, Mr Mullen, then called Winnipeg to see if the same thing was going to happen to his car insurance and he was told that indeed it would, on August 30. He was told as well that the statute required a period of time of notice and that notice would not be given until the appropriate period of time began to run.
Now Mr Mullen, after having been a good, paying consumer, one who has paid his premiums regularly for years and years and years, indeed decades, finds himself without insurance that he expected would be renewed and, indeed, in the case of his household insurance, with it being cancelled prematurely. He is thrust into a market which is certainly not a buyer’s market; it is very much a seller’s market when it comes to insurance coverage, automobile insurance especially.
I know we have talked about this before, but I have, when addressing the matter of Bill 10, some great concern about the approximately 40,000 holders in this province of Advocate General insurance. I know that brokers across the province have been advising their insured persons of the course of events that was initiated by the federal government and that the insurance coverage by Advocate, although technically still there, is one that cannot be relied upon. There have been hundreds, probably thousands, of people across the province who have been put into a position where they purchased new insurance notwithstanding that the Advocate General insurance has been paid for, that the premiums were paid in advance and that there were, in many cases, up to nine and 10 months left to run in that particular policy.
I have concerns like those of Katie Allen from the E. Douglas Allen Insurance brokerage firm in Burlington, who wrote to the minister addressing the letter, “Dear Mr Elston,” and wrote on 4 May 1989, “A quick follow-up letter to give more information on what is going on out there in the insurance industry.
“Today, we had an application refused” -- she is speaking of a customer of theirs -- “because the client’s car was over six years old. It was a 1982 model car. The only market left for us is Facility.
“Another one refused because he had an at-fault accident in 1987. That particular customer will not take Facility. He is going to sell his car. You tell me: is that fair to the public, because they happen to have had the misfortune of being insured by CIGNA? Have you any answers down there or are all the small brokers going to be forced out of business? If you have any answers, let us know before it is too late.”
I am concerned about the problems that were encountered by one Donald Knoll from Rolling Acres Drive in Welland. He wrote in March 1989. He indicates that his son had two very minor accidents. He writes that his one error was perhaps to call the police so everything would be legal. He was charged with careless driving; no damage was incurred.
“My insurance dropped him, with my premium being penalized for six years, even though he bought his own car and was paying penalty on his own policy. After three years, we find out that this is the case. They say, ‘Had he died, we would pay for six years.’ Why is there no law that insurance companies must advise the client of any changes in insurance, traffic tickets, etc, causing increases?
“My daughter just nudged a woman’s car and both agreed there was no damage. Two years later, she found out the insurance company had just paid out $12,000 in whiplash to the woman and the insurance company dropped her. Why was she not told or included in the case of settlement, so she could give her story? We are being held ransom in Gestapo-like manner, as if we were too stupid to understand.”
That is signed by Mr Knoll, as I indicated.
I am concerned about a woman like Denise Lutka, who lives at 67 McNaughton Road in Welland and who drives a 1977 Oldsmobile Delta 88. Last year, through Economical Mutual Insurance Co, she had insurance coverage and was paying premiums in the amount of $462 per year. This year, with the renewal of her policy by Progressive Casualty Insurance Co of Willowdale, Ontario, she is paying $716 for every six months. She had hail damage and vandalism to her vehicle, but, as she indicates to me, no at-fault accidents incurred while she was operating her own vehicle.
I am concerned about a young man like Gino Pasquariello, of 61 Thompson Avenue in Thorold, who is 24 years old and works as a letter carrier. He drives a 1984 Chev Camaro. He had been insured with Commercial Union for two years. In March 1989, he was involved in an accident at a school crossing, but was not charged as a result of the accident. He was told by the police that the accident was not his fault and that is the reason why he was not charged. He received a letter from his broker saying:
“As per our numerous conversations. this is to inform you that, as of 12:01 on April 30, 1989, you will have no coverage with Commercial Union. I have no alternative market other than Pafco, which is a Facility company. Your price for one year is as follows: $2,964.” That is as compared to the $1,264 that he had paid the year previously with Commercial Union, not only for the Camaro, but for a 1977 Monarch which he used as a winter vehicle.
Again, there was no liability assessed against Mr Pasquariello; no fault attributed to him by the investigating police officers. Yet, there is a denial of coverage by Commercial Union, and a young man who has been driving for approximately eight years with no other claims, no other highway traffic offences, is forced into Facility insurance at more than double what he was previously paying.
I have concerns about the recipient of a letter from Murtaugh and Smith Insurance Services Ltd in Toronto, one Carl Haig, who, in April 1989, received a letter that said:
“As you may be aware, the auto insurance industry has tightened up considerably in the last few months. Our office, in particular, has felt this change. As a result, we are unable to offer renewal of your auto insurance without both six years proof of insurance coverage and some supporting business: that is, a home owner’s insurance or a tenant’s package.
“If you are able to furnish this information and business to our office, we will be most happy to provide you with insurance coverage for your auto and home. If, however, you cannot provide this information, we would then be unable to provide coverage, as the companies require this. It would then be in your best interests to look for coverage elsewhere. Please feel free to discuss this matter with myself or Brian Smith.”
That is an incredible scenario, that a broker would write to an insured and indicate that it was at the direction of the insurance company, the insurer, that that person will only be insured for auto insurance if that same person also purchases other types of insurance from the same company.
I am concerned about Sonia Fernandez of Willowdale, who had been covered by Constitution Insurance Co of Canada, who was paying insurance on her 1981 Mazda premium in the amount of $915, who is told by Constitution Insurance Co: “We regret we are unable to offer renewal of your vehicle insurance with Constitution. However, due to the introduction of compulsory automobile insurance in Ontario, we attempt to provide insurance for all automobile owners. Therefore, as a service to you, we have made arrangements to continue your protection with Guardian Insurance on the following basis,” and that is to the tune of $2,732.
That, by the way, is Facility Association coverage, although it is not disclosed to Mrs Fernandez in that letter. That is a problem we have had on more than one occasion. When I spoke with the superintendent of insurance about that, he indicated to me that under the new procedures there would be an element of disclosure in the forms provided to an insured person, and that in view of that, the superintendent’s office -- that is my information -- was not prepared to take any action to ensure that customers of insurance companies are advised when indeed they are being referred to Facility Association as compared to merely another insurance company.
What happens when there is not that disclosure is that an insured person genuinely believes, as a result of what he or she is told, that what he is getting is the best possible price on the market. We all know that brokers do not act for more than two, perhaps three insurance companies at any given point in time --
Hon Mr Elston: More than that.
Mr Kormos: Sometimes more, but in small communities like the one I come from, at the heart of the Niagara Peninsula, Welland-Thorold, in small communities where I come from the insurance brokers tell me they handle on the average two, three, perhaps four insurance companies at any given point in time. The misperception the customer has, as I say, when he is referred to Facility Association is that he is getting the best possible price out there: $2,732.
The impression Mrs Fernandez had, as a result of receiving this letter from Constitution of Canada, was that indeed she was being insured by a regular insurer and that that was as good as it was going to get. It does not indicate to her that indeed she is being referred to an association of last resort, if you will, and does not give her that information so she can then go out and shop with other brokers.
Hon Mr Elston: I know that’s a problem. Why don’t we deal with it in the other bill as opposed to this one?
The Deputy Speaker: Order, please.
Mr Kormos: The minister is saying, “Why are we talking about this now?”
Mr R. F. Johnston: Mr Speaker, please remind the minister that he gets a two-minute period to respond after, if he wants.
The Deputy Speaker: Yes. One person at a time, please. The member will address his remarks through the Speaker.
Hon Mr Elston: He’s running out of cogent thoughts and I was just trying to help him.
Mr Kormos: I appreciate that. But the problem is that there are immediate problems out there in the community across the province that are not being addressed, certainly by Bill 10. What it requires and what it calls for is a reflection back to 23 April 1987 -- that was certainly before my time here -- when certain announcements were made.
I have the press release distributed by the ministry, and it is 23 April 1987, “Kwinter Announces New Auto Insurance Legislation.” It reads, “An immediate cap on all rates for motor vehicle insurance categories in Ontario was ordered today by Financial Institutions Minister Monte Kwinter as part of a comprehensive package of new auto insurance legislation.”
Mr Kwinter said at a press conference, “It is clear to the general public and it is clear to me, the automobile insurance rate structure is arbitrary. While overall profitability increases” -- profitability of the insurance companies -- “some consumers continue to pay unjustifiably higher premium rates with no recourse for their shabby treatment in the marketplace.”
The minister went on to say that “the government had deliberately given the insurance industry both the time and opportunity to voluntarily improve market fairness, ‘but their response has been inadequate.’”
He then went on to announce a series of legislative initiatives. The minister is far more familiar with them than I am, because he was there when they were announced: capping all insurance premiums as of 23 April 1987, the creation of the Ontario Automobile Insurance Board and the creation of a consumer insurance bureau, headed by an insurance advocate to provide consumer information and assist consumers with complaints.
In addition, he promised “government management and control of the statistical information base” and “a requirement that insurers offer consumers the option of buying a policy only for the named drivers within a household to ease the problem of good drivers being penalized for having high-risk drivers in their home.”
He said, “Premium rates will no longer be determined in isolation by vested business interests. Consumer groups, individuals and the government will be able to argue their cases during public hearings conducted by the board.”
We know what happened to the board process, because after spending more than $7 million of taxpayers’ money, the board ended up with recommendations that entailed increases to drivers’ premiums across this province ranging from 17 per cent up to 80 per cent or possibly even 90 per cent, depending ‘upon which reports one reads.
The minister mentions the downward trends, which he cited regularly here in this Legislature during question period. He spoke of the 16- or 17-year-old male who enjoyed modest reductions in his premiums, if indeed anybody would sell him that insurance. The reality of it is that there was nothing inherent in the legislation to require an insurer to sell insurance at the prescribed rate notwithstanding that the person had the cash in hand and was prepared to pay it.
It begs the real question, which is that the auto insurance board process did not amount to a substantial reduction or any reduction in auto insurance premiums in the province. Indeed, it constituted an increase in rates, some of them very dramatic, generating even more so the aspect of unaffordability for many, if not most, drivers in the province.
