The House met at 1331.
BOARD OF INTERNAL ECONOMY
The Speaker: Just before I call the first order of business, I beg to inform the House that I have laid upon the table a copy of an order in council appointing Gerry Phillips, MPP, as commissioner to the Board of Internal Economy in place of Joan Smith, MPP.
I also want to inform the House that I have laid upon the table the individual members’ expenditures for the fiscal year 1988-89. The members will find copies placed on their desks in the chamber.
Mr R. F. Johnston: Becky Till is 15 years of age. She has not been in school since June 1988, not because she does not want to be in school but because of a dispute between her parents and the York Board of Education. Her parents want Becky, who is multiply disabled, to be in an integrated setting. The board wants her to be in a segregated setting with other multiply disabled children, many of them with worse disabilities than her own.
The local identification and placement review committee hearing, as is not unusual in that board’s jurisdiction, supported the board. Family members have has decided not to appeal, because they felt this would affect their appeal to the Ontario Human Rights Commission. They appealed in July 1988 to the human rights board and have been informed it could still take years to be heard. They have waited six months for a meeting with the Minister of Education (Mr Ward). Four months ago, they were told it would be arranged; now they are told that he does not meet with individuals.
This government still has not brought forward its amendments to Bill 82. These parents and the people of Ontario have a right to know where this government stands on the integration of children so that all kids can get an education which is appropriate to their needs.
Mr McCague: The name of Ms Patricia Starr has been often in the press recently, usually connected with potentially illegal contributions to politicians. Unfortunately, because of her activities, the National Council of Jewish Women has also found itself in the news.
On behalf of the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party, I want to make it absolutely clear that in no way do we associate Ms Starr with the legitimate, effective and much-needed work being done by the National Council.
The group has almost 100 years of charitable work to its credit, work that has served and continues to serve every sector of our society. The council began the Block Parent program, has a history of supplying housing for the needy and continues to be active in a variety of issues, from caring for the disabled to helping battered women.
It is distressing that Ms Starr took it upon herself to politicize the activities of the council. It has damaged the image of this hard-working group. We will continue to perform our legitimate function in investigating Ms Starr’s activities, especially as they relate to the decisions made by this government.
I urge all members to join the PC caucus in publicly stating support for the National Council of Jewish Women. The political involvement and contributions of Ms Starr were made without the approval of the council and in no way should detract from its integrity nor the high regard in which we hold its work.
Mr Callahan: Once again, I want to invite all members of the Legislature to a reception that is being kindly hosted by the Minister of Citizenship (Mr Phillips) in this building from 5:30 pm until 7:30 pm.
I invite members down to see some of the dress at the various pavilions that take part in Carabram. Some 17 nationalities of various Canadians who have come from different homelands are represented in our pavilions. The event itself is held in our community on 7, 8 and 9 July. If members attend Brampton during this time, they will be able to savour the sights, sounds and tastes of 17 different countries without leaving Brampton.
I certainly invite all members to the reception this afternoon and look forward to seeing them there. I would invite them as well to come to our community and celebrate with us. It is a very inexpensive and friendly way of learning more about one another in an atmosphere that will create friendship, community and neighbourliness rather than perhaps some of the stereotyped thoughts that we have about other people.
So I invite members out to Brampton. We look forward to having at least one or two or more members coming out. If they would identify themselves to me when they arrive there, I would be happy to assist them in terms of going around the various pavilions.
Mr Allen: This morning, a complaint of racial discrimination was lodged against the Ministry of Community and Social Services with the Ontario Human Rights Commission.
Ontario’s social welfare system discriminates against single mothers who are members of visible minority groups. Regulation 8 of the Family Benefits Policy and Procedural Guidelines permits supervisors to reduce or deny mother’s allowance if they are not satisfied that a woman has made sufficient effort to obtain money from other sources.
Two studies indicate the severity of this question. One of them, of 311 single, divorced or separated mothers with dependent children, showed that visible minority women were subject to these reductions six times more often than white women. A second study in another part of Metropolitan Toronto made it obvious that these findings were in fact correct. On average, eight per cent was deducted from the basic needs allowance of white women, while 12 per cent was deducted from minority women.
The minister knew about this a year ago. The results were communicated to him then and on several occasions since. The minister must immediately suspend the discretionary powers of welfare supervisors. He should reimburse all women who have been victimized by this policy. He should establish a committee of clients, ministry officials and the unions that represent the clients and the workers, in order to probe the benefit procedures and to institute the procedural fairness the Social Assistance Review Committee report called for in the first place.
Mrs Cunningham: The Minister of Skills Development (Mr Curling) left a number of questions unanswered in a statement he read in this House last Tuesday. The minister criticized the efforts of the federal government with regard to apprenticeship training in Ontario, yet he has done little to address some of the serious problems which plague program delivery in his ministry.
For example, did the minister tell us that the percentage of women entering non-traditional occupations in the apprenticeship system last year actually declined? No.
Has the Minister of Skills Development altered any of the restrictive apprenticeship ratios which are the cause of skilled labour shortages in 159 occupations in Ontario? No.
Did the minister tell us that administrative costs in his ministry have skyrocketed by over 297 per cent since 1985? No.
Did the minister tell us that 38 per cent of the increases in his ministry’s total expenditures are eaten up by administration? No.
Did the minister tell us what he has done with the $20 million which was not spent on the ministry’s Transitions program in the last two years? No, he did not.
I urge the Minister of Skills Development to knock off the fluffy news releases. Criticism is being used as an excuse for inaction. Ontario’s future competitiveness is at stake. It is about time the minister and this Liberal government showed some leadership and direction.
DUKE OF EDINBURGH AWARD
Ms Poole: I am delighted to introduce to my colleagues a group of young people from Eglinton riding who received the 1989 Duke of Edinburgh Award. They are here with us today in the members’ gallery.
Under the patronage of Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh Award program was initiated in Canada in 1963 in order to challenge young people to strive for their personal best and to nurture qualities of excellence, leadership and ambition. Candidates must show leadership in community volunteer work, skill development, physical recreation and expeditions.
This year, 40 young people from across Ontario received this honour. Out of the 12 Metropolitan Toronto recipients, 10 are from my riding of Eglinton, an outstanding 25 per cent of the recipients province-wide. These young people are a source of pride, not only to their families and their friends but to all of us in Eglinton riding, as their achievements also illustrate a strong sense of community.
Please join me in honouring Donna Lowe, Susan Murdie, Laura Pritzker, Mark Purkis, Greg Purkis, Andrew Casey Taylor, Marjorie Wonham, Carolyn Krawchuk, Heath Priston, Robbie Du Toit, Jennifer Babbs and Sarah Devry. Lieutenant Governor Lincoln Alexander called them “a class act, playing a key role in leading their generation.”
Please join me in congratulating these outstanding young people and wishing them the very best for continued success.
CONSTRUCTION D’UNE NOUVELLE ÉCOLE
M. R. F. Johnston : Je prends la parole aujourd’hui pour appuyer les efforts des parents de l’école Jeanne-Sauvé, située dans la région d’Ottawa-Carleton. Ils ont demandé que le ministre de l’Éducation (M. Ward) devance la date d’octroi des fonds nécessaires pour permettre que la construction de l’école soit achevée en septembre 1990.
Actuellement, il existe seulement un amalgame de : cinq salles de classe ; une petite salle d’activités ; un coin pour le personnel et six salles de classe préfabriquées. Dans une lettre du 10 juin, les parents disent : «On ne peut qualifier cela d’école.
«En septembre prochain, plus de 250 élèves, les enseignants et le personnel administratif se partageront les sept toilettes et les trois urinoirs. La santé et l’hygiène de nos enfants sont en jeu.»
Ils ont besoin de cette construction. Ces délais ne sont pas prévus par le projet de loi 125.
STATEMENT BY THE MINISTRY
CANADIAN OCCUPATIONAL HEALTH AND SAFETY WEEK / SEMAINE CANADIENNE DE LA SANTÉ ET DE LA SECURITÉ AU TRAVAIL
Hon Mr Sorbara: As honourable members will know, yesterday marked the beginning of Canadian Occupational Health and Safety Week. It is the aim of Canadian Occupational Health and Safety Week to make us, as a nation, even more conscious and aware of the vital need for sound occupational health and safety programs in our workplaces.
Throughout the week there will be organized campaigns under way across the country to increase this awareness among employees, employers, the general public and the news media.
Now in its fourth year, this annual event is spearheaded by the Canadian Society of Safety Engineering, with support from organizations such as the Canadian Safety Council, the Canadian Standards Association and the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety.
Maintenant à sa quatrième année d’existence, cet évènement annuel sera parrainé par la Société canadienne de la santé et de la sécurité au travail, avec l’appui d’organisations telles que le Conseil canadien de la sécurité, l’Association canadienne de normalisation et le Centre canadien d’hygiène et de sécurité au travail.
On behalf of workers across Ontario, I would like to commend these organizations for the initiatives that they have taken to promote this kind of national awareness of a vitally important matter.
I am particularly encouraged by this year’s campaign theme, which is “Safety takes teamwork.” As honourable members know, teamwork, that is, partnership, in managing risks in the workplace is really the fundamental principle that lies at the heart of Ontario’s occupational health and safety system.
It is the principle that the government intends to enhance and strengthen through Bill 208, the series of amendments to the Occupational Health and Safety Act now before this assembly.
I know that all members of this assembly will join me in urging employers and employees across Ontario to lend their wholehearted support to the spirit and intent of Canadian Occupational Health and Safety Week.
Je suis certain que tous les députés de cette Assemblée se joindront à moi pour presser les employeurs et les employés de l’Ontario de prêter un appui sans réserve à l’esprit et au dessein de la Semaine canadienne de la santé et de la sécurité au travail.
Indeed, it is my sincere hope that the workplace parties will be encouraged to make every week occupational health and safety week in Ontario.
Just before I end, I would like to take this opportunity to introduce John Irwin, who is in the members’ gallery with us today. Mr Irwin is chairman of the Ontario steering committee for Canadian Occupational Health and Safety Week.
CANADIAN OCCUPATIONAL HEALTH AND SAFETY WEEK
Mr Mackenzie: We encourage the acknowledgement of an occupational health and safety week in Ontario, but I have to say to the minister that his support of an occupational health and safety week in Ontario would carry a little more credibility if what we were doing in this House now was debating Bill 208, the safety and health legislation which has something to offer workers in Ontario, instead of the hours we are spending on a bill that is really going to hurt the workers in this province. I am talking about Bill 162 and the deeming and the lack of rehabilitation and the number of negative aspects of that particular piece of legislation.
The minister should understand that his priorities seem to be a little skewed as far as workers and the health and safety of workers are concerned, and that, as I said, were we debating a constructive bill rather than a negative bill in this House, it would make a heck of a lot more sense.
The other thing that is obvious from the reports coming in around the province is that there is still work needed in terms of enforcement in the safety and health field and of the information being available under the workplace hazardous materials information system legislation for workers in many of the plants, mines and operations in Ontario. So while we do support Canadian Occupational Health and Safety Week, it is a funny way the minister has sometimes of showing his priorities.
Mr Brandt: I am pleased to respond on behalf of our party to the week that has been chosen by the minister to celebrate the need for, and also to identify, I think, the very purpose behind health and safety legislation in Ontario. I think the minister would agree with me and all members of this House that when one worker on average per day dies in this province, it is incumbent on all of us to highlight the need for adequate and very stringent health and safety legislation that will control the workplace and bring a safer environment to all workers who may be exposed to dangerous conditions.
I would like to say as well to the minister that I am sure he is aware that in many areas of work endeavour in this province there are industries and sections of the workforce that are working extremely safely. I think it is fair to say to the minister that in my own jurisdiction, in my own constituency, the chemical industry, as an example, has had a long history of being one of the leading industry sectors for having a safe working environment.
I think it should be pointed out that through their health and safety committees, through the training that those workers receive and through a long-standing commitment, I might add, to health and safety, many of those industries have had literally millions of hours of safe working conditions with no injuries whatever, no loss of life, which I think can be used as a model -- I say this to the minister by way of suggestion -- in many parts of this province.
There are things we can do that I feel confident will improve the health and safety of workers if we work co-operatively with industry, with the labour movement and with workers who are exposed to these conditions, and if we work to improve on the conditions for the safety of all workers in the province.
We join with the minister, congratulating him on naming this week as an important week, and hope this highlights in a very real sense the importance of maintaining adequate health and safety legislation throughout the province.
Mr B. Rae: In the absence again today of the Premier (Mr Peterson), who once again is out of the province on, I am sure, a very important national campaign, I would like to ask a question of the Minister of Culture and Communications.
The minister will no doubt have seen, or if she has not, I am sure she can avail herself of a copy of schedule B of the document titled Appendix I, National Council of Jewish Women of Canada, Toronto Section, Charitable Foundation, Details of the Capital Bank Account to June 30, 1988, which confirms that on 26 October 1987, Mrs Pleasant Oddie was sent a cheque for a housing survey in Hamilton for some $5,000.
The origins of this cheque or this relationship between Mrs Oddie and the capital account have been spoken to by the minister, but I wonder if the minister can explain how it is that of all the hundreds of volunteer members of the National Council of Jewish Women of Canada who are involved in voluntary activities of all kinds, including mailings of all sorts --
The Speaker: The question?
Mr B. Rae: -- none of them was asked to perform this particular work by Mrs Starr.
Hon Ms Oddie Munro: I am afraid I cannot speak on behalf of Mrs Starr.
Mr B. Rae: The minister is in fact the person who gave Mrs Starr the name of her own mother as the recipient of this particular benefit. It is a benefit that is worth $5,000. The same year in which the benefit was paid, Mrs Oddie and Mr Oddie gave the minister a far larger contribution to her campaign than was ever given by them, according to any records we have been able to search, and that is the origin of the contract.
None of this is very pleasant, but the minister is responsible for this. I want to ask the minister very directly if she can explain why a capital account of the charity is spending $5,000 in payments to the minister for a survey that has never been made publicly available, and I want to ask the minister if she would not now rethink her statements of several days and at least recognize that in her dealings with Mrs Starr --
The Speaker: Thank you.
Mr B. Rae: -- she behaved improperly and that a solicitation of this particular contract for her own relative was in fact wrong.
The Speaker: Order.
Hon Ms Oddie Munro: First of all, I am not aware of schedule B, appendix I, or any of the items he has discussed, nor was I aware of the existence of a capital fund for the National Council of Jewish Women. That is the allegation that is contained in the newspaper. I am not a recipient of the Goodman and Goodman report or any of the other information that also proves to be a source of allegations.
Second, I did not solicit a contract for my mother -- I have made that quite clear -- nor did I refer my mother, nor do I consider that I have referred her as a recipient of a benefit.
Mr B. Rae: The minister has admitted she recommended her mother for this work. She has admitted she gave Mrs Starr her mother’s phone number. Her ministry has a major relationship with Mrs Starr. Mrs Starr was the recipient at one time of the gold medal of the Ministry of Citizenship and Culture.
The minister knows this. She has been involved with Mrs Starr for a long time. She has spoken at dinners for Mrs Starr and said how wonderful a person she thinks she is and how highly she thinks of Patti Starr. Patti Starr sends her mother a cheque for $5,000 for doing work that in any other organization would be done by volunteers and that in this organization is always done by volunteers. Does the minister not recognize that she has behaved improperly?
Hon Ms Oddie Munro: As I have mentioned several times in this House and outside the House, I received an inquiry from Mrs Starr as to people who might be able to do a particular kind of work. When I asked what kind of work, it appeared to be the mailing of a survey. I indicated there were several people I knew who could perform the job in Hamilton. I referred my mother and gave her the telephone number.
I do not believe, from that point of view, that I had anything at all to do with referring a contract. “The contract” is in fact the honourable member’s terminology. As far as volunteer activities for the National Council of Jewish Women are concerned, I am sorry; I cannot speak on its behalf. All I can say is that the relationship with NCJW and my ministry has been a long and profitable one.
Mr B. Rae: “Profitable” is the word.
Hon Ms Oddie Munro: l am sorry. I have the floor and I am making the answer. I believe the National Council of Jewish Women is a well-respected organization. I respect it, and as I have said before in the House, I have not intervened in any contract that was awarded to the National Council of Jewish Women, nor has it asked for any intervention.
I am confident that all the checks and balances in the ministry are there to allow me to be a responsible and competent minister.
The Speaker: Thank you.
Hon Ms Oddie Munro: Again, getting back to the member’s first question, I cannot answer why volunteer activities --
The Speaker: Thank you. New question.
Mr B. Rae: I just listened to the minister’s answers with disbelief.
Mr B. Rae: I have a question to the Minister of Tourism and Recreation. The minister received, on 20 March 1989, a very fulsome “Dear Hugh” confidential memo that managed to make its way to the press, in which Mrs Starr, who was the chairman of the board at Ontario Place, told him that “Ontario Place has cut its deficit by just over $2 million for the fiscal year ending March 31, 1989. We did it. We have done it. We are not going public yet in announcing all the new places that are being opened,” and so on.
One of the reasons they appear to be getting all this money is because the amount of money that flowed to Ontario Place from the private sector has apparently gone up dramatically, including a very substantial contribution from Tridel Corp. I wonder if the minister would not agree that in light of the information that has been made public about Mrs Starr’s involvement with the capital account, it might be wise for us to have a very full and complete investigation of all the contracts, tendered and not tendered, at Ontario Place.
Hon Mr O’Neil: I thank the Leader of the Opposition for the question. As of last week, I directed that the Provincial Auditor be asked to go into Ontario Place and do a comprehensive audit of that particular place.
Mr B. Rae: It is amazing, once these things become public, the way the cheques are suddenly returned, as they were by Mr Chiesa who works for the Minister of Housing (Ms Hošek), and now the auditor is going in.
According to Mrs Starr, Ontario Place is getting between 20 and 25 per cent of gross sales for the three restaurants. Breakers, Blueberry Hill Gourmet Hamburgers, the Westbury Group and Mr Arena apparently are giving a far more substantial share of gross sales to Ontario Place as part of their contract than was ever the case before and than, I understand, is the case and the practice industry-wide across the province.
I wonder if the minister can confirm those figures as a percentage of gross sales and if he can explain why it would be that companies would be agreeing to contracts of this kind, particularly when the contracts, as the minister would know, were never tendered in an open, competitive process.
Hon Mr O’Neil: I know from the facts that have been given to me and by the letter that was sent to me by Mrs Starr that she mentioned that Ontario Place is indeed getting between 20 and 25 per cent of gross sales. Last year and before, we got between seven and 10 per cent. The deal the board of directors from Ontario Place has struck on the new contract is a much better one than the contracts that were dealt with before. It will mean that more of a profit will come to Ontario Place. The operating deficit that was cut last year by approximately $2 million may be cut even more this coming year because of working out better contracts and getting a better share.
