The House met at 1330.
COMMONWEALTH PARLIAMENTARY ASSOCIATION
The Speaker: Just before I call the first order of the day, I wish to Inform the House that I have received notice from the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association Headquarters Secretariat that 18 July 1989 marks the 78th anniversary of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association. The chairman of the executive committee of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, the Honourable Lavu Mulimba of Zambia has stated in his message:
“As we celebrate our 78th birthday, let us rededicate ourselves once again to the cause of our association. Let us all work towards achieving within our lifetime a happier world for all of mankind in which love, truth, social justice and fair play are part of our common heritage.”
He goes on to say, “I wish every one of you a very happy 78th anniversary.”
As all members of this House are members of the Ontario branch of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, I felt it important to bring this occasion to your attention.
EVENTS IN CHINA
Mr Philip: I ask all members of this democratically elected Parliament to join me in expressing our empathy to the people of China and to the Canadian residents of Chinese origin at a time which is very troubling to them.
It is now fairly clear that the government of China is retreating to a centralized, highly authoritarian form of government. One of China’s own reports, published 6 July, condemns intellectuals who have spoken out on political and economic issues in recent months. The report admits that the government of China is intensifying its crackdown on dissent.
Amnesty International has stated that people are being tried under a special 1983 regulation that suspends legal rights. One is reminded of the Stalinist regime in Russia and the oppressive regime in Chile as rewards are given to citizens for informing on fellow citizens.
It is difficult to estimate exactly how many people have been executed or imprisoned for democratically voicing their views. However, Chinese sources have now stated that prisons and detention centres in Beijing are filled to capacity. Furthermore, reports indicate that families and workplaces of those arrested have not been notified.
As parliamentarians, let us express our deep concern to the government of China regarding the actions it has taken against its own people while reaffirming our faith in the determination of these people themselves.
Mr McCague: I would like to comment on the remarks made by the Minister of Transportation (Mr Fulton) which appear in an article in today’s Toronto Star. As members are aware, two tragic accidents occurred over the weekend at railway crossings in Tecumseh township and Vespra township. The two accidents claimed five lives, two of them children. Concern has been expressed about safety characteristics at railway level crossings throughout Ontario.
Today the minister is quoted in the Star as saying, “I just shudder every time I hear about a railway crossing death.” The minister’s words are of little comfort to the families of these victims, given the fact that he admits quite outright that he knows of 55 separate railway crossings in Ontario which are considered unsafe. The minister carefully keeps figures on these unsafe crossings, yet he does nothing to correct the situation.
Railway crossing installation costs are shared between the railways, the federal government and the provincial government. The minister is acting irresponsibly when he states that the matter belongs to the federal government. Ignoring the fact that the lives of a great many people are at risk, the minister instead chooses to engage in political infighting with the federal government. Shame on him.
Mr Owen: The tragedy of a young life lost in a senseless accident can be profoundly disturbing to us all. Often we want to know how it happened and what can be done to avoid similar tragedies in the future.
Last year, a young man riding his bicycle outside of Barrie was struck down by a parolee who had been drinking heavily and driving a stolen vehicle. The jury at an ensuing inquest made a number of suggestions which I strongly recommend to the government for its consideration. These suggestions were:
1. The Highway Traffic Act be amended to include a provision making it illegal to leave keys inside unattended vehicles;
2. The Ontario Board of Parole come to a unanimous decision before granting parole;
3. If the parole panel decides against the parole recommendations, it must provide a specific explanation in writing;
4. Repeat offenders in nonviolent crimes should be considered as risky in the parole board criteria;
5. Records, including those held back through the Young Offenders Act, be in the hands of the parole panel during its hearings;
6. Plans allowing for a suitable place to live and a job search or education plan be mapped out before a prisoner is released on parole;
7. The mandate of the parole board be expanded to include halfway houses;
8. The parole board use a checklist as an objective way of measuring an applicant’s suitability for parole.
Implementation of these recommendations should help to prevent tragedies of this type from recurring. He was a bright young man with a wonderful future. Let us act so he did not die in vain.
SUPPLY OF TEACHERS
Ms Bryden: Today’s headline in the Toronto Star tells us that we face a shortage of 2,500 qualified teachers in Ontario this year. Recent statistical projections have warned the minister that a crisis situation was developing due to increased retirements, a drying up of supply-teacher sources and many other demand factors. The fourfold jump in applications for special letters of permission for school boards to hire unqualified teachers which occurred last year has highlighted the problem.
Despite prodding by the New Democratic Party Education critic and others, the minister has displayed a shocking lack of planning. His ministry intends to increase teacher training spaces by less than one fifth of the looming teacher shortage. New demands for French as a second language, technological studies and music are not being met.
When will the minister stop telling us that the Titanic is not sinking and step up his planning to meet the crisis?
It is not fair to pupils and their parents that they have to accept this kind of education, possibly for their entire school life. They also have to accept portable classrooms. The minister must announce a policy to meet the teacher shortage as soon as possible and for as long as the need continues.
Mr Jackson: During the 1985 election campaign, this Liberal government promised to raise the provincial share of educational funding to 60 per cent over five years. But instead of increasing funding, the Liberals have let it steadily drop. This year, they are providing only 42.7 per cent of educational costs. As a direct result of these policies, the Liberals have forced boards to pass on double-digit education tax increases.
I would like to read a partial list of the Liberal legacy to property taxpayers in Ontario: Stormont Dundas and Glengarry county, 17 per cent; Renfrew county separate, 16.7 per cent; Leeds and Grenville county, 16.5 per cent; Prince Edward county, 15.8 per cent; Northumberland and Newcastle, 14.8 per cent; Stormont Dundas and Glengarry separate, 14.6 per cent; Metropolitan Toronto and Metropolitan separate, 14.4 per cent each; Durham, 14.3 per cent; Frontenac-Lennox and Addington county separate, 13.8 per cent; Timiskaming, 13.4 per cent; Grey county and Carleton, 12.9 per cent; North Shore, 12.8 per cent; Haldimand-Norfolk separate, 12.3 per cent; Ottawa, Lincoln county and Lincoln county separate, 12 per cent; Wellington county, 11.6 per cent; Frontenac county, 11.4 per cent; Nipissing and Nipissing district separate, 11.3 per cent; Sudbury, 11.2 per cent; London, 10.3 per cent, and Brant county, the board of the Treasurer (Mr R. F. Nixon), 10.5 per cent.
What a legacy of Liberal underfunding in education.
Mr Dietsch: Today my statement is about young people, young people who have shown the desire to learn about key environmental issues and who are actively pursuing a firsthand approach in helping to resolve them.
Clean-Niagara is a group of six teenagers who are part of the Environmental Youth Corps and whose aim is to further beautify the town of Niagara-on-the-Lake. Various public parks and other recreational spaces are targeted for clean-up. Furthermore, the group is determined to rid Niagara’s shoreline of garbage.
J. B. Hopkins is supervisor, and he is joined by Melanie Lepp, Melissa Smith, Nsenga Bansfield, Colin Johnson and Peter Swanson. They are the six young people who possess such a tremendous sense of responsibility towards their community.
Elizabeth Rothmel, a teacher from Niagara District Secondary School, first interested the students in the project last fall when they began a recycling program at the school, and they have never looked back.
The six of them could have taken jobs which were easier and that paid more money this summer, but they have sacrificed this for the sake of their community, our environment and the citizens of Niagara-on-the-Lake.
I believe we may all learn a lesson from this crew of committed young workers, and I ask this House to commend their efforts and join with me in applauding their work.
Mr Morin-Strom: I would ask that the Minister of Tourism and Recreation (Mr O’Neil) undertake to investigate immediately the restriction on an art show which is expected to begin on 21 July, just three days from now, at Ontario Place.
General Motors has taken steps to restrict the artistic freedom of a show that was to take place at the Ontario North pavilion at Ontario Place, sponsored by the Art Gallery of Algoma in Sault Ste Marie.
This art show is about to commence, and General Motors has now raised an issue as to why a Porsche is included in the exhibit, which is entitled The Outer Edge: Images of Speed. General Motors was given first opportunity to be part of the exhibit. They refused, and now they are trying to stop this artistic endeavour.
NATIVE LAND CLAIMS
Mr B. Rae: I have a question for the Premier. It arises from comments he made yesterday outside this House in answer to certain questions about the state of negotiations with the Teme-Augama Anishnabai band, whose chief is Gary Potts. The Premier said outside, as quoted in this morning’s Globe and Mail, that “nothing’s turned down flatly,’’ and that discussions and negotiations are continuing.
I spoke with Chief Potts at some length this morning on the telephone and he tells me that, contrary to what the Premier said yesterday to the press, the proposal by the band of a six-point program, including a moratorium on construction of the two roads as the basis for negotiation, was turned down flatly by the cabinet. That was indicated to him by the negotiator, Mr Fender, the representative of the Ministry of Natural Resources.
The Speaker: Question.
Mr B. Rae: My question to the Premier is, can he tell us what proposals the government has put before the band that could be described as the subject of negotiation?
Hon Mr Peterson: There are ongoing discussions with the band on a wide variety of things. They have their agenda, as my honourable friend knows, as we have our ideas. A land claim offer was made some time ago, I think a couple of years ago. It started discussions and they have been ongoing about the entire area and about forest management, land claims and a variety of other things.
Just because they present a proposal that is not accepted 100 per cent does not mean that discussions will not continue. I would not think my honourable friend would expect me to stand up and, just because they present a proposal, accept it completely. Negotiations do not work that way.
Mr B. Rae: I asked the Premier a specific question. He is saying there are discussions and negotiations; the chief is saying there are no discussions and negotiations, because there is nothing to discuss. The government has put forward no alternatives to the proposal put forward by the band. This is a critical issue involving native rights and the environment. It is an issue which affects a very important heritage of all the citizens of this province and, in particular, of our native people. I think people are entitled to know.
If the Premier is saying there are discussions and negotiations and the chief of the band says no, that’s not the case, then perhaps he can tell us, what is the counterproposal he has put forward to the chief that is the basis for the discussions which he himself now is telling the House are ongoing?
Hon Mr Peterson: The member understands enough about negotiations. The people put their positions, then they say they are not going to discuss the other person’s point of view and then go back and discuss it; things are various and ongoing. I do not think my honourable friend should get too excited about that. He knows that the whole issue of the road has been through environmental assessment and the counts. The land claim has been through the courts and through appeal. It has been there for a very long period of time.
Even after the court case, which supported the government’s position, the ministers went back to the band and said, “We would like to continue the negotiations” -- the discussions, if you will -- “and we could put forward an offer on land claims.” Certain things are turned down on both sides, but certainly that should not get my honourable friend too upset. That is the way that discussions go on in these kinds of matters.
Mr B. Rae: What I am upset about and what I think the chief and the native people are upset about is a statement by the Premier outside this House that nothing has been turned down flat when, in fact, the proposal for the moratorium was turned down flat. The band has made it clear that it is very difficult to negotiate with a government that is already proceeding with a road as the discussions are going ahead, so that by the time they end up reaching a settlement, the trees will have been taken out.
The critical question that I put to the Premier for the third time is, if he is discussing something, what is the proposal put forward by this government in response to the negotiated settlement put forward in good faith by the native people?
Hon Mr Peterson: My honourable friend feels, after all the time that was spent on environmental assessment and in the court with respect to the road, that we should back off. I can tell my honourable friend that it went through every legal avenue and every reasonable discussion. I think an observer of the situation would have to say that that is the case. Obviously, there is a difference of opinion on those mailers.
As I recall, the Attorney General (Mr Scott), in his capacity as minister responsible for native affairs, put forward a proposal with respect to a land claim. That is still on the table and those discussions are there and available for anybody to discuss any time.
The member will realize that at certain points there is an intensity to the discussions and at other points there is not. It is not take it or leave it. Sometimes people put to us take-it-or-leave-it proposals and he would not want any government to negotiate under that kind of atmosphere, but I can assure him that we are prepared to sit down at their pleasure to discuss the matter of a land claim. We have been trying to resolve this for a long lime. He would not expect us to not protect the interests of all Ontarians, and that is what we are doing.
USE OF CHARITABLE FOUNDATIONS’ FUNDS
Mr B. Rae: My question is to the Minister of Revenue (Mr Grandmaître). It concerns the granting of charitable status, a decision that is made by the Department of National Revenue, to certain charitable foundations which have taken place over the last number of years. Upon the granting of that status, certain tax rebates flow from the provincial government.
We have had some difficulty getting information from the Ministry of Revenue with regard to what has taken place. I wonder if the minister can tell us precisely how many charitable foundations in the housing field have received retail sales tax rebates from the government of Ontario.
Hon Mr Grandmaître: I am surprised that the Leader of the Opposition did not get full co-operation from my ministry. I will make sure that he will be provided with all the answers needed to his questions.
To be more specific, I can tell the honourable member that in the fiscal year of 1989 we processed close to 1,500 -- I think it was 1,450 applications. The distribution of dollars was very close to $8.5 million.
Mr B. Rae: I am particularly interested in the housing question, because that obviously is the one which received some considerable publicity. There are a number of so-called charitable foundations that are described as charitable foundations that were established by Roger Davidson, who was linked to the Tridel Corp and to the DelZotto interests as early as 1980 in establishing a number of charitable foundations or companies that had the name of “charitable foundation” and that subsequently received hundreds of thousands of dollars in tax rebates from the government of Ontario.
I want to ask the minister, with respect to the two charitable foundations that have appeared in the newspapers today, the Artisan Charitable Foundation and the Coral Charitable Foundation, these are no doubt simply the tip of the iceberg with respect to other housing projects. I would like to ask the minister, what kind of follow-up, investigation and auditing does the Ministry of Revenue do to ensure that sales tax rebates given to a charitable foundation are, in fact, used for the purposes for which they were intended.
Hon Mr Grandmaître: The honourable member knows that this organization -- the religious, charitable or benevolent organization or foundation -- has to apply to the federal government for such a registration number. Under the retail sales tax of Ontario we do not add a clause that says where this refund should be applied, on the mortgage or elsewhere, but the qualifying organization must be approved by the federal government, the Department of National Revenue, and also by the Ministry of Revenue.
As for the two organizations or foundations pointed out by the honourable member, I cannot provide him with the exact figures. I can tell him that when the applications were filed they were thoroughly audited by the Ministry of Revenue and they qualified. If the honourable member wants more specific information, I can provide him with all the facts.
Mr B. Rae: We are talking about millions of dollars which have gone to housing schemes over the last 10 years, we are talking about the potential loss to the taxpayers of a lot of money and we are also talking about the diversion away from a charitable foundation and from a housing project to the construction company -- in this case, Tridel -- which profile to the tune of hundreds of thousands, indeed millions of dollars, because of the way in which these foundations were established and the way in which the ministry is responsible for what is going on.
I want to ask the minister, what does he intend to do if he is presented with evidence that money that goes from the Ministry of Revenue in a sales tax rebate to these foundations is in fact not being used to reduce the mortgage, not being used to maintain the building, but is simply being used to pay off Tridel? What is he going to do then?
Hon Mr Grandmaître: The honourable member knows that the Retail Sales Tax Act or any other act this government has introduced, or that was previously introduced, is continually reviewed. I am sure the Retail Sales Tax Act is no exception. Also, I can tell the honourable member that my ministry and the Department of National Revenue can certainly look at better qualifying status and we will work on it. I want to remind the honourable member that there is no such law at the National Revenue department in Ottawa, or in the Retail Sales Tax Act, that guides those moneys to the reduction of the mortgage, but it can be pursued with the federal government.
Mr Brandt: My question is for the Minister of Health. In April 1986 her government announced 4,400 new hospital beds at a capital cost of some $850 million. At that time the then Minister of Health very proudly stated this was the largest capital allocation in the history of this province. The time frame for completion of those 4,400 beds was to be in 1990. I wonder if the minister could indicate, based on her present time frame and her knowledge of the construction schedules for those projects, how many beds will actually be brought on stream by the year 1990, which was her established target date.
Hon Mrs Caplin: The leader of the third party will know that we have discussed this matter at length during estimates. A number of important initiatives have been undertaken. Significant ones were the recommendations of the Premier’s Council on Health Strategy and its report, From Vision to Action, which acknowledged that in fact much information was new and that beds were no longer the benchmark in provision of services.
The Minister of Community and Social Services (Mr Sweeney) announced a long-term care strategy which would acknowledge that, with the highest rate of institutionalization in the western world, there may be opportunities to allow people to remain in their communities as long as possible. I have made a commitment, in light of the new policy for level-of-care funding and a new way to make sure that people admitted to institutions really need to be there, that we would review our capital plan to make sure it was responsive to the goals we have established. I want to assure him that we have begun that review.
Mr Brandt: The Treasurer (Mr R. F. Nixon) is applauding because he did not have to fulfil his commitment for some $850 million for those capital projects. Let me help the minister. I put a question through to her ministry in Orders and Notices. The response I received was that she plans on having open 300 beds out of the 4,400 she promised or a shortage, if we can believe this, of 4,100 beds. As of last year, she had 80 open and functioning, after years of planning and preparation.
Is the minister now saying she is going to break her commitment to all the regions across this province, which have not in any way been informed of a change in her policy yet? They have not been advised that there is a withdrawal of funds. What are the minister’s plans with respect to the period between now and 1990, when the government has a commitment to deliver or to clearly change its policy?
Hon Mrs Caplan: I would like to thank the leader of the third party for the opportunity to make very clear our commitment and the commitment of this government to meet the real and changing needs of the people of this province.
Notwithstanding the fact that we have the highest rate of institutionalization in the western world, we know that the only opportunity we have to make sure that we can respond to these challenging and changing times is before the shovel goes in the ground.
I have been meeting with communities. I have been asking them to review their plans to make sure they in fact respond to what the people of this province tell us they really want, and that is services, not simply a bed in an institution. We are not only listening, we are making sure that our planning will result in meeting the real needs of the people of this province.
Mr Brandt: Let me tell the minister what the people of Ontario want. The people of Ontario do not want 2,000 hospital beds shut down over the summer period. Fully 1,000 of those beds are directly attributable to the funding from the Ministry of Health.
Set aside for a moment the 4,400 beds I mentioned earlier, which the minister has no hope of fulfilling in terms of the promises made. She was quite willing to accept the headlines. The Ottawa Citizen said they were going to get $117 million and over 600 beds; the Toronto Star said Metro hospitals were to get 556 beds; the Oshawa Times said $20 million for 306 beds in the region; the Kitchener-Waterloo Record said the region will get a share of 889 beds. All of these misleading headlines are as a result of the Ministry of Health and the former Minister of Health indicating that there would be $850 million and 4,400 beds constructed.
The Speaker: And the question?
Mr Brandt: If the minister is going to break the promise, let her tell the people of Ontario she is going to break the promise.
Hon Mrs Caplan: In fact, just last year alone the ministry spent more than $90 million on capital projects around this province, which included Sarnia’s St Joseph’s Hospital.
I want the member to know that I am listening to the people of this province and what seniors are saying to me is, “Elinor, I fear more than anything else inappropriate institutionalization.” They say to me, “I fear loss of my independence.” They are saying, “Help us to stay at home as long as possible.” l am listening.