The minister speaks now of the new direction of the board, which is to consider product reform. Of course, that is the insurance companies’ no-fault proposal. The initial comments about no-fault insurance, in what is nothing more than a real selling job, were to the effect that it would constitute the groundwork for reductions in premiums.
But the board’s own lawyer, Donald Rogers, counsel for the Ontario Automobile Insurance Board, was quoted in an article published in the Globe and Mail on 5 June as saying that experience in both the United States and Canada indicates that no-fault car insurance schemes do not mean lower car insurance rates. He went on to say, “I think it ... fair to say that no clear trend of reduced or more stable prices can be demonstrated in the no-fault regimes.”
The same article indicates that the average price of automobile insurance in Ontario is currently $760 a year. Contrast that with the information contained in the 1988 annual report of the Insurance Corp of British Columbia, which indicates that the average premium there is $516; and the rate for 1989 in British Columbia is approximately $550, some $210 less than the average rate in Ontario for 1989. That is before the 7.6 per cent increase that is proposed by this particular legislation.
As I indicated, subsection 8(1) of Bill 10 is, quite frankly, most frightening. Subsection 8(1) permits some incredible powers to the Lieutenant Governor in Council. It reads:
“The Lieutenant Governor in Council may make regulations,
“(a) permitting insurers to increase their capped rates in accordance with the regulations;
“(b) exempting insurers and the Facility Association from the requirements of this act in respect of such categories of automobile insurance, such coverages or such classes of risk exposure as may be set out in the regulations;
“(c) permitting the Facility Association to increase Facility Association rates in accordance with the regulations.”
It has to be remembered that section 10 of this bill indicates that it is going to be in effect until the end of December 1990 --
[Failure of sound system]
The Deputy Speaker: There is a problem. We do not have your sound.
There you go. The sound is back. You may proceed.
Mr Kormos: I will start around two minutes ago.
The real problem with section 8 is that the cabinet, in secrecy, can impose increases on drivers insured by any given insurance company or any group of insurance companies arbitrarily, without any accountability, without any notice to the insured party and indeed in a process that, as I say, is also obviously secret.
It is no secret that we in the New Democratic Party are advocates of a public, driver-owned, non-profit auto insurance system. Indeed, that is the one area of investigation that the government has not ventured into, either on its own or through the Ontario Automobile Insurance Board.
The auto insurance board is now investigating the insurance companies’ proposal of no-fault insurance. The experience in the United States, as indicated by Donald Rogers, is that it is not going to produce lower insurance rates. Even the consultant hired by the board, which announced in its initial release that there would be some savings, concedes that the savings came mainly through the reduction of benefits paid to accident victims.
Furthermore, the savings were calculated on the basis of a hypothetical benchmark insurance rate, not existing average rates. What happened was that inflated rates were accepted, calculation of reduction of benefits was interposed on them, and that resulted in a chimerical saving to Ontario drivers.
Mr Runciman: What saving?
Mr Kormos: Chimerical. We -- and this is no secret -- are advocates of a public, driver-owned, non-profit auto insurance system. For years, we have been hearing complaints in this party about the car insurance provided by the private corporations. The premiums are too high; the services range from inadequate to lousy; their efficiency is low; their practices are arbitrary; their methods are unfair, and the advertising of the insurance industry is not only misleading but unreal.
When we discuss public auto insurance, we do encounter the difficulty experienced by many persons in the confusion of a no-fault system as proposed by the auto insurance industry currently in Ontario with our proposal of driver-owned car insurance. Quite frankly, we should acknowledge right here and now that they are two different ideas.
When we talk about driver-owned car insurance, we are talking about who controls car insurance, the working people of the province or private corporations. When we talk about no-fault, we are talking about a form of car insurance and claims settlement, no matter who controls it.
We want greatly improved benefits for accident victims, no matter who caused the accident. We also believe just as strongly that people must retain their right to sue. Quite frankly, it is a matter that the proposal on the part of the private auto insurance industry in this province and the government is one that would give the insurance industry the power to determine what ought to be provided by way of compensation to injured persons. When we have not been able to trust the insurance industry to determine fair and appropriate premiums, why should we trust it to determine fair and appropriate compensation?
It remains that it is essential in any fair system that there be the right of access to a dispute settlement mechanism. Call it suing, call it what you will, but we insist that any new auto insurance system in this province retain the right to sue.
We in the New Democratic Party did not make auto insurance an issue; the private insurance corporations did, quite frankly, with their greed and discrimination.
We will continue to fight for an insurance system that is affordable and fair, and that insurance system is a driver-owned car insurance system. It is not a new idea; it is over 40 years old here in Canada. It has worked well in the three provinces in which it was originally introduced by New Democrats -- in 1946 in Saskatchewan, in 1971 in Manitoba and in 1973 in British Columbia.
What is interesting is that the private insurance corporations like to tell us how unprofitable the car insurance business really is. To hear them tell it, sticking people for an extra 20 per cent or so on their premiums is really costing them hundreds of millions of dollars every year.
Public relations is something that they specialize in and it ought to be because, after all, they can afford to pay for the creative people to write their material. However, public relations is a very different business from accounting or being straight with people. The insurance industry does not publish the detailed information it takes to be able to evaluate or corroborate its claims. For example, they do not break down profit for parts of their business activities other than when it suits them.
This party, the New Democratic Party, has called repeatedly on the insurance industry to open its books. Even when the Ontario Automobile Insurance Board called upon them to produce statistics and data, it was data that was so confusing and so devious in its quality that the board’s own consultant bursar commented most strongly on the lack of quality of that data.
We believe in greatly improved benefits for accident victims, no matter who caused the accident. As I have indicated before, we also believe that people must retain the right to sue. We believe that benefits for accident victims should be payable regardless of who is at fault. The need for assistance is no different, the time and money lost from being away from work is no different and the financial, physical and emotional costs of long-term injury or disability are no different. The only distinction is who is judged to be responsible, and we think the police and the courts are the agencies to sort that out. If charges are warranted, let them be laid. If convictions result, so be it. As indicated already, we believe that drivers’ records ought to influence their premium charges, but we reject the notion that benefits ought to be tied to fault.
In fact, in Ontario right now, drivers have no-fault accident benefits, but the amount that is available, a maximum of $140 a week, is woefully inadequate. Accordingly, we believe this should be increased to cover a much greater proportion of peoples’ lost income if they lose time from work.
We believe that a fairer replacement rate for lost income will result in fewer costly and lengthy court cases. Many people now are forced to sue simply to recover lost income that ought to be recoverable through standard benefits without recourse to litigation.
There is an additional argument for fairness here as well. With maximum no-fault benefits so low and the costs of court action so high, insurers often take advantage of drivers by offering inadequate settlements that may be preferable overall to the cost of going to court. With fairer no-fault benefits, this sort of financial squeeze would be much less common. We believe in what is basically known as a modified no-fault plan. It is fairer, it is cheaper to administer and it would result in savings to Ontario drivers.
Our concern is that this legislation is designed to increase automobile insurance premiums in the province and to provide a mechanism whereby secret increases can be imposed on drivers at the whim of the insurance industry and the government. We cannot support legislation that contains that type of arbitrariness, that type of secrecy and that type of incredible power allocated to the private automobile insurance industry. We continue to call upon the government to investigate a public non-profit driver-owned automobile insurance system, one that would deliver insurance fairly and affordably.
Hon Mr Elston: Although the honourable gentleman has raised some very interesting issues and a series of letters which have raised some other issues, I think he would heed my opening remarks which are to the extent that this particular bill is interim in nature and is designed to deal only with the rates in the interim. In fact, the bill has an existence only until the end of 1990 at the longest, or earlier if we can get the product reform in place, which I think we will be able to do. That will deal with the issues of disclosures and the issue of people who are put into a Facility without their knowledge.
I think that his points in many ways are fair ones and I do not want to say that we are not interested in them because we are interested in a whole series of his presented issues.
The reading of the series of letters which has become a popular technique with the opposition parties of delivering notice of items for debate is an interesting stroll through the auto insurance series of issues, but they are issues which have a much broader context in this particular piece of legislation. I acknowledge their importance, but not the appropriate nature of their being raised at the moment.
I am happy to have him share with me those letters. Sometimes when people indicate that they have minor accidents and that they have not been charged or whatever, it still does not become clear to me whether or not there were major claims on their insurance coverage. If there are major claims on their insurance coverage, then of course to the company it is a claim that has to be paid out.
So I am pleased to look into the letters which were raised that deal with the issues of the withdrawal from the market by Federated, the issue of being put in the Facility from others and the issue raised by the member for Welland-Thorold which suggests that the broker was not being upfront with one of the constituents. I am quite pleased to deal with those in another forum which will come later.
Mr Kormos: How long is this going to go on in terms of the minister directing his board to engage in, let’s say, an investigation of product reform, when the ministry still has not addressed any of its attention to consideration of a public system which in the western provinces has demonstrated itself to be more efficient and less costly?
Why is the board not being directed to conduct examinations of that? Why is the emphasis on a system that is going to reduce benefits -- the board’s own council acknowledges that -- not reduce premiums and generate more profits for the insurance industry? Really, is it not time to take the bull by the horns, to start considering the prospect of public auto insurance, notwithstanding the over $100,000 that the private insurance industry invested in 1987 in the Liberal Party campaign across this province?
Surely, there is a point in time when they have been repaid in kind twofold, threefold or fourfold. If the minister is really interested in protecting the interests of drivers across the province, he is going to look at the British Columbia model, he is going to look at the Manitoba and Saskatchewan models and he is going to ignore the myths that have been perpetrated by the insurance industry about these models.
Not only is British Columbia not subsidized, it generates tax revenue. In 1988 it generated tax revenue by virtue of a premium tax to the tune of $30 million and change. The ICBC is not subsidized and is also a source of revenue for the government itself to the tune of $30 million and change. Those are the types of systems we should be looking at if we are going to improve the quality of insurance service to people in this province and drivers across Ontario.
Mr Runciman: At the outset I want to make reference to the minister’s comments earlier when he made note of my absence. I was sitting in the lobby listening and I am sorry I offended his tender sensibilities. Apparently he fell out of bed this morning, but on the wrong side of the bed. In any event, I want to indicate that I listened very closely to his contribution, brief as it was. I have been listening to his interjections here this afternoon with interest and his attempts to instruct members of the opposition in the kinds of things they should be saying during this debate.