Mr B. Rae: I would like to say something before the Liberal Party joins in a chorus of applause for these things. You may say I know nothing about the way the world works, but people do not give you something for nothing. When people sign a contract and in exchange are giving such a very substantial sum, would the minister not wonder why they would be doing this?
Why is Tridel Corp giving $25,000 to Ontario Place? The climate of Ontario Place is such that more and more commercial and corporate sponsors are moving in and contributing far more than ever before. Why would they be doing that? One has only to look at the land around Ontario Place and one has only to look at the rumours concerning the future of Ontario Place to know why goodwill of this kind is being bought. I want to ask the minister whether he does not understand that in looking at this whole business.
Hon Mr O’Neil: I would like to tell the Leader of the Opposition that I do understand it. If he were to look at contracts like this that are being negotiated, in a lot of the places the coming thing is to bring corporate sponsorship into it so the government does not have to pay more. The number of corporate sponsors has indeed increased over the last number of years, likely from contributions of close to $200,000 or $300,000 to more than $1 million this year. Those corporate sponsorships coming in mean that Ontario has to pay a lot less in deficit spending at that place.
Mr Brandt: My question is to the Deputy Premier and it is on the same subject. In the July 1989 edition of Toronto Life, it quotes Hershell Ezrin as having phoned Patricia Starr and saying, “‘We want to run a new kind of government, and we need people like you.’” I am sure the members are pleased that Hershell made that comment and I know all members of the Liberal Party are pleased to be so closely associated with Ms Starr and her kind of individual.
I might add that up until this point, some nine cabinet ministers have now seen some financial assistance that has come from Ms Starr. In light of the fact that all of this controversy is surrounding this individual, does it not appear to be reasonable that the people of Ontario be informed how Ms Starr was given the appointment -- two appointments in fact -- by the Ontario government, the final one being the chairmanship of Ontario Place? How did that come to pass and who is responsible for it?
Hon R. F. Nixon: It is not helpful for me to say again to the honourable member that the appointment was done by order in council because he wants to convey to anybody listening that somehow there was a nefarious quid pro quo. All I can tell him is that the government, week by week, makes appointments of a wide variety of importance, some of them equally as important as the chairmanship of Ontario Place. Many of them include people from his own party and from the New Democratic Party, as the honourable member would know. I can assure the member the appointments are made on the basis of perceived merit.
Mr Brandt: Someone would have to recommend Ms Starr to receive an order-in-council recommendation and final approval for that appointment. But let me say to the Deputy Premier that Ms Starr was not some neophyte or newcomer to the world of politics. She knew exactly what she was doing and knew the implications of her political activities. If I might, I would like to read to the Deputy Premier a comment quoting the national vice-president of the National Council of Jewish Women which states, “The National Council of Jewish Women of Canada shall not endorse any political parties or candidates.”
That makes it very clear what the rules of that organization are and it was in Ms Starr’s possession prior to the donations she made to some nine cabinet ministers, along with a number of backbenchers in the Deputy Minister’s party. So contrary to Ms Starr’s assertions, there was no grey area, no area of confusion with respect to what this particular lady was doing.
In light of that, is it not reasonable to ask the Deputy Premier, and is it not expected on the part of the people of Ontario, that they should know who in fact recommended this particular individual for that very responsible position as chairman of Ontario Place?
The Speaker: The Deputy Premier.
Mr Brandt: Someone referred that name for approval.
The Speaker: Order. The question has been asked.
Hon R. F. Nixon: I think the honourable member, who has followed the situation involving this matter very carefully in the House and in the media, would know that the Premier has indicated that the public trustee is looking at the whole matter of the disposition of the funds that are controlled by the -- is it the National Jewish Women’s League?
Hon Mrs Caplan: National Council of Jewish Women.
Hon R. F. Nixon: -- National Council of Jewish Women. That matter is before the public trustee. There is also a clear indication from the Attorney General (Mr Scott) in his statement more than a week ago that the Ontario Provincial Police are examining all aspects of it as well.
Mr Brandt: Let me just read into the record that these are the ministers who have received money to date: The Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations (Mr Wrye); the Minister of Culture and Communications; the Minister of Tourism and Recreation; the Minister of Transportation (Mr Fulton); the Minister of Revenue (Mr Grandmaître); the Minister of Industry, Trade and Technology (Mr Kwinter); the Minister without Portfolio responsible for senior citizens’ affairs (Mrs Wilson); the Minister of Skills Development (Mr Curling); the Minister of Health (Mrs Caplan). The Ontario Liberal Party and the Premier himself have all received funds from Ms Starr, funds that, according to a Toronto newspaper, were meant to go to the disabled.
The Speaker: Order.
Mr Brandt: Given that surely it is reasonable to expect that the Deputy Premier would have taken a look at how the appointment of Ms Starr to the chairmanship of Ontario Place actually occurred, who made the recommendation, how was it brought to the attention of cabinet and ultimately approved by an order in council? That is a reasonable question that does not require an OPP--
The Speaker: Order. The questions have been asked.
Hon R. F. Nixon: The honourable member would know by the interjections, which might not have been clearly carried on the microphones, that there were others besides the Liberals that the honourable member mentioned who are also in receipt. I do not for a moment say that has got any relevancy except this: Every one of us, as members of the Legislature, receives donations from a number of sources, and no matter how carefully we examine them, there is nothing the matter with receiving donations from people interested in the democratic process and supporting us as individual candidates
Mr Brandt: Huh.
Hon R. F. Nixon: Well, that is a fact.
I think the honourable member should be aware, as are all right-thinking citizens, that these donations are listed for all to see with the Commission on Election Finances.
If the donor is going to extract those funds from a source that is improper or illegal, I can assure the honourable member, and perhaps his own experience would verify this, that it is not possible for the recipient to always check that, and I do not believe that is his or her duty. The actual amount of it is there, and this whole matter, since it has become so publicly prominent, and deservedly so, is being examined by the provincial police, the public trustee, the Conflict of Interest Commissioner and the Commission on Election Finances. Surely that is the appropriate way to proceed so the facts will be made public.
Mr Brandt: We have now been made aware of the new line of defence of the Liberal Party as it relates to Ms Starr and how it is going to deal with it.
Mr Brandt: My next question is for the Minister of Tourism and Recreation. Ms Starr is quoted in the Toronto Life article I referred to earlier as receiving some $160 a month for her tenure over the two-year period as chairman of Ontario Place, when in fact the amount of money Ms Starr received was $140 a day plus expenses over that two-year period.
Since this individual was extremely active in a number of areas and probably spent a number of days working diligently, I am sure, at Ontario Place, could the minister give us some indication of the total amount of money earned by Ms Starr over that two-year period, as well as the total amount of expenses paid to her?
Hon Mr O’Neil: As I mentioned, a comprehensive audit is being done by the Provincial Auditor, and it is hoped that all of those details will be brought forward.
I would also mention to the member, not in defence of Mrs Starr, but Mrs Starr did spend a lot of days and a lot of time at Ontario Place, and it is my understanding that she billed very little in either expenses or daily rates for the time she spent there. Those figures are coming to me, but I think what I have been told will be borne out, that she billed very little on a daily rate or in expenses over the almost two years I have been minister while she was there.
Mr Brandt: So that we can be assured that in fact the Provincial Auditor is going to look into all aspects of this particular arrangement, I wonder if it would be reasonable to ask the minister to provide this House with a copy of the letter he sent to the auditor, which will simply outline those details of what he is requesting by way of information from the auditor, presumably under section 17 of the act, which is what he would be required to operate under. Will the minister commit to this House to provide it with that information?
Hon Mr O’Neil: I will even do better than that. I will quote from the letter which was sent. The letter was sent last week to Mr Archer, who is the Provincial Auditor; it was signed by the deputy minister of my ministry on my direction. It reads in part:
“It is felt that at this time a comprehensive audit, including an in-depth review of the corporation’s management decision-making processes, would be worth while. In particular, I refer to the board’s responsibilities and inputs regarding purchasing processes and contract, management decision-making authorities and overall accountability related to the management of the corporation’s operations.”
Mr Brandt: Would the minister also advise this House when he became aware of the fact that there were certain tendering practices that were not followed appropriately, particularly relating to the food operations in the Ontario Place activities? As well, would he indicate to this House what action he took at that particular time, relative to any response to Ms Starr about the inappropriateness of not tendering, or what actions his ministry took in connection with that whole affair? He is now asking questions about it. What did he do when he first became aware of it?
Hon Mr O’Neil: I would mention again to the leader that on this particular thing, all these will be looked into by the Provincial Auditor.
I might also tell him that there was a question asked of me, I believe by the member for Etobicoke-Rexdale (Mr Philip), quite some time ago on this particular tendering.
There are two types of tendering done within the provincial government: One is in written tendering and the other one is on invitational. In the particular case of the restaurants, there were 36 different firms that expressed interest or were invited to present proposals.
Those proposals were put out. Proposals that were received were reviewed by a board subcommittee -- not by one person but by a board subcommittee -- and presented to the board for final approval. Also, the firm of Laventhol and Horwath was consulted as to certain advice on some of those contracts.
Mr B. Rae: I have a question for the Minister of Housing. In the same Toronto Life article which has been referred to already, the author of the article, Robert Hough, on page 54 refers to Mrs Starr’s term with the Metropolitan Toronto Housing Authority and documents the way in which she was an advocate on behalf of the Tridel Corp when she was a member of that board, and how she had leaked confidential board information on the negotiation of a contract to Tridel.
The article also states, Mrs Starr “declined an offer from Housing minister Chaviva Hošek to renew her post.” I wonder if the minister can tell us if that is in fact true.
Hon Ms Hošek: There were discussions about how to continue the situation at the Metro Toronto Housing Authority, and I did not offer Mrs Starr a renewal of her post.
Mr B. Rae: Further to that question, in the information that again appeared in the media with respect to the activities of the capital account, the capital account shows that on 9 November 1988, members of the Minister of Housing’s staff apparently had a dinner with somebody, maybe with Mrs Starr, at the House of Chan for $298.30. Then just a couple of weeks later on 20 December 1988, there was another dinner with members of the Housing minister’s staff where the dinner cost $521.
The minister must have been aware of these expenditures since they are now being widely distributed. I wonder if the minister can explain particular expenditures.
Hon Ms Hošek: I am glad to answer the question, though I would like to remind everyone that having dinner with someone is not a crime and that is a good thing because some of us have had dinner with each other. I personally have had dinner with some members opposite.
Because this matter was raised about 9 November and 20 December, to the Leader of the Opposition (Mr B. Rae), we did indeed check with both my own personal staff and senior officials corporately in our ministry and at the central regional office because this matter was raised in the newspaper. No members of my personal staff or senior members of the ministry or the central regional housing office had dinner with Ms Starr on those dates. I can only conclude there was some inaccurate accounting.
Mr Harris: I would like to go back to the very same question to just clarify whether the minister is telling us today that whoever paid for those dinners, nobody from her staff or the Housing ministry staff attended those two lunches or a lunch and a dinner and, in fact, whatever they were, they had absolutely nothing to do with the minister and they had nothing to do with the minister’s staff or the Ministry of Housing staff.
Hon Ms Hošek: Let me make that clear again to the member. When I read this in the paper, of course, I asked my staff to check. The dates are 9 November and 20 December. No members of my personal staff and no senior member of the ministry, either at the ministry or at the central regional housing programs office, attended dinner with Ms Starr on those dates.
Mr Harris: l am not sure whether we are into a technicality here or not. I would have a supplementary. The minister has said “on those dates,” and I guess we are concerned --
Hon Mr Bradley: You’ve never been stuck on technicalities before. Now you want to be sticky.
Mr Harris: I will tell the member why we are sticky. The minister gives Dino Chiesa, who got $10,000 from Patti Starr, a $250,000 contract without tender. She hires another very dear friend of Patti Starr as an adviser, without advertisement. The very dear friend’s wife is hired at Ontario Place, run by Patti Starr. Patti Starr pays $3,500 to the minister’s parliamentary assistant’s campaign manager, a former Housing ministry appointee. Patti Starr proceeds to divert housing money to the political coffers of practically every Liberal that walked the face of the earth.
I would ask the minister, has the minister’s staff or have senior Housing people ever attended lunch or dinner with Ms Starr and, if they have, what was discussed?
Hon Ms Hošek: The question that was asked was that here were these dinners that were paid for out of the charitable fund of the National Council of Jewish Women, right? Those were the dates that were asked about and those were the issues. I checked --
Mr Harris: I did not ask about those two dates.
Hon Ms Hošek: Yes, the member did. The member just asked me that question. If he will allow me to answer, I would be delighted to do so.
We checked to see if any member of my staff or any member of the ministry had dinner with Ms Starr on those dates and the answer is no. I do not know who has ever had dinner with whom in my ministry over the past God knows how many years. But people do discuss issues and do have dinner with each other. The issue is whether the charitable foundation paid for dinner with members of my staff and the answer is no, that is not the case.
Mr Dietsch: My question is to the Minister of Culture and Communications. The minister will be aware that in 1792, Niagara-on-the-Lake, then known as Newark, was the first capital of Upper Canada. In 1992, Niagara-on-the-Lake will be celebrating the 200th anniversary of the first sitting of the Legislature of Upper Canada. At present, there is in place a citizens’ committee which is planning for the celebrations.
What opportunities, assistance and involvement can communities such as Niagara-on-the-Lake expect surrounding these types of heritage events, and to whom should their proposals be directed?
Hon Ms Oddie Munro: Previously, members of the Legislature have asked questions related to what we refer to as the heritage years or the anniversary celebrations in this province. I have indicated that we are taking a document through various committees of cabinet to get a suggestion on how local communities in the province can participate and celebrate. All of those details will be released to the House as soon as the alternatives are deliberated upon.
In answer to the question specifically about Niagara-on-the-Lake, I have had an opportunity to visit and to meet with many members of the local architectural conservation advisory committee, and I am delighted to see that it has a citizens’ group. I would suggest as a move at the moment that they approach members of our regional office of the Ministry of Culture and Communications and ask for information on grants for local celebrations that would be available through the heritage branch or through the Ontario Heritage Foundation.
Mr Dietsch: Ceremonies such as the one planned at Niagara-on-the-Lake often take quite a period of time in advance preparation. I would like to know when we can expect the government’s plans for the celebration of heritage year to be announced.
Hon Ms Oddie Munro: Obviously there is so much interest in the whole aspect and the parameters of the celebration of heritage years, indeed not only from our province but as the events unfold across the country, that we are taking a look at at least three particular years during which we might have a celebration.
As I said, I am taking the issue through various cabinet committees and as soon as I have the information, I will let the members know. I should just say to the assembly that each member of the Legislative Assembly will have a role to play in making sure that local communities do celebrate.
Mr Kormos: I have a question of the Minister of Housing. Her parliamentary assistant, the member for York Mills (Mr J. B. Nixon), referred his campaign manager to Patricia Starr and suggested that he might be rewarded for his work as campaign manager on the member’s campaign in 1987.
Indeed, the campaign manager himself says that he was paid $3,500 by Patricia Starr and the National Council of Jewish Women for helping the member for York Mills get elected. As I said, he indicated that it was a reward for his work and that he did not have to do any other work for it. He was careful not to accept that money until a few days after the election date, because he did not want it to be perceived as a political contribution.
I am wondering whether the minister has spoken with her parliamentary assistant, and whether she has indeed advised him whether or not she thinks it is appropriate for him to recommend that his campaign manager receive funds that were contributed to a charity and that were designed for charitable uses and not to piece off or grease Liberal campaign managers.
Hon Ms Hošek: The member opposite knows that this question has nothing to do with me or with my ministry or with the role of the parliamentary assistant to the Ministry of Housing in his role as parliamentary assistant to my ministry.
Mr Kormos: I guess this lends a new meaning to “charity begins at home.” The campaign manager says about the National Council of Jewish Women: “I thought they were sort of like a political action committee.” I guess so. Simply, the fact is that the minister’s parliamentary assistant referred his campaign manager for some grease, for some payola. Does the minister approve of that? Does she think that is all right?
Hon Ms Hošek: I think the characterization of this matter is an allegation which the member is making. Clearly, the Commission on Election Finances is looking at all these questions, is going to get all the information and is going to give that information to us. I prefer to wait until that information is available before I decide so easily to characterize it.
Mr J. B. Nixon: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I would ask you to suggest to the member for Welland-Thorold (Mr Kormos) that he consider his language in the House and perhaps be a little more careful with the innuendo he drapes about himself.
The Speaker: Order.
Mr Kormos: Where I come from, they call that grease; they call that a payoff; they call that --
The Speaker: Order. Perhaps --
The Speaker: Order. I wish all members would show just a little more respect.
Mr Harris: To the Minister of Housing: The minister says that none of this has anything to do with her in her role as Minister of Housing. I suggest to her that a huge amount of public money that was supposed to be used to build or subsidize housing in Ontario, over which I thought she had some control, for the disabled, the elderly and for the poor was in fact diverted by a Liberal fundraiser into a slush fund.
Can the minister tell us how money earmarked for housing, money for which she is responsible and over which she has control, found its way into the political coffers? How could that possibly happen? What measures is she taking to make sure it does not happen again?
Hon Ms Hošek: Indeed, I am extremely pleased to be asked that question so I can answer it for the benefit of the member and the other people in the House. What the member is referring to is a non-profit housing project which was approved in 1985. As the member knows very well, I was not a member of this House at the time. I want to say also, clearly --
Mr Jackson: Dino was working for CMHC. Don’t forget that part. He was working for CMHC. I know Dino. I know what is going on.
Hon Ms Hošek: I assume the member for Burlington South (Mr Jackson) is interested in the answer to this question, so let him listen to it.
This project was approved in 1985. It was funded completely by the federal government under the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. The province played no role in its construction or in its management, but let me tell the member the rest of the information, because everyone in the House is entitled to have it.
There was a sales tax refund given to this building because it was built by a charitable foundation. That sales tax refund is directly related to the cost of the construction of the building, which was and is the responsibility of CMHC and which is therefore responsible for looking into this matter and seeing if anything went wrong.
As Minister of Housing of Ontario, I have written to CMHC and basically said: “Look, there is a question here. Would you please take a look at your records and management of this project to see if there was an inappropriate use of this sales tax refund in relation to your standards for the management and construction of the building which you, as the federal government, supported and built?” That is the story.