SUPPLY OF TEACHERS
Mr Brandt: I am going to try the Minister of Education. The Minister of Education is aware that there are now some 2,500 unqualified teachers in the school system in Ontario teaching some 70,000 pupils. Is the minister satisfied with that record of accomplishment, knowing full well that it was his government that said it was going to establish education as a priority? Is he not ashamed of that record?
Hon Mr Ward: The leader of the third party should be advised that in fact his information is incorrect. There are not 2,500 unqualified teachers teaching in this province. In fact, last year there were a number of teachers who were hired by boards throughout the province on letters of permission to supply teach in some circumstances, but they are not permanently teaching within the schools in this province. I believe the honourable member has his facts somewhat distorted.
Mr Brandt: I think the honourable minister has his facts somewhat distorted.
Hon Mr Kerrio: Oh, no.
Mr Brandt: Does the minister not like the parliamentary language? It is exactly the same language the Minister of Education used.
In 1986, this government was warned of the fact that there would be a severe teaching shortage in this province before the year 1990. What has the minister done about it and what is he going to do about it?
Hon Mr Ward: The member will know that over the course of the past several years we have increased the number of positions at the faculties of education at universities throughout this province. As a matter of fact, through mechanisms such as the program adjustment fund of the Treasurer (Mr R. F. Nixon), enrolment in faculties of education has gone up, I believe in the neighbourhood of some 15 per cent last year and a similar increase this year. The fact of the matter is that some 25 to 30 per cent of all those who graduate from faculties of education in this province have not yet even been able to find permanent positions in school boards throughout Ontario.
I would just say to my friend the interim leader that the figures he is referring to in his original question relate to letters of permission that were utilized by boards to fill, on a very temporary basis, supply teaching positions. I think that, too, speaks to the fact that many qualified teachers in this province have been seeking permanent positions, and I do believe the numbers that he has indicated that suggest there are 2,500 unqualified teachers in permanent positions are inadvertently incorrect.
Mr Brandt: I would not want to be inadvertently incorrect with the minister. He knows full well that there are 7,000 teachers demanded in the system for next fall. As well, he knows there are 4,500 graduates who will be available to fill those 7,000 postings. The minister also is aware of the fact that his government’s policy to reduce classroom size in grades 1 and 2 from an average of 30 pupils to approximately 20 puts an additional demand of 4,000 new teachers required in the system.
What does the minister plan to do with respect to the projected shortfall? With the deepest of respect, I want to say that this is not a figment of my imagination. These figures are coming out of the Ministry of Education and from the boards of education. They want to know where they are going to get the personnel to fill the jobs that they are going to have coming up this fall. What is the minister going to do about it?
Hon Mr Ward: I would be happy to run through with the interim leader the steps that we have taken in the last couple of years. First of all, he will know that we recently completed a very major review of teacher education in this province. We have proposed some very fundamental changes that will begin to take effect in the coming year -- first of all, the creation of the Ontario Teacher Education Council, the transfer of responsibility for faculties of education from the Ministry of Colleges and Universities back to the Ministry of Education so that stakeholders in education can have a much more direct involvement of induction into the teaching profession as well as into ongoing professional upgrading.
He will know that we have increased the number of positions at faculties throughout this province. We are working very closely with boards in monitoring their needs as well as their hiring success rates, and, frankly, most boards have hired all of the permanent positions that they require for this coming fall. Having said that, I will acknowledge that there are some short-term supply difficulties in areas such as French-language programs with the tremendous explosion of growth in those areas, but I would say that the situation --
The Speaker: New question?
Mr Wildman: To the Minister of Education on the same issue: Even if the minister deducts the 1,700 supply-teaching letters of permission from the total, that still leaves us with approximately 800 teachers on letters of permission who are teaching in permanent positions. How can the minister justify a sixfold increase in the number of letters of permission since 1986 in Ontario with the very small increases in places in faculties of education in the province? This does not really indicate that the ministry and the faculties are moving to meet the demand.
Hon Mr Ward: I will try as best as I can to respond once again to the member for Algoma (Mr Wildman) in a similar vein as I did to the interim leader of the third party. First of all, the letters of permission are not utilized for permanent teaching positions in very many instances at all.
There are some circumstances, for instance, in the area of technical education, where in my view and in the view of many people it is very helpful to have experience in the private sector in those areas. It is true that it is difficult to attract those with that kind of background into the faculties through the university system.
Again, there are a significant number of technical education teachers who teach in our schools through letters of permission. I, for one, do not believe that the quality of education suffers in any way because of this fact.
Second, there is an enormous pressure on French-language teachers -- l am sure the member will acknowledge it -- with the explosive growth of French immersion programs in the last five years.
The Speaker: Thank you.
Mr Wildman: Will the minister confirm that while there is a shortfall of somewhere in the neighbourhood of 3,000 teachers to meet the need this year, there was an increase of only 10 per cent or 400 positions in the faculties of education and that at the University of Toronto there were 8,000 applicants and only 50 places more?
If those figures are correct, does the minister agree that it is not appropriate in Ontario that the main way for people to get into a faculty of education is to have been a supply teacher for about a year in this province ?
Hon Mr Ward: No, I would not concede to the member that there is a shortfall in terms of permanent teachers of the magnitude he has indicated. As a matter of fact, I would put to the member and assert that over 5,000 graduates from faculties of education in this province over the course of the last four years have not yet been hired into permanent positions. So I would suggest to the member that the shortfall of which he speaks is somewhat overstated.
Mr Harris: I have a question for the Minister of Housing. The minister will know there is a growing concern about relationships that exist between certain development interests and certain nonprofit charitable organizations. In fact, a new and disturbing trend appears to be emerging where nonprofit groups are now being approached, and even created, by developers with a view to packaging housing projects for consideration and funding by her government. These projects, by their very nature, are being approved without any tender for the land, architectural services, construction, financing or consulting services.
I wonder if the minister can tell me how many of these kinds of packaged, untendered projects have received Ontario government funding or commitments since she has been minister.
Hon Ms Hošek: I will undertake to get information on the question that the member asked, but it is so broad that it is a little difficult to answer. I think what I can tell the member, from reading the newspaper as he did today, is that apparently some of this kind of building of nonprofit housing by charitable organizations did take place under the program that was funded by Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp in the period before 1985.
In our ministry we fund nonprofit groups on the basis of the need and the demand that they are able to demonstrate for the housing in their communities. It is then up to the nonprofit groups to decide how exactly they are going to build the housing that is involved here. It is up to them to choose who the builder is and who they are going to work with as development consultant to make sure that the project gets built.
Mr Harris: The minister seems to have a simplistic notion that if you throw enough money at the problem, the problem will go away. I believe that explains two things: (1) why she is a Liberal and (2) why the problem is getting worse.
Tendering is not a novel concept, it is not a novel idea, it is not a Conservative plot to limit housing. It is an accepted practice in most civilized democracies to ensure value for the dollar, to ensure a fair competition and to preserve the integrity of a tax-based funding system. There are billions of provincial tax dollars up for grabs.
Why in the world would the minister not insist that every single nickel of government money that goes into a project be conditional on an open and fair public tendering process for the architects, for the consultants, for the land and for the builder that is going to build that project, so that we can have integrity and fairness in the system?
Hon Ms Hošek: I recall very vividly standing in this House before the April 1988 budget and hearing the member opposite complain that the Ministry of Housing was not spending enough money on nonprofit housing. Now we have clearly made a commitment to spending a lot of resources on building nonprofit housing and building it --
Mr Harris: How much of it was tendered? That is the question.
Hon Ms Hošek: Is the member interested in the answer to his question? Then perhaps he should listen to the answer.
We have a method of allocating resources to nonprofit groups all over the province to make sure that they build housing all over the province to meet community needs. We also have agreed upon ways for them to go through the process of choosing developers, choosing builders, choosing housing consultants. That is an extremely important method.
We believe that our work with the nonprofit sector has been extremely good. Also, the Provincial Auditor is always available to look at our records, and does so regularly to make sure that there is value for money and that buildings are built at a reasonable price and that people in this province get the housing that they need.
Mr Owen: I have a question for the Minister of Health. Immediate publicity seems to dwell on drugs such as crack and cocaine, but alcohol continues to kill more children than any drug. Underage drinking contributes to one out of four weekend driving accidents. The age group of 16 to 18 years involves 25,000 traffic accidents a year. Studies show that 35 per cent of Ontario high school students from grades 11 to 13 admit to drinking and driving, and nearly 70 per cent of Ontario students between grades 7 and 13 consume alcohol.
My question to the minister is, in terms of programs and cost, what is this province doing to address what I perceive as a major problem for the province?
Hon Mrs Caplan: I would like to acknowledge the member’s interest in what I believe, as well as he, is a very significant issue and challenge facing us in the province. In fact, alcohol abuse is the number one substance abuse in the province.
My ministry’s community mental health branch has responsibility for addictions programs for people 16 years and over. As well, the health promotion branch is involved in a variety of activities to prevent alcohol abuse at all ages. The Ministry of Community and Social Services has responsibility for programs targeted specifically to children under age 16.
This year the Ministry of Health will spend $43 million on 150 community-based addictions programs. I am pleased to tell the member that since 1987-88, spending has increased by $17.6 million, and that is a 68 per cent increase over the past two fiscal years. I want him to know that there is much to do, that we are very active in ensuring both new and expanded programs -- some 37 last year were funded -- but that in fact this is a major initiative for the province.
Mr Owen: I would like to bring to the attention of the minister what the problem is costing this province. It is estimated that alcohol-related problems cost the Ontario health care system more than $2.5 billion annually, which is double the medical cost caused by the abuse of illegal drugs. At the same time, law enforcement in alcohol is estimated to cost, in total, $500 million, which would be about double the cost spent battling illicit drugs.
The government is to be commended that we have been addressing the problem that we should not be drinking and driving. My question to the minister then is, what can be done to get across the message that drinking to excess is dangerous to one’s health whether one is driving or not driving?
Hon Mrs Caplan: I think the member points out quite clearly that substance abuse, including alcohol, is a very significant and important focus for our society and one which the community mental health branch as well as the health promotion branch within the ministry take very seriously in their responsibility.
A three-year, $4.5-million healthy lifestyles promotion program, which was launched last October, has the three components: not only the advertising strategy, but a community support component and a community action strategy. In response to the member, I think the community action strategy is particularly significant because it will hold community forums which will be bringing people together.
Hopefully, community coalitions will be formed, where we believe they have the expertise and the knowledge to build strong and supportive communities to achieve one of our goals identified by the Premier’s Council on Health Strategy, which will lead to healthy lifestyle activities, raising the consciousness in the communities to support their youth to make a healthy choice, because we know that health is a great feeling, to make sure that they do not abuse substances, particularly alcohol.
Mr Charlton: I have a question for the Minister of the Environment. The minister will be aware of the controversy which has evolved around the ground-water and well-water situation in Mill Grove in the town of Flamboro in Hamilton-Wentworth. The minister will be aware that the 1976 regional settlement study indicated that the use of the ground-water aquifer in Mill Grove was already at capacity and that, “Future growth within Mill Grove is not recommended until existing water supply problems are rectified. ”
There has been nothing done to change that situation since 1976. At the time the population was 600; it is now well over 700 with additional development having gone in. The community is concerned about elevated levels of nitrates in the water and about other possible contamination and problems around septic systems.
The Speaker: Your question?
Mr Charlton: Will the Minister of the Environment go into Mill Grove and do a complete water study of the ground-water and well-water system in Mill Grove to determine whether in fact that water system has reached, or perhaps even surpassed, its capacity because the recommendations of the settlement report have not been followed ?
Hon Mr Bradley: I would be pleased to do a thorough analysis of the situation in the area. What the member describes is a matter of concern in many jurisdictions, and that is where a jurisdiction wants to grow and, at the same time, there is a concern about the capacity of the water system, either in terms of providing water that people can use for drinking and washing purposes or whether the sewer system is capable of handling it.
In specific instances there are, through the testing that is done, results that have come out which are not as desirable as people in the area would like. Certainly I would be pleased to look into the matter further to determine the extent of the problem and what remedial action can be taken.
Mr Charlton: In this particular case, testing done by the ministry indicates nitrate levels in the water, for example, to be about four times the recommended level for drinking water. This has got residents in that community seriously scared. One of the recommendations in the settlement study, as a preferred option for the settlement at Mill Grove, is a communal well, which has never been followed up on.
I think the minister is the key person responsible for ensuring the safety of residents in terms of using their well safely, and a full investigation on his part is the only way this situation can be laid to rest and the proper solution found.
Hon Mr Bradley: Ordinarily the practice we follow is that a regional municipality -- in this case, my guess would be that the regional municipality is responsible for water and sewers -- brings forward requests for funding of specific projects, which we as a ministry then look at on a priority basis, giving the highest priority to those which have the greatest environmental problems. In other words, growth is not the highest priority; it is the environmental problems that would rate the highest on that particular list.
I think it is close to $200 million that the Treasurer has allocated this year for those purposes. Usually the request comes from the region. I am not intimately aware personally of a request that has come from the regional municipality in this case, but I would be prepared to look into it further and to look very carefully at the suggestions of the member and of other members in the area who I know have expressed concerns about that.
MUNICIPAL TAXATION POLICIES
Mr Cousens: I have a question for the Minister of Municipal Affairs. The minister will be aware that the municipality of Metropolitan Toronto has decided to advance its tax collection dates from the various area municipalities. It is estimated that this will cost the city of Toronto $9 million next year, North York, $9.5 million, and all of the Metro municipalities a total of $27.5 million.
Can the minister tell this House whether he supports this action by the municipality of Metropolitan Toronto?
Hon Mr Watkins: I think this is something for discussion among the municipalities and it is something they should be consulting on to arrive at the appropriate decision.
Mr Cousens: Presently the area municipalities, such as North York and Scarborough, are forced to collect not only their own taxes but also those for Metropolitan Toronto. The minister will know that Ontario school boards have the power to collect the taxes they levy.
Does the minister intend to provide Metro Toronto with the same power or with the power to collect taxes on behalf of all area municipalities?
Hon Mr Eakins: Legally the Metro Toronto council and others have full responsibility on this. As I said before, I think it is something that they should be meeting on and discussing among themselves in order to arrive at the appropriate solution.
Mr Chiarelli: My question is to the Minister of Skills Development and it is concerning his announcement last week regarding the skills program and, in particular, the high school apprenticeship program. As the minister is aware, there has been much publicity and attention given to the shortage of skilled workers in the trades. Can the minister tell the House how this program will help to alleviate the shortage of skilled workers in the province?
Hon Mr Curling: I want to thank the honourable member for his deep interest in the program. As the member knows, I am very concerned about the plight of industries that are experiencing tremendous shortages in regard to skilled workers. The program which the member has a keen interest in, the apprenticeship program, would allow an earlier entry of the apprenticeship students into the program.
As the member is quite aware, many of the apprentices come into the program at a very late age, at 24 or 25. This apprenticeship program would allow young people in grade 11 or grade 12 to enter the program at an earlier time.
Mr Chiarelli: I understand the ministry is working quite closely with the Ministry of Education and the various school boards across the province on this program. In particular, I understand that two school boards in the Ottawa area have expressed an interest in this particular program.
Can the minister indicate what stage the program is at and when these school boards might be able to begin their programs should their applications he approved?
Hen Mr Curling: The program itself makes it more accessible, more adaptable and more appealing to young people. I am very excited to announce that three other school boards have already indicated strong interest and will be starting the program in the coming September. The boards of Wellington, Timiskaming and Windsor have indicated their interest.
I have also learned that the Ottawa school board and the separate school board there have indicated their interest. There are many things to be worked out, working together to get the curriculum right. I am quite sure that with the experience of those three boards that have indicated their interest and which will be starting in September, the Ottawa school board and the separate school board will be on stream very early.
Mr Laughren: I have a question for the Chairman of Management Board and the person responsible for the mess of auto insurance in this province. The Minister of Financial Institutions will know that he imposed a 7.6 per cent cap on the increase of insurance premiums this year. Could he tell us what steps he has taken to prevent an insurance company from simply transferring a policy to another arm of its conglomeration in order to increase insurance premiums by more than 7.6 per cent?
Hon Mr Elston: We have had a certain amount of delays putting in place the legislation about which the member spoke. He recognizes the reasons for those delays in this House. He knows that when he reports to me certain specific instances, we would look after the inquiries made into those. If he will bring forward those inquiries, I can address those on a case-by-case basis so we can pursue fairness for the consumers.
I can tell the honourable gentleman, as he knows and as the public knows, that there have been certain companies that have refrained from writing new business, in fact, certain companies which have not continued to write business, and in those circumstances where that occurs and where classes of business are no longer written by companies, there will inevitably be a transfer of business to a new company writing a new policy for a new insured.
From the point of view of the honourable gentleman’s question, the Ministry of Financial Institutions and myself, as minister, continue to be active in monitoring the situation and reviewing those files with specifics which come to us so we can in fact intervene and do as much work as possible to protect the interests of the consuming public in Ontario.
Mr Laughren: The minister is not doing monitoring. He is simply an accomplice to the fraud and the deception that is going on out there in the automobile insurance industry. How else --
The Speaker: Order. Perhaps we had just better ask a question in a civilized sense.
Mr Laughren: How else can the minister explain how a company, such as the Canadian Commerce Insurance Co, could tell a policy-holder that it was transferring the policy to another company, called Cornhill Insurance Co Ltd, increasing the premiums by almost 30 per cent? At the same time, the addresses of the companies are identical. The president and the president’s signature of the two companies are identical. How in the world can the minister sit there and watch this deception and fraud occur, with him as an accomplice to it; otherwise, it would not still be happening. There is no other reason --
The Speaker: Order. Really. For the second time, you accuse the minister of being an accomplice to fraud. Will you withdraw it?
Mr Laughren: Yes, I will withdraw that and simply ask the minister --
The Speaker: Order. I wish the member would respect this place.
Mr Laughren: Well, I do --
The Speaker: Order. Minister?
Hon Mr Elston: I take seriously the need to protect the interests of the consumers. I do that when people bring cases to my attention. If the member had been interested, as I am, in the consumers, he could have brought the case directly to me and I would have looked into it.
The honourable gentleman accuses people, at liberty, of being involved in fraud and, like his leader and like the third party, seems to take delight in casting aspersions on the character of the members of this government, when he knows full well that we stand up and we support the need for consumer information, we support the need for good government, we support the need for fairness and integrity in the system.
He, above all others whom I have served with for some time, should know better than any that I do not participate in fraud. I will not participate in fraud and I will never accept that sort of name-calling in --
The Speaker: Order. Will the minister take his seat.
The Speaker: Order. I know now why the tradition is that the seats are placed two sword-lengths apart. However, it might help --
The Speaker: Order. I believe it would help immensely if all members would address their comments through the chair.
ASSISTANCE TO FARMERS
Mr McLean: My question is for the Premier. As the Premier is aware, he recently received a letter, dated 10 July, from the Ontario Fruit and Vegetable Growers’ Association, asking for a meeting with him to discuss the severe crop losses suffered by Ontario horticultural farmers during the drought in 1988.