I have been involved in this exercise for some time as one who sat on the standing committee on administration of justice during the Bill 2 hearings process with his friend sitting beside him, the member for York Mills (Mr J. B. Nixon), who could have advised him on a number of things that certainly were made known to us as members of that committee some time ago. But his reaction just a few months ago in response to the serious dislocation that occurred was unbelievable with respect to the evidence presented to us back in 1987 and early 1988.
I am assuming the member for York Mills is going to be participating in this debate. I wanted to make mention of the fact that I saw his picture in a magazine earlier this year where he was identified as one of the 10 sexiest men in Toronto. I am not sure who wrote the article. It was either Patricia Starr or someone who was extremely short-sighted. No, I like the member and I very much appreciated his input during the Bill 2 hearings and respect his knowledge on this issue. I look forward to his contribution during the debate. I am sure it will be most helpful.
I want to talk a bit about the money that has been wasted on this whole exercise. The minister has certainly heard a bit of that.
Hon Mr Elston: What does that have to do with a 7.6 cap? Are you supporting the bill? Listen, talk about anything you want, Bob, but are you supporting the 7.6 cap?
Mr Runciman: We are talking about the $7 million plus that this automobile insurance board spent to go through this exercise, this board that was supposed to be autonomous, not involved with the government whatsoever, no political input, no political decision-making, no back-room gamesmanship. But what was the response in the media in respect to the minister’s surprise announcement in April? “So much for the autonomy of the government’s autonomous insurance board,” says the Toronto Sun. “In a brazen display of save-your-bacon expediency, Financial Institutions minister Murray Elston proved the board to be what everyone knew it was, a political puppet.”
The Toronto Star, which is not, as a rule, known to be terribly critical of the current government of this province - -
Hon Mr Elston: On auto insurance. Grow up.
Mr Runciman: Generally.
I will quote again: “Yesterday’s decision by Ontario’s Liberal government to decapitate its independent insurance board and decide 1988-89 rate increases in the political back room should not surprise anyone.” It certainly did not surprise us. Who knows? It may have surprised the Minister of Natural Resources (Mr Kerrio), who was taken to task back in January of this year by none other than the Premier (Mr Peterson) when the minister indicated that, in his view, it would be a political decision; that the government could overturn whatever the auto insurance board decided in its wisdom that the rates in this province should be for automobile insurance. He very quickly received instructions to apologize for saying that.
The minister said: “That was a mistake. It was my impression that we would have that opportunity. I said I made a mistake and I corrected the record.” I am not sure who called the Minister of Natural Resources when he made that comment, but we all know the minister to be a straight-talking kind of guy who says it like it is, in his view, and tends to be very honest and open in his approach to these things, whether we agree or disagree with his views, on a variety of issues. Here is another indication where that gentleman said it like it is, said it like it was going to be, just a few short months after those comments and after his forced retraction. I have to believe that it was, indeed, a forced retraction in the sense that someone from the Premier’s Office contacted the gentleman and said, “Look, that is not the picture we are trying to sell to the public. Get out there and admit you made a mistake.”
Obviously he did not make a mistake. We have seen other ministers of this government make serious mistakes and not receive direction from the Premier’s Office to indicate or apologize that they made a mistake. In fact, they have been supported in their intransigence and unwillingness to admit that they made a very serious mistake. Here we have a situation where the minister was honest, completely open, did not make a mistake and was compelled to say that he made a mistake.
When we take a look at what has happened in respect to automobile insurance in the past couple of years under the direction of the Liberal government, there was an article in a speech, I guess, delivered by one Ted Belton, who is a vice chairman of Pafco Insurance Co. The headline on this article is certainly dead on: “Ready, Fire, Aim.” I do not think there is any question that that describes the way the Liberal government has dealt with this issue and has indeed shot itself in the foot but also, in turn, shot the consumers of this province - -
Hon Mr Elston: Is Ted Belton suing us? He’s suing us, right?
Mr Runciman: The minister should know that. I have no information in that regard. The minister is apparently concerned about a lawsuit.
I want to put a few of the quotes from this article on the record, because I think they are most appropriate in talking about the actions of the government.
“Initially, of course, they created the expectation that premiums would go down. They discarded 50 years of statistical data and violated the principle stating that the premium shall be commensurate with the risk. It was evident at the time, and it is even more evident now, that the government had aimed its guns in the wrong direction and for the wrong reasons. However, the revolution has been triggered and its impact is starting to be felt by consumers and insurers alike.”
Certainly we have seen that in recent months with respect to the inability of many drivers in the Metropolitan Toronto area to find adequate car insurance. It is a situation where we are seeing increasing numbers being forced to look to the Facility Association. I know the minister will say that number is still rather modest, but if we take a look at the percentage increase in Facility over a one-year period, it is indeed significant.
Again, these are the kinds of things that should not be of any surprise to this minister or his government colleagues, certainly not the member for York Mills or any other member who served on the standing committee on administration of justice during the Bill 2 hearing process. It was clearly indicated to us.
This is another thing I have never been able to determine. On the last day of the Bill 2 hearings, we were presented with a critique of the system in Massachusetts, which at that time I believe was the only jurisdiction that had adopted a system comparable to what this government has adopted.
The story in Massachusetts was nothing less than a horror story, where the state witnessed insurance company after insurance company pulling out of the state, not operating in that jurisdiction. As of 1987, in any event, approximately 60 per cent of the drivers were in Facility in the state of Massachusetts. It was clearly indicated to the minister and his predecessor that that is the kind of path this government had embarked upon.
Now we see the Premier down visiting in Boston, Massachusetts, a couple of weeks ago with his small-l liberal friend Governor Dukakis, patting each other on the back. Mr Dukakis returned the favour by coming up here and saying wonderful things about the Premier a week or two ago.
I guess some of the things we have heard about Mr Dukakis recently are making it much more evident to the public at large just what kind of impact his small-l liberal policies have had on the economy of Massachusetts and on the economic wellbeing of that state. I saw a poll recently where Governor Dukakis is the most unpopular governor in the United States.
That is quite a fall for a gentleman who recently ran for the presidency of the United States, but it indicates that the kinds of initiatives he has undertaken in that state have certainly not, over time, proved to be beneficial. Of course, we have the Premier patting him on the back about the kinds of initiatives he has undertaken.
We have suggested that some of the comparable initiatives -- auto insurance obviously is one. We are not going to a significant extent reap the whirlwind perhaps for a number of years, but indeed we are going to reap the whirlwind of the government’s decisions and initiatives, its ad hoc, fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants, panic-driven policymaking in respect to auto insurance. We are going to pay the bill ultimately.
The member for Welland-Thorold, who spoke before me, was saying that this government has looked at virtually every option except public auto insurance. My response to that is give them time. I predicted during the Bill 2 process that regrettably we were looking at a three-step exercise here that ultimately and regrettably was going to lead us into government-run auto insurance. The first step was the establishment of the Ontario Automobile Insurance Board to set rates. The second step was no-fault auto insurance, and I think we are going to hear more about that as the days go by. The third step is a government-run operation.
This party, this Liberal Party, this government has no clear idea of where it wants to go in respect to auto insurance. lt has jumped from one crisis to another. What happened of course was that we had the Premier in September 1987, three days before the election, making one of his off-the-cuff comments which he has become so famous for, saying that he had a specific plan to lower automobile insurance rates. Of course he had no specific plan; he had no backup. Once the election was over this government, ensconced in its very comfortable majority, then decided: “Look, the Premier made a promise. We have to attempt in some way, shape or form at least to appear to fulfil that promise.”
They had at that time undertaken a commitment to Justice Coulter Osborne to take a look at the auto insurance system in this province. What happened was that rather than wait for that study, which cost the taxpayers of this province in excess of $1 million, they forged ahead with this ill-thought-out initiative based, I believe, on the Massachusetts example.
If they had been thoughtful and a little less panic-driven in response to trying to come up with some sort of adequate answer to the Premier’s promise, they would have waited for Coulter Osborne to make his report, the Report of Inquiry into Motor Vehicle Accident Compensation. They would have referred that report to the standing committee on administration of justice or another appropriate standing committee of this Legislature, which in turn would have taken the Osborne study, which is a careful study, and then made recommendations to this Legislature and to the government in respect to what should be happening with auto insurance in this province.
I am not for a moment suggesting that that would have been a unanimous report. Obviously we know where the New Democratic Party stands in respect to auto insurance. But I think if we had taken that appropriate action in dealing with the issue, we would not be in the kind of crisis situation that we find ourselves in now.
Mr Osborne, in his well-written report, indicated that Ontario should not be an importer in respect to auto insurance schemes in this province. We should be an exporter. We probably head the finest system in North America. I emphasize the word “head” because for all intents and purposes this government has knee-capped an excellent process which indeed needed some adjustments and some refinement, but it has thrown the baby out with the bath water and all of us at this stage are very uncertain about where we are going. That is creating a great deal of uncertainty among a whole range of groups in society.
I, along with other members I am sure, get somewhat exhausted talking about this subject, because the government keeps jerking from right to left and coming up with new initiatives and hasty responses. It is difficult for us simply because of a real sense of frustration with the way the government has dealt with this. I suspect that the Minister of Financial Institutions (Mr Elston) in the next few weeks is probably going to recommend to this House that we have a pure, no-fault system.
Hon Mr Elston: Now that is a little presumptuous on your part.
Mr Runciman: Sure it is presumptuous. I have to look at the way the government has acted up to this point and I will agree that it is not very predictable indeed. But I, and I am sure my party, will not be running to support a pure, no-fault system. As the minister will know, a great many groups in society, not just the Advocates’ Society, have very real concerns about a no-fault system, a pure no-fault system especially.
The fundamental automobile insurance rates group, I think, is an indication of a coalition of very concerned groups, and at some point in my contribution to this debate I would like to put on record the individual groups and organizations participating in the FAIR organization. Certainly, we know that one of those groups has to deal with accident victims and rehabilitation associations.