Mr Harris: The Minister of Housing has made announcement after announcement after announcement that involves CMHC money. She is glad to take credit for all these projects when they are built.
What we want to know is, when they are friends of the minister’s, when they are close associates of hers, when the money is provincial sales tax money earmarked for housing the disabled and the poor, what controls does the minister have to make sure money goes where it is supposed to go?
In particular, when we are dealing with money, $3,500 of this was used to pay her parliamentary assistant’s campaign manager -- who, incidentally, was also the campaign manager for the brother of the Premier -- and $800 was apparently used to pay dinners for the minister’s staff, although she has said it was not used on the two dates in there.
The minister knows money has been improperly used, provincial money from a sales tax rebate. She is the Minister of Housing. What is she, with her friends, doing to make sure that this money is indeed spent where it is supposed to be spent: to subsidize housing --
The Speaker: Order. The question has been asked.
Hon Ms Hošek: I am delighted to answer that question and to make everything clear. The member opposite knows that some of the nonprofit housing that we build, we build jointly with the federal government and, when we do, we are both happy to take credit for it because we are both proud of it. I go to many nonprofit housing openings at which there is a federal representative present because the project was built jointly by the federal government and the provincial government.
The member also knows that we in the province are building on our own as a provincial government. It is also true that in the past the federal government has built nonprofit housing entirely on its own. The project we are talking about was built by the federal government on its own. The responsibility for managing it, managing the construction and dealing with the question of the sales tax refund is theirs. I have written to them to say, “Please tell me, according to your standards, what is the appropriate use of the sales tax refund here.”
I will tell the member what we do in this matter when it is our building and when we have a role to play in it. When we have a role to play in a project like this one, we have a standard that says any rebate, refund or saving of money which is applied to the project is to be taken out of the mortgage cost and the cost of construction and is to be applied to the benefit of the project and the tenants who live in it. That is how we conduct our business. I assume --
The Speaker: Order. That seems like quite a comprehensive response.
Mr Owen: I have a question for the Minister of Health. For some time there has been concern involving seniors about the overuse and the inappropriate use of prescription drugs in Ontario. I know that statistics have come out showing that drug reactions and drug interactions have been implicated in a very high and significant percentage of admissions to hospitals for seniors. I know the minister has been concerned about this and I would ask that we be updated as to what the ministry has been able to do about this problem and exactly where we are going with this problem.
Hon Mrs Caplan: I would also like to acknowledge this member’s interest in what I consider to be a very significant and important issue in this province: drug misuse, particularly by those participating in the Ontario drug benefit plan. Because of my concern and those that were raised by the Goldberg study on prescription drug use in this province, I established the Lowy drug inquiry. That inquiry has made a number of interim reports and, as members would know, we have already begun to act on reform of the special authorization program as recommended.
Just last Friday, the inquiry released its third report and recommended what is called drug utilization review. The purpose is to cut down on the misuse of drugs and ultimately, in my opinion and theirs, to save lives so that we know those people receiving drugs through the Ontario drug benefit program will have their health improved and have the very best therapeutic results.
I want to tell the member and all members of the House that the ministry is moving to develop drug utilization review capability so that we can do our part in ensuring the very best possible results for the government’s drug benefit plan.
Mr Owen: I still meet doctors, some of whom are unaware of this problem. I still meet seniors who are unaware of the significant size of this problem. I rarely meet pharmacists who are unaware. The various ministers of the government send out literature to all sorts of people, including senior citizens. I wonder if there is something the ministry can do to address the problem of communicating the dangers and the risks that are involved, more significantly to seniors.
Hon Mrs Caplan: I would like to point out that the question the member raises is a significant challenge for the ministry. He has heard me say on numerous occasions that we all have a role -- the consumer, the provider of care and the professional. When you talk about the Ontario drug benefit program, not only do physicians need to have information, pharmacists need to have information and the consumer, the patient taking the drugs, needs to have information.
Within the ministry, we are looking at how we can meet this challenge. As the member knows, we have our healthy lifestyles campaign. We are distributing cholesterol information to both physicians and to consumers about appropriate testing. We have released our Deciding the Future document so that we can begin public discussions in a number of communities across the province, because we believe, and if the member expects people to have the information to help them to stay well and to be well, we must find a way of giving them that information so that in fact they can be informed consumers.
FOREST SPRAYING PROGRAM
Mrs Grier: My question is for the Minister of Natural Resources. As we come to the season where the Ministry of Natural Resources will be authorizing the spraying of Ontario forests to control insect pests, can the minister indicate to the House whether or not he still supports his ministry’s program of using the biological insecticide Bt, and only Bt, and whether the ministry will be continuing the use of this nonchemical insecticide?
Hon Mr Kerrio: Bacillus thuringiensis, of course, is one of the things we have used over the last few years to spray our forests. It is not nearly as effective as some other sprays, but we took the initiative, along with the Ministry of the Environment, to make absolutely certain that we would go in that direction. I can share with the member that as far as the spraying is concerned, that has been the policy of this government and it will continue to be.
Mrs Grier: The minister makes the comment that it is not nearly as effective. I wonder if the minister could tell the House what studies he has done since the beginning of the use of Bt and what the results have been, and whether he could make those studies available.
Hon Mr Kerrio: In keeping with the description to the member about how effective it is, when you feed them the bacillus thuringiensis they have to eat it and ingest it before it is effective. The reason I made the comment was that in some cases where there might be an infestation where the little beasties are not eating at that time, it is not effective, so we might have to spray two or three times to handle the insects under those conditions.
We have been willing to pay that price where we have to spray two or three times to control the infestation, and that is one of the reasons why I said that in some cases it is not as effective. I shared with one of the members of the New Democratic Party caucus one time that the other materials we were using were sprayed on our apples eight or 10 times. It shows how safe it is, but we are still prepared to go on with the current policy of this government to continue to spray with Bt.
Mr Jackson: My question is to the Minister of Education. In the April throne speech, his government promised mandatory junior kindergarten programs across Ontario. If I may, I would like to quote one statement by the Treasurer (Mr R. F. Nixon) in the 17 May budget. He said: "Once fully implemented, up to $194 million per year in operating grants will be made available by the province. In addition, $100 million will be available for related capital projects.”
Will the minister briefly explain to this House what specific factors were used in order to arrive at those dollar figures that were so specifically quoted in the budget?
Hon Mr Ward: The member will realize that fully 80 per cent of the boards in this province currently do offer junior kindergarten programs. Those programs are eligible for general legislative grants. It is estimated that some 50,000 students, however, do not have access to programs in those communities that do not currently offer junior kindergarten. We were able to make some calculations as to the instructional cost and from that arrive at an estimation of the additional grant dollars that would be required for province-wide implementation.
Mr Jackson: On 4 May, just immediately following the throne speech and prior to the budget, I tabled six very basic questions to the ministry in Orders and Notices requesting such information as -- to quote directly from the order paper – “a list of all half-day junior kindergarten programs” and “a list of all full-day senior kindergarten programs.” The minister’s response to both those basic questions was that he did not have the information.
I further went on and asked him if he could indicate a list of the available classrooms presently not occupied for half-day and full-day periods of junior kindergarten programs. Again he indicated he did not have that information.
How can the minister suggest, whether in the House today or through the budget of the Treasurer, he has costed out this program? Does the minister have this information or is he just unwilling to share the details with members of the House? I feel I have a right to ask an Orders and Notices question to get that information accurately.
The Speaker: Thank you. That sounds like a fairly full question.
Hon Mr Ward: As I indicated in my original response, the calculation was based on a ministry estimate on a board-by-board basis.
Mr Jackson: My question is, if you have the information, why don’t you answer the order paper question?
Hon Mr Ward: The member will know, if he will listen instead of going on and on --
Mr Jackson: If he has the answer, why doesn’t he put it in the order paper?
Hon Mr Ward: If the member does not want the answer --
Mr Jackson: How many chances do you want?
The Speaker: Order.
Hon Mr Ward: The member’s request was on a school-by-school basis. I have to say to the member that on a school-by-school basis, as opposed to a board-by-board basis, we do not have that kind of data. We are in the process of assembling it for him so he can go through the list on a school-by-school basis province-wide. I understand the material will be made available to him at some point this week.
Mr Kozyra: My question is for the Minister of Agriculture and Food. There are 75 dairy farms in the Thunder Bay region with over 100 families involved in these operations.
Plans are well under way for an industrial milk plant in northwestern Ontario in the next two years, but now all of this seems to be in jeopardy because of an interim General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade agreement which the federal government signed on 7 April. The call for a capping on the price of industrial milk is seen as the same serious threat that has damaged the Canadian wine and grape growing industry.
This decision, to which our federal government has so readily agreed, attacks one of the fundamental principles inherent in a properly functioning supply management system. Where does Ontario stand with respect to the Canadian milk supply management program and the GATT agreement as it affects Thunder Bay and Ontario?
Hon Mr Riddell: I have certainly made my views known to the dairy and the poultry sectors. I have reassured them that my commitment to the effective operation of supply management remains very firm, and I have passed that message on to my friends in Ottawa. However, there are mixed messages coming out of Ottawa and it is certainly leading to the uncertainty of the federal government’s commitment to supply management.
As I stated before in the House, I am worried about the lack of balance in Canada’s commitment to the GATT undertaking. I believe that our dairy sector is being asked to absorb an unequal proportion of the burden of the commitment. Once again, I have passed that information on to my federal counterpart. The farmers in this province can be assured that my commitment is very, very firm as far as supply management systems are concerned.
Mr Kozyra: I am wondering if the minister could be a little more specific on what actions Ontario is prepared to take to assert its provincial rights in this regard and assure dairy farmers in the Thunder Bay region that their very real concerns will be addressed.
Hon Mr Riddle: My honourable colleague has asked a question that is certainly troubling many Ontario farmers. I want to reassure him and these producers throughout Ontario that I have not been asked to restrict any pricing of farm products within Ontario. I have been asked to continue my support for the federal government’s efforts to achieve long-term trade liberalization, which I will endeavour to do.
However, as I stated publicly, the authority for the pricing of farm products such as milk is delegated to the responsible provincial marketing board. These boards have acted and will continue to act responsibly. I cannot see any trade impact, favourable or unfavourable, restricting their powers in this area. Therefore, I will not intervene in the pricing decisions of these boards in response to the April 1989 GATT undertakings.
Mr Mackenzie: I have a question of the Minister of Labour. Can the minister tell us what his government is doing to stop the accelerating sellout of Canadian workers’ jobs so clearly outlined yet again this weekend with the loss of another 400 jobs in the town of Collingwood, where Bendix Safety Restraint Ltd has told 400 workers that their jobs are going 60 per cent to Mexico and a number of the remaining jobs to the United States?
Hon Mr Sorbara: It will probably be no consolation at all to those workers in Collingwood, other workers such as Inglis workers and a number of others around the province, that as a province in every year over the past four years we have increased employment; that is, the net results after you look at jobs that were lost and jobs that were created put us on the plus side. I want to make it perfectly clear that this is not a consolation. Nor is it a consolation to those workers to say to them that some of this industrial restructuring we are seeing in Ontario and throughout Canada arises directly out of the free trade agreement and we are seeing some of the shifts now.
It was of interest to read in the weekend papers, for example, that gross domestic product predicted by the federal government for the first year of the free trade agreement is less than gross domestic product for this nation for the last year we were operating in this country without a free trade agreement. One wonders where the benefits are.
Just to answer his question as to what we are doing in Ontario, I want to tell the member that we are looking at a number of initiatives in terms of training, through my colleague, the Minister of Skills Development (Mr Curling), a number of issues within our own purview in the Employment Standards Act, and a number of initiatives including POWA, the program for older worker adjustment, which is a partnership with the federal government.
Mr Mackenzie: I am glad the Minister of Labour mentioned the free trade deal, because I feel obliged to remind him that if there was ever a collapse on the bottom line we got during the election campaign from the Premier (Mr Peterson) of this province, it was from his party.
Does the minister not understand that the loss of jobs of the 400 workers in this plant, mostly women, who were making about $10.50 an hour plus a decent benefit package, which is also covering in many case their husbands who lost their jobs at the shipyard in that town, is going to have very devastating effects on this town? Can the minister tell us what specifically he is prepared to do to take a look at issues like content legislation, without which we are not going to keep the decent-paying industrial jobs in Ontario?
Hon Mr Sorbara: I sincerely hope my friend the member for Hamilton East does not want to review the performances of the various national and provincial leaders during the election campaign leading up to the election of 21 November 1988, but if he does, I just want to tell him that none of us who were opposing that agreement at that time could have been any prouder of the work our Premier did in this province and elsewhere campaigning against that agreement. I think his record compares favourably with any other politician who took a position during that time, and most of us did.
But all that is history now. My friend the member for Hamilton East is right. We need, not only in this province but in this nation, more effective programs to ensure that issues relating to labour adjustment, particularly in this period of time when we are undergoing very rapid transitions, are put into place nationally and provincially. This is not simply a provincial issue. It is an issue that confronts Canada as a nation, and we have an obligation together, between the federal government and the provinces, to confront it.
TORONTO AREA TRANSPORTATION
Mr Cureatz: I have a question to the Minister of Transportation. Does the minister think it is fair that residents on the extreme portions of the newly announced greater Toronto area, GTA, will be paying the same kind of tax, for instance, for a driver’s licence or for car licences, yet will not be receiving the same kind of benefits?
For instance, out in the town of Newcastle in the far eastern end of the region of Durham, we will not have the effects of the expansion of the GO rail system, which will be stopping in Oshawa; nor will we have the benefits of the widening of Highway 401, which will stop at Pickering. I have suggested it should continue on to Highway 115-35.
Hon Mr Fulton: Clearly, the people who live in Durham will benefit greatly by the announcement of the extension of GO services. They will benefit greatly by the Highway 401 expansion which, the member may not be aware, is in the planning stages to proceed on to Oshawa.
Clearly, the member would be aware of the substantial increase in funding and the acceleration of the contract to expand Highway 115-35 which, I recall, runs right through his riding, as well as other improvements in the area on Highway 28 and Highway 7 and other very substantial works by this ministry within the entire region he represents.
Hon Mrs Caplan: Mr Speaker: I would just like, if I could, with the consent of the House, to acknowledge today the presence in the gallery of a number of representatives from the Ontario Nurses’ Association. I thought there might have been a question during question period and was looking forward to an opportunity to talk about progress we are making.
Mr McLean: I have a petition signed by 166 people. It reads as follows:
“To the Honourable the Lieutenant Governor and the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:
“We, the undersigned, beg leave to petition the Parliament of Ontario as follows:
“Whereas it is my constitutional right to have available and to choose the health care system of my preference;
“And whereas naturopathy has had self-governing status in Ontario for more than 42 years;
“We petition the Ontario Legislature to call on the government to introduce legislation that would guarantee naturopaths the right to practise their art and science to the fullest without prejudice or harassment.”
The Speaker: The member for Scarborough West was trying to get up there.
METROPOLITAN TORONTO SCHOOL BOARD
Mr R. F. Johnston: Thank you. It is always tough at the end of the day.
I have 1,000 signatures on a petition concerning what is called the fiscal irresponsibility of the Metropolitan Toronto trustees, saying:
“Our children’s education is being threatened by their squandering of taxpayers’ money on high salaries, expense accounts and glamorous work holidays. School taxes must go to the schools first and the board of education’s pockets last. We need smaller class sizes, more resources and better-maintained schools now.”
I have affixed my signature.
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.”
It is signed by 50 names and by yours truly.
SECURITY IN PREMISES USED BY PUBLIC
Miss Roberts: I have a petition to the Honourable the Lieutenant Governor and the Legislative Assembly of Ontario. It is a petition dealing with Bill 149, An Act to amend the Trespass to Property Act, and it is against that bill.
The petition indicates that if they wish it to be submitted to the Legislature, it should be sent to the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party, but it was sent to my office instead. I am very pleased to present it. It is signed by two of my constituents, and I have signed it as well pursuant to the rules.
Ms Poole: The petition I have is signed by 101 people.
“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 my constitutional right to have available and to choose the health care system of my preference;
“And whereas naturopathy has had self-governing status in Ontario for more than 42 years;
“We petition the Ontario Legislature to call on the government to introduce legislation that would guarantee naturopaths the right to practise their art and science to the fullest without prejudice or harassment.”
Pursuant to the rules, I have signed it.
PRIVATE MEMBERS’ PUBLIC BUSINESS
Hon Mr Conway moved that the member for York Mills (Mr J. B. Nixon), the member for Muskoka-Georgian Bay (Mr Black), the member for Chatham-Kent (Mr Bossy) and the member for Durham Centre (Mr Furlong) exchange places respectively in the order of precedence for private members’ public business.
Motion agreed to.
INTRODUCTION OF BILL
DISTRICT MUNICIPALITY OF MUSKOKA STATUTE LAW AMENDMENT ACT, 1989
Hon Mr Eakins moved first reading of Bill 34, An Act to amend the District Municipality of Muskoka Act and the Education Act.
Motion agreed to.
The Speaker: Does the minister have an explanation?
Hon Mr Eakins: This legislation is in response to a request by the council of the district municipality of Muskoka. It will simplify the current property tax system in the district by allowing the district municipality and each school board to establish a common residential and a common commercial mill rate to be applied throughout the district area. It will also permit the Minister of Revenue (Mr Grandmaître) to undertake a reassessment of all properties throughout the district every four years to maintain property tax assessments equivalent to current market values.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
The following bills were given third reading on motion:
Bill 187, An Act to amend certain Acts as they relate to Police and Sheriffs.
Bill 189, An Act to amend the Provincial Offences Act and the Highway Traffic Act.
Bill 200, An Act to confirm a certain Agreement between the Governments of Canada and Ontario.
Bill 205, An Act to amend the Amusement Devices Act, 1986.
ELEVATING DEVICES AMENDMENT ACT, 1989
Hon Mr Wrye moved third reading of Bill 206, An Act to amend the Elevating Devices Act.
Mr Runciman: I would like to make one brief comment, if I may. I am not sure this falls within the area of elevating devices, but I know during the second reading debate I mentioned concerns about the joyriding aspects in respect to elevator operations.
A couple of serious accidents have occurred, not related to joyriding, specifically in the Ottawa area in very similar circumstances and both were very tragic indeed. One involved a young girl and another a retired visitor from England. I simply want to place my concern and my party’s concern on the record. These are very peculiar incidents indeed and I am not sure whether they draw attention to any weaknesses that perhaps exist in the inspection services through the ministry or perhaps weaknesses in this act. I do not know.