Will the Premier be meeting this week or soon with representatives of this group, who are being denied any assistance under the federal drought relief assistance program?
Hon Mr Peterson: I understand my honourable friend being very critical of the federal government, as most Canadians are, on these matters.
I have not seen the letter my honourable friend refers to. As he knows, I get many requests for meetings and I try to meet with as many people as I possibly can.
One of the things I will be doing is taking the advice of my esteemed colleague the Minister of Agriculture and Food (Mr Riddell) on this matter, who is, as he knows, very sympathetic to the growers, understands their problems and stands always ready to work with them. I stand ready to work with him as well to assist the growers in any way we can.
Mr McLean: It may be interesting to the Premier that in this letter they indicate, “We feel that Mr Riddell’s untimely refusal to co-operate on this matter may very well jeopardize the process and deny the horticultural industry its fair share of the drought assistance program.”
This is a program that is done in co-operation with the federal government and the provincial government. It appears that the Minister of Agriculture and Food is not interested in co-operating, and that is why the group wants to meet with the Premier. Will the Premier be having a meeting with them upon their request?
Hon Mr Peterson: As I said, I am not aware of the letter or the request. As the member knows, I get hundreds of requests for meetings and, as I said, I try to be as co-operative as I can. I am sure the minister is on top of the situation. I have every confidence in his ability. Certainly, if necessary, I am happy to meet with anybody I can to be helpful, but I am sure the minister can resolve this question.
Mr Miclash: I have a question for the Minister of Culture and Communications. Would the minister bring us up to date on the status of the future use of the Mather-Walls House located in Keewatin and owned by the Ontario Heritage Foundation, an agency of her ministry?
Hon Ms Oddie Munro: I am aware of the member’s interest in preservation of architecturally significant homes and locations in the north. He certainly has been a very interested person in this whole debate.
The building is owned by the Ontario Heritage Foundation: We purchased it in 1975. Subsequent to that, I believe a lot of capital dollars went into the restoration of the property, which was completed in 1984. The heritage foundation then commissioned a consultant’s report to take a look at the future use of the property. I visited the property and I think it certainly merits use either as a museum or some kind of use as a historical home.
The consultant’s report was made public, and then the Ontario Heritage Foundation asked for letters of interest from the public. Several were received. They then sent out an information package to see if anyone had a complete proposal. Only one group responded, the Lake of the Woods Historical Society. They are now looking at a suggested use as a historical museum.
Mr Miclash: I would like to ask the minister if the foundation will be holding a public hearing into the matters surrounding the house?
Hon Ms Oddie Munro: The amount of effort that went into asking the community for its input suggested that a lot of people were interested. The future-use proposals were sent out. Only one group, ie, the Lake of the Woods Historical Society, responded. The heritage foundation will be working closely with the society, which I understand represents the views of many people in the community, although I would certainly encourage people who would support the proposal of a museum to include their recommendations either to the ministry, to the member or to the historical society.
I should tell the member that the Ontario Heritage Foundation will be reviewing the proposal, however, in the fall and will be expected to make a decision in concert with the community as soon as possible.
FISHING LICENCE REVENUES
Mr Wildman: I have a question to the Minister of Natural Resources regarding the assessment by the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters Inc of the minister’s administration of the new fishing licence revenue.
Will the minister confirm that although his ministry spent approximately 85 per cent of the S8.2-million revenue from the fishing licences on fishery programs, not all of it was spent on new or improved programs; and if he can confirm that, does he accept the view of the federation that, in its words, “Kerrio and the current government reject the idea that all the revenues from the resident sports fishing licence should go to improve the sports fishery”?
Hon Mr Kerrio: I gave an undertaking when we put in place what I describe as a user fee; I did not take it on myself to decide how the moneys should be spent. I put in place a fish advisory group, the Ontario Fisheries Advisory Council, which I thought represented all parts of this province, under the able chairmanship of Dr Crossman. I am very pleased they were able to accept that responsibility, and so far I think it has worked rather well.
I suppose if I were sitting over there I would be as critical as the member is, because he is very upset that it is working as well as it is. The fact of the matter is that I could quote some comments here, where if the member had been paying attention to the whole situation he would not have been thrown out of the House because he did not know what the program was all about.
Mr Wildman: The minister always likes to accuse people of not knowing what they are talking about, when in fact it is he who is unaware.
Does the minister not accept the fact that the council to which he refers, under the leadership of Dr Crossman, stated in its report that it was told by his ministry staff that some of the projects that were funded by the use of the licence funds were projects that were previously already funded by the ministry and which would have been dropped if the money from the licence revenues had not been available?
If that is the case, is the ministry not subsidizing its own program with the use of these moneys rather than starting new programs to improve the fishery in this province?
Hon Mr Kerrio: That is as convoluted a comment as I have ever heard here. First the member says that if it had been dropped, it would have existed anyway. What my people were telling the member was that if we were not going to fund that, money from the fishery licence would fund it. That is pretty simple arithmetic, I would think.
Hon Mr Mancini: NDP economics.
Hon Mr Kerrio: It really is NDP economics, as my friend has said. I would suggest that when we have a ministry that put some $30 million into fisheries and, because of the acceptance of a fishing licence, a user fee as I describe it, we increased the potential by 25 per cent, I think that is a very meaningful way to provide the kind of resource we do for the people of Ontario.
I think we got there just in time, in fact, because it had been badly neglected on many fronts by the former government. I am very pleased to say that everything that is being done has been money wisely spent from our fishing licence revenue, and that most good-thinking people out there and most sportsmen accept the fact that if we are going to have these opportunities well into the future, it is worth the fee when one considers the kind of money that is spent on fishing equipment and everything else.
Mr Jackson: I have a question to the Minister of Health, again on the neonatal intensive care bed shortages and access problems in this province.
Yesterday, I asked the minister about the ongoing problems at Chedoke McMaster Hospitals and I asked her if she was aware, if her ministry staff had specifically advised her of the 23 June memo to all 18 area hospitals in west central region, that it had told all those hospitals that the Chedoke McMaster unit was now closed more than half the time during any given month and that they should seek alternative care outside of the region and therefore would have to go to Toronto, London and Kingston.
The minister was unwilling to answer the question yesterday. Would she simply confirm that her ministry did advise her of the existence of this letter and that McMaster had been forced to take such drastic action?
Hon Mrs Caplan: I want to say to the member that the ministry has been assured by Chedoke McMaster Hospitals that the ministry’s priority of maternal and newborn health has been acknowledged and that service levels at Chedoke McMaster Hospitals in those areas are being maintained. I want him to know and fully understand, because I know he has difficulty understanding that the hospitals are run by independent boards of trustees who have responsibility for budget allocations.
Mr Jackson: It was a simple question, just beyond the minister.
The Speaker: Order. Once again, the member is not interested. I mentioned that once on a previous occasion, and I am sorry I have to do it again.
Mr Kanter: I have received a petition signed by 720 citizens of Ontario, collected by Flying Monkey Natural Foods situated in my riding, supporting the continued regulation of naturopathy in Ontario. Mr Speaker, I have signed the petition and request that you direct these petitions to the appropriate minister for response.
Mr D. W. Smith: I have a petition:
“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:
“The Ministry of Education has made evolutionism a compulsory core unit in senior OAC (previously grade 13) history and science. Since evolutionism and creationism are completed acts in the past, neither can be proven nor disproven. In fairness to all parents and students, equal time should be given in presenting the underlying assumptions of each. Through the two-model approach, the skills of critical thinking such as recognition of bias, awareness of society’s influence on one’s bias and the awareness of assumptions can allow students to examine their own belief system and better appreciate an opposing view.”
There are 10 names attached to this petition and I affix my own.
Mr Wildman: I have a petition signed by 214 residents of the Ophir, Bruce Mines and Sault Ste Marie areas.
“To the Honourable the Lieutenant Governor of Ontario and the Legislative Assembly of Ontario, and in particular the Minister of Transportation:
“We, the undersigned, beg leave to petition the Parliament of Ontario as follows:
“Whereas sections of highways 638 and 561 have deteriorated to the point where they are extremely rough; and
“Whereas damage to vehicles may result
“We petition the Minister of Transportation to move ahead the capital reconstruction programs to upgrade these two highways.”
I support the petition and would add that there already have been two accidents on these two highways due to their poor condition.
The Speaker: It is not necessary to make all the editorial comment.
Mr Cureatz: As I confirmed to you, Mr Speaker, I would never make editorial comments, but I do have a petition:
“To the Honourable the Lieutenant Governor and the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:
“Whereas the government of Ontario in its discussions with the Ontario Teachers’ Federation on amendments to the Teachers’ Superannuation Act has refused to allow an equal partnership between teachers and government in management of the pension fund, establishment of an acceptable contribution increase, benefit adjustments, equitable treatment of future surpluses and a satisfactory dispute resolution process,
“We, the undersigned. petition the Legislative Assembly to insist that the Treasurer of Ontario negotiate with the Ontario Teachers’ Federation towards an equitable settlement.”
It is signed by 12 of my constituents in the riding of Durham East and I have affixed my signature thereto.
Mr Beer: I have two petitions on the same subject and the message reads:
“To the Honourable the Lieutenant Governor and the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:
“We, the undersigned, beg leave to petition the Parliament of Ontario as follows:
“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 practice their art and science to the fullest without prejudice or harassment.”
There are two petitions, one with 60 signatures and one with 215, which I now present to the assembly.
Mr Epp: I have a petition here, similar to the one just presented, signed by 118 people who are all patients of Dr Bender in the great city of Waterloo.
Mr D. W. Smith: I have petitions here signed by 41 people.
“To the Honourable the Lieutenant Governor and the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:
“We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly to insist that the Treasurer of Ontario enter into negotiations with the Ontario Teachers’ Federation which will lead to a settlement equitable to teachers.”
I have affixed my name to the bottom.
Mr Runciman: I have a petition addressed to His Honour the Lieutenant Governor and the Legislative Assembly of Ontario.
“Whereas Howard Bus Lines is discontinuing their shuttle service between Gananoque and Kingston; and
“Whereas this service is a vital link between the two communities and allows the freedom of choice for many citizens in regard to living and working conditions,
“We, the undersigned, beg leave to petition the Parliament of Ontario to support the retention of the shuttle service between the communities of Kingston and Gananoque.”
This petition is signed by 698 residents of Gananoque and area.
PRIVATE MEMBERS’ PUBLIC BUSINESS
Mr Conway moved that, notwithstanding standing order 71(h), the requirement for notice for private members’ public business be waived with respect to ballot items 17 and 18.
Motion agreed to.
Hen Mr Conway: The next one is the interesting one.
REFERRAL OF BILL 18
Mr Conway moved that the order of the House for third reading of Bill 18, An Act to amend the Ontario Municipal Improvement Corporation Act, be discharged and the bill be referred back to the standing committee on finance and economic affairs.
Motion agreed to.
CONSIDERATION OF BILL PR32
Mr Conway moved that standing order 79 respecting notice of committee hearings be suspended for the consideration of Bill Pr32, An Act respecting the City of Toronto, in the standing committee on regulations and private bills on Wednesday 19 July 1989.
Motion agreed to.
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS
LAND TRANSFER TAX AMENDMENT ACT, 1989 / LOI OF 1989 MODIFIANT LA LOI SUR LES DROITS DE CESSION IMMOBILIÈRE
Mr Grandmaître moved first reading of Bill 48, An Act to amend the band Transfer Tax Act.
M. Grandmaître propose la première lecture du projet de loi 48, Loi portant modification de la Loi sur les droits de cession immobilière.
Motion agreed to.
Hon Mr Grandmaître: This bill, An Act to amend the Land Transfer Tax Act, is part of the budget policy of the government announced by the Treasurer (Mr R. F. Nixon) in his budget address to this House on 17 May of this year. The main purpose of this bill is to extend the application of the Land Transfer Tax Act to certain dispositions of beneficial interests in land where the person receiving the beneficial interest has not registered a conveyance evidencing the disposition and has not paid tax.
We have long relied on the comprehensive application of the Land Transfer Tax Act to ensure that the vast majority of transfers of land in the province are subject to land transfer tax. In recent years, the increasing use of trust transfer schemes to attempt to avoid the payment of tax has started to erode the broad base of the land transfer tax.
Depuis longtemps, de nombreuses applications, auxquelles sont assujettis les droits de cession immobilière, veillaient sur la grande majorité des cessions immobilières en Ontario; soit, elles étaient soumises aux droits de cession immobilière. Au cours des dernières années, l’utilisation accrue de plans de cession fiduciaire, dont le but est de contourner le paiement de ces droits, a commencé à éroder la vaste base de droits de cession immobilière.
CITY OF TORONTO ACT, 1989
Mr Kanter moved first reading of Bill Pr32, An Act respecting the City of Toronto.
Motion agreed to.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Mr Conway moved resolution 6:
That, in the opinion of this House, when the order of the day is called for the consideration of Bill 162, An Act to amend the Workers’ Compensation Act, by the committee of the whole House there shall be two sessional days allocated to the consideration of this bill. On the first of these sessional days, all amendments proposed to be moved to Bill 162 shall be laid on the table before the normal adjournment hour of 6 pm. On the second of these sessional days, at 5:45 pm, the Chairman of the committee of the whole House shall put all questions necessary to dispose of every section of the bill and any amendments thereto not yet passed, including those proposed amendments not yet moved which shall be deemed to be moved, as well as the title, and shall report the bill forthwith to the House, and that the question for the adoption of the report of the committee of the whole House shall be put forthwith and decided without amendment or debate.
Further, that there shall be one sessional day allocated to the consideration of Bill 162 at third reading and that at 5:45 pm on that sessional day the Speaker shall interrupt the proceedings and put all questions necessary to dispose of the motion for third reading.
And finally, that in the case of any division requested during the time that this bill is being considered, the bells shall be limited to 15 minutes.
Hon Mr Conway: I would like to make an opening comment about the motion standing in my name and about which there has already been some discussion in this House. I was pleased to hear you, Mr Speaker, read the verdict on the orderliness of this motion. I paid particular attention to the ruling that was addressed to the points of order raised, most especially by my friend the member for Windsor-Riverside (Mr D. S. Cooke), who the other day put the argument that, from his point of view, the motion was out of order and asked that it be examined on that account.
We had a rather lively discussion, I guess it was last Thursday, about this particular matter, Mr Speaker. You ruled yesterday that in fact the motion was in order. I do not want to rehash a lot of old straw. I just have to make the point again about what the government wants to do in this respect, and I have to believe that my friends in the official opposition are not surprised by this, because we have, over the course of almost 13 months, been proceeding with the debate and consideration of this very important reform to a very important part of our economic and social policy in Ontario.
I listened, for example, the other night, as I know many members did, to the remarks of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr B. Rae) as he took us through a socialist perspective of the workers’ compensation evolution.
Hon Mr Conway: I see my friends in the New Democratic Party shaking their heads. I do know that it is bold of some to call the leader of the New Democratic Party in Ontario a socialist, because I remember a time, not that many years ago, when the Leader of the Opposition, the leader of the Ontario New Democratic Party, was not prepared to admit to his socialism.
Mr Fleet: The “s” word.
Hon Mr Conway: The “s” word, as my friend the member for High Park-Swansea observes. I have always felt that the member for York South (Mr B. Rae) was a bona fide socialist, was a committed socialist, was an upfront socialist, and I thought that the other night, to his great credit, he with eloquence and passion gave a very moving account from a socialist perspective of the evolution of the workers’ compensation legislation in this province from the early days of this century through to the present time.
Of course others, the Progressive Conservatives, who sponsored the first compensation legislation under the aegis of the late, great Sir James P. Whitney, a proud son of eastern Ontario, would have a rather different view from the socialist view advanced by the Leader of the Opposition the other night. Certainly, my colleague the Minister of Labour (Mr Sorbara) has, with eloquence and effect over the last number of months, made a very strong case for the favourable consideration of this Liberal initiative that is currently before us; that is, Bill 162.
We understand from the government’s perspective why the New Democratic Party feels it must oppose with all its heart and all its soul this particular initiative. I have to say that as House leader, in considering what I would do to advance Bill 162 after almost a year of debate, when I hear members of the official opposition say outside this chamber, and in it, that they are going to move heaven and earth to stop and to defeat Bill 162, I have to take note of that. I know something of the power of NDP obstruction. If two years in this job has taught me anything, it has taught me something about how the NDP in opposition, and on occasion with its friends to the right in the Conservative Party, can move from opposition to obstruction.
I would have to say that it is certainly never a government House leader’s first or second or third choice or preference to contemplate or to advance time allocation. I recognize what my friends were saying in the debate on the efficacy of government motion 6, that aspect of Parliament which recognizes time allocation, and I forget Erskine May’s phrase, but something of a last resort. I understand that.
Mr McCague: You always favoured it.
Hon Mr Conway: No, I do not believe I have. My learned colleague and senior friend from Alliston, the member for Simcoe West, would know that there were times in another administration when I was of a different view with respect to time allocation.
Mr McCague: That is right.
Mr Wiseman: That is right, and if you were over here now, on this side --
Hon Mr Conway: The squire from Perth, the member for Lanark-Renfrew would probably agree with my friend from Alliston.
I always face this when we deal with matters of this kind, of procedure, because there are Tories who somehow feel that my past as an active member of the opposition somehow would justify my support of any obstruction. I do not believe that a careful, balanced and dispassionate analysis of my role in opposition would support that contention.
Mr Wiseman: When you were over here, it was a different story. What changed your mind?
Hon Mr Conway: It is true, I say to my friends from Lanark-Renfrew and Simcoe West, that on occasion I took very strong exception to some of what was being done by, I remember, our dear friend the former doctor of medicine, the minister of all education.
Hon Mr Elston: Are there still Tories?
Hon Mr Conway: I can remember, as the Minister of Financial Institutions (Mr Elston) can remember, debates when the then minister of all education charged us to a rather spirited reaction to some of the government’s proposals.
Mr Wiseman: On many occasions.
Hon Mr Conway: I have to believe that my friends from Lanark-Renfrew and Simcoe West, as they sat around the cabinet table with that learned lady, would on occasion within the privacy of that council chamber also have known what it was like to have been on the other side of an argument with the former minister of all education, the very learned lady, the former member for York Mills, for whom we all had, then and now, a very high level of affection and respect.
But I think it is fair to say that if one takes a look at, for example, what I did in opposition -- and I vigorously debated, I strongly opposed -- I do not remember too many occasions when I resorted to the kind of obstructionism we have been seeing in this chamber over the last two years.
Mr Laughren: Ah.
Hon Mr Conway: My friend the member for Nickel Belt expresses some incredulity. I think he would do well, scholar that he is, to look carefully at some of what happened here in the early 1980s. I do not remember a time in the early 1980s, when I think we were, in opposition, rather feisty, anything like the combinations we have been seeing here, where days and weeks have been lost by the --
Mr Morin-Strom: You’re losing it in your old age, Sean. Your memory is going.
Hon Mr Conway: I am prepared to admit that certain parts of my memory may not be as strong as I would like.
Mr Laughren: Or your body.
Hon Mr Conway: My friend the member for Nickel Belt says other parts of my body may be equally weak. I admit to a certain measure of imperfection. I do not think there is any question about that.