Another element of this is that we talk about the $7 million plus that was spent by the board in going through this costly exercise. Although the minister will argue, I am sure, that it was money well spent, that money is another element of this and that is in terms of the money spent by insurance companies with respect to meeting the requirements of the Ontario Automobile Insurance Board.
Some may not want to express much sympathy for those insurance companies, but ultimately it is the consumers of this province who are going to have to pick up that tab. We have heard talk of $50 million to $60 million spent by the insurance companies in doing what they had to do to meet the requirements of this board.
Of course, as we know, once the minister had an opportunity to review the submissions in terms of rates, he again pushed the panic button.
We know, for example, that some of the stories filtering out of that were that some of the increases could be in the range of 80 per cent to 90 per cent. A lot of this ties in, as I said earlier, with the government’s initiative, supported by the official opposition’s efforts to remove age, sex and marital status as rating criteria.
Mr Pouliot: Go downtown and look at the highest buildings. They were built by premiums of the average person.
The Acting Speaker (Mr M. C. Ray): Order, please.
Mr Pouliot: I am being provoked. I am broke and this guy is fleecing my pocket with one more action.
The Acting Speaker: Well, it is not your turn to speak.
Mr Runciman: We will give you a break.
Mr Pouliot: Maybe the member for Leeds-Grenville will give me a break.
The Acting Speaker: The member has the floor, and he should be permitted to speak.
Mr Runciman: I find that kind of amusing. I have brought this forward before. It is a no-win situation for me to get into a debate with the New Democratic Party, and I realize that.
I want to make one point.
Mr Pouliot: You wouldn’t recognize honesty if you were facing it.
Mr Runciman: Well, we will let that slip by, an unfortunate comment which I am sure was not meant.
In any event, I wanted to talk. Certainly the members in the NDP will disagree with me, but when we had concerns expressed by senior citizens in this province about the significant increases that they were going to experience as a result of this removal of the ability to classify risk on age, sex and marital status -- in reality, based on what is happening out in the highways and streets of this province -- we had the official opposition jumping up in this House and being very irate about it.
Fine and dandy, but they were very strong supporters of these changes which had that kind of impact on seniors and young women drivers in this province. That was clearly spelled out to all of us who participated in the Bill 2 hearings process. I had some difficulty with the NDP’s reaction to that input from seniors and young women drivers in this province.
We did not support those changes and, of course, an argument can and will be made with respect to discrimination. But we took the other side of that argument, that indeed removing the ability of insurance companies to classify risk based on what is happening on the highways and streets of this province was reverse discrimination. In effect, what takes place is that they are discriminating against the statistically proven good drivers in society in favour of the statistically proven bad drivers in society.
We had extreme difficulty with that. It is a matter of record that over the years people in our party -- Frank Drea, Bob Elgie and others who were Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations -- had indicated in principle their support for this kind of change, but when it got down to practical terms and they looked at the real impact it was going to have on good drivers in society, they always drew back from that particular proposal and did not move ahead with it, I think wisely. Obviously we will have some disagreement on that.
My only point with respect to the New Democratic Party is that it cannot have it both ways on this issue, although I am sure its members will give it a good shot.
Hon Mr Elston: Are you supporting the bill, Bob?
Mr Runciman: Time will tell. The minister asked me an interesting question: Are we supporting the bill? I guess my initial reaction to anything this government does with respect to auto insurance is that we should not support it.
During the Bill 2 hearings process again, although we could have made a number of amendments, which we were certain would have been defeated in any event, we made a decision not to in any way, shape or form be perceived as participating in that exercise in terms of trying to improve on what we felt was a very bad piece of legislation, a very ill thought out piece of legislation that would have a very negative impact in the long term on the private sector with respect to auto insurance in this province and certainly in terms of the options available to consumers in this province with respect to availability of auto insurance.
We are starting to see those things occur now. The minister may not be prepared to stand up and indicate that. Indeed, they may not be significant in terms of total numbers. I am talking about the flow into Facility. One thing -- and I do not want to forget this -- another element which perhaps has not been talked about, but I am sure the minister is aware of it, another aspect of this is the re-underwriting that is occurring.
I have had a number of people in this province call me and say: “Look, I only had one accident two years ago. I was paying $600 a year and now
I’m finding myself put into a different classification and I’m having to pay $2,000” -- or $2,200
or whatever figure it might be -- “for auto insurance.
Hon Mr Elston: Is that a driver who has had an accident?
Mr Runciman: I guess the minister is getting anxious again. Yes, had an accident. We know that, in the past, many insurance companies have forgiven one accident under certain circumstances. I gather even two can be forgiven or overlooked. But in this event, given the current set of circumstances companies have to operate in in this province, they are taking a look at many of those policies, reassessing them, reunderwriting them and, in effect, putting them into classifications that result in much higher premiums for those consumers in this province.
This is indeed a very complicated issue. I have gained some understanding of it over the past three years, being involved in the standing committee on administration of justice. Obviously it is not simply for partisan reasons that I have difficulty with what the government is doing. It is because I really believe they have gone down the wrong path and do not know how to extricate themselves from it. There has never been any kind of long-term plan with respect to how they would deal with this and there does not exist one today.
The government is soon going to be bringing forward soon some product reform measures, suggestions which--again, the government is simply crossing its fingers and toes in hopes that down the road this is going to in some way mollify consumers in the province and perhaps restrain somewhat the rate increases that are, of necessity, going to occur, if for no other reason than the increased cost of living, and things like the payroll tax the government is applying to the private sector in this province and a whole range of other taxing issues.
Hon Mr Elston: Okay, we will tax your contributions.
Mr Runciman: Well, we can get into all kinds of things here. I do not feel at all restricted by the minister’s concerns about my contributions.
The other element of this -- and we will have lots of opportunity to discuss this issue in the future, so I do not want to prolong it -- is the chairman of the Ontario Automobile Insurance Board, Mr Kruger. I have talked briefly about the question of the independence of the chairman and the board itself and what has happened with respect to this.
Mr Kruger’s independence was in question really some time ago. If we take a look back to his rather unfortunate attempt to contact the minister of the day, the Treasurer (Mr R. F. Nixon), he sent what was supposed to be a confidential letter to him warning that the industry demands for rate increases were gaining momentum and could stir up controversy at the board’s hearings into rates which were to begin in August of that year. That was the so-called independent watchdog sending that kind of a political missive to the Treasurer, the former Minister of Financial Institutions.
We saw Mr Kruger’s response to the minister’s overturning of the board’s rate-making system. I think he indicated that he was somewhat troubled by it but that he was not about to resign at this point, but that if indeed something comparable to that occurred in the future he might have to resign.
It says something about the gentleman in respect to what his role is and how he saw his role when he assumed those responsibilities. We have accused him in some very uncomplimentary language -- I will not use that kind of language today -- of being in the pockets of the government. Indeed, he has confirmed that not only by his early contacts with the Treasurer but certainly by his rather muted response to the humiliation he suffered at the hands of this minister and this government. He accepted that muted response and said, “If it happens again, if they kick me while I’m down once more, I might crawl out of here.”
I tell the members that the gentleman and his board certainly do not have much credibility. If the minister wants to reinvigorate this process he might want to consider, or one of his successors who we might see in the next few months might want to consider a total revamping of that board in terms of personnel; certainly a new chairman. Mr Kruger can move on to perhaps flusher fields. I am sure something will be found for him.
If there ever was a sense of integrity about the thing, we certainly need someone there who can reinstitute that. I think the minister has to bring someone new in there, someone who is going to restore whatever confidence there was in the board to be objective, to be independent and to do the job it was supposedly designed to do.
I will end my contribution at that point and look forward to the minister’s rational response.
Hon Mr Elston: My response will be both rational and rationed, and quite brief. I just want to raise the issue for the floor to try to grasp what it was the honourable gentleman said when the question was raised: Do you support the bill? I think he said he did support it but not definitively. He can clarify that for us in his windup comments.
The whole issue, of course, is whether he fully supports his colleague the member for Welland-Thorold and fellow member of opposition here in the advocacy of public insurance. The honourable gentleman at this moment says he does not like what I am doing, which is examining the private delivery system for the benefit of the consumers. He says he does not agree with the road I have taken the province on. That leaves only one thing for me to guess and that is that he thinks, like his colleague the member for Welland-Thorold, that the public system is the cats miaow, so to speak.
I am quite happy to get into a much fuller debate about some of the issues he did raise, and they are serious issues about the board and other things. I think we can deal with those again in a broader context.
This bill, on its own, attempts to restrict increases in auto insurance to 7.6 per cent in the interim while we do debate the issues that surround product reform.
That being said, the issues are important and I fully take notice of them for that bigger debate, but I want to make sure we can get on with giving the consumers protection now and that is what I think we should turn our minds to in the debate.
Mr Pouliot: The member for Leeds-Grenville was somewhat unkind when he directed remarks in the course of his presentation this afternoon to the member of the New Democratic Party. He perhaps had a right, under a state of siege, to feel a little nervous when it becomes so blatant, and this is the kind of intent that would have been best directed at the minister responsible for interim measures.
When we are talking about Bill 10, we have to keep in mind that it was not too long ago, in fact, for a mere seven days past, that the Ontario Automobile Insurance Board came into effect, and the rug was pulled from under it, because we have Bill 10, which says: “No more hype. No more scaring the population to death when it comes to automobile insurance. No severe dislocation. What we will do now, recognizing the extent of our mistake and the injustice, is go to 7.6 per cent.”
The Premier had said, and I believe the Premier -- the Premier would not, would he, Mr Speaker, before the election, when it was time to go to the population of Ontario to get their votes, lure the population in saying, “I have a plan that will reduce automobile insurance”? The minister responsible says, “I have a plan that will create a board.” The minister responsible for automobile insurance says, “I have Bill 10.” What is the minister going to say? He tells us it is in the interim, almost in lieu of. He has become the apologist. No one knows where the minister will be on the long-term basis.
Does the minister have a hidden agenda? I do not know. I try to follow step by step. We have the answer before the writs are issued: a difference of $300, $400 or $500 per driver. All one has to do is look at the example set forth. In British Columbia, Manitoba and Saskatchewan, even when there was a change of government, there was no intention --
Hon Mr Elston: And now we have a change of speakers.