I am sure the minister and his staff are as concerned as we are and are very carefully looking at these incidents, but I simply wanted to again take this opportunity to express our concern. Two similar, very serious accidents resulted in deaths in the Ottawa area. We hope we are going to see some statement forthcoming from the minister with respect to these accidents and what can be done in the future to prevent similar occurrences.
Motion agreed to.
The following bills were given third reading on motion:
Bill 207, An Act to amend the Energy Act; Bill 218, An Act to amend the Environmental Protection Act.
GOWGANDA TOWN PLOT LAND ACT,
Mr Reycraft moved, on behalf of Mr Fleet, second reading of Bill Pr5, An Act respecting Certain Land in the Town Plot of Gowganda in the District of Timiskaming.
Motion agreed to.
Third reading also agreed to on motion.
CITY OF WINDSOR ACT, 1989
Mr D. S. Cooke moved second reading of Bill Pr9, An Act respecting the City of Windsor.
Motion agreed to.
Third reading also agreed to on motion.
561239 ONTARIO INC ACT, 1989
Mr Reycraft moved, on behalf of Mr Chiarelli, second reading of Bill Pr10, An Act to revive 561239 Ontario Inc.
Motion agreed to.
Third reading also agreed to on motion.
MADAWASKA CLUB LIMITED ACT, 1989
Mr Reycraft moved, on behalf of Mr Black, second reading of Bill Pr12, An Act respecting The Madawaska Club Limited.
Motion agreed to.
Third reading also agreed to on motion.
PORT BRUCE BOAT CLUB ACT, 1989
Miss Roberts moved second reading of Bill Pr19, An Act to revive the Port Bruce Boat Club.
Motion agreed to.
Third reading also agreed to on motion.
VILLAGE OF KILLALOE ACT, 1989
Mr Reycraft moved second reading of 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.
Motion agreed to.
Third reading also agreed to on motion.
AGGREGATE RESOURCES ACT, 1989
Hon Mr Kerrio moved third reading of Bill 170, An Act to revise several Acts related to Aggregate Resources.
The Speaker: Am I ready to put the motion?
Hon Mr Conway: I think the member for Etobicoke-Lakeshore wishes to say something.
Mrs Grier: Yes, Mr Speaker, I do; I am sorry. At this point I would like to speak to Bill 170, which is An Act to revise several Acts related to Aggregate Resources.
This bill replaces an old, outdated piece of legislation that was called the Pits and Quarries Control Act. In fact, the only good thing going for the Pits and Quarries Control Act was that it contained the word “control” in its title, because it had the effect of having some control over pits and quarries.
We in my party are going to oppose this bill today, because we do not feel this piece of legislation does in fact control pits and quarries.
We feel that perhaps more appropriately this bill ought to be called An Act to accelerate the Development of Aggregate Resources in Ontario.
We find it disturbing that this is what this bill does, given that it is being moved and supported by a government that is pledged to protect the environment, by a government that talks about sustainable development, by a government that has established the Ontario Round Table on Environment and the Economy in order to make sure that all its policies are subject to an environmental assessment, so to speak, and that the environment is incorporated into every piece of legislation and into every act of the government.
Yet what do we find when we examine this piece of legislation? We find a definition of “environment” that is a great deal narrower than the definition in the Environmental Assessment Act. It seems that if we are going to protect the environment of the province, we ought to have some common terminology so that we all know what we mean when we say “environment,” so that we all know what we mean when we say “environmental assessment" and so that we do not waste our time, the proponents’ time and the administrative tribunal’s time by having great debates about what we are actually trying to do.
I and my colleague, the member for Algoma (Mr Wildman), moved many amendments to this piece of legislation in committee and almost all of them, except the most minute, were refused by the government members on the committee, but the most significant was our amendment that the definition of “environment” in this piece of legislation be deleted and replaced with the definition of “environment” that is in the Environmental Assessment Act.
I am glad the Minister of the Environment (Mr Bradley) is here to hear this debate, because I think the fact that amendment was defeated by the government demonstrates once again that it has one Minister of the Environment and 30 other cabinet ministers for other segments of the business of this province, instead of, as they are wont to say, that they are all ministers of the environment.
The other problem we have with this piece of legislation is the fact that only certain designated parts of Ontario are covered by the bill. This was one of the shortcomings of the previous legislation, the Pits and Quarries Control Act and, in our opinion, a law to protect the environment from gravel pits ought to cover the entire province.
I know the minister says that within three years this piece of legislation over the regulations will be amended in order to cover the entire province, but if that is the intent, our position is why not do it now, knowing how long it often takes to make changes to regulations and even longer to make changes to legislation? It may be years, if ever, before the land in northern Ontario, now excluded, is covered by this piece of legislation.
Another problem we have with the legislation is that the bill does not go nearly far enough to guarantee that there will be full rehabilitation of a pit or a quarry after the extraction has finished. The proposed licence fees to operate such a site and the security deposits to pay for rehabilitation are far too low really to do the job and there are no funds set aside to rehabilitate old, long-abandoned sites that pockmark the farm land of this province.
One of the more disturbing omissions from the bill is a number of amendments that were requested by the Niagara Escarpment Commission. During the committee hearings we were told time and time again that the escarpment commission agreed with the ministry, that everybody was on the same wavelength and that we need not worry or have these concerns about the protection of the Niagara Escarpment.
But on closer scrutiny of some of the correspondence and the testimony before the committee by a number of community groups who had spoken with the Niagara Escarpment Commission, it remains our position that this act does not go far enough to protect the Niagara Escarpment.
This is something that was agreed to by all members of this House when the Niagara Escarpment plan was promulgated. I have time and again brought the Legislature’s attention to the fact that the Minister of Municipal Affairs (Mr Eakins) is contributing to the erosion of the Niagara Escarpment by the actions he often takes in supporting counties and other bodies that wish to whittle away at the protection for the escarpment.
Once again, it calls into question the government’s commitment to sustainable development, when the Niagara Escarpment, an opportunity if ever there was one to put in place a policy for sustainable development, is not fully protected by this piece of legislation. We may well find ourselves in the future having to fight off proposals for pits and quarries along the beautiful Niagara Escarpment.
I really regret that in a committee debate on this bill where there was a very wide-ranging discussion and a lot of submissions from people, most of those people submitting agreeing that there needed to be some changes to the legislation, that the legislation needed to be strengthened and that particularly the definition of environment needed to be strengthened, there was no evidence of any willingness on the part of the government members to acknowledge the strength of those submissions or to make the amendments we were suggesting.
I suspect, in fact I know, that had we been in a minority government situation we would have emerged with a much stronger bill that perhaps would have controlled the extraction of aggregates across this province, but again the majority prevailed, as I am sure it will today. But I would not be true to the environment of this province if I did not urge some members to stand up and be counted and to oppose Bill 170.
Mr J. M. Johnson: Just briefly, I would like to make a few comments on Bill 170. It has been a long time in the making. It was nearly 10 years ago that I sat on this committee when we dealt with the old pits and quarries act, and it was next to impossible to change at that time. I think all three parties brought in something like 30 amendments. So it has been nearly 10 years in the process. It certainly is not totally satisfactory, but it has gone a long way to resolve many of the problems. I think we are better with Bill 170 as drafted than no piece of legislation.
I was concerned during the committee hearings that so many of the sections were left to the discretion of the minister by regulation. I can only hope that the minister exercises very wise discretion when the regulations are drafted and that the opposition parties maybe have an opportunity to look at those regulations before they are finalized. There are certain very important initiatives in the regulation process. With that word of caution, I would suggest that our party, to the best of my knowledge, is supporting the bill.
Hon Mr Kerrio: I certainly listened with interest to the two opposition parties’ positions. When we put a bill that has taken all these years to get to the table, it is always a disappointment not to have someone speak about the very, very important aspects of the bill. I think especially the official opposition should try to do something that is a balance.
One of the most significant things that is unfolding with this bill is that, when extracting for the uses that the people of Ontario demand, for building homes and roads and doing all those things, we used to intrude on certain areas where there was difficulty, rehabilitating those areas so that they would not be an eyesore in our community. We had difficulty where we would have the roads broken up, in and around all these areas of extraction.
I think a major aspect of the bill that everyone in Ontario should be very pleased about is that we are going to get money from those people who are extracting in order to do rehabilitation -- that is vitally important to future generations -- so that we will see lands developed again for growing trees, for having trout habitats and doing good things, as I have seen, right in the Niagara Peninsula.
I should also point out that we are going to share some money with the municipalities that are impacted so that we indeed do not thrust all of the costs on those municipalities. The two major aspects of this bill are the rehabilitation of areas that we extract from and helping municipalities that are impacted.
Further to that, we are putting moneys aside to rehabilitate those abandoned pits and quarries. I think this is a measure of this government’s will to look back to the past and say, “We had a pit that was abandoned and it was left that way, and now we are going to even set aside some funds to do a very appropriate job on rehabilitation.” We want to be absolutely certain that we leave this resource available to the young people of the future of this province. It goes without saying that we need these aggregates. We need to address the question.
We did make an amendment because the official opposition had some concern about describing the environment. Our people accepted the amendment and changed it so that we can word it and so that we have a thorough understanding of environmental issues.
Beyond that, I think one of the things that is important and significant is that this has had broader public exposure than many, many bills that we bring through the Legislature. By and large, the very fact that it was supported on nearly all sides is an indication that the bill is fairly well accepted.
The member for Wellington (Mr J. M. Johnson) brought up a very important question. I am fully prepared to share regulations as we develop them with the opposition party.
I believe that is about all I have to say on the bill, except that I am looking forward to the support of members on all sides for the quick passage of this bill.
The Deputy Speaker: Is it the pleasure of the House that Mr Kerrio’s motion for third reading carry?
All those in favour will please say “aye.”
All those opposed will please say “nay.”
In my opinion, the ayes have it.
Motion agreed to.
CHILDREN’S LAW REFORM AMENDMENT ACT, 1989
Mr Offer, on behalf of Hon Mr Scott, moved third reading of Bill 124, An Act to amend the Children’s Law Reform Act.
The Deputy Speaker: Does the parliamentary assistant have an opening statement?
Mr Offer: This is third reading and I understand there is going to be some debate. I would like, if I might, to reserve some comments to the end, if that is fine with the rest of the members.
The Deputy Speaker: Do some members wish to participate in the debate?
Mr R. F. Johnston: This one does, definitely, and I am sure there will be others as well.
This is a very important bill. As I indicated at second reading, it is one of those bills which should be taken into focus by every member in this House. It is the Children’s Law Reform Act, an act about custody and access: questions about where a child should reside, what sort of rights of access a noncustodial parent should have to that child, what rights a child should have in those kinds of circumstances. It is very much a guts of family law kind of issue. It is the kind of issue which is tearing some families apart in this province at the moment and making the lives of children exceedingly difficult.
The government, I presume in the best of all possible interests, has determined that some need for action was there in terms of assisting in access orders when people were not being given access. It has come up with this particular bill, Bill 124, as a solution. Our critic for the Ministry of the Attorney General, the member for Rainy River (Mr Hampton), and I convinced our caucus that it should have no part in this particular law, that it should not try to amend it, not try to tinker with it, that its very premises were flawed.
Yes, there were in some small instances in the province problems of access. We agree with that analysis and that this is an appropriate time to look for some solutions around the problems people are having in getting appropriate access to children from whom they are separated. But we feel this bill for a number of reasons is not the mechanism but adds to the problems that are already there within the system.
The new thing in this legislation which is so dangerous is a change in the way we look at this kind of law, to put the presumption in place that the best interests of a child are always dealt with by having both parents in their upbringing. This is a major change from our present legislation, the Children’s Law Reform Act passed in 1982, which indicates that for anybody wanting access or custody of a child, first you have to determine whether it is in the best interests of the child that that individual be involved, then you move on from there.
What this new amendment does is make a presumption that unless it is otherwise proven it is always best for both parents to be involved in the raising of the child, and therefore access should be granted to the noncustodial parent. That change in emphasis in law is an incredibly dangerous thing which I will come back to in a minute.
The other thing that is worrisome about this piece of legislation is that the people we are talking about, who need a law at this point because of problems of access, are people who are already victims in some measure of a court system which has set them in a confrontational path with the spouse from whom they are now separated or divorced.
These are people who feel so strongly against the other spouse, have such great antipathy towards that other individual that they sometimes are not able to step back and wonder whether the child is being best served in these matters. They are people who have been through the courts any number of times, and what this law does is make it easier for them to go back to court, and to go back to court on grounds which are incredibly dangerous, subjective and difficult for judges to deal with. I will come back to that matter.
This is supposed to proceed in a way that gives an expeditious court resolution, a 10-day period during which a person must appear in court to hear the charges by an aggrieved person. Yet every lawyer who came before the standing committee on social development spoke against this, saying it was impractical, it could not work, it was going to cause problems, it was a discriminatory piece of legislation in comparison with the other rights people have before the courts in Ontario.
As someone who has been around this place, a little too long, some people might say, this is also a problematic piece of legislation in terms of children’s rights. I know that there are many new members in this House and that we have an awful lot of reading to do as it is about current things that come across our desks, and we often do not have enough of a chance to look back into what has happened here in the history of this place.
But I would ask all members of the Liberal majority at this time to look very seriously at the Child and Family Services Act of 1984, on which I and other members of this House put in three years of hard work to revamp all our children’s legislation except for the Children’s Law Reform Act, 13 major pieces of legislation, to bring the acts up to date and to make them somewhat coherent, one with the other.
In that law, which deals with children who are in need of protection, children who are being adopted, children who are in long-term residential facilities and children who are young offenders, among others, we set down a standard of rights for kids, for what the limits of their participation should be in decision-making about their long-term interests. It was done weighing the balance of what a child’s role should be with that of his custodial parent or the society in general that might have responsibility for him.
We came forward with a piece of legislation of which I am still very proud. Here we are, five years later, and we have a piece of legislation brought forward by this minister which entirely ignores all the principles of children’s rights and what their role in decision-making should be that we passed in 1984. It is a terrible backwards step for the say that children should have.
Let me just whet members’ appetites with an example, before I go back to the meat of this bill. In that other legislation, a child who is only seven years of age has the right to say no to an adoption. A 12-year-old has all sorts of rights within the Child and Family Services Act. Yet in this bill there is no mention at all of children’s right to state anything about what they feel about the access or custody order which has been made concerning them.
I find it just mind-boggling that this should have happened. I know I should not impute motive, and I do not wish to do it in that kind of tone, but laws and legislative initiatives evolve for a series of reasons, often quite complicated.
I believe firmly now that one of the major factors with the premature production of this piece of legislation, Bill 124, and its hurried approach by the government -- the government’s desire not to have public hearings and to get this through in a couple of weeks last June -- is all to do with the historical context of women’s issues in Ontario; that is, finally, during the minority government period here, when the Liberals were first put into power due to the accord we struck with them, there was a recognition that men in the province could no longer not pay their support payments, that women who had court-ordered support payments must get payment for them.
Members here probably will know that before that law went through, as many as 85 per cent of the people who were ordered to make support payments were not paying them. When that good piece of legislation went through, modelled, much as it was, on the Manitoba initiative of a few years earlier, a number of members of men’s rights groups said:
“Just a second. There is a quid pro quo here. There is a tradeoff; that is, I think that I am being denied access as part of the pressure around support. If you are going to bring in something which demands that I pay my support payments, then there has to be something stronger in the legislation which says that I have access to my child as well and that it can no longer be withheld from me, as it has been in the past.”
As a result of that pressure, the Attorney General (Mr Scott) made promises to certain men’s groups that this kind of legislation would be forthcoming. Now, that government has decided that this would not be for substantive changes in custody matters. This would be just for small, irksome details which have come up, and these would be the things that would go to court. They did not think they were trading off too much to these men’s groups. I would suggest that what in point of fact has happened is that they have traded off far too much indeed.
There are two other matters I would like to come to before I come back to the meat of some of these items within the bill so that people will understand just how bad this legislation is. The first is that the member for Etobicoke-Lakeshore (Mrs Grier) is here today, as one presumes she would be when this kind of legislation comes forward. She represents the riding in which the Lakeshore Area Multi-Service Project, a community organization, was offering access assistance to people who needed supervised access in order to be able to deal with their children in a civilized fashion. That program has been asking for money from this province since 1981, for some official recognition for the wonderful work it has done -- I am sure she will talk in more detail about this -- and it has been consistently denied.
As we in this party came to look at this bill, we came to the opinion, especially after hearing witness after witness, that what was needed now was not another court intervention, not another chance to have a confrontation between warring parents, but a means of facilitating access, a means of guaranteeing that judges across the province would feel comfortable in ruling that somebody should have supervised access and that professionals could intervene and make some determinations about whether that could move to unsupervised access after a time.
Instead, what do we have? If you can believe it, we have this government cancelling its only experiment with a funded access program in Kitchener-Waterloo, Lutherwood, with the Ministry of Community and Social Services basically saying, “We don’t want to pay to have this kind of service provided,” and the Ministry of the Attorney General saying, “We don’t want to pay for having this kind of service provided.” Therefore, that service went down and so did LAMP’s program of Access for Parents and Children. It could no longer exist without funding.
So we have this terribly ironic situation: a law being brought in that will exacerbate the problems that are already there in the courts, which will make the battles even more bitter, more prolonged and continual, and we have no move to make supervised access easier for judges in the province to order.
The final thing I want to say is something which is becoming symptomatic of this government at the moment, that is, that there is a deafness which overcomes this government when it comes to public hearings. There is a desire now not to listen at all to what people are saying. We had a few men’s groups, it is true, come in and tell us why they thought the general direction of this bill was good, although they did not like a lot of what was in it, but we heard from every lawyers’ group in the province saying that this was a bad direction. We heard from every women’s group that this was a bad law and a dangerous law to women’s rights in Ontario. Yet there was not one substantive amendment proposed by the government itself.
Most difficult of all to listen to and imagine was the way that people who were coming forward, who were not custodial parents or access parents but were grandparents, for instance, were treated before this committee in terms of their concerns and their interests. They were made to believe that there was nothing that could be done to this legislation that would increase their rights to access, which are already in the present Children’s Law Reform Act, that the sections which were wanted to be amended, especially by the member for Markham (Mr Cousens), were not appropriate in this act, that you would have to go back to earlier points if you wished to amend it and that grandparents’ rights are well enough protected in this law as it is.
Those people who came before that committee and were there day in and day out, some of whom are still here in this House today watching this law go inexorably through, were very disappointed with the fact that they felt they were not listened to at all.
Let me come back to a little detail about this, if I might. I know there are others who want to get into this debate, but I think there are some serious problems in this law which have to be looked at. The first is this legal question of whether in this law, unlike any of our other laws which affect the best interests of a child, there should be some presumption all of a sudden written into this law which says that the best interests of the child is to have a continuing parent-child relationship with both parents. This new subsection 4a to section 20 of the existing act is a substantive change.