What we have had over the last year, I think, is a very vigorous and active debate about this public policy. The government has proposed; the opposition, most especially the New Democratic Party, has opposed with all its vigour and with all its passion. I think it is fair to say it has been a difference almost on first principles. That is what Parliament is in some respects all about, and I do not expect that any amount of debate will ever convince my friends in the official opposition that this kind of reform, which we believe is a reasonable and necessary and an intelligent reform will ever be acceptable.
Given that, we must then look at somehow deciding the question. It has been, I repeat, 13 months. The bill was read the first time in this chamber on 20 June 1988. Second reading was moved by my colleague and friend the Minister of Labour on 19 October 1988. Twenty-two members from all sides spoke during seven days of legislative discussion on that second reading debate, which carried on 23 November 1988. We had a very good debate over the course of the summer and fall of 1988 on the second reading of this particular bill.
It was then ordered for committee, and I must say it was ordered to a consideration in the standing committee on resources development, so ably chaired by our illustrious and senior colleague the member for Nickel Belt, who I think deserves no little bit of credit for the very evenhanded and fairminded way in which he carried out his responsibilities as chairman of that committee.
I want to take this opportunity to congratulate my colleagues as well, not just the minister but the parliamentary assistant, the member for Halton Centre (Mrs Sullivan), people like the member for St Catharines-Brock (Mr Dietsch), members like my senior colleague the member for Elgin (Miss Roberts), the member for Algoma-Manitoulin (Mr Brown) who sits sage-like in his seat this afternoon, the member for Durham West (Mrs Stoner) --
Mr Polsinelli: What about me?
Hon Mr Conway: -- perhaps the member for Yorkview. I do not know that he was involved to any great extent, but I will say that from our point of view --
Mr Laughren: Norfolk.
Ho Mr Conway: Was the member for Norfolk (Mr Miller) there? All of the good people who worked on that committee, including the chairman, and I say this most respectfully, deserve a great deal of praise and commendation for the very good way in which they discharged a very difficult responsibility.
There was a desire on all sides to have extensive public hearings. Those public hearings commenced in the late winter of this year. Some 22 days of public hearings in 12 different towns and cities across the province, including eight public hearing days here in the city of Toronto, were had. Some 346 separate groups and individuals contributed something like 400 different submissions at that important stage of this particular consideration of Bill 162. There were approximately 600 requests, I think, and 233 of those who requested actually appeared.
I think that was a very significant and positive part of this process. To be sure, it was not perfect. I know there are some in the official opposition who are musing to themselves that not everyone who wanted to make a submission was in fact able to be heard. That is true in this case, as it is regrettably true in many other cases.
At the end of the public hearing process, I think it is fair to say, certainly on behalf of colleagues like my friend the member for St Catharines-Brock and others on this side, there was a real desire to then build on the constructive criticism that had been advanced throughout the course of those 22 days of public hearings.
Speaking for the government, a number of amendments were then generated to reflect that constructive criticism and to make this bill an even better bill. So the consideration of these amendments and the clause-by-clause commenced on 25 May 1989. A number of days, I believe something in the order of 10 sitting days, were dedicated to the clause-by-clause consideration of Bill 162 in the standing committee on resources development, through late May and all the way through the month of June.
What did we find? To be fair, I say to my friend from Alliston, we found in the committee a New Democratic Party that was prepared to be as good as its rhetoric inasmuch as it was not apparently going to allow this bill to proceed at anything more than a snail’s pace. My friend the learned chairman nods approvingly.
I think it is fair to say that for anyone who monitored that committee, the very committed member for Sudbury East (Miss Martel) led a protracted procedural wrangle that tied the committee up in knots for days. I do not denigrate the member for Sudbury East because, again, I think it is important to say that the New Democratic Party was doing in the committee what it promised to do from the beginning: “Withdraw or die. We will move heaven and earth to defeat this bill.”
Mr Laughren: Take no prisoners.
Hon Mr Conway: “Take no prisoners,” the chairman of the committee says. So what is one to do? The member for St Catharines-Brock would say to me in a very quiet tone: “House leader, will you not understand how stressful it is becoming day after painful day as we try to move through these clauses to improve the bill by considering, and hopefully acting on, a number of the amendments? We can’t do anything because there is just an obstruction, the like of which you could not imagine.”
Knowing the New Democratic Party as I know it, I could believe just how awesome it might be. I thought never, never would I enter the chamber of the resources committee hearings because I thought that would certainly inflame the passions. I think on one occasion I inquired of the chief government whip whether he might look in. I think he did, and he reported back that his presence was perhaps not greatly appreciated. But of course it was obvious what was going on.
I do not think this motion to allocate time for the consideration of the bill in the committee of the whole and through the third reading stage is any surprise. I do not think the honourable members, in the second party particularly, expected anything less. In fact, I guess they would have been quite surprised, if not shocked, if the government had not moved time allocation in this respect.
While it is important, I say to my friend the member for Hamilton Mountain (Mr Chariton), that while an opposition has every right to have its say, to oppose with all vigour and all vitality any government initiative -- and my friends in the official opposition are absolutely right that a minority must be heard; I accept that as a first principle of parliamentary democracy -- after a reasonable time, and I believe that 13 months is a very reasonable amount of time, it is equally true to suggest and to argue that a government must have an opportunity to move forward and to have certain important questions decided -- yes, decided with all of the dissent of an opposition, ably led by my friend the member for York South and more ably supported by our senior friend the member for Hamilton East (Mr Mackenzie).
It is absolutely their right to append their dissent at every time; but I have to say that as we recognize the right of dissent and the right of the minority, as part of that consideration we must also acknowledge the right of duly elected governments to move forward with their legislation programs and to have questions in that regard decided after a reasonable length of time. That is really what government motion 6 is all about.
I know my friends are concerned about the fact that this time allocation motion is rather different in that it provides a means whereby amendments can be put in the committee of the whole and considered. That is written into this time allocation in a way that is perhaps unusual for members of the official opposition, and they know why. They know precisely why. What we saw, what my friend the member for St Catharines-Brock reported out of the committee, is precisely what we would see in the committee of the whole if our friends in the official opposition, the masters of obstruction in this regard, for all the reasons that they have advanced from one end of the province to the other --
Mr Dietsch: Filibuster kings.
Hon Mr Conway: Filibuster kings.
Mr Mackenzie: Come out and talk to the injured workers today.
Hon Mr Conway: I want to say to my friend the member for Hamilton East that we on this side have spoken to the injured workers. I know that he feels --
Mr Charlton: We just said --
Hon Mr Conway: -- with his friend the member for Hamilton Mountain, they have a monopoly of interest in that respect. They are wrong in that, because all the members of this caucus, and I think it is fair to say all the members of the Tory caucus, are concerned that this be as good a bill as we can make it. There is no one in this House, not the member for Hamilton East, not his friend the member for Hamilton Mountain, not their colleague the member for Sault Ste Marie (Mr Morin-Strom), and certainly -- I do not want to drag the learned chairman of the committee into this -- not even our senior friend the member for Nickel Belt (Mr Laughren), none of us has a monopoly of concern for injured workers. I think it is a broadly based concern that this be as good a bill as we can make it. I want to say that we have invested a lot of time and energy trying to understand and to address the concerns of those who would be affected by this reform of our workers’ compensation legislation.
But I want to turn to the earlier point. If, for example, we simply had a time allocation motion that set aside a certain number of days for the consideration of this bill in the committee of the whole, is there anyone who imagines, I say to my long-time friend the member for Norfolk, is there anybody who could contemplate anything other than what we saw in the standing committee on resources development? The member for Sudbury East or her delegate would come in here in the committee of the whole and would obstruct the bill at that stage to a point where I would guess that we could use up all of the allocated time and get to none of the amendments.
On behalf of my scores of colleagues on the government side, I want to say that we take very seriously the part of the process that is public hearings. When we invite people to come to a committee of the Legislature to express their views, we are very keen to hear those views. Since we do not view ourselves as the architects of all perfection, since we understand that all bills, all legislation, can be improved and it certainly will be improved if the public has an opportunity to have its say, we are very keen to provide in this time allocation motion an opportunity for the consideration of the amendments, because we believe that is keeping faith with the scores of people who came to the resources committee in the communities of Toronto, Timmins, Sudbury, Ottawa, Windsor, London, Kitchener-Waterloo, Dryden, Thunder Bay, Fort Frances, Oshawa and Hamilton.
We feel over here, as I believe our friends do across the way, that we have an obligation to those people who came in good faith to express their views.
Mr Charlton: That is why we are here.
Hon Mr Conway: To the extent the amendments reflect much of that constructive criticism, we have, I say to my friend the member for Hamilton Mountain, we believe, a real commitment to those people to consider those amendments.
That is why this time allocation motion is written the way it is. If I thought my friends in the New Democratic Party would not continue their obstruction, would not deny members of the committee of the whole House an opportunity to have a normal debate in this regard, I would be the first to admit that this kind of provision would certainly not be required.
But I ask my friends, for example, the member for St Catharines-Brock and the member for Algoma-Manitoulin, what evidence is there, over the course of the past year, that our friends in the second party, the New Democratic Party, are going to allow that kind of normal process to occur in the committee of the whole?
Mr Dietsch: Absolutely none.
Hon Mr Conway: Absolutely none, and I quite categorically agree.
So we have, I think, all things considered, a reasonable measure, an allocation of three additional days, two of which will be for the committee of the whole, where the amendments must be put before the Clerk of the committee by not later than 5:45 pm of the first sessional day, and they must all be dealt with by the end of the second sessional day.
I do not think that is unrealistic in the circumstances. I do hope that members on all sides will discipline themselves in the light of this particular allocation of time. Of course, a third day is provided for third-reading debate.
All things considered -- 13 months of debate since the bill was read the first time; weeks of public hearings; seven days of second reading debate; over a month, late May through all of June, in the resources committee for clause-by-clause that admittedly got nowhere -- I do not think the end of all that, in the light of all the public interest, the hundreds of public submissions, an allocation of time such as is contained in government motion 6 is unreasonable.
In fact, I think it is quite to the contrary. I cannot imagine that, if not in the publicity of this place, surely in the privacy of their souls, my friends in the opposition do not understand that it is not only a reasonable allocation of time but it is altogether necessary and ought to be supported.
Mr Charlton: I perhaps should start out by saying I have never heard such a pompous, arrogant, silly package of remarks in my entire 12 years here.
Perhaps I should also start out by saying that those of us in this caucus who have participated in the obstruction to which the government House leader refers are participating in that obstruction for very specific and, I think, very sound reasons. We are not here on this issue in the middle of July for a good time. We may be here for a long time, but we are not here for a good time.
One of the reasons we are still here and one of the reasons the obstruction was going on is the very reason that the House leader’s remarks were so silly just a few moments ago. His party and his colleagues on the resources development committee, who he says have an obligation to those people who made presentations before the resources development committee on Bill 162, have totally ignored the vast predominance of those presentations. If the government has an obligation to those people, why is this bill still before this Legislature? The vast predominance of those presentations called for Bill 162’s withdrawal, the vast predominance.
We could read through the list that we read through for the House last Tuesday night if the government would like to take that long yet again, but the vast predominance of the presentations that were heard by the House leader, by the member for St Catharines-Brock and others, were presentations which demanded the withdrawal of this bill.
Now the government House leader knows full well that this party has opposed any form of closure on any occasion when it has been brought before the House. But it is also fair to say that the government House leader’s memory is extremely, extremely short. The first occasion in which I was involved in this Legislature on a time allocation motion, upon which this one was based because it was the first occasion I believe in the history of this Parliament, was in 1982 on Bill 179, the former government’s bill to control the pay in the public sector of the province of Ontario.
That bill was in a committee of this House and they never even got to start clause by clause, let alone anything else. They never got past any of the procedural arguments. But the government House leader all of a sudden cannot remember that divisiveness which he was involved in personally over a particularly important and controversial issue. But more importantly on the other side of the question, I would like to deal with a few reasons why closure on this bill or on any other bill is a bad game and a bad act that does not serve well the people of the province of Ontario.
The first issue is the one I have already started with, the fact that the vast majority of the public presentations in the case of Bill 162 have been ignored. But there is also the comment in the government’s position here today, and it was set out yet again by the government House leader here today the same as it was last week before we had the all-night debate on Bill 162 last Tuesday night and Wednesday morning, that somehow because this bill has been before this Legislature for 13 months now, that somehow 13 months makes a bill good, right and ready to pass.
The government House leader, and this is another reason why I think his remarks were so absolutely silly today, stood here in this House just a few moments ago and said that there are concerns about workers’ compensation and injured workers in all three parties and that we need to listen if we want to end up with a good piece of legislation. Yet this Liberal government stands here today saying: “Our solution is the right one, the other parties’ thoughts be damned. Forget whatever it is the other parties think should be done to the legislation because our answer is the right answer and the only answer.” That is what this government is saying here today.
I would just like to remind the government House leader that although there is no question that there were tactics of obstruction going on in the resources development committee because of that very attitude that was being displayed by the government members, by the Minister of Labour under questioning here in the House, by the Premier when it was raised with him, that during the course of the clause by clause in the committee there were two clauses that were dealt with -- clause 1 and clause 2 of Bill 162. There were two amendments to Bill 162 which were passed in the resources development committee. One of those amendments was a government amendment. The other was an amendment moved by my colleague the member for Sudbury East, which it took us all afternoon to convince the Minister of Labour to accept, but he finally accepted that amendment. He finally accepted an opposition amendment, because there was a major flaw in the wording of his legislation.
Hon Mr Sorbara: It took 20 minutes.
Mr Charlton: It took 20 minutes to convince the minister, he says, but it took us all afternoon to get through to him to make him listen in the first place. The minister is correct. It took only 20 minutes to convince him once he opened his eyes and his ears, but it took the first half of the afternoon to convince him and his colleagues to even listen to what we were putting forward.
That is the way every single clause in Bill 162 should be dealt with if the government is going to proceed with this legislation, because in its present form it is an extremely bad piece of legislation. This party, today or any other day, is not going to sit down and quietly shut up and allow this Legislature to pass an extremely bad piece of legislation without comment.
I am going to refer to a couple of items I have referred to in this House before, which I think relate very particularly and very importantly in this debate this afternoon around closure and this whole proposition on the part of the government that somehow 13 months in the legislative process makes for a good piece of legislation.
The first time I ran was in 1975. I did not get elected in that election; I was elected 18 months later, in 1977. But just a few months prior to the election in 1975, the then Minister of Labour, Dr Stephenson, was involved in public hearings across Ontario on occupational health and safety.
Those public hearings occurred prior to even the drafting of legislation. Those were public hearings when the then Minister of Labour was out trying to determine both a direction for improving occupational health and safety in this province and for coming up with what they called in those days an omnibus occupational health and safety bill, to include the old mining safety act, the Industrial Safety Act and the Construction Safety Act all into one piece of legislation.
I raise this point for a very specific reason. That was in 1975. It was in the fall of 1979 before this Legislature finally passed what we now call the Occupational Health and Safety Act, Bill 70. This Legislature spent four and half years creating as good and as balanced a piece of legislation as we were capable of creating at that time.
There have been some minor improvements in the Occupational Health and Safety Act since, and we currently have another bill, Bill 208 before this Legislature to make another set of improvements in an albeit imperfect piece of legislation, but legislation in which everybody, whether they were on the company side, the union side or the unorganized workers’ side, felt they got something that was an improvement over the old three separate pieces of legislation I named. We spent four and a half years on that process.
The remarks of the government House leader this afternoon twigged me to something I had forgotten about the last time I talked about this issue. The government House leader has tried to make a big point here about obstructionism in the early 1980s. This was in the late 1970s and was in fact during a minority government.
In the committee process on the Occupational Health and Safety Act -- my colleague the member for Hamilton East, who was part of that committee at the time, will recall this -- the combined opposition in the committee passed amendments to Bill 70 which were not acceptable to the government; which then forced the government to come back into this House, take that bill back into committee of the whole House to move amendments to get rid of amendments the opposition parties had put in during the committee stage. They did that and had to do that, based on the threat of withdrawing the bill and not proceeding to third reading if they did not get their way.
The government House leader’s recollection and memory of the kind of obstruction he calls unprecedented here in the last year is just a lot of hogwash. That member and his colleagues, many of whom are now in the cabinet, participated in that kind of obstruction and set the stage for the very things that are going on today.
But the Occupational Health and Safety Act is only one example of far more time spent on creating as good legislation as you can, where all sides, all parties to the matter, all parties who are concerned about the particular issue in question have some access, some input, and somehow their concerns are reflected in the legislation at hand.
Another example of the same thing is the two and a half years we spent in this legislative process on the Family Law Reform Act. I might remind you, Mr Speaker, that the two and a half years we spent in the legislative process on that bill in 1977 and 1978 followed probably 10 or 15 years of dialogue, consultation, complaint and controversy in Ontario society that led up to the government finally introducing legislation, which went through considerable debate and amendment for two and a half years before its final passage.
And even then, after two and a half years, we still did not have a perfect piece of legislation. We had to come back here again in 1982 and again in 1985; and some time during the course of the next five years we will probably have to go back at the Family Law Reform Act yet again to deal with another set of amendments, hopefully to improve that legislation further, to deal with the loopholes or roadblocks that get identified over time.
Both of those legislative processes I have described here today are primary examples of why 13 months do not mean anything and certainly do not reflect a piece of legislation that is necessarily right or ready for passage. Our contention is that in the case of Bill 162, it is not only not right but it is not yet ready for passage. If it were ready for passage, we would have sat down some long time ago.
The controversy which surrounds Bill 162 is a reflection of its inadequacy. Bill 162 is a bill that has missed the mark totally, because it is a bill which has satisfied one side of a controversial debate in Ontario and ignored the other side in total. Any piece of legislation that takes that road is a piece of legislation which ultimately in a democratic society is bad legislation. It might be just as bad if it totally favoured the side that is being ignored in this case and totally ignored the employers’ ability to pay the assessments into the workers’ compensation fund.
But those assessments and employers’ complaints about those assessments are the very reason this legislation is here. This legislation is not before this House to deal with reform of the Workers’ Compensation Act for the purpose of making workers’ compensation in Ontario fairer and more workable. This legislation is before this Legislature to deal with the complaints of one side in this debate, the employers of Ontario and their complaint that assessments under the act are far too high.
This is a piece of legislation which is designed, in the short run, to take benefits away from some workers, to perhaps reallocate some of those benefits to other workers and to therefore be revenue-neutral, as the minister has suggested. But in the long run, Bill 162 is designed to reduce the cost of compensation in Ontario.
This Legislature has not come to terms with that reality. This Legislature has not come to terms with the specific flaws in the wording of Bill 162, many of which probably could have been dealt with if clause-by-clause had been allowed to proceed. That may still have left us with a bill at the end of the process that this party could not support in a total sense, but it would have been a much better bill than the Bill 162 this three-day closure motion attempts to deal with.
Because the small amendments, like the one the minister finally accepted after 20 minutes, after two hours of waking him up and getting him to listen, that small amendment in section 1 of the bill and 50 other small amendments like that are all important in the creation of the laws in this province. They are not insignificant. They get rid of vagaries in legislation. That is precisely what our amendment did: It made a section clear and definable.