Mr Pouliot: I do not listen to them.
Hon Mr Elston: Time’s up.
Mr Pouliot: Through you, Mr Speaker, there was no intention to take away the plan that benefited people in those three provinces.
The Acting Speaker: Are there other comments or questions? The member for York Mills.
Mr J. B. Nixon: I have to say there was one thing the member for Leeds-Grenville said that I did agree with, and that is that we are dealing with a very, very complex matter. There is no doubt about that. The discussion that has taken place today in the assembly, in the chamber, reminds me of the discussion that took place in the standing committee on administration of justice, which the member for Leeds-Grenville was at and the member for Welland-Thorold was not at, but the rhetoric is the same.
It was clear from the start that the official opposition was saying: “Don’t confuse me with the facts. Don’t tell me about the $58 million in buried losses hidden during an election year under the Manitoba Autopac system, about a minister forced to resign because he instructed the auditors to bury the loss. Don’t confuse me with the facts. Public auto insurance is the way to go.”
Similarly, we heard a continuing and consistent defence from the other opposition party of the “free enterprise” system.
What we were faced to deal with is a problem that began in 1985 and indeed was festering for many years before that and was left unattended by the previous government. Regulatory reform is a difficult and slow process. It is intensive work; it is hard work. We took that bull by the horns. We decided we would reform the process. We have commenced doing that and we continue to do that.
I laud the minister for the work he continues with in the interests of consumers, not in the interests of some mythical public automobile insurance corporation nor in the interests of a symbolic system of free enterprise, which really does not exist in the automobile insurance industry any more anyway. I encourage all members of the Legislature to support the minister in his continuing hard work.
Mr Velshi: I thought I heard the member for Leeds-Grenville mention that males under 25 are the biggest offenders and that he would advocate that they should be punished for that purpose. Perhaps I misunderstood the member. Perhaps he can give us an unequivocal yes or no on whether he agrees that there should be discrimination against males under 25.
Mr Kormos: I am concerned about some of the comments both by the member for Leeds-Grenville and on the part of those who responded to him. Lyall Hanson, Minister of Labour and Consumer Services of British Columbia, had this to say about British Columbia’s auto insurance system in January 1987: “I went into this ministry with concerns that ICBC was a bureaucratic situation that was charging more than other jurisdictions and that we would have great advantage in returning to private enterprise. From what I have seen and what I have been shown, I believe that we in BC are getting a good deal from ICBC as it stands.”
In March 1986, Brian Stanhope, vice-president of the Insurance Bureau of Canada, said this about Insurance Corp of British Columbia, the public, driver-owned non-profit auto insurance system: “I’d like to be able to say something bad about them, but I can’t think of anything.”
It remains that a lot of mythology has been generated about these systems in the western provinces of Manitoba, Saskatchewan and British Columbia. It remains that nobody has demonstrated any evidence of the allegations that have been made. The fact is that those systems work, they work well and we should be looking at them here in Ontario.
Mr Runciman: I will try to deal with most of the questions that were brought forward. The member for York Mills indicated that during the Bill 2 hearings we were consistent defenders of free enterprise, and that is true. I do not make any apologies for that. We know that this current government certainly does not actively support free enterprise. We saw after the recent budget the response of John Bulloch, the president of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, where he indicated that this was probably the most interventionist government he had had to deal with in his 20 years.
He indicated that business and small people in free enterprise in this province would not have faced the kind of intervention, they would not have faced the kinds of problems they have faced, even if they had been looking at a socialist government. We certainly do support free enterprise, unlike this current government.
One of the members was talking about young male drivers. I want to indicate to him that we do not support reverse discrimination, which is what this government has attempted to do by discriminating against good drivers in favour of bad drivers.
Ms Collins: That’s a copout. Answer the question. Are you in favour of discrimination?
Mr Runciman: I would suggest to that member and the other members who are interjecting that if they talk to senior citizens in their ridings, a few months ago when seniors were appealing to them about the increases they were going to suffer as a result of the government’s initiatives -- They are the safest drivers in society facing 50 and 60 per cent increases because of their initiative. That is the reality of it.
The minister talks about whether we support the freeze. I want to say that we called for a freeze months ago. Looking at product reform --
The Acting Speaker: Thank you. The member’s time has expired.
Mr Farnan: I think the first thing we have to examine is the purpose of Bill 10. The purpose of Bill 10 is contained in the preamble. I would like to read it into the record.
“Whereas, pending the completion of the review of alternative insurance products, it is desirable that legislation be enacted to control premiums...”
Those two words in the preamble, “control premiums,” I think require some close examination. To control premiums would be an admission on the part of the government that rates are indeed out of control and that something needs to be done. It also has an implication that Bill 10 will, in fact, bring order and control to the situation of auto insurance in Ontario.
Let me deal with both of these aspects; first, the admission that the auto insurance rates are out of control. Mr Speaker, I would submit to you that this is a self-evident fact. New Democrats have been stressing for innumerable years in Ontario the reality that auto insurance is out of control. There is not a driver in this province who has experienced the escalating rise in premiums who would dispute the fact that auto insurance premiums are out of control. What we must establish, however, before we go any further, is the responsibility of this Liberal government for the continuing escalation of auto insurance premiums.
With the passage of this bill, auto insurance premiums will have increased by a minimum of 82 per cent in the past six and a half years. This Liberal government will have been the government during four years of these price escalations. The preamble to Bill 10 is quite accurate. It is desirable that legislation be enacted to control premiums, but let us remember that the escalation of premiums and the fact that they have been out of control over the last four years rests very clearly with this Liberal government.
It is important to distinguish between what the government is saying in Bill 10 and what it said during the last provincial election. In a very desperate move to undermine the policies of the New Democratic Party for a driver-owned, non-profit public auto insurance program, a program that was gaining significant support during the last provincial election, and in a very basic, political, crass manner, the Premier in the city of Cambridge three days before the election said publicly, “I have a very specific plan to lower auto insurance rates.”
Compare that statement with section 1 of Bill 10. Section 1 of the bill talks about capping rates as of 17 April 1989 to increases of 7.6 per cent. The average driver makes a comparison. On one hand the Premier is saying, “I have a very specific plan that will reduce your insurance.” Two years later we have a bill coming forward which says, “We will cap the increase at 7.6 per cent.”
Bill 10 does not tell the whole story, because the drivers out there know that this is not the first time they have had an increase in auto insurance since the Premier made that promise. Indeed, there were two increases of 4.5 per cent during the intervening period. With the 7.6 per cent, which will be the minimum increase, it adds up to a total of 16.6 percent since the Premier made his promise.
The people of Ontario, the same people who listened to the Premier during the election and unquestionably put some faith in his word, said, “Here is the leader of the Liberal Party promising us that if he is elected, if he receives a mandate from the people of Ontario, he has a very specific plan that will reduce the cost of premiums for the driving public,” and they believed him. But now we know that since the time the Premier made that statement, we have had increases of 16.6 per cent, minimum. How many workers, I would ask my colleagues in the House, have received increases of 16.6 per cent since the last provincial election? Certainly, it represents a figure far ahead of the rate of inflation.
We have constantly to place these growing costs against the Premier’s word. I think it is important that the people of Ontario be able to trust the word of a Premier. I may be old-fashioned in some ways, but I think integrity and honesty are very fundamental to the process of government. When the leader of a political party goes out and says, “I have a very specific plan to reduce costs for auto insurance drivers,” but then is elected and proceeds to allow costs to continue to escalate, then the people of Ontario have to look at that man and say: “Did he tell me the truth? Did he mislead me? Has the reality of what has transpired since we gave this man and his party a mandate to govern -- have they lived up to their promise?”
The facts speak for themselves. The Premier said the rates would go down with his very specific plan. The reality, and this bill, Bill 10, says the rates will go up and the people of Ontario know the Premier, the Liberal Party and this Liberal government have broken faith with the electorate. They have broken faith with the people of Ontario.
What has happened in the period between the election of September 1987 and today? I have read a great deal on this particular issue, but nowhere have I found a better summary of what transpired in that time than I did in an editorial in the Kitchener-Waterloo Record and I would like to read into the record what this editorial has to say.
The editorial is entitled “Auto Insurance Becomes a Fiasco.” Is that not a stark contrast to a Premier who said, “I have a very specific plan”? “Auto Insurance Has Become a Fiasco,” and indeed it has. Let me read into the record how the editorial of the Kitchener-Waterloo Record justifies that claim:
“The provincial government has only itself to blame for the embarrassing way in which it has handled the sensitive subject of auto insurance rates. By capping rate increases at 7.6 per cent, shelving the new classification system and moving towards some type of no-fault system, the government expressed its lack of confidence in the Ontario Automobile Insurance Board.
“This lack of confidence is ironic because the board was established by the Liberal government itself. The government also approved the new classification plan the board was administering and had endorsed the range of general increases the board had proposed after long discussions with the insurance companies.
“Now everything that has been done is simply history. Financial Institutions Minister Murray Elston announced that the government was dropping the course it was on. Elston said the government was acting to prevent what he called ‘unacceptable rate increases demanded by the insurance industry.’
“The minister’s comments would have had more credibility if the industry could get whatever it demands, but it can’t. The insurance board has the power to say no. Presumably, the minister feared the negative repercussions of the high rate increases that were in the final stages of being prepared. In short, the government feared its own policy and it had reason to be fearful.
“Before the last election Premier David Peterson said that his government had a very specific plan to reduce auto premiums. If the government had stayed on that course, it would have had to explain what had happened to the plan, or even whether it ever existed in any substantial form.
“If consumers felt bewildered before, they have even more reason to feel that way today. They may know what their premiums will be for a few months, but they know almost nothing about what the rates will look like one or two years from now.
“‘The auto insurance companies also have the right to feel bewildered. They worked with the insurance board in good faith. They were on the verge of changing the rate structure to conform to the government’s policy. They are not likely to be compensated for the time and money they have wasted. Even if most drivers in Ontario are happy with what happens in the future, nothing can change the conclusion that what has happened up till now has been a fiasco.”