I think it is important to know that that earlier section of the Children’s Law Reform Act, from the bulk of what is amended here today, gives rights to all sorts of people to have custody and access, and this is what this section is amending. But it does not presume anywhere in here that it is necessarily appropriate for an individual parent to have access afterwards.
The government’s argument on this is that it links this to another new section of the bill, which has to do with violent family members, violent parents. It basically says that this right to have access applies to all parents unless they have been violent. That is what the new section says. They think this covers the problem that is there in law. I tell members it does not. That is not a solution because it ignores a number of factors.
Going back again to my experience in other children’s law in the province, the whole concept that somebody has committed violence against another person and the lack of definition of what violence is in this act ignores the question of whether a continuing relationship with a parent who has been systematically negligent of a child, not violent towards the child but by omission negligent for years, should automatically be considered to be in the best interests of that child.
I would suggest that from our other legislation and looking at the whole question of the definition of a child in need of protection under the Child and Family Services Act, we put those things down as equal: Continued negligence is as bad as direct physical violence. Yet this law does not presume that at all. Instead, it presumes that even though the father of that child, for example, may have been away for months at a time, may have never participated with the child before the separation, may have left the child in dangerous circumstances while he went out carousing or whatever, by this law with its new amendment that person is automatically to be deemed by the courts to have a right of access that is in the best interests of that child. That shift of weight of law is an incredibly dangerous thing.
Mr D. R. Cooke: It’s a presumption rather than a deeming.
Mr R. F. Johnston: It is a presumption. Yes, it is. The member for Kitchener is right. It is not as strong as the federal legislation’s language, but the intent is very similar.
I say to members again, going back to the whole question of children’s rights, that this amendment to section 20 -- I encourage members to read section 20, the custody and access of the existing law -- says nothing about the rights of children to make the determinations around custody and access. A 12- or 14-year-old child under this existing legislation has no right to say: “No, no. Having my mom around” -- just to hypothetically change it this time – “is inappropriate for me. I don’t want her around. I do not consider it in my best interests.”
If you really wanted to change this piece of law, as the government has done, to presume this best interests qualification, it should have put in some kind of rider which gave strength to the rights of children to be able to ascertain that. Instead, what the government has done with this is diminish the rights of kids under law by moving this from what we have presently. Under our present legislation, a lawyer for a child can go in and say in the initial access fight: “Just a second. Dad hasn’t been playing a role here for years and this 13-year-old girl says she doesn’t want to have him having any access.” That can be done under the existing law. Under this law, it will be much tougher for any child’s lawyer to go and make that kind of argument, because of the presumption the government has put in.
Every women’s group that came before the committee told us that this was a dangerous presumption to have. Grandparents, of course, said to us: “If you’re going to presume that it’s good for parents to be involved, why don’t you presume that it’s good for grandparents to be involved? Isn’t it just as logical?” Of course, that is not part of what this law is about at all. Grandparents have only the same rights as any other individual involved, other than the parents, under this legislation.
Let me just deal with a couple of other things around children’s rights in this. It just drives me crazy.
Mr Keyes: Are you for it or agin it?
Mr R. F. Johnston: Am I for it or agin it? The member for Kingston and The Islands asks me. I am very much agin it, as he may gather. I would have hoped, especially after the hearings, that we would have had this rethought and withdrawn.
If you look at section 24, which is section 2 of the bill, there are some fascinating parts there of old parts of the bill and new things which are added. Strikingly, there is no change in language at all in that section about the child’s best interests or the role of the child. As well, when you come down to the question of who can say whether a father has been using his access appropriately or has been denied his access inappropriately, the only people who have a right to go to court on that are the mother or the father.
The child has no right, no ability to say: “Just a second here. They’re both feuding over me. They’re both screwing up my life and I want to go to court to say that I want these kinds of terms put on my existence.”
It is important to remember that the only time these custody things change, according to our legislation, which we have not amended, is when the child is married. That is when it changes. When that child marries, he or she has certain kinds of rights, but before that time he basically does not have a role to play in this matter.
A woman came before this committee, again under this same section, asking: “Why leave in this section which says that the length of time the child has lived in a stable home environment should be taken into account when we have had a court judgement in this province this last year which determined that an interval house, a transition home for battered women, was not a stable environment?” That was one of the reasons a judge used for basically denying access and custody to the woman involved.
It is an arcane kind of notion which really needs to be revamped, or for some kind of regulation to be put in place which basically makes it very clear that we do not mean that a woman who has been battered, who then has to go into a transition home for maybe six months in this province because of the waiting lists and the lack of second-stage housing, is now going to lose her chance to have custody or access to the child because she was put in that position. It is just mind-boggling to me that that kind of thing was not changed.
I want to move along. I do not want to go into the same kind of detail I went into in committee, but perhaps members would again look at section 35a, the new part which deals with whether access was wrongfully denied. What the government has set up is this amazing shopping list for people who hate each other to choose from to go back to court, and they can go back to court in 10 days’ time.
Now we are going to have the situation set up where access can be denied if: “the responding party” -- that is, the custodial parent – “believed on reasonable grounds that the child was suffering from an illness of such a nature that it was not appropriate in the circumstances that the right of access be exercised.” In other words, the child was ill, therefore the mother could say, “For that reason, I don’t think the father should see this child.” It would be all right if we were talking about reasonable parties who have proven themselves to be reasonable before the courts before, but what we are establishing here is the dangerous likelihood that people are going to use this as part of the interpersonal fight they are going on with.
Mr D. R. Cooke: They use the courts now.
The Deputy Speaker: Order, please.
Mr R. F. Johnston: The member for Kitchener (Mr D. R. Cooke) wishes to debate. Through you, Mr Speaker, I would say to him that again and again lawyers came before the committee to say that at the moment what you have to do is go for contempt of court proceedings if you wish to do it; it does not happen much and therefore this kind of example would not be used. Even so, as anybody who drafts legislation around this place for any number of years would know, to give people a shopping list when you are moving into a confrontational mechanism is just crazy. You are far better to leave it generalist and leave the judge’s hands less tied.
I will come to the procedures that are enunciated afterwards, if I might, to show members just how dangerous this is. If you think about it, the exact time that a father might want to be with a sick child, just to be able to sit by the bed and hold the child’s hand, now could be used as a weapon interpersonally. You can imagine the kind of emotional ferocity that is going to develop --
Mr D. R. Cooke: It is used as a weapon now.
Mr R. F. Johnston: The member says it is used now, but what the government has done now is given it extra legitimacy by putting it down in black and white.
The Deputy Speaker: Would the member for Kitchener stop making interjections, please?
Mr R. F. Johnston: Not only do they put this down but they put down such things as the following: “The responding party” -- the mother, let’s say, the custodial parent -- ”believed on reasonable grounds that the child might suffer physical or emotional harm if the right of access were exercised.” I would again suggest to members that they read the Child and Family Services Act, where we dealt with the question of emotional harm at length, because we understood how dangerous a loose term like “emotional harm” was when dealing, again, with these kind of circumstances or even with just a child in need of protection.
On page 623 of the Statutes of Ontario, 1984, I would indicate that clause 37(2)(f), in terms of a definition of a child in need of protection, goes on to describe what is emotional harm:
“(f) the child has suffered emotional harm, demonstrated by severe,
“(iii) withdrawal, or
“(iv) self-destructive or aggressive behaviour....”
It goes on even further in terms of what is emotional harm in that case.
There is no definition of emotional harm in this legislation, again to be used by people who are in the habit of going to court fighting each other. We are opening the door for vexatious --
Mr D. R. Cooke: We are just giving them some direction.
The Deputy Speaker: Order, please.
Mr R. F. Johnston: The member is wrong. What they are doing is giving them a prescription for how to go back time and time again. That is what is dangerous about this. Again, without supervised access being provided in adequate forums and supervised forums across Ontario, all they are doing is setting up a continual revolving door of people going in and out of court on these kinds of things, trying to win this case, trying to win this time and get some kind of one-upmanship with the person they have been involved with.
I will not go into much detail on the mediation questions, I hope my colleague, the member for Rainy River, will do that, but suffice to say that there is a leaning on the mediation process which is highly unrealistic, in my view, in this legislation, especially when we have as yet no standards in this province for what is acceptable mediation. Any further growth in that kind of concept without laws to govern it, in my view, is really mind-bogglingly stupid.
The other thing I would say is that when they put the shopping list down for wrongful denial, what was not put down was a quid pro quo. There is a really interesting thing here, if you think about this from an aggrieved ex-husband’s point of view. He can be denied access because it is alleged by the other person that he has been involved with alcohol or drugs, but there is nothing in this law which says he would have the right not to return the child when he is supposed to return the child if he thought the custodial parent was drinking alcohol or was on drugs. There is nothing in there to protect on the other side. If they really believe in their shopping list, they should give the shopping list out for both sides on this. There is weight of law here which is unfortunate, in my view.
Let me come, if I might, to the question of these court processes in 10 days. We had many lawyers come before the committee who said that this is not only preposterous, given the way our present court system is working, but is also incredibly dangerous.
If I can give the members the example that was given to us by some women from Mississauga dealing with immigrants, they basically said to us: “Can you imagine the problems for a women whose first language is, for instance, Portuguese, who speaks very little English, has been in this ongoing battle with her husband or her ex-husband over years, and now she receives a court order to order her to court to deal with some matter which she can’t understand, which she receives in English, which she doesn’t understand?”
She is working, say, in the garment industry in downtown Metropolitan Toronto 60 hours a week and does not have much time to deal with things. Finally, after five days, she goes and gets it read to her what this thing is that she has received. She then has four or five days left to be prepared to go into court to respond to what could be vexatious charges against her, and the burden is now on her to prove that she did not wrongfully deny, according to the shopping list which is provided by the government. And she can only do this -- if you can imagine this, Mr Speaker -- with oral evidence. Oral evidence is all that is involved here.
Mr D. R. Cooke: It is a simple fact situation we are dealing with. You don’t need six months to prepare.
The Deputy Speaker: Order, please.
Mr R. F. Johnston: Here again the member for Kitchener is so helpful, because he reminds me of the ludicrous government arguments in this.
What the member is telling me is that all you are dealing with are small factual problems; you do not have to go into histories of people. This is strange, because he knows lawyers, intimately, I would have to say, and he knows in point of fact that if a lawyer wanted to make some arguments around alcohol abuse, he would certainly want to try to get before the judge’s ear and eye some evidence about previous alcohol abuse to really show that there was a likelihood that the allegation of alcohol abuse was there that night the access was denied. He knows that, and as all the lawyers who came before us told us, they would do everything they could to build the context within which the fact was being brought forward, and if it was denied them, they would want to basically push and push that point as far as they could.
Again, if you are dealing with a person, for instance, who has been in a violent situation -- an unreported violent situation, like the vast majority of violent situations are in a family situation -- why on earth would she feel good about going to court to give oral evidence in the presence of somebody who has put her in that kind of intimidating situation over the years and not be able to sign an affidavit, as she has the right to do in other kinds of circumstances?
I think there is a whole range of reasons why the Canadian Bar Association and many lawyers’ groups coming before us indicated that this was going to be incredibly problematic and dangerous.
I will allow other members a chance to get into this, although I would like to speak at some considerable length and depth and passion about why this law is so dangerous and why it is going to come down on this Liberal government’s head, why the women’s groups across Ontario are going to vilify it for this particular action it has taken, and the legal profession is going to lose respect for the government for bringing forward this kind of legislation.
I would just say that we have tried to tell the government it is a mistake, we have tried to tell it to withdraw it and to show it has another kind of emphasis, but all it has is two ministers who are warring with each other, both trying to deny any budgetary responsibility for good programs of supervised access across Ontario. They have been battling now for years about it, and most recently the Ministry of Community and Social Services has given a clear indication that it is not interested in paying for these kinds of costs.
Instead of moving into that kind of conciliatory process, instead of trying to develop the kinds of programs which will assist families who are in trouble, assist people who have real difficulty dealing with themselves and not seeing each other as ogres, to be able to operate in the best interests of their children, the government has come forward with a piece of legislation which, in my view, is going to bring more hell to those families and more impossible situations before the courts for them to try to make determinations on.
I would still hope that at this very late hour this government will finally see the common sense that I know members on that committee were feeling. I know just how awkward certain members in the Liberal caucus, whom I will not name, were feeling on that committee by the end of this process.
I wish the rest of the members, before making the fundamental mistake of passing this law, would think twice about it and not have to revamp this dramatically in another year’s time when they see the havoc they have brought on these families and on the court system. I have been saying this now for several weeks, both in committee and here in the House, and I do not notice that there has been any change of heart discernible to me.
Mrs Cunningham: It is with some degree of frustration that I lend my comments to Bill 124, An Act to amend the Children’s Law Reform Act.
I am very familiar with the issue of access and custody. In my work before I came to this Legislature, I was very much involved with families and I can say that what families need, especially children, is not more legislation.
We could begin by saying that the kind of money going into writing this legislation and into the courts further down the road, the kind of money that families are having to spend and the kind of money this government is having to spend on behalf of the people it represents, is an absolute waste.
If anyone cares about the whole objective of our society and the kinds of laws we are trying to write, especially this one, we always want to talk and write legislation in the best interests of the child. This particular piece of legislation is simply not in the best interests of the child.
As a matter of fact, I think this piece of legislation is particularly misleading, especially to fathers, because they really think something will happen because of this. This whole piece of legislation was sold to fathers, because they thought if this bill came in they would get legitimate access to their children. In fact, they will not unless they are extremely wealthy, because they are going to spend an awful lot of time in the courts, as they do now.
In looking at the introduction of this piece of legislation, it was stated by the Attorney General, “It is intended to ensure that access to children is not unfairly denied to a parent.” No one can ensure that, not even the courts.
It went further to say, “The main feature of the legislation, originally drawn up in response to complaints by fathers who claimed they were unfairly denied access, is a requirement that disputes be heard and resolved quickly by a court.”
I really think that when many of the fathers who were in support of this particular piece of legislation looked at it, at first glance, on the surface, they thought perhaps it would be helpful to them. As the committee hearings progressed, the fathers, at least those who were in touch with our office and with the Progressive Conservative Party, were slowly withdrawing their support for this piece of legislation, especially as it remained unamended.
I really think one should pay very close attention to some of the expertise we have in this province. I have before me a letter from the provincial court (family division). This is from Judge Nevins. “I am writing to you as chairman of the law reform committee of the Ontario Family Court Judges Association.” In this particular instance, in the letter of 30 May 1989 to the member for Brampton South, he goes on to talk about the practicalities of the proposed hearing process and the standards to be applied at this hearing. Just on the practicalities -- because we are talking about the issue’s being resolved quickly -- this is what Judge Nevins, one of the experts we should be listening to, says:
“The bill proposes that in the event of an alleged wrongful denial of access a motion may be brought on, and if it is, it shall,” underlined, “be heard within 10 days after service. In addition, the motion shall,” underlined, “be determined on the basis of oral evidence only. The difficulty we see is how to administratively accommodate these motions within a 10-day period. In the larger urban centres, court dockets are usually filled well ahead of time and the prospect of having to entertain a motion without having the discretion to adjourn it even on the consent of the parties would inevitably mean that other cases which have been set down and waiting for some time would have to be moved off the docket.”
Then he goes on to talk about even more difficult problems. I would be happy to read the whole letter into the record, but I am sure that members who are interested, especially in change, could be looking at this letter themselves if they so desire.
I think what I am trying to say is that if one of the main features is the requirement that disputes be heard and resolved quickly by a court -- if that is the emphasis of the government -- when the courts, the lawyers who appeared before the committee and the Chief Justice are telling us that that is not possible in today’s system, certainly then we must all admit that one of the main features of the legislation is unattainable; it just will not work. In fact, it mucks things up even more.
What does that do to families? If I thought I had a little piece of legislation in my hands and could take it to my lawyer, if I had the money, that is, or if I were to go to a family court clinic -- by the way, the legal clinic in London was just closed down, at the very time that we need it -- I would find that the kinds of services this government should be supporting are withdrawn when it comes to families and children. There is no doubt in my mind that having to go into the courts at all is an unnecessary process in these times, because there are other services out there, which I will speak to, that are working. This government prefers to write laws that are not necessary and not needed, especially by children, whose interests we are here to represent.
Can I go on to state another response by the Attorney General? This is what the Attorney General would say to a child if he knew his parents were fighting about access. I am quoting:
“In the event your mom and dad are unable to agree, we have now created this mechanism that will permit them to go very quickly to a judge who will look out for you and do what he can to make sure you get a fair chance to see both your parents” -- never mind grandparents, “both your parents.”
It is so unfair to think that a piece of legislation, especially this piece of legislation, Bill 124, would even begin to meet the expectations of children in that manner. Since being elected to this Legislative Assembly just over a year ago, I suppose that I am particularly disappointed with the process. I would have guessed that in a committee that had this wonderful opportunity to influence the quality of family life in this province, we would have taken our time and worked through some amendments that would have assisted, even though it would have been my preference to throw the whole thing out and work on what really counts, supervised access centres for children.
I would like to say something about supervised access programs. There were some amendments put forth by our party, by the member for Markham in particular, that would have strengthened the government’s commitment to these programs.
I am reading now from a letter from Merrymount Children’s Centre in London, Ontario, where I worked as a supervisor in these access programs for a number of years and where I think the success rate was rather incredible when it came to children visiting with parents, grandparents, neighbours and other relatives, basically in the best interests of the child. It is a centre where young people would go if there were disputes around whom they were allowed to visit with.
During the visit, one or other of the parents, or in some instances grandparents or other relatives, would receive some assistance, some counselling around the tremendous tragedy that has happened in the family. They would receive some counselling around something that I suppose they never thought could possibly happen to them and that they would ever have wanted to happen to their children.
But these are the times, and we are looking at increases in divorce rates in this province. It is not a pretty picture when it comes to the quality of family life. Therefore, why are we not looking at programs that would help children and programs that would help parents? Everybody wants to see his child. People want to be with their children and they want to watch them grow, and we are not allowing it to happen, certainly not with the passage of Bill 124.
I really object to the comments of the Attorney General when responding to children and saying, “This bill will help you see your mommy and your daddy.” It is totally misleading. Supervised access programs would do so, but this bill will not.
“A supervised access program has two major goals” -- and I am speaking from a letter which was written to Todd Decker, clerk of the standing committee on social development, from Merrymount Children’s Centre, specifically the director, Jan Lubell, as she tried, I think, to enlighten somewhat the members of the committee.