In addition to the absence of the rest of that process, as we have already, the vast majority of those who made public presentations on Bill 162, those the government House leader says this Legislature and this government have an obligation to, have been ignored in this debate around Bill 162 and have certainly been ignored in this motion which the government House leader has brought before us today.
The vast majority of those who made public presentations demanded the withdrawal of this piece of legislation, not its amendment. The vast majority of positions taken before the resources development committee in its hearing process said that Bill 162 cannot be fixed, cannot be amended and should be scrapped.
For all of those reasons, and because those of us in this party believe in a legislative process that honestly deals with those things that have been a part of the process around a piece of legislation, including the views of all those who made presentation, and because we firmly believe that the detail of legislation which affects average individuals right across this province, individuals who are certainly, in this particular case, not going to be in a situation to help or protect themselves because they happen to be injured workers who for the first time in their life or perhaps even the second time in their life find themselves in extraordinary circumstances unable to do what they have always known and done -- The precision and fairness of laws this Legislature creates with respect to people in that kind of circumstance is the most important work we do here. We are not prepared to see it done in the kind of fashion that is set out in this motion.
Mr Harris: I have a few comments I would like to bring to the attention of the House, particularly the reason why this motion apparently has been brought in by the government: the context of Bill 162. I think it is important that when time allocation is used we understand the context it is used in and the purpose for using it.
I also want to comment on the disturbing precedent contained in this motion, not only the repeat of the precedents this government has used in the past but in my view something that goes much further in what I call the so-called deeming aspect of this particular time allocation motion, which I think will cause us no end of problems in the future.
I want to reflect on the significant shift of opinion of people like the Premier (Mr Peterson) and the government House leader. If time permits, I may even get to the member for St Catharines (Mr Bradley). I note that the Minister of Community and Social Services (Mr Sweeney) is here. Regretfully, the research did not provide me with any of his old quotes on closure and time allocation. Perhaps he was able to duck out of those in those days. It is more likely, though, that we had ample quotes from the Premier and the government House leader and we did not bother digging as far as we might have wanted to go. I will remember in the future, though, that Tuesday is House duty day for the Minister of Community and Social Services, and if a debate like this falls on that day, I will make sure they prepare for me something that is appropriate for Kitchener.
I was intrigued by some of the comments made by the government House leader today. He talked about the public presentations and said that somehow or other he was bringing in this closure for the benefit of all those who made public presentations and that it was important that the government proceed in this way on behalf of all those people. I think he cited a number of cities. I was listening carefully and I cannot reiterate all the cities he quoted, but he talked about public presentations from Thunder Bay; I think I heard Sudbury; there was a list of eight or 10.
What did catch my attention was that he did not mention North Bay. I listened to North Bay, Sturgeon Falls, Verner or Nipissing. because in spite of the fact that there were ample requests for the committee to come to North Bay, the Liberal majority on the committee refused to do so.
Second, having been denied that opportunity in the riding of Nipissing and instead being told they should travel to Sudbury or some other centre, once they found out that the committee was going to ignore the great riding of Nipissing at the insistence of the Liberal members on the committee, the groups in North Bay then asked for standing before the committee and indicated they were prepared to go anywhere in the province, but they were shut out. There was not a single presentation before the committee from people representing groups in Nipissing riding or, indeed, from those who live in my riding. I noticed the House leader did not include Nipissing among those he mentioned had that opportunity.
There is another reason, though, why I found it rather ironic that the government House leader said this was why it was important that closure be brought in at this particular time. That is, even in the cities he mentioned, there were so many who were shut out of being able to have standing before the committee. They were told: “Sorry, we’re in a hurry here. We’re not going to hear from you.” Yet, for some reason, now the government House leader says it is important we bring in closure to somehow satisfy all the presentations that were made before the committee.
The third reason I was astounded to hear the government House leader make those kinds of comments is that the overwhelming majority of those who did come before the committee said, “We don’t want this bill.” This bill, as proposed, is supposed to be for the benefit of the workers, the working men and women of this province, those who are already injured or who may be injured in the future. Yet those very people came to the committee and said: “No, this is not what we want. This will not help us. This, in fact, is a step backwards.”
I find it ironic today that the government House leader says it is important we bring in closure and proceed with this on behalf of all those who appeared before the committee when (1) the Liberal majority would not allow many in those communities to appear before the committee; (2) there were many in my community, and there were others in this province, who never got an opportunity to appear before the committee, and (3) those who did said, “We don’t want this bill.”
I refer back to comments that the government House leader has made in the past, which I think will give you a sense of when he felt time allocation should be used in 1983. It was to do with Bill 127, which was an education bill at the time brought in by the last great Minister of Education -- l had better be careful; after Bette Stephenson retired we might have had a few other Tories in there -- surely the last long-standing Minister of Education who was in a position to make a significant contribution to Ontario. She had brought in Bill 127, which was to clarify some jurisdictional difficulties between the two tiers of school boards in Metropolitan Toronto.
That bill was one that the opposition parties at that time had indicated -- l am sorry, I do not remember whether it was one or both of the opposition parties -- was not one they were inclined to give the government and that they would filibuster unless time allocation was brought in. I also note in passing that since that was passed in 1983 the relationship between the two tiers of the school boards in Metropolitan Toronto appears to be working very well.
However, the government House leader said at that time, “I reiterate, we have been able to do the business of this Legislative Assembly for a long time, through wartime, through great oppression” -- the business of the chamber was able to proceed without time allocation. “Yet, this very same government House leader, after only one hour of second reading debate and after no time permitted in committee of the whole House” -- notice, no time in committee of the whole House -- “has not been able to work out some compromise not to have to bring in time allocation on Bill 114.”
He said as well on that day, “I cannot believe we are seized in the winter of 1982 -- 83 with some parliamentary crisis that forces us into a new avenue, down a slippery slope of time allocation, without which we have been able to function for the previous 115 years.” That was the government House leader in 1983. At that time he could not believe we were seized with some parliamentary crisis.
I have said before -- and I do not want to put words into the government House leader’s mouth at any time, because he does that very well, along with other parts of his body -- that he seems to be implying there that if we were seized with a parliamentary crisis, then he could understand the government of the day bringing in time allocation; if the legislation were addressing a crisis or if there were a parliamentary crisis, then time allocation might be acceptable to him. He implied it at that time and I suggest that in 1983 the government House leader -- even though I assume that in opposition he may have opposed time allocation -- seemed to indicate then that he could understand the government’s bringing in time allocation if there were a crisis.
So I assume now, in bringing in time allocation, that the Minister of Mines (Mr Conway) feels there is a crisis, that for the workers of Ontario, the injured workers and the working men and women of this province there is a crisis out there and that they are crying for this bill to solve that crisis. Yet, when we look at what the injured workers have said about this piece of legislation and at every body that represents workers -- be they unions; the more practical and flexible approach of employees’ associations; many, and I would suggest the majority, of enlightened employers in Ontario or members of the Legislature; myself, interested in seeing fairness for the working men and women of this province; members of my party -- nobody, not one of them, is saying this legislation will improve the situation.
So the very people this legislation is supposed to serve, benefit and protect are saying, “We don’t want it.” Surely, given that and given the government House leader’s own criterion in 1983 of where he might consider time allocation to be appropriate, we cannot use that argument, because people do not want this particular piece of legislation.
This morning I was debating -- l do not want to name names -- with a representative of the government and a representative of the New Democratic Party. We were chatting on CBC Windsor about Bill 162, and at that time the government position was put forward that this was a bill that had three tremendous benefits for workers. One was the dual award, implying somehow that the meat chart cash award was something new. Of course it is not something new; it is something that will be given lump sum.
Hon Mr Sorbara: No, it will not.
Mr Harris: Was the member on the CBC with me this morning?
Mr Reycraft: It sounds like he should have been.
Mr Harris: Fine. So what is this dual -- award cash award?
Mr Dietsch: Ask Margaret.
Mr Harris: This is taking something that I, quite frankly, have difficulty with under any circumstances; I want to tell the members that. It is taking that pain-and-suffering award, that meat chart award which currently, under existing legislation, is spread over the lifetime of the compensable injury in part of the monthly pension and it is paying lump sum, so it was argued that this is an exciting new thing in the bill that is of benefit to workers. That was one reason why it was important to have this bill.
What do injured workers say about that? They say, “No, thank you; that’s not what we want.” I have heard a number of them express difficulties with the whole meat chart approach, but none the less, they feel that they are better compensated by a recognition throughout the lifetime of being compensated for that injury that the pain and suffering does not cease with the lump sum payment. In fact, the workers are saying that they feel this is taking money away, that those who in the long term will suffer income loss, will lose money from this.
That was put forward as one argument, and yet injured workers are saying, “No, we don’t want that.” The government says, “We’re bringing forth a bill to help injured workers; we’re going to close out the opposition parties and force it through,” and yet all the injured workers, the working men and women and all the associations represented are saying, “We don’t want that.”
I have difficulty with a government that says, “This is an important thing.” If the working men and women and the injured workers were saying, ‘Doggone it, this is important to us,” I could understand the government saying, Look, you’re holding this up; there are people out here in the province, the groups that are going to be affected, who want this.”
Ironically, the people who are paying for the workers’ compensation plan, the employers, are not asking for this either. Nobody is asking for it.
The second thing that was mentioned this morning was access to rehabilitation. Nobody, employers or workers’ groups, feels that this legislation is going to improve access to rehabilitation. If you want to do it in a legislative way, you can mandate it, but whether this bill passes or does not, there is nothing in the bill that is going to force an increased emphasis on rehabilitation. The workers are not comfortable with that; they are saying, “The bill does nothing to help us in that area; we don’t want it.”
The third aspect is the reinstatement. Of course, there are so many loopholes or exemptions in the reinstatement provision that indeed those representing workers and working men and women are saying: “No, it’s pointless to proceed with this legislation; it doesn’t help us. There are so many things that could be done to help us.”
I do not want to extensively debate the legislation, but I want to give those comments to put it into the context of why it is inappropriate to bring in closure when there is no interest group out there, nobody affected by this legislation, who is saying, “We want this bill.” There is only the government members doing what they think is the honourable thing in supporting a misguided minister. Here is a minister who I believe has convinced his colleagues he actually knows what he is doing; otherwise they would not support him that way.
Hon Mr Conway: And that concludes your remarks.
Mr Harris: No. In fact, I plan to go on at some length. If the member continues to interject -- -have had a chat with the table today -- there is a six o’clock rule that if I decide to continue debating, it might be very interesting to see how it turns out today. I want to tell the government House leader that I had a chat with the table today. I think I have enough material here, as well.
As I said, with the quote from the government House leader as to when he might think time allocation is appropriate, given the three reasons I heard on the radio this morning, given what was heard in the hearings and given that a number of people were excluded from the hearings, there has not been one single shred of evidence that there is a crisis in the land, that the interest groups that would be affected by this legislation in fact want this legislation.
That in itself would be reason enough not to qualify for time allocation; in fact, it is the exact opposite. They are saying: “Whoa, enough indeed is enough. This bill is so bad that it should go back to the drawing board.”
That is what the minister heard. That is what the government members heard. It is what my colleagues on the committee heard. It is what the New Democratic members on the committee heard. Yet, it seems only the NDP members and the Conservative Party members were listening. Obviously, the minister did not. The parliamentary assistant did not. The government members did not. Presumably, the government House leader was busy with other meetings, so he did not have to listen. In any event, he was not at all persuaded.
I wanted to raise another interesting comment. My colleague and friend the member for Windsor-Riverside unfortunately could not be here today. He was called back to Windsor -- l understand his mother is in ill health -- and will not be able to be here today. He made a comment on 23 January 1989 that I want to refer to. At that time, the member indicated: “There was one time in this place when we did support a time allocation motion. I am not going to say there should never be time allocation in the House.”
It is interesting that while the government has accused the members of both opposition parties, saying, “Well, of course, it’s your job to oppose time allocation. I blindly followed that rule when I was in the opposition, so we expect that,” here we have a pretty responsible position from the House leader for the New Democratic Party. He was saying: “There was a time when we supported a time allocation motion. I am not going to say there should never be time allocation in this House. There will be extraordinary circumstances, I think, and I agree with the government House leader on that. I will read later some comments where I agree wholeheartedly with the government House leader about time allocation.”
In fact, he went on, and this will be of interest to those who follow these legislative debates, who I admit are fewer in number than those who follow the question period: “l think there should be an amendment to the rules” -- this is back in January -- ”and we have been struggling with this government to get some changes in the rules that would benefit both the government and the opposition parties and make this place work better. To date, the government has rejected our proposals and we have gone no further than the interim rules that were brought in during minority government.”
I mention that because we are dealing with this motion. It is a process motion to say: “To heck with the minority and to heck with the rules. We are going to pass this with our majority and this is the way things will proceed, regardless of the standing orders.”
Back in January -- the rules being of interest, I think, to a number of people, because we are discussing those once again -- the New Democratic Party House leader pointed out that his party and the Conservative Party had been pressing for rules changes around this place for a period of years. The government would not take it seriously and in fact sat on it. It was one of those things that they just could not seem to move along through their caucus, more likely through the Premier.
Indeed, I believe it was some of the perceived filibustering on this particular bill and other matters this spring that finally woke the government up to say: “We should be looking at the rules. Maybe those Tories and New Democrats were right that indeed we should be getting down and looking at the rules.”
The second thing we are here in July for, I guess, is dealing with some of those rules changes. Quite frankly, on that particular front, regardless of the reason why, we in our caucus and I think in the New Democratic caucus, are pretty excited. Certainly the member just now arriving fresh from the conference in Edmonton --
Mr Reycraft: Calgary.
Mr Harris: -- Calgary, the parliamentary caucus, where no doubt they are talking about rules of legislatures all across this country and indeed in the House of Commons. I welcome the member back to Queen’s Park. Maybe I can sit down shortly and he can take over. Indeed the member for Carleton (Mr Sterling), who has just walked in, is one of those who has pushed for a number of years for rules changes.
Regardless of the reason why, we are enthusiastic that finally the government has approached the rules changes, many of the things that we have been asking for for a number of years, in a more serious way. I think really, in that period 1985, 1986, 1987, 1988, the House of Commons and many other legislatures across this country have passed by us in --
Mr Harris: The member for Carleton tells me he shot an 89 yesterday in Edmonton too.
Where was I? I can handle the interjections from the Liberals, it is my own colleagues who get me lost.
Finally we are getting to meaningful rules changes.
From time to time, when the government acts heavy-handed with an arrogant attitude as a majority, I like to make sure people are reminded of what some of them have said. Last January I was able to reference a few quotes. I thought this time I will do a few more and I will save some for the next time this government acts in an arrogant and overbearing way, because I do not see any sign that it is likely to change.
The pomposity is still showing through, if that indeed is a word, so of course I will save some of these for the next opportunity. If I saw any sign that they were about to repent, I would put them all on the record now and get them out of the road, but I will save a few. The Premier, of course, is quoted on a number of occasions. On 8 December 1982, as the member for London Centre, he said:
“I have the right to pursue the most vigorous opposition that I can pursue, and the longer I am here the more I believe very strongly that the opposition is the only thing that stands between government and the sheer, naked use of power. It is the only check we have in the system, and I believe it is our responsibility to exercise it.”
That is the member for London Centre talking about the government potentially at that time bringing in time allocation.
He also said in 1982, “We regret the use of closure and the fact we are being punished for the NDP behaviour.”
Hon Mr Sorbara: That was a good speech.
Mr Harris: That probably was a good one. I wish I could get that whole speech back again.
“We believe that a rational, sensible approach to this whole matter is being precluded from being discussed because of government overreaction to a series of irresponsible behaviours.” I am not sure what happened there. It was not the one I wanted to read, actually.
“As my colleague pointed out,” the member for London Centre said, “there were other options. That is why we cannot support this motion for closure, guillotine, phase closure, time allocation or whatever one wants to call it.”
As I pointed out to the House on Thursday, there are many other options open to this government. The most logical one is to be reasonable and listen to the people who are going to be affected by the legislation. That, of course, the government chose not to do.
In spite of the fact that they want to jam it through, there are ways to do it without setting dangerous precedents in the House, as this motion does. They can use closure, as is in the rules, on the various stages and the various sections. It takes a little longer; it might take three, four or five days to move through committee instead of two, but that procedure could have been followed without setting a very dangerous precedent.
The part about the rules that causes me concern -- and I realize we are into technical areas that many members are not concerned about -- is this deeming provision. In fact. I have an amendment to move before I conclude, and I hope all members will support it. Although I thought long and hard about whether I would try to make a lousy motion any better, I decided in the interest of the future of this Legislature that my amendment might at least avoid one very dangerous precedent. A number of the others I do not think are achievable, and the government is going to carry on with it anyway.
I will be moving an amendment before I finish. It deals with the deeming provision. That provision allows potentially a very substantial amendment that could change the whole thrust of the bill to be brought in at the end of the first day of the closure motion when the time kicks in; by its very nature. if it were brought in at six o’clock, say, at the end of the first day, it would give only that night and the morning and the following afternoon to the opposition parties to react to it. It would give no opportunity for the public to react to it.
It would he very difficult, if you can imagine it was brought in at six o’clock, to he able to contact the various associations in fact until the following morning. Even if, as politicians, we elected to work and stay up through the night, it would be very difficult to reach out to the groups that were affected by this piece of legislation or the precedent this sets in the future to say: “Gee, this really changes the bill. What do you think?”
It is that precedent that allows that to happen that already the Speaker will have prejudged, because this motion will be ticking along, will have prejudged that there has been ample time for debate. I just do not think that is right and I do not think that the government would think that is right. This gives the power --
Hon Mr Sorbara: Tell us what your amendment is going to say.
Mr Harris: It is not my amendment. It gives the power to the minister to --
Hon Mr Sorbara: You said you were going to move an amendment.
Mr Harris: I do have an amendment to correct that. I am talking now, if the minister is listening, about the motion giving the majority or the minister the power to bring in one or 100 substantive amendments that nobody has seen before, that nobody may have seen right up until six o’clock before the day we are to vote on them, and that is supposed to be okay. I do not think that is okay. Indeed, I do not think that should be a precedent that we want to set.
I perhaps could quote Beauchesne on the matter of the principles of parliamentary law. Beauchesne says “to protect a minority and restrain the improvidence or tyranny of a majority.” He goes on to say “to secure the transaction of public business in an orderly manner; to enable every member to express his opinions within limits necessary to preserve decorum and prevent an unnecessary waste of time.” He says you can bring it in, but you must make sure that business can be conducted in an orderly manner to enable every member to express his opinion.
It is important that every member get an opportunity to express his opinion. This motion not only does away with that, but also does away with the possibility of anybody’s having a sound look at an amendment that is brought in which could be substantive.
Further, there were many other ways to do that. A motion could have been brought in to say that all of the amendments that have been tabled so far -- the bill plus all of the amendments that have been tabled with the standing committee -- could be deemed to have been moved. If that were the case, I might not be happy, but I would be more comfortable knowing that perhaps there had been a week, a month or a period of time when everybody had an opportunity to see what the amendment was and to think his way through it.