I think this editorial is a ringing condemnation of the Liberal government between September 1987 and today, as it brings forward Bill 10. It is a ringing condemnation. I have said before, and I will say it again, the Liberal government has no plan. It never had a plan and there is no plan for the future, They are governing on this issue by the seat of their pants. They are scrambling and desperately trying to find something, anything that will take the political heat off the government on auto insurance premiums.
I want to address the second point, the implication that Bill 10 will bring order and control. First, a little background: When the Ontario Automobile Insurance Board was introduced, I sat through those committee hearings and I listened to government members as they attempted to rationalize the justification for this board. Part of the rationalization was that in the past there had been a certain amount of secrecy with regard to the escalation of insurance premiums. Therefore, with this board there would be some openness. Statistics would have to be brought forward and examined. It was described as “a window on the industry.”
At the time, I pointed out that it was unfortunate this board was a window on the industry in which the key players would be the government and the insurance companies, and that consumers would not be represented on the board. I was told by the member for St Andrew-St Patrick (Mr Kanter): “But all the members of the board are consumers. Even if an individual is a president of an insurance company, he is a consumer. He drives a car. He pays premiums.”
How naïve this Liberal government thinks the people of Ontario are, that it can come out with this kind of nonsense. New Democrats pointed out that unless there was significant consumer representation on the board, it could not be fair to the drivers of Ontario. Of course, what we said would happen did happen. The auto insurance companies, with their presence on the board, hand in hand with the government, produced a system in which auto insurance premiums were not only continuing to escalate, but were escalating in a very significant fashion.
Again, the Liberal government looked at the situation and said, “We’ve got a problem.” I know backbenchers recognized this, because they were getting the heat in their constituencies. People were coming to their offices and complaining, and indeed there was a problem.
How does the Liberal government go about solving this? They go about it in their usual fashion. It is ad hockery. It is grab this or grab that. “Give them something. It doesn’t matter if it’s the real solution, but let’s do something to pretend we are addressing the problem.”
Well, 4.5 per cent, 7.6 per cent; it is growing and the problem is not being solved. What we have now in Bill 10 is basically a complete retreat on the part of this government from any kind of openness in the insurance industry.
I want to stress this point because if members will turn to section 8 of this bill, they will see that now, despite the fact we are talking about a 7.6 per cent cap -- really, we are talking about a 16.6 per cent cap after we have added in the other two increases this government brought in -- despite that there is a “notwithstanding” clause here, that the bill can be thrown aside and the Lieutenant Governor in Council may make regulations that allow for increases over and above 7.6 per cent.
Is this not fantastic? The people of Ontario have to see this for what it is worth. The Liberal government says, “We have a plan to reduce auto insurance premiums,” and then it raises them. Then it says, “We have a plan to cap the rates, but despite our plan to cap the rates, the Lieutenant Governor in Council at any time can increase those rates.”
Who will increase the rates? The people of Ontario know who will increase the rates. The cabinet will draw up the regulations through which the act will be implemented. It will be completely arbitrary. It will be behind closed doors. There will be no input from the consuming public of this province in terms of drivers as to whether there will be an increase over and above the 7.6 per cent.
It is sad. It is very sad for a government that has gone out of its way to promote an image of openness and accessibility. Members remember when the Premier was working his way through Ontario with his sleeves rolled up and his tie down. He was reaching into the crowds and it was: “Elect good old Dave. I’ll be available. I’ll be running an administration that is open.”
That was two years ago, and that was another promise, an administration that was going to be open. What have we got in Bill 10? An absolute denial and contradiction of any form of responsibility for the actions the government takes because indeed the cabinet, through the Lieutenant Governor in Council, can pass any increase that it likes over and above seven per cent. It can give a special dispensation to any insurance company. It can give a special dispensation to increase the premiums for any type of insurance. It can give a special dispensation to increase the premiums for any class of drivers.
Will they have to do that in this House, where they will be responsible to the people of Ontario through the official opposition? No. It will be done behind closed doors. It will be completely arbitrary. It will be a bunch of the good old boys getting together and saying, “This company could do with an extra 7.6 per cent.” So instead of 7.6 per cent for this particular company, it is 10 per cent, 11 per cent, 15 per cent.
What companies will get this kind of privilege? Over the long haul, and more specifically in the recent period, the people of Ontario are beginning to realize that Ontario has taken a step back a couple of hundred years in the approach to government. We are now dealing with a family compact, where those individuals, those organizations and those groups that are the friends and have the ear of the government are a class of special privilege.
It will not be the boys in the cabinet getting together to say: “Do you think 7.6 per cent is too much of an increase for our senior citizens? Maybe we should be putting that down at only two per cent or no increase at all.” They will not be getting together to lower the rates. Will they be getting together to say that the young women drivers of this province should not be getting an increase of 7.6 per cent? No.
They will be getting together when one of the good old boys, one of those companies that has been buying the $400-a-plate ticket for 10 of its corporate members to attend the standard Liberal functions, when these companies come forward, then the good old boys will get together and say: “Yes, that’s the company that Harry’s the president of. He’s a pretty decent fellow. He’s been with us over the long haul. He always shows up at all the functions. He even attends functions that aren’t in his particular area of the province and, even when he can’t attend, he sends his $400 along for the minister’s function. He’s a really decent guy.”
The Family Compact is alive and well in Ontario and the governing party is the Liberal government that is presiding over the Family Compact.
The people of Ontario are very wise to what has been happening. As I said, I do not want to paint the government in a totally negative light. However, the reality of the matter is that its actions are actions that have to be recorded and have to be presented to the public of Ontario for what they are. They are actions of deception. They are actions of complete contradiction as to what it said it would do and what it is actually doing, but I want to add that its actions are no different from the administrations it replaced, the Conservative governments of the past.
The escalation of insurance rates and the determination to avoid addressing the issue of a driver-owned, non-profit, public auto insurance program has been as vigorous on the part of the Conservatives as it has been on the part of the Liberals.
We have to ask ourselves why the Liberals and the Conservatives are so united in avoiding at all costs this driver-owned, non-profit, public auto insurance program. Why are they so vigorously opposed when in three western provinces where the plan has been implemented, where the plan works, where the plan has drivers saving on their auto insurance premiums and where the profits of auto insurance are plowed back into the scheme to reduce those rates, why are the Conservatives and the Liberals so united in fighting this plan that works?
As my colleagues have mentioned previously, even where New Democratic Party governments have been replaced by Conservative or Social Credit governments, they have continued to keep these valuable plans because they know it is in the best interests of the driving public.
It is an interesting question. Why would the Liberals and the Conservatives be so united? Could it be that both parties have been the recipients of the generosity of the insurance industry? Could it be that the insurance industry is playing its cards smart? Could it be that we have that old situation of the Conservatives appearing to be on their way out, as they were in 1985, and the smart boys in the insurance industry saying: ‘Let’s get on side. The Liberals look like comers. Let’s get on side with the Liberals; let’s start pouring the funds in there.” If members go back to the actual records, they will find that many of the insurance companies made similar large, generous donations to the Liberal and the Conservative parties.
We have to say to ourselves that they are not doing this just out of some kind of philanthropic interest in the political process. No, they are very practical and pragmatic. They know they are on a good wicket, they know they are making good profits and they do not care whether it is the Liberals or the Conservatives that sustain the continuation of those profits. Let me tell the members of the government back benches not to get too complacent, because they are as easily disposed of by the insurance companies if they feel that the Conservatives will serve their best interests. Members should believe it. The reality of the matter is that right now they are safe because what they are doing is allowing an escalation of profits. Not only are they doing that, they are allowing privilege to exist.
The ordinary working people in Cambridge know what privilege is. They know that privilege is the ear of the government. I know that when the automobile insurance premiums of Ross Adshade in Cambridge come to be negotiated, he is not going to be able to clink a glass with the member for Bruce (Mr Elston) and suggest to him that his automobile insurance increase is too high. It does not take too much imagination to draw up the image of the cocktail party in which the minister and the presidents of some automobile insurance companies will be rubbing shoulders, and one will be crying on the shoulder of the other and reminding the good minister that he has been a faithful and loyal contributor over many years, as has his company. The reality of the matter then is that this minister in cabinet, without any public scrutiny, will be able to grant to that company a dispensation from the capping that is contained in Bill 10.
There is no doubt that New Democrats cannot support this piece of legislation. The reality of the matter is that there is one significant difference between the Liberals, the Conservatives and the New Democrats. The difference is that when we say we have a plan for automobile insurance, we mean it. Our plan for automobile insurance is the same after an election as it was before the election. We are not scrambling to find something that will take the heat of the voters off us, because we know we have something that has been in place, has worked, has proved its merit and has even been subjected to the scrutiny of governments of a different philosophical persuasion which have come to power with the New Democratic Party plan in place.
Believe me, if they could, they would scrap it. But each of those western governments knows that if it touches those driver-owned, non-profit, public auto insurance programs, it is political suicide. That is the kind of scrutiny the NDP plan has undergone. There is not a member in this House who would deny the fact that the Premier of British Columbia, Mr Vander Zalm, certainly as ideologically right as one could imagine, would scrap this public plan if he thought he could get away with it. But they have decided to keep these plans.
As my colleague the member for Welland-Thorold has pointed out, in all of the proposals the government says it will consider, the only proposal that it refuses to examine, to accept as a possible alternative, is a driver-owned, non-profit, public auto insurance program. Why?
Well, the answer is very simple. Because when they make that examination, they will have to come to the conclusion that indeed the New Democratic Party was right all along. They will have to come to the conclusion that the suggestions we have been putting forward over the years, and the suggestions that the government has been scoffing at and ridiculing over the years, are the best possible plan for the drivers of Ontario.
Now, that is the difference. The government can have the best possible plan for the insurance companies. It can even have the best possible plan for the government, a plan which says, “We don’t care what happens out there as long as we don’t get any political heat.” Occasionally, the government can throw the crumbs to its friends in the insurance industry, but for goodness’ sake, it should ask itself the right question. We want the best possible plan for the drivers of Ontario, and the best possible plan for the drivers of Ontario is indeed a driver-owned, non-profit, public auto insurance plan.