Another great disappointment for me after having been elected is the lack of enthusiasm for gaining new information and trying to make good decisions, especially decisions that affect children and their family life. I do not think it is a joke that we went into that committee and put forth a number of amendments, none of which was skilfully or even in an interesting way debated by the members of the Liberal Party on that committee.
I should give some credit to the members who asked questions. I would do that. I could see a change in attitude, because all of us would admit that when we are elected, we do not know everything, and most of us are very keen to learn about areas, especially of law, where we have the responsibility for making legislation that affects the quality of life in this province. Therefore, I think we should be taking our responsibilities more seriously, especially when it comes to a bill such as this. There was very little intelligent, even mediocre, debate on behalf of the Liberal members of that committee, but there were some very good questions from those who were interested but seemed to have their hands tied somewhat as to the outcome.
I quote: “A supervised access program has two major goals. The first is to assist families in carrying out child access requirements by providing a neutral, supportive setting for visits and exchanges.” I should add that many of these families never went to a court. They did not even go to a lawyer. They solved their problems themselves.
“The second is to ensure that children have the required and appropriate contact with noncustodial parents in a setting that is sensitive to the child’s particular needs. The program was developed to assist families with access on a short-term or interim basis. It is not meant to be a long-time solution to access problems, but a supportive, prevention- and education-oriented,” and I would underline that, “experience to enable families to make the transition towards their own successful handling of a difficult situation.”
When the chairman of the committee, the member for Brantford (Mr Neumann), asked the research support to the committee about the access centres across Ontario, we were told that there were some six programs in the province. Five of them have been going on for some period of time and have been supported by their own communities in some ways, whether they be private boards, volunteers or social service agencies that plan to support these access centres out of their own budgets. Only one of them, the Lutherwood Children’s Mental Health Centre in Waterloo, was supported by the government. It was a demonstration grant from the Ministry of Community and Social Services.
I find it most disappointing, as a person who has worked in this field for some time, both in education and in the delivery of social services, to know that we can take a look at what the government calls a pilot project for some 17 months and not particularly be interested in the evaluation of the program, because the program ended at the end of March.
I think we should have looked at what the recommendations of that particular group would have been with regard to Bill 124, because many of the people going through that particular program would have had some very real life experiences for us to draw on.
I emphasize that one more than the others because it is one that this government supported for a period of time. It seems to me that we were told today by the member for Scarborough West (Mr R. F. Johnston), in his eloquent response to Bill 124, through his commitment and experiences over the years, how disappointed he was with regard to the phase-out of this program. I think it is really too bad that we have programs such as this working across the province that are, I underline, preventive and educational in nature that we could be supporting. Instead, we are supporting what I think will be more broken promises to families because of the passing of Bill 124.
I would like to take an opportunity to quote from a letter from the London Family Court Clinic with regard to Bill 124. It is talking about the introduction of this bill and addressing a number of issues related to parental custody and access disputes. Instead of speaking to the bill itself, they decided, “Instead, we wish to focus on the issue of community resources that both the current and amended legislation require in order to help parents and the courts deal with these difficult family issues.”
They are acknowledging that no legislation can stand alone, especially not this particular piece of legislation. They are acknowledging the same concerns that were presented to us. I could quote from hundreds of letters by the Ontario Family Court Judges Association as they almost plead with us to talk about the standards to be applied.
I will quote from that letter from the family court judges: “Regarding the deemed legitimate reasons that might justify a denial of access in subsection 4 of section 35a” -- which was probably the most controversial section we had with regard to public input – “our concern is that in some cases they may either be too vague and uncertain to be practical, or they may invite or foster litigation between the parties.” From my experience, I think they definitely think they are too vague and uncertain, but I think the big danger is that they will foster litigation between the parties.
Dr Jaffe of the London Family Court Clinic knows how devastating litigation is on families and children. He wants to avoid it as much as possible. His Family Court Clinic is to support the courts if someone is unfortunate enough to have to go that far when it comes to access arrangements.
He goes on to say, “The issue of access denial is often a complex one where the ‘fact’ of no contact is often supported or countered by conflicting evidence which may indeed represent entrenched family or personal problems.” When one has entrenched family or personal problems, no piece of legislation is going to help. It makes it worse. When people become more angry with each other, children suffer.
“Even under the current Children’s Law Reform Act, courts have noticed the difficulty of dealing with families in crisis and have been using sections 30 and 31 to obtain assistance in the form of clinical assessments or mediation.”
Even now, the courts are having to use other means of keeping families outside the court system through the process of mediation.
“While the present and proposed legislation recognize that these issues may require a full evaluation or mediation, there has been no commitment on the part of various provincial government ministries to fund such services other than in a few isolated locales.”
I know I have spoken to the support services. What I have not spoken to are some of the amendments. During the process of these particular committee hearings, our party, with the tremendous support of the member for Markham, put forth a number of amendments. A lot of them had to do with increased emphasis on mediation as a means of resolving disputes.
The member for Markham said: “In its present form, Bill 124 sets out mediation as one of several options. One of the common arguments against the current system is its adversarial nature and the stress that is created in an already stressful situation ... Mediation can provide a way in which the parties to a dispute can sit down with a trained person, together or separately, to resolve their differences.”
The reason for our party’s amendments was this: to more clearly spell out the role of a court-ordered mediator in both making recommendations on custody and access and in resolving current access disputes.
The proposals of the member for Markham included a clear framework for mediation. He talked about who shall act as a mediator, guidelines for the process and levying of fees for mediation.
I should say that as those amendments were put forth -- I have already spoken to the process of elected people not providing, I think, a high-quality level of debate around those amendments. Quite frankly, I think they were not interested.
In response, the government said, “We can’t deal with these particular amendments about mediation, because we’ve just received a report of the Attorney General’s Advisory Committee on Mediation in Family Law.”
I was very much aware of that report being written. I should say that in the community of London, there were many people working in the area of family law who sat down for many hours to be of some support to the government and to advise the government wherever possible on the process of mediation. If this report were important at all and if the recommendations of that report were to be looked at, now was the time to deal with it, given the long process of making laws in this province.
Since Bill 124 had been received so negatively by the community, by parents, by grandparents, by people providing programs, by supervised access centres, by women’s groups, even by men’s groups, by lawyers and by judges, why was the government in such a hurry to get this thing through? Why did the committee not take time to take a look at the report of the Advisory Committee on Mediation in Family Law?
We are so fortunate in this province to have the expertise we have. What we do not do is use it widely. I would think some of the people who worked on this committee must be absolutely in shock and tremendously disappointed at the total lack of respect for a report such as this, because they know we had a wonderful opportunity to deal with it at this time.
I really do not know what to say about this bill other than that nobody was listening. Mr Speaker, I will tell you about the group I felt tremendously sorry for during this whole process. We have not smartened up in this province at all when it comes to paying attention to people who count. These are mothers and fathers and grandparents and children. The group that has been coming in there for a very long period of time is grandparents.
We had an opportunity in this bill to make very few changes. Do members know what? We are afraid of it. We forget that the courts are there to help us administer justice. It is for us. It is for families, parents and grandparents that we write laws, and for children most of all. That is what this whole society is about. If a judge needs just one small direction, we have an opportunity in law to provide him or her with it.
Looking at Bill 124, we had an opportunity during this process to emphasize people who are extremely important in families. They have always been important. They are important in other parts of the world and they are recognized, but here in Ontario we do not recognize it at all. In the few times I had grandparents who really wanted to be part of this whole mediation or supervised access program, it was they in their wisdom who gave support to the children. We are not tapping one of our most precious resources.
We sat here last week in recognition of seniors. It would have been a wonderful time to take a look at this piece of legislation and recognize seniors, many of whom are grandparents. This is not a political thing; it is a necessity for the quality of family life.
I suppose one of the great concerns of our society right now is when we look around at how many young people seem to be wandering without family support. Here we had an opportunity to say to a judge, “Look, a mother or a father is important, but maybe a grandfather or a grandmother is more important than any other blood relative.” We did not do it. It was a tremendous injustice to children, never mind grandparents.
What else can I say? They are still very much involved. We will be hearing from them again. I think the parliamentary assistant in the committee said we would be looking at the report of the Advisory Committee on Mediation in Family Law. I will very much be aware that it ought to be a priority so that in some way we can take a look at the meaningfulness of the submissions before the committee.
I would like to close today on Bill 124 in a rather personal way. I have referred to it before and it has to do with process. When we first started these hearings, I received input in my office in London North from many fathers, especially fathers who were very much part of the In Search of Justice group, which is chaired by Ross Virgin. I was very much aware of the hopes and dreams of fathers who had been denied access unfairly, they thought.
I started from scratch with this legislation personally, took a good look at it and from my own professional involvement with children and families tried to figure out some way of supporting the bill. Therefore, I think I did my usual amount of homework in talking to lawyers and to judges and asking their opinions. I can only say today that the bottom line is that we are barking up the wrong tree with this particular bill. We are not fixing anything; we are making more work for lawyers.
Quite frankly, they do not want it and they do not need it when it comes to family law. They would much prefer, because they are human beings first and because they care about their own children, as well as other people’s children, that we solve these family matters and these problems in another way.
I will end my whole argument on this bill today by saying the services that are needed in this province are needed now. They were needed yesterday and they will be needed much more in the future because we are doing very little in the work of prevention and very little in the work of education. Therefore, I hope this legislation will just fall between the cracks, that not too many people will even rely on it.
I hope I can find the amount of money it has cost for these public hearings and the writing of this somewhat questionable law so that I can let the public know just one more way that I think this Liberal government is definitely not working towards improving the quality of life in this province. I have sat now on three committees that have done absolutely nothing and have passed bills that mean nothing to the public at all. It is just a bunch of busy work and I hope they absolutely say goodbye during the next election, because I am disgusted that after having this opportunity to change things for children, in the best interests of the child, they have simply blown it.
I will stop on those words because I believe them to be true. Thank you, Mr Speaker, for the opportunity of speaking.
Mrs Grier: I think this is too important a debate not to express fully the disappointment we on this side feel with this piece of legislation.
As someone who spent a long time in the municipal field before I came to this place, I want to echo the comments of the member for London North in my disappointment at the lack of the ability of committees in this place to do constructive work. My understanding of what a committee was when something was referred to it was that you to some degree dropped your partisanship, that you heard from the public, that you listened to presentations on all sides of an issue and that you tried to fashion a piece of legislation that would further the best interests of the province and the best interests of the people of the province.
We have had third reading this afternoon for two pieces of legislation, the Aggregate Resources Act and this piece of legislation, where in both instances we had a lot of input. We had a lot of criticism and we had a lot of support in some cases, yet those of us in opposition are forced to say that we saw no willingness on the part of the government to allow its members on those committees to act constructively.
It really is such a shocking waste of talent, because there are talented people on all sides of this House, and frankly it is such a shocking waste of time of members on all sides of this House, and an insult to the people who prepare submissions, who at some inconvenience to themselves come to appear before committee of this House, wait around to be heard and then make their submissions as some of the members of the public who have followed this piece of legislation day in and day out because of their concern, as grandparents, about this piece of legislation.
It is an insult that their submissions are not taken in the spirit in which they are submitted and are not taken into account when the committee makes it decisions on the legislation. Instead, we have a majority that says, “Our will shall prevail,” except in the most minute amendments which they are prepared to accept.
What this exercise demonstrates most clearly is that legislation is not the way to deal with human problems, the problems caused in a family when parents separate, to the couple, to the children and to the grandparents. I speak as a grandparent who has not had to contemplate this situation, but who knows how I would feel should my grandson suddenly become an object over which his parents were fighting and I was perhaps an extraneous bystander wondering whether I would ever get to see him or to be a grandmother to him.
We have difficult human situations, and what this government is doing is passing a piece of legislation that is going to make those situations more difficult. What this government ought to be doing is putting in place the services that would help to ameliorate those human situations, being prepared, quite frankly, to put its money where its mouth is and fund the programs that can help ameliorate those human situations.
We have a piece of legislation that purports to give the rights of access of parents to a child, but does not build in a means of implementing that act. We have a piece of legislation that purports to be in the best interests of the child, but instead exacerbates the conflict between the parents and will make the child an object to be fought over before the courts.
We have a piece of legislation that makes reference to the possibility of supervised access in those situations where the parents are so at loggerheads that they cannot agree on how access to the child is to be given, a piece of legislation that mentions supervised access but does not put in place a mechanism by which this can occur.
The members have heard me time and again raise in this House the question of the program in my own riding, which was alluded to by the member for Scarborough West, Access for Parents and Children, a service that was in operation for eight years and is no longer in operation, a service designed to do what this act says it wants to do, a service that did what this act says the government wants to do, and a service that folded because this government was not prepared to support it with money.
I want to remind the members of the government about some of the facts of that service, Access for Parents and Children, from the submission the director of the program made to the committee considering Bill 124.
In 1988, 1,298 visits occurred under the auspices of the Access program. On a limited budget, that program had 1,180 volunteer hours in 1988, board hours and service volunteer hours, to allow those 1,298 visits to occur. There were 1,467 individuals served by that program in 1987; more in 1988. The letters of support for that service came from lawyers, judges, parents, social workers, all attesting to the fact that the service was cost-effective, efficient and provided a need that could not be met in any other way.
Included in the statistics that Access submitted to the committee studying Bill 124 were some very interesting figures about the reasons for referral to the supervised access program and the results of that referral.
Of 100 families looked at, eight were referred to the program because of allegations of sexual abuse; three because of a risk of addiction; 23 because of past violence in the marriage or union; 21 because of a present conflictual relationship between the parents; eight for psychiatric illness; 15 for alcoholism or drug abuse; 14 because of lack of parenting skills; and eight because of a lengthy separation between the child and the noncustodial parent, so the court felt supervised access would be the best way of bridging that separation and bringing the child and the noncustodial parent back into a relationship together.
What is striking are the figures that show the number of those families that graduated from the program to the point where they were able to survive without supervised access. Particularly interesting were the 23 cases where there had been past violence in the marriage. Fourteen of those cases graduated to the point where they no longer need supervised access. Where there was conflictual relationship between the parents, 21 of whom had been referred to the program, 10 got to the point where they no longer needed the program. Where there had been alcoholism and drug abuse, 15 cases, six graduated.
The point is that the Access program was working. It was creating a situation where supervised access was not required. It was allowing those parents to get back to a normal basis where they communicated with each other and where they did not fear each other to the point that they required supervised access for the child to be seen. Surely that is what we ought to be encouraging, not what we ought to be killing by lack of funding, so that there is now no longer a program and the families that were making use of it, the families that were graduating from the program, have nowhere to go.
I really regret that we find ourselves in a position today where we are going to be putting this law on the books of the province. It is a bad law and we ought not to be supporting bad laws. It is a bad law, but the government is supporting it, because it satisfies its insatiable need for the appearance of having done something, for appeasing one small group or seeming to appease one small group. As has been said by members before me, I think the government will live to rue that day. I think the people the government thinks it is going to appease by this legislation will quickly find that not even they have anything to gain from this particular legislation.
The effort, the time, the stress, the work and the struggle that have gone into fighting this legislation, into seeking amendments to this legislation, will all have to be played out again, because I am sure it will not be very long before even this government sees the need to redraft some legislation and to put in place legislation that will truly protect the rights of the children of this province, that will truly do something to reduce the conflict and difficulties that arise in cases of separation and that will truly allow we grandparents some rights in the case of family breakdown with which we are associated.
I am proud to be here to vote against this particular piece of legislation.
Mr Jackson: I too would like to rise and comment on Bill 124, the Children’s Law Reform Amendment Act.
I had the opportunity to participate in the public hearings, which were extensive and dealt in considerable detail with this piece of legislation. I too was filled with a certain degree of hope that the process of public hearings would enable us to take a bill which had a purported objective of being child-centred, and then, taking each of the clauses and understanding more clearly the intent of this bill and realizing that it did not achieve what it purported to do, we would have a real opportunity to amend the bill in order to assist the very problem it proposes to address.
In this instance, it is what appears to be the ongoing battle between custodial and noncustodial parents in terms of access to their children that appears to be what the government is attempting to address. In fact, it is not. It is not addressing the real issue, which is to determine what is in the best interests of the children.
I will not vote for this bill. I have been known to vote against bills on the basis of the violation of my conscience, and clearly this is another example of a bill which I cannot in good conscience support.
By definition, I have always felt that a bad law is a law that says it will do one thing but in fact does something entirely different. It has been a while since I have seen a law that abuses that principle as badly, that suggests that it is child-centred when in fact it is not.
First, I should say that this is not an easy problem to address, and the government has at least attempted to approach it. We may fundamentally disagree with its approach, and we on this side of the House have provided a considerable number of options for its consideration. Albeit they would be expensive, they would work. They would achieve what all members of this House have agreed would help the very children the bill affects, and the needs of those members of the families who do not feel they are getting adequate access to children would also be met.
The government refuses to look at that option. The government suggests rather that we can in a very simple way be one of the first provinces in Canada and one of the few jurisdictions on the continent to feel we can rush back to the courts and resolve this matter.
I object to this bill for three basic reasons, primarily because the bill is unnecessary in its intent. It does not do what it purports to do.
I am concerned, second, that it puts abused women and children at further risk, in terms of both physical and psychological harm, because of the access enforcement provisions.
Third, it will clog an already overburdened judicial system, which clearly is not the area of resolution of first choice for any of these families. It is adversarial and it is expensive, it is time-consuming and, in many instances, it is quite confusing to the parties, especially the children.
Let me talk briefly about why this bill should be unnecessary. I believe that this bill is motivated by a political imperative. I think if we look back to the original Bill 60 which the Attorney General first presented and when we look at the explanatory notes that are provided with any given bill in this House, when that bill was originally tabled, the explanation was that as a result of the Support and Custody Orders Enforcement Act, it was necessary to regulate access availability for fathers who are now forced to pay support for their children as noncustodial parents.
In other words, this was basically a bill that said that because a noncustodial parent is now forced to honour the law, somehow there should be some compensation for being a good citizen. What I object to is that clearly underlying that kind of a rationale is that we are looking at children as a commodity, like chattels, in a marriage.
Someone who came before the committee said to us that in the 1970s and in the 1960s, it was really simple in divorce court because the battleground was over infidelity. The two parties, both with legal counsels, went at each other on ethics and morals. But in the 1980s, the courts have become a little more creative and families have been a little more resilient and now we seem to be putting children on the battlelines. Children are the item that is thrown up as the battleground between husband and wife; not property, but children.