Hon Mr Sorbara: What do you do with opposition amendments?
Mr Harris: The minister continually interjects and is continually trying to prolong this debate, which I suggest to him is very close now to going into a second day.
He asks, “What about the opposition amendments?” That would be a problem if the opposition had a majority. If we had a majority, we would not be the opposition. It is the protection of minority rights that we are dealing with here. We know the majority can always do whatever it wants when it comes to votes and what not, so I do not think the Speaker has to be concerned in this time allocation process with protecting the rights of 94 from a wayward amendment that might come in from an opposition party. The government members can simply vote it down.
Hon Mr Sorbara: So you would let the opposition move amendments but not the government? Mike, you haven’t thought this thing through.
Mr Harris: Mr Speaker, I am sorry, I have lost my spot. The minister continually interjects, so I am going to go back over the whole ground again.
Mr Sterling: He does that on Bill 194 too.
Mr Harris: I think he does it intentionally because he wants to --
Mr Sterling: He does not want to get on with Bill 194.
Or Harris: He obviously does not want to get on with it.
We were on the part of the motion that concerns me the most and the precedent that concerns me the most. Maybe if I read the amendment and then distribute it, I can speak at some length on the amendment and convince members that indeed that makes sense. I do have copies for the table, if one of the pages could come. Perhaps the page could send a copy to the government House leader, who is not in his place listening to this but it is his motion, and one to the New Democratic Party.
The Acting Speaker (Mr Morin): Mr Harris moves that the government motion standing in the name of Mr Conway be amended by deleting the words “and any amendments thereto, not yet passed, including those proposed amendments not yet moved which shall be deemed to be moved” on the 9th, 10th and 11th lines and replacing them with the following words “and any amendments thereto moved, but not yet passed.”
Mr Harris: I am moving this amendment as what I would call a very weak amendment, if you like, in the hope that I might be able to convince the government that there is a lot of sense in it in avoiding a very dangerous precedent, particularly for the future.
I indicated on Thursday that I thought the government could have drafted this motion much more cleverly so as to avoid the type of dangerous precedent and yet still allow it to accomplish the completion of this bill within certain time limits. I acknowledge I may have opposed that motion as well.
However, I am concerned about the precedent of amendments coming from left field, on 24 hours’ notice, and being caught in the time allocation and not having time for consultation or discussion or for debate. I believe that is not really what any member of this chamber wants to see be the precedent for the future.
What this amendment will do, if it is passed -- at the end, it will still call for amendments. It leaves in the part about tabling them at the end of the first day. As much as I disagree with that, it at least gives 24 hours’ notice of what we might be dealing with. If the amendment is bought, I hope the -- government does not think I am going to support the motion, because it falls a long way short of making this motion supportable. but indeed I think it does something to prevent a problem in the future to be used as a precedent.
Yet it will allow time allocation to catch amendments, government ones and opposition ones, and the only condition on them, according to what the government has said, is (1) they must be tabled the day before and (2) they must have been moved before the time is up.
I suggest to members that they ought to think about what will happen. What will happen, because the committee may have to go through them in some order, is that for all of those amendments that have been tabled -- albeit 24 hours or 12 hours is not enough time to look at that -- that are deemed indeed to be beneficial to the bill by all parties in the House, we could have a provision for the Chairman to allow them all to be moved and we could do that early on in the process. What it will not allow, of course, is amendments to come in at the last minute that one party objects to being moved.
The government has made many arguments that it had to do it this way because the bill it drafted was so imperfect that there are a number of amendments that will make it better that indeed even the opposition parties will want -- they will not satisfy them the bill is better, but they will want them -- and we needed a mechanism to allow that.
I suggest that if my very simple amendment is passed, as we get into the time allocation that indeed is what will occur. Where there is some agreement -- there may be some amendments we have had time to see, but there may be some we have not -- that yes, this will make it a better bill, not a perfect bill but a better bill, then all of those can be moved; then debate proceed and, if time runs out, it will allow them to be voted on. Of course, if the majority of the House wants them, they will be part of the bill, and if it does not, they will not.
It is not a perfect amendment, but it was such a lousy motion to deal with at the start that it was difficult to come up with a perfect amendment. It is an amendment which will not affect the time the government has set out; it is an amendment which will still allow the votes on all the sections of the bill. It will restrict the government; it will lose something. I would ask them to consider giving up one little thing: They will lose the power to bring something in at the last minute, not allow a good look at it or a debate on it and without the consent of the opposition parties, jam it through. I suggest that this will eliminate one of those precedents that concern me.
I know there are numerous others who want to speak on this motion, but I did want to act on the record. I wanted to say on behalf of our party that we are totally opposed to it. I wanted to indicate as well that we are very strongly opposed to this bill and that we will oppose not only this motion of time allocation; we will as well oppose every step of the way the bill as it stands at this particular point in time.
I suggest in a very positive way that there are many other alternatives this government could have used for closure; and indeed there are thousands of alternatives they could have taken in dealing with the WCB other than with this particular piece of legislation.
I commend to all members of the House the very minor amendment I have put forward that I believe will allow for the process to proceed. It is a technical amendment, I admit, but it will stop a very dangerous precedent from having come forward.
Mr Mackenzie: Speaking on government notice of motion 6 --
Hon Mr Elston: Is this going to be balanced?
Mr Mackenzie: No, it will not be balanced. There is no denial of it, on my part.
Mr Dietsch: If it is not balanced, does that mean it is unbalanced?
Mr Mackenzie: No. It will be accurate, though.
The Acting Speaker: Order. If any of the members wish to debate, they will have the opportunity to do so.
Mr Mackenzie: I wish the Liberal government members would take the trouble to read the excellent speech by a former colleague of mine, the previous member for Riverdale, Jim Renwick, and his comments of 9 December 1982 on a previous closure motion in this House. Jim warned the government that it gets easier every time you take another slice out of the democratic process, and he quoted Santayana, the philosopher, that those who do not understand or remember history are doomed to repeat it. I think the words are accurate ones.
I could not help but comment also on one of the byplays a few minutes earlier about the consultation the government did with injured workers, that we were not the only ones. I would hope we were not the only ones. I want members to know that I talked to the 40 or 50 who were outside today. The majority of them were of Italian extraction, and were asking for information, one of the questions being, “Why are the Liberals doing this to us?”
They did not feel they had been consulted. If this government and the members were talking to injured workers in Ontario, I hope that statement made, I believe, by the government House leader was more accurate than the claim of the Minister of Labour during the hearings on this bill, who claimed he had also consulted with the players and the parties that were involved, and was I think unanimously rebuked on that comment, because they simply had not been consulted at all on this particular legislation.
Why are we debating a closure motion here today? Let’s make no mistake about it: They can call it time allocation but it is a straight closure motion we are dealing with. Why does a government with 94 members in this House as against a combined opposition of 36 opposition members for both parties, two and a half to one, have to resort to bully-boy tactics? Why the iron fist approach? I think it is important to understand why this dictatorial approach and not be conned by it, and that the people of Ontario not be conned by what is happening here.
What are the key government players saying on this piece of legislation? The government House leader, the member for Renfrew North (Mr Conway), and the Premier, the former Mr Teflon, both say we had a year’s debate and the time has come to bring it to an end. That is one of the arguments we have been hearing. I think that deserves a brief response.
Almost from day one the minister responsible for Bill 162 has made it clear that the bill will pass basically as it is. Indeed, he was talking to our critic and did not really want to enter into the public hearings we had. It took a demonstration by injured workers in this House to have that come about. He has made it clear that he wants it to pass basically as is. It has been so bad that some of the government amendments, at least a couple of them, are as a result of my colleague the member for Sudbury East pointing out glaring errors in parts of the bill. They were forced, as a result, to bring amendments to the bill for that.
Most of the amendments do not materially improve the bill. As far as we are concerned, we have made it clear -- we do not deny this -- that the bill is an unamendable piece of garbage that does not even match the human rights protections. That has been clear and the members in this House know it. It gives even more power to an uncaring Workers’ Compensation Board. It fails to deal adequately with rehabilitation, and not one in total of the many recommendations of the Minna-Majesky task force report is included in the bill.
It fails to guarantee a return to work and it institutionalizes deeming, a very sick practice that is going to hurt workers in the future in this province, something that is going on already and should not be.
The proposed dual award system will cost and hurt injured workers, make no mistake about it. I think Gordon Wilson of the Ontario Federation of Labour had it right in his debate with the minister the other night when he held up the dollar bill and said: “Look, this bill is about money. It’s about a break for the employers. It’s sure not about improving the lot of injured workers in this province.”
In spite of these and other shortcomings, in spite of the universal condemnation of the bill by those it is supposed to help and in spite of a total lack of any consultation with those affected, contrary to the Minister of Labour’s own statement, there has never been the slightest intent by this government to do anything but ram Bill 162 through. It is almost an article of faith for this minister. I do not know whether he feels that he has lost all credibility if he does not get it through or what, but they want it through and they want it through with as little change as possible.
Not only were vitally interested parties denied a voice but during much of the later part of the committee hearings there was no response at all from the Liberal members of the committee. It was as though they were struck dumb, as though the fix was in and everybody knew it. My point is that a fair case can be made to deal with this government’s argument of adequate debate on the merits of this particular bill.
The next argument from the government House leader is that the New Democratic Party is simply stalling the business of the House; this from a government House leader whose tactic from day one has been “My way or no way.” He is certainly the most incompetent House leader, in terms of ordering the business of this House, that I have seen in my years in this House. The House leaders’ meetings are confrontational. House business in this House has been a disaster and for a small opposition, the only way we have been able to make our points, the only tools at our use, have been the use of the rules or the use of the bells.
No other House leader would have been as lacking in the skills needed to order the efficient business of the House. One would think that a rural boy would have learned that you catch more with a little honey than you do with vinegar.
The government House leader seems to be personally insulted when his big majority does not give him the licence to do exactly as he pleases. His main claim to fame in this House is to have brought about the most unhealthy, nasty, personal and divisive House that is literally operating on invective and personal animosity. It is not a very proud or positive accomplishment. I think the government House leader should be replaced as a first step to restoring any civility in this House.
The next argument,. or should I say government misunderstanding, is the flip and arrogant approach of the Minister of Labour, the member for York Centre. The Minister of Labour has a singleminded approach and he has said it to many of us, “Let’s cut a deal. How many times have we said we need to cut a deal on this?” The minister does not seem to understand that for some people, for some political parties, a principle overrides making a deal. Maybe, as a member of his Liberal government, the only principle the minister understands is, “Let’s make a deal.” Anything is possible.
We have seen it in recent weeks -- illegal donations from tax refunds, taxpayers’ money, or phoney payments for contracts which no one can prove exist, or big donations from developers and builders and big business, blatant inside-tracking for government contracts from those same sources. He seems to revel in being lost in the hip pocket of developers. Indeed, that may be why he has not passed out from the stench of corruption which seems to overhang this particular government.
Given the sickness which pervades this government, I guess it is really no surprise that his approach is, “Let’s cut a deal.” You do not cut a deal over a bill that will hurt injured workers. You do not cut a deal over a bill that stinks enough to make strong men bring up.
Every time a government moves closure it gets easier, and democracy is just a little frailer as a result. This is a sad day for justice in Ontario, and I think another sick day for this particular government. The members of this government, argue as they might, know and know very well that there is no real justification for this closure motion at this time. I think fairminded people across Ontario will agree that there is no justification for this motion to stifle debate on something as important as this bill is to so many of the constituents of Ontario.
I think they will live to regret it. I think it is another case of history that they are going to suffer for, because they have not learned from history in the past. I hope the members of this House, although I do not expect it, will decide that they simply are not going to proceed with such a sick and undemocratic approach as this closure motion.
Mr Laughren: As someone who was part of the process of the public hearings across the province, I did want to make a few remarks. In keeping with the original, generous remarks of the House leader about the committee process, I did want to express my appreciation to members of the committee who made chairing that committee on those difficult hearings an easy task. They were very co-operative and, given the rules within which we had to operate, the members of the committee worked extremely hard as we travelled the province.
Many of us were very disappointed in not being able to hear from more people who had expressed an interest. About half the people who wanted to appear before the committee could not appear. Some members of the Legislature must feel somewhat shortchanged in this assembly as well, because the debate that would normally have gone on in here, in committee of the whole House on clause-by-clause now is not going to take place except for the next couple of days, and that is going to be a truncated debate. I am sure there are a lot of members whose constituency offices, like mine, are clogged with problems of injured workers all across the province. Surely those members must feel somewhat cheated by this closure motion brought in by the government.
I have heard the government House leader talk about how we have debated this bill for a year, but I think, to be fair, that most of that time was in hearing public presentations from interest groups all across the province. In keeping with that, we did some comparisons on the amount of time for which different issues have preoccupied this assembly in the last couple of years.
Members will recall the Sunday shopping debate and the debate on Bill 30, equal funding for separate schools. The Sunday shopping debate took a total of 216 hours and 15 minutes. The Bill 30 debate took 390 hours and 43 minutes. Bill 162, the one that has been the issue before us this week with this closure motion, took 162 hours and 16 minutes. To recap that: the debate on Sunday shopping, 216 hours and some minutes; Bill 30, the equal funding bill, 390 hours and 40 minutes; Bill 162, this bill, 162 hours and 16 minutes.
There is no question that other issues have occupied this assembly a lot more than Bill 162. I think it is inappropriate for the government to wring its hands and try to get the message across Ontario that there has been an inordinate amount of time devoted to Bill 162. I think, given the importance of this bill, there has not been an inordinate amount of time devoted to it.
I must say as well that as we travelled the province with the committee, the response was overwhelmingly in opposition to the bill. While the employers’ side of the equation was, generally speaking, supporting the bill, they had some reservations about it as well. There was no cry out there for Bill 162 -- certainly not from injured workers, the labour movement or advocates for injured workers. There was no call for this bill. They are fiercely opposed to it. On the employers’ side of the equation, as I say, there was no great call for it either.
Therefore, one must ask: Why are the Minister of Labour and the government so determined, almost desperately determined, to get this bill in here right now and get it through this assembly before we adjourn for the summer break? I do not know the answer to that question. I have no idea. I do know there is another bill in the offing, known affectionately as Bill 208, the health and safety bill, which the labour movement wants and employers do not want, but there is no hurry for that bill. That has not been before the assembly, not at all. It has not even been before us for second reading.
Mr Charlton: Vanished.
Mr Laughren: Totally vanished.
Why is it that there is this desperate hurry for this bill, so desperate that they bring in a closure motion, and on Bill 208, the health and safety bill, it has not even been introduced and debated on second reading and referred to committee? Why is that? Why such indecent haste for the bill that workers in this province do not want and no hurry at all for a bill the workers themselves want?
You might ask yourself that question, Mr Speaker. Why is it that the bill the workers do not want is being brought in, and not only brought in but a closure motion being imposed to get it passed in the next couple of days, and the other bill that workers want is not even being introduced?
I have always said that if there is one issue out there in the province of Ontario that convinces me we still have a class system in the province of Ontario, it is the issue of injured workers in our jurisdiction. While it is true that income levels have gone up generally and we are a wealthier society than we were 20, 50 or 100 years ago obviously, it still remains that injured workers are the best example that we still have a class system in Ontario.
I do not know why it is that injured workers, who profess a faith in the work ethic by going to work every day and then get injured, have to be made examples and have to be the symbols of the class system in Ontario. I do not understand that. Is it because they are so vulnerable? Is it because they do not have a lot of votes in any one riding? I do not know why that is, but it is a fact that injured workers as a group are treated very, very shabbily in this province.
I know why the government wants this bill and why it is bringing in closure and why we have this motion before us. It is because the Minister of Labour, and I have heard him say this many, many times, firmly believes that there are inequities in the present legislation. I think he believes it now; whether or not he did when it started and to what extent he has convinced himself with his own rhetoric I do not know the answer to.
Let me say what I think those inequities are which I think led to this closure motion. I will give you an example of an injured worker in my own constituency and I have many, many of them. A worker was severely injured in a rock fall at Falconbridge. This is an actual-case example. He became a paraplegic as a result of that rock fall, of being buried in the rock. He now has a total disability pension from the Workers’ Compensation Board. His employer, Falconbridge nickel mines, took that man back at full wages
This is what sticks in the craw of the Minister of Labour: that worker now has a full disability pension from the board and he has a fully paid job from his employer. The Minister of Labour says that is inequitable, that it is not right that the worker should have a full pension or, as a matter of fact, any pension in his term at the same time as he has his job back, with no loss in pay. The minister is saying that the worker is overcompensated. I would ask the minister and any of the government members, and in particular, those in here today -- it is a rhetorical question I am sure they will accuse me of putting, but nevertheless -- how many of us would trade our health for overcompensation?
This is a man who became a paraplegic, and there are other stories I could tell about the particular case, but I will not. He became a paraplegic and the Minister of Labour says that this injured worker is overcompensated, that this injured worker should be satisfied to be a paraplegic and go back to work at full pay. That is what the minister is saying, except that the dual award system would give him a cash settlement for his injury for pain and suffering. That is exactly what the Minister of Labour is saying. He is saying that he is overcompensated --
Mr Faubert: No, he’s not.
Mr Dietsch: No, he’s not.
Mrs Fawcett: Come on, Floyd.
Mr Laughren: I see Liberal members are objecting to my comments, but I want to say that the Minister of Labour is saying that worker is overcompensated, that --
Mr Dietsch: We just object to your misguided understanding, not your comments.
Mr Laughren: Well, this is what the Minister of Labour has said. I have heard him say it. The minister is saying that worker is overcompensated because he draws a pension from the hoard and he is back at full pay. How anybody can say that somebody who has become a paraplegic as a result of an accident on the job is overcompensated is totally beyond my comprehension. I think what led to this closure motion is that the Minister of Labour feels that person is overcompensated and therefore the minister is going to do something about that. Is he going to increase pensions for anybody’? No. He is going to take that worker’s pension away, and I am not being rhetorical when I say that when this --
Mr Faubert: Nobody’s pension is being taken away.
Mr Laughren: I want to say that in the future when a worker gets injured, if that worker gets injured after this bill becomes law, that worker will not have a lifetime pension from the Workers’ Compensation Board. Does anybody question that? No, they do not, because it is an actual fact. That worker who would become a paraplegic as a result of an accident will not have a lifetime pension from the board after this bill is passed. It is plain and simple. That worker will get a pain and suffering cash settlement, but will not get a lifetime pension from the board.
What the government members are saying is that they will be satisfied if that worker who becomes a paraplegic gets a pain and suffering settlement up front -- which will he peanuts, quite frankly, and no pension for life at all, absolutely nothing for the rest of his life -- if that worker gets taken back in his regular employment.
I do not know how the government members can rest easily with that decision they have made. I really do not understand it. So not only are they saying to people who get injured with a permanent disability that they are not going to get a lifetime pension for that; they are actually saying that is going to become the law of the land and from now on you will be satisfied with a cash settlement for pain and suffering up front and nothing else to follow.
The Minister of Labour says it is important that we do this because these people are overcompensated and that we must bring in a closure motion and must pass this bill this summer before we adjourn. That is what the minister is saying.