Let me sum up what this bill says. This bill says there will be no cap on auto insurance premiums. That is what it says. It is important that the people of Ontario realize this. We are playing with semantics. No matter what the minister says, no matter what form of propaganda emanates from his office, no matter what the spin doctors of the Liberal Party do in the corridors with the media to try and get out a message that this is a plan to cap rates, the reality of the matter is -- and I invite the viewers of this program and the people of Ontario to examine section 8 of this act -- section 8 says there is a “notwithstanding” clause. No matter that we say it will be capped at 7.6 per cent, the Lieutenant Governor in Council, the cabinet -- the Liberal cabinet -- can increase rates at any time. Not only can they increase rates; they can do it in secret, behind closed doors, without any accountability.
There will be no parliamentary committee they will have to come forward to and say, “We think this particular company needs some extra dollars to remain viable.” There will be no minister standing up in the House, bringing in a bill as to whether the increases are necessary and which can be debated. No, it will be by mandate. It will be by the supreme power invested in the Lieutenant Governor and cabinet working through the Lieutenant Governor. That is the way Ontario will operate and that is a tragedy.
I do not want to sound too dramatic, but I want to say this, the more you move power out of this body, out of this noble chamber, and the more you move power into the hands of a secret cartel behind closed doors, the more you undermine democracy. This bill, I suggest to my colleagues in the House, is a step -- it may be a small step, but it is a step -- in which the structures of democracy are being eroded in Ontario.
The reason it is an erosion of democracy is precisely for the reasons I have suggested. A small group of Liberal cabinet ministers, well connected to their business friends, will sit in secret and legislate for the province without any accountability to the representatives of the people of Ontario.
I have to go back to Cambridge and I have to tell the people of Cambridge that there is a new system of government in Ontario. I have to do that. It is a sad message I bring to them. I hope that the message gets out across the province and that people will start questioning those Liberal backbenchers, because on so many issues now democracy is being trodden underfoot. On Sunday shopping, the people of Ontario spoke and the government refused to listen. On security in their courts, the people spoke and the government refused to listen.
The government can do it both ways. It has this vast majority of 94 seats. It can say: “We don’t have to listen to a small opposition. We don’t have to listen to the people of Ontario. We’re mighty and powerful now. We’re no longer in a minority situation. We can do what we want.” Indeed, the government has demonstrated that it will do what it wants. However, the people of Ontario know.
The Deputy Speaker: Minister.
Hon Mr Elston: I would like to make some comments.
Mr Farnan: Excuse me. I have not finished.
Hon Mr Elston: I thought he was finished; he sat down. I have some comments about what he has done with the noble chamber he speaks about.
The Deputy Speaker: One member at a time. The member for Cambridge may proceed.
Mr Farnan: Democracy is a very fragile and tenuous flower. One of the foundations of democracy is the right of a member to stand in this House, and no matter how unacceptable, no matter how unpalatable it may be for the government, the right of the member to speak on behalf of the people he represents is a fundamental cornerstone of democracy. I am here representing the people of Cambridge.
Hon Mr Elston: Yes, that’s why you hijacked the chamber.
Mr Farnan: As I speak, the member for Bruce, a member of the cabinet of this government, a member responsible for the legislation on which I want to express my views on behalf of my constituents, simply wants to interject with abuse. He does not want to listen to my remarks. Would it be that the minister simply does not --
Mr J. B. Nixon: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: My understanding is that in the Legislature, a member is required to speak to the bill before the Legislature. He is not here to heap abuse on members who do not respond as he alleges. I think it is improper and it should be pointed out to him. He should be requested to speak in a decent, normal and rational fashion.
The Deputy Speaker: The member may proceed.
Mr Farnan: I will continue to emphasize the point that democracy is a principle that is based upon the foundation that opposition members be given the courtesy -- and I remind the honourable minister -- of honourable members listening to what they have to say.
On two counts, on Bill 10, I want to emphasize this idea of government by numbers and not government by rationale or by reason. I did give various examples of how the government had acted in a very arbitrary manner, given the fact that the voice of the people had been heard quite clearly in opposition to several bills.
Certainly, as opposition members, when we come here to put forward the views of our constituents, it is in the hope that the government members, despite their huge majority, despite their overwhelming power to drown us out with their shouts and with their various tactics of interruption, will recognize it is the will of the people of Ontario. I can tell members that it is the will of the people of Cambridge that the member who comes here from Cambridge to represent the views of the people of Cambridge should be heard.
The message I bring back to the people of Cambridge is that majority government is once again demonstrating an inability to listen and an inability to address problems in a manner that is conducive to the good functioning of this House.
When this bill comes up for a vote, I am going to vote against it, primarily because it is an affront to democracy and secondly because it is a continuation of the breaking of the promise that was made that interest rates would be reduced, when in fact this bill says they will go up 7.6 per cent and a small cartel of the government has the power to increase them even further.
Hon Mr Elston: I heard what this gentleman has been talking about, about the noble chamber. He accused me of being purchased and bought and paid for by the insurance companies. He said they paid me and that would influence the way I put together my policies.
I demand a retraction of that. I cannot be purchased. I will speak up for the consumers of this province. That is the way I have performed in this chamber, and I have not used this chamber to impugn the motives or assassinate the character of another member and I will not take it from that member.
I listened for over half an hour as he delivered piece after piece of misunderstood interpretation of this particular legislation, and that is his right. But I will not sit here and have him say that I have been bought, because I will not be bought. I will not sacrifice my principles. I will not sacrifice the principles in which I believe. I will bring together a consumers’ piece of legislation. I will protect the consumers.
The member can disagree that it does not do enough for his party; that is his privilege. But he cannot accuse me of being purchased, because I will not be bought, and I will not be influenced by the member or people like him who say that I am purchased. I demand a retraction.
Mr Farnan: The insurance industry made over $100,000 in campaign contributions to the Liberal Party in 1987. That is a reality. That is a fact. If the minister wants to dispute the facts, I am prepared to talk to him about the facts.
The Acting Speaker: The Minister of Financial Institutions raised a point of order dealing with a matter which was before the House prior to my arrival in the chair. For that reason, I will have to review the record and get back to the House at a later date with respect to that issue and therefore not make a ruling on that at this time.
The member for Cambridge had finished his address, and we are now ready to entertain comments and questions with respect to that.
Mr J. B. Nixon: I would just like to mention to members and the people who may be viewing this chamber’s proceedings that the member for Cambridge delivered what I consider to be a very offensive -- dare I call it a speech? -- set of statements.
I think he owes it to the minister and, more important, to this House to retract many of the allegations he made. Not only were his allegations personal to the minister; they were personal to the members of this Legislature and to the integrity of this Legislature.
He makes personal allegations and he makes factual errors. He says this government has refused to inquire into or investigate the public insurance system. It has been done on two occasions. His party lauded the appointment of Dr David Slater. He delivered his report and he said that public auto insurance is not appropriate for Ontario. The member’s party lauded the appointment of Mr Justice Osborne. He investigated and he said that public auto insurance brings no savings.
The member conveniently forgets that. He conveniently forgets to mention that to the people of Cambridge and the people of Ontario. My friend conveniently forgets a lot when he gets up in this chamber and delivers his spurious conspiracy theories that have nothing to do with fact, nothing to do with reality, and more important, nothing to do with the integrity he should bring to this assembly when he considers the allegations he might make.
Mr Velshi: We have had an excellent lesson on democracy. I think if democracy has ever been abused, it has been abused by those two parties across there. I thought the democratic right was given to us on 10 September to govern this province, which we have tried to do. They have used their democratic right to thwart the democratic will of this House over and over again.
I do not think those members can tell us much about democracy and what one’s democratic rights are supposed to be in this House. I think those types of statements are misleading to the people of Ontario. The only people who may be listening to that member are people from Cambridge, and I think they will continue to do that. That will be fine. But I think for that member to give us a lesson on democracy is just hogwash in this House.
Mr Farnan: If the record shows that I imputed to the individual minister a motive that would be unbecoming, then I have no difficulty in withdrawing that statement, absolutely none. On the other hand, I want to make it very clear that the people of Ontario are not naïve enough to think for one minute that there is not a system in place in which this government rewards its friends. If the members of this government are sitting there and trying to tell the people of Ontario that we do not reward our friends, then I believe --
Mr Campbell: Elie Martel is another one. How about Elie Martel, your good friend from Sudbury East?
Mr Farnan: Now, we have obviously touched on a raw nerve with this government. It would be nice if nobody pointed out the way the system works. Sometimes when you lift up a stone and you do not like what you see underneath it, it causes problems. It is unfortunate if that is the way things are. We are lifting up the stone and what we see in the system is something that requires to be addressed.
The Liberal member shouted across at me as I sat here, “You got contributions from the unions.” We have never denied that we got contributions from the unions. Is it embarrassing them when I point out that the Liberal Party has received massive funding from the insurance companies? Somehow or other, it is sufficient for Liberals to make accusations but not for New Democrats.
The Acting Speaker: In view of the heated discussion here, let me make reference to the Rules of Debate, standing order 19(d), that a member in debate “shall be called to order by the Speaker if he:
“8. Makes allegations against another member.
“9. Imputes false or unavowed motives to another member.
“10. Charges another member with uttering a deliberate falsehood.
“11. Uses abusive or insulting language of a nature likely to create disorder.”
Could we now have the next participant, the member for Simcoe East?
Mr McLean: I am pleased to have this opportunity to say a few words on Bill 10, An Act to control Automobile Insurance Rates. After spending more than $7 million on the Ontario Automobile Insurance Board, the Minister of Financial Institutions announced that this government was cutting the legs out from underneath the board, ignoring its recommendations and putting a 7.6 per cent cap on insurance premiums.
The purpose of Bill 10 is to cap Ontario private passenger automobile insurance premiums, pending the results of studies into alternative forms of car insurance. In effect, the government has decided to toss more than $7 million to the wind when it opted for the 7.6 per cent cap and deferred the classification plan and rates developed by the Ontario Automobile Insurance Board that were originally scheduled to come into effect just on 1 June past.
This bill will actually rescind orders issued by the board on 1 February, 13 February and 16 March and allow insurers to increase car insurance premiums by 7.6 per cent effective actually on 1 June, I would believe. This was the benchmark rate increase previously announced by the insurance board on 13 February. It should be noted that age, sex, marital status and handicaps are still valid criteria for assessing risk under this bill.