I am somewhat offended by the fact that clearly this legislation continues to perpetuate that process. It does nothing to say: “Stop. In the best interests of children, stop. Let’s look at alternatives to this. Let’s stop forcing them into court.” The government’s failure to address just the simple point of reversing that trend is a ground in and of itself for people to say: “This is a wrong bill. Very wrong for children.”
There is no real research to suggest that the direction the government is going in is well founded. As I referred to the Support and Custody Orders Enforcement Act, we had clear research evidence that there was 75 to 80 per cent default; and those defaults meant a lot of different things.
Those defaults meant that some families would have to seriously lower their standard of living, and some people could handle that, but in some instances this meant not having food on the table. In some instances, it meant that programs that help a child grow and develop were now being denied to them, simple things such as being able to afford a pair of ice skates to go along with their school trip. Because of the separation and the nonpayment of these custodial payments there was not enough money, and simple things like that were a luxury. That was what that bill addressed.
The Attorney General had to recant his own explanation to this bill when called upon to do so because it was so abundantly clear that this was some sort of political tradeoff, because we asked noncustodial parents simply to honestly pay in accordance with the settlement, in accordance with the law.
I have been troubled by this bill, and sometimes I look at past examples or past parables, if you would. Someone who presented to the committee talked about the wisdom of Solomon. When he was faced with a dilemma that was somewhat similar with respect to dividing a sole child in a dispute on who really had custody of the child -- we all know that Old Testament story and we all know what Solomon’s decision was, but we also know that it was never ever intended for the child’s life to be taken.
In some instances, I cannot help but think that there has been a cruel irony played with this bill, that in fact the government would say: “Look, we will take that child’s affections and that child’s needs and we will divide them between two parents without due regard for that child’s feelings. We will do that without due regard for the needs of a grandparent, who is not a participant in the domestic dispute.” The wisdom of Solomon is sadly lacking in this Attorney General and is indeed seriously lacking in this bill.
There are other reasons why this bill will not work, and the public hearings bore out that evidence time and time again. It has been stated by my friend the member for Scarborough West that absolutely every single lawyer who came before us indicated that this will do nothing but clog our court system, that it is not child-centred as it purports to be and that it will force adversarial circumstances between custodial and noncustodial parents.
In that sense it is interventionist and it will promote further litigation. Again, it is going to force children as the focus, make them the battlefield in court, not remove them and let them feel that they are less responsible, that they are not pawns to be used between parents who cannot seem to understand the importance of their child having as normal an upbringing as can be resurrected for them.
I have stated that the amendments are not child-focused and I cannot support them on that basis. What disturbs me is that this type of legislation is clearly written so that it gives primacy to access problems over other family law issues such as support and protection of children and spouses when domestic violence is involved.
This bill will allow a noncustodial parent to get into court in under three weeks; yet the custodial parent might take three to six months to get an enforcement officer to honour the financial responsibilities, to enforce the law with respect to support payments.
We are led to believe that whether the child is interested or not, it is important that that one parent gets his or her half-hour or hour that evening; that that somehow is more important than whether the custodial parent can make the rent and put sufficient food on the table or what sacrifices are being made in order to ensure that child does not feel he is somehow being punished because he cannot take a school trip or something else that may cost a little more money that month.
It seems wrong that we have created a situation where one bill has primacy over the other. That hurts children and it hurts the victims of violence in families and again, for that reason, it should be voted down.
We are told by many groups that the access problems are not as severe as some would have us believe. Earlier, I talked about the statistic and the research on support enforcement, that it was as high as 75 to 80 per cent. The best statistic we can get shows there is about one or two per cent of reported problems of access. In fact, it is a very small number.
We are told that for the new procedures which will be called upon by this bill, we do not have sufficient sensitivity on the part of the legal practitioners in order to handle it. I am talking here about the courts and the lawyers as well as those involved in custody cases in terms of how they can deal with this added responsibility to return to court.
There is a presumption in this bill that it is always in the best interests of the child to have contact with both parents. We clearly had evidence to the contrary, written evidence from children, psychologists and a whole battery of lawyers involved in family law and as it relates to violence.
My final point has to do with the fact that this bill creates significant evidentiary problems for our court system as well. If we look at some of the loose language used in this bill, the bill puts the onus of proof on the custodial parent: the one who, for very valid reasons, has been known to deny access. The bill puts the burden of proof on her. She must defend what the reasonable grounds were on which she denied access to the noncustodial parent. What are reasonable grounds when there is suspected physical violence? What constitute reasonable grounds when there is possible alcohol or drug impairment? What are reasonable expenses? Who determines these things?
The provisions in this bill are very loose, very vague and unworkable. I think that, as the member for Etobicoke-Lakeshore has indicated, we are all going to be back here within a year trying to unravel the mess of this bill based on our cautions, which we did not dream up. We got these from our public hearings. Our problem is that only part of the committee listened. The other half was told: “This is how the bill is going to be. If you believe it, it will work.” The law does not work that way. The law in this case is definitely not going to work that way.
I think what is interesting is that the government failed to even listen to its own Ontario Advisory Council on Women’s Issues. That is significant. One does not always get an advisory council disagreeing so strongly with the government that appointed it. We have been known to see groups modify their language to make sure that they do not upset the government of the day, heaven forbid. It is significant that the advisory council on women’s issues felt so strongly about how wrong this bill was that it was compelled to write off its concern in no uncertain terms to the government and to the committee.
With the House’s indulgence, I would like to read briefly from that letter. It was addressed to the then chairman of the standing committee on social development, the member for Brantford.
“The Ontario Advisory Council on Women’s Issues believes that Bill 124 is not necessary and that it will adversely affect mothers. The overwhelming experience of separated and divorced mothers is that their major difficulty around access is with fathers who are unreliable and erratic in their exercise of access. Legislative concern should be for children who feel abandoned by fathers who come by to see them irregularly, if at all.
“A recent study conducted for the federal Department of Justice by the University of New Brunswick sociologist James Richardson found that fathers did not report access denial as a major -- or even minor -- problem. Women generally see this bill as punitive, controlling, and an attempt to give access fathers something in consideration for the new support enforcement legislation.
“This apparent gender equality will in fact burden women disproportionate to the supposed harm to fathers, and will represent a regressive development in the area of family law. The entire concept of ‘compensatory access’ ignores the reality of children’s lives, which should be scheduled around children’s needs and responsibilities -- not around the needs and schedules of controlling adults.”
It goes on to say it is not acceptable legislation and concludes by saying, “Bill 124 represents a grave threat to women and children, and should be rejected.” That was the advice from the Ontario Advisory Council on Women’s Issues. I think at this point 80 per cent of that council has been appointed by the Liberal government.
There are some clear recommendations which this government has chosen to ignore, and I would like to briefly share, for the record, what those recommendations should be. I should recognize at the outset the contributions made by the member for Markham, who spent a considerable time developing assurances for the grandparents, who were not parties to the dispute but who have been unfairly denied access to their grandchildren. I, for one, could not imagine, within my own family, my two daughters at any point not being able to spend time with their grandmother and their grandbubba, as my Amy calls her grandmother on my side of the family.
It is not an issue that members on this side of the House took lightly, and in some instances we personalized, with our conviction and by listening, the need for certain protections in that area. The government has suggested that those were unnecessary and unwarranted. We all know what relying on promises for matters that go to the courts means in terms of law and in terms of comments in this Legislature.
The recommendation I want to suggest is that this government really had an opportunity -- and I am very pleased that the Minister of Community and Social Services (Mr Sweeney) is in the House today, because I know of his long-standing commitment to children’s services and I respect how high that has been placed on his personal political agenda. But in fairness, we had a really good opportunity here to develop a program which, by the minister’s own admission, was outstanding and met the needs and, as I said earlier, does come at some expense.
Clearly, it is in the area of solution where we can provide supervised access programs with pickup and dropoff centres so that the fears about violence, appropriate mediation for scheduling problems, all of these things, can be overcome by independent individuals, to ensure that the children are not buffeted around with excuse after excuse, which only seem to increase in their creativity, to the detriment of the child’s own self-esteem.
The programs that operate in this province, and we heard of many, do so without provincial funding, and yet when they come before our committee, this government chooses not to assist them to develop their programs. It chooses, in fact, to develop a piece of legislation that flies in the face of that kind of outstanding, sensitive, mediatory, supervised work that is going on.
I would like to go on in detail about the duty clause that is included in this bill as it relates to the victims of family violence. It is completely inadequate, and so is, I might say as a sidebar, any consideration by this government of its current mediation in family law matters with respect to victims of violence. I could not support that either.
It should be regulating and standardizing mediation services for this province. It should be requiring mediators to take adequate training to identify abusive relationships. Right now, we have a system where we put pressure on our school system to help identify them. We have social workers who come rushing in to interview all the family members, but where, really, is the commitment of this government to ensure that the people in the agencies responsible for these interventions are properly trained? There is no commitment in that area.
In this bill, we should have added that the wishes of the child should be listed as one of the reasons for denial.
Mr Black: Simply ridiculous.
Mr Jackson: I know the member for Muskoka-Georgian Bay is much exercised about the notion that children should have a say in anything. I, for one, might acknowledge his outstanding work on behalf of drugs. But the fact of the matter is the member is so exercised about my comment that children should be able to say no to drugs, yet he would not allow a child to say no to an inappropriate access in this province.
Mr Black: That is not what I said. Don’t mislead the people of Ontario. You did that a couple of times. Don’t do that again. Be honest and straightforward.
The Deputy Speaker: Order, please. The member will address his remarks through the Speaker, and there will be no interjections.
Mr Jackson: I am sure the member for Muskoka-Georgian Bay would like children to say no to drugs. We know there is legislation in this province so that children can say no. At an appropriate age, they can say no if they do not want to have an adoptive parent, yet this legislation denies completely the feelings of a child at any age in order to say that because of an abusive or a sexual assault, that child’s feelings cannot be taken into consideration.
I would ask the member for Muskoka-Georgian Bay to reflect on that point, instead of interjecting. I know he understands the point I am trying to make as it relates to the work he is doing on his task force on drugs and their use by children in this province.
I would as well echo the recommendation that the judges in family law courts -- and this is an appeal I have been making for four years -- be given mandatory training in terms of family violence and in terms of becoming more sensitized to the issues of the changing dimension of family emotions as they relate to the emerging role of women in society and the horrifying statistics on family violence.
Judges should be more sensitized to the reality that is going on so that they can better deal with these matters and so that their rulings reflect a sense of real justice about the effects on the children and the spouse who is the victim of that abuse, both in physical and psychological terms. Nowhere do we get a commitment from this government that it is willing to address that issue. It will pay lipservice to it when there is an incident, whether it is the Kirby Inwood incident or any other. We clearly had an opportunity in this legislation to address that issue and it is a recommendation that I would again wish to put on the record.
I lament the fact that all members of this House had an opportunity to make some very appropriate amendments to this legislation, to enhance family life for those who have seen it interrupted in an inappropriate way, to provide services to respond to the real need, but unfortunately, as I have stated, the public hearings did not work out to be an opportunity when the governing party, at least, chose to respond to those suggestions.
I am afraid that for me the bottom line with this bill is that it is going to clog our courts and it is going to confuse children who already have gone through tremendous upheaval and disruption and confusion about their place in family life.
I believe we will be called upon to undo this legislation at least within a year. We now know that the support enforcement legislation is bogged down with insufficient numbers of staff to do the enforcement; enforcement officers, in other words. I believe as well that our courts will soon become bogged down. In the past, many families have chosen not to rush back to court because they recognized it for what it really was: an expensive legal operation that only put the child in the forefront once more. But this legislation compels them to do that. One of two parties will be compelled to put the process back into the courts.
I would like to commend the member for London North (Mrs Cunningham) who, prior to her coming to this Legislature, had dedicated a considerable amount of her public service to the whole area of mediation in family law matters. It is unfortunate that the House has not seen fit to take the advice of she and others who have provided examples and insights as to what the problem is and where the solutions really lie.
In conclusion, let me just say that I will be voting against this bill and would urge all members to vote against this bill, to send it back to the Attorney General in order to have addressed the objectives that we clearly stated are what should be addressed and to have him come back with proper legislation. My conscience prevents me from voting for the bill because I truly believe that children will be harmed by the added legal process because there will be occasions when custodial parents, faced with the opportunity, hauled in front of a judge, will be forced to do so because of their compassion for their own children.
No parents should ever be put in a position where they have to face their conscience to answer the question of whether or not they should face the law or do something in the best interests of their child. It seems to me that this law clearly is testing that intrinsic value within a custodial parent. It is unfair to them emotionally and it is unfair to them morally.
Mr Hampton: I wanted very much to take part in third reading of this bill, not because I think this legislation is worth anything. In fact, I think it is perhaps in some ways the worst legislation I have seen produced by this government. I say the worst legislation because you would think that in matters of the family or matters of children, some of the government members would have said to themselves, “It’s more important here that we do the right thing than it is that we simply follow the government’s line.”
It became painfully obvious in the committee hearings that some of the government members, even though they would acknowledge privately and some even acknowledged in the committee that they did not like the legislation, simply fell into line. We had these very odd situations where a government member, having listened to the submissions made by women’s groups, by family lawyers and so on, would actually propose amendments to the legislation, amendments which they thought would make the legislation better legislation. Then they would be called upon by the government’s whip on the committee or the other government members on the committee to abandon their own amendment, to vote against their own amendment after having given an eloquent speech denoting why the amendment was appropriate and why it was necessary. They would vote against their own amendment and kill what they in themselves thought was in the best interests of the legislation.
What we have here, I am convinced, is legislation that some of the government’s own members do not like and do not believe in. But they have been told that they should put their individual views aside and that they should put aside what dozens of women’s groups and what dozens of family lawyers who came to the committee said: “Look, this is bad legislation.” They are being told to put all that aside.
For me, that is very sad. It is a very sad situation when you are a government member and you have sat on the committee and you know you are passing legislation that is bad legislation, but the word has come down from on high, again: “Forget about whatever you have heard in the way of committee submissions. Forget about whatever women’s groups or family lawyers have told you about this legislation. Forget all about that. Just toe the government line.” It is a very sad situation, indeed.
We could probably be here for a couple of days reciting, chapter and verse, everything that is wrong with this legislation, but I want to just concentrate on the main areas, the main gems, the real gems that are in this legislation that are probably going to cause more problems in the area of family law and, as my colleague the member for Etobicoke-Lakeshore has said, will probably bring us back into this Legislature a year from now to repair the damage that will be done by this bill when it is finally enacted into legislation.
I am told by other members who have been here a lot longer than I that this bill has engendered comments from individuals out there who, a few short years ago, would have thought it most inappropriate to comment on legislation. I am speaking here of provincial court judges.
It is most unusual when a standing committee -- in this case, the standing committee on social development -- receives from a provincial court judge a letter saying to the committee, “This legislation is bad legislation.” It is almost unheard of in the history of Ontario legislation and Ontario political activity that a judge would write to a legislative committee as somebody who is going to have to deal with it or work with it and say: “I understand you are looking at this legislation. I want to tell you it is garbage.”
It takes a lot, I would say, to move a provincial court judge, who ordinarily would not comment on legislation and who would observe the conventions of neutrality and of no comment, to actually write to the committee that is considering the bill and say to that committee, “You had better have a look at this bill again, because it is bad stuff.”
I want to quote just some of the comments from Judge Nevins’s letter because they delineate very clearly what is so wrong and mistaken about this legislation. In his opening remarks Judge Nevins says, “I am writing to you as chairman of the law reform committee of the Ontario Family Court Judges Association.” Not only does he have the general interest that a provincial court judge would have, but he has the special interest as chairman of the law reform committee of the Ontario Family Court Judges Association. How much more directly does the government want to get it?
He says he is writing at the request of the board of directors of the Ontario Family Court Judges Association, not on his own initiative. So he is voicing not only his concern, but the concern of a lot of other provincial court judges out there.
He says, “Although we have had discussions with representatives of the ministry in the past regarding this bill, we understand it is approaching the stage of final reading and they want to get their comments on the record once again.” Obviously, the provincial court judges, dealing quietly and internally with the Ministry of the Attorney General, had absolutely no success in pointing out to the government what was so wrong with this legislation.
Judge Nevins further says, “Our interest is solely that of ‘users’ who would like you to consider the practical implications of the bill as it now stands” -- practical implications in the sense of what it is going to mean for court procedures, for families and for children – “since our concerns centre mainly around section 35a and they fall into two categories of the practicalities of the proposed hearing process.”
To repeat it again, this bill proposes the most unrealistic and most deceptive statement, I would say, as to when hearings can be held. It promises to the public that it can have a hearing in 10 days. When a judge, who is the chairman of the law reform committee of the Ontario Family Court Judges Association, writes to the committee and says, “Look, it is totally unrealistic,” somebody should have listened.
He says, “The bill proposes that in the event of an alleged wrongful denial of access a motion may be brought on, and if it is, it shall be heard within 10 days after service.” The legislation says that 10 days after service, you will have a hearing. He says, “The difficulty we see is how to administratively accommodate these motions within a 10-day period.” In the larger urban centres -- and I do not think we need to repeat this, but maybe we need to repeat it for the Attorney General because he is the only one in the province who does not seem to know this -- the backlog in the courts is so severe that you can’t possibly have a 10-day hearing.
That is what is so deceptive, putting out in legislation and saying to people that they can have a 10-day hearing when anybody who knows about the practicality of the court situation knows that is just not realistically possible. The backlog is too long. Deception -- that is what it is.
“In the larger urban centres, court dockets are usually filled well ahead of time and the prospect of having to entertain a motion without having the discretion to adjourn it even on the consent of the parties would inevitably mean that other cases which have been set down and waiting for some time would have to be moved off the docket.”
They are going to compound a difficult situation. They are going to make it even more difficult to get justice out of our provincial court system. That is what this bill is going to do.
I want to speak on behalf of all those Ontarians who are not fortunate enough to live within 60 miles of Toronto the great, because in my neck of the woods, you do not have enough provincial court judges to go around and so you may wait three weeks before the family court sits again.
The judge points this out. He says, “An even more difficult problem to resolve would be the courts in outlying areas, where the judge on circuit often does not even sit in the court more often than once a month or longer.”
I know some of those areas. The judge is entirely accurate. That is the case. All across northern Ontario you have communities where the family court only sits once a month, if then.
He goes on, “Therefore, if an access motion must be heard within the 10-day period, this would involve either postponing the sitting in another court for a considerable period of time, or requiring the parties to travel a distance to an area in which there is a court sitting within the 10-day period.”
He says, “I am sure you can appreciate that in the northern areas of Ontario this could be a monumental inconvenience to the parties and may frustrate the whole purpose of the proposed legislation.”