I want to tell members we heard a lot of comments in our public hearings, but basically there were about four main problems with it. One was that the board would have too much discretionary power. So if they do not get this bill right away -- hence the closure motion -- then the board will not have its discretionary powers increased as quickly as it wants.
I would like to read a paragraph from a letter from the board to an injured worker. This is a paragraph to an injured worker in the community of Chapleau. I will just read one small paragraph:
“To consider the payment of compensation for lost wages and health care benefits, it must be established that the disability resulted from a personal injury by accident or disablement arising out of and in the course of employment. Should the disability have arisen subsequent to the industrial accident, it must be shown that the diagnosed disability is related to the injuries suffered in the accident or its sequelae.”
Mr Speaker, you are trained in the law. Perhaps you could explain this to me and to my injured worker. I do not know what this injured worker’s education level is, but if this injured worker works in the bush, which is very often the case in the north part of the riding I represent, I can tell you he does not know what “sequelae” means. I have just written a letter to Mr Elgie of the compensation board asking him to help me explain to my bewildered constituent what he means by that paragraph.
This is the board that the minister is giving more discretionary power to with this bill. That is what he is doing. I want to tell members I have read a lot of correspondence from the board over the years but I continue to be amazed at its ability to confuse. If they confuse me, who has been reading this material for 18 years, can you imagine what it does to the unsuspecting constituent out there who gets hurt, all of our constituents? It really is pathetic the way the board treats its injured workers.
I have dealt with the problem of the pensions. That is one of the major concerns. The increased discretionary powers are another one. Rehabilitation is not guaranteed. That is something the minister had to be told a number of times. Of course, reinstatement rights are not as strong as they should be.
There is a lot I could say. I want to allow my colleague the member for Algoma (Mr Wildman), vice-chairman of the committee and who travelled most of the province with us, to make some comments.
There is a lot I could say about the public hearings. It was an educational experience, even for someone such as I, who deals with compensation all the time. My constituency office is about 75 per cent preoccupied with workers’ compensation problems, sometimes more than 75 per cent, and yet it is still an education to go out and hear from injured workers themselves all across the province.
I know that a lot of the members of the committee felt the same as I did and that they learned a lot from that experience. I regret very much that members of the committee were not convinced by them that the bill, in its present form, is not appropriate, is not fair. It really does stick it to injured workers, and I must say that I regret very much that this time allocation motion is being put.
Finally, I feel very strongly that this bill cannot be amended to improve it. I do not see how the government can make amendments to make this bill acceptable. Speaking for myself, I could not accept amendments to this bill because I think it would simply make it a joke to try to make amendments to a bill this bad.
Mr Brandt: Initially, I was not going to engage in this particular debate, because some of my colleagues have already put on the record some of our concerns with respect to a time allocation motion, or closure, as this particular motion implies. However, in thinking about the seriousness of the step being taken by the government in this connection, I felt it was important that I join with my House leader and my colleagues, as well as the members of the New Democratic Party, in indicating our very serious and our very strong opposition to what is being contemplated by the government by way of the motion that it has proposed.
My friend the member for Nickel Belt has covered in great part some of his concerns with respect to the bill that led to this closure motion; namely, the workers’ compensation bill, Bill 162. I cannot frequently say what I am about to say in this House, but I want to associate myself and my party with the comments made by the member for Nickel Belt, because some of the concerns that he has raised, virtually without question, are ones that we feel very strongly about as well. We feel that this is a flawed bill and that it is a bill that has a number of problems that are intrinsic within the bill that are unamendable and cannot be easily changed or altered to reflect what we think is required in terms of changes or alterations to the workers’ compensation legislation.
However, I do not want to spend a great deal of my time on the detail of the bill today, simply because I believe that the motion for closure which we have before us is really a matter of very serious consequence and a matter of very serious concern, certainly to the members of my party.
It is interesting, I say with respect to the members of the government party, the Liberal Party, that it was not all that long ago that there was a very different opinion taken of a proposed closure motion when the roles were reversed and when that party was on the other side of the House and in opposition. There are many comments that are on the record that we could refer back to, and I know that the member for Nipissing (Mr Harris) has already done this in his remarks, which I listened to with great interest, when he outlined many of the very strong opposition statements that were made by the members of the Liberal Party at that particular time indicating that a closure motion was in fact a way of doing away with the whole concept of the democratic process. Words like “bulldozing” were used, and “flaunting the power of government in a majority.”
I do not believe these words were used lightly by the members of the opposition back in the latter part of 1982 and in the month of February of 1983, but they were sincerely meant to send a signal to the government that the democratic process is not, in this House, to be so streamlined that it moves along on a day-to-day basis simply reflecting some kind of an artificial schedule that is put together by the government. There is a whole series of other interests that are out there that have to reflect the views and the opinions and the very deeply held feelings of the people of Ontario that have to be transmitted, if you will, to the members of this House so when we put legislation together and when we finally amend or change legislation proposed by the government, it represents the best of all possible solutions to difficult problems.
Have we in fact arrived at that point with Bill 162? Has the government exhausted all of the possibilities as they relate to that particular bill? Should they now, in their own minds, feel quite justified in moving to a guillotine form of motion which is to cut off the debate and to censor entirely any further input or comments that could be made by members of the opposition!
I come to the conclusion, and it is why I have taken the opportunity to join in this debate, that I do not believe the government has in fact exhausted all of the opportunities available to it.
I am sorry that the government House leader is not here today, because he said during the preliminary comments leading up to this debate that he was somewhat apprehensive about moving towards a time allocation motion because, “Some of my observations of a previous time may be in fact read back into the record.” l intend to do a little bit of that now.
And it was the member for Renfrew North who said: “I reiterate, we have been able to do the business of this Legislative Assembly for a long time, through wartime, through great depression and much acrimony, without the time allocation procedure.” The member for Renfrew North said that on 15 February 1983 in a very impassioned address before this House, where he was making it very clear to the government that it was moving in the wrong direction.
At an earlier point in a debate on 8 December 1982, he said: “Notwithstanding what some in the government may feel, I think we threaten” -- and these are very interesting words -- “to poison this parliamentary well if we proceed in this debate by writing into our rule book this kind of time allocation.” That was on 8 December 1982.
Again, on 16 February 1983, the same House leader, when in opposition, said: “The past practice in these cases has been for the minister to consider withdrawing the bill -- not for ever, but until such time as tempers cool, calmer heads prevail and conciliatory amendments can be rethought, re-entered and reworked.” Never have truer words been spoken as they relate to a particular piece of legislation: “until calmer heads prevail,” until we can rethink, rework and re-enter some amendments that are applicable to this particular piece of legislation, which, I say to the members and I warn the members of the government party, is so badly flawed it will come back to haunt them for years to come. It is not the legislation that is required in this province.
What did the Premier of the province today and the leader of the government party say back in the course of the debate that took place in the latter part of 1982 and the early part of 1983? “There were other options. That is why we cannot support this motion for closure. guillotine, phase closure or time allocation, or whatever one wants to call it.”
Then there was the Minister of the Environment, who, also speaking during the course of that same debate in February 1983, said. “I feel the government would have been much wiser to have adopted a different course of action. I think it is blocking the democratic process, and that is a mild word to use.” He also went on to say that the government was attempting to bulldoze legislation through this House.
It is interesting to note that, of the three gentlemen that I have quoted -- and they are honourable gentlemen of this Legislative Assembly -- one is the Premier and two are members of cabinet. They have now done a complete about-face with respect to the positions they put before this House in a very impassioned way back in 1982 and 1983, and they now feel there is some driving force, some absolute necessity to bring forward this legislation immediately. I say they are wrong.
It is not being asked for by the workers of this province; it is certainly not being asked for by organized labour. I have not been lobbied by business groups or by any entrepreneurial organizations that have said, “We have got to have Bill 162; it is necessary for us to survive in business.” I have not had that kind of approach made to either myself or my office. So, I ask the government: What is the pressure? What is this kind of intense need on the pan of the government to bring forward this legislation at this time?
As we sit here in opposition, it really raises the question in our minds of what the government is afraid of. Is it concerned that the longer this bill is exposed for public view the more likelihood there is that opposition will grow on the part of people who begin to understand the implications of the legislation being proposed? That is kind of scary, because it proposes that in the democratic process what you do is pull some kind of curtain, some shroud of secrecy around a bill, and you muscle it through with a majority and hope the public is not listening.
The committee spent considerable time, as the government House leader well knows. He missed my comments as they relate to some of the quotes that he made back not all that long ago in this assembly, but the House leader is well aware of the fact that we did have a committee that had what some would believe to be extensive public hearings as they relate to this particular bill.
The interesting phenomenon that occurred with respect to the hearings, literally in every location across this province, was the fact that there was almost total unanimity as it related to opposition to Bill 162. There was no great chorus, no great demonstration, no great need on the part of anyone other than the government to see that Bill 162 became law in this province.
That is why I question -- and I say this sincerely to the House leader, whom I know to be a gentleman and a sensitive individual -- the urgency behind this particular bill. Why not allow continued hearings on this bill and the potential for amendments or changes or alterations that may reflect, in a somewhat more knowledgeable fashion, the kind of needs that injured workers have in this province?
My friend the member for Nickel Belt commented, in the context of his arguments for changes to Bill 162, that injured workers are really some of the weaker members of society in terms of their ability to respond to changes in the amount of compensation they receive through the Workers’ Compensation Board. He is absolutely right. They are a group that takes up a very large amount of time of all of the members of this assembly in their constituency work on a day-to-day basis.
It has been estimated by many of the members of the Ontario Legislative Assembly that up to 50 per cent of their total workload in their constituency offices is taken up by workers’ compensation cases that run, in some instances, for years before those cases are finally appealed, reappealed and ultimately settled, some successfully and some not successfully.
Is that going to change with Bill 162? No, it is not, because the deeming provision within this bill alone will make this bill unworkable. It will cause rancour and it will cause upset among those who are injured and are deemed to be able to take a particular position, if you will, as is indicated by this particular bill. There will be anger that will be generated as a direct result of that and that anger will be felt very directly in the of offices of all 130 members of this assembly.
I believe we are taking the wrong approach. That approach calls for us to move rather quickly on Bill 162, to get this business over with, as though in a democracy, I say with respect to the House leader, it is so extremely important that we turn the page on Bill 162 and move on to some new piece of business. What, I ask my friend, is going to change if we do not have Bill 162 nicely tucked away before this assembly goes into summer recess? Absolutely nothing. But the other side of the coin is this, that by a delay in the passage of Bill 162, by the opportunity that may present itself to numbers of the opposition, there may well be some additional, positive, workable amendments that could be put forward which the government may, in its wisdom, consider and which will make this bill a better bill for all parties concerned.
I want to put some of these concerns on the table simply because I think they are valid. The government has a number of options. I want to say to the House leader that one of the options which he himself proposed during the course of those interesting debates back in the late months -- December of 1982 and the early months of 1983 -- in February as I recall, his advice to this assembly, during the course of a debate on a controversial bill, was that we should withdraw the bill until calmer heads prevail, until tempers cool, until some conciliatory amendments can be brought forward.
I say to the government House leader, the member for Renfrew North, that in fact the very advice that he gave at that particular time is advice which is applicable in the context of this bill, this guillotine motion, this closure motion today. That is why we are concerned about the House leader’s not taking his own advice in this particular respect.
This is a very serious decision by the government. It is a decision in which the government quite knowingly uses its majority to simply pound through its will irrespective of the strong feelings of the opposition as related to a closure or time allocation motion. There are other options, I say to the members of the governing party; there are other alternatives that could be exercised or at least considered. We could continue this debate and look at some of those other options and considerations that I think are very valid. Many of them concern themselves with, I believe, positive amendments which will strengthen the current legislation.
The members of the governing party may say: “You’re going to go on ad infinitum on this debate. You’re going to go on ad nauseam with respect to the debate. You’re never going to close it off. You’re simply going to try to wear us down to the point where you, as the members of the minority parties, will get your way and the government will not be able to govern as it is charged with the responsibility to do.”
If that is their feeling, I say to the members of the governing party then they should recognize the safeguards that are built into this democratic process that we all think so strongly about in this particular assembly. We all are elected to represent the people, and those people view with interest the debates that go on in this House on a regular, daily basis. They know the positions we take as individual members of our respective parties: they know the views we put forward.
If the members of the two opposition parties act irresponsibly, we are prepared to pay the price for that irresponsibility, and we will pay that price whenever the next election is called. However, I say to the members of the Liberal Party, they too have a responsibility as the government to govern sensitively and to govern in a balanced and fair way. That means they cannot simply bulldoze motions through this House because of their majority. In fact, there are times when they have to he patient with what is, I acknowledge, a slow process known as democracy.
We have all fought for the principles of being able to state our views clearly in this assembly over a period of time and to exhaust whatever issues are before us until such time as we finally and ultimately make a decision. The time is not right, my friends, to make that decision now for a couple of reasons: First, the closure motion is wrong and, second, Bill 162 is badly flawed and will cause a serious problem not only today but in the future.
Hon Mr Conway: This is not closure.
Mr Brandt: The government House leader reminds me that this is not a closure motion, that it is a time allocation motion, which is perhaps a more comforting way of saying he is going to limit this debate.
Hon Mr Conway: Closure is a different thing.
Mr Brandt: As my friend’s own leader said -- and I will go back to quote the Premier, if I may. On 8 December 1982, when he was leader of the official opposition, he said that “there were other options. That is why we cannot support this motion for closure, guillotine, phase closure, time allocation or whatever one wants to call it.”
If the government House leader wants to argue with his Premier over what we call this particular motion, it is up to him to have that dialogue with his Premier. The fact of the matter is that he is limiting the debate on this particular bill and he is doing it in a way that we find unacceptable.
By way of closing, I say that we members of the opposition parties will be held accountable for the actions we take. If we simply pursue debate for the sake of debate for an extended period of time, then we will pay the price with the public for taking that particular action. If we act irresponsibly, then we should be treated in like manner when the electorate goes to the polls, whenever that particular time may he.
I want to say in closing that my view on Bill 162 remains firm. I believe very strongly, as do my colleagues in my caucus, that Bill 162 will simply aggravate existing problems with the Workers’ Compensation Board. If we felt truly within our own hearts that this was some kind of legislation which would amend what we have on the books now and make it stronger and more reflective of the needs of workers, then I would rally my caucus in such a way as to support the government.
However, I do not feel that way. I feel quite the contrary: that this legislation is going to cause further complications, further difficulties, further rancour and anger with the workers of this province. I simply do not believe that that is fair and reasonable when you recognize that these are individuals who have very few other courses of appeal that are available to them. They have to turn to the members of this assembly to fight for their rights; they have to turn to the members of this assembly to look after their interests, and they have said quite vocally in a number of locations across the province that they are opposed to Bill 162.
I see no rush in bringing this legislation forward. I see no urgency, no demand on the part of any special interest group that we have to have this legislation before this assembly closes for the summer. On the basis of those arguments, I would plead with the government, and the House leader in particular, with whatever influence he might have with the Minister of Labour and with the Premier, to intercede on behalf of the members of the opposition, knowing full well that co-operation is a two-way street and that in the future he may well be looking for the co-operation of the opposition.
Here is one opportunity for him to show us the strength of his persuasion, the strength of his feelings towards the importance of the role of the opposition in this assembly, which he has spoken so eloquently about on so many occasions in the history of the past decade and a half in this historic place.
This is his opportunity to show us that he does in fact understand the very strong feelings of the opposition as they relate to this particular closure, guillotine, time allocation motion. We oppose it because it is wrong and we oppose it because if we simply let Bill 162 go forward, I believe the people of Ontario will be the losers.
Mr Wildman: I am just going to speak very briefly on this closure motion. I do use that term advisedly. No matter what the government tries to call this motion, it is in fact a motion that will foreclose debate and that is the whole purpose of this motion.
I must say that I am very disappointed that the member for Renfrew North would be the sponsor of such a motion in this House. I think it demonstrates for the public out there that this government is like the previous government, that in fact this government deals in what might be called situation ethics. Something that was wrong when they were in opposition is okay when they are in government.
I will not quote back to the minister the comments he has made in the past, but I will say, as a person who was involved in the committee, I do not intend to speak about the substance of the bill that is before us but simply this motion.
This government is acting and has acted on Bill 162 in an undemocratic fashion right front the beginning. Initially the bill was introduced by the minister and he said he wanted it passed by Christmas without any hearings. It took a demonstration by the injured workers to force hearings.
Then when the hearings were held, the government refused to allow all of the groups that had said they wanted to speak to speak. The time was allocated in the committee to prevent over half of the groups that wanted to speak from having the opportunity to make their presentations before the committee.
We have heard what deeming in Bill 162 will do to injured workers in the province. In this motion, the government is carrying the concept of deeming to the extreme in that it is saying, and it has been accepted by the Speaker, that it is appropriate to deal with amendments even if they have not been put, even if they have not been dealt with by the committee in clause-by-clause, but simply to deem that they have been put.
It is the responsibility of the minority in the House to hold the government accountable. This government does not want to be held accountable on Bill 162. The only reason I can come up with for that is that the bill itself is so flawed and the Minister of Labour understands it is so flawed that he does not want to have to answer questions on clause-by-clause in detailed debate about what the ramifications are of Bill 162.
Every time we have a time allocation motion put before the House, or a closure motion, it becomes easier. That is very dangerous. The more open this is done, the less likely governments are going to be reticent about doing it in the future.
Mr Reycraft: Just like bell-ringing.
Mr Wildman: The comments about bell-ringing are again examples of situation ethics. What was okay in opposition is not okay in government. Is that it? It was okay to bring in bell-ringing when it was in the government’s interest, but not when it is in the interests of the injured workers of this province.
Mr Reycraft: Every time you do it, it is easier than the last.
Mr Wildman: Every time the government introduces this kind of a motion, it diminishes Parliament and it diminishes our role in the responsibility of meeting our responsibilities to the electorate of this province. This government has an enormous majority. If it could not use that majority to operate in a committee and get something through, it is that government’s fault. It is not the opposition’s fault and it certainly is not the labour movement’s or the injured workers’ problem.
The fact is that this government does not know how to operate in the House and the only way it can get anything through is by forcing it through with closure motions.
The Acting Speaker (Mr M. C. Ray): I would like to draw the attention of the House to a person in the gallery. a friend of mine and of this Legislature, Ted Bounsall, the former member of provincial Parliament for the riding of Windsor-Sandwich.
Mr B. Rae: I have some particular interest in this debate, not only because of the subject matter in terms of workers’ compensation, but because of the experience we had with closure in this House. It began almost simultaneously with my arrival here, with the presentation of Bill 179 by the government of Mr Davis at that time. I have given some thought to the transformation in this Legislature which has taken place over the last seven years.
I can tell the members that when I was in another democratic forum, we had experiences there with various forms of time allocation and of closure. I will not take this opportunity to go through back to the great debates of 1911 and 1912 and the history of closure which was presented to this House so brilliantly by the late Jim Renwick when he discussed the origins of closure in the British Parliament and the debates over the Irish question in the 1880s. I could not hope to match Mr Renwick’s historical and narrative skill in going over that ground. It was a great speech for those of us who were here and for those of us who were involved in that debate.