In Bill 10, failure to comply will result in fines of up to $25,000 for individuals and up to $100,000 in other cases. Introducing Bill 10, I believe, may show panic on the part of the Minister of Financial Institutions and his government once it was revealed that up to one million people in this province would be receiving insurance rate hikes of more than 30 per cent. Young female drivers, newly licensed drivers and those living in high-density areas of Ontario would have faced rate hikes in the order of 80 per cent to 90 per cent.
I also suspect that with the introduction of Bill 10 we are now on the road to government-run insurance in this province. Bill 10 is just one more example of panic-driven policymaking on the part of this government. First the Premier promised a specific plan to lower automobile insurance rates. Then the government appoints a costly insurance board, which comes up with a proposal that would increase rates substantially. Finally, the minister overrules that same board and recommends a plan that would also increase rates. I believe the consumers and the insurance companies of Ontario are sick and tired of this government’s shell games on auto insurance and other important issues facing us today in this province.
I would like to take a few minutes to put the automobile insurance in some form of historical perspective. At the centre of this current controversy with automobile insurance in Ontario is the risk classification system which was to have come into effect on 1 July. I think it should be noted here that my party was the only party to oppose the adoption of this new risk classification system. We opposed it because it would be an extra burden to senior citizens and young female drivers.
This government’s policies, like Bill 10, will cost everyone in Ontario a great deal of money. It costs motorists who have to pay higher automobile premiums, it costs the taxpayers who must foot the $7-million bill to date for the automobile insurance board and it costs insurance companies that spent millions of dollars making the necessary changes to accommodate the new plan before it was deferred by the introduction of Bill 10.
The sudden capping of automobile insurance premium rates is not the first time this government has meddled in the affairs of the supposedly independent Ontario Automobile Insurance Board. On 4 December 1988, the Premier asked the insurance board to extend public hearings into the new year in response to public criticism that the hearings were not in-depth enough.
On 9 February 1989, just days before Ontario’s drivers were to learn the premium increases they would be made to pay for the remainder of 1989, the Minister of Financial Institutions instructed the insurance board to study possible no-fault car insurance options and on 15 February the Premier said his government was considering stepping in to help seniors hit by rising insurance rates.
Government meddling in the affairs of the Ontario Automobile Insurance Board indicates to me that this board is not as autonomous as we had been led to believe. Any semblance of independence it may have had completely dissolved with the introduction of Bill 10. The insurance board is turning into a multimillion-dollar political puppet.
The insurance issue is just one more example of this government saying one thing and doing another. It happened with Sunday shopping, it happened with the Ontario health insurance program and it has happened with the provincial share of education spending. At least this government is consistent: it has consistently said one thing about the issue and then turned around and done another. This is a costly and confusing method of governing a province.
I have always maintained, and we are attracted to it, that there should be some form of no-fault insurance available to Ontario’s drivers, if they prefer such insurance. They should be allowed to choose between no-fault insurance and traditional liability insurance. There are two types of no-fault insurance that could be offered to the drivers in this province: threshold or choice.
Under the threshold system, the existing system of a single compulsory coverage made up of a combination of defined, no-fault benefits and fault-based recovery would be maintained. However, the current system could be modified to the extent that it restricts the ability of people to recover in the fault system when injuries are less severe. This restriction, referred to as threshold, would only apply to pain and suffering losses.
The choice system that could be considered would involve giving motorists choices as to the type of compensation that would be available in the event of a personal injury accident. Individual policyholders could choose a no-fault policy which will include the right to receive compensation for pain or suffering or loss of enjoyment of life.
Consumers could also choose a fault-based policy which would offer compensation based on the same principles of negligence law that are currently in place in Ontario. “This policy would provide the same coverage to the person who is injured as is now available through third-party liability coverage except that the injured person would always recover from their own insurer instead of from the insurer of the driver who is at fault.
In addition to increasing the consumer’s alternatives, a system providing individual choice would allow the no-fault and traditional systems to compete in the marketplace. Open competition between no-fault and traditional insurance may reveal that no-fault is superior or that traditional insurance is superior or that one is better for some but not all motorists.
In any event, the competitive pressure of giving motorists a choice should improve the performance of both systems and consumers would benefit.
The no-fault and the fault-based policies would be mutually exclusive in that people choosing no-fault cannot sue and those choosing fault would not be entitled to any benefits if they are at fault in the accident. This choice should be made at the time the insurance policy is paid for.
Claims for pain and suffering now make up approximately 45 per cent of all bodily injury claims. I believe the elimination of litigation in cases not involving serious injury would reduce insurance costs significantly.
In conclusion, this government is forcing motorists and representatives of the insurance industry to travel an extremely bumpy road when it comes to the insurance issue in Ontario. The panic-driven policy we have seen with the automobile insurance issue is going to force motorists off the road and I fear we could very well see a problem and some of us may even have to start using our bicycles again.
Mr Reycraft: Some of us should.
Mr Furlong: Some of us should.
Mr McLean: I have a two-wheeler I use periodically just to kind of keep in shape.
Escalating repair bills and ridiculously high judicial awards already threaten the entire industry. Now the truth is out. Co-operators insurance lost $36 million last year and likely its losses will be up towards $60 million this year. The predicted loss was based on the assumption that Queen’s Park would approve a benchmark premium hike of 7.6 per cent plus another nine per cent, if justified by losses, but Co-operators needed much more, 30 per cent, and higher premiums in large urban areas like Toronto.
Essentially, Toronto is a weeping sore for all auto insurance companies. Accident payouts are so costly that Co-operators no longer takes on new policyholders in the Metro area. At least Co-operators can be choosey; other companies have just bailed out. The mighty T. Eaton Co auto insurance division quit along with Advocate General Insurance and others. To put it bluntly, they were not in business to subsidize urban areas with low-cost insurance premiums.
Most of the problem lies at the door of Queen’s Park. Many of the new members elected over the past three years or so did not understand what was happening, largely because the insurance business is extremely complex. But serious reflection drew the conclusion that Ontario will not be well served by an insurance utility run like the post office.
Had the Premier listened to the rhetoric of the official opposition, he would be in serious trouble today. The auto insurers lost more than $400 million last year and the figures could nudge $1 billion for 1989. Unfortunately, the recent solution here interferes with premium rates, a case of treating the symptoms rather than the disease itself. The answer lies, we believe, in no-fault insurance, an approach we urged more than two years ago.
It has been pointed out before in regard to Bill 10, and it still concerns me -- it has to do with the first paragraph, “It is desirable that legislation be enacted to control premiums.” It really does concern me when the government is involved in controlling premiums.
What happens in other jurisdictions and other commodity groups if the government passes legislation to control premiums? I think it could lead to public auto insurance at a greater cost in the end. I do believe that private enterprise has supplied us with good service over the years. I am aware of the increased costs. When we start paying out $1.40 in repairs and taking in $1, it just does not add up.
I am very pleased to have had the opportunity to speak on Bill 10.
The Acting Speaker: Are there any questions or comments?
Mr Villeneuve: I want to congratulate my colleague the member for Simcoe East for his presentation. He represents a riding very similar to mine, where large numbers of senior citizens reside.
When the initial bill first came out, involving very much higher premiums for our senior citizens, those who live out in rural Ontario, those who have to have a car if they are going to remain in their own homes--certainly by removing the discrimination it became discrimination in reverse.
For young ladies under 25 years of age, it is a similar situation. I think this government has to look very closely at tampering with the system that has served all of Ontario quite well.
Yes, some adjustments are required.
I am quite sure the minister responsible was not bought in any way, shape or form, but he had a rather sudden change in attitude. He was busy telling the Legislature last January: “I am quite prepared to leave the hearing and the determination of the automobile rates with the Ontario Automobile Insurance Board. They have proven in the past, with respect to their previous three hearings, they do a very thorough and reasonable job at analysing the material that is available to them and, in fact, make recommendations that there is a deficiency of same upon which to make good, valid recommendations.”
The minister was not bought, but it came down from headquarters. I believe the headquarters happen to be somewhere in a corner office on the second floor. I think it came to the minister as a surprise that this would be the course of action. The minister was not bought, in my opinion. It was simply a matter of, “Are you interested in remaining in cabinet or is there a possibility that you may be looking for another portfolio?” That is what the corner office decreed.
I see this as the kind of administration we have here at Queen’s Park. Very few people have the power to call the shots and indeed make the music come forth. I think we all have to listen very closely. That is democracy as we know it at Queen’s Park today.
Mr McLean: I am kind of surprised some of the government members did not get up and say what a great speech that was. I am sure I did not put them all to sleep and I know the minister will think what I had to say was well worth while. I know we will see some of the remarks in a new no-fault bill that will be coming through very shortly.
I just think that some of the comments my colleague has made and some of the changes in the policy that have been made over the years, which I had indicated in my remarks, are certainly worth repeating. I am glad he saw fit to do that. It is a great day we are having, to be available to deal with Bill 10. I am sure that tomorrow we will also deal with it and perhaps after that we will be able to get it out to committee.
Mr McLean: It is not going to committee?
Hon Mr Elston: Yes, we are.
Mr McLean: Out to committee and back in next week so we can get it final.
I just have a few seconds left. I want to make one remark very clearly, that in about 1982 it was that government that started the bells ringing in the first place. We learned something from that and I wish he had never started it in the first place and it would probably never happen again. But it is amazing how members who are here for a while learn what happens, how things continue to take place, the procedures and some of the remarks that are made here in the Legislature. I am pleased the members had the opportunity to spend some time in the Speaker’s chair, if only for experience purposes.
On motion by Mr McLean, the debate was adjourned.
BUSINESS OF THE HOUSE
Hon Mr Conway: The previous speaker anticipated the business for tomorrow. The House leaders have agreed that we will continue the second reading debate on Bill 10 in the hope we can conclude that, and as the honourable member indicated, have the matter referred out to committee. So, members will know that we will be returning tomorrow after routine proceedings to take up the adjourned second reading debate on Bill 10.
Just for members’ memory, I am also reminded by my friends the member for Norfolk (Mr Miller) and the member for York Centre (Mr Sorbara) that we are not sitting tomorrow morning, so we will begin tomorrow at 1:30 pm.
The House adjourned at 1803.