Again, this is not a partisan comment. This is not an angry father who has been denied access. This is not a mother who is concerned about this bill. This is not somebody with a vested interest in wanting to keep access to the child or wanting to keep custody of the child and deny somebody else access. These are the very people who are going to have to work with this legislation and they are saying to the government that it is garbage and it is deceptive.
It is deceptive because it is saying to people that they can have something in law yet, when we look at the practicalities of the situation, it is not there and it is not anywhere near being there. But the government has not listened. It will not even listen to provincial court judges who have to work with this legislation.
It is not just that clause that is so impractical and so deceptive and, I will argue, so harmful to our justice system, so harmful to families, to parents, to divorced and separated parents and so harmful to children. It is not just that section.
Let’s just go on. One of the other wish lines -- and I say it is a wish line -- in this legislation is that hearings shall be oral hearings. In other words, when you have one of these 10-day wonders, the hearing will be conducted orally.
Women’s groups, social workers, family lawyers and now the family court judges association will all tell us that in an area that is so ridden with conflict as this area of family law is, with fights over custody of children and access to children, emotions often become frayed, people often become angry, people often get into very deep and serious conflicts. The last thing you want to have in those situations is an oral hearing, where the divorced spouses or the separated spouses must sit across from one another or near to one another and have to bear the discomfort and the conflict of listening to each make allegations against the other.
I have dealt with some of those situations in the courtroom. I have seen one spouse on the witness stand talking about how awful the other spouse is. I have seen the other spouse get up in the courtroom and holler “liar” and tell everyone in the court that it is a sham, a put-up job, a joke and that there is no justice there. I have seen that time and time again.
What this legislation promises to do is to recreate that a dozen times over. I invite members to just think. If we could bring the television cameras into the courtroom, we could have, every day in living colour, more drama and less justice. That is what is happening here. Nothing is more absurd, nothing is less concerned with human emotions and the realities of human interaction than this clause in this bill: “There shall be an oral hearing.”
Just to confirm, I want to quote His Honour Judge Nevins again. He says:
“An ancillary concern is the fact that these motions are to be heard on the basis of oral evidence only. The practice that is almost universally accepted in all levels of court in this province is that motions are determined on the basis of affidavit evidence because it is more expedient than oral evidence. Our experience in dealing with cases such as these is that they rarely involve one single issue but rather involve a history of events which must be properly considered to determine the case.
“It is our opinion that motions determined on oral evidence would be considerably more lengthy than those based on affidavit evidence. It should be noted that the court may grant leave to file affidavits, but this of course depends on one or more of the parties requesting such leave....”
When the chairman of the Ontario Family Court Judges Association, someone who has to try to get justice out of this mess, who has to try to patch things together for former spouses and children, writes on behalf of the board of directors and says to the government, “This won’t work; this is bad; this is not the way to do it,” one would think that a responsible government might sit back and listen. One would think that a responsible government might sit back and say: “Maybe we are really doing the wrong thing here. For once in our two-year reign, maybe we ought to abandon political expediency and listen to what somebody out there, acting in good faith, is trying to tell us.
But does this government listen? No, not for one second. Their attitude is: “We’ve got our big majority. No matter how bad the legislation is, no matter how much havoc it wreaks, no matter how numerous the people are who tell us it is bad legislation, no matter how legitimate their position may be, no matter what their credentials are, we have the large majority and we are going to do it.” That is what is happening here, and I say “shame” on the whole lot of them.
It was not only the Ontario Family Court Judges Association. I say again that it is almost unheard of in the political process of Ontario that a judge would abandon political neutrality and the conventions of silence and write to a legislative committee and say: “This is bad legislation. Please reconsider it. Please do something else.” It is unheard of in the political history of this province. Yet this government is doing it.
Just to show that the provincial court judges are not out in centre field somewhere lost, I want to make reference to another body, the Ontario Advisory Council on Women’s Issues. This is not some fly-by-night operation, some body that pops up when a particular piece of legislation hits the floor and rants and raves. This is a body which has some considerable merit and legitimacy in Ontario. What did that group say? On 24 April 1989, they wrote to the chairman of the standing committee on social development and said, “The Ontario Advisory Council on Women’s Issues believes that Bill 124 is not necessary....” What else did they say?
Let’s just go through some of the particular clauses. Specifically, they refer to section 1, adding subsection 4a. What does subsection 4a say? It says:
“Where the parents of a child live separate and apart and the child is in the custody of one of them and the other is entitled to access under the terms of a separation agreement or order, each shall, in the best interests of the child, encourage and support the child’s continuing parent-child relationship with the other.”
This section states point-blank that it shall be in the best interests of the child that there shall be access. It creates a presumption that that is always the case. It creates a presumption that the custodial parent shall, because it is in the best interests of the child, promote a relationship with the other parent even if it is clearly not in the best interests of the child.
The Ontario Advisory Council on Women’s Issues says:
“The vast majority of custodial mothers fully appreciate the importance of continuing contact between their children and a noncustodial father. However, a legislative requirement will simply give abusive men enhanced means of controlling and abusing custodial mothers and children because it would override bona fide maternal judgement about the impact of allowing an abusive man access to their children or even their wives.”
Another very legitimate organization says that this government is totally off in the wrong direction. They go on and point out three or four other sections of this bill which are totally inappropriate and will lead to more difficulties and conflict and to less justice than we have already.
For example, let’s look at some of the other aspects. The bill refers to supervised access. It says that one of the possible remedies where one has differences as to how access should be exercised is supervised access. It says to do it that way. Supervised access would be fine if we had supervised access centres in this province. We had a couple, one of which was a pilot project financed by the Ministry of Community and Social Services in the minister’s own riding in the Kitchener-Waterloo area. That ministry jerked out funding for that pilot project. It just shut it down earlier this year.
I can tell members why some of the women’s groups think that the Ministry of Community and Social Services shut down that pilot project. They believe that the Ministry of Community and Social Services shut down that project because the ministry does not want to be left holding the bag when this legislation becomes law.
What women’s groups see happening when this legislation becomes law is more and more severe conflicts about custody and access, which will mean a greater and greater need for supervised access centres. The Ministry of Community and Social Services knows that if it has one centre operating, it will be the focus for all kinds of public lobbying to create more centres, and the ministry does not believe it has the money. Even the Ministry of Community and Social Services knows this is a bad bill and will be a bad law, so it wants to create a scorched earth position so that it does not have to pick up the pieces after this becomes law. That is what happened to the one supervised access centre.
There was another supervised access centre in Metro Toronto. That supervised access centre has been arguing with this government for the last two years for government funding. They present impressive statistics on their success in coordinating and promoting supervised access; they have produced letters of recommendation from provincial court judges from across the greater Toronto area; they can give letters of recommendation from some of the most experienced family law lawyers in the Metro area, and they can show you letters of recommendation from male and female former spouses alike who have worked with the Lakeshore Area Multi-Service Project and with Access for Parents and Children. They can show you all this. The government would have none of it; the government would not fund them.
Here we have a bill that says, “One of the remedies to this mess is that we shall have more supervised access.” Yet the government has allowed the only two bona fide supervised access centres around to go out of business. That is more deception, saying to people that there is something there that can help sort out this mess, that there is something there that can help remedy the situation, something there that will help parents and help children achieve justice. It is not there. The government passes it in legislation but the money to do it is not there, so we have that deception.
The bill talks about supervised access, yet there is none. In fact, where there was some only a few short months ago, there is less help. The government may say, “You can deal with supervised access at children’s aid societies; children’s aid societies will do it.” Children’s aid societies routinely turn down requests for supervised access in these situations. They want nothing to do with these kinds of situations.
What you have across this province is former spouses exercising access in police stations or exercising access in lawyers’ offices or exercising supervised access with supervision provided by people who have no idea what they are supposed to be supervising or how they are supposed to be supervising it. This is this government’s idea of how to deal with a very serious problem involving children, to say to the public, “In this bill something is being taken care of,” when that is not in fact the case at all. That is why I find this such a sad situation.
The government has been told over and over again that this is bad legislation, that it is going to make matters worse, not better, to withdraw it, to change it, to get back to the drawing boards.
Women’s groups, family law lawyers, I say again, the Ontario Advisory Council on Women’s Issues and, finally, family court judges are writing to the government and saying: “This won’t work. Do something else.”
It will pass. The opposition clearly does not have enough members to stop it. Heavens, we would not want to stage a delaying action. The government House leader might throw another temper tantrum and might tell us we are all bad children ourselves because we want to stop some legislation that is absolutely horrendous. So we had better not delay this unduly. We would not want to see the government House leader throw another temper tantrum.
It will pass. It will become law. It will become bad law. More families will have more difficult times and more children will find themselves in difficult situations. But the government has the majority and it can do whatever it wants, no matter how wrong it is and no matter how many legitimate groups in Ontario society tell it that it is wrong.
Let the government have its way. Let the government pass legislation that everyone else who is connected with the situation knows to be bad legislation. Let them have their way. We will be back here a year from now trying to repair what the government has done, but in the meantime a lot of damage will be done by lot of children. A lot of frustrated former spouses out there will be more frustrated and angry, and I predict it will be a lot more difficult to get justice out of our courts than it is already. But as I said, let the government have its way.
Mr Offer: It is a pleasure for me to rise in support of this particular piece of legislation. As I indicated at the outset -- I believe it was either at second reading or in the standing committee on administration of justice -- in this piece of legislation we are dealing with a crucially important piece of legislation, which is important not only to all members of this Legislature but indeed to many people outside this Legislature and throughout this province.
We are dealing with a particular aspect of the law that is at once legally vexing and in other points psychologically and socially vexing. However, it is the responsibility, the obligation and the duty of the government to respond to aspects of the law that require correction, and that is what this bill is about.
We have heard a lot of talk about whether this particular legislation comes to grips with the best interests of the child. What we have to remember is that in this piece of legislation we are dealing with an order that has been made by a judge in the best interests of the child.
That judge has taken into account a number of factors contained within the Children’s Law Reform Act, factors such as the love, the affection and the emotional ties between the child and each person seeking custody and access. He has taken into account the child’s views and preferences, if they can be ascertained. He has taken into account the length of time the child has lived in a stable home environment. He has taken into account the ability and willingness of each person seeking custody to provide the child with guidance, education and the necessities of life, and indeed to meet any special needs of the child. He has taken into account the permanence and stability of the family unit with which it is proposed the child will live.
After taking into account not only these aspects but others, the court has ruled that custody is to be awarded to one person and access to another. That is the court’s order in the best interests of the child.
After that order and only after that order, we are now dealing with these particular amendments, because we have to ask ourselves, where an order has been made in the best interests of the child, where custody has been awarded to one and access to the other, and it comes to the government’s attention that the enforcement proceedings for those access orders are not sufficient to meet the needs of the persons who have been so awarded access, then it becomes the responsibility and obligation of the government to act, and we have. The ministry has. The Attorney General has acted so that those orders for custody and access made in the best interests of the child, as I have indicated earlier, are able to be enforced.
This bill seeks to achieve a number of goals. It seeks to minimize the use of children as pawns in disputes between their parents. It seeks to provide a speedy and nonexcessive means by which access difficulties can be determined by the court, including guidelines for the determination of a wrongful denial of access. I stress that those are orders that have already been made by a court in the best interests of the child.
This legislation seeks to emphasize that the best interests of children are met through ongoing opportunities to learn from both parents, as is each child’s right. Where a court has made such an order that custody is to be awarded to one and access to be awarded to another, it is this particular legislation that is designed to seek to build the framework upon which that order made in the best interests of the child can be enforced, because to do so is in fact in the best interests of the child.
It is to provide, through this legislation, enforcement tools other than jail sentences and fines in order to enforce those access orders, because it is known that those particular enforcement tools now available through contempt of order and the purging of contempt, which may result in jail or a fine, are largely not used, and they are not used. Because of that, there results the whole feeling and the knowledge that those access orders are not enforceable. This legislation seeks to correct that. This legislation seeks to create a remedy for the enforcement of those orders which, as I have indicated earlier, have been made in the best interests of the child.
The bill also specifically addresses this government’s concern with domestic violence in families in Ontario, and I have spoken earlier on this. There are specific words to a judge in this legislation. We have moved that in determining the best interests of the child, the ability of each person seeking custody or access to act as a parent must be taken into consideration and that -- we must not forget this -- “in assessing a person’s ability to act as a parent, the court shall consider the fact that the person has at any time committed violence against his or her spouse or child, against his or her child’s parent or against another member of the person’s household.”
Through these amendments to the legislation, what we are doing is saying to a court in a very specific and focused way that in dealing with the ability to act ac a parent, you must take into consideration the fact that violence has ever occurred.
We are, in this legislation, moving away from the only enforcement tools, contempt and the purging of contempt, which are widely known not to be enforceable, and we are moving towards four types of orders: first, compensatory access; in other words, if access is denied, then the person who has had that access denied can come before a court to ask for the time that was taken from that person. Let’s always keep in mind that the order which gave that person access in the first instance was done in the best interests of the child. That is the driving and motivating force in this legislation.
Second, in being denied access, if the particular access party was put out in terms of expenses and if determined by the court, he or she would be able to be reimbursed for those reasonable expenses actually incurred. That is new in this legislation and we believe will provide an enforcement remedy that will make certain those orders, made in the best interests of the child, are enforced.
The third and fourth remedies deal with supervision and mediation. That is currently what is within the jurisdiction or the discretion of the judge, and we want to make certain it is within the discretion in terms of access enforcement.
We have heard talk about the legitimate reasons for denial of access. Within this legislation, there are legitimate reasons indicated for the denial of access. There are eight such reasons, but as I and the Attorney General have indicated many times, these reasons are not meant to be all-inclusive. They are meant to be eight of the most commonly heard legitimate reasons for denial of access, but under no circumstances are they to be taken as being the only possible reasons for the denial of access.
This legislation does not just talk about the right of a person who has been granted access to have that access enforced. This piece of legislation, in its first section, builds a new legal foundation that says that where there has been such an order, again in the best interests of the child, “each shall, in the best interests of the child, encourage and support the child’s continuing parent-child relationship with the other.”
It will no longer be sufficient for a person who has been awarded access not to be able to exercise that access. There will be a right of enforcement upon the custodial parent, to that person who has been awarded access, to exercise that access, because in using the words of this legislation, this will “encourage and support the child’s continuing parent-child relationship with the other.” That is in the best interests of the child, that ongoing, continuing relationship with each parent, one, yes, who has been awarded custody, but, yes, the other who has been awarded access. It will, when exercised, work in the best interests of the child because it is in the best interests of the child to have continuing co-operation, a continuing relationship with each parent.
This legislation is designed to accomplish that. We believe it does. We believe it is a new legal foundation in terms of the right of a custodial parent to go to court, in terms of a parent who has been awarded access and is not exercising access. Yes, it is new, but yes, it is absolutely necessary, and yes, the beneficiary of this new legal foundation will be the child. We think that is right.
We have heard talk about the remedy based on oral evidence. I think some members have already alluded to that. The legislation -- I will just quickly move to that section -- states: “The motion shall be determined on the basis of oral evidence only” -- l would like to read the last part of that section, which states -- ”unless the court gives leave to file an affidavit.”
There is the opportunity for the filing of affidavit evidence, so the concerns raised are able to be approached. In the first instance, certainly, we want this matter to be dealt with as quickly as possible. The way it can be done is through oral evidence. But there is also the discretion of the judge that where the circumstances merit, affidavit evidence can be entered. That just happens to be the way this particular legislation is drafted, framed and, I trust, passed.
As I have indicated, this bill addresses the rights of a child in terms of access orders, custody orders being made in the first instance in the best interests of the child. What this legislation is designed to do is to provide a mechanism, a framework, in which those particular orders can be enforced, because to enforce those orders and to have those orders enforceable in a real way is in the best interests of the child.
This particular legislation specifically speaks about this government’s concerns about domestic violence. The bill contains provisions in that respect: first, as I have indicated, through subsection 24(2), upon any motion for enforcement under the new remedies, the court must consider the child’s best interests. The best interests test now directs the court to consider each person’s ability to act as a parent when making any order with respect to the child.
Second, yet carrying on from that, in assessing the ability to act as a parent, the court must now consider “the fact that the person has at any time committed violence against his or her spouse or child.” Consequently, the court is given a mandatory direction to consider any evidence of domestic violence on motions for enforcement.
Third, legitimate excuses for denying access are directly related to domestic violence through the belief of the custodial parent “on reasonable grounds that the child might suffer physical or emotional harm” or that the custodial parent “might suffer physical harm if the right of access were exercised.”
It is through these amendments that we seek to provide a speedy and inexpensive means by which orders of custody and access made in the best interests of the child can be determined by the court and to provide the court with an enforcement tool other than just contempt, the penalty of which is fine or imprisonment, the end result of which is known by all those practising at the bar as totally unenforceable.
We believe that this legislation embraces that the best interests of the child are met through the ongoing opportunities to learn from both parents, as is each child’s right. That is what this legislation is designed to do; that is what this legislation is designed to accomplish; that is the framework that this legislation has built. This legislation is designed to provide a mechanism in which orders made in the best interests of the child, both as to custody and to access, are enforceable and the continuing ongoing relationship between those persons who have been awarded custody and access are ones that will serve the child in his or her best interests.
I ask all members of the House to support this legislation, because the legal foundation upon which it is founded is one which will serve the best interests of the child.
The House divided on Mr Offer’s motion for third reading of Bill 124, which was agreed to on the following vote:
Adams, Ballinger, Beer, Black, Bossy, Bradley, Callahan, Carrothers, Chiarelli, Cleary, Collins, Conway, Cooke, D. R., Cordiano, Dietsch, Eakins, Elliot, Elston, Faubert, Fleet, Fulton, Kanter, Keyes, LeBourdais, Lipsett, Lupusella, McClelland, McGuigan, McGuinty, Miclash, Morin, Neumann, Nixon, J. B., Offer, Owen, Pelissero, Polsinelli, Poole, Reycraft, Riddell, Roberts, Sola, South, Stoner, Sullivan, Sweeney, Tatham, Velshi, Wrye.
Breaugh, Bryden, Cooke, D. S., Cunningham, Cureatz, Eves, Grier, Hampton, Harris, Jackson, Johnson, J. M., Johnston, R. F., Kormos, Laughren, Mackenzie, Martel, Morin-Strom, Philip, E., Rae, B.
Ayes 49; nays 19.
Mr Callahan: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: This morning when I invited all my colleagues to a reception for Carabram I did not give them the room number. It is room 247 and I hope they all come down and meet the fine constituents from my riding.
The House adjourned at 1803.