But I would just like to say more than a few words about what has happened to this House and what has happened to the way in which governments have responded to particularly difficult debates. We are still in the position where we can count, if not on one hand, at least on two, the times when governments have felt it necessary to invoke closure or time allocation. I say without apology to the government House leader, who no doubt will say this is not closure and will say that I use the word “closure” as a generic term to cover any effort by a government to limit or restrict debate and to set certain times as to when debates will be over, and that I regard this as a closure motion. I think if you talked to most people walking down the street about what happens when a government moves closure, if they knew what you were talking about at all, they would understand that setting limits to time is exactly what is involved.
There is a common thread, with one exception, that runs through these experiences, and I think it is important to go over them, because I have only been in opposition; I have never been a member of a government and I have never been in a position where I have had to decide whether or not closure would be something we would invoke. I was involved in certain discussions with respect to extra-billing, and I am going to be talking about that, when our party was the third party in the last Parliament. I do want to talk about the three early experiences which we have had in this House, because there is a common thread behind them, and this one joins with that thread.
I think it is important for everyone to understand why opposition parties decide to oppose certain kinds of legislation and why and how they decide that certain kinds of legislation or certain bills are going to be opposed in a particularly strong and vehement fashion.
There will no doubt be some who look at opposition parties and say that simply obstructing or opposing, throwing up roadblocks, is the only thing our opposition parties are good for or know how to do, in addition to posing embarrassing or difficult or effective questions in question period. But I would say that in fact opposition parties have to choose very carefully -- and from my experience. do choose very carefully -- those bills and pieces of legislation which they single out as bills which they will do everything in their power to stop or to slow down.
We oppose a great many bills that we do not attempt to slow down or stop. I think if you looked at the number of divisions that have been held in this House over the last number of years, you would find there have been countless divisions on any number of pieces of legislation where we had determined that we were opposed to the law, we did not like the bill, we thought it was wrongheaded, we thought it was an inappropriate response, we did not agree with it; nevertheless, we were prepared to have the kind of discussions that go on between House leaders about how you allocate time for business. We would be very certain to say, “We feel strongly about this,” but here would be a stately, if steady, progression of most pieces of legislation through this House.
There are exceptions, and I think it is important for the House to understand what those exceptions are, why it is that parties such as ours feel so strongly about them and why it is we attempt to use the only tool or weapon that is given to us in the parliamentary system.
Many of us look with some envy at our congressional friends in the United States, where we see a system where there is far more negotiation, far more give and take, far more opportunity for backbench members of all parties to express themselves. There is far more opportunity for that to happen.
Mr Neumann: But no question period.
Mr B. Rae: They do not have a question period, as the member for Brantford is saying.
Mr Neumann: They do not have the executive in the Legislature either.
Mr B. Rae: The executive is not in the Legislature. We understand the differences in the system.
Most of us know that in the case of minority parliaments there is far more give and take, which is why I personally like minority parliaments. I certainly enjoyed the last one. I only wish it had lasted a little bit longer. We like the give and take that is there. We like the opportunity for individual members to express some influence and to have an ability to affect things. Majority parliaments produce legislation which is very difficult for us to amend.
Let me go back over the history of this, just so everyone will understand. Bill 179 was a bill introduced by this government which said categorically and clearly at that time that every contract which the government of Ontario had with its own employees was going to be thrown out the window -- every single one. Every negotiated settlement which provided for certain increases was going to be thrown out the window and ruled null and void by the government of Ontario.
I cannot imagine a more arbitrary step being taken by a government than the one that was taken by the government of William Davis in 1982. That is why, when I was first elected in 1982, I had no hesitation in saying to the Premier at that time, “l don’t care, frankly, sir, whether closure is something that you’ve ever had to worry about before or whether delay and obstruction is something you’ve ever been used to before, I’m telling you” -- and we told the government in no uncertain terms in 1982 that we were going to fight that bill with every possible weapon that we had in terms of time.
Why do we use this tool -- weapon, if you like -- of time and of delay? What is the purpose of the delay? The purpose is to give the government a chance to listen and to change its mind. It is to recognize --
Mr Chiarelli: The tyranny of the minority.
Mr B. Rae: The member for Ottawa West says that it is the tyranny of the minority. I am going to say something about that in a moment, because I think he raises an important issue and it is one I am very conscious of. Whatever else one may think, it is something one has to be aware of in terms of finding the balance.
But when we are faced with legislation that to us is completely unacceptable, as an opposition what we have to do is then say we are going to use the only weapon we have, which is time.
In a minority Parliament, you have a lot of other weapons you can use. You have the simple power of numbers to effect amendments, to force the government to have to compromise. Compromise becomes the nature of the process and the way of a minority Parliament.
In a majority Parliament, compromise is not the way of the system. Compromise is unheard of. Governments with a majority do not compromise unless they are forced by public opinion and time to do so. What majority governments say when they are determined to proceed with a certain path is to go ahead.
In my experience in the House of Commons or my experience here, I cannot remember a time during a majority Parliament when a significant amendment proposed by an opposition member to a bill has been accepted by a government. I cannot recall such a time, and if someone can point to such an occasion, I would say that is the exception that proves the rule, because once that power is there, once that executive capacity is there, it is used simply to preserve the power of the majority and to proceed on the basis of what the majority wants. There have been many comments on bell-ringing and many comments on various other kinds of tactics we use. I can tell the member that whether we use bell-ringing in the future will of course depend on the negotiations that are ongoing with respect to the rules, which we are all aware of, but I can say to the member that we are determined to maintain our capacity as an opposition to use our control over time, because if we are not able to effect -- I should not use the word “control” but “influence” -- if we cannot use our influence over time, we are then in a position where it is impossible for us to allow public opinion to get a government to change its mind.
Bill 179 was a measure which unilaterally broke government contracts. Bill 127 was a change in the relationship between the various boards of education in Metropolitan Toronto -- again, a unilateral change in the way in which that world worked which was so unacceptable to the board of education in the city of Toronto, and as has already been stated, it was supported by the opposition in terms of our approach to this.
At that time we had night sittings, and I can recall when we used to share an opposition bench. I can recall the whole purpose of what was going on between the members of the opposition.
We were seeking to get Bette Stephenson to change her mind. We were seeking to get negotiations under way which would effect a change in Bill 127, and we were faced with a minister who said, “It’s my way or the doorway.” That was the minister at that time, Bette Stephenson.
I can also say that we took the same strategy with respect to Sunday shopping, again a change which was opposed -- strongly, harshly, deeply opposed -- by communities across this province through their duly constituted and elected councils, just as in this case there were collective agreements that were signed by people who were elected that were broken.
I believe, when we have all the municipalities in the province saying how opposed they are and when we have the level of public opinion opposed, the opposition has a responsibility, not just a right but a responsibility, to slow the process down and to throw enough spanners in the works, because that is all we have the capacity to do, to force a government to listen and to change its mind.
That is what opposition in a parliamentary system is, apart from question period in which the production of information and the posing of questions is the historic right of an opposition, which has now been institutionalized, is on television and is the parliamentary forum which most people understand and see as parliamentary. The other part of it is our ability and capacity to influence time and to give governments an opportunity to change their mind.
We come to this question of workers’ compensation. This is a bill which has been discussed and whose principles have been discussed at enormous length in this House and which were debated at great length all one night last week by my colleagues, led by my colleague the member for Sudbury East. We have been up and down this legislation and we have indicated as clearly as we can why we are opposed to it and what we intend to do to get the government to change its mind.
Just as before I talked about the contracts which were broken with respect to Bill 179 and how seriously we took the breach of those contracts -- literally collective agreements, contracts duly signed, which were wiped out overnight by the stroke of Bill Davis’s pen, reducing the standards of living of literally hundreds and thousands of working people in this province, so with respect to workers’ compensation we have also talked of a contract, only not, if you like, a written contract, but a broader social contract. I want to outline once again what the nature of that contract is and how important maintaining that contract is to members of our party and indeed, if I can speak more broadly, members of the movement which we represent politically in this House.
Prior to the passage of any workers’ compensation legislation in this province, every worker in this province had certain rights which pertained to him or her as they were granted at common law. Those rights included the right to sue an employer for negligence, to sue an employer for causing damage to one’s bones, body and health. Those rights were difficult to enforce, they were hard to maintain, but nevertheless they were the rights of Canadians, as they were the rights of Englishmen and Americans, those who were inheritors of our common law system, going back to time immemorial, into medieval times.
There grew a movement across North America, and indeed across the industrial world, which said that this system was not working properly. So the Chief Justice of Ontario was appointed a royal commissioner to try to develop some new principles which would be established which would replace the old common-law system. That is what happened in the years before 1914 and that is what produced the royal commission on workers’ compensation with its report calling for a complete sweeping overhaul of the whole system of accident compensation, compensation for the victims of accidents. It produced a social contract.
As with any contract, people give up something in order to get something. They give consideration in order to get some kind of benefit in return. In the case of this social contract, the consideration given by the workers of this province was that they gave up their rights to sue, they gave up their legal rights to pursue a remedy which was granted for hundreds of years, from time immemorial, to go to court, in exchange for which they were given a system of insurance, a system of no-fault insurance which was to be administered by a board whose benefits or whose payments would be paid for by employers. The board itself would be an instrument which would be independent of government, independent of employers and therefore something in which the workers of the province could have some confidence.
That was the historic contract that existed in 1914-15. It was not a perfect system. We have had enormous difficulties with that system. We have had incredible abuses in that system. We have had extraordinary cases of injustice in workers’ compensation, but above all what we have had is a sense from the working people of this province that workers’ compensation was a contract of which they were members and of which they, in a sense, were signatories. They were there but they were there to receive benefits in exchange for having given up some rights.
I have been in this House for seven years and have listened to a great many proposals about workers’ compensation. Indeed, I have voted on a number. We have made changes in workers’ compensation over the years. The last proposal put forward by the Tories and initiated by the Liberals in 1984-85 provided for certain changes in the board, development of a Workers’ Compensation Appeals Tribunal and changing of the powers of the corporate board. We have had amendments which have come about in terms of indexing of benefits, which was a constant issue for workers who had to come down every year and negotiate outside the House and demonstrate outside the House for improvements in their benefits. We have seen how that has had to change and had to be changed.
We have made minor amendments: the changing of the act itself from the Workmen’s Compensation Board to the Workers’ Compensation Board. What have all these changes had in common? What has every one of these changes had in common? One could go back to a time well prior, to the slow changes in administration which have been made, to the slow recognition, first, of asbestosis, then of cancer; the beginning to recognize the nature of industrial disease. All these have been slow but steady improvements which, when they were finally introduced by the government, were recognized by the partners to the social contract as progress, but not as much as they would have liked. The labour movement always wanted more. Its historical prerogative was to want that, but it was always seen by them as something which they approved.
I have looked through, as much as one can, the recent history of this province and I can find no evidence of any major change being made in the law with respect to workers’ compensation which was not accepted by the vast majority of the people who were going to be affected by the legislation. I cannot recall a government, a Minister of Labour or a Premier who has introduced changes to workers’ compensation which were unacceptable to the very people the legislation affected directly. That is the reason we have opposed this legislation as we have, not wilfully, not because we enjoy taking time, delaying and causing as many delays as we possibly can. I make no apology for having done that. We have no other means at our command.
If the government is unhappy with us for delaying, why does the government not sit down with the labour movement and with us and discuss what amendments would be acceptable? Why does the Minister of Labour not take one serious amendment? Why does he not take one approach from Mr Wilson seriously? Why does he not take one thing seriously? Instead of that, what is the minister’s approach? Absolute condescension, “Oh, everybody I’ve ever spoken to is persuaded as soon as they come into my office,” which is absolute nonsense.
Hon Mr Sorbara: That’s nonsense, Bob. Your friend from Sudbury East has not been willing to discuss that bill from day one.
Mr B. Rae: I say to the members of the majority in this House that --
The Speaker: Order.
Mr B. Rae: -- if they treat the minority and if they treat the labour movement with utter contempt in terms of the substance of our criticisms of this bill, as they have done, we have no choice but to take the steps we have taken in order to force them at least to take the time to consider that they may be wrong, that they may have made a mistake.
If the government showed the slightest humility about its approach to this legislation --
Mr Chiarelli: Did you ever consider that you might be wrong?
Mr B. Rae: The member asks: Have I ever considered that I might be wrong? Of course I have. Every day I consider that possibility, and not only that possibility, but if he knew anything about me, he would know that I also consider the very real likelihood of that being the case.
Hon Mr Kerrio: Not every day.
Mr B. Rae: Well, most days.
My guide in this instance with respect to workers’ compensation is a very simple test, and that test is this: If the majority of working people are opposed, if those people who represent working people are opposed, and I see on the other side the development industry and the construction industry and the bureaucrats at the board and the bureaucrats at the ministry all amassed on the other side, I have a kind of rough sense of where I am going to go. I have a kind of rough sense of where it is going.
That is really what it is all about: Which side are you on? The government has shown very clearly which side it is on and who it is benefiting and who this legislation is for. This legislation is the first time and this minister is the first Minister of Labour who has brought in changes to the Workers’ Compensation Act which were not prior negotiated with all the partners in the social contract and which were not negotiated with the labour movement, and that is a fact.
The minister can say, “I think this is going to benefit working people.” He can say, as he has done and I am sure he would again if he had the opportunity: ‘‘We are determined to do this and to simply maintain it. We’re going to do it because we think it’s the best way and our studies convince us that we’re right.”
That is not the issue. The issue for me is a different one. If it is seen as a breach of the social contract by one of the partners of the social contract, we have to take that claim seriously, and we have done.
I want now to reflect and turn to the question of closure and the question of the rights of the majority and the rights of the minority and how we balance all these things out.
Many members have commented on the fact that our delaying amounts to an abuse. I will deal with this argument very directly. Many people have said to me and many workers outside have said to me: “Mr Rae, why don’t you ring the bells? We feel this is so bad, we want you to ring the bells.” I ask, “How long do you want to ring them for?” They say: “We want you to ring them indefinitely. We want you to ring them as long as you possibly can.”
I want to say to you, Mr Speaker, and I want to say to this House and I want to say to the injured workers of this province, I have thought long and hard about what strategies and tactics make the most sense. I have on occasion been party to the ringing of bells for a purpose, in an attempt to get a government to negotiate. More or less, each time we have managed to reach some sort of accommodation, on the basis of what took place. There have been very strong comments made by House leaders accusing us of hijacking and of unparliamentary activity and of kidnapping Parliament and all kinds of things, but all kinds of things are part of the give and take of political life and that is something one has to simply accept.
I say this to the injured workers of this province: If I honestly believed, after the debate we have had in this province and the debate we have had here, that this government was going to change its mind or that this bill was going to be changed because of a delay of a week or a month or a year, I would not hesitate to do it.
But I can say that my political judgement is that this government has decided that it is up or down. This has become clear to all of us over the last month, that this government has decided that this is the legislation it really wants. They have listened to the objections. We do not think they have listened effectively, we do not think they have really listened -- they have listened but they have not heard. if you will -- but they have certainly had the opportunity to hear from every group and every person who feels this is a terrible bill, and I must say I am one of those.
But I would also say to the injured workers of this province that, much as Edmund Burke said many years ago, “We are here to exercise our judgement.” I am exercising mine. I told my colleagues in the caucus this morning, and I think we have all come to a similar conclusion, that if this government is so wed to this bill that it needs closure to get it, will accept no further delays, intends to proceed in the arbitrary and incredible way in which it intends to proceed, then we feel we have fought the fight.
We have given the public a chance to speak. We have delayed the bill as long as we possibly can and we must accept the realities of politics, which are that the Liberal Party won the last election, that it has 94 members in this House and that we are the official opposition and we are not the government. Those are facts of political life, which are never pleasant but which are nevertheless real.
We will be voting against this closure motion. In my view, we will not be voting on any of the amendments which are presented by the government over the next few days, because we think the process that has been established is a farce and a fraud. We think the government is bringing in a measure which is a profound breach of the social contract of this province and we have spent over a year making that as clear as we possibly can.
As I have said, this government has decided that this is the bill it must have, so it will get it with no help from us and with no assistance from us, with no compromise on our part, because we do not believe one iota in what it is doing. We nevertheless recognize that a further debate on this closure motion would be fruitless and futile and would serve no other political purpose, and in particular would serve the injured workers and the organized and the unorganized workers of this province not at all.
We are opposed to the closure motion of this government and we will be doing whatever we can to oppose it and to express our opposition to it, but we say that if this is the bill the government must have, then let it lie on the Liberals’ heads. Let it lie on the government and the Liberal Party. Let history show that this Liberal Party which was elected in a spirit of reform has sold its soul to those who believe there is a cheaper solution to workers’ compensation.
Let the record show that the developers in the construction industry and the powerful industrial interests which want this bill have got their government. They have their cabinet. They have their law and they have their bill. Let it be on the heads of the Liberal Party that campaigned to injured workers promising reform and giving them the opposite, giving them a shafting which they have not experienced as injured workers in this generation. Let that be shown.
Que les députés sachent que le Parti libéral, élu comme parti de réforme, est devenu un parti de réaction, des grandes compagnies et des grands intérêts dans cette province.
That will be the legacy of this government, that will be the legacy of this minister and that will be the legacy of this Premier.
The Speaker: Are there any other members wishing to participate in the debate? If not, Mr Conway moved government notice of motion 6.
Mr Harris moved an amendment, and the amendment stated -- Dispense?
An hon member: No, not with the amendment.
The Speaker: Mr Harris moved that the government motion standing in the name of Mr Conway be amended by deleting the words “and any amendments thereto, not yet passed, including those proposed amendments not yet moved which shall be deemed to be moved” on the 9th, 10th and 11th lines, and replacing them with the following words: “and any amendments thereto moved, but not yet passed.”
We will deal first with Mr Harris’s amendment to the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House that this amendment to the motion carry?
All those in favour will please say “aye.”
All those opposed will please say “nay.”
In my opinion the nays have it.
The House divided on Mr Conway’s motion, which was agreed to on the following vote:
Beer, Black, Brown, Callahan, Caplan, Carrothers, Chiarelli, Cleary, Conway, Curling, Daigeler, Dietsch, Elliot, Elston, Epp, Faubert, Fawcett, Ferraro, Fleet, Fontaine, Fulton, Grandmaître, Haggerty, Henderson, Hošek, Kanter, Kerrio, Keyes, Kwinter, LeBourdais;
Lupusella, MacDonald, Mahoney, Mancini, McGuinty, Miclash, Miller, Morin, Neumann, Offer, O’Neil, H., Owen, Polsinelli, Poole, Reycraft, Riddell, Roberts, Ruprecht, Smith, D. W., Sorbara, South, Sullivan, Sweeney, Tatham, Wilson.
Brandt, Bryden, Charlton, Cousens, Harris, Jackson, Kormos, Laughren, Mackenzie, McCague, McLean, Morin-Strom, Philip, Rae, B., Reville, Runciman, Sterling, Wildman, Wiseman.
Ayes 55; nays 19.
The House adjourned at 1810.